Pencil Games

Pencils-Derwent
Derwent Graphic drawing pencils

My pencil is like a fencer’s foil.

Andrew Wyeth

Delicate under drawings for watercolor botanical painting are vital to the success of the finished artwork in a specific technique. Using the best pencil is an essential part of that success.  In the my work, pencil drawings have become more and more a central part of the overall botanical painting.  The quest for the best pencil has become imperative.  Let the games begin!

Pencil-blackwing-pearl

 

In the first leg of the games, a number of pencils from leading manufacturers of drawing materials have been acquired. Using these pencils individually on the same subject will provide a decent comparison.  After all pencils have been used in drawings of the same flower, (in this case a calla lily), watercolor will be added to determine the effects each pencil has on the final outcome of the painting.

 

There may or may not be a winner!  Some pencils may prove to be better at some aspects of creating a botanical painting. Pencil boxes will likely still be needed but the size may be reduced.  Cash outlay for art materials could be reduced too!! We will see!! On your mark, get ready, GO!

Pencil-blackwing-602-2
Blackwing 602 drawing pencil

Colorful Fridays–Wallet Friendly, Fire Engine Red.

Poppies

 

The very-expensive, highly-toxic Vermilion red was replaced by the lesser expensive and less toxic Cadmium reds in artist’s palettes in the nineteenth century.   Less toxic and less expensive was less than perfect so the search for the perfect red continued.   Eventually, chemists came up with a fairly good substitution for Vermilion and Cadmium.  Naphthol Red was born in a chemistry lab as a derivative of coal tar.

Just Paint on the Golden Paints website describes Naphthol Red as, “bright, opaque, fire engine red.”  Gamblin’s website says Naphthol Red is a, “modern organic, warm red that closely matches Cadmium Red Medium,” though Naphthol Red “makes more intense tints” and is “more transparent.”  Gamblin also reports Naphthol Red is “excellent for high key painting.”  AArbor Colorants recommends Naphthol Red for printing inks and gives it an excellent light fastness rating.  Some sources report Naphthol Red as fading in tints. Confirmation of this claim was not confirmable so tests may be in order.

Naphthol Red does not have the toxic properties of Vermilion and the Cadmiums and is considerably less expensive.  The Material Safety Data Sheets give Naphthol Red a very low toxicity rating.  The MSDS says Naphthol Red may cause some mild skin irritation, nausea if consumed, or some respiratory irritation if inhaled. Contact in large amounts could be more toxic.

If in need of a bright intense fire engine red, Naphthol Red may fit the bill, especially if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money.  Just don’t have the Naphthol Red for dinner or add it to body lotion. It’s probably not a good idea to set any dried pigment around a fan either.  Otherwise, Naphthol red can be a palette staple as a strong red without fear of damage to health or wallet.

My preferred red for botanical painting is Naphthol Red or its sister: Windsor Red. Thinning is required to achieve the transparency of botanical painting.  No other red comes close to the intensity of Naphthol Red or Windsor Red so use with extra water and enjoy the intensity!

Happy painting!

Chasing Inspiration

Great Blue Heron, oil on canvas

These beautiful wading birds capture my imagination every time I see one. I would love to pinpoint exactly why but can’t. At times, I am awed by the sheer elegance of Great Blues as they take off for flight. Other days they seem to be playing hide and seek. Strutting along the edge of a body of water, they appear arrogant and snobby. I keep chasing them around different bodies of water with my camera. As I click, click, click with the camera, these herons get a little more familiar and I think of more ways I want to paint them.

Great Blur Heron in flight over Kentucky Lake.

The wing span is amazing as this Great Blue flies off over Kentucky Lake. He was fishing on the shore until our boat got too close and he took off. I’d like to watch the take off in slow motion as the wings open the legs bend to push off. As he gains altitude, the legs straighten out behind and he tucks his long neck down with his head and beak in line with the legs. Its a majestic sight. I haven’t painted one in this position yet but will soon!

Great Blue standing by the water at the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

This guy looks decidedly grumpy. The scowl on his face is priceless. He didn’t move as I snapped photos but looked like he’d like to tell me what to do with my camera. He’s probably next up on the canvas. I can’t resist that expression!

The painting above was inspired by a Great Blue I encountered on the beach at Alligator Point in Florida. He was hanging out with a few brown pelicans, some Black Skimmers and a gang of Laughing Gulls. After a few minutes of looking out at the water as the sun was going down, he turned and arrogantly sauntered off into the sunset. His beautiful blue head and lighter blue back feathers became more vivid against the back drop of the orange sky reflecting on the sand as the setting sun slowly dropped.

Poetic Musings

Seagull at sunset

“I want to paint the way a bird sings.” Claude Monet

Sometimes I wish I could compose beautiful poetry.  If I could, I’d write some lines about the beauty of a bird in flight, the graceful curve of the wing, the focused determination in the eye, head down, feet up. There is just something magical in the sight of a bird soaring through the air that begs for poetry.

If I could be a storyteller, I’d make up a story about the birds chattering in the trees and swooping down to the feeder to snatch a morsel or two.  I wonder if they talk to each other?  They make funny little noises when they congregate in the trees around the feeder.  I imagine them gossiping about who’s hogging all the seed or who flew off for a few days and didn’t tell the others where they were going or whose feathers were looking a little shabby.  Can cardinals understand the chatter of chickadees? Do finches converse with sparrows?

Since I am not a poet or a storyteller, I paint birds. Sometimes I paint the single bird in a stance I believe to be a pose for the camera.  At other times, I paint them in groups or pairs and arrange them as though they are conversing.  While I paint them, I imagine what they are thinking and what would they say if they could talk? Maybe they do talk. I just don’t understand bird language.

Since joining the American Birding Association, I am learning more about different birds and bird behavior.  My camera has become a constant companion as I wander around searching for subjects to paint.  Every now and then, I capture the image of one I don’t know so I go to the ABA’s bird identification Facebook page, “What’s this Bird?” I post the image. The identification returns quickly and my bird knowledge expands.

As I learn more about which bird is which and why one swoops and another soars, I’ll go on wondering if they talk amongst themselves or if they concentrate on each flight and not on what their companions are doing?  Maybe a story will come to me. Or possibly some lines of poetry will pop into my head.  Perhaps a painting will be a poem one day or possibly tell a story. Paraphrasing Monet, I hope to paint like birds fly. In the meantime, I’ll just keeping painting.