Customer Spotlight- Vivienne Coleman from Distinctive Pencil Drawings


Posted on 20th December 2017 by Emily
Filed under Customer Spotlight

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Hello, I'm Vivienne Coleman from Distinctive Pencil Drawings, I draw - beautiful drawings to commission and for exhibitions.

I draw anything: pets, people, homes, wildlife, landscapes, vehicles etc., and work hard to create very special products for my customers.

I’m also a successful author, and occasionally do scientific research, too.

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1. What was your inspiration for setting up Distinctive Pencil Drawings?

I was inspired to set up Distinctive Pencil Drawings after discovering one Sunday I was very happy drawing a commission and didn’t want to go back to work on Monday morning! It really made me think about what I wanted to do, so I thought about starting my own business. At the time, I was beginning to get commissions and selling work at local shows at the weekends, so I did a lot of research and enrolled on a Business Start-Up course thinking, if it didn’t work out, I’d get another job. That was ten years ago.

A few of years before that, I started drawing again after a chance conversation with late friend, Diana, about art, and she invited me to join her small, occasional, Saturday morning art class (3 or 4 people). I nervously went along (I hadn’t drawn much since school) and found I enjoyed it. I had a go at different drawings and surprised myself with how well they turned out. A few months later I took a stall at my local Village Hall Craft Fair and actually sold a couple of things! Someone saw my work and asked me to draw their dog, then I got another commission, then another, and I then risked taking a stall in a local agricultural show Craft marquee – and it grew from there.  A couple of local artists were also very encouraging about my work and that helped give me inspiration and confidence to continue.

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2. What tends to be the most popular type of commission you draw?

Currently, the most popular type of commissions tend to be dogs, particularly Terriers and Spaniels.

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3. Your drawings are very realistic, where did you learn all of your skills?

Regarding my drawing skills, I am completely self-taught and still learning! I mostly use an HB office pencil. I just did O-level Art at school along with everyone else and, although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my best subject. I was told never to do anything I liked for a living (because it would spoil my enjoyment of it) so never considered art as a career. I spent 30-odd years doing other things but now put all these practical skills to good use running my business. Early on, I trained as an offset litho printer, so this helps when producing prints and gifts; my PhD in Satellite Remote Sensing gave me excellent digital image processing and computing skills, and all those hours temping as VDU-inputter, accounts clerk, secretary and drinks dispenser help with day-to-day business.

I love looking at work by other artists and am constantly inspired by images I see on the internet. I always try to improve my work every time I draw, and go back to basics when attempting something new until I work out how to create a particular effect. For example, I was commissioned to draw a koala bear and the fur textures were very different to others I’d drawn, so I simply looked at the patterns, shapes and shades in the fur and tried to recreate these in the drawing.

I find I also learn new skills when students ask me questions in my talks or workshops, and I like coming up with new and different ways to approach or draw things.

It’s nice to be challenged to learn and, when I have time, enjoy producing work for exhibitions and drawing different subjects like sheep, wildlife, and vehicles.

Out of the blue recently, I was asked by a publisher if I’d like to write a book (“The Art of Drawing”) and of course I said “Yes!”, thinking it would never happen. But somehow it did, I was able to meet the publisher’s demands and, in the process, taught myself lots of new techniques as I wrote and illustrated it. I was very excited when it was finally published, and even more so now because they’ve just asked me to write a second book “The Art of Sketching”! I’ll be writing this in early 2018 and hope to include local features and lots of easy-to-draw sketches that even beginners can master.

 (The Art of Drawing, by Vivienne Coleman, £11.99+p&p. Arcturus Publishing. Signed copies are available from me )

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4. What have you found most difficult about drawing so far?

I find drawing easy and it’s the easy part of my business, too. If I have to find something, I’d say it would be nice to draw straight lines and in perfect proportion, freehand! I found pricing my work was difficult when I started, then running my business and finding time to do everything (sometimes it takes more time to run your business than actually doing the drawing). Other things I learned were understanding my customers, to find out exactly what they wanted, so I could then create the best drawing for them and make their shopping experience a great one. Strangely, I have no desire to draw for myself and only draw for work – for other people.

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5. What tips would you give to someone who wanted to set up their own business?

First of all, when you think you’ve got a great product, do lots of research to find out who your customers are and where they’re likely to be (no point making something if you can’t sell it!) Your research will help you understand the best place(s) to sell your work and the type of person likely to buy it. For example, if you love drawing modernistic and futuristic sci-fi cartoons you probably won’t sell much to the over-80’s or at a traditional flower show. Do ask for feedback – for example, ask picture framers and gallery owners for their opinion about the type of things that sell best locally and if they think your work is any good. I find I’m not always the best judge of my own work so it’s good to ask other people (and end up growing a thicker skin!) Do network with others. A good idea is to join an art group and you’ll also be inspired by other artists, and possibly get tips and advice about good places to sell, and pricing your work, too.  Check with your local authority about business start-up advice, courses, and grants in your local area. The Chamber of Commerce is a good source of information. Be very realistic about costing everything! Remember that you’ll have to pay the bills (rent, electricity, phone, raw materials, equipment, fuel, vehicle, your time) so make sure you price items to cover all your costs and make a profit (your wages!) If you like taking risks, take calculated ones and don’t risk more than you can afford to lose. Keep an open mind, be open to new ideas and, if you’re too over-cautious, simply practice saying “Yes!” My aim is to always produce the best quality I can with top quality materials, so it’s worth jotting down what’s important to you and thinking about the type of products you want to sell. Finally, don’t forget to schedule some time off. It can be hard to juggle work, family, and life!

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6. Do you have any advice for any aspiring photo realistic drawers?

If you aspire to be a photo realistic drawer, I would say you need to have very good observational skills, understand how light works, how to make different marks on a page, and have a pretty clear idea about what you want to create. You also need to think about the subject you’re drawing, maybe plan ahead and practice little sections first to check you’re creating the correct effect and textures. Photo realistic drawings are more about subtle changes in areas of texture rather than simple lines or outlines. If you’re just starting out, start small; try not to be too ambitious nor attempt something too big or so complicated that you get disheartened because it takes too long (it happens to us all!) I’m not sure patience comes into it because if you enjoy doing something you’ll find you’ll lose track of time as you lose yourself in it, but there’s no getting away from the fact that photo realistic drawings take time (e.g. often over 30 hours!) Compare this to a quick sketch which can be completed in minutes. Some people attempt a photo realistic drawing in a couple of hours but get frustrated and disappointed. I liken it to making a sponge cake or a wedding cake; both are cakes, but you can’t rustle up a fully decorated, three-tier wedding cake in the same time it takes to make a sponge.  It’s the same with sketching and drawing – both result in marks on the page, but they use very different techniques.

Be adventurous, too, and experiment with different media (pencil, pens, paper etc) to see what works for you.

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7. You purchase papermilldirect’s card and paper, what makes you choose our products over everyone else’s? 

Yes, I always use papermilldirect card and paper for my business now. I love the colour and linen finish of the card for my greetings cards and the print quality looks great. I love the different papers, too, especially the thicker paper for my business stationery (compliment slips, invoices etc) because it looks very professional. The service is brilliant, friendly and reliable and I don’t have to waste time worrying about my orders – not only is there a great product range but items are always delivered quickly in perfect condition. I also don’t have to worry about the quality because it’s consistently great, which all goes to make my job a whole lot easier.

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If you would like to see more of Vivienne's work or enquire about a commission you can contact her via the website: or email-

Her book, The Art of Drawing, by Vivienne Coleman, is available for £11.99+p&p. Arcturus Publishing. Signed copies are available from:

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Tagged: drawings, pencil drawings

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