Playing hooky

New aceos

New aceos

I must admit to playing hooky over the last week.  The weather has been warming up and while I had to dodge some rain, I was able to do my “fall cleanup” for a few days.  The flower beds are ready for spring weeding and as soon as it dries up some, I’ll be out there pulling grass, dandelions, and other assorted weeds that have already sprung up.  The redbuds are fully blooming and the dogwoods are coming on.  My red dogwood survived the winter cold and the deer with most of the flowers intact. so I am happy about that.  The daffodils are almost done though.  I have been picking them to put in the kitchen, but they haven’t lasted over long.  It is still early to buy any flowers for planting, but I’m getting the urge to.  We are having a high deer fence put around our garden this spring because we are tired of the deer, raccoons, rabbits, possums, etc. eating up everything including the fruit trees.  I might as well just been giving the wildlife the money the last few years.  LOL

I did spend some time making some new aceo/gift tags.  I have my next project in mind, but I have to do some photo research before I can start.  Here’s a peek at the aceos.  I’ll be listing some of them in the next few days.


Aceo blanks 2

Aceo blanks 2

The latest sheet of watercolor for the aeco/gift tags backgrounds turned out fine. I don’t know if it was the different soaking brush, the different colored paper, or a combination of the two, but the colors lay down nicely and I am pleased with the results. Perhaps I was somehow scarring up the paper with the other brush or removing some surface finish, but this time around there was no precipitation of the paint.  I now have way too many blanks, but they do make an easy project for a fill in. I will probably list a few of these this week.  Valentine’s Day is coming up for the heart ones and I also don’t have a lot of blue things in my shop.  The worst part is taking all of the photos.  I end up sifting through about 12 photos to get the three I need for each listing.  It is necessary, but time consuming. Then I’ll have to figure out a real project to work on.

Happy New Year to all

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a great start to the new year.  I spent some time with family and friends and just relaxed after a hectic few months with commission work.

I sold quite a few the aceos listed in my shop last year and decided to make a few new ones.  It has been a bit more of a chore than I expected.  I kind of tossed off the original set that I made without thinking much about the process and have come to regret my lack of attention.  I have been unable to replicate that first big sheet for the blanks.  I have been having a problem with the watercolor precipitating out somewhat so the paint doesn’t dry smoothly and evenly.  I have run two sheets and not been overly happy with them.  I used two different brands of watercolors and while one was better than the other, I still had problems.  I think I will try one more time, using a smaller brush to soak the paper.  Maybe the bristles have been scarring the paper someway that I can’t see.  I wish I could remember what I did the first time.  It’s the downside of spontaneity I guess.  And the passage of three years since I made the first set.

New aceos

New aceos

Here are a few that I have managed to eke out in the last few days.

Inked aceos and gift tags

Little tags

Little tags

I sat down for a while this week and inked up the blanks I made.  I started with the smaller gift tags because for some reason they are less intimidating.  I had the impulse to put an iris on one of the skinny ones and I rather liked the way it turned out, so I did several more as well as a few of the more standard abstract flowers.  When I started on the larger aceos, I made a few with bunches of irises too.

One with a more horizontal flow of paint  reminded me of my little painting of the dog walker so I quickly sketched that one out. It might be fun for a house warming gift.  I am going to make a few more with an architectural theme.  Just thinking about it, it might be productive if I consider different event uses for them and let that help dictate what I draw.  Maybe birthday gifts, shower gifts, I don’t know.  I do think I will list some of the iris ones.  I am most pleased with them.



I thought the ones with blue on them might work as a water theme and drew the turtles on that one.  I think  am least pleased with it.  I have 10 aceos left so I will probably do a few more.

I went to the craft store to buy some different colored printing ink but all they had was the red. No yellow or green, so I didn’t ink up the latest linocut.  I really wanted to blend those two because it is a plant print.  The store hasn’t had a lot of colors lately and not been restocking so I might have to try the other craft store.  It is farther away so I go to it less.

Making some new aceos

I decided to make up more aceos and little gift tags this week. Since I left most of the ones I did’t have listed in my etsy shop at Lilly’s Soap Kitchen, I wanted to have some on hand for resupply.  It takes me three days to make up the blanks. First day I have to stretch the paper.  It is a pretty heavy duty half sheet and I am sure it would warp too much if I just laid on the watercolor wash without the stretching step.  The next day, when it has dried, I rewet it, totally re-saturating it with water so I can get a nice flow of color.  I lay on the watercolors in a abstract pattern that seems appealing to my eye and when the paper has started to dry a bit, I flick on droplets.

It is hard for me to tell how it will finally look at this point.  I want a wide variation in depth and type of color, but not so much it muddies or is too dark to ink on.  Again, I wait overnight for it to dry and lay flat.  Then I remove it from the stretcher board and decide how to cut it up.

Aceo blanks being worked up

Aceo blanks being worked up

It takes a while because I try to map out some pleasing combinations before the cuts are made.  Also, the size doesn’t work out evenly for the aceo size, so I have some leeway on where to cut it.  In fact, I get the little gift tags from the cutaways.  I lay a bunch of  the blanks out on a sheet of plexiglass that I wedge into the drawer of my drafting table.  I work on them for a couple of hours at a time getting into a rhythm of inking but not a lot of thinking.  I don’t know why, but many of them remind me of flowers so that is what I do.

I also made up another linocut.  More about that one later.

Some new aceo/gift tags

Aceo/gift tags

Aceo/gift tags

I recently had a request to put a few things in a new shop in Indianapolis that specializes in handmade items.  It’s an exciting development for me and I have been going through some of my things to perhaps place them there.  She expressed interest especially in the gift tags so I have been looking at what I have that has not been listed in my etsy store. I had plenty of small gift tags but not as many of the aceo sized ones.  I used a few blanks that I had left and made these up today.  These washes seem to lend themselves to abstract florals, but I rather like the funky dragon.

I think I will include a few of my linocuts, too.  I can easily make a few more and package them appropriately.  All of the price points should be low enough for impulse purchases, even with their commission.  I am also going to see if we can arrange a display for home portraits.  If I have a small sample and a photo album with general information, I can let them handle the financial details.

Architectural aceos

Architectural aceos

I couldn’t decide on what to do next so I ended up having a little bit of fun with some of my watercolor aceo blanks.  I feel in a bit of a rut right now and sometimes just playing around with something small helps get me going again.   The last time I looked at these,  I didn’t feel like the colors were inspirationally floral so they have sat around the studio for ages. I pulled them out and decided to use some of the home photos to put some quick sketches on them, kind of in the spirit of the abstract architecturals.

The last time I tried it, they turned out – badly, but I think these turned out all right.  As I look at them I am thinking I should have flipped the horizontal one around so that the green was in the foliage and the gold was around the windows.  I wasn’t much for the planning on these though.  The idea was just to put some ink down and get going.

What’s up next?

Fall on the lake

It is very windy outside today with wind gusts 30 to 40 mph.  If you look closely you can see the wind across the pond making little “whitecaps”.  Fortunately the temps are getting into the 70’s so it is not a cold day, at least when you’re in the sun.  I’m sure it will cool quickly as the sun goes down though.  The recent rains and winds have blown many of the leaves off of the trees so I don’t know how much longer we will have the fall colors.  At least some color developed after the rains finally came.  For a while it looked as though everything would just turn brown.  I am not, not, not looking forward to winter.  We saw a herd of deer last evening on our side of the lake, the first in quite a while.  It was too dark to tell if their coats had lost the ragged whiteness we had previously seen or if the buck was with them.  I hope it is just a temporary condition that the coming of the winter coats will resolve.

Today my workspace is covered with streetscape photos from Key West FL, Park City UT, and southern Indiana.  I pulled out everything I had to search for inspiration and have almost decided on what to do next.  I ordered some new watercolors this week , so the gourd still life will have to wait a little bit. With any luck the paints will get here quickly. I’m glad fall gourds are sturdy and should last quite a while. I plan to create a variety of the still lives from them, interspersed with architecturals.  I have found that I need a little variety in the subject matter to stay fresh and inspired.  I swear it’s the deciding what to do that is the hardest part of it all.  Once I get started on a piece, I can work it through to completion with little difficulty, but those initial choices can be quite trying.

Holiday aceos

I have been working on a few new aceos lately.  I thought I might do a set for holiday and Halloween use and make some digital copies.  I should just run up another watercolor blank that has blues and greens predominating so that there will be little more color variety.  It would be a good project when I am letting the architectural set.  It doesn’t take a lot of  time at each step, but the overall process is several days because of the drying time.

First signs of fall

As I sit here writing this post, I can here the long-awaited rains hitting the roof above me. Today felt like the coming of fall. Yesterday was in the 90’s and today’s high was barely 70, with low flying cloud cover.  I washed off my horse’s rain sheet and winter blanket in the heat of the day and set them in the sun to dry.  Truth is, I should have done that in the spring when I brought them home, but you know how that goes.  At least I did it before today’s cooler wetter weather set in.  It has been a busy few days with a quick trip to see our son who travelled to Purdue for business.  Four hours of driving for a three hour visit, but well worth it. 


I did manage to sneak into the studio for a few hours today.  I didn’t have the time to lay out a new architectural so far this week, so I decided that since I hadn’t done any new aceos in quite a while, I would spend the limited time available doing a few.  I wanted to try a few abstract compositions and the other backgrounds seemed to lend themselves to a floral motif.  These watercolor blanks had a lot of orange and yellow ocher in them and were interesting to work with.  Many of the previous pieces were more red and green in tone.  I may do a few more this week and then list some in my store on Etsy.

Some does and the big buckAnd here is the photo 0f the oddly colored deer that I promised a few posts back.  They are actually that white.  I’m thinking it must be some coat/skin condition.  Even the more normally colored ones had splotches of white on them.  I hope it clears up before winter and is not an indication of some more serious health issue.  And, as you can see, the buck is getting quite a set of antlers.  I’d like to find those in the spring.  Wouldn’t you?

Midnight musings 2

Once again I was awake when I was supposed to be sleeping – and once again I was thinking of the gift tags. Plus, this week I didn’t get past the pencil drawing of the newest entryway  for many reasons, not the least of which was an all day road trip Tuesday to Ohio with John. What time I did have, I spent exploring the possibilities of making digital prints of some of my original aceos/gift tags. I chose these mostly because all of the little gift tags already had the ribbon hole punched and I didn’t want to have to work around that. I also selected a few un-inked watercolor blanks.  I really liked the unusual color patterns they had and didn’t think inking would improve them so I put them in as is.  In any case, I scanned a bunch in using my printer scanner and then was actually able to find where they were sent onto my computer. No mean feat for me as this was the first time I had tried to scan with the new printer.

Digital tags

Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy with the print out from my computer. The colors weren’t even close to true when compared with the original. This left the box stores as the only option. I actually thought that this might be the case anyway, given the cost of home printer inks. So I decided to try one box store for a color print out with nine and the other store with a print out of 16. Both actually worked out well and were rather evenly priced so it’s a tossup.  I’ll probably go with the closest store in the future.  I spent the rest of the week cutting out each tag from its sheet from a total of 18 sheets.  Rather mindless work but necessary.  Then I had to punch the hole and insert the ribbon.  I opted to also put a hole reinforcer on this set just to see if I felt it was necessary since I was using 120 lb cardstock.  I may not in the future but I haven’t decided yet.  They actually look pretty nice.  The colors turned out quite vividly and I am pleased with the combinations. 

 So what was I thinking about in my midnight musings?  Probably the hardest decision of all.  Pricing.  I am thinking of selling them as a set of nine, just to make it easy on myself.  I have given myself a day or two to think about it.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

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