Thursday, October 29, 2009

The First Star

Size: 14.5 x 19 inches
Medium: Watercolors

I do think I've finally broken my Green streak at least, and instead landed squarely in a Blue/Gold one. Though with the next paintings I've got planned I'll be moving on from this as well. More wings and more angels coming up.

The other night I was going for an evening walk around the neighborhood with my husband, and we came across a 12x12 inch wacom intuos tablet that someone had left out with the trash (on top of a 21 inch CRT monitor, now that is trash!) I took it home, figuring it must be broken, but I'd give it a try anyway. Surprise, it worked! So it's quite a bit larger than the one I've been using all this time, 6x8 inches. I'm almost thinking it's too big for most of my purposes! Still it's fun to have such a large surface to work on.

Mmm...oven's preheated, off to throw together that pizza for dinner tonight! After years of searching, I've finally found the perfect dough recipe. It's really wordy, but the actual steps are pretty simple:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mat Inkings & Computer Whinings

And here I was, thinking my computer troubles were finally over. But such luck was not to be mine. Windows Vista (which I got saddled with as a necessity following the emergency purchase of a computer in September) upgrade to Windows 7 (which fortunately came free since it was so close to the release date when I purchased previously mentioned computer)...should have been a rather easy thing right??? As all the Windows 7 marketing material and packaging would have you believe. Well, after much more hair tearing (amazing I have so much hair still after these past couple months), and fortunately being able to search for fixes to my installation woes online with my husband's computer (he's a big fan of Ubuntu...and I'm getting there), I finally set about ditching the upgrade and just going for a clean install. Even though it feels like I just got my computer back into full working order less than a month ago. It took the whole day, but finally everything is all set again. Crossing my fingers that this is the end of the line for this string of unfortunate computer events.

My hands were not idle today while waiting for the install to finish though. I managed to finish these two mat ink designs. Normally I only do these for Dragoncon, but someone asked very nicely, and I haven't done any inks in while, so the fingers were feeling the itch. Besides, I just bought another big stash of pens from the other day. If you're interested, I use the 0.3 thickness high-tec-C pens for all my ink drawings. They flow wonderfully smooth, and I enjoy the fine 0.3 point (they also come in 0.5 and 0.7).

And also added a bit more to the angel sketch. She's ready to be painted tomorrow I think. I'm a bit hooked on the color scheme and themes of "Gemini" and "The Transformative Nature of Music", so don't be surprised when I whip those out again. I'm having too much fun with those colors to be moving on just yet, though I think after this painting I should have it out of my system.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Coyotes, Bears, Phoenixes, and Angels - Oh My!

A number of sketches for new paintings in the works.

Part of a knotwork piece for a commission. Haven't done this type of celtic designwork in a while. Bear & coyote in here (and some stray fish!)

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A dark phoenix commission. Rough stages still. Started off as bits and pieces of abandoned Scorpio and Virgo sketches, but she's finding new life now in another form.
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And some angels... I missed my annual Christmas card angel last year, because too many deadlines got in the way. So getting an early start! Not sure which I liked better here, so I'm going for both!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Transformative Nature of Music

medium: watercolor
size: 16x21 inches

This is the first personal painting I've had the opportunity to work on in over two months. While I do pick commissioned projects that interest me artistically, I still need to periodically make time to work on the concepts that are floating around in my own head, without the fingers of an art director plucking the strings. In a way though, the commissions give me breathing time to develop my own ideas, and conversely because getting my personal work out onto the blank page can be oddly more mentally draining, painting other peoples images lets me relax a bit. In the space of that relaxation the need for personal paintings starts to build up again. It's a cycle, and a nice balance.

On a technical note, yes the color scheme I used in this piece is very similar to Gemini. I enjoyed the colors and the approach to the butterflies in that piece. Enough that I wanted to use it again in this one, and perhaps push it even further.

Likewise, the piano/tree was something I had explored a little bit in the Nine of Pentacles from my tarot series years ago. However, I wanted to go further with the organic aspect of it. In that older painting the combination is more simplistic. It is more like a tree that just happens to grow through the instrument, while in this newer piece I wanted them to be inextricably entwined. One is an extension of the other. As if the tree somehow grew into this form, and its living sap flows with music.

In a way, this piece is the other bookend to a painting I did earlier this year, Potential. Their compositions and visual elements echo each other. While Potential is about celebration of the first stirrings of new life, and the unlimited possibilities encapsulated within a seed, within a child; The Transformative Nature of Music is a celebration of a different sort: of a life that has been lived, and the spirit that passes on. Not so much "death", as what I try to suggest with the title, with the impossibly melded tree/piano, and with the sheaf of music that flutters from the stand and metamorphoses to take flight in the form of the strange bird - Transformation.

The day that I started this piece, I saw two ravens winging through the skies above my house. It's not a sight I've born witness to here before; far more usual are crows. But there was no mistaking these regal twin black shadows that glided through the sky with crows. Their cries echoed down the hillside, and the other birds fell temporarily silent.

In the spaces between the notes
you can hear the breath of her name
A song of mourning
A song of memory
A song of celebration
Fingers trail in arpeggios
up and down the keys
Playing in the spaces between the notes
with the breath of her name

Friday, October 16, 2009

Zodiac Cover

Size: 15.25x15.25 inches
Medium: Watercolor

And with this one, the zodiac series is complete. This is the cover piece. A bit of a deviation from what Llewellyn has done in the past for the astrological calendars. They wanted this one to show representations of each sign integrated into a scene, rather than the standard celestial wheel with cut and paste sections for each month. I'm glad they wanted to go for something different with this year because I had more fun with this type of piece than I would have had mucking around with design and graphics to digitally stick it all together.

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On another note, I've had people asking about these for a while, but I've finally put up the tarot ink originals for sale here. I was holding onto them for a while until I had the book published just in case I needed to rescan anything.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zodiac cover sketch & new etsy pendants

Sketch for the calendar cover. Blank room at the top and bottom needs to be left for the title information.

Also, 12 new zodiac designs added to etsy! *click here*

A few more new designs to come once I get my shipment of supplies next week hopefully.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rain, Pendants, & Pianos

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain tapping its musical rhythm on the rooftop. It's the first rain of the season, and so our dry spell is over. It looks dim outside, but I climb out of bed to look at the trees and plants that are thirstily drinking it all in. The oaks and acacias leaves glisten, and the jasmine seems to glow, so brilliant is its sap green.

Wrapped in the warmth inside my house, my morning cup of tea seems to taste better than usual even, when I can curl my fingers around the steaming cup and watch the dancing splatter of droplets on the deck.

I was planning to finish off a few more pendants today, but unfortunately that won't be able to happen unless the rain lets up, since I can't put the finishing acrylic spray on. However, if there are any of these zodiac designs you're interested in, now's the time to let me know so that I can be sure to set reserved ones aside (or make enough of them).

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Finished off laying out the sketch for a personal painting before the Llewellyn art director got back to me about the zodiac calender cover concept I'd emailed to her yesterday. So I'll have to switch modes to go work on that before coming back to this piece. Deadlines take precedence over my own projects.
A few titles have been rolling around in my head, but I think this one is called "The Transformative Nature of Music". For my grandmother Un-Oi Law who passed away this last week. She had a piano school and store in New York most of her life. On Friday her spirit flew off. My aunts and uncles, my cousins, and their children, took turns playing the piano for her in those last few days so that the music could fill the hospice room. She is inextricably tied to the concept of "family" for me, a strong core that binds all of us together. She was a wonderful woman who took care of me the first year of my life when my parents were both at work and school still. And I'll think of her whenever I play the piano that she gifted me with for my wedding.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sultana Lena's Gift

Sultana Lena's Gift
Size: 10x14 inches
Medium: Watercolor

Illustration for a story of the same title by Shweta Narayan to be published be Realms of Fantasy Magazine.

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Parallel to my own blog entries on this latest painting, it's interesting to read some of the art director's process as well, which you can see in Douglas Cohen's blog over here.

Part 1: Concepts
Part 2: Final pencil sketch

Once I have the initial sketch, I procrastinated a bit on starting the actual painting. I've been locked in the mindset I had for the zodiac in the last twelve paintings where I didn't have to really think too much about color themes since they were already set by the symbolism needed for the pieces.

I say color "themes" instead of "scheme" because I did still have to plot a little bit about the details of the colors and to determine how to bring the main colors to focus. On this painting though, having complete color freedom once again temporarily stalled me.

I dug out my Maxfield Parrish book because I remembered images where he had huge bowers of roses dotting a verdant background, and decided I wanted something similar for the lower left corner of the piece. Glowing white gardenias to dot the surroundings. And to set that off and to really emphasize the viewpoint of the bird in the foreground and the more distant lovers, a velvet and lush green surrounding. The bird itself to be coppery-gold.

I started out with a wide flat brush laying down the greens in the background, fading a bit to yellows as I approach the lower left corner. The yellows to tie the composition together with the gold planned for the bird.

After that dries, I continue to build up the layers of various greens in the upper parts. It's much darker and more intense color than I usually use, but I really wanted to push that depth into it. Many many layers here. In a few places I went back with a white gel pen to dot in some bright highlights, but for the most part I try to avoid working lights back because you lose some of the luminous quality of watercolors when you do that. I reserve it for really sharp bits of light.

And speaking of white gel pens, not all gel pens are created equal! Some tend to clog very quickly, or else the white is not quite opaque. After trying many different brands over the years, my current favorite is Uni-ball Signo.

After fleshing out all the leaves, moving down into the lower left corner. The gardenias get picked out with mixtures of rosy tones and yellows. Purposely letting them fade into the light that suffuses the area. This glow, that contrasts nicely with the secretive dark shadows of the upper parts of the painting, along with the way the bird looks down into this pocket of light and flowers serves compositionally to bring the the viewers eyes down into this area.

Keeping this flow of the viewer's eye in mind, the thick trunk to the right of the lovers then serves to pull the eye back up to the bird, creating a circle of interest that keeps the eye moving around the painting.

Done with background elements, and now working my way forward into the tree branches. I use the same techniques here that I described in my walkthrough of the painting Moonbathing. Though in this piece it's more of an orange hue to contrast with the greens and tie in the golds.

And then finishing up with the bird and the lovers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cold Mornings & Sultana Lena's Gift

I go from one day finding myself sweating wretchedly and pondering if it's not too late in the season to consider getting an air condition unit installed in my studio, even though my initial thought was to not bother until next year since the summer was over....

To freezing in the morning and shivering as I hurry downstairs to get the heater going. Click click click it goes as it starts up, and the smell of burnt dust and lint fills the air as it fires up for the first time in months.

Nothing in between to say, hey we're moving out of summer and into cold months. Just dives right in. California weather, go figure.

And so I find myself huddled over a steamy cup of my morning ritual rooibos tea, feeling the hot air curl around my face and seep into the fingers that are locked around the cup. I look outside to the corner where the black acacia stood yesterday. It's just a stump now. I wonder what we can plant in the corner to take its place.

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Next phase of the Sultana Lena's Gift painting. The rough sketch has been fleshed out, and transferred to the illustration board. All set to paint!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Realms of Fantasy Sketches

For an upcoming Realms of Fantasy issue, an illustration for a story "Sultana Lena's Gift".

After reading the story, my copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam came to mind, with its lovely illustrations by Edward Dulac. Browsed through it for inspiration and to get my mind flowing in the right direction for the imagery.

Also key in this particular short story is a little mechanical bird. I started with some scribbles in my spare time while at Gencon a few months ago, exploring some ideas for the bird's design in a few ink drawings.

And now that the zodiac is done (with its more urgent deadline), a few months later I'm finally having the chance to go back to this project. The final rough concept sketch for the painting:
Stamp of Art Director approval on it, and so all set to move on to a much more detailed sketch and the painting! I love doing work for Realms of Fantasy, as the art director (the old one, and my so far very short acquaintance with the new one) seem to send fitting stories my way. From there, I read the story and pretty much can paint anything I want.

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Meanwhile, it's been rather noisy outside my studio window today as I said goodbye to a 50 foot tall black acacia tree in my backyard. Unfortunately it has suffered from root rot after the previous owner of the house put in extensive landscaping terraces in the backyard just before selling it to us. It's taken two years for the results to be evident but a few months ago Dana and I had to reluctantly admit that the tree was dead and would need to be taken down. It'll be sad to see that large gap in the sky where it used to be. Even mostly dead and only as bare branches it had a stark grace and was nice to shield us from the neighbors.

I'm sure some something will quickly grow in that space though. If the black acacias in the yard had their way, this whole plot of land would be an acacia grove, from all the saplings I'm constantly finding popping up in awkward spots.

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Also, a new art book to add to my bookshelf arrived in the mail today. I've never actually played guild wars, but after seeing some of the artwork in this shown on other blogs, I ordered one. It features all digital artwork, but I find often that some of the art that I enjoy looking at the most is that which is most different from my own.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Back online, and Zodiac series complete!

Feels like it's been forever since I was able to scan and upload work. In fact I was starting to get a bit worried that if my string of bad luck and misfortunes here regarding my computer weren't fixed soon I'd start running into deadline troubles.

Fortunately I had sketched and scanned all 12 of the zodiac pieces and having art director approval before starting. Not my usual mode of working. I prefer most of the time to sketch one at a time and go from sketch to finished painting before starting a new one. Which for this instance proved to be a very lucky thing!

And so after computer trials and tribulations, UPS angst, scanner incompatibility issues, more UPS angst, it looks like all systems are finally good to go!

Just the cover left to do now.

Also, new zodiac bookmarks available here.

Pendants with these designs will be available hopefully in a week or two when I have a chance to make some. They'll be posted on etsy.