Monday, September 22, 2014

"Land of Lincoln", My Nibblefest Contest Entry for Sept's 'Furry Friends' Theme

"Land of Linclon", Original Acrylic Painting on 5.5" x 12"Wood Panel

September's Nibblefest Art Contest week has started (on the 20th).  The theme for this month is "Furry Friends" and this is my interpretation/entry.....

  I kicked around only a few ideas for "Furry Friends" before finally settling upon this one.  It's actually an image I've had in my head ever since a Nibblefest contest a few months back, when the theme was "Animals in Hats".  I had fully intended to participate that month -- ruminating on all kinds of well-known, historic hats that I could potentially work with.  Lincoln's iconic 'stove-pipe' top hat came to mind, and so I planned to create a portrait of Abe sporting an exaggeratedly tall top hat, with an owl peeking out from a hole in it.  The owl (appropriately symbolizing 'wisdom") would literally be "IN a hat", rather than the more obvious route of having an animal WEARING a hat.   In the end however, it was such a crazy busy summer that I never did manage to even start on an entry that month, despite my clear concept and the fact I'd fished around in my stash of second-hand canvases and painting supports to find the perfect, tall-and-skinny piece of found wood....    

Fast forward to this month when I was thinking about "Furry Friends".  Animals came to mind of course, but while I do adore critters of all ilk -- I just couldn't get myself in the mood to paint one.  Mostly I couldn't stop thinking of my earlier Lincoln portrait idea -- the image repeatedly popping into my mind.  And so, figuring he's portrayed often enough in the historical record with a beard that he reasonably counts as 'furry', it's the route I took....

"Land of Lincoln" Side View, showing painting extended on all sides, as shown here.....

I did change a few things from my original concept.  For one, I swapped out the owl I'd initially had in mind, with a cardinal.  The Cardinal is the official state bird of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln's home state (and mine).  The following is my auction description:


I live in Illinois, not so terribly far from the state capital of Springfield, where Abraham Lincoln, our much-beloved 16th president, lived, worked, grew a beard (hence was 'FURRY'), and got his start in politics.  I recall taking school trips to his home and his grave in my youth -- and went on to take my own children to these revered sites, plus others that have opened since (such as a really terrific museum/presidential library).  All of this Lincoln lore attracts multitudes of tourists to our area, and as a result Mr. Lincoln is mighty Big Business in these parts (like, nearly as big as Corn and Soybeans). Sadly, despite this legacy, my state (whose official state bird is the Cardinal) is not currently on especially sound footing, not financially, politically or otherwise.  As we continue ride on Mr. Lincoln's coattails, I can't help but wonder sometimes what he might think of our "Land of Lincoln" , as the marketing slogan goes, if he could somehow be with us today....."

Monday, September 15, 2014

More Fun Ballet Company Commissions....!

The Nutcracker Ballet's "Mother Ginger", as painted upon an 8+ tall plywood cut-out

So I'm finally getting around to posting about another project I was recently commissioned to create for our local ballet company (as mentioned in my previous post)....
 Our local ballet puts on a lavish production of The Nutcracker Ballet every year, which has become quite the December tradition in these parts.   A highlight of this family favorite, is the 'Mother Ginger' (AKA 'Marie Antoinette') vignette... whereby a person, shoe-horned into an impossibly enormous, hooped dress, comes out onstage  (so big she must be discretely wheeled out of the wings via a special platform), with an entire passel of wee child clowns escaping from underneath her skirts to cavort and dance, much to the delight of the audience.   Often the person portraying Mother Ginger is a man in drag, which can be quite hilarious, and on other occasions things go even a step further and a local personality of some sort agrees to portray her for a performance or two.    It's fun stuff! (You can see a pic of the real Mother Ginger here)....

At any rate, our ballet company recently hosted their big annual fundraising soiree/gala event, and I was requested to paint the Mother Ginger character as a prop for use as part of the festivity's decoration and entertainment.  The company provided me with the plywood cut-out (over 8 feet tall).  I asked if I was supposed to portray her as a guy in drag, like our Mother Ginger often is.  'No, not necessarily', I was told.  Instead they said they were looking for a 'sexy' Mother Ginger (all while remaining strictly PG of course!).
Well all righty then!

The following is what I came up with:

A 'sexy' painted 8+ foot tall Mother Ginger (AKA 'Mare Antoinette')

Is that 'sexy' enough for you, lol....?

Additionally, I was also asked to paint two other characters that are always featured in the show -- a young Maid and Footman...:

A painted Maid and Footman (a little over 5 feet-ish tall)

At over 8 feet tall, the Mother Ginger cut-out was especially far too large to get into my house, but thankfully I have a wide, old-fashioned veranda front porch, with a roof.  That's where she lived for a goodly chunk of my summer...:

Mother Ginger in progress on my porch (see the ladder for size reference)....

I did get lots of strange looks from the neighbors and passerby, for weeks....:

Nutcracker Maid and Footman in progress on my front porch

But in the end the projects were completed in time (thank goodness), and then I myself was able to attend the fancy shindig that all three figures were requested for (I managed to discretely snap pictures of them in use during the party)....:

Mother Ginger at the party

Maid and Footman, part of a fundraising game involving champagne glasses and fancy jewelry prizes!

I got a big chuckle at the event too, because they'd dug out my old papier mache Boar's Head (which I blogged about way back when), to use as party decoration.  That thing really only sees the light of day at Nutcracker time (used as a stage prop), so I was quite surprised to be "reunited", lol....!

My paper mache Boar's Head, used as party decoration

Doesn't he look grand up there on the pedestal....?  (Seems to be pimping some wine here)....

As for Mother Ginger, she even made the local newspaper afterwards
(note the striking young woman posing with her here is NOT me, but the ever lovely dancer, Erica J.  ...).

Mother Ginger makes the local society pages....

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sleeping Beauty Ballet Stage Props

As usual, time gets away from me.....

A grouping of Sleeping Beauty Ballet papier mache stage props.....

 ....I was meaning to post a fun project I was recently commissioned to do for our local ballet company, when I realized I never did blog about a previous one that I also did for the Ballet, this past spring.  Well being that it seemed like an exceptionally busy spring on my end (and thanks in no small part to this particular project actually), I guess I just forgot to write about it despite the fact I do like to keep general track of my various projects in here, if even just for my own records.   Therefore I'll do so now, and save the original post I was going to blog for a later day....

As it stands, our local ballet company here in town put on an opulently lavish production of 'The Sleeping Beauty' Ballet back in the Spring (May '14).  I was asked by the artistic director to come up with some stage props to be used as part of the story line.  At Baby Princess Aurora's christening ceremony, the fairies of the kingdom are invited as honored guests to bestow upon the infant their especial gifts of character and talent.   The ballet director explained to me that there were to be six fairy blessings in all, and that she wanted the dancers acting the fairies roles to be able to carry props representing these gifts.  What exactly they were to be, and how they were to look, she was leaving up to me....

A little research of the old, original Brothers Grimm tales lead me to choose the following as my fairy gifts:  The gift of 'Wisdom', the gift of 'Radiance', The gift of 'Music', the gift of 'Dance', the gift of 'Grace', and the gift of 'Beauty'.  I then set about designing prop pieces to reflect these abstract traits (created in papier mache, but of course).... 

The following is what I came up with:

The Gift of Wisdom....:

A paper mache Owl to represent 'Wisdom'

The Gift of 'Radiance'.....:

A papier mache Sun to represent 'Radiance"

The Gift of "Music"....:

A papier mache Harp to represent "Music"

The Gift of "Grace"....:

A papier mache Sun to represent 'Grace"

 The Gift of "Dance".....:

A papier mache Louis XIV Court Shoe to represent "Dance"

The Gift of "Beauty"....:

A papier mache (and restaurant take-out box styrofoam) Rose to represent "Beauty"

(This white rose blossom was created by hot gluing bits and pieces of two take-out boxes that I cut up and strategically re-assembled....) 

All fairy 'gifts' are approximately 18 inches high, and composed of pretty much....garbage.  Well, that is to say, recyclables.  Can you picture the styrofoam trays that hold sliced mushrooms from the grocery store at the very bottom of the bases...?  Or the yogurt cups that make up the upper portion of the bases....?

Here's an early WIP pic I took of the props' (very) humble beginnings.....:

What I began with (the bast on the far right with a fresh, gooey layer of papier mache).  We're talking plastic trays, yogurt cups, bulk CD containers, old telephone cord, etc etc.  Repurposing galore, People!)

So, while they all started out as refuse, in the end, they turned out like this....:

Something from Nothing!

 And they really did look lovely on stage.  Here's to fun 3D projects....!