flora and fauna, Pen and Ink Drawing

Birdhouses

Birdhouses-WEB

These birdhouses are made of recycled materials found in anybody’s garden shed.  Whether wood or discarded metal fixtures or old roofing materials, the birds enjoy the shelter.

They are feeding on a gigantic sunflower center.  I took a little artistic license with the scale of the seed pod…because I can.  Moths and butterflies join in on the party.

The pen and ink is done in India Ink and an old fashioned crowquill pen nib.  The original is drawn on Bristol board paper, and has been sold but read on to purchase the image on various mediums.

This artwork is available on my Red Bubble POD site.  Click the picture to go there and purchase prints or accessories.

Birdhouses-WEB

flora and fauna

Finding White Lilies

white-lilies-cameoWalking in downtown Ajijic, along a small crowded street, a shock of white caught my eye.  It was coming from a dark doorway.  I couldn’t make out what it was exactly so I stepped closer to get a better look.  There were art objects in the doorway as well; a big earthenware bare brown jug with a minimum of decoration, as well as tables with sculptures and displayed paintings.

Then I saw the white of the lilies.  I snapped some shots and felt privileged.  I just loved them. They were dropping red pollen from their stamens onto the lower gigantic petals.  They were on their last leg as cut flowers.  I knew them as stargazer lilies.  I had grown them in Washington.  Mine were many colors of pinks, but I had never seen white ones like these.  I looked up and saw a woman staring at me and smiling.  Apparently I thought I was walking into an art gallery when in reality, I walked right into someone’s studio.  I was embarrassed and apologized and stepped back quickly.  She did not seem to mind.

I felt both silly and lucky at the same time.

Even though I have been in Mexico almost a year, I have not seen one calla lily yet.  I have seen only a few backyard versions while walking in my neighborhood.  They were shades of red and I noticed that they seemed happy in shady gardens.

Diego Rivera painted many works using the calla lily.  Even though we see these images over and over just about everywhere, I don’t get tired of them.  He also painted them so well that he transformed from the well known flower into abstract shapes molded around his figures as perfect adornments. He found a perfect prop for his figures and faces.

Read about this iconic Mexican artist here:

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So lilies of all kinds have been on my painting list for a while.  Here is what I painted today from my photo.  The red grains are pollen.   Click the picture to purchase a print.

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If you would like to grow some of your own calla lilies, this is a good site for information.

To learn more about stargazer lillies…

Here’s a lovely little video of a bee collecting pollen.  It’s relaxing and I’ve watched it a few times. Nature is amazing.

flora and fauna, scratchboard drawing, step by step, how to

Little Demo on Scratchboard Drawing

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Since I am now using my home base for teaching, I decided to respond to some requests to teach scratchboard and the engraving idea behind it.  Although it is not engraved in metal, it offers the very same challenges.

One remarkable quality is that doing large scratchboard is very time consuming and difficult, the opposite is true when in comes to graphic digital reproductions.

This is one of my scratchboard drawings enlarged, which I feel loses zero impact, considering how affordable it is and how it can be applied to metal as well as textile.  Click the picture to purchase.

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Venice, CA 1997
flora and fauna, step by step, how to

A red amaryllis

amarillus-full-webI saw this stunning flower growing out of a very small border garden.  I snapped a quick pic with my phone and I found it interesting–mostly because I was amazed that such a beauty came from a meager space.  It had just rained and there were some raindrops still on the petals.

When I got half way through the work, I realized my values were so much alike, I was headed for trouble.

I was using a few different reds…from Sennellier Red (the main red) to Alizarin Crimson and a little glazing with Opera.  I needed to change something, but I could not figure out what to do.

There was a point where I was very ready to gesso over the whole thing.  Instead, I slept on it.  Two days later, it came to me what I should do.

I glazed the background petals with scarlet red by winsor and newton.  It was so intense and gave me the depth I needed.  Problem solved.

The problems we face are only as difficult as those we are up to solving.  If we can’t figure them out, it’s perfectly ok to continue and keep moving forward.  don’t quit. Take a break.   That’s a good reason to blog.  I may be talking to myself, but I don’t mind. It’s better than watching t.v.

If you  would like a print on paper, metal, canvas or textile, click the image.

 

 

 

flora and fauna, thoughts behind the work

Painting saves my life

I had an accident on the carretera a few weeks ago (the main drag) and damaged my knee.  I now have a few weeks of pain under my belt: a leg brace, a walker and general all around disability that I am ready to leave behind.  I want this to go away but it’s not happening yet.

In the meantime I am still working on my Spanish, I go to class when I am up to it and I try to fumble through as much speaking as I can.  It’s getting better.  Painting makes everything fell better.  It’s my comfort zone.  If I am not feeling any pain I can paint– if I have enough energy.  If I can speak a few words to my friends and neighbors en espanol,  it makes me feel like I’m getting something done.  I have amazing friends and family.  That makes all the difference in the world.

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I am painting flowers and sketching them almost on a daily basis.

I am posting to my POD sites online pretty regularly.  I’ve got two major sites I’m working with and my almost daily Facebook postings keep me in touch with my friends here in Mexico and also in the states.  I am corresponding with the art community here and online.  I love people and they are holding me up almost on a daily basis.

The fall has been very hard on my psyche and the recovery is very slow.  Cracked bones don’t heal quickly and it’s tough being temporarily disabled.  Mostly it’s the trauma of the event that can be depressing.  I try to not think about it because it’s so scary.   I am grateful for my internal time table that pushes me to produce so much art.  It’s not every day in your life that you can be motivated to paint and draw.  Only since I have been in Mexico can I actually do it and not just think about it.   I have the vision of painting the people here, their simple daily lives and the work they do.

Ever since I can remember I have had an obsession to document my little life, from sketchbooks, to articles, to letters, to greeting cards.  It never really goes anywhere except to realize that it’s a part of me and who I am.  I am learning to accept it.

This recording of events may be silly and useless to lots of people, but it has been my way of coping with good and bad happenings.  It is what it is: so if I can turn it into something that others can gain any hope or encouragement from, I’ll just continue to do it and then forget about it, and move on.

In the meantime, the work is accumulating and I am healing.

Ajijic, flora and fauna

Jimmy and her orchids

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So the original is SOLD and now in a new home in Jojotepec.

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print available for purchase       Jimmy loves her orchids, her garden, her life. Orchids to her are more of a life-style than a hobby.  So when she invited me to her home to see them, of course I was eager.  It was a treat.  I wish I could remember all the names and things she told me about them, but I can’t.

There are three gardens.   First there is the front garden which you see when you enter through the black metal gates.  Then there is the orchid garden which is an enclosed patio from the house and lastly, there is the fruit orchard and flower bed garden at the back.

 

When you are walking through San Antonio, (an area in Ajijic) you see many sets of metal gates.  You really can’t guess what lies behind them.  There are homes and gardens of unimaginable intrigue and beauty.  I love Mexico for all its surprises

Jimmy is a walking encyclopedia about orchids.  It’s a full time job to keep everything watered and pruned and looking happy and pristine.  I don’t know how she racks up the energy, walking with her cane, to do all of her daily chores to maintain this lifestyle.

 

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Here is the beautiful orchid herself “Jimmy”.  She told me there were no boys in the family and she was the last one, so they named her Jimmy after her father.

When you enter the house, you see a table, a mirror and a collection of hats that she makes.  It’s a welcoming site.

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She makes hats and knits for babies for charity and does much more.

My favoritething she told me was when she went to elementary school in a one-room school house.  She always asked a lot of questions, to the annoyance of adults around her. One day a new teacher told her she could ask as many questions as she liked.  She jumped for joy and went home saying, “My teacher said I could ask any questions I wanted.”  She said it was the happiest day of her life.  She still is an independent spirit.

jimmy-wc
My quick watercolor of Jimmy.
flora and fauna, step by step, how to

Philodendron, step by step

I thought I would try one of these exercises to see if people are interested. I would appreciate input.  I am considering doing more of these so let me know if you like it and want more.

Sometimes we can get stuck or bored or get cold feet in how to start a painting. Here is a really fun way to jump in from another angle.  These are some underpaintings I did last week,

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The one with the red splash in the corner is the one I chose this time.  What you need to do  for these underpaintings is some kind of a permanent color medium.  Watercolor will not work because when you go over this first layer, it can lift or blend with your top layer.  Lacquer based inks, liquid acrylic or Intense inks are great.  For liquid acrylic I like Golden and/or Holbein. They are very rich in color and a tiny amount goes a long way.  I happen to have some inks and some Intense colors so I used a little of each.   I mixed a dash or two of Intense inks (this is the name brand)  with a little water in a small bowl.
Make 3 small bowls–one red, one yellow, one blue.  You can use a big brush, a sponge, an eyedropper, or the pour and splash technique.  One color splashing for each sheet of paper. Drain, drip or brush off what you don’t want.
I had Arches 130# paper so that’s what I used.  The paper needs to be a watercolor paper that is heavy duty enough to withstand getting pretty wet without curling.  That’s why I like blocks because all the sheets are glued together and the paper can withstand a beating.  Just jump in and have fun and don’t try to control the underpainting too much.  Then I just threw the wet blocks on the bathroom floor and waited until the next day to paint.

First off, here is the photo I took of this giant split leaf philodendron while walking to class last week.

phillyphor-colorThis photo is the color shot right from the camera. You can see here the darks are prominent in the splits of the leaves and in the shadows.  The color is drab and very muted.  Mostly you get the size of the plant and the basic growing structure.  I like the folded leaves because when they fold over, you can see through to the other underneath side.  Most of the time you are not sure if it’s the same leaf.  That makes it interesting and poses questions.   Yes. There’s the storytelling element here.
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Same photo in black and white. Sometimes it’s easier to see the big values in black and white.  I decided right then and there that this painting was more of a design than a representational drawing.   That gives me lots of abstract freedom.

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Here is the line art of the plant done with a soft, dark pencil.  As you can see, it’s just a sketch that captures (I hope) the simple outlines of the leaves, the splits, and the basic shape of the plant.  I thought some details were important, like the tendril type grow on the long stem of one of the shoots.  Wherever the reds and yellows landed did not matter to me.  There isn’t too much control at this point.  But so far, I like it.

The next step is to ink the pencil lines with my green Higgins ink and my Speedball pen.  I have been using the Speedball nibs for 30 years and the most I’ve bought aside from inks are special handles. This is my favorite pen with a cork handle I bought in Portland years and years ago when Utrecht still had a store there.  I have a great collection of fine drawing nibs and handles for delicate pen and ink work too,  It’s amazing how much ink a Speedball pen can hold and what an even smooth line you can get.

philystepbystep-3.jpg When the ink is dry, I erase the graphite lines with a good white eraser…aka Magic Rub.

I like Maimeri Blu watercolors, but I also like Holbein and W&N too.  I think I like it all. I am anxious to try new ones whenever I can.

I always use a test sheet on a small pad to choose which colors I might use.philystepbystep-1

So here is my final painting.  It’s first and foremost a design with emphasis on color, shapes and negative spaces.  Each color was applied a very small amount at a time with one full and soft brush (see above) the yellows in particular were blended in with the greens.   The darks and purples came last.  The background turned out to be a mixure of lights and darks.

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Very little may be compared with the original photo but that does not matter.  Once this was completed with both lights and darks in the background and the basic leaf established, I think the best part of this painting is the dancing back and forth of colors and shapes.   Primarily, it was lots of fun.  But the fun is not really done because…..
I take it another step and can turn it into clothing, or products.  I know lots of people shun this.  But not everything needs to hang on a wall.  Sometimes I like to wear what I draw.