Tag Archives: trees

Colour sketching

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)

I talk a lot when teaching. Traveling down South with my music player on shuffle was wonderful!
I talk a lot when teaching. Traveling down South with my music player on shuffle was wonderful!

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.

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Space & Time

You don’t need a dedicated studio or a large amount of time to get back to (or continue) with your creative pursuits.

Dedicated studio = a place where you can leave things set up; where you don’t have to pack things away; where you can step back in and carry on where you left off.  What a great luxury that not many of us have.  I’ve got a great excuse to have a studio for myself – I have over a hundred students coming through my large teaching art studio every week so I’ve kept a corner for myself.  Perfect.

Augusta - South West Australia
Augusta – South West Australia

So, how do you keep the creative spark going?  The first thing you need is the attitude that art can happen anywhere and anytime and drawing is the perfect vehicle for that.  An A5 visual diary and a pen is all you need to start.  It can  be a simple ball point pen, a special waterproof ink pen or anything in between.  It doesn’t even matter what colour it is.

A pen works instead of a pencil (although that’s also fine) because you don’t have to sharpen it (and carry a sharpener or knife), it won’t break or mess up a bag .  You won’t get your hands covered in graphite as you draw and you won’t have to worry about erasing!  Believe me, all of  that frees you up.

Drawn while dining at the beautiful Leeuwin Estate Winery – Margaret River
  • You can draw for one minute or many.
  • Just draw something you see or doodle as your mood takes you.
  •  Don’t wait for a spare half an hour or a beautiful subject.
  • Draw something small.
  • Draw a part of something.
  • Draw leaf litter, a half eaten apple or dirty dishes before you wash them.
  • Don’t be perfect.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration.
  • If it’s not working then work over it or turn the page and draw something else.

It actually doesn’t matter what the end result looks like.  It matters that you are involved, observing and following where the line takes you.

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Quick Tip #1 – Trees

When drawing trees always sketch the foliage in first!

That way it won’t look like the tree has been cut through the middle with its skeleton revealed.  Notice that not all the branches are visible and those that you can see are only partially visible  as they peek through the spaces between clumps of foliage.

Australian ghost gum (Eucalyptus)
Australian ghost gum (Eucalyptus)

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