Monday, July 27, 2009

finished pears and work interrupted

'Simply Pears', 7.5" x 10.5", Coloured Pencil on Colourfix Paper
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is a picture of the finished pears. This was a fun, undemanding piece (with the exception of the previously mentioned background experiment).

You may have noticed the dates posted for the pears. While coloured pencil has a reputation for being a slow medium, it really isn't this slow! :-) July has had some unexpected events and it hasn't been the productive month I had hoped. I look forward to July and August. I normally end my teaching gigs by the end of June and I usually anticipate catching up on my to-do list over the eight weeks of summer. This summer has the added responsibility of getting the farm where my parents lived ready to be sold. But, there have been other hiccups along the way.

The province of Ontario is currently switching all of the land titles and deeds from one type of registry to an automated one. We found out this month that a lakefront property that my sister and I inherited did not make the transfer. Our deed got flagged as missing a severance stamp and we now had a Planning Act Violation and an invalid deed. Kind of reminds me of my painting getting held up at customs! After much angst and two law firms working on our behalf we have discovered that the original severance and issuing of a deed was in fact done properly by our parents but we still have to have a lawyer argue our case. This has been an unexpected drain on my time this month.

In addition, my 16 year old car is suddenly having some issues and it has become clear that the time has come to replace it. So I have begrudgingly spent many hours in the past two weeks test driving cars, reading consumer reports, etc. I don't like to shop, I am a frugal gal who doesn't like to spend money and I like buying cars even less. Grrrr....

So now it is the last week of July and things are looking up. The legal issue is now being dealt with by a lawyer. I am close to making a car decision. Most importantly, I am packing to go to Atlanta this week to attend the Colored Pencil Society of America's Convention. Woo-hoo!

Wildlife update: I have been asked if the deer I mentioned a few weeks ago is still around. Yes she is.

We also have another doe and her twin fawns making appearances. My husband has seen a small black bear twice in the past week. She probably wants my raspberries! The rabbits have taken over the back yard. This is a fenced piece of land so they are safe from coyotes and foxes. Some lilies in my front garden were eaten by the deer and the lilies in the vase below were chewed off of their stems by a rabbit. I guess they weren't tasty. I am not sure if Beatrix Potter would approve but I am starting to sympathize with Mr. McGregor in the Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Actually, if truth be told, I am delighted to have wildlife problems. I love living amongst these animals. I feel truly blessed to see them and it is worth raspberries and chewed lilies. :-)

As I mentioned I shall be away this week attending workshops and meetings at the CPSA convention. No doubt I shall be having a wee bit of fun too. I hope I can find a lampshade to fit my head! LOL Perhaps there shall be some pics in the next post. Of course I shall edit out the incriminating ones!

So how is your summer going? Are things turning out the way you planned and hoped?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

simply pears, new cp work in progress

Time for a new piece and for a change from flowers I decided on fruit. I grabbed some pears and headed outside for a bit of a photo shoot. I must admit that my photos leave something to be desired as I was rushing things. My initial thoughts were that I would like to do a simple, rather stark, contemporary piece. I would have liked to use quartz or granite counter tops as a surface but as I don't have either of those in my house I used my old faithful marble pastry board instead. A lot of great pie dough has been rolled out on that marble! about a pear tart? Oops, I digress...

The above photo is one of my not so great reference photos but that's okay as I cropped it anyway. I created a drawing and the image below shows how it looked once I transferred my drawing to my paper and started adding colour.

I chose an olive green sheet of Colourfix paper to work on. I wanted a change from white Stonehenge and I wanted to work on something sanded. The piece is approximately 7 1/2" x 10 1/2" in size. If you haven't tried coloured paper and you are not sure how to transfer a drawing to a coloured surface (or to a paper that is too thick to use a light box) please click here for a description of how to do it. Just scroll down to the question section.

In the above photo, I have put down three different pencil colours to make up the background. The pears are untouched and are still the colour of the paper. I started in on the marble with a first layer of pigment. Then I started to wing it when I should have proceeded with caution. The picture doesn't show what I did next.

After stopping to take a photo, I decided to tackle depicting the dark veins in the marble. I also decided to bump up the detail in the marble to make it more striking (and more like granite). So I started in applying dark streaks all over the place. I wasn't sure it was working but I kept going. Well, when I was finished I knew it didn't work. It was just too busy for the simplicity of the piece. And uh oh, I had got quite carried away and there was a lot of pigment down! Darn.

So I got out my tape and I started to lift...and lift...and lift. It wasn't coming off evenly but hey maybe another layer of pigment would cover it. I tried that. Nope, now it was worse - a real streaky mess. So back to the lifting. Finally I decided that this wasn't doing the job so I reached for my electric eraser. I had hesitated to use it as I thought it might remove the sanded texture of the paper. But hey, things were looking too awful to leave it the way it was. You know what? It worked! Like a charm. Yippee! The lesson I relearned here was that when things really don't seem to be working, stop and assess what is happening. I should have done a test on a scrap bit of paper to see if I liked the marble look. I was impatient and I paid the price. Lifting and erasing took too much time and was quite boring.

So I continued on and started in on the pears.

So at this point, there is still work to be done. I haven't finished the pears (you can still see the green paper at the bottom of the front pear), the shadows are not done and I shall tweak the new non-marble background colour. I should have stopped to take a picture of the awful 'marble' background before I erased it. It was truly hideous! :-)

Now for some garden photos...yarrow

More yarrow...I love yellow in my gardens.

For some shocking pink, good ol' phlox.

I shall show you the finished pears in my next post.

The moral of this post is that sometimes it is best just to keep things simple...oh and slowing down to do a test strip saves time in the long run.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Motivation Monday

Are you fierce about your art?

Like you, my inspiration comes from many sources. Something I read recently had an impact on me and I would like to share it with you.

On the last page of The Ark magazine, summer 2009 issue, (a publication of the Nature Conservancy of Canada) there is a feature article of someone who is an important volunteer. The text that grabbed me is this: "So fierce is Mabel's conviction that this is a special place that for the past several years she has worked to ensure that the Musquash Estuary would be protected for others to enjoy." Humm...fierce, such a powerful word. A fierce conviction...Wouldn't it be extraordinary to have someone define you as fierce?

A dictionary definition of fierce states this: savage and violent in nature, ferocious, extremely severe, very ardent or intense - now this last one sounds right. Very ardent, intense. I started to ponder what am I 'fierce' about?

Let me ask you again, are you fierce about your art? Can you honestly say that you are very ardent and intense about creating your art as well as honing your skills as an artist? Don't we all wish to be deeply devoted to our art not to mention passionate about it? Perhaps you aren't as fierce as you would like to be. Maybe you have let things get stale and routine. Maybe you have let other tasks get in the way of making your art. Don't settle for that. Now is the time to make a change. Bump your motivation level up to the heights of ardent intensity. Go on, choose to be fierce!

(If you are new to my blog, you can check out other Motivation Monday posts by clicking on the button in the sidebar. I recommend scrolling down to the very bottom and reading up as the posts tend to follow on from the previous one. May you be inspired!)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

another peony and milkweed

peony leaves (untitled), Coloured Pencil on Stonehenge, 8 1/2" x 9 3/4"
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Well, after looking at all of the peony photos that I took a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't resist doing a quick picture of some peony leaves. I especially liked the leaves near the bottom that seemed to me to look like an open clam. This piece whizzed along and I didn't end up taking any work in progress pictures...oops.

I have finished teaching my Beyond the Basics course and I now have a break during July and August. I have lots of projects I hope to get to this summer - I shall keep you posted.

The Coloured Pencil Society of America's 17th Annual Exhibition opens tomorrow. For a teaser photo of one of the gallery exhibition rooms, click here. Three weeks from today I shall be on a plane heading south to Atlanta in order to attend the CPSA's convention. I am getting excited!

Now for some trivia...did you know that milkweed flowers have a beautiful scent? They do, really! I have some milkweed flowers in a vase in my house and their lovely perfume is filling the air.

I am a fan of weeds. What isn't there to love about milkweed? They have beautiful flowers - which you now know smell wonderful. Also, monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive. The larvae/caterpillars of the monarch feed on milkweed. This is their only food! Monarch butterflies are one of the few insects capable of making transatlantic crossings. They are becoming more common in Bermuda due to increased usage of milkweed as an ornamental plant in flower gardens!

Here are a few of my milkweed photos.

Asclepias, the milkweeds, is a genus named by famed Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. He named the genus after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing because of the many folk remedies associated with the plants. Here are a few fun facts: The milkweed filaments from the follicles are coated with wax, and have good insulation properties. Tests have shown them to be superior to down feathers. The high dextrose content of the nectar led to milkweed's use as a source of sweetener for Native Americans and voyageurs.

The fibers of some species were used for cordage. Milkweed also contains latex and both Germany and the United States attempted to use it as a natural source for rubber during World War II. Milkweed is a common folk remedy for removing warts. The sap is applied directly to the wart several times daily until the wart falls off. The sap is also used externally as a natural remedy for poison ivy. The plant also contains cardiac glycoside poisons which made it useful for native tribes to use in their arrows. Milkweed is toxic and may cause death when animals consume 1/10 its body weight with any part of the plant. Okay, don't eat the plant!

Who didn't love pulling apart milkweed pods as a kid in order to set loose the seeds? Remember that sticky white sap that covered your hands?

So if you want to encourage Monarch butterflies to visit your garden, why don't you grow some milkweed? You will enjoy the smell of the flowers too! :-)