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Saturday, November 30, 2019

One of My Favorite Pieces, and Why

I created this piece a few months ago. It never got a title, but I intended it to be the diploma given to the pair Reynard the Fox and Phillipa the owl on the occasion of their graduation from first form shaman school. Reynard is the future shaman and Phillipa his future familiar. These are actual characters in my book Tales of Love and Courage from Milkweed Manor, (which you can find on or on by searching either the title or my name - or follow the link to the right) but they are much older by the time that story begins.

The text is in Theban script, first published in 1518 by Johannes Trithemius in his Polygraphia where he attributed it to Honorius of Thebes. Sometimes it's referred to as a 'witches' script,' but I just like the look of it. It's an alphabet, so to use it you transcribe the letters in whatever language you're writing in. Here, I used the script to record the details of the diploma.

In collage, I really like the look of script that the viewer probably can't read. Sometimes - like here - the script has actual meaning relevant to the piece (in which case I should probably record the meaning on the back). Other times, the meaning is not relevant to the piece - like the ancient Greek text I tore from one of my books and used in the collage background. I most often use relevant script as a starring elements in the collage, while irrelevant script is usually just there for visual texture.

The three major elements of this collage are the fox drawing, the owl drawing, and the diploma text. I completed a few layers of background collage before I added any of the main elements. Once they were glued on and the glue was dry (actually, not glue, but Liquitex matte gel medium) I colored the fox and owl with acrylic washes. Then I added more collage, more washes (sometimes including washes of white gesso to push things back, detail pencil work, and, finally, the glass cabochons.

Speaking of the glass cabochons, actually using the big cut glass piece on top was a real challenging decision. I've had it for a few years and I can't get another. So I had to assure myself that the piece was worthy of it and, after some thought, it passed that test.

So what do I like about this piece?

Well, first the concept because the meaning is special to me, being connected to my book and starring one of my very favorite animals, a fox.

Second, I really like the drawings of the fox and owl.

I'm very fond of the pale colors and the palette itself. This is a piece with colors I don't use on a regular basis.

I like the spiritual feeling of it,

and the composition of values.

I like all the fussy tiny pencil detail, especially around the edge of the colored part, and it was really fun to do. I love that stuff!

And - I like the silver paint I used. I've been convinced for a while now that I didn't have a good silver paint. But I used by Golden fluid silver and found that I liked it. That splotch below the owl and to the left of the fox is a smear of silver. I also splattered silver here and there. And the edge of the piece is a finger smear of silver. ('Finger smear,' you may ask. Yes, I dip the tip of my finger into the paint then run my finger along the edge of the painting.)

That's a long list of things I like. And I guess that's another reason in itself. I like that I like so many things about it!

Doing a piece of collage that I really like sometimes makes me wonder about my decision to focus on writing and illustrating. But focusing doesn't mean doing something exclusively. I treat the week days as my work days so spend that time on writing and illustrating. Often it spills over into the weekends. But if I have another art project that I really want to do, I just work on it on Saturdays and Sundays. It seems to work for me.

I'd love to hear from you, dear readers. Perhaps you can share your favorite piece. I'd love to see it!

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