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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Charlie


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

A Glamour Reindeer


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.).



 The glamour comes in two parts.  First, the antlers.  I made them from twisting rusted wire as I usually do.  But before I added them to the reindeer partway through the felting process, I brushed them liberally with Liquitex mat medium and while it was still wet sprinkled them with a fine bronze glitter from artglitter.com.  I let it dry overnight before continuing with the felting because I didn't want the glitter falling off.


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

The Polar Bear is Finished


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

A New Venture


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

A Needle Felting First!


I've been doing a lot of needle felting lately.  After creating several mice, a pair of reindeer, a donkey, a meerkat, and a larger reindeer (all of which are in my Etsy shop which you can reach by clicking the link in the right margin of this page), I suddenly realized that I'd never done one of my favorite animals - a polar bear!  So I launched into a new project.


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

Finished Barn Owl watercolor


Here's the finished Barn Owl painting.  I continue to enjoy this decorative motif-based style.  It's the only way, so far, that I've been able to make much sense of watercolor painting.  That may be because I like to use transparent colors only and no masking fluid.  Those choices make things a bit difficult with having to paint one object around, rather than over, another (unless you don't mind the first one peeking through the second one!).

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

Using the New Palette


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

The Old Way and the New Way


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):

New Gamboge
Quinacridone Gold
Quinacridone Sienna
Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet
English Red Ochre
Quinacridone Rose
Burnt Umber
Sepia
Permanent Brown
Rose of Ultramarine
Indancrone Blue
Indigo
Imperial Purple
Deep Sap Greem
Terre Verte
Hooker's Green
Sap Green
Phthalo Green Blue Shade
Prussian Green

- not necessarily an orthodox selection, but I really like these colors.