Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tutorial: Neocolor II

Last year I was invited to be a guest blogger for the very talented Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. I’m an avid follower of Balzer Designs and a very willing participant in her Art Journal Every Day program.  Julie is one of my greatest art journaling inspiration, and it is through her courage and creativity that I have learnt so much.  Julie is also one of the incredible instructors on this years "21 Secrets" hosted by Dirty Footprints Studio.  I was honored when Julie asked me to share some of my Neocolor II secrets with her followers.  I will be including Neocolor II's in my upcoming "Watercolor Pencil Workshop" which starts on February 23rd through For those of you who missed this tutorial over on Julie's blog, here it is again.

Neocolor II's are little sticks of lusciousness and are one of my favorite mediums. They’re perfect for art journaling and can really make a page POP. Caran d’Ache, the makers of Neocolor II’s produce a wide range of artist materials, but these little water soluble crayons are one of their best products, and perfect for art journaling. I especially like vibrant color on a black background so I often spread my journal pages with black gesso as a base layer first. Unfortunately, not many water soluble mediums work on black gesso, but I've found a way to make the Neocolor II’s work for me.

Start with a basic pencil sketch over black gesso. Let it dry completely, preferably overnight. When it's fully dry go over the pencil lines with masking fluid, I use liquid “Incredible White Mask Liquid Frisket”.  Keep the lines basic and eliminate the detail, masking fluid can be a challenge to control and it’s better when you are not trying to put down fine detail. .Use a nip or a stick to apply it, don’t use a paintbrush or you’ll destroy it with one dip into the frisket.

Once the masking fluid is completely dry, you’re ready to put in some color.  Writing with the Neocolor II for any small spaces will drive you crazy.  You’ll find that the frisket is volatile and will peel up with a firm sweep of the crayon.  Instead, dip your brush in water and wash it thoroughly over the tip of the crayon.  This way you’ll pick up the pigment and will be able to lay it down like paint.  Gesso is not traditionally ‘water’ medium friendly so if you use too much water it’ll bead up.  The more pigment you use, and the less water you have, the better chance you have of getting the color to stick to the page.  Lay down a first layer of color this way, with particular emphasis on the edges of the frisket.  Just paint right over the top of it, it won’t bleed through.

Once you’ve put down your first layer of color, you may notice that it looks kind of washy and transparent.  Don’t worry; this is only the first layer.  When it’s dry, take your crayons and start coloring in.  Be careful to avoid touching or sweeping the frisket or you’ll lift it up.  Lay the colors down thick, play around with combinations and textures.  Pick up a brush and with minimal water, wet and blend the colors.  If it washes out too much, just wait for it to dry and lay down more color with the crayon. 

When you’re happy with the colors and consistency, you can put in the background.  In this case, I used Folk Art Metallic Acrylic paint.  It’s a wonderful contrast to the crayons.  It’s shimmery and makes the vibrant matte of the Neocolor’s literally POP off the page. Put down your first layer with a paintbrush, then grab a sponge and lightly and gently work your background with a contrasting color.  When it’s all completely dry grab your clean sponge, dip it in some more metallic paint and start sponging it over the crayon. Be very careful as too much acrylic over the crayon could ruin the picture, and if you’re too heavy handed, the wet acrylic paint will react with the Neocolor and swoosh it around.  Subtlety is the key.

When it’s all dry, use an eraser or a silicone remover, which sometimes comes with the frisket, and remove the mask.  Be very gentle and light.  The mask will come off just by peeling it back with your fingers, and if you’re too heavy handed you’ll smear the crayon into the black lines. Gently clean it up once all the mask is removed.  Sometimes I go along the edges with a gel pen and sometimes I don’t.  Most pens won’t write over the crayon, it just clogs the nib, but I’ve found certain Sakura Gelly Roll gel pens will write over it quite nicely.  I often use a dark metallic gel pen or something in the silver or gold range, depending on what I am trying to achieve.

I find that less is more when it comes to using Neocolor II’s on black, and when I say less I don’t mean with the layering of the Neocolor’s, I mean with the layering of other mediums on and around them.  These crayons are so brilliant in their own right that you only need to enhance and highlight, not overwhelm.  However, you need to play around with them yourself, get to know what they can do.  They are truly a ‘must have’ for any art journaler and I guarantee that once you get to know them, you won’t be able to live without them.

Don't forget, if you want to learn more about using water soluble pencils and crayons, consider signing up for "Watercolor Pencil Workshop".  It's jam packed full of step by step projects, starts soon, and runs or 6 weeks.

Thanks or checking in. xx