Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: The New Colored Pencil

I recently received a review copy of The New Colored Pencil:  Create Luminous Works with Innovative Materials and Techniques, by Kristy Ann Kutch:

This is an updated book, and one fabulous thing about it is the comprehensive material Kutch provides about all of the new colored pencils on the market.  I was thrilled to discover that the book isn't limited to traditional colored pencils, but also includes watercolor pencils and what she calls "wax pastels", which includes water soluble watercolor crayons as well as the permanent wax based crayons (as opposed to chalk-based pastels).  What a dizzying array of new materials there is on the market now, and this book is a great technical guide to understanding them.

The first half of the book is devoted to traditional colored pencils, and begins with comprehensive, technical information about the makeup and construction of many of the pencil brands currently available.  Kutch then presents the same information about paper/surfaces best suited for colored pencils, and after discussing these items, she provides tables which summarize the information about the supplies.  For the pencils, this includes the number of shades available, their key characteristics and their price level (budget-friendly, mid-range and high-end).  I found the tables very useful for quick reference after I had read the book the first time through. There is also an appendix of color charts for all the products discussed.

After the discussion of basic supplies, Kutch provides chapters on color theory, drawing techniques, and applying and "lifting" colored pencils.  (Yes, you can "lift" or erase them, and she discusses various supplies and techniques to do this.)  She also covers more advanced topics such as blending, creating texture, and the best way to deal with backgrounds in your works.  In addition to the tables, contemporary artist works are shown throughout the book in a wide variety of subjects - animals, portraits, landscapes, flowers, etc.

Unlike most of the older colored pencil books I have read, Kutch does not provide a lot of specific, basic, how-to directions about colored pencil application.  In fact, as she says, "stroke directions vary from artist to artist".  I have always wondered why each book that I read previously gave slightly different instructions, all of which made me feel that I was doing it the "wrong" way. It was nice to hear (finally) that there is no "wrong" way - I think that these differences are part of what makes each artist unique!

In Part Two, Kutch lays out all of the product information about water-soluble colored pencils, including brands, surfaces, and brushes, and then she provides techniques for applying, controlling and lifting them.  In Part Three she covers the same topics for wax pastels and also discusses how to combine the media to take advantage of the best properties of each.

Writing an interesting book on art materials and techniques in the days of YouTube is no small feat.  Kutch has achieved this with the volume of comprehensive, technical, and comparative information she provides coupled with some good basic color theory and drawing techniques.  If you're interested in exploring the world of colored pencils this book is definitely worth reading, and you will find it a good reference guide for a few years to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a "must have" book and I'm looking forward to receiving mine later this week.