Colored Pencil Sketchbook

My new fascination with colored pencils has been, well, fascinating. I purchased a set of 40 Caran D’Ache Luminance pencils, which I’ve since heard are among the most expensive due to their exceptional lightfast ratings.

The texture samples are all from Denise Howard’s book, 101 Textures for Colored Pencil.

Having only used Prismacolor, I don’t have much to compare them with but I can guarantee they are very nice. The color is strong and covers easily. I find, too, that I’m not going over and over areas, so I have a feeling theses pencils will last longer than other brands–perhaps they’re not quite as expensive as it seems. The main reason I chose Luminance pencils is the color choice. I was thrilled with the earth tones and grays.

I also bought a Strathmore 400 sketchbook, and I’ve been following some tutorials and playing around with blending, which seems to be at the heart of colored pencil work. Above I tried many different blending techniques, all of which I like for different reasons. I’ll stay away from oil, however, because it soaks through the paper and doesn’t dissipate. One of my favorites is using colored pencil over Inktense. I’ve used this in various ways, and I always like the effect. I never thought I’d enjoy mixed media, but never say never.

I came into this medium thinking it would be a great combination of painting and drawing, but I think it’s more accurate to say it’s like shaping and shading.

Mineral Paper Experiments

The more I paint on Terraskin and Yasutomo, the more I like it. There’s no need to stretch the paper because it never buckles. I can simply start painting, so I seem to be painting more than ever. Joy!

Painting water is especially fun because adding water to the paint creates, well, a watery effect. Above are some waves, below a moody lighthouse. I followed Nita Engle for the waves and a highly modified YouTube tutorial for below.

My smaller Terraskin journal is a good size for quick sketches. Below is a second lighthouse painted during a hurried lunch break.

Using crinkled up plastic wrap on wet paint creates wild textures. I thought it would take forever to dry on mineral paper as it doesn’t absorb water, but it only took about 45 minutes. My goldfish were far too dark. I like the flowers better.

Watercoloring Galore

Watercolor is amazingly portable. I enjoy casein, but I don’t have a portable kit that folds up to the size of a phone like I do with watercolor. Casein dries out quickly like acrylic, and it spoils, too, so my choice for everyday painting is watercolor.

I’ve painted this doorway twice. On the left is a 3.5″x5″ painting, while in the center is a 9″x12″. Both have their pluses and minuses. The left is too dark, and some of the color became muddy, while the center has nicer color variation, detail, and value. However, I think the overhang is far better on the left than the center. It’s interesting that I failed to capture perspective with both. I loved painting with this method, however. It involves layering in primary colors to gain luminosity and depth.

On a whim, I bought a child’s Melissa & Doug watercolor kit. After trying the colors, I emptied it and replaced them with my six Daniel Smith Essentials kit, which consists of warm and cool blues, reds, and yellows. You can see how I put the pigments into the left, center, and right circles on both lines, and created a mix of two in between. The single circles on the bottom have all three warm on the left, which made brown, and all three cools on the right, which made black. I didn’t mix greens because I like to vary them so much–plus, I ran out of room. This was super fun. I hadn’t thought about pre-mixing my commonly mixed colors before, if that makes any sense.

Here’s my former Melissa & Doug kit with it’s new Daniel Smith pigments. Don’t they look awesome? I now have four palettes I use regularly.

Below are two attempts at painting barges on the Mississippi River. Both are from photos. My goal was to use the brush in a way that leaves sparkles on water.

Little landscapes from my mind and a few plein air attempts on the bottom.

Water, bridges, water sparkles… and grapes.

Water, Nature, Bob Ross

I painted three 5″x8″ casein pages in my journal. The 140 lb. paper buckles a little with the paint. I’ve tried 300 lb. on a block, and it worked out much better, so I may need to swap over. This journals works okay for a journal, which is something I enjoy having, but I don’t think I can find one with 300 lb. paper.

With casein, I have to think differently than when I use watercolor. I find myself making some really muddy areas when I don’t wait for the paint to dry–it takes longer than you think, maybe up to an hour for some areas. I also highlight poorly. Another key difference is how different casein looks when dry–it can change the painting entirely. Learning all of those differences makes it super hard to swap back and forth, but I still try. I love casein and would like to paint with it more often.

A Bob Ross attempt, Bridge to Autumn. I had painted it in watercolor months ago, using an inexpensive, little paint kit that was sitting in my closet. In fact, it was my very first watercolor attempt when this art craze hit me. This painting looks block-ish. I’m most pleased with the background tall trees, but their vivid color ended up making it the focal point. The highlighting with white paint is kind of heavy.

In casein, I also painted this landscape based on a photo. I enjoy painting the clouds, even though I got heavy with the highlights. Grass remains a challenge.

And this casein, my favorite of the three, is based on another photo of barges on the Mississippi River. My husband took the photo. Using a ruler for the barges would have been smart.

Here’s a similar shot that I painted with watercolor en plein air.

3.5″x5″ Watercolors

All in my little Pentalic journal. I’ve been trying some realism. The plant on the second row is kind of awful. The final row are experiments with a new paintbrush, the Escoda synthetic Versatil. It’s a #6 portable. It’s a nice brush, but I’m hooked on using my Caran d’Ache Aquarelle brush when I’m out and about. I use the medium size.

A bright blue sky and an old antique store. The sky was done by wetting the cloud area and painting the blue in the dry sections, letting the edges blur. My lettering on the antique store sign was sloppy:

Flowers, using a very loose effect. This is a super fun way to paint:

And, using a photo of a doorway, I tried to use layering to create an interesting background. I followed some videos by artist Laurel Hart. She has two wonderful tutorials on painting a colorful background and having a focal point. Obviously, I need to practice this more.

Lots of Little Watercolors (plus one casein)

All of these are painted in my 3.5″x5″ Pentalic sketchbook or on 4″x6″ postcards from a block of Fluid 140 lb. cards. The second set and the farm scenes were painted en plain air.

Here’s the only casein painting I’ve done recently. It’s also 4″x6″ and on a postcard block of 300 lb. paper by Fluid.

Watercolor Journals

No casein this week, but I’ve painted watercolor en plein air (3.5″x5″):

I’ve also painted in my 9″x12″ journal quite a bit over the past week. This one I did en plein air:

The one on the left was done in a very dimly-lit room while a storm rolled in. I find the colors strange and moody:

This is based on a picture my husband took:

And here are four seasons:

More Casein, Plus New Colors

I ordered the color theory six pack of Richeson casein, even though it included orange and violet, two colors I can mix. The other four colors made the price a bargain, since purchasing each tube individually would run nearly double the cost. Those four colors are Shiva phthalo green, ultramarine blue, cad yellow, and rose red.

The wonder of mixing greens! Plus, my all-time favorite color is probably ultramarine blue. So, now I have two blues, yellows, and reds. Those, plus white, black, orange, and violet, will keep me happy for a long time.

Here’s an older journal page with the original James Gurney six pack. You can see how many shades of green I achieved with all variations of yellow ochre, cobalt blue, raw umber, and white.

This is a barn I’ve painted in watercolor twice before. The beautiful, old silo has been removed since the last one.

Watercolor Journal: Little Experiments

Playing around with little 3.5″x5″ pages in my Pentalic journal. There’s everything from lifting color to painting from a photo to a few cluttered-but-energetic plein air sketches. While painting an old bluebird house by a pond, a fawn trotted right by me. I was holding so still, it took awhile for the fawn to realize I was a human, not a post or tree. And away it ran!