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The Draughtsmanship of Peter Nelson

Peter Nelson an incredibly talented coloured pencil artist who won the 2018 Artist Papers Best in Show at the UK Coloured Pencil Society (UKCPS) Open Exhibition. We ask him about his work, the sea, rule of thirds and his up-coming exhibition.

safe harbour by peter nelson

What got you started in art? Were you always drawing?

I have always loved art and drawing from being at school in the early 60’s, obtaining GCE’s in Art, Sculpture & Engineering drawing. From there, I served my apprenticeship as an engineering draughtsman and later in life started watercolour painting in 86, when I had graduated to being a hydraulic engineer involved with the installation of systems, so I had a constant involvement with drawing perspective. Although l painted in Watercolour the main subject of the composition was always very detailed, so changing over to Coloured Pencils in 2013 was a pleasant surprise as this media suited my style of artwork. So yes, drawing and art have always been a large part of my life and still is. 

Can you tell us about the piece that won? 

‘Safe Harbour’ has special meanings for me, first my love for the sea and ships, coming from a seafaring family and serving my time at a shipbuilding company. Second, for the beautiful Cornish fishing village of Mevagissey, where my son and his wife, who had fallen in love with the peaceful, quaint fishing port, shared it with my wife and I.

The actual subject itself, was a stroke of luck, because the composition at that particular time and tide, made the vibrancy and contrast of the mooring bouys, stand out against the vessel colour depth and reflections.

How do you build up your work? 

The arrangement was laid out on the ‘third’ principal. This determined the layout and cropping of the picture boundaries. The size was determined by the minimum amount of detail I would need to make the composition standout and give it a photo realistic value.

The actual picture was transferred using the grid technique, with the values and colour saturation enhanced to give the impact I was looking for. This I did using my iPad and Photoshop Express. 

With this particular picture I worked on the water along the right of the picture first, this is not the norm for me as being right handed, I normally work from left to right, but in this instance I felt the water was the most difficult section. Detailed precise work of the boats and heavy reflections were simpler, as they were dealt with on a section by section basis.

Can you tell us about why you work in the media you do.merlin by peter nelson

I initially worked with watercolours but found, by convenience, that coloured pencil gave me the ease of operation, cleanliness and flexibility of operation. But the main point was the control of detail that I am able to achieve. I don’t have a specific subject area of art, but find each gives different challenges, requiring different techniques, papers and pencil brands. Since taking up Coloured Pencils I have expanded into bird and animal portraiture, botanical and costal subjects, but I have always loved weathered textured subjects especially rusty old farming machinery.

In so many instances paper makes a big difference, why is that do you think?

The variety of different papers is what helps to make this media so compellingly interesting. Each different surface textures, colour and tonal type, together with the large variety of pencil brand cores, blending medias, and solvents, makes for an unlimited variety of artwork styles.


eves elixir old fordson major by peter nelsonAs a member of the UKCPS do you find it beneficial to your own practice?

The UK Coloured Pencil Society (UKCPS) has been the main driving force for my work, since I started CP’s. Their support and exhibitions have allowed me the platform and exposure to the world of art and the inspiration to further my work to a higher level. This has also been reciprocated by UK & international members wanting to expand this media and push it to the front as an accepted format..



What are you working on now? peter nelson artist

I’m presently putting together a joint exhibition with CP artist, Judith Selcuk and Pyrography Artist, Norma McCall at the Willoughby Gallery in Corby Glen, between Stamford and Grantham. This is from the 6th June to 4th July. We are also having a Meet the Artist day on the 9th June for anyone who may be interested in both forms of art. With regards to my personal commissions, my next project is a portraiture of an elderly lady. As yet I have not decided on the support or pencils to use.

And a fun question, if you were a Strathmore paper which one would it be?

Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Hardbound Art Journal, because of its versatility and collation of ideas.

To find out more about Peter's work please visit 


cool early morning glow by peter nelson



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