Stampington Sponsored Giveaway: Somerset Studio GALLERY Summer 2015!!!

Oh goody, goody, goody!!! I am announcing another hot-of-the-presses, gorgeous Stampington magazine giveaway! This time I get to send to one lucky winner the latest Somerset Studio GALLERY magazine; the summer 2015 issue.  This issue is a jam-packed collection of amazing Somerset-esqe art.  From artsy mermaids to painted matchboxes, and waxed envelopes to altered playing cards, this issue is sure to inspire the new and seasoned artist alike.  I will also include one of my small, yet lovely, handbound blank journals with this prize.  Oh how I do LOVE to make books!


Kim Collister’s awesome black ‘n’ white angel adorns the cover and she’s written a gorgeous article inside to follow it. I’m  just drooling over Deborah Company’s art journals presented in this issue.  She’s painted, collaged, written, stamped, and stenciled all over several of her pages in a section titled “Metamorphosis.”



I love this messy kind of journaling.  Where you just do it;  not over-thinking art rules but solely get immersed in the process of making.  I also love the uneven fore edges, of which she has many.  And her eyelet/waxed linen binding is simple but oh-so-perfect.  Like I said, I’m drooling.  Which means I’m thoroughly inspired!

I’m also quite intrigued by altered playing cards these days.  Playing cards are certainly making an appearance in the art journaling scene and Cynthia Jerred has me more than enthused.  She has painted, collaged, stamped, and doodled on a deck of playing cards, always leaving the number and suit visible.


What do you need to do to win this issue and one of my little books?   Let me verbosely explain…I’m going on a trip in a while.  I’ve begun to pack the most important part of my luggage; art stuff.  I have to really pare down here as we are doing lots of visiting/traveling/hiking while on this trip.  So I’ve packed a nice little Art Bin box full of the “bare” essentials.


This is it in a nutshell.  A tiny bit of crochet, several pens and pencils, two hand made books filled with glorious cold press watercolor paper, two brushes, a travel set of Koi watercolors, and a white Gelato stick.  My hope is to do some “photo art journaling.”  This would be art journaling around some of my favorite photos that I have adhered into one of the aforementioned books.


My plan is that the photos will act as some sort of journaling prompt.  Whether it’s the subject matter, the colors, or the memory of the day I took the pic, the photo will be my “jumping off point.”

I really like working from a “bare essentials” collection.  The restraint itself allows me create more freely.  Without the sometimes overwhelming art supply hoard at my fingertips, I feel freer to just create.  I guess it’s a simplicity thing…

So, to be entered to win, please leave me a quick comment about the best place you’ve traveled to, where you also did some kind of art or craft.  Food craft counts too!  I’d love to know details (be as wordy as you’d like) but that’s not necessary, just the name of the place and what you made with your hands!  I will draw one lucky winner, literally from a hat, in 12-or-so days.   Thank you, too, for stopping by!

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Easy Artful Lettering Tutorial Part Deux: Thickening Strokes

Letters and words can surely be fun to draw, no doubt and that!  But, like anything, they take practice.  Lots of practice, allowing yourself the room to make mistakes, and access to a good lettering book.  Mary Kate McDevitt, illustrator, graphic designer, and author of a most awesome book, Hand Lettering Ledger, has done a wonderful thing.  She has placed  in the front of her glorious text, a 2-page lettering terminology diagram.  McDevitt has diagrammed (in a super-fun way) the different parts of many letters.  There are sooooooo many different parts of lettering that we, the viewer, or artful letterer, take for granted.  Things like ligatures, dingbats, serifs, bowls, swashes, fillets, and ball terminals.  There’s more:  strokes, eyes, ears, tittles, counters, beaks, tails, and feet.  OH HOW I LOVE LETTERS!  And words. I love words.

Occasionally, I teach a fun, one-night class on artful lettering where I show several approaches to low-stress, letter depiction.  It’s marketed towards the doodler or art journaler.  Now, equipped with the knowledge of letter terminology, I feel greatly empowered!  I know that I can teach the class better now.  Thus proving the equation: knowledge=power.  I’m a better letterer. Did I mention that I love letters?

I’ve become apt at my own wonky font as of late, a tutorial of which can be found here.  This style is one I seem to be stuck on and thus am always looking for ways to embellish it further.  Or change it up here and there.  So, I bring you a quick and easy way to embellish my tall, chubby lettering.  Here is a sentence using my Mandy-style letters:


I realize that the above pangram (a sentence containing all the letters in the alphabet) is supposed to read “…jumps over the lazy dog,” but I always mess that one up.  I guess I want there to be more than one dog.  I like dogs.

So to embellish these letters, while making them  a bit bigger, or more visually prominent, I like to thicken the vertical (or closest-to-vertical) strokes.  Strokes are simply lines drawn upward or downward with a vertical-ness about them.


My thickened strokes are in orange.  When drawing the orange line, I generally stick to the inside curve of each letter, start at the top, and draw down.  I call this “dropping a vertical line.”  It’s not actually vertical as it mimics the curvature of the letter at the very top and bottom, but it’s a good description.

This is sort of my first draft and I’ve quickly realized something:  I like the look of the letters that have only one thickened stroke, better than the ones with two.  Unless it’s a W or an M. Those can have 2 thickened strokes if needed.  I colored in the spaces below:


I also like the look of the words that have letters with the same side thickened. Like below, each letter in the word “brown” has thickened strokes on only the right side.  I like how this looks.  It reads better.



So when attempting this at home, make sure you form wide enough letters, thicken one stroke per letter at first, always try to draw on the inside of curves, and stick to thickening the same side of each letter, each time.  You can try embellishing further with decorative serifs, like below:



Have fun, mix it up, do your own thing, make glorious mistakes, and check out that book!

And now for something quick that has nothing to do with lettering.  Macro lens garden shots:


Spider eyes!  Cuteness (and hairy-ness) on an Annabelle hydrangea leaf.


A massive orange poppy bud after a bunch of rain.  (More hairy-ness).


A peony bud.  Not hairy at all. Smooth and waxy.


Lastly, what’s left after a bright orange azalea flower drops all it’s petals.



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Studio Storage Solutions VOLUME 1: Paper Stuffs

Over the last month or so I’ve been tackling my studio mess.  I’ve got too much art related stuff crammed in a little space.  It was fast becoming non-accessible.  My overall goal is ACCESSIBILITY.  I.e. why have it if you can’t get to it?  I’m far from finished but I am happy to report some very positive changes.  First, I’ve gotten rid of stuff.  This is paramount.  Stuff I thought I would use but never have.  Stuff that peaked my interests four years ago but doesn’t any longer.  It’s gone.  Second, I’ve organized my paper work.  This would be handouts for classes that I teach as well as handouts from classes that I’ve taken.  They sit in the top drawer of this file cabinet:


Not very exciting, I know.  But what IS exciting is the bottom drawer of this file cabinet.  Assuming you are like me and have flat items needing storage that are larger than the typical 8.5 x 11 inch “letter” size file folder, this will interest you.  I turned a legal size file hanging rack sideways to fit in the bottom of this letter size file cabinet drawer.



Before assembling the hanging rack, the long metal side “sticks” had to be shortened quite a bit.  This was accomplished with a metal hand saw.  It was quick and sooooo worth it.  Now I can store all sorts of larger-than-letter size goodies AND they are accessible. (Remember, that is the primary goal here).  Stuff like stencils, sandpaper, packs of printer fabric, and so much more.

My next achievement  would be this lovely office style rack-turned-pads-of-paper-holder.  All my pads of paper are at my finger tips now, instead of stacked on top of each other on a shelf.  I can see what I have available now.  I realized too that I had forgotten about some of the pads of paper in my possession.  Accessibility will save me from that kind of forgetting.



I still need to get rid of stuff but I also am facing another problem:  What to do with all the finished product that lives in my studio space?  I’m not too good at selling my wares at this time.  I can’t keep up with marketing that side of my artsy/craftsy business.  So the finished stuff, that I’m fond of, tends to live with me.  I’m thinking that my studio shouldn’t be a mausoleum of past projects, right?  These books for instance, on the bottom shelf below are taking up valuable real estate space.  They need a shelf in another part of the house.  They will get moved soon…




Flat stuff that can hang on the wall is different as it doesn’t usually take up valuable space.  My favorite nose in the world for instance, lives happily ever after in my studio:






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Mixed Media Portraiture: A Virtual Showing

I recently finished a 10-week class titled, Mixed Media Portraiture, led by Martha Miller.  I love Martha’s mixed-media style.  It’s dreamy, colorful, and slightly imperfect, yet captures her subject matter wonderfully.  I know I sound cliche, but her stuff really tells a story.  Her fearless mark making is certainly something I envy.  This class was all about experimenting with materials while studying ways to render the head and face.  (And neck/chest/breast/shoulders etc.) We had different live models to work from during each class.  It was the perfect escape from the long, cold, and ridiculously snowy winter.  I have fallen head over heels in love with oil paint washes paired with lines of pressed charcoal and chalk pastel.  To make an oil paint wash you simply add a glob of paint to a little cup of turpenoid, stir it up, and voila!  Deliciousness achieved!  This is my new found obsession, at least for now.  I think this one looks like Bonnie Raitt.



I also realized that while I think I have a good grip on the front of the face, or the front plane of the fleshed-out skull, I have a hard time depicting the other sides of the head.  The head is much like a box with distinct sides.  Shading the right or left side of the face and head is tricky.  Below is Mrs. Tishell from Doc Martin.  (Not really, but she reminds me of her).



We used other yummy mediums too, such as ink washes.  Below is a drawing (india ink wash) of an amazing young woman; the kind of person that you only have to know for a short while before you realize that she has made your life better, just by knowing her for that short while.  If this has happened to you before, you will know what I mean.  A splendid, happy, soulful individual with a bright shining light that warms all in her presence.


I also got to play with powdered graphite.  A messy endeavor but very fun indeed-o.  And always remember: If you can’t quite get the eyes right, either don’t care or put aviator glasses on your drawing.  These options work every time.



Hands are tricky of course.  I like the fact that in the image below you can see where I’ve re-drawn hand contours trying to get it “just right.”  I did not get it “just right” but I think at times this can be better than perfection.




Cropping out the part of the drawing that displeases me yields a fabulous composition like the one below.  I am developing a real taste for windows in hair and hair swirls.  I was told that the swirls may “take away” from my portraits.  The fine art world is a funny one.  There are rules that are meant to be broken.  If you break them correctly you’re a flippin’ genius.  Yet, just who is on the judges panel? Who are the ones that hold up the cards?  No one really.  I’m pretty sure the seats are empty.  Everyone has wildly different opinions.  It’s weird.  I haven’t explained it well.



We also used an acrylic wash like the hatted lady below.  I am not nearly as fond of watered down acrylic paint on paper as I am with the oil paint technique.  The acrylic paint is all sticky and chunky-feeling while the oil wash is all smooth and buttery.



And we did self portraits looking in a mirror.  This reaffirmed the fact that I am certainly aging.  (MY CHEEKS ARE STARTING TO SAG!?) Time is flying by.  I sometimes feel robbed by this fact.  I want my kids to stay young (only when they are behaving well) and heck, I want to too.  My knees are starting to do funny things when I jog.  (Like, they beg me to stop jogging) The metaphorical passing on of the torch is not an easy thing to do.  I thought I was ultra cool with it but I think it’s giving me a kick in the ass lately.  I don’t think it has much to do with our youth-obsessed society either.  I think it has to do with the fact that I remember how I physically felt when I was twenty-something.  My metabolism was awesome.  I could stay up late and get up early and do a ton of stuff.  I could eat whatever I wanted, or eat nothing at all, and feel no difference.  I know, I digress…


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Poop and Pee is Our Bread and Butter Plus Other Dirty Little Secrets VOLUME 1

Addiction.  I am a human being with an addictive personality.  As far as I’ve seen, at age 37, I think this character trait is by far more the rule for humans instead of the exception. One of my hardest earned accomplishments in life thus far is quitting smoking cigarettes.  I smoked for 8 years, almost a pack per day.  I started when I was 16 years old.  At that time I could walk into a convenience store and buy a pack of cigarettes and I wouldn’t get carded.  At age 17, the state started cracking down on stores selling to minors and they became much harder to buy.  I had several older friends that could buy them for me so I made sure I rarely ran out.  This theme will tie into art shortly, as well as the title of this post, though both rather loosely.

The first butt of the morning, with a cup of coffee, was heavenly. The inhale, the exhale….Then the gorgeous inhale again… Followed by an exhale and a sip of coffee.  Life was perfect.  The scale tipped at some point in the afternoon of each day and my smoking habit started to me make me feel quite yucky. Towards the end of every day, each cigarette tasted gagging-ly worse than the one before it.  But I had to smoke them.  I mean, I couldn’t not smoke them.  I was waste deep in a quagmire of nicotine addiction.


I had several failed quit attempts in the 8 years that I was a smoker.  A couple of attempts lasted months.  As addictions tend to be progressive, every time I started up again, it seemed like it had gotten worse than it was before.  In other words, I actually would smoke more after each unsuccessful quit attempt.  At age 24, I executed a quit attempt that finally stuck.  I owe my success in great part to Nicorette gum.  It certainly helped me to wean.  It was tortuously difficult.  There were lots of triggers.  I experienced the worst cravings over emotional upsets like stress, anxiety, frustration, etc.

I haven’t had one cigarette in almost 13 years.  Looking back, it was harder than any other accomplishment that I can lay claim to.  Harder than college, all three calculus courses, and giving birth to two ridiculously giant babies!  Being a parent of almost 12 years is probably the only thing that is vying for the title of “Most Difficult of Life’s Endeavors.” But quitting smoking still wins it.  But the parenting one is close and slowly gaining.

So in the 8 years that I was hooked on cigarettes, I managed to smoke tens of thousands of cigarettes.  Holy cow.  I can’t even bring myself to type the figure I came up with.  I’m ashamed of it. Gross. There’s a dirty little secret for you!  I’ve often thought, if I could take those tens of thousands of cigarettes, and spread them out throughout my adult lifetime, say over 60 years, that it would yield 2 cigarettes per day.  It might be kind of nice to have that, you know?  Slowly suck down a couple in the morning over a tall mug of coffee.  Seems like a nice ritual to me.  But it could never be that way.  I could never have just 2 per day.


I kicked that addiction but I’m quite certain, looking back, that I substituted it for sugary food, making art and/or crafts and collecting art and/or craft supplies.  Yeah, I definitely substituted.

Over the past winter, I cut out a lot of sugar in my diet (which was incredibly hard) and substituted again.  I’d like to say that I simply found solace and comfort in Facebook and on Instagram but I’m pretty sure I became addicted.  I traded donuts and ice cream for sharing funny cat videos.  I think I might be better now… Winter is over and spring is springing.  I gardened all afternoon today and barely touched my phone.

I guess if I tallied up my current active addictions I would have to list coffee, being creative, and hording art supplies. And color.  I’m surely addicted to color and discovering how certain colors act next to certain other colors.  And gardening.  And laughing at crass and often immature humor.  And touching animals.  Dogs especially, but cats too. Food is pretty great too, I really like cheese.

To some people these addictions, even the cigarettes, might sound trivial.  I know there are other more immediately harmful addictions out there.  At this time, I have a dear friend getting help with a yucky alcohol addiction.  This dear soul is “walking through the fire,” as I call it.  We all have times in our lives when we “walk through the fire.”  Sometimes the fire is brought on by a devastating loss, or a downward spiral of depression.  Sometimes it doesn’t even have a name.  Whatever the fire is, it sure can be shitty.  And addiction is the perfect fuel for it.

Life can be beautiful.  Life can be crap.  And it can be every single thing in between.



Some lucky people are able to see when they are approaching the very pinnacle of their own personal brand of a shitty problem.  A few are even luckier and are able to make, or at least attempt to make, the change needed to better their lives and start the hike off of turd mountain.  At least down to poop valley.  Yes, I’ve been known to reference poop.  Probably because people just don’t like poop, they find it gross, and maybe I like to be difficult.

Thank goodness there are resources out there to aid those needing help with their addictions.  Two online places to go for those struggling with quitting smoking are and

I have designed a pendant to give my aforementioned dear friend who is undergoing treatment for an alcohol addiction.  It is a sterling-silver-wire-wrapped piece of fossilized turtle poop.  Millions of years ago it was poop, it slowly became a rock.  Things change.  Nothing stays the same.  You could think of all sorts of appropriate metaphors for this kind of gift.



Here it is from another angle:


Oh! And just how on Earth is poop and pee our bread and butter, you might ask?  Well, my hard working hubby designs giant tanks for waste water treatment facilities.  He is the bread winner of our 13 year long union, and thus, in the most figurative way, poop and pee is our bread and butter.  Ha!  Get it?



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