Monday, January 28, 2008

My Soldier

9 x 12" Oil painting on canvas

"Ian Swimming"

This painting was done a few years ago after I ran across a picture I had taken of Ian (my oldest son) when he was about 4. I pulled the painting out of storage and have it sitting in my studio where I can look at it a lot - not because I think I'm such an incredible painter (I'm fair to pretty okay) - but because I miss him and want to remember when he belonged to me and when I saw him every day.

He called me from boot camp on Sunday afternoon; it had been three weeks since I had talked to him. He sounded older, stronger, more confident and, dare I admit, happy. When I asked him if he was surviving boot camp and all that it requires, he replied that it was "pretty easy"(!) and that he really likes it(!)

This is a kid who loves a challenge and was a wrestler for many, many years. Maybe that sport got him ready for the physical part of the training; but what could ever get him ready for the mental part of it? I just don't know.

As reluctant and apprehensive as I was (and am!) about Ian enlisting, it is far better to know that he his happy with his decision. Maybe some people are born to be warriors; Ian may be one of them.

Our family will be travelling to Columbia, SC, to see him graduate from training at the end of February. I expect to find that my son will have changed a great deal, or so I have been told by people who know. And even though he doesn't belong to me anymore and I don't get to see him every day, I have the pride in knowing that I raised one fine young man.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Finishing the Dandelion

Finally beginning to feel like my self again...thank goodness. I am not a patient patient! Thanks to all of you who have sent me notes and get well wishes. Very much appreciated.

While finishining the recent dandelion drawing, I thought I might show you how I have been finishing my drawings on pastel board. (Many people are experimenting with this support right now and there are no right ways to do it; this is just what I'm trying right now.)

The drawing below is the final drawing stage before burnishing (blending). As you can see, even though I have applied many, many layers of Prismacolor colored pencil to the board, the grain shows through. While you have the option to call your drawing "done" here and it well could be, I have decided to push it and play a little more. What the heck, right?

Drawing before burnishing.

To burnish colored pencil on pastel board, you have several options, as you do on paper, but I choose to drybrush using cheap hog bristle brushes which I have trimmed down to about 1/4 inch. I also clean and dry the brushes frequently with solvent when the color builds up in the brushes. It's very helpful to me to use a drafting brush and clean off the particles kicked up by the burnishing as I go.

And here is the finished piece. Because I worked until the sun went down and wasn't able to get the photo quality I wanted, I still hope you can see the change in color saturation and intensity after burnishing.

Don't be afraid to try new, experimental techniques with your colored pencil drawings. If you are harboring that fear of the unknown, get over it! Sometimes when I want to work "outside the box", I'll do what I call a "small draw"; you won't have as much time, effort, or money invested but you can still play. The Ampersand pastel board can be purchased as small as 5 x 7" and relatively inexpensively. So, go on and play a little!

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. - (T. S. Eliot)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jackass X-Treme Game Contestant

New Work in Progress

8 x 10" colored pencil on Ampersand pastel board

Last week was supposed to be a great jumping off point for me to begin working on my new goals for 2008. I was ready for my son to go back to school and to begin to regain some ground which is always lost professionally during the holidays. Well, twas not to be.

Instead, I participated in my own form of X-treme gaming: pot diving. What?!, you say. Well, I tripped and fell face-first into a clay flowerpot. Big flowerpot; broke it to bits, too. We're still not sure how this happened as I do not remember much and the doctor says I have a very nice thing called accident amnesia. He says, trust him, it's a really, really good thing. I do.

After being knocked unconscious and my husband calling the ambulance (the fire truck came, too, lucky me), I was whisked off to the hospital because not only was I bleeding a lot, but both arms were numb. Many tests and five stitches later, I was cleared to go home.

Nice, huh?

While healing up nicely from my facial wounds, my neck, shoulders, arms and hands aren't faring so well - they all work fine, just hurt like hell. (I have a very high tolerance for pain having delivered three babies without anesthesia and running a marathon, so you know I mean it when I say it really, really hurts.) The doctor thinks it may be nerve damage - gad - and therefore could take some time to heal.

Here I must add that I am extremely happy and lucky that I was not hurt more severely. Doc also says it could have been SO much worse. I am counting my blessings.

Though I am very, very grateful that I live in a time of wonder drugs and extraordinary pain medicine, I can totally understand now why drug addicts do not do a lot. (I never did drugs in high school or college like some other people I knew back then; but now I have first hand knowledge of what all the fuss was about, along with an understanding of why drug addicts aren't highly functioning members of society.) I am able to get a little work done during the phase where the drugs just begin to kick in and dull the pain, but right before they make me totally blotto. So bear with me, I may be a little behind for a while, but I'll try to post something here for you to see as often as I can until I'm 100 percent.

I have had to laugh at the whole ordeal because it is truly a funny and absurd way to hurt oneself. I have convinced my young son that I am a ninja warrior now because only ninjas can break clay pots with their faces (don't think he really believes me). My older kids have tried to get me to watch some godawful show called "Jackass" which I could never watch all the way through and hated immediately, but I now feel totally qualified to participate. I have also compiled a list of X-treme game ideas for those of us who don't care about our limbs, digits, backs or faces:

  1. Pot diving (explained above)
  2. Tree sliding: competitors race to climb a very tall tree and then slide down all while wearing a bathing suit.
  3. Horseshoe catching: first made popular as a drinking game at family reunions in the south.
  4. Blindfolded Woodworking: competitors finishing this event with all their digits, wins.
  5. Uphill mowing: same as above.
  6. Over the handle bar dismount: For bicycle enthusiasts who are new to hand braking.
  7. SSSS: Slippery Stair Sock Slide. (Most people have participated in this event without ever entering a competition.)
  8. Swinging from the rain gutter gymnastic event (no safety net or reachable ladder nearby): Competitor who can hold on the longest, wins.
  9. Screw-driver-in-the-socket endurance event: Competitor who can let go first, wins.
  10. Broketoe Steeplechase: Night run through a dark house. Competitors who can complete the course without swearing out loud wins.

I think I'll just sit out next year's competition.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My First Article - Ever!

"Blue Lucidity"
10.5 x 8"
colored pencil on three layers of Mylar

"Green Glass"
10.5 x 8"
colored pencil on three layers of Mylar

At the beginning of every year I make a list. I hate New Year's resolutions; they just seem like more "rules" for me to follow and I hate those. No, it's a list of personal and professional goals for the upcoming year. Somehow, if I write them down, they begin to become a little more real, a little more attainable. Maybe I just see them as more than dreams because I've committed them to paper and so made them separate from my imagination.

One of my goals for last year was to be in a magazine. Just that; no specifics. Guess what? It happened. This month I have an article in "From My Perspective", an e-zine, where I give step by step instructions on how I drew "Green Glass".

Ann Kullberg, a very talented colored pencil artist, book author and magazine publisher contacted me about showing "Blue Lucidity" in her magazine. But when I told her that it was on three separate layers of Dura-Lar Mylar, she asked if I would do the step-by-step article. How scared was I?! But, what the heck, you have to jump and give any great opportunity a try.

I have to thank Ann for the wonderful platform for me to jump from and her encouragement about my artwork and my writing (the last thing most artists want to do!) . Thanks so much, Ann!

Her magazine and web-site also offer video instruction classes, drawing how-to kits, the e-zine subscription (get it now so you can see my article!), and HUGE discounts on Prismacolor pencil sets.

I am always amazed at how many of my goals I actually achieve at the end of each year. Currently, I am pre-thinking (that's really daydreaming) my list for 2008. When I really get ready to write it all down, I go to a quiet coffee shop, order my huge Mocha coffee, and commit these dreams to paper. Then the magic starts.