- Making a Drawing -

Many of the drawings featured on these pages are done in a unique way, a method developed through much trial and error. Below is a detailed description, provided for the artist and collector alike, of how to make one of these distinctive drawings: Watercolor and Pastel on Hand-Colored Paper.

1) Choose 100% cotton-rag paper. I have had excellent results with the paper used in the black leatherette hard-bound drawing books, available in a variety of sizes, found in most art supply stores. Arches 150 lbs. "smooth" watercolor paper is the best, if rather expensive, choice (along with the 300 lbs. variety, these are, without doubt, the nicest papers in the world). Good results can probably be obtained with any high-quality cotton paper.

2) Make your drawing on the paper, or better still, on a separate sheet. I usually transfer an existing drawing from my sketchbook to the cotton paper using the "rubbing" technique - trace your original drawing onto tracing paper, place it graphite-side down on the cotton paper, and rub with a burnishing tool until the drawing transfers. This transfer technique is preferable to drawing directly on the cotton sheet because it is very important not to disturb the delicate paper surface with frequent erasing or hand-oil. And you do not want an accumulation of graphite on the paper, for the colored-pencil pastels will not adhere to dense graphite marks.

3) Here is the real trick of the process, and rather nasty business, involving chemicals with very toxic fumes. Prepare a thin wash of lacquer thinner and oil paint of the desired hue; I prefer a greyish brown, but the wash can be any color. Choosing the right sedimentary pigments, rather than staining pigments, will give a pleasing mottled effect to the wash.

Using laquer thinner as the medium for the wash is important, although quite unpleasant in the application. A watercolor wash will disturb the fibers of the paper, and make it less very much less receptive to the pastels. Lacquer thinner evaporates completely without disturbing the fiber of the paper, and subsequent rendering with colored-pencil is exactly like drawing on a virgin sheet. Because the lacquer thinner evaporates so quickly, it also flash evaporates much of the oil present in the paint with it, and so the paper is not in any way oil-damaged. The hard part: lacquer thinner evaporates virtually on contact, and so you must apply the wash VERY FAST! I use an old windex bottle to spray the wash on, but a large brush will work as well - although this does leave some streaking, which can be a nice effect for some images. When using a spray bottle, several layers of wash can be sprayed on to achieve the right wash density for your project. Please note that this wash is pigmented with archival materials.

I allow the wash to dry for a week. I do not know if it is necessary to wait this long, but this technique has worked well for me. This technique only works with "lacquer thinner"; chemically similar acetone does not have the right properties and will adversely affect the cotton sheet. Do not apply this wash indoors! Lacquer thinner is nasty stuff, and the fumes can make you sick quite quickly - as I have learned from personal experience. Use caution!

An important note for collectors: the lacquer thinner used in this process evaporates completely; there are no residual fumes or adverse health effects, and the finished art is oderless.

4) There is virtually no oil in the pigment now coloring the paper, and so thin washes of watercolor may be safely applied over top, with no adhesion difficulties whatsoever. The real benefit of this technique is that the underlying color of the paper acts to unify any color placed over it, and so drawings made in this way have a very pleasing color harmony built in. Keep the watercolor washes simple; remember, this is disturbing the paper fibers and drawing will be more difficult where watercolor has been applied. I use watercolor washes for accents only, performing most of the rendering with the colored pencil. I am using the term "pastel" and "colored-pencil" interchangably here. Many people think pastels refer to the short and fat chalky sticks that come in wooden boxes, and colored-pencils (what some people call "pencil crayons") are something different; the truth is that pastels are pigment locked in some kind of binder, and shaped to be conducive to drawing. There are many kinds of pastels; I prefer prismacolor.

5) The wash applied to the paper should serve as the mid-range values of your drawing. You need only draw darker values with darker pencils, and brighter values with brighter pencils. Because the mid-ranges are supplied by the color of the paper, there is a resulting economy and simplicity of pencil-work that is very pleasing. This approach is obviously different than drawing on a white sheet, where every mark is darker than the virgin sheet. Because you will be drawing highlights on a darker sheet, you may have to rethink your approach to drawing a little. But once you get used to this new way of working, you will find that not only is it a much better-looking product than drawing on a white sheet, it's actually easier!

If you have any questions regarding the purchase of an original drawing, please e-mail your inquires and/or offers to me and I will reply as soon as possible: Jonathon@JonathonArt.com.