Wol and the Stone Goddess: still a work in progress

Sigh. Well, I finally had to go out and buy some stinky-toxic workable fixatif, but after that the finishing stages of the now-titled “Wol and the Stone Goddess” went swimmingly, I thought, until I photographed it, and, as I was editing the photo for upload, noticed that I’d screwed up the neck of the goddess figure with too much blue. And now the disproportionate head is much more noticeable. I’ve started repairing it, but the piece will have to go to my demo and talk as an actual in-progress demo…

Ah well. I’ve borrowed back a couple of pieces from the my Community Foundation show and will show progressives for this piece and “Spring Rites,” as well as my Etsy shop.

Here are last night’s and today’s progress. Other than the part in question, I’m pretty happy with it.

Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 11
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 11
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 12
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 12... and the work continues...

Bottom to top, day to night

So it turns out I’m making a piece of art that shifts from day to night as one goes from bottom to top. It’s a bit of a surprise to me too, but that’s what’s happening. Love it when the art takes over.

Today I’m trying the new non-toxic casein- and alcohol-based fixatif — just applied the second layer. No fan needed, but drying time is required, and although it says it’s workable, I’m not sure it’s going to give me the texture I need to continue applying pencil in layers. The whole piece is slick with wax, now, and I have more layering — and virtually the entire owl figure — to do.

I’d really like to finish it for the FASST demo tomorrow night — may have to skip tonight’s Binghamton Downtown Singers rehearsal to do that, though sometimes work finishes rather suddenly when I’m not expecting it. I’m hoping for that, but right now this piece of art is paramount. Here’s what I got done yesterday.

Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 7
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 7
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 8
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 8
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 9
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 9
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 10
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 10

Owl and Stone Goddess… day 3

Owl and Stone Goddess, stage 5, in studio
Owl and Stone Goddess, stage 5, in studio: my lighting consists of a close overhead fixture covered with a Japanese paper shade, a focused and moveable desk lamp (with wax-paper diffuser) to my left, and natural window light to my right. All artificial lights contain daylight-spectrum compact fluorescent bulbs. Although their light isn't truly full-spectrum, it's a remarkably good simulation.

After spending most of my professional life in the discipline of publication deadlines, as a freelance artist and designer I still find deadlines my most effective motivation, such as scheduled shows and exhibits and this FASST demo on Monday.

So here’s what I got into yesterday. Some literature on colored pencil says to work light to dark. I haven’t found that method altogether successful — in my experience, different colors work with one another differently, regardless of shade or tint. All are translucent; some, like white , are more opaque; some make a drier mark and are easy to work over, like the indigo blue I used first to render the goddess figure; and some are slicker and less easy to cover… like the yellow I laid down first for the owl figure. I’m afraid a lot of the darks and midtones in the plumage will have to wait until I apply the first coat of workable fixatif, restoring the grab of the surface. Before that happens, I plan to get the tree started, over the laid-in sky shapes, and then proceed to work the sky between the branches so the tree is integral to the piece rather than laid over it.

Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4: taking the color trail of indigo darks into the goddess figure, laying down midtones - dark yellow and lilac, respectively, into the owl and goddess figures
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 5
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 5: starting the figure rendering over midtones
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 6
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 6: darks rendered in goddess figure, and over-burnished with a lilac pencil stick. lights will come later. Owl figure's rendering will have to wait, due to the slick surface of dark yellow I used as a first layer.

“Wol and the Stone Goddess”? …the work continues

Maybe I should call this piece “Wol and the Stone Goddess,” to correlate it better to “Eddie and the Blue Eggs.” (“Wol,” was, of course, the way Owl in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories — no Disney, please — signed his name.)

Something to mull as I continue working. I’m giving a demo and presentation for the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier on Monday, and I’d like to have this finished, or nearly so, for that.

So here’s what I got done yesterday:

Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 2
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 2: I've corrected the proportions of the goddess' face, and firmed up the owl, added a bit to the tree.
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 3
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 3: blocking in shapes in the sky and determining some of the visual flow with stroke direction. This is the stage where I begin to discover the purposely accidental textures left in the painted ground -- elements I'll have to work with throughout the process.
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4: pulling out the pattern of small darks -- birds, owl's eyes and facial center crease, and shadows in the goddess figure -- and laying down midtones in the figures. Wondering if I should add a third major figural element; I thought it'd be the tree, and it might yet... or a cat in the tree? Too corny? Cursing myself for using graphite for the initial grid.

Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl: finished at last

It’s always so hard to know when a painting is finished.

Have I overworked it? Have I left it before I should have? If I ju-u-u-ust tweak this bit here… will I ruin it? Should I completely re-paint this passage that keeps nagging at me? If I’m holding my breath while I make “final adjustments,” does that mean I’m overdoing it? I don’t know. By the time I’m nearly finished I can hardly see the thing, but I can’t tear myself away.  I remember my New Hampshire mentor, June, hissing — as I ju-u-u-st tweaked the stained glass window  in Luna in Stairwell — “Get AWAY from that window! NOW!” No one was about to shoot me through the window <grin> — worse; I was about to overwork my painting. And this for the once-upon-a-time college student whose drawing professor told her she had to spend more time on things…

Be all that as it may, I’m declaring Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl finished.

Here are my last tweaks, yesterday and today.

Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - stage 4
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - stage 4: finally figured out what was going on with those books - thanks to my handy-dandy Color Isolator* - and greyed them down. *a 1.5 x 4" piece of white cardstock with a hole punched in it on one end
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - finis!
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - finis! Some reflections refined, a bit more grounding on the far left, some weight added to the right-hand cruet foot... I hearby declare this painting finished.

Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl: a long story about to be finished

Back in September 2011 (according to the dates on the photos I took) I started what was to be the first of a series of blue egg still lifes. My husband was bringing home these eggs from the Binghamton farmers’ market last year, and they are beautiful — the softest of blues ranging from aqua tint to a pale sky blue, natural to the breed of chicken that lays them. So I set up and photographed some arrangements of the eggs in natural light — after saving them in the fridge for at least a week, maybe more, thinking of a “live” still life — prepared three smallish 12 x 16″ canvases with an acrylic wash of cadmium red, and chose and cropped three of the photos, experimenting with various color saturation settings but otherwise leaving the photos unedited. As usual, I printed out versions with overlaid grids and without.

I like “gridding up” as a means of transferring compositions to final substrate, as it gives my hand freedom for happy accidents and surprises, but helps me retain basic proportions and layout.

So, I did the underpainting, blocked in the colors, then hung it on the studio wall to dry… and moved on to other things. Now I’m putting together art for my upcoming show, Feathered and Feline, and the egg pieces were a natural for inclusion. Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl has been hanging dormant all these months, so while I was letting Cat, Owl, Pussycat dry, yesterday I took Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl down off its nail, put it back on the easel, and made real progress. It’ll be ready to show in March. (I used one of the other egg compositions for Eddie and the Blue Eggs. What, you thought Eddie actually posed with the eggs…? <grin>)

Here’s my progress so far.

Blue Eggs, SilverBowl - stage 1: cad red underpainting
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - stage 1: cad red underpainting (oils on acrylic-tinted canvas)
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - stage2: initial color block-in
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - stage2: initial color block-in ...and there the work stopped, until now
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - stage 3
Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl - stage 3: the white speckles at center bottom are light relections, from a still-wet blue glaze I applied over eggs and bowl.

Eddie and the blue eggs, finished at last!

It’s taken me a couple of days longer than I’d planned, but E&BE is finally finished (to see the whole piece in progress, start here). Just as I was about to sign it, somehow my entire wire basket of colored pencils went off the taboret and onto the floor. Aaaarrrgh!! This is SO bad for colored pencils — jarring them like that can crack the fragile cores within the wood casings so that every time they’re sharpened, the point breaks off. So who knows what the future will bring — it’s so frustrating to be on a roll and have to sharpen a crucial pencil over and over and over again because the point keeps failing…

But I’ve also discovered a possible alternative to the awful, toxic fixatifs I’ve been using — it’s called Spectrafix, and is composed of casein, water, and ethyl alcohol. Most of the online discussion I’ve found is about using it on pastels, but I’m hopeful — and have ordered a bottle of it.

Be the future as it may, here’s the studio shot of the finished Eddie and the Blue Eggs. It’ll be in my March 2012 show at Tranquil Bar & Bistro, Feathered and Feline, and available as prints at my online shop once I have a high-resolution, printable photo of it.

Eddie and the Blue Eggs - finis
Eddie and the Blue Eggs - finis. Finally ready for the last coating of final fixatif!

Eddie and the blue eggs, continued

Went to a CAST lunch meeting yesterday – always a nice time, and good to mingle with other communications professionals, but the freelance market here is a tough one and I’m afraid I’m not a great schmoozer. But I’m still looking for design work, if anyone’s interested!

Hoping to finish “Eddie and the Blue Eggs” today, before I head for Ithaca for my singing gig with Diamonds in the Rough.

Here’s what “Eddie…” looked like at the end of the day yesterday – two coats of workable fixtif so far, as I layer colors and the substrate loses bite. The fixatif really stinks up the house – not just my second-floor studio – despite the window fan I spray next to (fan blowing out of the window, of course), but yesterday was warm enough that I could spray it outside and let the fumes dissipate before bringing it back in. I’d sure love to find a non-toxic, non-aerosol way to do this!

More work needed to darken the far background, pull up details in the glass cruets, and reconcile the shoulder with the facial colors of the cat. Also need to do a little work on the drape, but I don’t want to lose all the spontaneity by overworking!

Eddie and the Blue Eggs - stage 5
Eddie and the Blue Eggs - stage 5

Art in progress: Eddie and the blue eggs

In keeping with my new series (feathered and feline), I’ve begun a new still-life with eggs and cat.  I like to amuse my Facebook friends by posting progressive photos of art as I work on it, and I’ll be moving that entertainment to these pages. With this posting, I’m duplicating what I’ve already put up on FB.

Eddie was my cat-boy, a foundling from Montrose PA who was with me through thick and thin. I miss him a lot, though he’s still with me in spirit and in my dreams. The blue eggs are from the Binghamton farmer’s’ market, and they are so beautiful I’ve saved many of the shells – though I’m not sure what I’ll do with them.

This piece is in colored pencil on painted masonite, 24 x 24″. The ground is a flat latex paint recently used in the front room of our house. I love the inobtrusive warmth of the color, and thought it would be a good foil for the cool colors in this composition. Unlike a ground applied with a roller, the brushed-on paint produces some wonderful accidental textures. The tooth of a flat paint is delicate but satisfying, though once covered by a couple of layers it loses grab and I have to apply more – as well as stabilize the previous layers – with workable spray-on fixatif.

Eddie and the Blue Eggs - stage 1
Initial sketch, colored pencil on painted 2x2' masonite panel. Glidden "Cozy Melon" flat latex paint is the ground. (The lighting is poor, I'm afraid.)
Eddie and the Blue Eggs - stage 2
Blocking in shadows, working up the far background. (Lighting still uneven!)
Eddie and the Blue Eggs - stage 3
Deepening shadows, working in some mid-tones and highlights.
Eddie and the Blue Eggs - stage 4
Nearly all of the first layers down. Next: workable fixatif to seal the initial layers, then further refinements of lights and shadows. I'm really pleased with the way this is coming together!