The last couple of months have been very busy months for me. November and December were filled with lots of holiday commissions for Christmas presents and weddings. Even though I didn’t have the time to work on getting my Etsy shop ready for the holidays and working on some holiday marketing and prep, I ended up having my busiest holiday sales season anyway. The popular items of the season were Colorado themed jewelry.
My favorite commission of the season, would have to be this pencil portrait I drew for a friend of the family. It was a present for his mother in-law depicting her dancing with her daughter, his bride.
Because of being busy with lots of commissions as well as my regular job working at Pinot’s and raising a toddler, I haven’t had time to work on my own artwork. I was able to do a fun watercolor and gouache painting at the very beginning of the year of my interpretation of Kim from the movie Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton’s art and movies always connected with me growing up (though honestly, what middle/high schooler didn’t connect to his characters). I remember watching Edward Scissorhands at a friend’s house at a sleepover and feeling completely wrecked emotionally at the end of the film. It spoke to feelings I was experiencing being somewhat of a misfit high school student. This movie, as well as his other films, inspired a lot of the kinds of emotionally driven art I was creating during that stage of my life and I wanted to create a piece that honored that.
Since then, all of my artwork has been work related. It’s good to be busy and earning money, but it’s been a little bit creatively draining. However, yesterday I was able to create some art for fun. My friend Conni, has been hosting “Inspiration” art gatherings. These gatherings are opportunities to be surrounded by other artists and art lovers and exercise our creativity. One of the things I miss most about college studio art is being surrounded by people who are constantly creating. These Inspiration get togethers are a way to put aside time to be creative, but in a fun and relaxed environment. It also provides people an opportunity to try new things and get to know new people.
At our get together in February, we had a “Wine Women and Watercolors” night where we had a flower still life and all played with different watercolors and water media while drinking wine. Yesterday, we drove to a natural area and hiked. We took pictures and sketched and then drove back to Conni’s house and created artwork based off of our sketches and photos using the media of our choice.
I had no clue what I was going to create, especially since I don’t normally create art that’s nature inspired, so I walked around with my camera phone looking for inspiration. I took a couple photos of some dried up plants by a lake and sketched them in my multimedia sketchbook. I masked off my drawing with a new masking fluid pen I got and filled in each negative space with a variety of bright colors instead of the gloomy grays and blues of the actual sky. After I finished with watercolors, I removed the masking fluid, used pencil to re-draw the plants, and added some light gel pen branches to add more layers.
It was a lot of fun just to be sitting down and creating a project “just because” and reinforced the importance of creating my own art. Sometimes I don’t work in my studio because I don’t have an idea for a project of importance. I forget that the little sketches and doodles are just as important to do because art is just as much about the process as it is the final product.
I’m excited to announce my new Colorado jewelry pieces! I now offer square pendant necklaces and beautiful quick release cuff bracelets featuring Colorado Columbines and our Colorado Flag. Simply click on a photo to be brought to the item in my Etsy shop:
Need more Colorado love? There’s also Colorado greeting cards available in my shop:
When I was in middle and high school, I used to draw in my sketchbook daily. My sketchbook went with me everywhere I went. It was a good icebreaker for meeting new friends, a good way to pass the time during class (don’t worry, I was a good student 98% of the time), and a good way to practice and create. I was constantly making up my own characters and stories. My sketchbook was almost like a diary or creative journal.
Sometime during college, I stopped keeping sketchbooks. Yes, we often had to have a designated sketchbook for each individual art course we took, but I didn’t really use them in the same way that I had before.
For my birthday, I asked my husband to get me a sketchbook for my birthday. He got me two different mixed media sketchbooks. The one I started to use is a Strathmore multimedia sketchbook that has a cover similar to a Moleskin sketchbook. I love it and have been trying to get back into the habit of working on art in the studio every night. Having a nice sketchbook definitely helps!
A couple months ago, and before I got my new sketchbook, I started trying to branch out and try new things with watercolor. For some reason, having a wash of color helps me figure out what I want to draw. Doing art this way kind of reminds me of doing a charcoal or conte drawing on toned paper.
I recently have been trying to get more portrait practice in. I do a lot of portraits in my personal work as well as commissions, so I wanted to make sure that I was staying in practice. I decided to get back into gouache and add it on top of watercolor washes to see what would happen. This was my first practice:
I remember finishing it and thinking, “This was a ‘practice’ piece? It’s better than some of the finished pieces I’ve done lately.” But maybe that’s the thing… When you work in a sketchbook, you take more chances and you allow yourself to experiment more. I think sometimes the pressure gets to you when you’re trying to do a finished “final” piece of art.
So right now, I’m going to continue sketching and practicing. Hopefully more of my sketches will turn out as nice as this piece. I’m hoping that over time, my new theme and style will start to show itself in my sketchbook pages.
Last year, I had been interested in the opportunity to sell my artwork at the French Nest Open-Air market in Fort Collins, but I hadn’t really had the market/vendor experience yet. At the time, I was still getting my Etsy shop footing a little more solid and had just started to dabble in the thought of participating in open-air markets and events. This year, July 18th was the first French Nest Open-Air Market that my friends Rachael, Daniel and myself participated in together.
My friends, Rachael and Daniel Ibanez, are two of my dearest friends and also two of my favorite artists, truly. Rachael and I met in college and were partners during our art education classes at CSU. When Rachael and Daniel got married, my husband, Kevin, and I would all hang out together. Rachael and I are very similar personality wise and so are Kevin and Daniel. We all have art as a common denominator, but our interests run deeper. Our friendship has grown even more-so over the last year because Rachael and I got pregnant around the same time (totally unintentional, I promise), so now our babies are like BFFs too.
Anyways, we had talked about participating in the French Nest together before and decided to make that a reality this summer. Rachael and Daniel had the summer off because they’re awesome art teachers and were able to put a bunch of work together for the event. Daniel has had a lot of experience showing his work at galleries and events and had participated in the first-ever French Nest market. This event was Rachael’s “debut” for her work. For me, this would be the largest vendor/marketing event that I would take part in to date.
We decided to come up with a group name for our booth and after a lot of brainstorming and procrastinating, we settled on the name “Fox Den Creative.” My husband, Kevin, created a nice logo for us. We got together for a mock set-up the week before the market and did a lot of last-minute work on our own to help make everything come together.
As a group, we offered fine art prints (5×7″ and 8×10″), framed prints, greeting cards, jewelry, tote bags, and even some original artwork. We arrived at 7:30am to set up and didn’t finish putting everything together until exactly 9am when the event officially opened. Whew!
Here are a couple of things that we learned:
1. You have to be creative filling in the space
If there’s one thing that I’m glad we did preparation-wise, it would be that we had a plan for how we wanted our booth to work. Like I mentioned earlier, it took us the full hour and a half to set up our space. Because we had drawn a sketch of our space, we knew exactly how many bins, tables, easels, and other items to bring along. It definitely helped set up go faster and look more professional. A 10 ft by 10 ft space sounds like a lot of space, but in reality, it’s actually relatively small. Because we had so many items, we needed to find a way to display everything so that the customer’s eye would travel around our different tables and displays.
The most helpful item was the chicken wire frame that Daniel constructed that we hung at the back of our tent. It was lightweight, appropriate for the outdoor conditions, and displayed the framed prints that Daniel and Rachael brought in a way that was eye catching and inviting to a prospective customer walking by. The burlap table cloths brought a cohesiveness to each table and the use of chalkboard signs also helped unify the work as well as showing the price of each item in a way that was easy to read. Rachael is the queen of organization and had brought lots of super cute bins to store all of the prints, extra framed pieces, and other items. Without all of these items, our booth wouldn’t have looked as put together.
2. Not everyone will like your work – and that’s okay!
When you display your artwork at any venue, there’s a certain level of vulnerability and nakedness that you expose. You’re leaving a personal part of yourself out in the public for people to see and sometimes critique. We got lots of wonderful feedback and compliments from everyone who stopped by our tent. Praise like that helps make you feel like all of the hard work and effort was worth it. However, you will hear snippets from people who aren’t the right customer for your product.
In the morning, most of the shoppers who walked around were significantly older. One older couple who I heard walk by said something along the lines of, “So this is what’s considered art nowadays” (as if all art “back in the day” was traditional and neverpushed the envelope slightly). I don’t think comments like this are necessarily meant to be insulting, but they do stick with you. It’s kind of like how comments like “look at that cute monkey painting,” when it’s clearly a raccoon, feel damaging.
That being said, we didn’t get into the business of being an artist to make money… you become an artist because it’s a lifestyle and because there’s a voice inside of you that you need to express visually whether that’s through classical methods of art making, abstract, illustrative, what-have-you. People don’t buy things they don’t want, so when people do pull out their wallets to buy something you made, it feels pretty spectacular because something about your work made a connection with them. And even if they don’t buy your work, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad work.
My favorite story of the day involved some of Daniel’s artwork. He had printed off some paintings depicting sci-fi scenes and space. Daniel was saying, “I shouldn’t have printed these. No one is going to buy them” and then a lady walked into our tent and said, “I’ll take that one, that one and that one!” because she was all about space.
3. Being in a group is helpful for many reasons
On the topic of different styles and tastes, I definitely believe that sharing a booth with other artists was a big bonus for all of us. All of our styles of artwork are different, but they also complimented each other nicely. Because of the variety in styles, customers were able to pick pieces of art that were best suited to them. A customer might start off walking into our tent because of a framed piece of Rachael’s, buy one of her prints and then take a look at my greeting cards and purchase one of those as well. The variety, functions, and price points of work helped to boost everyone’s sales at the end of the day.
Next year, I would love it if my husband, Kevin, participated with us. He is a wonderful painter and photographer and his work could add an extra flavor to our booth.
Being in a group is also nice, because you don’t have to worry about things like, “When am I going to have time for a bathroom break?” or “When should I grab lunch?” The ladies on either side of us were on their own and thus had to stay at their booths the entire 6+ hours. One of the ladies, a jeweler, said that friends used to volunteer to help her out but she “wore them out” (being a vendor is a lot of work). The other lady, a boutique clothes owner, was having troubles setting up her tent, so Rachael offered to help. I can’t imagine having to set up our tent and displays by myself or be stranded when I needed to go to the bathroom. Thank goodness for having friends to help out as well as to help pass the time during the slow periods.
4. Conversation is key
When Rachael went around to check out the other vendors at the market, she talked about how she almost bought a necklace from a shop because the shop owner was friendly to her and engaged her in conversation.
Good conversations with customers happen naturally, like when you discover that you’re both teachers, grew up in the same area, went to the same school, love Star Wars, or talk about how you create a piece of artwork. You can’t teach a person how to make a genuine connection like that, but those sparks definitely help the customer make a connection with you.
5. The weather gets crazy!
As the clock struck 3pm signaling the end of the market, it immediately started to downpour. It had been hot all day and it instantly shifted to monsoon-like conditions. Pretty wild! I’m very thankful that our tent was still up. We were able to pull all of our items in under the tent and luckily no pieces were damaged. We decided to wait until the rain died down before loading the cards and tearing down the tent. The market was “open rain or shine” and I’m very thankful that we had beautiful weather the entire scheduled market time.
Moving forward, there are things that Rachael, Daniel and I will need to discuss as a group, but it sounds like we’re pretty positive that we will be doing the French Nest again next year. We’ll discuss what went well, what we need to improve on for next time, and our future plans as a group. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on all of these changes!
I finished my piano for the Fort Collins Pianos About Town project last week. I put in a full day on Sunday, July 12th and wrapped up the small details on Monday, July 13th. The piano was approved and has since been moved to a new location. I’ve heard that it’s currently sitting at “Jazz Alley” by the Food Co-op and the Mitchell building. I plan on dropping by sometime to take a picture of it in the new spot!
There was a big sense of accomplishment when the last details were added as well as a big wave of relief. I had painted a four wall mural in my daughter’s nursery before this piano project and I feel like this piano took a lot more work. Part of it is you have to fill up all of the space on the piano, which takes a long time, but I think the other part is interacting with the public and working with the elements while you paint. The best part about getting the piano finished was knowing that I would be able to have my weekends back to spend time with my husband and daughter. I had missed them so much during the three weeks of this project.
I feel very thankful to have been selected by the city of Fort Collins to share my art with the public! It was definitely a worthwhile experience – one I hope to have the opportunity to do again in the future.
I had been planning on doing new product photography for the greeting cards in my Etsy shop to bring them up to the next level. It’s taken a while to do because I’ve been busy working my other jobs, but I finally finished the first phase of pictures.
Each greeting card was placed on a large piece of decorative and elegant scrapbook paper. I used silk flowers, feathers, jewelry, and other small items to help draw out the colors in the artwork or hint at the theme of the piece. I still want to take more pictures featuring the cards in frames since the cards can also be framed as prints.
Here’s a screen shot of my Etsy shop homepage. I had updated about half of the greeting cards at the time of this picture, and it amazes me how much more my eye is drawn to the cards that have the new product photography shots. There’s a new level of sophistication and professionalism that wasn’t quite there before:
Here’s a couple more examples of the new and improved greeting card pictures:
I was excited to return back to work on my piano for the Pianos About Town project. Last weekend, I had blocked out all of the colors for the sky, grass and tree, painted all of the red and yellow stripes, and I had sketched out all of the animals (first in chalk and then in pencil). It took longer than I had anticipated, so I was looking forward to making some real progress this week. There were a couple of things that I did differently this week:
I showed up early
The first week, I was stopping by the Oak Street Plaza around 11:30am everyday to work on the piano. They were long days and I felt pretty drained upon finishing, so I decided to head in earlier in the morning. I made it a habit to arrive between 8-9am mostly to beat the heat, but also to enjoy some quiet work time before Old Town wakes up.
I’m happy to say, that I made a lot of progress and finished all of the goals I set for myself this weekend: finish painting the piano front, top, and sides (well, I almost finished painting BOTH sides).
You can get a lot of work out of the way when you don’t have to work around piano players. People love playing the pianos, and I love listening to them play. There are a lot of talented musicians in our community, young and old. I wanted to get the front and top of the piano finished so that way they could enjoy playing the piano without me getting in the way of their music making.
I thought of my work as “ministry”
I was talking to my friend, Emily, who is a wonderful role model to me. She had stopped by with her daughter to visit me paint last week, and later on we got a chance to reconnect with our daughters at the park. I was telling her the progress on my piano and how some days were slow because people would stop and talk to me, sometimes disrupting my work flow. I was talking about how hard it was to listen and work at the same time. She was saying that I could think of my work as its own form of ministry.
There are a lot of people in Fort Collins, and when you’re painting on a regular basis, you meet the “regulars” who stop by the plaza a lot. You also meet people who need someone to talk to and tell their story to. This week, I talked to a homeless man while I worked for probably close to 2 hrs. He was a kind gentleman, and I felt glad that I could be a listening ear for him. He kept asking, “Am I bothering you?” to which I would reply, “No. You can talk and I’ll listen, but I have to be working on my art at the same time.”
I also talked to a little girl for about 2 hrs on Sunday. We talked about her love of books, why we thought the berries on the nearby tree were ripe or not, watercolors, bicycling, sewing, and how it takes a long time to paint a piano. She probably spent a good 40 minutes peeling off the dried paint from my palette and she loved it. I hope I can raise my daughter as inquisitive and thoughtful as her.
I thought about how lucky I am to be an artist
In the plaza, there are a lot of kids and they’ll ask me, “Are you an artist?” and I’ll say, “Yes, I am. It’s the best job in the world. I basically get paid to color.” I say it with a little bit of jest, but I’m thankful that I actually do get to be privileged enough to be bestowed that job title. I had always known I wanted to be an artist growing up, and now that I’m a “grown up” I’ve realized that you’re not always given your dream job, so I definitely feel blessed that I’m offered opportunities to teach, create and sell artwork as a career. I try not to take it for granted and I have to work hard to find opportunities to continue to make art my career.
My co-worker and friend, Jenna, once said that “art isn’t just a career, it’s a lifestyle” and it’s so soooo true. In church, we’re always talking about time and talent – basically, we are all blessed with different gifts and we need to find ways to share them with others. I am thankful to God that He blessed me with a love and talent for art and that He has helped me find opportunities, like the Pianos About Town project, to share that gift with the community. I’m thankful to my husband, who is also an artist, who supports my art making.
I’m looking forward to finishing this piano next weekend so that the community has an inspiring piano to make beautiful music on.
This summer, I was lucky to have my concept art selected so that I could participate in the city of Fort Collins Pianos About Town program. The Pianos About Town program gives local artists a chance to paint a piano in public. The finished pianos are rotated around Fort Collins as a way to create opportunities for musical spontaneity. The people of Fort Collins love looking at the different designs as well as playing on the pianos. I had always wanted to have the opportunity to have my artwork featured on a piano and wanted to come up with a design that would be family friendly and visually attractive.
A couple of months ago, I created a piano concept design that I submitted to the city. My design was selected and this last week was the first of three weeks that I am given to paint my piano.
I’ve experienced a lot during my first five days being a piano artist and I thought I would share with you what I have learned.
1. The pianos are new
The first thing that people ask you when you’re working on the Pianos About Town project is why you’re painting over a piano that has already been painted. Like most of the community, I had been under the impression that the pianos were re-painted every season. However, I learned in all five seasons that none of the pianos have needed to be painted over. Citizens donate new (actually “used”) pianos for the artists to paint. I was given a piano that had been sanded and a bucket of approved paint primer. The new pianos are all painted in the same spot (in the Oak Street Plaza by the fountains), so people get confused when they see a new artist painting a different design on a piano. Multiple times a day, I tell the community that all of the pianos from past seasons are either floating around the city or in storage at the Mitchell building.
2. It takes a long time to paint
I’ve had experience painting murals on the walls of people’s homes. The walls of my daughter’s nursery are filled with a landscape of children’s book characters, so I more or less thought painting a piano would be the same. I work quickly, so I assumed I would be over halfway done by the end of my fifth day.
The artist is required to paint every surface of the piano, so that would include the underside of the keyboard cover, the underside of the piano, and many other nooks and crannies that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. The entire piano needed to be covered with white primer before I was able to start adding the base colors for my sky, grass, and yellow/red stripes. The stripes were the most tedious part of the painting process because they needed to be clean and crisp. I had used painter’s tape to block out the stripes, but the paint bled through the tape. That meant I had to carefully paint the remaining stripes by hand to guarantee crisp lines. Which leads me to the next thing I learned….
3. People freak out when they see masking tape
The end of the first day, I spent an hour measuring and putting down painter’s tape across the keyboard cover of the piano. I covered the piano with the tarp that comes with it, and left for the day. When I returned the next morning, the tarp was off and almost all of the tape had been torn off because someone had opened up the cover and played the piano. It took every ounce of restraint I had not to scream and throw my paint on the ground. Thankfully, there was enough tape still on the piano that I was able to re-tape the lines without re-measuring. It took me less than an hour to redo, but it was still time that I could have been painting the actual stripes.
As I was re-taping the piano, a concerned lady walked up to me and asked why I was taping the piano shut. She was worried that I was keeping citizens from playing the piano. I assured her that I was there to paint the piano to make it eye-catching for the community and that the tape was meant to mask off the stripes for my design. After that, I tried to paint the lines as quickly as possible. Because of the bleeding through the tape, I had to paint almost all of the lines by hand which took me a little more than two hours to do. Note to self: in the future, don’t incorporate stripes into your design.
4. You meet a lot of people
One of the things I have always loved about Fort Collins is how nice the people are here. Everyone is very friendly and you meet a lot of these friendly citizens when you work on a piano. When I was still in the priming stages of the piano, I would have people non-ironically telling me, “It’s looking good so far!” (Really? It’s just white!) Most of the people who come up and talk to me are residents and are familiar with the program, but I’ve had a lot of vacationers talk to me. I had no idea how many tourists visit Fort Collins.
During the fifth day, I had to work around two piano players. The first gentleman was playing original songs and blues/swing covers trying to sell CDs. We talked a little about his music and he told me that he plays at all of the pianos that are “about town.” When he was wrapping up, one of his friends came over and spent the next 1.5 hrs of my shift telling me his life story while I attempted to listen and work at the same time. Near the end of my shift, another gentleman asked to play the piano, sang opera and played “Rhapsody in Blue.” It’s neat meeting so many different people and now I understand why they give you three weeks to paint the piano – you’re talking to the community just about as much as you are actually painting the piano!
5. I miss my daughter
I’m an artist, but I’m also a mom. I would call myself a stay-at-home mom, but I’m blessed with the opportunity to work on my own art at home as well as work as an art instructor at Pinot’s Palette. Like my job at Pinot’s Palette, the Pianos About Town job has been flexible, but I had to ask my in-laws to help watch my daughter, Holly, for the first five days. My days are always focused around my baby girl, so it was strange not to have her around. I’m very fortunate to have awesome in-laws (who live in town) who offer to help babysit. I knew Holly was in good hands, but I definitely missed her. When I would get home, I would feel tired from the day’s work and she would be off to bed shortly after. Two of the days I worked on the piano were also days that I taught night classes at Pinot’s Palette, so I really missed out on spending time with her. I’m looking forward to being back to our normal routine.
So, even though I’ve made a lot of progress, I still have a long way to go. The base colors and almost all of the stripes are finished (I ran out of yellow paint, so I still need to paint the stripes on the inside of the piano keyboard cover). I painted in the base color of the tree and drew out all of the animals throughout the piano. I used chalk to figure out their placement before outlining the chalk with pencil. They will be ready to fill in with paint during my next shift.
I’m planning on resuming my progress on Friday, July 3rd. The plan is to arrive early in the morning so that I will hopefully have a couple of quiet hours working before the plaza becomes bustling with people. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!
You know you’re an artist when you’re hard on yourself… when you’re often in the frame of mind that your work isn’t “good enough”… when you talk yourself out of starting or finishing projects because you’re afraid to make mistakes or that it won’t live up to your expectations.
I think that all people go through phases of self doubt, but I feel like I notice it the most when I’m making art. As an artist, I go through periods of time where I feel like I’m on a roll… creativity seems to flow from my watercolor brushes… every pencil stroke feels meaningful… I can create lots of work in a short amount of time. However, I can’t always feel inspired or always make meaningful work. When I have the time to work on projects, there are times when it feels like I can’t draw a single thing. I think this is when the doubt starts to sink in. That doubt starts making you compare your artwork to the work of others, it tells you that you’ll never “make it” no matter how hard you work, and that art is a waste of time and is only meant for the elite few.
So what do you do when you begin to feel this way?
The first thing I do is cry. I’m mostly joking. I personally think that if you’re feeling strong emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, etc), it’s healthy to allow yourself to experience those emotions rather than bottling them up. If I’m feeling like a failure, I need to take a moment to acknowledge those feelings of sadness, even though it may hurt. I talk to my husband about my insecurities and he does his best to listen, offers tender words and gives back rubs. If I’m still feeling sad, I treat myself to something (coffee, a quick shopping trip, Netflix binge, etc). This “pity present” tells me that it’s okay to feel down, but ultimately, it’s time to move on and stop being a baby.
Next, I remind myself that I’m a good artist. I can’t always be an exceptional artist, but most of the time I’m definitely a good artist. I have to remind myself that people have bought my artwork (“People don’t pay for things they don’t want”) and that, more importantly, art is something that I love (“Being an artist is a lifestyle”).
Finally, I make an action plan. Do I need to take a complete break from art for a couple of days/weeks? Do I need to continue to be in the habit of creating and accept the fact that what I finish might not be good? Do I need to change my subject matter? Medium?
While we’re on the topic, I’ll share my current action plan: If I want to continue to grow my skills as an artist, I need to put aside the time to practice. If I have time to work on some art, but don’t feel inspired to create something meaningful, I will set a timer for 15 minutes and sketch. When the timer goes off, I need to stop and pat myself on the back for the effort regardless of whether or not it looks good.