Wednesday, December 31, 2008

my journey to a painting...

It's time to start a new piece. I thought it might be fun to detail the various steps that make up my journey towards a finished work. So here we go...

First I need inspiration for a subject. A few months ago, I was rereading an old art magazine. I came across an image of an oil painting a woman had done. The subject was swiss chard. I was struck by the colours she used in the chard as well as the lighting in the piece. Suddenly I was inspired!

Next came the search for some chard. I wasn't looking for just any chard, I wanted Rhubarb chard as it has red stalks. I finally found a specialty supermarket that carried a a wonderful variety of veggies. I found the variety I wanted but I was disappointed to see that much of the lovely stalks were trimmed off. Nevertheless, I left with a few bags of still life material and/or a vegetable for supper.

After trying to get the oodles of chard home without any tearing or crushing taking place, I now had to set up a place for my photo shoot. The lighting was getting just right on the back deck. I set up a portable table (one that I use at art shows). I needed a white background so I used a sheet of mat board. The mat board was one of several sheets that I purchased for a ridiculously inexpensive price a few years ago. Little did I know that it was on sale because it was flawed. Each sheet had dirty flecks imbedded in the surface fibers. Obviously something had gone wrong during manufacturing. The mat board wasn't suitable for framing paintings but I have found some wonderful uses for it. Here is a picture of my setup.

The next photo gives you a sense of the lighting. You might also notice my husband's hockey equipment getting aired out.

Once things were set up, I had to work fairly fast. My lighting was quickly changing as the sun was moving behind trees and the warm sun was actually wilting the chard. I wasn't sure what exactly I was looking for. Initially I wanted to feature the long stalks. Notice my bit of tape in the next photo? I was trying to piece stalk bits together to create what I was after. Photo shoots aren't as glamour as one might think! :-)

I took lots of photo from different angles. These are just a couple of examples. I am sure you get the idea.

I was busy on other projects so I left the photos on the camera for use at a later date and I cooked up my still life material for supper.

Fast forward to the end of December. I am now ready to revisit these photos. I have just started editing them and the image at the beginning of this post gives you an idea of where I am currently heading. I shall keep you informed of my progress...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From My Family To Yours, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a holiday filled with love, joy, laughter and peace. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Coloured Pencil Newsletter ready to read...

The December issue of my Coloured Pencil Newsletter is now ready to read. If you are new to my blog, please know that each month I publish a newsletter for coloured pencil enthusiasts. To check it out, click here.

If you would like to become a Newsletter Group Member just contact me. Membership is free!

Comments and feedback on the newsletters are welcome.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some Christmas Chuckles and an Owl

I'll start with the owl - but don't worry the chuckles are coming...

This beautiful Barred Owl was sitting outside my studio this morning. Once I noticed him, I ran for the binoculars while my husband dashed for the camera. The cedar trees outside my studio windows were getting in the way so we went outside to have a look. Here are a couple of the photos.

The owl finally got tired of us staring at him and he flew to a tree in our backyard. Most of our birdfeeders are in the backyard and seeing as these owls eat birds and rodents I am sure it was looking for a meal. We have lots of red and black squirrels and of course there are small birds too. We dashed back up to the studio as now we could see him better from there. The next photo was taken from a studio window. It is a nice shot of his back view, showing his beautiful feather pattern. I have been fortunate to see many owls but I don't usually have a camera handy. It wasn't long before several blue jays swarmed him. He finally flew off, probably to get some peace and quiet.

Okay, now for your Christmas chuckles...Are you feeling a tad stressed out and overwhelmed these days? If so, head on over to You Tube and listen to Frank Kelly's 'Christmas Countdown'. It only takes five minutes and it will be worth it. Frank tells the story of the experiences of a fellow who receives gifts during the twelve days of Christmas. Here is the link. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hay bales, coloured pencil and ink

Hay Bales, 10" x 4.5"
Coloured Pencil and Ink on Stonehenge
Copyright Teresa Mallen

First, let me say that this looks much better in real life! Taking pictures with late afternoon winter light just doesn't work well. The paper is white not blue! Goodness, it sure looks goofy in this photo. Of course you can't see all the lovely subtle colours either. Oh well, use your imagination - hopefully you get the idea. Adding colour to the ink drawing was a bit like the debate that goes on about whether or not black and white movies should be colourized. Part of me wanted to leave it alone and part of me wanted to go ahead and add the colour. Obviously the colour side won. The good news is that pen and ink is quite a fast way to work so I can always do another ink one if I wish.

I stumbled onto a blog today that I would like to share with you. I saw a comment that Maureen Mitchell made on Steven Chipman's blog. I followed it to her blog. Maureen is a new blogger and I think she is off to a great start. She has a beautiful collograph posted and I especially liked her December 7th post featuring her work entitled "Connundrum", Coloured Pencil with Brulage. Maureen does a great job describing how she created the piece (brulage is a burning technique). Imagine being inspired by the burning Bonanza map! How cool is that? Have you ever wanted to burn some of your cp work?! :-) Click here to hop on over to her blog. From here you can visit her Etsy shop. She has some lovely block prints for sale. Maureen's 'Long Journey Home' was juried into the CPSA exhibition this year. She has it for sale and you can see it at her shop.

Up next in the studio will be a coloured pencil piece of red chard. Hay bales to Swiss chard...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Coloured Pencil and Ink WIP

Hay Bales, Work In Progress
Ink on Stonehenge

I love line and as a result I love drawings done in pen and ink. I haven't done much pen and ink work lately so I thought it was time to do a little something. This is how the drawing looks now. The next step will be to add some colour with my coloured pencils. I wanted this piece to be pared down and simple so I am not including other elements such as trees, etc.

I love the look of gathered up hay - stooked hay, square bales, or round bales. I love them all. Probably the most time consuming part of this piece was working out the composition of the hay bales in various sketches. Which way to turn the bales and where should the light source be? And oh yippee, drawing ellipses! Here is a picture of some of my sketches.

I have used technical pens (Staedtler brand) to create the ink drawing. While I like working with fountain pens and quills, I find it easier to work with technical pens. You just don't get the surprises you get when working with a quill pen and an ink bottle! Quill tips do allow you to change your line width in a single stroke but this requires practice to get consistent results (and I am out of practice) and in this small piece such an effect isn't what I wanted.

If you love pen and ink work, I highly recommend the classic book entitled Rendering In Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill. The original version was published in 1930 and later reissued in 1976 and 1997. This book is the ultimate resource for someone looking to learn pen and ink techniques. I have spent many many hours pouring over the 300 pictures and practicing what is taught. Arthur L. Guptill was an artist, architectural renderer, architect, teacher and writer. If you love architectural renderings then this book is for you. There is lots of other stuff too. I especially like the section on rendering trees in pen and ink. The picture of Thomas Fogarty's pen and ink trees on page 132 is one of my favourites in the book.

In anticipation of this wee pen and ink hay bales piece, I snapped some photos of hay bales in a near by field. I put them on my computer so I could look at them for inspiration and information while I drew. Here are a few of the photos that I used.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Colourd Pencil Portrait Update

Melissa's Portrait
Coloured Pencil on Stonehenge, 8" x 10"
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is how my portrait of Melissa looks needs some tweaking (I just noticed that her top needs to be continued over to the edge, lower left corner and I think from looking at it here that I need to tweak the mouth a wee bit). Melissa is my niece and as I have mentioned, she patiently posed for photos for me to use in my portrait course. Melissa is a talented artist who was fortunate to have good art instruction in classes at her high school. I think she will understand why her goofy Aunt made her face purple and her hair striped. It's all about artistic expression, right?! :-) Melissa is now at Ottawa University enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce program. At this time of year she is busy writing exams. Remember those days? Ugh.

So what have I been up to these past weeks? Well, to start with, my husband and I took some vacation days at the end of November. I was getting over a cold and it was nice to rest, relax, eat out and hike my favourite trails. Then my immune system took a holiday and I got a nasty flu bug. Yuck. Add to that a trip out of town to deal with more financial stuff regarding my Father's estate and of course all of the things that go with Christmas quickly approaching.

Along with finishing Melissa's portrait, I have been a bit creative outside the studio. Every year, in late fall, I start looking around during my forest walks for fallen pine limbs. This year was no exception. I search for pine branches in order to make Christmas decorations. A large limb fell off of our old willow tree so I was able to gather lots of willow branches to include in the arrangements as well. So even though I had the flu, I dragged pine boughs and willows twigs home and made up some swags and such for display.

Here is a picture of a pine and willow swag that I made for our barn door. This barn is actually the original homestead house. We have been told that a father and mother raised a family of eight children in this building! It makes my 700 square foot studio seem opulent and most indulgent. The previous owners restored this building and used it as a barn for their horses.

I am not sure if you can see the pine swag on the front of the barn. The picture is rather dark. I won't bore you with the pine arrangements on the gate posts. You get the idea.

Even though I was still dealing with the flu, my next bright idea was to set a cabinet out on the veranda so I could sand and wash it. Never mind that it was -15 degrees C and very windy. I was a woman with a mission. Like most of you, my husband and I will be having friends and neighbours over this holiday season and I wanted to give this cabinet a makeover before we started decorating.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that my Dad died at the end of the summer. My sister and I have been scrambling to get the valuables out of the house so we could close it up for the winter. While this cabinet isn't exactly valuable, I couldn't resist it.

My Father used this cabinet to store various tools in. The picture shows the state it was in when he used it. At some point someone must have decided that they needed more storage. Using remnant boards from other furniture (there are latches and hooks still intact from when this wood was serving other purposes) someone put together this cabinet. Somewhere along the line someone stripped off the old paint.

I found it amusing that at some point someone decided they wanted a taller cabinet. From the next picture, you can see that originally the cabinet was several inches shorter and it was on rollers. No problem, just fashion some legs from some white painted lumber and presto, you have a taller cabinet!

I guess when the paint was removed, they also removed the drawer pulls and the door knob. My Dad never did put replacements ones on.

So after some sanding, three coats of paint and less than $10.00 in hardware, here is how the cabinet looks now...(the colour looks rather white in the photo but it really is more of a cream/taupe colour). And it got done before we decorated. :-) Whew!!

If you have hung in with the post this long, can we talk shopping? Do you have people that you are buying gifts for this holiday season? May I make a few suggestions?

First of all, please shop locally. As well, support the artists living in your community. Look to your local artists for pottery, jewelry, hand crafted wooden items, note cards, prints and originals, woven shawls - anything and everything.

Do people find you hard to shop for? Why not stock up on some art supplies? They can wrap them up and give them to you. Some new coloured pencils are not expensive and they fit perfectly in a stocking (okay, not the large tin sets - they can go under the tree.)

Finally, please consider using your gift giving to make a difference in the world. In a world obsessed with consumerism and with our homes stuffed with stuff, the perfect solution is to buy items for those in need and let that be a gift for someone. For example, I shop the World Vision catalogue. I buy warm winter clothing for kids who have none and this is my present to my sister and her husband. For my mother-in-law, each year we stock a medical clinic in a developing country. She gives the same gift on behalf of her son and I. This year I asked my husband to give me the gift of helping kids forced into prostitution. Approximately 2 million children each year are sold, trafficked and abused in the global sex trade. My husband's donation on my behalf will help fund trauma centers where the kids find shelter, medical help, counselling and vocational training. I am giving my husband the gift of a wood conserving stove. Families use these stoves to sanitize their water, cook food and warm their homes.

These are just a few of the gifts you can choose from. You can select lots of wonderful things, like educating a girl in need. You can provide fruit trees and animals for farming or you can help a family start a business. There are so many fantastic ideas - you really need to see their catalogue for all the details. The best part is that this can all be done on-line. No driving on busy highways in bad weather, no dealing with crowds at malls with no parking spaces. Another idea is to pool your money together with co-workers, friends, the folks in your book club etc. to make these purchases. Visit this link here, to get inspired.

Most organizations have on-line gifts. For example you can symbolically adopt a wild animal for a loved one at the World Wildlife Fund website. To support those in need in your community, check out your local homeless shelters. We support the Ottawa Mission and at this time of year they require gifts of warm wool socks, boots, gloves, long underwear and so on. If you live in Ottawa and you would like to know what sort of items they would appreciate, click here. What organizations reflect your values and your view of a better world? Why not check them out on-line?

While on the topic of gifts, now would be a good time to thank all of you who purchased kits for gifts for loved ones (and for yourselves). If you haven't yet got your order in, there is still time for shipping but it is getting close. So if you are interested visit here now. May everyone have a wonderful time colouring over the holidays!

Finally, if you are wondering where the December Newsletter is, well oops there isn't one yet. Maybe next week? Next up on the drafting table is a cp and pen and ink piece. I am looking forward to getting back to some pen and ink stuff. I think I will need to do some practising!