Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Hey! Look, Ma, I Have Feet Now!"

Wren WIP
in Nature Sketchbook
by Laure Ferlita
©2009 All Rights Reserved

"I'm not levitating anymore - no, wait . . . yeah, I guess I am, but I've got feet! Pretty cool, pretty cool!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oops! I Made a Mistake!?! Now What?!!

Can a mistake be corrected in watercolor? Well, like most things, it depends on the paper used, the pigments used, the size of the area to be corrected and at what stage you decide something needs to be corrected. 

Gabrielle asked how I corrected the little wren's bill three times without ruining the paper, and I told her I would share "My Tools of the Trade" and how I did it in this post. So, here we go . . .

The tools in the image above (click to enlarge) are how I correct most mistakes. (The pencil is there for size comparison.) The Proxa Brush. You will find this brush in the drugstore in the denture/toothbrush area. This one is a travel version and they come in different sizes. It is a good, stiff little brush, and can be a little too stiff. If you are not careful, you can tear the paper with it. It's good for covering areas bigger than the palm of your hand.

My true workhorse is the Dentek toothpick. It has a fuzzy end that's perfect for lifting small areas of color without damaging the paper. I have seen them in the grocery and drug stores. Next is an ordinary brown paper bag (with no ink!) and a clean metal spoon (not used to eat with and not real silver/silver overlay).

Once I've identified a mistake, I determine whether I need to mask surrounding areas. If I do, I use a piece of ordinary scotch tape and cut the tape away from the offending area so that it can be lifted. (Test the tape on a sample sheet of your paper before trying this.) Once the other areas are masked, I wet the area with clean water and wait 15 seconds or so. Then I blot with a clean tissue. If it's a staining color not much changed when I blotted. So, I wet it and wait again.

Using the lightest pressure possible, I lightly massage the area with the Dentek brush. As soon as I see color coming up, I blot. Rinse brush, wet area, massage, blot, rinse, as many times as necessary. I'm lifting paper fibers, but if I'm gentle, it will only be the top layer. Do NOT apply pressure, it will lift too much paper fiber and cause a hole to appear. Once the color is lifted or light enough it can be painted over it, I allow the area to dry.

Click to enlarge images!

Once dry, I remove the tape, and sand the area very lightly with the paper bag in a circular motion. It is very much like sandpaper and will eliminate a lot of the fibers that are standing up. Once I've sanded it, I brush the area with a DRY, clean brush to remove any fibers or dust. Taking the bottom of the clean spoon, I polish the same area in a circular motion with light pressure. This presses the fibers back down and makes them smoother. Then I repaint. 

Some other info:
  • I use Arches paper. Hate the smell, but love the paper. It will take a beating.
  • If it is a non staining color, try lifting with water, a soft brush, and a tissue before scubbing. You may not have to scrub.
  • You can use the Dentek brush to soften hard lines/edges. It is very effective.
  • If you must correct in a late stage of the painting, try to lift the color only to the point where it can be repainted. This may be possible without going all the way back to the white of the paper.
  • Always test tapes you are considering using as a mask on a sample piece of paper FIRST!

 I hope this helps and please feel free to ask questions! 

Two New Notecard Sets Added To My Shop!

I have just added two new sets of notecards to my online store Painted Thoughts!

The first set is a set of four (4) notecards of the Pink Spring Tulips:

The second set is also a set of four (4) notecards of the sweet little nest found in a friend's neighbor's yard in North Carolina:

I just love that little nest! I'm not sure what it is about nests, but they seem to touch a lot of us. If you are interested in either set, please click on the link above or in the side bar. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update on the Fuzz Ball

I'm not sure if it's rebellion or just an overwhelming need to calm the chaos, but I've just slowed way down and really taken my time with this little wren. And completely and thoroughly enjoyed it as a result of that slowing down. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get a lot of time in on him. I've been spending waaay more time on the computer than I would like, and yet, I know that sometimes it's necessary.

He's beginning to look round like a butterball and he's becoming a little more substantial. I'm working in layers, gradually darkening as I go. I am using a myriad of browns, siennas, umbers, ochres, and a touch of sepia for some of the really dark areas on the wings and in the shadows. His tail feathers still need to be a bit darker as does the beak. I'm still working on his tummy and the wing. I wish he could sing - I love their song - and he could keep me company!  

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wrens & Hawks

Carolina Wren in Nature Sketchbook
Watercolor on Arches 140 lb paper

More progress on the little wren in my sketchbook. S/he's beginning to look like a bird now anyway. And would you believe I've had to paint, scrub out, and paint that beak/bill area 3 times?! Grrrrr! It is not quite satisfactory yet. It still needs a bit of darkening, but at least it looks like a wren's beak now. It seems to me there are two major things to get right on a bird - the shape of his eye and the shape of his bill. No doubt there are other areas that must be right too.

To further our bird outing, when I went to the library on Friday, I heard the very distinct cry of a hawk, but could not see him. The library sits in a grassy field with trees bordering the field so I figured he could be just about anywhere. As I started across the parking lot, I happen to glance up and see this guy hanging out . . . .

He was behind the air handling unit for the library! I dug out my little Sony with the little telephoto lens and took his photo. He didn't seem to mind though he did keep an eye on me. I moved around to the back of the library and got a different view of him.
Any one care to tell me what kind of hawk he is? I've looked at my birding guide and he doesn't look like any of them to me which leads me to believe he's a juvenile. Not to mention the odd place he was hanging out. Just as I turned to leave a couple of mockingbirds spotted him and were flying in to dive bomb him so he would leave. Must of worked because he was gone when I came back out. (Sorry for the poor quality, my little Sony can only see so far!)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Loggin' Creativity

Creativity Log and Sketchbook

I had lunch with a dear friend last week who also happens to be a very successful artist. We did a lot of visiting as well as talking "shop". She is very generous with her ideas and thoughts on being an artist and building a career. One of the things that came up in our discussion was using a creativity log. You can see it beneath the sketchbook in the image above. 

I first saw and heard about the idea on Flickr from Margaret Storer-Roche. My friend saw it during an art league meeting. We both felt the idea had merit and both gave it a whirl (unaware that the other one was trying it). This creativity log is meant to track how many days out of the month you are creative (not necessarily the amount of time). The cool thing about this is that each artist determines the definition for what is creative.

In my case, I have two definitions: 1) is to create something new on the computer as in design work; and 2) to fully engage in the creation of a piece of artwork regardless of the stage. For me that engagement can be 10 minutes or 2 hours, just so long as I fall into my project and forget about the world. If I am creative just on the computer, I mark that day with vertical lines. If I worked on a piece of art, I paint the square a solid color. If I do both, I go with a solid box as artwork trumps computer work (for me). If I am not creative, I leave the box blank.  

What fascinated me is that in talking with my friend I learned that we had both stayed up late or chosen not to do something so that we could go to the studio and create just so we could mark off that day's box! We both leave the charts out where we can see them to help motivate us and we both found that they had been tremendously helpful in getting us to make art on those days "where you just don't feel like it." 

If you are struggling with motivation or a lack thereof, give it a whirl. If you want to see just how much time you spend creating, try tracking your days. I've tried several different systems, but this one has been the best by far. And if you try it, remember that you set the definition to creativity - it can be a creative meal, a creative piece of writing, it can be anything you want it to be! Just be honest with yourself as it is your tool and yours alone.

In the image above you will also see my sketchbook. I started a sketch of a Carolina Wren yesterday that I promptly messed up. Tonight, I'll be going back to the studio to fix my mistakes and get going on this piece. I have an experimental idea in mind. Not sure if it will work, but my sketchbook is the place to try it. The other reason I photographed my creativity log with my sketchbook is that the sketchbook is often the place I go to really be creative without fear of failing. 

Creativity doesn't have to be a full-blown production. Small counts too! Failures count. Mistakes count. And, sometimes small pieces, failures and mistakes teach me more than the full-blown productions. I hope you'll give this a try! If you do, let me know - we can compare notes as the months go by.

P.S. Even Chris (my hubby) knows that when I say "I have to go to the studio, I have a box to paint" that I'm going to put my creative time in so that I can fill my little box and he understands. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Wanna Play?!!"

Wanna Play?!!
by Laure Ferlita
© 2009 All Rights Reserved

"Huh? Huh? Wanna play?! Gotta ball! Wanna play?! Oh, come on, try and catch me!" If ever there was a play-hound look, it's got to be this one with a mouth full of ball and the whole body just quivering with the excitement of getting to play! 

This is the final post on Jesse. It was a lot of fun to see him come to life on the paper. Not to mention a little scary at times to (when I thought I'd gone astray). I can't say that I'm going to miss painting so much black though. I think it will be a while before I try another black dog. Black anything for that matter!

Once again, a really big THANK YOU to Andrea of Colouring Outside the Lines!! Andrea graciously agreed to let me use her fabulous photograph of Jesse as well as sharing Jesse's story. That really brought him to life for me. I do hope you'll stop by and visit her blog. And please send some loving and kind thoughts Jesse's way as he is about to embark on the second part of his journey and go into to training to be a service animal. 

Thanks for your interest and kind comments throughout this work-in-progress (WIP). 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jesse's Details

Rather than show you all of Jesse, I thought it might be more helpful to see some of the details up close. This is Jesse's chest with all the spiky fur that was masked in the last photo. Here I've completed the black and lifted the mask. After removing the mask, I spent a good amount of time blending in the hard edges left by the mask and adding all the colors you see in this image.

Blues, reds, purples, greens, and browns make this a much more interesting area than just a flat black. As you look further down his chest, you see the shadow growing darker, but there is still a great deal of color other than black.

One of the other things that makes the black interesting is the patterns in his fur. He had been playing and was wet so the fur really clumped together to make the patterns stand out. One of the things that seems to really help the animal look themselves is capturing the fur correctly.

The other detail shot is of his front and back left feet. Here the colors are cooler. The shadow and light areas are still captured, but there is not as much detail in the fur. This also gives you a closer look at the grass.

By using the masking around his feet, I was able to lap the grass over his feet giving the impression his feet were further down in the grass and hidden. On the right side of his front leg you'll notice a slightly lighter edge to the leg. This gives it dimension and keeps it from blending in to the back leg. It's subtle and really not noticeable unless it's pointed out, but it helps the image to read correctly. 

Daily Practice - Mess of Pole Beans

First Mess of Spring Pole Beans
© Laure Ferlita
Arches Sketchbook

Taking a break from the big black dog, I received these pole beans last night - they'll be in the pot today! Drew these from life, but forgot to time myself. I've kinda dropped my daily practice here lately and that's not good. These are my first effort to get the ball back in the air. Once again, the "balance" thing eludes me. I'm beginning to think it's a myth anyway!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WIP #3 of Jesse

Here's our boy! The body is beginning to take form and now his head is beginning to fit his body! Yay! If you look on the left side of the dog, towards the middle, you will see blues, greens (not as visible) and brownish reds. If you look at the side in the shadows, especially his front leg, you will see a lot more blue, which is also a cooler blue. 

By adjusting the color of black with the other colors, I am able to warm or cool the areas of the dog that are either in the sun or in the shadow. If you look down at his feet you can see the masking fluid. I also masked out the spiky hairs on his chest where the light was hitting it the strongest. Far easier than trying to paint around those clumps of hair!
One other trick I've learned - especially when working on a painting that has values as high as 9 or 10 - is to go ahead and put in the darkest dark to be found in the painting. This then gives me an area by which I can judge all my other values. It is sometimes difficult to do because it looks soooooooo dark against all that white paper, but that's where trusting your painting abilities comes in to play!

If you are really unsure of how dark to go, you can 1) go dark in just a small area 2) make a black and white photocopy of your reference and use a value scale to make sure you have the right value, or 3) chicken out and go darker in layers. The layers can be a very effective and beautiful way to accomplish darks. And that does it for today!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WIP #2 of Jesse

Along with introducing Jesse, I'd also like to introduce Andrea, Jesse's adoptive mom! Andrea is a very talented artist and photographer and is responsible for the great photo of Jesse that I am working from. Andrea has a fun blog at Colouring Outside of the Lines and I do hope you'll pop over and pay her a visit! (For those of you who enjoy bird art, Andrea has recently created some really exciting pieces for an upcoming show!)

Today's WIP of Jesse includes two updates. The first one is another close up of Jesse with the ball in his mouth. You can see that he now has a very pink tongue and a partial lower jaw.

The second update shows Jesse with his jaw completed and the shadow in place as well as the outline of his body. It is rather difficult to see the lines, but they're there along with directional lines for which way the fur was going. At this point, I'm thinking I've screwed up somehow and Jesse's head is way to small for the powerful (big!) body.

This is where I have to just trust that my drawing is accurate and NOT second guess myself! I've already had one attack of second-guessing myself. When I first started Jesse's portrait, I started with the eyes. If the eyes aren't right, it doesn't matter how good the rest of it is, it won't work. I was absolutely sure I had screwed up his eyes after I painted them and nearly restarted. He looked more like a white pit bull than a retriever!

Turns out the culprit was the white paper. Once I had more of Jesse's face in he started to look like himself. I have positioned Jesse so that his head and eyes lay on the Golden Mean or the sweet spot.  If you are not familiar with the concept of Golden Mean, there is a whole lot of info on the web about it, but in short, it simply means to divide your paper into thirds in both directions. Where the lines intersect are the sweet spots and usually make for stronger, more interesting compositions if you align the most important part of your design on or near one of those intersections.

One other note, I didn't draw the rest of Jesse's body until I was certain that I had his face right. Basically for two reasons. One, if I had botched it, it saved me some time to have NOT drawn it in. Second, I could possible use the untouched paper for another painting. So here we are. More tomorrow. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Introducing Jesse - WIP

Jesse is a black Labrador Retriever with a great sense of humor. He's a lover of all things fun and he has a really keen interest in other dogs. Jesse has an opportunity to become a service companion to someone in need. He has been living with his adoptive family in Vancouver, and they've been training him. In another month or so, Jesse with go into full training - if he makes it! His keen interest in other dogs and in playing may trip him up on his path to service. We'll have to wait and see how things turn out. 

I meant to take photos at the very beginning as I did with Thor, but I was so unsure of where Jesse was going that I completely forgot to take photos! When I remembered, this was how far I had progressed. My challenges in the piece is to paint a black dog so that it's interesting to the viewer. Black can look very flat and uninteresting if it is not used with other colors to give it variation and temperature.

Black can be a difficult color to use in transparent watercolor as well. I want his coat to have many different colors but still read as black. So far, in just his face, I have used neutral tint, perylene maroon/violet, ultramarine, sap green, permanent brown, and burnt sienna. And probably a few others I've already forgotten. More tomorrow!

Final Printer Update

For those of you following along on the printer conundrum, it has finally resolved itself. I ordered an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer this morning. The main reasons I've chosen this one is that it comes the closest to replacing the printer that recently died, and it gives me far more versatility. I can print up to 16" x 20" prints and as small as 4" x 6".  It will go larger - 17" x 37" if necessary.

What finally swung the vote to the 3800 is that Epson is offering a $300 rebate on this printer plus the purchase of $100 of Epson media. I have needed to order some paper but had held off until I knew which printer I was going with - good thing I did! That makes this printer within $100 of the Pro 2880, which was what I had originally planned to purchase. I purchased my printer from Inkjet Art as the sales guy, Darren,  did a great job of answering 7000 questions and returning emails! And no, I don't get a kickback for mentioning them!

Someone recently asked me why I didn't go with some of the online printers that offer to print one or more prints at the time. These online printers are reasonable for print costs and they are a good answer when you don't want to print a full run (250 is usually an industry minimum) of one piece of artwork. The simple answer is I want control over the process. 

The long answer: Having been a designer for over 15 years, I am all too aware of the variables in the printing process, the possibility of losing control over digital files (and having them pirated), and the shipping costs that add up way too quickly. This is a better answer for me and my current situation. I also feel that I will do as good, if not better, job of making sure my art looks great than someone with 1000 orders waiting to be printed, packaged and shipped.

I hope this helps anyone else out there looking to make the plunge. Let me know if I can answer any questions!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Child's Play

Pinwheel ACEO/ATC
© Laure Ferlita

Remember playing with one of these?!! I saw a little girl with one of these yesterday and she was completely fascinated. She kept trying to see how fast it would twirl around as she tried to run faster. She was giggling, running, tumbling and just having a ball. Hers was made of sparkly mylar with a hologram pattern in bright pinks and purples, and it also had eight sections instead of four. It reminded me of the simple pleasures of childhood.

I found myself wondering how to capture the sunshine and giggles of a four year old's fascination and translate/transfer it into a forty-something year old's life. My best effort so far is color - lots of color - as in all the colors of my paintbox - and I have lots of colors! I'm going to keep playing with this theme of adding/finding/keeping simple joys alive in my artwork, in my life.

We also had our first slice of watermelon yesterday! Oh so good and sweet! Remember seed spitting contests and juice running down to your elbows and the watermelon being so cold it hurt your teeth?! What simple, silly, fun things do you do to add sunshine to your grown up life? To your artwork? Please share! 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sketched from life in my Nature Sketchbook

I found the leaf above while I was out in "Dogdom" today. Dogdom is what I call our backyard where our lovely four legged friends rein supreme. The leaf looks like it was on its way to being a nice bright Spring leaf. I'm guessing our storms earlier this week ended that. I love the stark contrast between the yellow, yellow-green and the brown. No gentle fading for this leaf. 

I often find Nature leaves me little "gifts" or "treasures" when I get out and spend time in Dogdom and if Nature doesn't, the dogs usually have something to share. Today, after I fed the dogs, Andi became very excited about getting her treats after dinner - just like she's done for the last nine years. She runs around me in circles, and then jumps straight up and down like she's on springs!

It reminded me to stop and take time to enjoy the small treats in life - no matter if they're the same treats, at the same time, in the same place for the last nine years! Celebrate! Shortly after this demonstration on celebrating small things, Specky brought me her soda bottle to toss around. She doesn't like balls. Her love in life is empty 2-liter soda bottles. After tossing it 3 or 4 times, she dropped the bottle, ran to me and rolled to her back for a tummy scrub. Know what you want - fun is good, love is better!  

Hope you have a fabulous weekend with lots of fun things to celebrate!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Above is the first page of the vacation journal I put together after each of our vacations to a cabin up in the Smoky Mountains.  As you can see from the date, I'm running a little behind. Oh well, at least I'm getting there bit by bit. 

Even though we went in November that year, the leaves had not all fallen and they were beautiful! I brought back a box full and some of them still have touches of color. When I'm really missing the mountains, I go play in my box of leaves. Guess what I did today?

There is a restaurant that is situated in an apple orchard and is appropriately named The Apple House. They have the best apple fritters! Yum! When they're hot, they fantastic. They also serve their own cider and apple cobbler. We went for breakfast one morning and the little Eastern Bluebirds were everywhere flying in and out of trees, to the ground, up to the windows of the restaurant and back - it was like watching an airport!

This little guy came and sat by our window twice while we were eating. Unfortunately, my photos were not particularly good, but good enough to get a painting of our friend. The locals were telling us that the orchard owners let horses into the orchard to graze on the "falls" or fallen apples. They said it was especially beautiful on foggy mornings.

Can't you just see a couple of black and white paints fading in and out of the fog grazing on the falls with apple trees and mountains for a backdrop?! I can! Like a lot of folks, we didn't go on vacation last year and who knows if we'll get to go this year, but I'm going back to that orchard. My intent is to get enough photo references to paint the image whether I actually get to see the horses in the orchard or not. And I can hardly wait!

What did you dream of today?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Is he still here?"

     "Are you looking for Liam?" I asked. "He left a little while ago. He was getting a little bored with our session so I suggested that he come back later."
     "No, I'm not really looking for him. Oh well, it's probably just as well" said the lovely young rabbit though it seemed to me there was a hint of disappointment in her voice.
     "Are you Raella*? You must be as you're the only female rabbit in the story so far. Please come in!"  
     "How did you–oh, you're the writer/artist person, aren't you? Van mentioned you the other evening. Yes, I'm Raella. I live up the trail from Choco and Van. We all grew up together though that seems a lifetime ago."
     "Isn't that the definition of life well lived, one filled with many lifetimes?" I asked. Something seemed a bit off as though Raella was saddened or dissatisfied by the recent events in her life.
     "I suppose. I mean, it's been fun and at times a little frightening, but somehow it just seems like . . . ." she slowed to a stop and shrugged.
     "This wasn't what you had planned? Something's missing? It hasn't been as much fun as you thought it would be?" I prompted.
     "Maybe I'm just homesick" she hedged. "Maybe I just need to go home or at least that's what I had thought. Up until Van got here."

*This is the first draft of the lovely Raella and so far she seems quite pleased with how she looks. Unlike others she's not demanding complete remakes, just some fine tuning. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Such Friendly, Helpful People!

When I made the decision to take on Blogger, I knew there was going to be a learning curve. I was reassured by some of the kind people I spoke with before I took the leap that there would be help when I needed it. What I didn't know was that some of that help would come from some unlikely places!

I'd like to introduce you to Susie of 1st Floor Flat! She is a wonderful artist living in London with some really cool artwork, jewelry, albums, and journals. Susie has a number of blogs, but I'm highlighting this one as she is doing a grand giveaway of one of her beautiful albums to celebrate 101 blog posts!! The album is gorgeous! So please hop over and take a look at the album and her other blogs!

Susie and I belong to the same online marketing group and in her quest to learn and share her knowledge, she shared with the group some great email buttons she has created. She and I swapped emails and Susie was gracious enough to create a button with some of my artwork. Even better, Susie shared a great deal of info and links with me on how you can update, build, change, add, remove, etc. things on Blogger! And she inspired me to give it a go and build my very own button! Woohoo! The new button is over there on the right with all the peppers - go on, click on it and send me an email!!

You can't believe how wonderful it feels once you create something to go on your blog/web site that is custom to you! It is so very cool! And dangerously addictive! So this is a great big public thank you to Susie for her friendliness, generosity, sharing of her knowledge and her art as well as inspiring me (and I'm sure others) to reach for a little more!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Liam, maybe you should tell me about the feather"

I said in hope of settling the cat down. He was currently nosing around every crook and cranny in the studio. "There are other characters in this story who might find it odd and possibly, right down insulting that you have a feather tucked into your hat band."
     "Tis a long story, miss" replied a disembodied voice as he seemed to have reached the nether regions of the closet.
     "Well, we're going to be here for a while as I seem to be having some difficulty with nailing down your likeness*. Of course, if I might would help if I could see you."
"Aye, is that necessary, then? Sorry, 'bout that. Just needed to be checkin' the place over. 'Tis a good/bad habit I'm havin' now, isn't it? Alright then you're wantin' to know where me feather come from . . . mind you, you were warned, 'tis a long tale. You see, I can't be tellin' you all the details as some of them be confidential, but I'll be telling you as I can. 
     We was in a fierce fight, it had started in the wee 'ours of the morn, and Frankie, it's him who give me the feather, he was flyin', doing a little recon for us. It had to be late on to evenin' when I happen to glance up to the sky only to see Frankie get hit! Aye, he dropped straight down, he did. I was sore afraid we had lost him for sure. 
     It was well past midnight before the battle slowed and we could make our way to him now. We finally found him. He was alive. Barely." With this the cat seemed to wonder off into his own mind, staring out the window but seeing nothing. Quietly, he shook himself and turned his green eyes back to me. "Twas bad. I could see his wing was in bad shape, and he weren't 'imself, at all. We, me buddies and me, we wrapped him up best we could, and we carried him out of there.
     One of the guys knew of a falconer not too far away. That's where we took 'em. I was sore afraid this man would be takin' one look at Frankie and finishin' 'im off, but it was the best I could do for me man at the time. We got back to the fight late in the mornin' but it was nearly done for, but always there was another and then another and then another." Again, the huge feline that had curled up on the edge of my art table drifted off into his own thoughts. 
     This time he didn't come back and so I asked, "How then did you come to have his feather?"
     "It twas nearly a year and probably more to a year and a half afore I could get back to the falconer's. Bein' who I am and all, I had to be real careful going back there, so I went at night so as not to be seen. I think . . . . I think it took me so long as I was sore afraid Frankie wouldn't be there. But he was. He was still in a bad way, you see, his flyin' days were over. But he was alive and he was happy to be so. He said life was good and the man twas as good as they come.
      It was gettin' close to daylight and time for me to be goin'. Frankie, he pulled one of his feathers out from his hurt wing and he gave it to me. And he said, 'Liam, take this, keep it with you, don't know that it will keep you safe, but I can't be there to look out for you no more. T'were it not for you . . . . . . . and what you did . . . . . . . I wouldn't be here. Stay safe. Be safe. And come back if'n you can.' "
     After a considerable amount of time slid by, I asked, "Judging by the markings, he was a hawk then? And a very good friend. Have you seen him since?"
     "No. Tis, in part, why I'm 'ere." 

*This is the latest likeness of Liam. He doesn't like it. Says cats don't have mustaches. I rather liked it, but I guess I'll be doing some more sketching!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Good Friday!

Balloonies by Laure Ferlita
Original Watercolor with a bit of Ink
5.25" x 3.5"

It is a gorgeous Spring day here with blue skies, gentle breezes and fluffy clouds floating by. I hope your Friday is just as pleasant and you have a moment to enjoy the day! 

The watercolor above was painted a while back. Kind of a color experiment. It is actually brighter in real life. It seemed appropriate for the beautiful day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quick Life Update

Life is getting in the way of art and blogging and fun! Went to the eye doctor yesterday for my yearly checkup only to find my corneas are inflamed. A few weeks of babying my eyes with some drops and NO contacts and everything should sort itself out. That's going to severally cut into my computer time and maybe my painting time. Also had to go to the tax office, the cell phone store, the eyeglasses store (because, well, I'm getting to that age where I can't see without the pesky buggers and I have no idea what kind of frames I want)! And at least a hundred other errands that basically took all day yesterday and will today most of today.

This means the art is going to be limited, and I may be a little slow getting back to you on blog posts, emails, and comments, but you will eventually hear from me. Hope you're having a wonderful week!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Printer Conundrum Update

It seems there aren't too many folks out there that are happy with their printers. Lots of people could tell me what hadn't worked well for them, but no one had strong ideas about what to get in the way of a new printer. I still have not purchased one, but I have narrowed down the information somewhat:
  • HP is out. I've talked with three repair techs and all of them have suggested steering clear of these printers. They produce good prints, but are prone to break and the print heads are not made as well as the Epson print heads. This is viewed as a selling point as they are DIY re-placable, but you replace them a lot. There also seems to be an issue with getting parts. That could mean a lot of down time and usually does. 
  • Canon is a good solid printer that produces good solid results. However, they are fairly new to the game and the support in media profiles is not as robust as it is for Epson. Also, I had difficulty finding anyone who worked or sold the Canon printers in my area.  
So, you see where this is going, don't you (much to my dismay)?
  • Epson seems to still own the market. The 3 printers I am (was) seriously considering from Epson are the R1900, R2880 and the Pro 3800. There has been a lot of change in the technology in the past five years with the move from dye inks to pigmented inks. The dye inks are bright and gorgeous. And they fade. Sometimes within days. The pigment inks are not as brilliant, but the longevity is much better. How much better? Hard to say. Depends on support that the inks are printed onto, whether the substrate contains wood pulp, optical brighteners, has been bleached, how it is framed, whether it is acid free, how humid it is, whether it is in direct light and what phase the moon is in. In other words there are too many variables to really be able to assign a number to how long a print will last, but the general consensus is that it is in the area of 50 years, and that's considered conservative. 
  • The R1900 is more of a hobbyist's printer in that it uses the first generation of Epson's Ultrachrome Ink technology. The printer will print up to 13" x 19" and that makes it good for scrapbookers who need up to 12" x 12" page sizes.
  • The R2880 prints the same size as the R1900, but uses the second generation of Epson's ink technology and is more capable of handling various media in various thicknesses. It also has improved printhead technology that makes clogging less of an issue than with the R1900.
  • The R3800 is a 17" wide printer making it possible to print 16" x 20" prints with ease. It will actually print up to 17" x 38" for a panoramic print should you want to. It uses the newer ink technology, new printhead technology and is Epson's current flagship printer. I heard from several folks, salespeople, paper salesmen, and repair techs, that if they had to buy a printer, the 3800 would be the one they would buy, hands down. 
As I said, I have not yet purchased one. I'm having a difficult time with the prices on these machines as the least expensive starts at $549.00. There are rebates available but that's still a chunk of change. Especially with today's economy. So stay tuned. I'm going to have to buy one eventually. Hope this helps anyone else in the painful process of making a decision on what to buy.  

If you do decide to purchase a printer, I would suggest you talk to paper vendors (they hear what printers are working well with what media as well as which ones aren't) sales people (but do your own research as I ran into more than a couple who knew less than I did) and repair techs - they have the real scoop on what's holding up and what's not; which printers have parts available and which don't; and what the major problems are with each type of printer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two More Bloggin' Bloggy Awards

To my surprise and delight, I've been given two more blog awards! I think one of the things that makes the blogging community so special is the support we show one another with regard to our various pursuits. Whether you're an artist, author, birder, cook, gardener, musician, a combination of these or something else entirely, there's always something to see, to learn, and to share, a kind word of encouragement, a hello, or a way-to-go to be found in the comments!

The first award is Van Gogh's Ear from Kelly of Red and the Peanut! (Thank you, Kelly!) I have learned so much from Kelly's blog and look forward to learning a lot more about birds and their calls, nests, habitats, and the like. Kelly is a great photographer as well as a budding artist and has recently been sharing some of her artwork. Please do pop over and say hello! (I must say I love the creativity and thought that went into an award styled on Van Gogh's ear!)

The second award is A Passion for Painting from Karie-Ann over at Pet Portraits and Wildlife! (Thanks Karie-Ann!) Karie-Ann does a phenomenal job creating colored pencil portraits of both domestic and wild animals. Her blog is definitely worth a visit for a dose of creativity and talent!

With this award comes another list of seven things I love. In no particular order:
early foggy mornings • santa's white christmas coffee by barnie's • getting lost in the "moment" of painting when the world falls away • true creativity • birds' nests • the blogging community • making "friends" with folks in other countries such as Belgium, Canada, England, and Sweden, just to name a few.

And as always you're suppose to pass this on to seven more blogs. I'm breaking with that strategy and instead want to introduce you to a few more blogs that I enjoy immensely. Again, in no particular order:

Teri at Teri's Painted Daisies - Teri's always got something on the go from daisies to cactus!
Andrea at Colouring Outside the Lines - check out Andrea's awesome bird artwork, not to mention her wonderful photography!
Teresa at Teresa Mallen Studio - Teresa is another fantastic colored pencil artist as well as a motivational teacher. Well worth the read!
Donna at the Happy Painter - this lady is just flat out creative and her work is always fresh and fun!
Chuck at My Quirks and My Compass - Chuck is an author and he shares daily excerpts from the novel is currently working on. He always leaves you wanting more!
Toni at A Spattering - another very creative artist, Toni's artwork is outstanding!
Sheona at Black on Grey on White - a fine artist using graphite, her work is exquisite!

I do hope that you'll check out all of these blogs for a dose of creativity and motivation! Each is outstanding in their own way! Again, many thanks to Kelly and Karie-Ann as well as to the kind blogging community at large for welcoming me and making me feel a part of something very special!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Seeking Help on Purchasing a Printer

My old trusty Epson wide-format (17") printer has died, and I am deep into the research of trying to replace it. The technology has changed considerably since I last purchased a printer and Epson was leader in the field. Now, that doesn't appear to be the case, as Canon and HP are both putting out great products. If you are interested in printing fine photography, the reviews are plentiful. If you are interested in fine art printing, look hard, there are no reviews. I rarely print anything gloss and most of the reviews focus on how brilliant the gloss is!

I've called Epson twice only to get disconnected twice, but not before I learned that the people answering the phone could help me by making the sale but couldn't provide me with specific information about the printers in question. I've tried calling a local retailer only to have the sales rep tell me the printer didn't have a gloss optimizer when I was looking at the specs saying it did. When I know more than the sales rep, and I know that I really don't, that's not a comfortable feeling.

So, I'm reaching out to the blogging community in the hopes of finding folks that have a wide format printer (13"x 19") printer - either Epson, Canon, or HP - that can share their likes, dislikes, and experiences. Your help would be greatly appreciated!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Allo? Allo? Anyone About?". . .

First Preliminary Drawings of Liam
 . . . said a voice over by the door.
"Well, hello there, Liam, do come in!" I replied from the art table where I was sketching his likeness.
"And how would you be knowin' I'm Liam then?" he asked as he hesitantly started into the room, glancing around warily.
"Because you're the only cat in the story?"
"Aye, must be it then. Where wouldya like for me to be sitting?"
"Oh, anywhere is fine. Make yourself at home."
A pause in the conversation stretched into an uncomfortable silence. Finally, Liam, cleared his throat and asked, "What is it that we're about here? You and me, I mean. Not the story. Van's already filled me in about that."
"If Van's already filled you in on the story, then I'm guessing that you also know Choco and Van have asked me to illustrate and tell the story. What you and I are doing is called preliminary* sketches. I'm trying to get a feel for you - what you look like, how you dress, how you speak. That sort of thing."
"Well, then I guess now is about as good a time as any. I need to be settin' a thing or two straight here. I ain't wearin' no golfer's hat, and I ain't giving up my feather!"
"Your feather?" I asked, wondering if he knew Henni . . . . . 

*The sketches above are very preliminary and just a beginning feel for what and who Liam is as a character. The face on the lower right is my first try. The second try is a little better, but still much work to be done on his face shape and I'm not sure if I have his expression right. He's a good guy - to those he likes and cares for - with a mean face. To those he doesn't like, well, let's just say it's not only his face that's mean . . . .

Friday, April 3, 2009

Daily Practice - Thor

Thor, God of Thunder and Dog Biscuits - Final
© Laure Ferlita, All Rights Reserved

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is Thor in all his glory! All I'm going to say is I am so glad this is just a practice run and not the real deal! This held quite a few challenges - always a good thing to get out of that comfort zone. You appreciate oh so much more when you can get back in it!! : )

Thor Update

Thor, WIP #2  © Laure Ferlita, All Rights Reserved

Here's puppy - looking more dog like than yesterday. Still have a lot of work to do on him. This has definitely NOT been a case of get in, get it down the first time, and get out. I've had to correct several areas several times. Glad this is the practice run and not the real deal! Hope to have him complete by the end of the day. We'll see . . . . . 

The promised rain has finally arrived along with a loss of power at 6:15 this morning. It was out for about 45 minutes, but my coffee had already made (love those preset timers!) so I was good to go. It is always so nice to me when the power goes out and you can sit and enjoy the silence. Or the wind howling and the trees creaking. 

Put out a new bird feeder yesterday evening. It's a small one filled with thistle seed. It will be interesting to see who finds it first - the birds or the squirrels. I've located it carefully near my studio window in the hopes of getting some photos. Once again, we'll have to wait and see. Hope your Friday is going well!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Introducing Thor!

Thor, God of Thunder and Dog Biscuits

This is puppy Thor! All 96 pounds of happy, wiggling, bouncy Labrador puppy! He lives down the street with Luke, his older adopted brother, another big Lab, and Mom and Dad. He is about a year old and has just started his second round of puppy training. Thor is a white lab with a definite leaning towards yellow though you may not have guessed it from the WIP above. 

Thor and Mom come by in the mornings to visit when I'm out working in the yard as I was this morning. And oh, what a glorious morning it was! Foggy with a slight breeze that was just wonderful because it's muggy. (We're suppose to get rain at some point, but the forecasters don't seem to be able to pinpoint what day. Or night.) The squirrels were chasing each other around, the cardinals were calling back and forth all over the neighborhood, a Sand Hill crane flew over calling his very distinctive cry, the frogs were croaking, and it was just a joy to be out there! The other neighbor's cat stopped by for a visit and I even saw a grasshopper - surely a harbinger of Spring!

Getting back to Thor, the other morning I asked Mom if I could take some photos to sketch from and she agreed. Thor is much too busy to sit still long enough to be sketched. This morning I had my camera handy, but Thor was a bit on the rambunctious side and I wasn't quick enough to take any good shots. Thor thought the camera was a toy and he thinks I'm his play toy anyway. 
After coming in today from the garden (yard), I had some computer work to do as well as some other stuff that had to be done. Once it was completed, I was free to go paint! Yay! The drawing above is a composite of 3 different photos. I didn't get started until after lunch, and I had just taken a break when I realized I had not blogged today! Oops! Maybe I forgot because it feels so wonderful to be back in the studio with the world falling away as I paint the essence of a 96 pound goofball. How's your day going? Are you using all your colors??

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Easter Cards Are Available!

These are the Easter cards I mentioned earlier in the week - I finally managed to get a decent photo of them and I will be adding them to Etsy! The cards are blank on the inside so that you can send your own personal greeting.

These cards are printed on premium, bright white card stock and are accompanied by matching envelopes. The folded card size is 5.5" by 4.25". The back gives the title and artist name as well as all the copyright information.

Once these are listed on Etsy, the price will be 4 for $6.50 and 8 for $12.00. If you would like to go ahead and purchase them now from the blog, the prices are 4 for $6.00 and 8 for $11.00 plus $1.00 for shipping for either set. These will go live on Etsy Friday morning. Thanks for stopping by!

Moving Right Along

Pink Tulip Original Watercolor ACEO
$24.00 + $1.50 Shipping

It is a wonderful feeling to be able to get so much done and get organized until you realize two days have gone by and you haven't created any art! Still, I'm glad to have gotten caught up on some of this stuff and I have more to do, but I think a little each day will get me there. A few more tweaks to the web site and it will be caught up. My business cards are now up to date with my new blog and Etsy addresses added. I have updated Flickr and Etsy with the latest links. And I have identified a number of other things that need doing but are not so pressing that everything else has to stop until they're done.

Last night I was digging around looking for acetate envelopes in some old storage boxes when I ran across this sweet little ACEO. I took some pink tulips into work one morning to put on my desk. One of the tulips just would not stand up. The floppy tulip was right in my site line whenever I glanced at my phone. It seemed to be begging to be painted and I just couldn't resist - isn't it sweet?! I remember setting the painting aside after I painted it with the intention of putting a background on it because it just looked unfinished to me. That was 2007. Fast forward to April 1st, 2009, and I finally put a background on it. Geez, where does the time go?! Anyway, I'm offering it here and then will move it over to Etsy in a few days.