Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Photography Friday on a Tuesday (and a blog break)

I so wanted to do three blogposts this week, but things are just a bit too busy around here and my head is spinning a little too wildly from it all. So....I have decided to just do my Photography Friday post today and leave it at that, because....I'm going on a blog break!

I have done this in the past years around the holidays as well and it seems to agree with me, so I might as well keep up the tradition. I have an almost two week vacation coming up starting Saturday. I say almost, because I do have to work the two days after Christmas, but I don't mind. Counting all the weekends starting Saturday I will only have to work two days out of sixteen, so it's all good! ;-)

I'm hoping for some peaceful quiet times with lots of walks and lots of reading and maybe some artsy stuff as well. Who knows. And of course I'll be taking pictures, because...well...I'm always taking pictures. Here's some from the past few weeks.

Oh, the vistas this island has to offer!

The tree branches are all empty now.

But there are still plenty of leaves left on the ground.
The first snow fell (and went away again).

The town of Harlingen on a freezing morning.

The Frisian landscape from a train. Flat and white.

I found this beautiful frozen pond between a shopping center and a parking lot.

My lazy assistant being lazy. We had our one year anniversary together just last weekend!

Instead of more snow, we've had rain, lots of rain. It's forming ponds everywhere.

It completely changes the landscape. I like it.

What can I say? This kind of thing just makes me sigh.

After nine months I finished the Moon Journal!

And I started my next journal. It's called the White Book!

I'll show you the last journal spreads from the Moon Journal after I come back (next year, now that sounds a long way away), but I will tell you I was kind of relieved that journey was over. Phew. ;-) Of course I'll also introduce you to the White Book later on, after all every ending is just the beginning of something new.

And that's all I have for you this year. I will be back the second week of January. I really enjoyed spending the last year with you all and sharing my artsy stuff with you. I feel like my blog has really come into its own and I owe you all a great deal of thanks for your support and kind comments, your questions and your inspiration, so...thank you thank you thank you! ;-)

Dear blogsy people, I wish you all a wonderful and joyful Christmas and a festive New Years Eve. I'll see you next year! Let's have a wonderful and artsy holiday season!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another beautiful lady in a beautiful dress

You may remember that a while ago I started a series of beautiful ladies in beautiful dresses. If not, you can find the first one here. Now my series can take some time to come into being, so don't expect me to whip up dozens of ladies in no time. I always take my time with things and I like a lot of variety in what I do.

But...last week I felt it was time for another lady to see the light. So I went to work and here she is:

As before I used a wedding magazine as my inspiration, but trust me, there was no lady with long flowing hair and a red dress in there! I just use them for the pose and the model and flow of the dress. The rest is up to me. 

This one really is a bit of a mixed media piece. I don't know if you can tell, but I used a drawing pen, coloured pencils, watercolour and tombow brush markers on this one. Some of the markers I diluted with water (on the dress for instance). 

I also like the challenge of making an interesting background. For the background on this lady I used several cheap stencils I got at a discount store. The letters I colored in with pencil and the flowers with markers. I like how you can see the structure of the paper with the coloured pencils. 

I can see a lot of flaws in this second lady (just check out her arms for one), but as a whole I do like how she turned out, especially the colours and the way the light reflects on her dress. You can tell it must be silk or something. 

Whether I'll ever get the form of a dressed lady down so well that I can just draw them by heart remains to be seen, but I do like practicing them this way and every little bit helps, right?

Hope you are practicing something too and that you enjoyed this lady.

For now I wish you all a wonderful and artsy day!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Party on a page

Every now and then it happens. An idea will come to me out of nowhere and I must act upon it. Truth be told this happens very rarely and I'm not one of those people who believes that sitting around and waiting for the Muse to drop by is a good idea.

In general my ideas come from keeping up an artistic practice. Making stuff leads to making more stuff, it's as simple as that. But...every now and then the Muse hands me a freebie. This time it happened upon waking up about a week ago. An image just jumped in my mind and I scribbled it down as soon as I had the opportunity. It looked something like this:

Basically what I had in mind were strips of decorated colourful ribbon across the page surrounded by little colourful dots. The dots reminded me of confetti. It just seemed like a fun idea to try out in full colour. Of course as is often the case with such ideas I had to wait a while before I could really sit down with my sketchbook, but later that day I actually made my first attempt:

I drew the ribbons and dots with a Pitt drawing pen and then coloured them in with Tombow brush markers. I really liked this first try. It looked to me like a little party on a page!

This came in handy later that week when one of my sisters celebrated her birthday. I decided to combine these ribbons and confetti with some words and let the ribbons go back and in front of the letters. 

Again I drew the picture with a drawing pen and filled in the colours with tombow markers, but not after first setting it up in pencil so I could figure out which lines were covered. And I love love love how it turned out. I'm thinking a design like this would make for really cool greeting cards or birthday cards. There was no time for that now, but I did put a picture of the page on her Facebook timeline, so it was like a personal e-card. ;-)

I think I will be drawing more of these. I feel I have just scratched the surface with this idea. I'll keep you posted and see if there will be more party pages in the future. ;-)

Wishing you all a wonderful and artsy day!

PS On a different note: you may have noticed I put moderation on in my comment section. This is because ever since november the spammers have multiplied by ten and some are starting to get through Bloggers defence system and ending up on the blog. I hate that, so to spare you all the trouble of being confronted with things like 'solutions for genital warts' (seriously, I had two of those that would have ended up on the blog if I had not had on moderation) I'm putting the moderation on. This means there will be a little delay between your posting and me publishing your comment. I know you understand. Thanks.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Big ATC Tutorial - part five - backing and beyond

Well, we've been busy this week and now we have twelve atc's to show for it. Well, at least I do, I guess for you they may still be in the making or planning stage. But ... we still aren't completely done yet.

Today we will do some finishing touches and I'll give you some links to places where you can go if you want to trade your atc's. I mean, as pretty as they are, you might want to actually trade them, after all they are artist trading cards! So get to your worktable and roll up your sleeves for the final part of our Big ATC Tutorial!

The Big ATC Tutorial - part five - backing and beyond

Now the front of the cards is finished you may want to think about the back of the cards.
In fact they may need some extra backing. The reasons for this can be that:
  • your card is too flimsy and needs some sturdy paper to literally back it up, remember these cards are for trading and are indeed cards, not thin pieces of paper that already bend by looking at them
  • your card will need information on the background, but you can't write on the material (if you use ready made stickers on the back of your cards this reason does not apply)
  • your card is warped and some extra backing will make it flat again (very warped cards will not go well in envelopes and pockets for safekeeping)
  • your card is not as clean on the back as you would like it to be (this is mostly my reason) and looks something like this or worse:

I'm a sloppy worker, so most of the time whatever materials I'm working with will also end up on the back of the paper. You can also see the card is slightly warped, so it can totally do with a little extra backing.

So today I thought I'd show you how to make a backing for your cards. Consider it a bonus of my tutorial, becasue originally I wasn't  planning on doing this, but it seemed only fair to show you the entire process I go through before trading a card.

Materials used:
  • a sturdy paper with at least one side that is clean and in one colour (I used the covers of all kinds of reports that get tossed at work, but you can use anything from packaging to cereal boxes and from scrapbook cardstock to expensive watercolour paper, just make sure it's sturdy and ads thickness to your card)
  • some clean paper scraps (the clean part is very important!)
  • acrylic gel medium (or another good glue you can brush on thickly, don't use something like rubber cement, it will not hold over time)
  • a brush
  • scissors
  • a pen for writing your information on the back

As you may know I work as and archivist/documentalist. I file a lot of stuff. Among that suff are dozens, if not hundreds, of all kinds of reports and financial statements. All these come with covers that are thick and serve no other purpose but to cover a report. After filing there's no need for these covers anymore and I remove them. Most of them get tossed, but every now and then I will take some home to use as backing for cards and atc's. They usually are made of beautiful sturdy paper that is only printed on one side. Perfect for our tutorial today. So I got out two pieces for the backing of my twelve atc's

I cut them up in smaller pieces that are somewhat larger than the atc's so there is some extra space around them.

Then I take a bunch of scraps of paper and cut those a little bigger than atc size as well. Here I used writing paper of one of the many free notepads that I get when there's a class or training at work. I have so many of them they will never be filled with actual notes, so I use them as a background for gluing stuff which is exactly what we will be doing today. It's important however that this paper is clean, this to prevent any smudges coming on the cards by sticking to the glue.

Okay, let's go. I start by putting the first atc on a clean piece of scrap paper face down. Then I cover the entire back in a thick layer of gel medium. Make sure every last bit is covered, especially the edges and corners. Also make sure a piece of the backing paper is ready for use lying next to it. If there's printing on there make sure that side is up.

Now I put the glued atc side on the printed side of the backing paper. It's important to move quickly now, so the medium doesn't dry before you're all finished.

I cover the good side of the atc wih another clean piece of scrap paper and rub over the paper to attach the card to the backing. By doing this you prevent yourself (and your gluey hands) from touching the card and smudging it. Really rub hard over the paper to make sure that every part is fully attached to the backing, you can also use the side of your fist to cover more ground. Pay special attention to the sides and corners. A brayer is another option, but I have found I can apply more pressure with my hands.

Now the card should be well attached and flat to the backing. Carefully remove the scrap paper and leave the glued card to dry on the backing. Repeat with every card. Make sure to change your scrap paper for clean ones every time, or you will smudge the next card with glue from the previous one. Now leave your cards to fully dry. To make sure they stay flat you can leave them to dry under heavy books. It's best to leave them overnight (I rarely have the patience to do this, but it really is best!).

When all the cards are dry you should have something like this. That's not exactly how we want our wonderful atc's to look, is it? ;-)

Time to get out the scissors. The bigger the better, because with big scissors you can cut off one side in one snip, instead of a bunch of small ones which will never be as clean cut. In any case you cut off the excess backing paper so your atc is a nice and perfect atc size again.

And there you have it: twelve lovely atc's, all ready to go! Um...well...allmost...
Because atc's are for trading it helps your trading partners to know what it's called, if it's part of a series, who made it and how to get in touch with the maker. This information can be put on the back of the card, in fact...it's kind of expected of you. Now there are all kinds of ready made atc backings that you can print on sticker paper and fill in. There's even stamps for it! Just google for it if you're curious, I'm sure you'll find dozens of options, a lot of them free.  But frankly I prefer to just write my info on the back in hand. This is the way I personally do it, which is by no means the way everybody does it. I put the info around the edges of the card and my signature in the center. From the top clockwise you will find my blog url, the name and number of the card, my e-mail addy and the date the card was finished.

A series of twelve cards, all called ' Botanical Bliss'. I think the hand written back ads an extra personal touch, but that's  a matter of preference. Do what feels right for you.

Now, how do we store the cards before we trade them? Well, there's all sorts of wonderful collecting systems and binders with all sorts of wonderful ready made pockets. But I like to store the cards I make in this little thingy. Yes, that's right, it's a business card holder! Now a little warning before you go out buying one. Not all business card holders are created equally and most won't fit your atc's, because business cards are smaller. I just happened to find one that works perfectly.

Here are my cards all ready and filed in their little pockets.

Of course keeping your own cards in a little thing like that is fine, after all they will leave your house soon enough if you really want to trade them. But for storing the ones you receive you might indeed want to spend some money on a good album or make one yourself. There's all kinds of people making all kinds of atc holders/folders/albums on the internet. Again google for it. There's so much out there up for grabs.

In order to receive cards you are going to have to join a trading community. This can be real life or online. I have no experience in real life trading, but I do have some online. There's several groups on yahoo devoted to atc's. They will hold themed swaps where a host chooses a prompt and the amount of cards to make, but you can also go for one on one swaps with a card maker that appeals to you. Just go to groups.yahoo.com and search for 'atc's'  and see if there's a group that appeals to you. I made a link of the search, so you just have to click here.

Another option is swapbot, where just about anything on the planet that can be swapped through the mail, is indeed swapped. This includes atc's. If you follow this link, you will get to their current swaps page.

Another site for atc swaps is atc's for all. Here swappers of all levels can swap atc's. It's a good place for beginners and advanced alike. You can find them here

The more elite sibling of atc's for all is Illustrated atc's. Here you actually have to apply and be accepted before you can trade. Their standards are pretty high. It's a good place for advanced artists who draw and paint and want to trae atc's. You can find them here.

A wonderful source for art traders is the free (!) digital magazine Art Trader Magazine. You can download the magazine as a pdf and print it if you like. It's full of inspiration and ideas and interesting articles on art trading, with a lot of info on atc's. On their site you can also find a bunch of links to atc trading sites. You can find the magazine here. All twenty back issues are still available online.

I hope you'll give trading a try if only to receive some amazing snail mail in your mailbox. If you don't like atc's you might like other kinds of art trading, there's a whole world out there to explore. And if you want to trade for one of my atc's you're welcome to send me an e-mail. You can find my addy in my profile info (please don't do it through the blog).

And with that we come to the end of our five day atc frenzy. It was a humungous job to put together, but I'm very glad I did it and I hope it provides a resource you will like referring to from time to time. I will put a link to these tutorials on my tutorials page next week so they can be found more easily as time goes on.

For now I just hope you enjoyed it and that your are inspired by it. And with that there's nothing left for me to do but to wish you a wonderful and artsy day!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Big ATC Tutorial - part four - painting with water soluble crayons

Can you believe this is part four already of my five part atc tutorial? Time flies when you're having fun. And I sure had fun making this last set of atc's! I used some techniques I hadn't in a while and also some of my favorite materials in the world. So let's get going, shall we?

The Big ATC Tutorial - part four - painting with water soluble crayons

Materials used:
  • some atc backgrounds that were made in part one of this tutorial
  • some sheets of a good paper that can take wet media (I used 200 gsm Fabriano paper)
  • gouache or watercolour (use any cheap brand you have, we're not using them for fine art)
  • a spray bottle with water (I used a mini spritzer)
  • a design source book (I used one about flowers and plants), this one is not mandatory, you can just draw from your imagination, but I put it in so you knew there is stuff like this out there if you need it
  • a pencil
  • an eraser
  • a drawing pen (waterproof)
  • several brushes (for watercolour, but also for brushing on gel medium)
  • watersoluble crayons (you need a good quality for this to work, I have cheaper ones than the Neocolor II's I'm using here, but you can't use the brush technique with those so it's a matter of trying them out and seeing if it works), however if you don't have water soluble crayons just use any other kind of material for colouring in your images
  • a black glaze pen (or another black marker)
  • acrylic gel medium (or any other good permanent glue)
  • scissors
  • eyelets and an eyelet setter (I used a crop-a-dile, but there's plenty of alternatives out there)

This time I did not alter the surface of the background much. Here's a reminder of how the original background looked. As you can see I  added a dashed line around the borders in a black glaze pen to prepare the cards for what was to come. I wanted to ad an extra layer in the form of an extra piece of paper. A little background on top of a background you might say.

So now I had to make a second background. I got out a piece of one of my favorite papers, Fabriano artist's paper. This one is 200 gsm and it works well with most media.

I started by getting out my gouache box and a mini spritzer full of water. I spritzed the paper until it was soaking wet.

Then I dipped my watercolour brush in water and started adding several colours of gouache. Because the background was so wet the colours really ran into each other.

I reinforced that effect by holding the paper sideways and letting the colors run over the page even more. You have to be a little careful with this and take care that your colors don't get muddy, that would ruin the effect. So try not to mix too much together. After this I lay this sheet of paper aside and left it to dry while I moved on with another part of my atc's.

As I've already said in the previous parts of this tutorial, the atc's that I've made all had the same theme: flowers. I knew I wanted to put a big flower on these atc's and I knew I wanted to draw it myself. But I also wanted to draw someting different from my usual flowers. Whenever you find yourself faced with a need for inspiration and ideas for imagery you might want to seek out so called source books. They come in all kinds. The above is a source book that's fully dedicated to drawn flowers. It is absolutely fantastic and when you buy it you also buy the right to use the images in your art. How cool is that? a

This is a sample of what the pages inside look like and also the spread I used as inspiration for my flowers. A lot of sourcebooks have cd's included with all the images on it, so technically you could also just print out what you want and colour it in, but I wanted to give a bit more of a personal touch to these flowers, so I decided to draw them by hand.

I got another sheet of Fabriano paper and used one of the background atc's as a template for drawing four frames. That way I could make sure my flowers would be the right size.

I drew the flower of my choice in pencil first so I could erase some lines if they were not to my liking. I used a mechnical pencil by the way. I like using mechanical pencils for line drawings, where you don't need shading and stuff like that.

Then I traced the flower with a drawing pen (make sure your pen is waterproof, because we will be colouring the drawing in with wet media) and erased all the pencil lines.

Now it was time to colour the flower in. I wanted to do a technique I used a lot in the past for coloring in faces, namely using watersoluble crayons as watercolors. What you do is you hold a wet brush to the crayon and so get the colour on the brush and paint with that like you would with any paint. The difference is that these crayons are more velvety and opaque in nature and just go down a little thicker, so they have their own 'personality'. What I also like is that I have a huge amount of them (84 colours) and so hardly need to mix colours when using them and I'm a lazy colour mixer. Anyway, I started colouring in the flower this way.

Now let me say that if you don't have water soluble crayons you could of course just as easily colour in these flowers with any media you like. The principle is still the same: draw a flower and colour it in. The end.

Well, not exactly the end, because after that first layer I added a second to spice the flower up a little. Sometimes I also added dots or stripes or other marks in a second colour. It really made the flowers pop. What's nice about the crayons is that you can use a lighter color on top of a darker one.

And to make them pop even more, guess what I did? Yup, I got out my trusty black glaze pen and outlined the whole flower all over again. You can't see it very well in this picture, but the glaze pen next to the velvety crayon makes for a really nice contrast.

Now it was time to cut out the flower. I used tiny scissors for that. I'm not an obsessively neat cutter, so there are little traces of white here and there. For this alone I will never become one of those 3D card makers. ;-)

After that I made three more flowers in the same manner and cut them out. I must say that I was a little in love with them. So bright and cheerful they are!

By the time all that was done the second background paper was dry enough for use. I cut out four rectangles that were slightly smaller than an atc.

I put a dashed line on the borders of these second backgrounds too, of course again in glaze pen (what else?). Then I attached the center of these rectangles to the original background with a little glue. Only the center mind you, I wanted the sides to stay 'loose'. I just wanted to make sure the rectangles didn't move during the next stage.

See, I really wanted to attach the rectangles with eyelets. So I got my crop-a-dile and my small selection of eyelets and got to work. If you don't have a crop-a-dile, you really don't need one. There's all kinds of (cheaper) eyelet setters out there. It's a handy tool, but only if you use it regularly is it worth the cost.

I put a silver coloured eyelet in every corner of the rectangles. Now they were firmly attached to the background.

Now all that was left to do was glue the flowers to the new backgrounds. I used acrylic gel medium for this, however this time I did not seal the image in. This because the crayons are (as their name clearly states) water soluble. If I would have gone over the flowers with the medium the colours would have smeared and the image would have been ruined.

And here's how my four last atc's turned out. As you can see I could have planned the flowers a little better here and there as they sometimes cover the eyelets, but still: it's such a colourful bunch that I don't really mind all that much. We learn as we go. ;-)

And that concludes part four of my tutorial. I now have twelve brand new atc's! 

I'm quite happy with how they turned out. But... we aren't fully finished yet. Tomorrow in part five of our tutorial we will talk about the finishing touches. Hope to see you then!

For now I wish all of you a wonderful and artsy day.