Sketches for the Week of August 16, 2021

Sketches for the Week of August 16

This week, I published a new tutorial, Draw Clouds from Life, available at Colored Pencil Tutorials. It’s a graphite tutorial and I had a lot of fun with it, so I decided that all my sketches for the week of August 16 would also be in graphite.

Why graphite?

Because it’s easy to use, it’s a great way to practice drawing values, and it’s fun.

It’s also a change of pace from colored pencil sketching, and since my sketching habit goals didn’t specify colored pencil, I thought, why not graphite?

My Sketches for the Week of August 16, 2021

Because I’d already decided to use graphite for all of my sketching this week, I decided to try different papers. I didn’t expect much difference from one paper to the next, but I got a couple of surprises.

Trunk Study in Graphite on Canson Mi-Teintes Pearl Grey

This sketch is on Canson Mi-Teintes Pearl Grey, which is a very light gray paper. I sketched on the back because that’s the smoothest side, and I chose Pearl Grey because it was the lightest color of paper I had cut to the right size.

I sat on the front porch and sketched the base of an old elm tree in the front yard. The shape of the trunk is interesting because it isn’t round. It looks almost like two trunks grown together early in the life of the tree. When the late afternoon and evening sun strikes it just right, the shape is clear.

I used a 6B Prismacolor Turquoise pencil sharpened to a sharp point and did all my shading with mark making. You can see the hatching and cross-hatching strokes quite clearly. It’s quite easy to create value layering graphite this way, and the direction of the strokes adds visual texture to the sketch.

So do my smudgy fingerprints! One thing I always forget about graphite is that it migrates so easily. Get a little bit on your fingers, and you leave finger prints everywhere!

sketches for the week of August 16

Branch Study in Graphite on Canson Mi-Teintes Steel Grey

I did this sketch immediately after doing the previous sketch, but i did this one from imagination.

The darker gray paper didn’t work as well for graphite, but I wanted to try it anyway, just to see what could be done. I like the sketch, but it would have been better on lighter paper and more detailed if I had been drawing an actual branch.

Even so, it was fun to practice blending by smudging. It was a good effort.

But probably the last combining graphite and medium-value paper.

Mountain Landscape in Graphite on Bienfang Bristol Vellum

The next paper was Bristol Vellum. I like Bienfang Bristol because it’s the only Bristol I’ve found that comes in a pad of 146lb weight. It’s a good, sturdy paper.

I thought it would be perfect for graphite because it’s so smooth. This is where I got the first surprise for the week: Bristol is too smooth for good graphite drawing.

I was able to get a wide range of values by starting with a 3H pencil. But that pencil was so hard, it felt scratchy on the paper. I sketched in the most distant mountains (barely visible) with this, then switched to an F for the next range. Better, but still too hard.

For the rest of the drawing, I used a 6B, which is very soft. Even this soft pencil didn’t work very well on Bristol.

I blended with a stiff bristle brush and my finger to smooth out some of the values, but the best work I did was the nearest range of hills, which I drew with the side of the 6B, then left alone. I also like the grass in the foreground. That was fun to draw!

Broken Ends Graphite on Bristol Vellum

Unwilling to let the Bristol go without another try, I used it to sketch this branch.

Once again, I sat on the front steps and started by intending to sketch a dead branch from life. But I had a lot of help in the form of cats. After the first random mark made when a cat rubbed against my arm as I drew, I decide to just “wing it.”

I continued drawing the branch, but also worked in whatever additional random marks my “studio assistants” caused. This bare and cracked branch is the result.

Prismacolor Turquoise graphite worked better for this type sketching, but it was still a struggle to get really dark values. Confirmation of my conclusions after the previous sketch.

sketches for the week of August 16

Broken Graphite on Bristol Vellum

I liked the previous sketch enough to try a similar subject. This time, I focused on one end of a branch and made sure my studio assistants were elsewhere.

I also used different pencils. That’s part of the reason I wanted to try Bristol Vellum a third time.

The first pencil was a Prang 2B. Believe it or not, I liked this pencil better than the supposedly higher quality Prismacolor Turquoise pencils. Layering was much smoother and the pencil was easier to use. Surprise #2 for the week!

But a 2B is all I had. So for the darker values, I switched to a Mirado B1 pencil. I got these pencils in a box of over 1,500 pencils purchased years ago. They’re an excellent sketching pencil, with nice dark values, smooth lay-down, and several grades. They make Bristol vellum a decent sketching paper.

That’s the third surprise.

Sunset Graphite Powder & Pencil on Clairefontaine Pastelmat

The last sketch for the week doesn’t really look like a sketch, does it? I tried something brand new this time: Graphite powder on white Pastelmat.

Graphite powder is essentially a graphite pencil without the pencil. It’s all graphite. No binders, no fillers, nothing but pigment.

I used a bristle brush for everything but the sun and the trees. I dipped the brush into the graphite powder, then brushed it onto the paper. Pastelmat grabbed hold of it very well.

Better than expected, as a matter of fact. I couldn’t spread the graphite as thinly as I wanted, so the clouds are far darker than I intended.

I “drew” the sun and sunbeams with a pink pearl eraser. That worked quite well, but didn’t make as bright a sun as I’d hoped. Probably because white Pastelmat isn’t bright white. I would also have been better off with a smaller harder eraser.

After that, I used a 6B graphite pencil to draw the trees.

While it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped, I’m pleased with the results. I learned a lot from this try and know what to do (and what not to do) the next time!

Those are My Sketches for the Week of August 16

I had hoped to do more than just six sketches, but it was a busy week. Then I spilled some of the graphite powder on Saturday afternoon, and spent the rest of the afternoon vacuuming and steam cleaning my “studio.” That happened to be a black couch. I’m still not sure I got all the graphite powder.

Despite the surprises, “help” from studio assistants, and spilled graphite, I really enjoyed sketching with graphite. I hope you’ll take up the challenge and do some graphite work, too.

If you purchase graphite pencils, I recommend not buying Prismacolor Turquoise. Some of the pencils I used felt gritty. One or two felt capable of scratching the paper.

I’ve heard good things about the Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencils, and I’m sure Derwent’s graphite pencils are also high quality. In fact, all of the companies that make top-of-the-line colored pencils also make graphite pencils. You won’t go wrong with any of them.

If you feel really brave, get a little graphite powder and try your hand with that. It’s a lot of fun!

I hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit, and invite you to share your work. I’ll be happy to add your sketches for the week of August 16 as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!

Sketches for the Week of August 9, 2021

sketches for the week of August 9

Summer colds. Not much fun. I spent the week feeling like I was wading through tapioca, so I don’t have many sketches for the week of August 9.

The week was also busy with a student for the week, the latest freelance article, and other things going on. A couple of days ended with no energy for even the simplest sketch.

But I did get six sketches for the week; and that’s my weekly goal.

My Sketches for the Week of August 9, 2021

Branch Study in Derwent Drawing on Canson Mi-Teintes

The sketching week got off to a fairly good start given the circumstances. It was late in the day before I got to sketching, and I really didn’t feel like picking up a pencil, but did it anyway.

This branch was sketched with Derwent Drawing Olive Earth on Canson Mi-Teintes Fawn. Not the best color combination, perhaps, but not bad either.

I drew this from memory and imagination, combining interesting twists and turns, and other features seen in real life branches.

sketches for the week of August 9

Mountain Landscape with Derwent Drawing on Stonehenge

With no particular goal in mind this week other than sketching, I used whatever paper was on the top of the stack. The first sketch for the week was Canson Mi-Teintes. Both of the next two sketches are on Stonehenge Fawn.

It was very hot and humid on Wednesday, so when I sat down to draw, I decided to draw something cool and not so humid. A mountain landscape with a lake in front seemed like the perfect subject.

I drew this scene from memory, but it was heavily influenced by two of my favorite landscape painters. One works in oils, and the other in acrylics, but they both do a lot of mountain landscapes.

So I did one, too!

And I’m very pleased with it.

Blue Mountain on Stonehenge

Derwent Drawing colored pencils are great sketching pencils. They work on every paper I’ve tried, though they’re better on traditional papers.

For this sketch, I chose Derwent Drawing Smoke Blue and focused on drawing space and form with line and limited values.

The mountains are imaginary. I simply sketched and shaded until I thought the sketch was finished.

Mountain Landscape with Derwent Drawing

This is a more complete sketch than what I’ve been doing. I used almost all of my Derwent Drawing pencils (I have about eight colors) to draw this landscape. The paper is Stonehenge Fawn again, which proved not to be a good color for the light blues in the mountains.

It was perfect for the rest of the landscape however.

This sketch is very loosely based on a photograph sent to me by a reader. I started a more “serious” piece late this winter, but have never finished it. So now I can say I’ve done something with that photograph!

sketches for the week of August 9

Tree Branch with White Derwent Drawing

Back to Canson Mi-Teintes Fawn for this sketch, and back to just one color. Derwent Drawing Chinese White.

Instead of drawing a subject by drawing the shadows, I decided to try drawing just the highlights and reflected light.

It’s not quite as finished as I would have liked, but I was interrupted. One of my rules for this sketching habit is not to go back so something once I’ve put it down (unless I have to sharpen pencils or something like that.)

Still, I’m quite happy with the results.

By the way, I drew this from my imagination.

May in Kansas

The final sketch for the week was drawn with Derwent Drawing Sanguine on Canson Mi-Teintes Fawn paper.

I revisited a scene I drew last week. This week, however, I drew the main tree much as it appears in the reference photo, with leaves.

This is the sort of scene that makes me think I’ll some day do a more serious piece based on it. Neither this sketch nor the previous one shows the atmosphere of this morning time scene.

And atmosphere is one of the things I enjoy about drawing landscapes.

Comparing Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Teintes with Derwent Drawing Colored Pencils

I used either Canson Mi-Teintes or Stonehenge paper for this week’s sketches, and I used Derwent Drawing pencils on all of them.

Derwent Drawing colored pencils are a great sketching pencil. A full set of 24 colors is definitely on my wish list. The earthy colors are great for nature subjects as well as sketching.

And as I mentioned before, they’re ideal for traditional drawing papers.

Both types of papers I used are 98-pound papers, but they feel different. Stonehenge has a sturdier feel, but it’s also much softer. Canson Mi-Teintes is a nice paper for sketching and more serious drawings, but it’s best for colored pencils if you use the back side!

Those are My Sketches for the Week of August 9

And that’s my abbreviated report on my sketches for last week. It was disappointing not to have drawn more, but I’m pleased to have drawn any at all! It was just one of those weeks.

I hope you’re week went more smoothly, and that you were able to do some sketching.

If you have, I hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit. I invite you to share them. I’ll be happy to add them as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!

Sketches for the Week of August 2, 2021

Last week, I did all of the sketches for the week on white Clairefontaine Pastelmat. This week, I used the same pencils, but all the sketches for the week of August 2 are on Stonehenge.

Here’s what I thought.

My Sketches for the Week of August 2, 2021

Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils

Green Desert with Koh-I-Nor

I’ve been generally dissatisfied with these pencils for every application, but I haven’t done much drawing with them. So my first sketch for this week was more like a color study than a sketch.

The scene is based on the Flint Hills in Kansas, but it’s totally imaginary.

And not as finished as I’d intended.

That was because I didn’t like the way the pencils were layering on Stonehenge. Stonehenge is super soft, and just was not a good surface for these pencils.

Tree Branch with Koh-I-Nor

So I went back to a more typical sketching style. I like this piece much better, but am still not happy with the pencils. Getting good, dark values was difficult.

However, I do like having the ability to draw broader, softer lines.

sketches for the week of August 2

Blick Studio Colored Pencils

Elm Tree with Blick Studio

I sat on our back porch Tuesday evening with a few pieces of Stonehenge and my cup of Blick Studio pencils. My intention was to draw from life, but before I did more than choose a subject and rough it in, mosquitoes drove me back inside.

The two knots on the upper left got most of my attention while I was outside, so they became the focus. I filled in the rest after going into the house again.

Those two knots do intrigue me. I may have draw them more specifically later. After a cold snap removes the mosquitoes!

Mountain Landscape with Blick Studio

The idea of line drawing landscapes interests me enough that I decided to give it try this week. I wanted to see if I could draw a complete landscape with distance using only the darkness and thickness of the lines.

That was not only possible; it turned out pretty well.

But I had to press so hard with the Blick Studio pencil to get those dark foreground lines that I felt like I was impressing them into the paper. I don’t think I was, but I didn’t like working that way.

Prismacolor Soft Core Pencils

Mountain Landscape with Prismacolor

The next pencils I used were Prismacolors, and I started with another landscape line drawing. In fact, I redrew the previous sketch, but without looking at the previous sketch.

The Prismacolor I chose was Indigo Blue and it worked extremely well this way. I still had to use heavier pressure and repeated marking to get the dark lines in the foreground, but the overall drawing process was easier and faster.

It also felt more comfortable.

sketches for the week of August 2

Rotted Plank with Prismacolor

For this drawing, I went back to the back porch. It was earlier in the day and more windy, so the mosquitoes weren’t much of a problem.

But I didn’t want to draw a tree again, so I looked around where I sat and finally settled on this rotted plank. I’d drawn something like it for the original plein air challenge in 2016, so thought it was time to revisit the subject.

I did a little bit of shading in the darkest values, but used mostly lines to suggest the weather-worn wood.

Faber-Castell Polychromos

I’ve used Polychromos pencils for a lot of sketches since starting this sketching habit, so I did only two this week.

Flint Hills with Polychromos

Another line drawing landscape. I really enjoy sketching like this!

This sketch is drawn from an old, poor quality photo I took of the Flint Hills many years ago. I did a little more shading with this one than with the other line drawings. But I still relied on line thickness and darkness to convey the look of distance.

Tree Branch with Polychromos

Another sketch from one of my photos. This tree is near a local business and has interesting lighter patterns in the bark. Those light patches are what I wanted to capture, since they really defined the twisting and turning of each of the three large branches.

sketches for the week of August 2

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor

This is my Lyra Polycolor sketch for the week. It, too, is based on one of a collection of images I took a couple of years ago. I simplified the landscape quite a bit, and drew the main tree without leaves so it stood out even more from the clumps of trees in the background.

Caran d’Ache Pablo

The last sketch for the week was this tree trunk study with Caran d’Ache Pablo.

I liked the tree in the previous sketch so much that I decided to do it again with much background.

Crayola Colored Pencils

I got an opportunity to try a brand of pencils I would not be likely to ever purchase: Crayola colored pencils.

I love their crayons. The smell of Crayola crayons is one of my all-time favorite non-food scents. The colored pencils are made for the same artists for whom the crayons are made. Grade school students.

So I had no interest in purchasing them, even just to test them.

But this week, I came into possession of a large collection of them. Since a reader asked about them, I decided to do a little work with them, just to see how they measured up to my expectations.

One of my tests was a sketch on Stonehenge.

This sketch is called The Moor, and I drew it one evening while watching The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The moor shares some characteristics with the Flint Hills and I love drawing the Flint hills, so I decided to try sketching the moor.

I would have made more progress with a better pencil, but I’m still pleased with the way this turned out.

sketches for the week of August 2

How I Rate these Pencils

I made some interesting (and surprising) discoveries this week.

As I mentioned last week, I have only one each of the Caran d’Ache Pablo and Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencils, but they turned out to be my favorites on Stonehenge paper. They both performed very well and I didn’t feel like I had to press very hard to get the darker values. I rate them about equal in ease of use and overall performance.

After that, my favorites, Polychromos and Prismacolor, tied for second. That’s not surprising. The really good pencils general perform well on most surfaces. And they weren’t that far behind the first two.

The Blick Studio pencils were okay with Stonehenge. I think if I had no other pencils, I could get used to them easily. But they are better suited for sanded surfaces in my opinion.

Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils are still at the bottom of the list, but this week they’re joined by Crayola colored pencils. I won’t be doing anymore tests with Crayola, but I’m not yet ready to give up entirely on the Koh-I-Nor Progresso pencils.

The most interesting discovery this week was the fact that Stonehenge has fallen from favor with me. It just seemed too soft and spongy after all the work I’ve done on the sanded art papers. In fact, by mid-week, I realized that my problems with the pencils were really problems with the paper.

And to think that Stonehenge was once my go-to paper!

Those are My Sketches for the Week of August 2

Another interesting sampling of different types of pencils on Stonehenge paper. I hope you enjoyed the results as much as I did.

I also hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit.

And if you’ve created some sketches during the week of August 2, I invite you to share them. I’ll be happy to add them as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!

Karin Dusterhoft: Here are the sketches for this week. The paper was Canson Bristol Vellum and the pencils were Prismacolor, Verithin and Polychromos. The challenge was to try new and different things, and I definitely learned a little something from each sketch. That’s what it’s all about and it was fun!

Sketches for the Week of July 26, 2021

Before I picked up a pencil to sketch this week, I decided to be a bit more deliberate. I’d still draw whatever struck my fancy, but I’d do all the sketches for the week of July 26 on the same paper.

I cut a full sheet of white Clairefontaine Pastelmat into 4×6 pieces (sixteen of them, plus a few smaller pieces.) My intention from the start was to try different pencils on Pastelmat just to see how they performed in a week-long comparison.

So hold on. This week’s sketching report is also a review of several types of pencils on Pastelmat!

My Sketches for the Week of July 26, 2021

Since this is a more “disciplined” sketching week, with a specific purpose in mind, I’m still listing sketches in chronological order. But I’m also doing a sketch or more with each type of pencil before moving to the next type.

So the sketches will be categorized by pencil, beginning with Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless.

Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils

I originally bought these pencils for use in laying down broad applications of color. At one time, I had Prismacolor Art Stix, which are Prismacolor pencils in a chalk-like shape. I never developed a taste for the Art Stix. After some early success with the Progresso, I decided they weren’t for me, either.

But I haven’t tried them very much on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, so they were the first pencils to come off the shelf this week.

Tree Study with Koh-I-Nor Progresso #1

I mentioned last week that I wished I was better at sketching in color, so I tried a color sketch first the the woodless pencils. I used Brown, Sap Green, Light Ochre, and a touch of Black.

These pencils are about the size of a standard colored pencil, so they’re easy to handle.

But they’re all pigment, so it can be difficult to get fine lines with them. I knew that when I started, so I kept my sketching loose in style.

The first layer or two went well. But then I remembered why I didn’t use the Progresso pencils more. They just don’t layer very well on sanded paper. It’s as if the pigment clogs up the tooth of the paper without filling the tooth; almost like all the pigment stays on the top of the grit.

Adding more layers just adds to the clogging.

It’s possible that using a solvent to blend would smooth out the color and sink the pigment down into the tooth, but for straight sketching or drawing, I’m not happy with them.

Tree Study with Koh-I-Nor Progresso #2

For the second Progresso sketch, I drew a similar subject, but limited myself to one color: Brown. I also chose not to layer color, but to use line to create value. I handled the pencil more like a graphite pencil, using directional lines, hatching and cross-hatching lines, and light pressure start to finish.

The results are better, but I still found the Progresso pencils a bit clumsy. I have no doubt that I could learn to create smooth, subtle color and value transitions with them if I continue using them.

I’m just not sure I like them enough to put in that kind of drawing time!

Blick Studio Colored Pencils

Cloud Study with Blick Studio Pencils

I was feeling a bit unfocused Tuesday morning, so after doing the second of the sketches above, I got out the Blick Studio pencils and started sketching. The sky I could see out the window was clear, but a nice blue. I decided to sketch clouds against a blue sky by shading the sky.

I used only two colors for this sketch: Ice Blue and Light Blue, and I applied both colors with light pressure for the entire sketch, but mixed strokes.

The sky is layer after layer of both blues, sandwiching Light Blue between multiple layers of Ice Blue (which is much lighter.) I used horizontal strokes, vertical strokes, hatching and cross-hatching strokes, and even circular strokes. In between some of the layers, I blended with a finger tip.

I drew the clouds by drawing the shadows in the clouds with the same two colors. But most of this work was completed with circular strokes.

The result was much more satisfying with the Blick Studio pencils than the Progresso pencils. I’ve tried Blick Studio pencils on a number of surfaces, and for my style of drawing, they seem to be made for sanded art papers.

Sparkles on the Water

I did this sketch as an experiment for this past Saturday’s product review of the Slice tools.

I’ve been watching the videos of an acrylic landscape painter who paints the most remarkable landscapes. Many of them include water and from the first video, the process has mesmerized me.

And made me wonder if there was a way to get the same look with colored pencils.

As it turns out, there is. Slice tools!

I started out by laying down three or four different colors with medium-heavy pressure and back-and-forth horizontal strokes. I wasn’t particularly careful adding color, though I did try to apply colors in a way that looked like water.

Then I went over each area repeatedly until the tooth of the paper was filled.

sketches for the week of July 26

Next, I used Slice tools to etch X shaped “stars” in the places where I wanted sparkles. They didn’t look like much at first, but after going over them a couple of times, they began to look better.

When I finished, I showed the sketch to my husband and said, “What does this look like?” (It didn’t look like much to me.)

“It looks like water reflecting trees or something,” he said.

I made my art notes on the back and called this sketch finished.

Tree Study with Blick Studio

This is the last sketch with Blick Studio, and I used Gold for this and sketched from memory and imagination. I didn’t really have a goal beyond playing with color, value, and shape.

I like the way this sketch turned out.

sketches for the week of July 26

Prismacolor Soft Core Pencils

I did three sketches with Prismacolor pencils just because I enjoy using them so much. They’re not quite as good on sanded papers as on traditional papers, but they were still fun to use.

This sketch is drawn from a photo of a tree that was partially destroyed in a storm early in July. I received a few photos of the damage before the tree was taken down, and this branch caught my eye. The simplicity of the branches and the complexity of the positioning both drew my attention.

It was also silhouetted against the sky, which meant I could create my own lighting. I chose backlighting and big, bold strokes to add details I couldn’t see in the photo.

My subject for this sketch is a dead branch on a live tree in our front yard. After I drew it, I added other branches drawn with lighter and lighter pressure to create context for the main branch.

The main focus is that spindly looking branch so I keep the darkest values on that branch.

I merely suggested bark on the main tree with lines.

The final Prismacolor sketch is another, much older favorite subject: Horse hooves.

I’m not sure what appeals to me so much, but I really enjoy drawing the joints in the legs, particularly the back legs.

This was drawn without a reference photo so it’s a bit rusty. It’s been a long time since I drew a horse’s hoof and it shows.

sketches for the week of July 26

Faber-Castell Polychromos

I’ve used Polychromos pencils for a lot of sketches since starting this sketching habit, so I did only two this week.

Tree Branch with Polychromos

I used a Black pencil to sketch these branches from memory and imagination. I’m seeing improvement in my ability to use lines to convey form and create the illusion of depth on paper. Even with such a simple subject and one color.

Mountain Study with Polychromos

For this sketch, I used Polychromos Mauve. I really like the look of this sketch. It’s one of the more pleasing in this week’s collection (in my opinion.) The use of line to create visual texture in the mountains and the clouds turned out extremely well.

I think one of the reasons for that is that I didn’t over-work it. I tend to keep working on a drawing when I should quit. I’m not sure how to correct that, but it does look like I got it right this time!

sketches for the week of July 26

Caran d’Ache Pablo

I have only one Pablo pencil and in the rather atypical color of Flame Red; atypical for a landscape artist, anyway.

So I did only one sketch with a Pablo.

Pablos are said to be a harder version of Caran d’Luminance, much like Prismacolor Verithin pencils are a harder version of Prismacolor Soft Core. In a way, that’s true. They are a bit harder than Luminance pencils.

But while Verithins are quite a bit harder and thinner, Pablos are only a bit harder and about the same thickness as Luminance.

This sketch turned out well, given what I was attempting to draw. My subject was a couple of dead branches hanging down on the interior of a favorite oak tree across the street. The branches were mostly in shadow, so there wasn’t a lot of middle values. But there were patches of sunlight shining through the foliage.

sketches for the week of July 26

I was able to capture that look fairly well, but I had difficulty getting decent middle values with the Pablo pencil. They didn’t gum up the surface like the Progressos, but they weren’t as easy to use as the Polychromos either. That could be a lack of significant experience with this pencil. As I mentioned, I have only one color and I haven’t done much with it. Perhaps practice is all I need.

Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor

Another line of pencil for which I have only one color is Lyra’s Rembrandt Polycolor, True Blue.

I decided to sketch something I haven’t sketched in quite a while; a horse’s eye.

Polycolor pencils are a bit smaller than most of the other pencils I use. That wasn’t a major problem for me, but I know it can make a difference to some artists.

Polycolor’s are oil-based, so they’re a bit harder than wax-based pencils. The pencil I used laid down color nicely and I was able to get a nice range of values. I didn’t have enough color on the paper to scratch eyelashes with a Slice tool, but overall, I’m quite happy with this sketch.

sketches for the week of July 26

How I Rate these Pencils

First: I’m giving Faber-Castell Polychromos a slight edge. I just really like these pencils for every type of drawing I do. They’re easy to work with, they have a great color range, and I have yet to find a paper they don’t work with.

Second is Prismacolor Premier. They’re not quite as handy on Pastelmat as the Polychromos, but they’re the first pencils I used. It’s difficult not to list them as favorites after using them for over twenty years!

Blick Studio pencils perform nicely on Pastelmat. They feel like a cross between Polychromos and Prismacolor. Color selection is more limited than either of those two brands, but they are very reasonably priced.

Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencils are at the bottom of the list. I don’t know what it is about them, but I’ve never used another type of colored pencil that clogs the tooth of Pastelmat (or any other sanded paper) the same way these do.

What about the Lyra Polycolor and Caran d’Ache Pablo? My initial impressions are mixed. They both have good pigmentation and they feel good layering on Pastelmat. But I just don’t have enough experience with them to feel capable of giving an honest opinion.

They are however, pencils I would like to continue working with.

Those are My Sketches for the Week of July 26

I’m very pleased with the decision early this week to use different pencils on Clairefontaine Pastelmat. I hope you enjoyed the results as much as I did.

I also hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit.

And if you’ve created some sketches during the week of July 26, I invite you to share them. I’ll be happy to add them as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!

Sketches for the Week of July 19, 2021

sketches for the week of July 19

Despite some serious and potentially serious setbacks, my collection of sketches for the week of July 19 is satisfying. It is, in fact, the best group of sketches I’ve finished so far.

Yes. There was a clinker or two, but when you do twelve drawings a week, you’re bound to have a bad day. Right?

My Sketches for the Week of July 19, 2021

Sunlit Leaves

Prismacolor Sunburst Yellow, Spring Green, Marine Green, Violet on Stonehenge

Trumpet vines grow on the backyard fence and back of the house. A few ambitious vines have reached the back window of the room where I often sit to read or sketch or just take a few quiet minutes.

It was Monday evening before I got around to sketching. The sun was low enough to be back-lighting the leaves on the window. With the fence in shadow beyond those leaves, I decided to try capturing that almost glowing color.

I started by layering a bright yellow onto the paper, then adding Spring Green over that. That seemed like the logical thing to do, but it didn’t work. Darkening the shadows with Marine Green was an even worse mistake (in my opinion,) but I pushed on long enough to finish the sketch with a violet background and a solvent blend.

sketches for the week of July 19

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but if you really want to improve your work, you need to be prepared to make some bad art.

This sketch falls into that category.

Seeking the Light

Prismacolor Violet Blue on Canson Mi-Teintes Buff

I sketched this from memory and imagination, but based on an oddly shaped tree that stands at a nearby corner.

When trees grow close together and/or close to buildings, they often grow into interesting shapes as they try to reach the sunlight. Trees that normally grow straight and tall might become bent or twisted.

That idea fascinates me. I often find my gaze turning upward, looking for interesting patterns in the way branches have grown.

I’m not sure I like the combination of Blue Violet on this color of paper. Browns and dark greens work much better. But one of the purposes for this sketching habit is trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t.

Tree Branch Drawn with Left Hand

Prismacolor Marine Green on Canson Mi-Teintes Moonstone

Yes. You read that right. Drawn with the left hand.

The reason is that I sliced the knuckle on the third finger of my right hand on Tuesday evening. Bled like a stuck pig! I wasn’t sure what to expect the next day. But Neal bandaged me up and we took Tuesday evening easy.

Wednesday, I remembered reading about someone who was learning (or had learned) to draw with their non dominant hand. Since it was a bit painful to draw with my right hand, I decided to try sketching with my left hand.

The result was surprising. I could tell I’d drawn a tree. I had fairly good control of the pencil and managed to get decent values. But the appearance was very loose and sketchy. I didn’t even try to make long, graceful strokes; instead I made short marks with medium-light pressure and layered strokes to darken the values.

As different as this is, I liked it immediately.

I still do!

Saddle Back Mountains Drawn with Left Hand

Prismacolor Copenhagen Blue on Canson Mi-Teintes Moonstone

I liked the tree study drawn with my left hand so much that I immediately did another sketch with that hand.

I used the same short strokes in multiple layers in the shadows. This kind of short stroke overlapping in uneven patterns really were useful in drawing these two mountains.

I even got a bit daring and added birds!

sketches for the week of July 19

A Ribbon of Hair

Prismacolor Peacock Blue on Canson Mi-Teintes Moonstone

All I can say about this sketch is that there are some things you should never try to draw without a reference photo.

I was trying to figure out how I would draw long, curly hair. I thought I knew what to do. Everybody knows what long, curly hair looks like, right?

The sketching went well, but before I finished, I realized that I hadn’t drawn long, curly hair; I had drawn long, wavy hair.

Oh well.

It’s a nice sketch.


Prismacolor Indigo Blue on Strathmore Artagain Paper Flannel Grey

Beyond those trumpet vines I sketched at the beginning of the week there are several huge trees. Earlier this spring, property was sold in that area, and the trees at the back of the property were stripped of dead wood and low branches.

Usually, I see these trees in the afternoon, when these branches are deep in shadow.

Today, I saw them in the morning. Those brightly lighted stubs of branches caught my eye. So did the way these three huge, vertical branches are growing.

Tree Study Drawn with Left Hand

Derwent Drawing Sepia (Red) on Strathmore Artagain Beachsand Ivory

Late in the week, after my injury had healed enough for right-handed drawing again, I found myself bored with the whole process. Nothing looked interesting out the back window or from the front porch. I was too lazy to search through my photo files for something to draw. So I just sat for a while, waiting for an idea.

The idea was to draw left-handed again; to see what happened. Could I duplicate what I’d done earlier in the week?

The answer was yes.

This time, I got out my half-dozen or so Derwent Drawing pencils. I’ve had them quite a while, but haven’t done much with them. That was certainly my loss, because they’re great for sketching! They go onto the paper so smoothly and nicely.

This sepia color is also perfect for this color of paper.

And I’m really starting to like this bolder style of sketching!

Trunk Study Drawn with Left Hand

Derwent Drawing Chocolate on Strathmore Artagain Beachsand Ivory

We took an elderly friend and one of her pets to a vet this afternoon. The news was not good and the pet was euthanized. I wasn’t attached to the pet, but I have lost pets to which I was attached.

When I got home, I drew this sketch as a way of processing what had happened: A routine vet visit with unexpected results.

Once again, I used my left hand because for some reason, that seemed appropriate.

Where a Branch Once Was

Derwent Drawing Ivory Black on Canson Mi-Teintes Moonstone

The idea of branches and trees standing against the elements while they have been hollowed out fascinates me. I’ve seen more than one huge branch that looked solid brought down in a storm, or cut down . It’s only when you see the branch severed like this that you realize the interior damage.

I drew this from memory and imagination. My main goal was creating a wide range of values while using mainly lines. I did shade the darkness inside the hollowed out branch stub, but everything else is line work.

Tree Branch in White

Derwent Drawing Chinese White on Canson Mi-Teintes Steel Grey

With this sketch, I wanted to try drawing something that looked three dimensional while using white on darker paper. The results would have been better with a darker paper, but this still turned out well.

sketches for the week of July 19

Leaning Telephone Pole

Derwent Drawing Chocolate on Canson Mi-Teintes Buff

I see this telephone pole almost every time I look out a certain window. We pass it every time we drive away from the house or return.

But I’m rarely looking at it.

Today, the sun was shining on it and it caught my eye.

After I’d drawn it, I looked at what I’d drawn, and thought, “Aren’t telephone poles usually round?”

I’m going to have to walk out some time and take a look at this one.

Scratching Branch Study

Derwent Drawing Olive Green on Canson Mi-Teintes Light Grey

This concludes the collection of sketches for the week of July 19. I returned to the cat’s indoor scratching branch as the subject.

I have nothing special to say about this beyond my attempt to be a little more careful in drawing it accurately. I tend to embellish when drawing trees and branches like this, just to play with line and value.

Those are My Sketches for the Week of July 19

This week was good for sketching despite all the setbacks and unusual events. I’m quite pleased with these sketches.

I’m also quite pleased with the realization that my sketching abilities have improved since I began this challenge on July 3. It’s even more satisfying to realize that when I take the time to sketch more carefully, the results are even better.

I just wish I was better at sketching in full color!

I hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit.

And if you’ve created some sketches during the week of July 19, I invite you to share them. I’ll be happy to add them as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!

Sketches for the Week of July 12, 2021

sketches for the week of July 12

The weekly sketch along continues. I didn’t get quite as much sketching time in this week, but I still finished several sketches for the week of July 12.

My Sketches for the Week of July 12, 2021

Stone Hitching Post

We live across from a historic home that has become a local museum. The house was built by a prosperous business man in the 1800s, and it has two stone hitching posts at the curb. One on each side of the front walk.

I’ve sketched them more than once and have referred to them many more times. The most recent appearance of them here on this blog was as the subject for a tutorial on using GIMP to create digital line drawings.

I started the sketching week by sketching one of the posts with the evening sunlight striking it.

I believe the paper is Strathmore Artagain. It’s too smooth to be Canson Mi-Teintes, and too “hard” to be Stonehenge. It also has a faint fiber-like pattern embedded in the paper. That’s standard with Artagain.

I used Blick Studio White for most of the sketching and I sketched the highlights first. It was my intention to use just white, but the paper really wasn’t dark enough for that, so I used Blick Studio Black in the shadows.

Red Flower

Blick Studio Scarlet Red, Vermillion, and Dark Grass Green on Bristol vellum.

This one is from my imagination. It’s also a lesson in discipline.

I didn’t feel like sketching all day and it was evening before I picked up a pencil and piece of paper. I’d had a headache all day, and just wanted to quit for the day.

But I sat down in the window seat in the room that used to be my studio, looked up at the White pine I sketched so many times last week, and decided to draw a flower instead.

I don’t know if there’s a real flower that looks like this, but that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that the day didn’t end without a sketch of some type.

Knot Hole #1

One thing I’m learning is that when I sketch something that isn’t a tree, I have a difficult time placing it on the piece of paper.

The first two sketches above would have easily fit on a 4-inch square piece of paper. I didn’t size them properly or place them very well.

Actually, I didn’t do that with this sketch, either. But that was easy to compensate for with a little background shading.

This is part of a dried up tree branch that I brought into the house in 2018 for the cats to claw and play on. It’s really served it’s purpose well.

It’s also a great subject for sketching!

I used Blick Studio Brown to draw this on Bristol vellum.

I must confess that I really like the Blick Studio pencils on more textured paper. They’re an absolute delight on sanded art papers and they work pretty well on Canson Mi-Teintes and even Stonehenge.

But they are a struggle on Bristol Vellum. On a smoother paper like this, I got the best results drawing with heavier pressure. That’s what I did in the background. It worked well, but it feels so unnatural.


This is another sketch using Blick Studio on Bristol Vellum. This time, I used medium heavy pressure and bold strokes to draw a tree branch by shading the negative spaces.

This piece was inspired by a view of tree branches against a night sky late one night. At that time, I thought about drawing the branches on black paper by shading the night sky. This experiment on white paper proved one thing: It can be done.

sketches for the week of July 12

Rain Storm

On Thursday, we drove to El Dorado, Kansas. It rained part way there and all the way back. Sometimes the rain was quite heavy.

One of the things I like about the Flint Hills is the vastness. All that space and distance is a delight to behold and something I really think about drawing a lot.

Throw in gray light, rain, and mist and the vastness takes on a totally different appearance.

When we got home again, I tried to capture what I’d seen with pencil and paper. Bristol Vellum and Blick Studio again. Cold Grey this time.

This isn’t very dark and it isn’t as complete as I’d hoped, but one of my rules for this sketch habit is to never return to a sketch once I set it aside.


One of the neatest things about sketching like this is trying new pencils and paper. This sketch was drawn with the only Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor pencil I own. True Blue. I used it on Bristol Vellum to draw these trees from imagination.

I wanted to see how I liked the Polycolor. It was a delight to use.

I also wanted to see if I could shade by using nothing but lines. So I used different types of lines from very thick to very thin, different values, and overlapping lines to draw these trees.

Yes, I did catch myself shading once or twice, but for the most part, the illusion of space in this sketch was done with nothing but lines.

Even the light, broad strokes in the background are lines drawn with the side of the pencil and light pressure.

Knot Hole #2

Back to the cat’s scratching branch!

This time, I paired Canson Mi-Teintes Pearl Grey paper with a Caran d’Ache Pablo pencil (Flame Red.) This is another type of pencil I’ve not used before. I have only one or two colors.

I’ve heard that Pablos are to Luminance with Verithins are to Prismacolor. A harder, thinner form of the same basic pencil.

But I found this Pablo pencil to be much softer than the Verithin. It was very easy to get nice, dark values even with this color.

Once again, I failed to place this sketch very well on the paper. I really need to work on that. But I kept drawing until it looked pretty good.

At least to me.

sketches for the week of July 12

Dead Elm Branches

The last two sketches are Saturday sketches. Both are based on a towering elm in front of our house.

This one is of a group of dead branches several feet up. I used Derwent Lightfast on white Stonehenge.

I like the Derwent Lightfast pencils. I’ve sketched with them quite a bit this year. But they’re quite soft and aren’t a very good pencil for drawing crisp lines unless you keep a sharpener handy.

I don’t sharpen pencils when I sketch. I try to start with sharp pencils, then work with what I have until I finish. Since most sketches are 30 minutes or less, that works fine.

Unless I’m using a very soft pencil.

Stump Study #1

The last sketch for this week is also based on that elm tree, but at some point in the future. I simply drew the bottom of the trunk, then turned it into a stump.

I’m not sure why other than the fact that stumps are part of the legacy of trees that fascinate me.

This sketch is on Stonehenge White and I used Derwent Drawing Sanquine.

sketches for the week of July 12

Those are My Sketches for the Week of July 12

Despite what seemed to me like a slow start, I ended up with nine sketches.

What’s even more impressive to me is that I now have a collection of 27 4×6 inch sketches when I include the five I did early this year.

I’m really liking this new sketching habit!

I hope you’ll join me in developing your own sketching habit.

And if you’ve created some sketches during the week of July 12, I invite you to share them. I’ll be happy to add them as a reader’s sketch gallery to this post!

Reader Gallery Slide Show