Thursday, March 3, 2016

New Illustration Process - by Barbara DiLorenzo

For many years, I used a regular 2B pencil to sketch my concepts for an illustration. When I was content with the composition, values and the expression on the characters, I would move forward to paint. But for years, I felt that there was a disconnect between my graphite hatching strokes, and the smoother brush strokes of either my oil or watercolor paintings. While seeing the work in color is exciting, it bothered me that so much energy in the hatch marks got lost in the final pieces. I worried that art directors would not know what to expect, since the tone and treatment varied greatly from sketch to final.
Here is an example sketch, followed by the watercolor final:

In a recent attempt to solve this problem, I tried scanning the sketch and coloring the image digitally. I was happy with the result, but while this works for a logo, I was itching to spend more time with traditional paints.

Thankfully, I was lucky enough to see a demonstration by a local artist, Paul Mordetsky, with a newish product called Liquid Pencil. This graphite/watercolor hybrid works like a watercolor paint, but is easy to correct and lighten, even erase when dry! Here is the product description from the Blick website:

Have you ever been sketching and wanted to cover a large area quickly? Or wanted to variegate the tone very subtly, similar to using watercolors? Derivan Liquid pencil is capable of all these things and more.

An innovative new product that allows artists to create authentic graphite pencil effects with a liquid, Derivan Liquid Pencil can be easily thinned with water to allow for the softest colors to be applied with a brush, nib, or other art tools.

Because of its precisely balanced formulation, the Permanent formula "burnishes up" like traditional graphite but won’t smudge. The Rewettable formula allows for removal with water or an eraser, similar to watercolor techniques. Large areas also can be covered quickly and easily.

Derivan Liquid Pencil is available in six graphite shades. Each shade has a definite graphite color; however, there are distinct undertones such as Blue, Yellow, Red, Sepia, and neutral Grey in two different strengths to allow artists a great range of options.
Now that I am getting comfortable with this medium, I am using it to create the sketches for my current book project, RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children's Books, 2017). I'm able to cover larger areas of the paper faster, and drop in values more easily than hatching the heck out of everything. I can't show that work right now, but I can show these quick sketches I did when I got my first jar of the stuff:

These aren't the best or most finished sketches, but I whipped them out so quickly with a relatively good spectrum of values. I also can focus on my line weights, and erase if I make a mistake. This is informative before painting with watercolors. Prior to this, pencil didn't help me figure out the calligraphic quality to the line that I was looking for. I still love the energy of my pencil sketches, and will continue to do them. But for work where watercolor or oil is the planned final art, Liquid Pencil is my new best friend.

Illustration Blog: Paint & Paper
Follow me on Twitter: @wavepaint


  1. That sounds amazingly cool. I have to get some!

  2. Wonderful art and a great idea! I'm headed to the store to find some! Thank you for sharing.

  3. OOOH sounds like it may be what I need for a current project.

  4. That's wonderful! I'm glad you found these liquid pencils. It sounds like a good solution when working with those mediums for final art. I'll have to remember this.... Thanks for sharing.

  5. glad that worked out! Now, I need to get back to LP.. I have been all over the place in terms of working, or nowhere, in terms of being swamped with other stuff and not working

  6. I got a jar for Christmas this year after you recommended it. I'm looking forward to trying it! I think I might use it for my chapter book illustrations--so much more forgiving than watercolor! I still wish I could reproduce your lovely cross-hatch art though!!!

  7. Great process post Barbara! And after you recommended them, I went out and bought some to try. They weren't what I expected (probably because I used them too thick, lol) but they gave a very cool effect, which I'm sure will come in handy somewhere down the line. By the way, still love that chameleon!!

  8. That does sound like an amazing medium, because I face the exact same conundrum. I love my pencil sketches, but they do take long to do, with values and shadows etc. Thanks for sharing this!

  9. That does sound like an amazing medium, because I face the exact same conundrum. I love my pencil sketches, but they do take long to do, with values and shadows etc. Thanks for sharing this!

  10. I want this. I want this now. ...heading over to the Dick blick catalog.....thank you. (Nice illustrations, BTW...)