An Orange Phase

I recently watched an artist painting a landscape with shades of purple to give emphasis to a dramatic sky. He suggested that this was his purple phase!

It made me think about the tiger I had recently finished with its strong vibrant shades of orange and how I had enjoyed using these colours to build up the fur texture.

I have decided to go through an orange phase!

Anyone who knows me would not associate me with the colour orange!

They would associate me with blues, greys, and blacks which are cool colours.

Orange, on the other hand, is regarded as an energetic colour. It is associated with sunshine, heat, warmth, joy, enthusiasm and stimulation. Therefore I have decided to embrace the colour Orange, well… for a while at least.

Here are some of my current works in progress that use shades of Orange.

The Red Fox Work in progress

Portrait of a Red Fox
Portrait of a Red Fox

The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Work in progress

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

The Orangutan and her baby Work in progress

Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby
Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby

Please note the dark background for the above portrait was chosen and the work started before I had fully embraced this Orange phase. The inspiration behind the decision to draw the Orangutan and her baby came from the campaign to raise awareness of the devastating impact that growing  Palm oil has on the habitats of the beautiful animals.

The Complete Wolf

Portrait of Wolf

I have really enjoyed doing this wolf. The drawing was an interpretation of an image supplied by Wildlife Reference Photos. It was completed using pan pastel and color pencil on pastel mat paper.

Portrait of Wolf
Portrait of Wolf

I really liked the way the Caran d’ Ache Pablo color pencils and the pan pastels blended together in the creation of this piece.

In my view, all pencils can have a part to play.  Each brand has different properties and offers something different. It is up to you to get to know how your materials work.



Here are some of the work in progress shots for the wolf portrait.

wolf construction

As it was still the holidays, it was a nice change to be able to do just a little bit of drawing at a time and not feel pressurized to finish it within a given timescale.

Mind you, I did not have much choice as at this time of year the light levels make it nearly impossible to do any serious drawing after about 4pm in the afternoon.

However, on the plus side, it does leave plenty of time to study the reference image carefully to make sure you are capturing the details correctly.

But now the shortest day has passed and with each passing day, the available light is slowly increasing.

Comparing this wolf with the arty wolf below is difficult. I have no preference as they are both different. In the above project, the combination of pan pastel and color pencil was really good. But in the arty wolf, the inks do have a vibrancy that is worth exploring further and I will do that.

Portrait of a Wolf using Windsor and Newton inks
Portrait of a Wolf using Windsor and Newton inks

In the meantime, most of my work will continue to be done in pencil and pan pastel.

Having now completed my Wolf… what next?

Big cats, I think!

The Squirrel and the Mournful Gorilla

Grey squirrel sitting on a log
Grey squirrel sitting on a log photo ref: Jason Morgan

Squirrels are very common where I live. Now that the leaves are off the trees you can easily spot them running along branches and jumping from tree to tree. As well as squirrel watching, I spent a good part of last week finishing off the drawing of a grey squirrel.

I am really pleased with the way this piece has turned out and consider it to be one of my better drawings. The previous exercise in drawing charcoal squirrels was really useful in focusing on values and has brought more depth to the drawing.



Variations on a squirrel
Variations on a squirrel

As well as drawing a squirrel, I found a Gorilla image that I liked at  Wildlife Reference Photos that had a good tonal value. This I considered would be another good subject through which to explore contour through shading.

My initial sketch was done on recently bought  Canson C a grain paper, a paper that is relatively smooth and not too textured and Conte Noire pencils. These are materials that are new to me but unfortunately, I became preoccupied with exploring their properties. Therefore exploring contour did not quite go as intended but the final result although quite sketchy is nevertheless interesting for its texture.

Gorillaf (2)
Gorilla using Pierre Noire pencils on Canson C a grain

Now more familiar with the Gorilla, I drew him again on Clairefontaine Pastelmat paper using pan pastel to map out the variation in values in lights and darks.

Then using color pencils, I selected a variety of different whites, greys, and blacks to build up the detail.

Interesting how different pencil manufacturers can have different types of whites and blacks.

The second drawing of the Gorilla is not quite finished yet!

Looking at both drawings, it is interesting how the expressions are slightly different! Although the Gorilla below is more accurate to the reference,   I prefer the expression on the Pierre Noire pencil sketch.

It will be interesting to see if that is still my preference when the second drawing is completed.

Gorilla progress
Gorilla progress using pan pastel and colored pencils

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




Forming preferences

Having looked out a picture of an otter that I started on velour using pastels, I decided to finish it. It was quite a job completing it, but I did. It has turned out all right.

I have also completed a Rhino on Pastelmat board using pan pastels and color pencils. Based on these two experiences I have now developed a couple of preferences.

The first is that I definitely prefer using color pencils. I forgot how dusty the pastels were. Color pencils are much cleaner and convenient to use particularly when traveling and because of this, I have tended to use these the most. The artist-grade pencils that I use have good light resistance properties and therefore I am confident that any work produced will last a long time before fading.

The one disadvantage is that you need a lot of the pigment in a pencil to cover a large area, therefore, pencils do wear down quite quickly but this can be overcome by using pan pastels for the underpainting and for backgrounds. Pan pastels are pan shaped containers that contain professional grade pastel pigment.

Therefore my second preference is to use pan pastels more as they don’t produce as much dust as ordinary pastels and can be blended quite easily. This property makes them great for backgrounds.  They are also good for building up the base colors of a drawing with the color pencils being used to create the surface details. The picture of the Rhino has an underpainting of pan pastel.

As for the best surface to draw on… well I have not come up with a definite favorite. I won’t rule out using velour in the future for the occasional pastel piece but I will need to do further research into the best way to use it. For my current work in color pencil, the Pastelmat board is good for building up a lot of layers and incorporating a lot of detail.  But, it will not suit all occasions. I have tried other papers including a number of watercolor papers with some success. The Giraffe was done on a watercolor paper and that worked quite well but I feel it could have done with some more layers to give it depth. On the plus side, pleasing results can still be achieved without wearing out your pencils too quickly.

For now, Pastelmat is the surface of choice but that will be under constant review as I become aware of new options.

Filling the tooth

My favourite subjects to draw are birds and animals. I use mainly colour pencils but occasionally dabble in pastels, graphite and charcoal. Layering the colour is important to build the texture whether it be the fur in an animal, the feathers of a bird or the skin of a rhino. To achieve this a paper with some texture is required.

Cartridge paper was the surface I started with. It has a bit of texture or tooth as it is sometimes described. I found that the depth of colour in a bird’s plumage could be rendered reasonably well as in this Coal Tit.

Coal tit
Coal tit

Drawing animals with thick fur did, however, require something with more tooth. Pastelmat was the paper I started using with pastels but I have found it works equally well with colour pencils. That is so long as you are happy to use a lot of pencils.  This black German Shepherd dog is drawn on an A3 sheet and there is a lot of red, blue and even purple in the fur.  It took a lot of time to get to this stage but having looked at it again, I think it could do with some more layers of colour to the fur around the neck. So far it has been worth it and hopefully, with the addition of some more layers, it will look even better.

Black German Shepherd Dog, Original image supplied by Art by Law
Black German Shepherd Dog, Original image supplied by Art by Law

In contrast,  I will not fill all the tooth of the paper completely for this drawing of a rhino as the roughness coming through in my opinion contributes to the texture of the animal’s skin.

Rhino to be completed
Rhino, a work in progress

A few weeks back I did try a velour style of paper using pastels. It was a drawing of an otter that I never finished as it just seemed odd drawing on what felt like a carpet tile.  Now with a bit more experience of filling the tooth of a paper, I will go back to it. On reflection, the drawing does not look as bad as it did a couple of months back.

Otter drawn on velour - a work in progress
Otter on velour – a work in progress

The main challenge will be to complete it in such a way that the fur looks wet as if the otter has emerged from the water. At the moment, it looks like a dragon with scales.  That will be the next challenge.

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”.