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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Firefly Bracelet

This is my third project as Guest Designer for Art Glitter.  I am a guest designer for them for the summer!

I frequently have occasion to use two part epoxy glue and really like how quickly it sets and its clear shiny look.  Since it is a thick glue and sets quickly, I thought I might be able to successfully use it like resin to embed Art Glitter's gorgeous Dazzlers glitter.  "Collage" links seemed an obvious backing, and a pre-assembled bracelet blank by Nunn Designs made the project quick and easy.

Tiny vintage glass cabochons in the shape of fireflies were the inspiration for this piece.  Don't they look gorgeous against these rich Dazzler colors?  Like a summer night.

I mixed the glitter with the epoxy glue and used the mixture to fill the cavities in the bracelet links.  Before the glue set, I lightly pressed the glass fireflies into the surface.  For a more finished look, I surrounded the metal rime of the link cavities with strands of small seed beads.

If you would like more information on the materials and/or the process for making this bracelet, follow the link to the left and visit me at Art Glitter's web site.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ducks are Finished

Today I did more work on the water, darkening it.  I also kept fiddling with the rest of the painting, adding more blue to the top of the sky, intensifying the color in the ducks, and darkening between the reeds behind them.

I added the lettering because I wanted the look of a bird illustration.  Then I tried to spatter some thinned burnt umber paint over all, but wasn't too successful with that.  I was trying for an aged look.

The final steps were to darken the left side with watercolor washes and, also with watercolor, add some more brilliant color to the ducks.  Finally, I dry-brushed a little warm white acrylic for highlights on the ducks' backs.  I like the off-white paper.  It allowed me to leave some parts of the painting untouched without that stark white look. 

Overall, I'm happy with this.  I'm thinking I may re-do this painting in pastel, widening it to the right and adding more details such as, perhaps, a frog or turtle head peeking out of the water on the right.

By the way, I used M. Graham watercolors and like them very much.  The colors are so pure.  My palette consists of about 15 colors which I have found to be plenty for all my needs.

Another by the way - I really like the combination of watercolor pencils, ink, and watercolor on drawing paper.  The drawing paper is smoother than cold press watercolor paper (and I have found hot press to be too soft for pencils) and is perfect for the watercolor pencils.  The watercolor pencils allow for many many glazes for a slow build up of color.  Then a final addition of watercolor works fine because the watercolor pencil has "sealed" the paper so that it doesn't warp.  Also, the watercolor is "workable" longer, giving plenty of time to soften edges.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oops! Got Distracted!

I needed something different, I guess, before I started on another cat portrait.  I found myself looking through old Birder's World magazines and came across a photo of such a beautiful duck - a Fulvous Whistling Duck.

After searchng the internet for other images of these sweet looking ducks, I put together a composition of a pair.

Of course I should have planned out the entire composition, but I was just going on doing something quick and simple.  After a false start with pastel on sanded paper I got out my watercolor pencils and started doing something more comfortable - drawing. 

This is on an off-white Stonehenge paper, and I'm putting in glaze after glaze.  This is what I like about the Polychromos watercolor pencils.  After they're wet then dry, the colors are set (except for the black, which likes to move again if it's re-wet).  So this is a great medium for glazing, and one can be quite subtle about it with a very light application of the pencil.  I also used ink - permanent waterproof Sakura micon pens.

At first, I just put in the ducks with absolutely no idea what would go around them.  Then this composition suggested itself.  And, of course, it has severe problems.  Mostly about stuff being in the middle.  (This doesn't really bother me all that much, but I try to abide by "the rules" when I can as I know that show judges can be quite sticklers about them!)  I'll be able to solve that with cropping, or maybe not.  I've left the water for last, and I'm really not sure how to proceed with it.  I guess I'll just plunge in and hope for the best!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Starting a new Painting - Bonnie this Time

 I was looking through my photos the other day and I found a nice one of Bonnie snoozing on the carpet.  My carpet is a light pinky beige - without any design like the one here in the drawing - but a streak of light was coming across it, including the shadow of the edge of a lace curtain.  I really liked the streak of light and the lace but thought it was a bit plain.  Maybe a patterned carpet would be better.

So I searched the internet for carpet patterns and quickly found on that I liked.  But how to place that complex pattern correctly under her?

My solution was to print out a photo of the carpet pattern from the internet.  I then laid it on the counter at an angle that I thought was the same as the angle I was looking down at Bonnie from when I took her photo.  I took a photo of the carpet photo in that position, then printed it out.  I now had the photo below, showing how the carpet would look on the floor viewed from an angle.  I put a grid over the photo - sizing the grid to get the approximate scale I wanted - then just drew it in around the cat that I had already drawn.  A good trick, I think. 

I need to discipline myself for the next step - a step that I most often skip but that I think will be expecially important for the painting - the value sketch.  Tomorrow's task.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mick's Finished Portrait

Mick's portrait is finished now, and I'm happy with it.  Except that now that I look at the photo, I see that maybe the light patch of fabric in the shadows to the left of Mick should be a little darker.  I may correct that - we'll see.  I'll have to think about it a little more.  It seems about the same value as the similar patch to the right of his shoulder.  So the question is, should they be the same?  Hmmmm.

Anyway, the major change I made from last time was on the right edge of the back of his head and neck.  Previously, there was too little distinction between the cat and the quilt.  Lost edges are fine - good, even - but there was a tan patch of fabric that made Mick's shape seem strange.  Oh, I also did more work on his tail and added a few bright highlight hairs here and there on his back.

Then Shelley took a look and thought he wasn't sufficiently grounded on the left so I darkened the shadows right under him.

I had lots of doubts about this piece all along the way, but now I'm pleased with the final result.  And, yes, I would tackle a quilt again!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Even More Mick

This afternoon I continued working on the painting of Mick posing as the King of Hearts.  I focused on the fur, but also deepened the right side of the background and added touches to the quilt. 

Specifically regarding the quilt, I replaced areas that had been darkened or lightened with glazes with pure color from pastels of the appropriate color and value.  As far as the shading and highlighting on the quilt goes, glazing with white and dark brown gives a quick idea of how the folds in the fabric are working.  And I think the white glaze also gives a little of the look of worn cotton.  But I felt that it needed the purity of unglazed color here and there.

I added a bit of blue to the shadows on Mick to try to better integrate him and the quilt (which I also did with patches of tan in the quilt).  And I brightened the iris color and the highlights in his eyes.

As I look at the photo (why is it so much easier to see these things in the photos than in the piece itself?)  I see that the color gradation I put in the upper background isn't smooth although it seemed so as I was applying it.  So I need to fix that.  And also I want to carry the darker color further to the left.  This will put the greater contrast between the background and the cat's head on the left side of his head rather than the right side, and that's where I want it.

Shelley pointed out that the fur on the rump needs work, and I agree.  I may want to also darken the lower corners.  Also, the dark red stripe at the bottom bothers me.  I now see that it needs to curve upward rather than downward on the right end.  As it it, it too closely echoes the dark stripe at the top and, together, they lead the eye off and down the page to the right - it's almost like Mick is going to fall off!  So there's definitely more work to do!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Mick

Here's Mick after more work.  Once I finished putting the patterns on the rest of the fabric pieces and adding more shading and highlighting to better indicate the folds in the quilt, I turned my attention to Mick.

I find ginger cats difficult in terms of their color.  Too red?  Too orange?  Too yellow?  Too brown?  Too gray?  It just seems to go back and forth as I add more color.

This is a challenging piece, but then I knew that when I started.  And I must admit I'm enjoying it despite the problems.

I need to find better highlight and shadow colors for the quilt.  My first pass was simply glazes of white and brown but I think the white is too cool.

When I did my value sketch I kept a very light highlight on his back and liked it.  But I think it might be confusing where the highlight ends and the markings begin - for example the light stripes on the hip are markings whereas the light area above and to the left of it is a highlight.  I think I'll put the painting up by the tv tonight and take a good look at it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Back to Mick

It's been just about a week since I last worked on this painting of my cat Mick.  And at this stage of the painting it's getting dicey.

Generally speaking, I want to work the quilt before the cat since, with the exception of the fold in the foreground, it's either behind or under Mick.

I was perplexed about how to start, but decided on just jumping in with the patterns on the fabric.  At first, I was working one section at a time, but then I switched to working all the patches of one fabric then proceeding to another.  After working on it for a while I formed a plan of attack which is this: do the patterns with NuPastel, shade and highlight to shape the folds with Rembrandts, go back and reinforce the patterns here and there with Rembrandts.  When I get back to work on it tomorrow that's how I'll proceed and I'll see how it goes.

I think one of the challenges will be keeping Mick from getting lost in all that pattern.  That's one of the reasons that I'll be leaving a few parts of the quilt with very little pattern, specifically in the deep folds on the left and in the upper right area.

By the way, it was great to get back to working on velour paper after my ventures onto other papers over the last week!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fi Goes to Class with Me

I just got back yesterday from four days at the IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) conference in Albuquerque.  It was a fun but exhausting time, and the trade show was too tempting an attraction!  I left more of my money in Albuquerque than I intended.  But I'm not letting myself feel too bad about that - the conference only happens every two years, and I probably won't go again unless there's a class I really am interested in taking.  Most are about landscape which just isn't my thing.

I took two classes while I was there and went to one demo.  My favorite class was the one in which I began this painting of my beautiful Fiona (whom I missed so much when I was gone).  Anne Heywood taught the class.  She is an excellent teacher, and I whole-heartedly recommend her and hope I get to take another class from her at some point.

Anne led the class in an organized and methodical way, explaining her methods in detail.  She gave me several ideas which I will incorporate into my painting process.  What I really liked is that she talked quite a bit during her demo, letting us into her thought process as she progressed.  And she set aside the last hour of the class (which was a full day) to critique each student's work.  I learned so much from the critique - not just of my painting, but of all the others as well.

I was so enthusiastic that I painted on the piece for another three hours when I got back to my room after dinner.  And the next day, Anne was kind enough to take the time to look at my piece again and give me some great ideas on how to improve it. 

I worked on it this evening then photographed it.  The darks could probably stand to be darker still.  And I need to continue the deep shadow under her tail further to the right.  The paper seems to be filling with pigment, so tomorrow I think I'll just extend that shadow then call it finished.  If I had been working on this piece at home, I probably would have made it larger, and I hope I would have given serious consideration to including a part of the patterned chair she was sitting on in the photo.

Thanks, Anne, for a great class and for getting my pastel juices flowing!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Art Glitter is like Ketchup- it Goes on Anything!

Today is the first day of my three months as one of Art Glitter's Guest Designers.  You can follow the link at the left under "other web venues" to see my page there.

To mark the beginning of this exciting adventure, I thought I'd post this little guy who is just beginning his big adventure in life as he hatches from his egg.

I worked on him off and on over several months.  The first step was to make the egg.  I was experimenting with making polymer clay "geodes" by layering clay over a crumpled aluminum foil core.  I pressed the clay into the crumpled foil quite firmly, scored the cut where I would later separate the geode into halves, baked the piece, cut it, then carefully removed the foil with tweezers.  I liked the geode, but didn't know what to do with it.

Then, months later, I looked at it in a different way - as an egg rather than a geode - and it seemed to obviously be a dragon egg.  So I made the dragon from polymer clay, echoing the colors in the geode egg.  I made Fantasy Film wings (Fantasy Film is an Art Glitter product) embellished with microfine Art Glitter and Swarovski crystals, and attached them in a pose that's supposed to look like he's drying them in the sun after hatching.

I added more glitter on the dragon itself.  My favorite part is his claws which are heavily coated with Art Glitter's Ruby Red Microfine Opaque glitter.  They look like ruby claws!

Although I glued the dragon and two halves of the geode egg together with strong two-part epoxy glue, it needed a base to stabilize the piece.  Then I remembered the smallish oak slices that I salvaged from tree trimming.  They had been sitting inside for nearly a year so I figured they had dried and shrunk all they were going to.   But just to make sure, I sealed them with several coats of Diamond Glaze.  Then.........more glitter!

His name is Rupert, and he sits proudly on the dresser.  I've placed a few of my vintage marcasite jewelry pieces in the egg, and he is happily and competently guarding them.

Now that I am an Art Glitter Guest Designer, the law requires me to disclose my relationship with them, which is that I am designing six projects that they will post on their website and in return they are providing me with some of their product.  I have used their products since I became acquainted with them about four years ago and have written about them in several previous blog posts - even before I became an official guest designer!  So if you're inclined to give them a try, I highly recommend them.