Inklings 3 proofs arrived in the mail today! This latest installment will be 58 pages, a little bit longer than the previous two books. Softcover, 8.5x8.5 inches. Features ink artwork that I've done in the past two years 2010-2011. It includes about 20 stand-alone full page ink drawings, many vignettes, 110 keyword card art pieces, and about 30 of my private travel sketchbook drawings.
This should hopefully be available in January. Here are some previews:
Breathe Medium: watercolors Size: 11x11 inches Detail closeups -here- Prints and original available -here-
For my personal Christmas cards this year, if I can get around to getting them printed up and mailed in time, moving at the snail's pace I've been going this year! Played around with my box of blue magic from Kremer. I love these pigments!
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Some of the sketches and in progress shots:
Sketchbook scribbles. Brainstorming.
More sketchbook brainstorming.
Playing with composition in photoshop, combined face and tilt of head and neck from one sketch with the attitude and pose of the body from another. I liked the movement that the diagonal from her arms created. The second figure felt too static. But her expression suited what I wanted.
In response to those who have objected to my integrating steampunk elements into this piece, I want to address a bit. While there is just steampunk for steampunk's sake (Claire's halloween costume for example. :) ), I feel that this piece is not in that category. At a glance it is swiftly slotted into what we all conceive of as "steampunk" these days because ANYTHING with clockwork is automatically put into that genre now.
What this piece is about, and what I hoped the title would convey, was not simply just jumping on the steampunk-wagon. It's a juxtaposition of man-made vs. natural and how the two flow in and out of each other (a common theme in my other works as well). It is the imposition of human conception of time parceled out into cycles of seconds and minutes, with the natural diurnal rhythms that exist regardless of our recording and observation of. The pendulum arc of the girl on the swing is an echo of this rhythm as well.
But also, however random nature seems to be, when you come down to the building blocks, at its heart nature is a vast, fantastic, incredible machine which manifests itself over and over in geometric and mathematical ways. There is a strange tie of such hard physical science to subjective beauty and life. When that becomes most evident is at that juncture where we meet the natural world.
Our bodies are aware of time on a level that our minds have more difficulty grasping. We have internal biological rhythms that coincide with the moon each month, and with the flow of day and night. I mentioned a month ago about Claire's first recognition of the moon in the sky, and it was a comment that Dana made that night about how she seemed to know it already that gave an initial spark to this concept. Even barely knowing the word "moon" and never having laid eyes on it, her physical body was already attuned to it and the cycles of time.
A sneak peak at a piece in progress (partial scan of the full size).
I had so much fun with the sketches and designing for Claire's halloween wings, that I got inspired to do a painting along those lines. I've been in a bit of an idea-rut lately, so I'm pretty excited about this because it sprang to mind as a full-fledged concept, along composition, colors and title, which will be "The Inner Workings of Life".
I think I'll be trying some fixative layering on this too, on a larger scale now than the experimental pieces I've been toying with in the past couple months. It will be interesting to see how it works for a more ambitiously sized piece.
The sketch is taking forever though, on the illustration board. All the little gears and cogs are making my drawing hand ache!
All done! Now to chase down that kidlet and see if she'll wear it.... The top pops off so that I can drop one of those LED pumpkin tea-lights into the canister. The entire thing is made of foam (and a chopped up old contact lens saline solution bottle). The only actual metal is in the D-rings I used to secure the shoulder straps.
Dana thinks this little detail is excessively silly:
Medium: Ink Size: 9x14 inches Detail closeups -here- Prints and original available -here-
Very roughly based on this photo I took last year. A live oak tree out in a grassy field, with the swirl of clouds spilling out above it. When I posted it on deviant art, people were commenting that the clouds looked like a dragon.
Playing around with the idea a little bit, and planning to eventually do a painting along these lines.
I'm getting super-caught-up in making Claire's Halloween costume. I don't even know if she'll tolerate WEARING half the stuff I'm making. I figure if she doesn't, I'll use it all for myself at a convention someday. :)
Steampunk wings. Thus far made completely from these foamie sheets I bought a while back for some other project, then spray painted coppery colored. So it's super-light. Which it will have to be if I'm to get Claire to wear it (and then once there, she'll hopefully forget that it's on her back). I'm having a blast. And actually getting some painting ideas with this too that I think I'll have to tackle once this current October obsession is past.
The stuff on the bottom right is Dana's poor dissected chess clock. He broke it the other day and was about to just toss the whole thing in the trash when I cried out, "WAIT!" He was completely bewildered as to why I would want clock guts. Why wouldn't I want clock guts?!?!!? Anyway, still mulling ideas on integrating some of that stuff in as well.
Sifting through my stockpile of pens and brushes, and I am reminded of the lessons I took when I was in grade school in the afternoons with a lady who taught me the basics of Chinese painting. I went to her house with my brother and a couple of other neighborhood kids after school. For some of them, the time spent in her kitchen was not much removed from glorified babysitting. My brother liked to draw, copying some of the cartoon characters from the stacks of how-to books she had on hand. She noticed at one point that I was interested in some of the traditional Chinese art books. I wonder if something clicked inside her when she saw that; if it made her delve into something she obviously loved.
She gave my parents a list of materials. That weekend we went to San Francisco's Chinatown. We entered a store that on the outside was just like the dozens of others that catered to the tourist ideal of imported Asian goods. Past the twin kierun that guarded the gilded exterior. Past racks of polyester brocade dresses, earthen tea kettles, porcelain cups and bowls, paper lanterns and umbrellas, chopsticks, incense. The basement of the store was filled with prosaic and practical goods, and more like a thrift store than the jade and glittery upstairs.
At a glass counter, my mother handed the list to the clerk, who began pulling out various brushes, and describing the providence of their hair: goat, squirrel, wolf, horse. Brushes, ink stick and stone, and translucent rice paper.
After that, my time at my teacher's house changed. No more cartoon how-to books. The other kids still doodled with pencil and googly-eyed creatures. But she showed me how to mix the ink stick with water and grind it against the stone, releasing a mellow scent like old leaves and earth, and thick black ink. The ink stick itself was cast with the relief of a dragon on it, twining down the length that lay in my hand, melting slowly in to a pool of rich darkness.
The grinding of the ink, the smell, the tactile roughness of the rice paper, the entire process becomes a part of the art-making. It is a ritual where everything and nothing happens, before the brush is even lifted.
She showed me to hold the brush straight upright, and to not let my drawing hand rest on the paper, in order to facilitate sweeping gestures. A single brush stroke was like the choreographed movement of a dance. She made it look so easy. Her hand was just an extension of arm and body and mind - graceful, elegant. It was one of the most difficult things I ever tried - creating the illusion of looseness, simplicity, and freedom with careful forethought and planning. For weeks, she made me practice dozens of pages of bamboo: graceful, stark, in black and white. Grind the ink, lay out the paper, and dance the brush across the pages.
Watercolors 7x10 inches Prints and original available -here- Detail closeup -here-
Another fun little piece. It seems that summer is finally making (delayed) way for autumn. The sweltering days have passed, as it started raining here last week. But during one of the brief intermissions in the precipitation, when the sun had warmed my terrace, the bumblebees were out in force. They were quite busy amongst my lavender. Taking advantage of those last sunny gaps in the days.
On a more technical note, I was playing around a bit more with fixative on this one. It wasn't the main purpose for the piece, as for the previous, but I did want to try some more.
I mainly used the fixative for helping to build up the background color's intensity, much quicker than it normally would take me to do such seamless graded washes. Usually it requires many more layers to achieve the full darkness of a color, but by doing a very light spray (I just did a quick pass of the fixative over the page) I managed to get the cerulean blue to it's full intensity with only two washes, while still being able to blend smoothly.
So I stopped spraying after the three layers from yesterday night. I think I reached the limit of what would be paintable. Even though the fixative is supposed to be workable with watercolors, I could see that it was slowly clogging up the paper's porousness. In some areas like the upper left, especially, it starts to get really grainy. Which isn't a bad thing -- it added a new dimension of texture. But I can see that if I kept going, the pigment would just start to roll off. Maybe a lighter hand with spraying in the future, would allow for more layers.
Also, that weird blotchiness that I mentioned this particular sheet of paper had? That never quite went away, but those areas started repelling pigment even more so than others. I was left with a lot of mottled whitish areas that were just refusing to take any color.
I pulled out a white gel pen, and started doing something with those splotches. Some of those splotches I had done on purpose; it was the ones from the paper's weirdness that I had to work at more to integrate. I added a dusting of white highlights in those areas, as well as adding highlights to the figure herself.
A lot of this is something I would usually have done via lifting instead. But because of the fixative, it kind of turns this whole process into something like a melding of watercolor and acrylic techniques. It's watercolor while a current layer is wet, but then it becomes permanent like acrylic once it's dried and I spray it.
Softening the hard edges of the gel-pen white. Adding more hints of blues and oranges to the shading.
Happy with the result, and definitely something I will try again in the future. I was pushing the extreme with this one, spraying so often and across the whole piece, but it was to see how far I could take it. Probably would use it more selectively, and with a lighter hand on the spray nozzle!
Giving something a shot that I've been meaning to try for a very long time. If you've worked with watercolors, you'll know that one of the quirks of watercolors is lifting. This can be used to advantage in numerous ways:
smoothing edges between one color and the next
creating a very gradual graded wash
pulling out small areas of soft highlights
correcting minor mistakes (sometimes you can lift and pull enough color out that you can almost get a fresh start for a small area)
blending of tones from one layer to the next
Of course, lifting also has many disadvantages that can be incredibly annoying as well:
when trying to get a very rich dark tone with layers, subsequent layers keep pulling color up, and so you reach a saturation point sooner than desired where you can't get darker.
layering on top of a smooth wash sometimes will pull up spots and irregularities
textures with particularly sensitive colors (blues and purples which are more prone to lifting) get smoothed out or obliterated when a second layer is brushed on top
You learn to appreciate the advantages, and to know and work around the disadvantages after a while. I had an idea however, of trying to spray workable fixative onto a piece in between layers, in order to try to work up to a really nice rich dark tone in areas, and also to maintain texture across layers. I'd lose a lot of the blending qualities that occur with lifting, that naturally happens every time you layer, but it would be interesting to see what results I could get if each glaze was fixed and made permanent.
So, using one of the sketches I did for a keyword card a while back, I penciled it onto a board and decided to give it a try tonight.
Going to use my Elderflower purple as the main color, as it is usually one of the most easily lifted colors I have, and one of my favorites.
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First glaze of purple. About 5 minutes (plus the half hour of laying out the initial sketch) into this however I get a nasty surprise. I'm using my usual Strathmore illustration board 500 series, which I usually love. But on very rare occasion, (3 times in the past 11 years of many MANY paintings, so not often at all) I've gotten a bad sheet that has these weird speckles in it that only appear once I put water to the board. They seem to absorb the water differently and puff out. I get really annoyed, but it only seems to be on the lower half, with a little bit in the middle. And I really don't feel like re-sketching the piece.
I almost toss it, but decide to forge on ahead with the experiment. Maybe the fixative spray will help. Or maybe the fixative spray will do other weird things. I haven't ever tried fixative and then continued working on a piece. The only time I've ever used it is on pencil drawings when I was absolutely finished, even though I buy the "workable" version just in case I need to do corrections or additions.
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Oh yes! The fixative has seemed to work quite well, and the paper is still taking liquid and pigment fine. I don't know if this will hold up well for multiple sprayings. We shall see.
But so far it is working as I had hoped. The second layer is MUCH darker than it usually is with this particular pigment, and I'm still keeping the textures from the first glaze.
Second layer is more purples, some burnt umber and paynes grey thrown into the mixture as well. The weird mottle texture on the paper seems to be less obtrusive now as well, so I'm glad I decided to continue instead of prematurely chucking the whole piece and starting over.
One major downside is that the spray is stiiiiiiiiiiiinky with fumes. Might need to wait a bit longer between spraying and continuing to work so that I don't get lightheaded with fumes.
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Another sprayed layer. Still looking good. I'm a little concerned with whether I'll reach a point where it's too many layers of spray. Already the liquid kind of rolls around a little bit on the surface, rather than being absorbed by the paper immediately. But so far it still seems okay.
Added more purple to the corners, and started a bit of naples yellow glow on the left side. Started on some finer details using mixtures of reds and blues. I'm really happy with how rich the purple tones are getting, with so few layers applied. It doesn't usually reach this saturation of color very easily.
Stopping point for tonight. Will have to wait til tomorrow to have more fun with this.
One evening, about a month ago, Claire was restless. We took her out of her crib, and down to the front room with the big picture room where Dana started to read her some books. But she looked outside and saw the moon, noticing it for the first time. Her eyes rounded and with the moonlight glowing in them, she exclaimed, "Up up UP!" We explained it was the moon, which she knew of by reputation through the pictures in her books, but this was the first time that the concept and reality were merged. UpupUP! So high and piercing bright, something almost primal that pierces through our windows and walls and structures.
5.3x7 inches ink on bristol board original for sale -here-
A bit of a breather today. Had a chance to do a couple of ink drawings. I haven't touched my piano in almost a month. I think this one was a subconscious reminder to let my fingers relieve their itch. Perhaps later tonight.
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Moonshadows 5.3x7 inches ink on bristol board original for sale -here-
I had this sketch languishing in my sketchbook for a while now. It was a first pass at brainstorming ideas for the illustration I did for "Sultana Lena's Gift" for Realms of Fantasy Magazine, some time ago. The final painting focused more on the mechanical bird, but I had some initial ideas to center more on Lena.
Size: 19x18.5 Medium: watercolor Detail closeups: -here- Prints and original available: -here-
The third and final piece in the series, "The Witch's Three". Baba Yaga's trio of knights. I particularly had fun painting the tree in this one, getting the upper branches to fade into the shadows the way I had in mind. I mentioned in an earlier post about a tree I once saw with huge swirling roots that inspired this. Here it is:
Photo from 2004. It's an enormous ficus tree at a botanical garden on Kaui'i. I loved the swirling ridges that the roots shaped. Anyway, the tree in this Black Knight painting is not a ficus, but definitely borrowed from the shaping of this photo.
Finally got started painting this yesterday. I find it frustrating that the less time I have to paint, the more I procrastinate about finally setting brush to fresh sketch. These days I only have a couple hours that I can snatch in the middle of the day, and then evenings. But often by the time evening rolls around, my brain is too tired to really engage in a piece.
It's not as hard to get myself sketching, but for some reason getting the colors in mind and actually starting to paint starts to get intimidating. As if too much time to think about it, just gives time for the anxiety to start ratcheting up.
I've been frequently asked in emails what do I do about artist block, and I never really had an answer for that in the past, because I didn't ever feel like I got blocked at all. But I think now I do have an answer for it: If you're feeling blocked or unmotivated, perhaps the answer is just that you're not drawing/painting enough.
When time spent art-making becomes too precious, then the pieces themselves start to become imbued with this sense of "preciousness" -- this need to be perfect. One can't get caught up in that, because then a painting becomes about the expectation, and not the actuality of doing and creating. Sure it's nice to have a finished piece at the end of the day, that you're proud of. But as soon as a painting is done, it's on to the next one, the next story to grip and involve, the next process and evolution.
My minutes and hours have become precious, and it forces me to feel that each line and stroke and color choice has to be important. It has made staring at a white sketch laid out on a board intimidating, and it surprises me that I can revert to such a state after being immersed in creating paintings day after day for so many years. It reminds me that I can't take for granted the ease I have with creative processes. It's something that comes with practice and has tto be maintained.
It's why last week I did a couple of quick paintings, trying a spontaneous shakedown to just jump into mini-paintings without over-thinking them. I think I'll need to do those more often!
Despite a couple of scheduling setbacks, I've managed to make some good headway in this piece. And after the initial dragging of the feet, I'm eager to dive into it now!
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And a few more keyword sketch cards for a batch of orders going out next week.
left to right: dna, unicorn, yeehaw, wolf, fulfillment