Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Egg #10- Inuit (Cree) inspired goose egg

     I, and many in my family, are hunting down an ancestral thread that will hopefully lead me to one of the Cree Inuit tribes. Both of my mother's ancestors emigrated from France, both about the same time, late 1600's to early 1700's. There is said to have been a marriage to a French fur trader traveling down the St. Lawrence River. While I am hunting down this elusive ancestor, and verifying for my family, I hope you will enjoy the "spiritual" journey that this egg has taken to complete.
     First, a very brief description of the Cree tribes. They are said to be nomads of the Northern Forests. One of the symbols for the Cree is the Porcupine. They were excellent hunters, used snowshoes, have a vast knowledge of plants, and excelled at clothing and bead work. This is where my inspiration starts.
     I've decided to divide the goose egg with two horizontal beaded bands, and a large horizontal middle band. The middle band will have etched carvings of spirit animals, and four of them will reside in the middle of my "Earth" plain together.
     I draw the two smaller beaded bands on with a .005 mechanical pencil and a 2h lead. I draw a grid on the middle part of the band, not to transfer a design, but to help me center each animal in a predetermined space. As you can see, I have chosen one of the Cree symbols, the Porcupine. He is very stylized, and I drew him as if I had carved a piece of soft stone or ivory with a hand-made tool. I imagine myself carving, perhaps much like my ancestor, and believe that the carving would be rough -hewn, so I don't put too much detail into the drawing. I keep the symbol simple, and recognizable. Looks like a porcupine, doesn't it?
     The next drawing is that of a crow. Intuitively, I would have thought raven, but on further research, one of the animals symbols is, in fact, a crow. According to an Algonquin (another Native tribe of Quebec) legend of the Beginning, the animals were searching for land from the sea in which to live; eagle, beaver, otter, seal, whale, muskrat, hare, crow, fox, wolf, tortoise, bear and deer. The fox and the crow were the first scouts when land was sighted. I keep the drawing of the crow very stylized and "chunky" without too much detail, just enough information to convey that this in fact, is a crow...

     The next spirit animal is the hare. Again, simplicity in design, much like the early cave paintings conveys all that you need to know...
     The fourth animal you can see on the egg, and on my sketch book is the fox. Again, simple outline and design.
     And lastly, on the top of the egg, a tortoise, and his wonderful, stylized aboriginal looking shell. The other reason I have chosen these five, out of all of the animals listed (with the exception of the Porcupine) is that I see these animals in the wilds of Vermont, and in my own backyard. I feel a special kindred spirituality with them.
     The plan is to wax the outline of the animals and bands, and then acid etch them, so they looked "carved". Above is the turtle being waxed over. I make sure the lines are not too thin, especially since I will be using acid. Small, thin lines sometimes just float right off the egg...
     I wax the fox. The interior of the fox is sectioned off into compartments. I will fill these compartments with simple lines and geometric shapes. The compartments remind me of the many entrances and exits to animal burrows.
     I have waxed the crow, and other animals as well, and the platform or "land" that the animals sit on. These are simple stylized meandering lines and shapes as well, almost hypnotic. I have also waxed the diamond shapes and triangles in the lower and upper bands. When etched, these lines will be raised, and will help guide me when I apply the wax "beading".

     After everything is waxed to my satisfaction, I acid etch in a Muriatic acid for about 25 seconds, gently rub away the excess shell with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I to this one more time for a deep etch.
     I neutralize the acid by gently brushing the surface of the egg with a soft toothbrush and a water and baking soda slurry. This also polishes the egg. Rinse with cold water. Dry. Let rest for at least 30 minutes, and let the pores of the egg close back up.
     Hard to see, but if you could run your hand over the egg, you will feel a raised embossing of the figures against the background. Now to unwax the egg. I line a paper carton with paper towels, rub the surface of the egg with a little olive oil,  put the egg and carton on an old cookie sheet, and place in a cold oven. I heat the oven to 175 degrees F. I then let the oven do the work for me. I come back in about 15 minutes, and gently blot and wipe the egg until no longer feels sticky. I have to do this two more times before I have all of the wax off.
     As you can see, once the wax is removed, the background has been bitten with acid, and the part of the egg that wax waxed was saved- giving it a raised, embossed feel. Now comes the fun part...
     I want the egg to have the feel of carved ivory. I will give the surface a "faux" finish to mimic that look. I mix Golden Acrylic Titan Buff with Burnt Umber Light and a glazing medium. I brush on liberally. The glazing liquid make the paint go on slick, and extends the drying time, so I have some time to get the finish I want.
     I wipe away the excess paint mixture with a soft paper towel and let dry. It looks a little too light to me right now, so once dry, I will do this once more, and the paint will collect in all the nooks and crannies and I will achieve that "old bone" look.
     Here is is, a little darker, and more textural. I like it so far. I let it dry thoroughly before going onto the next step.
     I have decided to use colored wax as my "faux" beading. I have chosen opaque white, yellow, red, blue and black. Simple colors for simple beading designs.
     I have purchased a drop-pull adapter for my electric kitska to apply the colored wax on the beaded bands. I will also use my electric kitska with a medium tip to push through some of the colored wax in smaller bead form.
     I practice dipping the drop-pull tip into the wax and "dotting" it on the egg. I don't pull down, I just dot. I don't want a tear drop shape for this project, I just want what looks like a round "seed bead", remembering that the Cree people were experts in bead ware. It takes a while to "practice", and there is a rhythm to it. This assures that the beads will be uniform, more or less. Luckily, "less" in this case is okay. If you have ever seen bead work, and real seed beads, you know that they are not uniform at all. That is the beauty and charm of the pieces. They don't look machine made, but made by hand. That is what we are looking for.
     More practicing. While I am practicing, I spray the egg with 2 coats
of Krylon Uv matte acrylic varnish to protect the painted coating. This will hopefully help me in case I make a mistake and have to scrape some of the colored wax back off- it provides a clear protective shield so the colored wax will not stain the finish of the egg.
     And here we go...I use my electric kitska with the medium tip and dunk into the red wax, and wipe excess from the outside of the tool. The medium tip helps me get into the very small triangles at the top and bottom of the band.
     Next, I dot with blue, then with white, and I use the drop-pull adapter. It deposits a larger "bead" of wax. I like the round shape it leaves behind.
     The next color is yellow. I just continue to add my little colored dots to the surface of the egg.
     The last beaded color is black. It is in the center of the diamond, and it lines the edge of the bands.
I then brush on a liquid coat of Golden Acrylic Matte varnish with UVLS, and let dry.

 I am finished!

     Here is the fox...
the crow...
the porcupine...
the hare...
and the tortoise.

And for those of you who are in tune with nature, your surroundings and spirituality, a special note for you. Before I posted this blog this morning, I was on my usual early morning walk.
 Nearing the end, a Hare jumped out of the brush and crossed in front of me, less than three feet a away. Coincidence? Maybe. Finding a fine thread of connection that binds us all together? Perhaps. I will let you decide..
 I hope you have enjoyed this "spiritual" journey with me as much as I have! Thank you!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Egg #9- Koi inspired goose egg with alcohol inks from "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     So....I have always wanted to decorate an egg with alcohol inks, and replicate that beautiful variegated marble look. Since I am trying all types of mediums during this 50 egg project, it made perfect sense to try them now, being that this is a personal creative journey.  Never having used alcohol inks before, I knew this could be hit or miss, and I wanted to see if I could figure it out on my own. I pride myself on being a creative problem solver, and love the challenge of trying something new (and as I am always saying, "By the seat of my pants").
     I have seen marble, agate, mother-of-pearl and all types of inlay eggs. There is usually some sort of metal came with solder holding all of the pieces together. That was the look that I decided I wanted to achieve, without going through all of that.
     I knew that the design had to be one that had a lot of "open work", and pieces that weren't too tiny or too fussy. It would also depend on what I would use for the metallic ink that would replace the metal came. I decided to use one of my old stand-by designs, the fish. And this fish would be highly stylized and very graphic. What kind of fish, though?
      Well, it just so happens that a talented photographer who had taken a lot of photographs of my art for reproduction purposes had built this beautiful Koi pond in his front yard, with rocks, cascading waterfalls and beautiful water plants. It truly was a feast for the eyes. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought so. A week before I arrived for one of his photography sessions, he was lamenting at the loss of all of the Koi the previous week. A great Blue Heron had decided that the Sushi spread was so inviting, it must have been laid out just for him. He proceeded to pick the $90 a piece Koi out of the water and swallowed them whole. My friend had witnessed the whole thing. Being a gifted photographer, I'm sure he didn't miss the opportunity to photograph the Heron. Hopefully. So, Koi it is!
     The above photo shows the goose egg, and three of the four delrin kitskas that I would try to run an acrylic ink, non-heated, through for the metallic lines. I started with the fine (white) kitska, but found the the ink flowed out too fast, even for me to handle it. I switched to a black handle extra fine delrin kitska. This seemed to work a little better. However, when drawing a long line and tilting it ever so forward towards me, the ink would run backwards along the previous line laid down just seconds before and stop and the very place I had originally put it down, making a rather large bead. I tried this five different times, and each time, no matter what I did, the result was still the same. I ended up washing the ink off the egg. Feeling a little frustrated at this point.
     So, I grabbed another type of ink that I was familiar with, a pilot gold xylene pen. It's the kind of pen that has a liquid ink inside, you shake, depress the tip, and the ink flows out smoothly. It takes some practice to not be heavy handed. You also have to be careful with the type of varnish that you use over these pens. Generally, nothing solvent based, or propellants from a spray var. These will make the ink run. Ask me how I know. Previous project. Long story... The above photo shows the design drawn on the egg with the pilot gold pen. I then waxed over with my electric kitska to "save" the gold. Why? Because when you are applying alcohol inks with the inking pad to the egg, and you are going over the metallic ink, it will obliterate or hide the marks you've previously laid down. Ergo, the wax covering. And once the alcohol inks are applied and dried and section also waxed over to "save" them, all of the wax will be melted off. Or so I thought. We'll get to that further on down...
     Here are the alcohol inks that I used. You should be able to find them at any Art/Craft/Scrap Book store. I am only using a few colors. I also bought a blending solution, which is supposed to lighten up the colors, or wash any unwanted color away. There is also a stamping tool that has a hook and loop patch on it which will hold on the felt blending pads. Now we can get started with the color!
     I put a couple drops of yellow and blending solution on the attached felt pad and began pouncing/daubing color on the fins.
     Here, I've added some orange on top of the yellow. The moment you touch the blending solution or another color on top of the previous color, some wonderful texture begins to bleed across the egg. It is very much like using alcohol on a watercolor, and watching it spread and suck up color (somewhat like throwing salt technique). You don't have a lot of control, at this point, so it's best to sit back and let the medium work for you!
     I am not too concerned with the over runs. I will clean them up after I have waxed over the entire area once dry. I let the inks dry about 30 minutes before I wax over. They will be dry to the touch almost immediately, but still sticky until about 30 minutes later.
     Here is the fin waxed over. I am now using rubbing alcohol to remove the excess inks. I have fellow egg peep Tymothy Bates suggest also using ivory soap to remove the rest of the residue. I didn't use the blending solution for removal, thinking it was a little too expensive to waste on cleaning- so the rubbing alcohol was an economical choice.
     A little cleaner now, I did notice that some of the wax lines needed to be "beefed" up again, so a retouch was in order before the next color of inks.
     I decided to use a pebble color for some of the dark spots that you might see on Koi. I wet the new felt pad with more blending solution and a few drops of the alcohol ink.
     A little light for my taste, so when dry, I will go over it again.
     A little darker now, and I am loving the pebbling/bleeding that the color is creating all by itself.
     I change the felt pad, and add blending solution and a few drops of gold, orange and red and "let the ink do its thing".
     I blot and mottle and rock the ink pad back and forth, and the colors continue to run into each other.
     I wax over the fish body, and wash away any excess ink to leave a white background for the final application of color.
     I use a blue ink with the blending solution, and then a green over the top of it. So much fun watching the inks turn into a bubbly texture. It does look like water...
     Here I am, waxing over the entire background with my large kitska with the ribbon tip. This takes some time, so a little patience is required.
     And here we are, waxing finished and ready to head to the oven for the big reveal. I was given advice by several people to NOT rub the egg during the unwaxing process. This would lead to the alcohol inks smearing and sometimes being removed altogether. I rubbed the egg with olive oil, and put it onto a paper carton lined with paper towels. I placed the whole thing on an old baking sheet into a cold oven. The oven was turned on to 175 degrees F. I let the oven do the work for me. I then opened the door after 15 minutes and wrapped the egg up in a piece of toilet tissue (non-abrasive- better than paper towels) and gently squeezed and blotted the egg. Here's what happened:
     During the heating process, the wax slid off the egg. The gold ink from the pilot in some places did too. Some of it lightly, and in some places, altogether. A little disappointing, but nothing I couldn't fix. The color seemed to fade dramatically, even though I had not rubbed the wax off, and only gently blotted. It still had mottling, which was pleasant enough, so I thought for a first try it was okay. I repaired the gold by going over the lines AGAIN with the pilot pen. After that had dried, I decided to dip it into Golden's Polymer Varnish with UVLS. This is a water-based varnish, not the hard MSA solvent based varnish. Remember our conversation at the beginning about being careful about the type of varnish you use with a xylene based marker? Well, the gold lines were okay, but I noticed that when I dipped, some of the color started to slide off the egg. Not all, but some, which again, lightened the colors on the egg considerably.
     MEH. Somewhat respectable for a first try. Not the strong colors that I had imagined. I might just have to live with it. I tossed and turned all night. I guess I wasn't as satisfied with it as I wanted to believe.....soooooooo...... I hit the "re-do/re-set" button the next day. Here are some of the things that I did differently on the second one:
     Back to the beginning. Fine-tuned the design, and waxed once again. I like his fins a little better this time, a little more angular. I did not draw on the egg first with the gold pilot pen. I decided that I would apply the pen after I have unwaxed and varnished the egg, following the white lines that the initial waxing had left behind.
     I decided to not use the blending solution (as on the bottle says that it lightens colors), and used the same colors on the fins, and the body. The colors went on much stronger and bolder. I like this much better, as in some of my watercolor paintings, I like strong, sharp contrasts, and tend to not do "pastel" colored watercolors. I WANT BOLD! After waxing each color course, I clean up with the rubbing alcohol and the ivory soap, inspecting lines in case I need to touch up on the waxing.
     And you can see the background is back to that pristine white, and ready for the last two background colors, blue and green.
     I am happy with the deep color achieved, and love the marbleized look that I was going for.
     And here we are, once again, waxing over the entire egg....a second time! And then into the oven. Nothing done differently there. I am careful again to blot and squeeze the tissue around the egg, as to not smear or move the inks around on the surface.
     A peek into the oven reveals something that I am quite pleased with. I guess the second time's the charm in this case! It takes a long time to get all of the wax off with the blotting. My patience is rewarded. Very little color transfer or loss has occurred.
     Here comes the other part I did differently. Instead of dipping the egg into the varnish, and risking a color slide, I used Golden's MSA Hard solvent based varnish in SPRAY form. I did several light mists, turning the egg a quarter turn and re-misting after 30 minutes for each side. This "set" the alcohol inks, and because it was a mist, it didn't run. After I sprayed the egg a couple of more rotations, I felt it safe to dip it in the liquid MSA varnish. I let that dry overnight. I found very little color slide the next morning.
     I spent the rest of the morning tracing the white lines with a silver pilot xylene based pen. I took my time, and did one side only. I let that side dry about 40 minutes before I was holding it to be able to apply the silver on the other side. I put it on a skewer, and let it continue to dry. The silver seemed to show up nicely, much brighter than the gold, and also there was a nice contrast with the darker inks this time. I am glad that I decided to bite the bullet and redo this one. This is what I had envisioned at the beginning, it just took me a little while to get there.
    Here is the finished egg. Sometimes we don't always get there the first time, but it is important to extend your creative "reach".
And I'm not being "Koi" when I tell you that! ;)
I hope you have enjoyed this experimental journey with me. I hope that some of you will try it yourselves! Good luck!