Monday, December 29, 2014

Maybe it's a Crow Kind of Monday

I'm in Florida and utterly exhausted after a couple weeks working at Mount Dora Olive Oil Company (don't get me wrong; it's a lot of fun! It's just been a lot, a LOT, of work). 

So I'm also working on a dog portrait, which is great, but I need to do something just for myself, and I think maybe this photo will be the start of that. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Brown Drawing Paper, Part Two

About three years ago I posted about working on brown paper, and to this day that's the most-clicked post on my blog. It seems a LOT of people are looking for information about it.

I still like Rives BFK Tan (technically, it's printmaking paper) more than any other paper I use. But these days I use a lot more watercolor on my Rives paper. Also, in the time since I wrote that previous post, I've discovered Micron pens.

The fine black lines you see in these three pieces are all Micron pen. Lightfast, waterproof, great for mixed media work.

If you make art you may have found that, when you scan a thing you created in watercolor, your scanner kills the colors deader than a doornail. Your greens and yellows turn brown, your oranges get burnt, it all goes sideways, and there's not much your photo-editing program can do to fix any of it.

For reasons I do not understand, this problem is much less pronounced with watercolors on tan paper. You'll still have some shifting but for the most part your art will look like your art. And the shifts that do happen are things that you can at least somewhat improve in Photoshop.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

French Paper, Fine Watercolors, and ... Crayolas?

Last night I did Monster Drawing Rally with Midway Contemporary Art. The challenge is knowing I have only an hour to do whatever I'm doing. So if it's fast and loose, I'll give it a shot, and this year I added Crayolas to my supply kit. 

Sparrow in pastel pencil, watercolor, pen, white Crayola, and white acrylic. I did a quick loose sketch with pastel pencil (erasable); followed that with the pen; used white crayon on the areas I knew I wanted to be lightest/sunlit; added watercolor; then put white acrylic touches on the very brightest spots, because white crayon on tan paper = lighter tan, not actual white.

Yep, that wax-resist thing with crayons and watercolors is still just as much fun as it was when you were eight. I recommend it! The goldfish painting is the same technique as the sparrow, just with some orange crayon added for the smaller fish. Oh, and the paper is Rives BFK Tan, my favorite thing ever to draw and paint on. It's made of pure cotton fiber and is heavy, velvety and not prone to buckle much when wet.

If you couldn't make it to last night's event or weren't quite fast enough to snap up one of my four pieces (they went fast!), you can follow me on Facebook where I'll be posting several small works like this over the next week or two, at the $35 Monster prices.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Art featured on Twin Cities Live!

Nicole Kappus Solheid of NKS Artsource asked me for a few things she could use for this feature, and I was delighted. Here's the link to the show segment. My art that got featured is the Fox in the Henhouse set, which I made a poster out of as well. I have a lot of originals for under 200, many of which are at Art of the Holidays at Minnetonka Center for the Arts right now.

Click here to order a print on paper, canvas, or metal!
I really appreciate Nicole and the Twin Cities Live people for not only showcasing local artists, but pointing out that original art is well within reach for most people. I've bought many pieces of original art, and I mean good original art, between $20 and $100.

For the higher-value originals, artists even offer layaway, an option I plan to use when I have my own house -- and thus have a place to display a Josephine Geiger stained glass window.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Heeere, Chick Chick Chickiieee

Clarabelle, 8" x 10", original available, 295 unframed/350 framed. Click here for prints of her.

"Heeeere, chick chick chickiiieeee" was the dinner call, when I was a kid. We had a coop full of Rhode Island Reds, and it was my job to take care of them and collect the eggs. I've liked chickens pretty much all my life, and I've found Barred Plymouth Rocks very fun to draw and paint.

Matilda in the Forget-me-Nots, 10" x 8", sold. Click here for prints of her!

These three -- Clarabelle, at top; Matilda (sold), center; Proud Thomas, below -- are all 8 x 10" creations in watercolor and pen on pure cotton printmaking paper.

Proud Thomas, 10" x 8." Click here for prints of this piece.

As I write this post, the only one I know for certain is still available is Clarabelle. Thomas went to the Holiday Sale at Minnetonka Center for the Arts and I don't know his status at the moment.

If you're thinking it probably takes a Really Long Time to draw and paint all those stripey feathers, you are correct! The effect is really wonderful, though, so I do it anyway.

You know, I really ought to put together a class on Making Chicken. :-D

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Sparrows 6 & 7

Happy Sparrow 7, above, and 6, below. Both 10" x 8" mixed media on heavy, 100% cotton paper; available, 300 each unframed. These are the result of me putting a banquet out of the little rascals all summer -- pretty pitchers of water and dishes of seed. I'm aware they're an invasive species but since they're here anyway, I am enjoying them.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Just got the Blogger app for my phone, so this is me, testing it out!
Say hi to Roberta the Hen, y'all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Railroad Landscape Sketches

Railroad Landscape from the Kellogg Overpass, 7" x 5" watercolor and pen
Oh, the things railroads to to my little Southern artist heart. All that power and rhythm, all that gorgeous graphic design they create in the landscape, all those long miles to explore ... and of course the sound of those big diesel beasts that could squash you like a bug.

Never let it be said that Southern culture has no morbid streak. 

Two Trestles, 5" x 7" watercolor and pen
These are available at $45 (Kellogg Overpass landscape) and $75 (Two Trestles); if you'd like both, email me and get free shipping.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dumpster Pony gets a New Home

I went to take my recycling out and noticed something odd in the big Dumpster. On close inspection, I found that this poor fellow was clean, dry, soft, and in perfectly good repair. He'd simply been tossed out.

My inner five-year-old was aghast. I could surely find someone who would love him, so I took him in, snapped a couple photos, and plunked him onto my Facebook page, where (to my surprise) he got more interest and comments than almost anything else I've ever posted. One friend re-named him the Velveteen Pony and another begged me to send him to her for her little granddaughters.

So Velveteen Pony will have a new life in Florida, after I draw his portrait. And I will continue dumpster-plucking without shame, because some things just shouldn't be landfill fodder.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Red Winged Blackbirds

Two of four are now finished. Both 10 x 8" and on the same heavy, cotton-fiber paper.  These are birds I've always loved to watch, bright and energetic as they are; they make me happy, and I hope to share some of that joy in these paintings.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Big Honking Sunflower

Drawn from life at my friend's studio, a giant sunflower taken from her garden. Its arched stem and wildly curved petals reminded me of Art Nouveau, so I used pen to emphasize those lines and echo that style a little.

I like to make floral art at approximately life-size, which in this case meant BIG. It's 11" x 15",  layers of pen, watercolor, and acrylic on heavy cotton-fiber paper from France. All the edges are deckled or torn, so it'll do great float-mounted in a standard 16 x 20" or 20 x 24" frame. Available, $250.

Next on the flower agenda: Peonies from another friend's garden! I'll be grabbing a vase full today, before they're gone for the year.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Two Willows (Or, What I Did at Saint Paul Art Crawl)

I'd been meaning to do this for a while and at Crawl I had the opportunity, so I took it (Art Crawl, for those unfamiliar, is something like a pub crawl but with art studios; there is usually still some alcohol to be had, too).

The first iteration is in my pocket sketchbook, and even taking up two pages it's only about 7" wide. I wanted a larger (and unbound) version, so I translated it to 8 x 10" and this is the result:

Many hours and many finely drawn lines later, I had something I really loved. This is pen, watercolor, and acrylic on imported French printmaking paper. Prints and greeting cards are here, and the original is available at $225.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happy Sparrow #5

So, you know how this was supposed to be a series of four Sparrows? Yeah, about that ...

I was looking for photos of horses (and I found several great ones) to use for art, and stumbled on a photo of this little female house sparrow by chance. She was so cute I figured, well, what's one more?

8 x 10", original is sold; prints and greeting cards available here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blue Jays 3 and 4

Blue and Gold #3, above and #4, below. 10 x 8" and 5 x 7", respectively. These are both sold and I'll miss them, even while I'm happy to send them flitting off to new homes. One will be landing in Pennsylvania and the other, down in Texas.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Girls (and Goofy Geldings) Just Wanna Have Fun

"Whatchya Got?", 10 x 8" watercolor on Ye Olde French Printmaking Papier. I had this great photo of this horse, one of the smartest horses I've ever met and also one of the funniest characters. I'd grin every time I looked at the photo and finally I couldn't resist taking some time out of Serious Art Making to create this little piece. It was so much fun to do this ... I've already found a second Goofy Gelding to paint.

It's available at $125 for the original, and you can get prints and greeting cards here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

~Sophisticated~ Fine Art Photography

... or not. :-D 

When I've just finished a piece, I want to get it out there on the web NOW. If it's after dark, forget it, the answer is: Wait for morning. If there's sunlight, great; now the art must be well-lit without getting full of glare. Today, ^ this is how I solved that problem.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Blue and Gold -- two Jays for March

Blue and Gold, 10 x 8" mixed media on cotton printmaking paper. Original sold; you can buy prints here.
These happened because a few people on Facebook voted for the Blue Jay as the next bird I ought to paint. Sounded good to me! I added forsythia for the lovely color contrast, immediately sold the first one, and then created a smaller second piece that same night.

Blue and Gold 2, 5 x 7" mixed media on cotton printmaking paper, available at $69, or buy prints here.
So now there are two, and they're making me happy, what with all the snow still on the ground around here. They're perfect greeting-card format images, too, so those will be coming soon to an Art Crawl (and a local retailer) near you. I will make two more Blue Jays and then it's on to the next bird, but which one?

Robins? Cardinals (which I've avoided because it seems like EVERYONE does cardinals)? Goldfinches? I don't even know. I'll have to have another round of voting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Who let in the riffraff?"

This is Jasmine, who knows she's upper crust and is quite selective about the company she keeps.

The source photo had her on a cream-colored sofa, which seemed visually not strong enough to hold up against her bright black coat, and in any case not expressive enough of this particular cat's bold character.  So I kept the basic shape, but made it more luxurious and bright, and gave our kitty some jewelry while I was at it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Winter Loses its Grip

The monster, barely hanging on.
 This is on my balcony this morning -- but not for long. It's the last of a funky snow formation caused by air rising through the spaces between the planks.

The potting soil in the foreground is there because I've been doing this:

After I got done putting dirt and seeds in pots yesterday, I put away my tiny Christmas tree and all its ornaments. For me, the answer to, "When do you take down your holiday stuff?" is, "When I can believe winter will end." :-)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Calling the cops at 4:30 a.m.

That's what I had to do this morning. There was a huge fight next door. I lost a lot of sleep and now I do not want to do much.

But artists make art, even (maybe especially) when we don't wanna.

This is often called DISCIPLINE. I hate that word. It's a trip to the principal's office. It means running laps, driving yourself hard, everything soul-sucking and miserable about working. Also I've never been able to maintain it for more than a few days.

Then I would feel like a failure.

Yet here I am, working on Queen Ruby when I don't feel like it. If this isn't discipline, what is it?

I'm calling it MOTIVATION. When I thought I needed discipline, the underlying feeling was, "I suck. I have to work harder and be better because I'm lazy."

Motivation is deciding I'm good, that I deserve to have the life I want, that I'm worth my own effort. It is one big decision followed by thousands of smaller ones, from "Do I bother entering this show?" to "Do I take the trash out before it gets rancid?" And since I deserve to have my work get seen, and to live in a place that smells nice, I do both those things. I'm no longer "lazy." Maybe I never was.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Robin of Dogwood Forest

Robin of Dogwood Forest, 10 x 8" mixed media on paper, from a photo I took of Marley the Min-Pin
Meet the daring legend who steals from the fat cats and gives to the pups!

I took this photo and could not get over the ears and the jaunty pose. At first I was going to put a vest and tie on him, but then the feathered cap occurred to me and it was off to the races.

This original is available at $225.  Greeting cards and prints are easy to order here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Drawing Board

Or in this case, the drawing coffee table. This was yesterday afternoon as I was getting started. Click to enlarge the photo.

And several hours later, I had this:

Wrong Side of the Door, 8 x 10". I've emailed this to the kitty's owners, who will have first choice if they'd like to own it. Either way, it's going to become a greeting card and print.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Sparrow Number Four

I wanted at least one of the series to have its wings stretched out, and I wanted another vertical format image, so I'd have two verticals and two horizontals in the set of four. So I picked a slanted landing surface (a branch with rose hips, from a photo I took late last summer) and played until I made it work.

When I do things as a series, there's a trend where they get more complex and time-consuming as they go. Maybe because I get more confident and adventurous. I love this piece, yet I'm thinking of doing a fifth with a much simpler setting, like the round edge of a bird bath.

Click here to order prints or cards.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dreams that Stick With You

Years ago, I dreamed of crossing a bridge and watching two moons rise in the sky above the Gulf of Mexico.
Sky over Ford Parkway. What if there'd been two moons rising?
I mean, this was 20+ years ago. I still remember it vividly. It's going to show up in my art, as I'm becoming more and more free to be as odd as I really am.

Do you have any of these? Dreams you woke up from and have never forgotten? Even if it was just one image that stayed.

What was it?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Sparrow, and How He Got Here

Happy Sparrow #3 ...

Happy Sparrow #3, 8 x 10", sold
The first two Happy Sparrows were based wholly on snapshots I took of birds on my balcony. For this one, I needed something different, so I found a sunflower photo I took last summer, printed it on plain typing paper, and then drew on that to figure out how to place the bird and where to crop the edges. Before I ever touched my expensive drawing paper, I had this:

The second photo I was using was this one, a moment I screen-captured from a video on Youtube. It's not in focus, and it's the reverse of the direction I wanted -- but I can work with that.

The fourth Happy Sparrow will be in motion, with its wings extended either in flight, or taking off/landing. I'll begin him just as soon as I find the references I need.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Did Not Go as Planned

When you make art, it's common for the thing to miss that left turn at Albuquerque -- and take you somewhere you didn't know you were going.

Sometimes, that's a disaster. Sometimes it's not. It's what happened here ...

Kings of the Goldenrod City, set of three oil paintings on canvas, each 20 x 20"
First of all, these were supposed to be abstract, and they were supposed to be a continuation of my Cracked Concrete series, and there were supposed to be four of them.

If you look closely, you'll see the cracked concrete pattern in the lower parts, peeking through. It also gave me the basic division of space that I used between the lighter "ground" and the red "sky" areas. But once I got those lines and divisions in place, it all just stalled. Totally. These canvases sulked on the wall of my studio for something like six months, and might be there still if I hadn't had a DEADLINE OMG DEADLINE looming.

The first thing I did was recognize that the red paint I had already applied -- which up until then was a diseased patchwork of blotches -- had been a real mistake. I decided, if I was going to make a mistake, I ought to make a BIG MISTAKE, and I put a ton more red in.

Those odd, gourd-like "houses" are based on dry goldenrod stems I'd collected a while back. Something makes homes in these things while they grow, and then drills out, leaving neat little doors behind in the fall. I loved them, but the paintings needed something alive and in motion, and then I was playing around online and found a documentary about crows. I paused it repeatedly, took screen shots, and off I went.

By then I was running out of time, so I pulled the fourth canvas, the one I had the least idea what to do with. It'll reappear soon enough, not as part of this set but as its own thing. Not what I'd planned, but what happens.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Branching out

Olive Branch, above, 14 x 18" canvas in oil paint and wax medium. This is a commission for the Mount Dora Olive Oil Company in Florida. I'm adding a few shots of the work in progress for those who are curious about how these things take shape. 

 Above are two of the four thumbnail sketches I did. These are about 4" wide, and you can see I was trying out some different shapes for the branch and facing or slanting it in different directions. The bottom sketch is more finished because I liked it better and thus continued to work on it. 

 When I put the design on the canvas, I did it originally in a red-clay-colored pastel pencil. I didn't photograph that step because the pencil is a soft color, not very dark, and doesn't show up well in photos at all. You can see that I kept the basics of the design I had in the thumbnail, but made the branch somewhat more graceful, with fewer bare spots or abrupt curves. 

The photo above is of the stage at which I had taken a brush and some dark paint (mostly raw umber) and drawn the graphic-style outline with that.  I then left it to dry before continuing. 

Next, I had to start mixing the greens and browns I wanted. Greens are tricky, and what looked nice and neutral to warmish on my palette, looked really minty-blue on the canvas. I had to keep adjusting it.

The shadow you see on left is mostly cold wax medium, which is this translucent stuff about the consistency of Crisco, and you mix it with oil paint; and in this case I applied it with a palette knife, like skimming a wall with a trowel. Eventually I covered the whole surface in it, making the colors lighter as I moved toward the right. Wax medium lets me build up a lot of transparent to semi-transparent and then opaque layers really quickly.

When you start with a transparent layer and then put opaque layers over it: *poof* instant feeling of depth. It's really fun to do. The rest of the painting process was one of applying layers of transparent, translucent, and opaque paint, with the brightest and most opaque "foreground" or focal area in the lower right quadrant. That's also where I used the coolest, bluest colors in what is otherwise a very warm painting. Had I used the same colors all over, in the same proportions, it would have been pretty but not very interesting -- more like wallpaper.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"I expect you to die, Mister Bond."

"I expect you to die, Mister Bond" is available here, $69.
Everyone posts pictures of their pets on Facebook. Lots of people find it silly. Then there are people like me, who love to draw animals and think it's one of the greatest resources ever.

One of my friends posted a photo of her cat, wearing the most deliciously wicked expression. Immediately I saw him as the elegant, cultured villain; I added the bow tie and ran with that idea. It's delightful to me when I can create not just a new piece of art, but a character.

Result: "I expect you to die, Mister Bond," 10 x 8" mixed media on velvety, expensive imported French printmaking paper. Nothing but the best, you know. This fellow took a considerable amount of care and attention, which you can see better on his Etsy listing (photo quality sadly suffers on this blog). $69 for the original is something of a steal -- so I'm sure our Very Bad Cat would approve.

Prints and greeting cards are here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy Sparrow #2, today's fast-and-loose original, sold

Sorry, folks, but this one got snapped up before I even had a chance to post it! It's the same bird as the first; the two reference photos I used were taken within seconds of each other. These are house sparrows that come to my balcony -- really the only species I ever see here -- plain and "boring" birds but also cheeky little things, very entertaining to watch.

While the original of this one has sold, prints and cards are available here.