Violet and Gracie

I've already posted these drawings on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, but why have I neglected my blog?! Reading this article provides yet another wake up call about which baskets to put your eggs in, and makes me feel renewed appreciation for my own little corner of the internet here on magicjelly.com.au, as well as eternal gratitude to the people who still read my blog and newsletter. I think one of the reasons I don't post on my blog as often as I should is because I always want everything to be perfect, which takes time, where as posting on Facebook or Instagram is just so quick and easy. But I think it's important that new content is posted here first, as well as posting content that isn't featured elsewhere. Happily, I finally sorted out my blog feed woes too, so now, whether you subscribe in a reader or by email, all of my graphics appear (in living technicolour!). Hooray!

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So anyway, here are two of my drawings you might not have seen before. The pink lady is called Gracie (once my new shop is open, she'll be for sale, along with other mixed media drawings in a similar vein, and assorted new drawings, collages and gocco prints). I just love drawing on tinted papers using white charcoal for highlights. The other is a drawing called Violet. I thought I'd show you a close up detail too. Some people like to shade using the edge of the pencil, and blend by rubbing, and achieve some lovely effects too, especially on textured papers. I prefer to draw on relatively smooth papers and just use the point of a sharpened pencil, which is basically a build up of tiny lines creating a blended effect. That way you get a fairly fine looking drawing. It means I tend to stay down the hard end of the pencil spectrum, favouring 2b-2h, with only touches of the softer, darker pencils like 6b. Drawing like this is very time-consuming, but it suits the way I like to work, which is quite finicky and fuss-budgety.

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When doing portraits, I try to hit a spot somewhere between lifelike and stylised, so that I'm bringing something of myself to each drawing, and I try to imbue each subject with a unique character and to convey emotion. That's what I try to do anyway! It's amazing how tiny changes can totally change the expression and attitude on your subject's face. I also really love drawing hair, as you might be able to tell. :)

I've pretty much finished my new site, which includes a new shop and gallery, but have a few little technical issues to work out. I'm lucky to have my old friend Julian working on it for me (who built my blog for me), so it shouldn't be too long before everything's up and running. Next I'd like to spruce up my blog a little - perhaps a new header?

Art Paraphernalia

Where ever your interests lie; whether you like to cook, sew, build models, or take photos, or tumble rocks (or climb them!), don't you find that looking at all of your equipment and supplies just makes you so happy? I admit it, I am a total art supply hoarder. I love looking at other people's stuff, so I thought I'd show you some of mine!

So there you are; a little wrap up of some of my art stuff. I hope some of you fellow art supply hoarders found it interesting!

Picking Colours

I read this interesting article on Digital Arts yesterday: 10 Colour Secrets from Leading Illustrators. It's great getting some insight into how other illustrators work with colour. I might not be a "leading illustrator" myself, but I thought I'd share my own thoughts on choosing colours  - maybe you'll find it helpful!

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A limited palette I pretty much always work with a limited colour palette - anywhere from one to six colours. That Photoshop colour picker, loaded with squillions of options (or that huge tin of pencils, plethora of ink bottles, etc) is very tempting, but too much choice can be a pitfall. I think that limiting your palette helps with the logic, rhythm and flow, so the important elements stand out and the secondary elements recede and work to create depth and texture (or whatever they're there to do!). Limiting your colours also calls on your ingenuity to create something that's still dynamic or rich with  detail and variation. I like to use halftones, pattern and negative space, rather than introduce more colour.  I also love the charm of vintage illustrations where a limited palette was a practicality. I remember in some of my favourite picture books when I was little, you'd have the lovely glossy full-colour pages alternating with the pulpy, uncoated pages featuring one or two colour illustrations. I think I used to prefer those to the shiny colourfest! I think there's something really intriguing about what an artist does with line and tone when a full colour palette isn't an option.

Nothing's black and white Black isn't always black. I very rarely use pure black, preferring softer blacks, such as a desaturated dark blue, a warm brown-black from a yellow palette, or a dull, dark red. For something more subtle and muted, I also like to use less intense colours in place of black. As long as there's enough contrast, it can still work. White might mean 0% ink, but it's still a useful addition to your palette - especially if you're only working with one or two other colours. There are some really amazing illustrations around that use negative space and let the colour and texture of the paper/background do the talking.

Tonal values I usually try to work out my colour palette before I begin, but there are often changes as I go along. In trying to pick the right combo, I like to desaturate my palette and check the percentage of black for each colour. You can make lovely, muted illustrations using colours with a similar tonal value, but most times I prefer to have a range across the greyscale spectrum, to create enough contrast. I'm mindful of the saturation of each colour for the same reason.

Anyway, that's my five cents' worth!

Sneak Peek: Packaging

I hope you're all having a nice, relaxing Easter weekend. It's a windy ol' Good Friday 'round these parts; I pity anyone attempting a picnic! A quiet day at home for me. I've been working on my jewellery packaging (as you can see from the pics) & now I'm done with that for now, it's time to go & bake some cinnamon scrolls with pecans & cranberries (in lieu of hot cross buns - vegan ones are tricky to come by) & perhaps get in a little sofa time & watch some DVDs. I've been thinking of re-watching Atonement because I saw another Ian McEwan adaptation on the teev the other day, Enduring Love, which I really enjoyed. The beginning was so haunting, it's still stuck in my head! Has anyone seen it? I do love Atonement, but you've got to be in a buoyant mood because it's so terribly sad!

Anyway, here are some sneak peeks at my jewellery packaging. I'm rather happy with it! I've posted so many photos because none of them really do these enticing little boxes justice - there's something very tactile & pick-up-able about them. The designs are influenced a little by vintage matchboxes & mid-20th century Chinese apothecary labels, as well as 1930s-40s beauty products. The boxes have a genuinely vintage look, in part due to my paper choice, which is made to emulate old, faded butcher paper. It has a lovely sheen & feel. For once, I could make my designs unashamedly girly because the products are solely for we gals. Sorry chaps, I might do some tiepins & cufflinks in future!

Jewellery Sneak Peek

I thought I'd show you what I'm making today. Here are some pieces from a range of jewellery destined for my shop, waiting to be sealed within resin & made all shiny & gem-like. I've already shown you this bracelet from my folk art inspired range, these blue & white designs are influenced (as you might have guessed!) by Delftware. I wanted to do a woodland theme, but not the usual suspects such as bears & rabbits. I finished the swan the other day (I'm quite happy with it!) & I'm currently drawing weasels for yet another addition to The Woodlanders range. You might have noticed the little weasel I drew for this calendar - I thought he was so cute I just knew another weasel would pop up soon enough. These pieces are quite large - 55x43mm (2.15x1.7 inches) - & I'm making them into pendants & cuff bracelets (the little hearts top-right are for matching rings). I like larger jewellery myself, but I'm also making some dainty-sized pieces too. I've had friends & family road testing my jewellery for about a year now, & it's great to see it stand up to the rigors of every day wear & tear such as grabby toddlers. Nicest of all is hearing reports back of the compliments my jewellery has received!

If you'd like to be notified when my shop is open & my jewellery is for sale, you might like to subscribe to my newsletter, which you can do to your right, via my sidebar sign up form, at the foot of the page, via my contact page, or by checking a little box when you comment on a post.

A Handmade Christmas

Did you have a good Christmas? My aim was to have a relaxing, stress-free time, but it never quite happens that way does it? The last few days before Christmas were a flurry of making & baking.

We decided to make each other presents this year - here are a few pics of the things I made. I wanted to make things I don't normally do & I used vintage graphics instead of my own artwork - I wanted to give everyone something they wouldn't be expecting from me. Despite the last minute rush, I really had a lot of fun making fudge, shortbreads, soy candles, compact mirrors, lip balms & potpourri sachets. It wasn't so much fun making chocolate truffles...they turned out a little lumpy & I somehow managed to get chocolate everywhere. I received some beautiful gifts in return. My sister Cass & her boyfriend Dave planted me a herb garden & made delicious walnut shortbreads, & my best friend Mark & his fiancé Stevie made gift boxes of bath & beauty products with the most gorgeous packaging.

I hope you had a chance to catch up with the people you love & had a wonderful time! I'm looking forward to doing nothing for the rest of today...maybe some reading & DVD watching, & a sandwich made from leftover glazed seitan roast with cashew lemon & thyme stuffing. Yum!

Messy Desk

I've just popped by to say hi! Things might be a little quiet 'round these parts for the next couple of weeks as I'm busy preparing for my shop opening, but I shall be back soon, blogging like there's no tomorrow. What are you doing this week? Do you have any creative projects messing up your work desk? Urgh...children's party next door. Lots of high-pitched squealing going on. Time for a walk I think!

May I Rant About Digital Art Please?

I've started digitally "inking" the sketch from my last post in Illustrator & thought you might like to take a look at my progress. You can see from the scan of the original sketch (acting as template) that I've made a few adjustments...eyebrows lower, eyes smaller, nose narrower, jawline fuller...but basically it's the same gal! Eventually, she's going to be gocco printed on vintage paper & become part of a mixed media piece. I'll show you when it's done!

Anyway, the painstaking task of vectoring my sketch got me thinking about digital art & its reputation amongst traditional artists.

I hang around the Etsy forums waaay more than I should (when I'm supposed to be working!) & have been frustrated on a number of occasions by peoples' attitude towards digital art. I'm referring to the viewpoint that digital art is somehow less legitimate than traditional art. What's particularly frustrating, is when the people who hold this opinion know nothing about digital process whatsoever.

There seems to be this misconception that digital art is just a few mere magical mouse-clicks away! Also that it's somehow inferior because it's not "handmade" (the Etsy catch cry) & is "cold" & "soulless".

Well, I can tell you now, I use the same pair of hands, set of eyes & brain to make digital artwork as I do when using paint, ink or pencil. Furthermore, digital techniques are not as intuitive as putting pencil to paper - it's not so easy to just pick it up & hit the ground running - it took me a very long time to fully grasp the technical aspect of making pictures digitally & to finally be able to accurately render the ideas in my head. This is all contrary to the commonly held opinion that digital art is somehow easier to make than traditional art, that it takes less time, talent & skill.

And back to the "handmadeness" aspect again... Despite the fact that I've just argued that in its own way, digital art is just as "hands on" as traditional art, I just want to add that technique & craftsmanship are only part of the picture when it comes to making art. What about the more cerebral considerations: developing your concept, making your colour choices, composition, subject matter, & all those other decisions you make about how best to render your ideas? I think, especially on Etsy, with its fixation on "handmade", that some artists get so caught up with the craftsmanship of making art that they forget the conceptual side is equally important. Maybe if they considered this, they'd start to understand that computers are no different to any other tool.

I guess part of the reason digital art still gets a raw deal is because it's still relatively new, but why not embrace whatever tools & technologies are at hand? Once upon a time, the camera obscura was seen as the devil's work, & there are techniques & media embraced by the art world these days, that were once considered too "lowbrow" or commercial.

I'm a believer in using whatever it takes to communicate your ideas, whether it be a charred stick on a cave wall or a MacBook Pro.