Saturday, September 3, 2016

Embracing My Inner Colored Pencil

9/3/16 Luminance colored pencils, S&B Epsilon paper
I’ve had a long (going back to my childhood) but sometimes rocky relationship with colored pencils. More than any other medium, I love them esthetically – how they look straight out of the box or standing upright in vases; how cleanly they apply to paper; how they feel in my hand.

I’ve long admired urban sketchers like Alissa Duke, who uses colored pencils almost exclusively, but I haven’t been able to find my own way of using them on location. The way I use them now – very slowly applied in layers – colored pencils aren’t conducive to urban sketching the way watercolors or other liquid media are, so I’ve mostly kept them at home. I keep telling myself I should stop buying them if I can’t use them in the field, since that’s where I do the vast majority of my sketching. And yet, colored pencils keep sneaking into my bag, and on recent trips, I reached for them way more often than other colored media.

What gives?

8/31/16 Pablo colored pencils, Epsilon paper
I don’t know. But clearly colored pencils call to me in a way that other colored media do not. So I’ve decided to embrace my inner colored pencil. I’ve been using them on rainy days a lot the past few months, and in a couple weeks I’m starting a class at Gage in the medium. I am determined to try to find a way to use them on location, but in the meantime, I’m also happy to continue using them at my desk. (I’m almost looking forward to a cold, wet fall!)

Just recently I started experimenting with a blender tool – it’s like a pencil made of hard plastic. I’m not sure if I know what I’m doing, but by rubbing it over the pencil work, it seems to blend the various colors used and intensify the hues. One thing I learned immediately is that you have to be completely done applying color at the point that you use the blender, because blending takes out whatever tooth is in the paper, and when that’s gone, you can’t apply more color over it. (Note: I wrote “burnished” in the image below, but what I used was a blender tool. A burnishing tool is something else. I have one, but I don’t know what to do with it yet. Stay tuned.)

A blender tool is like a pencil made of hard plastic.
The right side of the line shows where I used the blender tool.

Embracing my inner (and outer) colored pencils!


  1. Have you tried using a Q-tip and some odorless solvent? Amazing results, though this just adds a lot of complication for location use. If I were forced into one medium in addition to my pens, it would be watercolor pencils, which are very portable and usable on location. Love your fruit sketches.

  2. I hope you csn figure out a practical way to due them on location. The ones you do at home are REALLY nice!

  3. Are these the "regular" or "dry" pencils? Darsie uses water color pencils almost exclusively and they work well in the field.

    1. These were done with traditional (oil-based) pencils, but I have lots of watercolor pencils, too. I love each type for different things!


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