Bad sketch of front garden plants

This did not come out very well, but I am included because that's part of the terms of this — I show you the bad stuff as well as the good stuff.

I started out drawing the mermaid that lies in a plant saucer. That's the funny thing in the foreground. She's a cast iron mermaid, about 15 inches long, and she hangs out in this large blue plant saucer that I had no better use for. She stays there all winter... she just becomes an arctic mermaid.

The purpose of the mermaid and her saucer is actually to give the birds some water. I stopped feeding the birds when I cut back all expenses, but I can still afford a gallon of water every day to give them something to drink. We get more interesting birds (something other than house finches — wow!) after I started putting out water instead of seed. Its so dry here that the birds don't have a lot of choices for drinking.

The round things in the saucer are river stones. I put them in because a few months ago we had honeybees drinking out of the mermaid saucer, and they kept falling in and drowning. About 2-3 a day were dying, so I put the stones in. A few still drowned every week, but it was way less.

The mermaid drawing came out pretty bad. I was about to quit when I just looked up a little higher and saw the row of plants in the bed along the far wall. The textures were interesting, so I started "drawing" the plants. I kind of figured it out as I went along. Really, what I should have done is started all over, taken a dose of patience (drawing requires a lot of patience, I'm learning) and re-done this after I did this study. It might have come out nicely.

The dark shaggy thing in the middle is an evergreen bush. Just to the right of that is a big tarragon plant (the herb used in French cooking). Tarragon plants do great in my garden... not sure why. To the right of the tarragon plant is an even larger sprawling mess of Russian sage, which, along with its brothers, may take over the garden entirely one day. Being that its purple, needs no extra water, smells nice, and attracts hummingbirds, I figure there are worse things that could happen.

To the left of the shaggy mess are a bunch of irises. They are not in bloom, but the leaves looked really interesting. The better way to draw them was with one stroke from the side of the pencil (ie, holding the pencil at an angle so the long side of the graphite touches the paper).

I would not have been able to do these plants as well if I had not done the different marks exercise the day before. Trying to draw these plants line by line with the same kinds of lines would have been awful, but once you figure out what kind of line to make to depict different plants, you actually can get a lot of definition between different plants just using a plain old pencil. Texture can REALLY make a difference.

Another thing I learned drawing this is that sometimes I don't like drawing with a soft pencil. Especially when I am not drawing well. I tend to press down on the pencil and paper when I am not drawing well, and that just dulls the pencil tip faster, which gives me an even more blunt instrument to work with. I sharpened the pencil I was using about three times doing this drawing, but it still make a mark that felt muddy somehow.

When I have a hard, sharp pencil to work with, I tend to slow down and make more precise, lighter marks on the page. It results in a better drawing — most of the time. This may change when I move over to drawing more people (a lot of people look better with softened images), but we'll see. Its just something I noticed drawing this — that soft pencils don't work well for me — that will help me draw a little better in the future.