Welcome to Part 3 in this tutorial. The first post in the series showed you how to draw a gray sky, and the second post described how I made adjustments to the sky after beginning to draw the landscape. This week I’ll show you how to begin to draw far distance on sanded art paper.
The drawing for this tutorial was drawn on sanded art paper, but most of the methods can be used on most other drawing papers and supports.
I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils.
How to Draw Far Distance on Sanded Art Paper
The first two steps are a quick recap from last week’s post.
Step 1: Establish the horizon line before doing anything else.
The best way to establish the horizon is to lightly draw it. Use the color you plan to use for shading the shapes. In this illustration, I’ve outlined three hills and shaded one of them. At this point, they’re flat color. No variations, no shadows.
Step 2: Shade the horizon shapes with a base color.
Shade the shapes on the horizon with a base color.
The base color should be a medium value color that you will then draw light and dark values over. Once you’ve chosen a base color, layer it evenly over the distant background, without getting too bogged down in detail. If you do draw variations in value, keep them soft and vague and draw them by adding layers, not pressure.
Step 3: Add color to the hills in front of the most distant hills.
Follow the same procedure with the next line of hills. If you outline, make sure to outline any small shapes on the hills or that overlap the hills.
Step 4: Shade the last row of hills in the background.
You may need to mix colors to get a good match for these hills. In real life, they’re the same color as the hills further in the background, but they’re so much closer, they appear to be a different color. Mixing colors may be the only way to draw that difference.
For example, I started with Earth Green, but decided that was too dark and too green. None of the other greens were closer, so I layered Warm Grey III over the Earth Green.
Use short, horizontal strokes to layer the first color along the slopes of the hills, then tiny, circular strokes to add the second color. Mixing strokes as well as color, and using small strokes fills in the paper better. That helps this row of hills look more solid and, therefore, a little closer than the hills beyond them.
Use medium-light to medium pressure for both colors.
Step 5: Begin adding color to the greener hills.
As you move closer to the tree line, the shapes become more detailed, so you may want to take a little more time to mark the edges of those shapes. I outlined the slopes of the hills, but also outlined the trees that overlap the hills.
However, I didn’t outline the entire shape of each tree. Instead, as you can see below, I outlined only the overall contour of the tree line.
Do just enough outlining to guide you so you don’t accidentally shade over the trees.
Step 6: Remember to use slightly warmer colors.
Color becomes slightly more green and slightly less gray as you move forward (downward) in the composition, but the change should be very subtle. Color temperature also increases—though very slightly.
Use the same color you used to outline the shapes (I used May Green) and medium-light to medium pressure to shade those shapes.
For the first layer, which should include all of the hills, use long, gently curving horizontal strokes to mimic the contours of the hills. In the places that are a little darker, add another layer using shorter strokes. Work around the trees beyond the hills as well as the trees in front of the hills.
Step 7: Oh-oh!
I saw immediately that the transition between the gray green hills in back and the more yellow hills closer to the front was much too abrupt. After getting May Green into the front hills, I didn’t like the hills in back at all.
This is where it’s important to trust the reference photo. I’d matched the colors in both areas so was pretty sure they were accurate to this point. I just needed to add the second color to the May Green to get the right shades of green and the right values.
So I resisted the urge to “fix” the back hills and instead continued working on the front hills.
Step 8: Tone down the green if necessary.
The color you choose to mix with the green depends in large part upon the colors in your printed reference photo and the green you chose for the previous step. But that’s okay. No two pieces will ever turn out exactly the same, even if you work from the same image and use the same materials. I’ll tell you what I ended up doing and you can make your own choices.
I knew I’d need a color lighter in value and somewhat warmer than Warm Grey III so I opted for Warm Grey II. I started with the hill on the far right, since it’s a little further in the distance than the hills on the left.
Next I tried Ivory on the middle portion.
Finally, I tried Cream on the left.
This illustration shows each of the three colors layered of the respective hills. I’ve created a little bit of surface texture on the left by adding additional layers of May Green over the Cream, but have still kept the level of detail to a minimum.
TIP: Try different colors on portions of the drawing to find the combination that works best. If you don’t want to experiment on your drawing as I did here, keep a scrap of paper handy for sampling colors.
What to Do if You’re Still Not Satisfied with the Color Choices
Warm Grey over May Green was the best of the three color combinations I tried, but none of them satisfied me. I was so unhappy with the way things were turning out that I let the drawing sit idle for a while, hoping looking at it afresh might fix things.
So in the next post, I’ll show you what I did and how I finally got the hills to turn out right.
Hint: It involved removing most of the color I’d already put on the paper.
If you learn anything from this series, it should be that you may encounter several obstacles along the way. That applies no less when you draw far distance than to any other subject.
But I hope you’ll also learn you don’t need to ditch a drawing, no matter how serious the obstacle looks! Making art is as much about solving problems as drawing, so I hope you’ll join me next week.
Want to take a peek ahead? I described how I drew the trees on EmptyEasel. Read How to Draw Realistic Trees on Sanded Art Paper with Colored Pencil then join me again next week.