12 Oct 2018

Pomegranates using Derwent's Lightfast Pencils

Hello folks, it's a windy Friday out there, and we're still trying to fix damage from the last big storm! As promised, I am trying to post weekly now. It has been a hectic and difficult past couple of years for my family and I, and sometimes I think my body's just showing the signs of fatigue now, so that is no small feat for me. Plus, as you all well know, modern life is busy, too busy sometimes. So wrap up well, pour yourself a cuppa, and if you can find a pair of pomegranates in a supermarket or grocery store, even better! I know they can be expensive, but you get to eat the seeds afterwards, plus they are so beautiful! If you can't, or just can't be bothered, just follow my steps below.

There's a lot of talk and advertising by Derwent at the moment (you must have noticed!!?) of their latest innovation: the much anticipated Lightfast pencil. You can check out last week's post to read a review I wrote on them. So, this week I wanted to follow up by doing a step-by-step of a simple still life. This took me about 3 hours, plus taking photographs of the different stages.  This is not a botanical or hyper-realist rendering, more a study of the fruit and how to describe them in coloured pencil, in a painterly manner. Please leave a comment or show me how you got on, if you decided to try it for yourself, or just even your thoughts on the pencils.

Let's get started....




For this demo I’ve chosen some beautiful pomegranates that caught my eye in the supermarket. I love their organic forms, the luscious colours, and what I like to call their topsy-turvy crowns. 


Fix your paper to a drawing board or rigid support of some sort. Use a low tack masking tape or equivalent! I am using Stonehenge paper, which I love, and it has a slight tooth to the surface which takes the pencil well, but if you don't have any, any good, medium thickness cartridge paper, or similar, will also work, as long as the paper is not too thin as we are going to add some solvent. The most basic, yet crucial step is the first: take your time placing your objects on the paper and get the basic forms and proportions right. At this early stage you can use light shading to hint at shadows, but use a gentle pressure. If you press too hard on the paper you can emboss marks into it, which will show up in the finished drawing. (Believe me, I know from experience and it can be a real pain!) I used a Derwent Coloursoft pencil, Pale Lavender C230, for this outline sketch, since it’s soft, erases quite easily if I make a mistake, and will blend in well with the rest of the artwork, and the colour is similar to ones I know I‘ll use later on. But you can use any pencil you have to hand, Lightfast or otherwise, that is a similar shade.


While we might think of pomegranates as red or pink fruits, there are really so many more colours involved! Look closely and you’ll see the underlying colour is a warm yellow/ochre. Using the Derwent Lightfast Brown Ochre, and using the flat of the pencil, block in colour with a light to medium pressure over the whole drawing including the shadow area. I have placed the fruit on a white, semi-shiny table, and the surface reflects some of the colour from the pomegranates, so there is some yellow and red in the shadows. Leave some areas white for the highlights, though this is not completely necessary since we’ll also use the white pencil for that nearer the end. Blend the dry colour with solvent to create a ‘wash’ effect. I used cotton wool dampened with low odour solvent. Don’t soak the cotton wool, just dampen it enough to blend well. Remember to work in a well-ventilated area, too. You could use a blender pen instead, but you won’t get the same painterly look and it will take a little longer. Some of the yellow/brown will show through the successive layers of the drawing, and by blending gently rather than too hard, some of the paper texture remains, adding interest to the skin of the fruit. Don’t worry if you think they look like onions at this stage! Lots of layers still to do!


I used Blush Pinkish, followed by Yellow Red and then New Red, to work on the mid tones, working from the lightest to the darkest tone. (When writing this step-by-step, I was just informed that the final 72 set of these pencils won't be available till next year.  For this demo I used the final prototypes of the Lightfast pencils that Derwent sent me: the exact same core as the final product, but a different casing. You can just substitute any colours I used which are still not in the public market, for the most similar ones in the available 24 and 36 sets). I also added some light layers of the much darker Venetian Red in the darker areas. It’s always safer to add multiple, light layers at first, so as not to press down too hard on the paper and flatten out the tooth of the surface, thereby making the addition of further layers very difficult, at times, impossible. Be descriptive with your shading, using both the flat of the pencil, and the point for finer details. Move your hand in the direction of the marks on the skin of the fruit to help create form and volume. Alternate layers of pink and red with layers of Brown Ochre, and now some Sunset Gold, which adds more warmth. Keep these layers a medium pressure for now.


 Now start to blend the colours on the paper more by blending with a light violet colour similar to the one we used to draw the outline in Step 1. I used Derwent Lightfast Mars Violet.  Since we are now applying a stronger pressure, it is almost like burnishing. These pencils are unique in their blending ability.  They virtually mix now almost like paint, on the paper. Sharpen the point if you need to, for the finer detailed areas such as around the tops of the pomegranates.
Then, using the Venetian Red, a very dark red-brown, start to sculpt out the form by darkening the shadow areas, and add layers of colour to the cast shadows on the ground. The white table is reflecting some light back on the bottom of the fruit near the shadows, making some areas a lovely warm red-orange colour. To achieve this, blend in a layer or two of the Sunset Gold and New Red. Using the Brown Ochre, start to add some of the details of the patchy marks on the fruit skin. Hold your pencil in a writing style grip, closer to the point, for these small areas, and to have more control.


In the final stages we add the darkest darks and the lightest lights. Since green is the complimentary colour of red, I used a lovely dark green called Racing Green for the darkest areas in the skin as well as the hollow area of the stalk.  It helps to squint to see which areas are darkest!  I also used this pencil sharpened to a fine point, to add some dark scar-like marks to the right pomegranate. I used an eraser, as well as pressing hard with the Lightfast White pencil to create the highlights. Be careful though with erasing at this stage. If the paper is still damp from the solvent, you risk smudging your drawing, or staining and at worst, tearing the paper! To keep the drawing from looking too overworked and fussy, I crosshatched some rough shading over the shadow areas, and left some drawn lines to hopefully create contrast with the solid forms of the fruit.  You can also blend a little with some solvent again at this final stage, to create a more paint-like finish if you wish.  These pencils are quite soft and can smudge easily, so it’s a good idea to clean any unwanted marks on the white background with a clean eraser, and spray your finished drawing with some fixative to help protect it.

The finished drawing! Now you can sit back and relax, and think about how you are going to use the seeds: just eat them as they are, or as part of a recipe. It can be a bit of a job deseeding pomegranates, but well worth it in the end!

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