Sunday, March 11, 2018

Big Blue Octopus Tutorial

Hi guys.  Last week I painted a large octopus watercolor.  I thought you might like to see my process, so I took photographs along the way.

Phillipps working on watercolor.  2018.
 This is me working on my painting, Big Blue Octopus.  I know, I know.  What a deep, poetic title!  What can I say?  I am very boring and matter-of-fact with my titles.  I do this so I won't forget which painting is which. 

This shot was taken towards the end of the process.  Let's go back to the beginning.

After deciding on the size and sketching out an octopus, I do a small color test.  I knew I wanted the octopus to be blue, but I wasn't sure what color to make the water.  After this color test, I decided l liked the all-blue palette.  In some ways, that will be more challenging, making the some of the blue pull forward and other parts recede.  But I liked the limited color palette.  And I love blue.

Next I took a piece of large, clear plastic and traced my octopus.  This will be the mask so I can loosely painting the background and not worry about covering over my subject.  I cut it out just inside the lines...

... then I glue it to the paper with liquid frisket.  Liquid frisket (a.k.a. masking fluid) is something watercolor artists use to cover a portion of their paper to keep it white.  By cutting my plastic a little thinner and smaller than my actual octopus, I can paint the frisket over the edge of the plastic and onto the watercolor paper.  That way I am creating a seal between the paper and the plastic and I'm filling out the rest of my subject.  Now the octopus is completely masked off.  (I could also paint over the entire octopus - that that would be a LOT of masking fluid.)

When I am painting a subject that is underwater, I like to be very loose and wet with my background.  I will throw a bunch of water and paints on the paper.  I'll swish things around, turn the board left and right, splatter water on there.  I'll just get really loose and crazy until I think it looks good.  (Remember to keep areas light and paint others darker.  Even though it's loose, it's it still requires composition.)

Good thing I masked that octopus out, right?  Look at the mess!

When the background is completely dry, I carefully pull up the masking fluid and plastic, revealing a nice, white octopus.

Ta da!

But I can't paint it yet.  Now I need to go in and mask out all the little suction cups.  It's tedious, but careful work and planning help to make the painting good.  If I didn't do this part, I'd have to paint around all the suction cups, and then I'd get weird drying and inconsistent paint colors. 

Notice that there's a blue smudge on my nice, white octopus.  Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes some paint seeps underneath the masking.  I lightened it up a bit with water and I don't worry about it since I'll be painting the octopus blue anyway.

This is a first pass at painting the octopus.  While the paint is wet, I add in some dots and spatters that will soften and bleed out.  This gives the illusion of texture on the octopus's head.

Here's a detail look after a couple more passes over the head.  I've worked on the eye a bit, adding shadow to the bottom and leaving the top almost white.  And I've gone over the lower head with paint, leaving some dots blank.  You can see that the masking is still on the suction cups.  Also, notice how I'm able to distinguish between the front tentacles and the back tentacles with darker colors and shadows.

When I'm happy with the blues and the purples under the tentacles, I lift the liquid frisket off of every suction cup.  It's important to make sure all of the paint is dry before you do this or else you'll smudge paint on the clean paper.  That would be a big bummer.

Then I go in and paint the soft pinks and purples in the suction cups.  It takes a little while to do all the detail work, so I put on a good podcast or some mellow music and enjoy the process.  Then I need to add in shadows to the edges of the suction cups and to the tentacles, below the suction cups.  The shadows really makes the painting come alive.

When it's close to being finished, I take a lot of time to observe the painting and pay attention to where my eyes go and if any area looks lacking.  Sometimes I soften hard lines.  Sometimes I add deeper colors.  Sometimes I lift colors out.  When I'm 90% happy, I stop.  There's a real danger in over-painting or working something to the point of ruining it, so I try to stop before I do that.

Then I sign it and it's done.

Big Blue Octopus                  2018                      J. C. Phillipps
I should also note that I use Arches paper.  For this painting I used 140 lb cold press.  It's important to use a good paper, because quality paper can take some abuse without ripping.  I'll use cheaper paper for smaller, dryer paintings.  But when I work wet and large, I like to build it up on high quality paper.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
I hope you enjoyed a peek into my process.
Have a great week -

Monday, February 5, 2018

Jewelry Making Mode

I go through creative cycles.  I'll sew a lot for awhile.  Then maybe I'll want to sit and do needlework for a month.  Maybe I'll get seriously into drawing for a bit.  But now I am coming back around to jewelry making.

I don't like to go to the craft store and buy a bunch of stuff and then simply assemble it.  I mean, I do like that very much, but one of my creative goals is to make some of - or all of - the beads that I use.  I found a tutorial on making "turquoise" beads with polymer clay, so I spent the weekend working on these.  (And I like the look of the turquoise beads mixed with a red/orange coral bead, so I just applied the same techniques to creating orange clay "coral" beads.)

After I roll them and bake them, I like to give them a nice thin coat of varnish.  Here they are drying in the sun.

The next day, when the varnish was dry, I began stringing.  I'm using a thin hemp cord to connect them.  I'm very bad at winding wire and making clasps, so I really like making long necklace with no clasps.  (I need to work on that.)  You can see my sketchy plan beneath the beds.

The above necklace is all "Turquoise" and the below one - the half moon - has the coral beads mixed in.  I'm really happy with how they turned out.  I'm going to crank out some more for the Spring and Summer craft shows.

Winter is still bitter cold here, but the snow is gone.  I am ready for the buds of Spring to come and bring some warmth and color to New England.  But until then, I'll just have to make my own.

Thanks so much for stopping in and checking on me.
Have a lovely week!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Women's March, Hartford 2018

This Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the Women's March, so I put on my pink pussy hat, made a new sign* and was proud to march again.

*I didn't actually make a new sign.  This sign reading, Keep Your Laws Away from Our Hoo-Has! is actually from last year's Planned Parenthood march.  That one was cancelled due to snow, so this is the first showing of this sign.  It still works!

Stefanie - my art buddy and protest pal - made a very cool pink pussy power parasol that her daughter carried around most of the time, but I snapped a pick with her holding it.  She's also wearing her Pussy Power shirt that she designed. 

We marched in front of the Capitol and under Hartford's Soldier and Sailor Memorial Arch.  We marched with men and women of different colors and ages.  We chanted.  We sang.  We stood for something good - and it was awesome!

Basically, the same thing happened this year as happened last year; we couldn't get close enough to the front to hear any speakers.  I think they had another technology issue.  But we were still there: still strong, still proud, still ready to use our minds and our voices.

It was a wonderfully kind and encouraging experience that I know was shared across the country.

And, of course, the signs are always awesome.

I hope you are feeling empowered wherever you are.
Thanks so much for stopping in!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Flying into 2018


2018 is well underway here in Connecticut.  It has been bitter cold, but is a balmy 30 degree day today.  Woo-hoo - break out the bikini! 

It will be calmer in my art room for a few months.  No imminent shows.  Which means I'll have more penciled-in self-imposed deadlines, rather than black-ink calendar deadlines.  I'll be busy - but a manageable kind of busy.

One of the first things coming up is a group show at the Spicy Green Bean (a lovely little restaurant in Glastonbury, CT.)  The theme is FLIGHT.  It took me a little while to settle on what I wanted to do.  I tend to like birds and bugs and things of the like, and I was getting a little overwhelmed at some of the possibilities. 

But then I focused on the venue.  My best show there - to date - has been the Black-and-White show.
I think the black-and-white images look very sharp against the red walls there.  Also, my drawings (rather than paintings or collage) reproduce very nicely and therefore I can have more prints available.  This is a restaurant, after all.  People go in to eat, not to buy art for their mansions.  So more reasonable priced reproduced art sells better than higher priced originals.  Gotta know the market!

So I decided on Steampunk Flying Machines. I don't normally love drawing cars and planes and mechanical things, but Steampunk incorporates a lot of imagination, so it was pretty fun.   I sat down with my pencil, Sharpies, and my Copic greys and got to work. 

Here's the collection.
Airship Zero in the Sky      2017     j. c. phillipps

Bubbleship B           2018             j. c. phillipps

FishCopter               2017               j. c. phillipps

Flying DoDo               2017             j. c. phillipps

OctoBalloon          2017           j. c. phillippps

Snailship 7                 2018                 j. c. phillipps

Steampunk Flying Machines           2018           j. c. phillipps

Twelve-Thirty Blimp          2018          j. c. phillipps  

The ones with the white background are straight up marker drawings.  The ones with a little scenery were put into Photoshop and manipulated there.  FLIGHT doesn't go up until mid-February, so I'm well ahead of schedule - which is much better than being caught up in a last-minute scramble.  :)  Maybe 2018 will be the year of efficiency.

Hope that you all are feeling good at the beginning of 2018!
Thanks so much for stopping in!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ahhhhhhhh ... Relief

Ahhhhh ... the last art show of the year is over.  And it was wonderful!

A shot of my space - all ready to go!
We were worried about Saturday.  The weather forecasters were predicting a big storm.  And we got 7 inches, but the roads stayed drive-able for a long time and people came!  Wahoo!

We had live music.

Lots of people came out on Saturday - despite the storm.

A panorama shot of the space.  It used to be a car showroom.

The artists and makers of the Holiday Art Market.
It was a really lovely group of artists who made fabulous things.  One of our goals with this group has been associating the name of the WeHa Artists Emporium which high quality art.  There is definitely a place for more kitschy-crafty things like crocheted Barbie clothes - Lord know I loved that stuff as a kid - but we want people to know that they will be seeing a wide variety of finely made art and crafts at one of our shows, and we certainly pulled it off this time.  It was GREAT shopping!

Stefanie Marco is the wonderful artist who started it all.  I basically just back her up.  Putting on a show like this is a lot of work, but when it all works out, when it has been a successful show - not just for us but for all of the artists - then we have done what we set out to do.

And now it is time to rest.  Well, not complete rest.  I have to put everything away properly, send out the last box of Xmas gifts, do the holiday cards, and yadda, yadda, yadda.  But the art shows are over and I can focus on other things.

Here's our house after the fresh snow Sunday morning.  Just imagine me inside, sitting by the fire, sipping cocoa in my flannel pj pants, and writing out Christmas cards.

Thank you so much for stopping in after my break.   I needed it!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Open Studio Hartford and My Busy Week

Hi all -

Woosh - I have been a busy lady.  Open Studio Weekend went very well.  I had a lot of art there - a lot of people came by - and a lot of art sold.  So, goody, goody.

Here are some pics:
Me and one of my younger fans.  This photo is by my friend Stefanie Marco and she got a great shot of the wall.

My area before the show started.

Full swing.  Shoppers come by to check out my wares.

I packed it all up on Sunday night and went home.  On Monday, I had to go out to a lovely little restaurant, Spicy Green Bean, and take down some of my art that had been hanging and put some new stuff up.

The trick here was that I didn't have time to assemble pieces from Open Studio Hartford.  I had to have this all ready to go early Monday morning.  So a two shows worth of art framed and organized. 

Then, Tuesday through Friday, I've been at a local school doing an Artist-in-Residence program.  This school contacted me in September and asked if I could do a presentation and workshops on Finders Keepers and rock painting.  So I've been busting my hump creating that for two months - but it has been a lot of fun working with the kids and the wonderful teachers.  Here's some pics of that:

Me doing my Finders Keepers presentation on stage.

Then I jump down into the audience to talk to the kids.

I couldn't do a real Finders Keepers hunt at the school because that would have been chaos.  So I did a visual one with slides.
Here's a sampling of some of the rocks that the kids have been painting all week.
I have one more day of the school visit, two days to make art stuff, then it's Thanksgiving.  Then, on Saturday and Sunday, I have another pop-up art show at West Elm.

No rest for the makers at Holiday time!

Thanks so much for stopping in!  Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Last Inktober

Inktober was a lot of fun, but it was a bit of a time-suck in an otherwise busy period, so I can't said I'm sad that it's over.  But I am happy that I have new work to show and sell at my upcoming art shows and people on Facebook and Instagram were all very positive and supportive of the project, so that was fun. 

Here's the last of Inktober.

CLIMB                 Inktober 2017                j. c. phillipps

FALL                 Inktober 2017                j. c. phillipps

FOUND                 Inktober 2017                j. c. phillipps

MASK                 Inktober 2017                j. c. phillipps

SQUEAK                 Inktober 2017                j. c. phillipps

UNITED              Inktober 2017                j. c. phillipps

In other news, it was a lovely Halloween evening.  I couldn't find my long, black cape, but I found my Cruella DeVille wig, so that's what I went with.  Magoo dressed as his father.

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!

Since I'll be busy getting ready for Open Studio Hartford (Nov 11 & 12th) I'll take next week off of blogging.  But I'll return when it's over and tell you all about it.

Thanks so much for stopping in.