Sunday, January 13, 2019

On to Owls


Continuing working in my sketchbook, I turned to drawing owls, specifically, the Little Owl, or Athene Noctura.  Little Owl is a species of owl that lives in Europe and north Africa.  "Athena" is a Little Owl character in the book I'm writing and illustrating, "Milkweed Manor."  If you'd like to follow my progress, in researching and writing as well as illustrating, I invite you to follow my FaceBook page, Milkweed Manor.


The markings on the owls make them more difficult to draw than the rat. 

In my book, Athena appears as both a juvenile and an adult, so I'll have to draw her with juvenile markings that clearly progress to her adult markings.  It's these kinds of considerations that occur to me as I go.  I'm really glad I have this sketchbook going because without it I think it would be extremely difficult, and maybe impossible, to draw convincing and consistent illustrations of these characters.  I'd like to connect with other writer/illustrators.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Working on Milkweed Manor

Meet Colwyn, the main character in the book I'm writing and illustrating, "Milkweed Manor."

As you can see, Colwyn is a rat, specifically a Norway, or Brown rat.  Colwyn is a member of one of the two most successful mammal species in the world today (the other being humans) and virtually everywhere humans are found, brown rats are also found.

Last spring I wrote the first draft of the book and edited it a few times.  But then I put it aside.  During November I realized that I wanted to work on a long term project and really devote myself to it.  It was difficult to make that decision because it meant giving up on many of the other forms of art I've been doing.  But the way I'm managing that is that I work on Milkweed Manor Mondays through Fridays, then I have the weekend to work on whatever I like.

About three weeks ago I started working in a sketchbook - something new for me.  I felt that it was important to do a lot of drawings of the animals who are my characters.  For my illustrations, I don't just need to draw a rat, but I need to draw Colwyn, a specific and recognizable rat.  So after drawing several rats and noticing the variations in the faces and, less so, the bodies, I will be able to develop the real and recognizable Colwyn.

Here's one of the pages of rat drawings from my sketchbook.  If you'd like to see more and follow my progress more closely, visit and/or follow my Facebook page, Milkweed Manor.




Sunday, December 30, 2018

In Memory of Champion, a.k.a. Champion of the World




I recently - and finally! - completed my portrait of Champion.  Champion was my friends,  Patty's and Larry's, beloved cat.  They got him from a shelter when he was a kitten and lived a happy and full life with them.  He was truly a beloved family member.  Rest in Peace, little Champion.

I began with the drawing of Champion.  Patty had given me several photos of him, and I worked from them.  I struggled to get a good likeness, but when I was satisfied many other projects intervened and it was several months until I got back to him.  During that time I was contemplating what I wanted his portrait to look like.  And in the end, I decided on a combination of motifs and techniques that I use often.

It used to trouble me that I keep using favorite motifs and techniques, but I now realize that it's my style - a good thing!

The concept of this portrait is that Champ has passed on and is now an angel.  Mouse and Bird angels look on from above the arch.  Champ is surrounded by foliage representing the outdoors that he so loved.  A crown of laurel surround him - crowns of laurel being given to heroes in the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome.



I began the background with opaque blues and greens then applied stenciled tissue paper, then transparent washes.  I began Champ with the eyes and nose, then painted in the base color of the laurel wreath.

Continuing, I painted Champ with light washes of transparent acrylic, then added tiny lines of fur and finally more washes.



I then turned to the bird and mouse, painting them both the same way as Champ - washes, details, and more washes.  After applying three coats of varnish, I added the gold dot haloes.  I've learned that varnish dulls the gold paint, so I add the gold on top of the varnish.


 Here's a detail of Champ.  I wrote "I love you" above his head as a constant message from Champ to Patty and Larry, and vice versa.

Here's the detail of the mouse, and, below, the sparrow.

I am very happy with this piece and think it's one of the best I've done.  I asked Champ to help me, and I think he did.  Thank you, Champion.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Abstracts????? Me?????


I am a great fan of Tracy Verdugo's.  I've never taken one of her classes and I don't really think her art is for me, but I love her style, enthusiasm, and warmth, and she's a dedicated and wonderful teacher.  I'm on her mailing list and when she offered a free series of 4 videos on abstract approaches, I jumped right in!

The first two videos were about different ways of creating contrast.  I determined to give it a try, as the exercise in contrast intrigued me and, of course, it's applicable to art other than abstracts.


I decided to work on three at once, and thought that if they turned out I'd enter them as a "series of 3" in our art club's Small Works show this month.

It was scary, but there was only one thing to do - start!  And so I did, with charcoal, then acrylic inks.  The next day I did more.  Then the third day I took them with me to a working art group I attend once a week.  I really didn't know what to do next and my friend, Lucia, suggested that they might be done.  But that wouldn't do because I had three hours to do art and hadn't brought any other projects.  So I just continued, somehow...


Then someone asked me what the title of the series was.  Stumped again!  The inquirer pointed out that someone had once told her that titles are important.  So, I said "they look like octopus calligraphy to me."  Hence, they are "Octopus Calligraphy 1," "Octopus Calligraphy 2," and "Octopus Calligraphy 3."

Although they're "done," I haven't decided yet how to crop them or how to frame or mount them.  I think they're pretty, but don't know if there's more to them than that.  They were fun to do, and my thanks go out to Tracy for her generosity in sharing her techniques.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

More Cats and Flowers

Lily daydreaming


I've been working on more cats and flowers for my series of nine for a show in early December.  If there's one thing I'd change, I think I would have planned the colors over the whole nine pieces before I started.  As it is, the colors in each piece are good, but I'm having some trouble finding a good way to arrange them.   So now that I have seven finished I will pay attention to planning the background colors for the final two.  Perhaps I can pull it together with those last two.

Lily - looking a little stunned

V
Camellia all wide-eyed

Heather feeling a little cranky


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Apps and Art?

Last month, Steven Memering gave the program at Placerville Art Association's general meeting,  His topic was using apps to enhance your painting process.  This was a new subject to me.  But now it's come up again.  Tracy Verdugo, an Australian artist I greatly admire, offered a free on-line mini class in anticipation of her upcoming class "Abstract Mojo."  The mini class included two projects, each presented in two parts.  Much to my surprise, the first half of the second project was about using apps to enhance your photos as inspiration for your paintings.

There are two very accomplished painters in our group, Randy Honerlah and Ron Hall who make use of apps.  It's never a process that appealed to me.  In fact, I have to admit that part of me considers it cheating.

In Steve's presentation we did explore whether or not using these tools is, in fact, cheating and I must admit that I changed my mind.  I certainly don't consider using store-bought paints - rather than preparing my own - to be cheating.  So why should using today's technology be cheating.  Times change, and art moves on.

It seems that Steve mostly using the apps to explore composition and color alternatives.  I think Randy using the computer to deconstruct photos.  And Tracy seems to use it to explore abstracting forms and pushing color.  All valid.  And I must admit that watching Tracy working with colors was intriguing.

However, at least for the forseeable future, apps to enhance my painting process are not in my future.  I still like to good old-fashioned hands on mind twisting approach.  But it's great to learn about new approaches.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Not Much Happened this Week


I was sick for five days this week and so nothing much got done in the way of art.  But I was able to do the drawings for two more of the cat pieces.

And then this weekend I was able to finish a painting from one of the drawings, so now I have five of the nine cats finished.  This one, "Rose," was quite a struggle.  The cat was difficult, especially the colors in the fur.  And the rose was a challenge as well.  I knew I wouldn't be able to paint the rose in a lot of detail, so I opted for a simple rendition and I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.  Oh, except that I still can't find an opaque white pen that works for me - this is a real problem!


Even though I didn't get a lot of art done this week, I did do a lot of thinking about what I want to work on next year.

I can't remember whether I've already written about the Fearless Academy, so if I'm repeating myself, please forgive me!  Fearless Academy is a coaching group led by Nikol Peterman.  It is a year long program, and Nikol is aiming to help us "creatives" get clear about our style, voice, and audience and also increase our following and income.

It's winding to a close soon.  It's been a lot of work, but well worth it.  During the course of this week I've decided that next year I'm going to focus on my illustrated book, "Milkweed Manor."  It will be difficult to focus, and for that reason I'm allowing myself to stray a bit.  My first priority will be the book, but I will work on other things from time to time.  This kind of focus will be new for me, so we'll see how it goes.  It's a little scary, but also very exciting!