Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Getting my feet wet" with watercolors

Yes this is my new obsession... watercolors. But I'm not actually sticking my feet in them! I'm trying to loosen up a bit in my technique and there is an exercise in my new book that gets me to do just that. From Cathy Johnson's Painting Watercolors she says to "Jump right in and splash around. Cover your paper with big wet washes. Drop in different colors and encourage them to blend". So here's what I came up with. I decided to mask off the perimeter to give it a nice border.
In the book she continues "Now, let it all dry and see what the shapes suggest to you. See if you can define them into some form, or add calligraphic little brush strokes to draw a shape". You can kind of tell that I was aiming for flowers in a pot or vase when I was doing my initial "splashing". Adding the "defining lines" was fun for me because then it began to take shape.
I like how the vase on the left turned out. And I like the flowers in the picture on the right better. Here's closer shots of each of them:

I'm not sure what new image to paint is on the horizon yet but I think it's safe to say that I'll be watercoloring for a while.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


As with anything I want to learn how to do I just can't wait to get started! A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to learn how to watercolor. I purchased a book from Amazon and waited and waited. I just couldn't wait any longer so I dove right in. After finishing two watercolors my book came yesterday.

The book is in a First Step Series called Painting Watercolors by Cathy Johnson. In the introduction she states ten reasons why watercolor inspires such passion and loyalty. I wish I could post all ten reasons because each one resonates with me but #3 describes watercolor as I would define it. "Watercolor is versatile. It can be loose and free, or as full of crisp details as a photograph; it can be pastel and soft, or strong and bold." I really like this statement because after my first two paintings I thought maybe I wasn't doing something right. Mine weren't free and flowing like I imagined watercolors to be.

This was my first attempt ever. I took this photograph about five years ago in Colonial Williamsburg. I love walking around Williamsburg during the Christmas season and taking pictures of all the door decorations. It's just so Williamsburg. When I passed this darling cat in the window watching all the tourists walk by I had to take his picture. I love cats so this first watercolor was appropriate.

I was very pleased with this first attempt so I looked through my millions of pictures; mind you my first love was photography before anything else. So for my second watercolor I picked a picture of a little Amish boy that I took last year while visiting Lancaster, PA.
I love how the sketch turned out so let's take paint to paper now:

Now I need to work on my paper issues. I didn't buy the most expensive kind of watercolor paper because, well, these were test runs. But now I think I'm ready to invest in the good stuff. Christmas is in three days so if I get any gift cards they will be used for watercolor paper. I also have a photo printed that I want to paint on canvas. Exciting! I've never painted on canvas... woo I feel like I'm moving into the big time stuff!
I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season. May we all remember that God's gift to us was Jesus Christ our Savior. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On a personal note

I've never been an overweight person. In high school I was a majorette and when I wasn't twirling I was riding my bike. Then in my 20's I maybe put on a few extra pounds nothing anybody could see though because I'm so tall. Then in my late 30's I started having children. After my second child I gave myself a year to get the baby weight off and I did! Hooray! That was five weeks ago on November 11th when Jacob turned one year old.

Right around this same time, six weeks ago, I decided I wanted to try to get down to my wedding weight... it was only five more pounds. Plus I'm so self conscious about my belly now, my little "pooch". I joined Curves and I love it! I haven't lost any weight yet but I am definitely gaining muscle.

My aspiration now is to be able to run. Some of you might be thinking "Well that's easy, just get out there and run!" but I am 40 years old and I have bad knees. I do feel as though going to Curves is strengthening my legs and subsquently my knees.

My brother has been a huge inspiration to me. He is two years younger than me and it was only a few years ago that he started running. He now has a few marathons under his belt and in October he completed The Wisconsin Ironman (2.5 mi. swim, 104 mi. bike and 26.2 mi. run). I am not aiming to be a triathlete I just want to jog around my neighborhood. Today I took the first steps. I got up at 6am and walk/ran my neighborhood. It actually felt really good and I could run a little further than I thought. It was in the upper 20's this morning and the only thing that bothered me was breathing in the cold air. Other than that my body felt fine. I pushed myself but I didn't overdue it.

If there are any runners out there I'd love to hear your story on how you got started and tips you could give me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Christmas present to myself

I'm going to teach myself how to watercolor and for that I've got to start with the best... Grumbacher. (Now I'm just waiting on some books to come in the mail).

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Art Retreat

A few years ago my husband went on a business trip and jokingly I said "I wish I could get away for a while". He was very supportive and said "well you can... where would you like to go?" I live in VA and do photography so I immediately thought of Virginia Beach and the Norfolk botanical gardens. That's about a two hour drive. So I then thought I'd stay overnight... or maybe a few nights. Well if I'm going to stay a few nights why not travel a little further?!

I had an idea. I looked up the driving mileage to my dream destination. It would take me only 5 hours. Wow when Joe and I were dating long distance it was a 3 hour drive so what's 2 more hours? I talked it over with Joe and he loved the idea. Great! Let me start making reservations. My dream destination was Lancaster, PA.

I have mentioned before that I have always been fascinated with the Amish lifestyle. Now I was going to explore "their country" as an adult. I had been there quite a few times with my parents when I was a child so it was like going back to a familiar place.

The first two years I went I stayed at this lovely B&B called Lovelace Manor. I fell in love with one of the rooms online and just had to stay there. The room was modest and beautiful in my eyes. The breakfasts were outstanding and it was very reasonably priced. Last year when I went to make my reservations they were already booked! So needless to say I did the "touristy" thing and stayed at The Kitchen Kettle Village. I would consider it a cross between a B&B and a regular hotel. They had a map of the village online and I wanted to stay in the most remote area... away from the touristy stuff. There was a little house down the road called "The Cottage" that belonged to them but it was in the perfect location for me.

So by day I would wander the back roads of Lancaster; stop at roadside stands where little Amish children were selling woopie pies; buy fabric from Amish owned quilt shops; stop by a few antique shops. I also spent a day in Hershey Gardens taking photos of flowers and butterflies. But then at night I would rearrange the furniture in my room so that I could paint and watch tv at the same time. I had two double beds in my room so on one bed I had all of my art supplies spread out including fabric and my sewing machine.
Plus the bathroom/sink/vanity area was so large that I could spread my stuff out in there as well. These plastic drawers contain some of my buttons. And the metal drawers on the right had all of my jewelry making supplies in it.

This was my view every morning when I walked out my door. It was an Amish farmhouse and every single morning I could hear the clip-clops of the Amish horse and buggies going by.

I have now started calling my "mommy getaway" to Pennsylvania my "art retreat".

(At the Refton "Mud Sale", or to us an Amish auction).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

I've finished the two quilts that I'm making for my niece and nephew for Christmas. They both laid there on my table waiting to be wrapped... except I HAD NOT put the binding on them yet! I hate binding. Probably because I don't really know how to bind a quilt, I just wing it. I'm talking about machine binding. For Jacob's "bring home from the hospital" quilt I hand sewed the binding on this and I just LOVED how it turned out I just don't have the time to do this for every quilt I make.
About six months ago I had finally collected the PERFECT fabrics for my dream quilt... blue and white. Not beige, white. I'll be doing it log cabin queen size. My strips are waiting for me and I really want to start piecing it together because I'm back into quilting again. My absolute favorite one is the one in the center with the paisley design. Love it, love it, love it! The white strip to the left of the paisley strip is a white on white design which I also love, I didn't want just plain white. BUT... because I am who I am I want to try ANOTHER creative endeavor so I'm very conflicted. I have never tried watercolors. I've always used acrylics because that's what my mom paints with so I know the properties of acrylics and what you can and can't do with them. Watercolor is a whole new ballgame. Two weeks ago I found this painting in a thrift store and it inspired me to think about watercolors:

I absolutely LOVE it. This is how I want to paint watercolors. I bought a frame for it today and I'm going to hang it right by my work table as inspiration.

I love free form quilting on my Kenmore sewing machine. I've had this machine close to 10 years now and it's nothing fancy. (In 2000 I decided I wanted to learn how to sew garments so I bought this machine). It wasn't until a few years ago did I realize I could quilt with it too! For Lainey's quilt (my niece) it was free form swirls and for Jack's quilt (my nephew) I decided to do straight lines and angles. You can see the design better on the back of this quilt plus it's a Christmas present so I can't show the front yet.

Painted watercolor at thrift store: 58 cents
Frame from Wal-Mart: $13.00
Inspiration: Priceless
I've always been attracted to crisp lines in paintings. Sharp and precise. The watercolors I've seen tend to be more loose and free flowing... not detailed enough for me... until now!
Quilting, painting, quilting, painting. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I never used to read blogs until last year when my husband got me an ipod for Christmas. I don't listen to as much music as I thought I would but for me it's all about podcasts. I have listened to Sister Diane of Craftypod for a year now and she is amazing. She writes a blog with a lot of crafty tutorials and pictures.

I guess she is the reason why I now read blogs. All of them are arts and crafts related except one. Cold Antler Farm by Jenna Woginrich. She is a homesteader.

She has even written a book that I purchased 2 weeks ago that I'm halfway through already...
HOMESTEADING as defined by Wikipedia:
Currently the term 'homesteading'[1] applies to anyone who is a limb of the back-to-the-land movement and who chooses to live a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. While land is no longer freely available in most areas of the world, homesteading remains as a way of life.

I am super fascinated by this concept although don't worry family I'm not looking to buy land... YET! (Kidding)

Building a log cabin, chopping wood for the fire, having a vegetable garden, knitting blankets and quilting, cleaning out my chicken coup and sheering my sheep all appeal to me. If there are any homesteaders out there reading this I know it's extremely hard work and I know it's not all peaches and cream. I truly admire you. (Side note: I'm a vegetarian so I would not have to worry about slaughtering animals).

I am married with two small children and this notion does not appeal to my husband at all. He said his idea of canning is "going to the grocery store and picking up a can and putting it in the basket".

As most of you know I've always been fascinated with the Amish lifestyle. It wasn't until this morning did I realize some of the similarities between The Plain People and homesteading. Mind you I understand that there are just as many differences as similarities but I think it's their commonalities that draw me to these two groups of people.

A side note: the picture of the Amish girls was taken by me at an auction last summer in Lancaster, PA. I am respectful of the fact that the Amish do not want their pictures taken for religious reasons... hum, maybe I'll blog about that one day... and the conversation I had this same day with an Amish girl.

One of my favorite songs summarizes this blog post. Written by Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. in 1848:

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right

Friday, December 4, 2009

At the auction

A few years ago my mother-in-law introduced me to the wonderful world of auction houses. I guess I've always pictured auctions as a place where hoity-toity high priced antiques were auctioned off... not anything I would be interested in. Plus I knew these auctioneers called bids so fast that I wouldn't be able to understand what my bid was!

Wow were my eyes opened. It's not all "antique" stuff that goes for an arm and a leg. And I did understand the auctioneer! I have quite a few auctions under my belt now. I've been to ones in IN, IL, and have also attended Amish Auctions (called mud sales) in PA.

The way I see things at auctions is quite different from everyone else there. I don't see box lots of jewelry, I see necklaces that I can cut up and use the beads to make earrings. I don't see stacks of beautiful linens, I see fabric and try to judge if it's going to be enough to make a skirt or tote bag.

Let me tell you about the auction I went to last night. Way over on the far wall (by the old, smelly box lots they always do last) was a white dresser mirror. It's been there for quite a while because if there's no interest they pass over it. I love painting on mirrors or decorating them in some way. No one was interested so I got it for $5.00!

Moving on to my next find. Beside the mirror was an old step stool. The upholstery had water damage to it but I plan on recovering it anyway... another thing I've never attempted but hey how hard can reupholstering be right?! I have strips of blue and white fabric cut for a quilt so I got this brilliant idea to recover this adorable footstool in blue and white fabric as well... bargain bid again... $5.00.

The third great find of the night was this very large hat box. But it wasn't the box I was interested in it was contents of this box. The inside was stuffed with men's ties. "Wow" I thought, "I wonder if I could get this for $5.00 too?!" About a year ago I saw a cute flirty skirt made out of men's ties that I've always wanted to try. And guess what?! Again I only paid $5.00. I live in a very small rural town and I wouldn't call it a cutting edge art metropolis. I did see a few vases that I could have painted or smashed up to make jewelry with but I passed this time.

The fourth item I found was buried under this rusted fake gold Jesus and Mary clock. It was a quilt. I love old quilts. But again I'm not an antique collector so don't care if it has a big rip in it. I love old quilts for the fabric and for the haphazard way they pieced these fabrics together. I have so much more I could say about quilts but I'll save that for another entry. There was a little bit of interest in this quilt though (after I unearthed it for everybody). I found this quilt so I was willing to go pretty high on my bid. Instead of the low bid of $5.00 I ended up paying $16.00 and was thrilled! Most people reading this will be happy to know that I don't cut up old quilts.

But alas no jars of buttons this time at the auction. It was great fun and I found a lot of things that I can't wait to reupholster or paint or sew together.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Oh digital photography

I love photography and with all of the new technology out there you can do almost anything to a digital picture. I have also dabbled in this on occasion. I think Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 came with my computer or I got it real cheep someplace. I've entertained the idea of actually "buying" a nice program to do some neat editing with my pictures but just haven't yet. I'm way more into sewing right now. Just this past week I stumbled upon a new feature that I really like. After I pick an image I want to edit I "sharpen" then "sharpen again" then "unsharp mask" whatever that means. I love the way these images turn out so I may be spending more time altering my pictures... that is after I finish my niece and nephew's quilts for Christmas!




If anyone out there is reading this and knows of a super easy but super fun program to alter photos please let me know, I'd love to hear from you.