Today’s submission comes from artist Amy Monko. She has drawn this piece using colored pencil, pastels, gel pen, and copic markers.

 

4e6c1e8e-7773-49e9-b077-2f5950238743The detail in those beads is amazing, and the lighting on the eyes is beautifully done! This is a really nice piece! You’ve got nice shading!

This submission is a bit different than normal because you already pointed out in your email everything you knew was wrong with it. Being able to pinpoint areas that need work is such a huge step in improving your skills! I strongly recommend any artist, when you finish a piece, sit and list out the things you think you can improve on next time. You don’t need to share that list with anyone, it’s for your own use so that you’re aware of the areas you want to work on next time.

Just to be clear, saying “this needs to be better” doesn’t help! You need to actually pinpoint the exact things that need to be improved on.

Taking a look then at some things that you could improve on, first I imported this into photoshop, outlined everything with bright green, and then dropped the reference photo out so we can better see how accurate your drawing is. You are close, but you want to watch for things like the eyes not matching up. The other big thing here is the edge fo the face is too wide, and the hair on the left comes out way too far. These little things all make a difference in the end, so make sure to double check all your work before you ever start with colored pencil. Once the colored pencil hits the paper, you can’t make major adjustments like that.

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Besides the initial drawing, which you have quite close, just those little adjustments, your values are the next thing to look at. You’ve got him super super pale. He’s a pirate, in the sun all day! Darken that skin up! I know it’s scary not to want to go too dark on your portraits, but more often than not, people go way too light on skin color.

 

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You said in your submission that you had trouble shading the face with colored pencil so you tried adding the pastels over that but it didn’t work because the pastels wouldn’t stick to the colored pencil. Some mediums play quite nicely together. Pastels and colored pencil are not among that group. If you were to do the background in pastels then the subject with colored pencil, that will work fine, but otherwise I would avoid using them together. The trouble you had with getting the colored pencil to shade the skin was probably caused from two things. First, you’re working on bristol vellum. That stuff is FAR too smooth for my taste with colored pencil or pastels. There just isn’t enough tooth for the pencils to stick to if you need to do much layering. There are two very common methods for shading skin with colored pencil. First is to burnish everything. This is like what you see Heather Rooney doing. She is pushing hard and blending the colors together while she works. There isn’t a lot of layering going on there, just jamming those pencils into the paper for a smooth transition from one shade to the next.

There are two very common methods for shading skin with colored pencil. First is to burnish everything. This is like what you see Heather Rooney doing. She is pushing hard and blending the colors together while she works. There isn’t a lot of layering going on there, just jamming those pencils into the paper for a smooth transition from one shade to the next.

The second often used is how you see me work, many many light layers and blending out with the odorless mineral spirits. By working light, I can easily get as many layers as needed to get the values and colors where I want.

You had said in your submission that you didn’t add the pattern on the bandana because you didn’t know how. This is just like everything else, copy what you see. It’s not fast, but it will really make a difference in making your work look that much more realistic. You’ve actually shaded yours quite well, but having that large of a red area blank like that draws the viewer from the face to the big red spot on the piece. The big thing is to just take your time. There are times that I will leave a patern out of a shirt or such, but here that red needs to be toned down and adding the tiny black details will do that perfectly for you!

You did SUCH an amazing job with this. You have great drawing skills and obviously really good patience (which is needed in abundance when working in colored pencil), keep up the great work!!