There’s nothing more inspiring to me than buying and opening up a brand new box of Crayola crayons! I think anyone with an ounce of artistic ability fondly remembers coloring as a child. Just the word coloring makes me happy!
A few years ago, I wrote a book about realistic crayon drawing. What a joy it was to create, for I had brought my childhood dream into my adult professional life. I wanted to share it with others, for few knew that crayons are actually a wonderful fine art medium. They’re not just for kids!
This week I’ve been teaching a class on how to draw animals. We covered mostly graphite and colored pencils, but one of my students wanted to draw with crayons. It was fun cracking open the box of Crayolas and giving the class a demonstration. I shared the illustrations I had done for the book, and we analyzed the characteristics of drawing with crayons.
I think the biggest problem people have when drawing with crayons is that they regress to being 5 years old again. They hold the crayon like they’re coloring again, instead of applying it like a fine art medium. Another problem is that they want to make it perform like colored pencils. While similar in application, they are very different. Do NOT use crayons and expect them to behave like a colored pencil. You’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Many crayon artists (you can find a few online) use solvents to soften their appearance. It can be a wonderful look but, personally, I love the pixilated look the crayon creates when applied just as is. Look at these examples—you can see the speckled look that crayon has when applied in layers. This adds to the realism, especially when creating an out-of-focus background like the examples here.
If you want to try your hand at creating fine art with crayons, here are a few pointers:
1. Use Crayola. These are the best and have the best color saturation.
2. Use a paper that will grip the color evenly. I like Stonehenge or illustration board.
3. Have a good hand-held sharpener handy, and try to keep a point on the crayon. This makes it go on more evenly.
4. Apply the crayon in a professional manner, just like you would any other fine art tool. Use control and be deliberate. Don’t turn 5 years old again!
5. Build your colors gradually, and layer them. Apply a light undertone, and build darker colors slowly on top.
6. Crayons can actually be more difficult to layer with due to the high wax content. Don’t confuse them with colored pencils! If you want the “look” of colored pencil, just use that instead.
7. Some colors are more transparent than others. Some colors are very opaque. Test your colors on a separate piece of paper to see how they work together.
8. Too many layers of crayon can make the colors resist each other, making it harder to add more color. Use as few colors as possible to get your end result.
9. Scratch out small lines and details (such as hair, the veins in leaves and flowers, etc.) with a craft knife. Crayon is excellent for scratching due to the wax.
10. Do not get frustrated! You will need practice to get the look you want. It’s worth it!
Happy coloring! Give yourself permission to play again. You may not think that working in crayon can produce a professional look, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s all in how you use them!
See you next time!