Ever a story... waiting to be told

Monday, November 30, 2015

New Finished Work

16 x 20 Graphite

"Once you have tasted flight, 
you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, 
for there you have been 
and there you will long to return."
 Leonardo da Vinci

This is supposed to be the preliminary graphite study in preparation for a larger colored pencil drawing. But I like this version as a finished piece, too. 
I'm really caught up in this duo! I hope I can do a series, portraying the adventures of the little girl and the grasshopper. 
I've been turning down house portraits right and left this week, and I'm sorry to say, it's getting easier and easier to just say no. Except for the return clients, who ask for a second, third, or in one case, a fifth house portrait! For those people, I mail them a little gift from my Etsy shop as an apology. Hopefully, they'll come back another time, and buy one of my existing drawings to add to their collections.
Speaking of collections, I received this photo from the customer in England who bought the original piece "Djembe". They have it hanging in their music room, which seems very befitting. I'm glad to know my drawing has a good home. It's hard to let them go, sometimes! 
I also sold the original Joon tree lady, that I did for the beer label. I gave the woman who bought it a copy of the Madtree ad, too, showing the illustration on the bottle. I'm confident she'll take good care of my Jooniper. 
And the original little red fox drawing sold on the same night, as a Christmas gift for a ten year-old girl from her grandfather. I hope she likes it! 

Tomorrow is December first, can you believe it? Enjoy the season, my friends!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sailors Aloft

WIP - 11x14 Graphite
I can't let go of that little grasshopper that I drew in the moleskine journal, so I'm trying to make a large colored pencil composition out of the idea, but it will need some spicing up. As usual, I'll start by drawing the whole thing in graphite. Some might call this stage the value study. Whatever name you give it, I believe it's a very necessary step in the process. Even later, when I'm working on the large-scale colored pencil version, I can come back to the graphite draft to work out problem areas, or change things, as I see fit, before committing the colored pencil to the paper. 
First order of business: The little fellow needs a traveling companion! I found this little girl in the free stock photos on Pixabay, but I changed her face a bit, to match my daughter's photos, when she was that age. This way, if I decide to use the same girl and grasshopper in another scene, I can use my daughter's old photos for reference. 
Second order of business: The sail is going to be too boring in the larger size piece, and I don't think I can effectively render the wispy, tattered net that's hanging in front of it. So I'm going to experiment a bit with this world map, and see if I can make it into the sail! It will involve some ripping, wrinkling, stomping, crumbling, etc.... I should be able to manage that. If not, my dog is ready to jump in and help!
Third order of business will be to change the object beneath the grasshopper's feet into a recognizable toy boat for the two companions to sail across the sky. While all that drawing is going on, I'll be thinking about the color palette that I want to use, and exactly what size piece I want to create. I'm thinking about 20" give or take.

Also, I won't regale you with the traumatic story of my 7-hour drive home from the island, which should have taken less than 4 hours. (I ran over a ladder, going 70 mph in the far left lane, blew two tires and maneuvered over four lanes to the shoulder, waited half an hour for the police or AAA to arrive, then gave up and walked to the next exit to use the restroom in a medical building that was closing, met the police at the top of the exit ramp, rode in the back seat of the cruiser, got dropped off at my car again, waited alone for another hour, got approached by a questionable person wanting to 'get out his hydraulic jack and fix'er up' for me, as it was getting dark outside....

Luckily, a friend was able to drive the 45 miles from home, through Friday rush hour, and rescue me, arriving just after the tow truck. 
Now my car has four lovely new tires, good as new. But I'm still a little scared about driving on the highway! 
Bet you're glad I didn't regale you with the whole story, huh?
P.S.- Did you know there are no cushions in the back seat of police cars? It's just a hard plastic bench... and there's no door handle either! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Secluded Hideaways

6x8 Graphite in Moleskine Journal
Remember building little forts, and hiding inside? My siblings and I made all sorts of them... with blankets over tables, or pup tents in the backyard, or little tunnels inside the snow piles... 
That's the way I feel about my little moleskine journal. It's a place where I can draw anything that comes to mind, and then tuck it away where nobody can see. The ironic thing is... I've always shared everything I've drawn in the little journal, even though I was planning to keep those drawings to myself. 
...another one...
I'm staying with my folks for a few weeks, on the little island in Lake Erie, where I grew up. The island itself is like a secluded little fort, in a way, all surrounded by water. And the only drawing materials I've brought with me are the little moleskine journal and some pencils. I'm exploring all kinds of ideas, and maybe even generating some new story plots that I want to write some day. 

I also saw this really cool video about the Golden Ratio, and was all inspired to make some templates to fit the little journal pages. I haven't decided how they're going to help me, yet, but if I just let my imagination take over... because I don't have to show it to anyone, right?  

I tested some of my drawings already, and a few of them seem to align proportionally, which supports my theory that we naturally want to use the golden ratio because it just looks right to us. It's part of us, after all!
Here's a link to the video that inspired the templates, if you're interested.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

TISN'T The Season

I finished this house portrait this weekend, and it is probably going to be the last, for a long time... 
I have been declining requests all year, and I tried to decline this one, when the client contacted me last spring... but she said she'd be willing to wait until Christmas, so I went ahead with it. The portrait will  be a gift for her parents, who recently sold this home and moved away. That's a similar story to most of the house portraits that I've done for people. They want to remember the home where they once lived. And I'm always honored to be part of that remembrance. 
But I removed the house portrait section from my website finally. That was a risky move, I know.  When people are searching for somebody who does house portraits, my name is going to slip lower and lower in the search lists. I understand that, and that's alright with me. I'm hoping to do some illustration work these next few months, and I have some projects of my own that I'd like to do, too.
So... here's one last house portrait from me... Cheers!
Happy November, everybody! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Someday My Prints Will Come

The wonderful people at Robin Imaging made these prints of my work, to hang in their foyer permanently, as examples of the type of printing they can do. (They also made these really cool name plaques)

This one is twice as big as my original drawing! When they said that it was going to be enlarged, I was worried about the drawing losing it's clarity and getting too blurry, but it didn't! It's just as crisp and every nuance of color is there, just like the original drawing. 

These two are printed on canvas and wrapped around a board. There are two types of canvas they can use. 
I'm thrilled that my work will be displayed on the walls there, and I'm also excited to order some prints of my work mounted on boards like this! No glass... no frames... I could go for that!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Finished Work!

17 x 20 Colored Pencil and Graphite
By Katherine Thomas
I think I can officially say that I've overcome my paranoia about skin tones!
I've always been so hesitant when rendering skin of any sort, and especially with facial features... I'm so afraid of them looking pasty-faced or muddy. As a result of my timidness, my subjects skin is often too light and the person looks ill, or washed out. With this piece, however, I took a few deep breaths and just layered the heck out of those skin tones. Over and over again, with a variety of ochres, umbers, golds, oranges, reds, lavenders, pinks, and olive greens...  It wasn't a matter of not knowing how to do it, I discovered. It was a matter of getting over my fear of it. 
In a roundabout way, I owe my new mindset to my fitness instructor at the gym! I go to a strength-building class four or five times a week. I love the challenge of working my muscles until they scream at me, and then pushing them just that little bit further. One instructor, in particular, really pushes me to the limit of my endurance. The other day she had some motivational signs on the front mirror.  One of them said, "Win The Moment".  
Bad Selfie at the Gym
To me, winning the moment does not mean beating out anybody else. It does not mean to simply seize the day and make use of an opportunity of some sort. To me winning the moment means that I've pushed myself beyond what I thought were my limits. I've ignored whatever pain or fear might hold me back, and for just that one moment, I've reached a little bit farther than I ever thought I could. Sometimes that means doing the extra push-up when my muscles are already shaking, or running a little bit faster when I can hardly catch my breath. Or it can mean adding one more layer of color below the jawbone, when I've already darkened it twice before, and I'm not sure if I'll ruin it or make it better... 
So anyway, I made a little sign for myself saying 'Win The Moment' and put it on my bulletin board over my desk for inspiration. 
Isn't it funny how meaning can be taken from one event and transfer so perfectly to another? I try to look for those parallels all the time!

(PS- That hashtag trick really works, by the way!)
#drawing #pencil #katherinethomas #art 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ol' Tag-Along

WIP - 16 x 20 Colored Pencil

This is a really fun piece to draw... now that I've figured out the plaid pattern! It was interesting how my thinking had to change, going from the strict, left-brained intricacy of the plaid to the soft, flowing blend of shades in the blue fabric. 
My post today is not about this drawing, though. I want some advice about using hash tags and labels on different social media sites and on my own webpage. I see a lot of other artists posting their work with a list of hashtags in the description, and I'm hesitant to follow suit, because I'm not sure exactly where to put a hashtag. If I just put #plaid #Djembe #colored pencil right here, will that attract search engines to this page when somebody searches for one of those words? 
Also, do the labels here on Blogger serve the same purpose?
What about hashtags on Facebook, Etsy, Instagram and Pinterest? 
How do I put them on my own website, for that matter?!
I'd appreciate any and all advice that you can share about using tags and labels to attract search engines. I'm sure many of you have been using them successfully for years, and I am just now catching up! 
PS - Speaking of tags.... My piece, 'Detention' is currently part of the Viewpoint47 Exhibition at the Eisele Gallery in Cincinnati. I didn't go to the reception, but I went to see the exhibition bright and early the following morning. (I was hoping my 'Exhibiting Artist' name tag would still be there, but alas, someone had pitched the unclaimed name tags already) 
I browsed around slowly, taking my time... I didn't see my own piece yet, but I was enjoying all the other artwork, and figured I'd find it somewhere eventually... and I did. It was hanging there very happy to see me, and sporting a nice red dot! It was sold during the reception! :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On Tap

EspressoSelf just hit the taps in local bars and restaurants. I haven't been out to get a picture of the handle on site, though.
At least I now know what a tap handle is.... and I'm quickly learning about how craft beers are made, and how they are distributed. The whole process of marketing a product like this is exciting to me. 
11 x 14 Illustration for a 4" tap handle!
For my own small part, the art director describes the beer to me, and sometimes give me a general vision of the illustration. For EspressoSelf, he didn't have any particular vision in mind, except that the beer was made with Deeper Roots brand coffee, and maybe we could bring out the rooty concept. He also sent the specs on the shape of the label, and the placement of the MadTree ID. But that was it. I was free to draw whatever I envisioned, and you know how I love drawing twisty, rooty stuff! 

The next tap handle was a quick turnaround, so I learned what it was like to work to a deadline. The A.D. told me pretty much exactly what to draw, so I just had to put my own style into the concept. As soon as I sent the illustration, it got approved, and the beer went out to the local bars and restaurants right away! 

I didn't even know it was out, until I checked beermenu.com, and saw it listed there!

It's fun to see your work in public places like that. Nobody really notices it, or thinks that it's somebody's artwork, though. Except for me!
The other day, we were shopping at The Party Source, and I was wandering up and down the wine and beer aisles, looking carefully at all the artwork on the labels. An employee came over and started explaining to me where all the different types of wine were, and reassuring me that if I didn't find the one I was looking for, they surely had it somewhere. I let him go on and on with his explanation and thanked him... But I didn't have the heart to tell them that it wasn't really a beer and wine store to me... it was more like an art gallery!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


11 x 14 Graphite Study
Katherine Thomas
The drum is called a Djembe. It comes from Mali, and the word means, 'Gather together in peace'.

This is from one of the many things I saw at the Renaissance Festival earlier this month. 
I love the flowing folds of fabric and the fine detail of the jewelry and drum... the contrast in texture between the man and the tree... the large areas of light and dark... I want to render all of that, but in a way that is perfectly balanced to create an overall serenity and simplicity. 
I changed the image a bit, making the tree and the man both on the same ground, and I added several more folds to his kilt. I wanted the drum to be more authentic, so I changed the hardware into ropes. I researched jewelry from Mali, and changed his bracelets to reflect the same culture as the origin of the drum. I wasn't sure about the hair, so I made loose dreadlocks... I don't know if that style is reflective of the culture in Mali, but it was fun to draw! 
The next step will be to enlarge the graphite drawing, transfer it to Fabriano paper, and do the whole piece in colored pencil. As I prepare to do that... I'm still deciding whether or not to attempt the plaid pattern... 
Should I? 
Could be disastrous....
Aw, heck! I've nothing to risk but time and paper, right?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Work!

Side Street
13 x 19 Colored Pencil
*The two questions I get asked most frequently are:
1) Did you draw that?
2) Where do you find your ideas?

The answer to the first one is easy.
The answer to the second one is easy too.
I don't find my ideas... they find me.

I don't have the courage or desire to offer a workshop, but if I ever did want to teach a workshop, I would teach something about using the imagination.
As an introduction, I would say that the secret to developing your imagination is to just listen to your own thoughts. Give them free reign, and let the images and ideas in your mind do what they will, in their own time.
*Letting new ideas IN.
Our first activity would be to go somewhere and practice seeing.
Everywhere you go, and everything you do, always be aware of those things that seem to stir the artist within you. It might be a shaft of morning sunlight across the kitchen table, or the expression in the store clerk's eyes, or the twisted branch of a tree, alongside the road. Instead of instantly snapping a photo and moving on... take a moment to register exactly WHY that vision drew your attention.  Make a mental note about it.
For example: last year, when I visited San Francisco, I rode on a double-decker tour bus. From that height, I could easily see all the ornate detail in the trim in those famous victorian homes, as well as the buildings throughout the city. I mentally described the things that I really liked, and imagined myself drawing them, right there where they stood. In a way, I forced myself to be a human camera, by capturing the image into my memory. Later, on the plane back home, I drew my own little buildings, just doodling around. The buildings that I drew had some of the details from what I'd seen that day, but they also showed details from all kinds of other buildings in other places. You could say that I 'made them up', but you could also say that I was drawing from memory - freely letting my mind put together whatever images it desired, out of all the stored images in my memory.
I believe that we have all kinds of things stored in our brains that we aren't consciously aware of. When we're able to let the doors inside our mind open, all those memories, thoughts, images and feelings will come together in all sorts of different ways.
(By the way, I DO take lots of pictures with the real camera, too, but those are only useful if you know why you felt compelled to capture those images.)
*Letting ideas OUT.
Another workshop activity would involve some small-scale drawing exercises.
Start by mapping out the big lines and forms of the composition. Any sort of basic composition will work. For example: This piece started out with a big "S" in the middle (Hogarth's S?) and a couple of straight lines at the thirds. 
Then you start to draw the things that come to mind, following the design you set down. 
(In this piece, the "S" turned into a bird-like thing, so I went with it! The buildings developed along the straight lines.) 
*I'm sure there would have to be a few other meaningful activities in this imaginary workshop of mine,  but to conclude the day, I would simply say that one's imagination is really just a culmination of all the images, thoughts, and feelings in one's memories.

Using your imagination requires a willingness to let those memories process in their own way, and in their own time, and then to pay heed to whatever develops and express it on paper. And it gets easier and easier, the more you do it!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

DIY Frame Rack for the Gallery

The Problem: Not that I'm accumulating works faster than I'm selling them... (ahem)... but, I have too many framed prints to fit them all on my gallery wall. 
The Inspiration:  Taking the idea from a homemade PVC rack in our pool shed, where we store the swim rafts... I set my husband to the task of designing something similar for my picture frames.
The Plan: 
The Product:
The Finish:
For the finishing touch, it was my turn. I cut long strips of quilted fabric, 6 1/2" wide, and folded them in half, then ran them through the sewing machine to make sleeves. (Turning them right side out was the hardest part of the whole project, FYI) Around the base, I had to sew the strip together by hand, right on to the pipe, working around the joints. 
The Results:
I've used it once at the gallery so far, and it worked well! A few people flipped through the framed pieces, like they would a print rack. But many people carefully lifted out the piece they wanted to see and held it up to view more closely. It was very convenient!

I hope you're having a nice Back-To-School season... keeping just busy enough to still have time to enjoy the crisp September weather!