Complex Scenes and Coloured Pencils

April 13, 2022 | 4 Comments

A quick update sharing some thoughts about this week’s theme.

It all started on Monday morning – sitting in the sun looking towards the empty Cafe Feoh and sketching a moment when no cars were driving past! 🙂

I enjoyed doing this so much and it got me thinking… maybe coloured pencils will work really well for complex scenes where I can easily layer colours progressively building up values as I work. This is quite different from doing such scenes in watercolour where  I really need to think through the values before I start and the less layers the better (more lively washes).

With these thoughts in mind, I decided to tackle a wider view of one of my favourite spots in Lane Cove National Park. I have sketched (in watercolour and markers) this picnic area a number of times but I normally zoom in and just focus on the picnic shelter and the blackbutt trees.

This time I decided to include the road as well and add a few details that tell the story of recent flooding. When I was in the middle of adding colour I had a lovely conversation with a cyclist who has ridden here every day for 13 years! He had a lot to say so after about 5 minutes I returned to my sketch, adding patches while he continued talking. So I wasn’t really concentrating on my work for a bit. 

This is a photo of my sketch after 25 minutes of coloured pencil work (including the conversation with the cyclist). I only added a few a little bit more (mainly to the darks to tie them together).

I really really loved doing this sketch and it was nice not to have to wait for any washes to dry. It was also nice that when I paused to chat I didn’t have to worry about the implications for my sketch – I wasn’t mid-wash or about to do some wet-on-wet work.


Yesterday I decided to tackle the full scene at the Village Green including the background buildings. To date, I have largely ignored them as they are a bit busy and also are tricky in terms of value.

I took this photo so that I could record how much time I’m taking for these coloured pencil sketches. Are they taking longer because I’m doing so much layering, or are they quicker because I don’t have to wait for washes to dry? I think that generally (at the moment) they are taking longer.

And then I took this photo 12 minutes later. By this stage, the sun had gone and there were some threatening rain clouds forming so I was unable to finish the sketch with the light that I wanted to capture.

Back home I finished the sketch experimenting with numerous layers trying to achieve the morning shadows during the brief time of sun I experienced that day.

I definitely want to have another go at this scene because it needs some manipulation of the values (and reserving more white areas) so that the new pavilions to the Village Green stand out against the existing building behind. In the morning light, both of these are mostly in deep shadow so it’s not simply a matter of colouring what I see.

Ah! I’m having so much fun!


  • Annette Huppatz says:

    I’m really enjoying the sketchy quality of your pencil drawings. It’s very expressive.

  • Kate Burn says:

    I’m enjoying seeing your experiments with colored pencils. I’ve been exploring sketching with them as well. I have been inspired by Per Adolfsen, a Danish artist who does finished paintings in colored pencil. His mark making and color palettes are so interesting.

    I may have missed it but are you using an Alpha sketchbook for your colored pencil work?


    There’s something nostalgic, old timey and really atmospheric about these pieces. Plus, so much texture… LOVE them!

  • Lisa Cruse says:

    Very nice work, Liz! Your eye for color rings true whether in fluid or pencil marks.

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