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Hooked on colored pencils.

Colored pencils are a useful tool in bridging the gap between beginning drawing and design to advanced drawing and painting, because of the speed and ease color ideas can be explored to produce impressive results. Using this medium allows students to learn color concepts in a very simple and direct manner which does not involve the elaborate facilities, complications or expense associated with the painting media of oil, acrylic or tempera. The colored pencil provides a familiarity promoting confidence in the students ability based upon past experience in drawing in value.

Students can apply skills previously developed in the basic drawing program to the interaction of color and color application from basic design. For example, a beginning drawing assignment using fruit in primary colors makes it possible to apply basic color concepts in the drawing of these objects. Red apples, oranges, green pears, and yellow lemons provide subjects which serve as starting points for the exploration of complementary color through colored pencils.

All colored pencils are not wax-based and do not lend themselves to the excellent color mixing it is possible to achieve with wax-based pencils. Wax-based pencils can be used over watercolor and other pencils, but the reverse is not true. It is difficult to mix pencils of a different configuration and try to draw over wax-based color. It is this wax-base characteristic which makes the transparent overlaying of color possible.

Due to the transparency and wax base of Prismacolor and other fine quality pencils, it's possible to layer one complementary color over another, producing secondary and even tertiary colors. Drawing an apple by starting with red on one side and green on the other while carefully modulating and overlaying the transitional areas between these complements, clearly demonstrates how an object appears three-dimensional by moving from warm red to cool green. A simple chart of the colors reflected in the object and drawn underneath before drawing it three-dimensionally, provides a useful tool in helping the student to see the connection between principle and product.

A parallel can be drawn between a drawing of a subject drawn first in black and white, and the same object drawn using colored pencils, demonstrating the relationship between color and value. The pears illustrated in black and white have a direct relation to the extension of the use of warm and cool color combinations.

Teaching students color through color motifs frees the student from past experience by providing indigenous color as "a hook" for developing familiar concepts in an unaccustomed manner. Loosely defined "a hook" is a situation or development that engages attention. Colored pencils are the hook. In this instance, color serves as a hook for exploiting previously learned concepts of figure-ground, and modeling demonstrated in black and white preliminary drawings.

The layering effect of mixing color on the paper possible with colored pencil drawing, serves as a direct parallel to mixing color on the palette. It's possible to layer color to change hue, increase or decrease intensity, and raise or lower value with a drawing instrument (the pencil) already familiar to the student. Students can approach painting with an understanding that lets them paint without having to simultaneously juggle concepts of color and paint manipulation.

The transition from drawing with colored pencils to painting is made simple because the students recognize that the mixing of color pencils on paper and the mixing of pigments on the palette involve the same basic color concepts. Color is the common denominator--a simple, direct transition in the art program. The students' understanding develops through the process and helps to promote an awareness and comprehension of the interaction of process and product.

R.K. Hillis teaches art at Glendale Community College, Glendale, Arizona.
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Author:Hillis, R.K.
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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