Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A commission that *did* have a happy ending :)

And now that I know it arrived safely and has been received by the birthday boy, I can post about it. Yay!
(I added the bolts that hold the sign to the post later, hehe)

The painting was commissioned for me to do by the wife of one of my best friends. Route 30 has special significance to him (or as Ruby would say, it's "sensitive," hehe... I just love her). So his wife's idea was to paint the Rt. 30 sign with some local foliage/wildflowers. It was a lot of fun to do this since normally I just focus on ONE foliage or flower in a painting, not a bunch of different kinds. And I learned something interesting in the little bit of scenery included in this piece. I now know why scenery is SUCH popular subject matter for artists:


Bob Ross? Happy little trees? Just start throwing down shapes and light and shade- it's nearly impossible to mess them up. Rolling hills? Curvy shapes, overlap, light, shade, blend, blend, done. It made me want to do more scenery pictures... which is something I always thought would bore me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010





A while ago (like..... 6 months ago, at least) a friend of mine wanted to commission me to do a some artwork for him. He sent me an email with a picture he had taken that he wanted me to draw or paint. Since he's a friend, I didn't want to charge him too much for it, so I decided a colored pencil drawing would be the way to go. It's faster than painting (I don't have to do zillions of layers and there is no drying time) so I wouldn't have to spend as many hours on it, therefore, could charge less.

I had a few other projects lined up (and always have at least 10 at the forefront of my head that I am itching to do) and he assured me there was no rush on it. I knew the drawing would be difficult as it's quite different from anything I've ever done before... so, yes, part of me was just putting it off because I was scared. It's a photo of some ducks swimming across a little pond with lots of trees and branches in the background. So, yes, it was nature. Yes, there was lots of green in it. Of course I thought I could handle it! If I do indeed have artistic talent, I can draw or paint ANYthing, right?

I wanted to succeed. I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and draw something besides a close-up photo of a flower or a bug or Louis Armstrong. Plus, if I want to actually make a career out of being an artist, I'm going to occasionally have to draw or paint things that I wouldn't necessarily choose myself.... Right?

I only worked on the drawing for an hour and a half this morning. The time was spent in a vicious cycle of me putting the pencils down, looking forlornly at the drawing, knowing deep down that it was going nowhere. Then picking up the pencils again, not wanting to admit defeat, but to see this drawing finished and force my way through it and learn new things along the way.

In just an hour and a half I did learn things. What I learned was, KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Sure I would love to become a professional and do art full time and make a living from it. But a professional wouldn't take on projects they know they can't handle. They specialize in something and do the damn best they can at it. They don't go guessing their way through to a half-assed pitiful looking end result that just ends up being a waste of time.

Would you ask Paul McCartney to write and perform Gangsta Rap?

So there it sits.
An incomplete drawing with approximately a completed 4-inch-square section of pure mess. I thought for a moment and wondered if I should try painting it instead? I looked around in the art-supply-closet and found an extra 11"x14" canvas. I took it out and set it next to the drawing. Now I'm considering trying to paint it instead. I don't know if that means I'm committed or persistent or just a dumbass.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Here Today, Gone.... Later Today

A day or two ago I listed this Bees & Cherries (decoupaged with a print of my "Busy, Busy Bees" painting) in my Etsy shop.

I found out this morning that it was featured in this adorable Treasury:

And then found out later today I sold it! :)

My Etsy shop is currently still very empty as the things with which I'm filling it take a loooong time to make. Part of that is simply due to drying times combined with my own multi-tasking; Part of that is due to my own inexperience with this type of thing and still learning, and of course only listing an item in my shop when it is absolutely 100% perfect... or as perfect as I'm capable of making an upcycled item. I hope as I learn more and more about working with certain materials, I can get items listed a little faster and complete more of them, because creating these little gifts is a blast!

It's super fun to take trips to thrift shops and find just the right little items that are well crafted, but just need a little makeover. You never find the exact same item twice, so no two will ever be alike. Maybe a defect on the wood somewhere becomes something you have to paint over, which is a new and unique challenge. I could easily go to a craft shop and buy boatloads of wooden or even paper boxes to paint and decoupage, but where's the fun in that? Plus the whole point of finding a used item is not consuming new resources... which adds in another element of challenge and craftiness and uniqueness!  :)

Friday, July 23, 2010


Cause I want one!

I have no clue what it is. It's growing at a local park. Some of the larger leaves are almost as long as my hand, for reference, and it's about 7 feet tall and even wider than that. Anyway I just love this thing! Anyone know what it is??

Maybe I can go make an inquiry over at Plants Are The Strangest People, my favorite plant blog!! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saying good bye.... in a good way :)

I'm always flattered when someone wants to buy any of my work...
especially an original...
and especially as a gift!

It's one of the greatest feelings...

A couple weeks ago I got up and checked my email to find a request to purchase this painting--  I don't sell the original paintings (unless they're commissioned) through PayPal to avoid fraud issues, etc. Instead anyone can email me if they're interested in purchasing an original. (Hopefully they don't suffer from email-phobia like me!)

I'm so relieved that this particular piece is going to finally find a home because it's one of the few that I spent way too much on the frame (lesson learned), and I've been getting tired of hauling it to art shows and being SOOOO paranoid about the frame getting messed up every time! (Soon I hope to start making my own frames, and thus will be able to easily repair them when needed.) Each and every time I've taken this painting to an art show or gallery event, it's been wrapped up in a giant fluffy cocoon for protection. Now it can finally find a permanent spot on a wall- I'm sure he painting is much happier now :)

I hope the recipient enjoys the gift and it finds (and creates!) a happy place in his or her home :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

To Wide or Not To Wide??

Format. For this heah blog...
I'm thinking it may be time to go wide.

I got a new computer monitor this year. I have no clue what the resolution is, because honestly I'm too lazy to go check in my settings. It's 16:9 aspect ratio though. So now when I look at my blog on it, I've got alllll this white space on the edges, and it is all just cluttered there somewhere in the middle.

I bet somewhere there's an HTML code where I can set the middle column to scale wider as the viewer's browser windows widens. Easy peasy! No wondering if I change to a wide format for the posting, will it get messed up on monitors with a 4:3 aspect ratio? Because then horizontal scrolling would be involved... and no one wants that.

So what's your monitor's aspect ratio? 4:3 (more square) or 16:9 (more rectangular)?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Soon, little bees.

Soon I will be back to gardening and planting for you.

For now I will reminisce with old photos.
          Come with me and let's enjoy these bees from 2008  :)

"We're in your flowers... Pollinaaaytin' your world!!"


Monday, July 12, 2010

Painting.... on a GREAT BIG scale!

Not to jinx it... but our offer on a house was accepted today! We're getting the inspection on Friday and if all goes well, we'll be moving at the end of August.

So... the wheels are turning. Here it is in all its glory:

Man.... it's taupe. Eeeeewww. I like the red door but the taupe might have to go. So I played around in Photoshop and created some 'visions' that I worried my husband would find hideous. To my surprise he liked both, especially the yellow because it makes the house "look happier."

Or maybe even a teal would work (ignore the yellow chimney).

The addition of some flowers in those beds will make a big difference too.

It's fun to play around with ideas and who knows what will happen in the next few weeks with the inspection, etc. But hopefully all goes well and I can start envisioning my new workshop/art studio! The basement has a bunch of big work benches already set up that look somewhat built-in, so we are guessing they will be left there. Looks like the perfect place for me to finally start making my own frames! Yaaayyy!

SO.... which colored version of the house do you like best?  Please comment! :)


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Building Your Website...

I was just on the Etsy forums a few minutes ago--
wait, WHAT!? Yes! I'm re-opening my Etsy shop!! but more on that on another day.... when the shop actually has stuff in it :) It takes time to create those listings you know!
and came across a post asking which is better? Having your own website (and store) or having an Etsy shop? There were many different viewpoints/pros/cons of each. It seems like most people who prefer *just* having Etsy do so for the simplicity and ease of maintenance.

however, am a huge geek and control freak and actually enjoy designing and coding and maintaining my own website. Yeah, HTML for funsies. That is probably the dorkiest thing I've ever written; what's sad is that I had to preface that with 'probably.'

The topic of website hosting also came up and I was surprised at the rates I was seeing. The company I use- MeccaHosting- seems so much cheaper (the service package I am using anyway). Since I'm so extremely happy with my hosting company, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to them and I'd highly HIGHLY recommend them if anyonehas been thinking about starting your own website! Here is their page explaining their services and rates:
I currently pay $10 to renew my domain name every year and $30 A YEAR to keep my website up and running. Most rates I've been seeing are $10-$12 a month.

When I set up my website a few years ago, I knew nothing about HTML and was adamant about having my site hosted by a company that could provide me with plenty of cheat sheets templates. After hours of extensive research I signed up with some big name company (probably Yahoo but I really don't remember) to find out... at the time... none of their templates were compatible with Macs :(

So after immediately closing the account and getting my moneys back, I decided to go with the cheapest option I could. Lo and behold I found Mecca! I took it upon myself to find online tutorials to teach me the basics of HTML and it was well worth the whole hour it took to find a few simple things. So even if you think you could never learn HTML and it seems hella scary to you, it may actually be worth looking into. You have so much more control over everything. (any other control freaks out there!!? Really???) There are a zillion tutorials online and at first all you really need to learn is how to align stuff and make tables and links and enjoy playing with numbers a little... and that's sort of it.
Here's one of my favorite sites with lots-o-tutorials :)

Then there was this. A blog. I should remember why I picked blogger, but I don't. I thought about doing my own in HTML but seriously why go through all that trouble when this service is free??? There were templates! Templates that I could change and customize if I chose to do so, which of course I did! Because I could. Because I am anal about the tiniest miniscule shit. And because of my controlfreakishness.

So if you've set up a website, and choose to set up a blog, chances are if you're going to sell your art (or bags of hair or contaminated Shrek glasses or whatever it is you sell) online, there's still the question of how. Use your own site? Or go with an online store such as Etsy or Artfire or Ebay or a multitude of others.

I can only compare with Etsy since they are the only one I've ever used...

I moved to selling on my own site for a couple of reasons aside from my pure geekdom.

For one thing you don't need to set up a specific account to shop from my online gallery. I use PayPal buttons and you don't even need a PayPal account, just a credit card like with all other online shopping. With both Etsy and Paypal there are fees (and don't forget to add in the fees of hosting your website, which there are none with Etsy et. al.), and they seem pretty comparable, so I personally would probably not make a decision based on this alone:
PayPal buttons: Put as many items on your site as you want. For free. Forever. PayPal charges you 30 cents per transaction plus 2.9% on the amount of the sale. You pay nothing until you make a sale.

Etsy: 20 cents each time you place an item into your store, then if/when you make a sale, Etsy takes 3.5% commission. Item listings expire 4 months after you enter them, and you can re-list them again for 20 cents.
I chose to re-open my Etsy store for a few of my hand-made one-of-a-kind (OOAK you acronym nerds) items. Etsy seems like a more appropriate venue and admittedly, it is a little easier to create a listing on Etsy for these kinds of items rather than a brand-new page from my website for each of them, since they'll all be so different that it would be hard to copy and paste the code from one page to the next.

And, of course, there is a lot of competition on Etsy. This can either work for you or against you. A customer can easily enter your store and begin searching around all over the place and end up just as easily buying an item from someone else. Likewise someone hopping around the site from another Etsy shop can bring customers into your shop.

So if you're thinking about creating a website and/or online shop, hope some of this helps, and feel free to comment here or email me with any questions!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Caterpillars Finally Finished!

Yay! My little Monarch Caterpillar Triptych is finally finished!! I just have to spray them with sealer, but right now my porch is too sunny to do so.
I must wait. 

What's fun about these little guys is that there are a variety of ways to hang them... I originally designed them to be in a vertical configuration, but my husband suggested trying them horizontally and I found they worked that way too.

Or they could be hung separately- the two smaller ones on one wall, the long one on another wall.... however you like!

Horizontal with edges lined up...

 Horizontal & centered...


I kept these guys way, way, WAAYY less detailed than my usual work. I was going for something fun and illustrative rather than realistic. I did try to keep the caterpillars themselves pretty realistic looking though, and because of that I didn't want the plant life around them to distract from them. I also found Milkweed is a pretty challenging flower to paint- there are just so many tiny flowers all clustered together. But after I had two layers of paint on these flowers, I decided I was satisfied with them. If I had put too much detail into them, I think the leaves and stems would have looked unfinished.

I'll be bringing them to the Ned Smith Nature & Arts Festival in a couple weeks. Come check em out in person! :)

Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Scan In a Painting

When I'm at art shows, I have a lot of other artists ask me who makes my prints, how do I make the prints, etc. etc. Answer is that I do about 95% of it myself.
Here's step 1 of the "how do you make prints??" process.

Why scan? Most professionals would mount the painting on a wall or large easel and take a VERY high resolution digital photo. I haven't found much consistency doing that myself, but my scanner seems to always give me results that I can work with and create a great looking finished product.

Ideally, I'd take every painting I've ever done to American Art in Annapolis and have them do the image capture. They're AMAZING at what they do!! But sometimes I just don't have the time or the money for that luxury. Plus... Either I'm cheap or smart, because I generally hate paying someone to do something I can do myself. Thus, unless a painting I've done is over 16" x 20", I'm going to scan it in.

I use a Canon scanner and Photoshop to create my final digital image.

I lay the painting down on the scanner (I keep it about 1/4" away from the edge) and scan in sections. For a 16" x 20", I usually have to do 4 scans because my scanner does a piece about 9"x11". Lay one corner down on the scanner, scan, slide the painting down, do the other corner. Pick it up and rotate it 180 degrees (resulting in these last two scans being upside down) and scan in the last 2 sections.

Now I open Photoshop and create a new document the size of the paintin at 300 dpi (so you can print it perfectly and *maybe* even go a little bigger without losing much detail... printing on canvas seems to be pretty forgiving that way). So for this one it was 16"x20" and 300 dpi, which will create a HUGE file and make your computer really, REALLY SUPER PISSED.

Then I copy and paste the contents of each of my scans (in this case 4) into the new document. Once they're all in there, I save it so I don't lose them. After it's saved, I can close all the individual scan files since I no longer need them (and keeping them open will use more memory and make the computer run slower and be more pissed).

(Note: It's probably best *not* to listen to music on the computer as you work on this project, or have anything else open that will take away from your computer's memory. Then you will get freezing or the program spontaneously quits which makes YOU want to spontaneously combust SO SAVE OFTEN! That is in huge font for a reason :)  It might actually take a few minutes to save a file this size. Go grab a snack.)

Once in a while if there's part of the painting that's just not coming together well, I'll do an additional scan of just that part (example: a person's head. You don't want someone's head to have any inconsistencies. When you're putting the scans together it's just easier to have that additional separate scan of the face, too).

So here's the recent scan process of my painting "Sunflowers." Aren't the colors gross?? We'll fix that later. I like to do that part last- it seems the most rewarding :)

This is a Photoshop file size 16"x20" and all 4 scans are just thrown in here (the two upside down ones have been rotated) and stuck in their respective locations.
The black around the edges is from the edge of the canvas not being right up against the edge of the scanner- I want my scan to go alll the way to the edge of the canvas, and include it, rather than chop it off.

The first thing I'll do is start sliding around the 4 chunks of the scan. The arrow keys will be your BFFs (that's "best friends forever", nerds) for this process. Hopefully you've got your scans in relatively straight, because it sucks to have to rotate them and get them JUST right. As you can see, above, the lower right corner isn't quite straight so I had to rotate that one just a leeeeeettle.

Sometimes for this part of the process it's easiest to just pick ONE of the 4 scans and choose that one to line everything else up with. You can move around all 4, but sometimes when you do that, once you move one, another section is all thrown off, and you have to scoot everything around to get it to fit together again. Also sometimes for this part of the process, you can adjust your layer transparency to slightly below 100% opacity and then see exactly what's underneath- this will make lining things up pretty easy, too.

Scoot, scoot, scoot. Nudge, nudge, nudge. Is it lined up yet? As soon as it is, SAVE IT! And then use your crop tool to cut off anything around the edges that you don't like. Your file might end up slightly smaller than exactly 16"x20". That's ok.

I zoom in to the middle of the painting, where all 4 corners line up, to make sure it's as close as I can get it. It sort of doesn't have to be PERFECT, more on that later.

But check out the inconsistencies in lighting. Some parts of the scans come out a little dark if your scanner isn't perfectly flat. Usually this is pretty easy to fix. Here's a good example...

Ewwwww, look at this nasty line. Luckily my scans overlap some, about 2 inches on all sides. This is great because that means I can just erase some of that layer in the front to reveal the still-brightly-colored scan underneath, and the flower petals will look nice.

When erasing on something like this, I prefer to use a relatively large eraser brush (not TOO huge, maybe 1/2"-1" diameter on my screen, depending on what I'm erasing) and really soften up the edges. You won't get a hard line where you've erased that way.
Be careful, if you erase too much, you'll go overboard and erase some of your scan where they don't overlap. Not good!

Ahhhhhh. That's better. It takes some practice, but you want the eraser to just gently blend the layers together. While you're doing this, not only are you fixing the colors, but if there are places where things didn't line up *just right* you'll be fixing that at the same time.

Now here's something I get really, really anal about. I learned this the hard way (and of course went back and fixed it). Zoom WAY in, extremely close up, and check out everything. Chances are you'll see some dust or scratches or flecks of random crap or cat hair. In this case I probably didn't clean off my scanner before I used it.... oops. So when you're zoomed way in, you'll probably see stuff that looks like this (I circled in yellow):

THAT doesn't need to be there!! It might seem silly to go into this much detail- after all, you're not going to be printing your document THIS big. Yeah, you'd think. But that's NOT the way it works, at all. The rule of thumb here is,


I promise.
So just go fix it. It doesn't hurt, really, and it will be well worth it. It only takes 10-15 minutes at the most depending on how dirty your scanner is- I don't know what you did with that thing.

Just use the rubber stamp tool and set it to pretty small, and maybe a hardness setting somewhere in the middle. You don't want really defined circles where you had to fix things but you don't need to blur the edges a whole lot, either. Sometimes I even 'fix' little tiny inconsistencies in the painting or drawing during this process. Once in a while the scanner will pick up something that is just part of the artwork and doesn't seem to show up in the original piece, but it's there, and certainly doesn't add anything to your prints- example: a thick dab of paint that creates a weird shadow, or a slight inconsistency in the canvas fabric itself that might create a shadow. Get rid of it!

Start zoomed in on one corner and just go horizontally across the whole painting. Then when you get to the edge, scroll up, and go back to the other side. Think search and rescue pattern here.

There. Isn't that better?? :)

So now your scans should be all lined up perfectly (double check!!), your colors should be consistent all around  (double check!!!), and you shouldn't have specks of stuff showing (not too important to double check, you can fix this any time). If everything is perfectly wonderful, FLATTEN ALL THE LAYERS TOGETHER now so we can do color correction! Yaaayyy!

I have to confess, I don't have any elaborate calibrating software. Hell, I don't have ANY calibrating software at all. I did recently get a new monitor which threw a few things slightly off, but I guess by now I've had a lot of my stuff for so long that I generally know how things tend to scan and print for me. Like I know one of my printers tends to darken the reds a little, I know the other one makes some cyans a tiny bit green. I know my scanner HATES orange and blue-green. Anyway... for color correction, I'm not going to go into calibrating- I can't tell you anything about that.

Luckily this painting has no blue-green, so my greens are pretty decent. The oranges are vomitous, non existent actually, and that makes me sad.

I use the Selective Color tool to adjust most of my colors. You can go in and *just* adjust your greens, your yellows, then your reds, even neutrals, black, blues, white, whatever. My yellows were too dark so I lightened them. My oranges were too red, so I took out a bunch of magenta from the reds (orange isn't in the color menu). After the colors were the hues that I wanted them to be, I used the Brightness/Contrast tool to brighten it up just a little and then upped the contrast- seems like with my scans I always have to do that. Sometimes if necessary, the last thing I do is use the Hue/Saturation tool to increase the saturation a bit- my work tends to be pretty bright, and this helps make the prints as accurate as possible.

Voila, the finished product.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thank you, Governor Rendell :)

...for once again declaring National Pollinator Week in Pennsylvania!! :)

PA Pollinator Week

I was a little sad that my timing this year didn't work for me to attend any events, but am still extremely happy that he was so accommodating and recognizes the importance of all pollinators!

(And by the way, check it out- got a makeover!)