Aunt Audrey is a grounding character in the forest community living behind Milkweed Manor. She's a Eurasian badger and lives in her "sett" (the name for a badger's den) affectionately named "Blackberry Sett." Audrey survived a horrible culling some years ago and escaped, with her daughter Gwen and orphaned nephews Arthur and Percival. The children were mere baby and toddlers when they came to the community.
As setts go, Blackberry Sett is modest. Originally it had only three chambers, a sleeping chamber for Audrey and Gwen, another for Arthur and Percival, and a common area. Then Audrey added another sleeping chamber for the occasional visitor. Recently it became necessary to add another sleeping chamber to separate the twins. The boys were having a hard time settling down at night and no one was getting the rest he or she needed. After trying out the arrangement with the guest chamber, she is now working on adding another chamber to give each boy his own space.
The main entrance to the sett is halfway up a low bank where the meadow meets the forest. The bank is carpeted with violets and wild carrot. Arching ferns help conceal the entrance.
Audrey is shy and introverted, curious and methodical, and a great problem solver. Given the sad events of her youth she is shy and sometimes a bit fearful, but she has a huge heart of pure gold. Her great passion, other than friends and family, is geology and she has a fine and growing collection of specimens that she has personally unearthed. She displays them in her sleeping chamber as well as in the common area, and a large and particularly impressive specimen of quartz has pride of place just inside the sett's entrance. Audrey is particularly fond of crystals. Her great dream is to find a previously unknown variety and name it "Audreyanite!"
Here's a pair of Eurasian badgers that I needle felted and had in my Etsy shop. I named them Beryl and Graham and was pleased that they both went to the same good home.
And, finally, one of the badger drawings from my sketchbook in preparation for the Milkweed Manor illustrations.
This little painting is sitting on an easel on my hall table and I pass it several times each day. I find it so cheerful - the subject and the colors. As I passed it this morning, I thought "that's the price of focus."
Creating mixed media pieces is, to me, simply playing with art supplies and I fondly remembered all the fun I had with this one. The chipmunk is a pencil drawing tinted ever so slightly with a bit of colored pencil, and the white space is actually very lightly tinted with pale green watercolor. Here's how I created the background. I crumpled masa rice paper into a tight ball, soaked it briefly in water, uncrumpled and smoothed it, and carefully glued it with PVA to a gessoed board. I then painted splotches of color on the rice paper with watercolor. This is somewhat unpredictable as the paint pools in the wrinkles in the paper creating beautiful patterns and texture. For the top layer I added water soluble pigment with gelatos (by Faber Castell). I gently softened the first layer with water. I didn't soften the final layer so it looks a bit crisper in those areas. I love the colors of the gelatos!
I sprayed it with Krylon Workable Fixatif and then glued the chipmunk drawing in place. A few coats of acrylic brushable varnish sealed the piece and I could then add the final details of the gold paste and iridescent dots.
So why is this baby chipmunk the price of focus?
Late last year when I deciding whether or not to focus on writing and illustrating my book "Milkweed Manor," Jessica Abel's words were the impetus to my decision. She said that making progress on a significant creative endeavor meant the commitment to make not only "The Decision" but also making smaller decisions every day - decisions to work on the book rather than on something else. For so long I had stubbornly clung to the idea that working in a variety of media and jumping from project to project was a good thing. Her words, though, presented the focus quandry in a way that I could really understand. Here I am months later, making good and consistent progress - my new "good thing." But, as pleased as I am with progress on my book, I do miss - and sometimes quite a bit - creating pieces like this baby chipmunk.
My theoretical solution was to "work" only during the week then do whatever I pleased on the weekends. I haven't stuck to that, but I need to do better...
A Personalized Approach to Mindfulness
At the end of a year of creative coaching by Nikol Rogers, she shared her keys to continued success. One of then was some sort of mindfulness practice. As I thought about what mine should be a Vistaprint ad gave me an idea. Why not repurpose one of the illustrations that I did last year for "Milkweed Manor?" After all, though I may very well end up not using it in the book, I particularly like this image of Vicious, the weasel assistant to Reynard, the fox shaman.
I ordered 50 postcards with an image properly sized for a card deck in the center. I cut out each card and kept them in a stack. When I thought of an important concept to remember while working on my book I wrote it on the back of a card and then rounded the corners (to distinguish finished from unfinished cards). The one turned over in the photo, for example, reminds me to write about what the characters think and feel as well as what they say and do. I draw one every morning and add to the deck as new reminders come to me - my own oracle deck customized to my project!
Then I saw that I could get a canvas bag with this same image! I keep my sketchbook, file of source images, and drawing tools in that bag. Each day when I take the sketchbook out or put it away, I see this image and it encourages me. By the way, I use the old compass resting on the bag as a divider when I'm drawing. It belonged to my Grandfather, Arthur Percival Stone - more inspiration!
This month, I'm offering you, my precious subscribers, a 20% discount in my Etsy shop. The offer applies to everything in the shop, including this needle felted bear. From March 3 to March 15, just use discount code LIONANDLAMB20 at checkout. I ship the day after I receive your order, and shipping is free. Click on the image to the right to go to my shop!
This Month’s Free Downloadable Art - Baby Chipmunk
Click on the image and it will open in a new window (from dropbox.com). You’ll see the image, and at the upper right of the window you’ll see three little dots. Click on them to open a menu, then choose “download.” This file is 2mb. Please note that I’m sharing this image for your personal use only.
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