Friday, December 30, 2011

The Eight Elemental Amphibians (of Sally Williams) - Panel #2

Panel #2

Panel #2 is a bit plain compared to the others. This piece may not stand alone as well, but it's a good visual rest when in the midst of the rest of the panels. It's one of my favorites out of all of them and not just because I'm so fond of regular ol' run-of-the-mill toads. I like the flatness of the surface and the simplicity of the composition. Nothing flashy about it.

Panel #2 (detail)

Panel #2 (detail)

Panel #2 (detail)

Panel #2

Halfway through the panels; still four more to share.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Eight Elemental Amphibians (of Sally Williams) - Panel #4

Panel #4

Unlike panel #3, these photos for panel #4 turned out really true to the original I think. This one is a more washy, atmospheric piece as well and so ties nicely to panel #3 despite their very different color schemes.

Panel #4 (detail)

There are a few areas of metallic gold on this panel. Rich cadmium orange and reds are already stunning in the glazed layers, and the gold washes makes the color even more vibrant.

Panel #4 (detail)

The frog is based on the likely extinct Golden Toad, but this is not an accurate representation of it.

Panel #4 (detail)

Panel #4 (detail)

The decorative elements were inspired by various Buddhist art pieces I pored over in my collection of art history textbooks, this being a mediocre online example. Graphic flowing linework is often present in garments, clouds, fire, water, etc in this type of artwork. The same general style is characteristic of many ancient Chinese and Japanese ink drawings and paintings.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Eight Elemental Amphibians (of Sally Williams) - Panel #3

Panel #3

Here's panel #3. I'm disappointed in how the photos turned out for this panel; they don't really do it justice. There's a great amount of depth to this one, and the water just glows from all the glossy layers built up with glazing medium - different colors show up depending on the angle you observe it at and the lighting in the room. This is a more washy, watercolor inspired piece than the previous panel. The camera seems to wash out the detail of the flowers and picks up weird brushy areas from the reflective glossiness that don't show in person. You can get the overall impression of the piece though.

Panel #3 (detail)

Panel #3 (detail)

Panel #3 (detail)

The frog silhouette in this panel blends into the paint around it, just as the coloration of actual frogs often allow them to disappear into their environment.

The Eight Elemental Amphibians (of Sally Williams) - Panel #6

Well, so much for sharing my progress here as I was working on this piece. It's finished now! I'm so good at neglecting my poor blog anyway, and with all the pre-holiday craziness going on I should've known I wouldn't keep up with new posts. But, now I have all eight completed panels to share over the next several days.

First, a bit more information on this project: my aunt commissioned me to create a painting for a large, vertical accent wall for a good friend of hers. She left the subject matter completely open for me to choose, with only the practical consideration of transporting the painting as a limitation. I've had the pleasure of spending a little time with her friend Sally several times over the years. She's a wonderful person for too many reasons to list, but most importantly (for our purposes here) she adores frogs. Her home has a bit of a Buddhist theme with lots of warm colors, especially reds and golds. So, frogs with a hint of Buddhist-inspired decorative flavor was the obvious choice to me, as it's very personal and unique to Sally. My solution to the problem of fitting the painting in a car to get it to Kansas City was to make multiple panels that work together to create a large installation.

Panel #6

Here's panel #6. The gold color is highly iridescent/metallic, and the underpainting layers that show up mainly as purple are also a bit iridescent. The overall piece is glossy, with the red and white being the most matte of the colors. I find it nearly impossible to capture those subtle differences in the finish in photos and I feel it's an important characteristic of the finished piece.

Panel #6 (detail)

Panel #6 (detail)

Panel #6 (detail)

One of my favorite techniques that shows up in my work again and again is 'painting the negative,' for lack of a better way to describe it (as in the lotus, above). I paint in the negative space of the object, leaving lines of the background color showing through to create an outline. It's challenging to get the object to turn out looking right, but I always end up enjoying how it looks even when the shape isn't that accurate. It fools the eye - from a distance, it appears that the lines are painted on top as you'd expect. As you move closer and realize that the lines are actually 'behind' the negative space, it makes your focus shift back and forth between what seems logical and the reality of the layers.

Panel #6 (detail)

I always consider the edges of works on stretched canvas as part of the piece. On some, the edges tell the whole history of the painting. Patches of colors that I use on the very first layers of underpainting I'll allow to show through, even if they don't appear on the front of the finished piece. For viewers who are interested enough to look that close, I like leaving those kinds of little glimpses into the painting process.

Panel #6 (detail)

The green poison arrow frog is in the usual pose it always seems to be in just about every photo I've seen of one. I originally planned to paint it in a sitting position, but this climbing pose does seem to show off its stunning patterning the best. It may be a cliche, but I think it still looks interesting in the context of the rest of the painting.

One panel down, seven more to come.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

WIP: Panel #8 of 8

I've been working on a large commissioned painting for some time now, and as it's nearing completion I thought I could share some progress as I work. The piece consists of 8 panels, each 18" x 18". They will be displayed in their new home all together as an arranged group, but are also meant to work as individual pieces if they ever need to be split up due to wall space issues. More about the subject matter and other details later.

Panel #8 (work in progress)

Panel #8 (detail, work in progress)

Most of the panels are in a bit of a transitional ugly phase right now, and this one is no exception. There are dozens of layers at this point. I'm using acrylic paint with a bit of iridescent medium here and there. I'm also using lots of gloss medium and glazing medium which helps give it depth and makes the surface quite reflective (and difficult to photograph without glare).

More photos to come!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scrap Fabric Herpetology

It's a tradition for me to staunchly refuse to take part in shopping activities on Black Friday. I instead prefer to visit family, eat leftovers, and generally not accomplish much. This year I spent the day at my parent's house sewing with my mom. And hatching a rare species of snake.

This is Boa foris, normally referred to by its common name, the door snake. This species is difficult to identify by its coloration and pattern since it varies widely in appearance. They can commonly be found lazily stretched out straight beside the inside of doors in cooler climates. If you discover one in your home, it's best to leave it be - this harmless snake can play a small but beneficial role in your indoor environment. Some people even choose to introduce door snakes into their houses or apartments, as I have, because of their helpful habits.


The attractive green geometric patterning on this door snake bears a striking resemblance to some curtains I sewed a couple years ago. Hmm.

Door Gap

As soon as I released the door snake into its new habitat, it headed toward our front door that opens to the main hallway of the apartment complex.



Door Snake

The snake has been hanging out in this spot for a couple days now and seems very content. I've already noticed less noise as people pass in the hallway. As the days get colder, maybe it will feel less drafty as well.


I thoroughly enjoy little projects like this where I can just chop into fabric with no pattern and no worries about messing it up. The little tongue didn't work out exactly how I wanted, but other than that it turned out ok. I made my door snake with a velcro closure on its belly so I can empty it out if I need to wash it or for storage. My mom had some old yellow popping corn that we started filling it with but it didn't get very far. I filled it the rest of the way with beans. Great Northern Beans, to be exact. I'd like to say I chose them because I thought they'd soldier through the winter better, being from the north and all...but they were actually just the cheapest beans I could find.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I think it should be a new tradition to make things on Black Friday out of supplies/materials you already own instead of buying stuff.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Brachio Wrap

Many of you have already seen this illustration, but here are some photos of the finished scarf/shawl in Spoonflower cotton voile.

Brachio Wrap

Brachio Wrap

I'm just starting to get a bit of a method down for taking photos of my fabric stuff, but it still takes dozens and dozens of shots for me to capture even one or two that will work. Even when the lighting and angles are ok, the model keeps ruining most of the photos with her gangly awkwardness. I really wish I could fire her but I don't have a replacement. I'm tempted to track down a mannequin, yet I think a real human body is always better for seeing how clothing and accessories matter how unsuited this particular human is to be a model.

The edges of this piece were done as a rolled hem on a serger. You can see the rolled hem and the semi-transparent texture of the fabric in the photo below:

Brachio Wrap, detail

Cotton voile isn't the easiest fabric to work with and it took some effort to get it to work on the serger. It's not as bad as thin synthetic fabrics that like to unravel like mad (organza, I'm pointing at you), but more of a challenge than I expected from a cotton. The next sewing machine investment on my list is a hemming foot (similar to this one), which could possibly work better for finishing the edges on this type of fabric (and many others). It'll be nice to have another option to try so I can choose what looks the best going forward.

I finally broke down and bought a ruffler foot and a walking foot last week so I'll share my thoughts on those in an upcoming post, for anyone interested in sewing processes. Honestly, I had no idea there were so many specialized presser feet and accessories available for home sewing machines! I'm used to doing every step the old fashioned way - carefully measuring with a seam gauge and pressing every hem manually, creating skirt pleats/gathers by hand with a removable pull stitch, etc. The fine folks at Heirloom Creations have pointed me in the right direction now with some (hopefully) time-saving new feet for my trusty Viking, with the ultimate goal of streamlining the long process of getting from raw fabric to finished product. Though I love sewing, I love designing even less time sewing means more time designing!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Omegafauna on Etsy!

Stego Gully Tote Bag

Yes, finally, FINALLY, it's the grand opening of my little shop on Etsy! I've been so excited to get this going for months now, but there was always just one more loose end to try and tie up before jumping into selling online. I've come to realize that I'll probably never feel completely prepared, being the exhaustive researcher and perfectionist that I am, and so I'm opening up shop NOW. I'll keep learning as I go. So, take advantage of the probably-too-low shipping prices and no tax charges while you can before I know any better! My ignorance is your bliss!

The Omegafauna Etsy Shop

More items will be listed next week as I work on taking more photos. My flock and I (it's appropriate to call my family a flock when two of the four of us are birds, right?) moved into a new apartment and I'm still figuring out where and when to stage my pictures so they turn out well with fairly accurate colors. Winter is settling in so it's too cold and windy to work on the photography outside as I did for the items for sale currently. Happily, our new apartment has large south-facing windows so I hope I'll manage to get consistently decent photos with natural lighting.

I'm also working on a bunch of new fabric designs for sewn items, including kitchen stuff like napkins and placemats. It will probably be awhile before the final versions of the new products see the light of day, but I'll share my progress along the way. I'll also add (at the risk of sounding like I'm just trying to get you to buy something immediately) that if you really like any of the items you see currently, get them now because I don't have enough of some of the fabrics to replenish some items in time for the holidays. My budget demands that I have to use up whatever I have on hand before ordering more fabric. I know, I know...I don't like it either. But student loans have come calling and they are UGLY.

Take a look through the items I have in my shop and let me know what you think. Is there enough detail in the descriptions? Are the photos doing their job ok? Constructive criticism is always welcome here. I'm experienced at being an artist and creating, not at anything business related. There's so much to think about when it comes to the business end of's very much going to be a work in progress! Anyway, I hope you enjoy browsing my shop regardless of whether you're buying or not!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Deerhead Screen Printing Experiment

Last weekend, I finally got to experiment with a process I've been wanting to try for a very long time - the poor man's screen printing technique. Deerhead needed new T-shirts, so it was a perfect opportunity to make something useful out of the learning process. I didn't anticipate just how great this little project would turn out!

Deerhead Tee

Deerhead Tees

Deerhead Women's Tee

Deerhead Women's Tees

I don't know what I'll do if Mark and Emily get tired of modeling for me. I'm not a photographer so it's not always easy for me to get decent shots of projects like this. I do what I can with my old point-and-shoot Sony camera. But Mark and Emily's patience with me and willingness to pose made the above photos pretty successful I think.


There are tons of tutorials out there that cover screen printing so I won't go into much detail here, but I can confirm that Mod Podge works perfectly for blocking out the negative space on the screen. Those of you familiar with "real" screen printing processes know that photo emulsion is normally used for burning an image on the screen. We decided to give the poor man's version a try since we already had all the other supplies on hand besides the emulsion. I printed out my designs, traced them onto the screens with pencil, then carefully manually painted out the negative space with Mod Podge. It's labor-intensive but effective.

We used an embroidery hoop as a frame for the small deer icon. The actual frame we built for the Deerhead text screen worked better to keep the screen stretched tight through washings. The embroidery hoop was ok for a small run, but was definitely more of a hassle to deal with. The screw was as tight as it could go and the screen was still working loose with each washing so needed adjusting as we worked.

Deerhead Tees

I was concerned about how well the ink would show up on darker colored shirts, but the Speedball ink we used turned out nice and opaque. Some of the colors were a bit pearlescent, which I think looks super cool. While we were constantly working against the ink drying way too fast on the screens, it was really slow to dry on the shirts. We found that setting them out in the sun sped up the drying time greatly. Of course, the ever-present gusting South Dakota wind was there to help us out, hence the big boards anchoring the shirts down.

Deerhead Women's Tee (sleeve)

Deerhead Tee

Once the shirts were dry to the touch, we set the ink by ironing them. The directions on the ink bottles recommended ironing 3 to 5 minutes on each side. We did 3 minutes on each side, and wow did that get tedious. Next time I think we'll experiment with heat setting in a clothes dryer instead.

Deerhead Tee

While I was exposed to screen printing a lot over the course of my college career, I was never able to take the official screen printing classes due to schedule conflicts every semester. I regret that I missed out on the classes...but I'm thrilled about trying it out on my own now. It was easier than I expected and FUN as well. I'm looking forward to doing more of this!

More screen printing photos from this project here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lengthy Absences & Pterodactyl Leather

New Pterodactyl Leather

Sorry about my lack of posts this month, and general lack of any new art or design posts for even longer. I promise to correct this soon. I'm still trying to get settled into my new routine working full time, and am also just savoring the nice weather as summer winds down. But I'm still plugging away at several projects, slowly but surely, and will share them as soon as possible.

In the meantime I'll share this snapshot I took at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival last weekend. I don't really think anyone else was even half as amused as I was by this little shop, but that didn't dampen my excitement. I'm pretty sure I need to buy something from there next year!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Congratulations Emily + Mark

My brother got married this weekend!


Everything was just perfect, which is no small feat with a large outdoor wedding. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful. The ceremony and reception took place at Carlos Creek Winery, near Alexandria, MN. The ceremony was in a vineyard, dinner in the "stable" reception hall, then an outdoor reception with a live band and plenty of wine. I truly had an amazing time!

As a bridesmaid, I didn't manage to take many photos. The few I did take are here. Their photographer was really great and I can't wait to see the official photos!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Photo Dump: Black Hills Trip

Though staring at fossils for our entire trip to the Black Hills would've been fine by me (see previous post), I did lots of other fun stuff while we were there:


I stayed in a log cabin in Custer State Park for three nights.

Horseback Riding

I went horseback riding through mountain trails near Nemo, South Dakota.

Inside the Sky Dome

I visited Reptile Gardens.

Moluccan Cockatoo

I admired a Moluccan Cockatoo attempting to nap.

Giant Sea Turtle (Archelon ischyros)

I saw a cast of the giant sea turtle Archelon ischyros in the Sky Dome at Reptile Gardens.

Snake Show

I touched an albino Burmese Python. I promise I didn't push over any little kids to get up there.

African Grey

I talked with an African Grey.

Giant Tortoise

I touched and had my picture taken with a giant tortoise (either an Aldabra or Galapagos Tortoise; both were kept in this enclosure).

The Lists

I made a scene at Mount Rushmore with my mother-in-law's entire extended family.


I experienced a buffalo-caused traffic jam.

George W & Me

I posed by this giant bust of my favorite U.S. president.

South Dakota

I took some pictures of the prairie vistas I take for granted every day.

The rest of the photos from our trip can be found here.

Wait...was my delivery of the part about my favorite president too deadpan?