For the love of Goats

Two new kids moved in down the road. They are black and white and have cunning little hooves. Their names are Thor and Clementine.

Goat kids have a certain vibe that enchants me. They are more playful than your average farm animal–leaping, frisking and gamboling, climbing on trees, seesaws and even children! They appear all over the place and my eye and paintbrush are always drawn to them.

A goat on Anegada Island in the British Virgin Islands.
Vermont goat in the snow
A San Francisco goat-tasked with keeping weeds down around the Bernal Heights reservoir.
Thor and Rufus
Old MacDonald and her goat BFF.
A white kid
Clementine
Some Virginia goats

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.
My cat loving friend Nancy displays all nine of her loved ones, past and present like this.

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

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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Making my ‘Rufus in the Tall Grass’ print, with the help of three experts.

I’ve been admiring the work of printmakers since I was a small girl and this summer’s project emulates three people whose work has influenced me. I’ve been collecting samples of the work of Andrea Lauren lately. She does small, two color prints using two separate blocks.

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Andrea uses two separate blocks and prints one over the other.

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You could cut a block into more pieces as well and ink each piece separately. That’s what Woody Jackson did early in his career when he started cutting up zinc etching plates, inking each piece, and putting them back together like puzzles before printing.

I’ve loved Mary Azarian’s work since I was a teenager. Her hand-colored woodcuts of Vermont scenes and her illustrated books influenced my illustration work enormously.

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I am teaching at Hollins University again this summer-this time I designed a course called Printmaking for Illustration. To make a sample for my students I used all three of my printmaking idols as inspiration.

My new puppy Rufus has a foxy look similar to Andrea’s print, so I chose one of the dozens of reference photos I have and started designing my own two color linocut.

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I decided to use one block and cut it apart into two pieces-Woody Jackson style-right around Rufus. That made getting perfect registration a breeze.

 

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I start by coating the “inside” cut-out of Rufus in black ink with a rubber brayer.

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Then I mixed a yellow and a dark green and used them both to ink the grasses on the “outside” block. Sometimes the two colors mixed on the brayer, but I didn’t care-I wanted each print to be one of a kind.

I placed both parts of the inked up block into a custom cut cardboard jig, or frame, to hold them steady, then laid my paper on top.

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To make a print I’m merely rubbing the back of the paper firmly with an ordinary wooden spoon. I keep it fairly parallel to the paper so that it presses evenly and doesn’t rip this delicate sheet.

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I made a small edition of 20 prints using 2 colors of oil based ink.

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When these are dry I’ll hand color each one with watercolors, making them truly one of a kind, just like Mary Azarian does.

Three printmakers-four counting me-all different but with so much in common!

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Sheep

The noble profile, the slitted eyes, the curls, the baaaaa, the level gaze…

I love drawing sheep.

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This gal caught my eye this summer. When  I went looking for a subject for my cottage postcards I was drawn to her curious face. As in the past, I begin by taping off a grid of small postcards on watercolor paper.

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I make a quick sketch in pencil in each window and then use an assembly line approach to add colors.

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Each layer adds detail and the sheep emerges.

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The final touches are gold and silver ink…

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and glitter!

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Each card is the same but different, a one-of-a-kind love token for the friend who receives a “cottage card.”

If you enjoyed this post, please  follow me here: Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, my webpage , my Etsy shop, or Instagram. You can follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar. 

The Bunny Runs Away to Hollins

Margaret Wise Brown is one of Hollins University‘s most well known graduates-especially in the children’s book world.

Most famous for Goodnight Moon, her 1942 book The Runaway Bunny, about  an adventurous baby bunny and her devoted mama, inspired the first pair of characters to mysteriously appear on campus–right outside the library.

These were all conceived and executed using corrugated, plastic board and acrylic paints by a Fairy Godmother, assisted by her trio of fairy assistants.

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Lyndsey and Topher Keppol cutting and priming the Mama Bunny

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The fairy godmother painting the Mama Bunny with acrylics

As the summer went past, more and more appeared, until at almost every turn you could find another classic or contemporary children’s book character, casually hanging around, sometimes literally!

Lucy

Lucy, a Wild Thing and Max

After Mama and Baby Bunny,  we made some more classics: Ferdinand the Bull,  Pooh, Piglet and EeyoreThe Very Hungry Caterpillar,  Wilbur and Charlotte, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Mister Toad

 

Then we added some characters dreamed up by Hollins professors and guest speakers:

Minna from The Rag Coat, and Skippyjon Jones.

And finally, a whole ‘girl gang’ of our favorite independent females: Tinker Bell,

MadelinePippi Longstocking, OliviaEloise, Miss Rumphius , and Frances the badger.

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Who will appear next summer?

Suggestions are welcome!

If you enjoyed this post, please  follow me here: Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, my webpage , my Etsy shop, or Instagram. You can follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar.