Colored Pencil Tutorials is now the official source for CP Magic, all my tutorial downloads, Peggy Osborne’s tutorials, and all new future tutorials.
One-to-one distance learning classes are also now available through the new store.
The grand opening includes a new issue of CP Magic and two new tutorials, open from me and one from Peggy.
Just the Beginning
I’m hoping this is just the beginning. Plans are already in the works for annual subscriptions to the magazine, and I’m currently exploring the possibility of memberships through the store.
And of course new issues of CP Magic will be published each month and brand new tutorials.
Does this Seem like a Huge Ad?
In a way, I suppose it is a huge ad.
But I’m excited. I’ve wanted to open a standalone online store for a couple of years now. That was my original plan back when I started offering tutorials from the blog. Somehow, it took launching the magazine to get me off dead center.
Now it’s a reality!
The Fine Print
I’ll be taking down the tutorials and magazines from this website over the course of the next few days, so I encourage you to visit ColoredPencilTutorials.com and bookmark it. You can also sign up for the store newsletter for free to make sure you don’t miss new releases or store news.
Anyway, ’nuff said. This is your personal invitation to take a look around the store, and see what you think.
To celebrate, I’m giving you 20% off all purchases made between now and August 15. To get the discount, type the word opening in the coupon box when you check out.
Glazing color is pretty much the same for the complementary method as for the umber method or any other drawing method. You layer colors over the under drawing in thin, smooth layers to develop saturated color (no paper showing through,) vibrancy, and to add detail.
Keeping your pencils sharp and using light pressure to apply color are important. Creating smooth color is easier with sharp pencils, and applying color with light pressure allows the under drawing to show through.
As always, suit your pencil strokes to the area you’re working on, and begin with the lighter colors and work toward the dark colors.
Beginning Color Work in the Landscape
When glazing color over a complementary under drawing, develop the color one layer and color at a time. In most cases, more than one color is needed to achieve the final color. With this drawing, I combined glazes of several greens to get the right shade of green for the grass. The trees required a slightly different combination of greens.
For instance, I used Prismacolor Grass Green, Peacock Green, Apple Green*, and Spring Green* in the grassy meadow. I used only Peacock Green and Dark Green in the trees for the first round of color.
Start with Grass Green applied in broad horizontal strokes throughout the grassy meadow. Shade all of the meadow on the first pass.
In the foreground, add short vertical strokes to mimic the look of grass. Apply Peacock Green, Apple Green, and Spring Green to the same areas and in the same manner to begin developing the darker values.
In the trees, use Peacock Green to lay in middle values, and Dark Green in the shadows.
You want to add color over the under drawing; you don’t want to cover up the under drawing. Colored pencil is a transparent medium overall, but it is possible to apply color so heavily that you lose the details in the under drawing. A good rule of thumb is to go through all the colors you want to use at least once using light pressure. Then you can use heavier pressure in those areas you want to accent or where you need to burnish.
Beginning Color Work in the Horse
Begin adding color to the horse by working light to dark using Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, and Pumpkin Orange as base colors. Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to work around the shapes of muscle groups, body contours and the edges of the horse.
Next, layer Burnt Ochre over all of the horse except the brightest highlights, then Sienna Brown over the same areas. Finally, add Pumpkin Orange to the darkest middle values and shadows.
Carefully work around the highlights with each color. As you add the darker colors, give the highlights more space. That creates areas of smooth and very soft color and value gradations around the highlights.
In this illustration, the back half of
the horse shows all three colors in place and shows you how the green
under drawing is contributing to the form and mass of the horse.
The front half of the horse shows only the Burnt Ochre. The area immediately behind the shoulder is a blending of Burnt Ochre and Sienna Brown.
Working the entire drawing at once (as opposed to finishing each area before moving to the next) allows you to make adjustments throughout the process and keep the composition unified.
It’s not necessary to work in this
fashion, but it can be helpful in establishing the initial layers of
A Word on Correcting Mistakes
Whether you plan compositions to the
minutest detail or develop compositions intuitively (by the seat of
your pants, so to speak), there will come a time when you discover
late in the process that you’ve made a mistake. DO NOT LET THIS
From the start, I included a tree on the right hand side, behind the horse. The tree survived through the under drawing and into the color phase.
Then I decided it added very little to the overall composition and crowded the horse visually. The solution? The tree had to go.
To remove it, I went back to the early
stages of the process and layered under drawing colors over it so it
matched the surrounding areas as much as possible. That wasn’t
difficult in the upper portion, where the strokes are random. It took
a bit more care in the lower areas.
When I was satisfied, I began glazing local color over those areas to bring them up to the same level as the surrounding areas. The tree wasn’t completely covered, but it had become very vague, merely a ghost of itself.
Continue working throughout the background with layers of Apple Green*, Spring Green*, Canary Yellow*, and Lemon Yellow in the sunlit areas of the landscape.
In the darker areas, add Dark Green, Olive Green, and a touch of Burnt Umber.
In the trees, use Dark Green, Olive Green, and Indigo Blue in the shadows and Olive Green, Grass Green, and touches of Apple Green* in the highlights.
The trees and grass need to work together visually, but they also need to stand apart, so use a couple of colors in both areas, but also keep the trees darker and cooler overall than the grass.
Use Dark Umber, Terra Cotta, Indigo Blue, and a little Dark Green in the shadows on the horse, and Terra Cotta and the siennas and ochres in the middle values.
The highlights on the horse are still untouched paper at this stage. Develop them by working around them. Sometimes, the best way to produce vibrant highlights is to darken the areas around them.
Finishing the Background
At this stage, the background is nearly
finished. The brightest greens are around the horse, with shadows
creeping in around the edges and throughout the trees. Individual
groups of trees have also been created to lead the eye to the focal
point, which is the horse.
Finish each area with medium or medium-heavy pressure. Fill in as much of the paper texture as possible without burnishing. Once you burnish, it’s very difficult to add more color without the use of a solvent or spray. Solvents or sprays can be used without damaging paper or artwork, but once you take that step, it cannot be taken back.
Finishing the Horse
Finishing the horse consists of adding more layers of the colors already used. Use medium pressure and directional strokes to develop color and value one layer at a time.
Also begin adding ‘surface’ colors. For such a bright chestnut, Orange* and Pale Vermilion*. Use medium or heavy pressure to add these colors. The heavier the pressure, the more impact each color will make.
Remember that heavier pressure also limits the number of layers you can add later.
Add reflected light with a layer of Light Cerulean Blue* burnished with Sky Blue Light* or White over the back and rump. Use Apple Green* burnished with Sand under the belly.
Then burnish around the places where the reflected light areas meet the horse’s natural coat color with the lightest of the coat colors to soften and blur those edges.
The Final Review
The final step is a review of the artwork, then making whatever adjustments need to be made.
When I think a drawing might be finished, I generally set it aside overnight and look at it again the next day. The reason for this is that it allows me to look at the artwork with a fresh eye; as though seeing it for the first time.
You can also get a different perspective on your work by looking at it upside down or in a mirror. Any areas that need work will become obvious when you view your artwork in one of these ways.
Glazing Color over a Complementary Under Drawing
And that’s how to use the complementary drawing method to draw a horse. The really neat thing is that you can use the same drawing method for any subject you want to draw!
It’s not my favorite method for drawing animals, but it’s perfect for landscapes because the complementary under drawing naturally tones down the landscape greens. That makes for more natural looking landscapes.
*Denotes Prismacolor colors that are not guaranteed to be lightfast. Substitute other greens, or lightfast greens from other brands if lightfastness is important to you.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to draw a complementary under drawing.
This two-step process is a variation on the classical, seven-step method used by many Flemish artists and which is most commonly used with oil paints.
With the complementary under drawing method, those seven steps are combined into two. The first step is the under drawing. The second step is local (final) color.
Today, I’ll walk you through the under drawing phase.
Let’s get started.
What is a Complementary Under Drawing?
Every colored pencil drawing begins with an under drawing, which is basically just the first layers of color you put on the paper.
A complementary under drawing is created using colors opposite the final colors on the color wheel. In the piece I’m using for this demonstration, the horse is shades of red, so the under drawing will be shades of green. All of the greens in the background will have an under drawing made up of shades of red or earth tones.
Color plays a major role in this method, but value is also important. A final color that is light in value such as yellow or light blue will require a complement that is also light in value or a darker color applied with very light pressure.
Tint is also an important consideration. A blue-green subject requires a red-orange under painting. This is where your color wheel will prove its worth.
If you prefer to purchase a color wheel, you can find one at most art supply stores or print shops. They are an inexpensive, but invaluable tool.
Draw a Complementary Under Drawing
I used Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper in Beach Sand Ivory for my project. The paper is ivory in color, which is perfect color for this painting. The color of the paper affects the overall look of the finished artwork.
You can use white paper if you wish, but using a complementary base color essentially allows you to start with one layer already in place. That makes the drawing process faster.
Below is the reference photo. Not only did I tidy up the background; I changed the color of the horse. The tidier background simply looked better. I changed the color of the horse for purely personal reasons. I wanted to draw a chestnut!
You can either draw a chestnut, or draw the horse in its original colors. The principles of the complementary under drawing remain the same either way, though colors will vary.
I used Prismacolor pencils for this tutorial, but you can get successful results with any brand of artist quality pencils.
Starting the Under Drawing
For the horse
Use a medium value green such as Grass Green to outline the horse, then lightly outline highlights and shade around them. Use light pressure and develop value with layers rather than pressure. It’s important to start with light pressure so that mistakes can be easily erased or covered. Work carefully around the highlights and shadows.
For the background
Use the same process in the background, where I used Burnt Ochre and Sienna Brown to establish the shapes in the trees and the values in the grass.
You’ll get the best results in the foreground and middle ground by applying color evenly, but with some variations in value.
The trees may also be drawn with even color, or you can use directional or circular strokes to begin drawing the foliage. Whichever strokes you use, add darker values to the trees the same way you did the foreground. By adding more layers.
Keep your pencils sharp, too. The sharper your pencils, the more easily you can draw even color.
Finishing the Under Drawing
Extend the range of values throughout the artwork and bring out the highlights by darkening shadows and middle tones.
Now is the time to create visual interest by varying strokes. Use short, vertical strokes with the point of the pencil in the grassy areas, particularly in the foreground. Use long, sweeping strokes with the point of the pencil in the horse’s tail.
To draw the hills, hold your pencil in a more horizontal position and draw with the side of the exposed pigment core.
For the trees, use circular or looping strokes with the sides and point of the pencil in the trees.
Whenever possible, stroke in the direction of natural patterns. Stroke grass upward, just as it grows. Stroke tail and mane from the point of growth toward the ends of the hairs.
Get as much detail as possible at this stage. As you gain experience using under drawings, you’ll discover personal preferences in finishing the under drawing.
Personally, I like to get as finished a look as possible with the under drawing. I attempt to develop an under drawing until it could be a standalone artwork.
One of the things I like about the under drawing process is its flexibility. Whatever method of under drawing you use, you can develop values without worrying about color. When you get to the color phases, you can experiment more freely with color without worrying about value.
You can draw a complementary under drawing for any subject from still life compositions to animals to landscapes. Using complementary under drawings for landscapes is especially effective for creating natural landscape greens.
Next week, I’ll show you how to glaze color over a complementary under drawing.
I confess. There have been a lot of days of late when making art is a struggle. Too many things on my to-do list is usually the cause, but there are other times when I just don’t feel creative.
There are a lot of reasons to lose that creative spark. Illness. Stress. Circumstances. Even the most creative and optimistic person goes through times of creative apathy.
I, for one, wrestle with depression on a regular basis. That’s part of the reason I haven’t watched broadcast news in years.
The last few weeks have been especially difficult. In addition to the challenges of publishing one magazine and one tutorial every month, and daily chores that must be done, there have been losses in our circle of friends. Three funerals in our congregation in less than two months is a bit to take in. Things like that tend to make all the other things in day-to-day life heavier. More difficult to bear.
Combined with broader circumstances, personal situations like these can easily dampen creativity.
When You Don’t Feel Like Drawing
Can you do anything about creative apathy?
Understand What’s Happening
It’s important to understand what’s going on internally.
When you’re unwell, rest is important. I’ve learned that lesson (again) this week, and have yielded to the need to rest, even when it seems necessary every two hours. It takes time to recover and recovery takes energy. Accept the fact that it may be some time before your mind and body have recovered to the point that creativity returns.
It’s also important to know yourself. For example, I know that I’m prone to mild depression and that it can easily turn into something worse. So I take precautions. Vitamin D taken on a daily basis is a good preventative.
So is daily Bible reading (especially the psalms) and prayer. There is a noticeable difference between days started that way and days started without it.
I also know I need to keep news intake to a minimum and that I need to be selective in my sources.
And I know that there will be days when nothing seems important.
Since I know days like this will happen, they’re not as debilitating when they occur. I also know from past experience that they pass. That, my friend, is important.
Depression may not be your problem. You may have family or work responsibilities that either take time away from art or leave you too exhausted to be creative. The key is recognizing the things that leave you creatively apathetic, and to know whether or not they can be avoided, reduced, or delegated.
Have a Plan of Action
It’s not enough to understand what’s happening. It’s just as important to develop a plan of action.
Whether you’re dealing with external situations or internal situations, find ways to work around them. How, you ask? Start by evaluating circumstances.
Are they internal or external?
Are they short-term or long-term?
Can you do anything about them or are they beyond your control? Be careful with this one. It’s so easy to think you have no control at all when you may have some control. It’s just as easy to think you can fix everything when you may not be able to.
Take the time to accurately assess your circumstances, understand what you can do, and what you can’t do.
Think of ways to do what you can, and avoid worrying over the things you can’t change.
Don’t Wait for Creative Apathy to Plan for It
Ideally, make your plans when you are in a creative mood because you won’t want to do it when you’re not already creative.
Nothing is more discouraging than trying to figure out how to handle a situation while you’re in the middle of it. Sure, the first time it happens to you, you may be caught off guard. That’s understandable.
Once you’ve experienced it, however, it’s time to consider how to respond the next time.
Keep it Simple
But keep it simple. Don’t plan elaborate things even if they seem doable when you’re in good spirits. Believe me, there are times when everything looks possible.
“Everything” is not what you need when you don’t feel like drawing or doing anything else creative.
And easy helps, too.
So what do I suggest? Here are a few things I do when I’m down.
Read a good book Go for a walk Take a nap (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately!) Spend time with your spouse and family Spend time with a pet Put a jigsaw puzzle together Doodle
See? Simple and easy!
You already know what activities you enjoy and that relax you. When you don’t feel like drawing, those activities are your first line of defense.
Find Other Ways to Be Creative
Art isn’t the only way to be creative and it’s possible that your problem is that you’re bored with your art. If that’s the case, you need to find something else to do for a while.
I know many of you do fabric art. Sewing, knitting, embroidery, cross-stitch. Do some of that.
Or work wood or cook or bake or whatever else you enjoy that’s in any way creative.
One Thing You Shouldn’t Do
These measures are designed for those times when life gets to you and drains you. Not for simple cases of “I don’t want to draw.” Setting aside drawing on the basis of temporary moods is a certain path to not drawing at all. You don’t want that.
At least I hope you don’t.
When You Don’t Feel Like Drawing
I’m the first to admit that the artist’s life is difficult, especially if your art is more than a hobby. There are days when the last thing you want to do is pick up a pencil and start drawing.
But you don’t have to let creative apathy drag you down long-term. It can be survived!
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know I don’t offer a lot of promotions. But every now again, something comes along that I believe will help you. John Middick’s Face Value Portrait course is one of those things.
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Today, I want to talk about glazing color over an umber under drawing.
The umber under drawing method is one of my favorite drawing methods. I first started using it with oil paints, but it works just as well with colored pencils.
It’s good for animals, landscapes, and most subjects.
Some of you have asked about the umber under drawing method in general, so I thought it was time to share a tutorial.
This one features a horse in a landscape. I’ve finished (or nearly finished) everything but the horse. The horse is still at the umber under drawing stage, and I’ll show you how to glaze color over it.
Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing
Glazing color over an umber under drawing involves two steps: establishing the base colors and details, and developing color and value ranges. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you get the best results by following these two basic steps.
The final step with every drawing is reviewing it as a whole and making whatever adjustments to color, value, and detail may become apparent.
NOTE: This is an older drawing. I used some fugitive (fading) colors that I no longer use. Those colors are marked with an asterisk (*). You can use those colors if you wish, or find lightfast replacements.
Step 1: Establishing Base Colors and Details
I used four colors for the base layers. Yellow Ochre in the lighter mid-tones, Pumpkin Orange* in the mid-tones, Dark Umber in the shadows, and Cloud Blue* in the reflected highlights. It isn’t always necessary to use more than one base color. But choosing base colors that represent the final color helps establish contrast and color variations more quickly.
I applied each color with light pressure and a sharp pencil. Wherever possible, I stroked in the direction of hair growth. When that wasn’t possible, I worked around the contours of the horse’s body.
TIP: The base color is the foundation for everything else. Use small strokes placed close together or the side of a well-sharpened pencil to create smooth, even color.
You want smooth color and even application, so use sharp pencils and light pressure. Add more layers in areas where you need darker values. Work around the highlights as much as possible to avoid losing them.
Step 2: Glazing Color over the Base Layers
Over the base colors, I layered Slate Gray in the light areas and Black in the shadows of the muzzle and black areas. I applied color with tiny, circular strokes to the muzzle and directional strokes in the forelock.
Next, I worked on the legs and muzzle with Black and Slate Blue, darkening values and drawing detail.
Mineral Orange, Dark Umber, and Red Ochre were used in the body, neck and head.
(Red Ochre is not a Prismacolor color.)
For this round of color, I continued working throughout the horse with light pressure and sharp pencils.
TIP: At some phases of a drawing, you can spend a couple of hours working without appearing to make much progress. Be patient! Your work will be rewarded if you stick with it!
Add More Color Layers
I layered Mineral Orange, Sienna Brown, and Burnt Umber over the body, legs, and neck, then added Black to the legs and darkest shadows of the body. I shaded reflected light on the under sides of the belly, chest, and legs with Limepeel*.
Next, I added Orange* throughout the horse, shading over some of the highlights that had been protected up to that point while working around others. I used reading glasses for the work so the work was slightly out of focus. That helped me avoid getting too detailed too quickly. I also applied color mostly with the side of the pencil.
Then I layered Sienna Brown and Henna over the brown parts of the horse following the contours of the horse. Except for the smaller areas or tighter details, I used the side of the pencils.
The browns were getting a little too bold, so I toned them down with a layer of Peacock Green, which I also used on the black areas.
To darken the blacks and darker shadows, I next used medium pressure to apply Copenhagen Blue*, then glazed Henna over all of the horse except the blacks.
Step 3: Developing Depth of Color
At this point, my goal shifted to building up color and value toward a finish.
I layered Tuscan Red* over all of the horse but the brightest highlights and the reflected light areas, followed by Ultramarine* on the legs and in the darker shadows in the head and body. Over almost all of the horse, I layered Dark Brown, then Bruynzeel Full Color** Permanent Orange over all of the browns
**The Full Color line of Bruynzeel pencils is no longer available. I’ve read that the Design line is the same basic pencil and that the colors are the same, but I have yet to give them a try.
I applied all colors with medium length, parallel strokes except in the tighter, smaller areas or when I needed to create a directional pattern.
Next, I used Black, Blue Slate*, Powder Blue, White, and Limepeel* (in that order) to draw the legs. First, I layered Black over all four legs.
Then I singled out the flexed front leg and concentrated on that. I alternated among the colors and, when the leg was nearly complete, began working the grass and fence, so I could adjust edges.
When I finished that leg, I worked on the off side hind leg using the same method. In that manner, I worked from leg to leg until they were all finished.
Still More Color Layers
When I finished the legs, I started on the body, again, layering Bruynzeel Permanent Orange** over all of the body, neck, and head except the reflected lights and brightest highlights. I worked into some of the highlights I’d previously worked around, but only very lightly. I used the side of the pencil and stroked in several different directions to get even color.
Then I used True Blue* and the side of the pencil to layer color into the reflected highlights along the back, top of the neck, and rump, as well as on the off side of the shoulder and the front leg. I followed that by layering the same color throughout the body to gray and darken the orange.
When I finished, I used Dark Brown to deepen the shadows on the chest and neck.
By the time I finished, the paper was losing tooth and burnishing the drawing or spraying it with fixative were possibilities.
TIP: I try never to make a decision like this without giving myself time to consider options. You can’t unburnish a drawing. Nor can you remove fixative, so it’s better not to rush these decisions.
When I reviewed the drawing later, I decided against using fixative at least long enough to try burnishing.
Detailing began with the muzzle, where I used Dark Brown and Black to darken values, then burnished with White. I worked up into the head, brightening highlights and darkening darks as I went, adjusting edges and shapes, and burnishing area by area. I finished the head and ears, then worked down the neck toward the shoulders.
TIP: With larger drawings, it can be better to work section by section when doing final details. This method produces a sharper, clearer image more quickly. It also looks like you’re making faster progress as more and more surface was covered. That can be a major encouragement!
The final layers on the neck, shoulders, chest, body, and rump were Bruynzeel Permanent Orange**, Sienna Brown, Dark Brown, Dark Green, Deco Blue*, Tuscan Red*, and Cream.
When I finished adding color, I blended with rubbing alcohol applied with a cotton swab. Rubbing alcohol “melted” the wax binder enough for the colors to blend slightly. It also restores some of the paper tooth, so after the paper is dry, I can add more color if necessary.
When I finished, I set the drawing aside for a few days, so I could review it with a fresh eye.
There was nothing more to do when I reviewed it later. Finished!
That Concludes this Quick Lesson on Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing
The portion of fur we’ll draw is brightly lighted by the sun. There is a strong cast shadow above that lighted portion, so the first thing to do is carefully sketch in the line between sunlight and shadow with Warm Grey I if you’re using Polychromos, or the lightest warm, gray in your brand.
Then lightly shade the sunny part with the same color. Work around the darker markings.
Use a sharp pencil, light to medium-light pressure, and a stroke that follows the direction of hair growth. Make the color layer smooth without filling in every bit of paper tooth. Some of the paper color should show.
Step 2: Add a Layer of Ivory
Next, add a light yellowish earth tone. In the Polychromos line, that’s Ivory, which is a light mix of Cream and White. If you’re using Prismacolor pencils, Putty Beige or French Grey 10% are equivalent. Use very light pressure for both layers very.
Work around the darker areas as shown below.
Continue using light pressure, a sharp pencil, and short strokes that follow the direction of fur growth. Don’t worry about drawing every hair. All you need right now is the look of cat fur.
You should also be able to see some gray from the previous layer showing through this layer of color, as well as some paper showing through both layers. This gives the fur a feeling of depth.
Step 3: Layer Cream over the Ivory
Next, layer Cream over the same areas. Use the same types of strokes (back-and-forth or directional strokes following hair growth patterns.)
Work around the lightest areas near the eye and around each stripe.
Step 4: Add Layers of Light Brown
Begin adding browns with Nougat (Polychromos) or French Grey 70% (Prismacolor.) Be a little more careful in working around the lighter colors and values, since there’s very little brown in some of them.
Use the same types of strokes with a sharp pencil. If you’ve been using medium pressure, go back to light pressure. It’s better to do a couple of light layers, than one layer with heavier pressure with the darker colors.
Work around the light areas around the eye and on the side of the cheek, but be careful not to draw sharp edges. These edges are where the fur texture is the most obvious, so stroke in the direction of hair growth.
Add more layers in the slightly darker values around the stripes and eye.
Step 5: Blend Lightly, Then Add Darker Values
Next, lightly layer Warm Grey II (Polychromos) or French Grey 20% (Prismacolor) over all of the sunny area except the brightest highlights. This is a blending layer, so use light pressure. Draw even color using either circular strokes or back-and-forth strokes.
Follow up with a layer of Walnut Brown (Polychromos) or Dark Umber (Prismacolor) applied with very short, directional strokes in the stripes and darker values. Add Black over the same areas with even shorter strokes.
Step 6: Glaze Color to Smooth out Rough Strokes
If your drawing starts to look too rough or if the strokesstart to look too bold, glaze a warm, medium value gray over those areas to smooth them out. I used Warm Grey VI. The medium value Prismacolor colors are also good for this blending area. Use a color that’s lighter than the area you want to blend.
The lightest highlights also need to be the warmest (most yellow,) so work around them.
Step 7: Darken the Dark Values
To finish, I switched to Prismacolor pencils. They’re softer, so they layer over existing color more easily.
I darkened the strips and darker middle values with a mix of Prismacolor Black and Chocolat. Use sharp pencils and medium pressure.
In the stripes, alternate layers of Chocolat, then Black, then more Chocolat if the stripe is a warm black. If it’s a cool Black, add another layer of Black. Keep your strokes short, and stroke in the direction of hair growth.
In the darker middle values between the stripes, mingle Black and Chocolat. Again, keep your pencils very sharp and your strokes very short. Work around the lighter values.
Step 8: Punch up the Highlights
Add Cream accents throughout the lighter areas. Use heavy pressure and short, directional strokes. Mingle strokes of Cream with the strokes of Black and Chocolat in the darker middle values.
In the shadows, layer Cream more evenly, but still only in the middle values. You want to tint the color in those areas, rather than add a lot of detail, so a sharp pencil and medium pressure is best.
Continue layering color until the fur looks the way you want it to look.
Here’s the finished portrait.
How to Draw Short Cat Fur
And that’s how I draw short cat fur.
To draw longer fur, lengthen the fur-like strokes. I also use the same basic method but with very short strokes to draw horse hair and other types of short fur.
In other words, this method is very versatile. Once you master it, you can draw any type of hair or fur.
If you’ve ever been stumped in choosing reference photos, I know you’d love a few tips from another artist.
John Ursillo has been painting and drawing for many years, so he’s the ideal person to help us all choose better reference photos.
Please welcome John Ursillo back to the blog.
Tips for Choosing Reference Photos
by John Ursillo, CPSA
I am a strong advocate for any artist who decides to take on a realist piece to:
First, become familiar with why the objects and overall “look” of an attracting reference looks as it does; and,
Second, acquire knowledge about the subject, the light it was taken under, and surrounding surfaces that can contribute to reflected light shining into shadows, etc.
True, an adept artist may get by with directly copying a reference without this knowledge, but IMHO it will show. Snapshot photographs are notorious for deceiving the eye. Shadows are often too dark and light areas overexposed, or the reverse. Calendar photos with blown out supersaturated sunsets are the worst examples to follow.
That’s also why copies of portraits of people or pets taken with an indoor flash or outdoor, bright frontal sunlit photos often just do not look “right”. Viewers of the finished piece can see when something is “not quite right,” even if they cannot put their finger on just what the cause is.
A Compulsive Realist and Photographer
Enough philosophy! I confess to being a compulsive “Realist”. That was my training and still gives me and my clients satisfaction with my work. Thus, good reference material is essential to my creative process. After all, I was an engineer professionally and thus strongly “left” brained. I seldom use subjects drawn solely from my imagination. IDEAS, yes, of course, but always followed by real world reference materials that give substance to these “bolts of inspiration.”
I am also a compulsive photographer when I travel (even about the yard). That tendency adds body to my store of references which dates back into the 1980’s – the days of something we actually called “film”.
In my art I use only images I capture myself – never the work of anyone else without permission, giving attribution to the giver. And that rarely.
Digital photography has been a boon to me, especially the cameras now built into our cell phones. These have opened documentation of worlds of subjects in numbers (regarding storage, retrieval, quality and internal image manipulation) that were far less practical before.
Keys for Choosing which Reference to Use:
A “good” idea – something that grabs my attention and will not let go until fed. I do not access images on the internet as a source of ideas – public domain notwithstanding. Those are someone else’s ideas, not mine.
Realist, detailed, with a strong potential focal point and lines, value forms, etc. that contribute, with some effort, to making a good composition.
Close to the Originating Idea
Must come close to what my mental concept is. An exact match is often not possible but close enough is good. Sometimes this may take several references if specific details are missing or other subject elements are required. The rest is supplied by imagination.
If I need a specific atmospheric effect I don’t have a reference for: e.g. a fog bank or cloud effect.
I never use copyright protected material – ever!
I may, rarely, need to use the internet or my non-digital (paper) library to find exact information for a subject to flesh out the subject from an environmental or historical context. For example, when drawing a historical scene, I may need to see exactly the way a particular ship is rigged, constructed, etc.
The reference for my tutorial in Carrie’s magazine is a close-up from a digital photo of the movie ship “SS Venture”.
This is the original photo, taken in New Zealand.
This is the composition I cropped from the original photo.
As with many references captured during a trip, the snapshot collecting is quick but the resulting photographs often throw the balance between light and dark off kilter. Should one follow this image literally the shadows would be too dark, losing most of the detail within, and the highlights too light, ditto.
If you have access to a computer you can push the values so that the shadows become full of detail and the highlights likewise. That’s what I usually do, (either digitally or by careful observation) because it’s necessary
Now You Know John’s Method for Choosing Reference Photos
Are you more confident is choosing the reference for your next piece? I hope so!
My thanks to John for sharing his experiences with using canvas with colored pencils.
John is the featured artist in the May issue of CP Magic. Get your copy here and read more about his unique technique and his artistic journey.
Today I’d like to talk about black paper; specifically, the best black paper for colored pencil art.
The post comes in response to a reader question. Here’s the question.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to ask for information. As a very senior citizen, one of my joys is and has been doing colored pencil work. I would like to try doing colored pencil work on a black surface. I love doing wildlife and so I thought the process would be dramatic.
Can you please suggest the proper black surface on which to do colored pencil work and what type of colored pencil [oil or wax? brand?] that would be most effective.
First of all, thank you to the reader for the question. I’m always happy to make recommendations and suggestions based on personal experience and observation.
The Best Black Paper for Colored Pencil Art
The reader is right. Black paper can make for very dramatic drawings. I’ve used it several times with wonderful results.
And I’ve used a few different types of paper, so can offer suggestions for that, as well.
But there are other questions, too, so let’s tackle each one of them.
Pencils to Use on Black Paper
Both wax- and oil-based pencils work well with black paper. I’ve used Prismacolor Premier and Faber-Castell pencils on colored paper. Both are suitable either by themselves or in combination.
Caran d’Ache Luminance are reported to be more opaque than most other colored pencils. If that is true (I haven’t used them so can’t say one way or another,) then they would be a good pencil for use on darker and black paper.
In short, the best thing to do is test the pencils you have on small pieces of paper first. If you’re dissatisfied with those, try other pencils. Buy two or three pencils at a time to see which work best for you. Then buy as many colors as you need (or a full set) of that brand.
My Favorite Black Paper
As for the best paper, the papers that suit my drawing style (I do lots of layering) best are Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Tientes. Both come in black.
Stonehenge is a 90-pound paper with a smooth, velvety texture. It stands up well under layering and can take a lot of color. If you mount it to a rigid support, it also performs well with moderate solvent blending and dries flat.
Canson Mi-Teintes is pastel paper, so it’s quite rough on the front. The back is ideal for colored pencil, but it is still rougher than Stonehenge. It’s a little bit heavier than Stonehenge—98-pounds—so is my personal preference. It’s good with moderate amounts of solvent and holds up well under layering.
Other Black Papers I’ve Used
Strathmore Artagain art paper is another black paper I’ve used and liked. Artagain is a 60-pound paper made from 30% post consumer paper. It feels almost like Bristol, but with a bit more tooth.
You might also try mat board. Mat board comes in a variety of types and textures. For the best results, use a museum quality mat board such as Crescent so your artwork lasts for years.
Mat board is a rigid support. Don’t blend with solvent or use wet media. Do layer color to your heart’s content!
I always liked mat board because I could get large sheets for bigger projects. And matting a piece with the same mat board it’s drawn on gives it a bit more sparkle (in my opinion.)
The Most Important Thing to Remember About Using Black Paper of Any Kind
The most important thing to remember about using black paper is that the colors you put on it look different than they look on white paper. Sometimes, the black paper seems to “absorb” the color, so you have to put more layers of the light colors on the paper to make them look bright.
Whatever paper you draw on and whatever pencils you use, have fun and experiment a little before doing a serious piece. That’s the absolute best way to find best black paper for colored pencil for your art.
I’ve received questions from readers who want to know how to draw see-through things. Veils. Smoke. Mist. That sort of thing.
Some time ago, I published a post on drawing a foggy morning, but enough readers are asking related questions to delve into this subject a little more completely.
This is not a tutorial. Instead, I want to share three general principles that apply to all see-through subjects, and that you can start using today.
How to Draw See-Through Things
The secret to drawing translucent or transparent subjects of any type is to stop thinking of your subject as your subject. For a lot of us, we look at the subject as a whole and are stumped. Immediately, our mind is trying to figure out how to draw that bridal veil, sheer curtain, ocean spray or water droplet. The prospect looks so scary, it shuts down all creativity!
Or, our mind tells us “I know what that looks like” and we draw what we think we see instead of what’s really there.
That principle works with every subject, of course. But when it comes to transparent or translucent subjects, it can be especially troublesome.
So lets look at a few ways to get past the hurdles of drawing see-through things.
Think of your subject as an abstract design.
Instead of trying to draw the whole thing, draw the shapes, values and colors you see within your subject. Do that well and the transparent or translucent subject will “appear” in the finished work.
It often helps to think of your composition as an abstract design. That tricks your mind into seeing the abstract shapes and that frees you up to draw those shapes shape-by-shape.
One way to accomplish this is turning your artwork (and reference photo) upside down while you work on it. Or sideways, for that matter.
I routinely turn my work as I draw. Usually to more easily work on one area or another. But that does keep a composition fresh in my mind’s eye and gives me a different perspective.
Look at the difference between this water droplet viewed right side up and upside down.
The more complex your subject, the more this fresh perspective helps.
Zoom In on Your Subject
Another way to draw see-through items is to zoom in on them so you’re not working on the entire thing at the same time.
How much more easily could you draw this…
With high resolution digital images, you can enlarge the image enough to focus on a very small part of the photo without losing definition. All you need to do then is mask your drawing to focus on the same spot.
But how do I mask a drawing?
I’m glad you asked!
Cut a small opening in a piece of clean paper. Printer paper will do. Make the opening any size you want, but preferably smaller than a quarter the size of the entire drawing for small pieces.
Lay this piece of paper over your drawing with the opening over the same part of the drawing as the enlarged portion of your reference photo.
You can work on that part of your drawing without being distracted by the rest of the drawing. When you finish, move the mask to the next area. Move the reference photo to the same relative area, too.
When you finish, remove the mask.
Pay Attention to the Edges, Values, and Colors
The appearance of edges, values, and colors differ depending on whatever is in front of them.
With this sheer curtain, for example, everything is subdued. The edges are soft. The values are muted, and the colors are dulled down.
With this water drop, however, the edges are crisp and the colors and values are just as vibrant looking at them through the drop of water as looking at them directly.
Those Three Principles will Help you Draw See-Through Things
And almost everything else you want to draw.
Break your subject down into manageable sections and you’ll be able to draw anything!