Monday, October 26, 2015

Learning Woodburning (Pyrography)

Really, it's more like Pyrography 067: Remedial Woodburning. I'm a novice. I was gifted this woodburner last year for Christmas and I'm only just now trying it out. I thought I'd share my experience with everyone so they can decide if it's the kind of thing they'd like to try out too.

I have an inexpensive wood burner with 4 different tips. My first step towards figuring this whole thing out was trying each of the tips out. I grabbed a pine board from our scrap pile (this one is actually a breaking board from my husband's TKD stash...already broken in half).

This first angle tip was good at making fine straight lines, but not much else. It didn't work well for curves at all.

The tips just screw in to the tool. I used a potholder to hold my tips while working and a pliers to swap them out. The directions say to let the tool cool when you change tips, but they unscrew more easily when they are warm, so just be careful. The second tip I tried out was this cone shaped tip. It was like night and day compared to the angle tip and made a much smoother line that curved much more easily. It was still a fairly fine line, but was much easier to use.

Then I swapped it out for this round tip. It created perfect circles and a fatter line. It moved fairly smoothly over the wood.

The last tip is this shading tip that's shaped like a leaf. It works perfectly for stamping on leaf shapes, and sort of works for making lines. It's designed for filling in larger areas, but I'm not sure how well it would do at that.

After I tried out all of the tips, I grabbed an inexpensive wooden plaque (I think I picked this one up at Wal-mart). It's pretty thin, so I put it on a cork trivet to keep it from sliding around and to protect my table. One of the benefits of working on this plaque for my first project is that it has a pretty tight and smooth grain. The wood grain on the pine board had the heat tool skipping all over the place. Be sure to keep your scrap wood out when you start a project so that you can test to see how hot your tool has gotten before you start burning.

I sketched a simple design out with pencil and then started burning. I found out not to use a pencil with a dark eraser. The bits of  dark eraser got stuck in the wood grain. I started by burning with the shading tip. I stamped on each of the leaves and then flipped the tool around to create the petals on the flowers. I stamped three times to create the tulip.

Then I went over the rest of my lines with the cone shaped tip and made them thicker with the round tip. It's an interesting medium to work with--it's not very forgiving. Once you make a mistake, you just have to work around it or cover over it. If you're the patient sort, you'll probably do better with your first stab at this than I did.

When I was finished, I used a white eraser to remove any extra pencil lines, and then I used some fine grit sandpaper to remove any pencil that was missed and smooth out the surface a bit. It's not perfect, but it's my first wood burning project, and I'm sure there will be more!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Watercolor Painting: Blue Jay

Time for another watercolor painting! I have painted two butterflies from photographs I found on google, this time I'm painting a blue jay. As a reminder if you haven't been following my blog, I started painting with watercolors this summer and have been teaching myself various techniques via the internet and lots of practice (so I'm a beginner). 

I sketched out the bird and the branch, but not much else on this one. I figured I'd wing (pun intended) the background as I went.

As you can see in the painting above, I wetted down the background and laid down some color. In the first pass of the background, the crabapple blossom areas are purple, I changed them to a pinker shade as I worked on the background. I also ended up removing the branch on the right. It left the painting a bit off balance, but I didn't like the angle the branch was coming out at. Every layer of paint, brought the colors closer to what I wanted them--that's one of my favorite features of watercolor painting--that you can layer and remove paint to reach the effect you'd like.

My biggest challenge with this painting was the crabapple blossoms. I couldn't seem to get them to look right, even in the watercolor-y out of focus way. After lots of detail work, I ended up very satisfied with the bird, and I'll probably crop some of the right side of the photo off if/when I frame it since it ended up as just a blank area.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Painting Ceramic Tiles with Alcohol Ink

I recently ordered some water pens and wanted to try one out with rubbing alcohol in it to paint with alcohol inks. I've dripped and blown and stamped alcohol ink on just about everything I could think of, so I wanted to try out painting. I grabbed a couple 4x4 ceramic tiles (as they are cheaper than glossy card stock and Yupo to practice on--and they are easy to wipe off with a paper towel and some rubbing alcohol if you don't like what you've done), a plastic palette, my craft mat, and my alcohol inks and got to work.

I filled my medium water pen with alcohol ink and dripped several colors of alcohol ink onto the palette. You only need a couple of drops to make a painting. Just like painting with watercolors, if you end up not using some of your ink, you can re-wet it with alcohol later--so there's no waste. After figuring out how the brush painted, I filled one of the reservoirs on my palette with alcohol ink for cleaning off the brush between colors. I also used a napkin to wipe the brush off.

I opted for a simple reflected sunset for my first project. Start with a wide stripe of yellow (sunshine yellow).

Then a stripe of orange (sunset orange) on either side of your yellow. Overlap the colors a bit so that they mix.

Then a stripe of red (watermelon) on either side of the orange.

Next is purple (purple twilight) on either side of the red.

And then I finished off with some blue (sail boat blue).

Then I came back with some of the colors or even an clean brush to drag lines across the tile and mix the colors a bit more. Then I finished off with a thinned down yellow to create a sun.

I made a couple of these sunset tiles. When I was done, I sprayed them with some clear acrylic sealer. The sealer did create a fine mist on the tile, so hold it far away from the tile when you spray. This was a really fun project, and I can't wait to get better at painting with alcohol inks. I hope to create some more complicated projects in the future.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Watercolor Butterfly from Photograph Take 2

After a brief break from painting, I'm back at it. I decided I liked the first butterfly painting I did so much, that I'd try it again so that I could hang a pair up on my wall.

I googled "butterfly on a flower" again and waded through the images. This time I wanted one that was facing the opposite direction. I also wanted one that had a nice contrast of colors. I picked the above photo. Then I sketched it out onto my watercolor paper.

After I had the sketch, I wetted my paper down to do my background. I did not wet the flowers or the butterfly on my first pass. Then I watered down some green (and a little brown) and yellow paints and got started blotting it on. In the original photo there are these almost purple/brown fern-like leaves in the background, but try as I might, I couldn't get that to look right. I mixed up more green paint to go over it. I also blotted off areas that I didn't care for with a napkin and then painted green over it. When I was mostly done with the background, I put some yellow onto my flowers as a base color.

Next I layered on greens for the stems and darker shades of yellow to add dimension to the petals on the flowers. I started out with a much more orange shade of yellow than I should have. I didn't have a lemon yellow at the time, so I made do. Then I filled in the butterfly with blue and black to get a base color started.

I continued to layer on my colors in the background and on the butterfly. Trying to paint dark colors with watercolor paints is a bit tricky. So the butterfly starts to look kind of weird from this point on. I was a bit discouraged, but I kept going.

As I finished up the detail work with the black and blue, I also added in white to fill in the highlights. It started looking more like the photo, so I kept going with the highlights and added them to the petals on the flower too.

I really hated this one until I was almost completely finished with it. The detail work made a huge difference.

In the end, it turned out to be a fitting pair for my other butterfly painting.