The Challenges of Being an Artist

Time for another artist interview. This month, CP Magic is talking art with Carrie Lewis, discussing some of the challenges of being an artist.

The Challenges of Being an Artist: Talking Art with Carrie Lewis

Carrie has been painting and drawing since she was old enough to hold a crayon. In the late 1990s, she began doing more colored pencil work, which is now her primary medium.

She blogs regularly about all things colored pencil, and publishes the monthly e-zine for colored pencil artists, CP Magic.

She’s currently in the process of designing a new course.

Carrie is the featured artist for the March 2020 issue of CP Magic, where she talked at length about her art story, as well as presenting a landscape tutorial on Pastelmat.

For this post, Carrie talks about the things that have given her the most challenges as a full-time artist.

The Challenges of Being an Artist

CPM: Thank you for agreeing to share a little bit about what it’s like to be an artist. How long have you been an artist?

Carrie: I don’t remember ever not being an artist. I have a photo of a drawing I did in crayon on the bottom of a dresser drawer, but I don’t know how old I was at the time. The earliest drawing I have was drawn when I was 7-1/2 years old.

CPM: And you’ve been doing art ever since?

Carrie: Pretty much, other than two periods when I stopped. I’d say I’ve spent fifty years (more or less) making art. Mostly horse portraits, but some for myself, too.

CPM: And are you full-time now?

Carrie: As full-time as possible with so many other things also going on. To be more specific, I’ve not had an outside job since August 2009.

CPM: So you’ve been making art more than enough time to encounter some of the challenges of being an artist.

Carrie: Oh, yes! Even before I went full-time, I encountered challenges. Some types of difficulties were the same in both parts of my art life, but some where unique to each part of the journey.

Chestnut Morgan Mixed Media

The Biggest Challenge of Being an Artist

CPM: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced when it comes to art.

Carrie: That’s easy! Making time for creating.

I used to say “finding” time to make art, but then I realized that I had the same amount of time every day. Twenty-four hours. The trick was making the time for art by letting something else go.

CPM: Does that really work?

Carrie: Absolutely. When my husband and I decided by mutual agreement to unplug the television set many, many years ago, productive time suddenly seemed to expand. It may not seem like much, but an hour a night spent drawing instead of watching TV speeds up the drawing process significantly.

Even if someone gave up just one night of television, that’s an extra one to three hours of art time a week.

If they stopped TV altogether, like we did, that’s a week full of evenings to draw. Imagine what you could do with five to fifteen extra hours a week, not counting weekends.

Rainy Day on Mustang Ridge

The trick to making the time for art is letting something else go.

The Most Surprising Challenge of Being an Artist

CPM: What was the most surprising difficulty about becoming a full-time artist?

Carrie: It was quite a shock to discover that I couldn’t paint or draw eight hours a day!

You see, I’d always had to work around a full-time job. The job was necessary to pay the bills and support the art habit. I’d been successful painting portraits most of that time, and was able to do one a month around my work and family schedule.

But when I became a full-time artist, I really expected to double or triple production. It would be easy! I’d just have several pieces in progress at the same time. I was doing oils then, and would move from one painting to the next while the others dried.

So it was something of a stunner to discover I had, at best, five hours of productive creative time in me. After that, the battery ran dry. Most days, I could work four hours before running out of energy, no matter how many paintings were in progress.

Creating is a very mental exercise and if you work standing as I did and often still do, it’s also physically taxing.

Christmas Tree-O

The Most Persistent Challenge for the Artist

CPM: What challenge has been the most difficult to overcome?

Carrie: As a one-artist-show, there are also other things to do. Blogging. Bookkeeping. Inventory control. Customer fulfillment. Marketing. It’s all my responsibility. Until I’m making enough to hire someone to do some of those things, I have to do them.

In one way, I haven’t really given up the “outside job,” because I consider all of those things to be my day job. I just don’t have to leave home to do it.

The real difficulty is not that they have to be done. That’s just a fact of life if I want to earn a living with my work (which I do.) The real difficulty is that I so often find myself back in the position of having so little time for creating art.

And I can’t give up TV, because we’ve already done that!

Siesta Time

CPM: LOL, I hear you on that.

Thank you to Carrie for being so open about the challenges of being an artist.

Thank you, Reader, as well. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. You can read more about Carrie and her life as an artist in the March 2020 issue of CP Magic. She’s also provided a stunning and dramatic landscape drawn on dark Pastelmat.

March 2020 CP Magic Magazine

March 2020 CP Magic is now available and waiting for you.

I am the featured artist this month. The March issue also includes a brand new column in addition to all the regular features.

What’s in March 2020 CP Magic

Featured Artist Interview

Among the topics in this month’s interview, I talk about the motivations of changing from oil painting to colored pencils, and the surprises that came with that change. You’ll also see how I work and organize my supplies to keep everything cat proof. Not usually an easy task.

Featured Artist Tutorial

My step-by-step tutorial is a landscape full of light and drama on Anthracite Clairefontaine Pastelmat. The tutorial includes tips on composing a dramatic landscape from an old reference photo, as well as sketching directly on drawing paper.

CP Magic March 2020 Tutorial
Landscape on Pastelmat Tutorial
Before-and-After Clinic
Making it Better Crit

Other Features

This month’s Before-and-After Clinic shows you how to draw long fur so it looks realistic, without also looking stringy. My thanks to Rhonda Gardener for her first question and for sharing her portrait before and after.

And the March 2020 issue of CP Magic includes a brand new feature: Making it Better. The Making it Better column is a reader crit column, thanks to Gail Jones. This month, I share tips on making a good drawing or water look even better. You don’t want to miss that.

Finally, I’m including a featured reference photo you can download and draw for yourself.

About CP Magic

CP Magic is a monthly digital publication written by a colored pencil artist—yours truly—for colored pencil artists at all levels. That’s you!

Each month features an artist interview and a tutorial so you can meet the artist and then see how they work. Other columns are the Before-and-After Clinic and the featured photo.

Back issues are always available.

Get your copy of CP Magic March 2020.

Would you like to see your favorite artist featured in a future issue, or would you like to submit a clinic or crit drawing? Contact me and let’s talk about it!

How to Draw a Blurred Background

During December’s question and answer session, a reader asked how to draw a blurred background. I gave a general answer and a few tips, but didn’t have more specific information.

Today’s post is a step-by-step showing how I drew a blurred background.

How to Draw a Blurred Background

Although quite long, this tutorial covers only the background. Watch for the cat in a few weeks.

I’m working on Clairefontaine Pastelmat for the first time. The color is Sienna, which is very close to the same color as Prismacolor Yellow Ochre. Just a bit more orange.

I’m using a combination of pencils, but mostly Prismacolor and Faber-Castell Polychromos.

The reference photo is one of my own, and is of our oldest cat, which we lost due to the infirmities of old age on August 21, 2019.

How to Draw a Blurred Background - The Reference Photo

How to Draw a Blurred Background

Creating and Transferring the Line Drawing

I roughed in the initial sketch using Dan Duhrkoop’s drawing method as described in How to Draw Exactly What You See. I described that process in a previous post, which you can read here.

When the drawing was correct, I made a sheet of homemade transfer paper to try on the Clairefontaine Pastelmat. It worked well enough to draw a border with medium-heavy pressure, but couldn’t transfer the drawing with medium light pressure.

So I switched to a Verithin pencil and used medium-heavy to heavy pressure. The transfer worked best if I drew short, straight lines, but I had to go over some of it twice. I also had to clean up smudges afterward, but that was easily done with mounting putty.

How to Draw a Blurred Background - The Line Drawing

Getting Started

To establish the blurred background, I alternated layers of Prismacolor Cool Grey 20% and Slate Grey in the area behind Thomas’ head, beginning with Slate Grey in the corners, then Cool Grey 20% over all of that. I covered the paper with two or three layers of each, then added vague shapes with Slate Grey.

Then I lightly sketched the tree shapes in the rest of the background with Slate Grey.

I layered Prismacolor Slate Grey over the tree shapes with medium-light pressure, and the pencil held at about 45-degrees. I used circular strokes and did a couple of even layers for the base value, then went over the shadows with a couple of additional layers.

Smooth color layers is essential to drawing believable blurred backgrounds.

Then I used the side of the pencil, medium-light pressure, and circular strokes to add a few more shapes loosely based on the reference photo. Mostly to break up the larger negative areas.

I kept the edges soft by working over those I’d sketched earlier.

First Layers of Color

Next, I layered Cool Grey 20% over all of the background (including the trees) with medium-light pressure and circular strokes. This blending layer unified the background and softened the edges nicely.

Circular strokes left somewhat mottled color layer, though, so I switched to a vertical, back-and-forth stroke for the next layer. That created a much nicer, smoother color layer and a far more pleasing appearance.

To finish the session, I layered White over the negative spaces in the background, using medium-light pressure and small, circular strokes. I layered White almost to the bottom so that the negative spaces (which are sky in the reference photo) were lighter in value at the top than at the bottom.

Sometimes, shading the negative spaces is the best method for establishing a blurred background.

Laying in the Sky

Next, I layered Prismacolor Mediterranean Blue into the upper portions of the sky. I continued using medium-light pressure and a blunt pencil, but added only one or two layers in the darker areas at the top, and only one layer further down. I didn’t add blue toward the bottom, because this blue is too dark and gray.

After that, I layered Polychromos Ultramarine into the upper portions of the sky. I used light to medium-light pressure and whatever stroke or combination of strokes best filled in each area.

Dry Blending to Blur the Shapes

After the previous step, I dry blended the sky with a bristle brush in three stages. The first stage was with a corner of the brush and blending each shape individually.

For the second stage, I used the flat of the brush and blended across all the shapes horizontally, and the third blend was with the flat of the brush and vertical strokes. Working over the tree shapes helped blur them and make them look more distant and out-of-focus.

In the areas where I had several layers of color, the result was very pleasing. The color smoothed out nicely, creating a beautiful foundation for the blurred background I wanted.

But in those areas where I had only two or three layers of color, the dry blend accomplished very little.

The Next Round of Color

I used Slate Blue with medium pressure, and rough, open vertical strokes to shade the larger trees.

I continued shading the trees and larger branches with Slate Blue using medium pressure and firm, vertical strokes. The tree behind Thomas’ mouth is next closest, so I used the same strokes, but made the strokes less defined.

For the larger branches criss-crossing the background, I layered Slate Blue with no visible strokes. I used fewer layers on branches that are further away so that they were lighter in value.

To darken the shadows on the three closest trees, I used Black Raspberry applied in vertical strokes.

Next, I used medium-heavy pressure and the side of a sharp pencil to blend the largest trees with Yellow Ochre. I chose Yellow Ochre because the light is golden, evening light, and because it matched the color of the paper.

Using the side of the pencil softened the strokes already on the paper and working over every part of each tree unified the shapes.

Darkening the Darkest Values

Beginning with Dark Umber in the shadows on the trees, I layered color with medium-heavy pressure and strong, vertical strokes. I applied Light Umber in the same way into the highlights and lighter middle values. In some areas, I worked over Dark Umber with Light Umber, while using neither color in other areas.

I next added more Dark Umber with a diagonal stroke to soften the edges between light and dark.

I finished the two large trees (for now) by layering Light Umber over most of the lighter areas with medium-heavy pressure and diagonal strokes.

Correcting Mistakes on Pastelmat

At this point, I realized I’d made a mistake in drawing one of the trees. That tree is one of my favorite life drawing subjects and I’d totally misdrawn it.

And I immediately discovered another benefit to Pastelmat. It’s easy to correct mistakes. With a mistake like this on any traditional paper, I would’ve had to start over or live with the mistake. Or at best with a partially corrected mistake.

I sketched in the right shape with Light Umber.

Next, I filled in the shape with even color, then added two darker areas, still with Light Umber.

The correction was completed by blending the new branch into the existing tree. It’s impossible to tell where the correction is!

Koh-I-Nor Pencils on Pastelmat

I then decided to try Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless pencils to see if I could layer color fast, then dry blend it. I layered Sky Blue over the top half of the sky using medium-heavy pressure with horizontal strokes.

Next, I layered Light Grey over the sky using medium-heavy pressure and a mix of horizontal and vertical strokes. Then I added two layers of White over the whole thing, one layer with horizontal strokes, the second with vertical strokes.

For all of those colors, I used medium-heavy pressure. I also worked over all but the largest trees.

Multiple layers and varied strokes help create saturated color for blurred backgrounds.

I used a well-worn bristle brush to blend the layers together. To begin with, I used the corner of the brush, but that didn’t do much good, so I used the flat edge with short, vertical strokes to push the layers together and pull one color into another. Circular strokes dislodged more pigment dust than it blended.

Back to Polychromos & Prismacolor

It never hurts to experiment, even when the experiments fail. I didn’t like the Progresso pencils, so went back to Faber-Castell Polychromos.

I also started working the background section by section, something I should have done from the beginning.

The first Polychromos color was Sky Blue, which I layered from the top down. Cold Grey I was next, layered from the bottom up with firm pressure and short horizontal strokes. I overlapped the two colors in the center.

For the branches, I used Brown Ochre, then blended that area with Gamsol and a small round sable, using tapping strokes.

While those areas dried, I added Sky Blue and Cold Grey I to the areas between and in front of Thomas’ ears. This time I tried blending pigment dust with a bristle brush, then with my fingers. Neither method appeared satisfactory.

Mixing brands of pencils as well as colors is helpful in drawing a blurred background.

The Final Layers

To finish the blurred background, I added Faber-Castell Cold Grey I into the sky holes with medium-heavy or heavier pressure and a variety of strokes. My main goal now was smooth color and soft edges.

I used touches of Olive Yellowish-Green and Indianthrene Blue in some of the larger branches that are further away. For other branches, I worked around the branches so they showed up blue with no brown.

Next, I switched to Prismacolor French Grey 20% and burnished the sky holes, starting at the bottom. I used a blunt pencil and a variety of strokes to fill in the paper holes.

When I finished the sky, I used French Grey 70% and Slate Blue to rough in more trees. I sketched in branches of different sizes, values, and colors, and in different directions to fill in the background a little more.

Finally, I did a light solvent blend with a small round sable brush. I wanted to soften the edges between sky and branches, so I stroked in the direction the branches grew and started at the base of each branch or twig, and stroked outward.

This blurred background is ready for a final review.

Drawing a Blurred Background on Pastelmat

Whew!

This started out as a simple tutorial on drawing a blurred background. What a journey it’s turned out to be!

Even so, I hope you enjoyed it and learned from it. And I hope you’ll try drawing a blurred background of your own. Hopefully, it will go more smoothly than mine!

This tutorial was drawn on Clairefontaine Pastelmat. I’ve also written a blurred background tutorial for EmptyEasel, which was drawn on regular drawing paper. Read How to Draw a “Soft Focus” Background with Colored Pencil for more tips.

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How to Sell Art – The Basics

It’s doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, someone wants to know how to sell art.

For most of us, making art is fun, even when it challenges us. But marketing? Not so much.

I know all about that! Art doesn’t sell itself, after all (sad to say.)

How to Sell Art - The Basics

How to Sell Art – Marketing Tips

A lot can be said (and is said) about selling art. There’s so much detailed information available that it’s downright confusing. Especially when some of it seems contradictory.

When it comes to certain topics, simple is better. Marketing of any kind is one of those topics. So is the specific topic of selling art. So lets talk about a few basic—and simple—tips to get you started.

In our previous discussion on marketing, I listed some marketing myths. Today, I want to replace each on those those myths with a tip.

If I make it, it will sell… if you get it in front of the right people

The first myth was that making art was enough to sell it. Its mere existence meant someone would buy it.

The secret to selling art isn’t making art. Yes you have to make art in order to have something to sell, but the real secret is getting your art in front of the right people.

Who are the right people?

People who like your favorite subjects rendered the way you render them.

People who like art enough to want to spend money on it, and have money to spend on art

All three factors are important. After all, a person who likes what you do, but doesn’t have the money to spend on art is not going to buy your art.

On the other hand, a person who likes what you do and has money to spend, but isn’t interested buying art also is not going to buy your art.

They all work together.

Before you can put that infromation to work for you, you have to identify the people most likely to buy your art. Your target audience. I shared tips for identifying your target audience in a post call Getting Started as a Portrait Artist. Those tips work for all artists.

If I’m not selling, I’m not good enough

The second myth was that if your work isn’t selling, you’re not a good enough artist.

We all can improve as artists. Part of the artistic journey is learning new skills and improving old ones.

But if you’re not selling your work, the reason is probably that you’re not getting it out there. If people don’t know you make art, or don’t know what kind of art you make, how will they buy it?

So if you’re not selling, getting better at marketing is the solution, along with improving your artwork.

Don’t follow trends, set them

Myth #3 was following trends to sell art. This was big for me. Why?

Because I knew from the start that I wanted to paint portraits of horses that looked like the horses I was painting.

The reason this was such valuable knowledge is that I began getting serious about art just before abstract art became the big thing. When I went to school, most of the students were more interested in painting abstract than representational art. Getting a good art education in that situation was an uphill battle, and many’s the time I wondered if I had a future.

Then I made a simple decision.

I’ll paint what I like to paint in a way I like to paint, and will look for people who like my work.

I stopped fretting over what everyone else was doing, and found the market that fit my work.

That’s what you should do, too.

Stop following art trends, and create your own art trend. Even if it’s a very narrow niche market, there will be others who like what you do enough to buy it. All you have to do is find them! (See Point #1)

Yes, you can sometimes make sales by taking advantage of fads and trends, as a commenter on that previous post said. But find a way to fit it into your area of specialty. Trend following can help you if it doesn’t take you away from what you’re best at.

Set aside time to market, then use that time wisely

Have you ever found yourself thinking you can market effectively in just a few minutes a day? If you’ve tried it, has it worked for you?

Finding the people interested enough in your work to buy it means intentionally spending time on marketing. How much? That depends on your daily schedule.

If you’re a full time artist, you may need to start spending 3 or 4 hours a day doing marketing in some form.

If you’re part-time, as I know many of you are, then an evening, or maybe part of a weekend.

What you do depends in large part on the type of art you do and your target audience. It’s really a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say you have to start somewhere and it will take time. Even if it’s just an hour a week.

Part of spending time is being consistent. You need to do more than a spurt of marketing once in a while. It’s far better to spend a small amount of time daily or weekly than to spend a whole day marketing whenever the mood to market strikes.

Set aside funding, then use that funding wisely

The fifth myth was that you can market effectively without spending money.

There are ways to start marketing without spending a lot (or any) money. Social media is pretty much free, after all.

Email is much more effective, and you can start an email mailing list for free with many providers. Several email service providers have free plans up to a certain number of subscribers. MailChimp offers you free service for up to 2000 subscribers. Mailerlite‘s free package is good for up to 1,000 subscribers.

I also use some marketing plugins with this blog that are currently free, but that I’ll one day upgrade.

In each case, the free plans do what I need to do, but the paid versions offer more options. Sometimes those options save a considerable amount of time. When you’re running your own business, time is money, so consider all of your options carefully.

If money is tight, start where you can, but plan for the day when you can pay for marketing. Make the best use of those funds when necessary.

Conclusion

I’ve barely scratched the surface on this marketing thing, but I hope I’ve given you hope enough to get started on your own marketing.

Because selling art is not a hopeless proposition. Nor need it be as complicated as it sometimes looks.

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How to Make Colors Lighter

Have you ever wanted to make colors lighter on a work-in-progress, but thought it was hopeless?

Let me assure it’s not hopeless, and I’ll show you why.

The following three tips work whether you added too many layers or chose a color that was too dark.

How to Make Colors Lighter

Better yet, they’re simple and use tools you already have! No complex methods or expensive tools today.

Are you ready?

How to Make Colors Lighter

Tape

Transparent tape, masking tape, or painter’s tape is probably the easiest method for making colors lighter. I wrote in detail about that here, but I wanted to mention it now because it’s so utterly simple.

Transparent tape and masking tape are both excellent for removing color from a drawing.

Tear off a small piece of tape, lay it carefully along the area you want to lighten, then lift it off the paper. Don’t press the tape down firmly or you could damage the surface of the paper.

Do NOT use packing tape, duct tape, or any other heavy duty tape on a drawing. Once it’s on the paper, there’s no way to remove it without damage. “If a little sticky works, a lot of sticky works better” does not work with art!

Mounting Putty

The next best thing for lifting color is mounting putty.

Mounting putty is that sticky stuff originally designed to stick unframed posters to walls. It’s very handy for that, but it’s also very handy for making colors lighter on colored pencil drawings.

And it’s easy to use.

Just tear off a piece, work it in your hands long enough to warm it up a little, and then press it onto the color you want to lighten. The stickiness picks up some of that color without damaging the paper. One or two repetitions removes just a little bit of color.

More repetitions removes more color.

Press mounting putty onto your drawing, then lift to lighten colors. This example is shown with graphite, but it also works well with colored pencil.

Mounting putty is self cleaning. If you work in it your hands while you use it, it absorbs the color it picked up. That means that color doesn’t end up back on your drawing.

This method doesn’t get you back to clean paper, but it is surprising how much color it will lift.

For more step-by-step demos on using tape and mounting putty, read this article I wrote for EmptyEasel.

Make Colors Lighter by Adding Lighter Colors

Any artist who has tried to change something after putting down a lot of layers, or using heavy pressure knows how difficult it is to add more color. Difficult, but not impossible.

Use the same methods you used to put down the original color. You will have to be more diligent in keeping your pencils sharp because you’ll be working over a “used” surface.

You may also have to use slightly more pressure than you originally used. But work slowly, use several layers of color, and carefully blend old and new.

This method is especially helpful if you want to tint the color already on the paper as well as lighten. Choose a light-colored pencil that’s lighter than the color you want to lighten. Be careful about the colors you choose, though, or you could end up with mud.

And no one wants that!

I wrote a more detailed post about making colors lighter with this method, which you can read here.

Those Are My Favorite Methods for Making Colors Lighter

There are other ways to make colors lighter, but try these first. They’re the easiest and, usually, the most successful and least likely to damage your drawing.

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February 2020 CP Magic Magazine

It’s February already, so you know what that means. February 2020 CP Magic is now available.

February 2020 CP Magic Magazine

What’s in the February Issue

First the artist interview.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing John Middick, creator of Sharpened Artist Podcast. You’ll enjoy hearing about John’s artistic journey, how he became a full-time artist involuntarily, and see how he organizes his studio and tools.

Bonus! You can read part of that interview in Talking Portraits with John Middick right here on the blog.

After that, John’s step-by-step tutorial. He used Inktense and colored pencils on LuxArchival paper. If you’ve never used this new paper, you’ll want to see how John works with it and what he thinks of it.

The tutorial includes full-color illustrations, and clear, easy-to-follow descriptions. John also included a link to the reference photo so you can follow along if you wish.

Interview with John Middick
John’s portrait tutorial
Before-and-After Clinic

This month’s Before-and-After Clinic shows you how much difference an extra hour of work can make on your next (or current!) project.

Finally, I’m including a featured reference photo you can download and draw for yourself.

About CP Magic

CP Magic is a monthly digital publication written by a colored pencil artist—yours truly—for colored pencil artists at all levels. That’s you!

Each month features an artist interview and a tutorial so you can meet the artist and then see how they work. Other columns are the Before-and-After Clinic and the featured photo.

Back issues are always available.

Get your copy of CP Magic February 2020 here.

February 2020 CP Magic Magazine

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper

It’s the second Saturday of the month. That means a Peggy Osborne tutorial! This month, she’s drawing vibrant color on black paper and her subject is a beautiful and colorful rooster.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper

Hi all!

In this tutorial I am going to show you how I draw vibrant color on black paper. This month’s subject is a rooster, but the method works for furry subjects as well. I’ve drawn dogs, cats and horses on black paper using this method.

The first thing to remember about black paper is that the color of the pencils looks different on black paper. To draw bright colors, it’s important to start with a white under drawing.

I’m using Prismacolor pencils which are wax-based, but you can use any brand. I am not sure how the other brands perform on the paper, but everyone has a favorite and you can use what you have. I doubt there would be enough difference to matter.

Also use the colors you have. They don’t have to be the same as I use. The main thing you need to do is layer the lightest colors first, starting with an opaque white, which the white Prismacolor is. It is quite opaque compared to, say the Polychromos White. I don’t know about other brands of white pencil.

I am using a smooth black mat board. If you us a different surface, it may act differently. Familiarize yourself with your own pencils and paper and see what they can do for you. Then dive in!!

This is my reference photo. I found it on Pixabay.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - Reference Photo
Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

Transferring the Line Drawing to Black Paper

The first thing I do is transfer my line drawing to the paper. I use white transfer paper and trace the image onto the black paper. The white transfer paper can be a bit smudgy, so be careful to not smudge. Use a kneaded eraser to lift any smudged areas.

The first step in drawing vibrant color on black paper is transferring the line drawing.

I work each section to almost completion, then move onto the next section.

To make things easy on myself, I keep the colors I use separate from the rest of my pencils. This way, I know which ones I’ve used and can go back to them as I need them.

Also, I don’t erase much on black paper as the marks can show up more than on white paper. I usually use a kneaded eraser more on black paper than other papers. On other papers, I use my electric eraser more.

Start with the Rooster’s Comb

I started with the comb and began by drawing a few details with a sharp White pencil and medium pressure. Then I hold the pencil a little to the side and with light pressure cover the whole area with a light wash.

As always, I follow my reference photo closely to make sure the drawing is accurate and the feathers are going in the direction they should be going in. But unless I am doing a commission where the image has to be exact, I don’t worry about getting the exact colors or every feather in place.

TIP: Test colors on a scrap piece of paper for opacity before using them on the drawing and chose one that works best.

I started with a light wash of Rose Peach over the comb, then added Raspberry in the shadows.

I used Crimson Lake in the shadows, washed Scarlet Lake overall , then layered Cadmium Orange in the shadows and along the comb. Then another light wash of Rose Peach and White. I used sharp pencils and light pressure with every color.

When doing a wash, lightly use the side of your pencil.

To finish the comb, I layered the previous colors again, mixing them with washes of White now and then. I used reds and Raspberry making squiggly lines to add texture to the comb. Then I went in with White to make more texture lines with a sharp point.

Finishing up the comb, I used Brush and Pencil Titanium White mixture to draw in the very brightest whites. If I go too light, I can always color over the product to tone it down. You want to do this after it is completely dry though so it doesn’t lift.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - Continuing Color Layers

Drawing the Rooster’s Face

Usually when working on white paper I focus on getting the darks dark enough. But on black paper, I focus on getting the lights light enough.

Here I’ve already drawn the face and wattles to almost completion by following the same method and techniques as with the comb. I also added a bit of dark purple in the darkest areas.

TIP: Layer lightest colors, wash with White to keep the colors bright, and follow the reference photo closely.

I created the pointy feathers above the eye by drawing black and white stripes then adding Titanium White mixture to brighten it.

To complete the eye, I started with White, then Canary Yellow and Scarlet Lake followed by a bit of Tuscon Red along the outside of the eyeball. I used Black for the pupil.

I find the black pencil is usually darker than the black paper so I use it a lot depending on the look I am trying to achieve. I’ll add more highlights here and there before completing this area.

The ear lobe is started with White and a dark cool grey for the texture areas.

The Black Feathers

Next I added a few highlights to the wattles and finished the ear lobe. On the ear lobe I used more White, and then finished with Titanium White mixture.

To start the feathered chest, I drew in the directional lines with White.

Next I added more White to the feathered chest. This may seem redundant but it is amazing how much White I use to create black feathers. It makes the black pop on the paper and not just fade into the black paper.

Now I started building up the colors with Slate Grey and Greyed Lavender as a wash overall, using the side of the pencils and very light touch.

I did another light wash, then started drawing between the lines with Black. You can see where I’ve added Black in this photo.

I continued adding White and Black until the feathers looked the way I wanted them to look. But I also added Manganese Violet and Indigo Blue in the areas where I saw those colors in the reference photo. The extra colors add more realism and depth to the drawing than just having a flat black.

In this photo you can almost feel the thickness of the feathers on his chest.

Drawing the White Feathers

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the white feathers, and started with White. Then I layered a little Indigo Blue and Greyed Lavender in the shadows. I went over this a few times with a white wash, then added Titanium White. I also used White with a sharp point to add highlights in the black feathers on the neck.

Drawing the Beak

Here I’ve finished the white feathers with Titanium White mixture, and started the beak.

As usual I used White as a base, then added color, going from light to dark. I used Peach on the lower beak, and Slate Grey, Indigo Blue, and Purple on the top of the beak. I then added texture with Titanium White mixture.

Value & Color Comparisons

Once the drawing was finished, I placed my art piece in a split photo with the original to check likeness, colors and values, and saw that I needed to change the eye just a bit and add a few more darks and color. I used Sepia to darken the creases in the face and wattles, then punched up the reds a bit and did an overall tweak.

Here are the two split photos that I use to check things in color and in black and white. I check with the reference photo frequently while I am working checking for color and likeness.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - Color Comparison Between the Reference Photo and the Drawing.
Values are key to drawing vibrant color on black paper. The darks must be dark enough to make the light values pop.

In this case, because it is not a commission and just for fun, it didn’t have to be as exact as if I were doing a commission. The shape of an eye can change the likeness drastically so it is very important to keep checking the reference photo as you work.

And here is the finished piece.

Drawing Vibrant Color on Black Paper - The Finished Drawing

Are you ready to try drawing vibrant color on black paper?

I’m looking forward to trying Peggy’s method for drawing vibrant color on black paper. Her colors sing!

Do you have an idea for a tutorial from Peggy? Let us know in the comments below.

About Peggy

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy. You can also meet Peggy in the January issue of CP Magic.

Peggy is an accomplished self-taught artist living in Canada specializing in creating beautiful realistic portraits of pets and family members. She’s had an on going love affair with colored pencils, loving their simplicity, for as long as she can remember.

She started out using graphite pencil so it was an easy transition to carry on with colored pencils. Love of animals and art go hand in hand. Peggy is in awe of what can be accomplished with colored pencils.

Colored Pencil Workshop for Beginners

The February 8 Colored Pencil Workshop for Beginners has been rescheduled due to illness. The workshop is now scheduled for March 7, 2020.

If you’ve never used colored pencil before, but would like to learn more about colored pencils and gain basic skills, this workshop is for you.

Colored Pencil Workshop for Beginners

Colored Pencil Workshop for Beginners

Where: Carriage Factory Art Gallery, Newton, Kansas

When: March 7, 2020 from 10 am to 3 pm

Tuition: $80

What to Bring:

  • Supplies (supply list available from the gallery)
  • A work in progress
  • Reference photos

Workshop Description

The workshop begins with an introduction to colored pencils including basic colored pencil terms, learning about the various grades of pencils, and different types of paper.

I will demonstrate fundamental techniques such as layering, blending, and pencil control, as well as different ways to hold a pencil and put marks on paper.

Students will see how these methods work in practice with two drawing exercises, then practice on a drawing they bring with them.

What to Bring to the Workshop

Supplies. A supply list is available from the gallery.

A drawing to work on. This can be something brand new, or a work in progress to practice the lessons on. A line drawing on drawing paper is preferable, so the student is able to practice layering from the beginning.

What to Expect from the Workshop

Expect to have fun while you learn (that is the best way to learn, after all.)

Expect to get personal feedback from me, and to meet other artists interested in colored pencils and colored pencil art.

It is my goal to give you the basic skills to take home and make your own great artwork.

Count Me In! What Do I Do Next?

The Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton, Kansas is hosting the workshop and handling all registrations. Students must pre-register. Just click here to register and make payment.

I hope to see you there!

Talking Portraits with John Middick

Today I’m talking portraits with John Middick.

John is the creator and host of the Sharpened Artist Podcast, the weekly podcast for colored pencil artists.

The podcast was created in 2015 and John says his primary focus was offering encouragement to fellow artists. He accomplishes that goal by not only sharing tips and techniques for drawing, but by interviewing other colored pencil artists. Giving them a chance to be heard and encouraged.

John is the featured artist for the February 2020 issue of CP Magic, where he talked extensively about his artistic journey and other subjects. He also provided a tutorial for that issue.

But for this post, we’re talking about his favorite subject: People. Specifically, faces.

Talking Portraits with John Middick

Why Portraits of People?

Carrie: Thank you for agreeing to talk with me, John.

You draw a lot of subjects, but what I think of when I think of you as an artist is portraits. You obviously enjoy doing human portraits. What makes them so attractive?

JOHN: I’ve always been very, very interested in people, the human condition, and understanding people. Faces are fascinating.

But I think a lot of it is because I was so terrible at drawing people as a child, and I wanted to be good at it. I would try it and couldn’t figure out how artists were able to do that.

Amy, Colored Pencil Portrait by John Middick
Amy

Back in the 80s, I’d go to the mall once in a while and see artists set up in the middle of the mall. They were creating art right there on the fly, doing commissions of people sitting there or painting from a photograph or something. It was the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen in my life.

I remember someone painting a portrait. Someone’s just sitting there in front of them, and they’re painting and I was just dumbfounded. I could not believe that that was possible.

Now I feel like portraits are just one of the most compelling pieces of artwork. Obviously, it’s my opinion, but there’s just something about being able to depict a person.

And it’s not just copying who this person is.

It’s also showing the personality and showing something that you just can’t get with a camera. I’m fascinated with that.


My mom had to tell me, “Come on, we are going,” because I just wanted to stay there. I was just blown away at that.

John Middick

About Commissions

CARRIE: You do commission work?

JOHN: Yes, I do. In fact, somebody just contacted me about doing a cat. I do animals once in a while. I will do just about any commission somebody asks me to do, and I have a good photo reference. Or preferably I can take the reference photos myself.

But mostly I do portraits with commissions, but I’ll do the occasional cat or dog or something like that. Or a farm or something like that.

I love doing commissions, too. A lot of people don’t like it and talk about how awful it is, and there can be a downside. But there’s something exciting about giving that piece of art to the individual after it’s all completed. They love it and some fall apart.

Intensity

Carrie: I’ve had that happen to me more than once. It’s such a good feeling.

John: You can’t replace it.

Carrie: No you can’t. Sometimes it’s worth more than money.

John: I’m not getting rich on doing commissions. You’re not going to really make a whole lot doing portraits , some artists I guess would. But there’s a reward to being an artist that has nothing to do with money. I don’t know about anyone else, but I need to be stroked once in a while; to feel good about what I do.

Future Plans

Carrie: What plans do you have for future works?

John: I have a series I’m about to start working on that I’m so excited about. And I’m hoping I can execute on this. I should be able to between teaching and things I’m doing, but I want to show people with technology.

I’ve always thought it was interesting that every time we adopt some new little innovation in technology, all of us as a species start using these things in some interesting ways.

Like one time I was at one of my daughter’s basketball games. Everyone was standing up with these huge iPads. All these parents right in a row taking pictures and videos with their iPads.

Alessandra

Carrie: And now it’s cell phones.

John: Yeah, yeah, they use cell phones. Used to be the flip phone, they would bring out their flip phone at a wedding trying to take pictures.

So I’m the weirdo in the audience. I usually have my camera and I’m taking pictures of people taking pictures of people using cell phones. I’m trying to make a series now out of that because I’ve been collecting reference images for a long time.

Carrie: Is this series going to be serious?

John: That’s a good point. It could be whimsical. I don’t know. I think it will be more of a focus on the person.

I’ve got this huge folder of files, and I’m hoping I can pick out some things that are interesting enough. My challenge is figuring out how to make this about the person and not about the object that they’re interacting with.

See how John Middick drew this portrait step-by-step in the February 2020 issue of CP Magic.
John draws this portrait step-by-step in the February 2020 issue of CP Magic.

Carrie: Long-term series or just a few pieces?

John: I’m thinking it’ll probably be a long-term series. I’ve never really done anything like that.

I’m always impressed when somebody has a very nice cohesive body of work. Some of the other colored pencil artists have been working in the medium for a while. I like that. I always had that goal, but I’m always doing other things like teaching classes and writing courses. I feel like I don’t take enough time for my own artwork.

And so I’m going to try to do that. That’s where I am right now. But it’s hard to do, isn’t it?

Carrie: It’s very hard to do.

That’s Talking Portraits with John Middick

My thanks again to John for meeting with me. He has a lot more to share in February’s CP Magic, which you can get here.

Don’t forget about the Sharpened Artist Podcast, and if you really want to dive deep into portrait drawing, John’s Face Value course is just what you’re looking for. There is a waiting list for the course, but you can add your name to the waiting list here. John tells me the course opens one time per year and will be opening soon in 2020.  For more info or to reserve your spot go here!

I'm on the Sharpened Artist Podcast!

Guess what? I’m appearing on John Middick’s popular Sharpened Artist podcast today! How exciting is that?

Colore Pencil Podcast

Cincinnati, Ohio artist, John Middick created the Sharpened Artist Podcast in the summer of 2015. A weekly audio show dedicated to colored pencil, the podcast reaches artists of all skill levels across the country and around the world.

“The biggest reason I started the podcast is to help encourage new colored pencil artists, and provide tips and techniques to learn this new medium,” Middick says. “I was also able to give a voice to many colored pencil artists through artist interviews.”

Middick interviews colored pencil artists who are working on their art in isolation. The public sees their work and knows them by name, but rarely gets to meet them. And they don’t often get to meet each other.

“Hearing their voice created an intimate experience for the listener,” Middick goes on to say. “I quickly started getting listeners emailing me talking about how they felt like they were getting to know the artist’s behind the artwork.”

I am the guest artist for the February 3, 2020 edition of the Sharpened Artist Podcast.

I’ve listened to the podcast for a long time, and have been encouraged and instructed by many episodes. So it’s a special treat to be able to give back to the podcast and its listeners.

John and I talked about my artistic journey, colored pencils in general, and the artist’s life. I hope you’ll join us. I’ve designed a very special and hopefully helpful giveaway to accompany the podcast.