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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scotland Adventure 2015 - Limited Edition Certificate

It needed to have quality. It needed to be unique. It needed to be something that folks would want to display.  I went with what is arguably one of the most iconic structures in the country, and it happens to lie near the end of the big east-to-west walk I plan to tackle - Eilean Donan Castle.

Relying on past training and experience in archaeological illustration, the tedious work in pen-and-ink stipple began.  The illustration is in acid-free ink, applied with a .01 pen, and wound up being many more hours than I ever intended to invest!  This was one of those "ooo, that would look cool!" situations, which typically conclude with great results but also typically put a pinch on time constraints.

I'm told that my technique in application is... ahem, unique. Most folks do the major outlines of the
structure and then tackle the details, but I started at one end, fully rendering that part of the structure, and then continued to build from left to right, fully rendering as I went.

Eilean Donan is the most recognized and most photographed castle in all of Scotland.  Gaelic for Donan's Isle, it stands sturdily on a tiny island on the edge of Loch Duich, a sea loch on Scotland's northwest coast, west of Kintail  and very near the Isle of Skye.  It may surprise many to know that it is of 20th century construction.  The castle was razed nearly to the ground and lay in ruin for a very long time.  The castle ruin was purchased by a MacRae in the early 20th century, and through research and very old plans and schematics, he was able to rebuild the old castle
very close to its original grandeur.  This castle has appeared in many major films - "Highlander", a James Bond film, and "Made of Honor", to name a few.

After several days, crossed eyes, and hundreds of thousands of ink dots later, a castle emerged.  The original will be matted and framed and hung in exhibition along with the miniatures and the other works that come from this project, but for now its image makes a fine feature on the supporter certificates.

The certificates are printed on a nice heavy parchment paper, which shows off an ink illustration
quite nicely.  To show the print number, my husband had the ingenious idea of using a compass graphic - so I set about creating an image with a blank center for such numbering.  Official certificates often have a nice foil seal. I thought that I would instead use a hand-painted thistle remarque on each, which seemed more appropriate.  Penning each supporter's name on his/her certificate was the next item. I tried a brush pen but it was sorely inadequate.  Mars black acrylic, thinned to ink consistency and applied with a quill shaped brush, has done the job quite nicely.  The certificate has been further enhanced with antique gold acrylic on the 'T' and the 'L' in 'Tapadh Leat, to produce an effect much like manuscript illumination in times long gone. Tapadh leat, by the way, is Scots-Gaelic for Thank you.

A certificate, soon to be on its way to its owner.  I'm using two
protective papers, four corner-mounts, and corrugated cardboard
to see each certificate safely to its new home.
With so much invested in the certificate's creation, I didn't want to leave delivery to chance.  I am hand-cutting corrugated cardboard for each mailing, to prevent creases and folds. The certificate is further protected by white printer paper, both on top and underneath.  I have also fashioned archival corner-mounts out of strips of paper, to securely anchor each certificate to its corrugated cardboard mount. Two probably would have sufficed, but I wanted to make extra certain and used such mounts on all four corners.

So far eight of these have been shipped, with no
certificate, with two of its four corner mounts.  two protective
papers yet to be included.
problems whatsoever upon delivery.  It is my hope that I may continue to send many more, including folks on what is shaping up to be an amazing adventure!  At this point I am looking at a full eight weeks wandering some magnificent country and gathering a tremendous amount of imagery and writing for the body of work and for the book.  Scotland's great northwest continues to grow as a focus, and Torridon is very much on the radar.  I'll tell you more about areas I dearly hope to visit with next week's post.

 Until next Tuesday!
Packaged up, fully protected and ready for shipping!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Dreaded Art Block

Most artists experience these, and we dread them.  An art block can occur in one of a couple of forms.  At times the well simply dries up and we find ourselves with a complete lack of creativity or ideas. At other times (this is the one I have most often), the ideas are there but no matter how hard we try, what we produce never measures up to what we had envisioned.  I think this incarnation is the most frustrating of all.

When I hit the brick wall that is the second sort, I've learned to have patience - because ultimately
'Laird of Lochaber" Red stag in Glencoe, on
three turkey feathers. Lochaber District tartan
painted on the quills.
there is an advantage to it.  It is an evolution - you are experiencing growth in your particular art form and skill. It's a tough slog, but when you finally emerge on the other side of that block, you will find that something has changed.  You might not approach your art in quite the same way as before. You notice that you don't see quite the same way as before - you see and notice things you probably did not before - and in this, you will find your approach has changed, as well as your execution. Your technique has grown.  I have not experienced a block yet where I did not experience some level of growth.

While creative growth is great and we look forward to improving, what typically brings about a creative block?
Stagnation. When we produce, we often get into a routine.  What we produce becomes routine.  Maybe a particular style has become what is expected of us, and we eventually find ourselves bored. We might not recognize that at first, only that we are not as fired up to create as we once were.
Busyness. Raising my hand here - guilty!  We pile so much on to our schedule, we feel pressed to keep moving or else we'll fall behind.  Too much of this will promptly lead to burnout. You will run out of steam, as well as inspiration! Make time for personal time.
Health. No one can perform well after a period of poor diet or insufficient rest.  Likewise with lack of exercise.  Illness, stress, and bad things happening in your personal life also contribute as causes for a creative block.

So how on earth do you work through a block?  Once you've recognized and addressed the cause that put you there, break away from the work. Shake it up a bit, go do something different. Visit places that inspire you, go see the works of someone who inspires you and whom you admire.  Galleries, museums, and exhibitions are great for this.  Get out into nature and simply experience all that is around you, and let your senses take over. Does music inspire you?  Seek that.  Try a new style, a new medium, a new art form.

This Spring I had the mother of all creative blocks. It set in like a ton on my shoulders and no matter what I did I could not get past it. There was no guessing at the cause, the cause was grief. I had lost my brother very suddenly, very unexpectedly.  There was no getting past this very extreme matter until I addressed the grief I was suffering and said what I felt was a proper good bye to my brother. I will not go into detail in this post, but will probably make that its own blog article in the future on grief and healing and how I went about it. I will say that my approach was huge, but so was the relief and the healing that occurred. When I did what I needed to do and recovered from the pain of loss, I couldn't wait to get back to my brushes and paints. The inspiration was as great as the block that preceded it. And yes, I do believe the work that came from it saw an increase in quality.
"Power and Grace" - humpback whales on turkey feather

Your turn - what are some of the things that have given you a bad case of creative block?  What are some of the ways you worked through it?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scotland Adventure 2015 - project launch!

The first trip over in 2009 had me mesmerized. I swore I would go back - probably multiple times.  There's just something about this magnificent country - its rich history, splendid music, wonderful people - I knew I had to go back.

Plans were made. Life went sideways. More plans were made. At last it is concrete - I will return in the summer of 2015.

While the last trip was quite the adventure, the next one will be even more so.  I will spend at least six weeks wandering Scotland with even greater opportunities for adventure - and I do so love a good adventure.  I have intentions of going about it in ways that most tourists would never try though, and indeed in ways that probably most Scots might not.  I'll be backpacking and will likely be spending most of my time out-of-doors, and possibly half my nights camping.  I did this last time, but next time will be for a considerably longer duration and quite a bit more wild.  One route I am planning
on, for instance, is walking from Cannich, which is just west of Loch Ness, to Broadford, which is on the Isle of Skye.  I estimate that should be about 4 days' walking where compass and map will be needed things. It might take a bit more, depending on how often I stop to sketch or take side trips to see other features along the way.

Such activities are necessary, as an illustrated artist's travel journal will be published in the wake of this adventure.  I will also be gathering an enormous amount of photographs, from which to produce a large body of work when I return home again.  Total immersion is key. I want to absorb as much of this experience as I can, as fully as is possible.  I want to learn more about the history and the culture, to study the wildlife, to hear the music, to meet the people.  There is just so much to it - the last journey of 22 days barely scratched the surface.

Along with all the planning and reading and map study and research, there is another side of this adventure that I've been building upon that would give you folks the ability to have a unique piece of it.  I'll be producing miniature feather paintings from this adventure, on top of the larger works and the book. The miniatures are for you who wish to participate.  You would also receive a signed certificate with a thistle remarque, as well as one of my paintings printed in postcard format, mailed to you from somewhere in Scotland.  Sound interesting?  Rather than repeat all this information within the blog post, please do have a look at the webpage I have built on my website just for this purpose.

In the coming weeks and months, I'll periodically talk about hopes, plans, and areas of focus here on the blog.  It will be quite the amazing adventure indeed!  See you again on Tuesday!