Monday, December 31, 2012

Guest post on the BAASA blog

I wrote a guest post on the topic of "Inspiration" for the Botanical Artists' Association of Southern Africa. Please go and check it out, and if you're interested in botanical art, consider joining BAASA. We have workshops, courses, exhibitions and expeditions. It's great for networking, too.

Here are a couple of photos from our last trip, in November.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Butterfly on porcelain

Last month the local BAASA group had a porcelain painting workshop. I painted this butterfly on a random milk jug and am now totally hooked, I just want to paint on every bit of china I see, but don't actually own the necessary supplies myself. BAASA!?

Anyway, it's really great because you paint on already-fired porcelain or bone china, which means whatever you have around the house or find at the shops is fair game. The paints are overglaze powders that you have to mix with esoteric oils and things, and fortunately most of the time what you see is what you get in terms of colour. You need to fire the painted pieces in a kiln, sometimes several times between layers especially if you are trying to get a nice bright red, but when you're done the design is permanent: you can wash it, eat off it, whatever. I'm hoping that a couple of us will get together in the future and share materials so that I can do more. I started a sugar bowl to go with the milk jug, but someone sadly cleaned off my drawing (in a special porcelain pencil that disappears when fired; normal pencil will become part of the glaze and be permanent) so I have to start over again.

I never used to be able to draw butterflies, because I couldn't get them even close to symmetrical. Then one day I realised that you could draw half a butterfly and trace it in reverse for the other side. Even later (like, last month) I realised that you can use a simple four-square grid to guide you in situations where tracing doesn't work so well.

I drew a few for you to demonstrate - figured that horrible mouse-drawing would replicate the effect of trying to use a disappearing pencil on a wobbly moving object with a curved surface.

The aim here is to show that you don't need to draw beautifully to get the right effect - the grid will allow you to achieve the basic symmetry that will make your butterfly look right. The first one is a bit wrong: in general the thorax needs to be in the "crosshairs" because both pairs of wings (and all the legs) grow out of it. I haven't drawn in their heads. You need to make the head small and inconspicuous to look right; our instinct as humans (duh) is to place special emphasis on the head and eyes, making them a lot bigger than they should be. This makes the butterfly look cartoonish rather than real.

Butterflies, butterflies, I am going to go and draw lots of butterflies now!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

to everyone who celebrates it, and a very merry anything else to anyone who wants one! 

I'm somewhat tongue-tied in matters of faith - whatever I try to say has a tendency to turn out terribly cheesy. So in lieu of a proper Christmas post, I will point you to three places on the Internet where I know I will always be able to find a good Christmas post when I need to read one:

I have linked to the home page of each one rather than to a particular post; although I see each has at least one Christmas-related post up already, it's not the 25th yet and I'm sure there's more to come. 

Cheers guys, it's a good feeling to know there are people out there reading my dim ramblings. And as not the most social human being, it's nice to be able to keep in touch with my real-life friends this way too - you know who you are ;)

All right, gotta go before this all gets too maudlin. Love ya!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Party time!

Happy new b'ak'tun! (Or possibly piktun...)

I have 3 things to say about the Mayan calendar rollover:

  1. The people are called Maya, not Mayans.
  2. Reading about the Mayan system of counting makes me wish I were a maths genius so that I could a) understand it and b) become the Tolkien of maths and invent a whole new fictional mathematical system for my epic fictional civilisations. Someone who is a maths person get onto it, please!
  3. In this whole doomsday kerfuffle we have all missed the chance for a MASSIVE New Year's party of note. This makes me sad. Is it too late yet? I think we all need to make our New Year's parties this year double as New B'ak'tun parties. Come on make it happen!*
*And I want photos!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Out of the Attic: Lighthouse

While it might seem like a cop-out to do an Out of the Attic post after dropping out of sight for so long.... ah, who am I kidding, it's totally a cop-out to do an Out of the Attic post after dropping out of sight for so long. But I'm doing it anyway.

This is an old oil pastel doodle of a lighthouse that I did ages and ages ago, and is interesting for two reasons: One, it just popped out of my head, no references or anything. I actually have a dreadful visual memory so I don't work like that very often. Two, at least one person has said to me that it's their favourite thing that I've done, and at least one person has said to me that it's the worst thing that I've done and that I should get rid of it stat. It can't actually be the worst (never inquire about the contents of certain drawers in my home) but I thought that extreme range of reactions was pretty interesting.