Thursday, September 30, 2010

Step 3 and other stuff

TILE UPDATE:  MY TWO BENCHES AND TABLE ARE DONE!!!....well, except for the bull noses and name plates.  We also have 670 of the sculpture pedestal tiles made, with only 1100 left to make.  And fire.  And glaze.  And box.    Sigh.....
back to watercolor.

So, here's the original photo again.  One of the hardest concepts, I think, in watercolor is to paint from light to dark.  In other mediums like oil and acrylic you paint from dark to light.  The reason behind it makes total sense if you think about it, though.  In watercolor a card laid is a card played.  You can't take a color back out once it's on the paper.  You can't cover it over with another color.  It just gets darker.  So you have to plan to build one light layer over another, until you finally get to the definitive darks.  Light to dark, the new mantra!

In this next step I've added some of the pistils and stamens in the flower.  I'll want to paint freely over them, so once they dried, I used masking fluid to fix the color.  Again, I can go back later and make them darker, but I can't get them lighter once they get too dark.  I've also deepened some of my yellows, and started adding a layer of light peach.  Peach is a tough color to mix.  Here I've used a Naples Yellow and Alizarin Crimson combination. The Naples Yellow is a creamy sort of color that combines to give peach instead of orange. 

More peach, and now bringing in some orange highlights that will make my red really pop later on.  The prescribed method is to paint all one color, again, light to dark, and then layer over it in successively darker shades.  I like to paint separate petals, and then use some overlaps to tie things together.  I like each petal to stand out.  Starting to look like a flower, huh?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Step 2

OK, now where were we?  Well, the next thing I decided to do was fill in the background.  Normally I do this at the end with the larger flowers, because it also helps clean up the edge.  But this is such a huge flower, and there is so little background, that I approached it a little differently.  Placing the background also helps me get a sense of the rhythm of the petals.  Sounds silly, but there you are.

Next I put in my "lightest lights.  Don't give me any grief on this one.  I tried three times to turn it upright.  Got it turned, got it saved, looked at it and it was still sideways.  What can I say, I'm an artist, not a computer genius.  So, anywho, My lightest lights are a rich yellow, which I think, looking at it in retrospect, I will try to deepen at the base.  I try to use my largest brush here, that's why I left it in the picture to remind me to say that.  Using a large brush keeps the painting loose.  There's plenty of time later on to use a smaller brush for fine details. 

And Vegas was fun.  Didn't do much gambling, but saw one good show, and one great show.  Cher was OK.  Lots of costume changes, little snippets of her songs.  Jersey Boys was great!  I highly recommend it.  Great staging, good pace, costuming, humor, and lots of fun, upbeat music.  I really liked it. 

Here's a picture of us at a place called Serendipity.  They are famous for their "frozen hot chocolate".  It was chocolate and cold, and therefore good.  That's my sister-in-law, my niece, and my baby sister and me. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things I've learned: watercolor

Remember last week, when I had decided I'd better get off my duff and start on my Christmas card painting?  Well, this is the photo of last year's amaryllis that I'm going to base my watercolor painting on.  I don't know if you're familiar with how a watercolor is made, but I thought it would be fun to actually chronicle the steps.  It may be interesting for some, and deadly dull for others.  If you're of the latter variety, feel free to ignore this blog for a couple of rounds, and catch ya later. 
First I make a grid and lay out the initial drawing.  I used to draw everything freehand, but it took three times as long, and sometimes still ended up being not quite right. 
Another thing I used to do was draw directly on the watercolor paper.  By making the grid drawing first, I avoid doing a lot of erasing on the watercolor paper, which can destroy the "tooth" of the paper, and make the paint do things that will NOT make you happy. After the drawing is done I go over the major lines with a thin sharpie. 

Next I put the initial drawing down on my handy dandy light table, and put the watercolor paper over it.  And voila, I can see the lines, and draw them in with a 2H pencil. I usually have to turn the light off a couple of times to check that all the lines get done.  I don't like to use a pencil that's too dark, so it won't show so much through the paint.

 Here you can see the drawing actually showing through the watercolor paper.  I just love my light table.  I never had one before so I was always taping things to windows to do that particular process.

After the drawing is finished I tape the paper to my board with masking tape.  I tried painter's tape for awhile, but I use 300 lb. paper which is pretty thick, and when it's wet the painter's tape won't hold it. 
See the yellow marks on the paper? The next thing I do is put masking fluid where I want to make sure it stays white.
Now I'm ready to paint.

Leaving Saturday morning to meet my sisters in Vegas for a little down time, involving NO TILE.  Catch you guys next week.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What a difference a day makes...

Hi kids.  I got right to work yesterday cleaning everything up.  It looks a whole lot better than Monday, huh?  Now I can actually get to work and start painting that Christmas card amaryllis.  Oh, and by the way, the close up won in the votes.  It was a pretty easy decision, since I only had two votes, and they voted the same!
Here is a picture of the filing cabinet my husband bought that started the whole clean-up process.  I haven't totally filled it yet, but I'm going slow, and thinking about the best use of the space.  It's pretty great though.  Thanks, sweetie. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

What a mess!!!

So, my sweet husband bought me a huge 4 drawer lateral filing cabinet.  This sucker is 36 inches wide.  Problem is that I had to rearrange my entire studio to have room to get it in.  So I spent all yesterday afternoon, moving stuff over and across the room.  Our son is coming over tonight after work to help us move it into the room.  That thing is really heavy!

All artwork is on hold until this mess gets sorted, re-stored and put away.  Sigh. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Running out of time

In the summer or fall every year I do a new artwork for my Christmas card.  And I just realized it's almost the end of September and I haven't even started!

Actually I do know what I want to do, and I even have the photos from last Christmas for reference.  So I guess I'd better get started, huh? 

I'm going to do a watercolor of one of my favorite flowers, an iconic symbol of the holidays to me, the amaryllis.  I'll try to chronicle my steps, so you can see how I progress through it. 

Which picture do you like:  left or right? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two down... one to go

OK, so this isn't the best photo in the world, but I set this out on my studio floor on Monday to measure and see if it was going to be:  1.  wide enough 2.  tall enough.  Yes, on both questions.

The tiles are all made, the last load goes in the gas kiln this week,  and now I'm starting to box it up.

We haven't started the bull nose tiles for the edges, but that should go very quickly, since we need around 100, maybe, not 7000. 

I'm really happy about how this combination of colors turned out, and especially excited to see some of our finished benches. 

Now the big push is on to press out the tiles for the sculpture stands.  The boys figured out Monday that we need about 1700.  So we'll probably make about 1900, I imagine, just to make sure we have enough. 

Press on!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tile crazy

Some days I think we're all just going nuts.  Of course I'm being silly here, it's actually going fairly well.  Most of the bench and table tiles are in the finishing stages.  We've started making the tiles for the sculpture stands.  We'll be moving ahead full bore with that starting today. 
The benches are being poured as we speak in downtown Chandler.  Al and Ted have been out to measure a few.  They're a little off from our calculations, so we're brainstorming on how to compensate for that. 
Also figuring out how to do my Cityscape since the decision has been made NOT to put it on mesh.  So what I did was put a piece of paper under my layout, and make a drawing of each piece, then number it.  Then I put the corresponding number on the back of the tiles, with an arrow pointing the direction of how the tile was to be laid.  That should work, right?

Friday, September 10, 2010

One Down.....

Last night I started getting my first completed bench ready for installation.  Since this one, Cityscape 2010, is going to be composed on mesh before installation, I had to figure out my composition. 
Now that it's all laid out, I will go back and draw lines around each shape, number the spaces, then number the back of the tiles, box them, then take them down to Vision Gallery, along with the little placement map I'm making.
The folks at Vision are going to help me glue these on to the mesh, and then it will stay at Vision until the bench has been poured and capped.  Then the installation process begins. 
This is just the one side.  The other side and two end caps are the blue tiles that you see on the edge.  240 of them. 
One down, two to go. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How many changes can you find?

OK, here's the original, again.  My thinking now is that I was far too ambitious with this project.  Have you ever made these mistakes:
1.  I didn't take enough time with the human form, so it looks stilted, not natural.
2.  My color combinations were not well thought out.  Sometimes intuitive is NOT a good idea.
3.  My perspective was off, and again, it made the painting end up stilted.
4.  I painted the shirt intuitively, instead of using some form of model.  Again, NOT a good idea. 

But it was a good lesson for me, and since it's in my guest room, I get to look at the lesson every time I walk by it.  Sometimes you have success, sometimes you learn good lessons.

Here's the changed painting.  I don't know if I improved it any.  I know I'm still unhappy with it.  How many changes can you find?  Besides the big ones, I mean.....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Steve and the Tile Press

A few postings ago I had wanted to show a picture of Steve at the Tile Press and then tell the story about it.  Well I still can't get that cool picture to work, so Sandy A. graciously sent me one she had.  Everybody all cozy and comfy?  Ok, here's how it went.  Al took us all over to meet a potter friend of his in Phoenix.  You can check out his website at  He had made his own tile press and was willing to show us how he had done it.  Additionally we got to see his studio, salesroom, and kiln area.  He also talked to us about making tile.  And we were more than willing to learn, knowing NOTHING!

While he was walking us around he pointed out an old compression ram press, telling us he had never had any luck with it.... it was irretrievably broken.  He asked us if we wanted it, with all the stuff.  It would help him to clean up his studio area and give him more work space.  Duh!  Of course we did. 

So we took it with us and Steve took on the project of getting it to work.  He proceeded to clean it up, find the parts needed, and fix the press.  Then he schooled himself on how to make the molds, not an easy process, I can tell you.  Then he taught us how to make our molds, and we went to work. 

It's only broken down once, and he got that fixed too.  I think I can honestly say for all of us, with the scope of the project that we have had, we couldn't possibly have done this without Steve. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I made this painting a few years ago for a wall over the bed in my guest room.  The colors are in question, and there's just something about it that I've never been happy with.

It's very hard for me to step back and see what it is about a work that needs to be fixed.  Looking at it in the mirror sometimes helps, and taking a picture of it sometimes helps.

Here's what I think needs fixing:  First, the tiles are at the wrong angle, so they just seem to sit there on top of the painting, instead of being in it.  The girl's blouse looks twisted at a wrong angle instead of a correct one.  The bottom part of the wall in the corner is not straight, and maybe it needs to be another color so it doesn't fight with her skirt.  And I'm thinking now, looking at it again, that the jar needs to be lighter in color:  the question is, what color? 

If you have any ideas, I would truly welcome the help.  I like the premise of this painting, so I want to keep it, but I want to look at it without pain, so I need to fix it. 

You can be brutal, I can take it.....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My flowers

My son and his wife came up to visit this last weekend with their whirlwind toddler.  The only time little one sits still is if someone will read with him. This is my daughter-in-law reading to a cooling down baby.   He likes to turn the pages, and will contribute missing words in a pause, if he's read the book enough times.  His new favorite is the Tails book my daughter gave him.  It was her sons' book when they were little.  He likes the last page that shows the huge whale's tail the best. 

Going to the studio today to do, guess what..... glaze tiles!!!!

These are the flowers that make up the inside border for the oribe.  I used an orange Amoco underglaze with a clear zinc free glaze over it, then dipped the edges in the oribe.   It's interesting how the flash in the glaze firing darkened the edges.  I think it's a good look for the tile.  What do you think?