Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cat Wants 'Za

Here's Java trying to brainwash us into giving her some pizza.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Double Happiness Koi 2012

If you've been visiting the blog, you will see that I have been painting a lot recently.  I'm actually very "into" watercolors right now.  Watercolor is sort of my main medium.  It's what I have painted with pretty much all of my life.  But sometimes, you just get sick of something.  You need a break.  I certainly did.  So I tucked it all away for awhile.

Now it's back in full force, baby, and I'm loving it!

The gallery in town called and requested a koi painting.  I don't know if there was a patron looking for koi paintings, or if the gallery rep just wanted to get a piece in the collection.  But I figured I'd taken a long enough break from the fishies and I needed to get my feet wet again so I went out and bought a frame.  (This is sort of my new motivator.  I buy the frame first, then compose the painting to go into that frame.)

Anyway...  here's a step-by-step on how I paint koi fish.

I start by sketching out some fish.  When I'm good and practiced and in the thick of fish, I can skip this part.  But since I was rusty, I thought it best to pre-sketch.  Then I lay in a loose, wet wash of blues and greens.  There's a touch of burnt umber in there too.  Then I tilt the board this way and that and let all the colors bleed and blend - because that's the fun of watercolor after all.  You let it do some of the work.  When it's mostly settled but still a little wet, I go through with a squirrel hair brush and a paper towel and I lift out the fish bodies.  (The squirrel hair is very absorbent, so it's good for lifting.)

Let that dry completely.  Overnight, preferably.

Now it's time to give the fish a little bit of form.  I tend to use pinks and purples in the shading.  It gives the fish kind of a fleshy look.  I'll lay a few light coats down and then I have to get serious and go darker in some parts.  It's always scary to lay dark colors down on a white fish.  You're brain says, "No, that fish is white, not blue."  But you just have to say, "Shut it, Brain!  This blue is going to give the fish depth in the back and make it look like it's swimming out toward the viewer.  Deal with it!"

And notice how the fins are very faint here.  That's OK because I plan to darken the water below the fish and that will push out the lightness in the fin.  Besides, you don't want the fins to be pure white.  They're thin.  They would have some transparency, showing the blue of the water around them.

This is the fun part; adding the bold colors.  Here's what I do.  I get a brush wet with clear, clean water and I make crosses on the fish.  See, I want some wet parts and some dry parts.  Then I dip the brush into a nice orange and paint the splotches.  Some parts will bleed and have soft edges.  Some parts with have hard edges against the dry paper.  Then I add reds and yellows and let those colors mix together so it's not just flat orange.

When front-fishie is dry, I do the whole thing over with back-fishie.  Underpaint.  Shade.  Then add the black and orange.  I popped in a little yellow in the black there, too.  Just to make it interesting.

At this point I start to really look at the fish to see what's working and what needs refining.  I darkened the water around the fish.  Added details to the fins.  Painted in the eyes.  Lifted scales out of the colors. And added touches of white gouache: highlights, whiskers, fins.  

When it was deemed complete, I added the oriental stamps.  One for my name and one for "double happiness."  And, of course, my signature.  Mat it - boom.  Frame it - boom.  Take it to the gallery.


Happy Wednesday and to all my Jewish friends, I wish you an easy fast.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Illustration Friday: Crooked

Hi there.

The theme for Illustration Friday this week is CROOKED.

At first I thought I'd do a marching band with a crazy, crooked tuba or something.  Then my mind shifted to a drawing I did as a child that featured a hill.  I like hills.  They break up the space in an interesting way. 

One thing lead to another and I got to a conservatory on a hill.  At first I thought I'd put a bunch of cars on the crooked road - I guess I thought there should be people.  But then I thought it could be more about the one person inside, gazing up at the stars.

I tried watercolor this time.  I wanted to shake things up.  I like it, but I don't love it.

Still, it's good to try new things.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

In the second week of clarinet lessons, Magoo has been assigned the song, Hot Cross Buns.

When first learning it, we had to figure out the fingers from the chart (which took about 15 minutes) then he got to work.  I wanted to see if I could play it and I was AMAZED at how difficult it was just to get a sound out of the thing.


I had played a little flute in elementary school, so I was used to blowing across the instrument.  Man, your breath has to be very specifically forced into this little slit of a clarinet opening.  Not.  Easy.

Magoo improved every day.  And even better, he seems happy to practice.  I haven't had to nag him once!

When he said he wanted to try it, I didn't know what to expect.  Some things stick, some don't, yanno.  But so far, so good.  And we even booked a few private lessons to go along with the weekly lesson at school.

When he plays a solid song, I've record it.

In the meantime, Happy Monday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Writing Distractions

I write in the morning.

Well, my goal is to write in the morning.

Actually, I'm usually pretty good.  I've been actively working on a text using the Plot Whisperer Workbook by Martha Alderson and it's been going well.

But for some reason today I was so distracted.  First I saw something on the internet which I needed to "pin" which got me on Pinterest, which is always dangerous.  Then I found a site that featured actresses' weight, which was kinda sickly fascinating to me.  Then I sculpted Mr. Eraserhead (above) out of my art gum eraser.

At which point I thought it was funny and should blog about it.

Happily, after getting all this nonsense out of my system, I did finish my goal writing exercise today.  So, woo-hoo!  Mr. Eraserhead smiles for a reason!

Hope you're being more productive than I.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Illustration Friday: Burst

Burst           2012             j. c. phillipps

Here's another one for Illustration Friday - and, for Open Studio Weekend.  The topic this week was Burst.

I think I struggled a bit last week with the topic of Imagination because it is so wide open.  It could be anything, really.  But Burst is a bit more specific.  I immediately thought of bubbles.  But I usually try to work away from what my first or second thought is.  I don't want to be too obvious, yanno. 

Eventually I got to four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie bursting out of the pie crust. 

If you've been following my work, you know that I love birds.  So bonus!  Then I thought I'd put in the mystified baker to add some color and the simplified human figure makes it a little more suitable for a child's room.

Have a great week!

Friday, September 14, 2012

White Naped Crane: Step-By-Step

 This is a painting I did recently based on a beautiful photograph by Jamie Trainor.  (You can check her out over at  JETeye.  Thanks Jamie!)  You know how I am about birds.  And I love a long crane neck.  I was very excited about this image and I thought I could do a nice watercolor.

Here's what I did.

The first step was to tape down the watercolor paper on a large board.  I drew the crane on the paper and taped in the body so I could do big, dark washes in the background (black, payne's grey, prussian blue, some greens, and a little burnt umber) and not touch the white paper where the crane will be.

When the background dried, I pull the tape off the body and brushed some ochre underpainting on the bird.  (See it on the back of the head, the beak, and in the wing.)  Then I added some greys and started painting in the eye.

As I started to paint in the body, I also darkened the background.  I wanted a STRONG contrast between the white bird and the dark background and although I used a considerable amount of paint when I did the first background wash, it lightened.  It always lightens.  That's one of the tricks of watercolor painting.  It has too look too dark or rather bad when it's wet in order for it to look just right when it's dry. 

I had fun playing up the face and I loved putting the red in.  I painted most of that area wet so I could add some orange and crimson for depth, but it would blend without edges.

Then, step by step, bit by bit, I built up the body.  Edges were OK here so I did it in stages that I let dry fully before doing the next stage.  This made it look more like layers of feathers.  Then I added the black strip along the neck.  I made it kind of choppy and pulled some paint out in whisps to look feathery as well.

Here's a detail of the face.  I'm very pleased with how the eye came out.

When all of this was done, I darkened the background more.

Here's another little tip.  It's helpful to take pictures along the way because the camera can help you find places that need more contrast or deeper colors.  You eye picks up a lot, but the camera simplifies things.

After that, I was satisfied.  You can go back to the top to see the finished painting.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yarn Along: Goodale Cardi

Hi all!

I'm joining Ginny's Yarn Along after a summer absence.  I started this sweater in May, but it was too hot to pick up wool, so I took a knitting break.  But a couple weeks ago I decided to get back to it and finished it up.  Now the temperature has dropped and I can probably wear it soon!  Yea!  Because I love it.  The patter is called Goodale and you can find the details on my Ravelry page here.

I am currently reading a MG book written my a friend and critique partner Natalie Dias Lorenzi.  It's called Flying the Dragon.

It's told in dual POV (Point of View.)  Hiroshi is a boy from Japan who loves flying battle kites with his grandfather.  Skye is Hiroshi's cousin who lives in the U.S. and has never been to Japan.  When Hiroshi and his family move to the U.S. due to Grandfather's illness, it is a culture shock for both children.  Hiroshi is sudden emerged into an American culture and Skye must dig deep within her own Japanese roots to bond with a Grandfather she may not have much time with.

I'm a little bit biased, it's true.  But this is a really beautiful story about people learning about the different parts of themselves, how to give of themselves, and how to work together to be stronger.

And it's awesomely written, too.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Illustration Friday: Imagination

The topic for this week's Illustration Friday is Imagination.  That's pretty wide open, right.  I was even contemplating wussing out and pulling out an old illo that fit the theme.  But the whole point in me doing this is to help generate pieces for Open Studio Weekend so I have to make new stuff.  Right? 


So I started brainstorming ideas.  Sketching.  And I eventually came to the flying fish which are perfect because they are simple shapes and I can have fun with the color.  Also, the repetition of the same creature bonds the piece - rather than a bunch of different creatures which might make the whole thing too dang crazy.

It's simple.  It's sweet.  I think it would go nicely on a child's wall.  I'm pleased.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Abstract Workshop: Cadenza

Candeza          2012           j. c. phillipps

Now that Magoo is back in school I have half my head focused on writing project and the other half focused on art for the Open Studio Weekend in Hartford in November. 

So, more paintings.  More collage.  And I really needed to get back to more abstracts.  Once I lost practice an came back, they really started to fall apart.  I had to earn my abstract mojo back and it took a few tries to get there.

This is Cadenza.  And I like it.

Do you know what's harder than painting an abstract?  Naming an abstract.  It probably is because I have no plan whatsoever when I start.  I have no theme, I'm not going for any kind of representation.  I'm purely responding to my own aesthetic tastes.  And to name something means, I dunno, it is something.  Otherwise you get Abstract #3 as a title and I just hate that.

So I try to find a name that suits it and one that I can remember.  That's it.  That's my whole criteria.

When I see this piece, I think about music.  So I started googling music terms.  When I came to cadenza, I liked the sound of it.  Also, it starts with a "c" and there are all kinds of "c"s in that painting.  And a cadenza can be improvised - which this was.  So good enough.  Cadenza it is!

Now when music people see it at the show they can interpret all kinds of musical meaning in it and ask me about it and I'll say, "Yes, that was exactly what I was going for."  ;)

 Ssssh.  Don't tell.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Illustration Friday: Identical

This is my second entry into Illustration Friday.  (For those of you who don't know, Illustration Friday is a website that give artists a weekly topic to illustrate.  Check it out.)

This week's topic is IDENTICAL.

I tried not to do twins.  I did.  But all my ideas kept coming back to them because identical twins are SO COOL!  Then I thought, well, I can word in literary characters (as I like to do) and do my own Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  At one point these two were standing right next to each other and the Cheshire Cat was in the tree, but Magoo though it would be funny to put them upside down, and I realized that their hair totally worked for that.  Plus, now they look a little more like a playing card - which also would have been cool to do for this theme.