Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Creating marks....how do you create different textures with coloured pencils?

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked by another teacher at school to take in some of my artwork and share with the children how I go about creating a picture.  It really got me thinking how do I actually do it?!  After years of drawing I don't think about how I create marks it just seems to come naturally and I don't really think about it!  I often get asked by people how do you produce such realistic work with coloured pencils?  So for this blog I thought I'd share with you some of the techniques I use.



Once I have decided what it is I want to draw and have planned it (that's a whole other blog!) I start by looking at the colours that I'm going to need.  With coloured pencils it's not just a case of finding that one colour for a section.  To produce the colour that I want, I build up layers of colours to create depth and interesting effects.  So for example, when drawing the black marks on the clouded leopard I have been doing, I didn't just use black.  When the light shines on the fur you can see other colours within the black and building up layers of colours helps to produce a deeper black where needed.  If you look at the pictures below you can see what I mean.  

How to produce a deep black with coloured pencils


When building up layers of colour, I find the method that works best for me is to press gently with a sharp pencil in small circles to ensure that I fill the pits in the paper and to produce a smooth layer of colours.  To keep my pencil sharp I keep turning it as I draw and make sure I use a good sharpener often.  If you use a blunt pencil it is more difficult to fill the pits in the rough paper and you end up with white flecks (of course this can sometimes be a very useful effect!) If I am working on the fur of an animal I will stroke the pencil in the direction of the fur, rather than the small circles, almost as if I imagine myself stroking the animal.  I still work in the same way building up the layers of colours.  

You can create all sorts of marks using coloured pencils, and the best thing to do is to experiment different ways to see what happens!  So for example, if drawing tree bark, you want to make it look rough and not smooth and flat.  For this I use small jagged strokes in different directions varying the pressure of my pencil marks, but again building up the layers.  

Creating texture on tree bark using coloured pencils 

Another little trick that I use to help produce marks within my drawing, is to use an electric eraser.  This is great for creating effects within layers of pencil, as it allows the underneath colours to shine through.  It's also great for producing little highlights if they are not bright enough.  I used this strategy to help create the texture of the bark within my coloured leopard price of work.  

Sometimes, if I want to create a smoother effect, or a more blended effect, I use a Prismacolor  colourless blender.  I find this also makes the colours brighter and stronger and stand out more.  The only thing to watch if using a blending pencil, or if you have pressed hard with prismacolor pencils is the build up of wax bloom, which takes the shine and brightness away from the picture.  To help remove this, I gently use ear buds to wipe the wax away, and or I use a fixative.  (Personally I really like Lascaux with coloured pencils) 


The effects of a coloured pencil blender

Although I use more colours if producing a picture with coloured pencils than if I was doing an oil painting for example, I try to keep to the same colours within the picture as much as possible to help keep that unified feeling within the picture.  So for example, if I have used indigo blue within the black fur on an animal I will use that same shade of blue within the background trees, or if I have used a few shades of grey within an animal, and I need grey within the background I will try and incorporate some of the same shades of grey.  

There are many ways of creating marks with coloured pencils.  The only way you can really see whats going to work best is to create different textures is to experiment and not be afraid to try things out!


Have you tried using coloured pencils?

What techniques do you use to create different textures?


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Finding time to be successful.....do you?

Upon returning to work, my life has returned to being as busy as ever!  It is so easy to let work, family responsibilities, washing, ironing, shopping, cleaning your house, going to the gym (the list could go on.....) to take over your life and take you away from finding time to create art and build up your business.  So the question is how do you create that balance?





I often think, though while I do lead a very busy life, I often find myself putting my passion for art at the bottom of the list of things to do.  Its so easy to let the other things take over.  This could be because you feel they are more important, or those around you feel that way.  The pressures of having to fit everything in can become overwhelming and when you are exhausted at the end of the day it can become very difficult to concentrate when you just want to sleep!  For many artists, there is also the fear that I talked about in my last blog.  Sometimes when you are working on a piece you find yourself making excuses that the other things are more important.  It's like you are almost afraid of getting it wrong.  I often feel this way when I get short sporadic chunks of time to draw.  When I have plenty of time and I really get into a piece this fear subsides.  

So the real question is, how do you overcome all of this?  


Now I wish there was an easy answer to this.  After giving it some careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it's about making the time.  Planning seems to be only way to achieve this. Now there are some things in life that you can't change such as going to work to earn money, spending time with your family, whatever is important to you but the time you have left after these things needs to be divided so you can actually spend time doing the thing you love or building up a business for yourself.  If you are building up your own business, not only is productivity key to your success it's also important to plan in weekly time to do marketing, keeping on top of your finances, blogging..... The only way I have found it possible is to set aside a particular time each night just for me with assigned tasks on each day.  For example Fridays I set aside time to write my blog and then on Tuesdays I edit it and post it.  Sundays I spend time doing my finances and producing art work. Mondays I set aside for ironing, cooking and other chores.......


The key, as with many things in life, is balance.  Whatever it is in life, if you want something you have to work for it and go out and get it! In this case, you have to make the time and not put the thing you love at the bottom of the list but right up there with the other important things in your life such as your family.  It's not easy but planning and support from your friends and family can help make it a bit easier.



How do you create time for your art?  

Do you find yourself making excuses and putting it off? 

How do you plan your time? 



Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Inspiration.....what inspires you to be creative?

Following on from my last blog about sketching, it got me thinking about what actually drives you to go and draw or paint, to be creative? Where can you find inspiration to be creative to create a sketch to a full on masterpiece? For all of us the answer is likely to be different. We all see beauty in different things and different ways. That age old saying 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' rings true! I decided to actually ask myself this question and give it some thought so next time I'm lacking inspiration I'm already prepared! 


That lightbulb inspiration moment when you are filled
with excitement and passion to be creative is the most amazing feeling.

We live in a world that's not only full of beauty but heart ache and suffering. It's not always the things that make you happy and smile that are inspiring, but it can be sadness and pain that drive you to create something wonderful. For me, my passion has always been animals. The look in their eyes, the way they play and interact with one another, the love and devotion they show you or one another, the funny things they do all provide me with inspiration. 


'Artur' an Amur Leopard at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation
(©Izzy's Art) 

It's the art of observing that provides true inspiration. 


It might be everyday observations of my beloved pets to visiting the zoo or a cat sanctuary for the day and the excitement I feel witnessing these beautiful creatures. Like I said previously, it's not always these exciting moments in time that provide the best inspiration, sometimes it's something sad that drives you. For me, it's when I read or hear about how the number of tigers in the wild is rapidly dwindling, or I see photographs of elephants or rhinos that are ruthlessly killed by poachers. It is these instances that make me want to capture the love and beauty of these magnificent animals as they should be seen.  

It's not just objects, animals or people that are inspiring to artists but also nature, the smells and noise of the big city, the weather, colours, shapes, music, things you touch or taste, new art materials..... the list is endless!  For me personally, colour plays a big part in inspiring me whether it's bright and colourful to harmonious and peaceful colours, depending upon my mood!


The Grand Canyon
The shear size alone is awe inspiring!
(©Izzy's Art)

The key to finding inspiration is to look at what makes you feel happy, sad, excited, passionate...... Open your eyes and observe the world around you and take time to truly look, feel and appreciate. Allowing yourself to push your boundaries and try new things can be invigorating and truly inspiring.


Where do you find inspiration? 

How do you overcome artists block and get your creativity flowing? 

Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer, it's what works for you! 


Monday, 25 August 2014

Sketching..... overcoming the FEAR!!!

It's a beautiful sunny day and you think what a great day to go outside and draw and make the most of the good weather while practising those observation skills and doing the thing you love. What could be better? So you spend a bit of time packing some supplies into a bag, sketch book (maybe two because you can't decide what size or even type of paper), a bunch of pencils, sharpener, rubber, pens in different sizes, mmmm.... maybe some watercolours and brushes or even some coloured pencils (but then to decide what colours to actually take!). The list goes on and the bag gets more full and heavier by the minute! Then you have to decide where you want to go..... sometimes this is as far as I get because I can't decide, other times I will go somewhere and I will look around then I can't decide where to start....ultimately I'm putting off the actual act of getting my sketch book out because of THE FEAR!!!!


For me what it comes down to is two things. Firstly more often than not where I want to sketch there are people, and quite often lots of these scary beings who might just come over and start watching me draw. What if I mess up? What if it looks nothing like it's supposed to? What if they actually speak to me and say what on earth is it??? Secondly the fear of the sketch book itself. That first blank crisp white page. There it is, waiting for you to make your mark, and that overwhelming fear that it will all go wrong and that first page will be there for ever for everyone to see how bad you are at sketching.  AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! Do you ever feel like this?  I've lost count of the number of years I've gone through this process and come home (or sometimes not even left the house!) with an empty sketchbook and an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Selfie at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation


As I've had a good chunk of time off work this summer (from teaching), I decided I needed to overcome this FEAR. It didn't start off great, I was always making excuses to myself that I didn't have time or if I was out with other people I didn't want to hold them up.... (the list could go on!) Then I got brave!  I decided to book myself onto a sketching workshop for a weekend with the very talented artist Vic Bearcroft. It was held at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent and I thought what better place to do some sketching than with some big cats... I wasn't wrong! I had the most amazing weekend, with the opportunity to get right up close to some incredible animals, take hundreds of photographs, learn about the cats from our fabulous guide Mike and most importantly learn how to go about sketching and then put it into practise!




I would be lying if I said I wasn't filled with the FEAR when we were set loose to sketch but we were taught very practical advice that we could put into practise with just a sketch book and a 2B and 4B pencil (no lugging a massive bag!). We also weren't allowed to take a camera with us when sketching, the thought of which was pretty daunting as I realised I had come to rely on it rather a lot! It did however make me look, and I mean actually allow myself time to study the animals even before putting pencil to paper. A simple but brilliant idea, I actually saw things I never would have! 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Step by step cats eyes in coloured pencils


There are many different ways and colours you can use to create cats eyes with coloured pencils.  I personally use Prismacolor pencils as these are my favourites!  I started creating cats eyes using Anne deMille Flood's book 'Realistic Pet Portraits'.  This is based on her methods but just done in my own way!

1. I started with a full wash of cream created very gently with small circle movements.
2. A wash of canary yellow over the cream leaving the very light parts of the eye as cream.
3. Gently wash chartreuse over the canary yellow.
4. Using mineral orange use gentle strokes to darken parts of the eyeball to give it shape.
5. Create the shadows under the top of the eye ball and parts of the bottom with tuscan red.
6. Continue to model the eyeball using peacock green with very gentle strokes particularly over the    
    tuscan red.
7. Darken the shadows using indigo blue using very gentle strokes.
8. Using small gentle circles use apple green to wash over the eye.
9. Add a small amount of yellowish orange to continue to shape the eyeball.
10. Use black and indigo to work in the pupil and outline pressing harder once the layers have been
    worked up.  Add white and a touch of true blue for the highlight.
11. In the right corner of the left eye and right side of the right eye, use a touch of tuscan red, indigo
      blue and french grey 50%, apple green and white.  Gentle wash of black around the eyes before
      finishing them to get the right tone.
12. Add a few dark lines to the eyes with peacock green, indigo blue and tuscan red.
13. Add finishing touches using previous colours.  Tweak the highlights if they have got lost using an
      electric rubber carefully!

Sunday, 28 April 2013



I'm very pleased that I have now completed all three cats!  My step daughter asked how I make the hair look so real.  When I showed her how I worked in layers building them up she commented that it was going to take me rather a long time!  Indeed it is, but I find it very relaxing stroking on the hair.  The top cat Brooklyn was the most challenging with all the different markings to make sure I got right.  My next challenge is to draw the New York skyline then hopefully I'll be on the home straight! 

Sunday, 14 April 2013



I am currently working on a very exciting commission of three cats.  I have been asked to produce a picture of three cats with a New York theme.  The lady in question, Lisa, loves New York and has named her three cats Madison, Brooklyn and Franklin.  She is also getting married in New York later in the year and participating in a cycle challenge while there to raise money for charity!  I am very lucky to have the perfect client who has left it entirely up to me how to go about this challenge!  I decided to create a street theme with a billboard of the three cats on with the New York skyline as a background.  There will also be part of a bicycle and some confetti blowing into the picture to make it personal to her.  The cat I have done so far is called Madison and I was lucky enough to previously draw her when she was a kitten.  I loooooove working in coloured pencils and its been nice to have the opportunity to use some colours I don't normally get the chance to!