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!

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Scratchboard 101

Speaking of taking light out of dark, I’ll continue this summer’s lessons with scratchboard. Using sharp tools we scrape off the top layer of black ink, revealing the white clay layer underneath.

In addition to straight and curved scrapers there are stiff wire brushes, forks with multiple prongs, sandpaper, and steel wool.

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The 1st activity is to create a sampler to test how the different tools work.

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I always start a piece with a drawing on tracing paper and then apply graphite dust to the back. When this is transferred to the matt black scratchboard it shows up as an easy to see silver line.

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Working on a piece of 6″x 6″ Ampersand scratchboard I complete this talkative pig.

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Gouache over Black Gesso 101

 

I love ‘carving’ light out of dark.

It started with scratchboard, then wood cuts and linoleum, and now gouache over black gesso.

There is a different quality to the line when you are taking it away instead of adding it.

I’m certain I didn’t invent this technique, but this is the version I teach at Hollins as the technique I used to illustrate several books.

Home Sweet Home and Each Living Thing were both done this way.

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This lush style is great for lots of detail, but I’d like to simplify, so I’m working on a less realistic, more graphic look.

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I start with a simple line drawing and rub graphite on the back to transfer it to a paper prepared with black gesso.

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The traced line shows up as silver and is easy to see. If it lingers when I’m done painting I can erase it or paint over it with more black gesso.

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The 1st layer of paint looks pretty weak and grayed out, but keep adding layers. If you need to, spray lightly with workable fixative in between layers.

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When I saw the results of my initial drawing I added more flowers and grasses in the foreground by painting 1st with black gesso and then ‘carving’ away with the colored gouache.

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another cat, less stylized, with pimento stuffed martini olive flowers!

Try it–it is fun and meditative and your color scheme can be as wild as you want.

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B&W Gouache Resist 101

Gouache resist is kind of magic.

To make a black and white image you need to block out everything BUT the areas you want to remain black using solid white gouache.

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I begin with a pencil drawing on trace. Then transfer it to sturdy, smooth,

watercolor paper. You need something that can stand up to being wet and rubbed a little.

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close up of the thickish white gouache on paper. The lighter areas are unpainted paper.

Once the gouache is “dead” dry, use a wide foam brush to apply undiluted India Ink to the whole piece. The ink fills in every area of unpainted paper, dying it an indelible black.

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The white gouache design is still visible under all the ink

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washing the white gouache off  a different piece.

Once the paint is removed the design, originally painted in white gouache,

is revealed…

Magic!

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A few other  examples of B&W gouache resist images.

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Watercolor 101

I love teaching the Weird, Wonderful ways of Watercolor.

 

Cool vs Warm

Pthalo vs Ultramarine

Primaries,  secondaries, tertiaries, complements

and a huge variety of grays

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A brush charged with  water can lift a clean line or destroy a wash

A spray of rubbing alcohol doesn’t make a dent on a dry wash, but drip it onto wet paint and you have fantastic, blobby bullseyes.

A sprinkling of salt makes “stars” on a damp night sky.

Crumpled plastic wrap makes blocks and angles

Your smooth, even wash depends on keeping a wet ‘bead’ moving along under your brush.

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Glazing color over color makes every possible combo, yet all you really need to make a whole spectrum are

Red                                                           Yellow                                                               Blue

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DIY Clock Face Transformation

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Every summer, during the Hollins University Summer Graduate session there is a one day, student run conference called the Francelia Butler Conference. One of the ways they raise operating funds is by holding a silent auction.

This year I picked up this clock at a very good price and decided to “pimp” it for my lake cabin in Vermont. I liked the dark blue rim but the flag image was just not enough for me.

Normally, when I make little artworks for the cabin I work in watercolor

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CatBoat

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But for the clock I used collage. I added all the things I love about living by a lake for part of the year.

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Honestly, does it need any numbers?

 

But Can the Teacher Learn?

Before I began the MATS course I was fooling around with a wet, watercolor line infused with other colors from a loaded brush. I love this fish but have never tried a whole composition this way.

The white space is the appeal.

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You can see how I used this line in these little houses…

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And this butterfly and rabbit

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So, when the assignment was to design a plate, I went for a folk art look, with a chocolate colored ground to make it seem appetizing! The design is old fashioned, though it involved a great deal of newly learned Photoshop  coloring and layering!

If I didn’t have the great good fortune of having Elizabeth Dulemba as a teaching colleague at Hollins, I’d never have been able to manage this level of digital prowess.

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I continued to try and improve how I presented the whole package. Here is my final design.

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