Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Gray Ewe

Yesterday was our weekly art get-together and I needed a more portable project than the Burdz in Niches that I just started.  So I scrounged around and found a lamb armature that I made some time ago but never finished - perfect!  It should take me between 2 and 3 hours to complete it and it's portable.

It was very relaxing poke-poke-poking the wool fibers onto the armature until this sweet creature finally emerged!  I added a collar made from embroidery thread in pretty shades of pink and peach with two tassels and a rusted bell.  "Laura" feels so special!

As I've done needle felting over the last few years I've organized myself pretty well.  Each time I made a new animal I begin by finding a graphic of it's skeleton and from there I make a full-scale drawing of the armature for the size animal I want to create.  I save the drawing in a notebook along with reference photos and any notes I feel I will need in the future.  I can use that drawing later to re-create any of the animals I've done in the past.  But, still, they are all unique!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Burdz in Niches

"Cloth, Paper, Scissors" magazine is having a mixed media competition and I decided to enter.  I spent several hours over a few days deciding what my project would be, and I decided on "burdz in niches."

A few years ago I enjoyed making a series of small birds from paper clay with rusted wire legs and feet.  I decorated them with painting and collage and was quite happy with the results.  They've sat in my display cabinet ever since.  But now there's going to star in their very own mixed media display.  My intent is to make a display piece for them which will be decorated with mixed media, and that they and their display will form a single piece of mixed media art.

I made the base from 1/4" hardboard on the front and back, and 3/4" pine on the sides, top and bottom (except the top isn't connected yet).  I cut arches out of the front piece of hardboard and cut corresponding individual arches to glue on the back piece.  I could then glue in hardboard floors for the niches and create the rounded walls with three layers of heavy Strathmore mixed media paper which I applied layer by layer, gluing the new layer over the old with Liquitex Matte Gel Medium.

Here are the birds - I call them my "Burdz" - trying out their niches in the new construction.  The Burdz are, clockwise from upper left, Raspberry, Melon, Kiwi, and Blueberry.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Olive Green Challenge, all done!

The final step was to add the decorative detail in the border,  I added the dragonfly collage element, and painted some dot and leaf and vine details.  I also smudged metallic gold along the outer edge.  It was difficult to stop before I had done too much because this part is my favorite - all the fussing and little details.

So, this piece definitely features Olive Green.  In fact, it's nearly all green, but I think the value contrast, along with the different colors of green and the details of orange, turquoise, and lavender keep it from being boring.  I really hope that "Somerset Studio" magazine likes this piece and chooses to publish it as part of this challenge.  I shipped it off on Friday, hoping for the best.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Olive Green Challenge, part 5

Some of the chaos is gone from the piece now that I've worked more on the frame and have eliminated - or at least drastically reduced - the stark value contrast.

I first glued on collage elements, then painted the white parts with successive washes of Jenkins Green, Phthalo Green, and Sap Green until I was satisfied.  As always with painting over collage elements and pushing them way back, it's somewhat sad to see them come close to disappearing, especially the ones I painted myself.  But that's the way it goes with collage!

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Olive Green Challenge, part 4

Now it's time to work on the frog.  I'm purposefully using more of an olive green than the background, and trying to pay attention to values.  Since nearly the entire painting will be green, I have to depend on value more than anything else to establish the composition and bring the focal point - the frog - forward.

After deepening the contrast in the frog and adding more detail, I was ready for the glass bead ring around the inside of the corrugated cardboard frame.  The edges of the cardboard have all the little tunnel from the corrugation, and I wanted to cover them.  In preparation, I pressed them down a bit.

The glass bead gel that I'm going to use will dry transparent, so I paint the color I want it to appear underneath where the gel will go.  I chose an iridescent turquoise acrylic by Jo Sonja, a scrumptuous color.  After it dried, I loaded a small plastic bag with the gel, cut away a small corner of the bag, and squeezed out a thick bead of jell all around the inner edge of the circle - rather like decorating a cake with icing in a decorating bag.  Now to let it dry.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Olive Green Challenge, part 3

I'm preparing for the next stage, both on the frame and on the frog panel itself.

I've applied coarse molding paste over parts of the corrugated cardboard with a palette knife.  I had these three Czech glass dragonfly buttons which I thought would be a perfect addition to this piece, so I simply embedded them in the molding paste.

The next step was to paint the frog with gesso and then transfer the drawing details.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Olive Green Challenge, part 2

I've added the corrugated cardboard frame.  To do it, I cut four corner pieces and glued them down with Liquitex Matt Gel Medium.  I weighted it with books for good contact and let it set overnight.

The next morning, I peeled away the top layer of cardboard, revealing the corrugation underneath.  I waited until the glue dried so that the back wouldn't lift as I pulled the top layer away.  It seemed that there was a bit of dampness in the cardboard (from the medium, I presume) that made the peeling easier.

After that, I applied a layer of gesso, then painted it green - Chrome Oxide green, to be precise - and added a few darker splotches with washes of Phtalo Blue Red Shade.

I am bothered that the lightest spot of the circle will be covered with the frog, but I went into that last time - a shameful lack of planning!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Olive Green Challenge

Somerset Studio Magazine is having a challenge - see what you can do with Olive Green.  Well, green is my favorite color in all its glorious variety.  Olive Green is not my favorite green, but I like it well enough.  Somerset Studio is all about mixed media, so of course this will be a mixed media piece.  I hope my piece is good enough to make an appearance in the magazine!

I have decided to portray Olivia the frog.  I'm going to use a square format with a circle in the middle, so I begin with collage and painting in the center of the square.  The dragonflies and the squiggle at 7 o'clock are elements that I painted on deli paper and then used in the collage. 

I love the pale phthalo green in the lower part but, unfortunately, I think it's going to be covered by the frog;  I should have outlined it in place before I began painting.  That way I could have planned my color placement better.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Nile Diety

A few posts ago I showed a few small stoneware sculpture pieces drying and awaiting their first firing.

Here's the crocodile, glazed and finished.  After brushing the glaze on, I set the crocodile on top of the plinth in the kiln and when it fired the two pieces fused from the glaze melting.  The two pieces of the headdress I fired separately.  The turquoise bead had a whole all the way through while the blue piece had a hole in the bottom and the crocodile had a hole in the top of his head.  After the pieces were fired, I put a short piece of toothpick into the hole on his head then threaded the turquoise and blue pieces onto the toothpick with glue to keep everything in place.  E6000 does a great job gluing glass which is essentially what the glazed surface of these pieces are.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Hare in Progress

Next, I'm working on a hare.  To begin her, I started with a lump of clay that I shaped to be her head (not including the ears) and body (not including the tail.  After I was generally satisfied with that shape, I added ears and eyes and modeled her muzzle in more detail.

At that point, she was a solid lump of clay.  To hollow her out, I used a piece of thin fishing line to cut her body in half crosswise.  I hollowed out each half, then scored and slipped the cut edges and stuck her back together.  I pierced a hole in her chest so that the air inside to could escape when it expands in the heat of the kiln.  I let it sit for a while at this stage to let that seam rest.  The slip in the seam is more moist than the surrounding clay so that it tends to move.  As it sits, the moisture evens out and the cut is sealed more firmly.

Then I added the legs, then began adding the legs, one at a time.  As you can see, at the point I took this photo, I wasn't quite finished.  But I proceeded to add the back legs, then I textured her and pressed a spiral design into her left hip. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Crocodile Diety and Regular Cat

It's time for more sculpting - for more reasons than one.  The main one is that a show entry deadline is coming up soon and I decided I wanted to enter both a 2D and a 3D piece.  The tiger painting will be my 2D piece and I wanted a crocodile as my 3D piece.

I was recently watching an episode of "River Monsters" with Jeremy Wade and Jeremy was in Africa - don't remember exactly where but it seemed like the upper Nile region - searching for tiger fish.  A by-product was encounters with several Nile crocodiles, including one that was languidly swimming away from him.  I was so struck by the beauty of the animal's movements that I determined to learn more and to sculpt him even though I don't usually portray animals that aren't north American or European (it's not a prejudice - just that I feel that they are someone else's special animals rather than part of my cultural heritage).

During my research I found several beautiful ancient Egyptian depictions of these impressive creatures.  I have always been awed by the elegance of the way those people sculpted and painted animals and crocodiles were just one more example of that fine talent of that culture.

My challenge became how to "jump off" from that start - suggesting the originals, but still making them my own.  I don't know whether or not I lived up to that challenge.

The crocodile is definitely "my own" with its smile that just won't be wiped away from my animals mouths. But I'm not sure that I really added enough of my own vision.  Perhaps it will be clearer when the piece is fired and glazed.  By the way, the two small pieces in the lower center of the photo will be the crocodile's headdress.

The other piece is a little cat.  Although I am very familiar with cats since I live with several, I find them the hardest animals to draw, paint, or - especially - sculpt.  So I thought I'd just set myself that problem - could I finally sculpt a good cat?  Once again, the just is still out, but I suspect that the answer will be "not quite!"

Both these pieces are speckled brown stoneware from

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Finished Tiger

The tiger painting is now finished.  The final step was making the frame.  To do it, I cut a piece of 1/4" hardboard that was one inch all around larger than the tiger's board.

I used the metal embossing technique I learned in Michael DeMeng's class in April in Santa Rosa.  The border is piece from five separate pieces of metal since I didn't have a metal sheet large enough for the entire frame.  It was a tedious process.  I began on the curve and cut as large a piece as I could from my 9" x 12" metal sheets.  The pieces needed to cover the one inch border plus enough to wrap around the edge and secure on the back plus about 1/2" to sit under the tiger panel.

One I cut the first piece, I decided on my border design and embossed the metal.  I then glued the metal in place and cut the next piece.  Working in that sequence, I continued until the entire edge was covered.

I then needed to do the patina.  When I embossed, I worked so that the painted side of the metal would be the finished side, but some of the paint rubbed off as I worked.  So I sprayed the painted metal with workable fixatif so that the metallic paint would stick.  I painted the Six Seconds bronze metal paint over the embossing and let it dry.  I then applied the second coat and sprayed the patine on while the paint was still wet.

I let the frame piece dry over night then glued the tiger panel in place to finish the piece.

Actually, there is one step left which is to cut a piece of something (not such what - maybe mat board - to cover the back and the raw edges of the metal.

My embossing could have been better - I had some problems following the curve with the rolling texture tool - but overall I'm very happy with this piece!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Re-Painted the Lotus

I concluded that the problem with the lotus was that they looked transparent, and that was because of the way I painted them.  So I painted over them with white gesso and began again.

This time, my plan was to use a peachy pink on the petals that we see the outside of, and a cooler pink on the petals we see the inside of.  Furthermore, I wanted the flowers lit from below as though they are being lit from the yellow-orange glow behind the tiger.  The painting was pretty straight-forward - I used opaque colors and worked wet-in-wet.  I finished the bluish pink petals first and then worked on the peachy pink petals, which are the petals in front.

In the end, I painted turquoise accents around the tips of the petals and added small touches of yellow green at the base of the stems.

Another problem I had with the painting was the edge of the paper that I drew the tiger on.  When I originally tore-cut it from the sheet of drawing paper, I cut a straight edge along the bottom expecting that it would alight with the bottom edge of the board.  But it turned out that I placed it about 3/8" above the bottom edge of the board, and the edge of the paper was too obvious.  So, I painted a decorative strip across the bottom to obscure the edge.  I based the design of the strip on the dark brush strokes in the collage background at the lower right edge of the tiger.

Finally, I molded some paper clay pieces for around the edge.  I painted them with Six Seconds bronze and then applied their patina.  My intention was to suggest fragments of a long-since damaged bronze frame.