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Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Third Illustration - Vicious


I finished the third of my illustrations for my book "Milkweed Manor."  This is vicious, the weasel assistant to Reynard who is a fox and a shaman.  Seeking help for the sick mouse children in the village, one of the badger boys, accompanied by a crow, hiked deep into the woods to find the shaman.  As they approach, Vicious confronts them from a window of the shaman's compound.

As with the earlier illustrations, this is pencil with watercolor washes.  This is a combination of media that I'm comfortable with and I like the old-fashioned, tinted drawing look.  These take quite a while to do and this one was especially challenging working around the filaments of the spider web.

At this point, I'm simply illustrating passages at random.  Once I have about a dozen I'll probably switch to working on layout with place holders for illustrations that aren't done yet.  This is a fun process, but has some frustrations.  I find it impossible to concentrate just on these illustrations.  Other projects seem to call to me in voices that won't be silenced.  So this set of illustrations will inevitably take quite a while to finish.  I'm venturing into unknown territory with the layout!  But fun!

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Divinity of Bears - a Collage Start to Finish


It's been a crazy couple of weeks, but I did manage to finish my bears collage and thought you might be interested to follow along with the process.  Drawing the bears was my first step and I added quite a bit of detail as I prefer to begin modeling the form and creating the texture at this first stage.  The only pencil I used were HB and 2B.  I've found that proceeding to softer pencils can yield a drawing that smears at the next stage, although one could always mitigate this by spraying the drawings with workable fixative.


A while ago I found these digital downloads of antique star maps on Etsy and purchased them.  They're great to use because no book is destroyed and also I can use the images over and over again.  For these, I manipulated them in Photoshop to remove the antique golden hue.  I knew I would use them under blues and with that golden color the result would have been green instead of blue.


So here's the first layer of the collage.

For the blue pieces, I used stencils of my own design that I cut on my Cricut machine.  I stenciled onto white tissue paper with white gesso, then, when the gesso was dry, washed over them with blue watercolor.  The gesso resists the watercolor so the design stays white.  Strangely enough, the Liquitex Mat Gel Medium that I use as an adhesive for the collage doesn't disturb the watercolor once it's thoroughly dry.  

As you can see, I used a variety of book pages for the bottom part.  The purpose of these pieces is to simply add texture, although I like the circular images in the lower left.  They're from an astrology book and fit the overall theme of the piece quite well.


Then I worked quite a bit on the background, adding thin washes of Golden fluid acrylics and more collage elements.  Finally I glued the bear drawing in place.


Here's the detail around the large drawing of a bear head.  I like the bit just to his right.  It suggests to me a reflective lake, its sandy shore, and deep foliage behind it. I don't plan these effects, but if I see them emerge I may very well decide to go with the suggestion.


Here's the full bear, walking peacefully along the bottom of the design.  The theme of this piece is the spirituality of bears - that they are both creatures firmly attached to the earth (the walk plantigrade and den in the earth) yet also walk among the stars.

The little dark piece of collage behind her front paws I found particularly interesting.  I has several mystical - I think astrological - symbols on it.  


And here's the cub - in the sky, nestled behind a shape that vaguely resembles a cloud, and with another one of those circles from the astrology book tucked behind her head resembling a halo.  Think I'll go with those!


Then I added color to the bears with washes of fluid acrylic, as well as pain-staking teeny stroke of the fluid acrylic for the texture of the fur and modeling of the forms.  More work on the background, including blending the margins of torn paper around the bears into the background.  

The collage piece I liked so much behind the full bear's front paws pretty much disappeared behind darker and darker washes that I felt I had to add to "ground" the piece.  But I used a lined brush and white acrylic ink to paint those symbols on deli paper.  Then I tore them out and added them as collage pieces.  I like working this way with deli paper because it pretty much disappears with the adhesive.

At about this stage, I noticed a BIG problem.  The support was coming apart.  I had relied on wood glue to attach the 1/4" thick MDF (medium density fiberboard) to the pine frame behind the edges.  So I learned a few lessons:

1.  Never use MDF with the slick white coating on the back (it was all I could get at the time) because the glue doesn't stick to it very well.

2.  Never rely on just the glue - also use screws or nails.

3.  And, consider using 1/2" MDF, instead of pine, for the strips around the edges.  When I first build this support I sanded the edges of the MDF and pine absolutely flush, but over a surprisingly short period of time, the pink shrank and the edges were no longer flush.

I had to add screws from the front, counter-sinking them so that the screw heads could be covered.  These are the round white dots around the edges.  At this point, I wasn't sure how I would cover them, and also wasn't sure how I would deal with the edges.  Sanding them again I didn't think was a good option because of the sawdust getting all over the piece and settling into the fine texture of the collage.



Finished!  More, more, more, until I thought it was done.  More collage, more washes, more fooling with the bears.  And more decisions to make.  I covered the screws with beautiful vintage glass stars (hard to part with them).  For the edges, no long flush, I used a palette knife to spread them with coarse molding paste - rather like frosting on a cake.  And then I added a rim of that same paste along the very edge of the front.  I painted the paste with blues and greens then added a bit of Daniel Smith Pearlescent Shimmer acrylic along the raised edge.

The one thing that I would have liked to do more of on this piece was to add text.  I'm having a hard time finding a good way of doing this.  My uniball white pen turned out not to be water resistant,  My posca acrylic paint pens gave too thick a line.  Alphabet stamps seemed too coarse.  So this is a question I'll have to work on in the future.