Today, I want to show you eight easy steps for drawing autumn grass with colored pencil. Even if you aren’t planning on drawing an autumn landscape, this demonstration is a good drawing exercise!
The original artwork is 5×7 inches and is a study for a larger landscape. The paper is white Bristol 146 pound with a regular surface. You can use any type of paper for this exercise.
The reference photo I used (not shown), was used for the basic shapes only. I didn’t want to duplicate the shapes of the grass—I just wanted to draw the “feel” of dried down autumn grass.
Don’t worry about drawing every leaf or blade of grass as it’s shown in your reference photo unless you’re doing hyper-realistic drawings. Hyper-realistic drawings are those in which viewers cannot tell the difference between your drawing and the reference photo you used.
Instead, select a few well-defined shapes within the grass and draw them as accurately (not exactly) as you can. Then fill in other shapes around them.
Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil
To begin, I used French Grey 20% applied with long, directional strokes starting at the bottom of the page and sweeping upward. I then used the same type of strokes and light to medium pressure to add Light Umber to the shadows and darker middle tones.
Next, I added Cream and Sand using blunt pencils and medium pressure. I continued drawing in the same direction as the grasses, stroking from the bottom upward.
I also overlapped some the previous shapes with these new strokes to keep the patterns random, while still drawing the overall sense of wind moving through tall grass.
I used Limepeel* and Olive Green, and worked from the bottom up using light to medium pressure with blunt pencils. I also added heads to some of the stalks of grass with Sand.
Shadows were darkened with a few strokes of Dark Brown as accents along the bottom edge of the grass.
Next, I used very short, vertical strokes and light or very light pressure to add a background with layers of Dark Brown and Olive Green, concentrating color at the bottom and reducing color and value toward the horizon.
I darkened some of the shadows and added additional blades of grass and shadows with Verithin Dark Brown. I worked slowly and deliberately, ‘weaving’ a pattern of blowing and intersecting grasses.
I continued developing the grass with Verithin Olive Green and Verithin Goldenrod and layered both colors over the grassy hill visible through the tall grass.
The first color was added to the sky with Verithin Non Photo Blue* and very light pressure.
I added two glazes of Non Photo Blue* in horizontal layers over the sky, followed by two opposing glazes using diagonal strokes.
I used Verithin Indigo Blue to add deeper shadows to the grass.
I worked on the sky with Sky Blue Light*, Powder Blue, and Electric Blue*. I alternated layers of each color using light to medium light pressure, followed by light blending with a fingertip.
A couple of layers of Powder Blue followed, each one applied with a sharp pencil and medium pressure, then blended lightly by rubbing the color with a finger.
Next was a layer of Electric Blue* at the top of the sky, then more layers of Sky Blue Light*. I increased pressure with each layer and burnished with the colorless blender.
To cool the green color, I added blues to the grass in the middle ground and the foreground using medium or medium-heavy pressure to blur the grassy hillside with Sky Blue Light*.
I used the same pressure or a little bit heavier pressure to stroke additional grass stems into the foreground with Sky Blue Light* in the highlights and Powder Blue in the middle tones and shadows.
This step was finished with Limepeel* throughout the tall grass and Dark Brown in the shadows.
I finished by burnishing the background hill with the colorless blender. Next, I used Powder Blue, Limepeel*, Bronze, and Dark Umber to stroke accents into the grass. I used light pressure and very sharp pencils to add these finishing details.
As you can see, the tall grass itself can become the subject of a drawing if well drawn. With a low-angle point-of-view and a suitable background, tall grasses make excellent subjects for studies or for finished pieces.
They also make excellent accents for larger compositions, such as the drawing Rainy Day on Mustang Ridge, upon which this study is based.
*These colors are rated at III to IV by Prismacolor. They are likely to fade over time, so I no longer use them for fine art applications.