Thursday, January 31, 2013

None but the Lonely Hearts

Almost done showing the pages from this mini-journal of portraits I created last weekend.  After tomorrow, it's back to our regularly scheduled programming...maybe.  I loved this project!  From the crickets chirping in the comments section this week, it seems perhaps that everyone is either awestruck or matter.  I let my journaling take whatever twist and/or turn it needs to fulfill my desire for expression, play, or practice.  Sometimes that means lots of bright colors and happy, cartoonish characters and sometimes that means kooky, plain jane black & white drawings.  When I feel my soul do a little happy dance, I know I've hit the mark.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Of Strong Chins and Fabulous Facial Hair

While this journal is titled "A Dipper Full of Stars," it might also be nicknamed "A Gathering of Strong Chins." *lol*  Sometimes it is difficult to ignore obvious mistakes but I've actually managed not to cover up or redo anything in this journal; that is a refreshing change of pace that makes me think I need to do a lot more work in permanent ink.

I prefer drawing male portraits as they seem to have so much more personality.  And while I try not to play favorites amongst my drawings, I am particularly fond of this portrait.  What a dapper gentleman and a mighty fine moustache!  I also like how the framing turned out: simple but seems to tell a story.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mary Munro and Romanze

For some strange reason, I discovered that it is harder for me to do contour portraits of women than men.  It seems that the chins always get overemphasized and while that looks OK (even handsome) on a man, it's not so flattering on a woman.  Oh well...these portraits are done with waterproof sumi ink that's been loaded into a Pentel Aquash brush so there's no going back once that black line goes down on the paper.  I am courting spontaneity and silliness here so going with the flow is all part of the game.

I did want to tie all my portraits together so each one has the same dot stencilling in the background and some little feature of the portrait is highlighted with red colored pencil.  Of course the red, white, cream, black, gold, and silver color scheme is also repeated throughout.

And if you've visited my Flickr set lately and if you're counting, this makes 40 characters completed so far in my quest to create 365 somethings in 2013.  I'm ahead of the game (which is really the only way I know how to manage such a challenge.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cleansing the Palette

Early last week, I was hit with the realization that lately, my journaling practice was feeling "ho hum," "been there, done that," and worse yet, completely unfufilling...pretty but boring.  Admittedly, post-surgery & winter blues were contributing to this assessment but I also felt a kernel of truth existed and so I set out to reinvigorate my journaling.

As you might realize, most of my journaling is drenched in candy shoppe colors: hot pink, bright orange, electric teal, citrus yellow, and lime green.  I love this particular color combination but it only represents one part of my internal landscape.  I am also deeply drawn to a more monochromatic palette and after some introspection, I realized I had been neglecting this aspect of my personality.

I looked around me for inspiration:  a book on Edward Gorey I'd discovered in a used bookstore, Mary Ann Moss's recent sketch portraits (scroll to the end of her post), and my own previous limited palette work.  I pulled down a simple journal made from a single piece of watercolor paper (a la Teesha Moore).  I collect papers and supplies in certain themes so all I had to do next is pull out the overflowing "red & black" box and begin to play.  No time wasted gathering!

All this week, I'll be showing pages from this mini journal that has singlehandedly reignited my passion for journaling.  Here's some important observations that I've made while working on this project.
  • Sometimes it is OK to take a 180 degree turn from the usual and the expected.
  • It is important to listen when your internal GPS tells you to make that hard right turn.
  • I like short journals that can be completed in a couple of days to no more than a couple weeks.  I need that sense of closure.
  • Spontaneity is essential.  By nature, I am an extreme planner.  However, unpredictabilty brings balance.  I think that often a sense of unease signals that something is out of balance, be it physical or emotional or artistic!
  • I love contour portraits! Every portrait is this book was made with sumi ink while looking at a photograph or engraving.  No do-overs or erasing!
  • I like telling little visual stories that may or may not represent anything about me or my life. 
  • The limited palette (black, white, cream, red, gold, silver) feels cleansing and refreshing...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Be Courageous

Here's another character for my 365 in 2013 project!  I think it takes a lot of guts to wear red & white polka dots with bright yellow feathers!

Don't forget to visit my 365/2013 Flickr set to see all the characters I create this year.  I may or may not blog about them all...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Stylized Feather How-To

Since birds seem to be the common thread running through this week's posts, I thought that I'd use this Watercolor Wednesday to post a small tutorial on painting stylized feathers.

Step One:  I used a quarter-inch wide flat brush to paint the feather shaft in Payne's gray, twisting the brush as I moved from the base/quill of the feather to the tip which creates a line that changes from thick to thin.  Let this dry...

Step Two:  Using a round brush, paint two halves of a pointy oval to form the actual feather (called vanes.)  You can use the same color for both halves or two different colors as I did.  Notice the bloom on the purple half?  That's because I didn't wait until the shaft was completely dry.  I actually like (and encourage) the unpredictability of watercolor so the bloom doesn't bother me.  To exert more control over watercolor, be patient and let each step dry before moving on.  Just be prepared for harder lines as the watercolor is unable to move freely across the paper without wetness.

Step Three:  While the feather painting was still wet, I dropped in two more colors at the base of the vanes to add some depth of color.  Let this dry completely before moving on...

Step Four:  Using a very small round brush or liner brush, paint diagonal lines to represent the barbs of the feather.  You can make this tone-on-tone (ie. dark purple over a lighter purple) or you can use white acrylic ink or a contrasting watercolor.  In addition, use the liner brush and pale Payne's gray to paint the downy bits found at the base of the feather.

This basic feather painting formula is easily modified and customized to create a wide variety of different looks.  Play around!  This exercise is an excellent way to practice brush handling skills as well as color blending.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

With Patience, Something Finally Manifests

I've struggled a bit with journaling recently probably because I've been distracted by post-surgery healing.  It took me two weeks, 17 steps, and lots of patience to go from this:

to this...
Once I got going though, I discovered an entire flock of odd birds inside me, waiting to be born so prepare yourselves for bird pages all week long.  I need to be getting back to work for my ongoing show, "The Motley Menagerie," so this is a perfect way to make my journals support my other art projects.  More than likely, these birds will end up on canvas in one form or another...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Care & Feeding of Your Paint Brushes

If there's one thing I seem to be constantly buying, it's paint brushes.  Besides the fact that I can't resist a fresh brush, I tend to be extremely hard on my brushes, especially when it comes to acrylic painting work.  I thought that today I would pass along some brush care tips...
Keep brushes for watercolor and brushes for acrylics separate.  Watercolor work really demands a nice soft brush that can hold lots of water; brushes used for acrylics usually end up being anything but soft and pliable.  I wrap colored electrical tape around the handles of my brushes reserved for watercolor.

Try not to clean brushes by smashing them on the bottom of your water cup.  (Do as I say, not as I do.)  Once those those bristles get crimped, there's no going back.  Detail brushes are especially fragile.

Acrylic paint likes to accumulate at the base of the ferrule (the metal piece that attaches the bristles to the handle).  The paint gradually builds up until the brush is hard as a rock.  When cleaning, pay particular attention to this area.  Many times, a brush will seem clean but when you press on the base of the bristles, paint will come oozing out.

I use foaming hand soap to clean my acrylic brushes, working the brush into the soap in my hand and repeating until the foam stays uncolored.  I have found that this soap works as good, if not better, than any commercial brush cleaner.

After cleaning, gently reshape the bristles and let the brush air dry.

Don't let brushes soak in water overnight.  This loosens the glue that keeps the brush and bristles together.

Save "useless" brushes for serendipity mark-making, dry brushing, and even lettering.  The ends of brush handles are great for making perfect dots and the entire handle can be loaded with paint and used to stamp "grunge-y" lines on a journal page or canvas.  Ruined brushes (especially with interesting blobs of dried paint on the bristles) can also be used as hangers for artwork.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Making It Visible

Healing from surgery has taken a slight detour as I triggered a severe flare of tendonitis in my left wrist from using crutches.  Art-making has been occuring in gentle, slow units of time.  I am continuing to work in this landscape-oriented watercolor pad...loving the unique size and shape!  More characters here towards my 365 in 2013 goal!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Character Creation Machine Marches Onward

Character creating continues as I plow ahead towards my goal of 365 drawn, painted, sewn, or sculpted characters in 2013.  It should be noted that I am not setting a numerical goal for each week as my health really dictates that I simply take each day as it comes.  I'm just going to see how many characters I managed to create come December 31st.  Be it 365, 251, 57 or 30 characters, I'm going to be happy that I took the time to honor my imagination's desires.

This first set of characters was inspired by an activity in Carla Sonheim's Drawing & Painting Imaginary Animals.  I began with small collages of old book pages and then brushed on some absorbent ground.  I followed this up with ink, watercolor, water-soluble pencils and standard colored pencils.

And here come the robots!  If you don't already know from previous blog posts, I'm crazy for creating robots so it should be no great surprise that a new fleet of robots has wandered into this challenge.  These little mechanical men make 18 characters created so far.  Pictures, including close-ups of all the characters I create this year, are being collected in a special set over at my Flickr photostream.  For easiest assess to this set, click the 365/2013 logo at the top of the blog sidebar and you'll instantly be deposited in the middle of all the critters, characters, and creatures emerging from my brain for this yearlong challenge.

Note: Watercolor Wednesday will resume next week...stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sculpture in Miniature

The new school semester begins in February and I'll be seeing three new groups of middle school kids for the Friday art classes I teach.  That means a lot of lesson planning and sample-making between now and then.  Luckily, many of those samples will count towards my goal of 365 character creations in 2013.

One of my classes for the spring semester is titled "Sculpture in Miniature."  It's an exploration of sculpture in paper, wood, wire, clay, and found objects with each project focused on creations no more than 6 inches tall.  This is partly to conserve materials but also because I discovered in a past sculpture class that students seem to love the small-scale projects best since they yielded results the kids could easily carry around and show off.  Here you see four of my tiny clay "totem" sculptures; the fox's tail comes in at just under 2 inches high!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Scribbling Up a Storm

My wounded foot propped up on a pile of pillows, I am slowly recovering from last Monday's surgery.  While confined to the couch, I am watching lots of science fiction and working through Carla Sonheim's wonderful book, Drawing & Painting Imaginary Animals.  I started this project last fall but it got waylaid with the onset of the winter holidays.  Recuperating, it seems, is a perfect time to doodle and color all sorts of wild creatures.
I adore many things about this book.  First, the material is in depth; this isn't a pretty but shallow eye candy tome.  Secondly, there is a wide variety of activities, perfect to suit many moods.  If you want to paint, there are projects to satisfy that itch.  If you want to get down and dirty with fancy coloring or build critters through collage, there's guidance for that too.  Just want to wander a ball point pen across the page and see what springs to life in a scribble of black line?  You'll find all of that and more in this book.  All of the projects spark the imagination and bring the sketchbook to life with all manner of silly and curious-looking creatures.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Small Obsession

During my little blog break between Christmas eve and New Year's Day, I threw myself, wholly and enthusiastically, into studio play time.  I don't often get long stretches of unscheduled time but when I do, I like to catch up on tasks that generate tools and supplies to use in future projects.  So, for example, I might spend a couple days just making serendipity papers for future journal work.
Another task I love to get lost in is stamp carving.  As I watched Christmas movies, sipped coffee, and felt the knots in my shoulders melt away, I carved some new stamps.  And as I was carving, I had a random thought: "I wonder how many stamps I've carved so far over the past several years."

That thought distracted me until I could satisfy my curiosity.  So I dragged out every single stamp I've ever carved and proceeded to take pictures.  At first, I thought I'd try to get them all in one shot but that rapidly became obviously unrealistic.

I love carving stamps!  I tend to work in series:  I've carved animals, topiaries, stamps for journaling, a entire neighborhood of house stamps, and background stamps (my favorite.)  Hand-carved stamps are an excellent way to add your own unique mark to your work.

And by the way, the count so far is 230 and counting...

Note:  Watercolor Wednesday will return when I'm feeling a little better and can sit in the studio to develop new material...haven't forgotten about it...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

365/2013: Character Play

My biggest decision for my 365 in 2013 project was where to contain the drawn & painted characters created throughout the year (the sculpted or sewn ones will just hang out with me in the studio.)  In the end, I think my project work will be spread out over a few journals & notebooks; I'll just do what feels natural.  No sense in making things too complicated.  Characters 2 through 8 were created in a 6-inch by 18-inch cold press watercolor notebook.  I like the landscape layout and heavyweight paper; I'll be treating this like a really long journal that just happens to be populated by a bunch of odd characters, critters, and creatures.  Here's some close-up shots:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Surgery Today

The next few days worth of blog posts were written last week as today I am out having my third foot surgery for fibromatosis.  Along with Kienbock's Disease in both wrists, I have fibromatosis in both my hands & feet and today's procedure marks my 10th surgery overall.  So probably by the time you read this, I'll be tucked into the couch, foot up on pillows, pain meds coursing through my veins, and a string of good movies queued up on Netflix.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How To Complete a 365 Challenge

So I committed myself to drawing, painting, sewing, and/or sculpting 365 characters in 2013.  Like iHanna, who proposed this idea, the minute after I announced this project on my blog, I thought "Yikes!  Now what?!  Is that even really possible?"  So I began brainstorming ideas on what it will take for me (and perhaps others) to have a chance at following through with 365 in 2013.
  • First and foremost, I wouldn't attempt this sort of challenge if I wasn't already firmly rooted in creating every day.  If you haven't already developed a "create each day" habit, then make that your 365 goal.  That is a challenge just by itself.
  • If you do want to focus on something specific, keep it small
  • Define what counts as work for the challenge.  Work-in progress?  Finished works only? What medium will you focus on?  Give yourself options with broad definitions.  For example, could it "count," if you worked on collages for seven days but in actuality, only completed three?
  • Allow yourself to do other things.  I'm willing to bet most of us are "dabblers," so don't let challenge work take over your creative time (unless you really want to be that focused.)
  • If blogging about your efforts, think about how you will document your progress.  Will you post weekly?  Monthly?  Will you open a special folder at Flickr and refer readers to that when you've added new work?  Make this part as easy as possible; keep your focus on your studio efforts. 
  • Take the challenge a month at a time.  Forget that you said you'd do this for a year.
  • Understand that you probably won't work on the challenge every day.  Some weeks you'll do more; some weeks you'll do less.  
  • Put aside any thoughts of "being behind" or "catching up."  It isn't a race.
  • Be prepared for days or weeks at a time where doubt looms large.  The trick to defeating doubt is...
  • DON'T FOCUS ON THE NUMBER!  This might seem like a paradox since you just signed yourself up to make 365 of something.  However, the true point of the challenge is NOT how much you make but that you 1) have fun, 2) explore a medium in-depth, and 3) work consistently.  These three guidelines are the "cake" of this challenge and having 365 of something merely the cherry on top.  Notice that "have fun" is number one!
  • Push through any creative dry spells; there's great value in learning how to overcome perceived creative blocks.  If, however, you are consistently miserable, consider ending the challenge with your head held high.  If you don't want to give up altogether, then take a break for a week or two.  See how you feel.  Do you miss the challenge or are you breathing a sigh of relief?
  • Don't worry about what others might think if you don't reach 365.  Work until you feel fulfilled.
  • Gather a cheering section!  Support fellow 365ers.  Speak out when you are feeling like quitting.  Sometimes a few "You can do this!" comments make all the difference.
  • Think about what you will do with 365 of something (or 253, 60, or even 15).  That's a lot of stuff to store so have a plan for the aftermath of this challenge.  Give stuff away, trade, sell, display, repurpose.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Art Goals for 2013

Every year, I make and document a bunch of resolutions, both for my art and my everyday life.  Looking back, I've actually done pretty well in keeping those resolutions.  I think the simple act of writing down a few wishes and goals for the new year helps plant the seeds of change and growth that eventually blossom even if not directly nurtured.  Here's my art goals for 2013:
  • Monthly artist dates:  This has been on my resolution list for the last couple of years and this year is the year for this...I can feel it!
  • Continue to blog at least 3 to 4 days a week.  I've been doing pretty good with this one so I want to keep it up.
  • More: sewing/fabric, painting, illustration, sculpture; Less: Journaling.  Sometimes, I feel like I get so caught up in art journaling that I run out of time for other things.  I need my journals to support my other interests more.
  • Have a gigantic show in October.  I've become a regular at a local venue and the place is huge!  I could easily hang 75 small to medium pieces but the most I've ever hung was 33 because I always wait too late in the year to begin work. However, this year I already have a theme in place (The Motley Menagerie) so I have high hopes that I can rock that space come October.
  • Tackle the 365 in 2013 project originated by iHanna.  I intend to try and create 365 characters, drawn, sewn, painted, or sculpted.  This will be my underlying focus throughout the year.
  • Write 15 minutes per day, 3 times a week.  I have a specific, personal creative writing project that I am working on...mostly in my mind.  I'd like to build a regular writing habit. 
  • Here's the biggest goal of all:  USE WHAT I HAVE!!!!  I want to limit my spending to books and the occasional online class.  Finances have become terribly shaky in recent months and I need to basically eliminate spending on art supplies.  I already have a wealth of supplies at my disposal so the tough part will be defeating the urge to have all the latest and greatest.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Beginning the Next 365 with a New (Insane) Project in Mind

Happy, happy new year to you all!  I love this date as it is ripe with possibilities, hope and ideas.  And my idea for 2013 is a big one, something I hope to have a cheering section for because it is going to take everything I have to make thought reality.

I blame the lovely iHanna for planting this notion in my head.  It seems simple enough at first blush: Create 365 of something in 2013; iHanna is focusing on collage but this project is fully customizable to each brave individual that answers the call.  Further contemplation reveals a daunting task.  Historically, I don't last long in these types of challenges but there is much to be learned in the attempt.

So I am putting out there on this first glorious day of the new year:  I intend to create 365 Characters in 2013.  Here's the why and what of this declaration. 

In 2012, I began to swing my focus towards honing my illustration & storytelling skills; I see that focus sharpening in 2013.  Illustration can take many forms: drawing, painting, soft sculpture in fabric or hard sculpture in clay.  However I choose to bring a character to life, I hope that each one will be able to tell a wee visual story.

My characters will be human, humanoid, creature or critter.  No doubt a smattering of robots will appear.  Many of these characters will be created in the course of other projects such as teaching samples or work for a show.  Many more will be created "just because."

I am not setting a weekly goal for myself because I know my life too well.  Basically, I'm going to launch myself towards the number "365" and see how far I get.

And since today marks the beginning of this crazy adventure, my first character is out on safari, exploring the jungles of the unknown.  I drew and colored her head and then drew and detailed 10 other pieces to construct her body.  Basically, this is grown-up paper doll work.
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