Dogs and drawings

It has been close to a month and a half that I wrote my last blog. Better than I have done before but still not up-to-par for what I want to do: about once a week.

Sometimes it feels as if life just steps in the way, we need to do all sort of things and then, before you know it, another week has passed.

For example, I am trying to draw at least 1 hour per day on my bald eagle head. Sometimes there are days that I just can’t find the time to draw at all. Could it be because I have SO many projects that I am working on? Maybe…

At the moment I am working on my eagle head drawing, found some pens that I wanted to cover with polymer clay so I am working on that (making flower canes as I go along), last week I’ve finished 2 commissioned dog portrait drawings, I am cleaning out my studio and am amazed at the amount of supplies I have and never used.

At the same time all the household chores come into play too like vacuum cleaning, dusting, getting groceries (one of my least favorite things to do!), cooking, cleaning the windows, and things like that. Next to these “never ending chores” the house needs repairs, renovations, and general clean-ups like cleaning out the garage. One half is cleaned out now so we have room to move stuff from the other half there and throw away what is either broken or not being used. Sorted out all the different types of wood too and finally had the room to put them flat instead of standing up, which can warp the wood.

Then there are our 4 fur babies who all need their care, 3 of them being considered senior dogs because of their age. Our oldest, Bonnie, is an almost 13 year old Westie who was diagnosed with Cushings and, as a result of that, is now diabetic too. I have to admit that I am not checking her as regularly as I have done with my Lab Ruby but she is a completely different dog character wise. She really hates having “stuff” done to her and I am just happy when I can get that syringe with insulin in her twice a day without having to stick it 3-4 times because she pulls away and the needle comes out. I do check her blood glucose levels on a regular basis, but not twice a day as I am supposed to do. Does that make me a bad “Mama”? I don’t think so because I do keep an eye on her and go more by her physical signals (with the occasional blood check), like peeing everywhere when her glucose levels are high, and take it from there.

Then there is our oldest male, Taz, a pedigreed Mutt who will turn 12 in 2 weeks. He has arthritic knees, has had knee surgery done on both knees because of torn ACLs, but that doesn’t keep him from running up and down the fence barking his little head off whenever he sees the neighbor’s dog in their yard. I bet the neighbor hates it now, pulling the old fence down and leaving nothing but the chain link fence when he moved in!

My Big Boy Smokey (Australian Cattle Dog and a rescue) is the youngest senior dog at almost 8 and I just received a call from the vet about his blood work. We brought him in last Thursday because he didn’t want to eat and he was just feeling miserable as far as we could tell. He has thyroid problems (hypothyroidism where it doesn’t work as it should) and during a visit to our own GP I read posters on his wall about thyroidism and everything pointed to his thyroid being over-active (hyperthyroidism) instead of not working (hypothyroidism). His belly is bloated and it looks like he is retaining his fluids in his legs. Now, taking Smokey to the vet is always an endeavor. He gets full-blown “grand mal” epileptic seizures going there and has to be heavily sedated -preferably asleep- when we need to bring him. They did a complete blood panel on him, checked his legs with a thumb print test to see if there was fluid in there but luckily there wasn’t. That also means he, most likely, doesn’t have fluid around his heart for which I am really grateful! As a result he has spots all over him where they had to shave his hair away; maybe I should make a checkerboard pattern on him?

Anyway, his T4-level is slightly high, meaning we overshot the goal with his medication so after we’ve finished this batch we need to go to a lower dose. He has a slight ear infection in the ear in which he had a hematoma last year so got some stuff to put in there. The one that really surprised me was that he has had Lyme’s disease… The Lyme’s disease marker, an additional blood test, was slightly elevated but since he is showing no other symptoms she thinks he has had it before and is now a carrier without having Lyme’s disease. That must have been before we got him, us being his 3rd or 4th family before he was even 1 year old. That poor pup has had a rough start in life, being beaten and stabbed with a knife because he was following his instincts and herding the horses the 1st family had by nipping at their hooves. ALWAYS check the nature of your dog before you get one!! If you don’t want a nipping dog, don’t get one from the herding group! And, of course, some people should NEVER be allowed to have any pets! You know, the people who love the puppies but not the adults and let them end up in the pound so they can get another puppy… Don’t get me started on them!

Then there is our youngest, Kender, almost 4 years young and a chocolate Lab, very energetic and I wonder if there is a way to bottle her energy and use it myself. She tore a nail all the way to where it comes out of her toe, had the nail removed, it got infected, got that infection taken care of and now she has an infection in the same foot but different toe.

My day starts with getting up at 06:00 or 06:30, let the dogs out, feed them, give their medication, fight with Bonnie to give her the insulin, then put stuff in both her ears, then onto Smokey to get stuff in his ears, then get some hot water and Epsom salt to soak Kender’s foot and that is the same with their evening food. It has become quite the ritual.

All this (puppies, house chores, renovations etc.) leaves not much room for my hobbies but trying to squeeze it in there every day.

Here is where I am now with my Bald Eagle Head; he already has the raptor glare of the eye and right now I am working on the grassy area between the eye and the beak where all sort of little feathers are sticking out. Still needs a lot of work but getting there like the tortoise: slowly but surely.

Hope everyone will have a wonderful day!

Eagle Head

Mustang logo done. Onto the bald eagle face…

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! I hope that you spend it with your loved ones, fur babies included!

There isn’t much to say about my genealogy efforts, although I did find a number of family member on Facebook so that is great! Now I need to pick their brain for all the missing information….

I finished my drawing of the Mustang logo and it turned out rather nice if I can say so myself. Never drew anything metal-like so it was a nice change -and challenge- and something I can use for my dog portraits if they wear a collar.

astrid_mustang

Now for my next project I might be a little too ambitious but I’m going to give it a valiant try. It’s the head of a bald eagle and I would like to draw it very realistic; after all, that is what I am practicing for and practice makes perfect, right?

Set up the sketch and worked some on the eye yesterday evening. Instead of using a ball stylus to indent (something I am used to use for (white) dog hairs) I am going old school and do the real negative drawing to make the feathers stand out.

DSCF2265enhanced

This is the sketch. Not much to look at right now but I do hope I’ll have the eye done by next week; maybe more of the feathers that go around the eye and work my way around from there.

Hope everyone is staying warm with this cold winter. Time for Spring to spring!!

Dogs and genealogy

I am sitting here and trying to figure out what to write about, since so much has been, and still is, going on here. You know, the day-to-day things like house chores (for which I am NOT built!) but it’s real depressing to write about that. Besides, who would want to read about that I have vacuumed the living room or washed down the doors yesterday, right?

What is taking up a lot of time at the moment is our oldest dog Bonnie. She was diagnosed with Cushings and, as a result of that, is now a diabetic too. I say “too” because my old buddy Ruby had been a diabetic since she was 7 or 8 until she passed away on March 29, 2010 at almost 15 years old. I am trying to find the balance between her medication for her Cushings and the amount of insulin Bonnie needs which is a struggle because both diseases have about the same symptoms (drinking lots of water, peeing everywhere in the house etc.) but I think we’re getting there, slowly but surely. At least Bonnie has stopped peeing that nasty “sticky pee” everywhere! The worst is when it has dried up during the night because it is SO hard to remove. Put a paper towel on it and it will be glued to the floor…. hence the name “sticky pee”. Luckily she has stopped that and she is more active now too so I reckon we’re on the right track.

Another thing that has been keeping me busy is my new found family here in the US. I am originally from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, moved to the US around 2003 I believe and one day I got a message on Facebook from a lady named Rose asking if I was family from such-and-such family at a specific address. The people she mentioned are my paternal grandparents! What a small world, isn’t it? Rose saw my drawing of a wolf pup on the Facebook page of the Wolf Conservation Center (I had drawn that to auction it of and donated the money to their awesome cause) and saw my last name, which is the same as hers. She is making a genealogy tree of her Dads family and we started talking.

Now I have to say that I don’t know much about that side of the family, due to the troubled marriage of my parents. They split up 3 times before they got their final divorce and the last time I saw my grandparents must have been around 1976-1978. Last time I saw my aunts, uncles, and cousins from that side was even before that and all because my father didn’t want anything to do with us. His loss….

I did remember (some of) the names and Rose and I started our search through Facebook, where we found a couple of my aunts and cousins. So, as is only logical, we sent them a message. And another message….and another message… But we are getting no reply at all! Rose befriended one of my aunts (the one who had reacted to a message Rose had left ages ago on a genealogy forum) but a couple of days later she couldn’t find her Facebook page anymore. This is really weird because I can still see her page; we came to the conclusion that she must have blocked Rose!

Initially I didn’t want to contact any of them (bad memories) but thought to give it a try too and am slowly casting my net wider from my father’s sisters to their children, but still no reaction at all. Makes you wonder what they are thinking… All that we want is information like names, dob, and such. It is really hard to find information online when all you have is a name and an approximate year of birth; near impossible to find that information in the Dutch registers because they don’t have anything like ancestry.com.

Time to start my day. I am mucking out my studio and going through supplies, finding things I didn’t even know I had and sometimes wondering why I saved some of the stuff. It must have been with a specific purpose in mind but since I can’t remember it goes in the trash.

Hope everyone will have a wonderful day!

Reviving this old blog of mine and what I’ve been doing

I see I have been gone too long from this blog and it is about time to pick it up again on a regular basis. Time just seem to fly by so fast nowadays; it is weird that we’re already mid-August in 2014 when I can still remember my New Year resolution for this year: finishing things! I am really bad at starting something, then put it aside because there is something else I want to try or a commission I have to make. Being on Facebook also eats up a lot of time….

What have I been up to, you might wonder? Well, my Thor is still in a drawer which is a shame BUT it is a good thing in a way because I looked at him the other day and found that his head is unproportionally small compared to the rest of his body. So there are 2 option as I see it:

1) I can start all over again

2) I can decapitate him, make a new head and attach that to the body, rebake, and see how it looks.

I think I will go for option 2 and if it doesn’t look good I can always start over, right?

I have been sculpting some characters from Harry Potter and finished Snape, McConagall, and Hagrid for my own collection, plus made 2 sculpts of Dobbie, one for my daughter and one for a friend in the UK. I have to make another Dobbie for another friend, so that one is on my list of “things-to-do”.

On my “sculpts-to-make” list are also 2 things I need to make for my sister: 1 of the old Celtic God Cernunnos (also known as Herne/The Horned God/the Stag God) and 1 of the old Celtic Fertility Goddess. I am looking into the Goddess one because there are so many fertility Goddesses in Celtic lore and myth and not sure if I should make the 3 (Maiden, Woman, Old Crone) or go for something simpler like Arianrhod.

Since it has been rather warm here, it has also been the time to work with my gourds. I do that mostly during the summer months because then I can sit outside since carving and sanding makes such a mess. Gourd birds can be made all year round, they aren’t as messy as carving a bowl!

Other than that I have been making mushrooms, gourd birds, dragon head sculpts, sculpted dog portrait pendants, some drawings, and whatever tickles my fancy but for the coming week I really need to work on 2 commissioned dog drawings for my “Bonnie Fund”.

You might be wondering what my “Bonnie Fund” is. We have 4 dogs and our oldest female Bonnie, a 12 year young Westie, jumped off the recliner chair some weeks ago and she tore her ACL and her meniscus, so that meant a costly surgery. We also found out that she has Cushing’s Syndrome, which is a hormonal disorder caused by high levels of cortisol. Bonnie has terrible allergies and she was on Prednison regularly, which I think might have caused it. Anyway, with the vet bills rocketing sky high ($2,000 for her knee surgery and $200 per test for her Cushing’s and we need 2 or 3 of those, plus $95 medication for 30 days) I thought to start a fund raising and have put reward levels in there for certain amounts. We’ve already given all our savings towards her ever increasing bills and are falling terribly short for which I feel terrible! After all, one has to take care of their four-legged furry family members, right?

If you want to check it out, here is the link http://www.gofundme.com/Bonnie-vet-bills

So far we’ve already received $265 through that link and the 2 commissioned dog drawings, which I received through my Facebook account, are part of my “Bonnie Fund” Fundraising too. We are so grateful for people’s generosity! Even if one can’t donate, sharing the link helps tremendously too because then it can reach a lot more people. The funds we’ve raised thus far will pay for her next blood test on September 2nd to see how she reacts to her medication plus we can pay some off on the bill for her knee surgery. Gotta love vets that are willing to set up a payment plan for you😀

My drawings are calling me so it is time to work more on those. Next time I’ll post some pictures of what I’ve made and what I am working on.

Thank you for reading and have a great day!

Glass eyes: what is 1st and 2nd quality?

I know I haven’t been posting as I should, but I have been busy. Right now I have 1 “Floating Wizard” almost ready, working on 2 Dobbies at the same time and trying to make a Severus Snape.

We’ve been watching Harry Potter movies as you can tell and they just want me to make them. Snape isn’t going the way I want him to look so maybe I should practice a bit more with sculpting faces before I actually start on something that needs to resemble ‘someone’?

I’ll post pictures soon…

Up to now I have been experimenting with making eyes myself, but thought to look into glass eyes. I found some ‘seconds’ on eBay and thought to bid on them. Really happy that I won the auction until I received them.

One is blue and one is grey! The description was “5mm grey glass eyes ‘seconds’ “. Of course you would expect to get 2 grey eyes, right? I can understand the whole meaning behind the ‘seconds’ eyes, that they might not be completely round or that the pupil/iris isn’t completely centered but 2 different colors??

Of course I contacted the seller and the explanation was as follows:

“The reason for your eyes not matching is that you purchased “Seconds”, which is Second Quality Eyes. Here is the information from the eyes listing, kindly read the last line.

“To provide you with a beautiful pair of eyes, we painstakingly hand-match and check each pair – for size, color and symmetry.

They come as pairs on two ends of a single wire. We cut the wire in two, shuffle them and then take a magnifying glass and re-match them pair after pair, making sure the color and the size is the same, that the pupils are centered and that the irises are round.

To our knowledge, we are the only ones who go through this trouble and still keep the prices competitive.

Less than perfect eyes pairs are sold as seconds. They make whimsical fun eyes for critters, trolls, goblins and witches.”

I read and re-read the description of the First Quality and the Second Quality eyes but could not find anywhere that you could expect 2 different colors, so here is my reply:

I completely understand the idea behind the “seconds” eyes. I’ve bought them before and I know they can be less round or the iris isn’t completely centered and that is okay. Also read what is in the listing “The only trouble with them is that they are hand-crafted (they cannot be stamped out like acrylic or plastic eyes), thus minute differences in size of the pupil, iris and coloring are more common then we would like.”

I can also understand if there is a difference in the color, one could be darker grey than the other but what I have now is 2 completely different colors. I have 1 blue eye and 1 grey eye and the difference in color is huge. Aren’t ‘seconds’ supposed to be about) the same color too? I wish I could attach a picture so you could see what I mean….

Kinds regards,”

The reply to this one got me completely baffled:

 “Yes, 1st quality eyes are matched for everything, 2nd quality eyes are absolutely random*. That is why they are called Silly eyes for Goblins and Witches and such and sold at half the price. If you don’t have any plans to make goblins, trolls and witches, they are, of course, of no use to you – no problem, i will be glad to take them back and give you a refund,…..”

(*I made this bold to make it jump out more)

Can be completely random??? Why list them then as “5mm GREY eyes seconds”??? There is nowhere in any description of any eyes sold there that these eyes can even be of random color. As I mentioned in my reply to the seller, I’ve bought them before because who doesn’t like winning an auction and get glass eyes for around $2? But they’ve always been the same color.

Of course this made me look online for glass eyes and I found that this seller isn’t even cheap. I can get a pair of 3 and 4mm first quality glass eyes for less than the “Buy it now” price for their ‘second’ quality eyes.

Here are some pictures to show you what I’m talking about…

Darn, I should stop biting my nails LOL

I’m not sure if I want to send them back eventhough it is nice to know I can. Not every seller on eBay is easy about these things… I could use them for my “Mad-eye Moody” I want to make too and when you look at them, they look more like misplaced 1st quality eyes. They are too pretty to be ‘seconds’…

What is your opinion about ‘second’ quality eyes in this case?

Hope you’ll have a great day!

Thor on the back burner, show, gourds, and Chester

I should have posted last week, but I have been busy getting ready for a local Arts & Crafts show that we had last Saturday. Thor has been put on the back burner because I still had some gourd birds I needed to finish and had to put some flower arrangements together. Why I don’t know since this was the worst show I’ve ever been to. All day long we had people walking into our booth, telling us how great everything looks but we didn’t sell one single thing… Last year wasn’t that great either and with this year’s experience it shows that this is just not the venue for our art.

Here are some of the (small) birds I took with me. I have to take more pictures, also of the flowers.

Gourd birds

Gourd birds

The day was long, got up at 5am to pack everything onto the truck, extremely hot and we packed up before the show was over because there was a thunderstorm coming. It did give me time to work more on Chester, a Springer Spaniel I am drawing for a good friend of mine in the UK. I promised to draw Chester for her after he passed away last year but I’ve been too busy with other things. I reckon that big black cap was putting me off too! But, I am getting there now, started to give the basic black to the cap, still have to start on the gown and of course it needs a LOT of details still. Thought to show you though…

Chester

Goats are about finished

I have about finished Thor’s 2 goats, Tanngrisni and Tanngnost. Only have to paint the horns, or give them a wash with brown acrylic paint, and paint the eyes. I will do that part once they’re hanging in front of the chariot to pinpoint the direction they look at.

Some time ago I saved a part of a jacket that was being thrown out, always thought I could use it for ‘something’. This is what I have used for the hair on the goats.

Goat hair

Goat hair

What I like about this is that it has a variation of the neutral colors and it has some black in there.

First I made some flocking for the parts that doesn’t have the long hair, like the head and the legs.

For the longer hair, I’ve cut it off like you would do with Tibetan Lamb wool for a wig and then I glued the longer hair on the body in overlapping sections, starting on the back. It still needs to be ‘styled’ though. I’d like to hang them suspended in the air in front of the chariot and make the hair flowing back to give the illusion of movement.

Goats2

Goats

Goats top

On the picture showing the top of the goats you can see the parting on the back, where I have glued the hair against the direction of the flow and folded it over to hide the glue line. The piece of wood is there to hold them upright since their feet aren’t all touching the ground.

As for Thor himself, he needs his hands to be attached and his feet still need to be sculpted but I first need to make the chariot to see how they will stand on there.

Something entirely different: Kender (our Chocolate Labrador) is growing so fast and keeps on growing! She is almost 10 months now and she doesn’t look anything like the little puppy we brought home

Smokey and Kender 8-10-2011

Smokey checking out Kender, who is 6 weeks in this picture.

Kender

Kender sleeping on the couch, 6 weeks old

Kender

Kender almost 10 months old, all laid out and sleeping on the couch. She sees the green pillow as a toy, hence the corner being chewed off. Where did that small, square headed, blue-eyed dog go?

Had to share this one! Have a great day!

Thor sculpt and the goats are coming along

After a week of working on all sort of things, like Blue Dragonflies for a swap I joined in our clay group, this is where I am now with my Thor sculpt.

Baked body Thor

I have sculpted the upper part of the body, attached the head and gave it a first bake. When it had cooled I attached the tubes for the arm and leg modules with Magic Sculpt and let it dry overnight. Now I have to make the hands and feet, bake them and attach them to finish the body. Looking at it I am not really sure if the head is too small?  Still have to work on the neck too and that will show if I have to rip the head off again and redo that part :)

Goat frame

These are the frames for Tanngrisni and Tanngnost, the two goats who will be pulling Thor’s chariot. The bottom one is already filled out with aluminum foil and painters tape, the top ones shows the wire before bulking it out.

Goats clay

And here are Tanngrisni and Tanngnost, the wire covered with Prosculpt and baked. What I need to do now is paint the hooves and horns, put hair on them which will also cover up where I didn’t put enough clay on the frame, and when it is all done and ready to go in front of the chariot I’ll paint the eyes on.

This is what I’ve done so far since last week. Hope you like it!

 

Finally started

I’ve been busy getting ready for a show so I didn’t have a lot of time to sculpt on my Thor, eventhough my fingers were itching to start. Collected most of what I think I will need: got a piece of bark for the chariot to stand on, found wood to make the chariot with, found an old piece of a coat (collar) that had faux ‘wool’ on it that would be great for the goats since it is rather long.

Found and collected all sort of other things I think I might need, or not, so I picked it up again for a bit and made the drawing couple of days ago. After that I made the frame and started on the head.

I have to apologize for the bad quality of the pictures. My camera stopped working, tried my phone but that one froze so I had to open it up to remove the battery and somewhere along the line I must have messed up the contact point for the camera because that one doesn’t want to work at all… I’ll re-open that when I have the time.

Drawing and frame

The tubes are cut but having a little problem there with keep getting confused as to what goes in where… Since it isn’t going to be a tall sculpt, only about 5′-5.5″, there won’t be a lot of pressure on the joints and I could leave the whole tube-idea out too, except for the legs; it is easier to attach the legs to the chariot using the whole tube system.

Bulk and head

I can tell I haven’t done it in a while because I really have to pay attention that the head isn’t going to be too large for the frame. It looks okay for now but I have the feeling I have to make a new frame, just a bit larger than the one I have now which would be okay because I can always use this frame for another sculpt.

The bulking out of the frame is done with aluminum foil and painters tape although the chest needs to be larger, as you can see on the side view of the picture above. However, I can do that with clay too.

This is the first time I am using ProSculpt and I have to say I like it. It is really smooth, easy to condition, and it blends in great! Compared to other polymer clay brands like Sculpey, Fimo and Premo that I have used before for small(er) sculptures, it is softer, more pliable, and I have to say that I am sold on this one🙂

Still have to make the chariot sketch and found some ideas online; it is going to be like the chariot in the example I’ll use and posted on March 30th so I might ‘wing it’ and make it straight from that example after the sculpt is complete. Then I only have to measure twice and cut once.

Here is where I am at this moment. Have to attach the ears and then the head will go for the first bake and see how it will look on this frame that I have now. Hope you like it so far!

Thor, chariots, and helmets

Yesterday evening I started on the sketch of Thor and trying to figure out other things for my sculpt, like the not unimportant chariot. Have to make a sketch of that one too…

One of the biggest problems I have is that there are no real references as to the chariots Norsemen used and plenty of discussions if the Norse people used them or not. There is the Celtic chariot, with a single axle, the Egyptian and Roman, also with a single axle, and then I come across the “Oseberg cart” with a double axle. I know this is a cart and not a chariot but Googling images for “Viking/Norse Chariots” gives me all sort of confusing information, showing single and double axle chariots.

Thor is shown in both single and double axle chariots, while Freya is only shown in her cat-drawn single axle chariot.

So I have to make a choice here and this is what it’s going to be… the double axle chariot based on this picture that I like:

459px-Thor_by_Johannes_Gehrts

This is a drawing of Thor, made in 1901 by the German painter Johannes Gehrts and, unlike some paintings/drawings, Thor has a beard. I have mentioned it before, I’m going to stick to the Norse visualization of Thor, being red-haired, red-bearded, fiery eyed, and barrel-chested. He is, after all, the most valiant Warrior of the Norse Pantheon and an idealized image of the Viking fighter.

And he is not wearing any helmet of some sort, another reason for choosing this picture to work off. Looking for information on the Norse and their Pantheon, you will find lots of discussions. One of those discussion is if the Vikings wore helmets or not. We all know that Vikings are often shown with helmets with horns but apparently that is wrong. If the average Viking warrior wore a helmet, it would have been a non-descript conical form helmet without any adorations (I won’t go into the “wings” decoration because they have been used). Planting horns on a helmet would give your enemy the chance to grab onto those…something you wouldn’t want.

Now, to plant a non-descript conical form helmet on Thor would look silly, in my humble opinion, and very un-God like wouldn’t you think?

Off to the drawingboard for the chariot and next time I will post my sketches.

Hope you’ll have a great day!