A colored pencil drawing of a pine branch with green needles. The branch is drawn from the upper left to the bottom right of the paper.

Needle by Needle

I finally drew something I don’t hate! I created this pine branch using my Faber-Castell colored pencils on Strathmore 400 Series Colored Pencil paper. In addition to two types of green pencils, I used yellow to highlight and blue to shade. All the pencils I used are in the 12 pack starter version of the Faber-Castell (I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it was to limit how many pencils I’m trying to incorporate).

In terms of technique, I first started by looking at a pine tree and realized the needles covered the branch as well. I sketched in the brown wooden part of the branch lightly first. I used green at first to line each branch at an angle with both shades of green. Next, I drew with yellow on the ends I wanted to highlight, and blue closer to the branches on the underside and where they met. Finally, I covered the wooden part in a cross-hatch motion nearly parallel to it with both shades again.

In terms of improvements needed, my color balance is messed up because I added the smaller areas of needles after the first few branches and they got too much blue, and because I rotated the final drawing in my photograph. I have to work on where and how to photograph my drawings as the overall color is too dark as well but I was too lazy to go outside in 20 degree F weather to try there. Finally, I have to consider how to make the branch appear more 3-D–I think the needles are alright for this but the branch itself looks rather flat because of the angle I used on the parts that split off.

I started my colored pencil drawings attempting to draw an entire tree and it did not go well. I think I have to break stimuli into their components in order to be able to have any chance of creating a visual representation I find palatable. Observing what I am trying to draw in person proved very useful so that is something I will be continuing. If you like to draw, what do you find useful in drawing natural objects? To what extent do you focus on realism? What serves as your inspiration?

Drawing in Season (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

For today’s simple pleasure, I combined photography and drawing to trace and color a leaf* on Adobe Draw (a free phone app). I struggle with fine motor skills and tend to give up on drawings because I have to work from an outline. As I understand copyright law, I don’t think it is legal to trace someone else’s photograph and then draw it as my own if I want to share it. I was excited to realize that I can use my camera and take my own photographs in order to have something from which I can work.

Leaves are turning very colorful and falling from the trees where I live, so using that as my focal point made a lot of sense. My artistic knowledge is pre-K if that is a fair comparison, but one element of drawing to which I’ve been attending is the idea that adding black lines around and within a drawing seems to elevate it. I included several brown and red colors to my leaf and then drew in the veins which made it pop. What is in season where you live? How might you go about drawing it?

*I couldn’t figure out the resolution so unfortunately I am not able to share it here. I cannot wait until I get Adobe Illustrator and am able to include my own artwork!

A photograph of a sunny pond surrounded by greenery.

Today’s Simple Pleasure: Photographing a Pleasant Scene

Sometimes the most enjoyable moments in life are those that are unanticipated. After drawing a “go photograph something” card from my Simple Pleasures deck, I headed off to a local park with my dog. I imagined my experience would be a peaceful, solitary walk, and was therefore disappointed when I arrived to discover that the park was hosting a soccer tournament. Hundreds of children and families, filling the grassy fields, threatened to disrupt my tranquility.

I forged on nonetheless. As my dog and I rounded a bend on a path surrounding the park’s pond, I came across four children on a mission. A soccer ball had landed in the water and, appearing to have escaped the watchful eye of their caregivers, they were determined to retrieve it. One of them hoisted a bent reed into the water, which had zero effect as the ball was floated at least ten feet from the boggy edge. Next, they began chucking good-size rocks they’d salvaged from a nearby drainage ditch into the pond, hoping to create ripples that would move the object closer to their grasp. An older child praised a younger one for the effort put into tossing a stone, only to realize the distance covered had fallen short and created an impressive mud splash. They all gathered around the youngest child, who was now speckled up and down, including their white shirt, in dark brown mud. “It’s even on your forehead” one remarked with a mixture of glee and the foreboding of a child many times scolded.

At this point, my walk took me away from their pleasant scene. I snapped my photograph a few minutes later at the other side of the pond as I wanted to respect their privacy. Somewhere off camera to the left, a soccer ball remained floated, although the breeze had brought it a tempting distance from their location. I ended my walk and left without knowing whether they succeeded in retrieving it or how much trouble their rock-tossing landed them in with their caregivers. All-in-all, I was both entertained and encouraged by the collaboration and ingenuity I observed. The kids are alright and they made me smile. What have you observed (or photographed) today that’s made you smile?