Crayon Betta

One year for my birthday, which I share with my twin sister, our dear friend gave us a little black and red fish in a bowl. We named him Dragon. He was full of spunk and curiosity, always coming over to peer at us through the glass. I was quickly smitten and began to research all I could about this little life form given into our care.

Dragon was a betta splendens, one of the species of the gourami family of tropical fresh water fish. He deserved a bigger tank, a filter, and a heater, which we gave him. He thrived with us for nearly three years.

That was the start of my obsession with aquarium keeping. Even though my research has taken me from pea puffer fish to African cichlids to panther groupers and beyond, bettas hold a very special place in my heart.

I am very excited to have another one in my life — my twin is gifting me one very soon!

To celebrate these fish, I am trying to capture a little of their beauty and striking personalities in my artwork. I’ve been working with Crayola crayons, which is tremendously fun. It’s challenging to get the crayons to blend smoothly and ever so gratifying when I can manage to get a transparency effect. The colors are so bright and bold!

CrayonRedBetta
Red Betta, Crayola crayons.

This is a continuation of my crayon portraits of betta fish. Click Fish to see the other pieces.

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Kokeshi doll

I was fortunate enough to go to Japan to celebrate my brother’s wedding this December. It was an unforgettable experience! Japan is beautiful and calming in a special way. Tokyo is a spectacle of human civilization, with such a huge population, imposing tall buildings, gorgeous lights (lots of Christmas lights everywhere), fabulous gardens and plants woven into the urban landscape, and it feels so … peaceful. Wonderful place!

 

I also was given the great joy of visiting Sendai, a city north of Tokyo. My brother’s new wife’s family lives there and they generously took us to see a few of the treasures of the area, one of which was the Akiu Traditional Crafts Village. There we enjoyed seeing different traditional crafts like weaving, wooden top making (the spinning toys), ornate box making, and kokeshi doll making. Kokeshi are dolls made from wood and traditionally look like this: Kokeshi_20101105

The artisans are there in the shop and we got to see him carving some kokeshi with his lathe, wood chips all over the floor! Even more exciting was that the shop had a little workshop area where we could paint our own kokeshi dolls!

Here is mine and Nick’s, my husband’s:

 

Can you guess which is mine and which is his? Heehee! He was very creative and made a vampire kokeshi. Mine is just a fish obsessed girl. It was so much fun!

 

We intend to go back to Japan whenever possible. What a wonderful place!

 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Birthday Train

I made a drawing of a train for my dad’s birthday card this year. He loves trains.

 

CrayonTrain_web

This is the drawing, which I made using crayons. I’m really enjoying figuring out how to layer the colors and make “misty” effects with these Crayolas. So much fun!

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This is the photo I used as a reference.

ExpressBirthday_webHere is the card design which I made in Photoshop, with helpful input from my husband. He has excellent ideas! And his wonderful head is full of puns, so those all went on the inside of the card.

 

My dad enjoyed it immensely.

Fish, Giraffe, Octopus and More

I made these series of drawings as birthday gifts to my sisters and my good friend. They all appreciate out of the ordinary arty things, so I just drew what I felt like drawing. I made slight alterations in Photoshop to give them texture and color.

 

RabbitFish_web

Fish and Rabbit, mixed media

 

GiraffeSnails_web

Giraffe and Snails, mixed media

 

Eight_web

Eight, mixed media

Quail and Kale

I made this quirky drawing for a good friend of mine.

It’s a quail… on a bail, in the hail, with a pail surrounded by kale, a snail, some mail, nails, a sail, and a whale.

QuailKaleColor

 

It made my friend smile. It’s done entirely with crayons and black ink.

Baby tapir

I got another baby tapir commission. I LOVE making these little guys. They are so cute and each time I get to refine and distill the cuteness for overload…

 

 

This is the best one I’ve made yet! I’m very proud of not only the shape, proportion of leg to body and head size, but also the brown and black balance underlying the white spots and stripes. I mixed the brown roving (wool) with the black to get a nice dark brown and then really focused on getting the lighter brown on the cheeks.

 

There is a cost, however. Those dang spots really took forever! I thought my fingers would fall off! I had to redo one of the ears because the white spot on it was turning the black gray. It’s all about balance and finding the magic point at which the black is thick enough to sustain a white spot poking into it but thin enough to be a flexible little ear…

It’s a challenge. But one I delight in!

This little one now makes his home in Half Moon Bay, California with his lovely new owner.

Tamandua!

Remember the needle felted anteater I was working on way back in August? You can see the in-progress photos here.

 

Here is the finished tamandua!

 

This was such a fun project! Using the bright fantastical colors to make those crazy patterns was very exciting! I love the natural look, too, though so don’t be surprised if you find another anteater come along… Hehe.

 

I kept reassessing the basic body shape and adding more and more roving (the wool) to bulk him out. Consequently, this is probably the most densely felted piece I’ve ever made. She has a really solid feel and the patterns are so cleanly placed because I had to keep adding more and more layers of roving and each layer added had to redefine the color patterns.

 

The claws are made from Lumina Clay, which is a type of air drying clay that’s resin based. I added a dab of black watercolor paint to transparent Lumina Clay to make the claws nice and dark. Then I glued the claws to the pipe cleaner “toes” I left exposed on the armature (see the in-progress photo). E6000 is a very good glue for something small and needing a little flex.

 

You can purchase this Fantastic Anteater in my etsy shop here.

 

Ravens and Orcas

My beloved’s favorite family of animal is corvidae, which includes crows and ravens. They are phenomenally clever and also have a delightful sense of humor… Traits that my beloved possesses in abundance himself.

His intelligence, playfulness, and graceful strength always makes me think of another animal that I adore — the orca.

Ever since I met him in 2015, I could get lost in the windswept energy of the lively, free-spirited, force of nature that is Nick. I tried to capture a little of this feeling in my artwork and I ended up making this series of drawings for him as gifts each year.

 

This was the first one that I drew for him. I drew it in my sketchbook leading up to the first time we met in person (we corresponded through email for the first couple months of our courtship). He loved it and put it up in his bedroom.

RavenOrcadA
For Nick, pencil in sketchbook

The second one I drew for his birthday in 2016. We were now officially a couple and we were overjoyed! I used charcoal so I could get the darks very dark.

JoyofUs
The Joy of Us
 charcoal on pastel paper

This year I drew one entirely with crayons. I really wanted to create something bold and surprising!

OutoftheMist
Out of the Mist,
crayons on watercolor paper

Green happens to be his favorite color so I added hints of green here and there, but it’s a fun change to make pieces almost entirely in gray scale. I plan to continue adding more in this series in the years to come.

Horse Ornament

One day, I realized that I had never made a horse. And then I remembered that my mother-in-law’s favorite animal is a horse. So for Christmas last year, I needle felted her a little horse ornament. It has a loop of wire at the withers so it can hang on the Christmas tree.

 

It was a lot of fun making this little guy. I researched a lot of other needle felters’ work to get inspiration.

 

Here’s one that I love:

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By BossysFeltworks on Etsy

And this one is just so fabulous!

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Horse mobile by BondurantMountArt on Etsy

 

Seeing these lovely horses, each with their own unique personalities, really gets my creative juices going! I’ll definitely make more felted horses over the coming years.

 

What other artists’ work has inspired you in your life? Let me know in the comments.