Sale on canvas prints! Use code ABCXYZ at checkout for a special discount!

Newsletter June 2010

Blogs: #26 of 72

Previous Next View All
Newsletter June 2010


Greetings from the mountains of western Maine!

How is it that I can expect to work all morning in my studio and then find myself rambling through the meadow hunting for the first ripe wild blueberry? It’s seductive summertime, and sometimes it is hard to tend to business indoors. That’s the great side of being a part-time naturalist. I can ramble in the woods and tell myself I am doing what I need to be doing.

Yesterday I stopped for a while to watch a baby groundhog climb the mulberry tree to eat the leaves. Yes, it was a precarious stunt, better than a circus act, complete with the slapstick comedy of the clowns and the hair-raising tension of a high-wire act. I would rather he were eating mulberry leaves than the pole beans and lettuce! But it is certainly a strange thing to see a fat furry groundhog fifteen feet up in a tree.

I have finished the decision-making process for the study book now. Shown here is a final version of the page on ostrich ferns.

Any body of artwork requires a decision process, whether the artist does it consciously or by the seat of their pants. Art is a form of communication. The choices of size, medium, and presentation are endless, but I must carefully choose what will best communicate what I want to say in the work.

It’s like climbing a tree. As I go, I gradually narrow the choices: 2D or 3D? Painting or drawing? Drawing with pencil or pen and ink? Colored pencil or graphite? What brand of colored pencil? (They all look different.) What size format? What color paper? If it’s white, do I want a warm white or a cool white? Smooth hot pressed paper or rougher cold pressed? And finally, how will I present the work? Framed, in a gallery? What kind of frames? Or online? Or in a published book? Hopefully when I arrive at my final decision, the medium serves the work and the work is the best it can be.

For this study book I have finally settled on black pen and ink, and I will be tinting some of the drawings with colored pencil. Here is the technical end of it: the paper is Arches hot pressed 140 lb. (a fairly heavy, soft, smooth paper). The ink is Pigma Micron pen, size 005 for the drawing and 02 for the notes and captions. I am doing the title on the page in uncial calligraphy with a Schaeffer fountain pen, medium calligraphy nib, and Pelikan fount India ink. The colored pencil is Prismacolor, which is my favorite because of its soft, waxy feel and good color.

My brand choices were dictated to a large extent by wanting high quality materials and also by what was available to me. I use acid-free, lightfast materials whenever I can, so that the work will last. I wanted a dark, crisp black for the ink, and pencils with a clean, clear color, a good “feel” in my hand and a professional look to the finished product. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when you buy art supplies. Cheap materials make cheap-looking work. Professional quality materials not only look better but last longer, so I buy the best I can afford at the time.

For this month’s coloring page, I have attached a tiger swallowtail file for you to print and color as you wish. It is based on the watercolor study of a single swallowtail that I did last year. Tiger swallowtails make great stained-glass window patterns, as we have seen. Personally, I would color it all the colors of the rainbow….

For more information on “Swift River Treasures,” my artmaking process, or recent work, or to check out my blog, see my website at Here you can order prints of my work, and have them matted and framed if you choose, courtesy of Fine Art America’s great print-on-demand service. I also offer greeting cards, either single or in packages.

For those of you in western Maine, I will be doing an outdoor sketching class on five Saturday afternoons starting July 10th. It will be a good opportunity for artists at any skill level to get out, appreciate the beauty of our mountains, and enjoy drawing with some good company. The details are in my blog on my website (see link above).

If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint. (Edward Hopper)

Thanks for joining me in the journey. I hope that you enjoy looking at the art as much as I have enjoyed making it! I would love to hear from you, too, so please do reply with comments.