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Gemma Gylling Creates Gorgeous Wildlife Artwork with Colored Pencils

Gemma Gylling is an award-winning wildlife artist. You honestly won’t believe her work is done with colored pencils! It’s that amazing! For those interested in learning this creative medium, Gemma is who I recommend. She has books, workbooks and workshops for all skill levels. Read Gemma’s story and enjoy her beautiful art…

Kathleen and I met through Triple D in Kalispell, Montana. She teaches photography workshops and I teach art classes at Triple D. I started following her wonderful photography after hearing of her there. In March of this year, I took a workshop with Kathleen at Lions, Tigers and Bears in San Diego and then went on her fabulous Africa Photo Safari to South Africa and Botswana in May. Kathleen is very good at photography and I must say, I learned so much, not to mention being able to see all the amazing wildlife right there in their own surroundings. The trip was so much fun and I learned a bunch to help me with my future photography. If you are considering taking a photo workshop with Kathleen, you really should do it!!

I’m a wildlife artist, so when I go on a photo shoot, I have a slightly different agenda than most wildlife photographers. I am looking to capture photos with significant depth of field, similar to a landscape image. That way, I have all the information I need for a drawing or painting. I can choose to draw it out of focus later, but if I choose to include the total landscape, the information is there for me to refer to. And I’m less focused on eliminating distracting elements in the composition, because I can easily leave unwanted elements out of a drawing.  Kathleen was so patient with me, while she might be suggesting other settings for that animal or situation, she would help me get what I wanted. After I got home from the Africa trip, I was so amazed with the quality of my photos I just couldn’t believe it!! I had so many people tell me that I should try to sell my photos, wow!! What was amazing to me is how many photos I took – over 11,000! Thank goodness for digital photography!

Most of my artwork is done with colored pencils, so it’s a drawing rather than a painting. It’s done by drawing several layers of colored pencil, simulating the look of an acrylic or oil painting. Many people say, “I can’t believe this is done with colored pencil!”.

I always try to work from my own photos. I’ll often combine numerous photos I have taken to come up with a good drawing composition. I feel it’s important to work from my own photos because that way, the design and art is all mine from start to finish. In the past I would occasionally work from another photographer’s photos, but I’ve come to believe that it really isn’t totally my art if I’m using someone else’s photo, even if I have licensed the rights to use their digital image. The primary reason I work from photos, rather than from life, is it takes me about 150-200 hours to complete one piece and I haven’t figured out a way to get the animals to hold still for that period of time.

Colored pencil is really an interesting medium. It’s amazing what you can do with colored pencils.  It’s terrific for creating detail and is wonderful for creating that technically realistic look. If you are interested in learning how to draw with color pencils, I published a book titled CP Cat: A Complete Guide to Wild & Domestic Cats in Colored Pencil.  The book teaches you how to draw every imaginable kind of fur, eyes, ears, muzzles, paws and whiskers. I also teach in-person and online drawing workshops. You can find the information about my workshops and book on my website at

About Gemma Gylling

I grew up on a small ranch in Southern California, which is where I developed my love of nature, animals and creativity.  I love to travel for opportunities to photograph wildlife. I’m a member of Animals for Conservation, pledging a portion of my sales to animal conservation groups including PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) and the National Wildlife Federation.

I volunteer as a docent at the PAWS Sanctuary in San Andreas, California, and live in Valley Springs, California with my husband, Bill and our two dogs.

Thanks Kathleen for inviting me as a guest on your blog!

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