The good news is that the piece survived being wrapped around an 11” diameter drum scanner. The gold looks no worse for wear and I am almost breathing again. The less than good news is that gold leaf doesn’t scan worth a damn. I’m not laying this on the fabulous folks who did the scan, they did the best they could, and if it wasn’t for the gold, the scan would be perfect. This is going to lead me on my next big adventure in art prints; how do you reproduce gold in an archival print?
Meanwhile, back at the drawing board…
My original concept had the bees in a more abstracted form. But when the colors in the spiral started doing cool things, I knew the bees had to be more realistic, thereby adding depth. They are not completely realistic, they still fit within the confines of a circle, but there was a lot of – draw a few lines – look at a photograph – draw a few lines – look at a photograph. The painting process wasn’t much faster.
With the bees finished, I moved on to the ‘black’. I write it that way because it isn’t black. In fact there isn’t any black on this piece at all. What you see here is a mix of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine. If any of you have studied classical painting, you will have heard of this mixture. I had not until recently. My usual mix for black is Alizarin Crimson, Prussian Green, and Indigo. I think these pigments have seen changes that offer better lightfastness and lower toxicity, and I think there has been a color shift as well. My old black mix doesn’t respond the way it used to. It’s a subtle thing that most people would not notice. I do. So I went to the Ultramarine/Burnt Umber mix and got very nice results. There was a slight panic when I realized I had no Burnt Umber paint. Luckily I remembered my natural pigments and ground up a small batch. It blended beautifully with the Ultramarine. The snippet you see above is just the first layer. I went back with two or three more layers to get the density I wanted without that flat wash look.
I am very pleased with the finished piece. I’ve been calling it the bee spiral, but the real name is ‘The Waggle Dance’, and the gold pattern in the corners is derived from the motions the bees go through. Honey bees use this ‘dance’, and others, to communicate the location of a nectar source when they return to the hive. It is thought that some insecticides may inhibit the bee’s ability to waggle dance, thus making it harder to find food, which in turn, could be a contributor to colony collapse disorder. For this reason, I’m going to dedicate at least 10% of sales to research and preservation for honey bees.
The bee spiral is a project I’ve had in the works for quite some time. There were two previous attempts, one in which I didn’t like the line work, and the other where the gold leaf failed to stick. I changed materials for the gold leaf process and it appears to have worked.
One of the mistakes I made in the second attempt was to ink everything before laying down any gold. I knew better, and it came back to bite me. It wasn’t the cause of the non-sticking gold, but it did make things a lot more difficult as the gold wanted to stick to the ink. So I left the third attempt in pencil while laying the gold.
Medieval Celtic spirals are limited in their colors because of the use of natural pigments. Often they were yellow, red and green. I wanted to give a nod to this, but not be bound by it. The original concept was to use earth tones and the brown (seen at the top in the picture above) was a mix of Goethite (Brown Ochre) and Sepia. The result was meh. So I mixed some Cerulean Blue with the Sepia and floated it on top of the brown mix. The result was a crazy mottled surface with subtle spots of blue. It looked so cool I had to go back into the red (Red Ochre and Garnet) with Rose of Ultramarine and Garnet. The yellow was tougher because the water didn’t want to pool up on the paper. I think it’s the Azo Yellow that really attracts water. I tried my best with Gamboge and a touch of Pyrrol Red, but I didn’t get the layered look of the other colors.
I’ll post the final stages of the piece tomorrow. I have to go pick it up from the shop where it is being scanned. If you want to see it up close, come to Oddmall this weekend!
It’s been ages since the last post. A show, an Etsy shop, two workshops, and an operating-system-upgrade ago, not to mention all of the seasonal celebrations, initiations, and continued learning. Oh, and let’s not forget about editing a YA manuscript. The dreary bit is that I look back at it all and wonder, “Where is the art?”. Sigh.
I am learning to accept that the conceptual stage of art making is still considered progress. And there are several projects that are in the concept/planning stage, one of which is the opportunity to be part of a group show, participating with folks from a workshop I took in February. More on that as it progresses.
Coming up soon (as in terrifyingly soon) is the summer version of a show I did last November – OddMall: Emporium of the Weird. It is a fabulous collection of art and craft ranging from fairies to steampunk to esoterica. I had a wonderful time and sold enough to make me want to come back. I wanted to have a nice selection of new stuff, but as you can see from the abbreviated list of activities above, I’ve been a little busy with other things. So in the tried and true method of last-minute, panic-inspired art making, here’s what I’m up to at the moment.
I wanted to add to my Celtic-Medieval Pop Art series and realized I had a great candidate in the Minecraft Creeper. I also wanted to make the art more like a manuscript page rather than just a vignette.
People have already made pseudo-scientific art of the Creeper and of course given it a proper genus and species – creepus explodius. These being Latinesque, I had to keep them, adding the sub-species name ‘hibernii’, meaning an Irish Creeper. Of course, the system of taxonomy didn’t exist in medieval times, but who cares.
The other piece I’m currently working on is far more serious. It is a Celtic spiral design incorporating honey bees. As I work on it, I strive to remain focused on the blessings these amazing animals bestow on us. We need to do everything possible to ensure their survival, and to that end, I plan to donate a percentage of the sales of this piece to an organization dedicated to preserving bees and other pollinators. When I get that nailed down, I’ll let you know.
I started the design work perhaps a year ago. Then this spring I decided to go for it and ran into all sorts of problems laying down gold leaf. I trust that I have worked through the issues and I’m taking another stab at it. It will be a stretch, but my goal is to have prints available at OddMall. After that they will be up on my Etsy site, and of course you can always find my work on my website.