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.

Feature Friday 3: Back in the Saddle

There is an old saying about how if you fall off your horse, the best thing to do is to get back in the saddle and finish the ride. Y’all probably noticed I missed a couple of Fridays in a row, but not to worry … I even have the perfect sketchbook page to share for this! I’ll likely be doing similar post beginnings, though I can’t guarantee I’ll have the appropriate drawing to share (or maybe I will?).

first drawing using my new tinted charcoal - a horse saddled up and waiting for the rider
saddled up – sketchbook page, first drawing using my tinted charcoal

Some of you might recall the little teaser I dropped at the end of my charcoal drawings post where I mentioned getting the Derwent tinted charcoal set – first the small six-color set to try it out, then the biggest set of 24 pencils before I even got this far on my first drawing because I love how they feel on the paper along with really loving the resulting drawing. I stopped messing with this particular sketch as I realized I stumbled across the first practical lesson for tinted charcoal: use the lightest shades first. See that saddle blanket? While waiting for the big set of charcoals to arrive, I had picked up a black charcoal pencil and doodled in the border design. When I got the big set and pulled out the one called sand to pencil in the rest of the blanket, I realized as soon as I try to blend it with a paint brush, the black will smear. So, like Bob Seger sang, it was time to turn the page. I’ll be revisiting that reference photo in the future, because I really do like it, and will certainly be doing a color version, though I might do a monochrome version just because it looks like a good piece to do in only one color. I just have not yet decided whether that will be black or one of the brown charcoals.

Blog posts I’ve enjoyed over the past couple weeks

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to videos and podcasts on the subject of blogging, partly as a refresher course and partly to see what has changed over the decade I wasn’t blogging. The fundamentals are still the same: write your blog for people to read and enjoy, and the search engines will follow. Some of the stuff we used to do back in the day (like this link roundup feature I am trying to resurrect) just fell by the wayside, and I am not seeing a reason why other than the “oh, that’s so 2008!” statement. If gas station prices are going to look like ’08, then why not blogs?

Another thing I see that hasn’t changed is that the good blogs all have a “why” for their existence. This dovetails neatly with the recent article I read about how an artist’s statement helps the fans and viewers to better grok the artist’s body of work. I wanted to link to this article, but apparently that is one of the email-subscription only pieces, as the Inside Art site skips that day in the post sequence. The short version of this point is I am giving the concept some thought about how to expand my artist’s statement beyond, “I make art to bring some beauty into the world.”

So why am I blogging again? I got frustrated with Facebook. It’s (*bleep!*) difficult to link back to previous posts – and most days it’s (*BLEEP!*) difficult to even find a post again unless you leave a tab open with it. Facebook may be “more” interactive than blogs (which is a very debatable point, IMO) but it is not what I think user-friendly ought to be. (I should note that I never intended to have a FB account, but it seems to be expected, and a good portion of my family is on there. I’m just trying to set up a lemonaide stand with the FB lemon.) Last summer, I got frustrated enough with trying to find something again on FB that I announced to hubby, “I am going back to blogging!” And after a brief stint over on blogspot, I made my way here, back to my own domain and even back to WordPress. Now, it’s time to work on improving the site. If you are not already a subscriber, now would be a really good time to subscribe, either through a reader or by email, because I am only getting started here.

Speaking of starting, on Monday I’ll be participating in a new three-day art challenge, where the theme is “fire.” I’ve done it in colored pencil, twice, so I will be experimenting with other media. Right now, I think I’d like to break out the oil pastels for this, though I might try my brush with either watercolor or acrylic. Stay tuned!

Charcoal artwork: Links, promo material, and a preview

Continuing on my roundup theme I’ve been on this past week, I made a YouTube video spotlighting all my current charcoal drawings and uploaded it this morning. Keep in mind this is my first YT video, and I can see a couple things to improve, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? I think it is was a good first effort, and does spotlight my charcoal artwork to date. Here it is:

my first YouTube art video – they’ll only get better from here!

I used the format and layout for a short (too short?) video I made for Facebook, which my brother really liked although he said I desperately need some music for it (the FB one) and sent me some of his work. Yeah, my brother is very much the musician in the family, and while I didn’t use any of the mixes he shared with me, we did chat a little this morning about him writing something that fits my art better. If I worked in a more modern art style, I’d have used his demos he sent because they have a definite 21st century vibe to them, while my art tends to have a more classical aesthetic.

Prior to the Facebook short, I had made an animated Pin for Pinterest … and just the other day discovered you can embed a Pin! There’s no stopping this crazy train now …! Oops, too much? I know I can get carried away some times, but the art-geek in me is very excited by this.

my second Idea Pin for Pinterest highlighting my charcoal work

This one quickly eclipsed my first attempt in views, and even got me some new followers over on that platform, so it certainly got tabulated in the Win column. I’m playing around with idea for more, but while those percolate on the back burner of my brain, I thought I’d make up another roundup post to go with all these short videos I’ve made. It would be a little silly to make these videos and not have a matching blog post!

Links to my current charcoal artwork

Here are the links to my individual posts on my charcoal artwork:

That brings me up-to-date on charcoal artwork for now. I have an acrylic painting on the easel just for the joy of playing with color and with a medium that isn’t as dusty, but I expect I will be back at the charcoal idea after this painting because I have some new toys to play with: Derwent brand tinted charcoal. I’ve seen it on the art websites I like to frequent (Jerry’s Artarama and Dick Blick, if family members want to send me gift cards) and was intrigued by the idea, so last month I went ahead and ordered the small set of six. I now have the big set of 24 as well! That ought to say it all when it comes to writing a review without providing pictures (yet!). Tinted charcoal to go with all my black charcoal and even white charcoal (which I also now have to play with on my black paper).

Oh, tomorrow I go get a new goat, the younger full sister of my Cocoa Puff – and she is due to kid “soon,” which means I get to do the whole bottle feeding of baby goats things again “soon.” Which will mean a continuation of the charcoal kick, which was probably going to happen anyway … but this time I have tinted charcoal to experiment with.