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Colored Pencil
Create Faster, Richer
colored pencil techniques:
create faster, richer effects

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Variation(s) Day Lily With Spatter

2001, colored pencil, 12 x 16. 2005, watercolor and colored pencil,
Private collection. 4¾ x 5¾. Collection the artist.

Faster, Richer, Effects

in Colored Pencil
Janie Gildow teaches techniques of layering colored pencil over watercolor
washes and applying the wax-based pencils on black board. Both techniques
help artists create richer drawings in less time. by M. Stephen Doherty

hen Janie Gildow demonstrates techniques for filled with water,” she recalls. “I remember saying to myself,
drawing with colored pencil during the Art I think I’ll do this forever. There was something about the
Methods & Materials Show (www.artmethods. process of recording my observations with colored pencil
com), she will be revealing some of the methods that that was very satisfying.”
sparked her interest in the wax-based pencils more than 10 When Gildow retired in 1995 after more than 30 years of
years ago. “Something clicked with me when I completed teaching, she was already winning awards and developing
my very first drawing of Queen Anne’s lace sitting in a jar a following among collectors with her drawings of animals,

colored pencil techniques 2

colored pencil techniques:
create faster, richer effects

The Color Predictor

“I dip the toothbrush This is the color wheel Gildow
into a pool of water- developed to help her
students produce tints,
color on my palette, tones, shades, and
blot away some of
the larger droplets,
and then flick the
bristles so the paint

people, boats, and still-life

arrangements; and she
was also establishing her-
self as an authority on the
medium with two books she
either wrote or co-authored,
Colored Pencil Solution
Book and Colored Pencil
Explorations (both North
Light Books, Cincinnati,
Ohio). During the process of
working with the artists who
contributed to those books,
Gildow became acquainted
with techniques that expand-
ed her creative options.
“I interviewed a number
of artists about their tech-
niques and tried some of
them so I could write infor-
matively about their process-
es,” Gildow explains. “One
of the artists, Kristy Kutch, ated in that manner seemed watercolor on my palette, formulate patterns that will
recommended techniques complete without every blot away some of the larger work well with the subjects I
that solved one of the com- square inch of paper being droplets, and then flick the have in mind.
mon complaints about col- covered in strokes of the col- bristles so the paint spatters. “I’ve used an airbrush
ored pencil: that it requires ored pencil. Sometimes I lay stencils to apply controlled mists of
an extraordinary amount of “The technique I devel- or cut sheets of frisket on watercolor on the board,”
time to complete a drawing. oped after receiving that the drawing surface to con- Gildow adds. “In those
Kristy suggested the “poor advice is spattering water- fine the spatters to specific situations I use frisket and
man’s airbrush” technique of color on the drawing sur- shapes, and other times I masking fluid to establish
spattering watercolor from a face by flicking it off the just let the droplets create the boundaries of the spat-
toothbrush and then apply- bristles of a toothbrush,” random patterns. It’s hard to ters. The airbrush is a great
ing the colored pencil over Gildow explains. “I dip the exercise a lot of control over tool, but it does require more
the watercolor. Drawings cre- toothbrush into a pool of the toothbrush, but I can time for creating the stencil

colored pencil techniques 3

colored pencil techniques:
create faster, richer effects

“I’m especially fond of drawing water in a glass, droplets of water on


Apricots and Cherries

2005, colored pencil, 5 x 7¾.
Collection the artist.
flower petals, or refracted light coming through crystal. Students are
often dazzled by drawings of those subjects and want to know my
patterns and applying the secrets, and I show them that it’s a relatively simple process of look-
paint.” ing carefully and analyzing ways of capturing those images.”
Another mixed-media
technique Gildow employs
is building up the surface texture of the underpaint- and I really liked the way the weren’t as appealing, but the
of the paper with layers of ing. The choice of medium green became integrated into toned surface helped unify
pastel, spraying a light mist depends on the kind of sur- the image when it appeared the composition and reduce
of fixative, and then drawing face one prefers.” between the strokes of the the amount of time required
with colored pencil. “Layers In her exploration of pencil,” she explains. “Later to complete a satisfying draw-
of pastel can create a slightly colored pencil, Gildow also I experimented with other ing. White surfaces just look
rougher texture once they became interested in work- types of colored board and incomplete if they aren’t suf-
are sealed with fixative,” she ing on colored papers and paper. Some of the surfaces ficiently covered.
explains. “One could also boards. “My first drawing of were too thin or too textured “Among the surfaces that
use casein or acrylic for a Queen Anne’s lace was done to work well with colored really worked well was black
variation on the density and on a sheet of green paper, pencil, and some of the colors Crescent board,” Gildow

colored pencil techniques 4

colored pencil techniques:
create faster, richer effects

adds. “It has a hard, smooth

surface that makes it an ideal
ground, and the black adds
drama and sparkle to certain
images—particularly reflec-
tive surfaces such as crystal,
water, or metal. I’m espe-
cially fond of drawing water
in a glass, droplets of water
on flower petals, or refracted
light coming through crystal.
Students are often dazzled
by drawings of those sub-
jects and want to know my
secrets, and I show them that
it’s a relatively simple pro-
cess of looking carefully and
analyzing ways of capturing
those images.”
Although Gildow does
some of these intricate draw-
ings from life, most of them
are created from her own
photographs. “I once tried
doing a drawing of sliced above

onions from life and I kept
2001, colored pencil, 8 x 11.
Gildow’s Materials
having to slice up more and Private collection.
more onions every time Gildow recommends her students bring the following supplies
I sat down to work,” she to a workshop:
explains. “The air in my stu- adjust the values and con- MEDIA OTHER
dio became saturated with trast. “I don’t get involv­ed in ■ Prismacolor colored pencils ■ plastic palette
the smell of onion, and after manipulating the images in (48 color set or larger) ■ battery-powered
a few hours the shriveled my computer, but I do take ■ water-soluble colored pencil sharpener
objects no longer looked like advantage of the easy process pencils ■ kneaded eraser or poster
sliced onions. I realized it of cropping images, mak- ■ a few soft pastel sticks putty (for lifting color)
takes so long to develop a col- ing them lighter or darker, ■ watercolor set (a basic ■ blending stump
ored pencil drawing of any or reducing the contrast. set of tubes or pan colors) ■ paper towels
size and one can’t count on When I’m satisfied with the ■ HB graphite pencil ■ toothbrush
a living subject remaining photographs I make prints ■ black extra-fine ■ scissors
static for that long. Besides, and refer to those while I’m permanent marker ■ dust brush
it is much easier to re-create drawing.” ■ soft white eraser
the appearance of a two- Because of the amount BRUSHES
■ water container
dimensional subject on a of time that it takes Gildow ■No. 6 round
■ masking tape
two-dimensional surface.” to complete a drawing, even watercolor brush
Like many artists, Gildow when working from photo- PAPER
has a digital camera that graphs on toned surfaces, ■Saral graphite
allows her to preview her she writes notes to herself transfer paper
photographs and easily about the specific pencils

colored pencil techniques 5

colored pencil techniques:
create faster, richer effects

and sequence of application

used in each section of the
drawing. “I have an ability to
figure out the best combina-
tion of colors before I begin
a drawing and remember
them while I’m working,
but it still helps me to write
things down so I don’t waste
time when I return to a
drawing after several days,”
she explains. “I encourage
my students to do the same
thing, in part because it is
a helpful procedure, and in
part because beginners have
a tougher time figuring out a
plan for layering colors.
“For example, it some-
times makes sense to draw
shadow patterns with the
complement of the local above
color,” Gildow continues. “It color-mixing trait that more the Predictor help students Silver and Velvet
might help to first draw the experienced artists have,” select colors and combine 2002, colored pencil, 11 x 16.
Collection the artist.
shades on a red apple with Gildow explains. “Without them by showing exactly
the complement—green— that sense, one may have dif- what happens when two or
and then layer various shad- ficulty choosing the colors more colors are layered over
ows of red. Or, the best plan they’ll need for layering local each other. I find it helps to
might be to draw the bright
shapes and gradually build
color, highlighting colors,
forming shadow colors, and
go through all these exer-
cises, no matter how much
About the Artist
toward the darks so that the punching in cast shadows. experience or natural ability Janie Gildow is an ac-
highlights really stand out. The Color Predictor explains one might have.”  ■ complished artist, author,
It takes some experience in how to develop tints, tones, and workshop instructor.
working with the medium shades, and complements. M. Stephen Doherty is the editor- She has been featured in
to know how to judge which The formulas contained in in-chief of American Artist. many art magazines and
will be the best approach to books, and has authored
realizing one’s intentions. “It sometimes makes sense to draw shadow and co-authored two
That’s why I developed the books on colored pencil.
Color Predictor for my stu-
patterns with the complement of the local She is an award-winning,
dents to help them under- color. It might help to first draw the shades signature member of the
stand what happens when on a red apple with the complement— Colored Pencil Society of
you combine colors in spe- America (
cific ways.
green—and then layer various shadows of with five-year recognition.
“If a student hasn’t been red. Or, the best plan might be to draw the For more information on
using the pencil for very bright shapes and gradually build toward the the artist, visit her website:
long, they may not have
established the instinctive
darks so that the highlights really stand out.”

colored pencil techniques 6

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Robin Lee Makowski

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