#71 FEELING BLUE, IN A GOOD WAY!

My finished painting named “Lily Pads and Lotus.”

My last few posts were related to drawing mazes. Although I found them intriguing, I did miss working with color.

My reference photo.

When a good friend on vacation in Georgia sent me a photo of lily pads – well, I thought the photo was a painting. It was so painterly, well composed and quite beautiful. This would be easy for me to work from, because there was little I needed to change.

Painting the lily pads felt impressionistic. The most important part of my painting was the “hero,” which was the lotus flower. My painting was perfect for a meditation track with its soothing colors.

Clicking on this image leads to my free meditation track on Insight Timer

My favorite parts of the finished painting were the areas of water puddles against the lily pads. They really had dimension!

My Lily Pad and Lotus was painted quickly. In contrast, my “Hummingbird & Hydrangea” was an exercise in patience. I spent more time on the preliminary planning than I had on my last painting.

It all began when an acquaintance asked me if I’d ever illustrated a hummingbird (I hadn’t). Subsequently, he offered to share an original photo with me. At first I wasn’t inspired; the photo was dark and the hummingbird colors muted. However, once I lightened it up it had incredible potential.

What a difference photo editing made!

My next step was to insert the hummingbird into a more beautiful background. I searched through many garden photos and was excited to be able to use them. They weren’t worthy of an illustration on their own, but in combination with a hummingbird – it would be perfect combination. I created dozens of digital layouts as an overview. I began to get discouraged, because nothing seemed to hit me. The hummingbird got lost in every composition. I couldn’t decide if it should rest upon a branch. I preferred having it hover, so I edited the bird’s tiny feet.

I ended up going with a white background. My next step was to isolate a flower for it.

Both the pink and blue hydrangeas mirrored colors in the hummingbird’s wings. But I was drawn to the purple/blue color, though my reference photo wasn’t exceptional. With Photoshop editing, it came to life. There was one area with a dark hole, and I replaced it with another flower blossom.

I had to really improve my photo for this painting.

The greenish gray tinged petals held interesting colors, but didn’t signify a healthy plant. I made sure to keep all the petals a combination of colorful cyan and purple. Here I was working with a lot of blues, right after painting the predominantly blue lily pads!

My painting in progress is masked with overlaying frisket film. The vivid hummingbird is covered, so it is muted.

Patience was needed with all the water droplets – there were literally hundreds of them. Instead of jewels, I was painting glitter with tiny dots.

I painted the hummingbird first and that was the easy part. Next, I masked the entire hydrangea flower and cut out each petal. Once I peeled back the frisket film to reveal an area to paint – I dotted liquid frisket with a toothpick for each droplet.

This painting did take considerable time, but once it was finished the feeling of satisfaction was indescribable! Once again, my image lent itself as an album cover for my music. Below is the cover for a recent instrumental album named “You Are My Wings Instrumentals.”

Clicking on this image is a link to my album.

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#70 MY AMAZING JOURNEY, UPDATE

Sometimes fairy tales come true.

I wasn’t sure what I was hoping for after I sent my maze to Barbra Streisand’s foundation. Dreaming was fun, but I didn’t want to have high expectations and be disappointed. So at the most, I hoped my maze would actually reach her.

Well it did!!

When I received a letter from her foundation a few days ago, my heart was pounding with excitement. I didn’t rush to open it. First, I took a few deep breaths and finally I was ready.

Well, it was definitely another letter to treasure. My maze is hanging in her home office and I am thrilled thinking about it!

More about my mazes can be found at:

#68 MY AMAZING JOURNEY, PART 2

#69 MY AMAZING JOURNEY, PART 3

TRANSCRIPTION

Dear Judy,

On behalf of Barbra Streisand and The Streisand Foundation, thank you so much for sending the breathtaking maze-portrait (original and print)! We are all entranced by it!

We hope you will enjoy knowing that Ms. Streisand was completely intrigued and impressed by your artwork and will be putting it up at her home office.

The portrait is truly beautiful, mesmerizing, and layered with meaning. Absolutely stunning!

Additionally, your book is incredibly heartfelt and evocative. Truly, Jason is always with you in your art, music, writing, and poetic expressions.

As before, your correspondence was received with great appreciation. Thank you so much, Judy, for sharing your gifts with us.

Sincerely,

Marisa Harrison, Program Assistant for Barbra Streisand

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#69 MY AMAZING JOURNEY, PART 3

I was amazed how quickly I remembered how to draw mazes after a 40-year break! Since my last post, I’ve explored a few new mazes that I’m excited to share.

I thought a self-portrait would be a fun maze for me to tackle. I wanted to include my guitar and after sorting through lots of photos, I found one that looked like it would work. My first step was to isolate it into black and white areas. The next step was to draw my template outline using Photoshop.

Using a stylus to draw smooth curved lines was challenging. I continually backtracked and erased. And then my stylus lost control. I thought it was the tablet, so I bought a used version of the same one I had. But the problems continued.

It was time for me to upgrade to a newer tablet and pen. It turned out that this was a huge improvement. My set-back ended up becoming an opportunity for me to gain even more skill. I loved how much better the new pen worked.

At this point, my process was to print the outline and render the maze with an ink pen.

But for this maze, the areas were far to small for me to render on my usual 11×17 page. I went for a bigger print of 16×20. However, the copy store printed it on blueprint paper. It looked similar, but it handled quite differently.

This paper did not work well with my pens. Rapidograph pens were out of the question, because they blotted up on the paper right at the start. I had to enlist white-out, which drove the perfectionist in me crazy. Then my pens kept going dry and when I bought new ones – they didn’t match.

Although there were certainly alternatives, I was determined to finish the maze I had started. I patiently worked on it for two weeks. My dry pens could work for 15 minutes at a time, so I just went with that.

The finished pen-drawn Judy maze

Although I eventually finished the maze, I didn’t enjoy the process. I decided to take a break from mazes for a while.

When my new pen and tablet arrived, I was determined to redo my Judy maze. This time, it would be completely drawn on my computer.

Initially, the biggest reason was due to the quality of lines. When I compared scans of my pen work with digital lines – the difference was striking. Even though the naked eye might not notice the difference, I sure did.

Now was the time to make improvements on my Judy maze. It seemed like it would be better to crop off some of the bottom. I had the maze exit from the guitar head, instead of my elbow.

The computer had some challenges, though. I worked without “turning the paper,” which was something I always did while using a pen. I had to create interesting lines in directions that weren’t as comfortable for me with a stylus. But I had the advantage of erasing and redoing any lines I wasn’t satisfied with. I always kept the outline as a separate layer, which made erasing easier.

Staring at the screen for hours wasn’t relaxing either. I had to make sure to blink often, or my eyes really dried out.

When I finished my second guitar maze, there was a big issue. I had gotten too tight and dark in some areas, especially on my face. This would be an impossible maze for anyone to solve, unless it was blown up to poster size. But since it was on the computer, I was able to redo those areas.

These are my first maze lines that were too small on my face.

I had to make the maze larger in order for it to be workable.

This is my final corrected digital version of Judy and her guitar. It actually does work and has a solution.

This shows the approximate solution, which I followed while drawing this maze.

After finishing my ambitious self-portrait, I went ahead and quickly picked another subject. I looked for an image that I’d already illustrated, because I thought it would make it easier.

My earlier mazes (drawn as a teenager) used different maze tones, but on my self-portrait maze, there were no gradations. This time, I would try it with the rose. As I went along, I kept tones behind the maze to guide me.

Creating those tones were complicated. I wasn’t sure about the darkness of the maze size as I worked. It was only by zooming out that I could see the full effect.

This shows my maze in progress, before I made a few changes.

My completed “Rose with Thorns” maze.

Once again, it was hard to declare my maze finished. The hours added up. 

I took a break from mazes to work on some new paintings. Painting with color again was a treat. Finally, I was ready to tackle another maze with renewed energy. My next project was to create a gift for a dear friend whose dog had recently passed away.

Her dog was named Zoey and she was a white standard poodle. This maze would definitely be a challenge.

When I created the tonal breakdown, it almost seemed like leaving areas white would be the way to go. It was a tough choice for me.

I looked through many photos and chose my favorite. I ended up using two photos, one had a nicer tail and face, and the other had a nicer body structure.

In the end, I decided to fill it all in. The gradations were dizzying, but I had a lot of fun when they worked.

Unfortunately, the digital process allows for unlimited fixes. My maze was never done. No sooner would I look at it blown up, then I would see an area that needed a better tonal transition. I would erase the maze in a section and then reconnect it. It was incredibly tedious and I finally had to force myself to stop.

Leaving those areas white certainly seemed intriguing. I left the lighter areas for last to decide.

The finished maze of Zoey, forever memorialized.

This amazing journey will continue. I’m not exactly sure where it’s going, but I’m sure enjoying it. Perhaps I’ll publish another book of mazes, or end up being commissioned again to create mazes as gifts. I’m not sure.

I believe the most important part is my gratitude for exploring my creativity. That is truly freedom and joy for me.

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#68 MY AMAZING JOURNEY, PART 2

I am so fortunate that in my current life I create art at my leisure. This past year, my path encountered a new twist. As if rediscovering the music I loved as a teenager wasn’t enough, I have rediscovered something else that I also loved doing when I was young.

I am drawing mazes again!

My story can best be told with the many images I’ll be sharing.

It all began with reconnecting.

The theme of reconnecting with old friends has been part of my rebirth after I turned 50. Those renewed friendships have been incredibly meaningful.

Earlier this year, I visited with two former Junior High classmates. One friend I hadn’t seen in decades. Our reunion was lovely, and this new classmate warmly invited me to visit her beach house as a houseguest. Her husband knew me, because we had been in the same math class where I had drawn mazes when I was 14 years old.

A month later, I had a lovely overnight visit with this couple and I couldn’t believe what it led to.

The husband hired me to draw a maze, even though I hadn’t drawn one in over 40 years. He suggested that I create a maze in his company’s logo. I was paid generously, which was very much appreciated.

This new pathway was definitely a learning experience. I purchased new pens and ink to experiment with, and utilized my computer to design my maze. I created an outline template and then printed it onto different types of paper to experiment with. Drawing the maze was mindless and actually the easy part.

Now I’ll backtrack to describe the maze book I published at the age of 14. I wrote a post about it on this blog, back in 2011:  #2 MY AMAZING JOURNEY, PART 1

I am proud of my unique style of maze drawing. My mazes are actually pictures and incorporate tone. One of the last mazes I drew (before a hiatus of 4 decades) was of Richard Nixon.

I used to pass my mazes around in my classes. I would draw a maze inside outlines of hearts and even my friends’ names. (Someone told me that he saved one of my mazes after all these years.)

One day, my geometry teacher caught me drawing in his class and admonished me. But then he suggested I try to get my mazes published. When I did indeed publish a book, I dedicated it to him.

Because an educational company published my book, it was required to be instructive. Below is a page from my book with examples of creating maze tones by using wider and narrower paths. Once I finished drawing mazes for my former middle school classmates, I was ready to draw new mazes for myself!

No surprise that I chose a butterfly for my first new maze. This is my template.

Drawing a smooth line drawing with a digital stylus requires skill and a steady hand. With practice, I quickly improved. There were many advantages to using my computer, such as being able to flip my butterfly wing to make it symmetrical. But mostly, I wanted many opportunities to start over with the outline ready for me.

I drew my butterfly maze twice, because initially I wasn’t satisfied with the first version. I ended up finding charm with both of them. The second maze was slightly more realistic, with more pronounced lines on the wings and less parallel spot separation lines.After finishing two butterfly mazes, I wasn’t sure what maze I’d draw next. But then I received a letter in the mail that inspired me. Six months earlier, I had sent a promotion package to Barbra Streisand. In it were some prints of my artwork with a letter offering her one of my paintings. I also wrote about my passion for music and the healing songs I loved to share.

When I received a letter back from the Streisand foundation, I was floored! It was such an unbelievably beautiful letter that I wanted to frame it. Here is a paragraph that took my breath away:

“Your dedication to sharing your paintings and music with the world is a profound gift. We admire your courage and your everlasting love for your dear son Jason, and we are inspired by your goal of sharing your healing artistic gifts with the world. Certainly, the world is a decidedly more beautiful and empathetic place with you in it!”

A CD was included with the letter. The cover art was very graphic and reminiscent of a maze.

Well, if Barbra couldn’t accept one of my paintings, perhaps a maze would be more personal and welcomed. I would draw Barbara a maze!

Although the CD cover inspired me, I looked for a more flattering image on the Internet. I found one and converted the photo into a black and white study. I diligently spent a lot of time on the preliminary work. There were many choices for the shadows on her face. I tried many types of Photoshop filters to get my desired result.

It was fun creating a maze for Barbra Streisand. I sent it to my new contact at her foundation and I share my letter that went along with it.

Every day, I check my mailbox. My new pathway is definitely thrilling!

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