July Art Classes

I want to thank all who attended my Introductory Colored Pencil and Intermediate Colored Pencil Classes this month. All were enthusiastic, asked many good questions and, I hope, learned a lot from the sessions. In the Introductory Class, from what I observed, all made great progress in handling the pencils through the technical exercises and on into the painting. I was pleased that you continued to practice at home.

A great deal was learned as well in the Intermediate Class, on both sides. I received some great suggestions for making future classes even better.

I will be leading additional classes in August and up through the end of the year. You can find all my classes, as well as many, many more very informative classes on a wide variety of subjects at Master the Possibilities (masterthepossibilities.com), On Top Of The World Communities, Ocala, Florida.

IMG_1583 La Iris Update 3

Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 4

Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 4

The sky is complete (for now) and I’ve started on the distant trees.

I finished up the layer of cloud blue, moving from right to left. After that I went back over the area of the sky where there is a transition to a lighter value. The transition wasn’t uniform enough, so I touched it up with blue slate to make it a bit more gradual.

The clouds next received some attention. Using the cloud blue I added more structure and volume to them, putting in shadows here and there. I’m going to leave them for now, and maybe do more work on them later. I’ll decide how much more detail is necessary by looking at them in relation to other objects around them when the painting is more completed.

The distant trees are important because they contrast with the birds. I have to be careful how much detail I put into them because they could begin to compete with the birds. I want them to show off the birds by serving as a darker backdrop. The way I approached the trees was to block in the shapes, without any real detail, getting the values and colors as close to the color and value sketches as I can. After blocking the trees in I can start back over them, putting in detail slowly, until I’m satisfied. The distant trees were blocked in with chrome oxide green (FC), chromium green opaque (FC), yellow ochre (FC) and Tuscan red (FC). The Tuscan red, combined with the chrome oxide green, gives really dark values for the deepest shades. I changed the palette a bit from what I had decided on originally, adding the yellow ochre and deleting the chartreuse and white (so far). The warmth of the sun on the trees comes through more in the color sketch than in the photo, so I felt the yellow ochre worked better than the chartreuse, which is a cooler color.

Now that the distant trees are blocked in, I will go back over the area and begin adding some detail.

IMG_1622 Withlacoochee Flight Update 4 IMG_1621 Withlacoochee Flight Update 4

Work in Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 3

Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight Update 3

            I’m going to do this painting entirely in colored pencil. The size will be 22” by 13”, and I’ll be using Stonehenge paper. The first step was to transfer the pencil drawing to the paper. I then started on the sky first.

            Although it looks simple, the sky color is not. The value is darkest on the left and at the top. The value progressively lightens downward toward the horizon and toward the right side of the picture. Sky color normally becomes more intense toward a point directly overhead, being lightest near the horizon. The sky color gets progressively lighter toward the sun – in this case, toward the right. I wanted to keep those characteristics in this painting.

I used three colors for the sky – sky blue (FC), cloud blue (P) and blue slate (P). I started off by putting in a uniform layer of sky blue (FC). I carefully worked around the clouds and trees, including “sky holes” in the trees where I thought they would work. After the sky blue layer, I put in a layer of cloud blue uniformly over the same area I previously put in the sky blue.

Next, I started back over the previous colors with blue slate, starting on the left side. Since I wanted a gradual fade-out to a lighter color toward the right and toward the bottom, I gradually decreased pressure on the blue slate beginning near the uppermost clouds, and continued fading it toward the right, and also faded it out downward toward the tree tops.

By this point the color is beginning to intensify. I started another layer of cloud blue, starting on the right and worked toward the left. This will be a uniform layer over the entire sky. I’ll see how the coverage is after this layer and decide whether to add an additional layer of cloud blue before touching up with all three colors to finish off the sky.

IMG_1616 Withlacoochee Update 3

Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 2

Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight Update 2

            For the color sketch I used a blurred version of the final composition I put together on Photoshop Elements. The blurred version was posted here last week as the color sketch. I’m going to do this painting in colored pencil, so my next step is to figure out what colored pencils to use. There are many ways to come up with the colors seen in the photo. Many possible combinations. I also don’t have to come up with an exact match but I do have to come up with combinations that look good together. I like the combinations seen in the color sketch, so I tried to match them as close as I could.

As I’ve done with all my paintings, I made up a color test sheet to find the combinations of colors I like for various areas of the painting: the sabal palms on the left, the sky, the water, the background trees, the trees on the right, the grasses and the birds – all of the major blocks of color. There are smaller areas that don’t show up in the color sketch that have special colors and those can be worked out as I go through the painting. I just want to get the main areas figured out now.

IMG_1609 Withlacoochee Update 2

For the sabal palmettos on the left I’ll be using mainly chromium green opaque (Faber Castell – FC) and cadmium yellow (FC) and green ochre (Prismacolor – P). The sky can be duplicated with cloud blue (P), sky blue (FC) and blue slate (P). The water, which is a reflection of the sky and trees, can be cloud blue (P), sky blue (FC), cobalt blue (FC), chromium green opaque (FC), cadmium yellow (FC), chrome oxide green (FC), chartreuse (P) and crimson lake (P). The crimson lake, added to the chrome oxide green will produce the darks greens and near blacks of the trees and reflections. The lighter areas of the near trees are chromium green opaque (FC), chrome oxide green (FC), chartreuse (P) and cadmium yellow (FC). The distant trees are chrome oxide green (FC), chartreuse (P), cobalt blue (FC) and white (FC). The grasses and herbaceous plants look to be chromium green opaque (FC), chrome oxide green (FC), chartreuse (P), white (FC) and cadmium yellow (FC). I’ve decided to do much of the birds in French greys (P) and dark sepia (FC). The beaks seem to be combinations of cadmium yellow (FC), burnt ochre (FC), yellowed orange (P), goldenrod (P) and raw umber (FC).

IMG_1608 Withlacoochee Update 2

These colors are the main ones I think I’ll be using. They’ll give me a good base with which to work. As I go through the painting I may need to add others.

I can now start on this painting and I’ll begin by laying in the sky.

IMG_1611 Withlacoochee Update 2

Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 1

Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 1

            Most of my nature paintings are of scenes outside my home state of Florida, either in the Appalachians or other far off, but equally appealing locales. However, there are some very beautiful natural areas here in Florida and I decided it was time to do a painting of one. A few weeks ago I was looking through some photos I had taken while boating on the Withlacoochee River. There were two that were appealing, but one offered interesting reflections, perspective and depth, as well as a mix of trees and grass that I liked. It looked like a good start.

112 Withlacoochee River Update 1

The scene was interesting, but I wanted I wanted to bring more life and motion into it. What better way than to introduce some native birds – egrets. I found some photos of egrets in flight on the web and downloaded a few in various flight configurations. I then copied them and inserted them into the original photo, moving them around and changing their sizes to see what patterns I could come up with. I varied the sizes and positions of the birds to make the overall composition more interesting.

112e Update 1 112f Update 1 112h Update 1

To introduce a focal point or center of interest (COI), I greatly enlarged one of the birds and placed it near one of the sweet spots – near the intersection of two lines that divide the picture area into thirds both vertically and horizontally. One of the compositions seemed promising.

112h Update 1

Although the latest compositions seemed to be getting closer to what I wanted, there still seemed to be a problem. The converging lines of the trees and water, as well as the line of birds, seemed to draw the eye off the painting to the left side. Something was needed to stop the eye from passing off the painting. I thought that a grouping of trees on the left would help. I looked online once again for cabbage palms (sabal palmetto), one of the iconic trees of the Florida wetlands. I found some and, again, downloaded the photos, and copied them into the compositions I had settled on. I moved them around, altered their sizes and proportions and fitted them near the left border. It seemed to improve the composition.

112n2 Withlacoochee River Update 1

I now have two compositions that look pretty good. One shows the center of interest higher, with the trees as backdrop. The other shows the center of interest lower, with the wing breaking the line of the water. The higher center of interest is near the middle of the photo vertically, the lower center of interest is closer to the bottom third line – closer to the “sweet spot”. It seems to improve the composition a bit more but there still seems to be something a little off. The center of interest is now low enough but seems to be a bit too far right – too close to the right edge. So, I move the bird over left a little, nearer the converging lines one third of the way up from the bottom and one third of the way in from the right. Ah, that looks better. The center of interest looks a little bit too large, so I make it just a little smaller. I like the change.

112q Withlacoochee River Update 1

Now, I want to see how the values look, so I convert the photo to black and white, then blur everything to simplify the shapes, and deal mostly with values. Everything seems good. The birds seem to show up well, the grouping of cabbage palms keeps the eye from wandering off the picture, the birds are of different sizes and configurations, as well as positions, and there is one bird set off by size and position as a center of interest. That bird is near a “sweet spot” and its white body contrasts sharply with the dark background.

112q2A Withlacoochee River Update 1 Values

As a final manipulation, I blur the color photo to simplify the colors. Once again, the birds show up well, especially the center of interest, whose white color contrasts well with the green background.

112q3 Withlacoochee River Update 1 Color

All I have to do now is develop a color sketch so I know what colors and color combinations I’ll be using. I’ll discuss that next time.

Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris, Update 3

Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris, Update 3

            After completing the leftmost standard (petal), I completed the smaller petal in front of it. It is very light in color and required much less work. As with the previous petal, I started with lavender and defined the contours, creases and shadows, applying a bit more pressure in the darker areas. I then went over the lavender with lilac to complete it.

IMG_1560 La Iris Update 3

The second standard, just to the right is a little more complex, with more value and color variation. But it, too, can be tackled in the same manner. Light to dark. I started on the inside of the petal, laying down a layer of lavender over the entire interior, pressing a bit more heavily in the darker areas, to get in the creases, puckers and shadows. I decreased the pressure on the pencil going down into the throat. Next, a layer of hot pink was layed down in the center of the petal, feathering it out to either side. I put a bit more pressure in the creases just to the right and left of the midrib. Lilac was added next, into the creases and into the shadowed area of the overlying curved portion of the outside of the petal. The center of the standard has much more red, so I put that in with mulberry, feathering it out to the right and left. The area in shadow required some mulberry as well, and just a bit of violet.

IMG_1562 La Iris Update 3

After laying down the basic colors and tones for the interior of the standard, I went over the area again with lavender, lilac and mulberry to darken the colors and tone. Finally, I added a little canary yellow and lilac to the lowest, left side at the base of the petal going down into the throat.

The outside of the standard was started with lavender again, first with outlining, then filling in, going heavier in the creases and shadowed areas.

IMG_1566 La Iris Update 3

The next standard to the right, pointing to about one o’clock was next. This one has more intense color and darker values but can be tackled in the same manner. Lavender was used first to cover the entire interior of the petal, then I went a bit heavier to define the midrib area and the creases radiating outward. There’s a bit more pink color to the interior of this petal, so I added a light layer of hot pink in the central third of the petal, letting it bleed out toward the sides. Mulberry was added next, over the hot pink in the center third, with heavier pressure along the midrib. I bled out the mulberry to the sides also, but not as far as I did with the hot pink, so the hot pink still showed up outside the mulberry.

IMG_1568 La Iris Update 3

Lilac was added to the right and left sides of the midrib, defining the shadows of the creases radiating outward and indicating the shadows created by the curving edges of the petal. More lavender then lilac again was used to fill in the petal. To get the central rib of the petal darker I used violet. Violet was also used just to the right and left, easing into the mulberry. I then went back over with lavender, lilac, mulberry and violet where necessary, to tweak and adjust the colors and values. The central area seemed to have a yellow glow, maybe from sunlight in the back, so I added just enough canary yellow to produce that bit of glow. The outside was completed with lavender and lilac in light layers. You’ll notice I kept a light edge to define them better.

IMG_1569 La Iris Update 3

On either side of the standard that points to eleven o’clock there are two small structures. The one on the left is triangular in shape, the one the right more elongated. Both are similar in color. Lavender was used as base color, going a bit darker for the shadows. Just a hint of hot pink added as well. The structure on the right is darker behind the petal in front, so I added some mulberry and violet to the darkest area on top. The bases of each lose the violets to some degree, with more yellow appearing. The bases of each structure take on a grayish cast, especially in their shadows. That slight gray color was produced by using canary yellow and its complement, violet.

The style (the triangular structure in the center) and the signal (the upside down triangular structure below it) were done next. The top of the style is lavender and hot pink. A bit of violet under the edge indicates shadowing. The three gray patches on the lower part of the style were again produced by mixing the complements yellow and violet. Some yellow bleeds out around the edges. The signal on the bottom petal (the fall) is thought to be a landing strip of sorts for pollinators and so is colored brightly to beckon the insect. Canary yellow and a bit of violet is all that was needed to define it.

The bottom fall (the petal on the bottom) was completed next. It is very similar to the upper one and was finished in the same manner. Lavender was used first to give a base color and then to define all the creases, folds and ribs. Lilac was used to further deepen the values and shadows. I then added mulberry in the center, using a line stroke to color in the four ribs running downward from the signal. Violet was added to darken the central area further. I purposely left the mulberry color in the ribs and darkened around them. The right side of the petal seemed to be more pink, so I added a light layer of hot pink to that side. The left side was left with the lavender-lilac color. Now that the basic colors were down, I just continued back and forth with lilac, lavender, mulberry and violet to deepen the colors and tones and maintain the shadows, folds and creases. I used care to work the darker colors up into the signal to make it stand out, just as nature intended.

IMG_1573 La Iris Update 3

The outside of the petal required lavender and lilac on both sides, with a light layer of hot pink on the right, to continue the pink cast noted on the inside. That same pink was carried around onto the curved outer part. Once again, I left the edges more white to define them.

The last standard on the right was completed with mostly lavender and lilac, once again. The darker creases on the inside required some violet and just a hint of mulberry. The creases on the bottom part are deep and colored in with lilac, a bit of violet and hint of hot pink.

IMG_1583 La Iris Update 3


The Iris was completed in a little more than 17 hours. That’s a little more than the 12 hours of class time, and more than I would have liked for the intermediate level class, but within the range of capability of intermediate level students if they put a bit of time in on it at home in between classes. There is some detail in this flower but not too much. The number of colors used is minimal. By tackling one petal at a time, and using the same procedure for each, the coloring can be simplified. There are only a few layers of color laid down to accomplish this painting. It serves well as a next step toward more complex colored pencil paintings.