Module 4: Imagine That! Drawing On a Canvas

Painting Project 2: Creating a still life painting with drawing as focus

Materials Needed

  • 40x40cm canvas painted with a layer of acrylic ground for pastels (pumice gel)

  • Inktense pencil (black) an aquarelle pencil will work as well.

  • Matte medium and fluid paint.

  • Paint brushes

  • Palette knife.


The objective of Project 2 is use the drawn lines as focus for the still life composition, as well as effective use of limited colours for a still life painting. Drawings are applied directly onto the canvas with a water-soluble pencil, as an alternative to the conventional use of paint applied with a brush. Acrylic ground for pastels is a pumice gel that enables drawing material to be used directly on a stretched canvas.

Tiny particles of pumice stone are suspended in a matte gel. This medium offers possibilities to explore expressive drawing marks with different materials such as pencil, pastel, crayon etc.

For this video tutorial, a black Derwent’s Inktense pencil was used; I choose Inktense pencils because of their powerful pigment concentration. It creates a strong black mark that can be dissolved in water. In the tutorial, matte medium is painted on top of the pencil, apart from creating very black lines, it also allows for subtle grey tones to be created when it becomes suspended in the painting medium.

In addition to the strong black line drawings, and grey areas, scraffito techniques can be added to the artwork to achieve fine white lines and textures to create a rich artwork. (see below for instructions)

The Process

Plan a still life composition in your sketchbook, incorporate your imaginary flowers and leaves in the floral arrangement. Keep it to one container only. Draw this directly onto the canvas with the Inktense pencil only (don’t use a graphite pencil first) As an option to help with figuring out the composition, you can use the cut out shapes from the downloadable templates below, or cut out your own shapes.

The whole composition in strong lines are drawn at one stage, use your imaginary flowers in the composition, and consider using these shapes for decoration on the table, or background, or container as well. One way is to create a small template if you wish to draw a repeat pattern on a tablecloth for example. When you have finished the drawings, go over the lines applying matte medium with a pointed paintbrush. The technique is similar as if you were painting with the medium.

Don’t overload the brush, but make sure all the lines are covered, the lines will turn into thicker black lines. Once the matte medium dries, these lines will be fixed to the canvas, effectively turning the pigment from the pencil lines into paint.

Once you have gone over all the drawn lines, use a fan brush to apply a thin layer of matte medium over the entire canvas. This action will shift the colour of the pencil somewhat, and can be used as an effect to create darkened areas. Paint lightly, with a thin layer of medium only. Please note, if you wait for the lines to dry before painting with the medium all over the canvas, there will be less shifting of pigment across the canvas.


This technique as demonstrated in the second painting is effective to obtain thin white textured lines. The Inktense pencil’s pigment becomes suspended in the matte medium when painted over the drawn lines, and you can use a paintbrush to paint areas such as leaves with this translucent grey material. These areas can either be left to dry, or scratched into. Use a palette knife to scratch into this wet medium in certain areas, this scraffito technique is subtle and effective either by itself, or when painted over with a thin layer of translucent colour.

Once dry, you can add colour to the painting, the objective with this project is to create a strong composition with limited colours. The black outlines will create a rather monochromatic artwork, and it is your choice to either brighten it up, or keep the colours neutral or limited for added effect.

At first, try to use translucent colours only, so the black outlines will show through. Do not add white in the colours. Use only a small amount of paint mixed with the matte medium. You can add more layers to build up your composition and add white detail for areas you would like to highlight or alter the colours.

© 2020 Esté MacLeod

© 2020 Explore Colour