Golden Snub-nose Monkey – Pencil to Paint

Artwork-Zebra Zensations Technical Pen, Daniel Smith watercolor and ARTEZA Real Brush Pens on a Hahnemühle Cold Pressed Watercolor Postcard. Brushes: Princeton Neptune Round, size 8.

This painting is what is known as a ‘line and wash’ because it is drawn in pen first and then painted with watercolor.

Before You Start

The BBC has been advertising their new series, Seven Worlds, One Planet, which features the Golden Snub Nosed monkey. Every time the commercial plays, hubby asks me for a postcard painting of one. Trouble is, there aren’t any photos of them on any of the photo sites I use for reference.

This means lots of prep, because I have to come up with my own composition, researching the subject and figuring out how to draw it without taking too much from any one photo.

Recently, I received a Hahnemühle 1584 Notebook (review to come in the near future) which has dot-grid paper in it. I decided it would be perfect for my studies.

First, I did a study working out a pose. I used the dot-grid to help me figure out proportions without using a ruler or getting too worried about being exact (sorry for the shade along the gutter, this was done on the first page).

On the next page, I did a study to figure out proportions of the face.

While working on this, I put some thought into what I wanted from the finished painting, and what ‘gotchas’ there might be.

I was choosing to do a baby, so I wanted to capture that halo of fuzzy baby fur. I also knew that even though in real life the snub-nose is cute, it also looks a lot like the nose on a skull.


(This scan is darkened so you can see the pencil lines. You should pencil lines in lightly)

Using my studies from the 1584 notebook, I penciled in the monkey, focusing on proportions and placement of facial features and limbs.

Not sure if you’re up to drawing this? Art Tutor has a great grid program that will help by applying a grid to your uploaded photo. You can also crop and adjust color and value.


Values= dark to light. When you establish your values, you are deciding where the darkest areas are, and some of the important mid-tones.

The babies have very light fur, so I kept the pen drawing fairly minimal, mostly mapping out the sections of the fur.


I decided that the delightful blue face on these monkeys was closest to a cerulean blue.  Since I also intended to use Buff Titanium, an off-white that easily turns green when mixed with blue, I had to use some caution.

The monkey’s fur was done with a layer of the buff titanium, and a mix of Aussie Red Gold and Monte Amiata, leaving the lightest areas the white of the postcard.  

I used Cerulean blue for the sky, and various mixes of lavender, Rose of Ultramarine, Aussie Red Gold and the Monte Amiata for the rest of the background.  Then I let it all dry.

I’ve never used the color lifting method to try and get that fuzzy halo furry look and decided to experiment.  I began to lift color all around the edges of the fur.  This is done by wetting the brush, lightly brushing where I wanted to lift color, blotting the brush on a paper towel, then dabbing in the same area to pick up the water just applied.  Some of the color comes up too.

Unhappy with the background (I didn’t plan it – I usually don’t, but should have this time since I didn’t have a reference), I fussed with it quite a bit until I spilled water on the lower left corner, and then couldn’t get it to take color.  

I let it all dry.

With a purple Arteza watercolor brush pen (the type where the pen is prefilled with watercolor), I added color and pumped up my values so there was greater contrast. The color in these brushes is more of a dye, so it takes where the paper is too damaged to accept pigment watercolor. I used it throughout the trees to tie the colors together.

I decided that I wanted lighter fur around the face, and I didn’t want to lift more so I grabbed my Uniball white signo and added some white ink.

Overall, this took far longer than my usual daily postcard – about 4 hours.


And Where You Can Buy Them

Hahnemühle 1584 Notebook (this is a new item, so it may not be listed on websites yet)

Hahnemühle Cold Press Watercolor Postcards (review).

Zebra Zensations Technical pens (review)

Daniel Smith 15 ml watercolors:

Princeton Neptune Travel Brush, Series 4750, Round, Size 8

ARTEZA Real Brush Pens

Published by Life Imitates Doodles Art, Reviews & Tutorials

Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens. I'm a self-taught artist who dances about with all sorts of artistic mediums. My main loves are Watercolor, Zentangle and Ballpoint pen. The subjects of my work are many and varied and change at whim. I'm a little bit crazy, but doesn't that come with being an artist? At my Life Imitates Doodles Blog, I post a list of resource links for Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways two times a week. I also write reviews, hold giveaways and share my art work.

7 thoughts on “Golden Snub-nose Monkey – Pencil to Paint

  1. He is wonderful! Oh my goodness, the work you put into this! You are very inspiring to me to kick it up a notch or two!

  2. What a gorgeous little guy he is. I want to lift him off the page and cuddle him in my arms. Thanks for the detailed info about how he came to life. Even a master must put in a great deal of thought and planning to achieve this level of skill. I’m not familiar with the Daniel Smith watercolor paints you used – you’re obviously very familiar as you got excellent effects with them. Hubby must have some bulletin board at work!

  3. I love this little monkey and what a great tutorial! I’m trying to draw a lemur and it is giving me fits….I think one of my next purchases will be a dot grid notebook.

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