Tag: color pencil art

Portrait Colored Pencil + The Memory Project

I have spent much of my life creating art. Growing up with an art teacher mom greatly widened my creative boundaries. She always had art supplies, new ideas, and fun projects for us to work on.

However, while my art making career does reach far back, for as long as I can remember I have also struggled with and have tried to avoid portraiture. In contrast, my art teacher mama spent much of her free time creating beautiful watercolor portraits, and even attempted to teach me her tricks a time or two, but the process never clicked for me.

My aversion to portraiture was tested in college, but for the most part I was able to skirt around assignments. However, my career choice of art education forced me to come face to face with my greatest art aversion, you guessed it, portraits.

I knew that in order to create a well rounded curriculum I would have to teach my students portraiture, and myself along with them. It took years of practice, learning new techniques, and teaching it to others for things to start to sink in. While it still doesn’t come naturally, it comes more easily, and I have added more and more portrait based assignments to my classes over the years.

One new addition last year was The Memory Project. We worked with The Memory Project organization to create portraits of children in areas of need. Once the portraits are completed we send the originals to the organization, who in turn sends them with representatives to hand deliver the works of art to the children portrayed.

Everything about this project touches me to the core. It incorporates my love for art, sharing that love with others, and it teaches students how they can use their talents for good. They have to take time to create a work of art that they will have to give away.

My students and I had such a good experience last year I decided to make it an annual project. Last year we focused on acrylic paintings, you can find the lesson plan for that here, but this year I opted to make myself even more uncomfortable by throwing in another material I don’t naturally get a long with, colored pencil.


  • 9″x12″ or smaller sheets of quality drawing paper
  • Memory portrait pictures (multiple copies, the same size as the paper)
  • Pencils
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Erasers


My students start by selecting the child they are interested in recreating. I then make copies of their pictures for them to reference. Before jumping right in I have them create thumbnail sketches of different facial features and practice blending various colored pencils colors to get the right skin color. You can find a worksheet to help guide that process here.

After they have some practice under their belt, we get started on the base sketch. Because we are sending these portraits out to the children they portray, I allow my students to choose multiple options to get started. They can use the grid method to create an accurate base drawing, they can punch holes through the picture and make dots to follow on their paper, or they can free hand. You can learn more about these options in my Memory Project painting pack here.

Once they are confident in their drawing and have all the correct information, they get started with the layers. I tell them to start light and slowly build layers up. They block out shadows and mid-tones first, working towards the highlights. I recommend coloring in a circular motion to mimic the soft, even look of skin. They should aim to color along the contour, or outline, of their shapes to give it a three dimensional quality.

I recommend starting with the skin tone first before jumping into the hair because the hair overlaps the skin. I also think it’s important to work on every part equally, rather than 100% completing the lips before moving to the nose (for example). Instead, build your piece up as a whole.

After creating a base layer start adding darker and darker colors, build in the hair, clothing, and other details.

Consider what to do in the background. Did their subject note their favorite color? Is there an interesting background in the photograph they want to recreate? What would enhance, not distract from their portrait?

Similar to coloring in the subject, the layers should slowly be built up. If too much pigment is put down at one time the surface will become burnished and look shiny. It’s hard for more pigment to stick to this burnished surface and often layers need to be removed with an eraser in order to add more color.

While portraits still aren’t my favorite subject to create, I am glad I have developed the skill set and some confidence in introducing the concept to my students. It’s important to offer them a well rounded art education and portraits are a part of that!

Check out a time lapse video of my piece below!

Read about some of my other portrait projects here.

Check out portrait resources on my blog shop (grid lesson here) and my TPT (acrylic portrait project here, portrait with words here, charcoal self portraits here, altered self portraits here).

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and read about one of my recent projects! Share the post on your social media outlet of choice and help me spread the word about all things art making. Thanks for stopping by!

Visual Journal Page 36: If I had a Bucket List…

VIsual-Journal-Page-36-If-I-had-a-Bucket-List.ai copy

This all began with my love for sushi. I could eat it every other day, filling in the off days with pizza and steak, never getting sick of it. However, the reality is I can’t eat it every other day because on a good day it costs $25-$30 every time I go. Despite the $30 price tag I still yearn for sushi. I love the flavors, the texture, the color combinations of the different varieties of fish.

One day while indulging my most recent sushi craving, a friend and I got to talking about how her brother periodically makes sushi. My interest was peaked, it never occurred to me to make sushi. The fear of hygienically working with raw food was enough to keep the thought at bay, until this particular day.

I went home that night still thinking about sushi, could I actually make it myself? This thought turned into a goal once Christmas came and went, and left behind a sushi cookbook and sushi making supplies, thanks to my brother. It was a sign and it was time, I was going to make my own sushi.

I did research, I visited my local farmer’s market for fish, I prepared, and finally I dove in headfirst and gave it a shot.

Nick, Elly, and I were crammed into our small kitchen slicing, steaming, and rolling. In order to create three different rolls we made more sushi than three people can consume in a week. We carefully laid out the rolls, set everything out in the dining room, and admired our handiwork. Piles of sushi covered the table, I was so proud, starving, and ready to dig in.

Despite a great deal of time and effort our sushi rolls were not pretty. The rice was everywhere, and rice was rolled about an inch thick around each piece. Insides were falling out as we desperately tried to move each piece from the plate to our mouths before the contents scattered. Chopsticks were abandoned for fingers, and our mouths were stuffed.

The end result of the grand sushi experiment was an incredibly messy kitchen, sink pipes clogged with rice, piles of leftovers, and a new appreciation for why sushi costs so much. The time and effort needed to make each biet size piece is amazing. The amount of ingredients required to make a variety truly is amazing. I now gladly spend $30 on my delicious, no-effort, take out sushi.

Since this experience we have made sushi one more time, with a larger group of people. It won’t be my last time, I plan on more sushi experiments in the future, but for now I am satisfied knowing that if I had a bucket list I would be able to check something off…


  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • Prisma colored pencils


This page did not require a lot of materials, but it did require a lot of time. I only used colored pencils, I drew each item separately, cut them out, and layered them together.

I started with the background, I drew out the counter, cabinets, and stove with a pencil, and then began coloring. I sat in my kitchen, and used it as a reference while I drew and colored, to make sure it was accurate. I added a base color to everything, starting with the background (tiles) and moving forward (to the cabinets). In order to get depth, strong color, and a nice blended texture with colored pencils you have to layer. I start with a base color and slowly add on top. I never use just one green, I chose at least five shades, layer them, and as the pigment builds up, they will begin to blend together. I always start with darks and add lights on top, if I have highlights white is the last color I add.

It also helps to have a nice set of colored pencils. I am a Prisma brand fan, and will always buy their colored pencils. The pencils are a dollar or two apiece (crazy!!) but it is worth every penny! Once I had my background complete I drew my pieces of sushi, pot, knives, and cutting board on a separate sheet of paper. When the drawings were complete I cut them out and glued them on top of the background, to give it a collage feel.


Use colored pencils to create an image in your book. Remember to use a variety of shades, and build them up slowly! Thin layer on top of thin layer will create a nice smooth look!

Thanks for reading today’s post! I hope it has inspired you to create a page in your journal, or start your very first journal! Help me spread the word about my blog by liking, tweeting, sharing, emailing, commenting, and subscribing!