Monday, February 20, 2012

Being an Artist

What's it like being an artist?  Am I really an artist or just a mouse pretending to be one?  What does it take to be an artist?  These questions I often ask myself when presented with a task, a challenge, I'm not sure I can meet.  Its defeating, depressing - it causes one to have their confidence shaken.  And, shaken I was several times when trying to paint this second beach pail.  It has come to mind that when I show samples from books to customers, I should only show samples of what I know I can reproduce in miniature.  However finding this darling little pail in Life's a Beach caused me somehow to scan and send it thinking it might be fun to add to the millieu of samples.  Of course my friend, and customer chose this one.

Page from Life's a Beach
My first thought was to find some other examples of 1920's style beach scenes with similarly dressed children.  After all, the first pail was painted from a flat postcard!  And, if you look at the photo of the original pail, the image was lithographed on the side of the pail, not the front.  Due to this, the image receeds off to the right around the pail in a diminishing effect.  It was a much wider scene than what could be painted on the front of a pail.  There is also no way to know what is actually painted in the rest of the scene.  Add to this, the ridge bump in these tiny pails I have, and you have yourself in a quandry.  There were no postcards or images I could find that even came close to this, and my customer wanted this one.  I don't blame her.  It's darling!

After the initial masking and enamel spraying of the base, I had to free hand the Art Nouveau border within the confines of the front of the pail and under the ridge bump.  If the image had to be painted over the bump, it had to include only the border and sky as you wouldn't want a bump in the child's bonnet!  Yes, I often do a quick transfer to get the sizing right in these tiny scenes, however due to the nature of the original photograph, I had to free hand the child in blue.  I just about tossed the pail at this point.  I kept telling myself, "Be an artist.  You can do it."  Still my confidence was shaken, as I couldn't really get all three children in that small space.  They would have been crammed in together.  This scene was never meant to be a frontal piece.  I conferred once again with my customer, and she told me that as long as I got the two girls in there, she'd be happy.  Phew!  Well, there was still the task of the borders.

Here's another condundrum.  A metal pail is a smooth finish and it is near impossible to paint without visible brush strokes.  This does not occur on the wood surfaces I paint since they're porous, and generally flat.  Dealing with the bump, the roundness of pail and the smooth finish of metal all added to the difficulty of painting the borders with this one.  If I followed the blocking of color as done with the book pail, I would have had to design something suitable to fit in that front space, and deal with acrylic brush strokes.  I finally decided on following the color scheme, and accepting the scroll work as the border.  All the black lines were hand painted as well.  Why?  Well, some might use a Micron .05 pen, but I've tried this, and the lines come out nicer by brush.  Trust me.  They do.

We needed a picnic basket and beach ball.
After all that rigamarole, I still had to spray it with the clear, high gloss coat.  For some reason, I oversprayed and the gloss began to drip.  Ack!  I tapped the bottom on the overspray paper and shook it gently.  Drip, drip, drip.  Had I ruined it after all that work?  No.  It did dry.  It dried hard and glossy and I love this product.  Krylon Triple-Thick Clear Glaze.  Try it. (Did you know you can click on any of these photos and they enlarge?  Try it.  I know they're hard to see.)  

I haven't shown a work in progress in some time, so I've added a photo of my painting table with the pail at Stage 3.

Next?  I'm going to finish reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (third book in the Game of Thrones series), and begin a dress for poor Lettie, finally. 

Speaking of losing one's confidence, that tiny Lettie Lane doll house is mocking me.  I truly have to decide at some point weather I'm going to continue painting.

Miss E. Mouse
Miss E. Mouse's painting table - pail in the works.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fait Accompli

It has come to my attention fully, that I've much to learn when it comes to drafting patterns, or redrafting them as it may be.  The original pattern for this coat dress was way, way, way too large for this doll.  I thought that after several successes with sewing for Daisy, that this dress would have been a snap, but no way.  It took me several tries and alot of pulling at my tail to push myself to actually finish it.

The first problem was with hand-sewing scallops for the collar and cuffs.  When I'd finally decided on the best method for making the scallops, the collar was either too big or too long (crossing in the front).  When you do this intricate hand-stitching and the final product doesn't fit, you have to do the entire thing over again.  No amount of pattern drafting seemed to dimish the collar in size, so I just kept redoing the original.

A friend of mine sent me a redrafted pattern to try, but when I cut a paper towel version of it, the collar was too small and the the dress too tight.  What information she did offer, which was excellent and worked beautifully, was to make buttonhole stitches in the dress to loop the belt through.  There again, I had to practice on my new machine with these as I couldn't get the attachment foot to work, so these had to be done manually.  It scared the pie out of me when sewing them, for if they didn't come out well, the entire dress would be ruined.  Rather akin to gluing and nailing latches on a hand-painted wooden trunk.  

Lastly, the hat would be made to complete this ensemble and since I'd made two of these in the past, it went rather quickly.  The dress is made of a tea-dyed yellow linen and the collar and cuffs from a cotton twill.  The belt, shank buttons and bow are black velveteen, as is the straw hat's band.  It was necessary for me to pursue this to the end as Lettie Lane seems to have many outfits with scalloped collars!  Mercy!

I will call this Daisy's Birthday Dress since March 15 marks her 101th birthday.

Miss E. Mouse 

The mess of patterns and failed efforts!