Today I spent the day in the studio, and worked on a new sample painting for my classes. I was really pleased with the results, it is a series of mountains in the mist in the background, a branch of cherry blossoms overhanging the top corner, and some silhouetted foreground bushes in front of a silhouetted Asian styled building, that resembles a Buddhist temple. When I showed the painting to the Studio manager, she helped me come up with the title “Mystical Mountains”. One of the other artists at the studio has told me she wants first dibs at buying the painting, so once I figure out how much I am going to charge for it, I just might already have a sale.
Of course, I can’t tell you all about my painting and not show it to you. The following photo was just taken with my phone, so its not really the best quality, but it still gives a pretty good idea what the painting looks like.
Sometimes A Painting can be More than Just One Thing
This isn’t the first time I’ve re-worked a painting, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember when I redid a painting that had one element in it I really liked, but I really hated everything else, so I covered everything except that one thing with white and redid everything around. I told about that in Metamorphosis of an Old Work PART 1 and PART 2. In that case I was reworking the original to try to bring it in line with the vision I’d originally had for it, but which I failed to achieve the first time around.
This time though, I did the original exactly as I wanted, or as my daughter wanted, since I did it for her. The original is still hanging in her room. It is titled Eiffel Tower in Pink.
I thought it looked nice, and I made several archival prints of it. For some reason though, of all my prints, I sold fewer of these than any other. So lately I’ve been looking at it and wondering what I could do to use the prints I bought. Well, with Paris being the city of Romance, and with the pink background, and with Valentines Day being around the corner, I decided to take a print and modify it for Valentines Day. So, I added paint on top of the print, which I will later scan and have greeting cards made from. The photo below is just taken with my phone, I’ll do a high-resolution scan to make the cards from. And this print with the paint on it? Well I think I am going to get a piece of poster and make a giant card from it, and ask the same as I would have asked for the print in the first place.
In an earlier post I showed the process of creating my part painting, part sculpture Daryl Dixon inspired wings. At that time I promised a better photo of the finished art in a few days. Well now today the Ultimate Blog Challenge’s suggested topic was to post a photo, so I figured I might as well make good on that promise today.
For those who don’t know, Daryl Dixon is a fictional character played by Norman Reedus on the AMC show The Walking Dead, in the show, he wears a vest that has two wings on the back that are similar, but not identical, to the ones I made below.
Naturally, my copyright of this image does mean that I copyrighted the concept, just this exact work.
Now, I’d love to say that I’ve made a listing where you can order this, but so far I haven’t. I first have to figure out how I would ship a painting of this size, and how much that would cost.
A lot of artists I know do fan art, and honestly I really like a lot of it, but I haven’t done much of it myself. Partly because I have been busy doing other things, and partly because I feel that much of it is just copying another’s work. There are exceptions of course, where the artist doesn’t directly copy the work of another, but is simply inspired by it. I always knew that if I did any kind of fan art, I would lean toward the “inspired by” type because I wouldn’t want to do a direct copy of another’s work. Well, one of my guilty pleasures is watching the Walking Dead, and one of my favorite characters on the show is Daryl Dixon, so I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a Daryl Dixon inspired piece for some time, but what? A portrait? Maybe someday, but that would end up being pretty much a copy of a photographer’s work, so no… at least not at this time.
Well, finally I played with ideas long enough, and came up with something. I decided that the wings on Daryl’s vest would be the inspiration for a piece, but I didn’t want to directly copy the exact wings. I wanted them to be close enough that a fan of the show would see the similarity, but to still be unique enough that I could feel they were actually my art, and not just a copy.
I started out by getting the largest canvas I’ve ever worked on before, it is 3 1/3 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide, not huge for some artists, but the largest I have worked on so far.
Not Just a Regular Painting.
I primed the canvas with black gesso, and then took a pencil and sketched out the outline of how I wanted to shape the wings, but I knew I wanted this to be more than just a flat painting. For one thing, the design on Daryl’s vest is very flat looking, kind of a quilted set of wings, and I wanted mine to be similar, but not copies, what better way than to make them dimensional? So I planned on using modeling paste. Modeling paste is this stuff that is kind of like thin clay or maybe a thick painting medium. You can put it on canvas and, to an extent, sculpt with it. It isn’t thick enough to do something like a bust of someone, but you can certainly sculpt flowers, or leaves, or in this case wings.
Lots of texture.
So after sketching the shape, I started scooping on the modeling paste with a palette knife, and then using the knife to sculpt in texture and lines on the modeling paste.
I kept working in this way, in time though I saw that if I put the modeling paste on too thick, it cracked, so I put it on a little thinner, let it dry, and then did another layer. I was able to repair the cracks from that were already there by filling them in with more modeling paste. I did the bottom halves of the wings first.
Eventually I had finished two layers of modeling paste over the entire surface of both wings, and sculpted in texture with the palette knife. After that, I turned my attention to the background, I spackled back paint on thick with a palette knife, trying to mimic the texture of leather. Then, I wanted to put in silver, and tried several ways of adding it to the higher portions of the the black paint, but it just wasn’t coming out the way I wanted, so I ended up covering it with more black paint. Then I went to work on the wings again. I started adding paint to give them the kind of off-white dingy look of the wings on Daryl’s vest.
Eventually I finished with all the paint on the wings, and went back to my idea of silver. I still wanted to use silver to represent chrome, kind of a nod to the fact that Daryl is the quintessential biker, so I wanted the leather texture, and a bit of chrome. When I tried to work the silver into the background though, it kept just making the background look dusty. So, I eventually decided on a border.
So, it took weeks of work, and over $120 worth of art supplies, but I am very happy with the finished work. Right now it is hanging at the Kitsap Mall, but once its exhibition there is done, if it hasn’t sold I will post it for sale here and on Etsy, I’m asking $425 for it, which I think is a steal considering the amount of hours that went into it. Now, perhaps someone will buy it, but if not I have the perfect spot picked out for it in my home, where I will glad to display it permanently.
I will post higher quality photos of it in the future, but for now I will just say that this is one of my favorite works so far. I plan to do more textured works, next time I am thinking of using paper mache’ on the canvas so I can get even more texture and sculpting going on. I just have to figure out what my next textured work will be.
So, I’ve not been blogging as much as I’d planned on, but I had good reason. I was too busy painting, you see I had a deadline to meet, and was working on my largest painting so far… my 9/11 remembrance piece.
9/11 Memorial Art Finished
I managed to finish the painting on time. It is the largest canvas I’ve worked on to date… though I have done larger works for sets on plays. This canvas is 48 inches wide and 24 inches tall, and its size alone has made getting a good clear photograph a challenge. I will eventually get a better photo, though it may have to be taken in parts and stitched together in a photo editor.
At any rate here is the finished painting, though some details may not be visible because of the photo quality.
And here is detail shot of the area with the gold hearts:
The painting explained
I also wrote up a short description to be posted with the painting in the public display, explaining the main though process behind it and some of the symbolism of the piece. I didn’t explain every single detail, but enough to give a general idea of what I was trying to get across, what follows is that description.
Zero Hour: Evolution of American Psyche
By Vicki J. Maheu
This work seeks to depict the mindset of most of America before and after the events of September 11th, 2001. It does not necessarily reflect the mindset of any one individual, so there will of course be aspects with which certain individuals, and certain communities, may not identify.
Before 9/11, the mindset of America seemed very much to be childlike, somewhat naïve of the state of the world and the dangers that many other nations had been facing for many years. America had not had war on her own soil since the Civil War, and was, for the most part, looking ahead with optimism. The rest of the world seemed to be a friendly place. America, in many respects, seemed to have the world on a string, facing a bright future.
Then that infamous Tuesday morning changed everything. On that day 2996 lives were lost. 2606 were lost in and around the Twin Towers, 265 were lost on the four hijacked planes, and 125 lives were lost at the Pentagon. Immediately after, in the shock of what happened, there was a surge of national pride and religious sentiment. Statements made by heroes, by mourners, by clergy, and by politicians became catch phrases for how we tried to see that day. From the plea of a widow that life was short and there was no time for hate, to the stirring call to action of “Lets Roll”, these phrases expressed for us what we were too numb to put into words ourselves.
Eventually though, the shock wore off and the national pride of many wore thin. More than a decade of fighting the vague enemy of “terror” took its toll, and many started wondering what we were fighting for. The world seems to many Americans now as a scary place, an angry place, a place where our blood is shed and where we arm ourselves and shed blood. Many of us look around our own country and instead of seeing a bright future full of plenty, we see bleakness, and the starkness of the cruelty that exists in the world, and often we don’t know whether we should be more afraid of enemies from without, or of each other. Our idealistic American dream seems to many to be just that… a dream, out of touch from reality.
However, we have not quit. We continue on, we are still Americans and we still plan for the future. In the final scene of the painting, the artist intentionally included a field of newly planted crops, to show that we as Americans, while we cannot go back to the naivety of childhood, can still look to the future with hope, and, with God’s help, we can move forward.
I, along with many other artists, have been asked to create a piece of art commemorating the events of September 11th, 2001. I wasn’t sure at first if I would be able get a piece finished on time, and I’m still not sure it will be finished… but I started it yesterday.
In this piece I wanted to express the changes I’ve seen in America since the September 11th terrorist attacks. I’ve tried to explain these changes to my kids, and to others who were just too young to really remember, but always, I struggle for words.
America changed forever that day
Its hard to express, but I’m sure others who lived through it know what I mean. On September 10th, 2011 we woke up to the America we has all known. The America who hadn’t had war on their own soil since the Civil War. The America who looked at the world with optimism. The America who was proud of who they were and what they stood for. The America who was pretty sure that the American dream was still something envied by those in other countries, and something still obtainable to those willing to work for it.
Before the attacks, America was Naive
America, like all other nations, has its dark periods of history. It has its pages that it would rather not read aloud to anyone… its done things as a nation that it would rather everyone would just forget.
Despite that though, America has always striven to be better. We declared our belief that all men were created equal while we still owned slaves, but eventually we tried to live up to that declaration by turning away from slavery, and later through the civil rights movement. We haven’t been perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but we did have ideals that we reached for, and those ideals were commendable.
Before 9/11, the average American citizen, at least those who were born after 1960, were much like children in our naivety. While we couldn’t really claim complete ignorance, or innocence, we were aware that our country had once had slaves, we were aware of the atrocities that our nation had committed against the indigenous people of this land, but that was all a long time ago, and the majority of us saw this country as a good place, a place to be proud of.
The evils of the past and the dangers of the world around us weren’t completely unknown to us, but they were also not in the forefront of our minds. Most of us looked forward to a bright future, and saw the world as a generally friendly place, and other nations as places we would like to visit some day.
September 11th, Shocked us into Reality
All of that changed on September 11th. At first we were shocked, not understanding why anyone would want to do such a horrible thing, and figuring it was the work of a few madmen. News coverage showing people on the other side of the world cheering and dancing at the news of the attacks made us realize though, that there were large populations of people who hated us… and we wondered why.
I won’t get into all the reasons for the hatred, or try to tell you if any part of it was justified or not. I won’t hash out all the details of who did and who said what. I won’t drag our own nations actions out to be scrutinized, nor will I hold up some other nation and tell you to hate them.
What I will say, is that after the shock of 9/11 wore off, America was a different place. There was an initial surge of national pride, and even an initial surge of religious sentiment. But when those things wore off… the American public had, in a very real way, had our eyes opened, lost our innocence, and became tired and old in spirit.
Putting it all in a Painting
Of course, I can explain all that in words, but it takes a long time, and as the cliche says, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”
So I had to find a way to put the experience, the shock, and the instant loss of childish innocence into a painting.
Now, the painting isn’t finished yet, but most of the details have been sketched.
So, I took my two seal shaped rocks that I posted about earlier today, and painted them. If you read my first post about Kitsap Rocks, you’ll remember that the rocks I had planned to paint looked like this:
They were odd shaped rocks to say the least, and while I distinctly remember finding them on a beach, they looked more like river rocks to me, but regardless of whether you call them beach rocks or river rocks, they were about to become painted rocks!
After painting, they looked quite different.
Here is the chubby little guy on the right in the picture above.
Here is more slender little seal on the left in the top photo.
This isn’t just about painting though.
Of course the point in the Kitsap Rocks group isn’t just about painting rocks. I could paint rocks, turning them into seal art, and put them up on etsy and who knows, they might sell, but then I would miss the fun.
The fun of the Kitsap Rocks is that we hide the rocks so other’s can find them. Yes, hiding rocks is the name of the game!
So I took the rocks to a local beach and hid them… then I posted to the Kitsap rocks Facebook group that I had released two seals into the wild at a beach in Kingston, I posted that along with some photos of the hiding places.
The Story isn’t complete until they’re found.
Well of course the story of my little seals isn’t complete until the seals are found. This is after all, a form of treasure hunting! Not just rock art creation! … and here they are, in the hands of the finders. I didn’t show the faces because I would never show the faces of other people’s children online without their permission, but rest assured, both faces were quite happy!
To be continued…
Of course, as I left the beach, I picked up two more rocks to paint. So I’m sure I’ll spend a lot more time painting rocks, hiding rocks, and finding rocks too! Next time, I might not be doing seal painting, who knows, my next rocks might be flowers, or birds, or houses, or abstract!
To all my fellow painted rock hounds, have a happy treasure hunt!
There is a new trend in my community in which people paint rocks and hide them. They leave clues online so that other people can go find them. I think this is an awesome activity, and I found my first rock just the other day. I have yet to hide a rock though.
I think this trend is great on many levels. I mean, it gets people exploring their creativity, and sharing it with others, and it gets them out in their communities, looking around. Honestly, I see it as a low-tech and more creative version of Pokémon Go, but it has actually been around longer than Pokémon Go.
Rocks turn up in surprising places.
Here is the rock I found, I wasn’t expecting it, I was actually just at the post office to mail off a package from my Etsy shop, when there, right on top of the blue mailbox, was a rock. Since I’d already joined the Kitsap RocksFacebook group, I knew right away what it was and deposited my package, took the rock, and drove on.
When I got home I posted on the Facebook group that I had found this rock, then I scrolled down the page to see if anyone had posted that they hid it, and I found that the person had left some pretty obvious hints, but that I’d found the rock before seeing any of the hints.
Now, when you find a rock, you can keep it, or re-hide it. I decided to keep this one since it was my first Kitsap Rocks find.
Rocks bringing community together
Not only are lots of families getting in on this creative action, but it is also bringing the community together. Yesterday, the co-op art studio that I’m part of hosted a free community event for people to come and paint rocks. The studio provided some supplies, and also invited participants to bring their own. People from all over the county showed up to paint rocks.
Sadly, I was unable to attend this event, because I had prior obligations to drive my children and their friends from one end of the county and back again, and then back again and again, but I was glad to hear the studio got involved with this.
Rocking out some memories
So all of this rock painting activity caused me to remember something I’d forgotten. Several years ago, at a beach, I found some very uniquely shaped rocks, these rocks absolutely demanded a coat of paint, but I found these before I discovered my love of painting. So even though I had a clear idea of how I’d like to see them painted, I put them up and forgot about them.
Now though, with seeing all these rocks being transformed into works of art, I remembered these rocks. I already know exactly what I’m going to turn these into, they BOTH just beg to be seals!
Now, the only thing that troubles me is that I’m not sure I’ll be able to just give these away after painting them… but I think I’ll give away at least one of them, I might want to keep one myself.
Being an Artist holds many challenges, one of which is that every season seems to demand a response from the artist. In spring we have blossoms, birds everywhere, rain showers, sun breaks, baby animals, rainbows. In summer, there are ocean side picnics, sand castles on the beach, sunsets over the ocean, children playing in the sprinkler, lazy afternoons under the tree in the yard. Then fall bursts onto the scene with its fiery colors, school buses full of children heading back to school, spooky skeletons, orange pumpkins, turkeys and pumpkin pie by the fire. Right around the corner from fall, comes winter, with its frozen ponds, snow blanketing the ground, Christmas lights, children building snowmen, dark skies, and colorfully decorated trees.
For the artist who wishes to sell their work, we must work at least one season ahead, so that our delightful scenes of blossoming branches and baby birds become available when people are just getting excited about spring and wanting to celebrate it. That means we have to remove ourselves mentally from the current season, and look to the next. In late winter we need to finish up our springtime paintings if we hope to sell them soon, rather than storing them for year before selling. Similarly, in summer when what we want to paint is the delightful scene of the beach in front of us, we also need to already be thinking about pumpkins, ghosts, brightly colored leaves, and the like. And while everyone else is celebrating the cool fall season, we need to think ahead to the snowy winter. Of course, we can also do our share of painting the current season, knowing that we most likely won’t sell that work for about a year, but that we can enjoy making it.
I tend to a mix of both, painting the scenes in front of me, while also trying to work in a few paintings that look ahead to the coming season. That means that this fall, I’ve done my share of fall images, but I’ve also been working on some winter scenes. I have two that I recently finished, which I feel would make lovely holiday gifts. They are so recently finished that I haven’t titled each of them yet, but I am calling the series my “Winter Wonderland” series. Not very original, but classic nonetheless.
Take a Walk in My Winter Wonderland
I invite you to enjoy these winter wonderland paintings for yourself. For the first one, I’ll just show you the finished product. Then for the next, I’ll let you see it unfold through photos the creation process. In this way, it will as if you are walking with through the painting as it progresses! I haven’t done a lot of winter scenes before this, so I started with a small painting, and after getting a better idea of what methods produced the results I wanted I started a second, larger painting.
Here is the first scene, it is a small painting, on 5 inches tall and 7 inches wide. I haven’t listed it in my etsy shop yet, but if anyone wants them right away, they are welcome to contact me. Sometime in the next few days, I will post the paintings on etsy.
The next work is similar, but I used a bigger canvas because I wanted to put in more detail. I didn’t just want to recreate the same scene larger though, I wanted to make a completely different scene, just using similar methods to accomplish it.
First, I painted in the sky, making loose brushstrokes, and graduating from a lot of white in one area, but getting more and more blue as I worked away from that area. Then I added trees, first a background layer of very light, faintly visible trees, then two more layers of trees getting progressively darker and more green. All of this was done wet on wet, which can be accomplished with acrylics by adding retarder medium to the paint and by working quickly.
After that backdrop was done, I let it dry. Up until this point I had been working wet on wet, so that the layers mixed slightly and didn’t have a lot definition, but at this point I wanted to let this backdrop dry, so that my next layer on the canvas could be more defined.
At this point I once again allowed everything to dry, and then moved on to the next stage.
The painting looked like it was nearing completion at this point, but I still had in mind the most detailed and upfront part of the scene.
At this point the painting was almost done, but I felt it needed more. Something to make the river stand out more from the background. I decided to use just a tiny amount of iridescent pearl on my painting, to add a bit of actual reflection to the water. Of course, in a photograph or a print, you lose some of that effect, but it makes the original even more special. You can still see some of the effect, even in a photo. I also worked on the snow a little more to make it look more “fluffy”, and added a few stars to the dusky sky.