Tuesday, December 30, 2008


pastel on paper
Jan Gibson

This is a pastel pencil painting that I struggled over. The reference photo was pretty bad (no, I didn't take it this time! lol) as it was shot from the front using a flash. Many of the features were totally washed out and, of course, those weird "flashed" eyes. So, much of this was sort of made up as I went along.

However, the owner was pleased with it and kept saying that it was her Jack.

Guess that's all that counts!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

After Christmas/Before New Years!

Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights

We ended up taking the dogs for one more trip to see the Christmas lights before everyone takes them down for the year. I took some photos but they didn't come out that well. The photo above is from just one house so you can imagine what the whole street looked like!

As usual, the dogs enjoyed the trip and my husband was inspired to add more lights to our yard next year. This was pretty much confirmed when he found a bunch of lighted candy canes really cheap at WalMarts on the New Black Friday (the day after Christmas).

Today is supposed to be our family Christmas dinner but my son in law called last evening to say that both my daughter and granddaughter were really sick and he didn't think they'd be able to make it today.

I'm disappointed as it would have been the first time both kids had been together for Christmas in about 6 years! It seems that one or the other have always had something come up and it looks as if the pattern continues this year.

Our son will be here though with the two grandchildren so I'm still cooking. I made homemade yeast rolls last evening and a squash casserole
early this morning (but haven't baked it yet). The squash is from our garden this past summer and it's so nice to have something from our garden in the middle of winter!

We're having ham but that's my husband's job to cook as I don't eat any kind of meat. It's hard to prepare it when you can't taste it to see if it's seasoned properly so he takes over that chore. I so appreciate it too as sometimes even the smell of meat cooking is unpleasant to me.

So, I guess I'd better head back to the kitchen and finish all the preparations - I'm still hoping my daughter and her family will be well enough to be with us. If not, I'll probably take some of the food over there as I always make enough to feed Pharoah's army!

May you all have the best New Year ever!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Black Cat - OSWOA

"Black Cat"
Jan Gibson

I've been hearing a lot lately about OSWOA's (Original Small Works of Art) and wanted to try one. Actually, the Japanese Magnolia that I posted a couple of days ago is an OSWOA but that was sort of an experiment. This painting was intentionally painted as an OSWOA and I was determined to paint it to the best of my ability.

One of the specifications for an OSWOA is the size - 4 inches by 6 inches. As a matter of fact, that's about the only specification other than the work has to be original - no copies or prints except for some very stringent rules for prints.

It's the size that I want to comment on though. Four inches by six inches is pretty small and therefore very hard to achieve much detail on them. I've done a few ATC's (Artists Trading Cards when traded with other artists) or ACEO's (Art Cards Editions and Originals when sold as original artwork to the general puplic) and it's extremely difficult. ATC/ACEO cards are even smaller than the OSWOA's at only 2.5 X3.5 inches and it's very hard to do them with the mediums I use. I thought the OSWOA's would be a little easier but it's still difficult to get a brush or a fat pastel pencil into such a small space and come away with something recognizable! Not only are the brushes/pencils almost too large for detail, but your hand is always in the way so you can't really see what you're painting!

So, I was pretty pleased with the outcome of the cat painting above. I belong to a group of patrons of my favorite pet store who get together once a month or so and this month we're having a small gift exchange. This kitty will be my gift for this occasion. I hope whoever gets it likes it and isn't disappointed at all. The plan is to put all the gifts (wrapped) into a large container and let everyone draw one out. So, no one knows who will get what gift. I debated about painting a cat. I know about the dogs everyone has, but somehow, the cats don't get as much discussion time. I didn't want to paint a dog as most everyone has a rescue dog or two who certainly aren't purebred and it would be almost impossible to please someone with a dog breed painting. And, not knowing who would receive my gift also made it hard to paint a specific animal. I actually wanted to paint a wild animal but figured I'd be safer painting a cat. We'll see if I change my mind and paint something else before the exchange! lol

But this cat photo spoke to me plus I wanted to try a black animal again to see if I could give it enough life to make it interesting. I'll let you decide if that's been accomplished!

More Thoughts on Glassless Framing

I've not had a lot of time to experiment more with the glassless framing of either watercolor or pastel lately but I have been thinking about it a lot. And I've reached a few conclusions about it for me personally and I'll share them with you here.

First, I think glassless framing is very practical. Pastel and watercolor are relatively delicate mediums and the varnish protects them in a way that glass cannot do. However, the very delicacy of the media is what makes them what they are and look as they do. Varnishing changes the look into something else and I'm not so sure that's desirable, especially in every case. If varnishing didn't change the look of the art, I would be wholeheartedly enthusiastic about glassless framing. As it stands, I'm enthusiastic - with some reservations.

In this day and time and especially here in the US, there's a myriad of art media available to artists (and I think I've tried just about all that are out there! lol)

The painting of the cockatoo (varnished watercolor) is hanging on the studio wall where I have to see it on a regular basis. One day as I glanced at it, it struck me that it looks very much like an acrylic ink painting. Varnishing a watercolor is quite a bit of trouble so why bother when the look ends up being very similar to a medium that doesn't require near that amount of effort? Acrylic inks also behave so much like watercolor that if one is mastered, then the other can be also. Perhaps the major difference is that the acrylic inks cannot be re-wet or lifted once they're dry, otherwise, they're very, very similar to work with.

Pastel is another matter altogether. Right now there's really not any other medium that looks or behaves quite like soft pastels or pastel pencils. Even after it's varnished, it has it's own look. Of course, the average person probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a varnished pastel, a varnished watercolor or an acrylic ink painting. Once finished, they all look very similar. And, without the texture, an oil or regular acrylic would probably look very close to the other mediums if all were varnished with the same type/finish of varnish.

So, right now, with technology as it is, I don't think I'm going to pursue glassless framing, especially for pastels. As I've said, if I could do it without changing the look of the original medium, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But, since the varnish is an extra process and changes the look of pastel and watercolor into something else entirely, I say why bother?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Japanese Magnolia - Take 2

Japanese Magnolia
Jan Gibson

This is the second Japanese Magnolia I've painted in watercolor. The first was from a photo reference taken by someone else on a free photo sharing site. This one is from my own photo reference taken at WalMart's garden center of all places! The day was a little overcast so I had to compensate and punch up the color and contrast in this painting.

I can see why it's so desirable to work from life. Most of the time I don't have the luxury of doing that as my main subject matter tends to be less than cooperative at sitting still for long. And I have to admit that I'm usually a very slow painter so even florals or landscapes will change light before I can begin to finish them. Photographs give the luxury of working at my own pace and the time to make changes that may not be there while painting en plein air.

Anyway, thanks to the help of the good people at Let's Make Art, I've finally finished this flower. I have a bunch of photos so maybe I'll paint another one one of these days. I think they're beautiful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Lights/Strange Traditions

Hayfield Christmas Tree
Jan Gibson

The photo above shows the Christmas tree that my husband decorates every year. It sits on the edge of our yard right before the yard merges into the hayfield in the front of the house.

I guess it's kind of weird to have a lighted tree sort of in the middle of nowhere but I'm sure people passing by at night are comforted by these lights. Well, maybe they're just amused! Oh, well, if it makes them smile, I'll all for the tree.

As I said, this is kind of a weird tradition but it's not the weirdest one we observe at this time of the year. We live about 5 miles from a little community-sized town. It's tiny but they usually have a nice tree on the main street and there' s a little side street where the residents go all out with lights and decorations. Every year, we take our two old dogs to "see the lights" in this little town. We've been doing it for 13 years - ever since we got the dogs as pups.
They seem to know when it's time for their annual Christmas trip and they really seem to enjoy it.

Of course, it could be that they're just excited about a trip out with us that doesn't involve the vet!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cockatoo, Finally Framed

Cockatoo, Framed
Watercolor on Aquabord
Jan Gibson

I finally got the cockatoo painting framed and am pleased with the way it came out. It may have looked more like a watercolor painting on paper with a mat and framed with glass but I do like this glassless framing.

I have it hanging on my studio wall with a window to the right as you look at the painting. There's lots of light coming from that window if I leave the blinds open but, as you can see, there's very little glare on the painting.

I chose a frame in the same colors as the branch the cockatoo is perched on but I usually have doubts that I've chosen the right frame! Would it have looked better in a snazzy tropical color? I really think so but I'm not the brave one when it comes to things like that! However, I'm going to keep my eye open for a really colorful frame in maybe orange or yellow or some other bright and fabulous color!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Watercolor Glassless Framing - the First Result

Cockatoo Before and After Varnishing
Jan Gibson

I thought you might like to see the cockatoo painting after four coats of the Golden UVLS gloss varnish. Actually, you can't see much difference between the two scans here but the varnished painting looks a little brighter in real life. At this point, I'm debating on whether to add another coat of satin varnish for a different finish or leave it as it is.

I like that it looks bright and rich in color and the fact that it's not real shiny in spite of the gloss varnish. I hesitate to use the satin varnish in case it doesn't look as good but this is an experimental piece so I think I'll try it. If I don't, I'll never know whether it would have looked better or worse, right?

I have been diligent in observing the different stages of the process and will give my thoughts here in hopes of helping someone else.

I do like the ease of the Preval sprayer for applying the Golden Soft Gel (gloss). I diluted it to 2 parts Soft Gel and 1 part water and it sprayed on beautifully.

However, when I diluted the Golden UVLS varnish (gloss) 2 to 1, I felt that it was too thin and may try it with either less water or will not dilute it at all and will apply it with a foam brush.

With the sprayed on varnish, I either got runs and drips or lots of air bubbles. I got rid of most of the air bubbles the same way you do with a cake batter - by rapping the painting sharply on a hard surface. The rest were popped with an old hat/corsage pin.

I don't like the Preval sprayer because I had to use quite a bit of the varnish in order for the sprayer pipe to reach the liquid. The jars that come with the sprayer are a little over 2 inches in diameter and are about 5 inches tall. They hold 6 ounces of liquid.

Of course, the bottle doesn't have to be filled to the top line for the sprayer to work but it seems to work best with at least an ounce in the bottle. This varnish (and the soft gel) goes a long, long way but I'm told that the varnish doesn't keep after mixing so that means that I have quite a bit left that will have to be thrown out. These products aren't cheap so I think this is a pretty good reason to at least try the foam brush instead of the sprayer the next time. Or, perhaps I can find a bottle with a lot smaller diameter that will work with less liquid. Or, maybe the airbrush is the solution after all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Whimsy or Realism?

One of the art forums I visit has a post from a really good realistic artist who was not only turned down for gallery space but was basically told that her art was not any good. Of course she was devastated. Come to find out, this gallery only showed abstract art and was saying that since she didn't paint in the abstract style, she wasn't any good.

The discussion continued about different genres of art being in vogue at a particular place and time and that these genres cycle in and out of favoritism.

From what I see on the internet, whimsy seems to be the current art flavor of this period, especially for pet portraits.

One master of this type of painting is Ron Burns. I like his work immensely even though my "calling" is to realism (artists are allowed to appreciate the different types of art!).

Getting back to the post on the art forum, many of the members posted about the hard time the impressionists, for example, had being taken seriously in the art world of their time. Now we look back and consider them the geniuses of their era!

I wonder what future generations will think when they look upon this period in art history? Will they look at abstracts and whimsical paintings and appreciate them or will there be a different flavor of the century?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord

watercolor on Aquabord
Jan Gibson

Well you gotta give me credit for persistence! lol I may not be able to use pastels on Ampersand panels for glassless framing, but I can still try with watercolors!

We had to go out for some horse feed this past Friday (so called "Black Friday") and we ended up fairly close to a Hobby Lobby. I think my husband felt kinda bad because he forgot to take me to Jerry's Artarama and their big trade show a couple of weeks ago so he insisted we stop and I was to get anything I thought I might need. Well, Hobby Lobby is not really a place to buy fine art supplies (do you think my husband realized this? lol) but I did buy some Ampersand Aquabord.

Aquabord is the close cousin to Pastelbord & I think I'm going to have to buy stock in Ampersand as I like all of their products I've tried so far (Pastelbord, Aquabord and Gessobord). I just like the idea of a sturdy board but one that's been well-sealed to be acid-free. I do wish I could get the pastels sealed so they could be framed without glass, but while I'm working on that, I've done a watercolor on the Aquabord to try out the process with watercolor.

This is the first painting I've done on Aquabord and it was like learning a different medium. Nothing seemed to work as it does on paper but I'm not the most proficient in watercolor either. However, I did manage the painting of the cockatoo above (reference photo courtesy of the Wet Canvas reference library).

I haven't sealed or varnished this yet as I'm not 100% satisfied with the painting and want to put it aside for a few days to see if I need to make any changes. That's one of the beauties of Aquabord, changes are very easy to make. As a matter of fact, I completely washed off a couple of painting starts before this one! That is so cool as watercolor is generally a very unforgiving medium and you usually have to start all over if you make a mistake! You rock, Ampersand!!! LOL!

I'll keep you posted on any changes and when I seal/varnish this painting. In the meantime, if you see anything I could change, just let me know. I'm not completely happy with this but just don't know where to go with it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Watercolor Painting

Jan Gibson

I finished this about a week ago but am just now getting around to posting it. The colors look a little washed out but if I try to fix them in my photo software, the painting gets a weird cast to it.

Anyway, this is an Italian Greyhound that I painted as a change of pace from pastel. The photo references were lousy but I'm the photographer so have no one to blame but myself! lol

Changing the subject, we are getting our first snow of the season. It was spitting snow a little bit when I woke up about 3 and when I let the dogs out a few minutes ago, it was coming down pretty good. The temperature is in the mid-thirties though and I know it won't stick.

We rarely get snow but they're (who are "they" anyway?) predicting a colder, perhaps snowier winter than we've had in recent years. Of course they don't know for sure what the weather will do in the next few weeks let alone the rest of the winter! Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part as snow is a four-letter word in my book! I guess I don't mind it as much as I used to because I don't have to drive in it or be out in it for any extended length of time. It makes the barn chores a little more difficult but otherwise, I can just stay here in the house and ignore it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Glassless Framing Experiments

Pastel Experiment

I've played around a bit more with the glassless framing and pretty much combined advice from several sources to try to find a method that would suit me and my way of working.

I like the idea of using the Golden materials as suggested by Gary Ruuska but dragging out all the air brush paraphernalia and the air compressor (which is actually my husbands and is noisy and bigger than I like) just isn't my idea of fun. The Golden products have UV protectants in them though and I do like that so I used the Preval sprayer per the directions in the email from Bob Palmerton. That sprayer is the cat's pajamas for the small amount of spraying that I'm doing. It's easily found in automotive parts or hardware stores or can be ordered online. It's not expensive at all and a canister of propellant seems to last and last. The spray is fine enough to give a nice finish to the art work too.

Since I have messed up so many Ampersand Pastelbord panels (and Ampersand isn't backing my experiments!), I decided to do my experimenting on regular matboard pieces and that seems to be working out well. The flower above is on a dark green matboard and I want to try a light color just to see if the colors darken as much when sprayed. BTW, the colors shown are pretty much the colors I ended up with after spraying. They darkened considerably and I did use progressively lighter colors but ran out of lighter colors that would work.

Teresa Mallen left a comment on my last post here and I wanted to reassure her about the Lascaux fixative and suggest she talk to Nicole Caulfield about it on colored pencil. I use pastel pencils for the most part which are water soluable to begin with. Colored pencil has wax or oil which would resist moisture plus, I read that Nicole uses a blender on top of colors that tend to change color or melt which preserves the color when sprayed. I may try that on top of my pastels just to see if it helps.

But, actually, right now, I think the process is much too long and too much trouble to make it worthwhile for pastels. Maybe in the future some product will come along that doesn't darken the pastel but will still seal it so that the art can be varnished and framed without glass.

As it is, I'm doing a pastel painting, spraying it with the diluted Golden Soft Gel as an isolation barrier, letting that dry then going back over the darkened areas with a lighter color (if I have one), respraying, letting that layer dry & on & on until I have a painting I'm satisfied with. Perhaps a landscape would be different as color changes maybe wouldn't be as obvious, but people expect their pet to have the correct color. Maybe at some point, I'll automatically know the light color with which to replace the color that darkens and avoid the back and forth of using progressively lighter colors. But, I wonder too if the build up is necessary to end up with the right color?

I'm not giving up entirely. I'll continue to experiment since I have all the necessary mediums to do so but I'm just not holding my breath that there will be a huge break-through in this area anytime soon.

Again, if anyone has any information about varnishing pastels, please feel free to contact me!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More on Glassless Framing

Well, I apologize for being a little slack posting here but I've been trying to find more information on framing pastels without glass. It's become rather an obsession in a way, but I just know in my innermost being that it can be done.

One of the questions I get from other pastel artists is "should it be done?" "Why cover pastel with a protective finish?" "Why isn't glass good enough any more?" "What about tradition?"

First, let me say that I love the look of a traditional pastel. It's one of the reasons I took up pastel in the first place.

However I don't like that pastel is so delicate nor the fact that great care has to be taken to frame and protect it. It doesn't ship well, especially to countries overseas. If there's a way to overcome these negative points of pastel and still retain the beauty of it, I'd really like to know about it.

As for tradition, well - what good is a traditional pastel if it accidentally gets bumped and all the pastel falls off? Doesn't using fixative to prevent this falling off make the painting less traditional anyway? Glassless framing basically just increases the amount of fixative so that the pastel dust is completely covered.

There's lots to explore here. I paint pet portraits mainly. I doubt very seriously if I'll ever be hailed as the next Rembrandt or anything close for that matter. The average person who commissions a pet portrait from me has a lot going on in their homes. If you've ever seen a cat high on cat nip, then you might be able to see the wisdom of a pastel painting with a glassless finish!

But, I'm getting off track here. My original purpose for this post was to publicly thank all the artists who have responded to my requests for information on this subject or who have piqued my curiosity to begin with. The generosity of artists in general never ceases to amaze me.

Nicole Caulfield got the wheels turning for me when she posted about the glassless framing of colored pencil at an art forum I belong to. Of course there's a difference in pastel and colored pencil but she had some of the same issues as I've experienced - namely color shifts/darkening of the pigment and the pigment just melting away. Her posts sent me in search of other pastel artists who may have been experimenting with this process to see if glassless framing could actually work with pastel.

Gary Ruuska, a contemporary of Nicole Caulfield, and an exquisitely talented colored pencil artist himself, was the first to respond to an email from me asking about his method of sealing and varnishing colored pencil. He began with Nicole's method but eventually developed a method of his own that didn't use the smelly aerosol sprays.

I found Sandra K. Jackoboice, a pastel artist, by searching for glassless framing of pastels. She was generous enough that her process was posted on her website for download. It was her article that gave me real hope that glassless pastel framing could actually work.

Bob Palmerton is the latest artist to respond to my request for more information on his process. Because his method is specific to pastels, his very generous reply was very helpful.

William Ross with the Pastel Society of the Ozarks also responded to an email from me with information.

I just want to thank all of them for the help they've given me. Thank you all!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Into the Light

"Into the Light"
Pastel on Pastelbord
Jan Gibson

This was done for a challenge at Let's Make Art and it was a challenge for me. It was a challenge because I haven't painted that many cats and this is another painting on Pastelbord by Ampersand which is a fairly new support for me. It was also a challenge because of the cat's face emerging out of the dark and into the light. I wasn't sure that I could get that effect right.

But, I'm fairly pleased with this painting. I'm not so pleased with the darkening of the pastel when I spray it with fixative. You may remember the little bunny that I did. I sprayed it with a common, rather cheap fixative and it also turned very dark.

This time I used the expensive Lascaux fixative because I'd heard that it didn't change the color of the art. I followed the advice of many artists who have said to use very light layers of spray and not to saturate the painting with the fixative. Unfortunately, even with that advice, the pastel still darkened quite a bit and also left my dark background very flat looking.

The pastel pencils I use are water soluble and I'm beginning to think that any moisture whatsoever is going to melt the pastel enough to darken it. This would render glassless framing pretty much out of the question unless I can find some pastel pencils that won't melt with moisture.

So, this little kitty will get framed the old-fashioned way and I'll continue the search for a way to frame pastel without glass!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spirit Horse?

"Back to the Wind"
pastel on black stock
copyright Jan Gibson

I seem to have done several things in the past few days that are pretty much out of the norm for me. The first is the pastel painting of the horse shown above which just about painted itself. It also broke the artistic slump I've been in for some time for which I'm very grateful!

I posted this painting at one of my art forums and one responder said that it made her feel slightly disturbed because it looked ghost-like. I guess the translucent quality of the painting might give that impression but it was never intended to do so.

I think it came out this way because I'd been looking at photos trying to spark an interest in painting again and had found a bunch of carousel horse photos. None really moved me to paint them though.

Then, I've been spending a lot of time with my own horse as she evidently got tangled in a fence as her front legs are cut just above the hooves. She also was limping slightly on a rear leg probably as the result of the same incident. So, she's been receiving treatments to the cuts several times a day and I've also had to give her "horse aspirin" and a powdered antibiotic both of which she hates and refuses to take no matter how well hidden they are. As you can imagine, she's been on my mind a lot.

I think the carousel horse photos plus being with Bonnie so much merged in my mind to become the above painting. A blend of reality and fantasy. It's also similar to the painting of the dog, Lucky, that I posted here some time ago. Maybe that's the direction my art is supposed to take as both paintings came quickly and naturally to me. However, only certain subjects lend themselves well to this style and I think I'd get bored very quickly if it's all I ever painted!

Oh, well, enjoy the horse - perhaps there will be more in this style in the future (or maybe there won't)!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Bindweed Blossom
Jan Gibson

Well, I've finally done something with the new Open acrylics by Golden I bought. It's not a masterpiece by any means but just a sort of doodle to see how the paints handle. I have a lot more practice to do to learn how to make smoother transitions and blend better but I'm very pleased with these paints and hope to do a lot more with them.

I'm working on a couple of paintings with these paints right now and I hope to learn more with each one I do. I was getting a little frustrated because I couldn't get the smoothness I wanted with them so mixed in a little of the acrylic inks that I have and that seemed to help a lot. I've used the thinner and the medium that I bought with the paints, but neither gave me the results I wanted. The inks seemed to thin the paint without thinning the color along with it thus making the paint more manageable without the streaky look that the regular thinner gives.

The drying time for the paints is perfect for me. They've lasted a very long time on my plastic palette - some about nine days, covered, although I've mixed more paint into those original globs and also have very lightly misted the paints on some days. As far as drying time on a painting, it has ranged from just a relatively short time to overnight for a thicker application and depending on the support used.

Speaking of supports, my favorite is the gessobord so far. I've also used paper and canvas and would use those again depending on what kind of texture I wanted for my painting.

All in all, I heartily recommend these paints and that's something from someone who never liked to use acrylics in the past. These are so much easier to use and are a perfect solution for those who like the blendability of oils but want a shorter drying time.

I'll post more acrylic paintings as I do them. I'm moving slowly (and am fairly slow at painting anyway) but hope to eventually do many paintings in this medium.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Painting Slump and Arugula

I've been in a real painting slump here lately and can't seem to get the creative juices going. Part of that may stem from the fact that I ruined the little bunny painting by trying to finish it for glassless framing. It got so dark that it looks like one of those dirty, old masters paintings only without that old masters touch! I knew I should have left well enough alone with it but I was in too big a hurry to figure out the process to do away with mats and glass for pastels! I haven't had the heart so far, but I'm going to see if I can salvage it by painting over it. Since it has several layers of Kamar varnish on it, I don't know if I should work over the top of it. Maybe the best thing would be to just re-paint the piece from scratch!

That's the bad news but I also have a couple of pieces of good news.

First of all, the arugula is up in the garden and we had arugula in our salads the other evening! I also had a sandwich with arugula on it. I got hooked on arugula long before it became an "in" green. The owners of the place where I worked in the late 80's took a trip to Italy and brought some seeds back with them (I don't know how they got them through customs). They didn't know exactly what arugula was but knew we liked to garden so gave those seeds to us. My husband hated it but I was enraptured by that nutty flavor that turned slightly hot in some of the plants as they aged. I didn't think to save the seeds but later ordered more from a specialty seed company and now the seeds are even available at a local garden center so we can plant it just about any time we want. Even my husband has grown to like it.

The second piece of news is that I ordered the (fairly) new "Open" acrylics by Golden and they should arrive on Monday. I'm excited about them because they're supposed to behave more like oil paints and not dry as quickly as regular acrylics do. I gave up on oils a long time ago because of the smell but it was the first medium I ever learned and I always enjoyed the oil painting process.

I also ordered the Golden mediums suggested by Gary Ruuska for sealing and varnishing colored pencil paintings. I'm hoping they will also work with pastel. With the cost of art supplies skyrocketing (like everything else), it would be nice to be able to frame without glass and save a little in that department. The main thing is the time savings though. It's just quicker to frame when you don't have to cut a mat and backing board or glass and assemble all of that together. I've just got to work out the best method for sealing the pastel art so that it doesn't darken. There are new products on the market all the time and I'm sure something will eventually work.

Anyway, if you don't see me here for a while, you'll know I'm holed up in the studio playing with the Open acrylics! Maybe they'll be the push I need to get painting again!

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Unflappable One

Bonnie B. & the Clothesline
Jan Gibson

Wow! Two posts in one day from me! How fortunate can you get?

I know it's odd for me to post twice in one day but I'd told you about hanging out laundry earlier and wanted to expound a bit on that.

I've been bugging my husband for a clothesline since the old one had to be removed because of our house being built. Most of the time I do prefer the clothes dryer that can be used from the comfort of the house but there are times when I want something hung outdoors in the fresh air.

So, my husband finally put up a clothesline for me not too long ago. He chose the spot & I was just too grateful to finally get it that I didn't protest where he wanted to put it. What neither of us considered was its proximity to the horse pasture.

My Bonnie is pretty solid and really doesn't spook or get upset over much of anything. However, imagine my consternation to look out and see the sheets flapping in the wind this morning! I looked a little further and there was Bon calmly eating grass not 30 feet from the clothesline! She's truly one in a million in that regard - meet my Unflappable Bonnie B!

Bonnie B. & the Clothesline2
Jan Gibson

Ahhhh, Fall!

Well, it's almost fall again, at least in this part of the world. The official date is this coming Monday but, in reality, it can start just about any time around this date. Our daytime temperatures went from the low 90's just a few days ago to the mid 50's overnight last night. I don't know about you, but that's sleeping-with-the-windows-open weather for us! The constantly running air conditioner has been silent more and more often lately and the house is still comfortable! Oh, joy!

But, there's always that fly in the ointment, isn't there? Or maybe it's just that humans are never satisfied. But, I digress.

We've really been looking forward to fresh air at night and just as cooler weather finally arrives, so does the truck that spreads chicken litter over the pastures and hay fields across the road from us! For those of you who aren't all that country savvy, North Carolina has quite a few commercial chicken farmers who raise chickens for your table in these large buildings. These chickens never see fresh air or anything outside the walls of their houses until the time comes for them to be shipped to the chicken processing plants. Not only that, but the houses are crammed full of chickens!

Once that bunch of chickens has gone to the processing plant, the farmer cleans out the chicken houses to ready the houses for the next delivery of chicks. This results in a tremendous amount of waste to be disposed of. The wise farmer makes money from his chickens then sells the chicken waste to other farmers who spread the mixture (containing wood shavings, chicken waste and dead chickens) over their fields and allow it to sheet compost, or break down over time. You cannot imagine the smell when it's first put on a field. And, to top it off, our prevailing winds come mainly from the northeast and the fields in question are nearly directly north of us!

So, no open windows last night & probably none today nor tonight! The wind has shifted slightly so it's coming from more to the south this morning so I quickly hung up a couple of loads of laundry. I've been trying to offset our rising electric bill by saving when and wherever I can. Hanging the laundry outside was one of the steps I was taking to conserve electricity. There's also nothing like the smell of laundry hung in the fresh air and sunshine! However, that dividend is certainly lost if the wind happens to be from the wrong direction!

Well, the chicken litter usually quits smelling real bad after a few days and a good rain - unfortunately for us, no rain is expected for at least a week!

Ahhhhh, Fall - and the joys of country life!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Real DUH! Moment

Imagine my horror and chagrin when I happened to glance at the bunny I'd just painted and realized that one of his ears was facing the wrong way! Sheesh! I gotta quit doing things like that - for one of the challenges at Let's Make Art, I painted a little baby bird with one of it's toes on backwards! At least I have a sort of excuse for that as the challenge photo was very dark and hard to see in the area of his feet.

I'm sure glad I caught the rabbit's ear though as it would have been very embarrassing had someone else pointed it out to me!

All's well that ends well, I guess.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bunny Rabbit

Bunny Pastel
Jan Gibson

I don't know why, but I've been wanting to paint a little bunny for some time so I finally finished one this morning. It's only 5"x7" but it took as long as a regular, large-sized painting. I guess it was all that "ticking" in the bunny's fur. It was a matter of going back and forth with one color then a second or third color then back to the first color then repeating the process a few times. I've been told that pastels are painted like oils going from dark to light, but I found it much easier to go from light to dark then back again for this bunny. I do think I'd like to work on the background some more though as you always see things to change once a piece is posted online!

I'm still trying to find more information on framing pastels without glass and emailed someone who has been experimenting with framing colored pencil paintings without glass. The artist, Gary Ruuska, was kind enough to email me back very quickly with information he had presented in an article in FMP, Ann Kulberg's online magazine for colored pencil artists. It would be wonderful to find a method that works well and doesn't darken or change the painting during the sealing process. I had planned to use this bunny for experimenting but since I waited so long to paint him and actually like the way he came out, I think I'll wait to experiment on another painting that I don't like quite as well!

Monday, September 15, 2008

No Update

Sorry, I don't have an update on the little English bulldog. It's just not going well enough right at the moment and looks like a mess. I suppose I should take heart and just consider it in that "ugly stage" and work through it but I just can't make myself do it right now. The actual dog is going pretty well - it's the grass he's sitting on that doesn't look quite right. I think that may be because I only have a few shades of green in my pencil case and there are so many subtle shades in it. I've tried adding the complements or highlighting with yellows or darkening with blues but it still doesn't look like grass. And, no, I'm not trying to paint each individual blade although it might go better if I did! lol

Anyway, I've set it aside for now to keep from getting mud and have started to work on a little bunny rabbit. It's being done on Ampersand Pastelbord and I find I'm liking this support very much. I would like to use glassless framing for this piece as an experiment but am just not sure of the best way to do it.

I have an article from the Pastel Journal by Sandra K. Jackoboice downloaded from her website where she describes her method of sealing and varnishing pastel works on board for glassless framing. I'm told that Tricia Messenger also has a method for paper works but I've been unable to find anything about her method at all.

I'm also in awe of the work done by colored pencil artist, Nicole Caulfield, who uses a glassless framing method for her beautiful colored pencil paintings and I would like to explore using her method for pastel. Sandra Jackoboice says that the sealing process darkens her pastel paintings considerably and I just feel as if there should be some other means to accomplish the seal without excessive darkening of the painting. Of course, I will be using archival products so, hopefully, any method I end up choosing will result in a lasting piece of art.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I plan to research more before attempting anything though. The Ampersand Pastelboard I'm using is from a package of 4 (Ithink!) 5x7 inch boards in different colors. It was inexpensive enough that I feel I can experiment a little with it. But, it may be a little while as the bunny isn't finished yet anyway. If anyone has any good ideas for glassless framing, please let me know!

Until next time!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Catching Up

copyright Jan Gibson

copyright Jan Gibson

I've been working lately so haven't had a chance to post here. It seems that if you're painting, then you don't have much time for anything else! Anyway, here are a couple of screen shots of a pastel pencil painting that I'm working on. I've signed on at a local gallery and need some art to exhibit there. Since I work mainly on commission, I don't have anything to show especially since the gallery wants animal artwork from me. So, I'm trying to get something worthwhile to show there.

Yesterday was my husband and my 24th wedding anniversary. Seems like only yesterday that we were married yet it also seems that we've been married forever. One of those paradoxes like time disappearing, I think! Anyway, I couldn't be married to a more supportive and wonderful man and I'm looking for many more years with him.

On top of our anniversary, the dogs got sprayed by a skunk again. This is one of those times when I wished we lived in town! Of course, I guess I don't really wish that - there are trade-offs and compromises there that I really don't want to make. But I do wish the dogs would leave the skunks alone when one happens into their area! Cleaning up 2 medium to large sized dogs is no picnic! Plus, no matter how many times you bathe them and how many "de-skunking" recipes you use, a slight skunk odor seems to linger for a very long time.

I do feel sorry for the dogs though. They get banned from the house until they're cleaned up and our male dog will rub his face on the grass until his nose is raw and bleeding. My husband sprayed some kind of animal deterrent around the outside perimeter of the backyard fence in hopes that the skunks will stay away. I don't think they are actually coming into the fenced area but are spraying the dogs through the fence. Neither dog was as odiferous as they could have been, thank God, so I don't think they're getting the full force of the spray. But, no matter where the skunks are, the dogs still end up pretty darned stinky!

Not only is it active season for skunks again but the spiders are weaving their webs in preparation for winter, I guess. All I know is that I've started carrying a long stick when I go out to the barn of a morning. There's nothing worse than running into one unseen web after another and having to pull those sticky web threads from your face and hair! (Well, it is worse when the spider happens to be in the part of the web you walk into!) Not only that, but the web sticks to my glasses and is almost impossible to remove without washing them. The walking stick is great because you can move it around in front of you and pull down any spider webs before walking into them.

Well, I think that catches you up on all of the latest happenings out here in the boonies! I'm going back to work on that cute little bulldog and I'll post any further updates I do on him. Until then, have a super life!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Big Project Photo

Adirondack Furniture Project
Jan Gibson

This is the Adirondack furniture I just finished. The client wanted a tropical theme and also wanted their sailboat to be featured. Because of the spaces between the slats, extremely detailed work just wasn't possible & it was difficult to paint any of it because of the unevenness of most of the surfaces.

As I said earlier, I'm rarely 100% satisfied with anything I do but the clients were very happy with what I'd done. This was a birthday gift for the husband & he was both surprised and thrilled to have his boat immortalized on a chair! I'm told he promptly claimed the blue chair as his own and had lunch in it as soon as they got everything home and set up on their porch!

I'm always glad when the clients are pleased of course. They have promised to recommend me to others but I'm not so sure I'd like to take on such a project again! Maybe if I were to just paint what & how I wanted to and offer the items for sale, it would be easier. It's always somewhat stressful to try to interpret what a client really wants. Even when they tell you, their mind picture of the end result is often different than mine. I was pleased with the trompe L'oleil salt shaker as this was my first attempt at this sort of thing. It went well because it was placed on a solid leg and in a position that made it easier to paint.

Jan Gibson

Anyway, this was a fun project and I learned a lot from it. I don't think I'd like to be in the decorative painting business and I don't think I'd like to paint murals. However, there's this big, blank wall in our master bath that is just perfect for a mural featuring a dolphin or two! Hmmm, maybe next year!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big Project Complete - New Puppy Portrait

pastel on paper
Jan Gibson

The BIG PROJECT is finally complete and the client will pick up everything tomorrow evening. I moved the last Adirondack chair out of my studio while ago & it's amazing how much space I now have! lol I guess I'm pleased with the way the furniture ended up looking. Well, I'm sort of pleased - it's extremely rare to for me to really like what I do as I almost always look back & see things I would change. Sometimes you just have to stop and that's what I've done with this project. I'll post photos of everything as soon as I can photograph the last chairs. Since it's barely daylight here, I'll wait until I get some good light sometime today.

I also finished a portrait of a friend's new puppy and I do like the way it looks in real life. The problem is that it looks awful scanned or photographed. It's on a blue paper & I've had problems with reproducing paintings containing blue and red before. The actual portrait is not so colorful as the photo shows. Anyway, please meet Molly, a little poodle terrier mix. This has been done in pastel pencils and is on Strathmore charcoal paper.

So, what's next on the agenda? I have an upcoming portrait to do as soon as the client sends me some good photos of the dog. This commission is from a repeat customer and one that I love working with.

Also, I have to get my website redesigned! I've been trying to do that for about a year and something more important always comes up. Web design takes a lot of time and effort and concentration and since I only do it every couple of years or so, it's like learning everything all over again. Plus, the web changes at super-sonic speed and there are always new things to be learned.

And, last, but certainly not least, I want to explore painting some human portraits. I just need a good block of time without interruptions so I can concentrate on learning what I need to know!

OK, that's two pretty hefty blocks of time needed to accomplish my personal goals plus, my studio still needs some organization. I wonder if I can get one of those organizational experts to come in and do it for me? Hmmmm, since I don't have the ready cash for such a thing, I wonder if I can convince Oprah to have pity on me & send someone to come in and do it? Yeah, right. Just call me a dreamer!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm in Love!

"Cavalier King Charles Spaniel"
Pastel on Velour
Copyright - Jan Gibson

Pastel on Velour
Copyright - Jan Gibson

I ordered some velour paper and it arrived a little over a week ago. I was busy with a couple of commissions so didn't get a chance to try it until a couple of days ago. I have to say that I absolutely love it! The only thing I don't like about it is that mistakes are almost impossible to correct. But, with pastel, like oil or acrylic, you can paint over a mistake.

The first painting of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is from a reference photo from one of my art groups and I think there's more I could do to it. I just didn't want to take the time to tweak it when I painted it.

The second painting is of the little LowChen commission I posted photos of in an earlier blog post. I ended up combining several photos to get this painting. I've just emailed the dog's owner and have not had a chance to get a response back from her as to whether she likes the portrait or not. This dog was made for a pastel on velour, I think. The velour is very responsive to the curved strokes needed to depict his (& the CKC's) wavy hair in a way not readily available in another medium. With the portrait of Samson on the velour, I combined my love for the dog (I just want to steal him from his owner & kiss him all over his face!) with my love for the paper! A perfect combination, huh?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Happy Little Accident

Red Marsh Mallow
Jan Gibson

I've been trying to find a relatively light-fast red watercolor that I like and bought a tube of Terry Harrison's Roman Red when my husband took me out to lunch and to Hobby Lobby this past Monday.

The red in the painting doesn't show as it is in real life but is fairly close. I don't know why reds are so hard to scan or photograph!

I honestly wasn't expecting to paint a "keeper" but think this came out pretty good - much better than I'd thought it would.

Isn't that the way it always happens? I learned a long time ago to always use good paper and paints even when I'm just doodling. The mallows & their relatives are my favorite flowers and we have both the red and the pink marsh mallows. They look entirely different fron one another though & I wonder if they're truly related.

The red, as you can see, looks like a hibiscus while the pink looks more like a large, bushy hollyhock.

I guess it doesn't matter whether they're related or not, I think both of them are beautiful and I'm pleased to have painted a decent rememberance for those cold, winter days that are sure to arrive sooner than we want them to.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Vanity, thy name is MAN!

I'm so sorry that I haven't posted in so long. I don't know how time gets away from one as quickly as it does!

This has been a busy summer for me so far and will probably continue to be so. My husband had cataract surgery on both eyes but the surgeries were spaced about a month apart. There have been continuing doctor's visits and were pre-op consultations with both the surgeon and the hospital so it seems that we've been "on the road" for the past couple of months! He has a couple more doctor's visits and then we'll be finished with that, thank heavens! He's done great and now has 20/20 vision in both eyes! Wonder of wonders, I remember when the surgery involved complete bed rest and thick,
thick glasses afterwards! Now, it's an out-patient procedure with permanent lenses instead of thick glasses!

My husband is very pleased with the outcome of the surgery but noticed that he had dark circles and wrinkles around his eyes now that he doesn't wear glasses any more. He had me get on the internet to find something to get rid of these and I found cucumbers helped some with the dark circles.

Volumes have been written about the vanity of women but I must say that men are just as vain. I couldn't help but snap this photo while he was "treating" the circles!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Trials of a Pet Portrait Artist!

I have a new commission to paint a very sweet, but lively, LowChen dog. The owner did not have any good photos of him and he's definitely a dog who wouldn't sit still long enough to have his portrait painted so I took some photos of him for references. It almost seemed like a scene out of a Laurel and Hardy movie or something! Just as I'd snap the picture, Samson would turn his head
or scoot completely out of the frame! Food was a great incentive for him - an incentive to dance around until he got a treat from you, that is. At one point, it almost seemed as if he was laughing at us!

I did end up getting some decent photos of him and it was really a fun challenge doing so. Not only did I get some reference photos, I also got to know Samson a bit better. I had never seen a LowChen in person and had only recently even heard of the breed so this was a great opportunity for me. If Samson is any indication of the traits of the breed, I'd definitely recommend one for a pet. He's loving and lively and really beautiful!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A New Painting

"Prince Harry"
a watercolor painting by
and copyright to
Jan Gibson

This is Prince Harry who was rescued by the Italian Greyhound rescue in our area and who found a loving home with Mary. I think Harry has a decidedly regal look about him and even though his name may not be Italian, his bearing definitely fits his name.

I enjoyed painting Harry and it went surprisingly fast for me. I worked on the painting between the "Big Project" and the garden and my husband's doctor visits and still managed to finish it in a relatively short time.

As always, critiques and comments appreciated. I show Mary the finished portrait on Saturday so may be able to put to use any comments you might have.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Full Tilt Ahead Again!

First Cucumber
a digital painting by
and copyright to
Jan Gibson

Life is whirling at breakneck speeds again & I apologize for not updating my blog in a more timely manner!

I'm still working on the big project but my husband has had some minor surgery so that has slowed everything down considerably especially right here around a holiday. He can't lift or bend or do any yard work for another week or so and of course, the garden has finally decided to start producing!

There's not a lot coming in at the moment but we've been pretty dry so watering is a must if we want the veggies to continue to produce. Between doing a little picking in the garden, watering and driving my husband to his doctor appointments, etc., art has had to take something of a back seat.

However, I couldn't resist a quickie digital painting of one of our first cucumbers of the season! I really wanted to try all that speckling and striping in pastel but just didn't have the time. One of these days ------

I haven't done any digital painting in quite a while as I've been working on re-learning watercolors and learning pastels. When my "studio" was no larger than a closet, about the only art I had room to do was digital painting. However, since it is done very much like traditional media, I think I transitioned back to watercolors and other media quite well. And I also think my drawing skills have vastly improved. I've always disliked drawing because I resent the time it takes me. Not only that, but all the erasing and changing things left my paper a mess. That's the beauty of digital drawing/painting. Everything erases cleanly and quickly!

So, enjoy viewing the cucumber as much as we've enjoyed eating them this past week or so!

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's a Cape Primrose!

Doc's mystery flower (see yesterday's post) is a Streptocarpus or a Cape Primrose. They're related to both the African Violet and the Gloxinia and require similar care. Now, maybe I can get it to bloom this winter as it's really a lovely flower.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Doc's Mystery Plant

What is this? A year or so ago I got a cutting from a plant in my vet's office. I babied it and kept breaking off stems to root more plants. Then I set the hanging pot outside this summer on our covered porch. It must like this location as it's finally covered in buds. I thought it very fitting that I noticed the buds when Doc came out to give shots to my horse. I asked Doc what the plant was but she couldn't remember so I'm hoping one of you will recognize it.

This is a quickie watercolor of the first open bloom. If it's unidentifiable by my painting, I'll post photos (then go get some w/c lessons!) but I really think this looks very much like the plant. The leaves and stems are fleshy and fuzzy. The blooms are sort of dainty and a violet blue color with lighter lavender pink on the tube part of the flower up to where it attaches to this long, almost wire-like thing (I don't know what it's called!) that extends from a new growth leaf cluster. This wire-like thing is a dark maroon color and the stems of the plant range from this maroon to a light greenish color. The stems are long and drooping so it looks very good in a hanging pot.

So, if you know what it is, please let me know! I've tried to search the internet for it as I've been caring for it in a rather hit or miss fashion that it didn't seem to appreciate. I'd like to know what it is so I can care for it the way it needs to be cared for.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

View FromThe Porch

"Deer in Orchard"
Jan Gibson

This is a quick snapshot I took this morning of a doe in our back orchard. She is eating some of the green apples that are falling. The trees are loaded this year and are doing some self-thinning even though my husband has been doing a lot of thinning himself on both the apple and peach trees.

It appears the fruit trees will have an abundant crop this year if all goes well. I think the deer and other animals are taking advantage of the fallen fruit and eating their fill before we can get out to clean up under the trees. I suppose they're helping us to a certain extent but they don't eat everything. The deer tend to take one bite out of each apple then leave the rest for some reason. Maybe they're sampling each apple trying to find a ripe one - who knows with deer! So, they actually don't help a lot and sometimes leave more of a mess than what was there to begin with. They also "deposit" some undesirable elements such as feces and ticks. Ticks have been very bad this year and much of the tick problem is due to the deer population wandering around our property.

Although I don't hunt myself, I'm very much a hunting advocate as I've seen what can happen when any animal population grows as quickly as the deer herds around here do. But, my husband doesn't hunt either and doesn't want anyone else hunting on our property. I can't blame him. We allowed a couple of people to hunt when we first moved here about 20 years ago. We thought these individuals would be responsible hunters but they left gates open and really stirred up my horse and the cows we had at the time when they pulled into the yard well before daylight. They also left the trash from their snacks and invited their friends to hunt with them when we had specifically asked them not to. Needless to say, hunting is no longer allowed here.

It's a shame as deer cause more accidents around here than just about anything else. It's hard to find a driver out this way who hasn't had either an accident or near-accident involving a deer. Plus, since there are few natural predators left around here, the deer are becoming smaller and I see some that are crippled or otherwise abnormal.

I agree that the deer are beautiful and that my position on hunting is not a popular one. However, many of the hunters around here rely on hunting to add to the family's table. Most are not just trophy hunters. I'm sure this year with food prices skyrocketing that there will be even more hunters out there trying to cut the grocery bill. I would gladly share the deer population here with them if I could - both for the sake of the hunter's families and the deer themselves!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Little Joe - Finished (maybe)

Painting copyright Jan Gibson

Photo courtesy of and
copyright to
K. Kline
used with permission

Well, I think Little Joe is finished. I'll probably see some things that I'll tweak but I don't want to mess with it too much and ruin it.

In kind of a rush today so am going to post and run. I'll try to post more later!

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Update - Little Joe WIP

"Little Joe"
copyright Jan Gibson

Here is a small update on Little Joe, the watercolor painting. I still have a ways to go as I didn't have much time this morning.

The vet is coming to give Bonnie (my horse) her shots and I have some straightening up to do with the house. Just as I neglected my shower, etc yesterday, I neglected vacuuming, dusting and other stuff that needs to be done to the house also. The loggers are back in the pine forest next door, and, while it isn't real close to us, the dust they stir up seems to be drawn here like a magnet to iron!

I don't know how much I'll get done on the big project but I do plan to work on it. I'll at least start on the third piece, I think. I'm saving the two largest pieces until last - sort of working up my courage to tackle them!

I'll update Little Joe again as soon as I can.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Making Progress

No, not progress on the puppy but on the "big project". To be honest, it's been kinda boring to be painting all of those tiny, repetitive icon-type things so I'm very happy to have moved on to a sort of scene this morning.

This is more of my kind of thing and I got so into it that I'm sitting here in my pj's (yes, STILL in my pajamas & I know you've done it before too!), my teeth aren't brushed and neither is my hair! Just wanted to update the blog then I'm off to get started on a little personal hygiene and some clean clothes along with some lunch!

I'm very excited about the way things are moving right along as I'm nearly half-finished with the project. Of course, I'm usually in here working by 6 (yes, that's a.m.!) or before, take a break to go do barn chores between 6:30 and 7 then come back in here to work some more. Normally, I would work through lunch if the painting was going well, but today found me at a good stopping point so I'm going to take a break for a couple of hours. That helps me re-energize and re-focus and I can see things with a fresher eye.

So, I'm going to log off here and go do the happy dance all the way to the shower!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Little Joe - A Watercolor WIP

This is Little Joe, the puppy I said I wanted to paint in my last blog post. He's actually what most people would call a black puppy, but it you look closely, he has many colors in his coat and I'm building up to black with those colors.

Of course, this is not finished by a long shot but I guess I talked myself into painting him in the last post. I know I'll have to work on him between other painting projects but at least he's started - just don't expect a daily update! lol

I'd like to plead the case for black animals again as they are usually the last to be adopted. I know you can't tell much from this wip since I don't have a lot done on him, but he's really precious. I just don't know how anyone can resist such a cutie! So, if you're wanting a new dog or cat, please consider a black one. They know when someone special adopts them and will love you all the more for choosing them!

Monday, June 16, 2008


Because my project is to be a gift, it was deemed prudent to wait until after it's all finished and delivered before posting any more about it. So I removed the last blog post.

I assure you I'm working very hard on it and it's going along at a good clip.

Posting here may be a little sporadic as I also have a couple of other things I'd like to fit into my schedule if at all possible.

One is the lone surviving puppy from a litter picked up by our local dog catcher. Soon after the pups were taken to a rescue organization foster home, all but one contracted Parvo and died. Such a heartbreaking thing to have happen! I saw photos of all of the puppies and they were sooooo cute!

The other project is a painting of a magnolia blossom. Our hot, humid climate is made bearable by the fragrance the Southern magnolia bloom releases under such oppressive (to us) conditions. We had to cut down 2 relatively large Magnolias last year when we built our house but we have one large one left down by the barn and it's in full bloom right now. We also rescued 2 seedling trees from beneath the trees we cut and replanted them in a better location. Magnolias are messy because the large leaves are tough and leathery and take forever to decay once they fall. Even though the Southern Magnolia is evergreen, the older leaves will fall from time to time to be replaced by new ones. It's kind of like human hair, I guess, & I'm glad neither the leaves or the hair fall all at once! lol

Anyway, I like working on my big project but if I need a change of pace, the puppy and the magnolia are next in line!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Accelerated Time

I don't know where the time goes any more. Back when we were kids, time just dragged, but now it flies by so quickly that it seems there are more minutes missed than remembered.

But, it's summertime here. Summer is the time for gardens and being able to get outside more with more things requiring our attention. It's been HOT here though for the past week or so with daytime temperatures being over 100 degrees and night temps being in the 80's. That's hot for this time of the year even for a region that is normally hot and humid.

Yesterday the official high temperature was over 100 degrees at the airport about 60 miles from us. Our thermometer read 116 degrees on the north side of the house during the hottest part of the day! And yesterday was the day the horse hay was cut and baled and we had to go pick up the bales out of the field.

Last year there was a hay shortage and we paid an outrageous price for really junky hay from upstate New York or somewhere out of state. It was old and weedy and only barely acceptable to feed my horse. This year, we wanted to get enough hay to last the winter from the first cutting as it appears that there may be another drought this summer. Usually we buy part of the hay needed during the first cutting then buy the rest from a subsequent cutting to try to keep our hay as fresh as possible.

Anyway, my dear husband is the one who actually picks up the hay from the field while I get the easier job of driving the truck between the rows of bales. The old truck isn't air conditioned so even the easier job isn't that pleasant!

Both of us were hot and sweaty with bits of hay and chaff stuck to our wet skin. My hair was more than just damp and was sticking up in spikes from where I kept "fluffing" it to try to cool off. It's times like this when you know you've chosen the right man to marry if he still turns to you with a big hug and kiss in celebration of the completion of a downright nasty job!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bender and Patch Hodgson

I've been working some more in pastel pencils and am getting somewhat more comfortable with them. The only thing I don't like about them is the mess and I will make a mess more times than not no matter how hard I try to keep from doing it.

The first painting posted today comes from a reference from the Wet Canvas Reference Image Library and I thought it was very sweet and appealing and wanted to paint it. My paper was getting so smudged and grubby-looking that I finally called it finished and put an electronic "mat" around it to hide the smudges. This scan is kind of washed out and there is some slight shading in the white of the fur that doesn't show up well.

©Jan Gibson

This second painting is on some very textured paper and I also had trouble with it smudging as well as difficulty in covering some of the white areas.

"Patch Hodgson"
©Jan Gibson

Is there some way to keep from getting a pastel work all smudged up? I've used a paper sheet under my hand, a mylar sheet and even worn gloves to no avail. The pastel doesn't seem to want to let go once it's smudged either. I've tried a kneaded eraser, a regular eraser and tape but it's almost as if it's permanently stained.

Well, these are practice pieces and I guess I'm learning more each time I paint with the pastel pencils so I'll probably continue with them - at least until the pencils are all used up! lol

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Joys of Country Life!

I know that even with the photo enlarged that you won't be able to tell what the arrow is pointing to, but let me assure you it's a skunk! And I certainly won't apologize for not getting a better photo as I wasn't about to get much closer!

I was just finishing up a new commission when I glanced out of my studio window. I couldn't tell what kind of animal this was but I had seen a skunk yesterday mid-morning as I was leaving the farm and wondered if he had returned. I got the binoculars and, sure enough, either he/she had come back or had a friend who was checking out the place!

It's highly unusual for a skunk to be seen in broad daylight so I wonder if this one was rabid. This is the season for skunks to give birth and it could be that mama skunk is having difficulty finding enough food right now. The thick pine forest beside us was thinned recently and I'm sure some skunk habitat was destroyed. However, I wouldn't think that a skunk would need to be out in the daytime to find food around here. It's kind of suspicious to say the least.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a gray fox right before dusk and it was acting rather strangely also. At this time of the year especially, it's just best to be on your toes when it comes to wildlife.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Modern Egg

A cracked egg

I really like to experiment with different art media, techniques and crafts and was recently inspired by Deborah's Pysanky eggs when she posted photos of them at Let's Make Art. I don't have the years of experience and patience Deborah has so I actually planned to paint the eggs instead of dying them then I wanted to add some gold leaf details.

We aren't big egg users in our household so I had some slightly out of date eggs from the grocery store that I thought would do just fine for experimenting. As an old country girl, I should have known better as modern egg production gives consumers a super thin shelled product.

After being soooooo careful to get the perfect holes for blowing out the contents of the egg, and blowing until my head ached to remove all of the contents, I found that I had also blown hard enough to crack the egg so that it became unusable! (See the photo above.)

Fortunately, several people around here have free-range chickens and I'll be able to get some thicker shelled eggs if I want to try to do this again. I just don't know if my poor head can take all that blowing again!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Green, Green, Everywhere Some Green!

It's a good thing that green is my favorite color (you know - like the green of US money!) as we certainly have an abundance of it (the color, if not the money! lol) this spring.

An online art friend had read about all the vegetables in my "What To Paint" blog post and suggested that I paint some items from the garden. I got as far as getting all of the "pickings" put into my dough trough but it was green as far as the eye could see! A veritable sea of green!

There were pea pods from the snow peas (a sickly pea green of course) and there was an olive green in the asparagus and a bright yellow green in the leaf lettuce! Yes, I know, a variety of colors but I've heard that a lot of green in a painting assures that the painting will sit in your studio and gather dust! Even with green being my favorite color, I didn't even want to paint a green painting!

As I said above, green really is my favorite color. I was joking (well, half-way joking) about it being my favorite because it's the color of money but it's really my favorite because it's the color of growth.

Seriously, with our climate and being in the country, it doesn't take long for everything outdoors to become lush and almost tropical looking and overgrown with green. There's growth seemingly overnight around here and it gives a richness to the landscape that nothing else can give.

That's what I want for myself - I want to grow in my art as well as in my spirit quickly and lushly and be able to show forth a definite result of the tending that I've done in my personal "garden"! If only I could get the results that Mother Nature gets as quickly as she gets them!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kelpie Puppy

"Kelpie Puppy"
Jan Gibson

This is a colored pencil painting of a little Kelpie pup from a photo reference posted for a WDE (Weekend Drawing Event) at Wet Canvas. This little fellow tugged at my heartstrings and I decided to use the photo for practice with colored pencil on drafting film.

I guess it came out fairly well for not being able to get many layers on film. I think the hardest part - and the one just beyond my expertise with cp - was the abrupt change of direction of the puppy's fur. It would be going in one direction then suddenly change and go another direction.

Another learning curve was getting the lighter fur to appear to lie over the darker fur. It's almost impossible to put a lighter color over a darker color especially with the drafting film as a support. I couldn't erase nor would Scotch tape lift enough color to allow me to rework. So, it was a planning issue. I had tried to put my lights in first but would invariably miss them later and work over them with a darker pencil! The white cp just doesn't seem to show up well on this drafting film even with a darker paper under it.

This is some film that was given to me and is unlike the Duralar that I purchased some time ago. This is a brand called Chartpak and it's adhesive on one side with a peel-off printed backing sheet. The printing is a little distracting even though it blends in somewhat with the film. I usually do my sketch on this side and it will show through to the other (working) side. This keeps me from having to erase sketch lines as I work.

It works as well as the Duralar but can only be used on one side. It's also tricky to adhere it to your colored support paper as air bubbles are often left behind. It's great for practice though & I'm grateful to have it. The Duralar is very expensive and since I'm not that proficient with cp's, having the Chartpak for practice is very nice indeed.

Oh, the paper under the drafting film is Mi Tientes and I left the honey-comb side up for the added texture and because I had hoped it would deter air bubbles. It must have worked as I was fortunate not to get any.

It seems that every medium has it's assets and disadvantages. I know I don't have the skill level for great cp work nor the patience for learning it. There are subjects that work for me in cp but I truly think that either watercolor or pastel pencils would have been a better choice for this little fella. Nonetheless, I'm fairly pleased as it is recognizable if not a masterpiece!