Here, Kitty Kitty!

This fall I discovered Paper Clay–and boy, have I been having fun with it. I found I could make multiples of objects by making an original and then a mold. I love dogs, but their heads are all different shapes and sizes. Cats are relatively uniform in shape, and by applying wildly different paint jobs, I could create a whole herd of them.

https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/AshleyWolffArt/tools/listings/sort:title,order:ascending,page:3,stats:true/724351302

Paper clay Cat portraits: molded, dried, painted, varnished, and be-ribboned!
I modeled a cat face, then made a mold from it. It got a little thin at the tip of the nose so I have to fix the nose on each model.
I use cornstarch to dust the mold so the damp paper clay doesn’t stick.
Dusting the mold with cornstarch.
I roll out the paper clay to about 1/4″ and lay it over the mold.
The clay is pressed into the mold.
I flip the mold over and carefully lift it up off the clay.
The cat face before trimming.
I smooth the edges and surfaces with a stiff, damp paintbrush. Each face is slightly different.
Once the excess clay is trimmed away I shape and add details to the face with the beveled end of a paintbrush.
A tray of cat heads ready to dry. While the clay is still damp I slide a small hanger eye into the top of the head. Now they need about 36 hours to fully dry.
Once the cat heads are dry I paint them with Holbein Acryla gouache.
Each one is an individual portrait. These three are modeled after a Mai Thai, a classic seal point siamese, Ms Bogart, a Russian Blue and Elizabeth, a tabby with a startling orange stripe up her face.
Here are Dolly and Fern, two of my favorites.

Find your next best friend, or see if you can find a dearly departed feline in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/AshleyWolffArt/tools/listings/sort:title,order:ascending,stats:true/738567979 .

I am also happy to accept custom orders anytime.

Painting Rocket

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Border Collies. I admire the intelligence that shines through in their gaze and their graphic markings that make them extra fun to draw and paint.

Recently I was lucky to be commissioned by his doting mama to paint a portrait of Rocket, a handsome western fellow. Lori sent a variety of photos and I chose several to work from. I liked his face in one and the aspen forest background from another.

I worked on a Dick Blick wooden panel–the 6″ x 12″ format seemed especially good for this subject and I knew my Holbein Acryla Gouache paints would look great. I can paint all four edges of this panel to become part of the work of art and they are light and easy to hang, even in a tight space.

As usual, I start with loose shapes and brushwork and work tighter as I home in on the particular details of this animal. I’ve found that the eyes, ears, and mouth convey a dog’s personality most clearly.

Even at this stage I found I needed to dash in some new areas of warmth to set up the complementary contrasts.

Above and below see how the deep edges of the panel become part of the artwork. I keep them more abstract than the main image but large landscape elements carry over.

The finished portrait of Rocket in the Aspen Grove with a lucky ladybug as the final touch.

If you’ve enjoyed this and want to order a portrait of your favorite companion, please get in touch: ashley@ashleywolff.com

Welcome Spring!

After a long Vermont winter we all get a little blue.


We all need to get outside! We need to leave our coats and hats and boots behind. We need to wear sneakers, ride bikes, see some green, roll in the grass, play ball, ride a pony and dig in the garden. Spring fever is a real thing!

I recently visited the kindergartners at Orwell Village School and talked about writing and art, filling your page and adding detail. They must have soaked it all in–like spring sunshine. Today I received this video, made with the help of their wonderful teacher Josh Martin:

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If this doesn’t get your spring juices flowing, nothing will!

ENJOY!

Today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic

Assignment: Paint a picnic basket for the Henry Sheldon Museum’s 26th Annual  Pops Concert and Fireworks Display summer fundraiser.

Materials: basket, gouache paints, love.

Process: Get an idea, do some research, make a sketch.

You know me and bears, we seem to be inseparable lately.  So it wasn’t much of a leap to choose the lyrics to Teddy Bear’s Picnic as my inspiration. This version by Anne Murray is lovely, but beware–it is a major earworm!

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I did a rough little pencil sketch, added some color and was set to do the finish.

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I painted a sunny background, leaving the edges of the lid showing.

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Once the background was dry I added the bears, flowers and more flowers.

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Some bees create the lines for the text: Today’s the Day the Teddy Bears Have their Picnic!

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And what is a picnic basket without a yummy surprise inside?

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This basket is beautifully lined with padded linen and has the nifty chain to keep the lid at a comfortable angle.

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Making the handles jolly with multicolored stripes was the final touch.

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Summer seems WAY far away in this neck of the woods, but I know it’ll come someday and If you go down to the woods today, you’d better not go alone!
It’s lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home!
For ev’ry bear that ever there was will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic!

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Teaching Linoleum Block Printing in Vermont

This winter Middlebury Studio School invited me to teach a linoleum block printing class.

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One block, carved and cut apart into 4 pieces. The artist separated the pieces, inked each piece in a different color, reassembled them, and printed them as one piece.

I chose Blick Readycut blocks for our projects because it is easy to carve. I wanted to the students to try making a multiple color print, like the one above, using just one block cut into pieces in order to prevent registration problems.

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I prepared for the class by doing another two color print of one of my favorite subjects: Dogs.

Even though I planned this to be a two color print,  I carved it all as one piece. It is much easier to cut it apart later.  Carving the words became very tricky- probably because my design didn’t leave them enough room.

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I often trim off any excess block beyond the design if I don’t want to bother carving it all out.

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Once the block was completely carved I used an exacto knife to cut it apart into two pieces.

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After my students created a design, reversed it and transferred it to their blocks, they began carving away any part of the block that they DIDN’T want to show in their print.

Once the block is carved and cut apart, each piece is inked using a brayer. The paper is laid gently on top of the inked block and the back of the paper is rubbed with a hard smooth object-such as a spoon or baren.

Finally comes the Ah Ha moment when the paper is pulled and the finished print revealed.

In the end my dog print was only a partial success. The carved quote part was a mess so I discarded it and added some hand lettering instead. Hand adorned giclee prints available here.

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For our last meeting I brought in large, cotton tea towels that could be printed using the blocks carved during the class. There were no rules but this was one beautiful and orderly result.

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“Painting” Chickens and Dragons with Oil Pastels

In March I had the excellent assignment of teaching about 500 students in Northern CA a new art technique.

The parameters were rather strict:

  1. It had to be FUN!
  2. Set-up and clean-up had to be reasonable.
  3. Each session would include up to 100 students and would be held in the echoing cafeteria.
  4. The project had to be started AND completed in one hour.
  5. Students would walk away with a piece of art that was basically dry and portable.
Kindergarten Chicken
She looks like she had fun!

The technique I chose to teach was Pastel blending with mineral oil.

I designed two projects to appeal to my range of ages. My 1st group was 1st graders and we started with a direct draw of a hen and chicks with the help of a document camera.

They all drew with pencil, traced with Sharpie and then started coloring with oil pastels.

Direct Draw
Using a document camera I showed how to draw a hen and chicks.
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We passed out regular oil pastels and told them to color roughly-leaving areas of white paper would work to their advantage. Some followed this advice…

Once the chickens were colored it was time to use secret sauce (mineral oil)and magic wands (cotton swabs) to make these drawings into oil paintings.

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I counseled using a different cotton swab tip for each color, but just like any other painting technique, if you want to, you can make all the colors blend together and end up with a lovely muddy result! With 2nd grade and older I taught them how to draw a flying, fire breathing dragon. We followed the same process of direct draw, Sharpie outline, pastel drawing, and oil painting.

These are great before and after examples showing how the rough coloring results in the smooth final painting.

I also tried teaching the dragon to a T-Kindergarten class and saw some amazing results.

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I love how this little guy attacks his coloring and painting with such purpose and enthusiasm.

Was it Fun? Check!

Set-Up and Clean-Up Reasonable? Check!

Possible with Crowding? Check!

Started and completed in an hour? Check!

Ready to go and Portable? Check!

Joining the team at the 2018 Tunbridge World’s Fair

Teamwork is everything in my business of creating picture books. The author/illustrator team, the author/editor team, the illustrator/art director team, all of the above, plus the marketing team, bookstores, librarians, teachers, parents, grandparents–ALL of us are on the same team–to get good books into the hands of children.

So imagine my pleasure when I was asked by Robert Howe, Tunbridge Fair’s postermeister, to join his team and design the official poster for 2018. The theme is Celebrating Working Teams.

Of course the word Team can mean something different at the fair, but I still took it as a good omen.

The 1st time I went to the Tunbridge World’s Fair was with my parents, back in the early 1970s. We camped at a friend’s farm in nearby Chelsea and drove over to the fair, always held the 1st weekend after Labor Day. In those days there were still girlie shows at this and other Vermont Country fairs.

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The Tunbridge World’s Fair was, and still is, a genuine agricultural experience, set in a lovely, narrow river valley.

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There are horses, cattle and sheep, pigs, chickens, goats and rabbits proudly on display.  There is a midway with rides and game booths, and all the greasy, sweet fair food you could want.

Nowadays, I go to draw the animals and the people.

Gabby and the Girls

So it was no surprise that the poster I chose to design featured both.

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I was lucky to be given excellent reference photos by two fair photographers: Nancy Cassidy and Mark Dixon. Drawing from elements of these and my own research material, I created a rough sketch.

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Photo by Nancy Cassidy

cass.oxen.parade

photo by Nancy Cassidy

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photo by Mark Dixon

B&Wprint

Once I had a B&W linoleum print,  I painted it with gouache, layered a little painted carousel onto the girl’s tee, and added text in Photoshop.MGRTYPEgaptooth_1

I began by trying to match this old-timey font, found in the background of a photo, as my poster display type, but it didn’t enhance the finished artwork so I switched to Linolschrift for the finish.

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The last adjustment was to eliminate the “gap tooth” on the little girl. The consensus was that it made her look a little too young.

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I’m pleased with the finished product. I hope 2018 fair goers are too!

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