Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Place For Things

While flying home to Colorado from a trip in California in January 2011, I was reading a great book about the business of art that I'd been given as a gift.  Reading about possibilities always inspires me, and after a while, I had to stop and write down some ideas.  Along came this idea, sketched in the 4x6" book I carry with me at all times (remember you can click on the photos to see better):

I needed a place for all the clutter on my desk (such as bits of still-usable paper, sewing machine bobbins, colored pencils, ribbon, inspirations, or half-finished paintings) in order to clear up work space.  Many of you know what it usually looks like: piled high with a minimum of 3 projects going on at once.  It seemed that shallow shelves would do it.  Here is what my wall looked like at the time:

I've been working with it like this for as long as I've lived here and it has been perfectly functional, but here were the flaws:
  • As stated, no storage space
  • It was actually wood paneling that had been painted white.  I actually like the texture of painted wood paneling, but it is very thin and therefore doesn't provide much in the way of insulation in the winter months, something I am always fighting with a portable electric heater
  • Behind the lovely piece of orange batik fabric I hung up on the wall was a thousand tiny painted-over pin holes, a souvenir from a previous owner who'd used the wall for his dart board location (you could see the outline of a circle in the pin holes)
So Paul and I got to talking about the project, and he said it shouldn't be too tough, and so he had me draw a more detailed picture, with measurements, which turned out like this:

And then we got to work!  One weeknight Paul pulled off the wood paneling and then a small section of pieced-together sheet rock to reveal this:

The next weekend, after replacing all that insulation with much thicker stuff, we put up two 12-foot lengths of sheet rock, sideways.  This photo shows after we covered up the seams and screws with mortar.

The fun part: picking a color!  This is called Polliwog.

In went the first, foundational shelves:

Slowly but surely, the smaller ones were added:

And now, after a week of sorting things and cleaning and vacuuming and moving the furniture back, they are COMPLETE!!

Isn't it a dream?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pastels, This Time Seriously

This week, I went outside with Barbara, who showed me what plein air painting is all about.  I have only started to understand oil paints recently (the ideal for painting outdoors since they don't dry up), so I had no interest in painting myself, but watching her was exciting.  Also, she encouraged me to bring my oil pastels to try to work on something while I had her to watch & guide me.  I didn't have my camera that day to show you what it looked like for us, but above is the final outcome of my piece.  It was a study of a pine tree off in the distance.  It didn't look like this in reality, but I was challenging myself to work with simple shapes and understand the concept of tones, texture, color, and a focal pint.  This little baby measures about 5x7 inches and it took a good 90 minutes.

Here you can see the design aspect of the piece.  Barbara and I mapped it out with pencil on a tiny scale before committing to the art medium.  This was very helpful.  We talked about the dark, medium, and light of many aspects. Tone was really where I put a lot of time (in the top box).  The bottom box indicates the color plan I made before putting pastel to paper.  The value of this exercise made it so while I was making the piece, I didn't have to make choices.  I just had to follow my plan.

I really like how it turned out for being my first serious attempt at a study of something.  I certainly learned a lot, and it felt better to do something that didn't look as child-like as the first pastels I made with Barbara.

On another day a couple weeks ago, I made this cute graduation card for my sister, based on my father's day card design from last year.  Instead of a paper airplane, it was a finger puppet graduate.  It was really funny and cute.  (Apologies for the fuzzy photos.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I've been so inspired to paint lately.  Nothing like a 2-hour discussion with Barbara McCulloch last week all about oil and acrylic painting, and then another discussion about watercolor painting with my mom last night to get the inspiration flowing!!  Plus, two weeks ago, I was invited to an art night at a friend's to paint using oil paint, something I've been discouraged by for a number of different reasons over the years.  Well, that experience was also amazing.  And so, art day today was about forcing myself to sit down and do something about it.  

The only way I could get any painting to take shape in my mind was to start with a horizon, something Kelly Rae Roberts does in a lot of her work.  The tulips piece above is (I think) complete.  It is my favorite of the bunch.  I primed a piece of wood I had lying in my studio, then went to work after looking to Kelly Rae and a newly discovered artist, Paula Nizamas for inspiration.  It also reflects a painting I saw in Germany once that I loved so much I almost bought it despite it costing half my monthly wage. (I managed to talk myself out of it in favor of paying the rent, but I never have forgotten it.)

Next I pulled out a piece of construction paper I'd primed about 3 years ago.  I had a bunch of old blue paints, so thought I'd do some blending.  That led to the sky, which led to this.  About halfway through, I thought of the fire that is right near our house.  (Below is a picture from our back yard taken a few days ago.)  This piece is far from finished, but I like the path it's taken so far.

Here is another little piece I made, which I love how it turned out.  It started as something TOTALLY different (think: pine tree on a mountain) but it was dumb so I painted over it and started again.  This is painted on a small piece of brown paper bag and will become a card for my dad (Father's Day and such...)
I'm showing you the next one last because I'm struggling the most with it.  The top photo is from early this morning, the before photo.  I had painted this last weekend.  I felt like a 3rd grader - completely unknowing and so just threw colors on the canvas (yep, this one is on canvas).  The red parts are something I'd put on the canvas about 2 years ago, including that rectangle of red fabric.  Well the little farmhouse piece above helped me take the next step with this one, and so you can see it as a continued work in progress in the second photo.  (The neatest thing is that I used my new brayer on this, and I'm liking what it does, although I need to develop some finesse with technique for sure.) 

Here they all are, so you can see then in relation to each other.  I put the scissors in there to give it some scale.  I have to say, I feel VERY fulfilled today, after an entire morning of painting, even though it was hard in some moments.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cute Little Project

My friend Pete commissioned me for a simple project to add some character to one of the rooms he's renovating in his house.  He's put up some beetle-kill pine siding over a really bad paint job from the previous owners (so bad it couldn't be painted over bad) and it turned out there was a knot right where the floor and the wall met.  The knot popped out to reveal a hole, so Pete asked me to make a mouse that would peep out when you looked in there.

So I drew a selection of four little mice, about an inch tall, which would give Pete a choice. 

Pete loved them all and hasn't decided yet which one will go there, and now he's inspired to find three other knots in the room so that the other three can be utilized.

Here was my favorite, although the orange one with the waving mouse was also very good:

Thanks for the fun idea, Pete!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Foldy Cards

About 2 years ago, my step-mom showed me her most recent find: a copy of a magazine called Card Maker Magazine.  The issue's theme was folding.  What a treasure trove of ideas!!!  I took pictures of each page and still return to them for inspiration.  For one of my Card Swap cards this year, I delved into one of their great designs, based on success I'd had making my sister's birthday card using this design in March.

This is the only in-progress photo I took:

Here are some photos of the different views.  The coolest thing about it is that you don't know what to expect from the card.  The personal message is hidden when the card comes out of the envelope.  Then you pull, and voila!  The center flips and you see a message from your loved one.

I created this template, based on the design in the magazine, so that you, too, can make this fun card.  You can make it any size, and change the proportions of where the folds/cuts go.  The card for the card swap was about 3 x 5½" when folded, but the card I made for my sister was using an entire 8½ x 11 sheet of cardstock (see photo below the template).  Have fun!