Monday Inspirations: A trip to the garden center

A swallowtail butterfly on an orange dahlia in a green house in Santa Fe NM

This fabulous butterfly is (probably) a two-tailed swallowtail that I discovered wafting about the greenhouse at Payne’s Nursery on Friday afternoon. I was searching for some container plants for our portal, but quickly forgot about my errand when this beauty floated by.

This weekend I started reading Lilla Roger’s I Just Like to Make Things, a book of career information and creative exercises for artists who would like to find a market for their art, illustration and design. The first exercise in the book is to record everything the reader finds inspirational for one week. I thought I might list my inspirations this week here on the blog.

Friday’s inspirations:

  • The butterfly!
  • The arrival of the book, I Just Like to Make Things

Saturday’s inspirations:

  • Painting a picture of a pear using only red, yellow and blue
  • Watching Slaying the Badger, an ESPN documentary about the rivalry between Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault, culminating in Lemond’s victory over Hinault in the 1986 Tour de France. Even though I saw original broadcasts of Lemond’s races and wins on TV in the ’80s, this movie offered a lot of interesting detail about the two men’s relationship and characters.

Sunday’s inspirations:

  • Walking the dogs in the early morning.

Did you bump into anything inspiring this weekend?

Current project: Polyphemus moth

An in-progress view of a colored pencil drawing of a Polyphemus moth.

Using a colored paper support has definitely given a psychedelic feel to this gorgeous moth!

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working in the early mornings on a drawing of a Polyphemus moth. I discovered and photographed this beautiful creature while walking the pups at a local pocket park when we still lived in Houston.

To add variety to my routine, I decided to use colored pencils only, on a support of ColourFix suede-textured paper. I think this color is called “jacaranda.” Purple Haze would be more fitting. 😉 The textured paper means the pencil layers on more thickly and covers more area more quickly, which is a nice change of pace from the usual tedious building up of color on a hot-press paper.

When I first sketched out the moth onto the paper, I had thought to just freehand the grass it had been lying on at a later point in the project. But as I continued to work, it became clear that a more formal and abstract background was what the composition needed. I had some snapshots of Japanese textiles left over from my V&A project, so I incorporated the design of one of the brocades. Kaffe Fassett would be proud!

Studio roundup, January 11-17

Pine cone from a piñon tree near Santa Fe, NM

Doesn’t this piñon cone resemble a rose? So pretty.

Pine cones, and piñon tree cones in particular, have such intricate and inspiring forms. They are just about as irresistible as seashells on the beach when it comes to collecting them on a walk!

This week I finally began to sketch some of the cones I’ve been bringing back from my walks. I’d been seeking an opportunity to try out silverpoint technique, but kept putting it off. The delicate details of piñon cones seem to suit the medium, but still I delayed. I had coated several birch plywood panels that had been laying around for years, but a panel seems so finished for a first sketching attempt.

Three piñon cones, drawn with silverpoint or graphite technique.

After many delays, I gave silverpoint a try this week. The lower left pinecone was drawn with graphite pencil for comparison.

While organizing some of my supplies, I found the answer to getting started on drawing the pinecones. Did you know ColourFix Suede pastel card can be used for silverpoint? It pays to read the label! A sheet of paper is so much less intimidating than a carefully prepared wood board.

Now that I’ve worked a bit with the medium, much of the intimidation and mystique surrounding silverpoint is gone. Unless you are a really aggressive and heavy-handed pencil drawer, you shouldn’t worry too much about tearing or gouging the paper surface with the wire tip. The lightness of line is perhaps somewhere around a 9H, if such a pencil hardness exists. You definitely need to layer with crosshatching and directional marks in order to build up the values, and of course, the layers of marks will never result in a true black.

Watercolor sketch of pinecone using sepia and indigo paint.

No pencil underdrawing, just layered washes of sepia and indigo delineate the form of this pine cone.

I also did a very simple freeform watercolor sketch of one pinecone, using only sepia and indigo, focusing on a small range of values. First a light wash defining the cone and shadow shapes, then progressive layers of positive and negative forms to define the “petals” of the cone.

Feels great to be back in the studio!



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