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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's True -

Air expands when heated!  What you see in the photo is proof!

I had the kiln loaded and was reading for a few hours before bed when I heard a strange sound which I can't really describe.  But I had the feeling that it was something in the kiln breaking.  All I wanted to do is open the kiln to see what was going on, but of course I couldn't.

It wasn't until the next morning that the kiln was cool enough to open.  Although I was dismayed that this raccoon was ruined, I was grateful that everything else in the kiln was undamaged.

I put the pieces together to see if I could figure out what had happened, and wouldn't you know it, I forgot to poke a hole in the bottom of the hollow sculpture.  I was mad at myself for being so careless, but glad that the lesson didn't cost me more!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sherbet's Portrait is Finished

I finished this little one's portrait and took it over to Kerry at Foothill Dog Rescue to show her since it's the first of a series of portraits that I will have printed on cards as a fund raiser for them.  She cautioned me to try to find reference photos of dogs with their ears up - that ears back indicates fear or uncertainty.  Will do, but I think this one looks sweet.  Despite the caution, Kerry was very happy with this first effort.
Anyway, I found out that her name is Sherbet.  A team from Foothill Dog Rescue rescued her and several other dogs from a high-kill shelter.  (They had a photo of a German Shepherd at the shelter that they had to leave behind - don't know why - and it was a heart-breaker.  But, from comments on the post, it looks like the German Shepherd has been either adopted or fostered.  I don't know how the team does this work with all the tragedy.  But, God bless them for doing it and for saving so many.)
Sherbet is just four months old and has been adopted.  Bless her little heart.
When I was working on this painting, a few of my painting buddies commented that, although it is acrylic, it looks very much like watercolor.  I guess that's because I paint quite thin and like to use mostly transparent colors whenever I can.  What I love about it is that as I paint in layers, the lower layers remain undisturbed. 
By the way, the light squiggly texture in the background is white crayon between layers of thin transparent washes.  I like the playful look.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Bit More Progress

I added the beginnings of a background and painted another layer on the dog.  I continued to use Raw Sienna, but with a bit of Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, and black. 
I'm still uncertain where the edges will be.  I'm trying to paint something than can be fit into a 5x7 card format, but I find that to be a difficult shape - too tall relative to its width.
In general, I'm happy with it, but the ear, especially, needs more work.  I'm uncertain from the photograph how the ear is folding.  I haven't been able to duplicate the look in the eye from the photo, but I like these eyes.  I think I need to continue with the dog and then figure out where I want to go with the background.  And I think I need to paint down further on the chest - which is a problem because in the photo the chest is covered with someone's hand.  I'll have to make it up.  Yikes!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Shelter Dogs - a new Project!

My sister and I were out and about last weekend and stumbled into the weekly adoption event at our local dog shelter, Foothill Dog Rescue (you can find them on Facebook).  Kerry and her crew of volunteers do such a wonderful job.  They have adopted out 800 dogs in the last two years, most rescued from high-kill shelters throughout Northern California.  They truly do God's work.
I decided to paint portraits of some of the dogs and then have greeting cards made from the paintings.  I'll put something about the Rescue group, as well as what I know of the dog's story, on the back.  I'll donate some of the cards to the Rescue Group and offer then rest for sale on my Etsy shop with all proceeds going to the group.  It's a way to help.
Anyway, I'm starting with soft-body acrylic on Strathmore Mixed Media paper. Initially, I'm working monotone, with Raw Sienna.  After that, I'm not quite sure what I'll do.  Here's the result of day 1.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Another Fairy Tower - for Me!

 After sculpting the first fairy tower, I wanted to make one for myself (as opposed to for my Etsy shop).  And I wanted mine to be a bit smaller because I want to put it into a fairy garden in a round shallow terra cotta pot.

I enjoy making the pie crust roofs.  And then with this one, I decided to add "tree trunks" for roof supports on either side of the front door.  I added a triangle of "branches" at the peak of the roof which will hold a large glass marble once the tower is fired and glazed.   I also think that I'll hang a "lantern" on a branch to the side of the door.  Once the branches were there, I naturally had to add birds.

The "ribbon" over the door says "ILLUSION."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Round Fairy Tower

I'm really on a roll with these fairy houses, especially when I thought of doing a round fairy "tower."  Here's my first attempt.  It's about 11" tall.  The little cup on the point of the roof will hold a large glass marble "gazing globe" when I'm done.  This house will, like the others, also have a wood door and glass windows.
You can see that the face of the door and window are flat, so that makes the wood and glass installation possible.

The little hole to the left of the drawer is for my attempt at an outdoor light.  More about that later, after the house is fired and glazed and ready for the finishing details.
The two side windows aren't, however, flat.  So I'm not sure what I'll do about glass for them.  I have a large glass cylinder (part of an old bird feeder, I think) that I may be able to cut and fit.  But I don't know yet.  I guess I could also put a piece of flat glass in and only have it glued at the two sides. 

This problem needs more thought for a better solution - probably at the construction stage. 

The reason I did it this way in the sculpting was simply that it was easier than building out the flat piece like on the front.  Also, I thought the side windows should play a secondary role, visually.  Perhaps I should have made them flat, but by recessing them to a flat area rather than building them out.  I'll try that in the future.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Another Repair for the Donkey


I had the donkey all sculpted and was texturing her when the leg snapped in two!  When I was sculpting, I got this leg a bit too long so took a slice out of the middle then put it back together again.  But apparently that seam wasn't sealed well enough.

To repair it, I used a trick my friend Cathy told me about.  In the past, I've tried to repair these types of breaks by dampening the broken ends and then using slip.  But it never holds.  Cathy's trick is to use a mixture of slip and white glue in equal portions.  So that's what I did and it holds!

But try as I might, I couldn't disguise the break.  I imagine that's the fault of my sculpting skills and not the "glue."  I did, however, notice that once the glue is dry it is much harder than the surrounding dry clay, so texturing or smoothing with a wire tool is nearly impossible.  The lesson is, therefore, don't break stuff!

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Adding the legs - each one sculpted from a log of clay - highlighted a problem with the body.  The body is too short!  This is a mistake I often make.  My solution for needle-felted animals is to draw the skeleton to the size I want before I create the armature.  With needle felting, once you're felting over that armature, you're committed to the basic proportions.  But with clay, there's some wiggle room.
So I cut the body right at the waist.  I needed to add nearly 3/4"!  Once again, I got involved with the sculpting and forgot to take photos, but what I did was this:
I made a log long enough to go around the body, and thick enough to flatten to about 1/2" x 1".  I scored the edges of the body and the flattened log and gooped them up real good with slip.  Then I pressed one edge of the flattened snake to the edge of the front of the body, leaving the seam of the flattened snake at the underside of the belly.  I pressed pretty hard because I wanted an excellent bond.  Then I added the back half of the body in the same way.
I let the whole thing rest overnight in plastic to help even out the consistency of the clay (the flattened snake was much softer than the rest).  Then the next day I cut away excess clay and flattened and smoothed the seams.  Then I could finally add the back legs and tail.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Donkey

I'd like to make a stoneware set of animals of the nativity - a sheep, a cow, and a donkey.  So I'm inspired to start with the donkey.
I began by modeling the head from a lump of clay.  The ears are add-ons, as are the eyeballs and eyelids, but the rest is from the original lump.  Mostly, I model with my fingers, but I also use a few tools such as small knitting needles.  Once the head was to this stage, I hollowed it out from the neck end. 

Next I rolled a slab of clay and cut out a shape that would roll into a cone for the neck.  The top edge overlaps the neck from the head lump.

I stretched and sculpted the neck cone to suggest the shoulders.  Then I rolled another slab and cut a piece for the back half of the body.  I cut triangle shapes out of the clay slab so that I could form "darts" to bend the sides and back downwards forming the hips.

Then I stretched, squeezed, and shaped to form the belly and rump.  At this stage, the body is open on the under side.

I added the mane.  And also added little lumps of clay to further refine the head. 
That's enough for one day!  Plus, the clay is pretty soft at this point - too soft to add the legs.  So I put it in a plastic bag to sit overnight.  Giving it time to "rest" lets the moisture even out more and, since there's some air in the bag, gives it a chance to harden up a bit.  When I continue modeling, I will need to be able to apply a fair amount of pressure to the body without it moving.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fairy Garden Extravaganza

In early and mid June I was posting about a dragon shepherdess, flock of fairy sheep, and a magical sheepdog that I was making from stoneware.  I was planning to enter them in an art show, but after that I envisioned them in their own fairy garden.  So day before yesterday I built this box (it's 30" long, 16" wide, and 9" deep) and today I planted it, leaving room for the cottage.  (I've made four stoneware cottages recently for my Etsy shop.)  Of course it takes a while for the plants to establish themselves and spread.  I have a little copse at the right in the elevated area with two European beech (my favorite tree) bonsai starts and one Japanese maple bonsai start.  I wish it could all be beech, but I could only get two and thought I needed three trees for a good copse.  There are a few baby tears that will eventually be a ground cover under the trees.  The lower area has Irish moss (the yellow green) and Scotch moss (the darker green.  The black tubes are automatic waterers.

Do you see the arch at the top of the stairs?  I made it from grapevines.  I wired them with copper wire to shape them, and have a small chandelier crystal hanging from the top.  ( those vintage chandelier crystals which I find on Etsy.)

These gardens are on a 6' wide elevated deck at the front of my house, with a gorgeous multi-trunk live oak tree just off the deck. That tree is full of many kinds of birds as well as some cute gray squirrels.  Yesterday, while I was planting the new fairy garden, there was a deer enjoying the shade of the tree also.  I'm sitting in the same chair taking all of these pictures. 
Here's the second fairy garden I built - to provide a setting for the little stoneware thatched roof cottage.  The banner over the door says "majik happens here."  The ground cover is baby tears with a few creeping violets.  An upright fuchsia is behind the house, with a miniature Japanese elm at the center back.  The tiny bit of blue you see through the violet leaves is the reflection of the sky in a little pond (which is a clear plastic container sunk into the ground).

This is the first one I built, a bit to the left of the second one.  That's also the first fairy house I made.  Carving all the "stones" was laborious, but fun.  To the far left is a little gazebo of stoneware.  The plants are Japanese maple, trailing violets, baby tears, and a fuchsia.  I tried elfin thyme, but it all died out - which was OK because it tended to get brown and crispy underneath.  The star you see hanging in the center is one of several that I made from rusted can lids.  It's hanging from the deck railing and each one has a vintage chandelier drop hanging from the bottom.

Here's a better view of that little stone house.

And here's a close view of the thatched roof cottage.  You can see the crystal on the door.

Here's the view looking sharp right from that same chair.  There's not much color except for so many different shades of green, which is my favorite.  Being in the shade of the big oak tree and surrounded by green and bits of fantasy is calming and actually seems nice and cool even on a hot day like yesterday (over 100!).