Native North Americans in Colored Pencil & Ink

In December 1992, I received a set of Berol 48 Pencil Set Prismacolor from my good friend, Ed Caudill, all the way from Nebraska.  As luck would have it, I received it on my birthday.  It wasn’t until several months later was I able to devote any time to trying them out.

In considering the choice of subject, it had to be one that was of interest to me and colorful to boot.  Fortunately, we have  this 4-volume Walt Disney book set from my childhood.  I selected some scenes from a story entitled “Tonka”.  The story is about Native North Americans around the time of General Custer.  The scenes from which I based these drawings appeared to be originally drawn in water color (I medium I have yet to seriously try).  These Native Americans  are admirable in their oneness with nature, their fieldcraft, and I have always loved their use of colors in their clothing, in their designs, etc.

I experimented with blending different shades of color to come up with the desired shade.  For example, in one scene, to come up with a  shade of olive green for the drum skins used, I laid down a layer of color called Sand, then overlaid that with a shade of green.  Also, in one drawing, the setting was around a campfire,  since I knew I’d run out of black, I opted to use ink (using a sign pen) to render black lines.

On The Lookout

This was the first picture in the story, Tonka. It depicts two teenage braves, White Bull and Strong Bear, mesmerized by a herd of wild horse being driven by the adult warriors.  The two youths were supposed to be minding a team of horses hitched to a laden travois.  The horse in the foreground is called a pinto (the color of the coat is predominantly white with large splotches of browns or blacks).

This was the one I drew for my friend, Ed Caudill, who gave me the colored pencil set.  I sent it to him as a token of my gratitude.  When we hooked up via Facebook (after many years), I asked him to send me the scanned image of that drawing for my files.  And here it is.

In a Pensive Mood

Our teenage hero, White Bull, had penned a wild stallion, whom he named Tonka Wakan. Man and horse eye each other cautiously, each from across a campfire. The youth has recovered the bow his grandfather gave him, and the multicolored lariat of a warrior. He also needs to tame the Tonka Wakan to regain his good standing in the tribe; especially his grandfather, Sitting Bull.


Pow wow, a gathering of Native North Americans. In this scene, chiefs from different tribes (including Sitting Bull), conferred about how they would respond to Custer’s statement.

The difficulty I encountered here was the effect of light and shadows on the color.  This made rendering the background to depict the effect of the campfire difficult. This is where I decided to use black ink on the lines so that I wouldn’t run out of the black colored pencil.


Native North Americans on the war path!  The raid is over. The outpost is burning in the distance. The forward element of the war party has crested a ridge. The chief’s pinto has a Ochre-colored handprint signifying his ownership. 

The Trap is About to Be Sprung

A group of warriors crested a low hill and looked back to make sure that Custer’s forcess have taken the bait.  A much larger force of Native North Americans are lying in wait for Custer’s forces at Little Big Horn.

The challenge here, aside from the tensed muscles of the horse, was to depict the grass.  I used a light color, Sand, as the base, before overlaying that with grass green. I topped it off with browns and blacks give the impression of blades of grass.

Tonka Escapes


The horse traders, have captured Tonka Wakan along with other horses and are crossing a river on their way to the fort where the horses will be sold. A wild spirit, true to form, Tonka Wakan, bucks violently in an attempt to free himself from the bonds of captivity. 

My difficulty here was depicting the flowing river amidst the thrashing movements of the bucking stallion.

The great thing about the finish of this particular brand of colored pencil is that it looks like the material was made from wax, giving the drawing a glossy look.

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