Sunday, July 25, 2010

No Focus!

Clearly I have a problem with focus. Yesterday I intended to continue work on my parrot painting now that the green pastels I ordered have arrived. Instead, I got side-tracked by the irresistible call of the polymer clay and spent the day creating a little bear. Then Shelley phoned to call my attention to an "Ooak fantasy doll" made of polymer clay on ebay. What caught her attention was that these items seemed to be selling. So, headed down that path, I ran across the Ooak guild,, ("One of a kind," in case you, like me, are not familiar with the term) web site which included several fascinating tutorials, including one on making wings from Fantasy Film (a product from Art Institute Glitter, Fortunately, I had all the "ingredients" on hand! Fully inspired, I added antennae to my polymer bear to transform her to a bear fairy, or "bairy," then cured she. At that point, she was eagerly awaiting her wings!

This morning, Shelley came up and the two of us made fairy wings according to the tutorial. I wish I could properly attribute the tutorial to the artist, but I only saw that she calls herself Faerydae. The tutorial is very well done and easy to follow. Both our sets of wings came out nice. You can see mine on my bear fairy. In addition to the Fantasy Film, I used two other Art Institute Glitter products, their glitter and their Shards. I'm close to addicted to their beautiful products! By the way, of the several glazing products mentioned in the tutorial, I used Diamond Glaze which worked very well.

After that I did a little work on the parrot pastel painting. It was quite taxing as I am feeling my way with a new paper and also a somewhat new style - looser! Yikes!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gourd update and new stuff

Monday Shelley and I got the juror's results for the Mother Lode Show and we both got in!!!!!!! Shelley's pastel of her cat Pumpkin was accepted, as was my pastel painting of Sparkle and the Paradise gourd I wrote about a few weeks ago. The gourd got 12 out of 12 possible points from the juror, so I'm VERY happy. Of course that is only one person's opinion, but I'm happy to have it. The show starts in mid-August.

Meanwhile I've been on to new things. I'm still planning to get back to the parrot pastel painting, but I am waiting for the arrival of some new green pastels I ordered. After all, when in doubt, order more colors! So, while I'm waiting, I'm back to polymer clay and beading.

Shelley and I have been following some very disheartening news about the Interior Department's treatment of the wild mustangs. One of my attempts to help (in addition to calling the White House which I did last week, most likely to no avail) is to make and market some mustang jewelry. If I manage to sell any, I'll donate the proceeds to the Wild Horse Sanctuary which you read about at

I've been sculpting small polymer clay mustang heads to incorporate in jewelry. Here's a picture of some of them. To give an idea of their size, the black one is 2" wide. The large cabochon is labrodorite It's glued to the white backing - Lacy's Stiff Stuff which is available from - and I've stitched seed beads around it. My next step is to glue the smaller teardrop, stitch beads around it, stitch beads behind the horse's head, glue the horse's head on, glue another teardrop cabochon at the bottom, then go wild with the beading. Fun! Fun! Fun! Tedium! Tedium! Tedium!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

velvet monkey drawing update

The other day I added antiquing to the background of the velvet monkies drawing. I diluted Burnt Umber oil paint with Liquin and rubbed the mixture over the piece - but avoiding the monkies - with a paper towel. Then I removed much of the mixture with more rubbing with a paper towel. I was careful to work the paint into the various indentations, especially the writing which I wanted to stand out a little. The thinned paint dried overnight.

I think the piece needs something more, but I'm not sure what. I ordered some interference oil colors and may try those here and there.

I was planning to "crop" the piece on the table saw, but Shelley and my friend Nancy were both horrified at the idea. Of course the answer is no, I didn't know how the saw would cut it, but I was going to try removing a small strip from one edge first as a test. They both said they liked the piece as it is, uncropped, because they find the raggedy edges interesting. I sort of agree with that. But I have a few test pencil strokes and even a small patch of metallic gold oil pastel at the edges where I thought they would later be removed by cropping. So, not sure what to do. I've simply set it aside - PROBLEM SOLVED!

Friday, July 16, 2010

tryinhg a new pastel paper-----

Shelley told me she had read rave reviews of Pastelmat. We've been working on velour paper but have had some frustration with work seeming to disappear - perhaps sinking into the nap - so we were interested in trying something different. I had tried sanded paper but didn't like it because of all the dust. But Pastelmat was supposed to be different in that regard, so I ordered three sheets - a maize, buff, and light grey.

I drew a design with three sun conures which I was happy with, so decided it was time to try the Pastelmat. I chose the maize because of the sunny tropical feeling of the drawing.

My first experience with the new paper was transferring my drawing to it. I traced my drawing on a piece of tracing paper then used a stylus and actual carbon paper (the kind typists used to use) to transfer the lines. Lesley Harrison had recommended this carbon paper in her workshop last year and it was fine on the velour paper - in fact, it was even a bit hard to see. But on the Pastelmat, it created a very nice, sharp, pretty dark line. So far, so good I thought.

I began my pastel work with Nupastel and pastel pencils. The tooth of the Pastelmat pulled good color from both - better than on the velour paper. But guess what? It wasn't covering my transfer lines. Yikes! This could be a REAL PROBLEM!!! But I decided to persevere with lesson 1 (transfer with a light touch, and graphite paper would probably be a better choice than carbon paper) hopefully well learned.

I was working with the background in the upper part of the painting - a sky with several layers of palm fronds with the light shining through. After working the sky I moved to the only two palm fronds I had indicated in my drawing, which were the main fronds in the front. This, of course, turned out to be wrong. I should have worked the softer, further back layers of frond first. So I got confused and frustrated. Whenever I have the strong feeling that I don't know what I'm doing, I should stop and get a grip on the situation. But instead I pressed on, just making the situation worse. So I decided to switch to one of the parrots and had the same result. Of course I didn't know yet how to work on this paper, and things weren't going well.

So I had an "art meltdown moment" and decided to go for the "big blend." I grabbed a terry cloth kitchen towel and RUBBED VIGOROUSLY, blending and also removing much of the pigment. In the end, I kept rubbing and rubbing until I had removed everything that I reasonably could. What I was left with was a very soft rendition of the design. I kind of liked the look so decided to work the rest of the piece in the same manner for the first layer. As I continued with the leaves on the bottom 2/3 of the piece I simply blocked in color, not striving for any detail or much shading as I knew I was going to remove most of the pigment. After blocking in the leaves, branch, and other two birds, I did another "big blend" and I was finished with the first layer. TIME TO SET IT ASIDE. I think it looks a little like a tone paper specially prepared for my painting!

By the way, my transfer lines still show after all the abuse, but I think I can end up covering them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drawing Monkies

The silverpoint drawing I was working on was two Velvet Monkies. I liked the preliminary drawing and didn't want to give up on the concept just because the silverpoint didn't pan out for me. So I decided to do a graphite drawing of the same design. I also decided to use the Golden Silverpoint/Drawing Ground which I liked so much.

For my surface, I began with a piece of Ampersand Gessoboard. I covered the entire board with Golden's light Molding Paste, spreading it on with a long cake knife. I kept working it to get the smoothest possible surface (which was mostly, but not completely, smooth) on the right middle part of the board where the drawing was going to go. I textured the rest in various ways - pulling my fingers through it, using a comb, and squiggling with a shorted spatula. I even pressed the face of a flower into it then pulled it away. What resulted was interesting, but didn't look like a flower, which was OK. I also used a clay modeling tool to add some writing to the left of where the drawing would go. I wrote "ancient knowledge" in ancient Greek - my commentary on the spirit of the monkies.

After the modeling paste dried, I tinted some of the silverpoint ground with acrylic paint and coated the modeling paste. Foolishly, wanting an antique white, I added antique white paint to the silverpoint ground. Of course it took a fair amount of paint to get the color I wanted, and I should obviously have used a much darker paint so that I wouldn't need so much. I think it would have worked out a little better if I had more of the silverpoint ground in the mix.

Anyway, with the board prepared in that way, I carefully transferred my drawing (with the drawing on tracing paper, I went over the lines on the back of the paper with a 2B pencil, then placed the drawing right-side-up on the prepared surface and went over all the lines lightly with a stylus, thus transferring the 2B graphite to the prepared board) and began my drawing with HB and 2B mechanical pencils. The drawing was a little tricky because the surface was not completely firm. The modeling paste leaves a "flexible film" and, since it was thick - 1/16" to over 1/8" in places - it gives with the pressure of the lead point. I had to use a pretty light touch and be careful to not scrape the surface with the pencil point. It all worked pretty well, but I didn't get real darks, even with my 9B Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Pencil. I think the ground would have caught more pencil lead and I could have gone darker - even with a light touch - if I hadn't had diluted its tooth so much with the paint I used to tint it. When I felt almost done, I sprayed the whole piece with Krylon workable fixative. I did just a little more drawing and found that the lead transfers more heavily with the fixative on the surface - increases the tooth, I guess. I'll work on the drawing some more then fix it again. I'm considering light washes of acrylic or watercolor over the parts without the drawing to antique the piece a bit and bring out the texture - especially the lettering. But I don't know how the washes will work over the fixative. I guess I'll have to experiment - YUCK, I hate "practicing!"

By the way, I looked for softer leads for my mechanical pencils but couldn't find anything darker than 3B and 4B, which I found at

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I don't like to give up on things, and I rarely do. But add silverpoint to that short list. I'm done with it - at least for the forseeable future.

I'd been interested in some old techniques - egg tempera, silverpoint, early styles of calligraphy - and found a website with lots of information on silverpoint. And Golden has a Silverpoint drawing medium. I happily ordered a few silverpoint styluses and the medium and, after the usual hesitation surrounding beginning something new, I prepped my paper, transferred my design (graphite erases without disturbing the silverpoint - at least that was the theory), and began drawing. I liked the feel of both the points and the treated paper.

But I was frustrated by my inability to get any decent value contrast. I had read that silverpoint produces a "delicate" drawing so was prepared to some extent. But I just didn't like the look I was getting. I know that the silver will tarnish and darken with age and maybe more value contrast would emerge over time. I worked on the drawing for two sessions, then quit. The areas I wanted the darkest appear to be fully saturated with silver, but even those areas are maybe 20% on the value scale. So I'm going to put it away and check it out in a year or so just out of curiosity.

By the way, erasing the graphite worked quite well - erased completely without disturbing either the ground or any of the silverpoint.

On the plus side, I did really like the drawing medium. It's easy to use. You shake the bottle vigorously then let it sit for about 5 minutes for the bubbles to dissipate. Then you pour a little out into a shallow container and apply to your paper with a sponge brush. Supposedly you can tint it (with watercolor, I think). It gives a really nice tooth. So I'm going to try tinting some paper and then work with pencil over it. Will let you know how it works!

This evening I made a small polymer clay bear's head for a bead embroidery bracelet I want to make. I included part of the chest, ending in a rounded point, and plan to have the bear piece be the center of a beaded embroidery butterfly with turquoise and other cabochons included as well. It should be a fun project. I was happy with the way the bear head came out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I managed to finish my gourd on time to meet Monday's deadline, but it was a struggle. Nonetheless, I was happy with the results. I sculpted the elephant on the top from polymer clay. The lotus petals and base are pieces of other gourds. I painted the main gourd and the base with acrylic paint. This piece is basically a shallow bowl with a lid. The jagged line at the top of the petals painted on the main gourd is where the cut is.
In case you're interested, I drew the three elephant groups without any particular regard for size - just whatever was comfortable. Then I reduced them on my printer/copier and cut them out. After changing sizes a few times and shifting them around experimentally on the gourd I decided where I wanted them and transfered them to the gourd. I loosely designed the other elements in my mind, added a few guide lines, and started painting! The mountains and sky were first, then the groups of trees (except the bit foreground one with the ibis) then the grassy areas and water, then the elephants. The tree with the ibis was next, then the group of water lilies. The waterfall reflections in the water were last - and the hardest part of the painting. After painting so small, it was a mental shift to move to the base with it's large areas.
The big problem at the end was the gap between the gourd base and the bottom piece of the main gourd - the seam was uneven and didn't look too good. Fortunately, I had a piece of kumihimo braid that was the right length and color. I glued it in place to cover the seam in the gourds then made the two tassels (from silk embroidery thread) and the little polymer clay frog to cover the ends of the cord.
As for the epoxy clay that I was trying out as an adhesive to attach the gourd petals to the gourd ring of the base, it worked but wasn't what I hoped it would be. I expected it to work like clay, but it was pretty sticky - too sticky to model in any precise way. It fills gaps and gives a good bond but I had a difficult time getting the epoxy clay to be smooth enough to show on the finished piece. Now that I've worked with it I'll know better next time how to use it. And I definitely will use it again. I recommend this product, but it takes some experimenting - as everything else - to get to know how to best use it.
The name of the epoxy clay product is APOXIE SCULPT and I found it at