Ocean’s Edge

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.


Making Waves

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:

Waves at Daniel’s Head, Cape Sable Island

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?

WIP: initial drawing

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.

WIP: ready to start

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!

FrogTape Delicate Surface painter’s tape

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:

WIP: End of first day

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.

Brush and Pencil Touch-up Texture and Titanium White powder

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!

Doing Derwent

I said, in the last post, that I was quite pleased with my recent purchase of a full set of Derwent Lightfast pencils, and that I wanted to give them a thorough workout on a picture. Well, this was that picture. I wanted to try and keep to using only the Lightfasts, and nearly did it! In the end, I did use three pencils from Luminance. As I mentioned, the palette of the Lightfast, at 36 pencils, is a bit more limited than I am used to. I expect that many coloured pencil artists are good at blending to get the colour they want; I don’t think I’m there yet but this exercise did make me think about blending more that I maybe have in the past. It certainly was good practice.

First, the reference photo, one of my own, taken last month at a wharf at Saulnierville on the French Shore of Nova Scotia, during a day out. Look, no snow! Anyhow, I was drawn to these three boats pulled up on the wharf, I liked the different angles they were set at and the slight air of abandonment (although I expect they aren’t really). Also I liked the gradation in sizes from big to little.

The largest boat was a little away from the rest, so I moved it in a little closer to the others-artistic licence, eh. It didn’t overtax many muscles!

I called this post ‘Doing Derwent’, and, in fact I have another Derwent product I was trialling on this piece. During the previous picture, my manual helical pencil sharpener finally gave up. I’d mentioned, previously, that it was playing up. I had to keep a pair of pliers handy to keep the ‘point sharpness knob'(a totally inadequate little red plastic piece) tightened up. Things kept getting jammed in it. The end came when it ate about half of one of my brand-new pencils-ouch!

I was back to a hand pencil sharpener, and I wasn’t happy! So, I took a look, on-line, at what other pencil artists were recommending. One that came up a couple of times was the Derwent SuperPoint manual sharpener. It is a fully metal construction, doesn’t have a silly little knob to go wrong, and is presumabaly good for Derwent pencils (the other one didn’t like these, or Luminance, very much). I bit the bullet, ordered it from Amazon.ca and it arrived Friday.

It’s quite a big beast, and feels very sturdy. The sharpening mechanism is much quieter and smoother than the old one. The point is very long and sharp on the Lightfasts and Luminance pencils. I went through my other sets and it did a great job on almost all of them. The exception? The Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils. For some reason, it doesn’t get along with these at all. I wonder if it is a combination of size and shape? They are a bulky pencil (although not noticeably bigger than the Derwents or Luminance), but they are also hexagonal. The sharpener worked well for hexagonal Supracolors and Pablos, but these are smaller diameter pencils. Oh well, you can’t have everything, and otherwise this does seem to be a good sharpener. I will have to make other plans for the Albrecht Durers.

Back to the piece. I managed the boats in Derwent Lightfast, maybe not quite getting the actual colours spot on, but close. I did decide to ignore the worn spots on the paintwork for this exercise. Sea and breakwater were also ok. I liked Seaweed, an earthy green/grey that toned down the Mid Aquamarine and Dark Turquoise, which were the only real options for blues. Arctic, a very light blue-white, and Mist, a light coolish grey, were also useful. These parts of the picture I blended using a nice sharp Prismacolor colourless blender pencil, and that worked nicely. The Lightfast blend very well with the blender pencil.

The clouds and sky were more of a problem. There was a hint of darkness and purple in the underside of those clouds, and, other than Cloud Grey, the Lightfasts are a bit lacking. I pulled out my favourite Violet-Grey Luminance to help here, although I also added some Nightshade from the Lightfasts, probably a bit too heavily, since it is probably too purple. The blue sky started with Mid-Aquamarine and Mist from the Lightfasts, with a layer of Luminance Grey-Blue. I decided to blend using OMS to start, so that I could perhaps lift a little colour by dabbing with kitchen towel or a cotton swab. This did help to tone down the purple a little. T then went over the darker cloud areas with the colourless blender pencil, to fade out the edges, and then a layer of the Lightfast White. It was looking better, but I don’t think I’ve really got the hang of clouds and sky yet!

So, my conclusion? I like the Lightfast pencils. They take a nice sharp point (especially with this new sharpener), and I think that they will add lots of options for my more usual subjects (this probably wasn’t the best picture to choose for a try out of this palette). The palette may be limiting for some subjects, but will porbably work well for wildlife and botanical themes. I don’t think I would choose to use them alone again, but as a supplement to the other sets, they will be very useful. And I do like the sharpener, with the exception of it not working with Albrecht Durer. I’m probably going to have to keep using a hand sharpener with them.

‘Abandoned’, 9 x 12 inch coloured pencil (Derwent Lightfast, Caran d’Ache Luminance), with Prismacolor colourless blender pencil and OMS, on 100lb Strathmore Bristol Vellum.

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 Amazon.ca 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 :).


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 Amazon.ca 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.

the hawk 2 rs watermark

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.

low tide 2 rs watermark

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