Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gyotaku: Fish Printing

Last week I took a class in fish printing, the Japanese term is Gyotaku. Living near the water and having a husband and friends who fish, I have wanted to learn how to do this for a long time. It's really quite simple, all you need are some smelly dead fish from the local fish or grocery store, acrylic paints and rice paper or white practice paper.

We started by rinsing and drying the fish with paper towels and then lying it on newspaper to brush on the paints. Our instructor gave us palettes and our choice of acrylic paints to mix or use pure. We used soft brushes and sponges to paint our fish from head to tail, spreading out the fins and painting them also. I found that if the fish was still wet or applying too much paint would make it run or smear  when I printed the fish onto the paper. Our instructor suggested that we use paint colors that were similar to the fish's natural colors but I chose to think out of the box and my favorite turned out to be the red fish.

After the paint is applied, the paper is put down onto the fish and gently with our hands, we pressed the paper starting at the center and pressing out to the head and tail. We also carefully pressed around all edges in order to print the fins. This has to be done carefully so the paper doesn't slide and quickly so the paint doesn't dry. If I took too long, the paint would stick and tear the paper, especially the rice paper because it is soft and fibrious.

This was just a basic fish printing class but there are other techniques and ways to prepare. Some artists will lay the fish on a soft concave surface and pin the fins open or stuff material under the gills to keep the body from caving in.

Afterwards I painted the eye on each fish with acrylic paint and where I needed more color, I touched up with watercolor paint.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Colored Pencil Cherries

Here is the 12x12" colored pencil drawing that I have been working on. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am working on 12x12" cradled Ampersand Gessobord with a coating of Colourfix liquid primer to hold the layers of pencil. I began by putting down one layer of color in the cherries and then adding solvent (odorless mineral spirits) with a small brush to the pencil to dissolve it and make it start to flow like paint. Into the wet pencil, I added more layers of pencil and then almost a dry brush to dissolve those layers and make them flow. This is how I achieve such rich colors. When the cherries were finished I worked the stems and then the shadows and patterns of the dish below in the same way but careful around the edges of the cherries. I find it's better to use less solvent so it doesn't get runny or to dab the brush on a cloth or paper towel before applying it to the drawing. For the white surface under the plate I used white Prismacolor and white #8052 Stabilo Aquarellable pencil. I like the Stabillo pencil because the lead is soft but not flaky and I can get good white coverage.

To finish this piece, I will spray with Lascaux Fixativ to preserve it. Next I will spray three coats of Krylon Kamar Varnish letting each dry in between.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Colored Pencil Student Magazine

I'm very excited to be featured in the summer edition of Colored Pencil Student magazine. In the article I write about my journey in colored pencil and share tips. To purchase an issue, follow this link to the website:

I am sharing a few pages of the artwork here but in order to read the article, you must purchase the magazine. The magazine is 51 pages and filled with lots of good information and articles such as mastering wood grain, inspirations for subject matter, layering color effectively, colorless blender, and choosing the correct camera. As well as other tips and upcoming magazine art competition.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Underpainting for Cherries

Cherry drawing with colored pencil and mineral spirits
I am working on this 12x12" commissioned drawing for a client who wanted a square format piece of artwork of cherries on a plate. I'm working on cradled Ampersand Gessobord coated with light blue Colourfix primer so the gessoed surface will hold the pencil. I started by transferring a line drawing of my own reference photo onto the surface and next put a light layer of pencil on the cherries and the darkest shadowed areas. I began working the darkest areas with Prismacolor Indanthrone Blue and Tuscan Red in a light layer. Next I added alight layer Crimson Lake, Scarlet Lake, Pale Vermillion and Blush Pink for the lighter areas of the cherries.

Now I am working one cherry at a time, adding odorless mineral spirits with a small, soft flat brush and then more colored pencil over the mineral spirits while it is still wet. When I achieve the density of colors I want, I will move onto the next cherry although when I have completed each one, I will go back and refine areas and colors.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Orchids with Gold

Here is a new colored pencil piece I have been working on between pet portraits. I took this reference photo of an orchid I purchased against a dark wall and was intrigued by the contrast of colors and the drama of the composition. My original photo seemed "top heavy" so I added a few more roots moving in different directions to the bottom of the plant.

The surface I used is Strathmore Art Again paper, Moonstone colored, and the drawing is 12x12". As an experiment, I chose a neutral gray color in which to work, leaving some of the paper showing through on the roots. The blossoms are very delicate and I always enjoy creating shadow and values in white by using various colors instead of gray. I am always fascinated by the unique shapes, lines and colors of orchids and so enjoy drawing them.

When I finished rendering the orchids in colored pencil, I mounted the paper onto a 12x12" Ampersand cradled Claybord securely with Grafix Double Tack Mounting Film so I would work on the background in watercolor pencil and the paper wouldn't buckle. I began with a layer of Derwent Inktense and Caran d'Arche watercolor pencils in various brown colors and then added water with a brush to create an even wash, working carefully around the orchids. However, if I did get some of the watercolor on the waxy pencil drawn areas, I could easily wipe it off.

 When the watercolor was dry, I added Prismacolor Black Raspberry, applied lightly but evenly all over the the background. The brown watercolor underneath and the Black Raspberry were still too warm for a background so I added layers Prismacolor Utramarine and Black Grape over the Black Raspberry but around the flower, leaving the Black Raspberry showing through in areas near the borders for change.

Above is my test sheet. I usually make a test sheet for each piece so I can test colors before I put them on my drawing. At this point, I wanted to add gold to the piece and thought about gold leaf but then thought it might be too solid and detract from the delicate orchids. As an experiment, I picked up some Rub N Buff and tried it on my test paper. I liked how I could apply it unevenly and vary the thickness or thinness of the application so I rubbed it with my fingers into the composition around the orchids, using a masking paper to cover the orchids.

If you're not familiar, Rub N Buff is made of wax and powdered pigment and is used to touch up or restore antiques and frames. I've used it to touch up dents in frames and decided to try it in my drawing. Depending on the light the piece reflects, it will be bright or subtle. I am going to varnish this piece and frame it in a floater.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bandit's Portrait

I just finally finished this little 8x8" pet portrait of my dog, Bandit's face. I had a small piece of this gray flecked paper with a pattern of small lines running vertically which I believe could be Fabriano Ingres. It is a beautifully textured paper to work on and the gray background was perfect for Bandit so I left the paper showing through around him. I then mounted the paper to an 8x8" Ampersand cradled Clayboard and sprayed it with Lascaux Fixativ to preserve it. Next I sprayed three coats of Krylon Kamar Varnish, letting each dry in between. After which, I brushed on at least six coats of Golden UVLS Polymer Varnish so the piece is quite glossy. It is finished in the same manner as the black lab in this previous post.

My dog Bandit has such a great personality, he is very quiet (except when he sees a squirrel or plays with other dogs) and follows me around everywhere. I treat him like a person and he can be very stubborn at times and also spoiled, he is the only child after all. He weighs in at only 10 pounds but thinks he is a big dog in a little dog's body. I bring him to the studio and he will lay on his bed near me while I work. Who could ask for a better best friend? I love him dearly and wanted to capture his personality forever in this drawing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Open Studio and Award

Tomorrow night, Thursday, May 29 from 5-9 p.m. my studio at Bristol Art Museum will be one of the featured open studios for Bristol Warren Art Night, anyone who is local please stop by! The Art Museum also has a wonderful juried member show on exhibit and will have live string music. The other featured open studio artist is painter Jane Dever of Alta Luna Gallery and studio. 

I am really excited to learn that my handmade book Windows of the World received second prize in the sculpture category at the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Annual Member Exhibit being held at the Salmagundi Club in NYC.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Latest Drawing "Rebirth"

I have finally finished this piece in which I titled Rebirth. As I noted in the last posting, this is drawn on a 12x16" grey Ampersand Pastelbord panel. My idea for the drawing came from a nest that I had photographed which had so many twigs and small branches wrapped round and round. I took some time to look at photos of butterflies and choose two, the blue that I changed to make my own "species" and the white which is actually a white plume moth.

I chose to extend some of the twigs of the nest to the borders of the composition and to wrap them around the blue butterfly to keep it from being separated from the rest of the composition. The nest itself is very brown but I added color to the twigs in various shades of purple, pink, orange, yellow and blue. I really enjoyed working on this drawing although it took me quite a while to finish the piece. I will now varnish the piece with Krylon Kamar Varnish (spray) and frame the piece.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Nest and Butterflies

Here is my latest drawing in colored pencil. I am working on 12x16" gray Ampersand Pasteboard with straight colored pencil, no solvent or any other materials. I have a reference photo of this nest which is much less colorful and more intact. I chose to liven up the colors of the twigs and to draw the nest with twigs expanding and reaching to the borders of the surface so that it didn't look so intact. I really had fun with the shape and composition of this nest.

I'm happy with the little white butterfly (can you see it?) but still working on the blue butterfly. I feel as if it is a separate subject which is taking attention away from the nest not supporting the composition. I'm going to let the piece sit on my drawing table while I keep looking at it and thinking.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Looking Through the Window: Layers of Time

I have finally finished this piece that has been on my drawing table for months now.  I started writing about it in a previous blog post last December 2013. The drawing is approximately 20x30" and worked on UArt 800 grit sanded paper. As I mentioned in the previous blog, I started the first layer of color with Caran d'Arche Supracolor and Derwent Intense watercolor pencils over which I added Faber-Castell Polychromos and Prismacolor colored pencils. The watercolor pencils allowed me to achieve an even tone of color, covering the ridges in the paper before I added layers of wax and oil based colored pencil.

I worked from a photograph I took in the medieval town Koszeg, Hungary. I was attracted to the patina like finish on the window frame including the rusty hinges. I was also intrigued by the layers of space showing through the window and the open window behind as well as the cracked window panes and colors and shadows of reflections in the glass. I expanded upon my photo by exaggerating the colors as well as tints and reflections in the glass panes. When I first saw this broken window in Koszeg, I knew immediately it would be a drawing. I titled this piece Layers of Time.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pet Portraits

I've started a small (8x8") pet portrait of my Yorkie, Bandit's, face close up. I'm working on a Fabriano paper in which I love. It has a textured surface with faintly impressed vertical lines that add a nice texture and pattern to the drawing. Unfortunately, I can't recall or find the name of this paper and I'm not sure if Fabriano even makes it any more. Someone gave me a few sheets more than ten years ago and I just happened to have a small sheet left. I always start with the eyes and nose because those are the most important features to capture the pet's likeness and personality.

Here are two finished dog portraits of this black lab, Ike. Sadly, Ike was hit by a car at a very young age and isn't with us any more. His owner misses him very much. But here is a nice story: the coworkers of his owner got together and commissioned me to create these 8x8" portraits of Ike as a remembrance for Ike's owner. I will be curious to find out how Ike's owner likes these two pieces when he receives them.

I worked the two drawings on white Stonehenge drawing paper and Prismacolor pencils, I cut the paper to 8 1/2 x 8 1/2". When the drawings were complete I sprayed them with two coats of Krylon UV Resistant Clear fixative. Then I attached them to two 8x8" Ampersand Cradled Claybord panels with Grafix archival double stick mounting film and then carefully trim the edges with a mat knife. I always create the drawing a little larger than the board I am mounting it to in case it moves a little. Next I spray the entire piece and edges with three coats of Krylon Kamar Varnish to seal it (or any permanent non-yellowing varnish will work). The final step is to brush on Golden UVLS polymer varnish (water based) and thinned three parts varnish to one part water. Brush carefully in order to not get bubbles and keep it consistent. I will layer on three or four more coats of the Golden varnish letting each dry at least an hour or more in between. I also put two coats on the wood edges. Or you can paint the edges.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Colored Pencil Students' Artwork

I'm very proud of my colored pencil students whom have finished and framed their artwork for the Student/Mentor exhibit at Spring Bull Gallery, Newport, RI. Here are the groupings of the different works in done in class and some on their own. Several were done from still life set ups and a few from photographs. The hats were especially fun to draw and so was the paper bag. One artist even combined colored pencil with Zentangle. They've done some wonderful work and I enjoy teaching the classes.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Handmade Accordion Book for Mentors and Students Exhibit

 During the month of March, my colored pencil students and I are part of an exhibit called Mentors and Students at Spring Bull Gallery in Newport, RI. There are also five additional instructors and students exhibiting in this exhibit in mediums including pottery, drawing, watercolor, pastel, encaustic and acrylic/oil. If you are local and have time to see the exhibit, please stop in. The gallery is open every day from noon to 5 p.m. Our opening reception was so well attended there was barely room to move in the galleries! It is exciting for the mentors to be able to share our talents with students and see our students work progress as they learn the different mediums. I am planning to stop in the gallery when it is less crowded so I can take photos of the artwork and post them.

For the Mentors and Students exhibit, I put together an accordion book filled with my small drawings. I worked on these drawings in my classes along with my students to help them see how I would approach the subjects they were working on in terms of form, value and color. In the classes we were experimenting with different surfaces and colored backgrounds.

To create the book, I cut out and glued together small sheets of heavy weight drawing paper to which I glued my small drawings, some individually on each page and some collaged together. Each little page measures 7x7" and the book is folded and tied into a neat little package. Above are photos of the book stretched out in my studio.

Exhibitng Mentors include: Gail Armstrong, Charlene Capazano, Jane Austin, Felicia Touhey, Susan Shaw and me.

Exhibiting Students include: Elisabeth Wagner, Christine Witkos, Maggie Ramey, Sherry Italiano, Suzann Andrews, Jane Berriman, Mary Jennings, Akiko Omori, Laurence Lavagne, Lara Pilla, Susan Wermuth, Lara Pilla, Norma Burnell, Carol Normandin, Adrienne Ranelli, Rayne Baer, Marisol Lagares, Libby Gilpatric, Cheery Hall, Maureen Cunningham, Patty MacLeish, Jan Goldstein, Elizabeth Sullivan, Brenda Langlais, Craig Masten, Marie Fontaine, Nina Ackmann, Sheila Turner, Diane Crane, Madeline Beaudry, Phil McAllister, Deborah Grant, Sharlie Sudduth, Ara Sadanientz, Michael Manni and Jean Patiky.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tye's Dog Portrait Finished

Here is Tye's finished portrait, size 12x12". His owner Matt took the nicest picture of Tye sitting in the snow and looking upward. I worked this piece in Prismacolor pencil on Stonehenge paper. I used a small flat bristle brush to burnish the pencil where I wanted solid areas of the fur with no texture from the paper showing through.

I created the shadows in the snow by using cool blues over warm blues and purples, then another warm blue over the top. Experiment layering warm-cool-warm-cool (or vice versa) to make colors sing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tye's Pet Portrait

While gluing and pressing my book covers for my drawing book, I started on a dog portrait commission. This is Tye and he is very photogenic and has a big personality so it's very easy to capture his personality from a few photos. In this photo, he is sitting in the snow and I particularly like the perspective of looking down at him. I have most of the fur drawn, I will need to go back, refine and punch up colors and values once I have added in the snow and shadows in the snow. This is just a portion of the drawing, it is going to be square 12x12"