Monday, December 14, 2015

Cliché in Red

12/14/15 water-soluble colored pencils
When I first glanced at the cardinal on the cover of one of the hundreds of catalogs we’ve received in the mail so far this season, it seemed like such a holiday cliché. But the more I looked at it, the more I appreciated the beautiful photo, and when I looked carefully at the bird’s red feathers, I realized “red” was an enormous over-simplification. The color is actually a complex blend of many shades of red, orange and even a little dark purple, blue and yellow. Suddenly it transformed from a catalog cliché to ideal colored pencil practice material.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, I have a lot of colored pencils – mostly the water-soluble kind, but also quite a few of the regular kind. I pulled out about 20 versions of red, red-orange and orange, as well as a few other colors, to try to get the right mix. I used water only on the beak, the eye and the berries, plus a few brush strokes to bring out the wing feathers and shadows. For most of the feathers, though, I preferred the pencil strokes showing.

By the way, if you’re not familiar with the work of Australian urban sketcher Alissa Duke, please check out her Flickr photostream. She’s my urban sketching colored pencil guru – I admire the delicacy of her exquisite drawings as well as her skill with water-soluble colored pencils. 

I have quite a few colored pencils. . . 
. . . OK, I have a LOT. You can't even see the ones UNDER the desk. . . 


  1. Hi Tina, I love the cardinal you sketched! I saved the cover of that same catalog to attempt with watercolor in the future. I like your idea of colored pencils. My collection of pencils is a bit smaller, but I'll give it a go! Wishing you a happy new year from Wenatchee! Becky Britt

    1. I've saved the cover, and I might try it with watercolors sometime, too. Thanks, Becky, and happy new year to you, too!


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