Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I love to post animated fireworks each New Years Eve but I could find nothing this year on the 'net that wouldn't give my visitors and myself seizures so I went with this lovely wallpaper. I want to thank everyone for supporting me and my art this past year. You are the juice that keeps me going. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Faux Batik Xmas

Occasionally I will paint individual cards for Xmas. I find them labor intensive so I have to be in the mood and this year I'm in the mood. I decided to stick with my alcohol ink batik technique for a welcome change. These are not folding cards so I've used Yupo as my backing substrate. I'll be writing my message on the back of each card with Micron pen so they will need a coat of Krylon spray varnish to eliminate any smearing. I could not find my white fluid acrylic paint to create the snowy candy canes so I used White-out. It worked great but I had a devil of a time washing it out of my spatter brush. Here are a couple of my faves.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pecking Order ~ complete

I mounted this on 144# Yupo two days ago but had to wait to get a photograph. The weather finally broke long enough to allow me to capture a decent photo of this piece. I took it outside today on a bright hazy, 5 degree F day...perfect for photographing art. Well, the temp wasn't perfect but tolerable and the lighting couldn't have been better. I added a digital 'frame' with my photo editor. The final dimensions are approx. 11" x 18". Hope you like!

Note: My photo reference was courtesy of Sharon Whitley on Paint My Photo.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pecking Order ~ WIP 3

Sorry for yet another bad image. Between our dark days and the shine of the alcohol inks I'm having a devil of a time photographing this piece. Suffice it to say, it looks a whole lot better IRL. I'm just about ready to mount this on Yupo and give it a few coats of varnish but I thought I'd post it at this stage to show how it looks before I work out the puffiness with a brayer. I like that quilted effect for some subjects but not this one. I'll be using Mod Podge to adhere it to the Yupo. Mod Podge works very well because it stays tacky long enough to make adjustments before it dries.

I just noticed I may have missed a toe on one of the roosters. I also have a few areas that need to be lifted (colors that bled or accidently landed in the wrong spot). Hopefully I'll be able to take care of that with a Q-tip and blending solution.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Pecking Order ~ WIP 2

With flash
Without flash

I'm trying to spend just a few hours at a time working on this to avoid breathing too many fumes but it's really difficult when I get in the zone. I've got the chickens finished but it's hard to tell from these images. I tried photographing twice, once with and once without flash and got varying results, neither of which turned out well. I used Ranger's Pearl mixative on the white chickens and the flash lit the ink up like crazy because this particular ink contains iridescent particles. Without flash the painting looks dull but the quilted effect from the waxed paper is less apparent. I decided I'm going to post both images because with all these gloomy days(and no sun predicted in the foreseeable future) I doubt I'll be able to do better before the painting is done.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Pecking Order ~ WIP 1

'Pecking Order' is my working title for now. At least until I can come up with something better. My photo reference came from Sharon Whitley on PMP. This will be the largest faux batik I've done to date. I don't have the final measurements but will post them later. I took a quick photo when the clouds tried to part for a moment but the image could be better.

Instead of India ink I've used walnut ink to prime my waxed paper before applying the alcohol inks. Walnut ink tones the entire surface a nice shade of sepia and I love that look for certain subjects. FYI, for anyone that wants to try my faux batik technique , any shade of India type ink can be used. Because there is so much small detail in this drawing I taped my drawing directly under the waxed paper so all the lines would be visible, then added a layer of clear plastic wrap between the drawing and the waxed paper. There will be bleed through when the alcohol ink goes on and I wanted to protect my drawing. I've been battling lung issues more so than usual lately so I hope this comes together nicely and I tolerate the fumes well. We'll see.

Friday, November 15, 2013

'Sweet Tea' Goes Home


For those that follow my blog you may remember a challenging commission I took on last year titled 'Sweet Tea' . This past September the client was finally able to make the trip up north to take possession of the finished piece and I'm thrilled to report she was very happy with the results. Until then we had only communicated via phone and email so it was fun to have a true face to face with her and enjoy a good chat. Btw, this painting started life as 'Precious' but the sisters, who are all represented as children in the family portrait, actually held a title contest amongst themselves and it was changed to 'Sweet Tea'.

The painting was originally designed to hang in her Michigan home but because she and her husband winter in Florida they took it with them and she recently sent me photos of it framed and hanging in her Florida bedroom. What a nice surprise that the palette I chose goes so well with the southern décor, too! A few days ago I had a chance to talk to Marie, one of the eight sisters and an artist herself. (she's the one holding the paint brush in the painting) We had a wonderful chat and she also loves the painting. I'm awaiting the approval of only six more sisters.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mighty Mack ~ complete

I finished this up yesterday but found myself futzing around with it today until I told myself to "stop it, Billie!" I can't say I'm not glad it's done, though. I will see straight lines in my nightmares probably for weeks.

I was really impressed with neutral tint while painting the bridge. The tower is mostly neutral tint and it created a lovely rich black that was easy to lift and move with a damp brush. Up until now I'd only used it to mix with various colors to lower their chroma without changing the hue. Now I know it can stand on it's own and do it well. It still came in handy to desaturate the 'orange blossom' in the lower left corner while still allowing it to glow. I think the painting truly came to life when I added the white gouache highlights to the suspension cables on the right. So here it Mighty Mack, silhouetted against a stormy sky! I hope it looks as foreboding as it does IRL.                                            

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Mighty Mack ~ WIP 3

Latest update. I'm making progress slowly but surely. What I'm really glad about is the suspension cables. They don't look like writhing snakes(thankfully). I'm getting more confident with my brush strokes by working on this project, too. It's so dark and gloomy here I finally had to turn the lights on at 3:30pm so I took this photo with flash. Wow, does flash make every little flaw become glaring or what?! Anyhoo, I hope to have this completed in a few days. Does it look intimidating yet? I'm hoping ultimately to achieve 'foreboding'.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Mighty Mack ~ WIP 2

Sorry I've fallen off the grid for so long. It's been a tough month and I simply haven't felt like painting. I finally got back to this one a few days ago and I've been working on it a bit at a time. I must confess, all those straight lines are intimidating to me. I'm used to working with organic shapes and because I'm not confident creating such linear work I can feel my hand shaking the moment I pick up a brush. This is how a yardstick and watercolor pencils have become my new best friends.

I created the stormy sky with a mop brush, straight Ivory Black watercolor and lots of water. I didn't mix my own black on purpose because I wanted to blend the cadmium yellow portion of my sky into the storm clouds and didn't want to chance accidently producing some funky secondary colors. It can me. I used an Ivory Black watercolor pencil to add the suspension cables. I haven't smoothed out the watercolor pencil lines with water yet but that will come next. I'm using neutral tint to rough in the shadows which still need more depth and of course, the tower structure needs paint as well. I plan to use white gouache to add highlights to the cables and I still have to find a fairly accurate match to the blue of the guard rails. The final hurdle will be recreating the lens flare on the top left of the tower.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gizmo ~ 1995-2013

Yesterday I lost my last kitty, Gizmo to old age and illness and the house feels so strange now. No little furry 'people' to welcome me home and cuddle with me at night. I'm cat-less after almost 20 years and it's going to take me some time to get used to this new situation. I've only begun to grieve and I know it hasn't fully sunk in yet. I'm still stepping over food and water dishes that are no longer there and looking down when I'm cooking to make sure I don't step on the tails of little 'beggars' looking for a snack.

Gizmo was the youngest and the last to join my feline family. When I first saw her she was all huge eyes and big ears peering out of a little black ball of frizzy fur. We named her Gizmo after the Mowgli in the movie Gremlins because she looked so much like that character. She was shy, skittish, very sweet and that girl was quick on her feet! None of the other cats stood a chance of catching her if she didn't want to be caught. My Raven wasn't too happy about Gizmo coming to live with us but the two girls struck an uneasy peace over the years. Digby was more accepting and Gizmo adored him. When they were about a year old the grizzled old tomcat that lived several doors down came lurking and had cornered Digby on my porch, growling with mayhem on his mind. I heard the commotion and went to see what was happening. Digby was terrified and I wasn't sure quite what to do. Suddenly I saw a little black blur come from the back of the porch and Gizmo landed squarely on the old tomcat's back. The tomcat was as surprised as I was and he took off, squeezing through the porch railings and getting stuck in the process. That old tomcat left a lot of fur behind by the time he freed himself but he never came near my yard again...ever. Digby was left unscathed and Gizmo was the hero of the day. It was doubly surprising because Gizmo was normally so timid and I think she even surprised herself! I'm really gonna miss that little girl.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Mighty Mac ~ sketch

The sketch
I'm not sure how much detail I will include
 in the final painting. Better to have more detail
available than I will need than not enough. I can
edit easier than add. Notice I lowered the horizon
line in the background in the lower left.
Cecile Graven made that suggestion & I think it works. 
This is the altered image enlarged to 15" x 23".
 Notice the dark area in the upper right(storm clouds?)
 I love the lens flare in the upper left and the brilliant
patches of light which creates a stark contrast to the
silhouette of the tower.

I've been monkeying around with this since my last post. I decided to enlarge the altered image and use that for my drawing. It didn't yield a lot of visual info regarding many details so I had to wing those myself. The enlarged drawing is approx. 15" x 23" but I'd like to take it up to 22" x 33". I sent an email to Framing4Artists requesting a quote on a custom Masonite panel with a cradle depth of 1 1/2" and the price was reasonable considering the cost of matting and framing a piece that size if done on paper. I've never worked on panel before so this would be a new experience for me. It will have to be primed with painters gesso and sanded. Not sure if that's doable for a winter project because I don't have a basement or other appropriate workspace. For now I plan to practice on w/c paper at the current size to get ideas for the final painting on panel.

Btw, one thing the enlarged altered image did provide was an idea for the background. When it printed out the sky in the upper right corner looked like dark storm clouds rolling in from the east and looking (appropriately) ominous. I think I'll also keep the lens flare on the left side of the tower. I like that effect!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

My Mighty Mac

After cropping the greyscaled image I put it into GIMP photo editor
 and played with the perspective to create
 an exaggerated towering effect.
It makes me kind of dizzy looking at this image
 so I think I'm on the right track.
Here I've greyscaled the bridge and cropped the lower portion
The original image

I'm referring to the Mackinac Bridge located exactly 50 miles north of my home. When I was just a kid I loved it when my family traveled across this bridge. With my Dad at the wheel of our '47' Chevy, I would plant myself in the back window looking upward and watch with glee as we passed beneath the huge towers. As an adult this mighty bridge has become mighty scary to me. I'm not sure when this shift occurred. Maybe it was the first time I was allowed to be at the wheel when we crossed. Wind is a huge issue on this bridge and if you're going even a tiny bit too fast you will feel the awful sensation of hydroplaning. I remember feeling like the car wasn't responding the way it should and my instincts told me to speed up and get off the bridge as fast as possible which is absolutely the wrong reaction to the situation. And did I mention, I'm afraid of heights, too? It's taken me years to conquer a 6' ladder and now I'm 199' above a huge body of water with a car that feels like it could careen out of control at any moment. Yea, I think that's when my love affair with the Mighty Mac ended. I'm not alone in my fear either. According to this blogger it's listed as one of the 10 scariest bridges in the world.

To be fair, it's an amazingly beautiful bridge and not responsible for my phobias but my intention is to project my own visceral reactions via a painting of the Mighty Mac. I have one other phobia that I plan to draw upon to create that sense of loss of equilibrium/panic. I also have megalophobia. It's an irrational fear of large objects and, in my case it's a fear of certain gargantuan manmade structures. It only rears it's head when one or more of my other fears is also in play, ie. fear of heights. Julie Christiansen, a wonderful photographer, was kind enough to give me permission to use a few of her bridge photos to use as reference. This will be an ongoing work in progress. By that I mean on again, off again over the coming winter. The painting must be large to convey the emotions and sensations I hope to project.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Mushroom Houses

Today has been one of those amazing autumn days in northern Michigan when the sun is shining and the weather is unseasonably warm. The perfect day to go out and take photos and give the new camera a test run. I chose this opportunity to snap some shots of a few Earl Young 'mushroom houses'. Although many of the homes are surrounded by lots of trees and foliage, most are visible enough to get a sense of their unique architecture. Built from local stone and boulders, each house is also unique in it's own way. Mr. Young was often known for using green mortar when constructing his homes. It resembles moss growing between the stones which adds to the natural esthetic.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Barnyard Gothic ~ faux batik on waxed paper

The CEO is back for an encore. This time he's painted as a faux batik on waxed paper. I replaced the India ink with walnut ink and it toned the waxed paper so well I didn't bother painting a background. I'm not sure where I got the title but it seemed to fit somehow. Maybe because the walnut ink lends an antique affect to the painting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

First Day of Autumn

Okay, so I'm a day late. I was playing with copper leaf and Lumiere metallic acrylics last night and came up with this one so I thought I'd share it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An 'Ah HA!' Moment

I managed to finish my 'Clowder of Cats' sketch but lost interest before I could start painting. It happens sometimes. I'll probably come back to it eventually but in the meantime I had one of those 'ah HA!' moments that makes me wonder why I didn't think of it long ago. I have solved the dilemma of ink painting on metal leaf.

This past summer I posted a couple of small paintings done on copper Simple Leaf. I loved the effect but the paintings were so delicate and scratched easily. Also the copper leaf did not like blending solution. Painting on the silver Simple Leaf was even more difficult and I never managed to create anything worthy of posting. It scratched just by breathing on it, I swear. Then two days ago the solution suddenly came to me. Why not apply the leafing to clear acetate, then paint on the flip side? The leafing would show through but be completely protected. Today I found time to experiment on an acetate display sleeve. First I had to find out if the alcohol ink would move and flow on acetate. Would it withstand rubbing alcohol and blending solution? Yes to both. Then I applied the Simple Leaf to the acetate, flipped it over and created a quick little painting. I even added a bit of line work with a Micron pen. A side note: the Micron pen went on better after the alcohol ink had been applied. I would like to try Krylon workable fixative next time to see what affect that will create. I love it when I have a rare moment of 'smart'.   

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Clowder of Cats ~ composition

I'm currently working on the comp for a new painting. I'm doing it with my usual storyboard technique. Seems there are a few issues to work out such as certain subjects 'kissing'(meaning: barely touching) that don't work for me. I do like the loose, diagonal 'S' flow, though.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A Katydid & a Ladybug

'Ladybug' and we all know one or two.
'Katydid' and she did come to visit me last summer.
 I was fortunate to snap a photo before she went on her way.
It just never came together for me.
My sketch

Not all bright ideas pan out. I worked up a sketch on pad paper that looked like it might work. Alas, it did not. In the process of coming to that conclusion I used up a lot of ink and almost an entire bottle of Ranger blending solution which isn't cheap so I did the next best thing....I cropped it into two separate ink paintings. The original painting was my largest so far being 17" x 12".

I wanted to try out my new Ranger ink colors...Pitch Black and Pesto(green). Pesto behaves much like the rest of the Ranger inks (aside from the mixatives) but Pitch Black is thicker and it takes a lot of blending solution to make it move. From now on it will be used in smaller works until/unless I order more blender. I do love it, though. I works so well to tie the Micron line work into an ink painting, adds wonderful contrast and drama and it truly is pitch black

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chorus Line ~ doodle art

What to do when one is temporarily without inspiration...doodle! Last night I doodled these frogs and the title came to me today.

BTW, I snapped this image with my new camera, a Nikon D3200. My oldest son had heard me complain about trying (and failing) to take sharp, clear photos of my larger paintings with my Canon Powershot S5IS which boasted 8 MP so he went out and bought me the Nikon. I can't complain now because my new Nikon offers 24.2 MP! What?! Thanks, James!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back to School ~ complete

I scanned the completed painting. The colors are still off but better than the photos. There's no green in the painting even though it looks like it on my monitor and the colors are slightly softer.

It took me awhile but I finally finished this. I did a few more pours, then applied liquid masking to some of the fish. The intention was to work on those fish separately after the masking was removed so they wouldn't blend into the background so much. Today I lifted some areas of ink, re-inked various lines, added gold and silver metallic Jacquard Lumiere paint to areas of the fish and also drizzled copper and gold Lumiere throughout the background. I also added a few ink lines with Micron pen to the background to tie it into my COI, the fish. I kept to my original palette of Ranger's Wild Plum, Sunset Orange, Purple Twilight, Watermelon, Peach Bellini and Cool Peri. I like the candy colors!

With masking applied(left) and after removal(right). Sorry for the poor quality images. These colors do not photograph well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back to School ~ WIP 3

First pour
My color trial

A quick update on this project. I'm posting my color trial and the first pour. I managed to do a second pour but it doesn't look like much yet so I'm going to hold off until I receive my supplies. I ran out of a few ink colors and blending solution so had to order more. Lucky for me Tim Holtz is having a sale on ink right now.

I really played with my trial sample. After inking a quick sketch and pouring the alcohol ink I added a few touches with Jacquard's Lumiere metallic acrylic paints...some gold to the fish scales and a few other Lumiere colors to the background. The Lumiere line of paint is a light body acrylic product that comes in some luscious colors. They are similar to fluid acrylics. Slightly thicker than fluid acrylics but still pourable. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to School ~ WIP 2

I just finished transferring my drawing to Yupo and inking all the lines with Micron pen. I had a ton of fun coming up with patterns for the fish. It made me think of the first day back to school for human students, showing off their latest/hippest new duds. I also just sprayed everything with Krylon workable fixative and snapped a photo while it dries. This one is telling me it needs pinks, purples and oranges for a palette. I'll have to do some trials on Yupo scraps before deciding what will work best.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School (fish) ~ sketch

I've started on yet another ink/Yupo project. This time it's a school of imaginary fish. I thought it would be fun to add some Zentangle patterns on the fish in place of scales. The sketch isn't complete yet but it's coming along nicely.

Something I've discovered about myself...I work better when I have the TV on and it's within view. While I don't have to pay attention to what's on I do love the distraction of the noise and the action. I know many if not most artists prefer no distractions while creating and if not peace and quiet, they at least like to have music playing in the background. Not me. I'm like a teenager that can't concentrate on their homework unless they have the stereo blaring and music videos running. Over the past several months my studio has gradually migrated back to my kitchen table so I'm closer to the TV set and I'm much happier! Go figure.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Timekeeper's Cottage ~ complete


Although it doesn't look like I made any changes, I made a few. I used blending solution to bleed some background color into the lilies and the cat. They looked too stark before, at least to my eye. The image doesn't show it but I also added some Pearl Mixative to the large key and the hour glass to bring them both out of the background. Fighting the urge to fiddle anymore, I put my inks down and called this complete. Some of the ink colors are as difficult to photograph as they are to scan. An example is the 'neon' blue in the upper left corner. That passage isn't anywhere near as 'violent' IRL. The Moon isn't as muddy as it appears here either. I also decided not to re-ink the areas where the Micron pen was washed away by the alcohol inks. I like the lost edges.

Note: The only problem with using rubbing alcohol with Ranger inks is it's tendency to dull the shiny finish. I'm going to apply several coats of Krylon gloss UV protectant varnish to bring back the shine and make the colors appear more vibrant.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Timekeeper's Cottage ~ WIP 3

Nothing is more scary or knot-in-the-stomach exciting as spending hours drawing, transferring and inking a piece only to turn little tiny bottles of alcohol ink loose on what you painstakingly created with absolutely no idea what will happen. I thought watercolor was unpredictable but this medium trumps it hands down. As I've worked with these inks and have come to know how they can react with each other I went in with a vague idea of what I wanted to happen but knew it may not become a reality. This piece is roughly 10 1/2" x 17" and painted in portrait format (obviously). Alcohol ink dries incredibly fast so the challenge was to keep it moving while I added various colors and 17" is a long run. Anything could and did happen as these inks moved down the Yupo. Some cool textures formed and some very interesting secondary colors appeared.

Right after the pour. The masking is still in place. Yikes!
I had decided at the beginning I would use rubbing alcohol to move the inks because the blending solution tends to dilute the colors and I wanted to keep the dark colors dark. I also knew this would be a one shot deal. I had already masked off the areas I wanted to save and hand paint later like the Moon, the moths, the window openings, the cat and the lilies. I wish now I had masked off the larger key but I may be able to work with it or I may decide to leave it. You can see a shape there and it invites the viewer to come in for a closer look.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Timekeeper's Cottage ~ sketch

While I was still working on Thistle Downs I began this sketch and completed it this afternoon. I've dubbed it 'The Timekeeper's Cottage' because I wanted to add an old clock and it kind of went from there. I also liked the idea of the oversized key and keyhole and of course I had to get a cat into the picture somewhere. Not sure how all that ties into a timekeeper but it's my drawing so I can add whatever I choose! Question: Has a pre-painting sketch ever told you what colors it needs (?) because this sketch is telling me it needs blues and purples. I'll have to sort out my palette and see what works best, though.

I was introduced to a new term recently....Zentangles. It's basically doodle art taken to an entirely new level. I discovered that various patterns have names and are typically done with Micron pen. The pattern I added to my crescent moon is a zentangle. It will receive more line work once I start inking my drawing on Yupo. I'll leave a link for anyone interested in experimenting with zentangles. I believe anyone that works with pen and ink could incorporate some of these patterns into their work to create added interest.  

Sunday, August 04, 2013

House on Thistle Downs Drive ~ complete (?)


I think I'm going to call this complete. Once poured alcohol ink is on the Yupo, the less manipulating it receives the better. I could easily fiddle this to death with a brush. For colors I used Ranger's Terracotta, Willow and Cloudy Blue. I saved the white of the dragonfly wings with masking fluid as well as a few other areas of the composition but the contrast was too great to leave all but the wings. Too many pristine white spots proved distracting. I did remove some ink with blending solution here and there and re-inked several lines which had faded during the inking process.

Friday, August 02, 2013

House on Thistle Downs Drive ~ WIP 3

Sorry to be MIA. After my last post I was hit with acute bronchitis and with my existing lung problems it really took me down. Yesterday was the first day I felt human again so I was able to get back to this project. This is Micron pen and black Sharpie on 144# Yupo. I ran into some major smudging problems which I didn't expect but decided to work with it rather than against it. (see some of the effects on the roofs, etc.). I've sprayed this with a few coats of Krylon workable fixative and it's ready for the alcohol ink. The workable fixative didn't entirely cure the smudge problem so I have no idea what will happen when I turn the ink loose on this. It's either going to be really cool or really awful. Stay tuned....