Red Tulips watercolor painting

I am still catching up here on this new blog, and today I am spotlighting my red tulips painting, done in watercolor in an Impressionistic style, using eye-catching red and green on white watercolor paper. This piece makes for an interesting contrast to the more exact Johnny-Jump-Ups I also painted in watercolor.

Inspiration behind the painting

These were a certain sign of spring when I was growing up in Indiana.  Previous occupants had planted both red and yellow tulips in between the decorative shrubs, and these would bloom even before the purple irises on either side of the back gate. Our house and garage were both white, with a light gray concrete foundation, so when I stumbled upon this reference photo showing red tulips against a white background, I knew I had found the perfect photo for me.

As a child, I remember being fascinated by the cup shape of the fully open tulip flowers. As an adult artist, I now find myself more interested in the tulip buds as they are opening. This is likely because of the promise and potential inherent in opening flower buds, and what could better embody the promise of spring than flower buds as they are just starting to open?

red tulip buds opening against a white wall, watercolor painting on paper
Red Tulips, 9 x 12 inch watercolor painting on paper, original available $100 USD

Purchase information for Red Tulips

The original is 9 by 12 inches, sealed with Dorland’s wax to protect against humidity and spills, and I can ship to buyers outside the region also.  Prints are available at my Pixels store, and accessories are at my RedBubble store. My personal favorite accessory is this painting on the front of a spiral notebook, available at both Pixels and RedBubble.

A Single Candle drawing in colored pencil

A single lighted orange candle in the darkness, the flame’s glow burning brightly.  Colored pencil on black paper, this is a study for a more complex still life drawing idea I have in mind.  The study turned out so nicely, I had to offer it up. 

color pencil study of A Single Candle on black paper, lighted orage pillar candle with flame the focal point
A Single Candle, 9 by 12 inch color pencil on black paper, original available

Original is 12 by 9 inch paper, and can be bought via Daily PaintWorks.  Prints are available at my Pixels store and accessories at my RedBubble store.

Technical drawing notes

Because I am asked by other artists wanting to try this technique, I thought I should share one very big tip and some smaller drawing tips I used to achieve this lighted candle effect. None of these are original – I found most in various YouTube videos on the subject – but here they are in one spot for reference.

  • Use a reference photo – this is mine
  • Outline where you want what on the drawing
  • On the brightest parts, use white pencil first for a base layer, fading to the black of the paper
  • For that pale yellow glow, lay down an underlayer of pale yellow before going over it with the intended color
  • for a visual example of the white underlayer, see my post on my Christmas Candle still life drawing

Lighted candle drawings

I’ll likely be doing even more drawings of lighted candles, because not only are they a fun challenge to draw or paint properly, but I just love watching a candle’s flame dance as the air moves around it. Also, I love trying to capture that warm glow of candlelight, not only in the flame itself but the way it lights all the objects around it. I especially intend to do some still life drawings featuring lighted candles, as those tend to be my favorite compositions.

Blue Dragonfly colored pencil drawing

A colored pencil drawing on toned paper, Blue Dragonfly shows a very common visitor to our property.  The dragonflies don’t tend to hold still long enough for me to take a couple dozen potential reference photographs in hopes of having one turn out decent, so I found the reference photo over on a site called Morguefile, which has thousands of copyright-free photos for artists and graphic designers to use.

This year we have seen a new color variation of dragonfly – in addition to the blues, the greens, and the copper/rust ones, I remarked the other morning that we have now seen a black dragonfly with yellow segments on the tail. They also have some stunning earth-tone red eyes, about the same shade as the burnt sienna in my oil paints.  Once I get a good enough grasp on the dragonfly body and wing shapes, I’ll try to draw one of those as well, but for this piece I decided to start with the most-familiar blue dragonfly.

colored pencil drawing of blue dragonfly resting on a strand of babr wire on tan toned paper with abstract green shapes as background
Blue Dragonfly, 9 by 12 inch colored pencil drawing on toned paper, original available

The original is available through Daily PaintWorks.  Prints are available at my Pixels store and prints and accessories are at my RedBubble store. My dad says this particular drawing is his favorite artwork I’ve done to date. Considering he has seen my drawings from age five on, that puts it above the couple thousand or so I’ve done the past four decades – so high praise from him.

Monarch Butterfly on Coneflower watercolor painting

The inspiration for this piece came when I asked my son if there is anything he would like to see me paint, and he immediately informed me he loves monarch butterflies and would love to see what kind of paintings I can do of them.  Of course, he credits the cartoon The Venture Brothers for sparking his interest (there is a comical villain called the Monarch in it, complete with henchmen dressed as butterflies), though the more he learned about the real butterflies, the more he likes them.

I was happy to oblige, as I think monarchs are beautiful butterflies, and wanted to see if I could capture that lovely orange of the sunlight coming through the wings. First thing to do was draw in charcoal, to “get the shapes and shadows” prior to painting in color. I wasn’t particularly interested in making much other than a green blob as the background, mainly because I wanted all the focus to be on the butterfly and the flower. A secondary reason is a bit more pragmatic: it isn’t always easy to do details in watercolor, especially the first decade or so when you begin watercolor painting.

Purchase information for the painting and prints

The original is still available, an 8 by 10 inch watercolor, sealed with Dorland’s wax (that is actually an art medium made for use with oil paint, but heartily adopted by watercolorists for preserving and protecting watercolor art).  A slightly larger range of prints are available at my Pixels store, and a range of accessories are at my RedBubble store for those who are interested.

One of my early watercolor paintings, but still one I enjoy using as an avatar at various platforms, including Anchor/Spotify, Pinterest, and sometimes Facebook. It’s bright and colorful, with enough simplified lines to be easily recognized even when shrunk in size.

Johnny Jump Ups

Beautiful purple Johnny-jump-ups, also called purple pansies and even blue violas, against the soft blurred green background of their foliage.  They may not be large flowers, but they are certainly pretty and I love the combination of purples with the splash of yellow on the petals. The indistinct greens in the background, with just a touch of blue to harmonize with the pale part of the petals, give just the right contrast to the complementary pair of purple and yellow.

Original is 9 by 12 inches, watercolor on hot press paper, sealed with Dorland’s wax.  I can ship to buyers out of the region, and you can purchase the original through Daily PaintWorks, which uses PayPal.  Prints and accessories available through my Pixels store and also RedBubble (which also has apparel).

Johnny-Jump-Ups, 9×12 inch watercolor on paper, original available

Art supplies used

Painted with Mijello Mission Gold watercolor paints on Stonehenge Aqua paper. I enjoyed working the different shades of purple, ranging from violet lake to a mixture of quin magenta and ultramarine blue, which is also present in the greens which include green-gold and what Mijello calls bamboo green, which is the yellow shade version of phthalo green.

Prior to painting, I worked up this composition in a graphite drawing in my sketchbook to test the layout and value contrast. Ironically, drawing actually takes longer than painting, though the sketchbook and pencils are less expensive than paints and brushes, not to mention good quality watercolor paper (which makes a HUGE difference in how the paint behaves). If I am honest about it (and I tend to be) I will confess that I enjoy drawing, even when it takes hours. I find the soft scratching noise of a pencil on paper to be soothing and almost meditative, and feel as though it helps me to focus on the important parts of a composition.