Monday, October 31, 2011

C is for Chōchinobake

I was so tickled to discover this monster, clearly related to Jack-o'-Lantern, just in time for the Halloween edition of AlphaBeasts!

Acrylic on found illustration, ~4½"x5½"

The illo in the background is from one of my favorite Fleam Finds, The Museum of Science & Art, 1855. I couldn't bear to tear that one up, so I scanned  & printed it to paint over. If you click to enlarge & look very closely, maybe you can see the flying bat-skulls on the wall. I didn't even notice those until I started painting-- kinda spooky! Happy Halloween, everybody!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


As mentioned in the previous post, I have an irrational fondness for dip pens. No matter how much I use & enjoy technology, I still can't live without a good scritchy nib. If that makes me a dinosaur, so be it! And I also leave a handy trail of ink spots behind so future paleontologists can track my every move. (Although Google & Homeland Security will probably save them the effort.)

Apologies for the lateness of the post-- I have so much going on right now I was afraid it wouldn't happen at all, but I made it at the quasi-proverbial 11th-ish hour. (Though it still needs tweaking.)

This is the second piece in the mysterious series. Acrylic on text on canvas, 6"x6"

Let me tell you, it was tricky to paint calligraphy at this size!! Ironically, I had to use a fine brush rather than a pen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mini Monster Mash

I'm feeling a bit dizzy at the moment, with five different projects underway (in addition to Flash classes & deadlines) & none of them quite scanner-ready.

So I decided to post this little doodle, completed while watching online Flash tutorials, in between taking notes on the stuff I needed to know. (Yes, I do take notes with a crow-quill sometimes! Call me antediluvian,* but it helps keep my calligraphic hand in fighting trim.)

I thought it looked a little like a particularly odd Halloween party.

I draw this sort of nonsense often-- it helps calm me down when my brain is boiling. You should see my college calculus notebooks. By the way, I firmly believe that doodling helps me concentrate. I caught no end of grief for it in school (even though I made good grades) but a couple of years ago I saw this study & felt vindicated. :-D

Hunt's flexible crow-quill pen & ink on legal pad, ~3"x4"

*This is actually a teaser for one of the pieces I'm working on!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mystery Series!

{This piece isn't quite finished but as it's already so late, I'm posting it anyway. I'll tweak it & replace it if I have time.}

This is the first in a little mini-series of 5 images. I dare you to guess what is special about this series.

Acrylic on text from The Practical Standard Dictionary, 1943 on canvas, 6"x6"

Sunday, October 23, 2011

B is for Bake-Neko

This week's entry for AlphaBeasts! is again inspired by Toriyama Sekien's Gazu Hyakki Yakō.

The bake-neko is a giant ghost-cat. According to The Obakemono Project, "...bake-neko could exceed normal cats in size by orders of magnitude, reaching their enormous arms in through doors looking for human prey like an average feline pawing around in a mousehole...."

Her Odd Materials No. 16
Acrylic on a torn-out portion of an illustration from St. Nicholas magazine, August 1920, ~4"x5"

Friday, October 21, 2011


I live in Raleigh, NC, USA, a.k.a. Oak City. At this time of year, our lawns, streets & sidewalks are scattered with vast herds of these zoorobotanical beasties. Please watch your step if you come to visit!

Her Odd Materials No. 15: Acrylic, brass wire & rusty tacks on acorn. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back in a Flash

Last year it crossed my mind that I should learn how to do a bit of animation. The idea of making my creatures & letters move was tantalizing. The software & class costs were a bit daunting, though, so I applied for a United Arts Artist Project grant to help out. I honestly didn't think I had much of a chance of receiving it, but surprise! It came through!

The grant covered most of the costs & gave me the much-needed impetus to make the leap into learning Flash. What it didn't cover was the time it would take to get the hang of the program (which I found far more daunting than Photoshop or Illustrator)-- not to mention the many, many hours I'd need to invest to create actual animations! Nor did I quite realize the toll it would take on my computer... especially when I was trying to run Flash, PS & AI all at the same time. I think they might have named it Flash to rhyme with crash. ;-)

In other words, the process has been something of a struggle for me and my computer. But last night there was a reception for the United Arts Project Grant winners, & I was determined to bring a sampler piece to the event to show that their generosity was not entirely wasted! The above piece uses nearly every technique I learned in Flash 1.*

One of the hardest things about Flash for me is finding the balance between finesse & practicality. In my paintings & calligraphy, I'm all about details & subtleties. When I work in Photoshop, my files end up being immense, with many layers & high resolution. But part of the deal with Flash is making the files small enough to run efficiently, & letting the "tweens" do as much of the work as possible. Which means relinquishing a lot more control than I'd like. Looking at this piece quite honestly makes me cringe for any number of reasons. I could easily spend another two weeks refining it, except that I don't have two more weeks to spend! But I'm hoping that with more experience I'll learn where I can cut corners & let Flash do its stuff, & where I should invest the time & file-size to tweak frame by frame. I certainly hope my skills improve, but at least this is a start!

*About a week ago, I got a call from the school where I'd taken my class. Apparently they had had many complaints about the teacher, & were offering the next session of Flash 1, with a different instructor, free to those who had taken the first session. Hmmm. Now I feel a little better about my slow & steep learning curve-- maybe it wasn't just my inadequate brain! The new class begins this Friday, so we'll see if it helps... stay tuned.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A is for Amikiri

Today is a red-letter, red-monster day: the beginning of a new alphabet project, AlphaBeasts!

Successor to Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet, this one is hosted by Andrew Neal & will center on mythical creatures. I think it may be even more fun than the last! I'm hoping to do all 26 letters, & looking forward to discovering many new oddities along the way.

My first AlphaBeast is the Amikiri, or Net Cutter, from Toriyama Sekien's Gazu Hyakki Yakō. I'd never heard of this curious creature with its very specific form of mischief before. I certainly hope it leaves my curtains & fishnets alone!

While this is AlphaBeast No.1, it is also Her Odd Materials No.13. Hmm, sounds like something from mystic numerology.... Acrylic on a cutting from a Larkin Catalog, c.1940, ~5"X6", found at the Fleam of course.

By the way, if you'd like to see my entries for the last series, Animal Alphabet, you'll find most of them on my sketch/process blog, Curious Art Lab. I was late to the party though, so you won't find all 26 letters there, alas!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Light-Headed Contraption

I loved IF's prompt this week-- I only wish I had more time to make more elaborate contraptions! But I'm crazy busy all week, so just time for a quickie today. 

Acrylic on found red light bulb, antique shears & miniature pliers, held together (badly) with copper & brass wire. About 5½" tall.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Micro-Mold Monster

One of my odder Fleam-ish purchases was a box of used microscope slides. I think even the vendor was a bit grossed out by them-- she looked quite shocked by my purchase! But they actually make a fun micro-canvas. It was an interesting exercise to fit in a little-bitty monster without covering any of the handwriting.

Her Odd Materials No. 11, Acrylic on used microscope slide, ~1"x3"

p.s.Anyone out there with a clue who R.E.M. might be? I seriously doubt these slides belonged to the recently-disbanded band... though many have accused them of moldiness in their latter years.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Home for Halloween

I thought I'd try my hand at animating Home Sweet Home. This is pretty rough. Flash is definitely an "Odd Material" as far as I'm concerned. I know it's second nature for some people, but I find it both frustrating & fascinating. For one thing, I still don't quite understand why some videos export & post without issues, & others simply refuse to cooperate.

Do you hear "Happy Halloween" in the audio, or am I hallucinating from excessive computer hours? It was a free download by alextundra, btw, from

Flash, Photoshop, acrylic over text from an old dictionary. I wonder if my mixed media conglomerations will some day reach critical mass & explode. They have already had questionable effects on my computer, & possibly my brain.

edit: At Ted's request I'm including a looped version, for those who are gluttons for punishment!

Friday, October 7, 2011


Hot tea suddenly becomes very enticing at about this time of year! I figured I might as well paint with the dregs.

Concentrated Earl Grey with white gouache & touches of Raspberry Zinger on found paper, ~4¾ x 3¾". The book this page came from is Consumer Goods/ How to Know & Use Them by Reich & Siegler, ©1937.

How useless to the novice is that "method" at the bottom!? :-D Especially considering that the book was aimed at "young people," according to the editor's introduction. Not even a hint about brewing time, &c. I suppose it was understood that one could always ask Mother.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I believe this is actually an old piece of window hardware-- if you look closely you can see the screw holes. I'd intended to paint it in color, but after I'd sanded down the tarnished brass I loved the resulting texture so much, I decided to let it shine! I used only black & white acrylic to define the shape & details.

It's quite small for a dinosaur- only 1 inch tall x 2½ wide.

Monday, October 3, 2011

B-Side Beastie

I was sorting through a box of Victorian scrap hunting for something to use in Her Odd Materials, when I happened to glance at the back side of one of them, & immediately saw a monster-head. So of course I painted it!

The image below is the original chromolith, i.e. the A-side of the Oddment. (If you're having trouble seeing the shape, note that it's rotated 90° & flipped. Her head is the beastie's nose.)

H.O.M No.7: Acrylic on reverse of Victorian scrap, ~2½x3½"

If you missed the link on the last oddment, I'm a "Cryptkeeper" for be sure to check out the other spooky/monstrous/festive blogs on the site!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oddment Sings the Blueb's

It's October! Time to curl up & hide!

Okay, not really. I love October-- the crisp weather, the leaves turning, Halloween*-- also, it's always my month to host Book Club, which I thoroughly enjoy. It's actually not until November that I start to feel tinges of those Winter blues, drifting toward the "discouraged, morbid & ill."

Truth to tell, today's experiment was a bit discouraging too. I tried blueberry ink for the first, & probably the last, time. I had some "blueb's" that were beginning to go mushy, so I picked out the bad ones, smashed them up with a bit of white vinegar & salt to preserve color & prevent ickies, & strained them 3 times. Then I tried to concentrate the color in the microwave. Having made jelly in the past, I should have known better!

Due to the sugar & pectin in the fruit, it was very hard to get the ink dark enough to be more than faintly visible without having it gel up. I never did achieve a strength & consistency that satisfied me. Also despite using a super-fine strainer, there were little dark flecks in the ink that were a bit irritating. But oh well, the pallor, spottiness & stickiness sort of fit the gloomy theme. And experiment, successful or not, is part of the idea behind Her Odd Materials. (This is H.O.M. No. 6.)

Pencil, blueberry ink & white gouache on found paper, with some Photoshop tweaking.

The background of this one is a page from Reading Character At Sight, Seven Simple Lessons by Katherine M.H. Blackford, M.D., ©1922. The book is hilarious reading, purporting to psychoanalyze strangers instantly, using such vital clues as the fineness of their hair. It seems to be aimed mainly at salesmen. It was of course a Fleam Find.

*Fellow Halloween enthusiasts might be interested in, a blog that rounds up blogs with an October focus on Halloween. I'll be participating in this year's countdown!