Feedback, Questions and Comments

I love to talk about art.

"The Joy of Life" a drawing from 1997.
“The Joy of Life” a drawing from 1997.

I am keen to discuss and share drawing experiences.

'Artefacts' - a drawing I did so many years ago that I can't actually remember when I drew it, maybe around 1998.
‘Artefacts’ – a drawing I did so many years ago that I can’t actually remember when I drew it, maybe around 1998.
'Flames of Autumn' - another early drawing from around 1997.
‘Flames of Autumn’ – another early drawing from around 1997

If there is anything you would like to know or discuss, please get in touch.  Chances are other people will be wondering the same things that you are.

"Good Morning Paris" January 2017
“Good Morning Paris”
January 2017
"Nearly Dusk" an impression of rue Quincampoix drawn with Luminance. December 2016
“Nearly Dusk”
December 2016

It is really useful when using coloured pencils to know about colour because you spend your time layering with it. Every under-layer influences the over-layer. A terrific book which is clear and to the point is “What is Color? 50 Questions and Answers on the Science of Color” by mother and daughter team Arielle and Joann Eckstut, published by Abrams in 2020.

You may also like to view Art Materials which is the most visited page on my blog. On the bottom of that page are links to three methods-sharing posts.

If you would like a look at my technique see Brush and Pencil

To understand the part white plays in making luminous colours see Undercover White

I warmly invite you to visit my website which has been updated and streamlined for great viewing in January 2021. Over 40 years and more than 550 art works

47 thoughts on “Feedback, Questions and Comments

  1. Malcolm

    Hi Julie. A question for you. I have been working with a number of “how to” coloured pencil work books. They all make the point very strongly that more than one layer of colour needs to be used on any single part of the work. This is followed up in their “demonstrations” where they may list 15 to 25 colours for one single image. The problem is none of them explain how choice of colour is made. The exercises are, in my mind, akin to painting with numbers. Use this colour here and that colour there, but no explanation as to the principles behind the layering choices.
    Can you make a comment on this issue. When I come to do an original piece how do I make my colour choices to be used in layering ? If something looks red to me then my inclination would be to simply use a red that matches closest to the object, but it seems that this isn’t proper technique.

    I look forward to your answer and would once again thank you for the blog.

    best wishes

    Malcolm Griffiths

  2. juliepodstolski Post author

    Hi Malcolm, this is an excellent question…the question of colour theory. It takes an artist years to learn the answers to the question you ask. Becoming conversant with colour is like learning and speaking any new language. What I recommend is that you go to your library (or art supply shop or internet) and borrow or buy a book on colour theory.
    As I have mentioned somewhere else on my blog, the best I know of (and a classic) is ‘The Art of Color’ by Johannes Itten. You need to do exercises to see how colours work together and how one colour influences another. Also, a colour wheel (just a piece of cardboard) would be a good thing to own (back to the art supply shop) as you can easily see which colour is the complementary or opposite of any other colour.
    The sort of exercises I mean are those where you are asked to mix colours so that you can clearly see this + that = what.
    Why do you need to know about complementary colours?
    Because they are the best mixes. For instance if I want to paint a red flower, some of the petals will be bright red (perhaps where the sun hits) and some parts will be in shadow. Or it might be that the red flower is a faded red rather than fire engine red. So what do I do to soften that red (or make the shadowy parts)? I don’t add black to make the shadows as that instantly kills the colour. I don’t add a different kind of red to make a faded red. In both cases I would use GREEN as green is the complementary colour of red. A light layer of green in red will soften that red. It will be imperceptable to the viewer’s eye (if it is lightly applied) but it will immediately make a difference. For shadows in a red flower, a dark green mixed into a deep red will look alive rather than mixing black in.
    The complement of violet is yellow and the complement of orange is blue.
    You can’t possibly know these things without being taught them – and you probably can’t learn how to mix layers without some serious study.
    It is actually a lot of fun to do colour exercises…if you like colours and you clearly do because you enjoy looking at your pencils. They are fun, you learn a lot and you don’t have to worry about drawing a recognizable picture.
    Another thing about complements…if you surround a colour with its complement…for example a yellow circle with purple around it – that yellow circle will jump out like anything. When I want the central subject of my drawing (often a geisha wearing a kimono) to almost leap out of the page, I surround that kimono with its complement. Again, not obviously – it may be paving stones around the geisha – but the complement will be mixed into what-you-the-viewer-perceive-as-grey surrounds so all you notice is that ‘she stands out’.
    I swear to you that if you start working on colour exercises a whole new world of perception will open up to you.

  3. Donna

    Malcolm, thank you for asking the question, as I am struggling with this issue myself at the moment. (Also fairly new to CP). For the life of me I have not been able to replicate the glow on a cat’s fur where the sunlight hits, and a number of other colour problems. I’ve been wandering around anxiously wondering why I can’t ‘get’ this. I do understand somewhat about colour theory and complementaries. Where i get stuck is, knowing that whatever you do, the translucent layers of previous applications will show through, after you’ve done several layers, how do you choose the right colour to get you where you want to go? Sure, I understand that with CP, if you layer red then yellow, you will get a different effect than if you layered yellow first then red. Sometimes the differences are very subtle. Other times the change is huge, such as adding white over something, which generally washes your colour out, rather than making it a lighter version of what you were hoping for. Eg, white over red doesn’t give you a ligther red – it gives you a pink. Other light colours such as the 10% greys will also do the same thing, as will eggshell, and any colour veering more toward white – Pablo’s Granite Rose – a very very light baby pink – is another one that tends to have the same effect. These closer-to-white colours are great for burnishing: that is, when you want to tie all the colours together so that the individual strokes are less defined and more blended. You generally, but not always, do this on one of your last layers. Where I get stuck is knowing what colour to use after I’ve laid down several in one area. Not to take away from Julie, here , who has by far more experience than me, but can I suggest you just play around with the combinations? Emphasis on play. I think when one is doing an actual pencil painting, the need to ‘get the colours right’ puts on a kind of pressure that you don’t have if you just play around on a piece of paper, mixing colours. Try the 10% greys, and cream, and white, etc, over stronger colours and see what you get.
    The other way I work out what colour to use is examine the source picture carefully. Say I’m doing a cat, the fur is black. Well, apart from ‘black’, what other colours can I see in the fur? These will be subtle hints. Black fur may have hints of indigo, or dark purple, (Black grape or Black Cherry) or charcoal, 90% Cool grey, or burgundy (Tuscan Red). So I will do layers of these colours first before going in and using some black over the top. I am happy to post an example of how I did this so you can see what i mean. A lot of it was trial and error on a piece of paper next to the drawing. So do this: look at your object and try to ‘see’ the other colours, tones or shades in it other than the major colour.
    As for the how-to books, when you mention 25 layers, I’m guessing you are using Arlene Steinberg’s book? I have a number of CP books, and hers is the only one that goes into that many layers. If you read the reviews of the book on Amazon, a number of reviewers who did the exercises felt that the piece was finished at a much earlier step than she had done. I recall doing an Iris from her book – someone saw it when it was in an early stage and thought it was finished, and fine as it is. IN other words, doing a large number of layers is what Arlene likes; that’s her style. This is not the only way, though sometimes it comes across as the last word in CP. I had the same issue when I first started ,but discovered over time that to achieve what i want to achieve, I don’t need to do 25 layers. It’s just the way it’s turned out. The take home message is, with time and practice, you will find your own way.

    So, going heavy or light layers depends on a number of things, first and foremost:the effect you want; light and whispy, or thick, rich and painterly? This will then determine the pencils you choose ,and the support (paper). Some supports only take a few layers and no more. Examples of this are drafting film and any smooth-plate paper, such as Bristol 500 series (great for graphite work – the smooth plate makes blending easy). Others need a lot of pencil before saturation: Stonehenge, for example. You would choose this paper if you want a rich, painterly or realistic picture. The smoother plates are good if you only need a few layers to do what you need to: great for a more illustration look. Don’t even consider using cartrige paper with CP: it may be cheap, but the results are disappointing ( and the temptation is to give up because you think it’s you at fault when really it was the paper). The pencils you choose also affect the outcome. Derwent Artist and Studio will give a softer, less saturated look. Prismacolour and Pablos and Luminance the most saturated and rich. So as you can see, it all intertwines! Didn’t mean this to turn into a novel but your troubles resonated with me, having been through the same experience.
    I hope this helps

  4. juliepodstolski Post author

    Hi Donna,
    I am delighted and honoured that you wrote such a big post this morning. I wouldn’t mind scanning through it and adding observations through my experiences. So here goes from top of your letter to bottom:
    I’m not sure I ever think about what comes first in the example you give; you say that red over yellow makes a different effect than yellow over red. Maybe I’m not that observant – so I’d do that in any order. I do exactly what you do and search for all the colours making up a particular colour. However I don’t think too much about the order in which I do the layers.
    I rarely use white and don’t tend to burnish with it at all to tie the layers together. I like the individual strokes to show through. I think personal taste comes into it though. I find some coloured pencil work too highly finished as if it is airbrushed. As I say, this is just my own taste. I prefer that the paper often shows through – plus individual touches of colour through the layers – so I don’t tend to burnish for that reason. I used to burnish a lot more when I began to use pencils. Now I feel that when paper and colours show through it is like the work is alive and breathing rather than snuffed out by being too perfect.
    I agree that a layer of white has the tendency to dull the colour underneath. Oh – an example is sky. I used to put a layer of white into blue sky but I never do this any more. The sky looks much more vibrant and airy without it.
    Playing around with layers, as you say, is an excellent idea. Another thing you can do is have scrap paper to one side and try various combinations on that before you commit to doing it on the actual drawing…like colour swatches.
    Regarding black mixed into other colours, I do this a great deal. I use a lot more black pencil than white pencil; gallons more of it in fact. My dark darks are usually deep purples with some black. Though I use straight black too depending on the circumstances.
    Regarding the pressure of pencils, I like to use various different pressures in the one work; I suppose we all do. I like the strokes to show for another reason; that is,I don’t want to disguise the fact that these works are made with pencils. So I let the individual pencil marks show.
    Anyway, I concur with everything you say. The only difference is in the materials you use. I use different pencils and different paper to you.

  5. Malcolm

    Hi Julie (and Donna) Many Many thanks to both of you for your exhaustive comments. Much more useful that what I have read in quite a few books. And yes Donna I did have Steinbergs book in mind.
    Julie I was particularly pleased to read your comment about burnishing, I wouldn’t want a piece to have a high gloss photo finish. What’s the point in working in pencils if there isn’t some sense of the pencil in the work.

    I hope you don’t mind but I do have a couple more questions:

    1. what is your view on underpainting ?. So far in my reading it has been said that underpainting is used to create a tonal image. One writer I read uses grey to establish values while another uses complementaries to establish tonal variations.

    2. what are your thoughts on Caran ‘Arche Pablo and Luminance colored pencils ?

    I have taken up your advice and have Ittens book on order from the library. There is an Ebook on Ittens work that I have read and found helpful.



    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hello Malcolm on day-after-Australia-Day,
      I agree with you that it is fantastic to have Donna give her views. (Donna and other readers, your views are so welcome!!!)
      Malcolm, I do find some colour pencil work way too perfect and burnishing may contriubute to this. You know, in October I had opportunity to study some Monet paintings in Paris and I was struck by how very rough some of his paintings were. (I mean that in the most reverential way.) It occurred to me, again, how wonderful expressive art is. Close up his work looked like pure abstraction but when you crossed the room to the other side it became some sort of scene. I made a mental note to myself to remember the joy of expressive strokes and not to be too precious about a photoreal result in my own work.
      Works where you see that expressive strokes are made, whether paint or pencil, live a life. But where art it is just too utterly perfect, it risks being static and lifeless. I’m only giving my personal opinion here. We all have different tastes, don’t we.
      I don’t know about underpainting; ie I would need to check the Steinberg book to see what her definition of underpainting is to know if I actually do it myself. All I know is that I put undercolour on but it isn’t to create a tonal image, I don’t think. It is just to ‘map’ in the basic colours so that I know where everything is and can then start to build up the colour. So, no, I don’t try to set any tonal values at this early stage.
      Regarding Caran d’Arche, I haven’t tried the Pablo so I can’t comment. I have the Luminance, though, and I like them very much. There is always some contribution from Luminance in every drawing of mine.
      Fantastic that you have ordered Itten’s book.
      Not only don’t I mind more questions, Malcolm, but I am always excited when questions come in so please don’t stop asking them.
      I hope this helps.
      ps. Something I was taught at art school was to let materials we use be themselves. Is this good advice? I think so and I have always believed in it. Therefore I want my pencils to look like pencils. If I wanted a painterly effect, rather than using solvents to melt the wax in the pencils, or doing a lot of burnishing, I would use paint.

  6. Malcolm

    Once again my sincere thanks Julie. One of the things that attracts me to the Luminance pencils is that they seem to have quite a few colours that don’t seem to be in other sets. I was glad to read what you had to say about allowing the pencil to be itself (and show).

    best wishes


    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      ps. Malcolm I did get out the Arlene Steinberg book last night to remind myself of what she said about underpainting. Her methods are quite different to mine. I have not attempted to do an entire underpainting of complementary colours before adding top colours. I do the complementary treatment much later in the process. Also, I don’t keep my pencils ultra-sharp. I quite often employ the blunt pencil, depending upon the effect I want.

  7. Malcolm

    thanks for the additional comments Julie and for going to the trouble of looking up Steinberg’s book



  8. Donna

    Hi Malcolm and Julie (thank you for your welcome, Julie, I didn’t want to ‘take over’ – but an active personal site is a successful one – great we can have these conversations, so thanks for letting me in, so to speak). Malcolm, a bit of background: I don’t have Julie’s experience or expertise. I have been drawing now for about 18 months – with many forays into other mediums such as pastel, oil pastel and watercolor (I believe this exploration with other mediums before settling on one or 3 is natural for new artists), and using CP since Oct ’11, but not exclusively – as I said, I play with other mediums. Therefore, my experience is not exclusive to CP ,and my drawings with CP, not many. However, what I do have is a ton of head knowledge and extreme curiosity, so I research a lot.
    Opinion on Luminance vs Pablos: I have both (and Prismas and Polychromos). Personally I prefer Pablos. They are hexagonal, and I like hex pencils as they feel better in my hand and less apt to roll off the table. They are soft and buttery, but not apt to snap like Prismas. They have a good color range. Luminance as you would know does have the highest lightfast rating. They are round barrelled, and the wood is good quality, you can feel it. And they do have some colors that the others don’t. This was why I was attracted to them. However having a set, I don’t use them anywhere near as much as the other 3 brands. Julie may disagree with me here, but I think their greens are crap- they look artificial- and very limited for doing foliage. I did a flower recently and used all Luminance except when it came to the foliage, I had to resort to Prismacolors. They seem to have the largest range of greens. I have the Prismas,, Polys and Pablos all stored together in plastic sundae cups according to colour, and the green cups are stuffed full that I can’t get anymore pencils in. The culprit is the Prismas so that’s how I take it that they have the largest range of greens. So I suppose you need to take into account what you wish to draw. I love the Pablo browns and orange-browns, but I also love the Luminance Cassell Earth for blackish brown. LIke you, I was attracted to Luminance because they have a few different colours. However ,there is no point in getting a set for those few colours if the rest of the set isn’t going to serve you. Eg, if you were going to do a lot of floral work or landscapes where there is a lot of foliage, I would choose another brand as my dominant brand, and supplement with individual pencils of other brands. However as I said in the beginning, I am less experienced and Julie’s take on the greens may be totally different. And, you can usually mix most colours with the pencils you have on hand.
    As for Arlene Steinberg, the reason I responded to your post in the first place was because your question reminded me of how I was thinking/feeling when I first started out. Like you, ,her book was one of the first I used. And like you, I found myself thinking, “how does she know that six layers on to put the indigo again and then the purple, and then the dahlia, ,and then the indigo etc etc?” It can be quite intimidating and daunting when you believe that this is the kind of expertise you will need to get to in order to produce good work. Since then, I’ve acquired a number of CP books, and no one goes anywhere near the number of layers and complementaries that she does, yet their work is excellent. I did do the exercises in Steinberg’s book: the pear with grapes and the Iris as my very first CP drawings, and they turned out ok, but as I worked I could see what people meant when they commented of her style, that the pieces could be considered finished much earlier. I got onto WetCanvas and the CP forum, and learned a lot there – it’s worth joining, and you will get a lot of help. And many said the same thing, Steinberg’s style can be complicated, as Julie said. Yet I know where yo’re coming from and why you ask the question you do, because the tone of her writing is to imply that hers is really the only and best way to do things. And guess what, it’s not. There are many techniques and styles out there, and you will find your own. The best way to do this is to let go of the ‘experts’. Do some tutorials to get yourself going to familarise yourself with your pencils, but don’t let them paralyse you into believing that unless you have an expert’s instructions, you can’t do it alone. I only mention this because it happened to me. I became so dependant on instructions, that I didn’t trust myself to be able to do a picture on my own. I eventually had to take the chance, step away from tutes, and do my own picture choosing my own colours. (It turned out quite okay). So I agree with Julie, from experience, Arlene’s style is Arlene’s style – and I think it can be intimidating and off-putting for a beginner, or give the impression that CP is more complicated than it really is. If you would like a simpler book that will help you launch straight into drawing, I would recommend Lee Hammond’s Life Like Colour Pencil drawing. You will see she doesn’t use layer after layer, nor zillions of pencils, yet produces beautiful work that you can follow. If you want to get more indepth and technical and love theory, go for Alyona Nicholson’s Colored Pencil Bible. Nicholson is a worthwhile read, but again, could be overwhelming.
    If you are staring at a neatly arranged box of pencils and haven’t used them yet, please go and remove every single one and spread them out on a large table with a piece of good quality paper; paper that’s recommended for CP. Once you have got them out of the box, they will lose some of their awe and mystery, glamour and potential, which can keep us unable to start; we don’t start because we don’t want to muck up their beauty and their promise of possibilities. So we keep them in the tin neatly arranged, waiting to get up the courage to dare to remove them. However, possibilities and potential not used stay possiblities and potentials, and never get to find out who or what they really are or want to become in the hands of the artist. The pencils, once they are out of the box/tin, they will feel more like pencils, like tools. You will still love them and appreciate them, but now you have permission to pick each one up and start experimenting on paper. If you don’t know what to try, try a colour wheel. You will find instructions for making one for CP if you google it. This help you familiarise yourself with the pencils and how they feel and what they look like when YOU use them – not someone else. No one else will have a hand or touch like yours, so it’s important to discover what you produce when you press lightly, heavily, draw tiny circles, cross hatch etc.
    When you have had a play, you can rearrange them back neatly if you want, but now you won’t be fearful of taking them out again. Then oneday, like me, you might be happy enough for 3 brands all to live together- away from their tines- all in the same sundae cups! Oh dear, I’ve gone on again….

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Wahhh – that’s even BIGGER than the first one, Donna. I’m impressed. Coloured pencil discussions sure are fun.
      Well…where to start…
      The scenario where you are too scared to make a decision because you are dependent on the instructor; that is how it was for me when I tried to learn to drive a manual car years and years after mastering and daily driving an automatic. I had lessons because we were going to drive round Europe and could only book a manual hire car. Result: During the lessons I could change gears when told to but I realised I’d never be able to figure out under my own steam when to do it. So – bad end to story – I gave up. My husband did all the driving in Europe and I have never tried to drive one since I gave up on the lessons. That story is a complete aside but I couldn’t resist telling it.
      The reason I never had to worry about the same situation with a ‘how to’ book on coloured pencils is that I taught myself. By the time I came across Arlene Steinberg’s book and Alyona Nicholson’s book I had been doing it my own way for about a decade.

      Regarding pencil brands, it is true that I don’t use Luminance much but I always use them to some extent in each work. I prefer them to Prismacolors. I have never noticed the problem with the Luminance greens. However, funny you should mention greens, Donna, because I have a problem with greens. I find them the hardest colours to successfully mix. Maybe that goes hand in hand with hating gardening!

      I doubt that Arlene did know six layers in advance what the next colours would be when she was constructing the exercises for her book. I expect she did the drawing and noted down each colour layer as she added it. (At least that is what I would have done.)

      I keep my pencils in their trays but I do rearrange the colours to suit myself. That system works for me.

      Keep it coming, Donna!

  9. Malcolm

    Hi Julie and Donna
    What a lot of useful information which I will certainly take on board. The comments both of you make about finding your own style (or what writers would call “voice” I guess) is particularly
    useful. At the moment I am making up colour charts of one sort and another. I find this useful as a way of getting to know my colours, Included in this is Julie’s suggestion about specific colour exercises. I am particularly interested in two issues, one is color mixing and the other is understanding the effect that context has on colour perception. In a recent book I was reading they were talking about the afterimage that we get if we look at a colour sample then close our eyes and notice how the image reappears but in its complementary colour. They argued that this occurs because the brain likes to complete the picture as it were. The complementary contains those spectrum colours not included in the orignal colour. Not sure how that will make a difference to the artist, but it’s interesting (or at least i think so). A lot of people have difficulty accepting that colour occurs because of the way the brain interprets light waves and not because an object is inherently that “colour”.

    best wishes


    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Doing colour charts is an excellent idea, Malcolm. That will really give you a feel for your pencils and the different combinations which mixing them together makes.
      I like doing that ‘after image’ thing – which you describe. The ‘green spark’ that we are supposed to be able to see after the sun goes down over the Indian Ocean is an example of looking at a bright colour and then seeing its opposite when it disappears. An optical illusion. Only thing is, I never seem to see it.

  10. Tig

    This thread of comments has been fascinating! Thanks Julie, Malcolm and Donna πŸ™‚ As I was just given a full set of Prismacolor pencils (all 150), I’m doing exactly what Malcolm did with his pencil set, making a colour sampler. I printed up my own chart, using an Excel spreadsheet, complete with numbers and names already printed and boxes to colour in. That way I can change the details when I, hopefully, get given a different branded set πŸ™‚ Dying to try Holbein and wish I’d known about them before receiving this set as a present!

    I’m finding Prismacolor leave a streaky waxy residue on the surface when saturating an area. My colour swatches are graduated from heavy to as light as possible, which gives me practise at how hard I need to press to get a variety of depths to each colour. I have around 40+ Faber-Castell which I think I prefer to these Prismacolors for an ‘even’ laydown without streakiness and wax build up. I’m not trying to be ‘perfect’ but I’m wondering whether Holbein lies somewhere in the middle between the two big brands? FC use an oil binder for the pigments and Prisma use wax. I’m curious as to what Holbein use?

    My own background is that I studied fine art mumblety years ago at the Aust Nat Art School in Sydney and have created art ever since using those materials, techniques and copious colour theory taught back then. What they don’t teach is the practical use of watercolour paints or coloured pencils!

    Thank you for listening πŸ™‚

    ~ Tig

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Tig,
      I am not a big fan of Prismacolors for the same reasons you are writing about. I believe that the waxy build-up can be dealt with and there are many CP artists who swear by Primsacolors. But I don’t want to have to deal with the wax bloom, by rubbing it off afterwards or fixing it with fixative – or whatever they do. I don’t want it there in the first place! I can tell you that Holbein pencils don’t have this problem at all. I was trying to find out myself if Holbeins were wax or oil based. It seems they are a mixture of both but their website is fairly indecisive about their chemistry…though it does mention both oil and wax.
      Holbeins are much softer than Faber Castell (which I also like). When you put lots of pressure on, they are very opaque and rich…but without that blasted wax!!
      When I went to art school back in the day (late 70s) watercolour wasn’t touched on either – and certainly colour pencils were unhead of. Oils or acrylics were all which were used and discussed in the painting major which I was in.
      Sorry it took me a while to reply to you; Tig. I only arrived home today from overseas.
      Because of the strong dollar to the weak yen right now, Holbeins will be more reasonable than they’ve been for ages if you want to buy some from Japan. I have a contact whose address I can give you if you are interested. I’m thinking of buying another box of 150 just because of the great exchange rate!

      1. Tig

        Thanks for your response! For some reason I’ve only just noticed it. Now that I’ve done a full colour chart of the Prismacolor range (all 150), I’ve gone back to do one for the Faber Castell pencils I already owned. Strangely, despite having done a few swatches with them before being given the PC range, I find them too hard now. I certainly think that for myself personally, I need to pick one range and stick with it. What I didn’t enjoy finding out at the end of the PC swatching, is that at least 24 colours have what are described as fair to poor lightfastness 😦 There are a few newer colours that haven’t been given an official rating on their website. I do wish there was a way of testing a few Holbein pencils just to see how they feel and lay down like. I may just have to use up some of these new PC pencils first though. Probably a good way to get used to colour pencil technique anyway πŸ™‚

        Snap! I began art school in late 70’s into the early 80’s πŸ™‚

        I just had the idea to check with the bookstore Kinokuniya in Sydney to see whether they have any small sets of Holbein… Just found their contact email address. I’ll report back here if they have them available. I travel to Sydney fairly regularly as it’s only a few hours away.

        Dying to see what you get up to next, and no, I don’t think it’s odd to spend 24 hours + printing out gazillions of photos. Sounds very organised and exactly what I’d be doing. You possibly need to see all those images again to give you either a new theme to begin, or to know which picture ‘grabs’ your attention and must be drawn. If you know what I mean… Good luck and may there be many happy drawing days ahead!

        ~ Tig

      2. juliepodstolski Post author

        Hi Tig,
        Most ranges of pencils have a few colours which have a low light-fast rating. The Holbeins have some as well (but not many). I simply take those few pencils out right at the start so that there will be no temptation to use them. The only brand I know of where every single colour is the highest possible light-fast rating is Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901. Even the Faber Castells have a couple of colours which are low.
        You are right – the Faber Castells have much harder leads than the Prismacolors. I still find a place for them in my drawing though.
        One reason I find it good to work with more than one range is the colour variation in the brands. For instance I need a lot of different reds in the drawing I am currently working on so I am using reds from all three brands that I own.
        So Sydney has a Kinokuniya shop? That’s great. I like the Singapore branch of that shop.
        I don’t think they have Holbeins though.
        Thanks for your mail!

  11. Donna

    Hi Julie
    Welcome home! Hope you had a good trip. Please email me address of contact for Holbeins.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Donna,
      Thanks, my trip was fantastic. Lots of snow and ice!
      You can contact Hironao Tanaka by emailing
      Hironao is very nice. His company Japaninabox mails pretty much anything Japanese to anywhere in the world…including Holbein pencils.
      Alternatively, you can look on my ‘art materials’ page where I have written the details of the Australian distributors.

  12. Donna

    Hi again Julie
    thanks for that. Wow, 425 bucks, I’m assuming that’s US? Do you mind me asking what the postage is to where you are? It will give me an estimate of what to expect…

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      I would write to Hironao, Donna. I can’t remember what I paid for postage as the box I bought was last year.
      Mention the favourable exchange rate and see if he can update the price for it might be less than what you see listed.

  13. Malcolm

    Hi Julie, Welcome home, I look forward to seeing the art which emerges as a result of the trip. With regard to the Holbein coloured pencils I have been in touch with Japan in the Box and also a couple of other suppliers who are on Ebay. I am hesitating however because I don’t know how readily available single replacement pencils would be, do you have any idea ?



    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Malcolm,

      I’ll have a break from printing out photos, one by one, which I have been doing for about 24 hours (with a slight break for sleeping). I have about 800 images but am probably only printing around 600. Even then, when I crop as I go, it takes a long time.
      Is this a sign of being balmy? Yes!

      Here is my answer to your question about Holbein pencils. For a start, I find it takes me a long time to use up a Holbein pencil. There are many pencils from my original box of 100 which I bought in 2009 which I’ve hardly made a dent in. You’ll soon find out, though, which colours you use up faster than others. I must have about 10 to 15 colours that I go through more rapidly than the others.

      You can most definitely buy boxes-of-six of one colour through the Australian supplier who I have written all about in my ‘art materials’ page. The only drawback is that for an order which is made up of boxes of half-dozen single colours, there has to be a miminum of $150 for each order. Therefore you’d want to have a few colours to buy. I go through lots of black, for instance, so at each order I’d buy black – plus I use lots of the deep purples and indigo blue is another heavy use pencil for me.

      I find the Australian company very easy and straightforward to deal with.

      Thank you for welcoming me home. I feel like a have so much new material – I won’t know where to begin. I want to write some new blog posts too but so far haven’t been able to come up for air!

      Hope this helps, Malcolm.

  14. Donna

    Hi Again Malcolm, glad to see you’re still in CP land…!
    Yes, I have the same question. I get a funny feeling though that open stock may not be available; waiting with baited breath for Julie…:)

  15. Malcolm

    Hi Julie Thanks for such a quick response. I guess if it takes you so long to go through a box then I would probably be able to include mine in my kids inheritance (in fact if I buy a box it may be all that’s left for them). It’s very tempting to go ahead and purchase but I might just sit and think a bit more. Perhaps I could check with Jap in a Box as to replacements.



  16. juliepodstolski Post author

    Certainly, check with Hironao. He may not have an immediate answer for you because he isn’t a specialist in the Holbein brand. Basically, he will send ANYTHING Japanese overseas. Maybe tell him (from me) that you get the singles in boxes of six and ask if he can get hold of them.

    Pencils do come in singles (ie not boxes of six) but you have to, at this stage, go into a Japanese art supply store to find them. The one I always went to in Kyoto, I noticed on my recent trip, has closed its doors. Therefore I’m dependant on having them posted same as anyone else overseas now.

  17. Donna

    Hi Malcolm
    just curious, why the interest in Holbeins particularly? What do you currently own? I ask, because it seems a bit trickier to get them, there might be something else that will appeal to you more for what you want to do. I think brand depends alot on what you want to paint, the support you want to paint it on, and then what feels good to you in your hand.

  18. Malcolm

    Hi Donna, (Julie forgive me for replying to Donna through your blog but it’s the only avenue I have. As far as my interest in Holbein is concerned it doesn’t have any particular thought underlying it other than the fact that it is another brand that I would be interested in knowing about especially as they are recommended by Julie. I guess there is also something of intrigue involved because I did read on one website that for some reason they cannot be imported into America (curious).

    best wishes to you and Julie


    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Malcolm and Donna, not only do you have my permission to have this dialogue on this site, but also my blessing.
      As to the Holbeins, they have my highest recommendation. In my opinion it is worth the effort and expense to have the best materials, whatever your tools of trade may be.

  19. snow

    Hi! I’m getting back into using colored pencils (after years of doing markers) and I have a question: what’s the best order of steps when doing a colored pencil drawing? Should the lineart (if present) be done before or after the coloring- and should the shadows be done after the main colors, or before them?

    I quit using colored pencils for a long time, and I never had proper training, and I really have no clue what I’m doing. @__@ At all. But I want to get back into using them, as I’m always on the run and they’re more portable than markers. (I mainly do children’s-book-illustration-style stuff in my doodles, if that’s relevant. Kitties and bunnies… But I suppose they’d use similar techniques to landscapes/people?)

    I apologize if this is too long a question… I’m curious to have some expert advice, and you’re one of the best pencil artists I’ve seen. (And there are, like, literally no pencil artists in my local area. ;__;)

  20. juliepodstolski Post author

    Hi Snow, I’ve been thinking about your question. My best advice about the steps is to ask you to look at my four ‘work in progress’ pages on this blog. Because rather than a very wordy answer, you can clearly see by clicking on the progression of images on the ‘work in progress’ pages, the building up, in steps, of the drawings.
    Definitely, as you will see, the lines come first – the way I work. As I put the colour on, I rub out the lines.
    I can’t even remember if I do the shadows before or after the colouring. Maybe all at the same time. I don’t think I have a definite order that I am aware of. For example, I may save the bit I am MOST excited about drawing until the last. Or sometimes, when I’m doing a drawing with a face in, I will start with the face because I know that if the face doesn’t work, nothing else will – as everyone’s eyes are drawn to the face. So in that case, I start with the most difficult thing to see if I can pull it off before launching into the rest.
    In each of my ‘work in progress pages’, I make comments about my methods. I’m sure you’ll see me repeat the same points over and over.
    So have a good look at all of them and then come back to me if you need more specific points.
    Remember, you can enlarge each image by clicking on it so that you can scrutinize the picture closely.

  21. Vicki

    Hi, Julie,

    Would you be willing to allow me to include a brief intro, links and some of the images from your blog in our DC Metro CPSA newsletter? I’m the editor and would like to make our users aware of your blog.

    Thanks, Vicki

  22. Jessica Rugg

    Dear Julie Podstolski,

    I was wondering about your photography. Is any of it available under Creative Commons license?

    Kind regards,
    -Jessica Rugg

  23. Fran Woods

    Hi Julie, I was reading one of your previous blogs, and noticed that you went outside to paint water colours – plein air, no cameras, NO GRIDS. Does that mean that you grid all/some of your paintings? I always feel a bit of a fraud because I need to grid up. I envy anyone who can be so free with their drawing/painting. I get horribly out of perspective without gridding. I only paint for my own pleasure, and also do some commissions, (mainly pet portraits in pastels) but feel embarrassed when people compliment me on my work. (Bit of an insecurity complex?) I got a right bollocking from a friend, whose Labrador I painted, for undercharging.
    I LOVE your work, particularly your lovely ladies from Japan. I first saw an entry of your’s at Wanneroo Art Show a few years ago, and admired it so much.
    Regards Fran Woods

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Fran, thanks so much for getting in touch. Let me tell you, I trace the beginnings of my art works. If you have a look at my ‘work-in-progress’ pages you can see how my works develop. They start with tracings. I do this because I want highly realistic works and they wouldn’t look the way I wanted if I was trying to draw freehand.
      Yes, those watercolours were done freehand but these are rare. With oils I used to grid the photo and the canvas. Back at art school I learned to draw freehand. That was years ago. I feel, even with tracing, that I use a great many drawing skills when doing my art. But some would surely disagree.
      Just remember that there are some artists who “only” have the idea and then have teams of people to put the idea into realisation. They don’t do any of the hands on work themselves. I’m thinking of the guy who did “Big Puppy” but his name escapes me this second.
      I most certainly went through guilt feelings when I started to trace up but I don’t have them any more and am completely free in telling/showing people my process. Save guilt feelings for the seven deadly sins, not for art. I’m sure God doesn’t care.
      Maybe your friend who went mad at you for undercharging her can voluntarily give you what she thinks your commission WAS worth.

  24. Paula Woodward

    I absolutely love your bird photos, Julie. It poured with rain, on and off, when we were in Fremantle, so I can picture the birds feeling a little disgruntled, or maybe enjoying a bath. Though seabirds regularly get wet, I guess. But it’s different when it comes from the sky.

  25. David Hoque

    Hi Julie. I was just admiring some of your older pieces. They are different in that they have more finer details throughout them. Both your older pieces and the newer pieces are very well done but you can see a clear change in style. I always wonder how hard it is to pencil over this oil pastel. Do the sharp points of the pencils push out the softer pastel? Sorry, I should buy some and answer my own question but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to study this style in earnest.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      It’s a good question, David. I don’t use a super-sharp pencil so my pencil isn’t gouging out pastel. If anything it seems to mix with it. The pastel has already been thoroughly pushed into the paper with the action of the bristle brush, and being a strong substance, it won’t be ‘messed with’ by pencils. It is there to stay. However, there is dust produced – a combination of pastel and pencil microbes plus broken bits of bristle. I let these be while I work and then every now and then just blow them away or, if some are sticking to the paper, I gently lift them off with a pencil tip or putty-rubber tip.

  26. Silvia

    My question is a simple one: do you ever use solvents, oil or heat to blend your colors? I like the slightly “grainy” look of some of your paintings.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Silvia, thanks for your question. My reply is a one word “no” for all three. As you may have read, sometimes I use coloured pencils in conjunction with oil pastels, however I haven’t used oil pastels at all in my drawings for a full 12 months now. So – coloured pencils only. Sometimes I blend the colour into the paper with a dry hog hair brush, but mostly it is pencil worked into pencil.

  27. Sitara

    Hello Julie,
    Thanks so much for sharing your process, your work, and your life. Your art is a significantly inspiring to me as a beginner colored pencil artist. It is truly incredible and a joy to see. I have one question, do you always use the neocolor ii dry or do you ever wet them before you apply colored pencil? I have them and they are such beautiful crayons. Wanting to use them for my colored pencil drawings. I hope to see your art in person sometime.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hello Sitara, I am so glad you are getting something from this blog for your own art. To answer your question, I always use Neocolor II dry. In the past I have tried (now and then) wetting them, but I never liked the results – or the paper buckling. Some artists successfully wet Neocolor II and use them with coloured pencils so please don’t be put off merely because they didn’t work that way for me.


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