How to Approach a Night Drawing | Screech owl

How to Approach a Night Drawing | Screech owl

This night drawing of a screech owl tried to KICK MY BUTT.

It didn’t even wait til it was a night drawing. It started right away.

Why? THE PAPER.

In my previous post, Comparing 4 Colored Pencil Papers, I tried out some different ones in full drawings, and this one was SUPPOSED to be the one for Daler Rowney Smooth Heavyweight. 
Cutest little photo of a screech owl! The drawings were going to be just the birds for all these, so I could finish the project at some point, but that I could at least test out the paper enough to figure out what I thought of it.

Right away this paper fought me. It doesn’t like getting dark very quickly at all. Also, note that you’re looking at these photos from very close up, and all pencil can look kinda messy with your nose pressed against the paper….don’t judge your drawing til you look at it from a few feet away asi if hanging on a wall.

I worked on this during this month’s Open Studio Zoom, and the attendees got to hear my constant griping about the paper fight. LOL! Yeah, Zoom is where things get real, and it’s why I rarely do live streams anywhere, nobody needs to know how grumpy I get if art supplies don’t work! I went the powdered-pencil-plus-blending-solution route and darkened it for a night scene but….it was going to need far more work than I had time for before the video was to go live.

This drawing was set aside and I drew some happy little baby birds…..less real estate to cover, lighter values to render. However – I wasn’t about to let this owl get away and tell me it defeated me.

Nuh uh. 

No way.

You are not kicking my butt!

Tutorial: How to Approach a Night Drawing (Screech owl)

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Feathers n fronds

The owl’s feathers needed to go much darker; when going powdered pencil crazy I softened all of it, and had to dive in deep with some blacks; some because markings were black, some because the grey was dark enough I needed a more absolute black with more pigment than my scrap of a Prismacolor had to offer. Luminance to the rescue. 

The moss was something I’ve never tried before in colored pencil, and honstly I want to try it again after all I’ve learned from this experiment. It needed more preplanning than I had done here, clearly, and a paper that would allow me to put the darks down then pop lights on the tips. Nonetheless, even thought it looks messy close up, I was liking the distant view.

Both areas could handle a little light pencil on top of those layers, but nothing had a real pop of white, which would have been nice. (Looking at you with love, Pastelmat…) Remember when creating a night scene that you want to be dramatic, make the moonbeam limited–let it go from really bright light to midtones and darks quickly, so in an area like the chest, which is white, it went to blues fast to keep the focus up on the face.

Partially lit twigs

When light bounces around, it’ll add highlights to things like nearby twigs, but they aren’t as brightly lit as the main beam of moonlight – so the highlights are less, and usually picking up colors in the scene nearby. These twigs were far too sharp and were trying to steal attentin, along with the mosses behind them – and I ended up cotton-balling them so they softened and darkened.

 

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Photographing pencil is hard

lest you think it’s just you – it’s not easy to take photos of pencil. Graphite or colored pencil, same same. The surface is reflective, and if you have enough light around to see by, you get a shine on the surface, whether with a phone or camera. Since my phone is also dying, add that to the troubles!

This drawing is much more elegant in the transitions of value and softness….here’s one view on my desk from overhead…it amps up the colors and sharpens edges on my phone. Bleh. 

And then on the other side of the room away from sunlight, and though color is more accurate it doesn’t capture the softness of the branches. 

In my shop

I posted all my birds in the shop yesterday and sent an email to the suscribers over there on my fine art site….if they’re still available, snag one quick if you want it. The Kingfisher  sold within just a few hours last weekend!

Get your World Watercolor 
Month swag before it runs out!

Supplies

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Comparison: 4 colored pencil papers

Comparison: 4 colored pencil papers

My adventure with colored pencils continues! In my previous post I said I was trying out some drawings with the new “set” of colors in my Colored Pencil Conversion Chart – not that it’s a set, but it’s a grouping that I can now use in teaching! Before I was always testing every time I made a new class, hoping to locate colors that would have a match in both Polychromos and Prismacolor. And now that’s settled – though it required making a real test with a real drawing that you can see here

 

That left me thinking about much more – like, have I ever tested the newer papers in the studio in a head-to-head test? Nope. I had done that with some papers years back, and drawn with what I have….but not in a side by side test. So I finally did – with lollipops! You can watch the magic in the video, and see the full scale drawings later in this post.

 

 

All the rawings on this page are made with Polychromos penccils. Papers left to right above: Strathmore bristol, Daler Rowney heavyweight, Legion Stonehenge, and Clairefintaine pastelmat

Tutorial: Comparison – 4 colored pencil papers

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Want to color lollipops?

While some will want to engage with the bird drawings on offer in this post – some might be at the stage of creating a realistic looking lollipop! Got you covered. You can get this PDF tutorial along with the image to print on your favorite paper.

Strathmore Bristol, vellum finish

Back in college I had used a bristol, though that one isn’t made any more. I knew crafters who swore by this Strathmore, and had gotten some to try it out. 

While it can have a good result, it’s….well, it’s hard to work with, in that it takes a lot of layers and demands blending solution! I love me some contrast, and this made me work for it. Perhaps if there was more time on the clock, more hours in the day, I might have been willing to sit with it longer, but it frustrated me. 

The drawing experience isn’t great either; resorting to heavy pressure just makes it difficult to want to use the paper for colored pencil. But for 45cents for a 9×12 sheet, you can’t ask much, can you?

Daler Rowney smooth heavyweight

Another inexpensive paper clocking in around 75cents a sheet, this one was the favorite of a wildlife illustrator. She dows lovely work, but also the patience of Job, I think! I did like the texture it created, but the time factor with so many layers was crazy. No blending solution here, just layer after layer, using complementary colors to create shadow hues.

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Legion Stonehenge drawing paper

Now we’re talking! This paper entered my life years ago and has been a go-to, and side by side with the others it was easy to see why….it’s quite soft and gathers up a lot of pigment on the paper! I prefer a paper that doesn’t make me use blending solutions, and there’s none used here. Again, complementary colors throughout – and a floofy bunch of feathers!

The one problemwith birds and this paper is that it’s tough to deal with adding white on top of other colors when the pencil has already been built up; it only gets to be a grey color. Because of that I added negative coloring for the darkest areas, adding shadows around feathers to let those determine the shapes of the lightest bits

Clairefontaine pastelmat

Made spevigivally for pastel, this paper also works quite nicely with colored pencil. It holds a lot of pigment like the Stonehenge,  but also allows enough layers that you can get a pretty decent (though still imperfect) white on top of other color.

If you have an area that needs to be white-white, leave the white of the paper OR make sure white is the first layer of color in that area. Thats what i did with the kinggfisher in my previous video–the white water, white highlights in the bird, and the white sky opening all went in as the base white.

Two drawbacks to pastelmat;

  1. the cost. At almost $4 a sheet in a 9×12 pad, it’s kinda crazy. You can try a single sheet for just over $5 if you want to see if you like it. (links at the end of this post0
  2. the white attracts dirt! whether dirt from the air, fingerprints, dust……..it all sticks to the paper. Develop tidy habits, cover your work overnight, and be  careful of any stray marks.

Two new classes

Both are level 4 classes; the drawings are traced so don’t worry about having to know enough about drawings to get the proportions right.

Nuthatch

This drawing is on white, and includes a lot about complementary colors blue and orange. Only five pencils made this entire drawing – it’s pretty amazing. 

Blue Tit

This yellow bird with a blue back (that you can’t see) is also level 4, and is on charcoal grey. It’s more forgiving as far as messiness1 and lots of fun to work with.

Closing thoughts 

I won’t be doing a 100% switch to pastelmat for colored pencil work, but if I hit the lottery i might, ha! Stonehenge still works well for me and gets nicely pigmented. 

Supplies

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Clairefontaine Pastelmat by the pad…no 2 is what I’ve been working with.

  1. Palette No 1 Maize, Buttercup, Dark Grey, Light Grey  BLICKAMZ 
  2. Palette No 2 Sienna,White, Brown, Charcoal Grey   BLICKAMZ 
  3. Palette No 4 Dark Blue, Light Blue, Wine, Sand  BLICKAMZ
  4. Palette No 5 Dark Green, Light Green, White, Dark Blue BLICKAMZ
  5. Palette No 7 BLICK

Clairefontaine Single color pads:

  1. Charcoal grey only Pad BLICK
  2. White only Pad BLICK

Clairefontaine Pastelmat by the sheet:

Charcoal grey Sheet BLICK (for Bluetit)

White Sheet BLICK (for Nuthatch)

Try this blending tool with colored pencils

Try this blending tool with colored pencils

Blending with colored pencils is a skill we can spend our artistic lives on  – and a small fortune on as well! Fortunately the tools to try aren’t expensive – like blending stumps, cotton balls, qtips, brushes, and even a very clean finger! (Be careful, oils from your finger can wreak havoc on your artwork.)

I hadn’t thought of trying the tool I want to show you today – but my cup of pastel tools was right there beside me just begging to be tried out. Since colored pencils and pastels are dry pigment, it was sure worth a try!

Tutorial: Try this blending tool with colored pencils

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Bokeh on dark vs light

Soft blends are what makes bohek work – and I think colored pencil is 2nd easiest to create it with (pastel being #1). The color if the paper makes a real difference in the techniques applied.  

When working on light paper, the ‘valleys’ , or low spots between peaks, are what causes the speckled look…the white paper shows through, and filling those spaces in with pigment in a variety of techniques can smooth that out. I happen to love that texture when I can get it to be evenly distributed!

It’s easier to make those spots less visible when the pigment color is close to the paper color, so on white, the lightest colors don’t need as much blending.

On dark paper, though, the valleys show up as dark spots in between the peaks of the paper. That means more pressure to apply more pigment is needed to increase the brightness as well as filling in those gaps.

If drawing a pale bokeh, a lighter paper would be more helpful; for primarily dark bokeh, select a darker paper.

Tips for bokeh

Layer colors atop each other as they touch, so that in thoe areas where they cross you’ll get 50% of each color, letting both trail off in the direction of the other color. From this experiment, I can say it doesn’t matter whether they’re analagous colors (adjacent on the color wheel) in colored pencil, since this technique works great. Other mediums are more likely going to be helped by using colors close to each other.

Make the bokeh dots different sizes, and watch the scale of them compared to the focal image. In this case, the dots needed to NOT be more important than the bird; the kingfisher is to be the star, so I had to watch my colors, values, and sizes so the bird remained most important. Study a lot of images on google to get an idea what the scale might be to go with your subject.

In a forest like this one, add trees that remain SOFT by surrounding any black lines with a light color so the trunk and breanches seem to feather out.

One of the last changes I made on this image was to turn some of the dots into partial hexagons, leaving some of the edges trailing off into each other to keep them looking like they were floating and mixing together. I squinted to make sure the backgound didn’t have areas that were as detailed as the bird and water.

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Kingfisher for sale….

If you’d like a kingfisher to display on your wall…

Get the conversion chart

Today’s project came about because of the conversion chart so go grab yourself one!

Supplies

Some product may be provided by manufacturers for review and use. Compensated affiliate links are here at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work with your purchases! Full affiliate and product disclosure | My trusted partners in art

How to draw black fur in colored pencil | Remembering Cricket

How to draw black fur in colored pencil | Remembering Cricket

Last week I heard about a sweet dog that passed away. Or rather than passed away, she was…deliberately killed. 🙁 She was bred to be a hunting dog, but when she was a bit too rambunctious and disturbed her mama’s hunting day, Cricket was taken to a gravel pit and shot. My heart just breaks typing this.

 

If any dog deserves a memorial portrait, it’s Cricket. The family’s kids will remember her, and hopefully the mama will live with regret for what she did and bragged about. But please, if your dog isn’t living up to what you expect, please just take it to a shelter. It may not be adopted from there, either, since we don’t have enough people willing to adopt dogs — but at least give the doggo a chance.

Enough about that. Let’s get to some of the cutest parts of Cricket – her fur!

Then we’ll talk about my shelter FUNDRAISER!

 

Tutorial: How to draw black fur in colored pencil | Remembering Cricket

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Underpainting with color

When creating black fur, or really anything black, I like to mix in some color – so it won’t look like just a blob of value but will have some “life” in the black.

I added a light grey, blue, and purple in the highlights of a smooth black fur area – then added the blacks. Mixing with blending solution helps to break down the pigment and get it to move with a blending stump.

 Even if you don’t draw animals – you can use this technique on anything that you color!

Dramatic background

I had one heck of a time getting her body to look right in the layout I had begun – so I opted to just get rid of it and make it black. Which turned out to be a good test with this new-to-me Strathmore Colored Pencil paper. It didn’t do an amazing job, but it wasn’t awful either. Definitely using blending solutions on this paper is the way to go.

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Fundraiser for shelter

I’ll be raising money for a shelter near the place where Cricket once lived – in hopes of saving other doggos who need help now! You can purchase Cricket swag and all the money I get from those will be donated. I’ll also be donating a % from pet commissions through the end of May. So if you’re interested in the swag:

  1. On my site 
  2. On FineArtamerica 

If you’d like a commission, drop me an email – we can discuss medium, size, etc, and I’ll quote you a price!

Supplies

Some product may be provided by manufacturers for review and use. Compensated affiliate links are here at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work with your purchases! Full affiliate and product disclosure | My trusted partners in art

Colored Pencil vs Pastel Pencil (with Fur Seal painting)

Colored Pencil vs Pastel Pencil (with Fur Seal painting)

I’m back with more about Mom today, I hope that’s okay! She’s given me her art supplies over the years as she downsized, and while I visited her recently she also passed on the last of her vintage pastel pencils.  (Read more of that here.)

Today – I have an art piece to share! It’s a pastel painting of a fur seal; and yes pastels are called, by most artists, paintings, and I think the technique here will show you why. Because I used a paintbrush for the technique!

Tutorial: Colored Pencil vs Pastel Pencil (with Fur Seal painting)

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Colored pencil vs pastel pencil

In the little exercise below, I used Stonehenge – just to give colored pencil a leg up. I could have done this on Pastelmat, but it’s expensive per sheet, plus the pastel REALLY rocks on Pastelmat, so my Prismacolors needed an assist.

I do still love my colored pencils – there are some things they’re better for. Like cards, or any art that’ll be ‘handled’ in any way, because the pigment doesn’t move nearly as much as pastel. For colored pencils, wet blending intensifies color, helps to fill in the white gaps in the paper so it looks smoother. But – once you get a certain amount of pigment on the paper, you reach a point where you can’t add a lighter color on top.

Pastel (sticks or pencils) keep on a-moving – any dry pigment drawn onto paper will move with the slightest touch of a finger, especially if no fixative is used. When wet-blended with isopropyl alcohol, pastel turns into a mushier color rather than brighter. The pigment breaks down and moves with a watercolor effect, but does the opposite of colored pencils. However the technique restores the texture of the paper; think of the pastel as “filling” the valleys between the texture, and when dry, you can only put so much in. But once wetted with alcohol, the peaks and valleys are once again workable.

Both mediums can be sprayed with a fixative – though with the way I use pastel, I have yet to find an excellent fix that holds everything in place without yellowing or changing the color. If anyone has a good suggestion that does better than Delacroix Fixatif by Sennelier – let me know, I’ll be researching it!

 

Fur Seal painting

This was cobbled together from a variety of references – one of a different kind of seal in this position, another for the rock, and another for the fur seal markings. I created my own lighting situation too which meant imaginging colors!

I’m still torn on whether to add a background – more rocks on a coastal shore. I kinda like him just as is…..

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Supplies

Some product may be provided by manufacturers for review and use. Compensated affiliate links are here at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work with your purchases! Full affiliate and product disclosure | My trusted partners in art

Vintage art supplies from Mom

Vintage art supplies from Mom

At the risk of sending people running for the hills by talking about Mom again…I’m talking about Mom again. 🙂 I mean, how many people can say they celebrated their 60th birthday with their mama after not having done so in over 45 years!? (Not because we didn’t want to, but spring has never been a time we’ve gathered. It’s always Thanksviging to Christmas.)

First, in non-vintage, Mom had sent my birthday package weeks ago. She’s on top of it! I set it on the counter, and when packing for the emergency trip, I entirely spaced it, even though I had some consciousness that my birthday was going to fall in the middle of the trip. On the day, I had dinner with my sisters at a nice Italian restaurant, then we traipsed to the hospital for cake with Mom; though we couldn’t figure out if candles would be okay since Mom had an oxygen tank and we weren’t sure if we’d blow anything up! So we pretended.

Mom did tell me what was IN the package she had sent, and how she’d looked for a  yellow one, even orange, but the best she could do was maroon. And, well, that will show less dirt so I’m great with it! I might add my yellow flower pin to it.

But the best part of my 60th? That was looking over at Mom, in her hospital bed with a huge grin on her face, singing to me. She was hurting, she had tubes all over the place, uncomfortably in a hospital bed – but celebrating with me for the first time since I was a kid. That’ll stay with me for all the rest of my birthdays.

 

Tutorial: Vintage art supplies from Mom (and cards from YOU!)

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Pencil Sharpening

While this video was about sharpening pastel pencils, the same applies to colored pencils. There are lots of ways to sharpen, lots of ways to break the pencil pigment, and it’s all a matter of the time and effort you want to put into it.

I have a variety of sharpeners, and this isn’t even all – but here’s how I use most of my sharpeners:

General’s All-Art Sharpener – I picked it up recently, and it works pretty great aside from pencils with thick barrels.

Quietsharp Pencil Sharpener– Electric, so it’s good for a quick sharpening.

Afmat Long Point Pencil Sharpener  – a good long point is my preference since it lasts longer – not possible for pastels, they’re too soft.

Dahle Sharpener  – Standard 2-hole options (longer and shorter points). Blades on any brands of these will wear out so get new ones often.

Dahle Chubby Pencil Sharpener  – Anything called chubby so boldly gets my vote. Only one sized hole though.

Xacto Sur Grip Utility Knife  – for old-school sharpening! Get a new blade, you won’t regret the sharpness.

Pastel vs Colored pencils

Soft pastel moves more easily than colored pencil – so be prepared for that. Not great for cards (though a shaker card with no shaker bits can really protect the pastel) and if using in a sketchbook I lightly tack a sheet of glassine on top to keep pastel from moving around. Framed pastel pieces should have the mat lifted above the surface of the paper using shims – that way if any pigment lets go and drops, it falls behind the mat and won’t dirty it.

Colored pencils are harder, and will stay in place better, though can also move. Thus why I love using it in powdered form where it behaves more like pastel. Lighter pressure keeps the pigment floating on the top of the paper, so it can move, but harder pressure or wet blending techniques make the pigment stick to the paper and not move around.

Both can be “fixed” (sprayed) but few fixes that I like are immovable. Those kind can change the color of your art, they might yellow, or become weirdly shiny. I use Delacroix Fixatif by Sennelier.

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Mom’s advice

When talking with Mom for the last two weeks, I asked her so many questions! Knowing this would likely be the last time I could sit and just talk with her, I soaked up all I could from her. A recent newsletter contained a number of my learnings, and hopefully in coming months I’ll share more of her ideas as I create art using them. 

The biggest takeaway that has me stumped is what she thought I do best: I wanted to know if it was watercolor, marker, pencil, etc. But what she wanted to know I would pursue: portraits. And secondly animals. “Not so much landscapes. You do people so well.” Now frankly, she doesn’t see all of what I do; she no longer watches YT or visits my blog. She only sees when I post art on my personal Facebook page, and since I don’t go post things there very often, it’s most of the time when I do a portrait of someone who died! What I plan to do more of is to post more of my regular art on my personal page, not just the biz page……so that my friends and family see more of the breadth of my work. Plus….I’ll try more portraits, because Mom said, and I listen to Mom. But she also said animals, and I’m hanging onto that tidbit. (And will continue my randomness too!)

BTW this little tangerine was begun before I left for the trip is still not finished, but hopefully will be soon. 

Thank you all

I am deeply grateful for all the lovely comments and emails during this last couple weeks! So many of you have told me your own stories of loss of parents, some who were present for it, others who regretted not being able to be. It means so much to hear from you and know I’m not alone; it’s simply my turn.

Mom is still in hospice as I’m typing this, and we don’t know if it’ll be days or weeks. She still wants to get herself down to bingo, and to art group, and join her bff for scrabble or the whole gang for bridge. I worry over so much activity that could include falls – and yet I celebrate her passion to keep up with the things she loves! I can only hope to be as energetic as she’s been in her elder years.