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‘Seasonally Spiced’ Lightfast Drawing by Helen Carter

  • Dec 20, 2020
  • Written by: Helen Carter
  • Category: Lightfast

At this time of year, the Christmas Market in Winchester is my favourite place. It’s so busy and colourful and packed full of good cheer; you cannot fail to soak up the atmosphere and leave with a gift, a grin and a bag of hot sweet chestnuts. When I heard that it wouldn’t be open this year, I knew I had the perfect photograph to bring those feelings into my home again.


Transferring the line drawing:

I printed my photograph onto regular copy paper, then went over the back with a soft pastel and traced the main shapes. The complexity of the reference meant that this stage took a long time.

My hand gives you an idea of the size. The original is only 8.5×8.5 inches. Since each element is quite small, and there are so many of them, I knew precise details wouldn’t matter. Instead, I focused on recreating the key elements; the dried and sliced fruit, the wreath of sticks, the shrivelled chillies and the dozens of pine cones.  

Beginning the drawing

Pine Cones – In my line drawing I outlined the white tips only, so for the drawing, I did the white tips first, then mapped in the dark centres. My brain helped me find the rest of the form. They are not exact replicas of the reference, but you can’t tell. Adding a little grey on the white tips helped to add the lumps and bumps and really finished them off nicely.

Picking the colours

Stick Wreath – I didn’t initially know how to recreate the sticks, so I simplified it a little by reducing the number of sticks and doing one section at a time. I started with a warm grey line the length and direction of each stick. I kept adding more and layered them, always in the general direction, but with some variation in length. I then add a white tip to suggest the cut end of the stick. I added brown to colour the ‘underside’ of each stick to add warmth and make it look like wood. Then added black all around each stick, including where one went behind another. Those in the background needed to be darker than those in the foreground. I tried to make the sticks to appear out of the black, so I reduced the shading as it went away from that overlap.

Filling in the piece

Dried Chillies – These are the pops of red you see, and I got it down to only four steps to create them.  First, I put down some random white highlights to suggest the shriveled skin. I coloured around these with a bright red, and picked a deep red, or reddy brown, to underline all the highlights. This created depth to the wrinkles. I also added a yellow over parts of the highlights and reds to intensify the colour and add variation.

Making progress

Whole Dried Fruit – The dried fruit are the main element of this image, so it was important to get the cut-shape and skin texture right. The first step was to colour the white cut edges of the pith. Staying with the white, I made small texture marks for the outside skin. These were either dots or short lines in top to bottom direction. Then I coloured the skin (not the cut edges) with green or orange. I brought in some yellow to create variation, and on the oranges, added some red to deepen colour, and on the limes, some dark greens. I used browns and greens to add shading to increase the three dimensional feel, and added a little diffused colour into the white cuts.

The dried fruit inside the skin is much darker in the oranges, and can be hinted at using browns and reds. The lime is lighter, more and more orangey in the middle. I use a white first to create texture, then went over that with the colours, darkening down as necessary to push it back and further into the fruit.

Nearly finished

Sliced Fruit – Starting again with white, I drew the circle of pithy skin and lightly mapped in the segment separations. Still with the white, I made some wiggly lines to suggest the fibres of the fruit inside each segment. I went over those with a bright orange at first; then darkened small sections at a time, particularly near the outside edges, to create dips and hollows, remembering where my light was coming from. Yellow highlights and red shadows helped to build the fibrous texture. Finally, I added the orange or green skin colours to the very outside edge, paying attention to how the edge curved around in three dimensions and how the shadows affected the colours.

The key to this drawing was to break it down into single items. I focused on one thing at a time, and by the time I got a third of the way down the page, I had already dealt with all the elements and had a good idea of how to approach the rest of the drawing.

I didn’t get bogged down in recreating perfect details, it is already too busy to worry about that. Instead I wanted to get the layering of all the items to look like one thing was in front of another.  

Final touches

The final element was to write the gift tags, which originally showed the prices. If it wasn’t obvious before what season this represented, it certainly is now.

Merry Christmas!

Final festive piece

Final piece with Derwent pencils used

Helen loves to recreate bright and interesting subjects in coloured pencils. The Derwent Lightfast range are her favourite, she says ‘they are so smooth and blendable and perfect for my style. They were a game changer for me.’ 

You can find more of Helen’s beautiful work at
Instagram: @helen_carter_artist  
Facebook: @Helen Carter Artist.

Thank you to Helen for this lovely festive piece!

Purchase your own Lightfast pencils here.