Mixed Media Joy

I love mixed media – I can get the best of every world, if I wanted to do so. Currently, I’m obsessed with Polychromos over acrylic. Armed with my new airbrush, I’ve been delving into mixing paints and colours, and brandishing those color pencils like there’s no tomorrow.

My favourite piece of art at the moment is the penguin I completed with exactly the method I mentioned above.

I’ll replace this terrible photo with a quality one soon enough.

I also have a couple other works in progress:

This elephant is only a couple layers short of being finished, and I might add a background to really bring him forward.

The cardinal is a few layers from being finished, as well as a few pine needles short.

Stay tuned for prints going on sale soon!

Acrylic vs Oil Paintings

It’s a question that I had not so long ago; what’s the difference between acrylics and oils?  Is one better than the other?  I used to think that an artist had to use oils to be a top-dog artist, because oils are what we most often hear about when people discuss paintings.

Let’s go over some of the differences.


  • Water based
  • Dry quickly
  • Can be cleaned with just water
  • Use Polymer to increase flow
  • Can require a retarder to extend drying time
  • Tends to dry semi-dull

My apologies for the slightly blurry photo below; this was taken while the paint was still wet, and was taken with a cell phone (bad bad, I know).

Acrylic on hot press watercolor paper
Acrylic on hot press watercolor paper


  • Well, they’re oil based
  • Take forever to dry (at least a day between layers, and a couple days for a full painting)
  • Have to use paint thinner/spirits, along with soap and water to clean
  • Use linseed oil or the like to increase flow
  • Can require drying mediums to speed up drying time
  • Tends to dry with rather vibrant colours

This is a mostly finished oil painting under bad lighting (I never claimed to be a photographer).

Oil painting on artist board
Oil painting on artist board

Some people love the longer dry time of oils (more time to work a painting over and over until it’s just right), while other people hate it (so much wait time between layers!).  I lean more toward the dislike of the long drying time, because I’m someone who wants instant gratification.  Just the other day, I actually leaned over an oil painting I had done about a day and a half previously (dumb) and…. You guessed it – I got oil paint all over the front of my shirt.  Good thing it wasn’t a final painting, or I would have been very sad!

The other point that people tend to debate over the most is the vibrancy of the paintings when dry.  You will notice that above, I mentioned that acrylics tend to dry with less vibrancy than oil.  This is totally true; however, acrylic paintings should be varnished when completed.  If using a semi-gloss varnish, the colours of the acrylic paint will come out just as if they were oil colours.  There’s really no big loss there at all, and obviously, the varnish is there to protect the painting, so it’s not even an extra step in the process.

Oils on artist board
Oils on artist board

Something that a lot of people don’t consider is that oil paints can be used over acrylic paints (or even watercolor)!  True story.  Finishing off an acrylic painting with oils can add that little extra something that people sometimes feel is missing from an acrylic painting.  Keep in mind, though, that water based paints cannot be applied over oil based paints (separation issues – you understand); only oils can be applied over water based.

Fascinating, isn’t it?



How Long Does it Take to Draw a Portrait?

Whenever I present a finished piece, one of the most commonly asked questions is, “How long did it take you to draw this?”

This is an important question to many potential clients, because if the person is considering commissioning a portrait, he/she has every right to know what kind of value he/she is getting for the money being paid.  The tricky part is, though, that some portraits will only take around 6 or 7 hours, while others will take 15-20 or more.  It all depends on the details, the size, and the medium.

The average 8×10 graphite dog portrait will take me between 11-12 hours to complete; a dog portrait in colour would take maybe a little bit longer, but also costs me more in materials, because the paints and pencils I use for my pieces are not cheap.

Viewers often look at YouTube speeddrawing videos and think, “I can’t believe that probably only took the guy like 15 minutes!”


Those amazing drawings that you see on YouTube take hours and hours to do.  The sped-up aspect to the video creates the illusion that the artist did the drawing fairly quickly, but is speeding it up so that you don’t have to watch him/her work for 15 minutes at a time.  That’s absolutely not the case!  Most of those artists spend a minimum of 4-7 hours per drawing for smaller pieces, and significantly more for larger pieces!  The end result is incredible, of course, and that’s because a lot of time and attention to detail was granted to the piece.

Oh, You Lovebirds

All week I was craving to do some watercolor work. I have no idea why – painting isn’t my strong suit! Or is it?

I sat at my kitchen table with my margarine container full of water and my new watercolor palettes mocking me while I considered a project. I wanted something colorful, but less on the abstract side. What to do?

About 5 hours later, I’d produced about 2/3 of my painting.

One is still looking like a naked chicken, but the other is looking mostly good! Still a few more details to work out, but hey, even artists have to sleep sometime.

Is it cute? I believe so. And watercolour! It’s almost enough to sate the cravings. 

Faber-Castell Polychromos

For artists, just reading the title of this post alone causes a sudden intake of breath.  Polychromos!  The Midas pencils of the universe.  Well, for some, anyway.

For everyone else, a glance at Polychromos pencils would draw out the words, “Pencil crayons???”  Ahem.  No, not pencil crayons – COLOURED PENCILS (with the ‘u,’ because I’m Canadian).

What’s the difference?  Well, my dear friends, pencil crayons are crayons in pencil form!  They’re waxy, lack pigment, and little kids love them.

Coloured pencils, on the other hand, don’t necessarily contain wax (like Polychromos by Faber-Castell!).  In fact, Polychromos pencils are oil based, so they blend and mix beautifully, with no waxy build-up.  Incroyable!

I’ve been doing some experimenting, since I’m new to these goddess pencils, and I have found that Polychromos over watercolor are absolutely stunning.  They are rich and brilliant!  Oh, so happy.  I’ve also experimented with blending the pencils using both paint thinner and baby oil (baby oil is oh-so-much better).  The results are just beautiful.

If you haven’t seen my dream catcher piece yet, it’s a mixed media piece involving watercolor, ink, watercolor pencils, and Polychromos!  It came out bright and vivid, and I must say that I’m a big fan.

Going Crazy…

It’s important to have the right tools for the job, but sometimes obtaining those tools can be a real pain in the you-know-what.

I decided a while ago to start moving into coloured drawings, because color just adds a whole different dimension to artwork. Don’t get me wrong – I love graphite and charcoal. It’s amazing stuff; I just want to do something more.

I’ve been practicing coloured pencil drawings with Crayola (laugh it up) so that I could get a feel for the art and decide whether or not I like it. (Hint-I’m continuing with coloured pencils).

If you’ve ever used Crayola pencils, then you know that they’re kind of like junk. They’re cheap and made for kids, so what else can be expected? Anyway, they’re grainy, shiny, wax pencils, and not what I’m looking for.

I went on a quest. How on earth do people do drawings with coloured pencils and make the drawings look like paintings?


So quality is important.

After tons of research and YouTube videos, the choice came down to Prismacolor or Polychromos.

Guess what.

Prismacolors are wax based! Forget that noise; hence, I went online and purchased some Polychromos. Now we wait.

While waiting for these beautiful pencils, I’ve done up a couple of acrylic paintings. We all know that painting isn’t my strong suit, but hey, can’t be good at everything. 😊 

Drybrush Painting

It’s true – I said that I’d sworn off painting, and then I was like, “Well, now I’m excited to try painting again…” Then, of course, I didn’t proceed with doing anything, so ’round and ’round we go.

Well, guess what.  I was perusing Instagram (yes, Instagram – you can follow me here) and all these people had beautiful portraits with such amazing contrasts that I could hardly believe it.  How on earth did they do that?

Hahahaha.  With my nemesis, of course – OIL PAINT.  It’s a whole thing with using what is called drybrush technique with oil paint to paint these amazing portraits that look like they’re pencil drawn, except smoother and darker.  Amazing.

After watching a gazillion videos on the technique and stocking up on the items that I would need, I decided to take a portrait that wasn’t going the way I wanted it to and use it as my guinea pig for this incredible painting technique.

The result?

Happy Child - Oil Dry Brush
Happy Child – Oil Dry Brush

Well, I learned that I wasn’t quite sure how to do blond hair with black oil paint, so the hair was done in pencil, and I think it shows; however, the portrait as a whole came out rather nicely, if I do say so myself!  It looks like a technique that I will be continuing to explore in the future, and I hope to present many more portraits with this beautiful contrast.

“The Quick Sketch”

A few days ago I did up a “quick sketch” of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister (because, in my opinion, celebrities are good subjects for quick sketches) and posted the sketch to social media (G+).  One of the users of the site commented something akin to, “Quick sketch my ass – this took at least two hours.”  Okay, so maybe his comment wasn’t so brash, but that’s the gist of it.

But he’s right!  The sketch did take an hour and a half…. So why would I call it a “quick sketch?”

Because it was one.

Quick Sketch - Lena Headey
Quick Sketch – Lena Headey

The average drawing, depending on the subject, can take me 8-12 hours, maybe more if there’s some killer detail.  For me to do a drawing that is only 1-2 hours – that’s a really quick sketch!  You may notice that the eyes aren’t quite right, that the hair isn’t fully rendered, her eyebrows aren’t quite Lena Headey’s eyebrows; it’s not meant for perfection, it’s meant for practice.

It’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

Challenge Yourself – A List of Art Challenges

1) No-Erase Challenge – Do a complete drawing, but never use an eraser. Whatever becomes of your moving pencil shall be what it is, first take.

2) Squiggle Challenge – This probably isn’t the official name, but really, who cares? Draw some squiggles on a page, then make something out of them. Shade, connect lines, add an eyeball here or there… Voila!

3) Body Studies – No, I don’t mean sex ed. Pick a body part (hands are always fun) and start drawing. Try cartoon hands, realistic hands, etc. Create a hand that you’d like to hold!

4) Try different mediums! Drybrush, graphite powder, new pencils, pastels…. Just try something new.