Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Finished Cliff Swallow Painting

 I'm now finished with this first swallow painting (I'm planning two more).  I did more detail work on the bird - especially delineating the feathers in the wing, added more color and value contrast to the background, and finished - and added to - the weeds.

So here are the suggestions from Victoria Brooks that I found so helpful:

First of all, she mixes all of her colors first.  It's a bit of a pait, but when you finally start to paint it's a lot easier, plus you know that you have good colors that coordinate.

Second, she first loads her brush lightly with Liquin each time she loads her brush with paint.  This gives a lovely smooth texture to the paint, makes the paint go further, and helps it dry faster.  I was amazed that the Liquin, in these small amounts, didn't dilute the paints making them transparent.  They were still quite opaque and covered each other well - better, in fact, than with the paints straight from the tube.  I think that may be because you only have to use the lightest touch for the paint to flow from the brush.

Third, she likes to add pink for a warm glow.  I added just a bit to the background and a slight touch of Permanent Rose to the Burnt Sienna on the cheek.

Oh, and I should have added that she tones her canvases with thinned Burnt Sienna.  I did that also, and very much liked working on that warm, light to mid-tone background rather than white.

So, thank you Victoria!

Monday, October 26, 2015

My third Oil Painting

My three oil paintings are getting smaller and smaller - this one is 8" x 8".

Lately I've been going through my old "Birder's World" magazines, cutting and saving the photos that I really like and throwing the rest away.  It's a way of reducing the volume of old magazines that I've been holding on to.

As I go through those old magazines I realize that I have whole lifetimes' worth of source materials there at my fingertips.  I found so many of the photos inspirational, but I especially liked a series of three different kinds of swallows.  I have a sentimental attachment to them.

There was a pair of barn swallows that used to nest on the stucco wall outside of our family room every year and they were a joy to watch.

None of the three swallow photos I can across were barn swallows, but this little cliff swallow has very similar coloration.

At our last Placerville Arts Association meeting, Victoria Brooks, who is a wonderful oil painter whose subjects are most often children, demonstrated for us.  It was so timely for me as I am just beginning this medium.  I took note of and liked many of the things she said, and I'm following her method in several ways - but more about that next time.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back to Needle Felting

It's been quite a while since I've done any needle felting and I miss it.  So I've decided to make a little fox and dress her in a nice costume of some sort.  Fortunately, I've saved the diagrams for the armatures from my past needle felting ventures, so it will be an easy start.

At this point, I've completed the armature and the core wool.  Her legs don't have any core wool because they're so skinny - just the blackish-brown that will be the final color.

All the while I've been working on her I've been contemplating how to dress her.  My first thought was a Victorian scullery maid.  But I think their dresses were floor-length and I hate to completely cover her shapely legs!  So, that's one idea and I don't know whether I'll end up going with it or not.  Just have to wait and see what she has to say!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

More on Boson

I've worked more on Boson's portrait.  My sister critiqued the painting-in-progress and suggested that the eyes didn't match.  I have tried to correct that but see now that I haven't quite succeeded.  I worked on his right eye but see now that I need to do more on his left eye also.  The slants don't match.

I can also see that I need to work on the lower chest.  And the fringe of white hair over they gray looks too rough.

My sisteer also suggested that a background reminiscent of the old Wuthering Heights movie would be appropriate for this "Heathclissesque" portrait.  So, I've tried to achieve that.

I'm contemplating a lightning bolt.  It's a bit corny and perhaps over-dramatic.  But that's the kind of thing I like.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Boson in his Prime

Boson is one of my beloved cats who is now in old age and suffering from a variety of maladies.  I don't know which he considers most burdensome, but the one that I feel worst about on his account is the blindness that has come over him recently.  When I ran across a photo I had taken of him in his prime, painting a portrait from it seemed like the obvious thing to do.

By the way, "boson" is the name of two of the many kinds of sub-atomic particles.  The boson comes in two varieties, "strong" and "weak."  Bosie is named after the strong boson, and I often call him "Boson the Brave."  He has always been a good friend to me and the other cats as well as a care-giver when circumstances warranted it.

I forgot to take a photo of the painting after the first stage, but there wasn't much to it - just blocking in the basic colors.  By the way, this is oil (part of the October Challenge) on an 8" x 10" primed stretched canvas.

Before I began with the oils, I under-coated with acrylic - mauve for the background and yellow ochre for the cat - then transferred my drawing.  I chose mauve for the background because I thought I saw purple in Bosie's gray fur.  I tried to mix a gray of purple and yellow for the first oil layer, but it didn't work very well.

This photo is after the second painting session.  Here my grays are mixtures of Van Dyke Brown, French Ultramarine, and Titanium White.  You may notice yellowish lines between some of the main blocks of color.  During the first painting session, I kept my graphite lines by painting up to, but not over them, leaving about a 1/16" channel of the acrylic background color showing.  I didn't want to overlap the oil colors because I didn't want to blend the colors.  Later, I'll (hopefully) paint tiny hairs across the color edges.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Ultimate Zeke

Yes, my portrait of the ultimate great cat, Zeke, is now finished.  I did what I had planned - added shadows and whiskers - and I declare it done!  I'm satisfied with my first oil painting.

But a few words about Zeke.  He is the sweetest, most innocent cat.  He and the late, beloved Starbuck were brothers.  Starbuck was all black, but the two of them shared the little goatees - so darn cute.  Perhaps it's time for a portrait of Starbuck...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Penultimate Zeke

Yes, as I reckon it, today's painting session was the next to last for Zeke's oil portrait.
The things I did were minor but, I hope, important.  The most noticeable is that I added shadows underneath the edges of the blanket as well as the cat's legs and tail.  I also added more color to the bit of blanket showing between the belly and tail and just generally did more fiddling around with the fur.
Now I have to let it dry because the next - and probably last - thing I want to do is add some glazes then paint in the whiskers.  Hopefully tomorrow - if it's dry enough.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Continuing on Zeke's Portrait

I've continued to work on the portrait, feeling my way along with the oil paints.

At least to me, they are vey different from either acrylics or watercolor in that it seems impossible not to blend them as you paint. With acrylics and watercolor I work in layers and rarely mix colors.  Instead, I tend to stick to the transparent colors and get the variations by laying them over each other.  The main exception is a shadow color which I mix from Ultramarine Blue and either Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna.

I've watched many oil painting demonstrations and the thing that always seemed like such a pain was mixing all the colors.  But I found myself doing that without even much thinking about it.  I'm enjoying it.

I can see quite a bit more for me to do in this painting, but my sister said she thinks it's very close to being finished.  So I guess in my next painting session I'll limit myself to the changes and additions that I think are absolutely necessary and then reassess.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First Oil Brushstroke

 Our art club is having a challenge for the month of October.  Each of us will challenge ourselves to do what we've been wanting to do for a long time but haven't gotten around to.  My challenge is to finally paint in oils.

Beginning was a bit intimidating until I remembered this start on an acrylic that I had done in a 1/2-day workshop in the summer of 2014.  It's from a photo of my very photogenic cat Zeke.  I only just got a very beginning on it at the time, so I thought I'd start with that base and finish it in oils.

Below is my progress after a few hours.  I've worked on the background and then just a bit on the face.  My plan is to pretty much finish the background, block in the cat, make any adjustments to the background, then focus on the cat.  Wish me luck!

Before I started I thought the oils would be very similar to acrylics, but they're not!  It will take more working with them to figure out what the differences actually are and how to handle them.  But it's fun!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fox Icon

I finished the fox icon after having the fun of going through my collection of metal stampings, bead, and other "stuff" one more time.  Because the other three had the beaded flower springs I thought this one should have one - or more - also.  But I had used up all the ones I had.  So the first step was to make four more to march across the bottom.
I also used a fox, an owl, and a filigree stamping, a bejeweled key that I took off a funky piece of costume jewelry, flat back rhinestones and pearls, size 6 seed beads, and leaf-shaped Czech glass beads.
My concept was a young fox in a late spring meadow high in the foothills.  So for the background I paint-sketched a sky, distant hills, middleground pine trees, a meadow with wildflowers, and a foreground tree.
These have just been so much fun to make.  Now to photograph them and put them in my Etsy shop.  And until - if ever - they sell, I'll just enjoy them!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rabbit Redux

(I prefer to see a painting before it is cropped and matted and framed because I so enjoy the raggedy edges and the scribbles in the margins testing color and brush load.)
Once I was done with the little fox portrait I was ready to proceed with my wildlife portrait greeting cards as I had the frame and the four animal portraits - hare, raccoon, black bear, and fox.  Or so I thought.  But when I went to the computer to begin printing my previous scans to put the cards together I couldn't find a scan of the hare!  I guess I just didn't do it.  And now that little painting is glued into the rabbit icon behind glass.  There was nothing to do but paint another, and here it is!

This one is a completely different look from the first - a cottontail rather than a hare and an expression more sweet than serious.

So now I have my four animal portraits - onward with the cards!  And meanwhile, I'm pondering what to do with this little painting.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Christmas Card Possibility

This is a small painting- maybe 4" tall.  I did it for the focal point of a polymer clay wall piece along the lines of the one I did in Laurie Mika's class (post from last month) but not so glitzy.  Actually, I will scan the painting then make an archival print and use the print for the piece.  The portion I will use will be smaller than what you see.  I've decided to hold on to the original and maybe frame it.  It may also form the basis for Christmas cards.

I began with pencil on Strathmore Mixed Media paper.  Then I added light washes of watercolor, gradually darkening the color with additional washes.  I got the background (no spruce branches yet) the darkness I wanted it to be in the end, but left the deer a bit lighter than I envisioned the finished piece.  Then I turned to acrylic ink and a crow quill pen.  I used Black, Sepia, Burnt Umber and a bit of Burnt Sienna.  Then I returned to the watercolor washes and deepened the color and added the spruce branches.

My final steps were to add a bit of white fur with acrylic ink and dot in the few snow flakes with white acrylic gouache.  I like the colors.