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!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What to Paint?

Well, the weather has cleared up and we have sunshine with slightly cooler temperatures. My husband has gone back to work and things are somewhat back to normal here.

So why can't I find anything I want to paint? I've been all through my photo reference stash a few times. I've wondered around the yard full of spring flowers and along the edge of the woods where some wild flowers/shrubs are blooming. I've checked on the cows across the road to see the new calves but they've moved so far back into their pastures that I can just barely see them. I just don't seem to be inspired by anything right now.

But, I need to turn my attention to the garden anyway. It's been too soggy to get into recently and I noticed that there are snow peas to harvest along with a few late spears of asparagus. There are also some green beans coming up from where they went to seed last year because we couldn't get to them for all of the construction work going on. I'm pretty sure they were some kind of hybrid bean and who knows what kind of bean we'll get, but since we have a pretty large garden this year, my husband wants to leave them.

We've had an abundance of lettuce, spinach, asparagus, cilantro & parsley this spring but for some reason, one of my favorite greens, the arugula, came up quickly then bolted before it had enough leaves to even harvest! I think it might do better as a fall crop and I'll certainly plant some for those cooler fall days. The same goes for the radishes which also were something of a disappointment as they got woody by the time they were large enough to eat.

We also have seedlings that are ready to go into the garden - the warm weather veggies like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and we even seeded the okra in pots this year. We usually seed the okra directly into the garden but wanted a head start for them this year. So, all of those will go into the garden as soon as it dries out enough for us to get in there! I think we're supposed to get more rain tomorrow evening so I guess we'll hope for the weekend!

Even if I'm not inspired to paint, I guess I'm well compensated by all of the great fresh produce from the garden. And, of course, the good news is that the produce is eat all I want as it's not fattening!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


My husband went out of town for several days and just returned last evening. Even though I hate for him to be gone even overnight, I was looking forward to having some uninterrupted time to paint and to plan some paintings at least. I don't know what happened but suddenly the time was gone and I had hardly done anything I'd planned to do.

To be fair, much of the time was stormy with lightning and thunder and tornado warnings and some electrical outages. Since I use the computer monitor to show my photo references and the computer was unplugged much of the time, I didn't have photo references handy.

But, I was also determined to get the house in order with the laundry all caught up and I did that. Of course, my DH filled the hamper right back up when he unpacked his suitcase!

So, now the weather is bright and sunny, the electricity stays on all the time and my husband is off work today & is coming into my studio every few minutes to ask me something or share some thought & I still can't get anything done!

Don't get me wrong - my husband is my best friend and my staunchest ally and critic and I love him dearly. I'm so glad he's home & we've spent all last evening and all morning together catching up. He's the one who said he had things to do to catch up on from being gone so I came in here to get out of his way. Am I glimpsing what it may be like when he retires?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ferret WIP - Final Edition

I'm one to continue to tweak and fiddle even after a painting is supposed to be finished. This is a habit I'm trying to break although it does a lot of good sometimes to put a painting away for a while then bring it back out when you can view it with fresh eyes. However, there is a point where too much fiddling can do substantial harm so I'm calling this finished - at least for the time being! lol

Painting by Jan Gibson
 It is a copyright violation to copy, or use in any manner, any 
art, text or other material from this site without written permission.

Everytime I do a pastel pencil painting, I always say I won't do another one. I'm learning to never say never in this case though. I won't say that the pencils have become my favorite medium but I will say that there are subjects and instances where they seem to be the best choice.

For instance, they're way faster than colored pencil but even so, I probably have 20 hours or more invested into this painting. Jeanette, on her Illustrated Life blog, was talking of how long paintings/drawings actually take while most non-artists believe that that they can be done quickly with no effort. She was also saying that artists aren't compensated for their efforts as others in different fields are.

I've been pondering that. I'm not a girly-girl but I do like to have a manicure and pedicure from time to time. It usually takes the manicurist thirty minutes or less to do both finger and toe nails & that's if I've missed going for a month or so. Counting drying time, I'm usually out of there in less than an hour and I leave nearly $50 poorer if you add in the tip.

I realize the manicurists are professionals and the salon has overhead expenses but so do artists. Not even counting renting studio space, artist materials are really through the roof these days. And, unless you're a BIG name, I don't think most artists are even thought of as professionals and very, very few even make minimum wage with a painting when all is said and done. I know I don't.

Perhaps it's because artists are so passionate about their work and enjoy what they do. But, I think professional singers are both passionate about and enjoy their work also. Basketball, baseball, football players, etc., movie actors/actresses - well, you get the idea. And, I also know that not everyone who enjoys those activities makes the big bucks. But, they are usually not asked to do something for free and their skills are still respected. And, I guess that's really the bottom line. It would be nice to be respected for the work we do. Yes, it's actually work even though I think most people believe artists are born with some magical skill and therefore it's nothing the artist has done that deserves respect.

I think most artists are born with
perhaps a leaning toward art but that doesn't mean they don't have to work at becoming skilled at it. There are some child prodigies who may have had a heavenly vision or visitation and had talent and ability conferred upon them but most artists have to learn to use their tools of the trade just as any other profession must learn their tools.

So, this pretty little ferret was part of my artistic education - it cost in terms of time and materials but all professionals pay for their education in some way or another! I'm just glad I had the opportunity to paint her.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Update on Ferret Painting WIP

Ferret painting by Jan Gibson
It is a copyright violation to copy, or use in any manner, any
art, text or other material from this site without written permission.

I had a post almost ready to publish then hit a wrong key & it was long gone! I hate when that happens!

I've worked for several hours this morning trying to get this pretty little ferret out of the "ugly" stage and I think it's beginning to emerge! Most of the time, I get to that stage then start over because it appears that it will never become the painting that I had in mind. This time I was determined to work through the uglies and, while I still have much more to do, I think I may be able to pull it off. If not, then I certainly will start over!

I got the nicest email from "Mrs_Center", the photographer who posted the photograph of their family pet ferret on the Stock.XCHNG. The Stock.XCHNG requires that the photographer be notified whenever their photos are being downloaded and used and I'm always happy to do that. Artists in every field, including photography, want to know where their creative "children" end up.

Anyway, I had emailed Mrs. Center and directed her to my blog here when she requested to see the painting from her photo. She replied with praise for the first posting of the WIP and I certainly don't want to let her down with the finished painting. It is both intimidating and an incentive when someone with a vested interest is watching you work!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another WIP

I'm getting to the point where I almost hate to post a WIP (work in progress) as I either forget to take progressive photos of the work, or, mess it up and abandon the painting!

But, since this painting is being done with pastel (which is not my favorite medium), I wanted to be sure I finished it. I'm counting on all of you to hold me accountable! lol

Painting by Jan Gibson
Reference Photo by
MrsCenter, Stock.XCHNG

I realize that I've already done quite a bit to this but it's nowhere near finished. Basically, I'm just blocking in colors and trying to get the fur colors in the right places! Since this is a practice piece, I guess they don't have to be exact but I want to get as close as I can.

As always, if you see anything amiss, please let me know.