Colored Pencil Portrait on Black Paper

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Colored Pencil Portrait on Black Paper

I’ve been experimenting with black paper – using colored pencils, pastels (here is a landscape in pastel), and gouache. This little portrait sketch was inspired by a 1907 photo of my great-grandmother, just after she emigrated from Italy to Yonkers, New York.

She died from “consumption” (tuberculosis) not long after the photo was taken, at age 24. I don’t know for sure, but I often imagine that my great-grandfather arranged the portrait to be taken as a memento for their three young children. I’ve sketched and drawn her many times, wondering what she enjoyed, who she loved, and what her dreams were – for herself and her kids in the strange new world of America.

I really enjoy sketching from vintage family photos. The facial structure, eye shape, nose, and mouth are all evident in my present-tense family members, so they are innately familiar. This one – on my ipad on the left – was cropped and zoomed in – from a formal 1907 photo of both my great-grandparents.
Here are some of my Go-To drawing and sketching supplies

Basic Sketching Supplies

Some of my favorites for couch-time sketching (above) from left to right:

Derwent Sketching Wash pencil – it looks and works like standard graphite, but it dissolves in water, so it works beautifully as a drawing pencil under watercolors.

A 6-inch ruler, so it fits into a small pencil pouch for traveling, and works well for gridding a page. A slightly fatter art eraser, with a telescoping, white, refillable eraser innard, to clear shading, and fingerprints as you work.

My favorite precision eraser – which also telescopes out – and has a tiny tip that is perfect for strands of hair, eyeball reflections, power lines, etc.

Experimenting with layering sherbet colors to create shades I don’t have in my colored pencil collection.
I have a collection of colored pencils in a canvas roll-up bag (this one) so I can draw on the couch, in the car, on an airplane, or in a hotel room. The pencils are a mix of Derwent, Prismacolor, Caran D’ach, Arteza, and Amazon brands.
A small, inexpensive byt effectual pencil sharpener for colored pencils
My favorite manual pencil sharpener (check it out here).
She’s a little less sad than she was in the photo, and still not looking directly at the camera/viewer, but it’s a start. And it was fun to sketch her. I’m sure I’ll draw her again.
cat sleeping in an art studio
Furry Studio Assistant Scout snoozing on the job.
Miss Liberatore 6 x 4.5 Colored Pencil on Black Paper – Available in my Etsy Shop

Juggling Art Studio Projects

I have at least 8 projects going simultaneously in my studio. This is not unusual for me, but it’s also probably unwise. And it’s messy. I know enough about myself to comprehend that this is what happens when there are so many non-art-life things tugging at my time.

Any interruption to my creative process throws a wrench at my focus, and then I struggle to rein in the horses and bring the wagons back around to where I left off. Instead of “finishing” (especially if it’s a multi-day project), I start something new. Does this sound familiar?

I’ll have some new work to share in the coming weeks as I buckle down and complete a Tetrapak collagraph, two watercolors, a linocut, a ballpoint pen drawing transfer from a gelli plate, and a pile of botanical monotypes, etc. Please bear with me while I go out and find my loose horses. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. Anna Bregman does a nice job with these tips for getting a better likeness when you paint or draw a portrait.

Art Quote

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

Dale Carnegie

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2 thoughts on “Colored Pencil Portrait on Black Paper”

  1. Great post, as usual! I know what you mean, starting different projects… I’m the worst offender 😊
    I love the diversity of all the techniques you’re using!

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