It's Calendar Time Again

My new 2019 calendar is printed and here's a sneak preview. With one exception, the paintings I've chosen were created within the past year (not counting an inset of artwork I did at age 7). That's more painting than I've done in recent history, hoorah! Most of my newest paintings have been horizontal so they fit my calendar format perfectly. For the past few years  my calendars have found a great following, so now I have a challenge to fill twelve months with new artwork each year. It's a tough job, but I love it!

This calendar illustrates a variety of artwork, including watercolors, acrylics, and scratchboard paintings. Some are very realistic, others are representational but with vibrant colors. I even managed to get my newest cow painting into the layout just before sending it off for printing. Off course, my "star" painting this year - Eat Chicken - graces the cover. My calendars make great gifts - treat yourself, family and friends.

Each calendar retails for $15. I can ship orders in a rip-proof tyvec envelope via first class USPS, with $4 added for shipping one or two calendars, and $5.50 to ship three. Sorry, I am not set up to take credit cards, just cash or checks.

Painting has always been my "moonlighting" job, and this year I've managed to free up more time to devote to this passion. I've abandoned several other interests that normally occupy my discretionary non-work hours - at least temporarily. I didn't plant a vegetable garden this year, although I still get my hands dirty with my many gardens of perennial flowers and veggies (like asparagus), herbs, berries, and wildflowers. The Farm Stand at our nearby Mennonite Community sells a huge variety of gorgeous produce and they are just 5 miles from me, so that's satisfying my fresh veggie needs very well. I've ignored my fiddle and banjo, with no local fund-raiser performances, no jamming, and not even any practice time. My food blog has been put on the back burner (sorry followers), although I'm constantly cooking, baking, and developing my own recipes. Last but not least, my husband Rick has been doing his own extra-curricular activities, devoting time to our local Sheriff's Office. So more painting time for me.

I'll start working on the 2020 calendar now!

My Sunny Side

My art has been chosen for the juried Oak Ridge* Art Center 5th Annual Open Show 2018. "Sunny Side Up" was selected for this exhibition of all types of art media, with no geographical limitations for artists submitting entries. Juror Richard Mills, an accomplished artist and Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at Auburn University in Alabama, was asked to select 90 works for the show. He found incredibly high quality submitted this year, and when he had narrowed the choices down to 105 he said he didn't want to eliminate any more!

The juror made this wonderful critique of my painting: "While I removed many florals from the exhibition because they are so familiar, this one is very refreshing with an unusual point of view looking up at or through the flower and leaves. This artist is painting at a very high level, displaying excellent skill level and sense of light and shadow. Really well done."

The show runs through November 24, 2018 at Oak Ridge Art Center, 201 Badger Avenue, Oak Ridge, TN 37830. For more info, visit the Art Center's website or phone 865-482-1441. This is the first time I have entered, and I am proud have my painting among some fabulous artwork.

Oak Ridge Billboard in 1940s
* For those not familiar with Oak Ridge, it is a city about 25 miles west of Knoxville TN. It has an interesting history: the site was selected in 1942 for a pilot plutonium plant and uranium enrichment plant, part of the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. In a race against time, a city emerged in the rural area virtually from scratch, with laboratories, complex plants, transportation, utilities, services and housing for employees and residents for the project - who numbered 75,000 in just 3 years. The area was quarantined, with guard towers and a giant perimeter fence, and the actual project was a mystery to most who were there. The site was dubbed "The Secret City." By the end of WWII, Oak Ridge was the 5th largest city in Tennessee. Two years later, Oak Ridge was relinquished to civilians. Scientific development is still a vital part of the city. Check online for museums and tours in Oak Ridge if you plan to visit.

Mor' Moo

Cows have been very very good to me - the ones I've painted anyway. When I initially got notice of my painting Eat Chicken being considered to hang in a children's hospital, it was the first time I ever thought about kids as an audience for my art. I had been toying with the idea of doing another cow painting, and the old nursery rhyme "Little Boy Blue" inspired the idea for my newest work, "Cow's In The Corn."

So I became more observant of cows while out riding around the rural area where I live. Always armed with my little point-and-shoot Sony Cybershot camera, I got some good photos of cow faces when my subjects were curious and came close to the fence between us. But I just wasn't getting a winning pose. So I went back through my digital cow reference shots, and ended up, once again, with those I had taken on my "farm day" visit to my friends Susan and Dave years ago. There was the perfect face - a photo I had emailed to Susan just after my visit, since it was such a happy-looking cow... and Susan's grandchildren had named her 'Happy' years earlier! Technically, this is not a female 'cow' since Susan and Dave raise males adopted from a dairy farm, but I'll use that term generically. I loved his thrown-back head, the prominent mouth, the textured muzzle, the bulging eye, the little horns behind the ears, and the areas of black and white fur.

I had noticed corn was ripening in the fields around town, and made a tour in the car one sunny day to photograph thick rows of corn in different lighting. Then I bought some corn on the cob and pulled off some leaves (carefully) so I could study them and incorporate one into my composition, to hang out of the cow's mouth. Voila, I was ready to get to work!

I wanted this new painting to be a companion to Eat Chicken, so I used the same primary colors of watercolor, the same size and weight of watercolor paper, and the same technique of pouring the colors and letting them blend randomly over my pencil sketch. You can see some of my pencil sketch through the paint in the top photo of my collage. I guided the wet paint away from some areas, or sprayed it with clear water to thin it, keeping pale or no color in some areas. I love the bright, clean color mixtures that this method creates, and aimed to preserve the luminescence as I painted. I also allowed little sparkles of white paper to remain in the top half of the paper, some of which became faint sunny twinkles in the final painting.

As usual with my animal paintings, I started with the eyes. This cow's right eye popped out as he rolled his head back, with the other only barely visible. I wanted to keep the black-white contrast there, which would emphasize his eye as the focal point. My reference photo included only the cow's head, so I added my own version of his body in profile, keeping it mostly as white fur to add more contrast with his face.

As I began to paint the corn in the top left, I decided I'd have to darken the cow's ears and lighten the white fur at the top of his head in order to distinguish him from the busy colorful background. All three primary colors mixed together can create a nearly black hue. I hoped to maintain some of the glowing color I had already painting on the ears, but much of that was lost when I darkened the fur, unfortunately. Oh well, you can't always get it right. You can see the difference from the 2nd photo to the 3rd in my collage. At least I fulfilled my goal of making him in better contrast with the corn stalks.

My watercolor paper is 300lb which is a thick heavy weight. This allows me to do some scrubbing and scraping without tearing the paper. In places like the top of the cow's head, I re-wet the area with clean warm water, rubbed it with a stiff brush, and blotted off the dried pigment with clean dry paper towel to reveal the white of the watercolor paper better. There was one corn leaf in the top left which kept distracting me, the one falling horizontally; its color varied too much from the colors around it. So I similarly removed some of the yellow/orange color, let it dry, then repainted it with blue-green tones so it would be more harmonious. The bright red spot left of the tail bothered me too, so I blotted away some of the color to make it more subtle.

As a final step I took my x-acto knife and scratched through the paint to create stiff whiskers on the cow's face, fluffy white hairs on the top of the head, bright whites in the eye and highlights on the nostrils and horns. I declared my happy cow painting finished, and emailed the image to Susan and Dave as the first to see it. They approved!

Eat Chicken has sold but I've reproduced it as giclee prints. I'm not so anxious to sell the original Cow's In The Corn, so I'll make giclee prints for sale also. I think the two images will make a fun grouping, hanging side-by-side.

Twice Honored

I am pleased and proud to announce that my award-winning watercolor "Eat Chicken" is being purchased for Chattanooga's Erlanger Children's Hospital Outpatient Center. It will be part of the hospital's award-winning permanent art display, with other fine paintings. The Arts at Erlanger program has received national recognition, and is an important component of the new Children's Hospital's innovative family-friendly environment, designed to engage children, distract them from their illnesses and meet the complex needs of families and physicians. I can't think of a nicer venue for my colorful and somewhat whimsical painting, where it can bring a few moments of joy to those who need cheering up, young and old.

Artist's Concept of new Chattanooga Children's Hospital
The purchase is made through a generous grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation in memory of the late Martha Joan Clark of Chattanooga. Kevin M. Spiegel, president and CEO of the Erlanger Health System, said, “We are building a Children’s Hospital uniquely designed for the community we serve. This memorial gift, which reflects the many artistic and cultural contributions of Martha Joan Clark, will be part of our new hospital for generations to come.” The 90,000 sq.ft. Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center is scheduled to open at the end of 2018. It is Phase I of a new Children's Hospital and will be its entrance and main lobby.

"War Path", an award-winning watercolor by Joan Clark

Now I have been twice honored in the memory of artist Joan Clark, who died in the spring of 2017. My Best Of Show award for "Eat Chicken" was The Joan Clark Memorial Award, created when the family requested donations to the Tennessee Watercolor Society as remembrance in lieu of flowers. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but my research reveals that Joan Clark was a beautiful and caring person, a talented award-winning artist, and a gifted woman in many other pursuits.

Scratching Again

I feel like I've been a bit spastic with my art recently - jumping from watercolor to acrylics, working on paper, canvas, and panels. Whatever I am working on at the time is my favorite. There are so many different art materials and methods I want to try, and it's a continuous learning process. Perhaps someday I'll settle down and concentrate on one medium and one surface; I'm still figuring out what kind of artist I want to be when I grow up!

"Hair of the Dog" is done on a different type of clay panel from my recent painting "Just Jasper." The latter was done on Aquabord®, a panel with a layer of white clay with a slight texture. This time I've used a product from the same manufacturer - Ampersand Art - called Scratchbord®. It is a panel of hardboard coated with very smooth white kaolin clay then sprayed with a thin layer of black india ink. India ink can be thinned with water when wet, but is not water-soluble when dry, so this panel's surface can be painted over with water media. The black surface is etched into with a blade or other abrasive tool to reveal the white clay layer. The panel can be painted also and any area of white will accept the color. Scratching through the painted area will reveal the white again, so different values can be created this way. The board can be re-inked, re-painted, and re-scratched multiple times to build texture, value, and details. The black surface left as the background creates a very dramatic image, since it is so bold and stark. Furry and feathered critters are a natural for this surface, but any subject can be rendered.
Of course, starting with a solid black surface requires a bit of reverse thinking - negative thinking actually. It's a subtractive process, where different etching and abrasive materials will reveal the white surface. In traditional watercolor, the paper is left unpainted for the whites in the painting. The transparency of the watercolors  also allow the bright white paper to show through and add luminosity to the painted areas. I've tried to capture luminosity on white canvas by using acrylic paints transparently also, as with my recent painting "Sunny Side Up." Using Scratchbord, the black is the undisturbed area and the whites can be revealed at any stage. It's a whole new ballgame.

I watched videos, read tips and tricks, and reviewed beautiful artwork for my first attempt on this surface. Some scratchboard artists create finished art in black, white and grey tones… doing fine textures like crosshatching and stippling to make a wide range of grey values. Others use paints or colored inks, letting them dry then scratching through the colors to build up textures, tones and contrasts.

For my subject, I selected with a close-up side-view reference photograph of my dog Maggie Mae's face. She has beautiful large, captivating eyes. The fur around it goes in different directions and has different hues. I had read that the india ink coating could be removed with rubbing alcohol, and decided this would be ideal for the area of her eyeball, rather than trying to rub off the black layer with steel wool or sandpaper or scratching tools. I also heard one artist used her saliva rubbed into the india ink to create grey tones!

My Scratchbord was a small square, just 6" x 6". Making Maggie's face larger than life, I wanted her eye to be the center of attention To transfer my image to the Scratchbord, I used Saral white carbon transfer paper, to make white marks on the black surface. Then I lightly scratched the transferred white lines with an x-acto #11 blade since the transferred white can wipe off. The x-acto knife is the tool I used most on this painting, along with a wire brush tool sold by Ampersand which has numerous wires in one holder, and a fiberglass brush which creates soft white areas. I also carefully removed the india ink layer from the eye with a small paintbrush dipped in rubbing alcohol, blotting away the black ink carefully as it dissolved. Image #2 shows the first round of scratching, as I tried to mimic the direction of the fur and vary the length, depth, and closeness of my strokes. You might also notice that I accidentally made a light scratch in the top left, the area I wanted to remain solid black - I'd need to figure how to conceal that mistake. After scratching, I wiped the surface with a lint-free dampened soft cloth, to remove any bit of residue from scratching.

After doing my first round of scratching, I decided to use acrylic paints to add color. Once dry, acrylic paints do not dissolve with water, and I knew I'd want to do more than one layer of color. With watercolor pigments on a scratchboard, painting over the surface can re-dissolve the colors previously painted, and I didn't want this to happen. Sometimes this property of watercolors can be advantageous; areas already painted can be re-wet and removed.

I selected acrylic pigments which are naturally very transparent, like Quinacridone Gold and Nickel Azo Yellow. I thinned my Golden Fluid Acrylics with Golden Glazing Liquid and water to create even more transparency and keep their application thin. By nature, acrylic paints dry as a polymer film. Applied too heavily, they can be difficult (if not impossible) to scratch through. Also, I wanted enough transparency so the under-layers of black and white to show through the colors. I applied more paint than needed so I would be able to scratch away to create fur textures. As always, I was anxious to paint Maggie's eye, since that always makes an animal portrait come alive. The blue areas around her eye are done with Payne's Grey, a lovely cool dark blue.

After the first painting stage I wait until the paint is totally dry, since the clay layer softens with the moisture. Once again following the contours of the fur, I scratched through the colored layers. Once again, I followed with paint application. I few last details and Maggie was done. To fix that mark in the black top right corner, I used a rough sponge with black india ink and dabbed the whole black area. My mistake was covered and the black-on-black texture was only slightly noticeable.

After 24 hours of final drying, I sprayed the Scratchbord with Krylon UV clear matte finish, doing 3 separate coats. This protects the surface and allows the artwork to be framed with no protective glass. I was delighted to see that the spray also made my repair job on the black corner even less noticeable.

My first attempt at scratchboard came out as I hoped, but I realize I am still at "scratchboard 101" level. I'm blown away by scratchboard art I've seen on Pinterest and YouTube, with extreme fine detail and realism. I'll develop my own scratchboard style, striving to improve with each painting. I'd like to try other subjects besides animals, even though that's one of my favorites. You can click on the photo of my painting to enlarge it, but the photo of the finished art with the dollar bill shows you the actual size of "Hair of the Dog."

I've just purchased a few more Aquabords and Scratchbords, so you'll be seeing my future attempts. There's a terrific sale on Ampersand products through the end of this month (Sept '18) so if you are motivated to try scratchboard check Jerry's Artarama in Knoxville. I look forward to seeing other new scratchboard art among my readers!