Sunday, February 28, 2010

Little Treasures

I am very sentimental and save everything. My excuse is that I will use all my little treasures in paintings someday. Yesterday I decided to get these little pill bottles and old keys out of a drawer and put them on display. They belonged to my Grandmother, who was a great believer in homeopathic remedies. I love tiny little bottles and jars.

I took another picture with a penny in it to show the scale of how small the bottles are-with tiny little pills inside! Some of the bottles still have their original boxes. I never knew my father's parents, as my parents emigrated to this country when I was very young and left their families behind. It has made my family extremely close, as we moved frequently and all we had was each other. But I like to hold objects that belonged to my ancestors and try to feel close to them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Touching Find

In addition to collecting antequarian books and magazines, I also love other paper ephemera, especially old postcards. I bought this one at a flea market because I liked the "Merry Christmas and Happy New year" calligraphy. Sometimes I'll scan that sort of thing in and use it in my digital collages.

The back was so closely written I didn't even bother to read least, not until months afterward. What I read was deeply touching. It was written in 1918 during the terrible infuenza epidemic (and such a coincidence that I should buy this just as everyone was so worried about H1N1!) The author is writing to her cousins to tell them that her mother, father and their friends are all suffering from flu. She is afraid that school will not re-open, due to the epidemic. She also speaks of just receiving a telegram saying that her brother Charley had been wounded just before the Armistice in WWI.

How I wish I knew that the family had survived and recovered from their winter ordeal! Next time I go to our local museum I will donate this. Perhaps they can trace the descendants, which would be very interesting. And I did end up using the calligraphy in a design, which has been made into Christmas ornaments!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Start With a Sketch

I keep a sketchbook because I am always getting ideas for future paintings. I know that sometimes it might be a while before I can get to the actual painting, since I usually have a long to-do list (both artistically and mommy-wise). I tuck snippets of research in the sketchbook too, to remind me of what I was thinking. As you can see, my sketches are so rough, that any memory-jogger would help! This sketch has a dividing line because I wasn't sure what format I would end up painting in.

Next I look through all my photo reference to find just the right birds. I have stacks and stacks of photos that I print out at 8x10 and keep in three ring binders so I can just flip through each book when I'm searching. The binders are divided by category: I have several for birds, one for cats and dogs, one for floral, and one for still life. I add to them all the time.

I knew I wanted the painting to have a sandcastle in it, so my daughter and I got out the Moon Sand (which is great stuff, much more fun than Playdoh) and the bucket of shells that we collected in Florida and started playing with it. We had to make lots of different sandcastles before we had it "just right", of course!

And here is the final result! This is just a snippet of the final painting, which actually is horizontal.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Product Mockups

About a month ago, I bought a set of product mockup templates that Phyllis Dobbs designed. (a link to her blog is in my "favorites" list to the right). These templates are so easy to use! I had never bothered making mockups before, because I didn't know how to do it. I just figured that the clients would be able to visualize my art on their products without me spelling it out for them. In a lot of cases, that seemed to be true, but now the licensing competition is tighter, the art director's time has become shorter, and the economy makes everyone wary of risk. It seems like the more I can do to make the clients attracted to my work, the better. The templates make it very easy to just drop in the artwork. They have shading and everything! So I'm very pleased with my new "toy".

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gotta Paint

I couldn't imagine why I have been so grumpy lately. It is really unlike me! But then I realized that for weeks I have been scrambling to create designs for clients, and to make changes in Photoshop, etc, but I haven't had a chance to sit down at my desk and lose myself in a painting that comes just from my heart. I think I need regular trips to the "art planet" in order to feel like myself. Maybe all the ideas and inspiration just can't be kept bottled up until I have a convenient time to let them out. I always have a to-do list a mile long, but I think its important for artists to give themselves permission just to be creative. If you don't keep your mind fresh, the art won't be fresh either. So there, I've rationalized it, now I'm off to paint!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Closer View

Yesterday when I posted the how-to pages for the kitten, the pages ended up looking quite small. They work if you print them out, but I thought I would try to post larger pictures today.

I used Canson Mi-Tientes paper for these drawings. When working with charcoal, you want a paper that has a little bit of "tooth".

Make sure you leave plenty of white paper for the white fur, so the kitten doesn't look dirty. It is a good idea to put a piece of tracing paper under your hand when drawing so you don't smudge the paper.
And..we're done! One of my favorite techniques is to cut the end of a click eraser with a knife, so you have a very sharp edge to "draw" white lines into a dark area.
Now I'd better get to work! I'm designing teapots today, which is fun because I'm a huge tea drinker. I always make tea properly in a pot, rather than microwaving it. It makes kind of a nice ritual. I like English Breakfast tea best, but in the afternoons my new fave is Chamomile Vanilla from Celestial Seasonings.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Draw Baby Animals

I have written several "how-to" books for North Light and this one is my favorite. It is also my most recent, so I guess it takes me a while to get the hang of things! I have noticed that several of my favorite blogs post tutorials sometimes, so I thought I would post one of the step-by-step articles from this book.

There are several ways of creating your intitial drawing. This example shows the basic shapes method, which in this case is based on ovals. You could also use the grid method, where you copy your reference onto a gridded paper, working one small square at a time. Sometimes people find it easier to break their drawing down into smaller parts, so they don't get overwhelmed by the whole thing.

I like to use charcoal pencil if I am trying to get very soft, dark fur. I used a regular tortillon for blending this drawing, but I must tell you about one of my favorite blending tools. They are called Fantastix. They are a sort of plastic pencil with a soft foam tip. You can get a bullet tip or a brush tip, and I like the bullet tip best. I keep a separate one for each color of pastel I use, so the colors don't turn to mud. They are a little hard to find, but I saw some in the stamping section of Michael's the other day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day and I am feeling so blessed to be surrounded by people I love so much. Dear Hubby and I have been married for 24 years (yes, I was a toddler when we married). He spent the year before we married teaching in Africa, and we could speak once a month on the phone (if we could get a line through), and we got married 6 weeks after he got back. And now we have two beautiful offspring (they don't like me to call them "kids" any more!) and we are still going strong.
Well, that's enough of the mushy stuff for now. I still have housework to do and my paints are calling me! Later I have to take the senior offspring downtown- he and his friends are dressing as Zombies to pass out Valentines to the passers-by. A teenager's mind is a wonderful thing to observe.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Purr-fect Garden

I haven't done much fabric design, so I was pretty excited to see how my first fabric line came out. The name of the collection is "Purr-fect Garden" and it is from MMFab/Wilmington Prints. My mom is making a quilt from this fabric, using the free pattern on the Wilmington website. I can't wait to see how it comes out!
I think I am going to use the white daisies to make curtains for my studio. My sewing skills are pretty nonexistant, so that's about as complicated a project as I can tackle!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Something for You

I love to collect illustrated antequarian books and magazines. Some of my favorites are about fashion and design for ladies. This alphabet is from an 1874 edition of Peterson's magazine. I'm putting it here as a gift-feel free to copy it and use it in your crafting or scrapbooking. Would you like me to post more ephemera for you to use? Leave a comment and let me know.

Here is another picture of my son's sculpture. It is made out of tape, which is why it is transparent. Scotch is having a packing tape sculpture contest for students. If you like his sculture, would you like to vote for it? Here is the link:

I'd better get busy. I'm preparing some presentations for some really big clients and I need to do a really good job. I'm excited, but a little intimidated too!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Studio

I know I love looking at pictures of other artist's studios, so I thought I'd post some of mine. I have been trying to get organized. I tend to work on so many projects at once that I end up with piles of research and sketches all over the place, and I end up having to tip-toe between them! I built the white cabinets over the weekend (with much help from the family who rescued me when I assembled bits upside down or backwards).

I have various antique shelves and drawers as well. I use this one to store some of my still life objects and a few examples of my large collection of antequarian books. The watercolor in the background is of my son, and was painted by Victoria Lisi, who wrote the book I reviewed a few days ago. The small clock was a wedding present that my grandparents received 80 years ago!

I collect pottery from places I visit and use it to store brushes and pencils. This is one of my favorites. It comes from Maine, where my brother and I took a fantastic vacation a couple of years ago. I adore my brother, and we frequently take little vacations together. I love going to the coast, so I am setting my sights on Nantucket for our next trip!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


A few years ago, we moved from town to a house that backs up to a nature preserve. We have a lovely view of fields and hills, and the best part is watching the birds and animals. When we get snow, we tend to see the coyotes a lot more frequently. I don't know if their pattern changes when it is cold, or if they are just more visible! Yesterday this lovely fellow was right behind our fence. I love watching them listen for the field mice under the snow, and then...pounce!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Samples, woo-hoo!

Yesterday I got a big box of samples, hooray! It is always such fun to see how the finished products come out. This is an example of one of my flags. One of these days I think I am going to have to open a shop, because my basement is full of samples. The flags and cards don't take much room, but the puzzles are stacked all the way up the walls. Someday Hubby will come downstairs and find me buried under an avalanche of boxes! Last year I had a sale of samples to benefit Wounded Warriors, but this year I'm going to have to have it in a better location, as my living room just didn't cut it!

If you have time today, check out Michelle Palmer's blog (the link is at the right) and see the collages she has made of vintage paper ephemera. I collect that sort of thing too, so I love seeing what she has done with it. And she is having a nifty giveaway too!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Book Review

These pictures sre from my friend Victoria Lisi's new book. The beautiful girl in the hat is my daughter Margaret! This is a really great book for anyone who wants to paint portraits. Vicki is a hugely experienced illustrator, and she also teaches art at the local college, so she really knows what she is talking about. The things I found most useful were her tips on things like painting hair (why is it that I can paint hair on kittens and puppies, but when I paint people it looks like they are wearing a wet possum for a hat?), and her color charts for mixing skin tones. And I love the homemade splayed brush.

It has been one of those mornings that always seem to happen on a Monday. Woke up to more snow (and I am so ready for snowdrops and crocusses!), a sick child, and a computer monitor that is on the fritz. All of a sudden, the top half of the monitor has gone dark, while the bottom half is fine. Adjusting the brightness doesn't help. Does anyone have any tips? I think I'll have to give working on Photoshop a miss until I get it sorted out. Oh well, my paints have been calling to me anyway!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Cozy Day

My teenage son Ian is a wonderful sculptor and very creative. This picture is of a school project he did. They took it down to Old Town on Friday night and set it up. All the passers-by were admiring it and asking questions and Ian was really the star of the show that night. I'll post more pics when I get them. Our camera battery died, naturally, but Ian's teacher took lots of photos.

Brr, its cold today! Our house is cocooned in snow and fog. I am the first one up, as usual, and I am enjoying the quiet time in my studio with a hot cup of tea. It is the perfect day to stay indoors and be busy. I am re-organizing my studio, finally, after it got so bad that I had to keep the door shut when people came over because I was ashamed of it! The trouble is, art supplies are so cool, and so much fun, that I accumulate a lot of them. I have bought some do-it-yourself cabinets to put together and soon my favorite room will be all spic and span!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Very First Post!

Well, I have finally entered the modern world this year. I have learned how to use Photoshop (love it!) and now I have my very own blog. I plan to use this space to talk about art, inspiration, and the beautiful Colorado scenery. (And I might brag about my kids a little bit too)!

I feel like I am getting a fresh start this year. A new agent, new clients in addition to my "regulars", new looks in art. I love painting birds, flowers, and animals. In addition to my traditional paintings, now I like to use Photoshop to add vintage elements from my huge collection of antequarian books and magazines. The picture above is a little example.

I'm really looking forward to this new adventure!