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.”

Candle still life in oil pastel

Finally returning to the third and last piece I did for the flame challenge, though I was not able to upload it on time. I already showed a preview of it in the early stages, but have had this candle still life in oil pastel done for a while now. May I present Book Reading By Candlelight, as I finally named it. (In all honesty, it took me almost as long to figure out the title as it took to blend the base layer!)

candle themed still life with open book and reading glasses on wooden table, with lighted candle as focal point
Book Reading By Candlelight, 11 by 14 inch oil pastel on primed paper, original and art prints available

Art supplies used

I used a sheet of Canson XL oil and acrylic primed paper, because I absolutely love the texture on it for oil pastels. I used my Mungyo Gallery standard set for the base layer, because that lovely texture will eat up softer oil pastels. For the record, that textured paper also tears up the cotton swabs I use to blend, so it is a good thing I can get a nice big package for only a few dollars at WalMart. On larger areas, I sometimes use napkins that I keep on my desk from takeout – those also do a great job of cleaning up spills (paint, coffee, etc).

base layer of Book Reading by Candlelight
base layer of oil pastel for Book Reading By Candlelight, on my 72 color set of Mungyo Gallery standard

I’m afraid I only have the one in-progress picture, because once I blended the base layer and took a break I put on my headphones and got into the zone, totally forgetting about the digicam as I happily lost myself in the sheer joy of playing with sticks of color. What can I say? I am an artist. This is an artist thing.

For the top layers, I used my Gallery Artist set – only 48 colors, so as I often do I used my Erengi Art Aspirer 50 stick set alongside it since the two manufacturers include different colors in their very comparable and compatible sets. I should note that since then, I purchased the 72 color set from Mungyo in a nice wooden box, and the 92 stick set from Erengi, also in a nice wood box. The Erengi set also includes two colorless blenders … if those work better than cheap cotton swabs I’ll be buying them by the dozen.

Links to purchase original and art prints

Now, for the part y’all have been waiting eagerly for: how to get this for your wall! At present, the original is available (though my friend Keashia says she is very tempted to get this because it will match the decor in her new house) and you can purchase it through Daily Paintworks. For larger (or even smaller) art prints to fit the empty spot over your favorite reading chair, browse the selection at my Pixels store. I uploaded it to my RedBubble shop so you can get it printed on apparel, accessories, and fun swag.

So, one last question: who is brave (or crazy) enough to get this printed on a puzzle?

What a week: lighted candles still life

I had plans for this past week, which included participating in a short three-day art challenge with the theme “fire,” and had a virtual “seat” at another blogging symposium scheduled to start on Wednesday, along with my usual posts here.

A good start: Lavender Candles still life

Monday started off as planned, and even though I had an appointment and errands to run up in Palatka, I still came home and worked up my first piece for the art challenge, which I call Lavender Scented Candles. I often like to work on a theme-within-a-theme for these short art challenges, and this time was no different with my narrower theme being lighted candles. I had chosen three (and only three, this time) reference photos, and the only question I had Monday afternoon was which I thought I could do in a shorter time frame. I decided to work in oil pastel for the first one, and found a photo of two lit round candles on a tray, looking like those lovely lavender scented candles I so adore. (Lavender scent tends to evoke a relaxed feeling in most people.) Only two layers and a couple breaks to stretch my fingers, and it was time to put a coat of ModPodge over it so I could scan it, since oil pastel will indeed smear all over the scanner glass if not sealed with something, and ModPodge dries relatively quickly and adheres to the oil pastel in previous pieces.

Scented Lavender Candles, 9 by 12 inch oil pastel on paper, $100 USD available

I didn’t build up enough layers to cover the laid pattern on the paper, partly because I like being able to see the texture and partly because I was working to finish within the time limit of the challenge, which is one piece both started and finished in a single day. Prints are available at my Pixels store, along with a few accessories and home decor items … and of course, puzzles for the adventurous. If I had a cat-free zone, I’d totally try one of these puzzles. For the folks who like the swag over at RedBubble, here’s your link with a note that RB has added some new items like caps, pet blankets and mats, and even a pet bandana, which is triangle and doesn’t seem to go well with most of my artwork. If you want the original, and are not local to me, you can purchase it through Daily PaintWorks, which uses PayPal although now you do not need a PP account to use it. All things considered, Monday went smoothy for me, even though I had to stay up an extra half hour to wait for the ModPodge coat to dry enough to scan it and then upload it.

Needing to improvise: stylized Holiday Hope Candle

Y’all have probably already guessed Tuesday didn’t go quite so smoothly. I gessoed a 9 by 12 inch canvas with my black gesso, and lightly sketched out the main components of my planned painting with a hard graphite pencil, then began to paint with my acrylics … and got to a point where it felt like no matter what I was doing, I just could not seem to paint my way out of the Ugly Stage. Right before we went out to round up the various critters, feed them and put them up for the night, I had a stroke of inspiration. When I came back in, I pulled out a small 6 by 8 inch canvas pad that was already primed for both acrylic and oil paint, and started painting a very stylized red candle with no background other than the white primer. Less than half an hour later, I had my second piece completed and dry enough to scan and upload, and maybe even get to bed at the normal time. I call it Holiday Hope Candle, and did no shading. Prints and greeting cards are available through my Pixels store, and the RedBubble link for apparel and accessories is here. I have plans for the original now, but if you’d like to commission another one, just let me know.

Hope Holiday Candle, 6 by 8 inches acrylic on canvas, $45 USD original available

And then things got weird

This is the part where my week went all sideways on me. We had some internet troubles on Tuesday, but it was episodic and came back up, so we didn’t think much of it … until Wednesday morning when the satellite connection was completely down with no weather-related excuse for it. Hubby got on his touchscreen phone to see if there was anything about the outage in local media. He found an announcement of an upgrade for our area, then we had to figure out how to force the company’s automated phone tree to connect us with a real person in tech support to find out whether our modem was compatible with this announced upgrade. Eventually, we navigated that obstacle, and tech support said no, our reliable old modem (purchased in 2013 when we moved here) was not compatible with the upgraded system and we needed a new one, and she could schedule a contractor to come out Thursday afternoon at the earliest. I had planned to draw or paint my third piece in my candlelight series while listening to another blogging symposium on Wednesday. So much for that.

So we went through all day Wednesday and half of Thursday with absolutely no internet. Zip, zilch, nada. The contractor came out on time, got right to work, and then made sure everything worked before he left, all in a professional and competent manner. Then it was a matter of trying to get caught up on whatever we missed. I am still not caught up on reading all my email, though I did see that the blogging symposium had been delayed due to a storm knocking out the power in the city of the person putting it on, so I was not the only person having technical difficulties this week.

Since I knew I would not be able to upload anything on Wednesday, I did not do my third piece. I was frustrated and out of sorts, so hubby put on an audio book to entertain us and I tried to play video games while listening and providing a lap for my cats. This seems to be a bad habit I do, giving up and walking away (sometimes literally) when I know it won’t get the result I desire. I need to work on this, and I think I will do that this weekend and finish my candlelight challenge even though the deadline has passed. I had been saving the best reference photo for last, and while I haven’t decided whether to do it in oil pastel or watercolor, I would like to have a third one for the series.

Feature Friday ought to return next week – some of those emails I have not read yet are from the blogs I read, and rather than try to rush anything, I’ll just get back on track and back in the saddle next week. Who knows – I may have a new and appropriate drawing by then as well.

Christmas Candle still life drawing

I did another Christmas card artwork sooner rather than later, and yes this is related to another art challenge. The theme was not announced until the evening prior, and the prompt was, “after dark.” I have actually intended to do this holiday-themed still life for a while now, and just hadn’t sat down and done more than just a rough sketch and obtain a good reference photo. This turned out to be the perfect excuse to just do it. What I’ve had in mind is a Christmas-themed still life arrangement with a lighted candle, and for the level of detail I wanted to capture, colored pencils are best. I may not use them nearly as much as my other media, but when I do it is for something specific and detailed.

Christmas Candle still life drawing in only white on black paper for a minimalist look
Christmas Candle, white on black first stage 12 x 9 inch –

I stopped long enough to scan the image in white-on-black, just in case I was still not satisfied with the coloring-in by bedtime. Surprisingly, several of my fellow artists and challenge participants like this better than the final color version. Comments received so far include “surprising,” “minimalist,” and just plain “cool.” I do not have an original for this version for obvious reasons, but I could probably make one if requested. I only have this version up at my Pixels site for prints and even cards.

Adding color to the drawing

I have to confess, I expected the coloring-in phase to be more of a battle than it was. I often say, “Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug,” and yesterday went smooth enough to qualify as being the windshield. The black paper has a laid texture to it, and is made for charcoal and soft pastel, so it didn’t take the colored pencil as fully as smooth paper would, but I like the effect and will be using it again. If you would like to own the original, you may purchase through Daily Paintworks here.

Colored pencil on black paper, Christmas Candle still life with pine cones and colored lights
Christmas Candle, colored pencil still life on black paper, 12 x 9 inches, $100 USD

I do love how the pinecones turned out! Y’all will likely never see my first attempt at drawing a pinecone, which is probably for the best. The colors pop against the black background so nicely. Finally, the contrast between the still life objects in focus and the colored lights being completely out-of-focus in the background came out just as I had hoped. Prints and cards are at the Pixels store, while apparel and accessories are at RedBubble.

So, time to ask your input: which version do you like better, and why? Should I do up a new white-on-black version? I suppose I ought to joke, “Asking for a friend.”

A Single Candle drawing in colored pencil

A single lighted orange candle in the darkness, the flame’s glow burning brightly.  Colored pencil on black paper, this is a study for a more complex still life drawing idea I have in mind.  The study turned out so nicely, I had to offer it up. 

color pencil study of A Single Candle on black paper, lighted orage pillar candle with flame the focal point
A Single Candle, 9 by 12 inch color pencil on black paper, original available

Original is 12 by 9 inch paper, and can be bought via Daily PaintWorks.  Prints are available at my Pixels store and accessories at my RedBubble store.

Technical drawing notes

Because I am asked by other artists wanting to try this technique, I thought I should share one very big tip and some smaller drawing tips I used to achieve this lighted candle effect. None of these are original – I found most in various YouTube videos on the subject – but here they are in one spot for reference.

  • Use a reference photo – this is mine
  • Outline where you want what on the drawing
  • On the brightest parts, use white pencil first for a base layer, fading to the black of the paper
  • For that pale yellow glow, lay down an underlayer of pale yellow before going over it with the intended color
  • for a visual example of the white underlayer, see my post on my Christmas Candle still life drawing

Lighted candle drawings

I’ll likely be doing even more drawings of lighted candles, because not only are they a fun challenge to draw or paint properly, but I just love watching a candle’s flame dance as the air moves around it. Also, I love trying to capture that warm glow of candlelight, not only in the flame itself but the way it lights all the objects around it. I especially intend to do some still life drawings featuring lighted candles, as those tend to be my favorite compositions.