Sunday 29 December 2013

A visit to Moose & Co.

We went on a lovely walk to the local animal park yesterday, and we were really lucky to see most of the animals, playful bear cubs, sleepy wolves, lazy bisons, and - my favourites - nosy moose. Just love them, they're so sweet, with their long legs and big noses!

Unfortunately, I didn't have my proper camera with me, but only my iPhone. But I definitely want to go there more often next year. And I definitely want to sketch and paint some moose soon!

What's your favourite animal?

Tuesday 24 December 2013

*** Merry Christmas! *** (and a little tutorial)

And if you find yourself with some free hours on Christmas Eve, below's a little tutorial for this last minute, easy to make handmade Christmas decoration.

Take a piece of cardboard and prime it with gesso.

Use some letter stencils to trace the letters on the cardboard.

You could also use the stencils to fill in the paint directly. But as mine are broken, I decided to just trace the lines and paint them afterwards. This also allowed me to make them a bit bigger and bolder.

Add some more layers, details, textures, colours, emebellishments, patterns. The possibilities are endless. I kept mine quite simple.

Then cut out the letters with a pair of scissors.

Use a cutting knive to cut out the bits in between, and to do any tidying up, if necessary.

Punch two holes into the top of each letter.

Use a piece of string to string them all togher.

And it's ready to hang on a door, or wall, or your Christmas tree.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Room for improvement

So, my first four bowls I made in the wheel throwing pottery class are finished. I always thought that the throwing part would the most difficult thing. To centre the lump of clay on your wheel, make the opening, and especially pulling up the walls. And although they are difficult, especially the last part, which I have still to master, it seems that I was quite wrong. As I discovered, when taking my finished bowls out of the cupboard after their last firing. Glazing. A science in itself, I tell you!

I have to admit I had to laugh when I saw my four bowls. Could the glazes have been any more uneven, patchy, and messy? I don't think so.

My teacher said that I could add another layer of glazing, to correct the worst bits, but I decided to leave them as they are for the moment. They are going to be my measure, to measure my improvement by comparison.

The glazes dry almost immediately when painted on, but I think I didn't wait long enough before adding the next layer, after all. With the texture of the dry glaze, it's really quite hard to see any unevenness. I thought it looked pretty good after I had put it on! Maybe next time I should try the dipping glazes, instead of the brush on ones.

Well the first bowls are finished, but last Tuesday, I've already trimmed to more bowls, and thrown another small bowl. And with the help of my teacher, I have (or she has, really) made a beautiful cylinder for to keep my brushes in. I'm really looking forward to finish that one (and hopefully make a better job at glazing). The course runs 'til the end of January, but I've already signed up for the next course. I've still got a lot to learn!

Thursday 19 December 2013

Painting your own colour wheel

In order to get to know my paints and colours again/better, I'm spending some time with mixing colours. A very useful tool for colour mixing is a colour wheel. You can buy ready made ones, very elaborate with loads of informations and in different sizes. But while they are no doubt useful, making a simple colour wheel yourself has the great advantage that it is made with your own paints and colours.

It takes a bit of time, especially if you're as useless at geometry as I am. But eventually, I figured out how to find the centre and measure (more or less) equal portions on a circle. Drawing the whole thing up on a piece of paper the size of your wheel, before copying the whole thing on your actual canvas, makes it a lot easier.

When you have copied all the sections onto your canvas, you can start filling in the colours. Start with the primary colours (blue, red and yellow), then add the secondary colours (orange, green and purple), which are opposite the primary colours. The primary colours are the colours that can't be mixed from any other colours. The secondary colours are basically the respective mixes of two primary colours.

Then add the tertiary colours in between by mixing the two colours next to it (green + yellow, yellow + orange, orange + red, red + purple, purple + blue, blue + green). Et voilà, your own basic colour wheel is finished.

I like to see how my paints look like when adding white, which makes them more pastelly. So I added another section below each of the colours/mixes.

To finish it off, I went over all the white areas with white paint, to tidy it up, and then added a layer of varnish. 

Another advantage of making your own colour wheel, apart from helping you see the relations between the different colours of your own paints, is that it also shows you the opacity/transparency of the colours. It takes some time to make, but it's worth it.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

DIY Postcard Swap, and a very special Christmas card

It's over a month now since the DIY Postcard Swap organised by iHanna, and after having posted my 10 postcards to different corners of the globe, postcards started to arrive in my mailbox in return. For a period of eight days, I received a card every day. Then nothing for a good three weeks or so, and last week, quite unexpectedly, another one arrived. So I've now got nine cards altogether. I don't know if the tenth card will arrive too, eventually, or not. I guess the latter is now more likely. But I really like the nine I got, all the different styles, techniques and mediums.

Thank you Beverly from England, Carrie from California/USA, Gail from Canada, Ellen from USA, Belinda from Alaska/USA, Lynn from Florida/USA, HS from St Louis/USA, Carolyn from Ohio/USA, and Sue from Australia.

What made more than up for the missing tenth card was the beautiful Christmas card I received from my dear friend Sandra from England. She paints the most beautiful oil paintings, among them a series of the most charming vintage teddy bears. I'm so happy to have one of her beautiful bears in my home now! Thank you so much Sandra!

Sandra's oil paintings always make me want to finally try out oils myself. I've never really quite dared so far. It all seems so complicated, dangerous, and much different form my old trusted acrylics. But I've been getting some new supplies in the past two weeks or so, and among them, some stuff for oil painting. So in the new year, oil painting is definitely something that's going to happen.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Almost finished! - Trimmed, fired, glazed, and ready for the last firing

Last week, I learnt how to trim my bowls in order to prepare them for their first firing in the kiln. To trim a bowl, you fix it on to the wheel, cut the excess clay off and establish a foot on which the bowl will stand. It's a bit of a scary process, so much that can go wrong. But it all went alright. Mostly because my teacher did most of the trimming, and I just scraped off the bits in the middle, which took me ages. And apparently, I didn't do a very good job at it. But I was just too afraid to cut too deep and make a hole.

This week's pottery class was really exciting! After last week's trimming, my first four bowls had gone into the kiln for the first firing, and were ready for glazing. 

Glazing in pottery is completely different than painting. You can't mix colours, like you would with paints, but have to use ready mixed glazes instead. There are different glazes, and different methods of applying them, such as dipping the objects into them, or painting them on with a brush. I decided to use brush on glazes, as this involved at least something that was familiar.

The glazes dry almost immediately, and they look completely different than what they do after having been fired. This glaze here, for example, is called "Iceflower", and is a lovely white with a cool blueish marbled effect, which you can't see at all here. It's just white. Another glaze I used was a deep ocean blue/gree. The liquid glaze was just a very pastel mauve, nothing at all like the intense dark deep blue/green colour on the label. I still find this rather confusing. It gives you no clue at all as to what it will look like when finished. You have to rely completely on the samples, and hope that it will turn out like that. Also, the glazes are very dry, matt and powdery. Nothing like the smooth, shiny and hard finish they'll get in the kiln.

My bowls should have gone into the kiln for the second and last firing already, or if not, should do so tomorrow. In any case, they should be all done and ready to take home by Tuesday. I can't tell you how excited I am! I just hope they all made it savely through the firing, that none of them burst, or had the glazes running, or whatever else can go wrong in a kiln at a temperature of around 1200 degrees Celsius. And maybe one of them might even make it under the Christmas tree as a present.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Blank Canvas

I've been painting (more or less intensely) for many, many years, and for quite a few of those, I went to classes run by a local artist. I've learnt a lot from him over the years, but there is a time when one has to move on from one's teacher in order to develop further, and in my case, this moment has been long overdue. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for everything I learnt from my teacher. But he has his own style of painting, and his own view of how to mix colours, and of which materials and brands to use, of how things should be done, or not. And his way of doing things might not necessarily my way. At least not anymore. In the past three years or so, I've discovered a whole new world, thanks to the wonderful world of blogging and online classes. I discovered new techniques, new paints, new ways of mixing colours, new subjects, new styles, new inspiration.

So now, as we near the end of another year, I have decided that now is the time to break away from the "old" ways, and that the best way to do that is to start again, from scratch. To re-discover painting, from the very beginning. How to mix colours, how to paint different techniques, different subjects, with different mediums. I'm also in the process of re-arranging my little studio, to make more room and space for creating, so this seems to fit just perfectly too. A fresh start all around.

This whole process of re-discovering painting for myself might take a while, and I don't know how much I'll be blogging about it. I might just have to take some time off, for myself, to play, to experiment, to find my own way. I really don't know. All I know is that in order to grow and develop,  I have to start again from the beginning. Apart from re-discover my preferred medium of the past 15+ years, acrylics, I also want to finally try and discover the world of oil painting, something I've  been wanting to do for ages, but never really quite dared. It all just sounds so complicated and dangerous, what with underpaintings, long drying times, self-igniting substances and fumes...

So in the next few weeks, you might see less about painting etc., and maybe instead more photographs (another of my passions), inspirations, and a bit more about my latest passion - you might have guessed already - pottery. I really don't quite know myself how this will all go, but one thing I can say for sure; I'm really very excited about it!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Throw it 'til you break it

I just came across this video, and I just love the bit towards the end, when he says that on the first day of wheel throwing class, he always has his students throw it 'til they break it, as this is an important step in throwing - and growing. Yep, did that, though not really on purpose. And my teacher could save it by cutting off the top, as it was the wall that broke because it got too thin. So I guess I can only grow now (and hopefully my bowls too, when I finally get the hang of pulling the wall).

He's got a great series of videos for beginners. Of course, it's much better to go to a class, do it yourself, and have a teacher helping you. But watching and observing others is helpful too. But of course every potter has their own way, and my teacher is doing some things differently than he does. But the basics are the same. And I still just find it simply magical when they pull walls!

Sunday 1 December 2013

Project 365 | November 2013

Can you believe that it's already the first day of the last month of this year today? Time's just flying this year. November brought a lot of beautiful autumn colours, some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and the first snow of the season. I took part in a postcard swap, started taking a pottery wheel throwing class, and rediscovered DistressedFX, a photography app, that allows you to add gorgeous textures to your photos - and flocks of bird.

December started with a beautiful day, cold and frosty. Perfect for a walk in the woods. Hopefully, it will bring lots of snow and cold days.