Hibiscus, pastel: making the yearly Christmas card

Technical stuff: I blocked out the drawing to be three times the size of a standard 5 x 7 greeting card so that when photographed to send to the printer, the resolution would be very high when the size was reduced from 15 x 21 to 5 x 7.

Choose paper color and go! The drawing of my hibiscus bloom, seen in the photograph attached to the easel, is blocked out with a white pastel pencil on green paper.

Drawing a hibiscus

Starting my 2021 Christmas card

Over several weekly sessions in my teacher’s studio, I added layers of pastel. I don’t generally blend the colors with a tortillion or paper or my finger, not until I layer in the color for hours and hours. If I get stuck at the end, I spray workable fixative to give the paper more grip. Finally, I might touch up edges with a pastel pencil and tortillion.
Hibiscus pastel

Adding color to the drawing

When the pastel painting was finished, we photographed it, and added the greeting using Photoshop. I also adjusted the colors of the leaves a bit to push them back, to not compete with the flower. The big impact here is supposed to be that vivid Hibiscus bloom I had admired last summer on my deck.
Christmas card of hibiscus bloom

The finished drawing for the Christmas card

I uploaded the finished image to Vistaprint to turn into my 2021 Christmas card. If you read the stories of my other greeting card misadventures, this year was a much smoother experience thanks to the technical and artistic guidance of my teacher. Thank you, thank you to her. And Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas!

Chickadee , watercolor
Chickadee, watercolor

This year’s Christmas card is a watercolor painting of a chickadee. The birds in my yard rarely pose long enough for their portrait (ha ha) so my source photograph was taken by my art teacher and used, with her permission, as the model for my 2020 card. I finished the painting in the Fall of 2019 and I sent it to the printers this Fall in time to mail out my cards. However, the mail system is so overwhelmed during the Pandemic, that I am sending more digital copies than usual. Merry Christmas!

Finishing Volume 1 of my Pandemic Sketchbook

When I started drawing and writing in my ‘Pandemic sketchbook’ in early Spring at the beginning of the stay-at-home advisory, I might have thought that the pandemic would end before I ran out of blank pages. Sadly, that is not the case. The virus continues to burn through all the dry tinder of non-immune populations worldwide.

I have three pages to go in my sketchbook and a new, blank one waiting to be filled. The latest page is of tumbling leaves falling downward. I wet the paper with a natural sponge, then painted and splattered fall colors onto the damp page. When dry, I drew the leaves. Using dried leaves I had pressed in a book as templates, I traced around them, adding the veins and details later. I’m hoping that by next Spring, when I have filled up Volume 2 of my Pandemic Sketchbook, we have an effective, widely distributed vaccine and the Pandemic is subsiding.

Watercolor of falling autumn leaves
Autumn leaves, watercolor and pen and ink

Pandemic Sketchbook: October, month 8

Oil pastels are perfect for catching the brilliant colors of autumn foliage. In the landscape below, I applied the color as thickly as I could, using quite a lot of pressure and building up layers, then blending with a paper towel and scratching and scraping with a palette knife. The sketchbook paper held up surprisingly well to all that energetic scribbling and scratching!

Landscape of fall foliage
Autumn foliage, oil pastels

In the sketchbook page shown below, the oil pastel drawing of a grey sky contrasts with the red and yellow colors of the leaves. Below the drawing I wrote about the onset of ‘Pandemic Fatigue,’ just as Covid cases begin to surge in my town and almost everywhere else in the world.

Sketchbook page of fall foliage
My sketchbook at week 33, oil pastels and comments

Painting rocks and putting them out for neighborhood children is completely different from drawing in my sketchbook. The craft is creative, but does not require as much close observation or concentration as a realistic sketch does. I did not put polyurethane on most of the rocks, because if the weather fades them, they will just go back to their original state eventually which is fine by me. Smooth rocks hold the paint pretty well, but porous rocks do not. By spring, I wonder what will be left? And will my Pandemic Sketchbook turn back into a regular old sketchbook in a normal world?

Painted rock house
Fairy Village in the Fall

Pandemic Sketchbook: September

Charcoal drawing of a rabbit
Rabbit in my garden, charcoal pencil

Sketching wildlife in black and white brought me back to my Pandemic Sketchbook in September. There seems to be more critters in my yard and neighborhood, or maybe I just have more time to observe nature these days. I did not get to the beach this summer, but painted a gull from a photo I took years ago.

Watercolor of a sea gull
Gull on New Jersey beach, watercolor