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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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.

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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

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photo by Nancy Cassidy

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photo by Mark Dixon

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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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Channeling Sam Cannon

While looking for something else I discovered Sam Cannon’s artwork and fell in love with his imagery and calligraphy. His eloquently realized animals, with beautifully hand-lettered quotations, spoke to a desire in me to do likewise. His tiny Petal Paper originals were particularly appealing.

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When I looked into channeling his style I found I was fresh out of Petal Paper, so I just made my own version by wetting watercolor paper and painting  loose leaves and flowers.

Using these backgrounds as inspiration, I added figures and quotes that particularly resonated with me, keeping faithfully to Sam Cannon’s style.

As the paintings developed I added more leaves, flowers and stems around the figures and calligraphy, making the most of my watercolors.

I love the distinctive Sam Cannon ‘font’ and line arrangement. I experimented with different tools for the calligraphy. flowersetsy

I tried a more traditional opaque gouache approach with the dip pen on brown paper for this garden painting.

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My favorite Thoreau quote is painted with white ink and a brush on the woodpile. These chilly chickadees are drawn from the flocks right outside my window here in Vermont.

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I am using Schminke Aqua Bronze Rich Gold and Silver gouache to paint the metallic accents.

I learn by copying and experimenting and evolving. I hope to keep moving ever further from copying Sam and more into being entirely me.

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As always, you can find my work for sale at my Etsy shop.

 

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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Happy New Year, Roosters!

2017 is the Chinese Year of the  Rooster.

When I lived in San Francisco-a very Asian city, Chinese  New Year was a festive and LOUD time of year: think firecrackers, bell ringing, lion dances and exotic parades.

This is a Fire Rooster year. Fire Roosters are traditionally trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work. The other types are Wood Roosters, Earth Roosters, Gold Roosters and Water Roosters.

On the whole, Roosters are active, amusing, popular, healthy, outspoken, honest, loyal, talkative and charming. Many of my dearest friends are Fire Roosters.

Happy New Year, Roosters-

Cockadoodle~Doo!

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a Fire Rooster, painted with gouache on paper

Since Roosters are also chickens, this post will celebrate these fascinating and delicious animals-among my very favorite to observe and draw.

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A hen and rooster painted with gouache on brown paper

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rooster painted with gouache on paper

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a variety of poultry breeds drawn in colored pencil on brown paper

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Buff Laced Bantam Rooster painted in gouache on paper

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“Bless each wren, each rooster and hen” painted in gouache on black gesso. From the book: Home Sweet Home by Jean Marzollo and Ashley Wolff

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The Importance of Ophelia

As a Picture Book Month Ambassador I was invited to write an essay explaining why picture books are important to me –and how they can change the lives of child readers.

I chose to talk about my favorite book from childhood

The Story of Ophelia by Mary Gibbons and Evaline Ness. The straightforward prose is long by today’s standards, but tells the story clearly. What I found most thrilling were the pictures of the one-eyed, ravening fox. Those really scared me, and seeing Ophelia survive his attack and prevail were very satisfying to good little  girl me.

Please enjoy my essay and tune in every day during PiBoMo this November to read the essays by the other ambassadors.

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Once upon a time I was a good little girl and picture books helped me express my inner, rather blood thirsty heroine.

Whenever I hear an editor or art director caution “ You can’t say/show this or that—that’ll give children the wrong idea. They’ll want to try it themselves,” my favorite childhood  book: The Story of Ophelia, by Mary Gibbons and illustrated by Evaline Ness, comes to mind.

As a child I identified completely with Ophelia: a skinny, rebellious little lamb, with six, fat, goody-two-shoes lamb siblings and a wise, tolerant sheep of a mother.

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When cautioned not to, Ophelia disobeys, enters the dark woods, is chased by the hungry fox, and with the help of the friends she made outside of the sheep paddock, escapes the fox. He is killed by a big bird right there on the page—a thing that never happens anymore in picture books. And surprise-she is not scolded for being naughty. Instead, she is rewarded with 4 new, red socks and a reputation as a fox killer!

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Adults devour thrillers and adventure stories, and, if I was typical, so do little children. I craved that large, heroic, adventurous life that was nothing like my own, and, at various ages, I found it in stories as varied as Blueberries for Sal, Puss in Boots, and The Little Red Lighthouse and the Big Gray Bridge.

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Picture books give young children a safe taste of other worlds: travel to distant lands, peeks into the past, or future, and the satisfaction being able to find their heroic self in a book. Through Ophelia, a human/animal character, or as I call her a ‘humanal,” I had a vicarious adventure that was far more exciting and life threatening than anything I’d ever experienced.

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Please comment and tell me the book that most influenced YOU as a child.

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. 

Into the Woods

When the going gets tough, the sensitive go into the woods…

and stoop down, look closely, listen to birds and the wind and pretend there isn’t a madman in the white house/a refugee crisis/global weirding/or white supremacist trolls…

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I’ll see you there…

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.