A Wolf with the Blues

Most of the drawings I do would be described by many as being more towards illustration rather than arty.

I decided to get arty.

wolf with the blues3 (1)

Inspired by a tutorial on Patreon by Lisa Watkins and using a wolf image that I had found at Wildlife Reference Photos,  I had a play about with some Winsor and Newton Colored Inks.

For final details, I finished the piece off with some color pencils.

It was fun to do and an interesting learning experience. There are bits about the blue wolf that I like and there are bits that I am not sure about. I definitely like the vibrancy that the inks bring and I see the potential in the arty look.

One comment I did get was that he looked as though he was thinking!

I don’t know whether you agree!

What I did struggle with, was deciding on when it was the right time to stop adding color pencil… I did not want to lose that inky look!

I will get arty again at some point!

But before I do, bigger brushes will be required to get that mixing and bleeding effect that I wanted! The brushes I was using were too small for the size of the piece and the inks were drying quickly between applying the different colors.

The inky wolf in contrast to previous pieces is certainly different!

My first drawing of a wolf was a quick graphite sketch and the other was a charcoal drawing.


As all three pieces so far have been done relatively quickly, I am now going to take the time to do a more detailed drawing of a wolf. That drawing is now underway using color pencil on pastel mat. Some pan pastel will also be added to give the final piece a soft fluffy hairy look.


The Moody Squirrel

Light and shadow gives definition to a subject and used well can create that three-dimensional illusion on a flat surface that I strive for in my artwork.

The concept of value is worthy of further exploration.

Using the book “Pastel Innovations” by Dawn Emerson as my inspiration I explored her innovative definition of the meaning of value:

Traditional: Degrees of lightness and darkness that are used to describe an image

Innovative: Value is the architect that builds the structure with light and shadow

squirrel-1 strip

Using the side of a piece of charcoal I sketched out a vague shape of a squirrel. Additional layers were added to the obvious places where the shadows were, as in where the tail meets the body and under and between the legs.

To make something dark you need to have something lighter in value next to it and vice versa. So, to create a gradation of value and give definition to the curve of the shoulders, I used the charcoal corner to add more value where needed and a paper stump and an eraser to remove pigment where there was too much.

This was continued until the volume and structure of the shape resembled a more 3-dimensional looking squirrel. Not my best squirrel, but it illustrates a point!

Dawn suggests; “Focusing on values makes you work from the inside of your subject to the outside.

I would agree with that. The exercise did get me considering value a bit more with regard to developing the form in my drawing.  It is too easy to start with a thin line and then to color in the value!


Another experiment was to see how color affected my squirrel. A second squirrel was drawn with a similar approach using charcoal on a blue background. This gave it an obvious cold look particularly as the blue appeared through the image of the squirrel.

A red color was added to the background of my original squirrel giving a warmer look. Another improvement but it just stands out a little bit too much from the background. The whites were too white. To remedy this more color was used to tone it down. In my view a further improvement!

The experiments are definitely food for thought!

Now time to draw a proper squirrel but this time using pan pastel to create the value.

When time is limited!

There are occasions when drawing time is compromised by other commitments. Like the need to top up your income with additional work.  Then it can be difficult to find quality time for drawing, particularly when you arrive home too tired to think about anything in detail.

I do not like to abandon drawing completely.

There are always lunch breaks where I can steal a bit of time and at night I find simple sketches can help me unwind.  For these occasions, I plan ahead and sketch outlines of familiar animals onto sheets of A5 white bristol board. As the subjects are familiar, I don’t need a detailed reference image but if for some reason details need to be checked, then there are copies of the reference images stored on my phone.

Although the Bristol board is smooth and lacks the tooth to hold the charcoal allowing it to smudge easily, it nevertheless allows you to practice drawing the animal shape and redrawing it if necessary. A paper stump can also be used to smooth out the harsh lines.

These are drawings I have done in the past when there was only a limited amount of time.


In addition to the line drawings the only other equipment I require to have are charcoal pencils, preferably two black and two white (taking two of each allows you to leave your sharpener at home),  a kneadable eraser (to lighten areas where required), a Tombo eraser (creates white lines if required), paper stumps for blending and a soft brush to remove any debris.

The line drawings I prepared at the weekend were a squirrel, a hare and a fox.  All the equipment is carried about in a reusable plastic bag.  Since the weekend I have managed to finish the fox and the hare. I will start the squirrel tomorrow. That should be completed by the weekend where I will have three days to plan what I can achieve in the following week.

A New Begining

Time for a new direction as the job I had, was no longer fulfilling. With depression plunging me mentally to new depths, it was my partner who after watching me dabble in line drawings of leaves and flowers, drew my attention to the many “YouTube” demonstrations that were available.

I was a bit sceptical, but nevertheless started watching them and well… got sucked right in! At that stage, I was happy to stick with graphite pencils and build up my skill using shading techniques to create the illusion of depth.

After attempting a baby’s face, I was inspired to go further and tried some animal faces. I was particularly pleased with my attempt at an otter.

baby_otter_rose 1

Around the same time, I invested in some charcoal and began experimenting with texture. I had some successes but more notably a number of failures. The drawings of roses were particularly disappointing. (Please note the image looks better than the drawing). It was then back to “YouTube” for more instruction. I needed a greater understanding in order to rectify the problems.

badger_wolf_lion 1

After a go at a Badger in charcoal, which I was pleased with, I then had a go at a wolf,  then a prowling lioness, a little owl, a snoozing fox and a hedgehog.  Each had a different texture to try. The long hair on the wolf, the velvety short hair on the lioness, the feathers on the owl, the dead log that the fox was snoozing in and the spines on the hedgehog, were all suitably challenging.

owl_fox_hedgehog 1

In the lioness and fox drawings, I started to use pan pastels for the first time and loved their smooth texture.

Through the use of a small makeup sponge, I could quickly and lightly map out areas of shade, as well as the direction of the fur.

By now, I had the desire to incorporate colour. But, which route to take?

Do I take the pastel route or do I take the colour pencil route?

I started with pastel pencils and found it difficult to get the effect that I wanted. Then in my frustration, picked up a pack of colour pencils and began to experiment. Still following “YouTube” videos, I then managed to turn out a half-decent blue tit. By this time, I had now treated myself to a tin of Faber-Castell’s polychromos pencils. There is no way I would now part with them.


As for the pastels, I have not abandoned them. Through perseverance and experimenting with different papers, I am now beginning to understand them a bit better, incorporating them more and more into my work.  There is no doubt that a lot of the earlier issues I had, were to do with not fully understanding the layering process and what can be achieved on particular papers.

What I have also found important, is to persevere through the “ugly stage” of a drawing.  Don’t give up, see it through to the end, even if you do think you have overdone your giraffe’s nose. Finish the drawing and learn from the mistake.

So from here, the journey continues…