Category Archives: flowers

Star Magnolia / charcoal, chalk and pastel

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Sketching is more important to me than painting at this point in time. In a few weeks I’ll be moved into my new apartment, then I’ll have time to start on a landscape painting. I have a lot of my things packed but if I keep making a little progress every day on that job it’ll be under control on moving day. I’ve moved so many times in the past 15 years that it’s no big deal anymore. In fact it makes me feel free to know if anything bugs me about the place I can leave. I don’t have too much stuff.

It’s great to get out to sketch even if it’s cloudy. And sketching regularly will make me a better painter, if what our teachers at YAA told us is true. It will take years, but you just have to keep at it even if you only have a couple hours to sketch some flowers.

These flowers change fast. I sat down for a few minutes and when I looked at my sketch again the petals had moved. At first they have a pale pink line and as soon as they open they start to yellow.

Next time it doesn’t rain I’ll try to sketch some purple magnolias.

Daffodils / mixed media

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I’m not crazy about the yellows I got with my oil paint sticks for this one. I hoped it would look yellower on a violet background. They’re still too green. I might try again with pastels next time it doesn’t rain. But I saw some other plants blooming that I also want to sketch so I’m not sure if I’ll continue sketching daffodils or just wait until next year and do a painting of them.

Today when I got back to my car in the parking lot at the botanical garden, I saw a squirrel sitting at my front tire with something big and white in its mouth. When I got in the car the squirrel ran over to the trees but came right back. I sat there for a few minutes getting my things together for my next stop and the squirrel came back to my car. I heard this scratching sound under my car and got out to look. The squirrel ran away but came back and started scratching again so I started the car and he only went about 15 ft. from the car then came back. I inched forward and saw him going to the trees. I wonder what he was stealing off my car. That was weird.

Vine charcoal makes sketching easier for me.

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This sketch of daffodils isn’t finished. You can see the smudges from erasing. That’s ok, the smudges won’t show when it’s finished.

To start a sketch I use the side of a small piece of charcoal to blob in the general size and shape of the flower, then go back and erase to get the shape of the petals. I spend as much time erasing as drawing to refine the shapes then I outline the petals, then erase again so the charcoal doesn’t show through when I use my semi transparent oil paint sticks on top.

I did this a few days ago and it’s been raining ever since. When I go back the flowers won’t be the same. I’ll either start again or totally erase these and draw on top of this.  I feel like I get a better finished piece if I get a good drawing to start with. Even if it’s only a sketch and will never get framed or seen anywhere except WordPress, I want to make it a strong sketch. There is a chance I could use it for a painting. If I never do, I’ll still have burned a file for daffodils in my brain which will make it easier to remember in the future. Those brain files are better than looking it up on google. Know what I mean?IMG_2211

This sketch of a slipper orchid is almost ready to go over with oil paint sticks. I need to erase more but I will be able to see it. Then my lines of paint stick will look free. Durn, there’s a smudge on the paper. Maybe I can erase it, or I could try to hide it somehow if it won’t erase. Stay tuned.

Orchid with buds / mixed media

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I drew this much larger than life so I could do the detail of the red veins in the petals but it’s showing up on my computer screen close to the actual size of the orchid.

The flowers are oil paint sticks and the background and the yellow inside the petals is watercolor. I also used my yellow paint stick in the petals.IMG_2202

This is my charcoal sketch from the day before. The bud opened up a lot in one day. I erased this sketch when I went over it with the paint sticks, so I redrew the flower on the left using the paint sticks. I didn’t need to do it again with charcoal because it’s easier the second time.

There are a few more orchids I’d like to draw. I’m not sure if I’ll do it this year or wait till next year because one lady working in there said, “Oh, you’re back.” She didn’t sound happy about it and I ignored her, but now I feel like I should try to find times when she’s not there if I draw in the greenhouse again.

I love gardeners despite that important lady. Gardeners grow my inspiration.

Orchids / mixed media

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February’s not so bad around here, if you love orchids. The growers are showing off their finest ones in your nearest greenhouse. I spent a few peaceful hours sketching them at Norfolk Botanical Garden. It was nice to get out to draw on those rainy cloudy days.

I used my oil paint sticks for the flowers and watercolor for the background. That’s why my orchids have a sketchy look. It’s not easy to draw a sharp line with the oil paint sticks. And I was drawing on white watercolor paper with a white oil paint stick, so it was hard to see what it would look like with the background colored in. For the shadows on the orchids, I used a silver oil paint stick because it’s the only gray I have and I thought it would look too dark for shadows on white orchids. I went over the silver with white. I scraped it off with my palette knife and went over it with white again.  After I put in the dark watercolors I thought the silver/gray looked ok.IMG_2199

First, I did a detailed sketch with charcoal. If you draw a line with an oil paint stick and it’s in the wrong place, you can’t erase it. This helped me to get the shapes and sizes of the orchid petals so that when I used the oil paint sticks There would be a better chance of my flowers fitting on the paper and coming out graceful like the orchids.

As I was going over this sketch with the oil paint sticks, I was erasing my charcoal. I could see enough to draw with my white and silver oil paint sticks, but I didn’t want my charcoal line to show through the paint stick lines. So, this sketch got erased during the process, and replaced with the looser sketchier version of the orchids shown above.

That was fun. I think I’ll go back and draw another type of orchid.

alternative media for plein air sketching / watercolor pencils

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It’s fun to try different media and techniques. This is a close up of my first attempt using Aquarelle watercolor pencils, which were recommended to me by my blogging friend, Vivienne Lingard. I’m looking for something that would be easier to transport than oil paint and the supplies I need for oils. I tried oil paint sticks and they’re bright but clunky to draw with. Pastels can be heavy to take out in Plein air, but sometimes I pick a few to take along if I can guess what colors I’ll need, so I don’t have to lug my whole box of pastels down a path. There’s also a wide variety of markers I could use in plein air. And my old favorite, charcoal and chalk.img_2189

I sketched a few Chinese Paperbush flowers from memory for my watercolor pencil  experiment since I’m not finished with that painting and I want more practice drawing the flowers.

I have very little experience with watercolors, so this will take practice.

This winter weather is keeping me at home too much. I think I’ll check out the Virginia Beach Aquarium and find some bright fish to draw if they don’t object to colored pencils.

Chinese Paperbush blooming / pastel study

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For some odd reason, dirt was falling out of the tree behind me. I was glad I had my hat on but I couldn’t keep my paper clean. That’s Mother Nature for you, dropping mud on your head. How does she do it? 😉

Finally, I can finish my painting of the Paperbush. I’ve waited all year for it to bloom. A few years ago in the winter I followed a sweet smell to a Paperbush in Richmond. At the time I was working on a painting and didn’t want to start on the Paperbush. I thought I could do it the next year, but the next year I searched for the bush and it was gone, sacrificed for a big landscaping project. I was sad. Then I moved to the beach and was so happy to see another Paperbush in the arboretum next door, but once again, I had another big project in the works. So, this year I planned to paint the bush and it feels like a long time in the planning and now it’s going to get done.

I’ll practice sketching the flowers again tomorrow if the weather holds out, then I can finish the painting. Today I sketched the flowers close to life size but I’ll have to paint them smaller and won’t be able to get in much detail. That’s ok, if I practice drawing them life size it will be easier to paint the basic shapes later.

Torch Lilies / mixed media

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Look what’s blooming like crazy in Jan! It’s so bright I used my florescent oil paint sticks. They have a big clump of these Torch Lilies at Norfolk Botanical Garden. A gardener told me they started to show buds a month ago then last week they really opened up!

It’s so nice to stand there sketching and take in the colors on a gray day like today, and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so I’m glad I got this sketch today. I did the watercolor background when I got home.

Lotuses / oil / some tips on composition I remember from art school

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They said the mind seeks balance but we shouldn’t make a balanced composition because when the viewer’s eye sees balance it’s instantly bored and moves on to the next thing.

The way to create imbalance is with focal points. An odd number of focal points is more interesting than an even number because the viewer’s eye will keep going around the canvas. If there’s only one focal point the viewer’s eye will go to it and stop right there. Also, don’t put a focal point dead center on the canvas. That makes a static composition.

Focal points can be created in different ways by using contrast such as complimentary colors or value contrasts, or by making sharp detail on an otherwise blurry painting.

I find composition to be a difficult part of painting and cutting my shapes out of paper and arranging them like Matisse helped me plan this painting. I’m getting a lot of inspiring ideas from Matisse this summer.

About this painting : The path through the Japanese garden is too narrow for me to stand up my easel. I’d have been blocking the other visitors so I took a few pastels and did my sketches on my small sketchbook because I don’t need my easel to hold it and I can easily back out of the way if people want to walk through. I did the painting at home using Matisse’s method of taping my paintbrush onto a yardstick and standing back from the canvas to paint. I’ve tried the brush on a stick method a few times and it still seems awkward. It’s hard to control the brush. I have to hover the brush over the canvas and when I make contact with the canvas in the right general area I want to paint, I kind of roll it. After I get the general shape I’m trying to do, I can get some brush strokes on it. I want to keep practicing this brush on a stick thing. Maybe it will get easier if I practice.

background for painting of lotuses / stealing ideas from Matisse

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The paint is thick so I’ll have to wait till later this week to paint the flowers. I’m not sure what Matisse’s oil painting technique was. He liked to put his paintbrush on the end of a long pole and stand way back from his canvas so I’m practicing that. It’s hard to control the brush. I think the practice is supposed to make the artist “loosen up”.

The other times I tried to paint with my brush on a yardstick I didn’t use medium. I painted on a dry tinted canvas and I’m not used to the brush having so much drag on the canvas. That, plus the brush on a stick made it a strange experience. I guessed Matisse probably didn’t paint in the couch like I was taught to do, so I didn’t use my Maroget medium. Painting in the couch is when you paint a thin layer of medium on the dry canvas and paint your colors on top of the medium. It makes a slick surface for your brush and it’s easy to use glazes or paint with thick texture. This time I decided to use my Maroget medium and paint in the couch to make it a little easier to control my brush on a stick. To use medium or not to use medium, that is the question.

I doubt if I’ll be able to stay true to any one style. There’s so many that I like and I only steal the good ideas. Plus, I don’t have all the info on Matisse’s technique. It doesn’t matter. Rules don’t apply to me.IMG_2090

These are my sketches for the lotus painting. The eight smaller papers are my pastel sketches from the Japanese garden at Norfolk botanical where I hung around on eight different days for a couple hours. The three larger papers are my enlargements of my leaf sketches done by taping a sharpie on a yardstick like Matisse. You can see my scribbles where the sharpie went off on it’s own.

Then I cut out the leaf shapes and arranged them on my canvas different ways to decide the composition. That’s something Matisse enjoyed doing. He cut shapes out of colored paper and arranged them. The arranging part is where I got hung up for a while.

I have to sketch my flowers again on tracing paper and figure out how many I can fit on the painting. I don’t want to crowd them because they’re not crowded in nature. Maybe only three on my 18 x 24 canvas. I did a lot of sketches I won’t use and will never frame but that’s ok. It isn’t about the finished piece, it’s about the process. The questions answered, the new experience, the practice. Know what I mean?