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Crocus Geometer Moth

Crocus Geometer Moth full page from my sketchbook journal

In the morning when I let Ginger (my dog) out the back door for her morning wee, I always survey the screen porch to see if any visitors of the mothy type, have overstayed their visit. I used to leave the screen door open so I could be lazy and Ginger would just run right out, but stopped when too many flies were coming in! But I did get all kinds of moths in there! Well even with the door shut, some do sneak in and that’s how I found this little guy. Well sad to tell you it wasn’t alive, but laying on the floor in perfect condition. So I gently, gently picked it up and put it in my “Crisco” container for study.

Above is a full sketchpage from my journal, I did a life size study in the lower left corner and an enlarged size in the middle. I had fun with the border by just using my waterbrush with a matching color and added little ‘butterfly’ heads.

My set up when I sketched the moth

You can see in my picture that I lay the moth on the lid of the “Crisco” container and that way I was able to move it around as I worked. My watercolor pan is under it and the sketchbook is on my little table top easel box. (you can see my last page from the lady bug post!)

Drawing a study at the same size first

Now here I’m showing how nice it was to sketch the same size study by having the moth on the plastic lid. Using my pencil I did comparative measurements to compare the width to the height of the moth. Do you see those lines on the page? I put them just as a teaching tool, to show you that I found the measurement from inside wing to outside tip was the same measurement as the bottom of the wing to the top, his head I think it was. I always use comparative measurements when drawing!

Such a gorgeous colored subject!

Isn’t this a beautiful moth? His antennae were really elegant and graceful, very hard for me to paint with watercolor!  The more I studied him under a magnifying glass the more I saw and appreciated it’s beauty.

This is how my larger sketch looked at first.

(Above) Now I’ll show you the steps I took to do the large painting of this Crocus Geometer Moth, mostly how I drew it. Do you see how boring and technical it looks? I know, but if you don’t start with a clear drawing done in PROPER PROPORTION it will never look right! Sorry, I”m not shouting, but it is REALLY important! If you do anything, learn how to draw well!

So I used my pencil to compare the width of the wings tip to tip to the measurement of the moth top to bottom. I put light lines on the paper then drew an arc as close to the shape of the ‘real’ moth subject as I could. Then I decided where the wings ended in the centre, keeping in mind that they overlap.

The second stage is lightly sketching the placement of shapes, wings, body, head.

Above you see a lot more drawn here; I drew an arc lightly for the bottom wings too, then decided where the two wings met and overlapped then drew them. I found the wing tips were half way between the head (top) and bottom wing edge, can you see how there’s a little ‘t’ at the tips?; that’s centre from top to bottom.

It’s really fun when you get into a drawing and start to find things that are the same measurement so you can check other parts of your drawing by comparing them! That’s why it’s called Comparative Measurements! (This is something I teach my students first!)

Then I clean up the lines and decide how the outline will look.

Look back and forth at the subject and drawing, look for areas that might be out of line and fix it now. After you feel your measurements are right, you clean up the light lines and decide on the lines you leave. Keep your final line clean and neat. Use your kneaded rubber eraser now to dab repeatedly at the line to lighten it as much as you can, just enough so you can still see it but you can do watercolor over it and not have it show.

Laying in some washes with watercolor and adding some details.

Here I put the first washes of color on and then started to add where the dark markings are and light wing ‘ruffles’.

Larger study of the moth finished.

And here it is finished! I just kept adding the tiny spots and built up the larger dark markings. Sometimes it dries and just doesn’t look as colorful because watercolor can look lighter and duller after it dries. So I go back and add some light washes when needed to perk it up, I added bright yellow and more browns on this one. (ps. I did have trouble with the antennae! I need to practice how to do such tiny detail with watercolor!)

I’ve created some really pretty note cards and other things in my shop using this page from my journal, please have a look! Please forward my shop (or this post) to your friends to help me spread the word.

I love this tee shirt!

Two July Beetles

Two new beetle studies to share, the Milkweed Borer Beetle and the Rhubarb Curculio. Sometimes I print out 4×6″ photos of my bugs and then as I have time I can sit and do studies in my sketch journals. I’ve been working on lots of bug studies as you’ve noticed lately, but plan to work on a series of small insect paintings soon.

Milkweed Borer Beetle

I love the Milkweed Beetle because of it’s black and red coloring and nice black curved antennae. With the black legs it looks rather coordinated in a fashion sense of the word! I’ve always been partial to red and black clothes or designs!

Milkweed Borer Beetle and Rhubarb Curculio

Then just below I decided to add a little study of the Rhubarb Curculio Beetle.  I photographed it in my garden in early spring, it wasn’t ‘on’ my Rhubarb but I bet it was soon to be! I liked the rusty, powdery appearance of it and it’s unusual ‘snout’, typical of a weevil type insect.

My set up while painting

I tried to take some pictures, with my tiny camera, of some of the stages while I painted the Milkweed Beetle. I like to try and show the steps a bit because there are so many ways to approach how to do a painting.

(side note- you see on the page a bunch of dots of color, I was playing around with color mixing with my watercolor crayons and it had nothing to do with these bug paintings)

Laying green 'spots' on top of first light green layer

I missed taking a picture of the first stage but here (above) you can see that I put a very light green wash all over the leaf around the beetle first. I did this before I painted any of the bug, I used a bigger brush and just washed it on quickly but still tried to stay neat around the bug outline.

Then I started to paint the beetle; I used a water brush to wet the paper only where I was going to paint. The water brush was very handy to use instead of dipping my brush in water and wiping. I tested the red out on a piece of scrap paper then added a little at a time. The dampened paper was a nice way to keep the shading soft. Start with the overall color or the ‘background’ color first, then the darker values of red will be layered over it after it dries. I was careful not to paint red to the edges because it would ruin the 3d effect and also he had a powdery look that I wanted to imitate.

To make the leaf veined pattern, I thought I’d try just adding these little green ‘spots’ in a sort of organized pattern. By organized I mean that I would put them next to my pencil lines that indicated where a light vein would be, just arranging them along it was enough to indicate a vein.

Green 'spots' layer is finished

I’ve finished the green spots layer and you can see now how the bugs legs don’t look as dark? That’s relative to the new value of color around it and now will need to be darkened some more. That’s usually the way as you work on a detailed watercolor, it’s many layers to push things darker and bring out detail.

My set up today on an easel to give my neck relief!

Here’s a picture just showing you my set up as I worked at this stage. Before I had it flat on the table but that starts to hurt your neck after awhile, so best to prop it up somehow, this is a basic wooden paint box that you use on the table and the lid serves as an easel.  I just stick the photo to it with “Blue Tack” or “Sticky Tack” and then I put my field palette of watercolors on a small box in front of it (so it’s raised up closer).  This table easel a great little box because I keep ALL of my color pencils in it, separated by colors with rubberbands. I used to always use color pencil on my watercolors to add details at the end, but find I haven’t done that in ages!

Milkweed Borer Beetle finished and edited

I took a wet brush and gently wet the spots and rubbed very lightly to blend them a bit, then I washed some blue faintly over areas of the leaf to tone down the yellow green a bit. The picture above is of the Milkweed Borer Beetle all finished and cleaned up (the edges) on the computer so I could use it in my shop on note cards.  (if you click on it, it will take you to see Note Cards in my shop).  Now I wanted to comment here that if I was making this as a finished painting to frame and sell I would have worked on it more. I would have washed over more of the pattern here to ‘push it back’ and not make it so spotty looking, though I don’t mind it much. And the area right in front of his face I would have tidied up a bit more but that’s it for now, I consider him a good study for a better painting someday!

Here’s some more items with this painting on it:

Thanks for stopping by, leave me a comment if you like, I LOVE reading them and replying! And I hope I encouraged you to stop and look a little closer at the bugs in your garden, you may be surprised at how interesting they are! If I could encourage one more thing, it would be to get you to leave some areas of your yard go wild with local weeds and wildflowers. I have some huge Bull Thistles growing now and have discovered many interesting bugs living on them all summer. It’s like a highrise building in a city, some live at the bottom, some at the top and they climb up and down the main stem all day long! The other day I saw a Ruby Throated Hummingbird stop at the huge pink bloom of the thistle and soon the Goldfinches will be using the down from it for nesting and in fall they will eat the seeds.

There are many other ‘weeds’ growing around my yard besides the thistle, more because I have trouble keeping it neat with my neck and back giving me trouble. BUT I have also noticed new bugs almost every single time I walk around the perimeter of my yard and STOP to look. If you stop, stand still and just watch awhile, you’ll see so much. Here’s a little rhyming quote from me:

“When you stop, study and sketch, a fine image you will catch.  Study even longer, your drawing will be stronger!” Mary McAndrew

OK, go have some fun now looking for bugs! (and please get your children to look with you!)

Watercolor Crayon / Lesson 1 - Color Practice

I thought I’d add a series of posts that introduce my new watercolor crayons, a few old ones, and how to start using them in hopes that some of what I do may help someone else.

When I first bought watercolor (or water soluble) crayons I tried them and didn’t like them at all! I thought the colors garish and harsh. I thought “what a lot of money for these little things and I’m not going to use them!”. Well I’ve only recently pulled them back out and have been playing with them. I’ve learned from using watercolor pencils, go lightly at first until you know just what your colors will do when you wet them.

Please click on pictures to see them bigger.

Water soluble crayons in a tin

Here’s the set of colors I started with, Caran D’Ache Neo colors and one or two Derwent Watercolor crayons.  I also show a “crayola wax crayon” and explained in another post (below) how I used it. I cut them in half (oh heavens yes I did!) to make them lighter to carry in my sketch bag and I could fit more; here I show them in an “Altoids” mint tin.  The other halves go into a baggy for later or to carry in another kit.

I took them out into the field and did some small landscape studies using these few crayons. There are links at the end of my post you can click on to read about them. After doing them I was feeling more enthused about my crayons, I think it’s time to look for more colors!

New Tin of Watercolor Crayons, Staedtler "Karat Aquarell" Neocolor II

More colors in other brands…landscape colors hopefully. I thought I’d try these Staedtler “Karat Aquarell” neo color II, they were reasonably priced online. Because I’ve been desperate for sunshine this spring, it was gorgeous that evening so I sat on my front steps to do my color charts.

New Watercolor Crayons, wow look at all those colors!

Here’s the crayons! Woohoo….they look nice! I’m hopeful that some of those greens might be what I was looking for.

Getting ready to wet the colors and have some fun!

First I want to stress that before you do any paintings with ANY media, watercolors, color pencils, oils etc, you should ALWAYS do some color charts of all your colors. This will help you to get to know the colors as they really look on paper (or canvas) and get familiar with how to handle them.

In my sketch journal, I rubbed a small spot of color and wrote in permanent ink pen the colors name next to it. It helps to also put an initial for the name brand too or label it at the top as I did.  Prepare one row and do the wash before you color the next set of spots, just so you don’t run out of room. Keep it neat because you can refer back to these charts again and again as you get to know your colors.

Color Charts of two brands of Watercolor Crayons

After you make your dry spots of color take a waterbrush or regular watercolor brush and water, wet the bristles and touch it to the color spot. Notice how as you ‘rub’ the color it releases and becomes like watercolor. If you rub a lot you can blend the spot right out for an even tone, but leave some intense color there, drag your brush as you rub back and forth, to one side to pull color away. Then lift your brush to stop, don’t rub too far out, keep ’em neat. Now your ready to put on any more spots you may need to and wet them; leave room for labeling them. After wetting a color rinse your brush and wipe or rub on a paper towel to make sure all color is cleaned off it.

As you can see, I did my new crayons on the left, my original crayons on the right so I can compare them.

Color Charts with my comparing colors close together in the centre.

Now to have some more fun, it’s time to compare colors from different sets so I can decide which ones are too similar to carry around with me. This is a ‘getting to know you’ exercise now and VERY important! The more you play with your colors the better your choices will be when you’re painting. Sometimes when I haven’t painted in a certain media in awhile, I’ll go through and do color charts just like this.  So you can see the middle is a riot of colors!! I grouped the blues, then greens then browns and goldie colors, all good for landscapes. Label, label, label!!

( I really like how this page looks with all the color swatches, I decided to make note cards and t-shirts of it!! See the links at the end of this post 😉 )

More color play to further test some out.

Ok, then the page adjoining that one had to be used for more testing, wow, am I going to use all these pinks?

My Watercolor Crayons + Waterbrush

After all this playing I ended up with a pile of cut crayons (yes I cut my new crayons in half too! Yikes how awful!) So I searched through my favorite shelf of odds n ends, containers etc for my field kits, and found a plastic case from I think, a small first aid kit. I love that it’s plastic = lightweight! This is a picture from my previous blog post where I used the big flat water brush.

Here are the blog posts I’ve done so far using the crayons, in order of date posted:

And here are some links for FUN things with my color charts printed on them! (you can change text on them)

I hope showing you how I work helped you out! Please leave comments if you have any questions.

Creative Journaling Class - April 2011

Drawing a window and creative borders on my journal page in Alnwick, England

Meeting on Saturday’s – April 2 through 30, no classes on April 23, 10 am – 12 noon

Our adventure continues! This class includes students who took the first Creative Journaling class and we welcome all new comers!

Creative Journaling class 1- Making our journals

Creative Journaling class 1- Making our journals

Get Creative with Journaling! A class for all ages. We’ll combine sketching, painting and writing with experienced guidance from our instructor to create a journal of experiences and special days. Learn drawing skills, how to add decorative borders, creative designs and lettering to your journal. Learn creative writing tips; dabble in poetry writing and techniques for creating a very personal record. You’ll also be introduced to the use of watercolor pencils, watercolors, permanent ink pens, and water brushes to create images and illustrations to share. We’ll even make our own journal! Creative Journaling or Art Journaling is becoming increasingly popular; it complements internet blogs or conventional diaries and provides a highly visual and descriptive book to treasure for years to come.

Creative Journaling - playing with creative text.

Creative Journaling - playing with creative text.

$75 for 4 classes, a $3 materials fee payable to the instructor the first day covers the water brush you keep.

•Following this class (after a lunch break) is “Nature Sketching”, a two-hour class that ties in beautifully with Creative Journaling. Sign up for both and save $5 on both classes!
•A complete materials list will be emailed to you after registering. Contact Mary with any questions.
•Read more on my blog about my sketching adventures in England and New York, just click links in the right hand column. You can sign your email to receive automatic updates when there are new posts.

Creative  Journaling class 3 - drawing landscape behind a shape

Creative Journaling class 3 - drawing landscape behind a shape

To register for class go to http://www.burchfieldnac.org/Spring_Classes.html to download form.

Phone: 716-677-4843  or  www.burchfieldnac.org

Learn how to make colorful Creative Borders

Learn how to make colorful Creative Borders

Please sign your email in the “Subscribe” box on the right to be notified when I put up new posts.

Nature Journaling Class - April 2011

Girls study a bug with a magnifying glass

Girls study a bug with a magnifying glass

Four Saturdays in April  (2nd, 9th, 16th, 30th, no class on the 23rd) Time: 1 – 3 pm

At the Burchfield Nature and Art Center in West Seneca, NY.

Explore nature as we work indoors and out when the weather is nice, from real subjects and photos. Share my field sketchbooks from England and New York. Learn how to make your own easy field sketch journal! Learn ‘drawing from life’ techniques that will help you next time you are out in nature and want to capture something on paper. Work in your  field sketchbook using real nature objects as we learn how to draw and paint them. Learn how to use pencil, watercolor pencil and watercolor in creative ways to embellish your sketchbook pages. Adults and mature young students are welcome. We will sketch and learn in the park if weather permits.

"Springtime Path in the Maze" watercolor crayon + wax crayon

"Springtime Path in the Maze" watercolor crayon + wax crayon

$75 for 4 classes, a $6 materials fee payable to the instructor the first day covers the cost of various papers and a water brush to keep.
•This class follows the Creative Journaling class also offered on Saturdays. Both would compliment each other.  If taken together get a $5 discount on each.
•A complete materials list will be emailed to you after registering. Contact me with any questions. For your convenience several varieties of water brushes will be available in class to purchase.
•Read more about my sketching adventures in England and New York here on the blog, click on categories in right column. You can sign your email to receive automatic updates when there are new posts.

Me drawing and writing in my journal along the coast of England

To register for class go to http://www.burchfieldnac.org/Spring_Classes.html to download form.

Phone: 716-677-4843  or  www.burchfieldnac.org

Painting an "Angle Shades" moth from life

Adult student comparing sketch to a flower.

Studies of Grey Heron

Studies of Grey Heron

I hope you join us, it’s going to be great fun!

Oil Paint Color Studies

Tints made from some earthy colors.

I always advise students when they are starting out painting with watercolors or oils, to take each color they have and do color studies.  If you keep them small, they are great (especially for beginners) to carry with you while you work to check what color’s would be good choices to use. It’s a little different for oils than watercolors as you want to add white to make tints of a color.  Sometimes when you mix a color and it’s dark, you can tell a lot about it by adding a bit of white to some of it, it helps you ‘read’ the color better.

Here’s a few definitions for you:

  • “Tint” is a color with white added.
  • “Shade” is a color with black added.
  • “Chroma” is the brightness or dullness of a color.
  • “Value” is the lightness or darkness of a color.
  • “Hue” is the color name, as in red, blue, yellow etc.

Now though I’ve been oil painting for years, I still find it helpful, when I’m away from it for a time, to do color studies to warm up and re-familiarize myself with the colors and their properties. (I get involved with my watercolors and set the oils aside sometimes for too long!) It’s also advisable to do when you purchase new colors.

Color tint chart

The first thing you’ll want to do is make color tints with white. Take some canvas paper and try to plan out how you’ll group your colors together, probably blues, greens, reds, yellows, browns and black.  This one is on a scrap piece of canvas paper; I started then added a few I forgot, so it’s not perfectly arranged. I created this one when I was in England and didn’t have many of my paints around.

Just use your brush to put a bit of one color down in a rectangle shape then pick up some white and add it to the color leaving some alone at the end. Wipe your brush off and pick up more white and dab it on, mixing it in leaving the area you just did alone, basically your adding more white progressively to lighten it. OR you can mix it on your palette using a palette knife and adding white to a bit of color, then take a dab of that new tint and start a ‘new’ mix and add more white to it; you’ll get progressively whiter mixes.

Clean your brush well between colors, when switching to a new color group (reds to greens etc.) use a new brush.

New colors and tints of them.

I added a few new ones to the back last night, I also ALWAYS label the color and an initial if you want, of the brand name.

Now that you have color tints, lay them aside to dry for several days and get some more canvas paper to play with color mixes. Here are pictures of studies I did at two different times.

A sample of color mixing practice

This one is a little helter skelter as I didn’t plan out too much! I abbreviated the color names so I could understand what they were. I tried typical mixes, taking one color and adding different kinds of yellows to it, or blues etc. My main goal was to eliminate colors in my field kit that were similar or could be gotten easily by mixing. I always try to keep my backpack as light as I can.

Playing with my reds and blues

Here I took two different reds, Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red, which I added Ultramarine Blue and then Cobalt Blue to, in varying amounts, then added white to really show the differences in them.

Playing with Greens and Yellows

I did the same with three greens, Cad. Green, Prussian Green and Sap Green, to which I added Cad. Yellow and Yellow Ochre.

A variety of color mixes being tested

On this scrap piece of canvas paper I was mixing Sap Green with blues and also Raw Sienna; and excited to play around with my Green Umber, a darker, duller green but lovely!  I also tested the Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna with some blues, because the sienna’s are a orangy color, they yeild various greys with the blues.

A closeup of the green and blue mixes, so subtle.

Well get your oils out and get busy! Sometimes playing around with color mixes is a great thing to do in between paintings, when you don’t have time or inclination (inspiration) to work on a piece.

“Oil Painting in Coquetdale, Northumberland”

(This post is done AFTER returning home to NY…gosh I miss my Northumberland!)

Come along with me as I do a small oil painting in a very gorgeous location in the Coquetdale (River Coquet Valley) area of Northumberland, England. I think of all the areas I’ve traveled around in Northumberland, the Coquetdale is one of the most beautiful and always catches me by surprise when we drive along it’s long winding path through the valley. It has quite a few meanders before reaching the North Sea which makes it that much more picturesque to an artist, it’s curves reflected in the sun as a shimmering snake in a green velvet valley.

Painting at Harehaugh over River Coquet

Painting while looking over the River Coquet

There I am! We hiked up this great high hill and entered the Bronze Age Celtic ring fort at the top. It’s surrounded by a deep ditch, as was the practice for all ring forts, though I guess a few thousand years ago it would have been deeper and very impressive.  After exploring the fort and ditch I settled down inside a ditch with my back to the VERY brisk wind!  While I painted I had my hood up to keep the wind off and you notice I’m wearing fingerless gloves, a must for outdoor painting!

For my set up, my favorite wooden field easel and a backpack with attached stool. This is a popular one found in many art supply catalogs but I altered it (as usual!), I took the backrest off by hammering on it until it came away. With the backrest off, I can now sit on it in any direction I like, sometimes the bars of the seat hurt the back of my legs and I feel less attachments equals less weight. I’m put a camping inflatable pillow on the seat, makes it a bit better.  All in all, I don’t usually sit when painting outdoors, I find it tiresome to my back; usually I stand up and feel freer with my painting and you can move around to keep warm.

My View Over Coquetdale from Harehaugh

My View Over Coquetdale

Here’s a view of what I saw, you may wonder how my masonite board is staying up so magically on the easel? The wonders of Blue Sticky Tack never cease!! I use it all the time, I have some little dots of it on the easel to hold small boards like this, just where I want them. With a small board, I don’t like the wood of the easel’s clamp to get in the way.

stage 1-View Over Coquetdale from Harehaugh

stage 1-View Over Coquetdale

When in the field I usually don’t pencil sketch the scene on the canvas, but use either Burnt Umber thinned with mineral spirits, or pick a color in the landscape and sketch directly with the brush. Just pay attention as you divide up your canvas with the horizon line placement and other important elements. If you get it wrong in the beginning, it’ll always be wrong! I go for blocking in big shapes in the ‘nearest’ color to it’s overall color.

When I started this one I blocked in some really bright green, later I decided I should have tried to match the color better to begin with. I just wanted to get it going, so I painted into the wet oil to adjust the color. You’ll notice my river color is quite light, just laying it in to mark it, I’ll adjust the color later.  I wanted to have a wet base to paint into. I painted the sky with an all over tone of blue with the gradation of dark to light, later I’ll add the clouds. I also started to establish where the dark areas are, the tree lines.

Stage 2- View Over Coquetdale from Harehaugh

Stage 2- View Over Coquetdale

Now I’m set up back at home and continue working from my laptop where I have photos of the scene. I’m sorry I missed a few stages with the photos as I got involved with the painting! I studied where the background mountains should go and toned down blueish green for them. I continued to study where the tree lines were and payed close attention to the light and dark areas of the hills and tree clumps. Don’t put too much detail in the distant trees, just let them describe the curve of the hills as their lines criss cross and disappear. I also started to tuck darks under  the tree lines and to the shadow side of them. You begin to notice the tree line on the left front is different than the ones on the right. They are different types of trees so the form and colors are different.

Stage 3- View Over Coquetdale from Harehaugh

Stage 3- View Over Coquetdale

Picking out a little more detail of the hills in the mid-ground, I add some lights to define the hills and more detail to the tree lines.  I lightly defined the little dirt road in the front left and a ‘hint’ of a fence, but kept it soft and also added more light to the left field. I put a small path that crossed the field in the middle but then later decided it was just too much of a distraction and took it out.  I also added some lights to the trees on the right, you can see they are more pointy than the other trees as they are pines.

Stage 4- View Over Coquetdale from Harehaugh

Stage 4- View Over Coquetdale

Above you can see I’ve added some darker (but still bright) blues to the river, taking care which direction I stroked it on. I added some yellow to the fields on the left to warm it up and cut down on the lightness. I added more bushes and detail to the front right side by the bank.

Completed "View from Harehaugh" 6x8" oil

Completed "View over Coquetdale" 6x8" oil

The completed painting,6 x 8″ in oil, click it to view it larger in my Gallery of Landscapes. Here you can see I’ve added just a little more detail on the bank and sheep (whitish dots!) on the hills. One thing you notice when driving about the countryside of England are sheep just about everywhere! No hill would be complete without some of these white dots. Of course I didn’t just make blobs but made sure they had a bit of a long shape and slightly darker underneath, it’s just to ‘hint’ at a sheep, not to paint one in full detail at such a distance.

To view prints, note cards and more with this painting, click the links below to see them in my shop! (You can personalize any of them with your own text.)

Watercolor Pencil Lesson - Color Practice

I go through phases with what materials I use when I go out sketching and my love of watercolors sometimes gets pushed aside for watercolor pencils. It normally doesn’t last too long and I’m reaching for my familiar pan of watercolor paints, but for now I am in a watercolor pencil mood. So I thought I’d share with you a good lesson for people starting out with watercolor pencils or those wanting to practice.

Set up for watercolor pencil color play

Set up for watercolor pencil color play

I have quite a few colors but when I go into the field I try to carry as little as possible to keep the weight down. Above you can see many pencils and containers with lots of color charts, my sketchbook, waterbrush, bit of paper towel and of course the cup of coffee!  You may notice my pencils are short, I cut them in half so I have less weight and bulk in the field, keeping the other set at home or in other field kits.

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 1

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 1

I was specifically trying to pick out colors I could use for landscapes while in England, so you’ll notice I made little ‘mountains’ with the colors to test the mixing when overlapped.  To do a color ‘spot’ with medium pressure just scribble a small area and label it with initials of the color.  Take your wet brush or waterbrush and rub into the color then keep rubbing lightly as you move the brush away; it will get lighter and you’ll create a nice color swatch. I group mine together, blues, yellows, greens etc. Between colors, either rinse your brush then wipe on paper towel, or if you’re using a waterbrush, just stroke it on the paper towel until it appears clean.

From the blue swatches at the top left, I then selected a few and lightly colored them next to it and then wet it to see if it’d look good as ‘sky’ colors. Then at the bottom right I was pleased with the test of mixing basic blues with my yellows to make various greens. If I like I could leave the green pencils behind but it does mean more layering and mixing and while in the field I try to make it so I can sketch fast.

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 2

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 2

This picture looks paler than I’d like, I don’t have use of a scanner here so these are photographed with my camera! But anyways, at the top I was experimenting with first laying down a light blue wash then putting the green mountains on top. Then I tried purpley colors because distant mountains sometimes have that hue. Then I made up some fields and tried layers of various yellows, blues and greens. At the bottom I experimented with toning down the vibrant colors by adding charcoal grey and various reddish colors (red is opposite of green so it can tone it down)

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 3

Watercolor Pencil Practice - page 3

This page is also a bit light but you can see my colors still. I was determined to eliminate any excess green pencils if I could, so I tested them next to each other. At the top you can see I tested some browns, overlapping them in a square pattern. At the bottom is a quicky sketch in ink done at the beach, later I played with the colors to test them on it.

Well I know it’s not a thrilling post but it shows you how to get familiar with your watercolor pencils if your a beginner or very experienced and just needing to pick out some colors. Once you pick the colors you’ll use in your ‘kit’, make a small color chart of them, labeled so you can refer to it quickly until the pencil choices come easily.

A note about one of the reasons I like watercolor pencils; if you lay more than one color down dry, then wet it to blend and bring out the vibrant color, I like the grainy textures left and how you can see bits of both colors (depending on how much you rub it to blend). You can draw lines and leave them somewhat or you can shade lightly for more of a watercolor look.

So, grab your watercolor pencils and have some fun playing!

Watercolor Lesson - Color Practice

Sometimes when you don’t feel like painting or don’t have the time to work on a painting, it can be helpful to just play with color mixing; this is also great for a beginner in watercolor (or any medium!) or if you haven’t touched them in awhile and feel rusty.

Watercolor practice mixing - pages 1+2 of sketchbook

Watercolor practice mixing - pages 1+2 of sketchbook

Here is my small field sketchbook opened up to show you my color studies. I wanted to experiment with greens and then various blues for landscape painting. It can be great fun to do this, it’s relaxing and loosens you up with the paints. I find it good practice to try to copy from life, that is the landscape right in front of you, but also from pictures of paintings you like in books.

Watercolor - practice mixing - pg 1

Watercolor - practice mixing - pg 1

I made this nice and big so you could read my notes, I abbreviate the names of my colors and put (+) plus signs where I mixed a new color in.

Watercolor practice mixing - pg 2

Watercolor practice mixing - pg 2

The blues at the bottom of this page are from looking at watercolor paintings and trying to copy the color and study how the artist (A. Heaton Cooper) made it look like water.

Having these pages in my field sketchbook is great reference when I’m in the field painting or at home in the studio, you can refer to your color notes when searching for the right color. This was a great exercise and glad to share it with you, give it a try no matter what your level of experience, remember even virtuoso violinists warm up and practice their scales everyday!

Large Snail Studies (step by step)

I’ve been studying my snail Cuthbert, and really learning a lot of interesting facts. I know they’re slimy, strange little creatures that eat your garden plants, but they still merit study in my opinion. So I went outside the strange thing was I just walked over to a huge Sycamore tree and felt directed to look right at it’s base in the long grasses, tucked between some big roots. I pulled the grass aside and there, lo and behold two snails! I must have felt the “Snail Vibes” hahah.

big snail photo

big snail photo

One of the snails was this big guy (or girl!) that has now been named “Jabba the Hut”! He’s munching on some sweet corn here. Enjoy the simple stages of painting in watercolor shown below, to give you an idea of how I paint them.

big snail stage 1- ink

big snail stage 1- ink

First I did drawings using light pencil, then go over it my micro permanent pen, keeping it simple and cartoon-like so I could add the detail with watercolor.

big snail stage 2

big snail stage 2

Then I look at the snails to see what pale color I see ‘underneath’ the other darker colors. I make a wash of this color and put it on, and while it’s wet, sometimes I drag a bit more of the wash or color into areas I want darker, with the tip of my brush.

big snail stage 3

big snail stage 3

Here you can see I’m just adding a bit more details and colors, keeping it simple. Look for dark patterns and be careful to leave light or white areas alone.

big snail stage 4

big snail stage 4

Sorry my stages kind of jumped here, I think I got busy and didn’t photograph any more stages! But all I did was kept looking for pattern, colors and shapes, let areas dry before adding new patterns so it doesn’t all blur together. If it does, take your paper towel tip and push it on the area to blot it, rub with brush tip and repeat until you get it lightened. You can add dappley marks with your brush tip for texture.

big snail stage 4 + paint

big snail stage 4 + paint

This is my sketch book along side my pan of watercolors, this is what I used to paint them.

Hope you enjoyed more snail studies!