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1. Jesus art (adventures in going digital)

Yes, I still love my colored pencils. But I've had the itch to work on a digital style, and have done it in fits and starts, but always seem to get sidetracked with something else. (If you are one of the three or so people who read this blog, you might remember me struggling valiantly with trying to do a 'digital colored pencil' style a while back, and how I kind of, well, let's just say, "got frustrated and put it aside".)

I thought I'd do a simpler technique, something that could work for educational and/or religious publishers, so I started sketching out a piece with Jesus and the children. (I did some first 'thinking sketches' for this idea here, which have changed completely.) 

I work in Photoshop, in layers. Here is the first rough drawing of my idea, with a darker, slightly more finished sketch on top of a really super sketchy one. I laid it out with two possible areas for type (thinking like a 'book' or published piece, which would most likely have some words on there someplace) - the sky, top right; or the grass, bottom left.

I made quite a few adjustments and changes to the figures, and ended up with this finished line drawing, which I think is pretty cute. This, all by itself, could work as a black and white piece.

And with the line work darkened up, it could be a coloring book.

So then onto color! This first sample is like other digital work I've done. Its very simple, flat color. This style is really good for high volume work that needs to be done fast. You figure out your palette, then just start painting away, keeping each element, or figure, on a separate layer, so that you can make changes easily (there are always changes!).

And then, because I can't help myself, I started working on one that has more detail. (I showed this to someone who thought it was colored pencil, so I guess maybe I'm onto something here.)

I thought you might enjoy seeing how it looks in separate layers. Those of you who work digitally will yawn at this, but for the rest of you who have no idea how this works, you will be amazed! (or at least mildly entertained).

I start with the drawing layer. (see above)
Then, imagine sheets of clear glass, laid one on top of the other, over that original drawing. That's what working in layers in Photoshop is like. I 'color' on each layer, then at the end, flatten them all down together into one picture. 

Here is the layer where I just painted in all the grass, and the trees in the background. 

Then this was the fun part. I decided to do some texture, and drew little blades of grass. The dirt was originally on its own layer, but somewhere along the way (probably when I was getting too tired) I merged these two layers together. Oh well.

Here's a close up of what the grass blades look like. There are actually two layers - the first one was too light, so I drew them all again, darker.

I love this one. Just the skin! ewwwww.

And the trees. This was done with a few layers, then I mushed them together.

And so on. I may not actually finish this piece because as much as I love Jesus, I'm getting really tired of working on this one illustration of him. I hope he understands. I think I'll change it up and do some Romans, or Lazarus, or Noah.

Meanwhile, hello all you nice publishers who need religious art! I'm all enthused to illustrate your book of Bible stories for you! All 500 illustrations, spots and vignettes and full bleeds, Moses and the Red Sea, the Burning Bush, Jonah, temples, palm trees, the 12 apostles, sandals, beards, robes, Mary, Joseph, Egyptians, . . . Call me! (well, maybe email first.) paula@paulapertile.com

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2. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme





All of these are 5" x7", done with Polychromo colored pencils on Fabriano paper
Prints and some of the originals are in the etsy shop. (These images are of the originals, with the paper texture background. For the prints, I used Photoshop to clean up the backgrounds to pure white.)

Go here to hear them sing the song in Central Park.

That's all I can muster today. Robin Williams leaving us has knocked the wind out of my sails, completely. He lived in my old neighborhood in San Francisco, and was part of the fabric of everyone's lives there for years. I just can't believe he's gone. RIP Robin.

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3. Jujyfruits

8" x 10", every colored pencil under the sun, on Fabriano Artistico paper

This one was a CHALLENGE. 

My client wanted an old, retro Jujyfruits box, which of course you can't buy anymore. 

I was lucky enough to find this picture by googling (its amazing what people take pictures of, and put on the internet, isn't it?) 

The new box, if you go shopping for these today, looks like this:

So, Photoshop to the rescue! I used Distort and a couple of other commands in the Transform palette to tweak the old box onto the new one, in the layout the client liked. I ended up with a very Frankenstein-y stitched together weird reference photo to work from! 

After I had this worked out, I just started rendering. I had to tuck in the little side flap, and fix the shadows. I brightened it all up a bit, and had to invent just a bit of lighting to make the shadows work.

The client loved it, so I'm happy. I'm very glad to have this one finished! 

Now its back to some other work I have on the board. I had a panic about Christmas being only a few months away the other night. I AM NOT READY. I'll be getting the midnight oil out to burn pretty soon. Meanwhile, its still very much Summer, with sun and bees and flies and lawn sprinklers and the A/C going strong. Hope you're enjoying your August, whatever its like where you live.

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4. Berry Tart

Its all done! Phew. I thought I'd never finish. Being sick is a drag (some kind of 'bug', requiring lots of naps and 'lie downs'). But I managed to pick at this in bits of being up and around and finally gone it done.

The paper is 11 x 17. I used Polychromos, Pablos, and Prismacolor colored pencils, on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper.

Not too much else to share. Its so #&* hot here, 100 or over for I've lost count how many days now. The cats have gone wild, insisting I keep the cat door open so they can roam around at night when it cools off. Charlie brought me a mouse, on the bed, at 3:00 am one night, which I did not appreciate. 

Sigh. Cats. Summer. Maybe I should eat this tart - its still in the fridge. 
Stay cool!

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5. 2 Works in Progress - Berry Tart, and Jesus

Nothing finished to show today. I took reference for something that ended up being a disaster, so I had to scrap the idea (for now) until I can do a re-shoot and start again. I've also been feeling a little under the weather (partly thanks to a weird piece of fruit, and the rest is thanks to the heat, I'm sure) and haven't been as productive as I'd like. But I do have two very different things 'on the board', and thought I'd share some work in progress shots so you can see what's happening.

First up is a little berry tart. These scanned so different, when in fact the only thing that's been worked on more is the criss-cross dough on the top one. I'm saving the filling to the end, because its going to be so much fun to do - its such a gorgeous color. This is also planned to be one of my Architectural Food pieces, showing the top (this view here), side, and cross section views. If all goes according to plan. If they don't work out I can always cut them off and just have this nice round tart all by itself! So far this is all Prismacolors, on Fabriano Artistico hot press paper.

Now, onto Jesus and the children. These are the first first first sketches, sitting with plain printer paper and a black ball point pen, with a cup of coffee, out on the porch. 

Working out the girl hugging Jesus.

It seems like there would be a crippled child in the scene. And a bird.

Maybe a girl carrying her little baby brother or sister. Also thinking about hair styles. A braid? Just tied back somehow?

I love fat little baby hands, reaching.

I like the idea of one kid hugging Jesus' hand, and kind of standing on his foot. Jesus doesn't care if you stand on his foot! haha  Also drew a little Down Syndrome boy, but then wasn't sure if that was too much. I want to show all kinds of kids, so that kids looking at the illustration will be able to relate.

A girl carrying her lamb. Or maybe he's a boy. Have to make sure the sandals don't look like flip flops!

This one looks like he's anointing someone. Need to work out what that arm's doing. Not sure if I want it to just be 'down', or like he's saying "hey, Jesus!".

Just walking. Getting the feet just right, especially from the back, is tricky.

A little boy and his . . . sister? Not sure how many of these kids will be in this illustration, but the one's that don't make it in will show up in another piece, somewhere, eventually.

Its fun to just imagine a scene like this, and what it was really like. 

So that's what I'm up to. Hopefully next time I'll have a little more to share. Hope its cool where you are!

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6. Stars & Stripes

(click the image to see it larger)

I'm really happy with how these little guys turned out. They were super fun to draw, and I loved using my Prismacolors again for a whole, entire illustration. (Thank you Bostitch Super Pro 6 pencil sharpener for making that possible!)

This guy is very proud to be first in line in the procession, and has been practicing his fife music a lot, making sure he was ready for today.

This guy lost his nice tricorn hat in a horse-and-wagon mishap just before he had to step into line here, but is trying to put on a brave face, and is very proud that he gets to be the one carrying the flag.

And this guy has been driving his family nuts, practicing the drums, but they all know its worth it when they see him marching and drumming so well with his friends.

I did this whole thing with colored pencils. And I managed to keep it pretty clean. But even so, it needed a little tweak with Photoshop at the end to look even better. So I thought I'd show you a little 'behind the scenes' look at how things magically get cleaned up before going to print. 

This is how it looked straight from the scanner. Its a little 'dirty', and the scanner made a dark edge on the left. Its also a little crooked.

Then here it is cleaned up, and straightened out.

Here's a close up showing one little piece, with the background as it was, then cleaned up.

Can you see how grey the background looks on the left, and all the little 'bits of stuff'? That's the paper texture, and little flecks of pencil that, no matter how careful you are, deposit themselves on the paper and refuse to come off. So, with the help of the eraser tool in Photoshop, I painstakingly go around each figure and erase all of that out, leaving a nice clean background.

I also use the clone tool to carefully pick out any little stray flecks of something that may land on the actual image (here, there was a tiny grain of dark color on his nose). 

When I'm working on a piece that I know is going to be printed, and make a little goof or stray mark, I find myself going "That's OK, I'll fix it with Photoshop", and keep going. But when you're doing something where the original art is IT, like a commissioned piece, you have to be really really careful, because there is no room for mistakes, and there is no fixing the final art with Photoshop! The piece has to be perfect (no pressure). 

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7. 4th of July - Work in Progress

I meant to have this done by the 4th, but oh well. The idea only came to me a couple of days ago, so I drew it out, then started rendering, and of course 'life' happened in between there (nothing bad - just stuff). This is a self-promo piece, so it doesn't have a real deadline, so I guess its OK. I'll just be really really early for next year! heh

Anyway - you can see where I'm going with this I think. I'm going back to this style for my children's book work. I used to work like this a lot, then . . . well, I'll spare you a long boring essay about why I shifted gears and started doing more 'fine art' kind of work. The time I've spent refining my colored pencil style will definitely come in handy here, and has not been time wasted.

"Style" is a hard thing to describe. I call this my "round, shapey people" look. Everyone I draw looks very well fed, and I have a sort of architectural way of designing things. Everything fits together "just so". Its tight, and fully rendered, and there's not a hair out of place (unless its on purpose!).

The outfits these guys are wearing are kind of a mash-up of different Revolutionary War and 'fife and drum corps' uniforms. Most are some combination of red, white and blue, and some are fancier than others. I'm not doing powdered wigs, but will give them each their real hair (partly to get some more color in there).

Hope you all have a good 4th of July, if you're here in the States, and celebrate. We have hot dogs and potato salad and apple pie all ready to go. No fireworks though. They're illegal here, but of course that doesn't stop everyone else from doing them (much to my chagrin - they scare all the animals so). I feel very very thankful for the freedom to be able to draw and color pictures like this all day, for a living, and am so grateful for everyone who has fought for our collective freedoms as a nation to sit and color, and do everything else we do as free people!

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8. Dried Chili Pepper Pods

All done! 8 x 10 inches, all Prismacolor colored pencils, on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper.
Its officially Summer now, so I guess its fitting that I drew something HOT to kick off the season.

In the last post I did some work in progress shots of these. I did end up using some Prismacolor Indigo for the darkest darks. These got very burnished and slick by the end, which is OK. Sometimes I leave things kind of 'grainy', and sometimes I burnish. It just depends on what I'm drawing. These needed that waxy finish, so they needed to 'go there'.

I'm not a big chili pepper (or any kind of hot pepper) person, at all, but I do like chili pepper flakes in some dishes, and also dab a bit of the chili sauce on my food in a Chinese restaurant (avoiding the actual seeds though!). One of my favorite dishes is pasta with broccoli rabe, anchovies, olive oil, chili flakes, black pepper and parmesiano reggiano cheese. Chili pepper is good for you, they say - boosts your immune system or something.

I'll make prints for the shop in the next few days. I think these would be fun, framed up on a kitchen wall, yes?

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9. Chili Peppers - WIP

I bought this package of dried chili pepper pods a while back, thinking they'd be a good drawing. I'm finally getting around to doing them! That's the nice thing about dried stuff  - its lasts a good while in the cupboard, patiently waiting, until you get around to using it.

I've gone back to Prismacolors for this. Before I bought my new electric pencil sharpener (Bostitch SuperPro 6), I had all but given up on these. They were breaking like crazy (in my old duller sharpener), and I thought I might never use them again. But now that I have the new sharpener, which only rarely eats one, they're back on my list of usable pencils. And I'd forgotten how much I love them.

I laid out three of the best chilis in the package, and am trying to work 'left to right' as best I can, to avoid smearing the parts I've already done (I'm right handed - if you're left handed, you would work the opposite direction). I don't always do this, but sometimes it works out to be the best way.

I started with a Raspberry pencil, and kind of mapped out the wrinkle patterns in each chili. Now I'm going back in to each one and rendering it out. The last chili is very very dark, almost black. I've been avoiding using actual black to get the darks dark enough, but I may have to break down and use it. So far I've stuck to Black Grape and Black Cherry to do the darkest darks. I'll wait until I have them all to the same point of finish, then do the final tweaking at the end.

I tend to stick with one brand of pencil when I start working on a piece - I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just lazy! I could try some Polychromo Indigo I think, or something else to do the darkest darks. I'll figure it out when I get there!

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10. Popsicle season

Summer hasn't officially started yet, if you go by the calendar, but if you go by the weather, its definitely here! It was 107 one day last week, and if that's not a reason to break out the popsicles, I don't know what is.

This is a little promo piece for my children's book portfolio. I thought I might break out the watercolors, but at the last minute reached for my colored pencils after all. 

This was done with Caran d'ache Pablos (oil based) on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper. I'm still getting used to the grain of this paper. I love it - but its very different than Stonehenge, which I've been using for so long. Stonehenge has a kind of 'over all' bumpy, sandpaper-like grain - except its not at all like sandpaper. Its just an even, more 'dotted' texture. Fabriano has a more 'grid-like' back and forth, woven sort of grain. So the pencils make a different kind of mark on each of them. I work in a circular stroke (mostly), so there's been a bit of a learning curve in getting them to work the way I want them too. No complaints! Just sharing fiddly details.

Last night I found myself thinking about Christmas art. I know, right? Every year I wait until the last minute to get my act together, but not this year! I'm going to start right now, as soon as I finish typing out this blog post. Really. No, I mean it.

OK, but seriously, there's a lot on the board - some in the planning stages, and some half or more than half done. The new website is almost there, but not quite. There's a whole new line of art for a whole new 'thing' that's gestating in various stages around the studio. I've been doing a good deal of purging of old stuff that's been taking up space in file drawers for too long, and it feels really good! The tax people are never going to audit me for 2006, so good-bye old receipts; and no one must ever find the art for those old projects  - the ones you do for the money but never admit to or show the art from. Every now and then I watch an Episode of Hoarders, just to keep myself from 'going there' (don't worry, I'm nowhere even on the same planet as that, but when I get even a little bit of clutter starting on a desktop or drawer, I think, "this is how it starts . . . ").

I'm also knitting, getting stuff ready for my little etsy knitting shop for Fall and Winter. Every evening my  kitties come out on the porch with me and hang out while I knit a bit, after a day of coloring and cleaning. The rest of the day they do this. If they're not hunting. The one on the left caught a huge lizard yesterday - omg - but I was able to rescue it and put it back outside. Never a dull moment . . .

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11. Molasses Cookie

I saw this giant molasses cookie in the store the other day and let out a little gasp. 

When I was a kid, we'd walk over to Heintz Bakery in Country Club Center * to get treats. They had these gigantic cookies (to a kid's eyes, anyway), and it was always exciting to get to choose one from the display case, then the have the nice bakery lady in her bakery lady uniform reach over the counter to hand it to me, wrapped in its little piece of tissue. They had sugar cookies with scalloped edges, peanut butter, chocolate chip, and molasses.
 (* If you remember Country Club Center from 'back in the day', here's another little article about it.)

I just had to draw this. And I decided to make it one of my 'architectural food' pieces since I haven't done one for a while. Its a sort of odd thing to do a side and section view of, but then I thought, why not? The inside has a wonderful rich, dense section where all the molasses kind of gels together. These are sprinkled all over the top with white sugar. They are just sugar bombs, pretty much. But they smell heavenly, and are delicious.

I also scanned it as I went, so you can see how it developed.
The drawing is 8' x 10", on Fabriano Artistico paper. I used almost all Caran d'ache Pablo colored pencils on it, with one layer of Polychromos, and wee bit of white gouache for the sugar at the end.

I like to establish the pattern on something like this, then work into it with more details. 

At this stage it looked like one of those chocolate cookies with the powdered sugar on top.

Here it looks like a toll house, without the chocolate chips.

Here it looks like peanut butter.

Crumbs! There are always crumbs.

This is the layer where I added some Polychromo Bistre.

And here I dabbed some white gouache on for the sugar. All done!

  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The yard is in full swing now. I noticed today that all my white flowers are in bloom. Not sure if that means anything, but thought I'd take a few (blurry) pics for posterity.

The magnolia has some new flowers, but they're all so high up, I can't get a good photo. You'll just have to take my word for it that that white bit in there is a lovely magnolia flower.

My little miniature rose struggles valiantly in this heat. It lived in a nice foggy yard in San Francisco for many years, so now I have it nestled in with some other green things to help keep it sheltered, and try to remember to mist it often.

And gardenias! They smell so wonderful. I don't think this little guy bloomed last year, so I was so happy to see flowers on it today.

Phyllo, looking three sheets to the wind, helping me examine a magnolia cone.

These things are so cool, but not so cool to step on on the lawn. Its a wonder I haven't broken an ankle stumbling over these.

I'm itching to get out my watercolors. I think some picture book art is on the horizon next . . .

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12. Snickers Bar

Snickers "fun size" bar
6" x 8", colored pencils on paper

Did I tell you my dream about Einstein? A while back I dreamed I called him up, and after introducing myself and telling him I was an illustrator, somehow (through the magic of dreams) we were sitting across a table from each other at a cafe or something. I started showing him my chocolate drawings, and he says to me (in that affable, smiley way, with the goofy hair) "You should do more!". 

And right after that, I had this commission! The client wanted the wrapper torn 'just so', similar to my Heath Bar drawing I did a while back. So I had the arduous task of tearing open wrappers and taking pics to email over, until I got one that was just right. (Of course 'someone' had to eat all those opened Snickers bars - good thing they were 'fun size'.)

I thought it was finished at this stage, below. I even signed it. The client loved it, but wondered very gently if maybe the wrapper could be darker?

She was right. Sometimes when you look at something for too long, you can have trouble really 'seeing it' properly. I went out shopping or something for a while, then came back and added some color to both the wrapper and the chocolate, and voila - perfect!

I used mostly Polychromos on this, except for the red on the wrapper (LOVE Prismacolor's Permanent Red), but then came back in with some Prismacolor chocolatey browns to add a little 'more' to it over all. 

This was done on Stonehenge paper, since all of my other candy drawings have been on that, and I wanted it to look the same (I've been switching over to Fabriano Artistico Hot Press for other work lately.)

I decided to make a swatch chart of all my chocolate colored colored pencils, so I'll really know what I have to work with. Sometimes chocolate is orangey, sometimes purpley, and the shadows can go almost black. The wrappers aren't always chocolate colored, but when they are, the same thing applies.

Terrible scans of how the whole chart looks ...

 And terrible close ups of them (sorry) so you can kind of see what I did.

I did Prismacolors, Pablos, Polychromos, and Luminance.
There are gaps, because at first I was going to try to match colors by name across brands, but that all fell apart pretty fast, and I ended up with a sort of disorganized mess. But it works for me.

(Every time I do swatches I have flashbacks to Illustration 2 class at the Academy of Art, where we had to make watercolor and gouache swatches of all our new paints - and they had to be perfect, an exact size, all lined up in straight rows ... actually I think we did them on watercolor paper, then cut them out and pasted them onto a sheet of illustration board with rubber cement - crazy, but they were beautiful, and I used them for years and years. But I digress ...)

This is what they look like when I just do them for me, and just want to get a splotch of color down so I can see what I have. It still surprises me sometimes when I think a color is going to be one thing, based on the casing or lead, then it looks totally different when it goes down on paper. Luminance are the ones that do that the most I think.

I have Alyona Nickelson's Colored Pencil Painting Bible, and in it she shows how she swatches her pencils. GURL, she be crazy (I mean that in a good way), but very thorough and totally impressive. She does color 'mixes', as well as un-burnished and burnished. I considered doing something like that with these, since its the mixture of colors that will make just the right chocolate color for each drawing, but then couldn't wrap my brain around how to do it without making it my life's work. 

Alyona does have a cool tip about printing your swatches out onto clear paper (like overhead projector transparencies) so you can then lay them over a partially rendered drawing, and see exactly how a new color applied will look. I think that's worth a try.

But I know myself, and figure I'll just do tests as I go along, each time I do a drawing.

For fun, I just googled "drawings of chocolate", and found this Pinterest page which has a lot of cool art (and a few of my pieces too).

I've made prints of this piece available in my etsy shop

Next up is a small architectural food piece . . .

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13. Skies

I finished this house portrait the other day. What a lovely house.

It got me thinking about skies. I do them all different - depending on the house or building, and I guess what mood I'm in. Sometimes a certain kind of sky just goes with a building - some are light, some strong, some have no clouds, some have lots, some are pretty blah, some more dramatic, etc.

 Take this one for example. The house was white, so I really beefed up the sky. 

But then this was was a white house too, and look what I did here.

This was an all brick building.

Palm trees!

Evidently cookies call for drama.


Very ... controlled.



There's a storm a comin'. . .


I could do the same thing for grass - sometimes I make it really really green, other times less so. I've never had a client complain - I guess my gut instincts are doing OK. But it has me half thinking that I should offer people options for the 'mood' or feel of their drawing. 

Sky: Happy pretty light blue. Intense blue. Lots of clouds. No clouds. Dramatic clouds. Wistful clouds.
Grass: Astro turf green. Mellow green grass. Needs a little water. We're having a drought, no one has a green lawn anymore. 
(OK that last one would be a little too on the nose for us Californians.) 

Today I'm doing a Snickers bar for a client. Will post that one next.

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14. Berry horn and house portrait

More food and houses!

I just can't seem to resist a nice pastry. This is a little Svenhard's Berry Horn. They come individually wrapped in cello, in an assorted mix. Of course I picked the most colorful one to draw (there are also Cheese Horns, Raisin Snails, Cinnamon Rolls, and Breakfast Claws). I'm fascinated by the names of these things. 

Berry Horn     8" x 8" (20.32 x 20.32 cm)
Polychromo colored pencils on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper

When I was a kid my parents loved to go to bakeries and coffee shops, to sit at the counter with a donut and cup of coffee and chit-chat with people (this is back in the olden days, pre-internet). So I spent a lot of time with donuts and pastries (and bad, weak coffee shop coffee, which I still abhor). 

One time I ordered "a coconut donut", and the waitress brought a "Coke and a donut". Well, that became a 'thing', and I ordered that every time to see what I'd get, until I wore that joke out.


I did this drawing about 2 times larger than life. Prints and the original are in my etsy shop.

I also just finished another house portrait commission. This one is black and white, which I love doing.
Most people do pen and ink for black and white work, but I love using my black pencils. Its a kind of softer look.

I'm using the same technique I always do, but I'm noticing it comes out looking a little different with this new paper (Fabriano Artistico Hot Press) than other work I've done with Stonehenge. Gradations are a little smoother, and less grainy. I'm liking it!

I've updated my etsy shop listings for house portrait commissions, with the new samples, and a slight adjustment in prices. As always, if you have a custom size or shape that I don't have listed, or would like to add people, or do multiple buildings in one portrait, I'm happy to do that for you. Please email me or send me a 'convo' on etsy and we can talk about what you'd like.

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15. House portrait, and animal cookies

I'm back to my old drawing self, after a couple of detours.

First up is a newly completed house portrait, of a residence in San Francisco.
I did this one with Polychromo colored pencils on Fabriano Artistico hot press paper. WOW WOW WOW I LOVE THIS PAPER!!!!!!! 

There are so many papers to choose from to work on, and I've heard about this one before, but for whatever reason never ordered any to try. I have a draw full of other papers - lots and lots of pads of Stonehenge (which I still love), other watercolor papers, hot press and cold press, watercolor blocks, different sizes, colors, you name it, as well as a ton of illustration board. 

Well this one wins. Its 'crisper' than Stonehenge, and takes a million layers with no complaining. Its just gorgeous stuff, and I couldn't be happier with it.

Before I did the house above, I did a couple of little circus animal cookies, just for fun. These were Polychromos and Pablos on Stonehenge.

The first one is a camel, and I'm pretty sure the second one is a lion. These cookies fascinate me - they are just the weirdest little things. The cookies themselves are nice, and then they cover them is this sickeningly sweet frosting and the little doohickies (there's a name for those that's escaping me at the moment). These come in white and pink frosting, and they taste the same, but the pink ones make a better picture. 

I actually laid out every cookie in the bag, and organized them by 'animal'. I considered doing a huge drawing of every cookie in the bag, including all the broken bits and stray round thingies. I thought documenting them like that would be a cool 'art piece'. And it would. Then I decided I didn't want to make that my life's work, and just drew these two instead. 

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16. Leek Faux Mosaic

After that last post where I pretty much had a nervous breakdown over trying to do that digital colored pencil piece, I had to shift gears completely and not only go back to real colored pencils, but had to also not do a children's book piece. So I did food, but again, something completely different.

"Leek" - faux mosaic  8" x 10"
Polychromo colored pencils on Strathmore 500 illustration board

I also went back to illustration board, which is what I learned on in art school. We used it for everything. Although back then it was Crescent 300. I still love illustration board the best for everything - watercolor, gouache, ink, pencils - but you can't see through it on a light box. Which is why I use paper a lot now.

The grout is the same color all the way through, but looks so much darker against the white. 

Here's how it started ~

I had intended to do more 'in progress' scans, but you know how it goes sometimes. Basically, I sketched out the leek, broke it up into little pieces and drew in some grout, then colored in the tiles. Then I came back over the grout again with a grey, then over the whole piece with white to pull it together.

It was pretty fussy, but I was determined to finish it. I was inspired by classic Roman mosaics where they used these little small squares for the whole piece. I'd like to do some more of these, and experiment with different sizes and shapes of 'tiles'.

In between grouting faux tiles, I've been playing nurse to my kitty Saachi, who had the rest of his rotten teeth pulled, and also got shaved bald to get rid of all his badly matted fur. Poor kitty - I've never had a cat with fur like his, its just impossible to comb out. This was pretty dramatic, but it will grow in better, and I am armed with a good assortment of different sized combs to keep him cleaned up this time. Hopefully.

Before ~

After ~

Sigh. He's doing well, and gumming his food now. We have baby food, all kinds of wet food, and are doing dry food with just a bit of water on it to soften it. And lots of TLC of course.

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17. Doggone Digital Pencil

OK, so last time I was showing you my drawing of the ice skating dogs. 
This time I'll show you my neurotic attempts to render the darn little guys. 

Maybe I should explain a bit first. 
You all know I do colored pencil art. 
What you may not know is that for a while I've been on fence about doing it for children's book work. Just because it takes soooo loooong, and most children's book work budgets aren't big enough to make spending this long on a piece of art in this style worth doing. (I don't mind working hard on something and having it take a long time ... but there's "normal" long time, and then there's "I need to have my head examined because this is insane" long time. Colored pencil work falls into the second category.)

But old habits die hard, so I started rendering this in colored pencils anyway, just because I felt like it.
And this is as far as I got before I thought "yeah, this is taking too long ..." 

And then, "I know! I'll do it digital! That'll be quicker!" 
And it could be, if I could work out a way to do it ... less detailed? Less perfect? Because the way I've been working, doing the colored pencil texture digitally, takes just as long as the old-fashioned way. The fact that its digital makes it easier to make corrections and changes, yes, which is a huge plus. But it still takes too long. Seriously.

Here's the guy with no color on his coat yet. I like being able to get in there and really render it to death. I just can't help myself. I get in there with a 4pt brush and fiddle around, and get lost in some microscopic detail.

Here, the face it a little more done, and I starting playing with the coat. There are I don't know how many layers of colors on that coat. It doesn't even look like colored pencil anymore, does it?

And more.
This is where I stopped, and did a reality check. I started outlining, which is fine, but is that what I really want to do? (rhetorical question) I'm just saying. I've had to stop working on this for a while, and will come back to it with fresh eyes, when I've had some time to mull over what I want to do exactly.

I still think this is a viable technique. I just think that for what I was originally intending to do with it - faster children's book work - its not working. For me. Like this. I may figure out a way to do it faster, and if so, I'll share. 

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer. I just thought it might help someone else who's struggling to figure something out, to show that things don't always go smoothly. Misery loves company, after all.  

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18. Dogs Skating Update

Hey. Thought I'd better check in with something, even if its not finished art. Had a lot going on this week, but in between all of that I've been working on the dogs skating. You can see the first rough ideas and how its progressed, and where we left off last time, here ~
(or, just scroll down to the last post)

Before, they were in a kind of long-ish horizontal layout. But I thought "hey! I might want to make prints of this, so let's make it 8 x 10 instead." So that's what I did. I reorganized all the little doggies in a more 8 x 10-ish clump. 

I also made the wiener dog leaning forward a bit more. I did this with Photoshop, and you can see how I haven't erased out the second head on him yet. I love working in layers in PS, and how you can make a new layer, try something, hide it if you're not sure, delete it, or whatever.

And here's a more cleaned up version of the drawing above. Its ready to be transferred to the final paper. Or should be. Except something kept nagging at me. I found all kind of things to do except that. Like laundry, other cleaning, cat chores, a nap, shopping, knitting ... something in me wasn't happy with this yet. 

First, I took out the guy 'walking' the dogs, because you know what? I didn't like the leashes, and I also figured that if the dogs were smart enough to be able to put on clothes and skates and you know, ice skate, they didn't need to be on leashes.
I rearranged the dogs a bit too, to make them interact with each other more. 

And then it hit me. It needed KITTIES! 

So I sketched in some little furry guys in the snow behind the dogs. One is about to throw a snowball, and his buddy is hiding behind a big stockpile of ready-to-go snowballs. Another one is making a snowman. One is skating out onto the ice, and another is skiing.

Here it is, tightened up a bit. The dogs are totally oblivious, of course. They're just out for a nice little skate. The cats, on the other hand  ...

This makes a much better illustration, with more storytelling. It has a lot more going on, with the cats, and is more fun.
This has been transferred to the final paper and is being colored as we speak. I've taken out the skiing guy - somehow he wasn't working for me. But who knows, he could always end up back in. 

I'm also working on my new website, S...L...O...W...L...Y, but surely. It'll get there. I've ordered some new nice paper and colored envelopes (oooh, fancy) to make some cards for my etsy shop. I know, I've said before that I hate making cards, and I do. BUT. I would really like to have some other options in the shop besides prints, and I thought some card sets would be nice. 

So that's what I'll be up to over the next week, no doubt with a lot of help from this guy (when he's not doing this) ~

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19. Dogs Skating - Work in Progress

I had this idea for a dog walker walking dogs, but having them all skating instead of walking. Cute, right? Yeah I thought so too.

I started with a really rough drawing of my idea, with different dogs in different skating postures, in a 'clump', with the human walker behind. (Actually, there were some rougher ideas before this one, but this one is the first one in the process I'm willing to share.)

I knew I wanted to do a bulldog, and the wiener dog out front. I also wasn't sure how many dogs I wanted - there could be more, but I also wanted to be able to show enough of each one to make it worthwhile drawing them. Too many dogs would hide too much of some of them, so I kind of weeded them out a bit from my very first ideas. 

I work 'old school', on tracing paper, and make a lot of overlays. Here's the next one, (again, with some 'in-between' ones left out), with some of the dogs tightened up a little bit.

I had a poodle in there, and the bulldog was doing that kind of gliding thing. The little guy in the back got cut off in this scan, but really, he's still there. 

I started playing with some outfits (oh yes ... they have to have outfits!), and had scads of little individual dogs re-traced and cut out and re-traced again, all over the drawing table.
Here are some bits hanging off my drawing table lamp.

And here I plopped all the ones that I liked down on a piece of paper and scanned them. You can see that I have two sets of "Mom and pup", because I'm not sure which one I like better. I also took out the poodle.

Here's where Photoshop comes in (yay, Photoshop! What did we do before Photoshop?)
I placed each of the dogs from the scan above into a new blank image, and started playing with placement, and also scale. I love using the Edit > Transform > Scale (and also Rotate) tool to fiddle with things. I ended up cutting and pasting (Lasso Tool > Cut (or Copy) > Paste) one of the Mom dog's head onto another dog altogether. 

I also used my Wacom tablet and stylus to draw the 'guy' in the background, the leashes, and the horizon and top crop lines. All the dogs, as well as the guy, were on separate layers. I erased around each image so they were all kind of 'free floating', and could overlap each other. 

I decided the crop the top half of the guy off, because its not really about him, its about the dogs. We don't need to see who he is I don't think. I want it to be all about the dogs.

Here's where I am with the drawing. Its not "there" yet, but almost. 

I love telling a little story with each of them. The wiener dog (with short legs) is racing out front. The Mom is helping her pup. The bulldog is just this really solid mass floating along. The bull terrier and other little hound are looking back to see how the little guy (you have to say "little guy" with a kind of quavery voice) is doing. And the little guy is just that - the little guy, bringing up the rear.

I have lots of work to do figuring out their clothes, but that will be fun. When I get a final drawing, I will transfer it to my paper and start the finish. This will be done with colored pencils, and I think I'll try out my new Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits) and of course my new handy dandy electric pencil sharpener!


In other news - 
its SPRING here already. I know, totally crazy, considering how much of the country is ice and snow bound. 

We've had juuuust enough rain to get everything going, but are still in a drought. We will all have to be creative about how to keep everything watered come Summer. 

I would love to fill in some gaps in my beds with new plants, but don't want to have anything extra to water, so I guess I'll just let them be a little bare for another year. 

Hey, I just had this idea. Someone could start a business painting 'fake' flowers and bushes on some kind of outdoor-friendly material, that people could put in their yards. You know, like those painted fireplace screens, but on stakes, that you could just stick in your flower beds. Yes? No? Maybe. If you do it, please send me pics. :~)

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20. Looking Sharp

I finished the paint tubes! These were fun. They look like they're standing around, maybe gossiping about the other colors. :~) I don't know. The things your mind does when you're sitting, sitting, sitting, and drawing. Maybe they don't like the greens, or blues. 

I actually had this idea last year and was going to make it into a Christmas card. I have some reference shot of green tubes too. I still like the idea. Maybe this year ...

This is 7" x 7", done mostly with Polychromos, and some other brands for the reds.

These were an experiment on Arches Hot Press, which I've never used before. I like it about 99% as much as I like Stonehenge, so that's pretty good. I seemed to get little 'flecks' or spots of color, especially after a couple of layers, which I didn't like. Not sure what that's all about - something about the paper surface, obviously, but I couldn't tell you what. There's not as much tooth on the paper as with Stonehenge, but for something like this, which didn't take too many layers, it was fine. I will use it again!

But THIS is what I really wanted to share. I bought myself a new pencil sharpener. 

The Bostitch Super Pro 6 electric. Its a little (OK, maybe a lot) pricey, but if you do a search you can find the best deal. (I'm always amazed at the difference in price for these kinds of things.) I got mine on ebay for significantly less than some retailers. They go from $70 or so to over $100 (with most selling for $80-something), so it pays to shop around!

I've been using an Xacto School Pro for 5 or 6 years. When it was new, I thought it was great. Gradually, over time, it got duller, and duller, and was eating more pencils (mostly Prismacolors), until it just became a wood chipper. Even my harder pencils like Polychromos were breaking in it. 

I had stopped using Prismacolors altogether for the past couple of years, because at first I just thought they had gone downhill. I had heard about them changing their manufacturing, moving things to Mexico, and had several people say they were experiencing problems. So I thought it was just the pencils. Then when my other pencils started to break too, I realized it was time for a new sharpener.

So let me illustrate.
On the left here we have the new Bostitch, and on the right, the old Xacto.

And here are two Prismacolors, both of which were sharpened in the sharpener they're modeling in front of. 

HEL-LO!!! Do you see what I'm talking about?
Let's do it again with two more pencils, shall we?

I could do this all day long. The old sharpener takes them to a really dull point, then CRACK! off snaps the lead. The new one just zips it into a needle-like point, lickety-split. Its a beautiful thing.

The only thing you have to be careful with is that it doesn't have an 'auto-stop'. Which means it will just keep going, if you let it.

So now after I've re-sharpened all - I don't even know how many - hundreds! - of Prismacolors, I have an art 'to-do' list as long as my arm. It will be a joy to 'color' again!

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21. A loaded Sunday

As I'm writing this, we have just learned that the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment of a drug overdose (with the needle still stuck in his arm); Woody Allen's daughter is revealing that he molested her when she was a child; everyone but me is watching (or getting ready to watch) the Super Bowl; and we here in California are watching the skies for rain, any rain, anything at all, to relieve this drought, and are all not washing or flushing or watering or doing anything with water that isn't absolutely necessary.


I could write a lot about all of those things, but don't really feel like it, and besides, I have stuff to do.
So I will just share some art instead.

This is a fun little piece I just did for a client. It will be a logo for a quilt shop. 

I used all kinds of colored pencils for this - I started with Coloursofts for the wood grain, then used Polychromos and Pablos for the rest of it. I had to strike a balance between 'realistic' and 'graphic', since it will be shrunk down small for a logo, as well as used larger on tags, and some signage. 

It was super fun to do! No reference, really (well, I have quilt books for ideas). 
I made it all up out of my head. 

And here is an update on the paint tubes. I'm really enjoying this one too. The colors are soooo subtle - just warm and cool greys, really, in the tubes and their labels. I started with a warm and cool grey value drawing, then added some Ivory and Cream to the labels, and Sky Blue to the tubes (all Polychromos). 

I'm going to leave off all the type (there's a lot!) and just have these be blank. Its not that I'm afraid of doing type (I can do it, and actually love letters) but I think these make more of a statement this way. I think they look like they're either taking a bow or doing a curtain call, or maybe just chatting. They seem almost animated, don't they?

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22. Going forward

A couple of weeks ago my bff kitty Shmoopie left us to go to the Other Side. She was just shy of 19 years old. We shared a lot of ups, and a lot of downs in those years. She and her brother Bosco were just wee little kitties running around the property next door to my old place in San Francisco all those years ago. I had a loose board in my fence, and lured them into my yard with food and yummy treats. I can still see, in my mind's eye, Shmoopie coming up my back stairs into the house the first time. Its amazing how fast that many years can whiz by.

She was galloping around, making her funny throaty roaring noise right up until the day before she got sick. She had one bad day, and a trip to the vet confirmed kidney failure. Usually she bounced back (sometimes a little slowly) from things, but this time I'm sure she just decided it was time to go.
Of course I miss her more than I can say, but also? its OK. She had the best life, and I know she's happy. 

It rained the day she died (it hasn't rained here for eons), and the next day we had fog. I'm sure she went back to SF and brought it here for me, because she knows how much I love it. 

This was the last picture I took of her this last Christmas. I love how the bright lights surround her. I like to think she's somewhere with bright lights now, too.

And life goes on. I've been a little off my game, but am slowly getting back in the swing of things. I have some 'real work', which is nice, and which I of course can't show (yet). 

I've started this little experiment to try out some new paper - Arches Hot Press watercolor paper. I've been in such a rut with Stonehenge, and have heard good things about this. I also want to do more watercolors again, so thought this might be a good paper for that as well. I have tons of Arches Cold Press, which is lovely for watercolors, but way too texture-y for my taste for colored pencils. 
This is 140lb, which is thin enough to see through on a light box. That's essential!

What is this? haha yeah, its a little cryptic, isn't it. Well, it will reveal itself in the next update, hopefully. Maybe you can guess (if you're an artist, you probably can). 

I'm using Polychromo colored pencils for this. I can tell the paper doesn't have as much tooth, and won't be able to take as many layers as Stonehenge would, but I'm liking it so far.

Oh! I almost forgot. A new little fur friend has joined the household. He found our cat door and started coming in to eat the week before Shmoopie left. He's from across the street - the house with people who, let's just say, in my opinion (and yours too, if you could see and hear what I do), should not have pets. He obviously decided this was a waaaaaaaay nicer home, and just moved himself in. 
I have since found out he's 9 months old, neutered, and has had his shots. They don't care that he's mine now, so we're good. I've kind of named him Pepper, but am also leaving it open for something else to sound 'more right'. He's a sweetie. 

And this has happened more than once now - just before one kitty is about to leave, a new one shows up. Things to ponder ...

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23. Blueberry Muffins

I finally finished these. I did the wrappers first, then waited a good long while to come back and do the muffins. Everyone thought they were going to be cupcakes!

Everyone always draws the perfect muffin (or cupcake, or whatever). I have to be different sometimes. So I thought it would be fun to do them in a different way.

These were small muffins, and came in a sort of tub, with a lot of them all kind of squished together. So many of them were very un-perfect, so that gave me the idea to make that my point of view.

 I purposely did the ones that were a little off, or staged them in an unusual way.

I think these would be a fun grouping, framed, on a wall.
They're each about 5.5" square, and were done with Polychromo colored pencils on Stonehenge paper.

Last time I said I was going to do something Downton Abbey-inspired. And I will! I just had to get these off the board first.

We are officially having a drought now, boo. That means water rationing, starting as soon as next week maybe. We'll be in for it this summer, for sure.

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24. Mochi Balls

Here's the finished Mochi Ball drawing that I barely had a hint of drawn in the last post.

I bought a little package of these at my favorite Japanese store (Oto's Marketplace) while shopping for my kitties' bonito fish flakes, on a whim. I love all the Japanese snack foods, but because I don't read Japanese, am usually mystified as to what some of them are. Some are pretty easy to identify, like most type of rice crackers, but I've had a few surprises when I've bought something that I thought was going to be sweet, then it turned out to be fishy or seaweedy! Or the other way 'round.

Anyway, these caught my eye and I thought they'd be a fun drawing. I wanted to do something different with the arrangement, and played with all sorts of geometric shapes before I ended up with this. I love how artfully arranged those little veggies and pickled things are in Bento boxes, or just about any Japanese meal I've been served, actually. It just naturally seemed right to do something 'organized' with these. The "rack 'em up" layout doesn't really have anything at all to do with anything Japanese, but it made me smile so I went with it.

I also came to a realization, or decision, that this is what I like to do - line things up in a pattern. Unless I'm doing a 'one thing alone' composition. So now I'm going to consciously do this with all my food drawings, at least for a while.

This is 8" x 10", drawn with Polychromo colored pencils on Stonehenge paper. I'll have prints in the etsy shop in the next day or two.

Downton Abbey starts up again tomorrow night! I will be all tucked in with my tea and scone or biscuit or mince tart or something suitably British, with a kitty or two snuggled in, drinking it all in - its been a long wait! I've been reading my "Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey" book, so feel very 'in the know' about how they film it. I just read (not in the book) that Paul Giamatti will be making an appearance, in the Christmas (last) episode. I love him, and look forward to seeing how he mixes in with the Downton crowd. I so enjoyed the HBO mini series "John Adams" from a few years back, in which he played the lead role (and won an Emmy). The Times seems to think he was miscast, but what do they know? I thought he was brilliant.

On that note - I'm going to pack up my pencils, clean my board and get organized for the next project. I think it may be something Downton-themed ...

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25. Hello 2014

Another new year! I confess I'm always glad when the calendar flips over to a clean slate, and "the holidays" are in the rear view mirror. Don't get me wrong - I love all the over-eating and baking and decorating and presents and good cheer and all, but I'm also relieved when everything goes back to normal! 

So, a little something old to share first. Remember when I was doing these muffin cups? There are four of them, all a little 'off' (meaning, not the traditional "standing straight up with a perfect muffin inside" take on this subject).

I did the muffin cups, then put them aside and moved on to something else (that happens a lot), and am now getting back to finishing up the blueberry muffins themselves. Good thing I took good reference, because the 'live models' are long gone! And they were delicious.

I haven't signed this yet because I'll wait until I have all four done, then do some tweaking to make sure they're all on the same level of finish. 

And now an all new piece. These are Mochi Balls, which are a Japanese/Hawaiian peanut candy treat. They come in the funnest colors, and are a traditional Japanese new year's thing. Well, sort of. Actually, Mochi cakes are the traditional Japanese new year's treat, and are a very different thing than these little peanut candies. But they're not as much fun to draw. Mochi cakes are basically a soft, rice cake kind of thing (forgive me, my dear Japanese friends for not explaining this well). These Mochi Balls are peanuts, coated in some combination of sugar + seaweed, sesame, coconut oil, and soy sauce. Some of them (which I haven't started to color yet) remind me of dinosaur eggs! You'll see, as I get into this more.

2014 is going to be busy, I can feel it. There are already 'real' projects on the board, as well as big plans for some self-generated projects I've had on a back burner for way too long. I can't wait to get started on them all!

We are officially having a drought here this year. They say 2013 was the driest year in recorded history! We've seen no rain for weeks, which is nice for the kitties, who love to lay in a sunny window or out on the back porch. My next door neighbor and I are planning a "new fence" project to be done in the next few weeks, which normally would have to wait until Spring. Of course we'll be paying for this at some point with water rationing, and whatever other ecological bad things have occurred because of the dry winter. But for now I'm selfishly enjoying the cool, dry sunny days.

I hope this new year is a good one for all of you! 

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