I recently completed a new drawing entitled “Renewal.” It was completed in charcoal, pastel and white chalk. I wanted this piece to touch on the conflict of transition. The young woman is caught between two seasons. She is bundled in a winter coat and clouds loom behind her. But she is also adorned with a full blooming rose symbolizing a promise of hope and a new beginning.


We don’t see the conflict of her decision but rather the peace she has reached afterwards. She looks ahead, in a moment of resolution and renewal. Next up I will use this drawing as a transfer for a painting!

In the meantime, I thought I would share some of my tools including some thoughts on how I rendered this work.

Setup 2 Numbers

  1. My drawing mediums of choice include: General’s Charcoal Pencils and Nitram Academie Fusains Charcoal. For my richest darks I used a black pastel pencil. I heightened the drawing with a combination of white charcoal, chalk and pastel. For my paper I used the smooth side of Mi-Teintes.
  2. When I first pull my shiny new charcoal pencils out of the packaging, they’re cone shaped. When drawing, this usually means they will stay sharp for the first millisecond they touch the paper. And then I may as well be drawing delicate lines with all the grace and nimbleness of a tree stump. The trick is to whittle away at the pencil using an X-Acto knife. Be careful not to gouge big chunks out of the wood in haste though, as this will usually break the soft charcoal underneath. When a good half to one inch of wood is cleared away use a fine grit sandpaper to sand your pencil to a needle-sharp point. Push the pencil up and down against the sandpaper while slowly rolling the pencil between your thumb and index finger. If I am sanding Nitram charcoal I sand back and forth. The sticks are blockish, so I will sand one side while slowly drawing the pencil towards my body until the charcoal reaches the edge of the sandpaper. Then I roll the charcoal to the next side and repeat. I continue until I’ve reached a nice long fine point. And be prepared this is messy business!  To keep the work area tidy, tape the sandpaper to a 2″x4″ and lay it on top of an open trashcan.Pencils
  3. Personally I am very fussy about the details and the paper quality up close. The mahl stick is imperative to keep my dirty hands from resting and smearing the work while also keeping my hand steady while I draw. I made this one myself out of bamboo-it’s fantastically lightweight and I often forget I’m holding it, even when I’m not using it.
  4. I use a small handheld mirror to check proportions. This can be done in a number of ways. Most commonly I will turn around so my back is facing the drawing and hold up the mirror to view the drawing backwards. If I am facing the drawing I will hold the mirror to my forehead and look up to view the drawing upside down. I am constantly checking the proportions in my work and this helps keep my perspective fresh. I will also use a thick thread with a fishing weight tied to the bottom or a knitting needle to compare proportions to my reference.
  5. The longer I work, the more pencils and brushes I accrue between my fingers, I just forget to put them down. My kneaded eraser however never leaves my hand. I like to roll the eraser to a point and use it like a brush. I also use it to “dab” at any inconsistencies in the pores of the paper to create a smooth even tone, especially in skin and hair. I also have a few brushes, both soft and bristle, of varying shapes to soften edges and create textures. Sometimes I will even use charcoal powder to “paint” the initial drawing with the brush.
  6. Coffee and/ or tea (or both. At the same time. Yes, I do that) is always a must. Especially if you have a four month old who gets the munchies every two hours in the night.

On a separate note, I received word that I am a recipient of this year’s Stacey Scholarship fund from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum! The award is given annually to young artists dedicated to educating themselves in the classical tradition and who plan to make art their profession. I am both humbled and grateful and am so excited to see what new work this year will bring!


Trekell’s Artist of the Month

I am incredibly honored to be featured on Trekell and Company’s website as their February Artist of the Month. Not only does the Trekell team make extraordinary tools, they are also very supportive of their artists.

When it comes to paint brushes Trekell is one of the best in the business (rivaling Rosemary & Co but recently I’ve been preferring Trekell).

Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

Hog Bristle Long Filberts – I begin every painting with one of these bad boys. I don’t know why but it seems most artists tend to reach for the smallest brush in their conglomeration of tools. I start with a size 6 and try to hold onto it for as long as I can before relinquishing it to a smaller brush for detail work. The longer handle makes it more comfortable to step back and block in the overall shapes and check for proportional issues.

Legion Long Flats – I’ve almost exclusively used *filberts and only started using these *flats in the last couple of months. These brushes are so pretty. And even though Trekell claims they’re synthetic I truly believe they are made from unicorn hair. These brushes are so versatile I’ve completed full paintings with just one or two sizes. They are ideal for covering large areas.

William Whitaker Signature Series – Designed by the master himself. The long handles are slightly contoured for a comfortable fit and perfect for detail work and blending.

Kolinsky Rounds – Like the signature series I also use these for detail work and blending. The handle is short so it issues a lot more control. Be sure to use a mahl stick though or your arm and wrist will hate you later. These are also perfect for signing your signature.

Trekell also announced they will be selling Bill’s own palette designs which you can find here and here. I’ve used both and they are extremely comfortable and lightweight. I use Style 1 more frequently but if you have a lot of colors and do lots of mixing I’d go with Style 2. Trekell shows you how to hold them properly and I appreciate that they have kept the lefties in mind during the design phase (It’s not as easy as just flipping the palette over to fit your right hand if you paint with your left…all of the edges are beveled for a smooth contoured fit so the edges would be backwards and poke and cut in all the wrong places, like wearing a left shoe on your right foot). The palettes come unprimed so they can be stained or painted to suit your individual style.

Now, for those followers who nodded off during the boring painting and tools and stuff speech, here’s a work in progress of a good looking guy.

*Each of the different shapes of paint brush bristles (say that three times really fast) have a name:

  • Flat – square end, medium to long bristles
  • Filbert – similar to the flat but with soft rounded bristles
  • Round – rounded or pointed tip
  • Fan – I’ll leave this one to your imagination

Pinteresty DIY Mug (without the fail)

I’m a Pinterest stalker. I don’t really post any of my own stuff but I love to scour this crafty little site for new ideas. By the glow of my phone, just before I fall asleep at night, I search for tasty recipes, beauty secrets, cute outfits, easy yet elegant hairstyles, encouraging quotes, and inspiring works of art.

And then never use any of them.

My dark love however is searching for Pinterest fails. And before you get too judgey on me for laughing gleefully at the failures of others, please remember that these, erm–crafty little people, bless their hearts, willingly chose to put their meager efforts on the world wide interwebs.

Here are a few of my favorite epic fails. The first image in each set is how the outcome was supposed to look…

There’s even an entire website dedicated to Pinterest fails!

But enough about failure. If you’ve ever wanted to try a Pinterest worthy project of your own here’s an easy one to start with: decorate your own mug! And don’t worry, I worked out all of the kinks so you won’t fail (and if you do I promise not to laugh. A smirk perhaps).

Over the holidays I drew cute little designs and creatures on mugs to give as gifts to friends and family. Spending money on gifts is great I suppose, but I’ve always appreciated the thoughtfulness and time spent on handmade gifts.

As I was doodling away on each mug I thought about the person I was making it for and why I appreciated them. I’d like to think that love went into each design.

It’s best to use cheap mugs (from the Dollar Store, for example) as they are made from cheaper materials which help for a longer lasting design. Be sure to clean your mugs after purchase and try not to touch the surface as your oily fingerprints can cause the paint to chip later. Wear latex gloves or insert a fist (with your non-writing hand) to hold the mug in place.

Regular Sharpies will also chip over time. You need to use oil-based Sharpies which can be found here. Be sure to read the package instructions. I also kept a piece of card stock on hand to test the colors and fluidity before committing to the permanence of the mug.

Once your design is finished, let your mug dry overnight. To set the design in, place the mug in a cool oven and turn to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes. When the timer goes off, turn off the oven but leave the mugs inside until they are completely cooled. If you really want to set the design in, you can repeat the baking step.

To complete the presentation, I filled each mug with candy and wrapped them in clear bags with sparkly tulle bows.

And voila! The mugs are dishwasher safe, but washing by hand will increase the longevity of your Pinteresty fail-proof design.