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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Larger Reindeer

I am fortunate to have a custom order through my Etsy shop for a pair of 10" reindeer.  I began yesterday and completed the core wool on one only to find that the reindeer wasn't tall enough.  So this morning it was "back to the drawing board" for some new calculations!

I thought it might be interesting to record the process, plus it will help me to have something to refer back to when I make the second one.

The armature was the first step.  I used 14 gauge aluminum wire except for the toes which are 22 gauge cloth covered florist wire.  Then the whole got a covering of pipe cleaners to help the wool stick.
In this second photo I have the first layers of core wool applied.  So far, this is all wrapping.
 At this point, the core wool is finished.  I added some shapes on the belly and sides and chest, then added the antlers.

The antlers were a challenge because I felt I needed something thicker than the double strand of twisted rusted wire that I've been using for the smaller reindeer.  So, as I formed each of the two antlers, I added a second strand of rusted wire and worked the two as one.  It was difficult, but I was pleased with the result.  When adding the coat of Diamond Glaze I couldn't resist adding a dusting of micro glitter.
Here's the reindeer with his pelt applied.  He's all finished except for the harness.  I'll make both harnesses when I have both reindeers done.  So far, so good!

By the way, I was working on this at my morning room table.  The room has windows on two sides.  At one point I looked up and there was a gorgeous buck standing about 20' away and looking towards me.  I imagined him saying "this is how it's done!"   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How to Hatch an Owl

I've decided to see if I can make a felted owl.  As always, the first step was the armature.  For the armature, though, I only fashioned the spine, legs, feet, and a rudimentary skull.  The wings would come later. 

After making the aluminum wire armature, I created polymer clay claws and beak and pressed them around the points on the armature.   The whole thing went into the oven to cure.  Then I added the pipe cleaners so that the wool that I would apply later would have something to stick to.
I began the wool work with the feet, wrapping the individual toes and lower legs with the finish color, then moving upwards over the upper legs, body, and head with off-white core wool.  After building the body up to close to the finished size, I wrapped a wire around the chest with the ends forming the wings,  Once again, I wrapped these wire with pipe cleaners for the wool to stick to.

I wrapped the wing "bones" and continued to wrap the body and head until I had enough bulk to proceed with the finish colors.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Is It?

Today I began another watercolor on masa paper.  At this stage, it's not at all clear what it is!  But all will be soon revealed...  It will have a sweet but mystical feeling - at least that's the goal.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Polar Bears on a Journal Cover

I do enjoy making these journals with the hand-painted canvas covers.  Here's my latest one - a polar bear mom and cub with the northern lights (loosely rendered!) overhead.  I used beautiful iridescent acrylics in parts of the sky, so that effect is really beautiful - more so in person than in the photos, though you can see a bit of it in the second picture.
The canvas I had ordered by-the-yard for these journal covers turned out to be too thin, but I discovered a blank canvas floor cloth that I have had for several years, and it's perfect!  In addition to being a nice weight, it's gesso'd on both sides.
When planning for this journal, I ordered some glass star-shaped buttons from an Etsy shop, but in the end they didn't look quite right.  Perhaps I'll use them if I made a cover with an owl or crows.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

the Power of Playfulness

A Chipmunk has the power of playfulness.  This piece is a companion, in a sense, to the one of the snowy owl because the both depict an animal and honor its spiritual power. If you've ever seen a chipmunk, you know that they are playful indeed.  Of course I'm speaking of their behavior, but even their appearance is playful with those jaunty racing stripes!
After the first session, I did a bit more with the watercolor, deepening the colors in parts of the chipmunk, lily, oak leaf, pansy, and background - well, the whole thing really.  Then I got out my uniball pens and added the white lettering, the fur texture, and some outlining.  I'm so glad I found those pens (on and doubly glad that I found them in various tip sizes, including pretty darn small, and shades of black such as black-green, black-brown, and black-red.  They're very nice pens indeed, with metal tips rather than the synthetic ones like are on Sakura micron pens.

I used a bit of colored pencil, but not much as I found watercolor easier and less likely to damage the paper.  My final step was my metallic Lumiere acrylics. I used copper on the lily stamens, sparkle on the chipmunk's white fur, and indigo, dark green, and turquoise around the edges. These metallics were a nice compliment to the iridescent Daniel Smith watercolors that I used in the background.

My next piece in this technique will probably be a kingfisher.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Chipmunk Has...

Here's the beginning of my next watercolor/mixed media on masa paper.  This is the first few layers of watercolor, plus I've used a black pen for her eye and stripes.  I'm enchanted by the way the watercolor glides over this paper and soaks in without leaving hard edges on the brush strokes.  So, it may be the paper, or perhaps the superb quality of the Daniel Smith watercolors.  Whatever it is, it's a joy to work withy.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Power of Stillness

I'm trying to digest using watercolor on rice masa paper like we did in  Helen Schaeffer Garcia's class at the recent Create Mixed Media Retreat in Seattle by doing several paintings of my own.  This is my first effort.

For some crazy reason I don't like the feel of painting on canvas - I don't like the way the surface gives under my brush.  So now I'm putting the masa paper on board instead.  I'm just using 1/4" thick hardboard that I get from the local home improvement store.  I buy it in 2' by 4' pieces and cut it to the size I need.  I made up two 8" x 10" panels and three 6" x 8" panels.  This owl is 8" x 10".

To prepare the panels, I first sprayed them with primer (also from the home improvement store) then coated them top and edges with Gesso using a small foam paint roller.  I crumpled and soaked the masa paper, squeezed the excess water out of it, uncrumpled it, and applied it straight to the wet gesso which acted as an adherent.  After drying the panels overnight, I had lovely surfaces to paint on.

In Helen's class, due to time restraints, we were painting on a surface that was always at least a little wet.  But at home I could use as much drying time as I wanted - not to mention a hair dryer - so had the option of painting on wet, damp, or dry paper.  This allowed me to control the bleed of color somewhat, so that I could - to some extent - choose whether or not I wanted a hard or a soft edge.

I used watercolors (including iridescents), Lumiere acrylics (which are metallic), black and white Uniball pens, and a bit of colored pencil.  I'm very happy with the result and look forward to doing more.

By the way, the lettering is the Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet which I used to transliterate the English "power of stillness" which is a mystical meaning sometimes attributed to the snowy owl.  I like the look of writing without being distracted by the meaning.  But I also like for the message to be real.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"Animal Crackers"


Late in October I attended a mixed media event in Seattle - an inspiring collection of workshops for mixed media artists.  I took two classes and this was the result of one of them.
It's amazing how obvious the answer is once it's in front of you!  As an animal painter, I've long been dissatisfied with my palette - browns, greys, blues, and greens - boring!  Other people might look at a brown dog and see hints of purple in the fur.  I just saw brown.
In Helen Schaeffer Garcia's "Animal Crackers" class, we painted portraits of our pets in watercolor on crumpled masa rice paper which we glued to a canvas.  The "rule" was that we were not to put any neutral tones on our palettes - just pure bright colors.  Of course, one could mix browns and greys from these colors, but I resisted nobly (except for the squirrels where I added a bit of orange to my blue).  So instead of paying such close attention to hue, I focused on value and temperature.  It was so fun!!!
I don't necessarily think I'll continue to work this way, but I will do several paintings in this style as a way of better understanding color.  And hopefully that will then result in a change in my own approach.
And, I have to say that I never thought I could feel comfortable with watercolor, but in this method I am.  Thanks, Helen!