Thursday, March 19, 2015

Everything's a work in progress


That sounded kind of deep. I guess it is true though, that everything in life is a work in progress, most of the time. Things are always changing and being created anew. That's an especially appropriate thought right now, as Spring officially starts tomorrow. We've unofficially been having it here for weeks now though, with the jasmine in bloom, as well as roses, azaleas, and some other green things. The cats are out sunning themselves all day long in the balmy weather, and I'm even sleeping with the window open. 

And I've been sketching a lot. New things for new projects. Lots of children's book art, mostly, but also some kitties, and some new food. 




I also have the Spring Cleaning bug. Do you get that too? Not just my house, but life "stuff" in general. This is a great article about the recent end of the Uranus Square Pluto astrological thing that's been going on for the past 3 years. Lots of challenges and change in many people's lives thanks to this rare planetary alignment, and now, thankfully, its coming to an end. The shorthand version is kind of a "this doesn't work for me anymore" feeling, with the urge to make difficult changes, and grow. Even if you're not 'into' astrology, I'm sure you can relate to that feeling. We all go through it, and I've been feeling it a lot lately. 




So there's a lot of new work starting to 'bud', if you will, on my drawing table. Some still feels like its in 'winter mode', gathering itself up under the surface, ready to poke up and see the light. Other things are already sprouting. 





I also rearranged my studio a little bit, and it has a better 'feng shui' thing going on I think. All I really did was shift my drawing table 90 degrees, but it really changed the energy in the room, and I love it. (I know I'm sounding very 'woo woo' today, but hey, whatever works, right?)





So here's to Spring! And Spring cleaning, and new growth of all kinds!





Friday, March 06, 2015

Upstairs Tabbies


Please allow me to present Sir Cedric Catley, the Earl of Mewton and his lovely wife, Lady Clara Catley.


Sir Cedric is married to the former Miss Clara Sweet, a licorice fortune heiress. He married her for her money, after his family found themselves in reduced circumstances, thanks to his father investing in a rather unsound financial scheme involving pigeons. He is quite the bug enthusiast, and has an impressive collection. He can often be found in his "bug room", pinning specimens while listening to Chopin and sipping chicken broth tea.



Lady Clara is married to Sir Cedric Catley, the Earl of Mewton. She is the heiress to a great licorice fortune, and he married her for her money. Her parents disapproved, so of course that made her keen on the idea, and also, she wanted to be a "Lady". She enjoys giving lavish dinners, and is especially fond of showing off her Cook's skills with stuffed fowl dishes. Her husband's bug collection is a source of embarrassment, but she allows it because he doesn't interfere with her catnip parties.

*****

These two are the first in the Upstairs Tabbies series. I had fun with her hat! There will be children next, I think, and an odd relative or two. 

I'm sad that Downton Abbey is over until next January. And that will be the last season, I've heard. What will we do? There will be some serious withdrawal going on. Although I also heard that Julian Fellowes is planning a new series - The Gilded Age - about Victorians, so maybe we'll have another good period drama to dig into when DA is over. Let's hope!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Peppercorn Jack Cheese


I'm in a real 'bread and cheese' mood lately. To draw, and to eat. Not sure why, but I'm enjoying doing both.
I just broke off a bit of this wedge and had it with some kalamata olive ciabatta bread for an afternoon snack. So good! My fridge has a handful of other little wedges of interesting cheeses that I hope to manage to get drawn before they get eaten. We'll see.

This was done with all Prismacolor colored pencils on 8" x 10" (20.32 x 25.4 cm) Strathmore bristol.

I actually used a "Bronze" colored pencil on this. I don't know if I've ever used it before! Somewhere along the way I decided the Gold, Silver and Bronze colored pencils were for amateurs. REAL colored pencil artists make their own gold, silver or bronze colors from other color combinations. Which is true, actually.

But this bronze is a really good color, and not even metallic looking. It gave the cheese just a little yellow/gold oomph it needed.


(these are not my images - they're pulled off the web - no © infringement intended)




A good example of what I'm talking about with the metallic colors is my 3 Musketeers Mini drawing. Its Silver, right? But of course I never touched the actual "Silver" pencil. I used a lot of greys, and blues and reds to pick up the reflections in the wrapper.



Same thing here with the Twix Mini. Its all yellows and goldy-browns and whatever else was needed to render the shiny gold foil - without using the "Gold" pencil ever.



Part of the fun of doing shiny things is analyzing what the colors actually are made of (at least I think so). Well, that's true for things that aren't shiny as well. But shiny stuff is a little harder maybe.

This Witor's Noir chocolate was shiny, but a little less so than the Twix, and with a lot of brown. Again, no "Gold", but a lot of other colors.




Well, you get the idea. Its like in illustration class when they told you to never use the "Flesh" color paint! And remember the 'flesh' colored crayon? 

Wow, I really wandered off the mark here. I just wanted to share my cheese drawing. 
I will clean up the background, and put prints in the shop. I think a little grouping of bread and cheese prints would look nice on a kitchen wall. Hmmm, I'll have to work on that . . .


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Soft Preztel Roll

Soft Pretzel Roll  8" x 10"  colored pencils on Strathmore bristol

Not a lot of art to talk about this week. I was drawn (pun intended) to this soft pretzel roll in the store for some reason. I like the pattern of the 'cuts' on top, and the rich color of the crust. I'd never eaten one of these before, or even seen them I don't think. Its nice and bready and pretzely, and I liked it.

There's something so comforting about nice bread, especially at this time of year. Although here in California we're having Spring already, with sun and lawns being mowed and yard chores in full swing. Everywhere else people are snowed in, its crazy.

One other thing I'll mention with this piece is that I've gone back to Strathmore bristol, just because I have a lot of it, in pads, laying around. One day I thought "why did I stop using this?" and so did a piece on it and was happy with the result. I don't know. Somewhere along the line, when I decided to get 'serious' about my colored pencil work, I started exploring other papers, thinking the key to doing a good piece lay in the paper choice. I'm glad I discovered Stonehenge and Fabriano Artistico, and will still use them when there's something particular I want to do that requires one of their special characteristics. But for now, I'm perfectly happy with this Strathmore bristol - 300 Series.

I put prints of this in the shop, in different sizes.

I'm also working on more cat drawings. { meow }

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lemewl Cox Cat, by John Singleton Catley

This was a little experiment with first an idea, then the technique. I wanted to do some Colonial cat portraits, based on actual paintings done back in the day. I did some research, and settled on a painting of Lemuel Cox by John Singleton Copley to be my inspiration.

"Lemewl Cox Cat" 

At first I was going to be more 'illustrative', then I ended up pretty much copying the painting, substituting a cat for Lemuel Cox, and making adjustments to the coat (neck, mostly) to fit the cat proportions. 


I started out with Prismacolors on Strathmore Bristol. 


I developed the drawing, and went darker and darker with background.


I just kept going, with different colors + black, then came in with Black and Caput Mortuum Polychromos. Finally, I scanned it and had a go at it with my digital colored pencil brush and Photoshop, just to get the whole thing dark enough. I also did the whiskers digitally (much easier than doing them 'by hand' with colored pencils!)




Not sure what's going to be next!



Tuesday, February 03, 2015

More Downstairs Tabbies

I have more of the below stairs cat servants to share with you. Some have debuted (wow, that spelling looks wrong - "deybyood" is what I mean, in case it is) already on the arCATecture Facebook page, and all of them are already for sale as prints on etsy



I'm still fiddling with some of the descriptions for them in different places, and so they're just slightly all out of sink with themselves, if that makes any sense. 




I've also opened a shop on Zazzle, and the same is true there. It will take me a good while to get it all stocked up. I'm making each product one.at.a.time, since I have to place the art on each phone case, pillow, mug, tile, shirt, etc. etc. individually, to insure the best size and correct placement. So its my life's work now, basically. 




In the last post I said I was determined to figure out how to do these all digitally. Well. I tried. I really did. But what I finally figured out is my 'ideal formula' for these kitties, as well as my other work, is to do 90-99 percent of it with colored pencils, then come in, if necessary, with some digital 'polish' to enhance areas that may not be quite strong enough with pencil alone.




I just can't get the same look of 'real' colored pencil by doing it all digital. The 'polishing' I do though is with a special colored pencil texture brush I made for myself, so it still looks like pencil. The combination works for me, and I'm thrilled to finally have this figured out.



I may take all these over to their own blog, and eventually their own website. (Even though I'm still lagging waaaaaay behind on the re-do of my own main website! which is half done, but not published, and yes, I was one of those kids who didn't finish one thing before starting the next, which drove my parents nuts. Some people never change.)

I think this may be all of the below stairs staff - at least for now. I suppose I could do an under butler, more footmen, housemaids, kitchen maids, scullery maids, hall boy, nanny or nurse (although she would technically be kind of in-between up and downstairs), groundskeepers, and a few other assorted folks. For now though, I need to get these ones all caught up with themselves in all the shops, then I'll move on to something else. I have lots of ideas for other characters, too! 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Servant Kitties

This is a new 'thing'  I'm working on. Its been on a back burner for too long, and one of my resolutions for the new year was to move it to the front, and turn up the heat a bit. 

These first few samples were done with traditional colored pencils, then some 'digital colored pencil' to enhance them. I'm going to see if I can do the rest in the series all digitally. I really want to be able to go all digital for some stuff, and am determined to figure this out, once and for all.




These may remind you of some popular TV characters, or not. I'm not trying to copy specific people, but there may be a strong nod to someone we recognize here and there. 


Its fun to adapt human 'costumes' to cat proportions. Sometimes. I'm trying not to do 'people bodies with cat heads', although that would make things a lot easier.



The ladies are next!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Salted Caramel Brownie

Finished!
This has to be one of the most decadent things I've ever eaten (or drawn). 



I used mostly Prismacolors, then a little Polychromo Caput Mortuum Violet (my favorite color!), and a Coloursoft Brown Earth. Its about 8" x 8" on 10" square-ish paper.

Not much else to say. I'll clean up the background and do prints.
Now its back to kitty drawings . . .

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Brownie, Work in Progress


Last week I had to get my car worked on (new brakes!), so I put together a little tin of treats to give the guys (I know, I'm so nice). My motivation wasn't all selfless though. I kept back one of these luscious brownies for myself, to draw.

This isn't any ordinary brownie. Its a super decadent salted caramel brownie. (I overheard one of the car shop guys say he could feel his arteries clogging after he ate one.) They're big, and luscious, and heavy. And irresistible to someone who likes to draw food! 

This is how I start. Actually, this is several 'steps' into the process. I just didn't feel like getting up to scan it, but decided I'd better before I got much farther into it. I start by mapping out the nooks and crannies, then start filling in the shadows first, then the more chocolatey parts. I'm simultaneously working out the color (hue), as well as the values (light and dark). One pass of color might focus more on the value, and the next layer might just fill in some flat color.



The parts that are still white are where the caramel is. Its a completely different color, so I'm getting as much of the chocolate established as I can first, then I'll do the caramel.


I can't wait to eat this thing. The smell is driving me crazy! (in a good way)
It has quite a ways to go, but I'll get there.
Oh, its about 8" x 8", so far all Prismacolors, on Fabriano Artistico paper.


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Painting black (and green, and brown . . . )


Happy New Year!

I'm starting it off by painting a lot of dark little paintings. You may be able to tell what I'm up to here, but I won't spill all the beans yet, and instead will talk about how I'm painting them, and how they're kind of giving me fits.

My plan was to do these with watercolors on illustration board.




So I went into my supply closet, where I knew I had a whole box of boards (Strathmore 500 Series). But when I opened the box, . . . it was empty! Somewhere along the line I'd pulled out the last board; but because the box is a sturdy, very boxy box, I didn't even notice there was nothing left in it except for some liner boards (and whatever they built the box with to make it sturdy enough to ship fancy illustration board across the country without it getting damaged).

And so onto Plan B. I wanted to get these started, and didn't want to wait for new board to arrive, so I dug out some Arches watercolor paper. Which is really beautiful paper. But its very bumpy. And kind of rough. And I'm trying to get used to painting on it. 

The piece above has several layers of different blacks, but still isn't quite what I wanted the finished 'look' to be.

With this next one, I did a bit less, and somewhere along the way figured out I will still need to add some colored pencil to get the final look I want.




So then I started doing just a base layer of color, without worrying so much about modeling the form or any details, which let me relax a little and enjoy just putting some paint down. The 'splotchy' look is driving me crazy though. I wet an area, then apply the paint (see, I do know how to do this properly), but am still getting uneven-ness. It wouldn't kill me to use a larger brush, which would probably fix the problem. But like I said, I now know I'm going to go over it with pencil, so that will even it all out.




I can see I need to fix the buttons on this one, because they're not lined up right. (How did that happen?)


The paper warps, which drives me insane. I am too lazy to stretch it, and don't want to tape it down either (these are really small little pieces.) I learned all that stuff in art school, and remember running whole sheets of paper under the tap in the bathtub, then taping them down to a board to dry overnight. !!!!! I just don't have the patience for that anymore (but do have the patience to fiddle endlessly with a 00 brush or needle sharp pencil point - so go figure). 

Anyways, that's what I'm up to. And I'm not complaining, really! I'm just sharing. I'm actually having fun, and am looking forward to getting these finished. 

I hope the new year is starting off well for you. So far so good here. I confess I was happy to get back in the swing of things after the holidays. Its all fun, and emotionally uplifting, but also exhausting. There comes a point when you just can't eat one more cookie or fat-laden thing, and anything red and green and sparkly makes you twitch, and you know you're done. Amirite?

I did have one bit of drama for Christmas, involving a kitty. I'll copy it here as I recounted in on Facebook, if you're interested (and haven't already read it). It has a happy ending, and won't even make you cry or anything, so its an easy read. And with that I'll say good night, and go back to my little black paintings. Good night!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* * Christmas Miracle * *
On Christmas EveEve, Tracy kitty got himself stuck in a Barnes & Noble plastic bag, with the handle around his body. He freaked out because he couldn't get away from the crackling bag noise, and although hysterically funny to watch at first (just because it was only a stupid plastic bag), it quickly turned serious as he dashed madly around the house, knocking stuff over, then out the cat door. I heard him and the crackling bag whoosh past the front window and off down the street, poor thing, madly trying to run away from the bag.
So I put on shoes, got the flashlight, and even though I was trying to hurry, felt like the slowest moving beast on the planet - he was long gone, down the street who knows how far and to who knows where? I went to the end of the block, but how did I know which way he turned? He could be blocks away already. I trudged home, simultaneously thinking "Oh, he'll be alright", and "I'll never see that cat again".
A long evening, then sleepless night passed, with me imagining every awful thing that could happen to a cat with a plastic bag attached to himself, and listening for any sound of him coming in the cat door, and getting up more than once to check to see if he'd snuck in. All his beds were empty, and in the morning there was still dry food in the bowl, (its usually totally empty), so I knew he hadn't been back and gone out again.
A long Christmas Eve day of Christmas prep and worrying - no Tracy. Then out to dinner, trying to keep a brave face and smile, and be entertaining to my Mom who was spending the night, doing Christmassy things and just saying "Oh, he's outside somewhere" when she asked about him.
Did I mention I was praying to everyone and anything who might be able to help? Jesus, guardian angels, cats on the Other Side . . . .
Mom turned on "Its a Wonderful Life", and I sat in the kitchen, listening to George and Mary and Mr. Potter in the other room, feeling completely miserable.
And then. Twenty four hours after this story began, in the shadows near the cat door, the next room over, I see a little body. At first I thought it was one of my other cats, but then realized they were all accounted for somewhere else in the house. "Tracy?" . . . He'd popped back outside . . . "TRACY?!" again, and he popped back in, and ran right to the 'treat station' (here, next to the computer) and was perfectly fine! Not a scratch on him! Hungry, but not starving, just his regular self, pretty much. Joy! Relief! There was lots of thanking god, jesus, all the others who'd helped bring him back! In the living room, George Bailey was just starting his journey with Clarence, and so I watched and appreciated George's joy at getting his life back, and it really felt like Christmas.
Tracy slept tucked in next to me, right by the pillow, all night, which he's never done before. Santa brought him a new cat nip cigar, and he's been enjoying that and some Christmas sun all morning.
It does feel like a wonderful life today. And I will never let the cats play with plastic bags again. Especially ones from B&N.
Merry Christmas everyone!!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Merry Christmas, a little early

Its still 10 days away, but the next week will go by in a whoosh! of activities, so I thought I'd post now and have that one small thing crossed off my 'to do' list. (That didn't sound very festive, did it?)

Oh, I'll get festive. Sometimes it takes me a while. Its like before you've had coffee in the morning, and are not at all awake, then all of sudden you come to life and can function. That's how I am with Christmas. I kind of start the season all draggy, then at some point it kicks in and I'm good.

I finished my Christmas art! This is "Kitty's Christmas Tree". Its my first foray back into watercolors after a pretty long hiatus, and I had a blast. Of course I had to add some colored pencil to it too, for detailing. I could have done more, but decided to leave well enough alone.

And no, I did not count how many pine needles there are. If you are some sort of savant (like Rainman) you may do it for me if you like. 


In addition to all the usual busy Christmas things to do, I'm getting a new fence put up in the back yard. They were supposed to start it today, but it was raining too much. (Wait, did I just say "raining TOO MUCH"?) Yeah. Drought for how many years, and now we've had storm after storm. Crazy. So hopefully tomorrow it won't be too bad and they can get going on it. 

Tonight I'm putting up the tree, and am anxious to see how my newest kitty, Tracy, will behave with it. He's so young, and a real climber - I have a feeling it won't last long in the vertical position! Fingers crossed. 

I hope all of you have a peaceful, healthy, joyous, warm, cozy, happy, (what have I forgotten?) Christmas or Winter Solstice or whatever else you may celebrate!


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Back to watercolors


Its been a while since I've done any real painting with watercolors. I've been busy being a colored pencil artist for a while now, with some detours into digital, but have been wanting to go back to watercolors, so here I am.


This piece is my Christmas card, a little behind schedule, but on its way now. I'm working on illustration board (Strathmore 500 series) which is my all time favorite surface to work on. I get cranky with watercolor paper because I can't stand when it warps when wet (even if its stretched and taped down), and illustration board doesn't do that. The only drawback is that you can't transfer art onto it with a light box (its too thick to be 'see-through'), so its back to old-school transferring methods - tracing the drawing down over a graphite transfer sheet.



Here is my glamorous set-up. That's a fancy ceramic yogurt cup for the paint water, held steady by a roll of packing tape. Hey, it works. My drawing table is at a slant, so I have to keep stuff from rolling down. The parallel ruler on the bottom keeps most things from rolling off altogether.



I use a combination of Winsor Newton, Holbein, Daniel Smith, and Turner watercolors. I'm not really a purist - whichever brand has the color I need is what I use. I tend to stay away from the really grainy ones if I can help it, unless I'm doing something with special effects. I like a more even kind of pigment. Sometimes I use gouache (opaque watercolor) too if I need to. Here I've squeezed out some Winsor Newton Hooker's Green, Permanent Sap Green, and Green Gold. So far all I've use on this piece is the Permanent Sap, in various strengths.



And here we have some Christmas tree needles. There will be a lot more of them by the time I'm finished. A LOT.



We're due for an apocalyptic storm tomorrow and the next day. 60-70 mph wind gusts, and 3-4" of rain. This, after years of drought. I think last December it rained one day for about 10 minutes, and the rest of the time we had sun sun sun. The year before, too. Now, we're getting the opposite, and its too much! They're warning the power will go out, trees will fall over and all sorts of awful things will happen, so I thought I'd better blog something in case I'm offline for a while. Let's hope its not as bad as they say!





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Candy, Colored Pencils, and Christmas

I've been kinda busy I guess, finishing up some projects and trying not to panic about the holidays. Let's get started with the 'catch up', shall we?

The finished SKOR bar. This is with its new owner and is being framed as we speak. (And I'm so glad I bought a few extra of these for reference, which are still in the cupboard, because I just read an article about how there's a chocolate shortage looming on the horizon - !!!!)


I did this with . . . trying to remember . . . Prismacolors and Polychromos I think, on Stonehenge paper. I know that sounds bad that I can't remember, but when you have as many brands of pencils as I do, and they get cleaned up and put away after each project, its easy to forget.) This is 5" x 10".


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Then I did this house and people portrait for a nice family who wanted to remember their vacation together in France. This one required some photoshopping to get the people from different photos all looking out the correct windows in this photo before I could start the drawing. 

On this one I used Prismacolors and Cretacolor Soho Urban Artist pencils. The Sohos are pretty hard, and had the exact right shade of blue grey I needed for those shutters. I also used a lot of their Lamp Black for shadows, which is really a grey. I don't always mix brands of pencils, but do when I need a certain color, or need something soft or harder to do a specific task. 


The original of this was 11" x 15". And it was going to Buffalo, NY, which had 5' of snow today!!! I feel like I should have wrapped it in a blanket or something. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I'm really honored to be included in Katherine Tyrrell's new book, Sketching 365 (or if you're in the US, its called Drawing 365). She has a Facebook page dedicated to it.
I can't remember now which pieces of mine she asked for, and I don't have a copy yet to check. But I'm in there, somewhere, along with a whole bunch of other super talented drawers. Thanks Katherine!!




~ ~ ~ ~ ~


And then . . . dun, dun, DUNNNNNN . . .

CHRISTMAS

(insert those Psycho screeching violin noises here)

Every year I say "I'm not making cards! I hate making cards! I'm not making them!" and then I do.

Some of these are newish, some are oldies but goodies, image-wise. I found these fun blank cards with ornamental embossed edges, which I thought were perfect for festive cards. They all have fancy deckle edged envelopes. And they're all in the shop.














I have a couple other pieces I want to make into cards, but we'll see. One is square, so I ordered square envelopes, and when they arrived yesterday I realized I ordered the wrong size! (note to self: never order stuff before the coffee has fully kicked in) I should probably just work on my new card for this year, and some other projects that are pending. 

Its raining here, which is great for our drought. But of course the kitties are all out of whack because they can't go outside as much (translation: they're all climbing the walls in here). They have catnip and snacks and 500 places to perch and sleep, so they're OK. Which reminds me -  I need to order their new catnip cigars for Christmas (shhh, don't tell them). Seriously, if you want a really amazing cat nip toy, go here and get these - Hot Cat Treats.

Stay warm!!