A New Challenge: Colored Pencils

A New Challenge: Colored Pencils

    January 23, 2019



    Lisa Dinhofer

Lisa Dinhofer - self portrait - Monacelli StudioLisa Dinhofer developed original workshops in the technique of colored pencil and color theory. She’s been successfully teaching all aspects of drawing for over 20 years and is currently on the faculty of the Art Students League in New York City. She also taught a popular class for the online site, Craftsy. Collected widely, Dinhofer’s paintings and works on paper are represented in many public and private collections including The Brooklyn Museum, the New York Public Library, City College (CUNY), and IBM. In 2003, Dinhofer completed a 90-foot glass mosaic mural, Losing My Marbles, commissioned by MTA, Arts for Transit, located at the Times Square, 42nd Street subway station in New York City. She is the author of Mastering Colored Pencil.


A new challenge brings a quickness to your step, color in your cheeks, and an incredibly bright eye. Needless to say, a new challenge always makes for a good conversation.

Sure you can change your eye shadow to bring out the your eye color or buy a new lipstick to enhance your smile. But how do you change an attitude? I find that being beautiful has much more to do with attitude than with body size or the turn of a mouth.  It’s that proverbial “twinkle in the eye” that is truly attractive. Being a figurative artist means I spend a good deal of time observing people and places around me. I have seen conventionally ugly people who are wonderfully attractive and standard pretty people who are not attractive. The truly beautiful people I have met are those with a joy in living and most importantly curiosity. Curiosity isn’t a homework assignment or a task that must be done. It is a desire to experience something different, not passively but actively. In other words explore, learn a new skill.

So, here is my challenge for you: Colored Pencils. Colored pencils are no longer the red pencil your third grade teacher used to correct your spelling. Colored pencils are now a new artistic medium with a range of 20 to 30 reds alone. Pencils are also so easy to use. There is no need for an elaborate studio set up, a kitchen table will do. Clean up involves a container for shavings and a pencil box. They are incredibly portable; sit on a hillside, on a porch, at a desk.

Color pencils are also affordable compared to other artistic mediums. It is an easy get and you will not feel that you are making an enormous investment.

I have such a passion for this medium that I have written a book: Mastering Colored Pencil: An Essential Guide to Materials, Concepts, and Techniques for Learning to Draw in Color. Talk about a challenge. I wanted this book to be for all levels, the beginner, the experienced practitioner, and everyone in between. I discuss supplies and techniques through a variety of exercises and simple assignments.

Inevitably by definition colored pencils are about color. I have dedicated an entire chapter to a discussion of color. How it works and why it works. Color theory isn’t just about the pencils. It impacts our daily life all the time. Why not find out why and how a change of eye shadow or a change of color in a lipstick makes your eye look larger or your smile richer. Choosing the color of a wall can make a room feel larger or smaller. And, of course, color is a main element in a work of art, your work of art.

I have also tried to move this “applied” art book beyond the usual “how to”. I included a color pencil exhibition, in which a variety of contemporary artists show their work and explain how they use color pencils and why they chose this particular medium. The artists are painters, sculptors, illustrators, and graphic artists. The Monacelli Press has upped the quality of the production of Mastering Colored Pencil. It is very high especially considering the price point. It truly is an art book. I hope you will check it out.

Remember artists are just curious people who like to draw the world around them. And then perhaps strike out and create a new world. But everyone starts at the beginning, even Rembrandt started at the beginning. Maybe by picking up a pencil he became entranced. There is a simple assignment in my book, draw an apple in colored pencil.  Again start at the beginning. There is a first step then a second then a third. Try a different approach. If you are a coloring book enthusiast try mixing you colored pencils or play with some of the other techniques I have outlined.

So the challenge is to try a new medium, learn a new skill, be playful. Colored pencil will seduce you. It certainly has me.

Mastering Colored Pencil - Lisa Dinhofer
Mastering Colored Pencil: An Essential Guide to Materials, Concepts, and Techniques for Learning to Draw in Color
presents everything artists need to know about traditional and contemporary drawing techniques, materials, and color theory in order to master this versatile medium. It is on sale everywhere books are sold.


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Image credits: (Top image) Lisa Dinhofer, Ma on the Beach Between Mars and the Moon, 2014, colored pencil on paper 22″ x 30″ (56 x 76 cm). (Author Image) Lisa Dinhofer, The Brass Ball, 1991, oil on wood panel, 12” x 12”  (30.5 × 30.5 cm). Collection of the artist.