Keep Those Pencils Sharp

Central Coast – Morro Bay | 9 x 12” | Colored Pencil on Paper

A few months ago we took a trip to indulge in wines of Paso Robles, California. This is a beautiful area, a little hard to get to, and the wine is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no wine snob… my palette is worth a $40 bottle of wine at best. However, over the years we’ve done a lot of travel around the world and there is no better way to find wines you like than to be in the actual region and explore. Again, we tend not to go to places for the purpose of doing wine tastings, but what else are you going to have with dinner?

We took a beautiful drive from Paso Robles, CA to Morro Bay. Along the way we came across this stunning view, giving a first glance of the ocean as we wound through the hills. As you can see from the reference photo, it’s beautiful, but as an artist you see a whole lotta green! 

I chose to do this piece in colored pencil instead of oil paint for two reasons. First, I’ve recently started experimenting with colored pencils and the investment in a new pencil set needed some return. Secondly, it gets brutally hot in my upstairs studio during the summer, so having the pencils setup downstairs is an easy way to get my creative fix for the day if I don’t feel like running the AC for 3 hours in the middle of the afternoon. Pragmatism, go figure. 

I’ve done a few practice sessions with colored pencils after taking a workshop from Jenny Granberry, who is a great artist and instructor, a rare combination. This piece was a challenge and intended as a massive practice exercise with the goal of something “completed” in the end. This composition was a challenge for reasons beyond my lack of colored pencil experience. First, I can’t remember the last time I’d done a drawing-based landscape, and secondly, the greens! 

What I find the most interesting part of this piece is the fact that I worked from the top down (far to near), and I don’t know about you, but I can definitely see that the bottom part of the drawing is notably better than the top. I can hear Jenny now… keep your pencils sharp and go slow. I hear you Jenny, I hear you, it just took half a page to get there. 

As to the greens, I focused on blending variations of blues in the more distant hills, segueing to stronger yellow in the foreground. I wasn’t excited about the final look initially, as it lacked warmth from the sun, so I drank some wine to work up some liquid courage to grab an orange/red pencil to add an overlay to the foreground hills. Unlike oil painting, you can’t just wipe off pencil – true, it can be erased, but then you’re compromising the “tooth” of the paper, and at some point I hope to be good enough that something like that matters. 

In the end, Central Coast – Morro Bay was a great learning experience and provided a wealth of knowledge through trial and error. I also think I’ll return to this subject matter in landscape perspective for a larger oil painting. 

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Keep Those Pencils Sharp

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