Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Pair of Koi: Watercolor Tutorial

Hi all!  I just finished a large watercolor and took pictures throughout the process so I could share.  Perhaps you're looking to paint something similar, or maybe you just want to see how I do it.  Either way, here it is:

Step one:  I lay down a layer of clean water and loosely paint cerulean blue over it.  Even though there will be white spaces on the fish - I want the fish to look like they are in the water, and not just on top of the painting, so it's important to have some blue all over.  I do leave the eyes alone, though.  I want to make sure there is some white on the eyes.

Step 2:  When the light blue is completely dry, I mask off the fish.  If they are small, I'll do it with masking fluid, but these are big fish and it would be a big pain in the butt to smear that much masking fluid over the paper.  Instead, I cut pieces of clear plastic and taped them on with artist's tape.

Then, I lay down another layer of water and go to town with darker blues, greens, and a bit of brown.  I paint fast and loose and tilt the board up, down, and to the side to get nice blends and streaks.  I spatter water and paint with a brush.  I keep all of this up until I am happy with how it looks.

Step 3:  When that is completely dry, I remove the plastic and tape.  Some of the blue has seeped under the tape - that is to be expected.  Since I paint wet, some paint will sneak under.  I do the best I can to lift the colors off the fish (this is why I buy high quality watercolor paper.  A good sheet of Arches can handle a lot of abuse.)  I don't worry about making it perfect, just get it as light as I can so it's not obvious.  Then I under-paint the shadows on the two fish.  Most of the shading is in shades of blue, but I like to throw in some violets, pinks, and ochres as well. 

Step 4:  I do the shading ahead of time, because I like to paint the signature koi colors on wet.  The key to adding color to koi is that when you put the water down, you don't put it everywhere.  Make shapes with the water, then make other shapes with the paint.  Some paint will hit the wet spots and mix and spread and some will hit the dry spots and you'll get a harder line.  I do this with a medium yellow, orange, red, and a bit of black.  (I always leave plenty of white space.  Sometimes it's hard because spreading the bright colors on is very satisfying.  Key word = restraint.)

Step 5:  Paint the eyes.  I have a lot of photos of koi.  I've taken some, and some are from the lovely internet.  I don't think I have ever seen a highlight in a koi's eye, BUT I just think they look dead in a painting without a highlight, so I always add them.  I use blues, pinks, and greys in the rings around the eye, and do more shading in the flesh around the eyes.

Step 6:  At this point I step back from the painting and try to see what it is lacking.  I feel it is too busy.  The background doesn't have enough rest space and there isn't a strong vertical in the composition.  I darken the blue under the lower fish and above the upper fish to calm the space down and create a vertical.

I do a bit more painting on the fish.  I lift some color to create the illusion of scales, I add darker lines around some of the gills and the outlines.

 Step 7:  I add my seal that means "Double Happiness" and my signature.  All done!

A Pair of Koi 2015         2015         j. c. phillipps
It took me about a week to paint this.  There's a lot of drying time in a big, wet watercolor like this, so I'd paint for 30 minutes one day and maybe 45 minutes the next.  Very stop and go.  You also have to back up and take it all in often.  I find when I work on big paintings, it really helps to take pictures of it.  It flattens the image and shrinks it (or course) and you can see things you might not notice when it's big and in your face.

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hare Mask

Photo from Etsy of Wintercroft Hare Mask

Not too long ago, I was on Etsy looking around, when I came across this mask.  I thought it was very cool and I loved that you could buy the template for $7 and make it yourself.  At the time, I didn't need a big hare mask, but I bookmarked it.  (The mask is from Wintercroft and they have a ton of them.  Very cool.  Check it out.)

Soon after that, I started making clay bunnies for the Bunnies & Blooms project I'm doing next month with the WeHa Artists Emporium.  I thought, Hey Julie, if you make a big hare mask, you could take some publicity photos in town for the event.  This was a good enough excuse.  I bought the template, printed it up on card stock, and constructed it.  It took about 2 hours.

Magoo poses in the Hare mask I constructed

I knew I wanted to paint it, so I carefully paper mache'd it first with lunch sacks and Mod Podge.
It took more than two hours to paper mache, but that's OK.

(If I were to do this again, I would print the template up on thinner paper, glue that to harder cardboard, and skip the paper mache part.)

Hare mask after paper mache

After it was paper mache'd, I painted it with acrylic paint in blacks, greys, and whites. 
Then I went out on the town with my artist friend Stefanie Marco, and she got some great shots.

Photo by Stefanie Marco
Photo by Stefanie Marco
I don't know if anything will come of these photos.  We've sent them out to the local press to advertise the event, but some things get ink and some things don't.  We'll definitely be able to use them on Facebook.  Stefanie and I had a lot of fun taking them and I think she did a wonderful job.  If nothing else, we have some photographic art!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I hope it's getting warm and Springy wherever you are!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ski Trip to Vermont

This weekend we went up to Vermont.  We were supposed to go two weeks ago but that was when one of the many "Arctic Blasts" hit and there's no way I'm driving three hours North to freeze my bippy off on a mountain.  Nuh-uh.  So we waited.  This weekend, it was still cold, but it was downright balmy compared to what we're used to.

Before we went to our lovely hosts' house, we went into the Town of Woodstock, where we were treated to snow sculptures!  Yay!

My favorite was the octopus. (Below.)

Woodstock is a lovely little town with zero CVS's or Starbucks.  Very cute shops.  My favorite is called Unicorn.  It's a super funky gift shop, and I always buy earrings there.  This time, I also got myself a pair of socks.

Skiing at Suicide Six was great.  Mike and I thought it might be a good idea to get Magoo another lesson, since it's been so long since he's skied, but he didn't want one.  He and I did about three runs on the bunny hill, then we hit the Easy Mile. (Easy Mile is my favorite.  I like easy skiing.  No adrenaline rushes for me.)

Between you and me, I like to get a lesson for Magoo because it gives me one hour of enjoying myself on the mountain.  It's difficult for me to just relax and ski if I'm constantly focused on Magoo. But, I will say he did much better this year.  Much more control.  I still had to focus on him, but it wasn't the constant battle of him falling and not listening to me as I tried to explain to him how to get up.  In the past, it has been a very frustrating experience for both of us.

I did very much enjoy my time on the ski lift.  It's pretty.  It's relaxing.  And I entertained Magoo with the story of how I broke my leg skiing when I was in fourth grade.

All in all, it was lovely to be outside and enjoy winter.

Then, of course, we had to come home and the very next morning I had to shovel another 4 - 5 inches of snow off the sidewalk and driveway.  Calgon, take me away!

I hope you all are warm and making the best of it wherever you are!
Thanks so much for stopping in!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ninja Attack at Squadron Line School!

It wasn't really a ninja "attack" but I did do some ninja poses, like Wink, when I presented at the lovely Squadron Line Elementary School on Monday.

That's why I wear pants most of the time.

I had a great time!  I did two different presentations - one for Wink and one for Monkey Ono.  And I visited four wonderful first grade classes and taught them how to make collage ninjas.  Aren't these great?  (The first one just makes me so happy!)

The librarian, Jamie Sepa, was a wonderful host - even providing me with much appreciated chocolate.  The kids were great.  The library - where I did my presentations - was big and bright.  The PTO, which booked me, were so friendly and helpful, and they sold A LOT of books!

HUGE THANKS to all at Squadron Line!  You made me feel like I'd just one the Caldecott.  (Well, I'm assuming it feels something like that.  ;)

In other news:  I have a BUNCH of Skype visits coming up.  My first one is with a class in Mexico, tomorrow.  Then, I have 17 more scheduled over the next two weeks.  I'll be a Skype Pro by the end of it.

This is my door of Skype visits.  (I'm running out of door.)

THANKS so much for stopping in!  I hope everyone is staying warm!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hartford Sled Derby

I like to be inside.  I like outside too, but all my arts and crafts and couch and snacks and TV are inside, so I generally stay in.

But when I do go out, I'm usually glad I did.  And I was SO GLAD that I went out this past Saturday and participated in the Hartford Sled Derby!

Photo by Carl Lantz

My friend Stefanie and I went as two paint brushes and a palette to represent the WeHa Artists Emporium.  The sled was painted, but there wasn't a whole lot of "construction" to it.  Now that I've  seen some sleds, I understand that making a sled for this thing is all about the cardboard and duct tape.  I was glad we didn't wipe out, but wiping out is part of the fun.  I think next year, our design may be more built up and we will factor in helmets.
Photo by Steven Yau

See this one.  Very built up.  Very big wipe out.

These guys had a beautiful polar bear.  So lovely.  And then they all came tumbling down the hill.

Those were some of the best sleds, but there were simple ones too.  One guy tried to go down in nothing but an IKEA chair.  One lady went down on what looked like a sleeping bag banana peel.
Sideways garbage cans were very popular vehicles.  (But round sleds turn and roll.  No thanks.  No barrel rolls for my noodle.)

Everyone there was having a great time and was so supportive of everyone's sleds and wipe-outs.  It was thrilling and the hill was filled with a great positive energy.

We didn't get a trophy - which, I'll be honest, was a little disappointing. 
The Hartford Sled Derby is certainly not about getting a trophy.  But I firmly believe that if you want a trophy and you think you deserve a trophy, then - by golly - go ahead and make your own.

So I did.  I mounted a little clay sled on top of a metal canister filled with chocolate.  We were the only art supply sled there, so it's OK to say we were the Best.  We were!

Photo by Stefanie Marco

I awarded it to Stefanie.  So I got twice the fun - make a trophy and give a trophy.  And, of course, there was some leftover chocolate for me too.  :)

If you want to see more photos of all the great sleds, click here.  And if you're in the Hartford area next year, consider coming along.  It was a lot of fun for young and old.

In other news,
There's a lot of snow here, but we are surviving.
Boston has way more, so we moan, but I think we're all happy that we don't live in Boston right now.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Be warm!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Color Series: Animal Edition

Yesterday I finished the final piece in this Color Series.  Now I just have to mat them, frame them, and get them ready for the library in March.  I'm very happy with how they turned out.  They were so much fun to make!  I hope you like them too.

Red Rabbit a.k.a. My Bunny Valentine    2015    j. c. phillipps

Orange Fox Dancing         2015        j. c. phillipps

Yellow Lab with a Uke     2015     j. c. phillipps

Green Frog Waiting        2015       j. c. phillipps
Blue Cat at Sea        2015       j. c. phillipps

Purple Raven Sings             2015         j. c. phillipps

Black & White Bandit       2015       j. c. phillipps

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bunny Hunt

I have been making bunnies.
Lots of bunnies.

Finders Keepers - the town-wide rock hunt that the WeHa Artists Emporium did in December - went so well, that I had an idea to do a similar thing, but with bunnies.

This is sorta hush-hush, but I don't think anyone I know in town reads this blog, so I can share here.  Yay!  But if you are in town or know someone in town, no blabbin'.  M'kay?

Anyway ...

I'm making a lot of clay bunnies and Stefanie - my artist pal and the group's founder - is making flowers.  We're calling it BUNNIES AND BLOOMS and we're going to hide the goodies around town one day in April.  Only one day for this event.

We've invited a few other artists to play too, but ... who knows if they will.  Not everyone is into making stuff and giving it away for free.  That's cool.  But I love it.  And I love it because I have learned that what you put out there comes back to you. 

So I'm making bunnies.

In other news ...

I'm playing the waiting game with a publisher.  He has two of my projects that have both been revised just for him, based on his notes.  My agent doesn't want to nag, but it's HARD TO WAIT!

There's a lot of snow outside.  I'd say it's up to my knee.  And that's the untouched stuff.  The shoveled stuff is up to my waist.

I'm almost done with my newest collection of collages, The Color Series: Animal Edition.  I'm doing the series for an upcoming show at the library.  I'll post soon.

Hope you all are well and warm!
Thanks for stopping in!