My Favorite Podcasts and Video Channels for Colored Pencil Artists

This week’s topic for EmptyEasel is my favorite podcasts and video channels for colored pencil artists. I chose that topic for two reasons:

1: It’s the beginning of the year, so the first week was taken up with things like studio inventory, assembling tax documentation (or at least getting started), and working on goals and ideas for 2017.

Those are all good things to do, but they don’t leave much time for creativity.

Like writing article for EmptyEasel.

2. I kicked off my EmptyEasel year for 2015 by sharing 5 blogs that I recommended for every serious artist. Why not do the same thing this year? That 2015 list left literally hundreds of art and art-related blogs unmentioned, so it would be easy to do another list of recommended blogs without repeating anything.

But I decided to give this year’s list a bit of a twist.

My Favorite Podcasts and Video Channels for Colored Pencil Artists

The result is a list of my favorite podcasts and video channels for colored pencil artists at all levels. Some of them specialize in colored pencil; most of them feature colored pencil as one of multiple mediums. Some even do a little mixed media with colored pencil.

So if you’re looking for a podcast or video channel to help you do better colored pencil work, check out my favorites this week on EmptyEasel.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing: A Question

advantages and disadvantages of drawing

disadvantages of contour shading

advantages and disadvantages of drawing process

what is disadvantage of alphabet line in drawing

drawing disadvantages of books

Something interesting is happening here, at your humble art blog. I don’t understand it, and I’m not afraid to ask for help.

The list above is from the list of search engine terms that brought people to this blog. They all have two things in common.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing A Question For My Readers

The first thing is the use of the word “disadvantage” or “disadvantages”. In other words, the people who are using these phrases to look for information on drawing appear to be looking for reasons not to draw (or use contour shading or whatever).

I don’t know about you, but that seems a little bit odd. Usually, when I’m looking for information on something, I want to know why I should use a particular method or particular tool. I can come up with plenty of reasons not to do something on my own!

But maybe that’s just me.

The second thing each of these terms have in common is that they’re rather vague. I can think of several different ways to answer a question about the disadvantages of drawing. For example, if the person searched for “advantages and disadvantages of drawing”, do they want to know why they should draw instead of trace?

Or do they want to know why they should do a line drawing of their subject first, or start without a line drawing?

Or are they even talking about fine art? When I searched some of these same terms, everything I came up with had something to either with computer art or engineering. My husband is an engineer, but that’s as close as I get to engineering.

I’d love to write an article about a search term that’s coming up so often, but what exactly should I write about?

You see my dilemma.

So I thought I’d ask you. If you used any of the search terms listed above, what exactly did you want to know? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer it.

And if your question is related to engineering in some way, maybe I can talk my husband into providing the answer!

My Favorite Drawing Papers

What are your favorite drawing papers?

An excellent question!

I’ve talked a lot about the pencils I use and how I use them, but haven’t spent much time talking about my favorite drawing papers. I’ve been remiss, so thank you for asking!

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My Favorite Drawing Papers

My favorite papers are Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, and Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper.

Stonehenge

With Stonehenge, I usually use white. It does come in light colors (tan, light blue, etc.) and I do sometimes use those for special projects. This portrait was one of the first I drew on Stonehenge paper.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Portrait on White Stonehenge Paper

I’ve also occasionally used black, and although black papers aren’t usually my first choices, there is definitely a place for black Stonehenge.

Fawn is another color that works very well for my favorite subjects (horses and landscapes.) I’ve also used Pearl Gray and Natural.

Stonehenge is a 90lb paper designed for printmaking. It’s soft to the touch, but also tough enough to take multiple layers, and some solvent blending.

One neat thing about Stonehenge: If you get it damp, it will wrinkle or buckle, but if you let it dry lying flat, it dries out and the buckling disappears.

TIP: I’m able to get Stonehenge paper manufactured under the Rising brand from a local store. There is a difference between Rising Stonehenge paper and current Stonehenge paper. I don’t know what it is, but if you can find Rising Stonehenge anywhere, buy it and give it a try.

There is a difference between the surface quality of Stonehenge in the sheets and Stonehenge in the pad. The padded variety feels more like Bristol than a printmaking paper. If you’re new to Stonehenge, get it in the sheet first. That will give you the best sense of what the paper is like.

The pads are also quality paper, but it won’t take as many layers.

See the selection of Stonehenge papers at Dick Blick.

Canson Mi-Teintes

Canson Mi Teintes is a pastel paper, so the front of it is quite rough. It can be used for colored pencil. Matter-of-fact, I accidentally used the front for the tutorial showing how to draw a foggy morning. I almost started over when I discovered my error, then changed my mind. I’m glad I did! The pastel texture was ideal for drawing fog.

But the smoother backside is better for colored pencil overall. The difference is visible, so make sure which side you’re using when you begin drawing.

I tried Canson Mi-Teintes many years ago, but didn’t know about the two sides, and apparently used the pastel side. Result? I didn’t like it. The paper was also a bit flimsy, and didn’t stand up under my method of drawing.

The light-weight version I first tried has been replaced by a 98lb paper that stands up to multiple layers, heavy pressure, burnishing, and solvent blending.

Recently, I saw an excellent demonstration on using turpentine with colored pencil and the artist was using Canson Mi-Teintes. Her work turned out so well, I just had to try it again. So I pulled out a scrap of that old paper and what do you know? I liked it! Here’s the drawing.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Drawing on Gray Canson Mi-Tientes

I’ve since purchased four sheets of heavier weight Mi-Teintes in five colors and a 9×12 inch pad of assorted colors, and have used both.

There’s a wider range of colors with this paper, including quite a few light colors, dark colors, and even some bright colors! You can see Canson Mi Tientes at Dick Blick.

I described my work on the drawing above and you can read all about that here.

Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper

A paper I use on a more limited basis is Strathmore Artagain Drawing Paper. The unique thing about this paper is that it’s made from 30% post consumer material. It’s a 60lb paper with visible fibers that make it ideal for vignette style drawings. The surface is quite a bit “harder” than either Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes, so colored pencil behaves a little differently on it. It can handle a lot of layers, but doesn’t stand up to moisture as well.

It’s ideal for quick sketching, though. I used it almost exclusively one year when I was doing and selling on-site quick draws at local horse shows.

Flannel White is the lightest color available. I’ve used it and Beachsand Ivory most often, but have also used Moonstone upon occasion. This drawing is on Beachsand Ivory.

Favorite Drawing Papers - Drawing on Beachsand Ivory Artagain

This paper is available in more colors than Stonehenge. It’s also more widely available than Stonehenge.

See the selection of Strathmore Artagain at Dick Blick.

Papers I Want to Try

Stonehenge Aqua comes in sheets or blocks and is designed specifically for use with watercolors. It comes in three variations: 140lb cold press, 300lb cold press, and 140lb hot press.

I have a sample of each and look forward to giving them a try as soon as other obligations are out of the way. One thing I can tell you without putting pencil to paper is that they’re beautiful papers.

Fisher 400 ArtPaper is another paper on my to-be-tried list. I’ve used UArt Sanded Pastel Paper a couple of times and like that quite a bit, though it can be difficult to render detail on it. While I like UArt, I’ve heard such good things about Fisher 400 that I want to compare the two.

Conclusion

And those are my favorite current papers and possible future favorites. If you’re looking for paper, these are good papers to try.

Several of them are also available as panels, so if you prefer to frame your drawings without glass, you can still use these papers. How neat is that?

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

Colored pencils are an ideal medium for creating a detailed miniature drawing. Their very nature is perfect for small works of art, so if you’re looking for something new, I encourage you to give it a try.

DEFINITION: Miniature artwork is 24 square inches (4×6) or smaller. My demo piece measures 3-1/2″ by 2-1/2″ (commonly known as an art trading card). Miniatures can be much smaller, too.

For more information on miniature art, visit the Miniature Art Society of Florida for national and international definitions. While there, take a look at some absolutely marvelous miniature work in a variety of mediums.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing

But how do you draw a miniature drawing? What special methods do you need to know?

My short answer is that whatever method you use for other drawings will work if you want to draw a miniature drawing. The biggest adjustment you’ll have to make is the length of pencil strokes; they need to be smaller!

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil

My subject for this demonstration is a mare and foal, but the method I’m about to describe works for any subject and any size.

The drawing method is a simplified version of the classical method in which I do an under drawing first, then layer color over the under painting.

Step 1: An accurate line drawing

A detailed drawing is a must with any form of miniature art. The composition is so small, it’s difficult to correct drawing errors once you’ve started rendering.

With most wet media, you can still cover up mistakes, but not so with colored pencil. Since details are developed from the very beginning, take the time to make sure your initial line drawing is correct.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - The Line Drawing

Step 2: Block in the under drawing

Use Light Umber and Dark Umber to create a detailed under drawing. Most of the foundation work should be done in Light Umber, but Dark Umber is very handy for adding darks and contrast, especially with these two bays.

Add Yellow Ochre and Dark Umber to the background.

I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils, because they hold a point much longer and have a thinner lead. This allows for more even color application. It is also very helpful in working with such small images and in areas where there is a high level of detail.

Verithin pencils are also ideal for the first layers of work because they’re easier to erase or cover over if you do make a mistake.

Step 3: Add the first color layers with Verithin pencils.

Layer Verithin Goldenrod over all parts of both horses except their manes, the halters, and any other areas that are not brown.

Follow up with Verithin Orange Ochre over all areas but the darkest darks and the brightest highlights.

Keep your pencils sharp and use light pressure.

Work toward getting each layer of color as smooth as possible. With a work this small, that means tiny strokes that overlap. Work around the white markings, the halters, and the highlights on each horse.

Step 4: Add the next color layers.

Continue adding layers of color to achieve the most accurate possible coloring on each horse and the best color saturation. Usually, saturation of color is more difficult than getting accurate color, but they go hand in hand.

Use Verithin Dark Brown and Terra Cotta on the foal, followed by Ultramarine and Black on both horses. Use blue and black in the manes and tail, as well as the muzzles and eyes.

Step 5: Add final details.

You may want to switch to a softer pencil for the final layers. I used Prismacolor Soft Core.

Layer different earth tones such as Burnt Ochre, Sienna Brown, and Mineral Orange over the mare’s coat. Next, add accents of Cerulean Blue and White over the top of the backs and rump, and in the highlights of the mare’s mane.

Darken and smooth out the background texture to set it apart from the horses. Alternate layers of Light Peach, Parma Violet, Ultramarine Blue, and  Dark Brown until the background looks the way you want it to look.

To finish the horses, blend each one lightly using Dark Brown and Terra Cotta.

How to Draw a Miniature Drawing in Colored Pencil - Finishing the Drawing

That’s How I Draw a Miniature Drawing

That’s not to say it’s the only way, but if this little tutorial gets you interested in trying your hand at miniature drawing, then I’m satisfied.

Miniature drawings can be a fun way to take a break from larger work and still make art. While a miniature drawing is often just as detailed as a larger piece, they can be finished more quickly.

And they’re a great way to try out a new technique AND use up those bits of scrap paper that so often accumulate around the studio.

So I encourage you to give miniature art a try. Who knows? You may like it!

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Sketching With Colored Pencils

When most people think of colored pencils, they may think first of sketching. Sketching with colored pencils is great for improving eye-hand coordination, exploring potential subjects, or just having fun.

But did you know you can make and sell colored pencils sketches?

Sketching with Colored Pencils

One of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in conjunction with horse shows are on-the-spot sketches. The drawing below is my favorite sketch.

Sketching With Colored Pencils - Dog

At shows, someone presents me with a photo of their horse, dog or other animal and I create an 8×10 drawing from the image. As with most of these samples, I use colored paper and two or three colored pencils. The colors are chosen based on the color of the animal and I spend no more than an hour on each drawing.

Sketching with colored pencils is also a good way to sketch from life or do some plein air drawing.

Sketching with Colored Pencils - Clydesdale

Have Fun and Make Money

Clients love the immediacy and it’s a great way to supplement the sales of larger paintings and generate interest in more polished portraits.

My favorite part about this kind of sketching is that I often get to draw something other than horses. Dogs, for example. I also drew a cat for someone.

Sketching as a Study for Larger Work

I sometimes do quick draws to find the best composition for a painting. It’s also a good way to practice a particular technique or subject, or brush up on a difficult or unusual subject.

Or it might be something outside the realm of my usual subjects that catches my artistic eye. Sunlight on a leaf, for instance. Or on a glass.

Sketching With Colored Pencils - Gray Arab

They also make great gifts. With Christmas just around the corner, sketches like these may be exactly the ticket for the animal lovers you know. Sketching with colored pencils may be a good place to begin.

How to Draw the Focal Point in Your Next Drawing

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.

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 the Focal Point in Your Next Drawing

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. I didn’t intend to make a detailed drawing, I just wanted to get in a sketch before the day got away from me.

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.

Conclusion

The methods I used to compose this simple drawing are vital in composing any work of art. Using value, line, and edges to keep the focus on your center of interest is important, whether you’re using oils, pastels, colored pencil or graphite.

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What Do You Want to Know About Colored Pencils?

What do you want to know about colored pencils?

If you could ask one question about colored pencils and know you would get an answer, what would you ask?

What Do You Want to Know About Colored Pencils?

I’m planning content for next year, so I’m looking for topics that will be of interest to you and will also be helpful. Rather than come up with topics on my own and hope they’re of interest to you, I thought I’d ask you.

What do You Most Want to Know About Colored Pencils?

So what do you want to know?

Is there a particular colored pencil method you’ve always wanted to learn more about or is there some part of your current method that you’d like help with?

What problem confronts you most?

What cool tool would you like to learn more about before you spend hard-earned money?

Maybe mixed media with colored pencil is of interest right now, but you don’t know what mediums work well with colored pencil.

This is your chance to ask.

Whatever question is topmost in your mind, this is your opportunity to ask. Questions can be about pencils, papers, methods of drawing, framing, or even shipping and selling. Whatever’s on your mind. Don’t think your question is stupid or that the answer should be obvious. I’ve been doing colored pencils long enough to know that most answers are not obvious and that the only stupid question is the one I didn’t ask.

So step right up! Don’t be shy! If you have a question, the chances are very good that you’re not the only one who wants to know.

Leave a comment below, use the contact box at the end of this post or send me an email. I can guarantee you will get an answer.

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencil Papers

When students begin a new class or start new lessons, one of the questions they usually ask is about colored pencil papers. Which brands are best? What are the differences? Which papers do I use most often?

Some of those questions have been answered elsewhere on this blog. For example, if you’re interested in knowing a few paper basics, check out Drawing Paper Basics: Surface Texture. I’ll link to other paper articles at the end of this article.

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Colored Pencil Papers

The purpose of this post is to answer four questions that are more specific in nature. If you have a question that is unanswered here, I invite you to ask it. Chances are good that you’re not the only one with the same question.

Frequently Asked Questions about Colored Pencil Papers

1. Are there any specific brands of paper that work well with colored pencils?

Papers are even more numerous than pencils!

Look for artist quality, archival papers. These are papers that are manufactured to be as permanent as possible.

Beyond that, there are different types of surfaces from very rough (sanded pastel paper) to very smooth (hot pressed papers and boards).

The smoother the paper, the easier it is to draw a lot of detail. However, you usually can’t put a lot of layers onto the paper.

The rougher the paper, the more layers of color you can add, but it can be very difficult to draw detail.

My preferred papers are Stonehenge, Bristol (vellum surface), Strathmore ArtAgain paper, and archival mat board. I’ve also drawn on sanded pastel paper and wood.

2. Do You Ever Use Colored or Toned Papers?

Yes, I do, but not as often as I used to.

Drawing on colored papers is a great way to reduce drawing time. It’s especially helpful if you need to finish something quickly.

But drawing on colored paper requires some adjustment in method, especially if you’re drawing on darker papers. Colors tend to “fade” into darker paper and the darker the paper, the more difficult it is to get bright, vibrant color.

However, you can get lovely, subtle values by working on darker paper, as you can see in this drawing.

Drawing on Dark Colored Pencil Papers

3. What Papers Do You Use?

My two favorite papers are Stonehenge and Strathmore Artagain.

With Stonehenge, I usually use white. It does come in light colors (tan, light blue, etc.) and I do sometimes use those for special projects. I’ve also occasionally used black. See it at Dick Blick.

Artagain papers do not come in white, but I still use the lightest colors available. Flannel White (which is the lightest color, but not true white) and Beachsand Ivory. It is available in more colors than Stonehenge, so if I’m looking for something Stonehenge doesn’t offer, my preference is Artagain. It’s also more widely available than Stonehenge. See it at Dick Blick.

On My Wish List

I’m going to be trying Canson Mi Tientes. That’s a paper made for pastel use so the front of it is quite rough, but the back is smooth and is reported to be very good for colored pencil. There’s a wider range of colors with this paper, including quite a few light colors. You can see Canson Mi Tientes at Dick Blick here.

All three types of paper are available in flat sheets and in pads. If you’re thinking about trying any of them (or any other paper, for that matter), I recommend buying drawing pads first. You can usually get pads of assorted colors, so you get a variety of colors at a good value.

4. Do You Ever Draw On Anything Except Colored Pencil Paper?

Some of my favorite drawing surfaces are not paper, strictly speaking. Mat board, for example. I use archival quality mat board frequently, though not as often as I used to.

Sanded pastel papers are also good for colored pencil drawing, though they tend to gobble up pencil.

I’ve even drawn on wood a time or two and found it an excellent support.

Colored Pencil Papers - Wood as an Alternative

If you’re interesting in drawing on something other than paper, give it a try. You just won’t know whether it’s suitable for colored pencil—or your drawing style—until you do. Start small and play with color. See what happens. Let us know how it turns out!

Additional Reading

If you’re interested in reading more about drawing papers, check out these articles.

Drawing Paper Basics: Surface Texture

Which Paper is Best for Colored Pencils?

5 Differences Between Sanded Art Paper and Traditional Drawing Paper

2 Ways to Use Bath Tissue with Colored Pencil

Draw with bath tissue and colored pencils? Are you crazy?

Maybe. Maybe not.

When most people think of art supplies, they naturally think of things like paper, pencils, erasers, easels, brushes, paints, and the like.

They don’t think of everyday, around-the-house things that make perfectly good art tools.

Some time ago, I wrote an article on six ways to turn old clothes into art tools for EmptyEasel.com. That article was geared toward oil painters, but some of the tips apply to colored pencil artists, too.

It’s almost ridiculously easy to convert castoff and everyday items into oil painting tools. If nothing else, most fabrics can be turned into painting rags.

But we’re not talking about oil painting here. We’re talking about colored pencils. Are there everyday items that can be used with colored pencils?

You bet there are!

Cotton balls and swabs, paper towel, and pieces of cloth, just to name a few.
Today, I want to share a few ways I use one of the least likely items to improve my colored pencil work: bath tissue.

Drawing with Bath Tissue with Colored Pencil

Draw with Bath Tissue

Yes. That’s right. You can draw with bath tissue. Not on bath tissue, with bath tissue.

I recently wrote a post demonstrating step-by-step how to draw with bath tissue. If you’re interested in learning more, read How to Draw with Bath Tissue.

The beauty of drawing with bath tissue is that you can lay down soft tints and you can cover larger areas quickly and without pencil strokes. You also don’t need to blend color because it blends naturally.

In the following illustration, for example, I glazed the pink color onto fresh paper then glazed blue. In the middle, I overlapped the two colors to create a third color.

Glazes Applied Using Bath Tissue with Colored Pencil

Imagine drawing a morning or evening sky with such subtle gradations in color. It is possible with bath tissue!

TIP: Adding color with tissue paper works best if you do it first, even before making or transferring a line drawing. You can add color with tissue later, but it will blend with whatever is already on the paper unless you seal the previous colors.

Blending with Bath Tissue

I’ve used bath tissue to create soft blends for many years. I don’t remember how I came to use it for that purpose, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it.

When you blend with tissue paper, you’re using what’s known as mechanical blending. That is, you’re physically “grinding” the pigment into the paper. If you’re blending more than one color, you’re also grinding the colors together. They don’t actually combine, but the particles of pigment get mixed together in a way that’s either impossible or very difficult using a pencil in the traditional way—that is, drawing with it, and then blending the color with heavier pressure or with a colorless blender or solvent.

But the effects are soft. I refer to blending with bath tissue as a “gentle blend” and I use it most often when I need to create soft gradations with the color already on the paper.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to use heavy pressure when blending with bath tissue. Fold the tissue into a small square so you have something to hold easily and you don’t have to worry about putting your fingers through it or tearing your paper while you blend. Fold the bath tissue around your finger (as shown below) to blend a small area.

So if you’re looking for a way to draw very soft color or very light values, give bath tissue a try. Or facial tissue (without lotion or other additives!).

Just beware, it is a slow process!

Slow but well worth the effort!

How to Know When a Drawing is Finished

How do I know when a colored pencil drawing is finished? I thought my drawing was done, but the more I look at it, the more I think it needs more work. Am I seeing things? How can I finish it if it isn’t finished?

This is a fantastic question, and one most of us wrestle with from time. It’s been such a struggle for me that I’m grateful most of my work has been with portraits. When the due date arrives, I have to finish!

But the simply truth is that I still often have the sense that a drawing needs something more, without knowing what that something is.

So this week’s tutorial is going to be a crit of one of my older drawings. Here is my reference photo.

How to Know When a Drawing is Finished - The Reference Photo

Here is the finished drawing.
How to Know When a Drawing is Finished - The Finished Drawing

How to Know When a Drawing is Finished

The question is posed in two parts: How do I know when a drawing is finished; and how do I finish this drawing?

This section deals with the first question. Following will be suggestions on how to finish the drawing.

Let me begin by saying I really like this drawing overall. I like the way the horse is drawn. The mouth and muzzle are especially pleasing. The background is also one of the best tonal backgrounds I’ve ever drawn (in my opinion).

But there are problems, too. Let’s take a look at them.

The Crit – Is The Drawing Finished?

The short answer to the first question is no; the drawing is not finished. As I mentioned in the question, every time I look at it, I see things that could be done to make it more complete. The portrait is old enough that I don’t remember why I didn’t push the drawing further, so I’m basing this crit solely on a side-by-side comparison of the reference photo and drawing.

The first thing I see is that the color of the horse in the drawing does not match the color of the horse in the reference photo. It’s not even close. The eye is the most “finished” part of the drawing. Everything else looks half done.

Nor is the drawing as richly saturated in color as it could be. The background and subject do not fit well together because the background is so saturated (no paper holes are showing) and the horse is not (lots of paper holes). If there were to be differences, it would be better to have the horse deeply saturated and the background left vague. That would emphasize the subject (the horse) by pushing the background into the distance. As it is, the horse looks cut out of the background.

The reference photo also shows flat light, but the highlights in the drawing have been enhanced to create the appearance of brighter light. The rest of the drawing doesn’t support that attempt, so there is a further imbalance.

I love the mouth and the muzzle. The details there are well drawn and are my favorite part of the drawing. But they need to be developed more fully.

The eye is also good, but looks too dry to be convincing. The reflections in the eye should have sharp edges—sharp edges in a highlight of this type denotes wetness. Eyes are wet, therefore the edges of the highlight should be sharp.

So although well developed, the horse needs additional work. A good start has been made. Here’s how I suggest building on that foundation.

How Do I Finish It?

What can be done to make the drawing more complete?

Color & Saturation

Add more layers and mix colors to get the rich brown shown in the reference. Add at least one more round of the original colors. I’d suggest at least two rounds. Start with light to medium-light pressure in the first round. For the second round (if you do one), increase to medium pressure. If the color saturation is still not satisfactory, add a third round of colors.

Since the drawing is too yellow, focus on the browns and red-browns in each layer, but use other dark colors such as Black Grape, Indigo Blue, and Dark Green to increase the darkness of the deepest shadows (see red arrows).

A blend with a solvent stronger than rubbing alcohol would also improve color and saturation. Turpentine or rubber cement thinner would work. Make sure the support will stand up to the wetness. Also use either of these solvents in a well-ventilated area.

How to Know When a Drawing is Finished - What Could be Improved

Reflected Light

The areas marked by the light blue arrows (#2) need to show reflected light. The light in the reference photo is pretty flat, but it does show reflected light. Adding blue reflected light to the areas marked with the blue arrow would give the drawing a brighter look. Mix a pale, grayish blue and very light brown, then burnish with white.

Adding golden reflected light to the areas indicated by the yellow arrows would further enhance the look and feel of a bright day and bring the overall drawing into better balance.

The Muzzle

Develop the details further with more layers of color. Increase the difference between light values and dark values, especially in and around the nostril and the line of the mouth.

The Eye

Sharpen the edges of the highlight to create the appearance of a wet, curved surface. There should also be reflected light from the sky near the brightest highlight. Use the same blue used for reflected light in other areas. You probably won’t need light umber to tone down the blue.

Darken the lower lids and add a highlight to the lower lid near the front corner of the eye, then add a subdued reflected light from that highlight. This will improve the three-dimensionality of the eye and give it a more life-like appearance.

My suggestion is to work slowly. After each round of layering and/or blending, step back and review the drawing again. Since it’s often easier to accurately judge whether or not a drawing is finished by looking at a digital image, you might photograph it and review it on the computer.

Would You Like a Crit?

If you enjoyed this crit and would like to have one of your drawings critiqued, send me an email, along with the reference photo and an image of your drawing. Images should be between 500 and 720 pixels on the long side and set between 72 and 96 dpi.

If you have specific questions or problems with the drawing you submit, include those with your submission.

If a professional photographer took your reference photo, get written permission so you can legally to use it and have it posted online in this fashion.