Entries for this year’s creative arts festival

Y’all recall last year when I placed first in two of the three categories I entered in the regional VA healthcare-sponsored creative arts festival? I am entering again, but this year picking the artwork to enter seemed much more difficult, given I can only enter three pieces again this year. I work in six media categories, not including mixed, and have made multiple pieces in most of those categories in the past year. So I took to Facebook and even Twitter to ask for opinions on which pieces I ought to put in the competition. This actually did not help as much as I hoped.

Oil pastel artwork

Oil pastels are not judged in the pastel category for this competition, but against oil painting as they define the category to include oil paint, oil sticks (which I have yet to try) and oil pastel. Basically, they want anything that includes pigment with some form of oil to fix it to a surface, which is not limited to canvas either. I felt my two best pieces from the past year are my Sunset Over the Hayfield landscape and my candle still life, Book Reading by Candlelight.

Folks on Twitter preferred the hayfield, while folks on Facebook preferred Candlelight, and when added together the votes were just about a dead heat. Any wonder why I asked for help deciding? In the end, I stopped to think (while milking goats) about the category and potential competition, and went with Candlelight because a bit of the textured paper shows in Hayfield, which might be enough to knock my piece down compared to the more traditional paintings.

Book Reading by Candlelight oil pastel still life
Book Reading By Candlelight oil pastel still life composition

Picking a watercolor painting

For this category, it was pretty easy for me. I simply love how my Pumpkin Close-Up came out last autumn. Truth be told, I really have not made many watercolor paintings over the past year, and this particular pumpkin one is my favorite of the three I did last fall (even though my mom just loves my Jack O’Lantern).

Pumpkin Close-Up watercolor painting
Pumpkin Close-Up watercolor painting

Picking a charcoal drawing

If y’all have been reading since the beginning of the year, you will know I was on a major charcoal drawing kick that started prior to New Year’s Day and continued through the spring goat kid bottling season. I made quite a few charcoal drawings, both traditional black and the tinted charcoal I am still experimenting with.

I managed to get my short list down to three, then once again asked on Facebook and Twitter which I ought to enter. The results surprised me. Personally, I had been thinking to enter my Apples 3 still life, but my husband said he really likes my Two Flamingoes. Meanwhile, my Single White Rose (in the same post as the flamingoes) tends to get positive reactions from folks. Both Twitter and Facebook enthusiastically said I should enter the flamingoes, though the rose was in second. What sealed the deal for me was the comments about how flamingoes usually aren’t depicted in black and white, and that I nailed the expression on the front bird’s face.

Two Flamingoes charcoal drawing
Two Flamingoes charcoal drawing

So, there we have it: my three entries to this year’s creative arts festival. I sent them off this morning, because today is the deadline. For whatever reason, I seem to always wait until the last day to enter. Perhaps it ties in with my usual answer when asked what I think my best piece of art is. My answer is always, “The next one.”

Candle still life in oil pastel

Finally returning to the third and last piece I did for the flame challenge, though I was not able to upload it on time. I already showed a preview of it in the early stages, but have had this candle still life in oil pastel done for a while now. May I present Book Reading By Candlelight, as I finally named it. (In all honesty, it took me almost as long to figure out the title as it took to blend the base layer!)

candle themed still life with open book and reading glasses on wooden table, with lighted candle as focal point
Book Reading By Candlelight, 11 by 14 inch oil pastel on primed paper, original and art prints available

Art supplies used

I used a sheet of Canson XL oil and acrylic primed paper, because I absolutely love the texture on it for oil pastels. I used my Mungyo Gallery standard set for the base layer, because that lovely texture will eat up softer oil pastels. For the record, that textured paper also tears up the cotton swabs I use to blend, so it is a good thing I can get a nice big package for only a few dollars at WalMart. On larger areas, I sometimes use napkins that I keep on my desk from takeout – those also do a great job of cleaning up spills (paint, coffee, etc).

base layer of Book Reading by Candlelight
base layer of oil pastel for Book Reading By Candlelight, on my 72 color set of Mungyo Gallery standard

I’m afraid I only have the one in-progress picture, because once I blended the base layer and took a break I put on my headphones and got into the zone, totally forgetting about the digicam as I happily lost myself in the sheer joy of playing with sticks of color. What can I say? I am an artist. This is an artist thing.

For the top layers, I used my Gallery Artist set – only 48 colors, so as I often do I used my Erengi Art Aspirer 50 stick set alongside it since the two manufacturers include different colors in their very comparable and compatible sets. I should note that since then, I purchased the 72 color set from Mungyo in a nice wooden box, and the 92 stick set from Erengi, also in a nice wood box. The Erengi set also includes two colorless blenders … if those work better than cheap cotton swabs I’ll be buying them by the dozen.

Links to purchase original and art prints

Now, for the part y’all have been waiting eagerly for: how to get this for your wall! At present, the original is available (though my friend Keashia says she is very tempted to get this because it will match the decor in her new house) and you can purchase it through Daily Paintworks. For larger (or even smaller) art prints to fit the empty spot over your favorite reading chair, browse the selection at my Pixels store. I uploaded it to my RedBubble shop so you can get it printed on apparel, accessories, and fun swag.

So, one last question: who is brave (or crazy) enough to get this printed on a puzzle?

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.

Still life drawings with charcoal and graphite

I’ve been doing some art this month, though I just didn’t get around to loading up the blog until this morning. It started the way it often starts for me – with an art challenge. While folks are doing the Big One, one a day for 335 days out of the year’s 365 days, I knew I would not be able to keep it up once the goats kidded and I must bottle feed every two to three hours during the first week. Bottle feeding goat kids is my annual spring joy. So, while sitting out the Big One, I jumped on a shorter seven day challenge with the theme “from the kitchen.” I would love to get a nice long series of drawings and paintings featuring the kitchen and cooking motifs, and I have a LOT of reference photos from October when I spent over an hour taking photos of produce on my table, so I was in on the shorter challenge.

One good photograph out of over a hundred

I made it through day four before I just had a bad day and dropped out on the fifth day of the challenge. Sometimes I just feel too poorly to even draw, and I was out of photos from that set that could count as an honest entry … which is to say I used my second photo from over a hundred. For me, that is an excellent success rate, and here is the one I used:

digital photo of an orange in still life arrangement
Orange 1, digital photo from still life series

This was actually sort-of an accidental photo, as I had set the digital camera on the table to change the towel in the background, then noticed before picking it back up that the image in the viewscreen had really nice composition. The other good one from that photo shoot has an apple that sits off to the left and was used as the reference for my apples paintings in November. While the idea of someone wanting a photograph I took tends to really puzzle me, I do have prints and stuff at my Pixels site featuring this. This was the first day of the challenge.

Probably my last graphite drawing

For the second day, I used an apples photo from the same shoot, but one that is noticeably out of focus – but that isn’t a big deal on an object that is both familiar and simple. I did this in graphite on my Strathmore 500 series charcoal paper, and once finished, I decided I am now certain I don’t like graphite as a medium anymore. The drawing is not bad, I just dislike the grey instead of black, and really dislike the shininess of graphite that becomes obvious the darker you attempt to make your shadows. Prints are available at my Pixels site, and the original is for sale and can be purchased through Daily PaintWorks or by contacting me directly.

graphite drawing of apples in a bowl
sketch for Apples 2, graphite on laid paper, 12 by 9 inches, available $80 USD

Still life drawing in charcoal

For day three, I went back to my dog-eared sketchbook, and also back to working in charcoal instead of graphite, and also back to that collection of photos for this drawing of a bowl full of citrus fruit: a total of two oranges, one lemon, and two limes, one inside the bowl and the other sitting in front of it. I was pleased with how it turned out … until I noticed the right side of the bowl droops down. Oops! Aside from that, it turned out nicely, but once I saw that I could not unsee it. It was good practice though, and if anyone wants, prints are available on my Pixels site. The original will stay in my sketchbook though.

charcoal still life sketch of citrus in and in front of a bowl
Citrus Bowl sketch, charcoal 12 by 9 inches, prints available

The orange composition in charcoal

For the fourth day of the challenge, I returned to the orange reference photo, and worked it up in charcoal on the Strathmore charcoal paper, and uploaded this:

charcoal sketch of an orange in front of a bowl and towel
Orange 1 sketch, prints available

While not a shabby result for a good three hours’ sketching, I did go back and work on it some more. The not-quite-finished version does currently have prints available, although I will likely change that at some point. I think the final version is an improvement, and the original of it is available through Daily PaintWorks, or by contacting me directly. Here is how it looks now that I went over it again.

finished drawing of the still life orange
Orange 1 (final), 12 by 9 inches, charcoal on laid paper, original $100 USD

My intention to finish the challenge up was to go back to each of the three images and paint them in acrylic, and I do still intend to make that happen. Right now though I seem to keep reaching for my charcoal and paper, and so I am just rolling with it. I should probably break here, and continue tomorrow or so for the rest of it, for there is definitely more to post.

Red Apples 1 still life paintings

The theme for the 30 day art challenge running the entirety of November is red, so I started off with an obvious choice: an apple still life. It is a classic in art because it is simple yet elegant. For my first attempt, I did a trio of honeycrisp apples, but had difficulty nailing down the gold-green of the variegated skin. This trio was also my third painting for the 3 day three themed challenge, and while it does look interesting, it just was not what I wanted to paint. I did upload it to my Pixels store, and input a few prints of it, but until today was not sure what to do with the original. It has kind of grown on me, I guess. Anywho, this is the opportunity to test out Daily PaintWorks’ auction feature. Interested? Bid here.

acrylic sketch of three Honeycrisp apples in a white bowl on my table
Apples sketch, 12 by 9 inch acrylic on paper

Since my first attempt wasn’t what I was trying to paint, I did a second painting of these apples, flipping/reversing the photo to just be different, because sometimes that results in a better piece. I am quite pleased with this result: it is bright and colorful.

acrylic painting of apple trio, this time in solid red for the apple skin
Red Apples 1, 12 by 9 inch acrylic on paper

Ah yes, this has a bolder feel to it. In fact, it is almost Christmas-y in the bold reds with the green of the background. The original is listed at Daily PaintWorks, while both smaller and larger prints are at my Pixels store. For this image printed on various apparel, check out the listing on my RedBubble page here.

I think this covers all of this episode of apples as still life subjects, for now. I will be revisiting these reference photos – even after we eat the final apple.

For more apples-themed artwork, check out my charcoal drawings of this trio and also another pair of apples.