Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep on Rocks
Graphite and pastel on grey paper, 5.5″ x 8.5″

A few months ago I went to the Denver Zoo and took a photo of a Dall sheep, which is like a bighorn sheep but white. Wikipedia says it’s a subspecies of thinhorn sheep, so I guess the horns aren’t so big either. By the way, I’m posting things on Instagram now, here, and I’m thinking that I might post things like sketches or works in progress there before posting them here.

Amazon Affiliates links:
Strathmore gray toned sketch book, 5.5″ x 8.5″
Pentel GraphGear 500 pencil
Tombow MONO Zero Eraser
Conté à Paris white pastel pencils

Aspen Against Evergreens

Colorado Aspens
Watercolor and ink on paper, 4.5″ x 6″

A little over a month ago I was passing through the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and there were lots of aspen trees at the peak of their fall colors. They were interspersed among evergreens and I got a few nice photo compositions.

However, when I started this painting a week and a half ago, all I had with me for paints were watercolors. They turned out to ill suited for this scene because of all the little yellow leaves. With watercolor you typically work from light to dark, because most of the paint isn’t opaque enough for light colors to show up well on top of dark colors. That’s why watercolorists normally try to “save their whites” by avoiding painting anything that should be light with dark colors as it would be difficult to lighten it later. With so many tiny dots of yellow surrounded by dark colors it soon became obvious that to preserve the yellow leaves I’d have to first paint a general yellow shape and then define the leaves by tediously painting around each one with dark paint and a thin brush. Instead, I opted to just draw on top of the watercolor with a couple of pens to indicate all of the leaves. It was still tedious, just not as much as it would have been. Some leaves I was able to accent with dots of an opaque bismuth yellow though, so the dark to light approach isn’t a set in stone rule.

Aspen Against Evergreens - photo

The reference photo required a lot of editing because it was taken in poor lighting and started out very dark. After brightening it I actually darkened some parts of the background again to help the center tree stand out a little better and reduce background distractions.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Watercolor, gouache, casein, and ink on sketch paper, 10″ x 12″

I was out of town most of last week, but got a few useable photos from the train.

Restless Sea

Restless Sea
Watercolor, gouache, and casein on 300 lb paper, 4.25″ x 7.5″

I happened to look at the recent painting Fading Quietude upside down and thought it looked very much like either a sea with rocks or a mountain scene with foggy clouds. So I reimagined that same upside down composition as this seascape.

Friday is nearly over, the sun is setting, and it’s almost time for my own Sabbath rest, but the world at large, like this sea, doesn’t look like it’s going to rest anytime soon.

The paints are the same as before. The white in the small plastic container is the casein titanium white, which I’ve found works far better than either watercolor or gouache whites, as those both significantly lose opacity as they dry.

For brushes I started with a small ox hair flat from Daniel Smith, but found that I needed a stiffer brush for this paper. This is old paper and I think the sizing on it got too old to work well, causing it to absorb water too fast. A stiff synthetic brush is more usable even if the water is sucked out of it because it doesn’t get floppy like a natural brush. Most of the basic shapes were then finished with a Hwa Hong synthetic filbert brush with much stiffer hairs, especially because it’s difficult to fully rinse out and some old acrylic paint had dried in it. The finer details and color adjustments were finished with a small Robert Simmons titanium round.

Fading Quietude

Ebbing Tranquility
Gouache, watercolor, and casein on marker paper, 4.25″ x 7.5″

For most of you August has already arrived, but for me it’s still the end of the last evening of July. It’s been a very eventful month for many people and the whole world is sliding further into strife, in one form or another. Because we don’t have endless more months available to make important things wait, let’s all work hard to do well in August and to be sure that we’re right with God.

Draw a Bird Day – Young Robin

Juvenile Robin
Mixed media on sketch paper, 8″ x 9.25″

This is one of three baby American robins that came from a nest on the side of my house. For a couple of days it was hanging out around my front door, being fed by the parents.

Water soluble graphite was used for most of this, along with some red ochre conte crayon, yellow ochre dry pastel, and white casein paint. These were painted over with a mix of clear acrylic gel medium and clear acrylic gesso after they were applied to the paper, but the paint was mixed before use.

Juvenile Robin

1833 Leonid Meteor Storm

Leonid meteor shower in 1833
Mixed media on bristol board, 6″ x 10.5″

The scene of 1833 shown here is a copy of an engraving by Adolf Vollmy. Estimates ranged from a few tens of thousands of meteors per hour over a hundred thousand per hour. One of the quotes I read from eyewitnesses said “never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth.”

My own church (Seventh-day Adventist) believes that event to have been the fulfillment of what Jesus said in Matthew 24:29, “and the stars shall fall from heaven,” (excerpt) as one of the signs that His second coming is drawing near. The symbolism here becomes apparent when considering that the point of origin for the Leonids is the constellation Leo, the lion, and specifically from the asterism called the Sickle, which is a group of stars that forms a part of Leo. Jesus is referred to in the Bible as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” and is said to return with a sickle in His hand to reap the harvest of the Earth. The sky that night was so thick with meteors that it was obvious to everyone they were radiating out from the sickle, even if seen from different geographic locations, and thus astronomy learned that meteors are indeed in space and not just an atmospheric phenomenon as people thought before.

Before that, in the same verse, it’s stated that “immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light…” which we believe was fulfilled in the dark day of 1780 (Wikipedia link). The tribulation referred to would be the persecution of Protestants, which was greatly declining from 1724 onward.

I first started this by shading some general shapes with a stick of water-soluble graphite. Then I painted over that with a transparent mix of clear acrylic gesso and an acrylic medium, which wetted the graphite and gave a silvery dark grey base to build on top of. The acrylic mediums also sealed the graphite from smudging further and provided a textured surface to draw on top of. I started working a little with black and white charcoal, but eventually settled on just using various mixes of zinc or titanium white with acrylic mediums to build up transparent layers of white. For areas that needed to be darkened again I either repeated the first step with the graphite or shaved off pieces of graphite to be mixed with acrylic medium to make a dark paint.

If you have any questions on any of this, feel free to ask.