This week is the final lesson in my online Draw & Paint the Enchanted World course. It has been quite a journey, alongside a cast of characters who ranged from elegant elven royalty to the hairy hobgoblins. Now it’s time to return to the natural realm, and begin filming the upcoming Botanical Notebook Painting course. That will be an adventure of a different kind.
…a new session of “Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil” will begin.
Back by popular demand, this course includes 10 lessons on drawing old-fashioned flowers and vegetable plants — plus how to draw water droplets, transparent glass and favorite garden insects. Butterflies! Bees! Dragonflies! All in colored pencil. More info is available on my Upcoming Online Classes page.
Drawing Native Birds of Mississippi Saturday, March 21, 2015 Louise Campbell Center for the Arts West Point, MS $65 No experience necessary - this class is open to all levels of art experience. See and enjoy Mississippi's migratory birds in a whole new way as, with step-by-step guidance, you learn to use traditional illustration techniques to create a realistic drawing. Start with a series of fun sketching exercises, then complete a finished bird drawing using layered charcoal and colored pencil. All art supplies are included so that everyone can expect consistent results. Each student will be provided with a supply of drawing paper, 2B pencil and kneaded eraser, tinted pastel paper, black charcoal pencil, white pastel pencil and a set of illustrated tutorial pages to keep. Please bring a sack lunch. Pre-registration is required. To sign up, call Kathy Dyess at 662-494-5678.
One of my favorite parts of drawing garden subjects is the unexpected discovery of some startling bit of botanical history — a story that pops up like an unexpected seedling and demands to be shared. It happened recently during preparation for my online course, The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil. A strange story about rhododendrons wrapped its roots around my imagination and wouldn’t let go.
Rhododendrons (and their popular relative, azaleas) produce pollen that contains a small amount of potent neurotoxin. Called grayanotoxin, it’s not harmful under ordinary circumstances… but occasionally, when concentrated by honeybees as they make rhododendron honey, it can cause a nasty illness marked by hallucinations and digestive distress. Although rare today — the most recent US cases on record happened in Seattle in 2011 — “mad honey disease” has a special place in history.
A clever first-century general defeated an entire invading army by putting grayanotoxin to work. During a battle in the Black Sea region in 67 BC, Pompey ordered his troops to leave honeycomb laced with “mad honey” along the path of approaching Roman soldiers. The hungry invaders took the bait. Sickened and disoriented, the Romans were no match for the waiting enemy.
The rhododendron, then, is much more than just a pretty face. Grow them, celebrate their history… but don’t put your beehives too close by.
This week, we’re drawing old-fashioned roses in my online course, The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil. Romantic, gorgeous and wonderfully fragrant, these blooms have been a favorite throughout human history. Roses appear in ancient stone carvings… they were painted on the ceilings of Roman banquet rooms… knights carried them during the Crusades. The Empress Josephine was a passionate rose breeder. So was George Washington.
Don’t let the many-layered structure of rose “architecture” scare you off. There’s a natural sequence to drawing them, starting at the heart of the bloom and working your way to the edges. It’s a slow and enjoyable journey. Colors are layered, too, beginning with the lightest ones and building up a luxurious intensity. Put on your favorite music and make a cup of coffee, then sharpen those colored pencils. Think of it as drawing therapy.
The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil, a course consisting of 10 interactive lessons plus a bonus lesson, will be offered again in March. Click here for more info.
If you have followed my studio blog for a few years, you may remember the monthly printable hand-drawn and lettered Illustrated Garden calendars. They looked like this:
I loved drawing them. I loved sending them out to you. Then my illustration work increased and my online art courses blossomed, and I had to reluctantly put them aside. But you never forgot them… For nearly two years, emails have continued to arrive asking for the calendars to return.
“Please bring them back. My office is in a high-rise in New York City, but I can look at your calendar and feel connected to nature.”
“I loved these calendars! I used them to keep records of planting and harvest at a community garden.”
“Your calendar makes me smile.”
With such encouragement, how can I not draw new calendars for 2015? Sometimes, you just have to leap.
The 2015 Illustrated Garden calendar includes an 8 1/2 x 11 page for each month and will be emailed to you in printable pdf form on New Year’s Day, every inch hand-drawn and lettered in ink, watercolor and colored pencil. Besides lots of garden and bird lore, it marks the full moons, dates of the Solstice and Equinox, along with major holidays and some not-so-major but highly interesting ones.
The cost is $12. You may mail a check* (Val Webb, P.O. Box 2212, Fairhope, AL 36533) or click the button below to order through PayPal:
The autumn breeze that stirs stalk and leaf in this 18th Century garden carries a drowsy hint of lavender. Four sprawling raised beds are arranged in the good German tradition: a square hemmed with pickets, divided by a stone pathway in the shape of a cross.
It’s early October in the kitchen garden at Schifferstadt, an imposing Maryland farmhouse built in 1758. Most of the season’s harvest has come and gone, leaving brown skeletons to rattle their dried-out seed heads in the chilly sunlight. But the hardiest botanicals are still green and several remain stubbornly in bloom: French lavender, flowering tobacco, calendula, yarrow.
Nearly three weeks into my road trip, I’m now in the valley just beyond the easternmost ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from the presidential retreat at Camp David. I’m gathering material on heirloom plants for my upcoming online course, The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil. And so I spent an afternoon sharing the Schifferstadt plots with the bees and mantises, marveling over colonial plants I rarely see in my own subtropical climate zone.
The biggest plantings were those varieties offering the widest range of practical uses in the farmer’s household. One particularly choice slice of garden real estate was occupied by Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum), a feathery groundcover with an astonishing job description: it is a vegetable rennet for making cheese, a delightfully honey-scented mattress stuffing material, the roots produce red dye and the flowers yield a yellow hair rinse reputed to be popular with young milkmaids.
I’m traveling in my camper studio, “Beatrix,” with two canine co-pilots, Atticus and Jo. Two weeks ago, we made our way up through the fall wildflowers of Georgia and Virginia to spend some time in the rolling ridges near Washington D.C. Tomorrow, we’ll turn the steering wheel southward and roll down through Tennessee and Mississippi, back home to coastal Alabama and the little farmhouse at the end of the road. I have lots of fresh material for the Heirloom Garden course, courtesy of Maryland’s abundant flora. It has been a good journey.
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.