Monday, September 5, 2016

Creating a Red, Black and White Birdhouse

Back in the day ... the 60's in fact, when I was a Journalism / Advertising major at Oklahoma State, the director of our school, Dr. Allen, usually our advertising instructor, taught all of us to make small sketches of every ad we were going to create. They were usually small rectangle's that showed where we planned on putting the elements; copy, headlines, artwork. After a few forced tries, at least for me, I suddenly realized that the possibilities were, well, what desktop publishing in the future would be, endless. Now everything I create be it a birdhouse, a canvas painting, even arranging things in my home, each one gets a series of tiny sketches to see where things will be placed. Trust me, it saves a whole lot of time. Its much easier to "X" out a failed idea or erase an errant line than on a canvas, watercolor paper, moving heavy furniture or in my case wooden birdhouses!

The original Red Birdhouse Sketch

A sketch is, for me, an important way to arrange the elements I want to use and I find that once a design is settled on I don't waste time worrying about it once its completed. Now that is not to say there are new elements that could change all the careful arranging but it gives me a place to start.

Visiting the studio that a few of us artists have started and are supporting, I brought my folding table and chair but had no supplies with me. However, I always carry a legal pad and pencils so I got that out and started sketching two birdhouses I wanted to do ... this red one and another design that uses a base coat of yellow. Before I knew it,  I was completely absorbed and heard little of what was going on around me.

This medium sized birdhouse, started as a Wal-mart $1.00 special. At 5 ¾" high, it was a over an inch taller than the smaller ones found at Michael's. I had spotted it earlier that morning in my own studio on my way out for the usual host of chores. On the left you can see that the ideas from the original sketch are being drawn. The back of this birdhouse is naked as the day it was bought! If you look closely you can see a fairly faithful rendering on the wood taken from the sketch. It doesn't always work out this way. However, for once I sealed the wood seeing if I like the effect better and if it would cut down the number of coats of paint I would need. (Hint, it didn't even though the black was black and I used DecoArt's Traditions Naphtha Red).

Pencil sketch and details worked out!
Once all the sides are sketched in, the painting begins. While this item is larger I always manage to create little details that demand a very fine brush. I usually use a liner to get me into those tight places.

Starting with red and white paint
top to bottom
When people pick up these pieces and look at all the sides, they have no idea that unlike a canvas that is usually painted on the front side, birdhouses have seven sides ... front, back, two sides, roof usually in two parts and you can't forget the bottom. Even if its a solid color, every brushstroke takes time.And yes, they DO take much more time to create, more than I would like to admit to but I enjoy the creating, whimsy and at times the oh and ah's! I guess that's a little part of why we paint.

Since I don't know about other artists, my workbench is usually a scene of chaos ... colors I plan to use litter the surface, the water tub, paintbrushes laid all around and as you can see, the sketch pad that was used for reference many times because I painted over my sketch!

Here is an example of a lesson I have yet to learn despite the creation of a few hundred items: PUT THE BASE COLORS ON FIRST, THEN SKETCH THE DETAILS IN. The second coat of red obscured pretty much all the details of the roof up upper sides, the white was a bit more forgiving but all hope was lost with the black. Ah, well! This was one time that I really used my sketches.

Once the three background colors were in place, using them inside the other colors must be done. It was at this time I introduced gold, the fourth and accent color I hoped would pull all the other colors together. Because the paints didn't dry

all at the same time as
Getting closer ... adding the golden accents
you went around the sides there are inevitable smears ... on you, your painting apron and most of all on the birdhouse. Ugh!!! I hate to wait and used some of that time to work on the yellow birdhouse.

I must admit the liner brush, I have several slightly different versions, and I have become fast friends. While I like using pens like Sharpie's and such, I find that you have to be very, VERY careful when using them. Often, the inks are dissolved when you use acrylic varnish. After all the hard work of putting them on you grit your teeth and then try to put as light a coat as possible over the ink hoping it will retain its sharpness and color. That was one of the reasons I was drawn to Comic-Con, I was curious to see what kind of pens they were using and as I imagined, they were using things I had never heard of. I can see a trip to the local art supply store in my future and buying one of each type and see if it will work for me.

The final product:

Never content to use just the birdhouse I buy, I always try to add additional elements, improving the things that you buy just off the shelf.  Since I am on blood thinners and have to avoid sharp objects; saws, sanders, anything that can cut the skin and case me to bleed, I have to be creative and keep an eye out for things I can add on items creatively! In this case this birdhouse was only about 6 ½" after I added the round painted gold wooden beads that gave it a different and definitely unique look that set it apart from the original.  I urge everyone to consider this concept. It doesn't take much to make your creation distinctive ... fake flowers, birds, trees, any number of things that make your final creation stand out from the crowd. Go ahead and try it! You will be surprised at the difference it makes. One word of warning though, lay your additions on your item, scotch tape it even because once you glue it on, it could be on forever!

One additional observation, you might have noticed, this is a definitely abstract or possibly an art deco design not the usual Rosemaling or Pennsylvania Dutch I use. I needed to try something new!Maybe you do too!

Thank you for reading the KrugsStudio blog. I try to talk about all things design. Every aspect of our lives are designed by someone. Well, as we all know, some designs are more successful than others. I encourage you to read earlier blogs. They discuss all kinds of things you might enjoy!

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