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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Second Session for Spring Foxes Painting

At the end of the second day of working on this painting I feel that I've done about as much as I can do with the background.  I wanted to finish that before I turned my full attention to the foxes and the little rise they're sitting on.

I think that the most important thing I did with the background is adding the fallen petals on the ground beneath the trees.  This, I think, gives it a touch of authenticity.  So tomorrow it's back to the foxes.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

First Painting Session on the Spring Foxes

This painting is starting out as quite a struggle for me.  I just have no confidence when it comes to painting landscapes.  But I began nonetheless.

My first step was to tone the canvas with the reddish pink that you can still see in places on the forward fox.  I was hoping that the toning would help unite the color scheme around a spring color.  After blocking in the sky and field, I added the tree trunks on the right then added layer after layer of blossoms.  Then I did the same thing on the tree behind the foxes, and finally began working on the animals.  The rear one was my first focus.  At the end of the painting session, I loosely defined the edge of the rise that the foxes are sitting on.

The animals are so much more fun to paint than the rest of it!  By the way, this is a small painting- 9 by 16 inches.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Seeing Possibilities

It occurs to me that seeing possibilities is the key to working in Mixed Media.  And this little owl that I just finished is a case in point.

When I went to the classes in Portland, I took some paper clay with me for idle moments.  It turned out that there weren't many since I was sick pretty much the whole time I was there.  But I did manage to make this little owl.

When I took my first class, the little crown by A Gilded Life, I saw that the tiny rhinestones would look fabulous around the owl's neck.  So when I came home, I finished her by painting the markings and adding the rusted wire feet.  Then I glued the rhinestone cup chain in place.  But what to do with her?

A few days later I was working in the shop cutting tiny doors from scrap weathered wood for my fairy houses.  I began by cutting the pointed end off of an old garden stake so I could use the rest of the stake to cut the doors.  As I put the point aside, I saw that it looked like a cute little house.  But my sister said, "no, with that sharply pointed top, it's morre like a church."  I brought it up to the house to contemplate and set it on the counter beside the little owl.

Over the next few days, the vision came together in my mind.  It was actually a bit more than a church.  It was the tip of a spire.  So I cut a few more pieces, providing a place for the owl to alight, and added the crystals to integrate the look with the bejeweled owl.  The crystals on the spires are from an old rock crystal necklace that I got somewhere.  (I hope it wasn't my grandmother's!)

The whole time I was working on the wood part of this project I was thinking sadly of all the old wood being destroyed in burn piles or dumps.  Those old pieces of wood are such a treasure for some craftspeople and artists.  But, then, we can't save everything, can we?

I really like the result and may make more, including a more elaborate one that will provide perches and perhaps nesting sites for multiple owls - fun!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Start of Spring Foxes

For the next three days I'll be at an art retreat at the local college, working on art projects with about fifteen other people from local art clubs.  These are held once a quarter and I've gone to every one since the beginning about two years ago.  They're thoroughly enjoyable!

I'm usually in a quandry about what project to take with me, but this time it's clear.  My Etsy shop needs attention - specifically, a new banner for spring.  The one I have up now is a slice of a painting I did of foxes in the snow.  So these two will be in a springs setting.

Getting started on this project has been slow as I've been so caught up in ceramics lately.  But this really needs to get done, and once I started the drawing I got into it.  In fact, I was tempted to finish it a a drawing.  And I still may before I move on to the painting.  There's just something so alluring about drawing.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Trying a New Ceramics Tecnhique

I'm trying a new (to me) technique on this small stoneware owl.  When I was working on Milkweed Mansion, a crack developed at the top edge of the roof front where it connects to the widow's walk.  Ordinarily, no problem.  But these two pieces were different clays, one firing black and the other firing buff.  Since I was not planning to glaze the pieces, I needed a clean division between the two clays.

But the crack was so big that I really didn't have any choice but to fill it.  I filled it with a slip of the dark clay and, of course, in the process got quite aa bit of that slip on the buff clay.  When the slip dried, I found that I could easily scrape the dark slip from the buff clay with the edge of an x-acto knife blade.  But when I did so, the dark clay remained in the impressed spiral designs on the buff clay.  Hmmm.

So that suggested a way to make dark markings on a white snowy owl.  I sculpted this little one from a stoneware that fires white and impressed designs looking like feather tips where the owl has black markings.
I brushed dark clay slip over the areas where the impressions were.  Then, when the clay was (sort of) dry, I scraped away the dark slip, leaving the dark clay only in the incised designs.  I should have let the clay dry more, and will do so if I use this technique in the future.  With the clays still slightly wet I didn't get the crisp divisions between the clay colors that I wanted.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sculpting Milkweed Manor

I'm making a fairy house for our local PBS station art auction.  It's a juried event, so this piece may or may not make its way into the auction.  And if it doesn't, that's OK - I'll keep it! 
This fairy garden house is larger than the other ones I've made, measuring all of 9" tall.  It's also a more complicated design with the pop-out in the front, the turret in the back, and the widow's walk at the peak of the roof.  It has a dragon, two owl, and three crows to go with it.
This was my sculpting process.  First I built the basic four walls and joined them together.  Then I made the front door unit.  This was three pieces - the front and two sides.  I attached it to the main house then cut away the main house wall behind it.  Next I formed the turret and attached it to the back corner.  The cut lines where the turret comes over the roof-to-be were a bit tricky.  Once the turret was attached, I cut away the corner of the main house behind it.  After cutting out the windows from the turret, I added the floor towards the top.  The next step was the main roof which was four pieces - a front, a back, the flat top for the widow's walk, and the roof over the front door pop-out.  The final addition was the turret roof.  I textured the walls and added the clay "stones" around the windows and doors after the house was built so that I could get continuity of the rock wall designs around and in the corners.  
Once the house was done, I sculpted the owls, crows, and dragon.
I've used three different kinds of stoneware clay for this project.  The dragon is a white clay.  The house itself is speckled brown as are the owls.  The roof and crows are cassius basaltic which fires black.  I'm not sure yet if or how I'll glaze it.  First things first!
Here's a view of the back and the turret.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Three Shaman

I finally glazed my squirrel shaman.  Here he is with the shaman group including the smaller sheep shaman and cat shaman that I finished earlier.  I feel that the glaze on this one was pretty successful.  But, as on the sheep and cat, I finished the eyes and mouth with acrylic paint covered with gloss acrylic varnish.  I just can't the detail I want for those part with the glaze.

Squirrel's staff is part of a tree root - pine, I believe.  The roots are more interesting than the branches and they are a bit curly!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Guess You'd Call it Metal Mixed Media

Here are some of the pieces from the third class I took, "Cold Enameling" by Susan Lenart Kazmer.  It turned out that "cold" meant low temperature, as we used heat guns during some of the coloring processes.

Susan is an artist, designer, author, product developer, and entrepreneur.  She produces several lines for the crafting industry, including metal bezels and jewelry parts, Ice Resin, embossing powders, and decorative papers.  Her work is in private collections around the world and also in prestigious museums.  She was very proud of the fact that she had an 8-page spread in a recent issue of Elle magazine featuring her jewelry.  In addition to being an accomplished artist, she is also a dynamic, informative, encouraging, and inspiring teacher.

At Art and Soul she taught four separate one day classes.  A few people I met took all four, and that would have been a fine experience.  I know that one of the others was enameling on metal, but I'm not sure what the rest were.  I'd definitely take another class from her.

In this class, we did cold enameling both on metal blanks that she supplied us from her Art Mechaniques product line and also on blanks that we cut and formed from 24 gauge copper and bronze sheet.  I preferred cutting my own shapes - as shown in the photo.

At first, the array of techniques and products that she presented us with was quite overwhelming, but then I decided to just do something and found it fun indeed.

Perhaps most surprising was the first "cold enameling" technique she demonstrated which was simply based on using nail polish on metal.  It turns out that there's quite a bit you can do starting with this simple medium.  But the coloring technique I liked best was her embossing powders.  These are pigments mixed with wax (and other things, I presume).  We adhered them to the metal using her medium then heated them with a heat gun.  The look is quite like enamel.  And she's mixed some ingredients into the powders that heat up as beautiful metallic dots.  We also used acrylic paint, glass glitters, and Stazon ink pads. 

We were able to use several new Stazon colors that the company just introduced in January and which aren't widely available yet.  They're very nice.  I especially liked Spice Chai, and I'll buy it as soon as I can find it. These inks dry so quickly and you can't rub them off the metal.

In my examples in the photo, I used embossing powders and Stazon inks for the large round one and nail polish and Stazon inks for the smaller ones.  We finished all of our pieces with a coating of Ice Resin.  The only trouble I had is that the resin on a few of my pieces never completely set.  It's absolutely critical to use equal parts of both of the resin components and I suspect that unequal parts led to the problem.

I really liked making the metal shapes.  I cut them from the sheet metal then annealed them to allow shaping.  We used a die press made for embossing scrapbooking papers and texture dies for some pieces (I used a texture die for the lower right piece) as well as dapping blocks, which I how I shaped the two concave discs in the large round piece.  My absolute favorite part was making the little blobs on the ends of the bronze wire in the large round piece.  You just hold the end of the wire in a torch until the ball forms.

This was lots of fun, and if I don't do it myself, the only reason will be a reluctance to buy new equipment required to shape and anneal the metal.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wearable Encaustic Shrines

The second class I took at the Art and Soul retreat was "Wearable Encaustic Shrines," taught by Linda Lenart McNulty.  Linda is a high-energy, enthusiastic teacher of her favorite medium, encaustic.  And for this class she designed a small wearable project.
Included in the materials kit were a choice of antique bronze finish bezels in which we created our pieces using small objects we had brought from home.
Linda was quite clear in explaining the process and the class was well organized.  Four students sat at a table, and each table was equipped with an electric griddle that we warmed our pieces and wax on and a small torch.
At first, the transparency of the melted wax threw me.  For my first effort, I placed a printed image at the bottom of the bezel then poured wax over it.  Even though the wax was transparent when melted, it cooled opaque, so, of course, the image was totally obscured.   But, with that lesson learned, I proceeded to make these two pieces.
The piece on the right was the first one I worked on and I didn't do well in keeping the wax smooth.  I relied entirely too much on the torch, and the result was lumpy.  But I did better on the second one - the one with the deer button.
We used jewelery grade wax, which is a mixture of 5 parts beeswax to 1 part damar resin, melted together.  (The mixture for encaustic painting, in contrast, is 8 1/2 parts beeswax to 1 part damar resin.)  Several people in the class used Linda's molds made from two-part molding putty to cast wax elements for their pieces.  These are remarkably sturdy.
This encaustic technique, in my opinion, is a good way to work antique buttons into jewelry because they are not hurt or altered in any way and could always be returned to their original condition.
Also, it was interesting to learn that the wax can be colored with oil paint - an economical alternative to encaustic color for those of us who already have oil paints.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Crown Fit for a Cat

Last week I went to Art and Soul in Portland, Oregon and took three classes.  Art and Soul is a conference centering on mixed media with loads of classes  This little crown was the project for the first class I took entitled, aptly, "French Beaded Crown."

Debbie and Shea, the owners and creative forces behind their company, A Gilded Life, (see, designed and taught the crown project.  In addition to being gifted designers and business people, they are good teachers - not something you always find!  Everyone finished their project without a snag!

We began by making the beaded flowers and leaves.  Once those were done, we assembled the crown.  How clever that the base is actually two plain metal bangle bracelets.  We glued rhinestone cup chain around one and wrapped it with ribbon.  The second one, we just wrapped with ribbon.

The crown itself was cut from a Spellbinders die - also Debbie's and Shea's creation- and given an aged look with "Silver Black," a patina solution.  The final assembly just took glue.

It was a sweet little project, relaxing and fun, and I learned about some products that I hadn't been familiar with before as well as learning beaded flower basics.  By the way, the wire for the flowers is 38 gauge - so tiny and not at all easy to find!

I was hoping to get a photo of one of my cats, Mopsy, wearing this crown.  But, not surprisingly, she didn't cooperate.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dragon Wants a Cookie

I wasn't feeling particularly inspired today - didn't know what to sculpt.  So I decided to make a little dragon for with my fairy houses that are going on Etsy.  Once I began, I really got into it.  It's interesting how the very first steps let me know what the clay wants to be. 
Well, I knew I wanted a dragon but hadn't thought about the pose or details.  That lump of clay, though, somehow knew that he would be standing on his two hind legs.  That's what the clay suggested once I began to shape it.
He looks like a pretty friendly dragon - kind of like he's begging for a cookie!
This little guy is just under 3" tall to the tip of his horns.  I think I'll call him Bernard.

Friday, April 4, 2014

An Owl Plaque

I've been making quite a few ceramic wall plaques lately.  They're small - about 6" tall - so they should fit into just about any space.  They're headed for my Etsy shop, and I hope they'll appeal to people.  This one says "wisdom is the light within."
This pieve has several elements that I find myself repeeating - spiral impressions, stars, and leaves.  Perhaps these will become hallmarks of my style.  They say that it's very important to be able to recognize an artist's style.  I suppose that's because a recognizable style means that the artist is expressing her individuality through her art.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Finished Druid Owl

For quite some time now I've been almost done with this little guy.  Now he's finally finished!  The final touch was adding the glass beads to his leafy crown.  I used a few different styles and colors of glass leaves along with translucent off-white (the palest green, actually, with a bit of an opalized look) glass drops.

When I made the ceramic owl, I poked three holes in amongst the leaves in the crown to accommodate beading later on.  The beads are wired together in clusters with the twisted wire ends glued into those holes.

Since this is a Druid owl, I intended the crown to suggest oak and mistletoe, which we sacred to the Celts.  Although my ceramic leaves aren't strictly oak leaf shapes, I think the deeply incised veins on the larger leaves produce a lobed look, like oak leaves.  The smaller ceramic leaves are suggestive of beech.  I don't know whether or not beech was sacred, but it would have been common in the ancient forests of the British Isles.  The glass drops suggest mistletoe berries.

Now all he needs is a name.  I think Percival would be good - a very old English name, and the name of the truest of Arthur's knights.