Sunday, March 1, 2015

Earrings Project

I'm working on a couple of projects that might lead to multiple orders of the same (or 'sameish') item.
It's not typical of me to repeat my pieces, but there is the possibility of a good business opportunity and I want to see how this plays out.
 
One style of earring started out with a piece of silver that had already been cut for discs.
I keep my silver in a special bag that only comes out for special projects.
Even though the price of silver has dropped from its recent high price of almost $43.00 per ounce in 2011, I still tend to be conservative in using my supply.
 
I wanted some surface texture,
so I used my trusty hardware store hammer and pounded away on some paving in front of my house.
 
After measuring and marking,
strips were cut, filed and sanded.
 
I knew I was going to do a simple earring design and wanted a slight curve to the strips.
I normally use my wooden dapping block for that kind of forming, but wanted a slightly less pronounced curve.
I wanted only a smidge less, but often that little smidge is what makes a big difference.
I use that base of my steel bracelet mandrel for broad curves, but I didn't want to form the strips on metal.
Metal on metal forming can sometimes flatten a textured surface....just a bit.
And again, that little bit can make a big difference. 
Searching around the house, I located a thrift store wooden bowl that held bits of whatnot in my studio.
 
Perfect!
I used one of my large daps and got the subtle curve that I was hoping for.
Green pearls wrapped with fine silver, balled wire dangle from the bottom.
Simple and elegant.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Etched Squares, Fussy Design

Last year I etched pieces of silver nickel sheet not knowing how I would use the metal,
but knowing that I would eventually come up with a plan.
 
One plan that I eventually thought of was to make earrings that used negative space as a primary part of the design.
I rarely draw my ideas;
I see the idea in my mind, sit down at my workbench
and start cutting/sawing/drilling.
A collection of small squares were cut
and central
(actually, close-to-central)
circles were cut out to create that negative space.
All squares were filed and sanded before being drilled for the connection that I was imagining for the earwire.
 
The connection was to be balled copper wire formed into an arc.
To do this, I first balled one end of the wire,
threaded the wire through one of the drilled holes and back out through another.
 
The unfinished end of the wire was then balled and the remaining wire was shaped into an arc.
Turns out that the plan imagined in my mind was much easier to do than the plan executed at my workbench.
Even though I was working with segments of wire cut to the same length,
it was difficult for me to end up with matching arcs.
The second balled end would be a smidge too large or a smidge too small.
It was also frustrating to shape the arc.
I tried shaping before balling the wire, but then annealing happened and misshaping happened and frustration happened.
Shaping after balling the wire meant I couldn't fit my preferred tools in the available space.
Blurghhhhhh!
I made the above pairs of earrings at least a year ago and I apparently chose to forget about the reasons why I abandoned that design.
 
I still had some of the squares in one of my workbench stashes...
and made this pair of earrings last week.
I think they're lovely, especially the wire-wrapped, blue chalcedony briolettes that dangle below.
But making the copper arc reminded me why I chose to stop making this fussy design.
 
I still had some of the negative space squares
and decided they needed to become something else. 
They became this bracelet
featuring a central, bezel-set labradorite  cabochon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Trying to Finish a Painting

So this is how it happens...
for me, when I'm working at a painting.
(sometimes)
 
Around two years ago, I started a painting that was based on an image from one of my old issues of National Geographic.
I was drawn to the geometry of the various fields and how, aside from a central building, the landscape colors were shades of yellow and green.
I had been painting for a few months when I began this, 
and my lack of confidence led me to make this rigid recreation of the photographic image.
And what was with my foreground field....
it's falling off the canvas!
I felt frustrated because I didn't know how to improve it.
I set it aside.
 
Months later, I came back to the painting thinking that my skills had developed enough to address the problems.
I was wrong.
I did adjust some of the colors to create a greater sense of depth, and I toned the building which was feeling conspicuously out of place.
Ugh!
Building still out of place and foreground field still weird.
I set it aside.
 
Months later, I came back to the painting.
I did make some changes that I feel were in the right direction, like the adjustments to the large yellow field in the background.
But...
the foreground field still felt like it wanted to slide off the canvas.
The building continued to irritate me, so I began to obliterate it.
Aaaahhh!!!
What was I doing with the cypress trees around my pesky building?!
I turned them into gigantor trees.
I set it aside.
 
The painting has been hanging in my hallway for almost a year, and last week I looked at it and said,
"All right, you and I are finishing this battle once and for all."
This time I stopped looking at the National Geographic photo and changed some of the colors according to what I intuitively wanted instead of what a picture was dictating. 
I reigned in the cypress and blurred the background.
That pesky building?
Gone!
 
I think it's done.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Painting Small Studies

I don't know how this happened,
but there is a great art supply store nearby that I was completely unaware of...
until last week.
Going to an art supply store is my personal version of being a kid in a candy store...
well, so are book stores, hardware stores and fabric stores.
 
Walking into Artist & Craftsman Supply on Market Street in Philadelphia, I thought,
"Oh no...this could be trouble."
Being surrounded by a wonderful variety of  supplies is painfully tempting, but I stuck to my intended shopping list.
I was very proud of myself when I left the store with a small bag holding three tubes of oil paint and a collection of 6" x 6" masonite boards.
 
My plan is to do a series of quick paintings with hopes of developing my intuitive reaction to the paint and the subject. 
The limited size of a 6" x 6" panel might keep me from being overly involved and overly attached to each painting...maybe a good thing.
 
The panels were covered with an acrylic gesso.
Two coatings of gesso were needed to properly prepare the boards.
I chose to do no sanding, preferring instead to allow some of the gesso brush strokes to be revealed in the eventual painting.
 
Once the gesso was completely dried, I toned the surfaces and purposely chose a couple of bold colors that might push my comfort zone. 
After a day of drying, I started with one of the burnt sienna boards (top row) and chose a picture from my 'Images for Art' file.
 
I like how pieces of the burnt sienna can be seen, bringing a warmth to the painting that suggests the golden light of a sunset.
It was late last night when I stopped working on the above painting.
I needed to clean up, but my frugal nature wouldn't let me toss away all of the paint that was still on the palette.
Instead, I used some of the leftover paint on one of the turquoise boards.
Same image for inspiration, same paint mixes, but such a different mood.
More work will be done, but I like where this second panel is going.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bracelet Redo

Early last year, I made one of my etched, mixed-metals bracelets featuring a central bezel with part of a vintage black & white photo.
I admit I briefly hesitated before using this image of a man wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, looking to his left.
A somewhat peculiar selection, but there was something about this guy that captured and kept my attention.
I imagined him as a sort of hybrid of James Dean and Tom Joad with a rich storyline of integrity and struggle.
 
Well....I thimk I'm the only one intrigued by this gentleman.
The bracelet caught the attention of quite a few people, but the reaction was typically,
"That's weird."
or
"Ummmm....that's kind of creepy."
 
Since I had not made the bracelet for it to become a part of my permanent collection,
I decided James/Tom Dean/Joad had to go.
A jasper cabochon set in a sterling bezel on a piece of milled copper is the new central highlight.
The bracelet is now at Woodmere Art Museum, along with a group of earrings and necklaces that were delivered this afternoon.
 
James/Tom Dean/Joad is back on my workbench...
and I have no idea what to do with him.
 
I think I'm stuck with him.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Third Necklace Completed

Since I didn't have to shovel away the blizzard that didn't arrive, I was able to spend part of this morning finishing my last of the three thrift store pendant necklaces.
When I bought theses pieces, I immediately knew that I wanted to pair the religious medallion with one the remaining links from my thrift store chandelier.
The patina and texture of the link and the medallion seemed like a good and natural pairing.
 
I chose to wire wrap the chain using sterling silver wire and chain with crystals, iolite, citrine, Herkimer diamonds (form of quartz) and pearls.
All that wrapping took quite a while, but I finished the necklace yesterday and took some photos.
The more I looked at my finished necklace, the more it bothered me.
I decided I really didn't like the shiny appearance of the chain and how it contrasted with the medallion and chandelier link.
It was time to take out the liver of sulfur.
 
A brief soaking in the liver of sulfur solution turned all of the sterling silver black, and I used a fine grit sanding block for selective cleaning.
A thin gauge wire had to be used to get though the drilled holes in the gemstones which meant I had to sand very slowly and very carefully.....
kind of tedious, but definitely worth the effort.
Much better!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Scraping to a Better Painting

After taking a short painting hiatus so that I could focus on making jewelry for a variety of holiday show, it feels good to get back to an easel. 
The more I paint, the more I appreciate that I don't know many of the fundamentals taught in art school.
Much of what I learned as I pursued degrees in landscape architecture and designed gardens and public spaces informs what happens on my canvases,
but there's so much that I need to/want to learn about color mixing, understanding shadows and developing atmosphere.
 
My current focus is painting to learn, and not necessarily painting to end up with a good painting.
Lucky me....I'm learning from Martin Campos 
Yesterday's still life had me struggling with the red cloth that covered the table and wrapped around the green bottle holding a lily stem.
My table was looking like an awkward red blob until Martin suggested that I mix some dark green for the deep shadows.
What a difference and what a good learning moment.
 
So.....
I had a good learning moment on a painting that I didn't consider a keeper.
While the paint was still wet, I decided to scrape it with a palette knife so that I could reuse the canvas.
 The more I scraped, the more I liked it.
Now I'm thinking that this is a painting that could go somewhere interesting.