After the fun of ‘Wave Action’, I wanted to put the exercise to good use by doing a picture that featured sea, but where it wasn’t the only subject. Trust me to light upon a really complex picture to reference! I took this photo quite a few years ago, at Baccaro, near the lighthouse. I liked this lone Great Cormorant, sitting unconcerned by the roiling sea behind him. It’s quite a low angle, so this shows the wave as it comes ashore, and the next wave behind, forming ready to crash down. Now that was going to be a challenge to depict, still, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge!
Of course, I was going to use coloured pencil again, and I went for the Bristol vellum that had worked so well last time. Remembering the ‘paint by numbers’ effect of my last preliminary drawing, I purposely made this one simpler (albeit, probably still too detailed!). One issue was making the cormorant look right. It was such a small image on my 9 x 12 inch paper, that getting detail was really difficult. Even with the sharpest pencil I could not get the bill quite right. It’s not terrible, but not perfect. It isn’t supposed to be a feather-by-feather accurate portrait, though, so I decided to live with it. in fact, I applied my finest-nib black ink pen to the very end to give it a little additional shape. Not a favourite procedure, but it did help a little.
It went ok. Not sure if I quite got the wave forming behind the sea foam edge, although I think there is a definite feel of a busy sea. There was a lot of sea foam around the rocks in the foreground, so I decided to use the Touch-up Texture/Titanium White again, to give some structure to the mounds of foam, and highlight the wave crests in the sea. I think I’m getting the hang of this stuff now, and it certainly worked. By the way, I have discovered that you don’t need anything special to wash the brushes after using it-water and a mild dish soap works very well.
I added some highlights using white pencil, and also used it to burnish and lighten a little in some areas. I tried the Luminance White first but, for real coverage, I haven’t found anything better than Derwent Drawing’s Chinese White. Strangely, I never though to try the Lightfast White for this!
I’m ok with this one, although it isn’t a favourite (I really enjoyed ‘Wave Action’ much more). Maybe I should have tried a slightly simpler sea for my first ‘real’ seascape! ‘Ocean’s Edge’, 9 x 12 inch coloured pencil (Caran d’Ache Pablo and Lightfast, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Derwent Lightfast and Drawing Chinese White), with OMS (Gamsol) to blend, and Brush and Pencil Touch-up Texture/Titanium White for highlights, on Strathmore Series 300 Bristol Vellum.
Sea! I live close to it, and we are always taking pictures of it, but I’ve really not got to grips with drawing it. In fact, it’s something I’ve actively avoiding doing. Whenever I have had a go, I have been disappointed in the result. Well, it was about time I got over the fear, not least because I have a couple of photos in my portfolio that I’d really like to have a go at, and they both feature-yes-sea!
Considering my concerns, I decided that I’d take a look for any on-line tutorials (freebies, I’m a cheapskate!). Typing in ‘drawing sea in coloured pencil’ into Google actually brought up a few references, although mostly unhelpful. One, however, was very good. A YouTube video by Lachri Fine Arts, it featured the artist Lisa Lachri drawing a wave in coloured pencil- perfect. Now, I’ve watched her videos before and find her very knowledgeable, and her style seems to suit mine. The video is about 20-25 minutes long (she does a longer one, on her Patreon channel, but you have to pay for that) and she is purely painting a wave at sea. I thought a similar wave might make a good exercise, so I set about finding a suitable picture in our files.
We have a lot of pictures featuring sea, but strangely not much featuring waves. Normally, there is something else of interest we are focused on, generally it’s feathered! However, Mark, once, had a sudden urge to take landscape shots (he’s fine now, it didn’t last long!) and I had a few tucked away in my files. One, featuring waves breaking at Daniel’s Head, seemed like it might do the job. A little judicious cropping got me this image:
Now this is a little more sombre than the wave that Lisa paints, which is distinctly Caribbean in its colouration, but it is much more representative of the Atlantic, the ocean that laps up against our shores, so I thought it might make a good exercise. I took away a number of good pointers from Lisa’s video:
1. preserve the white areas by going over them with a white waxy pencil before starting the coloured areas
2. the area below the wave is a completely different, generally lighter, colour than the area behind it
3. use light layers, but plenty of them, to build up the colour, blending with OMS.
4. work in small areas (to avoid the ‘panic’ that the whole picture might cause), concentrating on the shapes of the waves, etc.
5. Brush and Pencil Touch-up texture with Titanium White powder can be a useful tool for restoring the really white areas of the sea foam.
6. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like much to start with, the secret is in the layers and it will improve.
7. Don’t worry if your picture varies a little from the reference, it’s all ‘artistic licence’, after all, and who will know?!
My initial drawing was far too complicated. This is a bit of panic on my part, worrying that I wouldn’t get it to look realistic if I didn’t include every bit of sea foam, every wavelet, etc. As a result it looked a bit like one of those ‘paint by numbers’ outlines that we used to get when we were children! Where are my poster paints?
See what I mean? Next time, I’ll just go for broad outlines for the major areas, ideas of the direction of the waves, and such like, because I ended up ignoring a lot of these markings anyway. To be honest, it was difficult to decide what a lot of them were supposed to be! Before starting, I removed a lot of the graphite with my kneadable eraser, and then covered half of the work with a glassine sheet. There were two reasons for this, to reduce smudging of the remaining graphite, and to concentrate on only a small area, as per the video suggestion.
Incidentally, you may notice a lot of yellow tape on my ‘work in progress pictures. I always tape down my paper on all four sides, even though that isn’t strictly necessary with the coloured pencil (even when using OMS); it just feels better to me. I also use a sloped drawing surface, so there is no danger of the picture slipping off when I tape it down. I use a painter’s tape from the DIY store for this purpose-not, maybe, strictly speaking acid-free, but a lot cheaper than the artist’s tape from the art store. I really like this FrogTape delicate surfaces tape. It can generally be easily peeled off the paper, without damaging the surface, and I find I can reuse the same bits of tape for 2 or 3 pieces before having to discard it, so my roll has lasted well over a year, so far!
So, to start. Mindful of Lisa’s suggestion in the video, I went over the major white areas in the picture (the wave crests, sea foam) with Luminance White. I chose this pencil because I’ve experienced before just how resistant it is to being covered with other pencils. In fact I’d normally recommend Luminance to be used on only the upper levels, but it would come into its own, here. I think Derwent Drawing Chinese White, or the Pablo White would probably do the same job.
The wave crests and sea foams are not pure white, anything but, so I added additional colours to mark in the shadows. I found Lightfast Light Aqua (one of the new 36 colours released recently) and Arctic very useful here. More grey areas were realised in Lightfast Moonstone (a really useful ‘hint of green’ grey shade) and Platinum; Pablo Silver Grey (hint of blue); Polychromos Cold Grey II; and, maybe surprisingly, Luminance Violet-Grey. I wasn’t too worried that I lost some of the white; enough remained to provide contrast and I was intending to try adding more highlights back in later.
Above the wave crest, the sea was dark. Now, I don’t usually trust pencils that have a ‘item’ name to actually resemble that item (many of the ‘plant-ey’ named green pencils, for example, are not really useful for foliage), but I’ll make an exception for Lightfast Ocean Blue (Dark) and Pablo Marine Blue. I found them both, but especially the former, really useful for the darker sea areas. I added in touches of Lightfast Dark Indigo; Pablo Grey, Steel Grey and Blueish Grey; and Polychromos Dark Indigo and Prussian Blue. Really dark shadows were provide by Lightfast Midnight Black, a really great black that has a strong blue tone.
The sea in front of the wave is a different tone altogether, much paler and greener. I found Polychromos Earth Green a really good base colour here, adding in a number of other colours: Polychromos Light Cobalt Turquoise and Cold Greys II, III and V; Pablo Malachite Green, Greenish Blue and Turquoise Green; Luminance Moss Green; and Lightfast Granite, Dark Turquoise and Seaweed. Dark shadows were added using Lightfast Forest (for the greener areas), and Ocean Blue (Dark) and Midnight Black for the bluer areas under the curl of the wave.
I ended up, after the first session, with this:
It was not looking too bad, although it needed more layers. Tomorrow, I would take away the glassine sheet and start to work the other side. It had done a job, it was definitely easier to work on just the exposed section and not worry about the rest, but it had its downside, too, as I was to discover the next morning. I had a beautiful, almost straight, line down the page between the half that I’d worked and the half I hadn’t, and it soon became obvious that it would take some disguising. In fact, I can still see traces in the finished piece, although that’s mainly because I know it’s there! So, maybe that sort of cover isn’t the best idea in a piece where most of the lines are horizontal. In addition, my confusing initial drawing, now faint because I’d erased a lot of the graphite, was difficuly to follow around the wave crest on the right-hand side. In fact I got it wrong; in the reference picture the wave crests further down than where I placed it. Not to worry, as long as it looks natural, there’s only you and me that know!
So, in the end, I was pretty happy with it. It might be a tad more colourful than the reference picture, though-maybe the difference between the Atlantic in November (when the picture was taken, I think) and July. Let’s consider it a summer wave, then. Now to try the Touch-up Texture/Titanium White mixture.
I’d bought this stuff last year. It was something recommended by many coloured pencil artists for adding back highlights and drawing pale whiskers, instead of resorting to a gel pen or ink pen. I’d wanted it for whiskers, really, since I’d found the pigment ink pen I usually use to be a bit of a ‘blunt instrument’-it was difficult to get good tapers with the pen nib, so the whiskers looked too thick. I’d tried the mixture for this purpose and been underwhelmed. It seemed a pain to make up, for the tiny uses I made of it, and it was wishy-washy in application, so I wasn’t impressed. Since then it has languished on my shelf, except for one use of the Touch-up Texture alone on a coloured pencil piece. I’d lost the tooth of the paper before I’d got to the colour I wanted to achieve, so I dabbed on a little Touch-up Texture (the top holds a brush, like a nail polish bottle), allowed it to dry (it doesn’t take long) and I was able to add a couple more layers of pencil to finish off the piece. Useful to know, but not something I’d want to use routinely.
Anyhow, Lisa swears by the stuff, so I decided to give it another try. Maybe I just hadn’t made a thick enough mixture? There are no real instructions for this, you just add the Touch-up Texture to the Titanium White powder and mix with an old brush. Make sure that the Touch-up Texture is well-mixed; you have to get all of the ‘powdery’ bits off the bottom of the bottle and into suspension, and really shake the Titanium White powder before use. Mix well, but you won’t dissolve all of the powder, granular bits will remain. My mixture looked like Tipp-Ex, or Liquid Paper, in texture (but don’t be temped to use Tipp-Ex instead!). Don’t make loads, a little goes a long way and it dries quite quickly, too. Use a really old brush for mixing, and preferably don’t use your best watercolour brushes for application. This stuff is really difficult to remove-in fact I haven’t found the best remover yet. Gamsol doesn’t seem to do it, I may have to try paint remover from the DIY store, next.
I used an old filbert brush and a small round liner brush for application. The filbert is great for adding detail lines along the edges of the sea foam and wave crests, and I used the liner brush for dabbing on splashy spots along and under the crests. I wouldn’t want to do the whole of the white areas of the piece in this material, but it worked nicely for adding brighter spots and details of foam. I’ll certainly keep it in mind for the future, and may even try it again for whiskers. The real beauty of this, of course, is if you get it wrong, you can use your coloured pencils over it to correct-that’s what it’s made for. ‘Wave Action’, 7 x 11 inch, coloured pencil (Derwent Lightfast, Caran d’Ache Pablo and Luminance, Faber-Castell Polychromos) with OMS (Gamsol) to blend, and Brush and Pencil Touch-up Texture/Titanium White powder blend for highlights, on Strathmore Series 300 Bristol Vellum.
Maybe I’ve finally cracked how to do sea? We will have to see, when I try a real picture. I have to say, I did really enjoy this exercise!
p.s. For anyone wondering, I got the Brush and Pencil materials from Delta Art in Edmonton. It’s the only Canadian stockist of both materials that I found; you can get the titanium White powder elsewhere but I think the Touch-up texture is more difficult. I ordered on-line and it was shipped to me, but the shipping charges were more than the materials cost (Canadian companies have horrendous shipping charges, generally, whereas I can get many art materials shipped from the UK at a 5th of the cost!). I ended up doubling the order to make it worthwhile, so I probably have enough to see me through to the next century!
A picture for me. I wanted to get the watercolour pencils out, and I also wanted to draw a bird, but which one? Well, on a fairly recent visit to a marshland park, over in Annapolis Royal, we’d been lucky enough to get wonderful views of a Sora. These little birds, of the Rail family, are usually very difficult to see, living as they do in the reeds and grasses at the edge of the water. They are much easier to hear, their bubbling calls are loud and distinctive, and often sound much closer than they really are. This particular bird came out to take a look at us, one evening, and spent quite a time in the open. Maybe we looked like very large Sora to him?!
One of the photos I took that evening seemed like a good option:
I liked the pose, the good view of those tremendous feet (they have to be big, to grasp the reeds and roots as they make their way around the water’s edge) and the interesting background.
I’d already decided on watercolour pencil, so the paper was to be the Canson XL cold press in the 9 x 12 inch size. This would make the bird roughly life-size (they are about 8-9 inches tall). I contemplated the Arches paper for a while, but I didn’t think I’d keep the detail using that paper. It is clearly better for those loose watercolourists -that, I fear, will never be my forte!
As usual, I did my subject first, and I was pretty pleased with how it came out. I made copious use of the Albrecht Durer cold greys in the plumage, with a little help from Supracolor’s very blue-tinted greys. Wetting the pencil meant that I had to use my small liner brushes (0000 to 00 in size).
000 size round liner
0000 size round liner
00 size round liner
I picked up these brushes in Michael’s, in their watercolour brush section. They are all Winsor and Newton Cotman, so very much student grade brushes, but you don’t need top quality for watercolour pencil, especially when working these tiny areas. It does take some time when working so small, although I have found, over the time I’ve been doing this, that I’ve migrated to using the larger of the set rather than the smallest-I must have more confidence in myself nowadays.
The background took longer than the bird! All those horizontal and diagonal reeds took some colouring. here I pulled out one pencil from the Derwent watercolour range, the Flesh Pink. I find this colour invaluable for this sort of subject, and it is a colour quite unmatched in the other sets (it is in the new Lightfast coloured pencils, too, and I’m delighted!). It’s a watercolour, so I wasn’t aiming for absolute verisimilitude, but I did want to keep the reeds separate whilst giving some idea of depth and watery-ness. Overall, I think it was successful.
It would have taken many more hours to finish had I tried to wet all of the background with the liner brushes, so for this I moved to some larger ones. I have heard watercolour artists commenting on the amount of water that a brush can carry, but I was never really sure what that meant. I think I get it, now. In the case of my work, I don’t want too much water, as I lose the detail, but I don’t want it too dry, because I need the colour to flow a little. I’ve found these two brushes work really well for me.
Size 2 round
Size 0 round
The dark one came from the local Dollar shop. I was very surprised to see this brush range (Black Silver, by Dynasty) recommended by some watercolour artists because they are pretty cheap, and they usually go for something expensive and made out of sable! This brush does hold water very well and is great for those larger areas. The smaller brush (Select Artiste Princeton) is from Michael’s again, and is in their intermediate watercolour brush range, but I find it very comfortable to use on the smaller parts of the larger areas (if that makes sense).
I enjoyed using the watercolour pencils again, but I have to say that I think coloured pencil has become my favourite medium for now. I am resolved to mix and match, though-a change is as good as a rest! ‘Sora’, 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Caran d’Ache Supracolor, Facber-Castell Albrecht Durer, one Derwent Watercolour), on Canson XL cold press, 140lb watercolour paper.
I like trying portraits, but I don’t get many chances to do any. Mark is getting a bit fed up of being my muse so, when I said I wanted to do a portrait piece he specially requested that it wasn’t of him! My family is far away, and many of them don’t like having their picture taken, anyway. However, I did have some photos of our two nieces, sent by my sister when they were all dressed up for their high school proms. I say ‘proms’, because there is actually a year between the two girls, so the pictures were taken on different years, dates and in different locations! Nothing like a challenge, eh?
I wanted to combine the images into one piece, as I thought it would be a nice reminder for their mum of a real ‘rite of passage’ moment. In actual fact, prom for the oldest (on the left) was 10 years ago, whilst for the other it was 9 years. Still, they looked absolutely lovely on the nights and I relished the chance to try and make something of it.
By the way, ‘prom’ is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, imported from America, of course. We had nothing like that when we were at school (and thinking back to what I looked like, then, I’m rather thankful!). Still, it isn’t quite as gruesome as it appears to be in the States and Canada, where everyone has to pair up with a date (that would have been impossible for the likes of me-short, chubby and decidedly on the clever side so everyone’s last choice!). In the UK, everyone seems to go in a bunch, with all their best friends (mostly female at that age), and just have a good time. Stretch limos full of girls are the norm. It doesn’t seem too bad at all.
I decided to concentrate on head and shoulders, although I did have full-length pictures of the girls in their party dresses (not ball gowns). In the end I picked two photos, one with the eldest (E) looking slightly sideways on, and one with the youngest (A) face on. I thought these would group nicely. As I said, they were in different locations, one indoors and the other in a garden, so I’d have to consider lighting quite carefully.
I was going to work this one in coloured pencil, and I decided to go with my favourite surface, the Bristol vellum. I had also recently taken delivery of a ‘how to’ book on portraiture by a coloured pencil artist that I really admire, Karen Hull. This book is full of examples that can be worked for practice, although I really don’t enjoy copying someone else’s work. However, it had several great suggestions for improving my technique, so I was happy to take notice of these and try to employ some of them in my piece.
One of the things that Karen suggested was to start the skin with a light layer of Polychromos Ivory, or Luminance Buff Titanium, before adding in the pinker colours. I did this working on E’s portrait first, and found it worked very well to give a first hint of colour. I worked the eyes next, using PC Dark Indigo and Payne’s Grey for the pupils, initially, before adding in Pablo Ivory Black (my favourite of all the blacks), and a mixture of Pablo Blueish Grey, Olive Brown, Grey, Dark Grey and Lightfast Mid-Ultramarine for the irises. I made sure to add light grey to the whites of the eyes, to suggest the rounding of the eyeball, and pink (mostly Pablo Granite Rose) to the corners, reserving a little white to suggest moisture.
Skin shading was worked up using Pablo Granite Rose and Apricot, Polychromos Light Flesh and Medium Flesh, and Lightfast Flesh Pink and Salmon, with particularly bright highlights (where the light was hitting the skin) in Lightfast Oyster, a really useful very pale pink. Darker shaded areas used a lot of different colours, including Pablo Beige, Light Beige, Aubergine, Brownish Beige, Cocoa and Brownish Orange; PC Purple Violet, Warm Greys II, III and IV, Caput Mortuum, Burnt Ochre, and Luminance Violet Grey. I am always a bit surprised by the number of violet tones present in the shadows under the eyes and around the chin and neck. Being brave in adding in this colour definitely brings more definition to the features.
For lips I have found that Pablo Raspberry Red and Granite Rose make a good basis, with Lightfast Oyster for the very lightest highlights. Additional depth was added using Pablo Burnt Sienna, Rose Red and Aubergine, and PC Dark Red, Caput Mortuum Violet and Medium Flesh.
Hair is always a difficult issue. Karen Hull suggests taking the hair in sections, rather than trying to draw individual hairs, and this is a good plan. She also suggests preserving the lightest parts of each lock with a pale colour; for E’s dark honey-coloured hair I used mostly PC Ivory and some Cream in the position of the major highlights first, before adding in darker colours such as PC Van Dyke Brown, Raw Umber, Brown Ochre, Burnt Ochre and Nougat; Pablo Brown Ochre and Ochre; and Lightfast Wheat and Champagne. I used Pablo Charcoal Grey to insert areas of dark into the hair, to suggest separate hairs and give the whole a 3D effect. I really found that preserving the highlights worked well, a trick I shall have to remember for the future.
With A’s hair, somewhat lighter in colour, the preserved highlights were purely done with PC Ivory. Other colours were similar to those used on E’s hair, except that there were more yellows, including PC Light Yellow Ochre and Dark Naples Yellow, Pablo Light Ochre and Beige/Brownish Beige in place of Raw Umber, Burnt Ochre and Nougat.
The clothes, and A’s jewellery were fun to do, and allowed me to use a few metallic pencils. I don’t find the Polychromos metallics too good, but the Pablo Silver, Gold and Bronze are a bit softer (surprisingly, as it’s usually the other way round with the majority of these pencils) and so can definitely be useful.
Everything was blended with OMS (Gamsol)
So I ended up with an image of both girls, on one sheet. The light didn’t seem to be coming from too many different directions, so that had worked. The background was a bit of a puzzle, though. It was a stark white, and I didn’t know what to put in there-garden? wall? curtains? In the end, I decided to just choose a nice neutral shade to fill in the background, and I achieved a dusky blue-grey by blending Derwent Drawing Solway Blue and Smoke Blue, followed by OMS blended using my stiff filbert brush. That brush really allows me to move the pigment around and fills in the tooth of the paper very well. I find it invaluable for backgrounds. That was all that it needed. All that was left to do was to reinforce the highlights in E’s eyes using a white pigment ink pen, which made tham sparkle. I’d had better luck preserving the highlights in A’s eyes and didn’t ned to add anything to them.
I was pleased, although I had again made the picture so big that it won’t fit a store-bought matte and will need custom-cutting. Now to see what the subjects, and their mum, thought.
‘Prom Belles’, 11 x 14 inch Coloured Pencil (Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Pablos and Luminance, Derwent Lightfast and Drawing), with OMS (Gamsol) to blend and Uniball Signo pigment ink pen (white) for highlights, on Strathmore series 300 Bristol vellum.
I was sending my sister her commissioned pieces, so I slipped this one into the envelope as a surprise. Mark was convinced that she might like it but that the subjects definitely wouldn’t-remember, they hate having their photos taken. I added a letter, asking my sister for permission to blog the portrait, if the girls were amenable. Well, they ALL liked it. My sister thinks I definitely got their expressions right and now she’s trying to think where to put the picture (she hasn’t much wall space). I must have managed to make them recognisable. I’m very pleased (and relieved!) that it was a success, and I got my permission to blog from everyone concerned.
Back to drawing just for me. I wanted something that I could finish off quite quickly so I picked out a plant photo I took back in 2010. This is an unusual and stately-looking plant and I really liked the definition of the ribs on the leaves, and the whorls of sepal surrounding the flower heads.
Now, I had no idea what it was. I had photographed it on a visit to Voyageur Provincial Park in Ontario, in early July. This park is just over the Quebec border and sits on the bank of the Ottawa River. It could get a bit busy at weekends, but it was good for some interesting insects, such as the Baltimore Checkerspots we found here. I was having no luck identifying this flower from a field guide (we have the National Wildlife Federation ‘Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America’, which I usually find next to useless). Instead I went online to ‘Ontario Wildflowers’ and found it right away in their ‘yellow flowers’ section. It is apparently Horseheal, or Elecampane (Inula helenium). Armed with that information, I looked it up in the field guide and found that it isn’t a North American native, but an introduced species from Eurasia. That’s why it was hard to find, this particular field guide gets all snotty about introductions and sticks them in a special section at the back. Not helpful, especially when you are in the field, to my mind!
Anyhow, I thought the plant was interesting, all those fleshy sepals and leaves. The flower isn’t fully out; when it is it is a large radiate flower with a big middle, like a daisy with narrow yellow petals in several rows. I was going to try watercolour pencil on this, but at the last minute shied away and went for coloured pencil, again, on the Bristol vellum surface. It was actually very quick to complete; I did the flower first, working down from the highest flower head to the big leaf at the bottom. After that, I considered a background. The real background is in shades of dark and mid green but I was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough contrast between the flower and the background, so I adapted it a little to lighter greens (especially the earthy ones from the Derwent Drawing set), working down to darker tones at the base. The very darkest parts were layers of Polychromos Dark Indigo and Lightfast Forest, but before I finished I had a little panic attack and added a layer of Brown Earth from Coloursoft, and it ended up more brown than green. Oh well, I don’t mind it too much, it seems to work.
Not really sure what sort of healing this plant provides to horses. I looked on line and it apparently has a number of human uses, both culinary and medicinal, including the production of absinthe, an expectorant and a preparation for water retention (not that I recommend anyone trying it out!) Supposedly it gets its systemic name from Helen of Troy, having sprung from the ground where her tears fell when she was stolen away by Paris. Whatever, the medicinal and culinary uses make its introduction to North America quite understandable, although there is no apparent link to horses!
‘Horseheal’. 9 x 12 inch coloured pencil (Caran d’Ach Pablos and Luminance, Derwent Lightfast, Drawing and Coloursoft, Faber-Castell Polychromos), with OMS to blend (Gamsol), on Strathmore series 300 Bristol vellum.
I don’t draw many insects, in fact I don’t think I’ve tried a butterfly for many years. I did do some ink drawings, a long time ago when I was doing illustrations for some of Mark’s wildlife publications. Back then, the only way we could publish was to photocopy, and it wasn’t a colour copier, so ink drawings were my forte. Anyhow, I’ve always thought it difficult to make a butterfly look real, somehow, in a drawing/painting so I’ve tended to shy away.
Mark took a really nice photo earlier this week in our very own garden. It was a ‘first of the season’ American Copper butterfly, on a lovely pink geranium flower in our rockery. This is a small insect, wingpan less than 1 inch across, but very bright. I really liked this image.
Now I was looking for a final subject for my sister’s commission for her guest room frames. This was the smallest of the lot, about 4 x 6 inch, and I thought that this image might make a nice final piece. It would be fiddly, working detail at that size, but we would see how it would go. Coloured pencil, and the Bristol vellum, would be my choice of materials for this small piece.
It went rather well. The flower has a lot of interesting detail, and I think the butterfly looks quite true to life. The photo has an appealing bokeh background that I tried to replicate with, I think, some success. It did come out as a colourful image so should be eye-catching, even though it is small. I hope she likes it.
This was one of those pieces that used a lot of different pencils. I stuck to Lightfast, Polychromos and Pablos for the main subject, with a little Luminance Buff Titanium and White for contrast. Blending was with OMS. The background was another thing altogether-all of the above, plus Derwent Drawing and a couple of Derwent Coloursoft, which I used to glaze over the initial layers to blend in the edges of the circles (Ochre and Cream). OMS blending, using the fairly stiff filbert brush I mentioned previously, gave the background the softness I was looking for. I do think I’m getting to grips with the bokeh effect now, at least in coloured pencil. Watercolour is a whole different thing!
Just for fun, I counted the pencils I used, as I was putting them back in their drawers-I know, a strange definition of ‘fun’, maybe, but it pleased me!
22 Lightfast, 21 Polychromos, 27 Pablo, 16 Derwent Drawing, 2 Luminance, 2 Coloursoft.
Maybe I’ll try more butterflies, after all. ‘American Copper’, 4 x 6 inch coloured pencil (Derwent Lightfast, Coloursoft and Drawing, Caran d’Ache Pablo and Luminance, Faber-Castell Polychromos), with OMS (Gamsol) to blend, on Strathmore series 300 Bristol vellum.
I finally settled on a wharf scene to do for my sister’s collection. I wanted something very colourful and detailed, as it’s quite a small picture (albeit the largest of the lot)-I really thought something with a lot of colour and interest would work best. In the end I decided to use a picture that I already have had a go at, back in January of 2017. Back then I was using only watercolour pencil and Inktense pencils, I hadn’t got into the coloured pencil at all. The photo was taken, during the lobster season, on West Head wharf on our own Cape Sable Island, and showed lots of boats, waiting to head out lobstering. This was the original photo:
Busy, busy! Back in 2017, I had a go on 9 x 12 inch watercolour paper, rationalising the image a little, to remove extraneous detail (and even some of the boats!). The result is one of my favourite pieces; so much so that it is framed on the wall of our office. I like the colours (Inktense rules for intense colours in the watercolour pencils) and the slightly unusual angle, and even the rather simplistic effect. I certainly wasn’t aiming for photo-realism here.
‘West Head’, 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil on 140lb cold press watercolour paper.
I thought a similar piece might work for my sister, although it would be smaller so I pulled in the focal point a little. Just to make it interesting, I decided to use coloured pencil, rather than watercolour pencil, and to include more of the boats that are in the original photo, although I still wanted to lose the container lorries and extraneous sheds of the wharf-they are not at all picturesque!
As with the dog rose pieces, I started by drawing out the maximum dimensions of the piece on my chosen paper-back to the good old, reliable, Strathmore Bristol vellum this time. the dimensions requested were 14 x 19 cm, so I went to 15 x 20 cm, to make sure the colour would meet the matte in all directions. My sister can then move the image around behind the matte until she finds her favourite position. It was a complicated image to transfer to the paper, but I finally got something I was happy with, with minimal erasing! For pencils I decided to try to use my new Lightfast, primarily, but ended up adding some pencils from both the Pablos and Polychromos. There are some colours that I naturally gravitate towards and I find it hard not to use them. For blending, I went back to OMS this time.
The complex nature of the image meant that I found it easier to start work at bottom left and work my way upwards. It can be quite difficult to work out the order of the superstructures of these lobster boats, especially when there are several in a line, so it’s definitely easier to draw in the forwardmost boat and then work on the ones further back. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best way to work without smudging, and I did find that I started to smudge the intense red of ‘Lady Debra’s’ hull, even after it had been blended. A sheet of glassine paper taped over the completed portions stopped this happening, although I do think that the oil-based Lightfast are a bit more prone to this happening than the other pencils. Something to be aware of, when using these, I think.
There are lobster traps in the picture. The modern traps have a metal frame, covered in plastic-coated wire netting, and the netting tends to be in different colours, lending a nice effect. I didn’t think I’d be able to capture that in the coloured pencil; even my very excellent Derwent sharpener won’t produce points that sharp (at least not ones that wouldn’t crumble at the first use!), so I thought I’d try the mini gel pen set I’ve had for some time. Well, they were really no use, they didn’t like going over the coloured pencil at all. In the end I applied the relevant colour as pencil, as a block, blended it in and then drew in a mesh pattern with a black technical drawing pen with the smallest nib I have (01). It adds a bit of texture.
I managed 6 boats in the piece, four facing forwards and two, at the rear, facing away. I left one boat out, made up a bit of wood paling and rock wall, and ended up with a blue sky, rather than the freezer container/shed background of the photo. I like it, it is certainly colourful and busy. Hope my sister feels the same! “Going Lobsterin'”, 6 x 8 inch coloured pencil (Derwent Lightfast, faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Pablo) with OMS (Gamsol) to blend and Zebra Drafix 01 black ink technical drawing pen for detail, on Strathmore Series 300 Bristol vellum.