Wednesday, August 21, 2019

New one

   Today, I sat through the beginning of the semester meetings. It was not a joy. I suppose public education is suffering everywhere from lack of funds. So even though I'm excited about getting the litho shop set up and sharing what I learned this summer, spending the day hearing from administrators about the state of the university sent me straight to my marimba first and my easel second when I got home. They were both sweet relief.
     After obsessing about strict perspective rules for so long, in this new one I'm easing up a bit and letting my eyeballs do more of the work, rather than my brain. I can tell I'm going to fuss with these lines a few more times before I start adding layers of paint. 
     Even though there is a tornado in this one, I promise there will be a hopeful element as well. I have a feeling we are going to need some of those in the next couple of years.
    This checkerboard pattern has always been really comforting to me. It first struck me when I saw this painting at the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time many years ago. I've used the pattern many, many times. And now, I'm hankering for it again. This one is called "Thanksgiving", by Doris Lee (1935).

Friday, August 16, 2019

Illustration Friday: Folklore

When I was little, one of my favorite stories was about an ogre who showed up at an old woman's house and was bullying her. She offered him a basket of apples, but one of them was actually a pin cushion that only looked like an apple. When he took a bite of it, the pins stuck in his teeth and tongue, and he went away howling. I love stories where bullies get outsmarted. I think I changed it into a tomato because my mom had one that looked more like a tomato than an apple. Anyway, it's a pretty old painting, done in my first gold leaf and egg tempera phase. I'm posting it here for this week's IF prompt, Folklore.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Illustration Friday: Street

This week's Illustration Friday topic is Street.The background of this painting, titled Annunciation, was inspired by a painting with a street by Remedios Varo.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Colorized Cricket

    One of my litho proofs was really light, and it reminded me of the old way of doing a value underpainting and layers of transparent color over. So, I tried out Prismacolor colored pencils on top of the proof. I learned I need to think ahead a little better and not be too hasty. Seems like I keep having to learn that one over and over.

Bless the Hearts of Those with Experience

   Ever since I got back from Zygote, and actually, since the beginning of this new litho chapter, I've been puzzling about how to set up a graining area in or near my classroom. Rebekah the Excellent, my teacher, offered me three different solutions. The easiest one consisted of putting the stones in a big, low, sturdy plastic tub and graining stone on stone with a pitcher of water nearby. This is the most attractive option, both because we can do it inside my classroom rather than out, which means we can do it no matter the weather, AND, I don't have to do any carpentry to make a grate to grain on in a sink. I am a not mucher when it comes to carpentry. I don't know if I've mentioned that before.
    As it turns out, all of my searches for 'sturdy' or 'heavy-duty' tubs yielded nothing that could stand up to the weight of the stones and the wear and tear of graining. I've been resigning myself to carpentry, but, on a flash of inspiration, I stopped by a farming supply store. I told the lady at the cash register what I wanted and initially, she said they didn't have anything like that. I explained a little bit about what I wanted to do and after a moment, a light went off in her eyes and she named the thing that would work! Which was a tub made for mixing concrete. Who knew that existed? And then, a contractor fellow in line confirmed that it would indeed be fine for graining. So, bless the hearts of people with experience!
    Here it is. Isn't it handsome? I'll probably put some boards in the bottom to make the stones easier to lift out, but, as soon as our Leveling Bar gets here, I think we are ready to start graining stones!

Sunday, August 4, 2019


Well, another day, another shooting. How did we get to such an ugly place?

   I think I'm pretty much done with this little painting, although I won't swear I won't mess with the clouds a bit more. In the beginning, I had fully intended to put a leak in her boat. But, things are so terrible out there right now, especially for women and anyone who is different, I didn't have the heart to add to her burden. Besides, she seems pretty unflappable. If she did get a leak, I imagine her plugging it up straight away. Even if she had to use her hair to do it.

I have another pair of stretchers this size, ready to make another little painting.
Maybe I should do some portraits of more unflappable women.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Illustration Friday: Politician

    Today's prompt for Illustration Friday is "Politician", so it is my pleasure to pull these guys out again. In Japanese folklore, oni are like our ogres. One story I read about them was that a young woman had been kidnapped (or sold into marriage; either way it's about the same thing) and her mother came to rescue her. They got away and ran, but the oni followed them to a river and wouldn't let them pass. So, both the women lifted their skirts and scared the oni away! I'm not kidding!
    Anyway, these guys fit how I see many of our politicians today; mean and ugly on the outside and selfish and cowardly on the inside.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Cricket Sang

     I just realized that I had assumed a causation between the cricket singing and the sun setting in Dickinson's poem. It just goes to show you that I grew up on cartoons and fanciful interpretations!
     Anyway, here is my final litho from the Green Lithography Workshop at the Zygote Press in Cleveland, Ohio.
     Even though I had to speed through drawing this, and I see lots of things I wouldn't let my students get away with, as far as ease of printing, this is my best litho yet. And, bonus! This time, I actually started to understand the science of this process. Rebekah, an artist in residence at Zygote, was an excellent teacher. There is a definite parallel between traditional litho and the green techniques that were the focus of this workshop, so besides the cutting edge green methods, Rebekah kept dropping these little pearls of wisdom about how to solve little problems that have vexed me for years. She is an old artist in a young person's body. 
     Now, I can't wait to get back to my classroom and start graining and exploring the press. It's going to cost a little bit to get this shop up and running, but in the end, we'll have helped keep litho alive for a new generation of students, and they won't lose their teeth in the process! ;) I'm going to have to try and wring some funds from my department, somehow. There must be a grant with my name on it somewhere.

The cricket sang,
And set the sun,
And workmen finished, one by one,
Their seam the day upon.

The low grass loaded with the dew,
The twilight stood as strangers do
With hat in hand, polite and new,
To stay as if, or go.

A vastness, as a neighbor, came,--
A wisdom without face or name,
A peace, as hemispheres at home,--
And so the night became. 

Emily Dickinson

Silver Lining

    Well, the press did not get fixed in time, but lucky for our class, our teacher arranged for us to print at the Cleveland Institute of Art's state of the art litho shop. Not only did it have two Takach presses, but it was air-conditioned, which was a particular blessing on a steamy printing day like last Friday. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Schizzle happens

  Well. We were on the press, washed out, rolled up and ready to print, and on the first crank, nothing moved. The press was inexplicably frozen and wouldn't turn the gears. The woman in the photo is our excellent teacher Rebekah the Unflappable, who proceeded to take apart the press to see what could be the trouble. She cheerfully proclaimed that this was a good opportunity to see what to do in case the press breaks.
    But, even though printmaking is problem solving, it is going to take more than a bunch of artists to solve this problem. Fortunately, the Cleveland Institute of Art has volunteered to let us use their presses tomorrow so we can finish our work. 
     During the downtime, I got to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the exhibits, by Lee Mingwei, included a bank of cut flowers which visitors were supposed to take with them and give to a stranger. I wish I had taken a picture of the bank instead of this, but there it is. When I approached a stranger outside the building, he clearly thought I was going to ask for money, but when I told him I got the flower from the museum and was directed to gift it to someone I didn't know, his face broke into a big smile. Totally worth the trip.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Cricket after first etch

   This was drawn on the stone with litho crayons and a little bit of tusche in the water area. So far so good! The image will be flipped when it is printed. Tomorrow is printing day :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

IF: Mysterious

    This week's topic for Illustration Friday is Mysterious. This is a little portrait I painted quite a bit ago, but I think she fits the topic. Perhaps she is as mystified by herself as she appears to others.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Litho Workshop

   This week, I'm attending a lithography workshop that promises to teach us how to make the litho process less toxic. Which is a very good thing since the traditional methods include things like asphaltum which contains asbestos! That's only one of the nasty things included in the process. The teacher made a joke about how if we learn these methods, maybe we won't lose our teeth. That made everybody laugh, but she explained that printmakers often lost them because they used to taste the nitric acid to see if it was strong enough to etch the stone. Yikes!
    So, I'm grateful to be here and for what I will learn. This is a picture of another student graining her stone, and mine along with it:

   The stones have to be absolutely level so that they don't crack under the pressure of the press during printing. That would be a real loss, since the stones are no longer being mined. If you have any litho stones, hang on to them, because they are precious.
    This shop was gifted many stones that had been used as paving stones in someone's yard. (Sheesh.) So, they are in rough shape and we spent the whole day getting them ready for drawing. 
    To grain a stone, one stone is rotated on top of another with a layer of iron grit in between. Since both stone are grained during this process, we took turns at the job. I think we probably did 10 rounds each, rinsing and reapplying grit between each round. And we aren't quite done! Tomorrow we will follow up with two rounds each of two finer grits. 
      This is the image I think I am going to use on my stone. I'm learning a marimba piece right now called A Cricket Sang and Set the Sun, a really beautiful and challenging (for me, at least) solo by Blake Tyson. The title came from an Emily Dickinson poem, about the crickets telling everyone it was time to stop working and start the evening. Ever since I read it, I've been mulling over doing an image about it.
     So, this cricket is supposed to be singing, except I don't really think it looks like it, yet. It's mouth is open, but it is hard to tell in this photo. Maybe it needs an instrument. Or a backup band :)  

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Fussy Stage

    She's so tiny! I'm at the fussing over tiny bits of paint and value stage. Tomorrow, I'll fix the oars and try to give the boat more of a shine. 

Much Better!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Better Fix

This is the drawing I ended up using for this fix. Below is the painting with the shape I need to change drawn in. Such a lot of steps for a tiny alteration.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Oh boy! More Math!


   This is a copy of painting from a few years ago that now belongs to my friend, Olive. I painted it before I wised up about using geometry to divide planes and define forms in perspective more precisely. Every time I go over to her house, a mistake in the arch bothers me. So, I borrowed it back and I'm going to fix it. On the right is the drawing of the alteration that needs to be made. The brown on the upper right is chalk that will help me transfer the corrected arch to the painting. Now all I need to do is match the colors. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

   I'd forgotten how much fun it was to paint clouds.The poor mermaid has been going without a head or much of a tail while I try to figure these out. Lucky for me, the clouds at my house have been big and grand lately. Every time I go outside I get treated to a cloud lesson.
    When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time looking at clouds and making pictures out of them. I've had to resist making pictures too obvious in these. For the longest time, I kept seeing a puppy in the lower  left cloud structure. It was a bit of a struggle to change it so I couldn't see it anymore. I want them to look like they could be a thousand things, not just one.
     I think I need to lighten up the shadows on the landscape.

Friday, June 28, 2019

A little progress

   I've been having a lot of fun with these clouds. It's probably as close as I get to working abstractly, and it is a nice change. I'm not sure I'm a fan of the way I painted the sky this time, but again, it is a nice thing to change up my habits once in a while. I'm working on getting a layering effect to add more depth. I'm thinking about letting some of the clouds overlap the skyline, but I'm not sure just yet. Sometimes, it looks to me like she is actually on water instead of in the air. I might have to put some birds in to help her out.
   I'd say this is almost half-way finished. Like the repairman said in Toy Story, "You can't rush art".

IF: War

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is War. While I have no images of war, I do have this one, an image of someone who is a warrior of sorts. It is a portrait based on the Guerrilla Girl, Julia Child. The Guerrilla Girls are artists and activists who fight for equality for women artists. You can read more about them here:

The title of the drawing is The Fitting Room, from 2009. Wow! 10 years ago!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Torus: Freehand Guess in a Cube

This is my late night guess (with no actual observation). Tomorrow, I'll look at the model and see if I am close. I think I have to nail down the centers and the corners. Why are threes always so much harder than fours?

Torus: First Attempt

  This is my first attempt at drawing the torus knot. I don't know what I'm doing (is it obvious?) so I drew it freehand first, and then started to assign receding lines to three separate vanishing points. Now that I see it here, I think maybe a good next step would be to build a cube around it so I can plot the points on the vertical planes and well as the horizontal ones. I also see a little wobble in some of the lines, too. 
    Hmm...since the Rubik's' Cube is divided in threes, I wonder if those divisions of the cube would be helpful here?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Gold Leaf the Easy Way

     I'm not sure exactly what this paper is, but it was a beautiful and recent gift from my friend Kathy when I told her I was thinking about tackling gold leaf again. I love the rich look of the old gold leaf panel paintings, but I wasn't looking forward to to sanding the bole. I have a terrible time getting a smooth surface with it. Kathy very kindly offered this paper to me to try. I think it may be some sort of illumination paper. This is my practice sheet. I already mucked it up, because I didn't transfer the figure properly. But so far, the paper is accepting the paint and taking layers. I think it might work!

    This is the basis for the figure (that is missing) on the gold paper above. When I was at Wheatland ( a couple of years ago, there were many talented young buskers showing off their work. This is based on a little girl who had written her songs on a piece of paper and stood and sang them for anyone who would listen. How cool is that?

Friday, June 7, 2019

Ice Mountain

   Today's prompt for Illustration Friday is 'Mountain', so I thought I'd dust this one off and submit it for my contribution.
    This goes all the way back to my days as a beginning grad student. I was trying to use ancient Hindu goddesses to convey contemporary messages. 
   At the time, the Nestle Company had just plopped a factory down in a beautiful rural area near my home (razing a lovely stone house to make room for it). My area is gifted with clear sweet drinking water, which Nestle proceeded to pump out of the ground free of charge, bottle it in plastic and charge $1.25 a bottle as Ice Mountain water. It has been a hotly contested issue in my area, but so far, Nestle continues to profit while our water table suffers. This painting was mean to comment on that issue. Talk about beating the issue with a stick, right?
     Although this is not my favorite painting, I do like the little demon under her foot. One of these days, I might cut him out and fix him up (without the foot) so the painting can be about just him, instead.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

So far

      Well, so far so good with switching up my method for applying paint. It's kind of refreshing to have to think about things a little differently. I like the improvisational aspect of it. I still have a slight worry about getting enough layers built up.
    Plus, two different friends suggested I add an indication of the earth at the bottom of the image, to add more depth. I sketched it in to see, and once I did that, I couldn't unsee it. So I added it with a thin layer of washes. I think I'll keep it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Mighty Red Hen

When I was little, we had a storybook that contained the tale of The Little Red Hen. It had little drawings embedded in the text that replaced some of the words in the story. I think it was one of the first feminist texts I ever read.
    This week's prompt for Illustration Friday is "Farm". I haven't participated in a long time, but I thought I'd give it a go this week with this mighty little hen. She's as strong as she looks. Just what we need right now :)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Apparently, I am in the mood to change things up. First it was the linen, which I abandoned because it was too rough, And then I went back to my regular canvas, but when I put on the initial underpainting, some interesting clouds showed up in the process. It seemed a shame to cover them up as I normally would have done, so I decided to leave them and try to develop them from the get go. So far I like them well enough. My one worry is that the paint is pretty thin and that might cause more work down the road, but we'll see. This is after the third session.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Learning Curve

Well, I learned that I am not a fan of linen. I think it could be perfectly lovely, but my first attempt at it was not. It turned out to be really tricky to stretch, and while I'm sure a finer weave would have helped, the texture was too strong for the little figure I have planned. I got as far as gesso (three coats!) and a bit of the underpainting before I gave it up. I needed to sand between those coats of gesso :>/ Live and learn.
    So, last night I pulled out all of the staples and now I have a fresh start with canvas. Back in my comfort zone! I might try linen again someday, but right now, easy street is just fine with me.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Torus Knot?

   This showed up in my mailbox today. It was a gift from the student who started my math journey by encouraging me to stop flying by the seat of my pants and actually plot spatial relationships when drawing forms with linear perspective. I am forever grateful for his gentle nudge in that direction.
    I've been asking him about this shape, which I think is called a torus knot. I told him I didn't understand the geometry at all, but I was going to make one out of clay so I could just draw it the old fashioned way. The next day, he presented me with this 3D printed model so that it might 'sate my curiosity and then I would stop pestering him'. 😐
     But still, I love the gift. I think drawing elongated ellipses on three different planes will be a good place to start on this problem. And I've purchased Geometry for Dummies. So in the future, I can maybe keep my pestering to a minimum.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Fire Up Litho! (I guess:)

  After years of asking, the administration finally agreed to let me move the Conrad litho press that has been mothballed for years, into my classroom. So, even though it wasn't really on my agenda, I guess I will be setting up a grinding station (outside, with a table and a hose) and getting something drawn on a small stone so I can crank out a print or two this summer. It would be so great if I could actually offer litho as an option to my students next fall.
    I think this little image came out of my time at Wheatland a couple of years ago. I've done it about 100 times and never achieved a final product with it. Maybe all it needs is a smooth stone and a good litho crayon. I reckon I'd better practice with pencil and paper first!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

I'm such a novice :/

Well, DAYS later, I am realizing we could have easily built that cube from the ground up if we had thought to do it, and we wouldn't have had to pester any of the numbers people.

We could have just made a vertical foreshortened square and lined up two more on its receding plane, using what I call "The X Thing" (this is why I can't play with the adults) to make the perspective right. That would give the height and width of all the squares on that side.

Am I making sense?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Dividing a Receding Plane into Three Parts

Two of my students decided to draw Rubik's Cubes for their perspective/shading assignment. Dividing a receding plane into fours is easy, but threes were another matter altogether. I quickly realized I had no idea how to do it.

Lucky for me, my students are from many different specialty areas, including engineering and economics. Those people are very good at problems like this, and a couple of days after I asked the question in class, a very nice young man named Dillon provided me with several computer drawings he had made. All of them solved the problem, each in a slightly different way.

This is my drawing of one of his examples. I keep getting lost in all the relationships contained in this little cube. Seems like magic to me.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Another Possibility

   I don't remember how this image came about. She certainly has a tough job, working hard at rowing through the air in a leaky boat. Still, I like her strength, rowing against the odds. 
    I'm leaning toward this one for my new canvas. Look how many tries it took for me to realize her back needed to face the bow! Sheesh!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

   I just stretched a new small canvas with linen (my first try at it!), and I'm looking for a new image for it.    
    I just found this in my sketchbook. It is an image of my dear friend Chris, who was born on the exact same day as me, almost a whole country apart.  
   The last time I saw Chris, he told me he had bought some heavy duty hiking boots and was finding peace on his walks. I imagined those boots taking him to all kinds of beautiful places.

I have one more possible image in mind. It's a bit trickier than this one. I'll post it when I settle on a good viewpoint.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

  I think I set a couple of records here, both for how long it took to make this painting, and also how long it has been since I have posted.
    I wish I could speed up my process. My profs would have said the same thing. But, I don't seem to be able to power through problems in paintings. I have to wait for for the answer to bubble up to the surface. Also, I need to carve out more time to do it. Teaching and real life have a tendency to get priority. 

Here is a close-up of the face:

      I won't name all the struggles, but they were real. I'm hoping a coat of varnish will ease over some of them. There are some progress shots of this painting on my Instagram, if you'd like to see some of the stages it went through. My user name is lynettevought.

   My next one is going to be a lot smaller!