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!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Series of Three

Our local art club, Placerville Art Association, is having its first ever Small Works show in December.  There are three categories in the show - Series of 9, Series of 3, and Individual Work.  This will be my entry in the Series of 3 categories.  I'm not sure yet what the title will be.  The design inspiration was traditional quilt block with animals in their names.

This one is Flying Geese.  My process for all three was the same.  They're on 12" x 12" cradled board which I sealed with spray primer.  I began by cutting out all the quilt block pieces from a Sudance catalog (women's jewelry and clothing collection from Robert Redford's company).  One thing I've admired about this catalog is how beautiful the images are and how harmonious the color palette is throughout.  So I knew that as long as I stuck to the catalog for my pieces the color schemes would be consistent.

I painted the edges and outside margin of the board a coordinating pale blue, then laid out a grid with light pencil to guide my placement of the pieces.  I used Liquitex Matt Gel Medium as my adhesive, and carefully glued all the pieces in place.  It was a bit tricky because the pieces were cut precisely to size, but the paper stretches a bit when it gets wet.  So I began at the outside edges and worked inward.

Next I applied a thin wash of the same pale blue acrylic I used around the edges.  I painted the wash on and immediately pulled most of it back up with a damp paper towel.  The wash toned down the differences in the collage pieces and, I think, gave an old and worn look.  With graphite pencil, I drew in all the little stitches that would be in a real quilt.

Then I turned to the ink drawings of the animals.  I first drew them on copy paper.  Then I taped the copy paper under a piece of deli paper and did the ink work with Daler-Rowney acrylic ink, using Burnt Umber and Sepia.  I let them dry overnight.  And I sprayed them with fixative before I applied them with the matt gel.  But still, the ink smeared!  I was so surprised - acrylic ink and fixative and yet it smeared.  The only way I could find to minimize the smearing was to work quickly and as lightly as I could.  It never occurred to me to test this combination. 

The smearing was worst on the bear which was also the first piece I did.  But in the end, I didn't mind it.

The ink work, the quilt block name, and a few random dabs of red and turquoise acrylic were the final touches.  I stamped the letters on deli paper then glued it on.  Fortunately, the ink in the ink pad didn't smear.

I did the inkwork swirls, branches, and leaves with the Daler Rowney ink and a crow quill pen.  Wary of smearing, I let it dry overnight and sprayed it with fixative before I added three coats of varnish.  I was concerned about the ink smearing with the varnish but, amazingly, it smeared much less.  So somehow the ink on the deli paper was a worse combination than the same ink on the dried acrylic gel.

I really like these pieces.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The First of Nine

My enthusiasm for painting in series got the best of me a few weeks back and I proposed a "Small Works" show to the board of my local art group, the Placerville Arts Association.  They approved, and the show is set for the week of December 10.  There will be three categories, series of 9, series of 3, and individual works.  I have committed to both a series of 9 and a series of 3.  But I was shocked when I counted up how many weeks there are between now and December 10.  I'll be completing a little more than one painting a week to make the deadline.

My series of 9 will be "A Feline's Guide to Floral Fantasy," in other words cats and flowers.  I found nine girls' names that are also names of flowers, and that list provides me both the names of my cats and the flowers that I'll depict.  I decided on acrylic.  And all the paintings are 8" x 8".

This is the first one, and it was very difficult for me to paint.

The difficulty was the paint drying soooo quickly.  I think it was because I prepared the board differently than I usually do.  I cut these boards from a larger piece of 1/4" thick MDF (medium density fiberboard) that I bought at Home Depot.  Usually I simply spray them with white spray wood primer.  But this time I added a coat of gesso over the primer.

The gesso was so absorbent and was fighting me all the way.  So for the next piece I'm going to use primer only and also I'll sand the primer super smooth before I begin painting.  Hopefully that will work a lot better!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Difficult Project

I've been working on my free downloadable art piece for my October newsletter.  (If you'd like to subscribe, just e-mail me at  In addition to the free downloadable art, the newsletter contains a discount coupon for my Etsy shop, thefoxesgarden, and behind-the-scenes, in-the-spotlight, and in-the-pipeline articles.  I don't share your information with anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time.)  I began with the drawing, which I was happy with pretty quickly.

But it went downhill from there!  I was not feeling confident in my ability to paint.  So I made the - bad - choice of starting with colored pencils.  But since I was working on Strathmore Mixed Media paper which has some texture to it, it was impossible for me to get good darks.  So then I added acrylic washes, and had trouble with getting those smooth.

It finally occurred to me that the problem was the surface.  Because of the textured paper, part had colored pencil and part did not.  So the wash wouldn't go on smooth.  I sprayed the piece with workable fixatif then applied a layer of Liquitex Matte Medium.  At that point, the washes went on much more easily.

I continued to have trouble getting the piece dark enough.  The "finished" piece is above, but I may add another wash to darken it more.  We'll see.  

All in all, a cute design, but not very well executed.  Disappointing.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Productivity Problems?

It feels like I haven't been very productive this week.  Actually, I made 5 needle felted reindeer (little ones) so that should qualify as good productivity.  But it doesn't feel like it.  The reindeer are all  finished, but here are four of them showing the different stages in their creation.

I've also spent a lot of time straightening my studio.  I became aware of both stuff that didn't belong and stuff that belonged but wasn't there.  In the latter category the prominent item was a place to relax.  I thought it would be nice to have a small recliner, but where to put it?  All the space was packed.  But I found one on that I liked and that was small enough for the room, so I determined to clear the space for it.

I got rid of some stuff, specifically I put some stuff in deep storage, threw some other stuff in a box for the thrift store and threw some stuff out.  I was able to make room in the closet for a cabinet that had been in the room and once that was done I had room for the recliner.  I still have a ways to go, but should finish tomorrow when I complete another cabinet for in the closet that should provide a home for the rest of the stray stuff.  

Here's a photo of the studio as it is now.  That chair is really comfy!  I think it was time well spent even though it took time away from actually creating art.  The space is more inviting now and easier to work in...

Saturday, September 8, 2018


It hasn't been a very productive week for me, at least not in the way I intended.  I got sidetracked cleaning the studio.  It didn't really need it that badly, but I suddenly became aware of several clusters of stuff that was just wasting space, so I tackled it.

But I did manage to finish needle felting the second rat, Dawn, on the left.  Aurora is on the right.  The next step is to make their clothes.  They are woodland nymphs.  I bought three vintage silk scarves on Etsy, one peach, one pink, and one butter yellow.  I'm not really sure that the yellow one is silk but I sure hope it is because it matters for the design I have in mind.  We'll see how it works.

I barely started the clothes.  The white thing you see on Aurora is my first attempt at a pattern piece for the front of the dress.  I use paper towels because they drape fairly well on the little creatures.

Dawn is reassuring Aurora who is a bit worried about wearing a paper towel!  "It'll be OK, sweetie!"