Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sedona Sketch

Last week I attended a meditation retreat in Sedona.  I didn't have a lot of time, but I completed a quick pencil sketch of these beautiful rock formations one day while walking .  On the trip my friend Jodi gave me my birthday gift and guess what it was?... watercolors and colored pencils!  She had hand-squeezed the paint into a beautiful, flat paint bin and labeled each color!  She also gave me a great set of 36 Prismacolor pencils.  My previous set of colored pencils were from a Prang set I have owned since I was a child so it was definitely time to upgrade.

When I got home I worked from a photo to add color to my pencil sketch.  I have never combined watercolors and colored pencils so it was an interesting experience for me.  I fretted and fretted whether or not to go over the major lines at the end in ink.  I usually start with ink and add watercolor.  But in the end I liked the soft look of the rocks.

As you can see below I also experimented with adding salt.  You can barely see it in the blue sky, but it is there nonetheless.  In hindsight I would have made the sky darker blue but I didn't want to destroy the beautiful effect the salt had already made.  It is funny to see my reaction and difficulty in trying new methods.  I like to stick with what I know but sometimes the payoff can be so great if you find something you like.  For instance, I never even knew I liked watercolor until I took Amy Bogard's class - check it out if you are inclined.  It introduced me to a skill I will use the rest of my life!

“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves,
or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.”
-Charles Schaefer

Next time around I am going to try combining watercolor, colored pencils and ink but for now I am calling this one done.  Thank you Jodi for such an awesome gift!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Folk-painted Storm Door

Since we moved in this house fourteen years ago I have wanted to paint the storm doors to match the trim.  I have also wanted to paint folk patterns going down the basement stairs.  So last month the urge to paint the porch storm door finally materialized into action and I thought it would be perfect substrate to work out the design for the basement stairs.

I first had to search the basement cans of paint (which I dread doing) and I found a fairly recent-looking can of paint that was the right color.  Although it was the right color, a tiny part of my brain noted that the sheen was "flat" and that that was a little unusual considering I don't think we ever painted any part of the exterior in flat.  So in my usual sense of haste I painted the door.  Of course when I was finished, I didn't like it because it looked so flat.  And in typical Vanessa fashion I had to re-paint the door because I am a perfectionist...but also because I didn't want to go to all the trouble of painting a stencil on a door in which I didn't like the sheen.

Somewhere mixed in with all this painting was excessive designing.  I have always been obsessed with folk designs.  Maybe it was reading Gnomes by Wil Huygen when I was a child, but folk patterns and joy are synonymous to me.

I began with the design on the photo mock-up of the door above (middle-right).  At first it starts off fun.  I get excited and have to try things this way and that. I love changing the color and seeing how it affects the design.  I can easily spend hours playing with it.  However, at some point the fun turns into tedium and I know it is time to stop.  There was a lot of pressure on this design because I not only wanted to paint the back door with it, but also use the same design elements to paint the basement stairs.  I am not even showing you the pages of designs I did for the stairs (that will be another blog post).

Eventually I narrowed the designs down to my six favorite below.  You can see the designs for the stair risers and side treads below the door panel design.  At this point I liked all of them and I posted this on Facebook just for fun and to get feedback.  In the end I always choose my favorite but it is nice to hear the comments and take a little break from looking at it.  Many times people point out things I hadn't thought of before and it helps me to take a step back and look at it with fresh eyes.

In the end I decided to go with number 6.  It was torture for me to eliminate the use of green, but that is how it went.  The process reminds me of when I was a kid and read the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of books.  In those book you could choose various routes and it would lead you on an adventure.  I liked them because you could re-read the book and essentially choose all the routes to see what happened.  Alas, in real life we have to choose one path.

“What you're missing is that the path itself changes you.”
― Julien Smith, The Flinch

I ended up using my Illustrator files to make a stencil.  You have to add connector lines to all the elements that would "fall away" when the stencil is cut.  I sent the files to Stencils Online and received my custom stencils within a week.  They were very helpful and added a few connector lines where my stencil needed more support.  I thought the actual stenciling would take longer but I was able to sponge-paint it fairly quickly.

The lower section of the storm door on which I was stenciling was a corrugated metal and from the beginning I suspected it would be difficult to get a perfect stencil.  And I was right.  When I peeled the stencil off you can see below what happened.  I have read that it is better to paint the stencil first with the background color to make a seal around the edges and then paint the colors.  But, of course, I didn't do that because I was excited to get going and just charged ahead.

Luckily, I am not easily deterred and spent the next two days meticulously painting around all the edges of the stencil. If you look closely it is not perfect...but from five feet away I think it looks pretty good.  Below you can see the before and after shots.

It brings me such pleasure to complete a project like this.  I love coming up with an idea and bringing it into reality.  At this point I am not sure when the basement stairs part of the project will happen... it might be next spring before I get to it.  But for now this pattern will bring me joy every time I walk in the porch door and will hopefully let all the garden gnomes in the yard know they are welcome too. 😉