I found an elk skull on a hike in Northern Colorado and hauled it home with me because it was so beautiful and I knew that it would look stunning if I painted it gold. They are such gigantic animals and you can get a sense of scale from the image below where I’m holding the skull.
On the hike we came across an entire elk skeleton. Every bone was perfectly dried and it was scattered over 400 square feet as if some type of explosion happened. I hiked out with the skull, sacrum and a vertebrae.I ended up losing my balance when crossing over some fallen trees and the vertebrae fell out of my pack. I didn’t even realize that happened until I got back to the truck.
Since we started the hike in the middle of the night we had the chance to hear the elk bugle across the mountains. I had never heard that sound before. The bugle of the bull elk is a distinctive sound that begins deep-toned and becomes a high pitched squeal before ending in a succession of grunts. My husband had a mouth reed and mimicked the female elk call. They had a bit of back and forth conversation across the mountains and after about ten minutes the bull elk traveled in another direction.
This elk skull is from a female. If she gave birth then the calf would have passed right by the sacrum. I kept thinking about that as I held the sacrum in my hand.
I say—> it’s okay to play with your food as long as you eat it after the fun is over.
I came across an issue of National Geographic from September 1954 and I was impressed by the magazine ads and articles that incorporated hand drawn illustrations. They’re so detailed and the artists must have spent many late nights trying to work with unrealistic deadlines. There are ways to create shortcuts when drawing, but overall it’s a labor of love and will always take longer than planned.
Check out artist Walter A. Weber’s snake illustrations below. Amazing! How wonderful that he could spend a lifetime drawing animals- his passion since he was a kid in the early 1900’s.
Seeing these illustrations got me thinking about how “easy” it is to illustrate now. You just need to know how to use a computer and have a very basic understanding of composition and design. Raw talent helps, too, but it’s not essential with all the editing software out there now. When I first encountered the Adobe Creative Suite I really disliked it. It felt like cheating and made the little art club that I was in feel like it suddenly had way too many members. But I learned to embrace the technology and see how it could provide new areas to explore. I still prefer to draw with my hands but I’ve taken a particular liking to Adobe Illustrator because I figured out that I can do in seconds what would have taken hours to do the old-fashioned way. Illustrator is the one program that still makes me feel like I’m involved in an artistic project. I get so involved that I forget that I’m clicking away at a computer.
One of my favorite features in Illustrator is “Image Trace.” You can pull a photo into the program and after playing around with the Image Trace settings you’ll have an image that resembles a paint-by-number, watercolor, or graphic logo in seconds. Then you can ungroup all of the traced sections and play with the image as if it were a puzzle of color. The National Geographic illustrators from way back would lose their minds if they saw how easy it is now.
I pulled a bunch of vintage inspired images below and created various effects using Image Trace. I included some detail shots to show the amazing color separations close up. I enjoy zooming in and out to see the effects and deconstructing the original image. The series of images below will either make you want to learn how to use Illustrator or perhaps go for a bike ride instead.
I lust after this white vintage Peugeot bicycle with rainbow stripes. A friend of mine had one years ago and I fell in love with her bike instantly. I was so envious. I have to find one someday. Playing with the image of this bicycle in Illustrator makes it feel like it’s sorta mine for a few minutes.
I do. I love white nail polish. It makes me look tan.
This week’s #wcw is artist Margaret Kilgallen.
She created murals indoors and on the streets that pay homage to American folk art, printmaking, and letterpress, and recall a time when personal craft and handmade signs were the dominant aesthetic.
I like her statement from the PBS film about her and her husband Barry McGee (also an artist):
“I do spend a lot of time trying to perfect my line work and my hand. But my hand will always be imperfect because it’s human. If I’m doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line trying to make it straight, I’ll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up you can always see the lines waver. And I think that’s where the beauty is.”
Margaret died of breast cancer in 2001, less than a month after giving birth to her daughter, Asha. She was 33 years old. It’s tragic that her daughter had less than 30 days in the presence of her mother. On a hopeful note, Margaret leaves behind an incredible collection of imagery for Asha to connect with.
Every time that I sit on my couch I think of artist Sonya Young James. She is a textile designer and fiber artist based in Atlanta, Georgia and she inspired me to make a wool, hand-felted throw that hangs over the back of my couch.
The throw has been on the back of my couch for some time now so it now more “matted” but when I first finished the piece it was much more fluffy as you can see in the photos below.
I hand-felted and needle felted the entire piece with roving wool and sheep curls. I purchased all the wool that I used from an Etsy store called La Tea Da Designs based out of Southern California. Felting is a process that I really enjoy because I like the smell of wool, warm soapy water, the repetitive motion of needle felting and the magic that transforms loose wool combined with a bit of soapy friction into one solid piece.
Although I made a bunch of pompoms as well they didn’t seem right for my throw so I didn’t include them. However, they make great hairpieces for kids.
Below are photos of five of Sonya’s finished pieces that first inspired me to make a wool, hand-felted throw:
Her wool throws are warm, inviting, and somewhat quirky. I fell in love with them instantly and knew I had to try to make one, too. I researched Sonya’s work and found that she documents a lot of her process in her Flickr account. I particularly love the photos where she’s felting the wool by dragging it behind a van and drying her finished pieces out in the sun. Sonya is a “maker” and it’s obvious that she’s a true lover of nature and all its wonderful shapes, colors and textures.
And lastly, this is not one of Sonya’s pompoms below, but how cute would this addition be on your couch!?
While conducting some inventory overhaul at work I came across a piece of tattered, gold paper. I could still see some beauty and potential in this paper and used it to conduct some initial backdrop test shots with product placed in the foreground. I used an X-acto knife to cut a triangular pattern in the paper and worked with my photographer friend, Michael, to create lighting and shadow effects that would add more depth to the overall pattern.I really liked the results of the first test, but I wanted to take it further because I knew that a monochromatic backdrop would be more subtle and allow for more lighting experimentation.
This is Michael (below), my photographer friend who helped me conduct the backdrop tests. Here he is standing in front of the backdrop against a white wall. I like the sense of scale that this photo provides…and I love his smile here.
The results of our second set of tests are below. We were both really happy with the results. I styled the flowers and Michael lit the paper from several different angles which changed the look dramatically. The possibilities are endless and I love how light and shadow interact with a simple piece of paper to create such variety and depth. I will definitely experiment with more paper backdrops and also devise a way to make them more durable for reuse.
I am a huge fan of Jill Bliss. For those of you who are not familiar with this lovely lady, she is a professional artist & designer, and in her own words she is also an “amateur photographer/ homesteader/ explorer living simply within the nature of the Pacific NW Islands.” She is an all around top-notch lady! I purchased a Jill Bliss notebook years ago and have slowly been filling the pages with doodles, to do lists, recipes, and other ramblings. Despite that I use the notebook as a productivity tool, it lay dormant for an unknown amount of time tucked under a miscellaneous pile.
After a particularly rough week I turned to what always makes me feel better- exercise. I reached for the Jill Bliss notebook because I remembered that I jotted down a series of yoga stretches each accompanied by its own stick figure drawing. After flipping through the pages I realized that even when I manage to fill every page in this notebook I will keep and cherish it for years to come. I love the way that Jill’s delicate drawings interact with my doodles and endless lists. The notebook is a way of recording small wins, losses, or ideas that might otherwise slip through my memory and Jill’s illustrations add value and whimsy to each page.
Jill, thank you for sharing your talent and helping others unlock, understand, and celebrate their potential.