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How I learned to stop worrying and love the color wheel…

December 17, 2018

When it comes to drawing people in public I always run into two big challenges:

1) People rarely sit still.

2) I don’t want to get caught staring at them.

That’s why I love going to play readings.

If you aren’t familiar with the theatre world, a reading is part of a playwright’s development process. Once they have finished a draft of their play, they invite actors to come read the script aloud for a small audience of trusted friends and creatives, who then give feedback about their experience. The playwright uses that feedback to help inform their rewrites.

Play readings provide a great opportunity to draw people because the actors sit in relatively the same position for the duration of the play, and as an audience member I am supposed to look at them. So I get to hear a play for free, be part of a playwright’s creative process, AND get some good sketching in. Triple win!

Some time ago I attended a reading of a play called Ear*, written by my brilliant friend, Ashley Naftule. Ear is a f’cking great script, loosely inspired by my man Vincent Van Gogh.

Meet Steve and Marcella, two of the actors from the reading.

 

 

I was real happy with how these two drawings came out, and I kinda agonized over whether or not to color them.

This was right around the time I was first starting to become an alcoholic.

On the one hand, I knew that I needed to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone of black and white, and into the wonderful world of color. On the other hand, I liked them in B&W and was afraid I’d eff ’em up!

Then I remembered that you can’t move forward without taking risks, and you sure as hell shouldn’t be precious about your stuff. So I dove in.

(BTW, I realize that using the word risk in reference to coloring a little 4×6 inch drawing might be a stretch, but I can’t afford to go skydiving.)

Before going to town with markers I laid down some undertones with red, blue and yellow colored pencil. I learned how to do this on a great You Tube channel called Kiara’s Studio. Kiara calls this “color zoning.”

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The pencil undertones show through the marker layer and create a level of depth and richness that I think would be difficult to achieve with markers alone.

Since we were reading a play inspired by Van Gogh, I put a third grade quality version of Starry Night in Steve’s background.

(Third gradeness not intentional, just the best I could do.)

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For Marcella’s background I wanted to do a simple design with colors that would compliment the one’s I used on her face.

I have a pocket color wheel that I use all the time when figuring out color stuff. It’s a great tool. For this picture I chose a split complementary color scheme.

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The reddish orange area of Marcella’s cheek seemed to be the most eye catching area to me, so I used that as the base point. The complement of red-orange is blue-green. In a split complementary scheme you use the two colors one each side of the complement, hence the blue and green background.

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In the end I was real happy with how these little portraits came out, and so so so glad I faced my fears and colored them.

 

 

I know that I still have a long ways to go when it comes to color and markers, and even when it comes to drawing. But I feel like I’ve made some big strides forward this past year or two — not just in art but in other areas as well — and that has everything to do with trying sh*t that feels kinda scary.

Pretty much 100% of what I know about using alcohol-based markers I learned on You Tube, mostly from Kiara’s studio. She specializes in portraits and is amazing with skin tones. She’s also on IG at kiarasstudio. Her work is lovely so go check it out.

*Happy side note: Ear went on to have a very successful production at Space 55, and was nominated for several awards! Way to go Ash!

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