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.

Gabby and the Girls

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

B&Wprint

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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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!

 

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. 

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.

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. 

Sleep

It’s late November here in Vermont ~ the time of year for hibernation.

Who hibernates? Bats, Bears,skunks, bees, snakes, and groundhogs to name a few.

Since moving from a mild California climate to the stricter seasonal progression of northern New England, I’ve become much more sympathetic to the concept of hibernation!

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On the last day of Baby Bear Counts One, Mama and Baby Bear are ready to curl up and sleep the winter away.

Showing the process of sleeping is relatively easy, but showing dreaming was a challenge in Only The Cat Saw.  When I was a child I often dreamed of being near the ocean or swimming when I really needed to get up to urinate!

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Enter a caption

Holly Taylor modeled as the sleeping Amy, way back in 1984

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Amy, dreaming in Only The Cat Saw. Acrylic on paper

Of course, we sleep all year long, and humans enjoy it as much as animals. Mostly sleep happens when it is too dark to draw, but sometimes a nap overtakes us, and when it does I seize that moment of daylight stillness to draw.

Since the late 70s I’ve drawn people and creatures I love while they were sleeping.

Here is a selection.

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watercolor sketch of my sister Peregrine, asleep on the couch after wisdom tooth removal..

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watercolor sketch of my sister Peregrine.

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this drawing of Rowan reminds me of Amy’s pose. Colored pencil on brown paper

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Brennan, asleep. Colored pencil on brown paper

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Rowan, asleep. Colored pencil on brown paper.

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Sabin, asleep. Marker on brown paper.

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Tula napping. Watercolor on brown paper

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Nutkin, sleeping. Acrylic on paper.

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Wildridge kitten, sleeping. Gouache on brown paper.

Little Owl Card

Why did this owlet fly into my mind this summer?

Every summer I wait for the right image for my cottage card to occur to me. Often it is obviously related to life here on this serene lake. Sometimes it comes from the Vermont landscape. And sometimes, fantasy sneaks in.

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This year I began with lots of pigment applied wet on wet to my watercolor paper. Then I divided the sheet into postcard openings, and drew my owlet into each opening.

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The different colors behind each owl affected how they came out, making each card even more distinctive, one from another.

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I make quite a few of these cards and send them to my loved ones.

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I think I’ll keep this little fellow to help warm my new home.