Monthly Archives: November 2013

December Calendar

December calendarI hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and now we begin to prepare for all the Christmas and New Year festivities. Why not print a copy of this month’s calendar and keep track of everything all in one spot? There is plenty of room for all your notes.

I have had a lot of fun sharing these monthly creations with you. As with most things in life change is inevitable and beginning in 2014 I will not be including the calendar as part of this blog. If you would like to continue to receive a copy please send me a message via my contact form and I will email you a printable version as each one is created.

Download and print the December calendar »

Happy Holidays!


Chinese Fire Flower

ChrysanthemumI have had a renewed interest in Chinese brush painting lately. I first learned about this art form over five years ago. Since then I have painted flowers, birds, insects, landscapes, and pandas. It was my primary focus for art for quite awhile but as it so often happens I became interested in learning something else so I put away my brushes and began a new adventure.

The time has come to revisit an old friend. Being a bit rusty I started back at the beginning with the “Four Gentlemen” which are the plum blossom, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum. I decided to focus on the chrysanthemum as it is one of the last flowers to bloom before winter sets in. I chose shades of orange for the blossom and kept the leaves quite dark so that they would contrast nicely with the brightness of the petals. This is painted on crinkled paper which caused some areas of the paper to be skipped during the painting process. I like this effect; it helps add to the spontaneity of the piece. When I showed this to hubby he called it a Chinese Fire Flower so in tribute to him that is the name of today’s piece and this post.



Illustrating a Scene from Thumbelina

ThumbelinaIn between all of the art projects and the routine day to day activities I took a class on children’s book illustration. From the highly detailed scene to the simple line drawing each one is a treasure and can add so much to the enjoyment of the story. The first time I feel in love with this genre was reading Beatrix Potter’s tales as a child. To this day I cherish my copy of The Tale of Peter the Rabbit and The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. They have survived eight moves and each time they are unpacked I am transported back to a fantastical world.

For this class we were to illustrate a passage from Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina. I had a bit of a false start with this one. My original plan was to illustrate the scene where Thumbelina (aka Tiny) ties her sash to a butterfly and he whisks her down stream on a lily pad to escape marrying the ugly toad’s son. When I enlarged my thumbnail sketch it did not accurately reflect what I had imagined. I think I tried to over complicate the project.

So, I pushed that drawing aside and went back through my other sketches. I discovered that one of my other thumbnails actually made more sense. It was from the scene when Tiny emerges from a tulip. It is at the beginning of the story and it seemed better suited for me, after all I do love botanical art. Drawing the tulip was the easy part I still had to draw Tiny. I am not completely comfortable drawing figures so when I do I keep it as simple as possible. A profile view would be best to depict such a tiny character. I added the butterfly because I wanted reinforce just how small Tiny was.

Once I had tightened my sketch I transferred it to watercolor paper and began layering on color. When everything was dry I scanned the painting into Photoshop and cleaned up the background, leveled the colors, and fixed any areas that would be distracting. I could have stopped there but I wanted to create a book spread so I placed the image into InDesign and added the text to complete my project.

Thumbelina book spread

If you are interested in reading more about my adventure in children’s book illustration, seeing the before and after images, or are just curious about a Skillshare class I have made my project available for viewing.



Pastel Pencil on Stillman & Birn Gamma Paper

Kestrel - pastel pencil on Stillman & Birn Gamma paperIn addition to drawing botanical art another favorite subject is birds and while my preferred medium is colored pencil I will occasionally experiment with other mediums.

The other day I was cleaning my art table and found this kestrel that I had drawn on a sample piece of Gamma series paper that I had received from Stillman & Birn. I used the ivory color of the paper for the light areas, in this case, the chest feathers and parts of the face. I used pastel pencil for this piece because I wanted to capture the spirit of the bird and with pastel I don’t get fussy and add a lot of detail.

I layered crimson, burnt carmine, and tan together to create the rust color on the back, wing, and tail. I added cornflower blue on the edge of the wing, the underside of the tail, and the beak. The markings were done with French gray dark and light. I used a paper stump to blend and soften the colors. It is not often that I use ivory colored paper but I can definitely see how useful this paper is for bird studies.



E for Elephant

E for ElephantIt has been a busy fall for me but the juried competitions are over (I was pleasantly surprised when two pieces won awards), there’s a new tutorial section on the site, and the shop has been stocked with original watercolor holiday cards. Now there is time to take a few moments and be playful.

Today’s drawing is a new addition to the animal alphabet series. After looking through many (many) reference photos of baby animals I decided the composition would be an elephant playing in water. I wanted to show him having fun by having him spray water. To reinforce the idea of the water I added a touch of blue from my indigo graphitint pencil and blended it into the graphite. This drawing makes me smile and I hope it makes you smile too.

With the weather getting colder every day I think the next animal might be one that likes to play in the cold. Could it be P for penguin or P for polar bear or maybe something else, you’ll have to check back to find out who comes to visit next.