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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Even More Tiny Ones

Here are the two other ACEOs that I did at the Art Camp this past weekend.  Once again, they're colored pencil.

The bear went smoothly, and it was a nice change of pace to put a bit of landscape in it.  But, as always with colored pencil, it was a pain preserving the lights.
Then on to the wolf.  This one was coming along quite nicely when I hit a situation I've never hit before.  I actually seem to have overloaded the paper with colored pencil because new layers started dislodging the ones underneath.  So that was a rude and sudden ending.  Unfortunatly, these areas show on  the shadow parts of the face and chest.  I don't know whether a different type of paper would have behaved differently.  I'll have to ask a few of my colored pencil friends.

But, for now, I'm more than ready to move on to acrylics.
I'm very glad that I chose to work so quickly on these and not draw them ahead of time.  The experience has made me more confident.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Next in the ACEO Parade!

Here's the next ACEO I did over the weekend - a big-eared owl.  The moon is an image I just can't resist.  I know that I have too much "light" on the front side of the owl since the light source is behind him.  But after I checked that my artistic license hadn't expired, I went ahead.

I ordered a few tubes of gouache the other day and can't wait for them to arrive.  Then I'll work on some ACEOs with a combination of those (I got acrylic gouache) and soft-body acrylics.  That combination should work well for me.  I can get lights over darks, and glazes of the soft-body acrylics will give me a lot of subtle color gradation.

But I do like the look of colored pencil.  The graininess - which is there despite rubbing with solvent - gives an interesting texture.  And I can get very nice soft edges like on the edges of this owl.  I suppose I may miss that with the acrylics.  We'll see!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More 'Tiny' Art

This is my work from yesterday.  Our art club is having a retreat this weekend.  We've rented a large art room in one of the local junior colleges and are getting together, doing our own art things, and enjoying each others' company.  Yesterday was the first day of the event and I completed these two ACEOs.

I wanted to spend the time practicing my colored pencil technique.  Sometimes it's frustrating, especially because I can't get a sharp enough point (I use a mechanical pencil for drawing, so always have a very sharp point) and the point that I do manage to get quickly wears down.  So detail is difficult for me.  I keep thinking about how I could do so much better with a small brush.  But I'm determined to work on this medium.

In the end, I was happy with these two efforts.

The parrot is on white paper because I wanted really bright  colots.  But the fox is on toned paper.  I like both papers used in the ways that are most appropriate to them. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Bobcat and an Interesting Cropping Question

When I do an ACEO I don't typically work on pre-cut paper.  Instead I work on a small piece of  quality drawing paper.  I work a bit beyond the expected edges, then find the best place to crop it to size.

So on this one I began as usual, but before I got very far I decided where I would crop the face and worked from then on just in that area.  In fact, I taped a little frame made from an index card over the drawing as I continued to work.

Then at the end when I took the frame away I liked the effect!  I find the ragged edges on three sides and the transition from "in process" to finished on the fourth side very appealing.

So now I don't know whether to crop it or not.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Working Small

This drawing measures 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" - an ACEO (Art Cards Editions and Originals) - the for-sale version of an Artist Trading Card.  I began with graphite then switched to colored pencil.  It's been a while since I've done any drawing, and even longer since I've worked so small.  And I thoroughly enjoyed both.

I worked on a toned buff drawing paper and originally I intended to use only graphite and white colored pencil.  But part way through I decided I wanted to give it a vintage look and added browns.  The darkest parts of the background are glazed with Indigo Blue.  Also, I blended the background with Gamsol which made it much deeper in color because it partially dissolves the wax so that it sinks into the texture of the paper.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thistle Complete

Thistle is finished at last!

My favorite part of this little character doll was making her clothing.  The fabrics are so beautiful, from the dark purple silk pantaloons to the satin ribbon points at the bottom of the bodice and sleeves.  The ribbon ruffle around her neck is a pretty sheer ribbon with satin edges which adds beautiful texture.

The ribbon roses don't really go with the thistle theme, but having just recently acquired the skill of making them, I couldn't resist.  I especially like the green one on her bodice.

Her shoes were a challenge.  I came up with several ideas, but rejected them all until I thought of these little sandals.  I made them on her feet, first gluing the ribbon pieces in place on the bottoms of her feet.  Then I cut ultrasuede soles.  Each sole is a double thickness of ultrasuede with a piece of index card sandwiched in between and sewn all around with a whip stitch.  The final step was making polymer clay heels and gluing the soles and heels in place.  I discovered that I had some lavender opalescent milk glass flower beads that made the perfect accent for the sandals.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Little Owl Has the Blues

A friend came over last week to do some needle felting together.  She wanted to do owls, so I came up with an approach to making the armature and we got started.  That day, we were able to make the polymer clay eyes, beaks, and feet and construct the armature, but we didn't get to felting since just the armature took all day.
Wrapping the armature with strips of wool felt really helps with the initial felting.  The wool felt strips provide a base for the wool felting fibers to stick to.  For all but the last 1/4" to 1/2" of felting I use "core wool" from Living Felt (  The core wool is very nice, but is not dyed and not quite as fine as the wool felting batts.  But, most importantly, it's less expensive.  I know of people who use polyester fiber for the inside of their felted pieces but I want my pieces to be all wool.  And as far as the felt strips around the armature are concerned, I've found that the felting wool just doesn't stick very well to acrylic felt.  So it's all wool for me! 
I'm happy with my little blue owl, but I have some improvements in mind for my next one.  The most important is how I attach the feet to the overall armature.  I built the feet over craft wire for strength, but then left about a 4" piece sticking up out of the top of the leg.  I wrapped the craft wire around the thick wire in the armature and hot-glued it.  But I think the join should be stronger, so I need to rethink that.  Also, I'd like to improve the eyes.  I want them a lot shiner, but I want to stick with polymer clay (that is, avoid buying glass eyes) because I can custom paint them for the individual owl.
"Baby Blue" was lots of fun to make and I'm planning to make more of these little guys!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fun With Ribbon

Ever since I received my books on ribbonwork I've had the idea of making a pin cushion from a cat food can.  So the other day I got started and am very happy with the result.  And I found a way to use the coral color rose which was the first ribbon rose I made.  The pin cushion has two different kinds of flowers, two kinds of leaves, and a bud.  The construction method for the bud (the medium pink thing between the coral and golden yellow roses) would make pretty blueberries - at least that's what I thought when I was making it.
After the pin cushion I wasn't quite ready to stop so went on to make the pin with the large pink rose.  I made the individual flowers and leaves then stitched them to a backing of silk stretched over a piece of cardboard.  I finished the pin by gluing a piece of ultrasuede to the back.  I cut holes in the ultrasuede to accomodate the ends of a pin back which was glued under the ultrasuede.  And I finished the edges by whip-stitching the edges of the ultrasuede to the edges of the silk.
Another thought I had for using this grouping was to glue it to a jar lid and then fill the jar with Hershey's kisses for a sweet Valentine's present.  I have several nice jars from the medium-size Yankee Candle candles.  They're very simple plain jars - straight up and down and about as wide as they are tall.  And the lids are flat so gluing the flowers to the lid should be a snap.
The little yellow rose is for a tiny hair clip.  I'm planning to add a few leaves and a tiny blue flower or two.
Ribbonwork is fun!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Thistle Begins to Bloom

After looking through my fabrics I discovered that I had stuff I could use so I went ahead with the dress despite not having the lavendar dupioni silk I ordered.

So here it is so far.  After doing the pantaloons from purple silk I added wto ruffled layers of tulle, the first a medium purple and the top one lavendar.  I cut sharp points in the lower edges of each to better simulate the blossom of a thistle.

The next step was to begin the bodice.  I'm starting by layering folded points of satin ribbon.  I don't know how far I'll go with this or what I'll do with the sleeves.  Hopefully good ideas will come to me as I proceed.

As usual, I can't wait to get to the hair.  It's so tempting to do it now but if I do I'll make working on the clothes around the neck much harder, so I'll restrain myself! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Beginning Thistle

I'm beginning a new project.  Though I seem to do better with animal characters than human ones, I keep trying the humans.  After all, it's only through practice that I will improve.

This one is Thistle.  Her hair will be thistle down and her dress will be like an upside-down thistle flower with the bodice the green part and the skirt the purple part.

As I was working on the armature and had her right leg and arm finished I noticed how the addition of the felt helps sculpt the cloth body where I bring the strips from the arms and legs up over the edge of the body.  I'm using Kunin brand felt which I find to be a very nice quality.

I'm quite eager to begin on the clothing but am still waiting on the arrival of a lovely piece of lavendar dupioni silk that I ordered from eBay.  Sure hope it comes tomorrow....

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Golden One

This piece, "The Golden One," is basically finished.  I say "basically" because I still have a few little things in mind, but I want to let my ideas settle for a while before I act on them.  One idea is to add antennae to the bear.  Another is to add wings to the girl.  I seem to have created a hybird elf/fairy here as I don't believe that elves have antennae.  Perhaps it's a "felf."  Well, it's all fantasy anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter.

As soon as I finished the girl's hair I added the butterfly on her forehead.  Now I wish I hadn't.  I think a white flower - like the ones around the bear's neck - would be better as it would unify the two characters more.

Meanwhile, my favorite part of this piece is (no surprise) the bear.  It was so fun making the little baskets and all the ribboh flowers.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mopsy Voices Her Opinion

Mopsy thinks this whole thing is S-T-U-P-I-D!!!  Doing something special for CATS would be a much better use of my time!

But meanwhile, the bear is quite fascinated with the progress I'm making on constructing his back pack baskets.  I made one yesterday and will finish the second one today.  Then it's back to making the flowers that fill them.  I'm making the flowers from ribbon - "ribbonwork" - following instructions from a wonderful book by Christen Brown called "Ribbonwork Gardens."

In addition to the flowers, I still have wings to make!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's Always Such a Relief to have HAIR!

Yes, even if it's green, it's a relief to finally have hair.

I made pretty good progress today.  "Fleshed out" the bear with more brown wool, felted the bear's saddle bags blanket and the fairy's capelet, and added her hair.  I also gave her antenna, a sweet gold butterfly on her forehead, and a little bracelet on her right wrist.

What remains are the saddle bags (baskets, probably) for the bear, all the flowers, her wings, and then any finishing touches.  And I need to name them.

I found it difficult to begin felting the bear's blanket and her capelet, but once I started it turned out to be easy.  The various wools - yarns, roving, and batting - in the Living Felt Specialty Designer Pack are nicely coordinated, so the only problem, really, was the design which magically fell into place.

Here's a photo of her face.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

That Awkward Stage

There always seems to be a phase in every project where it just looks weird, and I'm definitely there with this one.  She's a real pin head, isn't she?  And so is the bear!

But I like the dress and the boots.  The boots are felted from a yummy colored piece of felting bat that came in one of Living Felt's Specialty Designer Packs (   I'm felting the bear with their products too.

I made the dress from scraps of a beautiful pure cotton quilting backing fabric that I have.  The scraps are leftovers from a quilt I made my daughter and son-in-law as a wedding present, so every time I use some of that fabric it evokes happy memories.  But the star of the dress is the vintage lace pieces that I embellished it with.  I got them all on Etsy from shops here in the US so I assume that they were originally made here.  The exception is the darker rosette at her waist.  I crocheted that one just for fun.  I used size 30 crochet thread, and I think the thread on many of the vintage pieces must be size 80 or 100 (much thinner!).  I marvel at the workmanship of these old pieces and am glad to find them a new home.  The large scalloped piece around the waist - the piece that forms a sort of overskirt - is delicate Irish crochet with its gorgeous 3D roses.

Speaking of old pieces, it give me pause to use them in this way.  But, as I say, I think I'm giving them new life.  None of them are in perfect condition and are probably not usable in any other way.  I hope I am honoring them - which is my intention.