Adding colour to drawings is often a nerve wracking experience. Limiting our colour options helps us to be creative without being overwhelmed with all the wonderful colours to choose from. My favourite coloured tools are watercolour pencils – Faber Castell – Albrecht Durer and Derwent – Inktense pencils are fantastic artist quality and my preference. You can buy them individually or in different sized sets.
A basic kit of cool and warm primaries (more on that soon) plus a few extra is all you need. I often use only Indigo, ultramarine, a dark crimson, cad red and cad yellow or raw sienna (although I did sneak in a grey green in the sketch below)
All my recommended do’s and don’ts of the Space & Time post apply to working in colour as well. However there is something else that is crucial to remember when working with colour.
Colour does not replace tonal variation.
Many drawers forget about shapes of tone and replace them with shapes of colour regardless of what the tone is. Colour provides an additional layer of interest on a work that should stand up tonally as a well balanced composition even without colour. When you see a boring watercolour painting it is likely so because the artist has not paid attention to the darks and lights.
Ok ok…. I’ll jump down off my favourite soap box…. back to sketching in colour. Some tips regarding using watercolour pencils. This is not an exhaustive list so I hope you find your own techniques as well (and share them)
Experiment, experiment and experiment some more.
Mix colours to see what you come up with.
Choose a blue and yellow along with or instead of a green.
The marks you make will remain even once you wet them.
Draw with your watercolor pencils (not graphite first) and mix and match as your eyes, mood and artistic license suggest.
Don’t worry about getting the colour exactly right. As sketchers we are capturing impressions and playing with colour to enhance and enrich our work.
Draw with the pencils then wet and spread the marks you’ve made with the brush.
Take some colour off the tip of the pencil with your wet brush and paint with the pigment or even wet the tip of the pencil and draw with that to get a rich textural line.
Using a travel water-brush (as seen above) makes watercolour pencil sketching easier.
Although watercolour pencils will work on drawing cartridge, it is preferable to work on heavier cartridge paper or watercolour paper as some paper will not stand up to too much wetting.
A while ago I ran the second class of an 8 class drawing course during which I introduced the students to blind contour drawing. I often come away feeling energised from the classes and that day I had one more example of just how much I enjoy sharing my passion for drawing and art.
I have come to understand that I feel as passionate about sharing my art knowledge as practicing art itself. I bubble over, sometimes uncontrollably, in my enthusiasm to fill my students up with information. To excite them and to inspire them to find their own artistic space. I strive to open their eyes not only to the world in front of them but to the extended pleasure of the process.
“Don’t care what it looks like” and “Dare to stuff it up” are strange comments in a drawing classes but these are some of the words that I repeat to give students permission to have a go and learn and grow.
I love to laugh and tease and try to do so only when I feel that I am trusted. I feel that it is important that each student is valued and learns to value themselves and their work in a discipline that often brings out much self-judgement. However, I also appreciate it when my students feel comfortable enough to return that teasing in kind.
While the students were concentrating on a blind contour drawing of their own hand the room fell quiet. As I walked around the room I commented on how quiet it was and that it demonstrated how difficult it was to use both the left (talking/language) side of the brain and the right (intuitive/creative) side of the brain at the same time. A short time after the hand exercise, I was demonstrating an extended version and used the blind contour line method to draw a plant. About 5 minutes into the demonstration one of my students commented “Gee Karen, you don’t seem to be having any difficulty talking and drawing at the same time!” I had been talking non-stop! Well, I packed up laughing. Another student (who had done a term with me many years ago) piped up “Karen can talk underwater with marbles in her mouth!” Said and received with love.
So, to all my students – past, present and future – It is all of you that inspire me to share and talk and talk and talk. I give you what I know with openness and pleasure. You all give me so much in return. Thank you