Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Little Reasons to Celebrate


This is going to be a total mess by the time the birds get in there, but dangit I'll still try.

Saturday drives have been happening more and more often after I get off work at the shop. They give my husband and me something to look forward to each week (that he's not on call). It makes a nice buffer against the occasional (and frequently less) bad attitudes that walk in the door.

These little outings will be all the more critical when Saturday is my new Friday, starting next week! As this "shift in my shifts" occurs, I'm very much looking forward to a nearly 4-day stretch to allow this aging-but-still-willing body rest, while the mind plays with watercolors and whatever else needs playing with around the house. Anything is game to make our lives that much more comfortable and fun, while still getting my artwork and studies done!

Today that "play" has been birding. First thing this morning, my husband gave me the best news I could ask for - we're allowed to put bird feeders back up again! I was going to wait until it was warmer after lunch (woke up to barely 31 degrees Fahrenheit whew, c'mon spring you can do it!), but I couldn't. The above picture is how I'm laying out seed at the start now, knowing damn well that it'll become a crazy mess. They're already starting to come back, even just an hour after putting it up. I'm so excited to see them again, and hear their cute little chirpings!

I'll write about the latest project soon. Going to work on it now. 🖌️

Monday, March 15, 2021

Firing scanner, promoting phone!

Well, demoting. Firing is so harsh! It's still a great scanner.

Attempting to capture my recent art in many formats (TIF (supposedly best), BMP, PNG, JPG), and I have reluctantly come to see reality: the scanner my wonderful husband gifted me with isn't getting these colors/details down right. It works great for any photos and documents I scan, but for some reason, it doesn't love my artwork. Looking into photography instead, since my phone camera captures the images pretty darn faithfully.

The above painting is from Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest coloring book, transferred to cold-pressed watercolor paper. I enjoyed being very careful in those little tiny areas, as it's easy to flood the space when it's less than a quarter of an inch wide.

I know in my last post I mentioned water control would be discussed, but honestly, it's pretty boring. "Just don't put too much water on the paper!" is something you can listen to on YouTube to your heart's content. No need for me to reinvent the wheel!

Next project might involve a painting based on a drawing I did last spring - a fantasy cityscape with a giant carillon surrounded by woods. It'll be fun! Maybe. We'll see. For the curious, here is that drawing:

Random parting thought! It would be fun to tinker with creating seasonally, someday when I have all the time I need for art. I would spend half the year absorbing the world around me when it's (mostly) nice out here in the PNW and dreaming up concepts whenever it made sense; the other half creating in earnest when it's dark and I can use whatever lighting I feel like.

C'mon spring....

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Oops! Too Much Water

The last couple of weeks, I have been fixated on working this painting. That's bad for me. The more time I spend on a piece, the less interested I become in finishing (unless I really love it). I'm not sure if I haven't built up enough "stamina" yet or what. Thing is, I told myself that this time I was going to complete it, even though I knew early on it would probably just be a "practice piece".

Inspired by my newly adopted teacher Steve Mitchell* (see notes below for asterisk items), this started out as a full sized image involving the other half of a tree and the potential for some kind of woodland creature nestled amongst its branches. I wanted to go in with watercolor first, then add detail with basic gouache after. Best laid plans!

Story of my young watercoloring life in a nutshell? I used too much water and the paper buckled (even taped down nicely!) before I got very far. No problem right? This is how we learn. Or how we should, anyway. Apparently I'm too enthusiastic for my own good right now - like a painter puppy or something.

At that point I decided to go with something moodier, as removing the half of the painting with the planned-upon woodland creature made the piece feel less cozy and more ominous. With all the birds I'd been doing lately, it felt like it was high time I painted American Crows anyway (my favorite birds), so I set about making the trees gnarly and fun, a good place for them to sit.

Using my newly acquired rigger brush in a totally punishing way** for a few days, I managed to coax these textured beasties out. I was pleased, and "took a step back" for a bit to consider next moves and let my paper settle some.

It was here I determined that I wanted to mask the branches and paint over them with a sloppy wash***, so I put the project on hold. Or Said I Was Going To. Predictably, I got impatient while waiting for the color shapers**** to arrive, looked out the window, and realized I wanted bright colors. I also wanted to try out the "cat's tongue" oval brush I'd just gotten, as well as a fan brush that I'm keeping in storage for our art nights at work.

This was the end result, after layering the trees on for too many days straight then going to town with the brushes I wanted to test. It's not perfect and it buckled to the point of where I'm not longer comfortable painting on it, but it was fun and I think the result is pretty cool looking. Thankful that I invested in the "good stuff" cotton paper, so that I really got a lot of bang for my buck from that one sheet.

What I learned: I need more water control. That'll be our topic next time, so until then!


Lil notes! I didn't interrupt the flow of the story too much with my sideline thoughts...

 * I happily subscribe to Steve on Patreon for all the invaluable information I have been getting from his YouTube channel. Check out the link if you want to see his packed-to-the-gills-in-goodness YouTube channel!

** Rigger brushes are great for making branches, but I probably wriggled it a bit too hard as the point is only fine when it's wet, now. Oh the things I have learned in this last month - like watch YouTube before you use new tools! 😬 They were traditionally used for painting the rigging of ships, and I can see why - they hold water beautifully for a long, lean line.

*** I fully realize this might have been a destructive action, but I'm still willing to sacrifice a piece to learn new things. Nothing is precious to me right now, when it comes to my art. I can't let it be!

**** These are shaped silicone tools used for putting masking frisket/fluid onto the paper so you don't ruin any brushes, amongst other uses. I haven't actually used them yet but they seem like they move well. I'll have more to say on these later as well.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Watercolor, Rabbit Holes, and Macaroons

Steller's Lady, Steller's Jay study, February 2021

I have gathered a few "real" brushes and additional supplies, and launched an expedition into watercolor. I'll sprinkle some of the birds I have working on lately throughout this post~ 🎨

I'm currently attempting a woodland piece, inspired by a YouTube content creator named Steve Mitchell, or The Mind of Watercolor. I spent yesterday afternoon clumsily wielding my entirely too huge Hake brush across the paper, having forgotten what a disaster that was the first time I tried it, last summer. Not sure how I forgot that, but I won't again in a hurry!

The paper buckled like crazy with too much water, so I let it dry a while before attempting to paint again. The second time, I went back with my new 3/4-inch Princeton Neptune "cat's tongue" brush, mindful of how much water I added. Despite my care, within seconds I could tell I'd made a mistake, as the buckling this time was swift and merciless. I decided to wait and see what happened, and left it alone overnight.

Longbeak, barn owl study, February 2021

I got up this morning and my dreams/fears were confirmed. My paper was still half-buckled beyond proper use. This hurts, but it is how we learn!

Even though that 6" x 9" bit I chopped off can't be used for a painting anymore, it's valuable high quality test paper. You could potentially do test upon test upon test, as long as you dry in between. Your mileage may vary, of course.

That's one of the most beautiful things about art. It's never really loss or failure if you don't want it to be. It can become a new piece for a new project, or a way to learn in addition to what you hopefully already learned while painting your so-called failure.

My unnamed Anna's Hummingbird study is WIP.

Now, that isn't to say you should hang on to every bit or bob, fun as they can be! Think about it carefully before you stash things away like a crow with a shiny. If it's some pieces of paper that you got out of the computer's printer drawer, just recycle it or use it for note writing. Please don't become a future episode involving Marie Kondo, intelligent, kind, and adorable as she is.

Bright Visitor, a male house finch study, February 2021

In birding news, there has been an outbreak of salmonellosis in our state, so people are being asked to remove their feeders. It was heartbreaking, but the feeder came down and got cleaned for the second time in a week, the deck was swept and scrubbed, and so forth. They were hopping around in the snow looking for seeds the first morning of a storm we had a couple of weeks back, poor things.

So tiny they were probably made by a Pine Siskin.

I also managed to "create" some cookies I never had before - coconut macaroons. They were delicious! I picked up a beautiful copy of The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald, and this was the first recipe I tried. Looking forward to sharing other results in the future. I need to make more of these soon!

Mmmmacaroon, coconut kind! Next time trying with a flax egg, vegan-style.

Can't believe this month is already about to wrap up. Before long we'll be planting seedlings for the herb container garden, and it will be time to feed the bees rather than the birds.

As ever, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy/ed your weekend!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Busy Sunday!

We spent the afternoon stocking up on necessities (like feed for our outdoor feathered friends at the nearest farm supply store), then grabbed a little COVID lunch-date in the parking lot at one of our favorite local taco places. It was so nice to get out and enjoy the overcast Pacific Northwest winter day! I managed to get all my color pencil swatching completed once we returned, and I'm super pleased with how easy it is to see my "palette" now.

(I know, I spelled "neutrals" wrong. I can handle it if you can.)

My current supply includes ~48 Ticonderoga Core-Lock pencils (sadly discontinued) and ~12 Lyra brand's Rembrandt series in neutrals. These pencils are ancient, but still work great. I'm excited to get more serious things underway once my spike oil and brushes arrive next week! I'll keep practicing blending colors together and burnishing in the interim.

Now it's time for a little relaxation. 😌