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Shamblewood

Notes from an artist

Inktober is upon us!

Here are the first of this year’s Inktober drawings. This post is a bit image-heavy, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Ink drawing of a young man captured in headphone wire
“Podcast: Binding.” Be careful, little ears, what you hear.

The above is a bit of a play on words. The word “podcast” refers to a particular kind of downloadable audio file, but the word “cast” is reminiscent of enchantment. Media can be good, but it can also cast a spell of manipulation on the consumer if he isn’t careful. This piece and King of the Ruminants shown below are not only the beginning of Inktober2015 for me; they are also my first Artist’s Trading Cards. Let me know in the comments, via homing pigeon, or smoke signals if you are interested in a trade, and maybe we can arrange something.

Imaginative ink drawing of a bison
King of the Ruminants. 2.5″x3.5″ (inches)

Ink drawing of an owlman.Baby MeerkatHeadshot Inktober2015

Master Study of
Master study of “Man in a Gold Hat,” a painting once attributed to Rembrandt.

I don’t have much experience in pointilism, but I enjoyed the process on this piece, though its tedium did try my patience. I wanted to practice differences in value with ink alone, and I found this for a master work to study. Surprisingly, I found that it’s attribution to Rembrandt is in question and much doubted.

Ink sketch of a DogAs usual, critique strongly requested! Also welcome would be suggestions for future Inktober drawings or links to your own inktober pieces in the comments.

Tune in next time for civil rights demonstration and the meaning of the word MOTSY + more of what I so audaciously label art!

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S is for Snapshots of September from my Sketchbook

Here are a few selections from my sketchbook from this September.Animal StudiesI definitely recommend SalsolaStock.deviantart.com for reference, but I always use an adblocker when I visit the website. The Larousse Encyclopedia of the Animal World is also a very useful resource for practice, but the photos aren’t stock. Portrait of a girl Elf Babies September16 Years Old

Many thanks to my brother for modeling for the above portrait.

Coming up next: the first week of the Inktober challenge and Artist Trading Cards!

Moon Shadow

I was listening to some fun music in my head about shadows and the moon the other day, including this old goodie by Cat Stevens.

I imagined a cheerful scene of a person strutting through a moonlit forest arm-in-arm with his shadow. But the shadow started to break the rules a bit. It wasn’t content to stay opposite the light-source, and took a decidedly sinister turn.

Pencil and ink drawing of the moon, a boy, and a sinister shadow that doesn't belong to him

Don’t worry, though. Everyone knows you can trust friends you make in the woods. Just ask Little Red Riding Hood.

Credit where credit is due: the Little Genius (eight-year-old sister) helped ink in the sky. The media are HB pencil, black Sharpie® , a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen (Black 199***) B, and an old very fine tip pen that just says “0.2.” I did a little digital touching-up as well.

I was honestly disappointed that no-one gave me any funny looks as I pantomimed monster-claw-hands in the college hallway for reference. Speaking of reference, I used a video of a professional runner for anatomy reference on the boy, but now I can’t find it to credit, so thank you, sadly anonymous video people.

Below is WIP scan of the sketch stage just as I started inking.

Sketch/WIP for MoonshadowCritique strongly requested! What do you think? Have you ever had a piece of your artwork go in a happily unexpected direction?

Wet-felted Pencil Pouch

While I have shared my needle-felting with you here, I haven’t yet talked about a form of felting that is much older than needle-felting, but a bit newer for me: Wet-felting. The thin tendrils on Willow Dryad were wet-felted and the wings on Antitheta were partially wet-felted in order to achieve a thinness that I simply couldn’t get with needle-felting.

A while ago I made a pondscape, my first big wet-felting project, for my siblings to play with using a combination of needle and wet felting. The cattails are very floppy after a bit of child-handling, but that doesn’t bother me.Wet and Needlefelted pondscape with cattails

This week I got my hands soapy again for an Autumn-themed pencil pouch.

Autumn Fox pouch: landscape side

Here in Texas, August is hot and humid. We’ve had so many triple-digit Fahrenheit days this summer, by this late in the season it doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. But when I feel a subtle and brief cooling breeze come in my window, it tells me that September is just around the corner, and sending me love-notes to set me on the edge of my seat for his arrival.

Autumn Fox Pouch: fox side

This season between summer and fall gives me such a sense of newness and anticipation! I love school supply shopping: Long sharp pencils, brand-new erasers and notebooks. How gloriously shall doodling and neatness soon collide!

Pouch showing opening

Below is a WIP shot showing the pouch after the wet-felting stage was finished. The fox and trees were needle-felted, while the whiskers and birds were embroidered. I made the fastener out of an old broken leather necklace, using this instructional web page for the knot-button. I used this and this photo of a fox as reference. Because wool shrinks dramatically when felted, I began the piece approximately 12 by 18 inches. The final pouch is around 11 by 3.25 inches when open.
Autumn Fox Pouch WIP

The Dangers of Letting Children Play with Art Dolls

A stroll around the artist alleys of the internet may bring you to some amazing doll makers whose handicrafts bear illustrious titles like “OOAK,” “fully articulated,” or “made with love.” But a close glance at the fine print reveals what may or may not be apparent from the work itself: “not for children under 12 years,” or even “THIS DOLL IS NOT A TOY.” Sometimes the fragile nature of the doll demands such protection, but how could a soft-bodied Waldorf doll that begs to be cuddled be intended only for teens and their seniors? Well, people accustomed to sue over their own mistakes and honest accidents have to be kept off somehow.

So here’s my disclaimer: nothing I make may be considered safe for anybody with a lawyer in his or her back pocket. The State of California might even think they cause cancer.

However, there is a danger in letting children play with art dolls that even the State of California hasn’t anticipated, and a danger to the artist at that.

The children might know more about the artwork than the artist does.

Take my eight year old sister for example.

The other day I let her play with a few of my “felties,” as the two of us call them. She began arranging them in family groups and acting out some tense character-driven interactions. Apparently Old Man of the Woods has a strong emotional attachment to his hat, and Dancer and Dreamer are married with a daughter. How could I not know this?! There was one development, however, that I could not easily accept. My little sister told me that my intentionally female Willow Dryad is a male. Can you hear the brakes screeching in my brain at those words? A close look at the dryad’s face revealed that her impression made senseand I remembered that she wasn’t the first person to get that impression.

Mandatory family portrait staged by the little genius
Mandatory family portrait staged by the Little Genius

Anytime we artists share our work –our demi-children– with the world, we take a great risk. If our work affects the audience strongly, they will take it for their own and develop ideas about it that go beyond our original intentions and understanding. We must surrender ownership; though rights we retain, we cannot control our artwork once it enters the senses of other human beings. Art is both a communication of an artist’s ideas and an opportunity for the watcher or listener to develop ideas of his own. Art is not only a medium of expression, but a real thing for the audience to encounter and potentially a muse of inspiration.

But what about when our audiences’ interpretations don’t merely grow our work, but actually contradict our intentions? This does not expand the artwork’s purpose, but violates it. It seems to me that there are two possible causes. Either the audience isn’t very perceptive, or the work isn’t very communicative. In the case of my dryad sculpture, it was the latter. I tried, but failed to communicate my ideas of my dryad’s character. Chalk it up to experience, I guess.

How about you? Has your work ever come across wrong?

For the budding horticulturist in need of a challenge…

I have a sister with a plant hobby. She loves sprouting seeds and lining up fruit trees on the window sill. A short conversation we had about this and a certain talking tree-person from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (which I have not seen and she had) got the wool in my head to begin matting into shape. Thanks to her role as muse, I can now introduce the charming Antitheta.

Potted flower with an attitude

Well, maybe charming is the wrong word.

Antitheta

But wouldn’t you be cross if your diplomatic duties stuck you in a pot on an unpleasant planet with only houseplants for decent company? When she first arrived, she was mistaken for a dumb and witless orchid! Can you imagine the indignity!!? Add that to the fact that her companions still haven’t awakened from their traveling hibernation and you have one heck of a first impression of our society. So much for interplanetary relations.Fighting spiritOnce again, this sculpture is fully poseable due to a chenille stick (read: pipe cleaner) armature running from head to taproot tip and through the arms. Counting the pot, she is just shy of 8 inches tall, about 20 cm for you metric folks. The photos of Antitheta here are courtesy of my darling mother, as her enigmatic camera refused to behave for me.

Honestly, I am a bit disappointed with the level of detail I was able to achieve on this scale, which brings me to my next project. It will be a mixed-media bust when I’m through, but right now all I’m sharing is this.

Needle-felted head

My littlest sister hates the skull stage, but I like it. The stage between eyeballs and eyelids, on the other hand, gives me a tense kind of horrific fascination. Have you ever stopped and thanked your maker for giving you eyelids? If you felted with me, you would find great reason to. I always look forward to getting past the eyelids. This piece is definitely a long-term project, but I’m planning some smaller pieces interspersed in the mean time, so this blog will be far from silent.

Meet Giacomo

Meet Giacomo.

Seated male Autumn faerie waving
Meet Giacomo

This handmade doll is 5.5 inches tall with a wingspan of 7.75 inches and is fully poseable.

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While this post is months overdue, Giacomo doesn’t seem to have minded the delay. I imagine his real-life friends content him. The old dry pear dryads think him the bee’s knees and I’m told he is very popular among the thicket sprites.

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The wool fleece I used in this piece was very pleasant to work with. I found it in an upstairs corner of The Juniper Tree store, a little Waldorf school supply shop in Austin, Texas on a road-trip with my Mom. I almost didn’t make it past the books, paper, and toys to the wool upstairs, but I’m glad I did. The shop website can be found here: https://junipertreehouse.wordpress.com/

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I’ve found many recommendations for using fine wool roving for needle-felting, but I think I actually prefer working with this coarser stuff, as its contrary-arranged fibers matt easily.

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