Monday, December 28, 2009

In Full Bloom

--Above is a detail of a piece I just finished, while it was still in process. I have dealt with much more obvious and intense blooms, but this is the best photo I have of one thus far. If you look at the middle of the scalp you will see a strip through it running down into the leather strap, that is much more dark and rich than its surroundings, that is where I have wiped away the bloom, and revealed the original colors.--

I've been wanting to write about wax bloom for several months, but I haven't been able to find any good visual examples online, and being a visual thinker, this has kept me milling about, waiting for my own blooms, because there must be an example! Well, I wait no longer, let's begin.

Almost all my pieces bloom. what is blooming? It is a side effect of using colored pencils. After a drawing has had time to sit, one might say settle, the pigment and its carrier the wax will separate, leaving the wax resting on top in a cloudy layer with the pigment underneath. Dark colors will look dull and washed out, it won't be as detectable on lighter areas but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened and that your drawing isn't dulled.

Blooming doesn't happen to all drawings, but it does especially in pieces with very thick coats, one might say burnished into the substrate, something I almost always do. I prefer to work my colored pencil surface until it will barely take any more pigment, so this is a common issue for me, but blooming may be something you never encounter. My pieces usually bloom after they have been allowed to sit three to four days. Another way I can spot a bloom on lighter work is if the surface is matt when I reflect light on it, and it shows finger prints quite clearly, I like my drawing to have a very polished shiny finish, which is the natural quality of the pencil on board, regardless of fixative.

The solution to blooming is deliciously simple. You just wipe the wax off! Ta dah! I like to use a dry clean paper towel, however I work on board and my drawings are... what did I say, yes, burnished into the boards surface so I can be a bit rough, if you're working on paper you may want to use a soft cotton rag. What is important to think about while removing the wax, is to not rub a dark area into a light one, and visa versa and do not rub into any other mediums in your composition.

It will probably surprise you how little pigment will be picked up when you wipe because the wax is on top and the pigment is settled into the substrate. This is especially true if you're drawing with a very waxy pencil like Prismacolor.

I let my pieces bloom about three times before I seal them, once a piece is sealed, say with, workable fixative, it shouldn't bloom again, however if it does, things are not so simple, if a piece blooms underneath a seal there is no way to wipe it off... basically, you're stuck with it. This thankfully has never happened to me, and so I don't have any advice or solutions if it happens to you. This is the main reason I let my pieces bloom at least three times before sealing, because by that point most of the wax that wants to separate has. Often after I've wiped away that third bloom even if I don't seal the piece it won't bloom again.

I try to avoid blooming altogether in a piece that has integrated graphite with the CP, because graphite smears all over the place. sometimes in B&W pieces I like to use graphite for my initial sketch and darkest darks, and in this case I may use workable fixative throughout the drawing process and immediately after finishing the piece, because with the graphite so integrated into the CP wiping away a bloom would smear my piece into oblivion.

Now, wasn't that exciting!

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1 comment:

pierre said...

hello Josephine,
very interesting blog. i think a few months ago i had asked you just this question. So i am happy to see that you responded. i stopped using color pencils because of this blooming. i had done a piece with lots of dark blue and it bloomed. it made me crazy. i wiped it with paper towels but it bloomed again and again.
it was too bad because i liked using colored pencils alot.
cheers
pierre