My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #1793: A Lesson from "Pancakes"

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-24-2016 01:28 PM 1702 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1792: Finished the Pumpkin and Started Something New Part 1793 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 1794: Multi-Tasking »

When last I left you on Friday, I had began a new artistic adventure. For my first time ever, I was using a new medium (New to me, that is!) in drawing with pastel pencils and blocks. I had seen a video from the very talented wildlife artist, Jason Morgan, in which he shared his 'discovery' of the joys of using "Pastelmat" pastel paper by Clairfontaine to draw with. He mentioned that it changed his entire perspective on pastel drawing. I was intrigued. 

I just so happened to have a set of the pastels that Jason used (albeit a small set of 36 colors) and I thought I would give it a go. I love Jason's "you can do it" teaching style and his step-by-step videos are a wonderful way to see his artwork come to live real time. I ordered the paper from Amazon and had to wait for it to arrive from England. Without the paper, the technique just would work. 

It came on Thursday and that evening I began my journey. I decided to draw my own cat "Pancakes". I took some of my own reference photos and chose one with a lot of detail.  You can see the progress that I made that first evening in the previous blog entry. But long story short, I got this far:

So far, it was fun and not too bad. 

I was pretty busy on Friday with other things, and didn't get back to it until Saturday evening. I really got 'lost' in my work and finished up about 3am. Here is what I had done:

I was so excited, I posted on all of my Facebook pages and groups that night. I was truly proud of what I did and I was thrilled at the positive responses everyone posted. I found a new medium that was fun and fast (well – relatively fast – about 5 hours went into this drawing at this point). I was happy.

But when I awoke the next morning, I looked again at my drawing and began to see some things that needed fixing. I always hear how good it is to walk away from something and then return later. We always seem to see things a bit differently. This was definitely the case with this drawing. While people still liked the finished drawing, I started to really pick it apart and see a few things 'wrong' with it.  I spent the next couple of hours correcting it and after that time, I now feel much, much better about it.  Here is the "real" finished drawing:

While many of you may not initially see the difference, I am sure my fellow artists and teachers certainly will understand. The differences are very subtle – sometimes moving a line or shade only a fraction of an inch – but they do a great deal to make the difference between something that is nice, and something that is just a bit "off". 

When putting the pictures side-by-side, they look quite similar. But I will proceed to show you the things that bothered me and that I corrected in hopes that you will understand where I am coming from and also learn to do this with your own work. 

The first thing that bothered me was the bridge of his nose. In the upper drawing it looked flat. I had also lost the subtle striping of Pancake's markings on it. I added some shades and highlights to correct this. I also lessened the darker area to the side of the nose, as it was far too dark.

The next thing was the marking over his eye. It nearly went in a straight line and was far too light on the highlight. It stuck out like a sore thumb to me in the initial drawing and needed to be tampered down with some warmer coloring and re-shaped. That looked more like Pancakes' real markings.

Next up was his cheek. Again – the color was flat and I lost the stripes . The dark area under the eyes was too drastic and pronounced, and again lost the subtle shading of his real fur.  I added several layers of color in to make it look more rounded and natural. 

Next was his nose. The first attempt had a definite division between his nose and the bridge of his nose. As I looked at him sitting next to me, I noticed that was not the case at all. The fleshy color rather blended in with a very soft transition. I also adjusted the shape of his nose to better replicate his real face. The nostril was more rounded and pink and it made his nose appear a little more bulbous (which is how he looks). The bottom photo is much better:

Finally – I wasn't happy with the 'grainy' look of the drawing overall. The GOOD thing about the Pastelmat paper is that it is slightly textured to hold the chalky pastel colors and allow you to work several layers without losing "tooth". However, the so-called 'finished' first attempt at the drawing still looked quite grainy and did not have the smooth blends that we associate with pastels. Perhaps this was exaggerated because I used such a dark colored paper, but I didn't like it.

You can see what I am talking about more here:

I rectified this by adding more layers of color and blending them more with the blending stumps and really working the under-layers into the paper. The top layers then looked quite a bit smoother. I am pretty pleased with the result. 

So here is the "real final" picture:

For a first attempt at this medium, I am really pleased. I certainly will be doing more work in these pastels and look forward to sharing the result and any issues I have with you all. 

I suppose that the moral of this post is that we need to try to take a step back from our work and look at it objectively. Most of the time, putting things away for a day or so, or even over night can help us do that. If we come back to it the next day and look at it and see something 'off', we need to sit down and try to really look at things and figure out what they may be. It is usually some subtle things that we didn't notice after staring at the piece for hours while we were creating it. I find that even posting it on the computer screen allows me to see things better and from a different perspective. It is all part of the learning process. 

I want to thank all the teachers that take time to help us learn and expand our abilities. I firmly believe that ANYONE can do anything they wish, if given the proper tools, instructions and if they have the will to learn. We have to believe in ourselves in order to succeed. With encouragement and support from our peers and these wonderful teachers, it is truly possible. 

I wish you all a wonderful Monday! 

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

11 comments so far

View HerbC's profile


1801 posts in 3463 days

#1 posted 10-24-2016 05:08 PM

Handsome subject, beautifully executed. Thank you for sharing your own processes to improve your work.


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Druid's profile


2161 posts in 3399 days

#2 posted 10-24-2016 09:20 PM

Beautifully done, and your progression of the changes to the parts that “bothered” you is an interesting tutorial.
The end result is superb. (I hope that Pancakes got some extra treats for being such a good model.)

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3524 days

#3 posted 10-24-2016 09:24 PM

I am glad you both enjoyed seeing it. I know it isn’t woodworking, but the same principle can be applied to really anything we do. It is difficult to look at your own work objectively sometimes. Taking a break and returning to it later helps a great deal, as does seeing it through different eyes – maybe on a computer instead of just looking directly at it.

I am overall pleased with the picture. I am also very grateful for those who are willing to share their talents with us here on the internet.

Thank you both for your kind remarks. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Celticscroller's profile


1286 posts in 2677 days

#4 posted 10-24-2016 10:28 PM

You have captured Pancakes character extremely well. i can see why you went back and did your corrections. It looks so much better. it is a good idea to take a step back and leave a project at least overnight and then take another look at it. I’ve done this several time with the carving project I’m working on. It makes for a longer time to complete but you are usually happier with the end result. Looking forward to seeing more of your pastel projects

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3524 days

#5 posted 10-25-2016 12:27 AM

Thank you as always Anna for your kind support and comments. Yes – if I am going to spend the time doing something, I need to take the time to do it properly. Sometimes that means allowing it to ‘rest’ a day or so and then going back to it with fresh eyes. It is funny what we miss while we are in the midst of things. :)

Have a great evening!


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View kepy's profile


293 posts in 2877 days

#6 posted 10-27-2016 11:21 AM

Very well done in a new medium. I always said that I never finished a painting, just stopped. Looking at some of them years later, I still find things that should have been done differently.

-- Kepy

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3524 days

#7 posted 10-27-2016 12:30 PM

Hi, Kepy –
I sometimes really do find it hard to find the right time to walk away from something. I think we just have to take a step back and re-visit our work several hours or even a few days later. It seems these breaks from things do wonders for our perspective. There does just come a point where you need to stop and move on. I try to look at that as part of the learning experience. Thank you for stopping by and thanks for your kind comment. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View bushmaster's profile


3770 posts in 2886 days

#8 posted 11-04-2016 04:04 AM

I found this blog, mind boggling, so talented, to produce a picture better than a camera in a realistic form. Art in most cases is expressive and not so detailed. I had had a hard time to recognize any thing was wrong with the first picture. In fact I am not sure there is any, and I just got new glasses recently. So amazing.
I managed to take a picture of my little wild cat, after I came home from our trip I wondered if he would be still here, he was and is warming up more, hope some day I will be able to pet him.

He is watching me from 15 feet away for any sudden movements.
Now that I am home will not be able to keep up with all your blogs but when I am able will try and catch up on your activities. Told a friend from Alberta this weekend after a funeral about your site, he was telling me he really enjoyed scroll sawing. Will send him a link to your site. Your work is amazing.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3524 days

#9 posted 11-04-2016 09:25 AM

Thank you very much for your kind comments, Brian. I appreciate them very much. I do find that sometimes when posting online and looking at things on a screen, we are able to see things that we missed initially. As I come back to this post this morning, I see more that I ‘could’ adjust – but I won’t. There comes a time when we need to leave things and move on. That is what learning is all about.

I love your wild friend. Did you name him yet? He looks clean and healthy and I hope now that you are home and taking care of him with food, etc., he will learn to trust you and allow you to approach him. Please keep me posted on your progress. Did you name him yet?

Thanks for the referral on our site. I have to get busy with some more woodworking designs. Sometimes I feel like I have triplets. I try to feed all the muses at once. Well – winter is coming and hopefully with being settled a bit more here I will do a bit better than I have this summer. All I can do is try.

Have a wonderful day and thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad you had a safe journey home and look forward to seeing more of your trip.

Take care, Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View GR8HUNTER's profile


6810 posts in 1316 days

#10 posted 11-04-2016 03:51 PM

I personally think you are being to hard on yourself …..... In my opinion the first one looked really nice ….......... GREAT JOB

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3524 days

#11 posted 11-04-2016 03:56 PM

Thank you very much, Tony. I am only trying to do my best and improve myself. I did like the first attempt before the corrections. But as I came back to it and looked again, I saw things were ‘off’ that made it not look like Pancakes. By studying his face and the drawing, I was able to pinpoint some of the dependencies. Hopefully, learning to look at things with ‘honest eyes’ will help make me a better artist. :)

I am happy you like the drawing – before and after. I am quite encouraged to continue on with this medium.

Have a great weekend and thank you for stopping by.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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