Photo reference for colored pencil painting, Buckles & Belts in CP
Original Colored Pencil Painting
11 x 14 Rising Stonehenge Paper, 90lb, Pearl Grey

Welcome back. I’ll be highlighting the first week of work on this painting in today’s post.

But first, a little information on the techniques I use and the technique I’ve chosen for this painting.

I use both direct painting techniques and classical painting techniques.

The direct technique goes straight for the color. From first brush stroke to last, the goal is to develop the painting to full color and detail. Paintings are generally completed area by area. I’ll paint the sky and horizon line first, creating the color and look I want in that area and bringing it as close to completion as possible before moving to the next area. Paintings are usually painted from background to foreground and from top to bottom. Tweaking happens throughout the painting all the time and the last step is most often one of making sure every last detail is in place. I don’t use this technique very often and if I do choose it, it’s most often with colored pencil pieces, where the direct technique is a lot faster than the classical technique.

The classical technique I use is based on the techniques used by Flemish artists. It involves five to seven layers beginning with a detailed drawing and ending with the application of details. The layers are: the drawing, the inking layer, the imprimatura (toning layer), umber layer, dead layer, glazing layer, finishing layer. Each of these layers can include one or more layers. Paintings develop in a more methodical manner from the drawing on paper, through toning the canvas, to the final work. The dead layer is the only opaque layer, but all layers contribute to the final look of the painting. Late stage glazes create wonderful colors and luminous light.

The classical technique works best with oils, though, because oils are more transparent. So when I do a colored pencil, I use a variation on the classical technique. The classical technique for colored pencil also involves layering and glazes, but rather than do an umber layer, a dead layer, and a color glaze, I do a more highly developed umber layer, then go for the color. Light/raw umber is the color used for the umber layer in most cases. If there is high contrast, I may also drop a little dark umber or dark brown into the darkest areas.

Yet another variation on the classical technique is the complementary under painting technique. In this technique, the under painting is created with the complementary colors. A red horse in a green field with a blue sky has an under painting with a green horse in a red field and a light orange sky (if the sky is under painted at all).

For Buckles & Belts in CP, I’m using the classical technique with a umber under painting.

Photo reference for colored pencil painting, Buckles & Belts in CP

This is the drawing as it looked after being transferred. As mentioned in the introduction, I took my time transferring the drawing. There is a lot of detail in the face, halter, and bridle, so it was important to make sure every bit was accurately transferred.

When the transfer was complete, I checked it against the original drawing and against the photograph to make sure everything was just the way I wanted it.

Photo reference for colored pencil painting, Buckles & Belts in CP

The color I’ve chosen is Dark Brown and I’m starting with Verithin pencils because of their harder lead. I can impress lines with Verithins, they are great for tiny details and small spaces and they also erase much more easily than Prismacolor Thick Lead.

On the first day (shown above), I focused on placing the darkest shadows and establishing a sense of three dimensional mass to the line drawing. I began with the eye, which is typical in a project like this, but most of my work for the day was with the complicated arrangement of buckles and belts on the nylon halter and leather bridle.

For fun, I closed work for the day by doing some long hair.

Photo reference for colored pencil painting, Buckles & Belts in CP

This is the second day of work for the week.

Detail work continued on the leather straps. Again using the Verithin Dark Brown, I added stitching. Rather than just add the marks, I used heavy pressure and pressed them into the paper. Subsequent layers should gradually create the look of dark stitching in the leather.

I also darkened the eye to bring out the reflected highlight a little and used a Zebra fine point ball point pen (a dried out pen) to impress eyelashes that will be lighted by the sun.

Middle tones were created in neck, face and ears and I played with the mane and forelock a little more. That curl at the poll is especially fun.

Photo reference for colored pencil painting, Buckles & Belts in CP

Day three of the first week.

The eye is really coming to life and the mane and forelock are looking pretty good, too.

I darkened all of the shadows and reinforced the stitching on the bridle.

Photo reference for colored pencil painting, Buckles & Belts in CP

This is how the painting looked at the end of the week. The painting made much better progress in the first week than I anticipated. I thought once or twice that I might need to switch to softer pencils, but all of this week’s work was done with Verithin Dark Brown.

I will post updates each week as the painting progresses. If you are interested in following the painting’s progress, click on the links below the signature line.

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