Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bringing Vacation to my Art

I've been in the studio this week.  I started out just playing around, getting to know my paints and surfaces again, pondering how to create a distressed and well-worn aesthetic to my work.

When we were on vacation a few weeks ago, I was so inspired in New Orleans and Mexico and Roatan.  I've loved the colors in architecture of New Orleans.  The muted palette resonates with my love for vintage.  And the color combinations make my heart swoon.  When you get up close to many of the buildings in the French Quarter, you can really see the layers and layers of paint on them.  I love it so much.  It just feels like there is a lot of history, right there on the walls, shutters, and iron balustrades.

When we reached Cozumel, I found the same soft earth tones, sunny yellows, weathered terra cottas. And lots of layers.  Yum.  As we walked through the old central district sipping icy cold Sol cervezas from the bottle, I was itchy to recreate this palette in my art journal.

Roatan held the same inspiration for me, while also adding some brighter colors to complement the muted palette.  I took so many photos of buildings, streets, shutters, stairways, fences, doors.  I felt so full and so inspired while we were there.  I wanted to do whatever I could to capture that feeling and keep it with me for our return home.

Back in the studio, I began to add layers of paint in colors subdued from my usual palette.  I've tended towards bright colors in the past, which I love, but the muted shades from our time in the New Orleans and Central America were really calling to me.  So I ratcheted down the saturation of color.  I laid down a layer of paint, rubbed some off, laid down another layer, and kept going until I had layers, colors and textures that made me think "old" and "well-worn".

These are a few works in progress.

It's all a work in progress, as is life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I've been flitting around the house, the garden, the studio, everywhere lately.  Going 100 mph and getting nowhere.  That's the feeling anyway.  There have been fleeting moments of inspiration and bursts of creativity, action on the to do list, but nothing seems to really get done.

We went on vacation the last week of March.  You know how it is, those days leading up to vacation and all that goes along with them.  Packing, planning, dog to kennel, airport transportation, arrangements, where's my passport? Upon return home on April Fool's Day, I felt recharged, re-energized and ready to rock it.  And I did.  In fits and starts.

At the same time...I feel like I might be in the midst of a significant shift.  That this might just be the reason I can't settle in, move from activity to completion, get something done.

I have an inkling, a vision, albeit not completely clear, a titch fuzzy.  And so I've quieted down in hopes of hearing what is calling me.  It's tricky, because I feel restless, that I should be doing something.  But my heart is telling me to slow down, to sit still, to listen.  As I quiet my mind, as I dream in the pages of my journal, the vision becomes clearer, the inkling more of a call to action.   I'm releasing some stuff, literally and figuratively, making room for something else to come into my world.  Something that fits me better.  Something that will help me grow, as a person, as an artist, as a friend, as an inhabitant of this big blue ball we share.

As I write this, I can't help but wonder, do you really want to read about this, my idiosyncrasies, my loose footing, the flotsam and jetsam of my days, the crazy stuff that rolls around in my pea brain?  Well.  Maybe you do, maybe you don't.  Either way it's okay.  It feels important to get it down.  To let you know where I've been.  I hope you'll stick with me, meet me back in this space from time to time, check in to see where I'm headed.

Ode to Hope
by Pat Mora

Daily hope rises,
  a radiance streaming
into our white, sleepy

From a fiery sphere
  light, like love, journeys,
offers the grace we can hear.

Hope rose long ago
  for your great-grandmother
washing her morning dishes.

With her favorite towel,
  cotton, blue and faded,
she dries the cups and saucers.

She plans a special sugary bit
  to feed her family gathering,
like yours.

By a sunny window, eyes closed,
  she sits and places her hand
on your warm head.

She prays for you,
  a face she never knew
but vaguely imagines -
  all promise.

She counts her blessings,
  the expanding ring,
and smiles at the thought of you,
  here, glowing.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Peek Inside My Sketchbook

 My to do list is overwhelming these days.

And I just can't seem to get myself organized.

Or motivated.

 And I'm easily distracted by markers in bright pretty colors,

...and fresh white pages.

Or grocery bags sitting on the counter.

All the while, my to do list taunts me.

Monday, February 24, 2014


I've been dying to whip up a new art journal to play in.  I'd been using a spiral-bound journal that I made recently, but I found the 9x12 pages were too big and scary for the doodling I wanted to do.  I had a bit of vintage barkcloth begging to become the cover for my new journal, and I really wanted to make an art journal with watercolor paper pages.  So.  I did.  I learned the technique from my good friend Teesha, and have made several like this one.  I love them.  Really my favorite way to play.  I like that I can customize the page size to whatever I need for whatever I'm doing.  The spiral-bound journal will continue to be an awesome sketchbook.  I know, I really does sound like the same thing, doesn't it.  It's just not in my world.  :)  Anyway, this is the cover of my new art journal.  I love using odd bits and pieces and putting them all together.  This bit of lace was my grandmother's, and the tab that I embroidered "journal" on is a vintage doll quilt I purchased at an antique mall.  It's so fun to find new uses for old treasures!  Makes my heart happy.

In any event, I've been playing in my journal.  And it got me to thinking about where inspiration comes from, and I thought I'd share a few thoughts I had this morning about that.  Like many of you, I'm a visual person.  So, I love books.  I picked up this book and this one and a few others like it for sketching inspiration.  I find the images in these books are a great jumping off point when my pen won't get moving.  I love to pick out just one element from a design on the page, and see where it goes.

Where can you find inspiration?  Of course Pinterest is a great resource, but sometimes I like to get something physical in my hands, you know?  Art books are a huge inspiration for me.  I love looking at paintings by Matisse, with his brilliant use of color and wonky lines and shapes.  Chagall is another favorite artist of mine.  Just to pour over the pages of art books with the vivid colors and shapes and styles makes me want to sit down at my table and make something with my hands.

Another favorite source of inspiration for me is just to get out of the studio.  Several years ago I took a class on The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  If you've never worked through her book, I highly recommend it!  In fact, I may carve out some time to do it again in the next few months.  I loved it so much.  Two of her practices really resonated with me.  The "morning pages" and "artist dates".  I've got a running list of artist dates I want to take myself on, and when I'm struggling with inspiration, I will go down the list, pick one and take myself on a date. A few artist dates on my list include a trip to our Japanese Garden, a tour of my favorite thrift shops, taking my art journal and markers to my local coffee house for a change of scenery, and a visit to the farmers market in the summer.

I also find that one creative pursuit will inspire another.  I like to dabble in different things: I doodle, I stitch, I knit, I write.  For example, when I'm stitching a bit of embroidery on a purse it might spark an idea for a similar motif on a journal cover, or when I'm doodling in my journal it may lead to a bit of applique for a textile project.  Similarly, I find that putting fabrics together for a quilt will inspire a palette for a painting or page in my art journal.  Just like love, inspiration actually is all around us.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fresh Fabric Posies

You might recognize these from this post.  I made one to go on my new scarf.  I posted that photo on Instagram, and got such enthusiastic IG love from all of you!  Thanks big bunches.  Bunches o' fabric posies, that is!  I made a bouquet of them, and they are available in my Etsy shop now.  Thanks for all the fabric posie love!  You guys are the best!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Quite Possibly the Silliest Thing I've Ever Made

I made this little fabric posie during our big snow extravaganza last weekend.  This is not the silly thing I refer to in my title.  But it gets sillier.

I was also on Pinterest over the weekend.  As I am often.  It's like crack.  But I digress.  Whilst on Pinterest, I saw this:

Upon further investigation, I was clicked through to a lovely little website that is home to Jennifer Jangles, aka Jennifer Heynen.  After falling through that rabbit hole for a lovely visit, I decided to whip up my own Scrappy Happy Scarf.  

I had been gifted a bit of black and cream jersey knit from a friend of mine last fall, and heaven knows I've got enough fabric scraps and doodads to supply a small crafty army!  So, I got scrap happy and went to work.  

Here's how mine turned out.  It is so silly and fun and colorful and I love it so much I could die!!!!  And it's warm!  And cute!

I added my newly bloomed fabric posie instead of making one from felt.  I'm tickled pink!  Proof yet again that time on Pinterest is well spent!  Thanks for the inspiration, Jennifer.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Because Nothing Says "Be Mine" Like a Red Velvet Cake and Buttercream Frosting

Don't you love an excuse to bake a cake on a rainy afternoon?  And to make it extra festive, let's make it Red Velvet!  Yes!!

I thought I'd pass along my red velvet cake love, because after all, this is International Love Fest Day (aka Valentine's Day).  There's really nothing to it.  I simply whip up my favorite chocolate cake recipe, then add a bottle of red food coloring.  Yes friends, you read that right: an entire bottle of red food coloring  That is not a typo.  Here's my recipe (simply leave out the red food coloring for a chocolate cake).

Red Velvet Cake

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 stick of butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup ice water
1 bottle of red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.  

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then set aside to cool.  (If you don't have a double boiler, simply place a small bowl into a pan of simmering water.)

Cream the butter, then slowly beat in the sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs and the vanilla.  Mix well.  Add the chocolate and continue to mix.  Then mix in the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add the water, then the red food coloring, continuing to mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.

In my world, no cake is complete without buttercream frosting.  Here's how I make mine:

Cream a stick of butter that has warmed to room temperature.  Add 4 cups of powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 3-4 tablespoons of milk.  Beat until smooth.

While you wait for your cake to cool for frosting, cut out "be mine" letters and  heart stencils from paper.  After you've frosted your cake, place them on top, then shake red sugar over the cake.  Carefully remove the stencils, et voila.  

I hope my valentine gets home before I accidentally cut into this!

Happy Valentine's Day!!  xxoo