Monday, April 29, 2013

Earning My Fins

It's that time of year again when I make a notch in my belt and mark off another successful and grateful year on the planet. It will also be official on Tuesday: twenty-three years after leaving the teaching profession I will finally be "retired" and can begin to collect my pension. I wouldn't get overly excited about this financial independence. The amount being deposited in my bank account will maybe cover my monthly art supply bill, but isn't that wonderful? I am finally doing the thing I should have done all those years ago, studying and practicing what I love the most, but now the thing I did as my second choice (heck, maybe it was my third or fourth) will be helping me foot the bill. I am, month by month, class by class, fleshing out the path for this "retirement" adventure in the world of creative expression.

When I last left you I had shared many of the products so far of my "Year of the Giraffe" creative muse (with creativity guru, Carla Sonheim). Somehow I missed pulling out a few of the most creative of these, my four new friends from her "Imaginary Creatures" class. They delighted me so much when they showed up on the page, that I can't wait to incorporate them into some other artwork. I am also thinking it is time to update my Etsy store with some new sets of greeting cards, so look for them there soon.

"Have You Seen My Comb?"

"Just Washing Up"

"No Match for Rabitoid"

"What's Not to Love?"
While I was working on these guys I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with layering of mixed media. Most of what we use in Carla's classes is water based, but there is also Prismacolor colored pencil and permanent black fine marker. Learning to work until the effect and balance desired is achieved is serving me well, as I realize that an artist may not know how to get where they are going until after they have arrived. Trial and error is a big tool of the trade and nothing to be ashamed of.

Today is the start of week four in "Mermaid Circus" with Teesha Moore and Jane Davenport, our most excellently talented and hardworking teachers. The amount of truly fine video lessons they are providing makes failure a non-option, and the generous video tours of their journals and their process is a major inspiration and confidence booster. What I have achieved in three weeks is astounding, although the number of projects they have planned for the eight weeks is so great it will probably take me the rest of the year to complete. I am not concerned, because although I can see great progress in my work, I also see what skills are weak, and I intend to move directly into a series of classes with Jane to boost them.

I love the warmth of this beautiful Fabriano watercolor paper, pure and clean just waiting for what will come (since at this point we had only a little clue).

Although I may not have time to work in the second shaped book during the run of the class, I had to try my hand at designing one for my beloved hippos and their giraffe friends. Note the cover is a blow-up swimming pool for a merhippo to frolic in.

Meanwhile, April's "Once Upon a Giraffe" month continued with writing and illustrating a three panel cartoon: "Stasha Tales: The Treadmill".

While out searching for paint pens and other mermaid necessities, I ran across this very lovely lesson book for Zentangles, which not only teaches the patterns, but goes on to show how to make them art. Of course, in the midst of overload, I added one more thing to my schedule.

Teesha started us off in our shaped (and now colored) mermaid books with a lesson in collage. Had a blast and fell in love with the possibilities.

And as you can see, I am already using my Zentangles in my art, in this case a lovely belly tattoo for my unnamed queen.

A closeup of her face shows the use of paint pens and metallic markers along with Copics to turn her blue. The coral formation behind her will be part of the landscape of the inside back cover.

And here she is in all her glory swimming in waves of discharge screen printed fabric I made a couple years ago. 

Week two was Jane's turn to teach us a different mermaid style. She wanted us to be able to paint over previously drawn artwork, but since many of us have not done face drawing before, she first gave us a lesson. The pencil drawing on the right was done as a base, then I traced out the basic shapes and features on another sheet of paper.

After a session with learning to blend Copic markers, plus some pencil and a bit of paint pen for those gorgeous green eyes, she was ready to reduce, print and collage. (Now I have this face in my "portfolio" of faces to use again and again.) The colorful painting she leans against was shown last time. 
Starting to design the mermaid, we added our photocopied face, and laid out other collage elements to tell the story. Jane's girl had a tattooed sleeve, and many of ours followed suit. I got to spend a fascinating half hour or so perusing tattoo magazines at a local bookstore before choosing a couple I found useful.
First layer of paint to block in the body and background colors.

The face, now painted over the marker drawing, the tail fins (from a previous painting) attached, and more colors added for texture and cohesiveness.

The completed page after many hours of work: "She Was Particularly Fond of Hippos". (The hippo is from a previous watercolor painting, and over-painted in the same manner as the face.)

Two weeks, two pages!

Meanwhile, back in Giraffe World, we were writing poetry!
I had made this stamp earlier in the winter, and decided to make some more to help illustrate my poems.

I used the new Moo carving blocks I had bought but not tried, and they cut like butter. So quick and easy. I made the giraffe stamp from my one-liners exercise, and the eye and tail from my giraffe parts for the "Flower Crazy" class. Again, finding my style, reusing my designs. Things are starting to fit together.

I wrote five haiku-like poems, and made a sixth page as an introduction.

The backgrounds are painted with my newly purchased Golden Fluid Acrylics and Liquitex Soft Body Acrylics. Both are densely pigmented and lovely. The lettering was done with my Pentel Pocket Brush. Some of the highlights are done with a lovely neon yellow paint pen by Molotow, but unfortunately it didn't scan true.

I am practicing developing this writing style as my own. I quite like its loose, modern, and poetic feel.

Learning that an effective journal page can be quite simple.

The second assignment in week two was fancy lettering in a "circus" style. Teesha provided a wonderfully detailed lesson (as in: watch her do this entire page on video while she talked) and I pretty much copied her technique. Here I have laid out all the lettering with a minimal amount of embellishment.

The letters fleshed out with drop shadows added.

The page complete with colored pencil shading, additional gel pen and paint detail on the main title, sparkly gel pen around the bottom line and the border, and overpainting on the last line to make it appear to be under water.

While I was contemplating how much I was enjoying the lettering lesson, a high school friend reminded me of our yearbook, for which I was the art editor, and designed the cover art as well. Well, lookie here! Who was into telling stories in lettering, 60's style?

Several classmates have chimed in to tell me just how innovative everything was about our yearbook design, from landscape orientation to color to almost everything inside. (And yet I didn't go on to an art career. Silly me!)

In week three, we began working in a hardbound journal format. I purchased the new Strathmore 500 series with mixed media paper. Loved it! The paper took both the wet paint background and the pen media beautifully, although I have a lot to learn in handling drawing and painting over magazine cutouts. Somehow, with my longing for the warmth of spring to arrive, I created a mermaid scenario of warmth and light under the sea.

"The Keeper of the Door at the Mermaid Palace" was an obsession from start to finish. I learned so much; had such a good time. Looking forward to many more adventures in creating new realities.

When I took on this new class and its odd theme, I really had no connection to either the circus or mermaids as beloved muses. It didn't take long to realize that inspiration is everywhere, the more unlikely, the more it can spur the imagination. I have a feeling, that just like the love poems to my giraffe, I will now have an ongoing love affair with creatures both under the sea and the big top. My tail fins are all aflutter. I must be off to create my newest best friend.


  1. there is such joy in all your explorations and a wonderful sense of adventure, you have time to pursue your art now full time and it's great to see it blossoming in so many directions!
    Here's Brett Whiteley's (an Australian artist who died awhile back way too young) advice to the aspiring artist -
"aim at virtually whatever is in front of you... 
and then one day you'll see something that you have truly never seen before 
and that is the beginning of yourself 
& that heralds the beginning of difficult pleasure."

  2. Look at all these fun fun fun fun....FUN PROJECTS@!!!!!!!! :D How I wish that someday I'll be able to just spend my time doing art all day long with pension money rolling in every month. But I will not get pension unfortunately, I just need to save up for the future.

  3. you use your skills, you mend them together t

  4. also its so strange we are bsy with exacly the same teachers


  5. Such an awesome way to begin retirement Cheryl. I love your sense of humour in those first few artworks, and as for the others.....Brilliant. The giraffe stamps look like so much fun.

  6. What a journey our creativity has been on, Cheryl! Wonderful all of it! I love your creatures...can't wait to see what you do with them in future...

  7. Hi, Cheryl. It's always delightful to see what's going on at your place--so exciting and so varied and so filled with imagination and joy.
    best, nadia