Colored Pencil Critique – Drawing a Bay Horse on Black

This week, I’m sharing a colored pencil critique of a drawing by one of my colored pencil students.

Students of the online art courses send images of their works-in-progress, along with their reference photos, and get instruction on techniques.

Some also submit artwork done outside the course. This work is usually completed and the student is looking for ways to improve a drawing or painting they aren’t happy with or for an overall critique.

The thought eventually came to mind that you might like to see how a crit like this works. You might also be interested in improving your skills or diagnosing a problem with a finished piece.

And just that easy, an idea was born and took shape.

Colored Pencil Critique - Dark Horse on Black Paper

Colored Pencil Critique – Drawing a Bay Horse on Black

I’ll start by sharing the drawing, followed by the crit. Later in the post, I’ll tell you how you can get your own critique.

Here’s the student’s finished drawing. She liked the drawing overall but was looking for ways to improve it.

The artist has done a great job of rendering a three-dimensional subject on black paper. Black paper is notorious for “soaking up color” and leaving drawings looking flat and lifeless.

Not so this time.

Colored Pencil Critique - Artist's Work

The artist has also skillfully captured the highlights and values on this horse. She’s shown not only the obvious highlights, but reflected light highlights as well. The cool colors in the shoulder give the subject that little bit of oomph that make a drawing really sparkle.

The Crit

There are ways to improve almost every drawing. Here are a few suggestions based on what the artist told me she wanted to accomplish.

Colored Pencil Critique - Marked Up Image

#1: Correcting burnished areas

The artist mentioned that she don’t like the burnishing on the bridle, but couldn’t make any changes. Burnishing leaves a lot of wax on the paper and presses down the tooth of the paper, both of which make it difficult to get more color to stick.

To prepare such an area for additional work, dip a small brush in solvent, blot it to remove excess moisture, then carefully stroke along the part of the bridle that needs correction. Stroke along the length of each strap, and make sure to stroke from light to dark. Rinse or wipe the brush between each area so no color is transferred.

The solvent breaks down the wax binder and blends the colors a little, but the real advantage is that once the paper dries, you’ll be able to add more color to those areas. You should even be able to burnish a little more.

Make whatever changes are desired.

#2: Adding form to an area that looks flat.

The bit looks good, but a little “flat”. Always follow the reference photo scrupulously on reflective objects, since getting highlights and reflected light right goes a long way toward an accurate drawing.

Add small, bright highlights and shadows to make the bit look more three-dimensional. Because the metal is smooth and reflective, the highlights should be sharp.

Also, darken the shadows of the bit on the horse to create the appearance of space between the bit and the horse’s face.

#3: Balance highlights and shadows.

The area inside the nostril needs to be darkened just a little, especially deep inside. The highlight near the front of the inside of the nostril is great, but it needs to be balanced by darker values where the inside disappears behind the rim of the nostril (red arrow).

The same balance is also important around the mouth. Adding just a stroke or two of a light color to define the edge of the lip (blue arrow) would make the face look more complete.

But use light to medium pressure, since you don’t need a bold line. If it seems too bright, stroke over it with Light Umber or Beige.

#4: Toning down areas that don’t need emphasis

The small buckles at #4 is a bit too bright. They compete with the horse’s eye for attention. Using a combination of light blue and light umber will tone then down just a little and de-emphasize them.

A little more modeling (creating lights and darks) and softening the edges in the shadow areas would help it blend in the with the dark color of the horse, and put the emphasis back on the horse’s eye.

#5: Darken the horse’s chin.

Other than the cast shadows, the chin should be closer to the same color and value ahead of the bit as it is behind.

There should also be a highlight on the fold of skin around the bit.

I also like to see reflected highlights in places like the bottom curve of the chin and the cheek and any other place where the surfaces of the head are parallel to the ground. They would give the head a more 3-D look.

#6: Add a few more reflected light highlights.

I’d also like to see a few more light blue highlights around each of the areas on the neck and shoulder (marked with red arrows.) These shouldn’t be as bright as the highlights on the face. As you move away from the head, they should become more subdued. They would add dimension to the drawing over all.

Excellent Work that could Easily be Stepped Up

Overall, this is a great drawing. The artist did a great job capturing a difficult subject on a difficult support.

As with most artwork, little things would take it to the next level.

In short, when you think a drawing is finished, give it a little more to attend to the details.

Do you want a critique of your latest drawing?

If you would like to one of your drawings critiqued on this blog, it’s easy to do. Just send me an email, along with the reference photo you used and an image of your drawing.

Images should be at least 500 pixels on the long side and set at a dpi of at least 96.

Be sure to include a reference photo. If your reference photo was taken by a professional photographer, make sure you have permission to use it and have it posted online in this fashion.

2 Replies to “Colored Pencil Critique – Drawing a Bay Horse on Black”

  1. Great idea!!!! I’m on my third horse now. Black on black. I picked up a few Luminance pencils because of their opacity on colored paper. I will send it for a critique. Hopefully, I can send the others for critiques.

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