July 13, 2016

7 Reasons I Love Working In Colored Pencil

by Corrina Thurston

A lot of people are shocked when I tell them that my artwork is in colored pencil. At first some of them think it’s a photo, or a painting. After I say the drawings are completed in colored pencil, the most common response is, “REALLY?!?”

After the initial shock settles, the next thing the person will do is step up to the piece and place their face only inches from the drawing to analyze the detail and see if they can tell up close that it’s colored pencil.

It’s great fun for me to watch this again and again, the curiosity, the shock, and the close inspection that follows. It’s exciting to work in a medium that everyone has heard of, but only a fraction of people have seen in this type of fine art.

Drawing at my drawing table.
Drawing at my drawing table.

So why did I choose colored pencil to begin with?

There are certainly challenges that come with being a pencil artist.

For example, there are galleries that turn me away without even looking at my work when I tell them I work in colored pencil.

It’s also labor-intensive and takes a long time to finish a piece.

You can’t erase your mistakes. And it can be downright frustrating at times!

Despite the challenges, however, I love working in colored pencil. It’s become my absolute favorite medium in which to work, and here’s 7 reasons why that is:

1.) I can draw from anywhere. 

Many of you know my story about how I started drawing after becoming nearly bedridden with an unknown illness for 6 years at the age of 18. (If you don’t, check out my blog post “How I Became An Artist – An Unexpected Path“)

When I began drawing, colored pencil was an unexpected and perfect medium for me because I could draw from my bed. Most of my earlier drawings, like my Sea Turtle, my Chipmunk, and my Cougar, were drawn in my lap while I was in my bed, too sick and fatigued to work from anywhere else.

What I love about this medium is I can draw from anywhere! I now have a drawing table that I use about half the time, but the other half I’m anywhere but my drawing table. Sometimes I’m sitting on my couch. Many times I’ll travel with my drawing supplies and bring them with me on vacation or to my family’s camp and sit out on the porch. I’ve drawn while sitting on a dock, on a roof, on decks, on porches, on lawns, in chairs, and recliners, and couches, and beds.

All I need to be able to draw in colored pencil is a handful of pencils, pencil sharpener, and a drawing pad.

2.) I can get the detail I want.

My Blue-Eyed Kitten colored pencil drawing.
My Blue-Eyed Kitten colored pencil drawing.

You may have noticed from my artwork that I like detail. I like being able to show every little piece of fur on an animal, every fluffed up feather, every wrinkle and shine.

With colored pencil, I can get the intricate detail I want.

If you consistently sharpen your pencils to a sharp point, it’s easy to focus on the details. You have to. It’s actually more difficult for me to do sections with less detail than those with fine details because of this.

3.) I can put it aside without worrying.

I’m still not 100% healthy, so there are days and sometimes weeks where I have to put a drawing aside and not touch it because I either have a migraine or just don’t have the energy to draw.

With colored pencil, I don’t have to worry about the pigment drying in the partially finished section while it sits.

I don’t have to worry about my cats jumping up and rubbing against wet paint and smearing the colors across the paper.

My Kingfisher colored pencil drawing as a work in progress.
My Kingfisher colored pencil drawing as a work in progress.

I don’t have to worry about someone knocking it over and the pigments smudging.

All I have to do is either put it in a safe place (where no one will splatter it with something), or cover it back up in my drawing pad and let it sit until I’m ready to work on it again. Then I can pick right back up where I left off, no problem.

4.) The colors!

You may also have noticed from my artwork that I love color!

I never expected colored pencil to be able to produce the vibrant colors that I so love in artwork, but it can! With enough layers and blending, the colors become bright and opaque, with no white paper specks showing through.

I typically use Prismacolor pencils, but there are a number of brands that now do fine art colored pencils, and each of them has a great range of colors to choose from. I think Prismacolor now has about 180 colors of pencil, and I’m pretty sure I’ve used all of them!

Some of my colored pencil drawings.
Some of my colored pencil drawings.

5.) I can draw even when my hands are shaky.

This benefit may be one that only excites me.

My body pushes out cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, all the time. Sometimes it produces it in large quantities, forcing my hands to shake.

With colored pencil, this doesn’t matter.

If I were working with paints, I’d need to hold my hands steady away from the paper or canvas to keep the brush steady and create those details I love. Or rest my arm on a prop, but my fingers would still shake.

With colored pencil, I can rest my arm on the table or pad and press down with the pencil in a way that makes my quivering unnoticeable.

6.) No mess to clean up!

When I first started drawing from my bed, I had very very little energy. When I was finished drawing for the day, after about an hour, I would shove my artwork and pencils onto the floor. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else.

If I had been painting, I would have had to take care of the cup of water, clean all my brushes, cap paints, clean or somehow store the paint palette, etc. It would be too much!

Even now that I have more energy, I appreciate the fact that colored pencil is not messy.

I don’t have to wear specific painting clothing, use an easel, set a drop cloth, or worry about spilling my paint water or paints. I don’t worry about smearing, smudging, or splattering in any way! And to clean up, I just set my pencils aside and walk away.

7.) The shock value.

Like I wrote in the beginning of this blog post, most people are shocked when they realize my artwork is done in colored pencil. I love this. I love seeing their face go from interested, to shocked, to curious, to investigative.

It’s a great feeling to be the one to expand people’s knowledge of what can be fine art.

As I start to feel better and gain more energy, I plan to teach classes in colored pencil. By teaching classes I can be one on one with people as they get to experience the unexpected magic of colored pencil like I did from my bed in 2010. I’ll get to witness their surprise and joy as they set down layers of colored pencil and watch their drawing come to life.


Colored pencil is a particular medium, and it’s not for everybody. I do, however, suggest that you give it a try! When you finish a drawing, there’s a sense of satisfaction that, at least for me, is almost overwhelming. Whether the drawing is good, bad, or ugly, it’s an accomplishment. Never give up!

Have fun and keep drawing!

2 thoughts on “7 Reasons I Love Working In Colored Pencil

  1. Hi Corrina… I love your passion, and admire your strength! You know me as a fellow artist, also working in color pencil. It truly is a challenging medium at times, for sure! I enjoy reading your blog and the feeling I sense from a fellow artist who shares the same passion as I do. You are amazing, and very inspiring! Never forget that! Stay sharp and colorful! Love ya! ~ Barry

    1. Thank you so much, Barry! Blogging is a very new endeavor for me, but I’m enjoying it! And you already know that I love your work! 🙂

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