Thursday, October 6, 2011

Italian Vase

This was one of the ugliest things I ever saw on my Gramma's shelves when I was a kid. After grampa died, this vase and various other knick-knacks came to live at our house. And I always thought that it was ugly. For the life of me I could not figure out how my mom thought this had any value but it was on the shelf of very expensive things that she thought would appreciate in value. So when did that all change?

sculptural vase
I think it was right around the time that I got into my own place and started my own business. My tastes started changing as I read Country Living and Victoria Magazine. I always loved the tea cups that gramma collected on the dumbwaiter that served as an ocassional table in the living room. And I liked the flowered porcelain box on the oval coffee table. But not this vase... not until I started to read about how difficult it can be to work with sculptural porcelains. But it was still kinda hideous.

Then I got away from the lace and frills of hardcore Victorian decorating into something more modest and balanced. So when mom died and I was left with an empty apartment Dad said I should start making it more homey. It was too sterile an environment for him to feel like visiting. And that was one of the first things I grabbed. Dad didn't like it much so he didn't mind. I'd started to find watercolor fascinating because the work in the stamp store took some of the fear out of the process. And so this was one of the first subjects of my full sized (meaning not A-2 card size) pieces.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I once had a discussion with my sister about why it is I don't "paint a bunch" of a painting that I've done that I really like. Her thought was that since I was the one who painted it I should be able to duplicate the painting stroke by stroke. It is a beautiful theory. But it is just a theory. Right before I packed up the shop amd moved everything into storage I did some studies to practice with some new watercolor pigments. And, I did pears.... it was easy. The pears were on the counter so...

You can see that there are some very obvious differences in the two pears. The colors and composition are the same. And really that is all that you can hope for. The reason for this is that watercolors are done with layers of washes and the water will never run the same way twice. And depending on your energy level and how physically ready to work you body is, you will never move your brush in exactly the same way twice.

Look at the background of the two pictures. The upper right corner of the large one is streaked and the overall shape in the corner retains a strong suggestion of wood panel which is what I was going for. You can also see that there are distinct variations in the colors of the dioxizine wash with the deepest wash remaining at the buttom. In the smaller version the colors ran so much that there is little variation and the vertical lines disappeared. In this one the background has the same curvaceous quality as the subject itself. The smaller one loses some dynamic qualities as a result.

Now look at the lower right corner of each in the foreground. In the large one the foreground is so blurred and the variations are so indistinct that it loses focus and allows your eye to travel along the lines of the pear toward the stem without really hesitating or confusing your brain as to where it should look first. This was intentional. I intended that the same should be true in the smaller one. But it did not work that way. The brush strokes and paper were both too dry to achieve the desired effect.

In the midground of each, you see the shadow worked itself differently. In the large painting the shadow is a sharp and soft edged puddle of deep color. In the small one, the shadow is all sharp edges and rather uniform in its medium shades.

Then look at the shape of the pools of colors in the pears themselves. Each one worked out differently even though I did the same layers of colors in the same order. The smaller pear has a deep rounded sharp edge to segment the wide and narrow parts. The large pear is rather indistinct in this regard so even though we read it as a pear it does read a little less rounded and somewhat flat sided there. The stems are also different.

The one I like the best? The first one. The large pear. Why? Because the only thing that really detracts from the composition is that softer  edge between the wide and narrow globes of the pear body. The pools of color are more defined... but I can take a wet brush and calm some of those edges even now. It is a more dynamic composition than the smaller one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

3 hour card

So the boss is turning 40. And for his birthday he is being flooded with cards. I knew about this 2 weeks ago and tonight just got around to making it. Two or three days ago I knew what I wanted to do and have been working out in my head how this was going to happen. And I almost knew the colors. The boss is male so I wanted to keep to boyish kinds of colors. And I did a "boyish" kind of theme because he is so dang young looking. He is always smiling and is super Uber friendly... in the hospitality business you have to be. So here we go:
Birthday Cupcake
brown "chocolate sprinkles",
sculpted paper "gum paste
flower" & striped "paper liner".
I started with a sketch after looking at cupcake photos on line. You'd think that a cupcake would be a simple thing to whip out. But like so many simple things in life... you really have to look at what is in front of you to truly see it. Cupcakes are just one of those things. So I cut my first pieces from the sketch paper, laid it out on the printed paper and cut.

It was after I started laying the pieces out to add some chalk ink shadows that I realized my stripes were not vertical which made the whole thing look tippy... and someohow the frosting got sloppy and looked like a Cupcake Wars reject. So I cut again.

Did I mention that I did not even start on this until 12:30 a.m.? 

When I had the cupcake bottom & frosting cut out and proportioned to fill most of the card plane, I used chalk inks and the direct to paper method to create shading. The blues and greens on the frosting did not show up in the photo... the fault of my camera skills. Next I cut a strip from a floral pattern and edged it with a redish chalk ink. Then using a ribbon punch form ek Sucess, I punched across a green paper, edged it in brown and hit it in places with the same redish ink. Chalk inks dry faster than pigment inks, but not so fast that you can handle it right away. So while those pieces dried I sculpted a 3D embellishment.

K&Comapny's Julienne pad has a beautiful magnolia paper. They were perfect to be my gum paste flower embellishment. Um... did I mention that I had the Food Network on while I was crafting? So yeah.... The magnolia is constructed from two layers. The main layer is sculpted with a stylus and cut along some lines so that I could make some of the petals pop up without adding bulk since this will be mailed. The second layed uses only the center portion of a second large flower. After those three petals were also sculpted with a stylus they were mounted with foam dots. I added a little rosey red to the petals to pull another color from the floral paper into the cupcake design.

Once I decided how it would sit on the frosting I eyeballed where the sprinkles would go. I used mono glue and a fine reddish brown glitter to finish it off. Next it was time to assemble the card. And it was hideous. I had chosen the black and white damask paper for the card instead of plain white because it would be more dynamic. But there was so much going on with the card that it got too busy. So I added that green panel edged with the brown chalk ink. Then I ran a black micron pen around the green panel to frame it a bit. Once I got it assembled I liked it a lot better.

The last thing to do was stamp the bosses name in white on the cupcake to tie all the colors together.

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