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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mouse Tracks

Here's a very small journal.  The sheets of paper are quarter sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, so the pages are a mere 2 3/4" wide by 4 1/4" tall.  I call this design "Mouse Tracks."  The name came to me because I wanted to do the little painting of the mouse face and also because I thought with such a small page size, one would be writing mere mouse tracks inside the book.

So that gave me the idea for the background cover design.  Actual mouse tracks probably don't look quite like this - that is, the individual footprints are probably spaced differently.  But the track of the tail, as well as the shape and relative size of the front and back footprints are pretty accurate.

I continue to enjoy making these canvas covered journals as the canvas provides so many possibilities and the journal format allows, if not encourages, fanciful and decorative designs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Woodland Journal

This journal features a handsome black bear.  Yes, he's brown.  But black bears come in a wide range of colors including, surprisingly, white.  The white ones live in a remote area of British Columbia and are rarely seen.

If you're interested in black bears, please check out Idaho Black Bear Rehab at  This is a wonderful organization headed by an amazing woman, Sally Maugham.  IBBR rescues black bear cubs who are orphaned, sick, or injured and attempt to rehabilitate them.  If they're successful they return them to the wild.  They've only worked with cubs until this year when they took in a mother and cub pair.

Anyway, this journal is the same basic plan as the others I've made, but there are a few differences.  First, the button.  I made it from a thick branch of a climbing rose that had died in the corner of our garden.  There are six signatures rather than the usual four.  And each of the signatures includes a piece of 90lb watercolor paper in addition to the usual 24lb paper. 

It's a pretty journal, and I enjoyed painting all the leaves every bit as much as I enjoyed painting the bear.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Here's the attendant duck with her paint job completed.  Isn't she beautiful?  It's going to be hard covering any part of her with a costume after all that painting.  So perhaps her dress will be minimalist.

For the record, the paper clay coated with gesso is a wonderful painting surface.  I suppose it would have been obvious to use regular white gesso but I used Liquitex clear gesso because it's what I have used on my gourds with great success.  And I used it on the gourds because I wanted the golden brown color and the texture of the gourds to show in the background of what I was painting.

As much as I love sculpting - and drawing - I just don't feel quite right without a brush in my hand.  So finishing this little duck was being home.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wisdom Lies Within

This may be my favorite journal yet - a beautiful starry night sky with a full moon, wintry branches, and a portrait of a little barn owl.  These are images that I find myself drawn to over and over.  Bare tree branches may not elicit the fuzziest of feelings, but I like the sense of mystery and I like the linear, almost calligraphic look.

This is a relatively large journal - the pages are 8 1/2" x 7" - legal size paper folded in half.  And I have six signatures of eight sheets each, so there are 192 pages - lots of space to fill.

I painted it with acrylics, and the ring around the moon and swirls in the sky are Liquitex Interference acrylics, Interference Violet and Interference Blue.  I love a bit of metallic shimmer.

I hope the message "Wisdom Lies Within" won't be intimidating to whoever ends up with this journal.  I would hate to see it stay empty.  Maybe an owl-lover will own it and fill it with "praise of owls" - which would be wisdom indeed.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Working on the Ducks

I've finished sculpting the two ducks and now I've begun painting them.  First I sealed them with a coat of Liquitex clear gesso.  I find that this product gives me a surface that is easy to paint on, especially when I'm floating the colors.  I'm using Liquitex soft body acrylics.  I really like those paints, but I wish they came in more colors, especially a wider variety of browns and grays.  Yes, I know I can mix them.  I'm pretty good at mixing colors, actually, but I find it such a pain to do!
The duck on the left will be the Lady of the Lake's attendant.  I'm not sure of her name yet, but she's a mallard.  The feathers are a bit fussy, but it's worth it.  This is what she looks like after two days of painting.
This past weekend our local art group had an art camp.  We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in a room we rented at the local junior college.  It's a large art studio classroom with lots of tables and sinks right there in the room.  Everyone worked on their own projects, and it's always fun to see what the others are doing.  We bring sugary snacks, so it's a good thing that these events only occur four times a year!

Friday, July 19, 2013

More NIADA Aftermath

Yesterday's post was about the class I took at NIADA from Connie Smith.  This one's about the one I took from Ankie Daanen, who is a miraculous doll artist working in paper clay, and the beginning of my paper clay ducks and frog project.  Paper clay is an air-dry product.  You can carve, sand, a paint it.  It's remarkably strong, but needs to be sealed against moisture.

In Ankie's one-day class we made a human doll body.  We began by firmly stuffing a sewn cloth body then running wires through it - one on each side of the body from the hip to the shoulder for the legs and arms.  To get the paper clay to stick to the cloth and wire body we wrapped it tightly with stretchable gauze (the kind used for bandaging) then sealed the gauze with a coat of Mod Podge.  After the Mod Podge was dry, we began coating the armature with thin sheets of paper clay.  To make the sheets we flattened walnut-sized balls of clay to about 3/16" thick.  From there it was just a matter of building up the form in layers.  At the end of the class Ankie talked briefly about a fish she had done.  Rather than a cloth and wire armature, she made the center of the fish by carving a Styrofoam form.  After covering the Styrofoam with gauze and sealing the gauze with Mod Podge, she was ready to proceed with the paper clay in just the same way as with the cloth and wire armature.

I had signed up for this class simply to fill some open time at the NIADA conference, but I'm very glad I did and have found paper clay to be a responsive medium.  When I got home, I decided to make a grouping of two ducks and a frog.  These ducks will become the Lady of the Lake from the King Arthur legend and one of her attendants.  The frog will either be a poor beggar frog or a travelling silk merchant - I'm not sure yet which.

This photo shows the styrofoam core I carved and coated, and the beginning of the process of covering it with the first layer of paper clay.  I used pieces of cardboard for the bill.  The legs are wooden skewers wrapped with paper.  Several layers followed this first one, with each drying thoroughly before adding the next.  Because of all the drying time, it's a somewhat slow process.  One layer might only take an hour, but then the piece needs to dry for a day  But there are benefits to working slowly, like having more time to hopefully spot errors before one is too committed.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My trip to NIADA

At the end of June I went to the NIADA conference in Corte Madeira, California, just north of San Francisco.  NIADA is the National Institute of American Doll Artists.  Despite the name, many of the artist members are international, including their new president who is from New Zealand.

I found out about the organization last November and when I realized that their conference would be so close to home I decided to go.  And I'm so glad I did.  A local class I took last October got me started making dolls, and this conference has sparked my interest and enthusiasm once again.  I took advantage of the opportunity they gave to "visiting artists" to have my dolls critiqued by an artist member.  My critiquer was Connie Smith and she gave me some invaluable advice as well as encouragement.  I think I returned from the conference with a clear idea of the direction I want my work to go in as well as my strengths and the areas I need to improve upon.

Before the conference various artists offered classes and I took two - one from Connie Smith and the other from Ankie Daanen.

The photo is of four stoneware heads that I made in  Connie's class.  Connie makes remarkable anthropomorphic dolls with stoneware heads, hands, and feet and cloth bodies and clothing.  Check out her beautiful work at her etsy shop,

The class was two days and Connie is a remarkable teacher.  Although all of us students had some sculpture experience, none of us had worked with stoneware before.   But she led us all to the completion of several pieces.  The first day, everyone made the same things - a frog head and a bird head.  The second day we each made whatever animals we personally chose.  I made the fox first.  Next I was going to make a little desert rodent but the animal just insisted on being a badger - so that's what she became!

The first day we worked with Arctic White stoneware which fires white.  The second day we worked with Cassius Baltic which fires near black.  The colors are ceramic stains except for the white on the badger and fox which are Arctic White slip.

Stephanie Blythe, and artist member who lives near where we had the conference, was so kind as to fire our pieces for us, so we were able to complete the entire process before we left for home at the end of the conference.

I loved sculpting with this medium and will continue.  In face, while I was still at the conference I used my down time to sculpt a tiger head and paws and a rat head and paws.  I have ordered a small kiln and can't wait for it to arrive.  The question for me is how I will be coloring my pieces.  I didn't feel I had much control with the ceramic stains so I will try painting the fired pieces with acrylic and oil and see how that goes.  So stay tuned, but it will be a while till there's more news on this subject since I haven't received my kiln yet!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More Like Me

Here are two ACEOs that are more in my typical style.  I completed them a while ago.  The cat fairy sold on eBay and I gave the collie to my sister because she liked it so much.
As far as the cat fairy goes, it's so fun doing these fanciful subjects because anything goes!  Accordingly, I added interference paint, ultra-fine glitter and glitter stars (from on her wings, art glitter on the star around her neck, and Swarovski flat-back crystals at the tips of her fairy antennae.  Some day I'll have to do a larger, more complex cat fairy painting.  Something showing the whole body and more than one cat so that I can get a little story line going.
As for the collie, I enjoy doing the gold scroll work, although I could use a bit more practice on my stroke-work painting.  I like the old-fashioned look.  And, as always, it's so rewarding to see the fur come alive.  There are lots of brush strokes involved, but all it takes is patience.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Laurie Mika's class

At the end of May I went to a mixed media retreat in Irvine California and was fortunate to take Laurie Mika's class in polymer clay icons.  Before I went, I made these three dog heads from polymer clay, portraits of my beloved dogs Lucy, Rhudy, and Daisy, the last of whom passed away about four years ago.  I wanted to make a piece dedicated to them, and here it is.  The lettering for the dog on top, Lucy, says "canis felix," or "happy dog;"  the lettering by the middle dog, Rhudy, says "canis nobilis," or "noble dog;" and the lettering for the lower dog, Daisy, says "canis mirabilis," or "wondrous dog." My plan was to embed them in my piece.
It felt good to make something special in memory of these beloved and wonderful canine companions.  And thanks to Laurie Mika for guiding the way!

3X3 First Phase

This is my first report on my 3x3 pieces for this year's 3D and 3X3 show. My concept is a bit sketchy at this stage, but I wanted the bases of all of them to be collage incorporating several tea-related elements. So I've included tea-bas covers and tags, a label from an iced-tea bottle, and magazine snippets portraying some of the ingredients in the flavored teas, like peach or lemon. I've also included pieces of hand-written vintage recipe cards that I got on as well as some simple text for texture.
I prepared my board with spray primer that I got at Home Depot then went directly to the collage using Liquitex matt gel medium for the adhesive. Where I wanted to tone down the colors, I added light washes of gesso. Then I added splotches of color here and there with alcohol inks.
But now what? Well, that requires some thinking time...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Not Like Me!

This is a little ACEO I did about a month ago.  The subject is unlike what I usually do.  But it was an interesting challenge to try to get the effect of the water.  It took lots of layering so it's a good think I'm a patient person!  I think I did a pretty good job with the water, but perhaps the perspective on the bubbles isn't quite right.  Perhaps they shouldn't be so round since they're seen from an angle.
When I listed it on eBay I thought it had a good change of selling because I think this subject is popular.  Also, despite the question on the bubble perspective, I think I did a reasonably good job on it, although maybe the markings on the fish should have been more interesting and the colors should have been brighter.  Anyway, there were lots of watchers but no buyers, so I had to relist it.  In fact, I think I listed it four times before I sold it.  With each listing there were 4 or 5 watches, but the bidders were slow to materialize.  My sister tells me that summer can be quite a slow time for eBay and I am certainly finding it so.  Fortunately, selling them isn't the main point - it's the  joy of painting them.

Friday, July 12, 2013



In honor of my new chickens I started making these little chicken characters from paper clay.  They're small - about 1 3/4" tall.  So far I've only gotten around to painting the one.  My intention is to keep the painting on all of them quite minimal.  Do you like her glasses?  I made them from rusted wire (to match the feet) and they have stylish star-shaped rhinestones on the sides.

The crown on the second one is from a metal bird that I didn't finish at a metal-working class.  I think it works fine here!

I have noticed two things about my own chickens who arrived as day-old chicks.  The first is how fast they grow.  And the second is how big their feet are - a handy feature for getting the little sculptures to stand properly!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Flock of Burdz

I just had to try paper clay and these are my initial results.  I call them "Burdz."  As you can tell from the photo, these are imaginary birds, and any resemblance to actual birds is purely coincidental!

I form each bird by simply shaping a ball of paper clay.  The birds are small enough - the bodies are about 1 1/2" high - that I haven't felt the need for a crumpled aluminum foil or Styrofoam core.  I add the eyes while the clay is wet.  The first one I made isn't in this photo because her eyes were too buggy.  After that, I was careful to press the glass beads that I use for the eyes well into the head.

I also press the legs in place while the clay is wet.  But this is just to make the placement hole.  After the bodies are dry I glue the legs into those holes.

The legs on the shorter birds are just twisted wire.  But for the taller birds I used tight coils of paper and glued the wire feet into the ends.

Most often I make the wing shapes out of two thicknesses of mixed media paper glued together with spray adhesive. 

It takes at least a day, and more likely two, for the clay to dry completely.  Then I'm ready to decorate.  I use acrylic matt medium to decoupage various paper bits on the body and wings.  Then I add the painting and glue the wings and any trim pieces in place. 

I think my favorite is the Goth bird.  But, actually, my favorite changes from day to day!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Making Canvas Covered Journals

A few months ago I spent an afternoon with the latest issue of "Pages" magazine from Interweave.  I had never been interested in making books, but I had a couple of hours to kill and this magazine was the only time-killer at hand.

When I first saw the article on canvas-covered journals I skipped right by it.  The examples did not seem compelling to me.  But after flipping by the article a few times, I saw the journals in a different light - "It's the canvas, stupid!"  The canvas covers on these journals makes them a perfect project for a painter.  Suddenly, I couldn't wait to get home and make one.

The one in the center was my first attempt.  I was just doodling with the paint, basically, and having fun.  Well, every step of making the journal was fun: preparing the signatures (groups of pages that are sewn in as one), sewing them in, and putting on the button closure.  I modified the procedure the article laid out.  I added more stitches for the signatures, and embellished the stitching with buttons.

Soon I was searching Etsy to expand my button collection.  I ordered better paper than the copy paper I used for the first one.  And I was making more and more journals.  One of my favorites is the one on the lower left.  I painted the entire cover - front and back - as a continuous landscape painting.  The more I worked, the more possibilities I saw.

I have made several more of these journals and will soon begin listing them on Etsy.  Making them is so addictive, but there only so many I can use myself!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Here's a little ACEO I'm pretty proud of.   The three young cottontails are all snug in their grassy nest lined with mom's soft fur.

After blocking in basic background colors and painting the rabbits, I deepened the darks directly around then the stippled the next fur.  For the foreground I switched from soft-body acrylics to acrylic gouache.

It sold pretty quickly on eBay but I was sad to let it go.  I hope it brings joy to the person who bought it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cerrunnos, the Completed Fox Totem

I've been quiet for so long that it's going to be somewhere between difficult and impossible to catch up, and things won't be in the order created, but here goes!

Here's the finished fox totem which I've named Cerrunnos.  Cerrunnos is the Celtic Lord of the Forest and is typically portrayed as a stag.  But, hey, I'm all about foxes!  Just to give a nod to tradition, he has stag horns (which I made of rusted wire).  There is a pine cone (polymer clay) n the niche in his chest.  An owl gazes wisely from his forehead, a squirrel sits on his leg, and a little snake slithers along his tail.

The decoration is primarily a collage of various printed text from old books.  Most is illegible because of overlays and swatches of paint and gesso. But there are excerpts on his chest that are perfectly readable - snippets from a vintage dictionary which are nice little line drawings of various forest animals and accompanying text.

This piece was an impulsive experiment, inspired by the shape of a lotion bottle.  The one thing I wish I had done differently was disguise the underlying form.  Next time......