They Can Be Moody, Too

The Depth of Colored Pencil

I’ll admit that in the past I have been guilty of thinking of colored pencil art as colorful and bright and not necessarily able to be coupled with serious subjects or moody narratives. But that was my own bias. As I’ve spent time looking at sketchbooks of draftsmen creating colored pencil art and figure drawings made using colored pencils, I’ve discovered that the medium is as diverse as any other.

Seeds Of Memory by David Suff, 20 x 28.
Seeds Of Memory by David Suff, 20 x 28.

My blind spot with colored pencil drawings largely has to do with the way I’ve seen the implements used. I’ve seen drawings where the paper is literally covered with dense layers of color, which can make the surface waxy, unusable, and uninteresting.

Sketch by James Jean, detail.
Sketch by James Jean, detail.

But recently I’ve seen life-drawing sketches of figures made with colored pencils that show how much depth and subtlety the medium is capable of when light hatchmarks are used. Colors are built up in controlled layers of line, and the lightness of the paper underneath is allowed to shine through and illuminate the marks.

In figure drawings, this is an exciting prospect. I can apply what I already know about drawing but add color into the mix, all while making the motions and marks that I love. So you can draw a dusky, moody figure with colored pencils of orange and blue and red, applying line over line to create passages that are unexpectedly complex and show a lot of depth. And, when used on paper with a lot of tooth, colored pencil art can have a truly interesting surface that dispels all of my past biases completely.

To gain more insight on colored pencil techniques–from the basics and beyond–consider the Colored Pencil with Ann Kullberg Kit. Ann is a colored pencil drawing expert and really shows how to make the medium shine in portraiture and more. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

3 thoughts on “They Can Be Moody, Too

  1. I use a combination of water colour pencils and pencil crayons most of the time. David Suff’s work is extraordinary. Thank you for sharing this artist with us!

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