Tips for Drawing Realistic Dirt, Ground & Soil

I know what you’re thinking: Who cares about drawing realistic dirt? What possible difference does it make?

For many artists, dirt is. . . well, just dirt, and not nearly as interesting as water or as monumental as mountains. A few swipes of color and a little bit of shading is all you really need. Right?

For most subjects, that’s probably true. But if you enjoy making landscapes or other outdoor scenes, it’s important to know how to draw dirt in a manner that fits your subject and style.

That’s I’m sharing a few basic tips for drawing realistic dirt.

Tips for Drawing Realistic Dirt, Ground & Soil

Maybe you’ve never thought about how you draw dirt before! If so, that’s OK. It’s not the most glamorous subject and the most notice it gets is either in the form of rocks, or as an unimportant part of the overall composition.

That’s a shame.

Tips for Drawing Realistic Dirt, Ground & Soil

It isn’t that difficult to draw almost any kind of soil so it looks believable and fits into the overall composition as though it’s meant to be there, rather than an afterthought.

Let’s look at a few of them.

A Few of My Favorite Methods

Watercolor Pencils

Here’s a portrait I drew sometime ago. I used watercolor pencils with watercolor paper to lay down the foundation, then finished with regular colored pencils.

The setting was a specific racetrack with a distinctive color of sand. There were also specific types of soil and cover on the winner’s circle, which is visible in the middle ground on the left. Since this was a “moment in time” portrait, all those things had to be correct.

Tips for Drawing Realistic Dirt - Water Soluble Colored Pencils

Here’s a detail of the track and winner’s circle. As you can see, there isn’t much detail. The portrait was just too small for that (only 8 x 10.)

But there is still a distinct difference between the sand on the track and the ground in the winner’s circle.

Tips for Drawing Realistic Dirt - Water Soluble Colored Pencils Detail

How I Did It

I laid down washes of color in several layers, letting each wash dry completely before adding the next.

The initial wash was a red-gold base color that covered everything. Next came layers of darker, cooler browns in the shadows and to add details. Final details were added with traditional pencils.

I worked on four versions of this portrait before getting it right. One of them was entirely traditional colored pencils, and I documented that process for an EmptyEasel article. Read How to Draw Realistic Dirt, Ground, & Soil with Colored Pencil on EmptyEasel for more tips.

Traditional Colored Pencils

The Sentinel, shown below, was drawn entirely with traditional colored pencils.

Tips for Drawing Realistic Dirt - Traditional Colored Pencil

How I Did It

This path is a little outside the ordinary because it didn’t appear in the original composition. I finished the entire piece, then decided it needed something to more clearly direct the eye to the trees. What could be better than a path?

So I had to first lift as much color as possible with an eraser. Next, I added the path by layering fresh color over the areas that had been erased. The end result was much more satisfactory.

The same method—without the erasing of course—can be used for any drawing. For step-by-step instructions, read How to Correct Mistakes or Rework a Finished Colored Pencil Drawing on EmptyEasel.

Interesting Drawing Surfaces

Sometimes all you need to do is find the right support. A colored paper or unique surface texture, and you’re halfway there.

That was the case with this miniature drawing. I used a piece of cured Silver Maple for the support. The drawing was an experiment. I wanted to see how well colored pencil worked on wood (it works beautifully).

Tips for Drawing Realistic Dirt - Support

How I Did It

Ironically, this one was the easiest of all. I simply used the wood grain for the exposed soil along the bottom of the composition. A few accents and details made the wood look like dirt for this miniature drawing.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that it isn’t that difficult to make any patch of ground in your composition look like it belongs there. Any one of these tips will help you do it, or you can think outside the box and find your own ideas!

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencils

Whenever new students begin a colored pencil course, whether it’s an online colored pencil course or a basic drawing lesson, there are questions. In this article, I want to address four frequently asked questions about colored pencils from my students.

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencils

Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencils

1. What are the best/top brands for colored pencils?

There really isn’t an easy answer to this question. There are just too many brands of pencils on the market and so many ways to use them. The brands most often named by artists who make at least part of their living from art are:

  • Caran d’Ache Luminance
  • Derwent (a number of different lines in the Derwent collection)
  • Faber-Castell Polychromos
  • Prismacolor

Before you chose a brand, though, there is a more important question to ask and I can answer that question specifically.

Colored Pencil Grades

The grade of the pencils you use is, in most cases, more important than the brand you prefer. Grade refers to the quality of the pencil. The higher grade, the better the quality.

Colored pencils come in three basic grades.

  • Scholastic
  • Student
  • Artist/Professional

Most elementary school students use scholastic pencils. They’re the type of pencil you’re most likely to find at discount stores.

Student grade pencils are middle grade pencils. They’re higher quality than scholastic pencils, but not as good as professional grade pencils. A lot of people who are trying colored pencils or just getting started with them use student grade pencils because they can be significantly less expensive than the best pencils, but are better than scholastic pencils.

The top-of-the-line pencils are artist or professional grade pencils. They handle better and, in most cases, lay down better color and last longer, but they’re also more expensive.

The same manufacturing processes and pigments are used to make all the pencils in all of these grades. The difference is in the ratio of pigment to filler. In the scholastic pencils, there’s less pigment and more filler. In artist grade or professional pencils, there’s very little filler, and more pigment. The student grade pencils are between those two extremes.

Buy the best pencils you can afford. The higher the grade, the better the drawing results. I used cheaper pencils first because of the cost and almost gave up on the medium before upgrading my pencils.

TIP: Learning colored pencil is difficult enough; don’t make it more difficult by using low-quality materials.

2. What is the Difference Between Wax-Based and Oil-Based Pencils?

Wax-based pencils are manufactured with a wax binder that holds the pigment together and allows it to be formed into the pigment core (commonly known as the “lead” of the pencil.) Oil-based pencils use a binder of vegetable oil or some similar form of oil.

Wax-based pencils are generally softer and go onto the paper more smoothly. Oil-based pencils are harder and dryer.

Wax-based pencils can produce something called wax bloom. This happens with all wax-based colored pencils if you apply enough color, but it’s most obvious with dark colors. Wax bloom causes a drawing to look cloudy. It’s easy to remove by lightly wiping the drawing with paper towel. Oil-based pencils do not contain enough wax to cause wax bloom.

You can mix wax-based and oil-based pencils in a single drawing and many artists use both types in most of their work.

3. Does it matter how I hold my pencil?

Yes. Here’s how.

The closer to the tip you hold the pencil, the more pressure you can exert on the paper. Usually, you’re holding the pencil upright, so the tip is the only part of the pigment core that touches the paper, as shown below. You can fill in the paper better this way, you have more control over the amount of pressure you use, and you can draw finer detail holding the pencil this way.

Adding Jade Green to the Distant Trees

When you hold a pencil at the middle or closer to the end, it’s more difficult to exert a lot of pressure on the paper, because you hold the pencil in a more horizontal position.

If the pencil is well-sharpened, you can add color with the side of the exposed pigment core. You can still vary the amount of pressure you use, but not to the same extent. It’s also more difficult to work on detail holding the pencil like this.

Adding Dark Green Colored Pencil to a Green Under Drawing

When you hold a pencil at the very end, you have very little control over the amount of pressure you can use. You’re also drawing with the side of the exposed pigment core, so you can’t draw a lot of detail.

Holding the pencil by the end is best for laying down layers of color over larger areas. If you want to draw with very light pressure but have a naturally heavy hand, try holding the pencil very lightly and near the end of the pencil.

4. How many pencils do I need to get started?

Most artists like to have as many pencils as they can get their hands on. For one thing, there are all those lovely, luscious colors!

A lot of us also like to keep different brands around because even though all the manufacturers use basically the same pigments, no two use the same blend of pigments. So there is a range of colors available to the artist who is able to buy some of every brand that’s not available to the artist who wants to stick with one brand.

But how many pencils do you need to start?

The simple answer is that you don’t really need very many.

I recently purchased a set of Koh-I-Nor woodless pencils that contains 24 colors. That’s the largest set they offer, but many other colors are available as open stock.

Those 24 colors are more than enough to draw almost anything I want to draw. Yes, it takes more layering and mixing of colors to get the colors and values I need for some drawings, but it is possible.

Learning how to mix and blend colors is an important part of learning colored pencil, so rather than buy the largest set you can afford, I recommend you buy a middle-sized set. With wood-encased pencils, that’s usually somewhere between 24 and 48 pencils (numbers vary by manufacturer). Once you’ve mastered blending and mixing colors, then you can add colors—or brands—to your collection.

If you really want to test yourself, try the smallest set available!

Ask Carrie a Question

November Email Drawing Class

Time to announce the class project for the November email drawing class and to officially launch the class.

First things, first. Here’s the class project. Something reflective!

November Email Drawing Class - Ornament

About the November Email Drawing Class

Let’s Draw a Christmas Ornament

In this class, you’ll draw this ornament on Bristol board with a vellum finish. I’m using 146 pound Bristol, but you can use any weight substantial enough to hold up under colored pencil.

By the end of the class, you’ll learn how to draw the reflections on the ornament itself, and the metallic cord attached to it.

You’ll also work with the reflections of the ornament on the white table, and the blurred shapes and values of the background.

How the Class Works

Students enroll in the class through PayPal. The next step is joining the mailing list for the class.

A complete list of materials will be sent in late October, so there’s plenty of time to buy whatever you need. I’ve done my best to keep the list short, so many students may already have what they need.

The first email will also contain links to the reference photo, and a line drawing, both of which can be downloaded and printed.

Once class begins, a new lesson will be emailed every 5 to 10 days. You’ll get the most out of the class if you do the lessons as they arrive, but you can also work at your own pace and complete the lessons when you’re able. Once they’re in your inbox, they’re yours to keep.

But the best part for many students is the opportunity to get feedback from me on their project. Just email questions and I answer within 24 hours, (usually more quickly.)

Enroll Now and Reserve Your Seat

Enrollment is now open for the November Email Drawing Class.

Tuition is only $20.

Pay securely with PayPal or any major credit card through PayPal by clicking the button below.

Have questions? Email me. I’ll answer any questions you might have before you enroll.

Still Have Questions?

Email me with any questions about future classes. If you have a suggestion for a class, please share that, too. Before you know it, it will be time to decide whether or not to have classes next spring, and what projects you want to do.

See other Fall Email Drawing Classes and the tentative class list for 2019.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper

If you’re been following this blog for any length of time, you know I frequently post tutorials. The subjects differ, but the focus of all those tutorials is showing you how to do something. This week, I want to share some things not to do when using watercolor paper!

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper

This may seem like an odd topic for a how-to blog, but I can’t tell you how many things I’ve tried that were disasters. Nor can I tell you how many times I’ve wished someone would have warned me before I tried those things.

So I decided to share some experiences with the hope of saving you a few ruined pieces of paper or nearly finished drawings. Are you ready?

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper

Don’t Forget to Tape Your Paper!

Unless you’re working very small or using a rigid support, you MUST tape watercolor paper to a back board of some kind. If you don’t, the paper will buckle if you use too much water.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - Don't Forget the Masking Tape

If you happen to be using a paper like Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes (both of which can handle modest amounts of water or solvent,) you have to tape them to a back board. That’s the only way they’ll dry flat.

(I have tried working on small pieces of Stonehenge without taping it first. It does dry. It does NOT dry flat.)

Don’t use a misting bottle to blend color

I’m all for saving time whenever possible. Once while working on a small watercolor pencil piece, I tried wetting a piece of paper with a misting bottle. I wanted to drop color onto a wet surface and what could possibly be easier or faster than spritzing the paper a couple of times?

Big mistake!

Even at the finest setting, way too much water ended up on the paper.

So much that it pooled on the paper, and ran off the edges. I let the paper dry on a piece of paper towel, but it didn’t dry completely flat.

The place where the water (and color) pooled also left marks I was not able to cover over despite adding several more layers of wet and dry color on top of it. Fortunately, those marks lent themselves to the drawing I ended up doing, but I do not recommend a misting bottle.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - No Misting Bottles!

Don’t keep blending

As an oil painter, my philosophy was that if one stroke was good, two were better, and there was no harm in three.

The problem is that there can be harm in two or three strokes. It’s called over blending in oil painting.

With watercolor pencils, it’s called destructive.

Once the color is wet, it’s very easy to move around. The best thing you can do is stroke the paper once to blend the color, then leave it alone.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - One Stroke and Leave It

If you happen to be adding color with a brush, you have a little more room for multiple strokes. But in almost all cases, the fewer brush strokes, the better!

Don’t always use little brushes

The best way to minimize the number of strokes you need is to use the largest brush possible for each area.

Small brushes are great for blending small areas or adding details. But small brushes require a lot of strokes for larger areas. The more strokes, the more chances for unwanted edges where strokes overlap.

Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper - Largest Brushes

Also use a soft brush. If you have a naturally light touch, you can probably get away with using a bristle brush, but only if that’s all you have.

And forget a sponge brush! That sounds like the logical choice, but it isn’t. Sponges soak up water. When you’re using water soluble colored pencils, that means a sponge brush will also soak up color. So unless you need to lighten a color, avoid the sponge brushes!

Don’t draw with a dry pencil on wet paper

This is the most important advice I can offer. Why? Because it applies not only to watercolor pencils on watercolor paper. It also applies to paper that’s still wet from a solvent blend.

Absolutely, positively do NOT use a dry pencil on wet paper! Paper is especially delicate when wet. Drawing on it with a dry pencil—especially a well-sharpened dry pencil—can put a hole in the paper.

At the very least, you risk scuffing the surface of the paper.

Yes, you may be able to get some neat affects with this method, but do you really want to risk ruining a drawing? I sure don’t.

Conclusion

Those are five things not to do when using watercolor paper with colored pencils. Those aren’t the only things you should avoid, so if you’ve tried something that ended up disastrously, leave a comment below!

When Should You Start a Drawing Over

Ordinarily, I’m not an advocate of do-overs on artwork. Once you allow yourself to start a drawing over, it get’s easier to do the same the next time. Before you know it, starting over is a habit.

I know. I’ve been there. Of all the portraits I’ve painted over the years, I would guess as many as a third of them were started over. Sometimes two or three times. My personal “best” is  four start-overs.

That means I started that painting five times before finishing it!

Sometimes there were good reasons for starting over, but I’m sad to say most of the time, I was just frustrated. Usually because things were more difficult than I liked.

I don’t claim to be an expert on very many things, but on starting drawings or paintings over…. Let’s just say I’ve made it an art form all it’s own.

What to do when You Feel Like Starting Over

Before we go any further, let me assure you that breaking this habit is the best option.

I’m always working on breaking my start-over habit. When I get frustrated with a drawing, I try to take a break. Sometimes it only takes a short walk to get past the desire for a fresh start.

When Should You Start a Drawing Over - Go For a Walk

At other times, it requires an overnight wait, or a weekend break.

Sometimes I work on something else for a while, or work on a different part of the drawing.

Scanning or photographing the artwork and looking at it in a different context is also helpful. Things look different on a computer screen or in a photo. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always different. That change of perspective is often enough to keep me on track or get me back on track.

Maybe those tricks will help you, too. Or maybe you have a few tricks of your own (please share them if you do.)

The point is that it’s not always necessary to start a drawing over. The honest truth is that learning to work through those periods of dissatisfaction or those Ugly Phases is good for us. We finish more drawings and learn how to handle the rough patches when we persevere.

For more tips, read How to Finish a Drawing That No Longer Inspires You on EmptyEasel.

But…

…there will be times when your best option really is starting over.

So how do you know when starting over is the best choice?

When Should You Start a Drawing Over - Decisions

When You  Should Start a Drawing Over

Here are some of the main reasons—legitimate reasons—I allow myself to start a drawing over. Most of them come out of my years of portrait work and satisfying clients. Hopefully, they’ll help you when you’re faced with the same kind of decisions even if you don’t do portraits.

It may be time to start a drawing over when you’ve badly misdrawn the subject.

I don’t know about you, but some of my worst nightmares began with a bad line drawing. I learned as an oil painter that I could always correct problems in a line drawing during the painting process. Just redraw it in paint and move on.

Colored pencils? That will not work.

And if you happen to have a lot of color on the paper or have burnished or blended with solvent when you discover the problem, you just about have to start over.

From scratch.

With a new line drawing.

An unrecoverable error may be a good time to start a drawing over.

So what is an unrecoverable error? That depends on your preferred medium.

For oil painting, I considered peeling paint an unrecoverable error. I remember one time when paint actually began to flake and peel before the painting was half finished. I don’t recall what happened to make the paint peel, but once the peeling began, there was no way I was going to finish that portrait.

Yes, I could have sanded the panel down and simply repainted the bad layers, but my clients pay a lot of money for my portraits, and there was no way I was going to deliver a questionable portrait. Starting over was the only option.

Colored pencils come with a different set of unrecoverable errors because it’s so nearly impossible to cover up really bad mistakes. Even if you can lift color, you can rarely get back to bare paper. That means there’s a risk of seeing a “ghost” of the mistake through the newer layers of color.

You can’t fix or cover up the mistake.

I know what you’re thinking because I’ve been there myself. A lot!

Mistakes that are just a nuisance in oils or acrylics can be major calamities in colored pencils! Right? It’s so difficult to cover up anything but the smallest mistakes because colored pencils are so beautifully translucent.

I’ve learned over the years that not all mistakes that look catastrophic really are. Colored pencil artists have a lot of tools available that make covering up even big mistakes easier than it’s ever been before.

When Should You Start a Drawing Over - Big Mistakes

And even if you don’t have access to those tools, there are ways to lift and replace color, and cover up big mistakes. 

Read How to Fix a Big Mistake for a step-by-step tutorial.

That doesn’t mean that every big mistake can be covered up or corrected, though.  If something is beyond your skill level to fix, or when attempts to fix it end up making things worse, then it’s time to think about starting that drawing over.

The problem can’t be cropped out of the composition.

One of the first options I consider when I find major problems is cropping the drawing to eliminate the problem. If a major mistake is close to the edge of the drawing, you may very well be able to crop it out, or mat over it. That should always be the first option.

But what if the mistake isn’t near an edge? What if it’s right in the middle of the drawing or in a position that makes cropping the drawing difficult?

If there is no other way to fix or mask the problem, starting the drawing over may very well be your best choice.

The support gets damaged beyond repair.

I once tore the surface of the drawing paper right in the middle of the drawing. Pulled the sizing right off the internal fiber of the paper while using tape to lift color. I thought it was ruined!

Fortunately, my husband (and the Colored Pencil Solution Book by Janie Gildow and Barbara Benedetti Newton) showed me how to repair the damage and finish the drawing.

Punctured, torn, or heavily stained paper, on the other hand…. Those are another matter.

Maybe you can crop the damage and salvage the drawing, but if you really want to finish the drawing as you originally designed it, starting over is the only option.

Should You ever Do a Portrait Over for a Client?

This is really a personal choice. Most artists would answer that question with a very firm, “Absolutely not!”

But my word has always been my bond, and I have made extensive changes to portraits to satisfy clients. Especially if I felt the problem was due to my carelessness, laziness, or something else. That hasn’t happened very often, but I can think of at least one client for whom I not only ended up doing the portrait over; the delivered portrait was a totally different concept from the original concept.

Conclusion

I hope these tales of woe from my studio help your make the decision whether or not to start a drawing over when the need arises.

But what I really hope is that they’ll help you avoid getting into that position in the first place! 😉

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils

One of the biggest challenges for most of us is getting rid of paper holes in our color layers. No matter what the subject, we’re always looking for better ways to get smooth color with colored pencils.

That’s especially important if your subject includes a sky. Unless they’re filled with clouds, most skies move seamlessly from one shade of blue to another, and from light to dark. You simply can’t afford to have edges between those shades. Nor are paper holes acceptable.

“But aren’t solvents or complex techniques necessary for absolutely smooth color?” you ask.

No. Let me share two ways I use to get smooth color, and you already have the tools!

The first sample is on 140lb hot press watercolor paper, which is fairly smooth.

The second sample is on Canson Mi-Teintes, which is not so smooth. These two methods can be used on most papers suitable for colored pencil.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils

Get smooth color by careful layering.

The best way to get smooth color with colored pencils is by careful layering. It doesn’t matter what you’re drawing, or what pencils or paper you use. Draw each layer so carefully that the color needs little or no blending.

For the smoothest color, use light pressure through several layers. Each layer you add fills in the tooth of the paper more, creating steadily smoother color.

You can use heavy pressure to get smooth color. The darkest stripe in the sample below was drawn with very heavy pressure. The other values are multiple layers of repeating strokes applied with light pressure.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils - Layering

Layer multiple colors to create new colors or subtle variations, as well as create smooth color.

Keep your pencils sharp, so they reach down into the tooth of the paper. Small strokes are also best for layering smooth color. Many artists also recommend circular strokes because they don’t leave edges. If you’re new to colored pencil and learning how to draw, then it is better to learn circular stroking.

But if you’re an established artist, you may already have developed other strokes that produce the desired results. Continue to use those strokes.

Get smooth color by blending with paper towel.

The second way to get smooth color with colored pencils is to blend it with paper towel. This method works especially well on Canson Mi-Teintes and other toothier papers.

Let me show you how to blend with paper towel.

Fold a piece of paper towel into quarters or smaller, depending on your hand size and the size of the area you want to blend. The paper should be small enough to hold firmly, but large enough to blend effectively. I usually fold a sheet of paper towel three times.

Rub the paper towel against the drawing. It’s next to impossible to cause damage (other than by blending over the edges,) so don’t be afraid to use heavy pressure.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils- Paper Towel Step 1

Some color will come off on the paper towel. That’s okay. You can continue to blend with this paper, but be aware that if you begin blending an area of a different color, the first color will come off on the new color, especially if the second color is lighter than the first color.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils- Paper Towel Step 2

The illustration below shows blending on the left side, but not on the right. It doesn’t seem like it would do very much, but on Canson Mi-Teintes, it’s very productive.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils - Blended Sample

I have blended with paper towel on just about every type of paper I use regularly. That includes Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, and 140lb hot press watercolor paper.

If getting smooth color with colored pencils is one one of your big challenges, give these two methods a try.

About Draw Clouds in Colored Pencil

Parts of this tutorial are excerpted from the ebook, Draw Clouds in Colored Pencil.

Draw Clouds in Colored Pencil shows you step-by-step how to draw a blue sky with clouds. It includes sections on drawing smooth transitions in the sky, drawing dramatic shadows in the clouds, and how to blend using a variety of methods.

Draw Clouds in Colored Pencil Ebook

Reflected Light Basics

Reflected light is light that comes from a source other than the primary light source. The light of the moon is sunlight reflecting off the moon and back to us.

Reflected light in art is the light that bounces off one object and strikes another object.

No matter what subjects you draw or paint or how you draw or paint them, you’re working with light.

Reflected Light Basics

Inanimate Objects and Reflected Light

A natural light source (the sun) in an outdoor setting, illuminates these books and their surroundings. The light source is strong and direct.

Reflected Light on Books

The light source is from the upper right and almost directly to the right of the books.

The Merck Manual gets the most direct light, but since the brightest light is on a side that isn’t visible, you can’t see the brightest highlights anywhere but along the edge where the spine curves around to meet the front cover.

But there is plenty of reflected light. The black arrows mark light reflected onto the books from other books or from the floor.

But do you see the red-tinted area on the white bricks? That’s reflected light, too. Light bouncing off the front of the Merck Manual, and illuminating the wall.

Reflected Light on Books 2

If the light source is strong enough and the object off which light is being reflected is close enough to the object onto which light is being reflected, the second object reflects color as well as light.

Reflected Light and Horses

Reflected light affects more than smooth or shiny objects. It affects all subjects, animate and inanimate. Take a look at this photo, for example.

Reflected light and animate objects.

This horse is well lighted by strong sunlight from the upper right. The cast shadow is directly beneath the horse and stretches out behind. The shadows are all exactly where you expect them to be.

But note that his belly and the downward facing planes of the chest are light. The darkest part of the shadows is not on those surfaces but partway up the horse’s side and chest.

Light bounces off the sandy ground and illuminates the underside of the horse. The affect is especially noticeable because the primary light source is very strong, the horse’s coat is smooth, and the ground is flat, bare, and reflective.

If the horse was also wet, the reflected light would be more noticeable.

If the primary light source was dimmer (as in a cloudy day or indoor light), if the horse had longer hair, or if the ground was covered with grass or mud, there would be less reflected light on the horse’s undersides.

Also take a look at the top slope of the horse’s rump. Note that it’s well lighted even though that part of the horse doesn’t face the light source. Compare it to the shadow on the ground.

The light across the top of the rump is another form of reflected light. This time, the light being reflected is from the sky, hence the bluish tint.

 Conclusion

Not drawing or painting reflected won’t make your art bad. I painted portraits for years without understanding or using reflected light.

But a good understanding of how reflected light functions and knowing how to draw or paint it will make the subjects you paint or draw look more three-dimensional. It is a valuable addition in your art toolbox no matter what your preferred subject.

Want to Learn More About Reflected Light?

I’ve expanded on this topic in my book, Reflected Light: What it is and How it Affects Your Art. Get your copy today.

Every Artist’s Life is an Adventure

Have you stopped to think about how much of an adventure the artist’s life really is?

You haven’t?

Let me see if I can change your mind!

Every Artist's Life is an Adventure

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

Gandalf, The Hobbit

You don’t need to be a Hobbit or a wizard to have an adventure.

The plain, simple truth is that if you’re drawing breath right now—and I hope you are—you’re also on an adventure. It’s called Life.

And if you happen to also be an artist—and the chances are good that you are, since you’re reading this post—then the adventure is doubly exciting.

How My Artist’s Life is an Adventure

My adventure began years ago, when I picked up my first crayon and made my first mark on whatever it was (a wall or something of that nature if I remember correctly).

I’ve loved to draw for as long as I can remember. I’ve been painting since my preteen years and have been painting portraits of horses for paying customers since I was seventeen.

From the time I sold that first portrait, I knew I’d grow up to be a famous painter of horses, traveling the country and the world to paint the horses of wealthy horse owners.

That was my dream. My goal. My quest, if you want to put it that way.

Adventures rarely happen according to your plans

Mine was no different.

Although I always had paintings on the easel and had a number of clients, including several who bought more than one portrait, the dream just never fell into place.

I had a good small business, but not exactly what I’d envisioned. Consequently, I always had a job to keep the bills paid.

For nearly thirty years, the path of my artist’s life was a winding, up-and-down foot path through an uncharted canyon.

Every Artist's Life is an Adventure Canyon Road

What’s an adventure without the unexpected?

When I got married, my husband promised I could become a full-time artist.

Fulfilling the dream never seemed more real—or attainable—than in those days. He talked about exhibiting my art and attending horse shows more than I did.

The year after we married, we attended a huge show in Louisville on Derby Weekend. I painted a new collection for that show. That was an adventure all its own. From the moment I was accepted as an exhibitor to the moment we got back home after passing through Kansas City only hours after the biggest tornado in decades.

But being a full-time painter was more work than I imagined. It was fun, but it wasn’t as easy as I’d envisioned.

Then my husband lost his job and we spent eighteen months unemployed, facing bankruptcy, and countless other challenges. I begged God to show me what to do.

Every Artists Life is an Adventure Seeking Direction

What’s one unexpected turn without another?

God sent a job.

The director of the local art gallery called to ask if I’d like a part-time job. I thought she wanted an assistant.

She wanted a replacement.

The following 4-1/2 years were mostly good. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot of things, and had a chance to try marketing and exhibit ideas I would never have otherwise tried.

And then there was all the great art I had the privilege of exhibiting and the great artists I visited with and learned from.

In 2009, I left the gallery. My husband and I discussed my becoming a full-time artist. Could we survive on his income until I got my feet under me? He said we could. I wasn’t so sure.

Could I generate enough art income to replace a regular paycheck? He thought so. I wasn’t so sure.

For a long time, I’d been like a fledgling bird, poised on the edge of the nest, looking out (and down!) at the world and thinking about trying to fly.

The Artist's Life is an Adventure Fledgling Bird

Wanting to fly, but afraid to take that first jump.

God finally took a hand in matters. HE said “Enough dilly-dallying. You will fly. You will fly now. Off with you!” and He gave me a push I couldn’t ignore.

Back on course?

As it has turned out, the direction I was to go wasn’t the direction I’d expected.

Portrait work dropped off to nothing. In its place came a regular gig with EmptyEasel, where I’m a near-weekly contributor.

Then other artists started asking me to teach them what I know about colored pencils. Who would ever have foreseen that? I sure didn’t.

I have no regrets. None of the things that followed each of the two previous job losses followed this one. Quite the contrary, I felt like I’d been freed from the chains of the nest and set on a course that is frightening, exhilarating, and challenging all at once.

The Artist's Life is an Adventure Eagle

The chain of events from the time I picked up my first big Crayola to enrolling my most recent student and launching my most recent lesson download has been God’s way of forcing me to take huge, scary steps and go in directions I’d never considered on my own. He just had to do it in a way that left me with no doubts.

The sequence of events that followed confirm the notion. I’ve been pushed, prodded, and goaded further and further along that path.

At this point in the adventure, grand dreams painting horse portraits have been replaced by teaching others to paint horse portraits.

And landscapes and other things!

Where will all this lead?

What’s the point of sharing my artist’s life with you?

Just this.

It’s important to realize that all of life is an adventure, and that the artist’s life is also an adventure.

It’s important to begin your adventure by taking the first step, but it’s also important to realize that the first step is only the beginning.

You also need to have a goal in mind when you begin. A dream.

Expect the unexpected, and learn to work with it.

And by all means, don’t worry if the original dream turns into something else somewhere along the way.

Can You Photo Copy a Drawing on Colored Paper?

Have you ever wondered if you can photo copy a drawing on colored paper? If so, you’re not alone.

Kerry Hubick wanted to know, too, and her question is the inspiration for today’s post.

Can you photo copy an art picture that has been done on Canson Mi Tientes colored paper? I think the color [of the paper] is called Hemp.

Thank you for the question, Kerry. It’s a great question.

Can You Photo Copy a Drawing On Colored Paper

A Little Background on Art Reproductions

Art reproductions used to be limited to artists who could afford professional photography and printing or who could sign on with professional publishers. In those days, art publishers like The Greenwich Workshop were the go-to sources for high quality art reproductions.

Then along came ink jet printers and archival inks and papers. Suddenly artists no longer needed an art publisher to produce art reproductions.

The next logical step was affordable, high-quality printers that allowed artists to produce their own reproductions in the studio.

Of course, with all those advances come a lot of questions. Questions about what paper to print on, the size of the reproduction, the number of reproductions printed, and so on.

Can You Photo Copy a Drawing on Colored Paper?

I want to answer the question from two perspectives. Printing drawings drawn on colored paper, and printing on colored paper.

Photo Copying Drawings Drawn on Colored Paper

Yes. You can photocopy a drawing on colored paper. Any drawing on any type of paper (or other support) can be reproduced. The results may vary, but reproduction is most certainly possible.

The color of the paper will be printed with the artwork, so the reproductions should look like the original art.

For the best results, check with a printing company that routinely does high-quality printing. I’ve had reproductions made of line drawings and oil paintings at a local blue print company. They’re able to do high-quality, low-cost images directly from the art work or from high-resolution digital images.

I’ve also had line drawings copied full size (24×36) to send to portrait clients for approval. The same company has also printed 8×10 color reproductions of paintings from a high-resolution digital image.

In every case, I’ve been happy with the reproduction and with the cost, which has been very low.

The reason I suggest a local company first is accessibility and promptness. It’s much more convenient to be able to visit a brick-and-mortar business, hand over the artwork or image on CD, and wait while they do the printing. With the line drawing, we saved a lot of time by waiting to approve the final reproduction.

But that’s not the only option.

If you have high-resolution digital images of the artwork, you can also upload the image to an on-line company. Companies like Fine Art America provide not only printing, but order fulfillment.

You can open a Fine Art America account for free and list up to 30 images. Those images will then be available for purchase world-wide. They offer a wide variety of supports from basic paper to canvas to metal and acrylic. You can also market reproductions in a number of sizes.

Any other on-line printing company may also be a good resource. If you’ve had business cards, or post cards printed on-line, check that supplier to see if they do larger jobs. If they do, the advantage is lower cost. The disadvantage is that you may very well need to place a minimum order.

With any online option, you also have to pay for shipping, but if there isn’t a local printer capable of doing the work, an online company may be your best solution.

Should You Print on Colored Paper or White?

So what about printing on colored paper?

Again, the answer is, Yes, you can print any artwork on a paper that’s a different color than the original paper.

But the color of the paper you print on affect the way the reproductions look. Printer inks aren’t usually opaque, so it will be very difficult to get a reproduction to match the original if you used white paper for the original and print on a different color of paper.

The advantage to that is that you could do a series of images printed on different papers and possibly appeal to different types of collectors.

Would I recommend printing fine art reproductions on colored paper? No. It’s better in most cases to print your artwork on white paper, no matter what color of paper it was drawn on.

Kitten Update, 13 Weeks

Sometimes, I feel like a character in a Clint Eastman movie. I’m reachingthe point of thinking about getting sidearms and a holster to wear around the house. Don’t worry. (This kitten update isn’t going to read like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!)

No, nothing I’d have to get a permit for. I’m thinking more along the lines of a water pistol.

Kitten Update - Spray Bottle

Overall Kitten Update

We’ve been “schooling” kittens the last few weeks. The primary schooling tool is a squirt bottle. You know the type. They’re a dollar or two, and you ordinarily use them to mist plants or other things.

They’re extremely excellent tools for disciplining cats, too; old cats and young ones.

Most of the kittens are pretty smart. It didn’t take very many sudden “isolated downpours” from the water bottle for them to learn where the precipitation came from. It didn’t take most of them much longer to know they needed to stop doing whatever they were doing when suddenly faced with the water bottle.

The fact of the matter is that most of them squint and stop whatever nefarious activity they were about to do at the sight of the squirt bottle.

Then there’s Brummel.

Brummel sometimes just crouches down and takes it. What do you do with a youngster like that?

The climbing pant legs is decreasing daily. Now we’re dealing with drape climbing and other such behavior.

It’s a source of constant interest and, yes, amazement, to see character and personality emerge.

They also like to have a hand (paw?) in whatever I’m doing. Sweeping with a broom is of special interest, but so is everything else.

Bud has discovered the great outdoors. He sneaks out the front door at every opportunity, so I’ve decided it’s time for harness-and-leash training. Bud doesn’t seem to mind the figure-eight harness I began with.

Basil is more interested in finding interesting alternative ways to wear it. He had a great deal of fun wearing it like a tie and batting at the dangling ends.

Kitten Update - Basil Wearing the Harness

No. I haven’t attached the leash yet. Mostly because Thomas (our oldest cat) has been spending his days on the porch.

But I also confess to some trepidation!

As Far as Health Goes….

They’re all doing well. The five older kittens are getting past outbreaks of ringworm, mostly, I think, by passing it on to the four younger kittens. We’ve gone through two cans of PhytoVet CK Antiseptic Mousse so far and are working on the third. It’s on the pricey side, but it is helping immensely.

The incidences of sniffles are diminishing, too. The hottest part of the summer is gone, so I’ve been keeping windows open more often and running the air conditioner less, and that does seem to help.

Vaccinations are coming up. We’re overdue on those but have had to wait out sniffles and cash flow bottle necks. It seems like we either have the funds or the health, but not both at the same time.

As soon as they’ve been vaccinated, it will be time to start rehoming them. I will hate to see them go, but they do need to be placed sooner or later.

I’m hoping for sooner!

Following are a few pictures of the Kitten Posse.