Posted in studio tip

Organizing Paint Tubes—My DIY Solution

Hello creative friends!

Today I want to share with you my solution to storing and organizing artist’s paint tubes.

I did a TON of internet research looking at the many creative ways other artists used to solve this issue. From pegboard and brackets to cork board and push pins, custom drawers with tiered storage to molded plastic racks, there were quite a few ideas out there, but most of them left me saying, “Meh…”

Part of the problem was that I needed a very specific size to fit on a very specific bit of wall space in my studio—about 27 by 48 inches—AND it needed to hold all of my oil and acrylic paint tubes.

The other problem was that whatever solution I decided on needed to fit my aesthetic and blend in with my studio’s design which has walls of tongue and groove board for a cabin-like atmosphere.

I just didn’t see pegboard or the other solutions as an option…. 😦

Then I saw an idea online by Liz Steel, watercolor artist, that sparked my interest. Here is a photo of what she and her dad created for her paint tubes.

This was closer to what I had in mind for my studio, but it was the wrong orientation and needed other tweaks to fit my needs.

Enter my hubby, or as I have been calling him recently, “Mr. Infrastructure.” He’s handsome AND handy, and when I come to him with a problem and an idea, he helps me think through the options and then helps me create a solution using what we have available if possible.

The solution? Create a shallow box backed with leftover studio wall board (tongue and groove) into which I could drill screws to hang tubes from. The whole thing would be installed onto the wall behind my easel within easy reach and would (hopefully) hold all of my oils and acrylics.

The unit is attached to the wall with screws drilled into the wall stud and is rock solid. The screws the paint tubes hang from do not poke out the back and are 2 1/2 inches long—plenty long to hold multiple tubes if needed.

I used binder clips (size small like these) to hang the tubes from the screws. I bought a package of 144 for $7.99 at Staples and had some leftover.

The binder clips are .75 inch. Minis were too small to go over the screw heads and medium or large would take up too much room!

The hardest part about this project was figuring out how to space the tubes. For one thing, I have a bunch of 22 ml acrylic tubes that were part of a Liquitex set purchased a few years back. Many of these colors haven’t seen the light of day because they were squirreled away in a plastic bag.

There are quite a few of the smaller tubes of colors I don’t use much, but as I use them up they will be replaced with larger tubes of colors I use more often.

Figuring out the spacing for my oil paint was much easier because I generally use a limited palette. The top two rows are my usual oil palette plus a few extra saturated colors I can’t get from mixing.

My paint organizer tucked behind my easel area.

So that’s it! Beautiful and functional. Sure feels good to get those tubes organized!

Thanks for reading and I hope this information is useful.

Till next time, friends. Take care and stay creative!

~R

Posted in studio tip

DIY Art HACK: How to paint to the edges of your canvas without getting paint on your easel’s clamps!

Okay. You are ready to paint. The canvas is on the easel. You’re slinging paint making glorious progress when…SCREECH!!!

Your creative flow comes to an abrupt halt as you realize you need to paint the top (or bottom) edge of your canvas and you can’t because you can’t get to it—the easel’s top clamp or bottom ledge is in the way.

There are some pretty fancy easels out there, and I’m almost sure someone somewhere has designed an easel which avoids this issue. But if you are like me, on a budget and already working on an easel that is inexpensive yet perfectly adequate for my needs, you might want to find a way around this problem.

I suppose you could just unfasten the easel clamp every time you need to paint the top or bottom edges of your canvas, but this seems like a pain. And besides, how would you keep the canvas secure on the easel while those edges are drying?

I suppose you could raise the bottom edge of the canvas up off of its ledge and rest it on a wooden block or other support that is a little narrower than the thickness of the canvas….(my head is starting to hurt now…)

I suppose you could even leave the top and bottom edges of your canvas unpainted….(now that’s just ridiculous!)

Solution???

A simple DIY solution using easily obtained supplies from your studio or local big box hobby store.

Masonite drawing board, masking tape, and neodymium magnets

You will need:

*the canvas you are planning to paint on

*a masonite drawing board which is just slightly larger than your canvas

*some masking tape (not artist tape—it’s not sticky enough)

*one or more packages of Neodymium Magnets—I used 2 packages (16 magnets in total) and purchased mine at Hobby Lobby using a coupon!

STEP 1: Flip your canvas over onto a flat surface so that the back’s wooden stretcher bars are facing up.

STEP 2: Arrange half of your magnets on the wooden stretcher bars so that they are evenly spaced around the frame. The larger your canvas, the more magnets you will need to hold the canvas’s weight.

In the photo below I am using a 20×20 inch canvas, so I used 8 magnets for this step—2 for each stretcher bar.

At this point you do not need to be precise about the magnet placement. You just don’t want them close to each other or they may be attracted!

**Note of caution: Be careful as you work with these magnets. They are very powerful and have a strong magnetic attraction to each other and anything metal! I actually gave myself a blood blister when two magnets I had near each other suddenly snapped together with my finger in the way!!

8 neodymium magnets spaced around the canvas and being taped in place with masking tape…

STEP 3: Once all of the magnets have been taped down with the masking tape, flip your canvas back over and position the canvas onto the drawing board.

Just get the canvas into the general area you want it on the board. You can easily adjust it once your drawing board is on your easel.

STEP 4: Once you have the canvas generally placed on the board, take the other half of your magnets and place them, one by one, onto the back of the drawing board—that is, on the side of the board farthest away from your canvas.

8 magnets in place on the back of the drawing board being held in place by their attraction from the magnets taped on the canvas’s back.

You should have a general idea of where the taped magnets are on your canvas. Just slide a magnet around that general area on the back of the board and you should “feel” a magnetic “push or pull” as the magnets are attracted or repelled.

Of course, if you feel them repelling, simply turn over the magnet you are holding in your hand and it should “snap” into place opposite the magnet taped to the canvas with the drawing board sandwiched in between.

FINAL STEP: Once you have the rear magnets in place, simply adjust your canvas on its board support by gently sliding it up, down, left, or right to get it where you want it.

Now you are ready to paint!

Canvas being held in place magnetically and adjusted so that the top and bottom edges are now accessible for painting!!!

THOUGHTS….

If you find that your canvas slides around too easily as you are painting, you may want to use more magnets to help hold it place. However, this method might not work for you if you are a more aggressive painter!!!

If you don’t have a drawing board, this method will also work using a piece of foam core as a support; however, over time thinner foam core might warp from being tightened down by your easel’s clamps.

One of the beauties of this method is that you can keep the canvas attached to its board temporarily even when the canvas is not on the easel.

This comes in handy if you only have one easel and like to work on more than one painting in a day. Simply remove board and all from easel and replace it with another canvas/board combo. Of course, you would need multiple boards and magnets for this to work….

Or you could simply remove the rear magnets from the drawing board. Lift off canvas A leaving its magnets taped in place. Set it aside. Then put canvas B (complete with its own taped magnets) onto the board. Replace the rear magnets on the back of the drawing board and adjust the new canvas as needed.

Phew!

I hope someone found this art hack helpful. I looked and looked for other solutions to this problem, and didn’t find much, so am happy to share what is working for me.

Happy Painting!

~R

P.S. The art shown in this post is my own work in progress…acrylic on canvas.

Posted in studio tip

Easy Way to Create Toned Pastel Paper Using White Clairfontaine Pastelmat!

Pastelists who are new to Pastelmat may not know that it comes in a variety of colors. A quick on-line search reveals that you can buy it in single large sheets or in pads of different color combinations.

In the past I have purchased several of these pads. However, experience has shown me that there is always at least one color in the pad I tend to not use.

While I LOVE the performance of this paper, it’s too expensive not to use all of the pad.

So….I looked for a way to tone the paper myself.

I had some oversized colored charcoal blocks sitting around, purchased a few years back from here. (They are also sold as individual block colors.)

Derwent XL Charcoal

I also had a pad of white Pastelmat, so I thought I should do an experiment to see if I could successfully tone and fix the colored charcoal to the paper.

I started by rubbing each charcoal block across the paper. Then I rubbed the charcoal into the paper using a piece of pipe foam insulation.

You could try using a chamois or even some paper towel to rub in the charcoal. Pastelmat is relatively smooth compared to most sanded pastel papers, so it shouldn’t tear up your paper towel.

Once the charcoal was rubbed in, I applied 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol with a cheap brush onto the left side of the color swatches.

I applied plain water to the right side of swatches using another cheap brush so as to avoid contamination from the alcohol.

Here are the results:

Top left to right: Sepia (olive green), Sanguine, Ochre
Bottom left to right: Mars Violet (a warm almost black), Black
The set also includes a white block untested for this post.

Conclusions:

First, the alcohol side dried much more quickly than the side fixed with water. Pastelmat paper is really a heavy cardstock, so it tends to absorb water. Since alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, this absorption is not as much of a problem when using the rubbing alcohol.

In fact, this quick drying would be a great benefit if using this toning method in plein air…hardly any wait time!

Once the applied alcohol or water is completely dry, I found that the charcoal is fixed onto the paper very well!

No transfer of charcoal from side fixed with rubbing alcohol.
Very little charcoal transfer from side fixed with water.

I did notice that the side fixed with water has a bit of a “grainy texture” to it, whereas the side fixed with alcohol tended to look more smooth. This could have been a result of the brushes used to spread on the alcohol/water, but I’m not so sure.

Of course, there may be times when one wants more of a textured look. In that case, water might be more likely to produce that result.

In the past, I have used plain vine charcoal as an underpainting value map paintings done in plein air. I fixed the vine charcoal to my paper using spray fixative. While effective, it’s smelly, probably not great for the environment, and is bulky to carry around for a light-weight plein air set-up.

However, adding a block of this charcoal and a small screw-on plastic container of rubbing alcohol or water, plus a cheap wide brush, could be a helpful addition to your plein air supplies.

Well, that’s it for now!

I hope this gives you another tool in your artist’s toolkit!

Till next time….stay creative!

~R

Posted in studio tip

How to Scale Up Your Paper Size

Hello fellow creatives!

Today, I have a quick tip for you. 🙂

There are times when you may have a reference photo or even a small drawing or thumbnail sketch you’ve created that you need to draw on a bigger scale.

For example, I recently created this sketch and I wanted to do a larger painting of it.

Original sketch: ~2 1/2” x 6”

I needed to scale up my sketch to a larger piece of paper that would allow me to keep the original sketch’s proportions.

Well, there’s a quick and easy way to scale up your photo to whatever paper you have WITHOUT MEASURING!

 

You’ll Need: Paper, ruler, photo/sketch, pencil

STEP ONE:

Line up the top left corner of the photo/sketch you would like to scale up with the top left corner of whatever piece of paper you want to use for your larger work.

STEP TWO:

Once your paper corners are lined up, align your ruler with the top left corner and the bottom right corner of the photo/sketch. (See arrows)


STEP THREE:

Now simply use your pencil to draw a light line from the bottom right edge of the photo to the edge of your larger piece of paper. (Or you can simply make a small mark at the outer edge if you don’t want to have to erase a line later.)

Line drawn from photo corner to paper edge

STEP FOUR:

The final step is to use the mark you made at the outer edge of the paper to draw a line straight across your paper. This gives you the new bottom boundary for your scaled up paper.

Draw the bottom boundary

Whatever is below this line can be removed and used as scrap or for another artwork!


I hope you find this tip helpful next time you enlarge your reference photo!

Till next time, stay creative!

~Rhonda

 

Posted in studio tip, thumbnail, Value thumbnail

Weekly Thumbnails: Week 3 (Plus a tip!)

Hello Creative Friends!

I am here to share week 3 of my thumbnail sketches. But before I do that, I would like to share a quick tip!

Most of you know that I am using two different art apps to create my thumbnails.  It’s fun, relaxing, versatile, and saves me time at the easel. (For info on the two apps I am using click here and scroll down the post.)

Within the first few uses of these apps I decided I also needed to purchase an Apple Pencil to do my thumbnails justice. For me, sketching with a finger on my iPad felt akin to fingerpainting with about the same results! 😦

That led me to purchase a 1st generation pencil to use with my older iPad. It works great!

All too soon, however, I discovered a minor, but annoying issue….the pencil is round, not hexagonal like the 2nd generation pencil, and will roll off of whatever you put it on—not good for the sensitive electronic stuff inside.

What to do??? 

Wrangle the metal clip off of one of my Micron Pigma pens!

Voila! No more rolling pencil….

Now on to this week’s thumbnails!

 

 

I used thumbnail #17 in a recent painting I will be sharing soon. It was created from a free reference photo offered by Susan Jenkins on her YouTube channel….More about that in another post.

Till next time, friends, try doing some thumbnails!

Rhonda

Posted in studio tip

Sorting A New Box of Soft Pastels: How I Do It!

Hello my Creative Friends!!  

Today I would like to show you what I do with a new box of soft pastels before I incorporate them into my working palette.

Both my studio and plein air pastel boxes are sorted by color and value; however, my plein air box is much smaller and carries fewer choices, so I like to be doubly sure I have exactly the values I need in that box.

How do I do that?  Well, I am glad you asked!!

I call the process “Testing the Sort”.  I have to give credit for this idea to Gail Sibley, a wonderful pastel artist who did a video on this process (here).

 

The set I will be sorting for this blog post is the “Brenda Boylan Northwest Plein Air” set of 80 Handrolled Richeson Soft Pastels.


MAKE A COLOR CHART

Before I begin the sorting process, I first make a 9×12 color chart of the pastels which I will use for future reference when I need to replace certain colors.  This also helps me get a feel for the color and value range of the set BEFORE I break it up!  

Plus, it’s just fun to play with the new colors! 🙂  

I sometimes will use this time to remove wrappers…not so fun, but necessary.

I make a simple grid using a Micron Pigma pen on a middle value gray piece of Canson Mi-Teintes.

Here is the completed color chart with each box labeled with the color’s code for reordering purposes.  I will store this chart in a 9×12 self-laminating sheet to protect it.  I DO NOT spray the paper with fixative before storage, as that would darken the colors and make it more difficult to find a match when I need to reorder a pastel!

 

SORTING THE BOX

Okay, let’s start sorting!!!

The first step is to pull out a piece of neutral colored, mid-valued paper such as Canson Mi-Teintes.  It is important to use a middle value paper for the sorting, as it will help you spot very light and very dark values more easily!  I chose a neutral gray so that the paper color would be less distracting as I sorted.

Next, use a pencil or pen to draw 4 columns down your paper.  
Label each of these columns from left to right, respectively, “Lights / Mid-Lights / Mid-Darks / Darks”.

Now, the next part is relatively easy!  (You might want to use an old hand towel laid out on a table or even a cookie sheet tray with rims to keep any pastels from rolling away!) 😉

  • Pull out all of your lightest valued colors and set them to one side of your work space or tray.
  • Pull out your darkest valued colors and set those aside on the opposite side of your tray.

At this point, you should have only middle values left in the original box.


MAKE YOUR MARKS: YOUR FIRST PASS

Now that you have the lightest lights and darkest darks pulled out of the set,

  •  take each of the light pastels and make a mark on the Lights column,
  •  and make a mark on the Darks column with each of the darks.

 

This next bit can be a little harder if you are inexperienced, but hang in there because even if you get it wrong, you can change your mind in the next pass!

Squinting your eyes down to see the values better, take a look at the all of the middle value pastels left in the box and determine whether each falls closer to a middle light OR a middle dark value, and 

  • then make marks in their corresponding columns.

Phew!!  You should have marks in all four columns now.

***It’s OKAY at this point if you are unsure about where you placed some of your marks.***

That’s actually normal—especially for the middle values, as they are often trickier to classify!

 

Here is my first pass through the Brenda Boylan set using this method.  

The beauty of this method is that with each pass, you get closer and closer to properly sorting the values.

 

First pass

 

 

TESTING THE SORT

Now, draw a line under the bottom row of test marks because you are going to refine your first choices!

This time, squint your eyes down and look at the middle two columns.

Chances are that you will see a few colors that don’t seem to “fit in” value-wise with their neighbors in that column.  
They might need to be relocated!  If so, make a little line under the color and then an arrow in the direction you think they might fit better.  

Here is my example:

Second pass

As you can see above, I had quite a few colors in the mid-lights column that I wanted to try out in the lights or
mid-darks sections.  And there were two I thought might need moving in the mid-darks….but oops, I actually forgot and moved only one! (You can see that bright yellow-orange is still in its original column after the 2nd pass…)

 

After the second pass, if you are still unsure about some of your choices, do a 3rd pass!

Third pass

 Here is my 4th and final sort:

Fourth sort

STILL UNSURE????

If you are still unsure about your final pass, take a photo of your chart and convert it to monotone using your phone’s photo editor.

Like this:

 

Monotone

You will likely see some choices that you might want to change.  I saw a few in the monotone image above; however, I felt this last pass was sufficient for my needs.

The last step you will take is to either put them back in the original box, sorted, of course!  
Or you might need to sort them into a larger box that already has pastels in it.  In that case, you would add your lights to your light valued section, your mid-lights to your middle light value section, and so on, paying attention to the color families as you add. 

In my case, I used this set as the foundation for my plein air box which had 4 dividers, hence, the need for 4 values.

This is what the pastels themselves looked like on my towel after sorting.

In black and white:

And in color:

Well, I hope this post takes some of the mystery out of sorting a new box of soft pastels.
It’s actually a lot of fun!

Let me know in the comments if you try it out or if you sort another way.

Till next time, thanks for reading. 🙂

And stay creative!

~Rhonda

Posted in ColorPlay, pastel painting, studio tip

Pastel ColorPlay Project #8: Colorful Grays

Hello Creative Friends! 🙂  It’s time for a new ColorPlay AND an announcement!

I have a new YouTube channel!!!  

 

My hope is that I can periodically post about my paintings in progress and the techniques I use.

However, since I have just begun learning how to document via video, AND I tend toward perfectionism in things like editing, 😉 I am not planning on posting videos with any regularity yet.  Thanks for your understanding!

I WILL be embedding the videos I create on this blog, though, so please check them out and let me know what you think.  And if you have ideas for videos, let me know that too!   Just click on the picture at the bottom of today’s post to watch the video.

Now, on to today’s ColorPlay…. 🙂

 

COLOR SCHEME & HUES:

For today’s painting I chose a Triadic color scheme of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange in a variety of values.

Triad of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange

The reason for my choices were two-fold.

First, I don’t typically like working with triads.  I could never explain exactly why, but I think I may have figured it out!

We’ve all seen preschool rooms painted in bright, primary colors of red, blue, and yellow.  
Well, I never liked that color scheme…it seemed garish to me.  BUT….

Take those same primary colors and gray them down, and voila!  You have a completely different look!

So that’s the approach I took with today’s painting, only instead of using Primary colors (red/blue/yellow), I used versions of violet/green/orange, aka Secondary colors.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The second reason for choosing a Triadic color scheme is to create Colorful Grays!  This is the technique I show in the video at the bottom of this post.

Most people think of “gray” as a non-color somewhere between black and white.

But that can be pretty boring and dull-looking in an otherwise colorful painting. That’s where triads come in.

Any time you mix three colors which are approximately equidistant on the color wheel, you will get what is called “muddy” color.  

Most of the time, painters try to avoid making mud!  

But there are times when we want our colors to be muddy (grayed down or neutralized).  (Note: You can also achieve neutral colors by mixing opposite colors on the color wheel, but they are not as colorful.)

Here is an example of what I am talking about.

Secondary (left); Primary (right)

You can see the individual colors which make up the swatches above.  The more times I apply each layer, the more the pastels will mix themselves and the more “gray” they become.  

It’s easier to see this with the swatches on the right using primary colors in different values.

Here is another example:  I LOVE the gray achieved with the bottom swatch…. 🙂

 

PAPER, THUMBNAILS AND DRAWING:

Using Canson Touch sanded pastel paper in mid-tone gray

 

 

THE COLORFUL RESULT:

Colorful grays were used in this painting—especially in the background trees and sky.

 

Check out the video below to see how I created different grays.

Phew!!  Well, that’s it for now.  

Thanks so much to you all for taking time to read my blog!  It means a lot!!!

Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and ideas about this or other posts, or my YouTube endeavor.

And until next time….stay creative and colorful!

~Rhonda

Posted in studio tip

Organizing Your Soft Pastels

When it comes to painting with pastels, organization is key.  Some people keep their pastels in their original foam-lined boxes and then proceed to spread out all those boxes on a table when it’s time to paint.

Me?  I solved that issue in my last post by creating a studio box that gets left out permanently and is ready to go when I am.

Now that all my pastels are in one nifty container, how does one put all those colors into some recognizable and usable order???

Well, there are a few ways.  Many artists have a separate compartment for each hue (color), and then within that compartment the sticks are placed from light to dark value.  They may also separate the hues into warm or cool sections, saturated or neutral, etc.  

I find the boxes of these painters absolutely GORGEOUS to look at…like eye candy!

However, when I started painting with pastels a few years ago, one of my first hurdles was to learn how to determine and apply the concept of VALUE to my work.  Value is simply the relative lightness or darkness of a hue.  

Many budding artists have heard the idea that color gets the glory, while value does the work.  This means you can make the color completely other-worldy in a piece, but if the relative values of the major shapes in the composition are correct, it will still make sense!

So since having a believable value scheme is so important, I decided to organize my box mainly by values: 4 to be exact 🙂

 

Why four?  Because when I plan a new piece I do thumbnails using 4 values. (Some use 5 or 6 values, but I find this works better for me.)

In the exampes above, you can see I use the white of my paper as the 1st value, and then I use markers for the other 3.  I end up with a lightest light, darker light, lighter dark, and darkest dark.

And here is how it translates to sorting and FINDING the correct value in my pastel box!

The section on the left holds my softest pastels (Terry Ludwigs). They are organized into 4 values and are kept separate because they are the softest pastels I own, and tend to rub off on anything that touches them.

The middle and right sections of this box hold my lightest lights, darker lights, lighter darks, and darkest darks of my other brands of pastels (Unisons, Jack Richardson, Rembrandts, and a few others.)

Here’s a tip: organize your pastels into however many values makes sense for you, then take a photo with your phone.  Edit the photo into monotone or greyscale to see if you have sorted properly.  Like this:

This set-up makes sense for my brain.  Each time I go to paint, I save a ton of time searching for the correct value because I have already done the work!  Then I just have to choose the hue, warmth/coolness, and saturation or intensity.

I encourage you to figure out what makes sense for you.  

Now go get organized and Happy Painting!

Posted in studio tip

New Easel, Pastels, & Studio Space!

Hello fellow creatives! I have been hard at work in in my studio and finally finished a pastel painting I have been wanting to do since summer.

More about that in my next post….

Meantime, I have recently reorganized my little corner studio space–partly because it was getting a bit cluttered, and partly because I was forced to!

You see, I own a fabulous Heilman Backpacker pastel box which I have always used on a sturdy photo tripod. For pastel works, I painted by placing my paper (taped to foamcore) onto the Heilman aluminum easel which is mounted in a specially drilled hole inside the box.

This set-up worked pretty well for me for pastels, but felt limiting for use with other mediums. For example, I would not consider doing a splashy watercolor on this easel because the easel has no angle adjustment.

Well, my tripod finally gave up under the strain, I suppose, of the box’s weight and my usage. So……

TA-DAHHHHH!!!!

I was amazed at how much more free I have felt while painting on a floor easel! I modified it to accept a paper towel holder for wiping pastels on. I also have clipped on a tablet holder and two lamps with daylight bulbs. While I generally am seated when I paint, this easel adjusts to allow me to stand and paint. It also has a nice tilt feature so that I can lay a canvas flat for watercolor, or bring it to vertical or past vertical for pastel painting.

On the other side of my studio area I have a desk for drawing, blogging, etc. The cabinet holds many of my art supplies.

Speaking of art supplies, here is a photo of a brand of soft pastels that were new to me until a few months ago. They are Jack Richeson Soft Handrolled Pastels, “Garden” set of 80.

I absolutely love these pastels! They are about the softness of Unison soft pastels, in my opinion. I have not used them for wet underpainting yet, so don’t know how they do there, but I really enjoyed using these in my most recent work and found myself reaching for them along with my Unisons.

And just look at those colors!!!

Here is a photo of my current pastels. As I add colors, I find that I am moving away from harder pastels like Rembrandts to the softer Unisons, Terry Ludwigs, and Schminckes. Though I do use harder pastels for varied purposes.

Well, that’s it for now! I will be posting more recent works soon including some charcoal studies and more pastel pieces.

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Posted in charcoal, studio tip

CHARCOAL STUDY: Mini Pumpkin Still Life

Hello and happy belated Thanksgiving!

With all the busyness of preparing for the holiday and finishing up our homeschooling before we take a fall break, I haven’t had much time to be creative.

With so little time available, I found a way to get some art time in and not spend a TON of time on it.

Time for CHARCOAL!

I set up a little still life scene using some mini pumpkins I bought from a local farmer’s market. I love using these for decorating too, so they served double duty.

I made sure to set up my light source to get some fairly strong cast shadows, and I also made sure to have some overlap between the pumpkins, placing the different-looking pumpkin in the middle. In hind sight, I probably would have made the stem of the pumpkin on the right point toward the middle, but oh well!

Here I have the pumpkins in different stages of development using vine charcoal. If you look closely at the pumpkin on the left, you can just make out the faint outline of the rectangle I used to block in the overall shapes–I find drawing rectangles much easier than drawing ovals to find correct proportions.

Here are the materials I used for this study: extra soft vine charcoal; Derwent Charcoal Pencils in Light, Medium, Dark, and White; a white Conte’ a Paris pastel pencil; kneaded eraser; and a Koh-i-Noor Heavy Drawing (114 lb-185 gsm) 9×12 sketchbook. I like this sketchbook for studies because I can remove a page and clip it to a drawing board, and then replace it back into the sketchbook when I’m done!

Here is the first result. Not bad, and I thought I was finished….but after taking a photograph, I found myself wanting to do a bit more to punch up the contrast and some of the detail. So….

I got out my General’s Carbon Sketch pencil. I used it to punch up the darks. I could have used compressed charcoal for these darkest darks, but I don’t like using compressed charcoal….

Above, you can see a value scale for the different pencils I used. I didn’t include the vine charcoal.

Here is the final version. Much happier with the adjustments I made, and it was a great study in value as well!

ART TIP: Photographing your art when you “think” you may be done is a great way to see your art more objectively. There’s something about seeing the piece in the camera frame that can help you decide if any refinements need to be made or if you are done!
It can also help you avoid overworking the piece!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and I hope you get to invest in a little creative “me time” soon. 😉