Tag Archives: acrylic inks

Illustrating the Story, or Thoughts in Paint – Part 2

How about some background on how I did my work for the illustrations for Flash Fiction February at Fictive Dream? I’m going to write a few posts on topics related to the process. I hope they might give you some insight into how I approached the illustration of a collection of very different pieces of short fiction.

Flash Fiction February is in progress right now, by the way. Take a look!

Putting paint to paper in the big picture

Today I’ll address some of the thematic aspects of doing the art for the project – meaning, how the style and manner in which I did the artwork got figured out. And please forgive the wordplay in the title here. It’s just what came to mind…

All right, let’s get started!

The initial information: Fictive Dream editor Laura Black sent me a description of her vision for the artwork for the event in late November, 2018. She said, referring to last year’s artwork (which mostly came from Pixabay):

You’ll see that I used a whole variety of artwork in February 2018. There was one style of watercolour that I particularly liked and I’ve attached four examples. Had there been more instances of this style, I would have used them. The aspect that is most appealing to me is the simplicity, and this is the sort of effect that I’m looking for – to have each story represented by a dominant colour. There may be instances where a combination of colours would be more appropriate. But, overall, simplicity is the thing. I mention watercolours only because that’s what was available. I’m definitely open to suggestions on the medium.

The artworks she referenced were abstract watercolor washes, very misty and evocative, and she gave me plenty of info about what she liked about them, which was a big help in guiding my initial thinking.

The most important detail: the artwork style would be very abstract. Right off the bat, I knew in which direction I needed to be thinking.

She then went on to say:

For 2018 the colours I chose were based on the following:
– the tone of a story (I classified stories as positive, negative or neutral).
– A colour that was mentioned in the text (surprisingly common).
– The influence of the subject matter, eg. for a story involving a man’s pinstripe suit I chose a dark blue; for a piece that mentioned a pin prick of blood I chose a bright red.

More clues. The artwork would directly reference the stories, but in an indirect way – symbolic, thematic, but not representational in a real-world kind of way. The main vehicle for tying the story and illustration together would be strongly dependent on color.

Now, the analysis:

I had some misgivings about the images I would be creating, that of them being too simple, though – there would be a lot of stories and days passing by quickly and I wanted to avoid the pitfall of all the art coming to look too much alike. Each story deserved to  be special, words and art. As I wrote to Laura:

I’m thinking that there might be too much repetition or things looking too much the same after a while, especially with so many artworks? … I think there is a fine balance between simple and boring and it would be my job to get that balance and to fit to each story and what you want.

I sent her some images of work I’d done in the past for her to review and these are the ones she chose as exemplifying what she’d like to see:

Now I felt confident that I could do the work. In explaining my vision for the artworks, I wrote to her:

I want to make sure that each image is an actual artwork (that you would look at for itself) as opposed to what I think of as “raw material” – painted papers that have no focus because they are meant to be cut up and recombined and the artwork derives its meaning from their combination – they don’t stand on their own.

The idea of a common vocabulary:

Having agreed on style, we discussed materials, and decided that the majority of each image would be done in acrylics, with some collage possible. As it turned out, a few had some collage elements, but generally, paint and acrylic inks did the work.

In this manner Laura and I developed a common vocabulary for the artworks to use. It is essential in a project of this sort that the whole group of illustrations has a coherent look, as well as each individual artwork presenting its specific story well.

Having a clear idea of what style and materials to use, determined up front, gave me a framework to work within and provided guidelines that I continually referred to throughout the project.

Ready to get to work:

Though it took some time to get the details set, because we had worked together before, Laura and I had built up a level of trust and shared understanding that was really valuable, both at this point and through the project. The importance of this kind of relationship can’t be overstated. I really appreciated the freedom Laura gave me to do the work and to have a say in setting parameters for the art. It made the work much more satisfying for me and it also gave me the incentive to work very hard to do my best for each story – I felt very invested in what the eventual readers of the fiction would be seeing.

Next time, I’ll talk about the experience of taking a story, figuring out a way in to it, visually, and getting that vision on to paper.


Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending October 5

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art every day and all week.

Saturday, September 29 – This afternoon we took a trip to the Ceramic Shop in Norristown, PA. I needed some underglazes. This store is always a treasure trove. I worked my way past the shelves of glazes:

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…stopping to look some over, for future projects, before I came to the Velvet underglaze display and chose my items.

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After that I wandered around the store a little. As always, I am fascinated by the huge array of tools that can be used in clay work.

Here is a sample board showing various clay bodies sold here. Different clays fire in different temperature ranges and are additionally of different consistencies – some very smooth, some gritty. It all depends on your purpose as to what clay you chose to work with. Additionally, each clay can be fired within a range of temperatures – the different samples show the same clay fired at various levels. As you can see, this display is very useful in choosing clay.

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Here you see a selection of kiln shelves. Since each firing requires the shelves to be configured to fit the clay work being fired, there are a lot of choices.

Here is a display of pyrometric cones. You may remember me as describing a clay item as being fired at “Cone 06” or that kind of thing. Before computerized controls, each firing required the use of a pyrometric cone, created to be specific to a firing temperature, which was designed to bend or slump when the correct temperature was reached (you needed to view the cone through the peephole in the kiln wall).

These cones are still used today, even in computerized firings, for a variety of reasons – to make sure a certain item gets to the correct temperature, as kilns can have hot or cold spots; or to check that the kiln’s controls are accurate, for instance. I don’t use them, as my work is not that temperature-specific and my kiln has computerized controls – but obviously lots of people do. There is a large display of them here.

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Sunday, September 30 – My husband and I went to a play this afternoon at Allen’s Lane Art Center. You may remember other productions we’ve seen here – it’s a small theater and the seating is cafe style. This show was lightly attended, being a Sunday matinee, and we got a place right up on the edge of the stage.

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I got out my trusty sketchbook:

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but I didn’t have much time for drawing the audience as I usually do here, because I was downstairs for some time chatting with my friend Lisa, who runs the box office. Just saying. Anyway, here are a few quick things:

Monday, October 1 – I fired up the kiln. It may look like it’s just sitting and doing nothing, but that number on the front means it’s 1200+ degrees F inside. And that’s not the whole story – it will go up to about 1830 degrees…

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Let me back up a little. I forgot about these. Remember when I went through that box of little scraps last week? I pulled out some that I wanted to color. I’ve spent some of the last few evenings doing just that with my markers. I’ll figure out what happens next soon.

Back to today. I felt like slapping a little paint on a surface. I got out one of the 18″ x 24″ 1/8″ thick masonite boards I recently bought, as well as two of the 11″ x 14″. They have already been gessoed in black. I started working away. We’ll see what happens. I remind myself that the large board cost $3.50. I have nothing to lose.

Tuesday, October 2 – I opened the kiln.

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I was happy to see everything sitting in its place, nothing blown up, nothing fallen over. There is a variety of objects and tiles in this load. Tiles -(commercially made terracotta base):

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Sgraffito tiles – made from terracotta that I rolled out myself. I realized after I’d done them that they are only 1/4″ thick, and these days I like 3/8″ – but I was using up already-rolled clay, that’s why. Anyway, all good.

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Various figurines:

and remember this vessel? It came through the firing well – no seams opened up. I think I will do a little work on sanding some rough areas, and I’ll clean up the rim with a better black coat around it. Then I need to decide – will I glaze just the inside or the whole thing? Because for it to be functional the interior (at a minimum) must be glazed or it will not hold water.

Then there was this little stray tile…

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After congratulating myself and the clay items for completing a safe trip through the firing, I decided to go upstairs and work on that painting thing I’ve got going on. Today, I decided, would be ink day. I pretty much stuck to adding only India and acrylic inks to the picture, though I did put some more paint on, too.

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Where is this thing going?

Thursday, October 4 – First, a few more of those ink drawings turned colorful.

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I worked on the large painting. It continues to progress. Then I brought it upstairs to sit in front of me and let itself rest for a while.

I worked a little on the small painting, too. Really, all I did was to decide to turn it the other way around and to outline the person in ink, but…it’s still something…

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Friday, October 5 – I brought the recently fired clay into the laundry room/face painting venue to start the coloring process.

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Using Jet Black Velvet underglaze, I did my usual routine: paint the faces and other relief details in black and then wash off, leaving the color in the crevices.

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I got the whole gang done and set them on my work table. Next step: giving them a black coating all over their bodies to form the base for the bright colors I plan for them.

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I may do that this afternoon. Or I might work on that painting. Or I might sit on the sofa, watch TV, and finish up odds and ends of art tasks and paperwork. I don’t know. So I’ve decided to cut off this week’s Diary entry here. I’ll post this afternoon’s work (if I do any, as there is always option #4: I might just lie on the sofa and read) tomorrow. Happy end of the week!

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending September 28


Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art on the mind…

Saturday, September 22 – We spent the day at the Community Arts Center’s Fine Arts and Crafts Festival, held in Swarthmore, PA. The art center, located a few miles away, is a really nice place, offering classes in many disciplines as well as children’s classes and camps, exhibits, and music events. I taught collage classes there for some time and I know many people connected with the organization.

Swarthmore is also a familiar place to me and I have many associations with the town and the school dating from my collage days. For example, my husband and I have participated in the town’s New Year 5K several times and I had a solo exhibit in Borough Hall/Library in 2012.

So when we pulled into town we knew what was what, as they say! We arrived at about 7:30 AM.

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We set things up without incident.

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The day started off warm and humid but it grew cooler and windier as time went on. Still, the weather held.

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One of my near neighbors made these very intriguing and functional fire pits, or as she called them, fire sculptures. I like them.

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We were centrally located near the raffle tent and the entrance to borough hall was right across the street. The latter is a plus because…the bathroom is in this building. At street shows, an indoor bathroom is a huge plus and being near it is even better. Just saying.

I took several street shots during the day. I think these show you a very typical street fair scene.

In this one, the man in the green shirt to the far right is the executive director of the Community Arts Center. Remember him.

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The show features artist demonstrations. I have done this job myself in the past and it is fun. Here is an art friend of mine, Jane, showing her watercolor technique.

There is also music at this fair, in the small amphitheater to the left front of the borough hall. We could hear the music all day.

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I told you to remember that man in the green shirt…here you see him again, filling in on the drums (the regular drummer had an emergency and could not be there) in my favorite group of the day, the Swarthmore Ukulele Orchestra. You have not lived until you have heard a ukulele rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind” and watched a group of six-year-olds dancing their hearts out to the tune.

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The show was a pleasant end to my painting season for 2018. The crowd was appreciative and though sales were light, my work was well received.

Sunday, September 23 – My husband and I went to his office for a few minutes to pick up artwork he’s had on his office walls (he displays various pieces of my art at work and has done so for years). His office is moving and he thought he’d change out his art. I found this old piece there. I remember it – it was a collage done on a 12″ x 12″ board that was awful, and then I painted this house over it, and then I gave up in disgust. I am not sure why it was not in the trash.

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Ick. So while I was watching TV at night, I decided to work it over with pens and markers. If it turned out ok, great. If not, it would make that trip into the trash. Here is where it ended up. I think it actually turned out well. Saved from the trash one more time.

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Here they are side by side for comparison.

Monday, September 24 – First I gessoed some more boards that I had gotten my husband to sand off their previous occupants. I’ve got quite a supply of second-time-around painting surfaces now.

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I started some tiles. I have five more spaces in the kiln (I’ve partially loaded it) and these guys will fill them.

I was going through some old artwork and I found these two tiny landscapes.

They are the only ones that did not get taken during the Small Landscape Giveaway in 2015-2016 or by a friend here in my everyday life. I felt sorry for these little guys, but – I also saw the opportunity to do the same thing to them as I did with that previous house picture. Update or renovate, whatever you may want to call it. So while I was watching TV I worked on them and here they are. I’ll show you the old and new versions side by side.

It makes me want to order some more of these tiny canvases (5″ x 7″) and get cracking on some embellished landscapes gone wild…

Tuesday, September 25 – More tile work. I’ll show you the whole sequence, including yesterday’s work.

Pretty much finished with these, I think, but I’ll look them over later on and see if any amendments need to be made.

Friday, September 28 – I had some time this afternoon to work on art, resuming studio time after a couple of days away. I’ve cleaned up a work table:

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and for right now I want to sort through some odds and ends. I don’t feel like starting up anything too serious right now. I got out the plastic box that I toss odds and ends of drawings into and set the contents out on the table. Most of these items are practice drawings in Chinese brush/India ink for my ongoing Minuscule (story and accompany poem) book illustrations.

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And some closer views – there are a lot of funny little things here.

I pulled out some items to color with markers. Others I will leave alone. I will use these in collage projects.

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You may also have noticed some of those phrase cards I make with cut-out snips from old books, the ones that I use to write poetry (as in this Poetry Marathon post). I’ve got a lot of these now too. I used acrylic inks to splodge color on them – I’ll use them for collage, too.

I worked on the three small 6″ x 6″ crazy paint/ink/crayon/oil pastel things I do. These are getting close to being finished. I still think the lady on the right looks like a mailbox, now with someone trapped inside. Oh dear, I’d like to think of a more happy story.

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Last, I opened my latest Large Artist Sketchbook to a new page and used the phrase cards as stamps on a couple of pages. This is the first step in doing some kind of image – who knows what – for these pages.

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This is how the sketchbook thing works for me – a pinch of this and a handful of that, and then I turn it into a …cake? pie? broccoli casserole? Only time will tell.

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending August 17


Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Hello to a week of Art.

Saturday, August 11 – I worked on the secret project.

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Sunday, August 12 – I worked on the secret project.

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I also prepared these 6″ x 6″, 1/8″, masonite boards. For what? I don’t really know although my idea right now is to do some more of those graffiti/cartoon kind of painting things, you know, with the words in them. Really, I just felt like letting my hand paint fast and big and these little boards, well, I’ve got a whole lot of them. So I’ll see where they go.

I worked on some more acrylic ink/paint colored papers as well today, and here are the offshoots – the old-book pages where I soak up extra ink or paint. later I can use these for collage.

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These acrylic inks are really growing on me. I had bought a set of basic colors to see if I liked the medium, some time ago, and I wasn’t that excited at the beginning. But I’m starting to appreciate them for their intensity and their clarity, plus a kind of translucency that makes for layering that has a real depth of color.

Monday, August 13 – I had time to work on a couple of illustrations for my Minuscule story book.

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Tuesday, August 14 – Secret project…

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Wednesday, August 15 – More secret project…

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and a couple of other things. I did another illustration for my Minuscule book, or rather, I did a couple of versions of the same scene. These pictures are simple and straightfoward, plus being small, so I find it is easier for me to dive in and make several versions, then choose the one I like best. I’m working in India ink and Chinese brush for these.

I choose the one version I like best at the end of the session for the book; I save any others that appeal to me; and I cut up the failures. I’ll use them for collage later on. Here you see finished scenes and future collage papers.

I also worked on those 6″ x 6″ boards I painted a few days back. I’m working on them bit by bit, medium by medium. Since I had the ink and brush out I decided to make that the next stage for these little guys.

What I did was rotate each piece through all its orientations. There is always one that appeals to me – it’s not a thinking thing but an aha! this is the right one – kind of thing.

Then I outlined the things I saw in that image. You’ll see what I mean when you see the photos.

Now I have got the beginnings of a plan for each one of these.

Thursday, August 16 – I worked on some more brush and ink illustrations for my Minuscule book project.

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My mind has been scattered this week. And you know that I usually like to make more than one attempt at a quick drawing like these. That couple of attempts has enlarged into several. Oh well. I’m less focused or I’m harder to satisfy these days, I don’t know which. Anyway, one good thing – that means there are lots of scraps from failed attempts to add to my future collage projects box.

I also added a little bit to the 6″ x 6″ mixed-media things I have going on. Today I used some acrylic inks.

These still have a way to go, but they are beginning to develop some personality.

Friday, August 17 – I think I will end the Diary for this week here. As I have said before, I have been involved in some family issues and my time and energy for art have been limited. I think I will take the afternoon off and read a book. See you next week.

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending March 30

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Saturday, March 24 – This week will be one of catching art on the run. We have out of town guests coming on Monday, so, we’re busy getting ready and then during the week it’s hard to say how art will fit in. Let’s see how it goes.

This afternoon my husband and I stopped by Home Depot; I took some pictures of ordinary things. I have always loved how they display mundane objects in such interesting ways – there are patterns and vistas galore. I took shots for two reasons: some of them were for references for paintings or drawings.

and some of them were for the pattern or arrangement, just because I liked the look.

See what I mean? Visual carnival.

I had some time to work on small tiles this afternoon. First I put black on all the edges of the ones done the other day. It makes a nice finished look.

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Next I worked on the new set. I use a Chinese brush and a pointy tip small brush, as I see fit.

I also did these three round clay disk things. They are made from the clay left over from the tile making session, being bits of clay too small to make another tile. Roll a ball and smash it, that’s what I do to make these.

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Sunday, March 25 – More tiles.

Monday, March 26 – More tiles! I’ve finished up the white clay tiles and am moving into terracotta. Given the way I’m working with them, the change doesn’t make a difference – you may remember I was using the remainder of the bag of clay in each type when I originally made these tiles, and I knew the actual clay didn’t matter for what I was going to do.

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I was a little better at some process photos this time. My working style has settled into this: Usually I work through the whole group, then go back and add more details, and so on, until I tire out or time runs out or… they look done.

I also opened the erosion bundles I had set outside last August (for info on what they are and how I got started on this path, look here, and I give credit to Evelyn Flint for the idea).

I admit to three things: first, I forgot all about them until not too long ago, when I went around the yard collecting them. Oops! So I took them inside and I dried them out in preparation for opening them.

Oops #2! I realized today that there was still one outside, soaking wet. I grabbed it. No waiting.

Oops #3: I was hasty in making up these bundles and slapped together any old papers. Well, now I’ve learned some things (such as, pay attention to coatings on paper, bind the bundles more loosely so that more weathering can occur, etc…) and I’ll do better next time. Because in the end, it was fun.

Here’s the dried out stuff:

and here is the still-wet one (remember, we just had 9″ of snow that’s melted in the last couple of days). It consisted mostly of a notebook, one of the many I use to jot down notes and reminders. Flip through and take a look.

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I’ll let it all dry out and then I’ll see what I can make of these weathered veterans.

After I cleaned up from that experience I started on a gesso project – I recently bought a lot of these 6″ x 6″ masonite panels for painting. Now, these are dirt cheap, about 60 cents each, I think. So I can use them as freely as if they were paper, pretty much, and I like durability of the material much more. My painting style is hard on brushes and on supports, so paper is not a great option. And when these paintings are done, they are easy to store, to give away, or to sell at very reasonable prices.

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Tuesday, March 27 – More tiles. You know, when you do a project like this, you are in a different mood each day and your work process and results reflect it. Today I needed some structure.

I lined up the tiles (I’ve been doing 20 at a time) five rows of four. I chose a color, did a bit on each tile in the row, and then changed colors.

I then made another pass, working in columns this time. Alternating rows and columns, I repeated the process, skipping tiles as I felt they were finished, until all were done. I managed to keep them in the same positions so I can show you the progression.

Wednesday, March 28 – I needed a rest from tiles. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I went to my studio and looked over the offerings strewn across the table tops for inspiration. I decided to pick up a book I’ve had for some time and work with it.

This book:

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I had borrowed a copy from the library and I liked it so much that I bought one to keep. The book consists of all kinds of ways to draw human figures – illustrations and a line or two of explanation on each page. I intend to go through it and try everything. I haven’t had the time to do a thing about this goal, so I decided today was a good day to start.

I did some brush figures – this came very easily to me. Love making the swirly figures.

I also did these scribbley figures.

I will be working from this book again soon. It is easy to pick out one technique and try it, and it was especially good for today, when I am somewhat mentally scattered. I want to devote good attention to it, though, when I come back to it, and take my time. I think I can learn a lot from this book.

I then went to my current Large Artist Sketchbook and worked on another one of those pages where I pasted in an image with the idea of adding to it later. I got a good start on this page, using acrylic inks (they are growing on me) and some of those cut-up pieces from last week:

I also ended up with an interesting page (a piece of bristol board) that I used for excess ink, or to mix it. I’ll see what if anything can be done with it, or I can cut it up, too.

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Thursday, March 29 – My out-of-town visitors left today, and I had some time this afternoon for art. I’m a real creature of routine and it will take me a little time to get settled from the activity of this week. I decided to putter around and work on this little thing or that, nothing too involved.

I gessoed some more of those 6″ x 6″ panels.

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Now I’ve got a good number to get some painting series going with. I like this brand of gesso:

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It is so goopy. Somehow that appeals to me, plus it covers well in one coat.

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I got out the figure sketching book I mentioned yesterday and tried another technique. The idea was to be outlining figures. I went off in a bit of another direction (I couldn’t help adding details) but I’m going to take that as a sign of how the initial inspiration of the simple figures in the book was able to involve me so fully.

I also did some blind contour sketching, at the book’s suggestion (now it’s speaking to me?) with photos of mannequins for inspiration – they were what I had right there at hand. I liked these; I cut them out, and I think I might color them and put them in a composition somewhere.

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Last, I added India ink outlines and fill-ins to that acrylic ink sheet from yesterday. Where this is going, well, we will find out sometime.

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And I forgot – last night I finished up the page from the current large Artist Sketchbook. Thank you to two episodes of the original Star Trek show for settling me on the sofa to work on it!

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OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.