Watercolor Wednesday: Craft Monster

Craftness Monster watercolor by Jeffrey Johnson of Handmade FamilyMy first year of doing art and craft shows as part of my job was full of learning experiences. The very first thing I learned and what I always tell people that aren’t sure about having enough work to show was, “There’s nothing like needing to have the work to make you do the work.” The second lesson came about halfway through November. A girl walked up to my table and said “Oh, I saw all your stuff at another show.” As she walked away, I made a vow that I would always have at least something new at each show from then on.

Watercolor Wednesday is an opportunity to experiment

I came out of the holiday season this year with a pretty severe case of burn out. I felt like all of my creative equity had been used up, but there was still work that needed to be done. In addition to the regular work coming in, the studio flooding over the Christmas break making things for myself just seemed like too much. So I kind of took a break.

While getting personal things back in order, I started looking for artwork that inspired me. On Instagram I stumbled across Iraville, a wonderful illustrator from Germany, and I fell in love with her style and her speed painting videos on YouTube. Watercolor Wednesday is partly about having new work, but it’s also an opportunity to experiment with new styles and techniques. Armed with inspiration, I just needed a project to get started on.

As it turns out, I have no shortage of projects. The largest right now is Craft Monster, a maker showcase I approached the Saint Louis Craft Mafia, and the Saint Louis Science Center about last year. The Craftness Monster is our mascot, and it just seemed fitting for her to be the first Watercolor Wednesday painting of the new year.

Thanks for stopping in and checking out the new work. It’s going to be a great and busy year and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all. If you’re interested in helping support this and other projects as well as getting some pretty great perks, please consider pledging on our Patreon Page. We really appreciate it!

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Looking Back on the Year

Last week, I talked about resolutions, goals and projects. On the daily, there’s a balancing act between work, rest, and family that I think we all try to find somewhere. This morning in my twitter feed, Ben Hatke posted an article about Jake Parker’s work habits. Jake is a super inspiring guy, and his daily work schedule sounds both manageable and productive. Check out the article here, and be sure to watch the video if you get a chance. It’s pretty amazing. http://jpdesignshop.com/parker/

Speaking of work and being productive, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at what I’ve done over the course of the year. It looks like I got a lot done, though I fell a bit short of my yearly “new work” goal. Presented in no particular order is a collection of commission pieces, personal work, and comics that I did this year. I hope you all enjoyed seeing it roll out the door as much as I enjoyed making it!
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Thank you all for another great year of art, stories, and education. We couldn’t do it without you! If you’d like to directly support us (and get some pretty cool perks as well) you can become a patron for as little as $1.00 a month on our Patreon Page. Thanks for stopping in, and I’ll talk to you again soon!
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Talking About a Resolution

The holidays are a natural time to think about what we’ve done over the course of the year and about our plans for next year. New Years is when a lot of us do it. We see a need in our life and want to make a change for the better. Is New Years really the only time we can make a change in our life? When is really the best time to start a resolution?

resolution2There’s something in my brain that seems to want to start new things at the beginng of the week, the month, or the year. Maybe, there’s some solidarity I feel in starting at the same time as a lot of other people. We’re all in this thing together! Doing a Photo or Drawing-A-Day challenge starting at the beginning of the month instead of joining in the middle. Saying “This week, I’m going to do all the drawings and still get to bed early.” The problem I’ve always had with this is that there will come a day when something comes up. When I just…can’t. I’ve set myself up for failure by making an all or nothing statement, because I can’t just move past the drawing that didn’t get done. Now I owe two. I might let this pile up on me for a little while, but then I feel like I just have to admit that it’s impossible. I can’t get twelve drawings done this weekend. I give up. I’ll wait and try again next month.

“All his life has he looked away. To the future. To the Horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.” -Yoda ESB

Yoda - Dagobah -Why though? Why wait until next month? I’m thinking that maybe, the best time to start a new resolution is now. Start developing it as a new habit while I’m most inspired to do it. I read somewhere that most resolutions are destined to fail. Not because we want them to, but because of that all or nothing statement. Yoda may be cool with saying “Do or do not. There is no try.” but I prefer to try a different approach. Instead of calling this new thing we’re doing a resolution, let’s call it a project. Like a resolution, a project has a goal, but its usually short term, and has a work pipeline, or certain steps happening at certain times, to complete it. There will be day’s that working on the project just don’t work out. That doesn’t mean it’s all over and I’ve failed, because the days themselves aren’t the project. Having a pipeline will help build habits. At the end of the project I’ll have the work and a jumping off point for the next “project.” Changing my life in a meaningful way may eventually be the outcome, but moving forward on the project from day to day is the goal. So instead of saying that I’m going to work in my sketchbook every day I’m going to build that process into my first project pipeline.

Inspired by a drawing that a friend of mine posted from his Inktober sketchbook, I’m going to make a coloring book of gnomes and animals. Using my handy chicken, egg-timer, I’ll spend 30 minutes daily doodling in my sketchbook. This will be playing with borders, stories, scenes and illustrations. Starting in week two of the project timeline, I’ll add a second 30 minutes of the hour to begin developing the previous week’s sketches into more finished compositions. Week three will be beginning on final drawings, and week four will be finalizing the inked drawings and laying out the book. My goal is to have a 20 page coloring booklet completed in four weeks.

LWG_smile_webI love to document my work, and my days and I’m sure that those of you that follow me on Instagram ( @redherringjeff ) will be seeing a pretty good amount of what’s going on behind the scenes as this project comes together. Every week I do a larger behind-the-scenes post for my $2 and up Patreon backers that is delivered directly to their email. It features scans, photos and commentary on what’s up in the studio. Thanks for stopping in and thank you for sharing our work with us. We couldn’t do this thing without your support.
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Watercolor Wednesday – Yellow Crook Necked Squash

Felt Farmers Market by Handmade FamilyToday, I’m showcasing the final painting from the current fruits and vegetable series. There are ten items in our Felt Farmers Market, and our goal is to have a painting of each of them for marketing, and to make some related products for them.  This week I was having trouble deciding whether to paint the squash or an eggplant. Carrots crossed my mind to briefly, but I decided to put them off until sometime in the spring when I’m talking about the garden that I didn’t get around to planting this year. The yellow crook necked squash is always a favorite among the kids, because it’s one of our larger veggies, and its shape really sets it apart from the rest. Since I only did the one painting this week, I decided to photograph it as I worked and sort of talk about my current process a little bit.

Toned background of painting by Jeffrey Johnson of Handmade FamilyWhen I graduated from art school in 2000 I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself. This was in the days before having an online store was common, and when “Social Media” really only consisted of message boards. I lived in a small town, and was waiting for my wife to graduate so I got a job working retail to pay the bills and pass the time. During the four years between graduating and moving to Saint Louis, I got into miniature wargaming. The game itself was fun, but what I especially loved was building and painting the little models and creating scenery for them. I don’t really game any more, choosing to use that time on being a better artist and crafter, but there are a lot of things that I learned during those four years. Working in collaboration with a group to tell a story. Putting effort into all the parts of a project makes a much more satisfying presentation. Using the details put in at the beginning to do the heavy lifting for the rest of the work.

All of my paintings begin with a detailed line drawing. Not just a light drawing underneath that will be hidden with layers of paint, but one that uses heavy and varied lines to create levels of detail. This Squash painting started off with red ColErase pencil, then edges were sharpened and details were picked out with brown ColErase and black Verithin. Finally, Gouache shadow layerusing a black Prismacolor I add in the outlines and heavier lines. Then the painting gets an overall wash of watercolor to give the painting some texture and tone.

After the background has dried, I get out the Burnt Umber gouache to begin defining the lights and shadow areas. Gouache is an opaque watercolor which will cover over the areas beneath it, but can also be worked into later so when we go over it with the transparent watercolors later it really deepens them and feathers a bit on the edges. This is where the painting really starts to come alive for me, as we’re able to see where the different objects overlap, and how they actually interact with each other. Much of the work on defining the form of each squash is done at this point, so when I go to add color I don’t have to think so much about where everything is in relation to each other.

Adding backgrouind elementsI do the sun element next so I can see how all the other colors in the painting balance against it as I work. I like to add little geometric elements like this to the more portrait style images I make because it gives them just a little bit more visual interest. I love how each color of transparent watercolor interacts with the layers before and after it. I don’t know about other watercolorists, but when I’m working there are certain color “recipes” that I use. For example on the sun here I used orange, then a thin wash of purple to add some definition to the bottom, and then some rose madder which is a red/brown to warm and deepen the purple.

Yellow Crook-Necked Squash Watercolor by Jeffrey Johnson of Handmade FamilyAaaaand, it’s finished! The yellows weren’t photographing well enough to do a play by play of the final painting. For colors like yellow, I’ll often use purple to deepen and cool down the shadows (using complementary colors in shadow areas is great for making the overall color richer) and prussian blue to warm and darken other areas. Finally, I use just a bit of white gouache to add highlights and rim lighting on the edges.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into my process. My goal is to do at least one painting a week, and two or more when possible as part of Watercolor Wednesday. All the paintings go up for sale in my web shop as soon as I write a blog post about them. If you’d like to take an active hand in deciding what gets painted as well as receiving one of the paintings each month I have a reward tier on my Patreon page that includes a painting plus several other perks, like a digital sketch book and discounts in our shop. Please check it out!

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