What's on the drawing board

Starburst still life


June 28, 2021

This fun still life was meant to be just a couple of starburst sweets drawn to give the new Derwent Chromflow pencils a run for their money (or my money, seeing as I bought them).   But, just like me opening a bag of sweets, I couldn't just stop at a couple. Oh no, I had to finish the whole packet!​

The pencil testing is now completed.  I have to say I am a big fan of how they feel, and how they layer and blend.  They're soft and blendy (is that a word?!) and I like to burnish so was unsure how they'd cope, but they were great actually.  Because they're softer they don't hold a point for long...and on the subject of long points, they don't much care for a long point. I found it was much better to use a regular metal hand sharpener for a shorter point that lasted longer. 

The final picture is up in my gallery for you to enjoy.  I have contacted Mars(the company, not the planet) for their okay with this...better to beg forgiveness than approval eh! Maybe they'll see al the hashtagging and tagging I've given them.

Anyway, enjoy!



June 12, 2021

I can't seem to go anywhwere at the moment without stopping and taking photographs along the way.  The plus side is that I am getting quite the reference stack of images, so I guess there's that!

This poppy is one from my garden. It came and went in just a couple of days, but I was lucky enough to spot it, and snap it.  Funny though, this drawing has been around longer that the actual flower was. 

I love the textures on the petals. It looks so much like crushed silk.  A bugger to draw, but I think this will be beautiful when complete.

I'm using the Derwent Lightfast on drafting film. Making good use of the reverse of the film to enhance the depth of those reds and oranges. 

I have lots of botanical art for sale in my shop. Why not peruse at your leisure. Everything comes fully mounted, or framed if you prefer. UK postage is included in the prices.



May 20, 2021

This 'marbellous'  artwork underway is for a video tutorial I am doing for a fellow artist's Patreon.  Lisa, from Animal Art by LAW, invited me to be her guest artist, and this is the artwork that will be available to her Patreons in June. 

Rather than use stock photos, we decided it was better to have our own, so she bought some marbles on Ebay, and photographed them in various ways.  This is on tin foil (aluminium foil), which created some interesting reflections and bounced the light around, which was great. 

I used Derwent Lightfast pencils, on the Derwent watercolour paper, which is lovely and smooth and great for coloured pencils. It can really stand up to a bashing. I even used the ceramic blade to make all those little dinks and scratches. 

The artwork is now complete if you'd like to have a look in the gallery. I am also selling the original, as well as prints.  Please see my shop page for info.

Magnolia Black WIP.jpg


April 23, 2021

Another beautiful magnolia is on my board this week. I took the photo myself on a walk through the streets of Winchester.  It's amazing the quality of photographs you can now get with a phone.

I decided to dig out my Fabriano BlackBlack paper for this, as I knew I wanted something striking and really contrasty.  I remember my first picture on this paper was the Koi one, for which I won Best Picture at the 2019 UKCPS Online Exhibition. I haven't really used it since.

I remember it being a lot easier than I'm finding it now though. It's really hard to cover the page, and OMS isnt helping at all. I wonder why I'm having such a hard time this time?  Could it be that I have changed my process? 

Well, yes I have. I'm being a lot more picky about when I think its finished. Honestly, I think last year I would've stopped a few layers back and called each petal done, but now I just want it to be the absolute best I can get it. 

I wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist (too messy for that). I would say that I have higher art standards now though. As I have progressed, and improved I can see new levels to attain. Its never ending :-)

See the finished drawing in  my Gallery.

You can order a print of this beautiful piece now. Just get in touch and let me know what size. A3 or A4



April 15, 2021

I have LOVED this experience on drafting film so much, I think it might be my new favourite surface to work on.

I really went for it on this piece. As close as I've ever got to hyperrealism, the sharp focal flowers are brought all the way forward by the deep depths of that background, and those slightly fuzzy violas.

I ran out of Forest green Lightfast on the last day, which could've been a bit of a disaster if it were not for Emma at the An emergency order (including some schmancy new Pablos) arrived the very next day!

See the now complete version in my gallery. Double click it to tell me you like it.

The drawing is available as a lustre print on A3 and A4 should you be interested. Drop me a message by clicking the contact button below (I still haven't sorted my shop out!). 



April 8, 2021

I am back on the drafting film again, but this time I am really going for it!

I was so taken with the recent magnolia drawing on film, that I really wanted to push for a more saturated, high colour piece that I could take my time on.  So, here you see what 15 hours looks like!  I am going for a hyper-realistic style. I want it to look three-dimensional.

This square image is about half the height of the actual drawing, which is A3. The added size does make it a little easier to get the details in, although a lot of the greenery is in soft focus. 

For more progress photos, why not check my Instagram?

(For some weird reason I started bottom left and am working my way up the page - which is not my usual way at all)



April 2, 2021

With coloured pencils, when you say 'underpainting' you don't necessarily mean with actual paint. And I have only really given underpainting with a brush and paint a go once before with my purple and orange tiger. 

I have this lovely back-lit image of snowdrops that I thought I could try two things with;

1 - using Derwent Inktense sticks dry and then wetting the pigment.

2 - using them wet like a paint pan.

The background on this anthracite pastelmat has been gone over twice with dry inktense black, and blended out with a wet brush. It remains a little patchy if you get the light on it. But it is pretty good, and lovely and black.

The coloured areas, I applied the Inktense wet with a brush. It didnt spread or reactivate the (now dry) black, which is a wonderful characteristic of the Inktense.

After this, I added some details with Procolour over the top to sharpen the edges and add contrast and extra colour where needed.  The final version is in the gallery. I think it turned out lovely!



March 18, 2021

I don't get asked to draw many cats, so when I do, I really enjoy it. I just love Lola's eyes here. So bright and alert!

She's very thick furred, and grey too, which is a tricky colour to not look flat. Also even trickier to photograph, I found out. My camera had a helluva time with it. In the end I had to tone the saturation right down, and change the levels so that I could get a copy that was half-way towards what I was actually seeing with my eyes. 

The trouble with greys (warm greys in this instance) is that they can be really flat. They only really come alive when next to or surrounded by contrasting colours.  Thankfully, Lola has a bright tabby tummy, and some lovely flecks of it across her face, so despite some initial worries from me (and my camera) she looks stunning in the final result. Which you can now see in my gallery.

Go give Lola a double tap to drop a heart on her.



March 10, 2021

Being a big fan of the very textured pastelmat for most of my drawings, I didn't buy into the whole drafting film malarkey.  I figured it would be far too slick for my heavy hand. But, about eighteen months ago, there happened to be some available, and it happened to fall into my trolley, as these things do!

Fast forward to last week, and for some reason I remembered the roll I had tucked away behind the sofa. I had a few days before starting my next portrait, so why not give it a go? What's the worst that could happen?

Well, I now feel that I've been missing out on a beautiful surface. Yes it is slick, but I think my heavy hand has finally started to lighten, because I had relatively few problems with this very different feel. Either that or I chose an easy subject to draw - which doesn't sound like me at all :-)

Have a look in the gallery to see what you think of the finished magnolia. I intend to do more work on this interesting surface.



March 1, 2021

A break from the norm here, I have been enjoying my gouache paint a little too much recently. I made a few of these of abstracted cat paintings, and paired them with these 8x8" glossy bright candy coloured frames from The Frame Company.

If you'd like to own this one, or any of the other original art I have for sale, please click the button below and look at what I have available right now.  I am also offering wallet friendly prints too.



February 25, 2021

Started a new commission this week of the very pretty Misty.  She's adorable, and she knows it!

My client chose to go with a white background, which does make my life easier in one respect, but really hard in another. Anyone who's tried drawing white fur on white paper knows what I mean.   The trick here is not to go too dark and not to add too much colour, she is a white dog afterall. 

I'm really pleased with how her face and fluffy fur is coming together. As I head down the page onto her body, I hope I can keep it going.



February 12, 2021

I was honoured to be invited by Derwent to create a step-by-step for my favourite pencil manufacturer, but they didn't want me to draw something....they wanted me to paint!

I'm no landscape artist, but I had such a lot of fun with their Inktense Studio Set that I had to push my boundaries and shake a fist at my insecurities. 

I went into this with a can-do attitude, and together with the awesome layering capabilities of the Inktense paints (they don't reactivate when dry, just like ink) I think I did a pretty good job. I'm proud of this one!

You can read my step by step on their blog. Click the button below.



February 1, 2021

Enthused by the tiny Artist Trading Cards I did in January in coloured pencil, I wanted to see how I managed with another new obsession...gouache.

I am determined to improve my painting potential this year, and I really enjoy seeing the many YouTube artists painting with their jelly gouache some Studio Gibli scene or other. I opted to purchase the pinnacle of paint, Winsor & Newton gouache, as the opaqueness and longevity of colour is superior to those cheaper versions. But its a real learning curve, especially as the light colours dry darker and the dark colours dry lighter.

Getting to know how to use it is half the fun though!

The most annoying part of this little series of snowy paintings was that I cut them the wrong bloody size, so they can't be swapped or sold as ACEOs.

ATC fish


January 20, 2021

I'm just finding out about Artist Trading Cards (otherwise known as ACEO) and have become a little bit obsessed with creating them.  

These tiny originals have to be 2.5x3.5inches and can be any 2D medium. They are made specifically to swap with other artists' cards. I chose coloured pencils for the first batch and made 7 in total (even though I was only swapping a couple)

This one might be my favourite because I incorporated some Derwent metallic pencils at the end, which finished this off so beautifully.

Thanks to my fantastic little Facebook Group (Return 2 Art) for taking part in the swap!

You can read more about ATC/ACEOs if you click the button.



January 11, 2021

A Happy New Year to you!

This is Hugo. He's been keeping me company this week as I try a new technique and a new surface. 

Modern phones are are really good on the 'portrait' and 'selective focus' settings for creating this out-of-focus effect for things not in the foreground.  Hugo here is in full focus on his face, but his right leg and his back are not.  I've not attempted to recreate a fuzzy focus look before, but actually, it wasn't too difficult. 

The trick is, and you'll probably laugh at how obvious it is, is to not to have any sharp lines or crisp edges, and to blend any colour transitions into each other.  Simples!

I have also upgraded my surface to the Clairfontaine pastelmat board. It's a wonder I've not done it already to be honest.   I really enjoyed how stiff it was and that it wasn't curling as I added more layers. I think I will have to invest in some extra colours now...or just do everything on white for a few months !!

Hugo was a commission. You can see his completed portrait in the gallery.  Go have a look and double tap the picture to show me you like it.



December 11, 2020

Well, what a wonderful way to finish such a difficult year.  This is Dexter and he has to be my favourite portrait of the year. 

Although he is no longer with us, I felt his spirit lift me and carry me through his portrait. From those soulful eyes, to the tip of that lovely nose. I found solace in my work with him.  Thank you Dexter.

Using Polychromos again, on white pastelmat.   I have purchased some board to try next year, as well as drafting film. 

For now though, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Dexter's completed portrait is now in the gallery.



November 29, 2020

I have an epic drawing on my board this week. This is Missy, another Christmas commission that will, eventually, live in Texas, but for now I get the pleasure of those saucer-like eyes staring back at me.

Tabby's are hard. I think I've said that a few times now, but they're definitely getting easier.  Missy's portrait was one of those that almost draws itself. I found the whole thing super fun, and really enjoyable, and the final drawing looks like one of those 3D photos!

I changed pencils to the Faber Castell Polychromos once more, which made me fall in love with them all over again. They just work so well on the pastelmat. I think they're my new old favourite!

Missy's final portrait is in the gallery already.  Have a look at her collar and all the bling on it! hahaha



November 25, 2020

This pair of beautiful Boston Terriers have been on my desk this week.  I finished it before I had a chance to take many in-progress photots though. 

I forget how quick watercolour can be, especially when there's probably only 4 colours in the fur.  Lets count them...


Panes Grey

Yellow Ochre

Vandyk Brown

Pink (I forget which one)

Light cobalt blue.

Okay, that's 6 colours, and I did mix the blue and pink to get a nice purple, so I guess that's 7. And of course, the black wasn't straight 8, and white of course...9 then!

Buster and Betty's portrait is complete and available to view in the gallery. Why not pop in there and give them a double tap heart.

Toffee WIP.jpg


November 10, 2020

You know how I feel about soft curly fur, right? Well, Toffee here - she's a Labradoodle I believe - well, I think she may just have helped me get closer to where I want to be.

Recreating soft thick curly pale fur is, for me, one of the scariest things. But this forehead is the start of my conquering those nerves and trusting my instincts.  I did need to change pencils though.  My trusty Derwent Lightfast are just too 'sticky' and go on thick, which is normally what I prefer, but I have to say, the Faber Castell Polychomos, which are harder and more translucent, make it much easier. 

But the main trick is to soften it all with a pale grey. This 'smooshes' all the edges together, and really helps to diffuse the hard lines and help with the softening effect.

Toffee's portrait is now in the Gallery. Why not go and take a look at her in all her soft curly glory! And double click to like it!



October 20 , 2020

Since I still feel like a newbie to painting, I do like to dabble with different mediums.  This month I rewarded myself with some Winsor & Newton Designer's Gouache.  They're like watercolour, but opaque, and that intrigued me.

If, like me, you enjoy falling down YouTube holes, you'll no doubt have seen how popular jelly guache has become of late. I did some reading, and watched a lot of reviews before buying, and decided in the end to go for quality over quantity. 

And it seems that I may have stumbled upon a medium that really suits me. I've invested in a good watercolour sketchbook, and some lovely brushes, and over the past week, I have been creating these rather interesting (and almost landscapey) paintings. Go figure! 

Christmas Spice WIP.jpg


October 08, 2020

The Winchester Christmas Market isn't happening this year, which is a real shame. I've been every year since it began, and one of the stalls smells so good and Christmassy it really helps to get me in the mood for the festiveivities.

That stall is the Oranges and Spice Christmas wreaths. It has a warm mulled spicy orangy cinamonny smell. It's utterly delicious!

My reference photo was taken last December on my annual  Christmas shopping day with my mum and sister.  And to help us get into the spirit of the season, I thought I would have a go at drawing the bonkers detailed picture.

Is this destined for my sister's wall again, or will I get to keep this one?

EDIT - Have decided to sell prints of this. Contact me if interested. 

To see the full finished version visit my gallery.

Skye WIP.jpg


October 01, 2020

Having a lot of fun with this beautiful girl this week.   Major procrastination on those ears, as usual. They weren't as difficult as I usual too!

The depth of colour in Skye's coat is lovely, and I'm pleased with how contrasty it is. I think I used every version of brown and a few reds to get it right.  And thank the gods for Mars Black. That wonderful browny black is a godsend.

Skye's finished portrait is not in the Galler. Go give her a heart!

Penguin Prints.jpg


September 15, 2020

Lots of fun with this simple design.  The background is a watercolour wash and I applied the pencils on top.

Tested a Derwent combo with this, namely the Coloursoft pencils and their Hot Pressed Watercolour Paper.  Have to say, I was not a fan of the pencils on this paper, they seem to be more suited to a grainer texture. But the finished drawing looks great nonetheless.

My thanks to Georgina Strange for the image. I fell in love with her wildlife photography of the Falkland Islands, which is where these courting King Penguins was taken.

Chester closeup.jpg


September 10, 2020

There's been quite a bit of excitement and interest in Derwent's new(ish) Lightfast paper in a couple of the Facebook groups I'm in, and I have used it twice before - the most notable being the Flying Saucers UKCPS Cover Photo Theme winner last month. Anyway,  I wanted to test the paper again, but this time actually using the pencils that it was designed specifically for.  Lightfast.

Firstly, I found that you have to work light, and for a heavy hander like me, that was hard enough already.  You got to do layers, starting with the lightest colours, and you got to work up the values (or down?) to the darks.  The Lightfast pencils worked wonderfully on this paper. The pigment layed beautifully and, though it was prone to smudging (heavy hands again) it cleaned up fine.  The cost of this paper makes my eyes water though.

I wanted a really fluffy soft look to this puppy, which, if you take a look at him in the gallery, you'll see that I achieved that.  It is very different to my usual style, and I needed a new approach, but overall the Lightfast on Lightfast is a match made in heaven.

Original is for sale. Prints on Archival textured paper are also available. Contact me for info.

Monty side.jpg


September 6, 2020

Monty the smiling spaniel has been grinning up at me for the past week, and today he was finished and approved by my lovely client.

The reference photo was a photo of a photo, which made it more than a bit tricky to see any detail. But as this title suggests, instead I focused on tonal values and had to make up the details.

Overall, he came out really well. I am particularly happy with his mouth. The teeth in the reference were overexposed and just a white blur.  I was able to make a believable set of gnashers with just a few pencil strokes of different colours. Perfect!

Monty can be seen in the Gallery. Go give him a heart.



August 24, 2020

Holy moly, this one took forever!

I have had a blast though, and the end result is something I am really proud of.  Check it out in the gallery if you would be so kind.

My favourite now is the purple swirly one in the middle. This one, I feel, has the most light and luminosity. It really looks like a bright glass marble to me.

The most difficult one to draw was that green one. I think because it has no defined edges to the inside patterns, so they all merged and spread and layered over each other. And also that it was clear, so the behind colours had to show, but also stay in the background.  Yeah, very tricky that one.

The original has already sold, but I am making prints for anyone who likes it enough to order one.



August 7, 2020

Did you play marbles as a kid?  I did, and I had a massive drawstring bag full of one-ers and two-ers I had collected and won.  One of my favourites was a big black one, just like this one. I never played it because I didn't want to lose it.

I am going back to my comfort zone with this drawing. Back to the realism and the high contrast and the high colour. I've gone big too, as you can see, this one is massive for me!  

Going big is great for getting in the details, but it does mean drawings take a lot longer.  There is definitely a good few hours left to go on this one. But I don't mind. I am really enjoying being immersed back in the zone.

Reference from Pixabay.

Using Lightfast and Luminance on Strathmore Bristol Smooth 400. 

Inksperiment wip.jpg


July 27, 2020

After the 'barely there' colours in my last drawing, I was up for something dramatic this week.

I have been learning about Derwent Inktense recently, and playing with the 'bleed effect' on pastelmat. This unusually coloured Tiger has been underpainted quite roughly with the Inktense blocks first, and done in layers to increase the intensity (INKtensity!). 

It was scary to feel so messy and have so little control over where the colour went, but I am now at the more familiar stage of adding the coloured pencils.

I am using Derwent Lightfast pencils over the top of the Inktense. They go down really well because they are so creamy and opaque.

Ref photo from I have been watching her draw the same tiger in realistic colours over on her Patreon Channel.



July 18, 29

Who remembers Flying Saucers? 

I am a massive sweets and candy fan, so it was inevitable that I would draw them sooner or later.   This is a fun one for a UKCPS challenge, but it is also giving me an opportunity to test out Derwent's new Lightfast paper.

So far, I love it. There's not too much texture, I can burnish, I can erase and these new Luminance pencils go down a treat!  Is it wrong to not use the Lightfast pencils?!

Subtly of colour in this is something that I'm not really used to. And that glass is a headache, but I'm not being overly rigid with sticking to the reference.  Also, the different focal lengths is pretty challenging. 

Think I love it though. 

Flying Saucers is now complete, and came out awesome! It's for sale too :-)

all the cats.bmp


July 15, 2020

The last two took a little longer than expected thanks to the lovely Charlie's pet portrait being on my board for a while, but I am LOVING how this came out!

I spent the day today scanning them in and then hours cleaning the scan, and then more hours getting them ready for the printers. Greeting cards will be available soon.   I want a print of this 3x3 though. It makes me grin.

Bigger version to view in my Gallery. 

Charlie WIP.jpg


July 5, 2020

No, not the dog!

Anyone else struggle to make long hair look soft and subtle? I have had to work slow and very lightly to get Charlie looking right.  This is a do-over already.  The first attempt was like he had a rope mop on his head!

Nevertheless, I like where I have got to, and I have definitely learned a thing or two. 

More heavy breathing and slight panic as I work my way towards tackling the ear.  Wish me luck! 

UPDATE = Charlie is now complete and home in the USA. You can find him in my Gallery.



June 21, 2020

Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

This week I have been trying out some new supplies from Derwent. I recently purchased their Inktense pencils and was waiting for inspiration to give me a slap, when Father's day snuck up and kicked me into gear.  My dad loves anything sailboaty, so I went nautical. 

This is Inktense on pastelmat, which gives an amazing watercolour effect that, well I guess you could also get it from watercolour, but I have never managed to make my watercolour look anything like this.  Loosey-goosey is not my usual style.

I took two framed paintings  down for him, and he liked both and requested a third for balance. Ha!  Can I recreate this effect?

Who knows.



June 14, 2020

This month I decided to turn my Instagram white with all kinds of white kitties.  I'm a big cat fan, and I miss having a one to pet in times of stress, and my goodness June has been stressful.

Once I have 9 drawings, my Instagram feed will look really fun!   This is a just for fun project, but I intend to frame all 9 in an pseudo Insta-feed frame for the lols (and cos it will look great on the wall).

If you're intrigued, as to how the project is going, why not check out my feed I'm currently up to 7 of 9.

Awakening progress.jpg


May 30, 2020

Another personal project with this purple beauty.  It's one of those photos I have been looking at for a while, but the tangle of stamens in the middle really put me off. 

I've got s time off commissions now, so I am taking the opportunity to draw for pleasure, as well as a bit of floral practice.

The final drawing is now complete, and I couldn't be happier with it. It's in the gallery and its for Sale!! 

Go take a look and drop me a message if you are interested in purchasing it. Or just give it a heart if you like it too.



May 24, 2020

I have been following the art prompts in this popular Facebook group for the past few weeks, and although I have fallen behind a bit, I am trying to complete them in order. 

This is Day 16 - Yellow.  This little ducky was the cutest yellowest thing I could think of.  Plus, I have already done a blue drawing on black, and a red drawing on black, so this had to be on black if I wanted to complete the primaries!

He's done with Derwent Procolour pencils on Canson Mi-Teints Touch paper. 

Just a quicky - or do I mean quacky?!

He is for Sale. Drop me a message if you are interested in purchasing him.



May 18, 2020

This is Simba, a handsome rescue boy who's portrait I enjoyed from start to finish.  It wasn't an easy reference to work from - I had to colour-match from other sources - but just look at that grin ;-)

As you can probably tell, I'm using my favourite dark grey pastlemat. and Derwent Lightfast combo.  The portriat is 8x8", but will be mounted and framed to 10x10.  A very popular size.

He's in the gallery. Why not go take a look and click on the heart if you like him.

Reflections Blog.jpg


May 08, 2020

I'm a fairly active member of the UK Coloured Pencil Society (UKCPS) and this month I set a challenge for the members to create a piece of artwork with 10 items or less (fewer for the grammar police). Those items included 1 drawing surface, 1 eraser, and 8 pencils.

The purpose of the challenge, apart from the pain that comes from only using a few pencils, was to understand and practice your own colour mixing with a limited pallette.  And obviously, if I'm going to set the challenge, I had to take part in it!

After months of not drawing any faces, I decided on a pretty unusual portrait I found on Unsplash.  The high contrast, and neon colours really caught my attention, and I thought it would be great fun to attempt. ​

The finished artwork is in the gallery. It is also for sale. Contact me if you are interested.



May 02, 2020

I think somewhere below, or at some point late last year, I may have said that I had 'cracked' how to draw tabbys,  or something like that. 

That might have been a bit optimistic!

Nitters here (that's short for Schnitzel by the way) was a massive challenge. As you can see, she's a full on tabby with all the multi-colored hairs and flecks and undertones. I had to really concentrate.

This picture is probably one layer away from the final version. I really pushed the contrast in that last layer to bring out the tabby texture.

She is in her finished state in the Gallery. Go take a look and giver her a heart!

Dandelion wip.jpg


April 13, 2020

This started as a practice piece with blending solution, as I've only tried it the once, and I was supposed to stop after I'd learned what I needed...but  as usual I just couldn't.

Despite how tricky it was to put everything in the right place, the water drops, the fronds(?) the light glares,  it turned out grea.   Not something I've ever tackled before, subject or complexity, but I love the differing focal depths, and of course the colours.

A4, Bristol Smooth 400 series, Polychromos.  (SOLD)

Have a look at the finished version in my Gallery.

Find all the latest news and updates on Helen Carter Artist here.