small-conch-shellIf you truly would wish to learn about any thing in nature, one excellent way to go about it would be to attempt a drawing of it in pencil.  Paints and watercolors can be forgiving of detail in a way that pencils cannot.  A pencil drawing demands an exact understanding of the subject.

These three images are all part of one large drawing I made when I was an art student.  Looking at them now, many years later, I see where I substituted exactness with fogginess in some areas, in order to save time and effort.   

My instructor at the time told the class that in order to become master draughtsmen, we’d have to create a minimum of 10,000 drawings first.  This idea is very similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule in ‘Outliers,’ his recent book about the factors that contribute to high levels of success. 

shell-studyGladwell’s discovery is a disappointment to anyone who thinks that there is a shortcut to success.  Persistence and hard work are more important than talent.  I think people who are gifted acquire satisfaction with less effort in the beginning, and so are encouraged to do more.  But it is their ongoing practice that helps them achieve success.

As a child I spent countless hours drawing.  Compared to my peers, I did a lot less of other things.  But it was time well spent because I learned so much about nature in the process. 

shells-studyDrawing is a quiet activity that gives both children and adults an opportunity to observe and study nature up close.  Nothing more is needed other than a piece of blank paper, a pencil and… patience, something that is only learned through practice.

These drawings were made with a terra cotta charcoal pencil on manila paper.



April 7, 2009


Pussywillows are a welcome sign that the winter is over and warmer days lie ahead. 

In my early years in school, I recall gluing real pussywillows to bare branches drawn on sheets of paper.  I don’t think that’s common practice in schools anymore, as pussywillows aren’t as easily found as they used to be.

This drawing was made with a fine tip black marker.

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Moon Shell

March 28, 2009


There’s something about moon shells that sparks my imagination.  In the drawing above, I used the design of a Northern Moon Snail as a starting point for some rainbow-like colour combinations and patterns. 

Colored pencils were employed on heavy textured paper.

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Sea Biscuits

March 12, 2009


Why do we usually reach for white paper when making drawings?  A colored background is a refreshing change.  If the paper is dark enough for us to use a white pencil instead of a black or grey one, we must adjust our focus to draw the highlights in a subject.  To do so is surprisingly uncomfortable if one is accustomed to always working in the shadows. 

Above is a Sea Biscuit, a small and simple type of Sand Dollar found on local beaches.

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March 11, 2009


Whether they’re MacIntoshes or Honey Crisps, Red Delicious or Granny Smiths, apples have always been popular subjects for artists.  The first drawing I recall doing in school was one of an apple created with Crayola crayons.  It was very two dimensional but bursting with colour.  Whether you’re 5 or 50, using crayons or acrylics, apples make good practice for learning how to blend colours and make an object appear three dimensional.

Both drawings above were rendered with coloured pencils while the one below was done with both watercolours and coloured pencils.


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Still Life ~ Malta

February 15, 2009

stilllifemaltaThis coloured pencil drawing was created in Malta after a trip to a temple site on the island of Gozo.  The remains of the temple are considered thousands of years older than the pyramids.  Now that’s ancient.

A tiny shell and stone were starting points for the drawing.  Many of the colours and designs on the stone are more imagined than real.  Ancient sacred places can be very inspiring.




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December 5, 2008

onionsThe textures and subtle colours found in onions and garlic cloves have always fascinated me.  Rendering the transparency of the layers is a challenge but gets easier with practice.

This drawing was created with coloured pencils.





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White Pine Cone

December 5, 2008

whitepineconeWhite pine cones are easy to distinguish from other cones due to their elongated form and darker colour.  Surprisingly, they’re a bright lime green when still fresh on the tree. 

All pine cones reveal a spiral in their design.  This makes them both interesting but all the more challenging to draw.








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