Techniques and Tutorials

Mid-Century Modern Tea Party – Butterflies

I’m back with another mid-century modern spring illustrations tutorial! Moving on to my next teacup, today I’m doing butterflies. Similar to my last tutorial, you can create any of these designs the same way on paper with any drawing or painting materials you may have on hand. If painting on glass, keep in mind you will need multiple coats if you want solid coverage, but you may also like the transparency – it’s up to you. To keep your designs permanent, they need to be heated in a conventional oven. Put glass pieces in a cold oven, then set to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and LEAVE the glass in the oven until completely cooled down.

For this design, you are going to start with 4 teardrop shapes for your butterfly wings. The top 2 should be tilted at a downward diagonal, and the bottom 2 at an upward diagonal. Try to smooth out your paint as flat and even as possible, spreading out any “globs”. I used a flat brush rather than a round, pointed brush to achieve more even coverage. For the flowers, add some upward facing bell or “cup” shapes at different heights. Once the orange dried on my butterfly wings, I chose to streak some yellow over as well with a smaller round brush.

Next, I added some accents over my solid shapes in white. I painted a smaller identical teardrop shape inside each of my wings. I also added an elongated almond shape to the top of each of my bells which will be the opening of each flower.

I also added the leaves by painting green teardrop shapes tilting diagonally upward centered under each of my flower heads. I dipped the opposite end of my paintbrush in paint and stamped dots down the center of each leaf as an added decoration.

The last addition after the leaves was a small orange diamond in between the bottom butterfly wings. This will start the body. The rest of the body will be added with line work.

Next, I added one more set of teardrop shapes inside the white on the wings in yellow. I also used a fine detail brush to add yellow stripes across the small diamond shape in between my wings.

Last is the line work that brings everything together and makes it pop. For this part, you can either use a black paint marker or a small detail brush with a pointed tip. Outline Your outer bell shape, white flower opening, and leaves.  Add a line connecting the flower head to the leaves. To finish the flower, I then used the tip of my brush and a light touch, hardly pressing on the surface, to add 4 streaks radiating up from the base of the flower head. I also added 5-6 short lines inside each flower opening, and then used the opposite end of my brush to stamp tiny dots on the end of each of these lines on the inside of the flower.  For the butterfly, I outlined each teardrop shape that make up the wings, as well as the small diamond shape.

The last detail was adding a line down the center of the wings, with two curved antennae branching off at the top. 

It’s amazing what you can do with simple shapes! I will be doing 4 designs in all with different flowers and insects, check back for more! The final set will be available for sale in Express Yourself Artshop’s Virtual Gallery, an ongoing fundraiser for the arts and wellness program I direct.

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New Work

New Work Inspired By Spring (and Stress)

I’ve taken a short break from my new series to work on a stand alone project for a competition coming up. I always have a couple sketchbooks going filled with any ideas for art projects that I’ve thought up over the past 10+ years, some I’ve gotten to and some I haven’t. I think it’s the fact that I live in Michigan and the winter has been never ending that made me want to work on something inspired by plants, insects, and basically signs of life. When I began this project, I had also been having a bit of a rough patch emotionally with some minor life trials, nothing vast on their own but when all occurring at the same time… yikes. I had done a watercolor sketch way back in 2008 of a crying woman with ladybugs crawling our of her eyes, but it ended up looking way too gross which took away from the original intent. Another previous piece (Seriously, check it out if you haven’t already – it has a fun story.) from more recently incorporating butterfly designs into the human form had been well received when showed at a curated exhibit and to my surprise actually ended up selling right away. With this in the back of my mind, I decided torn butterfly wings were the perfect vehicle for melancholia – not so creepy crawly.

From this creative soup came my newest piece, Torn, on 18×24 mixed media paper.

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One of the biggest challenges with this piece was maintaining a balance of light and dark and achieving the bold contrast I knew I wanted without the figure looking disjointed. The white outlined pattern taken from both the background’s ginkgo leaves and butterfly designs layered overtop the black watercolor drip of her torso helped to blend the dark areas into the light and remove some of the heaviness. I included pieces of stark black scattered throughout the piece to balance everything out, from the hair and parts of the wings to the thin branches in the background.

butterfly shirtAn additional challenge – my two loves are watercolor and colored pencil, and I especially love to utilize these two vastly different mediums together. What paper to use, though? Colored pencils just cannot blend on watercolor paper with the strongly textured, bumpy surface so I tend to opt for mixed media paper when using wet and dry mediums together. However, watercolor does not  act the same way on mixed media paper as on traditional watercolor paper. Doing wet-on-wet color application leads to some really blotchy, unpleasant results so I had to be patient and do a lot more light layering to build up to the look I wanted.

All in all, I am happy with the result and enjoyed turning one of my concepts in idea purgatory into a reality :). Prints of all types are available in both my Redbubble Shop and Ebay Store.

 

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New Work

New Work! (In Which I Present Probably The Cheeriest Art I’ve Ever Done)

Hey all! I recently finished the 4th piece I’ve added to my current 12 part series. Each piece represents a month of the calendar, and this one is June so it would actually be installment 6 but I’ve skipped around a bit. To catch up new comers, I am working on a series of 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. I give you, June: She Is Constantly Evolving.

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I think this is quite literally the happiest piece I’ve ever completed – There’s even a puppy … that is unreal. I mean, a couple years ago I actually was told by the manager of a local restaurant that I had to remove a couple of pieces from a show I’d hung there because they were afraid it might send patrons spiraling into depression. You’re not a real artist if your art has never been ousted from anywhere, or so I’m told. Not that everything I make is gloom and doom, but to have butterflies, puppies, flowers, smiling with teeth, and cotton candy clouds all together in one piece is not usually my jam. All of my work centers around people’s inner worlds, and sometimes confronts difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Even my pieces that convey overt happiness usually have some sort of edge or oddity to them.

I remember meeting my blindly assigned roommate in college for the first time. Once she found out I was an artist, she wanted me to do some large paintings for the common room, but “They have to be cute! Not scary!” Apparently she thought I was some sort of dark , twisted soul, which is quite funny as I had Sanrio posters all over my bedroom and Bart Simpson print pj’s for god’s sake. (I was to find out later that until we became friends she was afraid to put out any of her Hello Kitty themed toiletries in our shared bathroom, and also only watched America’s Next Top Model in secret when I wasn’t home for fear of my scorn.) To fulfill the cute requirement, I made a painting of a girl holding her kitten surrounded by retro, colorful power flowers. But … I gave the kitten purple dragon wings.

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This is so Museum Of Bad Art worthy in the most hilarious way, that I’m actually saddened I tossed it. It’s one of those compositions that is so bad it goes right past bad and back to good again.

All this to say, this is a rare piece to be one that conveys nothing but pure, unadulterated joy and exhilaration. It’s ironic that I created this at a time when joy and exhilaration were about the two farthest things from my mind. As seems to be the general consensus, 2016 has been more than a little trying, and it sure decided to go out with a bang in November and December.

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This piece is about transformation, as symbolized by the presence of butterflies, and maybe it was the idea that change is certainly most appealing during the most wearing of times, mixed with a bit of my love of holidays that makes it impossible for me to stay cranky around Christmastime. Either way, this piece speaks not to who we are right now but who we wish to be, and reminds us that nothing is permanent, and that sometimes that isn’t a bad thing.

See this design and more in my Redbubble Shop.

 

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New Work

Be My Eyes

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This newly finished mixed media piece, titled “Be My Eyes”, continues along a similar theme to my last piece. I love how it turned out, but I must admit this is one of the first works in awhile that was not buckets of fun throughout the entire process. I’m lucky in that I don’t get incredibly angry with my art much anymore. Like any relationship, if things aren’t working, I can say hey, I think we need to give each other some personal space, and leave it alone for awhile and work on something else. However, this one had a quickly approaching deadline for an all-area Michigan show I wanted to enter it into, so I didn’t have that luxury. It may be freaking gorgeous, but filling in all those detailed little butterflies was a chore. Like, I almost considered taking a break from working on art at one point to go clean my kitchen – that’s how bad it was. Cleaning my kitchen was a reprieve. What’s that about blood, sweat, and tears?

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After doing the basic outline lightly in pencil, I started filling in the figure from the top down. I broke my own guideline that I always give my students about starting with the background first, mainly because to be absolutely honest, I had no clue what to do with the background yet. The hair was so swirly, and fun, and free, and so the opposite of those technical, detailed little insects. I used prismacolor pencil for the face and skin, watercolor for everything else. I made some commitment to a background by dripping orange, gold, and magenta watercolor over it – similar colors to what were used in the hair. After this, my work of art temporarily looked like a 70s album cover. The photos don’t do it justice, the colors were BRIGHT.

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After that, I went back to ignoring the background because I still had no idea what to do with it, and finished the central figure. Rules in art really are just suggestions ;). I had known from the beginning that this piece required metallic gold somewhere, and the background now seemed just the place to put it. Huzzah to dulling all those bright Barbie Dreamhouse colors! I needed to break it up with some texture, so I used a crumpled paper towel to apply the first layer of gold, but it just didn’t do it. It was reminding me of a faux finish accent wall circa 1995. In a surprisingly impulsive move (Even in art, I am so not an impulsive person.), I squirted gobs of paint right on the background, and used a toothpick to marble the colors together. I have the technique down because of how many times I’ve made these nutella brownies. Seriously, same technique to marble the nutella and peanut butter. To lighten this now very dark background (Art is always such a Goldilocks situation.), I used white watercolor and added designs of blown up butterfly wing patterns over top. The finishing touch was the gluing the bunched lace over the dress, and voila!

The reason I’ve included this 100% honest rendition of this piece’s birthing process (including the part about my background being inspired by delicious baked goods) is because I’ve learned one thing from all the different students I work with, and it is this: They think artists always know what they are doing, have an exact plan in their head, and that their piece turns out just precisely how they imagined it in the end, and that real artists never get stuck or doubt what they are doing. This is absolutely not true. Everyone’s art looks completely wonky until it is all the way finished. It’s part of the process. When art is in progress, it’s awkward looking, we don’t always know what we are going to do next, and we don’t always enjoy every single step of the process. And that’s ok. If your art is easy, you probably aren’t pushing yourself enough, or being as creative as you could be.

I haven’t talked much about the meaning behind this piece, because I want to hear what you think. This image could definitely be open to innumerable interpretations, and that is one of the most fun things. What does it say to you?

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