Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New batch of pendants!

Whole new batch of pendants uploaded! New designs from my more recent art.
-click here- to view them at my Etsy shop.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Experimenting with fixative layers, Part 2

5x10 inches

This post is a continuation from yesterday. -Click here- for part 1.

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!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Experimenting with fixative layers

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Part 2 can be found -by clicking here-.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The First Moonrise

The First Moonrise
Medium: Ink
Size: 11x7 inches
original available for sale -here-

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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Moment

A Moment of Music
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.

* * *

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.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Black Knight of Dark Night

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.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Black Knight progress & keyword cards

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!

* * *

And a few more keyword sketch cards for a batch of orders going out next week.
left to right: dna, unicorn, yeehaw, wolf, fulfillment

Monday, September 12, 2011

Night Magic

I was reviewing some of the keyword card sketches I've done in the past year, with some thoughts of starting to gather together ink drawings for the next installment of an Inklings book. I came across, for keyword "nostalgia". On this evening when the cricket-orchestra is loud outside my screen door, it stirred some thoughts.

My own nostalgia frequently coalesces from my memory in the form of fireflies.

I left Summit, New Jersey when I was 7 years old, and there are no fireflies in the places I have lived in California. I remember nights that seemed so black and muggy you were swimming through them. The voices of the older kids I played with bounced from the trees around me as we delved into the darkness. Were there flashlights? I don't remember. I remember the blinking pinpricks of light. I remember the pine trees, and fragrant needles underfoot. And fireflies piercing the fabric of the night. I remember catching the sparks in our cupped palms, and watching them glint from inside the glass jars.

I was squeamish of bugs. Elizabeth was the tomboy, the oldest girl, and the alpha of our group. She would pick up caterpillars from the tree outside my house, hold them between her fingers as they slowly curled up into a tight fuzzy black and yellow ball, and then wriggle straight and arch again in a mesmerizing fashion. She would try to put them in my palm, and I would just stare at her with my fists clutched tight behind my back, shaking my head emphatically, "No no no." She would casually pass her hand across the thread of a dangling emerald-green inchworm, and offer me that living writhing jewel. Sometimes I would tentatively take the proffered gifts. I wanted the older kids to like me and didn't want to be excluded from all their games.

But the fireflies needed no social prod to fascinate me, to entice me into chasing after their sparking flashes, and capture their blinking lights in my hands. They transcended being insectile. They were summer magic. Inevitably, after capture, they would glow and flash in our jars for a while, but then the lights would fade, like banked coals. We watched hopefully, but when they lay dark and still, merely insects once again, we reluctantly unscrewed the jars and let the cloud of lights lift up into the night.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Black Knight finalized sketch

Finalized sketch for Black Knight of Midnight!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lots of Ink Drawings, and Etsy Update (at last!)

A bunch of ink drawings that I did during the quieter moments at Dragoncon. Fortunately, there weren't too many "quiet moments" -- it was an extremely busy show, I'm happy and thankful to say!

Dragon and fox themed. Well, I did happen to be at DRAGONCON, and foxes were on the mind because a friend had lent me the book The Fox Woman, by Kij Johnson. It was a quick, but engrossing read, and I recommend it to any fairytale/folktale or kitsune lovers.

6.5x9 inches
ink on bristol board

5x6.7 inches
ink on bristol board

5.5x6.5 inches
ink on bristol board

* * *

A batch of ACEOs. These are all available at my etsy shop, ranging from $18.00-$25.00

* * *

And finally, a big batch of pendants. New designs from recent paintings will be coming in the next month or so.