After months of drawing and painting on white paper I thought it was time to break out of the routine and work on black paper. And, what better way to celebrate this change than to paint a Coelogyne mooreana, a beautiful white orchid that grows in the mountains of Vietnam and is appropriately called “The Queen” of its genus.
If you have not worked on dark colored paper there are a few things to keep in mind. The most important one is that you are emphasizing the highlights. For example where the light hit the petals I used heavier pressure on my white pencil to create the highlights and lighter pressure in the shadowed areas. Think of it as working in opposites. For highlights on white paper you let more of the paper show and add more color to the shadows. With black (or dark) paper you let more of the paper color show in the shadows and add more colored pencil to the lighter areas. If this seems confusing, take a piece of dark paper and a light pencil (white or cream) and draw a circle. Now color the circle so that it transforms into a sphere. Remember, add more pencil to the areas in direct light to create the lighter values and less in the darker areas to create darker values.
Another point to consider is that dark paper shows everything – stray pencil shavings, eraser bits, and smudges seem to multiply exponentially so be sure to keep a scrap piece of paper under your drawing hand and use a soft brush to remove any stray bits. Most dark paper is also good for pastels so it has some texture (even the smooth side of pastel paper is textured) so you will want to burnish your finished work to push the pigment into the paper tooth to create a more even surface. Personally, I like it if some of the texture shows through so I don’t burnish until the surface is polished, I stop before most of the paper tooth has been filled in.
Working on dark paper can produce elegant results when combined with colored pencils. Give it a try and share a link to your work in the comments section below.
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