Tag Archives: artist

Love, hate and every feeling in between


Every single piece of art I create sends me on an emotional roller coaster.

It starts with the inspiration! The adrenaline rush and excitement that comes with the new idea! Yes!! this is a great idea!! This is the most amazing reference photo! This will be the BEST thing I will ever make! Yayyyyy!! I write these ideas down, make a sketch, or find and file reference images. This is the top of the hill at the start of the ride.

Sometimes the idea stops right here at the planning stage… The excitement builds up, I get on with my daily chores, go to work, head to bed full of enthusiasm for my next project… Then by the time I wake up and look at what I have planned… It suddenly doesn’t inspire anymore. Sometimes the ride just stops and everyone gets off.

For the pieces that retain my interest, I am held at the top of the ride. Before I set to work, I need to prepare. I need to get on top of my housework, because I know my art will hold my attention for the next few days and the washing pile will be left ignored. I need to prepare my space, make sure I have the tools, I may need to purchase some supplies. I take the time to draw out my image; measuring, comparing, laying down the skeleton of the piece…I am at the top of the ride, anticipating the moment I can start.

When I finally set to work, I immediately plunge right down to the bottom of the ride. “Oh no, what have I started? I can’t do this! I don’t have the skills… this is too hard?”  the first layers of any drawing always look like crayon or scribble. My colour choices seem ridiculous. I doubt that I can ever build it up into something that passes for art. My hand tightens up and the self-doubt is crushing. This is the biggest dip in the ride. When I was younger many pieces ended at this point, but experience has taught me to hang on tight.

The first  rise comes when the initial section starts to look complete… I usually start with the eyes so I can reach this hill faster. A well drawn eye breathes  the first life into the piece.. and I can start to see how it just might turn out right. “Yes!! I can do this”

And so it goes over the whole drawing,  as I finish and start each section…

I can do this,

No I can’t

I Iove it, this is turning out GREAT!!

I hate it, It’s all going wrong!!

love it,

hate it,



Up and down around the roller coaster. Until the finish is in sight. And I can settle on my  feelings toward the piece as a whole, good, bad or indifferent..

I have had a good run of late, many of my drawings have turned out better than I expected. They truly are the BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE!! and the ride leaves me on a glowing high point.  But I don’t feel that way this week. I like my giraffes, they have pretty faces they are fairly accurately drawn …but it is not the BEST thing I have ever done… and it leaves me feeling a little in between.

I wish I had chosen a different paper. I wish I had spent more time planning the composition. I wish I was able to put down more layers of colour before the paper would take no more. To be brutally honest, this ride has left me a little disappointed.

However this ride is not over, and it never really will be over. Now the drawing is complete I will put it away in its folder, post the images and the video. I will see this drawing many times, and each glance will bring me back to the ride. Today I feel deflated, however in a month, or a year I could feel very differently.Time and distance from the project sometimes allows the love to come back into it. I will see the things I did right, and I will probably judge the flaws less harshly or at least appreciate the lessons I have learned from those mistakes.

Why do I do this to myself?

This battle between expectation and ability is one of the things I love most from practicing art…  I suppose I must like roller coasters



Getting my own reference pictures

So, I admit… I have been somewhat lazy in the past when it comes to reference images for my artwork. I am a huge fan of photo sharing sites like Paint my photo. com  and I certainly don’t mind paying for the super high quality of the photos found on wildlife reference photos.com. I often turn to sites like these when I’m looking for inspiration.. or when I have a “Great idea” which i need to research further.

However, relying on outside sources for reference photos can be very limiting. When I have a great composition in mind, and no one has taken a photo that fits what is in my mind…  ugh!! well it can be extremely frustrating, and I can waste hours searching for the right image.

I recently purchased a DSLR camera, which I intended to use mostly as a video camera for YouTube. Although the camera is doing a fabulous job so far, it does seem like a waste of a rather nice (and reasonably expensive!) camera to relegate it solely to this task.

Small problem… the last SLR camera I used took film, and I only used it for a few months with  black and white film for a photography class. This new camera came with a thick booklet, and WAY too many buttons; and once again I leave myself in a position of having no idea what I’m doing.

So I have been watching videos and reading magazines and trying to get my head around this thing so I can get out and document some of the things that inspire me. My daughter and I went for an early morning trip to my local beach to see what we could do. A local bushfire gave the morning light a strange red cast, but we both got some great shots to add to my big book (file)  of reference photos.

That afternoon I set up a still life with a wine bottle, glass and some fairy lights and fired away. It took some efforts to get the look I wanted. My black glass table stared again, and with the help of a stereo speaker, my iPhone torch and a bottle of ajax to prop things up, I had some great successes (and many, many, many failures) getting the right reference for my next colour pencil piece.

Ooooh, the opportunities this opens up for me! I can’t wait to get out and take as many photos as I can!

Looking back and what’s next?

Sometimes it can feel like you’re not making any progress as an artist. Practice is slow and improvements can seem to take forever, if at all. So it can nice to look back occasionally and see just how far you have come. So this New Year, I  am taking a few moments to look back on my progress and achievements and putting some thought into what I would like to see happen in the year to come.

"All the blues"" colour pencil on paper 41x29cm

“All the blues”” colour pencil on paper 41x29cm

My year started in chaos. We moved house and my precious pencils were packed away and left untouched for a month! I felt incredibly anxious to get back to the drawing table. I suppose some part of me was afraid I would lose momentum and neglect my art for another 10 years! But I shouldn’t have worried. “All the blues” was my first full piece for 2016, and I loved it! This piece went on to become my profile picture for my burgeoning social media pages and was the first piece I uploaded to my Redbubble page to be made available as prints.


I picked up a paintbrush! After many failed attempts in the past, I took just one more shot. I hurt my wallet and bought some quality oil paints and started painting fruit on cheap canvas pads. For the first time in my life the paint did what I wanted. Each painting has been a bit better than the last and I am keen to paint more.

In March, I saw one of my pieces published in the gallery section of Colour pencil magazine. This was huge for me! I made sure I bought a paper copy of that month’s issue, you can’t just download something like that!

spilled bouquet 29x41 colour pencil

spilled bouquet 29×41 colour pencil

In November, I saw one of my drawings voted to be the banner for the Colored Pencils, Graphite & Pastels Facebook group. I see so many amazing works of art posted to that page, I was humbled to see my piece gracing the top of their page for a month!



In May, I took a massive leap of faith, strapped my iPhone to a plank of wood and uploaded my first YouTube video. I have since upgraded to adding voice overs and I am constantly learning new editing techniques. With 15 videos now created, I have managed to consistently upload videos fortnightly and I am really enjoying the process.

And finally, in March I opened up my own little corner of the internet and started this humble blog. Although it is a little neglected, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to write about my journey.

Looking back, this year has seen some HUGE leaps for me. I am quite proud of many of the colour pencil pieces I produced and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much progress would be made. It would seem that all the time and efforts have made quite an impact and this is very reassuring for the future.

So whats next?

Well, I am very excited to keep working on that YouTube channel. Recording my work is hard work and time-consuming, but it is so much fun and I really hope that I can inspire others to create through it.

I have purchased Scott Christensens Paint the ocean course. I live so close to the water, but I have had no success in painting it. I cant wait to use some of those scenic photos on my phone for reference, and apply some of his techniques to create my own water filled landscapes

I hope to learn to be a better salesperson. The more art I can sell, the more time I can dedicate to my passion ( instead of dedicating time to that dreary retail job!) While I have that redbubble site, I feel very self conscious in letting people know it is there. I need to learn how to feel comfortable in marketing myself.

On the topic of sales, I will soon be setting up shop for original artwork. While I do occasionally sell pieces through Facebook, I have not set up a dedicated platform for sales. I have no idea how to do this…. but like so many things this past year,  I will learn.

I am so excited to see what opprtunites 2017 will bring. I hope I to create even better art and more and more of it. Bring it on!


what will be the first piece of 2017




How I draw a Rose – Preparing the Line work for a Colour Pencil Piece

Recently I have been working on a new beginners colour pencil tutorial featuring a simple red rose. ( It should be really fun!) As I was drawing up the outlines it occurred to me that this is a much more complicated shape than the pear and mango tutorials that I have already created, and it may be a little tricky for beginners who do not wish to trace the base image.

So here is my attempt at teaching you how to draw a very simple rose. This tutorial has been a little tricky to create, as I have never really considered my “methods” when I am drawing. So I have spent the last week drawing, and re-drawing this rose to break my process down as simply as possible. No doubt there are better tutorials out there, but this is how I approach drawing a simple rose. Hopefully It helps you too!


  • a sketchbook – I use a cheap, student grade sketchbook from the local newsagent, nothing fancy
  • A soft graphite pencil. I like to use an 8b which is very soft. I like to be able to really move the graphite around on the paper, but this may be a little too soft and messy for some, a 4 or 6b will certainly do the trick
  • A kneadable eraser.
  • A blending stump or tortillion  (or the tip of you finger will do in a pinch, just don’t blend graphite with fingers for “finished” pieces as the oils in your fingers will case you issues)
  • Tracing paper. ( or kitchen wrapping paper – Its see through, cheap and it works!) to get a clean tracing of your final image ready to be used on your final paper.

Reference photo

Here is the reference image for our rose, A very simple rose, with only a few petals and only a few curls… you can do this!!

Step 1.

The first step is to define the size of the rose we wish to draw. Sometimes when drawing, it can be very easy to find one area getting much larger or smaller than intended, or perhaps you start at the wrong place on your paper, meaning you run out of space later. I find it helpful to lay down a circle to define the area in which I intend to work. In this case I have circled the area I want the petals to fill.

Step 2. 

I Find the center structure of the rose and start there. In nearly every rose, there is an area in the center of the flower which is more densely packed than the petals around the outside. I always start with this piece, as I find that I can use this core area as a good place mark against which I can measure the rest of the flower.

In this photo, the tightly coiled core makes up the majority of the rose. This makes for a much simpler drawing.






But no matter how complicated, or how many petals, I always look to draw that central structure first


Using the circle as a guide I start drawing in the shape of the center petals. I draw these lines in a very light, sketchy manner. I am using a very dark, soft pencil, and If I press too hard, I may create lines which I cannot erase easily. Much like when using colour pencil, a light hand it best!!





As I work, I try to imagine the other side of that shape which is hidden underneath the overlaying petal. Thinking about how this rose is constructed helps me to better understand the shapes I am seeing.

This also allows me to draw in the next petal more accurately, as the second petal lays over the top of this core petal and will follow its shape pretty closely. You can draw this is if you wish and erase it later, but personally I find too many guide lines distracting.


Step 3.

Keeping that underlying structure in mind, I then draw the first petal wrapping the flower. I make soft sketchy lines so that i can easily erase and/or smudge out any lines that go astray.

I continuously check with my reference photo, and compare to what I have on my page. Some things you may need to keep an eye on are: is the top of you petal tall enough in comparison to  the top of the center petal ? does the petal wrap over enough of the center petal? Are your curves correct with a nice rounded curve to the inner side of the petal, and a reasonably gentle curve to the outside?

Keep comparing and checking, you will be surprised how much information your brain will *think* it sees and if you don’t take the time to look and compare, you will find you have drawn some very different shapes!

Step 4.

Drawing in the first outer petal. I start by drawing the basic rectangular like shape of the outside of the petal.

Then I study the values on the petal and draw myself a guide line for where the petal goes from the shadowed area into a much lighter one. This change of value will be very important when colouring or shading to show the 3 dimensional shape of the petal, so I want to make sure I have it down to guide me.

Lastly I draw in the curve of the underside of the petal

Step 5.

Next I draw in the larger petal to the left. Using the circle as a guide to how large this petal needs to be. Once again, I draw in a small guide line to show me where the petal curves at the very top. While I am drawing these petals, I am ignoring any of the smaller details, such as bumps and ridges along the edge. I want to get the placement of these petals down first before I worry about adding the details.


Step 6 .

I then draw in the somewhat misshapen petal between the outer petal and the core petal. Much of this petal quite heavily shadowed, so It can be a little tricky to see the details. Just take your time and keep checking your work against the reference photo.

I then draw in the stem and leaves at the base of the rose. I did not like the way the leaf on the right covered up my flower, nor how long it extends away from the rose, so in my version I have left out one of the curls in the leaf and shortened it overall

 Step 7.

I start my shading by finding the darkest areas of the rose. In this drawing they are closest to the central structure and underneath the misshapen petal. I find shading much easier if I define my darkest values first. The super soft 8b pencil means that this will blend out very easily, and I will have to deepen these shadows further as I work


Step 8.

I work on adding shading to the rest of the rose. This is almost always where I find all my mistakes- when the shadows don’t fit as they should, I know my line work is wrong!! I study my reference photo and using a blending stump and a kneadable eraser, I add the rest of my values to the rose.

I Use my blending stump to smooth out the transitions between areas of light and dark, and my eraser to pull graphite back off areas that need to be lighter. Take your time and really look at that reference! Where is the light hitting the most? which areas are in the deepest shadow? Are there areas which blend together in the darkness? Is there a shadow under the curl of a petal? Studying values like this can be very surprising, and you may find highlights and shadows in places you never expected.

This gives me an excellent opportunity to study the lights and darks (or more correctly, the values) in my rose, before I start with my colour pencils.

Sometimes when drawing in these changes in value you will see where the line work is incorrect and this is a good time to make any final changes to the overall shape of those petals. The soft pencil and sketchbook paper generally make the graphite very easy to move around at this point, so as long as you don’t press to hard with your pencil, you can shade and blend and erase until you get it looking right. If you are find it difficult to see the values, you may find it easier to switch the reference photo to black and white.

I have added in a couple of lines to show myself the direction of the veins on the petals and how they wrap around the flower. As this is a guideline, and not a finished graphite drawing, I can add in any details that I feel may help me when creating the final colour pencil drawing. This is a road map! so feel free to make notes however you wish!!


Step 9.

I add shading to the leaves at the base. You can see it this point I have also changed the direction of that left hand leaf, as I feel it was sticking out at an awkward angle.





Step 10.

The final touches! Now that I am happy with the overall shape, I go over the edges of my petals, adding in any of those small bumps and imperfections that I deliberately ignored earlier. I find that If you try to draw in those details first it is very easy to misjudge the overall shape of the object you are drawing.  It is much easier to get an accurate drawing when you get the major shapes in first and THEN add the small details.


Step 11.

When I am happy with my drawing, I use tracing paper ( or kitchen paper) to trace over the outlines of the piece. This gives me a nice clean drawing that I can transfer onto my rather precious water-color paper, ready for me to begin the colouring process!

Creating my line drawing in this manner allows me the freedom to make mistakes and make any changes that I wish long before I ever set pencil onto my delicate ( and rather expensive) water-colour paper. All of my mistakes have been made and erased without damaging the tooth of that fancy paper with my eraser or stray graphite lines, and I can start my final work with a nice, clean slate.

Perhaps because I was a graphite and charcoal artist long before I picked up the colour pencils, I find that having already made a small tonal study like this  can help greatly when it comes time to colour, as sometimes determining changes in value can be difficult in when working in colour.

I hope this helps! Of course I will be providing a traceable line drawing in my next tutorial, where we bring this rose to life with colour pencil but I encourage you to give drawing it yourself a try! Much like the mango and the pear, all roses are different, and yours doesn’t have to be perfect! (I can assure you mine isn’t!! ) I would love to see what you can do!







Beginners color pencil tutorial. Blending colors on a Mango

Here is another tutorial for beginner colour pencil artists. I have chosen this mango, as the shape is very easy to draw and the different colours will give us a chance to practice blending our pencils together to get a smooth gradient.

Reference Picture 

I used Polychromos pencils:

  • White
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Pompeian red
  • Indian red
  • May green
  • Green gold
  • Cinnamon
  • Payne’s grey
  • Cold grey III

Equivalent Prismacolor pencils,  (I find them to be a little more difficult to control with the solvent, they will spread VERY easily…  but will give a slightly more vibrant result.)

  • White
  • Canary yellow
  • Carmine red ( makes the blush a little more pink, but quite pretty)
  • Henna
  • Lime peel
  • Artichoke
  • Nectar
  • Warm grey 90%
  • Cool grey 30%

I used Arches Hot pressed watercolour paper for this example, however this is quite extravagant. My favorite budget-friendly paper is Fabriano accademia paper. I like a sturdy paper with a medium tooth for colour pencil work.

Step 1. Transfer the image to your paper.  If you feel confident, you can use a light graphite pencil to draw out the outline directly onto your paper, but be careful not to erase too heavily! We need to take care of the paper surface and excessive erasing can damage the tooth of the paper, or leave unsightly marks. Extra care needs to be taken to keep the graphite outline very light along the top of the mango, as it will show through the yellow in the final product.

This is quite a simple shape to draw out. I have provided a line drawing to trace if you wish, but there are many varieties and shapes in fruit and perfection is not required!

Step 2. Use the white pencil to lightly colour the area of highlight. While I am not looking for a brilliant white highlight this time, it can be helpful to protect this area a little, and this layer of white will mean we will be able to lift any colour that we may decide is too dark later on.

Step 3. Very lightly plot your lines for where you wish the colours to blend. You can change the size and shape of this area if you wish, but I recommend using the reference photo and trying to get as close as possible for practice. Once you have a clear idea where you wish you colours to be,  lightly start colouring the yellow area of the mango with the cadmium yellow pencil. When you get to the boundaries where the colours are to blend together, allow the yellow to drift slightly into the next colour area, this will be where our pencils will mix together.

Step 4. Next we will add our first layers of the Pompeian red to the blushed area. Start by working at the edge of the fruit and work towards the yellow. As you reach the transition, lightly colour the red pencil over the top of the existing yellow pencil. Remember to keep your hand very light; if you are pressing to hard it will be difficult to get a nice soft blend. Small light circular movements are best to allow you to fade one colour into another effectively.  When you are happy with coverage of the red pencil, you can go back over the blended are again with the cadmium yellow to blend even further.

Step 5. With the blushed end of the mango coloured, you can now move on to the greenish tip of the mango. Use the may green pencil in the same manner as you did with the red, blending the green slightly into the yellow and bring some of that yellow back over the green to let the pencils blend seamlessly together

Step 6. At this point you can add more areas of reds or greens if you wish, however I caution you not to allow the red and the green to touch or blend at any point on the mango. The red and the green are complimentary colours , which means that blending between these hues will create a darker, muddy color, which is not the goal for this brightly coloured piece!

Step 7. You should now have a reasonably solid coverage of pencil on your paper. While you will still be able to see small areas of white showing through, the overall coverage of the mango should be fairly even. Now it is time to use the Odorless mineral spirits. Use a soft brush, and blot most of the thinners off your brush before starting to blend, make small circular motions to push the pigment into the pits of the paper. **Warning!!** The yellow will be very easy to accidentally stain with red or green at this point, so be careful to clean off your brush before blending each area! Move slowly and soon you should have a nice solid base for your piece. Allow the thinners to dry completely before moving on the next layer.

Step 8. With the base colours established we can start applying some shadows to the fruit. Using the green gold pencil, add a light layer across the bottom of the mango. It is important to look closely at the reference image at this point as changes to the shape of this shadow can drastically change the overall form of the fruit. When you are happy with the placement of this main shadow, you can move on to adding the Indian red to the blushed area of the fruit. This will be darkest along the base and along the crease in the fruit.

Step 9. At this point, add a little bit of the cinnamon pencil along the inside crease of the fruit. This is a small step, but it makes a big difference to the overall look of the piece. This little touch of reflected light really helps to bring the shape to life!

Step 10. When you are satisfied with the form and coverage of the shadows, add another layer of each of the base colours (cad yellow, Pompeian red and may green)  to the whole piece, and blend out, using only a very small amount of thinners on your brush.

Step 11. While waiting for the thinners to dry, you can move on to the stem and shadow on the table. The stem is very simply completed by drawing a few darker lines using the Payne’s grey pencil and colouring over the top with the green gold. The stem takes surprisingly little work, needing only just a hint of detail to come together. Before drawing in the main shadow take time again to study the reference photo. Carefully add a strong area of Payne’s grey just underneath the fruit where it touches the table. Then use the cold grey III and with a feather light touch, add the rest of the shadow as it fades out to the white. Blend this area carefully with Odorless thinners on a dry brush.

Step 12. Now is a good time to step back and asses how your piece looks to you. Are there any areas of shadow that need darkening? Is there any area colour you would like to see stronger or more blended? Go over the whole piece again, adding your base and shadow colours, making any adjustments you feel necessary. These last layers should make your piece completely solid and bring the whole thing together.

Step 13. Before blending out these last layers, take the time to add a few marks or blemishes with your Payne’s grey pencil.  Only tiny dots of the pencil are necessary here, but they add just an extra element of realism to the drawing. Try to keep these blemishes as random as you can; it can be easy to accidental create unintentional patterns, so pay attention as you work.

Step 14. The last step is to take your brush and lightly blend the blemishes into the top layers of colour, just knocking them back slightly so they are not too stark against the bright fruit. I cannot stress enough how little thinner needs to be on your brush to achieve this, just the softest touch will be enough to do the job.

Finally! Assess your piece. Check shadows and sharpen a few  blemishes. Now is the time to step back a little and look for ways in which you think your piece can be improved. When you feel you have done all you can, you’re all done!