NEWA and Kat Davies 12 pencil challenge!

NEWA and Kat Davies 12 pencil challenge!


An exhibition well worth a visit for those who share a passion for art and wildlife is the annual National Exhibition of Wildlife Art (NEWA), as featured in the Daler-Rowney news section.

The variety of stylse, mediums and subjectst is a delight and NEWA has striven to make this year’s art a ‘good, strong, visual feast’ with original 2D paintings including those from three of Daler-Rowney’s own featured artists (Kat Davies, Robbie Graham and Alan M Hunt) and 3D sculptural works.

For a topical exercise and a bit of fun, I thought I would create a four-step demonstration of a little study in pastel of a lapwing (the bird which features in the NEWA logo). I decided to make it a ‘12 pencil challenge’ by using the Daler-Rowney set of 12 Artists' Pastel Pencils alone.

NEWA                 Daler-Rowney Artists' Pastel Pencils                  Lapwing Study in pastel pencil by Kat Davies


The pencils in this set are White (016), Black (037), Vandyke Brown (hue) (264), Madder Brown (207), Raw Sienna (667), Hooker’s Green (352), Sap Green (376), Violet (425), Pthalo Blue Green Shade (140), Prussian Blue (135), Poppy Red (539) and Lemon Yellow Dark (651D).

For new artists, I suggest using a proper pastel paper or card as the support, which is great for someone just starting out or using pastel for the first time. You may like to try Daler-Rowney Ingres paper. It is affordable and yet produces good results. It really is a false economy to try pastel for the first time on an ordinary sheet of A4 copier paper in my opinion – this has no texture or ‘tooth’ to hold the pastel and the results are unlikely to be good. You may even blame your own ability when the reality is that you actually can produce a worthwhile painting, even as an absolute beginner!

Step 1
I prepared an outline for the bird itself, to ensure that the basic anatomy of the lapwing was correct – the eyes, the beak and the crest all in the right place and in the right proportion. The success of the whole painting relies on the basic initial drawing and it is important to get this right, no matter how excited you may be to get your hands on those colours! You may wish to draw onto tracing paper so that you can transfer it onto your support when it is right. I use a pad of Daler-Rowney A3 tracing paper and can then fit several small drawings onto one sheet, or one larger subject. To give an idea of size, this study measured 5.5 inches x 4.5 inches.
Lapwing step 1










Step 2
I blocked in the basic colours, working with a moderately light touch. It is a good idea to start with the background first to ensure that the outline of the bird is not spoiled (for instance, the fine black crest of feathers on the head). It also avoids creating an undesirable ‘halo’ effect around your subject when you attempt to fill in a background afterwards. When blocking in, although in effect it forms an ‘underpainting’ and does not require a great deal of neatness, it is best to make pencil strokes consistent and following the correct direction – here, I made sure that the strokes were horizontal and reasonably level when painting the background to create the impression of water. I then began blocking in the main colours of the lapwing, similarly ensuring my strokes followed the direction of the natural lie of the feathers. You can blend the pastel on the support with fingers, a paper tortillion (also known as a stump), or directly on the paper with the pencils themselves.
Lapwing step 2


Step 3
Once the basic colours of the painting have been established and laid down, this is the time to check against photographic references, to observe carefully what has been painted, which parts are correct and which parts need amendment. In this case, I decided, for instance, that I would need to refine the shape of the beak, and the nape of the neck. I looked at the iridescent colours of the plumage and decided how best to recreate that with the 12 pencils at my disposal. If you are working with a limited palette, it is possible to blend and overlay colours to create new tones and shades. Here, the purple feathers were created by blending together Poppy Red and Violet. If you make a mistake, it’s easy to solve! Just remove the majority of the pigment with a kneadable eraser and have another go. This is the joy of pastel – it is very forgiving and lends itself perfectly to experimentation.
Lapwing step 3


Step 4
With the underpainting complete, it was time to add detail and create a better sense of three-dimensional form. Details in this particular study included the highlights in the eye and beak, the shine on feathers on the head, the formation and pattern of wing and back feathers. To help create three-dimensionality and depth, I used the blues and black to recreate shadows on the breast, chin and head of the lapwing. I also created shadows with Black and Vandyke Brown beneath wing feathers in an effort to better convey the form of the wing. It would have been possible to add further detail – but I chose to leave it here as a little study.
Lapwing step 4























The colours of nature can be so subtle and beautiful and I was pleasantly surprised with the results that may be possible with one set of twelve pencils. There are an endless supply of images from our natural world to inspire artists and I hope that you too may find pleasure in either visiting the National Exhibition of Wildlife Art in person or online at, and picking up your pencils or brushes and creating your own piece of wildlife art.


Kat Davies

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Join us on:Follow us on TwitterJoin the Daler-Rowney Facebook GroupAdd Daler-Rowney on PinterestSubscribe to the Daler-Rowney RSS FeedFollow Daler-Rowney on Google PlusSubscribe to the Daler-Rowney YouTube Channel

Find A Stockist

Where are you?