WIP Wednesday: Session 4 a list

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Its It’s a lovely morning to be stuck in traffic in the cab of a 5 ton. Riding to locations is actually the best part of set dec, a precious few moments of sitting in air conditioning even stealing a nap. No naps for me though (yet) cause I need to share my WIP with you!

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I’ve started (another) new project, but this time I’m trying to approach it differently. I’m writing a –get thisPLAN for my execution. So here’s what I got so far:

  1. Make a drawing
  2. Trace to canvas
  3. Blue turquoise underpainting with acrylic
  4. Let dry and coat with mat medium
  5. Strategically fill parts with oil paint, face and arms with color allow underpainting to show through in chair, tattoo and partially through clothes
  6. Let dry

Now here’s the interesting experimental part:

  1.  Stretch a new canvas
  2. Do an acrylic underpainting in  emeralds and blues and umber
  3. Collage the paintings

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I know crazy. I finally have a vision and I can see how it ties into my idea of exploring self established culture. It took a long time but I’m starting to feel good about art again. I have purpose and creativity and I can do the thing!!! Well I can do it when I get another day off. Till next time, stay hydrated y’all:!

 ☀️☀️☀️☀️😰☀️☀️☀️☀️

WIP Wednesday: Session 2 Floral Floundering

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I mean it’s going okay, not great, but not terrible. I have been working on the pink roses and rediscovering all the old problems that made me quit working on it in the first place. One thing I realize I’m doing is I’m treating the under-painting too preciously, so I drenched it in paint. It’s an experiment anyway so why not push it. I added the cool blues and greens like I wanted and I am enjoying the effect, but when it gets more tacky I’m going to need to address the flowers (again).

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While that dries some I’m going to work on these sunflowers.

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I drew an outline, prepped a canvas with more gesso, and sanded it smooth. I never tried smoothing a primed canvas before, probably out of laziness, so I’ll see how it goes. I need to trace it to the surface today, and I’m thinking about how I want to lay down color and the underpainting. From working on the roses I’m realizing I really am lacking in the planning and development part of my painting.

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Planning isn’t the thing I need to work on, I need to refine my set up as well. I don’t feel like I have enough space to mix colors and I don’t like my paint storage system. With every step forward I see how much more I need to learn and do. I have a few ideas I’m trying out and some plans for arranging the space better as well. I will let you know as I tackle it!

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I made the Cover -Art

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Art by Max Currie, go check out his stuff!

Finally! This post! I mentioned a couple posts back I did a painting for a friend’s book. Well that book happens to be a graphic novel my artist friend Max Currie premiered at Heroes Convention in NC. He and his co-creator Tony Zollo were set up in the Illustrious Indie Island section of the con selling copies of their newly pressed 120+ paged book.

Flag Hunter Volume 1 - with title - watermarked

I am super honored that Max wanted my art for the cover, I have always been a big fan of his work and I really love the story line in “Flag Hunter”. It was a bit of a trial working on it but I really like how it turned out. I’m really not exaggerating about it being a trial: I left myself 24 hours to get it done and fought with my materials every step of the way.

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Notice the pink coffee mug dangerously close to the art supplies. It did get a paint brush dipped in it.

To start my process I do some rough thumbnails to figure out what image I want to go with then I gather reference images. Jared was very accommodating for the whole process.

I enjoy playing with different levels of opacity in my art and revealing different stages of my process underneath. Normally I do this by doing an under-painting in bright accent colors, and selectively add paint on top with an opaque color in oil paint. With the time crunch I put myself in oil paint dry time was out of the question. 🙃

Resigned to using acrylics, I sketched out my image and traced it onto my final substrate, a leftover piece of watercolor paper. Or so I thought. 🙃🙃 There is a reason for shelling out $$$ for watercolor paper, because its fibers have a special sizing that absorbs liquid in a beautiful and feathery way. The paper I had just traced my sketch and partially inked an under-drawing onto was not absorbing water or color in a beautiful or feathery way. Queue some internal and external screaming. **pro tip lesson learned: label scraps of art paper with some artist tape so you always know what you’re using**

I didn’t have any other watercolor paper that was both large enough and smooth enough to work on. I needed something at least 12×18 for the scanner and with a smoother surface so it would play nice with pen tips. I decided to use a piece of paper from an Arches coldpress (textured)  block I had. Luckily after tearing the sheet out I discovered the back of it was much less rough so I ended up using that. Crisis averted, and I was able to lay in a beautiful ink wash with my Liquitex inks.

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Just the loveliest.

Next up to give me sh*t was my acrylics 🙃🙃💀. I’m mostly an oil and watercolor painter, using acrylic only to do large washes in under-paintings. I haven’t invested in quality acrylics so the majority of my collection is hand me downs or leftover samplers from employee art competitions from my days working in an art store. -Btws those competitions were always with pretty terrible student grade paint- Suffice to say the struggle was unreal. Between terrible thin texture and exceedingly quick dry times I had a few moments where I wondered if it would even come together.

It did though! And I will definitely get a quality set of acrylics before ever working with them again. I was impressed with the few decent tubes of paint I had. There were a few tubes of Liquitex that belonged to my late grandmother that have to be nearly 30 years old by now and were easily the best paints of my collection. Their feel and texture held up and were a small ray of hope in my caffeine paint fueled haze.

My Tombow Markers were the saving grace of this painting. They had bright punchy colors and actually worked on top of the acrylics as well as under it. It was my first time experimenting with this technique and it’s definitely something I will try again.

So with a little caffeine, a little ingenuity, and healthy amount of panic I finished the painting just in time to scan it in and send it to Max. I learned a lot of helpful things while working on it and honestly I did enjoy the process despite my emphasis on the frustrating parts. Now with that accomplishment I am feeling more confident in attacking new projects, be on the look out for more to come! 

WIP Wednesday

Happy Fourth! I thought I would try a thing. I’ve noticed the balance of art posts to home posts seems a bit tipped towards home things and not art things. Part of the reason for me keeping a blog – and screaming into the internet void – was to give myself some art-making accountability. WIP (Work In Progress) Wednesday will be a brief update on what I’m currently tackling in whatever stage it is in, maybe even if it’s still just an idea or a reference photo. We’ll see. Lets try it out shall we?

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I started this painting in 2012 and never touched it since. Its a personal piece and is a bit laden with emotional baggage. I love the drips and loose rendering of each flower and the punch of pink color. What I don’t love is the sienna and umber I started to bring in. I didn’t really have a strategy for this piece when I started and it felt empty without some other colors and that is what I chose.

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Since its not for sale or show I feel more at ease to experiment with it and I would like it to end up in my office (sewing room, framing room, not paint room – it’s still a working title). I’m going to try to incorporate some light blues and mints to cover the brown, and also add some deep navy and maybe dark purple to the very dark parts. I think the addition of cooler tones with help pop the neon pink even better. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Anniversary Mountain Get-Away

June 1st marked our third year together as a couple and our first year of cohabitation. After missing our last anniversary due to work we wanted to something special, special and within a reasonable budget. We considered our options and since flash floods eliminated any camping possibilities we decided to go to our favorite place nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains: a lovely little house homed by one of the most successful couples we know, Jared’s grandparents. It might seem a bit unconventional but I can think of no better way to celebrate our time together than by being with two people who have made it work for over 64 years of married life.

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Surrounded by rows of flowers and a lovely garden, their home is a lovely respite from our routine and a wonderful chance to spend time with some of our favorite people. I have been treated like nothing less than family since I was first introduced to them – I’m even referred to as their “adopted granddaughter.”

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Our plans settled, we packed up my truck on a Thursday afternoon and headed to the Mountains. When we finally emerged from Atlanta traffic and started entering more rural territory, I could feel myself start to untense and relax. The sun was slowly beginning to settle into evening and it cast a beautiful golden haze on the landscape, illuminating the mist and gilding the trees. Every mile that rolled by seemed to melt away any pressures or anxiety that remained.

We got to spend some quality time with Ma and Pa and rejuvenate ourselves as well. Adjusting to their daily schedule proved quite beneficial; we went to sleep earlier, got up earlier, and had meals earlier too. That alone added hours to our day. Every day we had tasty homemade country meals with farm fresh veggies. Ma even took us to the local produce stand where she gets said veggies, and of course I managed to pick up a new plant to add to my menagerie. Later, we drove into town and toured an art walk in the historic square. We even had time between trips to work in our sketchbooks.

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Something about the atmosphere and probably the lack of responsibilities made it a lot easier to focus on art. Stepping back from our daily lives and adjusting the perspective helped me shake off insecurities about my art. If you make art out in the middle of the mountains and no one is around to judge it, does it matter if its good or not? With this in mind I was able to concentrate on the parts I liked. I’m one of those weirdos that actually enjoys watching paint dry – I love seeing the color-laden drops get sucked down into the fibers of the paper and how the touch of a shadow suddenly adds dimension to a subject. Suddenly, I enjoyed making art again and I didn’t care how it looked. Okay, I cared – but at least not to the detriment of my momentum.

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Interestingly enough, working on art again did something to my state of mind: I felt happy again.

Not to say I was extremely unhappy to begin with (perhaps a touch of ennui) but I started to feel whole again sitting at that table painting a rundown rock shop. It was like I was missing a part of myself and I hadn’t fully realized. This feeling of completeness in turn was also making me a better partner to Jared. Feeling incomplete left a raw edge on me; I would get irritated more easily at insignificant things and I had a hard time letting go of things that bothered me. It’s like your brain is trying to fix what is wrong but can’t find the source of the problem so it vents that energy into really dumb things.

Though we both still have a lot to work on to be as great a couple as, say, Ma and Pa, being true to ourselves and our art is definitely a big step in that direction. This trip was exactly what we needed it to be and I look forward to more years ahead.

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Best laid plans.

Excuse my French, but ding dang darn doodly, this past week has been crazy: we drove home from our trip to the mountains, painted and decorated a room in senior living facility, and I made a painting for my friend’s book cover.

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4.5 days later we have a whole new space

So let me backup a little and explain.

BEIGE

BEIGE

Recently, my mother asked for help with furnishing a space for her adoptive aunt, who was to be moved into an elderly living facility. Recently as in three months ago – there have been some technical difficulties. Things finally started moving and Jared and I got the green light to work on the room, which happened to be the day before the trip we had planned for our anniversary. We had already done so much prep work in the previous months – designing layout, gathering furniture and decor items, picking out paint colors – that we figured the 5 days we had to work in the room should be plenty of time to get it all together before my great Aunt moved in.

so much beige!

Beige nightmare

Spoilers: we were still decorating when she arrived. This worked out though, as she seemed enjoy all the bustle happening around her.

Like most of my carefully detailed and thought-through plans, I may have been a smidge bit over ambitious with this project. I had a master list so what could possibly go wrong?

hustle! hustle! hustle!

The studio *was* clean

Well, while chatting with my friend I remembered promising him a piece of art for a book he would be selling at a convention and, as it turns out, his deadline for getting his book to the printers was quickly approaching, so there went 24 hours. Also, it took the better part of five days to finish painting the room after I had planned on it taking maybe 7-8 hours tops. My project list quickly became less manageable:

  • Paint the room and the bathroom
  • Upgrade a simple Ikea night stand with paint and stain
  • Upgrade Ikea bed frame with wood stain and build a padded headboard
  • Paint couch sourced from goodwill to bring it from an intense floral to a soft neutral
  • Sew some pillows for the couch in matching fabric from the headboard
  • Create a backdrop focal point over the bed
  • Make some decorative art for the room
  • Arrange a gallery wall of art and objects from her home
  • Upcycle a large wall clock with clearer numerals
  • Sew curtain valances and an under sink curtain
  • Install easy lift, light filtering shades for the windows
  • Plants for the windowsills
  • Add lights to closets and kitchenette
  • Put all lamps on a remote power switch
  • Build a simple desk/table
  • Anything else I can think of

The highlighted bits describe the timeline:

Green is a task we handled before we even got into the room,

Blue is a task we worked on in the room before my aunt arrived,

Red is something we did day of or after she got there, and

un-highlighted things we have yet to do.

Strike through portions are things that I decided to pass on / weren’t going to work out.

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ahhhhhhhh.

Despite the chaos, what came together is quite lovely. My Aunt is an incredibly sweet and feisty lady with a unique personal style I have always admired. She spent a large part of her life working in Africa and I am so glad I was able to  incorporate her aesthetic and items into the room. With my mom benefacting the venture (within a reasonable budget), I was able to gather and thrift the rest of the furniture items and work on them to fit my Aunt’s style. Even though I didn’t get everything done that I wanted, the space we created for her was exactly what it needed to be: a breath of fresh air and a cozy place for her and memorable items from her home.

I really enjoyed the process of designing, even with the bits of chaos in between. I am incredibly proud of what was accomplished and my aunt seemed to enjoy her new space as well. I have several diy project tutorials to share now as well, so stay tuned!

Along with leaving no fibers behind, Wooster roller brushes make excellent pillows.

How tired am I? 10. Ten tireds.

Creative Atrophy

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It’s six in the morning and I am sitting in my studio. It’s a mess, and not in the creative fury of thoughts and action kind of way either. It’s wrecked in the dusty, disheveled –I didn’t know where to put these things so I stacked it on my dried out watercolor palette ‘cause it’s not like I’m using it anyway– kinda way. The atrophy of my creativity is painfully apparent.

When I’m working it’s understandable to not have creative energy after 12 hours of physical labor. Weekends between working days can also be a mad race to complete all the washing, cooking, and shopping for the busy week to come.

But I haven’t had a union gig for quite some time (as is the nature of the film industry). I tell myself that work will pick up soon and I should be take advantage of all the down time but somehow days and nights pass and I still manage to avoid just sitting in my studio. I’m always able to fabricate a list of other chores that needed attending; there are meals to prepare, laundry to catch up on, rooms to destroy with the pretense of “organizing”, and of course, plenty of shows to binge.

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It is not about energy I have, or the chores I list that keeps me avoiding my studio. I have put so much pressure on the need to make something “good” that I haven’t actually enjoyed the process of drawing or painting in quite some time.  My future feels like it hinges on my ability to create good work. It becomes overwhelming when each drawing or painting feels like it needs to be the piece that starts the portfolio collection that will jumpstart my career. I want very much to be a successful Artist, able to sustain myself fiscally with what I produce, spending my days making and creating. I find it difficult to just start a piece with all the self-imposed expectations looming overhead. I know I am going to have to set aside my trepidation and embrace works that won’t be up to snuff.  There will be a lot of bad and mediocre pieces while learning to make great ones.

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So these are my first steps toward learning to accept failure as an instructor and allow myself a reasonable pace to discover who I am as an artist. There isn’t really a straightforward life model for growing into what I want to become. As I chart my own path in making creativity a career I’ll share my process and everything else in between that sustains and inspires me, here in the Den of Leaves.