Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Clutch of Frozen Charlottes

My friend F brought me a little porcelain figure from an antique store in California a few months ago.  I researched to find out what I could about this intriguing object.  It reminded me of the old- fashioned 50s-style king cake Baby Jesus dolls that we used to break our teeth on in New Orleans when we ate king cake around Mardi Gras time.  (whoever found a Baby Jesus in her piece of king cake had to give the party the next week).  It turns out that these aren't king cake dolls but are, rather, Frozen Charlotte dolls, which you should look up if this kind of thing interests you as much as it does me.   Anyway, yesterday F gave me FIVE MORE Frozen Charlottes, and now I have a collection.  I love that they are not just ordinary painted and dressed up Charlottes, but that they are damaged and rejected ones.  The man who sold them to F had them in a bucket behind the counter.  Apparently they were made between 1860 and 1920 or so, mostly in Germany.  Imperfect dolls were thrown out behind the factories in midden heaps of dolls.  Today some people excavate the broken rejects.

I much prefer these rejects.  I'm still playing with mine, drawing them in different settings, wondering what they're going to lead me to.  I love the way it feels to hold all six of them at once and jiggle them around.  They make a nice soft clinking sound.  Mine are all handless, and many are missing feet, which only adds to their appeal.  Here, above, are some first attempts at drawing them.  They're not easy to draw since they're so featureless and lumpy.  They are definitely relatives of the Rusty Child Forms.  Thank you, F, for knowing how much I would love this gift!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cairn Building

Michelle and I set out this morning on a mission to rebuild some of the cairns that an unknown-to-us cairn builder had built last spring and that had since been toppled.  We had especially enjoyed this group of cairns and wanted to restore at least some of them.  We found rocks strewn around in the grassy woods near the river and one lone cairn still standing.  I at first approached this project intending to impose and restore order, but Michelle was more willing to quietly look at the rocks and follow their direction.  This seemed a better approach to me,  especially after I watched her successfully balance some rocks that I would never have attempted to balance.
We had a wonderful time out there in the chilly breeze with the river singing in the background.  We used the rocks in the locations in which we found them, and we left some vines in place on rocks as well as some rocks on the ground.  We didn't try to make people or animals, but after we completed the cairns we noticed that some looked like women walking or small children or altarpieces or even a bird.
We made eight, five on a procession and three more a little distance away in a separate grouping.  The lone old cairn stands between our two groups.  I drew some of the cairns while Michelle sat on a large stone and listened to the river.  When my hands were thoroughly frozen we hiked back to my house.  We want to come back soon and build some more plus build some in some other locations.  These cairns really built themselves!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Working Thinking Planning Drawings

A customer asked F and me to design and make a wallet based on a leather wallet that is very clever and that is itself based on a Japanese origami fold.  The customer wanted the wallet to be made out of recycled coffee bags, which she supplied.  Here are sketches that I made to better understand the original wallet, of which we had only a few photographs and one diagrammatic drawing.

I began to think of a few modifications that might make our materials work better, such as a separate flap for the coin purse (which turned out to not be necessary, but here it is in its first appearance).

 This page contains crazy ideas for ways of cutting the pattern, none of which panned out.

I began working with the material and made a mock-up.  Some new problems surfaced regarding the credit card slot.
 I realized the mock up had some flaws, so here's a drawing showing some changes that needed to be made.  I also began to list the order in which assembly had to take place.

Eventually the modified mock-up or prototype yielded information about the pattern pieces and their dimensions.  Thursday we will cut the pattern pieces and refine the design.  It's a nice compact little wallet, and we can sell it for less than half the price of the leather and metal snaps design.  Now to test it out, the best part of designing.

Meanwhile, the amaryllis is going nowhere, but the tulips are taking off!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Concluding the Tutorial

Here's last night's ruined hat drawing, pulled back from the brink by the application of small spots of watercolor mixed with gouache.  The dots at bottom right show the main colors of the dots that I used.  The gouache is opaque, so it stands on the surface of the paper and visually seems to come forward a bit, making the knit look soft and textured.
And here is the detail of a knitted section after receiving the same treatment.  I didn't add any ink but did use small bits of very dark Payne's grey watercolor.
For reference, here's the hat at stage two after being brushed with clear water. 
And here's the small sample of knit at that same scary stage.
And back to the original line drawing of the hat--
And the original drawing of the detail.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hat Drawing Tutorial, Steps 1 and 2

Phase 1 of these hat drawings:  First make a rather complete ink drawing. 

I used a black Pilot V-5 Hi-Tecpoint 0.5 pen that is more or less waterproof after completely dry.  This is how I started all the hat drawings.  The more texture and detail, the better.  (I can't buy this pen in the US, can't even order it from anywhere in the US.  Why is this?  It's a great pen, but I have bought my last two batches in Paris and Barcelona and was finally able to order twelve from England, but the postage was killing.  It's a pain to have to go to such lengths to buy this pen!)
(Okay, a brief veer into the amaryllis, which has started to change in that what looked like a tall leaf is actually turning out to be some kind of leaf covering that is now drying up and growing transparent.)

In the middle, a detail of the hat, showing the amount of texture that seems to work well.  (And then one of the tulips in its new taller more leafy stage.)

So find a knitted hat and go do a detailed textural drawing of it.  Now I'm going to go paint over my two textural hat drawings and show you step two.
Step 2:  This is the scary part of this drawing, when you lose all control.  You must do it soon after making the textural drawing while the ink is still somewhat wet.  (Note that if you use a pen with NON- waterproof ink you can wait as long as you want to do step 2 because the ink will still wet up.)  I use clean water and a #12 round watercolor brush, the only brush I ever use, but you can use whatever brush you have and enjoy using for watercolor drawing.  It helps if it is a round brush and one that holds a good point.  I begin in the least textural areas, such as the pompom and the inside flannel lining panels.  I wash the brush frequently to keep the ink from completely blacking out the drawing.
The same goes for the detail of the knitted hat, shown to the left.    Tomorrow I'll show how to add the color with white gouache and watercolors.  It's good to let the watery mess dry thoroughly before continuing.  So put this away for now and go get a tube or jar of waterproof white opaque watercolor, called gouache.  Don't worry if your nice drawing is now a mess.  Mine is too, and I never have any confidence that it's going to come out right;  but something alchemical happens next!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hats Again Plus Stowaway Bald Cypress Cone

Two more spectacular hats from Greenlife (Whole Foods small local-ish store), the one on the left a fish, and the one on the right a manly chain mail crossed with motorcycle goggles and finished off with -what else? braids.  Asheville is a town of many great hats.  I hope people wear hats like this in the places I'm sending them--
I found a stowaway bald cypress cone in the bottom of my bag when we got home from NOLA.  After a couple of days on my drawing table it began to separate into sections, very much like a Chinese puzzle.  It was possible to reassemble it like a puzzle, too!  I've never seen a cone like this.  It smells very spicy and resinous.  I read that the oily resin is really good for preserving wood.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lumpy Drawings on Unsuitable Substrates

Annie and I set out for a little walk this afternoon.  I asked her what kind of a hike she wanted-- flat, steep climb, trail, off-trail, etc.  She said she wanted to go find the things in the woods that I [really Michelle] had found last spring.  "The shelter?" I asked, incredulous that anyone would trust me to lead them to this elusive and hard-to-find feature.  But that's what she wanted, and I was so excited to have someone who was willing to slog through brambles and follow directions such as "head southeast, or, towards the chimney that's not quite visible but that will be soon;  now we walk 168 steps and head left at the tree that used to be bent over the path" that I didn't hesitate.  We used some of my old maps from last year, and then I drew a new one to record how things had changed over the summer and what last year's path now looks like.
Our first attempt was to head up the bramble slope behind the chimney, following one of the old maps that I had made of coming back that way.  After about half an hour of climbing the ridge and skirting a rhododendron hell, what I had expected to be a gully turned out to be the Ruins Trail that I walk on many times each week.  How on earth ---?  I sketched out what I think happened in the map above, which is NOT at all to scale, and now am wondering if the mysterious "Shelterwood" sign on the Ruins Trail might not refer to the woods where the shelter is!  Something to check out for sure.  Meanwhile, we decided to go the roundabout way via the Ruins trail to the overlook by the clay flats.  
 At one point we came across some very nice bracket fungus-y fungus on a downed tree.  We broke off a few pieces and did some Lascaux Cave-like drawings.  I admire the way the cave artists used the bumps and lumps on the walls as part of the form of their paintings.  I have a new respect for their skill.  On the left is a drawing of a fungus on the fungus.  On the right, the shelter itself, done after we actually found the shelter.  It was exciting to find the shelter just as the sun was setting and the fast evening was slamming down.  We each did a fast drawing of the shelter, then decided to try to find our way off-trail back down to the Mindy Sue Trail by the chimney.  Using a map Michelle and I made last year, we succeeded in spotting the chimney and then slashing our way down the slope through the brambles and over the downed trees, back to the trail.  A short half mile later we were home.
Meanwhile, a tiny baby has sprouted beside one of the larger tulips, and a new leaf is showing from the split in one of the larger ones!