Alice in Wonderland: Painting

Finally, it’s time for painting. I don’t have much to say about my process. I keep things fairly simple. No special tricks or magic tools, just a bunch of familiar steps built over years of painting practice. 

Most of my paint is Windsor and Newton Professional Acrylic. I do have a couple of tubes of  Galleria (Windsor and Newton’s student range) as well as some Atelier tubes, but for the way I work, the Windsor and Newton Professional range feel the best.

For brushes I use a large, square to wash in the background, but the rest of the painting is done alternating between three differently sized round brushes. As for the actual technique, I can best describe it as layering on thin washes of colour and softly (but quickly) blending lights into darks until I get the desired gradient.

In future, I would love to video the whole process, but I don’t really have the right setup for it. For now, I can offer a photographic journey.

Next up: The Final Painting

Mini Spekboom Challenge

Spekboom is not only an awesome, carbon sequestering powerhouse, it also offers me a huge dose of childhood nostalgia, so when @dwarfjadebonsai over on Instagram started the Mini Spekboom Challenge I had to participate. What, you ask, is the mini spekboom challenge?

The challenge is to find or make the tiniest pot you can and then plant a tiny spekboom tree/cutting into the vessel, creating a miniature bonsai. And why are spekboom awesome?

In the words of @dwarfjadebonsai:

” Spekboom has the potential to mop up the excess CO2 responsible for #climatechange. Its immense carbon-storing capabilities and capacity to offset damaging carbon emissions are comparable to that of moist, subtropical #forests.

One hectare of Spekboom sequestering up to 4.2 tons of carbon per year!

Spekboom doesn’t burn, making it a hardy #plant to withstand veld fires and great material for firebreak hedges.

It can withstand drought too – mainly due to its succulent #nature, but also due to it’s unique ability to ‘shift gears’. While most plants require their stomata to be open during the daytime to absorb carbon dioxide, in dry conditions, the #porrulacariaafra can open its stomata at night instead, and close them again in the day to avoid loss of water. This slows down evaporation, and enables the Spekboom to #grow faster during the day. During the wetter months, the #Spekboom absorbs carbon dioxide during the day as normal, which helps reduce our #carbonfootprint.

We can eat it too! Its little #succulent leaves contain heaps of Vitamin C as well as a number of other minerals “

At first, I took an existing concrete pot (made by me) and planted one of my woodier looking cuttings. Most of my cuttings are still young and don’t yet have that hardened look. Of course, I couldn’t stop at that. So i pulled out some sculpey and had a quick bit of silly fun making the elephant and coil pot. If inspiration strikes, I may find myself doing another one… or several. 😛

This was a little bit of fun in these crazy times and I hope it brings a few smiles. 🙂 

Alice In Wonderland: Painting Preparation

With the sketch done, it’s time to prepare the canvas for painting. Word of wisdom, buy the canvas before deciding on what size to make your sketch. I, of course, did not work with this sort of wisdom and alas, when I went canvas buying, could not get the exact dimensions that I needed. The best canvas I could find was a little wider than the sketch, but not quite as tall.


With some tracing paper, a pair of scissors and ample floor space, I got to work making adjustments to my composition. Satisfied with the new positions, it was time to transfer. Another feat accomplished thanks to tracing paper. I make sure to put only the main lines down. They are fairly light on the canvas, and serve as a guide for the initial layers of colour.







Speaking of colour, I need to make some decisions on my palette choice. I paint out a few quick colour studies to get a feel for the atmosphere. For me, the yellow one best brings out the kind of vibe I’m aiming for.


Lastly, I prepare a reference board.


And now it’s time to paint.

Alice in Wonderland: The Sketch

After hashing out the idea for my Alice illustration in a few rough doodles, I jump right into the final sketch. This sketch is something of an exploratory process. I’ve got the basic idea of how I want the image to look, but I haven’t worked out the finer details yet. There is a lot of back and forth with erasing and drawing and erasing again, particularly in areas like the hands where getting the pose just right can be tricky

The sketch is A3 in size, done on an A2 sheet of Canson Artists Series Drawing Paper, 220GSM. I used a 6B graphite pencil for the entire sketch. I find I can get both really light and really dark with 6B pencils and don’t have any need to switch between pencils. The final trusty tool is the kneaded eraser.

Here are some shots of the process with the final illustration at the end.







Next up: Transferring the sketch to canvas and getting ready for painting!

Alice in Wonderland: Initial Sketches

When I started my Alice in Wonderland painting, I had three goals in mind. I wanted it to be vibrant. I wanted it to be busy, but mostly, I wanted it to be mine. I didn’t want my painting to be another iteration of Disney’s Alice (a glorious Alice at that) and in order to steer clear of those prominent influences, I had a few choices to make:
 
 
First, I read the book. Surprisingly this was something I had never actually done before and as a writer, well… guys, this story has no beginning, middle, nor end. It is a psychedelic stream of consciousness told through a series of puns (many of which I likely missed due to time period differences and whatnot.)
 
 
But as an artist? It’s a candy-bowl full of visual delights!
 
 
The first thing I decided to do was focus on the animals. The book has A LOT of animals. If an animal exists, Alice probably had a chat with it. I considered the human characters, but ultimately decided that I wasn’t up for the challenge of trying to better Disney on those. It is close to impossible for me to think about the Queen of Hearts and NOT see a tiny lady with a giant head. Animals would also much better fit my desire for something bright and lighthearted.
 
 
I knew I wanted to have Alice in the middle with rose bushes and animals around her.
 
 
My first thumbnail had her looking timid and scared, but the Alice in the books is never frightened.
 
 
 
My second attempt is better, but her expression still isn’t right. She’s not scared anymore. She looks like she’s in awe of Wonderland. Which, once again, she isn’t’. Mostly Alice waltzes around Wonderland trading snarky comments with everyone she meets. I did like the positioning of this thumbnail however and used it to further plot everything else.
 
 
 
 
 
I tried a couple of poses with Alice before coming to the one I liked. At first, she still has too much of the awe/scared thing going.
 
 
 
 
Finally I clue in to the fact that I need her cheeky. Sassy. Shes confident and strong and none of my previous attempts were carrying that message at all. Behold, the final Alice:
 
 
 
 
 
I did some quick sketches to figure out my version of the Cheshire cat and some studies of a few other bits and pieces, but that was pretty much it. My preparation for Alice was a lot of thinking and three pages of scribbling.
 
 
 
 
Next up: The Complete Sketch

A Long Overdue Update

It certainly has been a while since I last made a post. I had many good intentions, but was very swiftly overwhelmed with everything I wanted to do and it inevitably led me to a downward spiral in which almost nothing got done.

But life is a series of falling down and getting back up again and here I am, getting back up.

And to begin, here is a small update of what I have been working on.

Art:

Most of last year was dedicated to Sculpture. Primarily, I was making bonsai pots out of concrete, some more artistically leaning than others. I set up an Etsy shop and even sold a few, but it was a venture that came with a few problems that I’ve found hard to reconcile. Concrete is heavy. It’s also pretty fragile. The weight makes for really high shipping fees and when you have a product that needs to ship all the way from Australia, well, it gets expensive.

I did also experience breakages on items that I thought were really well wrapped. I seriously underestimated the amount of cushioning my delicate, chunky, babies would need. Luckily, those were sent to my parents and I didn’t have any unfortunate customer care situations to manage. It did however show me how easily I could end up with an unfortunate mishap.
I do love sculpture and I thoroughly enjoy mixing it up with bonsai and other plants, but after giving it a year, I think its safe to say that it’s an activity best left as a hobby for now.

So where does that leave me and my Fine Arts degree? Spiralling in self doubt and existential dread. I did a lot of that. It seriously messed with my productivity. It took a stern pep talk from myself, and a really long time, to pull myself out of that mess and come up with a plan. A project. Something.

Enter my saviour: Alice in Wonderland.

I decided to choose a book, any book, and make a cover illustration for it. No pressure. No time limit. Just me and the art and however long it takes. I am so glad that I chose Alice.
This painting has giving me my confidence back. It’s bright and colourful and it makes me happy. When I look at it, it reminds me that yes I can do this. I do make good art.
And thanks to Alice I have a sudden wealth of new ideas just waiting to be painted. Of course, I need to finish her still. She has a good couple of hours left to go, but they’re hours I’m excited to get to.

I haven’t taken a tonne of progress shots, but I will be sharing what I have in a future post.

Writing:
Last year I attempted to do another round of 12 short stories in 12 months. I got 6 stories into it before I realised it was taking too much of my time and seriously impacting the progress on my current novel WIP. It was a really tough call to make, but I made the decision to quit the challenge half way and save what was left of my crumbling sanity.
With the short stories no longer a priority I threw myself into Draft Two. It took a lot of self bribery (in the way of chocolate and clothes) but I got. It. Done.

Unfortunately, it still wasn’t done done.
I am currently deep into edits of draft three and have made it to 50000 words. It is going slower than I had hoped and with the current state of the world, I am finding it increasingly difficult to get much done. Not to mention that I have suddenly become a quarantine-Home-school mom and what time I did have has suddenly shrunk to almost nothing.

But the book is coming along. I am making progress. I even have an excerpt to prove it. 😉

Excerpt:

“What does it do?” Autumn heard herself ask. She could not look away from the candle. She couldn’t stop the gaping pit of dread that grew inside of her.

She knew what the candle did. Of course she did. This was a gift like all the other gifts, made to fix her. Only, Zanele had never given her a gift before. Zanele had never even hinted that she cared about Autumn’s lack of manifestation. Zanele was a safe witch.
But not anymore. Just like the rest of them, Zanele was here presenting a gift. Like the rest of them, Zanele wanted her to change.

Zanele began to explain the magic and the more she spoke, the more the pit of dread grew.

“At it’s core, it’s a spell of waking, but there’s a lot more to it. It has threads for breaking barriers and some others to uncover hidden things. And the last bit, the really tricky one, is a thread of life giving. It took me months to work out the intricacies, otherwise I might have gotten this to you sooner.”

This was complicated magic. Difficult magic. Not entirely sanctioned magic. Waking? Life giving? Autumn swallowed.

“I can’t take this.”

Autumn reached out and pushed the candle away from herself. Just the brief touch made her feel like she might throw up.

“Of course you can.” Zanele pushed the candle back. “I’m giving it to you.”

Autumn’s eyes shot up to Zanele’s. She stared, wide eyed. “Is this even… legal?”

“I might be treading some fine lines but, “ Zanele shrugged. “This is for your Affinity, I don’t think anyone would object.” She leaned in close then, a spark of laughter back in her eyes. “Just don’t light it in a graveyard. You might wake up the inhabitants and then we will be in trouble.”

Autumn’s eyes went wide. “It can do that?”

Zanele pushed away from the counter, she laughed. “Not without a very elaborate spell, it can’t.”

Autumn was not convinced. She stared at the candle, horror plain on her face. Zanele spoke softly.

“It’s fine, Autumn. Light it, focus on your core. The only thing that will awaken is your Affinity. I promise you that.” She pressed her shirt straight. “But I do need to get going. Message me if you need to talk more, okay?”

“Okay.”

Return

Dust lay thick on the furniture. Spots of sun leaked through the worn curtains. Somewhere, a rodent skittered away on clawed feet. Kayla stood in the middle of the living room and sighed. She wasn’t sure why she had come. She had given so many years to this place, to the waiting. It hadn’t given back, yet she couldn’t help but feel guilty for having abandoned it.
Kayla stepped around the couch and into the kitchen. Her breath caught in her throat as her hand grabbed toward the nearest wall. She swayed on the spot, fighting against what her eyes saw but her brain refused to believe. Standing beside the antique stove was her sister. Her twin sister. Gone was the unsure teenager who Kayla remembered. In her place stood a confident woman with beaded dreadlocks gathered atop her head and a hand resting easy on a solid fighting staff. The strangeness was still there. That haunting way she tilted her head as if listening to something a million miles away. The way her eyes looked glossed over yet swam with swirling clouds. And the voice, as if speaking from another place:
“Kayla. I have been waiting for you.”
Kayla didn’t know if she should laugh or cry or scream.
“Waiting for me? You’ve been waiting for me?” She shook her head. “I waited for you. For six years, Ruta, I waited.”
Ruta closed her eyes and lifted her chin, catching a breeze that wasn’t there. No, that wasn’t here. How easy it was to watch her sister drift between two worlds and feel that anger rise again, anger at not being given the same gifts as her twin.
Anger at being normal.
Kayla thought she had moved past all of that, but this shock and storm of emotions thrust her back into childhood. She knew how hard it had been on Ruta -she had watched her sister struggle with even the most mundane of tasks- and still Kayla had wanted to be the one that was different.
Ruta came back to the room. Her eyes focused on Kayla. Ruta didn’t look like she struggled with things anymore. Ruta didn’t look like someone who saw her gifts as a disability anymore.
“Why did you stop waiting?”
It wasn’t an accusation; just curiosity. Kayla let her body slide down the wall. Her eyes stared at nothing.
“I lost hope. I started to believe mom was right. You had to be dead.”
“I was dead. I will be dead again. We are all trapped in the cycle of life and death. Living is just unbecoming and reconstructing. Death and rebirth. You die too. We all do.”
Kayla looked long and hard at her twin. Ruta was right. Kayla could not find even a spark of the teenage rebel she had once been: a young girl willing to take any risk just to be different, to feel different. That girl had died.
Kayla could feel herself dying again. A cycle of unbecoming and becoming again.

Behind the Scenes

I’m just in with a quick update on the things I’ve been busy with, primarily in the vein of “how not to do things!”

I am excitably working toward a tutorial series on concrete sculpture, but to do that, I first need to remember how to do it properly.  Aha! Also, I need to work out the intricacies of recording process. I’m having some success on that front, but also plently of failures. I’m learning how to edit video. Next on the list will be audio.

In the meantime, I am getting plenty of “What not to do” footage and it will totally add to the  completeness of the series so we can pretend I did it on purpose. 😉

A quick, visual journey of my activities:

 

Let us begin with a snapshot from the art of plaster moulds:

 

 

Hark! A tub of curing concrete scuplts! Note all the bugs and leaves that have fallen in. Also the strange surface floaty bits that I have, without any scientific backing whatsoever, decided must be related to the petroleum jelly used as a release agent. I am probably wrong.

cof

 

This, a small concrete sculpture that broke on demoulding because I got the cement to aggregate ratio wrong.  Ah, relearning you old fiend!

 

cof

 

And this, a giant pile of clay scraped from the depths of this one piece mould that really would work better as a two piece mould, but here we are!

 

cof

 

And Finally, a lovely demonstration of myself working on the part of the sculpture that’s facing AWAY from the camera. Also see: Wobble because I’m hitting the charging cable.

 

Hogwarts Portrait WIP Update

 

Do you know what makes me happy? Painting! Painting makes me happy! All that smooshy wooshy messy turpentine smelly gloriousness that is Painting Makes. Me. Happy.

I should totally do more of it. 😛

Here are some progress shots from my Hogwarts Alumni Portrait. Still got a fair bit to go on it, and I’ve made some ridiculous errors (see weird blue section at bottom of robe) but I am super duper happy with the progress thus far.