by Francesca Comparin
My first ever box of 12 coloured pencils lies in a drawer in my house in Italy, kept safe just as a precious treasure would be. The Cumberland graphic Lakeland box is made out of tin, dented and ruined from the passing of time. Even after so many years I sometimes find myself tracing the words engraved on each pencil, remembering the way my younger self gripped them and let them work their magic on paper.
"Storm at Sea", Oil on Canvas, 12" x 16", 2004.
“Life went on as it always does, but after two years of living in the bustling city of London, I realised that something was missing — my art.”
Growing up, I pursued a completely different career path, but art always held a special place in my heart. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I began to paint with oil on canvas in my free time, focusing especially on marine landscapes. It quickly became both an enjoyable pastime and a form of escapism from the reality of everyday life. I painted seascapes with boats sailing during golden sunrises or illuminated by Argentine moonlight, though perhaps what fascinated me the most were paintings of fierce storms with terrifying waves that wrecked boats without mercy. I simply adored depicting the fragility of human life when faced with the overwhelming power of nature.
Suddenly, however, my life changed forever: my family and I moved to London, leaving behind my small but familiar village, my parents, friends and everything that has been part of my entire life. By leaving my old life behind, I was forced to leave my paintings, and just as I had closed the lid over my small box of coloured pencils, I had to close an important chapter of my life. Life went on as it always does, but after two years of living in the bustling city of London, I realised that something was missing — my art.
"Summer Kiss", Coloured Pencils on Pastelmat, 12" x 15", 2020.
Just a few blocks away from my apartment was a small art shop, although I had never given it much thought. One day I decided to look inside, and a box of 24 coloured pencils immediately caught my eye. I bought it, and I fell in love with Derwent Coloursoft. Coloured pencils proved to be a much easier medium to use: no toxic solvents, no large spaces for canvases are required, and you can draw whenever and wherever you want. I also changed the subject from seascapes and sunsets to drawing portraits.
When drawing, I particularly enjoy adding layers over layers of pigment to create the eyes. To me, they are the window to the soul and are what make us so unique and special in our own way. This is why I always start a portrait from the eyes, spending many hours refining and perfecting them, giving them the right light and eventually bringing them to life. What fascinates me about coloured pencils is how you can create something new and beautiful from just a single piece of white paper.
“Even after spending many years working with brushes, canvases and seascapes, I could not help but be drawn again to coloured pencils.”
Drawing portraits has had a powerful impact on my life: it has made me able to appreciate the complexity of human features.
"Diamonds", Coloured Pencils on Pastelmat, 12" x 15", 2021.
Every freckle on our cheeks, every pigment in our irises is beautiful and it is ultimately part of who we are. To even be able to draw such beauty is an honour for me, and it brings me such joy to give life to every one of my drawings.
For many artists, coloured pencils are merely a medium that allows them to progress onto working with oil on canvas. For me, however, it was the opposite: even after spending many years working with brushes, canvases and seascapes, I could not help but be drawn again to coloured pencils, my passion as a child.
My journey in the world of art has shown me that some things are inevitable; perhaps we were made to have a certain passion, and no matter how far we travel, how much time passes, if it’s meant to be we will eventually learn to love it again. It has truly been a pleasure for me to discover just how magical coloured pencils can be, to witness how many emotions you can bring to life with the simple tip of a pencil, and I can say with certainty that I am thrilled to find out what else they can teach me.
ABOUT Francesca Comparin:
Francesca is a self-taught coloured pencil artist living in London. When she lived in Italy, her life was filled with oil paintings of seascapes and sunsets. Now, her favourite subjects to draw are portraits, and when choosing a reference photo, she always tries to find a particular detail that captures her attention and makes the drawing even more special.
See more at: https://www.instagram.com/francesca.comparin