Milkweed

Milkweed is a plant the oozes a milky substance when injured, such as cutting it. This ooze is rather thick and can irritate some people. When I was a kid, the milkweed in our area produced big pods that split open, and all the seeds flew off in the wind. It was always a fun thing to see.

Here in California – and I expect much of the western US – there is a different type of milkweed. This one is vital for the health of Monarch butterflies, and sadly, its presence is diminishing. The result is fewer butterflies every year. There is a concerted effort by gardeners and conservationists to propagate the milkweed, as well as to preserve it in the wild. Like the plant of my childhood, this one oozes and has windborne seeds, but has flowers (don’t recall ever seeing milkweed flowers as a kid) that come in yellow and dark orange.

I have milkweed in my garden, thanks to Am, my lovely auntie! Last year I lost it all because of rats, along with my lilies, but this year, thanks to bait stations, it is surviving. So, yesterday, a bit restless, I took out some Polychromos pencils, a pad of paper, and got to work.

Soap Bubbles

Black paper with metallic colored pencils make for a great study of soap bubbles! Here, the rougher surface of Mi Teintes pastel paper was used. Circular templates with very sharp pencils created the outlines of the bubbles, and then the pencils were used to create the reflections inside the bubbles and the iridescent qualities that make soap bubbles so beautiful. Below, same technique but on the smoother side of the black Mi Teintes paper.

Apple Without A Stem

If you read my blog at all, you know I think that you can, and I do, learn a lot from watching “how to” videos. YouTube is my favorite resource. Today, an apple without a stem. The video I followed is by Chris Cheng, which you can see below.

This video is rather long, no sound, but references to Prismacolor pencils by their names and numbers. She used Strathmore colored pencil paper, which has a bit of tooth compared to the Canson XL bristol I used. My paper is very smooth, and the difference of tooth / no tooth becomes apparent by the end. I completed the shadow too soon, and think it would have been best completed closer to the end of the project. It would work better at grounding the apple.

I spent about 90 minutes doing this drawing. Altogether I am pleased with the results.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are amazing little critters! if you have never had the treat of their buzzing past you, I can only say that you are missing out. We have them in our area and enjoy their presence amongst our flowers. Here, an Anna’s Hummingbird in colored pencil.

Below you can see the various stages of my drawing. I have more work on the branch of the final image above, and prefer the third image below. I tried some Gamsol on the one above and wonder if it was a mistake.

I think I will look at this drawing again in a few days, touch it up, and maybe repost. I have a lot to learn about colored pencils and am enjoying it far more than I thought I would. One thing I have learned is to be patient and to take my time.

Fog Monster

Coastal fog swoops in during the months of May and June. “May Grey” and “June Gloom” to be specific! It can make for a very dreary summer – I know as I used to live on the beach. Move a half mile inland, and sunshine abounds. The eco system along parts of California depend on the fog.

Hot press Arches 140# paper makes for a lot of fun scumbling paint and blending it with a hard brush. The paper held up very well to all the abuse I heaped upon its smooth surface.

Cherry Blossom Bokeh

Sometimes I have too much fun making up titles for my posts!

This is a colored pencil exercise I did, just because. I used the more highly textured side of a piece of Mi Teintes pastel paper, choosing a rather grey paper with threads of darker grey running through it. I drew the cherry blossoms on with a graphite pencil and then laid down a rather heavy layer of whites, greens and brown for the blossoms, leaves, and branch. From there, more colors, burnishing and blending. Finally, I scribbled in a turquoise background, followed by layers of blues and lighter colors as well.

Initially, I decided to use a tortillon to blend the background colors, attempting to emulate the bokeh one sees in photographs. Bokeh is a wonderful bit of photography at times, achieved either via the lens itself, or distance between the object in focus and the next object behind the primary one. To blur colored pencil requires a lot of pencil color and a bit of elbow grease. Not quite what you would get when blending pastels.

Never having done it, but interested in the effect, I took a small amount of odorless mineral spirits, a soft brush, and began to blend the colors in the background. Where there were heavier layers, the colors blurred and blended more readily. I waited for the mineral spirits to evaporate and then added more color. More blending, this time painting around the cherry blossoms and branch with the loosened pigment. More drying. Finally, a bit of blending – very little, with a very light touch – of the leaves and blossoms. To complete the drawing, sharp colored pencils were used to enhance the branches and yellow pollen in the center of the blossoms.

I decided to try bokeh in colored pencil as I think that is what my teacher said we will be doing in our class Thursday morning, as well as drawing on black paper. This was a fun exercise and like everything, doing equates learning and understanding. Let’s see what Thursday class will bring . . .

More Roses

I enjoy watching videos on YouTube to see how other people paint or do things. This study is based on a video by Lena Rivo, a gouache artist I quite admire.

Roses are also a part of my own gardening – I have a number in bloom right now, although this year they seem a bit off . . . Nonetheless, painted or in bouquets or in the garden, roses are a delight to nearly all of us!

Spring in Hill Country

While we have not had much rain this year, the countryside still has fields of wildflowers, mostly lupines and poppies.

Today, I decided to just paint, not think too much, to see if I could get a good sense of value. I did a couple of paintings. I used hot press paper, whereas I normally use cold press when I paint. I tried two different brands, and the Arches won out.