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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ruthie's all Dressed and Ready to Play

Ruthie's dress is finished now.  Although it doesn't show in this photo, she also has underpants (a modest prairie dog).

After finishing the sewing, I added the crocheted trim around the collar and down the sides of the front panels.  To do the trim, I thread the end of #40 crochet cotton on a needle and make a row of small running stitches along the edge I want trimmed.  Then I can crochet the trim into those stitches.

I think she looks very pretty in her sundress.

Here's the "back story" for Ruthie and the other animals that will soon be joining her in Lone Willow:

"As the great prairie stretches far to the west the effects of the distant Rocky Mountains begin to make their presence known.  They block much of the moisture coming from the Pacific and the land becomes arid, soon to give way to the American southwest desert landscape.  The places where the two landscapes meet are neither here nor there - neither prairie nor desert - good places to pass through, places that time forgot after most of the few hardy settlers who chose to take a risk here moved on.  Despite all that, the chuchyard at Lone Willow is a peaceful place.  The breeze murmurs gently through the leaves of that lovely tree.  And under the tree, the animals find respite from the summer heat as well as some shelter from the winter's cold."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Under Construction

Here's Ruthie's sundress under construction.  The fabric I'm using is from an old feedsack.  I got it on Etsy.  I like that it's faded and has a few stains and tiny holes and worn spots here and there.  It's perfect for a prairie dog's dress as it gets lots of wear and tear digging around in those burrows. 

I've patterned the design after and actual old child's dress that I found on Etsy.  The dress is so sweet - made from old feedsacks with a yellow floral design.  It has a bit of lace trim and mis-matched buttons all down the back.  I can just picture mom - maybe during the Depression - making this sweet little dress for her daughter - such a poignant thought.

Anyway, in this photo I'm sewing the collar sections on.  Then there will be the lining for the bodice which will finish the neck and back edges; sewing the side seams, finishing the armholes with self bias, and finally, the hem.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Little Ruthie

 Ruthie will be a prairie dog and here's her armature.  As I look at it I realize that it would be a nice touch - although one that no one would ever see - to add a little heart in the appropriate spot.  Perhaps I could make the heart out of polymer clay, or I could use a glass bead or a button.

The armatures always look weird, and this one is no exception.  I meant to take photos at different stages through the felting but got so carried away that I forgot.

So here's the finished Ruthie.  I'm in the process of making a paper pattern (I use paper towels and the "trial and error" method) for her slip.  She's going to have a dress made from fabric salvaged from a vintage feedsack.  Fun!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Scullery Maid's Portrrait

 I'm planning to spend some time and effort on improving my watercolor skills.  I'll be doing small pieces, and for the first one I chose to do a portrait of a little felted animal that I made then dressed using vintage fabrics.

It may have been a bit unusual to use a needle felted animal as a model but it worked well.  So many times I've heard how much better it is to work from "life" rather than from photos and that's what I did with this one.  It did indeed seem different to be working from a 3D subject and, in a way, easier.

Pretty much as soon as I began painting I felt that I had ruined the piece.  It was then that one of the main features of watercolor - no forgiveness! - came home to me!  I forgot to bring the rabbit with me so I was painting from memory.  I started on the head scarf and part way through remembered that her scarf is white with blue plaid rather than the other way around - the way I painted it. 

But in the end, I think it worked out fine.  Given the light background, the scarf shows up better being blue.

Despite the shaky beginning, I found that I really enjoyed working with watercolor!

My plan is to make prints with my new famcy pigment ink printer and offer them in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

More Work on the Squirrel

I did a little work on the squirrel's nose then added the shawl and textured her.  Actually, after this picture was taken I added a few oak leaves as decoration for her shawl, and then she was finished.

I added a few holes on the top of her head so that I could later wire a wreath of glass leaves to her head, but I decided against it and filled the holes back in.

I'm letting her dry, and working on some other clay figures that can go in the kiln with her.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Squirrel Emerges from the Lump of Clay

It's been quite a while since I've worked with clay, but I finally got back to it today and it felt good.  Even so, this squirrel has been a toughie so far!  She needs more work on her face.  I think the muzzle doesn't look quite right yet.

I sure hope the tail stays on until I can get it bisque fired.  It's relatively heavy and the union with the body is a fairly small area.  I have it propped up for now, but eventually I'll have to remove the prop and get it into the kiln.  Well, I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Meanwhile I'm looking forward to working on her more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Another Sheep

Happily, all the sheep in my Etsy shop have found new homes, so it's time for more.  This one actually began life as a reindeer.  I was working on a custom order for two 10" tall reindeer, and the armature I made for the first one is inside this sheep.  As I put the core wool on the armature I realized that it was too small for the reindeer so I just put it aside and started over.

But I kept looking at that wool-covered armature, wondering what I would see in it.  And eventually I saw a sheep, which turned out to be a spunky Suffolk, with a beautiful collar in shades of lavender and violet with a tassel and bell.  I think she's quite elegant.  She's listed in the shop now, and while she's waiting for a new home she's enjoying hanging out with the other felted creatures.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ready for the Printer

Catherine is now finished.  As you can see, I added the detail on the shawl, some gold on the book binding, and more color in the background.

My main compaint about this piece - and it is, once again, entirely my fault through lack of planning - is that it doesn't work well in a 6" x 8" crop.  Of course I should have marked that out on my paper to be sure that I could crop where I wanted to.  The problem is that I didn't finish it consistently at the bottom edge. 

I'd like to have the cat a bit higher in the space, showing more of her arm and paw.  But there is an unfinished area in the lower right that I didn't notice until it was too late to complete (with the layering and all, it wouldn't have matched).  More of the shawl would also have shown, and I did quite a bit of work on the part that's cropped out.  Will I ever learn?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Struggling Along

I'm struggling with this one.  Which isn't to say that I'm having trouble with the rendering, but that my overall concept doesn't seem to be working.  There's nothing cute about her.  But, on the positive side, she does seem in earnest, as Catherine Morland should be.

The brownish tint on part of her dress is my attempt to represent the shadow of the sheer shawl that will go over it.  So the jury's still out on how that will work.  Meanwhile, I keep plodding away.

On the positive side, I think I've modeled her head pretty successfully, mainly by not losing the lighter parts.

The whole time I'm working I'm wondering whether I should be using watercolor at all.  I'm not comfortable in the medium, but all those watercolor tubes that I've bought over time (and Daniel Smith watercolors at that!) keep staring at me from the shelves in my studio.  Two thoughts are at odds:  "stick with what you know" versus "you really should use those watercolors and see if you can make them work for you."  As far as watercolor goes, I'm now to the point where I'm pretty much OK with everything being transparent.  But I'm still struggling with new layers lifting those underneath.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

A New Year

I have an art resolution for this year - to do more work in 2D.  Last year I was really focused on 3D work and on my Etsy shop, but now it's time to "make time" for getting back to basics - drawing and painting. 

I've just finished Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" so thought it would be appropriate to continue my series of Jane Austen cat heroines.  Accordingly, this is Catherine Morland.  She's very caught up in her Gothic novels, and she'd better be careful that her imagination doesn't run away with her and ruin her chances for true romance!

I'm using the same mixed media approach that I've used in the past with varying degrees of success.  But there's a problem involved, which is that I have no clear idea of the role of the various media, which include pencil, watercolor, colored pencil, and acrylic.

My "problem" is just that I so much like to draw.  In the old days, I'd carefully draw out my line drawing then transfer it to good paper and go from there.  But I'm now confident enough in my drawing skills that often I'll just start drawing on the good paper.  And then, enjoying the drawing, I don't know when to stop.  Before you know it, I have a pencil drawing well under way and am left with the choice of completely covering up all the nice pencil work or proceeding to make what is, in effect, a tinted drawing.  Hmmm.  Confusion. 

Anyway, that's where I am with Catherine here.  I've done a fair amount of pencil on the face, and have added just the first wash or two of watercolor.  It will be stumbling forward from here!