Friday, March 29, 2013

Thing that Goes Bump in the Night

Hello Good Friday!  Before you all run off for the weekend to celebrate with cute bunnies and pastel eggs, I present one more monster who, despite his sour face, really does wish you a happy and safe holiday with friends and family!  Fear not:  I'll see you again next week with more creepies and beasties!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Life is But a Dream

In this piece, instead of starting with a foundation of black gesso, I began with a "monster shape" in white gesso and used black gesso to provide the surrounding contrast and to define the outlines of the internal features.  I also experimented with stamping and stenciling (in white and black as needed) to provide texture, interest, and energy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thing One & Thing Two

Like many, many things in my studio (too many), I've had a jar of black gesso sitting around for a long while, purchased after seeing something that inspired me and then forgotten when the initial inspiration had been crowded out by fresh, new ideas.  I'm so glad I finally decided to experiment with this medium.  Great things can happen if you go shopping in your own studio!

Black gesso is a lovely surface to work on and I discovered in my explorations that Neocolor 2 water-soluble crayons practically glow on top of the velvety black surface.  You can use the Neocolors just like regular crayons which gives one type of look (like the orange body of this creature) or you can apply water to smooth the color application (as I did with his blue hair.)

White paint pens (or white paint applied with a very fine brush) is essential for work on black gesso to provide contrasting lines and marks.  I'm still in the experimental stages but I'd like to try regular crayons and neon paints to see how they show up.  (Note to self:  Create a sample page about black gesso for future reference.)  And best of all, if you make a mistake, you just cover things up with more black gesso and begin again.

PS...For those of you looking for Watercolor Wednesday today, this semi-regular feature here at Lost Coast Post is on hiatus again while I develop new material.  Please, if you have anything about watercolor you'd like to see addressed, leave a comment or drop me an email.  Your feedback and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I've Never Met a Paper Scrap I Didn't Like

Due to an abundance of enthusiasm for cut & paste and several cups of coffee, I've managed to complete this week's entry for Artsyville's splendiforius Glue It Tuesday early this morning and hereby bring you a bonus post for today.  Not much to explain about this one except it was lots of fun and made no dent whatsoever in my hoard collection of paper scraps.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Journal

"Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.  Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery and I promise you, something great will come of it."
Benjamin Mee (We Bought a Zoo)

So last week, I was working in my journal, minding my own business, when I got hit upside the head with a major case of "What If?"  It occurred to me, literally in a matter of moments, that while I had been practicing illustrating creatures and critters for some time, never once had a monster crossed the line between my sketchbook and my journals.  At the same moment in time, I felt an overwhelming urge to radically change my working style, just to see what would happen.  

So out came the black gesso.  I hesitated.  Yes, I did.  In just a second or two, several thoughts flashed through my mind:  "What if people hate this?"  "What if I hate this?"  "I can't tear out this page if it all goes to hell."  "What am I doing?"  "Why am I doing this?" 

And then, I just dipped my brush deep into the gesso and slapped a generous puddle of the inky black medium onto my page.  More panic as I realize I've applied too much and a river of gesso is in danger of running off the page, flooding the rest of my journal.  I regain my wits quickly, however, and stem the black tide.  I manage to remove the extra and let the rest dry.  Now what?

Somewhere deep inside my brain, a switch was thrown and I just knew how to proceed.  No hesitation, no fear.  This little ogre is the result.  And once I completed him, I turned the page and without a second thought, began to play with wild abandon.  This week and next, you'll see the results of letting go, of exploration, of bravery, of questioning, and answering. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's About to Get a Little Weird...

Happy Monday everyone!  Thank you for taking time today to check in with me and see what's in store this week.

We begin this final week of March 2013 with one last face that I created the week before in a face-painting frenzy.  You might recognize the hairstyle and the crown, both of which I nabbed from previous portraits.  I really like this face: she's delicate yet strong and all the features seem in the right place and proportion.  

She's pretty, no?!  If nothing else, she is colorful, carefully rendered, calm.  Well, that's all about to change because last week, I went a bit wild and ditched my usual modus operandi in favor of black gesso, slightly creepy characters, and a more intuitive working style.  Beginning tomorrow, we're going to start peeking in the shadows of Lost Coast Post and see what's lurking there.  Hang on!  It might be a bumpy ride...

Friday, March 22, 2013

More Face Painting Practice

This particular lady has an unfortunately-shaped face but I love her features and the shading is reasonably successful.  I know many art journalists feel a great deal of nerves when it comes to painting faces but as the ancient adage goes...practice makes perfect.

Now that I'm comfortable drawing faces in pencil and marker, I practice rendering different emotional states, head positions, skin tones, ages, and sizes.  In addition, I am practicing adding bodies to those heads.  This is an essential skill if I want to build my illustration abilities.

However, I'm still learning when it comes to painting faces, so I tend to keep the features in a neutral, perhaps passionless, expression.  I'm just trying to cement in my head the placement and proportion of the all the parts as well as working out my particular face painting style.  For now, I am a beginner and I need to start, naturally, at the beginning.

Once I feel competent at this, I'll branch away from the ubiquitous neutral face and start to produce characters that express emotion.  Since my characters are stand-ins for things I'm feeling and experiencing, it is important to me that I be able to paint something other than a pretty girl staring off into space.  (BTW, this is something I've written about before and you can find those old posts on the blank face trend here and here.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Listen to Your Guide

This little one seems a bit perplexed or annoyed to me but I like the way her hair turned out; in fact, you'll see that hairstyle in another piece at a later date.  Most of the border is made up of pieces of photocopied journal pages.  It is a technique I love using so much that copies have become my largest supply expense in recent months.  My pages are typically busy and heavily-layered so using bits of those old pages in new pages helps adds that energy and complexity without all the work. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Join the Resistance Part 2

Today, we are continuing last week's discussion of resists by focusing a little bit more on masking fluid, a product made specifically for creating resists with water-based media.

Masking fluid is latex (aka liquid rubber) plus additives that lengthen shelf life, thicken, and promote smooth flow.  In addition, many masking fluids have a light, non-staining colorant added so the masked area will be visible on white paper.

Of course, masking fluid can be used to reserve your whites when creating a watercolor painting as in example 1.  However, you can also use masking fluid on previously painted areas with some success such as in example 2.  When the dried mask is removed, the color underneath is preserved.

And did you know that you can stamp with masking fluid?  In example 3, you can see that the impression is imperfect due to the liquid nature of the masking fluid.  However, I think it creates a cool, weathered-looking batik effect that would be great for backgrounds. Just be sure to wash all your stamps afterwards.

Masking fluid can sometimes be a little bit tricky to use so here's some tips:
  • Whatever you do, don't use a good brush!  Masking fluid is famous for ruining brushes so either wash your brush thoroughly and immediately after application or use something else to apply the mask such as the bottle itself or the handle of a paint brush.
  • Don't shake the bottle of masking fluid or you'll squeeze out hundreds of bubbles all over your paper.  Roll the bottle gently on a table to mix and pop any bubbles with a pin.
  • For best results, let the mask dry overnight but not much longer.  The longer the fluid is left on the paper, the harder it can be to remove.
  • Old masking fluid can also be tougher to remove so if you are having trouble removing the mask, you might need a fresh bottle.  Masking fluid has a reasonable shelf life but we all have those supplies that we buy to experiment with, set aside, forget about and then dig back out years later.  Sometimes those supplies, such as masking fluid, deteriorate over time.
  • Use a piece of rubber cement pickup to gently remove the mask.  Work a small area at a time and clean the resulting balls of latex off your pickup as you work.  Remembering using rubber cement as a kid?  Masking fluid is the same sort of stuff.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When the Process is Enough (and Hello Glue It Tuesday!)

For every art journalist, there is a different style of art journaling but for me, my completed journal pages fall into one of four categories: confessional, documentational, affirmational or procedural.  (There is, of course, always some overlap between categories.)

The word "journaling" implies that something will be recorded and so there is tremendous emphasis in the art journaling community on pages that have a point: words in the form of an illuminating quote or personal musings and visual material that illustrates the focus or content of the page.  Sometimes I get weighed down (and consequently stuck) by the concept that my pages need to have some deeper reason for existing.  If you get bogged down on a page, wondering what the content needs to be, perhaps it's time to change your focus.

This journal spread is an excellent example of pages with no hidden meaning, what I'm calling "procedural" pages.  I've been blissfully painting random patterns on old book pages and I wanted to capture the results of that art play.  That's it.  I simply like how these looked all together.  The process of creating this spread is where I really reaped the rewards art journaling can offer: relaxation, time to contemplate, time to imagine "What if?"

I've often heard people say "If only I could do a journal just of backgrounds!"  Well, why not?  Who said that backgrounds aren't enough?  Don't sell the process short.  Play in the paint and bits of paper and if you don't feel compelled to "finish a page off," maybe that page is, in truth, already complete.  Be wary of operating under imaginary rule books.  

PS...This is my entry for Aimee's new feature at Artsyville called "Glue It Tuesday!" I love to cut and paste so this is a perfect challenge for me!  Hope you'll join in too! (The link list will be up every Tuesday at Artsyville.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fresh Faces

First off, I want to extend a warm welcome to all the new faces here at Lost Coast Post thanks to my Art Journal Every Day guest post last Friday and of course, I want to thank all my returning friends who show up, read my blog, and sprinkle my life with sweet, supportive comments!  You all are what make blogging a rich, rewarding experience!  If there is some topic or question you want to see addressed or answered, please let me know in the comments or via email.

As I've said, lately I've been focusing on a particular subject, technique, or medium in approximately weeklong bursts.  I get excited about something, work on it feverishly for a short period of time, take a break, and then revisit the subject when it once again captures my attention.  This keeps things new and different, both in my art life and here at the blog.

This week, expect to see a lot of faces.  I've gotten fairly comfortable rendering faces in pencil and marker but I'm still rough around the edges when it comes to painting faces so I've been practicing in my journal as well as on canvas.  Try as I might, my faces are still fairly cartoonish, which is something I'm actually trying to change (I'd like my illustrations to have more of an "edge.")  However, I think I am improving.  Maybe, as the week progresses, I'll work up the courage to show you some of my first faces (*shudder*).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Art Journal Every Day!

Happy Friday everyone!

Today, I am guest posting over at the fabulous blog of the equally fabulous Julie Fei-Fan Balzer so if you get a moment, please click on over and check it out!

If you are joining me via the post on Julie's blog, welcome!  Please feel free to poke around my blog; the tabs at the top are a good place to begin.  You might also be interested in my gallery at Flickr which will catch you up on most of the art I've posted here in the last six-plus years of blogging.  You can also find me at Twitter (@LostCoastPost) and I have a small shop at Etsy as well.  Thank you so much for visiting my little corner of the web!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oh, What a Place for Play!

Another page from my "Unexpected Convergences" journal in which I am cramming different techniques, themes, and styles into a single volume (rather than my usual practice of compartmentalizing disparate subjects and mediums.)  In this journal, I've noticed that I am often focusing on a particular technique a week at a time; this page is from a week where I used my own photos as the focal images on my pages.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Join the Resistance Part 1

Hello and welcome to another installment of Watercolor Wednesday!  If you're just joining us, Watercolor Wednesday is a semi-regular feature here at Lost Coast Post (on Wednesdays of course!) where I offer up what I know about watercolor or show what I've been working on in watercolor, one of my very favorite mediums.

Today it is all about resists.  Put quite simply, a resist is something used to block the watercolor from coloring the paper.  I put the different kinds of resists into one of three categories: temporary, permanent, and faux.

Temporary resists are just that - temporary.  The substance used to create the resist can be removed once the paint is dry, leaving behind the white of the paper.  Tapes are great for making large areas of resist.  Plastic tapes like packing and Scotch tape work best.  Just be sure and "de-sticky" the tape a little first by sticking it to your clothes.  You want the tape to just barely stick to the paper and not rip it when you go to remove it.  Masking fluid is another form of temporary resist and one I will discuss more in depth next week.  Basically, you apply, let dry, paint, and then remove.  

Permanent resists are applied to the paper and remain there forever.  They tend to be hard to write over since by their nature, resists need to be some sort of substance that repels water and anything that repels water likes to repel ink as well.  However, permanent resists can produce some fabulous results.  You can see by my sample page that there are all sorts of things that can work as permanent resits for watercolor including crayons, wax pencils, glues, mediums, and gessos.  Some work better than others so choose your resist based on how dramatic you wish the contrast to be between paint and the white of the paper.

Faux resists are applied on top of the paint and mimic the look of an actual resist.  White acrylic ink works well to add white highlights to watercolor as could white paint, gesso, and white gel pens. 

Next Wednesday, I'll discuss masking fluid a bit more, outlining some tricks and tips that might make using this substance trouble-free.  

PS...If you like Watercolor Wednesday and find this information useful, please consider supporting Lost Coast Post by dropping some change into my tip jar.  Click on the little owl in my sidebar (under "Support LCP") and that will take you to PayPal where you can donate whatever your heart desires. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fearless Stitching

Because I am feeling a distinct lack of irons in the fire (lol), I've decided to begin a new slow art project.  In my case, things will proceed very slow as quilting is one of those things that makes me feel all thumbs.  Still, one of my resolutions, this year and last, was to work more with fabric.  I feel incredibly guilty every time I look at my fabric stash.  I am slow to build momentum on fabric art projects but once I get going (and can wrap my brain around all the instructions), quilting is an incredibly fulfilling pursuit.  

The book Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, & Inspiration by Malka Dubrawsky is my guiding light on this project.  I began with what I call a "teacup mat" and now, I'm moving on to a pair of placemats.  I love Malka's contemporary and approach to quilting and her use of vibrant color appeals to me on every level.  The instructions in this book are fairly clear and detailed so even I can muddle through and end up with something functional and beautiful.  In fact, there isn't a placemat project in this book but I felt confident enough after creating my sample block to venture out on my own and design a set.  Fearless indeed!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Riot of Whimsy

I hope you're not tired of these little watercolor creatures and critters because they keep coming off my brush in a riot of whimsy.  

I fill a sheet of watercolor paper with pale red, grey, and cream-colored blobs, leaving the white of the paper where the eyes will be.  Then I start shading with a water-soluble pencil: under the eyes, under the arms, legs, horns and so on.  I add more layers of watercolor in these shaded areas, using Payne's grey as my shadow color.  (Love, love, LOVE Payne's grey!  Probably the most useful color in my entire watercolor palette!)

Once the shading is in place and completely dry, I start adding details with a black Micron and use a white gel pen to highlight teeth.  When everything is finished, I cut the creatures out and start planning the collage backgrounds.

I keep the backgrounds deliberately simple: I want these critters to have some room to live and breathe.  Most of the time, the backgrounds are made up of layered paper rectangles & washi tape strips but occasionally, as in the case of the goldfishy, I create a little collage environment.  I don't overthink any part of this process.  I just try and let things evolve naturally.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Three Softies Join the Character Parade

These three softies are samples I completed early in January for a class I am teaching right now on softie design and construction.  For those of you counting (I am, of course), these soft sculptures make 79 characters completed so far this year.

Characters are numbered, not in the order of creation, but rather in the order I get pictures taken, edited, and uploaded.  I work on too many different things at once to track any sort of true linear progression.  To see the complete set of characters, please stop by my character gallery at Flickr.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Population Growth

I've added three more characters to my series of clay busts.  The shy fellow in the green shirt, the dapper dude in the hat, and the rather matronly lady in the purple floral blouse are all new.  They look so great together!  I am just slightly addicted to making these but I'm gonna need to find a place in the studio to display them all!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wherein the Muse Says "Paint Beetles!"

I have two shows scheduled for 2013 and a third in the works so it is time I start shifting my focus towards adding pieces to my ongoing body of work called The Motley Menagerie.  

I began my formal art education in scientific illustration so this canvas (titled "The Collection" and 12x24 inches in size) really transported me back to the days of spending a week or more laboring over a single piece, nose just inches from the canvas and neck aching from the strain of concentration.  I love the results but hate the process.  It plays too well into my perfectionistic streak, something I am constantly trying to tame.  However, I got in my head that I was going to paint beetles and so paint beetles I must!  (As a bonus, I have 11 more critters to add to my 365/2013 character project!  Yay me!) 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Just 292 To Go!

My happy march towards 365 drawn, painted, sewn, and sculpted characters in 2013 continues unabated.  Below is a sampling of the 73 characters I've created as of today.  To see all my creatures & critters, please visit my character gallery at Flickr.  And don't forget to visit other 365ers like Tammy and ihanna and cheer them on!  I promise you'll be blown away by all the collage goodness being created!

1. 365char23, 2. Character #1: Safari Girl, 3. 365char11, 4. MMchar57, 5. bust1, 6. StarsPortrait6, 7. UC page 32, 8. MMchar61, 9. 365char15, 10. Character #32, 11. 365char30, 12. 365chars27thru29, 13. 365/2013 Character #50, 14. StarsPortrait7, 15. WWJan292013, 16. 365char18, 17. bust3, 18. 365char31, 19. Character #30, 20. MMchar63

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Fishy Artist Date

One of my 2013 resolutions was to go on at least one artist date each month.  I've made this resolution before but never quite made time to see things through.  I am determined, however, to make this goal a reality this year.  So, in January, I went to the local zoo, had lunch and wandered around, talking to the animals.  In February, I tried something new.

I went with family and friends to a local place called Parasol Arts.  The concept is simple: pick a piece of unpainted bisqueware, spend as long as you need painting, and for the price of the pottery, you get all the supplies you need, glazing, and firing.  I immediately fell in love with this idea as it is a huge thrill to see my artwork in a finished, usable form.  I predict that I'll be spending a lot of time this year at this store, happily painting, listening to music with a cup of tea by my side.  It is an incredibly meditative and rewarding process.

Here's a shot of my two finished fish plates and as a bonus, I included my son's awesome plate (his is the one on top.)  Can you tell who is the marine biology enthusiast?  Once these pieces are glazed and fired, they are completely food-safe.  Can you imagine all the possibilities?  Tea pots, mugs, plates, cookie jars, tiles...I am very excited by this new discovery!  For an artist date, this one really fulfilled all I imagined artist dates could contribute to my art life.  Onward to March!  Where will I go next?  

Friday, March 1, 2013

How I Journal Through Darkness

As someone who copes with constant anxiety and intermittant bouts of depression (both brought on by chronic physical health issues), I know it is easy to get caught up in darkness until it seems all color drains away from vision.  I combat these feelings two very different ways in my journals:

1) I use a monochromatic color scheme (red, black, white, cream, silver and/or gold) and simple techniques to get my brain moving, sifting through negative emotions until I can cast aside worries in a dance of line and paint.  I allow a lot of white space to dominate, giving me room to breathe, stretch, and regroup.

2) Alternately, I soak my world in color to act as a cheery counterbalance to internal struggles.  I use complex, layered backgrounds as a meditative process; with each layer I add to the page or canvas, I peel away a little bit of what weighs down my heart.  I use a lot of inspiring quotes and affirmational self-talk on my journal pages to help me express myself when I am at a loss for words.

Whether shrouded in black and white or drenched in color, I rarely write directly in my journals about my troubles.  (I used to many years ago but I seemed to have worked that phase out of my system.)  Currently, I either rely on the page-making process itself as a form of healing meditation or create characters that serve as stand-ins for things I am feeling and experiencing. 
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