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Studio: Smoke & Mirrors – Absolem

Smoke & Mirrors – Absolem
16″x12″x1/8″, oil on Jack Richeson toned MDF panel board
Based on Lewis Carroll’s caterpillar character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

I’ve always wanted to illustrate a scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I own a small variety of editions, perhaps 4 or 5 copies. One is very old and one is very new (found in the discount section of Chapters). My process involved reading the passage where Absolem appears and trying to visualize the scene. His color or species was never mentioned, so I decided to loosely base him off a swallowtail caterpillar. I also decided to give him a little rabbit or cat-like face, just for fun. After all, Wonderland is a magical and mysterious place, so Absolem’s appearance could shift around.

I started the oil painting in March 2018 and did not get around to finishing it until March 2019. I was just not feeling the initial under-painting, pictured above on the left. The concept sketch on the right was created in Feb 2018 and it was a bit too cartoony for what I was visualizing my in mind. Sometimes I like bits and pieces of my in-progress work but rarely does the whole image come together in the first shot.

Smoke & Mirrors – Absolem will be exhibited at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, April 25 – 28th 2019. I will be in the Artist Alley at table #5223 . The painting will be in the 2019 Art Book as well. Be sure to stop by my table and say hello. A framed giclee print of Absolem will be at the Calgary Expo in the Charity Auction. All proceeds will be going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Art of Luba, Table #5223 in the Big 4 @ Calgary Stampede
Calgary Expo, April 25 – 28, 2019


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Travel: Tokyo, post-trip thoughts

TOKYO SUBMARINE – Original oil painting by Ljubica (Luba) Todorovic.

Tokyo Submarine, original oil painting by Ljubica Todorovic 2018

An abstract representation of Tokyo nights. It is difficult to prepare one’s self for the brighter-than-daylight, otherworldly light which emanates from tightly packed towering buildings. I don’t travel a lot, and having grown up in a rather quiet place like Calgary, the “light pollution” of Shinjuku, Tokyo was quite a shock to me. I can see where Blade Runner took inspiration from. In my abstract interpretation of light-filled claustrophobia, angular structures have been softened and turned into round, sea-creature like shapes. 

Medium: Oil paint on 2″ profile deep MDF panel with plywood sides.
Year: 2018 | Size: 8 x 8″ x 2″ | Framed: No; wired & ready to hang.
Notes: Varnished with Gamblin Gamvar (gloss finish)

I visited Tokyo a year ago. I’ve made only two paintings about it so far, but the places lingers in my mind still and more will come.

Night time in Shinjuku was very, very bright. It seemed to be brighter than daylight, over in the Shinjuku and Shibuya area. We did manage to find pockets of quietness and dimness, crossing on foot from Shibuya to Ueno, but it was mostly Blade Runner-eseque the entire time. Interestingly enough, the city does quiet down after 11 pm.

Tokyo Study (Shinjuku), 5″x7″, oil on canvas board. SOLD

Daytime was a different world; people everywhere, walking to the trains. Suits rushing by, high heels clacking, tourists leisurely strolling around the working-hour streets. Best coffee and eggs I have ever tasted, and I can’t even write – or think – about the maguro (tuna nigiri) because it was so damn good. The cuts we get in Canada are pale, watery and metallic-tasting. “Red tuna” isn’t even a thing in Japan, because all tuna is red. Canadian sushi joints use the wording as if it were a different species altogether. What I didn’t know was that in Japan, tuna has different textures and fatness levels.

Daytime also smelled of really old wood, particularly in the shrines, gardens and forest areas. I am not sure what species of tree was used for all of those shrines. We were in Tokyo for barely two weeks and its like we only saw 1% of the city, maybe less. I would like to go back there someday.


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Studio: Make way for Elf Bunnies

Santa Claus has elves, sure. Sure he does. But what about the real bosses, eh? Yeah, yeah! That’s us, the Elf Bunnies! We tell the rest of ’em what to do, yes we do. If we don’t get our North Pole Carrots.. oh boy, you’ll be sorry! We’ll turn around and all you’ll see is our rumps. So, get back to work and give us our delicious carrots! We mean business!

Hand-painted original art with attached hanger, for all your Christmas tree decorating needs! 
Originals only. No reproductions to be made. Gouache, acrylic on 140lb Saunders rough watercolour paper, glued to 8 ply acid-free matboard. 
Hanger and pompom attached at back. Approx size is 1 1/2″ x 2″.

The story behind these buns is very simple. I was tasked with the challenge of creating a set of Christmas ornaments, and so this is what I came up with. Basic bunny drawings using gouache and acrylic on Saunders 140lb Rough watercolour paper, glued (using Lineco bookbinding PVA glue) to acid-free 8 ply matboard and finished with gold elastic and a pompom on the back. They were sprayed with Golden MSA Archival spray varnish in Satin. 

Ok, so! I start the bunny drawing out with a Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour/watersoluble/aquarelle pencil. They are my favorite pencils ever, and I used to sell them in my art supplies store, Sketch Art Supplies. I don’t have an art supplies store anymore, but I do still recommend them. Expect to pay upwards of $4 a pencil when they are not on sale, but you can sometimes find them for as low as $2. That is all in Canadian currency. I use them as underdrawing pencils for my oil paintings as well because turpentine will not thin them out. Be warned, however, that the Faber-Castell Polychromos WILL be dissolved with turpentine because they are oil-based pencils. Not so with the Albrecht Durer watersoluble pencils.

Finished just in time for the Calgary Expo Holiday Market which ran for two days at the BMO Centre, December 1st and 2nd, 2018. I displayed them on a miniature Christmas tree which was placed on a lazy Susan for interactive viewing. 
My Gouache palette is an old Corelle dish. I know, I know. It looks crazy messy! I do wash it from time to time so that I can actually see what I’m doing. Also, I prefer to use it wet but I will re-wet dry gouache if I am just starting a work, to get the base colors. 

I’ve tried many different watercolour papers over the years. Lately I am really into the Saunders Waterford papers because they accept wet media unlike any other that I have tried, including Arches. The Saunders I used for the Elf Bunnies is “Rough”, which has more tooth and grain than the Cold Pressed (NOT) or Hot Pressed (HOT). It is made in England by St Cuthberts Mill and features deckled edging. It can be difficult to source, but it is well worth the hunt in my opinion.

Construction of Bunny Elves. Hot glue, how glamorous! I don’t often use hot glue, but when I do… I stick pompoms to things! Mwahaha. For serious though, don’t use hot glue to affix artist quality paper to matboard! I use Lineco PVA Adhesive, which is acid-free and brushable.

Ljubica Todorovic
December 13th, 2018
Calgary, Alberta

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Studio: Handmade Art Magnets

One day, on a day like any other day, an idea popped into my head after walking past a page out of my sketchbook, pinned to a cork board  in my studio. It had a few quickly sketched watercolour landscapes on it that were in the shape of business card sized thumbnails. What if I turned those thumbnail sketches into finished tiny artworks? Better yet, what if I put a magnet on the back and then sold them as fridge magnets?!

So, I did it. I unpinned the sketchbook page from the cork board, cut the watercolour thumbnail out, glued it to a piece of matboard, cut that out, sanded the edges and then stuck a magnet on the back. It was awesome! I was pretty happy with my creation.

My tiny original art magnet! Cows in a field.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was more useful to me now than a sketch, hidden away on the shelves of my studio. This project led to me thinking about creating artwork specifically for magnets. Also, another reason to create more bunnies! Like I needed a reason anyway! Bunnies as magnets will be discussed in the next post.

Finished Cow Fields magnet, approx 3 1/4″x2″
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Studio: Bunnies everywhere!

Bunnies come in many forms around here; magnets, prints, original drawings, paintings.. the list goes on. Bunnies are red and black, pink and grey, mauve and even lime colored. They can be quick to anger but also quick to please if you have little treats for them. Some of them are snooty and some of them are cuddly. All bunnies enjoy being loved, so wander around and see if you can find a bunny to adopt!

Day of the Dead Bunny, Original Oil Painting by Ljubica Todorovic