Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nature's Mandalas

I don't know about where you live, but here in Ohio we have already had several snowfalls, and the forecast is that a white Christmas could actually happen this year. When I was a child,  I remember being disappointed every year when we would get a snowfall and by the next morning all the pretty white snow would be grey and slushy (or so it seemed).  This was just what I apparently noticed.  I even named our (grey) kitten Snowflake.  Ah, the joys of suburban life.

I did enjoy making paper snowflakes, and loved the rainbow of colors I could use from the stacks of construction paper. 

Now with the internet you can even make snowflakes on your computer, pick up an app for your phone, and enjoy some amazing macro photography of individual snowflakes.  They truly are nature's mandala.  If you are lost for inspiration, or just need something to keep your hands busy before the next project begins, here are some wonderful snowflake resources.  (And if you're in a warmer climate this time of year, you can always look at snowflake pictures to help cool yourself down.  This is a scientific fact.*)

Make virtual snowflakes at :
Make a Flake

Get snowflake making apps for your iPhone:
Happy Snowflake
Paper Snow 2

Snowflake patterns:
Star Wars snowflakes
Game of Thrones snowflakes

Snowmen need love, too:
Snowman Builder HD for iPad
Crayola Snowman Builder

And finally, nothing like the real thing:

Let it snow!

*Not really.  Unless it is.  Anyone here a scientist?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When You Don't Have A Hot Hunky Assistant

I keep a few things at hand to make it easier to open my paints and mediums when I need them.  I find a hot hunky studio assistant works the best, but even the best assistant needs to go home occasionally, so here are a few less sexy but equally as helpful tools I've found work for me.

1.  The most obvious way to make sure your supply is easy to open next time is to wipe down the opening/mouth of the jar after each use.  Hardware stores sell bags of cotton rags for just such an occasion (these also come in handy for other uses, which I will explore in a future art tip post).  Of course you may not want to take the time to do this, I know I get so excited by the colors and the action of painting that pausing to wipe down my supplies is at the bottom of the list.

2.  The next tool that can help in your quest for color is an old fashioned paint can opener.  These are sold to open house paint, but the end can be slid between the lid and jar to loosen dried paint.

3.  A great accessory for those with smaller hands or stiff fingers is a pair of grippy gloves.  I find these a lot easier to handle than those grippy circular jar openers because they are on your whole hand instead of just in your palm.  I use these for kitchen as well as studio, though not the same pair.  I bought the ones in the photo above at Harbor Freight, at a ridiculously low price.  (If you machine quilt, these are also helpful for holding the quilt sandwich as you work).

4. Pliers are great for paint tubes.

5.  Another strategy, similar to the "just clean it off" method, is to rub a small amount of petroleum jelly on the screwtop part of the lid.  This is good for tubes of paint, but I am not sure how the jelly would mix with a water based paint or medium.  The excess would help keep your fingertips moist though (hey, as Alton Brown says, multi-taskers are a good thing).

6.  One last method I've employed is to use a sheet of plastic wrap between the mouth of the jar and the lid.  This worked really well, especially with the plastic wrap that had the dots on one side.  I'm not sure if they make that style any more.  Plus, keeping a roll of plastic wrap around is kind of hard with a cat in the studio.  However, if you choose this method, plastic wrap is useful for other art applications, such as texturizing and putting over paint on the palette to help keep it damp between painting sessions.  And you can wrap damp brushes in them and store in the refrigerator between uses (that one comes from Martha Stewart; she was referring to house painting brushes, but I bet it would work for art brushes too).

These are the strategies I've used to make it easier to get at the art supplies when I need them RIGHT NOW.  If you have any methods that work for you, please share in the comments.  Maybe I'll find a new favorite.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Coming Soon

I am really excited about offering these patterns at my Etsy shop.  They will be available as an instant download so you can start stitching as soon as your order is processed.  All you'll need is some transfer paper (available at art and craft stores), embroidery needle, threads (I use DMC floss and Kreinik metallic braids), some fabric and a hoop.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Zen Garden: Working Through Grief

My mother had been sick since the beginning of the year.  In April, she took a severe turn for the worse, and on May 7, she was diagnosed with cancer on her liver.  On May 31, I was at her bedside as she left this world.  In between those 24 days, I was also dealing with a nasty sinus infection which kept me home (I did not want to transmit the infection to her, in the middle of the month we still thought chemo was a possibility), and the marriage of my oldest daughter on May 25.

When I returned home after the funeral, I spent the next two weeks just cleaning the house.  I didn't want to stop, because I didn't want to let the pain sink in.  But I also knew I needed to make something.  I just wasn't sure what.

Finally I gave myself permission to just play, to return to familiar motions, and I picked up needle and thread.

Buddha's Kiss  36"H x 27"W  hand and machine embroidery, Mom's crochet
I started with the image in the center, and it grew from there.  I had brought Mom's crochet home with me, a bedspread she had not finished, and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my work at some point.  I just didn't realize it would be so soon.  I trimmed a strip of motifs from the unfinished spread, and put it in a dye bath, and you can see the result at the top of this piece.

Lotus Pink, 16"H x 13"W (framed)  NeoColorII crayon on paper

This is the drawing that I made the machine embroidery from on Buddha's Kiss.  I liked it enough to frame it as its own work.

Since I was already working, I looked at the requirements for an upcoming show (Women of Appalachia).  This year the request was for a body of work (6-10 pieces), with a common theme.  I decided the theme for these works would be "Zen Garden".

Sea of Tranquility, 39 1/2"H x 27"W, hand and machine embroidery, Kreinik thread, Mickey Lawler Skydyes
I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.  And I really love the way the lotus turned out in this piece.

Jewel of the Lotus, 33"H x 22 1/2"W  applique, Mom's jacket, silk
I also brought some of Mom's clothing home to use for art.  The gold background is from one of her jackets.  It was hard to tear it down, I had to keep reminding myself that she didn't need it any more, and I have a photo of her wearing it.  I know she'd be happy with how pretty it turned out.

Inner Light, 25 1/2"H x 33 1/2"W  Hand dyed silk, Dutch wax batik, beading

After spending the better part of a month working with the subdued palette of the first works, my brain apparently had had enough and was ready for some color.  This started as another embroidery on the blue silk, but the contrast was a little too low for my liking.  I had pulled a pile of fabrics from my stash when I'd decided to make a series of work, and the orange silk was part of that pile.  I was really delighted with how it turned out when I added the reverse applique.  I also knew this piece needed some extra shine, and that's how the beading ended up on the piece.  The deep blue fabric on the border is a piece from my dear friend Diane Eyerman.

Now it is almost fall, and Mom's birthday is coming up.  I can feel the anxiety building already.  She would have been 67 this year.  Some days I just want to hide under the bed, but having this goal and deadline has helped me make it through the summer.  Friends keep telling me the pain will lessen over time, and I know life goes on.  I just want to make sure it would be one that would make Mom proud.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Camp, Summer Not

I am taking a class through Carla Sonheim's Summer Art Camp (Diane Culhane's "Between Speech and Silence".  It is an exploration of line, and some of the techniques are similar to what I have done in the past on paintings such as this one:

Searching for Treasure, detail  Collage, acrylic paint, India ink. Available at my Etsy shop.

What *is* different is that the underlying collage is made up of random elements cut from magazines, and the image created is found in the shapes made by the elements.

Base collage with "found" kitties and armchair

Collage with added gesso and texturing

Finished collage with Golden fluid acrylics and Montana and Liquitex paint pens
It is fun to take classes with other artists to learn new ways of approaching making art.  I needed a break after a very intense six weeks of making art for an upcoming show, and this was the perfect thing for my need to just play for a little while.  After all it is summer, so why not?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Eye Candy August

July is a replenishing month for me, and this year I really needed that extra time to explore in the studio and have time to refill.   One thing I was exploring was playing with new lenses and film on my Hipstamatic, and returning to the hand stitching that is my first love.  This is a picture of some paper beads I made, inspired by this tutorial from Mark Montano.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Inspiration Close to Home

Sometimes all it takes is cleaning out the studio to remember why I do this thing that I love.  Earlier this week while preparing a portfolio selection, I came across these:

Tuscan Iris, Caran D'ache Neocolor II on paper 6" x 8"

Best Friends, Holbien and Portfolio oil pastel, graphite on paper  6" x 8"

Birthday Flower, Caran D'Ache Neocolor II on paper 8" x 6"

Bluebird, Caran D'Ache Neocolor II on paper, 6" x 8"

Midnight in the Garden, India ink, watercolor and acrylic pen on paper 8" x 10"

Midnight Snack, India ink, watercolor and acrylic pen on paper, 8" x 10"

Painterly Light, Holbien and Portfolio oil pastel, graphite on paper 6" x 8"

Polka Dot Memories, Portfolio oil pastel, graphite on paper 10" x 8"

Sieve Handle, Prismacolor pencil, acrylic on chipboard 8" x 6"

Blue Light Special, Portfolio and Holbien oil pastels, graphite on paper, 12" x 9"

Spatula Handle, Prismacolor pencil on chipboard, 6" x 8"

Striped Beads, Prismacolor pencil and acrylic on chipboard 8" x 6"

Tibetan Red, Prismacolor pencil, graphite, acrylic and glitter on chipboard 8" x 6"

I love how each of these pieces has its own presence, and how they tie together through the use of color and material as well as subject matter.  I can tend to get caught up in the "I can't draw that, it's not serious enough" trap, but art is supposed to express what is important to the artist and to help others see the way they do.  Looking through old work can help me remember that.  And also inspire new work.
Wearable Light, detail  watercolor and graphite on paper, 14" x 20"
What treasures do you have waiting for you in your studio?  Why not find out?

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Today's post is a little different.  It's about self care and how we physically deal with overwhelm.  You can find it over at Mama's Comfort Camp .

For those of you who may not be familiar with the site, here's some information:

My friend Yael Saar is a mama on a mission to remove guilt and shame from parenting in order to make room for joy and love. She is the Founder and Keeper of the Mama’s Comfort Camp, a Facebook community that functions as a safe haven and refueling station for hundreds of moms from around the world. This community is free and open to moms of kids of any age, and we share our laughter, tears, and triumphs, all the while normalizing motherhood struggles and bridgeing the gap between expectations and reality in a uniquely nurturing environment.
I'm grateful to be one of the Campers, and I would love for you to join us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Drawing, My First Love

I have been drawing again, and it has been really fun.  From choosing the paper to which mark making tool I am going to use, it has been a fun journey.  Drawing is my first love as an artist and nothing else can quite match it.  Here are some of the reasons:

Drawing is immediate.  I don't need to stretch canvas or set out mediums.  I can just pick up the mark making tool of my choice, the surface I am going to make marks on, and go.

Green Gardens, 2013  Acrylic on cardboard, ink pen  8.5" x 10.75" available in my Etsy shop

Drawing is non toxic.  Solvents and mediums are unnecessary.  Unless I am drawing with chalk pastels, I don't need to wear a mask or respirator.  I can draw with my children and not worry about them being hurt by the equipment, and generally I don't need to worry about them getting into something when I'm not around.

Drawing is tactile. I love the feel of different mark making tools.  Pencils can be large or small barreled.  Oil pastels can feel silky to the touch.  Then there's the way they move across different surfaces.  Harder dry pastels can have a skritchy feel, while oil pastels can be like drawing with lipstick.

Zen Garden, 2013, acrylic and ink pen on cardboard.  8.5" x 11.25" available in my Etsy shop

Drawing is accessible.  All you need is a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper.  If you want to go fancier, you can, but it's not necessary.  You don't need to live near an art supply store.  It's available to anyone who wants to draw.

Drawing is flexible.  Drawing can happen anywhere.  It doesn't need a studio.  It can happen at the kitchen table, at the dentist's waiting room,  or while waiting for dinner at a restaurant.  It can be as large as you want or as small as you want.  It's portable.  You can do it with friends, or alone.  I love getting out the drawing pads and markers and just drawing with my children. 

Imaginary Beads II 2013  acrylic and ink pen on cardboard, 8.5" x 10.75" available in my Etsy shop

And, most importantly, drawing is fun.  You don't need to do anything but make marks if that is what you want to do.  The simple act of moving your hand across the surface can help calm and center your mind, and scribbles can become anything your mind can imagine.