SWAMP FAIRIESDown in the bayou the swamp fairies fly. Their flickering lights fill the sky They zip and zoom through the marshy grass. They lite in trees, they dip and dash. Down in the bayou where the swamp fairies fly, on the edge of my seat I watch them go by. Over the edge of my little boat I watch them play, out in the swamp in my favorite bay, until the night is dark and they’ve all gone away. Jacqueline Buffinet
You can a blame a song for this painting! Right after Christmas I found this lovely French Cajun song called Au Bord du Lac Bijou (On The Shores of Lake Jewel). I fell in love with it, played it repeatedly, found the translation and fell in love with it more. I vowed to learn every lyric in French. (So far I only know the chorus by heart.) It so reminds me of what my idea is of what it must have been like for Huey growing up in the bayous and swamps of Lafitte Louisiana. A simple time where all the meaning for life and love can be found sitting in the quite of a bayou watching a pair of birds that are mates for life. I tried to fit the birds in the painting but it didn’t work. This is really about the boy and the bayou. Perhaps I’ll get the bird-couple into another painting at another time.
So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent whatever time I’ve had for creating art working on this painting. Then came time to share it on Illustration Friday. This week’s word is EDGE. Well the only Edge I could find in this picture is that the boy is peering over the edge of his boat. That idea and the thought of fireflies being the fairies of the swamp resulted in the little poem found above. I wrote it specifically for this painting. I hope you enjoy it.
Here is the link to the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpY-SKIjReI
And here is the English translation:
On The Shores Of Lake BijouIn South Louisiana, In the Attakapas wood Where the river meets the levee Planted in the cove is an old live oak On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel). Amongst its leaves, in the tangle of the branches The swallows return every spring They find refuge in that old oak On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel). Chorus: Turn, turn in my arms Hold me tight once again Stay with me underneath the live oak tree On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel). It was in 1957 The first time that I saw them. The two together, building their nest On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel). They would return when the winter was done I called them Pierre and Marie A big «Monsieur » black as the night. His lady by his side. Chorus During Lent this last April I saw him one last time A lone bird, waiting on his branch On the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel). He was still, his heart breaking Watching from morning until night Until that Sunday when he was gone From the shore of Lake Bijou (jewel). Chorus
This is based on a true story, though you have to remember, we are in the deepest of south of Louisiana so there are no hills. This actually happened on the back levees behind our house near a bay. The levees were still under construction at the time so were like twin hills of sand. that ran parallel to one another for quite a ways. A great place to run a go-cart. Well the picture tells what happened. Huey was shouting for David to let go of the string they had rigged to the throttle and David, who was about seven at the time, forgot that letting go would be the best way to stop. He even went air-borne over one of those levees. They both remember that chase and speak of it every now and then. So this is for them. Huey and David, I hope you enjoy it!
Yes, I have been quiet for far too long. At the end of last August, Hurricane Isaac decided to come roaring through our area on the very anniversary of Katrina. It left me ten days without power and nearly three weeks behind my schedule. I wanted very much to have Gaynell Payne’s and my book into print in time for this Christmas, so I buckled down. No Illustration Friday for the time and therefore, for someone who turns terribly introvert while creating, nothing on the ready tip of my brain to blog. But finally, I can announce that it is here.
I GO EXPLORING is finally available in paperback at Amazon, soon to be available in hardcover as well. Fingers crossed that the hardcover edition will make it for the Christmas season. I GO EXPLORING is a delightful adventure from a little boy’s imagination. Our little boy, Chase, never forgets to bring his stuffed dog, Pip, along too.
If you read my first blog then you will remember that this book is the reason I turned my art to illustrating. It is my first book, but it certainly won’t be my last. No it won’t. Because Gaynell has written two other stories for me to illustrate. One is another Chase and Pip book, and the other is “monster” funtastic! I know you can guess we are aiming at next fall for that one. I think these stories are wonderful and worth every bit of the work it takes to get them into print. I only hope my illustrations do them justice.
It’s rare, I suppose, for an artist, or at least for me, to truly love their work/ my work. And so it is with this one. I don’t love it. I think I could have done better. I actually wanted this to be a little more illustrative and less realistic than it is. I think it’s kind of stuck somewhere in the middle.
However I still want to share it here. This week’s prompt word over at Illustration Friday, was “Teacher”. I feature a mother and her child because that is where teaching starts, and so wish to honor the parents who take the time to share their wisdom and knowledge with their children. I also want to honor all the school teachers as well. You Home School parents, God bless you! You have chosen a road that definitely has it’s difficulties. So much so that many will not choose it. But there are such blessings on that road too.I know, because I’ve been there.
I hope you all get the deeper meaning I intended in this illustration. Too give a child knowledge is to place the world within his or her reach.
“Relax! Get out a little while, she says! Do some hunting. This is the last time I listen to her!”
The caption is Huey’s idea. I had shown him the preliminary sketch of this unfortunate fellow by an Iphone photo since he is working offshore. The following day in one of our regular phone chats he told me he thought of the picture a couple of times and shared the caption that it brought to his mind. You can’t beat that kind of feedback. It means it stuck in his thinking. And that off of a rough preliminary sketch. I would have loved to add more detail to this, more line work in the landscape. More detail to the dragon. But I only give these challenges so much time during my week.
Today, my summer had it’s official last day. Ashley and Matt left to go back to Jackson for their next college year. In my mind it’s also the beginning of my next work year. I guess I’m still attached to the school year mentality. I’m already anticipating fall and I’m excited about the work ahead of me, waiting for it’s turn on the drawing board. That’s one cool thing about being an artist. When we say “back to the drawing board,” we mean it literally.
Not Leaving Well Enough Alone
How Photoshop and layers is making me a better artist.
I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Painting not nearly so long since supplies for it are far more costly. Still you can count my painting time, off and on, in decades. And yet, what I have learned about drawing and painting in the last eighteen months with Photoshop has increased my skills exponentially. And I know why.
It’s the forgivabilty factor. Many an artist knows what is meant by the phrase “a forgiving medium” . Well that is what digital art software with layers is. Forgiving. I have known for a long time that my biggest problem with painting was that I painted too cautiously. Never mind drawing for now. That is another discussion for another time. But painting?
First of all, I have always painted in layers. In acrylics the layers of values, masses and glazes could be countless. In oils less so due to the drying time. Imagine if you will, putting thirty hours or more into a large work only to realize something early on has gone awry. Imagine that as the work nears it’s end, each brush stroke becomes more and more of a risk that you will make a mistake that might ruin your painting. Or you might paint yourself into a corner that you don’t know how to get out of, find mistakes that it is too late to correct and suddenly the piece has become a frustration to you. Eventually you decide it’s time to leave well enough alone. After all you’ve always heard how it’s not good to overwork a painting.
Enter Photoshop (or whatever your favorite painting software is at the moment.) If you learn how to use layers right, it is practically non destructive. Any thing that you try, any change that you make, can be undone at any stage of your process. It can be redone too as long as you didn’t delete your layer. If you haven’t mastered layers yet. I urge you to do so. Learn how to use them, group them, move them, link them, mask them and every other thing that can be done with them and I promise you, you will not regret the time you put into it.
Now that I can paint without fear of losing the groundwork that I lay down in a specific piece, I find myself more daring and better able to find what’s wrong and fix it. You learn from “fixing” mistakes, not making them.
Granted, until now I have mostly been digitally painting the illustrations. But I noticed the difference in my drawing skills in the past few months (all on the Wacom Intuous 4 tablet.) I felt my understanding grow in the various disciplines for creating an image and found my inner painter, begging to try something more complex. Here is the results. No Photoshop tricks, no grids, no tracing. Just a reference photo to look at, the painting tools and layers.
I am no master portraitist, but this is the best portrait that I have yet to paint.
I WILL get back to painting with actual paint eventually. It will be at least after the first Chase and Pip book is out, more likely after the second one is complete. But I am confident that when I do get back to traditional painting, I will have learned some valuable skills to count on. I look forward to seeing the results.
Digital Portrait, Ashley Buffinet Hester, my youngest daughter.
The sun has set and mother will soon call her in. But just perhaps there is still time for this lonely girl to discover a new friend.
Without a doubt, there are times that I miss doing my traditional art and thus have wanted to at least focus my energies on an illustration that is more realistic in style than I have been doing. The Illustration Friday prompt this week allowed me to do so since the word challenge invokes an emotion that can be expressed well in this style. I must say that the addition of the hedgehog was totally unplanned. The illustration was nearly complete when he occurred to me; her little ray of hope. Something to brighten her mood.
This week several people have asked me about these posts for Illustration Friday, so let me take a moment to explain. Illustration Friday (www.illustrationfriday.com) is a blog that issues a word challenge each Friday then invites illustrators from around the world to share their interpretation of the word. It’s loads of fun to participate in and for me, keeps me challenged to work fast on new ideas. If you are an illustrator or artist, by all means check it out. In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed this weeks entry.
Huey loves this one! He almost always asks me to make framed copies of my work to hang on the cabin walls of his boat when he is offshore. But this time he asked me for two to hang on both of his boats. The one he usually works on and the one he occasionally works on. Why? Well, it sort of has a Peter Pan nostalgia to him, bringing him back to the moments when growing up was the last thing on his mind. HE was more likely to be in a pirogue though. That is a Cajun version of a canoe for those who don’t know. At this age he would have been back in the bayous of Jean Lafitte, fishing and paddling and just whatever that a Cajun boy does while being pure boy! He once told me upon being asked, that he probably knows the waterways back there better than Jean Lafitte himself did. I believe it. It was his childhood haunt. Lafitte on the other hand just came there to hide away.
I actually wasn’t going to do an entry to Illustration Friday this week being as this week is full enough without it. But when this one popped in my head I knew I had to get it down. I hope you enjoy it.
Lucy has lost her favorite doll. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mole is delighted to have such an important guest for tea. I don’t know what it is that I have for doing kitchen scenes lately, but at least this one is a little bit different. And for the record, moles don’t actually eat vegetables, but then they don’t have tea and cookies either, right?
Creating good color composition has always been the most challenging part of my art. Well and values too. Here I tried to juxtapose the cooler evening colors with the warmer colors of Mrs. Mole’s cozy little home. I wonder how Lucy is ever going to find her doll!
This week’s challenge word over at Illustration Friday was “suspend”. Which is ironic because I was nearly finished with the work on the picture below when the inspiration for the one above struck. So the first had to wait while the work was done on the second. In other words, or particularly “the” word, it was suspended. The little Mini Schnauzer is original to the picture that I have titled “The Walk Home”. But when I came to the end of “Balanced Meal” I thought she would be perfect there as well. After all if you know a Mini Schnauzer, you know they are always interested in what we are up to.
So my idea for “The Walk Home” was try to tone down the lines that have been customary in my earlier work. I wanted it to be simple, loose and fun. I also find myself striving to get away from literal representations which worked so well for the wildlife painting that I spent years doing, but is not necessary or even particularly desirable in children’s art. I hope I managed that, at least a little, here.