Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 365 ~ Do something to celebrate your year of creativity!

This a link to a YouTube video produced by Dave Singer who was so generous with his time and who, with a great attitude, put a lot of work into it. It just so happens that his wife Carrie had won a pet portrait I donated to a benefit auction, so in exchange for his kindness I've offered to do all three of their cats ~ Shadow, Gracie and Spirit.You will probably see the finished portrait.

I had really wanted to use a piece of music by my friends Al Petteway and Amy White, but we ran into licensing issues with the powers that be, even thought we had Al and Amy's permission. If you aren't familiar with their beautiful music do check them out. Dave did find some other music we are able to use that is a lot of fun and I like the energy of it to go with my playful project.

There aren't 365 projects on the video! Just enough for a great review. I didn't do 365 projects anyway. Between Days 230 and 303 I doubled up on many of them because I missed a month due to my show schedule and did that to catch up. Those combinations turned out to be some of the most fun. It was a good thing Sheila Vertino wrote an article about me in Fluent Magazine around that time, which talked about the project, or it's possible I may never have gotten back into it.

Incidentally, not doing all 365 means I don't deserve the official 365 merit badge. I major disappointment, as you can imagine. My mother was very clear about that concept when I was in the Girl Scouts and she had to sign that little book that said I had done every single one of the requirements for the nature badge or whatever. You don't get what you don't earn. OR You mustn't cut corners if you want something done right.

It wasn't exactly easy to produce an assigned project a day, and then it was. Mostly, the whole experience was a blast and extremely interesting. I was made for this kind of thing. I loved being a student and later being an illustrator. I love the challenge of taking an idea and putting it into some tangible form. Like solving a puzzle. I'll miss this project! And I feel a little sad about it ending. But it certainly won't be an end to my creating. I have gotten countless ideas to apply to "my own" work and I plan to keep posting on this blog about my processes and experiments. So if you are interested in what I come up with in 2013 I hope you'll continue to visit when you get the chance.

Thanks very much for being part of this. May you be inspired to continue enjoying a creative life!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

364 ~ Rewrite a traditional song.

Here are some new lyrics I wrote to the tune of a traditional song for the end of the year ~ Auld Lang Syne.

Another year has come and gone. I gave it all I could.
Here's to my friends and all I love, to things that make life good,
to hopes and dreams, to smiles and schemes, to never being rude,
to grace and strength and mindfulness and living as I should.

I had originally written this in the plural and decided to change it to the singular so as not to finish up my fun year of exuberant creativity on a preachy (sorry, Blair!*) or overweening note. This is, after all, my sentiment, not yours, necessarily. But you may sing it if it works for you, in the singular or the plural, or not!!

Overweening. Isn't that a great word? I didn't know it and found it as I looked through the dictionary for just the word I wanted there. (That's just one of the things I've gotten out of writing this blog. I've had to look up lots of words for spelling and to see if I'm using them correctly.) It means to be arrogant or presumptuous, immoderate or exaggerated. Presumptuous (overstepping due bounds or taking liberties) would have worked here, too, as well as didactic (designed or intended to convey instruction or making moral observations), but none as well as overweening, and that not as well as preachy, which begs the question ~ why am I rambling on like this? Because I find words and definitions interesting and because this is my penultimate project and I'm going to miss writing to you every day.

*Blair is my cousin who followed in the footsteps of my father and became a Presbyterian minister. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 363 ~ Extend an existing painting beyond its edges.

I've been thinking about something I heard a writer say in an NPR interview. He was asked if it was difficult to come up with ideas to write about. He said not at all because he wrote what he would love to read.

This gave me the idea that I should create what I would love to look at. And I love to look at pattern and color.

So, when I was looking through a National Museum of Women in the Arts' book on women artists to find a painting to copy for this assignment, I found one that spoke to me in this way. I chose it for its pattern and color.

This painting, on which I've extended the borders, is by Lois Mailou Jones, an American who lived from 1905 to 1998. She enjoyed a successful seventy year career as a painter, designer and teacher.

The title of the painting is Ode To Kinshasa, painted in 1972. It is mixed media on canvas, measuring 48" X 36".

My piece is 10" X 7.5" and done on card stock around the print of the artist's piece from my computer. I used colored pencil, mostly, and added some cut paper, which she also used on her original.

When extending the image, I found some patterns in the costume designs by Julie Taymor for a production of The Lion King. I resisted the urge to carefully measure and mechanically duplicate the diamond shapes. Jones uses precisely cut paper shapes, but I wanted to keep what I did freer and more organic to match the other shapes in her composition. This let me have more fun with it.

I have copied the work of other artists often and always find it a fascinating way to build my vocabulary of techniques and approaches to what I do. This exercise helped me see how to build up areas with colored pencil to a rich value that I've not achieved before. I see how this can help me solve a problem I have with my pieces that I often feel unsatisfied with because they are lacking something I want them to have and really feel, to me, kind of anemic.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 362 ~ Make a rainbow from everyday objects.

I used skeins of my weaving yarn in the rainbow colors to spell out "Happy Birthday!" to Dave Singer.

Dave has been working like crazy to create a beautiful video for me, showing images of my projects from Noah's book (see Day 356), to celebrate the end of a year of making things. We will post it on or around the 30th.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 361 ~ Work with bleach to take the color from something.

Here is a watercolor where I used bleach to take away the paint to look like falling snow.

This is what it looks like around here today!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 360 ~ Be inspired by an internal organ.

Hearts in the snow.

I thought the heart the most appropriate internal organ for Christmas Day!

Second most appropriate might be the stomach, but that's not as pretty, or as recognizable, a shape.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 359 ~ Make a cityscape out of things you have on hand.

Granted, this came out pretty weird, particularly for such a sweet time as Christmas Eve! But it is what it is, whatever it is...

This cityscape is constructed of pieces of wood that I use to make my WordKeepers and other things I sell at shows. The scene was really hard to photograph. I took many photos before deciding on this view. I then, very roughly, used Photoshop to scrub out the background. I like the effect because it looks like a cloudy sky. Then I messed around with a bunch of effects in Picasa.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 358 ~ Freeze something mid-action.

Today my sister Lois and her husband Bruce joined Judy and me at the Bavarian Inn for brunch to help us celebrate six years in our home, Cat's Jump. 

For this project I had planned to ask them if they would pose for me on the verge of a kiss. Good sports that they are, and both game to have fun and ham it up at the drop of a hat, they readily agreed to help me out. It just so happened that Lois had some red wax lips in her purse. This may seem strange to those of you who don't know my sister, but for those of you who do, you probably aren't surprised at all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day 357 ~ Make something natural look pixilated.

A pixilated photo of YoYo in a dusting of snow at dawn.

I thought of working from this photo to produce a painting, and maybe I will do that in the future, but here instead, I've let the computer do in a split second what it would take me hours, days, to paint with obsessive meticulousness.

There was SOME creativity involved. I spent some time finding the right photo. I played around with the colors and the size of the grid.

I was thinking, also, what a great quilt this would be, if I could find, or perhaps dye the fabric with such subtle variations in hue and value. Wouldn't that be neat? (Maybe it will appear on my 2013 blog, which I'm considering calling 'On Creative Days'.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Day 356 ~ Create a new book cover for your favorite book.

My favorite book?! That's easy! That would be my 365 book ~ Noah Scalin's book Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, which I've been following all year.

I made a color copy of the back of my 2013 calendar with the thumbnails of each month's illustration, showing many of my year's projects. I cut them out and pasted them to the book, hand lettered the title on a white label and stuck that on and covered everything with packaging tape.

You can see the original design of Noah's book here ~
365: A Daily Creativity Journal is available now at your local independently owned bookstore via IndieBound or online at
Better World Books
Powell's Books
Barnes & Noble

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 354 ~ Create with candy.

Gum is sorta stretching the candy theme, but it made good "boughs"! The Christmas ball lights are M&Ms, the trunk and finial are chocolate.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 353 ~ Work with gold materials.

Another addition to my stable of horses of other colors. Made pretty much the same way as those on the other days. A paper core secured with masking tape. Here I painted the horse gold with acrylic instead of gluing fabric to the base. Then wrapped in gold chenille yarn. Gold beads for nostrils. Gold thread for mane and tail. 6”tall.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 352 ~ Design a uniform.

I was in the mood to make gingerbread, so that is my material here. Before baking and after. The cookie is about 12" high.

I took the image, loosely interpreted, from a book I have called Painted Delights, featuring Indian paintings from the Philadelphia Museum collection. This was from a watercolor called "The Meeting" painted around 1780.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 351 ~ Add wings to something that wouldn't normally have them.

My cell phone did not survive the double-rinse wash in the washing machine. Even tried to revive it by enclosing it in a bag of rice for a few days.

New one comes next week. Not a smart phone, though. I guess I'll have to try to be the smart one and remember to take it out of my pocket before throwing my slacks in the wash!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 350 ~ Complete something that someone else started.

On the left is a canvas started by my friend Tobey. And on the right, what I added to it.

I don't know anyone who has more fun painting than Tobey. He loves big canvases and lots of room to splash paint. So when he gives me an unfinished piece to play with I pick up the same energy and go for it. A very different experience from my normally careful, small stuff.

This is a 6' square drop cloth, with acrylic, house paint, charcoal and tissue paper adhered with acrylic medium.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 349 ~ Make something unappetizing seem appetizing.

Made fresh just about every hour of every day by my two girls, YoYo and Bela, these “meadow muffins” attracted beautiful butterflies all summer. We might not think of these items as being particularly appetizing, but the butterflies sure did. These photos are some that I took during the warmer months of this year in anticipation of this day’s project.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 348 ~ Do something with paper cups.

Happy Birthday, Tadhg! I want you to know I had the best intentions. I made a really neat video with your Aunt Judy playing 'Happy Birthday' on the violin as I panned each letter, but not only could I not get the sound to work on my camera, I couldn't figure out how to get the video on my blog, even though I had figured it out once before. So, use your imagination here. And the next time you visit maybe you can show me how to do all of the above. Have a great birthday!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 346 ~ Make a repeated image 'snowflake' design.

I didn't fold and cut, like you would a traditional paper snowflake. I kept it flat and cut out each shape. The pattern was created by repeatedly flipping over the drawing on a tracing paper transfer. It's about 5" in diameter and cut out of a card stock with an Exacto knife.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 345 ~ Work with the objects that are on your desk.

A horse from the stuff that surrounds me on my drawing table.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 344 ~ Be inspired by stars.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, written by Ann and Jane Taylor in the 19th century. If you print this out and fold it in half you'll have a notecard.

I worked on this today at the show. It's a watercolor with ink. The original is 7X10, so that it folds to a 5X7 card.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 343 ~ Make something boring seem exciting.

Sitting in my booth eight hours for three days straight has the potential for being pretty boring. Fortunately at some of the shows I get to see good friends. This is dear Sue helping me woop it up!

And the show hasn't really been all that bad. I've talked to lots of great folks and, because I have my calendars there for sale, I've been explaining the project that inspired them by telling many people about Noah's fabulous and fun book!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 342 ~ Create evidence of an event that didn't happen.

Today and tomorrow's assignment are timed so perfectly for doing the show in Chantilly! Here is the pile of money I did not make at the show today. An event that did not happen.

Actually, it wasn't so bad. Saw lots of nice people and did sell enough to almost cover my booth fee so if tomorrow and Sunday are decent I'll be happy!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 341 ~ Make a mobile.

Happy Birthday to my niece, Jackie!

Made with water soluble oil pastels and ink on watercolor paper, mimosa sticks and sewing thread.

I’ve done a number of mobile-like things over this year on Days 115, 122, 145, 178, 284 and 304. They’re fun to engineer and to mess with until the balance is just right.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 340 ~ Work with what you find in your pockets.

The only things I ever find in my pockets are bits of hay.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 339 ~ Look at things from a different angle.

An ant's eye view of Bela, Zubie and Cooper. I took a whole bunch of pictures to get these, believe it or not!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 338 (2nd version)

I replaced the May 9th picture in the previous collage with April 18th to show more contrast between spring and summer.

Day 338 ~ Show the passage of time.

These photos are from a series I took in 2010. I photographed the same scene behind our barn every Monday of that year.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 337 ~ Create something with your eyes closed.

Those of you who took Drawing 101 probably remember 'blind contour' drawing!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 334 ~ Work with bar codes.

I've been saving bar codes from packages all year in anticipation of this project. From now on, when I go to recycle a package, I'll miss cutting the bar code off first.

Today is the birthday of my friend Emily. I made this to post on her Facebook wall, but her account has been suddenly deactivated. Bummer. Oh well, Emily, if you happen to see this, I hope you have a great day!

The colors on this come from scanning the pasted up (and I mean this in the archaic sense) image of the black and white bar codes into my computer and then messing around with Picasa effects.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 333 ~ Create a unique trophy and award it to someone.

This solid gold (well, gold anyway) "365" trophy was made just for YOU! And it is your reward for sticking with me throughout this year's project and giving me your 'likes', support and feedback. Thanks VERY much to Amy, Amy, Anne, Aundrea, Beth, Blair, Branka, Caitlin, Chris, Connie, Debbie, Doug, Emily, Frances, Francis, Heather, Jackie, Jennifer, Jonathan, Joshua, Joy, Judy, Karen, Kyle, Lance, LB, Leslie, Lisa, Luna, Lynn, Marcia, Mark, Mark, Melonie, Nan, Nan, Neal, Noah, Paige, Ricki, Sheila, Stan, Sue, Sue, Susan, Suze, Sylvester, Tara, Wa, Yvonne and anybody else who has gotten a kick out of seeing my progress. I hope I brought some smiles. (Of course, we're not quite done yet!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 332 ~ Create a wheel chart.

This is a 'Creativity Wheel' made from heavy watercolor paper. It's about 8", fingertip to fingertip.

It was fun to work out the engineering of this. I made models of each layer, measuring the placement of the windows as well as the words that appear through them. The 4 pieces of paper are fastened together with a homemade rivet so that they can turn easily.

The idea is, if you want to do a fun project, but need some inspiration, you can turn the wheels to reveal random choices of a subject, materials to use and a color suggestion. As the wheels are positioned here, you would be making something that had to do with harmony, using azure-colored shoe polish. Other combinations could be things like having the subject of life times, using toothpaste and gold. Or the underground, using fur and the color ecru.

Other subjects on the wheel include outer space, extinction, tribes, architecture and fables. Other suggested materials are rocks, fibers, raw food, newspaper and kitty litter (clean, of course!). Additional colors ~ violet, puce, teal, ochre and sepia.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 331 ~ Make a flower out of everyday objects.

Flowers from leggings and socks, shown with my able assistant, Zubie.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 330 ~ Do a finger painting.

Do a finger painting? How hard could that be? It started out innocently, having fun covering the paper with gentle swirls of yellow then green, thinking, oh, this is so much fun, I'll have to tell everybody to do this because it's so much fun...

Then the obsessing entered, the more I obsessed about coming up with a successful finger painting (! think about that !) the weirder it got. More and more paint, fingernails scratching through the top surface to reveal the colors underneath.

I kept trying to find my "headline", as my friend Neal has counseled me to do. Your paintings need headlines! he says. (Implying, correctly, that much of my work lacks a focal point.) But this finger painting's headline wanted to be I'M A MUDDY MESS. So I put it out in the sun to dry.

Painting over the dried mud with white looked good to me. The lighter paint enhanced the textures and gave me that complex, overworked, detailed, layered look I like so much. I smeared on too much and washed it off with a wet towel, leaving a glaze.

Then, try as I might not to do a horse AGAIN, I did. My easy solution to a headline. At least it's going to the right for a change. Another friend, Nan, asked me Why do all your horses go to the left? It's because I'm right-handed and I always start with the head and move to the right. Same with profiles of people, much more comfortable drawing them facing left. Already struggling with this painting I thought, hey, as long as I'm trying to paint with my fingertip anyway, why not add the challenge of having the horse face to the right, forcing me to work from right to left.

The one thing I noticed about painting this horse with a finger is that I was much more aware of the form and movement and not so concerned about the contour, so it was more akin to doing a sculpture than a rendering.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 329 ~ Work with tissue paper.

For this I used a technique that my artist friend Tobey uses on his paintings. I painted a surface with acrylic paint and stuck a sheet of tissue paper on the wet paint surface and let it dry.

I started with a 9X12 watercolor block, painted it with black acrylic and covered that with white tissue paper. Let that dry. Then I painted in the rough horse shape with red oxide acrylic, over the white tissue paper. I put a sheet of blue tissue over that wet paint, let it dry, then peeled away the tissue that hadn't adhered. Next I painted over the blue tissue horse shape with clear acrylic medium and laid a piece of green tissue that I had crumpled and brushed over lightly with black ink using my deer tail brush (from Day 82). I let that dry and peeled off the access again. I needed to boost the contrast at that point so I defined the edges of the horse shape with a charcoal pencil, smearing it in places to bring out the texture of the first layer of white tissue over the black paint. I finished it by brushing on some acrylic medium to enhance the color and contrast. I had to do the horse first, then the background, otherwise the charcoal would have smeared onto the surface of the horse.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 328 ~ Make something with a snack before eating it.

This apple should be the ONLY thing I eat today after all the damage done at the delicious Thanksgiving feast yesterday and evidenced by the reading on the bathroom scale this morning!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 327 ~ Create an alternate alphabet from a make-believe culture and use it in an application.

Recently discovered at an excavation site near Wadi El Natrun, this ancient papyrus is believed to be from a North African culture, which existed in 3000 BC, known as the Felixthecatum. Archaeologists have determined that the message refers to the civilization's celebration of the annual harvest, known to involve great feasts and midnight excursions to the local bazaars for much trading and commerce.

The figures, which bare a striking resemblance to Egyptian hieroglyphs, seem to have been incised into the surface in an almost claw-like manner. The papyrus was then stained with a variety of substances to enhance the scratches, making them stand out from the background.

Theory has it that this may have been a greeting sent from one member of the tribe to another with affection and good wishes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 326 ~ Use the world of amphibians as inspiration.

Continuing with the carousel idea from yesterday...a carousel frog. This is done in watercolor and colored pencil and is about 8" wide.

First I needed to make sure I knew what an amphibian is. For example, a turtle is not an amphibian. It is a reptile. So no carousel turtle this go round.

An amphibian is a cold-blooded vertebrate that thrives in a freshwater habitat. The blue coloration on this particular amphibian is loosely based on the Dyeing Poison Frog, Dendrobates tintorius (is that a great name or what?), whom you would run into if you were wandering around South America somewhere. He's only slightly over 1" in size in real life and he and his mate both take on the job of protecting their eggs and can be very aggressive when defending their territory, according to a wonderful Natural History book I have published by Smithsonian.

But this carousel Dyeing Poison Frog (ha!) is nice and would love to have you as a passenger.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 325 ~ Design a wallpaper pattern.

Subtle, I know, but I was thinking it would have to be to actually work as wallpaper. What I think would be really wonderful, though, when I have more than a day to do so, is to create a design with different carousel animals in colorful detail on a light background. There could be elephants and rabbits and dolphins and frogs, bears, lions, giraffes, birds of all kinds...Wouldn't that be great wall paper for a kid's room?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 324 ~ Make something seem to melt that normally wouldn't.

To get an idea of what to do for this project, that didn't look like a Dali ripoff, I put in a search for 'A quote that uses the word melt'. Got an amazing array of quotes and chose this one from William Allingham. He was an Irish poet born on March 19, 1824 and I found it interesting that he was married to Helen Paterson, an acclaimed illustrator and watercolor painter.

My idea to go with the quote is that the leaves are falling and melting into the big area under the trees. I traced the outline of this area with a purple watercolor pencil, flooded it with water and dropped saturated amounts of watercolor into the puddle, letting the colors blend at random.

Measures about 9X12.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 323 ~ Work with CD and cassette cases.

There is an advantage to being a dinosaur AND a pack rat! Most of the tapes in these cassette cases don't even play anymore.

This image took a lot of going up and down the porch stairs, eyeing and readjusting, to get this to look the way I wanted it to. I was using a drawing I did of a rearing horse for reference.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 320 ~ Work with keys.

Wanted to try the technique from Day 315 again, using a charcoal line with white acrylic paint. This time I added more color. You can't tell here, but the additional colors are metallic gouaches, gold and silver. Also used some black acrylic washes. Piece measures 9"X12". Also probably hard to see is the surface texture, which is what I like best about it. My scanner cropped it a bit, there is more room on the edges in the original.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Creative Year ~ 2013 Calendar

Available now! Be inspired to be creative throughout the new year with this 2013 calendar featuring the work (or more like play) I've done from Noah Scalin's book, 365 ~ Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!.  Each month is colorfully illustrated with a collage of images from this blog. A great gift! It's $22 + $4 shipping in the U.S. If you are interested in having one, please contact me at my email address ~