IFC 2012

Aug. 17th, 2012 02:06 pm
argos: Argos as the fourth Dr Who (drwho)
Too long since I've posted here, so here's a photo taken by FoxxyFURtography at Indy Fur Con 2012 in Indianapolis. The theme was "Furs in Space" and I didn't want to do Star Wars or Star Trek, and thought Dr Who would be a better model given my inclinations and disposition. I made the scarf myself from a pattern provided by the BBC back in the 1980s. The "Sonic Screwdriver" I'm carrying is actually a battery powered drink swizzler.




The con was smallish but we had lots of fun, and the weather was great for fursuits (a surprise given the August date.
argos: Fursuit by myself. :-D (at work)
[Third of three descriptions]

The third woven piece was created in response to the weavers' challenge for 2010: "Weave a green bag" which explicitly left the definitions of "green" and "bag" up to the individual weaver. Almost all of the results Color Me Green that were exhibited at the June meeting were purses or handbags of some sort. Not that this was wrong, and most of them were quite interesting and well done, with a great deal of variety.

Having no particular use for a handbag, though, I naturally set out to do something different. I started with the word "green" and (after discarding it as slang for "cash") decided to cover multiple bases. This item is therefore "green" in the sense that it uses some recycled fiber (the blue weft was spun from fiber reclaimed from old jeans,) some organic fiber (the brown and beige wefts were organically grown cottons, in natural colors,) and literally, the color green (the warp threads and the weft at the two ends were commercial pearl cotton that came predyed green, and one weft thread was spun from a variety of cotton that has a natural pale green color even after processing.)

The project is intended for use as a convenient carrying bag to hold a drop spindle and a supply of wool or other fiber for spinning. I generally prefer a largish spindle for spinning on the road, so the bag is sized appropriately for a Kundert or Jenkins spindle.

The weave structure is plain double weave on four shafts, which allows two layers of cloth joined at the edges to be woven at once. Thus the bag has no vertical seam. Eyelets for the drawstrings were woven in right on the loom as well, so the only sewing required had to close the bottom and turn the casing at the top. Drawstrings were braided from six two-ply strands of the handspun weft in three of the four colors. Green wooden beads complete the finish. As simple as it looks, this was one of the more complex weave structures I've ever done entirely on my own. I've made complex garments before by weaving the fabric, then cutting and sewing it, but this was woven all of a piece and with most of the features in place. As such, I'm quite pleased with the result. Judging took place today, the show will be arranged for display tomorrow, and the results will be announced on Wednesday. I have no particular expectation for these pieces, because the weaving judges tend to focus more on high fashion than they do on unusual ideas, experiments, or simple art. That said, this bag and the shawl I described yesterday were both entered in the county fair and both received second place awards in their categories.
argos: Myself working at the loom (weaver)
And here's the second of three pieces that will be in the gallery show this month. This one is a shawl or a wide scarf, of very soft handspun merino wool. Rainbows are RelativeBoth warp and weft are handspun, and the weave structure is barleycorn. It was woven on a rigid heddle loom, using a pickup stick to create the floats. For anyone interested in weave structures, barleycorn is a simple warp float design created on a straight draw on four harnesses by lifting just 1, then 2 and 4, then 1, then 2 and 4, and finally 1 and 3. This is repeated as necessary. A single shuttle is used, so one thread forms both the floats and the tabby weave ground.

The rainbow yarn is spun from a blend of bamboo and merino wool that came from Creatively Dyed Yarns as a dyed roving. The gray merino and the white merino warp (visible at the fringes) were spun from plain rovings. This shawl is about 12 in. wide and 50 in. long. The colors seem to fascinate people, and one offer to buy it has already been received.

As usual, click on the thumbnail above for a larger view. Tomorrow, we'll see the third piece in the show, titled "Color Me Green."
argos: (forest wuff)
Looking forward in time a bit, I guess. Here is a photo of the finished rug that [personal profile] altivo has been talking about for the last month or so. Winter Sunset rug The image is a bit distorted by camera angle since it was hard to get far enough away to square up all four corners.

This rug is 31 x 52 inches, and nearly a half inch in thickness. It should be very absorbent and we intent to use it as a bath mat. The thickness should also help protect bare feet from cold floors this winter. The structure is simple plain weave, natural undyed 8/4 cotton carpet warp with dyed and undyed sock tops or loopers as weft. By picking and choosing the individual colors from a palette of five (white, eggshell, slate gray, cocoa, and vermilion) and knotting them together one row at a time, I was able to create this design. It represents, in a rather abstract way, a red sunset on a cloudy day with partly melted snow on the fields. The texture is enticing and spongy to hand or foot, and reminds me of the long rolls or pleats we commonly see when looking up at a snow-laden sky.

As usual, click the thumbnail image here in order to link to the other sizes available. Images of the work in progress can be found in the same location by scrolling back in time.
argos: (snowy argos)


Fox Blues for Aerofox
Prismacolor artist pens, watercolor wash
Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor postcard 6x4 in. cold press


"Am I blue? Am I blue?
Ain't these tears in my eyes tellin' you?"

Aerofox is down, and we all feel for him. I started thinking about that old 1929 standard, first recorded by Ethel Waters but since covered by dozens and dozens of singers. Possibly you think of Billie Holiday, or Cher, or even Batman singing it.

It took me about two weeks to firm up the ideas that are smooshed into this tiny postcard. Aero collects and restores old radios, especially Zenith. His prize is a 1936 Stratosphere, which fits perfectly timewise with that song. I went digging for reference photos of the Stratosphere, which turned out to be easy to find on the web. The actual drawing was sketched out in pencil and only took about 40 minutes or so since the postcard format limits detail.

I then inked it comic book style using artist pens by Prismacolor and Faber Castell. The Prismacolors I have go down to finer sizes, but the Faber Castell Pitt has blacker ink and I'll probably get some finer Pitts eventually. I admit these are an improvement over the old dip pen and India ink bottle I used to use. Sharp, clear lines, and no splatter or drips can't be beat. Copic makes some similar pens that take ink cartridges and should last even longer...

After inking I let it dry for a few minutes before cleaning off the pencil remnants with a vinyl eraser. That's another improvement over the old standby ArtGum I think. Fewer crumbs and less prone to leave any grease on the paper (that will resist the watercolor if present.)

I used only three brushes: a no. 6 for the broad washes, a no. 4 for details, and a very fine liner for fur textures. The paints were an inexpensive set of dry cake watercolor (Reeves) that I plan to try for outdoor sketching once the weather stabilizes.

I'd originally intended to include the lyrics of the song, but it was going to make the image too cluttered. I'll probably quote them on the back of the postcard before mailing it (in a sturdy envelope of course.) A fun little project for a snowy day. Hope it helps to cheer my friend a bit.

"Am I blue? You'd be too,
If each plan
With your man
Done fell through."

For those of you who have somehow avoided hearing this old song by Harry Akst and Grant Clarke, I urge you to look it up. Billie Holiday has the classic performance everyone should hear, but several renditions are readily obtainable on the net.
argos: (forest wuff)
This is the limited palette study I mentioned in the last entry. For a larger view, click the thumbnail here.

The object of the study was to work with just three primary colors and produce an entire image. Different artists approached it in various ways, some using just those three colors right out of the tube, and others mixing and blending them to get a fuller range. The specification was pretty precise. We were to use a green-biased yellow (Lemon or Hansa are the commonly used names,) a violet-biased red (Rose or Crimson,) and a green-biased blue (Winsor or Phthalo/Thalo.) The slightly "off center" nature of each primary makes unexpected things happen when they are mixed, and can produce browns or even grays where you'd expect a secondary color to appear. It is still possible to get most of the spectrum, but you often have to mix two different hues and then combine those to get the desired result. In doing this, most colors become somewhat muted and can, if not handled carefully, look muddy or dull.

The three specific pigments required here, called PY3 (a yellow,) PR83 (a violet-rose,) and PB15 (an intense blue) by paint makers, are all synthetic colors and tend to be bright and harsh or garish. If you look closely at the full sized image, I left samples of each in the lower right-hand corner. The scanner has dulled the red a bit, but you can see why you might not want to use these colors by themselves.

It was an interesting challenge to begin with, and I complicated it by choosing a subject with a wide variety of colors in it. Reference photo is here, an actual photo of my own barns. I changed the view angle and simplified the background somewhat because I thought it would be too busy in a 9 x 6 inch painting.

The drawing, as mentioned earlier, offered some challenges in terms of perspective, especially since I changed the angle of view from what is in the photo, and that had to be overcome before painting could begin. Soon I discovered that I was spending at least twice as much time mixing and testing colors as I was in actually painting. The whole process took three days, partly because of the many layers of color that had to dry between applications and partly because I can only work at this sort of thing for an hour or so at a time before I grow fatigued by the concentration and posture. It could be better, and if I were to expand this little sketch to a full sized painting at 33 x 20 in. or so, it would get much better because so much more detail could be supplied. It would also take a heck of a lot longer if it were done with just those three paints. ;p

I learned that I really can mix earth tones and bright hues from just three primaries, including Payne's grey and something that passes for black but is really a very dark blueish gray. I found that I could create the illusion of detail by using a very fine brush, though the texture of the paper and the limits of water's surface tension impose physical restrictions. The horses might have been better detailed by using watercolor pencil, for instance, but that would have violated the palette requirement. On a larger scale, the tiny brush would be adequate, I'm sure.

On the whole, I think this was indeed an educational experience, and I'm satisfied with the results.
argos: (snowy argos)
Grrr. Y'know, I do understand the principles of perspective. I always get tangled up in it though, when objects are near enough to the viewer that the vanishing point is somewhere way far off the edge of the paper. Drawing a scene with fences, multiple buildings, and trees at various distances did that to me this afternoon. I thought I'd worked it out, but after leaving it alone for an hour and coming back to look at it, I can see it isn't right. Fortunately it's all in 4H pencil right now and can easily be erased and corrected. I swear though, I should anchor the paper to a big table, put a pin in the vanishing point wherever it really goes, and use a yardstick to get the proper converging angle on all the straight lines.

In this case, the reference was a photograph, and of course the same perspective is visible there. It's not just an idea dreamed up by artists. A camera sees things the same way. So, back to the drawing table with me. ;p
argos: (white!)

Vixen preliminary sketch
by ~altivo on deviantART
4H pencil on watercolor paper


The next painting is started, or at least the basic sketch is laid down. This will be a vixen running ahead of an oncoming snowstorm, trying to go to ground before the heavy wind and snow hits. The sketch is based on several reference photos of my own, with pose taken from an excellent color photo by Bryan F. Collver. I'd like to call it "The Hounds of Aeolus" but I dunno if anyone will get that. More likely it will be "Before the Snow Storm" or something like that.

Anyway, here's the pencil sketch (click thumbnail for larger view) and it's a bit hard to see because the lines are very light. I was going to ink it comic book style before coloring, but I think I've changed my mind and will paint it directly the way the wolves in "Ice Run" were done.

Ice Run

Feb. 19th, 2010 04:28 am
argos: (snowy argos)

Ice Run
by ~altivo on deviantART

Ice Run (February 14, 2010)
12x9 in. 80 lb. cold pressed paper
Traditional watercolor



I promised a brief technical discussion of this painting so here it is. (Click thumbnail for larger view.)

The setting is Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior. Though I've visited there in person, it was nearly 30 years ago. This is an amalgam of several reference photos and my own recollections. The island is a wilderness of great scenic beauty and has a resident population of wolves and moose that have been studied for decades. Here we see three wolves crossing the ice on Siskiwit Bay in late winter, when the snowpack has melted and refrozen repeatedly at the surface and become crusty and hard.

After a very rough preliminary pencil sketch I applied some masking fluid to the cloud formation, snow on the promontory rocks, and white highlights on the wolves. Then I laid down flat washes for the sky and ice areas and allowed those to dry almost completely before filling in the sky, rocks, and pine forest in the background. The pines were the most interesting, as they began wet into wet (or at least damp) and were detailed as the painting dried which helps to give more depth to the image as the more distant trees are outlined and the foreground trees are laid over the top.

Then I removed the masking from the clouds and snow and added features and detailing to the white areas. This completed the background, which I allowed to dry for a day or so before continuing.

Next the wolves were finished: Each started with generalized color washes, different for the individual wolf as their base colors vary. Fur details and features were added after the base washes had nearly dried, using no. 4 and no. 0 round brushes. Masked areas were unmasked after these details had dried, and final touches could be added to the remaining whites. At this point the entire painting was allowed to dry overnight again.

The final details were the flying snowflakes in the foreground, kicked up by running paws. These were scratched with the corner of a razor blade, making the fine white trails that cross in front of the wolves, particularly the dark leader.

This was a fun painting, but amounts to little more than a sketch of what I wanted. Note to self: Repeat this on a larger scale, taking longer to get more detail into the image.
argos: (forest wuff)
Plush foal & SheepdogAnd here is that painting from last night. (Click thumbnail for larger version.) Not a masterpiece, certainly, but I had fun playing with different brushes and colors. I haven't forgotten everything as I'd feared, and just need practice again even though it has been probably 35 years since I tried to do anything serious with watercolor.

As for the stretched paper, it stayed stretched as intended even under the onslaught of water. As it dried (and shrank a bit) overnight, it tried to pull the drafting tape off the board but didn't quite get any of it loose, so it remains quite flat. That much is ideal. Removing the tape was easy and left no residue but did roughen the paper around the boarders. That's probably a non-issue for anything that will be matted and framed.

I rate the first experiment a qualified success.

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August 2012

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