Shrink-e-dinks….nostalgia from the 80’s

This past December I decided to take my work and create pins and earrings.  The question was how to do this.  I found something from my childhood that I always loved to create with, Shrink-e-dinks.  Yes, those plastic sheets you could paint, color or draw on, cut out and then pop in the oven to watch them shrink into a hard plastic.

I remember creating Disney Christmas ornaments from kits that my parents would get for my sister and I.  Those snowy Saturday afternoons where mom and dad needed to keep Karen and I busy….Boy, those were the days.

Well, I found the Shrink-e-dink material and decided, WHY NOT!

First off, I started actually drawing out images and then coloring them in.  This took a long time for each image but once shrunk down they looked really cool.  I used a variety of media including colored pencils, alcohol markers, and inks.

I then did a little more exploring on the art supply websites and found Shrink-e-dink material that you can send through an ink jet printer.  Hallelujah!!!!  This was so much easier. So, I started to look through my sketchbook and computer and found lots of images that I created to print out.  The results were great and the items were and are some of my most popular sellers.

Take a look for yourself here as I have some items still for sale.  Just contact me via messenger in Facebook or you can email at banasiakart@yahoo.com.

Next up, a review of the Epcot® International Festival of the Arts:  Disney has art classes and workshops? Who new they were so artist friendly?  Stay tuned.

Cougar portrait in pastel

Cougar, Mountain lion, Puma, Florida Panther….. Whatever you want to call the largest of the small cat species, Puma concolor is one of North America’s most elusive and enchanting felines to roam the wilderness.

This post will focus on the step-by-step process I did while drawing the cougar mount from the Field Museum’s exhibit hall.

Cougar, Puma concolor, mount from the Field Museum.

The cougar portrait started, like all of my other portraits, with a rough sketch.  From there, I refined my sketch by measuring and scaling from the cougar mount and transferring my measurements to my paper. The ground I used for this portrait is a burgundy color from Canson’s Mi Teintes collection.  This is a textured paper with a medium size tooth which perfectly holds the pastel for that textured feeling and finish.  I used my trusty color-erase white pencil as it is one of the essentials I keep close when I work on dark colored ground.

My set-up in the Carnivore room while drawing the cougar portrait.

Drawing felids (cats and cat relatives) are a slight challenge as they have a flat skull compared with other animals.  They also possess a foreshortened and wide muzzle orsnout which is unlike canids (dogs and dog relatives) as the muzzle length and width are a distinguishing factor between some of the species within both groups.

At this time in the process, I am sometimes still deciding what media to use (not surprised).  This time I choose Prismacolor Nu-Pastels and Derwent pastel pencils.  I started with an under-painting of Nu-Pastels as I could get a larger amount of the ground covered in a shorter amount of time.  Once the basic colors for the under-painting were complete, I added the highlights and shadows in places so that I knew where I would be enhancing certain areas when I started the detail work.  As you can see above in the finished under-painting, the cougar has a flat feeling to it as I have not rendered the form much in this photo.  As I started to add the detail (more color layering, hair and texture) the cougar starts to take on a more “real” look or a more modeled look on the paper.

I added dark patches of color to create the base of the skin and fur folds, the dark shadows within the ears, and the shadow that is created under the chin on the neck.  Once that was done I started with more highlights around the cheeks, over the eyes, and on the tips of the ears.  You can see that once the low- and high-lights are done, detail can be added.  And I LOVE DETAIL!

The eyes are the entrance to the soul so this is my favorite feature to draw and paint.  I do have a tendency to add more emotion into the eyes I create then what is presently on a mount or in a photo reference.  The detail is were I get to use pastel pencils and my blade to sharpen the Nu-pastels.  I can get a better point with the pencil or by cutting or chopping away at the pastel sticks or blocks to create a point verses just using the Nu-pastels or my Sennelier soft pastels.

Folds on the skin are the first part of the fur that I started on.  I layered the dark colors with medium tons and then after a quick spray of fixative, I added the light colors and white highlights.  The textured paper takes away a little bit of dimension since you do see a little of the ground color through the layers of color but with each mammal portrait I do, I try to balance the color of the ground with the base colors in the specimens fur color.  With the cougar, you can see the the burgundy color of the paper balances out with the orange and golden yellow colors of the fur.

Once finished, I always sign and fix with spray so that the pastel does not rub off easily.

Cougar, 2016, Pastel on paper, 19″x25″. Copyright Rebe Banasiak, The Brush Hilt, Rebe Banasiak Art.

I will be doing more carnivore portraits in the future so keep your eyes on my blog pages here, Facebook and Instagram to watch the progress unfold.

Next step-by-step, Shrink-e-dink sketch magnets:  How I create shrink-e-dink magnets from my sketches.  Stay tuned.

The daily grind gives artistic inspiration

After the Field Museum Women in Science and Art blog post, many of you wanted to find out more about what is new about my job at the museum.   As most of you have read in one of my past posts (Yes, I do have a job to pay the bills…) a couple years ago, I talked about what my job at the museum entails as a Research Assistant and the opportunities I get offered to do what I love, illustrating.  Now, as the Mammals Collections Assistant and Preparator, I am doing much more than what I use to do within the Mammals Collection.

Bobcat skull that has been prepped and ready for cataloging (or sketching, hmm?).

How much “art” is in my daily routine?  I do not get to create illustrations or photograph specimens as much as in the past but I take what I do at work daily and incorporate what I learn on the job into my artwork. I take advantage of the many specimens at my finger tips to study and learn how their forms and textures can influence and INSPIRE how an art piece will turn out.  This makes it easier to visualize what I will see on paper when illustrating  the mounts in the exhibit halls.  It’s the LOVE and ENJOYMENT of what I do and where I work that INSPIRES and fulfills “MY CREATIVE PASSION” in the studio. Even if that means sacrificing my time before work, at lunch or on a weekend to come into the my office or lab to illustrate a specimen or a mount in the exhibit halls.

I’ve been in the new position for more than two years now. I moved from doing primarily research based tasks for the Collections Manager to doing more collections prep and maintenance of the mammals collection.  That entails skinning, stuffing, cleaning the bones, cataloguing, numbering and installing specimens within the collection.  There is still some time to take photos of specimens and illustrate for my colleagues but now I am training my volunteers to help me with many of the regular tasks that I use to do as well as train them to use the camera systems and finally, illustrate specimens (YEAH!)

The lab, where all the magic, I mean science happens. This is where the mammal specimens are processed before being installed into the main collection.

What is the difference in what I am doing now verses two years ago? Well, for one, any mammal specimen that needs to be cleaned has to go through my lab first.  I also take care of the mammals beetle colony (Mary Hennen takes care of the Birds beetle colonies).  I inherited thousand of little babies who depend on me (but mostly Mary) for food… and a home.  Check out the beetles Facebook page, Bird’s Bug Room here.  Most people think this is a disgusting part of the job but my time in the beetle room is nice, peaceful, and most importantly, quiet.

Cleaning the torso and femurs of a rodent. This rodent was born with a femur deformity. You can see that the left femur is slightly shorter and extremely wider then the right femur.

My volunteer staff has grown from five to ten volunteers/interns.  I guess mammals has become a popular place over the past two years.  I depend on them everyday to help with cleaning bones after the beetles have finished, skinning specimens and stuffing the viable skins for research, as well as, helping with database entry, scanning, numbering bones and photography work from researchers.

After all this you would think I would need lots of sleep but no, I still give myself time during the week to work on my artwork and sketching.  I am non-stop, the energizer bunny, the flash, a sugared up toddler. I have so much energy I need to release it so I work in the studio (as well as working out a lot).  I consider myself one of the lucky ones in the scientific/natural illustration world to be employed as the collections assistant and preparator.  I still get to use my artistic talent in some form everyday, in either skinning, numbering, Photoshop work, or photographing or illustrating specimens.  Thanks for visiting.  😋

The numbering and boxing area in the lab.

Crocidura monax specimen under a camera lucida microscope with the illustration on the right.

Crocidura monax specimen under a camera lucida microscope with the illustration on the right.

Rhinolophus illustration on a light table. Stipling on vellum from a graphite drawing.

Rhinolophus sp. illustration on a light table. Stippling on vellum from a graphite drawing.

Next INKtober….enough said:  The attempt to do a sketch a day for INKtober and my “failings” at it, LOL!.  Stay tuned.

Sketchbook Projects, part 1

Sketchbook Project 2016

This is my fourth year participating in the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project. Opportunities in art don’t come very often, but something like this is an opportunity that all artists should take advantage of.

I came across this project by chance while checking out one of the other artist sites I follow on Facebook.  It started out with my first sketchbook titled “A simple place called…” I wasn’t to sure of what I wanted to sketch so I started sketching what I encounter on a daily basis at work (the museum).

The idea for my second book came from my many adventures to the Atlantic coast. See, I’m a beach comber. I like to collect shells so “Wandering shell” was developed from my shell hoarding habit, lol.  I decided to take one shell and have it travel, wander around, throughout the entire sketchbook.

Cover of "Familiar friends" for the Sketchbook Project 2016.

Cover of “Familiar friends” for the Sketchbook Project 2016.

This past year in 2016, was different. I wanted to create my sketchbook around my knowledge of mammals, particularly carnivores.  If you have ever been to the Field Museum, you would have ventured to the back area behind the bird hall and wandered into what is called Carnivore Corner.  This is when “Familiar Friends in our ‘backyard'” was started.

There are so many mounts in the carnivore room, I had to figure out what would be the best representation for the theme I picked. That is when the idea of sketching just North American species came to be.  All I needed to do was see how many NA carnivore mounts we had on display and then choose which ones to focus on.

Wolf, grey fox, raccoon, coati, grizzley, black bear, fisher, cougar, lynx, bobcat, jaguar.

After figuring out what species I was going to sketch, the illustrating began.  First, dogs and their relatives…..canids, procynids, ursids, mustelids…then cats and their relatives….felids.  The wolf and grey fox were no brainers. I added the kit fox to thee list as it shows diversity throughout North America. Then a raccoon and coati for the procynids.  Black and grizzley bears were representing the ursids.

There are many more species but as I only had so many pages to fill for the project I had to narrow my choices to the best representation of carnivores that roam our North American “backyard”.

My 2017 sketchbook is purchased and I have looked at this years themes.  Some time in the future I will post and tell you what 2017’s book is all about.

back-cover

Nigel, the Brown pelican – Part 2

Nigel is back and finally finished!

In my last post about the brown pelican, Nigel (yes, after the pelican from Finding Nemo), I wrote about how I started to create this illustration: drawing the outline, shading and color decisions, and starting detail.  This post touches on the rest of detail and making decisions about whether or not to add extra bold details using a different media (ink) which is different from the main illustration.

Below, is where I left off on the last post.  I finished up the face, head and neck and started a light coat of color on the rest of the body and feet.

Nigel with head and neck completed. Light color on the rest of the body and feet.

Usually, I love to take a drawing like this and just add all my detail at once when using colored pencils that have a color range of 132.  However, this illustration I am using the Derwent 24 colored drawing pencil set.  As I have said on the last post and the Snowy Owl post, this limited amount of pencils has forced me to be more creative with how I add the colors, since the range of colors happen to be of a natural toned palette.  That is right, no bright colors like red or yellow.  That is why you should never challenge me when it comes to anything artistic, LOL.  I will sometimes, yet maybe, kind of, always prevail, LOL.  😉

A month ago, I met with all my other fellow artists from the Artist at the field group and decided to spend the entire day at the museum to finish this illustration.  Um, just for people who are not from Chicago, the month of February was free month at the Field Museum.  It was just a tad crowded!

So, I started adding my shadows and blending the colors for the back and wing.  What is nice about doing the feathers on a water bound bird is that they are matted down; that means, they are not fluffy and you cannot see nor distinguish the individual feathers on the body.  I am in heaven just thinking about it.  What you do see are the patterns and the color breaks.  This is basically where I started on that busy Saturday.  Adding the color breaks which are the shadows and lighter areas of the plumage.

The first part of adding shadows plays like a slow song; you have a slow and mellow beginning, a building of suspense in the middle, and a big crescendo in the end. So for the pelican, I first added the base color which is the layer you want to see through the entire area. Then, I started to add more reflective colors that will compliment the base color which enhances the detail which was the final layer added.

Now, on to Nigel’s back.  Using all the same techniques and procedures, I went through and finished the pelican’s back and then proceeded the finish the wing.

Once I had the all the color done on the body, it was time to start on the feet.  I was one my way home with this one as I added more and more color to the webbed little feet.  Knowing that I had just two feet left made me feel elated at getting the colored pencil part of the piece finished on that Saturday.

So, as I finished the feet I realized this is it.  Nigel, the brown pelican is done!

Finished brown pelican.

Finished brown pelican.

Finished piece next to the mount at the museum.

Finished piece next to the mount at the museum.

Until my next post, CHEERS everyone!

Nigel, the Brown pelican – Part 1

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… Nah, it’s just a brown pelican named Nigel.

In my last post, I talked about some goals I had and one of them was to finish artwork I started last year (and the year before, and the year before that, and so on).  Well, the brown pelican will be the first colored pencil that I should get done.  This is the first of two posts that I will write about the progression of this bird illustration.

Six months ago, I started adding color to the brown pelican drawing I did last year at this time.  And yes, I have decided to name this pelican — he shall be called Nigel (of Finding Nemo fame).  Nigel resides in the Field Museum’s North American Bird Hall exhibit (photo below).  I decided to use the same pencils I used on the Snowy Owl; Derwent colored drawing pencils which are a non-wax based pencil with a smooth, creamy texture (read aloud sultry commercial voice, LOL).  Although, some people thought I was crazy for using something that only has 24 colors in it’s color range, I found it to be very calming knowing I didn’t have to search for the perfect colors.  I was able to just use the 24 I had and mix them to get the tones of what the snowy owl showed on the mount.

Okay, enough of that.  Back to Nigel, the little brown pelican.  I started with the outline.  I used an aqua green colored matte board as my ground.  I have come to love working on matte board and have also found that I can seek out matte board scraps at any art, craft, or hobby shops framing department.  More likely it’s just an unhealthy relationship with matte board that I crave when I go to these stores.  But back to the matte board.  I like the durability of it the most; it stands up to erasing, is hard to bend and just looks really nice.  For any dark colored board or paper, I use a white pencil and this drawing was no exception.  So, now the best thing I did was just to start the sketch, then I moved onto my regular routine of “measuring, crawling, measuring, crawling” to get the portrait just right.

Drawing the brown pelican in the exhibit with the pelican mount.

Drawing the brown pelican in the exhibit with the pelican mount.

Yes, that is a six inch pink dinosaur ruler I use to line out my drawing.

Once I finished the outline, I started adding color.  I am using that same color range of 24 colored pencils which is a limited palette but I like the challenge of layering the colors to achieve the final result.  I started with a thin, light layer of color over almost the whole sketch.  I like to look for colors that you would not naturally see within the subject for that reflective effect when more colors are added on top.  This is what the underlying layer is used for in all my illustrations; those unusual colors that you may not see in the object become incorporated into the picture to not only enhance what you see but create that visual life-like feel to the animal.

The part that I like the best is detail.  DETAIL, DETAIL, DETAIL! SAY IT WITH ME: I love doing detail work! Details sum up everything that I have done so far into the finite finishings that will make the piece worthwhile in all my effort.  😉

So, with this glorifying statement of how I LOVE doing detail work, Nigel has become one of my favorite birds to work on.  I started the detail by slowly adding more color to fill in the shaded and lighter areas of the pelican.  For any other piece, I would normally work over the whole thing during this process.  However, the elongated dimensions of the pelican make it a bit daunting so I decided to start at the top and work my way down.  I cannot stress enough, the detail is always the best part because this is where the drawing and underlying colors come together.

IMG_20141018_134140248

Detail started on the head and beak.

So, I will leave you now until I finish the piece within the next month.  I hope you all enjoyed this post and also learned a little something about the drawing process (and how much I LOVE detail work, LOL).  Until next time, CHEERS!

Coming in Part 2:  How on earth does Nigel the brown pelican look so realistic?  It’s all about the proportions, color and DETAIL!  Stay tuned.