Sunday, November 27, 2011

Guenevere and Gigi

Introducing the first two ladies of my own paper doll collection: Guenevere and Gigi.
Hope you'll like them.
More pictures of G&G posing together:

Gigi and Guenevere are both made with Copic markers and Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils on Fabriano artistico hot press.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving...and a culinary WIP!

Today is food day! As tradition dictates, we get together with our Italian friends in the area (our families are in Italy, as you know). There will be ten on us and no turkey will be stuffed and cooked...I know that in this we completely deviate from the American way, but none of us is really fond of poultry, so we will opt for an alternative menu. There will be prosciutto, salame, and assorted cheeses for appetizers. Some friends will bring a salad and a yummy chestnut soup. My husband cooked lasagne al forno. Other friends will bring some pork meat in a yet unknown recipe, and yet another one will provide dessert, his delicious bunet (a typical chocolate terrine from Turin). I feel heavier just talking about it...but who cares! Thanksgiving comes just once per year! ;)

Here are some WIP photos not of a drawing, for a change, but of the birth of the lasagne!

First came the sauce...we made it on Tuesday.

The lasagne are such a long process that we have to start early, as we both work full time. ;) We sauteed the beef together with carrot, onion, and celery. We added sage, rosemary, bay leaves, and marjoram. A glass of white wine gave extra flavor before we added tomatoes and a fair amount of water. We let the beast simmer slowly for a couple of hours, until the sauce became more concentrated (but not too need it fluid to keep the lasagne nice and wet when you cook them in the oven ;)).

Then came the pasta (yesterday after work): this is my district. I make it from scratch and I love it, although it takes quite a bit of time and energy. A couple of pounds of flour, 5 eggs, water, a bit of salt and two (reasonably) strong arms to mix the all thing.

The dough should be silky and firm.
Here we are making the noodles, or I should say le sfoglie for the lasagna. This part is a bit boring, but needs to be done. My husband helps me pulling the noodle with our Imperia machine. My mother does this alone, but four hands are much more efficient than two! :)
My hubby is also the wizard of the bechamel, a creamy sauce made with flour, butter, milk and a bit of salt. He is very good at making it smooth and with no clots or lumps of uncooked flour. Meanwhile I cut the fontina cheese in lots of tiny bits.
Finally, the time came to assemble the lasagne.The very first layer is sauce (strangely enough). Then we make a layer of sfoglie. Before putting the sfoglie in the oven pan, we quickly submerge them in boiling water. This sometime painful process ensures that the lasagne stay soft but with a certain "nerve" to them (as my mom says).

Then we lay some bechamel on the layer, then sauce, and last the cheese. Now we are ready for a second layer of hot sfoglie and the process keeps going until we are out of one of the ingredients (usually the sauce).
We cut the sfoglie in excess into fettuccine and either we cooked them for dinner with pesto. Yummy!

We cooked the lasagne at 350 F for about 1 hour...and we were finally done (we started at 4 and finished at 8)! Today we will warm them up just before eating them. They actually taste better the next day! ;)

But wait, I think the first guest are arriving....
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 21, 2011

No pictures this time...

I am working on two projects at the same, looks like I am multitasking now!

Unfortunately I cannot show you either of them, just yet.
One is a secret and a surprise for a friend, hence the mystery, but I am religiously taking photos of the WIP, so at some point you'll be able to see ho things evolved.

The other project is not a secret, really, but there is not much to show at the moment. I just decided to make two new paper dolls. So far they are naked, like the ones I've done before, but unlike the ones that I made for the friends of the Enchanted Doll forum, these have original faces (and it was also about time ;))! While the other two dolls (Little Paper Banshee and Little Paper Galatea) were gifts to Maina Bychkova's fans, these will be for sale, in case anybody were interested. When they'll be ready, I'll post pictures of them here and on flickr. Maybe some of you will be interested...

Talk to you soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

September Harvest Final Version

And here is the final result of my efforts.
PS: Friends and family asked me if this is a self-portrait....not really! The spirit of September and I have one thing in common: long brown hair (her is longer though ;)), but that's all. ;)

An intentional self-portrait is this one instead.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

September Harvest step by step

Because of my super cold, I have been home these two days, so I have had time to draw a bit more consistently than usual (except for the interruptions dedicated to vapors inhalations).
So, incredible but true, I was able to finish September harvest yesterday afternoon!

Along the way I took a few WIP pictures to document the process.

The first step was to color the leafy border. The upper portion is made of fig leaves...I was so crazy that I drew the little veins for each of them...almost lost my eyesight there.Unbelievable! I have to learn what is essential and what's not!
The sides are decorated with grapevine leaves. This time, I wised up (and was also tired), so I just quickly traced the veins after coloring the main surface of the leaves. ;)

I picked these two plants, not only because they give us their fruits in September, but also because they surround my parents house. In particular there are two huge fig trees above and around the ancient drinking trough that you see behind the girl. We call it a Fountain, but it's original functions were much humbler than the name suggests. Yet, the water constantly flowing from the pipe is potable and absolutely delicious! Nobody ever buys bottled water in that village! ;)

 This is what I did on Sunday afternoon. I spent hours rendering the Fountain. That was fun. Then I colored the few elements of the village I artificially pasted behind the Fountain, which in reality is built against a hill. ;)
In the evening, while watching Carnival on Netflix (that show is so creepy that I have to do something else to release tension ;)), I colored the backdrop of the Valley. That's the view from my grandma's house, by the way.
At some point, I got distracted, chose the wrong marker and colored too brightly some of those hills. I then started to worry about loosing all the efforts I poured into the leaves that were melting with the other colors around them...

Meanwhile I started asking myself what colors I should use for the writing ans the sheet on which the girl sits (by the way, the first layer of the girl's skin really stinks at this point!).

Moving to yesterday morning, now. The girl's skin is blended a bit more decently, but there is a new concern: because of the shades, she is the same color of the Fountain!
"Nooo! Have to do something about that!"

While thinking about fixing the issue, I decided to color her hair. She is a dark haired lady, which should provide some contrast...;)

Below you can see how the picture looked when I finished coloring the hair. I also decided to color the word September with fall-like colors, which I think works well with the fruit and the soft reds of the tiles.
I was still bugged by the fact the skin tones and background issues, though.

So I tried to fix things with pencils and my brand new Derwent Pastel pencils. I used a uniform coat of white on the background to tone down the greens of the Valley. I did some moderate highlights on the village. Then I used blue, dark green and black on the fountain walls to deepen the shadows and light green to highlight the grapevine leaves. That really made a difference in my eyes. :)

Finally I used, browns and soft reds for the girl's skin. At the end of this step, she looked much more alive and much less stony...

Meanwhile, I came to a decision on the color for the sheet: bluish subdued light you like it?

Ok, probably you cannot see much right now...however I took a much better picture this morning and I'll show it to you in the next post...this one is already extremely long!

Thank you for taking the time to read this diary. Hopefully it was not too boring...;)

Sunday, November 13, 2011


To tell you the truth this piece is not so new. I started working on it in September, as you could have guess by the text in the drawing. I was at my parent's country house in Italy and it was the first day I had some free time (as I discovered later, it was also my last one! ;)). I told myself I could not waste such a nice opportunity to use the tools and paper I had carried with me from the other side of the ocean. So, I set down, started thinking...and nothing came to me! For some reasons, when I am back home I am utterly uninspired, which is ridiculous, considering that the beauty of the land and the amazing architectural masterpieces should open my mind and provide new ideas at every corner...Anyways, after a while I decided to give up and have a look at some old magazines I found in a pile under a chest of drawers (don't ask...). On the back of one of them there was this advertisement for Cheap and Chic by Moschino that caught my eyes. It was a photo of a long haired girl elegantly seated with her face almost completely covered by a an Olive Oyl mask. Some of you might remember it. The grace of the pose made me want to try and reproduce it on paper. This is how September Harvest was born.

There is still quite a lot of work to do here, but maybe I'll be able to finish before the end of next week.Gotta run and use what remains of this Sunday to advance as much as I can. I had lots of outdoor activities planned out for the weekend, but I got sick with a very annoying cold, so I am trapped in the house with nothing better to do than drawing (which is not too bad, after all...);)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The new banner is up!

Hello again! So, "At the stroke of 5" is finally ready and, with my husband's kind contribution,  it now welcomes visitors at the top of the blog page. So glad this time things worked out properly. ;)

Here is the drawing without the writings on it. As always, I used Copic markers with some Prismacolor markers for the background and I worked on precious Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper, which has a lovely texture and helps a lot with color blending.

At the stroke of 5, the young Duke invited his fiance to have tea at his family's residence.  Needless to say, his parents were surprised.                          

 What do you think?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Still alive

Many things went on the past month: catching up with work after my vacation, visits from old friends, lots of fun, taking classes...but I am still drawing, albeit rarely. Here is a newer image of the "At the stroke of 5" mermaid.

I actually finished her yesterday, but I don't have my camera available (my husband who is traveling in Asia took it with wish I could follow them!), so at the moment this is the best I can do. ;)
Tonight I will pick up a project I started in Italy and promptly abandoned when I came back. Hope to be able to show you something soon (no mermaids in this one, promise!).