Archive | October 2020

Southampton Art School Workshop – September 2020

My second workshop of 2020 was at Southampton Art School on September 26 & 27 and titled Florals on a Black Background in Coloured Pencils. We still had strict protocols in place for COVID-19, kept our distance from each other and had our masks at hand.


The town of Southampton is located at the mouth of the Saugeen River on the shores of Lake Huron, in Bruce County (Ontario), and is one of my favourite places to visit during the summer and fall months. It is a popular tourist and retirement destination and known for its magnificent sunsets (see above and below).

Southampton Art School & Gallery

Southampton Art School and Gallery can be found in the heart of downtown Southampton and a short walk to pristine, sandy beaches. The facility provides a wonderful teaching environment and also a gallery showcasing regional and local talent. The building has been around since 1957 and is an integral part of the art community of Bruce County. The original community was known as Saugeen by the early settlers but was later named Southampton after the English seaport, when the town was incorporated as a village in 1858. It was later incorporated as a town in 1904. Southampton was also  one of the last communities in Ontario to use the Gaelic language in everyday speech; the language could still be heard by local fishermen as late as the 1930s. Just off the Southampton shore, the Chantry Island Lighthouse is a popular visiting spot for tourists. Boat tours to the island run throughout the summer months. As well as Chantry island, the town is close to Sauble Beach, Port Elgin and Saugeen First Nation.

Below: Southampton Art School and Gallery

The Workshop

Florals on a Black Background in Coloured Pencils

This workshop is ideal for the botanical artist looking for something a little different. To that end I have chosen two of my botanical projects for this workshop – hopefully to demonstrate how interesting and dramatic the technique of using coloured pencils on black paper can be. The workshop will include demonstrations, one-on-one interaction, and detailed instructional handouts to guide students through the process from start to finish in completing the two projects. Techniques such as burnishing and layering, along with accurate colour matching, tonal rendering and composition, help students master this rewarding method and medium. 

The two projects are shown below.

Stargazer Lily (Lilium ‘Stargazer’)

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

Below: The sketch drawing was transferred onto Fabriano Black 680 GSM paper, taped down onto a 18 x 14-inch masonite board. I used a sheet of reverse transfer paper to transfer the line drawing onto the paper and then cleaned off most of the white powder with a kneaded eraser.
I then reinforced the line drawing with a white pencil.

Below: A base tone of white was first established over the petals with White Faber-Castell 101 pencil.

The tones are blended smooth with a clean, thick blending stump.

Below: The white pencil base shows up clearly on the black paper.

Right: The first layer of pink is applied over the white and then burnished again with the white pencil to create this soft blended look.

Below: Step-by-step pages help students to accurately learn the techniques and complete the project.

Below: As the colour layers are added the drawing becomes more dramatic and three-dimensional.

Above: Line drawing shown next to the coloured pencil project.

Above right: colour layers being developed through burnishing.

Above and below: Completed projects.

The same process was followed in the second project, the Bleeding Heart perennial. Drawing completed and transferred using reverse transfer paper onto the black paper.

Bleeding Heart
(Lamprocampos spectabilis) (formerly Dicentra spectabilis) is an old-fashioned favourite for the Victorian, shade, woodland or cottage garden. The pink or white heart-shaped flowers (cultivar ‘Alba’) with their white or pink teardrops (referring to the common name) hang on graceful, arching stems with bluish-green, fern-like foliage that provide a striking accent in early spring.

The drawing slowly developing layer by layer.

Nancy with her finished Bleeding Heart project.

This amazing botanical project completed in one day!

For more of my step-by-step botanical drawing and painting projects, check out my new book, Botanical Drawing & Painting, available on and

My next workshop, Magnificent Florals in Coloured Pencils is on Saturday, October 24 at Aurora Cultural Centre in Aurora, Ontario

To register contact Michael Spillane at 905-891-8422


Or call the Aurora Cultural Centre at 905-713-1818

Hope to see you all soon!

Michael Spillane

Orangeville Workshop — September 2020 — Maggiolli Art Supplies & Services

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my first workshop of 2020 started on September 23 & 25 in Orangeville. I was at Maggiolli Art Supplies in the centre of this picturesque little town to instruct a workshop titled The Fundamentals of Botanical Drawing.


The Town of Orangeville is located 58 km northwest of Toronto in Dufferin County. Orangeville was named after Orange Lawrence, a businessman born in Connecticut in 1796 who owned several mills in the village. As a young man, he moved to Canada and settled in Halton County. Lawrence purchased the land that became Orangeville. He settled in the area in 1844 and established a mill. The post office in the town dates from 1851. In 1873, Orangeville was incorporated and given town status. The public library, located at Broadway and Mill Street, was completed in 1908. The town is  noted for its well-preserved buildings. Unfortunately, Orange Lawrence committed suicide December 15, 1861.

Maggiolli Art Supplies – Workshops – Art Services

158 Broadway Avenue, Orangeville

Located In Downtown Orangeville, near the public library (158 Broadway, Orangeville).

Established in 1996, Maggiolly Art Supplies – Art Classes & Workshops – provides artists in the Orangeville area with a full range of art supplies, art classes and workshops for adults and children.

Art Studio Rental / Full Range of Artists Supplies / Art Classes (Adult & Children) / Art Storage / Custom Canvases And Framing Services /Art Gallery Rental (519) 942-9560

Below: All decked out and ready to go with full COVID protocols in place — social distancing, washing hands and, of course, the ever present mask — in all styles, patterns and colours. Welcome to our brave new world!

Above: Artist Instructor Michael Spillane and local artist Ann Livingstone (during the Fundamentals of Botanical Drawing workshop), standing in front of Emilia Perri’s wonderful painting called “Harvest!” Michael has another workshop coming up in October teaching Florals on a Black Background in Coloured Pencil.

The Workshop

The Fundamentals of Botanical Drawing

The drawing process starts with a series of gesture sketches and exercises to establish a good composition. Once the basic composition of the subject has been decided, the next step is to produce a simple geometric framework of the plant as a base for developing the drawing. When the sketch is completed over the geometric lines, a final contour drawing completes the process prior to applying graphite tonal values.

Below: First the basic geometry of the subject is established, then the contour or line drawing, followed by tonal rendering in graphite.

First project: Fuchsia in graphite.

Layering different pencils in graphite creates a high contrast drawing.

With step-by-step instructional pages, demonstrations and individual attention given to each student, developing drawing skills necessary for botanical art becomes relatively easy.

Above: Blending stumps and/or tortillons and a kneaded eraser work hand in hand with the H and B pencils to produce these drawings.

Above: A range of graphite pencils are used to develop the drawing including 2H, H, F, B & 2B (hard and soft grade pencils).

Below: Student drawings.

Below: Two sisters, two red masks and two fuchsias!


Above: Elizabeth, almost close on 87 years young, takes up drawing. A lesson to us all: you are never too old to start anything!

The next project on the second day of the workshop featured Daffodils, completed using a hatching technique in graphite.

Hatching is a technique often used in graphite or pen and ink drawings to produce tone and texture in a range of values by applying small hatch lines or strokes sloping in the same direction. Darker values are built up by closing the gaps between the hatch lines to produce more density in the hatching. Cross-hatching is also used where the lines are crisscrossed over each other to create a different range of darker values.

The sketch of the daffodils is transferred onto illustration board and the first layers of hatched lines are established.

Left: Outline drawing of the daffodils on the illustration board and the first layer of hatch lines.

Above: Using the Mono Tombow eraser (available from Maggiolli Art Store), an excellent erasing tool for highlighting areas and fine lines in graphite drawings.

Below: Detail step-by-step pages help to complete the project.

Below:The layers of hatch lines are starting to show contrasting values and three-dimensional form.

Developing the drawing layer by layer.

Below: Finished projects. Daffodils in graphite on illustration board

This step-by-step project is featured in my new book: Botanical Drawing & Painting and is available on and

My next workshop, Florals on a Black Background in Coloured Pencils is on September 26 & 27 at Southampton Art School & Gallery.

201 High Street, Southampton, Ontario / Telephone: (519) 797-5068
Hope to see you there!

Michael Spillane