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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Young Renard

Here's the little ( 2 3/8" in diameter) of a young fox for my animal icons and wildlife cards.  It was exciting trying to capture his sweet expression.  Can't wait to see how he turns out in both the projects.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Recognizing a Mistake, then Finishing

Here's the finished frame for the wildlife cards.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake before I put the very first brushstroke of paint to paper.  I forgot to erase the vertical and horizontal pencil lines that I used to position the circle.  I ordinarily do not erase pencil lines because I think they add to the story of the creation of the piece.  But these particular straight lines are just a distraction.

There's faint, but they're still there, and I wish they weren't.

Anyway, I darkened the sky, painted the oak leaves and branches as well as the bare branches the owl is sitting on, and added the details to the owl, bird, and rabbits.

I'm getting closer to liking watercolor!

It's very close to what I had originally envisioned, and I'm happy with it.  Now to "assemble" the final images for the cards by placing the portraits in the center.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wildlife Cards

As I've been making my animal icons, it's seemed a shame to have only one use for those tiny paintings.  Fortunately, I scanned them before I put them under the glass, so I have the images to continue to work with.

I decided to use them in blank greeting cards. I'll sell the finished cards in my Etsy shop to benefit Sierra Wildlife Rescue.  My idea was to paint a single "frame" to surround the round animal portraits.

So I began by penciling out a 4 1/2" x 5 1/2" rectangle (the size of smaller greeting cards) on a piece of Strathmore Mixed Media paper.  I placed a circle the same size as the portraits, then began drawing my design.

Here's the way it looked after the first stage of painting.

I decided to use watercolor because the portraits are watercolor, pencil, and ink.  The watercolor will complement the portraits but will be secondary to them because of the ink on the portraits.

I began with very light washes of color over the whole piece, except painted around the owl, moon, bird, and rabbits.  Then I deepened the background color, painting around the leaves in the upper right and lower left.  Painting around little things like this is a pain, but masking would be impossible working this small.  So I just kept at it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Bear Icon

I've now finished the Bear icon to go with the others.

The bee at the top is a vintage piece of jewelry.  The other bees are brass stampings, as is the bear.

I patina'd the bear stamping with Sophisticated Finishes Copper and Green Patina.

The fallen log with the bee hive is painted on the background.  The branches in the front are pieces of dried grape vine that I patina's - also with the Sophisticated Finished Copper and Green Patina.

The beaded floral sprig is one I did in a workshop a few years ago and kept around.

I really like this one.

After I finished it, I realized that I had painted one of the trees over a larger hole in the wood which looks like a hole in the tree trunk - I could have used that for the bee hive.  Or, I could make a tiny polymer clay bird to peek out of that hole.  Hmmmm.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Book for a "Treasure Within"

During the afternoon of Lesley Venable's "Treasure Within" class we worked on our book pages.  The idea was that these six pieces would be chained together with a small ball chain and would live inside the decorated tin.
The blanks for the book pages are quite clever - little Formica samples.  I felt pretty uncertain until Lesley advised us to think of  the Formica pieces as tiny collage canvases.  Then it was off to the races - and quite fun.  My theme was Victorian cats and I had a fabulous piece of wrapping paper that I had saved from a few year's ago's birthday present from my sister.  It is a treasure trove of Victorian cat images.  I also had a few little snippets saved from magazines and catalogs.
It was a great project that I very much enjoyed.  Thanks, Lesley!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lesley Venable's "Treasure Within"

Another wonderful class I took at Art is You was Lesley Venable's "Treasure Within."  In the morning, we made the tin, and in the afternoon we made the little collage booklet (next post) that goes inside.

In the class kit was a tin similar to the old-fashioned Band-Aid tins.  Lesley had prepared them by burning them with a torch to remove the paint and give the tin an old-looking interesting patina.  We then coated the tins with Sophisticated Finishes' Copper emulsion and then the green patina solution that Sophisticated Finishes pairs with the copper.  I've used these products before and really love them.  What I learned about them from Lesley was to put the patina solution on while the copper emulsion is still tacky.  I always waited till it dried, and the patina took overnight to develop, whereas with Lesley's method, the patina developed in maybe half an hour.

Then we used chalk paint to stamp over the patina'd copper.  The stamping on mine shows best on the back.  I also used letter stamps, but the letters are a bit tricky to read.  On the sides, it says "what would life be without cats?"  and on the back, under the bird stamp, it says "sounds good to me!"

 From that point, it was a matter of adding the embellishments, some of which we antique'd with paint or ink pads.

The knob is a small glass knob that I've had for a while.  I had to punch a hole in the top to put the bolt in the knob through, and then secured it with a nut.  But I also added some glue (Lesley prefers Liquid Nails) on the bottom of the knob for extra strength.

The cat head is one I made from polymer clay a few years ago.  The details are painted on.  The ruff around the cat's neck is just made from dyed seam binding.  By threading a row of running stitches in a wide "U" pattern along the length of the ribbon and then pulling the stitches tight, you get this scalloped pattern.  I then sewed a small glass pearl to the tip of each "petal."

The handle is a piece of sari silk.  It attaches by threading the ends through holes in the tin and knotting them on the inside.  But first, I knotted the silk through a large jump ring near one end to attach the charm and pearl dangles.

I think I'll use this for a little dress-up purse (although I don't go anywhere to dress up!)  It's just the right size to hold a driver's license, credit cards, a bit of cash, and a lipstick and small key ring.  I may add a beaded tassel to the bottom, but, of course, then the tin couldn't stand up, so I'm not quite sure of that!  A fun time and a great project.

What I so love about mixed media is the opportunity to use materials and skills I've collected over the years.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Meanwhile, an Art Vacation

Last week I went to Minneapolis for Art is You.  I took three classes, and this is the project I did in Laurie Mika's "Patron Saints" class.  In her pre-class instructions she suggested that we do some research on patron saints and pick one with personal meaning.

I discovered that a patron saint is the saint that one calls upon to intercede on one's behalf.  So I chose a squirrel.  But not just any squirrel.  Annie!

I was a member of the squirrel team of Sierra Wildlife Rescue for about five years and during that time I had one (many, actually) of the most wonderful experiences of my life. 

One day, the center called me to come in and pick up a baby squirrel for home care.  When I got to the center, I was intimidated to see how small she was.  She was waiting for me in an incubator and weighed only 8 grams, or about 1/3 of an ounce.  Just the most basic care was challenging because she was so small.  And because she was so small she seemed especially fragile.

Fortunately, things started out well and she grew.  But twice while she was still a baby she suddenly collapsed while I was feeding her.  I was frantic and couldn't think of anything to do but try to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Miraculously, she survived both times.  I was very close to her and spent a lot of time hugging and loving her.  Squirrels were the perfect rehab species for me because one could supposedly shower as much love and attention on them as one wanted and they would still "wild up" naturally when they weaned.  At least that was the theory.

I weaned little Annie and put her in the outdoor release cage for a few weeks to allow her to get used to her natural habitat in safety.  But as soon as I opened the tiny release door at the top of the cage, she made a beeline for my door and sat looking in the big window that was most of the door.  It didn't seem to bother her that the cats were lined up on the inside of the door looking back at her!  Certainly, the situation wasn't in her best interest, so I sadly relocated her to Cindy's (the team leader and my best friend) release cage.

While she was in Cindy's release cage she needed medication but Cindy absolutely couldn't get near her - Annie would fight like a banshee.  So I went to Cindy's house and sat in the bottom of the release cage.  Immediately, Annie came down from her nest box and sat on my knee.  I was able to give her the meds with no problem.  That was the last time I saw my little Annie, but she is always in my heart.

About the piece:  This is polymer clay over a wood substrate ( 5" x 7" by 2" deep).  I made the head and paws ahead of time.  They're sculpted from gray polymer  clay and then painted.  She also has whiskers!  I drilled tiny holes in her muzzle.  For each side, I bundled four pieces of 4lb smoke fireline (a beading thread), knotted the bundle in the middle, folded it in half, and glued the knot into the hole.

The piece is basically a collage of decorated polymer clay slabs.  The decorations are stamps for texture and embellishments of paint, mica powder, metal stampings, and various jewels.

Laurie is an amazing teacher. She guided each one of her fourteen students, some of them absolute beginners with polymer clay, to a beautiful, finished piece.  If you ever have a chance to take one of her classes, don't miss the opportunity.  In fact, go out of your way!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The First Step towards a Bear Whachamacallit

This is the first step towards my next wooden construction like the hare and raccoon.  I think I'll call them "mystical animal icons."

Anyway, the first step is the animal portrait.  Like the others, it's a 2 3/8" diameter circle.  I did a detailed drawing in pencil, then added ink and watercolor.

Now I'll go through my various stampings and other goodies and compose my piece in preparation for the background painting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Raccoon Whatchamacallit

Making the first one was so much fun that I couldn't resist making another.  I have several more in mind.
As with the hare, I began with the raccoon drawing then proceeded to lay out the composition of the additional elements.  I really liked the metal border around the bottom of the hare piece.  That metal piece came from a small crown that I made in a workshop a couple of years ago and tore apart recently to "repurpose"  the parts.  The beaded flowers also came from that crown.
But the point is that I wanted another strip of tooled metal but didn't have one. What I did have was some thin copper sheet.  So I made a design, cut a piece of the copper to the size and shape I wanted, and incised a raised design with a stylus.  Then I aged it with Sophisticated Finishes' green patina solution.  I really like the look, and now I have a new technique in my tool kit.
The dragonfly stampings suggested the theme of the painting - a small stream at dawn.  As before, I really enjoyed painting on this distressed, aged wood.
As a finishing touch, I couldn't resist adding the crystal spires, made from vintage crystal beads, along the top.  So fun - from start to finish!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Whachamacallit

I'm having a deck replaced and part of the process was to tear out two planter boxes and the little picket fences that kept the dogs out of them.  I cut the design on each one of those pickets!  So it was a shock to see them in the dumpster.  I knew they had more life in them, so had the contractor drag the sections of fencing out of the dumpster, and then I took them apart and carefully saved all the pieces.  This is what I made from three of them.
I don't know what to call it - I guess 3D mixed media.
I made the wood backing by cutting, gluing, and nailing the pieces of old wood, using the picket cuts at the top for a decorative edge.
My next step was the little drawing of the hare.  I did it primarily with graphite pencil on Strathmore Mixed Media paper, but then added a bit of color, first with Verithin colored pencils, then a bit of watercolor.  I sealed the drawing with Workable Fixatif, then cut the circle to match the glass circle I had. 
Miraculously, I have a forstner bit that is the same diameter as the glass circle, so I was able to cut an indentation for the drawing and glass.  But before I put the drawing and glass in place, I designed the piece by choosing and temporarily placing the stampings and other objects I wanted to use so that I could visualize the painting.
After setting the stampings, etc., aside, I sealed the wood, including inside the drilled hole, with clear wood sealer, then did the painting with acrylics.  It was really fun painting loosely on the very rough surface - something new for me, and a technique that requires getting it right the first time if you want a rustic look.
I fixed the paper drawing in place with a single dab of glue, then put in the glass, running a bead of E6000 all around the edge of the glass then carefully putting it in place.  I thought it was important that there be no glue between the drawing and the glass, but I wanted to secure the drawing so that it wouldn't move.
My final step was to glue the stampings and other objects on the piece.  The moon is a vintage pearl button with a fingerprint of Faber Castell pearl Texture-Luxe.  I'll add wire to the back so that it can hang on the wall.
This piece was really fun to make.  It's fanciful, and the "trash to treasures" transformation is so satisfying!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dove Collage is Finished!

So I re-drew the upper frog.  I slathered all the textured green leaves with a thick layer of molding paste to obscure the texture as best I could.  I also used the molding paste to "glue" the new frog drawing over the other.  The new frog drawing had wide torn margins whereas the original one was mostly closely cut.  I added more paint layers over the leaves, then took stock.  Relatively happy, I went on to add the last elements:  the rusty metal stars and the small pieces of foil confetti.
You might be amused to know that the foil confetti pieces were torn from the metallic foil wrap of a Lindt chocolate bar.  I cut the rust stars from old can lids from my "rust farm."
Here's how I run my "rust farm."  I have a covered plastic bucket with water with salt and white vinegar.  I soak newly salvaged can parts in that bucket.  Then, after a week or so (or maybe more - doesn't much matter) I take them out of the bucket and put them in an old cat litter pan that I keep moist.  I find that the rusted pieces come in handy for many things.
A few coats of satin varnish and this piece will be finished.  But I won't put the varnish over the rusted stars or the crown. I previously coated the stars with all purpose sealer, and there is no need to seal the crown.  I'm not varnishing them because I want to preserve their rustic look.