They Can Be Moody, Too

3 Feb 2013

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, colored pencil drawing, 20 x 28.
Seeds Of Memory by David Suff, colored pencil drawing, 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.

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.

Colored pencil sketch by James Jean, detail.
Colored pencil sketch
by James Jean, detail.

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 Janie Gildow's newest DVDs, TK and TK. Gildow is a colored pencil drawing expert and really shows how to make the medium shine. Enjoy!


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