Thursday, October 11, 2012

Constructing my Cabinet of Curiosities!

Desiree Here!! My family and I love oddities and some pretty weird things. My daughter Jennifer has collected bugs since she was a toddler, bringing home cans of pill bugs and caterpillars. Many of the  insects she made a pet eventually became a dead pet and was pinned and put under glass for display. We love going to the Natural History Museum and Bug Fair in Los Angeles, they have so many wonderful  things on display. Since I always carry a sketchbook I will often make quick sketches of things I find odd or interesting for some reason. These sketches are often nothing more than line drawing with no time to shadow or paint since my family continues to move through and I hate to hold them up.

For years I painted murals, faux finishes (fake finishes) and tromple L'oeil (paintings that deceive the eye) for designers and private clients. It is always challenging to successfully create a textured finish like marble or leather on a white wall.  I wanted to share a fun technique that you can try at home, in your sketchbook or on just a piece of watercolor paper. This is also one way to take a sketch and make it a painting. This background would lend itself to many applications and give you a cool, weathered look. I will have a few posts so follow along and lets do this together if you dare!

When Judy revealed the theme for the month my mind immediately thought of the old scrolls, old leather, parchment type papers that look aged and weathered. I thought it would be fun to build my own faux cabinet of curiosities.

I first went around the house and gathered objects that I will sketch for my cabinet and I also remembered a sketch I have of a scary skull from a prehistoric fish that I quickly drew on a museum trip that I thought would be perfect. I will decide which of my oddities will make my cabinet as I work on this during the month.  I then gathered a large piece of watercolor paper, tissue paper, gel medium matte, alcohol inks in caramel, latte, and slate or acrylic inks would work too, an old paint brush and a charcoal pencil. Use at least three colors of inks for my old, weathered background.

 I had an old paint brush that I moved the ink around with even adding some water.
 Don't be afraid to add the slate, it will look dark but thats ok. Those will end up being your favorite spots.
 I continued to add mostly caramel and some latte until the color was rich 
I love the rich finish of this background!
Close up of text
 I then got my sketch from my sketchbook and transferred it to tracing paper and then to my background, use your preferred method.
My scary sketch!

After I added the off white and let it dry I started to go over that with my alcohol inks again. If you add alcohol inks over dried alcohol inks it reactivates them and they will lift so be careful going over finished areas. I added a stand with acrylic paint so that my skull wasn't floating. I then took a charcoal pencil and started adding dark lines, details and shadows. I used a damp brush to blend and move the charcoal. I then added some "wood" slats around the image to create the look of a cubby hole in my Cabinet.
 I still have more to go, I will continue to work on him if I need to but I think its time to move to another spot. The background is really so much richer in person. I know you are all shocked at this darker side of my artwork! He He He



  1. This is awesome! Simply awesome!!

  2. wow! what a terrific idea! thank you for sharing the technique behind this piece of sorcery...

  3. what a perfect piece for october and your cabinet of curiosities! i can't wait to see what else you put in there.

  4. Okay, now that's just all kinds of cool! (Bookmarked!)

  5. Holy cow! This is amazing ... and scary-beautiful!

  6. Thanks so much for the comments, I am so excited as I have finished my next section! Is anyone working on their own cabinet yet?

  7. Desiree, nothing like a trip to a natural history museum to inspire art. I have always been fond of the cabinet of curiosities concept--collecting things odd and wonderful. Your dinosaur image over the ink background is amazing. Thank you for the step-by-step process.

    My question is: how did you transfer your sketch onto the inks in white? I can't figure it out because your sketch is in black. Was this just a white pencil and tracing paper transfer?

  8. Hi Runningwave, that is a great question because there are so many ways to transfer images and often we don't know how to do it when you can't use a lightbox. There is a transfer paper called Saral Transfer Paper that is greaseless and waxless and works really well for these types of applications since it comes in many colors.My white piece was all used up and carbon paper didn't show up soooo, since I use what I have and hate to have to go to the store in the middle of a project I improvised. This is a method I use when transfering images I want to paint in pastel onto a sanded pastel surface and you probably remember doing something similar in school. I take my sketch and using a white or light pastel or you could use a piece of chalk I color over the back of the sketch. I then take a ball point pen and draw over my sketch so it transfers to the odd surface. The chalk worked great since it stuck to this almost leather like surface. I then just paint in the whole image being careful to go around big things like eyes etc. I hope that helps and thanks for the question, I know it will help others too.

  9. Fabulous piece for the theme and tutorial. Thank you for all of the inspiration!


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