Using Inktense Pencils on Clayboard for a Colourful Scene by Kathy Gales

People in China believe that lanterns symbolise a bright future, so Derwent’s Inktense pencils were an obvious choice for this piece. The strong, vibrant colours work perfectly to convey brightness.

This image is painted and drawn on to the smooth clay surface of clayboard. Other materials used are sandpaper, scrapers, foam pieces, a large brush and a small detail brush.


For the underpainting I used a watercolour technique, loading a brush with water and taking pigment straight off the pencil.  Alternatively you can do an underpainting with any medium as the Inktense pencils will go over the top nicely. I experimented with a variety of colours from my 72 pencil set, replacing colours by wiping away with a damp tissue and adding new ones to try out different combinations. Another convenience of using these pencils is that you can hold a number in your hand at once and dab at them with a damp brush, a method that is great when sketching outside.


After painting the basic composition I couldn’t wait to intensify the gorgeous colours. Before doing so I used small rolls of sandpaper folded to a point to etch into the painting, giving the clayboard a rough texture or tooth for the pencils to adhere to. The area of the path and steps was left smooth to allow for a different finish where water was added to dissolve the paint and give the impression of rain and puddles.

For each lantern I put on layers of dry colour in fine lines keeping the Inktense pencils very sharp for this hatching method. I then smoothed over the colour with a piece of foam and added the tiniest bit of moisture with a brush to bring out the wonderful intensity of the colours. Remember with clayboard you need to be careful, as adding too much water will dissolve the pigment completely.

For the golden coloured lantern, I etched into the clayboard first using a scraper tool and then combined the colours Sicilian Yellow, Burnt Orange and Tan to produce the golden glow. It is worth experimenting with a variety of implements to scrape and to scratch the surface before and after applying the pencils, such as scraperboard tools, craft knives, calligraphy pens, sandpaper and wire wool. Any pigment added over the top of these marks will only adhere to the upper layer and provide a relief pattern. For the light centre of each lantern the pigment was scraped away to leave a hard white area which was then softened with a tiny amount of moisture.

I left the figure till last and decided that the dark underpainting worked well as a contrast to the display of colour. I painted her dress in Ink Black and her skin colour with Red Oxide and White.

I wonder if she too is dreaming of a bright future!

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Derwent Inktense is available to buy online here.