Choosing the Right Colors All the Time

A lot of new artists want to know the best way of choosing the right colors all the time. I understand that because it was once one of my biggest concerns too.

Choosing the Right Colors All the Time

I learned through experience that there really isn’t such a thing as “The Right Color.” The more horses I drew, the more I learned that I could create realistic colors by combining many different colors.

Even more important, color really isn’t the most important thing to get right. Value is. Get those values right, and you can make almost anything look realistic no matter what color it is.

Choosing the Right Colors All the Time

Meet Pee Wee.

No, she’s not a magenta-colored cat, but she looks just as realistic in magenta-colored light (above) as she does in green (below.)

Both of those unique color selections could make a more interesting portrait than Pee Wee’s actual color.

Well. Maybe not for everyone.

Choosing the right colors

The point is that it’s not the color that makes each of these three images look like a cat in general and like Pee Wee specifically. It’s the values, the details, and an accurate drawing.

What I’m really trying to say is that if you can draw a realistic looking cat with the wild variations in color above, then it really doesn’t matter which shade of gray or brown you choose to draw the cat’s actual color.

Two Things to Consider when Choosing the Right Colors for Your Drawing

Consider the Lighting

Lighting affects color selection more than anything else because the color of the light changes the way colors appear.

During the day, snow in our front yard looks “normal.”

At night, the snow still looks normal, but the colors I’d use to draw this scene are very different from the colors I’d use for the first snowy scene. The interesting thing (to me anyway) is that the snow in both images reads as natural.

If I were to draw this street scene but use whites and grays for the snow, it just wouldn’t look right.

Whether the light comes from a natural source like the sun or moon, or from an artificial source like street lights or Christmas lights, the color will affect the way you see the colors in your subject.

Consider the Surroundings

The things around your subjects also influence the colors in your subject, especially if your subject has a reflective surface. The more reflective a surface is, the more other colors show up in it.

Water, for instance, usually reflects the color of the sky. That’s why it looks blue, and that’s why it can look so many different shades of blue.

But water also reflects the colors of the objects floating in it. If you’re drawing a duck swimming in the water, then the colors in the duck will also appear in the water.

The same is true of metallic objects like the Christmas ornaments shown below.

When you look at these three ornaments, you immediately think “red, blue, and yellowish-gold.” Right?

But look at the red and blue ornaments. The blue ornament shows some nice purples in the areas that are near the red ornament. And the red ornament also shows some nice purples (though slightly different purples) in the side that faces the blue ornament. That’s because red and blue mixed together create purple.

The yellow ornament also reflects the colors of the other two ornaments. To draw these ornaments so they look real, you have to use those additional colors.

Even objects that aren’t shiny can be influenced by reflected light. Ordinarily, you’d never consider using bright reds to draw a white kitten, but look at this little guy. Sitting on a red towel that’s bathed in bright sunlight, he turns red! Quite bright red in some areas.

Consider reflected light when choosing the right colors for your drawing.

Other factors also play a role in how you choose colors, but light and surroundings are the two most obvious.

The Bottom Line

What it all boils down to is that you need to study your reference photo closely, and then draw what you see in the photo, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. It takes practice and the ability to trust your eyes and not what your brain is telling you, but it can be done.

Would You Like More Information on Choosing the Right Colors?

I’ve written several posts on the topic of color selection. The most helpful of them is 3 Ways to Find the Right Colors for Any Drawing. For additional articles, type “choosing colors” or a similar keyword phrase in the search bar at the top of the side bar.

Sign up for Carrie’s free, weekly newsletter and get notification of new articles like this one.

Do You Want an Artist’s Website?

If you want to market your artwork, social media is great, but you really need an artist’s website.


Two Reasons You Need an Artist’s Website

You Own Your Content

The content you post to social media is not yours. There are a few exceptions, of course, but most of the time, your account can be closed without warning at any time. When that happens, you may lose all the content you’ve posted.

If you have a website (and especially if you have a self-hosted website,) your content is yours. No one is going to come along and close your website.

It’s Easier for Visitors to Find Things

How many times have you looked through any social media platform for something? You saw a post or picture, but simply cannot find it.

At least not easily.

Your visitors and potential students, clients, or buyers have the same experiences. You need to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for and there’s no better way to do that than an artist’s website.

Why I Recommend Foliotwist

Foliotwist was created by artists for artists. It’s easy to get started, and easy to use.

As your art business grows, your Foliotwist artist’s website can also grow.

Foliotwist offers two plans. The monthly plan includes a $59 setup fee. Sign up for a year and there is no setup fee. After the free trial, hosting is only $19 a month.

Opening an Account

It took less than a minute to fill in the initial sign up section. Most of that involved coming up with a good password.

I took the time to read the Terms of Service in the process and that took about ten minutes. The Privacy Policy is written in two sections. The In Plain English section takes five minutes or less to read. The legalese form takes about ten minutes to read. I didn’t read it because the In Plain English section was sufficient.

I checked the box to accept, and I was done.

Foliotwist signup page for an artists website

So if you read the required documents, it could take you up to half an hour to sign up.

If you don’t, two minutes or less and done.

Confirm your email address, and you’re official.

NOTE: It did take nearly half an hour for the confirmation email to land in my inbox. If it doesn’t show up immediately for you, keep checking.

And check your spam or junk folder as well as your inbox.

Setting Up Your Website

Once you’ve confirmed your email address, the setup moves into the hands of the designer. All you need to do is submit good, clear images of the artwork you want to appear on the website, titles, and mediums (and sizes if you wish.) A short bio isn’t a bad idea either, but if you don’t have one handy, you can write one and submit it later.

An experienced web designer uploads your materials and designs your website to complement your artwork and style for you. You don’t have to do anything. When it’s ready, you’ll get a notification by email and can review your new website. If you need changes, you can suggest them.

This is what my artist’s website at Foliotwist looks like. Yours can look just as good, even if it’s your first ever website!

And if you have a little tech savvy, you can also further customize your website at your leisure.

Ready to Get Your Artist’s Website?

Click this link to Foliotwist.

This post contains affiliate links.

Color Intensity Basics: What You Need to Know

If you take many art courses or watch many art videos, you’ll hear the phrase “color intensity.” Sometimes, the teacher or speaker explains the color intensity basics, but most of the time it’s assumed you know what color intensity is.

The Basics of Color Intensity

How many artists really know what color intensity is? For most of my art life, I didn’t know or care. I just wanted to draw and paint horses. Maybe that describes you, too. You just want to make art.

But this is about more than just understanding the art language. This is about getting the most out of your colored pencils. And since I wrestled with this concept so long, I want to present in clear and easy-to-follow terms exactly what color intensity is and why it’s important.

Color Intensity Basics

Let me begin by telling you what color intensity is not.

It’s not value.

Lets start with these two colors. The top color is Warm Grey I. The bottom color is Light Cadmium Yellow. Both are Faber-Castell Polychromos.

At a glance, it might look like they represent two different values. But do they really?

Color intensity is not the same as color value.

Here are the two colors converted to grayscale. This is the same image as above. I simply removed all the color. Now they look the same, don’t they?

Yet, one of them is intense and the other is not. Can you guess which is which?

It’s not Hue

When you hear artists talking about hue, they’re talking about the color families, not specific colors. Brown is a hue (color family.) Within that family, you have all the various specific colors. Burnt Umber, Light Umber, Dark Brown, Terra Cotta, Burnt Sienna and so on if you use Prismacolor pencils.

Each color family contains bright and dull colors; colors that are intense and colors that are not.

So what is color intensity?

Color intensity refers to the brightness or dullness of a color. The brighter a color is, the more intense it’s said to be. Using our samples of yellow and gray, it’s easy to see that the yellow is more intense than the gray.

Color intensity is not the same thing as value.

100% intensity is a color—any color—without any white or black mixed in.

The intensity of a color can also be affected by adding other colors to the original color.

If, for example, I put down a nice, even layer of yellow on a piece of white paper so that no paper showed through, the yellow would be pure yellow. It would be the most intense it’s capable of being.

If I then layered blue over the yellow, the yellow becomes duller—or less intense. Even if the layer of blue was very thin and transparent, it tones down the intensity of the yellow.

Yes, it’s true that blue glazed over yellow creates green, but that green is less intense than pure green would be.

The same is true when you mix any two colors together. The original color is never as intense as the brightest original color.

In each of the three samples below, the teal color is less intense after I layered another color over it. Even light colors such as white and very light blue.

Adding any color to another color reduces the intensity of the original color.

Why is All of This Important?

Now that you know what color intensity is, you might be asking what difference it makes. Does color intensity really have all that much to do with making art?

Yes! Understanding color intensity and how to use it can make a huge difference in your art.

Changes in Color Intensity Indicate Distance

When you look at an object up close, you see the colors of the object pretty much the way they are. Lighting affects the way colors look, of course, but there should be no other distortions.

View the same object from a little distance, and the way you see the colors changes a little bit. View that object from a long distance, and the colors look a lot different. They lose some of the brightness (intensity) you saw from up close.

The trees in the background are far less intense than the trees in the foreground, so they look much farther away.

If you want to create the illusion of distance in your artwork, reduce the intensity of the colors you use by adding white, gray, or a complementary color.

Changes in Intensity of Color to Indicate Shadow

Color intensity can also indicate shadow. Reducing the intensity of a color is effective in creating shadows and middle values.

One of the best ways to dull down colors to create middle values is by glazing a complementary color over the original color. Each of these three ornaments has intense original colors: Blue, red and yellow. The middle values and shadows are those same colors dulled down by adding other colors to the original color.

Of course, black is also acceptable, but must be used carefully. Combining black and some colors produces muddy colors or odd colors. Using black to add middle values to the yellow ornament above produces an dull olive green color. Not very pleasing!

And of course, you run the risk of getting too dark if you rely on black too much.

How to Reduce Color Intensity

There are several ways to make colors look duller.

Use similar colors that are less intense. For example, if you use a bright yellow in the foreground, choose a duller shade of yellow in the middle ground.

Mix white or gray with the colors to make them look less intense. You have far more flexibility and an endless range of intensities when you mix white or gray with the original color.

Add a complementary color to reduce intensity. This is especially effective if you also need to change the color a little bit. Yellow to green, for example.

Can I Make a Color Look Brighter?


The easiest way is to layer the color until no paper shows through the color. That way, the color of the paper isn’t directly affecting the brightness of the color.

Another way to make colors look brighter is by surrounding them them less intense colors. Yellow is a pretty intense color all by itself. To make it look even brighter, surround it with duller colors.

Want more than Color Intensity Basics?

Amy Lindenberger provides a much more in-depth look at color intensity basics and other topics in her book, Colors – A Workbook. I’ve purchased this book and drawn the exercises, and learned a lot about despite having been an artist for years. If you would like more information on this topic, get Amy’s book. You won’t be sorry.

How to Square Up Photos in GIMP

In the past, I’ve shared tips for using Photoshop to manipulate digital images. Today, I want to tell you how to square up photos in GIMP.

Just What is GIMP?

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and it’s a free downloadable photo editor similar to Photoshop the way I remember PhotoShop (I last used PhotoShop 7.)

Versions are available for Windows, Mac, Linux and more, so there’s no reason you can’t download it.

It also includes an in-depth manual.

What GIMP is not is easy to use, but then Photoshop had a pretty steep learning curve, too.

It is great for graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators who prefer their software on their hard drives instead of in the clouds.

GIMP also offers one of the easiest ways to square up photos that I’ve ever used. That’s what I want to show you today.

How to Square Up Photos in GIMP

Step 1: Open GIMP

This is the window that opens.

There are the usual menu items across the top of the screen, but there’s also a window of option icons in the upper left corner. Those items icons are links to the same categories as the menu bar items at the top, so you have two ways to make selections.

I prefer the menu bar, but have also become familiar enough with some of the icons to use them, as well.

We won’t be using the windows at the right, so I’ll save those for another post.

Step 2: Open an Image

Once GIMP is open, open the image you want to work with.

From the FILE drop down menu select OPEN or OPEN AS LAYERS.

OPEN AS LAYERS allows you to add layers to your image if you wish, and gives you a little more flexibility. You won’t be using that to square photos, so it’s okay to simply open an image.

Step 3: Mark the Edges of the Image

Next, you need to mark the edges of the image to tell GIMP how to square the image.

To do this, place your cursor along the top ruler, right click, and drag a line to the bottom of the portion you want to straighten. See the dotted blue line at the bottom of the framed painting below.

Repeat this for the top edge.

How to Square Up Photos in GIMP

Then click on the left-hand ruler and drag a line to the left and right edges of the area you want to square up. When you finish, you should have four blue, dotted lines, as shown below.

I generally place the blue dotted lines so that a horizontal line meets a vertical line at one corner. For this demonstration, the lower right corner was already the most square, so that’s the corner I used as a point of reference.

You won’t always have such a clear choice. In such cases, frame the image as you would if you were cropping it.

Step 4: Select the Perspective Transform Tool

In the TOOLS drop down menu, select TRANSFORM TOOLS, then PERSPECTIVE, as shown below.

Your cursor changes to a shape with two short lines at right angles and a triangle. Position this symbol at one of the corners, then hold down the right-click button and drag that corner until it’s lined up with the two blue, dotted lines nearest to it.

Repeat this process until each of the four corners is square.

After you’ve finished lining up the four corners, check them. Changes made to one corner could affect the other corners, especially if your photo is very distorted. Make whatever adjustments may be necessary.

Step 5: Transform the Image

When you opened the Perspective Transform Tool, another window also opened on the right. This window tells you in decimals how much you’ve corrected your image, but unless you like numbers , the only things you need are the two buttons at the bottom.

The reset button is the magic Undo button if you decide not to keep the changes you’ve made.

If you do like the changes, click the transform button. GIMP then adjusts your photo and squares it up.

How to Square Up Photos in GIMP

Check the corners again after the transformation finishes. If you need to make further adjustments, follow steps four and five again.

Step 6: Export the Image

When you’re happy with what you’ve done, it’s time to save it.

But if you just SAVE the image, GIMP will save it as a .xcf file which only be opened with GIMP.

To save images as .jpg or other types of image files, you need to export the image.

To do that, select FILE, then EXPORT AS.

The dialogue box below opens.

In this sample, the image shows the same title and format (.jpg) as the original. You can export it like this, but if you do, you overwrite the original.

I usually either change the name of the file or export it to a different folder. You can also change the file format. There is no right or wrong way to do this, so do whatever makes the most sense to you.

When you’ve made the changes in name, file type, or destination, click EXPORT at the bottom of the dialogue box.

The last dialogue box to appear is this one. You can set the quality of the exported image. I set mine at 100 (high quality) because I’m never sure how many ways I may need to use the image in the future.

The higher the quality, the larger the file.

You can set and save your own defaults if you wish.

When you’re ready, click EXPORT and your squared up image is exported. When the process completes, you can close the program or open the next photo to square up.

One Last Note

When you quit GIMP, you will get a dialog box like this, warning you that changes have been made but not saved.

I rarely save changes, because I prefer not to make changes to the original image. But you can if you wish.

How to Square Up Photos in GIMP

That’s How I Square Up Photos In GIMP

GIMP does take some getting acquainted with, but I’ve yet to find an easier way to square up photos. It works with framed art, as you’ve seen here, but also allows you to adjust potential reference photos before distortions get into your art.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but if you take the time to learn how to use it, it can save you a great deal of time and possible heartache in the drawing process.

CP Magic October 2020 is Here!

CP Magic October 2020 is now available and waiting to inform, entertain, and inspire you!

CP Magic October 2020 cover

What’s in CP Magic October 2020

Featured Artist

Rochelle “Shelley” Oberholser is the featured artist this month. Shelley is a self-taught artist who learned most of what she knows about colored pencil by trying new things. Yes, a lot of those things didn’t work for her, but she also found a lot of things that did work, and her insight into this style of working and learning is a treasure for all of us.

Her still life tutorial (shown above) demonstrates her “try-it-and-see-if-it-works” drawing method. It’s a great tutorial, but it also provides a peek into Shelley’s thinking process.

CP Clinic

Have you ever stopped to consider how you might frame your art before you start drawing? I recently received a question from a reader who wanted to know how to determine the size of his work so it would be easy and inexpensive to frame.

The answer turned into this month’s CP Clinic.

The Great Art Adventure

Every adventure comes with side trips and forks in the road, but not all those side trips are helpful. Do you know how to decide whether something is a distraction to avoid or an opportunity to seize?

Ask Carrie

You bought a collection of open stock pencils, or a small set of pencils that didn’t include gray colors. You want to add a few gray colors to your collection, but there are so many choices. Which colors should you buy?

Also, can studio lighting be too bright?

Get the answer to both questions in this month’s issue of CP Magic.

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 tutorial so you can meet the artist and see how they work. Other columns include the Great Art Adventure, CP Clinic, a featured photo, and more.

Get your copy of CP Magic October 2020 today.

New Colored Pencil Tutorial

Announcing a brand new colored pencil tutorial from pet portrat artist, Peggy Osborne. A new tutorial with a twist!

This time, Peggy has chosen a subject that I’ve never seen in a tutorial download before. A baby goat.

Her Baby Goat tutorial not only shows you how to draw eyes and fur, but gives you the opportunity to decide how you’ll finish your baby goat drawing..

New Colored Pencil Tutorial

“This little cutie is a purebred Nigerian Dwarf goat kid. Yes, baby goats are called kids.

“Goats make me happy, there is just something so unique and beautiful about them and they make really beautiful art.” – Peggy Osborne

If you, like Peggy, enjoy drawing subjects that make you smile, look no further!

Follow along with Peggy as she draws one of her favorite subjects, a baby goat. You’ll feel like Peggy is sitting beside you, guiding you through detailed descriptions, full-color, step-by-step illustrations and tips.

You’ll learn valuable skills like layering and blending, using different types of pencil strokes to create textures, and a blurred background. Peggy also describes how she blends with solvent, and how she mixes and uses Titanium White mixture with Touchup Texture.

But that’s not all. With this tutorial, you have two options for finishing your drawing. With or without a background!

Ready for a New Colored Pencil Tutorial?

This tutorial is perfect if you’re already a pet portrait artist who wants to improve your skills. Not yet a pet portrait artist, but hoping to become one? This tutorial is for you, too.

And if you’re just looking for a new project to draw, then why not give this tutorial a try?

Click here to buy your copy of Peggy’s Baby Goat tutorial.

About Peggy Osborne

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.

Want to see a free sample of Peggy’s dog portrait tutorials and writing style first? Read How to Draw a Golden Retriever on this blog.

How to Light Your Art Studio

Today’s post comes in response to a reader question that asks one of the most important questions any artist can ask: How to Light Your Art Studio.

Hi Carrie,

I reviewed some of your newsletters I get but didn’t see any thing on lighting. I’m curious about desktop lighting and whether your have any recommendations on the best way to go for desktop lamps.

If you have any advice—or even resources you can point me too, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks so much.


How to Light Your Art Studio

First of all, I want to thank Tom for his question. It’s a fantastic question.

And he was right. As long as I’ve been writing about art in general and colored pencils specifically, I’ve never talked about lighting. It’s such a vital part of the art equation that I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it sooner.

So that’s the subject for today.

There are so many lighting options available, that the best way to answer Tom’s question is to share my lighting experiences.

How I’ve Lighted My Studios in the Past

For most of my studio life, I’ve worked with a combination of natural lighting through windows and standard overhead lighting. Usually 60 watt or higher incandescent bulbs in ceiling fixtures. To be perfectly frank, I just didn’t think about lighting. It was necessary, but not vital to what I was doing.

I worked that way for decades. The only variations were the clip lamps I used at horse shows and the floor lamp beside my favorite drawing couch at home. Those also used ordinary incandescent bulbs. Usually 60W or higher.

Then my husband and I were wandering through a local furniture store that sells new and used furniture, and came across a floor model OTT light. My husband (an engineer and someone always looking for the best ways to do things) said, “Would you like that?”

I’d heard of OTT lights, of course, and knew a lot of artists swore by them, and this one was inexpensive. So I said, “Yes.” It replaced the floor lamp beside my favorite drawing couch and I used it for years.

At some point, however, I noticed it was no longer seemed bright enough. The problem was no doubt aging eyes, but I gave the lamp to hubby and looked for other options.

How I Currently Light my Art Studio

I’m back to ceiling fixtures but now they have daylight LEDs in them. The rooms where I usually work also have large windows nearby, and during daylight hours, I make use of natural light. Natural light is my favorite way to light my work while I’m drawing, by the way.

I tend to look for inexpensive, easy to implement solutions to everything, so the current setup is perfect.

But there are other options.

What Other Artists Are Doing

Clamp Lamps

Some time ago, I heard an artist comment that his lighting solution was a couple of clamp lights of the type mechanics use. They are inexpensive (under $10 usually) and you can put whatever type of bulb in them you want.

I bought a clamp lamp for my H-frame easel. It has a 65W A1 flood light in it and it’s nearly perfect. I can move it from one side of the easel to the other as needed, or clip it to something else if I need to position it further from the easel. The only way it would be better would be to have another!

This clamp light lives on my H-frame easel. The lamp part swivels almost 180 degrees and it also moves up and down. The bulb shown here is a small flood, but it will take other types of bulbs with a similar base. The entire outfit cost about $15.

Goose Neck Lamps

I also recently heard an oil painter Andrew Tischler talking about his studio lighting. He uses several light sources for his painting area, including two goose neck desk lamps. They can be positioned side-to-side, up-and-down, and various distances from the painting he’s working on.

In addition, he puts a cool bulb in one and a warm bulb in the other so that the combined light is nearly white.

He talks about lighting in a couple of videos on his YouTube channel, including a couple that focus on budget as well as lighting. I recommend both.

The video I suggest first is Studio Lighting/How to Light Your Art Studio on a Budget. It even includes a shopping list! What could be better?

The other video is My Studio Setup – How to Create an Amazing Art Space (on a Budget). This video is geared more toward general studio setups, but it includes lighting.

NOTE: The big bonus with the second video is storage! I especially like Andrew’s comments on artistic hoarding. (Anybody else subject to artistic hoarding?)

If I Were Setting Up a New Working Space

If I were setting up a new working area, I’d look for the following things.


Flexibility is important if you work in a lot of different sizes. Look for a light or lighting system that allows you to focus the light on small areas as well as larger areas for big drawings.

If you do more than draw in your workspace, then take into consideration a light or lighting system that lights those tasks, as well.


I don’t have a dedicated work space for art. There are places throughout the house where I like to draw, and I also like to draw outside. That’s why overhead lighting and natural lighting play such big roles in my “studio lighting.”

If you work in more than one place, look for lighting that’s easy to move and set up in as many of those areas as possible. That way, you’ll have the same lighting in every place you most like to work.


The most important thing most of us need to consider is price. You can spend a lot of money for good studio lighting, but you don’t have to. Take time to look around and see what’s available. Talk to other artists and find out what they’re doing.

Then look for inexpensive alternatives. I’m not talking about cheap, here. Cheap will usually end up being more expensive in the long run.

Look for the best combination of quality and price to find the best value.

How to Light Your Art Studio: What Do You Think?

My thanks again to Tom for asking the question in the first place!

Do you have a question about lighting or anything else about colored pencils? I’d love the opportunity to answer it. Click here to send me your question. Who knows? You may ask about something I’ve never talked about before but need to.

My Art is in CP Hidden Treasures!

I have a colored pencil landscape in CP Hidden Treasures Volume 6!

My Art is in CP Hidden Treasures, Volume 6

CP Treasures

Ann Kullberg publishes an art book called CP Treasures every eighteen months or so. The purpose of CP Treasures is to provide a snapshot of the world of colored pencil art.

Artists from around the world submit their best work for each issue. CP Treasures is a collection of the best of those entries.

This year’s edition, CP Treasures Volume 7, features 112 pieces selected from over 900 entries!

Each piece of art is accompanied with comment from the artist. If you’ve ever wondered what inspires artists to make the art they make, this is a great source for answers.

What About All Those Other Entries?

That’s where CP Hidden Treasures comes in.

Selected works from the remaining entries are featured in a second collection of work called CP Hidden Treasures. This year’s edition of CP Hidden Treasures contains 208 pieces of artwork of all subjects and styles and by artists from around the world.

And that’s where my piece, Spring Storm, enters the picture.

Spring Storm

Spring Storm is my first piece on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, was the featured tutorial in the March 2020 issue of CP Magic, and is also the subject for an expanded, standalone tutorial.

Not bad for a “practice” piece!

Now Available!

Both books are now available in either digital or print versions. I love print books, so that’s what I ordered. They’re beautiful!

If you want to see cutting edge colored pencil work, these two art books are for you.

This post contains affiliate links.

Virtual Workshop with John Middick

If you’re looking for something fun to do this month, I suggest a new virtual workshop with John Middick.

You’ve met John Middick here on this blog and in the February 2020 issue of CP Magic.

Virtual Workshop with John Middick

Presented live and recorded for you to view and download later.

In this workshop, you’ll be drawing on white Pastelmat paper.

Join instructor, and award-winning artist, John Middick, alongside your fellow classmates in this live, Virtual CP Immersion Workshop**.

You’ll be drawing this fresh cup of herbal tea with a lime wedge. If you’ve ever wanted to be challenged with textures, hard edges, and soft edges, all in the same drawing project, this project would certainly fill that need!

Virtual Workshop with John Middick

About the Project

In this live, virtual workshop John walks you through drawing a variety of textures to show texture, form, and value.

He’ll discuss how to depict glass objects and show reflections and transparency. He’ll also demonstrate how to create semitransparent layers of colored pencil to show reflection and to build up dark values.

Learn the drawing techniques used to create realistic artwork with this new art medium!

About the Workshop

In this 1-Day, Saturday (6.5 hours) workshop you’ll learn how the layering process works, the best pencil stroke techniques to use, several methods for erasing, how, and when to burnish!

You’ll also cover the following techniques:

  1. How to blend on Pastelmat paper
  2. Color choices and color matching
  3. Pencil pressure
  4. How to erase colored pencil
  5. Creating your Line Drawing and the layout for your road-map
  6. Composition considerations before starting the project
  7. Creating texture and value structure

Attend live, on-line during the virtual workshop, and then watch the recording at your convenience afterward.

After you sign up, you’ll get the following:

  • Supply List
  • Written Instructions workbook (delivered the day of the workshop)
  • The Recording of the event (a few days following the workshop)

YES! I want to sign up for this Virtual Workshop with John Middick!

** – You need a computer or iPad (or tablet) in order to participate in this virtual workshop. The workshop technology will be handled through Zoom meeting software and will work best on a large screen.

How I Usually Start Landscape Drawings

Last week, I answered a reader who wanted to know where they should begin a drawing. Today, I want to answer the same question from a slightly different angle by telling you how I usually start landscape drawings.

How I Usually Start Landscape Drawings

In the previous post, I talked about general starting points like base layers, dark values, and light values. I listed them as three separate options, but they really work together on most projects.

So this post shows you how that looks with a specific drawing.

How I Usually Start Landscape Drawings

Landscapes almost always begin with an umber under drawing. Why browns? Umber base layers naturally keep landscape greens from being too vivid.

My favorite under drawing colors are Prismacolor Light and/or Dark Umber or Faber-Castell Polychromos Raw Umber or Walnut Brown. I have a nice collection of Derwent Drawing earth tones, too, but haven’t tried them as base layers.

Landscapes tend to take on a life of their own as I draw, making complex line drawings unnecessary, at best. So I begin landscapes with a very simple, basic sketch on the drawing paper, as shown below.

The initial sketch is drawn with an earth tone or with the main color in the landscape. Here, I chose green because that was the main color and because it scans more clearly even through the umber layers.

Dark Values First

I start the drawing by shading the base color into the darkest areas first. As I mentioned in last week’s post, starting with the shadows provides an excellent point of comparison for the middle values and light values. Even on colored paper.

However, it’s still important to work with light pressure and build up the values layer by layer. Corrections and adjustments are easier to make, and you also avoid the hazard of getting too dark too quickly.

How I Usually Start Landscape Drawings
Also notice the different strokes I used. Directional strokes to suggest grass, broad strokes with the side of the pencil in the hills, and circular and directional strokes in the trees.

Add Middle Values and Darken the Dark Values

Once the darkest values are in place, I develop the other values with additional layers.

If a drawing has particularly dark values, as this one does, I use a dark version of the same brown. I added Dark Umber to the Light Umber to darken the shadows.

Continue Developing Values and Start Developing Details

As I continue darkening the values, I also develop the most important details.

What I want in the finished under drawing is an art piece that looks finished on it’s own. So I fine tune the various parts of the landscape to create balance, a visual path, and interest.

Contrast is also important. The lightest values in a landscape are usually in the sky, so it’s important to get your shadows dark enough to give the landscape depth.

How I Usually Start Landscape Drawings
An under drawing is finished when it satisfied you. Some artists block in the basic shapes and values (a method that doesn’t work well with colored pencils.) Other artists like the under drawing to look like a half-tone image f the finished piece. I prefer something in between.

First Color

When the under drawing is complete, then I start glazing color. Usually, I choose colors that are light versions of the finished colors, and glaze them over the entire shape, as shown below.

But there is no “right way” to select colors.

Why I Start Landscapes Like This

If a composition fails as an under drawing, it goes no further. I’ve probably spent a couple of hours finishing the umber under layers, so I haven’t invested a lot of time.

If the under drawing can be improved (or fixed as is sometimes needed,) then I fix it now, before adding color.

If it can’t be fixed or improved, I start over with no hard feelings.

That’s How I Usually Start Landscape Drawings

My preference is to work an entire drawing at the same time so I can keep the light and dark values well balanced. I used to finish colored pencil drawings one section at a time, though, so it’s a matter of whatever works best for you.

If you need clarification, let me know.

Otherwise, have fun. You’re now at the fun part!

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