Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Finding the Spark, Not Just the Bark

I spent much of Sunday creating very quick sketches of animals, using cell phone photos -- yes, still on the phone, on that tiny screen -- for reference. These are 8 x 10" and took an average of 25 minutes each. They all went home with their owners immediately, so I snapped shots of the art on my own cell phone when I had a moment.

If you're guessing that working from photos on a phone is challenging, you're right. It's especially so if you only have 20-ish minutes to capture what's important. 

For me, that means that more than anything else, I've got to get the expression in the eyes. I won't get the absolute accuracy I'd get if I had more time, but I've found that absolute accuracy is not what makes or breaks a piece of art. 

It's the life that has to be there, the sense of energy and character, and weirdly this is as true in a landscape as in a portrait of a Boston Terrier. 

I'll be doing these kinds of drawings again during Saint Paul Art Crawl. If you'd like one, come see me! But do bring prints of your favorite snapshots; prints on plain typing paper from your desktop printer are ideal. Working from a cell phone really is a lot harder. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Princess Crow in Her Parlor
The Princess at Home in Her Parlor, two 6"x6" panels with collage, oil paint, colored pencil, wax medium.
CLICK TO ENLARGE if you please. She loses a lot of detail at blog-friendly size.

On Monday when I took the trash out, I found a small bit of spangled ribbon on the ground, and thought that it looked like a collar or necklace for one of my creatures. And here's the creature, finished last night, still drying on the still life table in my studio.

I had already taken these two wooden panels -- small ones, 6" square and 1.5" deep -- and used wax to collage some interestingly patterned tissue paper onto them. The pattern is very wallpaper-like, and very red. And then I had the drawings I'd already done of the young crow I once rescued from entrapment in a deep basement window well.

I flipped the drawing and copied it onto one of the panels, then picked up a black wax-lead pencil and began drawing twigs, a nest, a moon. Layers of translucent wax/paint gave everything color, and I allowed the "wallpaper" to peek through, because after all the sky is a living room for our young Princess. Some of the pattern served as remnants of foliage on the tree.

The necklace had to go on carefully, because if I covered it in paint by accident I'd never get that off. A thick layer of translucent wax, a few slippery adjustments, a few strokes of black to soften the edge, and STOP NOW YOU FOOL, IT'S DONE.

Still, I needed a moon: Something silver, with a subtle texture, easily collaged into place, shiny enough to complement the crow's necklace but not so attention-grabbing that it stole the show.

Nothing I had in the studio would do.

So I put my shoes on and went down to the street, in the dark, looking for a discarded gum wrapper in the litter. That's what the moon in this piece is made of.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Little Lulu

Lulu belongs to Jeanne Klein, organizer of the Horse Crazy Market where I exhibit in December. Jeanne takes a class with me, and brought in photos our friend D'Arcy Allison Teasley (of Horse Tribe studios) took of her animals; I chose a shot of Lulu to use for a demonstration.

The idea was to show how to draw/paint black shapes while keeping their form -- to make them dark enough to read as black, but not let them turn into flat black blobs. So all I meant to draw was that black ear and the area around her eye, and then ... it got away from me and the next thing I knew, I had this.

If you make art for very long, you start to get these odd moments of magic, where you do something and then aren't quite sure how you did it (or how you did it that fast). There ought to be a word for that, but I don't know it if there is.