Here are four ways to easily add cactus spines while working en plein air:
- White gouache – this is probably my favorite way to add cactus spines. I squeeze out some gouache into a little container with a snap-on lid and keep it in my pack. I prefer Winsor & Newton white gouache as other brands dry up super hard and can’t be reconstituted. I’ve heard where some artists have had problems with it molding, but so far it hasn’t happened to me — but then again it is a pretty dry climate here where I live. I work some paint in the lid of the container and then paint it on with a hard bristled brush such as the Princeton heritage size 2 round or the short handled Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece rigger pictured here. I wouldn’t go smaller than a size 2 brush, they just don’t seem to hold enough paint. I’ve tortured that golden fleece brush by tossing it in my pencil case and it’s still going strong!
- White Posca paint marker – these are great, unlike the gelly roll pens which always seem to dry up the minute I uncap them lol!
- Pastel pencil – I’ve found both the white and sanguine colors pretty useful! The downside is that then you’d need to carry a pencil sharpener. They’re also great for adding shadows under the spines to reinforce the white and make them pop!
- Watercolors – some spines are darker in color, and something like Venetian red, neutral tint, Payne’s gray, or indigo applied with thick paint works great. You can also use your pocket knife to drag paint out of a wet wash.
Here’s the finished cactus that I did using all of the above techniques:
Let me know if you have any questions!