Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Squirrel Sketch

Zach Wong (creator of Revelations Tarot) has been on me to do this image for at least a year. Ironically it takes having a kidlet around preventing me from having much time to paint, to actually have the time to paint. The last painting I just did "Final Sleep," was so large that it was hard to work on it while holding Claire. I needed something smaller to be able to hold on my lap because I can't stand to not be doing something.

Some of you may know the origins of this, and others may be scratching your heads asking ?!?!?!what?!??!! is The Happy Squirrel?

Episode 2F15
"Lisa's Wedding"
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Jim Reardon

Woman: I've been waiting for you, Lisa.
Lisa: [gasps] How did you know my name?
Woman: Your nametag. ["Hi, I'm Lady Lisa"] Would you like to know your future?
Lisa: Heh, sorry, I don't believe in fortune telling. I should go.
Woman: What's your hurry? Bart and Maggie and Marge are at the joust, and Homer is heckling the puppet show.
Lisa: [gasps] Wow, you can see into the...present.
Woman: Now we'll see what the future holds. [turns over a card from what looks like a Tarot deck]
Lisa: [gulps] The "Death" card?
Woman: No, that's good: it means transition, change.
Lisa: [relieved] Oh.
[the woman turns over another card]
Lisa: Oh, that's cute.
Woman: [gasps] "The Happy Squirrel"!
Lisa: [timid] That's bad?
Woman: Possibly. The cards are vague and mysterious.

(Discussions on the Happy Squirrel card can be found -here-.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Final Sleep

Size: 16x25 inches
Medium: Watercolors
Details: -here- (be sure to check this out, as I'm rather fond of the details of her dress and all the critters!)
Prints: -here-

I'm about ready for a pretty long sleep myself after working on this one all weekend! *stumbles over to bed and topples in* Sorry, too brain-dead at the moment for much commentary beyond that. Maybe more tomorrow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Answer

Meredith Dillman complained, "What do you DO with a dragon's really long neck?!?!""Ow," he says.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

November Blossoms in Spring

Medium: Watercolors
Size 10x7 inches

It has definitely started to feel like springtime here lately. Plum and cherry trees in full bloom -- a profusion of pink and white petals snowing down past my windows with each gust of wind. I've had my office door open every day so that I can breathe the fresh air. It feels good after the closed windows through the rainy winter.

I finally got around to painting a picture of Claire, and though those flowers may look very "Spring", they were inspired by a photograph my mother-in-law Alice took on the day that Claire was born, back in November in her garden in New York.

It's been a long time since I have attempted a painting of a likeness, from a photograph. Whenever I use references for the most part it is just to determine how a tricky bit of anatomy works, or figuring out how the shading would fall, or creatures/plants that I'm not familiar enough with to draw the details of from memory. I rarely use a reference to paint exactly, so this was a bit of a challenge as well as being something fun.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Final Sleep" Sketch Development

Another commissioned project, this one on the fading of magic. "Final Sleep" is just a working title...not sure I'll stay with that, have a few alternate ideas. Client wanted a dying dragon with magical creatures gathered around. Started off with this sketch for the dragon and the basic composition.
To give the piece some focus, I wanted to add a faerie queen. A master of the ceremonies role as they bid farewell to the ancient. The little bird/butterfly creature flying from her hands that I have used in a previous painting as a symbol of rebirth.
Photoshop to fit all the pieces together. Added a mermaid in the pool. For this rough layout, I didn't even bother to sketch her, just took one from the Six of Cups ink drawing as a temporary placeholder.
Transferred it to the final painting surface and filled in all the details. This will be a larger piece than I've done in a while, 16x25 inches.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tarot deck preview!

Whee! Finally got to hold this in my hands!

Release date is inching ever closer. Two days ago I got the proof preview of the deck from my editor in the mail. Subdued bouncing-off-the-walls excitement ensued ("subdued" because Dana's aunt and uncle had just stepped through the door at that moment as well), but I didn't have a chance to really peruse at leisure until today.

I sat with it this afternoon with Claire in my lap. I shuffled. Then I drew my first card from this deck that I have waited quite a long time to hold. The Lovers. I looked at the sleeping Claire who was curled up in a warm bundle against my skin and decided that yes, this most definitely was the card for where I was at the moment. Existing in this Now as my heart dictated. Life in upheaval, the choices that this tiny little creature has created for us, the potential and decisions for her as she grows - this little acorn that Dana and I have planted.

I think the final decision to go with a very minimal border was a good one. It's a silvery-purple color that nicely compliments the images without being distracting. I am also pleasantly surprised that the art has scaled down very well without the details being lost. I was a bit worried about how the images would look when printed small, but I'm really happy with it all!

A few more months until May release date!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Queen of Spades Sends Her Regards

"The Queen of Spades Sends Her Regards"
Size: 11x16 inches
Medium: Watercolor
Prints & Original available -here-
Detail views -here-

Whew! That title is a mouthful. I seem to have a habit of long titles. This piece inspired of course by Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland". It's a wonder I've made it this long without doing something derived from that. For that matter, I was surprised to find I had not even read "Through the Looking Glass" yet until recently. I had a copy of it, and somehow just always thought I had read it.

-This- seemed too fun of a concept to pass up. Balloons! Alice! Why not??
It sparked an idea almost instantly that I scribbled a thumbnail of in my sketchbook: From the thumbnail I did more detailed and refined sketches of the figures.
"The Queen of Spades sends her regards," I thought as I drew the two Cards. That sent my mind meandering along a Carrollian nonesense spiral of speculation about what exactly IS the hierarchy of the various Queens and Kings in Wonderland?? They are a deck of cards, but there is only ever the Queen and King of Hearts in the book. The suits of the lower echelons seem indicative of their position in court (hearts being the children of the Queen, spades being the soldiers...etc). But then what of the Queen of Spades? And the Queen of Diamonds? Who might these mysterious Others be? Perhaps they are lesser queens to the Queen of Hearts? Or rivals?

After some scanning in and tweaking things around in photoshop to combine the various sketches, it resulted in this, prepped for painting on the illustration board:

At first I had in mind blue/gold color scheme.

Not thrilled with it, but kept working, hoping the colors would resolve...

After getting the red roses in, I realized I didn't like the color scheme. Hated it in fact. It felt too much "grass is supposed to be green, roses are red, sky is blue," rather than having any kind of mood to it. I think because in the early part it looked like it was going to have a blue/gold scheme to it, with bright red poking through. But the blue/gold somehow melded into greens. And then I was getting a rainbow effect.

I run into this phase often in paintings (The "I hate this painting!" phase). It's the hard part. People often ask me, "Do you mess up?" Answer is yes, but I don't toss a painting out if I feel it's been messed up (though I was tempted at this point because it was annoying me that much). I keep working at it and layering different shades in. Sometimes lifting colors out if I have to.

So I took a wide flat brush and started swiping in light washes of purple into the sky.

Not quite there yet...

More aggressive with the layering. Added red to it (since red on top of the blue that was already there would turn purple) and brushed yellow on top of some of the blue bits closer in the shrubbery to turn those into green. The extra glazes also had the effect of softening up some of the background foliage and making it all look kinda misty-dreamy.

More yellow to turn the last blue bits in the rose bushes into weird purple and green shades. And I was finally happy with the colors at this point, and glad that I had not given up on it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ideas & Requests?

Llewellyn is asking me to write an article regarding the Shadowscapes Tarot (making of, or any random related topic) for their journal, and I'm brainstorming for ideas. If anyone has specific questions, requests, or suggestions, I'm happy to hear it!

Also, my editor has told me that they've got the sample cards back from the printer. I'm dying to see them! At this point, I'm as eager as the rest of you to see the final product.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Her Garden

Her Garden
Size: 10.25x15 inches
Medium: Watercolors
Detail views -here-
Prints -here-

---From Hans Christian Andersen: The Little Mermaid:
"She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. The shadow had a violet tint, and waved to and fro like the branches; it seemed as if the crown of the tree and the root were at play, and trying to kiss each other. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds."

* * *

Some of the in progress shots:

Client specified she wanted red hair and a green tail. So with that edict in mind, I planned the colors of the background accordingly. The red and green would be very striking, and as they are complimentary colors already, I couldn't just make the background the complimentary color of one or the other as I frequently like to do in order to push a foreground element to the viewer's attention.

Instead I had to pick colors and tones that would really offset both red and green. So I chose to use a pale golden light, with the distant sea arches fading to purples. The starfish were little bits of red to tie that color in throughout the piece. And initially I planned to make the fish bright yellow. But when I got to that point (the 4th in-progress scan you see below) it felt like the starfish weren't enough to offset her red hair, and I needed something else. So they became bright red fish, which nicely pulls the whole composition together.

And if you missed it, the evolution of the sketch is -here-.

I used to be a Winsor & Newton girl for my paints. I've used them for over ten years. But ever since my friend Sophie Klesen gave me a few little sampler containers of Kremer Pigments to try out, I've been in love.

A lot of the colors are non-standard and unique, so I don't use them in my technique books because it would be too complicated for people trying to reproduce the results with the standard array of colors. But for most of my work these days now I'm moving more and more towards exclusively using the Kremer colors.

The amazing thing is how wide an spectrum of tones and shades can be achieved with very few actual distinct colors. I only possess 6 colors - a red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. And yet I feel like with those six I have been able to get a much broader array and subtle shifting shades than I could ever achieve with my enormous selection of W&N paints.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Delving Down the Rabbit Hole

I was at my parents' house this past weekend with the kidlet. We were escaping my miserably snotty husband, as he had come down with a cold which I did not want to share. I forgot to bring my current painting project (The Little Mermaid piece that I mentioned in previous posts). A fact that my itching fingers were regretting, because with the doting grandparents on hand I had plenty of unexpected free time!

And so instead I pulled out an old copy of "The Best of Lewis Carroll" from my bookshelf and made my way surprisingly quickly through "Alice in Wonderland" and then "Through the Looking Glass". The latter I realized I had never read before. That oversight has been remedied however! I've got some wonderland-inspired ideas floating around my head now, as well as mimsy slithy rhymes terumbling through my mind.