“Amongst The Lilies Fair” – still life drawing

A great big “Thank You” to DGG who has been kind enough to send me photos of her flowering garden plants. She has a nuclear green thumb so if anyone reading this is having problems with their garden, just send me an email and I’ll put you in contact ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

MATERIALS USED: Fabriano Artistico hotpress 300 gsm (140 lb) water-color paper; NITRAMย  HB and B grade charcoals; Generals compressed 6B charcoal stick; a blending stump and my very-special-blending-tool-that-I-like-to-keep-secret-but-am-going-to-reveal-anyway……a softened tea sponge (read below to find out why I use it)

I’ve discovered through lots of trial and error that I do not like using any kind of barrier paper (such as friskett) when rendering drawings that will have a darkened background that is used to enhance the subject(s) of a drawing.ย  I’ve learned to simply and carefully work around the borders with the drawing media and when it comes time to blend the charcoal to achieve a smooth even finish, then I resort to my softened tea sponge to do the job.



I discovered the use of tea sponges through trial and error and I’m glad that I decided to try them out as blending tools because they are by farย the bestย blending tool I’ve ever used for achieving a smooth even blend.ย  What is it about the tea sponge that makes it such a great blender?

Well, for starters, it has a stiff tooth-like surface that when moistened, becomes soft. Ifย  you squeeze as much of the water out as you can and then allow it to slowly air dry to the point it is barely damp to the touch, the teeth of the sponge are extremely pliable and this allows you to work the charcoal media down into the tooth of the paper itself.

It’s very similar to brushing your teeth. The bristles of the toothbrush work their way into the crevices of your teeth and gums, removing debris and food particulate that has become trapped. But when blending with the softened tea sponge, you DO NOT want to use pressure in order to blend. In fact, you want to use an extremely light and gentle touch and blend in circular motions, or simply back and forth when working along edges of subjects.

I can achieve some INCREDIBLE darks even with a regular B charcoal and a softened tea sponge. When you lay the charcoal onto the paper, the tooth of the paper pulls charcoal off your pencil or baton and holds it to the paper. However, that doesn’t mean that the charcoal particles have worked their way to the lowest valleys of the paper’s tooth.ย  This is where the tea sponge comes in handy, because the softened teeth of the sponge’s surface actually help push the charcoal down into the crevices and valleys of the paper.

Imagine a zipper. You have two sets of “teeth” that when pushed together in a stagnated way, they lock together and close the gaps that existed when they were separate pieces. So too the tea sponge and the paper’s tooth. You’ll quickly work the charcoal into the paper to the point it completely fills the tooth. The more dark charcoal you can put in those tiny crevices and valleys, the darker and more even your background will look.

Here’s the final result: (p.s. It looks way better in person)


Well, see you next time with a special portraiture.

Stay frosty!


8 thoughts on ““Amongst The Lilies Fair” – still life drawing

  1. Lovely, Mark! I was fortunate to see pix of the originals so that makes your rendition extra special – now – I cannot wait until you take that painting class and can do these lovely lilies in full color – oh – that would be marvelicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Say what???!! Is DGG going behind my back and showing you my reference photos? ๐Ÿ™‚ Ahhhhhh…I guess that’s okay as long as she doesn’t reveal the hiding place of Sasquatch. If she does THAT….then our friendship goes to a rental agreement only ๐Ÿ™‚

      I have some AWESOMESAUCE-O-LICIOUS news I need to let you in on, but I will do that in a separate message that won’t be public. I also need to tell DGG as well, because she will be tickled purple.

      Yes, I would like to learn how to paint….soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yippie! Cannot wait – think you will be good at it – tell you a secret – DGG posted pix on the Open Thread – so I am not the only one who has seen them – * Smile *


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