Color Pencil Lesson One from Home School Arts

       Below is an illustration I rendered while visiting one of my favorite places in Ohio, the Columbus Zoo. It was completed on Kid Finish Bristol board. I have lived in the west and east and have been to Zoo's all over the country but this Zoo is one of the finest I have had the pleasure to visit. It is a great place to take your sketchpad and enjoy a wonderful day relaxing and drawing with your family. The variety of animals and people are a treasure chest of opportunities. The delight and amazement I see in my son's eyes as well as all the other children is irreplaceable. That is what I try to capture in my drawings.

       Anyhow back to the subject at hand. This is a snow leopard that is one of my favorite exhibits. I did a whole series of this particular animal and sold them all in one day at a fair. There is something mysterious about cats whether they are domestic or wild. You can just never tell what they are thinking. What does all this have to do with color pencil drawing? Color pencil is a very clean and easily transported media. You don't need anything except the pencils; a drawing pad; a sharpener and a small tin to keep your shavings in until you can dispose of them properly.

ARE YOU DINER? Color Pencil 15 X 27 inches

       Light layering with the color pencil is what gives the illusion of depth and life to a drawing. I first do a loose pencil sketch of the subject with a HB or #2 pencil using very little pressure so that the color pencil will cover it. I must admit it is always better to render the drawing on site while experiencing the sites, sounds and smells of the day. It seems that it helps to enhance the creative process and you don't have to rely on memory. However if I don't have enough time to render the subject at the Zoo I always carry a camera so I can take lots of photos of the interesting subjects at the Zoo. Then back in my studio I can render the subjects at my leisure.

       Let's take a closer look at the process of layering. Following is a series of examples from beginning to end to show the process.


       First we will draw a circle with a HB pencil using Very light pressure. Then using a PC976 Canary Yellow Pencil (Berol), lightly fill in the circle.

       The next step would be to think about where you want your highlights and shadows. In other words decide where you want your light source to come from. If you were drawing the sun you would have to think about how high in the sky the sun would be. Remember while drawing the sun DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO IT!!!! As in the rendering of the cat above I chose to create the illusion of a setting sun. That is what we are going to render in this example.


       Using a PC1003 Spanish Orange pencil start to create the shape by varying the pressure used in covering the first layer of yellow. Leaving an area of lights to work with later. Next layer a covering of 921 Vermilion Red again varying the pressure and width of the covering. Always layer from the outside of the circle toward the center.


       Next we will start to add and adjust the color layers as we go. We will be using 922 Scarlet Red and 925 Crimson Lake as well as 937 Tuscan Red. We will also be using the colors we have already used to adjust and intensify the illustration. As you can see each subsequent layer adds an illusion of depth to the work.

       Now we will use varying degrees of 938 White and PC976 Canary Yellow to Burnish the work. Burnishing means using harder pressure to blend the under layers together. The one caution I have here is that color pencils will some times have an effect called wax bloom, which is a haze that develops when a lot of the media is used. There are a couple of ways that I use to get rid of this problem. One is that I use cotton puffs to polish the drawing surface like you would a car with wax on it. This process has a draw back in that you must do this a couple of times to settle the color. The other solution is to use a coating of Fixative of some kind to cover the work.

       In the final rendering of this sun like ball you can see how the layering created the illusion of 3-dimension space on a 2-dimension drawing. We will create the illustration of the snow leopard in a different lesson.

       On the following page I will list a bibliography of books that cover the Color Pencil in depth. Please go to your public library or invest in some of these books. They are invaluable resources for the budding artist.

       In subsequent lesson we will be discovering the use of color pencil in shadow, portraiture animal and human, still life and landscape drawing.

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