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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Foxes Done!

Here's the completed painting of the foxes.  When I was all done I realized I hadn't provided any tracks in the snow to allow them to reach the spot where they are.  Rather than go back and put them in I decided to leave it as an enigma.  Did a UFO drop them in place and is the UFO still hoveering just out of sight? (My sister's fanciful suggestion.)  Have they sat there ever since it started snowing?  (My more prosaic excuse.)   Or is there some other explanation?  Don't know.  Only the foxes know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Progress on One of the Foxes

Now the fox on the left has his second layer of fur.  Looking better, I'd say.  But I see some things that need correcting such as these:  the top of the left (his right, though) eye should slant down more towards the corner, the left side up the face (his right, though) should puff out more, the muzzle needs shaping, and the upper front arm needs more modelling so that it doesn't look so chunky.

I thought I'd get two layers on both foxes today but it took longer than I thought it would.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Crude Foxes!

Step 1 on the foxes.  They're blocked in enough to be a road map for filling in the details.  This stage isn't really worth preserving except in the hope that it will illustrate a nice contrast to the finished product.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Background Takes Shape

This afternoon I worked on the background adding the weeds, the snow-covered pine branches, and the shadow beneath them.  Although I am flying blind with this I am finding the snow fun to paint.  Once I get to the foxes I'll be on more familiar ground.  By the way, dotting in the snow flakes is tedious but doable.  It only took me about half and hour despite my fears that it would seem like a never-ending task!

As I look at the photo, I think I should put more of the dried weeds in.  Specifically I think they should be in a deeper band covering the entire light purple area under the dark purple part and extending un the long branch that goes behind the top of the fox's head.  So I'll do that tomorrow before I continue to the foxes.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Roughed In (Very) Foxes

Ever since working on the winter mural I have been inspired to re-paint the two foxes in a painting ot their own.  Here's the beginning.  I re-drew the foxes and made some changes which will hopefully be improvements.  I'd like the left fox to be actually looking at the right one.

I'm just winging the background and am feeling a bit lost in space.  Hopefully, with a lot of work this painting will be successful.  Or will I once again wish I had done a value sketch?  We'll see.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


After much productive and engaging discussion Kalmback declined to publish my book on sculpting polymer clay animals.  So that left me with a decision to make - how to proceed from here.  Before I approached Kalmbach I had been thinking that I would publish it myself if Kalmback declined, but for some reason, after hearing Kalmbach's decision, I have been hanging back, paralyzed by indecision.
Last night I had a bit of a break-through when I realized that my indecision was motivated by fear - fear of writing the book but then, as I so often do, failing to follow through, market it, and really make something of it.  So I have pledged to myself that this time I will actually do all that.....
When I did the proposal for Kalmbach I actually got a good jump on the book.  The proposal included the complete outline as well as three of the twelve animal chapters.  So my next step is to continue writing the individual animal chapters.  Hedge is a result of that effort, the "hedgehog" chapter.  I think she's pretty cute.  I had fun making her and learned some things I didn't know before. 
This little one is actually my second hedgehog.  When I made the first one I learned that if you want the spines to stick out nicely you have to apply them as absolutely the last step (except for mica powders) before curing.  So Hedgie II's spines stick out nicely.  But what I then learned with that is that the fear of spine fragility limits its use.  She can't really be jewelry (although I pierced a hole for that purpose) or the handle on a trinket box.  So she'll have to be simply an objet d'art!  A noble calling after all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Charles, the SophistiCAT

Here's my third little cat drawing.  This is Charles.  Doesn't he look sophisticated?  He's a long-haired orange tabby and quite handsome.

As with the other cat drawings, I have added just a tiny touch of color in his eyes, this time blues.  I used Verithins because they're so hard and don't put much color down.

Every time I draw I love the medium more.  I think my favorite thing about it is how the value of the graphite depends on the pressure from your hand.  I think this really emphasizes the closeness between the artist and the emerging image  I know my hand was there!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Irresistible Rio

Here's my next cat drawing, little Rio.  This drawing is smaller than Binky, about 4" x 5".  I drew Binky on Stonehenge drawing paper, and this one on Strathmore Mixed Media paper.  This paper seems softer than the Stonehenge but I like the textures equally.

In the past I've combined graphite and water media, but if I put down the graphite first I have to protect it with fixatif before I apply the water media or else it will smudge.  But putting down fixatif under the water media would negate the purpose of using the mixed media paper.  So I guess the solution would be to put down a very light outline of pencil - just enough to serve as a guide - then add watercolor washes, then proceed to the graphite detail.  I'll have to try that.

Meanwhile, back to Rio.  I added just a hint of color to his eyes (as I did to Binky's)  This time I remembered to incise the whiskers everywhere, but they don't much show on the right side because of the highlights and Rio's light-colored coat.

When I photographed and cropped the drawing, I see that I didn't get an even line at the lower edge, so I'll have to fix that.

The bottom line with Rio is that getting back to drawing is truly a joy.  Working only with line and value is a challenge, but a very rewarding one.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back to the Basics

Yesterday I was cleaning up the studio and came across a drawing of a cat that I had started a few weeks ago.  I've been a bit "lost in space" since completing the murals, not quite sure of what I wanted to tackle next.  So I decided to finish the cat - back to the basics of drawing.  This particular cat is "Binky" and I found her photo in Best Friends' magazine (Best Friends is a wonderful animal shelter in Utah).  Not only is Best Friends a great organization, but their magazine is up-lifting and filled with photos of the sweetest animals.  It's a good and fun exercise to draw some portraits from the magazine.  My favorite part of the drawing process with the point where my drawing takes on a life of its own and separates from the photgraphic likeness I'm working from.  After finishing Binky, I began on Joey and hope to finish his portrait tomorrow.

I made a mistake on this drawing at the very beginning and now I'm stuck with no way to fix it.  Do you see it?  I forgot to incise the eyebrow hairs over the left eye.  Acrylic paint just doeesn't show up.  Drat!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Not-So-Fierce Puma

I've been working sporadically on some pieces for my new etsy shop and here's one of them - a puma head.  As with all my animals, fierceness seems to be totally lacking.  But she's kind of cute.

I didn't texture the polymer clay nor did I try to color the puma with different colors of clay.  I sculpted her entirely from a cinnamon color clay then painted the details.  I like the look but it's time consuming.  My intent is to make a few animal heads like this - I did a wolf a week or so ago - so that I can replicate them.  I'll make a mold from this one then I can make more and paint them. I'll add the glass eyes to each one individually.

Because of the painting, each one will still be one-of-a-kind even though they're from a mold.  And because I'll make the mold over an original sculpture of mine the piece will be entirely original.  I guess I could market them as numbered editions.  Hmmm.  I'll have to remember that - it's a good idea.

My other motivation for this piece is the subject.  Earlier in mhy polymer clay adventure I found sculpting cats impossible.  Now I'm determined to get back to it and get good at it.  Funny, I had the same experience with drawing and painting cats - they were very difficult in the beginning, more so than other animals.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Owls Ready for Duty

Today and yesterday I continued working on my Moondial by making the five barn owls that will stand sentry around the box.  An improvement for future barn owls will be to use tiny size 15 black seed beads for the spots on the chests. 

These were pretty simple to make and also, I think, pretty successful.  I kept the mica powders to a minimum, only using black around the eyes, antique bronze on either side of the feather tufts above the beak, and rose gold on the beak itself.  I considered antiquing them but have decided not to.  It will be too difficult to wipe the antiquing away between the feet and it will look odd if I avoid putting the antiquing paint there.  So, they'll stay as they are.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

AM - After Murals

I woke up this morning with a delicious, luxurious question on my mind - "what should I do today?"  It took a while for the answer to come to me but in the end it was (big surprise) a fox! A ceramic one.

I'll have to reserve my decision until after I fire and glaze a few of these, but I'm thinking I'd like to work with porcelain and/or stoneware.  Stoneware has such a different, rustic look that works well for the animals.  And porcelain just seems more luxurious than regular ol' clay.  But the downside of either of those is that I'll need to get my own kiln that will do high fire whereas I can get my regular ol' clay stuff fired at the local ceramics place.

Meanwhile, it will still be a while until I can glaze either the fox or the horse I made about 10 days ago.  I knocked the tail off the greenware horse so I have to reattach it then allow more drying time before I can even bisque fire it.  If I get more into ceramics I'll have to find a safer place to let my clay pieces dry.

Working with this clay is different from polymer clay but enough of the techniques seem to transfer for me to be fairly comfortable with it.  Anyway, it's fun!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Murals are Finished!

About an hour ago I put the last brushstroke of varnish on the Spring mural.  I'm done now!  With all four!

Here's a photo of the right third or so.  Cropped this way, the composition looks bad with Miss Lily, the dog, right in the middle.  But, take it from me, it's fine when you see the whole thing.

What a fascinating journey these murals have been.  So much about them has been new for me - the size, working on canvas, working this quickly.  But much has been familiar, especially the animals.  And when I had the breakthrough of thinking of them as "scenes" rather than "landscapes" the landscape painting was familiar too.  Most fun of all, I think, was working with the same scene over four different seasons and the chance to play with four different color schemes applied to the same subject.

My only regret was working so fast.  With more time, I could have done more.  But perhaps with more time I would have never finished even the first one.

My dining room was my studio for this project because it was the only place I could set up a large enough work surface.  I really don't use the dining room except at Christmas and maybe one or two other times a year.  So, at least for a few months, I'm going to keep it as a quasi-studio.  I'll only take down half of my "easel" which will leave me a 4' high by 6' long space.  So I'll have a place to work on some more larger - but not this large - paintings. 

With this happy experience behind me, I'm ready and excited to move on.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I'm still working on the fourth mural.  I was hoping to finish yesterday but didn't.  It looks like I will finish tomorrow as all that's left are the five chickens and the small horses and cows.

So it's time to begin looking forward to my next piece which will be a "moondial."  I made this little bear cub a week or so ago and decided to use him as the pointer on a moondial.  He'll be standing on a circle and the outside ring will have the phases of the moon.  The inside will turn with 28 clicks completing a full circle.

It would be fantastic to find a brass gear with 28 cogs that's the right size, but it's hard to imagine that the stars would align quite that well!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spring Lambs - an Inspiration

This is another excerpt from the spring mural and as I look at it I see that it could make a very nice painting on its own.  I would need to do more detail and a less decorative and more realistic style.  There would be five fence posts rather than four.  The colors here are a bit strange, but I actually like them and some grasses are actually bluish.  I also like the long low shape.

I was hoping that I would finish the spring mural today but I find myself adding more and more stuff to it as I'm really enjoying painting it.  It's the most time-consuming so far because, like the winter trees, I needed to paint all the branches, and then add small bits of leaves.  There are also more animals - the sheep, Miss Lily, tiny cows and horses, and foreground chickens and chicks.  I think there will be two more painting days.