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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Parrots in Paradise

Our art club is having a color challenge for its July meeting.  The challenge is to create a piece from a color palette consisting of a color you either don't like or seldom use, it's complement, and a few analogous colors on either side.  I decided to make a collage.  For the support, I build a cradled board that's 24" tall, 15 1/2" wide, and 1 1/2" thick.  (NOTE:  some of the photos have thin slivers of black around the edges.  These aren't part of the piece - they're cropping errors when I cropped the photos!)

I used papers very close to black and white for my first layer.  I chose these neutrals because I wanted to provide a consistent base then build my color palette over it.

I usually choose a theme for my collage, and the theme for this one is parrots in paradise.  Accordingly, I drew two parrots then had lots of fun leafing through magazines finding bits I could use - either actual images or spaces of plain color that would work with my palette.

I most often tear rather than cut my collage pieces, but this time I carefully cut them out.  Some, like the flowers, were actual images.  Others, like the leaves and the plumes extending upwards from the left parrot's halo, are shapes I cut from parts of magazine pages that were colors I liked.

But before adding the second layer of collage pieces, I worked on the background.  First, I washed it - but not the outer border of text - with thinned gesso to tone down the contrast between the black and whilte.  Then I tinted the background - again, not the text border - with light washes.  For the colors I chose Quinacridone Magenta, Permanent Violet Dark, Green Gold, and Jenkins Green - all Golden fluid acrylics.  I thinned the colors with Golden Fluid Matte Medium.  If you thin a very light wash with water you won't get a good bond.

I spent quite a bit of time arranging my collage pieces.  When I was satisfied, I snapped a photo for reference then removed all the pieces.  I glued the pieces that would be behind the parrots and the parrots drawings which I had carefully cut out  For adhesive I used Liquitex Matte Gel Medium.  I applied a coat on the base where the piece would go, then smoothed the piece down by applying the medium over the top of the piece.  

I used silver foil from the inner wrapper of quality chocolate bars for the inside of the halos.  Strangely, I find this foil to be the best silver color.

When I stood back and took a look, the border just seemed too plain.  After much mental trial and error, I finally added the black and white tissue paper that I had used here and there in the first phase.  Some of the text still shows through the white parts adding to the textural richness.  At first I didn't like this border.  I thought it was choppy and that it distracted from the image.  But then I came to really like it.  It adds to the decorative feel of the piece.

Before I added the rest of the collage pieces, I needed to paint the parrots.  I used opaque acrylics, DecoArt Americana colors.

Then it was time to finish the collage.  The photo directly above and below are at then finish of this stage.

At this point, because of the cut shapes, there are a lot of hard edges.  There are also sharp value contrasts that need to be softened - like between the dark purple plumes just above the left parrot's halo.  So I turned back to my fluid acrylics and added washes to solve these problems.

My favorite part of this process is the final super fussy one - pen and ink detail.  I use sap green, violet, and acrylic inks.  What I thought was the final touch was the silver spangles cut from the chocolate bare foil and glued on, one at a time.  But then the border seemed to glaringly white.  I wanted it to be more ivory.  To achieve that, I applied a wash of very thin (with the fluid matte medium) Green Gold, then a thin wash of Quinacridone Magenta.  Since the two are opposite each other on the color wheel, what I got was an ivory color.  And, even better, it wasn't an exactly even color because in some places, inevitably, the magenta was would be thicker than the green gold, and in other places, vice versa.  I also carried these washes over the sides of the panel.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Second Illustration

Here's the second illustration.  It's the manor's kitchen cat, Felicia, trying to persuade the mice to allow her to relocate them to safety in the forest, but it's a hard sell.

I'm happy with the extensive pencil work then the quick tinting with watercolor washes.  I fell very comfortable with pencil and I should get better with the watercolor over time.

At this rate, it will take a long time to finish all the illustrations, but that's fine.  I wanted a long term project, and I've got one!

By the way, I think the little mouse hiding behind the leg of the stool adds the little touch that really makes this piece.