Carrie L. Lewis, Artist & Teacher

Helping You Create Art You Can be Proud Of

Creating a Landscaped Drawing using the Umber Under Drawing Method

This week begins another series; this one for colored pencilists (and anyone who loves colored pencils). The focus is the umber under drawing method and I’ll show you how I use colored pencils to draw a horse in a landscape.

I’ll document the process step-by-step and will cover topics such as:

  • Knowing when the umber under drawing is complete
  • Drawing a landscape
  • Drawing a horse
  • Creating realistic landscape greens

I’ll also describe the problems I encountered along the way and show you how I resolved those issues.

But don’t think the schedule is written in stone. If you have a question about any part of the process, please ask it. When it comes to learning how to draw or use colored pencils, there are no silly or stupid questions. I can guarantee that if you have a question, other people will as well. So, by all means, ask by leaving a comment.

The series begins with an introduction to the subject for the drawing and specifics on the drawing. I’ll also talk a little bit about making the line drawing and transferring the line drawing.

About My Subject

I used a photograph taken by photographer Mark Adair, whom I want to thank for allowing me to use his work. Thanks, Mark!

Lockkeeper in CP Reference

About the Drawing

The drawing is 16″ x 20″.

I used Rising Stonehenge paper in Natural, which is a light tan, almost bone colored paper. It’s 90lb paper; heavy enough to take some drawing abuse, but light enough to roll for storage or shipping.

Prismacolor Verithin and Premier (thick lead) pencils are what I used unless otherwise stated.

Now, let’s get started!

Creating a Landscaped Drawing Umber Under Drawing

Making a Line Drawing

For almost every piece of art that features a horse, I develop a detailed line drawing through several revisions, beginning with roughly defining the shapes to refining the drawing. Read more about my drawing process here.

I followed the reference photograph pretty faithfully for this drawing because I wanted to create a pastoral version of what I refer to as “moment in time” portraits. A real horse in a real setting.

But the second set of fences in the background were confusing, so I left them out.

The first step was defining the picture plane—the part of the paper where the drawing would appear. I marked off a 16×20 area roughly centered on a large sheet of paper.

Next, I located a laptop drawing board large enough for a 16×20 drawing. I generally use a 2-inch margin for large colored pencil work, so I needed a laptop drawing board that was at least 20×24. Fortunately, that’s a common size and I had one in stock.

Make Your Own Lightweight Drawing Board in Four Easy Steps.

I mounted a sheet of fresh tracing paper to the drawing board, then drew the fence. I chose a beginning point, measured its placement from the bottom of the reference photo, then indicated the relative location on the drawing. Since my reference photo was 8×10 and the full-size drawing was 16×20, all I had to do was double the original measurement. For example, if my starting point was two inches from the bottom of the reference photo, I placed it four inches above the bottom of the full-size drawing.

Whenever you do something technical like this, it’s important to get the first measurement absolutely correct. One small error here and nothing will be correct, since everything else will be measured from this first mark.

TIP: This step is especially important to me because I am not adept at technical drawing. I can draw a horse in almost any position, but straight lines and mechanical curves—not so much! If that describes you, take a little bit extra time with measurements for things like fences and vehicles. You will not regret it.

As I noted in the first post on the Muscle Hill series, I did the technical part of the drawing without the horse or the background. That removed all distractions. The fence also provided the “anchor” for the rest of the drawing, so getting it right at the beginning simplified the rest of the drawing process.

When the fence was finished, I taped the drawing of the horse to the drawing of the fence. Taping, rather than transferring the drawing allowed me to change the position of the horse relative to the fence. I tried a few placements before finding the best one.

When everything was where I wanted it, I darkened the outside edges of the fence, then set the drawing in a prominent place where I could see it throughout the day.

Taking time to review a drawing in this way allows me to see it in a “non-studio” context and over a period of time. That’s a great way to find mistakes before advancing to the next step.

Preparing the Paper

After the drawing was ready, I mounted the drawing paper to a 20×24 Masonite panel with masking tape. I use Masonite for this purpose because it provides a rigid drawing surface and is very smooth. It’s also reasonably portable.

Then I marked off the picture plane in preparation for transferring the drawing.

Transferring the Drawing

There are a lot of ways to transfer a drawing. You can use a projector, transfer paper, or transfer it by hand. I prefer to either shade the back of the drawing or use home-made transfer paper.

This drawing was on tracing paper, so I shaded the back of it with Prismacolor Premier light umber.

Next, I taped the drawing with the shaded side down to the front of the Rising Stonehenge and carefully redrew everything. I used light to medium pressure (medium pressure is about the same as normal handwriting pressure) to draw every line.

TIP: Use heavy enough pressure to make sure all the lines transfer clearly, but don’t press hard enough to impress the lines into the drawing paper.

When I finished, I checked the transferred drawing by lifting each corner one at a time and making sure every line had been transferred and was easy to see. If I’d missed something, I retaped the corner and transferred the missing area.

TIP: When transferring large or complex drawings, make sure you’ve transferred everything before separating the line drawing paper from the drawing paper. It’s virtually impossible to re-align them once you do!

Once I was satisfied the line drawing had been completely transferred, I removed the line drawing and cleaned up the transferred drawing wherever necessary. Since the transfer material was colored pencil, there wasn’t much to clean up.

Nor were there many parts of the drawing to be darkened before I started the umber under drawing, which we’ll begin next week.


How to Finish a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencils


How to Transfer a Drawing for Oil Painting


  1. Bev Symonds

    Hi Carrie. . . .
    Do you always use Umber for your under drawing or is it dependant upon the subject matter?
    Perhaps I’m jumping ahead here and all will be explained or you have already explained and I’ve missed it!
    Have a happy art filled day!

    • Bev,

      When I use the umber under drawing method, I always begin with light umber. That’s the color with which I get the best results.

      If a subject is darker overall or if it has dark areas like a black mane or tail or very deep shadows, I’ll add dark umber.

      The thing you want to be careful of is getting too dark too quickly. Every dark area will be made darker by the colors you put over it, so if you get too dark in the under drawing, you’ll be stuck with extremely dark areas in the finished drawings. There are ways to fix those, but it’s a lot better–and easier!–to keep the under drawing light and darken as needed later on.


  2. Bev Symonds

    Thank you Carrie, that helps a lot!
    Cheers from Canada,

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