Radiant Guest

“Radiant Guest” drawing in coloured pencils, 22.5 x 20 cm. March 2023

When my daughter Lucy came to visit from Sydney last spring I took her to Lake Gwelup to show her the rainbow bee-eaters. Together we observed, marveled at, and photographed these vivacious creatures at their Gwelup breeding ground.

Rainbow bee-eaters fly south from northern Australia to the rest of the country each spring. While here they dig tunnels in order to lay their eggs underground, then rear their young over summer. They head back north in autumn. During their visit to our suburbs they attract attention and feature prominently on Facebook in bird photography groups. Photographers outdo one another to capture in-flight photos. I’m quite happy with a perching bird as I like to study its expression.

The rainbow bee-eater in my drawing sits on a branch of a banksia tree keeping an eye out for flying things to eat. The dappled sunlight effects on foliage and bird are suggestive to me of stained glass – perhaps a Tiffany lamp.

Lucy in a happy state of bird-watching. This was her first time seeing rainbow bee-eaters.
Note the long fine tail streamer of this bee-eater. He is male; the bee-eater I drew is female.

“October Arrivals” – my 2021 drawing of a male rainbow bee-eater.

I didn’t even know these birds existed until 2021. And during this last summer I realized that some pairs were nesting just a few streets from where I live in North Coogee. I heard their calls on the wind and followed the sound. While it is crazy to suggest that there could be a silver lining to the Covid-19 storm cloud; still, I only became aware of our beautiful birds because I was stuck in my state!

26 thoughts on “Radiant Guest

  1. Marian O'Rourke

    Thanks so much not only for the beautiful painting but for the very interesting commentary on those beautiful creatures, they are totally new to me too.
    I am also curious to know if you blend the neocolor crayons before you apply the color pencils.

  2. juliepodstolski Post author

    Hello again Marian, I enjoy your comments. I only use Neocolor 2 sometimes, especially in larger drawings with lots of soft focus. I have tried blending Neocolor before putting pencils on just for an experiment. But I couldnt see any advantage in it so generally speaking I dont blend the Neocolor at all. In this drawing “Radiant Guest” there is only coloured pencil. In smaller highly detailed drawings I only use pencils.

    1. Marian O'Rourke

      Thanks so much for your reply Julie.
      So what’s your favourite method to blend the coloured pencils – if and when you do so – do you use zest it? Also l understand you use a variety of different pencils so do all the pencils respond to the same method of blending? I like yourself am back to coloured pencils as l used them a few years back but l was quite a novice then to blending techniques etc Now l see how the colours are so radiant with blending. Your bee-keeper is so gorgeous. Thanks in advance.

      1. juliepodstolski Post author

        Hi Marian. About blending, I never use solvents of any kind whether fixatives or blenders like Zest-it. Mostly I just blend with the pencils themselves. But I also have some blending pencils. I have a couple from Derwent – one is called a blender and one is called a burnisher but I can’t really tell the difference between them. There is also a blender pencil made by Caran d’Ache and this is the one I like the best.
        I actually don’t use a variety of pencils. 80% of my work is with Caran d’Ache Luminance. I also use Derwent Lightfast (but I prefer the Luminance colours which is why I use those the most) and my favourite white is Holbein Soft White. I used to use other brands but now stick to the lightfast brands.
        The radiant colours are not so much due to blending but to understanding colour theory so – ‘what + what = what’ as well as complementary colours – how to make a colour ‘pop’ by surrounding it with its complement (opposite). I learned about colour in my high school art class and then at art school. But there is lots about colour theory on-line and in books. It is a fascinating science and the more you know, the better tools you have.

      2. Marian O'Rourke

        Hi Julie, thank you so much for your very in depth reply which is very much appreciated. I am on the same page regarding solvents but l recently bought “citrus free zest it” thinking it’s the least harmful, but, my intuition has kept me from using it, you have cleared that up in your reply. The results you get solvent free are the best and your beautiful art attests to that. I research and study as much as possible about the science of colour theory to improve my art. Thanks again for being so kind with your time and knowledge.

      3. juliepodstolski Post author

        Ha ha – yes – I also bought a bottle of zest-it about a decade ago and never touched it. Fantastic that you study colour theory; I really think that is the best thing an artist can do.
        I enjoy reading your thoughts and questions. Art is such an interesting subject.

      4. Marian O'Rourke

        Thanks Julie, yes l agree that the study of colour theory is of the utmost importance. I will continue to study both theoretically and practically to improve my art and have better self expression. Meanwhile l intend to increase my collection of luminance pencils, and, endeavour to produce a body of works, as close as is possible to be as striking and beautiful as yours.

      5. juliepodstolski Post author

        All worthy and exciting endeavours, Marian. Are you on any coloured pencil Facebook sites by the way? They can be a great source of information. I can recommend a couple if you are interested.

      6. Marian O'Rourke

        Thanks Julie. There are a couple of reasons why l don’t have a Facebook account, one being that my time is taken up between being a hands on grandparent to a very active full of life and joy little 3 year old boy; l play a bit of music too, but, if you could send me a couple of recommendations l could get some of my family to check them out for me. The other thing l wanted to check with you is, do you only sometimes use the dry hog brush for blending. I also saw a beautiful painting ( coloured pencils l think ) of the rain on the window pane that you did, l would love to know your approach for it as this is a subject that facinates me. Thanks again Julie.

      7. juliepodstolski Post author

        Hi Marian, I have a question for you as well. Where do you live? Sometimes your emails are waiting for me when I wake up so I guessed USA. But you spell colour the same way I do which means NOT USA. Hmmm, another time zone, eastern states of Australia, UK, Canada?
        Now to answer your questions.
        1. I use a dry brush now and then to blend. Actually if I am doing sky or a big area of blurry colour, that is when I am most inclined to use it.
        2. Coloured pencil FB recommendations – there are many groups. The two I like (because they are a nice bunch of people) are “Pencil Artist Friends” and “COLORED PENCIL Art”. They are both closed groups which means you have to apply to join – which basically means promising to abide by their rules.
        3. Snow Showers (rain/snow on window pane drawing). I drew that so many years ago that I can’t even remember how I did it though I know it was complicated and it took absolute ages. It was 2011 when I drew that.

      8. Marian O'Rourke

        Hi Julie l live in Dublin and as for the times l send my emails, we’ll l suppose l just fit them in around my busy enough lifestyle. Busy because l kinda like it that way l guess. Yes l gathered your snow showers drawing would be complicated because l study rain drops too, – it reminds me of my childhood when l would put my face to the glass and follow the drops, it took me to dreamland 😊. Thanks for the FB details and for your prompt replies to my questions.

      9. juliepodstolski Post author

        Hello Marian, Ireland is a country I haven’t visited though my husband has been in Dublin several times in the past for work. How nice to think that I have a new Irish friend! What I used to do as a child was draw with my finger into our kitchen windows when they were steamed up. That’s a winter memory.

      10. Marian O'Rourke

        Hi Julie l’m sure your husband has given you an idea of Dublin, it’s a fair city as the song says and it has it’s good points as well as not so good but l love it and it’s the place for me 😊 yeah it’s funny how those little childhood memories stay with us. My Dad was an artist and so on rainy days he would give us all the art materials to keep us happy and it’s on those days that l remember following the little trickles of rain down the pane. Perhaps that’s why l have a longing to paint or draw the rain as the memory is so dear to me. I must have another go ❤

  3. Jean Davies

    Hi Julie,

    I absolutely love your drawing! It must have taken a long time to do, especially with all the background trees as well. I tried to draw a bee eater a few years ago, also with coloured pencils, mainly Polychromos.

    I enjoy seeing your paintings, especially as we used to live in Perth.

    Jean Davies

    Sent from my iPad


    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Jean, thanks for your comments. Yes, this was a particularly labour-intensive drawing – done in two stages (with a trip to New Zealand in between). I enjoyed it but there were some frustrating moments I promise!

  4. Susan Bertrand

    So many discoveries during all this time at home. Always some good in rough times, you just have to look more carefully. How lovely for you to find these beautiful little birds 💕

  5. Charlee

    This one really hits the spot with me Julie. A little jewel. Perhaps your finest effort to date. I always enjoy both your drawings and the accompanying story.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Ahh – that’s lovely, Charlee. I do enjoy hearing when a picture particularly hits the spot with someone. Thanks so much for telling me. I know what you mean about the ‘jewel’ aspect. I think it is that same aspect which I am likening to stained glass.

  6. anna warren portfolio

    Rainbow Bee Eaters are such beautiful birds, the colours almost iridescent. There is a great warmth to your drawing, it feels like sunshine. I love the way all the colours in the bird appear in the background plants, although in a muted form so the bird still takes centre stage. The forms of the leaves and branches echo the form of the bird, adding even more to making this such a satisfying composition!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Oh those colours in the leaves! To tell you the truth I OVER-muted them, turned them to muck. And then had to fully bring them back to life; first darkening and then lightening; taking away yellow then adding yellow. Gosh it was a Battle Royale. Thankfully coloured pencils can be a forgiving medium. I was absolutely SPENT when I finished this one – but ultimately relieved with the outcome.


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