Monday, December 24, 2007

I Still Don't Like the Holidays...

...and never really have since I was a little girl. Although I was brought up in a family with Christian beliefs, they never really transferred to me. I just don't believe.

I went through the religious and confirmation processes as a courtesy for my family. I went through more religious training so that my ex-husband could get married in the Catholic church. I celebrated the holidays when my son was younger--just for him--and along the way if I happened to be involved in a relationship with someone else during the season as a sign of respect for them, which means I have also celebrated Hannukah.

But I've always felt like a hypocrite, so in the last ten years or so, I just stopped celebrating--except for some events at work with former coworkers, again out of respect. I still don't believe. I don't believe that people should go crazy to fit all the events and material things into a short period of time. I'm more of a give-a-gift-when-I-feel-like-it and sometimes for-no-reason-other-than-I-care kind of person. Sometimes the gift will be in the food family, sometimes it will be a handmade item, and sometimes it will be something that I saw in a store that would be just right for a person. Or at least, that used to be how I worked. Now I'm pretty cynical, and don't give so freely...

A couple of years ago, a friend started inviting me to her family holiday celebrations, and I often go see them, but not always. It depends on whether I'm feeling social or antisocial, if the weather is good or crappy, and sometimes for no good reason other than today I just don't want to...

I am, however, quite tired of answering questions why I don't spend more time with my family during the holidays. My siblings and I are not a tightly-knit group. My mother and I have always seemed to be from somewhat different planets. My father died in 1999, and visits "home" for me have been non-existent since then. My relationship with my son is what is definitely classified as "estranged", and that's all of the family that is truly important to me. So I have a dog who actually seems to enjoy my company and doesn't want me to be someone that I'm not or better than the person that I am. The unconditional love of dogs is probably what has kept me from falling into long-term inconsolable depressive states throughout the roughest times of my life. There is something undeniably therapeutic about unconditional love and needing to do something for another being that helps pull one back from a variety of dangerous brinks.

I really don't think I'm all that bad a person, but I'm basing that on comparisons to the other people I know and have been close to in relationships. I do the best I can and try to do better when I learn other approaches. I don't always succeed: I try to not let me feel like a failure, but sometimes these personal demons DO get to me. Especially when I'm feeling ill or overly tired. At least I don't fight against insomnia like I used to, so that even if I'm getting really down on myself, a good night's sleep helps put things back into perspective.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Guess What? More Snow...

Yes, officially it's still fall, but the snow continues to accumulate. A few inches fell last night--it's great to get a refreshing white layer on top. Just ask my dog, Crash. The snow tastes great AND is less filling! We definitely like taking our evening walks in the snow, even with the few icy spots that hide underneath the latest flakes. I'm always amazed at how quickly folks become home-bound once the snow hits, and as the temperature becomes even less inviting outside, folks tend to walk less. But that's okay by me, because then Crash and I wind up sharing the most peaceful and quiet walks that we can have.
I find the walks with Crash to be very rejuvenating, even when I'm exhausted. I know some people have suggested that I swap out to a morning walk for Crash, but that's just not going to happen. Nope, mornings are for the fenced back yard. With only a few rare exceptions, I go out with Crash and walk around the yard in the mornings too. Can't have him mistakenly thinking that the yard is all his, you know? Plus it's part of our connection. On the days where the tennis balls don't get buried in the snow, we're out there playing every morning, and sometimes move the tennis ball game indoors to the long hallway between the living room and the bedrooms. Okay, it's not that long, but it's long enough for him to run a little bit, slide to a stop, grab the ball, and come back for more--without crashing into anything other than the doorways and the walls.
As I've said before, Crash is turning into a find dog and companion. He still has moments where he needs to be strongly encouraged to reduce his enthusiasm a little bit and can be difficult to get his attention, but he's still in his late teenage years...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Snow again...every other day!

Add 4-6 inches here and 4-6 inches there...jump the drifts in the back yard...keep those shovels close at hand! Fortunately there are some good Samaritans around driving little Bobcats...if only I could get my neighbors to park somewhere on the street other than just about directly in front of my mailbox. The sun just came out a little while ago, so the snow is still glistening, and with temps well enough below freezing, it's not going anywhere soon, and is likely to be added on sometime on Saturday or Sunday of this week.

I landed a new technical writing contract that begins Monday of next week...this is exciting...and represents excellent timing! I had been going out on some lower-paying temp jobs just to help cover the costs of living. This gig will run out until April-ish of 2008 at one of the companies here in Madison's version of Research Park (not to be confused with Research Triangle Park in NC, but definitely a technology incubator wannabe). Of course, I'm NOT from Madison...or a UW-Madison that means the world revolves around its own axis, not south-central Wisconsin. It's an interesting alumni-rich community around here. I can't imaging hanging out at Skibo (the closest Carnegie-Mellon had to a Student Union at the time) 25 years after graduating, but for UW-Madison, graduation seems to NOT be much of a rite of passage, but rather just another strong tie to being a Badger for life...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Snow Day... in Wisconsin (and Minnesota, and Iowa, and apparently a bunch of other places). It started out as the tiny pellet snow and continues to get icier as the day progresses. Now that the ice is turning the top layer into a crust, walking (and driving I suppose) is becoming more and more hazardous. Crash and I have been back from our evening walk and are warmed up again nicely. It will, however, take some time for the boots to dry off. Thank goodness I have more than one pair of boots!

I love when snow is on the ground--especially for the evening doggie walks. The illumination provided by the snow is a special bonus for certainly improves my "iffy" night vision...and I would assume also improves the theoretical grayscale vision of dogs. Of course, I prefer the soft fluffy snow, but I've never been in control of the weather.

The "Girls Night Out" event mentioned a couple of days ago in this post went well. Again, the sticky note packs were quite popular (I'm glad I created more). I'm hoping that these will take off as a saleable item on Etsy, too, and with a couple of initial orders already, that might be the case. I'm promoting them like crazy on their online forums. Of course, "promoting like crazy" is a relative term...I'm looking for discussion threads that are actually relevant. These would make great stocking stuffers or gifts for teachers. Heck, even some teenagers might find them to be a fun addition to their backpack. And, yes, business folks who bring work home with them might like to add a pack or two to their briefcase. I now have 17 designs listed in the Sticky Note Pack section over on Etsy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What to say today?

It's a wind chilling Thursday here in Wisconsin. The locals are struggling with the isolated television coverage for tonight's Green Bay Packers football game. I'm preparing for tonight's Girls Night Out event at Indigo Coffee & Tea. Crash, the dog, is reclined on the floor next to me with a tennis ball in his mouth--hoping that he'll get some more play time in before he goes to his crate-based den for the rest of my workday here at home.

Crash is starting to turn into a much more mellow guy than when he first came home with me in August 2006. He's a beautiful German Shepherd rescue dog who spent quite awhile as an abandoned dog in an apartment in Milwaukee. As a truly emaciated guy, he was brought into a foster home that worked really hard at getting his physical health back in shape, but his mental health wasn't great and his manners, well, he didn't have many. As a nearly full-grown 2-year-old, he was mouthing things (like my arm) as though he was still an itty bitty furball. He was completely unaware of things around him (hence his name change from the foster name of Malachi to Crash), and had to be led to the water bowl to get him to drink. Everything was too much stimulation for him. The TV. People (especially men). Dogs. Bikes.

I honestly didn't think we'd make as much progress as I now realize we have made. The first 6 months were really difficult, but eventually we learned enough about each other to work through the toughest times and reach understanding. Two of the best things that have worked with Crash are ample exercise time and for me to learn how to act as the alpha dog to a dominant dog who had been master of his own domain for such a long time. Plus, learn to be the alpha dog even on days when I feel vulnerable, tired, or ill.

I know that I used to practice these things when my son was much younger and living with me...but I also know that upholding the alpha position day in and day out is extremely stressful for me, and with outside stressors on top of that, I know that I lost the alpha position from time to time, and sometimes for extended periods of time. Now my buddy Crash can deal with a lot of things, but this summer as a guy rode his bike out in front of my home as he was running a dog on his leash, Crash still perceived this triple combo as a bit of a threat. But, relatively speaking, barking for a minute at something that is a known trigger is soooooo much better than a 5-minute anxiety attack.

Thanks again to Crash for bringing a little bit of spark back to my life and for challenging me back from some extremely difficult and depressing times. I think he's got a bit of Bittersweet spirit in him...

Friday, November 23, 2007

More designs for the Post-it Purse Paks

I've been optimizing the design of these Post-it Purse Paks. Of course, I realize I have to NOT use the "Post-it" name, primarily because not all of the notes are official Post-it notes from 3M, so I'm thinking Posty Purse Paks might be a valid new name. Then again maybe something like Sticky Pak might work just as well. I'll have to think on this a little longer...I'm proud to say that all of these designs are prints from my original pastels.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Waiting to Croak... the title of my latest ACEO. This lovely green frog is rendered in soft pastels featuring a somewhat Christmas holiday color palette. Have I mentioned lately that I've really enjoyed getting my hands dirty with pastel dust?

Most of my ACEO drawings have been (at least at one time) placed on eBay for sale. The most popular items are the (nude) figure studies, but they're great practice for me in terms of composition and improving my life drawing skills. One of the classes that I REALLY wanted to take when I went back to art school was life drawing, which was part of the curriculum when I enrolled, but got dropped out of the requirements a few quarters after enrollment, so I feel that is the biggest part of formal art education that I've not yet had. Someday...I'll take that class...somewhere. Until then, I'll keep practicing!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

They Loved the Post-it Purse Packs!

Yippee! Another successful home show this weekend. We like the events where hundreds of people come to events and bring $ along with them. Patrons of these events are especially generous when they're looking for stocking-stuffer gifts, and my artwork reduced to a 2 inch square Post-it note cover with an elastic band closure sure went quickly. I came home with only a few, and practically none of the original alcohol ink versions of these made it back. Happy holidays to all!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Making Donations of Art

I love being able to donate art pieces to help others raise funds--it's a great way to translate my talent into something useful for others. This year, I've supported Wisconsin Public Television, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison Area Open Art Studios, and others, and now have chosen to honor former Mount Horeb High School student Sara Hime, who recently passed away after a long-term battle with cystic fibrosis. Other local artists have made donations, as have members of the Mount Horeb High School Art Club.

The DECA Silent Art Auction for Sara Hime will raise money for the Ronald MacDonald House that helped Sara and her family. The event will take place at Sole Sapori, 304 Main Street, Mount Horeb on Friday November 16, 2007 from 5 to 9 PM. Read more and watch local TV spot.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Being the Lioness

I am born under the sun sign of Leo. Therefore, I "jump headfirst...without worrying", possess a "great create" and a "natural pride and stubborn streak". I am "very independent", will "make a difference in the workplace and help to keep the parts moving in sync and iron out any problems before they arise", love "the new and extraordinary". "Some Leos even have hair resembling the thick mane of the Lion"...well, that certainly explains my hair! "What you see is what you get" also happens to be one of my mantras. Yes, there are many characteristics of my sun sign that I am proud to own--even if they happen to annoy others.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yippee--I Finished a Website Design today!

I love it when something gets "finished." Yes, of course, a website is NEVER finished, in that it is meant to be a dynamic entity that will reflect the changes of whatever it represents. However, putting it out there in virtual space still offers a bit of excitement and leaves me feeling a sense of accomplishment.

The website is for Indigo Coffee & Tea, a local Fair Trade coffeehouse and gallery where I also display eclectic pieces of my art. I've mentioned them in this blog a number of times...and, since having artwork over there has been a positive consignment adventure for me, as have my interactions with the owners of the shop, how can I NOT do whatever I can to promote them?

: )

Monday, November 12, 2007

From Our House to Yours

It's that time again. Saturday, November 17 from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday November 18 from noon to 5 pm is the 17th annual From Our House to Yours event!

Great art. Great crafts. Lane Bacon, Woodworker; Jimmy Balwit, Potter; Dorothy Davenport, Basketmaker; Diane Fleming, Fused Glass; Stephanie Funck, Basketmaker; Sandra Haspl, Painter; Lois Jarvis, Fiber Artist; Cynthia Koshalek, Jewelry & Mixed Media; Edna M. Kunkel, Mixed media; Barb Lazaris, Photographer; Laura Nordstrom, Handbags; Pholt Studio, Clay Artist; Rick Raschick, Potter; Rebecca Reed, Weaver; Barb Taber, Gourmet Desserts. Hmmm, did you say desserts? Yumm! Can you say great unique gifts for the holidays or any other day of the year? You betcha!

Great house on the hill in the University Heights area. Great architecture and history. Map your way there: 166 Prospect Avenue, Madison, WI

Preparing for another in home tour...

...but this one's not in my home, so I can work on art like my latest ACEO Dalmation titled Waiting to Play instead of working on cleaning, shopping, cooking, and reorganizing!

This upcoming weekend is the annual From Our House to Yours event, one that brings a group of talented artists, artisans, and craftspeople together to share their wares in a lovely antique house in the hills of Madison.

I've been completing three new quadrivet sets, purse post-it packs, miniature hand-bound book/journals, and gathering some other articles from the home studio storage space, including earrings, coaster sets, and larger art journals. This year, I'll be taking along some ACEOs, to see whether there's interest in this wonderful form of minature art, along with some of my photographic pieces. Of course, I'll take some boxes of my original Christmas cards and coordinating gift tags. Since this was the best show I participated in last year, I'm hoping for similar (or even better) results this year.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

UGH Daylight Savings Time

People used to wonder why I didn't like to travel. Among other things, my body is extremely slow at adjusting to time zone differences. And, with the recent time change, I'm again out of kilter, as is my dog, Crash. He's pestering me to get out of bed earlier in the morning and wanting to go out on his evening walk as soon as it starts to turn dark. Fortunately for him, I've been working from home and can still accomodate a late afternoon tennis ball chase game, otherwise he'd be absolutely unbearable!

We'll work it out though, we always do. And, with the writer's strike that's crippled the late night talk show circuit, going to sleep an hour earlier isn't such a big deal. That is, for those of us who live without cable or satellite TV services, whatever travels through the air waves is what we see.

So, you see, it will be time again to produce more and more art. The creation of miniature art in the form of ACEOs (artist cards, editions and originals) continues. And, the pieces are beginning to sell on eBay, so I'm VERY encouraged. The Bird of Paradise card is shown here, a creation with Pitt art brush markers and metallic Prismacolor pencils.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

On Taking Good Notes

When I know what kind of document I'm going to write, and have a general table of contents, I can write until my heart's content. I woke up today in a "must write" kind of mood, and so, that's exactly what I did. Collect research materials off the web. Print them. Read them. Write notes. Organize thoughts. Percolate. And now, for another important step: sleep on it, and start again tomorrow.

Much remains unread, and so I'm hoping for a similarily productive day tomorrow, and perhaps throughout the weekend...I can't quite decide if it's true inspiration, a visit from one of those invisible muses, or just a headache-free day after a week of on-again, off-again sinus/migraine style headaches. I could actually process a real thought...or two or three hundred.

I do take creative breaks when I'm doing intense technical writing. It's like a mental time-out that involves primarily using the "other" side of the brain. This doesn't always work, though. There are some days where it just switches the productivity from technical to creative, and then I need to throw in a sleep cycle to reboot.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Artist Cards, Editions and Originals (aka ACEOs)

I am getting back into making ACEOs, trading card size art for the masses! What fun. I especially enjoy the small format for some subjects and feel that this is a way to reach a much broader artistic market at a lower price point. The piece below is a scenic image from Bryce Canyon and Rainbow Point.

On the same road trip, I passed a lovely group of four horses enjoying a hot afternoon graze next to a rest stop in Iowa. I captured my favorite of those horses here in this simple composition, Munch a Bunch. Both of these pieces (or perhaps new pieces if you're looking after November 6) are currently up for auction on get your bids in now!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Getting Back to Basics

I did mention previously that my eBay experience has been a positive one. This morning, I spent a few minutes putting the finishing touches on sending out 6 packages of items that are getting re-cycled to others who will find more use for them than I have. Sadly, this does include all of my Winsor Pilates DVDs. No, I'm not sad for sending them off to a new home...but sad that I brought them into my home in the first place. Granted, I did have good intentions...but they were not realistic ones. I have never been a good candidate for Pilates or Aerobics or any other event that seems like an exercise version of cheerleading...actually it's not the activity itself, but rather the fact that you need to have a group mentality "buy in" to get into these kinds of activities. I don't mind being an active player on a volleyball or softball team, which involves chasing around some kind of ball and includes scoring (and winning), but am the least likely to go to an exercise class, and even think that trying to do the home exercise class is too much of a stretch. What's missing in my psyche? Is this something that the rest of you also feel--or is the best part of an exercise class for you part of taking part as a member of the group?

Thank goodness that the fall/winter volleyball season has started up again, and that I have a lovely German Shepherd with boundless energy that encourages me to stay active in other ways! How can I refuse this guy's mug when he wants something--he's gorgeous!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Square and loving it!

Today in southern Wisconsin is an absolutely gorgeous fall day. A day filled with brilliant golden orange reds amid a group of trees that remain stubbornly full in green. Amazingly, at the end of October, there are still a few swarms of gnats and a blooming thistle outside, and a pesky housefly that seems to adore my computer screen. I love the fall, but it's not been a "normal" fall this year. And, so, this lovely maple tree in full transition is my way of making fall "just right" again. Transition and change, as I've stated often, is good!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

On Being Square

I've been working on a series of 8" square pastels on canvas. This panda is the first that I'm sharing on this blog.

For now, I have to admit that canvas is my favorite surface for pastels. There is this ethereal softness that you can achieve as the pigment becomes enmeshed into the fibers of the canvas itself that I have not been able to achieve with any of the paper surfaces that I've tried. I like that the weave of the fabric remains an integral part of the composition, even though it makes some of the finer details more difficult to achieve (at least at this small a scale).

I've not signed this piece yet (digitally yes, for this presentation, but not on the original piece). What that means is that I've also not settled in on a title for the work, but I'm leaning toward Tree Hugger. I generally don't take them, but if you're reading and have a good suggestion, please add it as a comment.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Writing and the Analytical Side of Me

This is the year of self-discovery for me, and there are some very valuable lessons I've learned, and some others that have just re-iterated what I've known about myself for what seems like FOREVER.

  1. I am an introvert. Don't get me wrong...I can be extremely extroverted in situations where I feel very comfortable...and actually love being the occasional center of attention. But my recovery and re-centering process requires regenerative alone time.

  2. I love things that change. Technology. Life. People. Interests. I'm not so fond of stagnation. Old-school and old-boys networks. Some people.

  3. There are days for mindless, days for intensive thought, and days for absolute creativity. It seems difficult for me to shift between these three modes without an overnight sleep.

  4. Respect is something that I no longer give freely--it is only offered to those who earn it through their actions, including those who treat me well as a human being. Lies and deceit do not sit well with me, and I perceive those who "tell me what they think I want to hear" as folks who are not honest. Those who break my trust are going to have to work really hard to regain it. Does that mean I'm tough? Yup. Does that mean I'm unforgiving? Yes and no. Does that mean I don't like people? Certainly not.

  5. I don't like everybody. There are certain values that need to be in place before I find myself truly liking a person. I certainly prefer depth of character to superficialities. I prefer a dry, witty, and sarcastic sense of humor to the prankster, jokester, and purveyor of silliness. I don't aspire to the mantra of "can't we all just get along?" but prefer something more like "can't we tolerate our differences and recognize and accept that there are differences?"

  6. I am not a joiner. Hanging out in packs sharing one thread of commonality is not exactly my cup of tea. I'm not a party girl. Even personality profiles make that statement about me. I can be in a party mood from time to time, but it's based on mood and not on who invited me to the event. It can, however, be related to who will be at the party...

  7. I like to write. I prefer writing and consolidating information to editing the words of others. When put in the position of editing the words of others, I actually want to retain the voice and sentiment of the original author. I believe that there are some grammar conventions that should almost always be followed...yet the violation of some of these is also what makes writing interesting and styled after the author.

  8. Despite the fact that I have a strong analytical side and the ability to understand logic, I don't want to always be placed in the analytical, responsible role. I've worked in environments where others were given leeway because they were considered "creative types." Since I'm only considered a mildly creative type (despite volumes of artwork and compositions) because of my career choices, I have been expected to behave more professionally. I do wish I had been tagged a creative type earlier in my life...but, then again, my personality would have forced me to learn to compensate for my weaknessses to survive in whatever career I would have chosen.

  9. There are a number of theories, practices, and things that people get away with that I think are pure bull-excrement. I try not to laugh in the face of those who believe these things, but when they try to apply them to me, I resist. Vehemently. They're not right for me.

  10. As I get older, there are words that escape me, especially nouns when I'm speaking with some sleep deprivation. I will search and search for the right word, and if pressured to respond immediately, will find that sometimes the brain database returns the wrong result. At least, for now, I know that it's the wrong result. Others, of course, have been less forgiving of the incorrect word choice. Thank goodness that this is almost non-existent when I'm writing!

Some may classify me as a difficult person. I think I'm really no more difficult than many others who have crossed my path, and actually less difficult than those who either don't know themselves or work so hard to portray a kind of personna that is considered far more acceptable...or more feminine. I've had to work hard for everything that I have, every accomplishment that I've made, and I'm proud that includes a certain sense of competitiveness, a demand for excellence, the ability to know when things are good enough, and the sense to recognize some of the red and yellow flags that get raised along the way. It's been a journey to learn to pay attention to (and not ignore) the instincts that I possess. This acceptance has been life saving and affirming.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

ebaY fun

I now have a few items up for sale on ebaY. I've decided to give ebaY a shot for selling some things that I no longer need...and for trying to sell some of my artistic creations. For now, I will continue to list items on CafePress, Etsy, and Mintd, but am planning on making the transition so that my work will primarily be available online in only one venue.

I find that listing items on ebaY is quite simple and intuitive, and offers more complex listing options if you want more details in your listings. I've found this to be a welcome change from some of the other venues, and don't mind the listing fees, which run in accordance to the items you're selling and the options that you choose. The best part, which is missing on several other sites, is the shipping calculator...which definitely helps quickly evaluate the costs of shipping! The first artistic item that I'm listing at ebaY is Looking Westward into the Sun, a fine photographic archival print on canvas with artist-designed frame. This shot is from a drive out West to La Jolla Cove and a tour from Miss G. You can almost smell the ocean, feel the wind in your face, and hear the gulls and pelicans!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holiday Craft Boutique

Last night I dropped pieces off at the 28th Annual Holiday Craft Boutique, a home show out in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin that my good friend Stephanie Funck alerted me about several years ago.

Jan Dorner opens her home for three successive weekends to a group of artists who provide a broad range of art and craft items for the holidays and gift-giving throughout the year.

Snowmen. Reindeer. Dried and pressed flowers. Dolls. Wreaths. Soaps. Glass work. Hand painted wood. Ornaments. Purses. Handwoven Baskets. Baked sweets and treats. Quilted pieces. Garden stones. AND much, much more.

The show is open from 10 am to 5 pm
• Friday, October 19 and Saturday, October 20
• Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27
• Friday, November 2
and from 10 am to 3 pm
• Saturday, November 3

Map your way to 829 Davis Street in Sun Prairie.

Some of the proceeds from the show go to The Empty Stocking Club.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

And now, introducing the...

Quadrivet! "What's that?," you say. It's a combination set of 4 marble coasters stacked in a convenient tray that also serves as a "trivet." Ingenious! I doubt that you'll want to hide this in a drawer when it's not in use, but it's small enough to conveniently tuck into a kitchen drawer. I would instead keep it displayed on a table in my living room or den--so that the coasters might actually get used. Think of it as a multi-purpose surface protector!
There are versions that use relatively smooth tumbled marble tiles for the abstract coasters as shown in the blue-green version, but I have to admit a fondness for the decidedly pockmarked tiles. With the dying process that I use, the crevices take on a variety of colors in a faux geode appearance. It's a pleasure to integrate multi-dimensional colors into these tiles, albeit quite a messy process as the ink seeps through all the pores! Needless to say, I've got some tabletops here that have been inadvertently dyed, and I'm often seen with dyed fingernails (no, it is most definitely NOT nail polish).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Designing for the holidays...

Today was the day to design holiday cards, so I pulled out a design that I've been noodling with for about 7 years or so. It was great to see the piece grow from a sketch into a final product, which is now available from my CafePress shop as regular size greeting cards and notecards. Notecards are also available locally from Indigo Coffee and Tea and at the 28th Annual Holiday Craft Boutique.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Leggy Study

Last week, the weather remained quite warm here in South Central Wisconsin. As I finished my pastel demonstration at the Verona Public Library and began my very short drive home, I noticed this Great Egret among the gaggles of geese resting at Silent Street Pond. This pond has definitely helped me reconnect with the natural elements of the neighborhood and appreciate the local wildlife.

I grew up in a rural area of Pennsylvania with a pond on our property. The biggest wildlife in the pond seemed to be the muskrats, and only occasional visits from a pair of ducks. Here in Wisconsin, we seem to be in some major flight patterns, and with all of the lakes in the Madison area, the waterfowl are plentiful.

The adjoining cemetery had been home for a pair of nesting owls and their offspring. Despite a number of photographic attempts, I was able to only capture a few fuzzy silhouettes of the adult pair, and some underexposed shots of a fledgling, all at dusk. I haven't heard their hoo-hoo-hoos in over a month, so I hope they're settled somewhere else for the cooler season. It's been a great year for birdwatching!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Slow Day in the Studio...

Today was the first day of Madison Area Open Art Studios. As usual, I've been frantically working at cleaning and organizing the home studio so that it's a welcoming environment for the outside world. As a self-proclaimed cleaning-challenged individual, these kinds of events place a lot of stress on the system...and rearranging the dust particles just wreaks havoc on the sinuses.

As somewhat of a starving artist, I had high hopes that this weekend would bring a bunch of people out to Verona to check out the new works of art. I believe that everyone MUST be waiting until Sunday. I'm hoping that today was slow because it was an unusually warm October Saturday--and all were off doing whatever pleasing outside fun they could muster.

On the flip side, I loved seeing old friend Elaine and her daughter, Christine. It is fun to get together with college chums--there is something revitalizing about it--must be the great field hockey experiences we shared. And it was good to spend time talking about some art ideas with Stephanie and Kara. After brainstorming for a few minutes about a new trivet idea I have in the works, the suggestion of using the wonder-tool known as Velcro came into play, and, by George, I think it's an absolutely WONDERFUL solution! Now it's back to the prototype drawing board to produce the item. No doubt that I'll be back with examples of the finished product sometime soon.

The day did end on a high note with some real customers looking to stock up on small gifts for friends and family. Thanks Lois and Tom!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Life in Pastels

Okay, so I'm not fond of wearing those light pastel colors, but, now drawing in pastels--that's a whole different beast. And, oh, what a beast...

This lovely snow leopard had just woken up from a summer day's zoo nap when I first photographed him. I'm not quite sure what he saw or heard up above--likely some kind of plane or bird flying above. I love the ability to build a drawing in layers that allows some forgiveness and corrections. Definitely an advantage to developing a more accurate representation of the 3-dimensional structure for a big cat like this.

There are parts of me that forgot how pleasurable it is to draw (or paint) depending on what you consider pastels to be. I consider this image more as a drawing than a painting, but that's just me. I have covered the entire surface of the paper with medium, so according to my past instructor, I'm definitely painting...But, then again, that instructor said that getting a good painting on a dark field was difficult and just not as attractive. On the other hand, I love the dark charcoal Fabriano Tiziano surface, and I think I covered it quite nicely. I've also used fixative throughout the process, which many pastelists don't like because it often darkens the colors too much. I have to say that I've become a really big fan of Sennelier's Latour fixative, which really darkens things only slightly (and often only temporarily).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Madison Area Open Art Studios 2007

This is the fourth year I'll be participating in the Madison Area Open Art Studios fall tour. This is the time of year where I open my home studio to everyone so that you can see all of the wonderful creations I make which range from crocheted and beaded jewelry to handbags to my photography, marble coasters, and pastel images. See where I make and refurbish frames, mat my images, print, and how I integrate art into my lifestyle. Click the image below to view this event's full size postcard in JPEG form, download the PDF, or read all about the studio tour at .

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another Fowl Day

I pulled out the pastels again to re-draw my buddy, the heron. This drawing has the leggy guy looking into the sunset and is significantly smaller (7x8 in) than the one I drew in August (18x20 in). I love the blues and greens in this version, and the curve of his neck! Almost makes me want to hang out in the pond up to the top of my calves...
The days here are getting too short way too quickly. My dog now thinks that our evening walk should begin as soon as the sun drops, and since that seemingly has changed from 8:30 to 7:30 in a couple of weeks, his sense of urgency has definitely increased. On the other hand, doing an earlier walk has messed with my internal clock and has me heading off to bed shortly after the walk. I'm sure that anyone who knows me would be shocked that I'm getting to sleep BEFORE midnight...and even getting out of bed in what others actually consider the real lovely part of the morning.

: )

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Going Postal

When I volunteered to paint a mailbox, I wasn't quite sure how far I'd go. It's been quite awhile since I've painted anything, let alone on a curved metal surface that's exposed to the elements. Then, of course, I began to think about what I'd paint on the mailbox, and began coming up with some designs.
My first source for designs is my photo archive, and since this house has become a recurring nesting ground for robins, it was easy to select a lovely red-breasted beauty. The ever vigilant parents were great guardians for the little ones, and became increasingly courageous around me, my camera, and my lovely German Shepherd.
My next design was a reprisal of a purple coneflower drawn on a smaller scale (2.5 x 3.5 inches) that I enlarged to about twice that size. Rather than working with a broad, pre-mixed palette, I mixed a pleasant set of secondary colors, all from the basic source bottles of primaries red, yellow, and blue, plus black and white.
Final touches include street address numbers, and some birds flying in the sky. The boxes have already brought compliments and many smiles of their own. And, of course, since the name of my neighbor's eldercare facility is Sonrisas, that's just what I like to see! : )
Kathy, the director of Sonrisas, had initially suggested a happy face as a starting point. I wanted to integrate it into a bright that through whatever weather comes our way, there would be at least a little bit of sunshine on our street. So each mailbox has a smiling sun on one side and either a robin or a coneflower on the other side of the box.

Each box was painted with weatherproof metal paint and sealed against the major elements, and I have plans to refinish the old mailboxes to new life with great new colorful designs. I can't wait for the next inspiration to hit!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Local Wildlife

I've been very fortunate this summer, especially with respect to the local avian residents. Across from our local library is a lovely area, coincidentally named Silent Street Pond, that has served as a nesting and resting area for a number of wading birds. Of course the ducks and geese love the area too, but their presence isn't nearly as calming as the visits by the long-legged wading birds. I've had the fortune of spending hours watching and photographing the lovely Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes that fish in this little water hole.

Earlier this year, I enrolled in pastel class, primarily to bring all of those drawing skills back up to a respectable level--and use some of those lovely art supplies I've been investing in over the course of a lifetime. The misfortune of the class was that I sprained my hand such that most of my drawing dexterity was pretty much unavailable for months, including 2 of the 3 day-long classes. After a number of months of continued pain, reduced range of motion, and constant swelling, I made my appointment with an expert orthopedist. He was definitely an "old-school" orthopedist, who pretty much told me that all I needed to do was to do some pretty harsh "massaging" and stretching, and I'd be good to go (bedside manner is, of course, NOT his specialty). Frankly, I'd have loved to hear that kind of diagnosis about 2 months earlier, because the hand would have pretty much been completely healed by now. Anyway, after suffering the twinges from the massaging and stretching, the hand no longer looks nor operates like a claw.

And now, again, I've dusted off the pastel box and chosen to render the Great Blue Heron wading in Silent Street Pond. I love that I was able to once again execute the detailed portion of the drawing, but also able to render some of the more subtle shading and coloring needed to make the water flow around the bird. As I sit here composing this blog, I look over at the original, and it reminds that those things that trouble me can result in very productive and beautiful pieces of art that, in turn, help me re-center and regain my spirits and my self.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back Again?

Well, well, this summer has definitely been filled with ups and downs. I've just finished setting up a CafePress storefront under my lovely ElectriKolor identity. CafePress is an interesting venue that enables one-off printed pieces. So I can select one of my lovely images, and it can be printed on a tote bag...or another image that can be printed on a lovely coffee mug...or create a calendar of 12 amazing images that will help you keep track of things in 2008!

Go to and see my first product--a tote bag featuring this lovely bouquet of calla lilies--in a never-wilting format!
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