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Behind The Scenes Of The Kitten Heart – My First Drawing On Wood

The finished drawing.
The finished drawing on wood.


The Kitten Heart is officially my first drawing completed in 2017, and the first time I’ve done a drawing on wood!

In December I was contacted by Rustic Roots in Shelburne, VT about a call to artists for their first annual Heart Show. They were looking to get a bunch of artists together to create artwork on wooden hearts to exhibit in February 2017, and were wondering if I’d be interested in participating.


Exhibit For A Cause

One of the special things about this exhibit is that there will be an auction for the artwork, and the proceeds will be split between the artists and Spectrum Youth & Family Services! For those of you who don’t know, Spectrum is a great organization in the Burlington, VT area helping at-risk youth in a number of ways. Through their programs Spectrum helps teenagers and young adults and their family members find housing, get meals, learn life skills, get counseling and mentorship, and much more.

Those pieces of artwork that don’t sell in the auction will be on display throughout the months of February and March at Rustic Roots and for sale for $75 a piece!


Experimenting With Drawing On Wood

Rustic Roots provided all the participating artists with the laser-cut wooden hearts in December, and we have January to create our piece.

At first I wasn’t sure about the wood surface because I’ve never used my preferred medium, colored pencil, on wood before. So, assuming it wouldn’t work that well, I cut used the wooden heart as a stencil and cut out a piece of illustration board to fit and was going to use spray adhesive to attach the illustration board to the wood and draw on that. However, I then decided to make a few pencil marks on the wood to test it out.

Surprisingly (to me anyway!), the pencil strokes showed up great on the wood, so I decided I’d start drawing my piece and if it turned out well, great! If it didn’t turn out well, I knew I could still adhere my illustration board to the wood and draw it on there.


Starting The Drawing

Initial line drawing.
Initial line drawing.

Like with any other drawing, I started with a simple line drawing to map out the subject on the drawing surface. I chose a kitten because they’re extremely popular, and I love drawing them! My reference photo is by a woman named Nadine Thome, from a free reference photo site.

Also, I knew the ears of a cat would lend themselves to the heart shape of this drawing!


Adding Color

Starting to map out areas with my white colored pencil, and work on the eyes.
Starting to map out areas with my white colored pencil, and work on the eyes.

I then used the line drawing as a reference so I could start adding some white with my colored pencils to areas I knew I wanted to keep white, like the whiskers. I was surprised at how well the color laid down on the wood surface, and how bright it still was. My fear was that it would either be too dull, or the sharp pencil would start digging away parts of the wood in splinters. Neither ended up being much of a problem.

Next was the eyes and nose.
Next was the eyes and nose.

The eyes are my favorite part of drawing cats, so I did that early on. I did this because I knew if the eyes didn’t turn out well on the wood, then I’d scrap it and work on illustration board instead.

Truth be told I couldn’t get quite as much detail or as many layers down as I usually do, but I still liked the result and therefore kept going!


Working On The Fur

Adding the white under layer of fur.
Adding the white under layer of fur.

This kitten has white and grey fur with grey striping, so my underlayer was white. My Then I went over sections of it with the various greys to add the fur details, trying not to lose my whiskers in the process.

Each stroke in this part of the drawing is like it’s own piece of fur. You have to draw the fur in the right directions, with the right length of stroke to make it look realistic, even in the first layer. Thanks to having drawn a few cats in the past, this process is becoming somewhat quicker for me than it used to be.

Adding the greys to get the depth of fur and the patterns.
Adding the greys to get the depth of fur and the patterns.


Finishing The Drawing

The finished kitten, with no background.
The finished kitten, with no background.

This is where I started to question myself. I kept flipping back and forth in my mind with, should I add a background or should I leave it the way it is?

I brought the dilemma to social media and received many comments about what I should do. Of course, everyone had a different opinion, some thinking I should definitely leave it the way it was, and some saying it looked unfinished and that it needed a background!

So I decided two things: 1.) I was going to add a background. 2.) When I make prints of this piece available, they will be available in BOTH ways, with the background and with the wood background.

I added a background because I wanted to make the kitten pop. I also knew that when I went to varnish it, the wood might soak up the varnish in a different way than I was used to, so I wanted the whole surface covered to make sure it would varnish evenly.

The finished drawing, with background.
The finished drawing on wood, with background.


Varnish & The Finished Product

Usually I use a satin finish or a matte finish for my colored pencil drawings, because they’re already shiny and I like how it evens out the wax shine. However, for this one I wanted to use a glossy varnish. So I bought some acrylic glossy varnish and sprayed the final drawing. You can see more detail of the gloss and the finished piece below, that a still photo has trouble capturing.


This piece will be on display in February at Rustic Roots in Shelburne, VT! Don’t forget to check it out!