Crikey, I’ve lost my mojo!

I often use this blog to give a bit of the back story to each of my drawings; where my inspiration comes from and how the illustrations came to be.  I’d love to have a great back story to this piece but .. well… there actually isn’t one   I started this drawing late last year when I had four or five unfinished drawing “failures” hanging about.  Failures is probably too harsher word but illustrations that just hadn’t come together and consequently I’d lost any desire to finish them.  I felt like I had completely lost my mojo.

After taking a bit of a break I decided that the best way to rebuild my confidence was by drawing something that I am comfortable with and that I know I do quite well.  Take the easy road!  A graphite pencil portrait of a pretty girl!

I normally do my works on A3 (297 x 420mm) Arches paper but for this one I needed more space so I busted out the rarely used A2 (420 x 594mm) paper.  I find A2 a bit too large and awkward to manage.  And when you have an A3 scanner it can be a complete bitch to scan A2 and match up the two halves seamlessly.

I started with the graphite pencil face and then the hands using my usual Tombow mono pencils.  Initially I wasn’t planning on doing anything other than the face and hands but since it was going along quite well and my confidence was up I decided to add some colour.  I have no idea why I chose to draw them in colour pencil I think it was just an intuitive thing at the time.   It didn’t even cross my mind that my last effort with colour pencil had been a little painful.


(Now I am going to crap on about colour pencil for a while, so you can just skip to the end to see the final image if this is all a bit boring.)

I started with an underdrawing using complementary colours; green pencil for the red flowers, red pencil for the green leaves and purple pencil for the yellow flowers and buds.  With my last colour pencil drawing I had difficulty getting sharp, crisp, edges.  Once again the colour pencil queen, Carrie L Lewis, has come to my rescue with her conveniently titled “How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils”.  Read her blog for a more comprehensive explanation but in short; mark the outline before you start shading and ‘draw a light outline with every colour you use on that area’.  Why didn’t I think of that!

I used my Prismacolor Premier pencils to outline the red flowers in Kelp Green and then shaded in the darker/shadow areas in the same green.  I outlined again in Crimson Red being careful to travel as exactly as possible along the initial green line.  I repeated the Crimson Red outline with each layer of colour I applied.  You’d think this would be a pretty straight forward and simple process but truthfully I got better at it the more I did and my last flowers look a hell of a lot better than the first couple.  It takes a bit of a steady hand to trace accurately over the line below each time.  The more accurately you can do it the more crisp the edge will be.  Again I added more shadow in Crimson Red and Scarlet Lake for the centre.

To be honest, I really only used three colours on the flowers.  I’m seriously starting to believe that the LESS colours you use the better.  Creating ‘red’ with only three colours (one of which is not even red!) is more effective that using six different colours.  Maybe that’s just me!  Maybe a more experienced artist uses a lot of different colours I don’t know! (Maybe the colour pencil companies are a scamming us with their box sets of 72 different colour pencils and in reality you only need 2 reds, 2 blues, 2 greens, 2 yellows, 2 browns and black and white?… conspiracy?)


Flower-no2-v4.jpg(The top photo is one of the first flowers I did and the bottom photo the last one.  I think I got better!)

For the leaves and the yellow petals I followed the same process of tracing over the outline carefully with each colour I used.  It really did help me get a crisper, sharper, outline.  As with the red petals I continued to use a fairly limited palette starting with a complementary colour.


In my last colour pencil piece I liked the stage where some white paper was still showing through.   I prefer this over pushing it to the limit with as many layers as possible and removing all signs of the white paper.   This piece does lends itself well to that ‘style’ as I imagine it is a white blouse with the flowers and leaves embroidered on top so naturally there may be some white fabric peaking through.


Initially I had planned to add hair.  I struggle with hair a lot so I decided to leave it until the very end.  Now I kind of like her ‘hairless’.  I don’t know. What do you think?  Am I just being lazy!?



12 thoughts on “Crikey, I’ve lost my mojo!

  1. Well, this is coming along nicely – I say coming along because yes, she needs hair… or… can you draw hats easier than hair?

    I’m normally drawing on A5 so nowhere near that size, I’ve had an A2 pad sat in the corner for over a year still sealed up and waiting. Scary business.

    “I started with an underdrawing using complementary colours” – it’s probably a basic question so apologies, but why do that rather than just use the colour you’re going to end up with?

    Very familiar with the 4-5 “failures” hanging about, I’ve also got 4-5 but I’ve called them “half-dones”, a couple of them are from 2014!! I set myself a mission to get them finished before I start anything more, so I re-started them in December with the intention of having a clean slate for 2018 but underestimated the time required so they’re still in progress.

    Feeling quite good about finishing them off though, one actually ended up in the bin because not only was it half-done I could see that I’d progressed in the years since I started it. Regardless of what I added to it I just knew I’d be disappointed with the end result. I could’ve been down about throwing away a drawing I’d spent hours on but instead I had a sense of relief and learned a valuable lesson in that I shouldn’t move on to “the next shiny thing” before finishing the last.

    I seem to always have three or four works in progress at any one time, but in a few weeks I’ll cease to have them accompanied by years old half-dones.

    Many thanks for the insight into your process and thinking, very encouraging. Hope to see this flower girl again with something on her head 😀


    • ‘The next shiny thing” – you’ve summed up my problem exactly! Everything is so much more exciting when you start, then they turn in to challenging half dones!
      I think I just started using a complementary underdrawing as I read about it somewhere and wanted to test it out. I actually think it helps give the pencil drawing an extra vibrancy/luminosity with some colours (orang under red). I also think it makes for nicer shadow colours than just using grey or a darker version of the same colour. I can’t really explain it better than that. The impressionists? always did their shadows in purple didn’t they?

      I’ve got 2 votes for hair 😢

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hair or hairless…only the artist can make that determination. I am not going to offer my opinion on the matter other than to say… create art that satisfies yourself and no one else’s opinion really matters (unless working on a commissioned piece). If you, as the artist, feel as though the piece is “finished” then simply stop. However, if you feel that you are only labeling it “finished” so you can move on to the next shiny thing, then perhaps you need to think on it a bit more. I know that I have suddenly came to the realization that I was done with a piece long before a viewer of the art would consider it to be a finished work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. > I think I just started using a complementary underdrawing as I read about it somewhere and wanted to test it out.

    Ah well…. now I’ve read about it also (here) then I will also want to test it out. I haven’t done a colour pencil for a couple of years, the cheapo pencils I had before wouldn’t have coated over each other at all and certainly couldn’t blend in any way so I’ll have to try it with something of a better quality.

    > The impressionists? always did their shadows in purple didn’t they?

    I’m ashamed to say I don’t know, I don’t have any background in art, I’m just teaching myself as I go – so thank you teacher for the education 🙂

    I see there’s a tearful face next to the votes for hair, as Michael said, please yourself first before others… don’t feel pressurised to draw hair because of us. It is beautiful as is 😀


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