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!"

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Happy Accident

I always figure you can't go wrong with a bird, and it proved to be true yet again with this little painting/collage.

The collage part is very simple - just tiling the surface with pieces of color-coordinated images then adding a piece of an old book page that I punched along one side with a Fiskars edge punch then ripped the rest.

The branch, leaves, and berries are cut from pieces of magazine pages, but I painted the bird with acrylics.

But here's the fun part!  I noticed that one of the leaves somehow had a little raggedy-edge hole and the white of the book page was showing through.  I didn't like that at all!  But what to do?  I decided to get out my X-acto knife and try to scratch veins in the leaves and, guess what?  It worked?  I think it adds a lot of character to the piece and it all came about through a happy accident.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Continuing to Develop the Collage Technique

I've made two more collages, continuing to work with the method I'm developing that begins with copyright free photos.  I'm working on this method to teach a collage workshop with very simple accessible techniques.  But also, I'm enjoying making these as exercises in creativity.

This one with the cat I call "The Poet's Dream."

Here's a photo of what it looked like with only the collage phase done.  I almost gave up on it at this point.  The cat seemed to disappear and the edge between the gray and white parts was just too harsh.  I wasn't at all sure that I could solve these problems with just colored pencil and I didn't want to use any paint because that would make the technique more difficult for beginning students.

But I just kept working away at it and eventually it came together.  I used a couple of different techniques to soften the gray/white edges, all centered around darkening the white and lightening the gray.

The there was quite a bit of work to bring out the cat.  I added a bit more collage - all small bits - and in the end I think it works well.

I call this one "The Night of Magic."  I had the vision of adding all the swirls around the antlers from the beginning, but it took a bit of work to get to the place where I could add them.

Here's what it looked like after the collage layer.  As you can see, there was a lot of colored pencil work, particularly darkening the sky and bringing out the deer.  It was all fun, but the best part was those swirls.  By the way, I really like how opaque the white pencil is.  I used Prismacolor.

Saturday, August 18, 2018


This week I began working on my next needle felting project - a pair of rats.  I think rats deserve respect, and I'm trying to help with that by portraying them as sweet as they really are!

My plan had been to make both of them at once, but I ran out of a critical piece, 22 gauge white cotton covered stem wire.  The only place I found them sold them in a batch of 240, so now I should have a lifetime supply.  I did have enough, though, to make one rat and I used them for the hands and feet trying out a new technique that I dreamed up and I think it worked out pretty well.

So meet Aurora, the first of the sisters.  Her little sister, whose name I have.  n't decided on yet, should be along some time this week since I now have all the supplies.

Here's little Aurora standing on a shelf in the studio.  She likes all the pretty colors of the paint jars hanging in the wall rack behind her.

My original thought was to costume the rats in Halloween costumes, but now I'm no longer completely sold on that plan.  Although it would be cute, the girls would be relegated to Halloween decorations.  I think I'd prefer a more year-round use.  So I'm thinking of fairy princesses or forest nymphs.

I'll make that decision once the other rat appears!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Developing a New Collage Technique

I would like to teach workshops on collage but the technique I usually use depends on drawing and painting.  Since so many people believe that they can't draw, I've been working on techniques that don't require drawing but do include nice animal images.

I decided to start with photographs, so I took a few photos of my chicken, Maisie, and my sister's dog, Sunny.  I loaded the photos onto my laptop then used an on-line free, minimal, but very useful version of Photoshop, to lighten the exposure as much as possible and dramatically increase the saturation.  I printed the image on my ink jet printer then sprayed it with workable fixatif to set the ink and allow me to use it in collage.

The first phase of the piece was constructing the collage background, including the image of Maisie that I ripped from the sheet I printed her on.  In this photo, I've also begun a bit of the colored pencil work.

The longest part of the process was go build up Maisie's image with colored pencil.  I left the highly saturated parts of Maisie's plumage as it was from the manipulated photo for the highlights.  Most of my colored pencil work was on the darker parts of the plumage as well as the details of the face.  So, essentially what I did was to reduce the original photo to light saturated colors, then work back up with colored pencil to achieve something close to, but more dramatic and colorful than, the original photo as I snapped it.

As always, for me, the most fun parts are towards the end when I add decorative elements.  So I drew in some bugs and added colored pencil motifs in the background.

Then I continued until I probably had done too much.  Finally, I couldn't resist getting out my alphabet stamps and adding some text "these bugs are so annoying - I think I will eat them."

Here's the one I did of Sunny.

I think this technique would work for people who aren't comfortable with drawing or painting.  It just involves collage with paper bits and colored pencil work.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Third Illustration - Vicious

I finished the third of my illustrations for my book "Milkweed Manor."  This is vicious, the weasel assistant to Reynard who is a fox and a shaman.  Seeking help for the sick mouse children in the village, one of the badger boys, accompanied by a crow, hiked deep into the woods to find the shaman.  As they approach, Vicious confronts them from a window of the shaman's compound.

As with the earlier illustrations, this is pencil with watercolor washes.  This is a combination of media that I'm comfortable with and I like the old-fashioned, tinted drawing look.  These take quite a while to do and this one was especially challenging working around the filaments of the spider web.

At this point, I'm simply illustrating passages at random.  Once I have about a dozen I'll probably switch to working on layout with place holders for illustrations that aren't done yet.  This is a fun process, but has some frustrations.  I find it impossible to concentrate just on these illustrations.  Other projects seem to call to me in voices that won't be silenced.  So this set of illustrations will inevitably take quite a while to finish.  I'm venturing into unknown territory with the layout!  But fun!