Practice Method #4: Simple Line Drawings

Practicing simple line drawings on a regular basis is very important and also very rewarding.  Over the years I have kept my drawings in a file on my computer and recently I have been looking back over my drawings and am beginning to see some improvement.  This is encouraging and makes me want to practice more.


For one of my first botanical simple line drawings, I used this lily from my garden. It’s always good to use a live object when you can, whether you are able to take a clipping into your work area, or spend some time out in the field.

Take time to study its petals, leaves and stem from different positions.  For a pleasing composition try laying it on its side or securing it in an upright position if you have clipped it or re-position yourself until you get a pleasing view that you will enjoy drawing when out in the field.compostionday1
As you can see, I kept it simple and didn’t try any tonal effects or shading at this point.

My goal was to simply get an accurate and simple line drawing.  In botanical illustration, it is so important to train ourselves to draw exactly what we see and in order to get it botanically correct you will need to measure your object and draw it to scale.

If we think of this simple line drawing as the foundation to build something upon we will be reminded of its importance to the whole piece. Like a house, the foundation has to be perfectly made and so it is with our simple line drawings in botanical illustration.

In order to achieve this you can pull your photos of the real subject and your drawing into a collage through or other editing program and compare the two while side by side…



Doing simple line drawings like this on a regular basis will really help with your eye/hand coordination and help you to get really good at drawing only what you see rather than allowing your brain to draw what it thinks it sees. This takes a lot of practice!


You can use your own photography to make simple line drawings as well. Make it a habit to take many photos of the plants and flowers around you and then use them to make simple line drawings.

I have also made my personal botanical photography available to you, so please take your time to look through my Botanical Photography resource.

This bunny simple line drawing was made from my photo since “Peter” was our very first family bunny from almost 20 years ago. You can see how I furthered this simple line drawing to render it completely in graphite HERE.





Another way you can practice your line drawings is to get some botanical books with studies for you to do.  You can find my post of many preferred botanical books HERE.

There are many wonderful books that provide drawing assignments in them. For instance “The Art of Botanical Painting” provides a great chapter on Drawing Techniques that shows you how to measure your subject accurately and then takes you through 5 stages in order to create a wonderful graphite composition.

Ann Swan’s “Botanical Portraits” also has wonderful guidance in learning how to make simple line drawings and takes you right on through to a final botanical composition in colored pencil.

One of my favorite books to look through to get inspired to do a line drawing is “Botany For The Artist” by Sarah Simblet.  Last night while I was looking through this book, I was inspired to work on this simple line drawing of wild flowers…  I love how Sarah did her wild flower study using graphite and only three watercolors:  Transparent Yellow, Permanent Rose and Ultramarine.

I am always inspired when I read through Mary Ann Scott’s “Botanical Sketchbook”.  The juices start to flow and I never know what might transpire – but I always know that it will be beneficial practice in simple line drawing.




Another way to be inspired in your simple line drawings is to take an online class or tutorial.  One downloadable course that I have enjoyed so much was by Karen Kluglein called “Drawing Flowers Realistically” – This gave me some good perspective drawings to work on and Karen is a great teacher.


Another course that was great for learning how to draw was with Wendy Hollender.  She uses colored pencils and watercolor for her botanical illustrations and her drawing techniques in each video make for great practice.

Although we have many resources available to us, the best way is to go out into the field and create your own study page as often as possible.  You will learn so much more about your subject when you stay awhile in its personal environment and you will be pleasantly surprised how that will be translated into your final piece of work.

“The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.”
Psalm 119:130


Constance (I can also be found at my main blog: SimplyLiving101)

Click here to read Practice Method #3 

Practice Method #3: Make A Color Chart

Now that I have finished my final watercolor composition in my Botanical Illustration course, I wanted to get organized and spend some time getting to know my watercolor palette.

I have chosen to have a minimal palette like that of my botanical illustration teacher, with a few of my favorite colors added. You can see where I began with finding my palette and the conclusion of it and how I store my colors now in the post My First Watercolor Paintbox.paintbox7

I love the box I chose for my paints, especially because it has a viewing window that I placed a piece of my original watercolor art in – and I store my paints in it still, however, I keep them within some old empty containers that I obtained through Winsor & Newton. The two containers are perfect for traveling and storing my yellows separate from my reds and blues so they don’t get so messy.  These two containers fit perfectly in my paintbox.watercolorpalette1

I also use two different palettes to mix my colors. One is a white tin pan and the other is a white porcelain palette.  They both work very well – I think the main thing for your palette is that it is white and it won’t stain.skins1Today I want to show you how I decided to do a watercolor chart of the 20 colors in my palette.  I have not finished the chart yet (you can see my progression below), but want to show you the layout in the beginning stages and I will add more photos as I complete it.  I have used this square ruler and a 9 x 12 inch piece of my favored Moulin du Roy, 140lb, Hot Pressed watercolor paper for my chart.

I have created 20 squares across the top for each of my palette pigments and 20 squares down the left side for the same colors ( you may have more or less than this depending on your palette size.  I initialed each square so I can tell which colors to use and I painted in each square with its appropriate color.

The first square at the top left will be the same as the first two squares in my pigment because I’m adding them together.  Look at the chart as an addition table and use it in the same manner, i.e.; mixing the first top pigment to the first top pigment from the side.

For instance:  In the second column from the far left you will first mix QM from the top row to QM from the left side column and you have the same pigment to color that square. But then you will mix QM from the top row to QR from the far left column and you will have a new pigment and so on down that second row…

Note: you will want to use the watercolor paper you plan to use on a regular basis, so that you can see how the watercolor reacts to the paper. I notice that some of the pigments soak into my Moulin du Roy quickly, while others tend to sit on top for a while…
As you can see in the picture above and below, I took time to make the small squares and label each one with the initials of my paint colors. There are many different ways of laying out your color chart, but I wanted to show how two colors mix together using all 20 colors in my palette, and this layout will work just fine.  Keep in mind that you will have two of every color on this chart.colorscale1

colorscale3Making a color chart for your watercolors ends up being good practice because it helps you to not only get organized, but to become more familiar with your colors and how they mix with each other, how they react to the watercolor paper you have chosen to use, and the new colors they create when they are mixed together.  Also, you can use the color chart to discover which color will work best when working on a particular botanical subject.

As you paint each square using your favorite brush (I am using my #4 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Miniature, Sable) take it slow and train yourself to stay in the confines of each square.  It sounds easy, but believe me it takes lots of practice to achieve this, so making this color chart will certainly help perfect this much needed technique in your botanical illustration work.colorscale2

In the right margin of my color chart I will add at least two columns of glazes that I like to use, namely Quinacridone Gold and Green Gold, as well as two columns of shades for each of my 20 colors – one using a bit of Neutral Tint and the other using a complementary color for shading.

You can see how I’m progressing with my color chart down below 🙂

Here is the link to a tutorial of another neat way to make a color chart:  I tried it and it works quite well…colorcharts1

If you have a color chart idea you would like to share, you can attach a photo of it in the comment section below 🙂 I love to hear your ideas too!

“Moreover, from the blue and purple and scarlet material,
they made finely woven garments for ministering in the holy place as well as the holy garments which were for Aaron, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
He made the ephod of gold, and of blue and purple and scarlet material,
and fine twisted linen.
Then they hammered out gold sheets and cut them into threads to be woven in with the blue and the purple and the scarlet material,
and the fine linen,
the work of a skillful workman.”

Exodus 39:1-3



Click here for Practice Method #2

UPDATE:  Here’s my progress with my Color Chart 🙂

By doing my color chart in different color sections it keeps my attention and desire to finish keep going…colorchart6





Practice Method #2: How to Make a Nature Journal

There are so many ways to practice what we are learning as we study to become botanical illustrators.  I would like to take time to share with you a more leisurely way.

I have mentioned to you before in a post that my dear friend from England came to visit me in America in the summer of 2016.

Our holiday together was absolutely wonderful in so many ways and as we spent time on different beaches watching our two youngest children play and swim, we were sketching and watercolor painting the scenes around us as well as the snail shells and lily pads our children found.  We made so many memories that we will never forget.



One of the gifts that my friend brought me all the way from England was “The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady” by Edith Holden. It is a facsimile reproduction by Michael Joseph/Webb & Bower of Edith’s diary written during the entire year of 1906 in the British countryside.

I love this book and was so inspired when I read through it that I had the thought that my friend and I should do the same with the areas of the world we live in, during the year of 2017 as heirlooms for our children.

So this is my idea for Practice Method #2  – to leisurely practice what we are learning during our journey of botanical illustration.

My diary is titled, “The Botanical Diary of An Olallian Lady”. I can’t wait to see what our nature journals will look like at the end of this year.  It will be a wonderful year of researching the areas that we live in, and jotting down Poetry and Scripture of our findings. They will include plants, birds and insects of all kinds, and maybe even small stories of our monthly family outings. Very fun and I highly recommend it for you as well!

First I included an introduction page which includes the area of my study…
botdiaryolallalady2As well as a Title page with Genesis 2:24-30.botdiaryolallalady3
For January I decided to include a graphite illustration of a botanical composition I have been working on to finish off my Botanical Illustration course.  Holly grows wild in my area and it is the perfect tree branch to include for a winter scene.
I have designated five pages for each month and I want to include some journaling for a few of the days – things that happened during the month of January & poetry, as well as a common bird and chipmunk that I see in our yard.  I plan to include some ivy leaves as they continue to grow through the winter as well.

I have been keeping short notes on my calendar to remind me of what the weather was like on different days and some special things our family has done through each month.

Click here to read about the Best Botanical Books or HERE to see how I painted my Holly with watercolor.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower
and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire,
and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11



Click here for Practice Method #1


Holly Tree Branch Composition

Since I am nearing the end of my Ilex aquifolium composition, I thought I might go ahead and begin my final blog post on it as well.  If you would like to start at the very beginning of my journey of this Holly composition, click here:  Holly Tree Branch Study, Part I.

As you probably already know, I have been taking a botanical illustration course with Dianne Sutherland and it has been quite the journey.  I began on June 6, 2016 and have been diligently working my way through the course with this Holly Branch composition as my final piece to finish.

I have learned so much from Dianne and highly recommend her class to you if you are wanting to become a botanical illustrator.  You will learn how to study and dissect, draw and paint live plants in the traditional botanical illustration way.  It is so good!

After completing my study page on the Ilex aquifolium, a.k.a. the Holly Tree branch, I began putting together a composition for my final piece of art.  I started by doing a dissection of a Holly berry and drawing it out along with a simple line drawing of what I thought would make a good composition of the Holly branch.  I did my drawing on a piece of tracing paper to keep for future use. I used my favored 2H Faber Castell 9000 series pencil.

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Once I tweaked my composition several times, by moving berries and my stem and adding one more leaf to keep with the rule of thirds (odd numbers are more appealing to the eye than even numbers), then I finally came to a conclusion and began my painting.

Remember that up to this point I had only practiced my watercolor techniques and had tried to use them during my Holly branch study page, but was certainly not extremely confident in my application of them. And so I began…


Remembering that my teacher, Dianne, suggested that I use either Cobalt Blue or Cerulean Blue for my main hue I concluded that the Cobalt worked best and laid a wash down over two of the leaves, and after it thoroughly dried, I laid down a second wash of the green mix I had chosen.


Here you can see how I clip a fresh piece of Holly and keep it under my light with a white background so I can always be checking my colors and my highlights. You can also see that the green mix I have made is right on.  I think this is one of my favorite things to do – mixing the paints that is 🙂

As I proceeded with the first leaf – I layered my washes too thick and they quickly got muddied and globby and very hard to work with.


I continued while hoping to work through it, but frustration was setting in. The good thing was that through the frustration I was learning a valuable lesson. I needed to be careful to lay my washes down very light and let them dry completely before working on them again.


My berries were smaller and therefore they were easier for me to work with than my leaves, but you can see here that I wasn’t sure how to do the veining and the first leaf was looking very blurred – it has just been overworked having several washes on it by now.


I continued practicing with my berries which proved to be beneficial and I tried working on the other leaves, but having the first one still in view was holding me back from making any progress.  It served as a reminder that I was not doing something right, instead of an encouragement to move on with the knowledge I had gained in my mistakes.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like doing the same thing twice.  I like to do my best at it and then move on.  But I couldn’t do that here.  I had chosen the Holly Tree as my final composition and I had completed my study page and dissection on it and I needed to buckle down and press on through to the end.  It was simply time to start over and try again!


Here’s where doing your initial drawing on tracing paper comes in handy. I simply took out my stored drawing and transferred it onto my new piece of watercolor paper, and started all over from the beginning.


Once I had it transferred, I mixed a large amount of my green color and my red, so that I would be able to complete my entire composition without having to mix more.

I began again with my Cobalt Blue, but this time I decided to do all my leaves in the first sitting.  I began doing only one side of every leaf.  Then starting again with the first leaf, I completed the second side of every leaf.  This allowed ample time for drying.  I covered the whole leaf including the highlights as the Cobalt Blue would serve in making my highlights brighter.  I made sure to keep my wash light – and I’m not really sure how to explain to do that, but basically it’s just very watery without being overly watery.  You will slowly discover the correct consistency as you practice.


I then began working with the first wash of my berries…


And worked on my dissection parts for a while.  It was hard getting the dissection to look just right.  When I took the photo of the dissected berry, it was naturally wet inside, and it was very difficult to capture that “wet” look. However, I felt good enough about it to move on.


After this had time to thoroughly dry, I laid down in the same manner my first light wash of the green mix I used – only this time I avoided the highlighted areas on the leaves.  Then I began working with the top three berries.  I wanted to be sure to give a three dimensional look, so I concentrated on making the berry furthest behind a bit darker. I also worked my first wash for the stem.


While the leaves were continuing to dry, I gave a shadow to the stem and to the top three berries – Things were just flowing so much smoother as I kept in mind to lay down my washes lightly and work within 3 to 4 washes before dry brushing and no more.


My second wash of green was a lot darker.  I wanted it to be, so that I could keep my washes to a minimum and it worked!  I was able to keep my highlights which were looking nice and bright with that wash of Cobalt Blue shining through and if I would be patient and not begin my dry brushing until this wash was totally dry, everything would work perfectly!  Notice, that I still did not concern myself with the veins…


I moved on to my second leaf in the same manner – Also, I still did one half of each leaf at a time.


Once I completed the third wash of my third leaf, I thought I would go ahead and start working on some veins.  Somehow it just made sense to darken around where the veins would be instead of trying to remove paint to make a lighter area for the veins and it worked.  Once the paint was dry, I added Green Gold to the vein area which made the midrib pop out quite nicely.


I then worked on my fourth leaf and the stem as well as adding Green Gold around the edges of the leaves.  I continued to work with my berries and didn’t forget to add a bit of the berry red color to the tips of the Green Gold edging on my leaves.

Now I am almost finished!  After completing washes and dry brushing on all five of my leaves as well as the berries and the stem, I am feeling pretty confident with the watercolor techniques I have learned from Dianne. However, I still have a lot to learn about the tones and shading of each leaf and how to make the different parts of the leaves turn away or face forward. To some this may come easy, but I am a slow learner in so many ways! 🙂


If you would like to follow my Holly leaf journey from the very beginning, you can watch it HERE.

The supplies I am using for this composition are as follows:

  • A block of Moulin du Roy, watercolor paper, 140 lb, hot pressed – 9 x 12
  • Winsor & Newton, Professional, 1/2 pans, watercolors – you can read about my simple watercolor palette HERE
  • #3 DaVinci-Maestro Tobolsky-Kolinsky 35 Germany brush for washes
  • #3 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Miniature-Finest Sable-England brush for dry brushing
  • #0 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Finest Sable-England for detail work
  • 1/8 Angular brush for rubbing out highlights and removing stains – this is a cheap brush I purchased at Michaels.  The others can be very expensive. I have purchased them from Dick Blick and from Jacksons Art Supplies in England
  • I work with two napkins, two large jars – one filled with fresh water and one empty to pour dirty water into, two tea cups of water, one for rinsing and one for picking up clean water, a sheet of tracing paper to rest my hand on and a cutout piece of watercolor paper that acts as protection to keep my work clean – I use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove accidental stains.

I will be sure to let you know when I have completed my Holly Branch composition – so stay tuned.

HOLLY UPDATE!!  It’s finally finished!!


“Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day.”
Genesis 1:11-13



The Best Botanical Books!

I have been slowly collecting books for my botanical illustration library and I thought it would be fun to share with you the books that have been highly suggested to me over the past year.  Five of them I have purchased from used books on Amazon and one was given to me by a dear friend from England when she came to visit me in America last summer 🙂  You can click on any of the titles and it will take you to the Amazon link for that book.

The gift book I am speaking of is “The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady” by Edith Holden. It is a facsimile reproduction by Michael Joseph/Webb & Bower of Edith’s diary written during the entire year of 1906 in the British countryside.booksedwardianI love this book and was so inspired when I read through it that the same friend who so kindly gave it to me and I are currently making our own one year diaries in honor of this lovely book, in the areas that we currently live. My diary is titled, “The Botanical Diary of An Olallian Lady” :). I can’t wait to see what they both look like at the end of this year.  It will be a wonderful year of researching the areas that we live in, and jotting down Poetry and Scripture of our findings. They will include plants, birds and insects of all kinds, and maybe even small stories of our monthly family outings. Very fun and I highly recommend it for you as well!

My next book is called “Botanical Sketchbook” by Mary Ann Scott with Margaret Stevens.bookssketchbookI absolutely love this book!  I cannot tell how many times I have poured over this book literally soaking in every single word, drawing and painting.  It is my favorite as far as botanical illustration books go.  It also is a diary of sorts.  A journal that was kept by Mary Ann Scott while she pressed through the Society of Botanical Artists Diploma Course, sometimes feeling it very difficult and overwhelming, but nevertheless persevering to the very end.  And I’m so glad she did, because she has become a great source of inspiration to me and many other botanical illustrators who want to take the SBA.  The book gives assignments, Mary Ann’s thoughts of what she chose to do for each assignment, the tutor’s comments on her work, and even her grades.  If you have not read this book, I highly recommend you do so. This book is a selected book of reading for each student who enters the SBA Diploma Course.

Another SBA Diploma Course book is “The Art of Botanical Painting” by Margaret Stevens.booksbotanicalpaintingI cannot say enough good about this book.  It gives history of botanical illustration and takes you step by step through materials you will need, plant anatomy, drawing, watercolor and colored pencil techniques and so much more.  I often grab this book for information I need on plant anatomy because it is clear and easily understood. This book provides a materials list and the different stages of how to create many beautiful botanical illustrations beginning from a simple line drawing to the finished composition.

A book that earned the Practical Art Book of The Year is “Botanical Illustration Course with the Eden Project” by Rosie Martin and Meriel Thurstan.booksedenprojectAnother wonderful book packed with lesson after lesson teaching you how to create beautiful Botanical Illustrations for yourself.  I just received this book and am very excited to sit down and read through it from cover to cover.  I have heard nothing but great reviews about it.

Upon realizing that I would be doing colored pencil work when I take the SBA Diploma Course, I set out to find a book that would give me clear instruction on the subject.  I found two wonderful books written by two highly recommended botanical illustrators, but chose to buy one book and take a course with the other. The book I chose is “Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils” by Ann Swan.booksannswanThe course I chose to take is by Wendy Hollender, “The Practice of Botanical Drawing”.  I have only just received both and am very excited to read through the book by Ann Swan and complete my course with Wendy Hollender.  I will definitely be writing posts on this class once I begin it.  You can also read my posts regarding all I have learned in preparation for the SBA in a course I am currently finishing up with Dianne Sutherland called “Botanical Illustration Course”.

The last book I would like to highly recommend to you was recommended to me by a dear friend who also loves this book.  It is called, “Botany For The Artist, An Inspirational Guide To Drawing Plants” by Sarah Simblet.booksbotanyI have only had this book for a month and it has fast become one of my favorites! The illustrations and photography in this book are outstanding and stunning! It is written beautifully and is like having a delicious, well-deserved, chocolate dessert after a hard day’s work of drawing and painting!!  It is simply a must for any botanical library 🙂

Well those are all the books I have to mention this time.  The next book I hope to obtain at some point is “The Botanical Palette: Colour For The Botanical Painter” by SBA, also used in the Diploma Course.  Mother’s Day is not so far away 🙂

Now I would love to hear from you regarding any books you would highly recommend.  Please do not hesitate to leave a comment below with the full title and why you recommend it, and I will be sure to read through each one and include them in this post.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 
or speak to the earth,
and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
Job 12:7-10



You may like to check out My Simple Watercolor Palette

Thank you to all who offered:  More Favorite Botanical Book Recommendations:

“The Botanical Art Files Composition:  The Design Guide For Botanical Artists” by Rita Parkinson & Dolores Sk-Malloni – Recommended by Magda S.

“Painting Flowers In Watercolor: A Naturalistic Approach” by Coral G. Guest – Recommended by Jane H.

“The Apple Book” by Rosie Sanders – Recommended by Frances W.

“Colours of Nature: Botanical Painting” by Sandrine Maugy – Recommended by Jane H. & Janene W.

“Billy Showell’s Botanical Painting in Watercolour” by Billy Showell – Recommended by Jill B.

‘The Art of Botanical Drawing” by Agathe Ravet-Haevermans – Recommended by Jill B.

“Raymond Booth: An Artist’s Garden”  by Peyton Skipwith and Raymond Booth – Recommended by Nina G.

“The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees For The Twenty-First Century” by Gabriel Hemery & Sarah Simblet – Recommended by Lynn C.

“The Kew Book of Botanical Illustration” by Christabel King – Recommended by Dianne S. & Linda L.

“The Art of Botanical Illustration” by Wilfrid Blunt & William T. Stearn – Recommended by Wendy H.

Holly Tree Branch Study, Part II

To begin at Part I of my Holly Tree branch study, click HERE.

You can see all of my progress in “My Botanical Illustration Course” with Dianne in the right margin under Categories ———————————————->

So I told you that I would share how far I’ve come on my Holly Tree Branch Study with this Part II post when I get a little farther along – so here it is.

It has taken me a long time, or at least it feels that way, to figure out how to use the techniques I have learned in the watercolor portion of my Botanical Illustration course with Dianne Sutherland.  I’m not worried though, because she told me upfront that it is not an easy thing to learn.

I want to inform you, should you endeavor to become a botanical illustrator and possibly take Dianne’s course or another like it, that it does take time and lots of practice.  It’s not easy.  As a matter of fact it’s one of the hardest things I’ve learned in art yet.  However, the rewards of learning all I am learning and the steadfastness that it takes to persevere through this goal of mine are so amazing!  Every day I am so pleasantly surprised by what I have learned, that it encourages me to keep on.

Well, you know when I began this Holly Tree branch study, that I started it with a simple line drawing of a smaller portion of the branch…



I chose to place a bounding box around my sketch to help me with the correct measuring of it as it gives me a visual of the white space between each piece of the frame, but I also did it because I just like how it looks with a frame. 🙂

I then began my study.  During the study portion you want to take lots of time to just examine the branch, i.e.; the leaves, the berries, the stem and how they all connect together.  You want to do some measuring of each and make notes of what you find.  You want to examine the colors of each and determine what your main hue is.  Would you guess that I would choose to first lay down a wash of light blue on my leaves in order to arrive at the correct color of dark green in the end?  Looking carefully at each of the objects helps you to learn to look for the things you would not typically notice as you pass by God’s amazing creation every day of your life.  This is why I love botanical illustration as my main art choice.  It really slows me down.


As you can see in the picture above, I was able to work out a pretty good study page in my sketchbook using my colored pencils while I continued to practice my watercolor techniques.  I chose to only show two berries on my study branch, purely for correct placement, even though the berries grow in clusters of approximately 7 berries.

I also decided on what I wanted my ending composition piece to look like and using my sketch above, I added the correct amount of berries to the two clusters and drew it out again on the opposite page in my sketchbook.

After a lot of practice, I felt like I wanted to try my hand at watercolor, so I set to work only to find that the mixed media paper in my sketchbook was not ideal for my watercolors. I also learned that the mixing of my colors would not result in the correct color of the leaf – nor were my watercolor techniques quite up to par – I still had so much to learn, but I humbly show you the result of my first attempt…



My teacher was very kind to encourage me to keep practicing and said that my leaves were drawn out very well and my study page looked great, but that I should continue to practice on watercolor paper for a better result.  So I transferred my drawing and tried again…

At this point, I would like to share with you how I have learned to transfer my work without actually re-tracing, so as not to lose the initial shape and to not indent my watercolor paper – I learned this from Kathleen McKeehen, botanical artist.

  1. After you sketch out your drawing in an HB pencil, place it on the back of a pad of paper face up. The cardboard backing provides an ideal surface to transfer – not too soft and not too hard – tape it down.
  2. Next, overlay your sketch with a piece of tracing paper and using the soft blunt edge of something,  I use my PAPER CREASER, rub gently, but firmly over your image  and carefully lifting, check to see that it has successfully transferred to your tracing paper.
  3. Once it is transferred onto your tracing paper, carefully secure your tracing paper, image face down, to the watercolor paper you wish to use, and rubbing gently again with your paper creaser, transfer your sketch to your watercolor paper and lightly fill in any lines that you may have missed.

Many people simply use a light box, but I don’t want to buy something as bulky as a light box and have it on my art desk or try to find a place to store it – So this is my favored method of transferring.  You decide what works for you. 🙂

Once my drawing was transferred to watercolor paper, I could see a noticeable difference in working on watercolor paper verses my sketchbook mixed media paper and this definitely made things easier.  However, I was not confident in what I was doing and I became quickly discouraged.  Here is what I accomplished before I realized I needed someone to show me how to load my brush and even mix colors, in person… (you can click on the photos below to enlarge them)

Sorry for the blurry photos, but you get the idea.  I put everything away and made an appointment to meet with Kathleen and it really was a big help. Being able to see her at work – mixing colors, loading her brush, and especially watching her work around the highlights – I learned so much!

The biggest takeaway for me that day was getting a better idea of how much water and paint to carry on my brush for the washes and how to rinse my brush and roll it on my paper towel to smooth the edges of the leaves and the edges of my highlights.  Also, I learned more about the dry brush technique and although I haven’t become super confident with dry brush yet, I do believe it will come to me with just a bit more practice.

My next practice was even better – I drew out a leaf and some berries and transferred them onto a sheet of watercolor paper and started my practicing once again.  Here is the result…



Although I know I need much more practice, I feel that I have learned enough to share with you how I have laid down the first few washes and actually begin to complete the watercolor portion of my Holly Tree branch study page.

  1. After I sketch out my branch, using my #3 DaVinci Mastro pointed brush and my Winsor and Newton 1/2 pan professional watercolors, I lay down a wash of Cobalt Blue with a trim of Green Gold.  I also run this same yellow color along the veins.  I do not worry about leaving areas for highlights at this point.
  2. Once this is dry, I lightly mark out areas on my leaf for highlights with my 2H pencil and I lay down a wash of my selected green (Indianthrene Blue, Transparent Yellow and a touch of Permanent Alizarin Crimson) working around the highlighted areas.  I then rinse my brush once and roll it on my paper towel to wipe away excess water and I run it along any harsh edges of my leaf or highlights to soften (work quickly to not allow the wash to dry before softening edges) – I rinse my brush once more and roll and soften again.  Then I let dry.
  3. Now I lay down two more washes of my green allowing to dry between each wash – then allow to dry.
  4. Next I begin my dry brush technique.  This I work with a #3 Rosemary & Co. Kolinsky brush.  The brush is barely damp, having picked up a bit of the dried paint from my palette (the skin) and painting it onto the surface creating light and dark areas as you see in the leaf, much like you would if using a colored pencil or while working with graphite.

Please keep in mind that I have so much practicing to go before I can even claim to truly know what I am doing.  However, taking time to post about what I have learned helps it to sink into my mind and it’s just plain fun to share with you.  I hope you have enjoyed this post as you follow me on my botanical illustration journey.  I love having you here too!

Here is the start of my watercolor portion of my study page… I will share more once I have completed my study page.



In the top right corner I have drawn out three of the same leaf sketch with a berry and portion of the stem.  In the first I have laid down the initial blue wash with yellow trim, a green for the stem and a red wash for the berry, as I described above.  My green for the stem is the same as made for the leaf, and my red berry color is a mixture of Scarlet Lake, Quinacridone Red and Permanent Alizarin Crimson.

In the second drawing you can see I have begun by laying down the same initial wash as I did in the first sketch, but I will take it three steps further by laying down three washes of my green and a second wash of my berry and my stem.  In the third sketch I will complete the drawing with these first two steps as well as adding my finishing dry brush techniques.

I have also learned the importance of protecting my work by laying down tracing paper to prevent any paint messes or smearing of my existing graphite work.  SMART! 🙂

“Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree,
two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.”
Isaiah 17:6

UPDATE:  I have finally finished my Holly Tree branch study page! Here are my final photos:




You can click on the photo below to enlarge it 🙂

You can see the completion of my Holly Tree Branch composition HERE



P.S.  Don’t forget to check out my new Gallery page!

Weeks 5 & 6 With edX

Well, I have finished Week 6 (the final week) of my course, before I even had time to post on my Week 5.  So I’ll post about Weeks 5 and 6 together right now.

In Week 5 we were supposed to draw a mammal and it took me a while to decide which mammal to do, then finally I found an old photograph of our very first bunny, “Peter”.

Here’s the progression of my work:

First we had to give the structure of the mammal.  I noticed some of the students were drawing the skeletal structure, so I decided that it would be fun to do the same.  I drew the simple outline of the bunny and then I added the skeletal structure, which I found online HERE.  It just so happened to be sitting very similarly to what Peter was in his photo – it must be the normal bunny pose! 🙂
Here’s a closer look…
I added a little more detail.
Then I traced my first simple drawing onto tracing paper, flipped it over and re-traced with an 8B graphite and then flipped back to initial side and traced into place on my mixed media paper with an orange pencil.  Now I was ready to begin rendering…
I began with the ears and worked my way down, here a little and there a little…
Then I decided to make kind of a color by color set if you will… You can see what I mean in the photo below…
A closer look…
I was able to get the resemblance of fur by using the cross-hatching technique.  If you are unfamiliar with the different drawing techniques, you can learn more HERE.
And here it is all finished.  Well, not really, as Peter’s fur is not as long as it should be, nor is this one the same colors.  However, this met the requirements of the course and I plan to revisit this one day, finish it and frame it – as Peter was one of the best bunnies we ever have had. 🙂


For Week 6, our final week.  We had to do a fully rendered piece of art, as well as take a final quiz.  I decided on this pumpkin that had managed to not begin rotting yet even though it has been sitting on my doorstep since the beginning of October!  I felt that it deserved to have its portrait done 🙂
While beginning with the simple drawing of this pumpkin, I did not consider all those bumps and what that would mean for me in terms of hours of work… I only had one week!!!  What was I thinking?
At this point, I decided it would be good to begin praying and asking others to pray along with me.  I’m so glad I did because I truly needed God’s help to get this final project done and turned in on time.
As I began posting my progress on our Facebook page for the edX course, people began kind of cheering me on 🙂
Some would even ask me for an update of how far I was.
At this point, only yesterday, I was really getting a lot of encouragement!
This morning I woke up to the above progress with much more time needed on shading and a quiz I still needed to study for and take!!
But at last, around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. today I could sign it and turn it in 🙂  You can bet I was praising God for giving me lots of support through fellow students, Facebook friends and of course some mighty prayer warriors!!!!

Overall, this has been an excellent course and I would highly recommend it to anyone who may have opportunity to take it.  It was a free course, but I opted to pay to receive a certificate of completion in the end for my botanical illustration portfolio.  I’m glad I did. 🙂

If you are interested in taking a course like this, you can visit their website at

There’s never anything wrong with pushing ourselves to do something a little harder than normal.  The practice of perseverance is a good thing.  We never know when we might find ourselves under trial for much more serious things, and it would be good to know how to endure to the very end.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the
Lord has promised to those who love him.”
James 1:12



Just got home from vacationing in Cannon Beach (my most favorite place in the whole world!) and I had to run to Michaels to get a frame for my pumpkin – Little did I know that frames are on sale for 55% off!!!  Yay!


Click here for Week1, Week2, Week3 and Week4

Check out my Art Gallery page!


Here is some graphite work I have done in my sketchbook recently


You can see the whole process on this here:  Week 2



This Persimmon was really fun to do and I would like to finish it in watercolor at some point.


I did this Yellow-Pine Chipmunk for a study in Week 3 of my edX course.
This was a rose study page for Week 4 of edX.

And this is a study page I’m doing to see if I’d like to consider the Holly Tree for my final composition in my Botanical Illustration Course with Dianne Sutherland – you can watch my progression for this Holly study HERE.



Check out my new Art Gallery page!

Holly Tree Branch Study, Part I

You can see all of my progress in “My Botanical Illustration Course” with Dianne in the right margin under Categories ———————————————->

Thought I would show you what I’m working on right now in my sketchbook. It began as a practice page, but I’m enjoying it so much that I thought I would do a study page using my Prismacolor colored pencils to figure out coloring and then when I have figured out how to portray correctly all the twists and dips of these amazing Holly leaves, I will attempt a watercolor botanical illustration of a branch.

Here’s the Holly Tree branch, Ilex aquiflolium I’m working from:
And here’s the start of my study page in my sketchbook:
As you can see, I selected a smaller section to sketch onto this portion of my study page and I also chose one leaf and a group of berries to focus on:
I also attempted a dissection of this berry, but it looks like it’s kind of rotting inside, so it didn’t cut cleanly – rather it smooshed…
At the end of the branch, still attached, was this dead Holly leaf that is really quite pretty.  I am hoping to do an individual composition of it as well.  I would get lots of practice with my Stippling Technique on this one 🙂
Here’s another picture of my progression…
And this is a close up of my sample branch sketch…  This may work for my composition.
And here is where I’m ending my day.  I will pick up on it again tomorrow and add some pictures as I move along.  Thank you for stopping by. 🙂
I love the Holly Tree, Ilex aquifolium.  It is a definite sign in the Pacific Northwest that Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us.  The beautiful bright red berries against the deep dark green of the stiff, pointed, yet smooth, decorative leaves makes it a sight to behold while out on a walk during these cold brisk days.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
Isaiah 11:1


Just wanted to add this last picture of my finished Prismacolor colored pencil study of the Holly Tree branch.  I will now work on the right side of my sketchbook to figure out watercolors and ideas for my final composition.

Here’s a close up so you might be able to see my notes:
Here is my Holly Tree Branch Study Part II.

Week 4 With edX

I finished my Week 4 with a little early, so I could spend time on my study page for my Botanical Illustration Course with Dianne Sutherland.  I have decided to use a branch of Holly Tree for my subject since it is the only thing with some bright color in my neck of the woods right now.

This week we were to pick a flower to do a study page on and make some preliminary drawings and then show a simple line drawing of our subject. We were to give some details and label our work as well.

I headed out onto my homestead but had to move quickly as I have had this ongoing battle with bronchitis and it was pouring rain.  I quickly spotted one bud left on my “Love Song” rose bush and clipped it off – then headed back inside to the shelter of my art studio a.k.a. my bedroom 🙂

First I did some preliminary drawings…
Then I added some detail, closeups and labeling.
After I submitted my work for this week, I was given 5 of my fellow students in order to assess their Week 4 work, while 5 students assessed mine as well. I learn a lot from having to assess other’s work – it helps me to slow down and really look at the finished work.  In doing this I see areas where I could have done things differently or could have added more detail.

Overall I was happy with my finished study page on this rose.  It was nice capturing the last rose bud of the year on a page in my sketchbook.  My final grade was 55 out of 60 points.  One of the students assessed my work at “Very Good” because they felt that I had not shown my preliminary work, and the others gave me an “Excellent”.

If you are interested in to consider a class, I do recommend the courses.  I have learned lots of invaluable information over the course of the past four weeks as they have provided lots of reading material, tutorials and informative videos.

Also, as I mentioned above, I am presently taking a 28 week course with Dianne Sutherland and you can see the information for her classes on her website: Botanical Art Online with Dianne Sutherland.

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:36



Check out my new Art Gallery page or Weeks 5&6 of