Resurrecting My Inner Artist

The first snow and winter storm of Winter 2019 finally arrive the second Saturday of January. In my experience, that’s a delay of nearly ten days from when we usually have snow or a winter storm or if nothing else bitter cold below zero temperatures and wind chills. The snow we received was wet and heavy, perfect for making a snowman but not so great for my back when I went out to shovel the driveway.


I had agreed to volunteer at the library as usual Saturday so I spent the morning reading and watching a movie. I kept in contact with friends in the Tolkien Society local chapter via a Hangouts conversation because we were supposed to meet for a Hobbit Happy Hour (HHH) at 3 pm Saturday afternoon. I received the cancellation notice while manning the circulation desk as a volunteer.


By the time I finished my volunteer shift at the library, the snow had increased so I was relieved not to be driving twenty-five miles to Kansas City. Instead, I returned home and cracked open my daughter’s Christmas gift to me: an adult coloring book. The next thing I had to locate was my colored pencils. Sadly, as I soon discovered, those old pencils, which I bought a couple of years ago, were not what you would call quality art supplies. But, considering the weather, I could not be a choosy beggar and did the best I had with the materials on hand.


I spent most of the afternoon (until the daylight began to fade) and most of Sunday (morning and afternoon with a break for a trip to the grocery store) working on the above “Jeweled Dragons” selection. As I was waiting for my calzone dough to finish rising, I also watched several helpful YouTube videos on tips and tricks for getting the most out of your adult coloring sessions. Those videos convinced me to buy better art supplies.

Fast forward to Monday. I left a few minutes early so I could stop by the Blick Art Supply store just a half dozen blocks north of where I work. Imagine my delight when the friendly clerk directed me to the colored pencils and all the PrismaColor brand were on sale, drastically reduced (and very competitive to the prices I had seen the night before when searching via Google and Amazon). I opted for the 48 color set, plus a couple of blender pencils, a sharpener (recommended by the clerk) and a triangular eraser (just in case but so far I’m not needing it).


I continued my commute home and while my husband re-heated a leftover calzone, I grabbed a different coloring book to try out my new pencils. But first I got used to my new sharpener, which operates in two stages. The first stage sharpens the wood, leaving the pigment core untouched. The second stage sharpens the core to a very fine point, leaving the wood mostly untouched. I sharpened a few of the new pencils, only having a problem with one (operator error). Then I selected a page and tried out the new pencils.


Wow! I no longer have to press so hard to get vibrant colors. The Crayola colored pencils are lacking in pigment and require a very firm grip and pressure. I’m going to have to ease up and loosen my grip with the PrismaColor Premiere pencils. As you can see above, I started with the petals and the leafs but by the time I got to the water, I’d changed my technique. And the blender pencil makes a world of difference in color saturation and distribution. Please excuse those spots where I colored outside the lines. I’m farsighted and my progressive lenses just aren’t adequate for really fine detail. I may have to invest in a lighted table-mounted magnifying glass if I continue this activity.

While I was searching my house for my old colored pencils, I found the sketch book I’d bought soon after I got my new telescope. My plan was to do sketching at the eyepiece, instead of astrophotography (which gets very expensive, very quickly). I was inspired by the ASOD site (Astronomy Sketch of the Day) which sadly stopped posting sketches in June 2015. Here’s a link to the sketch “Mist and Diamonds” which was one of the inspiring sketches I fell in love with and spurred me to resurrect my latent drawing skills.

That plan got backburnered thanks to a crazy busy work year and major migration project. The project completed (the first and toughest phase anyway) last month so with the new year I’m resurrecting many sidelined personal projects. Along with the sketchbook I found the watercolor pencils my daughter bought together with some oil pastels (which I have no idea how to use … yet).

The watercolor pencils included a map-like folded instruction brochure that contained a ‘how to’ sketch a bird on a stump. So I switched gears for a few minutes and sketched the first two steps. Considering it’s been thirty years or so since I did any pencil sketching, I don’t think I did too bad.


That sent me off on a tangent about how to draw a willow tree (don’t ask or wait until another post). I watched a few YouTube videos and looked through several images of sketched and painted willow tress, but haven’t found what I’m looking for. As one artist mentioned, he couldn’t sketch a willow tree like other trees – starting with the skeleton first, the trunk and branches – because most of a willow tree is hidden under its drooping, weeping leaves. If you know of any good sources, books, etc. for drawing willow trees, please leave a comment.


The closest willow tree to me is in my north neighbor’s yard and it’s just sad, or young or perhaps a dwarf plant like my Japanese dwarf maple at the corner of my house. I could probably practice sketching my burr oak though. It’s not hiding under anything but snow for the moment.

I’m excited for my new colored pencils and limbering up my artistic brain and muscles. I had a rewarding experience this past weekend, keeping warm with calzones and colored pencils. And Rottweilers. Stay tuned for future artistic updates. Ciao for now.