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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Beginning my Autumn Fox Painting

I never did get around to doing a painting to take my Etsy shop's summer banner from, so I'm determined not to have the same lapse for fall.  Here's the very beginning.

Except for a few final touches, I feel that I have to complete the trees before I proceed to either the field or the fox since both will overlap the trees to some extent.

At this stage I've worked two layers over the left part of the trees, but only one in the right portion.  It's interesting how the placement of the darks suggests a break in the trees just right of center.  It feels like you could walk back into the trees directly back from the fox's shoulders and enter a little path that would turn to the right behind the bright orange tree.  In reality, I put the colors on more or less randomly and then only saw this effect once I took the photo.  I plan to capitalize on this happy accident.

So there's a real-life example of how common wisdon - "step back from your painting" - is wisdom indeed.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ready for Hibernation


When I make a little animal - needle-felting, clay, or whatever - I try to add a detail to make it special.  In this case, I remembered a group of flannel fabrics that I had bought some years ago to make a bear theme quilt.  Why not use a bit of it for a quilt for this little bear?  As I worked on the quilt, I realized that the addition of the quilt made this piece a hibernating bear!
I really like this method of needle felting that yields a posable animal.  I could pose him perfectly, holding the blankie and perhaps sucking his thumb.  He is indeed ready for a long winter's sleep!
When I began making him I intended to make something for my Etsy shop to raise some funds for Idaho Black Bear Rehab.  But now that I see him I'm not so sure I want to part with him.  So I'll probably making another for in the shop.
I'm so glad I came across needle-felting - love it!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mice for my Christmas Card

Today I finished the little painting that I'm going to use for my Christmas card this year.  The young mice are sleeping soundly this Christmas eve.  They have to be asleep or Santa won't come!  But what's Madelaine doing?

She can't help but be enthralled by the light of that most beautiful of stars.  She knows it signifies something special - far more special than presents or sweets.  And, indeed, she's right...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More on Mary Crawford

 I forgot to take a scan after the watercolor pencil layer, but this is what is looked like with the watercolor pencil and then some regular colored pencil over that.

To apply the watercolor pencil - that is, the water that you use with it - I had to first spray the graphite with workable fixative.  Sometimes I have problems with water sticking to it and this was one of those times.  This shows itself especially in the mottled background.  But two coats subdued the mottles somewhat and then a bit of colored pencil helped even more.  I'm not unhappy with it because I knew it would probably happen and I think it's kind of interesting.

Then I applied more workable fixative because of the colored pencil.

The final step was to add a bit of acrylic paint.  I added it around the eyes and a bit here and there to intensify the colors in the fur.  But mostly I used it for the sheer layers of the clothing.  I also used Daler-Rowney white acrylic ink in a crow quill pen for the netting work on the sleeve.

I think she's lovely.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mary Crawford - the pencil stage

I've started another Jane Austen cat.  This one is Mary Crawford from "Mansfield Park."  At this stage, the pencil drawing is nearly complete.  The challenge is that putting them in human clothes changes the shape of the body and, in this case, of the shoulders and upper arms.  It's a bit disturbing, and I suppose it takes a lot of practice to get it right.

The next step is the watercolor pencil.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Elizabeth Bennet

A few of my art friends have advised me that I should make prints of some of my 2D artwork for my Etsy shop.  I've resisted the idea because I don't want to buy a bunch of prints and have them hanging around and not selling.  The only way it would work for me would be "print on demand" and that doesn't work with going to a print shop.  So the only viable solution that I can see is to print my own.

Then the next problem is that I've never had a scanner that did any kind of decent job on drawings, and drawings are something I really like to do.  After doing some research on home scanners, I bought the Epson Perfection V550 Photo Color Scanner.  The "photo" part threw me a bit since I'm scanning artwork and not photos, but I took the plunge.

Here's the scan of a small piece that I just finished - a mixed media drawing of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" heroine Elizabeth Bennet.  It's graphite, colored pencil, and a bit of acrylic paint.  I'm really happy with it and very glad I made this purchase.  The next step is the printer!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Dangles Really Make It!

After I finished the bead embroidery, I added beaded dangles.  My intention was to suggest branches in the jungle, and I especially like the ones at the top that hang slightly over the tiger's head.

I'm still wondering what to do about the necklace cord, but I'll probably end up using braided black leather after all.  But in the meantime, I have to finish the edges with tiny little whip stitches to hold the ultrasuede backing in place.

Despite my doubts about the shades of green I chose, I think this is pretty (if not fierce!)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Beading the Tiger

I've been continuing to work on my tiger pendant, and here it is with the background bead embroidery completed.  I'd say it was between 5 and 6 hours of work, but, amazingly, I find it relaxing to sew those tiny beads on one by one!  After a bit of work, I kept thinking that I had used the wrong color of green.  This is so "sea-foamy" and shouldn't it really be more of a yellow-green, more "jungley?"  (At which point I thought how fun it would be to make a Siberian tiger in the snow...)  But, by that point there was nothing I could do about it, so...onward!

Then my thoughts turned to the cord.  Nice as they were, I wanted something more cruelty free than the braided leather cords.  Then I found some pretty silk cords which I thought I could use in a bunch or maybe braid them.  I wondered about the drape - would it be too soft?  It would definitely be softed than the leather.  Hmmm.

So then one night while I was reading a wonderful new novel, "The Silkworm," I ran across the distressing news that silk comes from silkworm coccoons (I knew that) that they drop in boiling water or pierce with a needle to kill the moth larvae (I hadn't thought about that)!  Yikes!  So silk is not cruelty free after all.

So what is there that's cruelty free?  Cotton?  Linen?  Hemp?  I'm almost back to the leather.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reindeer Steps

 With this reindeer, I took a few photos along the way.  I started the same was as with the one I posted a few days ago - an armature made from paper covered florist wire then a pipe cleaner on the head and body, and a twisted rusted wire set of antlers.

The next step was to do the initial wraps.  On the legs I used the wool I would finish with - the legs are sufficiently thin that they only get one wrap.  For the body and head I used off white core wool.  At this stage, all I've done is wrap roving.

 To finish building the form, I used a combination of wrapping and adding small shapes.  I added larger bean shaped pieces of core wool to either side of the body, then wrapped tightly with a wide, thin length of roving to cover those seams.  I added a rectangle for the chest and another for the shoulder bumps.  So far, it's all been core wool.

But then I added rectangles to build up the upper arms and legs, using the finish wool this time.

Next, I attached the antlers by wrapping the wire ends tightly under the chin.  They get covered with wool as I finish the head and face and that's what keeps them in place.

Here's the finished reindeer.   After making five, I'm getting the process down and am thinking of offerring a little workshop here locally.  I love these guys!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Mystical White Reindeer

I've been art-starved for a few days and so got back to it eagerly yesterday.  I wanted to make a few more of my small reindeer, including a white one.  That sounded so mystical!

This time, I'm was going to try to do a better job of documenting the process.  So, in this first photo you see the armatures and antlers.  The antlers are twisted rusty wire.  The armatures are formed from paper coated florist wire.  The one in the front also has its pipe cleaner wrap.  I didn't wrap the legs though because this reindeer is relatively small and I want the legs to stay thin.

Here's a tip!  The hooves are going to be black but the wire is white.  If I leave the wire white, some of it may show at the very tips of the hooves.  I have found that this paper coated wire takes alcohol ink beautifully.  So just a drop on each hoof point solves the problem.

Then I got so into making the reindeer that I forgot to take more interim photos.  Here's the finished one, and as I make the second one today I'll try to remember to take more pictures!

P.S.  I think I always make the heads too big.  I'm going to try to stop a little earlier in the process of wrapping the armature with core wool so that I have more "room" for the finish coat and the whole head should turn out smaller.  (Note To Self!)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tiger Finally Finds a Purpose

 It was at least three years ago that I made this polymer clay head and painted it with acrylics.  I wanted a jewel for its forehead and remember searching a local gem and mineral show with my sister for the perfect stone.  The one I decided on is this hessonite garnet.  I glued the garnet in place, and the tiger head remained in that state, waiting for me to get on with the project whatever it might turn out to be.

I have been making bead embroidery pendants with polymer clay animal heads and, often, stone cabochons then hanging them from braided leather cord.  I went to the braided leather cord instead of beaded necklaces because I thought they would be a bit more casual and thus more "wearable."  But I just couldn't see a tiger head hanging from leather - it just didn't seem to "fit" since many tiger live in India where cows are sacred.  Also I always had felt a bit uneasy using leather because it's an animal product the use of which (unlike wool) clearly harms the animal.  Finally I hit on the idea of silk cord and found a source for them with many beautiful hand-dyed colors ( on Etsy).  I figured that by bunching several of these cords together I could use the same glue-in cord end clasps that I had been using for the braided leather.  So I was finally ready to proceed with the tiger project, and it would be a bead embroidery pendant hanging from a colored silk cord necklace.

I searched by drawers of beads for appropriate colors and assembled all my materials, as you see above.
Here I've just begun the bead embroidery.  The amount of beading you see in the photo is from one length of Fireline, and there will clearly be many more.  I'm not planning to use any stone cabochons on this piece, but I have some pretty hessonite garnet beads and beautiful long faceted teardrops of "beer quartz" for fringe and/or dangles.  By the way, the white stuff is Lacy's Stiff Stuff which is a great backing material designed specifically for bead embroidery.