Tag Archives: colour swatches

A week of study – colour theory

Now that the new pencils are sorted and organised I have been able to follow up some suggestions that interested me in the book ‘Botanical Drawing in Color’ by Wendy Hollender.  She suggests a very limited palette of colours (just 20) from which you should be able to draw most plants.

Given that I am now the owner of over a 100 coloured pencils I was interested to try out her methods.  Her starting point is the primary colours red, blue and yellow and she chooses a warm red and a cool red, ditto with the blue and the yellow – so six primary colours.  She then adds the secondary colours purple, orange and green (two greens).  Then dark colours – sepia, indigo, red violet and another green, then four earth tones.  Lastly white and cream for tints, highlights and burnishing.

She comments ‘ With the exception of the three greens, I have chosen colors that will give me the brightest possible hue.  This is important because you can always dull a color, but you cannot make one brighter.  With the greens I have departed from this theory because really bright greens are rarely found in nature. If ever you need a really bright green, you can mix it with the appropriate yellow and blue…..’

I followed along from Wendy’s book and made myself a colour wheel with twelve hues from the six primary colours; a value bar using sepia depicting nine values from very pale to very dark; an intensity bar with five steps from bright to very dull; and colour bars blending complementary colours together to make dull/brownish tones and colours.

Experiments from 'Botanical Drawing in Color' Wendy Hollender

My swatches

Lastly I followed her guidance and created colour blends using primary colours.
To make orange:
1.  bright clear colour both primaries lean towards the colour being made  i.e. a warm (yellowish) red and a warm (reddish) yellow = bright orange
2. mid intensity colour where only one of the primaries leans towards the colour being made (i.e warm (yellowish) red and cool (blueish) yellow = mid intensity orange or cool (blueish) red and warm (reddish) yellow = mid intensity orange
3. dull muddy colours where both of the primaries lean away from the colour being made (i.e. cool (blueish) red and cool (blueish) yellow
(greens and purples are made in the same way – just using the appropriate primaries in each case)

I must say I sat and scratched my head over all this, and had to turn the radio off for a while so that I could concentrate!  However I think I have it now and below are the swatches I created.  I am amazed at the variety of colours and am happy that I now have a small roll of twenty pencils that I can take out with me and know that I should in theory be able to draw almost anything.

Orange colour swatches

Orange colour swatches

Green colour swatches

Green colour swatches

Purple colour swatches

Purple colour swatches

Earlier this week I posted my picture with the purple berries from last week to a Facebook group called Botanical Art for Beginners.  I have been lurking around this group for some months now, not having the courage to post any of my drawings, but finally I decided to take the plunge.  I received 124 likes and 24 people added supportive comments and suggestions, I was really touched and pleased; social media sometimes gets a bad press but it is wonderful to be able to connect with other artists in the same field as there are not many local to where I am (or at least I don’t know of any).

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I can’t possibly start now, I don’t have all the right stuff!

Major distraction technique, this.  Of course I can’t start drawing because I need this, that and the other.  Of course this is not true, but despite this I frittered away several happy weeks sourcing all the (supposed necessities) of my new activity.

First of all the coloured pencils, I used a book by Ann Swan called ‘Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils‘ as my guide to colour choices and then spent many happy hours making colour swatches.  Now, this looks like a really nit picky thing to do, but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it.  It was lovely to make little squares of paper and to colour them in, to see how different the colour was no the paper than in the pencil:  then sorting the coloured squares into groups of like colours: then making paper strips and colouring squares again: then using sticky backed plastic to protect them: and finally to lay them all out and look at all the pretty colours.  I should get out more, I hear you say…..

Coloured pencil swatches

Coloured pencil swatches

Well it may have been a labour of love, but I use the swatches for every drawing I do, so there! They help me establish the palette for the plant I am drawing.  I have even found a stash of Derwent artist’s pencils from way back in the 70’s when I was at art school, so they have been sharpened and added to my kit.  So now I had 100+ pencils and I must have a way to store them and find them – so with the advice from Janie Gildow & Barbara Benedetti Newton’s book ‘Colored Pencil Solution Book‘ I requested my DH to make some stands.

Wooden blocks for holding pencils

Blocks for holding pencils

And here they are in all their glory.  Most are made of Cedar wood so they are lightweight and fragrant too.  Each colour has its allocated place and the blocks have hinges so they open wide and stand alone.  Then using both books as guides I collected together or purchased the remaining ‘essentials’.

coloured drawing essentials

Drawing essentials

Best things in kit – 1) battery pencil sharpener, what fun and what sharp sharp points it makes & 2) battery eraser, it’s like holding an angry bee in your hand but it really works.  Also in kit – makeup brush for brushing away debris, blender, burnisher, embossing tools, kneadable eraser, eraser shield, fixative, masking fluid (not used yet), Zest It solvent (not used yet), value finders, magnifying glass, protractor, ruler, masking tape and on and on and on.  But all was finally collected together and finally a spare tool caddy was found and all the equipment found a home.

drawing kit in tool caddy

No more excuses time to get started.

Sue Hagley's drawing space

My drawing space

Here is my space all set up, the plant I am working on here is an Iris Foetidus and the picture was taken in December 2013.  Below is the finished drawing.

Iris Foetidus by Sue Hagley

Iris Foetidus by Sue Hagley