Image 3
Image 2
Image 1

Here is a brief sequence that hopefully illustrates the concept of bringing a drawing/painting “into focus”. First of course, is the pencil drawing which is transferred to Fabriano hot press paper. Then I begin to lightly—very lightly— lay down layers of color, paying close attention to how light hits the forms. Image number three is about six hours in, I’m still slowly applying color layers. This piece is about 40 percent done, still a long way to go. More work on lights and darks, adding leaves and grasses in the foreground, and tons of sharpening and burnishing.

In the middle: a pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) with two common fragrant orchids (Gymnadenia conopsea) on either side. It is quite difficult to tell these two orchids apart in the field.



Here is the very beginnings of color layering on the Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia). One important thing I have learned at SBAI is that color pencil drawings\paintings slowly—and I mean slowly— come into focus. After creating various color test swatches I start to lay down very light layers of color—blues, yellows, violets, and greens, and with every additional layer I begin to gradually sharpen the image. It takes patience, without worrying about how clunky the early image looks. Eventually I will switch to Verithins, which have much harder leads and much sharper points. I usually end the process with a 2H graphite pencil to really sharpen edges and deepen the darks. Slowly . . . I’ll follow up as I get further on down the road.


Still drawing

I’m getting close to finishing up preliminary drawings for my 2016 summer Burren wildflower series. Also getting ready this week for some faculty input to see where I stand on compositions, a critical stage in any botanical plate. As fond as I am of the drawing part of this, I’m beginning to think color—and the amount of color work to come! Yikes!

Anyway, clockwise from upper left: Devil’s-Bit Scabious; Oxeye Daisy; Rock Samphire (in progress); Maidenhair Spleenwort; and a redo of the famous Spring Gentian. They all are interesting stories, which I hope to tell in due time.

Burren orchids

One of the most interesting things about the Burren is the the fact that the landscape is so hospitable to orchids—many, many orchids. In August, they were plentiful if you knew where to look. Mainly the pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyrimidalis), which tended to snuggle up to limestone rocks in coastal meadows. I think the rocks provide a radiant heat source and protection from the constant winds. Anyway, they are a beast to draw! Here’s my initial attempt. They don’t normally grow in clusters, rather, I’d see solitary orchids every 10-20 feet, waving in the breeze. But each one is truly different and that’s what I want to portray. We’ll see how this one plays out.

Potions, Poisons, and Panaceas

Just attended the opening of the exhibit “Potions, poisons, and panaceas: Medicinal and pharmacological botanical illustrations” at the Art gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. It is a beautifully staged exhibit with a wonderful collection of botanical art. There was also a very interesting panel discussion on the role plants have played in medical history, and the role they play today.

That’s me with my Cannabis Sativa. Exhibit is up through November 10. If you are down there, by all means stop by. Well worth it!

Preliminary works

So, this is what I’ve been doing for the past week. Before memory fades, I’ve been trying to work out compositions in pencil for several of the plants I saw in the Burren in August. Using sketchbook drawings, photos, videos and memory, I am attempting to get it all on paper as quickly as possible. Above: Harebells; Sea bindweed; Mountain Avens; and the lovely Burnett rose. Very preliminary but it will give me something to build on as I move towards color. I still have a few to do— pyramidal orchids, Oxeye daisys, bog thistle, and a few more. I like this stage, where everything is still possible—working on tracing paper with a simple pencil. Next step, color swatches. Enough work to last through the end of the year for sure!

Back to the Burren

burren meadow

Just back from my second trip to the Burren in County Clare, where I was dazzled by the abundance and diversity of wildflowers. Everywhere I went I seemed to be knee deep in wildflowers. It is a much different atmosphere than what I saw in May of last year, where plants seemed to be fewer and far between. In fact, within 15 minutes of hiking through my first meadow I saw nearly everything on my list—all together! Bloody Cranesbill, harebells, Oxeye daisies, Mountain Avens, pyramdial orchids, and many, many more I couldn’t readily identify.


I tried to draw and sketch as much as possible, but again the near constant rain made it difficult. I did take dozens of photos, and videos, that will be used to tell the story and provide reference. Now that jet lag has subsided, I’m starting to organize everything i have for my final push towards completing my diploma work. I’ll have many more posts as I sort through all the amazing experiences of the past three weeks. Stay tuned!

Almost done . . . almost!

cranesbill 8-9

Nearly finished with my Geranium sanguineum (Bloody Cranesbill), which I’ve been grinding on for the past four weeks. Still some sharpening to do but for now it will sit and rest, as I head out for the Burren.  Many thanks to Instructor Susan DiMarchi and fellow classmates for pushing me to go darker, which made all the difference. Going to class and listening never fails to make the work a whole lot better. Duh.

More posts to come from the Ould Sod . . .

Potions, Poisons and Panaceas

cannabis sativa

I am happy and humbled to find out my Cannabis Sativa will be included in the exhibition Potions, Poisons and Panaceas” featuring plants and fungi with medicinal properties.

The exhibit will run from September 8 through October 28 at the Art Gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities on the CU/Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. There will be some very interesting and unusual pieces in this show. Don’t miss it!