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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finished the Dragonfly Gourd to Mixed Reviews

 I finished my dragonfly gourd.  My solution for the wings was a long time in coming to me, but I'm pleased with the results.  They are pieces of gourd that I cut out and cleaned.  I used the inside because of its interesting texture that is almost wing-like.  After sealing the gourd pieces, I painted them with interference paints then added glass bead acrylic medium.  The clear glass beads produce a beautiful effect.

I couldn't resist adding some beading around the branch handle and used some turquoise beads to repeat the stone in the dragonfly itself.  Good turquoise is becoming more and more difficult to come by with so much of it either being reconsituted from chips or powder, immitation in the form of dyed howlite or magnesite, or Chinese or African turquoise which is greener and, to my eye, not as pretty.  These cabochons and beads are American turquoise and are quite nice.

The thing I'm not quite happy with on this gourd is the frog  in that is doesn't really seem to belong on the piece.  But I just couldn't help myself! 

That said, I am happy with the painting job I did on her.  She's done with acrylic - a combination of regular ol' acrylics, Golden gold fluid acrylics, Jacquard "rust" Luminiere, and Liquitex interference green, gold, and violet.  It was quite exciting to work with this combination and see the sparkle on the tiny frog's beautiful skin take shape.  I created most of the iridescence with iridescent and metallic paints, but also created some with just the juxtaposition of colors, specifially yellow green, yellow, and bright pink.  It was an exciting painting project.

Digital Art!?!?

Of all the types of art that I thought I would never get into, digital art has topped the list.  It just hasn't interested me.  I need to feel the pencil, brush, or clay.

But the other day I logged onto Etsy to take a look at my shop and saw a piece that really grabbed me on the home page.  I immediately went to Geraldine Toucourt's shop and found myself absolutely enchanted by her artwork.  And guess what?  It's digital art.

As best I can tell, she creates original watercolors of her primary subjects and them layers them over other images, perhaps other watercolors of hers or (so it seems to me but my apologies to Geraldine if I'm incorrect) scans of interesting printed papers like scrapbook papers.   I found that approach quite intriguing.
Then yesterday when I was working on my spring mural I looked at it in a different way.  The section that I was working on - a distant tree-covered hillside - had a lot of appeal from both a graphic and a color point of view.  So I took these photos and am saving them for some future experiments in digital art.  I'll have to learn more on FireWorks (or get PhotoShop Elements and learn that) but it should be an interesting journey.

I'm going to take similar photos of the corresponding hillside in the winter mural before I send it off as I think those excerpts have similar possibilities.


Night before last it was finally time to try sculpting with ceramic clay and this is the result.  I definitely learned some things and also have a question to ponder.  I know the piece needs to be hollow, but when to do that?  With this one, I modeled the head and body in one piece, cut the body apart, hollowed it out, and stuck it back together.  It may have been better to add the legs first because I kept squishing the hollow body while I worked on attaching the legs.  But it wasn't too big a problem, and so far so good overall.

As you can see, I like chunky animals.  I suppose she's more of a pony instead of a horse.  In fact, this is Epona, the Celtic goddess.  And her name is the word we derive "pony" from.

Hopefully she will make it through the bisque firing stage and then I've have to decide how to glaze her.  Epona was a white pony, so of course this little sculpture should be white.  But I'd like to have a bit of "color texture" - subtle spots or streaks - so I'll see what I can find.  By the way, Epona is 5" long and 3" tall.  That's just the size she turned out to be.  I wasn't aiming for any particular size.

I found working with the clay very satifstying, and I will definitely do more.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Sweet Swan Scene

 When I sculpted this little swan I forgot to put mica powders on it before I cured it.  What a shock when I went to fetch it from the oven and it was plain dull white!  What to do?  I decided to paint it although I don't usually particularly like that effect.  But I couldn't think of an alternative.  So I painted it with acrylics, varnished it, then antiqued it with a mixture of burnt unber and burnt sienna oil paint.  I'm not really sure that I like the outcome all that much, but at least I salvaged the piece.

I like the sculpting and think the subject has appeal.  The beading was a bit time-consuming, but I alway enjoy it, especially making lush fringe.  These White Lotus freshwater pearls that I got from Fire Mountain Gems ( are really nice.  They have such a beautiful lustre.  I'm going to post this piece in my etsy shop, The Foxes' Garden, and see what happens.

Making the swan was quite enjoyable.  And those teeny cygnets were quite a challenge, but a super addition, I think.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Rabbit in Time Necklace

Back on July 23 I posted a photo of this rabbit with the clock face and now I've finished it into a necklace.  I ran through several necklace designs in my mind before I settled on this one.  The main issue was that I wanted to incorporate a key - but what key?  I searched for vintage keys and bought a few nice ones.  But. with the exception of this little pocket watch key, they were all too big.  Theoretically the pocket watch key should have been perfect since the watch face is from a pocket watch, but somehow the key just didn't seem to fit.

So I moved on to the necklace itself.  I picked out five colors of seed beads that I thought blended well together and picked up the colors in the rabbit, muted pinks and raw sienna.  It took a lot of time to bead all these strands but it was worth it.  I just now notice that the twisting of the bead strands picks up the cable design around and at the top of the watch face - funny how sometimes the subconscious seems to fill in the blanks while we work!

I've had a clasp for this type of twisted-strand necklace for a few years now but have never figured out how it works, so this is just my version fidged to work with a simple lobster claw clasp.  The crucial trick is that the beaded strands must be anchored at the ends so that the twist will hold.  To accomplish that, I saturated the ends of the beaded strand clusters with E6000 glue.  Then to cover the glue, I wrapped the glue blobs with strands of the sweetest little beads - cream colored Charlottes.

At that point, the little pocket watch key seemed to work just fine!  I don't know why, but why look a gift rabbit in the mouth?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Winter Mural

Here are parts of the winter mural - the center part isn't pictured because I can't get far back enough to photograph it.

Before I started this one I anticipated that it would be the most difficult of the four seasons and it turned out that way - at least the most difficult of the three so far.  What made the difference wasn't just the challenge of the snow but also the meticulousness of painting the bare branches.

My general strategy for the snow was to make it more gray and purple in the distance to pure colors and more blue in the nearground.

It was really fun to paint.  And I'm planning to do more winter scenes when I'm done with the murals.

I will be sad to part with this one.

The foxes with the shadows finished

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Foxes

I enjoyed painting the foxes even though I was anticipating quite a struggle.  I figured that the main problem would be the transparency of the raw sienna, burnt sienna, burnt umber, and dark raw umber.

I painted the white fur like I usually do, with a gray undercoat then working up slowly through grays and beiges to white.

But I tried something different for the red fur.  I worked a small section at a time, beginning with the parts farther from the viewer and working forward.  For each section, I undercoated with white then immediately came back - with a very light touch - into the wet white paint with the transaparent colors.  They mixed and blended with the white on the canvas to create a smooth light colored base.  Then when the base dried I put layers of transparent fur strokes with the colors.  This method worked pretty well.

I also tried to be more dramatic than I usually am with the values, and I need to do this more often.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Dragonfly Alights on a Gourd

Wednesday I taught a gourd class which included a sample project using a variety of techniques.  The sample was the moth gourd that I did earlier in the summer, but I didn't want to make another one, so I demonstrated the same techniques on a new gourd instead - this one.

The techniques included, among others, a wash of paint followed by applying interference paints, attaching a branch handle, and applying metal leaf - all demonstrated on this gourd.  The circle at the upper right is a metal leaf sun.  At the left you can see the beginning of a dragonfly - its body, in fact - fashioned of turquoise cabochons.  On the class project the body of the moth was a cabochon. 

After class I got inspired by my new but not thought-out project and painted the grasses with Jacquard's beautiful Luminiere metallic paints.  Then I beaded around the cabochonc with glass seed beads.

Today, after much contemplation, I figured out how to make the wings.  I cut them from another gourd, sealed them, painted them with interference paints, then applied glass bead acrylic medium to the rough side, which will be the right side.  I'm going to glue them on with two part epoxy.  But first I plan to paint a small frog on the back.  I'm thinking of including a polymer dragonfly on the branch handle, but I'm undecided about whether or not that would be too much.  I guess I'll make one and see.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Best Fox So Far

I think this is my best fox so far.  I made him of several separate pieces, attaching the ears, legs, back feet, and tail.  Lately I've done better at forming the fat cheeks on foxes and wolves before I get too far in the sculpting, and I think that really helps.

I've attached the tail with a half toothpick - pressing the broken, fat end into the rump then pressing the tail onto the sharp protruding end.  I like this better than strengthening joints with wire because the clay isn't so slippery on the wood.
Another thing I've been doing lately is applying the mica powders more sparingly.  It gives a more subtle look.

These tiny star-shaped brads have become my new "signature," along with my name stamp from Charm Factory.  The star goes somewhere conspicuous and the name stamp goes on the bottom or back.

The 32 gauge white wire I got from Fusion Beads is a real treasure for whiskers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Bear Totem

I sculpted this little bear the other night and added his beads today.  He's small - 2" tall and 1 1/2" wide - and is meant to be a totem.  The beads I chose for him symbolize, for me, joy and inspiration, as does the bear cub itself.

A few weeks ago I opened an Etsy shop, The Foxes' Garden, and now have five items listed.  As usual, I'm not that interested in selling my work, but how many things can I keep?  I've set my prices pretty high so hopefully I won't feel too bad if they sell.

I think the sculpting on this piece turned out good.  Lately I've been sculpting nearly one little piece a day, working in the evenings after my mural painting sessions, and I'm finding that the practice seems to have a positive effect on the quality.

A few people from my art group have remarked that they think sculpting these little animals is my first love, and they may indeed be correct!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Autumn Mural

Here are a few photos from the now completed Autumn mural.  When I was painting it, the colors seemed sooooo bright!  But I guess that's autumn in Pennsylvania where the fall color is spectacular.

I feel really lucky that my portraits of Miss Lily are turning out pretty well.  And the cattle were fun to paint.

As with the Summer mural, I'm enjoying painting big which is somewhat of a surprise to me.  In fact, I may keep the big easel up in the dining room (but reduce it to 6' long instead of 12') so that I can continue to paint big when the spirit moves me.

Today I shipped the two completed murals to Sharon in Pennsylvania and I sure hope she'll be pleased.  Winter is next, and I start that one tomorrow.