Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trees with Three

1/26/17 colored pencil, smooth Bristol paper
Yesterday was our first lesson in foliage in the colored pencil class I’m taking at Gage. The reference photo I chose last week was OK for studying the curved form of branches, but it didn’t have enough foliage, so I abandoned that photo and chose another. This one, showing fully leafed trees in bright sunlight, seemed like a better choice.

We were to use three pencils only: A green pencil that is close to the mid-value green of the tree; a warm yellow for the sunny side of the tree; and a cool blue for the shaded side.

Shortly after I started the exercise, I regretted the reference choice. The photo includes several trees, not just one, so I had to isolate the ones in front to draw. Next I found all those broccoli-like bunches of leaves to be extremely challenging; some kind of fir or spruce might have been easier. (Maybe not – I’ll have to check with my classmates who did choose those kinds of trees.)

The three pencils I used and the photo reference.
However, I did catch on quickly to the concept of using only three pencils because of the pears and squashes I’ve been sketching with a primary palette. Using yellow, green and blue was a little easier, since the palette was closer to the hues I was seeing in the reference photo.

As I’ve mentioned before, one aspect I enjoy about using colored pencils is that the hues are mixed optically, so if an area needs to be darker and cooler, I just keep layering on more blue. If an area needs to be warmer and sunnier, I add more yellow. It’s very different (and for me, much easier) from using watercolor, with which almost all the color strategies need to be planned and decisions need to be made before the paint ever hits the paper. Pencils give me a little more time to think it through.

The tradeoff is that building color stroke by stroke takes time. This 5-inch drawing took more than an hour in class plus another couple of hours at home. I do enjoy the penciling process, though.


  1. I think this is beautiful! Sounds very mediative to do. Thanks for sharing about your class!

    1. Thank you! I'll be reporting on my class regularly -- it helps me remember concepts. And yes -- the process can be very meditative!


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