Feature Friday 4: June already

It is June already, and 2022 is almost half way done! Oh wow, I have about a month before I need to start posting artwork for holiday cards, because things are just weird in the various supply chains and delivery. Usually, I am all about, “One holiday at a time!” but this year it looks like if you want to order something to be printed up and shipped to you, it will be a good idea to do that earlier than usual. We could cry and moan about it, or we can adjust fire and use however many brain cells are still working to plan ahead. I am trying to stay ahead of supply chain hiccups by buying when things are in stock and also on sale, instead of waiting until we are low. Sometimes it works, other times it just doesn’t despite my best efforts.

This being a visual art blog, I’ll bet some of y’all are thinking, “Where are the pictures?” We’ve had a couple minorly busy days with family visiting earlier today, but I do have an in-progress snapshot to appease you. This is my third in the candles’ flame series I started last week as an art challenge that came to screeching halt when our ISP upgraded and our equipment was no longer compatible. (My internet doesn’t feel faster, though we do have more bandwidth.) I am still thinking I’d like to do this in watercolor as well, just to compare how the two media turn out when put side-by-side.

in-progress photo of the third piece in my candlelight series, 11 x 14 oil pastel on primed paper

Now, for your weekend reading enjoyment, here is the link round-up part of Feature Friday!

Interesting and fun art blog posts I’ve recently read

  • I am not the only one who remembers the old blog hop/blog carnival idea from back in the day! SienaBlue is hosting an interesting one, which involves blind contour drawing. Blind contour drawing is pretty much what it sounds like – you draw without looking at the paper. I am wondering if any of my photographer blogging buddies are brave enough to try? Oh, and hat tip to Judith for sharing the info on her blog as well.
  • Steven from Backyard Image shares photos from Kauai, Hawaii where he takes advantage of jet lag to be awake early enough to get sunrise pictures. Apparently he has been doing this off-and-on since 2014 and has quite a collection at this point. I know both of my parents think Hawaii is the most beautiful state in the union, and they love to visit when they can. Looking at some of the photos, I can see why.
  • Sharon posted some nice photos of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. While I have been to DC, we didn’t get to go to the Smithsonian so I was interested in the beautiful building. I’ve visited the train station in DC the most often now, usually with a layover to change trains.
  • Jim of Ramblings of the Hotshot Photoguy posted photos from his visit to the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Texas (north of Dallas). Another place I have not been to, as when we lived in Texas we were closer to Houston than the metroplex. I had to look up where in Texas it is, because Texas is BIG, even the way my aunt drives (and Dad says Grandma drove fast too).
  • Bob from Carolina Footprints posted wildflower photographs, some of which grow down here in Florida like the coreopsis and daisy fleabane (which I can assure you, do NOT repel fleas, I am disappointed to say because I have these wild on my property). His post shows why he is the photographer, and I am not. If you missed my snapshots of wildflowers in my second Feature Friday, it makes for an … interesting … comparison.
  • Finally, a Facebook post instead of a blog post, but Daily PaintWorks featured my watercolor painting Pumpkin Close-Up on Wednesday, which gave me a feeling of validation. Sometimes, it is the thing that looks minor to others that just gives that wonderful feeling of, “Someone else likes my artwork also!”

June 2022 frame and art giveaway

Since it is June, and I did have a new frame (and artwork) giveaway planned for this month over on my Facebook page, I thought I’d post links and the image. For the record, that frame was not easy to get a decent photograph of – since it is brushed metallic, I had to turn off the flash. Then of course there is the constant challenge of getting it all in frame and in focus. Making it into a graphic in Facebook’s preferred size was the easy part for me. The post will be pinned to the top of my page at FB, so people should not have any issues finding it, but just in case (never underestimate FB’s ability to mess up your searches) here is the direct link to the post itself. I should probably stop there, since I really don’t want my feelings about FB to take over what should be an enjoyable feature here.

the Facebook graphic – getting a photo was the hardest part for me

Oh, one last thing – the voice on the Anchor/Spotify podcast thingy isn’t me. I suppose I should find a decent enough microphone and start recording my own voice at some point in the near future.

What a week: lighted candles still life

I had plans for this past week, which included participating in a short three-day art challenge with the theme “fire,” and had a virtual “seat” at another blogging symposium scheduled to start on Wednesday, along with my usual posts here.

A good start: Lavender Candles still life

Monday started off as planned, and even though I had an appointment and errands to run up in Palatka, I still came home and worked up my first piece for the art challenge, which I call Lavender Scented Candles. I often like to work on a theme-within-a-theme for these short art challenges, and this time was no different with my narrower theme being lighted candles. I had chosen three (and only three, this time) reference photos, and the only question I had Monday afternoon was which I thought I could do in a shorter time frame. I decided to work in oil pastel for the first one, and found a photo of two lit round candles on a tray, looking like those lovely lavender scented candles I so adore. (Lavender scent tends to evoke a relaxed feeling in most people.) Only two layers and a couple breaks to stretch my fingers, and it was time to put a coat of ModPodge over it so I could scan it, since oil pastel will indeed smear all over the scanner glass if not sealed with something, and ModPodge dries relatively quickly and adheres to the oil pastel in previous pieces.

Scented Lavender Candles, 9 by 12 inch oil pastel on paper, $100 USD available

I didn’t build up enough layers to cover the laid pattern on the paper, partly because I like being able to see the texture and partly because I was working to finish within the time limit of the challenge, which is one piece both started and finished in a single day. Prints are available at my Pixels store, along with a few accessories and home decor items … and of course, puzzles for the adventurous. If I had a cat-free zone, I’d totally try one of these puzzles. For the folks who like the swag over at RedBubble, here’s your link with a note that RB has added some new items like caps, pet blankets and mats, and even a pet bandana, which is triangle and doesn’t seem to go well with most of my artwork. If you want the original, and are not local to me, you can purchase it through Daily PaintWorks, which uses PayPal although now you do not need a PP account to use it. All things considered, Monday went smoothy for me, even though I had to stay up an extra half hour to wait for the ModPodge coat to dry enough to scan it and then upload it.

Needing to improvise: stylized Holiday Hope Candle

Y’all have probably already guessed Tuesday didn’t go quite so smoothly. I gessoed a 9 by 12 inch canvas with my black gesso, and lightly sketched out the main components of my planned painting with a hard graphite pencil, then began to paint with my acrylics … and got to a point where it felt like no matter what I was doing, I just could not seem to paint my way out of the Ugly Stage. Right before we went out to round up the various critters, feed them and put them up for the night, I had a stroke of inspiration. When I came back in, I pulled out a small 6 by 8 inch canvas pad that was already primed for both acrylic and oil paint, and started painting a very stylized red candle with no background other than the white primer. Less than half an hour later, I had my second piece completed and dry enough to scan and upload, and maybe even get to bed at the normal time. I call it Holiday Hope Candle, and did no shading. Prints and greeting cards are available through my Pixels store, and the RedBubble link for apparel and accessories is here. I have plans for the original now, but if you’d like to commission another one, just let me know.

Hope Holiday Candle, 6 by 8 inches acrylic on canvas, $45 USD original available

And then things got weird

This is the part where my week went all sideways on me. We had some internet troubles on Tuesday, but it was episodic and came back up, so we didn’t think much of it … until Wednesday morning when the satellite connection was completely down with no weather-related excuse for it. Hubby got on his touchscreen phone to see if there was anything about the outage in local media. He found an announcement of an upgrade for our area, then we had to figure out how to force the company’s automated phone tree to connect us with a real person in tech support to find out whether our modem was compatible with this announced upgrade. Eventually, we navigated that obstacle, and tech support said no, our reliable old modem (purchased in 2013 when we moved here) was not compatible with the upgraded system and we needed a new one, and she could schedule a contractor to come out Thursday afternoon at the earliest. I had planned to draw or paint my third piece in my candlelight series while listening to another blogging symposium on Wednesday. So much for that.

So we went through all day Wednesday and half of Thursday with absolutely no internet. Zip, zilch, nada. The contractor came out on time, got right to work, and then made sure everything worked before he left, all in a professional and competent manner. Then it was a matter of trying to get caught up on whatever we missed. I am still not caught up on reading all my email, though I did see that the blogging symposium had been delayed due to a storm knocking out the power in the city of the person putting it on, so I was not the only person having technical difficulties this week.

Since I knew I would not be able to upload anything on Wednesday, I did not do my third piece. I was frustrated and out of sorts, so hubby put on an audio book to entertain us and I tried to play video games while listening and providing a lap for my cats. This seems to be a bad habit I do, giving up and walking away (sometimes literally) when I know it won’t get the result I desire. I need to work on this, and I think I will do that this weekend and finish my candlelight challenge even though the deadline has passed. I had been saving the best reference photo for last, and while I haven’t decided whether to do it in oil pastel or watercolor, I would like to have a third one for the series.

Feature Friday ought to return next week – some of those emails I have not read yet are from the blogs I read, and rather than try to rush anything, I’ll just get back on track and back in the saddle next week. Who knows – I may have a new and appropriate drawing by then as well.

The green challenge and the elephant ear plant

Continuing my self-audit of artwork created versus art pieces blogged, I find myself missing yet another of last summer’s art challenges, the green challenge and the elephant ear plant in my pasture. I meant to write about these last autumn, but apparently it just slipped my mind once “new project fever” swept up my last two working brain cells. I tend to get the new project fever in some rather big doses.

So, let’s travel back in time to July of 2021, which would put us after the flamingo series but prior to the blue-feathered bird series (which starts with the hyacinth macaw painting – I really need to do a roundup of that series and revisit those paintings with a fresh eye). It was another short challenge, with the theme “green,” and I just happen to have the perfect plant model that regrows each year in the goat pasture. Before the challenge started, I was out back with my old Kodak EasyShare digicam (I certainly got my $109 USD worth out of that thing!) to get reference photos of what my husband and I call the elephant ear plant for obvious reasons.

my elephant ear plant, likely a Xanthosoma species and the inspiration for the green challenge
my elephant ear plant in midmorning sun in the pasture

Since I was curious what its real name is (the plant was already here when we bought this place) I posted in a local Facebook group to see what it might be. Answers came in ranging from colocasia to taro to a xanthosoma species, and when I went researching what the differing names, I decided my specimen looks most like Xanthosoma roseum. (Edit: it may be Xanthosoma sagittifolium, which is native to the south of us and this one might have been brought up a county or two.) The largest leaves are often 18-20 inches long, and we sometimes joke about it being an escapee from the set of Jurassic Park.

The artwork

The first piece I did is similar to the above photo/snapshot, and I worked it in soft pastel (aka my “dusties”) on a blue sheet of Canson Mi Tientes paper, which I am still not enamored with except to use with colored pencil. Overall, I feel I got the shape right, but was hoping it would be brighter in the high key values (highlights) than it turned out. It isn’t awful, but I was hoping for it to be a bit more … just a bit more. The original is 9 by 12 inches, heavy paper, and lightly sprayed with fixative. Prints in larger and smaller sizes are also available at my Pixels store, and here it is on RedBubble apparel and accessories.

Xanthosoma in Morning Sun, soft pastel on paper
Xanthosoma in Morning Sun, 9 by 12 inches, soft pastel on paper, $100 USD original available

For the second day of the green challenge, I decided to zoom in on one leaf of the plant, because it really is a fun-to-draw shaped leaf (like Monstera species). I also decided to switch media and pulled out my oil pastels and the oil-primed practice paper, also a Canson product and one I like using. This piece captured the brightness I was hoping to achieve, and honestly it looks almost as if it is glowing. I so enjoy that about oil pastels – if you want serious, saturated COLOR, you can do it with the oilies. The original is also 9 by 12 inches, which is my favorite size for drawing and sketching, and it is sealed with ModPodge, which really works great for oil pastel work. Prints in larger or smaller sizes are available at my Pixels store, as are 500 and 1000 piece puzzles for those who love a good challenge and don’t have cats to “help” them with all the pieces. RedBubble swag is here.

Elephant Ear Leaf, oil pastel on primed paper
Elephant Ear Leaf, 9 by 12 inches oil pastel on primed paper, $100 USD original available

For some reason that I cannot recall, I dropped out of the green challenge after this second piece, despite having a good half a dozen more reference photos already chosen and cropped and still in a folder on my computer labeled “green.” Since yellow fly season has started here, I will be spending the majority of daylight hours hiding in the house from those vicious biting monsters that seem to wait outside my door for both of us, which means I will have plenty of time to “art it up,” as hubby says, and maybe this summer I’ll blog more of the results.

Pink flamingoes in watercolor

So, I intended to do up a flamingoes watercolor painting roundup when I noticed I only blogged about two of my six paintings last year. Oops! It’s high time I fix that, so grab a beverage and some popcorn (if you like popcorn and your husband hasn’t yet eaten it all) and let me get caught up on my favorite pink-feathered birds.

As I mentioned last year while it was happening, this was for a seven day challenge that had the theme of liquid. I naturally decided to use watercolor paint as my medium for the entire week, and picked out seven reference photos of flamingoes in or near water, and my Flapping Flamingo was the first one I painted. I fell behind on the blogging portion of the challenge, resurfacing to post my favorite of the series, Flamingo in Rippled Water, which y’all will recognize as one of the artworks that won first place in last autumn’s VA Healthcare system regional competition. When I finished up the challenge with a beachscape, I mentioned I would upload the others “soon.” I suppose less than a year can sort-of count as “soon,” in a certain light.

Very pink flamingo

For the second painting of the series, I did up this one I just call Wading Flamingo. I seriously doubt I will ever win any recognition for naming my art, but that doesn’t really bother me so I keep naming things with an obvious title. While this one isn’t really my favorite of the bunch, I have heard from a few folks who saw it and liked it. One artist also participating in the challenge said it was her favorite of the set. Like all the other flamingo paintings, this is on 9 by 12 inch watercolor paper, and prints are available. The page at my RedBubble swag shop is here.

Wading Flamingo watercolor painting
Wading Flamingo, 9 by 12 inch watercolor on paper, $100 USD available

Fun flamingo pose

Third in this series, and my second favorite overall, is this much more subdued version I call Curious Flamingo. My husband says flamingoes have such expressive faces, and that expression often looks startled, but I have found some nice ref photos where the bird looks not-startled, like this one. It still looks almost silly, the way this flamingo has cocked its head just so, but the overall effect with the less-saturated colors just work for me. Also on 9 by 12 inch watercolor paper, with prints available in larger sizes. Link to the RedBubble swag shop here.

Curious Flamingo watercolor painting
Curious Flamingo, 9 by 12 inch watercolor on paper, $100 USD available

Flamingoes on the beach

For my fourth flamingo watercolor painting, I managed to salvage something workable from what at the time looked like very much the disaster. After a couple days of touch-and-go, my masking fluid finally tore the (bleep) out of my paper. I was furious, went on Facebook and asked in a watercolor artists’ group for a better brand than what I was using. Once armed with a brand name that was recommended, I placed an order that very evening for what I now use, which is Pebeo drawing gum. As for the painting, which I was originally going to call Beachcombing Flamingoes but instead titled Impressionist Flamingoes … I totally intended for it to be done in an Impressionist style. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I am still a bit ambivalent about the idea of selling the original due to the damage to the paper’s surface, but it scanned well and I uploaded it to RedBubble for apparel and accessories. Prints in various sizes are available.

Impressionist Flamingoes, was intended to be called Beachcombing Flamingoes
Impressionist Flamingoes, 9 by 12 inch watercolor

Pale flamingo

Pale Flamingo is as its title suggests, and a pale pink on the flamingo’s feathers while it feeds in shallow pale blue water. The black of the beak and tail feathers provides sharp contrast with all the pale versions of color, and this one was identified as another artist’s favorite of the series. The contrast is certainly eye-catching. The original is also on 9 by 12 inch watercolor paper, and prints are available from my Pixels store, while the RedBubble swag is located here.

Pale Flamingo watercolor painting
Pale Flamingo, 9 by 12 inch watercolor on paper, $100 USD available

So this gets me finally caught up on my flamingo series of watercolor paintings, which means it’s about time I painted and drew some new flamingo artwork. I’ll need to finish a few pieces on the easels – yes, I now have multiple easels to hold my works-in-progress – and one of those just happens to be a flamingo.

Cougar drawing in charcoal

In between bottle feeding the five goat kids out in the pen, I managed to work up a charcoal study of a cougar from a photograph provided by Grace Carpenter for an art challenge on a forum I read. Unlike the tulip bud I started yesterday, I managed to get this one finished before a jealous indoor kitty sat on it. Said tulip project has both paw prints and a butt print on it in addition to the dry pastel smearing. I really do need to remember to turn my works-in-progress over so the working surface faces down. Enough grumbling from me about yesterday’s aborted project – back to today’s drawing.

cougar charcoal drawing
Cougar, 9 by 12 inch charcoal, in sketchbook

This is just my first sketch of it, mostly for the experience points, and also to see how well I liked the crop of the original photo. While I am mostly pleased with how it turned out, I think I want to try it in white pencil on black paper as that may be a bit easier to get the whiskers to show up like I want. I also need to work on the chin and lower muzzle a bit better, but I decided to upload it and make prints available from my Pixels store.

The amusing part of this story is I scanned the drawing and was almost ready to upload it when I noticed I had forgotten to add in the whiskers and lightest highlights. So, just for the giggles, here is the first scan, before I finished it up.

charcoal drawing of a mountain lion in charcoal
not QUITE finished yet!

It may not seem like a lot of difference between the not-quite-done version and the final version, but I can see it and therefore cannot unsee it.

Now, for the geekiness that is me: This oversized house cat really is an oversized house cat, despite some of its other names like puma, mountain lion, or in this region Florida panther. It isn’t even in the panther genus, unlike actual lions, so I guess puma or cougar are the best names for it. Cougars are related to my jealous little feline monsters … and this is very similar to look on Stripe’s face this morning as I tried (unsuccessfully) to get her off yesterday’s drawing without smearing it.