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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Painting Light - or Trying

I greatly admire those artists who skillfully paint the effects of light. I am not one of those artists and I must admit that I seldom try. But recently I did try twice - to not very good results. But I suppose trying is the first step towards succeeding. 

This is one of my illustrations for a book I'm working on, A Milkweed Christmas 2020, and here are Audrey the badger and Gwen her daughter, making Audrey's renowned herbed potato rolls for the community's Christmas pot luck. It will accompany the recipe for the rolls.

When I thought I was finished I took another look and realized there was no indication that the inside of the sett (badger burrow) would be in shadow. So I added the blue-gray transparent wash on the right side. It could have been better done. I think it should be less blue. Also, the near side of the trees should be darker. Well, at least I tried!

When I'm done with all the illustrations I'll probably go back and work more on those I'm not very happy with, and this one will be on the list.  It's a shame really because I liked the drawing a lot.

And here's the other example - last weekend's just-for-fun 8"x10" painting (acrylic on board). This little jumping goat made me think of the cow that jumped over the moon. The near side of the goat and the tail should be a lot darker. I don't think I'll change this one, though. The point of these paintings is to work quickly, not obsess, and have fun!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Renewal in the Garden

It's been a productive week for working on my books - both writing and illustrating - and today I finished my little painting for the weekend. But this time, instead of writing about any of that, I'm writing about the wonderful feeling of renewal that working in my garden gives me.

After working a few hours a day for the past three weeks, the garden is successfully 'tucked in.' 

The roses are pruned, the clippings are in the compost pile, the dead leaves are raked up and removed, and, best of all, they all have a new layer of about 3" of compost. Actually, it would be more accurate to say 'well-rotted horse manure' - the work of my sister's horse Merlin, the heat, cold, and rain, and all the worms and little microbes who've been so busy over the past year.

It's funny, but I get really enthusiastic shoveling that horse manure from the pile into the wheelbarrow, then out of the wheelbarrow and around the roses. The texture is perfect! And it feels like I'm putting a warm blanket around the bushes. 'Good night, little roses! Sleep tight and renew your strength for a spring, summer, and fall of beautiful blooms.

My next task with them will be to add epsom salts to the base of each bush when the new growth is about 2" long.

The chrysanthemums and dahlias are tucked into a deep layer of oak leaves. The dahlias are sleeping peacefully, but the mums just won't quit! When I cut them back in November and December, the new growth had already started. That's just the way the are! As you can see, the ducks and chicken (the black bird further back) approve.

Meanwhile, Merlin, whose area abuts the garden, is ignoring me. This would be quite different if the garden were green and I were pruning. In that case, he's have his nose pressed against the fence hoping for a treat. Rose blossoms are his favorite!

But I was going to write about renewal. Well, as I've mentioned, the plants are resting and renewing. But for me, every time I work in the garden is a renewal. There's always something different, even if only minutely so. Always work to do. Always the promise of things to come. It's soothing, and also inspiring to witness the strength of life.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Just Going For It

This is the third of my weekly just-for-fun paintings. They're acrylic, 8" x 10". My goal is to not think about it very much and not make a separate drawing first - to just go for it. And that's what I did with this one.

I looked through my old swipe file of magazine clippings collected over the years and found this little great horned owlet. The lighting really appealed to me. I decided to use black rather than white gesso, then lightly drew the owl with white charcoal pencil.

It had been a while since I last used my stencils so I got the file out, looked through it, and chose two. By the way, I made these stencils by drawing the black and white designs then creating the stencils on my Cricut machine - a handy little treasure that connects to your computer and maps the design into a cutting pattern, and, voila - a stencil!

There was not 'logical' reason for using the stencil - just wanted to. I used acrylics in two blue shades and one lavender and varied the color by pouncing my brush into the different colors before cleaning the brush. Also, working wet-in-wet blends the colors. If I were looking for a 'reason' for the stencil background, I guess I'd say the owl is against the backdrop of the tapestry of the night sky. The light blue dots could be interpreted as stars.

Here's the first layer. I included this photo because I wanted you to see how far I got with the initial painting session. And also to share a discovery. At this point, I needed to do a bit more drawing and picked up the white charcoal pencil. I liked the effect of the charcoal pencil over the paint! So I got out my pastel pencils and added quite a bit of detail. My plan was to spray the pastel pencil layer with workable fixatif. But when I did so, much of the pastel pencil detail was lost - perhaps dissolved. But it still showed some and I felt it was worthwhile.

From here, I added painted details, then dark blue washes around the edges of the background.

The finishing touch was a narrow 'frame' of glass bead gel over the entire edge, except not over where the owl touches the edge. I put the gel on with my fingertip. When the gel dried, it left the little glass bumps of the beads which I ran my finger - dipped in silver paint - over the tops of for a little sparkle.

This was definitely a for fun painting!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A Frog's Take on Mindfulness

I'm working on the first draft of my sequel to Tales of Love and Courage from Milkweed Manor. It's called Dark Days at Milkweed Manor.

The frogs at Three Frogs Hollow are giving a pond party, and this excerpt is from conversation between the frogs and a party guest. I'm not sure what inspired this, but perhaps all the current references to 'mindfulness' had something to do with it. Enjoy!

The party was in full swing. The guests clumped in small groups enjoying the delicacies piled on their buffet plates as well as lively conversation. As Lucy, the younger muskrat, approached Burt and Buzz, two of the frog hosts, she realized they were earnestly discussing the benefits of mindlessness.

“Mindlessness? Don’t you mean ‘mindfulness?’” she queried.

“Oh, no, dear! It’s mindlessness that we find so beneficial,” Buzz asserted.

Lucy looked puzzled. “Well, what do you think mindlessness means? Perhaps I’m misinformed!” Lucy doubted she was confused, but it seemed a polite response.

“A state of mindlessness means that one minds less about things. That, of course, makes life more enjoyable!” answered Buzz, barely suppressing a roll of his bulging eyes.

“And what about ‘mindfulness?’”

Burt broke in. “Not good. When one’s mind is full there isn’t room left to think things through properly.”

“Good to know!.” Lucy graciously bowed her head slightly. “Oh, I see my friend has just arrived. Excuse me!”