This skull and crosebones from Johanna Basford’s Lost Ocean colouring book was a slow process. I picked the picture to work on with a limited palette. I used only four pencils (Polychromos): light yellow, yellowish green, black and white to see just how interesting I could make the pic using just these. I was pretty happy with the result except… it looked so lonely lost in a sea of white. So, after some thought, I decided to add some kind of frame to it. I had the idea of this ghostly image being the spirit of a drowned pirate haunting cursed ships at sea. The scary phantom floating through a hole in the hull just before the sea water rushes in.
I started by loosely drawing in the timber panels and nails in gray lead (graphite pencil).
I decided to do the initial colouring with soft pastels using the method of rubbing the pastel onto a makeup remover pad and rubbing it in in long strokes along the panels. I avoided anywhere that wasn’t going to be timber. I used two tones of brown, a lighter tan and a darker brown. I lay the brown first and then added large streaks of the darker colour to simulate the colouration of the timber. i wasn’t too worried about getting an even colour as streaky, blotchy colour would look more natural. I used my new Mungyo pastels from South Korea. These little pastels are quite soft, come in 64 colours and were very cheap! I paid $17 Australian for them including free shipping.
After spraying workable mat fixative on the picture to protect the pastels…. Next I looked up photos on timber grain and using them as a reference I sketched in the grain using a very dark brown pencil. The nail heads were done with dark gray and a white prismacolor pencil. (Prismacolor white is opaque and will show up on a darker surface.)
Next I selected a dark bluey-green pastel and blushed in the background with a another makeup removal pad beong careful not to go over the timber. I used a cotton tip to get into the corners. I darkened the corners with a matching dark bluey green pencil (cobalt green) to make the timber edges stand out. Finally I sprayed another layer of fixative and admired the result.
I’m happy with this experiement. I suggest, though, that you try this technique on a scrap piece of paper until you’re happy with it before adding it to any of your pictures. Hope you have fun with this. Happy Colouring!
(If there is enough demand I will make a Youtube tutorial of me adding the timber background to another picture. 🙂 )
This tutorial is now available as a video on my Youtube channel. Check it out here: