Graphite Sketch

When my sketching mojo disappears and comes back, I will spend some quality time sketching with my graphite pencils. I enjoy using my pencils as it helps me focus on the basic sketching techniques and also learning to look at the shapes I see. I also look for the highlights and the shadows.

Here’s a warmup sketch I did from a still life. A few of you from my workshop will recognize the veggies. I took some creative license and changed the shapes a bit.

Here’s my initial sketch and what I started with. I sketched loosely the outline of each object. I sketched around a few of the highlighted areas and included the base shadows. I added curved lines to show the curvature of the objects. You can see my lines consist of short strokes with a light hand.

In the next picture I used a blending stump to smooth out some areas where my lines were heavy. Blending the dark areas around the edges added some depth and made the highlights show a bit better.

In the final sketch (first picture), I used my 8B pencil to darken the objects further and used the blending stump to smooth out the darker areas to create additional depth and contrast.

Pencils used: Derwent Graphite in HB, 2B, 4B, and 8B

Journal: Leda Art Supply Softbound size Medium (A5)

Watercolor Warm Up With Three Peppers

As part of my refresher and getting back into an old hobby, I always practice recreating a piece of artwork from one of my favorite pictures. The “three peppers” is a picture I took when Hubby and I were in the Grand Caymans and stumbled across an outdoor market that had beautiful fruits and vegetables displayed. I’ve already completed a rendering of my three peppers in graphite, oil, and pastel. Now, it’s time for a watercolor version.

Here is my portable setup while I sit in my comfy art chair in our family room. My art chair is actually an “armless chair” that is quite comfy. I love having no arms on my chair as I can freely move my arms around or quickly change my sitting position. I have a hard board that I use when I work with single sheets of art paper. My favorite size is a 11″x14″ board where I can then clip my watercolor paper to the top side of the board and also have my mixing palettes and shop towel within reach.

My portable watercolor setup on top of a hard board

My three peppers are still a work in progress. I took my time with my painting process. I started the first layer using the light colors. For the next layer I used medium-toned colors. It was getting late and I decided to stop what I was doing and take a quick picture. Right now, my peppers look like they are floating on the paper.

I need to apply a layer or two of darker colors and add the shadows under the peppers. A great start into my watercolor adventure.

My Watercolor Supplies

Paint: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor

Brush: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece Travel Brush #8

Paper (140lb/300gsm 100% cotton): Strathmore 500 Series Premium 5″x7″ paper

Paint Palette: Art Toolkit by Expeditionary Art

Mixing Palette: Small porcelain flower palette (Hobby Lobby)

My Boots

The only clothing-related purchase I made in the last year since you know what started was my first pair of duck boots. I saw this boot at my local discount shop and tried them on. I could not believe how comfortable they were. I bought them hoping they would keep my feet dry. Little did I know that I would end up wearing them through several snow systems and rain showers we were having. Yes! They’ve kept my feet nice and dry.

My special water boots!

My duck boots are actually called Sperry Saltwater boots. There’s a feature of this boot that I immediately fell in love with when I first saw them. The strings do not tie at the top of the boot. If you look closely at my sketch you can see the ends of the string are knotted and just sit loosely on each side of the boot. There is a zipper on the inside of the boot to help my foot get in and out. I just wear a thick pair of warm socks with my duck boot and that’s it!

Hubby and I had the chance to get away this past weekend and my duck boots came along with me. I wore them to a winery we were visiting and sure enough Hubby wanted to walk the winery grounds. I was happy that I came prepared and my feet were dry.

Naturally, I had to do a quick sketch of my duck boots!

My Rose Gold pen used to sketch my boots

The pen in my picture is made by Bonecrusher 7 Studios using a Rose Gold resin. I had filled this pen with Cocoa Shimmer. That’s the color you see on the top part of the boot with all the shimmers. For the shoe strings, I used Heart of Gold. For the bottom of the boot I used a combination of Saguaro Green and Melon Tea. I used Thunderstorm for the shadow of the boot along with a bit of Melon Tea to bring a bit of the boot color into the shadow.

I still have a few more sketches to share with you. Yes, I’ve been busy! My “creativity” is going full throttle. More sketching means more practice time for me and I can feel and see the improvements along the way. If I’m using my eraser, it means I’m removing extra lines and not a mistake. To me, that’s progress!

Pens: Bonecrusher 7 Studios in Rose Gold with Opus 88 Medium nib. (I swapped my nibs around and this Opus 88 was available in my nib unit box). TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1.

Inks: Diamine Cocoa Shimmer. Robert Oster Heart of Gold, Melon Tea, Saguaro Green, and Thunderstorm.

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta

A Vibrant Floral Pen and Ink Wash

My Floral & Vase pen and ink wash sketch

I used to be a wedding photographer many years ago. While I enjoyed the creative aspects and challenges, I did not enjoy having additional roles as hostess, seamstress, and assistant. I was hired to be a photographer. Not a last minute seamstress or a get things done at last minute assistant. Yes, I no longer photograph weddings.

When I grabbed a picture from my “to sketch” pile of photographs it conjured up memories of when I took that particular picture. This sketch I did last night brought back memories as a wedding photographer. It was a simple vase full of colorful flowers.

For this floral sketch, I used a lot of ink colors. I had pulled out 10 fountains pens with various ink colors and used all the colors I selected.

My Benu Euphoria in Tropical Voyage and TWSBI GOs.

My favorite brands of ink for sketching is currently: Jacques Herbin, Diamine, and Robert Oster. Especially the shimmering inks from JHerbin & Diamine. I mentioned that wet inks are great for ink and water washes as the “lines” I lay down blend nicely with my watercolor paper.

Close up picture showing some shimmers

Late last year, Robert Oster Sydney Lavender was a late addition to my ink collection. It blends beautifully with Diamine Arabian Nights (shimmer) ink.

A close up of my beautiful Benu pen. Look at all the sparkles in the flowers.

I’ve been enjoying my Benu Euphoria pens. Besides writing in my journals, I love using them for my artwork. The medium nibs lay down a nice amount of ink. Plus the pens are gorgeous to look at.

Pens: Benu Euphoria Tropical Voyage with Medium nib. Platinum Prefounte with (05) Medium nib. TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs

Inks: Diamine Arabian Nights. Jacques Herbin Cornaline d’Egypte and Vert Atlantide. Robert Oster Sedona Red, Charred Hickory, Sydney Lavender, Melon Tea, Thunderstorm, Heart of Gold, and Saguaro Green.

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta (cold press)

Monochromatic Pen and Ink Sketch

I have a picture I took a few years ago from a charcoal art class I attended. It’s a still life that incorporated two bottles, a mug, and some fabric. My art instructor placed several objects (pottery, bottles, styrofoam shapes, etc) on several tables. She told me I could sit at any table. I was drawn to this simple composition that incorporated the use of odd numbers (two bottles and a mug) and the draped and folded fabric. It was the most challenging table compared to the other still life tables she had set up for the class. While the other students chose the easier objects to sketch, I wanted to create something that would challenge my brain.

It was easy for my eyes to say I can draw/sketch this simple mug. When I grabbed my piece of charcoal and started to draw the shapes, my brain said “this looks wonky” because my ovals looked more like circles, the top and bottom of the mug did not align, and the handle on my mug looked like one of Mickey’s ears. That’s what happened with my initial warm up sketch.

At the end of that charcoal class, I took a few pictures of this beautiful still life. I knew this would be “the one” picture I would use over and over for my practice study using graphite, pastels, oils, watercolor and now pen and ink.

I like using a single color to sketch/draw and create a monochromatic piece of art. This helps me understand the qualities of the medium I am using. With fountain pen inks, I get to see so many surprising colors appear on my watercolor paper that I might not see in my regular writing journals.

Here is my latest pen and ink wash sketch using a single ink color from Robert Oster.

Used my TWSBI 580 to create this monochromatic study.

The base ink color for Schwarz Rose looks like a dark green with rose gold shimmering particles. I sketched an outline using my Preppy with Carbon ink (water resistant). I drew the lines around the objects with the Schwarz Rose ink color and used my water brush to soften the lines a bit. After I let the paper dry, I went back in with bolder and darker lines to create the shadows. I took my water brush and “painted” over the dark areas and pulled the colors out over the paper.

I had to be careful not to overwork the areas with the dark ink. It’s harder to remove a dark color once I applied the ink to the paper. Plus when too much water is added, the color looks less saturated.

Once my sketch was dried, I was amazed to see other colors appear such as green-black, a few shades of teal, and rose pink.


Since the month of January was the month for shimmering inks, I ended up using a few of my shimmering inks in my sketches. Once water is applied to the shimmering inks, the shimmer particles will start to spread and collect in different areas of where the water has pooled. A few times the diluted shimmers might look faded on the paper. In the final layer of color, I go back with my shimmering inks and draw a few lines to bring back the highlights or shimmering effects on the object.

Pens: Platinum Preppy with 02 Extra Fine nib (Carbon ink). TWSBI Diamond 580ALR Prussian Blue with Medium nib

Ink: Robert Oster Shake ‘n Shimmy Schwarz Rose

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta (cold press 270 g/m)

Warm Thoughts for a Cold Morning

I am up early as usual. Before the crack of dawn. It’s a lovely 26 degrees outside. I have coffee in hand and I’m ready to start off our day with some artwork.

I have to caution you, my reader. I am all over the place with my hobbies. Everyday, I get to play with my fountains pens and inks. I am always writing about something. Writing out tasks in my daily journal. Writing about my fountain pen/ink experiences in another journal. Creating writing samples to share on social media. There is something wonderful about putting a beautiful nib with beautiful flowing ink onto a blank page or sheet of paper. Sigh!

I have days when I want to play with my watercolors. Or I have a need to sew a few masks. I have my tools within an arms reach and when the mood hits me I’m ready to go.

One day. Over the summer. I picked up my graphite pencils and drew this shell:

A sketch of a shell that Hubs and I found on a beach in Antigua. Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle

It only took a few years to get enough nerve and several attempts to draw a shell. From a picture. From memory, as well. The ridges. The shiny and smooth edges. The shadows. All those curves.

I squinted a lot when I created this sketch. My mind likes to play games. When I see something I immediately see all the beautiful colors and then scratch my head to figure out how put this on paper. Using a pencil.

I started with a quick gesture sketch to get the outline of the shape and placement using an HB pencil. I like using my Pentel Energize retractable pencil with a .7 lead. I have several of these scattered around my house. It feels good in my hand.

You can see from my sketch there appears to be some light washes over the shell. I used my Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle pencils to create the various shadings and lines. I took my damp watercolor brush and applied a bit of water to soften the lines and also to create the pools of dark color for the shading. While squinting all the way.

A few years ago, I had an art friend look at my sketches. He mentioned that I needed to be bold and go darker with my pencils. Make the artwork…pop! Hahaha! I’m still working on it.

I learned a valuable tip in my charcoal class I took two years ago. Do not erase my initial lines until I’m happy with placement, shape, and composition. I could not figure out when I tried to draw two same size ovals, one would be wonky. I would erase the bad oval and try again. Same wonky oval would appear. Erase. Draw. Another wonky oval. My teacher said to leave the wonky oval and sketch over it. Now, erase the bad lines. A second oval appeared. My light bulb moment.

Enjoy your day!

Three Apples on Two Papers

I have taken a break from pastel painting.  Now that we have transitioned from summer and working our way towards the fall season, I have noticed I have shorter blocks of free time on my hands.  For now, I don’t want to deal with the setup and clean up while working with pastels.

I am back to working with pencils.  As in colored pencils.  I know I posted somewhere my treasured Prismacolor Colored Pencil set.  If not, here it is again:


When I received this set a few months ago, it came in a long box and the set was quite heavy.  I was surprised to see two trays side by side and then three layers deep.  I guess that it the only way to package 150 colored pencils…safely.  It’s a gorgeous set of colors!  Don’t you agree?

From this set of 150 colors, I’ve managed to pull out several colors I thought I would frequently use.  Do you know how hard that is?  Over a few weeks of use, I have added more colors to my collection.  There are a few that I have removed.

My colored pencil collection is kept in my Color It zip around case that I found on the Internet:


My case holds 72 pencils in their designated elastic slots.  It can hold more…about a dozen more.  I’ve placed them loosely in the backside of the case.


As I have been drawing and experimenting with different types of papers, I’ve noticed the different results I’m getting with my artwork.  My favorite brand of paper to use is Canson.  If you look at my paper/pad stash, you will find 60% is made up of Canson, 20% is Strathmore, and 20% is other (experimenting with other brands).  My favorite paper weight is 90+ lb.  The heavier paper withstands lots of erasing (which I seldom have to do), but holds up to the many layers of color or graphite I apply.

Here’s an apple trio I drew in my small Canson Mix Media (5.5″x8.5″) sketchbook:


You can see a bit of the details from the paper showing through.  In this artwork, I’ve added several layers of colored pencils.  Some areas with a heavy hand.  This “mix media” paper has a bit of texture or tooth to it.

I decided to do another drawing, but using a different type of paper.  Here’s my drawing using Canson Bristol (9″x12″/smooth side) paper:


You can clearly see a difference in the outcome of my artwork.  My lines appear smoother.  Again, I have worked in layers of colors mostly with a light hand.  This is still a work in progress as I’m experimenting with coloring in shadows correctly.  Which I still have to do.

Here’s my portable sketch book that I mentioned I used for quick sketches or experiments:


For my final drawings, I use my Bristol paper.  This is an old pad I’m trying to use up:


This Bristol paper is my favorite to draw on.  It has two sides, one is smooth and the other has texture or tooth.  I call it my all purpose paper.  If I don’t like my initial drawing I can turn it over and start again or reuse it for another drawing.  Cool, huh?

Color Explorations Class – Finishing with Oils

Tonight we have to finish our paintings.  My goal is to finish my oil painting and it’s also Emily’s goal as well.    

Tonight I worked on painting the lighter values or layers.  Still I was missing the “punch” in my painting and therefore the peppers were still looking quite flat.  Emily pushed me and made some suggestions on blending more between the values to smooth out the colors.  Also, to mix in some colors (medium values and light values) to make the peppers pop.  Better transition of colors.  I also worked on the two background peppers to make the foreground peppers stand out more.  That worked.  

Here’s my final oil painting:  


It wasn’t until I actually stood back and looked at my artwork that I started to get a bit of that “wow” feeling.  Then I took a picture and saw a huge difference from what I had done two night’s ago.

It will actually take a couple of day’s for this artwork to dry completely.  I plan on leaving it on an easel at home for a couple of weeks before I hang it on my wall.

My take away from class:  Of all the mediums I used in class, I thoroughly enjoyed painting with oils.  I enjoyed the smooth paint texture and gliding the brush over canvas.  I enjoyed mixing the colors with my palette knife.  Need to layer the colors from dark to medium to light and let dry in between those layers.  This is progress.  

Canvas used:  8″ x 10″

Color Explorations Class – Working with Acrylics

For tonight’s class we are painting with acrylics.  I am still on the fence with acrylics.  This paint dries quickly.  Too quickly for me.  

I will admit, I struggled in tonight’s class.  Acrylics is a different beast to work with.  We were given a tray of tubes in different colors.  Oh, I don’t need to mix that much tonight?  I find I still do.  

I painted a picture which I’m not too happy with.  So, I was told by another artist that it’s okay to have a bad drawing or painting.  It’s also okay to not show it in public.  Hmmmm.  

So, I will make an exception and actually show a “I’m not too happy” with my artwork here:


I do have tubes of acrylics at home.  Maybe one day, I will finish this artwork in the proper way and do another post on acrylics.

My take away from class:  I do not care for acrylics.  It is unforgiving and dries quickly.  Maybe artist grade acrylics are better?  That’s okay I’ll stick with the other art mediums that I enjoy working with.

Canvas used:  Canvas panel 8″ x 10″