This week’s submission comes from artist Amanda Siegelson. You can view more of her work on her site at Amanda had previously worked in oils so she wasn’t new to art, but she had started with colored pencil less than a year before submitting this piece. Wow, this is beautifully drawn! The hand, the shine on the nails, the eyes, just wow!!


Now when comparing this to your reference photo, your skin tones are quite a bit lighter than the photo. This is something I’ve seen on most of your work, so it is absolutely possible that you’re intentionally leaving the lightest portions lighter. If that is the case then it’s just personal preference. By leaving it lighter around the eyes, you’re making the eyes stand out more which can be a good thing.  You’re still getting great dimension in the piece so if it’s something you like then that’s totally fine.  If not, and you want your work to be a bit more realistic, don’t be afraid to get those values darker. One thing that many portrait artists are afraid of is getting the skin as dark as it needs to be.

With colored pencil you can get a more gritty grainy look like you have here or you can get a smoother look more like a painting. It comes down to what your goals are. Some artists and buyers prefer one over the other but it’s not a situation where one is right or wrong. Being that you’ve already got the first mastered, I’m going to share some tips on getting a smoother finish. With colored pencil, as the tip of the pencil dulls it catches just the top of the paper, letting the bits of white show through. There are a few ways you can avoid this.

  1. Keep your pencil SUPER sharp and work in tiny circles with a light hand (if you push hard you will flatten the tooth of the paper causing it to not take additional layers) applying layer after layer after layer.
  2. Use an Odorless Mineral Spirit (OMS) and a paint brush. This causes the pigment to be pushed into the paper creating a smooth finish. With this method you want to use a LOT of light layers. I usually apply 3-5 light layers, blend with OMS, let it dry, apply 3-5 more light layers, apply OMS…rinse, repeat. This is how I get my portraits to look like paintings instead of colored pencil.
  3. Burnishing. By adding a lot of pressure to the paper with your pencil, you jam that color into the paper and flatten the tooth of the paper. The problem with this technique is that once you burnish, you can’t apply many additional layers, so I recommend saving it for your very last layers.

This is stunning work, keep it up!!