Friday, March 28, 2008

Early Morning Visitor in the Back Orchard

Jan Gibson

We're early risers around here and often see deer who have bedded down in the orchards. We've also had skunks who take great exception to our two dogs being allowed into the fenced orchard before dawn. Since getting a couple of not-so-gentle reminders from the skunks, we wait until daylight to allow the dogs to run in there!

So, when I let the dogs out this morning and they started barking along the orchard fence (which borders the back yard), I had a sick feeling that a skunk had wandered closer to the house than they normally do. I was relieved to find a possum scurrying as fast as it could go toward the back of the orchard. I guess it felt it might get caught out in the open of the hay field on the other side of the fence so it quickly climbed into the grape arbor and hid itself among the unpruned vines.

Possums, (or o'possums), are weird creatures to look at but I kind of like them. We hardly ever see one as, like the skunks, they're nocturnal. Some possums are very pretty, like the one this morning. Some are pretty scraggly looking and not so appealing. This one had soft-looking, almost pearl colored fur but I know it's actually rather coarse to the touch and they're usually a darker gray color.

Since I was photographing so early in the morning, I didn't get any great pictures of the possum (this photo has been enhanced) and this was about the only clear shot of it that I got because of all the grape vines it was hiding behind. I've been wanting to sort of catalog our wildlife and do some drawings or paintings of actual animals that I've seen around here. We have an abundance of sightings but I think I'm going to have to get a better camera in order to get good, clear shots of them. Sketching from life is a near impossibility as most won't hold still long enough or, like this possum, are only seen at dusk or dawn!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I've been working a bit differently lately but have not made a conscious decision to do so. It sort of just happened! Does that mean I'm (finally) developing a style?

Take Lucky (below), for instance. His photo was posted as a challenge at the Let's Make Art site and I knew immediately that he should be painted on black paper using the hated pastel pencils. He only took a little over an hour and more or less drew himself! I love it when that happens but I wish I could remember how I did it when I finish! I just get into a painting and the world fades and when I return to the real world, there's a painting lying on my drawing table! Cool, huh?

pastel pencils on paper
Jan Gibson

The next painting also dictated it's own style, this time sort of whimsical. I don't claim this is a work of fine art but it's more in the illustrative style - certainly not a specialty of mine. My sister, Bev, took a photo of a goat when she was visiting in Mexico. I saw it when I was in Kansas City visiting and knew I had to paint it. Bev gave me the photo and this is the result. I just loved the expression on the goat's face! This is aceo/atc size so I wasn't able to get much detail but I hope the almost obnoxiously curious expression is captured!
"Bev's Goat"
watercolor with ink on paper
Jan Gibson

I was also experimenting a little more with the Yupo synthetic paper (see yesterday's blog entry) and have found that watercolor pencil works well on it. I drew on the paper with the pencil then dampened it. The color stayed where I put it down with the pencil & I wasn't able to move it around much with the damp brush so a little different technique may be called for here. I also plan to try the acrylic inks on it - I have a feeling those would work well and give a brilliant result.

I'll keep you posted on the results!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yippee for Yupo!

Jeanette, from the Illustrated Life blog, was talking about trying Yupo, the plastic "paper" that many artists either love or hate. I got some samples of it many years ago and have grown to like it very much. I said I loved it in a comment on Jeanette's blog, but the truth is, I like it a lot, but it also frustrates me when trying to use it.

You really learn to be loose while painting on Yupo and that's very good for me since I'm rather a detail freak at times. Below are a couple of paintings done with watercolor on Yupo.

The first is from one of my own photos taken while visiting my sister in Colorado. This is not finished because I got tired of trying to get the shading on the rocks. I was fighting with the support instead of working with it and, in this instance, it won!

"Colorado Hillside"
Jan Gibson

The second painting is also watercolor on Yupo and was painted as a sort of tribute to my mother who had a green thumb. She could smile at a dried up looking cutting and it would become a healthy, beautiful plant. She loved flowers of any kind and my painting contains a variety just for her.

"My Mother's Garden"
Jan Gibson

Painting on Yupo is difficult because the paint beads up then sort of rolls around on the paper. You have to take a dab then let dry approach to painting on it. On the other hand, if you make a mistake or want to change something, the paint wipes away easily with a damp towel.

Yupo - try it, you just might like it!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Millie The Cat

I have been doing a little bit of painting other than porches and the following is a watercolor portrait of Millie, the official greeter of the store where I buy my dog food. It is from my own photo reference and is not a commission or anything. I had never done a cat in the watercolor medium and Millie just seemed like a good subject to experiment with.

I was particularly interested in the whiskers and how to get them to show without using a white paint so tried the scratching out method of using a craft/X-acto knife. I think this method will require a bit of practice but I do think I captured the sweetness of Millie herself!

watercolor painting
copyright Jan Gibson

Monday, March 3, 2008

Multi-Talented Painter

The title above may not accurately depict the actual content of this blog post! It's actually about painting our porches.

When we built our house, we wanted porches that just about wrap around the house. Unfortunately, we didn't contract with anyone to paint those porches and, now that the weather has turned nicer, we're having to do it.

The porches were done with brick and treated lumber and the lumber had to age or dry out or something before it could be finished. The porches have been unfinished since last October so it's high time they were done.

I gave the first coat of stain to the front porch deck and steps over the weekend then finally got the second coat on just a few minutes ago. The front porch is pretty small and has a vinyl covering over the posts and rails so it wasn't much area to paint.

Well, it's not much area if you're 20 and pretty limber! I think I'm in pretty decent shape for my age - I can toss around bales of hay and do many things that other women my age may not be able to do. But this porch painting (it's actually a stain but goes on like paint) requires some twisting and turning and bending that my body normally doesn't do!

This sort of painting makes me glad that my normal painting is of a different type!