I would first like to thank Astromart for the creation of the Solar System Observing forum site on which we are able to dispense our experience for others to learn from.
I have been involved in solar system observation for nearly thirty years. My primary planets of interest (as many other observers) are Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Mars, in general, is a very difficult object to observe, especially when presenting a small apparent diameter (less than 7 arc-seconds). The albedo features (bright and dark areas and markings upon the surface (or even atmosphere)) are difficult to make out even under steady seeing conditions. An instrument with good (at least 1/4 wave) optics, solid mount, and a steady atmosphere are required to detect features upon the God Of War. I have attached an observation of Mars that I made during the last opposition (June 13, 2001) in color using a 4-inch (10-cm) Off-Axis Reflector. The colors upon this planet are very delicate and will be more diffuse if obscured by clouds and dust (not necessarily a dust storm). The observer must be very patient and train their eye for this planet in particular. Jupiter normally presents the opposite dilema as too many features are noted over the dark belts and bright zones with it's beautiful pastel colors. The Great Red Spot (GRS), unfortunately, is not always prominent but may now be darkening a bit and therefore easier to pick out. Sky and Telescope provides the approximate longitude (System II) of the GRS for the amateur to refer to. Saturn with it's magnificent ring system is probably everyone's favorite target. As some observers point out this is a treat for many novices as they gaze upon this celestial wonderf for the first time.
I primarily use graphite (2H to 6B) for my planetary renditions. I am experimenting with color pencil (Berol Prismacolor) for my observations as well. I congratulate you all on your efforts to record the planets as this is the est way to train the eye to detect faint detail. No one is expected in being a great artist as it is the effort to record what one observes that matters most. I look forward in more observers posting their respective observations on this forum in the future.
The best of luck to everyone in their observations.
Carlos E. Hernandez