Sunday, August 21, 2011

all this stuff

It was a busy and sleepless week of stuff. It seems like a lost week, I suppose. I had things to design, things to draw, things to photograph, things to get done... and at the end of it all, there's still more stuff to do. Yes, the doing of things is endless.

hummingbird feeder | tigerlily | hummingbird brooches
beloved fish pillow | pile of paintings | sketches of birds
plastic fish in bowl | resin turtle | stack of sketchbooks

And the place is a mess. And cleaning everything up (which isn't so much cleaning as it is putting things back in the terribly impractical places where they seem to be stored) just isn't a relaxing activity. So, there's the chaos of all this stuff.

And then I went shopping... and bought more stuff. And it's not exactly like I'm a clotheshorse or something, so by stuff — I mean art supplies and craft supplies... So, yes, now there's more stuff, and it needs to be put somewhere.

So, excuse my absence, I need to put some stuff away and make the place seem like a place I want to be in, instead of a place I'd like to flee from.

And then when I get done with that I have more stuff to do, and for the love of all things, would someone come and put all that stuff away when it's time to move on to the next thing.

Oh, stuff...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Picture Story: nectar

I think that illustrations are often self evident. That's why they're illustrations. And that's what I do - I illustrate. So, I realize, when I talk about my work, instead of explaining what is in the picture or why it's there - I tend to talk about how I illustrated it.

So, on to the obvious: "nectar" is a picture of ruby-throated hummingbirds eating the nectar of fuchsia. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are native to the eastern United States, for most of us on this side of the country - they're the only species of hummingbird around. They show up here (in Michigan) in May or June and usually hang around until September, when they fly South for the winter. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have a head and body that are green and a white underbelly, only the males have a ruby-colored throat.

Contrary to the depiction in this picture - this species of hummingbird is very territorial. I have never seen 2 of them aware of each other at the same feeder or plant at the same time. However, you can find videos on youtube of multiple ruby-throats in the same feeding area at the same time coexisting peacefully... that just doesn't happen in my yard.
This clip has music - but this is what it sounds like on the back porch all day long: Just tiny little birds fighting and squawking over the sugar water (often referred to in this household as 'bird koolaid') in the plastic container.

"nectar" was one of my first experiments with coloring over a printed image. The fuchsia in the picture were actual flowers that I photographed. I then edited the backgrounds out of those photos, combined several photos together and adjusted the color on the image I had created. I printed that out and colored over it with prismacolor pencils, and then scanned that and edited it as the base of my illustration. The background is based off one of my photos of the sky. I adjusted the colors and then merged it with a color layer to get it the shade of aqua I wanted.

And the hummingbirds were also an experiment in coloring over a print out. They were originally drawn in pencil. And that was scanned and printed as a blue page — and then inked. And then I colorized the ink outline and printed that out and colored over that in prismacolors, and then scanned that back in and made another print out. I colored over that print out — adding details, and then scanned that back in and 'cut' the hummingbirds out of the background.

And then I added the hummingbirds into the illustration, in a layer that was above the sky but below the fuchsia.

I know, I know, the boring technical stuff is only remotely interesting to me.

Since it's August, I come home from work every morning to the sound of a 'bird fight' taking place on the back patio... and I imagine this squawking and fighting and chasing and otherwise all-out territory dispute goes on until dusk. They're lovely creatures and they're complex.

And when I go out on the back porch to do something I am often reminded that I am interrupting their visit. The hummingbird will just pause and hover and look directly at me, and then jut forward, and pause and look at me again, and then decide whether it's on to the feeder or to quickly buzz off to go sit on the edge of some nearby leaf and wait for me to leave... like as if I'm not the one who keeps making them more bird koolaid or something.

Yes, they're complex creatures.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

ice cream, birds, and watercolors...

It was another hot week here in Michigan. Yes, I'm ready for fall. I'm ready for 60—70˚F weather. I'm ready for cool crisp mornings and cold dew on my car... but it isn't fall yet, it's just August.

So, in the mean time, I recommend sitting down and having a nice big bowl of ice cream every now and then. The greatest ice cream I have discovered this summer is Hudsonville's Orange Cream Swirl. If you remember or have recently had an orange creamsicle — it's like that translated into a tub of ice cream. It's delicious. Oh, and so is orange sherbet. Yes, I love that stuff.

Since I was drawing birds a few weekends ago, I decided to format some new pictures for sarahkdesigns:

say's phoebe | cedar waxwing
male northern cardinal | female northern cardinal

And then I worked on watercolors this week... which means I got out the salt, and the watercolors, and the gouache, and the brushes, and the paper, and conveniently used the empty tub from my orange sherbet to hold the water...

And after I use the salt I scrape it off the painting and reuse it... which is interesting, because sometimes it's covered in pigment and that transfers to the next painting.

details of some of the paintings of this week

And yes, I finally bought gouache. And decided to use it with my watercolors (although I did keep it on its own shiny new separate paint palette). I'm heavy handed with the pigment anyway - but it was interesting to see the white actually stay white when it dried.
(And for anyone uninitiated with my watercolor paintings - you can see the actual paintings here)

It's hard to explain making something abstract when you're not the stereotypical character archetype artist. I don't see the world through some narrow prism, and I don't think there's only one path to some ideal visual. When I sit down on the floor in front of the paper cutter with my paint and water and salt and brushes and paper - I have a vague idea of what I think maybe I'm going to do. But really, to a certain extent - whatever happens happens. And when I'm finally done putting paint on the paper or sprinkling it with salt - when I pick that wet painting up and set it down on the carpet to dry — I know it that when it dries it will look different from how it appears wet. Some of the salt will melt, some of the colors will run, pigment will be absorbed or overpowered by other pigment... and while some of it is knowable, there's a certain mystery and randomness to it.

So, the wet paintings sit there on the floor and I go to bed. And usually they're dry when I get up. And when I come home from work the next morning I scrape the salt off them and get to actually see the final result, which is the cool part. Because there's painting it and playing with color and juxtaposition and all that, and then there's finally seeing what it really looks like.

And then I have to sit there and name them all. Because, let's face it, I don't just ever paint one painting. Don't get me wrong, I like the paintings, but I can't imagine setting all that stuff up and having to vacuum salt off the carpeting for one painting.

Of course, I still have to do that vacuuming part.

So, stay cool and have some of your favorite ice cream : )