Amber in the Garden

Now embarking on Lesson 4 (Month 2, part 2) of Juliette Crane’s Serendipity I Classes! This one is called “Staying Loose” in which, as the name goes, we let go of our thoughts and stay loose. How appropriate is that! As the painting progressed, I ended up painting Amber, my cute little pet bunny I had back in the UK about 15 years ago. She was a Dutch Rabbit with amber-colored eyes and hence the name Amber. Sadly I had to give her away when my mother got ill and I was in and out of the house so it was impossible to look after both. I do miss her and think of her, just as I do about my late mother. In this painting, Amber is happily standing behind the garden fence surrounded by green and flowers enjoying her gardening. How did I arrive at this idea?

Behind the Fence

This lesson, as Juliette says, is a fun project to work on top of a background or an old painting you don’t like. In my case, I went for a scrap piece of paper I had used for testing colors. Those black straight lines you see are from also using that paper as an undersheet along the edges of a sketchbook page I had been painting on to protect the page underneath from getting soiled. It was a bit of an intuition when Amber my long-lost rabbit came to mind. She is standing behind the fence which separates us, and we sadly cannot reach each other. We are both crying. Could it be the grief that’s resurfacing after all these years? I sketched her in with some charcoal.

Happier Thoughts

I set about filling in Amber with watercolor, discovering that I had some small pans of them by Jane Davenport and Prima. What I liked about those were the vivid colors they come in. First I went about painting Amber a tanned color and being a Dutch Rabbit, make the crown of her head a bit darker. I then realised that the tan would be too close in terms of shade to the amber color of her eyes and hence switched to a darker brown. Once I got painting her outfit, it then occurred to me. Why this depressing scene? It looks as if Amber is being locked up behind bars! And hence, I took my charcoal stick and began doodling some flowers and leaves to lighten up the mood more. She is now enjoying the garden and working in it, showing us her pretty plants she’s been growing. And I even added a crown! She deserves one.

Continue Layering

The more the inspirations came, the more they kept flowing. Some watersoluble pastels like Caran d”ache Neocolor II were used as well to further enhance and deepen the colors. Just as Juliette does in her work, I also experimented with some oil pastels and a white oil stick (I used Sennelier). One of the examples of using that was when I was no longer keen about the green collar on Amber’s dress and hence smeared some white oil paint stick on top. Thanks to its waxiness, you can now notice the interesting texture it makes. This was also a good time to paint the background. Ecolone Ink in Blue was used here, giving a sheen finish. As you can notice, I went around the Hello Kitty stamp on the top right corner that had been there in the beginning. She should not be covered up!

Making Amber Even Prettier

Once the paint was all dry, I set about embellishing the painting further. Before that though, I sprayed some fixative specifically designed for oil pastels and oil sticks since these mediums take weeks to dry. I do recommend Sennelier’s which have ones designed especially for them. For a start, some gouache was dotted on the flowers and spread on the leaves so they pop out more. Some more linear textures were added using Sennelier 3D Liner and Amsterdam Acrylic Relief Paint, ie on the crown and her eye line as well as flowers. For some little bling, I lined Amber’s eyelashes with some glitter glue as I had done with the lining of her crown. Then with some white gel pen, I incorporated tiny dots on those offending black lines so they don’t look like steel bars but more like twigs! That really softened the whole atmosphere. And now I can safely say I am completed!

Following Juliette Crane’s classes is so much fun! Once again, I was able explore possibilities and extend my imagination, this time on some plain piece of scrap paper. The best part was switching from a somber repressed mood to a more open cheerful one. It is like a journey of opening up hidden emotions! Fifteen years on, I still think of my little pet rabbit and realise that drawing about her is part of the healing process. Amber will definitely be featured in more of my artwork and I think Little One and her friends would love that! Thank you Juliette for letting this happen.

For more about Juliette Crane and her wonderful classes, please click here!

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