Coloured Pencils: Vase of Flowers (demonstration)

Time for another coloured pencil drawing demonstration. This is based on a photo by Sei Nakutagawa from the Facebook Photos For Artists group. I used the new set of Holbein Artists’ coloured pencils I’d just bought as I wanted to review them, but you can use the same or similar colours in whatever brand you already have. I also did it in my Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook, which has good quality paper, but if I did it again I’d probably choose a sturdier and slightly rougher surface, like Stonehenge.

Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils:
-Canary Yellow
-Cobalt Blue
-Apple Green
-Holly Green
-Burnt Sienna
-Burnt Umber

Stillman & Birn Beta Series Sketchbook

Step 1
Draw or trace the outline of the vase and flowers onto your paper. Draw the line for the table with Burnt Umber, and then outline the vase and its highlights with Cobalt Blue, the flower stems with Apple Green and the flowers themselves with Violet. Don’t press too hard with the Violet (as I unfortunately did in some areas) as you need to keep a lot of the flowers white or light.

Step 2
For the table, lay in a very light layer of Canary Yellow to the left of the vase, and to the right just along the top/back of the table. Similar to how we did the surface of the violin, create the wooden texture of the table by drawing horizontal (not perfectly straight) lines in Burnt Sienna and Black. Use more Burnt Sienna to the left of the vase where it’s lighter, and use more Black to the right where it’s darker. Then go over all this with a smooth, light pressure layer of Burnt Umber. For the area of the table visible through the vase, add a very light layer of Burnt Umber, leaving some white space around the bottom edge of the vase and being careful not to cross over the vase highlights.

Colour the parts of the stems above the vase with Apple Green, leaving lighter areas on the left of the stems for highlights. You can also go over the highlight areas with a White pencil to make them lighter. For the shadow areas, add a light layer of Burnt Umber. Use Apple Green to colour in the bits of the stems visible inside the vase, but do this very lightly. Next, use Violet to colour in the flowers, again leaving white space or using very light presser for the highlights. Make sure your pencil strokes follow the contours of the petals.

Step 3
Use White to lighten the pale areas on the flowers (I wish I’d gone lighter with the violet as I ended up with a lot areas that weren’t as light as I wanted) and also to reserve the highlights within the vase. For the top left highlight, use a fairly heavy layer of White, then medium pressure for the larger one in the lower right, and a light to medium pressure for the thin highlight around the lower right edge of the vase. Using a light touch, colour in most of the white area in the top of the vase with Black, letting it touch the upper right edge of the vase. Do the same for the bottom left edge of the vase. Lay in a little black along the right side of the flower stems to further define their shadows.

Use Black to draw the shadow under the vase, making it darker where it touches the vase and gradually lightening your touch as you move outwards. In the darkest area, add a little Cobalt Blue for the vase’s reflection on the smooth wooden surface. Go over the entire table area with White, using a medium pressure for all areas except the shadow (which should use a light pressure) and then go over it all again with Burnt Umber, using a lighter touch on the left side of the table and a heavier touch to the right (I also added another light layer of Black over the right side). Apply a final medium layer of White just in the top left corner of the table.

Step 4
Go over the whole vase with Cobalt Blue with a light pressure, avoiding the highlights and being careful to let some of the stem and table colour remain visible. Use a light-medium pressure to go over the lowest right thin highlight, and a light pressure to go over the larger highlight in the lower right. You may need to go over both again with a White pencil to restore the highlight, but they shouldn’t be as light as the upper left one. Add some more Burnt Umber for the table again if you’ve covered it with too much Cobalt Blue, and then go over the whole lot with Cobalt Blue again, this time with a medium pressure and blending the edges of the highlights. The top left should have a fairly sharp outline but the lower right ones should be more blurred. With a medium pressure, go over most of the vase with White to smooth out the texture a little (you could also use a colourless blender pencil, if you have one). I also added another layer of black along the bottom left edge of the vase before going over it with Cobalt Blue again. It might take a few layers to complete this step, but just keep building them up until you’ve got the deep blue of the vase and a smooth glass texture.

Colour the background with Black pencil. You want a solid, dark background, so it might take several layers of medium-heavy pressure. Again, using a colourless blender in between layers might be helpful here (I have one but I couldn’t be bothered digging it out). Alternating the direction of your strokes (eg. horizontal for first layer, vertical for second layer) will also help you get more even coverage. For the first few layers I’d recommend just doing the background, and then once you get to the final layers, begin overlapping the black onto the darkest areas of the vase and the stems to provide a sense of depth (I also added some Apple Green to the darker side of the stems). Finally, go over the outline of the vase with Cobalt Blue again if your outline isn’t as neat as you’d like, and then sign your name in the bottom right corner.

That concludes today’s demonstration (apologies for the photo quality; I took it under my desk lamp with my iPad, so the vase shadow doesn’t look as pronounced as it is in real life). I hope you had fun with this drawing, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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