Sunday, December 31, 2017
I have two favorite sources for my needle felting supplies, www.livingfelt.com and www.sarafinafiberart.com. Last week I saw that LivingFelt was having a bird challenge and I knew I wanted to enter. When I considered what kind of bird to do I was prompted by the fact that part of the entry was to be the back-story. And that's when I settled on Charlie the Belted Kingfisher.
When I drove my daughter to school part of the route had a wide deep ditch along the side of the road which acted as an intermittent stream during the winter. And nearly every day in late autumn and winter we would see a kingfisher perched on the exact same spot on the telephone wires carefully keeping watch over the stream. My daughter named him Charlie.
When I made the wire armature, I sculpted a bill from polymer clay and attached it to the armature by forming it around the twisted wire at the front of the head. After heat curing it I painted it for a more realistic look. I made the toes by twisting 26 gauge cotton covered florist wire. The cotton covering on this wire is white and it's easy to color it with alcohol inks - that's how I got the black.
Both the tail and wings are made from two layers of wool felt sewn around the side edges and tips. I began the felting before I attached the tail and wings to the armature wires. After completing much of the core wool felting on the armature I attached the tail and wings over the wing and tail armature wires and secured them with thick cord that I threaded through the tail or wings and body then tied off. The cord ends are easy to secure by threading them back through the body then clipping the ends. Completing the felting hides the joints.
I entered him in the challenge, so wish me luck! I'm very happy with him!
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Lately I've been adding glamorous touches to some of my needle felted animals, including this reindeer. He's also a bit larger than the animals I usually make, and larger than the pair of reindeer that I recently sold from my Etsy shop (the link is in the right margin if you'd like to visit.).
But the really time-consuming bit of glamour was the elaborate festive collar. I made it from satin ribbon using a few different techniques for making ribbon flowers. The collar itself is scalloped and then I made and added small ribbon roses with pearl centers and a bow with pearl drops and brass filigree bead caps at the ends. I sewed a small freshwater cultured pearl to each scallop on the collar and added a sparkly vintage glass button to the cluster of roses on the bow. Finally, I added a few pearl and crystal drops to the antlers.
I just had fun with this. Although I made it around Christmas time, I avoided Christmas colors for the collar because I want this piece to be a winter piece and not limited to the holidays.
I highly recommend collecting bits of little things you like - ribbons, pearls, crystals, vintage buttons, and so on - because just having them on hand is an inspiration to create!
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
With arctic blue absolutely everywhere, sometimes a girl just craves a bit or pink!
And Tasha got it in this beautiful cashmere hand embroidered and beaded cape.
Doesn't she look beautiful? With all that thick fur, she doesn't need the cape for warmth. It's purely a fashion statement.
So I finished felting my polar bear, then, although I thought she was very cute, I asked myself what I could do to make her special and this is what I came up with. I bought a grab bag of wet felted cashmere sweater parts on Etsy, then used them to make this "crazy quilt" style cape. I lined it with a scrap of reclaimed white satin. I joined the cashmere pieces with feather stitch using 2 strands of DMC cotton embroidery thread, then added the hex-cut crystal seed beads. The cape closes with a thread loop over a vintage glass button. The final touch was the beaded fringe.
This cape took many hours to make, but I think it was worth it. What I have here is a totally unique piece that I will put in my Etsy shop and hope that Tasha finds a home with someone who loves her as much as I do!
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I am excited to begin working in a series (or, more likely, several) of little animal sculptures centered around an imaginary place, in this case, Milkweed Manor. Each sculpture will be an illustration of part of a story of what happens with the characters there. The first piece in the Milkweed Manor series is this pair of squirrel sisters, Lily and Effie. My London-born grandmother's name was Lilian and one of her older sister's names was Effie. It means a lot to me to name these characters after them.
I want these to be among my higher end sculptures, so I've taken a lot of time with detail which is time-consuming during the sculpting but even more so in the glazing.
I would like to find a better gray glaze for the squirrel glaze, but this will do for now. The true grays that I see seem flat and lifeless, so I chose this one that settles into the texture and breaks both blue gray and a reddish color. Some squirrels, after all, do have that reddish coloring, especially the English ones.
I will accompany each of the sculptures with a little book with their hand-written story from the woods behind Milkweed Manor. The image above - a watercolor I painted - will be the front cover. On each one, I will add by hand touches of beautiful micro glitter on the milkweed seeds.
This is the back cover - again, one of my watercolor paintings. This is Colwyn the Gray, the Chronicler for Milkweed Manor. He, of course, will have his own sculpture and stories.
Monday, December 18, 2017
As always, the first step was to create the armature. As part of that, I made impressively sized polymer clay claws, cured them with heat, then glued them to the toes I had included in the armature.
Next was to begin the wrapping, which you see here. You can also see, in the background, a print-out of an image of a polar bear skeleton that I found on the web. I use images of an animal's skeleton to plan and build my armatures, figuring if it's a good foundation for the real animal, it's also a good foundation for the needle-felted one.
Just as an aside, I've been thinking for a few months now that I'd like to do some instructional videos for needle felting and clay sculpting and maybe a few other things. Maybe after the new year I'll look into that - think it would be fun...
Sunday, December 10, 2017
This painting is different from my others in that I put in a fading wash around the edges. I like it. I also used one of Daniel Smith's duochrome watercolors around the owl's head giving a bit of a halo effect. I love using metallics, even though it means that prints are not feasible.
As for my new palette, I like it very much and recommend it. But there is one thing I would change. For me, the paint wells are too deep. When I have the palette on the table beside the painting-in-progress, I can't see into the paint wells. I need to put the palette on a lower side table to see the paint colors very well. I'm going to pass that comment on to Robax Engineering, the manufacturer of these wonderful paint palettes.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
I'm painting a barn owl surrounded by foliage and floral motifs, using my new watercolor palette from Robax Engineering. For whatever reason, I always seem to experience a bit of a block when I use a new tool or approach, but I pushed through it and got this far today.
I keep thinking how much easier this would be to do with acrylic, but I'm pushing myself to learn watercolor because I believe that the colors can be so beautiful, and I like the funky things the paint can do, like the "blooms" in the leaves.
The hardest part so far was the Indigo shading around the edges. I made several passes at it, while I think a more experienced watercolorist would get the value correct the first time.
But as for the palette, it took a bit of getting used to. Although it holds virtually the same number of colors as the palette I'm used to (19 vs 18) it's much bigger so I've had to rearrange my work space. The mixing areas are also different - wedge shapes instead of rectangles - but I'm getting used to that as well. By the way, even using staining colors, the mixing trays washed out beautifully.
There was nothing wrong with the palette I was using before, but what attracted me to this one is the well liners that allow me to switch out colors. So far, so good.
Monday, December 4, 2017
My watercolor palette has served me well. Not so many color wells, but quite enough. From this many colors I found I could mix about anything. And plenty of mixing space too.
But ever since taking an online class from Danielle Donaldson I've been fascinated by watercolor palettes from Robax engineering. This engineering company somehow got into making watercolor palettes based on design ideas from various artists. I've been scrutinizing them for over six months now and finally took the plunge.
The one I was initially interested in had wells for 85 colors! But after using my old palette for a while I realized that so many colors sitting in front of me would just be confusing and in the end I got this one with 19 paint wells. It's 12 inches in diameter.
The super cool thing though, is that you can buy liners for the wells (which I did) which allows you to easily switch out colors!
These are the colors I chose (all Daniel Smith):
Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet
English Red Ochre
Rose of Ultramarine
Deep Sap Greem
Phthalo Green Blue Shade
- not necessarily an orthodox selection, but I really like these colors.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
After doing the collage with the young woman and ermine both wearing fascinators, I found that I enjoyed drawing people - something new for me. So I decided to do a series of three such pieces, each with a young woman and an animal. For this one, I chose a rabbit and wanted to make the woman a red head in a very green setting, suggestive of Ireland. After completing theawings separately, I began the collage.
I had a beautiful magazine page with a mystical looking landscape and decided to use it as the first layer in the upper background. As I always do, in an effort to avoid wrinkle when gluing coated papers such as magazine pages, I dampened both the front and back of the page before gluing it down. But despite my careful preparation, it began wrinkling anyway so I kept smoothing it out with a brush. I was completely focused on the wrinkle and missed the fact that the ink was beginning to smear, leaving the image that I liked so much largely obscured. The lesson I learned was to spray these images with workable fixative before glueing them down.
I was discouraged, but continued with the first few layers of the collage.
At this point I decided that her right eye looked wrong and tried to fix it. In the process I pretty much messed it up. I nearly threw the piece away. I can't remember ever doing that before. But I decided that I wouldn't learn anything that way and determined to finish it and hope for the best.
Next I began to apply color. One of my priorities was to eliminate the white halo around the rabbit ears. This halo is a result of tearing out the rabbit drawing then gluing it against the dark background. I also added more collage elements to soften the bottom edge of the drawing of the woman.
At this stage I really didn't like the piece and once more almost threw it away. I also thought that I probably should give up on drawing people and stick to animals. I also didn't like her looking straight ahead at the viewer - it felt sort of creepy.
Nonetheless, I pushed ahead. I decided to push the characters back and add an element to compete with them visually, namely the collaged leaf spray in front of her. I deepened the color in her hair and stenciled a few leaves over the top of her head. Basically, I just kept fooling with it and added more color washes, widening the color range of the background. I was also careful to add a few subtle areas of Burnt Sienna washes to repeat the color of her hair elsewhere in the piece.
I added a few bronze paint spirals - the beginning of the final decorations which are my favorite part of the collage process.
I decided to add something of interest at her forehead and, since this piece is supposed to suggest Ireland with all the greens, the red hair, and the rabbit, I decided on a Celtic knot. I drew the knot on a piece of tracing paper then inked the lines and painted it with gold and bronze metallic paints. I carefully ripped the motif out of the piece of tracing paper and glued it in place. I was expecting to see a bit of the edges of the tracing paper as a translucent blur but, surprisingly, the tracing paper completely disappeared.
By the way, I've had trouble in the past with tracing paper wrinkling when glued, so I brushed it with water first. After dampening the front side, it spontaneously transformed into a tight roll. I unrolled it and dampened the back at which point it flattened out and I could glue it down.
I got the vintage green glass jewel from the Etsy shop Yummy Treasures. I originally was going to glue it in the center of the Celtic knot but then decided to place it where you see it. I added more little decorations including the shards of foil (from various types of chocolates) and then was done.
In the end, I'm pretty happy with it and am glad I kept going. But I still wish I had chosen a less startling pose for her. Next time...
Saturday, September 2, 2017
To finish the piece I detailed the birds, strengthened the colors in parts of the reeds, added the foil stars and smaller bits of foil around the crocodiles, brightened behind the heron, added gold touches including the gold starts in the sky, and placed the inscription at the bottom left. The inscription is supposed to mean "rain over the river."
I'm quite attached to this piece but can't fully explain why. I like the mood, but there's more to it than that. Something mysterious.
Friday, September 1, 2017
I glued the three pieces - the two crocodile strips and the larger piece with the heron - together. This was not easy because the paper was pretty heavy (Strathmore Mixed Media paper) and a bit warped. The moisture of the glue (I used Liquitex Matte Gel Medium) also warped the paper a bit. I had to keep pressing the three pieces together with my fingers for quite a while until the adhesive took hold.
At that point, I had a pretty wavy and warped piece. So I spread a towel on my kitchen counter and laid the piece upside down on the towel. I sprayed the back with water and covered it with a few layers of paper towels. Then I topped the whole thing off with heavy books and let it dry overnight. In the morning, it was flat!
Then I began the painting. I wanted a dark stormy sky and used opaque paint, using a couple of slightly different colors, and a couple of graduated layers, one over the other. I blotted the second layer with a damp paper towel for an uneven look.
The most fun part of this painting was the reeds. It was exacting work with a liner brush. I used photos of ancient Egyptian tomb paintings for inspiration, but added my own touches.
I realized I needed something more, so I painted (Daler Rowney acrylic ink dropped on a shape painted with cleear water) the two birds on a separate piece of paper. I tore out the duck and glued it in place. I usually prefer tearing to cutting, but I cut out other bird because I wanted to preserve all the background around it.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
I was watching a TV show about ancient Egypt and one of the visited sites was Seti I's tomb. There was the most beautiful painting of a crocodile. That inspired me. So, using Tracy Verdugo's method of dropping acrylic ink into a shape painted with clear water, I painted three crocodiles.
A page in a magazine about travel had a wonderful photo of a storm approaching over palm trees. That gave me the theme of a storm approaching over the ancient Nile. I researched several more tomb paintings, then painted this heron, again ink dropped into a wet shape..
I painted all three crocs on one sheet of Strathmore Mixed Media paper, then ripped them out, into strips. The heron I painted on a full11" x 14" sheet. After fiddling a bit with the composition, I decided to only use two of the crocodiles. I glued the pieces together and let it dry over-night, ready for the next step in whatever might emerge.
Monday, August 28, 2017
During the first session I worked on the background and glued down the drawings. In preparation for the second session, I had torn out some magazine and catalog pages and had them sitting on the left side of the piece, ready to go, when I somehow managed to tip over my Diet Pepsi onto the piece. I wiped it up, or so I thought. But when I got to class and went to lift the torn pages, I discovered that the Diet Pepsi had partially "glued" the pages to the piece - right over my drawing of this sweet ermine. I was so upset! I didn't know what to do about it. I used a wet paper towel to try to wipe away the transferred ink, but it began to lift portions of the drawing, so I stopped immediately. Not knowing what else to try, I decided to just go ahead and work on other parts of the piece.
In the end, I touched up the ermine's eyes, and left the rest of the damage alone. And I'm OK with it.
So, I learned two lessons. Protect my piece - no spillables near the piece. And, two, in mixed media, at least, go with serendipity!
Thursday, August 24, 2017
It seemed like a good idea to paint another frog. When I was doing the first one, I didn't particularly like it - at least until I cropped it. But now I like it more than this one! Just couldn't resist the gold crown above this little prince.
As I look at it now, I think I'll go back in tomorrow and add two more large blue flowers. One just doesn't seem enough.
I really like the greens I used. Wish I had kept track of what they were/ But I think the primary one is Viridian.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Next I did a frog. But this time the florals were different. I tried to depict water hyacinths. Both the flowers and the leaves are larger than in the other pieces I've done. Because they were larger, they were harder for me to paint in watercolor. But the frog was hardest of all. This required layering. I don't have much watercolor experience, so I'm always concerned about lifting previous layers, but it turned out OK.
I started this as an 8" x 8" piece, but wasn't satisfied with the composition, so I cropped it. The only problem with that is that I'll have to hand cut a custom size mat.
I especially like the colors.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Perhaps I should have chosen flora associated with a bear, such as poppies (as in California, of which the bear is the state animal) or berries. Maybe I'll do another one! It;s about time to change my palette, so I'll be sure to include poppy and berry colors...
Saturday, July 29, 2017
When I painted the mouse and florals I realized that one of the floral motifs resembled balloons, so when I added their stems, I positioned them so it would appear that the mouse were holding three blue balloons.
With this mouse, I tried adding a border, but I'm not sure I like it. I think I'd prefer a graded wash all around the edge with the color to the edge and fading to white.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
I decided it would be a good idea to add a little rabbit to the florals, so here it is! I painted the two large fern fronds first - the ones that form the "U" shape - then painted the rabbit, fading her into the ferns. Then it was on to add the florals and, for the final touch, I glued on the heart. I cut the heart from mixed media paper that I had painted, wet-in-wet, withe the colors in this palette.
The rabbit was easier to paint with watercolor than I anticipated. So I'll do more little animals.
Monday, July 17, 2017
For this one I went back to the original palette and decided that I wanted more variation in the size of the motifs. This is 8" x 8". When I was all done painting I decided to try one of the hearts I had cut from palette studies and I liked it and glued it on.
By the way, I've discovered that it's easier for me to paint a spiral by starting from the outside rather than the inside.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Here's a slightly different palette, and two more pieces. I've created a few new flower types. I know I'm being repetitive, but this is so much fun!
I have two small closable plastic palettes and keep a different color palette in each. I just keep working with that color palette until I've used up most of the paint, or until I'm tired of it, then on to another one.
I enjoy the free and easy process of creating these little pieces. And, by the way, this secondary triad (except for the purple leaning more to blue) is one of my favorites.
Friday, June 30, 2017
I'm still working with the original palette, but am now adding red clover to my catalog of flower and leaf types. I was inspired by some actual red clover blooming alongside the road. I had never seen it before, and stopped to get some samples. The red color was spectacular, leaning slightly to the blue side of red and becoming more vibrant toward the top of the blossom.
This is a slightly larger piece than before, being 8" x 8".
Thursday, June 29, 2017
This post is out of sequence, but oh, well!
Today I finally found the time to try painting a few little animals inspired by watching Tracy Verdugo's on-line class "Animal Antics." By the way, I highly recommend this class and anything from Tracy. She's a wonderful teacher with a delightful personality. And her art is fabulous, so look her up!
Her technique for these little creatures is to work on watercolor paper with Daler Rowney acrylic inks. First, she paints the animal shape with clear water, then drops in bits of ink which spread and swirl on the wet paper, but don't cross the line into the dry paper unless you draw them there with a brush or - her favorite - a wooden skewer.
I did eight little animals, but this is the only one I liked. I finished it with the gold edge, the little white dots, and the gold spiral in the sun and gold and white dots for the collar.
I enjoyed this process and, clearly, there is a lot to learn. Instead of working with a lot of different animals, I think I'll proceed by doing lots of wolves and then moving on to another kind of animal. Looking forward to it!
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Next, I decided to do quite a few more small paintings in an attempt to move away from Danielle's style and develop one of my own. This is the first such piece and is quite small - 3 1/2" by 5 1/2". I'll use it as the center of a 5" x 7" card.
One of the elements of Danielle's technique is to use a 3mm pencil to add tiny details and lines once the painting part is complete. I've done a little of that here, but prefer to make my lines with a small liner brush. So, in the future, I'll probably drop the pencil.
I like this little piece. I like the looks of it, and it's so fun to do!
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
I discovered a wonderful site for on-line art classes, JeanneOliver.ning.com. I bought a class from her, "Compass Hearts," taught by Danielle Donaldson. I liked Danielle's work and was interested in working with watercolor for a while.
The piece about is inspired by her class, but it is not really the class project. Some of the motifs are similar to hers, but the bear is mine.
Danielle gets her color palette from scrapbook papers she chooses for the rings and hearts. She embellished the watercolor paper (I used Strathmore Mixed Media paper which worked really well) with floral-inspired watercolor motifs.
I really enjoyed it and will work onwards from here.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
The final class I took at Art and Soul was with Kitty Miller. We worked on canvas with a variety of DecoArt and Golden products. I worked on three pieces. The first I completed, and it was a fancy background with fish. The second, I did the fancy background and based in an octopus. This one, I only did the background for.
I didn't like either of the first two pieces, so I threw them away when I got home, but I decided to finish this one with a polar bear. I added the painted swirls and glued spangles over the background.
So in the class, we mainly worked on the backgrounds, using stencils, alcohol to move the acrylic paint around while it was still wet, and lots of wet-in-wet and splashing work. It was fun, but I don't think I will adopt any of the techniques that were new to me. The results are a little brash for my tastes.
But on the positive side, Kitty is a great teacher, full of enthusiasm and knowledge that she is happy to share - altogether a good experience.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
The photo above (except for the four chunks of text which I added later) is the piece I did in Clarissa's class. It took me a while to figure out that we were just practicing techniques rather than completing a piece. Once I understood that, I decided to work all the techniques on a canvas board so that I could continue working with it later and completing a piece.
Clarissa likes to use a lot of walnut ink. But, although I like the color, I'm unlikely to use it again because it dissolves under later applications of water-based paints and mediums. I'll just use diluted burnt umber or Van Dyck brown acrylic instead.
I was familiar with many of the techniques. But in this case, we did collage on watercolor paper and I tore it up and collaged it to the board. It was very thick to collage, but I liked it and would probably use the technique again - that is, collage on heavy paper, then tear it up for further collage.
The technique that was new to me was what she calls "peeling paint." You see this in the left half of the photo above, the part that is bluish. She lays a color down and lets it dry. Then she applied torn strips of painter's tape and paints another color over it. While the new paint layer is still wet, she removes the tape and lets the layer dry. She repeats this process as many times as she wants, then sands the result with rough sandpaper.
She also introduced the technique of making what she calls rust "glitter." She moistens steel wool in white vinegar then closes it in a plastic bag until it disintegrates. She can then apply the rust powder over adhesive - like glitter!
This is my completed piece where I used the class exercise board for the background. I painted the crow with a layer of thinned Indigo, side-loaded on the brush so that the edges were darker than the center. Then I repeated with Black. I added collage elements, included some text that I hand wrote, stars cut from paper painted in a variety of ways - with rust paint, multiple colors, or sprinkled with rust "glitter," and finished it off with accents of Jacquard Lumiere Bronze paint (one of my all-time favorites.)
I framed it with old wood that I've salvaged. I'm considering painting the tip of the tail over the old wood frame.
Monday, May 1, 2017
In early April I went for four days to Art and Soul, a mixed media retreat, in Portland, Oregon. This is one of the two pieces I did in the first class, taught by Doris Arndt. Doris was actually teaching for someone else who withdrew, so thanks to Doris for filling in.
The project was mixed media beach houses, but I don't think anyone in the class made beach houses. In this one, I made a butterfly house, but the house is playing rather a bit part. The things I like about this piece are the delicate colors and, of course, the cat eyeing the butterflies. This was a fun class, well taught, and increased my appreciation of scrapbook papers which I've seldom used.
I learned that Mod Podge is a good substitute for matte gel medium and that using it with a chip brush was gentle enough to smooth even the tissue paper without tearing it.
The other piece I made was of houses in the forest, but I didn't like it much.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Here's my finished piece after many hours of tedious but enjoyable work. I've learned a couple of lessons, which are:
This is very tedious work that requires intense concentration as every stroke must be as perfect as I can make it - so, don't work too long at a time, or at all if I feel tired or just "off."
Consider leaving some of the flowers and/or leaves less finished than others.
Be really careful about keeping the paper clean. Keep a paper towel between the paper and my restin hand, and keep the paint palette on the same side of the piece as the water container to avoid unintended drips.
Remember that line work will blur when a wash goes over it, so plan the sequence of line work carefully.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Just adding more washes, trying to enrich the color and create form through lights and darks. I'm having trouble keeping the white of the paper clearn. I use a paper towel under my right hand, which often rests on the paper, but I sometimes forget and then get into trouble. I think the little spots at the top left may have been caused by my cat, Darcy!