Discovering Color

On days when I don’t quite feel like drawing, it’s nice to be able to sit back and contemplate the times when I do.

For a long time I had been yearning to work with color, to get out of a black-and-white rut I felt stuck in. There is certainly a place for black and white in the world of art, but I was feeling held back in projects that I knew could be vibrant and stunning in color. I’m still new to mixing color into realistic hues, and experimenting mainly with colored pencils so far, but it really feels like a whole new world has opened up for me. Also, colored pencil is a lot less messy than charcoal. (Side note: I thought that I could get away with not spraying my drawings anymore, but it turns out that I still have to worry about wax bloom.)

We see colors all day every day, and where I once was focused on light and dark and shadows and contours, now I am seeing differently. I look for colors and hues, even in white objects and seemingly black shadows. But all the work I did with black and white, besides solidifying my drawing skills, ultimately set up a foundation for achieving accurate values in color—the lights, the darks, and the in-between. Do you know how many different shades of gray there are? There are 9 in my new set of colored pencils alone!

Now that I have started to explore color, it seems almost impossible to go back. I will probably return to black and white from time to time, when I have an idea that it is suited for, or when I long for the comfortable feel of smudging charcoal around with my fingers. But for now, I have fallen in love with colored pencils and what they can do, and are doing, for my art.


Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts, colored pencil on mixed media paper, 2017 (11×14), my first drawing in colored pencil

Project: Seagull on a Post, Part 2

Welcome to the second and final part of my Seagull on a Post project. I left off with just the seagull standing on the post.

For the tires, I tried the dark umber/ indigo blue trick again and it worked well! The Prismacolors blend beautifully. I liked that I was able to go back in and use black and white to suggest the tire treads.


I’m very happy with how the shadows on the bottom of the post turned out. Using just the colored pencils and the colorless blender pencil I was able to achieve a painting-like quality. I used a pencil to add in the details of the water (very faint in the photo).


Then I got to the water itself. I actually chose the water background because it scared me. I wanted to challenge myself. If I never do, how will I improve? I had practiced on scrap paper and come up with which colors to use but not really perfected the look when I finally decided that I just needed to dive in (pun intended). I wasn’t happy with how my first attempt at the water came out and even resorted to using paint thinner, which I don’t love, to try and blend the colors better—it’s a pretty big surface area to blend with pencil or even the colorless marker. The paint thinner lets you push the pigment around on the page, but you have to make sure there is enough pigment down first or not much happens. Besides the color being overly green, my main problem was that I made the water too dark for the foreground. I tried to burnish with cloud blue and then added some white, but it didn’t make a noticible difference; there was already too much pigment on the paper. First  I pouted for a while, and then I realized that all I needed to do was adjust the color values for the water farther back (make it darker) to result in a realistic, if not ideal, background.


I kept working on the water, adding an additional, darker blue tone as I got further into the background. I found that the paint thinner was, if not enjoyable (it feels like painting, which I don’t like—yet), necessary. It seems a bit like cheating, but it’s very hard to imagine filling in the entire background and getting enough pigment down only using the pencils and a blender. Maybe someday…This could be a case where mixing media, such as adding watercolor, would be useful.


I finished the water, continuing with the placing pigment, spreading with paint thinner method and, after it dried, added some directional strokes to get the colors a bit closer to what I wanted. I also did some final burnishing. It was so tempting to call the drawing done before it was, and even when it actually was! I have trouble letting go of the idea of perfection. The finished piece:

IMG_3032 Watermarked

Seagull on a Post, colored pencil on Mixed Media paper, 2017 (11×14)

All in all I would describe my water as “vibrant”—not what I was going for to start with, but a pleasing effect nonetheless. For my first piece with professional-level colored pencils, I think it turned out pretty good. I ended up using about 30 colors for this project. Now I just have to spray it with Workable Fixatif so the wax doesn’t bloom (make a cloudy film over the surface). Unfortunately it’s about -1 billion degrees outside…

I hope you are enjoying following along with my art!

Why This Blog?

I am starting this blog as a record of my journey to improve my art skills and experiment with different methods and mediums. My goal is to post pictures of my current art projects stage by stage with commentary on the techniques I used and what I learned and experienced. I also hope to provide tips and tricks that will help beginning artists as they learn to put what they see onto the page and find their artistic voice.

“Drawing through” can refer to thinking about the shape and form of an object as you draw–not just what you see but also what you don’t see. For example, when you are drawing a 3D object such as a house, you want to keep the back of the house in mind in order to create a realistic image, even though it won’t ultimately show in your drawing.

You can also “draw through” in other ways; I plan on drawing through the setbacks and difficulties that I will inevitably face in this journey.

Monk Trees WatermarkedMy favorite charcoal drawing, “Monk Trees,” 2015 (18×24). From a personal photograph.