Thursday, March 9, 2017

Art Things: An Actual Four-Leaf Clover!

I think I mentioned before that I'm the sort of the (poor man's) Mr. Wolf of the family. So when one of my uncles passed a few years ago, I was called in to give his old place a bit of a tidy up. During the course of that, I happened on an old romance novel - sadly one that didn't have Fabio on the cover - and inside that, I found this:

A four-leaf clover, from goodness-knows-when, that someone must have been using the book to dry out and preserve. Despite living in Ireland, this was the first time I had ever even seen a four-leaf clover. Supposedly a good luck charm, this was a pretty awesome find that, obviously, someone long before me was also also quite excited to have uncovered.This was something that I needed to keep, and I decided the best thing to do with it would be to put it into a nice wooden frame, with maybe some cream-coloured backing paper.

Taking it home, I put it into a paper CD sleeve, put it away for safe keeping and set about tracking down the right frame and the right kind paper for the project. I don't really know much about that kind of thing, but acid-free seemed like it'd be the way to go. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find exactly what I was looking for in either department just then, so I ended up putting the whole thing aside for a few months. And then... I lost the freaking clover. :D I was sure I'd tucked the CD sleeve in between some DVD cases, but looking through them, I couldn't find it anywhere. That was that then, I guess.

Two years later, randomly taking out a DVD from my shelf, there it was again. I'm temped to say "Oh man, this thing obviously wanted to be found! Faaaaate!", but no, my lazy ass obviously just didn't search hard enough for it. :D And with that, the framing was back on. This time I quickly managed to find a nice frame and some good, high quality, acid free card in just about the right shade of off-white that I was looking for.

As I waited for my materials to arrive though, I started to wonder if the finished project wouldn't look a bit boring with a sea of empty space all around the clover. I started thinking about what I could do to fill in that space a little. That's when I remembered something else that I'd hung onto from my uncle's place:

This - the back page from some kind of financial diary that somebody had doodled a little house on. It seemed fitting to incorporate this into what was becoming a proper project now, and not just a simple framing, but how to do it was the question.

After some thought, I came up with the idea of placing the house above a meadow of clover that I'd draw myself, positioning the real clover at the bottom so it'd look it was sticking out of the field in the foreground - the one dried up old clover in the meadow from 20+ years ago, I guess, but whatever. :D

So, how to pull it off? Well, first I got out a sketchpad and started working on the clover-filled meadow. The house was drawn with a blue pen, so it seemed to make sense to use one for this too. I traced the basic outline of the house and the river in front of it (Well, I assumed it was a river. It does seem to be flowing out of the door of the house, which doesn't maker too much sense though.), putting it pretty high up to leave plenty room for the real clover. Around that outline I got to work filling in a mat of clover, flowers, grass and thistles, sticking to a fairly simple style that I hoped would line up well with the old drawing.

After finishing my first pass at the meadow and holding it up to the light with the old doodle, things were starting to take shape. I thought the house still stuck out from the new drawing a little too much though, so I tried to blend the old and new a bit more by filling in more flora closer to the bottom of the river, and by filling in the space above the river and around the house with some more meadow. After that, I was pretty happy with how things were looking. It was time to move on to the next stage: scanning in both of the drawings, and combining them into a single image.

The new drawing was pretty clean, of course, apart from some pencil marks that needed to gotten rid of. The doodle of the house though needed a fair bit of clone brush kung fu to wipe out the math all around it, but I think it turned out pretty well.

Not to get too far ahead, but the final, combined image I was going to be printing out onto the card, so I wanted a nice, clean line art image to work with, so the next stage was converting both images to line art...

... which made combining them together a simple matter of two layers and a bit of eraser brush work. It's at this stage that I drew in the tops of the chimneys, which weren't in the original drawing,..

I might have got a bit carried away "designing" the smoke.

..and, thinking that the sky above the house looked a bit empty, added in a couple of puffs of smoke to one of them - again, scanning them in after drawing them with a pen first.

And there it is: the final composite image. Not a bad attempt, though I wish I'd used a slightly thicker pen for everything I drew in. They still don't quite mesh with the house here, I think. Plus, I wish I'd filled a little more of that gap on the bottom right side of the river. Too late now though. :D So my image was ready to print onto that card. Black would have been a bit of a harsh colour for what I was aiming for though. No, I needed to Irish it up a bit:

Now we're talking! :D This is actually a brighter green than I had in mind, and a brighter green than the shade in the final piece, but after several test runs I discovered that I needed to make it this bright for it to come out less dark on the cream-coloured card.

A few earlier attempts

For those wondering: yes, it was on a plain-ass inkjet printer that I was printing these out on. If I'd thought a bit more about it at the time, I'd have gotten this done professionally; I suspect the ink would be more fade resistant at the very least, but again: too late for that now. Oh well, as long as I keep it away from the sun, I guess. :D

Finally it was time to affix the four-leaf clover. Looking at the printed image, I made a last-minute decision not to put the clover at the bottom of the image as planned, but to place it nearer to the center. It made less sense conceptually, I suppose, but it just looked better. I popped a dab of acid-free adhesive on the card, put the clover's leaves on to it and closed up my frame... unaware that I had just made a not immediately noticeable, but fatal error: I put the clover on backwards. :D

Enhance! Well, I mean, as much as a clover can be backwards anyway. You can see the stem at the front here with the four leaves coming off of it, and it's even overlapping the bottom leaf to make matters worse. Once again: it's too late to do anything now. I suspect that trying to remove it from the card now would rip it to pieces.

But if you're not looking that closely, all the old plant material kind of just blends together, and it looks fine. More than fine actually: it's a really nice little memento. Not so sure about the good luck thing though. Since I put this together, we've had two of the absolute wettest summers I remember, making the task of keeping my poor garden in one piece an almost daily struggle. Then again, would I be uncovering crazy gaming haul, after crazy gaming haul without the mysterious power of the clover guiding me? I'll never know. *spooky music*

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