On Experimenting

I don't know about you but I am a rule follower. If I'm not doing the "right thing" then I am out of my comfort zone. That being said, I do think it's important to break the rules and experiment in art. I don't usually even try out an idea unless I'm pretty sure it's going to turn out. (That's why I have all pinterest wins! Ha ha!). Experimenting feels foreign and scary to me. I mean, what if I don't like the outcome? Gasp!

Every weekday morning, I have 40 minutes of silence between the time the big kids get on the bus and the little kid gets up. I normally use that time to drink coffee, look at some sort of social media or email and start to work. I'd love to draw and paint but it's not really enough time to start and finish a painting. Because, heaven forbid, I have to work on something in more than one sitting. ;) Are you getting the hint that I like short and successful art projects? 

But this morning, I decided to do some experimenting. I wanted to see how different colors would move and work on the pages of my sketchbook. Right away, things weren't turning out exactly how I saw them in my mind but I told myself to simmer down and keep going. Pictures below. I'm going to try to do this more often and I may not even post every experiment on the blog but just keep them for myself whether or not I think they are a success or failure.

What about you? Do you play it safe in whatever creative outlet you have? Do you love to experiment? Is it scary or exciting? What do you discover about yourself or your art in the process? I'd love to know!

Flower Sketch

Last week was spring break for the kids. We didn't go anywhere but tried to do something fun everyday. We shopped, hit the movies, the pool, went to a frog exhibit and visited Auntie in Detroit. It turned out to be a very busy and fun week! The big ones are back in school today. Yay for routine!

My daughter and I did a little sewing project (a mini-messenger bag) so she could learn how to use my sewing machine. It turned out great and I was a more patient teacher than I thought I would be. Ha!

It is starting to feel like spring here (hope I didn't jinx us by saying that) so here is a flowery sketch. Happy Monday!

Here Emma is practicing, getting used to the sewing machine and the finished product on the right. She picked out the fabric, too.

Here Emma is practicing, getting used to the sewing machine and the finished product on the right. She picked out the fabric, too.

Outside My Window

Well, even though there is still snow on the ground and below freezing temperatures, the birdies have decided to return. I had fun sketching doing a little impromptu sketching of them this morning. I've seen Morning Doves, Cardinals, House Finches, Blue Jays, a couple others that I don't know the names of and, this year, little Chickadees. They are so sweet so I had to add some watercolor to this sketch.

Thar She Blows (New Whale Painting)

Remember part one of the kids' bathroom redo? Well, I decided to paint something after I found a cute clearance 11x14 frame in navy at Michael's. I had been thinking another whale would be cute but I wanted it in watercolor and more illustrative than realistic so this is what I came up with. I love the mama and baby. :)

And here are the whales in the cute frame from Michael's and hung up in the bathroom...

Stroll Down Art School Memory Lane (Part 2)

I am SO glad it's Friday. How about you? It's been a good, but long and tiring week. My plans this weekend are to go through some more storage bins (we have quite a few that have moved with us twice – time to get rid of some stuff) and hopefully do some painting. 

Thought I'd post one more art school painting. Even though that plate edge on the left is a little wonky, I always liked this piece. It was my first experience with oils which, I have to say, are probably my first love, even though I've been cheating on them with watercolor. :)

Happy Weekend!

Stroll Down Art School Memory Lane (Part 1)

I loved college. I loved the freedom and the possibilities. I loved learning new things and when I finally changed majors and transferred to an art school it felt like, "where have you been all my life?!" 

I still had two giant rubbermaid bins taking up room in my office, ahem, studio, filled with drawings and paintings. I finally went through everything and threw out lots of garbage. It was fun to see where I started and how far I've come (and how far I have to go!). 

I thought I hadn't used the watercolor medium before a couple years ago but I found this little watercolor landscape gem. 


I have hardly any recollection of this painting! I swear sometimes my brain is too full and things just get deleted. The back was signed and dated 3/15/99. My professor had written his comments, too, which were: "Excellent job, not overworked, good use of the medium, A." Woo hoo. :) 

Do you have any good old school memories?

Studio Redo

We have had frigid temps here in Michigan. We've have mountains of snow. And, a couple weeks ago, because it actually got above freezing, I had a fountain in my office!


Yeah, that's right. That's a steady stream of water coming out of a light fixture in my ceiling! Sigh.

Luckily there's a polar vortex and the temps went back down and everything froze again so the water stopped (for now). Good to know what I have to look forward to if spring ever really does come again. ;)

While it was raining (on the inside) I schlepped all of my stuff to other rooms in the house. And because my studio was empty, I decided to paint. The walls were green from previous owners and they had a faux texture on them. I went with Agreeable Gray (not shocking for anyone who knows me). Here's the before...


And, ta da, the afters...

I'm loving the new space even though I'd like to replace the rug someday. I think I can finally call it my studio now instead of an office. Feels much more arty these days. :) It's a space I actually want to spend time in.

I'm loving the new space even though I'd like to replace the rug someday. I think I can finally call it my studio now instead of an office. Feels much more arty these days. :) It's a space I actually want to spend time in.

Another view... the shelves are not exactly "styled" yet but that will come eventually. I want them to function as well as look good so I plan to take my time.

Another view... the shelves are not exactly "styled" yet but that will come eventually. I want them to function as well as look good so I plan to take my time.

I did get the top of the shelf done which I love! I mean, who doesn't love books arranged by spine color?

I did get the top of the shelf done which I love! I mean, who doesn't love books arranged by spine color?

The kids' space. I'll probably paint that bulletin board this summer. I love having an old folding table in here that can be colored and painted and spilled on.

The kids' space. I'll probably paint that bulletin board this summer. I love having an old folding table in here that can be colored and painted and spilled on.

My current view. I really love looking out a window as I sit at my desk now.

My current view. I really love looking out a window as I sit at my desk now.

The brother's painting. Of course, little brother had to take his shirt off like big brother.

The brother's painting. Of course, little brother had to take his shirt off like big brother.

More art hopefully will be coming soon!

Give Me Some Green

The groundhog was right. Winter is never ending. I live in the tundra. 

Ok, maybe not but it sure feels like it. The weather channel was predicting rain and 40° weather this week and then tonight we get 8" of snow! Yikes. So... I was in the mood for green. 

And being in the mood for spring, I was excited when I found this closed terrarium on sale at Target. I went out and bought some succulents. Then I did some research and found out that succulents can only go in an open terrarium. Oh well. Another shopping trip is in order, I guess.

But to celebrate 8" of snow, I painted this pretty little succulent.


What do you do to celebrate the never ending winter?

Breaking Through

I took some time off the blog and painting. Not intentionally, though. I was just creatively blocked. Like writer's block, I guess. These periods are so extremely frustrating. I feel like I can't be making progress artistically if I'm not actually working on anything. I'm not sure why a block happens but maybe it's the brain's way of forcing a much needed rest? This time, instead of completely beating myself up about it, I surrendered to it. I cleaned the house, cuddled babies, read a book (!), and finally, a deadline got me out of it. I'm still not really sure if it was the deadline and powering through, or time that got me through it. 

I was so excited when a friend of mine from the other side of the country wanted to commission me to paint a portrait of her husband who was retiring from the marines. She sent me lots of pictures of him in his uniform and I asked her many, many questions about ribbons and medals to keep it all straight. I did have to force myself to finish it (due to the creative block), but I'm happy with how it turned out!


And here he is framed and hanging in his new home. :)


What do you do when you can't move forward? I'd love to hear someone else's ideas!

InDesign Class Update

My class is coming to a close. Last week we learned how to type set a novel or play. I won't bother to post any pictures since it's all boring (to all non-print designers) text. And our last project is an interactive PDF so I'll probably not post anything on that either. I've learned so much about the capabilities of InDesign and I'm very impressed with it. I am definitely going to dive into it with all future jobs. 

For the kids' bathroom redo, it's getting there! I have the shower curtain hung and rugs down. The whale art and initial plaques are hung. My next plan was to purchase some prints from one of my favorite illustrators. Then I saw some gorgeous pictures of coral on Pinterest and it got me thinking how beautiful a watercolor of one would be. I'm thinking white on a dark blue background and very stylized. I've never used masking fluid before so this might be a good first project.

Below is a first sketch from my sketchbook...


Another idea I had for art in their bathroom, was to have each of them paint something sea-like in navy blue paint on white and then frame that. I thought that would be very cute, too. What do you think? More grown-up coral watercolor or kid art? It's a tough choice!

Crafty Weekend - Part Three

I have this wall in my kitchen that I've been wanting to find a chalkboard for. I didn't want to paint the whole wall with chalkboard paint because that seems really messy to me. I couldn't find anything in the large size (36"x24") I wanted that wasn't super expensive. And even those chalkboards came in ugly or plain frames. So my plan was to buy a frame and then buy some thin plywood and paint it with chalkboard paint. Well, while I was at Michael's searching for frames and realizing that none of them were that great, I meandered down the clearance aisle. And what did I find? Two hotel-looking large size framed canvas wall art for $10 each!

I bought them both because I thought, "Why not?!" The venice-looking scene (below) isn't exactly my style but this wall desperately needed some art so I just hung that one there for now. It actually goes really well with the previous owners curtains and paint choice so that was a happy accident. These framed canvases were actually a little smaller that I thought I wanted but actually worked perfect in both spaces. Also, the frame isn't exactly what I had in mind but it really does work with our traditional house and oak trim.


For the other framed canvas, I used a $6 bottle of Martha Steward brand black chalkboard paint and painted three coats right on top of the canvas. You have to do one coat, allow to dry for at least an hour and then do the next coat. I used a foam brush and it went on so easy. When you finish your last coat, let it dry for at least 24 hours. Then you want to condition the chalkboard by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk all over the surface and then wiping it off with a damp cloth. That way you don't end up with words that never really erase. 

I wasn't sure if I'd like the canvas texture for the chalkboard but it worked great! Such a fun and easy project for $16! Below is the "after."


Anyone have any fun DIY plans for the coming weekend?

Crafty Weekend - Part Two

The three hooks by the shower are where the kids (are supposed to) hang their towels. I loved this idea but needed to make something that went with my navy blue theme. At Michael's (my local craft store), I picked up three wooden plaques and wooden letters that were the kids' initials. I also bought glossy Navy acrylic paint, white paint and a paint pen in white. I painted the wooden plaques navy blue. It took a couple coats since I didn't bother priming the bare wood. The wooden letters were also bare wood that I painted white. I added some lines with the paint pen, just for some interest. My daughter, Emma, has the same initial as her brother, Eli, so I just added some hearts on her plaque to make it a little more girly. I carefully drilled a hole in the back of the plaque (only about half way through) so that they would hang flush against the wall on a nail. Then I just hot glued the letters to the plaques. I think they turned out cute!


Crafty Weekend - Part One

I was pretty busy last weekend doing some fun projects so I thought I'd share. I have been wanting to decorate the kids' bathroom since we moved in. It's nice and roomy with two sinks. I love that they have their own bathroom but it's pretty plain. With a girl and two boys, though, I wanted it to be gender neutral and able to grow with them. You can check out my pinterest board here to see what I am thinking.

First up, this bathroom needed some art! I've had this pinned for such a long time. So for my first project, I bought some blank canvasses and paint at Michael's. I wanted the whale and water spout to look organic so I just freehand drew it on the canvas and then painted it. The top canvas is Pale Blue, the middle is Turquoise and the bottom is Navy. I was thrilled with how they turned out! It's just one little to-do checked off my list but I love it and can't wait to see how the rest of it comes together. By the way, the bathroom (below) isn't really that yellow. It's more of a very light beige. I just can't take a great picture even with my hubby's awesome camera. Maybe that should be the next class I take!

For the rest of the art, I'm planning on ordering a few prints from a favorite illustrator and framing them in white or navy blue frames. I'll post an "after" when it's done!


InDesign Class - Week One Project

As I mentioned before, I'm taking an online InDesign class from Nicole's Classes. I've really enjoyed the first week. I could probably figure out where everything is in the program on my own but that would take forever and I just don't have time for that! :) The format of the class is watching a video and then doing "homework." I really like the instructor's teaching style. She doesn't miss a step so even a beginner would have no trouble following along. It's also not so slow that someone who has experience would get bored. 

Our first project was making the flashcards below. I pretty much stuck with her design because I was more interested in learning the how rather than doing a design on my own. For this project anyway. I'm anxious to do more in InDesign. I'm really loving it. I might just be a convert!


Pretty Little Lady Head Vase

My mom got me this beautiful lady head vase from 1960 at an antique fair. I love it! She is in perfect condition. I have her filled with fake greenery right now but I can't wait to make some paper flowers. I got the Paper to Petal book for Christmas from my love and this gives me the perfect excuse to do a project from it. The paper flowers will look beautiful at least until summertime when we have fresh flowers again and don't live in a frozen tundra anymore!


Taking a Class

I've been a graphic designer for over 10 years now. Back in my day (ha ha) at school, we were taught QuarkXPress for page layout. I really loved it. It was made for designing text. I loved it for page design but hated the price. I'm two versions behind now and have a freshly installed version of InDesign on my computer. I can either cough up the big bucks for the new version of Quark so it will run on Mavericks or bite the bullet and finally learn InDesign. Nicole's Classes offers a month long class called InDesign 101 and I decided to take it and it starts this week. I'm actually super excited. But I was always the geek that couldn't wait to go back to school. I've printed out all the class notes and even bought a new binder. Yep, once a nerd always a nerd. ;)


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, folks! It's that time again when most of us make resolutions or goals, etc. I tend not to because I just can't ever seem to make them stick. I do have a mental list of things I'd like to get done in 2014 (how's that for flaky? Ha!). Actually, this list is more for the first quarter of 2014. So here it goes, in no particular order, stuff I'd like to get done by the end of April 2013:

1. Catch up on Eli's baby book.

2. Catch up/decide on what to do with photos - whether to print and put in albums like I used to (I'm about three years behind), print a photo book or use Project Life.

3. Meal plan and exercise three times a week. I'm busy, yes, but I really have no excuse for either of these.

4. List some watercolor prints on Etsy. I know it's just fear that's holding me back. I need to get over it and just do it.

5. Paint, paint, paint. Draw, draw, draw.

6. Read one book.

7. Finish the kids bathroom room with a new shower curtain, hanging some art and some new rugs.

8. Hang up more art in the living room. We have a long blank wall with just a tv on it. I'd love to make it an art wall like this or this.

9. Schedule my time throughout the day more intentionally. I'll let you know how this one goes and if I come up with any helpful tips or tricks for this.

What about you? Do you make resolutions? Do you have any tricks for how you stick with them?


Merry (Almost) Christmas

I hadn't drawn or painted anything in almost a week and a half! That feels like forever since I've been consistently drawing now almost daily for over a year. I don't always post what I draw, though. I'm behind on the doodle a day December. But I've been working and spending time with family and that is important, too. Sometimes we all need a break to recharge our creative brains. :) 

Today I had a couple hours of quiet so I painted this as a Christmas gift for my sister and her husband. I kind of wish I had his head tilted the other way. Oh well. And isn't my sis adorable? (You're adorable, too, Josh!).