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Old 01-31-2008, 09:41 PM
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Jolinda Jolinda is offline
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Backgrounds in general

I was just reading through Scott's thread re: Question about background. Has a thread ever been devoted to just the discussion of backgrounds and how they were done? If it's possible, I for one would love to see people post CP works with backgrounds they are particulary happy with and to explain how they created that background — the colors used, stroke used, blending techniques used, brand of pencils used, and anything else of importance.

If something along this line has already been done and I missed it in the Library, then please direct me to it. If not, maybe this thread, if it's a good one, will end up as a good reference thread for the CP Library.

There are a lot of us out here who struggle with backgrounds and it would be fun, interesting and educational to see all types of backgrounds from the very detailed to the abstract, soft backgrounds.

Linda
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Old 02-01-2008, 06:46 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

I'll also be interested in any input here, I have a problem with BG s also, mostly so I dont include one having spoilt so many pieces doing it wrong ,
there are some who start with the BG, I cant get my head around that.
Well done Jolinda a good start to a thread.
Brian
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Old 02-01-2008, 06:57 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Great thread. Thanks, Linda. I will be checking in here with much interest, as well. Backgrounds terrify me!
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Old 02-01-2008, 07:13 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Linda, what an excellent idea. I am in the scared to death catagory. I tried yesterday to look up bg too, and found little useful imformation. Maybe I missed something, but didn't find much helpful info. Hope some of the expert will respond.
I am with you Taffy, can't seem to do the bg first, "big shutter" that seems so foreign. Andi
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Old 02-01-2008, 07:41 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Here's a link to a BG demo you might want to take a look at...It's one of Wendy's, one of WC's very own Godesses of the CP.

http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=420170

Also layers and burnishing have been successful for me. I've also used oil pastels fairly successfully in one piece and BG color on the back of film for my last piece. But one thing is for sure...for me anyway, be prepared to eat up some pencils
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Old 02-01-2008, 08:52 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Yeah... I'm awful at the slow fade over large areas. Getting better, but it is *not* an area I'm hugely comfortable with!

Couple of tricks (and these were talked about in several threads that I can't remember who started... sorry!) I've found that help (on paper. Drafting film is a completely different beast):

--Those round cotton make-up removal pads drag pigment *really* well. They have a "smooth" and "rough" side. You want to use the rough side.

--Really stiff brushes (like the kind used for stenciling on walls!) can help smooth out ridges & move the pigment around really well, too.

--On softer papers like stonehenge, take your time, keep your pressure light, and your points sharp (this is where I usually trip up). rougher surfaces are a wee bit more forgiving for me, although light pressure and taking your time are *still* the key.

Tricks for drafting film:

--remember the layers don't smoosh together like they do on paper. You're relying an awful lot on the viewer's eye doing the blending. The key (for me, anyway) is to keep your pressure light and your points *slightly* dull.

--Keep your strokes close together and avoid creating "ridges" from the fast scribble thing (yep, you guessed it. This is where I goof it).

--Don't forget you can use the back! the texture/color of the film itself will kinda smooth out anything worked on the back. You gotta think in reverse, though. putting down the color you want the most visible *first*. Be prepared for serious brain tickles! And dull/mute it, so do some test swatches-- you may end up using a color *much* more intense than you would have originally thought.

--For me, cross-hatching works really well. It'll never create a perfectly smooth look on the film, but it'll at least be uniformly ragged, and most times, that's good enough!

Hope this helps! Although what it comes down to is practice. and more practice. and being willing to *seriously* goof it while you're figuring out what works and what doesn't for your style. I know Robin (RobinZ) uses dull points and heavy pressure and her work is wonderful, so just remember that these are all *suggestions*, not rules!

Tess
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Old 02-01-2008, 09:06 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Thanks Tess for sharing some of your experience. I felt totally intimidated by that film. I guess I'll tackle it with different strokes on a piece and label what I did on that particular section with marker, so I can remember how I achieved that result or didn't achieve it.
I think that will help me see how different stokes, pressure, layers work. Much thanks, that was so helpful. Andi
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Old 02-01-2008, 10:22 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

I find backgrounds very hard, all that sky, landscape, grass, etc. (since I mainly do animals). Having been involved in a small art gallery in the past, I found that people on the whole really like a background included in a painting. I use to just grade a color around the subject and leave it at that. Lately I have begun to try and include a completed background in my work. I really try and observe what other artist are doing with their backgrounds and would definitely enjoy a thread devoted to just that subject, especially if examples were included on how to obtain different looks, for example clouds, trees, grasses, etc. Great idea Jolinda for a thread.
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Old 02-01-2008, 11:27 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ittybit
Lately I have begun to try and include a completed background in my work. I really try and observe what other artist are doing with their backgrounds and would definitely enjoy a thread devoted to just that subject, especially if examples were included on how to obtain different looks, for example clouds, trees, grasses, etc.

oh! ok. This is kinda two separate issues... I'm thinking background = gradient color shifts/fades/etc. What you're talking about is what I think of as a backdrop (hey, look! That's my theatre background showing! ), as in what's used to set the scene for your focal point/main objects. And the two *are* related, and then there's the tangle of good composition to be wrestled with and ... yah.

There's an *absolutely* excellent tutorial on foliage over in Pen & Ink (you can find it here. Even though it's a different medium, if you think in terms of texture & value, it can really help.

What I've done for the (ahem, seriously out of my comfort zone!) few pieces that I've done that involve the backdrop sort of thing is play with the ref picture in photoshop. The blur & smudge tools are *very* helpful. As well as the burn tool. These are the only examples I've got handy, but hopefully it'll help you see what I'm talking about!

Pic from the camera:



Using the burn tool & smudging:



And what I ended up with when all was said & done & the pencil dust had settled:



Hope this helps!
Tess
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Old 02-01-2008, 12:04 PM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Linda, GREAT Idea!!!! thank you for starting this thread. I think it will be super helpful.
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Old 02-01-2008, 12:27 PM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

I'm another "I hate backgrounds" person. My bgs are boring, boring, boring, and I never know what color will work. This thread has been helpful...but I need a lot more details! Anyone else out there with great help to offer?

Char
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Old 02-01-2008, 12:42 PM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

The one thing that I thought.. was that if you are just using a straight color and not putting in detail, then that color should be complimentary to the main color of the painting.

For example. If I were doing red rose, then maybe the use of a green background might make sense.

See where I am lost, is in the process of putting down that background color and ensuring that you don't just see line strokes throughout. I am really looking forward to seeing where this thread goes
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Old 02-01-2008, 02:04 PM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Thank you Linda
Some really useful info here- what an opportune thread!

I am one week into a drawing that is mostly background. Thinking about how I was goin gto tackle it I thought I might try a watercolour wash down first but when I got to starting, I picked up pencils. Now I am part way through I don't want to change but want to also get the forground in too before I finish the background so I can enhance the compostion with som elighter patches.

So photos of so far - 9 x 13". on Watercolour paper -off white.





You can see the cross hatching clearly hopefully. Using balck grape, indigo, dark indigo, hookers green, in polychromo and indigo blue and dark purple in prisma.

in the first photo you can just see the circular filling in between the bottom two leave on the right. I found this fills in the grain better and then I cross hatched over. Just anything goes.

In the second picture I have used a lighte colour and burnished a little near the top left and will be doing more of this when I have the foreground leaves finishe to tie things together.

Basically composing a little as I go.

I wanted the leaves to show againt the background but with the purply shade be opposite and sit back. Hence also infigo blue and cool greens. The foreground leave will be warmer greens than those top left.

Lots of burnishing to come to help fill in the grain unless I get daring and do a wash over the top. I think I should have done a wash first and will try that with the next one I do.


Like Tess has done, I simplify the background so it doesn't compete with the foreground but use it to emphasis. It can be opposite colours, or incorporate opposite, or be cool against warmer, or dark against light. I've got a mixture.

It can also use the same colours as is Wendy's example with the link earlier in the thread but she also said a cooler wash then sets it back.

Background is part of the compostition.

With CP we have an advantage by being able to layer and superimpose colours rather than have a flat colour. This is similar to pastels I have found.

Hope this is useful or interesting. I'm still learning.
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Old 02-01-2008, 02:32 PM
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Softening Backgrounds

Scott, maybe it would help if you would put 2 or 3 thick newspaper sections underneath your drawing surface. I do this even if I'm working on 4-ply museum board, which is pretty hefty. I learned this from a website a long time ago- perhaps Barbara Newton's site? It has helped greatly with smooth, even background color- or skies.
Also, using oily-type pencils (Caran d'Ache Pablos, Faber-Castell Polychromos, and Lyra Polycolors- or the "extinct" Bruynzeel Fullcolors) helps, since their smudginess translates into blendability.
Try using loose oval or circular loopy strokes and you won't see your "tracks" as easily. Both Bet Borgeson and Janie Gildow- among others- use these strokes, and they're wonderful for creating smooth, even color.
Another helpful tool, besides the materials already mentioned, is a clean eyeshadow sponge-tip applicator, available at cosmetic counters in drug and variety stores. The spongey make-up wedges work, too, for larger areas, but get the plain kind, not the type with aloe.
Maybe these will help smooth out those layers for you!
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Old 02-02-2008, 12:06 AM
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Re: Backgrounds in general

Thanks for all the contributions to this thread. A lot of useful information here and I hope we see more ideas and more samples.

Linda

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