Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sketching, 2012-style

I got an iPad for Christmas! That, along with some new (free) sketching software and a soft-tipped stylus, will hopefully help me blog/sketch more in 2012. I'm trying to do this entire post - sketch, blog, and posting, without leaving the iPad. Should be interesting...

This is my first attempt with MagicSketch - she's got a neck like a giraffe but the shading's not bad. It even lets you create your own brushes, and for a free program, I'm not complaining. Any suggestions out there for the best drawing app?

Life has been good - my lack of posting is from being crazy busy, but GOOD busy. Here's to 2012 and more creativity!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sneak peek

Extreme closeup of an upcoming project that had 17 million vector points to edit that made my fingers itch like crazy for my paintbrushes.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Two ponies and a super-villain

Have some Halloween costumes! Note to self for next year: Just make the darn costumes and then present them to the kids and tell them this is it. WAAAAAY too much input/looking over my shoulder/art-directing on these, not that they're even very complicated! It was the back and forth and painful attention to detail that did me in. When I complained, someone said, "That's what you get for raising creative, independent thinkers!" I'm thinking the independent thinkers might want to make their own darn costumes next year.

Twilight Sparkle, studying as usual (this time, a book about dragons).

Pinkie Pie, doing the "WATCH OUT" pose from the end of her "Evil Enchantress" number. (Though we like this version better!) This was taken the day before Halloween, but for school and trick-or-treating we spray painted her hair pink.

Vector from Despicable Me with his shrink ray (yes, we made that all from recycled materials and a ton of spray paint! (Left over from last year's robots.... )


Hilarious Reference video:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We love ponies

... though we think making them ourselves is 20% cooler, in 10 seconds flat.

For a bit of reference - this is the video that got us hooked.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Note by note

Sorry, September, I seem to have completely missed you on here!

I mentioned in passing a while back that I had a milestone birthday this August. But instead of throwing a big party, I decided that I wanted to learn something new. And that's where the guitar comes in.

I have always - always - loved the guitar. For me, it carries some great memories: being in the folk group at church in high school, madrigal group in college, and oh yeah, there are these guys who have been known to inspire me.

Luckily for me, we had an extra guitar at my house, along with loads of music books, not to mention someone who already teaches music living here. He got me all set up with brand new strings, tuned everything up, made me a copy of a chord chart, and let me have at it. It took a long time to start building up calluses, and there was a time where I thought I would never be able to hold down a B minor chord.

I've been practicing every day for 15 to 30 minutes, sometimes with the kids, sometimes longer if I can do it after they go to bed. It's become a real family thing - the kids sing with me sometimes, and about once a week I go to Paul and demand to know something in particular. Last week I made him write down strumming patterns for me, and taught them to the kids so that they could chant them to me while I played. He gave me an "A" for my progress and I got a sticker for my hard work. ;)

I would apologize for the lack of artwork lately on the site, except that I have been coming to the dawning realization that art is art. When I transpose a song into a key that's in my range/abilities, I'm being creative. When I sit down at the piano to work out an alternate arrangement, that's art too. And when I figure out chords by ear and I have no idea what they're really called in real life but they sound right, that's creativity.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Chore Wars! Nothing but Chore Wars!

Parents, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. One that cut the whining in my household down dramatically.

I have become the dungeon master of my own multiplayer campaign. But, instead of leading a band of adventurers to slay monsters in bloodthirsty battles, I'm leading the family into a war against household dirt. That’s where Chore Wars comes in. Chore Wars lets you claim points for household chores. By getting other people in your house or workplace to sign up, you can assign point rewards for individual tasks and chores. Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons or any other role-playing game, it’s fun — and productive — to rack up points competing against roommates, co-workers, or, in my case: the kiddos. It’s a great motivator. The whining has decreased and one of them has even been getting up early to claim all the points for emptying the dishwasher! Win-win!

Here's how you do it:

The setup. Go to the site and set up an account. You will be the admin (in our case, both Paul and I are admins, which means we can set up new chores/assign points/etc.) Go have fun making up a character for yourself. There are several settings you can choose, depending on how public or private you'd like your group to be. Ours is private, but if you were doing this among coworkers or roommates, it might be fun to publish the results to keep better tabs on who's doing what! You can always change your nickname - which appears on screen with your character - whenever you want. (At right: Peter's character sheet. And yes, we know Trogdor is a dragon. The name was just too good to pass up.)

Make up a fun name for your group, and invite others to join. In our case, we are The Cleanup Crusaders. Now... this is where it's a little bit of a pain for those with small kids: you have to log out as yourself, and create a new account for each child. If they are too young to go online and log in their own hours, or if you want to oversee them doing it, make them NPCs (Non-Playing Characters). So, you will have to log in separately, each time you want to update any chores for any kid. That's literally the only complaint I have about this process, and trust me, the benefits far outweigh that one little thing!

Create a list of chores. There's a basic 15 that we started with, which I heartily recommend. Then you can tailor it after a day or two to add your own special chores and points. If there is an especially distasteful chore in your family, you can jack up the points and treasure to make it more enticing.

Rewards. At first, your kids are just going to be excited to participate, and compete for the most points. But there's more than one way to score at Chore Wars, and it's up to you and your family how you want to do it. Let's look at the three kinds of rewards and what you could assign to each.

XP: Stands for eXperience Points. Each chore has certain qualities that go with it. Something like vacuuming or mowing the lawn might require more stamina or strength, while paying bills or getting on the phone to negotiate something with the insurance company might require the use of more charisma and wisdom. The more chores you do, the more XP you get. And as your XP goes up, you get more points. In our house, whoever has the highest XP at the time we're going shopping gets to choose what flavor ice cream we get. Sounds like not a big deal, but on the last shopping day, one 7 year old and 8 year old managed to vacuum the bedrooms, wipe down both bathrooms, make their beds, clean their rooms, empty the dishwasher, and wash, fold, and put away a load of laundry, all in the same day, just to have the right to pick that ice cream flavor. In our house, it's ice cream; maybe at your house it's choosing a movie or what game to play on game night or getting a free download of a song on iTunes - whatever privilege would be most fun for your family.

Gold: Each chore comes with a random amount of gold that can be discovered when the chore is completed and logged. You can change these amounts as well. Our kids have done chores for quite a while now, but we struggled with how to give them an allowance and teach them about money as well. Now their allowance is based on the amount of gold they earn in the game. Whenever they reach 100 gold (or more), they may exchange it for a dollar in real money. Then I go in as an admin and subtract that amount from their profile and make a note of it in the game. The kids love this, and they get to see a direct correlation between the amount of work they do to help out the family, and the amount of money they get for their banks.

Treasure: For every chore, you can also assign treasure to find (and the chance of finding it). You can make up totally silly things, for instance, for recycling, we added "the golden yogurt container" just to be funny. However, as the game says, you can make those magic items correspond to things in the real world. From the help page:

Perhaps "fizzy potion" treasures could be used as free-drink vouchers, "golden dishmop" objects could be gained from washing-up and used as a "get out of washing-up free" card, or the younger members of your party could spend a pre-agreed amount of Chore Wars gold to buy a toy.

In our case, we will be gathering all sorts of coupons and vouchers for stores downtown, plus little toys and erasers and stickers and things, and putting them into a box we'll call the Treasure Chest. Each adventurer can surrender one of their treasures in the game for a real-life reward of their choosing from the Treasure Chest.

Are you convinced yet? If you decide to do this with your family, roommates, or co-workers, I would love to hear about how it's working for you!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

God made all your favorite things

And now, a word from Sophie. She wrote this after church one day, after she had received Communion and I asked her to really think and mediate on what it meant to her. That kid just blows me away.

Monday, July 25, 2011

just what is creativity, anyway?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I have a number of art projects that I keep wanting to start, but haven't, and think, wow, I really ought to be painting, and then I feel lame for not having done any painting lately.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I don't have to specifically paint to still be an artist, because being an artist is just what I AM. I've been exploring a lot of other things lately that have really satisfied my creative itch but haven't necessarily been putting a brush to paper. I'm feeling content to let the muse lead me wherever she wants to, without me beating it up or feeling I have to master it. Some things I've been doing lately:

Decorating. I've cleaned up my office and gave it a very colorful and thorough makeover. I absolutely love working in this space every morning and it really does energize me. That being said, I've moved on to...

The kids' bedrooms. Totally fun to reflect their personalities while still getting the upper hand on clutter and how to prevent any spaces for it in the future. Not to mention finally hanging up all those paintings I've done for them over the years! Which means...

Our bedroom is next. We've lived in this house for something like a dozen years and still never decorated anything. This summer we'll be building a headboard for the bed, I'll be pulling out the sewing machine to make some bedding and pillows, and I'll frame some artwork/love notes for the walls. I've started a pinterest board where I'm posting ideas if anyone wants to follow along.

The day job. I can't wait until some of these projects are street-approved and I can share, because they've been so much fun to work on. It's loads of design, but really creative design (including package design! woo!)

Music. There will probably be another post about this at some point, but I'm thinking of learning a new instrument for my birthday next month. Why not? And meanwhile, I've been enjoying teaching myself to play "Mr. Bellamy" by ear on the piano. I have the verses pretty note-perfect now. I'm having a lot of fun with it, considering it's a song about a guy who throws himself off a ledge (albeit a very catchy song about a guy who throws himself off a ledge).

See where this is going? I could list a ton of other things... cooking, fashion, how I braid the girls' hair, fixing up an old bike, designing a dress for myself instead of just the girls, how we went and bought 10 bottles of nail polish from the drugstore and have been going nuts with the pedicures.... it's more like I'm just BEING creative, with all my being. And letting myself be free to do just that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rainbow bookshelves

The other day I'd mentioned online that I was cleaning and reorganizing my office. Here's how it turned out. Am I OCD? Definitely.

(if for some reason you can't view the slideshow below, or you'd like to read the notations added on the images, check out the shelves in all their rainbowy splendor here on flickr.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

homemade bug habitat

Painted on the fly (HA!) in our backyard.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

every day in may: what the hey?

For those who haven't been reading my twitter feed (can't really bring myself to say "tweets"), here's the scoop. I've been sick, exhausted, and physically incapable of scanning and posting anything for the past few days, but I did make an effort to slap the paint around.

So.... what I think I'm going to try to do now that I'm on the mend, is to do one big post with everything in it so far that's in my sketchbook that didn't make it onscreen yet. And then, hopefully, we'll be back on track with the whole painting/posting thing.

Keep painting, people!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

every day in may: sixteen

We've been on a bit of an Ed Emberley kick around here. I think Angela's Nessie is way cuter than mine, don't you?

Monday, May 16, 2011

every day in may: fifteen

That's right... it's recital time! And this year I'm trying to stay in town the whole time with the kids, instead of going to my parents' each night and driving back late with cranky kids. This experiment is either going to be a great idea, or it will be a really, really, bad one. If I get paintings done and posted every day, it will be a miracle.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

every day in may: eleven

I think I got the hair right this time. Yeah! (And yes, it is this big, and yes, I LOVE it.)

every day in may: twelve

Work in progress, natch. Don't Ask Me Why.

every day in may: fourteen

The beautiful and ethereal Sophie posing for me for about 20 minutes at bedtime, with Lambey tucked down the top of her PJs. This one actually took a LOT of color correction as my scans kept coming out either too brassy or too dark. It still doesn't exactly match the tones of the original but it'll do. And as for her eye sizes not matching - that's Soph. Her right eyelid has had surgery on it twice, and it doesn't open as wide as her left. If I made them the same, it would look like another child entirely.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

every day in may: thirteen

Angela, running around after school. She looked so adorable I knew I had to paint her.

Friday, May 13, 2011

every day in may: thirteen

Believe it or not, in real life this snippet is about 1.5" x 2" tall and was way harder to paint than it looks! I'm going to stay away from straight lines for a while....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

every day in may: ten

Lame? Perhaps. But there is a precedent....

Peter Reynolds writes on his site:

I have a promise to myself that I will make a mark in my journal each night, even if I am tired. I will try to jot a drawing, or a poem, or a word, or even a simple mark to just prove I was alive that day.

One night, when I was exhausted, I made a mark with a black felt-tipped marker and promptly fell asleep. When I awoke with a start an hour or two later, I noticed the little mark had mushroomed into one giant black dot.

I put the cap on the pen, put the book to one side and went back to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, I looked at the journal again and instead of seeing it as a mistake... I suddenly realized that perhaps this was one of the best ideas I had ever had.

I grabbed the pen and quickly jotted "The Dot" above the black dot and "by Peter H. Reynolds" below it. I had just created the cover to my new book.

I was alive today.

Monday, May 09, 2011

every day in may: nine

(also: Illustration Friday, Beginner)

So this weekend, my very stylish sister took me shopping and I learned a lot about what I will and won't (and shouldn't!) wear. While I've been dressing myself most of my life, I don't know that I was necessarily dressing myself well. I'm still kind of a beginner at this.

One thing I learned this weekend was that I dislike empire waists (on me). And not only that, I especially dislike how an empire waist looks on me when there are no sleeves involved. According to my sister, I look fine, but to me, that's just putting "the girls" (as she calls them) on display a little too much. I think it all smacks of maternity wear to me! But something belted where I actually have a waist? Or something soft and flowy? That works. It amuses me that I'm hitting a milestone birthday this summer and I still have so much to learn about myself.

Another thing I feel like I'm back to being a beginner at, is painting. I have had some incredibly loooooooong stretches with no paint, as I've said, and forcing myself to get the watercolors out is sometimes just plain hard. Compounding this is the fact that I am trying to work using as little pencil as possible, and letting the paint suggest what's going on. Less is more.

I almost didn't post this because I thought it was so bad, but I think there's a kind of redemption in the way this doodle progresses from the first figure (ugh) to the last (kind of getting the hang of it). Not to mention I've never painted my hair since my new haircut - I have to devote a day to a curl study, and the way light bounces off them, and how to suggest curls without having to paint each one. As Michelangelo said in his 80s, "I am still learning."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

every day in may: eight

Swingy dresses are fun to paint!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

every day in may: seven

And now, the divine Angela, who is sporting lavender pjs, hugging her lavender pony, and topping the look off with a glittery aqua scarf (not to mention the GORGEOUS cascading curls). This first-grader's got style!

Friday, May 06, 2011

every day in may: six

This is Sophie assuming her usual ice-cream eating position: shoulders hunched way up, and sometimes giving a little shudder when the ice cream is too cold but she can't help eating another bite. This is a girl who really enjoys her ice cream. :)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

every day in may: five

My boy Petey playing on the iPod in bed in his pjs (because he can). I was going to paint this but I liked the drawing so much just the way it is that I decided to leave it as it is. Peter likes it so much he wants to take it to school.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

every day in may: four

This day was completely off-the-wall bananas. I painted anyway.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

every day in may: three

The first graders are working on writing their own books about a specific animal they've researched. Sophie did quokkas last year, Angela is doing jellyfish, and Peter is doing baboons. Because I am so experienced in the Ways of First Grade, I know what's coming next. Dioramas! And so one night when the kids were playing with clay, I told them to start working on their animals to see what they could make.

Peter's first attempt was fine, but he got very frustrated and balled everything up and went to his room for a while. We had dinner, and after dinner, decided to try again, but this time we had a plan. I sketched out for him all the parts of the photo he was trying to copy - the head is like an oval, the body is like a pear, the arms are kind of like sausages, etc. Once everything was broken down in linear fashion and he understood that it was okay to sketch it out first, he had a much better time.

The real turning point came when he was making the eyes. He had black clay (okay, Crayola Model Magic, we absolutely love that stuff) and was making little balls for the baboon's eyes. I got out some tiny beads and said, "Hey Peter, you should use two of these for eyes." He said he was doing it all himself and he didn't want any beads. So I took a tiny white bead, stuck it into a small black ball of clay, and held it up in front of the baboon's face, and said again, "Hey Peter, you should use two of these for eyes." After he saw that he wanted them, :) grabbed the beads and with minimal help from me, got them into place. After he made indentations for the baboon's nostrils and mouth, it suddenly was filled with so much personality that Peter was laughing out loud looking at it. Now this baboon and baby have a walking (!) baboon with a baby on his back to accompany it, and he plans to make more.

The fact that Peter went in one afternoon from artistic despair and frustration, to crowing at his handiwork, fills my heart with so much joy.

Monday, May 02, 2011

every day in may: two

This is yesterday's painting, but I wasn't able to scan it until today. It's what was intended to be a quick watercolor sketch of Sophie's communion bouquet, but turned into an increasingly more detailed work as I was reminded again that for me, anyway, simple is hard. I think for not painting in forever, it's not too horrible.

Sophie stuck a tiny butterfly in it, which made it even more sweet.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

every day in may: day one

I'm continuing my tradition of painting or drawing every day in May. While I would love to post a long writeup about how enriching this will be (it will!) and how I wish everyone would join me (please do!) right now I'm having a hard time forming a coherent thought because I'm so exhausted.

Sophie's Communion was today and it was awesome.

I painted today, and it was awesome.

And now I'm about to do a faceplant into the keyboard. Though I painted, I didn't scan yet. Hopefully that will come tomorrow, and I hope to write more as well about the incredible struggle I've had to paint, how getting through this May is going to be like trying to push through water, and how I almost cried when my children kept asking me WHY I was painting, because "it's not Christmas." They've totally forgotten when I would paint every day, and that painting is a part of me, and that just makes me so sad.

It's time to remind them what I'm all about.

Friday, April 29, 2011

wisdom and light

Sophia makes her First Communion on Sunday*, and I am possibly more excited than she is! It's a huge and very significant step in her life. As Paul and I are her CCD teachers, we're thrilled to see how these girls have grown in faith over the past few years. Since we just had their last class of the year, I had to make some presents. :)

This is what I made for each girl. I printed each one out, backed it with 2 larger colors of paper (in Sophie's case, white, and then light blue), and framed it. The crowning touch was the addition of a 3D glittering white and silver flower scrapbook sticker to match the white and silver butterflies each girl decorated her Communion scrapbook cover with. (We also printed out a version of each that went inside the scrapbook as well.)

While I would love to claim that I am a super-genius in dreaming this up, I'm really reworking a picture my mom gave each of us when we were kids. We each had our name and its meaning, done in calligraphy, and a Bible verse underneath it that went with it. That hung over my bed probably until I went to college and it made a great impression on me. My name means "a shining light" and my verse was "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) I was happy to pass that along to Nora in our class, whose name means the same thing!

We had 10 in our class, but here are a few others to share. I loved doing this project, and will be giving our other friends making their Communion this month their names as well.

*Hello! Where did the time go?

Monday, April 25, 2011

doing the do: another post about the hair

Waitaminute! HAIR?! I hear you cry. What the heck happened to the watercolors?! Where's the paint? All in good time, toasty ones. Right now, my plate is completely full and dripping over onto the table and onto the floor (...and then my poor meeeatball.... rolled out of the dooor. Sorry. Couldn't help it.) Next month is May, and God willing, I will be painting every single solitary day in May and sharing about it. As for the rest of April, I'm going to try to finish posting about other things that are done (school play logos, tshirts, posters, and DVD work; any other paintings from Christmas I haven't posted yet; design stuff for Sophie's Communion) throughout the rest of the month.


I've gotten a few comments on the hair - how do I do it? How can you, too, let your curly side free? Here are some steps to claim your curls (or reclaim them, as the case may be.) My hair, as if you couldn't tell, is extremely thick, coarse, and tends to be really dry. You'll need conditioner, gel, two old tshirts, and some clips.

  • Wet hair thoroughly. This is all about moisture, and locking it in. 
  • Comb through conditioner. This is the One Condition - you could also start with their NoPoo, and follow it up with the One Condition. And yes, the names are cutesy. I put up with it because the products are awesome. I get it all over my hair, making sure there's lots on the ends.
  • Let it sit a bit while in shower (you know, doing other showery things.)
  • Rinse, but leave some conditioner in.
  • Turn off the water, and lean over at the waist so that my hair all falls forward. 
  • Squeeze some water out by hand - like in the video, scrunching my hair as I go but not pulling on it or twisting it.
  • Work 2 handfuls of gel through hair & squeeze. My hair needs a lot of coverage, it's pretty wild. Yours may not need as much, experiment and find out what works best for you. Note also that I don't buy the Deva brand of gel, Tresemme works great for me, it's much cheaper, and I can get it at the supermarket. 
  • Squeeze with cotton T-shirt to remove extra water. Not a towel! Regular terrycloth towels are too absorbent. They also say you can use paper towels but that would not be environmentally friendly as I'd go through a roll every time I washed my hair. So... go find that old team-building t-shirt, and squeeze the water out with that.
  • Work 1 more dollop of gel through hair & squeeze with hands.
  • Squeeze again with T-shirt to remove extra water.
  • Plop hair in dry T-shirt for 45 min - 1hr. While it's up, I'm packing lunches, making breakfast, and getting the kiddos out the door for school. You know. Life.
  • Remove T-shirt from hair, bend at waist and shake out hair, flip up.
  • Arrange curls around face so I can see. :)
  • Clip at crown for height so that hair doesn't dry in a Rosanne Rosanadanna fashion. You can get these at the supermarket or drugstore, they're very inexpensive.
  • RESIST THE URGE TO TOUCH YOUR HAIR. The less you touch it, the better it will look.
  • Leave clips in as long as possible while working, or driving, whatever. Take out, shake your hair and look gorgeous!

Some videos: Plop it like it's hot!

The Deva 3-step

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

snapshot at work

This is at the day job.... one of these days when I clean the studio, I'll snap a photo there too. What's in your workspace?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Listen to my Thirty-day song challenge (+ a few extra... )

Well, my 30+ days are over, and boy, it's been a lot of fun! In case you couldn't join us on Facebook, or just would really like to hear them again in order, I've created a playlist of all the songs I posted. You'll still have to check FB to find out why I posted them though.... ;)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

how to have a harry potter birthday party

Some handy tips to keep in mind:

Have the proper attitude. You'll need to not be afraid to get really silly, to be a big enough fan that you enjoy messing around with all the minutiae, and to know when enough is enough and you're getting obsessive and it's time to stop.

Read the books. Especially if you've only seen the movies. You might even want to read a bit of it while everyone is arriving, or needs a little downtime. The books are so rich in detail and humor, and when you read them together as a family, it really adds to the fun.

Plan, plan, plan. Our day involved the guests getting sent an acceptance letter to Hogwarts on the school letterhead, and when they arrived, they were handed a notebook with the day's schedule and some activities to do until everyone was present. We made many, many, many things in advance: workbooks (Google "Harry Potter coloring pages" or "Harry Potter activities" to find loads of free resources), capes made out of trash bags for the kids to decorate and wear, pretend Potions supplies that we gleefully labeled - (like "powdered lacewings" that was really the contents of a jello packet), their wands, and the homemade packages of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans that Sophie chose the flavors for from this list. Fonts were from The Daily Prophet (Harry P and Lumos) and were printed on big Avery labels and cut out with fun scissors.

Have a schedule. The students were greeted by Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, got sorted into their houses with the sorting hat, chose their wands, decorated their capes, and went to Potions class (messy things in the kitchen), Transfiguration class (Shrinky Dinks; we pointed our wands and yelled "Reducto!" at the toaster oven while they were cooking), and Divination class (we pretended to read their palms and predict funny things). As they completed each class, they got a sticker to put next to the subject in their workbook. At the end we had a graduation celebration with Butterbeer (root beer) and cauldron cakes (cupcakes). All of this took about an hour and a half but could have been longer if we'd wanted. The awesome thing is that we're doing it again this weekend for Peter's birthday!

HAVE FUN! I suspect a few of the parents thought we were nuts. We didn't care.