Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Believe in Impossible Things

Just popping in from my year-end blogging break to post a recent journal page that qualifies for entry in this week's challenge over at Three Muses: "Queen of Hearts."  I hope everyone's holiday was filled with laughter, light, family, and friends.  Onward to the new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Taking a Wee Break

I've been doing so much better about posting regularly here at Lost Coast Post but as the holiday craziness shifts into overdrive, I've realized that, ironically, I actually need to take a wee break to stay on track.  I'll be taking a break until January 1st so I can spend some time in the studio, visit family, and gather material for future blog posts.  I'm having my 10th surgery on January 7th so I'll be working to write entries that can auto-post during my recovery.  There's lots to do before then so I need a bit of an electronic timeout.  This will ensure that I can be on top of it in the future.  Hope that makes sense...I wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday season and I'll see you in this space again when the calendar flips to 2013! 
x0x0 -  Michelle

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Finding My Center

Quickie post today as I am off doing exactly what this journal page suggests.  I need some uninterrupted studio time to counterbalance the chaos of the season and my life's particular peculiarities.  I hope, no matter how busy your days, that you all are finding time for art.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meet Bramble

I've been posting a lot of journal pages lately (and I do work in my journals a lot!) but, behind the scenes, I've also been furiously practicing my illustration skills.  In general, this means I've been working on increasing the range of facial expressions and body positions I can render.  I practice with all types of creatures, from doe-eyed girls to funky robots, but the one character I've devoted the most attention to is a little fox kit named Bramble.

I first started drawing Bramble back in 2010, although at that point he didn't yet have a name.  In fact, I wasn't even sure if he was a he!  This first scan is from my sketchbook in 2010 showing the initial incarnations of what was to become Bramble.  At this point, I was just working on trying to get the fox coloring right, tentatively testing out a few poses and trying to decide what type of face I wanted.

Here's a scan of Bramble illustrations from this past week.  Note how the face has evolved into something a bit more realistic while still retaining that whimsical quality.  I've settled on the type of eyes I want to use and I am starting to practice different facial expressions to see how much emotion I can convey with Bramble's features.

I've been so enamored with Bramble that he was one of the first characters I rendered in my love of the past year, clay sculpture.  This picture of my Bramble sculpture marks the first time I've ever shown a picture of my clay work here at Lost Coast Post.  I've kept this new avenue of artistic exploration a secret for almost a year now as I allowed myself to experiment and play without the pressure of an audience.    I find working with clay to be incredibly satisfying and engaging, perhaps more so than any other medium.  There's something quite delightful about having a 2-D concept spring to life beneath one's fingertips.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just Checking In

As my son finishes up his fall semester at college and I prep for teaching tomorrow while doing some household chores, I'm quickly popping in to post another journal page and to say that I'll be back in this space on Monday.  I need a wee break to settle down some holiday and generic life busyness...tis the season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Watercolor Wednesday: Painty Pointers

Last week, Krys asked what brand of watercolors I use and whether or not it really matters which brand you choose.  That's an excellent place to begin our in-depth discussion of watercolors.  First, let's look at a simplified formula:

Pigment (whatever makes the color) + Binder (something to hold it together) = Paint

Generally speaking, the quality and type of pigment determines the price of the paint.  In fine art supplies, the old saying applies: you get what you pay for.  Cheaper paints are cheaper because manufacturers use less expensive pigments to deliver color.  However, does that mean you have to buy the best of the best to get great color in your watercolor work?  My answer: No way!  For everyday watercolor playtime, I say that anything goes!

I use a wide variety of watercolor brands and formulations, from cheapie pan paints to high-end tube watercolors.  The Koi brand of watercolors, either in tube or pan form, is a great option for paint that is better than student grade but not as pricey as professional grade paints and it is one I would recommend.  (For work you want to sell, I suggest using professional-grade paints since they are far less fugitive (fade-prone) than the cheaper versions.)

You can can get great color from even the cheapest of watercolors if you know how to work the color up out of the binder, especially when using pan (or hard) watercolors.  So how do you go about doing that?  Take a look...

Wet your brush and put a couple drops of water onto the pan of watercolor. The pan should be damp, not drowning in water.  Work that water into the pan until the color clings to your brush like cream.  Add water a drop at a time if it seems too dry.  (I love white-bristled nylon brushes because they let me see how much color I have on the brush.)  I don't add any more water until I get the color onto the paper.  Once I get a nice, thick portion of paint loaded onto my brush, I add the paint to my paper, wash my brush, and use clean water to start pushing the color around.  You can use this same method with cheap tube watercolors as well.  Remember cheaper watercolors mean less pigment so if you add too much water, you are diluting that pigment even more.

Look at the difference in color brilliance when using far less water to get the paint up out of the pan.  Example 1 uses a "typical" amount of water and if you want a pretty pastel look, then that's how to proceed.  If you want more intense color, however, use a lot less water initially.  This is how I begin my bright and colorful watercolor backgrounds.  Next week, I'll detail how I blend colors without getting mud.  Stay tuned and keep those questions coming!     

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Reminder

I have fallen down a lot in my life (who hasn't?).  Sometimes, due to a weird cocktail of health issues, my body has simply crumpled beneath me.  Other times, I've fallen by neglecting life commitments or making bad decisions.  However, the real trick, the part where character is born and triumph begins, is in getting back up, even if it seems impossible, even if it feels more comfortable to just give up and lie in the dirt.  Some days I just rise to my knees but damn it!  That's upward momentum!

The phoenix has been part of my personal artistic lexicon for about six years now.  The cycle of rising and falling is inevitable but in the rising, we can be glorious, no matter how hard & ugly the fall.  This journal page is a simple, graphic reminder of that truth.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Randomness

Hello Monday!  Today, I just have a quick, random sampling of studio mischief including a journal page...

...another finished daily diary (whew! these get thick!) and...

...painted canvas as inspired and guided by the lovely Roben-Marie Smith in her class Clutch Play!  I'm waiting on appropriately-sized zippers to make the actual clutch but in the meantime, I did sew up an over-the-shoulder bag out of the canvas you see there on top.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Leaping at the Urging of Inner Whispers

You may well be looking at a vanishing breed from my journals: the page created from found images.  In the course of working on this journal, "Unexpected Convergences," I've had myself a bit of an epiphany: I really want to focus on creating my own imagery whether it be painting, drawing, photos, or photocopies of old journal pages.  I have a couple of journals (such as the ongoing "World Within") in which I am more comfortable using found images but generally speaking, I feel this deep pull towards the pictures in my own head.

This is not a new goal but rather one I've been steadily working towards over the past few years.  I've long felt that collaging with found images is just not my thing; I never amassed a huge image collection like some and every completely collaged page for me is almost without exception, agonizing to create.  Painted pages, on the other hand, seem to flow out of my heart & soul like liquid mercury.  Those pages feel like friends; I simply don't have that type of attachment to pages that rely totally on images from outside sources.

I must admit to being a tad worried about how my audience here will respond to a sudden switcheroo in the focus of my work.  Maybe people come here to see more "mainstream" work.  (I do think collaging with found or purchased material is more the norm in art journaling although painting & drawing is surging in popularity as more people discover & trust their innate imaginations and art abilities.)  I tend to get the most comments when I post something collaged so I question how many will stick around if I change things up.

Ultimately though, and no offense intended, my journaling isn't about outsiders.  To be honest and authentic, I have to follow those inner whispers that are pushing me to make the leap.  I do hope you all will accompany me as I jump...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Journal Pages & Questions Answered

I thought I'd take today to share some more journal pages (all of these feature photos I've taken) as well as answer a couple of questions that have drifted my way in the comments.

Krys from Second Sunday asked the ever-popular question: what pen is best to use over acrylics?

Here's the deal:  acrylics actually need time to cure, not just dry.  Unless I'm using a liquid paint pen (such as the Sharpie water-based paint markers) or Sumi ink (which dries on the surface of the paint) I try to wait several hours before writing over acrylics with any hard-tipped pen.  Dry to the touch just isn't good enough.  Otherwise, the pen tip digs into the thin layer of dried paint and encounters pen-ruining damp paint.  It doesn't seem to matter if the layers are super thin; if I don't wait, I'll need to buy another pen.  However, if I'm patient, I find that I can use any permanent, water-based pen such as Microns, Sharpies, and my favorite, Bic Mark-its.  (Another great justification for having multiple journals going at the same time.)

Sandra from Sandra's Vintage Heart asked about the water-to-reinker ratio when I make my own spray inks.  In one of the standard small spray bottles (Target's sample/travel size section is a great place to get these), I use about 75% distilled water to about 60 drops from the reinker.  Shake well and do a test spray on white paper.  If it seems too weak, add ten drops at a time until you get the color intensity you desire.  Why the distilled water?  I'm not terribly picky about archival and acid-free; a little bit of research into book conservation will tell you that such labels are really just marketing ploys.  However, using distilled water means you won't be saturating your journal with any impurities that could be in your tap water.

As far as the reinkers I like...any bright colors from Ranger work well and I also like the Nick Bantock colors (also made by Ranger I believe.)  I'm not sure if the latter are still in production but maybe if you search the 'net...

I also use a lot of liquid watercolors straight from the bottle.  This is a terribly fugitive (fading) form of watercolor but journals aren't normally exposed to constant light so it isn't as much of a worry for journal work.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Watercolor Wednesday: Brush Play

In future weeks, I plan on diving a bit deeper into the specifics of watercolor (such as paper, paints, techniques and so on) but my best recommendation for improving your watercolor work is to play with abandon!  Swirl a brush around and get a feel for how differently-shaped brushes perform.  Test out a round brush by painting circles and swirls; make grids with flat brushes.

I'm keeping a small notebook just for these kinds of experiments and at the end of the day, when I'm tired and unfocused, I pull out the watercolors and let the color wander.  Pay attention to how the paint dashes into wet areas and how it pulls up short when encountering dry paper.  (This is an important quality of watercolor that we can manipulate to our advantage.)

Also, now's the time to toss any questions you may have my way so I can get a feel for what everyone might want to learn.  Blogging is so much easier with interaction between blogger and readers!  Anyway, leave your questions on this post (or any other Watercolor Wednesday post) and I'll use those questions to shape my "lessons."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Embracing Play

I have to say that if there's one thing I like doing the most in my journals (and the thing I think is really, truly, uniquely "me") it's drawing and painting little creatures and characters.  In fact, every time one of these critters appears at the end of my brush, I think "I need to do this a lot more often!"  It is deeply satisfying and these pages always shoot to the top of my favorites list.  I have a sense that inside, I am filled to the brim with an entire cast of whimsical misfits, all just waiting to be turned loose onto a page or canvas.

So why don't I throw open the floodgates and let the cartoon horde populate my work more often?  That, my dears, is a question I am constantly asking myself.  It is almost as if I hesitate to give myself permission to really play, that I forget that art journaling can be anything I make of it and if party foxes and pink flamingos appear, well then, that is just simply meant to be.  Let this be the lesson for today: shut out all the naysaying voices, the wretched inner critics, and the nagging doubts.  Your art, whatever form it takes, needs only make you happy.  Let go.  Accept joy.  Embrace whimsy.  (Or the dark stuff if need be.  It is all a part of life.)  Celebrate artistic freedom.  Time is limited so begin now!  It is never too late. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Pages

Happy Monday everyone!

Here's a couple more pages from the new journal I've been working in lately.  This Dylusions journal alternates between bundles of white drawing paper and bundles of manila heavyweight cardstock so in order to hurry up and get through the first section of drawing paper (I'm not a fan), I folded the last page in the bundle in half.  Varying the page sizes and edges are an excellent way to add interest to a journal.  I need to remember to do it much more often!

Both the girl and the houses are rendered in watercolor by using a layer of absorbent ground over collaged map paper.  Watercolor on absorbent ground moves in wild ways so it is best to embrace this unpredictability.  Absorbent ground is a great tool for adding watercolor work in journals with otherwise watercolor unfriendly paper.  As you can see, I was able to paint the houses in watercolor (with AquaMarker accents) while having an acrylic background.
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