Graham Brace “Why I use Coloured Pencil”

‘View to Carn Llidi and Penberry’

Graham Brace is the only artist at Harbour Lights Gallery who’s foremost medium is coloured pencil. He has been with the Gallery for many years and I always enjoy explaining to people that he predominately works in coloured pencil. I suppose its not a medium you see as much as the likes of watercolour or oil and when you see such a beautifully detailed piece its hard to even believe its not a photograph!

We always have a wonderful selection of Graham’s original work available at the Gallery, you may remember that we also used to sell many of his Limited edition prints, which you can now purchase directly from Graham here.. 

So here is a little bit of background about Graham and his connection with coloured pencil, which I hope will give you a little bit more understanding of how he works and why he loves this medium so much.


“After studying at Cardiff College of Art I worked as a graphic designer, running my own business for 30 years, first in London and from 1976 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. In 2000 I changed direction, taking up painting seriously. I now work full time as a professional Pembrokeshire artist and illustrator. I am a founder member of the United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society (UKCPS), set up in 2001 to promote coloured pencil as a serious art medium, and although I am very much a mixed media artist, coloured pencil predominates in my work.”

Graham’s painting of the Grand Canal in Venice on the front of these watercolour pencils sold around the world.

Graham is renowned for his detailed drawings and his work is often used for local illustrations such as National Park information boards and various publications including The Coloured Pencil Artist’s Drawing Bible and The Landscape Artist’s Drawing Bible (published by Quarto/ Search Press). His work has also appeared on packaging and promotional material for Derwent Pencils and on many websites across the world.

He happens to be a Derwent Pencil ambassador which involves him in product testing and contributing advice for the benefit of other coloured pencil users, so its safe to say he is highly regarded in his field.

Floral embankment, Strumble head


“As a representational artist who renders his subject in great detail it is essential for me to use a medium that allows me maximum control over the marks that I make. The coloured pencil is ideal for this purpose. It is totally controllable and it can easily be erased if necessary.

Nowadays coloured pencils are available in a vast array of colours and shades and are manufactured in a variety of compounds, supported by sophisticated chemistry, that allow great diversity of technique and finish…water-soluble, spirit-soluble, non-soluble, hard, soft, waxy, non-waxy…and so on. By and large the colours blend well to provide an even wider range of shades and textures.

Furthermore, they are convenient to use, easy to carry and non-messy! They are easy to use with other media such as water colour, pastel, graphite, charcoal and ink and can be applied to many types of support (paper, board, canvas, fabric, etc). I know of no other single medium that allows this degree of diversity. I started my working life in advertising and graphic design before the advent of computer technology when pre- production visual ideas were rendered by hand. I always used markers and coloured pencils to create the impression of photographic images on presentation as well as for rendering illustration work. Old habits die hard, as they say, and when I changed direction to become a full time professional artist I continued using the media with which I was most familiar and had served me well in my previous occupation. Nevertheless, my work is not confined exclusively to the use of coloured pencils. Although coloured pencil predominates in my work much of my under-painting and foundation work is created using soft pastel, watercolour and/or markers. Coloured pencil adds the overall detail to the subject with final touches often being added using gouache and a fine brush.

‘Snipe rising, Llangwm Ferry’


“Virtually all my pictures are rendered in a mixture of media but with a predominance of coloured pencil. I work on high white Daler-Rowney Studland Mount Board because it is smooth (for rendering high detail) yet with sufficient tooth to take soft pastel and pencil well (as well as watercolour, ink and marker). It is resilient and will stand a significant amount of layering, blending and erasing without the surface deteriorating too much. Generally, I start with laying down large areas of foundation colour in soft pastels (including pastel pencils), which I blend and rub into the surface using my fingers or soft tissue. I tidy up the edges with a rubber or battery-operated eraser and then I spray with fixative. I tend to render my skies in soft pastel – once again blending and shaping with my finger tips and lifting out clouds with a rubber/eraser/tissue. Once this under painting is complete I then work in the detail and subtle tones over the areas of pastel using coloured pencils. I will use a mixture of types and brands (it really is horses for courses) depending on the mark and effect required (but mainly Faber Castell Albrecht Durer, Derwent Lightfast and Derwent Coloursoft). I add highlights using gouache and a fine sable brush. Occasionally, I will use marker pens, inks and watercolours in order to achieve a particular effect. A combination of my own photographs, memories, notes and sketches provide the reference and a little occasional artistic licence and improvisation helps complete the finished picture back in my studio.”

Much of Grahams work is based on the Pembrokeshire landscape, capturing some of the area’s most well known locations highlighting the natural forms of the cliffs and rocks and the wonderful light. He is also fond of close up studies of detailed rock formations, pebbles, stone walls and lichen which he captures with such detail you could almost reach out and touch it! here are some examples of his close study work.

‘nature embellishes an old stone wall’
‘Rockface, Marloes’
‘pebbles in a stream’

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the work of Graham Brace, to see the selection of original paintings currently available, please click here..