Monday, July 21, 2014

Ground cherries?!

Ground Cherries, "Aunt Molly's"
Physalis pruinosa
4" x 9", Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper
(click to enlarge)

Among the heirloom seeds that my daughter gave to me for Christmas, was a pack labelled "Aunt Molly's Ground Cherries"Ground cherries?  Even at my age, this was a new one. The fruit in the photo looked more like little yellow tomatillos—a smooth fruit within a papery husk—and what's with the "ground" part? Well, I read the packet to learn that they have that name not because you grind them up (admit it, that crossed your mind too...), but because you wait until they fall to the ground to harvest them. And the sweet fruit, also known as Cape gooseberries, are indeed related to tomatillos. Huh! Who knew?

Isn't it funny (and a bit eerie, if I'm being honest) when you learn about something for the first time, or hear a term you've never heard, and then it pops up again almost immediately? Well, this spring, what did I see in my grocery store, alongside the berries? Pichuberries, which seem to be identical to my Ground Cherries! Check them out here. Apparently they're a new "super fruit" or something. But my favorite fun fact from that discovery is this: "In France, this fruit is also referred to as 'Love in the Cage'". Well, if we're getting all lyrical, I am compelled to add that, while I was drawing,  my composition started looking to me a little bit like a nativity scene: two adoring parents and a new baby. Am I crazy or do you see that, too? And if their husk shape looks familiar, it's because they're also related to the ornamental Chinese Lantern plant, usually a showy orange or reddish husk.

My plants aren't huge, but this has been a tough summer in our garden; we're trying to water just enough, considering the drought we're in. These first ones, that I gathered to draw, are on the small side as you can see here:

Here is my initial sketch, followed by a few more WIP scans:





How about you: are you familiar with ground cherries aka cape gooseberries aka pichuberries?

Friday, July 11, 2014

SunSugar Cherry Tomatoes


Hmmm. This is one of those pieces that didn't turn out quite as I'd envisioned. Maybe I should've used richer colors, or should add a background—I'm not sure. Things just haven't clicked: I even felt like the hot weather was affecting my pencils, making them waxier than usual! 

These little "SunSugar" cherry tomatoes are so beautiful on the vine—the way the clusters become a rainbow of color as they ripen. I wanted to capture that stage, as I've drawn fully ripe ones in the past. 


Here are a few work-in-progress pics. This time, I used an empty slide mount instead of my usual viewfinder that I've shown you before:


I decided to enlarge it to 5x the original little thumbnail sketch on the right:


The tomatoes continued to ripen and change colors as I worked—what a show!


As I look at this next pic, I'm thinking that I like this "unfinished" stage more than the final one. The negative space where the vine will go might've looked more interesting left alone."Food for thought" for the next piece.


Well, while there's nothing horrible about this drawing,
I think that I'll chalk it up as a learning piece.
(Or maybe I'll just have to add a background before it drives me crazy...!)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sand Dollar, version 2.0

(click to enlarge)

As mentioned in my last post, after playing around in that looser style, I had to do a tighter, more realistic version of one sand dollar. It's a quiet little drawing, but it played right into my obsession with radial symmetry in nature. The image is about 6" in diameter, twice the size of the actual sand dollar. I used what I think is a piece of Fabriano Artistico paper that I found in my drawer; its beautiful surface just loves the graphite. I remembered to take this one WIP shot, for what it's worth :


I hope you're enjoying the first few days of summer!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beach treasures: Reductive drawing

I know that this doesn't look like my usual drawings, but here's the backstory:

I was down in Ventura a few weekends ago, and had a very successful morning beachcombing. My husband and I found four sand dollars in perfect condition! We went to a spot where all of the birds were hanging out, thinking that might indicate lots of goodies washing in, and it worked!

In my life-drawing meet-up, I've been doing some "reductive" drawings: basically smearing charcoal all over the paper and then "drawing" with a kneaded eraser. Since this was clearly going to be a rather monochromatic drawing, the method seemed to fit.


 Uh-oh....I knew right away that I'd made a big mistake not giving more thought to the size and placement of the sand dollars on the page. Clearly, the final piece would have to be cropped from this one, which was a disappointment, as I really like the rough edges of the charcoal-toned area.

But I had such fun, working quickly and loosely. And I love the texture of the charcoal on the paper:


But if you prefer my tighter, more detailed drawings—fear not! Here's what's on my drawing board at the moment: one of the sand dollars drawn at 2x life-size (I've cranked up the contrast to make it easier to see the lighter parts.) :

Happy Summer!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Orchids: Beautiful symmetry

Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge paper
3.5" x 4" (2x actual size of bloom)

One only has to look at my blog banner to get a hint of my obsession with symmetry, especially radial symmetry, in nature. (Click here for some of my other posts on that subject.) So, while orchids, arranged along their graceful stem, make a lovely artistic composition, I like to examine their beautiful symmetrical structure. When my friend gave me this planter as a gift recently, I immediately said, "I'll have to draw these!"


I spent quite a while looking at online photos of the thousands of types of orchids; some of them are truly spectacular. This one (as close as I could tell) is a miniature hybrid phalaenopsis sogo gotris. As you can see in the photos, it's smaller than the other one in the pot; which I plan to draw as well.


The petals looked creamy to me in the light at my drawing table, but  they look a bit more green in these photos; I might have to go back in and green them up a bit.

Orchid blooms look an awful lot like faces, don't they? Now, if I can just keep these little beauties alive...!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summertime = S'mores!


"S'more, Deconstructed."
Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge paper
(click to enlarge)


I don't care what the calendar says, once I've made this purchase at the grocery store, it's summer.


Nostalgic and gooey delicious, s'mores evoke memories of camping, backyard barbeques and family vacations. Seriously, I'll take a freshly made s'more over most desserts I've ever had.

My freshly toasted (in the kitchen) marshmallow models
This was a fun project. I started on black paper, but my marshmallow (drawn as seen from the top flat side - a bad idea) looked like a big overworked blotch and I decided to start again on white paper.


I've started drawing on Stonehenge paper and really love it—it'll take so many layers! I'd tried it a long time ago, and didn't care for it for some reason that I've long since forgottten, so I've stuck with my Strathmore Bristol for ages (and I have quite a supply of it, so I can't convert completely just yet!).


I played around with this a bit in Photoshop, and created this livelier layout and a square format that would fit nicely on a card. Which do you like best?





Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A strawberry for a warm day

Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper
(click to enlarge)

My red family of pencils is getting a workout lately. Maybe it's this almost-100 degree weather that has me thinking warm tones. (Wait, shouldn't I be drawing something like ice-blue flowers to cool off?)

Last summer, I bought these lovely strawberries from a street vendor in London. Rounder than the ones grown here in California; they reminded me of wild strawberries. Aren't they beautiful?


I've long admired the beautiful work of botanical artist Ann Swan, and whenever I think of drawing a strawberry, I can't stop thinking about her beautiful examples such as this one.  She's so much better at rendering the leafy bracts at the top, and the seeds—or "pips"—on my "model" weren't terribly prominent, but this is my homage to the talents of Ann Swan.


Oh, And here are a few work-in-progress shots:

preliminary sketch, ready for the light box tracing





The final burnishing is so much fun. I've been using Prismacolor's harder Verithin pencils for that step. Now, I think I'll go sit out in the shade and enjoy some of the leftover strawberries that didn't get to be models!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An apple a day...

"Gala apple"
Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper
(click to enlarge)

No, I'm not starting a new challenge of drawing an apple a day (although I'd like to do some more varieties); it's just that the last two days produced the two parts of this drawing.

I used Stonehenge paper for a change, and tried to practice restraint and not lay on each layer too thickly. So, whether it's the paper or the way I worked, I am happy with these.

I took a few WIP shots early on, but the got carried away and forgot to take more:




Monday, May 5, 2014

Nostalgic Necco Wafers


Several years ago, my sister and I saw a painting of Necco wafers at the California State Fair in Sacramento, and my sister still regrets not buying it. I've since seen this fabulous one by Abby Ryan, but I don't think she was the artist of the one we saw because her piece is quite small.

Anyway, I've wanted to do a little drawing of them ever since. I like drawing candy, although I'm a novice compared to the likes of Paula Pertile, a colored pencil artist who does delicious work. I've always been a huge fan of Wayne Thiebaud's fabulous confection pieces as well. So, this sketch is my humble nod to those marvelous candies of our youth, Necco wafers. Which color did you like best? For me, it's the brown ones—and there are only one or two in each roll!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Playing with my peas

(click to enlarge)

I'm in an experimental phase. I think we all go through these times—either we're tired of what we've been doing, or we're just wanting to get out of our comfort zones a bit. Or maybe we we're stuck with a drawing of some lovely English peas that is looking more than a little blah—and we need to try something to salvage it. I'm not sure where this one went awry, but I was totally overworking it and wasn't sure what to do. I decided to take my .005 Micron pen and cross-hatch it a bit. (Alright, I'll admit that I was trying—in vain—to channel my idol, John Burgoyne...)

I think that the pen-over-colored-pencil combination is something to explore, but I'm finding that it calls for a different sort of "underpainting" with the pencil, leaving more shading to be done with the hatching .

So my experimentation continues. I'm not sure if it's the things I'm seeing in Danny Gregory's Sketchbook School, or my weekly life drawing class, or the beautiful spring weather, but int'll be interesting to see where all of this restlessness leads!