Stepping Out

“Stepping Out”
A silver gull in Fremantle drawn with coloured pencils, Neopastels and Neocolor.
205 x 250 mm. March 2017

Sometimes I am forced to fully prostrate myself in order to get the reference shot I need for a drawing.  Such was the case for the series of photos I took of this particular silver gull last August.  If anybody saw me lying flat on the dirty concrete at the port, well, too bad!  I needed to be at bird level so I had to pretend to myself that I didn’t look ridiculous.

“The Humble Seagull” is a drawing of the same bird which I drew several months ago.

There are people who tell me they like birds but not seagulls.  Yes, seagulls may act aggressively if they feel threatened, or greedy when they want our fish and chips.   I am quite sure that seagulls have variable personalities just as we do.  I’ve met some friendly and inquisitive gulls during my photography trips who come close to see what I’m doing and then linger with me for a while.  I think they are handsome birds with quirky and gregarious personalities.

“Port Side” – drawn at the same time as “The Humble Seagull”




About juliepodstolski

I am a realist artist who works in coloured pencils.
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22 Responses to Stepping Out

  1. julie says:

    LOVE seagulls ….always have. Such clean looking birds and love their quirky personalities. ….plus they reside at my fav place….the sea!! Captured beautifully Julie x

  2. John Z. says:

    Thanks, Julie for your beautiful rendition and your comments about the gulls. I have several bird feeders in my backyard that I enjoy watching during leisurely brunches on the weekends. More often than not, sparrows, red finches, and mourning doves come in addition to the more colorful goldfinches, Downy woodpeckers and towhees. Who am I to say who is hungry and who shall eat from my feeders. People sometimes don’t realize what they say and prefer only the “pretty birds” or those who behave as we wish. I let the birds be birds and feed them all.

    • Lucky birds to have you looking after them, John. I also delight in seeing the birds come into my small garden. In my case they are mostly honeyeaters coming to feed on the nectar from native Australian grevillea flowers…(sort of bottlebrush-like).

  3. Ellen says:

    Not only are you a great artist….but a fantastic photographer as well! Thanks for sharing.

  4. There are two things that attract my attention with this drawing – one is the strong tonal contrasts and the other is the geometrics. These frame the bird, hold it to earth if you like, but it is just lifting its foot and is ready to go. A very strong drawing. Birds certainly do have varied personalities, within species and individually. Taking time just to sit and observe reveals much!

    • Tonal contrasts – yes! I recently ordered a couple of books of charcoal/crayon/conté drawings of Georges Seurat. He is my hero when it comes to tonal contrasts. What he can achieve with just blacks, greys and whites is masterful. I was thinking about Seurat when I was drawing this – thinking about the play of light areas coming up against shadows and shadow areas coming up against light.
      I love your comments about the framing of the bird – and the lifting foot. Thanks for your insights!

  5. rhodjoy says:

    I don’t think the gull thought you were ridiculous, Julie! And it was well worth the effort, love gulls, but hate to see so many of them with feet missing or twine wound around something that restricts them, they have much to put up with! I love this picture because of the stance and your beautiful muted textures, may the gulls continue to delight you.

    • Hi Joy, I feel awful as well for all the wounds I see on silver gulls. Terns and cormorants also suffer greatly from fishing line and hooks. Some fishermen try to help when birds get caught up, others despise the birds and see them as nothing but competition. I’ve seen the range of behaviour from kind to vile down on the docks.

  6. sherrytelle says:

    I can just picture you lying on the ground to take the needed shot! Let me tell you it was so worth it! I love this drawing.

    • Well, Sherry, I do stuff like this quite often (lying on the ground I mean). If I want the shot, I have to do what it takes to get it. I’m glad it was worth it in this case. Thanks.

  7. Hi Julie,
    I want the let you know that I really admire your talent and your paintings. They are so beautiful. I live in Japan so your paintings caught my interest because most of your subjects are Japanese women in their kimono.

    I have a couple of questions if you won’t mind. Do you use the colorless pencil blenders in all areas of your paintings? Or do you use in combination the pencil blenders and liquid blenders for the entire painting?

    The blurred backgrounds also fascinate me. What techniques do you use to produce those photo-like blurred backgrounds? I hope you can give me some tips. Thanks a lot.


    • Hi Sherwin,
      thanks so much for getting in touch with me. I will try to answer your questions.
      Regarding blending, I use colourless blenders but only sometimes and for some bits and pieces. I don’t think I’ve ever used one for a whole drawing yet. I don’t use liquid blenders at all or solvents of any kind. Most of my blending is done with pencil alone by layering and using variations of pressure. Just lately I’ve started reusing Neopastel and Neocolor (both made by Caran d’Ache). These work beautifully with pencils and blend well with them. You can use pencil over or under the wax and oil crayons. You know you can even blend with a dry brush – and I sometimes do. This brushes the pigment into the grooves in the paper. And once it is brushed in, you can add more pencil colour over the top.
      Blurred backgrounds seem to be favoured by quite a few artists who use coloured pencils. Honestly, I am hard-pressed to explain how I do them. To give a somewhat simplistic answer they are done with, once again, variations in pencil pressure and lots of layering, one colour into another. It REALLY helps (in fact it is essential in my opinion) to understand the theory of colour. When you are layering such a lot, as with pencils, you need to know which colours mix with what – and what effect they have on one another. If you understand the theory of how colours work you can then play tricks on the viewer’s eyes. Marks for a blurry background are soft marks, made with gentle pressure. I use a pencil extender very often – to make my pencil paint-brush length. This gives me loose marks as opposed to tightly controlled marks. Loose marks can dance around the page, and when you get enough of them, they make blurriness.
      I still love Japan but just now I am having a rest from it. One day I will return to Maiko and Geiko, I am sure.

      • That was quick! Thanks a lot Julie. I really appreciate your answers. Thank you so much for the tips. With a few paragraphs to answer my questions, I’ve learned a lot of new things. I wish you’ll write a book to feature your paintings and share your techniques. 🙂 Thanks a lot again.

    • Hi Sherwin,
      I’m not sure where this reply will end up on the page. I hope, wherever it shows, that you will find it. OK, I will have a go at answering your questions:

      1. Do I use Neopastels and Neocolor as underlays for large areas of backgrounds? Sometimes I use both or either or neither in my backgrounds. It just depends on how I feel on the day. There isn’t even any rhyme or reason as to why…except mood. Did you look at my post “Surveillance”? That was a good example of using Neocolor underneath the large area of sky and under the thing the bird is sitting on. (The is the post which comes after this one.) Most of my drawings have nothing but coloured pencils on but lately I’m using more Neocolor and Neopastel as I feel these can add some intensity.

      2. Do I blend with fingers or tortillons?
      I never blend with fingers and I don’t own any tortillons. Sometimes I use a dry bristle paintbrush to push the colour into the paper. Then I’ll layer over the top with more pencil. I also sometimes use a Caran d’Ache blender and/or a Derwent blender or burnisher.

      3. How well does paper hold the colour pencil pigments on top of the oil pastels?
      Very well. I have no trouble whatsoever layering pencil over the top of either Neocolor or Neopastel. Pencils go over the top AND Neocolor and Neopastel go over the top of pencils.

      4. Do I think that other oil pastels work the same?
      I expect they do. I’m keen to try Holbein oil pastels – mostly because I like trying new things. Before purchasing Sakura Craypas, I suggest you do some research to see if they have been tested for lightfastness. There’s no point saving money at this end to buy art materials which will fade later on. (I’ve been caught out so speak from experience.)

      I generally put oil pastel on quite lightly – as opposed to slathering it on. Which is probably why I have no trouble putting pencil over the top. If I ever make heavy marks with neopastel, that would be in the final part of the drawing – on top of everything else. And that would normally be just small marks for emphasis.

      Enjoy Sekaido! All the best, Julie

      • Hi Julie,

        Thank you so much again for your ever-comprehensive answers to all my questions. Yes, I’ve seen your post “Surveillance” and I think that’s where I read that you use Neopastels and Neocolors together with colored pencils. I’m collecting art materials now that’s why I need some advice from experts like you so I won’t regret buying things that I won’t use.
        Thank you so much again. I drool every time I visit Sekaido. But I only buy open stocks from there and buy online for sets as they’re usually cheaper on the net.
        Take care Julie!


    • Hey Sherwin, you are so welcome. In fact I like getting questions. Mail like yours in my in-box is the most interesting sort of mail to deal with. People like you make it worthwhile for people like me to have blogs. All the best to you!! Julie

  8. By the way, you mentioned you use Neocolor under or over your colored pencil. Is it the Neocolor I or II? NI is water resistant while NII is water-soluble. Thanks a lot again.

    • Hey Sherwin, I have both Neocolor I and II. I don’t think it makes any difference, not the way I’m using them – just as a light under-layer. I don’t use the water-soluble Neocolor II with water, so dry, they are pretty much like the I.
      I’m too lazy to write a book – though I’m very happy to answer specific questions if I can. Having a blog suits me. You might like to check out my ‘art materials’ page and also my ‘Feedback, questions and comments’ page.
      Write any time, won’t you!

      • Great! Really appreciate that you take time to reply to questions posted here. Thank you very much again Julie.

      • Hello again Julie! I went to Sekaido store here in Tokyo and found out that Neocolors are like wax crayons and Neopastels are basically oil pastel. You use them as underlays for large areas like backgrounds. Do you blend them with your fingers or tortillons? Then how well does the paper hold the color pencil pigments on top of the oil pastels? All along I thought that colored pencils cannot be used on top of oil pastels because oil pastels are thick and cover much of the teeth of the paper. Do you think other oil pastel brands work the same. I’m thinking of getting the Specialist brand of Sakura Craypas because it’s artist quality and not as expensive as Caran d’ache’s Neopastel. Sorry for so many questions. Thanks a lot Julie!

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