Why are we sometimes intimidated by our own work and afraid to ruin something we are creating?

One of the aecoe gift tags

The aceo sleeves arrived shortly after I made my last blog post.  I spent the next two days selecting which aceos I wanted to photograph and then preparing them for listing.  It is quite a project to do all of the photography and edit it for listing online, especially if there are multiple items.  I have to take several shots shots of each one to account for the light and the focusing aspect since sometimes the automatic focus on the macro lens  changes its mind between shots.  I want the pen and ink lines to be as crisp as possible and sometimes the lens is a little finicky.  I don’t want to have to redo a lot of photos  because the pen lines are blurred and I can’t always tell from the digital playback on the camera. 

I decided to prepare 10 cards in an initial run.  First I had to punch the ribbon hole in the sleeve and select an appropriate color ribbon to attach.  Then I took pictures of each one a couple of times in and out of the sleeves and ended up with 55 shots to go through.    All in all it took over a day to get it all done but I am pleased with the results.

This whole project brought to mind other thoughts concerning me and my art and the lurking aspect of the circular file.  Would I just be making something that would end up there?  After I had made the watercolor background and cut up the sheet into aceo sized cards, I felt quite intimidated by them and actually felt like I might “ruin” them by drawing on top.  Some of the cards were rather pretty on their own and I wasn’t sure how I was going to use them to their best advantage.  I actually stared at them for quite a while, working up the courage to start drawing on them.  I had to select the ones that were the least intimidating for me in terms of the color combinations and just start somewhere. 

Perhaps this feeling of intimidation goes back to those teachers that told me that realistic art and what I liked was not worthwhile – that the Old Masters had done it all already so just give it up.  If  it wasn’t abstract, it was passe and irrelevant.  I think that now if I was told those things I could slough it off more easily and move on.  In some ways I guess I am still working them out of my head.  At least now I can actually go ahead and do it, even if it takes a while to get started. 

I have started on my next picture – a lovely entryway that is about 1/3 inked.  I felt like going back to a close up drawing of a pleasing architectural feature .  Sometimes the part is as intertesting as the whole.  If I have finished the inking by Wednesday I’ll post it.  Not too many “mistakes” yet on it.

Tags or ACEO – What should I do?

First of all, let me wish everyone a happy first day of spring.  I can’t think back to when I have been so glad to see the back end of winter arrive.  Whew, but I can’t wait for my daffodils to flower.  And I already have buds on a few.

Now onto the tag project – or is it ACEO?  I can’t decide.  I went back after the big sheet of watercolor paper had dried and fortunately it was flat again.  I stared at it a long time trying to decide what to do.  I decided to be bold for a change.  What the heck – it was only a sheet of watercolor paper and I had plenty.  I would try to add some more washes and some heavier color. 

Cut watercolor sheet

I lightly put on a clean water wash over the previous day’s work, being careful not to brush down hard where I had color layed.  I saw a very little bit of movement from the older wash but not enough to be concerned about.  Then I layed in some more washes and drops of color.  When I felt that I had covered with enough colors, I let it alone to dry. 

I came back the next day and stared at it again for a while.  Should I add more or start to cut it up?  I opted not overdo it – always a hard decision on where to stop.  Overnight, laying in bed, I had the thought that rather than cutting up the paper in business card size for gift tags, perhaps I should make them the little bit larger ACEO size and expand my options.  So I plotted out a few areas that I thought would make a pretty background and then started cutting.  This was actually easier to do mentally and emotionally than the last time I cut up what I had done.  I was glad, as it turned out, that I decided to make them bigger.  I think that it took better advantage of the colors.  Odd how just a half-inch size change could make such a difference but I think it did.  Here above are some of the pieces.  I think they are pretty nice on their own and haven’t decided what to do with them.

I like them all well enough that I don’t know whether or not I want to punch a hole in them for use as gift tags.  Perhaps I could get some ACEO card holders and punch the hole in them instead.  That way they could be used as a gift tag with a little bit of writing on the back and kept as a keepsake. I’ve not bought any holders yet so I don’t know what is possible.  I guess that I will be working that out over the next few days.  It’s nice to feel satisfied with something I have done for a change and to be looking at options instead of the circular file.

Inked over cards I


Inked over cards II

Time change, schmime change. Let’s just leave the sun alone.

I live in a state where the time change that the rest of the country dealt with was not adopted until a few years ago. I had grown up with it so originally it wasn’t a big deal when I moved here, but I tell you, after almost 30 years without, I unknowingly got very used to it. It wasn’t ever a common thing to think about, of course, but it was a comfortable thing to live with. The only hassles were trying to explain to people in other states that our time relative to them varied over the course of the year.

Well, a couple of years ago, someone in the governor’s office got too smart for his pants and somehow managed to push through a law to get us onto daylight savings time. And I think much of the state, for the most part, was happy with the way things were before. It was a little bit of distinction out here in the Heartland.  We weren’t so ruled by our clocks as others.  I could even tell you the approximate time of day depending on where the sun was.    For years this was screwed up for me, and it is only lately that I can do it reliably, minus a few weeks around the change.  And I think that the rationale for it has certainly changed.  The farm population has dropped dramatically and many work at outside jobs, so the farm work has pushed on into the night, as has the use of lights on the farm equipment.   Do we really need to have kids up until 10 or 11 playing outdoor games and small children put to bed in almost full daylight?     Now, we have light in the summer until 10 pm and the “noon” sun comes about 2:00.  Do they have DST in Europe or Asia?  Does it really improve productivity anymore when we are now on a world wide 24 hour a day schedule?  I have my doubts.   With all of the studies on the sleep deprived population in the US, why add onto all of the stress that we have in our lives already.  AND, if anything, we should have been put onto Central time.

Enough about that, I guess.  It just irks me twice a year to have to do this for what I believe is no real reason.

I’ve started coloring my barn this week, but it’s not done yet.  I’m going to use the watercolors mostly, I think, and add in a little colored pencil.  I took advantage of the nicer weather we have been having and spent a little time outside , pulling up some of the dead plants in the bed. I  know, I should have done most of it last fall, but oh well.  My daffodils have finally started to come up about 3″ now.  It’s a little late but after the cold of the winter I am glad to see that most of the shrubs and flowers have survived.  My cold tolerant  herbs seem to have made it through and the lilacs and newer forsythia plants are starting to show buds.  It’s a relief because it was such a bad winter.  I heard the birds start to sing ouside at the barn where I keep my aging quarter horse mare.  I was worried all winter that she would fall in the ice and snow and since she can’t get herself up anymore that she wouln’t make it through.  But she did and is now shedding out small dogs in anticipation of warmer weather.

Confused Christmas Cactus

In honor of the long winter that started early and stayed late, here is a photo of my confused Christmas cactus.  It is reblooming for the third time in the last six months.  I prefer to think that it is merely giving me a little bridge to the spring and summer flowers that I love so much.

Post it notes – I think they breed in the night

Early last year, after we finished most of the work on the new house, I tried to become more diligent about my artwork.  I finally had a dedicated studio space and it was time to put it to use.  I wanted to start to publisize about my art and enter the new world of social media to promote it.  But how to start.  It is so easy to fritter the day away on the computer and not get any real work done – either on the computer or in the studio.  I put one of the many “gift” calendars I had gotten down in the studio to help me keep track of my time there.  And you know what?  It was discouraging.  Sometimes a week or two would go by with only an hour or two spent there.  Often I couldn’t even pinpoint what I had been doing,  only that something else was going on.  There was usually a fairly good reason for how I spent my time, but it all still seemed to just be flowing away, out of control.  I came to the conclusion that I needed to have at least some semblence of a schedule.  Not too strict because life happens, but it was apparent that I needed a plan of action.  Even though we have had a home office for decades , we have cut way back and I needed a way to get myself  more organized. 

I decided to divide the day up into mornings on the computer and afternoons in the studio.  I tried to  accomplish only one new computer thing at a time instead of spending hours at several.  I could stop at an accomplishment instead of in Luddite frustration. One thing that I noticed as I was spending more and more time at the computer was that there seemed to be this ever increasing pile of post-its scattered all around the computer desk.  They were all filled, sometimes front and back, with miscellaneous information that was important at the time, but then was unneeded.  Unfortunately, there was usually long term info on most of the papers too.  It seemed like I had a whole pad’s worth of papers scattered or in piles with the pens and pencils hidden somewhere within.  I swear they were breeding overnight, crossing good info with bad and creating a yellow disaster.  What to do?  Copy the good info on another few post-its and toss out the old?  There seemed a perpetual  paper trail of those unruly notes. 

The answer turned out to be easier than I thought.  I relegated the truly ephemeral, short lived to a hopefully smaller post-it note pile and got a spiral bound notebook to write the more permanent and important stuff in.  I started by copying the good stuff into the notebook and then discarded all of the paper.  Suddenly, I could see the desk.  Over the last few months, I have filled up a half a dozen pages in the notebook and managed to keep the post-its to a minimum although I admit lately they have tried a sneak attack to get back in.  I (sometimes) date the notebook and star or underline really important info, but it is pretty laid back.  It is reassuring that even if it takes a while, I will be able to find something that I want and not be afraid it was lost on a discarded note.  And let me tell you it takes no more time to look through the book than it would have to try and sort out those pesky notes. 

I got a project notebook from a big box store and started keeping all of the data for my online sale listings in it.  I now know when and where I listed something, if it was featured, and how often it is looked at.  All good data that I had wanted but never gotten around to keeping.  With these two innovations on my part, I can now have a better business plan.  I got a small pocket calendar for the office too.  I keep hours for the drafting business and also what I do on the computer related to my art business in it.  It helps me to keep more focused and I can actually feel accomplished when I see what I have done over time instead of frustrated.  The hours in the studio have gone up dramatically too.  Now I keep a record of how long I have worked on a drawing and how much time I spend there on other tasks like the bookmark project which had about as much layout time as painting.  Anyway, I feel now the office clutter is more managable.  Even after working in a home office after all these years, it is still easy to get behind.  There is no “boss ” to keep me on track and these simple devices have helped me a lot.

My latest bookmark listing on etsy for today.   http://www.etsy.com/listing/69694691/laminated-mixed-media-bookmarks-1-12-x-6

Not so abstract bookmarks

Studio update – a new piece of furniture

I’ve been so busy lately since I got over my illness. I made a lot of the bookmarks and have gotten everything laminated at the big box store. If things go well, I will consider purchasing my own office size laminator. I can’t justify it yet, but I would like to have more control over the process and lamination thickness and not depend on what I can buy and the skill of the laminating clerk. If somethings gets ruined, I want to be able to blame myself.

The new studio table

 And here is the new table.  I had been using our old kitchen table with a leaf insert that my parents bought at an auction and refinished for me 30 years ago.  It was relegated to storage for a number of years and then used as my studio table in the new house. It has served quite well for the last couple of years while I was getting up to speed in my first dedicated studio space.  Unfortunately when the kids used it in the stained glass project and I started making the bookmarks, its flaws became more obvious.  When I was just sitting at it, putting projects or mail together or painting small watercolors on my plexiglass sheet, its center bow didn’t really matter.  However, when the kids were cutting and snapping the glass pieces or I was trying to use the mat cutter for the bookmarks, it challenging at best.  I had only a specific place on the end where the cutter could lay flat for me and the kids had a lot of trouble snapping the larger glass pieces apart against an edge without them shattering.

Fortunately, we live in the vicinity of a large state university and you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that they get rid of.  The university operates a surplus store that sells outdated computers, older but serviceable chairs and tables, and office furniture.  I take a peek in there once in a while and in fact that is where I was able to buy my map size flat files at a great price which I snapped up without hesitation.  (They were a little dinged up, but at 10% of new ones, I wasn’t about to complain.)  My sister had just gotten a great work table there so I decided to stop by and see what was left.  There were, in fact, two tables to choose from and this is the one that I got for only $50.00.  It has a metal frame and laminated top, but is the whole surface is flat and I can work anywhere on it that I want.  It has a drawer on the other side and measures 30″ x 60″ – big enough for just about any project I might have.  I got it home, washed it off with a bucket of lysol, and it looked even better.  I hate to think what I washed off but it is about as clean as I can make it now.  If the scratches bother me after a few weeks , I’ll get some metal paint for it.  Right now it is great to have a really flat surface to work on.  I’ve broken down the old table and will keep it for a while to see if the kids or nieces may want to use it for a work table  in the future.  It’s always good to have an old table around.

Watercolor bookmarks

Here’s my latest etsy bookmark listing.  I’ve started work on a new stone barn and hope to have it finished this week.  It’s a little different in that it is of a whole barn and not just a smaller view.


The Studio

Because of the holidays and some other things, I haven’t spent more than a few hours of productive time in the studio for the last three weeks. I thought it might be nice to show a few pictures of my studio instead. After almost 30 years of just me, my table, and a set of plastic roller shelves squeezed into a corner of our home, I finally got a dedicated studio space. I was able to set up a large work table as well as have my drafting table, a nice set of rolling shelves with a butcher block top to put my art materials on, and a wall to hang my artwork. To make it easier to move things around and change things out (hopefully from sales) we used painted pegboard  and I think it turned out well. I put in daylight flourescents and have an Ott light over the table. I really enjoy having the space to spread out and not to have to put anything away.  I even have easy access to water.   I have a 1980’s vintage 13″ tv when I want a little background distraction and my trusty boom box for radio and cds.  If you look closely you can see the stained glass on the floor waiting to be foiled and soldered.  The kids took over that side of the area and I have managed to clean most of it up now. And that is a 2005 White Sox World Series win baseball cap on the light.  I can die happy.

Left side of the studio

Right side of the studio

The pegboard wall