Friday, April 29, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat
by: Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
 Said the Piggy, "I will"
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. B

Meet Mr. and Mrs. B
Mr. B has been out all day building. At sunset he meets Mrs. B at their favorite spot to enjoy a supper of water lilies she has gathered from the pond. 

This illustration involved some research. My first idea was to paint Mr. B fishing and Mrs. B joining him with a picnic basket. Then much to my dismay I read that Beavers don't eat fish, they are omnivores. I had to rework my whole idea. I learned that beavers eat tree bark, roots, buds and water plants.

I also did some sketching on drawing paper before moving to watercolor paper. I did a bunch of sketches I didn't like and then moved to the watercolor paper and did a completely different drawing that turned out great! Sometimes sketching is just a way to get all the bad ideas out of my head, until I know that the next sketch from my hand will be a good one. That is why I don't like keeping a sketch diary, I would always be looking back on weak drawings and bad ideas.

I have an idea for my next piece. It will be two separate paintings that go together. The Owl and the Pussycat, inspired by one of my favorite children's books illustrated by Jan Brett, poem written by Edward Lear.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Tortoise and the Hare

I decided to start a new discipline today by sketching out plans for a watercolor. I don't like sketching because I would rather dive right into an illustration and hope for the best. Maybe that is why I always feel stuck in the middle of a piece, because it is not fully thought out!  So, I started to sketch in preparation and I just kept drawing and drawing until it turned into its own little work of art. So much for sketching. But now that I have this fully thought out drawing I am excited to draw it again on watercolor paper and add color.

I know that quick sketching is an important discipline that I must learn. I will keep at it. In the mean time I hope you like this whimsical illustration of the Tortoise and the Hare..... can you find all five animals?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Snow Cats: Casey's Imagination

This drawing was inspired by my husband. On a snowy day he said, "Wouldn't it be so cute if our cats had little vests and snow skis?" Well, yes, that would be very cute. So for our anniversary in December I drew him a card with our little cats dressed up with hats and scarves ready to ski.

I decided to redraw the same illustration and apply some watercolor. Here is a look at the process:

Pen drawing on 140 lb hot press watercolor paper

I added detail with a brown colored pencil.  Sized the paper and taped it to my board.

I masked off where I wanted the snow flakes to be and did my first glaze of color. 

Sometimes, well, most of the time, I really like my piece after the first couple glazes of color while it is still washed out looking. This is the point where I have to push myself to carefully add more color. 

Snow Cats

I like how happy Viola looks :) She is the grey kitty on the left. 

I scanned in my drawing before painting because I really liked the way it looked. I want to improve my under drawing and watercolor technique so I don't lose as much texture. I rely so much on my strong lines that I end up just coloring in with watercolor. How do I improve in this area? I want my colors to be more descriptive and luminous. It will just take more practice!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beginning to Grow

Here they are! 
The first watercolors I feel proud of. I like the clean lines and earthy feel. I am excited to continue to grow into this style as I get more acquainted with watercolors.  Hope you enjoy them :)

Strawberry Nap


Give Thanks

Thank you Sara for teaching me how to scan my work and use Photoshop!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

First Attempts at Watercolor

These are some of my first watercolors I did for a Danish street market a year ago: The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina and the Princess and the Pea. I labored and labored over these and felt pretty good about each one as I completed. I liked the clean, pure look. I thought the Ugly Duckling even looked like a classic. 

I felt satisfied with my work, yet every piece was a struggle. I had a lot to learn and the task seemed overwhelming. So I stopped for a while and returned to chalk. I needed to learn so much, but I didn't know what I needed to learn.

Then something amazing happened.
My husband and I were feeling very lonely way out here in the country. Even in town there are not many people our age to share life with. I started praying that God would provide a like-minded friend my age. And He did.

I saw Sara Burrier's artwork at the Iowa state fair and immediately started "stalking" her via blog, etsy and facebook. I was awed by her watercolors, the sense of depth, light and line quality. I could tell by her profile that we had a lot in common and would be fast friends if only we had the chance to meet. So in an email explaining myself I asked if we could meet for coffee. 2 weeks later she replied, we had coffee and have been friends ever since. We started meeting in her studio on mondays and she opened up the world of watercolor to me.

Watercolors became even more overwhelming with all my new information. They were unpredictable, they provided too many texture options and there were way too many color possibilities. The first piece we worked on together was Rapunzel. I learned how to build up layers of watercolor with light glazes. Very helpful!

Even though I really liked Rapunzel, she seemed like a dead end. I didn't want to create any more art that looked like her. I was mesmerized by Sara's fairies and mermaids. Her style was so strong and consistent it made me want to see more.

But I kept cranking out "mediocre" watercolors. I remembered from my Trader Joe's experience that I had to produce a lot of ok art before I could start producing good art. So with much frustration I kept painting.

The last painting I did with Sara ended up absolutely boring. It was a crocus plant. She encouraged me to play and experiment with out caring what the final outcome would be. I hated it and felt pretty awful. I was thinking... well, maybe we can be friends with out doing art....

And then one morning I woke up thinking in watercolor!

A Look Back, My First Chalks.

Before I show you my first watercolors, I would like to show you some of my first chalkboards.

First of all let me point out that you can't read the text and that there are no prices. I had no idea what I was doing. Other than the giant advertising flaws, the colors were off and the line quality was weak. eventually I got better at using color. Each board I did required that I look at a picture and copy it. (no imagination yet.) That caused all sorts of problems: if I had a great idea I had to find a picture first.... and I didn't have the internet, just National Geographic magazines. 

"Snack Attack" was one of my favorite boards that I did from a photo. I was learning how to use color. Still, the illustration was too realistic. I was getting prices on the board, but my illustration and advertising were not connected. Good drawing, weak advertising.

Suddenly, one day, I fell into a style. I really don't know where it came from, everything just clicked. Not only did I find my style, but I suddenly began to see and imagine in chalk. 

Now I could tie the whole store together with my consistent style. My advertising skills would still continue to grow over the next 2 years. To see more of my favorite boards look up my first post "A Walk Down Memory Lane."

In my next post I will begin sharing my early watercolors :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Becoming a Groves: New life in Iowa

In 2008 my artist career with Trader Joe's ended when I married and moved to Iowa, close to where my husband grew up. My husband is a truely inspiring man who builds, creates, sings, writes music and words, teaches, dreams and loves me well. I can hear him now, pounding away with a hammer while he builds the new boy's dorm. (We live and work at a Camp and Retreat Center) We have enjoyed carving out life together.

Now it was time to find my place as an artist outside of Trader Joe's. I quickly learned how limited I was. The only medium I felt comfortable in was chalk. I LOVE CHALK! I set to work buying masonite hardboard, spraying on chalkboard and purchasing my own set of Nupastels. It was fun creating illustrations with out text or prices. I did a couple commissions like Meg's Horses and Adam's Nova.

I quickly learned the pros and cons of working with chalk:

I can think in chalk
I feel comfortable in chalk
I have a unique style

Difficult to frame
Can't find a fixative that works
Can't scan the image
Can't take a good digital picture
Can't make a print with the resources I have....

I continued to produce chalkboards and my husband graciously framed them. I even did a cover illustration for a harp lesson book, "A Harp for Christmas"

Still, I felt like I needed to move on and force myself to learn a more practical, manageable art form. So I started with watercolor, something so opposite of chalk, that it would force me to grow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Hi, my name is Natalie Groves and I am excited to begin sharing watercolor illustrations with you.

I was not excited about sharing anything watercolor a couple months ago. You see, about 2 years ago I was working as an artist for Trader Joe's Grocery store in Santa Barbara, CA. Thats me on the bottom left :)

I was offered the artist's position after working as a crew member for 2 years. I accepted with no art training, hoping to rekindle my childhood love for drawing.

My job was to create fun loving, informational signs that featured the season's products and touted Trader Joe's all around good cheer. I believe that Trader Joe's art sets them apart!

I thought my first couple chalkboards (not pictured) were pretty good! Until I looked back on them after 3 years of experience. (That gave me hope when I started cranking out mediocre watercolors..... they will get better.)

A typical day started with finding a product (or group of products) on my desk to go up on an end display the next day. Example: Blue Fin Chardonnay.
The bad news: before starting a new chalk board an old one would need to be erased and a new chalkboard sprayed on.

I thank Trader Joe's for giving me an invaluable experience. I learned how to create under pressure, meet hard deadlines and catch vision. The most important development was my style. All this while working in a great environment with fun people and getting paid to do art. No student loans! yay!

A walk down memory lane, with maiden name Cetti.