Daffodil – Colored Pencil

Today’s “botanical bright” is Daffodils! Now I’m really longing for spring. 

Daffodils (Narcissus) really are true signs of spring. I get so excited once the snow melts and you can see the tips of their leaves sticking up out of the ground. Once that happens you know that spring has finally arrived. 

I love to cut them and make arrangements. They last at least a week in vase. Here is a bouquet from a few years ago of daffodils and pussy willows. 

In my garden I have about a dozen different varieties. Some are “doubles” with frilly flowers and some are “trumpets” with long centers (coronas). Each fall I purchase some new bulbs and spend a few golden afternoons popping them in the ground here and there like a squirrel. 

I made these container arrangements for my business for a home show we were in. I loved these and we enjoyed them for awhile in our office after the show. These were potted so they lasted quite awhile. I added some curly willow and burlap. The bucket is an old maple syrup bucket. I think I may just make these again this year….


Flowering Dogwood – Colored Pencil

Today I have a third piece for what I’m dubbing the “Botanical Brights” collection. I must have spring on my mind because today’s piece is Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida). 

I love Dogwood trees because of their open, airy canopy. They are a perfect mid-sized tree in the landscape. Dogwoods grow fairly well here in the northeast if they are in a protected location. They do not tolerate windy or exposed sites. I have always enjoyed seeing them bloom on my travels to the south. 

Flowering Dogwood on the Blue Ridge Parkway

This is one of my favorite Dogwood photos. I snapped this on a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the spring of 2015. I love the split rail fence. The cabin in the background was a historical reproduction, but the scene looks like something out of the Civil War. 

There are many different cultivars of native Dogwood, some featuring the pink flowers I featured in this piece. They grow natively from mid Pennsylvania down to Florida, and west to the Mississippi River. In the summer Dogwood trees create a cluster of berries, called drupes, that are a favorite for many birds. The bark of the tree is very “corky” and pretty unique. The bark and branch structure make them a nice choice for winter gardens. 


Coneflower – Colored Pencil

I had a lot of fun creating the Lily of the Valley piece I shared the other day, so I decided to make another piece of that type. I am thinking I might make a series out of these. Today I created a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) study. I love how bright the colored pencil is when I push down hard on them. The softness of these particular pencils blend well which makes them extra fun. 

I sketched this out lightly in pencil, then traced the pencil with a permanent marker. I used a fine tip waterproof pen to add some detail. Lastly, I colored it in with colored pencil. 

Coneflowers are a late blooming perennial native to the east and midwest. They are a favorite of pollinators in late summer and early fall. They get their name from the large orange “cone” in the center of each flower. Once the flowers dry these cones provide seeds that propagate the species and provide a food source for some bird species.  

Echinacea are also popular as a remedy for colds and flu, as all parts of the plant can be used to stimulate the immune system. 

When growing in the garden they prefer full sun and well drained soil. With the right conditions they bloom up to two months. 


Lily of the Valley – Colored Pencil

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) has always been one of my favorite spring perennials. The sweet scent of it in the garden is especially fragrant in the early morning or evening. They spread pretty quickly via rhizomes in the soil and make a great groundcover for shady spots. 

Fun fact – they are in the same plant family as Asparagus, which is evident in their rhizomes and also in the red berries that are formed after the flowering period. If you have ever grown Asparagus you will notice similar berries. Unlike Asparagus, Lily of the Valley is very toxic. 

There was always a large patch of it at my grandmother’s house. She would pick little bouquets of them and bring them in the house to enjoy. She put them in little tiny bottles on the kitchen window sill. I used to love the way the scent of just a few sprigs would fill the whole house. After her passing I lived there for a time when I returned home from college. Along with taking care of the house I was blessed with the task of rejuvenating her long neglected perennial beds. A task that took me a few summers to tame. The patch of Lily of the Valley thrived. 

When I moved a few years later I took many of the plants from her garden to my new garden across town. Because Lily of the Valley loves shade, I chose to leave it behind as all my garden space is full sun. The spring of the second year in my new garden I was doing a little cleanup and low and behold…pips. (Pips are what the budding shoots are called.) They came with me. They tagged along with some Lady’s Mantle and within two years established themselves in a nice little patch. Despite the fact that I have no shade whatsoever they continue to grow. It may be the rhizomes were in the soil… but I think it was grandma. 


Watercolor Gerbera Daisy Still Life

I was shopping the other day and I’m pretty sure this cute little Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) jumped into my cart all on its own. All of a sudden it was in there, I don’t know what happened. 

check out the photobomb at the top of the photo, haha. Hi Dash.

Such a happy little sunny friend, guess it just had to come live we me.

Once I got it home I potted it up in this small pot I had available at the moment. I hope to keep this little guy going and then move it to a bigger container on my front porch for the summer. 

happy in a new pot

I love fresh flowers. I buy myself some every few weeks in the winter, and pick my own bouquets weekly in the spring, summer and fall. During the holidays I make my own arrangements with fresh greens and switch the flowers out throughout the season. I just love having fresh flowers in the house all year. Nothing like it. 

I decided to try painting a little still life. Not a big fan of painting these usually. A little out of my comfort range, but thought what the heck.

pencil sketch

Started with pencil sketch, then traced in waterproof pen. 

traced in pen

Here is the first wash of color. 

first wash

Finished painting. I’m ok with it. Not my best work in my opinion, but I do like the composition and as a little bonus, the forced Paperwhites from a few weeks ago are in the background. Love that. 

final painting


Watercolor Sunset and Winter Trees

Tonight there was a beautiful sunset. Lots of orange and blue shades blended together. Today was a beautiful, sunny winter day and this afternoon was one of those warm, slanted light afternoons. I noticed today that the days are starting to get longer. A sign that spring is coming, slowly and awhile off… but we are over that shortest day of the year part of winter and coming out the other side. 

I took this shot of the sunset with winter trees across the street from my house. I liked the contrast here. I did a quick wash for the background. I used two different oranges and a deep shade of navy blue. Only three colors in this painting. 

I added some Spruces, which I actually have on the other side of the yard adjacent to this, but didn’t catch in the photo. I painted this from real life looking at the spruces, then studied and added the trees. I just took the photo to show the concept. 

Here is the whole painting. 

I also wanted to share a neat trick I learned. I took some adult watercolor classes a few years ago, and one of the things my teacher taught us was that you can take smaller snapshots within the actual painting. Sometimes these end of being even better than the painting as a whole. I took a number of snaps “within” this painting. I like them better.


this one is my favorite

Watercolor Rudbeckia

Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) is a native wildflower that grows to an impressive 7’ tall! The piece I created today is based on a photo I took of the Rudbeckia growing in one of our display gardens at work. I took the photo standing under them, and they were easily 2’ taller than me! 

Rudbeckia maxima

In late summer these impressive perennials zoom up quickly and make quite the statement in the garden. To learn more about them visit www.wildflower.org.

pencil sketch

As usual I start with a light pencil sketch. Just the general shapes of the flowers and clouds. I loved the simplicity of the original photo and wanted to be sure that I maintained that simplicity in the sketch and ultimately, the painting.

I had a lot of fun with the Ampersand Mt. painting I did recently that used the waterproof pen and watercolor technique. I thought it might be fun to try that again, this time with flowers.

waterproof pen

I lightly trace over the pencil with the waterproof pen. Then erase all the pencil marks.

Here is the final piece. I forgot to take photos along the way this time. I was really into it and realized when I was almost done that I never took any photos as it progressed. This took me about two hours start to finish. Usually when I paint I do a little bit, take a break, look at it, come back to do a little more…. With this one I sat beginning to end and just painted with no break. Didn’t mean to… just got really into it. 

Rudbeckia maxima

One thing I really like about this painting is that it only has four colors – blue, green, yellow, grey. By using fewer colors it visually makes each color pop and seem more important/bold. 


Zinnias, Pastel Pencil

Zinnias are one of my favorite types of flowers. Late summer, early autumn is one of my favorite times of the year, and that is when Zinnias shine. These jewel toned beauties remind me of those last, long sweet days of summer right before the air gets crisp.

I love the mix of colors, sizes and textures you can find in various seed mixes.

Zinnias like poor, clay soil and plenty of sun. That is a good thing, because that is what I have up here on this rocky top.

here is the photo I used as inspiration for this piece

I enjoy making mixed bouquets with them and add other wildflowers I find in the field to compliment them. The bright purple of New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae), the pink of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) and the bright yellow of Goldenrod (Solidago) make excellent arrangement additions.

I used pastel pencils to create this sketch. I chose to sketch on black paper because I knew it would make the flowers pop.

I created a grid to work within

I marked out a grid in the center of the paper in pencil. Then I lightly sketched in the flowers and the central “buttons” in the middle of each flower.

This paper has a little texture so it grabbed the soft pastels really well, and pastels are fun because they blend so easily. Nice combination.

I enjoy how much this pops out of the paper.


View From Ampersand Mountain, Watercolor and Pen

I created a mixed media piece today based on a photo I took during a hike in the Adirondacks. This is one of the views from Ampersand Mountain, which is located between Upper Saranac Lake and the actual town of Saranac Lake. The access to the trail is right across from Middle Saranac Lake.

Saranac Lake region

This is an easy and quick 2.7 mile hike, but it is the quick change in elevation that makes it challenging. In that 2.7 miles you gain 1,775 feet in elevation. As usual, the last third of the trail is the hardest part. The summit is 3,353 feet.

north west view of Upper and Middle Saranac Lakes

From the summit, the view looking north west over looks all the Saranac lakes and the view looking south east overlooks the high peaks. It was the view of the high peaks that I chose for this painting. It really is a tremendous view of the high peak region.

south east view of the high peak region

I always loved this photo because of the all the different shades of blue as the mountains recede. The farther away the mountains are, the lighter and lighter they become. The sky was amazing that day. Blue and clear with puffy white clouds. Perfect for seeing a long distance.

I don’t usually illustrate my paintings first, but this was pretty fun. I enjoyed the ability to add detail to the trees and clouds, then use the paints to create the shading.

I kept the pencil sketch real simple. Just enough to develop a simple line drawing with pen. I used a waterproof Micron so that the ink would not bleed and run when I started painting over it.

The pen sketch adds more detail than the pencil drawing. I love the way the Balsams get all scraggly on the top of the mountain. Life is pretty hard up there. The diversity of plant life, and how tough those plants are, amazes me every time.

I didn’t want to go very dark with this painting. By keeping it lighter I was able to keep the subtle changes in shades of blue and grey to represent the distance.

This was a fun experiment. I like the illustrated look of the pen and watercolor together. Definitely will try this again.


Succulent Study

I worked on a quick succulent study tonight. Succulents are as fun to draw as they are to grow. The symmetry of their form is fun to draw because usually they are the same shape radiating out from the center. The leaves gets larger the further you get away from the center. They make great black and white doodles. 

I love their bright hues too which are very tropical looking and often multicolored. The succulents I used for this study were green and yellow, blue and purple, green and red and varying shades of blue. 

Since this was a quick study I really wanted to keep things simple. Just a few plants clustered together. Fun, bright and easy.