My Favorite Drawing Methods

My Favorite Drawing Methods

Today I want to talk about my favorite drawing methods.

The reason is simple. When I was getting started, I always wanted to know the methods my favorite artists used. I tried many of them, too. They didn’t all work for me and I didn’t like some of them. But I learned what methods and techniques worked for me through all that experimentation.

Now it’s time to share my experiences with you!

My Favorite Drawing Methods

The way I make art varies because I work on a couple of different types of paper.

I also use different colors of paper. As you may know, working on dark papers requires a few adjustments.

So let me describe my methods based on paper type and color.

Light Colored Traditional Paper

When I work on white or light colored traditional papers such as Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes, my favorite drawing method is the umber under drawing method.

This method always begins the same way. I start with an umber under drawing, then layer color over that. The under drawing colors are always the same. Usually a medium value earth tone such as Prismacolor Light Umber or Polychromos Nougat or Brown Ochre. The color should be fairly neutral (not too yellow and not too brown) and dark enough to provide a good range of values.

I use this color to develop details and values without having to also make color choices.

Earth tones are also a great way to tone down greens and other colors that tend to get too bold. That’s what makes this method so ideal for landscapes. But it also works for animals and other subjects.

This is the finished umber under drawing for a landscape. As you can see, it looks almost good enough to be considered a finished piece.

Would you like to read a full tutorial using this method to draw a horse? You can read it for free here.

On Dark Colored Traditional Paper

The umber under drawing method doesn’t work on dark colored papers. If I start with an under drawing, it’s usually either white or yellow. Yellow is an ideal under drawing color for red paper because a white under drawing gives everything a pinkish hue. White works best for the other dark colors.

However, I most usually begin a drawing by drawing the highlights first. That’s because there’s less chance of drawing over the highlights if I can clearly see them on the paper.

Next, I shade the shadows, and then begin layering other colors.

At each phase of the work, I start with the highlights, then the shadows, then the middle values. In the final layers, I add the brightest highlights, and darken any shadows that are not already dark enough. I finish up by adding details.

This example shows the first phase of work. The highlights and shadows have been drawn, and I’ve started adding middle values and other colors.

Pasture Patriarch is on Canson Mi-Teintes (the smooth side) in a color called Tobacco. The horse is a very dark brown, which makes this color of paper ideal.
On Sanded Art Paper of Any Color

Since sanded art papers take so many layers of color and since it’s fairly easy to lift color, I generally use a more direct drawing approach.

That is to say that I start with the same colors that I will be finishing with. The first layers (also known as the base layers) may be lighter values of the final layers, or they may be the same colors applied more lightly.

The process is quite simple.

I start by shading in the base layers for each area, developing the color along with the values. With each successive layer, I add a little more detail until the final layers are complete. The drawing takes shape layer by layer with this method.

This illustration shows the progress on a portrait of one of our cats, Max. You’ll notice that the eyes and nose look finished. I often start portraits by doing the eyes first. That gives the portrait life and helps keep me on track for the rest of the process.

House Lion (aka, Max). White Clairefontaine Pastelmat.

In this example, the base layers are finished and I’m nearly finished with the second round of layering. Because the cat is white and so is the paper, I’m drawing the white hair by drawing the shadows. When the shadows and middle values are complete or nearly complete, I’ll add the detailing that will make Max’s portrait come to life.

Why don’t I use the umber under drawing method on sanded art papers?

I have tried it, but for some reason I can’t explain, it doesn’t produce the results on sanded art papers that it produces on traditional papers.

Maybe if I did the umber under layer, then sealed it with a product like ACP Textured Fixative, it would work more as expected. Since I prefer the look of my work without fixatives or solvents, I’ve never tried this method.

Those Are My Three Favorite Ways to Draw

These are not the only methods I use for creating portraits and landscapes. There have been projects for which I had to make adjustments or use special tools or techniques. But those are few and far between. My favorite drawing methods as described here work for almost anything I want to draw.

I encourage you to try them if you haven’t already done so.

But remember that finding the method that works best for you is a matter of experimentation. You may find you like to vary the method from one drawing to the next. It’s just as likely your favorite method will end up being a combination of methods used by other artists.

In other words, there is no “right way to draw”.

Read Comparing Colored Pencil Drawing Methods.

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