Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Brown paper packages tied up with string"

Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge paper
approx. 14" x 14"

Walnut shells appear as if they're hiding something wonderful inside. It's no wonder that miniaturists have used them as fairy cottages, or beds for mice, and that silversmiths have outfitted them with elaborate hinges and clasps. 

There's nothing miniature about this drawing—the live image is about 7" x 10".  I have it sitting on a ledge in my studio next to this piece; they work really well together:

Mine sort of evolved as a version of a "brown paper package tied up with string". 
What do you suppose is inside?

Here are some progress shots; I kind of experimented with ways to render the walnut as I went. (I found it to be much different than drawing one at its actual size!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A book-lover's dream house

Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper,  5.5" x 8"
(click to enlarge)

Sometimes an image niggles around in my brain until I just have to get it on paper. I've been sketching this little book house, in one form or another, or sometime. When I started to get serious about this drawing last month, I quickly reverted back to my old architectural drafting days. (It may seem like overkill for a little sketch like this, but when the perspective isn't right in a drawing, I find it really distracting.) I initially thought about making a linocut of this, and I still might.

I couldn't quite decide where each "layer" of the main color would fall, so I played around with blocks of color digitally as a bit of a short cut before applying lots of color to my drawing.

Working on this cozy little piece during the stressful presidential election was the artistic version of eating comfort food. I felt the influence of two of my favorite illustrators: I have been looking at the recent work of Jungho Lee a lot lately, and was certainly inspired by the color palette and dreamy quality of his fantasy book world. The soft pencil lines and hatching were Brian Selznick-inspired, as is the fact that it seems to want to tell its own little story.

So, I may have to listen a little more closely to see what story it is trying to tell, maybe I'll find out who is inside the house and why...!  Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Of pine cones and advent calendars

Once upon a time—six years ago to be exact—a sort-of-artist started a blog on December 1, with a simple post. She shared this drawing and talked about her love of pinecones and advent calendars. Years passed. She wrote another 220 posts and shared lots of drawings, some block prints and a watercolor or two. 

But lately, she started thinking, "Maybe blogging has run its course for me. The world is going effing crazy different in so many ways, maybe it's time for me to do something different, too." 

She remembered a quote from her high school French class: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" which, loosely translated, means "The more things change, the more they stay the same." 

She thought and thought, and ate some chocolate. She finally decided that, because the world was going effing crazy changing, it was more important than ever to keep posting her drawings. 

And she will.  

And she hopes that you will too. 

The End (but not)

Author's Note: Giving nary a thought to this blog, or what I posted about in my first-ever post, or 19th-century French journalists, I bought this a few weeks ago:

Pinecones and advent calendars. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Pinecone advent calendar handmade by the very talented Crankbunny.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Paperwhites and advent calendars: a fresh start ahead

My October "sabbatical" has carried over into November. It's been a weird month so far: my husband is away on a long business trip, and the election sparked a fair amount of distress and introspection. But things are looking up: My husband will be home in a few days—and my paperwhites are growing! I ask you, is there anything more hopeful-looking than sprouting paperwhites?

Actually, I'm all set for a new year of regular posting starting December 1, the six-year anniversary of my blog. I love December 1, because it's the day I break out my advent calendar(s) for the season, and you know how much I love advent calendars! I think that the ones I have for this year may be some of my all-time favorites, so be sure to check back.

In the meantime, you can follow my paperwhites' progress (and lots of other stuff) on my instagram page:  @sarahmellingart 

and you can read more about my love of advent calendars here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A change in the air

You can have your New Year's resolutions, your springtime with its new beginnings and house-cleanings. For me, it's autumn that always feels like change. One could hypothesize that it was the start of many a school year that played a big part in my feelings about fall. But I'm quite sure that the changing colors of the fall foliage, and that fall scent in the air are responsible. 

Change is in the air. A family wedding will be taking place soon. A new president will be elected.

I've been so busy lately (that aforementioned family wedding) that this little sunflower sketch is about all that's been on my drawing board. It looks a little like it's saying goodbye to summer. I feel as if I'm at a crossroads myself—a good one, I hope. 

Blogs don't generate the following that they once did—at least mine doesn't—and I just don't have the energy or interest to maintain the multi-platform online presence that seems to be the norm these days. 

I'm going to use the month of October to draw. print, create, think, and who knows see where that will lead. I'll report back. Change is in the air. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Homage to ?

I don't think that I've ever posted a digital drawing on my blog. I do very few of them, but this one was borne of necessity. This image was in my head and I couldn't stop obsessing over how to render it: Should the circles be larger and the whole piece huge? Should I paint them, cut them out of colored paper, color them with crayons?

What exactly is this thing? It's a 13 x 19 print, an infographic of sorts. Any guesses before you click to enlarge and read the fine print?  If you were a baby boomer, and even better, an artsy baby boomer, this shouldn't be too hard. Or if you've read this blog from the beginning, especially posts like this one, or this one, you should have it by now. Go ahead and click.

And yes, these are even in pretty much the positions they were in when you first split open the perforation, and saw them all in their waxy glory. (I have a small collection of old Crayola boxes full of crayons, and several have never been split open. (I have opened them via the top of the box to keep their packing order in place as best I can.)

Inhale...yes, that's an original box of 64 Crayola crayons, sharpener in the box.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

This is me and my pet butterfly

"Anise Swallowtail Butterfly"
Linocut with watercolor

I usually seek out the subjects of my drawings and prints, but this one found me. A couple of months ago, I was visiting Alcatraz Island with my daughter and her fiancé. It's my favorite tourist-y thing to do in San Francisco: Along with a tour that, after all these years, I still find fascinating, you get a great ferry ride out, gorgeous plants and birds, and perfect views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from the middle of the Bay.

While we were waiting for a return ferry (you can stay out there as long as you like until the last ferry) a group of kids behind us started getting all excited and were trying to get my attention: "There's a butterfly on your shoulder! It's right on your shoulder!" Sure enough, there was—a beautiful swallowtail. One of the kids could hardly take a breath: "Take a picture! Take a picture! And post it on social media and say, 'This is me and my pet butterfly!'" This one's for you, precocious kid behind me in line.

I couldn't let that beautiful image go, so I decided to do a linocut. But I didn't plan very well, and learned some lessons. I should've (and still could, I guess) printed the body color under it first. With these b/w prints, I can hand-color with colored pencil or, if I use non-waterbased ink, I can add water color (see above). I've tried both, sampling my new jar of black Akua soy-based ink, and some new Japanese paper. I also should have done this on un-mounted linoleum, so I could've cut away all if the blank area around the butterfly. I had to make a mask, or frisket, to keep those areas from showing traces on the print.

It's such a beautiful creature, colored or not!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A persistent package

Why? Because sometimes an idea for a drawing just nags at you until you let it have its way. Last Christmas, I was taken in by the look of the gift-wrapped packages, The highlights and shadows in the creases in the paper, the shapes created by the knotted ribbon, etc. So I wrapped a box in a classic Christmas red and....never got around to it. Until now. Merry Christmas, 202 days early.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sunflower Seeds in Snazzy Striped Shells...And Ai WeiWei

14" x 14", Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore Vellum Bristol

I was preparing to plant some Mammoth sunflower seeds, but became distracted admiring their snazzy striped shells. Next thing I knew, I was drawing, not planting. 

While researching sunflower seeds for some fun facts to include here–lest anyone think me odd for drawing a few sunflower seeds–I ran across the phenomenal installation at the Tate in London by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in 2010. He and his artisans made and hand-painted millions of ceramic sunflower seeds. I can't even begin to explain it well; you must check it out here. (Suddenly, I felt a bit less odd for drawing nine of them.). 

Let's hope that the squirrels and birds allow these seeds to grow into big, cheerful sunflower faces in my summer garden!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cookbook Classics

I was rearranging my cookbook shelves a couple of weeks ago, and these three classics happened to be sitting together. I loved how they looked—the way the red tied them together—and decided to do a little ink and watercolor piece. (Well, I'd initially thought of doing a detailed colored pencil drawing like this one of my favorite childhood books, but just wasn't feeling patient enough.*)

An Etsy customer recently purchased this print for a "storybook" baby shower and is giving it along with all of the books in the drawing. Isn't that a clever idea? Sadly, the bottom book is out of print and very difficult to find, but I hope she is able to locate one. (Read more about this piece here.)

*The "faster" medium of ink and watercolor gives me an option on the days when my Parkinson's is affecting my ability to concentrate, one of the non-motor cognitive symptoms of PD—which can be a real smorgasbord of fun. The cognitive effects aren't as well-known by most people; if you know someone with Parkinson's, you might want to check out this article and surprise him or her with your newfound knowledge of the many facets of the disease!

Back to the drawing board:  I found a cool sea biscuit—no relation to Seabiscuit—in my closet, and it is just calling to be drawn!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Inspiration in the produce aisle: Cherimoya

8 x 10 , Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore vellum bristol (click to enlarge)

The cherimoya. The custard apple. 
Or, as described by Mark Twain: "...the most delicious fruit known to men...".  

A woman saw me eyeing these in the produce department of my grocery store (which has been carrying an amazing selection of tropical and exotic fruits). She asked if I was familiar with them, and we struck up a conversation. She told me of their wonderful aromatic, creamy texture inside, adding that they are a favorite in her homeland of Chile. That description—along with the fact that they reminded me of artichokes and pinecones—was good enough for me. I had my next "model".

While they look like overlapping scales, the little surfaces of the cherimoya just join together along their perimeters, with no overlap at all.

As usual, I was too involved in my drawing to scan WIP pics, so I just shot them at my drawing board with my phone, explaining the uneven lighting:

At times, I felt I'd overdone the drawing of the outside. Now, I think that I was just having too much fun with it! But I did try to show restraint on the interior drawing. The dramatic contrast between the seeds and the flesh was so beautiful; it needed no help from me. And, of course, I forgot to take pics along the way. Oops.

Finally, I have to confess that I never tasted it. I know, I know....but it got brown inside rather quickly from sitting out and I wasn't sure it was at its best. I do plan on getting another to sample. Have you eaten cherimoya? What do you think?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fun and games

A little piece to go with this one I drew a while back:

And I think there should be one more...any suggestions?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Purple Heart

One of my loyal customers was in a quandary: She had purchased eight of my heart series prints, but nine makes a much better wall arrangement. We tossed around some ideas and thought that a purple cabbage heart might fill that blank space quite well. She was very patient, as I had a couple of things going on at that moment, but I think we were right: Look at this photo of her kitchen wall that she sent to me! I will be adding it to my shop shortly, if you'd like to try a similar project.

I love it when buyers send me photos of how they're using my prints,
so if you have any, please share!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Drink your Nehi and eat your Coney Island! (Round Things, No. 3)

With the Academy Awards being held this weekend, it is only fitting that I found the inspiration for my latest drawing alongside an Oscar-winning performance.

I was in search of  another "classic" object for my "round things" series. A bottle cap seemed to be just the thing as they have such cool graphics—but which one should I draw? Nothing red, as I already have the peppermint in the series. Nothing Pepsi or Coke: too corporate. Then I remembered this little gem of a scene from "Paper Moon" (1973) in which a bottle of soda stars front-and-center (along with Tatum O'Neal, the youngest Oscar winner in history) and practically shouts "middle America":

I went onto eBay and had a blast strolling down Bottle-Cap Memory Lane. I purchased a bag of 20 different vintage, cork-lined, orange soda bottle caps for $6, and I was in business: 

I always like the look of the unfinshed pieces.

So, what do you think? 

So, what's next for my series of "round things"?
I have a peppermint, a button and this bottle cap.
Give me your suggestions in the comments below. 
(One caveat: they should be "flat" round, not spherical round...)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Nudes and Windows

The artist who hosts our weekly life-drawing meet-up moved to a new studio at the beginning of the year. The space has really high ceilings with a north wall that is is home to this fascinating composition of windows—some new, some old. 

I was immediately taken in by this hodgepodge of rectangles—with the blue sky that day, they looked like a group of painted canvasses hung together. I started to wonder how they would change, so I started taking a photo each week. 

The photos gave me a reference that I used to draw a layout and make a bunch of little 6 x 9 "blanks" that I can fill in with color each week. I've just now done this first drawing (from the photo I took); once I figure out my palette (and get a little faster at drawing sky), I'm hoping to skip the photos and just do the sketch during our breaks. 

I am not entirely sure that the white paper works, as I wanted very faint—if any—outlines of each window. Would it work better using a medium grey drawing paper? I might have to try that.

Wouldn't it be fun to hang them all up together at the end of the year—all 50 or so of them!? I must warn you: my track record with long-term series projects is that they usually become very short-term series projects, but I'm really into this one. One down, fifty or so to go!!