Becoming A Professional Artist With Coloured Pencils

Becoming A Professional Artist With Coloured Pencils

by John Stansfield

I’d always dreamed of being a professional artist. I never thought I’d be able to though, it was always just that — a dream. Even if I was good enough to be professional, I couldn’t see a way of getting there. I had a full time job which I couldn’t give up in the slim chance that I may be able to make a living as an artist. As well as becoming an artist, my goal was to have my art in an exhibition, maybe win an award and to have my art published, which would be fantastic.

Poppy, 15cm x 20cm

I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember. I’ve always done some form of art throughout my life — woodwork, printing, stained glass, painting, drawing etc, and it would be wonderful to be able to do any of these things for a living.


“My first drawing was awful. I was embarrassed by it and never showed it to anyone, but I never gave up.”


My introduction into the world of coloured pencils began many years ago in which I produced some of the worst art I’d ever done! I just couldn’t do anything with them so after a few attempts I called it a day.

Some years later in 2018 I saw some coloured pencil art on social media. These drawings were amazing. I wanted to create art like that too so I had another go with some basic pencils. The results were still disappointing to say the least. I had no idea how they did it. Not being put off I decided to continue until I could make art of a similar quality. I bought some Prismacolors and Polychromos and tried again. After much trial and error I realised that the way I should use them was to use light layers and more importantly, to take my time — this was one of my biggest problems as I always wanted to run before I could walk which wasn’t going to work with coloured pencils. This approach worked and I started to produce much better artwork.

One of my drawings was of a cat called Poppy which I posted on social media. I was amazed with all the messages I received which included requests for commissions. That gave me the idea that I may be able to make a living from art.

James, 27cm x 34cm

I joined the UK Coloured Pencil Society and entered a couple of drawings into their annual exhibition. I was delighted when both were accepted. One of them, ‘Five Sunflowers’ was awarded the Presidents Award and was also published in the September 2019 edition of Ann Kullberg's Color magazine! This gave me the encouragement I needed to push ahead with my art.

I thought about going part-time at work and after discussing it with my wife I asked my employers if I could work part-time. They agreed and that was it, I was on my way. I made some drawings, sold a few and took on some commissions. Things went okay and after a while I took the scary step of leaving my nice safe job to become a self-employed artist!

Since then, I’m proud to have exhibited with the UK Coloured Pencil Society on numerous occasions and exhibited twice with the Colored Pencil Society of America. I’ve had my art and step-by-step tutorials in magazines, won more awards and recently gained signature status with the UK Coloured pencil society.

Four Sunflowers, 35cm x 28cm

I still take on commissions of people and pet portraits and some botanical work too but now I’ve also begun teaching my coloured pencil techniques to live classes as well as posting tutorials and demos on my YouTube channel.


“Things went okay and after a while I took the scary step of leaving my nice safe job to become a self-employed artist!”

I’ll always work with coloured pencils as I love the way they enable so much control in my work but I’m also experimenting more now with combining coloured pencils with watercolours, pastels and other media.

I’ve come a long way since I first picked up coloured pencils. My first drawing was awful. I was embarrassed by it and never showed it to anyone, but I never gave up. After trying to make a living as an artist with different mediums and on many occasions, it was finally coloured pencils that made it happen.

About John Stansfield:

John Stansfield is a self-taught multi-award winning artist. Working predominately with coloured pencils, he produces pet and people portraits and loves to create botanical art. His artwork and step-by-step tutorials have been featured in magazines and he has exhibited his work in national and international exhibitions. John is a signature member of the UK coloured pencil society.

Comments (6)

Thank you for sharing your art journey, John. It seems that Poppy kick.started your in-depth artistic journey. You’re an inspiration to so many and your art is truly remarkable!

Oksana Burr - Jan 18, 2023

Thanks for sharing your journey! I love how you took colored pencils and ran with them. So many have similar dreams, but it’s nice to see someone make them happen!

Will check out your youtube channel now!

Thanks again, Sue Donze

Susan R Donze - Jan 18, 2023

Thanks for sharing how you progressed to be a full time artist! This is something that I would love to do and hoping to get there within the next 2 years so it’s great to hear of others that have made a success of it.

Darren Gwatkin - Jan 18, 2023

i am half skill drawing in art.

Omid - Jan 18, 2023

Fabulous work, really fabulous and a very inspiring story.

Kathu - Jan 18, 2023

That’s some good work really good

Nasir - Jan 18, 2023

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