A pear with leaf explained, worked in a botanical style

Building up the depth of color in the leaf took many layers of colored pencil and blending. Without all the layers, the image would have looked flat and lifeless rather than vibrant and more life-like. I give what tips and techniques I have learned while working on this pear with leaf.

Watch the time lapse or skip down for more.

Popping an object off the paper

Taking a flat piece of paper and rendering a 3-dimensional object onto it is fun, but not exactly easy. Understanding how the objects interacts with the light source goes a long way to creating depth and shape. Studying the the leaf and knowing that it wasn’t flat helped to understand the shapes of the shadows and why they were that way.

It’s all in the lighting

Every shape displays its own unique pattern in light. Learning what a sphere looks like helps to define round fruit and from there more complex fruit like pears. But a leaf, the various planes and angles all interact with the light in different ways. A leaf is anything but a flat surface, it is complex and varied.

Leaves are complex

Breaking down a complex object into smaller sections helps to build the whole. I worked each section building up and working the shapes I saw and not what I felt should be there. The shapes seem to make no sense in the section but within the whole worked as a unit. I built up to the whole. Once I had the whole, I sat back from it and studied the lay of the leaf and how I could add to my leaf to bring the leaf up off the paper. This is not a fast process, but does so much to the leaf. A little darker here, a little lighter there.

Layering for depth

When I first started working in colored pencil, I underestimated the number of layers and time that was needed to build up a life-like subject to pop off the page. With this pear and leaf, I aimed for at least 15 layers. This was achieved with a light touch only pressing hard to lay in the light veins. 15 layers is a small number of layers and in reality I should be aiming for far more layers. Each picture I do, I gain a deeper understanding of what my paper can handle and how to bring the subject to life. This pear and leaf is a good start to what is needed.

Supplies Used

  • Fabriano Artistico hot press 140# watercolor paper
  • Faber Castell polychromos
  • Caran D’arche luminance

What is next?

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. I’m currently working on a single tulip. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see this as a full lesson.


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