Journal52 2015 Prompt 2: Just Be #Journal52 #ArtJournal #ColoredPencil


The second prompt for Journal52 2015 was ‘Just Be’.

I’ve mentioned, often, that I seldom plan my work.  However, after musing on this prompt for a bit I had the idea of someone lazing against a tree, just being.

I wanted to keep my process simple, and I wanted the process to ‘just happen’ as well.  So how to bring my vision about while still letting my finished piece be a surprise?

For those interested, I’ve written up my solution below.


Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook

Tim Holtz Distress Markers: Rusty Hinge, Worn Lipstick, Tumbled Glass

American Craft Stamp Marker: Aqua

Coloursoft Colored Pencils: Electric Blue, Lime Green, Mid Green, Deep Fuschia, Bright Orange


Blending Stump/Tortillon


Starting in the corners, and then more or less at random, I colored portions of the page using water-soluable markers.  Then I blended all the colors together with a water brush.

My choices were important here, but not critical.  Most of this watercolor was just a base and would be covered up.  But what I wanted to keep in mind was that some of the color would show through and would affect the colored pencil colors.

I needed a similar range of watercolors as I’d be using with the colored pencils, or things could get muddy.

But I didn’t know exactly what colors I’d be using!  So, I thought, hmmm. My vision was of someone in the woods.  I needed colors that might suggest fleshtones, and trees and grass and shrubbery.

I went through my watercolor markers and pulled out a few colors that knew I liked and that were close enough to the above choices.

Note: Having used these watercolor markers and colored pencils before, I have a good idea how they will work together.  If you aren’t sure then try using them together on a piece of paper.  Write notes so you’ll remember what colors you used.  Try to stay with the blends you like–don’t worry if it is muddy or not. Your criteria should be–do I like it or not.    Keep your experiments in a book or box, so you can go back later and see what worked.

Note: When I say that I’m adding my colors at random, I am–sort of.  After a while, you just sort of know how you want things to go.  Practice is the best teacher, but I thought about it, and this is roughly what I do.  Most of the time.  Some of the time.

  1. Pick three colors
    • Choose one color to be most dominant (it doesn’t matter which one)
      • make five rough shapes of different sizes-leave lots of white space
        • make sure to have some of the shapes towards the top
        • make sure to have some of the shapes in the middle
        • make sure to have some of the shapes towards the bottom
    • Choose another color to be less dominant (it doesn’t matter which one)
      • make four rough shapes of different sizes-leave lots of white space
        • make sure to have some of the shapes towards the top
        • make sure to have some of the shapes in the middle
        • make sure to have some of the shapes towards the bottom
    • Take the remaining color
      • make three rough shapes of different sizes-leave white space
        • make sure to have some of the shapes towards the top
        • make sure to have some of the shapes in the middle
        • make sure to have some of the shapes towards the bottom
  2. Blend the colors
    • Blend like color to like in most places
    • In at least 3 or 4 areas overlap and blend two different colors together
    • Cover the whole page, but leave some areas almost the color of the paper

This is the page I came up with, more or less following my advice above. (The white streaks were caused from glue that was spilled on the page when I was working on another page).

And, now comes the element of making my finished piece a surprise, even to myself.

I looked at this, and said ‘Where’s a girl in here?’  Can you see her?  Once I found the wild, bushy, green hair surrounding a face, I had it.  Her legs seemed chopped off though.  Oh well, I thought. I’m never afraid to suggest rather than make things perfectly clear.  I’m not sure my scan picked it up, but I used color in the shadowed areas to suggest her legs were bent back at the knee. Possibly, she’s holding a foot in the hand that is behind her.

I apologize, because I had intended to take more photos, so this would be a step by step, showing how I picked out the form of the girl, but I got caught up.

In essence, I used the colored pencils around the shape of the girl first.  I did the same for the words ‘just be’.

Then I used the colored pencil to darken the areas between — the gap between arm and body and between her legs. Looking at the watercolor base, you wouldn’t think there was much flesh color there, but once I had color pencil all around it, the fleshtones were more apparent.

I left the girl altogether for a while, and concentrated on the background.  I let the watercolor underneath suggest where light and shadow might fall.  Mostly, I squirkled, but in some areas I drew lines meant to suggest grass or larger ovals to suggest leaves.

After one layer of pencil on the background, I went back to the girl and started working on details.

For her outfit, I used directional lines to suggest folds and shape.  I used the tortillon stump to blend the shadowed areas so they’d be more blended and darker.  In the areas, where I wanted to suggest sunlight touching, I squirkled very loosely, letting lots of the watercolor show through.

I shadowed the areas to emphasize the contours of her face and arms.  With a sharp pencil, I added her eyes.

Once satisfied with the girl, I went back to the background and her hair, adding 3 or 4 more layers of color.  After blending the shadows underneath and behind the girl, I added another layer of the same colors I had used on her earlier, bringing the values more in line with the background.

That was it.  I had a drawing that satisfied my starting vision, without knowing exactly what I was going to get.  I could follow this procedure and come up with a different work every time. I feel this keeps me fresh, and keeps my interest.

All told, it took about 30-40 minutes.


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