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.

In the Easel: Red admiral butterfly in acrylic

I felt motivated to paint today, and this one has actually been on my easel for a few weeks without progress. I originally picked out the subject and reference photo back in November for the red challenge that I didn’t finish. In fact, I had even done up an acrylic sketch on paper. You can even get a print of the sketch, though once I complete the final painting and scan it in, I will be replacing the image that is there now.

rough acrylic sketch for red admiral butterfly, 11 by 14 acrylic on paper

I did it quickly, and in the evening after running errand around the county and was tired and my back hurt … yet when my friend Keashia saw it, she immediately said I needed to do it again “for reals.” I didn’t get around to that until last month, and am not setting any speed-painting records on it, but today I’ve managed to make it look like I want it to look.

on the easel: red admiral butterfly, 11 by 14 inch acrylic on stretched canvas

Yes, that is purple where I will eventually be painting black (maybe). I have two sampler sets of Golden brand Open acrylic, which is their slow-drying formula made for the en plein aire painters, but right now I am using the quick-dry acrylics to get the undertones down. I don’t have actual black in the Golden Open sets, but I do have a very traditional work-around: ultramarine blue and burnt umber, along with a convenience mixture they call sap green which I am using in the background of the piece.

When I looked up the red admiral butterfly, all the sources said I ought to have seen this pretty and eye-catching bug at least over the winter season. Alas, I have yet to catch a glimpse of one, though we have plenty of swallowtails and sulfurs fluttering across and around the property. I’ll be painting those as well in the future.

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.

Cherry Blossoms of Spring

Spring is my busy season around the property, and this year has been par for the course with five goat kids, firing up the incubator, and rabbits kindling. While I have been on a charcoal kick so far for 2022, yesterday and this morning it felt so good to have a paint brush in my hand and to work with some color. The interesting angle on this is Judith over at Artistcoveries posted the other day about an historical debate between color and drawing, and how she feels she is on the color side of the argument because she can do color without drawing. I commented that given my ongoing charcoal drawing kick, I have to take the drawing side of that argument, because I can (and do) draw without employing color but flounder on the idea of using color without some drawing element. I suppose that is a succinct way of saying I just don’t feel abstract art like some folks do. We then agreed that it is better to not try to draw a line between these aspects since the art world is certainly big enough for not only both viewpoints, but some that are outside of this binary.

Yeah, I do indeed read other artists’ blogs, and heartily recommend doing so because the interplay of ideas often sparks inspiration all around. Case in point, fellow art blogger Steven of Backyard Image was inspired by my charcoal monarch butterfly I posted last time to play with his photographs and filter software to produce his own new piece. What he doesn’t (yet) know is a previous post of his inspired me to do up both charcoal and watercolor pictures of cherry blossoms, because what says spring quite like the brief glorious week of the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. in bloom? My post inspired him, and one of his inspired me.

I had intended to use the cherry blossom motif for a new art challenge which had the stated theme of “time,” but apparently the lady who organizes these challenges had a much more narrow interpretation than I do. I wasn’t the only participant who took a broader view of the theme, though most focused on timepieces of one sort or another. I just quietly dropped out to pursue my own thing, because that is what I do.

First step for me was to hop onto Pixabay and hunt up some nice cherry blossoms reference photos. As usual, I found a good handful that suited what I had in mind, then it was on to cropping it “just right” because I am just picky like that. Once I selected my target ref photo and had it cropped, then it was time for a charcoal value sketch, where I get a feel for the shapes and shadows. This is “just” a sketch, so nothing as fancy as a full drawing for a charcoal piece, and since it is in my raggedy sketchbook, there is no original to offer, but I did upload it to Pixels for art prints since it makes a nice companion to the watercolor version.

charcoal value sketch for Cherry Blossoms, 9 by 12 inches, in sketchbook

Once I was satisfied the image has enough value contrast to be visually appealing, it was time to transfer it to watercolor paper to paint. These days I do not sketch on watercolor paper, because even when I use watercolor pencils I can still see grid lines, so I now draw it in my sketchbook and use graphite transfer paper to get the necessary lines, which I often lighten up with a kneaded eraser before laying down paint. Just for fun, I wanted to see if I could pull this painting off only using three colors: cobalt blue, rose red (which is more a magenta if you ask me), and burnt umber. I think I succeed.

Cherry Blossoms of Spring, 9 by 12 inches, watercolor, $80 USD

For this iteration, the original is available, 9 by 12 inches, sealed with Dorland’s wax medium and if you are not local you can purchase through Daily PaintWorks via PayPal. Prints are through Pixels, along with a bit of swag like puzzles or a fancy shower curtain. I also uploaded the image to RedBubble, which has a nice variety of apparel, plus the face clock. I simply must include the image of the face clock – I think it looks awesome.

Cherry Blossoms of Spring as a clock face

Now, for the best news: the goat kids are down to two and three bottle feedings a day, which means I now have more time to get back to my art. They are cute, they are affectionate, but for the first four to five weeks they are rather needy, but now they are growing up and two have gone off to a new home where I have no doubt they will be spoiled rotten (no change from their life here).

Some Odds and Ends

Looking through what I have uploaded to my Pixels site, I realize I am missing a blog post. Then I realized the scan I had uploaded that was (past tense now) available was from my old scanner, and that needed fixing. So, I rescanned the page from my sketchbook and replaced the old, smaller file size scan, and now I can proudly say you can get a print of this either a little smaller or a whole lot larger … like 45 by 60 inch at the biggest. That’s even bigger than my largest canvas right now! So without further ado, here is one of my favorite pages from my sketchbook, a monarch butterfly on a coneflower, rendered in charcoal.

Monarch on coneflower, charcoal, 9 by 12 inch sketchbook page

In other news, there is a county fair this year, after a two-year hiatus, and I remembered in time to check for when they are accepting entries for the art category. It is Thursday evening and Friday morning, and I have that time block free. I will be taking up two works, the two first place winners from the VA Healthcare show. I still love how my Flamingo in Rippled Water turned out, and when I showed these two pieces to my neighbor who stopped by yesterday, he told me if it doesn’t get bought at the fair to come to him because he really wants my Dew on a Calla Lily drawing. Actually, he tried to persuade me to give it to there on the spot, but I am used to that routine by now, after living just down the road from him for nine years now.

Final bit is you may notice I have added an old style blog roll in the sidebar. Right now it is all art photographers, but I am hoping to find a drawing and painting blogger to also collaborate with soon. I blogged back in the days before social media was even a thing, and remember not only the sense of camaraderie we had, but also the fun things we used to do to help each other like link roundups, blog hops, and blog carnivals. Once I get through the busy part of spring, it will be, “Game ON!” with those ideas, so something to look forward to once the yellow flies come out of the swamp.

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.

the rest of the Month of Drawing

Now, for part two of my unplanned month of drawing that bled into the last day of 2021, and continued to the first day of February, and lasted the entire month of January. (Wow, that makes it sound really long!) Considering it is still in progress, I guess we are now well beyond the month idea, so perhaps I should call this a season of drawing? One big advantage drawing has over painting is how quickly it can be set aside to go do something else, and considering I have two nanny goats due to kid in the next month I think it is safe to say I’ll be working with dry media until probably mid to late March because one of the pure JOYS of having my goats is bottlefeeding the kids each spring. Even if I want to take a break from monochrome charcoal, I have soft pastels (I often call them dusties), pastel pencils, regular colored pencils, and even oil pastels, though the oilies will smear if a cat walks across before I’ve sealed it.

Enough rambling – back to the drawing spree I am still currently doing. A couple weeks ago, I got an email on a list I subscribed to for a free tutorial offering the “legacy class bundle” for a discounted price. I thought it over, then decided the sale price was fair and bought a whole huge heap of video tutorials, and decided to start with the drawing ones. I am bouncing around as to which one I do any given day, depending on my mood, and here are the first pieces I’ve drawn with the tutorials. I should probably mention the artist who made the tutorial bundle does photorealism. I call what I do just realism, as I don’t actually try to copy a photo down to the tiniest detail, but there are all kinds of small tips and pointers littered throughout the videos’ run times that can benefit me even if I don’t go as detailed as she does.

First, I just had to start with this rose in charcoal. Seriously, what is not to love here? I enjoy drawing and painting roses, and apparently people enjoy seeing drawings and paintings of roses, and a single white rose against a mostly-black background is about as dramatic as you can get without using color. To be honest, sometimes the monochromatic charcoal black on white can be more dramatic than color (when the stars align just right and and the picture feels like it just flows out from the pencil). This is in 8 by 10 inch format, and the very first page of a new sketchbook, plus I put it in the top corner instead of centered on the page so the original for this will not be available to buy … but I can do it again if someone wants me to, and in different size or aspect ratio. I do have prints available at my Pixels store, but I didn’t upload it to RedBubble because I am not sure my charcoal work looks as good there.

Single White Rose, 8 by 10 inch charcoal (in sketchbook)

The very next day I wanted to do another drawing, and picked a reference photo for a different tutorial. It was a video on how to transfer an image from a printed photo onto your art paper, so this is me taking the tips and general method from the rose video to make these two flamingo heads. Flamingoes are definitely one of my favorite birds to draw and paint, and this image just caught my imagination. This time, I centered the 8 by 10 inch image on my not-quite 9 by not-quite 12 inch sketchbook page, so if anyone wants to purchase the original I can remove the page and trim it down with no problem – if you live outside my area you can buy through Daily Paintworks. Or you can get prints in your desired size at my Pixels store.

Two Flamingoes, 8 by 10 inch charcoal on heavy paper, $80 USD

Those of y’all who have known me a while are already wondering how long it took me to go completely off the tutorials to do my own thing … and the magic number was three. Two days after drawing the flamingo heads, I decided it was past time I did a horse in charcoal. It took me a while to pick out a reference photo, but in the end I went with a galloping filly. I decided to try using hot press watercolor paper instead of multimedia or charcoal/pastel paper, and that goes back to the tutorial series. It is the first time I’ve used watercolor paper for something other than watercolor, and it is also the first time I’ve heard of using a dry media on paper for water media. I think I need to try a few more times before I can say if I like it or not, but it does have a different feel than normal dry drawing paper. This one is an actual 12 by 9 inch pad of paper, and the original is available for purchase through Daily PaintWorks. Prints of various sizes are available at my Pixels site as well.

Frolicking Filly, 12 by 9 inch charcoal on paper, $80 USD

I mentioned at the start of this post that my drawing kick kicked off on New Year’s Eve, and that is because I drew the winner of December’s frame giveaway that evening before bed. Since Murphy’s Law governs more than just the army, the winner wants her portrait to go into the frame she won. I am still knocking the rust off my people-drawing skills, and there is a series for that in the big legacy class bundle. First things first – an eye study since the eyes are the main feature that will make-or-break a portrait. I had my dog-eared almost-full old sketchbook within reach, so this is one I am not offering the original … and I have not uploaded it for prints either. About the only place I could see this in a frame and on a wall would be the waiting room of an optometry office. It is still “good training,” as we used to say in the army.

Eye study, 12 by 9 inch charcoal, in sketchbook

So this brings me current, as of today. I have tutorials on drawing the nose and the mouth to work through, then one on doing a whole face. After that, I may feel brave enough to try my hand at Dorothy’s portrait again. Yes, again – I did try early in January and was not satisfied with the result (which made the sale on the tutorial videos quite timely for me). I may be very much behind my self-set schedule for getting this out, but as I remarked to my husband yesterday, I won’t call a piece done until I am satisfied with how it has turned out. If that means I need to redo it until I get it to my satisfaction, well we did that in the army as well!

Until my next check-in!

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

I sat down this afternoon determined to at least play with my watercolor paints. I’ve tried to do some painting the past few days, but my cats have been determined to get all of my attention. When I finally get one off my lap, the other hops up. They can be needy as well as kneady. Today, the coast was clear for at least a quick watercolor sketch.

I started out just playing with the paints and water, as I tried to decide on a subject to sketch, thinking to myself, “I need to make hay while the sun shines.” As soon as that thought popped into my head, I remembered I noticed fresh round bales in a hayfield on the way into town. I had remarked to hubby it would make a nice painting as we drove past, with the sun shining down on the new hay bales.

Make Hay While the Sun Shines, 12 by 9 inch watercolor on paper, $100 USD plus shipping

It is honestly a simple sketch in paint, but I think it worked. My husband says the sky came out quite nicely. I quipped, “I am pleased with how it turned out, and maybe after I paint a thousand more then perhaps I’ll be consistent!” It felt good to be able to upload a new painting again.

Now, for the grubby details – the original is available through Daily PaintWorks, while prints are at my Pixels store, and apparel and accessories (including hats now) are at RedBubble. I will be doing more hay fields, using other media like oil pastel or acrylic. I have reference photos, all I need is a handful of hours without a cat either on my lap or on my desk.

Three Fireflies

As a companion to yesterday’s Three Dragonflies, I present the nocturn version (a nocturn is a fancy word for a painting depicting night) Three Fireflies. I like this one better than the day version, just because the colors came out that much more … insert another fancy art jargon word here. My mind is on today’s painting, but I am waiting for the black gesso to dry. (As an aside, I may need to write up a product review on this stuff at some point: Golden black gesso.)

Three Fireflies, 9 by 12 inch acrylic on primed paper, original available $80 USD

The painting scanned so beautifully! Honestly, unless you look at with under strong light, it looks a lot darker in person. I am still quite pleased with this scanner I bought with pandemic stimulus money last year.

The original of this is available, on 9 by 12 inch gessoed paper, through PayPal via Daily PaintWorks. Prints both smaller and larger are at my Pixels store, while apparel and accessories are at my RedBubble shop.

So far, the other art challenge participants seem more enthusiastic about this painting than they are about the first one, but that’s okay because I agree with them. At some point, I will want to revisit the whole fireflies nocturn idea, but today kicks off a 30 day, “red” themed art challenge while also wrapping up the three day one, so today’s painting will need to satisfy two art themes (which thankfully do not conflict!). So if I am able to stick with it this time, expect a whole month of paintings involving red … which will definitely include some poinsettias.

Three Dragonflies acrylic sketch

We started a new art challenge yesterday. It is a short duration one, only three days, with the theme of “three.” Separate from this, but hosted by the same moderator, is an “Edit This” challenge where we are given a photo to edit, draw, or paint in whatever way we please, as long as the hosting moderator can tell you’ve started with the given photo. Inspiration struck first with the ET photo (that sounds funny to me!), then quickly blossomed into an idea where I can do both, plus get the first day of the November 30 day challenge which has the theme of “red.” First, the sacrificial photo:

Edit This #54 photo

It’s cute, and painting mushrooms seems to be a thing right now, so first I thought butterflies around the mushroom, but then I thought dragonflies, or maybe even fireflies … or better yet, dragonflies around the mushroom by day (on white paper to start) and then fireflies around it by night, which would give me the perfect excuse to try out my black gesso on white oil and acrylic paper to see if that stuff is as strong as it looks (spoiler alert: it certainly is!). And so that brings us to day one of the 3-day “three” challenge and the first of my entries into the Edit This challenge: Three Dragonflies.

Three Dragonflies, 9 by 12 inch acrylic on paper, available, $80 USD for original

It turned out cute, a bit on the whimsical side, mostly simple in layering and color, and overall I like it. I listed the original on Daily Paintworks last night, as well as uploading the high resolution scan to my Pixels site for prints. This morning I uploaded said hi-res scan to my shop at RedBubble for the apparel and accessories, positioning the image just right for the clock. At some point, I will get myself one of those clocks … once I decide which artwork to have on it. I doubt I have enough wallspace for all the ones that look nice on that clock face, not to mention the amount of batteries I’d need to keep them all on the right time.

I started the firefly version, as alluded to above, by first testing the black gesso. It’s almost dry enough to start painting now!