My Colored Pencil Wish List

Let’s have a little fun today. Something totally off topic as far as tutorials, discussions, and techniques. Let’s take a look at my colored pencil wish list.

And yours, too, if you care to share.

Colored Pencil Wish List

Let’s face it. No artist can have too many supplies.

Remember the last time you went to an art or craft store? All those open stock pencils in their nifty display rack. Sheets of paper, and accessories.

Those beautiful colors are enough to make your mouth water (and that’s just the lacquer!) I don’t know about you, but it’s impossible to have too many colors.

Or too many pencils.

My Colored Pencil Wish List - Faber-Castell

But most of us can’t afford to buy every colored pencil we see. The budget just doesn’t allow for that. We begin where we can and wish for others.

That wish list is what this post is all about.

My Colored Pencil Wish List

Here are other pencils on my wish list, in alphabetical order.

Caran d’Ache

Caran d’Ache is a Swiss company producing a range of writing and art supplies. Their colored pencil product line includes Pablo, Luminance, and Supracolor Soft Aquarelle pencils.

Caran d’Ache Luminance are probably the best known, and they are about the best wax-based pencil available, but they are quite expensive at $4.49 (currently at Dick Blick) for single pencils.

Luminance pencils are available in 76 colors that are highly pigmented and can be used with all the same blending methods you might use with Prismacolor. Their pigment core is soft and ideal for layering.

But what sets them apart is their opacity.

Most wax-based colored pencils are translucent in nature. You can see the influence of each layer of color through all the other layers you put over it. That’s why it’s so difficult to make white or light colors show over dark colors.

My Colored Pencil Wish List - Luminance

That is not the case with Luminance. You can draw light over dark for striking results.

The Pablo line is to Luminance with Verithin is to Prismacolor Soft Core. A thinner, harder pigment core that holds a point longer, and is great for fine details.

Derwent Drawing Pencils

Derwent Drawing Pencils have been around since 1986, when Derwent introduced the original line of six colors. Now with 24 colors, they are starting to step onto center stage with colored pencil artists.

Each color is a soft, “earthy” color. The pencils themselves are bigger than most colored pencils. The pigment core is 8mm (Prismacolor is 3.8mm). But they’re also very soft, so they lay down a lot of color quickly.

Colored Pencils 1

What attracts me to these pencils is the muted colors, which are ideal for drawing landscapes or under drawings.

They’re a medium priced pencil, currently listed at $2.02 each in open stock on Dick Blick.

Derwent Lightfast Pencils

Derwent Lightfast Pencils are brand new to the market. They are specifically designed by Derwent to be 100% lightfast; that is, every color in the collection is lightfast.

How lightfast? The company has tested them by ASTM Standards (D-6901 to be specific,) and every color is guaranteed not to fade in 100 years under museum conditions.

They’re an oil-based pencil that performs almost like a wax-based pencil, with smooth lay down and great pigmentation.

Colored Pencils Pencils 2

The downside?

There aren’t many colors, yet. Only 36.

They’re very expensive. The full set is currently $102.56 from Dick Blick. Single pencils are $2.65 each from Dick Blick.

Derwent is planning on introducing 36 more colors in the Lightfast line, but the roll-out date is still unknown.

But they are on my wish list!

Dick Blick Studio Artist’s Colored Pencils

If you’re just getting started with colored pencil drawing and want a high quality pencil for a reasonable price, you can hardly do better than Blick Studio Artist’s Colored Pencils.

The pencils are available in a variety of sets and open stock (91 colors) for about a dollar a pencil. They are a wax-based pencil, with a thick, soft pigment core, and can be used with layering and blending methods.

I’m interested in trying these pencils both because of price, and because they are manufactured by the same company that manufactures Utrecht Premium Colored Pencils. I think of Utrecht as an old, and respected company, so am interested in their colored pencil products.

Colored Pencils

Koh-I-Nor Polycolor Dry Color Drawing Pencils

I can’t say much about the Koh-I-Nor Dry Color Drawing Pencils that I didn’t say about the Koh-I-Nor Woodless Progresso pencils (see below.) I’ve been so happy with the woodless pencils for general drawing and on sanded pastel paper, that I hope the Polycolor pencils live up to the same standard.

Polycolor pencils are oil-based—another advantage as far as I’m concerned—and are moderately priced below a dollar each for the full set of 72.

Colored Pencils on a Diagonal

The only drawback—and it is significant—is that they are not available open stock. For that reason, they wouldn’t be my first choice from this list. But in my opinion, price makes them worth a try.

Someday.

Lyra Rembrandt

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils are also oil-based, so they produce less wax-bloom than wax-based pencils.

The closest I’ve ever come to these pencils is having some how once gotten hold of a Lyra Splender Blender. That was back before I knew the difference between wax-based pencils and oil-based pencils. I used it to blend Prismacolor and it worked great.

They’re available in a wide range of colors open stock and in sets. Open stock price at Dick Blick is $1.72, so they’re a moderately priced pencil.

Colored Pencils in two Rows

Colored Pencils I Wish Were Available

More Colors, Please.

The Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless pencils are fabulous to work with, especially on sanded art surfaces. But they come in only 24 colors, some of which are of no use to an animal or landscape artist! I’d love to see more earth tones, and “earthy” blues, greens, and yellows.

The same goes for the Derwent Drawing Pencils. Those muted tones are said to be beautiful and the pencils themselves a delight to use. I have only the Chinese White, but I definitely plan to buy a set one of these days. Twenty-four colors is a great start, but I’d really love to see a wider range.

Prismacolors the way they used to be.

Who wouldn’t want that?

I have a pencil or two dating back to the Eagle days, as well as a few that are newer, but still predate the current Prismacolor. I would dearly love for someone to buy back the brand and get back to manufacturing a colored pencil for artists and by artists.

Colored Pencils in a Circle

That’s My Colored Pencil Wish List

At least at present. Who knows? Something new may come along any day, and merit addition to this list.

But isn’t that the way it is with art supplies? There’s always something new!

What pencils are on your wish list?

Are Prismacolors Right for You?

There’s been a lot of back-and-forth about Prismacolor pencils over the last several years. Some artists love them; some hate them. After all the debating, you have only one question. Are Prismacolors right for you or not?

Are Prismacolors Right for You

Last week, I shared reasons you might want to try colored pencils.

This week, it seems appropriate to answer some of the more common questions about Prismacolor pencils, and give you tips for deciding whether or not Prismacolor pencils are right for you.

A Little Bit of History

I always like to provide a little background for discussions like this, because background can provide insight into present day problems. Don’t worry. It’s going to be brief and personal.

I started using Prismacolors back in the 1990s, when they were Berol Prismacolor. There was no better pencil so widely available (in the US at least) and at reasonable prices. They were a high-quality pencil and problems like breaking leads, split casings, and off-center pigment cores were unheard of.

At least I never heard of them.

I had no problems with the pencils. They were perfect for the work I was doing, which was almost exclusively horse portraits.

Sometime since then, Prismacolor changed hands. Berol sold the brand to Sanford, which subsequently sold the brand to Newell-Rubbermaid. Manufacturing changed location and artists began having problems shortly afterward.

I used Prismacolor throughout all those changes, and to be honest, I had very few problems with them.

One batch of Indigo Blue pencils were so gritty I couldn’t use them.

Some pencils did break during sharpening or drawing, and there were a few that broke so much, they were useless.

I did discover (or maybe started noticing is a better way to say it) that quite a few pencils had off-center pigment cores, and I learned still later that sharpening problems often result from off-center cores.

More recently, I started finding pencils that were warped. Fortunately, I usually buy open stock from a local suppler, and learned how to check for warped pencils, so that problem was solved.

But overall, I’ve had relatively few problems with Prismacolor pencils.

Then came the spring of 2017.

The Case of the Fugitive Pencils

Early in 2017, I started hearing a word that aroused concern. Lightfastness. Specifically, the poor lightfast ratings of many Prismacolor pencils.

I believe I mentioned that I was using colored pencils almost exclusively for portraits, right? Portraits people were paying a good amount of money for.
I’d also started doing landscapes, which I hoped to sell.

So it was discouraging (to say the least) to discover that some of my favorite blues and greens, as well as a number of other colors, were fugitve. They faded over time, even in the best conditions.

How permanent were all those portraits I’d created? Would I start hearing from clients about disappearing portraits? It still gives me a twinge of concern thinking those thoughts!

So I went through my pencils, and sorted out all the fugitive colors. The pile of safe colors was almost the same size as the pile of fugitive colors, but I confess I erred on the side of caution. I threw out everything rated III, IV, or V.

I still use the other colors and I still love the way they go onto paper and the effects I can get. I also still miss colors like Sky Blue Light, Light Cerulean Blue, and Limepeel.

But I refuse to use them for anything except sketching and filling in my monthly habit tracker.

All of That to Say This….

What does that mean to you?

It means that what I’m about to say is being said from the standpoint of personal experience. Nothing more, nothing less.

You want to know if it’s safe to use Prismacolor pencils or not, and I’m here to tell you it is.

Depending on what you want to do with your art.

Reasons to Use Prismacolor

So how can you know if Prismacolors are good deal or not?

You Color for Fun and Relaxation

If adult coloring books are your thing, then by all means invest in that full set of Prismacolor pencils.

I don’t do very much in the adult coloring book line—I don’t have much time, to be honest—but I have read plenty of articles about the subject written by artists who do. Almost to the artist, they recommend Prismacolor because of the smooth color lay down, wide variety of colors, reasonable cost, and availability.

Are Prismacolors Right for You - Adult Coloring Pages

I do, too, and for all the same reasons.

In fact, when I doodle with a coloring page, I often use those fugitive colors.

You’re Crafty

You’re making greeting cards, coloring in adult coloring books, or doing crafty things. Color permanence doesn’t concern you.

Color selection, ease of use, and price do.

Prismacolors are probably your best choice. There are over 150 colors altogether. They lay down like a dream, and blend beautifully. You can get them almost anywhere in the United States, and in most cases they’re a good value.

Are Prismacolors Right for You - You're Crafty

They’re also artist-grade, which means pigment quality is high. That means you’ll get a lot more color per pencil than you’d get if you purchased student-grade pencils.

You’re New to Colored Pencils

You think you’ll enjoy them, but you don’t know. You’re not interested—right now—in making art for sale. You just want to draw.

You also don’t want to spend an-arm-and-a-leg on something you may not enjoy.

But you want to try the medium with the best quality tools you can find.

Prismacolor is the answer. They offer students and beginning artists the best combination of quality and value around. Yes there are better pencils, but they’re more expensive.

Are Prismacolors Right for You - You're New to Colored Pencils

And there are cheaper pencils, but they’re lower quality. Even if you get them at a bargain basement price, you may soon find they don’t put much color on the paper or are a struggle to use for other reasons.

Prismacolor is, in my opinion, the only way to go if this describes you.

You Make Fine Art, but Sell Reproductions, Not Originals

The fact of the matter is, you often keep your originals yourself because you like them so much, or you give them to family members or friends. What you sell are reproductions.

Most reproductions are made with lightfast inks, so the lightfastness of the pencils does not matter. At. All.

Use every pencil in the set, lightfast and not-so-lightfast. Get top-notch photographs or scans of the finished pieces, and sell reproductions to your heart’s content!

Then give the original pieces to whomever you like, or hang them on your own walls.

Just make sure to advise friends and family to frame those works of art under UV resistant glass and never, never, NEVER hang the art in direct sunlight.

So Are Prismacolors Right for You?

Prismacolor pencils are perfect for uses like those described above, as well as many others I didn’t touch upon.

By the way, the same applies if you make art mostly to teach others.

In other words, if you don’t care to sell your originals, it doesn’t really matter whether they fade away with time or not. It seems a shame to me to put that kind of time into something that will fade whether you sell it or not, but it’s really up to you, the artist.

Have a question about Prismacolor pencils I didn’t cover? Click here to ask me by email.

How to Draw Like an Expert

Welcome to May, and another May Question-and-Answer month! Today’s question is from a reader who wants to know how to draw like an expert.

That’s a good question, and one we all want the answer to, right?

How to Draw Like an Expert

We’re all also looking for an easy way to draw like an expert. Don’t deny it; I know it’s true because I still look for shortcuts!

I have bad news.

Drawing is like running a marathon. You don’t get out of bed on Monday, decide you’re going to run a marathon on Saturday. Even if you do buy the proper equipment, you won’t do very well when Saturday comes and the race begins. It takes training, discipline, and time to prepare. That’s just the way it works.

How to Draw Like an Expert

The same holds true for drawing. It takes time, training, and practice. Lots of practice!

In other words, there are no shortcuts. None.

But there are a few things you can do to improve your odds of finishing the race (or improving your artwork.) Here are a few that helped me.

How to Draw Like an Expert - Old Drawing
Drawn in 1968

Training is important in marathon running and colored pencil drawing.

The only way to draw like an expert is to train for it.

That begins with the proper tools (artist-quality pencils, good supports, and a comfortable and functional drawing set up) is only the first step.

No, you don’t have to run out and buy the best of everything. You don’t even need to buy full sets of pencils, or a lot of expensive paper. A handful of good quality colors and a pad of good drawing paper gets you started.

In fact, unless you’re absolutely certain from the start that colored pencil is what you want to do, you can learn quite well with good pencils on newsprint. You probably shouldn’t buy those scholastic pencils because they don’t perform the same as better pencils; but you don’t need to buy top-of-the-line, either.

How to Draw Like an Expert - 1990
Drawn in 1990

A regular routine is important in developing drawing skills (and running marathons.)

The next step is a regular drawing routine, and the discipline to maintain that routine.

If all you can do is draw for an hour or two each week, do it. Mark that time in your weekly schedule, then guard it carefully.

Obviously the more you draw, the more quickly you’ll be drawing like an expert, but every drawing gets you closer to your goal.

So find a regular time that works for you, and draw, draw, draw.

How to Draw Like an Expert - Bottoms Up 1994
Drawn in 1994

Finding a good teacher (or trainer) helps you avoid a lot of pitfalls.

You can learn on your own—I did—but you can learn more quickly by finding a teacher to guide you. Look for a teacher who:

Is creating the kind of artwork you want to create (representational, abstract, etc.)

Works in the medium you want to learn

Knows the subject you want to learn (if you want to learn a specific subject such as flowers or horses)

Teaches in a way that makes sense to you

Is more interested in students becoming well-rounded artists, rather than carbon copies of the teacher.

Beginning artists today have a world of options available online. Tutorial videos offer a variety of instructors unheard of when I was getting started (I didn’t even have the internet!)

Make use of those resources, but don’t try to learn from everyone. At least at the beginning, focus your attention on one or two artists who fit the guidelines above, then learn everything you can from them.

How to Draw Like an Expert - 2002
Drawn in 2002

Focus, focus, focus.

You can learn more than one medium at a time, but if you’re just getting started, it’s probably best to pick one and focus your attention on that medium. At least until you learn enough to know whether or not it’s for you.

The illustrations in this post document my journey as a colored pencil artist, beginning with the earliest pencil drawing I have in my possession. I was 7-1/2 years-old when I made that drawing in 1968.

This drawing is my most recent horse drawing. I’ve made a lot of progress in 50 years.

How to Draw Like an Expert - 2017
Drawn in 2017

I would have made progress a lot faster had I focused on colored pencil from the start. Instead, my primary medium was oil painting until 2014. I began “serious dabbling” with colored pencil in the 1990s, and didn’t switch entirely until 2017.

The lesson for you? You can learn more than one medium at a time, but if you really want to learn how to draw like an expert as quickly as possible, focus on one medium.

Have I mentioned practice?

Oh. I did?

Well, it bears repeating here. The more you practice anything, the better you get at it.

The only caveat I’d offer is that you practice the right way. If you practice drawing, but you’re only repeating drawing errors, then you’re cementing those areas into all future drawings.

And that will only hinder your efforts to reach expert status.

So draw often, but also draw smart!

How do you do that?

Work from good reference photos

Draw what you see in those reference photos every time you draw (even if you draw from the same photo over and over again)

Practice drawing from life, even you do quick sketches or 5-minute studies

Master these three things and practice all the rest, and your drawings will improve! You won’t be an overnight expert, but you may very well be surprised how quickly you reach that goal.

 

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

I recently shared in a conversation with a reader who was just getting started with colored pencils. She’d wanted to be an artist from the time she was five-years-old, but one thing and another got in the way. Now that she’s getting back to making art, she wanted to know my tricks for getting and staying motivated when art gets tough.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

I’ll be honest.

I had to stop and think about her question. Do I really have any tricks for getting and staying motivated? After all, that’s an often daily struggle for me. There are so many other things to do.

Things that seem more important.

Things like writing blog posts, freelance writing (to support my art habit,) daily chores around the house, including cat care and, now that spring is coming, yard and garden work.

Yes, I keep a to-do list. Two actually. A written list and Sarah Renae Clark’s Habit Tracker*. I’d be lost without them.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - To-Do List

And yes, art is on both.

But it’s still all-too-easy for studio time to be pushed to the bottom of the list. Some days, it drops clean off the list! I hardly seemed like the right person to answer the reader’s question. She deserved an answer, but I didn’t know what to tell her.

Then I remembered my personal art challenges for this year, and suddenly realized I did have a few tricks that help me get and stay motivated to make art.

Even when I don’t want to.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough

15-Minute Promise

The best thing I ever did to motivate myself was the 15-minute promise.

What is the 15-minute promise? Simple. I do art for 15 minutes, and can quit without feeling guilty. It’s a lot easier to sit down and start drawing or painting if I know I could quit in 15 minutes and still have met a goal.

Some days, I work for 15 minutes, and that’s all.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - 15 Minute Promise

But what usually happens was that once I get started, I’m able to work for an hour or two.

Even now, I sometimes (often) still have to invoke that 15-minute promise to get my rear in the chair and my pencils moving over the paper!

15-Minute Task List

Some tasks that have to be done each day can be kept up-to-date and moving forward with no more than 15 minutes a day.

Remember all those “other things” on my to-do list. Some of them are daily things (social media, blog updates, etc.) There are also bigger projects like writing books. All of those things can be managed with only 15 minutes a day.

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish on even the biggest project in just 15 minutes a day. But it’s also a great way to limit the time you spend on things that eat up time like a hungry lion!

It’s also much easier to paint or draw after finishing all those other little tasks.

Draw Studies

Another way I try to keep myself drawing every day is by doing studies.

Studies are not complete works; they’re small drawings or sketches of larger subjects. I like to draw landscapes, so I’ve been doing a lot of small drawings of branches, and bark and things like that. The maximum size is 4 inches by 6 inches and I often work even smaller than that.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Studies

I don’t always limit the amount of time I work on them, but because they’re so small, they don’t take much time, even when I put a lot of detail into them.

You learn more and learn it more quickly this way than by trying to work on larger pieces once or twice a week (or less.) I highly recommend it.

And you’d be surprised how inspiring and motivating a study can be, especially when it leads you to a new subject or a new way to draw a familiar subject.

Draw from Life/Outside

Do some drawing from life and/or draw outside. Plein air drawing not only gets you outside, but gives you the opportunity to see things in a different way.

And whether you draw outside or inside, drawing the actual object instead of from a photograph is a good way to train your eye to see, and to train your hand to draw what you see.

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Draw Outside

Draw in Different Locations

Writers do this all the time. They go somewhere other than their office or usual writing spot. It might be a coffee shop or a library or maybe even their car, parked in a scenic location.

That works for artists, too. In fact, that’s part of the reason I started drawing outside. The change of location and atmosphere made me want to draw.

You don’t have to go very far. The next room. Or the front porch or backyard.

Sometimes just changing the way you draw is motivating. Try standing at an easel if you usually sit, or try sitting in an easy chair if you usually work at a desk.

Do Something Fun or Outside Your Normal Art Routine

I recently had trouble working on the drawing for the month. At the end of the previous week, I’d made good progress, so it should have been easy to pick up again the following week. Right?

Wrong!

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Have Fun

I did nothing on Monday and kept busy enough on Tuesday that I didn’t give the monthly drawing as much time as I should have. Wednesday was a total wash out!

But I did do art all three days.

I did something experimental the first two days ,and worked on my weekly drawing on the third. Neither one may amount to anything, but they got me started.

Audio Books/Movies/Music

Sometimes what you really need is distraction not motivation. What better distraction than an audio book, a movie or music?

I used to paint to music all the time and it worked. But then I heard Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art talk about listening to an audio book or movie while she paints or draws. She said she could sit for hours and make art if she had something interesting to listen to.

You know what?

It works!

Getting and Staying Motivated When Art Gets Tough - Books Music Movies

You might also add live streams from other artists to that list. I often draw or paint while listening to (and sometimes watching) Lisa’s live streams!

Conclusion

Those are some of my tricks for getting and staying motivated with art gets tough. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

*Affiliate Link

Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with disappointment is one of the toughest lessons most of us have to learn. It seems to me that artists have an especially difficult time because of the intensely personal nature of what we do. Our artwork is part of us.

Artistic disappointments come in all shapes and sizes. Big, one-time opportunities that don’t happen quite as we imagined, or little disappointments we seem unable to shake.

I’ve had my share of both in the last year. Yes, some opportunities turned out better than expected, but there were also equally big opportunities that just didn’t happen.

Then there’s the ongoing disappointment of finished drawing that don’t measure up to my vision for them, and a failure to create as many drawings last year as I hoped to.

Learning to Deal with Disappointment is Important for Every Artist

Many of us have waited anxiously for the results of a juried exhibition. The anticipation of being accepted, the fear of being rejected.

My work has failed to make the grade more often than it’s been accepted.  I always try to maintain personal and professional balance by keeping busy, pushing forward on new and existing projects, and not thinking about the shows I apply for or the pieces I would do.

Even so, those notification emails in the inbox always make me catch my breath. This is it. The Big Day.

Then I see two words in the opening paragraph. We regret….

rejection

Another door closed.

Dealing with Disappointment

Just for the record, being having your work declined for a juried show or exhibit has less to do with your skill as an artist than with the number of excellent artists who also have hopes of a spot in prestigious shows.

Fact of life.

Still, it’s always a disappointment that can shade your mental outlook for part of the day. At least it does mine.

Whether or not you will ever face disappointment isn’t a question. You will.

The real question is: How do you deal with it?

Dealing with Disappointment

Tips for Dealing with Disappointment

Give yourself time to mull over disappointments. Allow yourself to be surprised by depth of the disappointment. Even to wonder what made you think you fit into that show in the first place.

Disappointments are just like grief in some respects. You have to go through them; there is no way around them, over them, or under them.

It’s important to allow yourself time to experience disappointment. Savor it, if you must, but don’t immerse yourself in it. Savor for 30 minutes, then let it go and move on.

Remember that failing to make the cut for an exhibit or show is not necessarily a reflection on your talent. If your work was good before you submitted it, it’s still good. The fact that it wasn’t accepted is more likely a reflection of limited space for the exhibit, and perhaps a judges whim.

Look forward to the next show or exhibit. You now have pieces available for another show. Go ahead and enter them. The best remedy I’ve found for dealing with disappointments is to look forward to the next thing, whether it’s another show, or exhibit, or another portrait client.

In other words, keep moving forward.

Don’t let one disappointment dampen your enthusiasm for creating art. Look for the next piece to create or finish whatever’s currently on your easel.

The moral to this story is that you will encounter disappointment in some form. Don’t let it get personal and don’t let it get you down. Keep making art and keep looking forward.

And by all means keep trying.

The only sure way to fail is to stop trying.

What gets you going again after a disappointment?

Is Tracing Cheating?

I love getting questions from readers (what blogger doesn’t?) The readers who ask questions also love getting answers. It’s long been my practice to answer each question as I receive it, personally and directly.

But some of the questions are so good, I know other readers are wondering the same thing. Those types of questions deserve a public answer.

Hi Carrie
When drawing a portrait in coloured pencil, be it animal or human, do you start with a tracing or freestyle? What is commonly preferred?
Thanks

That’s a great question, Jo!

The short answer to the question is “yes.”

Most of the time, I begin portraits by creating a detailed line drawing using the grid method for drawing, a method I’ve used for almost as long as I can remember. For simpler compositions and most landscapes, I freehand a line drawing without using a grid.

And sometimes I start by making a tracing directly from the reference photo.

So, as I said, the answer is yes.

But the question leads naturally into another question that is almost always guaranteed to generate vigorous debate.

Is Tracing Cheating

I used to believe tracing was cheating. I truly did. Since I was charging good money for portraits of horses, I felt duty-bound (not to mention honor bound) to make every pencil and brush mark with my own hand, unguided by anything but what I could see in a reference photo. Somehow, I’d be cheating clients if I drew the line drawing by tracing.

Interestingly enough, I had no qualms about tracing my line drawing onto the canvas or drawing paper. Somehow, that didn’t seem like the same thing. Maybe it was because I was tracing my own work.

So Is Tracing Cheating?

I no longer think of tracing as cheating, and here are a few reasons why.

Tracing Isn’t Easy

Most people think that making a drawing by tracing is easy. A snap. A trained monkey could do it, because it involves no skill whatsoever.

Wrong!

I confess that I used to think this way. But I’ve traced enough different things enough times to know that if I hurry through the process or am careless, the traced line drawing is no better than a carelessly drawn freehand drawing.

Hand control and pencil control are no less important when tracing a drawing as when drawing with the grid method. Either way, I need to be able to get the pencil to do exactly what I want it to do.

Sometimes, I think it takes more skill to accurately follow a pattern than to draw freehand (maybe that’s why I never picked up the sewing habit.)

Tracing is Not a Silver Bullet

Tracing your subject to create a line drawing doesn’t guarantee a successful piece of art. You still have to layer and glaze color, you still have to know enough about color theory to know which colors to use, and you still need to know how to shade in order to make that line drawing look realistic. In other words, you still need to know how to draw.

Tracing is a Good Way to Improve Drawing Skills

Tracing something repeatedly—horses or cats for example—is a good way to teach yourself to draw so long as you’re using good photographs. Photos that don’t have a lot of distortion in them. Especially if you’re learning how to draw a new subject, you can benefit by tracing the subject several times, then drawing it freehand.

I’ve always been an equine portrait artist. Horse people paid me for portraits of their horses.

But horse portraits don’t always mean just horses are in the portrait. Sometimes tack is involved, and sometimes mechanical equipment is also involved.

For this oil portrait, I drew everything by hand using the grid method. Everything. But the racing bike never satisfied me, and I had special problems getting the wheels right. So after several attempts to get the curves right freehand, I made a couple of tracings of that part of the reference photo.

Is Tracing Cheating - Learning to Draw Something New

You can see the wheels still aren’t as rounded and balanced as they should be in the finished painting, but tracing them a few times did improve my ability to draw the curves with a brush when it came time to paint them.

Tracing is a Good Way to Get Accurate Drawings

If you’re doing portrait work in which the subject you draw must look like the subject you’re drawing, tracing can be a life-saver.

Take this line drawing, for example. I can draw a horse in almost any imaginable position or posture, but technical drawing of any kind is a major struggle. So I drew the horse in both views, the bridles and equipment on the head study, and the landscape elements. Then I traced the racing bike and the driver to make sure they were accurate.

I’d learned my lesson from the oil portrait, you see!

hbIs Tracing Cheating - Line Drawing

So what I recommend now is to trace something a couple of times to get a feel for the shapes, then try drawing it freehand.

If that doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with tracing that part of the composition as part of the line drawing.

Tracing a Reference Photo Simplifies It

Let’s face it. Sometimes, a reference photo shows too many things.

Or maybe the edges get lost because colors or values are too similar.

You can clean up the composition by making a careful tracing first. You can, of course, use that tracing as your final line drawing, or you can use it as a reference from which to make a line drawing.

Even if you chose to create your line drawing directly from the reference photo, a carefully drawn tracing can be a good benchmark against which to compare your final drawing. I have used tracings in this way on quite a few more complex compositions.

Tracing is a Time Saver

I spent two or three weeks on each of the line drawings for the portraits above. Tracing the original line drawing could have saved a considerable amount of time on both, not to mention personal frustration, and having to rush things at the end of the process to meet deadlines.

So is tracing cheating?

Not in my book. At least no longer.

But I also understand that it’s as much a personal preference as anything. If tracing violates your conscience, don’t do it.

Otherwise, make use of it just as you would any other tool in your artists’ toolbox.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing?

I don’t spend a lot of time checking blog statistics. Those kinds of numbers can be an addictive habit for me, and not a very productive one.

But I do track things like search engine terms (the words and phrases people use that lead them to the blog), and the places they come from. That information is helpful in developing new content and updating old.

I mention those things only because of the topic for today’s post and this week’s article on EmptyEasel. Namely, repeated inquiries asking the same essential question: what are the disadvantages of drawing.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing?

Some version of that search term appears regularly on the list of most used search terms. Today (Tuesday, April 11), seventeen of the most frequently used search terms over the last 30 days use the words “advantages” or “disadvantages.” One form of the question is the second most frequently used search term.

Some of the searches are specific. Disadvantages of drawing lines, sketches, or still life drawings, for example.

Others are much more general. It all leads to the same conclusion: A lot of readers wanting to know why they should draw.

So lets take a look at some of the questions being asked.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing? The Questions

Please keep in mind that the answers I’m about to share are my personal opinion. You may very well see other disadvantages to drawing. Indeed, you may think my answers are pretty flimsy! So be it! Drawing—and all art—is very subjective and personal.

Having said that, let me jump into the fray.

1: Disadvantages of the Drawing Process

This question appeared a couple of times in different forms. The phrase used here was the second-most often used key word phrase over the last few weeks.

I find no easy answer to this question beyond the matter of time. It quite simply takes a long time to do a complex and detailed drawing, even if you use modern shortcuts. Some of the line drawings for my large works have taken a couple of weeks to work out. Do enough revisions of the same subject and it can get tiring.

And frustrating.

Then there’s the shading, usually with further fine tuning.

If your end goal is the drawing itself, that’s one thing. But if the drawing is only the first step in the process, it’s quite another matter.

2: Disadvantages of Line Drawing

There is something almost magical about setting up an easel, putting a canvas or paper on it, and just producing a finished piece without going through all the preliminaries.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing Line Drawings

For this type of artist, taking time to do a line drawing not only takes valuable time away from painting, but it may even quench the creative fires. By the time they’ve worked through a line drawing—even a simple one—there’s no longer a desire do the “real piece of art.”

I can understand that, though my empathy comes by way of writing. My second love is writing stories, but I’ve discovered that my brain thinks the story has been written when the story summary is finished. I can’t tell you how many fully developed summaries have gone no further.

If you’re that type of artist, then line drawing may indeed be a disadvantage.

3: Disadvantages to Sketching

To my way of thinking, the primary disadvantages to sketching are all personal—the excuses I give myself for not sketching. In my case, they are:

  • I don’t want to take the time
  • There are too many paid and therefore “more important” pieces to work on
  • I don’t know what to draw or don’t want to draw whatever happens to be nearby
  • It doesn’t contribute directly to my current project (whatever that project may be)

I still struggle with those “disadvantages”, but I also try to sketch frequently (I can’t yet say “regularly”.)

4. Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing

I wrote specifically on this subject for EmptyEasel this week.

You see, once I got started, my thoughts on the subject went in several different directions. For a few more of those ideas, read What are the Advantages (or Disadvantages) of Drawing?

Whether or not I’ve answered the questions posed above I cannot at present say. Since some variation of the term appears regularly on the list of most popular search terms, it’s entirely likely that some of you also have thoughts on the subject. If so, I invite you to share them below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

So, what are the disadvantages of drawing for you?

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!

8 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was a Beginning Artist

I’ve been an artist for a long time. Long enough to have learned many lessons that come only with experience.

Long enough to also know that there are many things I could have learned from other artists had I known where to find those artists (I started before the days of the internet).

Most of those tips have less to do with art than with attitude. They’re the sorts of things we all need to be reminded of periodically.

8 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was a Beginning Artist

Be prepared to persevere.

I don’t know about you, but when I started painting, I thought all I had to do was paint the portraits and get them in front of people. They’d sell themselves and they’d sell themselves quickly. I’d be an overnight success.

The selling part is a discussion for another time (if you’re interested in that, let me know. There’s lots to share.)

The overnight part? Let’s just say I’ve been painting for nearly forty years and I’m still waiting for the overnight success.

Making art is not easy, even when you love what you’re doing. Building a livelihood around it is even less easy. Even when it’s your passion.

The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Neither do the people around you. You may be the most talented artist since Rembrandt, but even he persevered.

Keep going. Be persistent.

Don’t.

Give.

Up.

Develop a thick skin.

From the first drawing you draw to the last, there will be critics. You will have to learn to deal with people who criticize your work, your methods, your marketing—probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. Learn not to internalize it.

How? Ah, that’s the hard part, isn’t it.The Beginning Artist Needs to Develop a Thick Skin

The thing I did that helped me most in this area was deciding with myself what I wanted to paint, how I wanted to paint, and for whom I wanted to paint.

Once those things were settled in my own mind, the criticisms that came because I was painting horses or painting them too realistically or painting for clients didn’t matter. Sure, they still sometimes stung—especially those delivered by artists whose work I admired but whose vision was different than mine—but they didn’t sting as much.

You may need to make the same decisions.

Then go forward with confidence.

Learn to learn from criticism.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all. When an artist whose vision was similar to mine commented negatively on something I’d done, I paid more attention. Maybe they were right.

If a client had a complaint, I definitely paid attention to that. After all, they were paying me for my artistic skill. If they weren’t happy, neither was I.

But I still had to learn to be gracious.

I also had to learn to analyze those criticisms at face value and glean the comments that improved my skills as an artist and in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up in our studios and make art). Toward that end, I asked myself

  • Was the critic an artist more skilled than I?
  • If so, is this criticism a learning opportunity?
  • What can I learn from it?
  • Was the critic a client?
  • If so, is the complaint legitimate?
  • How can I improve the painting?

In other words, find ways to learn, to improve your artistic craft. Make every criticism an opportunity to learn and grow.

Draw every day.

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you make art.

Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either.

It's Important for the Beginning Artist to Develop a Daily Drawing Habit

I’ve lived both and know they are not true. The best way to be an artist is to be an artist. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not. Even if it’s just a few minutes to sketch on a napkin, make use of it. Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you drew something.

Set goals.

I didn’t have to hear this very many times before I got tired of hearing it. Sick and tired!

But you know what? It’s true! When I came to grips with that realization, I also discovered just how valuable goals can be.

And easy. Start small. The first time I set painting goals, I decided to paint one painting a month plus two for a year. I was painting evenings and weekends then, doing art shows and horse shows when I could, so painting time was limited.

But it worked and for years, I created at least twelve paintings a year. Most of them portraits.

You might also try a time goal. Maybe 15 minutes of life drawing every day. Or even just 5 or 10. Keep a small sketch pad with you and sketch in doctor’s offices, while waiting for your order at a restaurant, or wherever you happen to be. Make it a habit! Have fun with it!

Develop a system to monitor goals.

Goals work best when you have a way to track your progress. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it needs to BE.

The Beginning Artist Should Find a Way to Monitor Progress

A calendar is great for this. One with big squares for each day works for me. Find a method that works for you. Decide how much time you want to paint each month, then decide how much you need to paint each day to reach that goal. For each day you paint, record the amount of time you spent. You’ll be surprised how quickly the time adds up.

For some projects, I keep a spreadsheet.

The important thing isn’t how you monitor your progress; it’s THAT you monitor your progress. Seeing how much you’ve done toward a particular goal is a great way to get or stay motivated to keep up the good work.

Don’t let your goals rule you.

You may be thinking this is a contradiction. It’s not.

Life happens. There will be days when, despite your best planning and intentions, you just can’t paint or draw. Don’t let it stress you out. That’s part of the reason I like weekly and monthly goals in addition to daily goals. If I miss a day, I can make it up somewhere else and the weekly or monthly goals provide the incentive to do so.

Have fun.

For the longest time, my art was my small business and I treated it that way. Every line I drew was for a portrait in some way. I never drew for fun or just because something interesting caught my eye and wanted to be drawn.

Don’t do that!The Beginning Artist Needs to Learn to Have Fun

Whether you paint for personal pleasure or as a livelihood, have fun. For some, creating art will become like a job and will require you treat it like a job, maintaining regular hours and behaving like your own employee.

If that describes you, try not to lose sight of the joy of painting (as I did). Keep in sight the reason art drew you in the first place. Take time to nurture that, to grow it as you grow your career. You won’t regret it.

By the way, it doesn’t hurt to learn to have fun apart from your art, too. We all need down time to refresh and revitalize.

Which of these resonant most with you? What advice would you add to the list?

12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

For those among us who use them as our primary medium—or as one of our primary mediums—there are a lot of reasons to love colored pencils. If you’ve used them for any length of time at all, you can probably list five or six with no hesitation at all.

And I’ll wager that if each of us listed our top twelve reasons, every one of us would have at least one reason that was unique to us. That’s just human nature. And the nature of the medium.
12 Reasons to Love Colored Pencils

Following are my top twelve reasons for loving colored pencils.

Why I Love Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are easy to use

Open the box, sharpen the pencils (if necessary), grab a piece of paper, and start drawing. You don’t need to prepare a painting surface, mix a palette, or—best of all—wear protective clothing.

Colored pencils are clean

You don’t have to worry about getting them on your hands, clothing, or the things around you. You won’t find traces of them some unexpected place in the house because you brushed against wet paint without knowing it and transferred that color to other parts of the house.

No drying time

One of my chief complaints about oil painting is waiting for paint to dry. That’s not a concern with colored pencil drawing.

All those luscious colors!

What artist doesn’t love color? And there are so many!

Colored pencils go everywhere

Colored pencils are easily transportable. Throw a few supplies into your field kit or a tote bag or purse (depending how big the set—or your purse—is) and you’re ready to go. Anywhere. Everywhere.

No smelly solvents (unless I want them)

I can make a beautiful drawing without having to breathe solvent fumes.

I can create a range of affects from soft focus to tight detail

Fine art colored pencils are much more versatile than the colored pencils I used in grade school. Almost everything that could be done with brush and paint can be done with colored pencils.

Colored pencils look—and work—great on so many different surfaces

We all know about drawing on paper. A lot of us have tried mat board, too. But what about sanded art papers, wood, canvas, or even Mylar? Colored pencils work on all of them and produce unique and interesting affects on each type of surface.

Nothing else captures ‘found’ texture quite as well as colored pencils

I’ve added interesting and unique textures to more than one drawing simply by laying the paper on a textured surface and lightly—or maybe not so lightly—shading over the paper. What a great way to add visual interest quickly and easily.

Colored pencils are perfect for making small format and miniature art

The thing that turns so many people away from colored pencil is the very thing that makes them ideal for small format and miniature art. The thin color core. What better medium for drawing details on artwork that’s 4×6 or less?

Bonus: You don’t need special tools…except for maybe a magnifying glass.

Colored pencils are perfect for drawing hair

Colored pencils are also fabulous for drawing hair. One of the things I love most about drawing horses is drawing those long manes and tails. I can paint a decent mane or tail with oils and very small brushes, but colored pencils are far more satisfactory.

The cat can play in my art box and I don’t have to worry about hazardous materials sticking to paws

This is important in a house with two indoor cats. Cats like to climb. Cats like to explore.

They also like to help. Years ago, one of our cats once threw himself on an oil painting while I was working on it (I work flat, by the way). I had to take time to clean the paint off the cat before repairing the damage to the painting.

That doesn’t happen with colored pencils.

That’s my list. Why do you enjoy using colored pencils?