Tuesday, May 1, 2018

New Project!

I'm very happy to announce that my graphic novel series, PACEY PACKER: UNICORN TRACKER books 1 and 2 have been picked up by Random House. 

This will be a major project for me.  If you ask me what I'm up to for the next year or so, the answer will be Pacey Packer. 

The first book is about 118 pages long.  It's already written and roughed out, although I haven't received my editorial notes yet.  (Fingers crossed that the edits won't be too major.)  I'm already starting on the nice pencils.

When that's finished in a couple of months, I'll move onto the final art. 

Basically, I'm expecting each book to take me about 7 months to make.  It'll look kinda, sorta like the image above.  We haven't finalized the exact art yet, but I think we're aiming for black and white, with purple.

I'll chronicle the experiences as I go through them.  By the time it comes out in Spring of 2020, you should have a pretty good idea of what it takes to make a graphic novel.  (As will I.)

Thanks for checking in.
It's finally starting to feel like Spring in New England.  I hope the flowers are blooming wherever you are.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Watercolor Animals


Since my last post, I have been busy filling out my solo show that will take place in August and September in West Hartford.  I actually went into a bit of a panic because when I was figuring out how many pieces I had ready, I realized it was far fewer than I thought.

I still had a lot of wall space to fill.

I had decided a while ago that I wanted it to be an all-watercolor show.  I wanted it to look good and cohesive as a exhibition.  But now I had to think about what watercolors I wanted to include.  Since all the pieces I had so far featured animals - or some other kind of life in it - I decided to go that way.  No barns.  No trees.  No landscapes.  Everything had to have some kind of animal (or insect) life in it.

With that in mind, I cranked out the watercolors.

Green Toad Mellows          2018        j. c. phillipps

Grey Ghost           2018         j. c. phillipps

Java Cat        2018        j. c. phillipps

Small Green Frog           2018          j. c. phillipps
Small Green Frog started out as a bigger painting, but the mushroom turned out awful.  Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes it just goes south and there's nothing you can do about it.  So I cropped it.  It's a small little painting now, but it has become one of my favorites.  I love that little frog.

Texas Longhorn             2018          j. c. phillipps

Smudgy Bee                2018               j. c. phillipps
I call this one Smudgy Bee because after I was done painting the bee, the edges were too rough and solid.  The bee didn't blend with the background.  So I took some clear water and smudged up the edges, I let the colors bleed into each other a bit.  I like it so much better now.

Winter Sheep                  2018                   j. c. phillipps

The show is ready now.  The pieces are matted, framed, and wired.  I have them packed away until August.  Now my biggest task is figuring out what to name the show.  I'm playing with Watercolor Kingdom - like Animal Kingdom but I don't want people to go in there thinking they're going to see knights and such.  Watercolor Creatures is another idea.  Watercolor Life.  Anyway, nothing has clicked so far.  We'll see.

Thanks for stopping in!
I hope your Spring has less snow than mine has had.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Big Blue Octopus Tutorial

Hi guys.  Last week I painted a large octopus watercolor.  I thought you might like to see my process, so I took photographs along the way.

Phillipps working on watercolor.  2018.
 This is me working on my painting, Big Blue Octopus.  I know, I know.  What a deep, poetic title!  What can I say?  I am very boring and matter-of-fact with my titles.  I do this so I won't forget which painting is which. 

This shot was taken towards the end of the process.  Let's go back to the beginning.

After deciding on the size and sketching out an octopus, I do a small color test.  I knew I wanted the octopus to be blue, but I wasn't sure what color to make the water.  After this color test, I decided l liked the all-blue palette.  In some ways, that will be more challenging, making the some of the blue pull forward and other parts recede.  But I liked the limited color palette.  And I love blue.

Next I took a piece of large, clear plastic and traced my octopus.  This will be the mask so I can loosely painting the background and not worry about covering over my subject.  I cut it out just inside the lines...

... then I glue it to the paper with liquid frisket.  Liquid frisket (a.k.a. masking fluid) is something watercolor artists use to cover a portion of their paper to keep it white.  By cutting my plastic a little thinner and smaller than my actual octopus, I can paint the frisket over the edge of the plastic and onto the watercolor paper.  That way I am creating a seal between the paper and the plastic and I'm filling out the rest of my subject.  Now the octopus is completely masked off.  (I could also paint over the entire octopus - that that would be a LOT of masking fluid.)

When I am painting a subject that is underwater, I like to be very loose and wet with my background.  I will throw a bunch of water and paints on the paper.  I'll swish things around, turn the board left and right, splatter water on there.  I'll just get really loose and crazy until I think it looks good.  (Remember to keep areas light and paint others darker.  Even though it's loose, it's it still requires composition.)

Good thing I masked that octopus out, right?  Look at the mess!

When the background is completely dry, I carefully pull up the masking fluid and plastic, revealing a nice, white octopus.

Ta da!

But I can't paint it yet.  Now I need to go in and mask out all the little suction cups.  It's tedious, but careful work and planning help to make the painting good.  If I didn't do this part, I'd have to paint around all the suction cups, and then I'd get weird drying and inconsistent paint colors. 

Notice that there's a blue smudge on my nice, white octopus.  Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes some paint seeps underneath the masking.  I lightened it up a bit with water and I don't worry about it since I'll be painting the octopus blue anyway.

This is a first pass at painting the octopus.  While the paint is wet, I add in some dots and spatters that will soften and bleed out.  This gives the illusion of texture on the octopus's head.

Here's a detail look after a couple more passes over the head.  I've worked on the eye a bit, adding shadow to the bottom and leaving the top almost white.  And I've gone over the lower head with paint, leaving some dots blank.  You can see that the masking is still on the suction cups.  Also, notice how I'm able to distinguish between the front tentacles and the back tentacles with darker colors and shadows.

When I'm happy with the blues and the purples under the tentacles, I lift the liquid frisket off of every suction cup.  It's important to make sure all of the paint is dry before you do this or else you'll smudge paint on the clean paper.  That would be a big bummer.

Then I go in and paint the soft pinks and purples in the suction cups.  It takes a little while to do all the detail work, so I put on a good podcast or some mellow music and enjoy the process.  Then I need to add in shadows to the edges of the suction cups and to the tentacles, below the suction cups.  The shadows really makes the painting come alive.

When it's close to being finished, I take a lot of time to observe the painting and pay attention to where my eyes go and if any area looks lacking.  Sometimes I soften hard lines.  Sometimes I add deeper colors.  Sometimes I lift colors out.  When I'm 90% happy, I stop.  There's a real danger in over-painting or working something to the point of ruining it, so I try to stop before I do that.

Then I sign it and it's done.

Big Blue Octopus                  2018                      J. C. Phillipps
I should also note that I use Arches paper.  For this painting I used 140 lb cold press.  It's important to use a good paper, because quality paper can take some abuse without ripping.  I'll use cheaper paper for smaller, dryer paintings.  But when I work wet and large, I like to build it up on high quality paper.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
I hope you enjoyed a peek into my process.
Have a great week -

Monday, February 5, 2018

Jewelry Making Mode

I go through creative cycles.  I'll sew a lot for awhile.  Then maybe I'll want to sit and do needlework for a month.  Maybe I'll get seriously into drawing for a bit.  But now I am coming back around to jewelry making.

I don't like to go to the craft store and buy a bunch of stuff and then simply assemble it.  I mean, I do like that very much, but one of my creative goals is to make some of - or all of - the beads that I use.  I found a tutorial on making "turquoise" beads with polymer clay, so I spent the weekend working on these.  (And I like the look of the turquoise beads mixed with a red/orange coral bead, so I just applied the same techniques to creating orange clay "coral" beads.)

After I roll them and bake them, I like to give them a nice thin coat of varnish.  Here they are drying in the sun.

The next day, when the varnish was dry, I began stringing.  I'm using a thin hemp cord to connect them.  I'm very bad at winding wire and making clasps, so I really like making long necklace with no clasps.  (I need to work on that.)  You can see my sketchy plan beneath the beds.

The above necklace is all "Turquoise" and the below one - the half moon - has the coral beads mixed in.  I'm really happy with how they turned out.  I'm going to crank out some more for the Spring and Summer craft shows.

Winter is still bitter cold here, but the snow is gone.  I am ready for the buds of Spring to come and bring some warmth and color to New England.  But until then, I'll just have to make my own.

Thanks so much for stopping in and checking on me.
Have a lovely week!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Women's March, Hartford 2018

This Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the Women's March, so I put on my pink pussy hat, made a new sign* and was proud to march again.

*I didn't actually make a new sign.  This sign reading, Keep Your Laws Away from Our Hoo-Has! is actually from last year's Planned Parenthood march.  That one was cancelled due to snow, so this is the first showing of this sign.  It still works!

Stefanie - my art buddy and protest pal - made a very cool pink pussy power parasol that her daughter carried around most of the time, but I snapped a pick with her holding it.  She's also wearing her Pussy Power shirt that she designed. 

We marched in front of the Capitol and under Hartford's Soldier and Sailor Memorial Arch.  We marched with men and women of different colors and ages.  We chanted.  We sang.  We stood for something good - and it was awesome!

Basically, the same thing happened this year as happened last year; we couldn't get close enough to the front to hear any speakers.  I think they had another technology issue.  But we were still there: still strong, still proud, still ready to use our minds and our voices.

It was a wonderfully kind and encouraging experience that I know was shared across the country.

And, of course, the signs are always awesome.

I hope you are feeling empowered wherever you are.
Thanks so much for stopping in!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Flying into 2018


2018 is well underway here in Connecticut.  It has been bitter cold, but is a balmy 30 degree day today.  Woo-hoo - break out the bikini! 

It will be calmer in my art room for a few months.  No imminent shows.  Which means I'll have more penciled-in self-imposed deadlines, rather than black-ink calendar deadlines.  I'll be busy - but a manageable kind of busy.

One of the first things coming up is a group show at the Spicy Green Bean (a lovely little restaurant in Glastonbury, CT.)  The theme is FLIGHT.  It took me a little while to settle on what I wanted to do.  I tend to like birds and bugs and things of the like, and I was getting a little overwhelmed at some of the possibilities. 

But then I focused on the venue.  My best show there - to date - has been the Black-and-White show.
I think the black-and-white images look very sharp against the red walls there.  Also, my drawings (rather than paintings or collage) reproduce very nicely and therefore I can have more prints available.  This is a restaurant, after all.  People go in to eat, not to buy art for their mansions.  So more reasonable priced reproduced art sells better than higher priced originals.  Gotta know the market!

So I decided on Steampunk Flying Machines. I don't normally love drawing cars and planes and mechanical things, but Steampunk incorporates a lot of imagination, so it was pretty fun.   I sat down with my pencil, Sharpies, and my Copic greys and got to work. 

Here's the collection.
Airship Zero in the Sky      2017     j. c. phillipps

Bubbleship B           2018             j. c. phillipps

FishCopter               2017               j. c. phillipps

Flying DoDo               2017             j. c. phillipps

OctoBalloon          2017           j. c. phillippps

Snailship 7                 2018                 j. c. phillipps

Steampunk Flying Machines           2018           j. c. phillipps

Twelve-Thirty Blimp          2018          j. c. phillipps  

The ones with the white background are straight up marker drawings.  The ones with a little scenery were put into Photoshop and manipulated there.  FLIGHT doesn't go up until mid-February, so I'm well ahead of schedule - which is much better than being caught up in a last-minute scramble.  :)  Maybe 2018 will be the year of efficiency.

Hope that you all are feeling good at the beginning of 2018!
Thanks so much for stopping in!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ahhhhhhhh ... Relief

Ahhhhh ... the last art show of the year is over.  And it was wonderful!

A shot of my space - all ready to go!
We were worried about Saturday.  The weather forecasters were predicting a big storm.  And we got 7 inches, but the roads stayed drive-able for a long time and people came!  Wahoo!

We had live music.

Lots of people came out on Saturday - despite the storm.

A panorama shot of the space.  It used to be a car showroom.

The artists and makers of the Holiday Art Market.
It was a really lovely group of artists who made fabulous things.  One of our goals with this group has been associating the name of the WeHa Artists Emporium which high quality art.  There is definitely a place for more kitschy-crafty things like crocheted Barbie clothes - Lord know I loved that stuff as a kid - but we want people to know that they will be seeing a wide variety of finely made art and crafts at one of our shows, and we certainly pulled it off this time.  It was GREAT shopping!

Stefanie Marco is the wonderful artist who started it all.  I basically just back her up.  Putting on a show like this is a lot of work, but when it all works out, when it has been a successful show - not just for us but for all of the artists - then we have done what we set out to do.

And now it is time to rest.  Well, not complete rest.  I have to put everything away properly, send out the last box of Xmas gifts, do the holiday cards, and yadda, yadda, yadda.  But the art shows are over and I can focus on other things.

Here's our house after the fresh snow Sunday morning.  Just imagine me inside, sitting by the fire, sipping cocoa in my flannel pj pants, and writing out Christmas cards.

Thank you so much for stopping in after my break.   I needed it!

Happy Holidays everyone!