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Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back

detail from my beaded necklace, "Mystic Pool"
2010 was a good art year for me. My pieces were well-received in several shows. I was able to sell over $3,000 of art work and donate the money to animal charities. Challenges presented themselves for the future. And directions became clearer in a few significant ways. I also re-built my web site and finally got serious with this blog that I had started late in 2009.

In terms of the shows, the highlight was being a finalist in Kalmbach’s 2010 Bead Dreams Show in the polymer clay category. This is an international show. I don’t know the number of entries, but wouldn’t be surprised if there are hundreds in each category. My piece was one of five finalists, so I am very pleased.

Firemountain Gems accepted five of my pieces as finalists, one in the seed bead category, and four in the polymer clay category. One of the polymer clay pieces, the “Christmas Dreams” necklace, won the gold medal in its category. Firemountain Gems does a fabulous job of recognizing its artists and I really appreciate their efforts. They sent me lovely certificates with professional photos of my pieces, as well as copies of three full page ads, each featuring one of my pieces, which they will be using in advertising.

My “Paradise” gourd won first prize in the American Gourd Society’s quarterly competition in the spring. The theme was mixed media and they printed a nice photo as well as a brief bio in their official magazine.

Sierra Pastel Society awarded me Signature Status. I was one of two members awarded this status this year.

My pastel portrait of our beloved squirrel Sparkle won an Award of Merit in PAA’s annual national juried Mother Lode Show held at the Shakespeare Club in Placerville.

My pastel portrait of a sweet kitten, “Badger,” won an Award of Merit in Sierra Pastel Society’s bi-annual national juried show, “Pastels on High,” held at Hang It Up Gallery in El Dorado Hills.

In terms of sales, I made several “one off” sales during the year and also participated in two sales opportunities, PAA’s Studio Tour and EDAC’s Holiday Market. This year I completed my first two commissioned pet portraits and also sold one of the portraits that I had painted as a sample. I was thrilled to distribute the money I made to animal charities: PAWED (People for Animal Welfare in El Dorado County),  Fat Kitty City (a cat shelter in El Dorado Hills), and IBBR (Idaho Black Bear Rehab).

My application for membership in the Society of Animal Artists was not accepted, so re-applying in April is my big challenge for the first part of next year. I will be completing five animal paintings for this purpose. Other challenges include finding more places to market my work. I would also like to find a way to specifically support the cause of the American mustangs through my art.

In addition to meeting these challenges, other goals include self-publishing, expanding my on-line presence, and creating and following a schedule for updating my website. I plan to once again enter the Bead Dreams and Fire Mountain Gems competitions. I will also enter an IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) competition.

In closing for the year, I am so grateful for whatever talents God has given me, and for my wonderful human and animal family.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Owl's Progress

 Today I worked on Owl number 7 and took photos along the way to document the process.

Here's the first stage.  I began with the sky, lightly outlining the moon and its ring, then filled in the sky colors working upward and downward from the bottom of the moon from dark to light.  I overlapped the colors where they meet to begin blending them.

On the owl, I was really just trying to block in the base colors - the colors upon which I would later add the darker plumage patterns.  As always when working with colored pencil, I had to be sure to preserve the lights.

Here's the way it looked after I went over it with the solvent.  I haven't added any color, just the solvent.  As you can see, it really intensifies the colors.  And it also pushes the color into the texture of the paper to eliminate the tiny white spots in the areas of color.  Of course it works better with some colors than others.  The blues, dark browns, and black really dissolve well.  I have to be careful not to pull the solvent-soaked q-tip from a dark brown area, for example, into a neighboring light area unless I also want to bring a little of the dark brown with me.  So adding the solvent is a careful process.  I did some things that I didn't mean to, such as smearing some black from the pupils into the irises. 

Now I'm ready to proceed with more colored pencil.  In the sky area, I add a second layer, but this time I use only two colors in the darker upper area rather than four.  This automatically achieves more blending as the colors layer.

For the owl, I add detail, working with darker colors over the underlying lighter areas.  This is a tedious process, but worth the effort.  As I add detail, I also add shadow areas.  For the body, I will need another layer since the body is pretty dark.  At this stage, I'm just blocking in the larger dark patterns on the plumage and intensifying the reddish color.

I leave the owl's head as is, but go over the sky and the owl's body with solvent to blend.

To finish him, I work another layer of plumage over the body, then intensify the darkest areas on the head and body with a little black.

The upper sky seemed a little bright, so I went over it with a layer of a grayer blue to dull it a bit.

As I look at him now, I think I want to enlarge the pupils a bit along the lower edges - the irises are a little too wide.

By the way, when I was blogging last night I realized that poor Owl number 6 had a bug-eyed look, so today I corrected that by adding dark to the irises above the pupils.

This owl went more quickly than the others.  Perhaps I'm finally getting the hang of working with the colored pencil and solvent.  I don't think I detailed this before, but I'm applying Gamsol with a q-tip and have to switch to a clean q-tip quite often as it picks up color.  I'm using Prismacolor pencils on Stonehenge drawing paper, sometimes using white and sometimes fawn.  This one is on white paper.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Owl Number 6 Has Flown in for the Show

The owl flock is filling out with the arrival of Owl Number 6.  Just 13 days left till the show, meaning 13 days until the arrival of numbers 7, 8, and 9.  And to think I was going to make 12!  Once I complete the 9 I may only make more if any of the original group sell.  It would be nice to have a spare when the show begins, but we'll see if that happens.  As usual, I have overestimated the amount of work (work??? no, art is not work!) I can complete in a given amount of time.

After completing this one, I laid the 6 out to see how they hang together as a group.  Number 4 seems a bit out of place, both in the colors and style.  The sky in that one is turquoise and green and the style is more decorative.  I have a little green in this current one.  But I'll definitely have to repeat the turquoise sky in one or two more.  I started drawing the next one today and will work on its sky tomorrow, so a turquoise/green sky is definitely in the plan.  I'm not sure how to deal with the difference in styles.

Overall, though, I think the group looks good so far.  I find myself doing something unusual - hoping that they'll sell.  This morning I deposited the payment for Cory's portrait and will be writing out the final checks of the year to my two favorite animal charities.  That will feel so very good.  The dream of converting whatever talent I have to serve the animals is happening!

A few comments on the owls:  I am finding them challenging to do in colored pencil.  Partly it's because of the transparent nature of the medium.  Detailed work, like the complex patterns on the plumage, is difficult when I am limited to working light to dark - no room for error!  But maybe I should attribute these problems to other causes.  I find myself wanting to work quickly in a medium where progress is slow.  And I am doing less detailed preliminary drawing than I usually do and so find myself winging it on much of the plumage pattern.  Looking back on it, I understand that when I began this project, I didn't really think enough about the "fit" of the medium to the subject.  I knew I wanted to do owls, and I also wanted to try solvent with colored pencil, but I didn't really think about the two together.  So there's a lesson (hopefully) learned - what it's all about!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

 I have a new project in mind.  It's somewhat ambitious and the design will challenge me.  It's a "spirit map" - little figures of seven totem animals set against a stylized map.  Some of the animals are actually my totems (badger, otter, rabbit, and whale) but the rest are just favorites.

Badger is my main totem.

Otter lies above
whale know the past

crow sees the future

rabbit underlies all

bear is the energy of intuition

mouse is the energy of reason

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finishing Touches on Cory and a Photography Tip

First, the photography tip, though it's not so much about photography as about common sense.  Late this afternoon Deb, who commissioned Cory's portrait for her mom, came by to pick up the painting.  Before she arrived, I took a photo of the painting.  But I didn't check it - ERROR!  This evening, with Deb and the painting long gone, I loaded the photo from the camera to the computer only to find that the picture quality was somewhere between bad and terrible.  It had a coat of vanish on it and the glare was pronounced.  Also, I apparently photographed it in quite different light than the first shot a few days ago, so the colors are so different that the two photos don't show the progression of the painting very well. In addition to the glare, this photo is way too blue.  The actual piece has much warmer, cheerier greens.  So, be sure you have a good photo before you send a finished painting on its way!

Originally, I only had one front paw showing.  But when I put the painting up to evaluate after the last painting session, I noticed that, by pure chance, the shadows and highlights seemed to suggest the second paw, and I liked the look.  So when I returned to work, I did add that second paw.

Most of the work for this final session was continuing to add detail, adding just a touch of the staining color around the eyes and the mouth, and lengthening and adding volume to the ears.  The photos I was working from had some problems, including no view showing how long the ears were.  With Deb out of town I couldn't call her with questions and just had to guess.  In the end, I thought I had managed to paint an appealing dog and just hoped that Deb would be happy with it.  So I am happy to report that Deb was very excited, and declared the painting to be "perfect!"  "Perfect" is one thing I'm sure that it's not, but I'm just so gratified that Deb is happy and hope that her mother will be as well.  And finally, I hope that Cory, now quite an older dog, will approve of his portrait.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Little Cory Begins to Take Shape

Here's the little dog portrait I began yesterday.  It's little in more ways than one - first of all, Cory is a small dog, a shih tzu, and the painting is small, 8" x 10".  Yesterday I blocked in the colors and began adding the details of the fur.  Today I added more detail and washes of color.  I think one more session will do it, so, with luck, Cory will be finished tomorrow.

I ran into a problem that I need to find a solution for.  Yesterday I mixed grays.  But I mostly used them up, and what I didn't use dried overnight even though the paint was in a covered palette.  (It's alkyd, by the way.)  When I tried to mix more greys today and match the color, I was unsuccessful.  So I need to mix more paint to begin with, and then I need to find a way to store it so that it won't dry out - I'll have to think about that.  There are tiny little plastic "pots" with snap on caps, but they're a pain to clean.  It would be nice to have something quite small, air-tight, and inexpensive enough to be disposable.

But on the good side, I really liked the surface I painted on.  I began with 1/2" thick MDF which I cut to size on the table saw.  Then I coated it with spray primer and let the primer dry thoroughly.  The next and final step was to use Elmer's spray archival adhesive to cover the primed panel with a piece of Fredrix watercolor canvas.  The canvas was from a 9x12" pad, so I cut away the excess with a craft knife when the glue was dry.  To finish the piece, I'll glue strips of nice wood (oak or walnut) around the edges, paint the back a coordinating color with acrylic paint, varnish the whole thing (retouch varnish for the painting and water-base satin varnish for the wood edge and back) and add a sawtooth hanger.  A small painting on a rigid surface, like this one, could then be hung on the wall or displayed on a small easel.  This is a commission for a Christmas present and I hope Cory's owner will be happy with it.

Even though it's made for watercolor, I like using Fredrix watercolor canvas with alkyds.  I like the fine texture and have not found any technical problems with using it for a paint other than the one it was developed for.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Simple Spirit Bear Gourd

Today I finally got started on a dog portrait that needs to be done by Wednesday.  It was a bit of a late start, but I'll still be able to have it ready on time.  The portrait is of  "Cody," a shih tzu, and I'm working in oils.  So far so good, but I didn't take any photos today, so my comments are on this gourd I made back in November.  I had it at the Holiday Market but it didn't sell, so it went on my website's Bear Page which "went live" earlier this week.

This is the simplest gourd I've done so far, but I'm happy with it.  It's small - about 6 1/2" in diameter, but a very nicely shaped gourd with a smooth unblemished skin.  With such a pretty gourd, I wanted its color and subtle mottling to show, so just brushed the upper half with interference violet, and it's a very pretty but subtle effect.  Over the interference paint, I brushed Celtic spirals and runes (a little mixed symbology there) then added a few triple dots, just because.  I used both Antique Gold and Antique Bronze metallic acrylic paints from Daniel Smith's "luminescent" series.  These are great paints - sumptuous colors with an elegant shine, giving great coverage with one coat.

The little bear on the top is sculpted from polymer clay and brushed with mica powders.  And he has glass eyes.  These bears are so much fun to make and I have found several uses for them - pendants, totems, and now embellishing gourds.  I think it would be fun to make some sort of cut-away gourd with a bear scene inside.  (I'll have to remember that idea.)

The beads are the finishing touch.  Moonstone is one of my absolute favorites, and the amethyst echoes the violet in the interference paint.  It always amazes me how reasonably priced these semi-precious gemstones can be.  Of course price reflects quality, but I think this quality is perfectly fine for this purpose.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Flashback to Saturday's Demo

Last week, Susan Keale at the El Dorado Arts Council Art Space interviewed me in conjunction with the Sierra Pastel Society Winter Member Show.  She also took this photo of my demonstrating pastel painting last Satruday at the ArtSpace.  I thought it would be interesting to include in this blog.

Interview: Kaaren Poole - Pastel Painter

.by El Dorado Arts Council ArtSpace on Monday, December 6, 2010 at 9:45am.

Pastel painting is a drawing technique of sorts using pastels or chalks made from earth pigments. An artist using this medium rubs and blends the pastels on paper or treated boards to create a wide range of effects from soft and delicate to clear detail with brilliant colors and textures. Often the finished work of art looks more like a painting than a drawing.

Historically, pastels can be traced back to man’s early cave paintings of France and Spain. Sketching with red chalk was also common during the Italian Renaissance. However, the use of pastels in art became popular in the 18th century when Rosalba Carreira introduced colored chalks as a new medium. Europe embraced pastels and created masterful works from then until now.

In our own Sierra foothills we have many talented and accomplished pastel painters. The Sierra Pastel Society showcases and inspires artists in their mastery of pastels. Susan Keale of EDAC ArtSpace recently interviewed an avid pastelist and member of SPS Kaaren Poole.

SK: Where and when did you learn pastel painting?

KP: In January of 2009, Leslie Harrison did a demo at the monthly PAA meeting. Leslie is an accomplished and successful animal artist who works in pastel and lives near Jackson. I was greatly impressed with her work and intrigued by much that she had to say about the medium. So, I signed up for a workshop she was giving in July and ordered some pastels. I did a little experimenting on my own in the months prior to the workshop, including working with three or four different types of papers as well as hard and soft pastels and pastel pencils. Since I was used to working with pencil and colored pencil, I was most at home with the pastel pencils. As a person who likes fine detail, I was thrown by the chunky pastel sticks, but persevered and now find that I can get detail with them as well by carefully using the edges. Leslie's workshop was wonderful - despite the 100+ degree heat in the room where the air conditioner had failed!!! - and I learned a lot. From there, I just continued working on my own, using my drawing and painting experience while striving to learn the ins and outs of this new medium.

SK: Why do you like pastels?

KP: I like pastels because of their rich color and that they cover large areas so much more quickly than pencil. Also, one can achieve some very soft effects which are great for animals, which are my favorite subject.

SK: What are your favorite art material brands?

KP: I like the Derwent and Cretacolor pastel pencils, the NuPastel and Derwent hard pastels, and the Rembrandt and Giraud soft pastels. For papers, I like velour paper and am now trying PastelMat which is taking some getting used to but which I think I will be very happy with eventually. I don't like getting messy, so sanded paper and the super soft pastels are not for me!

SK: Favorite pastel books, DVDs, or magazines?

KP: Leslie Harrison's book is now out of print, but my sister obtained a copy on e-Bay and it is wonderful. I have been learning pretty much by doing, and when I reach a snag I ask someone I know from the Sierra Pastel Society a specific question or research it on the internet which is a fabulous resource.

SK: What workshops have you attended or taught?

KP: The only workshop I have attended is Leslie Harrison's, and I have not taught any workshops in pastel although I have taught in other media, including polymer clay. I am registered to attend the IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) convention in Albuquerque in June and am greatly looking forward to it. I will be attending a few workshops there. It seems like most local opportunities are for landscape work, which I don't do.

SK: What pastel artists do you admire and why?

KP: I am more familiar with artists by subject matter than my medium. But among our local artists, I greatly admire Kathryn Hall. Her portraits are engaging, and her landscapes mesmerize me with their sense of place. She is also a very kind person who is generous with her support and encouragement. I also think Pat Aragon's animal paintings are wonderful.

SK: What are your favorite techniques?

KP: I like detail work and building up color and texture through layering. I also like glazing, but sometimes struggle with this technique in pastel.

SK: What are your favorite subjects and why?

KP: Animals are not only my favorite subject, but pretty much my only subject. They are my favorite subject because I love them so much. It's as simple as that!

SK: Anything else you’d like others to know?

KP: I love doing art because it is so challenging and there is always more to learn - it is truly a life-long pursuit, and, in fact, a lifetime is not long enough! I don't have an art education and am sometimes mystified and/or turned off by the "fine art" world. Years ago, I turned to decorative painting, intimidated by the admonition that artists must "have a message." I have now finally figured out that all the "musts" and "can'ts" are just silly structure imposed on something that should be simply a heart-felt journey. So I am now on mine, and very grateful for it.

Kaaren’s pastel paintings can be seen in the upcoming Sierra Pastel Society’s art exhibit being held at El Dorado Arts Council ArtSpace. The exhibit runs from December 6, 2010 to January 8, 2011.

Spending More Time with Rudy

Today I wored on Rudy's portrait for about an hour and a half, switching this time to soft pastels.  The colors are getting more intense, probably mostly due to using the soft pastels.  But also the color is beginning to build up in the texture of the velour paper.  I have enough pigment on now to have a very light touch leave a wash effect - an effect I am very fond of.

I think I'll put Rudy aside for a few days.  I have a commission pet portrait I need to work on, plus I need to mull this one over to decide where I'm going from here.  There is good value contrast, but I'd like to have dramatic lighting and need to decide what that might look like.

Lately I've not been too good about spending time every day on art.  The days that I do get to it, it's most often around 3pm, and there have been too many days when I don't get to it at all.  Time for a change and some renewed focus.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Owl #5 and Rudy #1

 I finished this piece, Owl #5 in my series for the 3X3 show, about a week ago but am just getting around to posting it. 

This was a difficult piece because of the white.  I am really happy with the sky - which may seem silly as it looks just like a pretty even patch of blue violet - but there are actually color variations and gradations which I think are quite beautiful.  The solvent worked very well on these blue and violet pigments.

On the other hand, I'm not too happy with the owl herself.  I was unable to achieve any rounded look to the body or more than minor shadows under the layers of feathers.  I began with white and then was unsuccessful in laying much color over it.  I really don't understand why that happened because white is often used as a burnisher in colored pencil work, and other colors applied over a burnished surface are brighter.  So I'm completely mystified.

Overall, I like the composition and the beautiful color, and find her eyes riveting.  Perhaps it will end up being a nice addition to the collection, but I wish I had been able to do a better job on the white plumage.

Meanwhile, here's my first layer on a pastel portrait of my friend Alan's beloved dog Rudy.  Rudy passed away in September at the age of 15.  He was a noble and loving dog whom I had the pleasure of knowing only during the last year and a half of his life.  He had been with Alan since puppyhood and, as a Great Dane/Boxer cross, was quite a handful in his youth.  In fact, he probably would have been unmanageable in just about anybody's hands but Alan's, so both Rudy and Alan were very luck to have found each other.

I began this painting for a demo I did last weeked at the El Dorado Arts Council ArtSpace.  The demo was in conjunction with the Sierra Pastel Society's Winter Member Show which is there through early January.  I took this photo I am doint this painting from the day Rudy passed.  That morning Alan told me how worried he was about Rudy, who had been declining for a while.  My sister Shelley and I went to visit him and he brightened.  Shelley was one of his very favorite people.  (A cynical person would attribute this affection to the regular provision of treats but we dog lovers know that they are actually motivated by higher concerns such as, quite simply, love.)  At one point during our visit, Shelley put her hand on Rudy's shoulder, looked into his eyes, and said "I love you, Rudy."  Rudy answered "a wuv ooo," clear as day.  Later that evening, Rudy passed quietly at home with Alan.  We all miss you, handsome boy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Great News For Christmas

Fed Ex brought a huge box today.  I wondered what it could possibly be?  It was from Fire Mountain Gems.  Did I order something I had completely forgotten about?  It would be hard to forget ordering something that big!

What a great surprise when I opened it - it was the four polymer clay pieces I had sent in to Fire Mountain Gems which had been selected as Finalists in their 2010 competition for "Pearls, Organic Beads, and Polymer Clay."  And much to my delight, this piece, "Christmas Dreams" won the Gold!!!!!  I am thrilled.  In 2008 and 2009 I won a Silver and was really hoping to take the next step.  And here it is.

I was introduced to beading in 2005, and then to polymer clay in 2007.  As I drooled over the Fire Mountain Gems catalog I dreamed a seemingly impossible dream of having one of my pieces featured in their catalon someday.  Then I had the pleasure of seeing my 2008 and 2009 silver medal winners in their catalogs - a dream come true.  Now I look forward to seeing this piece in another one of their catalogs some day.

I know that winning - as well as losing - is always subjective in the arts.  So I try not to feel too bad when I don't win.  Perhaps its not fair, then, to feel too good when I do win.  But I feel fabulous, and I'm grateful for this boost.

I really appreciate the job that the great people at Fire Mountain Gems does in supporting artists.  They go the extra mile, then further!  Not only did they send me beautiful certificates for each of my four pieces, each with a great photograph their professionals had taken of my pieces, but they also sent copies of the full-page ads they created from three of the pieces, including this one.  And they put each of the certificates and ad copies in a nice heavy black cardboard frame.  And I must mention how carefully they had packed my pieces for shipping.  These things are not givens, and it's a pleasure to associate with such a profession organization.

In addition to sponsoring their own contests, they provide awards in other competitions, such as Bead Dreams which is sponsored by Kalmbach publications.

Thank you, Fire Mountain Gems, not just for selecting my pieces, but for showing such caring for your contributing artists.  You are a fine example of a business which lives up to its public service commitments.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Bear Bead - but not for the Bears

Fire Mountain Gems contacted me recently - along with many other artists - asking for donations of hand-made beads for their charitable work to benefit breast cancer research.  Their jewelry design staff makes jewelry from the donated beads.  Fire Mountain Gems then auctions the jewelry with the proceeds going to breast cancer research charities.

So, even though the beneficiary would not be an animal charity, I was happy to make and donate this little bear bead.  She's all dressed up in a Swarovski rhinestone collar for the special occasion.  Of course I made her from polymer clay.  She has glass eyes and there is a hole from the center of her back through her belly for stringing.  She's about 3/4" from nose to tail - a dainty bear!  I hope I get to see the jewelry piece that includes her, but I don't know whether or not I will. 

I am impressed with the giving that Fire Mountain does, including both charitable work and sponsoring many beading and jewelry-making competitions - their own and others.

When I made her, I also made several somewhat larger bears for pendants that I hope to be able to sell to benefit Idaho Black Bear Rehab.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Owls Just Keep Flying In

Here's the next owl in the series, owl number 4, a Great Horned Owl, I believe.  He looks pretty sweet for such an awesome predator.

With the silhouette leaves around him, I think this piece has something of a decorative style.  I used Peacock Green, Peacock Blue, and Blue Violet for the sky and really like the slightly greenish tinge.  It's a nice change from the background colors in the others I've done so far, but still goes well with them.

This is the first drawing of the series that I've done on white paper.  The others have been on Fawn Stonehenge drawing paper.  It's quite a different look, and for the series of nine drawings to hold together I'll have to be sure that at least three of them are on white paper.

As in the first owl, this guy has complex plumage patterns, but I approached them in a different way.  Instead of outlining then filling shapes, I concentrated on shapes of different values.  I began with the lightest values and filled the shapes with close set back and forth strokes without outlining.  As I proceeded to darker and darker values, the plumage pattern began to emerge.  I think this was a more successful approach and also somewhat easier.

In the Placerville Arts Association we have had a few demonstrators, one working in oil and the other in pastel, who used a technique that focused on value shapes.  The oil artist demonstrated a portrait and the pastel artist did a landscape.  They both mentioned the name of the artist who pioneered this technique.  I'll have to research who it was and find out more about it.  I think it would well with animals as well.

Meanwhile, I'm working on owl number five and have made several tiny polymer clay bear pendants to hopefully sell to benefit Idaho Black Bear Rehab.