Realistic Linx in Colored Pencil on Pastelmat

by Wendi OBrien


Paper: Pastelmat

Pan Pastels

Colored Pencils:

Polychromos: 132 Light Flesh, 146 Sky Blue, 172 Earth Green, 175 Dark Sepia, 177 Walnut Brown, 178 Nougat, 179 Bistre, 180  Raw Umber, 182 Brown Ochre, 187 Burnt Ochre, 263 Caput Mortuum Violet, 268 Green Gold , 271 Warm Grey II, 273 Warm Grey IV, 275 Warm Grey VI, 283 Burnt Siena

Luminance:  001 White, 002 Silver Grey, 009 Black, 015 Olive Yellow, 025 Green Ochre, 037 Brown Ochre, 039 Olive Brown, 046 Cassel Earth, 093 Violet Grey, 407 Sepia, 504 Payne’s Grey 30%, 507 Payne’s Grey 60%, 508 Payne’s Grey, 548 Raw Umber, 630 Ultramarine Violet, 732 Olive Brown 10%, 736 Olive Brown 50%, 802 French Grey 10%, 803 French Grey 30%, 808 French Grey, 832 Brown Ochre 10%, 836 Brown Ochre 50%, 846 Raw Umber 50%, 862 Burnt Sienna 10%, 866 Burnt Sienna 50%, 872 Burnt Ochre, 902 Sepia 10%, 906 Sepia 50%

Creating A Realistic Linx

In this blog, I will be sharing with you my techniques and process of completing this realistic lynx.

Choosing Paper & Supplies

So the first thing I do with any project is to decide the paper and supplies I will use.  I knew I wanted to do a Pastel background and a colored pencil subject.  So my next choice was for the paper. 

This is key because even the color will affect the final outcome of your piece.  So I ultimately chose pastelmat as my paper because it plays well with both of my chosen mediums and I knew I could continuously layer on this paper with my colored pencils.

Choosing Paper Color

The second would be the color.  I chose Sienna because I wanted the glow from it to shine through the layers of pencil and pastel.  I could have chosen any colors from the brown to the grey to the green but ultimately decided that the sienna would give me the look I was going for.

Applying Masking Film

I then put masking film over my subject to keep those areas free from pastel and give me nice crisp edges to work with on the subject.

Working on the Background

After all of that was set I began on the background.  Using pan pastels I layered the various colors I wanted for the background and blended them a bit. 

I tried a couple of different things in the back ground and eventually settled on the bokkeh background.  Now, I don’t do bokkeh very often so it was a bit of a learning curve for me. 

At first, I had entirely too many circles in the background and it just took over.  The nice thing about pastels and pastelmat, was I could just blend it in and start again without any problems. 

I wouldn’t call those first couple of attempts a failure, as it helped me figure out not only what I wanted in the background, but how to use my tools to achieve it. 

I used a round makeup sponge, similar to the feel of the soft tool sponges to create the circle and it worked really well.  I was able to layer them on top of the existing pastels in a perfect circle. 

I also added more pastel to the background to adjust the various values to not only create the depth but make the circles stand out a bit as well.

Using Restraint is Key for Bokke

I had to use much restraint on those circles so I didn’t over do it like I did the first time and I think the background actually turned out very well.  Once I was happy with that, I removed the masking film and began my work on the linx.

Starting on the Linx

Now, I would love to say that it was smooth sailing from there, but it was not.  Yes I chose the colors to work on my lynx, but until I started working on it, I didn’t realize just how many different colors were in a small area. 

Whiskers First

I first put in the whiskers.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  The first is so I had a map once I got to the areas and the second is to keep the whiskers a vibrant white. 

Working around the whiskers you will inevitably get color over it, but it is easy to go back over it with the white to bring them back or scratch of the top layer of the color to reveal the white and again go over it again to brighten it up.

Starting On the Fur

I started in the far left side.  This is my norm for a few reasons.  First, I am right handed, so it helps to keep from smudging already completed areas of your work.  Granted I had the background completed, but I used glassine to ensure I didn’t smudge that either.

Second, I take this opportunity to try different color combinations and techniques to get the appearance I want, and the values correct. 

Since it is on the side, it is easy to hide those adjustments and changes because the viewers focus is on the face or center of the drawing and typically we don’t analyze the edges too much and some of it gets hidden when you frame and matte it.

Changing Up My Approach

I quickly learned that I was going to have to completely change my approach and working method I would usually take with such a subject.  In most areas, I actually put in the hairs as I built the fur because of the various colors instead of blocking in a base color. 

I tried that and it just wasn’t turning out well or gave the look I wanted.  So I switched gears a bit and was much happier with the outcome.

I also would work in the negative when there was quite a bit of white meaning I would put the white in first then put the shadows or additional colors in between. 

While it seems like it would take more time, and trust me it felt like it, the entire piece only took me 19 ½ hours including the background.  This piece wasn’t exactly small either.  It measured 15 ½ inches wide and 12 inches tall.  While it isn’t gigantic it’s a far cry from and 8 x 10.

Pressing On – Time for the Ear

So as I completed the body there were a couple of times I just wanted to stop and give up, but I liked the background so kept on moving forward.  I wanted so badly to get to the face, but I used that motivation as a reward for finishing the body.

Finally Finished the Body

Once I finished the body, I moved on to the first ear.  I was figuring out the best way to layer the colors for the fur while still maintaining that bright white.  I worked in a lot of the negative here as well and found that putting in the lighter fur and then tinting it worked the best.

Paying Attention to Length and Direction of Fur

I moved along the ear using various strokes and stroke lengths in order to get the realistic looking fur.  It is very important throughout the entire process of drawing fur to not only get the values correct, but also the length and direction of the fur.

This can really be seen around the face with the very long hairs and then the shorter hairs around the rest of the face, but long in the front of the ears.  Paying attention to these details is what really sets you up for success in an animal portrait like this.

Placing Markings On the Linx

I also create the various markings on the animal.  Keep in mind they don’t have to be exact just close.  No one is looking at the reference when they see you art so the only person that knows that it is not exact is you.  So don’t fret if it isn’t exactly the same shape.  As long as it is close then it will be successful.

Moving On To The Eye

I moved onto the eye and found it to be a bit more challenging than most interestingly enough.  I think part of it is because of the shadow that is in there isn’t like a shadow in other animal portraits I have done. 

It’s like the light shines through the eye and reflects off of the pupil and brightens it up a but so It was a little tricky getting that look but with a bit of work and rework I think it ended up working out and being successful in the end.

Annnd Repeat

I continued this same process for the other side of the face and ear and left the snout, nose and mouth for last. Reasoning for this…well it is the closest part to the viewer and in the foreground. 

Secondly, it is part of the whitest area and I wanted to really preserve that white and take my time on the mouth. 

This is another area that close attention must be paid to not only the length, but direction of the fur.  There are places it goes every which way and even places on his nose in the transition from between his eyes to his snout where the fur is actually coming straight to the viewer almost raised a bit. 

That was quite a bit of dots and I have a new found respect for pointillism.  I don’t know that I could do and entire piece like that.  Just that small area about drove me mad.  Can you imagine doing that for an entire piece.  Wow…

Have you ever done a piece of art and had a realization or new found respect for either the artist, art style, or medium?  I would love to hear your experience in the comments below.

Front of the Mouth

Once I got to the front where there was a bunch of white and then sort of went back to my usual method and based the white in first.  Since there were not a lot of variations to the fur in such a tiny area it was much easier to do here. 

Final Details

I then put in some details and went back over with the white and toned with various greys, blues, browns and blacks.  Once I got close to my final layer in I again worked in the negative and created a bit more depth to the fur. 

After most of that was in, I began tweaking the various areas making adjustments to the values and adding more details and markings.  I probably could have gone a bit longer doing that, but I was happy with it and just finally said that’s it.

Sometimes knowing when to stop is the biggest challenge and there came a point where I said, that it…I am happy with it….stop touching it…..

Until next time…keep on arting!

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