Rousseau, Painted Paper, Collage

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A few weeks ago I came across this spread in the April 2017 issue of House Beautiful. It’s a wall mural inspired by the imaginary jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau. Designed by Laurel Canyon homeowner Molly Luetkemyer, it was painted by LA artist Jeff Robinson.

I was instantly smitten, and thought a miniature version could be the perfect third wall for the MMS+S set. Since I am currently very keen on repurposing and/or drawing from my considerable hoard stockpile of materials and supplies, I grabbed a peaked MDF wall from — um, actually I no longer remember what build it was from.

Years ago, I dabbled in some cut painted paper collage paintings, inspired by Eric Carle. I love this method of illustration. For this 1:12 wall, I plan on using hand- and machine-cut painted papers augmented with markers.

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Here is the wall (MDF, 12 x 17 inches) with the preliminary foundation background painted in acrylics. I’ve been studying Rousseau’s jungle paintings, and making note of elements I want to include: light to dark background gradations; sky, moon/sun, jungle; exaggerated plant details; simple two-tone object shading. In Luetkemyer’s inspiration mural, she says the plants are based on California’s landscape, and I plan to do the same. What an awesome opportunity to draw all my favorite plants and flowers: yucca, ficus, succulents, sansevieria; gorgeous orange and red mystery fruit; outrageous florid orange and yellow flowers.

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Using 14 x 11-inch medium-weight drawing paper and acrylic paint, I’ve begun making my papers, starting with the greens.

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And then some warms:

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It’s getting late, and I’ve run out of room on my drying rack, so my helper cat and I are calling it a night.

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Nancyland’s August (or Fogust, as we say here in the Bay Area) home page splash image is made from two of the above painted papers, layered using the magical “Lighten” blending mode in Photoshop.
The lyric snippet is from Grouplove’s “Colours”, a song Maddie and I both enjoy singing along to when it comes on the radio :)
Lyric snippet update: The National’s “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”. Listening to on repeat.

 

Armatures, S-Town, Cricut

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I’m working on a yucca-and-others armature kit. It involves hand-tearing a lot of brown paper into narrow strips. One of my best-practice recommendations will be to watch a movie (that does not require eyes glued to the screen) or better yet, listen to podcasts. As of this writing, I’m listening to S-Town, again.

clockface

My husband’s employer was hosting a TSA Pre certification opportunity, so after we enrolled, he cut work early. After a pleasant luncheon in the Presidio, we took a stroll through the Legion of Honor Museum, where this very antique clock caught my eye — hence the S-Town reference. If you’ve not listened to this brilliant piece of true life storytelling yet, I encourage you to do so. I promise it will simultaneously break and uplift whatever is left of your tender, jaded heart.

Here’s one of my latest exchanges with the wonderful customer support worker bees at Cricut:

Nancy Enge: Any progress with the SVG import capability?
Nancy Enge: My experience says no.
*** Deepak joined the chat ***
Deepak: Hello Nancy

Deepak: We are still working on it.
Nancy Enge: Hello Deepak
Deepak: Let me try from my laptop.
Nancy Enge: Try what?
Deepak: Uploading that image
Nancy Enge: Deepak, don’t waste your time
Deepak: Yay!!!
Deepak: It is uploading on my laptop
Nancy Enge: Yay what?
Nancy Enge: That is just normal technology

Nancy Enge: As you can see: a mess
Nancy Enge: All of the score line lines are thrown hither and thither
Deepak: We are continuously working to provide better user experience.
Nancy Enge: Of course you are
Nancy Enge: I did not mean to imply that any of you are slacking
Nancy Enge: Especially you customer support staff
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: I was just checking in on this most troublesome problem we have encountered
Nancy Enge: for the last few weeks
Deepak: You know today I got an user who is not able to upload an SVG image, I tried it on my laptop.
(04:12:36 AM) Deepak: It didn’t work.
Deepak: However I tried your image, it worked.
Nancy Enge: Welcome to my world
Deepak: So I was so happy.
Nancy Enge: Hehehehe
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: Simple SVGs work
Nancy Enge: It’s those with lines meant to be score lines that are problematic
Deepak: Yeah, you are right.
Nancy Enge: Why this is the case, I have no idea
Nancy Enge: I am a designer, not a software engineer
Nancy Enge: Dammit :)
Deepak: I am not sure with whom you you talked. I have your image and photo, I will show it to our product specialist
Deepak: Next 2 days is my week off.
Deepak: I will update you by Monday.
Nancy Enge: Thank you, Deepak. I have talked with three of your brethren to date
Deepak: I have already saved details.
Deepak: I will drop an email on Monday after checking with him,.
Nancy Enge: I know those of us who upload our own designs are Cricut’s minority users, outliers…
Deepak: For us everyone is important.
Nancy Enge: We would all like to believe that :)

Deepak: There are some technical bugs; we are actively working on it. We are not in the business of selling machines. However, we are in the business of winning hearts.

Deepak: I will surely get back to you on Monday.

Nancy Enge: *cough*
Nancy Enge: Sorry, I’m laughing so hard I almost spilled my drink
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: I appreciate your efforts on our behalf, Deepak.
Deepak: Thank you so much! :)
Nancy Enge: So, I’ll keep trying
Deepak: For your inconvenience I am adding $10 Store credit to your account.
Deepak: Using that you can purchase digital cartridges.
Nancy Enge: Ugh
Deepak: It will reflect on your account within 48 hours..
Nancy Enge: Thank you, though
Deepak: You are welcome
Deepak: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
Nancy Enge: No.
Deepak: Have a great night
Nancy Enge: You, as well.
*** Deepak left the chat ***

 

Armature, Proto, Beloveds

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I have arrived at a satisfactory method for building yucca armatures, from wire to planting.

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As usual, it was a process of experimentation. I walked around the neighborhood (hilly!), and I looked at a lot of pictures on Google, trying to synthesize what it is that makes a yucca trunk a *quintessential* yucca trunk.

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This is the current result. Braxton Payne pot, torn paper over wire armature, medium green starting leaf clusters.

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Outlined in Khaki, tipped in Sunflower, center stripe in Leaf Green (left). Medium green stock start, right. Very subtle.

I’m feeling good about my progress. Kits and specimens imminent!

Maddie_Ruby_071617

Meanwhile, I’m going back down to Santa Cruz tomorrow, to spend time with all my baby girls. Ruby is now one month old. Maddie is four, and wakes up first thing every morning to cuddle with her sister. This is the life.

Pots, Yucca, Color

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My order of kiln-fired terracotta pots arrived from Braxton Payne. Look at this goodness!

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He even included a wee “vintage” hand-finished pot. It is perfect. 

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I’ve potted the first armature yucca proto, and am waiting for the glue to dry thoroughly before arranging the leaves. It stands 5.5 inches (14 cm) in a one-inch cylinder pot.

comparison

Oh, and here’s a color comparison on the four stocks I’m considering (with the tiny pot again, because it’s so dear). Nothing terribly surprising, but a handy reference. I think the yellow stock would be good for Sansevieria, or for yuccas with yellow edges — it’s difficult to outline this shape with markers. I’m excited to carry on experimenting!

Yucca: Armatures, Protos, Colors

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It’s end of day, for now. Made some progress with the yucca exploration.

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I began with tearing brown paper into thin strips.

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And wrapping multiple layers over florist wire to build up a convincing yucca stalk-and-stem armature.

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Yucca species are varied in color, though not as much as succulents, perhaps. In miniatures, I ascribe less to slavish reproduction and more to evocation of spirit :) Starting with white cardstock for this one, each leaf end gets tipped with Winsor & Newton Promarker Sunflower and Amber, both sides.

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Broad strokes of Pear Green color each leaf.

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Both sides colored. The inks blend as they build up and mellow as they dry.

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Thin cross-leaf striping, in Moss.

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More cross-striping on the ends with Amber, and surprise leaf tipping in Poppy.

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I snipped through the lower edge, applied a thin line of glue, and began rolling the leaves up into a cluster.

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Adding a generous dab of glue to the rolled end to ensure a well-bonded base.

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Inverted in a cup of fine gravel, I let the leaf clusters dry completely. This makes arranging and styling easier — and more robust — later on.

gluing_on_tops

Clipping the end of each armature branch with pliers creates a flat surface on which to glue a leaf cluster. Holding until set ensures uprightyness :)

glue_to_armature

Watching glue dry. Again.

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I added two more trunks, wrapping everything together at the base.

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To improve the transition from leaves to trunk, I cut sections of 7 or 8 leaves and applied glue.

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I wrapped these just below the base of the leaf/trunk join.

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All trunks wrapped with leaves, and drying. I’m awaiting a larger cylinder pot to plant this particular specimen in, before unfurling and styling the leaves — the really satisfying part.

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I’m fairly happy with the appearance and versatility of this plant concept thus far. They work well on an armature, date pit stem, or just as foliage — and any combination thereof. I even think this pattern and method could work for Sansevieria, with the right colors and a little bit of shaping.

green_stock

The next step is to explore and evaluate color stock choices, which brings us back to the first photo in this post. Above is medium green cardstock (cut with a dulling blade, resulting in torn, dragged edges and general scuzz. This particular design cut really seems to blunt a blade fast :(

This green leaf set is colored with Holly swashes and edging, and a subtle Leaf Green vertical stripe. Very different than coloring on white. Each stock seems to absorb the inks differently, as well. I’ll show some side-by-side color comparisons next time.

 

 

 

 

 

Yucca

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New project: yuccas. The trunk is cut from an organic Medjool date pit :)

yucca_proto_partsI’ve been thinking about yuccas for a while. They’re such an iconic houseplant, and here in California, many varieties grow in the landscape. Above is the design process: free form shapes cut in paper, then drawn in Illustrator and cut from cardstock with a Cricut Explore Air 2. I’ve got pretty good working models, which will be refined as I build and rebuild. Still a long way to go with colors and details.

yucca_protos

This is an armature from a succulent I had at the ready, and I learned a lot from messing with it as a yucca plant. There are characteristics of the tree-form varieties that will translate well in torn paper-wrapped wire. And Braxton Payne’s exquisite pottery makes for perfect containers.

braxtonpayne_fireplace

(Speaking of Braxton Payne, I just saw he’s making a Southwestern-style beehive fireplace… which I think must replace the Scandinavian-style one currently in use on the MMS+S set.)

yucca_proto_02

Yucca Proto_01 on a Peter Tucker bench. Much as I love terracotta, I think I’ll glaze this pot matte black to match the black sand. And then switch to lighter color sand for future specimens. Imagine this plant much taller and more gracefully limbed. Getting back to work now.

 

Sealed With A Fish

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I’ve been enjoying making fish sketchbooks, and have finally come up with packaging I like. They’re individually packaged in a cotton fiber vellum folio, and sealed with a fish.

:)

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There will also be a kit of three blank fish sketchbooks, with some bonus printed fishes for you to play around with.

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I have a little more photography to do, then look for them tomorrow in the shop!

 

 

Fish, Scarlett, Ruby

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I have made a new variation of the sketchbook.

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Three different covers. Endpapers are cut from one of Recollections “Black Jack” papers. Book pages cut from a nice substantial Southworth paper I’ve had for maybe… *thinks back to the last time we may have actually printed out a résumé* … a really long time. I drew the fish a few years ago when I was dabbling in surface pattern design. So we meet again, eh, fish?

ephemera_pocket

Of course an ephemera pocket.

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I have been gone a lot lately from my home, and Scarlett especially was not stoked. There was some regressive behavior and acting out.

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I was reminded, though, of how much I liked the Sea House Warming Hut living roof, and how much I miss having a current build. But then I remembered the fate of the Argo Wool Works…

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… and sighed. Thus far, the room box that houses the set for Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries is unravaged, cunningly set atop a bookcase, so that will have to continue to suffice for my construction longings. Scarlett is a year old now — a small cat in stature forever! — and although her depredations have diminished considerably, I am reluctant to reengage with my nemesis.

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The reason for my absence is shown above, in this picture taken by my daughter, of her daughters. Here is four-year-old Maddie reacting to the sounds of her 10-day-old sister, Ruby. We are all so in love.

 

 

Packaging Process, In Progress

concept

The new finished open sketchbooks require different packaging than the current MMS+S flat kits. I set about designing an insert for the books’ 3 x 4-inch plastic bags that will provide a protected, recessed container. After roughing out dimensions on paper, I work in Illustrator to draft a model. White cardstock cuts first, with numerous and many revisions.

cut

Once I’ve got a solid working white model, I cut models in my intended paper, a rich black cardstock.

testing

Numerous iterations transpire. Where does the cutout appear? Where will the labels go? How does it fit in the bag? Where are the dominant folds vs. the grain of the paper? How can I best optimize use of paper, given a 12 x 12-inch maximum dimension? How might I make this easier, more elegant to assemble?

variations

Some versions later, I’ve got my best solution (though what’s pictured is not it :) I streamline the pattern in Illustrator for optimal cutting on the Cricut machine, joining paths, eliminating rogue anchor points, and doubling key scorelines. This happens about 11 times.

surprise_flower.jpg

Earlier today I walked out on the back deck to take the mass quantities of paper scrap I generate to the recycling bin, and I noticed this sudden dramatic bloom on one of the new nursling succulents. Dumb angle photo, but what a pleasant surprise!

sideview

A side view of the insert. It’s effectively one layer of cardstock thick on the sidewalls, and three on the bottom, with two on the immediate front face. Sturdy enough to withstand shipping? Do I need to add another layer to the sidewalls? Test mailings will tell.

backview

The backside. Utilitarian!

Sidenote: I work in inches for packaging, and in points and picas for most other applications, such as labels. Graphic designers are bilingual that way.

header00.jpg

Insert sorted for now, my attention turns to labeling. The current 3 x 3-inch labels will not work for this package. I consider two 1-inch labels — enough to order some — when a header card occurs to me. First ideas include, for some reason, a cutout circle to hang on a rack.

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But then I wonder why? I’m not a hanging rack sort of shop. The circle is unnecessary.

v2front

I rework the design a bit more. A staple will anchor lower center, through the bag and insert, to secure the header card and further reinforce the package.

v2back

Because this packaging is for a one-of-a-kind, original artwork, a signed certificate of authenticity is included :D

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And the deskmess to back it up (not included).

Finished Sketchbooks

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For the first time, I am making finished sketchbooks.

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Featuring a bookmarked center spread with an original watercolor sketch, there are bits and bobs peeking out, much like our own 1:1 sketchbooks. The inspiration for the bits and bobs is Keli’s clever receipt notebook.

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The covers have a snippet or collage of other original art, meaning that each sketchbook will be one-of-a-kind.

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Here are the first four center spreads. Each will be bound into the classic sketchbook cover, then individually bitted and bobbed.

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In addition to sketches I’m doing some abstract expression-y explorations.

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What doesn’t make the design cut to center spread will be used for the bits and bobs, and cover illustrations. The books are finished to be relatively flat, measuring 1.625 x 1.125 inches (4.13 x 2.86 cm). This is the real deal — original art made 1:12 scale — for the love of miniatures and color and drawing and watercolor markers. And bits and bobs :)