Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Egg #3- African inspired from "50 years all cooped up" series

     When I think of Africa, not only do I think of the wonderful collection of animals, such as lions, elephants, monkeys and giraffe, but also of the diversity of people, tribes, their artwork and batik textiles. This is an early photo of my son, who is sporting a wonderful hand-made batik and embroidered hat called a kufi that we had purchased at Disney's Animal Kingdom in the African Pavilion. He wore it all year long (even to school) until it was threadbare.  I have always loved the simplicity of design and repetitive tribal elements. I thought it would be fun to put my spin on a goose egg with some of those elements. I wanted the egg to have a carved wood look as well, and thought this would be a great challenge for me. I consider it a mixed media piece as it uses inks and acrylics to help achieve this look.
 I have also admired photographs and African art depicting beautiful women with heads wrapped in turbans. I thought I might like to make an image of a strong and beautiful African woman the centerpiece of the egg.

Because of the size of the part of the egg where my African woman will reside,  I will use the photo for reference for the idea only. I will draw my own simplified silhouette of a woman in a turban and make it my own. I will also add earrings, and draw them heavier and horn-shaped, more like the gauges that the teenagers are wearing today.
I've drawn the silhouette profile of my African woman with a turban wrapped around her head. It has many folds and drapes, and the knot is in the front instead of the side. I have given her braided cornrows on the temple, and a large pass-through earring as well as several strands of beads. She is framed in the medallion with a twisted border that has some spotted and striped elements to depict animal markings. The medallion nestles in the middle of a wide horizontal band, flanked by two sinuous trees that wrap around to the back.
I now draw four stylized and very angular animals on what becomes the back of the egg. Here you see a lion and a giraffe. They have an exaggerated block-print feel to them. It reminds me of primitive carving on wood. Hopefully I will achieve this effect further as we go.
The bottom of the egg is a circular medallion with the drain hole. I take advantage of the division of eight triangles on the bottom and build a mask within each of the sections, and make sure that the design is simple and looks primitive.
There is a square nestled in the circular medallion on the top of the egg. I have divided the square into 4 more smaller squares and left the simplicity of the design as if it were wax batik fabric. The smaller border designs below came from Photoxpress files. For a small monthly fee and $1.00 per download, you may use designs with permission.

These are pretty simple, geometric designs. I have often used triangles and squares with multi-directional basket weaving of my own making. Dots and circles and crosshatching  could also be used. Basically, anything that looks like primitive doodling.
As you can see, I have started to wax the outline of the design with a fine tip kitska, being careful to draw slowly so the wax has a chance to deposit properly, otherwise you might get a thinner line than you want. You will see why that is important later.
Waxing the stylized monkey and lion, and the right side of the tree branches from the side of the portrait.
I now wax the giraffe and the elephant and the left side of the tree that hugs the center medallion.
The top is simple. I will wax lines in each of the square compartments in opposing directions.
I have plugged the drain hole with a waxed plug, and added lines to the face mask to give the illusion of rough carving.
I have now started filling in with more line work on the frame that surrounds the portrait, waxed in the turban, and the upper and bottom smaller borders and the gnarled tree trunk and limbs.
I have added some "beef" to some of the angular outlines of the animals. This is important, because I will acid-etch the egg with Acid Magic (muriatic acid). I will not be dipping the egg into any colored dye. I only want a raised outline so I can work with acrylics and inks after.
And the top of the egg and it's band is entirely waxed over.
It is hard to see, but the egg has been dipped in acid for about 30 seconds, and gently scrubbed with a white magic eraser cleaner to remove the first layers of shell. I then mix a slurry of baking soda and water and gently polish the egg with a soft toothbrush to neutralize the acid. I rinse the egg well, and let it rest for a couple of hours, in this case, I left it overnight. If you run your finger over the surface, everywhere there is wax is raised. After letting the egg rest,  I unwax the it. I rub a little olive oil over the surface of the egg, and place it into a paper egg carton lined with paper towels into a cold oven. I heat the oven to 175 degrees F., and walk away. I come back in 15 minutes and gently wipe away the excess wax with toilet paper (it is gentler than scratchy paper towels). I have to close the oven door and leave it in a little longer and repeat the process until the egg is completely unwaxed. I let the egg cool.
Next comes the fun and experimental part. I take a cotton swab and dip it into Walnut Ink and rub over the shell, then wipe the surface with a paper towel. This removes excess ink and pushes it into the cracks and crevices in the egg. It accentuates the raised parts of the egg.
I continue swabbing over the egg with the walnut ink, and wiping it off the surface leaving the stain.
I want the finish to be darker and more polished like wood. I mix Golden Acrylic transparent burnt umber with a gloss medium additive and hand paint over certain areas, and add more medium to the paint to extend it for lighter areas.
You can see the back of the egg is nearing completion. I like the mottled look of the lighter areas and the dark areas where the ink and acrylic paint collected within the raised lines from etching.
The last step is to add a little gold to the egg, not a lot, but just enough to give it a little more interest. I wanted the egg to look wooden with a little gilding. I mixed Schmincke's water soluble gold powder (which already has gum Arabic in it) with a little of the clear acrylic medium. I paint the earring and the beaded necklace with it and let it dry. I then dip the egg into Golden's Hard MSA varnish with UVLS in gloss. I think it gives the egg a highly polished wooden egg, don't you?
Front of the egg after varnishing. I am pleased at the outcome, considering I haven't tried this technique before.
Turning the egg to let you see the little monkey and the lion...
Another quarter turn to show the giraffe....
And one last turn to show the elephant and some of the gnarled tree.
And egg #3 - African inspired egg finished! Hope you have enjoyed the process!

"50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" Egg #2- Egyptian inspired

Did you know that little 'ol Vermont has its own Egyptian Mummy? Most people don't, yet this amazing fact is something that this artist discovered through an elementary school field trip one year to the University of Vermont's Fleming Museum. And here it is, a 6th century B.C. Egyptian mummy, resting in it's sarcophagus.
Did it make an impression on this youngster? Along with wonderful photographs I had seen as a child in the National Geographic of the Treasures of Tutankhamun, I would say absolutely! I was amazed at the amount of detail and wonderful symbols I had seen. The images were etched into my brain much like the walls of the tomb. Traveling to Egypt might not happen for a little while, so I've decided that egg #2 in this series would be dedicated to the culture and style of art that is Egypt.
My inspiration for the egg is from a piece of porcelain service ware made for the Kedive of Egypt in 1872-74 by Ginori manufacturing. I had seen this particular piece in an Art & Antiques (2003, yes- I save things for a long time until I have a project in mind). I loved the stylized version of the papyrus and decided to use that part on the egg, changing some of the colors and position of the grouping of flowers. I also used part of the rim design in one of the compartments of the egg, as you will see, but changed it again, slightly.
As for the other element people usually think of as Egyptian, it would have to be the scarab beetle. My mother had a scarab bracelet that I had always admired as a child, and would play with it when she wore it for special occasions. One of the first pieces of jewelry that my husband would later buy me after we were married would be my very own scarab bracelet and pin. I loved the simplicity of the carved beetles on the different colored stones. The design was so simple, yet elegant and recognizable. I decided to take my cue from these wonderful pieces. is the initial drawing on the goose egg:
I have divided the egg with a large horizontal band around the equator. This is where the papyrus flower grouping resides. There are four flower groupings, and I decided to attach them together with two vines that come together. On top of that juncture, I placed another single papyrus blossom. There are opposing vertical bands on the top and bottom of the egg, and it divides the egg in half again. The vertical bands are filled with simple stylized scarabs. On the top of the egg, in the two half moon compartments, I have drawn a lotus much like the one on the rim of the plate above on both sides. On the bottom of the egg, on the other two half moons that flank the bottom vertical band, I have drawn a large single scarab with it's wings spread. I have used a .05 mechanical pencil with a 2H lead.
As you can see, I have dyed the entire egg with Ukrainian Gift Shop dye "yellow". I am not concerned with the extra line work, as that will disappear with the etching process that comes after.
I am now starting to wax the outline of the design on the yellow egg. This means that everything I am waxing will stay yellow. It is a different look than the traditional Ukrainian wax resist method. In most cases, you are starting with a white egg and a white outline. I wanted this egg to have the look of a golden outline. I will continue until all outlines are waxed. Then it's on to etching the egg.
After waxing all the outlines, I dip the goose egg into muriatic acid and gently scrub away a couple layers of the cuticle of the egg. This gives a nice embossed, raised effect for the outlines (which are still yellow under that dark wax). I then lightly scrub the egg with a slurry of baking soda and water to neutralize the strong acid. I then quickly dip the egg into vinegar to open the pores of the egg and to wash away any left over baking soda so that the next dyes will take to the shell.
Now comes the tedious process of hand painting the dyes onto the shell. I am using a gold and an orange dye, and I am shading with the two colors to give the bottom of the papyrus blossom some depth and richness. Once dry, I will wax over these parts to preserve them and go onto the next color. Why don't I do an all over dip, you might ask? I have already compromised the shell by etching with acid. I have several more colors to go, and the egg shell (as strong as it is) can only take so much back and forth before it start behaving badly! To prevent this, and also to control the shading, I've decided to do a lot of this type of painting on the egg. It is tedious, to be sure, but the results are well worth it.
Now I am working on the green of the stems and the scarab beetles using three shades of green and then waxing over those areas once they are dry. I have also painted the jewels in the upper band above with red, blue and green, and waxed over those as well.
Now it's starting to come together. I am hand painting two shades of pink dye onto the flowers. Because it is over the yellow dye, the pinks have a warm coral shade to them. I am liking this very much. You'll notice on the right side of the egg, I have a little "smear" of green. I am not concerned with this, but I am careful to wax within the stems and ignore the "outside the lines" bit. A darker overall color will eventually cover this. I wax over all the green and pinks once they are dry.
Once everything I desire to be preserved is waxed over, the egg gets an overall dip in a UGS Royal blue dye. The results are stunning! Just look at that color! It reminds me of the lapis lazuli stone that decorated so many of the Egyptian treasures. I know that a lot of you are thinking this is a great last color....sorry!
I now wax over the two upper half moons behind the large lotus flower on both sides. I then take a q-tip and rub out some of the strong blue from the outspread wings of the scarab beetle on the bottom two half moons, and then wax over the rest of the blue. We are now ready for one last dye.
I decide that with all the bright colors, a nice black will set them all ablaze! I let it dry for a good couple of hours before doing anything with it. To ensure that there is no moisture or condensation, I melt the wax plug at the bottom of the egg.
After resting a good while, I will wax over the entire egg to help close up the pores. I will wait another couple of hours to a full day to let the egg dry out so there is no transfer or rubbing off of dye color when the wax is removed. When the egg is ready to be unwaxed, I place it in a cold oven on a well-worn cookie sheet deemed only for egg making, put a cardboard coffee holder lined with paper towels and the goose egg nestled in the middle. I turn the oven on to 175 degrees F and walk away for 10-15 minutes and let the oven do the work. I come back and gently wipe away any excess wax with soft toilet paper (yes, you heard right!). I check to make sure all wax is removed.
Patience is rewarded! Here is one view of the egg. You can see the large stylized papyrus on top, the middle band with the connected papyrus flowers, and part of the bottom opposing vertical band at the bottom ( a little wider than the vertical opposing band at the top). Both vertical bands are filled with scarabs.
Another view of the egg. You can see the smaller vertical opposing band at the top, flanked by colored jewels, holding a row of scarabs. On the bottom half moon, you can see the large scarab with it's wings spread.
Here is the bottom of the egg with my initials and the year that the egg was created in. It is very important that you always sign your work!
Here is the top of the egg with the smaller opposing vertical band.
And finally, a view of the completed egg, ready to be varnished! I hope you have enjoyed the progress of egg #2 - Egyptian egg in this series!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

50 years all cooped up....egg #1- Nautical egg with lighthouse

I have started this project with a Nautical egg because it is now the middle of the month of July when most families take vacation and go to their favorite places.When my family took vacation, the destination was usually to the coast of Maine to visit the ocean. Below is an old photograph of my sister Cheryl and I enjoying the beach, playing in the sand and getting sunburned! (I am the one on the left)
 I decided to start with all of the images that I associate with being near the ocean. The goose egg is a perfect choice for the size, as you can fit a lot of imagery on it. I started by drawing lightly with a .05 mechanical pencil with a 2H lead.
The egg has a vertical border flanked by a twisted naval rope, stopping half way at the equator of the egg. The band is filled with diamonds, and each diamond has a simple mariner's compass in it. There are four circles that are located at the bottom of the egg, and they touch each other at the widest part of the egg. The circles are surrounded by the naval rope that weave in and out and around each other. The circles on the front and back of the egg are filled with a larger mariner's compass, and the circles that are on the bottom of the vertical band are filled with a rope and anchor, a reminder of my Uncle John's naval service (my Godfather, who happens to reside in Maine as well). On the back of the egg, as you can see above, I have drawn three "Lobsta" (slang for Lobster) buoys, which is a common decoration on the sides of buildings, homes and restaurants when you are traveling through the Maine seacoast. The front of the egg in the upper quadrant depicts my favorite destination in Maine, Nubble Light House in York Beach. The bottom of the egg has a captain's wheel that is centered over the drain hole.
Now comes the tedious part. The rope is hand painted with the dye, using one of PUSA light brown dyes. When the dye is dry, I wax over the outlines of the rope, and some lines to indicate the fibers. I leave the rest for the next darkest dye to fill in the rope.
As you can see, there are two shades of brown to be waxed on the knotted ropes. I am also waxing the mariner's compass and the outline of the anchor.
The third darkest dye was hand painted on the ropes to give shading and dimension, then all was waxed over to save the work. I also completed the bottom of the buoys with the two colors of brown. I took a sea sponge and dabbed a medium gray all over the anchor, being careful to leave some white spaces to give the illusion of an aged anchor. I waxed over the entire anchor, not worrying about the excess sponging, as I will eventually wash away the extra color when I acid etch the egg. I have also waxed over the small mariner's compasses within the vertical band so everything will be saved as the white of the egg.
The image above shows the hand painting of dyes with shading as I work on the lobster buoys. I use the sea sponge and the medium gray dye to give the illusion of well-used and worn buoys. Again, I don't worry about the excess gray dabbling outside of the lines, as the etching later will remove unwanted dye. I wax over the buoys to preserve them.
Now to the front of the egg. I have waxed and shaded the white parts of the lighthouse. I then hand paint and shade the grass, hand paint the roof with red dye, and when dry, wax over and preserve before I move onto the next step.
I shade and paint the rocks with 3 shades of gray dye and a black, then wax over those sections. I hand paint in a light turquoise dye in the outer arms of the mariner's compass, and again, wax over. After I have completed this, I then etch the egg in muriatic acid, rinse the egg, give it a polish with a slurry of baking soda to neutralize the acid, then a quick dip into vinegar and rinse and let the egg rest and the pores close up. This cleans up the egg of any over painting of the dyes that I don't want, and prepares the egg for more colors.

The next step is to give the egg a wash of dyes (much like a watercolor) and blend the blues and turquoises to give a pleasing shaded effect. I let dry and then wax over these areas.
Next, I dip the whole egg in UGS yellow dye. I wax in arms of the mariner's compass. I hand paint UGS scarlet dye around the outside of the compass. I wax over that as well.
I also wax netting lines in yellow within the small triangles in the vertical band, as well as the arms of the small mariner's compass. I also hand paint with red dye over the netting and wax the area. I then do a cold water rinse to remove the yellow dye, and I am back to a white background.
I hand paint the blues on the background of the buoys, the anchor, the small diamonds on the vertical band and the last legs of the large mariner's compass. After letting the dyes soak in and dry, I wax over the entire egg, including the bottom, where a captain's wheel resides.
Waxed side of the egg with anchor...
Waxed back of egg with lobster buoys...
Waxed front of the egg with lighthouse....and now to unwax in the oven at 175 degrees F.
Front of egg unwaxed.
Side of egg unwaxed.
Back of egg unwaxed.
Bottom of egg unwaxed.
Finished egg. I have included a photo of my own children, Chelsea and Garrett on the very same beach that my sister and I enjoyed as children. This nautical egg is a wonderful reminder of trips to the Maine seacoast that have passed, and the many trips with my own family that have yet to come.