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Friday, November 29, 2013

A Small Fox


I would like to create a "product line" of small art dolls - a theme, style, and size that would unify a series of one-of-a-kind animal dolls that I could put in my Etsy shop.  So my idea is small (about 8" tall) animals with polymer clay heads and paws, felted bodies, and rustic "up-cycled" clothing.  I would include foxes, raccoons, badgers, and rabbits and maybe some others.

Although these won't be easy or quick to make, they'll be easier and quicker than the art dolls I often do and they'll give me practice for the more complicated pieces for my NIADA application next year.  I especially need practice on poses and expressions.

So here's my initial attempt.  This fox will be star-gazing.  As planned, her head and paws are polymer clay.  I just used scrap clay in a non-descript gray then painted it.  I get much better details by painting than by trying to use the colors of the clay.  You can see the details in the top phoro of 'her head.  I used 4mm glass eyes from

The armature is number 12 single-strand electrical wire which I glued into the polymer pieces with two-part epoxy glue.  I also used two-part epoxy for gluing the three main strands together - after wrapping them with thin gauge craft wire.

So far, so good.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Shooting Star and the Fox

I sculpted this little fox a year and a half ago at a polymer clay retreat and have always thought he was something special.  But I didn't know what to do with him until a few days ago.  Working on the wolf and owl pendants - using polymer pieces I had made a while ago in simple bead embroidery pendants - I kept wondering how I could use this fox.  Unlike the other pieces I was working with, the fox is not in the form of a cabochon but is a fully rounded sculpture that I had put a vertical hole through angling from the top of his head to the middle of his back.

Then for some reason I was looking through my vintage glass cabochons when I came across this star and voila!  I teamed the star with bead embroidery to make a shooting star and suspended the little fox from it, like he's reaching for the stars.

My intention has been to list these pendants in my Etsy shop, but this little guy has always been a favorite of mine, so I just may keep him.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Finished Owl Pendant

Here's the finished owl pendant.  The only thing that's really changed from my last post about this piece is that I finished the peyote stitch bail, backed the pendant with ultrasuede, stitched around the edges, and added the woven leather cord and clasp.

Actually, the color seems different, but it actually isn't.  It's the difference in lighting in the photos.  This one is nicely bright, but too blue and not purple enough....

I like this way of making necklaces - with the leather cord, that is.  It allows me to do a bit of fancy beading without having the necklace overdone.  I think!

Finished Wolf Pendant

This pendant is so darn difficult to photograph.  I sculpted the wolf head from polymer clay then painted it with a paint made from finely ground copper in acrylic resin.  After the copper paint dried I patina'd it with a chemical compound made by the same manufacturer as the copper paint.  The chemical actually oxidizes the copper to a beautiful verdigris.  It's a gorgeous effect, but difficult to capture with the camera.

I've done bead embroidery to complement the wolf, using turquoise beads at the bottom and a flat faceted piece of Peruvian Opal at the top.  The little bit of bead embroidery uses size 11 (eleven beads to the inch) Delica tube beads - a very consistently sized Japanese glass seed bead - in copper-lined glass, bronze, and a few shades of turquoise and green.

I finished the bead embroidery by trimming the backing close, gluing on a piece of ultrasuede, trimming the ultrasuede, then covering the edges with a tightly spaced whip stitch using two strands of embroidery thread.

The bail is peyote stitch worked along a straight row of seed beads at the top of the bead embroidery.  I threaded a beautifully supple piece of braided leather through the bail and finished the necklace with copper cord ends and clasp.

Aelfwynn has a Body

Aelfwynn now has a body and is all ready for her clothes.  Unfortunately, I'm not quite ready for the clothes as I'm still awaiting some vintage fabrics I ordered from Etsy and I still have decisions to make.

Nonetheless, here she is.  Her body is cotton broadcloth stuffed with regular ol' synthetic stuffing.  Three wires are going through her body - one for the left leg and arm, the second for the right leg and arm, and the third for the neck/spine/tail.  The wires are not attached to each other.  Her feet are glued onto the wires with two-part epoxy glue.  I've stopped using hot glue for a couple of reasons.  First, I can't seem to control the strings and I often end up with a mess.  But also I've had glue joints fail after a year or so - unacceptable!

I've wrapped her arms and legs with strips of felt for bulk.  They won't show when she's dressed.

Her tail is wool felt which I sewed to her body at the base, then began stuffing and stitching together from the tip upwards.  I painted the markings on it with Jacquard Textile Paints.

The neck of her cloth body is tightly gathered around the groove in her neck so her head can turn.

I haven't glued the front paws on het.  I'll put the sleeves on first in case they aren't wide enough to slip over the paws.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Elfwyn - Maeve? - Gets More Fur


I may rename this cat Maeve.  Elfwyn would have Anglo-Saxon costuming and I'm not sure that this cat's costume will turn out to fit that bill.  So her name will have to wait a bit.

Today I worked more on painting her head - about 4 hours, I'd say.  And here she is.  I got a bit tired of painting tiny lines with my 00 liner, but I'm dedicated to detail!  I may need to darken some parts but I'll wait on that until I have her paws painted too and then I'll make final adjustments to everything.

This paper clay, sprayed with workable fixative, makes a wonderful painting surface.  The acrylics glide right on.

As I painted her I noticed more and more that the symmetry is off here and there.  But I think that's OK.  After all, human faces are not perfectly symmetrical and they're more interesting for it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Back to the Cat, Who Will be Elfwyn

I sculpted the head and paws for a cat art doll a while ago but then got diverted onto other projects.  Now I'm back to it.  When I got it out of the box I had it stored in I realized that I wasn't happy with the sculpting on the head so I made some changes - primarily puffing out the sides and adding a bit to the top of the head so that the ears didn't look so big.

After letting it dry for a few days (it's air-dry paper clay) I started painting today.   As always I began with the eyes.  I'd like to be able to dome some resin over them to get them really shiny but I'm not quite sure how I'd do it as there are no sculpted depressions that correspond exactly with the shapes of the eyeballs.  But I'll do some testing on paper clay scraps and see what I can do.

The colors here are just the under-paintings, plus I've begun to sketch in the position of the markings.  She will be a European Forest Cat - a rare wild cat about the size of a house cat and with markings very similar to a tabby but with more brown than gray.  So here's the beginning, and I look forward to getting back to it tomorrow.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New from Old

I'm reinventing some older pieces of jewelry I made to make them more wearable, and here's the first piece, in progress.
Previously the owl pendant hung from a rather complicated necklace with many purple polymer clay beads.
The new necklace will be a pendant hanging from a simple braided leather cord.  The owl and purple background disk are a single piece of polymer clay.  I sanded the back flat, removing a polymer clay bail and roughing and evening the back surface.  I then glued it to a piece of Lacy's Stiff Stuff, a backing for bead embroidery, and added the rings of beading and the beaded dangles.  In this photo, I'm gluing a piece of ultrasuede on the back to cover the stitching - the first step in making a nice finish.
The tiny "moon" is a mother of pearl antique button.  I sanded the shank off the back so that I could glue it to the polymer clay.  This "moon" covers a hole that a beaded dangle hung through on the original piece.
There is a hole sideways through the two feet so I could add something for the owl to be grabbing or sitting on, but this way he just looks like he's in flight.  So, the jury's still out on that design decision.
Tomorrow I should have the piece completed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foxes Complete!

I finished my fox painting today.  In addition to finishing the right fox, I did a bit of refinement on the other one, worked the snow in front of them, added more weeds and the left foreground shrub, and, most importantly, added a tail to the rear fox.

After I finished the painting I photographed it and took a horizontal sliver of it for my new banner in my Etsy shop, The Foxes Garden.  (A link to my shop is in the right margin of this blog.)  My plan is to do a new painting every quarter until I have a banner for each season of the year.

I'll offer this painting for sale in my Etsy shop, but if it should sell, it will be difficult to part with it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Working on the Foxes...


After a wonderful trip to see my daughter and her family, I'm back to my painting.  As I prepared to get back to work so many other project tempted me, but I vowed to continue on this one until I finished it.  So here's what it looks like after painting today.
The first thing I did was bring the pine tree closer by eliminating the strip of snow between the pine tree and the weeds to the right of the foxes, and I think this was a plus. The bright spot in the weeds far to the right was an accident, but I like it.  It seems to be where the light would be hitting beyond the fox's shadow. 
Then I began working on the left fox.  The lost edge on her chest was a challenge for me, but I think it was important to leave it and not try to define it more.  There are still refinements to be made, such as better defining the left side of the chin and face.  But I got it to the point where I could begin on the other fox and I'm still in the process of getting that first phase on him done.
It felt good to get a brush back in my hand, and so far so good.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Mistake - What to Do?

When I looked at this painting yesterday something seemed wrong but I couldn't quite figure out what it was.  Now I think I see.  The depth and scale are off.  From the size of the foxes they should be close.  And from the size of the deciduous tree, they should be far.  The pines would be mid-way.  But it doesn't look like that.  Distance is indicated not just be relative size but also by how high up vertically an object is.  The further the object, the higher it will be.  But those deciduous trees are about the same height as the pines.  That means they should be the same distance back, but their relative size says that the pines are closer.  So we have conflicting information - and that's confusing.

Also, the dead weeds look like cat tails.  But they're also in the same distance plane as the foxes.  So that either makes the foxes huge or the cat tails teeny.

I've got real problems here, and I'm not sure how to solve them.  But this is an interesting lesson.  At least I think I did a pretty nice job on the snow...

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Beginning for the Foxes

I'm starting a painting of two foxes.  Aside from just wanting to do the painting, when it's finished I'm intending to use a detail of it for my Etsy shop banner since my Etsy shop is named The Foxes' Garden.  My plan is to do a different fox painting for each season and change the banners as the seasons change.
So here is step one.  Actually, I guess it's more like step one-and-one-half.  The first step was toning the canvas with blocks of color that would serve as an under painting.   This is still visible in the lower half of the painting.
After that I worked on the sky and background trees, undergrowth, and pine trees.  There is still work to be done there but I've done enough to be able to move on to the other areas of the painting.  The tan strip under the foxes will be the grounding for a rather thick area of snow-covered weeds.  I can see now that this strip is too curved and follows the shape of the background tree line too closely, so I'll change that.  I'll shift the left end upwards so it's more of a level band and so that it doesn't end in the corner of the painting.
At this stage, the composition seems flawed as the eye travels out of the painting to the left.  I'll have to watch that as it develops.  I'm hoping the strong band of reeds and the detail in the foxes will counteract that.  I've noticed that I seem to favor very still compositions.
By the way, my support is canvas adhered to hardboard with acrylic gel medium.