Blends of Green

different shades of green coloured pencil

I am more used to drawing hairy and feathery textures but when I decided while out walking to start drawing some of the early flowers that are now appearing on local walks I had assumed that it would be fairly straightforward.

Drawing the initial shape was not the problem and the petals so far have not given me too much difficulty but what I had not anticipated was how tricky the leaves were going to be.

Each leaf has a subtle blend of different greens.

Take a close look at a leaf … it can be on a flower or a tree … it does not matter. You will notice immediately that there is a difference between the top and bottom surfaces of the leaf. The top surface is usually shiny while the lower surface is more of a mat green. Also the veins have a darker shade on one side and are slightly lighter on the other side.

A further complication is that no two leaves are exactly identical and as each leaf hangs off the plant they will also curve in different ways. Blending the different greens to replicate this requires a bit of thought.

Now it would be easy to ignore all of this and settle for a generalized impression of each leaf but that would not look natural and anyway where is the challenge in that!

A sensible approach would have been to take one leaf and play about with it until it was reasonably representative. I on the other hand just jumped straight in there and started with the entire plant.

Collage showing work in progress for Wood Anemone
Collage showing work in progress for Wood Anemone

Getting the leaves right on the Wood Anemone is going to take some time and while I put the practice in I can take time out as thankfully spring and summer have other subjects to be inspired by :-

Swallow in flight
Swallow in flight

Color and Depth

As I come to the end of my Donkey and Lion projects, there is now an opportunity to reflect on what I have achieved over the past year. Last year, I started out as mainly a graphite artist with a bit of charcoal thrown in. Now I do more works in color.

I have enjoyed exploring what can be achieved with color pencils but as illustrated below, they do wear down quickly making them expensive.

This is not helped by the surface that I use to draw on which is pastel mat. This just eats pencils. But, I love this surface and compared to other surfaces it does allow plenty of layers to be added giving a greater depth of color.

Thankfully through the incorporation of watercolor pencils and pan pastels into my art, the burden on my pencils is greatly reduced. Both these approaches in my view enhance the depth of color in the underpainting making all the experimentation worthwhile.

The Donkey which incorporated watercolor pencils is now complete and has lovely maroons and purples, while the Lion using pan pastels has a lot of yellows, oranges, and russets within it.

I had another go at using pan pastels with this drawing of a Robin. I chose the Robin as there were three distinct areas in the Robin that I wanted to see how well I could add depth to. These were the different reds and oranges within its breast, the browns on its back and the fluffy greys and whites on its underside.

Which do I prefer … pan pastels or watercolor pencils for the underpainting?

I have no preference. The choice of which to use will be determined by how I feel about the subject.

November strip

So what is next…

I am going to continue experimenting with color and contrast and in particular look at the concept of value.  This is the relative lightness and darkness of a color that helps define form and contributes to that sense of spatial illusion that I strive to achieve in the drawings that I do.

Image Sources: 
Donkey: Lisa Ann Watkins at Art by Law, 
Lion: From Jason Morgan
Robin: My own image

 

 

 

Refining the blending of colours

Following on from the Crested Tit that I completed last week, I have now finished a Chaffinch and with a few final touches, the Greenfinch will also be done. See the bottom of the page for images.

It is good to review your work and I am happy that my technique is improving.

The first bird that I completed was the Blue Tit, which if you look closely, quite a few lines can be seen and the blending is not too good. Then came the Wren and then a Robin.

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Blue Tit, Wren, and Robin

 

I liked the colours in the Wren but the Robin, I can’t make up my mind about. Maybe it is the pose! At some point, I will do the Robin and the Blue Tit again.

Next was the Bullfinch which looks a bit garish. But Bullfinches are brightly coloured and some people commented that they liked the bright colours. A matter of personal preference. Still, I may have another go!

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Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Goldcrest

The Goldfinch,  I enjoyed doing along with the Goldcrest.  Goldcrests being one of the smallest birds can be difficult to spot particularly as they spend a lot of time flying about the treetops. Both are nicely coloured little birds that are a joy to see when you are out and about.

eyes (2)
House Sparrow, Long-tailed Tit and Crested Tit

Next came the House Sparrow which I was particularly pleased with. A fat little fluffy bird that I drew as if it was on the ground. I recall from childhood how they seemed to prefer pecking at the seed on the ground. A couple of people have commented on how the drawing reminded them of that same characteristic. Pity that they are now not so common!

There was in my opinion, a slight set back with the Long-tailed Tit, as it looks a bit scrappy. It was quite a challenge to render on a white page that white stripe on the top of its head in such a way that it stood out! I might try that again but on the other hand, I might be able to rework it and improve the overall appearance. Will have to think about that.

Long-tailed Tits will now be gathering in flocks. I love it when they make their way along the woodland edge at the bottom of the garden. With their flashes of pink and white, they brighten up a dreary day.

The Crested Tit was another drawing where I felt I was becoming more confident in blending colours together. These birds can be found in Scottish pine woodlands and I think it is important to highlight the not so common birds.

As for the Chaffinch that I have just completed, I am extremely happy with it. The little bird that has been known to gatecrash picnics in the hope you will drop it some crumbs.

As far as the bird feeder specialist the greenfinch goes, he looks not so bad scanned but I may have over blended the colours in places. On the positive, I like the way the yellow and green do combine where I have not overdone it.

I will keep doing these little birds between larger projects as getting their colours right is a good way of practising blending techniques. Next goal is to finish a coal tit.

chaffinch_greenfinch_coal tit
Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Coal Tit

Finishing Projects!

At last, I have finished projects!

Nothing worse than having projects that you start but cannot for one reason or another finish.

The pug in pastel was put to one side because I had a deadline to meet with the black dog. The black dog was a tutorial piece to try out new colour pencil techniques and I have to say I am pleased with the results. The tutorial was delivered by Art By Law and the copyright for the black dog reference image belongs to Lisa Watkins. I did learn a lot about how to render the details in colour pencils such as the layering of the fur plus other useful techniques such as using a cutter and a stylus for texture… particularly for whiskers. Another useful skill was how to see colour in a black dog! The dog is not actually black it has tones of blue, brown, grey, red and even mauve. I found the experience extremely worthwhile!

The pug in pastel was an opportunity to compare the use of pastels with coloured pencils and I think I prefer the colour pencils. There is not the same amount of dust that you get with pastel. Also, I think there is more control and there is greater versatility in what you can achieve. The biggest drawback is you need a lot of “pencil” to cover an area. But for me, the results are worth it. The black dog was done in pencil and I think the effects are much better than the pastel. But then I suppose it is what you are used to!

The little bird is a Crested Tit that can be found in Scottish Pine Forests and adds to my collection of birds.  This drawing was started a couple of months ago but was put to one side while I finished off the dog projects. It is part of a collection that I intend to build up over the next few months. The birds will all be done using colour pencils and will start to incorporate some of the techniques that Lisa has used. The next birds I draw will be members of the finch family.

Lisa’s work can be used viewed on YouTube or her Patreon channel.  You can also search for her using the phrase “Art By Law”.