Welcome to the new realm of colored pencil art
Go behind the scenes with a career artist at the start of her career
View works-in-progress and read about the techniques and tools used by artist Christina Langman

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Miniature "Moses" - WIP 3

Here's an update on the Miniature 5" x 5" piece of "Moses" the serval cat. It's taken me a little longer than planned, simply because of the holiday season, but I'm working on it here and there when I have a few minutes. I'm enjoying this piece, and am excited to see it finished. These pictures follow from the place I left off in the last post, even though they were each done on different days.
This first picture (above) is the base layer of the cheek, just before burnishing, which is in the following image:

This image (above) shows adding some detail to the face and cheek.
This image (above) shows more detail in the face, and the start of the neck. In the reference photo, the neck is a little blurry - almost a little out of focus, and I intend to replicate that. There is less hair texture in the neck area, as it's not a main focus point for the picture.

And I just realized that I haven't kept up with my "What's in the DVD player?" segment... I've been through a good number of shows already since I last mentioned I was watching "The Simpsons" DVDs, and right now I am watching the third season of "Futurama". I got the first season of "King of the Hill" on DVD for Christmas, and I think that will be next in line.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A thought on pet portraits...

I was recently asked for a quote to do a portrait of a family member's beloved cat. It gave me the thought to write a bit of a note regarding the concept of pet portraits, and likewise the pricing of such projects. Basically, I have a set per-square-inch price that I try to follow as strictly as possible when quoting commissions or pricing my original works. This price, unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) means that most people will not commission pet portraits. I say "or fortunately" because it ultimately gives me a way to politely say "no" to these projects without actually saying no. I quote the price, and the client realizes it is out of their price range, and opts out of the project. In this one case, I really actually WANT to do the portrait. I quite like the cat, and think he would make a great portrait. However, I am not comfortable in any way with giving a "family discount" or giving a better deal just because I really want to do the project. And so, I quoted my normal price, and offered the option of a payment plan, and mentioned it would be a few months before I could fit it in anyways (encouraging them to maybe save some money up for the project). Really, I can't "poo-poo" on pet portraits, as that is how I got my start as an artist. However, this is no longer my area of interest, and I feel that as a wildlife artist, I have to stay away from these projects as much as possible. They consume a massive amount of time, and result in a piece of art that may be special to one person, but ultimately is not going to have any mass appeal to the public that I am trying to market my work to. I've decided to only take on projects that meet the following specifications: a) I actually WANT to do the portrait (an interesting breed of dog, or a particular cat that I know and like) and b) I know the client is completely comfortable with the pricing. In most cases, either a) or b) (or both) are not met, and therefore the project doesn't go forward. I have a lot of respect for artist that make a career and a name for themselves as pet portrait artists, but it is not a route that I want to take. And so - I hope my family member plans to go ahead with the portrait, despite the high price, and I will enjoy the project - but I understand completely if they decide against it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keeping in touch!

Well I know I said I'd post weekly - and I do intend to keep that promise. However, we all know how things get around the holidays. With family out of province, and hosting a big holiday dinner this year, I have been quite busy with those additional tasks. Not only that, but my painting has recently branched out onto the walls... of my dining nook! I painted it a brand new color, and love it entirely, although I severely underestimated how much work it would be. Just wanted all of you faithful fans and readers to know that I'm still here, and my blog will definitely not have another six month stretch with no posts! Wishing all of you out there a happy holiday season, no matter how (or if) you celebrate.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Miniature "Moses" - WIP 2

Here are some more in-progress photos from "Moses" the Serval. Keep in mind that this piece is 5" x 5". I like working in this scale, as it's still big enough to do lots of detail, but it's small enough to potentially finish a piece in a few days. I'm enjoying working on this one, and I think it's going well. My apologies though for the lack of quality for the photos... if anyone has advice for how to photograph artwork while in-progress, please let me know! Essentially what I am doing now is keeping a tripod up and pointed at a wall which has marks where to put the picture... and at each stage I put the picture up, shoot a photo, and then go back to work. The problem is, these won't be taken in natural light, and trying to edit them in Photoshop to all look the same (levels, color, etc) is a nightmare. Overall, it's taking me WAY too much time to do the photos, edit them, and then post them here, and I don't want it to take away from my actual work!
This first picture is the nose, which is very different on a serval - compared to most cats which have noses resembling house cat anatomy, servals have a large and smooth nose, very rounded and almost dog-like.
One of my favorite parts of this picture is where the hair swirls and changes direction on his muzzle. I will likely add even more detail to that part, as it's crucial to the realism of the hair.
More progress...
Even though the eye is penciled in (outlined in black) I will leave it for last. I love to do the eye, and saving it for last keeps my interest in the picture, and it really allows the picture to "come alive" at that stage.
More progress... I should be finished this piece soon, and I'm looking forward to seeing it finished!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Book and Briar Patch Demonstration - Cancelled!

Although I had not yet posted it (I got the phone call only minutes before I was going to post about it), I was scheduled to do a demonstration with another member from the Regina Federation of Artists at the Book and Briar Patch in Regina on November 29th - however, plans have changed! The book store is so busy with book signings that they have asked the guild if we could put off our monthly Saturday demonstrations until after the new year. And so, for those of you who knew about my demonstration by word-of-mouth, I won't be at the store on Saturday! My new scheduled time to sit at the Book and Briar Patch will be Saturday, March 28th, 2009 - but I'll remind everyone a little closer to the date.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Miniature "Moses" - WIP 1

This is the starting stages of the Miniature serval cat, "Moses" from a few posts back. I decided to go with some foliage for the background, as I figured the original reference photo of his cage wasn't all that flattering! The photos that follow are the first steps: 1) Transferring the sketch to the final copy, 2) Base layer on the background, and 3) Burnishing and Detailing of the background. This piece will henceforth be titled "Eye of Moses the Serval".

2009 Advertising Merchandise

Like previous years, I have created some neat things to give out to friends, family, and clients for this coming year. Through VistaPrint.com, I take the documents that I create on Photoshop and have them printed on various business promotion items. Shown below are the 2009 calendar magnets, a business card sized magnet with "Focus" on it, and a greeting card for this year's holiday season, with "Repose" on it. Do you want a magnet for your fridge? Leave a comment here on the blog, (don't forget your e-mail address) or go to BigCatArt.com and click on one of the numerous links to send me an e-mail. Mail me a self-addressed stamped envelope, and I'll send you a magnet for free!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The next miniature is...

"Moses" the Serval! This is the reference photo I'll be using for my next miniature piece. This is my own photo, taken at the Guzoo in Three Hills, AB. "Moses" is an adult Serval - one of the smallest "big" cats, the one that has gigantic ears! This cat loved having his photo taken, and reminded me of a model. He actually posed for his pictures, slowly showing each side, then looking at the camera, then looking away, then getting up and sitting on a log... it was so much fun! This piece will be done in colored pencils, 5" x 5" - and I'll take some photos along the way to show the progress!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Goal Statement - In Writing!

And so, now that my massive list of updates are complete, with months worth of posts all occurring on one day, I'd like to end with a goal statement. The purpose of this post is to commit, in writing, to a personal goal that I would like to set for myself in my art career. Having it written, and seen by other people, will help me in achieving it - it will give me an accountability of sorts! Motivation is always an issue for someone who is self-employed, especially when working with something that really requires you to "feel" like doing it! And so, here are my commitments:

1) To work on my art five days per week*

2) To create at least one miniature (5" x 5") piece every two weeks, starting December 1st, 2008

3) To post on my blog at least once per week

*I'd like to specify that "work" can consist of actual artwork, or art-related activities, including working on my website, corresponding with clients, cleaning the studio, editing photos, etc. The goal here is to make a solid effort to do art-related activities five days per week

I'll be working on my large commission piece - the next cougar piece, as well as doing the occasional miniature piece, including some long-awaited dog eye ATC's that belong to a certain Aunt who has patience beyond anything I know! I'd also like to use some of my time to increase my advertising in the art world. Additionally, I'd like to take some time to dabble in carving - perhaps even entering a small piece in next year's "Reflections of Nature" carving competition! Lofty goals, I know, but I'm really working at beating this procrastination thing that plagues almost all of us artists! Thanks to all of you, my loyal fans, for supporting me through my journey!

Regina Federation of Artists - Fall 2008 Show and Sale

November 7th to 9th was the Regina Federation of Artists (RFA) Fall 2008 Show and Sale. We had a great show! Thanks to all of you who attended, and if you are reading this and would like to be invited to the show next time, please visit my personal website and send me an e-mail. I can then add you to my contact list and send you an invitation for our next show. Additionally, I'll post show information here on the blog as well. Sorry to anyone I forgot to invite!

This was our third show held at the fabulous Wascana Place in Wascana Park, across from The Willow and the marina. We had a great attendance, and some amazing new artists in our guild. The show was a great success, and we are already gearing up for the next one!

The RFA shows always have a "People's Choice" award, given out at the Friday night wine-and-cheese event. With all the amazing artwork at this show, I was sure I wouldn't win - but my fans (some new, some who have been there from the start!) really surprised me! "Focus" won the first place "People's Choice" award, and so was able to have the first place ribbon hang beside it for the remainder of the show. Again - a "People's Choice" award is a great one to receive, as it's a great feeling to know that the public in general is impressed with your work. I met some great people at the show, and had a great time socializing with friends and fans and fellow artists!

Eye of the Tiger Cub II - Miniature

The third piece in my series of five by five miniatures is "Eye of the Tiger Cub II", a colored pencil piece based on a cute little tiger cub at the Guzoo in Three Hills, AB. I had the wonderful opportunity to play with this little guy and photograph him, and am now able to work from my own reference photos for these pieces. This was a different style for me, as I have never done a close-crop of an eye that showed a whole ear but no muzzle or nose. It's not as cute or as eye-catching as the ones that have muzzle, nose, and whiskers, but I'm still happy with how it turned out!
"Eye of the Tiger Cub II"
Medium: Colored Pencils
Dimensions: 5" x 5"

Eye of Zion the Lion Cub - Miniature

This is the second in my new series of miniature pieces. These pieces will all be five inches by five inches, done in colored pencils. Zion is a lion cub who was born at the Guzoo in Three Hills, AB, in early 2006. In May of 2006, I visited the Guzoo and had the unique opportunity to play with Zion and take pictures of him. I had so much fun with him, and he was such a photogenic little guy! This miniature artwork is the first one inspired by Zion, and there will likely be more of them in the future! The piece was enjoyable to work on, and I'm looking forward to doing more pieces this size.
"Eye of Zion the Lion Cub"
Medium: Colored Pencils
Dimensions: 5" x 5"

Colored Pencil Workshop

For those of you curious how I do my colored pencil technique, I've posted a full tutorial with step-by-step images at my personal site. Visit my Colored Pencil Tutorial to give it a try!

Reflections of Nature 2008 - Bird Head Carving Competition

Every year at the "Reflections of Nature" competition put on by the Saskatchewan Wildlife Art Association, the bird carvers in the organization get together on Sunday morning to participate in a "Quick-Carve" competition - each person gets a blank piece of wood and has to turn it into a bird head pin (a thin carving that has a pin glued on the back - so it can be pinned onto your shirt). Everyone gets two and a half hours to complete a carving, including carving and painting. At the end of the two and a half hours, the pins are gathered together and judged, awarding a first, second and third. In the afternoon they are auctioned off to raise funds for the organization.

The night before the event, at the banquet, some of those crazy bird carvers managed to convince me to participate - even though I have never carved anything in my life. Insisting I couldn't possibly - I have no supplies - they said they'd bring everything I needed, just show up and join in! And so, having a few glasses of wine in me, I agreed. Come the next morning, I was maybe second guessing this decision a little bit! But here's how it started:This is Harvey Welch, a very accomplished and respected carver in the organization, showing me the ropes! And, using his fancy "buzz-tool" none-the-less! I had so much fun - even with the stress of having only two and a half hours to not only learn, but try to perfect (you know me!) a technique I had never tried! It was a blast, and after carving with Harvey's tools, I joined Cam Merkle and borrowed his paints and brushes to start adding color to my little pin. Finishing just a little over-time (I wasn't the only one, trust me!) we all handed in our pins for judging. And....That's my little bird pin in third place! I even beat Cam! (I swear this isn't bragging!) It was such a neat experience, and I really had a great time learning from some of these amazing carvers. It makes me want to dabble in it a little more! Here's a close-up:
Later in the day, the pins were auctioned off, and my pin went for a staggering $200 - to my "number one fan" of course! It was one of the highest priced auction pieces, and the highest priced pin that sold! It was quite an honor! I'm already looking forward to next year, when I'll give this whole pin-carving thing another try!

Reflections of Nature 2008 - Colored Pencil Workshop

At this year's "Reflections of Nature" competition and exhibition put on by the Saskatchewan Wildlife Art Association, I was invited to teach a workshop on my colored pencil technique. I was so surprised that the workshop not only filled up - but was actually over filled! There were sixteen of my fellow artists, friends, and fans who actually paid to learn my technique! It was quite flattering, really, and I had so much fun teaching. Here's a picture of me hunkering down behind the table demonstrating part of my technique:(Much thanks to my number one fan - my mom - who was not only my personal assistant at the workshop, but she was my photographer and moral support too!)

I taught the course by demonstrating one step of my technique by having everyone gather around the table and watch, then allowed everyone to try it themselves with their supplies and reference photos at their tables. I then walked around and helped out where I could, answered questions as they arose, and generally tried to impart some of my knowledge! Additionally, I had booklets done up with the steps and photos printed in them, so people could follow along or take them home to read later. Overall, I think everyone had a lot of fun. In particular, I want to show this picture of me and Kay, one of the wonderful people who took my class. Kay had never even tried colored pencils before - EVER - and she did so very well! I hope she (and everyone else that tried it out!) keep up the great work, and as I told them all - I hope to see more colored pencil works in next year's competition!
For those of you who would like to see the photos included in my step-by-step tutorial, along with the written "how-to" guide to my colored pencil technique, feel free to visit my personal site where I have posted my full Colored Pencil Tutorial. And keep in mind that I am always happy to help out if you have questions - just drop me an e-mail!

Reflections of Nature 2008 - Results

For those of you who don't know what "Reflections of Nature" is, here's a brief description. Every year in October, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Art Association puts on an exhibition show for wildlife artists. It is the largest gathering (and most impressive of course!) of wildlife artists in western Canada, perhaps even all of Canada. It spans the genres of wildlife photography, bird carving, paintings and drawings (also known as "flatwork") and junior events. Additionally, there are workshops, commercial booths, demonstrations, charity auctions, banquets, wine-and-cheese functions, and, of course, it is a judged art competition. This was my fourth year participating in "Reflections of Nature", and it was a great year. The show gets better and better with each passing year, and every year I leave the show feeling energized and ready to create more work for the following year!

This year's competition was a crazy mixture of emotions! For starters, my main entry in the show was "Focus", which you know from previous posts here on the blog. I expected it to do well, but past experiences at the show have taught me to never know what to expect from judges! This year was no exception to the rule. "Focus" took no ribbons what-so-ever. Not even a class ribbon or an honorable mention. Which, for those of you who know me and know the show - was somewhat surprising. But, as we all know - art is subjective, and the judging is even more so. Upon speaking to a judge at the wine-and-cheese function, it was explained to me that perhaps the anatomical accuracy was an issue in this piece... they were debating whether or not a cougar would have such a huge paw. Well (again with the "those that know me" bit) those that know my work will know that I usually measure precisely and take extra care in getting my sketch identical to the original reference photo. At no point do I make any portion up, or refer to multiple reference photos (which can lead to just this problem of anatomical discrepancy) and I strive for such an accuracy in the drawing that essentially, it is close to identical to the original photo. And so, this basically means that when someone questions anatomical correctness of my artwork, they are really just judging the conformation of the animal in the wild - like a dog show. Which I find amusing. Of course, I digress. It was great, as it always is, to get feedback from a judge in a competition of this caliber. So that was the not-so-happy part of the emotional roller coaster.

The biggest shock of the weekend came when I was looking for my miniature piece, "Snow Leopard's Eye", to see how it had done. I was curious if it had won the miniature division, and so I walked back to the miniature division boards and looked for it - and it was gone. Nowhere to be found! It took me five minutes of wandering around like a dork before I realized I had seen the second and third Best in Show winners, but had yet to see the winner overall - the Best in Show Open winner. That's when I headed for the front of the hall (where they put special boards to hang the Best in Show winners - so the public sees them first upon entering the show) just to discover that my little miniature piece actually WON. Actually WON the Best in Show Open award. Wow. So obviously this is the way-more-happy part of the emotional roller coaster! Here's a picture of the painting hanging on the Best in Show boards, with it's ribbons:
The next loop on the ride was the Special Competition #5, or the Poster Competition. Each year, they hold a competition to decide which piece will be placed on next year's advertisements, posters, buttons, etc - essentially every piece of publicity they put out for the show will have the winning piece of artwork on it. It's a big deal, so I brought out the big guns! I entered "Repose" - the tiger cub colored pencil piece - and held my breath! And when I attended the wine-and-cheese function, I saw a ribbon hanging by "Repose". And so, with the roller coaster going up, I started celebrating. Until a good friend pointed out that the ribbon was red... indicating second place... yup. All previous years had always awarded a first place only - no reason to tell someone they were that close to winning, right? They simply awarded the winner. Meaning I saw a ribbon and immediately assumed I had won. Wow, did I ever feel like a spaz. Of course, I had already told the owners of the piece that we had won, and we were all happy and celebrating, and then I had to tell them the not so great news. Yay. And so, my bubble wasn't quite burst - it was just pinched a little. It couldn't burst all the way, I mean... I had just won a Best in Show with my miniature! And so that kept the party going.

The most shocking and brag-worthy award of the entire show came late on Sunday afternoon, during the awards ceremony. For the first time EVER, the organization decided to do a "People's Choice" award, meaning that every one of the thousands of people who came in the door were given a ballot, and had the chance to vote for their favorite piece in the show. This could be ANY piece - a carving, a photo, a painting, anything. And so, I had really not given the idea any more thought other than "Oh, what a great idea that they are doing that this year!" as I just assumed one of the awesome carvings in the show would receive the award. And then they announce the winner: Christina Langman with "Repose"! My tiger cub colored pencil piece, which I entered in the poster competition and took second place, was actually the "People's Choice" - the public's favorite piece in the whole show. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I'M BRAGGING. I was thrilled, to say the least. A "People's Choice" is often a larger "feel-good" award than some judged awards, as it is a large group of people, all picking you as their favorite. It makes an artist all warm and fuzzy inside!

So the roller coaster ended, with me feeling dizzy and slightly exhausted, but overall very glad I got on the ride! And of course, looking forward to riding again next year!

Snow Leopard's Eye - Miniature

While preparing for the "Reflections of Nature" show in Saskatoon (put on by the Saskatchewan Wildlife Art Association), I had a unique opportunity to create a miniature artwork to enter in the competition. I had been invited to teach a workshop at the show to demonstrate my colored pencil technique, and in order to prepare for the class, I needed photos of my work at each step along the way - a teaching aid for the workshop. The solution was to create a miniature piece of artwork and photograph it at each little step. The result? A Best in Show winner!
"Snow Leopard's Eye" is a colored pencil piece, five inches by five inches. To view the workshop tutorial that was produced using this artwork step-by-step, visit my Colored Pencil Tutorial at my personal website. The tutorial has over 30 images taken from various stages of this artwork, including a detailed how-to on the eye!


Focus is finished! The last touch of the picture was to add the snowflakes, both in the air (in focus and out of focus) and resting on the cat. I had a lot of fun with the snowflakes, and managed to quickly perfect the technique, even though this is my first time trying it out! The snowflakes that are out of focus give the picture a very photographic quality, as it's not something you would often see in a painting. I love how this picture turned out.
Below is a close-up of the finished cougar's face:

Focus WIP - Part 8

This picture shows the completed cougar. Below is a close-up of the whiskers, which were particularly challenging, as it was tough to keep them thin enough to look real. Of course, cougars do have large white whiskers, and this cat in particular had quite the impressive set of whiskers on him!

Focus WIP - Part 7

This image shows more progress on the fur of the cougar, including the intermediate stage of layering some base colors prior to burnishing. I enjoyed working on the muscle definition, as it really gave life to the cat. Less and less paper showing now!

Focus WIP - Part 6

I know it has been months since I have posted regarding Focus, but the picture is now finished! What follows is the next step from the last post, and the next posts will be done in the same fashion.

This image shows the progress as I started working on the body of the cat. I found the hair details on a cat this small (in relation to the overall picture I mean, not small in real life) was a challenge. I am used to working on a larger scale with my pencils. The challenge was to make the cat detailed, yet still looking like real hair that was soft and touchable. It required a lot of frequent sharpening of the pencils, to keep a tiny point to do little hairs with!

A Sincere Apology!

Although I'm doubtful a lot of people read my blog regularly, I must still apologize. As you can see, there is a HUGE gap in my posts, and there is really no excuse for that. I created this blog as a way to motivate myself to increase my production of artwork. As it turned out, I posted frequently for a few weeks, but then quickly got distracted. On top of it being summer (lots to do outside!) I had a bit of a stay in the hospital (I'm fine now!) and have purchased myself a beater car (which has consumed insane amounts of both time and money) but those are all entirely different stories, which I won't dive into here.

The purpose of this post is solely to apologize to you, my few and loyal fans, for leaving you high and dry with no updates or news. And so, in the next 24-48 hours, there will be an overwhelming amount of updates, and I am going to post them as I would have if I had kept my blog current. Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Focus WIP - Part 5

This is the latest work on "Focus" the colored pencil cougar scene. I'm going with close-crops to show these updates, as the past pictures were really to small to see much of anything. This one shows the face, which I am currently working on:The one thing I have to say about this piece - I rarely work on an animal that is so small in a scene (the eyes are maybe 5-6mm across, whereas I am used to working with eyes almost life-sized) and so this is a whole new challenge. I have to make it look crisp and detailed, yet each pencil stroke is way wider than the width of a hair in the photo... it is really making me work to achieve the level of realism I expect in my work. However, I'm always up for a challenge, and as I progress, I'm sure it will get easier for me. I am having fun with it though - this is not one of those challenges that I grudgingly accept, it's the kind that I leap into whole-heartedly!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mural Mosaic - The Horse Gift

I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful project. Once again, the team at Mural Mosaic and NOA have created an amazing mural, with artists all over the world participating! Please visit their site for more info about the project. This picture is an image of my panel, #72 of the 238 total panels in the mural:The mural is created with 238 of these panels, and each one is 16" x 16" - meaning the entire mural will be a whopping 18' x 22' (approx. size). I will create a painting on this panel (as will all of the other artists on their panels) that matches the colors and shapes involved, and when all of the panels are reassembled, they will create an amazing image of "The Horse Gift" or "Le Cadeau du Cheval". The mural is scheduled to be unveiled at the prestigious international "Masters" competition at Spruce Meadows this September! I will be attending the event, where people will get to meet some of the artists, view the mural, and purchase prints of the entire mural. I haven't been to Spruce Meadows or the Masters since I was a teenager, so I'm very much looking forward to it. I have until July 1st to finish this painting, and so you will see the work-in-progress (WIP) posts as I progress on the panel. As of yet, I haven't decided 100% on what medium I will work in, although it will likely be acrylic paint. And of course, as I mentioned previously, I would let you all know what I'm watching on my TV - it is now "The Simpsons" Season Three. I'm back to working nights, and I'm going to see how this schedule works for me. I'll post more on that later.

Focus WIP - Part 4

The foreground is complete! The picture shows the piece with all of the background and foreground finished, and all that is left is the cougar itself (and the multitude of snowflakes falling in the sky). The varying degrees of camera focus in the foreground was a bit of a challenge - it is supposed to look like some of the grass and rocks are out of focus, and some are crisp and clear. I think it will look a little better (it will all come together) once the in-focus cougar is added... it will add some much needed reference points for all of the depth in this picture. I'm excited to get started on the cougar, and should be able to finish the picture in the month of May!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another Addition to the Studio

Once I had mounted my drafting table, it became very apparent that I needed a better place to put my TV... which I almost can't work without! I had resorted to setting the TV beside and behind me on a shelf, but I found it distracting that I couldn't see it in my peripheral vision. Of course, I had always planned to wall mount the TV at some point, but now it had become a necessity! And so, here it is:

Because of the weight requirements, I mounted a 2x6 to the wall first (screwed into both a stud and into drywall anchors) and then mounted the swing-out arm unit to that 2x6. It is solid as a rock, and is the perfect height not only for viewing, but also for changing DVD's (which would have been difficult if I had mounted it closer to the ceiling which I originally had planned!) And, as you can see, "The Simpsons" is in my DVD player... right now it's Season Two.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Focus WIP - Part 3

This is the latest step in "Focus", the colored pencil cougar that I am currently working on. Dimensions are 15" x 21.5". This photo shows the piece with the entire background done, leaving the foreground and the cougar left to finish. I find it much easier to do a background first, as the cougar will have hairs that extend over top of the background, which can easily be done by layering with the pencils. The struggle with this piece is maintaining the varying levels of camera focus in the piece, from distantly blurred (in the sky/trees) to close, but still fuzzy (the rocks/snow just behind the cougar), and next will be the foreground (more snow and rocks), which is mostly in great focus, but also blurs as it approaches the bottom of the image (closest to the photographer). I also find that the blurred backgrounds tend to look disjointed or off somehow when not put into context by a focussed foreground - meaning that I usually am unhappy with how my background looks until I finally put a foreground in. It makes it all come together and it is then easier for our eyes to place the blurred background where it is supposed to be - in the background! I must admit that I am excited to be able to work on the cougar soon - the animal of the scene is always the most enjoyable part to work on, which is part of why I leave it for last. I will post again soon with a look at the foreground in progress.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The First Day in the Studio

This is the first official day that I have been able to work in my studio - I mean REALLY work, on my art, in a functioning studio space. It is great... no, better than great! The wall-mounted drafting table is excellent, and although I first thought the 4' x 6' drafting table would be WAY too big for my needs, it allows me to spread out all of my supplies and still have my laptop on the table for my reference photo to be displayed. I've moved some of my numerous house plants into my studio as well, which makes the whole room a lot more inviting. I can now say officially that I have an art studio. It has a nice ring to it.

Today I worked on my cougar colored pencil piece titled "Focus". I am in the process of doing the background and foreground around the cougar. I plan to leave the cat for last, as it is the most precise and detailed part of the picture (and the most fun to work on). Look for a new post soon with an updated picture of "Focus".

One thing I am always asked as an artist is what I listen to (if anything) while I work on my art. I know one person who listens to music, and I even know an artist that listens to books on tape/CD while working. While it may be hard to believe, I actually have the TV on. Yes, I actually have TV on while working on my art. I don't actually WATCH the TV, I simply play DVD's of TV shows that I have seen before, so it doesn't require my attention to actually watch it. From now on, my blog posts will include what is in my DVD player that day. For example, today I started (for the umpteenth time) "The Simpsons" (Season 1) on DVD. "The Simpsons" has always been a favorite for me while working on art, as it is easy-listening mindless background noise.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

An Addition to the Studio

I have finally (and I really do mean FINALLY) finished wall-mounting my drafting table. I purchased this drafting table (just the table top - no stand) last year when we first bought our house, with intentions of one day having it in my art studio. It has been sitting in the garage ever since. Of course, my studio is 9' x 11', and the table is 4' x 6'. Do the math. There is certainly NOT enough room for this table to stand in this room, with space to move around comfortably. Hence, the wall-mount idea. I designed this entirely myself, using supplies I purchased at Rona, Princess Auto, and Napa Auto Parts. It was a lot of trial and error. More error than trial. But finally, it is working, and working WELL. More impressive than I even expected, in fact! When raised up, with the legs tucked under, this table takes up exactly 4 inches of my room, and is completely adjustable from a flat table to any height/angle, including a standing easel height. Below is a picture of the table at a working height:
And this is a close-up of the winch system (which happens to be rated for 10,000lbs... nothing like over-doing it right?) and also shows the rollers that hold the table in the tracks that run up and down the wall:
All in all, despite 3 days straight of construction work, and 5 (or more) trips to Rona, it was a success, and I can now say that I have a functioning studio, a space where I can actually go and work on my art AWAY from the rest of distractions that come along with working out of a home!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The cougar has a name! "FOCUS"

After much thought and consideration, and a lot of head-scratching, the owners of the Cougar WIP (see previous posts) have thought up the perfect title! This piece will now be referred to as "Focus". When looking at the work-in-progress today, it simply "came out"... and it seemed to fit perfectly. The cat has a very focussed look in his eye, and the picture itself is a study in differing depths of field. I won't be renaming the previous "Cougar WIP" posts, but in the future, look for "Focus WIP" for the remainder of the work.

Cougar WIP - Part 2

The background is now complete! Today the owners of this commission piece get to see the progress on the piece for the first time. I hope they are happy with it! I am glad to be done the blurred background - this is definitely one of the most difficult effects to achieve with colored pencils. I am looking forward to getting to work on the foreground and the cougar, although I'm not sure which I'll do next... I tend to rush into finishing the animals in the scene, then get easily bored with doing backgrounds/foregrounds. I'm trying to make a habit of completing as much of the scene as possible before I work on the subject. So, I will likely move on to the snowbanks in behind the cougar next. This point in the picture shows approximately 60 hours of work.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Great Advertising Opportunity

An exciting new era for my advertising is about to unfold... literally, in a magazine! The Night of Artists (NOA) based in Edmonton releases an annual magazine to the art world, including galleries across Canada and art collectors to a reader base of 10,000 for starters. This means that potentially 10,000 people could see THIS full page ad staring them right in the face! I had a wonderful opportunity (much thanks to the NOA crew to approach me and invite me to advertise with them) to put in a full page ad (yes, the ENTIRE page is mine!) and I am so excited to see my work in a published magazine. It comes out in March, and you can guarantee I will post pictures of the ad as it appears. I created the ad myself (including some fancy Photoshop work involving some creative tree construction!), which makes me extra proud of this new step in my career. Here's a zoom of the text for the ad: It may sound lofty and and a little (just a little) conceited, but that is how one must advertise oneself, right? I anxiously wait for my copy to arrive in the mail! (The art used in this ad is my "Repose" colored pencil piece, 20" x 28". The original is not the same crop, as the ad required room for text, hence the Photoshop work.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cougar WIP - Part 1

This is the first real entry to my blog. To start things off, I am posting the current status of a colored pencil work-in-progress (WIP). This piece is a commissioned work, 15" x 21.5" in size. The overall scene is a cougar cresting a snowy trail, with some trees out of focus behind him, and some rocks and snow in the foreground. He is intensely staring off into the distance.

This image shows the different stages for creating the "blurred photo" effect in colored pencils with a burnishing technique. The branch beside the cougars face shows both intermediate steps. For starters, multiple colors are laid down in layers of light shading/scribbling, including dark navy, peacock green, cool grey 90%, black, sepia etc. (basically any color visible at the pixel depth of the image when viewed on a computer screen - this is shown in the part of the branch that looks scratchy - not smooth). Then, using a color from the sky (pale blue, cool grey 10%, 20% or 30%) I press VERY hard in tiny scribbling circles to push the previous layers around until they smudge together (a.k.a. burnishing - which can be seen closest to the cougar's face, or on the separate tree on the left of the image). This can be done over and over in multiple layers, resulting in a very smooth and shiny finish, with NO paper or ghosting showing through at all. The result is almost photographic in it's feel.

Coming Soon!

The all new BigCatArt Blog will be up and running soon! See works-in-progress, as well as discussion on technique and media used for each piece. New pictures and topics coming soon!