Painting a Cottage Card

Last summer I was into drawing fairies. The mushrooms in my forest were transformed into moonlight bathtubs.

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But this year I returned to ‘realism’ and featured the diminutive red eft. This brightly colored, juvenile phase of the Eastern Newt is on the move to winter quarters They are scuttling speedily along the mossy forest trails, looking for their new pond. 

RE_1 I paint a lot of Cottage Cards each summer and send them to my special friends. To make it a little faster I do them in batches. Each one is different, but they all use the same basic elements and colors.

After I’ve drawn the image in pencil, I completely saturate the paper with clean water. Using gouache, I paint the orange eft-wet into wet.RE_2 When the 1st wet layer has dried, I use a bright, mossy green to paint the background. reserving white areas as I go.RE_3 I add various colors to the mushroom caps.RE_4 The deep greens of the forest are added as an indigo layer in the far background.RE_5Purple-blue shadows under the mushroom caps and the eft’s body come next.RE_6 A winding Partridge Berry vine is added to three of the four cards, along with some mossy texture. I use a gold ink pen to outline the eft’s eye and the red spots along her body.RE_7 The final layer is a diluted wash of cobalt blue to focus attention on the red eft.

RE_8Now I remove the tape and, voila!

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Making a Fairy Card

Every summer I make many ‘copies’ of one Cottage Card to send to close friends.  I am lucky to have a lot of friends, so I make a LOT of cards.

I usually keep the prototype here in my cabin in Vermont. So far, there are 12 of them. The Fairy Card started like this, but a square image is harder to mail, so it morphed into a rectangle.

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I begin with a sheet of watercolor paper, grid it with masking tape and draw the design on each card.

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Then I use classic assembly line techniques, pioneered by Henry Ford. Of course, there is a huge difference since I fill all the positions on the assembly line!fairyprocess_1:web

I start adding color, working on all the cards sequentially. No two are alike, but the palette is consistent.

This is a group of brunette fairies.

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And they are all pleased to be bathing in an upturned mushroom cap.

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And to fly around with rainbow wings.

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