Crayola Crayons Create Light Under Watercolor

When I retired, I wanted to broaden my oeuvre to include some things that I hadn’t had the time to try when I was teaching. I wanted to try something more immediate and more conventional—like a picture where the trees overlap or even hide the sky. To satisfy this impulse, I began to paint the scenes on the walking trail I trek daily. You can see one of the resulting pieces above and at right. Here is an overview of the process that I use for paintings like this:

With light or white Crayola crayon, I draw (the lines are almost invisible) on hot-pressed paper. Working intuitively, I am unable to judge or correct my drawing. Since the crayon is wax, it resists watercolor. When I paint watercolor over it, the crayon provides a wonderful, palpable light as it peeks through the applied paint. When drawing trees, I feel in tune rhythmically and gesturally with the scene, as if I am conscious of the sounds of the woods: bird songs, twigs breaking, woodpeckers’ rapping, etc., while I work. It simply feels good.

After drawing with crayon and applying watercolor, I continue to work with what happens. Sometimes I use only Pitt charcoal, no crayon—just the soft stick to delineate lines on top of the dried watercolor. (I almost exclusively use the 16-color Prang box of watercolor.) These paintings either work or they don’t. The magic is there, or it’s not, and I just have to pitch the failures.

“Galleries aren’t always happy if you change styles: once buyers know your work, they look forward to seeing more of it. I’ve been lucky in that even though my work changes, it usually sells,” says Harold Gregor. His beautiful, various work is represented by the Associated Artists Gallery in New York City, by Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago, by Elliot Smith in St. Louis, and by Gerald Peters Gallery in Sante Fe. He is a professor emeritus at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.

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