Meet the Artist
Interview with Tracey Pinnington
- Written by Melissa Davies Melissa Davies
Tracey Pinnington is a very talented and well regarded artist who specialises in coloured pencil and is a big advocate of Strathmore Bristol paper. We have been monitoring her work for a while and have been blown away by the level of detail and care she puts into all of her work, so we wanted to take the opportunity to chat and find out more about her style, inspirations and goals for the future.
Thank you! I've always loved animals and drawing so combining the two was a natural progression.
Growing up I was taught by my art teachers to look at form and shapes within the subject rather than looking at the subject as a whole. It's helped me a lot and was a piece of advice that really stuck with me. I fell in love with the photorealistic style of drawing (with artist grade coloured pencils) during an illustration lesson at college. I first started with Caran d'ache pencils until I received my first full set of Berol Karisma pencils when I was 18. I now work predominantly in wax based coloured pencils, mainly Prismacolor and my treasured Karisma pencils (which are very rare and hard to get hold of now), I love their buttery softness.
There was never any doubt I would persue a creative career [as] art school gave me the opportunity to be more expressive and explore various mediums. I enjoyed oil painting but it was always pencils that I returned to, I love the precise control you can have with them and their versatility. I still paint from time to time but my painting style is a little looser than my drawing style.
2. You’ve mentioned on your social media pages that you’ve gained qualifications in Visual Communication design, Graphics/Illustration and Photography. Could you elaborate a bit more on these, such as when and where you got them?
At 16 I enrolled onto a 2 year BTEC course in Graphic Design at Hertford Regional College. I then expanded my studies for a further 2 years by gaining a HND in Visual Communication Design. Although it was Graphics based it also encompassed photography, illustration, print, fine art and art history. It was validated by Middlesex University which gave us the opportunity to progress to a degree. Soon after I was fortunate enough to be offered a position within a design company, so I jumped at the chance.
3. Although you’ve received commissions on different types of subjects over the years, I’ve noticed that pets and wild animals feature quite heavily in your portfolio. Is there anything in particular that draws you to this subject more than others?
I will happily draw anything and have always loved nature. I was a typical 'pony mad' girl growing up so horses featured heavily in my early drawings. I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture different textures. Fur, for example, can be so different from animal to animal and requires various techniques to portray. I'm also captivated by eyes and really enjoy trying to make them look as realistic as possible in my work. They can bring so much feeling and emotion to a portrait. I try to work on different subjects between projects to test my skills and experiment [as] it's good to keep trying to push your own limitations. I've recently had fun working on a series of marble pieces...it was the bright colours and reflections in them that attracted me [and] they require quite a different technique compared to animal portraits.
4. You’ve worked on illustration projects for large companies such as Seven Seas Health, BBC and Haliborange. Could you explain to us how these opportunities came about? Would you be open to doing anything similar in the future?
It's refreshing and fun to work on different projects from time to time so yes, I'd definitely be open to doing something similar again. They were fantastic jobs to be involved with.
I was approached by a company looking for someone that could illustrate and design. It was great to have free rein [to create] illustrations which I combined with my design projects. I've worked on various commissions for magazines, books, point of sale, leaflets, packaging, cd's and game covers (to name a few). Seeing my work in shops and public places makes me very proud.
5. Have you always used coloured pencil or did you have to try a few different mediums before you found the one you were most comfortable with? If so what other mediums have you tried?
I've worked with various mediums over the years. I enjoyed oil painting for a while, but grew frustrated with the lack of detail I struggled to achieve with it. Recently I've been experimenting by painting with water. I paint with the water then drop inks on to it, letting the water carry the ink. I love the brightness of colours and the way they interact when they start to merge together [and] I've been working on a series of Zebra portraits in this style.
Pencils will always be my first medium of choice. I use pencils 90% of the time now. I love the fact you can take them anywhere, they aren't messy (unless you drop the pot of shavings) [and] you can also create a whole range of different styles with them. There is such a variety of pencil brands for sale now each with unique characteristics, from wax based to oil, pastel and even chalky and they can be blended with oils and special blending powders, burnished or applied in various ways on various surfaces. Not just paper!
6. You’ve mentioned in the past that you love the Strathmore Bristol Smooth paper. Could you give us a bit more detail on why you feel this way? Are there any other paper/s that you love to work with aswell?
Strathmore Smooth Bristol board is currently my favourite paper to work with and has been for quite a while now. I love the smoothness of it and how my Prisma's glide over the surface easily. Prisma's have such a soft lead so can loose their points really quickly, particularly on slightly rougher papers like the Bristol Vellum. Because [the] Smooth Bristol Board has very little tooth I find my pencils keep their points for longer (as long as I'm not too heavy handed).
I've had to adapt my technique slightly [as] I am unable to add too many layers of pencil on the Smooth Bristol Board because otherwise I end up with wax bloom (a natural oxidation process of wax-based materials that appears as a cloudy white film over the drawing and can be caused by thick layering of wax pencils and applying it too heavily). It has been a good thing though as less layering means my pencils last longer and go further! Smooth Bristol Board can also stand up to a lot of punishment before the surface tears!
I also like Langton, cold pressed water colour paper in 300gsm or 425gsm for when I'm working with my inks. If I'm painting with anything else I tend to stick to canvas.
7. To give us an insight into your style of work, could you briefly explain the process you go through when you come to start a new piece?
Because my clients come from all over the world I work from photos, these help me to visualise markings and detail. To start with I sketch out a few composition ideas - it's important to get your drawing in proportion first otherwise no matter how well you apply the colour it just wont look right. Once satisfied, I trace off a more simplified version and transfer it to the surface I will work on. My children say it looks a lot like a colour by numbers board. I am right handed and was taught to work from left to right so as not to smudge my drawing but I prefer to start with the eyes as it helps me to connect to the piece, then I work outwards from that point. I use a soft cloth to protect my work and prevent any smudges, working in small sections at a time. I use a soft brush to remove any pencil dust which keeps my paper white and as clean as possible and when I begin to put down colour I work from light to dark.
8. Is there a particular piece that you’ve done which sticks in your mind or holds special memories for you? If yes, what is it about it that makes it so meaningful?
I have a few special pieces that I've never let go of but my favourite at the moment is a small zebra piece called "Out of the shadows". It was originally a practise exercise to try and find the best way of applying a black background which is something I had never tried before. I was really pleased with how it turned out and entered it into a local art competition along with a tiger piece I had also recently drawn. "Out of the shadows" went on to win first place and the Tiger got a highly commended. A print of the zebra was then auctioned off by Sworders Fine Art Auction House to raise money for a local charity. I've since had it framed [and] it has pride of place in our house.
9. Now time for a fun little question that we ask everyone…if you were a Strathmore paper which one would you be and why?
I'd be the one I'm using now, Strathmore Smooth Bristol Board, as I'm bright, easy to work with and I think I do pretty well under pressure.
10. Finally, what does the future hold for you? Have you got any exciting plans or projects lined up on the horizon?
I've been working tirelessly between commissions to build up a big enough collection of work for my first solo exhibition that is planned for 2017, I'm really excited about it! I'm planning some workshops for the future aimed at various age groups as I regularly get messaged with questions about how I work and for advice on drawing fur in particular. It will be fun to pass on the knowledge I have learnt and help other people. Also, whenever I get the chance I've been raising money for a hospital I've had wonderful treatment at over the past few years, so I will continue to raise money for them through selling originals and prints. I also intend to actually sit down at some point next year and finally get my website up and running. Amongst all that I have also opened my commissions book for the next year, so if anyone wants a commission please get in touch. I certainly have a lot to look forward too!