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Good Rockin' Tonight - Creating Colour - Part 2

Hello and welcome back folks! In the previous post I began explaining how I go about drawing one of my illustrations; reference photos, choosing colours and building them up to create depth. I focused predominately on the woman's outfit so in this post I'm going to be taking you through how I created the man's clothing - choosing colours that would harmonise with the woman's clothes and creating different textures.

I started with the man's blazer as it was the article of clothing with the largest surface area and consequently the most important part of his outfit in terms of balancing his personal colour scheme with that of his dance partner. As you will have gathered from my previous post, I don't plan everything down to the finest detail. I finished the woman's outfit with little idea as to how to proceed with the man's. The only thing I was sure about was keeping the warm tones flowing. I often spend a considerable length of time researching possible outfits or garments - in this case I googled men's blazers circa 1940s/1950s for ideas - and hit upon a tweed blazer that would allow me to incorporate more than one base colour.

As usual, I started with the shadows and sketched in the darker areas with a warm Walnut Brown. Then, to create the tweed texture and build up a rounded colour palette, I worked with two different coloured pencils (each with a hard lead, rather than a soft buttery one) and marked the page with alternating little strokes. I choose a red similar in hue to that of the woman's skirt and a complementing pale green. I won't lie, it took a while to cover the whole area in both colours and my wrist did ache a little afterwards.

Once the texture was in place I was able to work on building up the browns of the blazer, keeping to the warmer end of the spectrum and gently adding layer on layer.

You can see in the top right image that the initial marks made with the harder-leaded pencils are still discernible through the layers of brown. The aim was to make the red and green flecks appear to be part of the fabric, not have them leap out from the surface of the blazer.

There is also now a satisfying contrast in texture between the woman's smooth skirt and the man's tweed woollen blazer.

After the blazer was finished, I sat back for a day or two with the drawing taped to my wall so I could mull over how I was going to complete the image. I decided on a complementary green for the trousers. Complementary colours are pairs of colours that contrast with each other more than any other colour, and when placed side-by-side make each other look brighter. If you're not familiar with complementary colours take a look at the diagram below.

The colour wheel was invented by Isaac Newton of falling apple fame in the notorious year of 1666 when London almost burned to a crisp. Newton mapped the colour spectrum onto a circle and because the circle (wheel) shows the relationship between the different colours it became the basis of colour theory.

When you have two colours that look good together they are called a colour harmony and different pairings can be used to create different moods and emotional effects.

I wanted to use green because it would mean the trousers and the skirt would pop next to one another, but it needed to be a muted green so that it didn't shock the eye. I also wanted to maintain a vintage feel to the illustration and stick to a more natural looking colour scheme. So the green I concocted is made up of a mixture of the following Faber Castell colours: Juniper Green, Payne's Grey, Cold Grey II, Cold Grey III and Warm Grey II.

Though I tend to start with the darkest tone first, in this case I used Juniper Green as the base 'coat', worked into it with the Payne's Grey and then alternated between the greys and green to build up the colour.

As the blazer was already so textured it made sense to make the trousers smoother so as not to detract attention. Here you can see the trousers before I added and blended in the top layer of Warm Grey II and finished them off with a smudge of Ivory for the highlights.

There are times when I think I need to use ALL my colouring pencils on one particular illustration, but I have to fight that urge because as we know, less is often more. I want my work to have enough detail and pops of colour to keep the viewer engaged, but I don't want to give anyone a migraine. I decided to leave the man's shirt as a neutral 'white' and finished that off in the same graphite I'd used for the skin tones. The shoes are a nice warm brown, but I used a very different colour mix to the blazer so that nothing looked too samey. The main components were Raw Umber and Bistre which give them that slightly more yellow tinge.

However, I couldn't resist popping out the reds and oranges again for that little portion of sock you can see peeking out at the ankle. It's not the same red as the skirt, but close enough to create a visual link and not unbalance the overall composition. I also just love funky socks.

So there you have it. The journey of an illustration, through little to no planning and a lot of winging it! This particular drawing did (luckily) come together by the end, however I have been less fortunate on other occasions where I have made poor colour judgements and unbalanced the whole thing (sometimes with one silly sock). But that is what Photoshop editing is for.

Thank you for reading along. I hope some of this was interesting/helpful. Please let me know in the comments below if you would like more of the same or would like me to focus on something in particular in the future!


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