Saturday, September 27, 2014

DIY: Maleficent Headpiece

This year for Halloween, Magoo decided he wanted to be the Grim Reader with a store bought costume.  In which case, I figured I could spend my crafty hours making a costume for myself.  Since I already own a black cape and the Angelina Jolie Maleficent came out this summer, I thought I'd be trendy.

I'll admit to being a little apprehensive about it before I started.  Curvy horns can be challenging.  But this actually only took me a few days and I could do all of it while binge watching Project Runway, so it was all good.

If you want to give it a go, here's how I did it.

Masking tape
paper (I used lunch sacks)
gel medium (although you can use good ol' flour and water)
plastic cups and card stock
black paint
black lava texture gels (for shine.  You can use glossy Modge Podge) optional
latex gloves (optional)

I started by taking a measurement of my head and making a little "skull cap" with white masking tape.  (I doubled it up so it wasn't sticking to my head.)  You'll want a good fit so the big horns don't wobble.  Then I inflated a balloon half way and stuck it inside the "skull cap."  I inflated it the rest of the way - so it was my head shape - then tied it off.

I taped it to a small container to keep it upright.

I like a nice ripped up lunch sack for a good paper maché base.  It's important to rip the pieces, as opposed to cutting them with scissors, because when you rip the paper, you get a tapered edge that lies smooth on the other layers.  If you cut the paper, you'll see the edges. 

I also like to use a clear gel medium (intended to thin out acrylic paint) as a paste.   It goes on smooth but it can get a bit gunky on your fingers so I'd recommend latex gloves if you want to clean up quick and easy.

I paper machéd around the balloon in the shape of the headdress - high in the front, low in the back.  Then I checked it over for weak or thin spots and added more paper to those spots.  I'm pretty good about overlapping pieces of paper so I don't do more than one layer, but it's actually two layers of paper because of the overlapping.

I finished and let it dry overnight.  The next day, I popped the balloon and gently pulled it out.  This was a delicate process as the balloon stuck to the paper maché cap and sucked it in a bit as it deflated.  I just gently pulled the balloon out and popped out any dents.  No biggie.

I fit it on my head and marked where my ears sat.  Then I trimmed the cap all around like so.

Then I reenforced the edge by doing another layer of paper mache, folded over the edge.  I let that dry.

(I should probably say that if you don't have a wig head to hold your headpiece, you can blow up another balloon and tape it to a container.  That will work too.)

The trickiest part for me was building the horns.  Getting a nice curve is challenging and making sure the two horns are symmetrical is also a little challenging. 

I stated with plastic cup. (Those are the clear ones.)  I cut them down and angled them, and taped them in place.  Then a did a couple links of card stock that was rounded and curved into a ring.

Here's how I made the paper links.

1. I curved the card stock as if I was making a cone.   I fit the ring on top of the cup and got it to size.  Then I taped it.

2.  I trimmed the front part down like so. (It looks kinda like a pilgrim collar.)

3.  Here's a side view.  You want to have one long side (on the left) and one sort side (on the right.)  This is how I made the curves in the horns.

After I did the two rings of paper maché, I switched to paper dixie cups.  Then I did, like, six more sets of card stock rings.  It's important to fit these on top of the existing horns and then tape and cut and tape and cut until you get the right size, slowly building the height and curves of the horns.  I did both horns at the same time so I could match each piece and each angle and keep the horns even.  (It might take a little time to get used to this.  Just go slow and use your best judgement.)  Also, I only lightly taped these together.   The tape only holds the pieces in place long enough to paper maché.

After I had the horns shaped, I paper machéd them.  When that dried, I painted them black.

Because black hides a lot of flaws, I didn't have to be too careful that the horns were perfect.  If the horns were to be white or a lighter color, I would have had to be far more careful with the construction and smoothness of the paper maché.  Yay black!

I wanted the horns to have some shine to them.  I happened to have a little sample jar of Liquitex Texture Gels Black Lava, which I painted on top of the black.  Basically, I painted glitter on top.  It turned pretty well.  The little beads add a nice texture and they do catch the light.  If you don't want to bother finding that, just coat it with something shimmery, like a acrylic gloss or a glossy Modge Podge.

The end result is a very light headdress that fits like a glove.

The finishing touch is a long strip of black jersey fabric that I wrapped to hide my ears and cover my neck.  I wore this under the head piece, but you could also put the headpiece on first and wrap the fabric around and over top.

Violá!  A DIY Maleficent headdress ready to rock your Halloween!

Thanks so much for stopping in!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pluggin' Along

Sorry there hasn't been much on the blog this week.  I've just been plugging along, working on a couple new pieces.  (Well, one is new, one is just newly dusted off.)

I have four projects out in the world right now:

THE ILLUSTRATED PIECE.  This is a piece that was written by someone else and my agent, Scott Treimel, wanted me to do some illustrations for it.  We are always trying to get me straight illustration work, but it doesn't really take.  This is a really cute story, but it falls somewhere between a picture book and an early reader and editors aren't sure where to put it, so it hasn't sold yet.  Everyone seems to like it though, so it's still making the rounds.

ONE WORD PIECE.  This is one of my own stories where there is only one word in the text.  Obviously, it's more of an illustration showcase.  I have worked on this one SO MUCH.  When there are no words to help the story along, you have to be extremely clear with the illustrations - so clarity of story, character, and motivation where big challenges.

ANTI HERO STORY.  I wrote a story about a naughty character.  This breaks the picture book mold a bit, as there aren't a lot of bad main characters out there.  But I figured the anti-hero is becoming more and more prominent in adult pop culture, so - if done properly - it could work itself into the picture book world too.  Right now, this one is the forerunner of being Book #5.  But there are no deasl yet.  Just longing and hope (on my part.)

TWIN STORY.  This is a story that started out as a picture book, then an editor wanted to see if I could make it into a three-story early reader book.  (I tried really hard, but I couldn't really do it.  It's a lot harder than you might think.)  Now it's a kid graphic novel of sorts that has been specifically designed to be a certain type of book - meaning, I made it look exactly like this one line of books I really like.  The editor is very high-and-mighty and the chances of her picking it up are slim.  She's the only one who has it right now and it's probably sitting somewhere in her slush pile.  We're waiting on that one.  For awhile.  Then I'll rejigger it again, and so on, and so on.

But those are the pieces that are done(ish.)  Nothing is ever done until they start to print it.

The two projects I am currently working on are:

RHYMING PICTURE BOOK.  This is out to the crit group this week.  I dont usually do rhymes, but the tone of the book might run dark, so I thought a peppy little rhyme might help liven it up.

GRAPHIC NOVEL.  This is a longer Babymouse/Lunch Lady style of graphic novel for a middle school aged kid.  Because it's longer, it has taken awhile to get it right.  Now I have a goal of sketching out 4 pages a day to see how long it's coming in at.

That's what I'm up to!
Shana Tova to all my Jewish friends!
Happy Thursday to the rest of you!


Friday, September 19, 2014

DIY: Two-Tone Animal Rocks

Yes, yes, more rocks.  What can I say?  I'm into it.

While trolling around Pinterest I found some groovy rocks with vintage-y animals on them, but the thing that really appealed to me was that the rocks seemed to have been partially dipped in white paint before the animals were put on.  It was cool!  So I stole it!  :)

The key is to balance the white and black with the animal.  For example, the white tail of a bunny is going to work well against the dark tone of the rock.  So paint the only top of the bunny on the white.
If you think these are cool and want to make some yourself, I'm going to run through how I do it. BE WARNED:  this is DIY for someone who can paint an animal.  I don't do a step-by-step on how to paint a fox, so if you think you can't handle it, maybe go to Pinterest and find something more your speed.  

A rock (You can buy river rocks at Michael's)
A computer and printer
paints (I used liquid acrylics)
thin black pen
clear nail polish

Step One.  Figure out what animal you want to do.  I went online and found some vintage clip art illustrations of animals and I picked the ones I liked.  I measured my rock - wich is about 2.25 inches wide, and made a tiny print of a fox.  (TO be more specific: I copied the image off the interest and pasted it into Photoshop.  Then I resized it to 2" wide.)

Then I painted half my rock white with white acrylic.  I needed several coats.

Step Two:  Flip your copy over and coat the back with pencil.  You're making old fashioned carbon paper, basically.

Step Three:  Flip it back over and place it on your rock.  Using a pencil, outline the animal directly on your copy (draw details like eye placement) onto the rock.  The pencil on the back will transfer off onto the rock - even the dark part of the rock.

Then go ahead and do a white coat of paint within your animal drawing on the dark part of the rock.

Step Four:  Paint your animal.  Again, I used liquid acrylic paints.  Make sure that you have dark parts against the white background and lighter parts against the dark.  (You can cheat a bit and make darker paws in back and lighter paws in front.  Use your judgement.)

Step Five:  When the paint is dry, take a small black pen and make slight details: eyes, little hairs, things like that.

Step Six:  When everything is dry, apply a clear coat of something varnish-like.  (I use clear nail polish.) Let that dry and you're all set!  Yay!  Enjoy your awesome painted rock!

Here's a close up of the toad...

 ...and of the sheep and rabbit, pre-varnish.

Have fun and have a great weekend!
Thanks for stopping in!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tiny Town Tutorial

In addition to painting rocks for the possibly-upcoming-WeHa Artists Emporium - treasure-hunt-thing, I also made some tiny towns.

I made the little houses and trees out of polymer clay and hot glued them to rocks.  I think they are so cute!  So far, they are my favorite! 

Want to make your own Tiny Town?  Here's a wee tutorial.

You're going to need:
Polymer Clay
something to slice
something to make indentions
white acrylic paint
black acrylic paint
glue (I used my hot glue gun)
glaze or clear nail polish

Step 1: Pinch off a grape-sized chunk of clay.  The color isn't super important, but go with something house-like.  No neon green. 

Warm it up in your hand.  Then work it into a tall cube shape.  It doesn't have to be perfect.

Step 2: Texture looks good on these houses, so find something around the house that has a bit of pattern.   I used a little piece of screen.  Lightly press your clay into the texture piece, front and back, but don't worry about the sides.

Step 3:  I used a thin flathead screwdriver (like crazy-small) to make indentions for a door and a couple of windows.  This will smush your cube out of shape a bit - don't worry.

Step 4:  I have a clay slicer.  It's a little piece of plastic/metal (I don't know) that is very thin and slices through clay cleanly.  Maybe you use a knife or a credit card or a thin spatula - whatever.  You want to slice off the bottom, the sides, and angle the roof.  This will give your tiny house nice, clean edges. 

Now you're ready to bake.  Follow directions on your clay packaging, but baking for 15 minutes at 230 F is pretty standard.

Here are my tiny houses and tiny trees ready to go into the oven.

Step 5:  Bake and cool.

Step 6: Paint.  I did a light white-wash to all my tiny houses to give them a uniform feel.  I used a light coat and I wiped off heavy parts.  I wanted them to look a bit cottage-y, a bit weathered.  Also, if you do press some texture into the clay and you lightly paint over the top, the deeper part of the texture will remain unpainted.  It looks nice.  I painted most of my roofs black (although I painted a couple grey and a couple red.) Use a THIN brush and paint the windows and doors black.

Allow to dry.

Step 7:  Glue your tiny houses and trees to your rock.  Find a flat rock so your houses are all wonky.  Or, if you have a bumpy rock, shape still-soft clay houses to fit on the bottom.  When you're ready to glue, use a permanent glue like hot glue or Gorilla Glue.  Dry.

Step 8:  Finish.  I cover my tiny towns and rocks with either a semi-gloss coating for polymer clay or clear nail polish.  You just want something to give it a little shine and bit more stability.  I paint this liquid over the entire top half of the rock.  Let dry.

Enjoy your Tiny Town!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rocks, Rocks, Find the Rocks

I recently joined/helped form a group called the WeHa (West Hartford) Artists' Emporium.  It is the brainchild of my friend Stefanie Marco Lanz, who is a very talented artist, go-getter, and people person.  She knows so many artists living and working in West Hartford and thought it might be nice if we joined together as a group to promote our work.

Stefanie is FULL of great ideas on how to do this, starting with a Facebook Page where we can put our art for sale up - an online gallery.  We're also going to be marching in the Park Road Parade on October 18th. 

I had an idea to place painted and/or artistically enhanced rocks throughout West Hartford as a sort of freebie treasure hunt.  (I got the idea from a glass blower who places glass balls around Block Island for people to find.)

I don't know if it will take off, but I was inspired this weekend, so I painted a bunch of rocks for fun.  (All ideas were snatched off Pinterest.)

The first one I painted was a lizard (which is shown from above in the top, group shot, which is not the angle it should be shown from, but oh well.)  It came out OK.  The bird's nest was one of the latter rocks that I painted and I think it shows that I picked up a lot of tricks as I went on.

The frog was also one of the last ones I did.  I got better about picking a good size rock for the image I was painting and learning about the style that works best for me.

I copied the big owl directly off of Pinterest, but I did the small owl by myself.  I actually prefer the smaller one and if I were to keep painting owl rocks, I would just look at photos of real owls from this point on.  That said, I did a third owl that was a HOT MESS, so, yanno, sometimes they just don't work out.

I had a lot of fun painting these rocks and I even did a few more (see tomorrow's post.) I hope the WeHa Artists' Emporium is able to do this little treasure hunt.  I think it would be really fun for someone walking through town to discover a little unexpected treasure, don't you?

Thanks so much for stopping in!  Wishing you all a happy Monday!

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Haircut

Usually, I keep my hair long.  I always have and I probably always will.  But every one in while, I like to shake things up a bit and chop it off.

I think it's good for my hair.  When it's long, I wrap it up and braid it and tie it back.  But when it's in a shorter bob, I can let it hang loose.

And it's nice to have a bob in autumn where I can wear a kicky autumn hat.  (Kicky hat not pictured.)

Magoo is not crazy about it.  He likes my hair long.  (I'm sure the day will come when I don't like his hair either.)  For right now, I like my little bob.

Happy Friday everyone.  Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Black Cat, Blue Wall

Black Cat, Blue Wall        2014       j. c. phillipps
I spent the morning working on another painting for Open Studio Weekend in November.  (November 15 & 16th for those of you in the are who might want to come.)  I had extra wall space last year, so I want to make sure to have a good number of new stuff up this year.  I'm kinda on a roll so I'm going to go with it.

I thought it might be fun to take a little Vine video of how the painting progressed.

I just cleaned all the crud off my mat cutter, so I was able to get this baby framed up in no time.
Another one for the inventory!  Yay!

In other news:
We made it through the horrible heat and humidity.  It's gorgeous outside now, beautiful, crisp early autumn day.

I saw the movie FRANK this weekend.  If you love quirky movies, experimental music, and are a fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal (who's in many quirky movies) then this is the movie for you.  I saw it at Real Art Ways in Hartford (which I am embarrassed to say that after living in West Hartford for 12 years, this is the first time I have ever been there.  It's so cool!)  I don't know how long it will be there (the movie, not Real Art Ways), but I definitely recommend seeing it if you get the chance.

Alright, time to go work on a story.  I think I'll dive into this little rhyming story about a cat who dies.  I don't know if it will ever get to the point where I will show it to my agent, but I think it's funny.  (Cats have nine lives, so don't be too worried for the feline.)

Happy Monday!  Thanks for stopping in!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Seagull in an Ochre Sky

Seagull in an Ochre Sky     2014       j. c. phillipps
Since school has started back and I have a little more time on my hands, I have to start thinking about Open Studio Weekend.  I didn't sell a lot off the wall last year, so I have a good bit of inventory that is already matted and framed.  But I don't want to put the same old paintings up either.  A lot of the folks who come through are Open Studio regulars and they don't want to see the same paintings year after year.  Gotta swap them out!

So this year when I have a painting in mind, I go down to the basement and look at my framed work and choose a mat/frame first.  Then I paint to size.

When my painting is done, like Seagull in an Ochre Sky, I just rip out the old painting, pop in the new one, and it's the easiest frame job ever!

The old painting goes in plastic on the rack, where it will be just a little bit cheaper than last year.  And where, quite frankly, most things sold from last year.

That rack is like the Filenne's Basement of original art.  Same great quality, low low prices.  :)

In other news:
The humidity is gone.  It is SO MUCH NICER today and I'm jut a happier person in general!  It's not gone forever though.  It'll be back by Saturday.  So I'm just going to enjoy the cool breeze as much as I can until then.

Hope the breeze is blowing on you wherever you are!
Thanks for stopping in!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Clip Art Update

Hi everyone.

I don't know about you, but it's hot and humid here in Connecticut.  Awful.  Blek - blek - blek. 
I could go on and on about how much I dislike this weather, but instead I'll show you some recent clip art.

I didn't do much for the summer.  I fell out of the habit of thinking about it.  But then someone requested a Japanese Family for some worksheets they were doing so I got back into it. 

Once I got my clip art groove on, I thought it would be fun to do a little freebie.  Something different.  Something a little kooky.  I ended up with Back-to-School Zombies.

Once teacher based a lesson plan on them and requested a fuller pack of zombies.  I enjoy zombies, so I complied.  So there's a free basic starter zombie collection, and then a more enhanced School Zombies collection.  You'll note that the zombies are low on gore.  No blood.  No exposed bone.  Just off-color skin, dead eyes, and dirty clothing.  They're zombie-lite.

The final set of clip art started off as illustrations for a cute manuscript my agent passed along.  Cars are not my usual thing, but I thought the little guys I created were pretty darn cute.  My agent didn't love them for the project, so I figured I'd turn them into Silly Cars Clip Art.  Why waste them?!

All of my clip art is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Wish me luck getting through the next horribly humid day.  Blek!  Thanks for stopping in!