RBGE - Unit 3

Activities 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1 2.2 & 3

November 14, 2017 - Just wanted to sneak in and leave a brief message that Unit 3 of the RBGE begins this coming Thursday, November 16 - so make sure to pop in and see what I'm up to.  

I'm excited for Thursday, but to be honest, I have been experiencing a range of emotions during this little break.  Although I have completed a botanical composition in watercolor, it was last year at this time - and shortly after I sustained an injury to my right shoulder and have not been able to practice watercolor at all until recently.

During my watercolor practice of the last few days, I am finding that I am not even remotely good at it.  So, I have once again in this journey, found myself having to trust God and go forward.  I would like to say that is easy for me, but it really is not.  I am really struggling and want to step down from the RBGE.  But as I think about it, it has got to be my pride speaking and I am choosing right now to humble myself and seek the Lord in prayer and press on.

I want to be as real as possible for anyone reading this post right now.  This is not an easy course, but I have a feeling that it is going to be so worth it to push on to the end.

Here's my current practice...


Do you notice how my art desk looks like a mad scientist works here?  I'm definitely struggling - :)  See you on Thursday.



Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
— PROVERBS 3:5-6

Activities 1.1 & 1.2 - Tonal & Gradations

November 16, 2017 - I was very excited last night when I checked in with the RBGE and found that Unit 3 had been posted early! Surprisingly, all anxiety had been set aside and I had wonderful peace to begin Unit 3, Activity 1 right away.  

I don't know about you, but I have a really hard time just practicing on my good watercolor paper, but I simply have to do it in order to learn how the watercolor is going to react with the paper I am using for this course.

The suggested paper is Saunders Waterford, Hot Pressed, High White, 140 lb by St. Cuthberts Mill and I am using Winsor & Newton Professional 1/2 pan watercolor paints along with Winsor & Newton Series 7 Miniature and DaVinci watercolor brushes. So far, this seems to be the perfect combination.

For Unit 3, Activity 1 we have 3 things to do and I have completed the first two as you can see below.

Unit 3, Activities 1.1 & 1.2.jpeg

In Activity 1.1 I have used a blue, red and a yellow to mix and make a tertiary color - then I applied it to the first block and for each block after I added two drops of water until I reached the end of the row.

I don't know why, but the mixing of these three colors was not easy for me, so I ended up throwing away my first two pages - they just weren't working out.  But I feel good about it this time and have submitted it.  I need to keep moving on Activities each day since we have a total of 6 this time.  This Unit is not due until December 6, so I have a little time, but I don't like to procrastinate, and the hardest ones seem to come toward the end of each Unit. With that in mind, I want to move along and work on them each day for as long as I can.

All I know, is the practice is going to pay big dividends and that's what I want when it is all said and done.  I don't want to waste any of this class if I can avoid it.

Alright, I plan to be back tomorrow with Activity 1.3, but we'll see if that happens.  I'm working on geometric shapes and shading in watercolor... So cool!



P.S. If you are interested in applying for this botanical illustration course - you can find it here:   RBGE Online Certificate Course

November 18 - After a great conversation with some fellow students as to what exactly was required in Unit 3, Activity 1.2, I decided that it would be a good choice to add another practice page of this particular technique which is very important to understand and be able to perform.  It is a gradation of our watercolors from dark to light.

I used French Ultramarine, Indigo, Cadmium Red, Permanent Rose, Winsor Lemon and Cadmium Yellow - all Winsor & Newton Professional watercolors.  

Unit 3, Activity 1.2b.jpeg

Activity 1.3 - Painting in Monochrome

As soon as I completed this additional practice of Activity 1.2, I moved on to Activity 1.3.  I have listened to the tutorial that accompanied this Activity many times and have watched every stroke of the brush and listened closely to everything that was suggested and now I feel ready!

However, I had to take time to draw out some geometric shapes first.  To speed this process up, I printed out the recommended pdf and then traced each shape onto a piece of tracing paper - then I flipped the tracing paper over and traced over each shape from the back side with a 4B graphite.  Once that was completed I flipped the tracing paper over again and placed it carefully onto my watercolor paper.  At this point I used my H graphite to trace over the shapes until they filled my watercolor paper.  I did this, so that I can practice this technique over and over before I complete my final paper.  Here are the results so far...


You cannot see all the shapes covering this page, but I have filled every place I can fit a shape into.  The first four shaded on the top left have two washes of Payne's Grey - the next four on the top right have only one of the same.

Now I will continue to practice and will check back in when I have finished my final paper for this Activity.

Thank you so much for checking in to read about my journey in becoming a botanical illustrator.  It is so much funner with you joining me! If you have not done so already, remember to subscribe to my Newsletter below.  Thank you so much :)

Here's where I end tonight...




November 20 - Still practicing for Unit 3, Activity 1.3 - I am getting closer to feeling that I can complete an entire page of these shapes without any mess ups - but want to be sure and only practice can make that possible.  In this activity, I am working from light to dark with about four layers total - All wet in wet. The color I am using is Payne's Grey - and I love it!

November 23 - I have taken a bit of a break for Thanksgiving Day, but continued to practice when the time was available.  Now I feel ready to begin my final page for Unit 3, Activity 1.3 and I'm hoping I can get through all four layers and the final shading and smoothing on all 7 shapes without messing any of them up! :) 

Here is my practice page and my first layer on my final page with lots of notes so I don't forget.




November 23 - Well, I've been doing my best to get a lot of practice in, even while it's Thanksgiving weekend - which I know will really pay off in the end, but I was hoping to avoid having to get even more practice as a result of my paint brush suddenly flinging out of my hand and landing in the middle of my Activity 1.3! 

I quickly reminded myself that I wasn't totally happy with the way it was going anyways as I had just made a mistake at the bottom of the cone on the left and it was time to start over. 

Off to redraw my shapes and begin again... Is there anyone out there who can feel my pain!  Today is my personal deadline for having Unit 3, Activity 1.1, 1.2 & 1.3 done, so back to work I go, with a smile on my face and determination in my heart to press on.  I tend to work better under pressure, so we'll see how this goes :)


With prayer and perseverance I will get through this class and I will learn watercolor! I am determined :)



November 24 - Okay - redrew my shapes and I'm still at it and don't want to go to bed yet, I just feel that I need to keep working at it until I conquer this thing! I know I'm just about ready for a breakthrough!


Here's my first layer...


WOW! I think something is beginning to click!! It's 4:30 a.m. and I need to go to bed!! But seriously! I think I'm finally getting this! Ha!! Very excited!!


Yes! This is definitely a great place to take a break and get some good sleep! So excited! A breakthrough finally!!! WOW!!



November 25 - Back to a day of practice and I do feel like I'm getting better and better with each stroke of my brush.  My brush hasn't done a circus act today so that's good and here's what I have so far...


So I say it again... Practice makes art!  :)


Evening of November 25 - Well, I'm sorry to say that I have learned yet another hard lesson as this paper I have been working on tends to bleed at the edges and in the process of trying to save the edge of the sphere at the top right side, I totally messed it up.  The lesson is that I should have left it alone.  

The good news is my new St. Cuthberts Mill, Bockingford, hot pressed, watercolor paper has arrived today all the way from Jackson's in England, and it has the good reputation of not bleeding over the edges of the subject - so yes folks, I will begin again.

Don't feel bad for me. I am a first born girl and that makes me fairly persistent.  It does not bother me to begin again in order to get it right.  However, I do not have as many days to complete each activity in Unit 3 as I did when I first began.  With only 11 days left, I am slowly running out of time to complete the next four activities. You can probably guess I will be praying like crazy for God's help!

Here's my sad mistake and attempt to make it right...


And here's my third time of redrawing this composition of shapes, but on my new Bockingford watercolor paper :) Very excited to see how it does - Off to bed and I will begin again tomorrow after church!


November 26 - I am sad to say that the St. Cuthberts Mill, Bockingford, HP watercolor paper did not help the situation.  It is much smoother and it seems to not bleed around the edges quite as bad, however, it still requires a lot of water for the wet in wet technique.  It isn't bad paper, but it is quite different from the Saunders Waterford I have been working on, and I just don't have the time to master it right now.

Here's what I managed on the Bockingford...


My final decision regarding Activity 1.3 is to go back to my page with the last mistake and finish it.  It's not perfect, but I have learned so much from working this technique over and over again.  I am certainly better than when I first began - So here is my final scanned version of this activity for now...

Unit 3, Activity 1.3Final.jpeg

I also received some much needed thoughts and advice from my "Practice Makes Art!" group friend, Dolores, and when I get a chance to come back to this activity, I plan to really put into action the things she has so graciously shared. 

By the way, if you are an artist and need a small FB group to share your work with and be encouraged by, consider joining us at Practice Makes Art!

Tomorrow I am going to move on to get my final 4 activities completed by December 6, and if I should finish early and have time, I will revisit Activity 1.3 and see if I can improve it.  For now, all is quiet at the art desk. Good night! :)


Activity 2.1 - Modeling of Form in Monochrome

November 28 - It was such a good idea to decide to move on from Activity 1.3! I feel much better about it all now and I am ready to begin Unit 3, Activity 2.1!  I have chosen a new pear and have decided on my composition and I am to make a measured drawing in graphite, a monochrome painting of the pear with just the shading, and then another monochrome painting with all the imperfections found on my pear.

Below you can see my measured drawing at the top of my paper.

Once my drawing was completed, I then traced the drawing onto my tracing paper and then transferred it twice on the same page as my initial drawing.

After I have erased all measuring lines, I will use my putty eraser to lighten the graphite to barely visible.  I do this because once the water touches the graphite lines they are pretty much permanent - and I don't want to see them through the paint when it is completed.


I have taken some black and white photos to help me with my tones and shadows, and also some up-close photos of the stem, so I can see a bit more detail while doing my work.


I will be back soon to post my progress.  Thank you so much for taking time to visit and read my journey through the RBGE Certificate Course.  It is so much more interesting with you along with me!

If you are interested in checking out this course for yourself, you can visit their site at Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Oh, and don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter below - It will keep you posted in your email of what I have going on in this adventure/journey into becoming a botanical illustrator :)



Back a little earlier than I thought. I went ahead and mixed my paint - I chose to do a grey monochrome as we are supposed to choose between grey or brown.

I mixed a lot of Payne's Grey with a good touch of Alizarin Crimson & a few very small touches of Winsor Lemon until I got a nice grey.  Here are my first two monochrome wash layers... Not sure what I think. The edges are scaring me, but I feel confident that I can tidy them when I add my darkest layer...  Oh, I'm such a perfectionist! 

But I have managed to keep a good sized area for my highlight on the left end - that's new! Ha Ha!  I think I got this! :)


I'm going to let it dry for the night and continue tomorrow.  



November 29 - At the suggestion of my sweet friend, Victoria, I took a bit of a break today from my monochrome pear and did a free pear class with Anna Mason!  Although I haven't finished it yet, it has been light and fun and has really helped to get me refocused and ready to press on.  


I also got a much needed pep talk from another friend, Jackie, who always has good insights for me, and before I knew it I was ready to get back to work!


It's coming along slowly, but it's getting there :)  If you are interested in checking out the free pear video by Anna Mason and maybe even her online school which I have heard many good things about, you can catch her HERE.




November 30 - I've had a breakthrough (again), and I'm now in a groove of some sort.  Funny, I am moving along slowly in this technique, but I never really feel that I have a clear handle on it - I'm just doing it and things are happening - some good and some not so good. But with both, I'm learning new things and that's what matters right now.


The hardest part of watercolor are the two words that make this word!  Water and color!  But since we are not really dealing with color right now - it's mainly the water that is causing the trouble!  I keep thinking of the verses in Job 38 when God says to Job...

I think I know the One who can help me with this one :)



Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop?
— JOB 38:8-11

Activity 2.2 - Surface Pattern & Texture in Monochrome

December 2 - I have finally found a good time to work on my RBGE without any interruptions and I am very excited.  It is a big change for me, but it's worth the extra effort to be able to concentrate on my work.

The big change is that I have to get to bed before 10 pm! Believe me, this is a hard one! The easy part is I have to be up by 3:45 a.m. - I can then get my art desk ready and be able to focus completely from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.!! Four lovely hours of no interruptions!

So here's what I have accomplished this early morning while the rest of the family is fast asleep...  I added my first wash to my third and final pear for Unit 3, Activity 2.2


And while the first wash was drying, I went out to my backyard and found a leaf for Unit 3, Activity 3 - I noticed my Begonia still has some nice leaves on it and the veins are quite noticeable which makes it perfect for the next activity!  Here's the front...


And here's the back - Look how shiny! So beautiful :)


My first wash was dry, so I added a second being careful to not lose my highlight...


And while that was drying, I worked on a frame for my leaf...


Then I was able to add a third layer to my pear.  I have learned that it is absolutely crucial to allow each layer to dry completely!!!

While that dried, I put my leaf into my frame, and cut off the edges...


So, now I have added the first three layers to my third pear, which will be a completely rendered monochrome pear when I finish it and I have started on Unit 3, Activity 3 with my Begonia leaf!  I will need to have all of Unit 3 completed and turned in by December 6, and I feel pretty good about accomplishing this in the remaining time I have.

As you can see in the photo above, Activity 3 will be a scaled up, measured drawing of the front and back of a leaf (I have chosen a Begonia grandis) and it will also be painted in monochrome.

As I did when working a scaled up leaf in graphite prior, I have created a frame at 5cm x 5cm and I will then upscale the leaf to 10cm x 10cm.  On the left is the front of the leaf and right is the back side of the leaf. 

I will keep my leaf fresh by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and placing it in a container in the refrigerator.  It should keep several days in this manner - long enough to get my drawing and painting done :)


And I also take black and white photos so I can see the contrast between the shaded areas and the highlights.  Photos come in handy when your subject begins to wilt :)


Although this has nothing to do with my RBGE Certificate Course, I want to show you something I learned from a video I recently watched.  The video showed me how to re-grow Begonia plants through the leaves - So I thought it would be fun to try it with you...

You will want to have at least one healthy leaf to work with from the mother plant, a utility knife and a container with damp, fresh gardening dirt.


Now, using your utility knife, carefully cut small slits across a few of the veins like this...


Now carefully lay your leaf right side up onto your damp gardening dirt and lay some stones onto the leaf to help press down and keep the slitted areas near the dirt.  This is where the new roots will begin to grow. 

Place a lid on the container and keep inside near a window that gets sun exposure - not too hot though, and keep your leaf moist. 

I will keep you posted as to the growth of any new plants! Hopefully it will work :)


Thank you again for checking in on my botanical illustration journey - I love having you join me - it is very encouraging!



December 3 - Up early again and working on my third pear - I feel like it is coming along quite nicely.  Still working in washes here and there, beginning to add some detail areas, but mostly sticking to layering - Remembering to let it dry thoroughly.

I began my morning mixing some more of my grey color - which consists of lots of Payne's Grey, a touch or two of Alizarin Crimson and just a very little smidgen of Winsor Lemon. In mixing colors, I am learning to not add very much at all when trying to get it just right.  I have learned in the RBGE that in order to make grey, I need to first mix my blue and red to get a purple, then begin adding little bits of yellow - and in order to make brown, I need to mix red and yellow to get an orange first and then add little bits of blue.

I also drew the 10cm x 10cm boxes on my watercolor paper - and tomorrow I will draw out my Begonia grandis leaf front and back - and begin my washes on that as well.  I will need to have it all completed by Tuesday evening, so I can have Wednesday to do any last minute items if needed. Very happy with my progress at this point.  

My skills are not great in watercolor yet, but I can definitely tell that my daily practice is paying off.  My practice is making art! Yay!! :)

Here's what I have for today...  A few more layers, but in specific areas and watching my edges and not allowing harsh watermarks to develop by constantly smoothing with my damp, clean brush...


Then I drew out my two 10cm x 10cm squares to begin drawing the front and back of my upscaled Begonia grandis tomorrow...


And a few more layers and slight detailing on my pear :)

Have a wonderful Sabbath and I pray that all of your practice is making lots of beautiful art!



December 4 - Ended the day with a bit more done on my third pear :) Will hopefully finish up tomorrow!!


December 5 - Finally finished Unit 3, Activities 2.1 & 2.2 - Measured Drawing & Monochrome Painting of a Pear!! Yay :)


Activity 3 - Drawing & Monochrome Painting

On to Unit 3, Activity 3 which is due by tomorrow!!! It's a scaled measured drawing of the front and back of my Begonia grandis leaf in monochrome! So glad we are not working in colors until next Unit!! :)



December 5 - It was such a blessing to have my website mentioned in the Pacific Northwest Botanical Artists Newsletter today! 


So, I was finally able to continue from my two 10cm x 10cm boxes that I have drawn out and my 5cm x 5cm framed Begonia grandis leaf after a very busy day at our newly sold property!  It is late, but I am hoping and praying that I will be able to complete this leaf by the deadline of tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.!

Once again, I find myself trusting the Lord to help me through, and this is what I have so far at 10:46 p.m.!! Oh my!!


As you can see, I have increased my measurements of my leaf x2 and have drawn out the lines for the veins both front (left) and back (right) in the 10x10cm squares above.

I hope you will continue to check in periodically through tonight and tomorrow - as I will have to work on this leaf pretty much non-stop if I'm going to get it done.  I am only just learning watercolor, and as you probably know, it took me quite a few days to do the pear activities above... So here I go!

December 6 - Missed my 3:00 p.m. deadline!!! Ugh! 

Yes, we were given plenty of time to complete Unit 3, but I just couldn't get all of Unit 3 done with the recent sale of our farm and having to move all of our belongings from 2 acres to our small city home - and then there was the inspection which resulted in work orders that I had to find workers to fulfill as they had to be certified and then the appraisal today... The list goes on and on of things that have kept me from working on my RBGE during this Unit!

Here's what I was able to get done for Activity 3...


It was 5 a.m. this morning when I finally got the above portion completed and I just had to go to bed!  When I woke up this morning at 10 a.m., I decided to go ahead and begin the leaf again, but try a simpler approach to it in hopes I would somehow complete it by 3 p.m., but this is all I could get done...


So at 2:55 p.m. I went ahead and scanned in my work and submitted it.  At 5 a.m. I had also sent a message to my tutor in hopes that somehow I could be given a bit more time...

Overall I feel good about my work because I have finally learned how to work in watercolor! I completed a pear that looks way better than I ever thought I could do and I know I can finish my Begonia grandis too! 

This course is hard work, but anything worth achieving is going to be hard and that's a fact of life.  I will push on and hope that I will be given the opportunity to complete my leaf too.  That's it for tonight. :)

GREAT NEWS!!  My wonderful tutor, Sarah Roberts, has given me much grace and I now have the opportunity to continue working on my Begonia grandis over the rest of this week! I'm not sure that I will have the chance to get back to it by then, but it is nice to know that it is an option.  Thank You God for Your favor and Your wonderful mercy! :)




December 10 - In the midst of this crazy weekend, I was able to get a little more done on my Begonia grandis, so I turned that in to my tutor for the grading of my Unit 3.  Here's what I was able to do...


I do plan to come back to it as I can, but I don't want to take any more time away from beginning my Unit 4.  Thank you again for stopping by and I hope you find the information in my journey of becoming a botanical illustration useful for your own journey.  

The RBGE Certificate Course has been such a huge blessing for me as I have learned so much. I have made more progress in learning watercolor with this course than I have over the past year and for that alone I am very grateful and extremely excited to see where I will be at the end of this course come March 2018!

Because I was not able to complete the last activity of Unit 3, I have had quite a few people ask me if there is enough time given through the RBGE to get all the work done and the answer is, "Yes!"  The RBGE has given more than enough time to complete each of our activities and the activities are progressive in that we build upon what we have learned in each Unit, but life is still happening and we are in the midst of selling our farm which has required some extra work for me away from my art desk, and for that reason, I simply could not meet the deadline for Unit 3.

As you can read above, I asked for some extra time and I was very graciously given it. I am very happy with the way the course has gone so far and I highly recommend it. It is hard, but it is worth it. :)