Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blue Falcon Leather and Feather Mask

After making all these masks, I figured I should wear one for Halloween. Except, the mask I wanted to wear (my Dusklight Raven Mask) was bought by someone else who had the same idea! No matter, I went and made a personal mask all my own:

Hand-tooled and hand-shaped 7-oz leather, painted with acrylics, and adorned with feathers. None of the feathers here are from actual birds of prey - they're all pheasant, chicken, and rooster plumes.

I hope I find a fun excuse to wear it on Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn's Turn Process

I thought it might be fun to show the progress of a painting, from sketch to ink to finished painting. Here are the process shots, from beginning to end:

And a larger version of the finished piece:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Firebird - Leather and Feather Mask

I've discovered I'm not very good at this 'take progress photos of work' thing. I got caught up in painting and didn't take any pictures until I was finished working.

Here is the finished mask. The long feathers are dyed rooster coque, and I stripped the edges off the other feathers to give them that 'teardrop' shape. You can see the back of the mask here, to show where I put sticky-backed felt to protect the face against friction from rough parts:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Firebird Mask - Works in Progress 2

I only got a little work done on the firebird mask today, but here's the progress so far.

Since the mask is primarily going to be painted in yellows and oranges, I dyed it with a yellow dye. Think of it as tinting your canvas - it unifies your colors and makes everything look more natural.

If you look back on the post containing the color sketch, you'll see that there are feathers going around the outer edge of the mask. Originally these were going to be all real feathers, but after contacting the person commissioning the mask, we decided to go with leather feathers. This will end up giving the mask a 'sturdier' look, as well adding more interesting texture and dimensionality to the existing base leather mask. Real feathers (the curving variety) will be added later. As seen in the image above, I cut out feathers from scrap pieces of leather. The lines in the feathers are done with a swivel knife. These feathers are also dyed, and shaped while still wet with the dye. Once dry, they will keep their shape.

Although this was a sheet of 'error' feathers (I drew them curving in the wrong direction by mistake), it shows the first step in creating pieces out of leather. And I never really waste anything - these feathers will find a home in another project. Perhaps I'll make pendants or keypulls out of them?

And one last note - I've finally come to accept that my studio will never, ever remain clean. After every project I clean it, and it always ends up cluttering up again. Oh well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Firebird Mask - Works in Progress

I thought it may be mildly interesting to show the progress of one of the masks I'm working on. I was commissioned to create a firebird-inspired mask, and decided this would be an excellent opportunity to test out the new, higher-quality leather I was recommended to use.

First some sketches:

As with any commission, I create a number of sketches to get some ideas on the table. Depending on what the person wants, it may take only a few sketches, or a lot. In this case, the person was quite clear on what she wanted, which is good for me - good communication always makes a job easier.

We ended up using a mixture of several sketch designs to come up with one final sketch. Then it was time for color sketches, and after a couple of revisions for those, this was the color scheme chosen.

Again, I am very new at mask making, so I am still ironing out my own methods. I've learned quite a lot from a mask maker whose work is on DeviantART and Etsy, who was kind enough to post a very helpful tutorial on how to make leather masks. In case you're curious, you can find her tutorial here. However, I've done a good number of drawing and painting commissions, so the commission process is pretty much the same even if it's a medium I'm still learning. Once I have the sketch and color sketch done, then it's time to start on the final piece.

I didn't take photos of actually tooling the leather, but at this point in the process, the mask has been tooled, cut, and shaped. Shaping involves wetting the entire mask and molding it around your face until you get the desired shape. Once you have a basic shape, you put it in the oven at around 250 degrees F to let it dry. I take it out multiple times to make sure I get the shape right. I've messed up a few masks mostly due to my own inexperience, but I think I got this one shaped just the way I wanted.

You may also notice the beak is a bit longer than in the sketch. Since I am still learning how to make a 2-D sketch that will match the physics of a 3-D mask, sometimes once I cut out a full-sized paper version of the mask to transfer onto the leather, I spot some things I need to fix. If I had left the beak as it was in the sketch, it would be nothing but a nub! And a graceful firebird needs a much more elegant beak.

More progress shots will come! Coming up will be dyeing the mask, painting it, and then putting the feathers on.

Watercolor surface experimentation

As I work more with a medium, I find I tend to get particular about my tools, surfaces, and pigments. With watercolor, my constant struggle has been with what surface to paint on. I started, back in 2005, with cold-press Strathmore watercolor blocks.

This is what I consider to be my 'first' watercolor paining, titled "Angel of the Oak Forests." I had of course dabbled with watercolor in high school, but walked away from that thinking I 'hated' the medium, and instead turned to colored pencils, acrylic, and markers.

After using the blocks and loose watercolor sheets, I discovered the work of artist Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. She put up some excellent tutorials on her method of watercolor, and I discovered she used a very different surface - Strathmore illustration board. I decided to experiment with the surface, and fell in love with the way the board allowed easy lifting.

It was at this time I wanted to try a series, and I painted my first Birdflower - Daffodil or March, on a piece of Strathmore illustration board. I found it much more forgiving than traditional watercolor paper, which held onto pigment much stronger than illustration board. I wanted to do a lot of lifting, and so this board seemed the time.

As my watercolor skills developed, I found myself more and more frustrated with the illustration board I had sworn by. I remember contacting Strathmore telling them how several sheets I'd bought had invisible 'scratches' that only appeared once I put a watercolor wash down. A Strathmore representative replied, informing me that the illustration board was not sized for wet media, and that I could use it for such, but he warned that it may act strangely. In addition to the 'scratch' problem, I started to want richer and deeper colors, and the board seemed to 'deaden' the pigment. I was a bit discouraged.

During the beginning of my second year at SCAD-Atlanta, I wanted to try watercolor paper again after some recent dabbling with a few sheets for minipaintings and liking the vibrancy of the color I got with watercolor paper. This time, I bought one of the best brands - Arches. I bought a sheet each of cold-press and hot-press, stretched them, and fell in love all over again.

I couldn't believe what I'd been missing all this time with illustration board! The vibrancy of color, the texture...I thought for certain I'd found my 'perfect' surface. And indeed, I worked with the cold-press 140 lb surface exclusively. Though in the back of my mind, I still missed the ability to lift. That was one 'drawback' of cold-press Arches - it tends to hold onto pigment and lifting is difficult.

This was on my mind a bit for the past week, and I dug out a sample piece of wet-media Strathmore illustration board. Unlike the board I used before, this was specifically sized for, as it says on the packaging, "light washes up to wet on wet applications." This, so far, is a work in progress of a simple painting for a friend of one of her characters from her stories:

This painting, as should be obvious, isn't done yet, but in my time working with this surface I've felt an indecision I've never experienced with a painting surface before. I don't know if I love or hate this board. Part of me dislikes it since it has that same 'dry on the surface' nature watercolor has on illustration board, but then the crisp lines and incredible opportunity for lifting draws me to it. I suppose I will have to do more work on this surface and come to a conclusion eventually.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Falcon With Blue Eyes - Watercolor Painting

Three figures stand before a cracked vision and acknowledge an identity based in the simplest of elements.

The sun
The moon
The wind and forest.
A kingdom of clouds and their gift of rain

And yet they seek simple grains of sand buried beneath piles of gaudy jewels. All they want is to feel the earth again.

Well, this took a bit of a different turn from when I started it. I literally had a moment where I was about to start painting and said, "well this is meant to be a bit of a self portrait, isn't it?" And so it was, and my handling of the colors changed as a result.

Of course, it's not a literal, physical self-portrait. I don't really look like that, but I incorporated portions of my anatomy (hair and eye color, primarily). There's a lot of symbolism in this important to me; the falcon should be the most obvious.

Watercolor and a tiny bit of colored pencil on cold press Arches watercolor paper, 9X12 inches.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Falcon With Blue Eyes - Work in Progress 3

One more work in progress shot before I probably finish it. I'm rather pleased with how this is turning out. I'm using a bit of a different painting technique...and I got a sharp new #4 round.

It feels good to do some watercolor after being stuck in digital land with this client project...

Falcon With Blue Eyes - Work in Progress 2

Here's a work in progress of the painting I'm working on. I finally found a title after it became apparent this was becoming a metaphorical self-portrait.

Per the suggestion of one of my professors at SCAD-Atlanta (Rick), I moved the ear straighter as it looked like it was sliding off her head before. I also need to move it back a bit. I also changed the bird closest to the face to a falcon since it was necessary with the change in meaning of this painting.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hawk Woman Painting Progress

Here is a work in progress of a painting I'm working on, which is yet untitled. Usually I don't discover the title until I'm nearing the end of a painting.

I drew this while at DragonCon last month. It's incredible how strong inspiration hits me after seeing all the incredible work in the art show. It's so important for me to experience it every's a recharging of the creative battery, in a way.