The green challenge and the elephant ear plant

Continuing my self-audit of artwork created versus art pieces blogged, I find myself missing yet another of last summer’s art challenges, the green challenge. I meant to write about these last autumn, but apparently it just slipped my mind once “new project fever” swept up my last two working brain cells. I tend to get the new project fever in some rather big doses.

So, let’s travel back in time to July of 2021, which would put us after the flamingo series but prior to the blue-feathered bird series (which starts with the hyacinth macaw painting – I really need to do a roundup of that series and revisit those paintings with a fresh eye). It was another short challenge, with the theme “green,” and I just happen to have the perfect plant model that regrows each year in the goat pasture. Before the challenge started, I was out back with my old Kodak EasyShare digicam (I certainly got my $109 USD worth out of that thing!) to get reference photos of what my husband and I call the elephant ear plant for obvious reasons.

my elephant ear plant in midmorning sun in the pasture

Since I was curious what its real name is (the plant was already here when we bought this place) I posted in a local Facebook group to see what it might be. Answers came in ranging from colocasia to taro to a xanthosoma species, and when I went researching what the differing names, I decided my specimen looks most like Xanthosoma roseum. (Edit: it may be Xanthosoma sagittifolium, which is native to the south of us and this one might have been brought up a county or two.) The largest leaves are often 18-20 inches long, and we sometimes joke about it being an escapee from the set of Jurassic Park.

The first piece I did is similar to the above photo/snapshot, and I worked it in soft pastel (aka my “dusties”) on a blue sheet of Canson Mi Tientes paper, which I am still not enamored with except to use with colored pencil. Overall, I feel I got the shape right, but was hoping it would be brighter in the high key values (highlights) than it turned out. It isn’t awful, but I was hoping for it to be a bit more … just a bit more. The original is 9 by 12 inches, heavy paper, and lightly sprayed with fixative. Prints in larger and smaller sizes are also available at my Pixels store, and here it is on RedBubble apparel and accessories.

Xanthosoma in Morning Sun, 9 by 12 inches, soft pastel on paper, $100 USD original available

For the second day of the green challenge, I decided to zoom in on one leaf of the plant, because it really is a fun-to-draw shaped leaf (like Monstera species). I also decided to switch media and pulled out my oil pastels and the oil-primed practice paper, also a Canson product and one I like using. This piece captured the brightness I was hoping to achieve, and honestly it looks almost as if it is glowing. I so enjoy that about oil pastels – if you want serious, saturated COLOR, you can do it with the oilies. The original is also 9 by 12 inches, which is my favorite size for drawing and sketching, and it is sealed with ModPodge, which really works great for oil pastel work. Prints in larger or smaller sizes are available at my Pixels store, as are 500 and 1000 piece puzzles for those who love a good challenge and don’t have cats to “help” them with all the pieces. RedBubble swag is here.

Elephant Ear Leaf, 9 by 12 inches oil pastel on primed paper, $100 USD original available

For some reason that I cannot recall, I dropped out of the green challenge after this second piece, despite having a good half a dozen more reference photos already chosen and cropped and still in a folder on my computer labeled “green.” Since yellow fly season has started here, I will be spending the majority of daylight hours hiding in the house from those vicious biting monsters that seem to wait outside my door for both of us, which means I will have plenty of time to “art it up,” as hubby says, and maybe this summer I’ll blog more of the results.

Pink flamingoes

So, I intended to do up a flamingoes painting roundup when I noticed I only blogged about two of my six paintings last year. Oops! It’s high time I fix that, so grab a beverage and some popcorn (if you like popcorn and your husband hasn’t yet eaten it all) and let me get caught up on my favorite pink-feathered birds.

As I mentioned last year while it was happening, this was for a seven day challenge that had the theme of liquid. I naturally decided to use watercolor paint as my medium for the entire week, and picked out seven reference photos of flamingoes in or near water, and my Flapping Flamingo was the first one I painted. I fell behind on the blogging portion of the challenge, resurfacing to post my favorite of the series, Flamingo in Rippled Water, which y’all will recognize as one of the artworks that won first place in last autumn’s VA Healthcare system regional competition. When I finished up the challenge with a beachscape, I mentioned I would upload the others “soon.” I suppose less than a year can sort-of count as “soon,” in a certain light.

For the second painting of the series, I did up this one I just call Wading Flamingo. I seriously doubt I will ever win any recognition for naming my art, but that doesn’t really bother me so I keep naming things with an obvious title. While this one isn’t really my favorite of the bunch, I have heard from a few folks who saw it and liked it. One artist also participating in the challenge said it was her favorite of the set. Like all the other flamingo paintings, this is on 9 by 12 inch watercolor paper, and prints are available. The page at my RedBubble swag shop is here.

Wading Flamingo, 9 by 12 inch watercolor on paper, $100 USD available

Third in this series, and my second favorite overall, is this much more subdued version I call Curious Flamingo. My husband says flamingoes have such expressive faces, and that expression often looks startled, but I have found some nice ref photos where the bird looks not-startled, like this one. It still looks almost silly, the way this flamingo has cocked its head just so, but the overall effect with the less-saturated colors just work for me. Also on 9 by 12 inch watercolor paper, with prints available in larger sizes. Link to the RedBubble swag shop here.

Curious Flamingo, 9 by 12 inch watercolor on paper, $100 USD available

For my fourth flamingo watercolor painting, I managed to salvage something workable from what at the time looked like very much the disaster. After a couple days of touch-and-go, my masking fluid finally tore the (bleep) out of my paper. I was furious, went on Facebook and asked in a watercolor artists’ group for a better brand than what was using. Once armed with a brand name that was recommended, I placed an order that very evening for what I now use, which is Pebeo drawing gum. As for the painting, which I was originally going to call Beachcombing Flamingoes but instead titled Impressionist Flamingoes … I totally intended for it to be done in an Impressionist style. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I am still a bit ambivalent about the idea of selling the original due to the damage to the paper’s surface, but it scanned well and I uploaded it to RedBubble for apparel and accessories. Prints in various sizes are available.

Impressionist Flamingoes, 9 by 12 inch watercolor

Pale Flamingo is as its title suggests, and a pale pink on the flamingo’s feathers while it feeds in shallow pale blue water. The black of the beak and tail feathers provides sharp contrast with all the pale versions of color, and this one was identified as another artist’s favorite of the series. The contrast is certainly eye-catching. The original is also on 9 by 12 inch watercolor paper, and prints are available from my Pixels store, while the RedBubble swag is located here.

Pale Flamingo, 9 by 12 inch watercolor on paper, $100 USD available

So this gets me finally caught up on my flamingo series of watercolor paintings, which means it’s about time I painted and drew some new flamingo artwork. I’ll need to finish a few pieces on the easels – yes, I now have multiple easels to hold my works-in-progress – and one of those just happens to be a flamingo.

Cougar in charcoal

In between bottle feeding the five goat kids out in the pen, I managed to work up a charcoal study of a cougar from a photograph provided by Grace Carpenter for an art challenge on a forum I read. Unlike the tulip bud I started yesterday, I managed to get this one finished before a jealous indoor kitty sat on it. Said tulip project has both paw prints and a butt print on it in addition to the dry pastel smearing. I really do need to remember to turn my works-in-progress over so the working surface faces down. Enough grumbling from me about yesterday’s aborted project – back to today’s drawing.

Cougar, 9 by 12 inch charcoal, in sketchbook

This is just my first sketch of it, mostly for the experience points, and also to see how well I liked the crop of the original photo. While I am mostly pleased with how it turned out, I think I want to try it in white pencil on black paper as that may be a bit easier to get the whiskers to show up like I want. I also need to work on the chin and lower muzzle a bit better, but I decided to upload it and make prints available from my Pixels store.

The amusing part of this story is I scanned the drawing and was almost ready to upload it when I noticed I had forgotten to add in the whiskers and lightest highlights. So, just for the giggles, here is the first scan, before I finished it up.

not QUITE finished yet!

It may not seem like a lot of difference between the not-quite-done version and the final version, but I can see it and therefore cannot unsee it.

Now, for the geekiness that is me: This oversized house cat really is an oversized house cat, despite some of its other names like puma, mountain lion, or in this region Florida panther. It isn’t even in the panther genus, unlike actual lions, so I guess puma or cougar are the best names for it. Cougars are related to my jealous little feline monsters … and this is very similar to look on Stripe’s face this morning as I tried to get her off yesterday’s drawing without smearing it.

A Month of Drawing

I’ve been doing some art this month, though I just didn’t get around to loading up the blog until this morning. It started the way it often starts for me – with an art challenge. While folks are doing the Big One, one a day for 335 days out of the year’s 365 days, I knew I would not be able to keep it up once the goats kidded and I must bottle feed every two to three hours during the first week. Bottle feeding goat kids is my annual spring joy. So, wile sitting out the Big One, I jumped on a shorter seven day challenge with the theme “from the kitchen.” I would love to get a nice long series of drawings and paintings featuring the kitchen and cooking motifs, and I have a LOT of reference photos from October when I spent over an hour taking photos of produce on my table, so I was in on the shorter challenge.

I made it through day four before I just had a bad day and dropped out on the fifth day of the challenge. Sometimes I just feel too poorly to even draw, and I was out of photos from that set that could count as an honest entry … which is to say I used my second photo from over a hundred. For me, that is an excellent success rate, and here is the one I used:

Orange 1, digital photo

This was actually sort-of an accidental photo, as I had set the digital camera on the table to change the towel in the background, then noticed before picking it back up that the image in the viewscreen had really nice composition. The other good one from that photo shoot has an apple that sits off to the left and was used as the reference for my apples paintings in November. While the idea of someone wanting a photograph I took tends to really puzzle me, I do have prints and stuff at my Pixels site featuring this. This was the first day of the challenge.

For the second day, I used an apples photo from the same shoot, but one that is noticeably out of focus – but that isn’t a big deal on an object that is both familiar and simple. I did this in graphite on my Strathmore 500 series charcoal paper, and once finished, I decided I am now certain I don’t like graphite as a medium anymore. The drawing is not bad, I just dislike the grey instead of black, and really dislike the shininess of graphite that becomes obvious the darker you attempt to make your shadows. Prints are available at my Pixels site, and the original is for sale and can be purchased through Daily PaintWorks or by contacting me directly.

sketch for Apples 2, graphite on laid paper, 12 by 9 inches, available $80 USD

For day three, I went back to my dog-eared sketchbook, and also back to working in charcoal instead of graphite, and also back to that collection of photos for this drawing of a bowl full of citrus fruit: a total of two oranges, one lemon, and two limes, one inside the bowl and the other sitting in front of it. I was pleased with how it turned out … until I noticed the right side of the bowl droops down. Oops! Aside from that, it turned out nicely, but once I saw that I could not unsee it. It was good practice though, and if anyone wants, prints are available on my Pixels site. The original will stay in my sketchbook though.

Citrus Bowl sketch, charcoal 12 by 9 inches, prints available

For the fourth day of the challenge, I returned to the orange reference photo, and worked it up in charcoal on the Strathmore charcoal paper, and uploaded this:

Orange 1 sketch, prints available

While not a shabby result for a good three hours’ sketching, I did go back and work on it some more. The not-quite-finished version does currently have prints available, although I will likely change that at some point. I think the final version is an improvement, and the original of it is available through Daily PaintWorks, or by contacting me directly. Here is how it looks now that I went over it again.

Orange 1 (final), 12 by 9 inches, charcoal on laid paper, original $100 USD

My intention to finish the challenge up was to go back to each of the three images and paint them in acrylic, and I do still intend to make that happen. Right now though I seem to keep reaching for my charcoal and paper, and so I am just rolling with it. I should probably break here, and continue tomorrow or so for the rest of it, for there is definitely more to post.

Art giveaway on Facebook

I meant to post this last week, but then I was distracted. I am running a giveaway on my Facebook art page of not only this frame, but a 5 by 7 inch watercolor painting or dry media (charcoal, colored pencil, or pastel) drawing to go in it. It is open to folks here in the USA, with the only exception being my husband. The frame needs to travel farther than just across the room. I will draw the winning name out of a hat on New Year’s Eve, and then spend New Year’s Day painting or drawing, with it getting mailed out before my birthday on January 9th.

win this frame, and tell me what art subject to put in it!

While you will need a Facebook account to enter this giveaway, I do have more frames and the inclination do some more giveaways. I’ll be taking notes to work out how to do this outside of FB, because truth be told I am just not impressed with the platform.

Meanwhile, my husband threw down the gauntlet today and asked me to paint him a picture this month of his D&D character. He has sketches he’s done over the past couple years, but he wants to see what I can do with it. I have accepted the challenge, even though I haven’t done much figurative art since picking it back up in September of 2019.