16 September 2014

A Drawing In

Summer Fades

I love summer most as it is fading away.  There is a pause like the hush of an audience before a stage curtain lifts waiting for the magic to appear on stage.  I was blessed a full evening this past weekend surrounded by peaceful countryside, allowing me the opportunity to watch the sun slowly set on the final days of the season.  In contrast, the previous day had been a sauna of summer heat and humidity as you come to expect when you live near the Chesapeake Bay. 

This day, somehow, had a sudden crispness to the air with breezes finding their strength. The sunlight had a palette not quite golden, but certainly warmer in hue. The billowing clouds helped to create the atmosphere.  We drove well around Baltimore City to avoid the giant blow-out festival in the Inner Harbor celebrating the 200th anniversary of the British attempt to blast their way around Fort McHenry. Instead we opted for winding roads and retro 1980s tunes, as we drove northward and away from the urbs and suburbs to tranquil farmland.  The stated purpose of our mission was to attend a fundraiser dinner for the Creative Alliance, but I had only the urge to be surrounded by Summer's full bounty on my mind. 

And there is no time like the present, because the seasons are changing. . .

I think of this moment between Summer and Autumn as a time of Drawing In.

It is a lull in the seasons to pause and cherish all of the energetic growth and ecstatic wildness of the warmest months of the year.  Even though I am not a farmer as my hosts are, the harvest that I see spread before me is all of the activities and accomplishments of my creative endeavors. You do not have to work on the land in order to appreciate the importance of harvest time.

My host expressed a similar thought when he sat at his dining table. For him, the idea behind hosting a party immediately before the Fall of the year is a conscious choice. He knows that he has a lot of work in store for the harvests and preparations for winter, but this is his time to kick
back and reward himself for all of the labor of the year.  The food served at the table came from his land and his wife's amazing feast.

Here then are some of my impressions of the landscape that I saw during this enchanted evening.

In the farm yard.

Baby Turkeys!

Big, bad turkey!

Honey, the Herder

The Trickster Goats

In the nearby woodlands. 

There are mists rising even as the daylight begins to fade.  The Jewelweed has grown so tall and bushy. It's orange blooms stand out like flags in the twilight.

Jewelweed Glowing in Twilight

08 September 2014

Summer Siren

Summer Siren by ~runningwave~
I have finished my first work of mixed media art on canvas. Woot! I finally did it. She's turned out quite lovely. I am so new to all of this painting-figures-on-canvas thing, but I am loving it.  The mermaid was inspired by a lesson taught by my art guru, Effy Wild in her year-long online Moonshine 2014 course.  This was a pretty intense lesson. Here are some photographs showing the creation of this piece.

Step 1, paint the mermaid in acrylic colors

I drew the figure on a 12 by 9 inch canvas board, outlining first in pencil. I intended her to look like she was floating peacefully in her aquatic home, carried by the currents. Once I had painted the general shape of the mermaid and added in her facial features I let the whole canvas dry. Effy's lesson called for three-dimensional hair. She chose cheesecloth to approximate the look of seaweed-like hair. I love the effect she achieved so it was off to the grocery for me.

Step 2, glue cheesecloth hair onto the canvas
Here's what the canvas looked like after I glued layers of cheesecloth onto it using artist's matte medium.  This turned out beautifully. I wanted her tresses to look like they were floating in a radial spray from her head in the waves.

Detail of the face and hair in step 2.

Step 3, Detail of the face, mostly complete.
To paint color in her hair I mixed PearlEx metallic powders with my acrylic Titanium White paint. The Sea Green colored powder worked best for the palette. My experiments with the PearlEx resulted in some very pleasing colors and I intend to keep playing with them. I had purchased them years ago to use as embossing colors for rubber stamping, but their effect when mixed with acrylic paints is stunning.
You will notice the detail of eye lashes in Sakura Gelly Roll metallic blue Glaze. Her lips and necklace were painted with Jacquard Copper Lumiere acrylic. The necklace got some finishing contours added in a dimensional ink brand called irRESISTible Pico Embellisher by Tsukineko.

Detail. Completed mermaid tail under the hair.
There are more coppery details on her fishtail and also in the shadow on the left side of the canvas to counterbalance the visual "weight" of the tail and out-of-control hair.
Summer Siren, completed September 6, 2014.
I think there are three very important lessons that I learned from this exercise. One: I'm perfectly capable of creating fine art on canvas. Two: I can, in fact, paint faces. Three: This was a LOT of FUN and I want to paint more canvases with mixed media.

22 August 2014

Growth Happens . . .

New Oak Moon art journal spread
This abstract oak tree is the result of an art journaling exercise facilitated by Effy Wild's Moonshine 2014 course.  We are making art inspired by the seasons and cycles of the moon all year long. She provided the course content in June, but it took me a while to get started. And then it took me weeks to finish. This is the most intricate art journal spread I've ever undertaken, but I'm really pleased with my results.

While I was working on it, I never thought it would look cohesive. There are many layers to this page. The very first is a background layer of color painted onto the paper with Gelato pigments, giving the whole page a softer, nearly pastel feel.
New Oak Moon - detail
Effy's lesson recommended a collage layer next that would create a mosaic feel. I was skeptical about how mine would turn out, but there are enough greens and earth tones to off-set that energetic paint layer with Summer colors of oranges and reds.  Next came the tree, painted in acrylic and then detailed with "bark" lines of Black Pitt pen and Sakura metallic gold ink.  Then I drew in each oak leaf and filled them in with various gel inks. The metallic just jump off the page. Finally, I used a paint pen to make all of the green circles with the final touch of outlines around them in black ink.

I worked on this piece off and on between other projects over a period of three weeks. I had to practice drawing the tree a number of times to get a trunk and branches that I liked. I also had to teach myself to draw abstract oak leaves, so I filled an entire sketchbook page with them drawing slow at first and then speeding up. It was time-consuming to create all of tree's detail, but the detail is what brought together the living-tree shape.

I used to prefer to keep backgrounds very simple if the main focus of the piece was going to be an illustration (rather than pure abstract collage). But now I think that this tree would look very different on a plain background. The effect was worth the effort.

In the meantime, I have devised several ways to recycle my own art.

I shared a page of watercolor lines in my last blog post.  I have several of these pages of watercolor lines because I practiced the same blending exercise several times.  I took giant hole punches yesterday and punched out 2" inch and 1 3/4" inch circles from one of the practice pages. It's very likely that these circles will begin to appear in different collage pieces I create in the near future.

Collage circles punched out from a watercolor practice page.
Each circle has its own character. I like how some have more curvy lines than others. The colors (even in the page made with cheap watercolor paints from a classroom set) are cheery and take on a whole new appearance when they are liberated from the rectangular parent-page.

Finally, I had been debating what to do about the cover for my recently-begun art journal. The book is an 11 3/8" inch by 8 1/4" inch bound Dylusions journal book specifically made for mixed media creating. I love the size of it and the fact that the pages are bound to open completely flat, making painting and drawing easier.  The cover is just craft-paper brown, and it kept staring at me asking, "when are you going to cover me with art?" But I could not decide what to do.

I debated for days. Maybe I should just paint it a color so it's not blank. No, maybe I should collage it. Then it hit me, I had a favorite 4x6 index card piece of the full moon in July.
Brand new cover for my art journal.

I used the book cover as a frame for my index card art, by painting around it in acrylic and ink layers. I taped a starry-night washi tape border along the book's spine so that it matched the night sky theme. And I glued on mylar stars surrounding the picture and an arrow with my title and the date to remind me of when I created the hand-moon picture.

Now it is happily situated on the front cover of my journal so that I can look at it and let it inspire me all of the time.