My online class in Watercolor Lettering has kept me very busy for the past several weeks, but on Saturday I had the pleasure of teaching a small workshop in a beautiful riverfront hideaway near Moss Point, Mississippi. The trees overhanging the water were full of trumpet vine, and we put them to use as the subject of gouache resist paintings. I love gouache resist, which is the art equivalent of opening a mysterious present on Christmas morning. You don’t know what you have until the wrappings are torn away to reveal the surprise beneath. In my method, I begin with a quick pencil sketch on heavy watercolor paper. Next I create the painting with a very thick (we’re talking peanut-butter-thick here) layer of gouache. After allowing it the dry completely, the painting is covered in a layer of waterproof India ink — I use a two-inch housepainting brush for this step. That has to dry, as well, before the fun begins: I take the piece outside and put it under a stream of water from the garden hose, scrubbing the ink away with the aforementioned house painting brush. Under that layer of inky blackness is a jewel-toned image, and everywhere the paper remained blank are lines of India ink. Old clothes are highly recommended for this adventure!
I love coneflowers… and my very favorite is Echinacea purpurea. I grow it in my garden, draw it, paint it and carve it into clay tiles. This one was painted in gouache, allowed to dry thoroughly, then brushed with a coat of waterproof India ink and scrubbed under running water. The final step was to add a bit of ink detail on the leaves and petals with an 01 Pigma Micron drawing pen. I like the final effect; it reminds me of vintage illustration. As soon as my busy studio schedule slows a tiny bit, I will post a step-by-step tutorial, so you can try it out for yourself.
I was late planting sunflowers this spring, so while the cut-flower fields at the edge of town are already resplendent with buttery yellow blooms, mine are still all stalks and leaves on the ascent. I always try to include my favorite, Evening Sun (Helianthus annuus) in the garden patch mix. Velvety red petals with a touch of yellow - and dense centers the color of bittersweet chocolate – make them wonderful to draw. This one is painted in gouache and India ink on heavy watercolor paper.
Just finished drawing the printable garden calendar page for April. I’m having a wonderful time creating this little project, and I’ve met gardeners from all over the world as they email to ask for the free pdf files. My 12-month calendar series is free for the asking — just send me a note with your email address and the pages will magically appear in your inbox. Now, on to May…
…and just in time for spring planting, here’s my first printable garden calendar page. (I’ll have April ready to post in a few days.) This is my little gift to the world, and I will gladly send a pdf file, as each new page is completed, to anyone who asks. March is ready for you this very minute, so drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org . Enjoy!
Months after they bloomed themselves out, I am finally getting around to finishing up a colored pencil drawing of the azaleas around my little studio cottage in Mobile. The deep pink ones are Formosa. The other has an unusually large blossom with the merest suggestion of a pinkish blush — but I have no idea about its name.
Though it borders on blasphemy in Mobile (billed by the local Chamber of Commerce as “The Azalea City”) I really prefer the scrappy little native azalea to the profusely ruffled garden variety. It’s a treat to happen upon them in the woods, where their intense coral flowers create a botanical exclamation point in the green shade.
This is the final week for my Wednesday and Thursday afternoon botanical drawing classes. The past six weeks have flown by at breathtaking speed. I’m always a bit sad when the sessions come to an end, even though I’ll be starting a new round of drawing classes in March. And I’m excited about the spring botanical classes, which will focus on colored pencil technique — one of my favorite drawing media. Hurry up, March!
Came across this older sketchbook page this morning… I’ll be on the lookout for oakleaf hydrangeas coming to life this month:
I rarely see oakleaf hydrangeas in our city. But its kissing cousin, the bigleaf hydrangea, blooms in pink and blue abundance all through our long, humid summers. No matter what your favorite hydrangea might be, it’s time to plant them this month if you live in Alabama.
Springtime is a fantastic time for botanical art in south Alabama. Dazzling azaleas, pitcher plant bogs delicately punctuated with wildflowers, the arrival of our first migratory butterflies — it’s hard to know what to draw first.
Here is my schedule of upcoming drawing workshops, classes and “just for fun” art events in April and May. We have moved our household (and my illustration studio) across the bay to Fairhope, and I’m very excited about offering workshops and a new weekly class on the beautiful Eastern Shore. Meanwhile, weekly classes in Mobile will continue as usual in our old neighborhood, Pinehurst. Starting with the new May classes, we’ll meet in the studio cottage at 6052 Adkins Street — just around the corner from our old house.
Happy drawing and I hope to see you soon,
(p.s. Lots of people have emailed to ask about my fairy series, and I’m glad to report that a new flock of fairy watercolors are now under way. Also, the entire collection will be featured in a July exhibit hosted by the Unitarian/Universalist fellowship in Fairhope. Thanks for asking!)
Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs
Saturday, May 14 from 10am to 4pm
Val’s home/studio in Fairhope, AL
$60 includes refreshments, all art supplies and six potted herb plants to keep
Learn the basic structure of a leaf, then put that knowledge to work as you create a color rendering of six culinary herbs in layered watercolor and colored pencil. No previous experience necessary, and all supplies are provided. Take home your completed botanical art and six potted herb plants at the end of the day. We’ll enjoy our lunch break in a nearby cafe in downtown Fairhope. This is a very limited small-group workshop, and it is expected to full up very quickly. Your registration fee must be received to reserve your spot. Email me or call 251-510-9615 to let me know you plan to attend.
Old and New: The Lost Art of Hand Lettering… and a New Way to Make “Vintage” Photo Transfers
Saturday, June 4 from 10am until 3pm
Val’s home/studio in Fairhope, AL
$60 includes refreshments and all art supplies, plus illustrated tutorial pages to take home
This is not calligraphy, but the “drawn letters” used by old-fashioned sign painters and type designers. Learn to adapt this method to label your botanical artwork or write beautifully in your sketchbook or art journal. We’ll cover how to letter on curves, how to use perspective in your lettering, and how to design your own personal lettering style. After lunch in a nearby cafe, we’ll turn our attention to photo transfers for the afternoon. I’ll show you how to transfer a vintage-looking image to paper, cloth or wood using butcher’s paper and acrylic medium. The original photo is not affected in any way, and the final product has a hauntingly ephemeral look that is quite beautiful. Plus, you can tint your transfer with watercolor for a more impressionistic result. This works especially well with old family photos and garden subjects. Embellish a journal or family album, make truly lovely greeting cards, frame them as keepsakes or gifts — the possibilities go on and on. This is a limited, small-group workshop and may fill quickly. Call 251-510-9615 or email me if you plan to attend.
Botanical Drawing in Pencil and Watercolor
Saturday, May 28 from 9am until 3pm
New Orleans Botanical Gardens
New Orleans, LA
$120 includes admission, refreshments and all art supplies
Join me for an intensive day of botanical drawing and watercolor in one of the South’s most beautiful horticultural settings. Working from your choice of more than 2,000 varieties of plants from around the world, we’ll create richly colored renderings of springtime plant specimens using layers of graphite pencil and watercolor. Our classroom will be the historic Garden Studies Center, a charming renovated 1930s potting shed that would look right at home in a Beatrix Potter story. We’ll start the day with a detailed demonstration and some guided practice time before heading out into the gardens to draw and paint. This workshop is appropriate for ALL levels of art experience, and there is no supply list — all art supplies and materials (plus admission to the gardens) will be provided. Morning refreshments will be waiting when you arrive, so all you will need for the day is a sack lunch. Workshop size is limited to ensure personal attention; please call 251-510-9615 or email me to check availability. (An hour-by-hour schedule of the day’s activities — and details about the very reasonable and dog-friendly hotel where we stay when we are in New Orleans — are available upon request.)
- WEEKLY CLASSES AT VAL’S HOME/STUDIO IN FAIRHOPE:
Botanical Drawing: Springtime in the South (daytime class)
Tuesdays beginning April 5, from 2pm until 5pm
$140 includes all art supplies
Alabama’s botanical world gets all dressed up with the arrival of spring. Draw and paint Louisiana iris, native wildflowers, flowering bulbs and more, working from live specimens. We’ll use traditional scientific drawing methods to create realistic botanicals in pencil, ink, colored pencil and gouache. Learn in a relaxed, encouraging atmosphere… No experience necessary, and everything you need for this class will be provided. In addition to our regular class meetings, we’ll plan one weekend field sketching day for anyone who wishes to attend. Call 251-510-9615 or email me for more info.
Botanical Drawing: Springtime in the South (evening class)
Tuesdays beginning April 5, from 6:30pm until 8:30pm
$140 includes all art supplies
The same subjects as the daytime class, but scheduled for people who need a class with evening hours.
Every Picture Tells a Story: Illustrating Children’s Books
Wednesdays beginning May 18, from 6:30pm until 8:30pm
This lively, relaxed and encouraging course will cover character design, creative page layouts, how to draw for publication and how to use pictures to move a story forward. Have questions about submissions, copyright or publishing markets? We’ll cover those topics, too. Our drawing work will focus on depicting children and animals in action settings. ALL levels of art experience are welcome. Call 251-510-9615 or email me for more info.
- WEEKLY CLASSES AT THE STUDIO COTTAGE IN WEST MOBILE:
Botanical Drawing: Tropical Summer (daytime class)
Thursdays beginning May 19, from 2pm until 5pm
$140 includes all art supplies
It’s the season of brilliant colors and unusual forms — we’ll use watercolor and colored pencil to create realistic renderings of summer plants including palms, succulents and tropical flowers. We’ll also paint butterflies and other insects associated with summer blooms. In addition to our regular class meetings, we’ll plan one weekend field drawing day for anyone who wishes to attend. No experience necessary, and all art supplies are provided. Call 251-510-9615 or email me for more info.
Botanical Drawing: Tropical Summer (evening class)
Thursdays beginning May 19, from 6:30pm until 8:30pm
$140 includes all art supplies
The same subjects as the daytime class, but scheduled for those who need a class with evening hours.
- OTHER FUN ARTFUL STUFF FOR APRIL AND MAY:
Worldwide SketchCrawl Day at 5 Rivers
Saturday, April 16 from 9am until 3pm
5 Rivers Delta Resource Center – on the Causeway
(Free! Everybody come out and draw!)
Join thousands of sketchers worldwide in a day-long drawing experience. Bring your favorite art materials and come out to draw in a beautiful natural setting. People in hundreds of other cities are simultaneously sketching their own surroundings, and at the end of the afternoon we’ll scan and upload your images to the worldwide sketch forum, if you wish. This is Mobile’s fifth SketchCrawl event, and we always have a wonderful time. Sharpen that drawing pencil and grab your sketchpad! See you there.
The Illustrated Garden at Earth Day Mobile Bay
Saturday, April 23 from 10am until 6pm
Just south of the Fairhope Pier
Come by and say hello — my studio has a booth at the upcoming Earth Day celebration. I’ll be drawing heirloom vegetables and handing out free organic veggie and herb seeds from my farmer friends at Sustainable Seed Company. It’s a great time to plant a summer garden (or draw one)!