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 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.
(I’m painting some samples for a June 30 workshop, “Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs,” to be offered in Birmingham, Alabama. Join me for a day of creative botanical fun… no previous experience required, and all supplies are provided. Best of all, you get to take home six organically grown potted herb plants at the end of the day!)
I love to draw mice. This little fellow, created with just two Derwent watercolor pencils, was the demo for my Thursday night art class. The pencil colors were Raw Sienna and Chocolate (burnt umber). I sketched him with Raw Sienna, shaded his darker areas and eyes with Chocolate, then loaded up a #10 round brush with clean water and went over him to create a wash. To finish him up, I came back with Chocolate and added whiskers, ear and paw details. Squeak!
Not too long ago, a commissioned colored pencil piece gave me the opportunity to indulge in some exuberant bird-and-mouse fun. The finished artwork was a gift for a little girl, so I wove a pale pink ribbon through the dancing critters:
Meanwhile, I’m working on materials for an upcoming herb-painting workshop. Lavender, mint, oregano, chives, rosemary… now I just need to choose one final herb to occupy the empty space near the top of the watercolor. Suggestions?
Hands have a reputation for being difficult to draw. Some portrait artists avoid them entirely, choosing instead to use folds of clothing (or flowers, or a even a strategically placed small pet) to block them from view. Yet, the hands are wonderfully expressive. With a bit of practice and an understanding of their basic structure, you may discover that they become one of your favorite drawing subjects. Here’s a quick tutorial, drawn in 2B pencil. I use a step-by-step approach, starting with the basic forms and then working outward, to get accurate proportions:
You can practice “fleshing out” your simple palm-fingers-thumb-wrist sketches by drawing from photographs of hands in action… or use your own non-drawing hand as your model.
…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 email@example.com . Enjoy!
‘Ruby Red’ Swiss chard, with its crinkled leaves and richly colored stems, is almost as much fun to draw as it is to eat. This year, instead of the traditional pot of New Year collards simmering on the stove, our first supper of 2012 was a chard and feta pie, incorporating ingredients from our winter garden. I love chard’s delicate spinach flavor and its prolific growing habit — plus, those lovely leaves are packed with Vitamins A, K, C and protein. And did I mention that fairies like it, as well?
This little drawing is colored pencil on acid-free vellum cardstock. Brilliant white with a smooth surface and a little more heft than drawing paper, premium cardstock makes a terrific sketching medium. Try it — you’ll be pleased.