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Iceland poppies, part 1

It's been a while since I posted anything on my Works in Progress page! Fortunately, I have the perfect project to share. I've been working on a painting of some Iceland poppies for a client, for whom I do a botanical painting each year. The first step, of course, was to purchase some actual Iceland poppies; I much prefer drawing plants from life if I can. You can get multiple angles of a single flower that way, plus then the color is much easier to match. 

I began making studies of the poppy flowers: 

I made several sketches of leaves too. Once I had enough sketches, I compiled them all in one big layout (including color swatches for reference): 

This image was sent off to the client, who responded with a request for a more horizontal format. We also decided to make it larger that life—meaning that I couldn't fit it easily on my scanner, and this terrible photo will have to suffice! 

My client loved the new size of the sketch, but thought perhaps it could use more open flowers to incorporate more color. I was happy to oblige: 

Now we'll wait and see if this is the last of the rough drafts. If I get the go-ahead, I'll transfer this drawing to a large piece of watercolor paper and start painting! 



Elderberry beetles

Usually, I like to document the process of a painting from sketch to finish for this portion of my website. In this case, I forgot to take photos along the way—but I still thought it would be fun to post.

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) is a federally threatened species, found only in riparian forests of California's Central Valley. I've depicted it here with its host plant, elderberry (in this case, blue elderberry, Sambucus cerulea). After mating, the females (dark green wing coverings) lay their eggs on the elderberry, and the larvae spend that stage of their lives burrowed into the stems of the plant. The brilliant red-and-black males are slightly smaller than the females.

Valley elderberry longhorn beetles are considered threatened due to loss of habitat in the Central Valley; agricultural and urban development has wiped out much of their riparian habitat. But these lovely beetles can still be seen from March to June on elderberry shrubs along rivers and streams.

For more information on valley elderberry longhorn beetles, visit


Common Snowberry and California Honeysuckle—continued

With the drawing of the snowberry and California honeysuckle transferred, it's time to add paint!


The lovely reds, whites and greens of these plants were so festive that I decided to use this for my 2012 holiday card.

Happy holidays, everyone!!


Common Snowberry and California Honeysuckle

On a hike at Jacks Peak in Monterey a few weeks ago, I noticed the bright red berries of California honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) hanging from vines that twined around trees and shrubs along the trail. I had always thought that they would be fun to paint in acrylic, and when I saw a thicket of snowberries (Symphoricarpos albus) under a stand of oak trees, I thought their waxy white fruits would be a great compliment to the cherry-red honeysuckle berries. After doing a little research online, I discovered they're even part of the same family—Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family.

Since snowberry fruits are white, I chose a sand-colored Canson paper for my background. I love painting white on toned paper and seeing the highlights come to life.