Three Folk Art Cats – a labor of love

My oldest daughter is a sophomore in college this year.  As is fitting, she rented an apartment with some classmates and is quite pleased to have her own room after a year of dorm life and a summer spent serving at a Bible camp.

When I visited her to help her get settled, we agreed that she needed some art to jazz up the generic apartment walls.  Since she is a crazy-cat-lady-at-heart and misses our family cats tremendously, it seemed fitting to capture their essence in paper and paint.

threecats

Work in progress – 22×28 inches, mixed media on gallery wrapped canvas

This piece is almost finished…just a few details and it will be ready to send back with her when she comes home to visit this weekend.  I can’t wait to give it to her!  A labor of love, to be sure.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Have a happy November,

Melanie

 

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How many lessons can you learn from one art piece?

At least three, I have discovered!  Thinking ahead to my upcoming show in July at our local Dunn Bros, I’ve been working really hard thinking through ideas and creating new pieces.  One would think that after 5-plus years of making art, there would be a few lessons that that I wouldn’t need to revisit….but noooo!

Living in northern Minnesota, white-tail deer are abundant, and seeing them is always a delight…except if they’re crossing the road while one is driving…then, not so much!

I’ve been wanting to make some deer art for a long time.  After seeing Kent Youngstrom’s “drippy deer”, I was inspired to use one of my photos to create my interpretation of a “drippy deer”.  Thanks to my husband, I have several deer photos that could be made into art.

My process is almost always to begin with a layer of collage papers from my collection.  This is one of the most enjoyable phases, as I love to look through old books to find suitable material.  I also go through my boxes of maps, calendars and decorative paper until I find what I think is the right balance of these items.

deerBaselayer

Base layer of collage papers plus a bit of white paint.

I learned from another artist that it’s good to adhere papers with gel medium, but to wait and add a topcoat of the gel after initial layer has dried.  That was the first lesson I re-learned from this piece.  I got impatient and didn’t add a coat of gel medium after the base layer had dried.  When I started to add additional layers of paint, they just sunk into the paper, which made it difficult to remove bits I didn’t like.  Lesson #1  – Always seal your collage papers with a layer of gel medium!  I won’t make that mistake again.

deer2

Adding paint and pattern. This is where it would have been nice to be able to remove what I didn’t like.

However, part of being an artist is learning to work with mistakes.  It’s amazing what a little titan buff or white paint can do to tone things down.  After muting the background a bit, I used Saral paper to transfer a deer photo that I had enlarged at the local copy shop.

deerblubase1

My deer photo in turquoise paint. I splattered some rubbing alcohol while the paint was still wet to create more interest.

What I learned at this stage was in regards to the drips at the top of the piece.  Always make sure you have the correct consistency of paint or ink to make good drips!  I struggled, trying to use what I had on hand, and couldn’t wipe it off easily because the underlayer hadn’t been properly sealed!  Uggh!

Next, I used another layer of turquoise ink to define the deer a bit.  My husband, who has a very good eye, thought I should also create some subtle shading to define the eye and mouth areas.

deerMay21

The subtle shading of the eyes and mouth makes the deer look like it has a very small head! (18x24x1.5 inches on wood panel)

Yes, it may be hard to see from the photo, but the shading makes the deer’s head look very small.  We actually had some good laughs about that, which leads me to lesson # three…Always keep a sense of humor about your art!  In the grand scheme of things…it’s only art.  Nobody dies if you make a mistake or don’t like what you’ve created.  Plus, the laughter will probably inspire you to come up with a great solution!

This piece is almost complete.  I just need to decide how to proceed with the shading of the deer’s face, and maybe change some details in the body.

Thanks for visiting my blog.  I’d love to hear about the lesson’s you’ve learned from making art, as well.

Happy weekend,

Melanie

Meet “Ruthie”, who might be Russian…?

Since my last post when I declared my obsession with painting flowers, I had the overwhelming urge to do a study of my cat, Ruthie.

Painting realism isn’t my interest or strong point, but through all my art-related reading I’ve learned that even abstract artists have a working knowledge of drawing and painting in a realistic style.

Over the last few months my husband and I have made a concerted effort to declutter and get rid of unneeded items.  In the process you can imagine how many sentimental items we have unearthed!  Henceforth came the old photo of our beloved “Ruthie”.

RuthieOriginal

A little backstory on Ruthie.  My husband and I opened a clinic out of our old living room in 2007.  (Now that’s a story for another day!)  One of my husband’s loyal clients from a previous employer brought his pets in shortly after we opened. As he was leaving, he mentioned that there was a stray cat at his place of employment, which happened to be the Russian Language Village area of the Concordia Language Villages near Bemidji, Minnesota.  He told us that he wanted to trap the cat, have it spayed or neutered, and return it to its natural environment.  (We love people like that!)

Six weeks went by and the call came in!  He had trapped the cat, but it was so wild he had no idea how we would ever be able to do the surgery.  Since this happened at 6:30 am on a Friday morning, my husband told him he could drop the cat off and we would do surgery over the weekend.  He could pick it up on Monday.

Long-story-short….I fell in love with the cat, and she with me!  She warmed to us so quickly and was so sweet that we knew she must have had human contact at some point.

I asked my husband to call the client and let him know we’d be willing to foster the cat.  Fast-forward nine years…

MeAndRuthie

My beloved Ruthie!

Her art piece in progress..

RuthieProgress

In progress…based on the photo from above

After layers of stencils for the background and sponging to re-create a carpet effect in the foreground, Ruthie is finished!

Ruthie

“Ruthie” – 8×8 inches on canvas panel

I’m planning to frame this piece and have it on display in July when my work will be featured again at our local Dunn Brothers Coffee Shop.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

Many blessings,

Melanie

God’s will for our lives is the interruptions…

I’m sorry that I don’t recall who deserves credit for that statement, but I love it.  I first heard it many years ago when my two oldest children were toddlers and the third one wasn’t yet a dream on the horizon.  It has rung in my head periodically, especially during busy times when I’ve  wished to have time for art but the demands of life won’t allow it.

Fast-forward to this winter.  I’ve been absent from my blog for work and family reasons.  Although I could rant about how busy my life is, I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say that God’s will for our lives is the interruptions.  I take solace in knowing that the time we invest in our families and community is never wasted, even if it means our personal pursuits must temporarily simmer on the back burner.

Thankfully, I have managed to sneak into my studio for a few minutes here and there and start a couple new pieces….AND manage to take a few photos!

Here is a piece that I started working on this winter, with photos from its beginning up to where it is now.

floral1

Making a mess with color and pattern. You can see the vase shape, as I had in mind to create a floral arrangement. 24×24 inches on canvas

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Starting to lay in greens for background and collaging blooms.

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Continuing to add floral shapes and thinking about the overall composition of the bouquet.

This is where I wish I had taken more photos to show the progression from the above photo to the current stage.

floralMarch14

Current stage – still needs some work to add back interest in the background, and possibly change some values of the bouquet.

As stated above, this piece still needs some work.  I must say that I’ve become obsessed with painting floral arrangements and am on a quest to learn as much as possible.  I’m currently enrolled in Lynn Whipple’s amazing online class called ‘Big Bold Blooms Wild Painting’ which has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities in floral painting.  I’ll definitely incorporate her ideas in future floral art, but it was a little late for this one!

I also purchased the video “Expressive Still Lifes with Annie O’Brien Gonzales”, which is highly informative as well.  I found it fascinating  to learn about her thought process and considerations when she composes a painting.

With that in mind, I hope to have lots of new explorations to share in the near future…barring any “interruptions”!

As always, thanks for reading my blog.  Many blessings to you as you manage your own interruptions!

Until next time,

Melanie

 

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