Tuesday, November 26, 2013

House portrait, 8 x 10 inch

This is another drawing I finished the night before last (full image and a detail). About half way through I started feeling like I was on slightly shaky ground, but it all came together and now I am very happy with it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2-point perspective

I spent quite a bit of time on the preparatory work on this because I made a significant change to the viewing angle.  The reference photos were from a lower vantage point. Fortunately, the task was made easier by the fact that the house's proportions are somewhat uniform.  I am pleased with how it's coming along, and I'm very glad to get past the pencil stage on this house and two others I'm working on right now. I can start inking!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pen and Ink House Portrait, 7 x 9 inches

I completed this one late last night. It’s smaller than the last one: 7 x 9 inches.  It was done with a combination of black Pigma Micron pens and sumi ink.

The commission calls for two  originals of the same house, so I am starting a duplicate drawing today.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Black Walnut Ink House Portrait, 11 x 15 inches

This is on Bristol paper. I chose not to use any washes on this one; it's all cross-hatching.  I couldn't get the scan to go dark enough to pick up the shading on the sidewalk and pavement--you can barely see it, but it's a little darker on the actual drawing.

A couple of detail shots:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

School Donor Recognition Wall Art (Mixed Media)

I posted work-in-progress photos of this project here over the summer, and finished it in August. However, it wasn’t until recently that I had a decent chance to get some photos of the finished product.

Late last spring I was commissioned to create artwork to honor donors to a school fundraising campaign.  The school wanted something similar to a tile mosaic piece they had seen pictures of online for a school in another state, depicting a stylized facsimile of the building’s façade with donor names in the windows.  They wanted the finished piece to be around 30 x 40 inches, and it would hang in the school lobby.

I considered attempting to duplicate the sample with a polymer clay mosaic, with lettering embossed in the clay tiles. However, after experimentation, I realized that I just didn’t have the means to emboss scores of names without going through an incredibly slow and mistake-filled process and, besides, I am very inexperienced in working with polymer clay.

So I finally decided to create a textured building exterior using acrylic gel mediums (I didn’t have much experience with various fancy gels, either, but I at least knew my way around acrylic paints and matte/gloss mediums.)

I was still puzzled how I was going to do the names, but I somehow stumbled onto acrylic transfers.  I had never heard of acrylic transfers before, but after a test I decided it might work well for the task.

I worked on panel, and used wood scraps and molding to imitate architectural details.  The stone texture was put on with Golden coarse pumice gel sealed with extra gel medium for durability; the plants are painted polymer clay; and the names are acrylic transferred photocopies.

Considering both size and complexity, this is probably the largest commission I have done and the most technically sophisticated project I have attempted.  I am pretty happy with the results, and the people at the school were, too.

I was very impressed with the Golden gel mediums I used, by the way.  Cool stuff, fun to work with.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pen & Ink house portrait, with detail

Here is another house portrait done with black walnut ink.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to scan the drawing, and instead used my sub-par little camera. The detail shot turned out better because you can make out the texture of the line work.

This drawing is 11 x 15 inches on Bristol paper.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jack-o'-Lantern Spectacular - work in progress

Work is under way. I wish I had more time to work on some pumpkins there, but maybe I'll be able to make some more time soon. Here is a shot of my second drawn pumpkin, and a photo of the work shed with other artists hard at it. I'm excited about seeing the final project, with everyone's creations illuminated in the woods at Iroquois.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pen and ink house portrait progress

 Another progress photo. I think this is coming along quite well, and hope to have it completed in the next few days.
A note: I am having trouble getting this image to display horizontally.  If this picture is up on its end, then you know I didn't figure it out and gave up trying.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pumpkin drawing

Here is the first pumpkin I’ve worked on for the Jack-o’-Lantern Spectacular in October. I wasn’t quite done when I took the photo; there was still some shading to do on the right. I am eager to try some more. Paid…to do ink work…on pumpkins? Get outta my way.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Commission...in the final stretch

Nearly done! Working on the lettering via acrylic transfer. I've only tried that process once before, and it worked very well, but the potential for screwing up seems very high. My fingers are crossed.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Golden Coarse Pumice Gel Medium (a review)

I recently purchased a jar of Golden (a popular, well-respected brand) Coarse Pumice Gel Medium for use with a painting commission for artwork to be hung in a school.  I don't see many reviews of the product on the internet, so I thought I'd write a short one.
My project involves depicting the façade of a stone building on panel, and I was looking for something to mimic the rough stone texture.  I was happy to find Golden Coarse Pumice Gel at the art store.  There is also a Fine Pumice Gel and an Extra Coarse Pumice Gel, but this middle one looked like it would do the trick.
It's pretty gritty stuff, much like sand in a gel that's about the same consistency as toothpaste or dough for a cookie press.  I was worried that the coarseness would come at the expense of durability, which would be a problem if the artwork is hung in a high-traffic school lobby.
In fact, the medium does seem pretty durable and adheres well.  I learned that "over brushing" tends to spread out the medium too thin, so that there isn't a good acrylic-gel-to-pumice ratio, making it crumble off; however, if applied just a little thicker (and it can still be pretty thin), at seems to stick and harden quite well.
The medium is a neutral gray that looks more opaque while still wet; as it dries, the acrylic element turns transparent, just as with most gel mediums.  The pumice grit, of course, stays gray.
The gesso-primed panel I'm working on is pretty smooth, so getting an even application took a little figuring out, but I learned that getting the Coarse Pumice Gel on the brush, then dipping the tip of it in water, gave it just the right consistency to spread it on the way I want it.
After it dried, I applied a layer of Golden Semi-Gloss Regular Gel, a fairly heavy bodied medium, for a few reasons: 1) To increase the durability, because I imagine that, if it's within reach, school kids (and probably many adults) will be running their fingers over it to feel the texture; 2) To sort of level off the coarseness a little, so that it doesn't soak up as much paint when I start applying color;  and 3) To smooth out areas where the grit was just a little too gritty and coarse for the stonework being depicted.
I have never before done a piece like this (very textured with sculpted relief elements), so it has required quite a bit of planning ahead and testing. I created a small "proof of concept" in the way described above, and I was very happy with the result.  The Golden Coarse Pumice Gel Medium gets four stars out of four from me for the assistance it has given me in getting the effects I want.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Painting gladioluses

I’m working on a commission that I’ve decided to do primarily with acrylics.  I’ve used acrylics for many purposes, and use them frequently, but I actually haven’t attempted many complete “works of art” with acrylics alone.

This is not a photo of the commission work, but rather a smaller painting that I’m working on alongside of it, only in acrylic.  A couple of years ago I did an acrylic landscape that I was not satisfied with; this will be only my second full acrylic painting (not counting murals) since, oh, probably 1987.

This is also my first flower painting since the summer after high school. Ironically, the last floral I painted was also the first full painting I had ever done with oil paints.  I don’t normally go in much for flower paintings, but I love the glads that bloom in our yard each year and have sort of wanted to paint them.  Also, I hear they are popular, and I’d like to have another painting to display at the art fair later this month. (That’s another reason I chose acrylic: oils would never dry in time for the art fair.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I have no new artwork of which to post photos, but I have been busy.  First, I'm signed on for my first art fair in late July, thanks to my cousin David.  I'm scrambling to get stuff together for it.  David is providing the tent and registration fees, but there has been a lot of other stuff for me to take care of.  Business paperwork, business cards, trying to figure out how to make displays, framing, and tent weights…I'm not sure it will be worth the effort unless I decide I like it and want to do it more.  I guess the odds are good I will, but I'm doing my best to keep expenses minimal because I have no idea what my odds are of just breaking even financially on this first show.
I am also working on a commission for Chance School for some donor recognition wall art.  I'm in the process of preparing a 30 x 40" piece of hardboard panel for a mixed media piece.  I'm working on an 8 x 10" piece as a test, a "proof of concept," to make sure some of my ideas for the commission are acceptable.
At the hardware store I had the 30 x 40" board cut down from a 4 x 8' sheet, in while the guy with the saw was at it I asked him to cut down the remainder into a lot of standard painting panel sizes (18 x 24, 16 x 20, 8 x 10).  I'm planning to work on some paintings as soon as I can, too, and it would be great to get one done before the art fair, but I might be biting off more than I can chew.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Old watercolor sketch

 Last night I was going through a box of stuff and found this little tree (about 6 x 9") that I did while playing with some watercolors.  I can't remember when I did it, but I think it was two or three years ago (Don't be misled by the date at the bottom, I put that on last night as an approximation.)  I had been searching for this, but couldn't find it and thought I must have given it away.  It's small and not sophisticated or great in any way, but it's one of the few things I've done with watercolors in decades and I liked the result.  I have been wanting to try watercolors lately, or use inks or acrylics for watercolor effects.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Make Black Walnut Ink (re-post)

The information below is a re-posting from my other blog, from nearly six years ago.  I decided it would be better suited to this blog, since this blog is explicitly about art and only art.

Homemade Black Walnut Ink (originally written 11-8-2007)

I recently began making my own black walnut ink for use in drawing. There are various recipes around the Internet, and all of them are similar.

This is a long process, but most of the time is devoted to waiting. Very little of it actually involves doing something.

The basic process for making black walnut ink is this: Get rotten black walnuts, husk and all. Boil the heck out of them. Strain the mess and use the brown juice for drawing or writing. That’s all there is to it, really, but I’m always game for elaborating…

Step 1. Find your walnuts. Black walnut trees are fairly plentiful here in Louisville, and that seems to be true for much of the eastern half of the U.S. In October, one can spot the green, leathery, round fruit (usually just a little smaller than tennis balls) on the ground or getting ready to fall. One doesn’t use them when they are green, however. Gather the blackest, rottenest, gunkiest ones you can find. If there aren’t any that are black and icky, gather the green ones. Gather the entire fruit. The small, hard shell with the nut in the center is a non-essential piece for the ink. What one needs is the leathery rind. Just pick up the whole thing.

Newly gathered walnuts. Eat 'em? Naw! Get back, squirrels! I'm an artist!

(Warning: Black, oozy walnuts will stain hands and clothing, so use some caution.)

Step 2. Put them in a plastic bag and let them rot. The green ones will turn black over a few days or weeks.

(Another warning: At any step in this process, one can set all these walnuts aside. They are already rotten; it’s not like putting one’s ink-making on hold for days or even weeks will ruin the batch. If you store the walnuts outside, however, critters will be drawn to them. Squirrels will tear open bags and gnaw on pots.)

I refer to the walnuts in disgusting terms, and they are pretty gross. They get slimy and moldy, and you’ll probably find all kinds of strange little bugs living in them. Don’t worry. It all cooks down to the same brown sludge. Except for those little pale brown beetle larvae. They stayed shiny and intact even after hours and hours of boiling. If the ick factor is too high, just remember that you must suffer for your art. So must those with whom you share your kitchen.

Step 3. After they are black, put them in a large pot for which you don’t have any great affection. I used a large aluminum pot that we use very infrequently. I was surprised that, after I was done, the pot cleaned up very well; other sources, however, say that their pots and pans can become discolored. Stainless steel or enamel-coated pots seem to be the general recommendation, but my aluminum one worked just great.

Cover the walnuts with water and let them soak for at least a day. The longer they soak, the better. My first batch soaked for a day, and my second batch soaked for several days. I plan to make a third batch which I will allow to soak for several months.

(Another warning: The walnuts, water, and ink all have a high capacity for staining anything they come into contact with. This includes kitchen counters, fingernails, dishes, wooden spoons, and your clothing.)

Step 4. Dismantle the walnuts. Tear, mash, and break them up. The more little pieces one can get, the better. Remember, the rotten, black pulp material is the stuff that turns the water into ink.

With my first batch, I tore them up before I soaked them. With my second batch, I didn’t really break up the husks until they were cooking. Step 4 can kind of be inserted anywhere in the soaking step, or early in the cooking step (Step 5.)

Use this water, which at this point has started to turn black from the walnut juice, for the next step.

Step 5. With the walnuts still covered in their (now-blackened) water, put them on a medium-low heat. Let them simmer for a long time—hours. If the water gets too low, you can add more. The goal, though, is to let it slowly cook down.

Periodically, dip a brush into it and test the liquid on some paper to see how dark it is. Once the liquid is as dark as you want it, your ink is nearly done. It has probably cooked down quite a bit by this point.

The smell of the boiling walnuts is distinct, but not especially strong or unpleasant. It reminded me of rotten logs and damp forest.

Step 6. Let the dark brown mess cool for a while, and then strain it. The best method I’ve found so far is to stretch an old pair of nylons over a glass or plastic container, and pour the walnut sludge into it. Squeeze the sludge in the nylons to get as much liquid out of it as you can. Empty the walnut crumbs out of the nylons into the garbage (or your hedge, or compost heap, or your neighbor’s porch) and repeat until you’ve strained all the liquid into your container. Your container should now hold ink, free from all but small bits of sediment. This sediment, which will settle at the bottom of jars, shouldn’t be a problem.
I tried letting the muck drain through coffee filters. I don't recommend it. It was painfully slow and messy.
A page from my sketchbook, where I was testing and playing with the walnut ink.

Straining the ink. I put an old pair of nylons over the opening of a large plastic can that pretzels came in. After I filled it partially with walnut sludge, I pulled it out and squeezed it over the glass bowl. By the time I was done, the glass bowl was nearly full of the ink.

Step 7. You might want to add a preservative, since the ink can grow mold. The best recommendation I’ve heard so far is to add a small amount of denatured alcohol (add it so that it constitutes 5% of the ink). Salt would also work, but salt can lead to corrosion in metal pen nibs. Vinegar also can retard mold and bacterial growth, but its acidity renders the ink non-archival.

Optional: Most black walnut ink makers recommend the addition of gum arabic to improve the ink’s flow.

Results so far:11-8-07: After a couple of batches homemade black walnut ink, I am unsatisfied with the ink’s darkness. I tried taking a couple of jars and boiling them down further, and the ink did become more concentrated. The ink also became a little thicker and didn’t flow as well. This might be where the gum arabic would come in handy, but I haven’t bought any yet. A 2 ½ jar at the art store runs about twelve dollars. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t be making my own ink! Heh heh. I may try buying some powdered gum arabic on Ebay.

Even though the ink isn’t as dark as I’d like, it still is pretty nice. I think I might be able to make the next batch darker by letting the walnuts soak a lot longer—months, instead of days.

I am also running a lightfastness test with the ink on the dashboard of my car.

I will edit this post periodically as I learn more.

2-7-2012:  I guess I should add another update.  A couple of months ago I made another batch of ink from walnuts that I had sitting in a pot in my garage for about two years. Or was it three?  Anyway, they were sitting covered in water for a very long time.  I've read that there are chemicals in walnuts that discourage mold growth, and that must be true, for there was no mold in the walnuts. (Then why does the ink grow mold, I wonder?)

       These walnuts had also been soaking with some old nuts and bolts to add some iron content, on the theory that it would darken the ink.  I don't kow whether it was this iron, or the age of the walnuts, or a combination of the two, but the ink came out noticeably darker than previous batches.

6-27-13: Another brief update.  I am still using ink from previous batches and have not made any ink since that mentioned in the update above.  But to elaborate on the above point, I recently had four drawings side-by-side: three done with the newest batch of ink, which had very aged walnuts as well as rusty metal added to the mix, and one drawing done with an older batch that had not sat around soaking as long and which had not metal in it.

   The first three were brown, but were more of a charcoaly brown, whereas the the one had more of a burnt sienna appearance.

   My goal had been to make a darker ink, but comparing them, I think I actually like the browner one more.  It just has a more vibrant feel.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lunch break sketch 6-18-13

I sat on a tree stump and drew for a bit. I think some little wasps had nests in the stump (that, or it was their hunting ground), but I remained unstung.