For week 4 of the Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge, I turned my attention from the front porch (where the light is almost always good) to the back porch, which is in shadow most of the afternoon and evening. Since it was mid-evening before I took time to draw, almost everything was in the shadow of the house.

But there were a couple of trees in golden light and I planned to draw one of them using a method that’s more like doodling than drawing.

However, when I started drawing, what caught my attention wasn’t the towering elms and evening light, but a rotting board in cast shadow.

I’d drawn parts of these boards a couple of years before, as part of an article on drawing realistic wood grain (published on EmptyEasel.) That time, I took my time and was doing a more finished drawing.

This time, my purpose was drawing as accurately as possible what I was looking. I still wanted as much detail as possible, but also wanted to work with a time limit.

Colored Pencil Plein Air Drawing Week 4

The Method I Used

I used my usual freehand drawing method for this drawing. No special techniques. No mixed media.

I blocked in each of the planks, including the more prominent cracks, gaps, and nails, as a basic line drawing. Because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time, I tried to keep my strokes firm and confident. Not always easy when my tendency is to draw lightly at the beginning.

Next, I shaded the darker values with medium pressure. I added finer detail and began developing the form of the planks.

After that, it was a matter of building detail and expanding the value range until I ran out of time.

Time Spent Drawing

30 minutes.

What I Learned

Use a timer. I didn’t set a timer specifically for drawing, but I was cooking and had a timer set for the stove. It would be helpful to use a timer for timed drawings, rather than trying to guess at it. That way, I could concentrate on drawing.

Pencil stubs are great for outdoor drawing. I used a handful of pencil stubs for this drawing (see the list below). The smaller pencils were easy to handle and use, although I had to retire two of them because they’re too short to sharpen again.

Kittens are not much help! A couple of kittens thought what I was doing was interesting. The drawing process itself, the pencils lying beside me, you name it. Even if all they did was sit on the planks I was trying to draw, they weren’t much help! This isn’t a “hazard” I’d anticipated in thinking about this challenge!

Tools Used

Mead Academie Sketch Book, 9 inches by 6 inches, Heavyweight white paper

Prismacolor Pencils

  • French Grey 70%
  • French Grey 20%
  • Sepia
  • Dark Brown
  • Goldenrod