People and Places



Just For Fun

The Stories Behind The Art



While on a walking tour in the city of Siena, Italy, in 2019, I happened to look down a side street and saw an almost abstract view of the buildings with all their angles and textures intersecting. I wanted to capture the scene in colored pencil, getting rid of the distracting modern aspects, such as the satellite dishes on the rooftops.

Monet's Gardens

A visit to Monet's home and gardens in Giverny, France, inspired me to try something different with this piece. My goal with "Monet's Gardens" was to create sharp detail in the wisteria but to have the background softly out of focus, taking an impressionistic approach and conveying the quiet peacefulness of the area, in homage to Monet's paintings of his spectacular gardens.

Windowsill geraniums

While on vacation in Venice, Italy, these geraniums caught my attention because of all of the textures -- the roughness of the old windowsill, the pattern of the wall and the smoothness of the painted shutter behind the shiny, smooth surface of the pot and the lovely geraniums growing in it. I felt like it captured much of the old and new contrasts that create so much of the beauty of Venice.

Summer Serenity

While in California a few years ago, we happened upon this lovely bridge while visiting one of the gardens in the San Francisco area. I loved the turtles sunning themselves on some rocks in the water and used that photo as my inspiration for this piece.

The Contrasts of Hetch Hetchy

While in California a few years ago, we visited Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park where we happened upon this dead tree that had been bleached by the weather. I loved the contrast of it against the colorful orange groundcover that was blooming. I wasn't sure at the time what I wanted to do with the photo, but realized when I stumbled across it again a few months ago that I wanted to try to bring those contrasts to life with my colored pencils. To me the piece is a contrast between life and death -- the blooming flowers and the dead tree.

Misty Falls of Milford Sound

While in New Zealand in 2017, we visited Milford Sound, which was too beautiful for words. The water was crashing down from such heights that it created a heavy mist as it  cascaded down, but also the most interesting designs in the water at the base. I love the photos I shot, but I really wanted to see if I could capture the waterfall's movement in a drawing. I used colored pencil for the majority of the drawing and pan pastel for the watery mist.

The Gardens of Rotorua

While in New Zealand in 2017, we visited the town of Rotorua, which had this beautiful old government building in the middle of the city gardens. The building is now a museum, but was under renovation so there was fencing and other distracting signs of construction work going on. But I loved the way the building was reflected in the small pond and the flowers and rocks that surrounded it so I took enough photos so that I could capture the beauty of the setting in colored pencil without the distractions. I tried something different with this piece and used ink for the wood details on the building. The rest is done in colored pencil.

Early Morning Fog

In late summer, walks really early in the morning are a chance to enjoy the peace and quiet of a world not yet stirring. They are also an opportunity to see beautiful sunrises, colorful morning glory flowers in bloom and fog in the low areas where the cool and warm air collide. This particular scene grabbed my attention because of the way the fog was so distinct in the background near the woods, yet the open field was clear. I love how the old red barn and lone tree create such a stark image against the gauziness of the fog in the distance. The lone cow gives the scene a sense of peacefulness and tranquility.

Intense Gaze

While at a bird sanctuary in Australia, I got to see and photograph a number of different owls and other birds of prey. This bird had turned away from me and I felt like I wasn't able to get a good photo of his face. But what I discovered as I was going through my photos was that the side angle gave me a much more dramatic "portrait" of him. I loved the way you could see the features of his face as well as the lovely coloration of his feathers. He almost comes across as sinister, but to me it's more a demeanor of quiet power. That's what drew me to him.

Fall's Fading Beauty

I am fascinated by the reflections in a small creek near my home and was determined this fall to photograph the leaves in the water. I was hoping for a sunny day to capture the reflections of the blue sky but a spate of cloudy days and the rapidly dropping leaves left me with no choice but to shoot the reference photos on a dreary day. What I didn't count on was the abstract beauty of the trees' reflections on a gray day. The stark contrast between the brightly colored leaves and the patterns of the trees' reflections created a much more dramatic image that I was able to enhance by using a limited palette on the background.

Rainbow Lorikeet

While on vacation in Australia, we visited the rain forest town of Kuranda. While walking around, I couldn't help but notice the incredibly colorful Rainbow Lorikeets in one tree. I must have stood there 20 minutes hoping one of the birds would get on a branch low enough to photograph it. One finally perched on an exposed limb and practically posed for me as he devoured the blooms or seeds that attracted the birds. I never could quite figure out what attracted them. Drawing the bird was such fun. Getting the many colors of the bird just right was a challenge but nothing like trying to capture the detail of the flowers.

New Zealand's Indigenous Maori

While in New Zealand in 2017, I had an opportunity to visit a Maori village. I'm not typically drawn to portraits, but I felt the expression on this young man's face captured the pride and commitment of the Maori, especially combined with the dramatic sunset lighting. The photograph included the entire Maori canoe, but I wanted the focus to be on his expression with just enough of the canoe to convey the long history and tradition of the tribe. 

© 2023 by Pauline Clay. All images on this site are the property of Pauline Clay and may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or otherwise used without written permission.

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