Ever a story... waiting to be told

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Glazed Over

"Fantasy is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so, when achieved, the most potent."    JRR Tolkien

This piece has been begging, no... demanding, that it have more of a sense of atmosphere. That's the whole gist of the piece. The forest atmosphere represents the inner workings of the boy's imaginative young mind. It is his world.
I thought I was achieving atmosphere and depth by using the same colors throughout, with only slight variation between the different items in the drawing. That partially worked, but something more extreme had to be done. I decided to take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and do some glazing. 
To me, glazing means layering a new color over existing color with very little pressure at all... just leaving a mist of new color. You can do this as many times as you want to, with as many different colors as you want to, I'm assuming. But it has to be uniformly applied, and it can't obscure all the fine detail underneath. That's the tricky part. So far, I've glazed Slate Grey (a fairly dark blue-ish gray color) and Muted Turquoise (a medium, brighter blue) several times, over each of the elephants and trees, individually. Each time I add a new glaze over something, it seems to come to life more and more. And you can't really tell that all those transparent layers of blue are there, can you? All you can tell is that there seems to be a sense of atmosphere developing. 
The air has some weight now. I've heard that discussed before, at a workshop long ago, and found the idea intriguing, but at the time, it was way beyond my expertise to even think about such a fine point as giving weight to the air. But now, I'm starting to understand how that might be achieved, and how much more effective a piece can become when you bring out that sense of atmosphere. I could probably still do a lot more towards that goal, but it's a start, I think.
Anyway, it's time to address the main subjects of the piece, the boy and his dinosaur. As usual, I've left the hardest part for last!
Hope you're having a good weekend! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015


WIP "Tall Tails" 15x20 Colored Pencil
As I'm trying to decide what to write about, I realize that you've heard it all before. 
I think that's the secret to success, though; Just keep on doing what you're doing. Over and over. Every day. 
And little by little, you start to feel more competent, and you begin to notice strengths in areas that were once your worst weaknesses. 
I'm STILL drawing for about six hours, every single day. 
I'm STILL working hard at pulling together a unified palette, with limited color variation. I like that tonal effect when I see it in others' work, so I want that in my own work.
I'm STILL working hard to create more contrast throughout. I want large areas of light, medium, and dark. And also plenty of value contrast between highlights and shadows.
I'm STILL working on creating depth between foreground and background, by using muted colors and softer edges in the distance.
Some days it doesn't seem like I've made any forward progress at all. Some days, it even seems as though I've regressed and can't do anything right. But once in awhile, when I really take stock... yeah, I'm getting somewhere. And most importantly, I'm savoring the journey. 
Hope you're having a wonderful spring week!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Magic Stones

I think every one of us can remember finding a special stone of some sort, and feeling an immediate connection to it. We've tucked them into our pockets and bags, and we've displayed them on book shelves and dresser tops. If any one asked you whether your special stone was magical, you would  laugh and shake your head. But I think there IS something a little bit magical about stones, and the very fact that they come from way down inside the earth. They rise to the surface and spend time up here with us, and then find their way back beneath the earth's crust once again. Rocks have been on the earth forever, as silent witnesses to all that occurs. So many secrets they hold, if only they could share them with us! 
"The Mock Turtle" 
My rock drawings usually get plenty of attention at the gallery, and finally, this past week, I sold one! I thought I'd better turn out a few more before the next gallery night! 
I draw on them with brushtip markers, and then apply several coats of varnish. The designs go all the way around every surface of the stone. There is no top or bottom. 
Each stone has a unique name, and comes with a custom made velvet drawstring bag, and instructions to keep one's magic stone safe at all times. 
My story that I'm working on is all about a bag of magic stones, called Metamorphikins. 
Here's a little excerpt:

Long ago, in the wildest of times, 
when great beasts roamed the land… 
An old man walked,
His sack of stones
Clutched tightly in his hand. 

It wasn’t safe here… in the midnight woods, he knew. Yet he had no choice. He had been trusted to protect the secret stones, and he must not fail at this. He sped through the shadows, from tree to tree, not daring to look back. But he could hear them. They were coming. He clutched the heavy sack closer to his body. 
Now was the time. 
The Old Man opened the sack, and drew out the first stone. It was round and smooth in his hand. Very slowly, he drew his arm back, and with a strength he never knew before, he threw the stone as far as he could. As it rose into the night, the stone glowed so brightly that the Old Man feared somebody might see it. Then it slowly fell to the earth and he heard a soft thump as it sank into the mud somewhere in the distance. One by one, he drew the other stones from the sack and let them fly. Murmuring quietly, he bid them farewell, as he would a dear friend. Their soft landing was the only reply. 
Finished with his task, the Old Man rolled the little sack into his pocket and smiled. He had succeeded in protecting the stones, and that brought him great satisfaction. For the Old Man, like every student of magic and science, knew that the earth would take care of his precious gems. They would soon be wrapped in layers of sediment, and hidden from sight. Years and years of heat and pressure would help to hide them, and also to strengthen them. It would be a very, very long time before they rose again. With any luck, the world might be a safer place by then. And when the stones resurfaced… their power would be even greater. 
The Old Man stood in the clearing, in the light of the moon, and raised his arms high and wide, welcoming the night. 
Seconds later, when the trackers reached the clearing, it was empty. They stared in anger, and argued with each other about which way to go next. None of them noticed the large hawk, perched on the branch above them. The hawk watched for a moment, smiling, then rose quietly into the night, circled once, then disappeared.

Excerpt from Stoney Pointe Stories by Katherine Thomas. 
An illustrated chapter book for young readers, hopefully to be released sometime in the next century!
"Crocodile Rock" (This is the one I sold)
And this is their ETSY page.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Character Studies

Sitting at the gallery this weekend, I managed to start this drawing in the moleskine journal, but it's not nearly finished. I didn't get to draw as much as usual, because I had a record number of sales to take care of! 
I attribute the overwhelming interest in my work to this little jar. I came up with the idea because I wanted to make Gallery Night more fun for myself. 
It's a Give-Away game. The person who can guess the number of bricks in my Souvenirs house, will win a print of the drawing. Each entry slip asks for the participants name and email address. So now, I have a whole bunch of new subscribers to my newsletter, and I can send out little promo offers and invitations to events around town where my artwork will be on display.  
It turned out to be more fun that I could ever have predicted. People loved it! I even had some people show up after closing, begging for me to take their guesses too. Everybody was very serious about their guesses, asking me questions like, 'Do the bricks on the side of the house count?' The whole activity gave me a chance to really interact with visitors. It also drew them closer to my work. Their involvement with that one piece seemed to lead them to look more closely at all the other pieces. Maybe that personal connection led to the purchases?
I think there is an important life lesson in there somewhere too... if you are willing to give a little, you will get back even more than you gave. 
I've already decided to have another game of some sort next month. And I'll send an email to all those people telling them about it, and inviting them to come back and try for another freebie. I'll have the winner of the contest come back next time to pick up their print, where it will be on display, all wrapped up, with a tag saying "Free Print for _____. Congratulations for winning the March Give-Away".
It was so much fun for everybody, but mostly for me, to have the chance to interact with visitors that way!
I'm making progress with the new colored pencil piece, and ALSO with the story that I'm writing. I even found myself telling people about it, at the gallery, when they would comment about the little character study I was working on. 
Can you believe..... not one person seemed very surprised that I'd be writing a kids'  book, OR that I'd be sitting there drawing an ostrich, with a human-shaped body and clothing? Hmmm....

Sunday, March 22, 2015

More Questions. Fewer Answers. Please.

Mr. McGregor's Garden - 6 x 8 Graphite in Moleskine Journal.
I drew this whilst sitting at the hair salon with head full of foils. 
In this day and age, the answer to almost anything is right at your fingertips. 
But that's not necessarily a good thing.
Not all questions are supposed to have answers. It's the musing and wondering that is the most valuable. We should appreciate those answer-less questions, because they invite us to reflect and consider and to be creative about all the possibilities. 
I have so many ideas that I might want to write a whole blogpost about, but don't really feel like expounding on them right now. Most of them are answer-less questions. I just want to get them out and examine them... for more reflection and consideration.
*I took on this commission, because I really like this little house. The client said that the home is going to be torn down soon to make way for condos. Isn't that sad? It's not finished. I have to add color today.

*Nothing could be more different from a house portrait than my latest little journal drawing, Mr. McGregor's Garden. Why do I get equal pleasure from two completely different types of drawing? Maybe it's the idea of exercising both sides of the brain.
*I just got notified that all three of my entries were accepted to the 2015 Evendale Cultural Arts exhibition in May. But, I didn't announce the news on my Facebook, etc., as is customary.
I'm personally thrilled about it, of course. But why is that? Do I really need somebody else's approval in order for me to enjoy, and to value, the work that I love to do?  When will I stop measuring my worth by what somebody else thinks?
*I'm questioning my customary process of continually entering shows and lugging drawings back and forth to them. Besides the expense, there is always the added anxiety that comes with entering juried exhibitions and competitions, hoping somebody will approve of my work.
Why do I continue to participate in all that?
I don't think making art should be all about competition.
*I've been browsing the shelves of the children's section at the bookstore, and also looking through my own collection of books from my teaching days. 
It amazes me how SO much incredibly gorgeous artwork is hidden in children's picture books! Just think if all those pages were in great big frames on the wall, how stunning they would be!
*I wonder why there is such a popular belief that the more an artwork resembles a photograph... the better it is.  I really question the term "Photo-realism", because it implies that a mere camera is capable of accurately reproducing what the human eye sees. That's like believing that what's inside each of our brains, the very stuff that makes us individual and unique, can be replicated by a mechanical device.
*I wonder how long I'm going to keep talking about writing this childrens' chapter book... before I actually do it. So far, I've made a really good outline,  I've compiled the necessary science research that I need, and I've written about 7 pages of the story... but it's not a part of my daily routine, and I think I need to make it so. 
* It's good to wonder and examine questions from all angles, without having to arrive at any definitive answer. I'm not looking for answers. It's the thought processes themselves that I savor. Thanks for letting me share my musings!
I hope you're having a great first week of spring! 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What IS an illustrator, anyway?

This morning, I delivered my piece, "Cornerstones" to a gallery for an exhibition. The curator greeted me, and said how nice it was to meet me, and asked how far I’d had to drive, etc....
Then, looking at my artwork, she asked, “and are you an illustrator as well? Your work is so detailed.”
I was stymied for a moment, and had no idea how to answer the question correctly.  She was standing there with my drawing in her hand, so apparently the label illustrator did not automatically apply to my work. 
I’ve thought about this before. 
If you asked me if I were an artist, my answer would be yes, because people buy my art (occasionally). I also do lots of commission work with my house portraits.
If you asked me if I were a teacher, my answer would be no, because I am not presently being paid to teach anybody, even though that was my profession for many years.
So, it sometimes seems that an Illustrator is an artist who is hired to draw a specific something for somebody. Whereas, an Artist, is one who creates a piece solely from his own vision, and then sells it to somebody after the fact. 
BUT…. what about the artist who is asked to paint someone’s portrait. Does that artist suddenly become an illustrator now? 
And what about an artist like Norman Rockwell, who was hired to paint pictures for the magazine, yet he wasn't told specifically what to draw. His pictures were created from his own vision.  
And what about the artist who is not hired by anybody beforehand, but creates illustrations and text for his own book, and somebody buys it after it’s finished? Was he an artist before they bought it, but then becomes an illustrator after he receives money for the work? 
It doesn’t really make sense to reduce the definition down to merely  a matter of how and when you get paid for your work.
Some will say that an illustrator is an artist whose artwork tells a story. But ALL artwork tells a story of some sort. Sometimes there is no written text to accompany it, but there is a story nevertheless.
I am coming back to my same old objection over how we try to use labels to categorize everything, and we end up over-simplifying everything. 
I answered the curator's question by saying, no. Because if I had said yes, she would have probably asked me what book I had illustrated. That seems to be the common interpretation of the term.
However.... my full response was:
"No, but I'd like to be one." 

Hope you're having a good day, friends!
If you live in Ohio, the exhibition is at the Bryn Du Mansion, in Granville, for the next two weeks. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tall Tails

11x14 Graphite Study for new colored pencil piece
Have you ever heard a strange sound from somewhere in your house, or somewhere nearby, and you had no idea what it was? But you told yourself it was probably the wind… or the water pipes, or the cat, or somebody on the next street doing something very typical and ordinary that you just never happened to have heard before. 
Except you don’t have a cat. 
It’s not windy. 
And you've lived here a long time, without EVER hearing such a sound as this.
But who knows how water pipes work? It could still be the water pipes. So that’s what you tell yourself.
“It’s nothing,” you say, “just the water pipes.” And you go on with whatever you were doing.
But you don’t really believe it was the water pipes.  
Neither does anybody else.

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Finished Work

15 x 20 Colored Pencil

"Color is a power which directly influences the soul. 
Color is the keyboard, 
the eyes are the hammers, 
the soul is the piano with many strings. 
The artist is the hand which plays, 
touching one key or another, 
to cause vibrations in the soul."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Little Things

"Wherever you go, you take yourself with you." Neil Gaiman

I'm working on these piano keys today, and it occurs to me (once again) how each of our personalities are so perfectly reflected in the way we make our art.
Each artist has their own approach and their own philosophies, that they apply toward everything in their life... and nowhere does that come through more clearly, than in their artwork.
With all the social media and clubs and workshops we join... we tend to spend too much time and concentration on others... we examine what they're doing, how they do it, what materials they use, what subjects they portray. We look at old masters and popular artists, and we think perhaps their way is the best way. We look at winners of awards, and artworks that have sold, and we are subconsciously influenced about what kind of art is the best kind and what kind of art we should make. How often, do we just spend time looking deep into ourselves, our uniqueness, and listening to our own inner voice?
Something that works for one artist may not, and probably WILL not, work for another artist. Something that works for a hundred other artists, may not work for yourself.
When I work on a drawing... I have to devote a certain amount of time and concentration to each little millimeter of that paper. I have to build each detail, layer by layer, smoothing and blending and helping each new piece to fit comfortably with the rest of the composition. The more time it takes, the more satisfied I am with the results. That's how I approach everything I do, not just my art. That's my personality.
My ideas for new pieces evolve in that same way. I have to do it slowly, over much time. I keep a mental file of  seed ideas, that find their way into my thoughts and take root there. I just let them process for as long as they seem to need it. Some grow and flourish, and others do not. It doesn't work for me to try and rush them along into fruition. They'll each let me know when they are ready. But I have to be careful not let a big ol' sunflower* get planted over them, and choke them out. When one of my seed ideas really starts to grow, I will start a computer file and start jotting notes, playing around with sketches, and taking reference photos. When it's ready to become my next project,  I'll know it.
I think it's really important that we don't let ourselves get bombarded all day long with news and the talk of the day going on all around us. Tune it all out as often as possible and nourish your own thoughts and ideas... not forcing them,  but giving them room to grow and blossom. (Sermon over)
Next time I post, it will be to reveal the finished piece!
*(Sorry, Sis, if you're reading this. I really HAVE gotten over the time you planted your sunflower seeds over top of my little snapdragons. I never even think about now. It just made the perfect metaphor today...)

Friday, February 13, 2015

What's On YOUR walls?

(It's coming along, and I'm happy to say I'm sticking to my resolve and being very thoughtful about my color choices, letting the colors help shape the composition)
You're an artist. You've made tons of artwork. How much of that artwork is on permanent display in your own home? 
If you are like me.... very little of it! And you might be surprised at which pieces that I keep on my walls. 
Of course, there are several photos of family members around the house. But the actual artwork hanging in my home is minimal!
In my living room, I have some art that was printed onto distressed wood. I like the colors and theme. All three are by Suzanne Nicoll. 
There is a Norman Rockwell calendar in my kitchen. He's one of my idols, of course. 
Then in my upstairs hallway, there are three black and white photos that I really love. I don't even know the photographer's name. 
In my studio, I have an MC Escher print that I love. He is one of my all-time favorite artists, and seeing his work there when I walk into the room always fills me with fresh inspiration.
I hope to get prints from a few more of my favorite artists for this room, too. I don't like having my own work on my studio walls, for some reason.
Next door, in the dining room, I've got two of my own pieces. Neither of them represents my best work. I just like them! 

The mitten drawing makes me smile when I look at it. It brings to mind all kinds of stories and memories... nothing really specific, but just a  a good solid reminder of precious times come and gone, and more precious times to come. 
The Sanguine drawing is one of my favorites because it was created in such an expressive, meditative state of mind. I truly just let that one flow out of me, not knowing what was going to appear next on the paper. 

The rock drawing is upstairs in the bedroom, because the colors match so nicely, and I find it soothing. (I think I want to change the frame one of these days, though. The black is too harsh for that room)

The front hallway is the one spot in the house where I rotate my newer pieces, just for the fun of it. I change it out every couple of weeks.
It might seem strange to some, that I'm not displaying those pieces that won awards, or the pieces that I've sold the most prints of. To me, in my own home, accolades from others don't matter. What matters is how the things I look at every day affect me, and what they make me think about when I walk past them. 
How about you? What's on YOUR walls?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Making Music

WIP - 15x20 Colored Pencil
-For me, the drawing part of art-making is the easy part. 
The color-choosing part is the hard part! 
So many times, I've created a drawing that I'm really pleased with, and then the colors that I put together just don't quite convey what I want to express. 
With this piece, I am determined to get the colors right. I spent a couple of hours just experimenting with different combinations for the sheet music pages, to make them have that antique parchment tone. During this process I realized some important things about colored pencils:
1. The manufacturer's name for the color might create a bias in your thinking. Don't even read them.  for example, I thought that colors with "gold" in their name, would be a good choice, but they didn't look right at all. They were too yellowish.
2. All those carefully prepared color charts, organized by shade and value, that you spent hours making... might also create a bias in your thinking. Just because a color is listed with your 'yellow-greens', doesn't mean that it won't help to create an effective burnished bronze look, when combined with another color. 
3. A color might seem right when I look at it in isolation, but when it's layered with different colors of different values, it might ruin the mix. So I had to be willing to give up on some of the colors that I thought I was going to use. I had to find a combination of different values that all fit together to create one overall hue for the sheet music.
I was surprised at the combination that I finally chose! 
Caran D'Ache Buff Titanium
Caran D'Ache Naples Ochre
Prismacolor Eggshell
Derwent Lichen Green
Prismacolor Black Grape
Caran D'Ache Umber
Now if I can just come up with equally effective color combinations for the piano keyboard, and the houses.... that will be the next challenge!
Do other artists have the same struggle with choosing their colors? Is that why many artists keep the same basic palette? Or is it harder with colored  pencil, because the color-mixing is done right on the artwork, rather than on the side? 
PS - I was sitting at the gallery for several hours this weekend, so I finished another little drawing in my moleskine journal.  It was exciting, too, seeing people's reactions to the new piece, "Out Of Season".  (I haven't hung anything new in such a long time!) I also sold an original pen and ink piece, and a print of Souvenirs, and I was invited to show my work in a coffee shop downtown. It was a good day, despite the annoying head cold that I've been trying to ignore. I didn't sneeze on too many people, luckily, just a few...