Friday, October 24, 2014

The Unscary Scarecrow

Yesterday, I went to Stella Niagara to paint. I was looking forward to making a painting and to seeing the sisters at Stella Niagara. They are Sisters of Saint Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, an order that was founded in the Netherlands by Mother Magdelen Damen in 1827. The order came to the United States in 1874, when three missionary sisters arrived in Buffalo. They are an order of teachers. Some of them travel overseas to teach. In fact, Sister Lois, who painted with us last year, is in Africa for nine months, teaching English and art. We look forward to seeing her again when her assignment is up.
We paint a variety of subject. Above is the painting that I made two weeks ago, when Virginia (our instructor) said that we were going to imitate Edgar Degas by painting ballet dancers. That was fun. The way I did that painting was to start with my background. I wanted the colors to change as the eye moved. Then I painted the dancers. They needed colorful costumes so I was happy to oblige.
The paintings are always posted on a bulletin board in the sisters' residence. We stopped calling it a "bulletin board." It has been renamed our "art gallery." The art gallery is changed every two weeks. The dancers came down from the art gallery yesterday. I would have posted the story of the dancers two weeks ago but... I went to Stella Niagara without my camera!!! (oops)

This time, the suggested topic for our paintings was something to do with autumn. I chose to paint a scarecrow, surrounded by some very mature sunflowers. The plants are old and definitely past their prime.
In my "real world" (is "real"over rated?), the flowers are losing their petals and are looking far more peaked than they do in this painting.
I started by sketching the scarecrow and the flowers, as well as a few crows. It appears that, from the perspective of the crows, the scarecrow is not very scary!
Once I finished sketching,I began by painting the scarecrow. I wanted to make him colorful but not too gaudy, sort of a cross between a scarecrow and a circus clown.

The scarecrow gets his fashion statement. Apparently, his owners gave him their old, worn-out clothing and just matched in any old random order. Do crows get scared off by scarecrows in odd get ups?

The poor scarecrow has failed in his mission. He is unable to scare any crow. One sits on him, waiting for him to recite Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven. "It's the story of my life. Why won't you speak."
But the scarecrow fails to recite the poem and he speaks... never more..."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Exploring pointillism (and why does the word look so strange???)

On Thursday, September 25th, I went to Stella Niagara for a painting class. It was a beautiful day, and it would have been a good day to paint outside but the lesson had been planned in advance. So the group of painters headed over to the sewing room in the Sisters' residence. This is the first time that we've painted there. All other space in the Center for Renewal had been booked by a large group that was doing some sort of leadership training for women. Apparently, the leadership training was for women who would have been voted least likely to be leaders when they were in high school. That would be me, I pointed out to someone who was taking registration forms. She invited me to join them. But... I was there to paint...
So paint I did.
We were a small group. Virginia brought pictures of sunflowers and a basket of artificial sunflowers.
We recited our painters prayer:
Persistence to stay with the task at hand
Patience to give ourselves time to grow
Acceptance of where we are as artists today
Inspiration in all we see around us
Thankfulness that we are here.......
The sun was shining outside, the apple trees were full of apples.
The world seemed golden and vibrant, on the verge of changing colors.
So we set to work painting portraits of sunflowers.
I was determined to do a different type of sunflower portrait than the one that I completed last year. Last year's painting was colorful and bright and cheerful.
This year's painting would be colorful and bright and cheerful, too, but a little more abstract.
I used a technique that I learned in Earnest Ward's online workshop at Strathmore Online Workshops. Pointillism. It involves making lots and lots of dots. It can be a drawing or a painting technique.
Here, I used it as a painting technique.
I used dots to show the change of color within the centers of the sunflowers. If you haven't tried pointillism, I recommend this technique. I have found painting lots and lots of dots to be very relaxing!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Guest artist: potter Bruce McCausland

This is my first time featuring a guest artist on this blog but I hope to do more of this in the future.
On June 28th, I went to the Earth Bowl III festival at Riverside-Salem environmental chapel in Grand Island. It was a fun way to relax. Earlier, I put loads of energy into a gardening job just down the street. It took nearly six hours to get the shrubbery pruned. With my work done, I could go and play.

At Riverside-Salem, I noticed that the potter's wheel had been placed outside and that there was a potter working at it. That's when I got the idea of the guest artist concept on this blog. I watched Bruce make pottery, and I photographed each step of the process. He is such a great potter that he makes the process seem effortless. If you want to know more about Bruce and his creative work with clay, take a look at this website.

Bruce begins to shape the clay into a ball so that he can place it on the potter's wheel. Getting all of the air out of the clay is essential to the process.

Bruce places the clay on the potter's wheel and moistens it with some water. He said that it is necessary to use some water but that it is easy to make the mistake of using too much water.

Shaping the clay, which is still somewhat formless.

Bruce concentrates on getting the clay ready to become something new.

Creating the pottery takes the right touch.

A lump of clay takes form... it is starting to be something different, something unique...

Bruce starts opening the pottery...

It is starting to have an inside and an outside...

Bruce uses a took to make sure that the top of the pottery is even.

The pottery grows and changes as the wheel spins...

The pot grows and takes on a life of its own.

At this point, it sort of looks like an upside down cake!

Once again, Bruce ensures that the pot has even edges.

Bruce works on the sides of the pot, which now appears to be a large bowl.

He continues to shape...

... and the bowl  continues to grow. It is now hard to believe that this bowl was once just a formless piece of clay.

Bruce uses a tool to etch a design in the bowl. The wheel is spinning as he uses this tool.

The design is complete.

Bruce removes the newly completed bowl from the potter's wheel.

The bowl needs to dry before being fired and glazed.
A variety of bowls at Earth Bowl III.

Each bowl is different...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Setting sun

Below is a painting of the sun setting over Lake Erie. The painting is based on a photograph of the marina in downtown Buffalo. The color in the sky is produced with multicolor washes. You start by drawing a line on the paper, making sure that the line is not exactly in the middle of the page (that would produce a static, hence boring, painting). Then you draw a half circle for the sun. You then wet the paper, making sure not to wet the half circle for the sun. Then you add color, which bleeds all over the place because you are using a technique called wet into wet. It is pretty cool. The best way to do this technique is to attach your watercolor paper to a board with making tape. That will minimize the curling of the paper.
A lone jogger at the marina in downtown Buffalo.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Birds... and a guitar player (he's singing to the birds)!

Here are some birds and one guitar player that I've painted lately.
A peacock who, apparently, has not yet spotted his lady love.

Only two swans a'swimming... the rest are in warmer waters...
An owl on a branch in late winter.
Spring will come... eventually...
Here is the great blue heron. We see them where ever there is water... they like wetlands and ponds and rivers... (and I like them!!!)

Here he is... the guitar player...

Back to Basics!

I just finished my last drawing for the Back to Basics online course, through the Strathmore Online studios. The instructor is Earnest Ward.  He is an artist and an adventurer and a storyteller and... in short, everything that I have tried to be... and am still working on being. He is also a very kind and attentive instructor, which I really appreciate. Earnest has a blog, too, which is a detailed and illustrated guide to how he creates his art. You can find it right here!

This workshop has been so much fun. For me, it was a review on how to measure and how to figure perspective. Picking the subject matter for my drawings was very enjoyable. But... those darn ellipses... they are still awfully challenging... and I am a work in progress... one of these days, I'll get them.

Here are the four pictures that I made for the workshop:

The first project was to make a line drawing. I liked the instructor's onion portrait so much that I decided to do one, too! By the way, I haven't eaten that onion yet. It just continues to grow while sitting on the kitchen table.
OK, so here is the infamous ellipse! Arrgh! Well... I'll just keep working at that. Anyway, the second project was to do the line drawing and then add shading to it. This gives the viewer the idea that the object is three dimensional. It is kind of an optical illusion that artists do. We draw or paint on a two dimensional surface and then, through shading and foreshortening and various other tricks, we give the illusion that the item is three dimensional.
I started off this drawing with graphite pencil and then added pen and ink. The cool thing is that I learned how to do stippling, which is the shading that you see here. It's all little dots. Oh my goodness! I really enjoyed making those little dots. It was delightfully mindless. It was so much fun that I actually stippled a little bit too much and had to get rid of the excess with white-out (white out and erasers are always my friends).
So this is the last one. It was done on toned paper (tan) and it is mixed media. It incorporates the following media: graphite pencil, charcoal, white chalk, colored pencil, and wax pastels.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Creating usable art: the tote bag project

I have been part of a Yahoo Groups crochet circle since about 1999. I'm not sure exactly when I joined the group but it was some time ago. It's a small group that has, as its list mom, a lady that we all call "Mommy Lois." It is a term of great affection because Mommy Lois brings so much love and care to a group of people who, without the internet, would be complete strangers to one another. In our group, we do exchanges, we chat about crochet, and we share details of our lives. We have really bonded, and I am grateful to Mommy Lois that she has created such a great group. We have actually become a family through our love of crafts.
So, anyway, we had an exchange with Valentine's Day as a theme. We could use any craft medium that we wanted. I was all excited about this and was determined to create something... but I didn't know what...
all I knew was that it would be a decorated tote bag...
I ordered a plain tote bag from Amazon...
and then I got an idea...
I drew a picture freehand on the cloth, with pencil...
then I embroidered. I had to embroider fast because the pencil marks were quickly fading!
It looked like this.
In effect, you are drawing with pencil and using your needle as a "paintbrush" and your thread as the "paint."

As I continue embroidering the picture, the images start to get color.  The thread that I use is embroidery floss. I use two strands of floss because... um... that's how my friend Ellen taught me to embroider!

Once the embroidery is completed, I have what I consider to be an outline. I also added some beads to make the design more three-dimensional.


Here is a closeup of the butterfly, with beads to make the wing stand out a little more.

I start the process of adding fabric paint to the tote bag. I choose bright colors to make the tote bag fun because it's a Valentine's Day project. In Ecuador, Valentine's Day is called "el dia del amor y amistad," which means the "day of love and friendship." Love and friendship is about happiness and fun!!!

Once I finish the first coat of paint, I add glitter paint to really add to the fun factor because there is little that I think is more fun than a good dose of glitter!

So, now, I need to think about the inside of the tote bag. What kind of fabric do I want to use as a liner? Well, I really enjoy butterflies... so I choose this cool fabric. Besides, the fact that it has a snail mail theme and the fact that the words are in French can only help. French is romantic!!! Unfortunately, I can't really remember much of my French. I'd love to be able to speak French!

I get the sewing machine out and I start making the lining. In the past, I did all of the sewing by hand and the process was interminable! I am grateful to have a sewing machine and even more grateful that I know how to use it, thanks to Jinni, who taught me how to use the sewing machine.


I added two pockets to the tote bag to make it more practical and useful because it is annoying when small objects get lost on the bottom of a large tote bag.

I also added Velcro to the tote bag so that it would close because having all your stuff spill out of a tote bag is no fun.

Here is one view of the completed tote bag.


Here is another view of the finished tote bag. Notice the little hearts in the corners. I noticed that I had a little bit of red paint in one spot. Since it was too difficult to simply remove the paint, I decided to cover it with a little heart but one little heart looked silly so I added a bunch of little heart... which made it look more like a Valentine.
Happy Valentines Day!
And happy creating!!!