How do you get started with coloured pencil?

This was a question in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of.

I have no idea about how other people started, but this is my story:

I drew as a child – horses, horses and more horses! I thought I was a horse lol (until the age of about 7 I have to point out) and none of my trousers had knees in them as I was always galloping around on the lawn. I didn’t copy horse photos, I drew from my imagination and I could almost feel when the eye wasn’t right or the nostril was slightly wrong – they weren’t amazing drawings, but I spent all the time I could with horses, I was a member of the local pony club, so knew my ‘points of the horse’ like the back of my hand. My school books were covered in drawings of horses and horses even appeared in my school report ‘If Bonny spent the same amount of time learning her French vocabulary as she does drawing horses her marks would significantly improve’! But they were all in black and white – I didn’t like colour, I couldn’t get to grips with colour, so I didn’t use colour.

I left school at 15 and spent two relatively unfulfilled years at the local college learning general art and design. It was all about ‘big’ ‘bold marks’, and I remember like it was yesterday, spending three days sitting under an old railway carriage drawing the underneath of a train and the tracks!

At 17 I went into full time employment, and discovered the Apple Mac – this was back in 1987 – and I fell in love with technology. I became a typesetter and a creative artworker – meticulously setting out type and pages for magazines, books, advertisements etc. I loved the neat, controlled work, but also the incredibly tight deadlines and the fast paced, crazy world of advertising.

I didn’t draw again until 2016, well Christmas 2015 to be exact.

My daughter bought me a colouring book and 12 WH Smith pencils – I spent all of Christmas Day colouring in, just shapes, and, that was it – I was hooked! I then researched coloured pencils, and with my Christmas money I bought a tin of 120 Caran D’Ache Prismalo pencils.

Anyone who loves coloured pencils will know the absolute joy of receiving a tin of brightly coloured loveliness. There’s just nothing like it!

I bought more books – beautiful books – all full of wonderful animal line drawings for me to colour. I researched other people’s colouring, and loved how some people could create blended effects, highlights and use colours in a way I hadn’t even thought about. So I researched again, how to: blend, create realistic fur, create eyes that looked real – I watched so many videos and put what I’d watched into practice.

In May 2016 someone commented on my Facebook page and asked why I was colouring other peoples work and why not draw my own. I have to admit to being a bit annoyed by this comment – I was loving my colouring, it brought mindfulness, I didn’t really have to think about getting proportions right etc. Then a friend asked me if I’d draw her fathers lovely Labrador – a beautiful old girl that sadly was being pts. Someone had agreed to draw the portrait, but then had let her down at the last minute, so I agreed – more out of not wanting to see my friend unhappy than really wanting to draw the picture.

It turned out really well! It was graphite, as yes I could colour, but no way could I draw something from scratch in colour!

But the next drawing I did was in colour. I continued to research and watch videos, I started to follow artists I admired, and found that there were so many artists willing to help and give advice, and there were fabulous Facebook groups that I could join. I started to experiment with different papers, and stumbled across polychromos, which are now my pencil of choice. I knew how I wanted my pieces to look, and if I couldn’t get the look I was aiming for, I’d research, try a different surface and basically just not give up until I produced what I’d initially visualised in my head.

I started following an amazing artist later on in 2016, and was lucky to get a place on one of her workshops in March 2017. She was an inspiration as she is self taught, has gone through the most incredible journey, and her work is awesome. The workshop showed me a new dimension that I could add to my pieces, delving even more into the world of colour, and starting me on a slightly different route with my drawings. I owe a huge amount to Lisa Ann Watkins of Animal Art by Law, and highly recommend her workshops.

Now, I’m a full time artist, I have a four month waiting list, I’m building up a good following on social media, am loving life and am incredibly grateful for all the more established artists out there who are kind enough to support and help.

I feel the reason I have progressed so much in a relatively short period of time is due to a need to create the vision I have in my head, my love of research, and the amazing help from wonderful artists who so kindly give their time and experience.


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