More to the Story

Covering the neck of the wood finial, I kept wondering if there was more to Amelia’s story than a simple bust? I know she needs a scarf that soars in the wind behind her. But how can I have a pilot without seeing her plane?

I took several days away to digest my thoughts, sculpting Maverick as I let the idea simmer. I was looking at drawings of vintage bi-planes and old bombers for inspiration. Then, an idea began to form. She would hang on the wall, sitting behind the wheel of her legendary plane.

I have no idea how to construct the armature for this or how it will mount to the wall, but above are my conceptual sketches for the next direction on Amelia.

Ready to Bake

I finished up the last bit of sculpting on Maverick. First, I added the details to the area below the jacket and the rear of the jacket. Then, I used a dental tool to texture the feathers on his showy mohawk. He went in the oven at 275 for 15-minutes. Bring on the paint!

Classy Bird

While sculpting Maverick’s jacket, I felt a new level of his personality emerge. Under that ruffled collar is a proud bird with elegance and charm. Today I worked on his double-breasted jacket and can’t wait to paint the two gold buttons. A dental tool added the texture of his smooth chest feathers. I ended up deciding on sleek slit-style pockets for maximum suave.

Epaulets & Ruffles

I restarted work on Maverick, a regal cockatiel that I started a few months back. Back then, I sculpted the head, beak, and proud feather headdress upon a 3″ wood doll peg. Today I added the body, wings, regal collar ruffle, and epaulets.

While sculpting the first wing, I struggled to keep my judgment at bay and let it develop further. I just kept moving the clay until I began to see his wing come to life. A pointy tool worked well to make the fluffy wing texture. After adding the ruffle collar and epaulets I could see Maverick’s proud personality rise to the surface.

Signature Stamp

Very excited to learn that my custom signature and date stamp arrived from RubberStamps.net (this is a genuine non-paid endorsement for their custom stamp service). Simply, select your stamp size and upload black and white artwork. I paid $7 for each of these stamps, which is a great value considering the wood handle and rubber are custom cut with my design.

I’m thrilled to see how they emboss the polymer clay and that the small tiny font of my website address is clear and crisp. Having a stamp will allow me to sign my sculptures consistently, and when my creations go out into the world, curious souls can visit this website to see the process and my thoughts along the way.

Helmet Details

Unsure what to sculpt next, I sit with the sculpture and knead the clay in my fingers. Like Kynda Barry advised, keep moving your hands and allow the image world to begin to communicate with you. It’s a surrendered trust that the hands know more and to get my head out of the way.

I started covering the remaining exposed wood on the neck area. Then, turning the piece as I covered it with clay, the next step revealed itself. The story of the helmet had more to say — front flaps along the side of the face with buckles and rivets, tiny stitching details along the seams, and scuffs in the leather. I’m so thrilled with how these additions bring her personality to life.

Making Comics

Lynda Barry’s book, “Making Comics” offers an insightful explanation of the image world and how it’s trying to communicate with us thru our hands. To allow the image world to lead the way on the page, we must enter a state of mind and presence. Drawings are living things, new creations. It’s not our business to judge an image’s worth. We must give our images space to exist and not be so cruel to them.

I’m working thru her book as If I’m in her class and she is my professor. The first exercise is four drawings in twelve minutes. Using 4×6 index cards, draw a frame (life happens inside the frame), add your name and date to the top. Using a timer or music, I had to draw based on the following prompts, draw yourself as:

  • An Astronaut In Space
  • Turning Into An Animal
  • Turning Into a Fruit
  • Turning Into a Monster

She advises keeping your pen moving during the exercise until the time ends. It was challenging to keep my judgment at bay, and even sharing them here feels very revealing. But, Prof. Lynda reminds me, you don’t have to like your drawings for them to start connecting to the image world.

An Expression of Gratitude

“It’s a matter of relative indifference to me whether I live a long or a short time. Moreover, I’m not competent to manage myself in physical matters the way a doctor can in this respect. So I carry on as one unknowing but who knows this one thing — ‘I must finish a particular work within a few years’ — I needn’t rush myself, for that does no good — but I must carry on working in calm and serenity, as regularly and concentratedly as possible, as succinctly as possible. I’m concerned with the world only in that I have a certain obligation and duty, as it were — because I’ve walked the earth for 30 years — to leave a certain souvenir in the form of drawings or paintings in gratitude. Not done to please some movement or other, but in which an honest human feeling is expressed. Thus this work is the goal…”

Vincent van Gogh, 1883 (letter to brother Theo)

This passage touched me on so many levels when I first read it on Austin Kleon’s blog.

The urgency and priority of consistent, non-rushed, focused creative work. For so long, I put off making the art and images that float thru my head constantly. I gave my time and talent to the pressing needs of creating an existence, starting a string of businesses over the last 20 years, trying to add creative elements to commercial work. But always have a nagging feeling of restlessness. Telling myself, “Once I make X per month, I can give myself permission to do the work I want to do.”

The pandemic changed me. When my business was annihilated with no clear way to make it work, I decided to permit myself to do the work I’d been putting off. To do the scary stuff, creating the things in my head with clay, ink, and paint.

It was a freeing resignation; I had nothing more to lose. I had an urgency; people were dying by the thousands, the air I breathed may have the contagion, and I will regret not having tried making my art.

Van Gogh frames this urgency to create as an obligation, a debt owed for your existence. You are here occupying space, drinking, breathing, and killing things to sustain your life – you owe Earth a souvenir of your time here. “Paintings and drawings in gratitude.” Capture an honest human feeling and make it immortal thru art.

My mother died when I was 6-months old. I know her only thru the stories and paintings she left. She speaks to me thru each stroke – I feel her insecurities, ambitions, and love expressed on the canvas. I’m so grateful for her leaving her art for me, and now I’m doing my part to leave the Earth my creations.

I don’t create to fill a commercial need – my obligation is to a greater need. So I shed my ego and resigned to the clay. I’m here to listen and shape it into what it wants to be. I’m making souvenirs in gratitude.

Lessons In Cutting

Lessons learned in cutting outdoor deck drywall screws:

  • Hacksaw, nope.
  • Nippers, nope.
  • Metal Shears, nope.
  • Cutting Disk, SUCCESS!

Those suckers hardened. My rotary cutting tool, Harbor Freight Dremel knock-off, took about 5 minutes per screw to cut thru. Lots of excitement seeing sparks flying in the art space.

With the screw heads removed, sculpting can resume. Horray! The rigid screws made sculpting easier; having a firm post to push against was a significant improvement over the wire. Blending in the screw post thicked up the ears, but adding the ear hood details makes the ear look less chunky and more delicate. I’m super happy with how this piece evolves and learning more about Amelia as she talks to me.

Screwed

A broken ear greets me in the morning. A warning sign from the clay gods that my armature was not adequate for my dear Amelia. I poured myself a cup of ambition and fearlessly removed both ears and replaced them with 3″ drywall screws. Drilling pilot holes and firmly screwed into the wood finial below. Now to figure out how to cut off the screw heads so I can sculpt ears over them?

Ear Re-do and Eye Shape

I stepped away for a bit and realized the ears were not the right shape. So I began adding a hood-like flap to the ear – this is a much better shape. Then I turned my attention to the eyes. First, I made snakes of clay and blended them to form the eyelid. Next, I marked the position of the iris with my semi-circle silicon tool.

We Have Lift Off & Ears

Saturday morning formed wire and foil ear supports and covered with clay. Attached ears to the head by jabbing the twisted ear wire into thick balls of clay.

Lesson learned, add foil to fill the span of the wire ear, much easier to add clay this way.

New Sculpt Starting

My intention heading into this sculpt was a bust with an aviator-style helmet like the owl I made last year. Unsure what animal I was making, I decided adding bulk to the middle of the face is an excellent place to start. Just like improv, you make a move and listen to what the clay says it wants to be. It’s not my job to decide if it’s good or bad; my role is only to move the clay.

I started this sculpt at Sooz’s Art Meetup, a bi-monthly gathering of creative women. First, I began covering the wood finial with polymer clay and marking the face proportions — next, two clay balls for the snout. Trepidation surged as I kept working, but all I could see was a butt smack-dab in the middle of the face. Thankfully the addition of the nose and jowls saved that day as the bunny’s mouth took shape.

Travel Sketchbook Hacks

I’ve always aspired to be one of those people that travel and make sketches of the beautiful places I see along the way. I’d have page after page of these beautifully illustrated vignettes—the ultimate travel souvenir.

My drawing chops are not at the level of capturing the scenes I see before me, and I want to develop this skill over time, which gave me the idea of using my iPad and Procreate to bridge the gap.

I can be in an exotic location, snap a photo, bring it into Procreate, and draw over it on a new layer. I like using the “studio pen” in black to trace the image, similar to a lightbox. I take lots of creative licenses to decide which parts to simplify in the picture. Once I have the general outline of the scene, I hide the layer with the image and begin adding thicker lines and coloring in if desired.

You may be thinking this exercise is cheating, but I don’t see it this way. Yes, I’m tracing the scene in the photo, copying its composition and structure. However, copying drawings is one of the best ways to learn. I have to think as I go, deciding how a simple line will represent the corner of a building. In addition, I’m learning firsthand how light and shadow are reflecting off the buildings and trying to include that in my pen strokes.

A more advanced artist would glance up at the buildings and transfer that directly on the page, but the experience I’m having is the same. Drawing something forces you to look deeper, use all your senses to take in a place. As I sketch, I notice details in the roof tiles I didn’t even see before. My brain takes in the visual of the scene, and as it trickles out my hands onto the page, I become the lens filter. A piece of me embedded in the final illustration. What better way to capture “I’ve been there!”

Timelapse of Italy Drawing:

Timelapse of Aspen Drawing:

Rebecca Ruggles - Drawing of Amelia Aviator Bunny

Amelia Drawing with Procreate

I’ve got bunnies on the brain. It began with the victorian time-jumping rabbit I made in Anne’s Ceramics Meetup. Now I’m doodling and sculpting Amelia, a vintage aviator rabbit. Picasso had his Blue Period, and I am experiencing an ‘Ole Hare Moment.’

I did this sketch in Procreate, a drawing app for the iPad. Procreate is my go-to drawing tool. It’s portable and gives you every pencil, brush, marker, and color on the planet. I can take photos or paste one in from the web and trace it. Similar to how one would use a lightbox. The best feature of Procreate is the un-do button; this allows me to take chances and try things in my drawings. If I don’t like how it’s turning out, I can press ‘undo’, removing each stroke until I’ve returned to a point, and try again. When using marker and paper, I find myself hesitant to try something for fear of losing the drawing I’m enjoying before me.

There are lots of add-on brushes you can buy and load into Procreate. I have been enjoying Lisa Glanz’s Character Drawing Tool Kit. I drop in one of her head or body framework grids, and I’m off to the races drawing. It’s a great way to ignite those creative juices, and I never know the creature that will emerge before me.

I just discovered that Procreate also keeps a time-lapse of your dawing. The timelapse feature documents each stroke of the drawing. I can watch the things I attempted and scrapped and see the drawing build over time. A completely new perspective of my work. Below is the time-lapse of this drawing:

First Post - Committing to the Practice

Show Your Work

In my work with Download & Print and TubbyWubby, the focus was on selling a product. It was creative but not as personal or abstract as the work I desire to share on this site. I’m heading down a path, not knowing what the final ‘product’ will be.

This site will capture pieces of my daily creative practice rather than a final product to take to market. What will happen when I consistently make and share it?

My objective is simple: Make art and share it here for a thousand days. A thousand days feels like a mammoth challenge. It’s the habit I want to develop, make and share my creative work DAILY. I choose at this moment to turn PRO with my art. That means showing up every day, even when I don’t feel like it, even when I have no idea what I’ll make.

By the time August 13, 2024 rolls around, I’ll have improved my skills and hopefully attracted a few folks who connect with my work along the way.

The following books have inspired me to take this approach:

“In order to be found, you need to be findable.”

– Austin Kleon