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Merrill Kazanjian
New Art Techniques- Mineral Spirits and Color Pencil
New Art Techniques- Mineral Spirits and Color Pencil

This video/article will demonstrate an illustration technique which essentially changes the color from colored pencils in to a workable form of "paint" that can be manipulated on the surface of a drawing. This technique can help illustrators create fast, sophisticated imagery.

Oil Paint Vs. Colored Pencil:

In this artwork, I did NOT use any oil paint, but lets compare the similarities and differences of the two media.

Oil paint is applied with a brush rather than with a fine tip. The viscocity of paint allows it to glide on to various surfaces. Colored pencils have a hard tip which pushes in to the surface it is drawing on and leaves its marks through friction. It is easier to make shapes than lines with oil paint. Often, a paint brush will run out of paint before a line is complete or an unsteady hand will accidentally alter the thickness of the line that you are trying to make. Colored pencil is superior in this one extremely important area. It creates lines accurately and almost never runs out of color (line duration). It is superior to oil paint for precise "detail work", such as working around the eyes, shaping teeth or creating an accurate rendering of the corners of the mouth. Oil Paint's greatest attribute is its mixability and its ability to be layered. The possibility of layering paint makes oil painting a more natural pick for portrait artists since our skin is comprised of thin transparent layers. It is a lot easier to mix precise colors with oil paint (very important in portraiture) than it is with colored pencil. Finally, there is a range of opacities (transparent to opaque) that are possible with oil painting while colored pencil is limited to one blended layer.

My hope while I worked on this artwork was to essentially turn the color (pigment) in colored pencil in to paint. I knew that the pigment in oil paint was identical to the pigment used in color pencil but the binder is different. The Prismacolor colored pencils which I use are mixed with wax (other colored pencils are mixed with vegetable oil but they are not nearly as good). Wax has been an ingredient used in the production of oil paint for centuries, so in this video, I decided to mix 1,) oil paint, 2.) colored pencil and 3.) mineral spirits together. I have since tweaked my process even more, but this video/article will show the possibilities of re-working the wax based pigment in color pencil. Note: I started this drawing with a quick layer of illustration marker.

For this drawing, I used 110lb Bond paper. I have learned since that it is better to work on "bleedproof marker paper" if you are going to use markers. Notice how the markers "ran" on this drawing. I chose to do a layer of marker at the beginning to give this illustration more depth. Colored pencils (the next layer) are semi-opaque, so you will be able to see the layer of marker through the colored pencil.

Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

Merrill's Opinion- Designed for detailed work, Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers feature an advanced dye-based alcohol ink formulation that ensures rich color saturation and coverage, and smooth, silky ink flow. Each Prismacolor Art Marker features two distinct nibs capable of achieving multiple line widths. Both ends draw from a single ink reservoir for a perfect color match end to end, making them ideal for both technical and artistic applications. Intended for professional artists and advanced students, Prismacolor Art Markers will not fade or feather. The Prismacolor Art Marker line includes three full ranges of gradient gray color sets in Cool Gray, Warm, Gray, and French Gray. Boxed Sets — Sets of 6 and 12 are packaged in cardboard boxes. Studio Stacker Sets — Sets of 24, 48, 72, 120, and 156 include stackable plastic trays to keep your markers organized. Carrying Case Sets — Offered in sets of 24 or 48, these markers are packaged in durable plastic carrying cases. Carrying case sets do not include stackable trays.

In this image, I am using the colored pencil to do the "detail work" such as the areas around the eyes. Just as I stated above, "details" are a colored pencils greatest strength. That is perfect logic, when you consider that you are working with a fine point, which never runs out of color.
Can you see the difference that the colored pencils make? Look at the wrinkle lines around the eyes. These are a LOT easier to create with colored pencil than with paint.
I am now using a paint brush and mineral spirits to "thin" and "dry" the layer of colored pencil. I wanted to see if the mineral spirits would make the surface like a dried layer of paint, so that I could re-work the "painting". It worked, but I have since found that Liquin (A painting medium) works even better than the mineral spirits which you are seeing me use in this video. I have also (since) started to use oil paint directly over the colored pencil and I have found even better results.
Notice how the mineral spirits and the soft paint brush softened the features of the face by moving the pigment around.
After the mineral spirits dried, I added another layer of colored pencil. I was limited in my second application of colored pencil because if I put too much pressure on the colored pencil, the previous layer would be altered. Still, I was able to add another layer of colored pencil with this method, but with a deliate touch. As I stated above, I have since learned that it is better to use Liquin rather than mineral spirits if you wish to try this method.   

Supplies I Use/Recommend 

Prismacolor Colored Pencils

Prismacolor Colored Pencils

Merrill's Opinion- Perhaps, color pencils are the most underestimated artistic medium being used by artists today. Prismacolor, in my opinion, is the best brand of colored pencil. It is highly pigmented and its binder mixes perfectly with oil paint and liquin (painting medium). I also love to use prismacolor pencils over a layer of illustration marker It is the only brand of color pencil that you will see me using in my videos.


Liquin Original

Liquin Original

Merrill's Opinion- This is my painting medium of choice. It is the common link to ALL of my mixed media art. It works with oil paint, colored pencil and oil pastel and is capable of making them ALL compatible with each other.

Here is the finished portrait.
I finished the artwork by scanning it and incorporating it digitally in to a photographic composition. I then printed it on my HP Designjet 510 (large format printer which prints on canvas) and I finished it with oil paint.


Here is some more of my artwork created in a similar manner:




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