The Watercolor and Prismacolor Process that evolved with me

It began with drawing…

Pencil in hand, drawing whatever I saw, and whatever I felt, it was my way of relating to the world, and making sense of the way things work together. Although I was certain that I was not very good at it, I could not let it go. I’ve just always loved to draw. In college, I took life drawing classes so many times that they would not let me audit the class anymore, so I taught it.

All my life, wherever I have looked, I have seen faces. In wood grain, in the clouds, in the cracks in the paint of a building, there were faces, so faces frequently show up in my work.

Right around the time my second daughter was born I had gotten a bit tired of either drawing just faces or else the involved abstracts from my sculpture journal, so I did a series of pencil drawings which borrowed from a collage approach to subject matter, instead. This drawing call “Serra” was a forerunner of that series. These drawings were quite involved with intricate detail.

Discovering Color

Somewhere along the line, I was gifted some really nice Prismacolor pencils. I did a few drawings with them, before I decided they were not what I wanted to work with because the colors were so pure. It reminded me of coloring books. Then, I read an article in an artists magazine about a technique layering color pencils with super hard graphite pencils. This started a couple of years of color and emotional exploration.

Watercolor Alone

Then, years ago, a friend and I promised to do a show for the Arts Council in Lassen County. My friend was going to show her watercolors. I had never done watercolor but I have always enjoyed a challenge, so I agreed to do watercolor as well.
The show was well received.

Far more important, though, my love for watercolor was born. I love working wet on wet, allowing the images to gently arise from the pigment play. I am enamored of the subtle interplay of colors within the paint and the challenge of stubborn pigment.

I dreamed this process one night

Then, one night I dreamed of combining watercolor and prismacolor pencil in layers. This process instantly fed two divergent parts of me as an artist.

I purposefully engage watercolor techniques that minimize my control, then allow myself utmost control with the pencil work. That way, the watercolor layers are usually more free and yield surprises. Faces and other hidden images will emerge. The prismacolor pencil allows me to find the emerging images as well as to indulge my urge to become immersed in detail. It is a joyful combination for me.

Once the initial drawing or painting layer (I vary) is laid down, I am aware of the overall composition, and main subject matter. From there, I enter the world of “spirit play” – the zone of art creation.

Detail from Triple Goddess, before being cut up

The more I indulged myself in this process, the more layers I created, the more surprises happened. I think my love of working with layers is one of the things that has bled over from and to my graphic design work. In Photoshop or Illustrator, the key to the rich image is utilizing layers. I could not achieve the rich graphics that I do without layers. Watercolor also is all about layering. You build up the image by layering more and more pigment for the darker areas. With washes of various colors, a richer dark tone is achieved than you would produce with a dense layer of black pigment, for example. It’s all just too much fun, and highly satisfying.

The color pencil layers aid in the discovery process. It is as I discover things and define them more clearly with my pencils that the true adventure happens. It is an excellent re-purposing of my compulsion to create order and beauty.

For years, that was as far as it went, until… I started combining this whole process with canvas in various ways.

After I decided to switch to canvas so that I would not have to put my work under glass any longer, and came back to play with acrylics, I cycled back around to these same techniques in this renewed media.

It is an ever-evolving process which soothes my spirit as I experiment and expand according to indications of guidance through joy.