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

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.

 

There’s a Fungus Amungus

There are mushrooms EVERYWHERE! Days of rain here in northern New England have produced a sprouting, thrusting crop of fungus, some of them edible and choice.

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Though I haven’t spotted any Chanterelles, like the ones Pumpkin is picking.

The shapes and colors of mushrooms make them fun to draw and paint. I have probably drawn them my whole life.

Lately I’ve been imagining them as tiny, secret houses.

You can own your own, hand painted mushroom cottage here.

Happy Hunting!

 

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

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. 

 

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.