Ok, I’m showing my age now, but when I was a kid, the ultimate TV art guru was Tony Hart. Unlike the frenetic, brash “Art Attack” which came later, Tony Hart was a gentle old soul, who with a flick of a paintbrush or felt tip pen, could turn a black sheet of paper into a masterpiece. Tony Hart was my hero. I had a set of Tony Hart “painting pencils”. They looked and worked like ordinary coloured pencils, but when you applied water, would turn into watercolour paint. Last year, I found some very similar pencils in a art shop, but sadly without Tony’s smiling face on the box.
I’ve become a big fan of the work of Arthur Rackham for some time, but only recently have started to take a good look at why I like his illustrations so much. Unlike many other artists that work in watercolour, his work has a really dark edge to it. I’ve tried to get that sort of impression with my later pen and ink sketches, but felt as though they were still somewhat tentative.
I realised that he used much more ink than I do, and the contrast it provides allows the colour itself to be more delicate without looking bland. I had a free morning and some pen and ink sketches that I had been to cowardly to work on, so I dug them out.
The first thing I did was to toughen up the drawing with more ink, put down with a brush. And then I got busy with the painting pencils, having a good old scribble. I felt as though I was 6 years old again and making a mess of my colouring books.
Unlike conventional watercolour, the colours seemed to get brighter when I added water. not a bad thing, I like strong colours in a painting. The water-solouble ink that I used for the drawing also dissolved slightly, and I was able to soften edges and use it to take some of the harshness out of the colour. The best thing that I found about using the pencils was that I could leave some areas dry, retaining the effect of the textured paper.