Using Colored Paper

One of the nicest things to have as an artist, is a variety of canvases and colors. With most of my color pencil work, I have used white paper (bristol board), but a few years back I discovered quality colored paper that others were using. I was immediately intrigued, and ordered a pad for myself. The colors will really pop off the paper with these sheets. These papers can be used as canvas for color pencil, charcoal, graphite, and pastels.

Canson has a a few different pads under the name Mi-Tienes, with various tones to choose from in each pad. You can see and purchase them here

Canson Mi-Tienes

One of the interesting things about working on one of the darker toned papers is that you already have some shadow built into your canvas. You can start your work with a simple outline, and add highlights first, and then minimal shadows later on. With most paper media, I start shadows first, then mid-tones, and lastly highlights. Another added benefit to colored paper is that you don’t necessarily have to fill in every corner, since the canvas is already rich with tone.

Here are a few in process photos of work done on colored paper. Having your highlights done ahead of time can really put things in perspective while you are working with the rest of the colors in the palette.

Dolphin Touch progress photoWhite Ibis photoSeaturtle progress photo

And here are just a few finished pieces done on the Mi-Tienes paper.

The paper also has a different texture on each side; one smooth, and one waffle-y. “Bella” was done on the rougher textured side. Not what I initially wanted for the piece, but it worked out.

double-trouble cardinalsgrayfoxwhiteibis

I’m currently working on a few pieces using this paper. My pad will need replacing soon, and I’m curious to try the other color tones in the Mi-Tienes series. I recommend them to anyone using color pencil. I also have a few large poster sized sheet of paper I have yet to use. I haven’t tackled a piece that big yet, but I have them on hand for the challenge eventually.

Sorry my post this week was a bit late. I just have a few things on my plate that have been hectic. I’ll be back on schedule for next week!

Neighborhood Gopher Tortoise Colony

The first tortoise I ever got a good photo of.
The first tortoise I ever got a good photo of.

Turtles and tortoises are found in the fossil record going back as far as 250+ million years. That’s a very long history in terms of a species’ time in existence on this planet. Obviously, something about the way they are built has allowed them to survive and be molded into many kinds of turtle or tortoise over such a long span of time. Turtles are often aquatic in nature, with a handful of species being terrestrial, and tortoises are the largest of the land dwellers. Some of which become hulking giants who eat a diet not much different than a horse.

The gopher tortoise (gopherus polyphemus) belongs to a group of land tortoises that originated in North America 60 million years ago, thus making it one of the oldest living species. This species typically grows to about one foot in straight carapace length, and an average weight of 29 pounds. There have been some found to be as big as 16 inches in length.

Same individual out foraging.
Same individual out foraging.
The 2nd individual I got photos of. This one had a slight reddish tint to the shell, along with some sand left from the burrow.
The 2nd individual I got photos of. This one had a slight reddish tint to the shell, along with some sand left from the burrow.

Gopher Tortoises are specifically built for digging and living in burrows, as you can see from the shape of their shell. Their strong front legs aid them in digging burrows that can be up to 50 feet in length underground. At the end of their burrow lies a larger chamber where the tortoise sleeps or takes shelter. They also immediately bolt to the burrow entrance when they spot danger, and to this day many of them do this to me when I come bearing my camera.

These tortoises are an ecologically important species, consider that many other animals use the burrows as shelter both abandoned and inhabited by tortoises. Other reptiles, small mammals, and amphibians all may use the burrows for shelter during a forest fire, freezing weather, drought, etc., which often saves many lives otherwise. If these tortoises were to disappear, so to do their burrows, which then take away potential shelter for a multitude of species.

Not only do Gopher Tortoises benefit other animal species, but they also help stimulate new healthy growth in the plants and vegetation they eat. Rarely are they see drinking water, since they get most of the moisture they need from the vegetation they consume. They have only ever been observed drinking standing water during droughts.

Another colony member, possibly female because of size.
Another colony member, possibly female because of size.
This has to be the largest tortoise I've seen. For size comparison, that tree is no more than 5-6 feet away from the individual. Big.
This has to be the largest tortoise I’ve seen. For size comparison, that tree is no more than 5-6 feet away from the individual. Big.

Gophers are thought to exceed a lifespan of 60 years, and become sexually mature at 10 to 15 years of age. I can only wonder how old some of the individuals in the colony I visit are. Females are typically larger then males, hence they have to carry the eggs of the species. The males are smaller, with a concavity on the plastron which aids in mating.

The colors of this particular tortoise aren’t very vibrant, but still give them earthy-toned charm. Younger tortoises usually have brighter coloring for the first few years, with the hues fading as they gain size and age. Their colors range from dark gray, black, light gray, brown, and a slightly red clay color. A very young individual I’ve seen has blackish skin, with a brown shell with light orange patches on top. He or she booked it back to the burrow before I could get a good photo. They’re faster than they look.

Youngest gopher tortoise I've seen yet. He/she may only be a few years old.
Youngest gopher tortoise I’ve seen yet. He/she may only be a few years old.

The tortoises live near each other, and some of them must interact on a daily basis. I have not seen enough of them out at one time to really say just how they interact, but I imagine they may have some sort of hierarchy amongst themselves. They may also have individual preferences on which time of day to forage, like different work shifts. Males are known to visit the burrows of females during the months in which they mate, and generally, the ladies will let him know if they’re interested or not.

Possibly a male visiting a female burrow just a few yards from his.
Possibly a male visiting a female burrow just a few yards from his.

For the most part, I believe Gophers live in a somewhat solitary state, even while living in a colony. I commented on the social interactions because there are tortoises who display some herding behavior, such as the Pancake Tortoise. In other cases, both in captivity and in the wild, other species have been observed to behave similarly either when kept with other animals or in wild settings.  An awful lot of people give reptiles little credit for any intelligence, but they do have it. It’s just not what they’re expecting.

I love going out and seeing these tortoises in the wild as they should be. They are charming, and though skittish, well worth the patience getting photos of.

The best shot I've gotten of one of these tortoises, taken just recently.
The best shot I’ve gotten of one of these tortoises, taken just recently.

Information resource links for the Gopher Tortoise:

Stay tuned for next week’s post!

The History of the Colored Pencil

After using this medium for more than a decade, I discovered that the history behind it goes back farther than I thought. I used to believe that they were relatively new, but that’s incorrect. The invention and development of these pencils goes back over 200 years.

The historical time line for the pencil companies is borrowed from this page ( , detailing many of the companies that went on to produce the high quality art materials known today. Among the familiar brands are Lyra, Derwent, and Faber-Castell.

During the early twentieth century, the colored pencil core was developed. It was made up of a combination of pigments or dyes and a binder.

The first iteration of the color pencil was undertaken in 1761, when a small factory in Germany under the name Kasper Faber, began making color pencils. This small factory would end up becoming the world famous Faber Castell company.

In the early 1920’s, the A.W. Faber Company began selling over 60 different shades of colored pencils for artists. They are still considered one of the best brands today.

In 1806, the German company Lyra was established.

In 1832, British company Derwent began manufacturing pencils.

In 1834, Staedtler produced their first colored pencils.

In 1890, L. & C. Hardtmuth Company of Austria-Hungary introduced their Koh-I-Noor brand, named after the famous diamond.

In 1924 in Switzerland, a company named Caran d’Ache was founded. One of the top brands of color pencils today, but very expensive.

In 1925, the Schwann Stabilo Company was established in Germany. One of the leading makers of colored pencils.

Either Derwent or Lyra was the first company to design and manufacture the watercolor pencil in 1930.

In 1938, Berol introduced Prismacolors. They are sold in small primary color sets, and the full 120 color set. They are one of the most popular brands today, and also the one I use for my own work.
Currently, they are manufactured by a company called Sanford.

At one time, these pencils were designed with the intent of making the world’s most expensive and highest quality pencil. The goal of highest quality was achieved, and thankfully for artists, they aren’t an extreme expense.

Today, colored pencils can be used on a variety of surfaces. Sketchbook paper, Bristol board, and Pastel paper all are great canvases for the colored pencils. I have on one occasion, seen someone use colored pencils on a sheet of plastic by using a heating element underneath the sheet to melt and blend the colors. It was interesting, to say the least.

It’s also amazing how far the pencils have come from their initial development to the wide array of not just colors to choose from, but also pencil sets that mimic watercolors, and oils. This medium can and has fooled some people into thinking they are looking at a painting, and not a drawing.

Well, it’s not just an artist’s techniques that does that, but also very much in the quality of the pencils.

See you all next week. 🙂

Changes for the Better

Hello everyone. I have been busy working on improving my marketing skills, and making plans to work toward becoming a full time artist.

I bought and read Guerrilla Marketing for Artists by Barney Davey, and I highly recommend it for other artists want to improve their marketing both online and locally. I had no idea what I was doing, or what I should do to get my art out there to potential buyers. This book gives you a myriad of options and techniques to make that happen.

I will now be offering more than just posts on my works in progress, and have more variety for my readers. I’ve also learned to refine my subject and pinpoint what the most recognizable traits of my art are. I have a better plan of action to tackle my ambition now, and I believe I can do it.

I have bought the domain name, and set up a more professional email, and I’ve got some marketing materials being printed via VistaPrint. In the future, a newsletter will be designed and sent to those who choose to subscribe to it.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on some new pieces to add to my portfolio, and reorganizing to choose my very best pieces. I recently went through a set of very old pieces from my teens when I first started getting serious about art. Brought back memories.

I also made a sale last week. The matching sea turtle set has been sold! 😀

Featured image

I will be updating more on this blog weekly, so keep reading!