Aurora Cultural Centre Workshop — October 2018

This was my second visit to the Aurora Cultural Centre in October to teach a one day workshop titled, Brilliant Colours of Fall in Coloured Pencil. The air was crisp, the sky was blue and the fall colours vibrant… a glorious day for a workshop.

The Town of Aurora

The town of Aurora is located approximately 40 minutes north of Toronto and is consistently ranked as one of the top places to live in Canada. With its picturesque rolling hills and heavily treed woodlots, Aurora has managed to blend its small-town charm and historic downtown core with a thriving urban and suburban centre. Aurora is the childhood home of Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968. In 1851 the population of Aurora, then known as Machell’s Corners (after a local merchant), was 100 residents. In 1854 the name of the settlement was changed by postmaster Charles Doan to Aurora – meaning goddess of the dawn in Roman mythology. The settlement was incorporated as a village in 1863 with a growing business community, several factories and mills, five churches and a school house. By 1869 the population had grown to 1200 and in 1888 Aurora became a town. On April 8, 2010, the town re-opened the historic and fully renovated Church Street School as the Aurora Cultural Centre.

Aurora Cultural Centre

It is the vision of the Aurora Cultural Centre to provide a facility that enhances cultural life in the area through the fostering of art practice and presentation, production and reception. Since 2010, the centre has welcomed the community to participate in diverse creative experiences for all ages. Located in a beautifully-restored 1886 schoolhouse, the Aurora Cultural Centre is a charming historical treasure featuring four gallery exhibition spaces, a range of instructional classes for children, teens and adults, an eclectic live music series, special family events, summer arts camps, and stunning rental spaces for community activities and partnership participation. The centre is a registered charity, funded in part by the town of Aurora. The professional staff is supported by a dedicated volunteer board of directors and enthusiastic team of volunteers. The building is wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned with parking surrounding the building.

The Aurora Cultural Centre is located at 22 Church Street, Aurora, Ontario.

Phone: (905) 713-1818
Check out the website to see what is happening!

The Workshop

Brilliant Colours of Fall

We had one day to complete a project from start to finish in coloured pencil and it was a toss up between a crisp fall apple and one of the ubiquitous Cucurbits — an ornamental gourd. We decided on the apple, as shown below. The apple was done using Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils.

Below: Ornamental gourd in coloured pencil, ideal for a fall botanical workshop. The gourd was done using Faber-Castell Polychromos Coloured Pencils

Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils

These are professional-quality, wax-based coloured pencils originated by Berol in 1938 and later manufactured by a company called Sandford in Illinois. They have been around for a long time and are still one of my preferences for botanical work. They come in a range of 132 colours and can be purchased individually or in boxed sets. There is a good general starter set available with twelve pencils. Wax-based pencils tend to be softer than oil-based ones which make them ideal for blending gradations to a smooth finish. Due to their softness, however, they often break easily and it is difficult to maintain a sharp point. Wax-based pencils can be used individually or in combination with oil-based brands such as Faber-Castell Polychromos, which do maintain a sharp point.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Coloured Pencils
The renowned German company, Faber-Castell, is the oldest pencil manufacturer in the world and its Polychromos line of oil-based coloured pencils has been around since 1908. Polychromos (meaning many colours) pencils come in a range of 120 colours and have excellent lightfast pigments that blend well and maintain a sharp point without breaking.

Above: First a light graphite base was established over the apple, followed by a light spray with workable fixative to prevent the graphite from smudging. A light base of Deco Yellow (Prismacolor 1011) was applied over the graphite and burnished with a white pencil.

Below: Orange, vermillion and red colours are added to develop the apple. (Note: A step-by-step project package of the apple is available for purchase on my website —

Step-by-step page handouts from start to finish help students to work through each stage of the project.

Burnishing with a white pencil helps to break down the colour layers and give a more “painterly” look to the project, rather than it being immediately identified as a colour pencil drawing.

Amazing reproduction!

From grey to full colour.

Project completed.

An apple a day…

My final workshop before the winter sets in is for The London Brush & Palette Club, in London, Ontario, and is titled Floral Portraits in Pen & Ink and Watercolour. I had put on a workshop for this very talented group of artists in November (same time) 2014. This is what the weather was like at that time! I am hoping it will be far less snow this November!

Check out the London Brush & Palette Club website:

Hope to see you soon!

Michael Spillane


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