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1  Re: Tiffany-style Watercolor Paper Mosaic in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Phantome on: August 05, 2014 10:59:15 AM
Wow!!! Thank you all so, so much for such kind words!!!!! Well, since I've posted, we've had the Final Friday gallery show and the gala auction. It took the second-highest bid of the night, at about $2K! We had tons of people come up and tell us it was their absolute favorite piece, and that they couldn't believe how detailed it was! The folks who bought it are partners in a law firm downtown, and said that they lost the bid on our piece last year (the city map papercutting), and were determined not to lose out on our piece again this year. Then at the gallery show, there were several people who came to look and didn't intend to go to the gala, who ended up buying tickets specifically so they could bid on our piece! *swoon*

So long story short, it was a raging success, and I'm so happy. After all the hours and work that we put into it, it just really thrills me that we were able to raise so much money for the charity, and even better, ended up getting more people to come to the event just for a chance to bid (hence raising more money). Plus, they always serve these incredible little bacon-wrapped chestnuts, and I swear to god I ate like, thirty of them. Those little things are like candy, my self control utterly crumbles when faced with them.

Here we are at the gala, being all fancy at the country club!

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2  Tiffany-style Watercolor Paper Mosaic in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Phantome on: July 23, 2014 11:39:32 AM
Every year I volunteer as a mentor artist for a big fundraising auction and gala to benefit juvenile arthritis research, in which I'm paired with a teen who has juvenile arthritis, and we create a big piece of art together, then auction it off at a fancypants gala for the charity. You might remember the city map papercutting we did last year! So this year, we wanted to top what we'd done before, and decided to do a paper mosaic, in a stained glass style. WELL. Let me tell you, hand-gluing over 100K pieces of paper the size of a grain of rice or a bean TAKES WAY FREAKING LONGER THAN YOU'D THINK. It took us a full 6 weeks longer than we thought it would, oopsie!

Our piece "Wichita Proud" is a 28x36" watercolor, Tiffany-Style paper mosaic mounted on a watercolored canvas. Each piece was individually painted, cut, and meticulously hand-glued to create a stained-glass effect of the iconic Keeper of the Plains silhouetted against the Wichita flag (I also included a pic of the Keeper- he is an iconic symbol of our city, a 44-foot tall steel sculpture created by legendary Kiowa-Comanche artist, Blackbear Bosin). Many of the pieces of paper are as small as a grain of rice, and had to be placed with tweezers, with final details stitched to the canvas in bronze thread. The work was incredibly time consuming; the Keeper's headdress alone took more than 18 hours.

We worked together (often with enthusiastic help from my kitties) to paint, cut, and glue, with frequent breaks to watch movies, sing showtunes, and learn to play ukulele. Oh, and play with the kitties, of course. With this piece, we wanted to create something that would inspire hometown pride in the viewer (three cheers for Wichita, woo!), showing off some of the iconic imagery that is unique to our home. With the Wichita flag illuminating the Keeper like a setting sun, golden light and twilight shadows surround this symbol of our city. The map last year was a huge hit, and we actually got quite a few requests for another show-stopper that was city-centric (a lot of the winning bidders have downtown office buildings or are city officials, so quite a few of the art pieces hang publicly, and the Wichita-themed stuff seemed to really get people excited!).  

And some process pics, because why not?

Some of the many little bowls of colors, all nicely separated out so we could pick precisely the exact shade and gradient and texture of little bits of paper that we needed.

This is Rufus. He was very helpful, as you can see here.

And here's a photo of the Keeper of the Plains, watching over the city at the confluence of the two rivers. We liked the way the sun and shadow looked on this particular shot, so we tried to emulate that in the shading when choosing our individual pieces.

And here's the Wichita flag.

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3  Invictus: Gallifreyan Papercutting in Paper Crafts: Completed Projects: General by Phantome on: May 11, 2014 12:43:38 AM
So I'm in the middle of doing a whole series of poems and quotes, translated into circular Gallifrey (the language of The Doctor on Doctor Who), and done as mounted papercuttings. This is the last stanza from "Invictus," by William Earnest Henley. It is one of my very favorite poems ever, and means a lot to me for a variety of different reasons. AND AND AND!!! This piece was just published in the Suisun Valley Review art and literary journal!! My first publication!!! I'm excited to get the rest of my pieces done and in the gallery, woo!

Ok ok ok. So this is the last stanza of the poem. Each circle is a line of text, and reads counter-clockwise from the big circle:

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

For this one, I translated each line of text individually so I could see the full circle as reference, and printed the images reversed. Then I broke out the good ol' protractor, compass, and ruler, and set about the painstaking task of freehanding the translation. I overlapped each line so the circles sort of wove into each other, so that the overlap enabled me to have the circles each share something- a punctuation, a word, a letter grouping, etc. So while each circle is stand alone, they all are also completely connected by shared curves, lines, or symbols.


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4  Art Deco Robot Papercutting in Paper Crafts: Completed Projects: General by Phantome on: May 11, 2014 12:17:02 AM
Yay, more papercutting! Ok, so I love robots (and if you've followed any of my art, you probably already know that). Like, really, really love them. And when I got into papercutting, one of the first things I wanted to make was a robot papercutting. Thus, this precious baby came into fruition:

Papercutting from a single sheet, mounted on top of a watercolor backing, about 7x9". This is actually inspired by one of my favorite images ever, Robot 1920, by Giacobino:

So I set about trying to translate it into a papercutting, which proved to be an enormous challenge and pissed me off to no end. The problem is, all those little pieces where the robot is flying apart, have to be touching in some manner, for the thing to work. I went through several attempts to make it work, before I finally got it. So the straight diagonal lines in the final image aren't just for aesthetic, but also to help hold all the little pieces together, to give the image a framework in which to explode around. Whee!

So below, you can see how I mean. I printed it in black and white, so I could see the primary lines of importance, and began cutting, making sure to go in very small areas, so I could make sure nothing was getting cut that shouldn't be. As I finished an area, I would cut and peel away the reference picture, to reveal the actual papercutting underneath, so I wouldn't accidentally cut something twice.

And the reverse side:

And the final cutting before I mounted it to the watercolor backing. Of all the papercuttings I've done, this is actually one of the most delicate, because there are so many tiny pieces that are connected to the main sheet by hardly more than a hair's width of paper. I just about murdered the parent of one of my music students, who came in to drop her kid off for a lesson, and just scooped it up out of my sketchbook by one of those thin diagonal lines to look at, and almost ripped the whole thing in half (the mom did this, not the kid). I screeched completely unabashedly, and she was extraordinarily embarrassed, and I literally have no sympathy. Ugh, dummy.

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5  Loki, white on black sketch in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Phantome on: May 10, 2014 11:56:14 PM
Whew, it's been awhile since I posted recent arts, and I have a helluva backlog of stuff to share!

I saw some lovely drawings recently done in lighter pencil on black paper, and was totally taken by the technique. I've never done it before, and thought what the hell, and gave it a try. And since I am in eternal fangirl mode for all things Marvel, here we are.

Loki, done in white pencil on black paper, just the parts where the light reflects on the surfaces. It was a bit of a challenge thinking in reverse (drawing only highlights, rather than only shadows, and still trying to convey some sort of expression), but I loved the effect. Expect to see a lot more like this!

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6  Robert Downey Jr. sketch in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Phantome on: May 23, 2013 12:37:14 AM
Hey! I finally graduated grad school! So that means I finally have time to art again, yay! I was feeling really rusty, and thought it would do me good to bone up on drawing male faces and facial hair, so this is what happened. I've been on an Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes binge recently, so of course visions of RDJ have been swirling about like an opiate fog in my head. Mechanical pencil in my sketchbook.

Yes, I am a lefty; put that spiral to the right now, yeeeaaahhhhh!!

How about some process pics, since that's my usual modus operandi?

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7  Meta Gecko papercutting and watercolor in Paper Crafts: Completed Projects: General by Phantome on: March 08, 2013 10:27:55 PM
So I just posted about the big art project that I did for the "Art for Arthritis" benefit in my hometown, so I'll paraphrase here. In addition to the big auction piece, the artists and their mentoree artists also create a smaller piece for a silent auction. We made this papercutting, called "Even This Gecko is Meta."

It's (obvs) a big gecko, but all the lacy cut-outs are smaller geckos, each a little different. My mentoree artist came up with the concept and design for this one all on her own! We did the watercolor backing with the same blending technique as the other piece, but in vibrant greens and blues. I stupidly didn't get a pic of the framed final product before it went to auction, but I framed in in a black gallery frame with a wide charcoal outer mat and a thin, dark teal inner mat. It looked really sharp. This one is 18"x18".

Work in progress. We both went through a box of Pac-Man bandaids over the course of these two projects. Smiley I've been preparing a collection of papercuttings for an upcoming show (I'll post pics soon!), and I think I might be single-handedly keeping X-acto and Bandaid in business. Smiley

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8  City map papercutting and watercolor (pics, pics, pics!) in Paper Crafts: Completed Projects: General by Phantome on: March 08, 2013 06:04:04 PM
So my city has a big art benefit auction called "Art for Arthritis" every year, to raise money for juvenile arthritis research. Local artists are paired with a child who has juvenile arthritis, and they create a piece together to be auctioned off at a big fancy gala with all the city bigwigs. This is my second year as a mentor artist for the event, and it's a lot of fun.

This year, my mentoree artist and I created a lacework papercutting of a map of our city, Wichita, KS, entitled "Home, Sweet Home." The benefit auction was last night, and it took the second highest bid of the night, with an outright bidding war! Anyway, this took us about 20 hours, and over 100 x-acto blades (the tips kept snapping off). Most of the streets are 1-2mm wide, and the whole thing was as delicate as a spiderweb when it was done.

We mounted it on a large watercolor background that we did using a lot of water and a lot of pigment, letting the colors flow and blend without brushstrokes. We used shades of red and orange to reflect the colors of the city flag and the patina of our iconic Keeper of the Plains, by Blackbear Bosin (a 44-foot metal American Indian sculpture that stands guard over us at the city center, a symbol of our city). The finished piece is 18"x24", and 28"x32" framed, with a red and grey double mat. Stay tuned for process pics!

We drew the map out, using Google Maps as a reference. You'll notice that we drew it backwards, so that when we cut it, the clean side would face the right way. Bonus kitty helping.

Started from the center outward, saving the big pieces for last.

My mentoree artist, working hard! She just turned 13, and is such an articulate, intelligent, thoughtful young lady. This is our second year working together, and we've had such a great time. Smiley

All cut out! We just loved how it turned out- you can see the cloverleafs on the highways and the rivers, with the big stripe across the middle and up and down the center US-54 and I-135 respectively; all the random white squares are some of the larger parks, and the two masses on the bottom left and right are Mid-Continent Airport and McConnell AFB, respectively.

This is the most accurate pic of the watercolor backing, I couldn't seem to get a good pic of the color once it was framed and glass in the way.

Finished product!

And a bonus pic of the Keeper, part of our inspiration:

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9  Iron Man Mark II Arc Reactor (with process pics, of course!) in Costumes: Completed Projects by Phantome on: October 22, 2012 09:57:46 PM
OK everyone, I finally have a moment to breathe, so heres a little (i.e. extremely long and detailed) tutorial about how I made my Iron Man Mark II arc reactor, with tons of pics and thorough descriptions of the process!

I am a ridiculous fan of Iron Man and all things Marvel Comics as well as costuming, so I decided to make Tony Stark's mech test framework as seen in Iron Man I; just the arc reactor, gauntlet and arm frame, and palm repulsors for now, the boots are going to be a Christmas break project (gauntlets are currently a WIP). Smiley Ooooh, and I'm so excited about the palm repulsors, I'm rigging up a camera flash so that even though they'll glow with continuous LED's, when I cock my hand back, they'll also flash like a boss. Squee!! Anyway! On to the arc reactor!

This will eventually be the end result:


I had all these materials in my garage, but you can get them all at your local hardware store, I estimate that the materials will cost $30-50, depending on how fancy you get.


    -Clear acrylic patio table ring with plug (mine came from a pool and patio store, you can also order one here, make sure it has the ring and the center plug)

    -Large staples like what you use in a staple gun (mine were 9/16 or 14mm)

    -Designer bell-style faucet aerator

    -Either individual LEDs with necessary resistors, wiring and tape (try Radio Shack, remember not to use acid core solder), OR ribbon-style pre-wired LEDs from your local auto supply store, like these Flex-LEDs

    -24 gauge copper wire

    -22 gauge brass wire

    -A round mirror about the same size as the acrylic plug (I popped mine out of a makeup compact, it was about 2 in diameter)

    -Plastic regular size mason jar lid (my local hardware store sells these individually, farm supply stores tend to have them pretty cheap, too), like these

    -Solder with flux or acid core (or Tacky Glue and silver metallic paint, Ill get to that later),

    -Black craft paint

    -Silver and gold metallic nail polish (I used Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear in Celeb City and Golden-I, just make sure its a very fine, very concentrated flake that looks more like metal than glitter)

    -Clear nail polish

    -Wire coat hanger

    -Super glue

    -Hot glue

    -Three very small screws

    -Some kind of thin but stiff plastic that you can cut with an X-acto knife, like the cover of a 5-Star notebook


    -Hot glue gun


    -Paddle drill bit large enough to fit inside the center of the acrylic plug

    -Drill bit small enough for your three tiny screws

    -Soldering Iron

    -Needle-nose pliers

    -Wire cutters (or just use the cutter part of the pliers)

    -Very fine-tipped paintbrush

    -Ruler with inches and mm

    -Fine metal file

    -X-acto knife

    -AC/DCs Back in Black to help you get into the right frame of mind Smiley

OK, so start by spreading all your materials out on the dining room table, so when your husband/wife/partner/parents/roommate comes home, theyll have something suitable to freak out about. Assure them that the mess definitely wont still be there three weeks after youve finished the project. Now that the mess is out of the bag, put on your jams (or the Iron Man movie) and make yourself a snack and a gin and tonic. Youve done a good job so far!

Now you want to separate the acrylic plug from the ring, and drill out the center of the plug. I recommend not doing this at the table, and using a clamp would probably be a lot safer than just holding it with your fingers (who says I did that? Nobody saw anything). Youll see in the following pic that my paddle bit wasnt quite big enough (you want the hole big enough that the wide end of the faucet can nestle loosely inside). I cleaned it up later and made it more round with my X-acto and file.

The ring part has two lips, youll want to trim one of them off with the X-acto knife. In this pic, you can see that the plug has been drilled out (left), the ring has been trimmed and Ive started with the staples (right), and the piece of ring that I trimmed off is in the upper right corner.

I used the staples to create segments for the copper wire, so it looked more like the wire was part of something that could actually conduct a current, rather than just wrapped around a patio table ring. So that the staples stayed in place, I trimmed each with my wire cutters so it didnt extend past the end of the inner part of the ring, then bent a corner so it would stay in place. Once I pressed each into place, I used my pliers to crimp the bent part into place so it wouldnt budge. I made 18 even segments (9 segments of copper, use your ruler to make sure theyre evenly spaced) so the 3 prongs of the final piece each line up with a copper segment (looks more intentional that way, rather than just decorative, youll see when I get to that step).

Using your black craft paint, paint several layers of black on every other segment on both the front and back, so the light wont shine through the wires and make it look inauthentic.Try to avoid getting paint on the staples.

When the paint is dry, start wrapping every other segment with the copper wire, trying to keep it smooth, tight, and even, bumping each piece up against each other (there will have to be some overlap to cover all the black, since its a radial shape rather than linear shape). I anchored the wire ends on the back of the staples, and tucked the ends under, as you can see here.

Ta-da! Time for another drink and Iron Man II!

Now comes the fun part (or frustrating part, depending on how many gin and tonics youve had by now). Youll want to cut little tiny pieces of the brass wire, so that you can solder them to the staples. If you dont have flux or an acid core in your solder, it wont want to stick, and youll end up with drops of solder stuck to everything but what you want it to stick to. ANYWAY. I purposely didnt get too tidy here, I wanted it to look like it was made under duress in a cave with a box of scraps.

You can also use Tacky Glue to glue the wire bits on, then paint the globs of glue with silver paint or nail polish once its dried. I like to make things difficult on myself, so I used the random unlabelled solder I found in the garage, because I like to make 15 trips to the hardware store to track down the right kind when the first kind didnt work. The second pic shows that I put the plug back in place to make sure that I didnt put the brass wires too close to the center for it to fit. The plug will be a tight fit with all the staples and copper wire, so just be firm but gentle to get it back into place.

Now take the plug back out, because were going to paint the black perforated ring. I looked all over the garage, hardware store, craft store, and interwebz for an appropriate substitute to no avail, so I decided that I would just have to break out my mad paint skillz and make it happen. So I just free-handed a black ring with holes with several coats of black, then coated it in clear nail polish to seal it in.

OK, this next pic shows two steps. First is making the plug that you just painted look like an actual, oxidized piece of metal. To do that, I dipped my finger in a little bit of the silver nail polish and rubbed it around the surface of the plug, concentrating most of it around the outer edge. Dont be afraid to get messy, you can wipe excess off with a damp paper towel. Imperfect is the goal here, you want it to look naturally oxidized.

The other bit in the pic is from the faucet aerator. If you unscrew the back and take it apart, you should end up with two silver metal pieces, two mesh screens, two clear acrylic washers, and 2-3 plastic pieces. Dont lose any of it, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, remember how you took them apart so you dont waste 45 minutes fumbling like an idiot because theres a thousand different ways they could possibly go together and you dont remember which of those ways is correct!

I used the gold nail polish to paint the plastic pieces (they hold the mesh in place and are visible in the final product, so I wanted them to look like metal (gold-titanium alloy, maybe? Eh? Eh?). When the nail polish was dry, I dipped my finger in a little of the black craft paint, and rubbed it into the crevices and textured bits (wiping away excess with a damp paper towel), so it also looks oxidized.

You really want to use your fingers for these steps, a brush is too precise and wont give it that built-in-a-cave, battle-damaged, oxidized look.

Now were going to make a spring to go around the faucet. Its not really part of the original design, but it hides some of the LED guts, adds a nice textural element, and diffuses the light a little. I made two springs, but well worry about the other later.

Get your hanger (NO WIRE HANGERS!! JK, you need one here), and cut the long straight part off. Hold the end firmly with one end of the copper wire, and wrap it tightly around the hanger, keeping it tightly and closely coiled. I suppose I made about a 2 coil, but I stretched it a smidge to open the coils and trimmed some, so YMMV. I twisted the ends together, then popped it onto the faucet, where it hugged a groove nicely and stayed in place. Never mind the other pieces in the pic, we arent there yet.

Now youll need to reassemble the faucet, leaving off the back metal piece and the solid plastic piece with the stem, since theyll block the light and make it too tall. Eventually youll have to put a drop of super glue around the edge to keep it all together without the back piece, but dont do that yet because youll need to trace part of it in a later step, and youll need to take it apart to do so. Heres the pieces weve done so far assembled. Nothing is glued, theyre just sitting together, just to make sure everything is fitting as it should.

Here it is sitting in the mason jar lid. Theres plenty of wiggle room, but youll need that for the LEDs.

Use your X-acto knife to cut a rectangular hole in the mason jar lid on the side near the base to accommodate the LED wire. Youll be able to kind of see it in the following pics, I tried to make it pretty subtle.

Now you need to paint the entire inside and outside of the lid (not the back that goes against your skin though, if you use spirit gum and actually wear it, it could pull the finish off). Use the silver nail polish for this, it really looks like metal. I used 2-3 coats, and made sure I really got it in all the grooves.

Next it needs to be oxidized (after the polish is dry), so use your fingers and the black craft paint again. Rub the paint all over, concentrating in the grooves, and wiping away excess with a damp paper towel. Streaks, fingerprints, and splotches are all desirable imperfections; remember, were shooting for battle-damaged here.

And its definitely time for another drink, and maybe a pizza.

OK, here is a fiddly bit. I used the stiff plastic cover of my 5-Star notebook to make the little 3-prong cage thing (henceforth referred to as The Assembly) that sits over the top of the center of the reactor. Before I reassembled and glued the faucet, I took the part that holds the mesh in place (the small part thats visible that i painted gold), and traced the inside of the circle onto the plastic.

Now VERY SLOWLY AND PATIENTLY AND CAREFULLY use your X-acto to cut out a circle about 1mm inside what you just traced, then cut out on the line that you just traced. You should now have a ring where the widest diameter is the same size as the smallest diameter of the faucet piece. Still with me? Anyway, you should cut the inside first, because its otherwise impossible to hold onto that little piece and get an even circle.

Now cut three rectangles, about an inch long and 2mm wide. I carved a center groove in each, then painted these and the ring with the gold nail polish, front and back. After they were dry, I burnished each with the black paint as I did in the above steps. The grooves pick up the paint, and make it look like a piece of cast metal.

I super-glued them all together with super glue flat on the table, then glued them to the plug, which I of course dont have a pic of. Note: make sure that when viewed from above, the ring is on top and the prongs are underneath. Since The Assembly was flat on the table, I used the acrylic ring to make sure that the three prongs lined up with a segment of copper (with two copper segments between each prong).

While in that step, I marked on the ring where the prongs would fit, and drilled tiny pilot holes for the screws while the glue dried. Once it was dry, I super-glued The Assembly to the ring, lining the prongs up with the pilot holes and making sure the whole thing was centered (youll need to trim off some excess length, I made it so they ended just under the screw heads).

Once the glue is dry, put in your screws, and re-insert the plug into the ring (very carefully, it will be a tight fit and now theres a bunch of little wires and bits that can be easily dislodged).

See! Its purty!

Now you want to glue your round mirror to the inside bottom of the mason jar lid. I used hot glue for this. My mirror came out of a makeup compact, which I heated up with a heat gun (a blow dryer works too) to loosen the glue.

Whee, its time to wire your LEDs! If you feel like making a circuit board, go ahead. In all honesty, its not that hard, but you need to bone up on some basic electrical skills first, which can be intimidating for a beginner. Heres a nice Instructable if you really want to earn bragging rights. If youre lazy or otherwise time constrained, use the pre-wired strips. You can certainly get more precise placement if you wire them from scratch, but if you put enough reflective surfaces on the inside, it wont matter much. I used the super-bright tape kind from the auto supply store, which have a convenient adhesive strip and can be trimmed to length (dont look directly into them when lit, yo. Seriously, theyre bright. The finished arc reactor will light up the entire room, no joke).

I pulled the strip through the hole that I cut in the lid, and after some measuring and cutting, stuck them around the perimeter so the lights shine inward. The power switch is the kind that you have to keep pressed down, so if you want an on/off switch, you need to rewire one. I got mine at Radio Shack, and now I can turn it on and leave it on.

Get your wire hanger piece and more copper wire out, and make another spring, maybe 5 inches long this time. Twist the ends together, and spot-glue it on top of the LED strip with a very tiny amount of hot glue, so that neither the glue or LED tape will be visible when everything is assembled. The acrylic ring and plug will sit on top of the LEDs, rather than nestle inside, once its all assembled.

OK, now remember how I told you not to lose all the parts of the faucet aerator? In all likelihood you did, and now those extra parts are on the floor or in the cats mouth. You need to find the two clear rubber washers that came in the faucet. Youll super-glue these together, then glue them into the narrow end of the aerator. This will raise it up a little and allow the light to shine through the center; otherwise, the very center of the arc reactor will be dark, and we dont want people to think youre in danger of shrapnel because of a malfunctioning electromagnetic heart.

You may now proceed to super-glue the washers together, then to the faucet, then super-glue the faucet to the very center of the mirror, widest end facing up. Be sure to test the lights first, to make sure they shine through the center. If not, youll need to come up with something else to raise the aerator and let the light shine through.

Now nestle the ring into the mason jar lid, adjusting it to find where it fits most snugly. I lined it up so that one of the prongs of The Assembly pointed down and lined up with where the wire comes out, which I intend to hide in my epic cleavage. Looks a little less random this way. Once you find the right position, spot glue it with hot glue on the back of the copper segments, using an X-acto knife to trim away any visible glue that squeezes out. Youre all done, time for a dance party!

All lit up!

Dont forget to leave your mess for the rest of the household to observe and admire!

Time to party, you just made a nuclear-plasmic electromagnet with a fully-integrated miniature particle accelerator! Fuck yeah science, get on wit yo bad self! Hopefully you finished it sometime in the middle of the night, so you can stick it to your chest with double-stick tape and prance around in the house pretending to be Tony Stark. Dont forget to put on a tank top and take a bunch of pics with it shining through your shirt, then lie in bed and marvel about how Tony can possibly sleep with the fucking beacon of Gondor shining out of his chest. Yay!

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10  "Alive," final piece in Sentient Machinery collection- lots of process pics!! in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Phantome on: March 07, 2012 08:58:09 PM
Yay, this is my fave piece of my "I, Human" collection!! I love Daft Punk, as much for their beats as for their enigmatic, machine-longing-to-be-human personas. This is a larger piece, 15x22", and really saturated and vibrant.


I've been getting a lot of questions about this technique and requests for process pics (it seems that a lot of people associate watercolors with sheer, pastel washes of tint, depicting pastoral scenes or animals). I thought I would include process pics showing what I do, with a little explanation on each of how to do it. Would that make this a mini-tute? I'm not sure, but if anyone decides to experiment, I really want to see the result!! Caution: this is a long post, LOL. OK, on with business....

OK, I always use gel watercolors in the tube. They are so much less work, because you don't have to sit there and scrub a pan of dried cakes to rehydrate them, only to come up with a pale wash and a ruined brush. With the tube paints, you can use them completely undiluted if you want, and really get that vibrancy. I also use soft, thick, squirrel hair brushes that hold a lot of water and paint, because using a lot of both is the secret to really saturated color.

Also remember that there's no such thing as a mistake! As Bob Ross says, "there's no mistakes, just happy accidents." Smiley One of the best things about water color is that it's so forgiving. Put too much or too dark a color on? Just rinse your brush, dab it on a paper towel, and use it to sop up the excess. Rinse again, and use it to spread and blend whats left. Went out of the lines or dripped in the middle of your lovely ocean vista? Here's the best part- if you take a stiff-bristled paintbrush with clean water, you can scrub at an area (dabbing with a paper towel), until you erase the offending area. If the paper pills, let it dry, and smooth it out with some fine-grit sandpaper.

One more thing for this technique- think HIGH contrasts! The darks should be super dark, the lights equally light. Think more like black and white, and less like dark grey and light grey. The contrast is what gives these paintings such an eye-catching quality- no hazy, pastel washes here! OK, now really on to business...

Mini-Tute! (Lots of hints and tips throughout)

So first, I always sketch out what I'm going to do; I never just start slapping paint down. The technique for watercolor is really different than with oil or acrylic. With them, you paint the darkest stuff first, and add the highlights last; you create the object first, then add the dimension. With watercolor, you paint the lightest parts first, then the darkest; in other words, you paint the dimension first, then create the object around it. You have to know which areas will be the lightest, because those might not have any paint at all.

I sketch very lightly (I increased the contrast here so you can see), and sometimes I do the bulk of the sketching on typing paper, then do a rubbing onto the watercolor paper, if I haven't drawn the subject before and expect to do a lot of erasing. I've also been known to do a pencil rubbing of an image from a magazine or google image search, when trying to learn how to draw certain proportions. No sense in ruining the good paper!

Since I have to decide where my highlights are first, I decided that the "sun" is shining from the upper left of the page, meaning that the lower right will be in shadow. I don't use brushstrokes, but instead use a soft squirrel hair brush that holds a lot of water, and sort of dab it all over. I purposely don't blend the colors smooth, but leave it "chunky," so that later I have definite contrasts in shade or color that I can outline.

I do a lot of layering with the watercolor, using a lot of paint and a lot of water, to get the deep, rich colors. Here I'm continuing to layer the color, being sure to keep the lightest parts in the upper left free from paint for now (or with just a very sheer layer).

Here's the fun part, adding the lights! Here's a little tip for painting light: never paint the light itself, only what's around it. Ever see Star Wars? Notice the light sabres- they're not actually red and blue, they're white! The color is just a halo around them. So when painting light, leave the actual light white, and paint a haze of color around the light, with the most color saturation concentrated right against the white. Even if it's a white light- the white halo will wash out the background, creating that glare. There, I've spilled Thomas Kinkaide's secret. Go forth and make millions. Smiley

More lights! I like how the LED strip around Tomas' (silver) ear came out (I added more contrast in later pics). All the colors on Guy's (gold) helmet are flashing lights. His is my favorite, and it's kind of funny that his helmet is so vibrant, since he's the quiet, shy, introverted one.

Now I've added the face covers. Since I wanted more of a flat finish here, I went ahead and used brushstrokes, but still left light areas in the upper left. Black takes a few layers to really look saturated, as you'll see in upcoming pics. With watercolor, you'll want to let the paint dry totally before adding another layer, or you risk your paper pilling or warping, creating potentially undesirable puddles.

I've added the leather jackets (they look grey because this is just the first layer). With clothing, I'm not usually too detailed. The subject is the face, and generally I'll just do a skeleton outline of the clothing, and the viewer's mind fills in the details. Smiley As long as you get the basic shape, you get the dimension. Another tip- I always add a hint of shoulder when I do a portrait, because otherwise it's just a weird random head floating in space. It anchors the face, and provides greater depth to a painting, since the viewer can imagine the rest of the body just out of sight.

Now I'm adding the color! Again, I use a LOT of paint and a LOT of water and a BIG soft brush, always dabbing, never stroking. Let the colors blend, blob, and flow how they want, leaving areas of light and dark, and some with no paint at all (this will give a lot of dimension). I always butt the color up to the subject, but never closer than about 1/4 inch. That little slice of white really makes the subject pop, and ensures that it doesn't all become a muddy mess. I also make the part next to the subject the darkest, so that it pops even more (you'll see in the next pic). The splatters are from blowing through a straw, or just leaning over and blowing on the page (although I've dipped my boobs in the paint a few to many times to keep doing that).

First layer of black, while it's still wet.

I've gone through and deepened the contrast on the helmets more (meaning, I've made the shadows darker), as well as in the black cloud around them. Now I've started the white outlining. You can do this with a liner brush and white paint mixed to about the consistency of ink, or do what I do, and get an ordinary white gel pen from the office store. Mine is a Pentel, but Bic sells them, too. For this, I outline around anywhere there is a sharp contrast in color or shade. I try to make each line closed, or have it end either against another line or off into the white page. It just looks odd with too many random white lines floating all over the place, but a closed line looks intentional.

Even though you can't really tell in the pic, there are color variances within the black, where the colors underneath are peeking through. Those are the areas in black that I'm outlining. I'm also outlining in the colored areas.

I suppose I should've done this with one of the darker colors, but it was getting late, lol. Here is the yellow before I had done much outlining, so you can see the variations in the color...

...and now you can see where I've outlined those variations.

Here's a closeup and full shot of the final products!! I added some little twinkles to the LED's in Guy's helmet (full disclosure- I want one of my own. I would totes go grocery shopping in that thing). To make twinkles, just do a little 4 or 5 pointed star in white over the color haze around any light.

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