He’s becoming a regular, arriving after the bossy cardinal couple and before the mourning doves. Red-bellied woodpeckers are year-round residents here, and apparently they have a hearty appetite for seeds. “My” woodpecker is a male, easily recognized by his red cowl. Females display a red patch only on the backs of their necks. (Despite their name, you can watch these birds for hours and never catch a glimpse of their red-tinged belly feathers. But the bold black-and-white bars on their wings and their bright caps make it easy to identify them anyway. Bon apetit, Mr. Woodpecker.)
Just started a burrowing owl in watercolor. I always paint the eyes first — I think they are my favorite part of the process. Burrowing owls are the nonconformists of the owl family: often active during the day, they can sprint on their long legs when necessary. They nest and roost underground, inhabiting burrows abandoned by rabbits or prairie dogs. Their diet, too, is different from the typical owl menu. In addition to insects, frogs and mice, the little burrowing owl also dines on fruits and seeds. A particular favorite treat is the prickly pear cactus.
Old-fashioned flowers and their pollinators, including bees and butterflies, will be the focus of a new 10-lesson online course beginning November 3. “The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil” will provide detailed, step-by-step instruction in seeing and accurately drawing a wide range of flowering plants in graphite and colored pencil. No previous art experience needed.
The course is designed to be “work-at-your-own-pace.” Lessons will post weekly on a password-protected site, and students have a five-month window (through April 3) to complete all 10 lessons. Personal instructor feedback and guidance is provided through email, as often as you wish.
The cost of the course is $65. To sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know, I know… ink and gouache resist was supposed to come several weeks later in my course schedule for “Birds in Watercolor and Beyond.” But I just couldn’t wait to share it. My all-time favorite painting technique, its inky outlines and sudden transformation (as the result of spraying it with a garden hose, the best part of the whole process) remind me of my years spent carving colorful raku tiles. There’s more information on the process in an older post.
If you liked the atmospheric effect created by dripping alcohol into watercolor wash in the earlier mermaid post, here’s a very similar drawing with a slightly different background texture. Sprinkling ordinary table salt into your freshly painted watercolor wash makes a rich, grainy texture that looks a little like crystals, a little like foliage. It’s a fun and slightly unpredictable way to make interesting backgrounds. I salted only the top and bottom of this small (4×6) rectangle, so that the middle would be smooth enough to add a fairy and her friend. They were painted in watercolor, with finishing details drawn in Prismacolor (the color is Terra Cotta).
Any type of salt will work. Using coarse salt, such as rock salt, results in a larger pattern. Sprinkle it directly into the wet watercolor layer, then allow it to dry completely. Overnight is ideal. Then the grains of salt can be brushed gently away to reveal the textures beneath.
This simple “profile view while holding something up” is a pose that works well if you are not yet comfortable drawing hands. While it offers plenty of possibilities — she could be holding up a small bird, a flower, a soap bubble, a friendly insect — it’s still rewarding to be able to choose whether or not you wish to paint realistic hands. Click here to see my tutorial on drawing them.
A fun technique that creates a soothing and mysterious atmosphere: put down a rich watercolor wash in two or more shades of blue. Drip rubbing alcohol into the wet paint to create bubbles. Then use only white (or, in this case, white and pale green) to draw your subject. Don’t draw too much –leave parts of the scene to the imagination of the viewer. Fun!
…and they’ve been keeping me very busy over the past few weeks, as my “Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature” online course rolls along. I’ll soon be turning my attention (and my pencil) back to other subjects. I’ll re-offer “Drawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering” beginning April 28, and “Birds in Colored Pencil” beginning May 12. Yay!
What do you get when you combine figure drawing, plant/animal/insect sketches, basic watercolor techniques, drawing natural habitat — then season the mixture with fairy tale illustration? An interactive online course called Draw & Paint Fairies in Nature, which begins next week. There are still a few places left in this work-at-your-own-pace, personally guided drawing adventure. Here’s the sequence of our 10 lessons — the “Draw” segment of each is done in students’ sketchbooks, and the “Paint” segment is done in simple watercolor with a bit of colored pencil:
Lesson 1: Where do fairies come from? Draw: Val’s four-step sketch technique, infant proportions, simple facial features, sketch exercise. Paint: Using gouache, making skin tones, glazing and lifting color, baby fairy project.
Lesson 2: How do fairies fly? Draw: Toddler proportions, drawing different kinds of wings, sketch exercise. Paint: Very young fairy in flight.
Lesson 3: Why do fairies love flowers? Draw: Six-year-old proportions, drawing favorite flowers, sketch exercise. Paint: Garden fairy child.
Lesson 4: What do fairies wear? Draw: Older child proportions, creating clothing from nature, creating clothing for fairy royalty, drawing fabric, drawing fairy hats and caps, sketch exercise. Paint: Your own fairy finery.
Lesson 5: Where do fairies live? Draw: Teen proportions, sketching fairy habitats, sketch exercise. Paint: A fairy at home.
Lesson 6: Why do birds allow fairies to ride on their backs? Draw: Adult female fairy proportions, drawing birds, drawing the seated figure, sketch exercise. Paint: Fairy riding a favorite bird.
Lesson 7: Who are the fairies’ other friends? Draw: Adult male fairy proportions, drawing small woodland creatures, sketch exercise. Paint: Fairy with a furry friend of your choice.
Lesson 8: Can fairies live in the water? Draw: Water sprites and naiads, drawing fins and scales, sketch exercise. Paint: Water sprite painted over a toned color wash, a trick for creating bubbles, creating very unusual skin tones.
Lesson 9: Are fairies always young? Draw: Older adult proportions and features, how to show age and wisdom, how to draw gray or white hair, sketch exercise. Paint: A fairy godmother.
Lesson 10: Are all fairies good? Draw: Expressive faces and actions – how to show a sly or mischievous nature, how to tell a story with your drawing, sketch exercise. Paint: A trickster fairy.
I’ve been having fun, creating examples for different watercolor techniques as I build up material for the Draw & Paint Fairies online course. This little naiad (water sprite) is balancing on a bubble that resulted from dripping alcohol into a layer of ultramarine blue gouache. Instant gratification — and a handy way to avoid trying to paint around all those round shapes! I photographed the process, step-by-step, and will weave it into a lesson on color wash backgrounds. I “borrowed” her spiny wing structure from an Asian flying fish.