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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Color Everywhere

I have finished the first layer with color over the entire area of the painting.  The top photo is unaltered.  The bottom one is using the "auto levels" filtering feature on Fireworks.  It deepens both the contrast and the color.  It's too extreme, I think, but I'm keeping it here because I think it will give me some ideas later.

On the cat, I preserved the markings from my initial drawing.  As with the face, the colors aren't really correct, but they work as "place holders" for detail and refinement later.

For the quilt, I just wanted to capture local color.  With the shapes filled in, I can begin to see the overall design.  I didn't make a lot of independent choices regarding color as I pretty much followed the photograph of my quilt.

The decision about what to put in the "empty" area above Mick's head has remained unresolved for me, but I went ahead and plugged in my original idea which was a pretty solid color that would echo some of the colors in the quilt and bring out Mick's eyes.  At least at this stage, it seems to work.  The appearance of graduating from light to slightly darker from left to right is, I think, just an artiface of the light that was falling on the painting, but I think I like it.  My original thought had been to have the background darker on the left and lighter on the right to provide contrast with Mick's head where the light is falling from the left - chiaroscuro.  But I think I like this better.

I'm not sure what's next, except some mulling time.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Back to Serious Stuff

After quite a while of not being able to deal with it, I am now back to working on "serious" pieces for my next application to the Society of Animal Artists.  I snapped a nice photo of Mick about ten days ago, and then, a few days later, I laid out a quilt that I thought would make a nice background.  I put it in the same spot Mick had been, tried to arrange it like the blanket he was sitting on, then took a photo at the same time of the morning to get matching light.

For a few days last week I then worked on the drawing, including the painstaking process of drawing the quilt.  Today I transfered my drawing to the velour paper and finally laid pastel to paper.

Shelley came up to see how I was doing.  She remarked on my process, and I was able to see pretty clearly that my objective on this first layer is to simply block in basic colors and save my lines in the process.  But in this piece I'm taking the further step of exagerating the value contrasts right from the beginning.  I think those contrasts will be expecially important in this piece.  Plus, learning to portray the drama of light is one of my new goals.

I began with the eyes and pastel pencil.  But I just find that the pastel pencils are too hard for the first layer on the velour paper.  They may work better on sanded paper as the texture may rub the pigment off the pencil.  But on the velour paper, the hard pastel pencil point just mashes the texture of the paper.  So I switched to NuPastels.

One other thing that I'm trying in this piece is to not be quite so concerned as I usually am with getting precisely the right color early on.  The fact is that pastel colors are limited - especially with the NuPastels that I like to use in the beginning.  But this velour paper is a very nice surface for glazing, so I can modify my colors with layering.

So far, so good.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Glitter Designer!

Here I am in a "fascinator" that I made from Fantasy Film, a fabulous product from  The company has "guest designers" who design and post two projects per month on their website - of course the projects use Art Glitter products.  I have loved their products for five years or so now so I'm honored to be one of the three guest designers for this June, July, and August.  This is my first project.

I will soon be posting a blog entry with instructions on how to make this tiger lily fascinator.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time Out with Watercolor

The other day I began work on the drawing for my next pastel painting - charming Mick on a quilt.  The quilt is predominantly deep reds with a bit of aqua here and there.  I have a very small selection of red pastels and also just a few aquas.  So last night I put in an order for more pastels and won't be starting that painting until they arrive.

In the meantime, it's a great opportunity to work on something small - a few more ACEOs.  I was pleased that the rabbit I worked on over the weekend at the Studio Tour sold right away on eBay.  But then I had nothing listed - another reason to work on more of these tiny treasures.

I find that they're great for practicing technique.  There's not a lot of time commitment, so taking chances - with a medium I'm not comfortable with, for example - is no big deal.

Today's effort is this little red panda perched high in a tree.  I began by masking out the light band on foreground leaves, the whiskers, and the highlights in the eyes.  Next came the background.  I put the sky in even where the trees would go.  This worked out well because the blue of the sky under the gray-greens of the trees gave them a bluish cast and so helped push them into the distance.  Then I added the deep greens at the bottom.  Thenon to the red panda.  I painted her in several layers.  I was hoping to achieve texture, but much of it ended up obscured in the build up of layers.  To be honest, this slow approach to building colors is partly a matter of hesitance on my part.  It's a good and, I think, necessary approach with colored pencil, but I'm hoping that with practice I can become more direct with the watercolor.

Red pandas have a strange coloring with their bellies and legs being black.  I used very little black but quite a bit of a very dark brown - sedimentary rather than staining colors.  Even though they were dry when I rubbed the masking away, that action resulted in "dirt" over my white areas.  So in the future I'll have to give thought to whether I want to mask the whiskers or paint them later with white acrylic.  The masking will give a brighter white and I was able to get successful very thin lines of masking fluid.  But combined with the nearby dark sedimentary colors it may not be a good choice - or perhaps I could avoid rubbing over white areas!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rejected Again

It's been a while since I've been on the blog.  There are a few reasons.  I've been posting ACEOs for sale on eBay which has taken up much of the time I choose to allocate to fooling around on the computer.  And there was a Studio Tour last weekend that I was getting ready for.  But the main reason for my absence was receiving my second rejection from the Society of Animal Artists.

The first time I applied I really had no idea of my chances.  But this last time I really thought my chances were good.  Apparently I was wrong.

But it seems that I've been making a little progress at least.  Of the five required images, the first time the jury liked two.  But this time they liked three.   The comments were not very englightening though, other than to ttell me that they witheld an offer of membership on the basis of the squirrel and monkey paintings.  I can see that the monkies were the weakest of my submissions.  But I really don't see where the squirrel painting fell short.  On the plus side, they liked the dog (Rudy), lamb, and cat (Red).

For a few minutes after receiving the news I was so discouraged that I really didn't see the point of continuing to try, and also couldn't see how I could do better.  But after talking with Shelley for a while, I built up my resolve to keep trying, and I will.  But unless I have five paintings that I feel really good about in October, I'll skip that deadline and re-apply in April instead.

Shelley found a blog entry on the Society's blog which stated, among other things, that applicants would be judged on the basis of their weakest submission.  Pretty brutal.  But they have their standards, and a right to them.

So I find myself once more at the beginning of the entry process.  The guidelines I put together for myself last time still hold.  The new one, inspired by the blog entry, is that if I chose to add backgrounds, I must remember that I must be as proficient a landscape (or whatever the background is) painter as I am an animal painter.  Tall orders.  But I will keep repeating to myself "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Mixed Media Approach to Pencil

I so enjoyed working on this piece.  My cat Mick is such a sweetheart.  And I like working with colored pencil and metallic paints.  Plus, there's the Theban script, which says "the sun."  So this is a painting of Mick as the sun.  I am planning companion pieces of Phreddee as the moon and Boson as the stars.  More fun to come!

This is a small painting, 8" x 8", done on MDF.  I sealed it with Jo Sonja's All Purpose Sealer then added three coats of gesso.

I worked the cat and background in layers of colored pencil, blending and brightening each layer with Gamsol solvent.  The spirals are erased before the solvent is added.  The script is just regular graphite.

The metallic is Golden acryllic gold.  To add the water-based paint over the solvent, I first sealed the piece with Krylon spray Workable Fixatif.  This workable fixative is such a great product - I've found so many uses for it over the years.  By the way, the edges are painted gold so that the piece can hang with a frame.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Watercolor Pencils vs. Watercolor

My intention was to paint this little ACEO of a tiger with watercolor pencil and ink.  I chose watercolor pencil because I like the fact that once the pencil marks are dampened and then dried they are permanent, and thus won't move when additional layers are added. 

I had a successful experience with watercolor pencils for the finch painting, so I expected success once more.

My first mistake was using cold-press watercolor paper as opposed to the smoother drawing paper that I had used with the bird.  The rougher surface just doesn't work well for me because the coverage is too light as the pencil skips ovet the valleys in the paper.

Also, I found that the colors were not as bright as my M Graham watercolors.  So after I did the watercolor pencil then the ink over it I switched to the watercolors for a final color application.  My final touches were a light coat of iridescent watercolor medium over the lower portion of the sky.  This gave a beautiful shimmer and I think added to a somewhat mystical mood.  Finally, I added the whiskers with white acrylic.  For the white acrylic, surprisingly I find that I get the best results with Delta craft acrylic White.

I am finding that the ACEOs are a wonderful way for trying new things as there is so much less invested!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Something New - A Double ACEO

About six years ago I did several designs for small needlework pieces for a start-up company.  One of them was these two parrots, and I thought they'd make good ACEOs.  Having two birds that were a pair gave me a special idea for the ACEOs - to make a pair, but beyond that, a pair that actually continued the same scene.  So I worked the two as one piece then cut them apart when I was done.  I think it's an interesting idea and I'm hoping that if someone likes one they'll buy both.

For these pieces I used watercolor and it was a nice change to get back to that medium.  I'm feeling more comfortable with it, especially in such a small format.

When I started these I intended to put a little glitter on them once they were painted, and I did just that, using Diamond Glaze to both adhere the glitter and add a nice "varnish."  Before I added the Diamond Glaze, though, I sealed the painting with a coat of Krylon Workable Fixatif.  As always when I apply glitter, I applied a coat of Diamond Glaze and sprinkled it with glitter.  When it was dry I then "fixed" the glitter in place with a second coat of Diamond Glaze.

I took these photos after I added the glitter.  But I also took photos before.  Glitter is so hard to photograph so I wanted the "before" back-up photos for the eBay listings in case the ones with the glitter weren't good enough.  And actually, the "before" photos look a little better, but the glittery ones look good in person.

And thanks again to ArtGlitter who make such gorgeous art-quality glittter.