Showing posts with label Technique. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technique. Show all posts

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Learning by Teaching

Today I posted this on my wall:
Last week I had a new student here in my studio. It was great. Going back to the basics and telling her lots about graphite techniques and even more about form and shading. Explaining why you put shadows here and not there, why you should do this and not do that.... wow....
All these things I do so automatically and now I need to explain my every action and decision.
It's not easy when someone asks you so many elementary questions. A wise man told me that it's like teaching a foreigner about your own language without being too familiar with all the grammar rules.

Perhaps it was me being the student, not her...

I needed to let it all sink in I guess before I could come to this conclusion. If you can call this a conclusion. It doesn't matter what it is. It was a good thing and that's what matters.  

So talking about this session with my new student, I thought it would be nice if I could show her how you can use atmospheric perspective in a drawing to create a sense of depth. For making this example I had cut off a twig of a Snowberry shrub near our house. I personally don't like them but just like the Cherry Laurel, it looks fine in black and white ;)

I first made a line drawing (my number 12 drawing for the challenge). 

So I created that same twig (using the line drawing as a base) for the tonal study (the no.13), using a bit of atmospheric (aerial) perspective this time.


The photos here didn't turn out so well. I need to try and make better ones. But you get the idea... hope my student does too ;)

Monday, 16 September 2013

Graphite Warm-Up

On Wednesday I'll be welcoming a new student in my studio. I haven't met her yet but she sent me some photos of her work. What I saw was very promising. We agreed to go back to basics and start with graphite pencils. She already made some pencil work but it looks a bit rough and unfinished. So we'll dive into the graphite techniques.
I haven't worked in graphite for quite some time. And if you have to start after a long break you feel rusty and a bit clumsy. Like a machine that needs to be oiled and warmed up before working well again. Well, that's how it is for me anyway. And I know this. So, to prevent myself from drawing like a beginner next Wednesday, I ordered myself to a warm-up. And since I'm also working on this 30 day challenge on Facebook, I thought to combine the two. So here they are...

First a leaf from some sort of crab-apple in our street. No idea what kind of Malus it is but I always like the leaves and how they curve. It's my first one and I did feel very rusty. I think it shows too and I made a few stupid mistakes (like working too fast and putting in the veins with an embossing tool) but the leaf itself and the lines worked nicely.

Like I said, I knew this would happen. It always does. So next I tried to work slower but it was a small drawing so it went rather quick anyway. A nice Acorn. I love to draw and paint acorns. No idea why but it's just one of my favourite subjects. It went rather well and although it could have been more detailed and smoother I was happy with it.

Today I started a project that will take at least two days. I think the 30 day challenge should be all 1 day pieces but I divided the drawing in two parts. Today I did the fruits, tomorrow I'll do the leaves. I cut a twig of a Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus). I really hate that shrub and never thought I would draw it but in graphite everything looks good. I guess it's like photography. If all else fails, do it in Black and White ;)

More later.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Tulipa turkestanica

Tulipa turkestanica

It has been a long time since I last posted something. The only reason for that was that I just had nothing to post. I already wrote about the troubles I had with my arm in the previous post and it only got worse after that. The doctor concluded I had a golfer's elbow as well as a tennis elbow. No fun. I wasn't able to draw or paint for months. But now I finally got permission to paint again.

At the end of winter there's not much flowering but I found these lovely Tulipa turkestanica at the garden centre. I have them in my garden too but with this year's winter they were still in the ground. So I bought them again and could draw one.

I felt very rusty painting this after such a long time. But in the end it turned out ok. Just like the Sterappels I did last year, I did this in watercolour first and then enhanced it with coloured pencil. I really enjoy taking advantage of the best qualities of the different materials.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


It has been a while again since my last post. Partially because I haven't painted much since my last blog. At least, not very botanical anyway. BUT now I have finished something that's worth sharing.
Some weeks ago I went to a nursery ("De Vrolijke Noot") of fruit trees and bushes. The owner gave me a cutting from one of his apple trees. The apple is named "Sterappel". That means "Star Apple" if you translate it. Stars, because the apple has very clear bright lenticels on the very dark red skin.
I posted the end result on Flickr and Facebook already and was very happy when Rosie Sanders complimented me on the painting. Rosie made a few years ago the famous Apple Book. She knows a lot about the different varieties and asked me what kind this is. I didn't know the English name of it. I only know the German, French and Dutch name. Later Rosie sent me a bit of more information about the apple: "I've looked it up in the National Apple Register and it seems that it is Reinette Rouge Étoilée, first described in 1830, provenance Belgium or the Netherlands. Has lots of synonyms including Sterappel and Sternrenette. Interesting!". 
What I do know is that this used to be a very popular apple in the Netherlands but has become very rare now. The problem with these apples is that it falls too early from the tree. Often it hasn't got the deep red colour yet when it hits the ground. To give the apples the wonderful, dark colour the apples were placed on straw between the trees to get more sunlight and the cold from the nights. To save the apples from dehydration the apples had to be wetted. Also to get an even red colour the apples had to be turned after a while. Very intensive work if you have a large orchard.

Now, about the painting... I used for this Arches HP (I was out of Fabriano) and painted it first in watercolour. Using masking fluid to save the "stars". After that I put on layers of coloured pencil. And although I did get a very nice and rich dark red colour with the watercolour, the coloured pencils made it even more alive. I really loved this way of working and I think I'll use this technique more. The only thing I don't like is that the watercolours roughen the paper surface. I will have to find a cure for that. More experimenting is needed. 

The painting (only watercolour) with the masking fluid to protect the "stars".

Oh, and remember that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.... right? Not really.... I went to the doctor last week and it turned out that I have a very sportive right arm: a golfer's and tennis elbow (bilateral epicondylitis). With painkillers it's possible to work for about an hour a day. So the next project will take some time to get finished. But I promise, it will be a bit different ;)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

White Rose

Last Friday I showed my students how to make a white flower with coloured pencils. Normally I would prefer to use watercolour as a base for white flowers. It's just more delicate. But it can be done in coloured pencil. The most difficult part is not to use outlines to show the flower but only shadows and colour. This is what I made for them when I demonstrated how to do that. It's a tiny (1 inch) tiny rose. White with a hint of pink.

The image here is a bit enlarged and I wasn't able to get the sharpness, smoothness and the colours right but it's close.
As you can see there are no outlines at all. The darkest shadows are at the overlaps of the petals and are quite strong. Also there's a good amount of shading under the stamens. That shading makes them pop up from the flower.
The biggest reason I don't like to make white flowers with coloured pencil is that there aren't so many subtle, very light coloured pencils. Caran d'Ache Luminance pencils however have a nice range of very light colours, almost whites... So I was happy this time I could use their Buff Titanium for the creamy centre. If you compare it to the cream pencils of Faber-Castell and Prismacolor it is whiter, less yellow. And sometimes it's just that tiny bit that will make the difference.

Friday, 18 February 2011


I never painted grapes before. Neither did I draw them with pencils. I knew I could do them in coloured pencil. They are much like blueberries. And I did blueberries years ago. Getting the bloom just right was a wonderful challenge. When I bought these grapes I knew the bloom would be the most difficult bit. But I didn't want to do another coloured pencil drawing. I decided to try it in watercolour. Pretty scary to be honest. So first I tried one. It's the one in the front. It wasn't at all as hard as I thought it would be. It actually was quite fun. So I painted a small group behind the loose one. I tried out a few different techniques but they all resulted in the same nice surface. Funny enough the hardest part was to find out what colour to use in the shadows. I finally found sepia with a bit of permanent alizarine crimson the best choice.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901

Today I bought 11 Caran d'Ache Luminance coloured pencils to test them. They are so expensive and I wanted to know if it's worth all the money. I bought really soft colours... almost whites, a light blue and a wonderful shade of Olive Brown. My favourites are Olive Brown 10% and Raw umber 10%. Very usable. I found them very easy to blend and they also mix well (blue and yellow actually make green, which isn't always the case). The leads are soft and give a nice smooth, rich colour. On the other hand, making a thin transparent layer was easy too which is good when you have to put on many layers. Downside is that you can't read well the silver colour numbers, but that's just a little thing (although it is a bit frustrating when you use many similar colours at the same time). I didn't test them in combination with my Faber-Castells or Prismacolors yet. But I'm really looking forward to it.On the Caran d'Ache website is a very nice colour-chart it's just a bit too small for me. I wish they had put the chart there that you can see in the photo here, at the start of this blog (click the photo to see it larger). I'll have to see how many colours are really different and usable in botanical art. €3,50 ($3.33 or £2.65) is really a lot of money to spend on one pencil. So that huge tin must be a really generous gift for Christmas or maybe I'll limit my wishlist to just a few more colours. I'm really curious about the greens and the black.....

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Akebia and a fuzzy practice

My Akebia quinata drawing is still not finished but I'll give you a nice scan of how it looks now. Here it is:

It's so nice to work with graphite again. Now I'll tell you a little about my technique because some people think it is only a very light touch. It is a bit maybe but most important is to use many different kinds of pencils. I use very hard ones (4H) and very soft ones(6B) and some in between of course. One of the most important things is to keep a sharp pencil at all times. So when I draw I have the pencil in my right hand and my manual sharpener in my left. I'm sharpening all the time.
Like in my coloured pencil drawings I layer a lot. In this way I can controle the lights and darks. To make a very smooth looking finish I use a hard pencil or I use a blending stump depending on what effect is needed. Most used tool to get a perfect drawing is my kneadable eraser. I use it all the time, to lift graphite, to add texture, to clean the paper....
Ah, and if you want to make a drawing like this too, be sure to use very smooth paper. I used Bristol for this one but there are other papers that are a bit more creamy and also very smooth.

Now, enough about that... Yesterday I had a bit of time to make a fuzzy Stachys leaf.

It's not a great botanical but I wanted to try out a fuzzy looking texture with my coloured pencils. Last year, when I tried it, I totally failed. I think now it's looking better. Not as good as I had in mind, but it's progress.

This afternoon I want to try out a technique I have in my head to make white flowers with coloured pencils. I never tried this technique so I don't know if it will work at all. In my mind it works very well... now let's see if it works in reality ;)