Christmas Card Lament, continued

For those who are following my holiday card-making adventure closely (exactly four people according to WordPress’ awesome statistical counter, two referred by my plaintive Facebook post last week, one bot from the Ukraine and an expat friend in France, thank you all) my story continues. Setting up the little seashell and holly still life was easy, involving a brief saunter across the street to prune some holly branches with berries. Musing on the whole male/female holly tree topic, I was not diverted to Google that. I just plunked a couple of berried twigs in a large clam shell. Then sketching with pencil on watercolor paper and inking it in with a fine tip black marker followed without too much angst. So far so good. I posted the drawing to Instagram and our group family text and Facebook to much thumbs upping. Again thank you to all my fans. So now comes the hard part. Technology rears it’s ugly head. (Does technology have a head and, if so, what kind, but I digress.)

Making Christmas cards at home
Xmas cards in the making

The next step is to turn this simple little drawing into a Christmas card. Having chronicled my despair with Adobe Photoshop in other posts, I muse a bit about other picture editing software. Now here you can picture me reading articles about this process, visiting card-making apps and websites, going to actual craft fairs to steal card ideas, mourning the demise of Google’s Picasa, and finally taking a medium dive into what Windows 10 on my PC has to offer. Because my mantra here is Keep it Simple Stupid (and Cut Costs. ) The angst level is rising a bit now.

I scanned the drawing and printed and fiddled with the settings and so on and then saved the image several times with several names in several folders somewhere on my PC never to be found again. Then of course I started that process again saving the images to a desktop folder, mindful of some old techie advice to never save stuff to your desktop because… I don’t know, viruses? Gremlins?

Then Windows forced me to edit the drawing in some pretty useless bit of software whose greatest capability is to crop and rotate. So I did. And saved that image with yet another name. Then somehow I ended up in Paint which led me to Paint 3D which demanded that I save the image just to Paint with yet another name. This drawing now has more names than a Tolstoy character and equally confusing.

So the last step is printing, that intersection of software and hardware where no one plays well together, with the added fun of low ink and paper jams looming in my mind. The angst level, or angstometer, is registering ever higher.

I had bought card stock paper in Xmas Colors on one of my explorative trips out of the house. So now I tested the printer as to whether the color should be up or down and MADE A NOTE on the clipboard where I was jotting the card’s ever-evolving name changes and path through various software applications. Then I said a brief incantation to the Ghost of Printers Past to not get jammed on the card stock.

I will pause here while you all remember the scene from the movie Office Space where the frustrated employees smash an ornery printer to bits.

So I should stop here by saying that a week or so after I drew the little drawing, I now have four cards with matching envelopes. One card for each follower of my blog. Including the Ukrainian bot.

Merry Christmas!

Making the perfect Christmas card, starting now

Today I started the process of deciding on the design for my yearly hand-made Christmas card. I generally agonize over the subject, the medium, and then the method of reproduction. Assume that this is only the first of several attempts to decide. Only the limitation of time (insert flying December calendar pages here) will make me stop, pick one, and try to get my cards out by Christmas, or say, New Years, or Twelfth Night, at the outside. After that, you’re into the dreaded Valentines deadline.

Last year’s Agony of Xmas Card Making was chronicled in my Crappy Crafters blog

I survived that, so there is hope…

Christmas card drawing of holly
Holly in a seashell

Reggie, Grand-dog

A weekend visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art provided plenty of inspiration and awe, but it was a small portrait of a white dog by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec which gave me an idea about how to draw my grand-dog, Reggie. I used short, vertical strokes for the background and scribbly hatching for his fur, trying to use Lautrec’s technique to catch Reggie in a contemplative mood on the sofa. I finished the drawing in one class and trying not to overwork it, I left the grey paper showing through the marks. I feel that this was a good attempt at catching Reggie’s ‘dogginess,’ and I could use this technique for other quick works.
Portrait of a dog
Reggie, pastel on paper
Dog by Lauren
Dog, oil, Toulouse-Lautrec, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Salt Marshes, again, and again

Last May while visiting Stone Harbor, I took an iPhone picture of the salt marshes along the causeway leading to Seven Mile Island, a barrier island along the southern end of the New Jersey shoreline. The marsh grasses were a spring green with some winter browns mixed in at that point.Landscape New Jersey

View of Stone Harbor, NJ

Last summer, I took a charcoal drawing course and drew the scene of the salt marshes in black and white, with soft vine charcoal on watercolor paper:


Today, I revisited the scene in pastel: 12×18, Canson pastel paper:

Salt marshes, New Jersey

This part of New Jersey is so beautiful. I enjoy revisiting it, in person, and in different art mediums. Next, sometime this winter, I will paint the scene in watercolor then oils. By then, it will be time to drive ‘down the shore’ again, as we supposedly say in New Jersey.

Still Life with Gourd…and problems

What can you learn from a painting with problems? I knew the glass bottle I picked for my still life would be challenging with its transparency and reflections, but I decided to face the challenge with the help of my teacher. I did not anticipate that the folds of the black cloth and the elliptical shapes of the plate and bottle would also be tricky. I felt that the gourd would be forgiving – what’s a bump or curve here or there going to matter? You can draw a gourd that looks gourd-like even if it doesn’t look like that specific gourd in front of you and no one will be the wiser. But if you draw the perspective of a cylindrical bottle or round plate inaccurately, the drawing will look amateurish.

The photo collage shows (clockwise from bottom left) the still life in the studio, an early version of the drawing and a later version after two 2 1/2 hour classes and quite a lot of work at home. The drapery is toned down and blended, the black drape shows through the bottle and the sky is darkened. The whole drawing reminds me of some artists I like: Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley and Charles Burchfield, but I can’t claim that was intentional.

Still life with gourd

Still life in progress

I learned that I need a lot more practice with basic drawing. I learned that folds of drapery are really tricky and that’s why all those Renaissance painters went wild with their virtuoso renderings of draped figures. I learned that using black is worth a whole study of artists like Whistler and Manet. I realized I was right about the gourd. Gourds are forgiving. Just don’t put them on a reflective, white plate seen at a foreshortened angle. Oh, the ellipses!

Still life with gourd, pastel