Coloured Pencil Treasures Book

Article by Julie Douglas – Coloured Pencil Drawing Certificate Course (C12)

Recently I was asked to contribute an image to a new book highlighting what is happening in the world of Colour Pencil, globally,  today. I was honoured to be invited. All artists were asked to answer two questions, one about the specific image selected and the other was to explain our personal approaches to our work, as if we only had two minutes to sum it up! This was a great way of focusing the mind, and the different answers given throughout the book make it unique, valuable and varied.

Often, with both exhibitions and publications, there are artworks which don’t quite make the grade but this book is rather astonishing in that everything is amazing. A variety of subject matter and amazingly skilled artwork, to include all subjects and themes.

And while there is a wealth of artwork to be found on the internet, it is so lovely to have a good book in your hand, to really peer at some great work. I am really grateful to Ann Kullberg who co-ordinated it all, in a space of about 3 weeks, and would recommend the book to anyone who is interested in good imagery, no matter what medium you enjoy using.

You can purchase the CP Treasures book, share it on facebook and preview all of the pages here –

Coloured Pencil Course work….

Our Coloured Pencil Certificate course tutor Julie Douglas emailed me two wonderful images for the website completed by one of her students. Julie has also written about them below so we hope you enjoy reading and viewing her students work.


These wonderful drawings are from Jennifer’s third set of exercises on the CP course. Students take longer and longer to complete their work on this course, because their colour awareness grows and their observation skills get so good they can’t help noticing more and more things to be included!

Jennifer is great for trying different surfaces to work on, though sometimes this is because she travels all around the world and has to make do with whatever supplies she can get. Another inspirational student, who chose distance learning because she moves around so much. She also asks lots of questions when she sends artwork for crit – this is really useful in getting the information you really want from your tutor!

Row, Row, Row your boat…

I saw this Illustration on our student forum and just had to ask Emma, who is currently studying on the Illustrating Children’s Book course, if she would write about it for our college news blog. Happily she said yes and I hope that you all find it and her artwork inspiring!

I’m Emma and I’m currently studying on the Children’s Book Illustration Course – and really enjoying it! I’m only really at the beginning of the course and have just sent off my first submission, a brief in which we had to do a double page spread for a children’s nursery rhyme book, specifically for the rhyme ‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.’

Initially I thought about doing the character in the boat as an animal, but after consulting my three year old daughter (since she‘s pretty much the target audience) on what she would like to see in the picture I was informed quite firmly that it ought to be a child, and who was I to argue! I decided to draw a boy, as I read somewhere that although little girls will happily read books about girls or boys, boys tend not to read books about girls – whether that’s the case I’m not sure, but it made my mind up for me. I did pop a little girl on a picnic blanket in the background though.

I really enjoyed drawing out the picture in pencil and using my imagination for the magical landscape and characters. I wanted to give a sense of the child rowing from an idyllic daytime scene into a magical dream, so I had a think about how to approach that and decided I would create a ‘dreamscape’ on the right hand page where the trees had morphed into lollipops and cupcakes, and the boat had turned into a bed in which the child would be sleeping as he sailed into his dream. One of my favourite things about constructing drawings are the details in the background, I like to have plenty of things going on to look at, so I included plenty of birds and animals, which were normal on the left hand side but magical on the ‘dream side’ – so I popped a couple of frogs playing a lullaby on a violin and flute to lull the boy to sleep, and a frog tucking into an iced doughnut on a lily pad, birds in dazzling colours, and decided to have a flew brightly coloured fish flying out of the water and into the dream. Steering the little boat was a pirate owl and his pirate duck sidekick. And just for good measure and an extra dollop of magic I popped in plenty of twinkly stars and a rainbow.
The painting is acylic on card. I use the paint relatively thickly so as to achieve nice smooth colours and blends, and every part of the painting has been built up in layers of paint to achieve that. I started with the sky, then the hills and grass, then the trees. Somehow though it’s really when I start filling in the details and adding a few delicate outlines to things that the picture really comes to life – and that’s the part I most enjoy painting. The only drawback to having so much going on in a picture is that it’s quite easy to miss something – even after I thought I’d finished and had packed my paints away I realised one of the small trees in the background was missing a shadow, so out the paints came again.
The part of the picture I found most difficult to draw was the boy – the tiniest error of drawing seems to age the child massively, and that is something I will be practising a lot as the course progresses, how to achieve the age of the character that I want to. Tricky! The part I found most difficult to paint was the cupcake house – I just wasn’t certain what colour it should be. The part I enjoyed painting the most were the little detailed characters, the owl and fish and frogs etc, they don’t take long to paint in comparison to the background and they add instant interest to the picture.
I’m really looking forward to the rest of the course, and I hope it will help me on my way to achieving my dream of illustrating for a living.
Emma – Illustrating Children’s Books Diploma (D6)

Sci Fi Students blog post…..

We have received a wonderful story / artwork from one of our current students Astrid Nielsch who is currently taking the Science Fiction & Fantasy Certificate Course (C13) We hope you enjoy reading and viewing Astrid’s wonderful sketches and artwork.


My name is Astrid Nielsch, I am enrolled in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Art course taught by John Byrne. I am about halfway through the course now. Up to this point, I have been largely self-taught as a visual artist: the main reason I signed up for the course, was to find out what I have missed by not going to Art School. So far, I have been finding it very useful in pushing me out of my comfort zone, and challenging me to try things I might not otherwise have attempted. Some of the works created for the course really make a strong addition to my portfolio!

I have been interested in Fantasy and Science Fiction, and also in physics and astronomy, ancient cultures and mythology, since I was a teenager (a little while ago). My A levels in high school were Physics and Ancient Greek, and my professional ambitions, at one time or another, included physicist, astronomer, or archeologist – but then I very wisely decided to become an artist instead: I originally studied music, and have been active as a professional performer for many years.

I now live in a rural small town in New Zealand, about an hour outside Wellington (of “Lord of the Rings” fame) – but I grew up in Europe: mainly in Germany, but I have lived in a few other countries, including a three year spell in Brazil and a formative year in London, and I have traveled a lot, with my family, and through my work as a musician. On many of those travels, I would carry a sketchpad, rather than a photo camera: many of the sketches I did were of old buildings, so the assignment I am going to talk about really brought back an old passion!

The task for this assignment was to make some sketches of buildings “that look at least a hundred years old”, as well as some modern shapes and materials, then combine these elements in an imaginary building, perhaps on another planet.

New Zealand has a lot of inspiring visual features: landscapes, plants, geological formations – but there isn’t exactly an abundance of interesting old buildings! At least, if like me, you have been spoilt by living and traveling in Europe half your life. So when I went to visit my family last June, I made sure to pack a sketchbook, and I planned some side trips that would take me past some sketchable architecture.

My flight was to London Heathrow, so it was easy to plan a few days in London. When I had lived there, I had never managed to visit the Greenwich Observatory, so this was a high priority item on my “Things to See and Sketch” list. You may recognize the shape in the finished image!

After a short detour to Yorkshire and Cardiff – giving in to my fandom for the Brontë sisters, and Doctor Who/Torchwood, respectively – I took the train to Belgium and stayed with an old friend and fellow musician in Brugge. I had been looking forward very much to spending an afternoon sketching in this gorgeous old town, but unfortunately by that time I had come down with a bad cold, so the only sketch I managed where those two gothic turrets, but they also ended up in the final composition for the assignment. I also took a number of photos, which I used as reference for the textures on the façade. Of course, I could have worked from photos all the way, but it wouldn’t have been half the fun! 😀

One of the medieval city gates in Torún, Poland (which I visited with my parents because my mother had lived there as a child) inspired the shapes of the arches, though I deviated from the original sketch to the point where it is hardly recognizable.

I might have grabbed the opportunity to sketch some modern architecture in Berlin, where my parents live – they’ve built up an entire new government quarter since I last lived there! – but I left that part of the assignment until I was back in Wellington. Seeing that June/July is the middle of winter around here, I opted for an interior – Wellington City Library offered just what I needed, an interesting ceiling structure that lays bare some of the building infrastructure of heating and lighting and structural supports, and a rather nice escalator staircase, which I ended up using in my assignment. Escalators are such a defining feature of contemporary architecture, yet somehow we rarely think about them as something worth sketching.

The assignment specified that the work should be a pencil sketch, but after I had finished the sketch, I felt an itch to give the image a proper Sci-Fi twist by putting it under an alien sky, and use some colour. The final version is a digital painting done in Photoshop with a Wacom Intuos tablet. For the background, I used an astronomic photograph of the Orion Nebula by David Malin as my main reference.

I have always wondered how things might look on an alien planet with a different solar spectrum and a different atmosphere: the light spectrum would likely be quite different from Earth.

So here it is: The entrance to the Experience Library of the “Earth Studies” department of the University of New Earth, a building from the early 52nd century. Experience libraries, as the name implies, collect experiences – the very building allows the library user to experience some typical Old Earth environments. Not only does the building reference some typical historical Earth architecture, the inside of the building simulates an Earth environment, complete with ozone blue light. Note that this is a transdimensional building, i.e. the inside is bigger than the outside. Those Old Earth escalators actually do go somewhere.

I did mention, did I not, that I am a big fan of Doctor Who 😀

by Astrid Nielsch  Science Fiction & Fantasy Certificate Course (C13)

Martha’s Story….

We have been in contact with a passed student, Martha, who successfully completed our Drawing and Painting Diploma (D1).  Martha is about to exhibit in a local exhibition and has prepared some paintings of her surrounding area to exhibit. We asked Martha if she would write a little about some of her paintings and drawings for our blog…We hope you enjoy reading and viewing Martha’s work and we wish her every success for her exhibition.


The Charcoals are taken from photos my friend sent to me, they are scenes of Pakefield Beach and Lowestoft Pier in Suffolk. When I received them I was inspired  to draw them.
I also drew one of A Lake In The French Alps which I think is very picturesque!   I think I have managed to capture it well!  I enjoy using charcoals very much. It amazes me how the drawings come together, I find I don’t need to put too much detail as it works well keeping it simple.

I submitted the two Charcoals last year for the Scottish Drawing Prize for the  Exhibition at the Paisley Museum and Art Gallery. This was my third year entering Drawings. I have also had Paintings accepted for the Aspect Prize  also at Paisley. I am one of the founder members of our local Art Group here in Carluke South Lanarkshire. Our Group also hire wall space at a local garden centre in the Clyde Valley. where we have been successful in selling paintings!

The painting above is just one of the paintings Martha Completed on her course which has now been framed. We would like to thank Martha for sharing her story and work with us.

Kate’s Graphic Design Artwork..

Our Graphic Design tutor Vanessa emailed me some pieces of work for the website from one of her students Kate. We also asked if Kate would like to write about them for our college news blog. We hope you enjoy reading about Kate’s artwork.


I have been working with computer-based graphics for a few years, and decided to do the Graphic Design course to help me move out of my comfort zone and explore new ways of doing things. I have really enjoyed the course, and it has helped me to start thinking in a more conceptual way about designing, and to go back to basics using pen and paper to sketch and plan before jumping straight onto the computer!

When I created the logo for a local company, ‘Jon’s Golf Pro Shop’, I decided to keep the original colours so that, in theory, the shop would not have to redo its interiors to try and match a new colour scheme. I chose a chunky, sporty-feeling font, and decided to try and make the logo more contemporary and unintimidating (as golf, and all the equipment that comes with it can, at times, feel  very overwhelming) so that both experienced and newbie golfers would feel comfortable shopping here.

I added a silhouette of a golfer in the ‘o’ to give it a subtle golfing touch, and the various sized fonts create movement and energy, which is suitable for a sport-based logo.

The next piece of work is a billboard for an organic baby food company – Mother Nature. I chose bright colours and chose not to clutter it too much, as you have only a few moments to get someone’s attention when they are driving (unless of course they are stuck in a traffic jam!)

I came up with the slogan ‘Whatever your baby can imagine… mother nature makes’. The term ‘mother nature’ used in this sentence gives connotations of the food being natural, pure and wholesome while also subtly bringing the company name into the slogan, to make sure people remember it! The brief was to focus on the wide variety of foods made by this company, which is demonstrated by ‘Anything your baby can imagine’. By referring to ‘your baby’ it also makes it much more personal to the reader’. With the baby’s head near the bottom of the billboard, it is clear that what is happening above his head is in his imagination – which is of course various fruit characters with eyes and wings!

Kate – Graphic Design Diploma

Città del sole Calendar illustrations needed

We have received an email below from Città del sole and thought we would post about it on our news page. If any of our students are interested in entering their competition, the link to their website is below. It is in Italian, however if you use Google Chrome your browser will translate it for you. I couldn’t seem to get the English flag to work in the top right corner, but you all may have some success with it. Let us know if you enter!


Città del sole, chain of quality toyshops with 64 stores all around in Italy, is pleased to bring to your attention an initiative that you could propose to your students.

We’re looking for a young illustrator for our 13th calendar, a tradition that we bring forward with much pleasure and that, in the last edition, has seen the piece of work of some of the most important children’s illustrators.

Since 2008 we had the idea of launching a competition, and the result was the nice calendar illustrated by Anna Castagnoli. For 2009 the winner was Marco Trevisan; for 2010 David Pintor and Barbara Cantini for 2012 edition. You can see the whole production here:

Giulia Carlini
(Project manager)

Via Molino Nuovo 9/A
20082 Binasco (MI)
tel 02 86463700
mobile 3342198039
skype: carlini_selegiochi

2012 London International Creative Competition

We have received an email with the following competition. We wish all of our students the best of luck if they enter.


2012 London International Creative Competition
Accepting entries now. Visit

LICC invites all visual artists to submit their creative work for inclusion in the LONDON CREATIVE AWARDS.  The artwork is juried by a board of internationally esteemed artists, writers, curators, gallery owners and other luminaries of the visual arts. There is no limit to creativity. LICC has no boundaries and encourages you to push the envelope of your creativity. All disciplines are accepted.

Deadline: April 30, 2012
Entry Fee: Professional: £20, Student: £15
Prize: £2,000 cash prize, selected work published in LICC’s annual Book of Creative Designs,
a feature in the LICC newsletter, and the much sought after LICC Trophy at the London
Creative Awards in September of 2012.

Each of the 15 Final Selection winners will receive a segment of the LICC Awards Trophy. When each trophy is fit together, it will form
a completed piece of art work, like a jigsaw puzzle. On the 10th anniversary of LICC, all
the artist along with their trophies, will gather together and present their altered trophy. At that time, these piece will be united, combined, and put on display at an exhibition in London. When these separate trophies are placed together, they will embody masterpiece of collaboration.

Swantje’s Pelican Illustration and the story behind it….

We asked if Swantje, who is currently studying with Maggy on our Illustrating Children’s Books Diploma (D6), if she would be able to write something about her wonderful Illustration of the Pelican taking flight. I hope you enjoy reading Swantje’s text and find her experiences with watercolour helpful and interesting.


Hello Everybody,

I’m Swantje from Germany, studying Children´s Book Illustration with Maggy Roberts (working on the last exercise right now) and really enjoying it. Melanie asked me to write a bit about some of the pictures I created for the course and I decided on my ‘pelican’ picture which Maggy and I both like a lot. Hopefully you’ll find this useful!

I´ve chosen the ‘pelican’ because I used a special kind of watercolours here that is not so well known. The picture itself is part of the 3rd exercise concerning animals in motion.

I started out like I suppose everybody did, with research drawings of different animals: Dogs, birds, a caterpillar, many sketches of our cat at home  … searching for the one sketch, one animal than would feel just right for the exercise.  And then there was this picture of a pelican in one of my photo books, and suddenly, I remembered how I’d spent many hours in the zoo one summer with my sketching book, watching and drawing these big birds walking around and swimming. And now looking at the photo all of a sudden I wondered how hard it must be for a young pelican to learn how to coordinate this big beak and these wings and feet – and how funny it must be to watch him learning just that! With this in mind I started to draw.

I made sketches of the pelican doing different moves like lifting one leg (in that special way birds do, you know), spreading his wings, and so on. Soon it looked like the bird was sort of dancing around on my paper. A story seemed to want to tell itself in these sketches,  about a young pelican who wants to become a dancer, with nobody backing him up but his friend, a little crab. But though I liked that story (and the crab), while my pelican on the paper fell over his feet again and again I felt what he really wanted to do was to fly. After all, that’s what becoming an adult bird is really all about, isn’t it?

So finally,  for the coloured picture I chose the moment when the young pelican is able to take off for the first time – of course together with his friend the crab!

Concerning the technique, I didn’t think too long about that. Watercolours it would be! I’ve been using watercolours for many years now and I’m really sort of into them. Which is strange, because at first I didn’t like them at all, not to say I really hated them. When I was younger, I was rather one for drawings because I felt like I couldn’t control these running, floating colours at all. But whenever I took a closer look at pictures of artists I liked I realised: They were created with watercolours! I wanted to catch this magic I found in their works in my pictures as well. So after a lot of hesitation, I took the brush instead of a pencil and since then have kept on going. And now I really can’t imagine to live without these beautiful colours. (But of course I didn’t give up drawing completely.)

But although I’m quite set on the medium, I’m still experimentating  with finding ‘my own’ way of painting. And, to get back to the pelican, because I knew this would be a picture with not too many coloured details and background, I thought it was a good one to try out a type of colours I’ve heard of but did not paint with before. These special colours (‘Aquacryl’) can be used like watercolours but the difference is that the binding agent ist not gum arabic but modified acrylic instead. I was really interested to see which effects this would have on the picture, and because these colours are probably not too well known, I shall tell you a bit more about my experiences with them.

Before starting with the watercolours though I used coloured pencils for the contours of the bird  – a bit nervously, especially with the orange, because it is such a ‘decisive’ colour. But I thought it might be a good way to make a  picture with a mainly white bird more vivid and also catch a bit of sunlight on the wings. Then, taking the new watercolours and moving on to doing the shadowed parts on the bird’s body and the bright ones on the beak and legs I found out that the  ‘Aquacryl’ colours are very, very bright if you use them without mixing them too much. Really brilliant colours! And one can also easily wash them out in lighter areas because they stay on the surface of the paper and do not sink in like others. On the other hand, because of this property of the colours it felt like I was almost ‘pushing’ them around at times. It took me some time to get used to this, but overall, I really liked the general effect. Maybe I got a bit carried away with my success at that time …

When the animals were almost finished, I felt the picture still looked quite empty somehow. So I decided to put in a hint of clouds and blue sky to show where the pelican is about to go. Thinking this would be the easy part I only wanted to put a layer of clean water over the blue to even it out a bit, like I’d done before with other watercolours. But instead of gently flowing into each other, suddenly all the sky colours started to move on the surface of the paper! (You can still see it in the final picture.) This was when I decided that I had done enough experimenting for now, and finally left the pelican and his friend alone.

Still, I’m really satisfied with the picture and with my little colour experiment as well. I think I´ll basically stick with  my ‘ordinary’ watercolours but I’ll definitely use the new ones from time to time. Trying them and realising that although they can be difficult to use for certain techniques, on the whole I was able to handle them well after a bit of trial and error gave me quite a boost of confidence. Great side effect, don’t you think? 😉

Best wishes to you all – Swantje