Today’s blog post features my exclusive interview with colored pencil artist Kristy Ann Kutch, who has taught more than 200 workshops. She’s the author of The New Colored Pencil and has just come out with three new DVDs as well. Enjoy!
CH: In your artist’s statement, you say that you look for “subjects that are beautiful, vivid, and realistic, yet sometimes a bit bizarre or thought-provoking in that realism.” Can you elaborate on this?
KAK: I live near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park and Lake Michigan dune scenes are quite popular in this region. I’m attracted to the sand and the dunes when there are dramatic, high-contrast shadows on them, for example. Sculpted Dune, (right) from my first book, Drawing and Painting with Colored Pencil, is a good example of that. Vivid, striking colors appeal to me–there’s nothing subtle there! When I was little, my red crayon was always the first one to be worn down to a nub.
CH: What’s the most surprising characteristic of colored pencil? What can beginning artists do to take advantage of this?
KAK: The most surprising things about the colored pencil is its amazing range. I grew up using colored pencils that were rather dry and grainy, nothing like the rich, creamy pencils available now. Permanent, non-watercolor pencils can be stroked, blended with blending pencils or solvent markers, lifted, grated into powder and then blended like pastels (a technique I first learned from Cecile Baird’s 2008 North Light book Painting Light with Colored Pencil). Watercolor pencils can be used much like traditional watercolor, except they, too, can be grated for wonderful textural effects, like moss on tree trunks or “freckles” on tiger lilies.
Beginning artists can experiment, creating swatches of layered color, trying the blending products, seeing how they interact. I would also urge beginners to start with something simple and not too elaborate. My first colored pencil piece was of one humble green pear. My teacher, Teresa Suarez, coaxed me through the use of cool and warm colors on that pear to make it look plump and realistic. By the time it seemed to pop off the paper, I was hooked on this fascinating medium.
CH: It’s time to play favorites. If you could share one painting from The New Colored Pencil with the world, what would it be?
KAK: Iris Flurry (above) is special to me, largely because it was a “happy accident” experiment. I had received a package of all of the available colors of Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede lightly-sanded paper. Coming across a rich, bright violet called Jacarinda, I thought, “What would a person do with that wild color?” Several weeks later I remembered some large, lush white and light violet irises that I had photographed. Surprise! That odd-colored paper was perfect for that subject matter. There’s also a sentimental tug because my late mother used to raise huge irises of many colors.
CH: What are your favorite surfaces for colored pencil art?
KAK: I enjoy Rising 4-ply museum board, Stonehenge paper, and regular-surface Bristol board paper as “basic whites.” Recently I learned about Terraskin, a dense white paper made from calcium carbonate (limestone) powder. I used Terraskin for Variegated Hydrangea and it was wonderful for blending and erasing.
My landscapes are done on toned, textured (sanded) surfaces, such as Art Spectrum Colourfix, Canson Mi-Tientes Touch, and Ampersand Pastelbord. I like the way the tooth of those sanded surfaces grabs the colored pencil with great intensity–even if it does wear down the pencil tips more quickly!
CH: And your favorite surfaces for watercolor pencil paintings?
KAK: My favorite surfaces are Ampersand Aquabord and Strathmore Illustration Board for wet media. Both of these materials are sturdy enough to stand up to traveling with them for workshop demonstrations.
CH: Just for fun! Coffee or tea?
KAK: I don’t want to spoil this, but I’m a diet cola person!
I’d like to thank Kutch for being such a great sport, and for sharing her insider advice for colored pencil art. She has three new DVDs on colored pencil techniques and a new book titled The New Colored Pencil, all of which are part of this exclusive kit at North Light Shop.
Until next time,
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