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!


Fruits Basket

Welp, 2014 hasn’t lessened my stress load but I’ve seized the new year with fervor and ambition. Artist Mia Bergeron’s most recent blog post has given me a lot to think about recently. I am both very private and very much an introvert. If I didn’t love Chipotle so much I would probably be a recluse (Seriously. Whenever Bryan and I have to pay a bill we mournfully enumerate how much Chipotle we could have eaten for that amount). Being an artist is both incredible and wretched. I think the job description defines a very sensitive type of person. Mia is fearless in her portrayal of the artist’s angst. She says it the way it is, and in the process of her reflection she’s given me a lot to think about and relate to, and has driven me to do more, especially when I don’t feel like it.

One of her goals is to stay in the studio an hour longer than is comfortable. For me this feels so big, because I am already emotionally and mentally drained before I go into the studio. It’s hard to keep up the momentum when I don’t have a lot to begin with. This month I’ve gritted my teeth and committed to it though, staying longer or going in when I’m plumb tuckered. And I’ve been pleasantly encouraged by the change in my work.

Recently I have focused on painting petite still lifes. I’ve been wanting more life experience and there’s a lot less pressure painting a piece of fruit or a teacup than a portrait. This focus has also given me more practice working on ABS and understanding how to use it. I’ve also played around with brushwork, edges, and gutsier paint which is HUGE for me. I am usually obsessed with creating a glossy smooth surface and there would be days I would spend more time trying to remove a hair or piece of lint or fingerprint from a painting than well, painting. It was Bill who reminded me art buyers buy art for those bits of painting debris. It says this was created by another human being. Something you would certainly never see in a print.

Here’s a demonstration of a recent painting I completed.

This is the ABS panel adhered to 1/2″ Gatorfoam. I barely used any Oleogel when laying in the drawing, mostly just the Transparent Red Oxide with a large hog bristle.

This is my first pass with color which took about fifteen minutes. I got Michael Harding Oils for Christmas (woot!) and this is my first painting using them. I think they’re going to take some getting used to, though. The colors feel so saturated and luminous, which of course is awesome. I just don’t know how to handle the awesomeness yet.

This stage is where things get ugly and rather embarrassing. It’s like the pimply brace-faced middle school kid. It’s just a phase, but whenever someone wants to see my progress IT NEVER FAILS THIS IS THE STAGE THEY COME IN TO SEE. And, like the middle school youth, they will always see the awkward phase and never the final version. So keep in mind I’m baring my process to you. No judging until you see the swan.

I used a soft dry sable to pounce at the painting, softening edges and redefining forms. I drape a stack of shop towels on my thigh to wipe my brush and not muddy my paint (a Bill Whitaker trick).

I do steps #2 and #3 again. Rinse and repeat. Each time my paint gets thicker, my strokes smaller, and my pouncing barely touching the surface of the painting.

And here’s the finished piece. The middle pear was distracting so I took it out. The pair of pears compliment each other much more nicely, I think.

Here’s a sampling of some of my other petite still lifes. I’ve decided to not focus so much on what I should do when I paint but to embrace what I naturally want to do. For me that means softness to the extreme and no hard or defining edges.