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Saturday, September 24, 2011


This is the finished drawing that I began as a demo in my drawing class.  This little puppy is just irresistable!  I'm considering tinting the drawing with washes of acrylic but I'm a bit reluctant because it's on un-backed paper so I don't know if it can stand up to the water media.

On another note, there's a show coming up in January for which I will need nine 8"x8" pieces all in the same medium and united by a common theme.  I'm thinking of drawing - perhaps tinted with acrylic - and dogs.  This little guy really inspired me.  I could do them on MDF sealed with gesso and coated with Golden's drawing medium.  I'll have to do a sample and see how that works out.


For unknown reasons, it was suddenly time to sculpt crows.  And then this necklace emerged!  I made the pieces from black polymer clay coated with a mixture of interference blue and interference green mica powders.  The eggs are freshwater pearls.  Originally I was planning to pair the crows with black freshwater pearls but then decided to make everything from polymer clay and fashioned the branches and leaves.

The construction on this piece was different than what I've ever done before.  Some of the parts have a hole through them but some just have holes in the ends. I joined the pieces that just had holes in the end with short lengths of wire, small "spacer" beads, and two part epoxy glue.  As it turns out, I could very well have made all the pieces with holes and that would have been a lot easier, but this piece just planned itself.

The gluing technique will come in handy in the future for joining more irregular-shaped pieces.  And the other thing I learned on this one is that I can bend a pieces of wire inside a tube fairly radically and still pull it out after curing as long as the piece is still warm.  Good things to know!

It's been a while since I've done polymer clay and it was GREAT to get back to it.

detail of the crow on the nest

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Brief Update

It turned out that the pastels worked just fine over the fixative.  I used Krylon Workable Fixatif.  I have other, more expensive, "specially for pastels" fixatives but Kryon is the one I grabbed and it worked just fine even when I put it on pretty thick.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Marco Polo is Nearing the Goal

After another layer on the lab, a little more work on Pepper, and brightening the highlights on Molly I turned to the water.  At last it was time to put in the water drops and that was FUN!  Then I did what I almost never do: thinking that I was finished I sprayed the painting with fixative.  I made that choice because I really wanted to keep the whites.  But now that I look at it, I think I should darken the top part to break up the water and improve the composition.  I'm not sure that will be successful over the fixative, but I'll give it a try tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On to the Soft Pastels

Today I switched to my soft pastels - the Giraults and Rembrandts - and did a third layer on the middle and right dogs.  I also continued working on the water around these two dogs.  There were no new insights today, just more of the same, adding more detail and trying to portray the look of the water and the wet fur.  The front dog, a golden retreiver, has long enough hair that it's floating where his body meets the water, so I portrayed that with very soft strokes.

I think it's working so far.  But I'm going back to my initial concern about there being too much blank space.  The way I positioned the three dogs pretty much rules out significant cropping.  And I can't think of anything else to put in the painting.  Hopefully it will help when I add the bright water splashes because that will effectively "enlarge" the dogs.

I need names for these guys.  I've been referring to the front dog as "he" but now I think of him as a her, so I'll name her Molly, a sweet older girl.  The lab will be Bodie after my dog's golden lab friend at daycare.  I don't know the breed of the center dog.  But I think I'll call him Pepper.  There - all named!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Marco Polo - the Game is Under Way

It's so important to have a good photo to work from, but even more important, I think, is to notice carefully what's going on in it.  And from these photographs, I've learned something about portraying water.

I notice that the color shapes, nearly without exception, have rounded and not pointed corners.  Also the edges between the color shapes are sharp, not gradual.  Some little tidbits to tuck away in my memory.

Today I worked another layer on the three dogs and also began to work a bit more on the water around the closest guy.  I'm still using my hard pastels - the NuPastels and the PolyChromos.  Next I'm going to keep working on the water till I'm nearly done with it then I'll return to finish the dogs.  My final step will probably be the water drops, splashes, and drips.  This has been more fun that I expected!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back to Work!

It's been difficult to find the creative energy to get back to work on entries for my SAA application, but yesterday I finally got down to it with a drawing, and today I set pastel to paper.

Last month my sister took her dog to a dog event and got several good photos of the participants having fun in the water.  She was kind enough to let me use them and I selected two to combine into this composition.  One photo was of the two dogs on the left intent upon a tennis ball and the other was of the lone older dog on the right.

After I completed the drawing yesterday and had it transferred to the velour paper I had serious doubts about it.  I thought the dogs would be too small and there would be too much essentially blank space around them.  I thought that I would have done better with just the two dogs and with the animals much bigger.  But since I already had this on the paper I decided to give it a try.  It seemed that it would be very important to have distinct areas within the expanse of water - not just everything the same - and have those areas be a definite part of the composition.  So here's the beginning.  I'll set it up by the tv tonight and see what I can find in it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lookin' Pretty

Almost finished!  I just have to extend the wallpaper to the right a bit at the top.

I wish the center mouse would show more, but I'm not sure how to make that happen.  I've used value contrast about as much as I think I can.  They're so darn small it's hard to get the details right.  Excuses!  Excuses!  Excuses!

I learned a pretty important lesson on this one.  Although the lace skirt was pretty easy to do, there is no chance to re-do it.  I was tired when I started it and it would have been better to wait till the next day.  The folds in the very front don't seem to make sense and I may have been able to avoid that problem if I hadn't been so tired.

But all in all, I'm happy with this one and am inspired to do more teddy bears once I'm done with my paintings for the SAA application due in mid-October.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Bear Gets Dressed Up

What happened to the oh-so-blue roses?  My best guess is that I took this photo under different light conditions.  I did wash a little orange over the background, but that couldn't have made this big a difference.  Another possibiliy is the mysterious action of the velour paper which sometimes seems to eat pigment.

Anyway, I selected this subject for the fun it promised, and today's painting session was finally a fun one.  I always enjoy doing fur.  The simple act of repeating layers of strokes of different colors magically  yields fur!

The lacy dress was really easy - just a wash of cream followed by strengthening the folds and some details here and there.  The pearls also were fun to do, but I see that I have them a little too cold.  I underpainted them with light blue then added light gray, then cream, then finally white highlights.  I'll have to go back and add some warmer reflected light and see what that does.

I see that the left curve of the dresser top edge is lower than the right one, so I'll have to correct that.  And of course I have yet to add the other mouse and complete the rest of the pearls.  I began to add a little purple here and there in the roses and I like it, so I'll continue that as well.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Big Trouble!

Wow!  I don't know that I've ever seen something quite this blue!  It didn't look it when I was working on it, but the camera said "yes, this is REALLY blue!"  I thought that the red roses had to go.  The color just wasn't working with the rest of the piece.  I re-worked and re-worked and just wasn't happy with them.  So I got out the trusty paper towel and wiped away as much of the pigment as I could.  Then I went back with the blue.  I know that blue roses are a mere figment of the imagination but I thought the color would work better.  And I think it does - it's just too bright.  So I'll have to tone it down - maybe a wash of dark blue or maybe a wash of orange.  I don't think the paper will take much more pigment at this point.

So, this piece was supposed to be "just for fun," but it hasn't really been that much fun yet - probably a combinatiion of it just not going like I envisioned and spending so much time fooling around with the wallpaper.  Anyway, there's always hope...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Something Just for Fun

After a few weeks of intense stress, preparation and recovery from having all my carpet replaced with Pergo, I was missing being able to spend much time on art.  And now that I am able to get back to it I wanted to do something just for fun.

Inspired by a photo of a teddy bear in an gift catalog - a bear with the most incredibly sweet face I've ever seen on a teddy bear - I decided to set her on an oak cabinet with rose wallpaper behind her and a string of pearls and matching earrings on the dresser.  She is wearing a gorgeous filmy lace outfit and I added ribbon roses in her "hair" and at her waist.  To complete the composition I've placed two little mice misbehaving with the pearls.

There are so many different textures in this that I'm sure it will be quite a challenge in addition to just being a fun subject.  So far, I'm having problems with the rose wallpaper.  Specifically, I'm not happy with the colors.  But then it's difficult to judge before the rest of the painting is blocked in.

Usually I would begin by blocking everything in, but this time I am taking a different approach.  I am finishing the background first then moving forward.  The lace is see-through and the pearls will be easier to place over the wood than paint around.  So that's why I made the decision on my approach.  We'll see if it works!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Drawing Class

Last week I gave a drawing class and despite the very hard work preparing for it I really had fun teaching it.  The subject was drawing animals and this was the sample drawing I did in preparation.  I took photos of the drawing at various stages and included it in my write-up.  I find reproducing drawings very challenging.  My photos pick up the details but are inevitably too dark. Manipulating the photo on the computer doesn't yield anything better than this.   And my scans don't pick up the details and miss the subtle gradations of tone.  So what to do?  I don't know the answer to that.  But I do know that it's a problem that I'd like to solve.  Drawing is my absolute favorite medium and I'd like to do more with it.  But the reproduction problem is a serious one.
I've looked on the internet for some help but have only found advice to use a scanner and that "pretty much any scanner should be adequate for pencil drawings" but I don't find that to be true.  Perhaps I need to take a drawing to a store that sells a variety of scanners and actually try them out.

Anyway, the class went well.  It was only four hours long and I had way too much material, but all twelve students hung in there and produced results they seemed happy with.  A few came to my house a few days later to continue.  And I think at least some of them will do more drawing that they would otherwise have done, so mission accomplished!

Also, I got an invitation to do a demo at a local art group next May.  And that should be both fun and terrifying!