art · gardening · nature · rural life · watercolor

Springtime Planting

It’s been a while since my last art post! I’ve been working at the art desk, creating quick things like the Canna painting above, but I’ve been spending the majority of my time outside planting all of the trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials I’ve accumulated over the fall and winter. AND germinating a lot of vegetable, herb, and perennial flower seedlings πŸ™‚

But those are not the only things I’ve been growing…check out groovy Chia Bob Ross, here.

The girls and I have also been enjoying Spring and the warmer weather and taking in the sites around the forest. We found these underneath the willow tree:

β€œIn the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

― Margaret Atwood

art · illustration · nature

Painting Like Crazy & Sprouting Seeds

Finished the “Mushroom Spirits” painting a while ago! I do like how it turned out, especially with the color palette I used. I’ve also learned to accept that I like working smaller when it comes to illustrations. I’m okay with that now, and I bought a few extra-small round brushes to hone in on details.

I’ve also been working a lot in the sketchbook with Dr. Ph Martin liquid watercolors. Painting plants, specifically chrysanthemums and a viburnum or two, and a few human figures. I really like the punker plant–a Dracaena species.

In between finishing illustrations and doodling in the sketchbook, I’ve been practicing painting from life. Norway spruce cone, red newt, and the ghost pipe plant– Monotropa uniflora— which is actually a parasitic flower I stumbled upon once at my parents’. It’s very white, actually has no chlorophyll because it’s non-photosynthetic, and found in the shade of beech trees. Its hosts are fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees; so, really, it gets its energy from photosynthetic trees.

I have also been sprouting seeds, getting ready for the spring garden–cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale for today, also cold-stratifying Nanking cherry and red currant seeds. It will be time for peppers later on this week!

art · art process · watercolor

Making Swatches and Creating My Own Watercolor Palette

My friend gave me a really awesome/generous/exciting gift this past Christmas: a set of 60 watercolors. I was overwhelmed at first–which ones to choose? Am I going to randomly squeeze out some paint on an already saturated and messy palette like I usually do?

Nope. I decided to do something different this time.

Switching things up is always scary, because you have no idea if the outcome will be successful or not. Lots of times, the output turns out to be a bust, but not a complete loss. Something usually is salvaged or learned and carried over to the next endeavor–trying something new has the potential to be a great source of inspiration. And it gets easier every time you do it. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

So, instead of the utter spontaneity I normally opt for when choosing colors, I started out by making some swatches of each new color. I was surprised that many of the pigments are opaque, which I don’t have a lot of experience with. But, I’m eager to try them out…

I notice that many people who regularly make swatches of their colors are a bit more ordered about it than I was. Similar colors are grouped together, maybe they follow the ROY G BIV thing, etc. Many people choose to be super-thorough and make a number of swatches of the same color in order to see how they respond to different painting techniques–for example, the wet on wet (diffusion) test and permanence test and staining test, etc.

I made swatches in batches of six, based on how they were grouped together in the packaging, and didn’t really pay any attention to arranging the colors beyond that. I’ll give my reasoning in a minute, but you can be as organized or as casual or as instinctive as you want πŸ™‚ Depends on what your goal is. What I wanted to find out was basic appearance of each color: transparency and granulation. I was most interested in what the color looked like on paper.

With each swatch, I started super-saturated at the top and diluted to very little color toward the bottom (a graded wash). After I made swatches of the 60 colors, I just looked and looked and looked. And looked again. Certain colors jump out at you for any number of reasons. An understanding of color theory does help when deciding on your palette. I ended up filling 20 half pans, so I chose a third of the collection!

I coded the colors with stars and circles to help me remember palettes I’d like to use in the future. I want to try out new and interesting color combinations for the pieces I’ve envisioned.

Also, notice how the colors are cracked and unevenly dried in the pans (above). When I added the paint to the pans, I shook them from side-to-side thoroughly, and it looked as if the pigments would dry in a flat layer. Alas, this did not happen. I’m not sure if it’s because of something I did or the paints themselves. Maybe a second addition–like a top-off–would help even the paint out in the pan. But all-in-all, I don’t really care personally.

And for me, the semi-random way in which I did the swatches was more in harmony with my individual approach and ultimately more helpful because I could see how disparate colors could potentially be paired or grouped for a desired effect.

Now it’s time to test out some of the pigments…I chose five to stick to for this painting: Vermillion Red, Wine Berry, Raw Umber, Pear Green, and Ultramarine. We’ll see how this one turns out…

art · art process · gardening · illustration · watercolor

Another Character Study

I finished another character painting, and it only took me a few hours. I’m going to experiment and put this time constraint into effect for future paintings. I have a few other scenes in mind for the Wanderer.

I also cleaned my art dest. Feels nice to actually be able to work on it πŸ™‚

I’ve still been working with pastels and charcoal, finishing up another fairy tale piece and working on a smaller one. I have a progress pic of the latest almost-finished one, and it looks like a big mess, as you can see. However, I’ve been working a lot like I usually do in watercolor: layer upon layer. Instead of paint, there are layers of tape and pastel color smudgings.

But when you take the tape off…voila! It’s also pretty satisfying to peel off the tape and see how the scene turned out underneath.

Other than art, I’ve been baking lots of bread, taking care of some sick kids, and planning spring gardens. I watched the documentary The Gardener and was very inspired. I basically have a blank slate on about 2 cleared acres and am jotting down all of my design ideas. On the remaining 2.5, there is a wetland forest, which is just beautiful…further on down the road, I think I will plant and plan in there as well.

Yesterday, mail check was especially exciting because we finally received our batch of veggie seeds! I’m trying to sort through all of my surplus seeds and use up most of the stock I have. But, I have a lot of seeds–the container below only consists of flower seeds, not vegetable, which fill TWO containers.

Happy Creating and Happy Gardening!

art process · children's book illustration · gardening · illustration

Art Groove Foiled by Sickness? Don’t Let It Get You Down…

Little Red. Charcoal and Pastel on Bristol. 11 x 14.

Getting sick is the WORST. I started getting a sore throat Saturday morning, was brought low by strep throat on Sunday and Monday, and still can’t gather enough energy to work for any length of time.

The good things:

  • My body is basically resetting itself. I haven’t had much of an appetite for the past four days and have been only drinking water, so it’s been kind of like a cleanse. When I stop feeling achy and start eating again, I’m opting for a lot more vegetables, fruits, and pulses. It’s just hard in winter, when there are fewer things in season.
  • I’ve been getting a lot of computer work done. Scanned new works, created new prints, and updated my Etsy shop.
  • I’ve been getting more practical (yet more detailed and personalized) work done. I created address labels, “DO NOT BEND” labels, and shop labels for outgoing print packages.

The image above is my next fairy tale illustration in charcoal and pastel, inspired again by John Bauer. The story is Princess Cottongrass and Long-legged Leap–it’s pretty wonderful and a bit haunting. I’m trying some new approaches with this one. Unfortunately, since I’ve been sick, I really haven’t been up to precision cutting with the Exacto–it’s not easy when you’re feeling weak.

I’ve also been getting the gardening bug–I mean, I’ve had it for a really long time now, but every year in January, I start getting the urge to grow things.

A couple varieties of Clethra (summersweet) and Syringa (lilac), a Viburnum, a Fig tree (!!), and some beautiful blue wild geranium.

Soon, I’ll be starting a lot of seeds of all sorts–flowers, veggies, shrubs. you name it. I’m also ordering fruit trees, so I need to prepare the area where they’ll be going.

Next post, I’ll show you how many seeds I have. I seriously have to throw a lot of them in the dirt and see what happens because the sheer number of packets is now almost unmanageable.

art · art process · children's book illustration · drawing · illustration

Happy New Year and Happy Creating!

I have been quiet as of late here on the blog. Getting in entries and sharing what I’m working on can be tough with two little ones running around all of the time. They both went back to school this week, but my oldest is virtual for 3 out of 5 days.

Wandering Coyote. Charcoal on paper. 9×12.

When I am painting, they want to paint with me (which I love), but it’s kind of hard to get into a groove when it becomes a social event. So, instead of watercolors, I’ve been doing a lot of pencil, charcoal, and soft pastel, which are a bit easier to put down. These media allow me to go at my sporadic pace, leave for a minute or an hour and come back to the art when I can.

I’ve been applying my negative painting technique to charcoal and pastels using painter’s tape to block out shapes. And my kids LOVE IT. I help them make their own ‘negative drawings.’

It’s fun using a different medium, a little liberating, and I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of techniques.

This one to the left is of the Pacific kelp forest–I was really inspired by the documentary My Octopus Teacher! I’ll be adding a sea otter, a leopard shark, maybe some rockfish and Garibaldi fish, a few octopus tentacles…

My kids experimented with using marker and their own watercolors, too πŸ™‚ I also let them use my lightbox so they can trace some of my drawings…we were occupied for hours.

Going to Grandma’s House. WIP.

This last one is the one I’ve been working on for the past 3 days–I’m putting the finishing touches on it today, adding Little Red Riding Hood and a few more details. I’ve been reading a Swedish Fairy Tale book that my youngest gave me for Christmas with John Bauer’s illustrations, and I LOVE IT. I’ve been writing a few adaptations of the ones I really like and want to illustrate them myself.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are doing well in these uncertain (and sometimes scary) times…I’m trying not to get sucked into 4-hour news marathons.

Keep Creating!

art · drawing · illustration

Christmas and Winter Holiday Cards

I’ve been busy drawing Christmas cards…pencil drawings to be colored in Photoshop. I wanted to finish three of them before Thanksgiving, so I’ve been drawing like mad lately!

Both of the drawings I’ve shown here in this post aren’t quite completed, but they’ll be done by today! I also have a third I’m doing that is Yule-themed. The one above with the horse-drawn sleigh will have “Seasons Greetings” written in fancy vintage font on the bottom, and the one below I have to add a cardinal to. I’m on the fence about adding words on the back: “When snow falls, nature listens.” –Antoinette van Kleef. Any thoughts?

I was loath to post these because I myself really don’t like seeing any Christmas/Winter Holiday stuff until after Thanksgiving, but hey, what the heck. This year has already been crazy…

I’m going to make 5″ x 7″ flat cards with envelopes after I give these a bit of color. I think I’ll save a little on the stock I pick so I can sell them for $2.50 a piece, 5 for $10, and 10 for $16. That’s the plan anyway…

I really need to get moving: finish up the drawings, color, modify/prepare the images for printing, and make sure to allow myself enough time to receive them in the mail. Not to mention getting the envelopes…we will see πŸ™‚

art · art process · watercolor

Watercolor Groove

Fall on the Farm, watercolor.

Finished a small 6″ x 6″ painting yesterday–I like how the apple trees turned out. After a lot of pen drawings, the freedom of watercolor was nice and refreshing. The paper is middle-f-the-line quality, and I thought the colors wouldn’t set that well. But the paint adhered okay–not Arches, but not terrible. I’ll probably revisit this color palette in the future…and maybe add a nice spot of green for contrast purposes.

Also started a new 6″ x 6″ because I can’t get enough of my new watercolor paints! I’ve been wanting to do a Lord of the Rings marathon for a while now, and my kids and I just started the Fellowship today. I think this piece is definitely LotR-inpsired…reminds me of Frodo fleeing the wraiths to Rivendell. I’m tempted to add some will-o-the-wisps to make it a fairy wood…

Now, for the part of the week I’ve been dreading. I have to go upstairs and tackle the newest version of Photoshop, install it on my computer, and get a few prints ready for the Etsy shop…will post more on that in the future!

drawing · illustration · watercolor

New Watercolor and More Ink Drawings

Started a new painting today! Complete spur of the moment piece and making up things as I go along–very freeing, considering all the pre-planned designs I’ve been drawing for my Rainforest Ink Project.

I’m taking a bit of inspiration from my backyard–both present and future πŸ™‚ We have a lot of chickens, but I have to wait to put in the apple trees until early this coming year. I really wanted to do a piece with fall colors, and this one is coming along just fine! Still using mainly the Schmincke specialty granulating palette, which I absolutely love.

Rainforest Ink Drawings.

I’m still drawing a lot of Amazon Rainforest images in ink and actually have quite a few already pencilled out. Above are a few I’ve been working on simultaneously. It’s basically been my strategy to draw the main organism/person/thing for each card and then look at each for a while before I go back to it and start filling in the background.

I’ll also be updating my Etsy shop soon, adding new prints and a few hand-painted wooden pins that I made a while ago and never posted for sale! I have to print out my new prints to see if I need to make any adjustments regarding my new scanner, and then they’ll be going up!

art · drawing · illustration · rural life · watercolor

Busy and Enjoying the Fall Season

I’ve fallen off the blog-horse as of late and haven’t posted in a while, so here is me getting back on that horse. I’ve been super busy with my youngest’s birthday celebration and with taking care of all of our animals and plants. I planted a lot of winter crops and garlic in the greenhouse and a lot of awesome large shrubs all around…I think I’m going to keep a tally of how many bushes/trees I’m planting on our land–it’s going to look like paradise in a few years!

I’ve been painting too–working on one of the biggest pieces I’ve done in a long time: 12″ x 16″. That’s huge and intimidating for me, considering how much detail I like to put in a piece, but I’ve been parceling out the work in manageable chunks, about 1-2 hours a day. Except the first day–I probably working on it about 4 hours the first day.

I’ve also been working on some ink drawings–flora, fauna, insects, fungi, legends, myths, influential people–all related to the Amazon rainforest. I just can’t stop drawing and reading about that amazing place–I’ve found a lot of inspiration there and am going to run with it!