Before starting this exercise I went online to look for different ways of using colour pencils but the majority of examples were all high rendered realistic drawings which was surprising and a bit disappointing.
This meant I had to look elsewhere for inspiration and found it more in mixed media examples where some had employed colour pencils (I think) in their designs. I didn’t include any in this post as none provided direct influence.
The design layout of this exercise also required some pre-planning. Again, I went back to the internet for real references of cupcakes and teapots. I then arranged them on a page to make sure they all fit with equal spacing around them. If I hadn’t of done this, I would have drawn the first couple of items too big and probably squished in the last row in, like starting too far to the right or down when writing in a birthday card and you run out of space.
I was also after different shapes, decorations, colours but found way more chocolate cupcakes with swirly icing and brown teapots than I needed. Which is why I also had to prepare a little colour guide if I didn’t want this to be an exercise in brown, which isn’t a bad idea for another exercise…
This turned out better than I anticipated. I know this sounds stupid but the colours are far more vivid than I expected them to be, almost matching the intensity of something like gouache paint.
When you’re drawing food you want it to look enticing to eat (unless you’re intention is different). Care has to be taken with colour choices – using the wrong tone of brown may leave your chocolate cake look dry or unappetising. Blues, purples and blue-greens can be unappealing, hence the over abundance of food packaging in reds, yellows and browns. But that’s not to say they can’t be used nor shouldn’t be, it just requires thought and exploration.
Initially I wanted to put a colour in the background but ran out of time. So I did one up quickly in Photoshop to see what it would look like.
I teamed this up with watercolours but relegated it to the background as a wash. It’s not how I originally imagined it – which was supposed to be big blocks of wash purely to create texture with less of the paper showing through. However, I kept struggling with it in my head thinking it might make the whole thing look too blocky and possibly overpower the drawings.
Anyway, it’s not too bad. I like the movement and character in it.
Years ago I was commissioned to do some jobs wanting fashion illustration style drawings. Surprisingly it’s a style I’ve never explored except briefly in high school though that was more about playing around with brush and ink for the first time. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been much of a fashionista, in fact a loathe how much importance women place on clothes.
However, fashion illustration is a very freeing, expressive way of drawing. It does help if you enjoy drawing the human body and have a basic understanding of anatomy, but we’re not talking about a life-drawing standard with rendering muscle tone, body mass and foreshortening. It’s closer to comic book illustration – clean tapered lines, minimised details and suggestive shapes. It’s less about the human form but about the sensual abstract notion of the figure, usually female, to highlight the clothes’ design and cut using bursts of colour, texture and gestural linework to accentuate the female form, thus the clothes.
My reference was downloaded from Shutterstock, an online licensed photo database that I use frequently for work. I really wanted to use images of high-end haute couture images but I was paranoid about any copyright sensitivities regarding the designs.
Each drawing has a watercolour base so I wouldn’t use up a lot of physical labour creating volume and shape with colour pencils. I may have mentioned it before, but I do find this medium quite hard on the hand compared to graphite pencils.
Like always, I was heavy handed with this drawing – I was putting down so much pencil work it was starting to look flat. To bring back the volume I had to dig in and make some areas even more dense with colour so that it would contrast with areas that had more line work.
There are such broad, distinctive shapes in this drawing that they had the capacity to clash with each other, so I used blue to bind all the elements together. It also softens the large swathes of black, fiery reds and oranges.
Speaking of orange, because that colour in the picture is concentrated to her hair, for my drawing I put some of the same colour opposite on her sleeve and arm so that it wouldn’t feel lop-sided.
Another thing I’m conscious of trying to establish is to use the pencils to mimic the different types of fabric. I guess that’s why the execution in the first drawing was so heavy – I was trying to recreate the gathered vinyl with its stiff structure and long, rigid feathers.
In complete contrast this picture and outfit is light and airy. The dress is a light cotton buoyed by something like an organza or tulle fabric underneath. Her ribbon is very soft and airy and even her pose is meek and dainty.
My approach was to let the shapes breathe. So less linework and employing broken lines at that– to let the negative space or white paper as well as the watercolour washes come through. I also kept my pencils really sharp for nice, thin lines which helped create an overall lightness to the picture. However, with all the fine linework there was the danger of it looking too busy so I balanced it out with some soft shading using the side of the pencil.
Putting this drawing together was like building a house of cards. At any point I felt like I could overwork it, lose its lightness or balance. So how did I know when to stop or what areas to work on? I didn’t. I had to take it one step at a time and allow my intuition to guide me. I was far more careful and slower then ever before, showing a LOT of restraint which I never knew I had. Out of all the drawings in this exercise this is my favourite.
This one I layered up the pencil work with more shading using the side of the pencil nib rather than the point. But of course I had to balance that out with clean linework as well. I used to think shading an object using the side of a pencil was cheating, like a short cut to avoid hard work. In some ways I still do becuase you’re not learning anything about shape, light play, reflection etc but it is a wonderful way to add accent, texture and ‘colour’ to a picture.
I’ll also point out now, like the cupcakes, I kept coming across the same colour profiles in my picture references so had to swap them out with other colours.
I left this one to last becuase it was probably the easiest in terms of strong visual cues. There’s already lots of movement and linework in the photo which creates helpful starting points for a drawer. So this was my ‘warm down’ exercise, where I didn’t have to think as hard.
A problem area was going to be the bodice which has lots of sequin work that I wasn’t particularly interested in capturing in detail. That’s the difference between my drawings and real fashion illustration – any pattern designs would be treated with more care and intricacy.
Though I did appreciate that this area was going to give me contrast to the more expressive, billowy parts of the picture. To establish this I combined short pencil strokes, with some fine paint splatter during the watercolour stage and restricted this technique only to the bodice. This also helped to create a sparkle type feel to the fabric.
That’s probably my favourite part of this picture, and like before, as it’s the only area with greens and yellows I made sure to throw some of that colour in other sections to anchor it all together.
The Creative Plan – Day 3 Colour Pencils