Creating a colour portrait style

In my last blog post, Developing a new portrait style during lockdown, I wrote only about developing a line art portrait style. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with adding colour to my portrait art works.

This close-up shows the eyes of one of my finished colour portraits. Each colour section compliments and contrasts with its neighbours.

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa; an area of the world in which people wear colourful clothes, they plant colourful flowers in their gardens and they paint their walls in vibrant colours. Growing up, I was surrounded by all of this colour and it has influenced my art style immensely. I love playing with colour, whether it is paint pastel, or pencil or pen.

Using my favourite colour pencils I began experimenting with adding colour to my abstract African portraits

This photo shows me wearing my dust glove while colouring in a hand drawn portrait with colour pencils, this one from Derwent pencil manufacturers

Because my abstract drawing style created these wonderful geometric shapes, I could immediately see how easily I could add colour to my portraits by simply colouring in the shapes in different colours. The challenge arrived when I had fetched all my colour pencils and drawn a line-art portrait, ready for colouring.

The challenge was deciding which colour to put where.

I used nearly 200 different colours when colouring this couples portrait art work
I chose to reserve certain colours for the hair and spectacles in this abstract portrait. The warmer colours I used for the skin tones, and the cooler colors for the spectacles, hair and peak cap. I chose to use green and yellow in the blonde hair because in natural light, blonde hair has green highlights which I think are very pretty.

The game of colour picking amuses me immensely. I have more than 500 individual colour pencils (my husband spoils me terribly with art supplies), each of which has its own shade and texture. A Derwent pencil might have a very similar shade to a Holbein pencil, but the texture of each pencil will differ because of the ratios of oils, pigments and waxes that the pencil manufacturer has used. I feel like after working with all of these pencils, they now each have an individual “personality” to me, and I choose which pencil to colour with based on this personality of shade, hue and texture.

This wild portrait definitely has an African influence, though my colour choices may not be exactly traditional
I really enjoyed using wild colours in this portrait of my high school classmate.

I decided early on that I preferred to colour the irises of people’s eyes in different colours, and colours other than their own, and I decided to apply this technique when colouring my abstract pet portraits.

The two dogs in this pet portrait look super cute in their party hats so I chose lots of cute colours for them
I had the pleasure of drawing these doggos celebrating their fifth birthdays together

One day it struck me that some parts of the portraits could be left uncoloured.

What I have enjoyed most about this portrait style development project is the numerous surprises that I’ve had along the way. One of these surprises happened when I had finished colouring the face and realized that the art work was finished, even though I hadn’t started colouring the hair yet.

When drawing this portrait I created wonderfully organic abstract shapes in her face that I could colour in with my favourite Derwent pencils and Holbein pencils.
I discovered that by leaving the hair uncoloured, I drew more attention to the main feature of the art work; the smiling face.

Being surrounded by African patterns as a child instilled in me a love of all things zig zag, striped, swirly and dotted. I have so much fun drawing my patterns and so much fun colouring them in. Every portrait that I draw in this style is a fun experience.

My Instagram friend loves to take selfies with her pet cat so I decided to hand draw a portrait of this darling couple in colour
Having a fun photograph to work from adds to the fun when I am drawing my pet and people portraits.
The man with the pet chicken on his shoulder in this pencil and pen portrait art work is my husband's work mate and friend
My husband’s workmate has a cranky pet chicken and a great sense of humour. I can only hope that I did them both justice in this unusual pet portrait.

Animals look seriously cool in my colourful style

I so enjoyed drawing and colouring the pictures of cats and dogs that people sent me, that I’ve decided to draw a bunch of other animals too. Maybe I’ll sell prints of these drawings, maybe I’ll have them printed on some stuff and sell it around my island of Gozo. I dunno what I’ll do with them, but I can guarantee that you’ll be seeing more pet and animal portraits out of me, in my new, colourful, abstract, African-influenced style.

This colorful pencil drawing pet portrait is of my friends dog when he was smiling happily after a fun day of playing in the sun
This colourful dog portrait has proven to be one of the most popular art works to come out of this portrait project.