Thursday, February 06, 2014

Adventures in Colored Pencils

I'm continuing my adventures with the coloring on metal techniques from Gail Moore's video.  This technique uses colored pencils on brass and requires a little more prep work and prep time (24 hours minimum) than the nail polish and alcohol inks.  I had the additional challenge that these particular pieces did not have loops or holes so if I wanted to ever string them, that issue needed to be addressed.
I decided to tackle the hole issue first.  I figured since there was a better than average likelihood that I would ruin or damage the piece (having never done this before and yes, I know, I am lightyears behind the rest of the world in this particular area) and I didn't want to invest all the time and effor to make a piece that had lovely colors and results only to ruin it at the end of the process by trying to put holes in it.
I had several options to choose from:  hand-held metal punch (similar to a paper hole punch), double-sided screw punch, or Dremel.  The Dremel I have had for 2 years - bought as a birthday present to myself about a week before the work crisis/depression era that took me out of beading for so long.  It's been sitting in its box unopened all that time and I didn't feel up to tackling it just yet.
That left the two punches.  I quickly discovered that the screw punch did not have an opening big enough to accommodate this particular piece (it's not flat, but has about 1/4" of depth to it).  The screw punch worked extremely well on some other flat brass pieces that I bought...right up until the bit I was using broke off in the hole of one of the pieces and ruined it.
Soooo...that left the hand-held punch.  It worked, sort of.  It was difficult and left holes that are a little wonky and need some serious filing so the edges aren't too sharp.  It did some damage to the edges of the piece, but I was able to mostly fix/straighten that with some pliers.  Also, I later realized there was a better place to put the holes, and in future experiments with this same shaped piece, I utilized that knowledge to better results.
But, at least, relatively decent holes were achieved.  Good enough to make it worthwhile to continue on with this project (and to realize that I needed to overcome my fear of power tools and get going with the Dremel).
Next step was to prep the metal.  I washed in soap and water to remove any oils/fingerprints (that bit is my personal addition to the process - just being extra cautious) and then I sanded with both the heavier grit sanding block and then the steel wool.  The more detailed a piece is, the more important it is to get into all the nooks and crannies and rough up the metal.
Also, as a side note, I can see why, in the video, Gail says she has a love/hate relationship with steel wool.  This stuff gets EVERYWHERE.  It's a good idea to lay down paper or something AND if you can, use a separate work area from where you plan to do your painting and coloring.  No matter how well you clean up, those little stray steel wool fibers will keep turning up for a few days and you don't want to find them stuck to your painted piece.
I also remembered from back in my tole painting days that there is a product (probably can be found on the woodworking aisle at craft stores) that is like cheesecloth, but is slightly tacky, and would work to clean up stray fibers as long as it doesn't leave any residue on the sanded piece...might be worth an experiment.
So, that's hole punching, cleaning, and sanding.
Now, you need to paint the surface of the piece with gesso.  It comes in white, gray or black.  The white can be tinted with acrylic paint if you want say, beige or some other color.  I decided to keep it simple for my first run and just used the plain white.
Gail recommends 1-2 thin coats so that's what I did.  Then, let dry overnight (hence the 24 hours thing).
And here I was so excited to use a product I already had (Prismacolor pencils)...look how much stuff I needed and prep work I had to do just to get to the coloring point LOL!
I started out with laying down a pail green on the leaves, pale pink on the petals and pale yellow in the center.  I added some darker bits of each color in the various "shadowed" areas of the piece to add depth.
Then I dipped a brush in turpentine and blended over all the areas to eliminate the "pencil strokes" and the hard boundaries between the colors.
Once all that was done, I did some light sanding again to reveal some of the brass on the raised areas.
I thought maybe I'd gone too far and ruined it when the white gesso layer was also revealed, but after looking at it, I decided that I liked it.  It gives it kind of a "peeling paint, shabby chic" look. 
I took these photos on Saturday because we were expecting some not so great weather on Sunday and I didn't want to get shut out of my photographing time (I do it outdoors) so these photos did not capture the final phase which included lightly touching up the raised areas with some gold Rub 'N Buff and then polishing the whole piece with a soft cloth.  I'm still trying to decide if it needs a final overall coat of spray sealant or not.  I don't want to change the look of the piece as it is right now because I'm really happy with the way it turned out, but it probably does need the protection.  I have some Renaissance Wax and some Gilder's Paste both on order so those are other options for finishing. 

Here's another version that I did - in blue this time.

I didn't sand off quite so much this time and I went back in with the turpentine and spread a little more color over the white gesso areas so they arent' quite as obvious.

I also changed the placement of the holes as I wanted to see what the piece would look like if hung the other way.  Still not happy with the hole punch results so the next versions of this will be drilled with the Dremel and on the edges instead of the center of the leaves.

Again, this piece is missing the final stage of Rub 'N Buff and polishing.
So, the final results are that this is a great technique.  I loved the control of the pencils, the ability to shade and layer colors and the final "shabby chic" look of the finished piece.  On the downside, lots more prep work required, better tools needed, replacement of broken tools needed and...I realized that my 12-pencil set of Prismacolors is NOT ENOUGH color choice.  I am trying to keep myself from breaking down and surrendering to the desire to get a larger set because they are NOT CHEAP.  Knowing me (and I do), it's probably a losing battle. 
Oh, and I need more brass pieces to experiment on, too.

1 comment:

Lori Bowring Michaud said...

Don't worry about the Dremel, you'll be just fine. Just remember when you're drilling a piece (the brass stamping is soft) to put a piece of wood under it and drill from the back to the front so the stamping is supported (concave or curved edge/side down). You'll do just fine! Thanks for sharing your experiments!