Saturday, May 30, 2015

Little Red Riding Hoodie goes to the woods....or A Story in Three Panels.

This blog post is about a small experiment in watercolour, cut paper and sequential art.

I was playing around with a watercolour pouring technique.....laying down some fine lines with a masque pen misket then running blue, red, and yellow washes over all. When dried I lifted out (using a water soaked brush only) some background trees and removed the misket with an eraser. I ended up with a small (5 x 8 inch) pretty passable landscape.

But what to actually DO with the landscape? It was pretty bland just by it's self. So......I started to play around with a scenario involving a Little Red Riding Hoodie character I'd made up a while back for a book dummy. I painted a 1 ½ inch drawing of Little Red Riding Hoodie warily entering the woods. So working old school, in real life, I cut the Little Red Riding Hoodie out and taped her where she needed to be in the landscape, and scanned it in. Viola! I had the beginnings of a story.

But then I thought of a “next step”. I decided, for the story “drama” Little Red Riding Hoodie would be followed into the woods by the Big Bad Wolf, in brite green shoes and biking shorts. So I did a 2 inch drawing of the green shoed Big Bad Wolf, and taped him in place of the Little Red Riding Hoodie drawing,and scanned it in. 

So now I had Little Red Riding Hoodie going into the woods to Grandma's house. And the menacing Big Bad Wolf following her into the dark forbidding woods. So far so good, but what about a resolution or story ending?

Contrary to most of the Little Red Riding Hood stories I decided to give a bigger role to Grandma. I wondered what would it look like if instead of being a “victim”, what if Grandma was made of sterner stuff and decided to go on the offensive? So I wanted to see what the Grandma character would look like if she went all "Van Helsing" on the (were)Wolf. I contrasted Grandma in her pink fluffy grandmotherly robe and slippers,white hair in a bun, with a big shinny axe slung over her shoulder. The same axe that she had used to defeat the Big Bad Wolf, who she is dragging, by the tail behind her.

So I painted up the Grandma character, dragging the Big Bad Wolf behind her as she and Little Red Riding Hoodie left the scary woods behind them. I taped the three characters down in place of the previous Big Bad Wolf character, and scanned it in.

So these three panels are the result of the same watercolour experiment (used in all three scenes), along with three different cut out figures, used for three different “scenes” to tell a itty bitty story. I had a ball trying out this Little Red Riding Hood version.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Surprise! Lilies or A Splash of Watercolour and Dashes of Colored Pencils

Watercolour and Colored Pencils
11x14 inches from my own reference photo

This time I'm talking a bit about a recent watercolour/coloured pencil piece, Surprise! Lilies. I began this piece with a concept I'd had......I wanted to showcase the morning light coming thru the trumpet petals of some of our surprise lilies that bloom each August. In case you aren't familiar with surprise lilies, they are blubs that send up daffodil-like leaves in the early spring. And that's ALL they do in that season. But, come late August, when things are dry and the most that's around are roses and goldenrod......up they shoot....(It's a SURPRISE in this season).....a half a dozen or so foot tall stems, and soon they bloom into these lovely lilies.

I'd watched them on my morning walks, and noticed that at a certain time in the early morning, the sun shown into the lovely blooms, and made the loveliest glow shine thru. So I took photos......and more photos.....and more till I got the glow just right. Then I got to work painting.

Partial detail showing parts of the watercolor wash before and after the colored pencil layer.

I laid in the dark background, with a watercolour wash, then went over it all with colored pencil circles. Just drawing small circles of various dark coloured pencils, till I got the blurred textured background I wanted.

I did the same with the blooms, I laid in a watercolour wash for the intense pinks and yellows of the blooms. Watercolour was perfect for this layer, because of the gradient you can get with a wash. I also was able, after the first layer was totally dry, to wash over some blue shadow values over the pinks without dulling the first layer.

Then I started in with various pink/peach/yellow colored pencils over-lining the blooms. This particular flower petal's structure actually did have faint lines going from the center almost out to the ends of the petals. They gradually disappeared towards the tips of the petals.

I had a ball using both media, coloured pencil and watercolour, for exactly the results that each excels in........watercolour for it's gradient colour washes, and colored pencils for it's texture and definations. It was a win-win!  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


10 x 20 inches - watercolour/coloured pencil/acrylic paints

This blog post is about a mixed media piece I recently finished. My inspiration for this painting was a photo Frank took of a Pipe Vine Swallowtail. I used the pink phlox the swallowtail was perching on as a background......I added in some more flowers along a fence line to extend the composition. And of course that led to a far off background shot of our barn.

I started this piece off with watercolour washes. I really wanted to capture the delicate colours of the spring phlox. I thought the slightly backlit flowers would make a great foil for the intense black and blue iridescence of the butterfly. 

I continued on with strengthing the colours of the phlox foliage with more watercolours and began putting in detail darks with coloured pencils.

I then worked on the phlox blossoms themselves.....using both watercolours and colored pencils as needed.

FINALLY, after getting the flowers in order, I could work on the main event.....the butterfly. I started off with painting the black of the upper butterfly wings in opaque acrylic paint....using only a thin coat of paint. I wanted to be able to go over it with colored pencils if needed. I also glazed over the lower part of the butterfly with phthalo blue glazes, keeping it intense and dark, so's the interference paint would have a suitable backdrop. I finally ended up using a interference blue (iridescent paint) over the black and blue give the butterfly some of it's ethereal color. This appearance of changing colours happens when the painting is viewed from different angles.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Winter of Jeeves by Guest Blogger, Frank Lyne

JEEVES-Glam Portrait
16 x 20 inches -- watercolour

I'd like to welcome my guest blogger, Frank Lyne. Besides being my wonderful husband, he is a talented sculptor, photographer and birder. For the past few months we have “hosted” a rare, for Kentucky, Harris sparrow. Frank has documented our avian visitor from winter thru spring. Here is his own round up of our guest, Jeeves, 
 I just had to paint “Jeeves” using watercolours and one of Frank's gorgeous photos as source. Here is his blog post about the photo I used for this watercolor painting.

Winter of Jeeves

Each year I leave one hayfield uncut in the fall. In different years, my uncut hayfield has attracted a Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren and Leconte's Sparrow long enough for photos but not long enough for others to see them. Savannah and Swamp Sparrows often spend whole winters in my hayfield. White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows were spending winters here even before I began managing my hayfield the way I do now, but I think I have more of them than I used to. This winter I found another sparrow keeping company with the White-crowned Sparrows along my hayfield border – a Harris's Sparrow. Harris's Sparrows breed in the most northern reaches of Canada, where boreal forest transitions into tundra. Most of them winter in the central Great Plains, but for unknown reasons, a handful show up both east and west of their main wintering grounds. Our Harris's Sparrow was among this handful. With only a half dozen or so other Harris's Sparrows known through ebird reports to be wintering east of the Mississippi, combined with Harris's Sparrows' tendency to stay in one locale all winter and willingness to come to food offerings, our Harris's Sparrow soon became something of a celebrity. We named it Jeeves and by the end of winter had visitors from throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, plus a few from Ohio, Indiana and one couple from Katy, Texas. The Texans came from the heart of normal Harris's Sparrow winter territory, so I couldn't help but ask if they had already seen one. Of course they had, but not in Kentucky.
As winter progressed, I kept trying to lure Jeeves in closer for better photos. Nothing worked until it snowed. When it snowed, flocks of blackbirds showed up and quickly gobbled up all the cracked corn and sunflower seeds I put out for Jeeves in the hayfield corner. Jeeves responded by showing up at the yard feeder. I soon quit putting out food in the hayfield and attempted to guard the yard feeder from the blackbirds. While snow was on the ground, the feeder regulars let me sit within a few paces and the blackbirds couldn't all be held back. That's when I got my glamor shot of Jeeves. One snowy day he sat nearly motionless for a minute or more on a flowering quince twig, plotting how to work his way around all his competitors at the food rocks. Once on the food rocks he's constantly in motion – pecking, scratching or running back and forth to the best spots.
I have gotten a few other pictures (
since then to document his change into summer plumage ahead of his upcoming journey to Canada, but I'm never going to beat Jeeves glamor shot ( ).