project – portrait of avery

avery’s my oldest grandkid, and so i tried a portrait of him for his great-grandmother, name of granny.  i took about 50 photos of him, and wouldn’t you know it but the first couple of photos were the best, so i used this one.  he’s 9.

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because my daughter allison has been doing portraits of people starting with a tracing, i thought i would try it myself.  it’s much more accurate than drawing by eye, but of course, when you draw something by eye it reflects how you see and how your brain and muscles translate what you see to the paper.  when you trace something, on the other hand, you’re making not exactly a contour drawing, but a drawing of the values in your picture.

i used to do this in my schoolbooks as a kid.  they were all black and white photos in those days, and i would draw lines around all the masses of different tones in the photos.  drawing avery on a light box wasn’t all that difficult, but there are many details that just didn’t come thru the thickness of the watercolor paper, and i also had to guess at many contours that were in shadow.  this is what i ended up with once i’d finished tracing out what i could see onto the paper:

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the next step is always intimidating.  in a portrait, one wrong eyelash and it doesn’t look like the person anymore.  and tho i can’t rely on true accuracy in my paintings (my eyes are wonky, so is my brain and my hand), i do try for a likeness – but it doesn’t really matter because in ten years they won’t look anything like they do now, no matter what age they are when you take the likeness.

i used the traditional watercolor method of working light to dark.  usually i don’t, but in this case, with the likeness so important, working light to dark means not making (too many) mistakes i can’t back down from.  so, skin tones first, lightest hair colors, underlying shadows of drapery. (i believe i’m missing the photo of the very first session, with just the barest color.  what’s here is several layers of skin tone, some freckles, some shadows, and the second layer of hair details.

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and tho it’s really hard to tell the next photo from the last, i’ve actually done a bit of work on the skin tones.  it started out way too yellow, so i had to add a great deal of red, and orange.  this risks being too dark, and almost muddy in the ears, but i know i’m going to have a dark background, and this means the lights have to be rather garish in order to stand up.

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then more hair stuff, including some blue and a great deal of burnt sienna, even tho his hair isn’t really red.  shadows on the face, details of the ears, neck and mouth, work on the eyes.  these are the most delicate things to get right – eyes and mouth.  it’s really easy to overdo it, or put things in the wrong place, and then the painting is ruined.  but this one continued to do just fine.  i was pleased and surprised it went so easily.

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a few final touches on the face and head.  i swear the fairies painted this for me because i don’t know how i did it, and couldn’t tell you if a had to.

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then a bold declaration of background, hookers green and ultramarine.  and then i stopped because i was afraid of making it muddy.

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but once i’d put the camo patterns on his shirt, i realized i needed to hit the background again.  it was not too much, and i was pleased with it.

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after a few more things than you see here, like a signature, i tripped it down to the same size as the photo reference, matted it and framed it behind glass.  and of course i didn’t get a photo of the finished product.  but if i remember to take my phone in with me next time i go see granny, i can get a photo of it on her wall.

merry xmas, granny.

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making art with dirt

i’m a stealth gardener.  i’ve always propagated plants wherever i could, whether it meant taking the smallest of succulent leaves that had fallen to the floor at the garden center, or wrenching seedheads off of neighbors’ flowers to scatter in a bed around the house.  i’ve always made gardens where i could.

i was once fortunate enough to have an abandoned lot next to the apartment building i lived in 30 years ago.  from my fourth storey windows i could see it behind a tall wall, choked with ivy, invisible from the street.  first i climbed over into it to reconnoiter.  then i noticed the bricked up door and started picking it apart brick by brick for an entrance i wouldn’t have to scramble over.  i never asked permission, never notified the caretaker of the apartment building – it was my secret place, and it had to be invisible to everyone; it just had to.  i rolled back the ivy and pulled up its roots, declaring a war on ivy that persists to this day.  i clandestinely divided primroses and daffodils along the public paths nearby, and planted the divisions in my secret garden.  and cuttings.  and seeds.  it was beautiful before i moved away, and it’s probably still doing okay 30 years later, because i make my gardens to go untended.

when i lived in an apartment in brooklyn, 30 years ago, there was a 2’x3′ chunk of broken up cement behind an ankle fence right next to the front door.  i broke that up and uncovered the dirt, and stuck a bunch of seeds into it that popped right up and happily clambered all over the place.  and then i turned my attention to an abandoned fenced-in almost park at the end of the block, and before long others were colonizing bits of it, and people were bringing kids and dogs to play, and it was getting to be a neighborhood thing.

when we lived in the suburbs and my kid was just starting school, 25 years ago, they started building a new elementary that she was slated to attend once it was built.  naturally i hung around the building site (looking for interesting rocks), and asked questions, and had a look at the plans, and saw that nothing was being done with the central courtyard.  so i contacted the head of construction, and the soon-to-be principal, and asked if i could do something with it, and they said sure and here’s a 20k budget to go along with it.

courtyard plan

so i designed an almost 300 foot x 25 foot enclosed courtyard that stretched from the library to the cafeteria, and had classrooms opening onto it all down its length.  i used sacred geometry (daring in the south, had anybody asked me about it), xeriscape plants, put in a garden plot so the kids could learn how to grow vegetables, specified fruit trees and shade trees, bat houses, a pond and fountain, teaching areas and seats.

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1 courtyard - spring hill north
school courtyard, first year

it all came to happen, and nobody knows it but me, because when i went back recently to get photographs of the project 20 years later, the trees were thick and tall, the concrete paths were still wandering down the length of the courtyard, but every other feature had changed.  the garden suffered first, because i neglected to specify fresh dirt, and the school was built next to the county dump, so it wasn’t the nicest soil (the janitor told me he grew tomatoes the first year, and they tasted awful).

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how it looks now, 25 years later, still being used as an outdoor classroom

and i even got a tad of fame, if you don’t mind illegibility and an ex last name.

clipping garden

when i did a year and a half of art residencies in europe and the states 15 years ago, i took dogwood seeds with me, and oxalis corms, picked up things from where i was staying, and planted and cross planted all up and down the east coast.

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i’ve had my own garden around my own home for 12 years now, and i plant whatever will grow there, and then divide that to some other part of the yard and grow more of it.  i capture seeds from flowers on our dogwalking route and prepare small beds for them in my yard.  i take a single iris from healthy patches that need thinning.  i dig up stray magnolia treelets and dogwood seedlings and native ferns.  i transplant some of my vinca to every dirt slope i find.  i still pull up ivy, and poison ivy and i are currently at a standstill, because i refuse to use roundup.

when i went to north iceland on an art residency two years ago, i began to think about gardening in the arctic.  some amazing things grow in the botanic garden in akureyri, including bamboo, which isn’t usually that hardy.  i thought up a nice project to do the next time i go back (next summer) – called the troll garden.  i even talked to the mayor about it, and he said fine to moving a bunch of trees in an abandoned nursery.  we put them down the main drag, far enough away from the snow ploughs to be safe and grow up big and tall.

in our neighborhood is a cul de sac that serves as a place for the kids to run around, and a shady place for the ambulance crews to wait for a call.  we’ve been talking about turning it into a community garden, and then learned that there’s now a city-sponsored program to develop urban agriculture, and called up for a meeting with my local city councilwoman.  and so we met the mayor’s head of urban agriculture, and i’ve got my in with the system.

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now comes the organization.  i’m used to doing it all myself, but that’s not a thing at my stage of life, so it’s going to take lots of people helping.  luckily this is something the folks in the neighborhood have been talking about for years, so it’ll be easy to start off.

first we’ll put above-ground garden plots – boxes that serve to impede traffic and claim the space.  and then we’ll go thru the hoops necessary to take control of the land, get permission and someone to take all the asphalt up, get permission to thin out the scrub forest, get the city to put up a barrier fence between the area and the interstate onramp.  it’ll take fundraising, ownership, an account with the water company to run a line.  all sorts of stuff.  this will all take years, but this is a great year to start a big project.

and, still to come, next summer i’m going to be back in iceland for three months, hosting the residency program, inviting artists from around the world to come to the troll peninsula and make art about trolls, elves, the hidden folk – unseen beings among us.  my personal project will be to make a 15′ high troll statue out of local volcanic rock, set on a hillside overlooking the town.  around this i will plant a garden of things that grow, and things i hope to see growing there in the future (lupins, birch, spruce, willow – hardy bamboo!)

so stay tuned for the further adventures of a stealth gardener on her rounds of this earth we can only steward and never own.

the very idea of a container ship residency

it’s enough to set my heart racing.  i’ve been applying for residencies aboard ships since they started becoming available – late 2015.  and it’s okay if i don’t get in.  there are thousands of artists applying for an artist residency cooped up on board a ship on the open ocean.  and why wouldn’t they?

see, i’ve been trying to get on a boat for some extended period of time.  not to work, and certainly not to party in one of their many ballrooms and yuck yuck yuck.  i’ve always wanted to go to see on a tramper.  a local.  a merchant ship.  a bulk carrier.

bitd there weren’t any container ships.  there were cargo ships, and there was the QE2.  then the shipping container industry swallowed up everything else, and now it’s hard to hitch a lift on a steamer, because those container ships only hold 12, and they’re all crew and officers.

but recently it became possible to actually book passage on a ship again.  especially after eyjafjallajokull blew up in 2010 and ruined everybody’s air travel plans for a couple of weeks.  I was preparing for a residency at that time, and had to shelve my plans.  that’s when i started looking at the possibility of a long ocean cruise, during which i could paint all day and rock in my bunk all night.

and even more recently, there came two opportunities for container ship residencies.

one was negotiated personally by a woman of great courage, willing to face the stony responses of shipping companies until one said, sure.

the other takes advantage of the newly available booking companies for passage on board ship.

both offer three weeks on the ocean, where all you have to do is paint and show up for dinner.  a cabin of your own, and as much solitude as you can stand, with only the weather outside that changes, and the rocking of the floor beneath you.  in my case, the sloshing of my watercolors freshly applied to paper, and the running of wax as i try to burn in my encaustics.  maybe i could rig a sling to keep things even???

anyway, a residency application often takes as much time as a funding application, and i’m actually doing both.  i applied for the first container residency between xgiving and xmas, and then i applied for a residency aboard a scientific research vessel, and now i’m finalizing the application for the second container ship residency, and then i will go back to working on the funding application for a big public art project in iceland next year, after which i will do my taxes.

and there’s no art involved in this, not since i finished up a dozen venetian canal oil paintings in oil, and another dozen little venetian window watercolors for the local xmas market.  but i haven’t done anything since then, and my bedroom doesn’t even smell like oil paint at the moment.  waah.  but writing proposals is an art form in itself, and i love to write, so i’m having fun turning my vast unorganized outpouring into an artist statement and a proposal of no more than 250 words each.  hahahah.  but i do it, in the end, and it sounds pretty good, if a little romantic at times.  because i like metaphors.

i will post again soon, but i’ve waited already too long to post this.

here are the pieces i’m submitting for these projects.

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plein air at zoo atlanta

i was out walking the dogs with jim at the end of may, and ran into dawn kinney martin, an artist i knew from way back in the days of cafe tu tu tango.  she told me she would be up at the zoo the first week of june, doing a plein air paint out as a fund raiser for the zoo.  i got all excited, and got the name of the person to call at the zoo – the fabulous julia knox (we’re related by name, sort of).  so i ran home, and you know how it is when you’re trying to get hold of someone with an office – they’re never there, they never answer their phone, and they never get back to you.  but i had a weekend to make it happen, so i hounded her, and finally she gave me this nice polite email about how they were full up for this year, but i could apply for next year’s event starting in december.  i took it well.  i wrote back that there was sure to be at least one no-show, and i live in the neighborhood and could be down there in ten minutes.  well, an hour and a half to run off and get supplies.

so she called me on tuesday, and i scampered down there.  i knew before i even arrived that i wanted to paint the flamingos.  they’re so colorful.  they’re the first things you see when you get inside the zoo, and tho you never stop to look at them on the way out (because fatigue), it’s so nice to stop and contemplate the colors.  plus, they don’t move, so i could make my first painting a still life.

so to speak.

after putting all my stuff in the ‘green room’ (it’s kind of brownish gray), in the round education building up on the hill, the one with the living roof, i was driven down to the front gate by an intern – they’re so bright and chipper, and all of them are from way north fulton county, so this is a really special internship – they all complain of the traffic (welcome to adulthood in atlanta).

i sat in front of the flamingos for about two hours.  it was around 1 when i got there, i picked the deepest shade right next to the railing separating us from them, sat and watched them for awhile to find a grouping of them that didn’t seem likely to move for awhile, and then got out my canvas and my graphite stick and started sketching.  once i had the sketch in, i took a reference photo of what i was going to paint, because even tho they’re remarkably unlifelike creatures, they do move around because there’s a lot of them, and they are sociable.  they squabble some.  they preen, they flap their wings (not often), they poke at the water listlessly (as if there might be food there – the water smells like chlorine and bird poop).  mostly they sleep.

so in two hours i had my reintroduction to speed painting, which is what i did at tango.  and what’s more, speed painting in acrylic, which dries as soon as it comes out of the tube.  i mixed paint a lot.  can i please say how difficult it is to get that brownish green of the water in a beam of sunlight?

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i took a new canvas out with me next morning.  i got there around 9, and wandered around the zoo all morning, looking at the animals, the landscape, the visitors, the light.  then i really wasn’t in the mood to paint after that, wanting lunch and a nap, but i forced myself to stay and start a painting.  i stopped back by the green room for a stash of water and snacks so i would have something to keep me going (i forgot to bring lunch), and then got another intern to take me up to the orangutan towers.

the orangutans were mainly sleeping in the afternoon shade, but the habitat was very nice and green, with the platform and cement tree, the woods behind, and the tourists in front.  i sat on the benches behind the viewing area, about 30 feet from the railing, and painting the habitat for a couple of hours, sitting in the shade, ignoring the hundreds of people who came by to see the orangutans.  i was struck by how many times the same conversations were repeated by different families or couples stopping by.  it was like in venice, when every single tourist would stop on a particular spot on a particular bridge, and swing their cameras up to take the same exact photo of the same place from the same angle and the same spot.  something compelling in the composition of that scene.  i too had stopped and take my picture, and so i did the same thing at the zoo, and painted as if i was a bump on a log, witnessing sort of half-abstractedly the buzzing of the constant stream of tourists in and out of the space.  like a time lapse photo.

please note that what you’re seeing here is the finished painting, in all cases.  when i took them home after the two hour session of painting on the scene, they were simple, roughed in, needing a lot of work, and lacking all sorts of details – like the orangutans, and the tourists.  all that got put in during the week that we had to finish our work before the auction.

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so that was wednesday.  on thursday morning i got here right after the place opened, because they let the staff in at 8, but the tourists didn’t get let in until 9:30, so that was a whole bunch of time in which to paint absolutely unimpeded.  nobody looking, nobody asking, nobody talking, nobody taking selfies with you.

so i staked out the carousel.  i could always see it when i was sitting in the car taking a break from painting.  the lights moved around and around, and i knew what it was.  so i had the little intern drop me off in the kids’ playplace, where they have a wetland full of turtles, and wallabys, and a petting zoo, and a climbing wall.  i liked the carousel.  it was recently done, in 1999, i think, and it’s becoming a little worn, but it’s got old fashioned charm, and features a lot of the zoo animals.  so i walked all around, selected the view of willie b’s rump, and stood against the railing to draw and start to paint.

it’s a really challenging painting, because of all the angles and straight lines, which take a certain level of concentration – meditation – to be able to get it right.  so i struggled with it for my two hours, but in the end got all the white space of the canvas covered, which i consider to be the end of the first act.  and then it was 9:30, and the kids arrived, and ACK the carousel started moving, so i stopped painting, grabbed my camera and took some photos, mostly blurry, but i got these kids in these poses on some other animal entirely, and slapped them in when i was done messing around with the background.

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then, after lunch, or instead of lunch, or something, i got a volunteer to drive me – they’re older, and sometimes they live around the neighborhood.  we went the back way, around the staff parking lots, and the backs of the buildings, including the restaurants and the reptile house.  we drove around the back of the new reptile house, which is truly spectacular from the outside – like a ufo landed in grant park, all steel and glass.  i felt so privileged to be behind the scenes in the zoo – like the time i got a private tour around the back bits of the aquarium.

i stopped at the alligator habitat.  i had been there the day before, scoping out things.  the inside of the new slimy scaly spectacular ( i think the intern insisted on calling it) is a masterwork of decoration.  the rock walls, the desert habitats, the cement tree limbs, everything was done with an artistry that made the exhibits look pale.  i even got to talk to one of the guys who worked on teh walls, imbedding cast fossils into the rock surface.  brilliant.

the reason i stopped at the alligator habitat was not the alligators.  it was the habitat.  a great swimming pool of an enclosure, a pair or three alligators wallowing on the shallow rock, and the tourists, each and every one of them, bending over double to look under the water level to see them lying there.  it was priceless.  i just had to paint a row of tourist butts.

but first i had to paint the habitat, so i sat on a cement bench with fossils in it, laid my paints and all around me, and painted for two hours, putting in the rocks and the water, leaving most of the other details later.  the sky didn’t get painted in until i saw a photograph jim took the following day, under different conditions.  it was only on reviewing the photos that i discovered that the sky was blue outside the building, so i painted it in much later.  the same thing for the people.

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the next day, friday, i was totally undecided what to paint.  i found out talking to other painters that this was pretty much the case with most of them.  they wandered around until inspiration hit them.

there were 40 some painters there, doing all sorts of work, and they were spread around the zoo in the most unlikely places, as well as the places you’d imagine – in front of the pandas, the lions, the elephants, the giraffes.  they were doing all kinds of work, some working on panels they’d pretreated with a texture or a color or some embellishment.  some worked from photos, even tho they were working outside (a kind of stretch of the definition of plein air), some took photos and went away to paint in the studio.  whatever.  julia, who ran the event, said up front that she wasn’t there to police us as artists, and if we could produce it, we could call it art.  so we were free to let the place and the animals inspire us, and it was a really creative week, and lots of fun, and everybody met a bunch of other artists, not all of them local.

it’s a small world.

anyway, i ended up in the early morning shade in front of the elephant enclosure, and spent the morning painting it.  the elephants soon moved off, and were in fact not seen again, which concerned quite a few tourists, who told their kids that the elephants were probably still asleep.  i’d heard someone who sounded like they knew state that this was elephant spa day and they were having their toenails done.  i ventured this to several particularly worried tourists, and it seemed to help.

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that afternoon, i had time to start one more painting, and unwisely, perhaps, picked the meerkat.  i thought they were so interesting, i wanted to have the experience of sitting in front of their habitat for a couple of hours, absorbing their activity.  that’s what was so interesting about doing all this live painting.  i got to sit and watch animals the way i don’t get to do in life.  i usually work from photos.  i don’t get a chance to experience the wandering and attentions of animals on their own.  the tourists came and went, and i sat and studied the various animals i painted (except for the alligators – i never saw them while i was sitting there).  it was very good to do that, and i’m looking forward to the privilege of time alone with wildlife, even tho of course i’m not alone and they’re not wild.  you know what i’m talking about.

so i painted the meerkats.  this one girl would climb up on a planter and look around, stock still except for her head, which turned here and there quickly, then froze up and stared until something else caught her attention.  i got her to look right at me for the reference photo, and then spent the rest of my time sketching in her surroundings, and drawing her basic body shape and attitude, because she stayed that way for five minutes at a time.

the only trouble with this was that i was sitting in full sun, in the early afternoon, without a hat, without any shade at all.  my paints dried the moment i squeezed them out, my metal butcher tray that i was using for a palette was too hot to touch (i had it resting on my knees anyway), i couldn’t see the colors properly because of the glare, and the meerkats had all gone into the other enclosure which was turned away from the sun.

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so i went home with everything.  and spent the next week fixing them, finishing them, in some cases redrawing them according to the reference photo.  and on saturday they had a big party at the zoo, and a silent auction, and all that.  we went, but that’s another story.  one i probably won’t get around to telling…

project – lava silk painting

holuhraun, or nornahar as they’re calling it in iceland, the new lava on top of holuhraun, which is actually old lava.  from bardarbunga, a volcano that erupted JUST AFTER i left iceland this summer.  waaah.  i’ve been watching it on the web, tracking its progress.  and one day i came upon this picture:

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and couldn’t wait to put it down on silk.  it’s going to be one of my icelandic series of silk paintings, and by far the most difficult of them all.  i had to make three test scarves before i could be sure of the process.  and the next thing to do is make a production run of four.  but here is a sample of the irritations involved in creating a scarf way out of your own league.

the big technical deal about this scarf is that the warmest, most glowing and purest colors are right next to the most murky black, and the texture is something i can only consider sugar syrup for.  fine water-soluble resist on most of the other details, fine.  but for lava, only a smear of syrup over color is going to work.  but how?

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the first thing is always a template, unless i’m feeling bold, and if it’s a successful first try i’ll still transfer it to paper for a proper template.  once a scarf design is down and proven to be good, i roll it up and use it over and over for as many scarves as i feel the need to make.  usually i go for multiples of two, because i steam them side by side in a tall steamer.  in this case i’m trying to make a bunch of scarves for the giftshop in olafsfjordur (ugla (owl) gallery), so i’ll try for 4 of them.  but first i have to get it right.

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this is the first step of the first test scarf – put on the boldest orange where the lava will go.  and while i was at it, i put in the flames of the lava fountain above the growing cinder ridge of new lava.  the dark, gummy stuff on top is sugar syrup, squeezed from a bottle in rings, and then mushed and spread with my finger.  you can see a fingerprint in the middle.  i have already drawn in the resist lines – you can see this in the white of the bottom of the scarf.  and i have put syrup on top of the resist line for the lava, but i still drew it.

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here’s a closeup.  the purple is one of the streams of water that the lava is encroaching upon, which accounts for much of the smoke.  you can see the lava’s upper resist line well in this photo, with the flames above.

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this is how the first scarf turned out.  the good part is to find that the dye formula i’m using is washfast.  the bad thing is that i got the lava too black, and the black washed right into the lava color when it was wet, and ruined the effect.  because i made everything run after painting it all in, as i usually do.  the runs look cool everywhere else but the lava.  so i’m on the right track.

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the second scarf should have turned out beautifully, except i was experimenting with the steaming method.  i want to switch to my little steamer for travelling, and i also want to use fabric to steam, rather than paper.  but fabric is way too absorbent, and paper is less so.  the fabric (an old sheet) got wet, the scarf got wet instead of steamed, and ran all over my fabric.  so very little of the dye was retained on the silk.  it’s cool looking, but not what i need.  but i can see i was on the right track with the lava.

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so, third try is the charm.  this time i put in a bunch of colors before bothering with the sugar syrup.

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then when i stuck the syrup on i used a palette knife to smear it, and put it on rather more thickly in spots where i wanted more lava to shine thru.

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the black only went on where i didn’t want to have burning lava, and i had to make sure i was seeing the negative space when i put it on.  i will be careful not to let this part get wet so it doesn’t bleed.  usually when i use sugar syrup i want it to bleed later, for that ferny mixing effect of the colors.  but in this case, i’m using syrup because of its resistive properties, and don’t want to mess with it and dilute the color balance.

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okay, here i’m getting a little dark for my tastes with the surrounding night and reflections on the river.  to tell the truth, the dyes i mixed up were very strong, and didn’t flow the way i’m used to, so they streaked and i had to scrub the colors in while the surface was wet.

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then lots of red and everything finished and ready for water.

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and this is what heppened.  the blue bled the red and everything but those awful red lines in the foreground blended right down to atmospheric.

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but, this is the finished test scarf, all washed out and ironed.  it turned out fine.  i want to make the lava more orange, rather than yellow, but the techniques are solid, and i can start into production with the assurance that i have a viable design.

i think it’s lovely.

scarves for sale

jim yarbrough
jim yarbrough

in order to help fund our upcoming trip to venice, and coincidently because i have come across a bunch of scarves i made and hadn’t sold, i’m going to put up about a dozen scarves for sale, here on this blog as well as in our new etsy shop.  both jim and i will be selling the things we make in venice.  in his case, he’ll be making a pastel painting a day, and in my case, i’ll be making watercolor paintings and silk scarves, all with venice as the theme.

so in order to tweak my settings, i’m trying to download a paypal thingie, and trying to mark all my scarves with their own paypal ID, and all that stuff.  i’m a newbie, so this is going to be ugly until i catch the hang of it.  so please pardon the rudeness of actually trying to make money off my art.  it’s crass, but i want to go to venice, so i’ll beg.  or something.

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ORANGE SUNLIGHT.
this is an abstract scarf. i did a whole series of them when i first discovered the use of sugar syrup.  i’m not sure, but i might well have soaked the scarf in sugar syrup and let it dry, then twisted it lengthwise and dashed yellow and red, and maybe a bit of black onto it, and let it sit forever until the dye finished spreading into the syrup.  it’s a wonderful way to put color on silk, and this is the only one i have left of a whole batch of scarves that have flown with the wind.

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NEBULA.
this is one of my nebula series.  this one’s the eye of god nebula.  you can see the stars of the galaxy in the darkness, and then a nebula, outshining all the suns in the sky.  the stars were made with dots of resist, and the features of the nebula were made with sugar syrup for the spots of white, painted around with blue, then bands of purple, black, and red.  the crenellations of black in these rings were probably made by running clear water along right beside the freshly laid black.  and the texture in the inky blackness was made by pitching salt onto the fresh black dye.

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DRAGON.
my dragon series.  actually, jim did the drawing for the dragons, as he does so much else of the scarf designs i use.  there are two or three dragon drawings that i base my scarves on, and i’m not sure which one this is.  i still have all the dragon design templates, and can pull them out and make another batch any time.  they’re very popular, and this is only one of two that i still have (the other one is in green).  for this one the outer lines of the dragon’s form are in water based resist (sodium alginate), while the crest and the scales are outlined in sugar syrup.  to color the scales i first take red, and put just a dab inside the round top of each scale.  then i put a dab of yellow inside each scale right in the middle.  finally, a drop of blue goes right at the sharp tip of each scale.  after i’ve laid in all the colors for the head, the tale, feet, and crest, i lay in the background, using salt for texture.  and then, with careful abandon, i run clear water over everything, one section at a time.  so the head becomes blended, also the feet.  and with clear water i violate all of the syrup lines, running water over each one of them and wetting the dye so it runs all over the place.  you can see this best along the crest, where it’s obvious where the sugar line was overwhelmed by water and dye, which emerged from the crest and turned the surrounding background red.

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SEA TURTLES.
this is one of my most complicated scarves.  jim designed it of course.  i asked him to draw this scarf after going off to south carolina’s beaches one summer and just missing a nestfull of loggerhead turtles on their run down to the water.  my sister has several of these scarves.  the sand was done using a resist paste and a sponge, dabbing the pebbly design down on the white scarf and then coming back in with light blue or light brown.  the turtles and shells were outlined with sodium alginate resist, and the waves and tracks, as well as the details on the turtles, were put in with sugar syrup.  everywhere the syrup was put, water was put afterwards in order to make the colors bleed.  a really wonderful scarf, and the last one i have. iIt was a labor of love, and has more details than most of my scarves, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. you’ll want to frame it, but I hope you wear it.

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RUSSIAN BLUES.
because a friend of mine had a pair of russian blue cats, i made this design from a photo i shot at her place one afternoon.  they’re sleeping on top of a stuffed dog figure on my friend’s couch.  i made a run of these and this is the last one.

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CRANES AND STREAM.
too bad i can’t show this right side up, but it would take up too much of the page.  when i designed a set of kimono for my sister’s wedding, i also made the designs into scarves that went along with the kimono.  this one was based on my sister’s kimono, and there’s a standing dragon for her husband’s, which i don’t have a sample of.  but for this one, taken from the idea of japanese scrollwork, cranes hang out along a meandering stream enjoying the irises and wiggly fish in the wiggly water.  this is one of the only scarves where i left a lot of white.  the water was done with sugar syrup, and some of the internal features of the birds.  everything else was put in with alginate resist, or painted on freehand.  you will notice some places where the water has escaped the banks of the river.  we call that a happy accident.  as with all these scarves, there aren’t any more left of this particular run of scarf designs.  but i still have the templates.

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ALLISON WONDERLAND.
this cheshire cat is significantly altered from the disney version, while still resembling it.  it’s actually a color chart that i developed to use in my silk painting classes.  one version, which isn’t for sale, is all marked up with color directions in resist, and runs the gamut of colors.  this one plays with a gradation of blue from full strength at the head to very light at the tip of the tail, and goes from blue purple thru red and all the way to yellow on the body.  the background texture was done with salt.  i’ve never done a production run of these scarves, only the class examples, such as this one.

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KELP FOREST.
this is a fish scarf of my own design, based on the vast seaweed and kelp forests just offshore of most stretches of coast i’m familiar with.  the fish were outlined with water based resist, the seaweed was put in with sugar syrup, and after the background was put in (an ombre of blue and black fading to light blue at the top), the seaweed was washed over with clear water to make things run.  you can see how the blue shifted in the lower middle of the scarf.

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JUPITER’S RINGS.
this is my only planet scarf.  mainly, i’ve done planets in encaustic, and some of them quite big, showing the curvature of the planet as well as the gunge layer of atmosphere and space junk (in our case), and maybe a couple of stars beyond.  many of my planet encaustic paintings are 3 or 4 feet wide.  these scarves are tiny by comparison, and don’t lend themselves to roundness, so i decided to make one showing the planet all stretched out, the way you’d map a sphere.  it was done mostly with sugar syrup resist; no, i’ll say it was all sugar syrup, and parts of it were probably painted with syrup and let dry before using dye.  and then washed with clear water to make everything run.  i only did one or two of these scarves, because of the amount of work that went into them.  they’re really beautiful up close.

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SEA FISH.
this fish painting was a mix of the sea turtle idea and the seaweed idea.  i made wavelike forms with sugar syrup and colored them with vegetable and ocean colors, and then soaked the background to make all the colors mix.  the fish were protected from this chaos by water based sodium alginate resist, and weren’t soaked, but gently blended inside the lines.  except one or two places where the resist line got wet and broke thru.

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FALL PLAID.
and this scarf, not the last one i have, but the last one i’ve photographed.  it’s a fall theme, with the outlines of a bunch of leaves i picked while on a dog walk, colored in maybe somewhat like the leaves were colored (i made a bunch of these scarves, and got all fanciful with the leaf colors, but it started out with portraits of the actual leaves in their fall colors.  i put in sugar syrup wind gusts, and then drew a plaid pattern in the background, with lines of red, yellow, and blue, running clear water over the whole background and making the sugar syrup lines run along with the lines of dyed plaid.

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as for the buy it now idea, funnily enough, i’ve got the wrong kind of wordpress blog.  i should be paying for my blog, and then i can install paypal and other plugins.  all i can do is put up a contact form.  but i can refer you to the etsy site, and link to each item from here, so i guess that’s what i’ll do.  not quite as crass as big BUY NOW buttons, but i guess that’s okay too.

i hope you enjoy the scarf designs.  they are all 11×60 inches, made of 10mm habotai silk bought as blanks from dharma trading.  these are all old scarves at this point, and their templates are rolled up in a largish box, ready to use for another batch, if the whim takes me.  however, at the moment i am making icelandic themed scarves, and working up a production batch of the three – no, four – designs i came up with based on my travels this past summer.  and during the next few months, i will be working up a whole mess of venice themed scarves.  so this will likely be the last of these scarves for some time, and once they’re gone i will have to be very whimsical indeed to run another batch of them.  except for the dragon scarves.  i always make them.