Saturday, February 25, 2012

Work-In-Progress: Trillium in Ink and Colored Pencil

Today I wanted to give you a peek of the drawing I have in-progress. Finally! A chance to get back to pencils and paper. :) I absolutely love working with my beads, but very much missed drawing. So, I decided to be patient, get the pencils out and work on this a little bit at a time.
What am I working on? A wildflower illustration! I created two ink drawings of white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) from reference photos taken while on a wonderful weekend art retreat to Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, MI last spring. (You can read my posts about the retreat for details.) I wanted to start adding color to one of them. 

I prefer working with colored pencil when adding color, so I brought out my favorite Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. My paper is also one of my favorites, Fabriano Artistico, 140 lb, hot-press watercolor paper. This takes both the ink and the colored pencil well, so it's a great choice for these types of illustrations. This particular piece is on a 9" x 12" size sheet.

I did some test swatches on a separate sheet of paper to compare colors to the reference photo. I also wanted to start with the darkest shadow areas, and decided that a base layer of deep cobalt green (#9201-158) would be best. This is more of a blue-green, and you can see the areas where that is the first layer.

On top of that, I began layering permanent green olive (#9201-167). Again, you can see where I started adding that and how it begins to bring more depth to the shaded areas.

I have a few other greens that I will layer in as I go, including pine green (#9201-267), may green (#9201-170) and earth green (#9201-172).

Here is the drawing with the reference photo so that you can see what I am working with:

The key for any colored pencil drawing like this is PATIENCE!! I tend to want to get it done in the limited time I have to work on something, but end up rushing it and not taking my time to really layer properly. 

The other important key in colored pencil work is a *sharp pencil point*. This is emphasized over and over in all of the drawing books I have, particularly on botanical illustration. A sharp point allows you to blend layers of color more smoothly and create the details needed without making it flat. This all combines to create a richer drawing with depth and detail.

Do you work with colored pencil? What do you like best about the medium? What is the most frustrating for you?

Wish me patience and sharp points and I will keep you posted on my progress!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fossil Find! Basement Clean-Up Surprise.

Sea Shells or Treasure Trove?

In a fit of productivity last weekend, I headed to the basement with the kids and decided that while they were playing, I would grab a box off of the shelf and see what I could sort out. We have slowly been going through boxes since our move (nearly, ahem, 5 years ago now), but still have more to go.

I cleaned out a lot of junk, but also found a number of useful items as well as some things set aside to look through later. One of those "for later" items was a mesh bag with what looked like some sea shells in it. I assumed it was from when my husband got his dive certification and just put it aside.

Well, wouldn't you know it, but it wasn't just sea shells from the beach! It was actually a little treasure trove of Miocene-era fossils that we picked up on the one trip we made to Calvert Cliffs, Maryland about a decade ago.  From their website, Calvert Cliffs State Park states that "Over 600 species of fossils have been identified from these cliffs, with the teeth of various species of shark as the most abundant fossils." Here is a sampling of what was in my bag:

I had forgotten all about that trip! It was with a group of scientific artists from the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, and we had a wonderful day scouring the small beach, shallows and cliff area for fossils.


I did have an identification sheet in the bag that shows some of the pieces are eagle ray dental plates (on the right-side of the picture):

Here are various shark teeth (I have yet to ID them specifically...) as well as a shark vertebra (below) -- very cool!


Shark vertebra (approximately 3/4" in diameter.)


I also have what appears to be a larger vertebra (far left of the photo) and have to do some research to find out what it came from. 

If you have any ideas, please comment and let me know!

I am looking forward to sketching some of these unique shapes. Great way to practice my graphite skills and maybe some pen work. I also can't wait until my older daughter has her "sharing bag" for school again so we can put some of these in there!

What fun finds have you come across when cleaning out old boxes or even on a walk on the beach or through the woods? 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Random Weekly Round-Up! Project Updates.

I have had a rather productive week. In addition to getting my desk space re-organized (partly, anyway), I have had a chance to complete 2 bracelets and my very first coptic hand-bound journal for my Etsy shop. I thought I would randomly choose today to do a little weekly round-up of my artistic activities and show you what I have been up to:

This little beauty features 6mm terra rosa jasper stone beads in a range of swirling dusty purples, pinks, maroons, creams, and blue/grays. The stones are wrapped in 1.8 mm steel blue leather and finished with an antiqued metal button closure.

I love jasper. It comes in a wide range of colors and patterns. This particular variety is a natural stone and had a different color scheme that I had come across previously. I had ordered some different colors of leather and thought these paired beautifully with the steel blue.

As for stone properties, terra rosa jasper (also known as sci fi jasper), like other jaspers, is stone of gentleness and relaxation. It is said to bring tranquility, comforting, wholeness, and healing. It is also said to have a subtle and deep energy that seems to nurture one on a soul level.

The other bracelet that I was able to complete this week was this elegant double wrap using 4mm seraphinite gemstone beads. These rare stones are found only in the Lake Baykal region of southern Siberia, Russia. They are a deep sea green with feathery inclusions of silvery white and shimmering chatoyant patterns, similar to tiger's eye.

These stones are said to be a premier healing stone, promoting regeneration and self-healing. It is also a purifying stone that helps one find one’s higher purpose and will, creating a feeling of wholeness and well-being.

I wrapped these in 1.8 mm dark olive green leather and finished with an antiqued silver flower button closure. I absolutely love green and so between the beads and the leather, this was one of my favorites to create!

Coptic Bound Art Journal

After getting a chance to do some beadwork, I decided I would work on my first coptic bound art journal. I have a great deal of art supplies gathered over the years and not always enough time to draw. I have been itching to do some bookbinding, so I thought I would raid my supplies and see what I could come up with! 

I found some wonderful, heavyweight, 100% cotton fiber art paper by Wyndstone in my stash. I had enough to create 5 signatures for my journal and tore the sheets by hand. They came with a feathered edge already, so the hand-tearing added to that effect. There are three signatures in 'natural' and two in 'warm white'.

I also made a trip to my favorite local decorative paper and bookbinding supply store, Hollander's here in Ann Arbor, to find the right material to use for the cover of the journal. I found a lovely sheet of 80gm mulberry and bamboo paper with Tamarind leaves in the paper. The Tamarind leaf tissue is backed with the mulberry/bamboo paper so it has a great weight/durability but good flexibility for covering the journal. I used PVA glue from Hollander's and waxed linen thread for the binding. I wanted to do a Coptic stitch, also known as a chain stitch, as it allows the journal to lay flat when open.

Since Coptic bound journals often have a lot of signatures and are hard to keep closed, I added a simple closure wrap of the waxed linen thread and added three beads of mid-Michigan alabaster that I purchased from Nawbin Beads in Traverse City, MI. I will someday make a trip up there, as it sounds fantastic, but for now, I am able to order from their Etsy shop.

The paper is great for pencil and pastel, photo journaling, scrapbooking, or for use as a guest book, writing journal. etc. I really enjoyed creating this and look forward to doing more Coptic bound journals as well as other sewn bindings.

Have you started any big projects lately? What have you been working on? Are there things in your stash you wish you could use? I'd love to hear from you, so let me know!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Studio Tour!

Ok, that title makes me giggle a little bit. Like many artists, my "studio", is really just a section of our living room where I have my desk and a few shelves on the side. With my recent resurgent interest in beading, bracelet-making and bookbinding, I have added even more to my usual stack of drawing pads, pencils, pens and art books! Add in the regular household paperwork and I have a big ol' mess on my hands most of the time.

However, just because I have a small space, doesn't mean it can't be more efficient! I had an opportunity recently to get a few wall-organizing pieces for my work area and so I have started the process of sorting out what needs to go where, and I'd like to take you on a bit of tour.

Here is what things looked like before I added the new shelves:

I was in the middle of taking things down before I remembered to take a before photo! 

Originally, I kept my calendar on the wall where that white hook is on the left side of the photo. And a pin board hung right beneath the two wall units, immediately above the desk. This was handy for putting up business cards, etc., but would get rather crammed with papers. 

My desktop was fairly crowded with my planner propped up in front of the pin board and the organizing bin you see in the photo on the right-side of the desk. The remaining desktop surface would routinely be filled with whatever important paperwork or books I was looking at currently, leaving little or no room for actually working on projects there.

Here is what things look like today:

Much cleaner! You can see that I moved the pin board up to the top slot in the wall organizer. It's still handy, but up out of the way. My wall calendar now fits right under the shelf, instead of being up above and to the left of my monitor. I don't have to squint anymore to see the date!

And we installed a large shelf above my desk. I love, love, LOVE the wide shelf! It allows me to put my planner and all of those regular bits and pieces that I use throughout the week (file folders of things I need, receipts, pencils, pens, etc.) in easy reach, but up off the surface of my desk, opening up that space to work on projects.  

This is the Holman shelf and it is heavy duty. It projects a full 10 inches out from the wall which is plenty of space for the desktop items I wanted to move up and out of the way. We followed the instructions to install it into the studs and it can hold up to 50 lbs. 

 I would love to say that I hunted through all of the second-hand and recycling shops in town to find the right piece and refinished it myself, etc., but alas, no. I went straight to Pottery Barn to find something that would work. Yes, I'm a sell-out. I love my Pottery Barn desk (Bedford style) and their wall-organizing system. I have several of the pieces now including the pin board (great for business cards, photos, important coupons, etc.), file cubby, and two of the shelf/hook units. Since we are fortunate to have lots of great wall-space, it works really well for my desk area. 

Off to the left of the monitor, up on the wall, we moved the file cubby unit over and beneath it put the two units with additional small shelves where I can keep my completed bracelets and jotter journal sets as well as photos and random bits of nature like the pinecone and walnut I currently have. 

There is also space beneath the shelves for pencils (perhaps whatever favorite colored pencils I am working with on a given project?), and a total of six hooks for bead hanks, or other hanging items that I might want to have handy. Again, great to have things within reach, but up and out of the way.

I definitely still have more sorting to do of the side-shelving in the bookcase as you can see here. They are just as crammed full as before, but I feel like I am making good progress. One step at a time!

I am thrilled to see the top of my desk again!

What is your favorite part of your studio or workspace? Do you find it easy to stay organized, or are you like me and just keep piling things up until you start to lose things and are forced to reorganize? I'd love to hear about your space!
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