Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where My Heart Is At

Oh, you thought the stampede of watercolor monsters was over, right?  I think I'm actually just getting started...

I'm discovering that the task of documenting and presenting all the characters is more of a challenge than creating the characters themselves.  There are pictures to be taken, edited, and uploaded.  I update my character count as I get the photos added to my computer.

As for this particular book of monsters, there's more to come which I'm sure will elicit either a "Yay!" or a sigh from my readers.  If I'm to stay authentic here at LCP, I have to show you where my heart is at and right now, my heart is in love with weird creatures and critters.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2013 Millennia Mail Art Swap {Phase 4}

This winter I am warming up my mailbox by participating in a very unique mail art swap with an amazing group of ladies.  This swap is a twist on a project facilitated by Tofu.  A bundle of seven manila postcards were mailed out, each card broken into sections.  Each person in the swap round robin works on a piece of each card and then mails the entire group onward to the next person.  Here are the swap cards after I completed my sections.

Tofu's card; theme "Trees and Leaves" - I added a little leaf drifting on top of a background of leaf-like paint daubs.
Hanna's card; theme "Pink" - Added a piece of painted book page edged with lace and pink polka-dotted washi tapes.
Natasha's card; theme "Ocean" - Attached a piece of hand-painted book page that reminded me of ocean waves.
 My card; theme "Wonderland" - To my own card, I added a small collage of Wonderland ephemera.
Roben-Marie's card; theme "Circles, Dots & Doodles" - Here I added a piece of book page with painted purple circles that I further embellished with gel pens.
Tammy's card; theme "Happiness" - Happiness for me is time and steady hands for stitching so I added a strip of handmade paper and some yellow cross stitches.
Karen's card; theme "Orange Monochromatic" - Added a piece of hand-painted and colored black and orange paper.

These beauties are now off in the mail to Karen and then finally to Roben-Marie.  We're almost done!  Can't wait to see the final results!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In Silence

Just as I like photocopying old journal pages to use in future pages, I like photographing bits of my paintings and reintroducing the images into my journals.  The photo featured on this page is a small portion of a work from 2007.  All in all, this is sort of an odd page.  Once I had all the images in place, I felt it said all I wanted to say.  In fact, I felt that the addition of journaling or a quote would actually be counter to the idea of sitting in silence and contemplating the universe so I left the page alone.  Sometimes, just sometimes, less is more.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Lion Sleeps

As happens frequently for me, once I completed this page's background, it took days worth of staring blankly at the page before an idea came to mind of how to finish.  Increasingly, I am turning to my own photographs as focal images for my journal pages but I am still in the beginning stages of figuring out how to integrate the photos into the background; I am not a scrapbooker so working with photos feels foreign and a bit awkward.  Still, I like the effect and as per usual, I will continue to experiment until I find a style and/or technique that suits me. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

As Surely as I Get Stuck...

I don't love every illustration I make.  Nonetheless, I keep on making.  I struggled with this first character from inception as a watercolor blob to collaged background.  Even now, with a little distance between me and its creation, this creature feels forced and somewhat trapped on the page.  No matter.  I move onward.

And in slinks a curious wolf-cat creature, chasing a wild goose by the guiding light of a compass moon.  This is why I need never give up.  As surely as I get stuck, I will get unstuck  What a lovely mantra to remember heading into a creative weekend...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Surrendering to Imagination

The flood of monstrous creations continues today with one arriving by land and one by sea.  It is hard for me to properly express the joy I have experienced by honoring my dreams of becoming an illustrator.  The more I practice, the better I am becoming and the more I am able to say with fewer marks.  Both of these creatures are incredibly simple and yet I think they could tell a wee tale.  

Will I ever realize my ultimate dream of illustrating a children's book?  I don't know.  I think it is way too early in my illustrating adventure to answer that question but honestly, at this point, it is a question with zero importance.  What is important is that I have fallen head over heels in love with this thing called illustrating, that I have surrendered myself to the wit and whimsy of my imagination, and that I am creating without judgment.  My creations won't be everyone's cup of tea but they suit me just fine.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Favorite Books

The following are what I consider to be essential books on watercolor:

The Watercolorist's Essential Notebook by Gordon MacKenzie
This beautifully illustrated book is absolutely full to bursting with solid information about watercolor tools, painting techniques, and compositional tricks of the trade.  Every time I open this book I learn something new and in fact, because there is so much information in this book, it is indeed best absorbed in small increments.

The Complete Guide to Watercolor by Ray Smith & Elizabeth Jane Lloyd 
This is another information-heavy tome on watercolor with detailed chapters on Materials, Techniques, Color, Landscapes, and Still Life.  This is also a book best consumed bit by bit as the amount of information within can be overwhelming if taken cover to cover.

Water Paper Paint by Heather Smith Jones
This book presents 30 exercises in watercolor designed to teach basic techniques (such as brush handling) and to encourage playful exploration of the medium.  This is a book worth going through page by page, project by project.  This is a great book for beginning to intermediate painters.

A Passion for Watercolor: Painting the Inner Experience by Stefan Draughon
Many, many watercolor technique books will teach you, step-by-step, how to paint a specific scene or object and I'm not fond of that approach.  This book appeals to my desire to explore watercolor more randomly, learning by doing.  It is not a book for technical information about the medium but rather an idea book for subjects to explore in watercolor and ways to approach those subjects.  I'd say this is a book for people already familiar and comfortable with watercolor and who want to take their work to the next level.

A Couple of Notes:  All links in this post are affliate links which means that if you click on and purchase any of these books through this blog, a bit of change drops into my bank via Amazon.  

Additionally, Watercolor Wednesday will be taking a short break so I can generate new material and posts.  As always, if you have any questions about watercolor you'd like to see addressed, please send them to me at and I'll do my best to answer your inquiries.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Land of Alter Egos

It seems that the red, black, white, cream, gold, and silver color scheme is symbolic of my alter egos, the cast of characters that is often ignored in favor of a candy-colored world.  When I want to dive a bit deeper into my psyche and imagination, it is a natural choice to use a more monochromatic scheme as the landscape for my explorations.

Each page in my book of inner monsters features a watercolored character mounted on top of a small monochromatic collage.  Lots of white space is also a hallmark of this style since that's the exact opposite of how I typically work.  I don't think too much about the monsters beforehand; I just paint some blobs of color on the paper and see what I can discover in the pools and swirls of paint.  This, too, is a refreshing departure from the norm.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Tide of Inner Monsters

It is becoming clear to me that I tend to work on projects, be it a particular journal, illustration play, or sculptures, in weeklong bursts.  This is translating into "theme weeks" here at Lost Coast Post and the theme for this week is "Inner Monsters."  

My bestest art friend in the whole wide world and I have maintained a vibrant and exceedingly chatty email rountine over the last seven years (and more).  I archive all the emails we send to each other and at last count, the Word document spans 243 single-spaced pages and over 130,000 words!  In our letters, we chat about all things art and bounce ideas off each other about our respective art practices.  When Ellen suggests something, I listen.

In our most recent correspondence, Ellen suggested that perhaps my practice of creating characters to serve as proxies for various emotional and personality quirks could use a little "darkness."  I've made lots of cute and cuddly creatures but no one is rainbows and roses all the time.  As Ellen so eloquently put it: "the dark always makes the light pop!"

This conversation immediately sparked something inside me and I went to work on a gallery of less-cute, perhaps somewhat cranky creatures and critters.  Ok...they're still sort of cute but they are flowing out of me as if a dam has burst.  I've filled a spiral-bound watercolor notebook with 20 of these little guys and more are waiting in the wings.  Sooo...all week (and perhaps beyond if this keeps up), expect a tide of monsters to invade this space.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Paper Primer

My college watercolor instructor was asked how she would rank the importance of watercolor supplies when out purchasing at the art stores.  We were all starving art students after all and wanted to know where we should focus our limited spending power.  Paper came first, then paint, and finally, brushes.

The type and quality of paper you use can dramatically affect your paintings.  A good exercise is to paint the exact same object on different surfaces to see how the paper influences the final image.  In this particular class, we were asked to paint a white object on various types of papers, translating the lights and darks we saw on the object into a monochromatic color palette.  I chose a sugar bowl and my favorite color ever: quinacridone magenta with the addition of Payne's grey for shadows.

For the ultimate in texture, try rough paper.  Paint tends to settle out on rough paper, creating a grainy effect.  Dry brush techniques are easy-peasy on rough paper as the brush can glide over the surface without getting into all the nooks and crannies.  This paper is not good for detail work but instead, is great for a more impressionistic look.

Cold Press:
Also called "not" paper, this paper has a medium-textured surface and is probably the most popular choice for watercolorists.  With cold press paper, there is a nice balance between the texture effects one can achieve as well as detail work.  This paper handles dry brush techniques in a subtle way and can handle a good deal of scrubbing and scraping.
Hot Press:
While wet, hot press paper is made with the addition of heat and pressure to make a smooth, texture-free surface. Because there are no valleys in the paper for the paint to travel into, paint tends to slide around unpredictably on hot press paper and dry in hard lines.  This paper is excellent for pen & ink illustration work as well and is probably the go-to choice for art journalists.
This stuff is not really paper at all but instead a sheet of plastic.  (The company that makes it calls it "synthetic paper.")  Because there is zero absorbency, paint just slides around like a wild animal and each stroke of the brush removes the paint you just laid down.  Essentially, with Yupo, you push the paint around until it lands in a pleasing formation.  Don't like the results?  Simply rinse it off and start again! (Some paints will stain and leave behind ghost color.)

And finally, a note about paper weight.  All types of watercolor paper come in different weights: the higher the number, the thicker the paper.  Get the heaviest paper you can afford (140 lb is a great place to start.)  Watercolor is tricky enough without having to deal with buckling and warping as well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Busting Out the Clay

By far, my favorite sculpting medium is lightweight, air dry clay.  I could play for days on end with just this stuff and a few paints.  In fact, that's exactly what I've been doing!

These little characters (numbers 54, 55, & 56 if you're keeping up with my 365/2013 Character Creation project) are samples for that sculpture class I am teaching on Fridays through May at a local school.  The sculpture class is presented in sections divided by medium: wire, found objects, paper, and clay.

These character busts are built up over a ball of tin foil that is taped to a recycled pudding or yogurt cup.  I layer on the clay a bit at a time, smoothing as I go and then begin to add features.

One of the things I adore about scuplture is that I never know ahead of time what characters are going to emerge.  Obviously, I could do preliminary sketches and then tailor my sculpting to produce a reasonable 3-D copy of my drawing.  I prefer, however, to just let things develop serendiptiously.  It is much more fun that way!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Crazy Sculpting Fool

The way things are shaping up, this week may be all about sculpture.  I am deep in the middle of preparing for a sculpture class I am teaching to middle and high school students over the next few months.  I began playing around with sculpture early last year and I absolutely love it!  It exercises a completely different portion of my artist brain and excites me like really nothing else in the studio.  I'm teaching myself on the fly so there is a fresh feeling of the unknown and the rush of random experimentation.

These particular sculptures are samples for a lesson plan on the circus sculptures of Alexander Calder.  I never hand out materials or present a lesson without first exploring the plan myself.  This way I can anticipate any tough parts of construction and be able to suggest solutions (or change the plan!)  Preliminary testing also helps me develop the "flow" of a project and gives me a good idea how long a project will take students to complete.  As a bonus, I get to play!  Once I get going, I usually end up making a bunch of sculptures for myself.  It is getting quite crowded in the studio!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Once More into the Fray

Jan 21, 2013 journal page as well as character #48 in my 365/2013 project; quote from movie "The Grey"

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sun and Rain

As part of my larger effort to generate all my own imagery (as opposed to using magazine cut-outs), I am trying to use more of my own photographs in my journals.  I am not, and never will be, a scrapbooker.  I don't always know what to do to the photo besides just attach it so sometimes it feels sort of awkward to add photos.  However, when I do, I am generally very pleased with the results.  This page seemed to come together quite naturally.  Love it when that happens!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Shaded Spheres How-To

I love painting shaded spheres of color!  Often, when I'm tired in the evening but still want to do a little something in the studio, this is one of my favorite quiet, low-stress activities.  This is an excellent exercise for practicing leaving the white of the paper.  Remember that in traditional watercolor, there's no use of white paint; you either paint around or mask out the white of the paper to serve as the white in your painting.  Painting shaded spheres is also a great way to play with color blending.

Step 1:  Draw a circle lightly in pencil by tracing around a lid or using a circle template.

Step 2:  Choose the position of your light source.  Using a round brush and leaving the highlight of the sphere unpainted, lay in a light, flat wash of color.  Here I used quinacridone magenta.  Let dry.

Step 3:  When dry, add another layer of the same color slightly smaller than the first.

Step 4:  While Step 3 is still slightly damp, lay in another similiarly-hued color over the area you painted in the previous step.  In the example, I used deep cadmiuim red.  Let dry slightly.

Step 5:  While Step 4 is still slightly damp and using the very tip of the brush, lay in a line of complimentary color on the edge opposite the light source.  Complimentary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel so here I used sap green.  Two complimentary colors mixed will yield a neutral color.  Let dry slightly and proceed to Step 6 if desired.

Step 6:  Add a small amount of dark color to bottom edge of sphere (where shadows would be the darkest.)  Here I used Payne's grey.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The One

After my journaling meltdown last week, I took some time to reevaluate my practice.  I really love journaling but I don't have the time or energy to bang my head in frustration.  A little time away as well as a change in focus has reenergized me but so has taking a long, hard look at all my journals.  I asked myself one big question:  if I had to run from home with one journal in my hands, which one would it be?  I felt like the answer to this question would reveal where I might want to focus my efforts as well as what journaling style is closest to my heart.

This particular journal, titled "My World Within," is the one.  Of course, I'd try to escape an emergency with all my journals but if forced to choose...

I love this journal!  I love the colors, the characters (and how each character represents some part of me), and the techniques.  It is an extremely meditative journal as it can take days to complete each page.  I love that the pages are housed in a three-ring binder since that makes it portable, flexible, and super easy to work on individual pages.

I'm going to spend some more time with this journal in upcoming weeks.  There are more stories to tell, more characters to create.

Monday, February 4, 2013

She is Fierce

This is the pastel nigthmare that drove me into the comforting arms of red, white, and black last week.  After some thought and distance, I regrouped and began the process of rescuing this page.

Ahhh...already better...

...and the final outcome.  Don't be alarmed if you somehow derail your journaling train.  Take some time away and return refreshed and back on track.

Friday, February 1, 2013

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