Thursday, May 3, 2012

Birds Welcome Here

This is a message for my local bird tribe - they read blogs too.  I've been really trying to make my back yard into a 'back garden' because I figure it sounds more enticing to you.

(Marketing, you know.)

Doesn't the little cottage seem like a place that you might want to raise a family?  I don't have cats that might be a little too interested in you.  Ok, I have dogs. But I've put little fences up, and they are very short-legged. So they aren't able to get very close.

I've also been taking extra effort with keeping the bath filled. I know your kind likes that, and you like it cleaned too. Check. Birdbath cleaned yesterday morning. 

There's a squirrel feeder too.  Um no. It's NOT a squirrel feeder, it's a bird feeder. Purportedly squirrel proof. I'm finding out that the Gang of Four Squirrels has figured out how to outwit the spring mechanism. But hopefully you all will be able to share.

Open house! Come on over!  I've even got sculptural representations of you. 

As a hint.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

You, me, and the Flea

April 28 was the Fancy Flea - the most gorgeous, shabby, grungy, chipped painty, ironworkish, extravaganza of color and texture that you could possibly imagine outside of Paris. Except this brocante of home and garden gloriana resides two times a year in the little town of Lakeland, FL. Which is where I grew up. If they had stuff like this when I was young, I might not have been in such a hurry to leave! 

See the person in the hat taking a photo in the left corner above? That's me...

There's just all manner of bric-a-brac - it's like a flea market on the tastiest concoction of steroids ever seen by womankind.  A truffle extravaganza of  old linen, time-rumpled suitcases, old glass milk jugs with garden flowers...

Dainty leaves nestled in crystal sorbet cups...

Old steel wash tubs filled with Gran's china, old table legs, and a violet or two to make it merry.

Old picture frames, imagery flown away, now resting on hot pink chairs, and stacks of leaves and ironwork.

Crystal drops, and lemondrops. And worn silk ribbons...

Dreamy, isn't it?

Looks like millefiori - actually deep, sweet, earthy scents of exotic soaps! In a wheelbarrow, of course.

BWA - birds with attitude.

I about had a conniption over these wonderful old spice jars. A conniption, I tell you! How in the HECK I didn't spend every penny I own, and then robbed the pockets of anyone walking by is beyond me. Well, except I do have standards, you know.  And I'm saving for a trip to France next summer. That might have something to do with it.

I'm already looking forward to the autumn edition of the Flea - can't come soon enough!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Artfest Charm Swap Tutorial

Hello friends! Finally got caught up on my sleep after the delicious insanity and 3 hour time difference of Artfest, and, if you participated in Annie's charm swap trade, then you saw a little tag on my charms which promised a little tutorial on how I made them.  Finally, here it is! 

Note to self: probably should have done this before I left, but as usual, I ran out of time. Oh well, nobody died of it, world didn't come to end, etc. ;-)

This does require that you know basic crochet first - if you have not learned that yet, I recommend CraftyMinx's Crochet School tutorials - she does a really excellent job of  explaining in GOBS of detail how to make the chain stitch, and the various crochet stitches, etc. etc.  So, my little tute assumes you already know how to do that.

Step one - chain on four - or however many chains you want. Depending on the size of the circle you want to make, the gauge of your yarn,etc. this may vary.

Step two - slip stitch to make a circle.  Then start double crocheting into the middle of the circle. This mystified me when I started crochet - being self taught (and didn't know about CraftyMinx yet) "So you mean you put the hook INTO the middle of the circle? and not around the sides??"


Double crochet about 18 stitches. Your mileage may vary depending on the yarn weight, etc etc. Honestly, as my yarn was variegated, I just kept going until I saw the colors match up - "Whee, my yarn I'm crocheting is lilac! The yarn I've already crocheted is lilac! That means I'm done with this one! Only 72 more to go...."

Note: I haven't actually picked up my crochet hooks SINCE I made this project...As a mixed media artist, it is my privilege to be absolutely bezerkers over sketching, or acrylic paint, or collage, or polymer clay, or freeform crochet...right up until another shiny object beckons!  Mixed media artists can do anything, but sadly, not at the same time.

Yay! You have half the 'oyster' made.  Tie off the yarn, snip snip with the scissors. Now you can practice your crochet-in-the-round skills again and made another one, just like the first.

Whew, now we have both sides of the oyster, and it's time to put them together. How? Sewing them with your yarn needle and more of the same yarn you used for the oysters. I don't know what the stitch is called - basting? Overhand? I'd call it the 'just get them where they are attached together dammit, stitch.'

Sew them together until you are about 3/4 of the way closed, then, tie off your yarn, and snip the tail ends so it all looks neat and tidy.

You now have a pouch, or 'oyster' for your Pearl of Wisdom.  That's the glass pebble with the word on it.  What I did to create these was:

  • Write some poetic words that described my experiences at Artfest and Fort Worden from my previous visits, (I really liked doing this), and typed them up on the computer.
  • Put them in a table, and made it where the bounding lines of the table weren't visible, but they all lined up nicely. This was not for aesthetic reasons, it was to conserve my vintage paper, as they aren't making it anymore...haha.
  • Tore a piece of paper from the endpapers of an old book (an atlas of crop yields in the US circa 1935) so you know, one of those books that you keep around for its collage fodder. And because I want to know where the sorghum production states were...not really.

Fed it through the printer - voila! Instant appropriate words for my project without having to spend hours rummaging through old books, or dictionaries. I'm amazed I haven't thought of this before actually. As I have an inkjet printer, I then sprayed the words with Spray On Matte Sealant. You could probably use Workable Fixatif or any of those sealer sprays for this.  Use whatever you got, but try it on a sheet first to make sure it doesn't stain your paper wierdly.  Otherwise, the ink will run when you try gluing the paper to the pebble.

Cut or tear out your scrap of paper with word on it, and then use gel medium on top of the word to stick it to the back side of the pebble. (No need to reverse the direction of the word or anything like that.)  When dry, I then sealed it with another coat of gel medium. I used Claudine Hellmuth's Studio Multi-Medium in matte finish, but any kind will work I'm sure.

Annie is running an Artfest commemorative charm swap next year too - already cogitating on what I'm going to make for that!  Artfest...sigh....I love you. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just returned from Artfest!

Hi friends :-) I just got back from Seattle last night (oh very late...) so I will be posting on here this weekend with the tutorial on how I made my Artfest charm swap items as promised.  Just wanted you to know :-) and I have some beautiful photos to share with you too.  What a glorious art adventure it was!

Friday, March 23, 2012

How very curious

I'm attempting to navigate the newest incarnation of Blogspot's uhh..interface? Is that the right word? Anyway, I  noticed that it gives me statistics on how many people look at my blog (more than I'd think) and from where they are doing their looking. (The US mostly, followed by Canada which makes sense to me, and then followed by India, and Australia.) 

Blog visitors from India and from Australia somehow came as more of a surprise. 

 I hope my blog readers in India are looking at their laptops from a gloriously colorful temple with lush flowers, and placid fishponds, and not bored IT folks sitting in a cube somewhere in Delhi.  I imagine wherever you are, readers in India, that it might look like this.

Kenny the Dog, however, advises me differently. He's pretty sure that squirrels are my biggest readers.

He says in between admiring the spectacular acorn hat action, my readers probably are more like this.  He's very attuned to the squirrel tribe.   

(photo credit unknown, but not me.  I salute you Buddhist squirrel lover, whoever you are.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blogging Logjam

On the very edge of my rather large feet (I couldn't say "tiptoe" because really, how old AM i?
In which I very carefully, very slowly..

Return to my blogging activities....
 The problem with blogging, like exercise, is that when you stop doing it (I'll just take a break for a week, or maybe 10 days...) is that you start to get all log jammed.  There's so many things to say, that you just don't even know where to start back up again.  So then weeks turn into months.  Many months.  It sort of becomes embarrassing when friends from the blog world stop by.  And of course they are far too polite to say, "So what have you done since last, uh, October?" but one wonders if they think it.

So I've been thinking about the qualities of the blogs that I really love.  The ones that whenever they update (and well, they do update a lot) that I really look forward to reading. What do they have in common?

They're short, usually.
They have a sense of humor. Not Captain Comedy humor, but I feel good when I visit.
They focus on small things - not big elaborate art trips, or fancy classes, or showing off this and that. Because even if you don't want to show off, sometimes when you only blog about the big things, maybe it comes out that way.  I don't want to be 'that blogger.'

So, I'm going to try it that way for a bit.  See if I can update more often. See if I can just show you the little things that quite thrill me.  Like my new succulents.  See them above?  I've always wanted to grow them, ever since I was a kid and loved my Welsh grandmother's rock garden where I'd hide out under the bushes and pet the plants.  So far they seem to be doing ok.  I've added some choice crystals to their bowl, because they might just help the plants feel more positive vibes.  I want them to be happy plants.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Textural Bliss

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking a textured acrylic painting class with the always lovely and gracious Sarah Whitmire and her charming husband Jarred at the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery in Sanford, FL.  I've been dabbling with acrylic paints for years (haven't we all), but never did a lot with texturing mediums as, well, they are rather expensive and who knows what you'll like, and not like, and go "what was I thinking" about.  Who knew, they are so cool!!

It was a very full seven hours of class, went by in a flash.  We first drew our paintings onto the canvas, then did some vintage paper collaging, then started laying in textures to our heart's content.  As you can tell, I went rather Van Gogh inspired (I feel a certain kinship with Vincent, as do so many of us I think.  Overwhelmed at times by beauty, struggling with doubt, driven by the need to create) and did a painting of my favorite flowers - the mighty French sunflower.  God I love sunflowers, I love their big happy faces and their liveliness.

And of course it had to be rendered with turquoise and teal and robin's egg blue, because I'm all geeky over these colors.  I practically hunger for them.  Who knows which colors I'll want to taste next year, but for this year, it's all about the warm ocean colors.  And then, there's a bird.

Of course there's a bird, (my artwork always has a bird in it somewhere, they represent the muses and guides) and the bird has lots of eggs around the outside of the gallery canvas.  Because we mixed media artists have lots of little art eggs all nurturing along in our nests at the same time, don't we?

Anyway, back to the story!  We laid in our textures, and then went to lunch (an eminently sensible thing to do with all that creative energy pouring out) at the yummy Gourmet 2 Go restaurant which is one of those restaurants that I wish we had on every corner, as opposed to mediocrity and a guaranteed indifferent chain meal.  I love restaurants where the chef is a real chef, he knows his knifework, he selects his own produce, and he's proud of it.  In another life, I worked in the high-end catering business for five years, I do appreciate my vittles, no doubt about it.  Superb creamy celery soup and a tuna melt with a twist to die for with a nice glass of Chardonnay - I wish my lunches during the week were as good...extra good as I got to eat with good friends and new friends.  Why is time spent with the art tribe so magical and so rare?  It's like a champagne that should just pour every day.

So Downtown Sanford is one of these wonderful little examples of little Victorian downtown revival - and it has reinvented itself gloriously from derelict buildings and general malaise to a thriving, bohemian, art gallery filled creative space.  It has a nice little farmer's market, six or seven art galleries, a paint your own pottery place, a crystals shop, a faerie/eco/hippy clothing shop and a tribal bellydance cafe - all in a couple of blocks. And the truly fab Taylor Folk Art gallery.  I wish all galleries were as accessible, as friendly, as welcoming, and as just plain inspiring as this one.   I'll post more photos about this soon.

So we get back from lunch, miraculously texture has dried, and if not, it can be helped along with your trusty heat gun.  Off to the painting!  And the layering of paint after paint, and washes, and just general fun.  Sarah really shares her art knowledge with this one, and inspired us all to go outside of our creative boxes and let loose.  She manages to pull off grungy yet still cute and attractive as few others can.

Now I'm a big fan of the online class, that's for sure. But once in a while, it's a great thing to be able to take an actual live class with an art tribe.  It refills the well.  Make a promise to yourself to treat yourself once in a while if at all possible.  It's juicy and soul-inspiring.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Weekend checklist

About this time on Sunday night (in this case, Monday) I tend to have these little mental reviews - did I spend my time meaningfully this weekend?  Did I do my chores?  Did I do more art than chores?

  • Washed laundry and put away - check
  • Listed relics of former hobbies on eBay - check (if you need model horses...i have a few...)
  • Sketched - yep!  Four pages of Dachshunds and one sushi lunch.  Waiter asked if I still wanted my soup as I hadn't eaten it....I'm too busy drawing it, you craven vizigoth!  I don't care if it's cold, I've watercoloring to do.  No sense of the aesthetic here.  I'm quite sure in Paris this would not happen.
  • Did my Mom's banking (Mom has Alzheimers, so I get to deal with dreaded math a few times a month, always depressing)
  • Worked in my travel journals - painted backgrounds, printed out some photos, wrote some things in support of my Nick Bantock Spain journal.  For some reason, this book intimidates me a bit.  How do you capture one of the most amazing experiences of your life in a little book.  With mere photos.  Guess that's why it's taken me a year and a half to get started.  Not sure if it will in any way represent, but it certainly won't if I don't do anything it all.  Feeling slightly emboldened.  Slightly.
  • Knitting - knitted three rows!  Wooo hoo!  Mastery of the needles is surely obvious.
  • Swept house - dirt, begone!  Take that, sand...
  • Long artsy discussion with husband the musician - I may be creating the artwork for his band's album. Or whatever they call it now.  They have albums still?  I guess so.
On balance, an adequate mix of the sublime and the ridiculous.  It was a success.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A further foray into watercolors

So I've really been getting into trying to stretch my drawing talents a bit further, and well, what's the fun in not adding some color to them?  It is probably stretching it a bit to try to learn two skills at once, but you can't really do much watercolor without drawing.  And at least the sketching end of drawing looks a bit empty without watercolors, so there we are.

I thought I'd share with you the drawings I did this week - I'm really pleased with how they are coming out.  No, I didn't happen to find myself in Brugge (or Bruges, all the same place) this week.  More is the pity, as it's no doubt much more fabulous than the hot, rainy, drearyness of late summer in Florida.  Next time I go, I'm so bringing my watercolors.  I wasn't 'into that' when I was there two years ago.  The photo this drawing was taken from was taken by me though.

I saw this little guy at work on Friday.  We have woods right near my office building, and I was getting in my car to go home for the day and saw this lovely buck sitting in a patch of sunshine, ruminating on the world.  One of the things that really appeals to me about art is that it makes you very observant.  And appreciative of the world around us.  All these other people were heading to their cars, on their phones, I don't think a one of them even noticed this guy.  I'm sure he didn't mind flying under the radar either.

This one I drew this morning; and this may be my favorite.  Nothing like post-breakfast sleepy hound in your lap to inspire a bit of drawing.  She was all curled up and cuddly....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Watercolors with Jane LaFazio

Oh, it's been ages, just ages since I posted last!  I've been up to lots of things....I do need to go back and finish up those Artfest 2011 posts, though with some irony since Teesha Moore is now getting ready to take registrations for Artfest 2012....hah.

Isn't that always the way though - when you are busy with lots of things, it's hard to find time to post.  After Artfest, I went the very next month up to Prince Edward Island, Canada to do a workshop with Sabrina Ward Harrison.  Which was just amazing!  That's another whole post in and of itself, and needs to be revisited.  And journaled about.  I did write a 'words only' journal a few days after I got back at least.  The art journal part of it though?  Well I do have the book actually bound (yes, hand bound) and all ready to start getting filled to the brim with Sabina-inspired mixed media goodness.

Carolina Wild Daylily

One month later, I went up to North Carolina to take a class with Jane LaFazio at Random Arts, in Saluda.  My third visit to Random Arts, and always a genuine joy.  Probably my 10th at least visit to North Carolina.  I can't quite decide if my spiritual home is in the lush green mountains and rushing streams of western North Carolina, or the land of the tall trees and the powerful oceans of western Washington.  One or both I think.
Little plump dove, blind contour sketch

Anyway, I wanted to share with you the results of my watercolor sketching class that I took with Jane.  What an amazing lady!  A very kind and generous teacher, and so full of encouragement and sparkle.  I really felt very inspired and confident that I want to pursue the fine art of sketching more after this class.   Class works scattered throughout the post.

Still life Study

And when I got back to the cabin that we stay at whenever we are in WNC, aka - my "pretend home" up there ("oh, yeah, our cabin is in's near Hendersonville.  Oh you don't know Hendersonville?  Well it's about 45 minutes south of Asheville." sounds like I own it, no?) I don't, but the very nice Landen and Benny do, and for very reasonable rates, they let us think we own it for the week.  I sat out on the back porch one fine and sunny morning, surrounded by the tall, tall trees and the wonderful sound of nothing but birdsong and silence, and painted what I saw.  And here that is...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Artfest Forever! Day One

 I'm just back from a crazy busy week at Artfest in Port Townsend, Washington.  What an incredible event
 - I am already counting the days till I can return to my own version of heaven.  Just a few quick snippets of day one here.  The above picture is on the Bainbridge Island ferry, on our way to the Fort - really quite pretty weather, and that was a preview of the glorious days of sunshine to come.  I was very lucky to carpool with some wonderful new friends to the event - you meet just the nicest people at Teesha and Tracy's events.

Two hours of ferry riding and navigating later - here's the Fort Worden Commons!  Time to get checked in and pick up our adorable goodie bags - these were very useful tote bags (for your grocery shopping) and water mugs that were incredibly handy for making sure you remembered to hydrate with all the swirl of gypsy art madness going on.
Ok, there was one hitch in the proceedings.  The US postal service apparently sat on my box of paints that I shipped - with an explosion of gesso as a result.  Yes, that was me cleaning gesso of of EVERYTHING in the bathroom of dorm 225 for an hour or so.  I did have lots of tea and sympathy from my fellow artists though, and the use of a scrubby sponge.  Everything pretty much got cleaned up, and I learned a valuable lesson about the powers of ziplock bags.  Lesson:  use bags for paint!  And, Akamai Art Supply to the rescue - one tub o' gesso later, I was all set again.  Yay Akamai!

After the opening meeting, I went for a quick walk on the beach - this is what the real Twilight in Washington State looks like.  Nary a vampire in sight...  More of the story soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Artfest Trades!

I'm getting ready to attend my first Artfest!  I have been to Journalfest before, so I can't wait to get back to the magical Fort Worden, now packed with 500 of my fellow mixed media artists.  I'm told Artfest is like a really amped up version of Journalfest - I think my muse is going to be spinning about a hundred miles a minute....

So one of the big events from what I've read on the Yahoo group is trades - and these are the ones I'm bringing.  They are hand made, hand painted, enameled pendants with handmade 'yarnpeltery' tassels (that's what I call my collage knitting and fiber endeavors).  Some of them even have Swarovski crystals on them, others have moonstone and amethyst beads - I'm so looking forward to sharing them!

I'm also including my artwork on Moo Cards with the pendants, (see below) I think this will be awesomely fun.

Really looking forward to meeting my fellow Artfesters and trading with you all!  (as a journalism major a few moons ago, I think all these apostrophe marks would probably get me in trouble with my old professors, but hey - it's a goddess tribe gathering!)