Friday, February 15, 2019


2/7/19 All sketches made with Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelles
in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (my typical approach)

The approach I’ve been using with watercolor pencils most often is the one I learned nearly two years ago from Suzanne Brooker. In her class, we used the water-soluble properties of colored pencils mainly as an enhancement to traditional (dry) colored pencil properties to intensify hues and soften visible pencil lines. In particular, we focused on using water activation of the pencil pigment to give – what else? – water body surfaces in landscapes a watery look. But in the limited time we had with her in that class, we didn’t really get into using watercolor pencils in a more painterly manner. In other words, using them more as watercolors than as pencils.

The techniques and approach I learned from her generally serve me well because they suit my drawing style – when I’m seated comfortably at my studio desk. But as has always been my motivation in learning to use any medium, I want to be able to take advantage of the water-soluble properties of colored pencils on location, too. And lately I’ve been feeling like my still life practice isn’t necessarily effective practice for that. I get too comfortable having consistent lighting and taking all the time I want.

2/8/19 Attempting a more painterly approach
So with that in mind, I’ve lately been making a conscious effort to use a more painterly approach and take better advantage of the pencils’ water-soluble properties. It requires applying a little more water than I’m accustomed to and working quickly once the water is applied so that I can blend in some dry pigment, for example, while the paper is still wet, which can yield interesting effects. Or mix wet hues on the paper. These techniques are difficult enough to do with watercolor paints, but since watercolor pencils require less water, they require working even faster before the pigments dry. This is also exactly the opposite technique we learned from Suzanne, which is to allow each layer of water application to dry completely before applying more dry pigment. So the need to think and act faster has blown my head open.

2/9/19 Another painterly attempt
You may have difficulty seeing the differences between my typical approach (the first still life at top of post) and the more painterly approach I’m attempting (the other two still lives) because, frankly, I’m still learning how much water to use and struggling to take action before the pigments dry. My goal with these still lives is not necessarily to sketch faster – these all took about the same length of time – but I’m hoping that with practice, I will become somewhat faster by using more painterly methods. (And being able to be faster when I want to is almost always a useful skill on the street.)

I’ll report back as my practice progresses.


  1. Replies
    1. Glad you like these, Joan! I hope you'll be able to see improvements as I keep practicing the more painterly methods.


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