I have yet to buy my long canvases, and so was at a loss as to what to do next. My flatmate very kindly offered a canvas she had for a long time and never used to me. I feel little guilty, but decided to take her up on the offer.
As of the writing of this, I'm roughly a third of the way through a new painting, which I'm basing on a sketch that I competed after I started the painting.
To be fair, I had the rough sketch done before I started the painting.
I turned the sketch into a proper drawing, which I'm now offering both as a print via my Redbubble shop and also as an original. If anyone reckons they might want it for their wall.
As I said I am only a third of the way through the painting. I have the tower and the moon. I'm currently sketching the foliage in, and will hopefully have that all done soon. In the coming week, I plan to have the painting mostly done. the problem of course is the detail. It took hours in the drawing, and I imagine it will take longer trying to pain it.
I'm hoping I'm equal to the task, but I do feel that I've maybe bitten off more than I can chew. Hopefully, though, it'll all work out.
I always feel that my work is childish at best, absolute rubbish at worst. I suppose many artists feel the same.
I will post again when the painting is complete. If I'm not terribly ashamed of it.
Roughly a fortnight ago, being the last of week of July, I was spurred to action in the painting department. I had, before starting this site, set myself a challenge to complete a painting a month. In June I completed Stormbringer; a large painting of a dragon, which I'm donating.
This month, I decided that I ought to tackle one of my greatest painting fears - oil paint.
Oil paint has always terrified me. Despite taking art class all throughout my high school career, I never once touched oil paint. I found it terribly thick and difficult to work with. I thought that I would not be able to contend with the medium ever.
Earlier this year, I was determined to face this negative impression of my ability and took it up on myself to learn how to paint with oils. To that end, I acquired a membership to skillshare.com, and began my first ever painting course in oils. The end goal was a geometric abstract piece.
To be quite honest, I'd rather forgotten about the painting, concentrating as I was on my leather pieces, until last week. So, on Tuesday, I sat down and completed the skillshare lesson. Part of that lesson was to sketch in a series of thumbnails, each of overlapping squares, rectangles and circles, creating geometric designs.
Abstract is not my style, but I did give it a good go. Of course, because I cannot help but to be representative, even when I'm trying to be abstract, my eye and imagination gravitated towards the one design that I had drawn an unlabelled Venn Diagram in the centre. And, with my mind being what it is, I couldn't have the diagram be nothing, so I turned it into an abstract flower was I painted.
The end result is not terrible.
Out of the tube, the paint was indeed thick and unworkable. I had to apply paint thinner, which did make the paint more workable, but it also made it dry quite quickly. Indeed, there didn't feel all that much different working in oils than it did acrylics, given how quickly the paint dried when mixed with the thinner.
Granted, the paint might have been difficult, or dried so quickly, because the paints themselves were not especially expensive, given that they were oil paints. I am not experienced enough with oils to tell if that's indeed the case. Should I earn anything from my art, I will try and invest in different oils to compare. For now, however, these will have to do.
For my next painting, I have to take a trip to my local Wallack's to pick up some long canvases. There is another canvas in the house I can use, and I have an idea what I intend to paint with it, so perhaps I'll do that painting instead of the one for which I've already done a sketch for.
It will also be an oil painting. I'm no longer quite so terrified of the medium as I once was.
Well, I have exhausted my supply of leather for the making of book jackets. I will be restocking when I get some more funds. This time, I worked with a slightly stiffer goat leather. It was still very thin, but nowhere near as elastic or floppy. This made it a dream to work with.
Granted, the leather is too thin to do any real carving. It does, however, take tooling well enough that the design isn't lost in a shallow mess. So I didn't carve at all. I did tool. I'm really pleased with the results.
The design makes me laugh (I've been giggling over it since it's inception), and I've gotten pretty decent at tooling, quickly picking up the skill I learnt more than twenty years ago. The end result is something I feel I can be proud of.
I've dubbed this the Novice Leather Jacket, and it comes in antique black and antique mahogany. Other designs are forthcoming, when I can acquire more leather. I plan on putting the designs only on the front panel of the jacket, so the price will not be as great as the current design. As it is, the tooling alone is something like twelve hours of work. My thumb is still recovering.
Working with a new style of leather presented its own lessons; ones I thought working with the soft leather already taught me. Not so.
The first is that the measurements for the soft leather do not work well for the stiffer leather. In order to get the book the fit, I needed to make the cut a little longer than I did for the softer leather. Luckily, leather is quite pliable and I could make my first attempt fit. It's snug, but it fits. The second attempt is by far the better one, though both fit and are good.
The second lesson has to do with staining and finishing. I rather enjoy the hand-rubbed antique look of the leathers I've stained, which I've achieved first by accident, then quite deliberately. The mahogany stain is, to my eye, a great deal more purple than I thought it would be, but coupled with the mahogany finishing, it works beautifully, adding a delightful depth to the colour. The same is true for the black; not that the stain was far more purple than I'd imagined, but that using the hand-rubbed stain and hand-rubbed finishing both in black adds a great deal of interest and depth to the piece. I'm glad that's the route I decided on when I embarked on this project.
The last lesson I learnt was that leather stain makes quite the mess when it spills, and that your hands will be funky-looking for a couple of days if you happen to spill the stain all over them.
This latest project was lovely to work on. I quite enjoy tooling. I find the focus needed to do it well is meditative for me, letting me put aside a good number of worries as I tried to ensure that the tooling was vaguely straight.
Due to the length of time required to cut, tool, sew, stain and finish the piece, I will likely restrict my monthly orders of the Novice Book Jacket to about ten a month. It won't be enough to make a living wage, of course, but I wouldn't be able to do that unless I charge $200.00 each for these, and I don't feel that's something I can do.
Perhaps I will be fortunate and sell enough paintings and prints to make up the gap, if I sell anything at all.
I have used all of the soft goat leather that I had bought for to make my book jackets. I think they look pretty good. The rustic nature of the sewn edged bothered me at first, but now I think it adds to the appeal of the piece. I'm quite fond of the rugged adventurer vibe these book jackets exude.
I think I have the skill down now, though it still takes far too long for me to sew each one. As I am now, I can safely say I can make one book cover a day of soft leather. That means that should I make any tooled leather, it will take me two days or so to complete the project.
I had hoped that I would be able to do two a day of the soft leather, but as it stands, I am not. That means, unfortunately, that I don't think I'd be able to make enough in a month to sustain the business. At least, not at these prices.
I'm not willing to charge more for the leather pieces. I think the price as it is now is fair, considering everything is hand done. No machines involved.
I am also unwilling to drive myself mad trying to make enough in a month to earn what amounts to minimum wage each month. All that will lead to is burn-out and my inability to make and send client orders in a timely manner.
So I'm in a bit of a bind, currently. I think the smartest way I can do things is to simply limit the number of orders of book jackets to twenty a month - whether they are tooled or plain. That way, I'll be able to complete orders in good time without becoming swamped by an insurmountable backlog.
Is that enough to live off of? Unlikely. It would be if I managed to sell twenty at the highest price point in a month. Which is exceedingly unlikely. However, if I can supplement that with original art sales and sales of prints, as well as any meagre income I might garner from book sales, I won't be starving.
Of course, there's no guarantee of any sales whatsoever, which is something that is quite likely. I am a terrible marketer, and plenty of people in this economy haven't the funds to buy handmade goods from people like myself. It's not a grand time to be starting a business.
All the same, I've really enjoyed making these covers, even when it got frustrating, and I'm hopeful that someone will like them enough to pick up one for their books. The goat leather book jackets are now listed in my new online shop. They are the only items listed, as they're the only one made thus far.
I'm currently working on a new book jacket made of slightly stiffer goat leather and hand tooled with some of my designs. The first of the designs is one that makes me giggle, and I'm quite looking forward to having that done. But that will take me a couple of days to complete.
My second attempt at a leather book jacket proved much more successful than my first.
I still cannot, for the life of me, seem to cut a straight line, and I had to make adjustments as I went. That said, both the cutting and the sewing went much more smoothly this time. I think it helped that I lifted my cutting surface up from the living room floor to the coffee table, which is where, thanks to space constraints, I currently have my workshop.
After cutting, I had worried that I made it too small. The cutting went better, but was far from perfect. Testing the jacket, however, on the same book used to test my first attempt, it turned out that I had gotten it just right. The book fit, and it fit well.
The stitching is still (I'll generously call) rustic, but I actually have grown quite fond of the look. All the slight imperfections makes it look handmade, and there's something to be said for that aesthetic. I find it appealing, personally.
With my second attempt going much better than the first, I think that I'll stick with the soft goat leather for a slightly less expensive option. When funds allow, I will be buying some cow leather to make both plain and carved options, which I'll offer at a slightly higher price point. Cow leather is much more expensive, after all.
Tomorrow, I plan to make the same size out of my black goat leather, and if I'm satisfied with it, I will upload the pictures and open my online store. There will, of course, be only one item available from my shop currently, available in two colours. That would be the plain soft leather book jackets.
Hopefully, however, I will be able to slowly add items. I don't think I'll keep any stock of these items, save for a couple which I will bring with me to any conventions or events I will sell at, and simply make them to order. That will save me a great deal of stress and space, I think.
All told, I am satisfied with my work this time around.
The last of my leather supplies arrived yesterday, and so I spent the day trying to figure out how to make a leather book jacket. You know, so you can carry around a paperback without having to worry so much about how damaged it'll get in your bag.
I had bought goat leather, as it's less expensive than cow, thinking that I'd be able to offer a less expensive option at first. It's quite a thing to work with. It's soft and supple, and that made it a lot more difficult to work with than I thought it would. All the leather I had worked with to day was cow, and a good deal thicker and stiffer. I think, all told, I prefer working with the stiffer stuff, but the goat leather sure feels soft.
Next time, if I have funds enough, I'll get some cow leather and try to make a stiffer book jacket out of that. For now, though, I will finish working with the goat leather and see what I can do.
There are some things I have learnt trying to make the book jacket out of goat leather. The first is that even with the aid of an L ruler, I can't cut a straight line to save my life. Hopefully practice will make that particular problem go away. The second thing I learnt is that I'm a twit. Truly. I did thing that required time and effort, and it was very wrong. Well, not very, but it wasn't right.
Here's a picture of the finished thing, and I'll let you guess what I did incorrectly:
I'lll let you guess something other than the fact that the stitching isn't straight. I'll pretend that's an intentional 'rustic' look. It does have to do with the stitching, though.
It's the location of the stitching on the short edge. I stitched the inside edge, instead of the outside edge, Which is what I meant to do to create a neat little border around the jacket.
It's a silly error I'm kicking myself over, but it's not the end of the world. The jacket functions.
I tested it on a borrowed copy of Blood of Elves, I've loaned from a friend. The book is the basic Trade Paperback size, so it was a good candidate to test my pattern. I'll also be working on A-Format and B-Format patterns, but for now, I'm just refining the Trade Paperback size.
It's a little taller than I need, and only just long enough for a book of 434 pages, so there is still some tweaking of the pattern to do, but I've basically got it, I think.
I hope that my second attempt works much better. I will find out this afternoon.
As I'm not particularly thrilled with this attempt, it will not be for sale. It's not up to standard. That's not a total loss, however, as now I have a removable book jacket to protect my books when I'm out and about.
Hopefully soon I'll be able to offer at least a couple for sale in case anyone wants one for themselves.
I'm back from my trip to cottage country with my father and his lovely girlfriend. I spent four odd days by the water, watching the rain come and go, attempting to canoe when it was far too windy, being stung by wasps as I attempted and failed to retrieve a kayak from beneath the cottage, and drawing.
Mostly I was working on designs for the leather working I intend to do, but I also worked a painting concept that has been floating around my head for a while. While I think the concept is solid, the drawing itself is not terrific. I'm not especially happy with it. For that reason, I'm unsure whether or not I'll be offering this as art prints. We'll see.
It did, however teach me a great deal about myself, my skills and my needs. First, here is the piece:
First, it is painfully clear that drawing people is most definitely not my strong suit. The proportions are all wrong. Also, the eyes are not correct. In fact, if we're just looking at the composition, the whole woman looks like a child drew her. I'm not happy with that at all.
That said, there's a lot that went right here, and a few lessons I've learnt about myself that I can bring forward into my creative life from here on out.
Firstly, I thing the shading went well. I think I managed to create a fairly convincing sense of depth from the shading. I think I could have done a better job with the fall of fabric, but otherwise, I'm not upset at my effort in that regard. I'm feeling much more confident about creating depth and definition when it comes to painting in colour, so I'm not so worried about translating this onto canvas.
One point of pride of this piece is the spearhead.
I had wanted it to look like knapped stone, and I think I achieved that well enough. I'm also particularly proud that I drew it pretty much as I imagined it, rather than with a reference image. Not that I think that there's anything wrong with using references, as I'll discuss in a bit, I also want to be the kind of artist that can imagine an image and then draw it from my mind's eye.
In any case, it's my favourite thing about this piece.
I think the wolf shadow also turned out relatively well. It would have been better if I had charcoal on hand, but the darkest I had on hand was a 6B pencil. Still, I think it looks like a wolf. The thing is, of course, is that I had tried for ages to draw the wolf without a reference (as I did the less than stellar wolf pelt hooded cloak). It wasn't working.
I finally relented and grabbed a reference image of a wolf and drew it from that. It went much smoother and went much faster than when I struggled without. Granted, as it was a shadow, I didn't have to fuss much with the details, but the reference really helped.
It seems that I have an alright eye for copying references, but not so much when drawing independent of them.
Looking now at the woman I attempted to draw, it's clear that I could use a reference in order to get the proportions right. I'm thinking that it might be worth my while to invest in a couple of posable artist models. I could pose them and use that to draw from.
So, my next purchases for my painting and drawing endeavours will be those posable models. Something very posable like these figures.
Until then, I will continue to practice drawing figures, particularly in profile, and in the meantime I'll buy the canvas I want to paint the final thing on. Probably something of a medium height and relatively long.
So, I did it. I finally finished the painting I started last year. The one I turned around to face the wall for months because I hated it. That one.
I spent the entirety of yesterday finishing it off. And you know, I don't hate it. I'm not in love with it, but I don't hate it. For the first traditional painting I've done in many years, it's not terrible. It's took me more than a month to finish. Mind you, I was working on it only roughly an hour a day.
Anyway, below is the progression of the painting (starting from after I covered up the clouds that I despised so much).