Sunday, December 29, 2013

Needle Felted Ornaments

I threw these together very quickly, mainly on Christmas Eve, as my mother had decided it would be nice to hang little ornaments in the glasses of all the female family members at Christmas lunch. After my mad rush to get them finished she then forgot to do so, which was a bit annoying, but we ended up hanging them off some presents for some young girls we know, so it was all good. 

I did four designs, and they took roughly an hour each, so they're all a bit wonky. I embellished them with small beads so that they would have a bit of sparkle.

Here's a closer look. They're not the best photos, I took them at 2am as I wasn't expecting them to stay in the house long enough for me to take better ones, and wanted to document what I had done. =P 



Plum Pudding:


I used a darning needle and brute force to thread ribbon through the top so they can be hung on a tree. 

Merino and Corridale Wool with #32, #36 and #38 felting needles, glass and plastic beads and satin ribbon. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cockatoo Christmas Cards

I hope everyone had a happy Christmas and is looking forward to the new year!

Here is the third set of Christmas cards I did this year – I would have posted them before Christmas, but just didn't have the time!

For this set it was requested that I include a Carnaby's Cockatoo and Australian christmas tree (Nuytsia floribunda) to represent the parkland next door to the clients, and after a bit of discussion we decided on a style emulating Australian woodcut artist Margaret Preston. She tended to do landscapes and flowers, not birds, so I had to improvise a bit:

Here's a closer look at the cockatoo:

As we were getting them printed by I did two slightly different cards – the same image, but a different coloured banner and different text – to take advantage of the printfinity system. 
The printing turned out beautifully:

I didn't do an actual woodcut, as I'm not set up for that (I do have some lino cutting tools lurking somewhere, but nothing else, carving out designs gives me a sore wrist =P) so I did it digitally, making sure to distress my linework to give the impression of a slightly less than perfect print transfer. 

Adobe Photoshop CC with a Wacom Intuos 3.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Doggy Christmas Cards

Here are some Christmas cards I did for some friends, showing their new dog Ester, who is a finnish lapphund. I'm told lots of people were impressed – first by their finding a card with a dog that looked exactly like Ester, but then by having personalised cards, so I'm glad they went down well!

I had reference photos to work from, which I tweaked to suit the two concepts. Ester loves to dig, so a digging card seemed fitting, and her name means 'star', so I chose to do a star headpiece instead of the more usual (and overdone) Father Christmas hat. 

We got them printed at, and they came out very nicely as usual, with nice rich colours.  

I did the linework and a bit of the colouring in Manga Studio 5, the text in Adobe Illustrator CC, and the rest of the colouring and the final touches in Adobe Photoshop CC – with a Wacom Intuos 3.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

2013 Christmas Cards

Here are our Christmas cards for this year. 

When I asked my mother what theme I should use, she decided she wanted a more traditional, religious set of cards with rich jewel colours, so I obliged, first with the Magi:

And then with Mary and baby Jesus:

We got them printed at, who always do a fabulous job (though it was very annoying that their 25% off Christmas Sale started just two days after I had decided that I just couldn't wait any longer before ordering, needing to have them delivered here in Australia with still enough time to emboss them, write in them, and send them off to their final destinations before Christmas. >.<) and they look lovely - lovelier than these photos show. Gold envelopes were too good to pass up for these designs, I think. 

My mother likes our cards to be fiddly and full of layers and glitter and the like – to reconcile her to slightly more costly (but far less time-consuming for me) FLAT printed cards I promised to add some gold embossing to them. I've always glittered the cards we've had printed on photo paper as heat-guns bubble the paper.

I used Ranger Perfect Medium pens and heat-set gold embossing tinsel. The Perfect Medium pens work beautifully on Moo cards – I bought them to use on the Tulip Wedding Invitations but they soaked in to the high resolution paper I was using far too fast to be of any use, but here they were just perfect. 

The colour of the embossing powder matches the envelopes surprisingly well:

I wanted to avoid the more tacky side of religious painting, the type you get in pamphlets and the Maxwell Bible Story collection, for example. That style has never appealed to me. I initially thought that I would do a fake paper-cut style, but eventually changed my mind and went for my coloured-linework-and-lasso-colouring style that I have used previously, this time with the addition of lots of textures (mainly from cg textures, especially their patterned tiles, but I made the sky myself). 

I started with a very rough thumbnail sketch, posed some mannequins in Manga Studio and then used those as a rough base when drawing my draft linework in pencil, then took it into Photoshop for the final linework and colour. 

As I like costume I made each magi distinct – Melchior (Persian) at the back, Balthazar (Arabian) in the middle and Caspar (Indian) in front. I took a fair bit of artistic license, especially as at that time India was under Persian rule, so there was no reason why Caspar should be Indian and *no* reason for that costume. As well as internet research I heavily referenced Jourmana Medlej's Guide to Human Types, and my copy of A Pictorial History of Costume. I was inspired by Kay Nielsen, too. 

For the nativity scene I didn't want a sombre bleeding-heart design, and chose to have a more Levantine Mary instead of the standard blonde-haired European image. About halfway through, to fix my composition, I decided to add a lamb for extra symbolism, to solidify the 'stable' idea, and because our surname is Mutton.  

Possibly Mary should not have such rich clothing, but who is to say the Magi didn't bring her a present as well? 

Adobe Photoshop CC with a Wacom Intuos 3.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Felting: Poinsettia Fascinator

My mother had to have a Christmas fascinator for a party, so I put this together (thus saving the inevitable last minute panic =P). I could have gone the rout of kitschy and huge, but instead I decided to go for elegant and understated – this way it can be used again, maybe to decorate some of my duller hats. I didn't particularly feel like spending hours on a one-use item. My mother is not the sort of person who would feel comfortable in a foot-tall monstrosity, anyway. I could have added a veil, but I know it would have driven her insane all evening. =P 

I used commercial flat felt for the individual leaves and petals, and needle felted the details into them, along with the central yellow pollen. Mostly it's stitched together, with a bit of needle felting thrown in, and I added a few details with plastic gold beads and loops of rayon cord. It's held on with black hat elastic, as I didn't have a fascinator clip to hand. 
I was inspired by the 1920s, especially as the latest season of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries has just finished airing here – I covet pretty much every hat she has. =P 

It took three hours, while watching tv. I could have spent longer, but decided it was good enough.
Photo taken by my father.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Needle Felting: Iris

Contrary to appearances, I have been drawing – just all work stuff. Come December I have a lot of Christmas cards designs, but for now, more needle felting!

This mermaid is called Iris, and she's from the marvellous Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, which I recently got my hands on. I ordered it mainly because I love a good kids' adventure story, and I love looking at illustrations, and partly for my mother to read to her class of year threes – and I am reliably informed that it is holding the attention of even the wriggliest kids amazingly well. 

I read Sarah McIntyre's blog, and when I was suddenly given just two days notice for my first-ever school visit her experiences were invaluable – I'm not sure I would have coped without her blogging about her own school visit experiences, she gave me lots of inspiration and ideas. 

So when I was thinking of what to do to push my needle felting experiments a bit further (to see if I could do something that wasn't realistic, and wasn't out of my own head), I thought of Iris the mermaid. Sarah has lots of activities relating to Oliver and the Seawigs on her website and there is a lot relating to the naughty sea monkeys – but I thought Iris could do with more love. I loved looking at the way her hair changed in every single picture throughout the book. 

Here's a look at my felted Iris and Sarah's (far better) drawn one – this is the page I used for reference. 
As it was a bit tricky to felt all the strands in her hair and her fins, I experimented with Nylon Knitting Ribbon - it's not a natural fibre, so it doesn't actually felt, but it is an open weave so it's easy to felt it in using a bit more wool on top so it's pretty secure, and gives a pretty nice seafoamy effect. 

That's Colin the crab in her hair. 

This isn't the best likeness I've ever done, but to be fair this was the first time I'd even tried to do any kind of likeness in felt (I finished her about a week before I did yesterday's Tom Baker magnet). I can can control a pencil much more, which I suppose makes sense because I have been drawing for 25 years and felting for less than one. =P

Merino and corriedale wool with #32, #36, #38 and star felting needles. 

Iris is copyright Sarah McIntyre, Phillip Reeve and Oxford University Press 2013. And if you're looking for a Christmas present, I can recommend the book, it's great fun. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Needle Felting: Doctor Who

I wanted to get something done for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who – in a more perfect world I would have found the time to finish off the portrait of the Eleventh Doctor which has been hanging around, unfinished, for far too many years. I would still like to finish that, but I just didn't manage it for the Anniversary. I don't do much portraiture off my own bat any more, which is why it has been languishing. 

But I still wanted to do something, so I felted a little magnet of Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor. It would be quite nice to do all of the Doctors, little magnets are fairly quick projects, even though I only got one done today. I did part of it while watching An Adventure in Space and Time (mainly the scarf, which was a bit time-consuming) and then finished it afterwards, so I suppose it took about three hours or so of solid felting. It's not yet an actual magnet, I'll have to hunt out my magnets...
If it wasn't for the scarf and the curly hair I might have managed Doctor 11 as well. That was certainly the plan. Maybe later the group will grow. =) Certainly Tom Baker is a good fit for the manic bug-eyed look of this type of quick felting!

Merino and corriedale wool with #32, #36, #38 and star felting needles. 

Doctor Who is copyright the BBC

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sketch: Witch

I did this little sketch last night, I felt the need to just sketch something for me, something a bit bigger than the 10-15 minute sketches I've been doing lately when I've finished working. This took an hour, so there are lots of wonky bits, but I quite like it.

She's inspired by a photo I snapped out of the car window while in Penang in 2010. I always try and photograph interesting things, they don't have to be good photos, just enough for me to get the gist of what I saw so I don't forget it. I switched the motorcycle to a scooter, as it seemed to fit the idea a bit better, while still forcing me to draw a mechanical item, which is not my strong suit. I've done a scooter before which made it a bit easier, but I need to make myself draw vehicles and architecture much more. And cats. =P

Currently this sketch is a possible for cleaning up into a full inked illustration. What do you think?

1 hour, 0.5 mechanical pencil with #B lead in a Moleskine A5 sketchbook

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Watercolour: Family Portrait

Here is the finished portrait that I showed a progress shot of the other day, now that it has gone to the commissioner. 

When I was discussing the portraiture options I had on offer – a fully-detailed graphite portrait of five people being out of the Christmas budget – they liked the loose watercolour I had done of Ann Miller, so this is similar. I like to have a number of different options for what I can do, as my graphite portraits take up to 30 hours for one person, which pushes the costs up. This watercolour took somewhere in the region of 13-16 hours, and is put together from five separate photos, all with drastically different lighting conditions. A bit more shadow or dramatic lighting might have been nice, but since the references didn't provide it, I thought it best to stick with something that wasn't likely to completely destroy the likenesses if I got it wrong! 

I used a drinking straw for the splashy background, blowing the paint around. Everything is in Winsor & Newton watercolours on Moleskine A3 watercolour paper, and (apart from the drinking straw) I used Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sneak Peek: Family Portrait

Here's a look at a loose watercolour portrait I'm currently working on finishing up.

I cleared one blackline master book off my desk today, and this is the next thing on the list, to be followed in rapid succession by wedding invitations and a lot more blackline master work. All good, enjoyable work, but I could wish that I hadn't been sick recently, it has really mucked up my schedule and everything's a bit of a rush now! I usually find November unusually busy anyway.

This is a family portrait compiled from five different photographs, all in Winsor and Newton watercolours on Moleskine watercolour paper (cut from an A3 watercolour sketchbook). I've been using Winsor and Newton Series 7 brushes. 

With luck, I can finish it off tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Invitations: Tulip Wedding Reception

Here are the seating plans and place cards I put together to match these invitations:

I did two copies of the seating plan, mounted on silver paper, and made 81 place cards, which meant a lot of cutting, a lot of scoring, a lot of folding and a lot of glueing! 

The seating plan is typeset in Americana BT, which is easy to read and matches the invitations, and the place cards are in Recherche, which did mean that I had to individually manage the glyphs on every one – something that almost certainly won't be noticed, but it adds to the overall feel of the cards when each name is arranged to look as good as possible, instead of relying on just 26 letters. 

The backgrounds were put together in Adobe Photoshop CC, and the type was all done in Adobe InDesign CC. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Illustration: Colours of Nature

Here is the theme illustration I did for the 2013 SmokeFree WA Kelmscott Annual Show. The theme was 'Life on the Land: The Colours of Nature'.
 I provided them with five different concepts, and they chose one this one, a continuation of the 2012 theme of 'Mother Nature'.
This was done in Adobe Illustrator CS6:

Here's a closer look:

I'd put up a colouring page, but my website host appears to be down, so that will have to wait. 

I'm sorry to say that this wasn't an enjoyable assignment, so I was thrilled to see that it struck a chord enough for a kid to enter a lego version of it in the themed lego section. This is by someone called Xavier, isn't it fabulous? (It even won a first!)

Everything was faithfully put in, even the flag and clouds from last year's theme that were vetoed this year. Last year I included a donkey – this year I had planned to include a horse, but it was eventually dropped, so I'm glad to see that there is a horse here too. 

I also demonstrated portraiture and needle felting for one day of the show. (19th October. I know, I'm late with this post) I did about 6 hours all up, over half of which was portraiture, and the rest felting. 

Unbeknownst to me I was coming down with something that completely flattened me for the next week (and ruined my productivity and energy for the following week (and then some) as well) so I hope I didn't unwittingly give it to anyone! I thought I just had a nasty headache caused by the stormy weather (not unusual), and soldiered on. >.<

I'm indebted to my father for these photos (usually he forgets to photograph me =P). That's my mother sitting beside me, doing some knitting, and doing much of the talking for me. I am deaf in one ear and have trouble in large, echoey spaces, much of the time I wasn't even aware if someone was talking to me (when they were standing to my right) with all the surrounding noise and feedback in my hearing aid. 

At times we had quite a crowd, generally there were at least one or two people watching:

And did I ache after that uncomfortable plastic chair and desk!

My portraiture demonstration was Gene Kelly this year. I didn't have time to prepare a new portrait, and found this, barely started, in an abandoned sketchbook. By the end of the day it looked like this:

My reference was a publicity shot from Anchors Aweigh

And about 2 to 2 & 1/2 hours furious felting resulted in a semi-complete duckling:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Needle Felting: Arbella

Here is my latest – and definitely most ambitious – needle felting project: Arbella, a mouse of Tudor times. She's intended to be one of a pair, but her swain only exists as a couple of very rough sketches at the moment:

She's felted in merino and corriedale wool, although her core is ordinary polyfill stuffing. I used #32, #36 , #38 and a star felting needles. 
Her tail is copper wire wrapped with embroidery floss. She wears a french hood and carries a pomander and a bible. Her whiskers are monofilament. 

Most of the detailing is felted, but there is a bit of shading in the folds of her skirts, with acrylic paint.

The beads are a combination of very small glass seed beads and plastic pearls. 

And here's a shot with my hand, for scale. She stands 9cm tall.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Invitations: Tulip Wedding

Here are some wedding invitations that I sent off today. I did the engagement invitations for the same couple and they requested something similar but with the colour scheme changed from purple and silver to red and silver. 

The wedding ceremony is at Araluen Botanical Park, which is known for its tulips, so as I again didn't have any specific guidelines for what to design, I went went with a tulip theme. They'd requested that the invitations be 'romantic' but also 'fun' so I typeset on an angle so as to be a bit less formal, and used Americana BT for the font, as with the engagement invitations. I used the text monogram from the engagement invitations to tie everything together. 

As wedding invitations need to look a bit more luxe, I used embossing powder to emboss all the monograms. I went out an got some embossing pens, but most annoyingly they didn't work on the paper (Canon high resolution paper) – the ink dried instantly, presumably due to the coating, so the powder had nothing to stick to; I was forced to return to using glue, which works but results in a more crackly finish than the embossing pens. (Fortunately I plan to emboss this year's Christmas cards, and the pens do work on that cardstock. They will not be wasted!)

52 invitations and 52 rsvp slips are quite a lot to emboss, but I think it was worth it, they catch the light very nicely. 

Typesetting in Adobe inDesign CC, Illustration in Adobe Photoshop CC, all hand assembled. 


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