I was honored to teach a workshop at Nash Prairie Preserve near the Gulf Coast of Texas, an extraordinary place protected by The Nature Conservancy. Less than 1% of the Great Coastal Prairie still exists, and barely a fraction of it is unplowed like Nash Prairie. It is truly a special place.

Workshop participants sketched the endemic Texas Coneflower (Rudbeckia Texana), an uncommon wildflower with native populations in Texas and Louisiana found at Nash Prairie. ⁠

Teaching out on the prairie was so fun! Photo by Susan Conaty.

I shared my go-to techniques for sketching wildflowers during the workshop and I wanted to share them here so that you can use them to get to know wildflowers in your area, wherever you are!

Color Spots & Peeking Contour Drawings

We started out by making color spots to explore the colors in the Texas Coneflower — it’s amazing how many colors you can find when you stop and look closely. If I’m limited on time or a subject is too overwhelming, I’ll often just stop at making color spots.

Color spots and a “peeking” contour of the endemic Texas Coneflower.

Next, we did “peeking contour drawings” — this is a contour drawing where you occasionally peek at the paper, adding little details at the end to bring the sketch to life.

Everyone had so much fun with this!⁠

Bringing It All Together

After we warmed up with color spots and contour drawings we brought it all together with a sketch.

Texas Coneflower Sketches.

Student Work

It’s so cool to see how everyone’s Texas Coneflower sketches came out, each unique. Click on a photo to see it larger.

What a fantastic day! Thanks to The Nature Conservancy for protecting this special place and to The Native Prairies Association of Texas for hosting the workshops.


Bob Cochran · May 11, 2022 at 5:53 pm

Hi Lisa, I can see you had a very nice workshop. It must have been a long drive from your home for you and all things considered, a very considerable extra effort on your part. It is funny to see paintings of coneflowers without any photos of one taken at the site. Perhaps that was to zero attention on the paintings. They are all lovely paintings. You all must have been painting in bright sunlight, without any shade. Is that correct? Did all the participants have A5 Art Toolkits, and they used the included sketchbooks for this outing? I am guessing one of you used some Arches media. Do you know the range of watercolor brands that were used? Did everyone have the same palette of watercolors? Overall, this is a very nice workshop. I am now curious about the Texas Gulf coast.

    Lisa Spangler · May 12, 2022 at 11:25 am

    Hi Bob! It wasn’t too bad of a drive by Texas standards — only about 3.5 hours! I camped overnight at a nearby state park which was nice! :)

    You have a good eye! Here are the answers to your questions:

    • The coneflowers weren’t blooming yet so I brought a photo reference — I wasn’t sure what would be blooming out on the prairie so I came prepared!
    • We used the Pocket ArtToolkit and the Moleskine sketchbooks that come with them except for my husband — he used Arches from a little kit I had put together for him a while back!
    • The watercolors are all listed HERE.

    You’d love it out on the coast — such an interesting environment!

      Bob Cochran · May 13, 2022 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Lisa, when I look more carefully at the photos, I see that the ground cover seems to consist of green grasses and off-white, or straw colored, grasses. The off-white grasses seem to predominate. Are these living grasses which are off-white in color? Or dead grass? There must be a great range of plant species out there. Were there any flowering plants? How about pollinators — were any bees or other helpful creatures around?

Mary · May 11, 2022 at 8:35 pm

The sun and I are not friends, but if I lived near there I’d have taken that workshop. Lisa, you are a great teacher!

    Lisa Spangler · May 12, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Thanks so much, Mary! Maybe someday I can do a workshop up that way!

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