Glazing Color over a Complementary Under Drawing

Last week, I showed you how to draw a complementary under drawing. This week’s post is part two of this tutorial—glazing color over a complementary under drawing.

Glazing Color over a Complementary Under Drawing

Glazing color is pretty much the same for the complementary method as for the umber method or any other drawing method. You layer colors over the under drawing in thin, smooth layers to develop saturated color (no paper showing through,) vibrancy, and to add detail.

Keeping your pencils sharp and using light pressure to apply color are important. Creating smooth color is easier with sharp pencils, and applying color with light pressure allows the under drawing to show through.

As always, suit your pencil strokes to the area you’re working on, and begin with the lighter colors and work toward the dark colors.

Glazing Color over a Complementary Under Drawing

Beginning Color Work in the Landscape

When glazing color over a complementary under drawing, develop the color one layer and color at a time. In most cases, more than one color is needed to achieve the final color. With this drawing, I combined glazes of several greens to get the right shade of green for the grass. The trees required a slightly different combination of greens.

For instance, I used Prismacolor Grass Green, Peacock Green, Apple Green*, and Spring Green* in the grassy meadow. I used only Peacock Green and Dark Green in the trees for the first round of color.

Start with Grass Green applied in broad horizontal strokes throughout the grassy meadow. Shade all of the meadow on the first pass.

In the foreground, add short vertical strokes to mimic the look of grass. Apply Peacock Green, Apple Green, and Spring Green to the same areas and in the same manner to begin developing the darker values.

In the trees, use Peacock Green to lay in middle values, and Dark Green in the shadows.

Technical Tip

You want to add color over the under drawing; you don’t want to cover up the under drawing. Colored pencil is a transparent medium overall, but it is possible to apply color so heavily that you lose the details in the under drawing. A good rule of thumb is to go through all the colors you want to use at least once using light pressure. Then you can use heavier pressure in those areas you want to accent or where you need to burnish.

Beginning Color Work in the Horse

Begin adding color to the horse by working light to dark using Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, and Pumpkin Orange as base colors. Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to work around the shapes of muscle groups, body contours and the edges of the horse.

Next, layer Burnt Ochre over all of the horse except the brightest highlights, then Sienna Brown over the same areas. Finally, add Pumpkin Orange to the darkest middle values and shadows.

Carefully work around the highlights with each color. As you add the darker colors, give the highlights more space. That creates areas of smooth and very soft color and value gradations around the highlights.

In this illustration, the back half of the horse shows all three colors in place and shows you how the green under drawing is contributing to the form and mass of the horse.

The front half of the horse shows only the Burnt Ochre. The area immediately behind the shoulder is a blending of Burnt Ochre and Sienna Brown.

Technical Tip

Working the entire drawing at once (as opposed to finishing each area before moving to the next) allows you to make adjustments throughout the process and keep the composition unified.

It’s not necessary to work in this fashion, but it can be helpful in establishing the initial layers of color.

A Word on Correcting Mistakes

Whether you plan compositions to the minutest detail or develop compositions intuitively (by the seat of your pants, so to speak), there will come a time when you discover late in the process that you’ve made a mistake. DO NOT LET THIS DISCOURAGE YOU!

From the start, I included a tree on the right hand side, behind the horse. The tree survived through the under drawing and into the color phase.

Then I decided it added very little to the overall composition and crowded the horse visually. The solution? The tree had to go.

To remove it, I went back to the early stages of the process and layered under drawing colors over it so it matched the surrounding areas as much as possible. That wasn’t difficult in the upper portion, where the strokes are random. It took a bit more care in the lower areas.

When I was satisfied, I began glazing local color over those areas to bring them up to the same level as the surrounding areas. The tree wasn’t completely covered, but it had become very vague, merely a ghost of itself.

Developing Color

Continue working throughout the background with layers of Apple Green*, Spring Green*, Canary Yellow*, and Lemon Yellow in the sunlit areas of the landscape.

In the darker areas, add Dark Green, Olive Green, and a touch of Burnt Umber.

In the trees, use Dark Green, Olive Green, and Indigo Blue in the shadows and Olive Green, Grass Green, and touches of Apple Green* in the highlights.

The trees and grass need to work together visually, but they also need to stand apart, so use a couple of colors in both areas, but also keep the trees darker and cooler overall than the grass.

Use Dark Umber, Terra Cotta, Indigo Blue, and a little Dark Green in the shadows on the horse, and Terra Cotta and the siennas and ochres in the middle values.

The highlights on the horse are still untouched paper at this stage. Develop them by working around them. Sometimes, the best way to produce vibrant highlights is to darken the areas around them.

Draw a Horse Using the Complementary Under Drawing Method - Step 5

Finishing the Background

At this stage, the background is nearly finished. The brightest greens are around the horse, with shadows creeping in around the edges and throughout the trees. Individual groups of trees have also been created to lead the eye to the focal point, which is the horse.

Finish each area with medium or medium-heavy pressure. Fill in as much of the paper texture as possible without burnishing. Once you burnish, it’s very difficult to add more color without the use of a solvent or spray. Solvents or sprays can be used without damaging paper or artwork, but once you take that step, it cannot be taken back.

Draw a Horse Using the Complementary Under Drawing Method - Step 6

Finishing the Horse

Finishing the horse consists of adding more layers of the colors already used. Use medium pressure and directional strokes to develop color and value one layer at a time.

Also begin adding ‘surface’ colors. For such a bright chestnut, Orange* and Pale Vermilion*. Use medium or heavy pressure to add these colors. The heavier the pressure, the more impact each color will make.

Remember that heavier pressure also limits the number of layers you can add later.

Add reflected light with a layer of Light Cerulean Blue* burnished with Sky Blue Light* or White over the back and rump. Use Apple Green* burnished with Sand under the belly.

Then burnish around the places where the reflected light areas meet the horse’s natural coat color with the lightest of the coat colors to soften and blur those edges.

Draw a Horse Using the Complementary Under Drawing Method - Step 7

The Final Review

The final step is a review of the artwork, then making whatever adjustments need to be made.

When I think a drawing might be finished, I generally set it aside overnight and look at it again the next day. The reason for this is that it allows me to look at the artwork with a fresh eye; as though seeing it for the first time.

You can also get a different perspective on your work by looking at it upside down or in a mirror. Any areas that need work will become obvious when you view your artwork in one of these ways.

Glazing Color over a Complementary Under Drawing

And that’s how to use the complementary drawing method to draw a horse. The really neat thing is that you can use the same drawing method for any subject you want to draw!

It’s not my favorite method for drawing animals, but it’s perfect for landscapes because the complementary under drawing naturally tones down the landscape greens. That makes for more natural looking landscapes.

*Denotes Prismacolor colors that are not guaranteed to be lightfast. Substitute other greens, or lightfast greens from other brands if lightfastness is important to you.

Draw a Complementary Under Drawing

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to draw a complementary under drawing.

This two-step process is a variation on the classical, seven-step method used by many Flemish artists and which is most commonly used with oil paints.

With the complementary under drawing method, those seven steps are combined into two. The first step is the under drawing. The second step is local (final) color.

Today, I’ll walk you through the under drawing phase.

Let’s get started.

What is a Complementary Under Drawing?

Every colored pencil drawing begins with an under drawing, which is basically just the first layers of color you put on the paper.

A complementary under drawing is created using colors opposite the final colors on the color wheel. In the piece I’m using for this demonstration, the horse is shades of red, so the under drawing will be shades of green. All of the greens in the background will have an under drawing made up of shades of red or earth tones.

Color plays a major role in this method, but value is also important. A final color that is light in value such as yellow or light blue will require a complement that is also light in value or a darker color applied with very light pressure.

Tint is also an important consideration. A blue-green subject requires a red-orange under painting. This is where your color wheel will prove its worth.

Technical Tip

If you don’t have a color wheel, this is a good time to purchase one or make one. A basic color wheel template is available here, along with instructions for making your own color wheel.

If you prefer to purchase a color wheel, you can find one at most art supply stores or print shops. They are an inexpensive, but invaluable tool.

Draw a Complementary Under Drawing

I used Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper in Beach Sand Ivory for my project. The paper is ivory in color, which is perfect color for this painting. The color of the paper affects the overall look of the finished artwork.

You can use white paper if you wish, but using a complementary base color essentially allows you to start with one layer already in place. That makes the drawing process faster.

Below is the reference photo. Not only did I tidy up the background; I changed the color of the horse. The tidier background simply looked better. I changed the color of the horse for purely personal reasons. I wanted to draw a chestnut!

Draw a Horse Using the Complementary Under Drawing Method - Reference Photo

You can either draw a chestnut, or draw the horse in its original colors. The principles of the complementary under drawing remain the same either way, though colors will vary.

I used Prismacolor pencils for this tutorial, but you can get successful results with any brand of artist quality pencils.

Starting the Under Drawing

For the horse

Use a medium value green such as Grass Green to outline the horse, then lightly outline highlights and shade around them. Use light pressure and develop value with layers rather than pressure. It’s important to start with light pressure so that mistakes can be easily erased or covered. Work carefully around the highlights and shadows.

Draw a Horse Using the Complementary Under Drawing Method - Step 1

For the background

Use the same process in the background, where I used Burnt Ochre and Sienna Brown to establish the shapes in the trees and the values in the grass.

You’ll get the best results in the foreground and middle ground by applying color evenly, but with some variations in value.

The trees may also be drawn with even color, or you can use directional or circular strokes to begin drawing the foliage. Whichever strokes you use, add darker values to the trees the same way you did the foreground. By adding more layers.

Keep your pencils sharp, too. The sharper your pencils, the more easily you can draw even color.

Finishing the Under Drawing

Extend the range of values throughout the artwork and bring out the highlights by darkening shadows and middle tones.

Now is the time to create visual interest by varying strokes. Use short, vertical strokes with the point of the pencil in the grassy areas, particularly in the foreground. Use long, sweeping strokes with the point of the pencil in the horse’s tail.

To draw the hills, hold your pencil in a more horizontal position and draw with the side of the exposed pigment core.

For the trees, use circular or looping strokes with the sides and point of the pencil in the trees.

Draw a Horse Using the Complementary Under Drawing Method - Step 2

General Tips

Whenever possible, stroke in the direction of natural patterns. Stroke grass upward, just as it grows. Stroke tail and mane from the point of growth toward the ends of the hairs.

Get as much detail as possible at this stage. As you gain experience using under drawings, you’ll discover personal preferences in finishing the under drawing.

Personally, I like to get as finished a look as possible with the under drawing. I attempt to develop an under drawing until it could be a standalone artwork.

One of the things I like about the under drawing process is its flexibility. Whatever method of under drawing you use, you can develop values without worrying about color. When you get to the color phases, you can experiment more freely with color without worrying about value.

You can draw a complementary under drawing for any subject from still life compositions to animals to landscapes. Using complementary under drawings for landscapes is especially effective for creating natural landscape greens.

Next week, I’ll show you how to glaze color over a complementary under drawing.

When You Don’t Feel Like Drawing

What do you do when you don’t feel like drawing?

I confess. There have been a lot of days of late when making art is a struggle. Too many things on my to-do list is usually the cause, but there are other times when I just don’t feel creative.

When You Don't Feel Like Drawing

There are a lot of reasons to lose that creative spark. Illness. Stress. Circumstances. Even the most creative and optimistic person goes through times of creative apathy.

I, for one, wrestle with depression on a regular basis. That’s part of the reason I haven’t watched broadcast news in years.

The last few weeks have been especially difficult. In addition to the challenges of publishing one magazine and one tutorial every month, and daily chores that must be done, there have been losses in our circle of friends. Three funerals in our congregation in less than two months is a bit to take in. Things like that tend to make all the other things in day-to-day life heavier. More difficult to bear.

Combined with broader circumstances, personal situations like these can easily dampen creativity.

When You Don’t Feel Like Drawing

Can you do anything about creative apathy?

Yes.

Understand What’s Happening

It’s important to understand what’s going on internally.

When you’re unwell, rest is important. I’ve learned that lesson (again) this week, and have yielded to the need to rest, even when it seems necessary every two hours. It takes time to recover and recovery takes energy. Accept the fact that it may be some time before your mind and body have recovered to the point that creativity returns.

It’s also important to know yourself. For example, I know that I’m prone to mild depression and that it can easily turn into something worse. So I take precautions. Vitamin D taken on a daily basis is a good preventative.

So is daily Bible reading (especially the psalms) and prayer. There is a noticeable difference between days started that way and days started without it.

I also know I need to keep news intake to a minimum and that I need to be selective in my sources.

And I know that there will be days when nothing seems important.

Since I know days like this will happen, they’re not as debilitating when they occur. I also know from past experience that they pass. That, my friend, is important.

Depression may not be your problem. You may have family or work responsibilities that either take time away from art or leave you too exhausted to be creative. The key is recognizing the things that leave you creatively apathetic, and to know whether or not they can be avoided, reduced, or delegated.

Have a Plan of Action

It’s not enough to understand what’s happening. It’s just as important to develop a plan of action.

Whether you’re dealing with external situations or internal situations, find ways to work around them. How, you ask? Start by evaluating circumstances.

Are they internal or external?

Are they short-term or long-term?

Can you do anything about them or are they beyond your control? Be careful with this one. It’s so easy to think you have no control at all when you may have some control. It’s just as easy to think you can fix everything when you may not be able to.

Take the time to accurately assess your circumstances, understand what you can do, and what you can’t do.

Think of ways to do what you can, and avoid worrying over the things you can’t change.

When You Don't Feel Like Drawing - Make a plan for dealing with creative apathy.

Don’t Wait for Creative Apathy to Plan for It

Ideally, make your plans when you are in a creative mood because you won’t want to do it when you’re not already creative.

Nothing is more discouraging than trying to figure out how to handle a situation while you’re in the middle of it. Sure, the first time it happens to you, you may be caught off guard. That’s understandable.

Once you’ve experienced it, however, it’s time to consider how to respond the next time.

Keep it Simple

But keep it simple. Don’t plan elaborate things even if they seem doable when you’re in good spirits. Believe me, there are times when everything looks possible.

“Everything” is not what you need when you don’t feel like drawing or doing anything else creative.

You.

Need.

Simple.

And easy helps, too.

So what do I suggest? Here are a few things I do when I’m down.

Read a good book
Go for a walk
Take a nap (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately!)
Spend time with your spouse and family
Spend time with a pet
Put a jigsaw puzzle together
Doodle

See? Simple and easy!

You already know what activities you enjoy and that relax you. When you don’t feel like drawing, those activities are your first line of defense.

Find Other Ways to Be Creative

Art isn’t the only way to be creative and it’s possible that your problem is that you’re bored with your art. If that’s the case, you need to find something else to do for a while.

I know many of you do fabric art. Sewing, knitting, embroidery, cross-stitch. Do some of that.

Or work wood or cook or bake or whatever else you enjoy that’s in any way creative.

When You Don't Feel Like Drawing - Do something else that's creative.

One Thing You Shouldn’t Do

These measures are designed for those times when life gets to you and drains you. Not for simple cases of “I don’t want to draw.” Setting aside drawing on the basis of temporary moods is a certain path to not drawing at all. You don’t want that.

At least I hope you don’t.

When You Don’t Feel Like Drawing

I’m the first to admit that the artist’s life is difficult, especially if your art is more than a hobby. There are days when the last thing you want to do is pick up a pencil and start drawing.

But you don’t have to let creative apathy drag you down long-term. It can be survived!

If you want to read more on this topic, check out Getting and Staying Motivated when Art Gets Tough for more tips.

Face Value Portrait Course

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Face Value Portrait Course

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End of Project Blues–How to Handle Them

Have you ever experienced something I call the end of project blues?

That happens when you’ve worked on a piece for a long time, and put a lot of effort into it? Sweated over it to make sure everything’s just right.

It feels great to finish it, doesn’t it? Time to celebrate.

But then what?

A lot of big projects come with a hidden problem. Something that doesn’t show up until the project is finished.

What is it?

End of Project Blues--How to Handle Them

Apathy about starting the next project.

How to Handle End of Project Blues

End of project blues takes many forms. Maybe no new subject really inspires you, so nothing looks appealing. You feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled by the masterpiece you just finished.

Or maybe you just need a break.

I’ve been in each place many times. Some of my “breaks” have lasted months, rather than days. One time, I walked away from the easel for two years!

We all need a break now and again, but not for weeks, months, or years (most of the time.)

So how do you keep moving forward after finishing a big project (or any project)?

Following are three things I’ve done in the past that keep me creating. Not all of them will work for everyone, but I hope they at least get you thinking about ways you can curb the end of project blues!

Always Have Something New in the Works

It’s a lot easier for me to go from one project to the next if I already have something in progress. Sometimes it’s just a collection of photos in a folder. Sometimes I’ve cropped some of those photos, and sometimes I’ve already started the line drawing.

It doesn’t matter how far along the piece is as long as I have something already started when I sign the current piece.

You might also try working on two things at once. That way, you already have something else well started when you finish the current piece. That’s also a great way to combat boredom with a project. Just work on the backup piece!

Batch Work Basic Things

Batch work is what happens when you do a batch of similar tasks at the same time.

With art, that might be sorting and preparing reference photos. What I sometimes do after finishing a project is go through all the photos in my Potential Projects folder and sort out half a dozen or more that look promising.

Then I spend an afternoon cropping them in various ways to find the best compositions. Sometimes I combine photos.

Technically, I’m not drawing, but I am preparing to draw, and that’s the first step in the process.

Try Something New

Perhaps the best suggestion for overcoming end-of-project blues is doing something completely outside your usual work.

For example, if you do human portraits, try a landscape.

If you work in a realistic style, give surrealism a try. Or maybe an abstract.

Getting outside and drawing is also a good way to cure the end of project blues.

You might also try something that’s just, plain fun. I like to play around with watercolors and watercolor pencils. They’re more spontaneous, and even if I don’t get a masterpiece out of it, I’m almost always motivated to get back to the serious work.

Beating the End of Project Blues

These are just a few ideas to get you started. As I mentioned earlier, not all of them will work for everyone.

But if they get you started on the right path to what works for you, then they’ve done their job!

And so have I. Happy penciling!

Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Today, I want to talk about glazing color over an umber under drawing.

The umber under drawing method is one of my favorite drawing methods. I first started using it with oil paints, but it works just as well with colored pencils.

It’s good for animals, landscapes, and most subjects.

Some of you have asked about the umber under drawing method in general, so I thought it was time to share a tutorial.

This one features a horse in a landscape. I’ve finished (or nearly finished) everything but the horse. The horse is still at the umber under drawing stage, and I’ll show you how to glaze color over it.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 10

Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

Glazing color over an umber under drawing involves two steps: establishing the base colors and details, and developing color and value ranges. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you get the best results by following these two basic steps.

The final step with every drawing is reviewing it as a whole and making whatever adjustments to color, value, and detail may become apparent.

NOTE: This is an older drawing. I used some fugitive (fading) colors that I no longer use. Those colors are marked with an asterisk (*). You can use those colors if you wish, or find lightfast replacements.

Step 1: Establishing Base Colors and Details

I used four colors for the base layers. Yellow Ochre in the lighter mid-tones, Pumpkin Orange* in the mid-tones, Dark Umber in the shadows, and Cloud Blue* in the reflected highlights. It isn’t always necessary to use more than one base color. But choosing base colors that represent the final color helps establish contrast and color variations more quickly.

I applied each color with light pressure and a sharp pencil. Wherever possible, I stroked in the direction of hair growth. When that wasn’t possible, I worked around the contours of the horse’s body.

Adding Color to Umber Under 1rawing Step 11

TIP: The base color is the foundation for everything else. Use small strokes placed close together or the side of a well-sharpened pencil to create smooth, even color.

You want smooth color and even application, so use sharp pencils and light pressure. Add more layers in areas where you need darker values. Work around the highlights as much as possible to avoid losing them.

Step 2: Glazing Color over the Base Layers

Over the base colors, I layered Slate Gray in the light areas and Black in the shadows of the muzzle and black areas. I applied color with tiny, circular strokes to the muzzle and directional strokes in the forelock.

Next, I worked on the legs and muzzle with Black and Slate Blue, darkening values and drawing detail.

Mineral Orange, Dark Umber, and Red Ochre were used in the body, neck and head.

(Red Ochre is not a Prismacolor color.)

For this round of color, I continued working throughout the horse with light pressure and sharp pencils.

TIP: At some phases of a drawing, you can spend a couple of hours working without appearing to make much progress. Be patient! Your work will be rewarded if you stick with it!

Add More Color Layers

I layered Mineral Orange, Sienna Brown, and Burnt Umber over the body, legs, and neck, then added Black to the legs and darkest shadows of the body. I shaded reflected light on the under sides of the belly, chest, and legs with Limepeel*.

Next, I added Orange* throughout the horse, shading over some of the highlights that had been protected up to that point while working around others. I used reading glasses for the work so the work was slightly out of focus. That helped me avoid getting too detailed too quickly. I also applied color mostly with the side of the pencil.

Then I layered Sienna Brown and Henna over the brown parts of the horse following the contours of the horse. Except for the smaller areas or tighter details, I used the side of the pencils.

The browns were getting a little too bold, so I toned them down with a layer of Peacock Green, which I also used on the black areas.

To darken the blacks and darker shadows, I next used medium pressure to apply Copenhagen Blue*, then glazed Henna over all of the horse except the blacks.

Step 3: Developing Depth of Color

At this point, my goal shifted to building up color and value toward a finish.

I layered Tuscan Red* over all of the horse but the brightest highlights and the reflected light areas, followed by Ultramarine* on the legs and in the darker shadows in the head and body. Over almost all of the horse, I layered Dark Brown, then Bruynzeel Full Color** Permanent Orange over all of the browns

**The Full Color line of Bruynzeel pencils is no longer available. I’ve read that the Design line is the same basic pencil and that the colors are the same, but I have yet to give them a try.

I applied all colors with medium length, parallel strokes except in the tighter, smaller areas or when I needed to create a directional pattern.

The Legs

Next, I used Black, Blue Slate*, Powder Blue, White, and Limepeel* (in that order) to draw the legs. First, I layered Black over all four legs.

Then I singled out the flexed front leg and concentrated on that. I alternated among the colors and, when the leg was nearly complete, began working the grass and fence, so I could adjust edges.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 17

When I finished that leg, I worked on the off side hind leg using the same method. In that manner, I worked from leg to leg until they were all finished.

Still More Color Layers

When I finished the legs, I started on the body, again, layering Bruynzeel Permanent Orange** over all of the body, neck, and head except the reflected lights and brightest highlights. I worked into some of the highlights I’d previously worked around, but only very lightly. I used the side of the pencil and stroked in several different directions to get even color.

Then I used True Blue* and the side of the pencil to layer color into the reflected highlights along the back, top of the neck, and rump, as well as on the off side of the shoulder and the front leg. I followed that by layering the same color throughout the body to gray and darken the orange.

When I finished, I used Dark Brown to deepen the shadows on the chest and neck.

By the time I finished, the paper was losing tooth and burnishing the drawing or spraying it with fixative were possibilities.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 18

TIP: I try never to make a decision like this without giving myself time to consider options. You can’t unburnish a drawing. Nor can you remove fixative, so it’s better not to rush these decisions.

Final Detailing

When I reviewed the drawing later, I decided against using fixative at least long enough to try burnishing.

Detailing began with the muzzle, where I used Dark Brown and Black to darken values, then burnished with White. I worked up into the head, brightening highlights and darkening darks as I went, adjusting edges and shapes, and burnishing area by area. I finished the head and ears, then worked down the neck toward the shoulders.

TIP: With larger drawings, it can be better to work section by section when doing final details. This method produces a sharper, clearer image more quickly. It also looks like you’re making faster progress as more and more surface was covered. That can be a major encouragement!

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 19

The final layers on the neck, shoulders, chest, body, and rump were Bruynzeel Permanent Orange**, Sienna Brown, Dark Brown, Dark Green, Deco Blue*, Tuscan Red*, and Cream.

When I finished adding color, I blended with rubbing alcohol applied with a cotton swab. Rubbing alcohol “melted” the wax binder enough for the colors to blend slightly. It also restores some of the paper tooth, so after the paper is dry, I can add more color if necessary.

When I finished, I set the drawing aside for a few days, so I could review it with a fresh eye.

Adding Color to Umber Under Drawing Step 20

There was nothing more to do when I reviewed it later. Finished!

That Concludes this Quick Lesson on Glazing Color over an Umber Under Drawing

I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the umber under drawing method is useful for many subjects. That includes another favorite subject, landscapes. You can read a full landscape tutorial right here.

How to Draw Short Cat Fur

Today I want to show you how to draw short cat fur. Or at least one way to draw cat fur.

Although the subject for this tutorial is cat fur, the process applies to pretty much any type of animal fur that’s short.

And any color. All you need to do is substitute the colors I list here for other colors of similar value to draw other colors of fur.

Also remember that you don’t need to use the same paper or pencils that I used for this demo. You can successfully draw short cat fur—or any kind of fur—with your favorite pencils and paper.

How to Draw Short Cat Fur

So what am I using?

The paper is Canson Mi-Teintes Steel Grey, which is a medium gray. If you use Canson Mi-Teintes, remember to use the back side, which is smoother than the front.

I used Faber-Castell Polychromos for most of the work, then added a few Prismacolors to finish. I’ll share color names with each step.

Shall we begin?

How to Draw Short Cat Fur

This demo is a follow-up to How to Draw Cat Eyes with Colored Pencils.

Step 1: Lay Down the Base Color

The portion of fur we’ll draw is brightly lighted by the sun. There is a strong cast shadow above that lighted portion, so the first thing to do is carefully sketch in the line between sunlight and shadow with Warm Grey I if you’re using Polychromos, or the lightest warm, gray in your brand.

Then lightly shade the sunny part with the same color. Work around the darker markings.

Use a sharp pencil, light to medium-light pressure, and a stroke that follows the direction of hair growth. Make the color layer smooth without filling in every bit of paper tooth. Some of the paper color should show.

How to draw short cat fur successfully begins with the very first layers of color.

Step 2: Add a Layer of Ivory

Next, add a light yellowish earth tone. In the Polychromos line, that’s Ivory, which is a light mix of Cream and White. If you’re using Prismacolor pencils, Putty Beige or French Grey 10% are equivalent. Use very light pressure for both layers very.

Work around the darker areas as shown below.

Continue using light pressure, a sharp pencil, and short strokes that follow the direction of fur growth. Don’t worry about drawing every hair. All you need right now is the look of cat fur.

You should also be able to see some gray from the previous layer showing through this layer of color, as well as some paper showing through both layers. This gives the fur a feeling of depth.

Step 3: Layer Cream over the Ivory

Next, layer Cream over the same areas. Use the same types of strokes (back-and-forth or directional strokes following hair growth patterns.)

Work around the lightest areas near the eye and around each stripe.

Step 4: Add Layers of Light Brown

Begin adding browns with Nougat (Polychromos) or French Grey 70% (Prismacolor.) Be a little more careful in working around the lighter colors and values, since there’s very little brown in some of them.

Use the same types of strokes with a sharp pencil. If you’ve been using medium pressure, go back to light pressure. It’s better to do a couple of light layers, than one layer with heavier pressure with the darker colors.

Work around the light areas around the eye and on the side of the cheek, but be careful not to draw sharp edges. These edges are where the fur texture is the most obvious, so stroke in the direction of hair growth.

Add more layers in the slightly darker values around the stripes and eye.

How to draw short cat fur - add layers of color in fur-like strokes to create depth.

Step 5: Blend Lightly, Then Add Darker Values

Next, lightly layer Warm Grey II (Polychromos) or French Grey 20% (Prismacolor) over all of the sunny area except the brightest highlights. This is a blending layer, so use light pressure. Draw even color using either circular strokes or back-and-forth strokes.

Follow up with a layer of Walnut Brown (Polychromos) or Dark Umber (Prismacolor) applied with very short, directional strokes in the stripes and darker values. Add Black over the same areas with even shorter strokes.

Step 6: Glaze Color to Smooth out Rough Strokes

If your drawing starts to look too rough or if the strokesstart to look too bold, glaze a warm, medium value gray over those areas to smooth them out. I used Warm Grey VI. The medium value Prismacolor colors are also good for this blending area. Use a color that’s lighter than the area you want to blend.

The lightest highlights also need to be the warmest (most yellow,) so work around them.

Step 7: Darken the Dark Values

To finish, I switched to Prismacolor pencils. They’re softer, so they layer over existing color more easily.

I darkened the strips and darker middle values with a mix of Prismacolor Black and Chocolat. Use sharp pencils and medium pressure.

In the stripes, alternate layers of Chocolat, then Black, then more Chocolat if the stripe is a warm black. If it’s a cool Black, add another layer of Black. Keep your strokes short, and stroke in the direction of hair growth.

In the darker middle values between the stripes, mingle Black and Chocolat. Again, keep your pencils very sharp and your strokes very short. Work around the lighter values.

Step 8: Punch up the Highlights

Add Cream accents throughout the lighter areas. Use heavy pressure and short, directional strokes. Mingle strokes of Cream with the strokes of Black and Chocolat in the darker middle values.

In the shadows, layer Cream more evenly, but still only in the middle values. You want to tint the color in those areas, rather than add a lot of detail, so a sharp pencil and medium pressure is best.

How to Draw Short Cat Fur finished

Continue layering color until the fur looks the way you want it to look.

Here’s the finished portrait.

How to Draw Short Cat Fur

And that’s how I draw short cat fur.

To draw longer fur, lengthen the fur-like strokes. I also use the same basic method but with very short strokes to draw horse hair and other types of short fur.

In other words, this method is very versatile. Once you master it, you can draw any type of hair or fur.

How to Draw a Strong Focal Point

Focal Point—The part of a visual composition that attracts the viewer’s eye most quickly and holds it longest.

One of the things I like about graphite drawing is the range of values possible, especially with some of the softer leads.

One of the things I like about plein air drawing is the range of subjects. Yes, I gravitate most to organic things. Trees. Grass. Leaves. But there have been times when the door handle of a classic car or a crack in the sidewalk has sparked creativity. It’s a lot more fun than the serious work that is my day job.

How to Draw a Strong Focal Point

But it’s more than just a fun drawing exercise. Life drawing—even if it isn’t plein air drawing—is a good way to hone the skills necessary for more serious drawing or painting. Consider composition and ways to make the focal point stand out, for example.

How to Draw a Strong Focal Point

Let’s look at this drawing of a Poinsettia, drawn from life in graphite some time ago.

How to Draw the Focal Point - The Original Drawing

The only tool I used was my trusty 6B pencil and a finger tip or two. Nothing special and nothing fancy.

I began by sketching the leaves, concentrating on placement, shape, and size. A detailed drawing wasn’t the goal. I was just sketching.

The shapes and layering of the leaves quickly drew me in, however, and after I’d sketched the major leaves, I began developing a composition around the lightest leaves… the colored leaves that form the flower.

Tips for Creating a Strong Focal Point

There are a few things you can do with every drawing to emphasize the focal point. The techniques I used for this simple drawing can be used with any drawing of any subject and in most media and methods. What are they?

Line Quality

Since the flower was quite light and my paper was white, the first thing I did was outline the leaves. The “flower leaves” are outlined with a heavier, firmer line than the leaves immediately beneath them. The leaves below those leaves are outlined with an even lighter line and some of the smallest, least significant leaves are barely outlined or not outlined at all. Why? Because the heavier and darker a line, the more it draws attention. Since the focal point is the flower, that’s where I put the darkest lines.

Contrast

Next, I began shading, adding darker value to the green leaves and adding shadows where leaves overlapped. The darkest shadows are near the focal point; around the white leaves and in between them. As shadows move away from the focal point, I made them lighter even though they were all the same general value on the plant I was drawing.

In the areas immediately adjacent to the flower, I used heavy pressure, multiple layers, and blending to get the blackest black possible with a 6B pencil. In other areas, I reduced the pressure or the number of layers (sometimes both). I blended less frequently or blended with just one or two layers of graphite to make softer, lighter shadows. The reason behind this part of the process is simple. The strongest contrast—the lightest values and the darkest values—should occur at or around the focal point so they draw the eye.

Detail

The focal point of any drawing should contain the most detail and those details should be rendered more clearly and sharply than the details in any other part of the drawing. That means using line quality and contrast, but also minimizing or eliminating altogether details in other parts of the drawing. Why? Because detail naturally draws the viewer’s eye and holds it.

The small shapes at the center of this flower appear only in the center, so it was a simple matter to eliminate detail elsewhere. As already mentioned, I used lighter values and lines as I moved away from the focal point.

Edges

To make the flower even more dramatic, I shaded the negative space around the flower in the upper right corner. I didn’t want to make that too dark; I just wanted to emphasize the light value, so I did a couple of layers then blended with my finger, pulling graphite into the surrounding areas to keep the edges soft. The exception? The edges of the flower. They were kept as sharp and crisp as possible because sharp edges also draw the eye and put emphasis on the edge.

Finally, I rubbed in all of the negative space around the bottom of the drawing, including the lower leaves. I smudged the paper to darken it slightly by pulling graphite out of the leaves and into the background. Again, I kept the edges of the flower leaves as clean as possible, but even in this case, lightly shading the tips of them kept them from pulling the eye out of composition.

The Best Way to Draw a Strong Focal Point

Is to employ each of the techniques I described above.

You can make a strong focal point using only a few of these tricks of the trade, and there are other ways to also draw attention to your focal point. Each subject and each drawing will be different, so take a little time to decide on the best methods before you put pencil to paper.

To see how this process might look in color, read How to Make Your Subject Stand Out.

Fixing Damaged Drawing Paper

Over the years, I’ve received questions about fixing damage. Usually, the questioner wanted to know how to fix damage to a drawing in progress. Today, I want to talk about fixing damaged drawing paper that hasn’t been drawn on yet.

I used to think any damage was the end of a drawing, because I didn’t know how to fix any kind of damage. I trashed a lot of drawings before learning differently.

Fixing Damaged Drawing Paper

Most paper companies take a great deal of care to assure their paper reaches you crisp, clean, and undamaged. Even some retailers give extreme care to the storage of the paper they sell.

But from the time paper leaves the factory until you put it on your easel or drawing board, there’s plenty of opportunity for something to happen. Sooner or later, it will happen to you.

Damage doesn’t mean the paper is trash, though. There are ways to repair even some forms of serious damage.

Fixing Damaged Drawing Paper

Avoiding damaged drawing paper is, of course, the best option. The following suggestions tell you how to look for damage to unused paper.

When You Buy in Person

If you’re buying in person, examine every sheet of paper before you buy it. Look for scuffs, dents, creases, scratches and other kinds of surface damage. Unless you’re absolutely certain you can work with or easily remove damage (or if the store gives you a deep discount,) don’t buy damaged paper.

When You Unpack a Shipped Order

When you buy online and your order arrives, examine every sheet at once. If you find damaged paper, contact customer support and ask about refunds, returns, or exchanges on the damaged paper. Resolving the issue differs from company to company, but chances are good that something will be done if you purchased from a reputable company.

I’ve purchased from Dick Blick often enough to have encountered occasional problems. I’ve returnned items for an exchange, kept the item and received a new one, or returned the item for a discount or refund, depending on the item.

DO NOT accept damaged goods without at least making an effort to contact the seller. Give them the opportunity to make things right.

What to Look For

Look for stains, discoloration, or any other marks that cannot be easily erased. Check both sides of the paper.

Hold the paper up to the light and see if any parts of it look thinner than the rest. If there are thin spots, that’s damage you can’t fix and probably don’t want.

Hold it so bright light slants across the surface. This is the best way to find scratches or impressed lines. Look for scuffed surfaces, too. What you do with that paper is up to you. After all, if you use some of the following suggestions, you will be able to use it.

Fixing damaged drawing paper doesn’t have to be complicated, difficult or time-consuming.

Types of Damage

Dents

This illustration shows an unused sheet of Stonehenge with a dent.

The dent isn’t serious. In fact, I wouldn’t consider it damage at all. It won’t affect a drawing and will “press out” as I work with the paper.

But it is easy enough to repair.

Fixing Damaged Drawing
When you shine a light across a piece of paper, it’s easier to see dents and other minor surface imperfections. I held a lamp just above the paper to photograph this. This type of damage can be easily removed by placing the paper between two rigid surfaces and putting a weight of some sort on top for a day or two.

Step 1: Place the paper between two clean, rigid supports that are larger than the piece of paper. Mat board works great, but you can use other sturdy items.

Step 2: Place a weight of some type on top of your drawing paper “sandwich.” A coffee table book is good. It’s heavy enough to “press” the paper sandwich, but big enough to spread the weight evenly. I don’t recommend small books such as mass market paperbacks because they’re not heavy enough. Dictionaries are too heavy.

Step 3: Press the drawing paper this way overnight or for up to 24 hours. That should be enough time to reduce the dent without compressing the rest of the paper.

Torn Paper

There is only one solution to badly torn paper. Cropping. The easiest and fastest solution is to cut the paper along the tear, then trim the resulting pieces to “square up” the corners.

But where and how you crop the paper depends largely on where the tear is, how big the original sheet of paper is, and your own creativity.

Another solution you might consider.

A lot of the better papers come with deckled edges. If you frame artwork so that it’s mounted with the edges showing, deckled edges can enhance the artwork nicely.

Even small pieces of paper can then become the support for unique works of art in which the drawing paper is as creative in appearance as whatever you draw on it.

How do you make deckled edges?

One way is to purchase a straight edge with a deckled edge. Lay it on your paper, then carefully tear the paper along that deckled edge.

You can also tear the paper completely into two pieces by hand. Fold the paper forward and backward enough to break the paper fibers, then carefully tear it along the fold.

Stonehenge paper and many others are sold with two deckled edges. These are “raw” untrimmed edges. You can create something similar by carefully cropping torn paper along the tear.

Creases

Creases are very difficult to repair, usually because the paper wasn’t just bent; it was folded. They will show up in your artwork, so unless you can think of a way to incorporate the crease into your artwork, the best thing to do is trim the crease out.

You can, of course, do that with a mat cutter, paper cutter, or an X-Acto knife and rule.

But before you start cutting, consider folding the paper backward and forward a couple of times to break the paper fibers, then carefully tearing it along the crease as described above.

Why?

Carefully tearing paper this way produces a feathered edge that can be used to your advantage.

However, if the paper is too heavy for that, go ahead and cut it.

3 Ways of Fixing Damaged Drawing Paper

These repairs work on a variety of drawing papers. The softness and surface treatment of the paper you’re using may require you to adjust your methods.

But if you’re careful and patient, and if you don’t panic, most damage can be repaired.

Additional Reading

To see how these methods work, read Hiding Scratches, Dents, and Scrapes in Your Good Drawing Paper on EmptyEasel.

More Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

Some time ago, I wrote a fun post called 12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils. Today, I thought I’d list a few more reasons to love colored pencils.

More Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

More Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

All Those New Pencils

Colored pencils have come a long way since I started using them in the mid 1990s. New brands have entered the market. When I started there was only Prismacolor (so far as I knew.) Now beginners can chose from dozens of brands.

And yes, most of them work well with all the others.

New Drawing Surfaces

Pencils aren’t the only things being updated and improved. Drawing surfaces continue to develop too.

As of the writing of this post, Brush & Pencil has launched a brand new, fully archival sanded art paper that takes sanded art paper to a new level. Lux Archival is the latest product from this artist-run company and it’s getting rave reviews.

New Accessory Products

New products are now available that make painting with colors pencils more like painting with colored pencils. I refer, of course, to Brush & Pencil’s texture fixative, which is sprayed over a work in progress to restore tooth. Back in the day, there was only workable fixative and it was usually unsatisfactory.

And you simply can’t beat Titanium white mixture for adding bright white highlights to colored pencil.

Actually, Brush & Pencil has become one more reason to love colored pencils for a lot of artists. Their fully archival line of products transformed colored pencils in a big way.

(No, this isn’t a sponsored post. It’s just Brush & Pencil has developed so many great new products in the last few years that it’s impossible not to find one that excites you!)

Exploration is Easier

And usually more fun, too.

I’m not sure why that is. All those years (over 40) that I created horse portraits in oils, portrait work is about all I did. I had no interest in landscapes, still life paintings, or just playing with the paint. About the only time I did anything different was when I got so disgusted with a piece that I slapped paint all over it and made an abstract out of it.

But put a colored pencil in my hand, and all that changes!

In the last few years, I’ve drawn a still life or two, food, and fabric. I’ve drawn from life (something else I never felt the need to do with oils.)

I’ve even dabbled with mixed media by doing watercolor under paintings!

It’s Easier to Have Fun

It’s also easier to just have fun with colored pencils. I do understand that. It was next to impossible to carry oil paints, brushes, and cleaner with me all the time. Painting was always in the studio, so it was always work.

But I keep a few pencil stubs in my purse all the time and also have a field kit that’s more completely stocked. That means I can draw wherever I happen to be, and that makes it fun!

There’s So Much Great Colored Pencil Art Out There

Finally (for today,) there are so many wonderful artists creating great colored pencil art that it’s easy to be motivated to create my own. Subjects are as varied as the artists and so are their drawing methods. There’s always something to learn from each one, and that’s the most exciting reason of all to love colored pencils.

So there are a few more reasons to love colored pencils.

What are some of your reasons for loving colored pencils?