My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lesson 20 Tahitian Girl - Lei Headdress

This week, we'll draw the lei headdress before we draw the skin (since it covers part of the skin and we need to know where that is). Now I'll be throwing out the colors I used today, but the pattern in any picture is much the same. With few exceptions, you draw highlights, then shadows, then variations of color, then the main color. To finish, you burnish and touch up colors, shadows, and hightlights. Ready? Here we go.

Step 1. With a White pencil, go in and make the rough shape of each leaf, accenting the highlighted areas on the left side of the lei.

Step 2: With Dark Umber #947, rough in your shaded areas. Now you can see the leaves better.

Step 3: Since Polynesians use a variety of leaves for their leis, I had a choice to make. I could use the fringed-edge leaves or the smooth ones. Because the rest of my picture would be mostly smooth flowing areas, I opted for fringed edges to add some texture and interest. Here, still using Dark Umber, I broke up the edges of the leaves.

Step 4: We're ready for our variations of colors. First we'll do the light tones. This is shaded in with Vert Lime #1005.

Step 5: Since most of the lei will be in shadow, I don't want bright colors. Green Ochre #1091 is a very earthy color. Lay in your midtones, avoiding the highlighted edges of the leaves on the left.

Step 6: We want the shadows on the right need to be toned down, but the highlighted leaves on the left can be sparked up. Chartreuse #989 is a "wow" pencil. Hit the highlights on the left. It will look scary.

Step 7: Okay, with an earthy base on the right, we can add a little more color. (When you burnish at the end of the drawing, the brighter colors on the upper layers and the earthy colors on the lower layers will mix, toning down whatever you have on top.) Going into the middle and base of each leaf (except for the highlighted leaf edges on the far left) and add a little color with Dark Green #908. You can use a little Vert Lime to spark up the edges of the leaves, as needed. The leaves begin to look a lot better. Now we're ready for texture and detail.

Step 8: Going back with White, I'm scrubbing (literally - you have to push fairly hard) in individual sections into the leaves. While I'm doing a lot of leaves, I'm leaving a few out. Some areas are going to remain in shadow and you won't see details. Fun, huh? But this drawing still doesn't have deep shadows.

Step 9: Using Sepia #948, go back in and push some deep shadows between the leaves, shading up into the leaves a bit. Take Celadon Green #1020 to add a little light where the shadow needs to be toned down. Celadon is just earthy enough, but still light enough to work great in the greens.

Step 10: Okay, now we're ready to burnish. Using a Colorless Blender #1077 (it's just plain wax in a pencil form), go over every area using small circling motions. The colorless blender will push the colors around and can fill in all the little spots left uncolored on the paper. It can also soften the edges, so you get a more relaxed look.

Warning: be careful about pushing too hard with the colorless blender, because it can actually dig out the previous layers, leaving a scar the color of your paper. Start easy, then gradually push harder until it does what you want.

So here we are, lei and all. Check back next week for the next step.


  1. You totally rock. Can I be like you one day?

  2. Leisha, ha ha! Not sure that's the best idea, but thanks anyway!

  3. Wow, it's amazing how they pop up out of the page. So 3-D.

    I must say, there is something ghostly beautiful when there's nothing but the white pencil on!

  4. Ah, yes, the white pencil. I always get a little scared here. I know how I want it too look, but there's all those choices and possibilities. It's been fun stumbling on a formula that works most of the time.


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