Thursday, March 19, 2020

Spring Wreath Flourish Tutorial

I am always amazed at the meditative and peaceful process of offhand flourishing. Whenever I flourish, I am aware that my breathing gets a little deeper and all of my focus is on the paper in front of me. One of the definitions of flourish is "to bloom". Let me share this process of how to bring a spring wreath to bloom on your desk today.

The wreath design is just a suggestion. You can use any shape you want. A heart, a square, an oval. Absolutely anything. I used a circle template to transfer an outline in pencil. My paper was Strathmore vellum finish Bristol cut to 5" x 7". Supplies used for this design: Straight pen holder with  your favourite pen point, McCaffery Brown ink, Watercolour pencils, Watercolour, Pastels, Finetec Gold, Hot foil pen, Sakura Gelly Roll Clear Stardust pen and a little bit of stickles glitter glue for floral centres.

Once the outline is on the paper, I placed a small cluster of flowers randomly on the outline. The secret to clustering little floral bouquets is to allow the flowers to interfere with each other a little bit. I always tell my students to draw them a little too close for comfort. The florals are not predawn anywhere in pencil. I am using pure offhand flourishing techniques and building up the design one ink stroke at a time. 
You can see in the photo above how I begin to proceed around the outer shape of the circle. I am adding small cartouches in between the little clusters of flowers. The flowers themselves are very simple to do. You can go to my YouTube channel to see more of my flourishing which includes some florals. My festive flourish 2017 on the YouTube channel starts with a floral. 
Once the florals and flourished cartouche strokes are all the way around the design in ink you are ready for the colour stage of your design. I am using a Victorian Line and Wash technique for this wreath. The Line and Wash technique requires a waterproof ink which is why I used McCaffery Brown for this wreath. McCaffery Brown is always my favourite choice for this technique because the colour is so soft, Other inks that work for this particular technique are McCaffery Black, Old World Iron Gall, Ziller Buffalo Brown and Fox And Quill's Victoria Ink. If you are not going to use any watercolour on this design, you can use any ink at all.
The next stage of the design is to add your colour. I am starting with a very light application of water-colour pencil. I am using Staedtler Aquarelle for this wreath but any watercolour pencil will do. 
I started by colouring all of my leaves around the wreath in a medium spring green colour. I apply just a touch of the watercolour pencil near the base of each leaf. Once the green has been applied, I proceeded to add a touch of pink to the petals of the flowers just near the base. You want to avoid overly saturating the petals with the pigment.
You can see just how lightly the pigment is applied in the photo above. Once all of the petals and leaves have been given a light application of watercolour pigment, I use a very small watercolour brush and start to disperse the pigment with clean water. Once this first layer of colour is completed, you end up with a very gentle application of soft colour on your design. The ink will not bleed when water is added because you have used a waterproof ink.

My next stage is to heighten the colour a little bit. Using my watercolours and a very small brush, I will add just a touch of darker pigment near the base of each leaf and petal. I do this to start building a sense of dimension to the wreath.  My favourite green to use is Sap Green and my favourite pink is Quinachridone Rose. 

You can see how I coaxed some dimension from the petals and the leaves as I proceeded around the wreath. The question I usually get at this point is "when do you know you are finished?" There is no easy answer to that question. It looks fine the way it is but I know I can add a bit more sparkle to this piece. Using pastels, I then added a burnished background in soft pink and green. My final touches where to add some shadow strokes with Finetec gold ink. The last touches were a few hot foil dots in emerald green, some joyful strokes with the Sakura Gelly Roll Clear Stardust pen and some Diamond Stickles glitter glue in the centre of each blossom.  The wreath design is a bit more involved and time consuming than other flourishes. From start to finish I probably spent 45 minutes to an hour on this little flourish. 

The point is to enjoy the process and be absorbed in each of the details that you add to the piece. I hope you enjoy the process.  You can do this in so many different colours or experiment with your own favourite papers and inks. Just try it!! It is easier than you think. I am constantly reminding my students that offhand flourishing is the easiest of all pointed pen techniques to learn. It is far easier to learn than any script alphabet. I do teach this type of offhand flourishing online privately. You can email me at if you want details about The Artful Flourish course. Or, if you have any questions about this particular flourish, feel free to email me. I hope this flourish brings you joy and a touch of colour to your desk today. Sending hugs to you!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Gift of a Pause

I thought it would be good to add a second post this month. Many of my scheduled plans are on pause as my travel plans to teach 5 workshops this month have been postponed. Many of us are finding ourselves with some unscheduled changes to work with.  I have a very graphic imagination so I am being very careful about how much media I tune into right now. I want to share some joyful and very simple moments that might brighten your day as well.
The first crocus blooms are in the garden. They never fail to bring me a sense of delight. I worked as a florist for 18 years and never failed to see the wonder and beauty in a flower. Even now as pansy seeds continue to grow on my desk, they all contain such potential wonder as I anticipate their blooms. Delight yourselves in the beauty that surrounds you! If you look for it, you will find it.
For years, I did Victorian Embroidery, Needle tatting and crochet. I had a vague understanding of knitting but was not very proficient at it. This past winter, I have been revisiting it a bit and really have enjoyed the meditative moments it brings. This is a scarf in progress for my Dad. If you look closely you will see my cat Ron's feet on the coffee table. He loves pouncing at the yarn. It amazes me how long he can look at something and just sit and purr. Again, another moment of delight.
Painting pens is always a joyful activity but sometimes becomes stressful as I run out of time to do it. I have been able to take my time a bit more as I paint the pens and try new ideas. I still love the tiny details!
Finally, I had the pleasure of testing out a new detail brush. I am moving more toward synthetic brushes over sable and had so much fun painting this little sparrow. The words of the song " His Eye is on the Sparrow" kept going through my head as I painted the miniature. I remember singing it as a child  in Sunday school. Underneath the painting of the sparrow is a piece of hand crochet lace I found in our local antique shop. I still love rescuing old lace and was so thankful for whoever created this piece. Again, it brought me a moment of joy! I just wanted to share these few small things that brought me some joy and peace. I hope your day brings you some delight and beauty no matter where you are or what you are doing. Thank you dear friends for reading this blog, emailing me from time to time and being a huge part of the joy of my life! Hugs all around! 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Magic of March

I am so looking forward to spring. I couldn't resist planting some pansies on my studio desk and I am enjoying watching this emergent stage. Appreciate the little things...even slow beginnings. That seems to be the underlying wisdom and magic of March. As soon as I turn the calendar to March, I expect greenery and flowers but it will not be rushed.
Spring cleaning is just starting in my house and studio. I have just completed the IAMPETH 2020 workshop notes for The Alphabet Garden. Now I am working on the expanded handouts for my private students and guild workshops. It has been so good to study and glean from various sources. 
My style and technique continues to evolve as I work on this material but just below the surface of all the work that I do is a deep love of nature. It spills into all of my flourishes and painting. I just want to share the beauty and joy that it brings me. 
I am constantly reminded that the driving force of this work is really passion. Sometimes, inspiration is hiding and not easily found. Sometimes, we fail as we work on our projects or practice pages. Sometimes, deadlines feel like pure stress. Sometimes, we meet sadness on this journey that makes working difficult. Sometimes, it seems like I discard more work than I keep. So why do I keep showing up at my studio desk? I think the bottom line for me is that after all of these years with pen and brush, I remain intrigued. There is the desire to continue to learn. That desire has never diminished.
My encouragement to you this month is revisit the things you are passionate about. If you love practicing Spencerian in pencil, then practice in pencil. If you love drawing flowers, then draw flowers. If you love looking at books, then pull out an old favourite and go over the material again. My dear friend Brian Walker would constantly remind me that this was all "grist for the mill". Refresh yourselves in the things you are passionate about. Go slowly..and enjoy.