Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Karen's Jar

I'm working on a piece in memory of my sweet pottery friend, Karen. She was kind, and compassionate, and genuine. And also a talented artist, although she was too humble to have agreed. This sunflower bowl, about 14 inches in diameter, is one of her lovely hand-built bowls. She also made delicate little figurines.

I wanted to incorporate some of her techniques and motifs in a large jar.

It's about 11 inches tall, not including the lid.

A figure of Karen holding one of her bowls is on the lid of the jar, with sunflowers and smaller flowers adorning the jar's surface.

The jar survived its first firing, so I've begun painting and glazing it. The inside will be the same blue color that appears on her sunflower bowl, and the sunflowers will also be glazed in a similar way. I'll make the smaller flowers purple, because that was Karen's favorite color. She once showed us a photo of herself from her "hippie" days, where she's wearing a calico granny dress and standing in a field of wildflowers. When I think of her now, that's how I picture her. I feel so fortunate that she was my friend, even though it was for only a few years.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Figure Painting in Progress

From today's 5 hour long figure painting session. This model did an incredible job holding this very long pose.

 Can't wait to finish this painting at the next session in March!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Encaustic Experiments

So the time came to put the wax on the small crayfish painting I did earlier.  I am actually a little hesitant to post this, because I am not really that happy with this one and not very comfortable with broadcasting my mistakes. But c'est la vie! You live, you learn, and you blog about it.

As I mentioned before, this is an ancient technique called Encaustic. Around the time of the Roman Empire, the Egyptians used encaustic to create amazing likenesses of the deceased. These were placed on top of the wrapped heads of mummies and are amazingly realistic. Click here for an example.

I am using encaustic a bit differently than the Egyptians did. Instead of making workable "paint" by mixing pigment into the wax like they did, I am using the wax almost like a transparent surface to draw over top of an existing painting. I've outlined my process below. Feel free to give it a try!

Click to see larger

Yellow beeswax melting on the George Forman (with the griddle style attachment) - Brilliant idea I saw on YouTube

Brushing on the beeswax. This is when I got carried away and put way too much wax over the crayfish painting. Next time I'll be more conservative with it!
Next I etched into the wax while it was still soft

Covering the wax with thinned down oil paint. I actually went back and used a more brown color as you can see in the final result.  When you wipe off this coating of paint, it only sticks in the etched parts that I scratched out in the previous step.

Final result... I think? Might go back and do more later. Or collage into it? I dunno.

As I said, I'm not completely satisfied with this one. Its like the first pancake off the frying pan - you can always count on it's imperfection. If I do this crayfish again (which I might), I think I'll paint more of an "pond bottom" environment for the crayfish to inhabit, and will brush much less wax over the star of the piece. Practice makes perfect, right? Expect to see a lot more (and hopefully better!) encaustics in the future!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fish Stories

Some pictures about fish I've known...

This guy has always hung in my parents' house. He's a Wananish (a landlocked salmon). Dad caught it the year before he was married, on a fishing trip in Quebec. We call it "The Fish," as in, "don't touch The Fish!"

He and my mom liked to go fishing together. Sometimes they'd catch juvenile fish that they'd bring home to live in their 20 gallon aquarium. This is "Junior," a bluegill. He was apparently fast and difficult to photograph.

My parents took us four kids on fishing trips to area lakes and ponds... Here's Dad with my younger brother.

There were always fish in our aquarium... Guppies!

Even now I keep pet fish. I like how some (like goldfish, guppies, and bettas) are very tame and will swim right up to me, while others (like my catfish, licorice gourami, and algae eater) never lose their wildness and always skitter away. I make portraits of my favorites: here's a female betta with two dwarf rasbora...
... and here's a trio of betta sculptures.

Once I make some headway on my tableware sets, I plan to re-visit sculpture... I'm thinking platters with sculptural fishes.

Twisted spouts and finished pike bowl

So the pike bowl has some minor pin holing on the interior glaze, but otherwise it's a nice piece!

Yesterday I asked The Google why my turtle teapot spout twisted, and it replied that spouts always twist. I did not know that. Apparently, mine will always twist clockwise to varying degrees since I turn the wheel counter-clockwise when I throw. The solution is to cut the spout crooked to correct for the eventual twist. I'll have to try that on turtle teapot number 2 (coming soon).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crayfish in Oils


So I know what you're thinking.... Didn't she say she was going to finish that Emily painting and the self portrait? Whats with all this new stuff?

.... I'm having a bit of a hard time focusing. I think the problem is that I have so many ideas that I'm excited about. As a result, I am working on paintings just long enough to do the interesting parts and then jumping to the next fun thing. I guess this is fine as long as I eventually go back and finish the boring parts!

Anyway, today's distraction is a painting of a crayfish inspired by Sue's little crayfish creamer. All in all, this little painting took about an hour and a half. I set a timer so that I could force myself to make quick, bold paint decisions.

Here are the in-progress shots:
Drawing on an acrylic washed gesso-board
Pickle paint! I have to say, painting this stage was incredible enjoyable and satisfying. Hooray pickle paint!
Added Burnt Umber acrylic speckles with a stiff brush. I normally would have done this with a cheap blue toothbrush I've had for years, but I can't find it!
Oil paint

I am SO happy with this little bugger! Crayfish up close are surprisingly beautiful and much more green than you'd think. This particular guy will get a coating of beeswax on top, which I will draw into like an etching (when you use beeswax in artwork it's called Encaustic). I'm trying to mimic the feel of a pond - with a definitive surface and bottom. It will be scary to cover this crayfish with the wax because I am so proud of him, but I think it will be worth it... I hope!

Sue was wondering if there is ever a moment where we painters, like potters (who daily battle the kiln gods for successful pieces), have to take blind leaps of faith with our artwork that could ruin it or make it great. Sue, this is definitely one of those moments!!

Not sure what will happen here...

A juvenile pike seemed like a good idea at the time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Here's the finished "American toad and stinkbug" sugar bowl. I am happy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Making Progress!

New Painting

Get Excited! Starting in with the oils tomorrow.....

Underpainting in Burnt Umber acrylic paint. 

This painting is HUGE! 24x36. Lots of negative space though. The picture above is just a snippet of it.

This is a self portrait, which feels kinda weird actually. I'm having a hard time looking at the painting objectively. Maybe it will be different when I start adding color. This will have a pretty cool color scheme, with a lot of grays, yellows, and browns.

The Coral ground color is from a newly mixed batch of "pickle paint", which is a mixture of gesso and acrylic paint that gives a colored background while creating enough tooth to draw directly on the surface. The term "pickle paint" was coined by my mentor Nancy since she keeps hers in a glass pickle jar! I like to do the same....
Although the coral jar is from handmade Mango salsa!
My Ragdoll cat Mika has been playing on the floor all night with these little paper scraps in his brown paper bag. He's super happy!

He takes breaks from the bag every so often to rub against my paintbrush while I'm painting. Cute, but SO not helpful!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fish Bowls

I've been working on small fish bowls this week (my favorite!) These three are ready to be glazed and fired. The top bowl features an orange spotted sunfish, while the bottom two contain male and female rainbow darters. All of these fishes can be found in northeast Ohio, but the darters would be tough to spot! (They're called "darters" for good reason.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Narrow Fellow In the Grass

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him,--did you not,
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,--
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

Emily Dickinson

Snake Jar!

It brings to mind Emily Dickinson's poem "A Narrow Fellow in the Grass."