Monday, December 30, 2013

Drawing progress - Magnolia

Colored pencil drawings takes time.

Lots of time.

Progress from previous shot after 3-4 hours.

I have kept working

and working,

slow but I am making progress.

I did not have as much time as usual to work on Wednesday. Although I came into the gallery early, there were visitors and business to take care of.

This week has been much busier than expected. The weekend storms snapped off our remaining tree in the back yard.

So as of the start of today, the flower itself was taking shape, but it just laid there on the surface.

As of the end of today, I think it is coming together finally.

I think the back ground leaves look a bit too small, so will work to enlarge them tomorrow.

But it is starting to look like those large, glossy flowers!.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Portrait in Colored Pencil

"Does It Look Like Me?"


One of the artists that attend my Wednesday Studio has completed a portrait as a gift for her grand son.

Portrait of Tank, Framed

Colored Pencil portrait of “Tank”, her grand-puppy.


When she came in she was overall pleased with the likeness. This is definitely Tank, not a generic bull dog. But there were still some problems. Overall there was more of the texture of the heavy paper showing than she would have liked.


“When I bought the pad, (it is #140 lb paper) it said ‘Gray Scale’ on it. I thought they were talking about the color, now I think it is the texture of the paper, scaly!” was Mary Anne’s take on it.


The pad does scale through all the shades of gray. And I am sure this is what they meant by gray scale pad, but the texture of the paper is very definite and it can overpower the art done on it. And it looks like scales. With colored pencil this can be a problem. Finding a support that has enough tooth to hold the colored pencil but does not have an overwhelming texture.


Also, she was not at all happy with the forepaw. It looked like a blob, she said. The fine details were giving her trouble. There were also details in the face that needed attention.


It took some time to stop    and    think.


When you run into problems in art, the instinct is to push ahead. Drowned it in details, in fancy brush work, lines or gobs of color. Wrong approach.








Art happens in the head first, and here is where the solution will reside.


With Tanks paw, we had to come back and think of just what we were drawing. The leg is a column, the foot (paw) is basically a rectangle attached to the column (leg) by a fat little ankle. So these shapes must be accurate first, then shaded to give shape to the volume. The shapes of the shading is important too. It needs to make sense with the light source, and there is always a light source, or how could we see it!


Once these issues were address, Tanks leg and paw emerged from the page.


Background is still there.


Mary Anne elected to have a simple, color block background. Fine, it suits the portrait well, but it still needed to be addressed with the same care as the rest of the portrait. Background is not an afterthought, but an important part of the composition.


Sometimes we as artists can be a bit lazy about this, or even cheap. We don’t want to spend our time and effort on what may seem an unimportant part of the art. But a good background is what makes the subject pop.


This is Tank,
And he is looking fine!
So time was spend to develop this background, first layers of crimson lake then blue indigo. Not just one layer each but multiple layers red/blue then red/blue. There is even a layer of black in there.


The result? A strong background that makes tank jump out and give the appearance of an oil portrait.


Other than the canines, bull dogs have rather small, delicate teeth. These where hard to get with regular pencils. Here is where Very Thins, by Prisma color came in. These harder pencils are not something you would want to use every day, but are just the thing for fine detail. Which is what they are designed for.


Tank- reference photo
Addressing the eyes, Mary Ann’s reference photo did not give the eyes a good go. Dog pictures seldom do, but this is a dog she knows and loves, and here memory came to her rescue. Instead of solid black, which in a photo a dog’s eyes can appear, she worked layers of black/brown and white to give his eyes life.


All in all this is a drawing of Tank, not just any bull dog.



Monday, December 16, 2013

More Magnolias

Spending some time working on my Magnolia project.

The small drawing, 5x7 on pastel board is becoming saturated. It will take a little burnishing to get the details to work on it.

Work is coming along, but photographing that work is giving me trouble. It is overcast and cloudy, so getting a good shot is difficult, even in the sunroom! I have tried it with a flash, but you know how it drains artwork.

I really try to use as close to natural light as I can so people seeing the artwork can get a feel for what the piece really looks like. But on a cloudy day that is not really going to happen. If the piece was finished, I would wait, but I am going to keep working on it, and wanted to get it at this stage of work. Hopefully you get the feel for what is happening with both drawings.

Drawing as of 12-8-13
The large piece, 16 x 20 is taking a lot of pencil! Good thing I ordered a half dozen white pencils from Dick Blicks! I really did not want to use watercolor as an underpainting on this one, but wanted the green of the mat board to remain pure. Isn't happening! but I keep cleaning up the background.

Getting all the shades of grey and yellow on this one is going to be a real challenge. Drawing white flowers is much more complicated than the casual observer would imagine.

I am also finding the detail of what will be the seed cone a challenge. It is so pale and there is so much detail. Most people look at the large petals and overlook the nectar rich cone of the flower. As the individual areas mature and "bloom" the cone seems to unpeel. Each of those green things is a nectar tube which will get fertilized and produce a bright red seed in the fall.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Color Wheel-Beads

Justin, my 10 year old drawing student, finished his color wheel this week.

His wreath is homemade, from vines from his yard. I think this is fine. It is not necessary to always throw a lot of money on an art project for it to be well done and creative.

He had to collect beads in colors that would complete the color wheel, string them and then wrap them around the wreath. A lot of them his family already had from other projects. He simply needed to collection and sort them. This took a while. He laid them out on a printed color wheel to see which actually worked on the color wheel. This took a while. Rather than help him, I let him work it out, learning to judge color himself. I only stepped in when he asked my opinion.

 He strung them on colored pipe cleaners, which he also matched to the color wheel. They are of course, wire so would wrap and he would not need more wire or glue.

I think he did a great job with this.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Magnolia in colored pencil progress

I made a little progress on the small 5 x 7 colored pencil drawing of a magnolia today.

The Pastelbord has good tooth and can take a lot of layers of colored pencil. I have gone through almost a complete white pencil!

So now I can start fine tuning it and hopefully it will turn into something.

Also got some large boards to do a "grown up" version.

..............................and lots of white pencils!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Magnolia Drawing in Colored Pencil

Started a new drawing. Hopefully it will be the first in a series of colored pencil drawings and paintings of magnolia blossoms.

I have long been meaning to try drawing these large, dinner plate sized flowers. Years ago I good a series of reference pictures of the magnolia blossoms on a neighbors trees, but never did anything with them.

Now, 3 computers latter I needed to locate these pictures. I thought it would be along search, but to my surprise they were on the first CD I looked at.

I take a lot of pictures, and back them up onto CD's by date. I do write on the CDs what they generally hold. I do know when these trees bloom so thought I would have to look through all of June 2005. But not so.

Printed out several shots of these flowers on regular printer paper. I don't need them in glossy format, the photos are for reference only.

First up is a small 5x7 drawing done on Ampersand Pastelbord, the dark green. I drew the basic flower on with white pencil, then filled in with white inktense pencil. I can use water to float the pigment of inktense to get good coverage. Then when it dried, I can fill in with white pencil.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Creating a Color Wheel

sorting beads

Classes this month are working on creating their own color wheel. One caveat, it must be made from found objects. Ea. no painting them. You have to work with color in real objects.


Putting things in their places.
It can be anything. Mostly solid colors, but it does not have to be. Collect objects, then using a printed color wheel, select and arrange the objects.


More difficult than they expected!


Things they have found out?


Color is not consistent nor constant!


When have trouble remembering color.


Problems to solve?


Where does it fit on the color wheel. Is it a pure color, or a compound color (made up of non adjacent colors)? It is a primary with white? Black? Gray?


How is it affected by other colors around it?
sses this month are working on creating their own color wheel.

One ca

Monday, November 18, 2013

Roses, Roses and more Roses

Started some new paintings, of roses.

Bunch of Roses
I love white roses and have been using them to teach value in art classes, so I decided I would paint a few paintings of roses.

One is 11 x 14 gallery wrapped and the other is 16 x 20, wrapped canvas, but of standard depth.

The first I started by simply painting a streaked background, then when it was dry, just putting random roses in a sort of bunch.

I started to layout some stems with the thought of putting them in a clear vase, but I don't think I will. I will leave the stems vague, and little to no leaves, and I am not going to paint in a vase at all. The way they are bunched together, it implies a vase, but only by suggestion.

single White rose
The second, smaller canvas will be of one perfect open rose. The background will be mostly muddled greens and yellows, but with a couple of leaves and fallen petals, but lacking in detail, except for the central rose itself. That will be detailed. But nothing else. Right now there is a second rose in the background, but I think I will paint that out, it competes with the first rose and adds nothing to the composition.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Even More Botanicals

Winding up our work on botanical drawings


Each of the students are finishing work on their botanical drawings. Some have more to do than others, working in larger sizes. For this project many are doing their first large drawing. Working 16 x 20 rather than the standard sketchbook size.


Botanical drawings do require a balance between negative space, in this case, white space and the positive space, ea. the plant. Having enough space to isolate and highlight the subject is important.


Justin, Leaves and squash
Another aspect is the accurate depiction of color of the specimen. Analyzing just what makes up that color, what kind of green are you looking at, now much yellow verses blue. Plant colors are not simple, but complex. It does require that you look and observe all aspects of the plant carefully.


The same is true of the texture of the plant. It is smooth, fuzzy, rough. Having the actual plant is a big help.





Monday, October 14, 2013

Drawing a Spider Mum

Started a new drawing today of a spider mum. I have always loved these flowers and fall seems like the ideal time to try and draw one.
Spider Mum layout
This is more in the line of experimenting. It will be a mixed media, in a way.

First I sketched it out on tracing paper, then transferred the drawing to a piece of mat board. Mat board is heavy enough and textured enough to take multiple layers of colored pencil.

After the flower was transferred to the mat board, I put on a layer of watercolor pencil, in complimentary colors. I don’t know if this is the best idea for colored pencil. I generally do this for oils. I like the rich colors it results in, but we will see how effective it is with colored pencil. I have some concerns. This is a lovely orange/yellow chrysanthemum. The compliments of orange/yellow are purple/blue. I am wondering if these might be too dark and pigmented for over “painting” with lighter colors of colored pencils.
Watercolor pencil underpainting

We will just have to wait and see.
As tempting as it would have been to rush the underpainting
layer, ea. Watercolor pencil, I did take the time to put on several layers of watercolor pencil. Then I stood back to see how it all looked. Sometimes you can see what is happening in a layout better with the compliments, rather than a more realistic take. I also added a bit of green to suggest some foliage, but I am not going to put in any real leaves or stems. Just the suggestion that they are there.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Graphite wash

Did some experimenting yesterday. I have several pencils that are labeled, “Sketch & Wash” I have had them for a long time. The are almost used up. Just about 2 or 3 inches left, but I have only used them for sketching. They are nice, soft, dark pencils but I have not used them with water.


Never gave it a thought. I bought them originally on impulse. I was on my way to the Gallery, and planned to stop at Ritter Park for a while first to sketch, and had forgotten my pencil pouch. So I stopped and bought these mostly because they were inexpensive.


Yesterday, I was sketching some chrysanthemums, those nice spidery ones that are all long petals and weird angles. I pulled out these pencils, because they are nice and dark. Than thought, Why not? I grabbed  a  soft brush, and a small saucer of water and played around a bit.


I love them!


Wish I had the whole pencils again! I will have to check out the art supply store and buy more.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Botancial update

Working in Colored Pencil

We are making progress on our botanical drawings. Everyone is now working in colored pencil, so there are new techniques to learn, as well as becoming familiar with colored pencils themselves.

composition on tracing paper
Several of my students have not work with them at all before. They are learning that colored pencils are a different animal! Several of my students have sets of colored pencils themselves, but for others it is a new medium. At the Renaissance Art Gallery I have samples of just about every brand of colored pencils there are, including some I detest. But what better way for them to learn than to try out before investing in materials they will not use. Then when they do buy pencils, they not only know the best brands to buy, but just how they will work.


I demonstrated how to start the drawings, selecting reference materials, both from live plants and photos. How to edit and use these materials.

We started by drawing our concepts on tracing paper. Then using colored pencil, transferring our compositions to our boards.

A long discussion of materials to draw on, and a day of trying out different papers and supports gave the students a lot to think about. Most of us are working on mat board. Our local art supply store cut mat board into the sizes we needed. Mat board is one of the supports that is durable enough and has enough tooth for colored pencil. For those working on paper, we are using at least 120 lb. And one student has 140 lb paper.


For this project we are working larger than normal, on boards that are 16 x 20. Not all of them are white! Several are working on tinted papers and boards, which I think makes the art very interesting!


Once the drawings were transferred, we were ready to start.

Sketched in Watercolor pencil Then wet


Again I demonstrated technique and materials. For this project I started my work with watercolor pencils. This is more to set the basic shapes and values. I did use lighter colors than I want the finished drawings, but as each work has a range of values, using a lighter color to establish basic shapes seems like a good idea.


Now, you can draw with watercolor pencils without the transfer technique. Neither is right or wrong, I simply wanted by student to know both ways and make their own choices. The same is true of art materials. Try everything so you can make intelligent and informed choices.


Which brings me to today blog, photos of how we are doing.
Mary Ann's Pears
Julia Adds Green
Hosta on Tinted Mat Board
Next week I should have more updates of these detailed drawings!
Detail of leaf

Detail of flower


Detail of Day Lily
Day Lily

Monday, September 9, 2013

Still working on Botanicals

Hosta drawing
This is proving to be a more absorbing subject than first thought.

Both students and myself are still working on Botanical drawings.

The choice of subjects is unlimited, but still I have been surprised on my students choices.

Bald cypress, squash and pears. Weeds and hostas. Seeds and beans.

Drawing Flowers

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Society of Metalpoint Artists: Well, after being taken down after the first attem...

I love metalpoint in all its forms, silver, gold, even copper.

Just found a group who also love this artform!

I am so happy! It is hard to get other artists to take those of us who draw seriously as it is, but metalpoint, they simply dismiss as too much work! As if any artform is too much work!

So here is a link to other metalpoint artists.

The Society of Metalpoint Artists: Well, after being taken down after the first attem...: Well, after being taken down after the first attempt, the metalpoint artists website is back up again. It is still a work in progress, but i...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Botanical Drawings

My weekend to host the Renaissance Art Gallery. I invited my students to come in and get some extra drawing time.

I am working on my botanical drawings of my hosta plants. for the weekend I pick a leaf and a stem and brought it into the Renaissance Art Gallery to draw.

Each of my students can select whatever media they want to do this drawing in. While we mostly work in standard graphite pencil, it is good to mix things up a bit.

I was joined by a student, Barb. She has selected her subject for a botanical drawing, the Bald Cypress tree, like the ones she often sees at the coast in South Carolina. She had photos from her visit there, as has done research into the Bald Cypress. Saturday she did thumbmails and started working on a larger sketch of what she wants to draw. Both Barb and I decided to do our drawings in Colored Pencil.

I have samples of just about every brand of colored pencil made, as well as several "kits" of the better brands, so we have plenty to choose from.

We also talked about what to draw this on. We have used a variety of supports for colored pencils. Some more successful than others. Neither of us like bristal board, We did like pastel board. Very much. I have tried and like mat board. But most of my students have not yet tried to draw on it. A couple of weeks ago one of the other artists brought in a number of knock outs from mat cuttings. (these are the part of the mat that comes out of the whole made to display the artwork)

So we have some mat board in several colors to try and use.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Starting Botanical Art

Having always loved and admired naturalist artist, I have decided to try my hand at Botanical Art. As usual, I am taking my Wednesday Open Studio students with me. Botanical illustration goes beyond still life. Botanical art has a purpose, to record just what that plant is, and it must be accurate enough to aid in field identification. 

After research, Each student will select the plant of their choice to illustrate in the tradition of scientific botanical illustrations. Choice will also include medium, support and size. For this class, photography will be included. Students are encourage to explore multiple technique and medium as well as the history of scientific illustration.  

To prepare for this, I have been doing my homework, researching just what makes a good botanical drawing, some of the history of botanical art, and seeing what modern botanical artists are creating. 

I have included links to some of the sites I found most useful.

botanicalartists Gallery

society of botanical-artists

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Art and business

A lot of us draw, paint, etc and from time to time sell a few things, or we do the fair circuit, but do we think of ourselves as running a small business?

Helen South wrote a interesting blog about this and has a number of good links to running a small business as an artist.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

drawing noses

I wanted to share a blog with you that has really good illustrations on drawing noses:

draw noses

It really is a good blog to read and study.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Drawing tips

I don't think we ever get too "educated" to need tips to help us along.

My friend, Helen South, who writes the drawing/sketching blog for has a good blog this week:

I thought she made some good points about how your skills should develop.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Final Steps Blending, Highlights And Burnishing


These flowers are more than purple. Like all colors in nature, they are more a blend of color than a pure pigment.


Layers of purples are between layers of white and a touch of red. The stamens are shades of orange-red to light yellow.


Between each layer, I stop and using a stump, blend each layer to the previous layers. I also want to blend the stem of the flowers (purple) to the green stem, shading through white. This is how the flowers grow, and I want to continue this.


I also want to bring back the white highlights on the crocus itself and its leaves.


I do use a blending stick for some of this. This is a pencil that is pure wax. Using it helps two colors of colored pencil blend into each other.


Then I do burnish the entire picture, using the burnishing tool, rather than the paper stump. This brings a nice polish and shine to the drawing. It helps it jump away from the paper.

I really like the contract between the dark paper and the vivid flowers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Little Color

Having done the white underdrawing, it is now time to take the plunge and start adding color.


adding first color


I am fairly happy with the black and white version, so picking up the next pencil can be scary. Starting with my lightest violet, and a very sharp point, the color is slowly being built up. The same for the green leaves. The palest green is added first.


After a single layer of color is put on, the drawing gets a gentle burnish. I use a stump for this, rather than a burnishing tool. The point isn’t so much to blend but to even out the layer of color and make sure that it adheres evenly and thoroughly.


Again, step back from the drawing to judge its development. I don’t want to completely cover the black, The darks are needed.


first layer before burnishing
Each layer is put on with successively darker violets and purples. Not all the previous layer is covered. Attention is taken to just where the light is coming from and making sure that the darks balance out with light and mid-tones.


Remembering that I am drawing on flat paper, but the crocus is 3-dimentional, the goal is to make them look as if they are coming off the paper.


After the second layer of purples, another layer of white is added to the entire picture. This brings harmony to it.


But the drawing is not done yet.

Monday, April 8, 2013

White Lines On Black Paper

faint white lines on black paper
I have the outlines of the drawing I want to do. The white lines are thin and faint. They will be only guidelines, so this is perfect. The actual drawing will follow.

When working with toned or colored paper I take an approach just as I would for on oil painting. I do an underdrawing.


Because I am working on black, I am doing it in white first. This does two things, it establishes a light, bright base for the following layer of colors, and helps me fine tune the actual drawing. The white base allows for the subsequent colors to be clear, bright and true. 


White value drawing
First I use a rather blunted white pencil, simply to establish this base of white, then I will follow it up with a sharp white pencil to emphasis and correct the drawing. At this point I need to correct any flaws in the basic drawing, make sure I have a full range of values and that the drawing itself hold together.
This is a good time to walk away.
Make sure the drawing works, both technically and as a work of art.
Now, we are ready for a little color.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Crocus Drawing in Colored Pencil - Start

drawing on tracing paper


Started a new drawing.


It is part of the colored pencil magazine on-line drawing challenge.

I started by sketching the layout on tracing paper.


1. because I like drawing on tracing paper. It is easy to draw on and easy to make corrections to, so for me the ideal medium for layout


2. I am going to do this on black paper and drawing on the semi-transparent tracing paper makes it easy to transfer the design to the rather fragile black pastel paper.


Pastel paper has a better tooth than watercolor paper, at least for me with colored paper. But it is more delicate.  It is easily scratched and dented. Once you get scratches or dents in the paper, you can’t get them out.

back of tracing paper with colored pencil

With the tracing paper I can make my own transfer paper. I don’t have to use graphite at all.


Turning the paper over, I simply take a soft white or light pencil and softly transfer some pigment to the back of the tracing paper. Then using drafting dots place the tracing paper over the paper I am going to use. Then using a blunted pencil, I transfer some light lines to the black paper. Because I am using the clip board drawing board I can check to make sure the lines are transferring, and that I am not getting indented marks.



White lines transfered to drawing paper