Inktense Exercise

I’ve got myself into a little bit of a rut…not in a bad way, you understand, but I have been tending to reach for the same sets of pencils for every picture, i.e. the Pablos and Polychromos in coloured pencil, and the Supracolors and Albrecht Durers in watercolour pencils. Now these are all excellent pencils, so it’s not too surprising, but I do have some other pencils stowed away in my pencil cabinets. Some are quite specialist and have been rather neglected; none more so than my set of Derwent Inktense.

These are rather unique in the pencil world. They look like pencils, draw like pencils but, when wetted, look like ink wash. The colours are vivid and beautiful, but perhaps a bit too bright for my usual subject matter. Because they are ink-like, they don’t have many pastel or pale colours. I’ve therefore tended to use them infrequently, mostly in my wharf and boat pictures, when I’ve wanted to add some intense colours to buoys, hulls, life rings, and the like, but completed the rest of the piece using the standard watercolour pencil. I really wanted to see if I could do a whole picture using only the Inktense pencils, a bit of an exercise in making do with what you have (although it really can’t be considered a hardship!).

So, for subject matter. I didn’t think that I could do much in the wildlife area, because the Inktense set lacks the browns, beiges, greys and greiges that I use so much. Instead I thought I’d try a street scene. I’d recently been looking through some pictures taken in Italy, back in April 2000. These were originally film prints, but I had scanned them into my computer so I was able to scale up a picture from the standard 5 x 7 inch print size. We were on Capri (somewhere we actually didn’t take too, that much), and I’d taken a picture of one of the little windy alleys that count as streets there.

capri 6 rs watermark

I thought it might work so set about making a very detailed graphite pencil drawing on watercolour paper. I don’t usually draw quite so detailed a picture, especially when using coloured pencil, because the graphite tends to smear and make the colours muddy. In this case, however, I thought it important to get the proportions right from the start. The 72 set of Inktense includes an outliner, an non-soluble graphite-like pencil, that you can use to draw your outline. I was going to use this, but it is very soft, softer than the coloured Inktense, and I couldn’t get it to take a point-it kept clogging up my sharpener. Maybe the hot summer weather was the problem here?

via listrieri capri wip rs

Now I knew I wouldn’t be copying this photo exactly, because the set just doesn’t have the lighter colours, so I decided to use the lightest yellow possible to do most of the walls and build up from there.

colour chart derwent inktense

Sicillian Yellow turned out to be a good choice for the base colour, with Saddle Brown, Tan, Willow, Oak, Amber and Mustard all helping to develop the colour of the plaster. Although it was April when the picture was taken, I decided to do a little artistic licence and add some additional flowers and greenery to the balconies, and brighten the clothing of the people. Skin tones are a real problem with Inktense, I ended up with a mixture of Crimson and Tan, blotted off with a paper towel before it could get too dark. I would not want to try a portrait with these pencils!

Inktense pencils will sharpen to a point, but they are very soft and it is easy to break the point on the drawing. When you apply the colour it can look really dull and not at all the colour you were expecting. The same goes for the leads of the pencils, many look green when they are really grey, brown or even tan. Add water and the true colour is revealed. this makes blending a bit of a trial; it is important to make a colour chart and not rely on lead colour or even the pencil ends colours, they are not true. The colour dissolves really well and easily but, once dried, it isn’t re-wettable. That can be good if you want to add more colour afterwards, or are working details next to an already painted area, but not good if it dries before you have time to get a whole area ‘washed’ and so end up with a tide line. I found it best to concentrate on completing a smallish area before moving on.

It was a quick picture to complete, however, much quicker than the watercolour pencils or, especially, the coloured pencils. I think it took about 12 hours, including the detailed drawing, which is much less than ‘Good Companions’. I enjoyed the exercise, am pretty happy with the completed picture and it has even got the ultimate accolade-Mark likes it! Not a given for my ‘non-wildlife’ pieces.

via listrieri capri rs watermark

‘Via Listrieri, Capri’, 5 x 11 inch, Derwent Inktense pencil on 140lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).




Down to the Jetty

I really struggle with landscapes. I don’t think that they work well with my detail obsession and my preference for watercolour pencil work. I suppose the type of landscape I’ve always enjoyed seeing are those with wafts of colour that give the impression of the landscape structures, and I’m just not good at that (and pencil isn’t the medium for it, I think). Anyhow, you work with what you have, so it really is up to me to get better at what I know.

My sister lives back in the UK, and she expressed a wish for a painting- well, a couple of paintings all told, of the same size and orientation. She chose one of my completed pieces, ‘Chegoggin Wharf’, and wanted a companion piece, the only stipulation being for something ‘rural’. She’s not into the birds, so it would have to be a landscape, but I didn’t want to do another wharf. Looking through my photo files, I came across an image I’d taken last summer.

This is a view down to the jetty of the Old Acadian Village at Pubnico, NS. It’s an open-air museum, where a number of old houses, workshops and barns have been moved to the site and set up with furnishings, etc., so that it looks pretty much as it would have done in the 19th Century. It’s an interesting place and my parents and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon exploring it last August. It was actually during the same time period that I took the reference photo for ‘Chegoggin Wharf’, so that was also appropriate. The picture had trees, water, a couple of rural-looking buildings, a dory in the sound and lots of foliage, so I hoped it would fit the bill.

One thing that I wanted to do was match the foreground flowers of ‘Chegoggin Wharf’. There were none, really, in my new reference photo but I thought that a little artistic licence could be used to add in Queen Anne’s Lace and a couple of other species into the right-hand foreground of the new piece.

This is ‘Chegoggin Wharf’, you can see that Queen Anne’s Lace is pretty big in this composition.

The other thing I wanted to do was to frame the grass ‘pathway’ down to the wharf with something on the left-hand side. Just down the hill, and hidden by the foliage, was a pile of old-fashioned wooden lobster traps, so I ‘moved’ a couple of them up the hill a bit! I hope that this helps draw the eye into the picture, and that the buoys add a little colour to the foreground.

I haven’t used them much, recently, but this time I determined to use the Derwent Inktense pencils a bit more. One thing that helped was the purchase of a second pencil cabinet. I had filled the first one immediately on buying it, and my Inktense pencils were one of the sets that I wasn’t able to lay out, consequently I tended not to use them. My new cabinet now holds the coloured pencil collection, leaving more room in the original one for the watercolours. Using the Inktense on this foliage and flower-filled picture made a lot of sense, since once dried, the colour is permanent so additional watercolour pencil over the top did not make the first layer bleed. In addition, it is a very intense colour and pops against the more subdued watercolours. It worked well for some of the green and yellow foliage, the pink/red flowers and the buoys. Finally, a black gel pen was utilized to add the detail of the nets within the lobster traps. I really don’t think that I’d have got a pleasing effect, trying to do that in watercolour!

‘Down to the Jetty’, 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Caran d’Ache Supracolor, Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Derwent Watercolour and Derwent Inktense), with black gel pen (Staples) on 140lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).

It remains to be seen if this one suits my sister-fingers crossed!

I recently decided to replenish some of my pencil sets. There were a couple of pencils that were getting very short, mainly in the older sets. Although I am still able to use these with pencil extenders, it’s obvious that their days are numbered.

These were the shortest, but there were quite a few others getting that way, even in the new sets. For some reason, I have used the Albrecht Durer Payne’s Grey quite widely, and my Cinnamon Polychromos pencil, unusually, suffered from repeated breakages. I looked at at their open stock, and was surprised to find that some pencils were listed at $3.95 each (with $4.95 shipping), and others (the same pencils, the same colours) at $65 each-that’s for one pencil! It definitely pays to be careful what you click on.

The cheaper-priced pencils all seemed to be coming from one supplier, Jackson’s Art Supplies, in the UK. Well, I decided to try them out directly, instead of going via Amazon. They do ship internationally and hold stocks of all the major pencils. I was able to get replacements for Supracolor, Derwent Watercolour, Derwent Drawing, Albrecht Durer and Polychromos with no problem. Prices are in UK pounds, of course, but seemed very similar to Amazon’s prices (the cheap ones of course!) and they don’t charge VAT (the UK’s sales tax) on orders from abroad. I bought 19 pencils for 27 GBP, they charged only 1.48 GBP for postage and packing, and shipped them the day after I placed the order (30 December). The package arrived here on 12 January, which I think is very good service, considering the New Year’s holiday and the recent bad weather. I wasn’t desperate for them, so the delay was no issue. They were securely wrapped in a paper envelope, covered by a full-length strip of corrugated cardboard wrapped tightly round and then a padded envelope, so they were all fine when I unwrapped them. I wasn’t even charged duty at this end. That’s what I call a good deal!

As you can see, my shorter pencils are mostly the dull colours. All those pinks, blues and purples are hardly touched (in fact, some of them haven’t been, except for making the colour charts!). I will definitely have to start doing tropical bird portraits. I won’t hesitate to use Jackson’s again, indeed I note the recommendation for the Caran d’Ache Luminance White coloured pencil amongst the pencil artist community so might spring for a few of their open stock Luminance pencils to give them a go (I would probably have to sell a kidney to buy the full set!). The Pablo pencils, though…they might be on my birthday list :).

That was a year…

I thought I’d have a look back at a year of blogging, my first year doing this and, coincidentally, my first full year working with coloured art. I have drawn birds (and some animals, insects, etc.) for many years, usually in pen and ink. This goes back to the 1990’s, when Mark used to publish a lot of newsletters and reports for the park where he worked. The technology was limited then, mainly photocopying things stuck to paper, so pen and ink was really the only thing that would show up! I’ve always had some watercolours (pans and tubes) and I did a few ‘ink and wash’ pictures, that seemed to work ok but never really got into it. Partly, it was not having somewhere to leave everything out so that I could just go, sit down and do it. A studio space makes it much more likely that I will! I still like the discipline of the pen and ink medium and will have to do some more in the new year.

Moving on to 2016, I found myself stuck for weeks in Halifax, whilst undergoing repeated medical treatments, and so I found my way to an art shop (Deserre’s, the only ‘proper’ one in Nova Scotia), looking for distraction. I bought some coloured pencils (rather cheap ones), to try and get working in colour. I also bought a cheap set of watercolour pencils (Faber-Castell), and these were a revelation. I could get the look of watercolour, with the precision of a pencil for the details. I do like to draw birds, but the details have to be right (Mark tells me if otherwise!). The coloured pencils were relegated to a drawer, whilst the watercolour pencils got a good workout. This is where I was at the beginning of this year. My first post was of a number of pictures, of wharves and boats, and birds, including ‘Churn Road’, three different North American sparrow species. It is still a picture that I like, it makes a striking image, matted and framed in black.

At this point I was still using the cheap watercolour pencil set and 90lb cold press watercolour paper. I was hooked, however, and I started collecting pencils. I bought a set from Amazon in the UK, because the price looked good and I could get them sent on to me from my parents’ house. This was a set of 60 Faber-Castell Art-Grip pencils, nice pencils in the amateur range. I got 120 Marco Renoir pencils from very well priced pencils, described as ‘Artist’ quality (but probably not so). I also plumped for a set of 72 Derwent Watercolour pencils and 72 Derwent Inktense pencils, more upmarket sets that I still use. At this stage I was still using the 90 lb paper. My first picture using all of these was a landscape, the lighthouse at Cape Forchu, which was something of a departure for me.

I also bought a set of Derwent Graphitint, tinted graphite pencils. I have only used them once so far:

I liked them and should really get around to using them more. So many pencils, so little time!
It was around this time that I upgraded the watercolour paper. The Bienfang 90 lb paper was ok, it has a nice tooth that seems to work well with the watercolour pencils, but it is lightweight and there is some buckling of the paper after wetting, even though I always tape down all edges of the paper (just now I’m using Frogtape painter’s tape for delicate surfaces, which does pull off quite easily with a minimum of damage to the paper). I don’t get to Halifax that often any more (thankfully) and even less so downtown, where the art shop is, but I have made several visits to Michael’s ‘art’ section, where I was able to pick up a heavier grade watercolour paper, 140lb cold press Canson XL. It is described as ‘student’ grade, but it serves my purposes for now and has become my watercolour paper of choice. I have a range of sizes and, in April, I posted a picture in the larger format that I’m still rather proud of, ‘Talking Turkey’:

They might not be pretty, but they are full of personality!

Also in April, I took the advice of a friend of Mark’s, a working artist, who suggested that I should upgrade my pencils to a real Artist quality set. Although the Derwents are considered to be Artist quality, the other sets I had were hobby or student grade only. He felt that my art work would be helped by better tools. Always one to take advice when the result is more pencils, I bought a set of Caran d’Ache Supracolor II watercolour pencils, again from Amazon (who have really come through magnificently this year on art supplies!), Well, he was right, they soon became my ‘go to’ set, relegating all but the Derwents to the back of a drawer. It was a surprise just how much better these quality pencils are. On the minus side, they are a bit pricier; on the plus, they are much more lightfast, nicer to use, easier to wet and you can replace individual pencils by buying on open stock, rather than having to buy a set. Anyhow, more pencils, what’s not to like? The first picture using these pencils was a scene of Piping Plovers, a rare nesting bird that happens to find the beaches round here to their liking.

Now, my blog address is ‘sandradenniswildlifeart’ (chosen by Mark when he was trying to get me to blog), but I realised that all the pictures were either birds or wharfs and boats…a bit limited on the wildlife front. I determined to have a go at animals, albeit not actually wild ones to start off. My first animal picture was a friend’s dog, the second was of our two cats. I think this one worked especially well:

A new technique here was the use of a gel or pigment ink pen to draw in the white whiskers on the cats after the picture was completed. It was astonishingly difficult to find a white gel pen…they are definitely a specialist item…but Amazon came up trumps again. A package of three different styles of white pen were dispatched from the UK and arrived a week later, in perfect condition and just when needed. I am getting my art supplies from all over the world!
I had neglected the coloured pencil in favour of the watercolours, but I had been quietly collecting pencils over the year. I had retired the cheap pencils and upgraded to a set of 24 Derwent Drawing pencils, in earthy colours that I thought would work well for wildlife, and 80 Prismacolor Premier pencils. This latter set is often used by more serious coloured pencil artists, although it suffers from issues with lightfastness and broken leads. In October I determined to try to use them more, accordingly I picked an interesting subject for my first real ‘go’.

Reading around the subject, I had found that many artists use an underpainting of watercolour or watercolour pencil, before adding the coloured pencil, since coloured pencil work seems to need a lot of layering, so I determined to try this. Well, it was hard work. I’d used the watercolour paper (the only paper I had in) and it was far too ‘toothy’. I also used a colourless pencil blender (Prismacolor blender) that seemed to take quite a lot of work. I was relatively happy with the final picture but realised I’d need to up my game and at least get some better paper. I formed a shopping list for my next Halifax visit.

We had a lot of visitors over the summer, including my parents who stopped with us for a month. Dad was quite interested in my art and suggested that I try portraiture. I hadn’t even thought about trying that, but started with a ‘selfie’ of me in watercolour pencil. I was pleased enough with that to try a double portrait next, of Mum and Dad. be careful what you wish for, Dad!

Portraiture has become a favourite since, a real surprise. I don’t think I’m up to life drawing, but I’m happy with a decent photo.

A Halifax trip in October increased my paper stocks with pads of Bristol board (Canson XL recycled Bristol and Strathmore 300 Bristol Vellum) to try with the coloured pencils. I also picked up a bottle of odourless mineral spirits (Gamsol), which had been recommended as an alternative for blending. It has the advantage of not damaging the surface of the paper, allowing further layers to be added after the first blend. Armed with these supplies I tried my first botanical painting:

I’d also added to my pencil store with a set of 36 Prismacolor Verithins, very hard coloured pencils that hold a point well and are good for adding detail. I thought they would work well with the Prismacolor Premiers and they were a good price on Amazon. Unfortunately, they seem to suffer from the Prisma curses of limited lightfastness and breaking leads, but they did come in useful for this painting. Blending was with Gamsol and worked well, except that my original graphite drawing also dissolved, leaving some ‘muddy’ colours at the edges. I learned to draw more lightly and erase a lot of what I had drawn with a kneadable eraser, before adding colour, to prevent this.

Well, the pencil collection hadn’t increased for a while but I had been eyeing up the Artist quality Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. Many coloured pencil artists swear by them so I decided to take the plunge. (Un)fortunately, Faber-Castell also do Artist quality watercolour pencils (Albrecht Durer), and since that is my favourite medium, they were crying out to me, too. Ah well, I can always survive on bread and lard, if necessary! The Albrect Durers were described as Japanese imports on Amazon, but they look and feel perfect, so not sure what difference that makes. The Polychromos were shipped from Germany, but took only a couple of weeks to get here (free shipping, too!) and arrived in perfect condition. Having both came in handy when I tried a portrait of two of our friends:

I started in watercolour pencil (mainly Albrecht Durer) but the result was a bit ‘blah’, probably too blue, as Mark remarked. Because the Polychromos set has the same colours as the Albrecht Durers, I was able to go over it with coloured pencil, which deepened the colours and ended up with a much better picture. Another lesson learned.

My pencil count is getting to be pretty high (836, not counting the really cheap sets) so my last major purchase was a cabinet for my studio.

Actually, I already filled it so I’m after a second one! It is so much nicer to just sit down at my drawing board, with all of my pencils laid out next to me for easy finding. I plan to put the second cabinet at the other side (the current cabinets there will move) and keep one for watercolour pencils and the other for coloured pencils-posh, eh? There will be room for expansion on the pencil front, but don’t tell Mark as he already thinks he’ll have to reinforce the floor under my desk to support the weight of pencils!

On the same Halifax visit, I picked up some tinted paper, Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper, since many coloured pencil artists seem to use this as an alternative to drawing in a background (from experience, this can take a long time!). I tried it out drawing a lovely photo of Mark’s, just before Christmas, and really liked it:
The paper is actually a nice goldy-yellow in tone, which the photo really doesn’t show, and the pencils used were Polychromos and Derwent Drawing.

Well, that was my art year. Lots of new pencils (yippee!), new papers, new techniques, hints and tips found and used, new subject matter. I don’t think I’ll have time to get bored! Already finished my first picture of 2018, but I’ll wait until a new post to talk about that one. Happy New Year and good painting!


Some times it is nice to do a simple subject, sometimes it is good to try something a bit more complex. This time I really wanted to challenge myself so I chose a subject that included three things I have always found a bit tricky; sky, sea and snow. I know, I know, I live on the coast of Nova Scotia so I should be getting a bit better, at least at sky and sea (snow is, thankfully, less common!). I’ve had several goes at both, with differing levels of success. To compound matters, I decided to use the coloured pencils, my less familiar medium, and actually broach the new set that I have mentioned in recent posts. So lots of challenges to overcome.

Mark, my husband, very rarely points his camera at anything but wildlife subjects; birds, insects, animals are his favourite things, so when he actually took a couple of seascapes last winter, I squirrelled them away for future use. He took a very moody picture at Daniel’s Head, Cape Sable Island (the island where we live), just after we had had one of our quite rare snow falls, so probably last February. It had a nice lot of snow-covered rocks in the foreground, a few of which had a colourful lichen that relieved the quite monochrome look. Now, I like drawing rocks so maybe this would work after all.

I wanted to do it justice, but it’s a difficult palette. I think my version ended up rather more colourful but I do, sort of, like it. I can always claim it is artistic licence, after all! I was quite pleased with the sea, happy with the rocks and perhaps least pleased with the sky. Still it was a good exercise using my less favourite medium.

‘Winter, Daniel’s Head’ 8 x 10 inch coloured pencil (Derwent Drawing, Faber-Castell Polychromos) on Strathmore 300 Bristol Vellum.

What about those new pencils? Trying to get more serious about coloured pencil, I splashed out on the full 120 set of Faber-Castell’s Polychromos pencils. These do seem to be favourite pencils with a good many coloured pencil artists; very lightfast (mostly) and they don’t suffer from the sharpening issues of the Prismacolors. I had been weighing up whether to plump for them for a while, but when I saw them on for $35 less than at DesSerres, and with free shipping, I went for it. The downside? An apparently 6 week shipping date whilst they came from Germany. However, I wasn’t desperate for them and could afford the time; after all, I’m not likely to be in Halifax any time soon and sometimes shipping to our rural location can take a while, even from within Canada. The reality? The pencils arrived within 2 weeks of the order, in perfect condition. Can’t go wrong with that!

Here’s my usual picture of box, pencils inside and home-made colour chart. The pencils are nicely packed and the plastic insert trays have some snazzy elastic loops to lift them out. Not quite the metal insert trays of the Caran d’Ache Supracolors but pretty nicely done. For some reason, the tin lid doesn’t quite close properly, once it has been opened (I have the same issue with another Faber-Castell tin, so it seems to be generic to them), but I don’t carry them about so it isn’t an issue for me. These are oil-based pencils, rather than wax-based ones like the Prismacolors and the Derwent Drawing, so I found that they kept a nice point for longer and did not crumble on the page (something that the Prismas seem to be prone to, or maybe I’m just too heavy-handed?). They went on nicely and covered well, combined well with the Derwent Drawing pencils and blended out with the odourless mineral spirit solvent (Gamsol). I have seen some artists claim that they prefer to blend Polychromos with a white pencil or a colourless blender, rather than use spirit, so maybe I’ll have to give that another go. I enjoyed using them and think that they will definitely make a nice addition to my art materials collection. Really, pencils are an addiction, there is no known cure!

Summer at Baccaro


I like drawing birds, and have done for years. I also enjoy the colour of the wharf scenes, but I really haven’t got a feel for landscapes, so I have to rather force myself to have a go. There is always a bird that I could be drawing!

A couple of weeks ago we took a trip down the next peninsula along from us, namely Baccaro, with our friends from the UK. It was a glorious late June day, the sky was blue and the sea even bluer (not always the case with the Atlantic Ocean, even in summer!). At the end of the peninsula stands one of the lighthouses that give the name to the road along the south shore of Nova Scotia, the “Lighthouse Route”. It was surrounded by wild flowers, including a clump of blue iris, and I duly took photos, thinking that this might make a scene worth painting…

In my imagination I decided on a close up of the irises, with the lighthouse in the background. I also decided to lose the foghorn, which is mounted on a concrete platform to the left of the lighthouse in the above photo. I don’t think that the authorities are really thinking about the aesthetics when they put these things up!. There is a small monument, I think to those lost at sea, to the right of the lighthouse, which I decided to keep in place.

I used a lot of pencils on this picture. For fun I kept a list of all the pencils used, and I took from both the Caran d’Ache Supracolors and the Derwent Watercolours for this picture, along with a single Staedler Karat-the black, which remains my favourite pencil for outlining since it keeps a nice sharp point. I am down to the stub with this one, using a pencil holder to keep it going! Pencils used were:

Caran d’Ache: Beige, Light Beige, Ash Grey, Brownish Beige, Cocoa, Cream, Aubergine, Purple Violet, Violet, Mauve, Granite Rose, Salmon Pink, Flame Red, Vermillion, Raspberry Pink, Carmine, Blue Jeans, Bluish Pale, Royal Blue, Periwinkle Blue,  Sky Blue, Naples Yellow, Pale Yellow, Yellow, Canary Yellow, Steel Grey, Slate Grey, Grey, Dark Grey, Mouse Grey, Light Grey, Charcoal Grey, Moss Green, Grass Green, Spring Green, Olive Brown, Olive Black, Brown Ochre, Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Bronze, Silver, Gold.

Derwent Watercolour: Turquoise Blue, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Sky Blue, Indigo, Delft Blue, Blue Violet Lake, Light Violet, Bronze, Cedar Green, Grass Green, Sap Green, May Green, Water Green, Olive Green, Jade Green, Brown Ochre, Raw Sienna, Sepia, French Grey, Silver Grey, Geranium Lake, Deep Vermillion.

a total of 68 pencils! It was nice to use some of the brighter colours that don’t typically turn up in the plumage pictures.  I did enjoy working on the flowers, they lend themselves to detail drawing, but I’m still not feeling the love for landscapes in general. Still, it’s always nice to try something new.

baccaro light rs watermark

‘Summer View at Baccaro’, 8 x 10 inch (approx.), watercolour pencil on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.



Low Tide Too

Another image of the flats between The Hawk and Cape Island, this time in a slightly different direction. I took this picture late last spring and always liked the desolate feel of the flats at low tide, along with the single little boat left stranded on the sands. There was a profusion of rocks and some old, mouldy, wooden posts; all things I rather like trying to paint, and that lend themselves to my structured approach. Maybe the pencils are not the best medium for landscapes, except (perhaps) these very detailed ones.

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My original photo-if you look closely at the horizon you can see the outline of a beached lobster boat; rumour has it that the skipper had had a few on his way back to port, and missed. I left that out of the painting, though.

I have seemingly settled on using a mixture of pencils from the two ‘top’ sets, Caran d’Ache Supracolor and Derwent Watercolour. Each set offers something different, and even colours with the same name can be subtly different in shade, allowing an extra depth. I kept a list of the colours used from each set, again for a bit of fun, and was astonished to find that a seemingly limited colour painting used 48 separate pencils!

Derwent: blue grey, gunmetal, French grey, silver grey, Vandyke brown, bronze, sepia, raw sienna, burnt umber, cedar green, olive green, sky blue, spectrum blue, blue violet, sky blue, grass green, raw umber, burnt carmine.

Caran d’Ache: cocoa, olive brown, beige, olive black, brownish beige, ivory black, bluish pale, sepia, silver grey, black, greyish black, light beige, grass green, olive grey, charcoal grey, moss green, grey, umber, light grey, green ochre, mouse grey, olive, reddish orange, gentian blue, bistre, cream, bluish grey, sky blue, indigo blue, Vandyke brown.

I’m sure that watercolour artists can get by using many fewer colours and blending the shades that they want, but I never really enjoyed that (getting a lot of mud shades myself). I really like that someone else has done much of the blending with all of these pencils.

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‘Low Tide II’, 8 x 10 inch, watercolour pencil on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.

Low Tide

I’ve been a bit nervous of landscapes; I’ve been unsure that I could make a good go of it since they don’t generally lend themselves to the detail that I like. I decided that I really have to get more practice in, so I’ve determined to alternate the bird pictures with landscapes or wharves. A few days ago we took an evening tour around Cape Sable Island and ended up at the car park at the end of Fish Plant Road, at The Hawk, looking out across the flats at the Cape Light. The tide was low so there were rocks and sandbanks visible, so I took a few photos using my 35x optical zoom bridge camera (that lighthouse is quite a way away!). One in particular, attracted me to try and make a picture.

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I liked the lines of colour crossing the view, where the water had retreated, and the yellowy grass around the lighthouse.  Part-way through I had a bit of a panic that the foreground was a bit empty so decided to add some birds, Brant geese in fact, to give the eye a focal point. I had taken a few Brant pictures on the same tour and was able to choose a nice grouping.

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Not the best photo, (the birds were a long way away, too),  but there was sufficient detail to provide a reference for these small images. The Hawk is an important migration stop-off for Brant, and there are thousands around in the Spring, though maybe not quite where I put this grouping (artistic licence, eh?). I was reasonably happy with the final picture, and I feel that I have learned a few new ways to work with the pencils.

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‘Low Tide’, Brant geese at The Hawk, 8 x 10 inch Caran d’Ache Supracolor watercolour pencils on Canson XL 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.