Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ooops......




Taking A Little Break....

Do you ever say "give me a break" Dear Readers, without really thinking what that means? Well, like it or not, I have managed to break my wrist, so I will be taking that "break" from minis and from many creative pursuits that require both hands! I am still learning just what I can do with only one hand..... everything is a challenge! (Even typing this post is very slow and awkward!) It is a simple break, and should be better in about six weeks.... and I might be able to accomplish some mini things... if I can figure out a good way to open paint tubes I can still paint as I am right handed! I had good intentions about replying to all your kind comments on the previous posts.... but I think I will have to settle for thanking you all here instead. Your encouraging comments are very important to me and I am so appreciative of the time it takes to leave them. It really makes blogging so much more than just "show and tell"! And speaking of "show and tell".... I will show you a picture of my garden...

Where the crocus are finally blooming!

And I will tell you that I might not be posting much for a while.
I didn't want you to worry, Dear Readers,
But it seems I will be taking a little break!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

And The Saints....




Details Continued...

There is One detail I often forget, Dear Readers, and that is to take a "before" picture when I start to work on any project that has been languishing for a while. I wrongly assume that I will be able to find a picture "somewhere" in my archives that shows just where I was when I stopped working on the project. I started painting the Saints years ago and have only worked at them sporadically, and it is really difficult to find any good pictures of progress. Saint Cecilia, patron Saint of Music, was one of the last I started working on, and I have the fewest pictures of her. The above picture shows her after I had done quite a bit of work last weekend! The only starting reference picture I could easily find shows only a portion of her while I was focused on designing the border "people".

You can get a sense of some of the missing details... 
color on the cloak lining, harp details, the seat, the sword....
 and that is just the most obvious ones.
I added those details and then remembered to take a picture!
 
Several more small details have been added to this picture...
(Halo, harp, blossoms, cushion, hand....)
 
And then I needed to add some details to Saint Matthew too...

Even here I had added some details before I remembered to take a picture....
In particular, the hand from the cloud above.
The most notable part of Saint Matthew that needed work
 was the folds of his cloak....
 here just under-painted with the white.
This image is one of the most challenging ones for me. 
It is taken from a very old manuscript, 
from the beginning of the ninth century AD,
 probably made for the court of Charlemagne. 
And the only version I have of it is in black and white!
I must guess at the colors.... 
and try to emulate the graphic details....
Here, have a look!
There is just something about his expression 
that made me want to use this version!

Red colors tend to photograph as black, 
and I am certain his cloak would not have been painted in black,  
so I have chosen to make it red,
but the highlights are open for interpretation!
They could be a pale pink or a pale blue or even a green.....
But I have used pale green for his robe 
and I need to keep the colors balanced with those of
 the other Saints on the ceiling.
Mark is pink, John is pale blue.
And I wanted the details to contrast with the red, 
so I decided to use bright blue.

Here you can see it with only the first layer of blue added.
But it immediately presented me with another problem....
Once the folds were blue..... 
there was too much blue in this corner of the ceiling!

I plan to add some paler highlights 
to the cloak of Saint Cecilia, 
which will tone down the blue, 
and I like the bright blue on Saint Matthew's cloak.... 
(what other color would work here?)
The only solution I see would be to adjust 
the intensity of the floor under Matthew.....

Which is done by adding a grid of white and "checkers" of red oxide....
as if they are patterned tiles.
This shifts the blue just enough from brilliant to almost pastel.

And when I have added the paler highlights to the folds 
of Saint Cecilia's cloak, I think the effect will be 
to have tamed the rampant blue in this corner!

Here you can see the ceiling as a whole.....
And it is noticeable how much more intense the blue is
 on this half of the ceiling!

Meanwhile, Dear Readers, 
there are a few more Saints who still need attention...

Saint Lucia only needs a tiny bit of detail 
added to her seat and her cloak....

Saint Nicholas needs quite a few small additions....
His Crozier needs defining, 
his seat, his hands, his vestments, 
and his "gifts" all need attention.

And Saint Bridget needs many small details....
 her "church" needs definition, 
her cloak needs many layers, 
her seat is unfinished.... her halo too.

And finally, Saint Luke needs a few small refinements.
Most notably, the portrait of the Virgin, 
his paintbrush (missing altogether), and his foot.

And even though I have made progress with Saint Matthew, 
he is still far from done.
(That hand from the cloud!... the cloak..... the footstool....)

And Saint Cecilia too...
Her cloak and her gown and her seat all need layers.


But most of all, I am concerned that she looks too "modern" to me!
 I am sure this is because there are so few authentic 
Medieval images to use for her source. 
I could only find one illumination 
from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves... 
and because she isn't holding a harp in that picture,
 my version looks nothing like that one.
I might have to try to "age" her a bit!

So you can see, Dear Readers, 
when it comes to the Saints,
I will be painting Details 
for quite some Time!

Monday, March 27, 2017

It's All About The Paint....




Layers and Details....

I Hope you will not be Too surprised, Dear Readers, to see that I am continuing from where I left off last week with the painting of the Castle Hall Ceiling! And this requires showing you more of those details and layers and layers of paint in the minutest unnoticeable alterations from one scene to the next.... and I really hope you will not be too bored! Some of you had remarked at the technique of under-painting the figures in white, and so I thought I would explain the reason for doing this. The primary reason is because paint is somewhat translucent and the colors that you layer over another color are affected by the layers beneath. If you want the colors to be clear and bright and true to their pigment, you need to start with white. Sometimes you might want to start with a "ground" color that casts a tone on the entire painting, and sometimes you might only want to under-paint a dark color where shadows will be, but the basic idea is that the layers of color matter in the end! Since I wanted to get the strongest brilliance from my paints, I started with white. (Keeping in mind that I had already painted the "border strip" in the ocher color for the background).

After defining the outlines of the figures with the black, 
(a very Early Medieval style)
 I then start adding the base colors to the figures. 
If you look closely you can see that the black shows through most of the colors.

I apologize for the glaring light.... 
this ceiling is difficult to photograph because 
it is both curved and slightly ribbed, 
making the surface very irregular and subject to light reflection!

I wanted to get the base colors for all the figures done 
so I could get a feel for the overall balance of the composition.

And here is a picture of the overall ceiling with almost all the base colors in place.
There will only be minor adjustments and many many tiny details added.

Starting with the faces!
I added the basic facial shadows and outlines.
You can see in the previous pictures 
that the black under-painting was still visible through the flesh tones. 
I now add the brown shadow layers... 
basically a burnt umber and white and tiny bit of red oxide mixture....

(You will probably need to poke the pictures to zoom in and really see the details...)
Here I would like to point out the red hat on the fellow who is riding the white horse. 
The hat extends into the red border and did not get under-painted in white. 
When I painted it the brilliant cadmium red on top of the
 Alizarin crimson color of the border, all you see is a muddy red.

So I re-painted the hat, first with the white under-painting
 and then the Cadmium Red,
 and now you can see the more brilliant color of the red!

Here's a much closer view!
Meanwhile I have added several layers of white to the horse 
and added his harness amongst other details.
I have also added the black top details to the faces...
mostly for the eyes.

And I have begun to add the second layer of color to many of the beasts...
 and here the cow has been nearly finished.
I am trying to copy the type of details from the Medieval miniatures.... 
in particular the way so many of the animals 
have an almost human look to their eyes..... 
I know it is hard to explain!

And then I needed to test the ceiling in place in the Great Hall... 
to try to see how it will look....
If you get down on your knees and shine a light up at the ceiling....
You can sort of see all the scenes!
I think they look better than I thought they would!
 
Believe it or not, Dear Readers, 
there are still a lot of details to add....
 
The trees have the second coat of green but no leaf definition....
The clothes have no folds or shadows.....
The grass needs another layer.....

The wine-maker needs details..... 
The shepherds need their dogs finished and details to their clothes...
 the calf needs something!

The milkmaid needs details to her gown and coif..... 
and the hands! 
They All need their hands!

And the Plowman too... his tunic needs detail.... 
and the off ox too......!

So you can see, Dear Readers, 
All those details..... 
it's really just Layers and Layers and Layers of paint!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Optimism....!




Progress Is Progress....Even If Small!

A Week ago, Dear Readers, the ground in my garden was bare and snowdrops were blooming. The clocks had been turned ahead an hour, making the evenings sunny long after returning from work. It was so easy to think that Spring was almost here! But then it turned bitter cold again, and we were reminded very clearly that this is New England and it often snows even in early May.... and as I mentioned in my last post, it was snowing hard and continued all day. We did not get as much as some areas near here, but we did get a heavy 12 inches, and it stayed cold and windy so not much has melted. The above picture is the morning after the storm. And as I had mentioned, I had stayed home from work and I was sewing cushions to soften the blows of life... big and small....

As you can see, I made quite a few more little cushions 
for the attic room of The Lovely Old Dollhouse!
And between drinking many cups of tea, 
I also stitched some more on the Tea cosy....

I completed all the blue threads 
and have begun the cream background.
I find it quite difficult to sew the paler colors 
because it is difficult to tell if the stitch is the cream thread 
or just the white cloth showing.
I even attempted to paint some more on the Castle Hall ceiling, 
but with the winds howling and the poor light of a stormy day, 
I put it off for the weekend instead.

Meanwhile, Dear Readers, I have decided that 
I am making finishing this ceiling a priority!
(I apologize for the blurry photo. It is very difficult 
to get this ceiling photographed clearly!)
As you can see, the painting of
the peasant's labors has only just begun, 
and half the Saints still need to be completed. 
There is still a long way to go before this will be done!
I am leaving it set up on my "easel" and in the way 
so that I will work at it often....
 and hopefully complete it soon!
And I did make Some progress on the weekend....

The individual characters all need to be given their basic colors first....
And since I have drawn from so many diverse 
Medieval Miniatures as my sources... 
I have to adapt the colors somewhat 
in order to make this ceiling balanced.

In these first pictures I have only added the flesh color, 
which blurs the facial features....

And here I have begun to paint the base colors for several of the figures.....
This is so I can get a feel for the overall color balance...
The detail work will be done later.

And then the subtle additions of more ground 
and trees where the stag is leaping...

And ground where the sheep are flocking....

And earth that the oxen are plowing....
And here I am deviating from the originals,
 because the Medieval paintings often lacked 
the "background" that we assume is necessary!

And this is as far as I got, Dear Readers....

Again, I apologize for the blurry pictures!

Still Such a Long way to go!

And the Garden too, still buried in snow... 
after an entire week.... but it Is slowly melting!
And I am sticking with my Spring Optimism, Dear Readers, 
Progress Is Progress, even if it is only little!



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cushions for Comfort....




Feeling the Blues.....

Not Very much was accomplished in my mini worlds last weekend Dear Readers, because most of Saturday was spent traveling way up into the mountains to attend a Memorial Service for a dear woman, a co-worker for twelve years, who passed away recently after a long struggle with cancer. The road was long and snowy and nostalgic, we used to go that way when I was a child and used to ski in those mountains. The weather was bitterly cold, not getting above 15 degrees F, and windy too. The tiny New England church in the Village was packed with family and friends, there to reminisce and say "good-bye" to a beloved woman whose life was too short. She is Home now. Back up in those hills where she was born and lived most of her life. We miss her. But life goes on. When I got home late in the afternoon, my eyes fell on a little pile of cloth scraps... scraps I had bought a couple of years ago on another terribly nostalgic trip to a different Memorial Service at another tiny New England church.... and had not yet made use of.....

Something about the cheerful blue flowers called out "cushions" to me....
The scrap, bought at a little quilting shop in the back of beyond, 
was only 2 and 1/2 inches wide by 22 inches long.... 
just the right size to make mini pillows!
So I spent the evening stitching up a couple of tiny pillows 
with bright 60's era patterns on them,
 and then wondered where in my many houses they should go....

I had always thought the Attic of The Lovely Old Dollhouse 
should have an old "Hippy Vibe" to it...
as though it was decorated by a teenager in the 60's....
The cushions would be perfect!

And then I thought there should be curtains too!
But there was so little fabric... 
would there be enough...?
It is such a tiny window.... 
surely there would be enough....

So I cut the remainder of the cloth in half 
and stitched hems on all the sides...
Leaving a pocket at the top for the curtain rod...
made from an old coat hanger
 (just like all the other curtain rods in The Lovely Old Dollhouse!)


Can you Believe the serendipity of how the pattern aligns?
I think they look simply Gorgeous!
But that window was still unfinished... 
It was the only window in the house that had no trim!
So I dug around in my scrap wood...
 and found the remains of that lovely old lumber
 my brother had cut for me so long ago....
And sawed it into pieces to trim the window...

And glued them in place.
The window still has no glass....
But that will have to wait for another day...
building the glass windows is not a simple task!

The framing is rough as befits an attic.
I screwed in some tiny eye-screws to hold the curtain rod...

And hung the curtains!
It was getting dark, so the picture is not the greatest...
but I think they are the Perfect curtains for this attic room!
And the only other project I made progress on Dear Readers, 
was the petit point embroidery for the Tea cosy...

I completed the front side with the Blue Willow pattern.....
And started on the reverse side....
Ii know, it doesn't look like much yet.... 
I think it is a stylized Oriental Cloud pattern.....


 Anybody can guess where this Tea-cosy will end up....!
And speaking of Clouds.... 
We are under the clouds right now...
It is snowing heavily and blizzard winds are forecast... 
we are supposed to get a LOT of Snow!
I am home from work today... trying to stay cozy...


Perhaps I will stay curled up in bed with Cushions and a Book...
For what better comfort is there than Cushions, Dear Readers,
When feeling a Little Blue?