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The amazing color pencil work of Karen Hull

Updated on June 5, 2012


I’m a huge fan of colour pencil. When I stumbled upon the work of Karen Hull, I was absolutely mesmerized by her attention to detail and whimsical approach to her subject matter.

“I work in a range of mediums, but always seem to come back to my favourite medium, which is coloured pencils,” said Hull. “I have spent the last few years experimenting with the coloured pencils on a variety of different surfaces, including wood and bamboo. They are an exceptionally versatile medium, and I especially love using them on drafting film, and lately Clairefontaine’s Pastelmat.”

While Hull works with a wide variety of subject matter she has a distinctive affinity for animals and people. “I particularly gravitate toward emotive type portraiture work with a focus on the eyes. I also have a fascination for Trompe L’Oeil where an artwork is designed to trick the viewer into believing something is real,” said Hull.

She admits to a desire to work in a looser style but, “ultimately I end up coming back to photorealism, so using that absolute realism to create something unexpected or confusing for the person viewing the artwork really adds to the enjoyment of creating. Apart from fine art, I also do illustration work and here I gain a lot of inspiration from illustrators such as Beatrix Potter, where anthromorphising animals and giving them human traits delights children and adults alike.”

Coloured pencil is a time consuming medium. When compounded with the remarkable detail Hull adds to her work it is easy to see how each piece is truly a labour of love. “I think one of the biggest misconceptions about my work is that photorealism is somehow not creative or artistic, but is simply a copy of a photograph. I do rely heavily on photos for reference but I put a lot of myself into the artwork as well. Understanding how to achieve colours and shading that are realistic and believable is a creative challenge in itself,” explained Hull.

When confronted with an artistic roadblock Hull turns to the internet and her vast array of art books. “I get online and look at what other artists are doing, go through my abundant number of art books, or browse through all our photos for inspiration. Sometimes it also means I need to stop and have a break and move away from the art for a while. Getting up into the mountains, breathing in fresh air, mingling with nature and going for a drive all help to get the creative juices flowing again,” she said.

Lurking in the recesses of every artist’s mind is that one medium they have not conquered for Hull it is water colour. “I’ve never mastered watercolours to the degree that I would like, and I find this a very challenging medium. Being looser and freer with my artwork and colours is something I would also like to explore more,” she admits.

As a mother of four boys, ranging in age from 7 to 20 Hull finds balancing her artistic endeavours with life’s everyday demands a challenge. “Before pursuing art full-time, I was a Registered Nurse for 25 years, which presented different challenges, such as who would look after the kids during the holidays or when they were sick. Now I am home all the time, so these issues are not a problem anymore. I spend a lot of time working on the weekends and at night, and my husband and family are very understanding. My studio is right in the middle of our lounge / dining area, and I find I work better with all the hustle and bustle going on around me. People often ask me whether I will take one of the boy’s rooms as a studio when they start to move out, but I think I would find reasons not to work if it took me away from the family.”

While Hull counts raising her four boys among her greatest achievements, she also is particularly proud of being awarded Best in Show at the 2007 Australian Society of Miniature Art Awards Exhibition. She has also recently completed her first children’s picture book, Let’s Count Kisses for Hachette Australia, due for publication in May, 2012.

She considers one of her worst career mistakes to be not buying a daylight lamp when she first took up art seriously. “I was working under a cheap halogen lamp for most of that time and noticed a really rapid deterioration in my eyesight. As artists, our hands and our eyes are our two biggest assets and really need to be looked after, so I would advise anyone working in poor light to spend the money and invest in a good daylight lamp.”

Hull’s advice to artists looking for greater exposure is to utilize the internet. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the exposure I have received from all the online sites available to artists to post their images on. If possible, definitely create your own website or at least a blog to start with. Also, be prepared to put the hard yards in and be patient. Don’t be put off by self doubt and rejection which are part and parcel of being an artist,” said Hull.

When it comes to the best and worst places to sell your art, Hull has one word – Ebay. “I have sold more artworks on Ebay than anywhere else, and some have sold for great prices and some have been almost given away. Selling on Ebay is a wonderful way for the artist starting out to gain initial exposure, but can also lead to the undervaluing of your work. In the long run, to gain credibility exhibitions is really the best way to sell your artwork. Then there are an abundance of online sights for selling your images, prints and products.”


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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      It's amazing the quality of art that can be achieved with the use of colored pencils. Her drawings are interesting and you feel drawn to it because there is a shared emotion, experience or feeling with her pieces. I had seen art with colored pencils before, but it was nothing compared to this.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 

      4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I hadn't bumped into Karen Hull's work before. I really enjoyed your article. I'm a real amateur at pencil crayon, but I do love the medium. I am also taking up water colors. I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

      Voting way up and sharing.

    • By Lori profile image

      By Lori 

      5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful ! almost got goosebumps - how talented you are !

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina Crawford 

      6 years ago from Dartmoor

      Wow! I hadn't heard of Karen before. Rating up.

    • profile image

      Barbara Freeman 

      6 years ago

      Great article on Karen and her beautiful work. I have always found her dedication to her art an inspiration.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      Her work is beautiful and her insights are interesting and helpful. Thanks so much for highlighting her work here. Voted up!


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