Why I Switched from Oils to Colored Pencils

Jana wants to know why I switched from oils to colored pencils, and if I’ve noticed one sells better than the other? Here are Jana’s questions.

Hi Carrie, 

These are business related questions instead of technical ones, so if you choose not to use them on your December questions posts, I will understand. 

1. Why did you switch to colored pencil from oils? I ask this because I went the opposite direction.

2. Do your colored pencil pieces sell as well as your oils did? 

Your blog with all its tips and helps is so interesting to me because you reinforce much of what I tell my drawing students. Since I teach primarily how to draw with pencil, it is only my more advanced students who go to colored pencil, so I read your blog to be sure I am not leading anyone astray. (It has been about 15 years since I was active in the CPSA or used colored pencils other than as accents to my graphite.)

Thank you for your thoroughness and clarity. 

Blessings, Jana

Thank you for your question, Jana. I don’t mind answering business questions at all.

Why I Switched from Oils to Colored Pencils

Why I Switched from Oils to Colored Pencils

I’ve addressed this subject more than once in the past, including a similar question earlier this month. But I wanted to answer this question because it also includes a question about sales.

And every artist trying to turn their artwork into money wants to know about sales!

I switched from oil painting to colored pencils for two main reasons, with about twenty years between the the first reason and the second.

Chapter 1: Convenience

For over forty years, I painted portraits of horses. I was an oil painter because that’s the medium I learned as a preteen and teen. By the time I sold my first portrait at 17-years-old, I’d already been painting for several years. Continuing to oil paint was never a question. I often told people I’d retire when I fell face down in my palette!

Image by Katya36 from Pixabay

Part of my marketing strategy (if you care to use such lofty terms) was attending horse shows and trade shows. Michigan hosted two big shows every year. The Lansing Stallion Expo in March and the North American Horse Spectacular in Novi every November. For many years, I attended both with a collection of paintings and drawings, but my primary goal was lining up portrait work.

I saw artists working at those shows and thought it would be cool, but oil paints are such a nuisance to travel with. They pack all right if you don’t take everything in the studio, but working on a painting in public is risky, and getting wet paintings home safely is no picnic either.

So in the 1990s I started looking for another medium that traveled better. I wanted something that could produce oil painting-like results, high levels of detail, gorgeous color, AND was easy to transport and use on location. Pastels were out because I’d already tried those and disliked them, so colored pencils were the only choice.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

I intended to continue oil painting. Colored pencils gave me a second medium to offer clients, but I really preferred to work in oils.

Most clients chose oils, but some preferred colored pencils. One couple even opted for watercolor colored pencils. Talk about a step outside my comfort zone!

Chapter 2: Changing Focus

Eventually, portrait work tailed off. I think the move to Kansas had a lot to do with that. Most of my clients were from Michigan and I had been active with the Michigan Harness Horseman’s Association since the second year it hosted a benefit art auction. Many clients purchased their first portraits there and some of them became repeat customers.

Kansas isn’t that far away from Michigan, but it was too far to make the trip to the MHHA auction every January. I continued participating, but by long distance. Then they canceled the auction.

After that, it didn’t seem to matter what I did, I couldn’t sell a portrait to save my life. The last portrait was completed in 2016. An oil portrait for which there’s a moving story. But still the last portrait.

Back then, colored pencils were just starting to catch on, thanks to adult coloring books. I enjoyed them. They were a lot easier to manage in my studio (which is one corner of what should be the dining room,) and they were still portable. My husband played in the Wichita Community Band and I could take pieces to work on during weekly practices.

So colored pencils became my primary medium.

Long Story Short

(I know. Too late for that, isn’t it?)

A decision that began as a matter of convenience became a matter of finding a marketing niche twenty years later. Simple as that.

I haven’t completely given up on oil painting. I still love the process, the colors, the results, and even the smells. But let’s be honest. With cats and kittens in the house, it just doesn’t make sense to try oil painting!

Maybe some day I’ll get back to it.

That’s why I switched from oils to colored pencils. Now about selling original art….

Oil Painting Versus Colored Pencils in Art Sales

The other part of Jana’s question is about sales. Have I noticed one medium outselling the other?

The cold hard truth is that my originals aren’t selling. At all. Any of them.

It’s been a couple of years since I sold original work and those were mostly ACEOs through eBay. Most of those were oil paintings, but mostly because that’s what most of my ACEOs were.

Why I switched from oils to colored pencils.
Even though my primary focus is now teaching colored pencils, I do have a website dedicated to marketing original artwork and promoting portrait work. In both oils and colored pencils.

Now, before you begin feeling sad for me, let me add that my work doesn’t sell because, quite frankly, I don’t market it!

Yes, I have a website dedicated to my original art, but the main focus of my studio business is teaching and that’s the bulk of marketing energies go.

If I spent just half the time marketing original art that I do marketing this blog, I’d probably have sales.

And then I could answer your question more positively!

When You Get Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects

Be honest. Have you ever gotten tired of drawing your favorite subjects?

Everybody has something they love drawing. That subject is their go-to subject. It comes above every other subject they might ever consider drawing.

Some artists love still life art and assembling the elements of a still life is as much fun and making the art.

Others are drawn to animals and prefer pet portraits or wildlife art.

Still others specialize in human portraits or landscapes or urban scenes.

When You Get Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects

There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone is born with special interests and everyone gains life experiences that sharpen those interests or introduce new interests.

But what happens when you grow tired of drawing your favorite subject?

When You Get Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects

Don’t be like me when that happens! You’ll end up stifling your creativity!

You see, I’ve been doing horse portraits for forty years or more. For most of that time, I thought I’d never do anything else. I saw no need to. I loved the look of horses, their long manes and tails, the way they moved and even the way they smelled. What else did I need?

Then came my first look at the Flint Hills of Kansas and all of a sudden, the idea of doing landscape art leaped into my mind.

Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects? You may be on the brink of discovering a new favorite.
This is one of my favorite views of the Flint Hills, and the one I’ve tried most often to capture in art. I have photos of it from almost every season. The only thing I lack is a thunderstorm shot and a snowy shot.

At first, I resisted it. I wasn’t a landscape artist; I was a horse artist.

Then I decided to pair my horses with landscapes. That made sense, after all. Horses are part of the landscape around here. A big part.

That idea produced a couple of nice colored pencil pieces, but no more.

Afternoon Graze is the best of two colored pencil pieces pairing my previous love (horses) with my new love (landscapes.) I haven’t given up on this idea, but I confess to being drawn more to the landscape than the horses these days.

Since then, I’ve struggled to draw anything.

Yes, there are lots of fun pieces resulting from experimenting with my first set of artist quality watercolor pencils or new papers. And there have demonstration pieces for blog posts and tutorials.

But what I call “serious art” has dwindled to the point that it’s now been nearly a year since my last finished piece!

So what’s going on?

I haven’t really given that much thought because I have been busy doing other things. Things that need doing like writing and designing tutorials and improving the weekly newsletter.

I’ve also started writing a book based on the best posts from this blog. So it’s not like I’ve been sitting on my thumbs waiting for inspiration.

But a few days ago, a radical thought popped into my awareness.

Why am I waiting for inspiration to make another horse drawing when what I really want to do is a landscape?

You know, when you’re an artist, that’s one of those thoughts that pretty much stops everything in its tracks! You cannot not give it serious consideration.

I look across the room as I write these words and I see the line drawing of Thomas clipped to the sample of Clairfontaine pastelmat.

The finished line drawing for a portrait of Thomas, our oldest cat, recently deceased.

I received the sample this summer but didn’t know what to do with it until after Thomas had passed to the other side.

Now, I have the following dialogue with myself every time I look at the drawing.

“I wonder how that paper would work with a landscape?”

“No. That paper’s meant for Thomas’ portrait!”

And then I remember that stunning thought from a few days ago.

Maybe it’s time to move on.

I still haven’t taken that line drawing off the Pastelmat, but the idea grows more appealing every day.

And yet, I waiver between wanting to keep doing what I’ve always done because, well, that’s what I’ve always done and doing something I want to do more right now. It’s difficult to let go of old habits even when there’s the possibility the letting go isn’t permanent.

I hope you’ll forgive my rambling this way, but I know that when I struggle this much with something, there are others out there wrestling with the same dilemma.

That’s perfectly all right! It’s part of the growth process in life and in art.

So what should you do when you get tired of drawing your favorite subjects?

If you’re torn between making another drawing of a subject that’s been a personal favorite for years (or decades) and doing something new, don’t fret. It’s not unnatural. It may instead be a sign of growth.

Let go of that old habit and try your hand at the new idea. Maybe it won’t go anywhere, but maybe it will. Maybe you’ll discover a new Old Favorite. At the very least, you may discover ways to improve on drawing that Old Favorite.

That’s what I’m going to do.

Let’s try it together and see what happens, shall we?

Tips for New Artists: 8 Things to Get You Started

Tips for New Artists - Develop a Thick Skin

I know from reading emails and answering your questions that there are a lot of new artists in my audience. So I thought it would be a good idea to share a few basic tips for new artists; the sort of things I wish someone had told me decades ago!

Tips for New Artists

This is a post filled with technical colored pencil tips like how to blend and how to layer, or what paper is best. Instead of that, I want to share tips for successfully living the artist’s life. You know, those things that artists talk about once in a while, but that most beginners don’t immediately discover for themselves. You know; life stuff.

Tips for New Artists

1. Be prepared to persevere.

The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. What works in life works in art, too. When a drawing doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, don’t give up. Get a new sheet of paper, more pencils, and make another drawing. The more you draw, the better you’ll get.

I guarantee it.

2. Develop a thick skin.

From the first piece of art you make to the last, there will be critics.

Learn to deal with people who criticize your work, your methods, your marketing… probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. Learn not to internalize it.

Tips for New Artists - Develop a Thick Skin

3. Learn to learn from criticism.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all, but learn to be gracious.

Analyze criticism at face value and glean the comments that will improve your skills as an artist, and in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up and make art!)

4. Draw (or paint) every day.

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you make art.

Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either.

I’ve lived both and know they are not true.

The best way to be an artist is to make art as often as you can. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not. Even if it’s just a few minutes to doodle on a napkin, make use of it. Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you made art.

5. Set goals.

You’re probably as tired of hearing this as I used to be. Get over it. I had to and when I did, I learned just how valuable goals can be. And easy.

Start small. A sketch a day, maybe.

If a time goal works better, set a time goal. Just make sure you’re drawing for that five or ten or 60 minutes each day and not doing Facebook or the on-line crossword puzzle. They DO NOT count as making art.

I’m sorry to report that one of my favorite activities (browsing Pixabay) also doesn’t count as making art!

Tips for New Artists - Set Goals

6. Develop a system to monitor goals.

Try a calendar with big squares. Jot a few words about what you did each day.

Or try a white board list, or even a text document or piece of paper.

Decide on your goal for the week or month, then decide what you need to do each day to reach that goal. For each day you make art, record the amount of time you spent or what you drew. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up.

7. Don’t let your goals rule you.

You may be thinking this is a contradiction. It’s not. Life happens. There will be some days when, despite your best planning and intentions, you just can’t draw or paint. Don’t let it stress you out.

That’s part of the reason I like weekly and monthly goals in addition to daily goals. If you miss a day, you can make it up somewhere else and the weekly or monthly goals provide the incentive to do so.

8. Have fun.

Whether you make art for personal pleasure or as a livelihood, have fun.

For some, making art will become like a job that requires you to treat it like a job, maintaining regular hours and behaving like your own employee. Try not to lose sight of the joy of art. The reason it drew you in the first place. Take time to nurture that, to grow it as you grow your career or hobby.

You won’t regret it.

There are Eight Life Tips for New Artists.

They work for those of us who have been making art for a while, too, because sometimes we forget them.

If you’d like more tips like these, you might be interested in reading 5 Tips for New & Emerging Artists, which I wrote for EmptyEasel.

Every Artist’s Life is an Adventure

Every Artist's Life is an Adventure Canyon Road

Have you stopped to think about how much of an adventure the artist’s life really is?

You haven’t?

Let me see if I can change your mind!

Artist's Life

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

Gandalf, The Hobbit

You don’t need to be a Hobbit or a wizard to have an adventure.

The plain, simple truth is that if you’re drawing breath right now—and I hope you are—you’re also on an adventure. It’s called Life.

And if you happen to also be an artist—and the chances are good that you are, since you’re reading this post—then the adventure is doubly exciting.

How My Artist’s Life is an Adventure

My adventure began years ago, when I picked up my first crayon and made my first mark on whatever it was (a wall or something of that nature if I remember correctly).

I’ve loved to draw for as long as I can remember. I’ve been painting since my preteen years and have been painting portraits of horses for paying customers since I was seventeen.

From the time I sold that first portrait, I knew I’d grow up to be a famous painter of horses, traveling the country and the world to paint the horses of wealthy horse owners.

That was my dream. My goal. My quest, if you want to put it that way.

Adventures rarely happen according to your plans

Mine was no different.

Although I always had paintings on the easel and had a number of clients, including several who bought more than one portrait, the dream just never fell into place.

I had a good small business, but not exactly what I’d envisioned. Consequently, I always had a job to keep the bills paid.

For nearly thirty years, the path of my artist’s life was a winding, up-and-down foot path through an uncharted canyon.

Artist's Life

What’s an adventure without the unexpected?

When I got married, my husband promised I could become a full-time artist.

Fulfilling the dream never seemed more real—or attainable—than in those days. He talked about exhibiting my art and attending horse shows more than I did.

The year after we married, we attended a huge show in Louisville on Derby Weekend. I painted a new collection for that show. That was an adventure all its own. From the moment I was accepted as an exhibitor to the moment we got back home after passing through Kansas City only hours after the biggest tornado in decades.

But being a full-time painter was more work than I imagined. It was fun, but it wasn’t as easy as I’d envisioned.

Then my husband lost his job and we spent eighteen months unemployed, facing bankruptcy, and countless other challenges. I begged God to show me what to do.

Artist's Life

What’s one unexpected turn without another?

God sent a job.

The director of the local art gallery called to ask if I’d like a part-time job. I thought she wanted an assistant.

She wanted a replacement.

The following 4-1/2 years were mostly good. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot of things, and had a chance to try marketing and exhibit ideas I would never have otherwise tried.

And then there was all the great art I had the privilege of exhibiting and the great artists I visited with and learned from.

In 2009, I left the gallery. My husband and I discussed my becoming a full-time artist. Could we survive on his income until I got my feet under me? He said we could. I wasn’t so sure.

Could I generate enough art income to replace a regular paycheck? He thought so. I wasn’t so sure.

For a long time, I’d been like a fledgling bird, poised on the edge of the nest, looking out (and down!) at the world and thinking about trying to fly.

Wanting to fly, but afraid to take that first jump.

God finally took a hand in matters. HE said “Enough dilly-dallying. You will fly. You will fly now. Off with you!” and He gave me a push I couldn’t ignore.

Back on course?

As it has turned out, the direction I was to go wasn’t the direction I’d expected.

Portrait work dropped off to nothing. In its place came a regular gig with EmptyEasel, where I’m a near-weekly contributor.

Then other artists started asking me to teach them what I know about colored pencils. Who would ever have foreseen that? I sure didn’t.

I have no regrets. None of the things that followed each of the two previous job losses followed this one. Quite the contrary, I felt like I’d been freed from the chains of the nest and set on a course that is frightening, exhilarating, and challenging all at once.

Artist's Life

The chain of events from the time I picked up my first big Crayola to enrolling my most recent student and launching my most recent lesson download has been God’s way of forcing me to take huge, scary steps and go in directions I’d never considered on my own. He just had to do it in a way that left me with no doubts.

The sequence of events that followed confirm the notion. I’ve been pushed, prodded, and goaded further and further along that path.

At this point in the adventure, grand dreams painting horse portraits have been replaced by teaching others to paint horse portraits.

And landscapes and other things!

Where will this Phase of My Artist’s Life Journey Lead?

What’s the point of sharing my artist’s life with you?

Just this.

It’s important to realize that all of life is an adventure, and that the artist’s life is also an adventure.

It’s important to begin your adventure by taking the first step, but it’s also important to realize that the first step is only the beginning.

You also need to have a goal in mind when you begin. A dream.

Expect the unexpected, and learn to work with it.

And by all means, don’t worry if the original dream turns into something else somewhere along the way.

Kitten Update, 13 Weeks

Sometimes, I feel like a character in a Clint Eastman movie. I’m reachingthe point of thinking about getting sidearms and a holster to wear around the house. Don’t worry. (This kitten update isn’t going to read like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!)

No, nothing I’d have to get a permit for. I’m thinking more along the lines of a water pistol.

Kitten Update - Spray Bottle

Overall Kitten Update

We’ve been “schooling” kittens the last few weeks. The primary schooling tool is a squirt bottle. You know the type. They’re a dollar or two, and you ordinarily use them to mist plants or other things.

They’re extremely excellent tools for disciplining cats, too; old cats and young ones.

Most of the kittens are pretty smart. It didn’t take very many sudden “isolated downpours” from the water bottle for them to learn where the precipitation came from. It didn’t take most of them much longer to know they needed to stop doing whatever they were doing when suddenly faced with the water bottle.

The fact of the matter is that most of them squint and stop whatever nefarious activity they were about to do at the sight of the squirt bottle.

Then there’s Brummel.

Brummel sometimes just crouches down and takes it. What do you do with a youngster like that?

The climbing pant legs is decreasing daily. Now we’re dealing with drape climbing and other such behavior.

It’s a source of constant interest and, yes, amazement, to see character and personality emerge.

They also like to have a hand (paw?) in whatever I’m doing. Sweeping with a broom is of special interest, but so is everything else.

Bud has discovered the great outdoors. He sneaks out the front door at every opportunity, so I’ve decided it’s time for harness-and-leash training. Bud doesn’t seem to mind the figure-eight harness I began with.

Basil is more interested in finding interesting alternative ways to wear it. He had a great deal of fun wearing it like a tie and batting at the dangling ends.

Kitten Update - Basil Wearing the Harness

No. I haven’t attached the leash yet. Mostly because Thomas (our oldest cat) has been spending his days on the porch.

But I also confess to some trepidation!

As Far as Health Goes….

They’re all doing well. The five older kittens are getting past outbreaks of ringworm, mostly, I think, by passing it on to the four younger kittens. We’ve gone through two cans of PhytoVet CK Antiseptic Mousse so far and are working on the third. It’s on the pricey side, but it is helping immensely.

The incidences of sniffles are diminishing, too. The hottest part of the summer is gone, so I’ve been keeping windows open more often and running the air conditioner less, and that does seem to help.

Vaccinations are coming up. We’re overdue on those but have had to wait out sniffles and cash flow bottle necks. It seems like we either have the funds or the health, but not both at the same time.

As soon as they’ve been vaccinated, it will be time to start rehoming them. I will hate to see them go, but they do need to be placed sooner or later.

I’m hoping for sooner!

Following are a few pictures of the Kitten Posse.

How the Kittens are Doing After Eight Weeks

Time to let you know how the kittens are doing after eight weeks.

How the Kittens are Doing after Eight Weeks

The Kitten Posse has grown since the last update four weeks ago. There have been some concerns since then, but overall, all the posse members are doing well.

How the Kittens are Doing After Eight Weeks

More Kittens: The Back Story

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it, but the mother cats are three sisters from a  year ago. A neighborhood cat who was quite friendly brought her kittens to the garage for food one very early spring. She had two males and three females.

One of the males disappeared within weeks. The other four took some time to acclimate to human interaction, but most of them eventually got friendly. Especially after their mother also disappeared. Sammy, Sassy, Sissy, Cloud.

Fast forward to this spring. Cloud had the first litter of kittens the first weekend in May, followed by Sissy the second weekend in May. The first weekend in June, Sassy had her kittens.

We last saw Sassy July 15. Since then, there’s been not so much as a glimpse of her (a pattern with feral cats, who seem to take great delight in leaving their kittens on our doorstep.)

The three kittens she left were old enough to feed outside so that’s what we did. The more we fed them, the friendlier they became.

Why They Came Inside

So friendly that my husband saw one of them following someone down the sidewalk. We couldn’t find a second kitten and it turned out she’d followed someone in the opposite direction. Fortunately, a neighbor found her.

Equally as fortunate, the little cat went to the neighbor when the neighbor spoke to her, and the neighbor returned her to us.

That was a pretty big scare because we live on a main street, where drivers don’t always exercise discretion. So we decided to bring these three inside, too, rather than risk having them get onto the street or get lost.

More Kittens, More News - The Newcomers
The new additions, from top to bottom, Sorrowful, Brummel, and Rebel.

After a day of uncertainty and looking for places to hide, they began to interact with the other kittens. They’d never been afraid of us, so that made things easier.

Now the kittens all eat together, play together, and sleep together during the day. We still have them in separate lodgings during the night, these three in one place, the original five in another, and Pee Wee in her own “suite.” (More about her in a moment.)

But to see them all together, you’d think they’d been born in the house in one, big, happy litter.

The Original Five

The original five are doing fabulous other than ordinary health issues. They all have “real” names now. Bob and Bing (formerly Kittens 1 & 3,) Bud and Lou (formerly Kittens 2 & 4,) and Basil (formerly Kitten 5.)

We watch a lot of old movies, and especially enjoy the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “road” movies, and Abbott and Costello. You can no doubt figure out where four of our names came from.

But what about Basil?

The Bob Hope movie, The Ghost Breakers, opens with a violent thunderstorm in New York City. One of Bob’s lines is, “Basil Rathbone must be throwing a party,” spoken after a particularly bright flash of lightning. I’ve always liked Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, so this unexpected mention was one of my favorite lines from the movie. Basil gives every sign of being a lean and lanky critter. He also has the unique air of one with only one eye, so the name suits him.

By the way, Sorrowful gets her name from the Bob Hope movie, Sorrowful Jones, which includes a racehorse named Dreamy Joe. For a while, I considered naming Bing Dreamy Joe because he has such a dreamy gaze.

The original five kittens napping. From left to right, Lou and Basil (in back,) and Bob, Bing, and Bud.

There are still occasional bouts with the sniffles. Bud seems especially prone to them, but he’s the smallest of the five, and was the smallest when his mother left him at our door.

At the moment, all five are also getting “moussed” for ring worm. That appears to be a never-ending battle, though I know from past experience it isn’t. I can tell you it was a lot easier treating ring worm on dairy cattle than on five squirming kittens!

And Then There’s Pee Wee

Pee Wee came into the house in late June. She’s sister to Brummel, Rebel, and Sorrowful, and when we took her in, her survival was in doubt.

Her mother, who wasn’t the most friendly of the three mothers, nevertheless kept the kittens around the house. When we discovered Pee Wee had an eye infection, Sassy let me take care of her. For a few days, I tended her outside, and left her with the litter. I could also feed them and they all seemed happy.

When I found Pee Wee with her face in the dirt on Friday, June 29, I called our vet and explained the situation. He told me what medication to give her and recommended bringing her inside. Her chances, he thought, were 50/50 or less.

How the Kittens are Doing after Eight Weeks - Pee Wee in the Early Days
Pee Wee four days after we brought her in. As sick as she looks here, she’d already started improving.

We had to feed her with a feeding tube for about three days, and she never did learn to suckle a bottle, but she was four weeks old by then, and should have been eating off a plate. We continued treating her eyes twice daily and started her on antibiotic.

After six days of that, Pee Wee started showing an interest in solid food, and once she tasted it, she never looked back.

How the Kittens are Doing after Eight Weeks - Pee Wee 10 days later
Pee Wee ten days later. Much better after starting on solid food and getting friendly with her older cousins.

She weighed 6.7 ounces on June 29. On July 23, she finally topped one pound, weighing in at 17.96 ounces.

Pee Wee’s Recovery

I don’t know if it’s genetics or a rough beginning, but she’s the tiniest of the group. Compared to Lou, who’s about four pounds, she’s positively puny. You’d expect her to hang back and be wary.

How the Kittens are Doing after Eight Weeks - Pee Wee and Others
Pee Wee, (lower left,) and Lou (upper left) are the short and long of the story. Lou is the biggest and Pee Wee is the smallest. The other two are Bud (lower right) and Basil. Notice which kitten has custody of the sock!

But not a bit of it. She runs for food among the rest, and pushes in among the rest while eating.

When she plays with them, she yells like she’s being skinned alive, but the moment her opponent lets her up, she’s on all fours, back arched, tail in the air, and threatening severe retaliation.

Usually until she gets bowled over again.

She’s a delight to have around, very affectionate and entertaining.

And her run is priceless! I need to capture it on video and post it.

We do have to be careful moving around, especially in the kitchen, since she’s about the color of our carpet and she has no markings whatsoever. Lighted from above, she all but disappears!

So That’s the Eight Week Update

And all the kittens are doing better!

It wasn’t in my summer plans to mother nine kittens, but that’s where I am. While they’re fun and entertaining, they also make for a lot of work. Three extra litter boxes to clean. Meals to dish up, and cats to wade through. Try concentrating on anything while nine hungry mouths are swarming around your ankles!

And living with them is like wading through razor wire. Fortunately, they’re learning what a water bottle means and they usually respect it. Still, I keep triple antibiotic ointment on hand!

Lot’s of it!

The Challenges of Colored Pencils

Every artist who has ever picked up a colored pencil with the intent of creating art is familiar with the variety and number of challenges of colored pencils.

But let’s face it. For those of us who are die-hard colored pencil artists, the challenges of using colored pencils are part of their charm!

The Challenges of Colored Pencils

I’ve been making art with colored pencils for over twenty years. They’ve challenged my will, my problem-solving skills, and my discipline more times than I care to admit.

It often seems like every drawing presents a new challenge of some kind.

The Challenges of Colored Pencils

Here, in no particular order, are some of the challenges of colored pencils I’ve discovered (and sometimes overcome.)


Do you know what search engine word is used most often in bringing people to this blog? Blending.

And do you know why? Because it’s so difficult!

Colored pencils blend beautifully by layering one color over another. That’s because they’re translucent. You can see through the various layers no matter how many layers are on the paper. All those colors combine to make new colors and it can be glorious!

But it’s also time-consuming (see the next item.)

So artists are always looking for better, newer, and faster ways to blend. Some are great. Odorless mineral spirits and powder blender, for example.

Some are good only if you’re not making fine art.

But there is now and probably always will be an avid search for the perfect blending method because blending colored pencils is such a challenge for so many!

Especially blending methods that are faster or more thorough than simply layering.


Let’s face it. Using the words “speed” and “colored pencils” together is rather like pairing “speed” and “turtle” in the same sentence. The thought just doesn’t compute.

Colored pencils are a slow medium. There’s no way around it. Even with solvent blending, it can take weeks to complete a large, complex piece. Think about it. You still have to put color on the paper one stroke at a time.

And it’s not like you can make bigger strokes by using a bigger pencil. Colored pencils aren’t like brushes. There isn’t a “wash” pencil, for example. No #20 colored pencil or a half-inch shader pencil.


Colored pencils are all like #000 Liners. Made for fine details. Not broad washes!

If you’re going to use colored pencils, you have to be prepared for s-l-o-w.


The fine artists among us are concerned not only with creating great pieces, but creating pieces that look just as bright and vibrant in twenty years or more as they look the day they’re finished.

That can be a challenge depending on the pencils you buy and the colors you use.

You see, some colors are fading by nature. Pinks and purples are notoriously bad for fading across almost all brands. There are a few brands with light fast pinks and purples, but they’re the more expensive brands.

While some brands of pencils are more reliable, with fewer fading colors, they all have some colors that are less permanent.

Finding ways to work with those colors and minimize potential damage is one challenge facing many colored pencil artists.

Finding ways to work without those colors, is the challenge for many of us.


Framing is another challenge for a lot of colored pencil artists. Because colored pencils are usually used on paper, the artwork needs to be protected. The means a rigid back board to protect the artwork from behind, and glass or something similar to protect it from the front.

You want a spacer between artwork and glass, so that also means at least one mat and sometimes two or even three.

Then there’s the frame.

All of that costs money, especially if you’re framing for an exhibit. The challenge here is finding the right balance between a professional frame and a reasonable cost.


Selling any kind of artwork can be a challenge. Most of the time, it’s not what most people consider “necessary,” so if finances are tight, art is among the first things to go.

Selling colored pencil art can have additional charges if all people think of when they hear “colored pencil” is grade school.

And then there’s the added cost of special framing (see above.)

Selling any kind of art is a challenge, but selling colored pencil art sometimes seems to have its own unique set of challenges.

What About You?

Those are a few of the challenges of colored pencils that have confronted me over the years. Maybe your biggest challenge is on that list.

Or maybe it’s something else altogether? If so, share your biggest challenge in the comments below. Maybe someone else can show you how to overcome it!

How the Kittens are Doing

When I first posted about becoming the caregiver for an orphaned kitten four weeks ago, some of you expressed an interest in periodic updates. So today I want to let you how the kittens are doing.

How the Kittens are Doing

There’s plenty to tell. Most of it is good. Some is not so good.

How the Kittens are Doing

The original three kittens are getting along famously. They’re all now too big to weigh on my husband’s triple-beam balance. They’re eating solid food on their own, and wandering pretty much all over the house (and work desk.)

1fffffff[ddddddddd0f1ys[]=6o5p6 yyyyyyyy***************
Translation: Kitten 2 says hello!

How the Kittens are Doing - The First Three Kittens
The first three kittens. Kitten 1 (left front,) Kitten 2 (aka Admiral Perry), and Kitten 3 (back.)

Since that post, two more kittens were rescued from the tree where the mother cats were keeping them. Both had eye infections and flea infestations, so both got warm baths first of all, then warm food and warm beds.

How the Kittens are Doing - Kitten 4
Kitten 4 was one of the last two to come into the house.

Kittens 1, 3, and 4 are litter mates. Their mother started having them under the hedge in front of our house late in the afternoon of May 4. Fortunately, she allowed us to move her to safer quarters before kittens arrived, and she let me check them over and towel them if necessary as they were born.

That’s probably why she brought them to the front door when they fell ill. She had five in all. I have three of them, and she is caring for the fourth (the only surviving female.)

The other two kittens were born to the sister of the first mother cat about a week later. The only ones I’ve seen of that litter are Kittens 2 & 5 (now in my care,) and one kitten I found deceased.

Almost All is Well Health-wise

All of the kittens have been to the vet for initial checks, and four of them spent time on antibiotics for respiratory infections of one degree or another. One or two were worse than the others, but none were life-threatening. All have recovered.

How the Kittens are Doing - Kittens 2 & 5
These two are litter mates, born about a week after the first three. Kitten 2 is on the left. Kitten 5 appears to have been born with a defective eye or suffered an injury of some type. He has questionable sight in the good eye, but it hasn’t slowed him down in the least.

They all had eye infections, too. That seems to have been the status quo with this group. We wonder if the mothers’ washing didn’t pass that along from one kitten to the next, especially since both mothers took care of both litters from the start.

The One Less than Ideal Situation

Kitten 5 was in the worst condition when he was rescued. Both eyes were infected and he had dirt and tree debris stuck to the left eye. The vet wasn’t sure if the kitten had been born with a defect or had been injured. The only thing that was clear was that the kitten couldn’t see.

How the Kittens are Doing - Kitten 5
Kitten 5 a day or two after he was rescued.

After two weeks of twice daily treatments with Terramycin, the right eye is doing much better. It’s still not normal, but Kitten 5 can see.

The left eye, however, has sealed over. We still don’t know whether the problem was a deformity, injury or infection, but things appear to be settling down and healing in a way that hopefully will not cause further problems.

Kitten 5 runs and plays with the others, is just as fierce in play, and is eating well. The only thing he’s not as confident about is jumping down from heights. Climbing is okay. Getting down? Not so much.

Other Than That….

Three of the past four weeks have passed in a cycle of 3 to 6-hour feedings around the clock.

In the last week, the older kittens (six weeks old this past Friday) began eating solid food. The younger kittens (five weeks old this past weekend) also began eating solid food. Most of them still drink formula sometimes, but in decreasing quantities. So Foster Mother Cat (me) has fewer duties and can now sleep through the night.

They’re all using a litter box (hooray!) and they’re all more than just a little active. We’re having to watch where we step now, and Max, my last raised-by-hand project, isn’t quite sure whether to play with them or avoid them like the plaque. For the time being, he’s opting for avoidance.

(Although I have seen him watching them from the back of the couch or across the room. He wants to play, but doesn’t want to “get involved.”)

Naming Five Kittens Hasn’t Been So Easy

The fact of the matter is, I decided early on not to name them. Sooner or later, I thought, names would come to mind. And it was—and still is—my hope to find homes for these guys before they outgrow their cute.

So the kittens are Kitten 1, Kitten 2, Kitten 3, Kitten 4, and Kitten 5. Named in order of entrance into the household. That’s even how their files are labeled at the vet clinic!

Kitten 2 explores and wanders more than the others, so I sometimes call him Admiral Perry. An interesting name that seems to fit him, but it hasn’t stuck so far.

Kitten 5 is sometimes Fiver.

All of them are sometimes Hey You or You Guys.

So much for imagination!

That’s how the kittens are doing as of this weekend. If all continues to go well, they’ll be getting their first shots as soon as all of them are old enough, and then I’ll start the process of finding adoptive homes.

How the Kittens are Doing - All Five Together
The gang’s all here, enjoying the last day of Spring.

Are Prismacolors Right for You?

There’s been a lot of back-and-forth about Prismacolor pencils over the last several years. Some artists love them; some hate them. After all the debating, you have only one question. Are Prismacolors right for you or not?

Are Prismacolors Right for You

Last week, I shared reasons you might want to try colored pencils.

This week, it seems appropriate to answer some of the more common questions about Prismacolor pencils, and give you tips for deciding whether or not Prismacolor pencils are right for you.

A Little Bit of History

I started using Prismacolors back in the 1990s, when they were Berol Prismacolor. There was no better pencil so widely available (in the US at least) at reasonable prices. They were a high-quality pencil and problems like breaking leads, split casings, and off-center pigment cores were unheard of.

At least I never heard of them.

I had no problems with the pencils. They were perfect for the work I was doing, which was almost exclusively horse portraits.

Sometime since then, Prismacolor changed hands. Berol sold the brand to Sanford, which subsequently sold the brand to Newell-Rubbermaid. Manufacturing changed location and artists began having problems shortly afterward.

I used Prismacolor throughout all those changes, and to be honest, I had very few problems with them. One batch of Indigo Blue pencils were so gritty I couldn’t use them. Some pencils did break during sharpening or drawing, and there were a few that broke so much, they were useless.

I did discover (or maybe started noticing is a better way to say it) that quite a few pencils had off-center pigment cores, and I learned still later that sharpening problems often result from off-center cores.

More recently, I started finding pencils that were warped. Fortunately, I usually buy open stock from a local suppler, and learned how to check for warped pencils, so that problem was solved.

But overall, I’ve had relatively few problems with Prismacolor pencils.

Then came the spring of 2017.

The Case of the Fugitive Pencils

Early in 2017, I started hearing a word that aroused concern. Lightfastness. Specifically, the poor lightfast ratings of many Prismacolor colors.

I believe I mentioned that I was using colored pencils almost exclusively for portraits, right? Portraits people were paying a good amount of money for.

I’d also started doing landscapes, which I hoped to sell.

So it was discouraging to discover some of my favorite blues and greens, as well as a number of other colors, were fugitive. They faded over time, even in the best conditions.

How permanent were all those portraits I’d created? Would I start hearing from clients about disappearing portraits? It still gives me a twinge of concern thinking those thoughts!

So I went through my pencils, and sorted out all the fugitive colors. The pile of safe colors was almost the same size as the pile of fugitive colors, but I confess I erred on the side of caution. I threw out everything rated III, IV, or V.

I still use the other colors and I still love the way they go onto paper and the effects I can get. But I miss colors like Sky Blue Light, Light Cerulean Blue, and Limepeel.

But I refuse to use them for anything except sketching and filling in my monthly habit tracker.

All of That to Say This….

What does that mean to you?

It means that what I’m about to say is being said from the standpoint of personal experience. Nothing more, nothing less.

You want to know if it’s safe to use Prismacolor pencils or not, and I’m here to tell you it is.

Depending on what you want to do with your art.

Are Prismacolors Right for You?

So how can you know if Prismacolors are good deal or not?

You Color for Fun and Relaxation

If adult coloring books are your thing, are Prismacolors right for you? Absolutely. Go ahead and invest in that full set of Prismacolor pencils.

I don’t do very much in the adult coloring book line—I don’t have much time, to be honest—but I have read plenty of articles about the subject written by artists who do. Almost to the artist, they recommend Prismacolor because of the smooth color lay down, wide variety of colors, reasonable cost, and availability.

Are Prismacolors Right for You - Adult Coloring Pages

I recommend Prismacolors, too, and for all the same reasons.

In fact, when I doodle with a coloring page, I often use those fugitive colors.

You’re Crafty

You’re making greeting cards, scrapbooking, or doing other crafty things. Color permanence doesn’t concern you.

Color selection, ease of use, and price do.

Prismacolors are probably your best choice. There are over 150 colors. They lay down like a dream, and blend beautifully. You can get them almost anywhere in the United States, and in most cases they’re a good value.

Are Prismacolors Right for You - You're Crafty

They’re also artist-grade, which means pigment quality is high. That means you’ll get a lot more color per pencil than you’d get if you purchased student-grade pencils.

You’re New to Colored Pencils

You think you’ll enjoy colored pencils, but you don’t know. You’re not interested—right now—in making art for sale. You just want to draw.

You also don’t want to spend an arm-and-a-leg on something you may not enjoy.

But you want to try the medium with the best quality tools you can find.

Prismacolor is the answer. They offer students and beginning artists the best combination of quality and value around. Yes there are better pencils, but they’re more expensive.

Are Prismacolors Right for You - You're New to Colored Pencils

And there are cheaper pencils, but they’re lower quality. Even if you get them at a bargain basement price, you may soon find they don’t put much color on the paper or are a struggle to use for other reasons.

Prismacolor is, in my opinion, the only way to go if this describes you.

You Make Fine Art, but Sell Reproductions, Not Originals

The fact of the matter is, you often keep your originals yourself because you like them so much, or you give them to family members or friends. What you sell are reproductions.

Most reproductions are made with lightfast inks, so the lightfastness of the pencils does not matter. At. All.

Use every pencil in the set, lightfast and not-so-lightfast. Get top-notch photographs or scans of the finished pieces, and sell reproductions to your heart’s content!

Then give the original pieces to whomever you like, or hang them on your own walls.

Just make sure to advise friends and family to frame those works of art under UV resistant glass and never, never, NEVER hang the art in direct sunlight.

By the way, the same applies if you make art mostly to teach others.

So Are Prismacolors Right for You?

Prismacolor pencils are perfect for uses like those described above, as well as many others I didn’t touch upon.

In other words, if you don’t care to sell your originals, it doesn’t really matter whether they fade away with time or not. It seems a shame to me to put that kind of time into something that will fade whether you sell it or not, but it’s really up to you, the artist.

Are Prismacolors right for you? You’re the only one who can make that decision. Consider your type of art, your budget, and all the other options, then go forth boldly and make something beautiful!

Not the Usual Tuesday Post

You won’t have to read far to realize this is NOT the usual Tuesday post. The fact of the matter is, the title gives it away!

I thought about not posting at all, and just letting things fall into place on their own.

Not the Usual Tuesday Post

Then I remembered my reaction when one of the artists I follow on YouTube seemed to suddenly disappear. Being a creative person with a fiction writer’s imagination, all sorts of explanations came to mind.

None of them were good, and every one was worse than the one before!

Not the Usual Tuesday Post

I don’t want to leave you in the same position.

So a brief explanation is in order.

Physical Ailments

Last Thursday, I hurt my back in some way. I don’t remember doing anything in particular. I do remember the twinge that turned into something more throughout the morning and afternoon. By the end of the day, it was all I could do to get up out of a chair.

You know what that meant.

No drawing.

Not much writing.

Lots of taking things easy, and a lot of taking two, three, and four times as much time as usual to do normal things.

Unexpected Responsibilities

Two of our friendly community cats had kittens recently. Thursday of last week, one of those kittens was brought to our front door. I monitored its progress throughout the day, but although the mother cat stayed around, she did very little with the kitten. At the end of the day, my husband and I decided it was officially an orphan and took over it’s care.

Sunday, another one appeared, and yet another was squalling on the front porch Monday morning.

The first kitten is doing well. Eating on its own and old enough to start thinking about using a litter box.

The third one is the same age, but is not yet eating on its own. It’s eyes aren’t even open.

The middle kitten is much smaller, probably about two weeks old. It is not eating on it’s own either. I’m having to feed Kitten 2 and 3 with a dropper, bit by bit.

What All This Means for You, My Loyal Reader

A bad back I could handle and keep up with most of my work.

I could manage orphaned kittens and keep up with most of my work, too. I’ve done both before.

But having a bad back, and orphans to care for (and three-hour, 24-7 feeding cycles) is making it difficult to do more than just the basics. Add a little sleep deprivation and you get the picture.

So for the time being, I’m planning to post here on a reduced schedule. I sincerely hope to get one post a week out, but if I miss a Saturday, you now know why.

Unless, of course, you’d like kitten updates. Then I’ll have plenty to write about!

In the Meantime

Thank you so much for your patience, and your loyalty. It’s been an interesting few days, and there’s the possibility of it getting even more interesting.

There always is!

Check out the most popular posts and pages to the right for good reading. If you’re hankering for a full length tutorial, check out the tutorials page.