Monday, February 13, 2012

Moving Through the Doldrums

Ahoy! There be a light at the end of this tunnel!
I've been trying to sleep my life away, apparently. That's what I do when I'm dealing with The Downs. Depression just paints everything nap-colored. So it's doubly difficult to accomplish anything when the down-and-dirty Downs are running amok. But I tried. And since this blog is technically a 'studio blog' about art and stuff, I thought I'd share with you what I've managed to create in spite of The Downs.

My eldest daughter is expecting her first child in April, and I found myself recently trying to decide on a shower gift for her. I, of course, wanted to give her the moon! But I can't, so I turned to art instead. (Please know that in my head, art is rarely if ever an appropriate gift. When a customer tells me that the art they've just purchased from me will be a gift, my stomach ties itself in knots. Art is terribly personal. It's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It has to fit the giftee's style.)

Creating something by hand is the only way I can afford to give a gift of quality. There are those in my Girlz' extended families who can not only buy the moon itself but also the one-of-a-kind crackers to spread it on, and I can't compete with that. But I can give my he'art.' My mom reminds me that what I've created will be an heirloom, that my grandkids will one day as adults look at my work and think, "My grandmother MADE this. For ME." And I try to imagine it, but I can't. I've made what I've made because it's all I can give. I like to hope it's enough, but in my head it's no moon....

So I thought long and hard about what I'd create for my Eldest -- a fierce go-getter who has run a triathalon, climbed a mountain, and gone to hell and back again via Iraq. Her nursery plans are all about Adventure and Travel, and the room will be in hues taken from antique maps. I liked the limitations; it'd narrow down my choices and rein in my imagination.
Scrapbooking pages with the Equator all lined up.
Keeping her theme in mind, I began to collect my ideas. My first step was to find a frame that I could afford, and the Universe kindly led me to a gilded triptych with a parchment-colored mat. And then I found scrapbooking paper designed like old map pages. Things were coming together. When I got home, the first thing I did was to line up the equator of my three map pages so that they flowed from left to right in a grand arc, just like a globe. Then I secured them to the frame's mat with art tape.

Cute and sweet meets mischievous and adventuresome.
All the while I was doing this I toyed with characters. Since my daughter and her husband have decided not to know the sex of their baby prior to birth, I chose to use an animal character in the picture I'd design for them. I wanted something that would seem cute and androgynous, something that could appear in an adventure theme and still look sweet even while it's climbing a mountain or wrestling a bear, something that would be appropriate in the nursery of either a boy or a girl. So I chose a mouse. And because of the theme, the mouse would have to be doing something over-the-top. And because of the triptych frame, it'd have to be doing it in threes.

Tinting the drawing with pencil.
My first idea was a mouse in an old-fashioned hot-air balloon (in keeping with the old-fashioned-ness of the gilded frame and the tea-stained map pages). I sketched an idea directly onto stiff watercolor paper and made everything larger than the 5x7 mat opening because I wanted the final work to sit on top of the mat and look 3-dimensional. Then I outlined the sketch in waterproof marker and delicately tinted it in colored pencil.

Background bits are removed so the map can show through.
My next idea was to put the same mouse in a boat. Again I sketched my idea onto watercolor paper (this time using a lightbox to illuminate my original mouse-in-a-balloon drawing under a blank sheet of paper to ensure that both drawings would be similarly sized). Then I inked it and tinted it in the same shades as the balloon drawing. Nothing too girly-girly, nothing too testosterone-y. Mostly everything was in gold parchment shades with the occasional salmon pink and seafoam for some color relief.

So now I had travel by air and travel by water. The third scene in the triptych would be travel by land. I began to sketch out a mouse on a camel, only I changed it immediately to a giraffe for the bright yellows and interesting pattern shapes. But it didn't take me long, however, to dump the idea of the third sketch altogether in favor of a verse, something in the middle that the other two drawings could point to and frame. I figured I'd search for a cool quotation on the Internet and so I left the verse for last....

I <3 the 3-D effect.
When the drawings were colored, I trimmed them from the watercolor paper with cuticle scissors and then cut the interior background bits out with an X-Acto knife so that the map would appear behind the designs proper. Then I stuck little foam scrapbooking stickers to the backsides of the drawings to make them 3-dimensional and secured them to the map pages on the triptych frame.

My attempt at writing verse. :)
Then there was the problem of the verse.... I looked all over the Internet and couldn't find just exactly what I wanted, so I decided at the last moment to write something my own self. I printed the words onto parchment-colored linen paper, then trimmed the verse to look as though it had a deckle edge. I gave it the same 3-D treatment by elevating it above the map page with scrapbooking stickers. Then all was framed.


So that's that. A bit of sunshine managed to part the clouds of my Doldrums and help me create a little something for my future Grandbug that I hope will make a mark on his or her heart. Or at least remind them once in a while that they can do anything. Because they can.

Of that I have no doubt. :)


  1. Thank you for showing how you created this, step by step. It's a lovely final piece, made more interesting by knowing what was involved.

    It brings many a daydream to life, in color. A beautiful heirloom for a lucky child.

  2. Wow!!! I loved reading the whole process of this work of art, delayne! And the poem is perfect! Your new grandbug will absolutely adore the artwork and poetry, just as he/she will adore you.

  3. Big thankyous for the kind comments -- they mean a lot to me. I've never really shared a piece from beginning to end before and wasn't sure doing so would even be interesting! So thankful for your readership and friendship; just sayin'!