Saturday, November 26, 2016

Haying or a Small Bit-o-History

Haying 8x10 inches acrylic paint
This time around I'm showing a small painting I did a few years ago. The painting is based on an old family photo showing how hay for livestock was handled in the 1930s. Hay was cut, left out to dry and then raked up with a “dump rake” into huge piles. Those huge piles were scooped up by the pitchfork full, into a wagon. Which was transported from the hayfield to a barn via a mule drawn wagon, then scooped up, by a hay fork (think a huge double arm scoop, sorta like what you use in a mechanical arcade game machine with crane claw). It was swung into the barn where it was stored. You can see the opening in the top of the barn where the hay fork came out to scoop the hay up in the loft. Then in the winter it was doled out, again by the pitchfork full, fed from hay racks on the ground floor of the barn. All this was by hand, mind you!

I've always been fascinated by the older black and white photos.....they usually have such a wealth of can see almost every blade of grass! Every time I see a really neat old photo, I always want to “see” it in colour. Since I tend to solve a lotta of my desires with paint.....I will often take an old black and white photo and bring it up to colour. It's a nice challenge to see if I can get the black and white values correct.....while still injecting what I feel would be the right colours to fit the scene.

But bringing an old black and white photo into colour, offers another neat opportunity.....a chance to learn about the circumstances that the photo is presenting. In this case, it's revisiting a vanished farming era. Other times, painting someone's family member from an old faded black and white photo, lets me learn more about that person in the photo......and how the person commissioning my painting really “saw” that family member. I always learn SO much!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Red Vase or Mostly, Some and a Bit in Red

Red Vase - Acrylic - 8x10 inches
This time around I've got another of the small 8x10 canvases that I wanted to do a small still life idea that doesn't really rate a full size canvas. A summer or two ago I'd taken a lotta flower photos in various “antique store finds” vases. This vivid red vase just seemed to beg for the flashy white peonies that had just a hint of the same red in their centers. I positioned it for a back lite “pose” and this one was my fav.

I sketched the photo onto the canvas and started painting. I laid in the bare bones of the painting in the first session:

The next session I did some glazes with different reds on the translucent red glass vase. Using three different red glazes really intensified the red of the vase. Since the red vase was the star of this painting, I wanted to paint it first and let everything else literally “pale down” beside it.

I continued on painting till I felt satisfied with the values of the different flower petals and the other background elements. I was especially pleased that I could contrast the petals on the left against the curtains in shadows. I also like these smaller canvases as they wrap the canvas all the way around the sides to allow me to paint them with a continuation of the painting itself. 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

How I Spent my Saturday....or Christmas Ornaments at the Library

 Last Saturday our local library invited me to do a mini program on Christmas Ornament making. I had been making a bunch of Christmas ornaments while watching nite time TV. After the program director saw some of my designs, she asked me to share some of the techniques I'd been practicing for Christmas ornament making.


I had a box full of cloth scraps from loooooong ago, along with a bunch of embroidery thread in lotsa colours. So's I came up with some designs for Christmas ornaments, using cloth scraps, and threads covering styrofoam balls.

A while back I'd gotten interested in temari ball making.....a Japanese needlework technique also using stryofoam balls and threads. Of course, being me, a lotta colour was involved in the I was a happy camper. I'd made some ornaments using the traditional Japanese methods.......


but wanted to do some simpler ornaments using Christmas themed cloth and coloured threads. These are the kind of ornaments we worked on at the library program.


A few lovely ladies joined me at the library on Saturday, and we had a ball (pun intended!) covering stryofoam balls with with fabrics and stitching red and green threads around the centers. We added some hand made cording and hand made tassles and viola! We all had lovely Christmas ornaments to start off the holiday season.

Thanks so much to the Logan County Library for suggesting this event and all the lovely folks who turned out to have a bit-o-holiday crafting fun and share some laughs.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hopkinsville Art Guild's Pennyroyal Art Show 2016

Frank with his sculpture in cherry wood titled String Player
Winning First Prize in 3-D sculpture
at the Pennyroyal Juried Art Exhibition at the Hopkinsville Community College Auditorium Gallery
Today I'm sharing a pic I took of Frank at the reception for the Hopkinsville Art Guild's annual Pennyroyal Art show. He's posed with his (first in 3D) prize winning sculpture: String Player. I took the photo with my phone, and it was smart enough to prompt me with a request to identify the “person” with Frank, meaning the sculpture!

I also had a couple of paintings hanging in the show:

 Vine Ripened Puppys for Sale



Here's a link to more about the Pennyroyal Art Show:

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mostly, Some and a Yellow

This blog post shows off a bit about a small acrylic 8 x 10 on stretched canvas piece called Blue Jar. After seeing friends do series of smallish works (8x8 inches or 8x10 inches) I decided I'd try a few. I wanted to try a coupla ideas that I liked, but felt wouldn't rate a full size canvas.

So's I grabbed a two pac of inexpensive stretched canvases. The bad news is the canvases were really thin material, compared to more expensive duck cloth canvases I'd painted on in the past. The good news is the canvas was indeed really thin I could use an old illustrator trick of transferring a drawing using a light box. In other words, I put the cropped (both digitally in Photoshop and after printing out....with scissors) photo I'd taken of the jar, and put it behind the canvas. I shinned a bright light behind the canvas and photo, and viola! I could easily trace off the main outlines of the jar with paint. Thus getting the image transferred in one fell swoop! Here's what the backside looked like.


So I had the main outlines on canvas and I could start painting. Tho' the main subject was the cobalt blue jar, I was designing things under the “mostly, some and a bit” guideline. So's it was going to be mostly yellow, some blue, and bits of red......i.e. A triad color scheme.

I got this far in my first session:

I wanted to do this piece fairly quickly and use larger brush strokes than I usually do. My imagination had been fired by some really nice impressionistic artwork I'd seen recently. I have to admit I was drawn in by all the lovely reflections on the jar and found myselves reverting to my old detailing habits. In the end, I went back in and removed some of the excessive brushwork in the background to allow the detailing in the jar to shine.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wanna Play?


This time around I'm showing a bitty illustration called “Wanna Play”? It came from an idea I've been messing around with for a story line about a “boy and his puppy”. I've been working on visual communication between characters, and I thought it would be cute to show the puppy and little boy “communicating” using a puppy's “play” crouch signal. When you see a dog or puppy doing this just know that he's saying “Do you wanna play with me”?

Before I drew the entire scene, I needed to firm up the little boy character a bit. So's I did a few head sketches to see just how I wanted the little boy to look. I'm still working on the whole “keep it simple” thing......but I've found that if I use paint to “sketch” the characters and remain focused on establishing the masses of the characters, I get the feeling/gestures quicker.

I took what I learned from the sketches, and drew a simplified little boy mirroring the puppy's play pose, using the green hedge to show the bow to the backs of both the puppy and the little boy's. Even without a lotta detailing......I wanted to let the poses of the puppy and little boy “speak for themselves”. But tho' I liked the left hand version of the little was still a bit too “realistic” for what I had in mind. So's I tried a younger version, but it still didn't quite suit either.

So's it was back to the “painting” board. I tried another version, this time changing the crop from landscape to portrait. I worked on keeping my “realistic” habits in check and concentrated on keeping things simple. I wanted to show the most important part of this scene......the interaction between the two characters. 

I really enjoyed putting a lotta energy in the background bushes, with bold strokes of colour. This emphasized the simpler foreground figures with their warm colors and graduated modeling.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Illo Prompt SWIFT or Idea Jumpstart

Illustration from the SCBWI idea prompt: SWIFT
So........SCBWI does this “thing” for their monthly email INSIGHT's an itty bitty contest where members draw something to a suggested prompt. This month's prompt is “SWIFT'.

For one of my illustrated books, G is for Grits, A Southern Alphabet, I illustrated a little boy pretending to be a stock car race driver. He had on a toy helmet, was sitting in a chair and was using an old toy wagon wheel as his steering wheel.


Well, I had always like this illustration, so's I thought I'd do a slightly different version for the prompt. For my sketch this time I added a doggie copilot and speed blurs against a plain background. I made a sketch, including a seat belt for the boy and a tiny chair for the doggie, duck taped to the little boy's chair.

Then I took that sketch and made a sheet with four of them printed out. I used this sheet for a “cheat sheet” studies of black and white values, where I learned that a strong light and dark gave a bit of drama to the scene. I also did a couple of colour sketches, and decided on my colour theme.

And since I'm having trouble silencing that old habit of including EVERYTHING in a sketch, I went ahead and did a teensy black and white line drawing, showing everything in great detail. that I'd gotten that (uber detailed) version out of my mind, I concentrated on being more loose in my colour illustration. Now a days, I'm trying to go for “Draw tightly.....paint loosely”. During the painting process part of this, I ended up jettisoning the doggie side kick.....he was just to “heavy” a visual kinda way. I'm sure he'll show up in a future illo!

You can see the finished illo at the top of the page.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Illo Experiment for Hidy-Bye Boy

A loooooong while back I wrote a bitty story, Hidy-Bye Boy and made a “dummy” for it. In this case, i.e. children's picture book illustration a “dummy” refers to a practice or mock up of a book idea. It includes the text of the story, laid out in sequence and rough illustrations showing what you have in mind. Especially when an illustrator “writes” a book, quite often a LOT of the story will be told using the pictures......with the words providing key directions. So's a mock up of how the author/illustrator plans on telling the story is crucial in letting a publisher know the author/illustrator's vision for the picture book.

This pencil sketch is the first incarnation of page one of the story's text: “Hidy-Bye Boy loved to play hide and seek. He would hide when it was time to......” It shows the main character, Hidy-Bye boy playing hide and seek with his little sister counting down to go and find him.

At the time I was working on this dummy I was going thru a Photoshop phase, and I decided to “sketch” the dummy page using outlines and “fill” in Photoshop to show what was going on.

It had the advantage of being clear about what was going on in the sketch. But I also lost some of the charm of the pencil sketch. So recently, I took up this project again. 

 I've been doing a lot of classical painting of people, landscapes and wildlife. In this painting spree, I've “remembered” or revisited a lot of really nice planning techniques. One of which is to split your painting into only light,medium,dark sections to see if you have the focus on the main point of your composition. So that technique resulted in this little sketch being done again, this time in three gradients of black and white.

So now I had a clue as to a value map for my illustration. I then decided on my colors and matched the light, medium and dark values (and intensity) of the different colors I wanted to use with my black and white color map. You can see the result at the top of the post.

Friday, August 26, 2016

"Quickie Artwork" Inspiration from a Museum Photo

Wedding dress from Customs House Museum collection
8 x 10 inches painted on bristol board with acrylic paints
This bitty blog post is all about inspiration striking from the most a routine online perusal. On Facebook, I ran across a post from the Customs House Museum, Clarksville, TN, that showed one of the thousands of items in their collections.

The image was of an old wedding dress worn by Temperance Catherine Joslin in 1844. For some reason that image of an old wedding dress just struck me as something I could make “come alive”. I took the image and drafted up a sketch of a young lady in the dress in a backyard wedding setting. I carefully counted the pleats of the collar..(3 each) plus one going “off shoulder” and a final one not on the sleeves but connecting the sleeves with the bodice of the dress. The bodice had diagonal lines in the bodice itself. The ¾ sleeves each had 3 pleats finishing with a dash of lace. It closely followed heirloom sewing techniques of the period.....i.e bodice shaping and sleeve trims using tucks in the material.
I transferred the sketch over to some bristol board and painted up the entire composition in acrylics. I wanted it to have a back lit sunny day look.....with a dash of impressionism. I premixed my colours and it “painted up” very quickly. I really enjoyed turning the lines into masses that resolved into a blushing bride in her wedding dress.

This was an enjoyable painterly type “quickie” sketch. Something that took advantage of an idea that came across my mind's eye and that I hope brought a bit-o-history to life. Museums, like the Customs House Museum, are great places to get "quickie art sparks".  

An enjoyable bit of artwork like this,  reminds me to be on the look out for chance impressions that can spark an art “quickie”.



Friday, August 19, 2016

We Are Just Messing About or Another Pictures + Words Painting

We Are Just Messing About
Acrylic paints on 16 x 20 stretched canvas, my own photo references and imagination 

This painting is another one in my Pictures + Words collection. My aim this time was to show a group of folks “just messing about” in the park on a sun lit day. My artistic aims were to learn more about : Composition, values (lights and darks), gestures, color choices and masses (broad lights and darks to define a form.)

To that end I gathered some reference photos and began sketching. One little axiom I'd made up was to “draw tightly, paint loosely” or draw accurately from my photographic references but draw with the idea of masses instead of photographic detailing. To help with that, I took the photos into Photoshop, and reduced them to black and white, then “posterized” them, rendering the masses of the forms of the figures without detailing. This allowed for clothing/color/personalization changes at will, without feeling I had to adhere to the photos too strictly. These printouts are what I used to “sketch” onto the canvas. I again used the “power of thirds” to locate important features at the “sweet spots” of my canvas. Here is the canvas divided into thirds with my handy dandy elastic strings.

In my head I was also planning the lights and darks of the whole painting. Greg Albert, in his The Simple Secret to Better Painting has a bunch of nice axioms, but the one I chose for this painting was: Mostly, Some and a Bit. It can easily apply to values, colors and detailing.

I took my Photoshop posterized sketches and printed out a couple of tiny ones on some bristol board, and used them for color/compositional “mini-mes” or thumbnail sketches. I used my color wheel to decide on a triadic color scheme and proceeded to mix up my basic paints. From my previous experiments in using greys to keep my color scheme in balance, I mixed up a set of greyed colours and then used some of the original tube colors for color “sparks”. I've tried this on the basis of James Gurney's Color and Light book. Premixing greyed colors is a great way not to “fight” too raw tube colors......and allow your color “sparks” to sing


After establishing my compositional road map, light and dark value road map, mass and color road maps......I was ready to go. I laid in the basic lights and darks, making gesture, and facial changes, from the original photos, as I came to them. I wanted to make all these disparate folks look like they were all hanging out together. I then pulled up an oldie but goodie technique of glazing. I glazed the background tree masses till they were just distant background blurs, the better to focus on the people. As you can see I started off with a lotta greys, but the final painting is very colourful.

The planning process is a bit new to me, but I'm learning SO much from each one I do. It pulls together many things I've learned over the years......but have never combined quite this way in my painting planning. It's lovely to conceive a painting, with "bookish helpers" (i.e. re-reading from different technique books I have on hand) whenever I hit a snag in bringing a concept to a full painting.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Green Glow or Grass is Different than Snow

 Green Glow
18x24 inches on Crescent w/c board using various watercolors and gouche
My own photo reference

  This time around I'm doing a watercolor of a scene I see each morning during my AM walk. It doesn't ALWAYS look this way, but springtime around here can be LUSH!

I transferred my drawing of the scene onto the Crescent watercolor board, and laid in some spots of misket, (they are the slightly brownish blobs in the photo). I then did liberal poured washes of yellow, red and bits of blue in shadow areas. You'll note the distinct bow of the watercolour board after all the washes I poured. 

I immediately laid the bowed watercolor board right beside an air vent and left it over night. The next day, I found the board quite dry and totally flat! There was a tensy bit of separation between the paper and the board, but it was minimal and on the edges that go underneath the mat. So I went ahead with individual placements of intense watercolour Phthalo green over the yellows and blues. 

After laying in the pinks of the azalea and dogwood blossoms, the darks of the tree trunk, and the lavenders of the background trees, I removed the misket blobs that reserved the whites I needed for the sunlit water, grass and flowers.

Here I'm laying in detailing in the two birdbaths, shadows of surrounding bushes and grasses, and most importantly the shadows of the dogwood tree branches in the green green grass. Here comes in the “.....grass is different than snow” part. When I originally envisioned this piece, I wanted to do a spring version of this winter snow scene:


But when I used the same strategy of masking the white of the snow and pouring on the watercolor didn't look “grassy” at all! I needed grass texture in all that smooth green pour.

So I began “texturing” the foreground's “glow”. I scrubbed, I daubed, up errant spots of green watercolour, and detailed grass and blossoms and branches. I added deeper colours where needed, and in other spots I added white and yellow and green gouche, (opaque watercolors).

It took a lot of different techniques for this painting, but then a sunlit “glow” takes a lotta effort, if you aren't Mother Nature!


Friday, August 5, 2016

Chocolatier or Chocolates, a Vintage Dress and a Smile....What's Not to Like?

Detail of Chocolatier 20x30 inches on black illustration board
Using mostly Polychromos colored pencils, Daniel Smith watercolours and Golden Open Acrylics – Used an old family photo and my own photo references

This time around I'm mixing THREE media, using colored pencils, watercolors and acrylics. I ran across a photo of this lovely lady in a stash of old family photos. She was with a few friends posing beside a pond and looking ever so stylish. Her dress, of striped duplioni silk drew me just as much as her smile. I pulled up a pic I'd taken of an old Nashville building and combined them in this drawing I did on black illustration board. The dress, face and hands are actually painted with a thin coat of acrylic white.

I wanted her and her dress to stand out the most, which is why I painted the dress, face and hands with the white paint, to use that as a surface that was already bright. I wanted the background window and awning to stay the background. So I used mostly Polychromos coloured pencils to draw in the striped awning, window reflections and window display, leaving the black background for the awning shadow and window glass. The Polychromos pencils covered the black wonderfully, but kept their place in the total composition.

Now comes the watercolor part. In my mind's eye, when I saw the old sepia photo, I “saw” a highly reflective silk dupolni coloured shot with a bit of rose and green....sort of a triple gold look. When I looked thru my watercolour stock, the colours that fit the bill were mostly Daniel Smith colours. I put out a few of them, and brushed them on, horizontally across the skirt, using a “fur” brush you can see off to the side. This gave me fine lines to show the cloth's weave. Then the fun part.....”erasing” some of the watercolour paint with plain water, over those brightest highlights in the folds of the cloth. Darker watercolours brushed off onto the plain black illustration board let the dress go 'round the girls body and off into heavy shadow.

Here's the completed painting showing what was used where:

And a final image in the frame, showing the little “mini-me” image that I did before I started. It's sort of a thumbnail, on the black illustration board just to see what the different media would do.