Drawing Esmeralda


This is the first illustration that appears in my novel, Under the Electric Sun, but it’s actually the last picture I drew. I did this one back in late January, when it was cold and rainy outside. Like the other illustrations, it’s a colored pencil drawing. I keep saying I’m going to learn to paint, but I still haven’t done it yet. The thought of painting intimidates me, honestly. I’m afraid I’ll fail miserably at it, so I just cling to my box of Crayola colored pencils instead.

The girl in this picture is named Esmeralda. She lives in an underground city that looks very much like a vast shopping mall with lots and lots of floors. She works in a “pet” store that sells electronic animals. Her job consists of greeting customers and making sure all the animals have fresh batteries. She’s not one of the major characters in the book, but she’s still a crucial part of the story.

I’m digressing, though. I didn’t intend to tell you about Esmeralda in this blog post. I wanted to talk about the way I kept my mind occupied while I was working on this picture. Colored pencils are extremely time-consuming and tedious, as you might know. (If you’ve never used them before, just imagine you’re holding a regular old Number 2 pencil in your hand right now. And then imagine what it would be like to color a whole piece of paper with it, covering every square inch of the page in graphite. See what I mean?)

Whenever I draw, I like to have something playing on TV (or YouTube) to keep me company during those long, lonely hours. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I prefer to watch things that other people find horrendously boring. Old VHS tapes, for example, are like gold mines to me. I love the sitcoms, commercials, news segments, and station identification blurbs from the 1980’s. (You might think I’m stark raving mad. If so, you’re not alone. My cousin Ellice agrees with you wholeheartedly.)

For some reason, I’m especially fascinated with The Weather Channel. I can’t really explain it, but The Weather Channel gives me the same sentimental tingle as hot cocoa or chicken noodle soup. That’s why, as I was drawing this picture of Esmeralda, I watched one YouTube video of The Weather Channel over and over again. It’s a thirty-minute clip recorded on July 17, 1982. There’s something so quaint and charming about it. The set is cheap and simple. (And very, very brown.) The people are dressed in matching suits and ties. You might even call them uniforms. And the computer graphics are extremely dull and low-tech. Sometimes they even display lighthearted chalk drawings on the screen, telling you what’s coming up next. (Well, I assume they’re chalk drawings. I don’t really know what they are.) It’s interesting to watch these “vintage” weather reports and see how far The Weather Channel has come in the last thirty years. Today, they dazzle you with sophisticated graphics and cutting-edge computer animation … and, of course, the beautiful Stephanie Abrams.

Anyway, that’s how I kept myself amused while I did the last (and first) illustration for Under the Electric Sun. I’m including a link to the video here, even though I’ll be very surprised if anybody actually clicks on it. Nevertheless, here it is.

(You can click here to download the novel. Since I wrote this post, I decided to cut out all the illustrations. They gave the book a childish appearance.)


27 thoughts on “Drawing Esmeralda

  1. I know what you mean about clinging on to what you know, but your comment about how long pencils take (and you’re absolutely right ;-)) suggests to me that you’re more than ready to take that challenge, Matthew! It could be the start of something wonderful x
    I love time-warp television, too, but then I’m happy to time-warp back to black and white as well! Nostalgia is a heady fragrance no matter what the vintage 😉

      • Hmm, confession time 😉 I like to track down all the shows I used to watch when I was little, including the adverts! It’s funny to read the comments on YT and hear everyone else all misty-eyed too! I like watching the old films too, The Philadelphia Story, Top Hat, It’s a Wonderful Life. I think partly it’s because they’re quality, but it’s also because of the sweet, old-fashioned mood of them 🙂

      • I know what you mean! About five years ago, my dad gave me a big box of VHS tapes. It was mostly stuff he had recorded in the mid 80’s, when we first got a VCR. There’s something really magical about watching those old shows and commercials in their original context. It’s like a time capsule. And I understand what you’re saying about old movies too. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of the best movies ever!

  2. Oops, hit enter before I was done…I keep saying I’m going to learn to paint, but I’d rather stick to my pencils. I have done some forays into the world of water color, but I just can’t do the things I can with pencil with the water color. Anyway, great portrait!

    • Thank you, Tiffany. Yes, paint brushes disturb me because they’re not precise enough. They’re not “sharp” enough. But I have a friend who insists I try something called “gouche” (pretty sure I brutally misspelled that word), which involves ink drawing and painting mixed together. At least I think that’s what it is. So maybe I’ll give that a shot.

  3. The weather channel and hot cocoa, love it. You’re not the average bear Matthew.

    Your art is superb, wow. I wish you all the best and great success.
    blessings ~ maxi

  4. Matthew. I have looked over your blog, and read your postings about using colored pencil, not wanting to try painting for fear of failure. If I may offer a solution, I have been painting and illustrating for better than 60 years. For your backgrounds-Use pastel chalk on bristol board paper 2 ply, apply lighter fluid to a gauze pad and rub pastel in. This “fixes” it. Add color and repeat blending until you have “Painted” your background. You can use frisket paper to mask out areas to be color penciled in, or not. The pencil will blend the edges and the same technique can be used to blend pencil (lighter fluid) or (Alcohol) or in some cases hydrogen peroxide. Use Q-tips or pastel stobs-or blending stump to pick up more color and blend in as needed. You can cut your illustration down to a fourth the time and won’t hardly be able to tell the difference. Painting on the other hand is the most rewarding thing you can do for your soul. Oh, nice art work by the way.

    I Enjoyed your site, Ill be back. Thanks and hope it helps.

      • Hope it is of some help. I have used this process with architectural renderings as well as illustrations. Different materials react differently but you get the idea. Colored pencils are often wax based, and felt tip markers will “move” them also, as well as lighter fluid. They make a clear felt tip blender, you will love this for moving both pastel chalk and colored pencil at the same time. Keep in mind these are chemicals and avoid prolonged flesh contact or vapor breathing.

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