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




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”.

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…