You Can Do THIS With Colored Pencils?

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in drawing, Lessons | 2 Comments

If my drawing students learn to draw with graphite pencils – i.e. see proportions, understand values (the darks and lights), understand hard and soft edges, and make the tools do what they intend for them to do, then my drawing students who want to can use colored pencils.

Colored pencils (mis)behave differently than graphite pencils. I’ve heard plenty of colored pencil artists say the reason to use colored pencils instead of paint is C O N T R O L.

Colored pencils require many many layers, and it hurts my wrist to use them. However, many of my advanced students choose to use them, and in spite of my ouchy wrist, I can help.

It may appear to you as if Mae has copied her photo as efficiently as a Xerox machine. I can assure you that she has done a fabulous job of interpreting the photo and adjusting it so the drawing makes more sense than the photo. She pays a great deal of attention to detail and chooses what to eliminate and what to enhance.


May is using Polychromos by Faber Castell. These seem to be the highest quality for the price that I’ve used so far. They are oil based, made in Germany, and last a long time. They are a little fatter so they don’t fit in our normal sharpeners. They are also a little hard to find if you just want to buy them one at a time.

Prismacolor used to be my favorite. I learned their colors beginning with a set of 12 that my Aunt Shirley gave me when I was in 5th grade. They are wax based,  made in the USA,  and break easily, which is exasperating. They are readily available in sets or in one-sies, and can be repaired in the microwave (but don’t tell the company – they don’t take responsibility for the breakage and blame the pencil sharpeners, not the rough handling before they arrive in your hands.) I noticed they are now referred to as “soft-core”, probably a response to all the complaints!

So, yes, you CAN do this with colored pencils (after hours and hours of practice!)

A Question Artists Don’t Like

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in General, the business of art, Thoughts | No Comments

The question that most artists don’t like is this:

Will you donate a piece of artwork to My Good Cause?

And then it is followed by something like “You can write it off on your taxes” or “It will bring great exposure”.

The answers to the follow-ups are “Only the cost of the materials” and “People die of exposure”.

If a good Cause needs items for raffles and auctions, it would behoove both parties (the Cause and the artist) to buy the items. 

All those causes are good. One year, I donated more than I sold. It didn’t bring me more business; it brought me more requests for more donations.

A Cause can spend some of its resources on an item and then sell the item for more than it paid. It will make a profit. If it doesn’t make a profit, it can write off its expenses.

An artist who gets asked to donate her individually produced items depletes her inventory, can only write off the cost of the materials but not her time or the value of the item, and gets worn out.

An artist who gets worn out begins donating items of lesser quality, items that haven’t sold, items that aren’t her best work. (Honestly, I had an artist friend say to me one time, “Just give them your junky stuff that hasn’t sold – that’s what I do!”)

In a small community like Three Rivers or even anywhere in Tulare County, word gets out that you can either buy a piece of art for full price or you can just wait for the next fund raiser for The Good Cause. Then, Mr. Good Taste who spent money on art, sees that someone got a similar piece for 1/3 of the price, and the artist’s credibility goes down.

So, I don’t give my art away anymore. If your Good Cause would like to buy a piece, call me or email me. Perhaps we can work out some sort of a discount. When you truly value my art, I may be more likely to value your event.

Hint: if you have never bought any art from an artist, how do you have the chutzpah to ask for a gift??

There are a few Causes I choose to donate to, because they are part of my life. One of them is the mural project in Exeter, which was started by me and an awesome group of volunteers in 1996. Someone called me for a piece for their upcoming Garden Party fund raiser (a very nice event on May 5 this year); I explained my point of view because I’m teachy like that, and then I offered a painting.

Because it hasn’t sold in spite of the fact that I really like it (Obviously, my opinion does not causes pieces to sell), I took a hard look at it.

I paint better now.


After (New and Improved!!)

If you don’t think it is improved, just be polite, ‘k?

I wrote about this a few months ago and called the post “Donations Bloviations”.

Mineral King Paintings in Progress

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Mineral King, the business of art | No Comments

Every year summer happens. This is not a surprise. Summer means lots of time in Mineral King. It means paintings of Mineral King get sold at the Silver City Store. This is not a surprise either.

Every year I am just certain that this will be The Year I Paint Ahead. This year I actually am painting ahead, but that’s because the Redbud Festival is next weekend, May 3-4. Then, if Mineral King paintings haven’t sold, I’ll be a little bit ahead for summer in Mineral King.

A painting begins with a flip through my extensive photos of Mineral King to see which ideas float my boat. No matter how many terrific views there are, Farewell Gap with the Crowley Cabin is the most popular. The Honeymoon Cabin is always #2, and Sawtooth is next. After that, no discernible difference. No matter what, always always always have a painting (or two or three) of Farewell Gap on hand, in multiple sizes if possible. (I keep the words “Farewell Gap” on a sign in my painting workshop in case I forget. . . Middle-Aged Mush Brain requires more reminders than Youth.)

I chose the canvas sizes that are most likely to sell (this IS a business), put hardware on the back along with the title and an inventory #.

Sometimes I “draw” the painting with a brush first.

Sometimes I do two paintings at the same level of progress. (I almost wrote “at the same time”, but then you might think I am painting with both hands. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not THAT good.)  If I’m going to mix the paint color, I might as well mix enough for two!

These are drying. The top one might need more detail and a signature, the second one needs wildflowers and a signature, and the bottom one may just need a signature.

There is cat hair on my computer keyboard and Perkins is on my lap. It makes it awkward to type, but my boy might know that Mineral King season is coming, and he isn’t invited. We miss each other, and that is the season when I lose cats. Perkins has survived 15 summers while his comrades have been picked off, one by one. It ain’t all roses and lollipops in Three Rivers. . . sigh.

Invitation to Visit Wilsonia Blog

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in drawing, the business of art, Wilsonia | No Comments

Did you know that I have another blog?

“Cabin on a Sunlit Meadow” – sold



It is called The Cabins of Wilsonia. For almost three years I’ve been working on a book of pencil drawings of the cabin community Wilsonia at Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.

The process is documented here. If you click on the highlighted word “here”, it will open in a new window with my other blog.

Today and tomorrow I’ll be posting over there. I didn’t want you to think I’d quit on my real blog.

This is my real blog. Did you know that? I love writing this blog. Yeah, yeah, I know we are supposed to love people and use things. . . it is just the sloppy vernacular of my lazy generation that causes me to state it that way.

For over a year I’ve been missing from this blog about one day a week. You might have thought I had gotten lazy about regular posting, but I was over there.

I’m sorry for not inviting you sooner.

You are invited now.

More Spring in Three Rivers

A glorious time of year in a beautiful place – that’s spring in Three Rivers, and it brings me inspiration.

In Three Rivers, this is called “Karl’s Tree”. It is a group of 8 dogwoods, a variety called “Carolinus Florida”. It blooms around the first of April, give or take, based on the weather.

Did you know that locust trees come in pink? These are also in Karl’s yard. They are more purple in real life than in this photo.

Fiesta flower is common in my driveway in early April. Mid April too.

Here is a pink dogwood and a white one too, both in bloom at the same time.

But what is there to DO in Three Rivers? Oh, trespass along the flume, look at the flowers, see the views, you know, just boring stuff like that.

The poppies look yellow in this photo. Colors don’t always work out to be accurate in digital photography or on the computer.  But, it is still beautiful!

Spring in Three Rivers

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Sources of inspiration, Three Rivers | No Comments

February is my favorite month. No wait, it’s March! Hold on a minute – I think it might be April!

Salt Creek ought to be raging about now. Instead, we are pathetically grateful for a tiny amount of flow.

My cousin loves to watch birds. I learned a ton from him and his sister in just a few days.

Green doesn’t last long around here so I soak in as much as I can.

More bird watching cousins. I am a cousin watching my bird watching cousins.

Way too much inspiration around here – this will have to be continued next week.

A California Artist Paints (Without Benefit of a Crystal Ball) in Tulare County

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Events, Three Rivers | No Comments

The Redbud Festival is coming soon. First weekend in May this year, and at the Memorial Building in Three Rivers, which is a new location.

As usual, I have no idea what to expect in terms of visitation or sales. A crystal ball certainly would be useful.

Oh well. Guess I’ll just paint a combination of what has sold well before and what floats my boat.

The first draft is bright but rough.

Now they are drying in the window sill. The colors look funky because they are wet and reflective.

What is that stack of stuff? I looked through my fruit photos (Phruit Photos? Fruit Fotos?), picked the ones that floated my boat, attached hardware, then wrote titles and inventory numbers on the backs of each canvas.

Now they are almost finished, drying on hooks next to the window. When they are dry enough to handle, I’ll sign them. When that part is dry, I’ll scan them. These are 6×6 wrapped canvases, in oil paint, and will sell for $50 each.

Or not.

I may be a California artist, but Tulare County is the 13th poorest out of 58 counties. And in spite of putting the price next to the painting, people always ask how much. We are also the 3rd least educated county in the state.

Always gotta do things the hard way, eh? Do you think my paintings of fruit would sell in Marin County? I could add another zero, maybe borrow my neighbor’s BMW, have someone dress me so I could pass, and make a run up there.

Nah. They’d see right through me.

Tulare County is where I was born, and it is where I’ll stay and paint. Sometimes I love it here, and sometimes I want to run away. That’s probably how it is with every place in the world.

Beautiful Pencil Drawing

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in drawing, Lessons | No Comments

Every Tuesday I teach people how to draw at the Courthouse Gallery in Exeter. Been doing it for 20 years or so. You can learn about it here. Drawing Lessons

My drawing students are wonderful. They work hard, and they learn and they do beautiful drawings.


This beautiful woman drew her beautiful granddaughter. It is her first portrait, which is one of the hardest subjects to tackle. She has been drawing with me about 2-1/2 years, and honestly, she had a bit of a head start because she used to touch up portrait photos. But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t hard – it was hard! Everything is hard, so pick something you love, because you’ll be staring at it for a long time.

P.S. Today is my 6th Blogiversary. I still haven’t run out of things to write about!

Drawing Sequoia

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in drawing, Sources of inspiration | No Comments

Sequoia Natural History Association has sold my work for many years. Great organization – they stock and man the visitor centers and ranger stations throughout Sequoia. They do a lot more, but this post isn’t about them. It is about a drawing I am working on in hopes that they will add it to their inventory in the near future.

This is how the bridge over the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River looked during my recent visit to Sequoia National Park. This bridge is in the Lodgepole Campground.

This is the pencil drawing and the photos I’m working from. The white spaces in the photo are unfinished or sunshine, not snow.

Just in case you were wondering. . .

And I think bridges are remarkable pieces of architecture. They are simple spans over space, but they can be so elegant. Stone work, rustic wood, flowing water – what’s not to like?

TG Friday in Mineral King

Posted by on Apr 11, 2014 in Mineral King | No Comments

Trail Guy – Friday in Mineral King. You thought I was referring to a restaurant? Not this little gray duck.

The white snow (thank you, God!) blends with the white (gray?) sky.

Trail Guy skied up to Crystal Creek.

Look – something that isn’t like a black and white photo.

A little break in the clouds made it prettier in person than in this photo.

And thus we conclude our  late winter check-in with Mineral King. Summer is much more visually inspiring to this California artist than the snowy landscape and gray (white?) sky.