As mentioned last week, rather than blather on shamelessly self-promoting my books via my Behind the Book feature, starting this month one of my Tuesday posts will be dedicated to shamelessly self-promoting one of my art projects. And instead of trying to come up with some clever new title for this feature, I’m going to be a tad lazy and just call it Behind the Art. So let’s kick off the first Behind the Art post with….

Black-Eyed Susans

going native, native plant, gardening guideBlack-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are by far the favorite flowers growing in my garden. No matter how many clumps of them I have, I keep dividing them and finding a new spot for these bright and easy-to-care for native plants.

I like these flowers so much I end up taking countless pictures of them and even featured one of those photos on the cover of my book Going Native: Small Steps to a Healthy Garden.

So when I was ready to make use of my new pad of bristol drawing paper and tin of colored pencils, my inspiration wasn’t too far away.

The Process

The prep work for this project was rather easy. I simply printed out a black and white copy of the image I wanted to use, traced it and transferred the basic outline to the bristol. Then, faced with a whole gob of white space, I started filling it in with color.

FullSizeRender(14)Using several layers, I slowly built up the color in the first flower and was amazed at how nice it came out. Actually, I was scared…after all, the first flower was so good, i was afraid of messing up the rest of the drawing! But I continued on and eventually had all the flowers blooming with color.

Then came the background. I had no idea what I wanted to do for this. i didn’t want to add leaves and take away from the flowers themselves, so I experimented with a neutral/green background in a small space. It turned out well so I started covering all that white space with the layers of color…let me tell you there was A LOT of white space! So much, that I think I may have given myself a shoulder injury completing this part of the project.

The Final Product

BES_300051I’m really impressed at how realistic the black-eyed susans came out. The yellow-orange on the petals isn’t quite as vibrant as in real life, but I think the more subtle color keeps the painting from being too In-Your-Face bright.


  • Title: Black-Eyed Susans
  • Size: Paper size 9″ x 12″, Image size 8″ x 10″
  • Materials: Smooth Bristol Paper 100# weight, Blick Artist Grade Colored Pencils