Monday, June 29, 2020

The Mural is Done!

People often ask "how long did it take to paint that?" which is sort of a silly question, because the true answer is "quite a few decades", if you add in all the years of art classes/training and practice that went on before I put the brush to the wall.

But okay, I never pay attention to how long a piece takes, so this time, I decided to document the whole process.  Now everyone gets to suffer through the whole tedious business as I relate the details. What larks!

If you read the previous post, you'll recall (or not, depending on how faulty your memory is) that I decided to paint this picture from Good Omens on my dining room wall.

DAY 1:  I enlarged the drawing on the wall by printing out an 8x10 inch photo and marking a grid of 1/2" squares.

Then I drew in a bigger grid on the wall.

DAYS 2 through 4:  I painstakingly drew what was in each small square on the photo into the bigger squares on the wall.  I edited out the excess stuff on the sides to simplify the background, but it still took a long time.  The faces were especially difficult.

DAY 5:  I realized that it was simply too large, taking up the entire wall.  I'd enlarged it to 4" squares, and it really should have been 3" squares.  This made me rather unhappy.  I suppose I could have painted it that big, but I knew it would be Too Much, so I made the painful decision to erase it all and start over.  I spent the entire day re-drawing the grid to 3" squares and redrawing the entire picture.

DAY 6:  I had used acrylic paint before, though not that much, and I didn't like the way it dried within minutes.  So I had invested in a new type (Golden Open Acrylics) which promised to stay wet for hours, allowing for better blending.  Having never used them before, I tested this out on an apple:

The longer blending time worked well, and I felt encouraged.  So next, I tackled the background, which proved trickier.  The brush I used made the paint look streaky, and no other brushes worked well.  It needed to be smoother.  I tried using a sponge, which did not work.  Then I tried letting it dry more, and then adding a thinner layer of the same color with a paper towel, sort of rubbing it over and in to blend it smoothly.  That worked!

DAY 7:  Spent another day finessing the background, and adding white over it where the tree branches and leaves were to go.

DAY 8:  An entire day on the Earth.  VERY HARD!  Had to use the paper towels again, plus do several bits of layering and glazing and repainting everything multiple times.  Gah.

DAY 9:  More touching up on the Earth.  Painted Aziraphale's shoes (the angel character on the left).

DAY 10:  Did Crowley's boots (the demon character) and part of his wine glass.

The Earth

Aziraphale's spiffy shoes, which I adore

Crowley's snakeskin boots

DAY 11:  Painted Aziraphale's head and blocked in part of his coat.  Painted his shirt and vest.

DAY 12:  More of Aziraphale's coat.  Painted Crowley's head.

DAY 13:  Lots of touching up on the faces.  Painted the tree and the snake.

DAY 14:  HANDS!  Hands are extremely difficult, at least for me.  It took all day to paint four hands, plus the white and gold china teacup and saucer the angel is holding, and I also finished the wine glass.

It was challenging to paint the reflections, and the part of the hand that's visible through the wine glass.

DAY 15:  Clothes!  The clothes were a bit easier overall.  Basically, I just mixed up a whole lot of the main color, plus some of a highlight value and a shadow value, and then painted the whole trousers, for example, with the medium value first.  Let it dry just enough before adding in highlights and shadows and blending them in.

DAY 16:  Finished the clothing, and that was it -- all done!

Whew!  The finished mural is 4 x 5 feet.  I learned a lot about working with the new acrylics, and while it was frustrating at times, the results were definitely worth the effort.

And now if anyone asks "how long did that take?", I can confidently state, "16 days unless you don't count the first 4 days when I drew it the wrong a few decades of training and practice, of course!"

Monday, June 22, 2020

I Blame Zoom

This is the formerly blank wall in my dining room, and all of the art supplies covering the table:

That wall now has art on it.  Why?  Well, because my friends in Seattle have been chatting with me via the Zoom program, and several of them were using something called a virtual background -- instead of seeing them in their living room, for example, it would appear as if they were in Middle Earth or outer space.  Cool!  I wanted one, too!

Alas, my cheap laptop was unable to handle the virtual background program. Sniff.  But then I had an idea.  Since I normally do these virtual chats in the dining room, and there was a blank wall there, I could paint my own background. Ha!

So I found this promotional picture from my current favorite thing, the Amazon/BBC miniseries Good Omens:

After printing out an 8"  x 10" copy, I marked off 1/2" grid lines:

And then I drew 3" square grids over the wall, and drew what was in each small square into each large square, for a 4 x 5 foot mural:

It may have been a tad ambitious, because murals require acrylic paint, which I don't typically work with, but I decided that if it didn't turn out, I could always paint over it and no one would ever know.

I tested out the new paints I'd bought on something small -- there's an apple in the top of the tree:

That turned out well, so next I tackled the background colors, which did NOT go on smoothly. The large areas of paint were streaky, so I had to figure out a way to blend them.  After trying a sponge and a larger brush, neither of which worked, I discovered what did work:  letting the first layer dry, and then rubbing a thinner layer of the same color over the top with a paper towel.  Whew.

Next I tackled the Earth, which also proved quite tricky, and which involved more paper towel work, and several different layering techniques.  I edited out the extra stuff on the edges to simplify it, but it still took two days to get it to look good.

Next, I painted shoes -- and I was very happy with the results.  The character on the left is an angel named Aziraphale, and he wears spats:

On the right is the demon Crowley, who wears snakeskin boots:

Then I finally tackled the faces, which took another two days.

Hands are very hard to draw or paint, but I think I got them done fairly well.

I"m not finished yet -- I painted the tree and snake, and started on the clothes:

I hope to finish it within the next two or three days.  And then I'll have something fun behind me during virtual Zoom chats!

Or just a fun mural to look at over breakfast. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Back to Art

I'd been neglecting drawing of late, but a few weeks ago my friends in Seattle (Tina, Nicole, and Michelle) decided to try something new -- getting together to draw via Zoom (the video chat platform).  The idea was to share a photo and all draw from it for one hour, and then share.

This got me back in the mood to draw, and now I'm busy with all sorts of artistic projects.  Yay!

For our first session, we drew a tree branch, which I wound up painting a bit too dark overall:

The next meeting, we did this stone lantern from a Japanese garden.  I got the perspective wonky, but I like it anyway.

Then we switched to portraits, choosing this random fellow, who had a lot of character:

At our most recent session, we sketched a taxidermy rhino from a natural history museum.  I really like this one -- I used a water-soluble brown ink pen, and then added some water to create the shading.

Next, I decided to do more people, because I wanted to do some portraits of my current favorite characters -- Aziraphale and Crowley, from "Good Omens", a six-part miniseries (Amazon Prime, also out on DVD) based on a 1990 novel (Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett) which is one of my favorite books. 

I started with Crowley (played by David Tennant), and my people drawing skills were a tad rusty at first as I tried to remember the basic facial proportions:

Next, I tried focusing on light-dark values:

And after a few more attempts which went into the trash, I managed to do a portrait of the character which I was happy with:

Next up was Aziraphale (played by Michael Sheen), and again, things started off a tad shakily:

And the value study wasn't much better:

Again, after several botched efforts, I got something a lot closer to what he actually looks like, although it got shaded too darkly due to a misguided notion to try ink over pencil, which didn't work.  Oh, well. 

Yesterday, I tried him using color -- I did a light watercolor wash over everything, and then put in all of the details using colored pencil:

I'm quite pleased with how this turned out. 

So that's my art update.  Now for the important stuff -- the Hounds!

It's been in the 70s lately, with plenty of sunshine.

Truman and Pippin love to run around their yard, and to roll around on the grass.

Happy Monday, and stay safe out there!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Portrait of Aziraphale

Portrait of Aziraphale (character in the miniseries "Good Omens"). Watercolor and colored pencil.

Monday, June 1, 2020

New Bird!

It's been a long time since I added a Life Bird (new species for me) to the list, but last week it happened -- hoorah!  On Wednesday, the news got around that a Northern Parula was seen at Horn Rapids Park, and I rushed out there to take a look.

The park has hundreds of acres of trees -- with lots of very tall cottonwoods, which the Parula liked to hang out in, way at the tops.  It's a 4-inch warbler that doesn't like to sit still, and though there were several other birders looking, none of us could find it.  Sigh. 

However, there were other nice birds there, including this roosting Common Nighthawk:

And there were some fun insects as well, like this Green Darner dragonfly:

Here is a Black-chinned Hummingbird:

At the entrance kiosk, there were Cliff Swallow nests:

I got momentarily excited when I saw a flash of yellow with a dark top far away and high up, but it turned out to be the much bigger Bullock's Oriole:

The Northern Parula is half that size and looks like this (NOT my photo):

I went back out there on Thursday morning, and after an hour of searching, another birder and I spotted something small flitting about in the tree tops, and then for two glorious seconds, the bird flew down to a lower branch and perched long enough for us to get very clear views. And then, of course, just as I lowered by binocs and picked up the camera, it zipped off, never to be found again.  Sigh. 

Oh, well.  I'm very happy I got to see, however briefly, such a lovely and quite rare visitor to our area.  And I got to meet some very nice fellow birders. 

Meanwhile, back home, Truman and Pippin waited patiently for me to find the stoopid bird and do something useful, like take them for a walk.

Good dogs!

Have a good week, and stay safe out there!