Sketch: Red Onion

Colors used (all Prismacolor Premier):

Dark Purple
Dark Umber
Crimson Red
Light Peach
Indigo Blue
50% Warm Gray

For this sketch, I did something I almost never do: I started over. Even though I was almost finished, I wasn’t happy with how it turned out. Usually at that point I just give up and move on to something else. But for some reason this time I gave it a second chance.

I drew the first version on recycled sketchbook paper with a medium tooth. It was very hard to layer enough color to mask the white flecks of paper showing through, even after blending multiple times. I’m sure that the paper was part of my difficulty. Another problem was that I forgot to leave the paper blank in areas of highlight. It’s very easy to get coloring and go right over places that were supposed to be light or white. This leaves the sketch looking one-dimensional. The first sketch:


For the second sketch, I used my Mixed Media paper, which has a smoother vellum surface. This took the color so much better. I still had to do a lot of layering and blending, but it was a lost less frustrating. I will have to try to find a similar paper that costs less for when I’m just practicing.

My initial sketch was very similar to the first sketch but there were slight variations (one being that I centered it better on the page).


I started off by making an underpainting with Dark Umber to get a feel for the dark and light areas. I was careful to mark areas of highlight.


Next, I added Dark Purple with relatively light pressure.


Then I put in some Pink.


I didn’t take any other pictures before I was finished, but the majority of completing the sketch was layering and blending the colors to reduce white flecks showing through. I blended out using a colorless blender pencil and then went over some areas again and blended in lighter areas with White or Light Peach. I also used Light Peach for the top of the onion. I used Indigo Blue and 50% Warm Gray (in addition to Dark Umber) for the shadow underneath the onion and layered Crimson Red on top of Dark Purple for the part of the onion that is showing through the skin.


It’s not perfect, but I definitely think it’s an improvement over the original! I’m glad that I started over and I will have to keep that in mind in the future, especially when it’s not just a sketch. I think part of the reason I don’t typically start drawings over is fear that I just can’t do it. But if I keep trying, it ultimately gives me the chance to produce something better. And that’s totally worth it.

Sketch: Figures

A friend shared this two-and-a-half hour video with me (originally a live figure drawing session on Facebook at 4pm on January 5, 2018; from Friday Evening Figure Drawing by Draw This)

This inspired me to do a figure drawing session, something I haven’t done in many years. It felt like being back in art class, sitting and just practicing and getting lost in the process. It’s been a while since I had that feeling, as I’ve been trying to produce finished pieces to get a portfolio together. I don’t claim to be any good at figure drawing, but I had fun!

I did these sketches in pencil on Newsprint paper (18×24). I apologize for the quality of the photos; I really need to get a better setup for taking pictures of my art one of these days.

The session began with twenty one-minute poses. I started by sketching out the shapes of the torso and limbs. Once I had a general idea of where everything went, I traced the contours for definition and to add detail, such as the placement of muscles. I’ve always been very slow at drawing, so the whole concept of timed poses was a challenge for me. In the first session I didn’t get very far since the poses were so short. I was able to get further more easily as time went on and I got more comfortable (I couldn’t even complete the first pose), but the poses themselves also seemed to get harder and harder. Great model!

IMG_3133IMG_313420 x 1 minute poses

Next came ten two-minute poses. It was nice having more time to spend on each pose, but unfortunately that didn’t help me much with proportions. I think I had the most trouble with getting the length of the torso right.

IMG_3135IMG_313610 x 2 minute poses

I had the same torso issue with three five-minute poses. I think I did the best job on the one in the center. With the five minute poses I had a chance to add some very basic shading.

IMG_31373 x 5 minute poses

Next up were two ten-minute poses. The model held a stick, creating even more interesting poses. I wanted to try a few different things, so I concentrated on shading with the time I had left on the first pose and focused on the model’s face in the second. (The poses were separate, but I wanted to continue with the same piece of paper.)

IMG_31392 x 10 minute poses

The final pose was fifteen minutes long and the model sat in a chair (I imagine it would be quite hard to stand very still for fifteen minutes). She did move a little occasionally but not so much that I felt it affected my ability to do the drawing.

IMG_31401 x 15 minute pose

I would have loved to have had more time to flesh out many of the poses, but so is the nature of live figure drawing. Yes, I could have paused the video, but that sort of defeats the purpose of the type of practice I was going for. All in all, I feel that I had a productive and enjoyable session and I’m looking forward to doing it again. I definitely recommend the video series, and it’s great that the video continues to be available after the official live session.

Sketch: Sunglasses

This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. As I’ve said, I’m terrified of working with anything I can’t erase. So I forced myself to do a sketch in ink, and not start over. I happened to randomly have a Pigma Micron pen with archival ink lying around (random, I know), so I used that. I had to be very deliberate with each line I put down. The perspective is way off (from what I saw in real life), but at least you can definitely tell what it’s supposed to be.


I experimented with cross-hatching, which is what I usually see in ink drawings. I don’t have a lot of experience with light/dark values in cross-hatching, so I didn’t like how it looked when I just left the lines farther apart to indicate a “lighter” area. I could use some practice with cross-hatching.


I also used directional lines and, at times, an oval motion. More of a scribble, if I’m being honest. I am so used to layering and trying to fill in every little space that I got impatient. Unfortunately, this led to all my values ending up too dark. I knew that the shadows were not a deep black, but that’s how they turned out once I had to adjust the values as everything else became darker. However, I think I still managed to indicate the translucence of the sunglasses a little bit, and was able to leave a few areas of highlight. I prefer the look of the right lens to the left, even though as I mentioned it is not in proper perspective. I like how it looks rounded and gradually transitions from lighter to darker areas.


For my first drawing in ink, I think I did well. I’m happy with it considering my lack of experience with this medium. I think it is something I would definitely try out again, but I admit that right now I’m still unlikely to do anything more involved than a small sketch. It might benefit me to try out different methods of cross-hatching before even attempting to complete a sketch. When I’m not working on another project, perhaps I will pursue this. I do have another colored pencil project in the works, which I hope to be able to share with you in the next few weeks!

Sketch: Cookie Scoop

As promised, here is my rendition of the cookie scoop in colored pencil. My starting sketch was similar to the one I made for my charcoal piece.


I wanted to play around with color, looking for different hues from just gray and silver. I ended up incorporating some dark green, peach, light blue, cream, and orange-red in addition to warm and cool grays.


For some reason I had more difficulty than usual keeping my pencils sharp enough to fill in the valleys of the paper (from my recycled sketch book), which affected my placement of highlights that would have created a more realistic reflective look. I also had to use a lot more layers to get enough pigment down to even start blending it. I much prefer the mixed media paper for colored pencil at this point. But I wanted to save the good paper for finished drawings. Some of the colors got a bit muddy as I mixed them, which tells me that I should have taken advantage of practicing on my scratch paper. Also, I could have done better with the light values. I am somewhat disappointed overall, but I am happy with how the scoop part turned out.

All in all, I didn’t quite succeed at the painterly effect I was going for, and I spent a lot more time than I planned on this sketch. But it’s all part of the learning experience, which is valuable in itself. Not everything I do is going to be perfect, and that’s okay.


Sketch: Dog Reclining

I did a little something to tide me over until I get my new colored pencils…but it didn’t turn out how I expected.

I went back to basics with this one—a pencil sketch—but with an unintentional twist (varying from my usual method). I used a photo reference. I drew directly from the image on the computer instead of printing it out because it can be very helpful to be able to zoom in on textural elements, but that turned out to be less relevant than I expected. I used my 9×12 recycled paper sketchbook.

First I sketched out the outlines with my 4H pencil. I really struggled to get the initial sketch for some reason, so I ended up roughly drawing the different shapes I saw to try and get the proportions right.


Then I went back in and smoothed out some of the lines to more closely reflect the image.


Next, I plotted out areas of light and dark using a #2 pencil because the 4H just isn’t dark enough, especially for a black dog. Typically I would start out with directional strokes and build up the texture of the fur that way, but I guess because I’ve been working with underpaintings and charcoal it was instinctive to cover broader areas of the page with the edge of my pencil. This greatly affected the outcome of the piece.


I added additional detail and did some cross-hatching, unsure of how I might improve the quality of the texture.


I ended up heading in the opposite direction and smoothed out the marks I had already put down with a paper blender, which resulted in an almost water-color-like look. This was definitely a go-with-the-flow drawing rather than a carefully planned one.


To be honest, this is not the sketch I was going for at all. I have had success with textured dog fur in the past, but in the end this turned into something else. I enjoyed drawing it though, and that matters a lot!


I decided not to finish the sketch because it already had all the elements I wanted.


How can you tell when a drawing is finished?

I’ve read that one big mistake artists make is calling a piece finished too soon. I agree that can be a problem. But to simplify things a little (especially for you perfectionists out there), here’s another way to tell if a drawing (or even a sketch) is “done”: it does what you want it to do. Think about whether your art is saying what you want it to say to the viewer. Does it look like what you wanted to draw (or something that surprised you but you are still happy with)? Does it give off the kind of energy that you want? Did you gain something in the process of drawing? (This could be new skills or ideas, or simply enjoyment of the process). Of course you want elements like highlights and shadows to be in place, too. I hope this is a helpful way to look at this issue.


Sketch: Cookie Scoop

This time I used a different sketchbook, this Strathmore Drawing 80lb Premium Recycled paper (9×12). The “Richeson” label at the bottom is the mark of my portable wooden easel that I’ve been using.


Here are my charcoal materials. They include willow charcoal, compressed charcoal, charcoal pencils (including white), kneaded erasers and paper blenders.


My initial sketch:


Next I laid down some charcoal to get started, an underpainting of sorts.


I’ve been told not to use my fingers to smudge the charcoal because the oils from your fingers get on the paper, but I still do it anyway. I like the effect and the process of working that closely with my hands. I did also use a paper blender in places narrower than my finger (after first attempting unsuccessfully with fingers).


I mostly used my willow charcoal (along with my 4H pencil), but I did add a bit of soft charcoal pencil for some definition and detail.


It’s been a while since I worked on a charcoal drawing with such small details. It was harder than I remembered! I have a habit of sticking with the medium willow charcoal no matter what, but there is a thinner one I could use, it just breaks easily. Again, this is a fast sketch and not a polished drawing. I’m using these as practice and as a learning tool.


Next week I’m planning on redrawing the cookie scoop and using colored pencil. It should be a fun experiment. I didn’t want to stuff too much into one post (and I’m still waiting on those Prismacolors–less than one week!!) After that, I hope to get inspired to do a bigger project, which will mean less frequent posting for a while, unless I decide to do mid-project updates.

Sketch: Champagne Bottle and Glass

I wanted to challenge myself by drawing something translucent/ transparent using colored pencils. Using the same materials as last time, I started again by drawing the basic outline of the shapes.

IMG_2954 (2)

Before I went in to do the underpainting, I used my kneaded eraser to lift some of the graphite off the page so it wouldn’t interfere with the colored pencil. My underpainting was pretty basic—I wanted to be sure to leave all the highlights untouched (I only partially succeeded at that. I did end up needing to go in with an eraser to lighten up some areas of highlight).

IMG_2955 (2)

Next I used directional lines to fill in the bottle, but I wasn’t thrilled with the results.

IMG_2956 (2)

I began to use a circular motion with the pencils to really get into the valleys of the paper and create a smoother laydown. I’m still not one hundred percent happy with the final result but I’m getting there. I’m not sure that I like how the colored pencil lays down on the material in this sketchbook though…

IMG_2957 (2)

I also had to adjust the top of the bottle to make it symmetrical. This time I added one material, a Prismacolor Colorless Blender Marker, which has a larger end that covers a lot more ground than the blender pencil.

IMG_2959 (2)

I decided to have a little fun with the background. I like how purple looks with green but I also threw in some complementary red as well.

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All in all I am satisfied with the final drawing. However, I’m learning that I really need to slow down when it comes to colored pencils because each stroke really matters, unlike with charcoal which is easy to rework. It helps to focus on small segments, breaking the drawing down into smaller shapes instead of trying to focus on filling in the whole picture at once.

I will admit that my “goal” has always been to achieve photo-realism, but lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that if a drawing is identical to a photograph, that doesn’t leave much room for the personal style of the artist to show—how would someone know that a drawing is mine if it doesn’t contain quirks that are particular to me, how I see things, and how I translate them to the page? I am ultimately happy when I am able to realistically suggest objects, even if every line does not match with the still life or photo reference I’m using. Sometimes you might have to step back from the picture a little to capture the effect. and that’s okay. It’s a relief to put a little less pressure on myself for perfection.