For some reason, we associate crayons with being easy and simple to use. Our childhood memories of quickly filling in our coloring books with single colors come flooding back. Each area was quickly scribbled in, and our youthful minds were also quick to say “voila!” We were easily amused and satisfied.
As adults, we have unfortunately turned off the “just for fun” mode in our brains, and we now are obsessed with the need to make things perfect. Art for fun is now, art-“work.”
Drawing with crayons as an adult is much more difficult, and the reason is twofold. One, we seem to regress into our juvenile minds, and expect the old feelings of easy coloring to reemerge. Secondly, our need to make things look more realistic interferes with the fun. What we’re left with is good old “adult frustration.” (The mindset we seem to apply to everything as we grow older!)
Yesterday I received an email from a reader who was working her way through my book Amazing Crayon Drawing. I could sense her frustration, and understood from where it was coming.
My reader was struggling with two things. Her first question was, “How sharp of a point do I need to have on my crayon?” My answer is this: Just get it sharp enough to keep it from being blunt. Crayons are soft, so a super sharp point will just crumble and break. I use a handheld pencil sharpener like the one in the photo above. You can see the point I created. The point of the crayon should be maintained while drawing, for the more blunt the crayon gets the wider and more irregular the lines get while applying them on the paper.
Her second question was, “How do I hold the crayon for the best result?” My answer to that is this: Everyone holds their writing utensils differently depending on the shape and size of their hands. We’re all different. Just hold your crayon in whatever manner is most comfortable for you; usually the way you would write.
These two hints are good for creating smooth layering with your crayons. The pressure you apply to the crayon should be gentle and even. It gives your drawing a smooth, even look and appearance. Of course, if you’re simply filing in deep color, and want it to completely cover the paper, firm pressure would then be used. In this case, a sharp point isn’t necessary. Keep in mind that due to the heavy wax content, crayons don’t burnish and behave like colored pencil. Don’t expect the same results. If you want the look of colored pencils, use them. Don’t try to beat a crayon into submission. It won’t work.
Just for the record, there’s another component to crayon art that’s important. It’s the paper you use. Look at my examples. You can see the difference in the way the drawings look. The drawing of the pear is very smooth and delicate. Crayon has a pixilated look to it, and the paper affects how much it shows. For me, this pixilated look is what makes a crayon drawing so interesting and unique. The pear was drawn on Stonehenge paper. It has a very even finish, with enough texture to hold the crayon evenly, but not interfere with it. It creates a more subtle appearance.
The other two examples have a much more distinct graininess to them. These were both done on illustration board. It’s a harder surface with a much more obvious texture to it. This board makes the crayon go on with a more pixilated appearance. I think it’s cool!
I find that drawing with crayon can be a greater challenge than other fine art mediums. But, by thinking of crayons AS a fine art medium and using them accordingly (don’t go back to just “coloring”), you can conquer it and create great realism. Like anything else it just takes time, practice and patience.
Have fun, and have a great week!
Edited by Cherie Haas, online editor of ArtistsNetwork.com
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!
• Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond