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My Organized Chaotic Process For "Can You See In The Dark?"

Updated: Sep 29



I am a storyteller who uses drawings instead of words. I am also one of those crazy people who loves, loves, loves making lists. Spending 2.5 days researching poisonous plants, flora and fauna that symbolize death and/or are nocturnal is not unusual for me. Do you think there is an internet watchlist with my name on it? Below are just some of the titles of lists I have created this summer.



After choosing the flora and fauna that will best represent the story, I start a graphite drawing on sketch paper. In this case, I chose bats (They are night mammals that use echolocation to "see".), a bat flower, a wolf (Wolves are nocturnal predators.), chaenomeles (A flowering quince that is food for moths.), a garden tiger moth (A moth whose bodily fluids are poisonous.), owl feathers (Owls are nocturnal.) and fireflies that glow in the dark.


Some of the best hand references can be found in old paintings and sculptures!!! I know very little about swords and scabbards so I had to search for images. Found the perfect scabbard in a Pre-Raphaelite painting by Edmond Blair Leighton.

I often make notes on the drawing to add, change or rearrange. My drawings at this point are like a big puzzle.



Once the graphite drawing is complete, I transfer it to a good sheet of watercolor paper. At home in Florida, I have a light desk which makes things much easier. But during the 2020 pandemic, I got "stuck" housesitting in Seattle so I used the natural light and the window to transfer the drawing to good paper.


Then I taped down the watercolor paper to a drawing board and added masking where I wanted the fireflies to glow. I let that dry before beginning the layer(s) of watercolor.



Due to the pandemic, I was unable to find my usual watercolor paper.. The paper I did find in single sheet form was, sadly, very soft and didn't like being taped down.


So, I had to start over by transferring the graphite drawing to the watercolor paper once again. This time I began to draw only using color pencils which do not require taping the paper to a board to prevent warping.




Applying the dark background in color pencil only, requires a lot of pressure. The application is meditative but killer on the hands!!! (Secret tip: 3 layers of Prismacolor applied with pressure will give you a dark background similar to paint. In this instance, I was creating a super dark look for nighttime so the first layer is Prismacolor Black, followed by a layer of Prismacolor Indigo Blue, and then another layer of Prismacolor Black. Layering with Black is also a good method for a midnight blue background or dark green. It may take some practice to figure out the order to in which to apply the layers but once you have the formula figured out, going to the Darkside is easy!)



Here is a photo of the finished drawing with only SOME of the color pencils used to create it. Once I have declared the drawing "Finis!", I apply two coats of a clear spray fixative. I use a variety of pencil brands but when I first began drawing with color pencils back in 1985 (Eeeeek! That was a long time ago!) , Prismacolor pencils were the only ones available. They will often leave a wax bloom which is easily removed with a coat or two of fixative. The fixative will be necessary if you do go to the Darkside.



And once again, the finished drawing.


"Can You See In The Dark?"

When faced with the darkness,

Your eyes may adjust.

Or your other senses may strengthen.

Perhaps a friend will appear to help guide your way.

But sometimes there is nothing left to do

Except fight your way out.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or ask me on Facebook. Take care and Stay Safe.

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