Cult Pens Portrait Competition

We're launching a portrait competition! We've seen your efforts with #cultpenscreative so now it's your chance to really show us what you can do! It's open to all you amazing amateurs out there who fancy immortalising somebody or something - your mum, your granddad, your dog - in coloured or graphite pencil, and can complete it by 15th March, which is the closing date. We're running it with the help of our friends at Derwent, makers of some of the best ranges of pencils in the world, and Barbara Murray, a very talented coloured pencil artist and President of the UK Coloured Pencil Society.
First up, then, are the rules (there's got to be rules!):
1. Competition is open to all amateurs over the age of 18 years, regardless of skill-level or location
2. Portraits should represent a friend or family member (including pets)
3. Portraits to be completed using coloured and/or graphite pencils
4. Competition closes at 5pm UK time on Monday 15th March
5. Judges: Barbara Murray and the Cult Pens marketing team
6. Prizes as follows:
1st prize: wooden box of 100 assorted Derwent Lightfast pencils worth £400
2nd prize: box of 72 assorted Derwent Coloursoft pencils worth £170
7. Click here to submit your entries
8. Terms & Conditions
Secondly, we thought we'd chat to Barbara (virtually, of course, via email...) to find out why she draws, what it is about it that makes her tick, and - perhaps most importantly - whether she had any advice for all you competition entrants!
Barbara lives in the Lake District, one of England's most awe-inspiring locations, and while she studied art for a while, she gave it up to study science. As you do! Landing a job with Derwent made her realise how wonderful coloured pencils can be, and this in turn led to the discovery of the UK Coloured Pencil Society. This was founded in 2001 and exists to promote the humble coloured pencil, something about which Barbara now feels very passionate!
So, here we go...
Cult Pens: What made you switch from studying art to studying science?
Barbara: I was always interested in both subjects – a lot of artists are into science too! However, in the end I just wasn’t a good enough artist to make a living with it, so concentrated on the science for my degree.
CP: Did that lead to scientific-based employment?
Barbara: Yes, the BSc degree led me into my technical role at Derwent. The job is perfect for me as it combines science and art.
CP: In retrospect, would you have liked to have become a professional artist?
Barbara: Although I am only a hobby artist, I have sold quite a few pieces over the years. I would have liked to have been a professional artist in some ways, but I feel I am better without the pressure of having to work to deadlines on commissions etc. That way I get to enjoy art without worrying about creating an income from it.
CP: What drives you to create art?
Barbara: I think for me it’s the relaxation aspect! I enjoy losing myself in the drawing or painting, plus I have an idea before I start a piece how I want it to look and I like the challenge of translating that idea to an actual image – sometimes it works as planned, other times it can be completely different, but still looks OK. 

CP: What do you feel are the benefits of being creative?
Barbara: As I said above, drawing and painting can be very relaxing. It allows me to switch off and de-stress if necessary!
CP: What would you advise those of us who have little artistic talent, but who would like to give it a go anyway?
Barbara: I always tell people that everyone can draw. It’s all about practice and wanting to try. Like riding a bike or playing the piano, drawing can be learned – you just have to want to do it and be prepared to put in the practice!
CP: What do you like about coloured pencils?
Barbara: I  love the fact that coloured pencils give me control over what goes on the paper. Painting, particularly watercolour, seems to have control over me! It can result in a nice picture, but there’s no guarantee as it can do unexpected things on the paper. With coloured pencil, I am in control all the time and the marks I want to make go exactly where I want them to go! Plus I can get a depth of colour from coloured pencils by adding many layers of different shades over each other to create a real depth…
I am passionate about coloured pencils really – as President of the UK Coloured Pencil Society, one of my goals is to see the medium being accepted into the art world as an equal to watercolour or oil paint. The UKCPS works very hard to spread the word about them, and spends a lot of time encouraging and supporting coloured pencil artists.
CP: Do you have any favourite Derwent pencil ranges?
Barbara: I do have a soft spot for Derwent Artists as those were the pencils I grew up with and used first. They are a firmer pencil and nowadays coloured pencil artists prefer a softer pencil that lays down colour quicker. I use Lightfast a lot now and Procolour and Coloursoft, but still have my trusty Artists on standby! I will use all the ranges together to achieve the effect I want.
CP: What do you find the easiest things to draw? And the hardest?
Barbara: I’m not sure I find anything easy to draw! I am always daunted by the blank sheet of paper in front of me before I start, whatever the subject. Portraits are difficult as it is so important to get a likeness, so I would spend a lot more time planning a portrait, sketching it out a few times first before tackling the final piece.
CP: Do you know when a work is finished or do you tend to tweak?
Barbara: It’s easier not to tweak when using coloured pencils I think. Generally I know when a picture is finished. When I’m painting I tweak a lot more for some reason!
CP: How long on average does it take to finish a picture?
Barbara: I don’t really measure the time it takes – some pictures are done in one sitting, whereas others I will have on the drawing board for months and just keep dipping in and out.
CP: Do you work from real life or photos, or a mix of both?
Barbara: A mixture of both. I love life drawing for the challenge of creating something 'live' and usually in a certain time. But if I’m doing a landscape or a portrait I will take lots of photos first and use those for reference.
CP: And lastly, do you have any advice for the competition entrants?
Barbara: Just relax into the work and make your own interpretation of the portrait. Although do plan it out so that you get a likeness if possible!

15 February 2021


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