Fun with Black Paper Part I

Way back in late December, my 2020 January Sketch Box had a sample pad of Stonehenge black watercolor paper. This is a medium weight paper at 140 lbs with a typical water paper bumpy surface. But it is not bumpy enough to be called rough. The description does not say cold-pressed but that is how I would describe it. I have purchased black art papers in the past including a black Moleskin sketchbook and Carson XL drawing pad but both were rather low weight and meant for dry media not wet. I also have a heavier weight Strathmore Black Mixed Media pad at 140 lbs but the surface is rather smooth like drawing paper. I do like a sopping wet watercolor style and generally buy 300 lbs in watercolor papers this Stonehenge paper is not a good paper for that style. As you can see on the butterfly below the paper did start to buckle a bit with the heavy application of green gouache.

But I find 140 lbs fine for illustrations with ink and watercolor. I was very intrigued by the unique properties of this paper. I set out to create something using what had come in that box. I had a blast with the contents and this was my all-time favorite box.

I also have some gouache I purchased for an online illustration class that I have hardly touched in the last year or so. Gouache just pops on this paper. I have a new fascination with the media because of this paper. I also love metallic, interference, and mica based paints and ink which are really striking on this paper. If you own Finetech pearlescent paints give them a go on this paper you will love the results! This sent me on something of a black Stonehenge pad buying and painting spree.

I started with space illustrations because black naturally makes me think of space. Below are a few of things I painted last month.

Solar System Illustration
Nebula with Finetech Paints.

Next, I think I will move on to the ocean and deep ocean creatures as this seems a fitting subject for black paper.

Happy Art Journey,

Justine

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Cosmos Christmas Cards

This year I made mostly stary Christmas cards. Nebula, galaxies, and the Milkyway are fun and easy to make utilizing wet on wet watercolor techniques. I find them delightful to view.

I am very fond of the work of Carl Sagan a science communicator best known for the Cosmos: A Personal Voyage documentary series of the early ’80s. One of the first to broadcast on PBS. He is often quoted as saying we are the stuff of stars. The idea being we are made of the atoms born out of supernovas. A supernova explosion occurs out of the death and collapse of certain stars. Many of the heavy atoms found throughout the interstellar medium are formed in Supernova. This is where the atoms that build our bodies come from. So we are literally created out of stars. I find this and the idea that even the stars in the sky are born, live, and die humbling and inspiring. More on this concept can be found at CNet’s article: ‘We are made of star stuff’: A quick lesson on how

For two of my cards I utilized:

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

and

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

I designed the cards to look like a nebula inside of a Christmas tree ornament. Two of which have the famous quote around the outside of the ornament with the complete quote on the inside of the card.

Cosmos Christmas Card
The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff.

Cosmos Christmas card 1
We’re made of star stuff.

I made additional nebula cards in Christmas colors as well. But, without the famous quotes. I am still working on my hand lettering so that is not quite where I would like it to be. But, am happy with the little nebula.

 

Have a happy holiday season,

Justine

There is a Rabbit on the Moon

Human beings are naturally inclined to find patterns even where there are none. This phenomenon is called Apophenia. For this reason, we see animals in the stars and shapes in the Moon. While it is common to view a man in the Moon in Western Civilization the rabbit is also commonly viewed in the Moon in many cultures around the world. There are many stories about how a rabbit’s image became imprinted on the moon. This last month or so I have painted several scenes relating to or inspired by the myths I am aware of.

 

The Sacrificial Rabbit

Monkey, Otter, Jackal, and Rabbit pledge to practice charity on the Buddhist day of observance. The animals came across an old beggar who was staving. Monkey offered fruits from the trees, Otter gave fish, and Jackal brought a stolen pot of milk curd. While rabbit seeing he could only gather grass a food not fit for humans tossed himself on the fire sacrificing himself to save the old man. The old man was actually a Buddhist God Sakra (sometimes Emperor of the Heavens) who honored rabbit by placing him on the moon. You can still see the rabbit draped in smoke on the moon to this day. This is a popular myth in Asia with versions found in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. In some Asian myths, Rabbit is pounding the Elixir of Life or rice. Thus my inclusion of a mortar in some of the images. Interestingly there is very similar Mayan myth where Rabbit offers himself to the disguised Quetzalcoatl.

 

The Sacrifice of Jade Rabbit
The Ascent of the Jade Rabbit

 

In other Meso American myths, a god’s life was required to create the sun. The humble Nanahuatzin readily sacrificed himself to the flames. But, the wealthy  Tecciztecatl hesitated and only entered the flames after feeling shamed by Nanahautzin’s sacrifice.  The Gods place a Rabbit on the face of Tecciztecatl to diminish his light as punishment and he became the Moon.

Companion Rabbit

The rabbit in the Moon is sometimes seen as a companion animal to a specific diety that is thought to inhabit the Moon.  In China, this is the lovely Chang’e who rose to the heavens after consuming all of the elixir of life which was meant to be shared with her husband Yi.  There are many versions of this story.

In some versions, Yi had received this elixir as a reward for shooting down the extra suns which caused hardship drought. Or he may have been banished from heaven for killing the extra suns that were actually the Emperor of Heaven’s sons transformed and the elixir was meant to act as a get out of jail free card of sorts.  Yi who loved his wife wished to spend eternity with her and gave it to her for safekeeping. In some versions, she drank the elixir purely out of excitement in others she did it to prevent her husband’s enemy from consuming it. The Jade rabbit became her companion and pounds new elixir of life for her on the Moon. Chang’e is associated MidAutomn festival but I have painted a Moon Princess in the Spring as that is the time of year where I am now.

Rabbit Rides the Moon

In a Cree legend, Rabbit desired to ride the moon. This myth is a bit different from other indigenous American myths as he is not fulfilling his typical role as a trickster. This is a  rather straightforward story for Rabbit folklore.  Only Crane was strong enough and willing to try the difficult journey. So rabbit held Crane’s legs as they flew to the Moon. This is why Crane’s legs are so long they were stretched out by Rabbit’s weight pulling on them. Durning the long trip Rabbit’s paws began to bleed from the strain of holding on to Crane. When they landed Rabbit touched Crane’s head he and his descendants have had a red mark there ever since.

These are just a few of the Rabbit in the Moon myths I am aware of. There are more I am aware of that I have not had a chance to paint yet such as the Mayan Grandmother Moon and her Rabbit companion. Do you have a favorite Moon myth? If so please share it in the comments.

Justine

Happy Belated Chinese New Year from Canis Major

I was encouraged by a cousin to create a few dog constellation paintings in honor of Chinese New Year. Although, I did manage to get them painted around the 16th. I just did not have time to blog about it until today. There is really not much of a connection between Canis Major and the Chinese Zodiac but it was a fun crossover project. The Chinese Zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle represented by twelve animals. This year is the year of the dog. Canis Major says Happy New Year!

Canis Major is the constellation of the dog shape. Canis major can be found at the heals of Orion a faithful dog with his hunter chasing down Lepus (rabbit) and Columbia (dove) at the feet of Orion.  Canis Major holds the Dog Star or Sirius the brightest star in the night sky. Canis minor can be found just below Gemini and is separated from Orion and Canis Major by Monoceros.

 

The Hunter and his Dog

I like to think of Canis major with Orion on a never-ending cosmic hunt with Lepus and Columbia narrowly escaping each night.

 

Happy Art Journey,

Justine