Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wet snow, castles and square beads

This is the view out our back door this looks like sleet but it was really big fat flakes coming down so fast that they ended up looking  like icicles hanging on the tree in the photo. It was way too dark inside to paint today but I did take a photo of my last session.
I can see that it is going to be a killer to get a good photo of this painting, I had good light when I took it but I still had to adjust everything to approximate the colors and tones in the painting. I realized as I was blocking in the trees on the right that they are bordering an old moat. You can see it at this stage, but the whole area is under brush in the reference and so it wasn't evident. 

Since I couldn't paint today I thought maybe I'd play around with designing a new necklace. Spent most of the morning sketching something up and then the rest of the day extruding, cutting and drilling over 300 quarter inch square beads for my project. 

This is a photo of them in my dutch oven just before popping them in the oven. I'm going to have to hand sand just about all of them to get a clean weave pattern. 

So we know what I'll be doing this weekend lol!  


Thursday, January 22, 2009

How something I always wanted became my new shop logo!

Have you ever read a book and become entranced with an object one of the characters possesses? I read a book called Taipan many years ago. The story was set in Hong Kong and it chronicled the life of the head of a major trading company there.  In one of the scenes he is sitting at his desk, about to sign an important letter. He reaches over to a case and pulls out something called a 'chop', which is slang for a Chinese character official seal. I can't remember, but I'm sure the seal was an intricate carving of jade or some other precious stone and it was pressed into a special red seal wax and then affixed to the letter. I'm not exactly sure why that object caught my imagination...I immediately lusted for one, knowing full well that it was something I most likely never would have the need for. 

Then, just three weeks 
before this past Christmas, I was perusing the National Geographic catalog of hand made artisan products from around the world and what did I see before my saucer shaped eyes???

 Yes! A chinese seal... carved in the shape of a dragon, in a brocade box with yet another embossed dragon, that came with an additional dragon motif delft blue porcelain seal jar! Then I read the description which said that Chinese artisans would carve YOUR NAME in the seal!!!

Wow, I could have Nine Dragons put on it, use it to sign my business letters and, even better, incorporate it into a logo!

I let out such a loud whoop that my husband came running lol. Next thing you know the dear man tells me to order it as his Christmas present to me :) :) :)

The reason I didn't write about all of this at Christmas is because the order got messed up. It did not arrive until the day after Christmas (though I'd been assured it would come in time) and instead of having the characters for Nine Dragons it had 4 to represent 'ni', one to represent 'ne' and I never did find out what the other two stood for. (if you put together ni and get 'nine'...not exactly what I had in mind). Understandably, we were both very disappointed, I had very carefully explained what I wanted. 

But I must say that National Geographic stands behind their handmade products. Phone calls were made directly to China, I was told I did not need to return anything and was reimbursed for my shipping and a rush was put out for a new seal with the correct symbols. I was informed that my order was shipped from China on the 12th and I had it on the 20th...absolutely the way I wanted it. 

The symbol you are looking at is simplified Chinese character based. Traditional Chinese has the same symbol for the number nine, but the dragon symbol is comprised of two rather complicated symbols, so I'm happy to have this more simplified looks nice and crisp. 

The next step was to incorporate it into my banner for Nine Dragons Sculpture Art shop at 1000 Markets.  Well, it really wasn't as simple as I thought it would be. I'm a firm believer that artwork should always take center stageand right away I could see that the red on white stamp was not going to work. So straight to my Gimp photo program I went. 

Got rid of the white background...and added it as a layer to the banner. Still no good having a bright red logo. So then I tried changing the color to the same gold I use for the font. It took ages of fiddling until I finally matched it, but it still was fighting for too much attention. So I went through several steps of resizing, duplicating, trying little logos here and there and all over the place and loved nothing. 

I was ready to give up after about 3 hours of messing with it and my husband told me not to give up, that he knew I'd figure it out. Then off to bed he went, leaving me sitting at the puter with a stubborn look on my face. Not long after, I came up with the gray on gray approach. It only took another hour to figure out how exactly to get the gray I wanted since I was not able to use transparency on top of another transparency. I must say I learned a ton of new tricks and ideas while doing this...wouldn't work for this project but I sure have some inspiration for future ones! 

Anyways, I'm now quite happy with the result and so excited to finally have my very own chop and logo! My next step will be to use this as a template for my business cards by expanding the gray down below the banner and using that for my information. 



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Today was a day where I just didn't have it in me for a marathon painting session. I started out wanting to get the majority of the trees into the right side of the painting and realized there were so many dark areas that I needed to let it dry before moving on. I also realized that I usually just show photos of the end of my sessions, which does not allow you to see some of the actual steps, so this is a good opportunity to see the actual block in of my darks. It's really just a map of the dark areas, they'll be refined in the next stage. So the first photo is of the end of today's session. The second photo shows the wider view, from about 3 feet away, so you can get a sense of the distance in the painting. It was taken right after I blocked in the darks and before I moved on to make some changes. I wish I could put them up side by side because there are a lot of little differences between the two. I wanted to start tying in the balconies and roof areas to the rest of the painting, so the first thing I did after blocking the darks was to put a glaze of payne's gray and ultramarine blue over the coach house roof. It darkened the value just enough that it allows the face of the figure to come forward a bit and it will work with the darker values on the roof that I will need. I ran the same mixture over the bridge house roof too. It's a very subtle difference but it's giving a nice depth to the colors. Then I blocked in and detailed the very first balcony and roof, just above and slightly to the right of the figure, at the edge of the largest and furthest building. In a painting the rule usually is that once you change something, you always have to adjust the things around it to fit, and it held true for this too. I went back in and reinforced the wall edges, the windows and faded out everything together. It's not supposed to jump out at you, just sort of blend into the building's edge :) I also took the brush that I'd used for the roofs and lightly ran that mixture over the reds in the building to knock the intensity back. Pure white is rarely used in paintings, except as accents. Whites have shadows...warm for the sunny areas and cool for the shaded side. So even though the balcony looks white, it's far from it. One side tends towards blue and the other a rose pink. The dark gray of the balcony roof is mostly a mixture of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue and the lighter side of the roof is mostly white and ultramarine blue, with just a hint of pink to it. The red cross bar is burnt sienna dulled down with paynes gray. Then I went back to the face. This face is only 7/8 inch's extremely difficult to shade something that small for dimension. You can see where it was when I started in the third picture. The photo is a little fuzzy, but so was the face. Every hollow and contour of the face is defined by highlights and shadows, just as in real life. I have been using a triple zero brush which is extremely tiny, but it's very hard to control in such a small area. I used a mixture of burnt sienna and payne's gray and very carefully added shadows under the cheekbones, at the corners of the mouth and around the nose. I then took a little bit of a mauve and used it to shape the sides of the face. The end result is the last photo. This is probably as much as I can refine the face. I still need to do a little work on the hands, at 1/4 inch there's not much I can do with them and they need to sort of fade into the background as much as possible. This is where being a perfectionist can drive a person crazy :D but I'll return to them later. This is just how I'm painting this particular piece, every artist approaches things differently, and even I will change approaches depending on the painting. This painting has so much going on that I constantly have to re-evaluate the situation to keep the flow. I'm very happy I started as I did, it's much easier to adjust the background to the focal area than vice versa. And if you will notice, almost every color I use is echoed somewhere else in the painting, which in the end should make for a harmonious color palette. That way everything seems to fit in the scene without standing out like a sore thumb :) I think tomorrow I'll work on the highest balconies and roof tops. I'll have to go darker than I want for the roofs because the sky color will actually work into the roofs to give an atmospheric effect. That's the plan anyways! Thanks so much for following along! :)


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Castle painting update - blocking in the hills

Well, the stone layers can go home and it's time for the roofers to come in! I finally have all the walls blocked in and I've got a good base for the trees to the left of the castle. I have to wait for it to dry and then refine a little bit, but not too much, as I've got a good sense of distance started. I will finish all the greenery, the balconies and the roof before adding the sky. It's an overcast day, so it will be gray, I intend to pick up colors from the painting and incorporate them into the grays. The rooftops will be darker than you are seeing on the coach house right now, but I needed to start with a lighter value for glazing purposes. I got a little bogged down by the sheer massive undertaking of all those walls, but now I'm starting to get excited again. Imagine...I'm creating an event that never was! And yet in the making of it, it is somehow now a reality (well, almost) cool is that??? :D


Monday, January 19, 2009

Wearable Art Market feature - Streetnoodles Handmade jewelry and more

This week's Wearable Art Market feature member is  Streetnoodles.  Birds are one of my favorite things and this is one place where I can find lots of them! My favorite piece is the one shown above, a bird portrait necklace.

I'm also loving another necklace featuring a pretty handsome beetle. Normally I'm not really into insects but I really love the color combination on this one (plus he can't escape!)

For those of you who love nature, but would rather stop and smell the roses, then I have just the thing for you too...these lovely ivory rose and pearl earrings

Please be sure to stop in and check out more of Streetnoodle's products in the Wearable Art Market!