Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The simple joy of dyeing eggs

6" x 6" on 8" x 8" paper
watercolor and water-soluble printer's ink on Arches 88 paper
click to enlarge

Chicks and rabbits, daffodils and tulips, jelly beans and marshmallow peeps—I adore Easter-y things. But my favorite Easter tradition of all is dyeing eggs. Over the years, our family has experimented with just about every known way to color and decorate eggs. Store-bought kits, natural dyes, tie-dyeing, markers...I even bought this kit ages ago but was never quite industrious enough to tackle those detailed Ukrainian designs.

I may feel brave and try it out this year, but really and truly, the method I love best is the classic: Drop that little Paas color tablet into a cup of water (not those fizzy tablets, I like the ones that require hot water and vinegar) or better yet, get out the food coloring and mix up some colors of your own. I always have either the malted milk "robin's eggs" or Cadbury caramel eggs close at hand. Dyeing eggs requires sustenance.

With this little linocut image, I was trying to convey the simple joy of taking that plain egg and choosing which color to use first. I was going to cut separate blocks for the dye cups, but decided to paint them in with watercolor before pulling the print. That way, I could play with different colors, etc. (I use water-soluble printer's ink, so I couldn't do the watercolor after the printing.) I'm still learning about printing and watercolors, so there was a lot of experimentation!

Here's the uncolored print:

and here's one printed on Stonehenge Kraft and hand-colored with colored pencils:

Finally, I scanned one and made smaller digital prints for some cards. 
I just love my printer (Epson Artisan 1430), it's hard to tell the digital prints from the hand-pulled ones!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Do you dabble?

 The dictionary lists one definition of dabble as "to take part in an activity in a casual or superficial way". If you work mainly in one medium, how often do you dabble in others? Do you enjoy the change, or does it bother you to be less proficient in such "casual or superficial" endeavors? 

I am not a painter—let's get that straight right off the bat—but I wanted to take some art supplies along on my trip to Hawaii last week.When you're trying to capture those Hawaiian colors, a few colored pencils and/or graphite just aren't enough. But I ventured out of my comfort zone (I haven't used watercolor much since high school a hundred years ago) and bought a tiny little set of Winsor & Newton watercolors to take along. (It was just their Cotman line, not the much pricier Professional one, and with my ever-present Aaron Brother's 50% off coupon, it was a deal!)

Here's what I took (you'll notice that I replaced the (mostly useless) half-pan of Chinese White with some nice Payne's Grey):

It all fit nicely into this little 8 x 10 pouch:

I won't subject you to the first little seascape that I did. Yikes. It was such a cliché little thing. Okay, maybe landscapes weren't a great place to start. I usually draw little things, so why not paint little things? So here's what I ended up with, along with the page above.

I had fun, but I found myself trying to "draw" with paint, which only works for some things. Also, I'm used to colored pencil work which involves layers of colors, but too many layers of watercolor look scrubby and muddy. Agh!  And I couldn't decide whether to use ink for the outline drawing, (first 2) or just go with watercolor (last 2). 
Lots to learn. I kept thinking of that old saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none".

So, tell me—do you enjoy dabbling?  Or would you prefer to be a master of one?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Box of Chocolates

(click to enlarge)

Well, I still can't get enough of linocut printing. This latest piece that I did for Valentine's Day is another reduction print, meaning that first you carve away the areas that you want to stay the paper color. After that first color is printed (the "milk chocolate" color in this piece) you carve away the areas that you want to remain the color that you just printed, and so on. Some artists even do reduction prints of twenty or more colors! One of my favorites is Sherrie York. Her website and blog show the steps in her process so beautifully. Amazing. Ok, back to my little print...

After printing the milk chocolate and dark chocolate, I "cheated" and made a separate little block for the red heart. I was going to put a border around the image, but after playing around with it, I decided that I like it as is.

I ended up with about ten prints that turned out with varying degrees of success including the one at the top of the post, from which I've made slightly larger digital prints for my Etsy shop. I love how they turned out: I can hardly tell the difference between the original block print and the reproductions!

So, along with this Christmas one, there are now two "A Box of..."

What should be next?

Monday, January 19, 2015

And the answer is...

(click to enlarge)

..butternut squash!

Thanks for all of your guesses; most were on the right track! And thank you for your patience—it's been a busy week, and I didn't get this done as soon as I'd planned.

I'm happy with how the outside turned out, but I'm not wild about the inside (which you'd think would be more interesting). Sometimes I just lose interest in a piece that drags out too long; maybe that's the case here. But I do love to eat the inside—it's one of my favorite foods!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What am I drawing?

These are the pencils I've pulled to start on my next drawing.

Guesses, anyone?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sleigh bells ring...are you listening?

Well, my block printing obsession seems to be here to stay. After spending hours on a detailed pencil drawing, it's so satisfying to pull print after print off of a carved block. This little print is based upon this drawing of a sleigh bell from a few years ago. It was my first time doing a 2-color print that isn't a reduction print, so it was a bit tricky getting things to register.

 I was thinking that I'd do a separate block to print the red ribbon attached to the bell, but I ended up liking the image of the bell by itself. And I really liked stringing them onto festive string...

...and using them as tags on Christmas packages. Hmmm...maybe I'll make more and use them as garland next year!

I also wanted to do an original little composition of traditional red glass ornaments in a box. The possibilities are endless as far as printing options: varying the colors, etc.

It always takes lots of planning to figure out what prints where...!

I really had trouble registering this one; I ended up re-carving one of the blocks...ugh. I believe that I got one that turned out perfectly. But I love it and I think it will inspire a series of things in boxes...we'll have to see! In the meantime, happy, happy holidays from my house to yours.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A few of my favorite things: Acorns!

Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper

As kids, we'd collect acorns in our yard and pretend we were making acorn soup, or we'd use the caps as whistles. Our acorns in the Midwest were the more rounded shape, but here in Northern California, these more elongated, pointy ones from the live oak are the norm. On one of our morning walks, my friend and I gathered a handful for a possible drawing. (Thank goodness they were in a plastic bag on my desk because they started to yield little piles of "sand"—they were inhabited!) It was hard to choose my final "models" with such a beautiful range of sizes and colors, but these caught my eye and looked like they belonged together.

The natural world provides an endless source of decorative images, but I have some definite favorites. One is the pinecone, another is the bee, (Click on those words in the labels on the right to see related posts.) but I'm crazy about acorns. Let's see—I have these felted acorns with their real acorn caps (bought at the fabulous Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco),

this card of adorable pewter acorn buttons hangs on my bulletin board, 

and I just purchased this nativity set from Simple Gifts Toys on Etsy!

Just in case this is my last post before Christmas, 
I, along with my acorn-capped wise men, wish you the very happiest of holidays!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Blog!

Four years ago today, I posted this drawing and wrote my first blog post!

I love the first day of December for other reasons, too:
the Christmas season is getting underway,
and we get to open the first door on the advent calendar.
(You can read about my obsession with advent calendars here.)

This year, I couldn't decide between this one 
from The Golden Cosmos, two designers from Berlin:

and this one by Eric Carle:

My solution? I'm using them both!

Happy December!!

Yikes! I'm over due in posting some of my latest pieces; check back soon:
 I have a long post coming up later this week!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Indian Corn

I've been wanting to do an Indian corn drawing for a long time, (is it politically incorrect to call it Indian corn?) but other than this one for my little heart series, I hadn't taken it on. For one thing,  I couldn't get excited about the composition. I didn't want to do the usual tied cluster of three ears, and a single ear just kind of sat there.

I moved the ears around, attracted to the contrast between the neutral, papery husk and the jewel-like kernels, but the husks were all flattened and askew:

Then it dawned on me: You can soak corn husks to soften them for corn husk dolls and tamales, so why not for a drawing? Just a few minutes in a bowl of water and the husks were as pliable as fabric (not to mention sort of a rose color). I coaxed them into the arrangement I thought might be interesting, and laid them to dry.

 As they dried, the husks moved a bit (and lost their rosy color), but they ended up looking much more interesting and natural-looking than when they started:

I played around a bit with this composition that I had in mind: I took photos, cropped, rotated..and finally it looked right—well, at least it looked right to me! It may still need a bit of fine-tuning, but I need a break from it before I can see just what to tweak. Here's a look at the progression of things:

Things went well until I got to this point: How much white could I leave in those from husks? I thought they were interesting left mostly un-rendered for contrast. I ended up scanning the drawing and playing on some b/w copies trying different ways of finishing up.

And, last but not least, here are the pencils that I used on this piece: