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.

Starting the Daisy Challenge with a Blind Contour Drawing

I have started a new art challenge at the usual forum, where the challenge mastermind Abbie has been running a series of three-day challenges which started with the “fire” challenge, then moved to two challenges that had themes that just aren’t in my repertoire, bedroom items and aircraft. When I saw the theme for this challenge, I knew I wanted to to do it- daisies. I have a folder of reference photos on my computer marked daisies, not to mention a collection of more ref photos over on Pixabay – which reminds me: I really ought to start linking to the original photos I base my paintings and drawings on so y’all can see how I interpret them since I do not actually copy the reference photos.

This will also address a second challenge from here on the blog, the blind contour drawing challenge I linked to in last week’s Feature Friday, so this first piece covers both. I pulled out my almost-full sketchbook that has served me so well these past two years, then grabbed three oil pastels (because I am still in a bit of an oil pastel mood) and set up my inspiration: an unfinished acrylic painting that has been waiting for its feature in an “On the Easel” post here, or for me to feel like finishing it. I’ll likely work on it today when the storms roll in and knock out our satellite internet connection (like yesterday). I didn’t close my eyes, but I didn’t look at my sketch – I looked at this:

unnamed 10×10 inch acrylic painting of a bee on a daisy on stretched canvas

I had started this so enthusiastically a while back, then had to stop working on it to put critters up or something to do with the critters, I honestly don’t remember exactly why, but I put it on the easel the other week and my mother-in-law saw it last time she came down and remarked how much she likes it so far. (Note ref photo for this is here on Pixabay, for those curious.)

Blind contour daisy drawing

Now, for the blind contour reveal. I’ll say upfront that it isn’t bad for not looking at it – I tend to have a good spatial memory, and if you tilt your head to the side and maybe squint it looks like the unfinished painting on the easel.

blind contour drawing of the daisy

Blind contour drawings can run the range from abstract to primitive to just downright funny-looking, and this one fits in there somewhere. It’s a fun little exercise, and often provokes laughter, which is a good way to start out for a day’s art session. Art doesn’t always need to be so serious. For those who missed it last week, Siena Blue came up with this idea and will be posting links to all the participants on the 15th for an old-fashion blog hop/link party (which is another fun thing we used to do back in the day that I would love to see make a comeback).

So, who else is brave enough to post up their blind contour drawings?

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.