Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Portrait of My Son & Other Goings-On

2015  j. c. phillipps

Hi all!  Sorry I have been lax on the blogging front.  Lots has been going on.

First off, I just finished a portrait of my son who's now 12.  I went back into my watercolor archives to see all the portraits I've done of him.  Many are OK, but there are three that I really like.  This last one qualifies as Top Three.  Right now I have it in the living room so I can stare at it.  So far it's passing the multiple stare test of time.

It's funny how one's perception of a painting can change over time.  There are paintings that I don't like and I tuck them away.  I may discover them a year later and think, "Oh hey - that's actually pretty good."  And there are others that I really like when I'm done and over time I notice things that are uneven or not as vibrant as I wish they were.  But the good ones ... I always like the good ones no matter when I look at them.

So there's that.

In other news:  Bunnies & Blooms has been announced in town and we're starting to spread the word.  What is Bunnies & Blooms? you ask.  Well, it's a "treasure" hunt that the WeHa Artists Emporium is doing on April 11th.  Local artists have contributed bunny and bloom themed art and are hiding the pieces in a secret location, to be revealed on April 11th, and then anyone who wants to go find some bunnies & blooms can!  All free! 

We're trying to have a nice array of finds from kid friendly softies to more adult friendly mixed media pieces.  Here are a few examples:

Some of the 100 clay bunnies by Julie Phillipps

Bloom Bowl by Hannah Dunnack Jackson

Mixed Media Blooms by Stefanie Marco

Bunnie Softies by Julie Phillipps
 If you're in the West Hartford, CT area and you want to take place in the fun, know that it will start at 9am on Saturday April 11th (April 18th is the raindate.)  The trick is: we won't announce the exact location until 9am because we don't want early birds.  We will post the exact location in town on our Facebook Group Page (WeHa Artists Emporium) and on the event page (Bunnies & Blooms.)

The other unrelated thing that has been keeping me pretty busy is Skype Author Visits.  A couple months ago I signed up with Skype in the Classroom for a literacy campaign that was to last from mid-February to April.  They were hoping I'd do 4 - 6 author visits.  I think I did 25.  Actually, the whole campaign went really well, so they're just keeping that happy train rolling.

 On one hand Skype visits are great because I don't have to worry about driving or directions or any of the hassle.  On the other hand if I don't schedule the visits well, I will waste a day having to be at the computer for visits every 45 minutes.  Plus, 30 minute Skype visits are free, so I don't get paid. That's a bummer.  BUT - my books and my name gets out to that many more kids and teachers and schools - YAY - so it all evens out in the end, I think. 

I have learned that it's better to have 3 Skypes in one day than one Skype each on three days.  If I cluster them, I may lose one work day, but then I'll have two others with no interruptions. Plus, I'll have two days where I don't have to worry about how my hair looks.  :)

Well, that's what I've been up to.

Thanks so much for stopping in and paying me a cyber visit!
I hope that Spring has sprung wherever you are!  (We're working on it here.)

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!