My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lesson 25 - Tahitian Girl - Sky with Prismacolor Pencils

There is still time to enter the Contest to win the first print when this drawing is finished. See this link for details:

Here we go on the sky behind the clouds.

1. Start with White #938 and brighten the sun.

2. Now we go to the darkest area of sky. One mistake many people make is using colors that are too bright. We want the sky dramatic, but we don't want it stealing the show. So use Slate Gray #936 in the upper left area. Slate Gray has blue tones, but is very earthy and won't make your blue too bright. Don't worry, we'll add some more color over it later.

3. Now go to the lower area and use Cream #914. Like the Slate Gray, Cream is an earthy color and not overly bright. Rough in some light sunrays, too.

4. Now to warm it up some more. Using Lilac #956, which is a very mellow purple, go over the Slate Gray and feather your Lilac down almost (but not quite) into the sun area. We're going around, but not touching the sunrays, which are beginning to stand out.

5. Now we can see where we want more pure color. Go back with True Blue #903 over the upper area, feathering it into the colors below, but not quite going to the bottom.

6. We'll add a deeper yellow also. Using Deco Yello #1011, which is still a somewhat mellow yellow (but stronger in color than Cream), warm up the area around the sun and feather up. I'm going over the sunrays, too.

7. Okay, we're ready to smooth it out. Using a Colorless Blender #1077 and White, touch up the rough spots and mellow out the sunrays.

Next week, the mountain!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Rarest Thing I Almost Touched

When I was about nine or ten years old, my older brother came running up to me with a covered bucket and a glint in his eye.

(Warning, brothers, buckets, and glints are not good signs.)

“Look what I have,” he said.

I knew it was a test. I got plenty of those since I was female and younger. I was also stubborn and didn’t want to fail.

So I looked.

Now you have to give me credit. I didn’t scream. I didn’t run. But my heart was pounding in my eardrums.

If I had screamed and ran, then he would have chased me with the thing. So I casually draped my hand on the edge of the bucket, my fingers hanging just inside, just far enough so I could jerk them out if the thing moved, but also far enough in to prove I wasn’t scared.

I don't remember exactly what I said, but it must have been something like: "Whoa. Cool! Where'd you find that?"

Apparently I passed the test, because my brother left me alone.

So what was the thing laying a mere 8 inches below my hand? Well, I don’t really know, even now. But I do know it’s very rare, and it didn’t belong in Montana.

It was a worm-like blind, white snake. And it was hard to tell the head from the tail, because the tail looked just like a head. This picture is very close to it:

If I remember right, it was bigger than the biggest worm I’d ever seen, yet smaller than a garter snake – maybe ten inches to a foot long.

All these years later, even with the wonders of the internet, the closest I’ve come to identifying it is it’s either a Xenotyphlops, a Typhlopiae or a Ramphotyphlops braminus (all blind worm-like snakes of varying colors) and none of them like the cold.

My brother found this one deep under a rock when he was digging out a new fort.

Soon all my siblings had to run the same test.

But the crowning moment came when they called our mom out. Yup, she screamed. Yup, she jerked. No, she didn’t run. (Even if she had, my brother wasn't crazy enough to chase her with it.)

But she did back up and demand that whatever that crazy thing was, take it FAR, FAR away and don't bring it back--EVERRRRR.

And you don’t mess with Mom, so off it went.

But I have some wonderful images burned on my brain, and every so often, I pull them up and enjoy them once again. But I think I would have had an entirely different take if I'd failed the test . . .

Oh, well. Thank heavens for small blessings.

So, what's the craziest thing you found during your childhood?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lesson 24 - Tahitian Girl - Sun-Lined Clouds with Prismacolor

1. We're ready to do the low clouds. First use White # 938 to outline the highlights.

2. Take Cream #914 to add the highlights that aren't stark white.

3. Now we're ready for the dark, dramatic shadows using Warm Grey 70% # 1056.

4. We'll add the main tone, Parma Violet #1008 over the grey, pushing harder in the areas where the clouds thicken.

5. Now, we'll add a subtle red into the cloud-tops using Beige Sienna #1080. They're coming alive.

6. To really add some heat, we'll take Sand # 940 along the bottom of the clouds, making sure to gently taper our color up.

7. Okay, we have all the colors we want. Now it's time to use the Blending Stick # 1077 to smooth and blend our colors. Go back with white and cream to touch up and soften the bottom and top edges of the clouds.

I can hardly wait to put the sky behind it, but that will have to wait for next week. Doing a flat area is the biggest challenge with Prismacolors. It takes a lot of patience and very smooth, even strokes. Come back and see how to do it next week!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Real Robinson Crusoe Was a What?

Did you know that Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe, was based on an actual person and a real island?

What is fascinating is the real Robinson Crusoe was a PIRATE. Really. His name was Alexander Selkirk, and he was castaway in 1704 on the San Juan Islands just 400 miles west of Chile. (It's also called Robinson Crusoe Island now.)

And it isn't ugly.

And it's fairly descent sized. And it does have goats. But for Alexander, there was no reformed-cannibal 'my man Friday' to befriend and help him. He was on his own.

Other than falling off a cliff - which he did, the greatest danger Alexander faced was getting caught by people who'd turn him in for being a pirate. He hid from two Spanish boats that landed. Eventually, after four and a half very lonely years, he managed to escape on a privateering boat.

So now we know the real story. I see why it  inspired Daniel Defoe to write his book. Makes me want to visit this island . . . or write a pirate book of my own. Hm. Sounds kind of fun.

If you'd like to read the extended wikipedia vesion of Alexander's story, click here:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lesson 23 - Tahitian Girl - Storm Cloud with Prismacolor Pencils

If you've followed the previous weeks, I'm sure you'll see the pattern of drawing with Prismacolor Pencils:
First, Highlights
Then, Shadows
Then, the Main color
Finish with Accents.

This week still follows that pattern.

Here we go:

Step 1: Highlights: Use Cream #914 on the underside of the top cloud. Sorry, this photo turned out blurry. Click on it to get a closer look.

Step 2: We're still in the highlights. Use Peach #939 above the cream, going slightly into the cream, and putting a light layer about halfway up into the cloud.

Step 3: Ready to get dramatic? Bring on the Shadows with Warm Grey 70%, #1056. Keep your pencil sharp and you won't have to fight the texture of the board/or paper so much. Taper and soften your strokes as you come to the bottom of the cloud, feathering the grey into the Peach and Cream.

Step 4: Want to get more dramatic? Add the main color, Violet #932, again softening your strokes and feathering into the highlighted bottom. 

Step 5: Okay, let's go back and reemphasize the highlights. Put in another layer of Peach along the cloud bottoms, feathering it into the cream and slightly into the Violet above.

Step 6: Do the same thing with Cream from the very bottom edge of the cloud, feathering it into the Peach and Violet.

Step 7: We're ready to smooth it out. Using your Colorless Blender #1077, blend everything, filling in the holes. Again, keep it sharpened and it will go smoother.

Voila! Look how it makes the highlighted leaves stand out.

Next week: More of the sky.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Like many people in the world, I've been following the events in Japan. The tsunami videos are bone-chilling, and the aftermath is catastrophic. This is a world event, and I felt like I needed to call my younger children in and talk about it. It's not easy, but it's far easier for us, than for the people of Japan.

Some years ago, a neighbor's husband and son disappeared. Her husband flew a small airplane, and authorities weren't sure where it went down. The search area was huge, and even after she and her extended family looked every weekend for months, there was still no sign. Winter came and they had to stop. The time arrived when she knew all chances of finding them alive were gone.

I've never seen such pain. She couldn't go anywhere without someone stopping her to talk about it. I don't know if I could have handled that, but she kept going. Neighbors and the community rallied around her. Everyone tried to do what they could. In the spring, hunters found the airplane and remains in a remote region. Finally, the family gained some closure, although the loss never went away.

I can only imagine that's what it's like for so many in Japan. I'm sad for the thousands who are missing, and the friends and family aching to know, hoping for a miracle. And there have been a few. I'm so happy for each rescue. I'm also heartened by the many nations around the world pledging support and sending teams to their aid.

For your loss, and all the repurcussions of this disaster, our hearts and prayers go out to our neighbors in Japan. I hope you know we care, because we do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lesson 22 - Tahitian Girl - Clothing with Prismacolor Pencils


Just a reminder. We're only a few weeks away from finishing this drawing and announcing the winner. The winner gets the first print print of my finished Tahitian Girl drawing. See the link above for instructions on how to enter.

Now, back to the art lesson.

We're ready to tackle cloth. I want it to have warm tones, so, other than the first grey layer, I've chosen my colors to reflect that. Cloth is really fun to do. There are folds, deep shadows, sharp highlights, colorful midtones, and it will reflect colors of the skin as well. Are you ready?

Step 1: Take French Grey #1074 and put in the shadows. In the shaded are just below the bottom of the neckline, I'm barely shading a spot where light will be showing through. I'm also leaving a spot on the right shoulder where light is hitting. It's fun seeing it come through, even this early. Wait until we add color!

Step 2: I'm still adding shape to the cloth, but also adding color. Using Light Umber #941, lightly shade the entire surface, except for the upper left shoulder where the brightest highlights will be.

Step 3: Now I'm ready for the main tone. I'm using Ginger Root #1084 to go over everything again, except for the upper left corner. Now, I've done this enough, I know that my final layer will be white, which will lighten whatever is under it, so I need to shade a bit darker than I want it to be.

Step 4: My shadows have been mellowed by the Ginger Root. To add more color and warmth, use Sienna Brown #945. It's a rich brown that will add a lot to the drawing. But be sure to go lightly. It can overpower the shadow if you're not careful.

Step 5: Okay, now the shadows look good, but need to be darker. Use Dark Umber #947.

Step 6: Now take Ginger Root again, and add a fairly heavy layer. Smooth out the cloth using a Blending Stick #1077. We're almost done.

Step 7: I love it when I get to this step. Now we're ready to make the highlights pop. Using White, hit all the areas not in shadow on the left, and along the neckline. Also skiff the highlighted spot on the right shoulder. Use Sienna Brown to accent any shadows that you want to warm or emphasize.

Ooh, I can hardly wait to draw the skin. But . . . let's do the background first. That way, we'll know how intense to make the skin colors, so that the girl really stands out.

Come back next week as we start the clouds in the sky.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Which Direction Does Your Water Drain?

Okay, you've only watched it a couple of thousand times. When you pull the plug on the sink or the tub, or flush the toilet, which way does the water swirl?

If you can just spit the answer out without checking, I'm super impressed. My son went to Brazil, and e-mailed a picture of his water swirl. Since he's in the southern hemisphere, it's clockwise.

Here in the northern hemisphere, it's counter-clockwise. It's caused by the earth's rotation and splits right along the equator. And when I say right along, I mean RIGHT ALONG.

So here's a question for you. Which direction does water drain right on the equator?

You're in luck, because you can see for yourself. In this clip in South America, water is drained right on the equator, then again just a few feet above, then again a few feet below. It's different each time.

If you're not convinced, here's the same experiment on the equator in Africa.

If you don't have time to watch the clips, I'll go ahead and tell you. On the equator, it doesn't swirl. It just drains.

So the next time your kids are bored, ask them. I'll bet you get some interesting answers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lesson 21 - Tahitian Girl - Hair with Prismacolors

Win the first print when this drawing is finished!

Be sure and leave a comment here, sign up as a follower, or pass on my blog. (Points awarded for each.) And then let me know, so you're entered in my contest.

Here are the details:

Now, let's learn how to draw hair with Prismacolor pencils.

Since the hair overlaps the skin, we need to do that first. I've chosen my colors to represent dark brown hair with warm highlights. Just a note, but pay attention to the color of the highlights in the hair you are drawing. Look to see if the highlight is warm (with red or yellow tones), or cool (with blue tones).

Step 1: Start with Yellow Ochre #942, putting in a thin layer over all areas that will have any highlights.

Step 2: Lay in the shadows with Dark Umber #947. I've gone up and added some Dark Umber into the shadows of her Lei Headdress also.

Step 3: Lay in the main tone of the hair, which is Sienna Brown #945. Go over all areas except for the brightest highlights.

Step 4: Take your Colorless Blender #1077, and smooth the hair. Be careful not to push too hard or you won't be able to add more layers on top.

Step 5: Go back with Sienna Brown and intensify any areas that seem too bland.

Step 6: Now, using Warm Grey 90%, which is #1058, lay in some serious shadows, both in the hair and in the Lei Headdress. I've also gone over the leaves in the Lei on the far right, so they disappear into the shadows a bit.

Warning: Avoid using Black as much as possible. There are several reasons. Black makes it look like there's a hole in the picture unless you really know what you're doing. Black is also a flat color, so to have a colorful shadow, use dark brown or dark grey, but with color under and over it. It's good to note that there are VERY few things in nature that are truly black (like pupils, hair, fur, volcanic rock). Black is generally absense of light. Most professional artist use very little of it, if they use any at all.

To finish off the hair, go back with White, Yellow Ochre, and Sienna Brown and touch up the highlighted areas.

I'll see you next week for Lesson 22!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One of Life's Best Lessons

An interesting thing happens when you become an adult. When you turn that magic age of 18 and graduate, you leave the orderly structure of age-based classes and friendships. All of a sudden, you’re chucked into a world where people of all ages and backgrounds interact. And then a whole new horizon appears.

My husband and I moved to Arizona soon after marrying. There, we came to know an amazing gentleman named Joe. He was in his seventies, but didn’t act old. He didn’t live in the past, or regale us with tales of how good life was in the 1950’s. He didn’t even talk about his health, although it wasn’t good. And he didn’t give advice, at least never on purpose.

But, boy, could he carry a fascinating conversation. He was a good listener, but better yet, he knew just when to talk. Our visits were never one-sided, or just between ‘the boys.’ He drew me into the conversation too, making both of us feel intelligent and important, although we were seriously wet behind the ears. He was smart, funny, interesting, and wise, and always seemed thrilled to see us. (How could we resist that?)

After many years of interaction, I learned something from the way Joe treated everybody. Your name and even the stupid things you do are safe with a true friend. There’s no gossip, back-stabbing, or malice – they give you the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you look like, or what you know.  A friend doesn't manipulate, but brings out the best in others.

If you’ve got a friend like that, you are rich. Life has zing.

After many, many conversations, it was a very sad day when we lost Joe.

And yet, since then, my husband and I have been able to enjoy many new friendships with fascinating people of all ages and backgrounds. I relish all these friendships, including the ones with my children, my siblings and parents, and my husband’s awesome family. And I especially love being true friends with my husband.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is I feel rich. Thank you, my awesome friends, for putting up with me and for putting the zing in my life!

And, Joe, I know you’re floating out there somewhere with a stack of haloes on your head. (I custom-ordered the big one with flashing lights.) Thank you isn’t a strong enough word, but still, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Someday, when I grow up, I want to be just like you.

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