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).

Two Drawings

As I was looking over my art catalogue last night for something to feature today, I realized that I had forgotten to blog about two drawings I did last year. What a perfect way to remedy that – by spotlighting these two pieces!

First is one that anyone who knew me growing up would expect: a horse head. The reference photo I found is of a beautiful chestnut mare, likely a Quarter Horse, looking out from the darkness of a barn or stall. I call it Bridled, and recall spending the better part of an afternoon working first to get the background dark enough, then on getting as much of the highlights and shadows right to my eye. This was also the first time I used the Strathmore 500 series charcoal paper, with its laid texture, and the result was pleasing enough I later purchased another pad of it. My only gripe is the paper feels so lightweight after working with multimedia and watercolor papers, but charcoal works need to be displayed behind glass anyway.

Bridled, charcoal on paper, 9 by 12 inches, $80 USD

The original piece is available – you can purchase it through Daily PaintWorks, which uses PayPal, or in person at One Stop Feed Store in Crescent City if you are local – and it is uploaded for art prints at my Pixels store in various sizes. I’ll probably look back at this in a few years as “not my best,” but right now I am pleased with how it turned out. I drew this in June of 2021.

Prior to that, February of 2021 judging from my notes, was this page from my sketchbook that I worked at until I could call it done. Rendered in graphite, which accounts for the greyness, and now a bit worse for the wear after a year of me carrying my sketchbook about, this scan is record of how it looked immediately after completion. Looking back, I am glad I scanned it before moving to the next page, as I went back to this and traced it over transfer paper to paint in watercolor which ended up as my Johnny Jump Ups painting I’ve blogged about previously.

Pansies Pair, sketchbook page

Since I not only left the page in my sketchbook, but used it to transfer the lines to another paper, the original is not available to buy, but since I did scan it, prints are available of it at my Pixels store. Its original size is 9 by 12 inches – perhaps my favorite size for a sketchbook because it is so portable – but the scan was good enough to print larger. It is also available as puzzles for the folks who love a good puzzle and are willing to work on one in greyscale instead of color. I have too many cats in the house to attempt an actual, physical puzzle, or I would give it a go just to see if time spent playing MicroSoft Jigsaw translates into the real world.

More to come soon!

Summer Jalapeno

I am finally getting to the final image from the black and white challenge, which ended up being a photograph I took in early July of my husband’s jalapeno plant, cropped, straightened, and with the color taken out. I had a busy day out of the house that day, running errands up in Palatka, and was tired both physically and mentally once I got home. I really was not happy with the result, and immediately planned to redo it and replace the image with something better, something more “me” than a cluttered and busy photo.

greyscale version of my reference photo

That something else ended up being the very next challenge, which I started with the Calla Lily painting in acrylic. Since the theme for the next challenge was “anything goes,” I figured to do up three images from the black and white challenge in color, using acrylic paint since I could use the practice with that medium.

Some days, the paint just flows perfectly, and the painting comes together “like magic,” as the saying goes. Then, there are days when I feel as though I am fighting every step of the way … and the first day of this painting was definitely a struggle. I blocked out the position of everything easily enough, but my first stab at the background color turned out too purple, so I mixed up some more paint and tried again, with this time being too light a blue. Then, when that dried, I noticed I did cover the too-violet paint well enough in some spots, so I went over it a third time, using the paint straight from the bottle. Then, I turned my attention to the green leaves and stems.

At the time, I only had two shades of green at hand, and neither one was dark enough to be a good jalapeno green. I tried mixing, but at this point it was time to put the critters up for the night and I was frustrated enough I needed to suppress the urge to throw the canvas across the room. That’s usually a clear sign to stop working on it, and try again the next day. So, this painting knocked me out of the short, three-day “anything goes” art challenge, which requires one completed work each day of the challenge. Dropping out of a challenge is only a minor disappointment for me, and one I actually prefer to posting up something I don’t like.

After officially dropping out, hubby was home and asked me what part of the painting had me so frustrated. When I got to the part about not having a good green, he started digging around his bunch of paint (he has used this brand for several years now) and started pulling out half a dozen shades of green for me to choose from. Then he remembered some blending medium that slows drying time that he tried but doesn’t use often, and also a wet palette setup to keep the paint you mix up on the palette from drying while you work.

With the expanded selection of greens available the next day, this painting came together so much easier! This one I actually like, and it is currently on display at El Amigo Mexican Restaurant – because that really is a perfect place to display a painting of a jalapeno plant that has a couple white blossoms, one dark green fruit, and two ripe red peppers (when jalapenos turn red, they are called chipotles). This particular painting may not be perfect (and to be honest, it isn’t because I can spot mistakes) but I like it much better than the photograph.

Summer Jalapeno, 11 by 14 acrylic painting on stretched canvas, original available $175 USD

I’ll likely do a similar painting, or maybe recrop the photo for a more close-up view of it, and hopefully it will have fewer mistakes and be less frustrating. For those who may want a print either larger or smaller than the original 11 by 14, check out my Pixels store. If you want this printed on apparel or swag, look here on RedBubble. For the original, you can email me (“artist” at this domain) or message me on Facebook – or call the number on my business card at the restaurant.

Two Calla Lilies white on black

Circling back to the black and white art challenge, this piece was the fifth one I drew, although it will technically be the last I post of this series, as I will explain in another post. I actually made this drawing before I did the single Calla Lily, and I was pleased enough with this piece to do the other. Like the others in this series, the reference photo used is color, but has enough contrast in values to make for a nice monochrome picture. Like the previous calla lily I posted, I am thinking of doing this one in color with paints, though I am still trying to decide between using acrylic versus oil paint.

Two Calla Lilies, white pencil on black paper, 9 by 12 inches, available $80 USD

Just like all the others in this series, I used 9 by 12 inch black paper and two different brands of white colored pencil. If you are interested in purchasing the original, you can message me on Facebook or email me directly (“artist” at this domain) to arrange. I do offer shipping, which is extra, but I will pack it to minimize potential for damage. Like the other drawings in the white-on-black series, I can add color for additional cost (for an example, see my Christmas Candle post).

If you prefer to have a print either smaller or larger than the 9×12 inch original, check out your options at my Pixels store. For this picture printed on apparel or accessories, browse my RedBubble store.

I still have one more image in this series, although I have replaced the original black and white photograph with an acrylic painting. That post will be next!

White Rose: floral close-up in white on black

Continuing with the artwork I did for the black and white challenge, after doing the bald eagle head study, I decided the white pencil on black paper technique works best for drawing white flowers. When I shared yesterday’s White Cosmos post on Facebook, my mother remarked that the petals of the flower have an almost transparent illusion to them, which seems to confirm my impression. (side note: I cannot see where or how to link to an individual FB post, which is a big reason I like blogs so much better.)

As promised in this post title, day four of the black and white challenge is a white rose, rendered in white pencil on black paper, and in a close-up that goes beyond the frame of the picture. I found this one to be almost meditative to draw and lighten, and while I did not push the highlights too bright, I took care to work on the light coming through the petals in a “glow” appearance. I was not trying for a translucent appearance with the cosmos’ petals, but that was exactly my goal for these delicate rose petals.

White Rose, 12 by 9 inches, white pencil on black paper, original available $80 USD

If the lines of this rose seem a bit familiar, it is because I used the same sketch from the same reference photo as I did for my watercolor painting, Electric Yellow Rose. I reversed – or mirrored, or flipped – the image, which was simply a matter of pulling that page out of my sketch book and holding it up against the window to draw it on the back of the sheet before transferring it to the black paper. Sometimes I want to explore an image in multiple media, so I try to make small changes to it so no two are exactly identical. I guess you could call this a fair warning, as I absolutely love this particular reference photo and will probably do it in acrylic, pastels, maybe charcoal, and definitely in oil paint at some point. The shadows and shapes and play of light on and through the petals is just so visually interesting and even fun to wrestle onto paper (or canvas, soon).

The original drawing is currently available, so drop me a message on Facebook or email me (artist at this domain) if you are interested, and yes I will ship (shipping and packing charges additional). If you want a print either smaller or larger than the 12 x 9 inch original size, you can order those through my Pixels store. For those who prefer to wear their art, or have it on household items, click through to my page at RedBubble to get it on various swag.

White on Black: White Cosmos flower

This was my second effort for the recent black and white challenge, a single white cosmos flower in white colored pencil on black paper. Simple and elegant, but simple is not always synonymous with easy! The foreshortening on the nearest petal was tricky at first, when I had tried this image before in regular graphite pencil in my sketchbook, but reversing the paper and pencil colors actually helped for this version.

White Cosmos, 12 by 9 inches, white pencil on black paper, $80 USD (available)

If I were to redo this in color, I would only be adding the shades of warm yellow for the center, and some green for the stem, as the petals rendered beautifully in just white on black. When I first finished this drawing, I wasn’t certain I had the look, but now over a week later I can say I accomplished it, and am pleased with it.

The original is available – message me on Facebook or email me at artist at this domain. If you want a print, either smaller or larger than the original’s 12 x 9 inch size, those can be ordered through my Pixels subdomain. For apparel and accessories, check me out on RedBubble.

While I experimented with the bald eagle head for the third day of the challenge, I returned to the theme of white flowers for the remainder of the challenge where I actually drew something. More on that in the next post.

Magnolia bloom in white on black

After the blue-feathered bird series, I shifted gears as the next art challenge was black and white, or greyscale in photo editing terms. No other hues, not even hints of actual color other than black, white, and the neutral greys in between. I did not start out with a particular theme-within-a-theme, but I did end up staying in one major category and did all seven challenge pieces with white colored pencil on black paper.

White Magnolia, 12 by 9 inches white colored pencil on black paper, original available, $80 USD

I started out with this lovely reference photo of a white magnolia bloom in mostly shadow, with just the furthest forward petals hit by sunlight. While I’ve wanted to draw this image for a while, I knew I didn’t want to do it in the traditional black on white paper. Since I had been experimenting with colored pencil on black paper, and laying down a white layer first (see A Single Candle and Christmas Candle) I knew as soon as the theme was announced that this would be my first work.

I actually had to use two different brands of colored pencil to get this effect, but I had just bought five new white pencils that work great for laying in most of it with a more translucent white. The really fun part of these pieces was that instead of working to darken in shading, I worked to bring the lights lighter as needed.

I haven’t actually sealed this yet – I had been toying with the idea of putting a color layer on some of these – but that can be accomplished in a day, so if anyone wants the original, you can message me on Facebook or email me directly (artist at this domain dot com). If you want this image but smaller or larger, you can order a print at my Pixels store, while apparel and accessories are at RedBubble – note that all links offsite open in a new tab/window.