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 Winter Robin in Watercolour Pencil

When demonstrating for Derwent at the NEC, I was asked to add this step-by-step demo to my website, so here it is.......

This cheeky robin is suitable for a Christmas card or Christmas gift. It is done in the new Derwent watercolour pencils, which are softer than the previous version and give smoother lay down of colour. Scroll down for details.......


● Derwent watercolour pencils.

● Watercolour paper (preferably HP) or stiff white cartridge paper. A shiny surface is not suitable.

● HB pencil for outline drawing.

● Medium refillable waterbrush plus a fine one if you have it. n.b. use size 0 and 4 round artificial fibre watercolour brushes if you donít have a waterbrush. Sable or squirrel brushes are too soft for this project.

● Stylus & fan brush (part of set of Derwent drawing tools).

● A good pencil sharpener, preferably helical.

● Craft knife, if available. This can be used instead of the sharpener and is also used to scrape colour from pencils for various effects.

● Blender pencil.

● Spare paper. 


Tip. Helical sharpeners may seem expensive, but last a long time and enable you to keep your pencils sharp, important for details such as feathers and eyes. They can be hand operated (like the old school desk sharpeners), battery, or electric.






Step 1. Transfer the line drawing to the paper. If drawing it straight onto a Christmas card, fold paper in half first!













Step 2. Using long but fairly light strokes, cover the top of the robinís head with a layer of Raw Sienna, leaving an area of white paper showing around his eye. Draw a few stronger lines in Raw Sienna to delineate his wing and tail as shown. Cover the breast area with long strokes of Deep Cadmium. Add a touch of the same colour under his wing. Using Prussian Blue, fill in his eye, leaving a highlight towards the top and a semi-circle of white showing at base of his eye. Use the same colour for his beak, leaving a highlight in middle of his beak as shown. 







Tip. Hold pencils at an angle to the paper for best results. Keep pencils sharp for details. Start with soft strokes, building up to firm strokes for later layers of colour.





Step 3. Fill the area of the robinís body you have already covered with a stronger layer of Raw Sienna. Complete his feet with the same colour. Using Gunmetal, draw a few strokes to emphasise his wing, tail, behind his eye and breast and under his tail as shown. 












Step 4. Dampen the robin slightly using the waterbrush or watercolour brush. Using a refillable waterbrush regulates the flow of water, reducing the possibility of over-wetting your paper. If using a watercolour brush, dip in water then wipe on spare paper to avoid soaking your work. Using stylus, indent a few lines to mark veins in foreground leaves. These will show up white once covered with colour. You only need one or two veins per leaf. If you donít have a stylus, mark a few veins in Mineral Green. Outline leaves in Olive Green, then shade leaves as shown in the same colour, leaving some areas white so leaves appear glossy. Emphasise some outlines in Mineral Green. Mark either edge of the branch with Olive Green, shading lightly towards the middle for perspective. Dampen leaves and branch with waterbrush, leaving some areas white.






Tip. Clean tip of waterbrush frequently by wiping on a piece of spare paper and rinsing occasionally in clean water.   



Step 5. Give the foreground leaves more colour by shading them as shown with Mineral Green, adding a touch of Prussian Blue for the darkest areas. You donít need to wait until the paper is dry to do this. Add a little more Olive Green to some leaves for variety. Give the robinís breast, head, wing and tail another coat of Raw Sienna, using short strokes to make him fluffy. Using Vandyke Brown and a sharp pencil, draw out a few darker feathers, using short, firm strokes for the top of his head and back, longer ones for his wing and tail. Darken his feet and one edge of the branch using the same colour.

Bring his eyes and beak to life by adding Ivory Black and dampening them carefully (a fine waterbrush is best for this, of you have one). Use short, firm strokes and a sharp Scarlet Lake pencil to enhance his breast, adding a few strokes of Crimson Lake in the darkest area beneath his beak. Keep the edges lighter to make him seem round and plump. Add a few firm strokes of Scarlet Lake to his head, keeping the top of his head lighter. Add a few strokes of the same colour to his back, wing, tail and feet to unify the composition. 









Step 6. Make a palette for the background wash by scribbling a two inch square patch of Spectrum Blue on to a spare piece of paper. Dampen the fan brush or a size four watercolour brush and dip it into your patch of Spectrum Blue. Starting at the top and going straight over the background leaves but avoiding the foreground leaves and robin, quickly go over the background in Spectrum Blue. You will need to refill your brush every few strokes, but be careful not to over-wet your brush. Leave some areas white for a wintry effect. It doesnít matter if you go over part of the leaves or the robin, as this will blend them into the background. I have put in a couple of berries so you can see what they look like after the first layer of colour. 













Step 7. Colour the berries with a layer of Scarlet Lake, leaving highlights. Add layer of Crimson Lake. Deepen between each berry, darkest edge of branch and foreground leaves as shown with Prussian Blue. Blend colours on berries and leaves using the colourless blender pencil. Add a group of berries on background leaves. Doing this on top of the background wash will keep them muted. 













Step 8. Add snow, if you wish. Practice first on a spare piece of paper. Lightly dampen some areas of leaves and background. Then, using a craft knife and with the paper flat to the table, scrape a little Chinese White over these areas. Leave to dry, then blow away any excess bits. You could add a glitter border or the odd tiny patch of glitter for snow, but donít overdo it.







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