Sunday, February 10, 2013

Turtle Box

Box Turtles

So I finally got a chance to sit down and finish some more artwork. With all that has been going on lately, my production fell down to almost nothing. That and I'm starting to get a HUGE selection of unsold work (seriously, I'm running out of space to store stuff. Make me some offers on my gallery!) , so I'm starting to paint smaller pictures again. This one is pretty small...12x14. Nothing spectacular in the materials. Of course, I use top quality paints, but the canvas is standard. 

I'm sure you're familiar with my process by now if you follow my posts here on Blogger. I start by mixing my own raw sienna. I use this powdered pigment that I mix with either linseed oil or safflower oil, depending on how I want it to spread. I think I used linseed for the majority of this one. 

The basic concept was entirely unplanned. For some reason I decided to paint some turtles. I thought it would be funny to have some box turtles boxing, so there you have it.  In this image, I've added some hand mixed raw umber as well over the sienna.

More of the same. 

Here I've started adding texture by slapping on some extra thick areas of titanium white to be used later. This step takes at least 2 weeks to dry, so it helps to work on something else after you do this so it has enough time to dry before adding color. (The blue you see in this image is light reflecting on a raw umber section.

After the texture dries, in this step I've added in the light areas by shading them with alizarin crimson thinned with turpentine. (yes, I still us the toxic stuff. I'm old school)

This is the same as above, but I've added the shaded areas using thinned pthalo blue. 

...more white

...and more shading

Now I'm starting to add more premixed raw sienna (not the kind I mix myself) combined with cadmium orange. I use the premixed in this step because the premixed colors and hand mixed have different color saturation levels. If I tried to mix some premixed orange with hand mixed sienna, the orange would overpower the hand-mixed color too easily.

Here I've added some more colors. I've finished off much of the blue, and worked on some of the greens. I generally stick to various mixtures of sap green, naples yellow, white, and ivory black (not mars black)

Here is the finished painting. I seem to have skipped several steps, so let me sum up what you missed. The shinier brown areas are naples yellow light mixed 50/50 with linseed stand oil. The cloak on the left is various mixtures of a high-grade vermilion (not a hue, as you want the high color saturation). The turtles are the same as the other greens. The ropes and banner are the same colors I used in the robes of the guy on the left. The skin colors are...something. I don't remember which one I chose. Probably some Eurasian color or something. 

Anyway, this one ended up being a good slump buster. It was really fun, until the end where I kind of just finished it...spent way too long working on such a small piece. What can I say though, tons of stuff going on the last few months that killed my production level. Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

As always everything i have is for sale! See my art gallery for my available works. And check back in later for when I finish more stuff.

Piece out!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

2013 Artwork Catalog

Joe Kidd Art Catalog 2013

Turtle Box
Oil on Canvas, 12x14

Oil on canvas, 20x24

Follow the Talisman
Oil on Canvas, 14x18

Apple Tree
Oil on Canvas, 30x40

The Prodigal Parents
Oil on Canvas, 20x24

Retribution Road
Oil on Canvas, 20x25

The Stone Bridge Rembrandt Study
Oil on Canvas, 20x24

Cyclops Bookworm
Oil on Canvas, 14x18

Oil on Canvas, 12x12

Gazed and Confused
Acrylic on Canvas, 12x12

Outside the Lair
Acrylic on Canvas, 16x20

Acrylic on Canvas, 11x14

Last Supper
Acrylic on Canvas, 24x30

Ancient Oracle
Acrylic on Canvas, 16x20

Acrylic on Masonite, 14x18

She Painted Fire
Acrylic on Canvas, 16x20

Guardians of the Floodgate
Acrylic on canvas, 16x20

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple Tree Progression

 Apple Tree
Oil on Canvas, 30x40, 2012

Ok, so this painting I wasn't sure how to post as it does (obviously) contain some nudity. It is obviously not meant to be pornographic or even erotic, so I'm sure it complies.

With that out of the way, this painting was a bit of a monster. It began a bit different than my others to this point, in that I actually prepped this painting and rounded up textures and materials, planned out my palette, and all that.

This painting started out as just wild silliness and advanced into so much more once I got through it. The original premise was going to be some dude in robes lamenting the fact that he dropped his ice cream in melodramatic, high-art fashion. That was really all it started out being, as a sort of satire of the world of art and how you can take literally any subject and run it through the filter of the high art, or fine art, eye and it will be spectacular.

This is something I've often encountered ever since I started drawing in 2nd grade. I was always told.."you're not creating art, you're merely illustrating" because I'd always be copying some picture or making up comic book characters or something. I always found that mentality rigid, narrow-minded, and condescending...particularly because it was always coming from someone who themselves never created a work of art in their lives, yet somehow know all about what art is and all that.

So I suppose I had a chip on my shoulder about the art world. It never changed how I approached my work....I paint for myself and if someone likes it enough to buy it from me, awesome! I like illustrating and telling stories, so that has always been my approach to art. I've never considered still life or a green triangle on a white canvas to be the creme de la creme of the art world.

That sounds silly, but in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, there is an abstract expressionism section where you will seriously have two lines on a canvas or 3 squares or a triangle ( that one is in a different museum...can't remember which). At any rate, many of these are valued in the millions! Wow, 3 rectangles...pure genius. I'm not saying all abstract expressionism is crap...some of it is quite brilliant, but 3 rectangles....I'm not convinced.

Now, granted, art is highly subjective. I am in no way assuming to be any better or worse. How would that make me any less pretentious? I am simply stating that this is not my take on art, and as such, my art is considered illustration, not art. So that was what I was trying to get at when I started with this dude: kind of a poke in the eye to that rigid definition of art.

Well, needless to say, the painting changed drastically from then to when I actually started painting it. I had problems right from the get go. I initially had him kneeling down throwing his hands in the air in disgust, crying over his ice cream, but I really wasn't stoked on painting that version. Knowing myself, if I don't love what I'm painting, I'll never finish it and will most likely just gesso over it and do something else.

So I had to modify the concept. I thought I could add a female character as well. That is when it started to come together. I now had an interaction that I could explore, with both characters differently expressing their lament.

This is also when I really started shifting focus on the theme. I was no longer interesed in making a just a snide painting, I now had a real theme. What exactly is 'losing your ice cream?' Is it our initial separation from our maker? Is it that we make it a bigger catastrophy than it really is? Was there ever a real separation to begin with? Is it the meaning of life and the notion that we shouldn't sweat the small stuff? The ideas started churning.

Now as you can see, the two are nekkid. Pretty obvious. And part of the reason I decided to do this was laziness...I didn't feel like studying how the clothes would fit on them. However, the real driving force behind that decision was that here you have two reasonably attractive people who have each other, who obviously have no shame in being naked together, yet all they can do is lament the loss of their ice cream? What is wrong with them? What is wrong with us as a people? What is wrong when we have so much to appreciate that we waste so much time dealing with the minor losses and nuisances that life throws in our paths? Was I drawing the biblical notion of what the story of Adam and Eve was trying to say about our nature and how close we really are to pure awesomeness? Dozens of questions ran through my mind.

So was I really still just trying to make fun of high art now? Definitely not. I may approach that subject later, but I probably won't. I'm over it. I've got way too much fun stuff to paint to worry about that. Did you catch that? Huh, just by thinking through my motivation for painting this, the painting itself became a catalyst for catharsis. I definitely learned something about myself and my motivations in this piece, and for that I really got totally stoked to get to work on this painting.

Still, like all works, there were....problems.

I should begin by noting the obvious....gessoed canvas with raw umber oil paint mixed in, same old story. One thing new I should mention here is that I first used the powdered pigment on this painting. You can see a clear difference in the raw sienna here than the last posts I put up. Way easier to handle, and creates just such an awesome base to work off.

Another item of note here is you've heard me mention how my gesso process looks streaky, well you can see it in the above photo if you look at the vertical lines behind the raw sienna of the characters. I'll eventually do a blog from start to finish so you can see all this in action.

Still, and the reason I took this exact picture: there was a huge issue. The action here centers around the woman's arm and face. I tried and tried to get the face to fit. I was working on my triangulation, and the direction I wanted her to face just wasn't fitting.

I also wanted both charactes to be of mixed heritage. He is Native American and Italian, and she was supposed to be Black and Indian (as in from India, not America). No particular reason I chose these skin tones except that I wasnted to try mixes that were multiple steps and more challenging.

Now the dude came together like butter...I can obviously take a photo of my hands and draw his. With a female, I can't do that. Well, I could if I wanted her to look manly, I suppose, but no thanks; I wanted my folks to look good!

At any rate I, short story long, I took this photo to take home from my painting shed to try and come up with a face that worked because I ran the risk of overworking the raw sienna and having to gesso. I normally don't mind gesso, except that in this case, I had painted such a delicate background that was multiple steps that if I started making changes, I'd have to do that again. So that was dialed in, and the guy was dialed in, but she was just stubborn. Part of the problem was this dynamic sort of made me think and work from the outside in rather than the inside out, as I should have done.

So there was that issue. Now I don't have any pics of her original face that I decided on, but I found a face and completed the painting. Now, when you mix skin tones, you need to mix enough to paint the whole character and then proceed to paint it at once. The reason is that if you have to re-mix, you will run into issues if you have even the slightest variation in the quantities you used to mix.

However, when I got done I was incredibly unhappy with how her face turned out. It was way too small for her body, and in forcing her to face how I wanted her to in the name of triangulation, I created this strange looking character that, while she was pretty, just didn't look right. So I stared at it for months, and ultimately decided that it was better to risk ruining the entire painting to get her face correct as the whole action rotates around it. It was just too big of a problem to let it slide.

It was a tough call because I loved how everything else turned out, but I did it. I gessoed over it and crossed my fingers that I wouldn't muss it up. While the face I ended up painting the second time is totally different and not perfect, it is much closer to matching the skin color I chose, doesn't look twisted and awkward, and overall brought a whole lot more reality into the piece. In reality, I think she has a sort of realism to her flaws that make her beautiful, but I'm biased!

So there you have it, my take on the story of us and the story of Adam and Eve. That is the meaning behind the name Apple Tree.

But here is a little more process if you are interested in trying some of these techniques:

This first shot is of the background. The background represents the emotions being felt by the two characters in their loss. The male is more angry, and the female is more lamenting and sorrowful. So I wanted his colors to be intense and reddish and angry like him, and the same for her quiet lament.
For the background wall, I heavily applied some raw umber, full strength, and sort of slopped it on.

Now this process is strange, so you have to plan it, but basically as soon as I got the umber on, I immediately 'ruined' it with a heavy application of turpentine (or non-toxic paint thinner for you sissy boys out there). I applied it so thick that it dripped and drug down the umber with it. This is messy, and you have to have the canvas angle the direction you want the drips to go, so I had to do this process a couple times so I could avoid the characters and not have the drips bleed onto the floor.

Once that dried, I started painting in their "emotions" using full bodied but very small quantities as seen in the wall. Now, I thought humans have complex emotions. Anger isn't simply anger, and sorrow isn't simply sorrow, so I created complexity by toying with different types of brush strokes. In the photo above, you can see what looks like a hawk leaf that was obviously created using a fan brush. There are also crackled areas and some lightning bolts.

So that is the wall behind them.

In this photo, you can see the floor and a detail of the ice cream.

The floor is this mix of white, raw umber, naples yelow (I think. I need to check my notes) layered over and over again and mixed on the canvas itself. Kind of a heavy handed method, but I wanted the floor to look almost bland compared to the wall to represent the clean slate we are all given in life, sort of the base substance we are all made of. That was applied with a saber bristle flat brush, in case you're curious. You can probably tell just by looking at it though.

For the ice cream, I wanted the scoops to represent the people and to tie everything together. So I drew them using the skin tones of the two characters. Now, there is a final bit of information about the painting in the ice cream that I want to briefly point out....notice there is only one cone? That wasn't accidental. Just a little tid-bit for you to mull over.

So here is the final project. I tried to reduce the glare, but it threw off the color in this photo a little bit. It is the most complete shot I was able to get though, so I'm also including another below that is more what the painting naturally looks like.

On a final note, neither of these characters is based off a real person. I always feel like a creep trying to ask people to model for my paintings, so I generally don't ask anymore. It sucks because it is hard to come up with characters using just my knowledge of shape and form, but it is also making me a better artist.

Well, there she is! Apple Tree. I hope you like it. I am almost caught up now, so my next post will be of the available paintings I have that are currently available for anyone who wants a cool piece or simply wants to help support a starving artist. No, seriously, I need a burrito, so holla!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Prodigal Parents Progression

The Prodigal Parents
Oil on canvas, 24x20, 2011 

This next progression is going to move pretty quickly as I didn't take a very good record of what I did on this one, but you'll be able to get the basic idea. This painting was to try out something different. My cousin suggested I try to paint some snowy mountains, and as it was outside my comfort zone, I thought it would be a fitting challenge.

I knew going into this project that I hadn't used these colors before, so before I started I went and opened up some of my art books. In particular, I opened up my book of Maxfield Parrish paintings. You can see a lot of his style in this painting, though obviously not to his master level of quality, ha.

The basic palette I used was from the method I suggested in an earlier blog where you take a cnavas and mix a bunch of colors, then pick the ones you want using your eye. For this one, I did a study of various purples. When you think purple, you generally only think of one color, but once you start applying that to color mixing, there are several different blues and reds to choose from.

You have cobalt, cerulean, pthalo, pthalo green shade, pthalo red shade, indigo, ultramarine and a bunch of other blues. You also have cadmium, cadmium light, cadmium hue, cadmium dark, alizarin crimson, and a bunch of other reds. It can get tricky and you definitely don't want to experiment on your painting, so I mix and bland on another canvas until I'm happy with my tones as well as the saturation levels of red, blue, and white in each.

Like always, I start with raw sienna. This was the last one I painted before I started using the powdered pigment and mixing it myself. When I get to those, you'll see an obvious difference in this first step.
Anyway, this is pretty self explanatory. One thing to note, however, is that I also built up textures in this painting using titanium white in very thick and heavy applications. It is hard to see, but if you look at the background areas, you might be able to spot it. It is mostly in the mountains, the frozen lake, and the snowy hill the house sits on. That is all pretty heavily textured by the time I start adding color.

Next I start adding in the darker raw umber, as well as some texture in the dark spots with pumice additive. You can sort of see it in this photo if you look closely at the walls of the building.

Whoah, what happened crazy fast forward guy? Honestly, I wasn't thinking of blogging when I did this, so again, I didn't track my progress all that well. Here you can see a lot more of the texturing. I applied heavy amounts of pumice to the snow in the foreground. I mixed the pumice with the different shades I selected when I first mixed my palette.

As mentioned in a previous progression, the pumice doesn't want to stick and generally resists your attempts to make it so, but keep at it and you'll win the day! Plus if it isn't sticking well, you can let it get mostly dry, then us paint to further glue it on as you build up the layers.

You can also see how I used a color wheel in this piece. I tend to do a lot of triangulation in my paintings. Each object is supposed to lead the eye somewhere else until it comes back to the main focal point or action.

In this painting, even though there are characters, the main action seems to be the mountains in the back. Kind of unusual and not what I intended, but it is what it is. Anyway, I harmonized the purples I selected with a green and yellow triad harmony from the color wheel. The green is seen in one level of the mountains, the sky, and the guy's backpack. The yellowish-slash-vermillion color is seen also in the mountains, the building, and in the woman's clothes.

The basic concept is to draw the eye to a spot, then away from it to simulate action in a painting using color.

There is also a geometric aspect of triangulation that does the same thing. While this painting has mostly soft edges and has a peaceful feel to it, there is some sharp contrast between the background mountains and frozen lake, and from the frozen lake to the foreground hills. There are also sharp directional lines that draw the eye from the back to the mid to the front and back again.

You dig?

So, here is the finished work. I am overall pleased with it. Of course, there are always things that can be done better, but for my first go at this specific genre and palette, I'm happy. I probably need to spend more time in the snow to do much better than this.

Feel free to ask me any questions you have or if there are any styles/techniques/palettes you would like me to cover. And of course, many of these artworks are available for sale!

As always thanks for looking!

More bookworm to come...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Retribution Road Progression

Retribution Road Progression

This next painting was one of those spur of the moment happenings that sort of just painted itself. Well, I'd like to think that I helped, but really this guy came together so perfectly, I couldn't have asked for a more cooperative project. I started just blindly painting with no idea what I was drawing. In this case, it was the wizard looking guy. The rest just grew around him.

The basic theme, once I figured out what was going on in the painting, is just a bit of commentary on the topic of retribution. The characters are all us at one point in time or another, whether it be the lone wolf obsessed with seeking private vengeance or the angry mob plowing to whatever fate no matter what the truth of the situation is, or the clear thinking person for whom the way out of retribution road is clear. The others, however, have no interest in that...they have their own agendas and will thus repeat more of the same. I guess its about the vicious cycles we can get stuck in through the course of everyday life.

Of course, it's up to you to decide what this may mean to you, but that was the premise of what I was going for.

But enough of that, let's have some process!

I have to describe steps one and two as I wasn't taking pictures when I completed those phases. First, I gesso the canvas, but I do it a somewhat unconventional way. I lay out gesso alongside some raw umber oil-based paint on what is supposed to be a masterson acrylic sta-wet palettte (a piece of paper works fine too). I grab a lot of gesso and a little oil paint and apply evenly with a 2" Purdy.

This is to get as even of a coat as possible. I cross-hatch and blend until I get wisps of umber on a light brown to white surface. Do this very quickly and in moderate tempeatures if you can. Once it starts drying, you must stop working and wait until it does to prevent dragging. A couple drag marks is acceptable and give it a little character, but you don't want it to look like slop.

This process is to give the background a little variety so the canvas doesn't start out quite so sterile.

I will have to do a blog on that process, as it is different from what you'll find online. Those generally use acrylic paint and they create a more even color of gesso. Mine turns out streaky and uneven. They also recommend lighter tans than dark umber brown. It makes a mess of brushes and is an all-around pain. Why do I do it this way? Well, so that I start with some type of texture to work around and also so that I insert some senxse of flaw into the piece.

My thinking is that this simulates having an organic material to work from rather than a flat monochrome surface. Think of it as similar to purchasing a fine slab of lumber for a project. Even high grade natural materials have some sort of blemish, shape, strength limitation, etc that must be considered that an artist will have to work around, so in a way I'm intentionally placing an obstacle on the canvas. Thinner paints won't want to stick to this area, and even though it can be covered with gesso, it provides a starting point for my brain to start molding and shaping my design.

I guess I'm trying to subliminally tell my brain "start here."

Part of it is that I design most of my paintings on the fly with little to no (usually no) sketchwork. I start drawing directly in paint and usually have a loose definition of what I want to paint. The more rigid the confines of my project, the more rigid I tend to paint and things start looking flat and bland. So you may not want to choose this gesso method if you prefer having a better structure and more control in your art. For my purposes, I've found it more beneficial than cumbersome, so there you have it.

This first photo is about three steps into the actual painting process. First, I draw the entire painting in a super light layer of raw sienna thinned with turpentine. Sometimes I'll mix in textures on the canvas using a palette knife and titanium white (full body), or some pumice additive you can get at the art store (though I usually do pumice layers later than this), depending on how textured I plan on painting. That is pretty tricky and requires several weeks of drying time, so I'll skip on that for now. The key is to get all your shapes as complete as you can before you even think of setting them in stone after steps 3 and 4.

Once I have most of the shapes in, I start filling in some areas with raw umber to darken them up as I continue to fill in the rest of the raw sienna phase. Most of my canvas will end up having either raw sienna or white on it (never bare gesso). Then I thin some alizarin crimson with turpentine (you can use the non toxic if you don't have proper ventilation), and apply thin layers over the monochrome brown base. This will be the light layers in this particular painting.

That is where the first photo would have been taken. One final note on that step is that I now use powdered pigment for this first layer. Raw sienna is notoriously crappy paint when you buy it premixed and this first part will go 10x quicker if you invest $40 in a set of dry pigment and some linseed oil. Now, this stuff is toxic as hell, so be damned sure you can perform the mixing where your station is. I wear a respirator and nitrile gloves when I mix, and this stuff can easily become airborne. That said, if you have the capabilities, I highly recommend this method.

Next, I do the same for the darks using Pthalo Blue (or winsor blue if you buy their paints). I continue to blend in the "light" with the "dark", creating some purples on the way, but always thinned with turpentine. You can also thin with linseed oil at this point if you want. You can even play around with combinations of those plus alkyd mixtures or liquin. Anyway, whatever you use, these layers need to be transparent. You have to have the layers underneath show through or you will have to repeat the process in certain areas and that is when you start taking points off the quality in the final outcome.

At this stage is where I first start mixing. On the dirt road, I used a raw sienna and cadmium orange mixture, and I start slowly working in that color in the spots that need it. Again, we still haven't put a drop of solid paint since the gesso step.

More of the same. By this point, I'm starting to re-apply the darker browns in the trees. I use a lot of cadmium orange in my paintings. It is a background color that the eye naturally rarely catches, but its out there as a necessary component of what we see. There are several colors like this, and when I paint, I use them in the background a lot to provide some depth to the final colors when I begin applying them later on.

Moving along.

 This next photo I am getting to the greens. A lot of them are just an end result of the raw sienna and pthalo plue with a little yellow here and there, but the majority of it is sap green. I use sap green as the middle ground green for most plant and tree work.

As you can tell, I pretty much suck at drawing leaves, so I have to get creative. I'll sometimes use a fan for grasses applied heavily, and sometimes I'll use sponges. For this one, it is largely sap green + Black for the darks over the winsor blue and raw umber underpainting, then sap mixed with like some titanium white and some naples yellow. You'll have to play around with it.

It can be very tough to get the greens in your painting to "get along" and once you add the wrong blue-based green or too much yellow you will have to stop and wait for it to dry and restart that area. Play around with it though and you'll figure it out.

Another trick I'll do is get some cheapo 99-cent-er canvas and do a study of just the palette you are using. You can actually just get one canvas and regesso it (unless you want to archive your studies like I do), but it's user preference. Anyway, I'll go through that when I get into a later painting I used this method for, but you basically mix all the potential colors in blue/green/reds...whatever color you're studying and hand pick the mixtures you want by eye. This will ensure you have color harmony in your mixes and can be a valuable asset to a painting's cohesion. A color wheel helps too. Simple, right?

Here we are about to the end. This is before I've put on the last touches and sealed the painting. A general rule-of thomb is that you want your darkest areas to blend in smoothly, so paint them soft and don't make a lot of sharp edge, This flattens them. You can also flatten dark areas by roughing up the texture of the paint so that not as much light reflects off those areas.

I don't mean scratch up your painting when its done, I mean to add a pumice textured gel or even create a faux texture using some fat titanium white and various brushes and sponges. This scatters the light, which is the enemy of dark areas on your works.

This, of course, has to be pre-planned into a painting and done before you start coloring, but it is an effective way of drawing the eye away from the dark paint.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you want to draw the eye towards the lighter areas of the canvas. This makes them seem "on top" of the canvasas what your eyes naturally see is light bouncing off an object. I do this by mixing linseed stand oil with whatever base color I'm highlighting. In the leaves, it's titanium white, sap green, and naples yellow. In the road, it's naples yellow, cadmium orange, and white. You can do this however you want, but it should be pretty light, almost white even. This give it an almost gel-like texture and makes the paint super smooth so the surface reflects the maximum amount of light.

Then you want to further draw the eye towards the action in the canvas. It was something I thought about working on as I wrapped this one up.Overall, I think it's not too bad, but I'd like to have a little less detail in the periphery.

Retribution Road
Oil on Canvas, 2011

Here is the final sealed painting. I have a tough time photographing paintings as the camera lens always bows and warps the image somewhat. You can have your paintings scanned, but they don't do that for free....unless you buy like $500 worth of copies! Otherwise it's $125 to $150 depending on where you go. Yeah, so that's not exactly cost-effective, but I'll eventually get better at photographing, so here's to hoping!

That about wraps up today in bookworm.

Thanks for looking!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jewelry Craft

 So I'm taking a break from posting my paintings to publish a little of the other crafts I dabble in. These first few items are wire-wrapped pendants that I make. I'll have to dig through these to find out which ones I still have available, but these make great Christmas, birthday, or anniversary gifts (hint hint :).

They run anywhere from $30 and up, depending on the stone used. I tend to buy specific cuts, mostly freeform cab, though this can be done with much smaller tear drop stones (see one of the Prehnite pieces below). Anyway, the stones I do get tend to be somewhere in the $10 to $75 range. Average is roughly $15 to $20 for a good piece.

They are generally semi-precious gemstones that I order online from a couple of reliable resources that I've found. I hear people say how hard it is to order stones online. Sure, some stones look a lot better on the internet than when you get them, and sure you can't check out the 'feel' of the stone before you purchase it, but if you follow a few easy steps, you can easily make money doing these.

First, don't order the materials other than the stones from ebay. The materials on ebay are impossible to judge for quality, so I always buy my silver wire, bails, and tools from Rio Grande

Yes, they are pricey, but if you stick to simple bails and silver wire and don't try to buy stones here, you'll be alright. With this part of the project, you get what you pay for, so remember that.

(I tend to stick to square wire that is pure silver, not the coated. Not because the coated or the round wire is bad, but with coated you have to hide the center where you trim the wire ends, and the round is a little harder to keep looking good as it tends to want to smash when you wrap it, so I'd rather not deal with that. Plus I feel the square wire grabs the stones better. Just personal preference)

Second, look at a LOT of stones. I do buy most from Ebay, but you can get better stuff at gem shows or if you're willing to make a trek out to the desert. Quartzite is a great place to find top end cabochons, as is Tucson, both sites of well-known annual gem shows (January through May I believe is the southwest region)

On Ebay, find a couple of specialty shops and lapidaries that you trust and follow their stores. Sometimes the best places are mom and pop ebay stores that only sell cabochons. Pay very close attention to the country the stone is shipping from, and sometimes even the state. There is a lot of super low-end stuff on Ebay, generally from China, Thailand, some states like Kentucky. That's not to say you can't buy from here...just be careful. Also, some of the stuff from China may seem inexpensive, but look at shipping costs too, because those can be astronomical. Plus most of the fakes that I've found are from China, so beware! As long as you pay close attention, you should be fine.

Some places that are well known for their bounty of great gemstones would be
Russia: Seraphinite, Moldavite, Charoite, Amber, etc.). Russia has a lot of fakes in precious gemstones, but with semi-precious they're pretty good (though, again, watch out for that moldavite...the most likely semiprecious to be fake).
Finland: Finland has the finest spectrolite in the world...and its not even close!
Afghanistan: Lapis Lazuli, Kunzite, Tourmaline, Turquoise
Brazil: All types of quartz, onyx, tourmaline, jasper, agates...way too many to list.

There are also a lot of great stones found right here in california (tourmaline, benitoite, joaquinite, neptunite), Arizona (red cloud wulfenite) and on and on. Now, in a lot of those places mentioned, they know that their areas are known for these stones, so look out for fakes, but you have the best chance of finding quality from merchants in those areas.

Third, know exactly what the stone you are looking to buy looks like, and avoid the super high end stuff. The higher end something is, unless you've established a good rapport with a particular seller, the higher the odds it will be a fake. Many of these stones can be lab grown, like tanzanite, etc, some are acrylic molds masquerading as semi precious...especially in the metoers like moldavite. Also, the more expensive a stone is, the harder it will be for you to sell and still make money.

On the low end of the spectrum, the biggest issue here is quartz that is dyed to look like something else. That will be your most common fake. These are the easiest to spot. With the others, I generally avoid buying those specimens online at all. I'd give you my ebay sources...but that would be stupid considering I'd have to now compete with all 5 of you guys that read this blog! Haha. If you really want a good source, hit me up and I may be persuaded.

But enough rambling, here are some of the pieces I've done in the past

Russian Seraphinite in silver

This first one is one of my simpler designs. The stone is Russian Seraphinite. I love this stone as it is readily available, looks great, and isn't expensive enough for people to want to fake. You can easily see the quality of the craftsmanship and the grade of the stone online, so you have less chance of getting ripped off. Other materials are the aforementioned rio grande silver bail and wire. (just assume all of these are from there so I don't have to repeat myself) Anyway, I don't have this exact pendant anymore, though I did buy this stone as a twin, so I have the other one, not yet wrapped.

Prehnite teardrop faceted stone in silver

The above one I included on here to show you how much more effort is needed to wire wrap faceted stones. They are much smaller, have no edges for the wire to bite on to, and require a significant amount of planning to safely secure the stone. The is an old photo, but this pendant was one of my higher end ones. This would have been priced at around $100, but it was a gift for someone.

Really bad picture of one of my first projects. I can't even remember what stone this is and the photo is so low quality I can't tell from that.

Marra Mamba Tigers Iron

This one is a rare marra mamba tiger iron specimen. The quality of this gemstone is in roughly the $40  range (cabs of this type go upwards of $150, so this is A grade, but not AAA) This exact piece is available.

Koroit Boulder Opal

This piece is one of those ones that is hard to photograph and also hard to find good specimens of. The tiny bits of green and blue in this are the 'flashy' parts of the opal, but anything that has either labradorescence or any opals that have 'fire' will be tough to judge online. Basically, be careful when shopping for this stone. Also, pay attention to size with opals, as many are very, very small.

This is another A grade, but not AAA. I tend to stay away from the absolutely highest end, because what ends up happening is you are already at $80 to $150 cost after just purchasing the stone. That makes it really hard to market. Most people want something pretty, and unless you are talking diamonds and rubies, they generally won't care that this stone cost you $150 and came from the other side of the world in a village in Finland, see what I mean. People won't care about that unless they are rock hounds or are looking for something specific.

So always keep your base cost in mind. You don't want to buy a bunch of cheap crap, because that will kill your reputation. You don't want to buy the most expensive precious emeralds either...leave that to casting jewelers. Stick with interesting cuts that have a good look to them, have a shape that will make your wrapping job easier, and will not break the bank and make you upside-down on your project.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some stones are transparent or translucent. The more transparent and clearer the stone, the harder it will be to do a wrap job that looks good. This is because the wire in the back will show through and the stone will start to lose its character. Leave those stones for the guys who do bezels and that type of thing.

 Now if a stone is translucent (lets some light through, but retains some opacity) such as a prehnite, those will be ok as the stone will block enough of the back wiring to still look good. The ones you want to avoid are the totally transparent ones, such as a clear quartz, tourmilated quartz, rutillated quarts, and some of the moss agates and other types of agate.

Use your eyeballs to judge what you think you can do with a piece. Who knows, you may be able to come up with a wrap method that allows you to secure the stone without killing its appearance. For me, I'd rather not bother...there's plenty of other stones to work with.

The other thing to watch out for in this area is some stones have a specific feature in them. This is probably what drew your eye to the cabochon in the first place. Before you buy it, take a mental note of its shape and consider if you will be able to keep that space open. A lot of the time, this area ends up in a spot that you have to cover with wire to secure properly, and you will have covered up the stones best feature! Just another thing to keep in mind.

Now let's look at some specimens I have yet to work on and some mistakes I made

This first photo is of some samples of spectrolite I have. The three to the right are perfectly useable (see photos below for the pics I got when I purchased from ebay). However, the two on the left, though absolute top-grade spectrolite, were WAY too big for pendants. The Far left on is roughly 3", cost me $100, and is almost unuseable. Oops!!!

I wanted you to see some of the problems you can have, even when sticking to your best dealers (as these were all purchased from one of my top guys.)

This next photo is of that largest piece. I wanted to add this picture to demonstrate what I mentioned before...labradorescence is extremely hard to photograph! Spectrolite is somewhat like granite in its makeup, and you can see how those imperfections catch the light and make the stone look terrible. Keep in mind, this is a AAA-grade spectrolite.

These below shots are of the same stones in the pictures above. (A couple aren't shown, and the very last I made a damned good pendant from that has already sold.) This is what these same stones will look like if you have access to a professional lighting tech. Now all of these stones are absolutely brilliant.

Some trickster dealers will wet their stones before photographing so their brilliance is deceptively amplified, but with these spectrolites, they actually do look this brilliant once they are in the sunlight and hit that reflective sweet spot. So take a look at what a difference good photography and lighting can make!!! (these range from A-grade to AAA grade. You be the judge!)

So if you have any jewelry needs, hit me up! I have dozens of specimens ready for wrapping! Again, prices range depending on the stone quality and the difficulty, but usually end up between $35 and $75. I have the Spectrolites above, more seraphinites, Stephanite Jaspers, Lapis, Covellites, Malazurites, Chrysocollas, and more. I even have some very rare Maw Sit-Sit, Atlantisites, etc. I also work with a lot of Larimar, when I can get my hands on it. Actually, those last stones sell almost immediately after finishing, so you're probably better off asking for them by name.

If you want a stone for a special purpose, like a talisman or amulet, I'm your guy. I have the stone properties bible, and know right off hand which stones have special properties for psychics, attracting love, repelling negativity, insight, mental issues, various physical issues, you name it. If I don't know off hand, I have research materials galore. Don't be afraid to ask, as I totally geek out on this stuff.

I will start to post photos of my newer jewelry craft as I get back into making these lovelies. Christmas is coming up, so get in those special orders. I can also wrap almost anything, but my only condition is that I rarely work in gold. It is way too expensive for this application, so I stick to silver. If you do want something in gold, you'll have to provide the materials (and I'm pretty sure once you see the price difference, you'll understand why I use silver!)

Thanks for looking!

(Note: In the future once I get my supplies back up, I will show you how to make these. I don't mind a little competition!)