Sketch of the wormwood mug designOn Monday I sketched the wormwood design for the next mug, and yesterday I painted it. It was very difficult to get a color that looked right to me. That kind of Moon waxiness of “glaucous” leaves like wormwood’s is for me difficult to capture in watercolor. I had to add some white to the blue/green I’d mixed up and then go over it with very small amounts of white acrylic ink. Cleanup of the image in digital form took me hours because of how cut wormwood leaves are. That’s a lot of edges to straighten out. But it came out okay.

I’m trying to create some kind of visual unity between the different mug images. I think that’s better in terms of general design. But I haven’t done this sort of thing before (except on a small scale, like with designing labels for Alchemy Works products). So it’s interesting, and I’m learning. Here’s what the mug looks like. I like the sort of freshness that I am getting by using the white background, so I am going to keep working with that. I am trying to emphasize the graphicality of the leaves and other plant parts of the witching herbs.

At customer request, I looked into getting these designs put on dishes and bowls. I think it can be done, but I would have to re-do the designs to different proportions–the mug designs are a long strip that is 9 x 3.8″. So I’m going to wait on that. I’d like to build up a good-sized body of mug designs, say, 50, and then open up a separate non-Etsy site and perhaps try selling them on Amazon as well.

Even though I have not sold jillions of mugs in the one month I’ve been doing them, I have already grossed more from these mugs than from an entire year of selling my art prints on Etsy (my stand-alone art site has made more than ten times as much as my art print site on Etsy, but that’s mostly from original paintings, not prints).

Alchemy Works has needed a major reworking for years, and to that end I finally got a decent web editor, Dreamweaver. Adobe woke up and realized that they could get a lot more users by offering it as a subscription for twenty bucks a month then selling it for $400 or whatever ridiculous sum it was. I’ll work on the Alchemy Works site over the summer. There’s a lot of information on it that I would like to organize, and a lot needs to be fixed. Other things need to be weeded out and features need to be added. So a ton of work needs to be done, and the creaky old web editor I’ve been using for 15 years could in no way handle it. I thought Dreamweaver would be difficult to work, but it has not been so at all. I am surprised. I tried it years ago and it baffled me then.

Today I’m going to start putting plants out in my raised beds out back. Should have pics tomorrow.

More mugwort!

Yesterday I worked on the mugwort design for the next mug and finished it this morning. I am getting better at doing this sort of design–this one went very quickly. Only the cleanup took a while, because I for some reason decided to put in a purple background. Not a good idea–so I painstakingly removed it. Took me over an hour. Now I know–no backgrounds! Just plain white looks best with these mini paintings. The one thing I have to resist with these is my tendency to be perfectionist. Is there a particular witching herb you would like to see me do next? I’ve been thinking of doing poppy next just because of the fun of painting brightly colored flowers, but if you have suggestions, post them in the comments.

Meanwhile, I hope that today I will be going to the ocean to walk and take photos for paintings.

A good day to harvest herbs

I’ve got a bunch of herbs that are almost ready to go out into the two raised beds I have to work with this year. Twelve of them are transplants that I bought from Mountain Valley Growers–clary sage, dittany of Crete, rosemary, rue, and black sage–but more are plants I started from seeds I started the second time around: sacred datura, black henbane, pallid henbane, white henbane, wild white petunia (seeds were not dead after all!), basil, and bits and bobs of other stuff that came up. It has been a slow start for me this year, since my initial tray of seeds mostly rotted from soap somehow getting into the tray.

This morning is cool and sunny, such a wonderful change from the past couple of really muggy days. I got out in the back and harvested a bunch of mugwort and some tansy that had volunteered in my beds. This is not the best time to harvest them–I should have waited until they were in bloom–but the mugwort especially was doing its usual thing of taking over the world. These are drying now in my dehydrator, along with a couple of very tiny mandrake roots. I have a couple of projects planned for those little guys. I love the smell of tansy.

Yesterday I began researching how to dye wool and silk with mugwort and other witching herbs. Looks like it’s possible to get a green from mugwort with alum and copper mordants. I’ve got my eye on some wool/silk yarn to make a cingulum from. I’d like to see what henbane is capable of in terms of dyeing as well. I’ll post more on this as I get more info. Hope to be doing some testing with mugwort in a week or so.

Going to be working on and hopefully finishing the next mug today, Sacred Datura. I already managed to finish an oil painting I’ve been working on. “The Ancients.”