Tag: veronica winters blog

Step-by-step drawing: 3 graphite pencil techniques that work

Drawing is so fundamental to artist’s skill, we can hardly skip it, working in the realist tradition. Here I’d like to share several basic tools and techniques I use, drawing portraits in graphite pencil. I must note that these techniques are applicable to any kind of pencil/charcoal drawing, and these steps and tools are universal across any subject you pick to draw. In the end of this post I share my inspiration behind the drawing and a short video illustrating the steps. Let’s dive in!

#1 Use paper stumps with care

step by step drawing

I begin shading the image by placing the darkest darks on paper. You can compare this method to drawing from shadows to light. Here I draw on the Strathmore Bristol smooth paper that’s super smooth and thick. Because it accepts a limited number of layers, I need to be more mindful how dark I’ve got to go in the first step of shading. (Strathmore drawing paper, medium has a slight texture that’s more forgiving for general drawing techniques in pencil and colored pencil because it accepts more layers).

Paper stumps help artists blend the graphite and charcoal.

Once I’m done massing out the shapes in a soft, 4B graphite pencil, I use the blending stumps to blend large areas, such as the background and the hair. I’m mindful of the pencil pressure as well as of the stroke direction. It’s important to blend in the “right” direction and not to overwork the surface.

Blending with paper stumps unifies the surface, blending everything to a medium gray tone. Therefore, I strengthen the darkest areas immediately after that. Various sizes of paper stumps give me the precision I need blending the graphite.

Never use these paper stumps for colored pencil work! They will ruin the surface.

#2 Use kneaded eraser and the Tombow Mono Zero eraser

how to draw people

In the second step, I usually pull out the highlights with the kneaded eraser. Any brand of kneaded eraser works.  This type of eraser has dual benefit of lifting out the pigment without any residue and creating soft edges around the highlights, which look natural and give a realistic effect of soft light.

What’s to lift out? The lightest lights you see in your picture. I often lift out a bit more than I need to come back to it with finer shading over the lightest parts of my image to create subtle tonal transitions.

General’s kneaded eraser

Tombow Mono zero eraser is a great eraser that lifts out tiny details, such as thin strands of hair or tiny highlights in the pearls. This eraser also works great in colored pencil drawings when I try to erase hard to reach, very small areas in my work. I buy these on Amazon, and it takes about a month to arrive home from Japan! So if you decide to give it a try, order two or three at once, you won’t regret it!

Tombow eraser

#3 Shade in graphite in layers, erase and repeat

Kat with a shell, graphite pencil on paper, 9×12 inches

This step consists of several steps that’s simply a repetition of my actions. I layer the graphite by erasing, enhancing the dark values, and refining details. I develop my picture further with every new layer.

I work on subtle transitions with harder pencils, especially if it’s a skin tone. I usually shade with 2-4H gently transitioning from mid. tone to light. While I’m doing this, I pay attention to values to turn the form.

 

how to draw people
Drawing detail

Value scale

Every color has its own value scale going from the darkest dark to white. Because some colors are darker than the others naturally, they have a wider value range as opposed to the light colors. (Think of ultramarine as a dark color and yellow as a light one). Why do you need to know that?
You control your values at all times as you draw or paint to have a range of tones that makes your image look three-dimensional. Usually, students complete their drawing with a very limited range of tones. That’s why everything looks “just grey” or “too flat.”
Convert your color image into a black-and-white picture on your computer, and you’ll understand how dark the shadows should be, or how light your lights really are. Then step back and compare your drawing to that picture.

Drawing detail: hands with a shell

I finish working on my piece with a final fixative, spraying my drawing outdoors. I strongly recommend using professional-grade varnish, like the Grumbacher matte final fixative for dry media. It gives a very nice and even finish to my artwork that’s impossible to achieve with cheaper brands like Krylon.

Final fixative for dry media

My inspiration

Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus
Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus, 1486, Uffizi gallery, Florence

My pictorial inspiration for my drawing comes from the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus. His shallow treatment of background space and the romantic figure of Venus coming out of the sea influenced me to create my goddess of the ocean. I worked on clothing and poses with a model to complete a fun photo shoot on the beach in Naples, Florida. The completed drawing is a study that I will later take to my oil painting.

You can read about the Botticelli’s artwork here.

Video

Here you’ll find a 40-sec. video as a summary of the step-by-step drawing described above.

 

How often do you draw in pencil? What’s you creative challenge? Let me know what you’d like to learn from me.

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Check out the step-by-step demonstrations here.
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Can you just do? On artistic inspiration, self-doubt and work

As artists we’re able to fall deep in dark pits of self-doubt, uncertainty and melancholy. We question our purpose, hold on to negativity, and doubt our abilities because it’s hard. It’s really hard to work against the grit to pursue our calling-something that has been written within us at our birth. I think the psychological pressure we feel at times maybe tougher to overcome than the financial burden, since it sips through all the facets of our lives.

Artists are also extremely sensitive people, and react to circumstances and opinions more than others. That’s one of the reasons why we see so many talented actors, writers, painters and musicians self-medicating a ‘weakness’ that’s been recorded in the genes and defined as the ‘mental illness.’ I think it’s more complicated than that. I see my feelings mirrored in students who make their first experiences in life. What I can control they can’t yet, and those emotions often arise and confuse them.

Yes, the sensitivity that artists have makes us different, different in having a natural gift that actually keeps on giving, if we nurture it. It can become the artist’s ‘strength.’ We’re able to see something beautiful in mundane places. We are able to move people emotionally. We go down in history as challengers and recorders of new movements. We make the world less ugly and more humane.

So today I’d like to include a couple of motivational readings and some inspirational quotes that make me get up, stand up, and keep going. Enjoy!

On self-limitation

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

 

On self-doubt and inspiration

 

“DO” is the theme of LeWitt’s 1965 letter written to a fellow artist Eva Hesse, who was tormented with self-doubt.  Here Benedict Cumberbatch impresses me with his reading that moves no matter how many times I listen to it.

 

On work & perseverance

  • It’s one of those rare instances where you can see someone as powerful as Madonna being vulnerable. Her speech explains so many things that underline her internal motivation for the work she has done as a female singer. She talks about sexism, misogyny, and feminism in the music industry receiving the award at Billboard Women In Music 2016.

 

  • “Be the Hero of your own story” by Judge Judy Sheindlin is a book for every young or young at heart girl to read. It explains the importance of independent thinking, and how you can open yourself up to opportunities. It’s available for free as a digital download at Judy’s website:  http://www.whatwouldjudysay.com/

 

 

“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo

 

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. -Stephen King

 

How long did it take you to paint that? “My whole life.” Jackson Pollock

 

mona lisa art supplies, how to take care of art

Reasons why da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is still here: use your art supplies wisely

Technical reasons why Mona Lisa is still here

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a scientist and an inventor. In his mind, his remarkable abilities to perfect the technique of painting took a back seat in favor of many other interests he devoted most of his time to. Therefore, very few of his artworks exist today, and the artist’s mindset about art remains as elusive as his paintings. Tall, handsome, and charming Leonardo was great at finding patrons for his military, scientific, theatre and art projects, projects that had never ended in his creative mind, and most he had never finished.

As an inventor, he also loved to experiment with his art materials, using new, untested methods and processes that led to a number of disasters. His greatest surviving achievement, the “Last Supper” mural painted inside a church in Milan began to chip off the wall during his lifetime. He abandoned the traditional fresco technique and painted the picture on a dry wall instead of a wet plaster, and experimented with oil and tempera and other materials that Leonardo combined in a new, untested method, flaking off his deliberate, masterful composition to dust almost as soon as he painted it. The mural has endured a number of renovations since then, but only restored and computer-generated models can show us his genius: perfectly sculptured figures in triangular sub-compositions.

 

It’s not a surprise that da Vinci experimented with “Mona Lisa” (started in 1503) as well.  Obviously, this artwork had held a very special place in Leonardo’s heart since it had never left his hands until his death. Da Vinci’s drawing of the figure was absolutely perfect, and his creation of a soft landscape behind her, (the sfumato technique) was his signature invention. I’m not going to talk about the mystery of the sitter, the beauty of this composition, or the artist’s preoccupation with the painting. There is numerous literature written about these topics. Rather I’d like to illustrate the importance of art materials used in the process of painting.

The artist played with the technical aspects of the painting itself that deteriorated its surface at a much faster pace than it normally would. The exposure to light and humidity darkened and discolored the pigments. Fine details in the face got lost as dyes mixed with the paint faded. Her brightly colored attire changed to shades of browns and black that we see today. Further applied varnishes during the early restorations darkened the painting even more, and today it has a rather colorless appearance of yellowed browns.

Italian painter, Giorgio Vasari was the first to write a comprehensive book about famous artists preceding his generation that he titled “lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors, and architects.” In his notes he reviewed the “Mona Lisa” as follows:

“The eyes had that luster and watery sheen always seen in life … the nostrils, rosy and tender, seemed to be alive … The opening of the mouth seemed to be not colored but living flesh.”

These are the words that describe the mastery of the artist that we sort of see here, only if we could take the sunglasses off to see the real colors.

So what happened to the painting? Because the artist painted on a poplar panel (soft, non-durable and susceptible to insect attack wood) that was removed from its original frame, the surface couldn’t withstand the changes in humidity, it warped and cracked. In the 18th century the braces were added in the back of the painting to stabilize the crack, and later the added frame and cross braces helped to stop the continuous warping of the panel. Over the years the panel has actually shrunk!

Today you can see the painting in the Louvre that’s kept in a bulletproof glass case. It’s rather small (21×30”) and it’s hard to enjoy the beauty of it, jumping over the heads of so many tourists surrounding it with the selfie sticks. To preserve the priceless artwork, this painting is kept in a climate-controlled room with a 50% (+\-10%) humidity and 18-21C (68-70F) temperature. To compensate for fluctuations in relative humidity, the case is supplemented with a bed of silica gel treated to provide 55% relative humidity (Wikipedia)

These are computer-generated models of the famous painting showing us true colors it probably had when Leonardo had just painted it. In these models we can see the pinks and the blues that Vasari mentioned and that have faded over the centuries.

 

 

Source for the images: World Mysteries at http://blog.world-mysteries.com/science/digital-restoration-of-leonardo-da-vincis-mona-lisa/

Other sources: Art history lessons | the Natural Pigments at http://www.naturalpigments.com/blog | Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Lisa

Mona Lisa in the Louvre

If you’re interested to learn more, the Louvre museum website is a great source. Here you can see Mona Lisa up-close and personal going through the digitized images completed by the Louvre museum:

Close ups: http://focus.louvre.fr/en/mona-lisa/

Overview: http://focus.louvre.fr/en/mona-lisa/understand/most-famous-painting-world

Scientific tests: http://focus.louvre.fr/en/mona-lisa/compare/scientific-tests

If you paint

Here you’ll find some good information relevant to the process of painting that affects conservation. The longevity of your artwork greatly depends on the environment you place it in. The best conditions you can set in your home or office include constant room temperature and low humidity levels. Don’t expose your artwork to the extreme sunlight, heat, oxidation, or humidity (water) – these are the main causes for the artwork’s deterioration. Don’t wash the surface with water.

1.     Don’t paint on glossy surfaces.

2.     Don’t use a lot of medium, it dilutes and weakens the paint. Use just a little bit of oil to help the paint flow.

3.     Paint with lead white, not titanium white, or worse flake white.  Lead white holds up everything together like a glue and minimizes cracking.

4.     If you don’t paint large, stick to painting on professional panels, the surface of which doesn’t fluctuate as much as the canvas does.

5.     Have strong stretcher bars and frames that keep the painted surface flat and unchanged.

6.     Use linseed oil to form the most durable oil paint film, although it yellows more than the walnut oil. (The walnut oil is your second best option. It yellows less but dries much slower).

7.     Always paint on a previously dried layer!

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Hope you enjoyed the read!

 

 

 

 

10 contemporary male artists painting women realistically

10 Contemporary male artists painting women in classical tradition: the best in figurative art

 

Today I’d like to feature some of the best contemporary male artists who paint women in classical tradition. After decades of abstract art dominating the American culture, figurative painting sees a  gentle come back that is becoming stronger and more popular year after year. While contemporary art is an amalgam of so many subjects and styles, it’s often subjective to the viewer’s personal taste to determine who is the best in painting. Therefore, I don’t aim to say that the following artists deserve more attention than so many others, but I’d like to highlight the ones who show both technical and creative mastery in the depiction of their subjects, finding their inspiration in painting the female form.

1. Pino

Pino Daeni (1939-2010) was an Italian artist who painted women in fresh pastel colors that evoked feelings of love, admiration, and family warmth. Women dance, read or take a stroll in a field of flowers or at the beach. Sweet and lighthearted, the figures are painted in colorful, loose strokes, using the sophisticated color schemes that overlay and harmonize with each other like notes in music. Long skirts, comfy white shirts, and summer dresses get lost in the soft edges of the surroundings. To see the artist’s work, visit: http://www.pino-artist.com/

2. Serge Marshennikov

Russian artist, Serge Marshennikov is the representational painter who solely focuses on painting women. His youthful, semi-nude models rest on a couch in swirls of delicate fabric. The elaborate lace and cotton alike, it feels so gentle and real, the viewer feels tempted to reach out and touch it. Like the 19th-century French artist David, Serge plays with complex fabric folds and the luminous skin tones to create stunning contrast in his paintings.

Besides exhibiting a tremendous technical skill in oil painting, the artist possesses true talent composing his images with honest admiration and sensitivity to his models that transcend time and place. Follow the artist here: http://serge-marshennikov.tumblr.com/

3. Joshua LaRock

Joshua La’Rock

American artist, Joshua LaRock is a classical realist who studied with Jacob Collins to nurture his talents. Deeply rooted in classical painting, his portraits and still lifes are carefully planned and executed in classical tradition. Joshua describes his models in soft, slightly loose brushwork that breath with life. The award-winning artist works and teaches in New York. Connect with the artist here: http://joshualarock.com/

4. Emanuele Dascanio

Italian artist, Emanuele Dascanio draws and paints in the hyperrealism style with the models occupying huge surfaces. His subjects vary from women to old men, to still life. He often controls the light with a single light source (the Rembrandt lighting) to create dramatic charcoal drawings and paintings. To see the artist’s work, go here: http://www.emanueledascanio.com/en

5. Jeremy Mann

The first time I encountered Jeremy Mann’s work I was blown away by his loose style of painting that seemed totally real nevertheless. Painting cityscapes and women in thick, bold strokes of ink brayers and brushes, the artist creates a universe of harmonious, often monochromatic color relationships. Views of Manhattan and reposed models alike, his paintings make us contemplate a moment of beautiful silence that doesn’t scream with melancholy.

6. Gregory Mortenson

Gregory Mortenson is a classically trained artist whose recent body of work features Haitian children, who were painted by the artist after the devastating earthquake hit the country. His subdued color palettes show a beautiful restraint. To see the artist’s work: http://www.gregorymortenson.com/

7. Goyo Dominquez

Goyo Dominguez is a Spanish artist who paints women and still life, combining traditional painting techniques with the loose brushwork of the Impressionists. Influenced by Renaissance, his romantic artwork is colorful and pure with a sense of lightness and tranquility. Early in life he studied for priesthood and was encouraged to pursue the artistic career. His upbringing led the artist to create numerous murals and commissions for the church and more. To see his work: http://goyodominguez.com/

8. Brad Kunkle

American artist, Brad Kunkle paints women on the silver-leafed panels. He employs monochromatic grays and browns to describe his models. Brad often places women against the patterned background or lets the flying leaves revolve around the models like tiny birds. His figures could be the nymphs of magical forests that strike us with primal physical presence. To connect with the artist: http://bradkunkle.com/

9. Adrian Gottlieb 

Adrian Gottlieb is a classical portraitist working from his studio in LA. In his paintings he explores the relationship between color and poetry that unifies in timeless elements of beauty. Inspired by Rembrandt, the artist reigns supreme at capturing the luminosity of skin tones and fabric set against dark backgrounds. The amazing life-like appearance of his models is astonishing in all of his museum-quality paintings. He runs workshops from his studio and around the country. http://www.adriangottlieb.com/gottlieb-studios/

10. Louis Treserras

French artist and photographer, Louis Treserras paints fragile, young women with intense gaze in restrained, carefully controlled color schemes. Unlike Gottlieb, the artist always sets his figures against the light background. His female models possess the enigmatic and intense gaze that show character and thoughtfulness.  

Here you have it. Stay tuned for my future posts about the best contemporary female artists. 🙂

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How to use the artist’s color wheel

how to use the artist's color wheel

Color theory seems overwhelming at first, and I find it hard to remember all of the definitions at once. This visual tool is a must-have for all realist artists because it’s visual and makes it easy to reference colors and to make color choices!

In this video I explain how to use the artist’s color wheel to understand color theory and how to apply it to your artistic process.

 

www.VeronicasArt.com

Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf
Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf
paintings of women

Magical realism in portraiture: my painting process

Hello friends,

I love painting portraits!  Although I see human anatomy as the most challenging to master, I’m strongly pulled by this subject to depict the beautiful complexity of a human spirit. I paint from real people who hurt, suffer, love, betray, care and ultimately encourage me to become a better person. I’m drawn to faces with enigmatic eyes: I believe in capturing the soul’s essence through my art. I paint in magic realism style that’s sometimes called pop-surrealism. It’s a departure from the surrealism style since I don’t paint dreams, rather I paint the reality with a surreal touch.

With every new artwork I’m presented with a new challenge and a discovery. Although I often work from my photographs, drawing from life is paramount to understanding the human form and the anatomy. That acquired knowledge could be applied to drawing from pictures, not the other way around. I put the information in that is taken out by the photography.

I love color, and I feel I’m finally getting closer to understanding how color mixing works in oil painting. I have more control over my process and I’m able to create color harmonies that resonate within me and help me describe a special atmosphere in my art.

This short video gives an overview of my painting process: how I create an image, work with the model and paint in layers.
The second part of the video shows a quick glazing technique you can start using today, if you paint. 🙂

Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf
Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf

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how to blend colored pencils with solvents

How to blend colored pencils with a solvent

In this 1-minute video I show the basics of colored pencil blending with Gamsol. You can substitute Gamsol for another solvent like Turpenoid Natural.

You must have wax-based colored pencils like Prismacolor Premier or Luminance for this technique to work.

It works well on dark to medium colors. I use a different technique for blending the lights. 🙂

Stay kind,

Veronica

 

Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf
Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! 

 

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how to draw a portrait in colored pencil

How to draw a person in colored pencil step by step

Here you’ll find the information how to draw a person in colored pencil step by step. Over the years I’ve drawn various subjects, but drawing people is becoming my passion. I love to draw stories and emotions though the human form. Before we start, please consider the following drawing tips that will help you find, or set up the subject for your project.

Before you start drawing

  • Pick the person to draw that will keep you interested and motivated to take your artwork to the finish line.
  • Always consider and study the lighting on your model. Most colored pencil artists work from pictures. Learn to take good pictures as your reference material. To begin you may look at portrait photography online to understand how the light changes the form.
  • Keep track of some professional artists working in the field, and study their artwork for composition, design, and the use of a color.
  • If you just start out pick the image with a face looking straight at you. Eliminate the head’s rotation for now that complicates things.

Step by step demonstration

I had a photo shoot with my model, positioning her under a single light to give me definite shadows.

In this demonstration I use a very light grey, smooth, printmaking paper, the surface of which is similar to Stonehenge paper pad. I also draw with the Prismacolor Premier colored pencils and Luminance. I use Gamsol solvent with a synthetic brush and Caran d’Ache full blender for blending.

how to draw a person step by step

 

  1. I work on the outline of my drawing on a sketch paper, and then transfer it to my high-quality drawing paper. It’s crucial to get the anatomy right at this step. Therefore I take my time and check for mistakes by looking at my drawing in the mirror. I keep fixing the outlines until the portrait looks good to me. Next I create the underpainting by working from dark to light in one dominant color that I see in my photo. Here I use dark brown to complete the initial shading. I focus on shadows only to block them in with the consistency needed to develop a sense of light and shade.
  2. In the second step I carefully introduce the second color and slightly overlap it over the first one to create softer transition into the light.
  3. In the third step I focus on the face and add warmer colors (yellows and pinks) in the middle tones.
  4. In this step I throw the same colors I’ve used in the face into her neck, arms and even hair. This is important to do for color unity, so that everything ties together visually. This is the main reason why I work from general to specific, and don’t draw one area from start to finish, ignoring the rest of the picture.
  5. I introduce the blues and lilacs into her shirt that creates a play between the warm skin tones and cool hues of the clothing. As usual I work from dark to light, so I shade the darkest folds first, then add the middle tones and finish up with the lights. Please see below how I approach drawing highlights on colored paper.
  6. In my last step I work on the background that compliments my subject. Here I’ve experimented quite a bit. I added silver acrylic paint to paint the seahorses, so they change their color slightly, depending on the viewer’s position to the drawing. I din’t use any Gamsol on the face because it would make the darks appear too harsh. I fixed the drawing with a final fixative for dry media, spraying it twice outside.

Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf

 

Blending & background:

Blending

There are two basic colored pencil blending techniques. One requires blending with a solvent and another with a colorless blender that looks like a pencil. Sometimes one technique is better than the other. While the solvent dissolves the pigment and moves it around fast, making the color look darker and blended, some colors may look too harsh after the application. The pencil full blender ( I recommend the one by Caran d’Ache) blends all the colors equally, but the process is very time-consuming especially if you work large, and requires a very heavy pencil application to achieve even blending.

Background

Background is important. Never draw your subject without considering the color and value of the background behind it as the background determines contrast and edges. You must have enough color on the page to do the blending with Gamsol. Otherwise, there is not enough pigment to dissolve the colors. Be conservative in your application, and never allow your solvent to run like water. Use a small brush to have a controlled application. Let the first layer dry completely.

In my drawing I painted the seahorses with the acrylic paint after the blending. You need to have a good brush for this that keeps a fine point. I didn’t use any water to spread the paint around, but used it for cleaning up the brush periodically, because the acrylic paints dry super fast.

In my second layer I shaded with the same colors with a much heavier pencil pressure.

In my third layer I added light grays and blues to make softer transitions and to achieve a different effect of “soft fuzziness”. I also shaded with grays to neutralize the brightness of the colors so that the background doesn’t “compete” with the figure.

Drawing of white fabric and highlights:

I use pure white colored pencil only over some previously applied color underneath it, reason being white by itself is a cool, dull color that needs a punch. I shade with white with the heaviest pencil pressure over the previously applied light color. I consider the color temperature of the highlight (warm or cool) as well.

What tutorial would you like to see on my website? Post your comments below. 🙂

Listening to the voice within, 15×20 inches, lightfast colored pencils on paper

“Finding the voice within” is the artwork about understanding and trusting yourself to navigate in this world. It’s inspired by the healing energy and colors of the ocean that’s symbolized in the female form.

 

These are some of the tutorials available for download. They teach the basics of color theory, layering and blending in colored pencil.

 

 

 

 

 

how to draw a portrait in colored pencil

Portrait drawing in colored pencil: as love grows within

 

 

In this post I show my basic process of drawing a portrait. While I prefer painting from life, a lot of times it’s not possible. So, I take pictures of a model and then draw from my monitor or a picture. I often add additional elements to my drawing that are not photographed. Here you see me place orchids to the right. Usually, I create drawings as my studies. Some of them become paintings in the future.

Colored Pencil Drawing step-by-step:

Colored Pencil Drawing step-by-step
Step 1

how to draw a portrait

In the beginning I focus on blocking in the shadows, using dark brown and sienna brown.

 

Join the art student club to receive a free demonstration! Click here: http://eepurl.com/bIJlGf
how to draw a portrait
Step 2

Here I add color for the middle tones.

how to draw a portrait
detail

Tip: In my experience, drawing larger is actually faster than drawing small. Since colored pencil is a very slow medium, we tend to draw small. But I figured that I spent more time shading the 9×12″ pieces, had less detail and experienced more problems working small. So I increased the size of this drawing to 15″ x 22″ and it made a big difference to me. I didn’t have to force and cramp every detail in there, yet it looks complete.

 As love grows within, 15x22" lightfast prismacolors and luminance on printmaking paper
As love grows within, 14×20 inches, lightfast colored pencils on paper

About this artwork

Love is  a complex feeling that begins with self-love and self-care. Love moves and helps us grow. Sometimes it’s hard to find love:  it can be as elusive and fragile as these beautiful orchids, but thus we are blessed to see the beautiful things in daring places where others may see nothing at all.

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Tutorials:

On my website you can find several step-by-step colored pencil demonstrations and art books available in a digital and print format. 

 

eyes-to-see

The miracle of traveling to Nicaragua: how it changed my perception

In June 2012, our group leaders Jeff and Stelli Munnis organised a mission trip to fly to Nicaragua. Through the Seeds of Learning, a non-profit organization supporting the education projects in Latin America,  we worked on the school building project in a small town of San Ramon, situated in the beautiful mountainous area, not far from Matagalpa. Chamba and Mina were the local leaders, responsible for the project’ completion and our well-being. 🙂

Our group arrived to the country to complete the interior and exterior wall painting, the construction of a separate kitchen (Nicaraguan mothers volunteer to cook lunches for their kids daily), and the building of some pathways with benches around the school. I must say that our expectation how the school is supposed to look like has nothing to do with the ones build in Nicaragua. Those are small, simple buildings with few rooms and fenced windows.

Since I came back from Nicaragua, I’ve been asked a number of questions that I’d like to answer here in my blog post.

One of school building projects in Nicaragua organized by the Seeds of Learning.org

What did I bring from my trip?

I bought a few handmade pieces from the local artisans that included a couple of handbags and some jewelry made of real, colorful seeds. But what I really brought from my trip were the intangible things. Mainly, a change in my attitude about life. It was an intense period in my life when I had to look inward to understand myself and my needs, to clarify my goals and purpose, and to just appreciate life a whole lot more than I used to.

One of Nicaraguan girls in school

How much was it?

In short, $2100 including the ticket … Some questioned my decision to spend my money on this kind of a trip that didn’t include the luxurious accommodations and a beach resort, rather made me look at the incredible level of poverty, made me sleep in a hot and humid room with a bunch of strangers (our group members were the strangers to me at first). I also took cold showers (there was no hot water in the houses), drove over the pitiful roads, had stomach pain, sweated for hours under the blinding sun, inhaled the paint fumes with the dusty, polluted air, missed out on my daily intake of the NPR news, as well as running, baking, drawing, painting, and not drinking the hot Earl Grey tea. I can go on and on.

A beautiful kid Jose

What did I gain?

A lifetime of raw experiences and a change in perception… I saw the pure joy and happiness derived from simple pleasures – the interactions with friends, family and strangers that reminded me of my native country. The Nicaraguans had no access to infinite shopping, the Internet, gaming, or workaholic lifestyle. I didn’t encounter the unspoken, spiritual emptiness often observed in the West. As many choose to live the American dream owning a house, two cars and a dream vacation each year both good and bad comes with it. Owning a house often defines our identity. We work for it. When the house is lost due to fire or other accident, it feels like everything is gone.We feel as a failure. It happens as we often focus on getting the nice things, become the slaves to our endless need to work to support our lifestyle. This is the exact opposite of the Nicaraguan culture. Their focus is family, the cultivation of relationships and friendship.I was never interested in possessions or the accumulation of stuff, coming from the former USSR where everything was rationed, and in this country I found a similar to my culture focus on friendships.

Of course, Nicaraguans also have problems. Poverty is one of them. Yet, diving into a different culture was like breaking out from a shell that guarded my settled world. It was refreshing to look at the sincere enjoyment people had in their daily interactions with each other. It became the time to acknowledge their struggles that often involved hard, manual labor, and to appreciate my lucky existence living in the U.S. It was about seeing the humanity in simple things and actions, finding value in life, and accepting myself and therefore others.

In Nicaragua we all had some rough times that reinforced our gratitude for having the very basic things back home, like warm running water, electricity, air-conditioning, and the rudimentary appliances that cut on our time doing the housework.

But most importantly, I woke up from my sleep, redefined my beliefs and habits, stopped being so self-destructing that settled me on a path to my emotional freedom and peace. If you follow my art @  www.Veronicasart.com , you will see some of the artwork that features the Nicaraguan children.

+ Originally published in the summer of 2012.

Nicaraguan landscape

To learn more:

  • Stelli Munnis http://www.stellimunnis.com/about/ and Veronica Winters talk about their art installation Eyes to See, filmed by WTAJ TV, State College, PA on Nov.2, 2012  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNBNSozqy4Q
eyes-to-see
Eyes to see: U.S. Valanteers in Nicaragua

Eyes to See: U.S. Volunteers in Nicaragua, photo book, 160 pages

In this beautifully illustrated book, Stelli Munnis http://www.stellimunnis.com/about/ and Veronica Winters share what it’s like for Americans volunteers to travel to Nicaragua with the nonprofit organization, Seeds of Learning. Although volunteers travel to Nicaragua to build or renovate a school building, the real work happens when things are torn down. As the barriers between people are removed, and the walls individuals erect inside themselves are torn down, they become authentic and caring with one another. Volunteers return to the U.S. feeling different about themselves, others, and the world. They can’t help but feel deeply moved and touched by the hearts and spirits of the Nicaraguan children and people. The book contains over 100 full-color photographs that capture the spirit of what it’s like from the perspectives of volunteers, the children and people of Nicaragua.

My pictures represent a journey to a country with little means yet abundant friendliness. It is a place filled with strong women, free-spirited children, and laid-back men. The Nicaraguan way of life is slow-paced, hard labored, and dedicated to familial relations and friendships. It’s also a place where coffee growers, farming communities, and local co-ops harvest the land and live simply.

Images of children take a special part in this book. They had a natural, unspoiled ability to pose for my Nikon without any preconditions or special arrangements that others typically require when being photographed. They were neither rude nor aggressive; rather, they were kind, well behaved, and loving. I was drawn to their natural beauty and eagerness to communicate with our group of strangers and foreigners. This experience was deeply touching and filled my heart with love and gratitude.

The lush tropical landscape, verdant mountains, and blue skies with billowy clouds provide the backdrop to many of my photographs. It was my intent to capture the spirit of the Nicaraguan people and their rustic lifestyle, while also showing the architecture, housing, and utilitarian objects used in everyday life.

My sole purpose for creating this book is to let curious hearts see and understand the country. It’s a powerful and transforming experience to travel to the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and witness how people there live. It my sincere desire that my photographs will inspire many Americans to travel to Nicaragua with Seeds of Learning or donate to their organization. They are committed to providing children and communities with a tangible opportunity to improve their lives by having greater access to education.

Thank you for your interest in our work and for supporting this project!

-Veronica