Done and Dusted! – Part 2

Hey all! In my last blog post, I introduced you to my passion for the dry medium and talked about soft pastels in particular. This post is a continuation of the last one, but this time around I will talk about yet another one of my dry medium favorites, Color Pencils.

Like most people, I too was initiated into the world of color pencils as a kid in school. This is when one just starts to learn the basics of art and coloring. For this very reason, color pencils, or any other dry medium for that matter, is the best choice, as not only does it provide ample amount of opportunities to explore freely, but is also one of the perfect non-messy mediums for kids to start with. So if you are obsessively compulsive about cleanliness, then color pencils are just right for you!

 Having said that, color pencils are advantageous for adult artists as well. First and foremost, they are extremely lightweight and portable. They don’t require any elaborate set-ups like brushes, solvent, mixing palettes and the works. One can always carry them when on the move and voila! You are good to go!! Some other reasons why I prefer colored pencils are:

  1. They are perfect for rendering the finer and more intricate details in your artwork.
  2. They’re clean, don’t smudge (unlike soft pastels) and leave behind no mess to clean.
  3. They are ready to use whenever and wherever you want!

Another very important aspect that attracted me towards color pencils was my need for a medium capable of producing the same, detailed effects as I was achieving with oils. I found this medium to be color pencils.

Like before, I do not want to get into the technicalities of how to use color pencils and where to find good ones, as there’s enough on the net already. So let’s keep things simple. I strongly believe that art is a learning process involving lots of trial and error. So, today, I am going to share with you my personal experience with this lovely medium as well as my exploration with it, the one that worked for me.

So if you are game, then hop on board!

In the first part of this blog post, I had introduced you all to the colorful festive season that forms a quintessential part of Indian culture. This time around, yet another festival became the source of my inspiration, namely “Janmashtami”, or “Krishna Janmashtami”. This one is celebrated annually in several parts of India as the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna.

There’s a very interesting story behind Janmashtami. According to Hindu mythology, the city of Mathura was reeling under the torment of king Kansa. But it was prophecised by the heavens that his evil ways would be laid to rest by his sister Devaki’s 8th child. On hearing this, Kansa sent his sister and her husband Vasudeva to prison. When Devaki was pregnant with her 8th child, Kansa got anxious. Krishna was in fact the eighth child of Devaki and also avatar of Lord Vishnu. When Devaki was going into labour, Vishnu appeared to Vasudeva, revealed this truth and also that he would kill Kansa.

On that dark and thunderous night, Vishnu unlocked the prison doors, put all the guards to sleep and told Vasudeva what to do. As per his instructions, Vasudeva left the palace with a wicker basket on his head, carrying his divine son. He crossed the Yamuna into the village of Gokul and exchanged the baby with the new born baby girl of Gokul’s head Nanda and his wife Yashoda. Thus, Krishna grew up in Gokul and eventually succeeded in putting an end to his maternal uncle’s tyranny.

Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting, singing, praying together, preparing and sharing special food, night vigils and visiting temples. The actual celebration of Krishna Janmashtami takes place during the midnight because Lord Krishna was born on a dark, stormy and windy night. So, at around midnight, an idol of Krishna is bathed in water and milk by devotees, then dressed in new clothes and worshipped. Sweets are first offered to the God and then distributed as prasada.  

Many communities organize dance-drama events called “Rasa Lila” or “Krishna Lila”, depicting events from the life of Lord Krishna. At home, the story of his birth and other childhood anecdotes are depicted in the form of a colorful visual display called a “jhanki.” I am sharing below an image of one such jhanki that I display every year in my home.

There are several colorful legends that narrate incidents from the life of Lord Krishna. As a child, he was known for his pranks such as stealing butter and there are several images that show him dancing joyously with a ball of butter in his hands. As an adult, he is most commonly depicted as a dancer or a lover, often playing his flute and enchanting young women who are totally smitten by him. It was this vibrant imagery of Krishna that turned him into my muse for an artwork I call, “Mormukutdhari”, one among his many sobriques, which literally means the one who wears a peacock feather in his crown.

My muse…Krishna.

Now there’s another enchanting tale behind this name. Legend has it that Krishna played such a melodious tune on his flute that it mesmerized the peacocks and they danced in ecstasy. The king of the peacocks approached Krishna and requested him to join them. Krishna – who can never refuse a devotee’s appeal, accepted. When the dance ended, the king of the peacocks approached Sri Krishna with great humility and offered his plumage as a mark of gratitude. Sri Krishna lovingly picked up the peacock’s offering and placed a few on his crown. It was thus that he came to be called “Mormukutdhari.”

One aspect that has remained unchanged through time is depicting Krishna in blue. But this doesn’t mean his skin color was actually blue. It was his aura that was perceived to be blue. Anything that is vast and beyond our perception generally tends to be blue, like the ocean or the sky. Based on this, he has been shown with a blue body which is a symbol of his all inclusiveness too. This blue energy or aura surrounding his body also made him irresistibly attractive. It is for this very reason that I too have used the brightest hues of blue to render my Krishna. Not only does it make him look charmingly endearing, but also brings out his divinity.

I have used the form of a peacock feather to create a backdrop for Krishna’s face. The true beauty of a peacock feather is revealed when it scatters its multi-colored brilliance. It is this beauty that I have attempted to display through my artwork by rendering the peacock feather in a kaleidoscope of bright hues. My main objective in doing so is to compliment the blue I have used in the image of Krishna’s face, at the same time enhancing it further and making it stand out.

Coming to the medium, this was my maiden exploration with Prismacolor pencils, which I used for the face of Krishna and I have to say, I am a diehard fan of these pencils now! They are simply awesome!! Not only are they smooth as butter, but also blend to perfection. They produced effects that I would have achieved with my all time favorite oil paints.

For the peacock feather background, I had another trick up my sleeve. Instead of using prismacolor pencils, I chose to use soft pastels and I am glad to say, I have no regrets. They were as good at bringing out the majestic radiance of the peacock feather as the prismacolor pencils were at achieving the endearing charm of Krishna’s face. All in all, this was an experiment that combined two mediums and I am thrilled that this one went in my favour!

A Word of Caution – Although I successfully managed to create an artwork using both soft pastels and pencil colors, I faced a major hiccup when it came to using fixative for the soft pastel part. The problem was that fixative posed the risk of damaging the portion I had rendered with pencils colors, namely Krishna’s face. To solve this issue, I had to trace out a precisely accurate stencil of the face on a transparency sheet to cover and protect it from the fixative spray. To my relief,  it worked and all was well!    

 Now that I have shared my experiences with both soft pastels and pencil colors, I think it would be only fair to compare the two in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Who knows? If a particular aspect is the weakness of one medium, the same feature may become the strength of the other! So, shall we?

To make it more comprehensible, I have listed it down in a comparative tabular form for you as below:

1. Solid, broad strokes Strength Weakness
2. Accurate lines Strength Strength
3. Minute detailing Weakness Strength
4. Wide range of shades Strength Strength
5. Minimal or no set up required Strength Strength
6. No drying time Strength Strength
7. No additives or solvents needed Strength Strength
8. Ability to combine with oils, water colors, acrylics Strength Weakness
9. Brittleness and dust Weakness Strength
10. Toxicity Weakness Strength
11. Versatility with paper Weakness Strength
12. Portability Strength Strength
13. Use of fixative Weakness Strength
14. Effect on hands Weakness Strength
15. Preservability Weakness Strength

I have formulated the above table after careful consideration of both mediums and the inferences displayed there are purely my personal opinion. If you do not agree with something, it’s perfectly fine as each and every artist has his or her own comfort zone as far as a particular medium is concerned.

I hope this comparative study helps you in deciding which dry medium suits your needs best and I hope you are ready to get started on your very own dry media art!

2 thoughts on “Done and Dusted! – Part 2

  1. My only comment this time is WOW!
    What a beautiful way of explaining the whole process.
    The art work seems even better and befitting after reading the beautiful stories behind the feather, the blue colour and the names of SRI KRISHNA .
    Great imagery in the writing.
    Would love to see Radha Krishna paintings or even of the peacocks dancing to His flute.


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