Category Archives: Tutorials

A Caran d’Ache Grafwood Pencil Portrait of an English Bulldog

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I took a walk at the Chinese Church near our house. They have a really nice parking lot and a lot of folks use it for walking the perimeter because it is level. I often meet people walking their dogs and recently met this really nice lady who spoke very broken English. I didn’t catch the name of her dog and had to do a bit of YouTube research to determine whether it was a Pug or an English Bulldog. My best guess is it is an English Bulldog. It was so friendly and Minnie loved scampering around it while it sat like a fireplug quite disinterested in my little hyper Shih Tzu. I asked with improvised sign language whether it would be ok to take some pictures of her dog so I could do a drawing. I chose this photo.

Black and White source photo







The Final Drawing:

English Bulldog -9″x12″ – Caran d’Ache Grafwood Pencils on Strathmore Bristol 300 Vellum paper

I used Strathmore Bristol 300 9″x12″ paper and decided to used 100% Caran d’Ache Grafwood Pencils. I love how they glide over the paper. I used the 4H pencil to do the layout with a very light stroke and they built up the tones with darker and darker pencils, from 4H=>2H=>HB=>2B=.4B.  I used PanPastel blender pads and kneaded erasers to create soft graded tones and highlights. I used a Camel paint brush to do some of the shading.

Here is a short speed video of the process:

Here is my drawing area as shown from the camera mounted above (Sony A6000 with 16-50mm lens):

My Studio and Drawing Environment



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Eliza – a Colored Pencil Powder Blender Portrait

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At our recent beach vacation, our family met in Destin for our annual beach retreat. What an awesome time when all 15 of us can get together…kids, grandkids, son-in-laws, and the entertainment – our family dog Minnie! While there, I took some wonderful photos of our family and grandkids including several of the girls and ladies getting their hair braided by Abigail (13), one of our granddaughters.

This is Eliza’s portrait from from the photos from that day. (less the green wall and ceramic fish hung all over it!) I did it on Uart 800 Sanded Paper with Colored Pencils using the Powder Blender system developed by Alyona Nickelsen at I read her book “Colored Pencil – Painting Portraits” cover to cover and used her step by step recommendations on pages 100 and 101 to create this portrait. Here is a time-lapse recording of the process  edited to show the key steps, materials and techniques for other colored pencil artists to follow. I hope you enjoy the video and portrait. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and give me a like if you like it!

Eliza – Colored Pencil 8 1/2″ x 11″ on Uart 800 Sanded Paper with Polychromos, Caran d’Ache and Prismacolor pencils – using Powder Bender system by
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Hank Curth – A pencil portrait painted with brushes, pencils and powdered graphite

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Hank Curth Original Photo posted on Facebook

When I saw the Father’s day Facebook post done by my friend Chris Curth commemorating his dad who would have been 100 years old in 2017, I knew I had to do his portrait! The photo was so striking and conveyed such character I wanted to know more about him. I asked Chris if I could have permission to do a pencil drawing of his dad for my second assignment in a drawing class I was taking online. He gladly agreed and I created this graphite painting/drawing using Caran d’Ache Grafwood pencils, General’s Powdered Graphite, paint brushes, several different erasers and blending tools on Strathmore 400 Bristol Vellum paper. Here is a 2 minute YouTube speed video of the drawing:



If you would like to know more about Hank Curth, here is a short bio on his work. Thanks Chris for letting me do this for you and your family! I am planning to make several limited edition prints for family members. 

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Ava Grace – A pencil portrait and YouTube time lapse video

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This is the original photo of Ava in front of her house

After doing drawings and paintings for over 40 years, I sometimes wish I could remember how I did something that I find in my archive art bin! Sometimes it is to see if I can avoid what is a really bad effort and sometimes it’s because I really like what I drew or painted. Often I have no recollection of the steps I took to create the art! Anyway, with my current drawings I am really enjoying doing these blog posts and work-in-progress videos on my YouTube Channel so I can look back and remember what steps I took to complete a drawing. This is a drawing I did of my granddaughter Ava for her room. She is SUCH a sweetheart and the photo really captures her. As you can see on my last post of the portrait of Hurley, I have recently taken a course by Darrell Tank at in which he teaches realistic graphite pencil drawing using only five pencils – 4H, 2H, HB, 2B and 4B. It is a great course and I highly recommend it if you want to learn a very systematic and consistent approach to your drawing. While this drawing is by no means the best representation of his course or methods, I am pleased that it captured Ava so “gracefully!” The 2 1/2 minute speed drawing below represents about 7 – 8  hours of drawing time.

I hope this process is helpful to you. Here is the time-lapse video of the drawing.

Here roughly are are the steps I took that you’ll see in the video ( the layout method by Darrell Tank is different and quite accurate and doesn’t rely on step 1) – links to the products I used are highlighted in green and link to :

  1. I printed an enlarged copy of the image on 9″x12″ paper using  my HP 7610 printer (large format) on 11″x17″ copy paper using a backer sheet of graphite paper (not charcoal or carbon paper) to transfer a rough sketch of Ava’s features to Strathmore 400 2ply Bristol Vellum paper. This works great with a standard printer at 8″x10″ size too.
  2. I work exclusively at the start with 4H and 2H pencils (I use Caran d’Ache Grafwood pencils) to bring much of the drawing to life using a light touch. During this phase I check the original drawing using a set of easily adjusted Alvin 6″ dividers (not the type with the wheel adjustment).
  3. Increase dark areas with HB pencils gradually reinforcing the deepest tones.
  4. Use a kneaded eraser to lift highlights. Crosshatch larger areas and then use the Princeton Brush Bright #10 paint brush to blend and create a soft skin texture. Use a Langnickel 2″ Camel hair brush to soften features and hair and to keep the drawing clean.
  5. Continue to deepen the darks with 2B and 4B pencils (very lightly especially on 4B – used only for the darkest darks!)
  6. Use the Tombow Mono hand held eraser to create dynamic highlights and hair details.
  7. Continue to work back and forth between darks and lights, refining the image until completion.

Here is the finished drawing:

Final Drawing of Ava with Caran d’Ache Grafwood pencils on Strathmore 400 Bristol Vellum 2-ply paper
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Fall at a New England House – a workflow with Topaz Expression and Photoshop CC

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This New England home was transformed with Photoshop CC and Topaz Expression, an awesome new product to create paintings from photos. Check it out on my Facebook page and get a $10 coupon.
This New England home was transformed with Photoshop CC and Topaz Expression. Expression is an awesome new product from Topaz Labs to create paintings from photos. The photos below are elements created in Expression that became Photoshop Layers in varying modes and transparencies to create this textured image.
Photoshop CC Layers for New England House
Photoshop CC Layers for New England House
The original photo – a target image from my Digital Nuts painters group. This was the bottom layer of the Photoshop file
An extreme variation of the Van Gogh effect in Expression. I used this as the third layer and experimented with blending modes.
A pointillism version in Expression was added as a layer in Photoshop CC.
A pointillism version in Expression was added as a layer in Photoshop CC.
A wrinkled paper layer I created by wadding up a piece of wrapping paper and using my iPhone to take a picture. This became a texture layer and blended. I created a second version of this and rotated it 90 degrees with Multiply mode.
Pencil Background
Pencil Background added between two wrinkled paper layers.
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How to Restore an Antique Photograph – Step 1 – Color Correction

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The first step in restoring any photograph – antique or recent – is to make sure it has been color corrected. There are a ton of ways to do it, but this is the recommended technique by Operation Photo Rescue. And it REALLY works! I am putting together a YouTube video on the steps to restore this photograph for a friend of mine. Here is Step 1- Restore original colors, contrast and depth:

Step One - Restore Color

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Marvelous Marvilla

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Having a great time here at Marvilla in Destin! I took this picture off of our back porch and after watching a video by Scott Kelby, decided to work with the shot in Photoshop until it was just right! Here is a before and after…

Original Photo (Nikon D300, Nikon 60MM Micro Lens)


Working in Lightroom, I saturated the colors, worked with the Clarity settings, added contrast, etc. I always work with RAW files, so they can be modified easily and I can always return to the full resolution image.

Here is the first corrected image in Lightroom:


Because it has a few distractions, I took some time in Photoshop CS5 to clean up the image and here it is! See if you can find all the changes! Some are pretty subtle.

Finished Marvelous Marvilla!

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Justin on the Trumpet

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Original Photo
PhotoShop Layer for LucisArt

This photo was really well balanced and needed only minor color correction in PhotoShop. Always create a layer in PhotoShop above the original to add the LucisArt Filter.  This allows non-destructive editing of the image. After LucisArt was applied 100%, the flattened shadows and features of the photo became very interesting. Take a look at the instrument case on the ground. LucisArt picked up the finest detail. This effect CANNOT be duplicated in PhotoShop alone!

After LucisArt
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Christmas Cousins

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PhotoShop CS3 Tutorial:

1) Original Photo – the original photo is really nice, but I want to put it in a dark frame and create a more artistic and timeless feel to the picture. These are my three grandkids and I want the to look…well, adorable!

2) I added a layer with an extreme gaussian blur. I created a layer mask and painted away the blur from the faces I wanted to be in close focus.

Here’s what it looks like at this point.

3) I added an adjustment layer for hue and saturation and then darkened the whole photo with the sliders

4) Using the layer mask for the adjustment layer,
I painted out the areas I wanted the original bright tone.

5) Finally, I wanted a less saturated look with a bit of
a brown tone. I created another adjustment layer for
Hue/Saturation and hit the Colorize button, Hue 38
and Saturation 15. I then used the layer mask to paint
color back into the faces and bring out some of the red.

It’s really fun to get three wiggly kids to sit in one place at a time, especially when there are so many things to explore!

Equipment: Nikon D300, Nikon 18-200 VR Lens, SB800 Flash, Gary Fong attachment.

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