Entries for this year’s creative arts festival

Y’all recall last year when I placed first in two of the three categories I entered in the regional VA healthcare-sponsored creative arts festival? I am entering again, but this year picking the artwork to enter seemed much more difficult, given I can only enter three pieces again this year. I work in six media categories, not including mixed, and have made multiple pieces in most of those categories in the past year. So I took to Facebook and even Twitter to ask for opinions on which pieces I ought to put in the competition. This actually did not help as much as I hoped.

Oil pastel artwork

Oil pastels are not judged in the pastel category for this competition, but against oil painting as they define the category to include oil paint, oil sticks (which I have yet to try) and oil pastel. Basically, they want anything that includes pigment with some form of oil to fix it to a surface, which is not limited to canvas either. I felt my two best pieces from the past year are my Sunset Over the Hayfield landscape and my candle still life, Book Reading by Candlelight.

Folks on Twitter preferred the hayfield, while folks on Facebook preferred Candlelight, and when added together the votes were just about a dead heat. Any wonder why I asked for help deciding? In the end, I stopped to think (while milking goats) about the category and potential competition, and went with Candlelight because a bit of the textured paper shows in Hayfield, which might be enough to knock my piece down compared to the more traditional paintings.

Book Reading by Candlelight oil pastel still life
Book Reading By Candlelight oil pastel still life composition

Picking a watercolor painting

For this category, it was pretty easy for me. I simply love how my Pumpkin Close-Up came out last autumn. Truth be told, I really have not made many watercolor paintings over the past year, and this particular pumpkin one is my favorite of the three I did last fall (even though my mom just loves my Jack O’Lantern).

Pumpkin Close-Up watercolor painting
Pumpkin Close-Up watercolor painting

Picking a charcoal drawing

If y’all have been reading since the beginning of the year, you will know I was on a major charcoal drawing kick that started prior to New Year’s Day and continued through the spring goat kid bottling season. I made quite a few charcoal drawings, both traditional black and the tinted charcoal I am still experimenting with.

I managed to get my short list down to three, then once again asked on Facebook and Twitter which I ought to enter. The results surprised me. Personally, I had been thinking to enter my Apples 3 still life, but my husband said he really likes my Two Flamingoes. Meanwhile, my Single White Rose (in the same post as the flamingoes) tends to get positive reactions from folks. Both Twitter and Facebook enthusiastically said I should enter the flamingoes, though the rose was in second. What sealed the deal for me was the comments about how flamingoes usually aren’t depicted in black and white, and that I nailed the expression on the front bird’s face.

Two Flamingoes charcoal drawing
Two Flamingoes charcoal drawing

So, there we have it: my three entries to this year’s creative arts festival. I sent them off this morning, because today is the deadline. For whatever reason, I seem to always wait until the last day to enter. Perhaps it ties in with my usual answer when asked what I think my best piece of art is. My answer is always, “The next one.”

Ox-eye Daisy drawing in charcoal and pastel pencil

I actually drew this ox-eye daisy for an art challenge back in June of 2021, but it got lost in the shuffle along with the horse head drawing in black charcoal I call Bridled. In fact, I drew it prior to Bridled, first piece of artwork for that challenge, and initially was not so pleased with it because it looks a bit different than previous drawings, even of flowers. At the time, I thought this was more of an experiment in mixed dry drawing media that didn’t turn out as well as I hoped, as it was the first time I mixed black traditional charcoal with splashes of color from pastel pencils, all on toned paper.

Inspiration behind the drawing

The inspiration behind this drawing is actually quite simple: I hadn’t drawn a daisy in ages, and wanted to see what I could do with it. I had recently purchased the Canson Mi-Tientes assorted colors pad, marked as being for pastels in particular though I had used a sheet for my Blue Dragonfly I did in colored pencil. So with an idea in my mind, I next went to Pixabay to hunt for a reference photo that I wanted to use, in the process creating a folder of nothing but daisies photographs. (Trust me when I say, there will be many more daisies in my artwork!) I found this one, then cropped it to my satisfaction, and then it was a matter of making marks with the traditional black charcoal until it looked like a daisy.

charcoal and pastel pencil drawing Ox-Eye Daisy
Ox-Eye Daisy, 9 x 12 inch charcoal and pastel pencil drawing, original available $100 USD

Experimenting with color alongside the charcoal

Not satisfied with just black marks on the toned paper, I then decided to mix my dry media, just to see how I liked the result. I had a small set of eight pastel pencils that came with a twenty-some year old drawing set, the kind that tends to sell well around the end of the year, and the set has white, yellow, blue, and a medium purple. I purchased a sepia toned oil charcoal pencil to try out, and used that for the shading on the ox-eye center. Then I fiddled some more with the shadows on the petals, first with blue, then with purple, then added in the white highlights, but leaving the midtone areas blank to allow the paper’s tone to show. Lastly, I picked up the bright yellow and used that for the highlights on the top of the flower’s center.

Purchase links for Ox-Eye Daisy drawing

The 9 x 12 inch original drawing is available through Daily Paintworks here. If you’d like a smaller or larger art print for your wall, you can order what prints you need through my Pixels store. If you’d like this printed on apparel or accessories, check out the various swag at my RedBubble shop. Personally I think it looks best on the classic coffee mug:

two mugs on a shelf showing both sides of the print design Ox-eye Daisy
my mixed dry media drawing Ox-eye Daisy on a classic mug at RedBubble

Evolution of my feelings about this drawing

As I have hinted at throughout this post, my feelings about this experimental drawing have changed over the fifteen months since I made it. Now when I look at it, I get the subtle impression of movement – and given the floral subject, that movement feels like a very gentle swaying in the slightest of breezes, almost nodding a greeting to the sun’s rays that must be hitting the flower in spots where I put the white on the petals and the bright yellow of the center. Usually I have all the subtlety of a wrecking ball, and am notorious for not picking up on hints, so this change surprised me when I reviewed this in preparation for the daisy challenge this summer.

More daisy artwork since then

It has not been that long since I did the short three day art challenge with the challenge theme being daisies, but I thought this was a good spot to mention those for newer readers. Working backwards, and very much related to this piece, is my Daisies in tinted charcoal. The day prior I did a single daisy in watercolor using only four colors, though if I redo that one I will see how it looks with only three colors. To start the challenge, and cover down on a different art challenge from a different source, I did a blind contour drawing of a partially-painted daisy that is still (!) on the easel, waiting for me finish. It made a good model to stare at as I drew without looking at the sketch pad. If you are trying to parse that statement … just go read the post. Seriously, blind contour drawings are an “in-context” thing.

Finally, here’s a small selection of daisy photos from Bob Decker’s blog archive. He seems to have just about every angle covered for this one flower.

As a final thought, here is a very accurate article from Inside Art about the truth behind a quote attributed to Edgar Degas: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” It hit my inbox last evening, and boy howdy did it resonate with me! Something to think about as I settle in to work on more art today.

Calla Lilies 3 drawing in tinted charcoal

I’ve been battling a summer slump, but Sunday afternoon it suddenly cleared and I grabbed my rather-quick graphite sketch of three calla lilies in my sketchbook and decided to clean up the lines and finish the drawing in tinted charcoal.

When my husband heard the familiar rasp of a pencil moving across paper, he got up to see what I was working on, then he started snapping photos of the piece to record the process and progress layer by layer.

Starting with the darkest dark

first in-progress photo, starting with the  background
starting with the background, using a dark blue tinted charcoal

For this drawing, I decided I would use black on the background, for at least one layer. I started with the background, because it helps me to get the darkest portion on the white paper first. While I am not sure this will explain it adequately to the nonartists out there, when starting with a white blank page it helps me to have the opposite extreme of the value scale to then be able to visualize all the middle values once the two extremes are there.

darkening the background with a layer of actual black charcoal
darkening the background with a layer of actual black charcoal

It took three layers to get the rich, deep dark I wanted: one layer of dark blue, one layer of black, then one layer of dark purple. I should probably point out that even when I work with only traditional black charcoal, it still takes about three layers to achieve the contrast in values the Italians call chiaroscuro (literally translated as “light-dark”) that makes a good charcoal drawing so eye-catching.

Adding the leaves and stems with green tinted charcoal

starting to shade in the leaves and stems with green tinted charcoal
starting to add in the green tinted charcoal

Once the background looked dark enough, after three color layers (dark blue, black, dark purple) it was time to start on the leaves and stems. I used the medium green from my big set of tinted charcoal, and tried to keep it from being too dark so it didn’t blend into the background. I wanted the greenery to only cover the middle range of values.

Starting to shade the white calla lilies

beginning shading the white calla lilies with a light purple
starting to shade in the white calla lilies

Even before I had the greens shaded in completely, I decided to start putting in the shadows on the white calla lilies. Shadows on white flowers are often either a blue tint or a purple tint, and I chose the lighter purple (labeled lavender) for this drawing, mostly to contrast nicely with the yellow ochre of the main flower’s stamen. Purple and yellow are opposite on the color wheel, and really look nice, as a look through my portfolio of work will show. (See Electric Yellow Rose for a good visual.)

adding the yellow ochre to the center of the main calla lily
Adding the yellow ochre to the main calla lily, and it is starting to really look nice

Finishing the drawing

At this point, it was just a matter of intensifying some of the colors, since the tinted charcoal set is more about subtle colors than bright, high-chroma or saturated color. It’s a bit of a seesaw, where I added more tinted charcoal to one section, then look to make sure the rest are in balance with it. Rinse and repeat however many times necessary – and this time it didn’t take as much fiddling and fussing to get to a point where I decided to call it done.

Calla Lilies 3, drawing in tinted charcoal, prints available
Calla Lilies 3, drawing in tinted charcoal in sketchbook, prints available

Since this is in my well-worn sketchbook, the original is not for sale. The corners on this sketchbook are quite rounded at this point. The scan came out very nicely, so prints are available through my Pixels store, while the various apparel and accessories are up at my RedBubble shop.

I have already started a similar piece, this time using my oil pastels (which is just about the polar opposite of charcoal drawing!) on some larger paper. I am still thinking about trying to do this in watercolor at some point as well, just not sure when. Calla lilies are just visually interesting for me, and I confess I have fallen in love with this flower since the first time I did the white on black drawings last year.

Daisies drawing in tinted charcoal

Now, to wrap up the three day daisies art challenge from last weekend. For the third day, I decided to do multiple daisies instead of another solo daisy study, and it was high time I did something significant with my Derwent tinted charcoal set (*) that I’ve mentioned before. Before I show the result, I want to mention that I did not use a black charcoal at all for this piece, despite how it may look. I used two shades of green, two shades of blue, a yellow ochre shade called sand, a medium brown they call driftwood, and white charcoal for the highlights. I drew the preliminary sketch in that trusty old sketchbook, which ought to be full by summer’s end, and then transferred the contour sketch to my good charcoal paper, Strathmore 500 series (*) with laid texture in what they call a natural white and what I call a warm white.

(Note: All links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. This means if you purchase art supplies through my links, I will earn a small commission on the sale at no extra cost to you – my commission is included in their advertising budget.)

first version of Daisies, tinted charcoal on paper
Daisies, tinted charcoal drawing on paper, before darkening the background

Looking at the scan, I could probably have worked the dark on the background in a little better, to push the value contrast (the fancy art term is chiaroscuro, which is Italian for “light-dark”) that gives charcoal drawings their visual impact. In fact, now that I have seen that, I cannot unsee it and therefore must fix it.

Two charcoal layers later

Okay, I am back now. I think this is an improvement, though I am staring to feel tempted to just grab a soft black traditional charcoal pencil or stick to seriously darken that background up, despite starting this wanting to use only the tinted charcoal.

Final version of charcoal drawing Daisies
Daisies, tinted charcoal drawing on paper (darker final version), 12 by 9 inches, original available $100 USD

The reference photo

I almost forgot to include the reference photo I used from Pixabay. As y’all can see, I cropped it to simplify the composition and took my usual amount of artistic license after that.

photo of multiple daisies
original photograph

Links to purchase

Now that I have fiddled with it a bit more, time for the links y’all will need. If you want the original in all its dusty glory (and that is with a couple layers of fixative spray) and have the right spot and frame, you can purchase the unframed drawing through Daily Paintworks. You can order larger or smaller prints through my Pixels subdomain, with some fun swag as well. For an even-larger variety of apparel and accessories, browse my RedBubble shop.

Final rambling thoughts

If anyone is wondering what took so long for me to post the last piece of the daisy art challenge, I decided to move the blog to a new host and it did not go smoothly. I spent an entire weekend banging my head against vague error codes, and once it was finally done I did not want to even look at the blog for a couple days. Now I will be going back and revising all my previous posts, since I now have more tools to use.

Meanwhile, I feel like I have fallen even further behind. I have another new artwork to show off – the painting for my June 2022 frame giveaway, which I mailed off today – and forgot to get a snapshot of before I packed it up. I still have the last candlelight piece to post here as well as finding some more small watercolors from before I was blogging anywhere, so plenty more art-blogging to come.

White Carnation in black charcoal

Do y’all remember my frame giveaway on Facebook back in December? Or maybe you are a recent subscriber and missed it. I am doing it again for the month of June! Yes indeed, I will be giving away a frame and the winner gets to choose the subject for the artwork to go in it. I can already say I will be doing the winning painting in acrylic.

White carnation charcoal drawing

Now that I have an example, and a bit of experience doing this, it ought to go more smoothly this time around. A lady named Dorothy won the first frame giveaway, and I found out after the fact she is my friend Keashia’s aunt. She originally wanted me to draw her portrait, but when I realized I am still too rusty to pull that off to my satisfaction, I asked what her favorite flower is and was told a carnation. I decided to do it up in black charcoal (because I had not yet bought the colored charcoal) so that meant a white carnation. I couldn’t find a reference photo I liked that featured a white carnation, so I ended up using a photo of a light pink one, which didn’t make any difference since I was working in black on white. The framed drawing:

White Carnation charcoal drawing in wood frame
White Carnation in frame, won by Dorothy in the December give-away

There is no original available, as I passed the framed drawing on to Keashia to give to Dorothy since I was in the middle of bottling goat kids. Keashia says Dorothy loves it.

Art print information

I did scan it and upload it to my Pixels shop if any of y’all would like prints. I didn’t upload it to RedBubble because I don’t think my black and white work looks as good there. (If you leave me a comment saying you think otherwise, I will set that up for you though.)

Scan of charcoal flower drawing White Carnation
White Carnation, 5 by 7 inches charcoal on paper, prints available

Meanwhile, those of you on Facebook will need to follow my art page there and then check after the first of the month if FB doesn’t show you the announcement post (because sometimes they don’t). I will pin the giveaway post to the top of the page for the month, which will contain the instructions. For those who do not use Facebook, or have abandoned FB, I will think of something for here on the blog for September, so be sure to subscribe if you are interested in that.

Finally, just a quick link to my previous charcoal artwork round-up post.