Thursday, March 29, 2012

Abstract Workshop: Ladder

Ladder              2012             j. c. phillipps

Remember how I said I needed to paint something with red in it.  BOOM!  Red!

That really is how I started though, warm tones.  I just started mushing them together, being sure to leave lighter spots, concentrating the paint in darker spots.  Then I took the wrong end of my paint brush and started carving circles from the wet paint.  This is a fun technique and can lift the paint off the paper if it's sorta medium-dry.  (See the area in the yellow square kinda in the middle?  See how there are lines lifted out of it.  That's what I was doing.)  Of course, sometimes the paint is too wet and then the color just seeps in over the mark you just made.  Sometimes you leave an indention and the color fills in and makes that place darker.  You really have to have a sense of what level of dryness your paint is in to get your desired results.

But since I had no desired result, I just went hog wild.

Then it looked kinda bad, actually.

So I figured, what the heck, I'll put more paint down at the top of the paper and make some lines going across.  They started out kinda cool, but dried flat and boring.

It was still looking pretty blah.

Then I watched TV.

You probably don't notice the art that hangs on the walls in the law offices, living rooms, etc. of TV dramas.  Maybe you do.  I certainly do.  I think I was watching The Good Wife and there was a lovely abstract painting in some conference room that gave me an idea.  So I started laying in the blocks of colors that you see along the top.  Then I just felt like pushing that black around with the butt of my brush might be cool.

I liked the sections it created, so I decided to bump out the sections in the circle and make them into pieces.  As that was coming along, I also thought I needed more lines in the circle, so I pulled out my long, thin rigger brush and added more dark, round lines.

When that was dry and I was happy with it, it was then time to title this sucker.  The vertical lines off to the right side reminded me of a ladder.  So I added a few short horizontal lines to play that up.

I like the idea of a ladder because it could be a means to go up or a means to go down.  It could help someone achieve a lofty goal or escape a burning fire.  It's open ended.

So far this is my favorite.  I think I'm started to get to a level of complexity that I'm psyched about.

Everything is framed up, wired, and packed to go to the library next week.  I'll post a pic when it's up.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yarn Along: Still Whispering

It's sloooooow going on the Whisper Cardigan, but it's going.  I'm past the half-way point on the back and am hoping to finish the other sleeve by this time next week.

I'm realistic about this project.  I might not be done until May.  But I will complete it - oh yes - I will!
And it will be awesome!

(Using Whisper Cardigan pattern off Ravelry and Tosh Lace yarn in Nebula.)

I'm not reading anything thrilling right now.  Instead, I'll share my thoughts on book-turned-movie The Hunger Games.

If you've read the book and loved it - yes, go see this movie.  They did a very nice job with it.  I thought they handled the kid-on-kid violence perfectly.  It's there.  It's powerful.  But it's not overly graphic.  OMG the tension in this movie!  I knew what was going to happen and I was churning in my seat, urging the characters to run or whatnot.

I also thought they did a nice job with some of the quieter moments.  (I don't want to say what they are in case someone hasn't read it/seen it yet.)  Let me just say it was nice to have some calmer moments, some regret/sadness/whatever mixed in with the action.

Yanno, when you take a book and squish it into 2 hours, some stuff is going to get cut.  It just is.  One thing I missed was the antagonistic back-and-forth of the Katniss-Haymitch relationship.  If you read the book, you'll know what I mean.  It's in the movie, but only briefly.  There just isn't time to let them bicker for too long.

I thought it was great.  Jennifer Lawrence made a FABULOUS Katniss Everdeen.  Kudos all around.  But, there's a LOT of handheld camera work, so if you are prone to motion sickness, sit in the BACK of the theater.

Otherwise get your butts to a movie theater and may the odds be ever in your favor.

(Joining Ginny's Yarn Along.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Belated Art Class

Since Curly and Mo couldn't make it on Sunday, I asked Magoo if he wanted to do a solo art class.  He said he did, so I decided to bring him into the world of abstract art with me.

We decided to explore a shape, and he chose a triangle.  Then he drew a bunch of triangles on a piece of paper (I was encouraging him to draw some BIG shapes, but he never got really large) and he used water soluble crayons to color the shapes and then applied water to blend.

It's not finished yet.  But I think it's coming along nicely and I also think that working with an abstract is a good way to learn how to use a new medium.  That way he can explore the art supply and what it can do without having any preconceived idea of what his finished product should look like.

In other news:
It's going to be a busy week.  It's conference week so in addition to Magoo getting home earlier, there are also school activities for an involved mom like me.

Yesterday morning I went in to help set up the book fair in the library, then came home to make two loaves of sweet bread for the teachers.  (Parents provide snacks for the busy teachers during conference weeks.)  So I made a loaf of cranberry bread and a loaf of banana bread.  I sliced them up and wrapped them neatly.  Then I went to pick up Magoo from school, and here's what I found when I got home:

That rotten cat of mine pulled out a slice of the banana bread, opened the plastic and started eating away!!!


I kicked her furry booty right out of the house.  Then I cut off the parts her mouth had touched and finished the rest of the bread.  Mmmmmm.  It was really good!

Have a great Tuesday!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Abstract Workshop: Blues and Greens

The show I'm doing at the Simsbury Library is fast approaching so I've had to bang out more paintings.  Sure, I could do a mix of old paintings and new paintings, but I really like the look of one cohesive show, yanno.  Like, I don't want 3 animal collages, a fish watercolor, and 2 abstracts.  That would be bonkers!  

I'll be showing along a wall in the children's section, so a show with children's collages would probably go over pretty well.  But I'm into my abstracts right now, and if there's one thing I've learned about art, follow your inspiration.  If you want to paint abstracts but you feel obligated to paint a sheep, that's gonna be one cruddy looking sheep.

Plus, a no-pressure library show is a good way for me to start with this new style.  I'm thinking I'll leave a comment book and see what people say.  They probably won't say anything, but you never know.

Anyway, onto the art.

Lots of blues and green in this batch.  Clearly I'm drawn to these colors.  (The next painting needs to have some red in it or else I'll have only one painting with warm tones.  One of these things is not like the others....)
My goal for this painting, Unraveled (in Blue,) was to incorporate drips.

Unraveled (in Blue)        2012         j.c.phillipps

 I was inspired by a few paintings in my abstract book,

Painting Abstracts: Ideas, Projects and Techniques by Rolina van Vliet.

And, so far, this is the painting that is closest to what I envisioned when I started.  I'm quite pleased with it.  I like the soft, wet parts.  I like the hard, dark drips.  To me, it looks kinda like a misty urban setting with a unraveled rope in the foreground.  Thus, the title.

This painting, Tideway Spiral, was completely unplanned.

Tideway Spiral           2012          j.c. phillipps

This was the bottom part of a larger painting.  I was trying to do something completely different and then I just started to play around with spirals and I kinda loved the bottom part.  We can call it an "accidental abstract."  But not to a buyer.  To a buyer this was completely intentional and all my years as an artist helped me to perfectly balance the composition and have complete control over the wet technique.  Shhhhh.

Oval Abstract: Blue and Green is more controlled.
Oval Abstract: Blue and Green   2012  j.c. phillipps
I like it.  I don't love it.  It actually looks better in real life than it does on the screen.  It's too big to scan, you see.  The other two are smaller.  I can pop them in the scanner and really capture the textures and colors.  But when the art is bigger I have to take a photograph and then play with the contract and brightness on the computer.  Sometimes it makes the image look better, but I think this one kinda looks flat.  Still, I dig the groovy bubble discotheque feel of it.  It's like the inside of a lava lamp.  Damn, that's what I should have called it: Super Groovy Lava Lamp.

That'll be it's nickname.

In other news: it's another beautiful March day.  I have been working on the side garden and when it's up and running I'll share my handiwork.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yarn Along: Killer Bunny

It's Wednesday, so let's join Ginny's Yarn Along!


I got started on the Whisper Cardigan about 2 weeks ago, but then I shifted gears in order to finish the Killer Bunny (below) before Easter.  Now that Little Bunny Kill-Kill is done, I am full-force Whisper Cardigan.  I'm using Tosh Lace in Nebula and I've never worked with lace weight yarn before so it took a little getting used to.  AND, I'm using lace weight with US7 needles, so the fabric produced is quite airy and drapey.  I think it's going to be great, but delicate.  I guess that's why they named it "whisper."

I'm reading Fiction Ruined my Family by Jeanne Darst.  My husband and I heard Jeanne read a story on This American Life and I thought she was HILARIOUS.  So my hubby surprised me with this book. 

Here's the Killer Bunny.  (Free pattern off Ravelry.)  That went pretty well.  I did choose my yarn based on fluffiness and not weight and that's how I ended up using a chunky weight yarn on US5 needles.  (Oops.)  But it made a nice dense fabric, perfect for murder!!!  My son is a big fan of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so I think he's going to be psyched!  My notes are here.

Happy Knitting everyone!

(I just wanted to add:  To the lovely knitters at Yarn Along who come and leave a comment, I always try to leave a comment back on your blogs, but for some funky computer reason that I cannot explain, when I hit the PUBLISH button, my comment just disappears into the ether.  Are you getting it?  I'll never know. But I do look at your lovely projects and try to leave some positive feedback behind.   Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Thank you so much for the lovely comments you leave here.  I truly appreciate it.))

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday Art Class: Drawing the Human Face

We did a bit of technique this week as I took the boys through the correct proportions of a human face.  We did the same thing last year, only this year I had them draw each other's faces and last year they drew their own.

This is a basic breakdown of how a well proportioned face should be.  (Image pulled from web.)

As with almost any lesson that's high on technique and low on art supplies, there was a big of grumbling and lost focus.  They all wanted to give each other horns, elf ears, and 101 teeth.   I told them the first face had to be drawn to the best of their ability, but they could go to town on a second face.  (I should have taken photos of some of those!)

Here are the proper faces.

Magoo's portrait of Curly

Mo's portrait of Magoo

Curly's portrai of Mo

Pretty good, eh?

Next week we're going to continue with faces, but we're going to add watercolors to the mix!

Friday, March 16, 2012


Sorry.  I've been a bad blogger this week.

I thought I'd better check in make let you know that I was not dead or injured.  We have not lost electricity or anything like that.

I just haven't much felt like it.

Here's what I've been working on:  tax prep, lawn prep, reading Mindy Kaling's book, working on an abstract painting that I'm pretty sure I just ruined, finishing my third picture book, working on a new picture book dummy, and writing a graphic novel.

I could have shown pictures of the daffodils popping up.  But I haven't taken pictures yet.

I could have talked about the Easter present I'm knitting for Magoo.  (Next week, I promise.)

I just wasn't feeling bloggy this week.  Sorry.  I promise to be a better blogger next week!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sunday Art Class: Photo Collage

I've been wanting to take the boys out for a photography project for awhile.  But, yanno, it was wicked cold.  Yesterday, however, the sun was sooooo bright that we decided to go for it!  (Also it meant I didn't have to clean off the dining room table and set it up for a big, messy project.  Ding!)

Our goal was to capture letters in our names.


The obvious choices were all the letters on the shops, but I also wanted them to look for license plates, water drains, street signs.  There are letters everywhere.

When we were finished, we returned to my house where I uploaded the photos into my computer and cropped and resized the letters in Photoshop.  Here's an example of what the photo collages looked like:

They really turned out quite well.  If you don't have Photoshop at home, maybe you could try this with magazine letters or you'll can print out the separate photos at a CVS kiosk and collage them the old fashioned way.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sisters In Crime Reading

Do you love mystery fiction?  Do you love hearing authors read their own mystery fiction?

Well, if you are in the West Hartford, CT area on Sunday afternoon, I have a treat for you!

The New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, an organization which supports female crime and mystery writers, will be reading at the Noah Webster Library, 20 South Main Street in West Hartford on Sunday, March 11 at 2 pm.  Free to the public!

Ten Sisters in Crime members will read from their current works in progress or soon-to-be released books.  The reading will feature:
Patti Brooks, Liz Gordon, Rosemary Harris, Rhonda Lane, Karen Laugel,
Steve Liskow, Susan Santangelo, Carole Shmurak, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, and
Anne-Marie Sutton.

Liz Gordon is the pen name of my mother-in-law and I am PSYCHED to finally get to hear her read.  She's won awards for her stories through contests and the like, but always flies out to San Francisco or such to read and I've never been able to attend.  I'm going to be the eager beaver sitting in the front row!

Each author is reading for 5 minutes and then, my understanding is, they will take questions from the group.

If you're around, come check it out!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abstract Workshop #3

Give and Take         J. C. Phillipps       2012

You thought I'd forgotten all about my abstract paintings, hadn't you?  Well I didn't.  Nope.  I was just busy will my collage illustrations and those illos take up a lot of space in my studio.  Now that I am (very nearly) done with the book, I decided that I would get back into the abstract game.

I have decided that I am drawn to rectangles right now.  I can enjoy as many circles and round things in other people's work - but I keep coming back to the rectangle in my own.  I think it has something to do with loving my flat brushes.

I actually did Soft Rush first.  (Below.)  It was much bigger, but soon became a hot mess.  Still, there were areas I liked a lot.  So I pulled out a smaller mat and started moving in around the paper Ouija board-style searching, searching, searching.  This is not an uncommon trick among artists.  If you don't like your big painting, see if there's a small painting hiding somewhere in there.  And there was!

Soft Rush            J. C. Phillipps              2012

One of the things I'm trying to focus on while delving into this scary world of abstract is balance.  Active space v. calm space.  Dark space v. light space.  I find that in order for me to be happy with my abstracts there really needs to be a good portion of calm space.

Soft Rush is a very different color palette for me because I'm not really a pink girl.  But I started with a photograph of a blue window sill against a brick wall and that's how the pinks came out.

I tried to get back to my happy place in the world of blues and browns for Give and Take. (top) I started completely cold on this one, not having a clue as to what I wanted to do, only that I wanted to use blues and browns.  I laid down the back wash of colors first and after that dried, I just let it tell me what to do.  Put a blue rectangle here.  Lift some color there.  Leave some areas calm.  Darken these boxes.  No!  Too dark!  Lift!  Lift!

For a while I thought I might need to add some black lines.  But I made a print of it and put the lines in and thought it looked messy and complicated.  There's something light and floaty about it now, and I like that feeling.

I have a "show" at the Simsbury Library in April, which means my art will be hanging on a wall in the Simsbury library.  I thought it would be a good place to try out the abstracts.  I bought some nice bamboo frames at Jerry's and love popping the pieces in there.  Paintings always look so polished when they are framed nicely, don't they?

I have a really big frame I want to fill too.  Nervous!!!!

I think the trick is to plan on messing up some pieces of paper, then it will come.  Kinds like Field of Dreams, "If you splash some paint on the paper, the art will come."

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yarn Along: New Projects

Hello Knitters!  It's Wednesday so I'm joining in Ginny's Yarn Along.

I've started a couple new projects.  The first is called the Whisper Cardigan.  It's the first pattern I've paid for on Ravelry.  Normally I can find plenty of free patterns, but this one was so perfect and light and cute, I had to try it.  What I didn't really pay attention to was the fact that I'd be using lace weight yarn.  Holy moly - is it thin!  (I'm using Tosh Lace in color: Nebula.  That's the blue/green stuff above.)  I think I'll be working on this for at least two months, so I thought I'd give myself another project so I could feel like I was accomplishing something during that time.  My son is 9 and not really into stuffed animals, but I thought he'd get a kick out of the killer bunny from Monty Python.  Check it out here.  I'm just using a basic Alpaca yarn I picked up from Michael's.  Nothing fancy.

I finished my vest!  Yay!

I made this with a cotton/linen yarn and it's not as soft to knit with, but it really softens up after blocking.  I think it will be a nice addition to the spring/summer wardrobe.

I finished Where Things Come Back yesterday.    I gotta give it a solid Eh.   This book has won awards and received a ton of literary praise, but I didn't love it.  It all comes together at the end, but it's a slooooooow beginning and it has a lot to do with theories of living life rather than someone actually living it.  Of course that's kinda the book's point:  go out and live your life and stop being such an analytical ass-hat.  But in order to get there we have to deal with some analytical ass-hats.

I don't want to suggest that this book is bad by any stretch of the imagination or give it any kind of bad review.  It's really just not me.  I loved The Hunger Games, The Lock Artist, The Scorpio Races.  I love Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice.  I love anything David Sedaris writes. 

If you like a good, solid literary novel that's not necessarily action packed and more about how its characters examine the lives they are living, then you'll probably love Where Things Come Back.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday Art Class: Printmaking

This Sunday I wanted to do something that was more about design and less about technique so the boys could really experiment and have fun.  So I chose printmaking.  Now, I don't want to offend printmakers and suggest there is no technique to this medium because, of course, that's ridiculous.  But our goals were less about that.  I simply printed up some examples of lino prints and showed the boys how to balance white space with dark space, active space with calm space, and how they could make different kinds of marks using different tools.

Once I was done with all that, all I had to do was show them how to make a print and let them run wild.

If you're going to try this at home (and you should because it's sooooo fun) I recommend having a few things:

ink (Speedball has a water-soluble printing ink or just use tempera paint)
brayer  ( I do recommend shelling out four bucks and buying a proper brayer. It's the right tool for the job)
rolling pin
ink plate (I used a piece of glass from a frame I wasn't using.)
foam  (You can buy sheets of foam specifically for this, Scratch-Art Scratch foam, or just the the centers out the of foam meat containers from the grocery store.)
pens, pens, chopsticks - anything to make an indention

Once the boys made their designs, they applied ink to the ink plate.  Roll the brayer across it several times to get an even coat of paint on the brayer, then apply the ink to the foam sheet.

(Here's Curly applying the ink.)

(Note: It's a good idea to have some scrap paper underneath your foam sheet so you can apply the ink evenly to all the edges without making a mess of your table.)

Then you take a clean sheet of paper and center it over your foam sheet.  Use a rolling pin to get even pressure over your paper.  Here's Mo rolling it out.  Get all the edges!

Then hold the foam sheet down and carefully pull your print off of it.

Here's Magoo examining his first print.

They had a really good time with it and I think they did a fabulous job.  It was so much fun even Heather and I sat down and made a couple prints after the boys were gone.

Here's the dining room after were done.

One of the best things about printmaking is that you can make as many prints as you want.  If you have several different colors of ink, you can do the same print in different colors and that would look so cool.

I think it printmaking was definitely a big THUMBS UP for the boys (and the moms.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sea Shells and Sitting Bull

One of my projects this week was working on the end pages of the latest picture book (who's title is still up in the air.  Oy!)

For those of you that don't know, the end pages are colorful pages at the front and back of the book.  They can aid in the telling the story or they can simply be a solid color.  I sent a few different ideas in to the art director and she liked the one that was snapshots of my monkey character playing at the beach.  In my mind - it's like someone laid out a bunch of photos and keepsakes on a table.  Keepsakes meaning shells.  So I dug into Magoo's shell collection and pulled out some pretty ones to paint.

(Above.) Here they are drying in the sun.

I got sloppy on the edges because I'm going to cut them all out.  I have to admit - I really liked painting them.  When the book is done, I'm going to have to dip back into some solid watercolor projects.

In other news:  Magoo turned in a spectacular biography project on Sitting Bull.  He'd been working on it all month.  He read a biography on Sitting Bull, made a time line, and a bio bottle (which is the figure made out of a bottle and a styrofoam head.)

Michael teases me about helping Magoo with the project, but of course I helped him with it.  All the parents helped with it, it's just that Magoo has the added bonus of having a mother who's a professional artist.  But I DID NOT do the project for him.  I guided him and helped him.  For example: I cut the felt for the clothes, but he sewed it and cut the fringe.  I sculpted the face, but he helped with the paper mache' and he painted it.  He really put a lot of work into both the timeline and the bio bottle and he got the highest score he could get on it.

I know that at some point they display the bio bottles in the lobby of the school.  I totally want to see that!  I bet they are so much fun!

Have a great weekend!!