by Tracey Chaykin
I am a Colored Pencil artist working and living in the beautiful Napa Valley of Northern California. My portfolio to date is based on Hyperrealism with Nature as my subject matter of choice. The ability to combine both my love of Nature and my love of Art is a dream come true, so when my nephew, Enzo, requested a piece based on his Bearded Dragon Boulder, how could I say no!
My journey began back in July on a family visit to New York for the 4th of July holiday. Boulder and I had some quality time during his photo shoot with various positions and close ups for detail. With photos in hand, I then began to research where Bearded Dragons originated and their natural habitat. I made the first decision that a natural surrounding versus a cage environment would further set the realistic nature of this piece.
I had my subject and a suitable idea for a background, now I needed to consider my materials and what I could use to embellish my choices. The next decision was to use UArt 800 Black Pastel Paper. I chose the UArt paper to help with texture specifically with the sandy ground, scaly skin of the Dragon as well Boulder’s favorite log. I also decided the black coloring would work nicely to show thru the pencil and assist this effect. The black undertone however would not be suitable for my forest and sky background so an additional decision was made to use Gouache with its opaque ability to paint an under painting. At this stage, I was still not satisfied and wanted something more. I began to consider other usable items and this led me down the path of Model Railroading materials with the assistance of my husband.
My husband, an avid Model Railroader, assisted me in navigating thru the various materials they use for landscaping and environmental effects. A visit to the local train store and viola! I found all the materials in various colors and types that would provide a real feel to my piece and provide a real 3D effect. The trees in the background of my references are Eucalyptus based and therefore, had more than just green leaves. In addition, I needed to be able to provide realistic leaf litter resembling all the dead items that tend to be on forest floors.
With a plan in my mind’s eye, it was time to begin. Considering the scenery, I went with an 11x14 piece of the UArt paper feeling that a nice landscape length of paper would suit this piece well. Started by transferring my chosen photo of Boulder and his favorite log with some basic outline of where the ground and sky began. For the progression of this piece, it was determined that all the pencil detail needed to be completed first. This was definitely the lengthiest part especially when considering all the details in both the log and the scales/spikes of the bearded dragon. Once this was completed, I roughed in my Gouache under painting from the multiple references found of their natural habitat in Australia. With all the 2D part of the picture complete, the next step was to seal the picture as is before applying any other material. This was done with three layers of Fine Art Fixative.
Now it was time to have fun! Once everything was dry, I pulled out all of my Model Railroading landscape materials in different colors and began to place them on the picture to ascertain placement and color variations again while constantly referring to the photo references. I did not begin gluing any down (with basic Crazy glue) until I was content with the placement and color choices. Believe it or not, this was the quickest part of the whole process.
A Shadow box was the frame of choice so that the 3D effect of the Model Railroading materials were preserved along with the detailed colored pencil work and Boulder was happily delivered on time for Christmas!
Working thru this piece has only fueled my desire to expand on my thinking outside the box and what can be combined with my Colored Pencils for unique pieces of art!
Tracey Chaykin, an award-winning Colored Pencil artist from Napa, California, is a self-taught artist who loves to experiment with a variety of subject matter. She has drawn florals and portraits but the niche that stands out most is Wildlife. Tracey endeavors to expand her knowledge base and continue to preserve the awe of Nature’s beauty for all to appreciate while ever expanding on the possibilities of what can be achieved with colored pencil!
See more from Tracey: http://www.facebook.com/traceychaykinfineart