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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dragon of the East

In the interests of not focusing too much on any one thing, I made a dragon in stoneware.  She's small - about 2" tall.  For whatever reason I usually find myself working small.

Right after I took these photos I was fooling around with her and broke her tongue off.  Of course I know better than to handle greenware too much, but that doesn't mean I follow the right course!  I decided not to reattach the tongue because I figured it might be equally fragile after firing and then I wouldn't be able to clean up the break.  So I smoothed out a hole in her mouth and maybe once she's fired I'll glue a pearl or other stone in her mouth.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Cat Begins to Fill Out

Now the cat has a second layer of clay.  As you can see, I've built out the nose and muzzle, added thicker eyelids top and bottom, and filled out the cheeks.  It doesn't show in this photo but I also filled out the back of the head.  It's just a matter of looking at a real cat and adding blobs of clay corresponding to the large muscles in the face.  There's more to do tomorrow, but that may be the last of the clay work on the head.

I now know that this is a girl and I need to find a good name for her.  And I also need to nail down what time period she's living in.  I want her to wear a long dress and a hooded cape and be carrying a lantern.  Perhaps early nineteenth century will be good.   So I could research Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters for names.

How to make the lantern is a puzzle.  I'd like to have it light up, so I'm thinking of starting with a small glass bottle and building the lantern around that with a tiny battery-operated light inside.  I found - and ordered - some small amber bottles that has been frosted by ocean action last night on Etsy.  I'm thinking that the amber color along with the frost will give a nice glow and also disguise the tiny LED inside.  Then today I noticed that I have a nail polish bottle that's the right size and shape so I may practice with that.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A New Art Doll - this time, a Cat

I just can't help myself - I started a new art doll.  I don't know yet whether this cat is a boy or a girl or who he/she is or what he/she is doing.  But that will emerge of its own accord as I work on it.

I began yesterday by cutting a rough head shape from Styrofoam, then wrapped it with gauze (the stretchy kind used for bandaging) and coated the gauze with Mod Podge.  Once the Mod Podge was dry, I had a surface that paper clay would stick to, and I covered the entire surface with paper clay.  I made two half spheres of the clay and put them in place for the eyes.  Unfortunately I didn't take a photo at that stage.  But take my word for it - it was pretty crude and there wasn't much to see.  Oh, and I stuck the skewer in the bottom so I could stand it in a piece of Styrofoam to dry.

Today I worked on the next layer of sculpting.  I added a bit of volume to the upper sides of the face, then added upper and lower eyelids.  Next came the nose and muzzle, then the ears.  The ears are cardboard triangles, cut in a concave curve along the bottom to fit around the head.  I curled the cardboard ears to form nice curved (the ears attach to the head in shallow 'C' shapes) and lined the insides with a thin layer of clay.  Next I stuck them in place and added rolls of clay at the base of the backs to hold them in place.

Once the ears dried for a few hours and stiffened up somewhat, I was able to add clay to the backs.  Now it's ready to dry until tomorrow. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Frog Fairy in the Garden!

Fiona doesn't seem to notice the frog fairy that's come into the garden - good thing for the fairy!

As you can see, my frog fairy doll is finally completed.  In the other photos you'll be able to see the details better.

Her wings are chiffon stitched over wire.  Her antennae are beads on wires glued into (I'm sorry to say!) holes drilled into her forehead (ouch!).

I might ordinarily have decorated her outfit even more.  For instance, I tried to find little silk roses the coral color of the bodice to dot over the skirt.  I couldn't find any locally, and ordered two batches off Etsy, but neither of the colors were quite right.  In the end, I decided it was OK because this fairy is for my infant granddaughter and the fewer little pieces that might conceivably come off and find their way into her mouth, the better!

By the way, the sequined flower motif at her waist is from an old pair of flip-flops.  When they wore out and it was time to toss them I cut off those decorations and saved them  You never know when bling is going to come in handy...

My favorite part about this piece is the splaying fingers and toes.  When I researched frogs I found information that they have seven toes on their front feet and three on the back feet.  I really had my doubts about seven toes.  Can that be right?  Anyway, I had trouble just fitting five, so I guess she's anatomically incorrect.  But then, frogs don't usually fly!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Vino Vita

This past Sunday my art group had a paint-out at a local winery and I started this small portrait of the cabernet grapes.  I was working in colored pencil and watercolor pencil.  I didn't get very far at the winery, and it took me nearly a day and a half to get to this point.  I'm going to make a journal cover out of it.  Perhaps someone would want to use it for a wine journal.

This was my first plein air adventure, and I didn't find it particularly interesting, and it was quite uncomfortable since it was 97 degrees out.  But, at least I tried it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mousie Mouse has Fur

My little Mousie Mouse now has fur!  I put the bits together first, then added the fur. 

For the assembly, I used E6000 glue to attach the head to the neck and the hands and feet to the wires for the front and back legs.  I glued the back feet first, then pulled the wires through the body to the point where the back legs were the right length.  The next step was to wrap the exposed wire sections in the back legs with wool felt and sew it in place. 

Then, seeing how the mouse would stand, I could just how I wanted the head tilted, and glued it in place. 

The next step of the armature was finishing the front legs.  I placed the front paws on the ends of the wires and marked the wires where the back ends of the paws were.  Then I took the paws back off and measured the length of the wires from my mark to the ends.  This told me how much wire would be hidden in the paws.  Then I placed another mark where I wanted the ends of the paws to be, trimmed the wires, and glued the paws in place.  Finally, I covered the bare wire on the front legs with wool felt. 

Now my armature was complete and I could proceed with the needle felting.  If you look at the body from a few postings ago, you'll see that the hollow cone shape of the head fits over the neck end of the body.  Not only did this give me plenty of gluing surface, but it gave a nice stuffed wool felt neck.  This allowed me to needle felt thickly right up to the edge of the stoneware head.  These spots where stoneware meets wool are tricky to get looking good, but I think it's a success here.

In the photo I have her leaning against the plant.  When I'm finished, she'll be holding a long branch in her left front paw and that branch will be - along with the two back feet - the third point for her to balance on.  Her tail will be extended straight back, not touching the "floor."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Red Star Chicken Spa

After walking by an old piece of 1x2 that had fallen off my sweet pea trellis for the umpteenth time, I said to myself "I should really make something of that nice aged wood!"  And so it became a barn for the little flock of hens that I've been sculpting.

This is one of those wonderful projects that just worked despite my complete lack of planning.  I guess these chickens were meant to have a barn.

I began by cutting a piece of pine for the floor and painting it to like it's strewn with straw.  I didn't measure anything - just cut what looked to be a good size.  Then I cut a cardboard pattern for the front and back walls.  I cut pieces of the 1x2 and glued them together for the walls, then cut the angles on the tops.  Amazingly, there was just exactly enough wood.  But what would I use for the roof?

I perused my rust farm and found the perfect thing - a beautifully rusted pineapple juice can.  Wouldn't you know that once I had cut and flattened it, it was just the perfect size.  I put it in place with two-part epoxy glue, but first I sprayed both sides with clear satin acrylic.

The finishing touches were to paint the red star and make the sign.  I cut a rectangle from a rusted can, painted the center portion with Light Ivory acrylic paint (after sealing it with Krylon's Workable Fixatif) then stamped the lettering - "red star chicken spa".  I was going to write "farm" but at the last moment "spa" seemed better.  The rusted can was something I found around the property.  What was unusal about it is that the sides are flat.  Most cans now-a-days seem to have ribbed sides.  I'll have to keep my eyes open in the grocery store for flat cans as the metal is very useful.

Here it is completed with the chickens in happy residence.  The hen on the peak of the rook - the one wearing the glasses - is the look-out!

A Note about my Rust Farm:  I have a plastic bucket with a snug fitting lid and in it I keep a concoction of water with salt and white vinegar.  I throw clean, used cans into it for a few days then set them out in the weather to finish rusting.  The resulting rusted metal is useful for many projects.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mousie Mouse Bits

I started this mouse a while ago, and now I'm waiting on some fabric that I ordered for my Goth chicken, so I'm going to work on the mouse during the chicken hiatus.

Today I painted the head, hands, and feet.  It's so true that things happen in their own time.  I made these stoneware pieces back in June while I was at the NIADA conference.  I finally fired them a few weeks ago.  And during that whole time, there was a fretting spot in the back of my mind concerned with how I would add color to them.

I thought of acrylic, or oils, or pastel dust followed by fixative and none of them seemed quite right.  But today I just plunged in - finally!  I got out the wool that I will use for felting the body, because I have to match the head, hands, and feet colors to the wool.  And I decided to take the path of least resistance, which I considered to be the acrylic paints.

I worked mainly with a small beat-up round bristle brush and a dabbing motion.  Except I used a nice synthetic round for the eyes, a synthetic flat for the nose which I shaded darker at the bottom, and a liner for the mouth.  It worked fairly well.  The stoneware is very textured, and the color looks nice and soft.

Because I knew the eyes wouldn't be really shiny, I added painted highlights.  For a sealer, I used brush-on acrylic varnish - gloss for the eyes and satin elsewhere. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Time for Goth

Here's the Goth hen, all painted and ready for costuming.  The white patch on the upper wing is simply an unpainted area that I left that way because I absolutely know it will be completely covered with fabric.

The black and white on her face is typical Goth make-up - very light skin with large, dark eyes and black lips and  "hair."  I've left a bit of the red of the wattle showing to suggest that the black is Gothmake-up.  I may decide later to widen the black "lipstick" so that it looks less like just the shadow of the recess where the upper and lower beaks meet.

I had a severe engineering issue with this hen.  The legs weren't strong enough.  While I was painting her I inadvertently rested her on her toes and I guess I must have put some pressure on because her left leg broke a little above the ankle.  I had to pull it apart and remove the useless wooden skewer to make room for plenty of two part epoxy glue to fill the cavity and hopefully hold the leg together.  I'll put shoes on her with soles cut from 1/4" birch plywood.  With the toes all glued to the wooden soles, hopefully the two legs and feet will form one rigid piece which will hold up better.  But it's just another reminder of how important strength and engineering are in constructing these figures. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Where's the Mohawk?

I forgot to take a photo of this chicken when she was painted but before she was clothed.  I painted all of her - except for the upper wings - because even though I knew she would be largely covered with clothing I didn't know exactly where the borders would be.  So it was a bit tedious, but I really didn't mind.  Painting is nearly always fun!

The Punk Chicken is now nearly finished.  She has her clothes, combat boots, spiked collar and most of her piercings.  But where's the Mohawk?

But before I address that serious question, a bit about the clothing construction.  I'm soooooo glad I made the wings separately - it made the whole clothing process much easier.

Anyway, I began with the skirt.  I gathered lengths of tulle onto a ribbon waistband.  There are four tulle layers and I gathered each of them separately so the skirt would be fluffier.  To attach it, I simply glued the ribbon waistband to her body with Alene's Fast Grab glue, one of my four favorite glues (the others being E6000, WeldBond, and 5-minute cure two part epoxy).  The tulle was the same length all the way around, so I got out my sharp fabric scissors and trimmed it to be shorter in the front.  I also used the scissors to chop and rough up the hemline.  The waistband needed a more finished look, so I hand stitched a bias cut piece of fabric, folded back on each long edge, over the ribbon with the seam under where one of the wings would be.

The t-shirt was next.  I used a piece of sleeve from one of my old t-shirts for the fabric, utilizing the sleeve hem for the hem at the bottom edge of the shirt.  I knew the shirt would be covered with the jacket, so all I needed was a piece for the front.  I hemmed the top edge for the neckline, then distressed the fabric with scrapes, holes, and cuts then painted "DESTROY" across the chest with Jacquard fabric paint.  For finishing touches I glued flat-back Swarovski crystals in a line under the lettering then added grunge with brown fabric paint, a make-up sponge, and a light rubbing motion.  I just glued the t-shirt piece in place with dots of Alene's Fast Grab glue at the corners.
For the jacket, I used pieces cut from an old pair of denim shorts.  It's mostly made from pieces from pockets, using the original hemmed edges from the shorts.  But the collar is made from a piece of the waistband.  The buttons are rivets I carefully cut from the shorts and painstakingly pulled all the fabric out of.  It's hard to describe how I made the jacket except to say that the back is one piece and each front is a separate piece.  They're sewn together at the shoulders, but the sides are open with the raw edges under the wings.  Once I sewed the collar on the jacket, I glued it in place under where the wings would be.  The wings are just wrapped with the fabric glued in place on the back sides.  The wires on the backs of the wings fit into holes on the body, and I glued the wings on with E6000 glue.

 Nice tail piercing, don't you think?
As for the mohawk, I'm still trying to figure out how to make it.  I almost wish I had sculpted the comb more extremely.  Then I could have painted it pink and it would be the Mohawk.  I considered sawing off the current comb and re-doing it, but decided that would be too risky.  So I've ordered some pink doll hair and I'll see if I can make a Mohawk out of that.