Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Club - Mixed-Media Self-Portraits continued

Mixed-Media Self-Portraits: Inspiration & Techniques
by Cate Caulacos Prato
The book club started by Deb Prewitt of Blue Twig Studio continued reading the next chapter of Cate Caulacos Prato's Mixed-Media Self-Portraits: Inspiration and Techniques this month. (See review of the first chapter at Blue Twig Studio's blog here and my blog here.)

The second chapter has focused on "Knowing Thyself: taking the first step toward a self-portrait."  It started with a couple of exercises to understand yourself better - i.e. What color are you? Who lives here? Answering questions about your what you have surrounded yourself with in your home. And lastly, who would you like to be? Children have no problem drawing themselves as who they imagine they are - a princess, a pirate, etc. Who do you imagine yourself to be?

She follows this up with self-portrait exercises - studying yourself in a mirror and getting to know your face.  I like the quote by Leonardo Da Vinci

"The mirror, above all - the mirror is our teacher." 

I love the directions given for drawing the eye. I think the eye is the hardest part of the face to capture. I've done many portraits in colored pencil and oils over the years and it's always the eye that is the hardest part of the face. Without that, the person just doesn't look right. Her directions are great for how to capture the eye!

She also discussed digital portraits, caricatures, gettting started and putting it all together. Several artists shared their thoughts and journey to create self-portraits. Not all portrait examples contained faces. I think that relieves some of the pressure to draw a face that actually looks like you. Portraiture is difficult for most people, and I think that's why doing a self-portrait can be very scary. This chapter helps with easing some of those fears, while giving many helpful ideas to know yourself better and suggestions for creating a self-portrait.

The last several days, I played with a few different photo-editing software to create several digital self-portraits. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements, Pixlr Express, Paper Camera, and FotoRus. They all have slightly different features. I had lots of fun playing. I created a photo collage of some of the self-portraits I had the most fun creating and/or liked the best.

Digital Self-Portrait collage created in FotoRus with InstaMag.
Clockwise, starting in the lower right-hand corner: I used Adobe Photoshop Elements (PE) to crop a photo and enhance the color to create "Just Me, Myself, and I". I further edited this in PE, changing the coloration to create "Bold". I thought the purple skin and green clothing made for a bright, bold portrait. Again in PE, I changed the colors to make a monochromatic blue portrait, then rippled it and used the gradient to create "Fading Away".  In "Unadorned", I took the original self-portrait in PE and turned it into a black and white portrait with warm highlights.  "Sketch" was created in Paper Camera.  In "The All-Seeing Eye", Pixlr Express created 3 slightly different facial views, each a different color, which I imported into Paper Camera for the neon colors. Finally, I used FotoRus with Pip (picture in a picture) to center the eyes of the portrait in a drop of water. "Electric! (or eclectic?)" was created in Pixlr Express using special effects and overlays.  Finally, the blue portrait created in PE was imported into FotoRus Pip to make "Auntie Em, Auntie Em". The bubble reminded of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is calling for Auntie Em in the crystal ball while locked in the room by the Wicked Witch of the West.  

I created a few other digital self-portraits besides the ones shown here. I had so much fun playing with the different effects to see how I could manipulate the portrait. Another great thing about working digitally is I could delete anything I didn't like!! Lol! Working digitally also gave me ideas I would like to try on paper, in paint, or with fabric. 

This chapter has been inspiring to me to create self-portraits and not feel so self-conscious about it. I want to experiment and play now!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cactus Flowers and the Sunset

Hedgehog Cactus taken at sunset taken over the weekend. 
My husband and I were walking our dogs this weekend. The neighbor's hedgehog cactus has just started to bloom. The bright pink flowers against the olive cactus and sharp spines with the sunset highlighting the petals -  wish I was a better photographer or had a better camera! Thank goodness for photo-editing software!

Close up of hedgehog cactus bloom. 
Close up of another hedgehog cactus bloom. 

The clouds created a beautiful sunset that same evening. 

Looking to the east.. The mauve against the deep blue makes me want to dye fabrics in these colors. 
Sunset over the weekend. I love the bright yellows and oranges against the lavenders and blues.  
Sunset over the weekend. 

I enjoy taking photos of sunsets and sunrises - well, sunrises when I can pull myself out of bed that early! I love the way the colors mix and blend. I also enjoy taking photos of flowers, especially close-ups. They are so full of color and come in so many shapes and sizes. Studying the colors of nature helps me to pick colors for quilts and artwork.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rippling and Warping Photos

I decided to play with Adobe Photoshop Elements this week. I've been struggling to learn how to use this program (a guide book would sure be helpful!). It's a great program, but I don't find it extremely user friendly. I'm determined to learn how to use the program in my lifetime (it will probably take me that long, too, especially since they update the program and change some of the filters and how to get to them periodically!).

The two main things I played with this week are "ripple", which creates ripples of various frequencies and width in the photo, and "warped", which lays a grid over the photo and allows you to move the grid points around creating a warped grid. I played with four different photos this week. One is a flower photo I took at the Phoenix Zoo, another is a drawing I created (Week 7 of 365 Days of Art Challenge) from a photo of autumn leaves I took in Ohio last year, a third is a sunset last fall, and the fourth is from a photo of a pot of vegetables I cooked to create a chicken pot pie.

Bird of Paradise taken at the Phoenix Zoo. 
Bird of Paradise after it has been rippled and warped in Photoshop Elements.

Autumn Leaves pen,  ink, and colored pencil sketch I did for
Week 7 of the 365 Days of Art Challenge.
Autumn Leaves sketch rippled and warped with a
gradient added in Photoshop Elements.
Autumn Leaves further modified in Paper Camera (another photo
editing application)  using the Neon Cola filter.  I think this
would make an interesting piece of fabric to use in quilting.

Sunset taken in November in Chandler, AZ.
Sunset after it's been rippled and posterized in Photoshop Elements.
Sunset further modified by warping it. I think this would make a
fun piece of fabric for quilting. 

Pot of vegetables cooking to use in a chicken pot pie.
Pot of vegetables first rippled and warped and then adjusted the
color levels to add more red in Photoshop Elements. 
Pot of vegetables further modified by adjusting the
color "curve" values in Photoshop Elements. Another photo that
would make an interesting piece of fabric for quilting.
Pot of vegetables further modified by adjusting the color "curve" values
even more to create a softer color palette. Then a circular gradient was added to create the
 center oval of color.  Hard to believe this started out as a pot of vegetables!

I had fun playing with these photos in Photoshop Elements. I would like to have a much better understanding of layers, how to cut items out of a photo to paste in other photos, etc. I have done these manipulations a couple of times, but only able after watching a tutorial on them. I really struggled with cutting an item out of a photo. Will just keep playing! Thank goodness photos are cheap these days and I don't have to develop them to see the results!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Week 12 of 365 Days of Art Challenge

Week 12 of the 365 Days of Art Challenge issued by Deb Prewitt of Blue Twig Studio. Another week done! The year is almost 1/4 over already. Time just flies when you're having so much fun!! I am enjoying sketching every week. It's nice to make the time for it, instead of just hoping I can find the time. This is definitely a side benefit of this challenge - learning to make time to sketch! Sometimes I sketch during the day, other times it's at night when I can't sleep. These were at the latter time this week.

I played with Zentangles (or Zentangle-Inspired-Art (ZIA), since they are not on 3 1/2" square tiles) again this week. I started with creating a string of a several circles of various sizes - a couple concentric circles and many overlapping circles. Then I tangled around the circumference of the strings or in the overlapping areas, rather than filling every open spot. It was challenging to find tangles that can be used for a border, rather than a fill. I had fun creating Wheels within Wheels.

Wheels within Wheels - 6"x6" ZIA on mixed-media paper using 0.005, 0.01, 0.05 micron black Sakura pens and pencil. I apologize for the photograph looking yellow - no matter how I changed the lighting
for the photo or the flash on the camera, it came out yellowed looking. This is the best photo I could get.

After creating Wheels within Wheels, I wondered what other geometric shapes- squares, triangles, hearts - might turn out well for a similar ZIA. I chose squares and overlapped squares of various sizes. I created angles in the corners to fill, rather than following the contour of the perimeter, like I did with the circles. This is the result.

Squares within Squares. 6"x6" ZIA on mixed-media paper using 0.005, 0.01, and 0.05 micron
 black Sakura pens and pencils. Thankfully, this photo came out better, without looking so yellow, although
some of my pencil shading doesn't show up very well. Again, changing the lights and/or flash didn't help.

That is all I had time to complete for this week's challenge. I think heart shapes would be fun to do in this style, but not sure if I'll try the triangles. Hexagons are very popular in quilting right now, so maybe they would create an interesting ZIA in a similar design, too. I'll see what I'm inspired to sketch for Week 13! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Week 11 of 365 Days of Art Challenge

Another week of sketching. I did better this week - getting my sketches done mostly over the weekend and taking photographs on Monday, instead of late Tues or Wed morning (my usual). Feels good to be done a bit ahead of time this week!

I took a break this week from the Zentangles and went back to the DragonArt Evolution book by J. "Neon Dragon" Peffer (see past posts for more info about the book). . The next section is different types of dragon horns. So this is what I've worked on this week:

Bladed Horn -  Pencil on mixed-media paper.  This dragon appears benevolent and quiet.

Tri-Horn and Snout Horn types. Pencil on mixed-media paper.

Dragon with both tri- and snout horns. Pencil on mixed-media paper.
I think this dragon appears fierce, but wise. 

Segmented Horn. Pencil on mixed-media paper. I also started a spiked,
segmented horn, but didn't have time to finish it. Therefore, I didn't
get a dragon head sketched for these types of horn either.

I love stories about dragons, especially ones where they help mankind. I want my dragons to be helpful to mankind, but still have emotions and personalities. I hope that as I learn to draw dragons myself, rather than copying what others have done, that I can endow them with feelings and their own quirks. I also like some of the ones that are very whimsical. I hope to draw/paint some with more whimsy, especially baby and young dragons. That feels like a tall order for me right now, but that is my goal.  I hope you don't get tired of looking at dragon sketches this year, as I try to do keep up with weekly sketches for the 365 Days of Art Challenge. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Canning Pickles

My other major activity this week:

 A week ago we were given over 30 cucumbers from a friend. Who can eat that many cucumbers?? After giving away several, decided to make sweet pickles with the rest. I hadn't made pickles since before the kids were born! (almost 30 years ago!). Called Mom and found out which recipe I needed for the sweet pickles I grew up on (and helped Mom and Grandma can). They had to soak in brine for 6 days prior to being ready to season and can. Today was the 6th day. Then it was one to boiling them in alum, then boiling in ginger, then boiling in syrup mixture of vinegar, spices, and sugar. Finally,ready to can! 

Boiling pickles in alum. Then drained and boiled again in
 ginger.  Drained again and boiled in vinegar syrup. 

Finally, canned the pickles in a water bath.

Nine jars of sweet pickles.

I'm exhausted!!  I know chickens (previous post) and making pickles don't have anything to do with art or quilting. But when you spend this much time making something, you want to share it with everyone!!!

By the way, anyone need a jar of pickles?

Green Eggs and Ham

Rhode Island Red 3 yr old chicken
We have had chickens for the past dozen years. It's been great fun watching them - they do make interesting pets. I love the fresh eggs. We are allowed to have 4 chickens in our home in the suburbs. We started with one Rhode Island Red about a dozen years ago. She was so much fun, we decided to raise some more when she got old. We bought 3 chicks (a Rhode Island Red, a White Leghorn, and a black/white Barred Rock). Unfortunately, we lost both the leghorn and the barred rock within the first 6 months. The Rhode Island Red doesn't realize she's a chicken. She thinks she's either a person or a dog. She pecks at the kitchen window when she's hungry. If the back door is left open, she'll just come in and start pecking for food. She follows you and  talks to you whenever you are out back doing anything. 

Americauna chicks at about 6 months old.
We decided to try raising chicks again and bought 3 Americauna chicks about 7 months ago. They are a bit different than the other chicks we've had. They have a barking sound when they want more food. They get so excited about any little thing and will jump into the air or go sprinting around their hen house. They make me laugh. 
Americauna chicks at about 6 months old.
They start laying between 6 and 8 months of age. We found the first egg a couple days ago and then yesterday two of them laid eggs. One last chicken to start! We weren't sure what color their eggs would be, as they can lay green, blue, or brown eggs. So far, the two that have started laying eggs have green eggs.

Green eggs from the Americauna chicks and brown eggs from the Rhode Island Red.

My husband's artwork - the first green egg with green veggies.
Green eggs and ham for breakfast!! Ymmm.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Box Birthday Card

I went to a card-making party at a friend's house last night. It was fun and I brought home a beautiful birthday card that pop-ups into a box.

Years ago, when Craftmart was still here in the valley of Phoenix, Arizona, my daughter and I belonged to a card club. We would get together every month to make a beautiful hand-made card. Even though we made the same cards, my daughter's and my cards would always look so different. At that time, I would usually do the card basically as instructed with a few variations, while she would think outside the box and create something wonderful and fun! Family and friends were always excited to see the new cards and would anxiously hope they were going to get one hand-delivered or receive one in the mail. When Craftmart closed some 7-8 years ago, we quit making cards. She graduated and moved out. It wasn't fun to get everything out and make a hand-made card by myself. It just was too much effort. Plus, I didn't have the fancy die-cut machines - I never needed one; since in card club, we could use all the machines, dies, stamps, etc. that Craftmart owned. 

A good friend started a card-making club at her house a couple years ago. Unfortunately, it always fell on a night I had another commitment. I no longer have that commitment, so have been able to attend the card-making parties at her house this month and last month! (I forgot to post last month's card we made for Valentine's Day - since I no longer have the card and didn't photograph it, I can't post it either! Oops! Will try not to repeat that mistake!)

All that bit of history, to bring me to last night's box card! 

Front of closed box card.  My embellishments stick out the sides a bit, so I will need a
larger envelope than the one that was supposed to go with the card. I can live with that!

Front view of open box card. We were given a choice for a birthday card or an Easter card. I obviously chose the birthday card. Others made the Easter card, with a bunny and Easter sentiments, rather than the cake and birthday sentiments. Both cards had the flowers, leaves, grass, and butterfly embellishments.

Top view of the card so the various layers inside the "box" can be seen. It was fun to make. I added layered birds and flowers to the box sides, too. The butterfly bounces on a long, clear tab.
This is a beautiful card, and can be made with a variety of papers and embellishments, or in different sizes. You could make a card like this for every occasion. (I might just do that, too!)  Glad we were given instructions, though, as I would never remember how to make it otherwise - especially with the mistakes I kept making.

I plan to give this one to my dear, wonderful sister for her birthday next month! (No peeking,sis! Act surprised when you receive it in the mail!)

Create Mixed Media's Zen Doodles: Oodles of Doodles Challenge

I wanted to get my entries into Create Mixed Media's Zen Doodles challenge at least a day early! I made it! I entered 9 Zentangle tiles today.

These are the tiles I entered. Now it's an anxious game of "wait and see" - "wait" while they decide which entries get accepted and "see" if any of mine are accepted for publication in the book.  

Similar to what I  created in week 1 of the 365 Days of Art Challenge. Made
a few small variations in it to fit the 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" tile. (See post dated Jan 7, 2014)

Almost identical to earlier design. I decided to do the bubbles in blue in,
instead of pencil so they would show up better. (See post dated July 2, 2013)

See scallop in post dated July 2 2013.

See fish in post dated Oct 4, 2013.

Made some variations to the design I did earlier. The earlier Zentangle divided the string
with arcs, creating an illusion of a circular pattern. This time, I drew overlapping circles
for the string. I changed a couple of the tangles as well. (See post dated June 12, 2013.)

I combined the calavera from week 9 of the art challenge (see post dated Mar 6, 2014
with the flowers around the calavera from week 8 (see post dated Feb 27, 2014). 

I also entered the three tiles that I posted yesterday for Week 10 of the 365 Days of Art challenge. You can see them here.

It was a challenge to re-do them at almost half the scale of the original size, but it was worth it on the chance that some of the them will be accepted for publication in F&W Media's new book: Zen Doodles: Oodles of Doodles.

Happy Doodling!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Week 10 of 365 Days of Art Challenge: Zentangles

The 10th week of 365 Days of Art Challenge!! Where is the time going!! Hard to believe it's the middle of March already! I'm still sketching! This week, I drew Zentangles for Create Mixed Media's call for entries for the Zen Doodles: Oodles of Doodles challenge. I thought the deadline was March 7, but turned out it is this Friday, Mar 14. Thank goodness, as it gave me more time to work on my entries.

I do most of my doodling in a 6" x 6" notebook. I had a few that I wanted to submit for the challenge, so I needed to re-draw them onto tiles, as the challenge is only accepting work done on the 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" tiles created for Zentangles - no Zentangle-inspired art (ZIA's) this time.

This is a new Zentangle I created for this challenge.
3 1/2" x 3 1/2" Zentangle on mixed-media illustration paper. Sakura 
black pens in sizes 0.005, 0.01, and 0.03 and pencil. 
I created a tangle pattern I call Woven Bridges, as it reminded me of bridges going over and under each other, like weaving.  I found later that it could be considered a variation on W2 (which can be seen here for step out on how to draw it.  My step-out is below, followed by the monotangle Zentangle I created from this design.

Woven Bridges Step Out.  (Can be considered a variation of W2). 

3 1/2" x 3 1/2" Zentangle on mixed-media illustration paper. Sakura black
pens in sizes 0.005, 0.01, and 0.03. Prismacolor 0.005 pen in sepia.

I wanted to try doodling on black paper. I cut my own circular tiles. I had a hard time finding a white pen, pencil, marker, etc. that would make a sharp mark in a bright white. I tried gel pens, white paint pens, corrector-fluid pens, colored pencils, etc. I finally found my white pen I use for marking fabric to make the best white mark on the black paper. This is the only tile that came out with decent lines.

3 1/2" diameter Zendala on black illustration paper. Fine white
pen by Clover and Prismacolor French white colored pencil.

I enjoy doodling and creating Zentangle-Inspired Art. I find it very relaxing, fun, and helpful to keep my hands and fingers working, instead of being stiff with arthritis.

Keep sketching!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Week 9 of 365 Days of Art Challenge: Dia de los Muertos continued

I've continued to work on calaveras. (skulls) for the mixed-media Skull Challenge for Dia de los Muertos sponsored by Cloth, Paper, Scissors this week. (You can check out my blog from last week for more information.)

I googled Dia de los Muertos images for inspiration. I found a couple skull shapes that intrigued me and a couple of faces that were interesting. Unfortunately I only got a couple sketches finished of what I wanted to try. 

6" x 6" Three-quarters profile in Sakura black pen (0.1 micron) and pencil. I had some trouble with the neck vertebrae, clavicles, sternum, and ribs, but wanted to add these to make her more skeletal.
6" x 6" Calevera in Sakura black pen (0.1 micron and 0.8 micron) and pencil. I used a variety of tangle patterns, including ennies, copada,mooka, paisleys, and florz. I like skull shape for this one and had fun with it.

I enjoyed the sketching more this week. I think I was able to relax better while sketching. I started another skull shape, but ran out of time for this blog to add it here. I did sketch another lady skeleton in profile, but was not happy at all with how she was turning out, so did not complete her. I think I'm well on my way for deciding what kind of skull I will do for the challenge. Now I can start experimenting with mixed-media methods.

Also, I will submit this design to F&W Media for their new book, Zen Doodle Oodles of Doodles call for entries. Need to hurry on that one, as the deadline is tomorrow!

Enjoy your week! Happy sketching!