Leggo My Eggo

When my husband and I first watched Netflix’s Stranger Things last year, I remember thinking it was one of the best new shows I had seen in years. There was that great mix of humor, suspense, nostalgia, etc that made it like a combination of my favorite Steven Spielberg films combined with The X-Files and Stephen King’s The Body.

I knew I wanted to create a piece to show my excitement for the premiere of Stranger Things 2, so I made this Eleven watercolor painting.

“Leggo My Ego.” 5×7″ watercolor and gouache painting of Eleven from Stranger Things.

From the sketchbook…

Last week, I got the chance to meet up with two of my art friends from college. We met for coffee and sketching, but ended up just talking. My friend Liz, recently started a 30 day sketchbook challenge for herself. The purpose is to challenge herself to create artwork on a daily basis. She has an hourglass that she flips and when the last grain of sand filters out of the top, she stops. The point isn’t to create something amazing, the point is to develop a habit and put aside time to do something for fun on a daily basis.

The three of us all work as artists (an art teacher, a graphic designer, and a SAHM/paint and sip instructor), and when you do art for other people as a job, it’s hard to want to go home and work on more art no matter how fulfilling it is. I really was inspired by Liz’s dedication and wanted to do something similar to develop a habit. I recently started a routine of cleaning the house on a daily basis, and 15 minutes here and there make a big difference. I decided the same would be true if I set time aside nightly to work on personal art projects.

I’ve been spending time every night working on art. The husband and I put the girls to bed, we watch some iZombie on Netflix, and then I go upstairs and work on art. I usually turn on a podcast and start drawing or painting. I’ve been working on some commission and work projects, but while one project is drying, I’ll work on another piece that’s just mine.

After doing this for almost two weeks, I can feel the positive effects. I no longer dread going up to the studio. Everything is set up and ready to go at my desk. It’s scheduled, so I’m almost programmed to just do it. It’s enjoyable because I accomplish a lot (even if it’s just a little at a time), and I can see an improvement in my technical drawing skills.

When I don’t know what to draw, I do an exercise from my eBooks by Cuong Nguyen. They’re a great resource and a little bit of instruction, even when you enjoy art, goes a long way.

Here’s some sketches from the last few weeks:

Soccer Field

I was recently asked to paint some concept artwork of the different uses of a soccer field. The images show the field being used by a soccer team, lacrosse players, and picnickers.

I painted the field by itself using watercolors and painted the players and people separately. They were later digitally composited using Photoshop.

The original soccer field painted in watercolor.
The field with the soccer players.
The field with picnickers.
The field with lacrosse players.

Sunday Sketches

I had been struggling to find time to put time aside for art. Being a full-time mom as well as a painting instructor for Pinot’s Palette, it was a struggle finding time and motivation to work on art.

In the spring, I read a book called Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. I read a chapter a day during Lent and it inspired me to make the time to create. One of the things Kelly suggested in the book was to keep something called a Mass Journal. The idea is that you bring a journal to mass every Sunday and write down one thing that connects to you during the service. This could be a line from a reading, a song, or something the priest says during the homily.

I liked the idea, but instead of using a journal I chose to do sketches. A friend had gifted me a set of artist tiles, like the kind used for zentangles, so I decided to use these to write and draw my mass reflections. Because the artist tile cards are small, they fit nicely in a small pouch with a couple of pens and pencils I bring along. I listen during mass, write down my connection, and illustrate my reflection.

I like doing these Sunday sketches because it not only because it makes me dedicate time every week to sketching, but it also has helped me connect during church and learn more about myself as well.

  

Getting Cinderella Ready For the Ball

It had been a long time since I had been able to create any new artwork, so I made it a priority in April to create a piece of artwork just for fun and all for me. My daughter loves Disney movies and we watch many together. It’s fun to re-watch many of the films that inspired me to become an artist.

One film that I loved re-watching was Cinderella. The artwork and animation are beautiful. I’m especially in love with the colors and style. Cinderella’s dress transformation might just be true animated magic. I love many other adaptations as well including, but not limited to, the Rodger’s and Hammerstein Cinderella TV musicals (1965 and 1997), EverAfter, and Gail Carson Levine’s young adult novel Ella Enchanted.

I decided to create my interpretation of Cinderella’s dress transformation. In addition to wanting to work for Disney, I also dreamed of being a children’s book illustrator and wanted to replicate these loves and ambitions through my art. I’m currently reading a book on children’s book illustration (a dream is to someday create my own illustrated book) and wanted to make a finished piece that might look like the page from a book. I hoped to create a sense of scene and story in one image as well as experimenting a little bit with style and technique.

My inspirations were all of the film versions of Cinderella I love and the artwork of Disney concept artist Mary Blair who helped create the look of the animated Cinderella.

I started with a really REALLY rough thumbnail using the ArtRage app on my phone. I had a vision, and wanted to quickly block it out with some colors I thought might work together. Afterwards, I created a pencil sketch, transferred the sketch to some smooth watercolor paper and began to block in the background using wet-on-wet watercolors and placing saran wrap over the paint while it was still wet. This technique create a fun texture, one of my favorite ways to play with backgrounds in my pieces.

I had envisioned a roughly painted tulle skirt created using thick gouache, but when I struggled to get the effect I was looking for, I had to switch tactics. I took a gamble of the dress by using a combination of wet-on-wet technique with lots and lots of salt to create a crystallized effect. Thankfully, it turned out even more magical than I had anticipated. When I started adding fine details on top of the dress, it really came to life and had a dimensional quality to it that I loved.

Cinderella’s face and the pumpkin were painted using gouache. I wanted to include the pumpkin and mice to foretell what else Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother would transform to get her ready for the ball. I had originally started with a solid black silhouette for the pumpkin and mice, but felt it looked too flat when compared to all of the textures used in the background. The addition of blue and purple gouache helped tie it into the rest of the piece.

cinderella

I am very happy with how this piece turned out. I hope to create a Snow White themed piece in the near future.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video depicting my process on Cinderella:

When you’re too busy to do art…

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.

alexandmomBecause 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.

scissorhandsSince 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.

naturehike
Conni took this photo showing the view of the natural area we hiked around for our March “Inspiration” get together.

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.

naturehikeabstract 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.

New Colorado Jewelry

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:

coloradobronze

coloradosilver

columbinebracelet

coloradoflagnecklace

columbinenecklace

Need more Colorado love? There’s also Colorado greeting cards available in my shop:

 

coloradoflagcard

columbines

A Peek in the New Sketchbook

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:

rachaelI 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.

hannah

French Nest Open-Air Market

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.

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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.

One of my favorite pieces by Rachael.
One of my favorite pieces by Rachael.

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.

An original oil painting by Daniel.
An original oil painting by Daniel.

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.

foxden-creative-logo-mediumres

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

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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.

Display Table

 

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 never pushed 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.

One of the space pieces that Daniel sold to an unlikely customer.
One of the space pieces that Daniel sold to an unlikely customer.

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

Another beautiful piece by Rachael.
Another beautiful piece by Rachael.

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

Rachael and Amy

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.

Fox Den About Us

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!