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!

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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It’s Halloween Season

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Having a border collie as my alter ego has always been useful and fun, but never more so that at Halloween. All three of my dogs have been black and white, though Tula had a little brown too.

This color scheme lends itself so beautifully to the imagery of this season.

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And blends beautifully with pumpkin-orange.

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Even in disguise, we’ll always recognize that tail!

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Even an alter ego needs her own familiar–a cat just won’t do, so an owl it is!

Happy Halloween from Ashley, Pumpkin, Lucy, Tula and the owls

Life with Dogs: Part 10-Tula

Tula came to me as a scared, skinny runaway from Chico, CA, age unknown.

She’d recently given birth, had a dry, raggedy coat and kept her tail permanently tucked between her legs.

She refused to jump into a car, but broke three (empty) bowls by jumping onto the kitchen counter in search of food to filch.

She’d had a hard life to that point.

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I took her to Holly Park on her first day in Bernal Heights so she could get  a view of her new neighborhood.

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Tula never met another dog she didn’t like, or at least tolerate. I saw her growl only a few times, and she had to be taught how to bark again.

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Though she always kept an eye on me, She liked and tolerated children of all ages too.

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Tula got around.

As my black and white shadow, she traveled from California to points all over the East Coast.

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On the Pacific Coast at The Sea Ranch,

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At the Brooklyn Bridge with Illustrator Paul O Zelinsky.

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And on top of Vermont’s Mt Abraham with Sabin Russell.

TulainCreek_web Tula’s favorite spot was belly deep in some body of water.

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but she was happy in all weather as long as I was there too.

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After any encounter with moisture, she would joyfully roll in grass or sand or the dusty driveway.

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Tula was the sweetest dog I’ve ever had and she will be profoundly missed.

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Life with Dogs-Part 8: We Love Lucy

Every kid needs a pet.

I knew I was lucky to grow up with dogs and wanted the same for my boys. Lucy made our family complete.

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Even though I insisted we get a female dog so there’d be another b**** in our House of Boyz, Lucy had all the skills they admired.

She was good at messing around in boats,

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She had the patience to fish,fishingweb

She loved to snorkel,
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and most important, she had game.

She never tired of the game of catch-of trying to catch the baseball, and of chasing it down when it got away.

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Lucy was becoming an excellent new muse.

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