What About Barb?

Recently, while doodling a little, it struck me how often I nearly crumple and toss away my idea completely, and thought I’d walk through the process of how I draw a face.  I won’t give you instructions, really, as there is plenty of that out there (and practice is the best art tool) but more walking through what the process is for me, so you can see that it’s not always a basket of lovely, sweet-smelling perfectly-drawn roses.

Sometimes I think of it as resuscitating a dying patient.  Will it make it?  Is it going to survive?  Or will we lose it to a scribble, right there on the drawing page?

So I’ll start with a Barb.  Barb is from the show Stranger Things, and I like her because I was a lot like her at one point in my life, I think (geeky and sweet…and apparently not popular enough to warrant a complete town-wide search).   So I felt like drawing Barb.

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People often ask if I use references, and to that, I say HECK YES.  I nearly ALWAYS use references.  It’s fun.  It’s okay.  The thing is, my goal is not photorealism.  I don’t WANT it to look exactly like the photo–that’s what photos are for.  So absolute realism is NOT what I strive for.  I start with a photo for reference, but I make changes as I see fit, and sometimes mix several reference photos to combine.

There are many ways to calculate proportions of the face, some of which are admittedly VERY helpful.  But once you know them, I find that the fun comes in just drawing it as it comes.

I start with an eye.  Since she has glasses on in this one,  I like fit to the eye in that space the way I see it, the way it measures up to that space, and sort of gauge where the other eye is from there.  The edge of the nose usually lines up with the inner corner of the eye, so somewhere around there is where it goes.  And the corner of the mouth usually falls where the middle of the eye is.

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Those are helpful guidelines, but as I say, I play off them, I don’t use them as law.  Knowing the rules and then playing with them, I think, is what gives something your own personality, your own style.

Often, just a few little tweaks make a big difference.  For example, the chin in the first picture below juts out more than I’d like, so some shading below it (as in the reference) helps it blend in more in the second photo below.

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Even still, I find my proportions are always quite wonky–with the eyes I draw, one is almost always unintentionally larger than the other….but to me, that’s okay.  Like I say, it gives it personality. See the eyes there in the bottom right drawing?  A little shading in there helps straighten them up a bit…

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The question is when is distortion TOO much?  There are times, to be sure, that it just doesn’t work, and I toss it and throw it away.  But to me, that’s the fun of the process.  It’s fun to see if you can piece a face together little by little, piece by piece.  There’s something relaxing to me in not creating something photorealistic.  So by all means, study the face, study facial musculature, and study drawing proportions of the face and body.  And then take that, and play with it.  And have FUN with it!

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I also get asked a lot about the supplies I use, and that’s what I love so much about ballpoint pen:  it’s NOT fancy.  It’s easy and fun.  I can paint in watercolors on top of it, and I can paint in acrylics on top of it.  Does it bleed?  Not really–but admittedly, the paper has a lot to do with it.  Multimedia or watercolor paper is the best and can hold up to a lot of water and paint and blending without bleeding.  Regular drawing paper is toothy and porous, and not really meant for liquid mediums, so the pen might bleed on that surface.  You don’t need a lot of expensive supplies to create good art, but so much lovely things happen when you use good paper!

Anyway, the best advice I can give, is practice.  If you want to get better, you’ll do it.  You’ll try new things, and you’ll find your own techniques.  You’ll do it all the time, and it won’t even FEEL like practice.  It’ll be FUN.  And the more you do it, the more you’ll learn what works for you, and the better you’ll get.

The Loraxlotl

We’ve had a lot of changes lately.  New in-office job, new move, new house.  Sometimes when crafty time is put to the test, it seems the urge to create actually kicks into overdrive.

While shopping for house necessities in our new place while my family was closing up shop in our old house, I came across this little fake succulent dome display for $8, and it spoke to me.  “HEEEYYYYYY,” it said in a loud whisper.  “I bet you could TOOOOTTALLY make something out of this.” 

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Those are the types of voices you don’t ignore (especially since it wasn’t telling me evil things).  So it went in my cart and came straight home with me.

Thankfully, most of my craft things had been unpacked, so I grabbed my box o’ Sculpey  and got to work.

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I wanted its body to wrap around that succulent scenery, so I gave it an internal structure of aluminum foil so I could bend it and try out a few poses.  I pictured some sort of floaty thing, maybe the way they display underwater creatures at natural science museums.  I wanted it to be sort of puppy-cute (I have a thing for the squoosh-faces), and have a leafy-seahorse vibe.

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Once I had it where I wanted it, I preheated my oven to 250, put it on a baking sheet (with an aluminum foil “pillow” to hold him in position), popped it in, and turned off the heat.  Then I left it in there for a few hours, til the oven had cooled.

After I painted it in acrylics, I used E6000 glue, and dabbed some on its cheek, its fin, and its tail, using sewing pins on its tail to keep it in place until it dried

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When I posted it, someone said it looked like a mix between an axlotl and the Lorax and they dubbed it a “Loraxlotl,” which made me laugh.

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So there it is!  It may become decoration for my new office, it may be for our house, but it’s one of those things that just needed to BE.  And you have to listen to those things, because that’s where the fun stuff is.

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Kissing the Dragon

They’re called “terrible twos” for a reason.

When Myla was two and her daddy was deployed, we used his R&R from Afghanistan to take a trip to Hawaii, where we were first married.   We decided to island-hop, since we knew the islands fairly well…but Hawaii with a toddler was much more difficult than we had anticipated.  We did our best to enjoy the islands while escorting (and attempting to entertain) a ferocious little toddler-dragon, ready to explode at any moment with the touch of a hand or a step up a stair.  She had been by my side constantly while he was gone, but for most of the trip she clung to Daddy, and suddenly wouldn’t come near me at ALL….until one very special moment that my husband magically caught on camera.  She finally let me pick her up and hold her, and I kissed her on her little dragon-nose as she put her arms around my neck.

…And then afterward, she promptly pushed me away.   As toddlers do.

Still, it remains one of our favorite photos…a sign of hard-earned affection and unconditional love.

So when CanvasOnTheCheap asked if I’d be interested in trying out one of their canvases, I finally decided on the magical photo of the special time when I dared to kiss a baby dragon on the nose.

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I get offers of things from time to time, and I often refuse them, but I was interested in giving this one a try–I had seen versions of these before, but when this one arrived (and it arrived VERY quickly after I ordered it), it was quite lovely.

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I chose the simplest options, and yet it came with a wall mount bracket, supported by an internal frame to keep its shape.

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I debated on leaving it plain, as it was so lovely on its own, but leaving things plain just isn’t my style.  So after a little thought, I decided this one needed an Imaginary Friend.

I started by using a snarling fox reference, and freehanded a little furry girl behind us.  I was going for a “luck-dragon” sort of vibe, but with just a hint of the toddler-terror bubbling just below the surface.  I wanted her to be cranky, but not feral.

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I used acrylic paints, and just brushed the basic shape down with some rough shading after I got a bit of detail in the face…  I went with plain greys and whites so as not to compete too much with the color of the canvas.

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Painting wispy hairs is one of my favorite things to paint, and the more I added, the more personality and tension it seemed to give her.

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And there it is!  My lovely printed canvas from CanvasOnTheCheap, mixed in with an imaginary dragon.  And it makes me smile.

The great thing, is that they gave me a canvas offer to give away for FREE!  So–if it’s your thing–head over to my Instagram page, where I have instructions for how to enter the giveaway of a CanvasOnTheCheap photo of your choice on the post of this photo.   We’ll choose the winner from that post, so if you’d like to enter, be sure to enter there!  I may let Myla pick the winner by random…because she WAS the baby dragon, after all…. 🙂

On a side note: it’s been a while since I’ve posted!  We’ve had some big life changes–my day job as a distance graphic artist has advanced into an in-office Marketing / Graphics position, and we moved up to Missouri to be there for it.  I’ll still post here, but only when I can, when it doesn’t feel too stressful.  It’s a big change for sure, but it feels like a good thing.  Maybe not a “finally kissing a baby dragon on the nose” good, but very good nonetheless.  🙂

Less-Than-Lame Cane

I’ve been in a lot of pain lately.  Technically, I’ve been in pain since around 2003–for about FIFTEEN YEARS.  Apparently, I have degenerative bone issues from Ankylosing Spondilitis (which I realize sounds like a made up name), meaning my spinal disks are too thin and the vertebrae scratch together….which makes me go from “mildly uncomfortable” most of the time to “EXCRUCIATINGLY painful” at other times, and sometimes so bad I’m even unable to walk.

Which sucks.  Boo-hoo-hoo.

A few years back during my very worst episode (where I couldn’t even get out of a chair or walk without crying in pain), I broke down and bought a cane for when I might need help walking, to take the strain off my spine.  I just went to the drugstore, and bought the least ugly one they had, in plain black.  But it was therapeutic-looking and hideous, and made me feel like a frail old failure.

Recently, I posted about it online, telling about how I had to carry it when taking our daughter Myla to school, and it freaked out some of the kids, wondering if I had gotten hurt or something.   I asked if there was any way a CANE can be “cool.”  And apparently there is!  People told me about some cool ones you can find online either on Etsy or Amazon…and some people even suggested I make my own.  ..WHAT?!?!

When I found out that some people use resin to make decorative cane handles for cosplay and fun (and sometimes for real use), I thought, “Hey, maybe I CAN do one myself!”  So I’ll show you what I did…

I started with a base of aluminum foil.  I was thinking I’d make some sort of hideous monster, like I depict my pain.  I surrounded the foil with 2-part apoxie sculpt–it’s a sort of clay you mix together from 2 parts, and it dries to a rock-hard strength within 2 hours.  You have to use gloves because of the chemicals (which are a little tricky to work with), and you can use water to soften it up.

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After wrapping the foil ball in apoxie clay (I left a hole in the bottom to fit on top of the cane), I did my best to sculpt with some metal tools and marble eyes…what came out wasn’t a monster, though–it looked more like a boston terrier Fu dog–a protector of sorts.  And I was totally okay with that.

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I needed it to be rounded to be able to hold on to it, so I made its ears fall back a bit, and added decorative designs on its face, sides, and forehead.

Once it dried (about 6 hours later because I was impatient–24 hours is best), I painted it in solid black so I could add this metallic rub on top of it for a metallic glow.

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Later, I asked my super skilled husband to saw off the curved handle of my hideous cane.  Thankfully, it was adjustable at the bottom, so cutting off the top still allowed for me to lengthen it to my needed height.  Using E6000 clear glue, I pushed the dog-head onto the sawed-off cane and let it dry.

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And it turned out pretty cool!  (…Well, as “cool” as a cane can be…)

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I still thought it needed some sort of transition, so I wrapped metallic tape around the neck, painted it black, and did the metallic rub again.  Finally, I sprayed it all with clear varnish to keep it fairly smooth, and keep it from getting scratched.

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It’s worked out well so far!  I haven’t scared any children at Myla’s school–they actually love looking at it now, as weird as it is.

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And while I wouldn’t exactly call it “cool” (maybe “less-than-lame”), it feels MUCH less embarrassing to carry around.

Living with constant pain is terrible.  You don’t want to talk about it for fear people will pity you.  You feel like a failure, like you can’t do the things you used to do.  I was in the Army.  I used to play roller derby.  I used to feel strong.  Now, I have to carefully take each step so I don’t cringe from imbalance.  It’s depressing and discouraging.  You feel like a less-than-human being for your family.  You get well-intended input from people, asking if you’ve tried certain medicines or books, yoga or acupuncture, tens machines or infusions, Injections or pot.  And I really don’t mind so much–there’s not much info on AS, and anything I’ve learned, I often learned from other people, so I always appreciate and am grateful for the effort.

Still, I’ve tried every legal thing I can try, with no luck.  So if I have to carry a cane sometimes, the least I can do is make it a less-than-lame cane.  And if you ever need to make a cane for yourself, or for a costume or cosplay, give it a try!

Imaginary Hogwarts Professors

Whenever I’m feeling bad, or having a rough time, I turn to Hogwarts.

During a rough time a few years back, I listened to the entire Harry Potter book series on audio about three times in a ROW.  I filled my nights with all sorts of Wizarding projects before our first real big vacation to Harry Potter World in Orlando, and after we returned, I had even MORE Potter projects on the mind.

So recently, when I was feeling cranky, and a drawing of my daughter didn’t work out the way I had planned, I looked at the page in frustration.  The 8-year-old I was trying to draw looked much older.  I thought, “I’m getting frustrated–maybe I should head to Hogwarts.”  I thought I’d start from scratch and draw one of my beloved professors.  And then a fun thought struck me.  What if I turned this drawing into my OWN Hogwarts professor?

My first thought was that Hogwarts needed an art class.  A wizarding art teacher would be very eclectic, right?  Maybe have a few artsy tattoos (ala Sirius Black), with a good mix of Frida and Ms. Frizzle.  So I created Professor Eliana Peppercorn, who teaches Traditional and Practical Arts, and decorates her hair with tiny wands she carves out of mandrake roots.  She likely teaches traditional magic techniques, as well as hands-on methods.  Perhaps Mama Weasley was a guest speaker in her course, demonstrating her knitting techniques…

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THIS made me happy.  THIS made me smile.  I started thinking of other courses…other professors.  Hogwarts likely needed a wizarding early history teacher, right?  (I mean, aside from Professor Binns, of course, whose classes are legendarily boring…)

I documented a few process shots before settling on a name, which my Instagram readers helped me with.  (The best part is reading the funny comments people left, such as “I had him for study hall” or “She gave me detention,” or “I took his course 2nd and 3rd year!”)  They seem to be telling me their names as I’m drawing them, or at least a rough idea of how it should sound.  So the names are fun.  And in the spirit of diversity, I wanted Hogwarts to represent a person of color.

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So this is Professor Bonlander Tulumbee, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Wizarding History…

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Next, I wanted a “senior” Professor, someone who was very creative, a little spacey, maybe with a mod sort of 70s look…and I created Coriana Hunch, Professor of Dramatic Arts and Dance.  (Someone commented that “she tried to start a ballet club, but no one showed up.)

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Again, I thought about diversity, and what a forward-thinking move it was (in the books) to hire Firenze the centaur as a professor of divination at Hogwarts.  So I wondered who else might be a good hire, and decided that a bold move would be a gobin.   Professor Diglish left his position at Gringott’s to teach Economics and Business Management to later-year students.  He would probably be very simply dressed in a dull suit, and likely quite boring and grumpy.

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I started thinking about the different Houses that professors might come from, and wanted someone a little intimidating.  Professor Maglin Severance, a former Slitherin prefect in her day, now leads lab courses in Biological Alchemy.  I figured she might be responsible for the mixing of different animals, such as griffins, cockatrice, or such.  She’d likely also intermix metallurgy in her course, and so is dressed in dragonscale garments, laced with gold and silver.

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As I started thinking of other courses a school might have, I thought of muggle geography, and how it relates to the wizarding world.  I imagine maps with levels and layers on top of layers, as in a architectural drawing of a multi-level building.  Professor Hanson Pembrake maps all that out for us in Spatial Geography.

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I’ve got tons of other ideas, of wizarding versions of muggle courses:  Like Shop, Home Economics, First Aid and Nursing, to name a few.  I think it would be so fun to lay out a staff yearbook, with each professor’s portrait, as well as other background info.

I absolutely ADORE the Wizarding World, and these drawings are making me SO happy.  I wondered at first if I should have made them from Ilvermorny (the American Wizarding School), but I decided that my love of Hogwarts was irrepressible.  I’m having so much fun creating little lives for them, and listening to the comments people have, treating them as if they are real professors, and they each make me smile.

If you want to follow me over on Instagram, I’m at busymockingbird, and I’ll have them under the hashtag #imaginaryhogwartsprofessors .  I’m sure I’ll have more, so stay tuned!

Easy Dolls

I’ve had my daughter come up with doll ideas in the past that have been fairly complicated, and required a great deal of my attention.  But a few days ago, in an attempt to keep her occupied in something creative (rather than vegging out on her Ipad), I suggested she DRAW her own simple pillow-dolls.

“I can DO that?!?” She questioned.  Of course!  And the best part is, it takes minimal mom-effort.   🙂

I started with a bolt of inexpensive off-white muslin fabric I had.  I have no recollection of how I obtained this fabric (I think my mom once sent it to me), but it’s been around a long, long, time, and I use it for EVERYTHING.sweetkitties-1

I grabbed our bag of permanent markers, and told her she could draw away, keeping in mind that it had to have a seam around it, preferably simpler than the drawing, to make sewing easier and more sturdy.

Once she did that, I took her to the sewing machine, where I had her help guide the fabric (she’s still learning to use it herself), and with the fabric doubled over, we just stitched all around the outline, leaving a gap on the leg to stuff it.

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I figured this would be much easier than dealing with flipping a doll inside out, as you do with more detailed works, and this was VERY exciting to her.  We cut out the doll around the stitching (see the gap in her leg?  That’s where we stuff), stuffed her, and then completed the stitching with the machine.

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She was SO excited!  You’d think we’d never made dolls before.  “Why didn’t you ever TELL me we could do this??”  she asked excitedly.  I reminded her that I had tried to get her to do this MANY TIMES over the years, but she always had WAY more complicated things in mind.  Anyway, apparently times had changed, and she was enthralled, immediately sitting down to draw more.

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And they were lovely!  She said she wanted to call them “SweetKitties,” and asked if she could put them up for sale in my Etsy shop for $5 each.  I had intended to offer them here, but surprisingly, they sold out within an hour of posting them!

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I am so grateful to have so many sweet and generous people that read our blog pages and social media supporting our art, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you reading these words right now.  Her excitement that someone actually bought her SweetKitty dolls was thrilling.  She helped me package them up, even making little “adoption cards” for each of them (like I do with my Dream Creepers).

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Someone suggested she should put catnip in them so their cats could carry them around, but she worried that a cat would tear them up.  She says she’ll make more (because people so kindly asked if she would), but as kids don’t always have the attention span for dedicated business, we’ll see how it goes!

In any case, it was heartwarming to see so many people be so encouraging and supportive towards and 8-year old kid.  I had initially made this post to share the simplicity of making fun & easy dolls with kids, but it really truly was endearing.

In any case, if you don’t sew, you could always do what our stuffed animal-loving kid did before this most recent project: make the front and backs out of regular ol’ paper, stuff them with wadded up scrap paper (or toilet paper) and tape all around the edges.  BOOM–instant doll!

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So make something fun, and easy, and get those kids CREATING! 

Happy Little Pen-Toppers

Recently, we were scheduled for a new puppy appointment at our vet’s office, and the thought occurred to me: the office had been so sweet and helpful with the passing of my hairy baby, Adie.  They had helped me in a rush when I brought her in, seizing, and helped make her comfortable in her last moments.  Along with the regular sympathy cards they send out, they sent a Christmas card at the holidays, recognizing how difficult it must be without her.  I wanted to show my appreciation somehow.

This is when art skills come in handy.  But what could I do?  I talked to my mother.  A sign?  I suggested.  Some sort of drawing?  The old stand-by of cupcakes?  She said she had always wanted to give an office a gift of a decorative pen set, like the ones you see that have giant silk flowers that customers can use and not be able to walk away with.

I decided it was the perfect idea, and got to work straight away.

I wanted to do the design on the pen cap, so that once the pen runs out of ink, they could still use it and just replace the pen.  I rolled a ball of aluminum foil around the pen cap, and sculpted a base color in Super Sculpey around it.  This not only helps the clay cook thoroughly, but gives it a strong base, and makes it so you don’t have to use as much clay.

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Since I was doing this in honor of my sweet hairy baby, Adie, I sculpted one of the pen toppers with her little face, using beads for eyes.

I made a few others…some cats, a dachsund….

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And even our other dog, our boxer Scout.  Once they were cooked, I glued the heads onto the pen caps with E6000, and glued little strips of ribbon around the base to hide the seam leading from the clay to the pen cap.  I then glued little paper flower from the scrapbooking section of the craft store to hide the ribbon seam.

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All in all, they turned out pretty cute!

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Since I figured they’d be getting a lot of wear & tear, I tried sealing them in clear resin, but honestly, it might have been better not to.  Even painting on a thin layer, it dripped down and kept rolling down the pen as it dried.  It sealed over the ribbon as well as the flowers.  It wasn’t TERRIBLE, it was just difficult to manage.

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I found a mason jar and filled it with tiny rock sand from the gnome-garden section of the craft store, and wrapped a ribbon around the whole thing.

I brought it to the vet’s office when we had our new puppy appointment–it was my first time back since I had rushed in there with Adie a couple of months earlier.  They unknowingly gave me the same room, but it was okay.  I couldn’t remember who exactly was there the day I brought Adie, so I described the attending vet (who I only remembered was male) to the vet at this new appointment, and told her why I had brought them; that it was a thank you for their kindness with Adie.

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The vet seemed very surprised, happy, and touched.  In my disarray, I had forgotten to put a card with it, but she said she would tell the staff and what it meant to me.

It was a fairly easy craft that I already had most of the supplies on hand for, and the things I had to buy weren’t very much at all.  Silk flower pens are wonderful too (I’ve seen some beautiful ones), but I loved how these turned out.  I bet they’d be cute with some little felt heads, or needle-felted faces!

Have you ever used your creative skills to show your appreciation to an office?  What kinds of things have you done?

And a Cozy New Year

This year was a rough one for me–I hit a stumble.  I tripped and fell down a bit.  I won’t go into a whole list of sob stories, but as a highlight (lowlight?), the two biggest things have been living with a lot of pain because of spinal deterioration from Ankylosing Spondylitis (which really eats away at your morale).  Also, I watched my best hairy baby, Adie, get sick and pass away.  I was heartbroken.

Christmas was spent surrounded by family and lots of love, but I also felt Adie’s absence.  I spread her ashes near the lake where we used to love canoeing together at my parents’ house.cozy

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, my heart hurt.  And as silly as it sounds, I asked the Adie in my mind to help us find a new puppy to love.  Before she died, I didn’t know if I’d want another.  After she died, there were so many sad spots in the house where she used to be, I needed to fill them.  And I knew she could steer us in the right direction.

And it worked!  We hadn’t really intended to buy a puppy just yet, but we started casually looking for fun with family, and of all the little pups we looked at, a family breeder had one nearby in Oklahoma that was so pretty and supposed to be a cuddler, so we made a little stop there on our way back home to Texas.  Turns out, she was JUST what my heart needed….sweet, and so VERY cuddly and kissy.

We named her Winnie, after a sweet Boston terrier named Winston in a Pixar short called “Feast.”  She’s pretty scared of my husband, though, and still needs to get the hang of potty-training, but she’s wonderful.  She plays with our boxer, Scout, and cuddles with Myla.  She gives me so many kisses and cuddles that my skin is super dry (I’m not complaining though!  I love puppy-kisses).

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Adie will never go away in my heart.    It’s so sweet to see similarities and differences.  Winnie lays next to me while I draw, snorts like a piglet, and has terrible gas, like Adie used to.  And she likes to be by my side, following me around the house all day.  But she loves sweaters and doesn’t like blankets wrapped around her.  I got myself a super cute Boston bag for Christmas with a face that looks just like Adie’s.  (Later, I even added a little heart on her snooter).  I love it.  It makes me smile.

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And it made me realize how I’ve been trying to comfort myself lately with cozy things.  Fuzzy blankets.  Warm cardigans.  Soft pajamas.  I even drew this portrait that Myla added to, filling it with cozy things, snuggling up like a hibernating squirrel.

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I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions–I think you can make resolutions ANY day.  But I’ve decided to be a little nicer, a little more patient, a little gentler with myself, and work my way outwards.  As I shared on Instagram, I sometimes get so caught up in checking on others’ well-being, I forget to check in with myself.  I want to surround myself with good actions, with gratitude, with good thoughts, with good words.

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Be kind to yourself, and have fun.  Celebrate little things.  Even if (ESPECIALLYif) it’s just something silly like a pair of Chewbacca jammies to match your daughter’s…

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Recently, a reader shared a poem by Hallie Bateman with me that pretty much summed it up:

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And I love it.  The bit about becoming love instead of pain?  The part about cherishing yourself as your mother did when she held you as a baby?  So much YES.  A little kindness–especially to yourself–goes a long way.

So here’s to not only a happy new year, but a happy new day, a happy new moment–right now. 

Open Your Books…

As the holidays draw closer, I’ve been trying to get a clean start of things.  Get on top again, get my mind sorted out, and move forward with clean, clear steps.

I’ve been loving these little tiny sketchbooks lately.  Although Moleskines are my standard faves, these Ranger Dylusions are fun because of their shape, the little pocket inside, and the fact that I can draw on the covers (although the paper inside is meant more for inkwork and stamping, and doesn’t hold up well to much waterwork).  I get the 5″x8″ one, and it’s nice to be able to carry it around and have it with me wherever I go.  The binding even has a spot to hold my pen!

But what seals a sketchbook for me is being able to draw on the cover.  I used to spend countless hours (pre-child) giving meticulous thought and detail to the front cover of a new sketchbook.  I overthought it–I had to be sure it was “exactly right,” as if it determined the future success or failure of the work it would soon have inside.

Now that time is more limited and precious, I’ve had fun letting the daughter draw on them with me.  I start with a roughly-drawn simple face, and she adds the rest.

Like this dragon gathering…

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These cute little girl-gnomes, building robots and taking care of things…

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This amazing xenomorph queen (Myla has a great love of xenomorphs and their whole lifecycle, although she’s never seen the movie) with mutant aliens, a chestburster, and facehugger…

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And this fantastic little Harry Potter, complete with other little characters from the movies we love so much…

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When I’m really pressed for time and anxious to start a new sketchbook, I turn to my collection of stickers I’ve amassed over the years.  I LOVE stickers!  Friends send them, I have some of our own artwork.  I even got a giant grab bag of mixed retro stickers from a seller on Etsy once.

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Sometimes I cover the backs, because they make me smile…

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Here’s a glance of the insides, with the pocket, and the spot for the pen that is my favorite feature…

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And to look at them makes me smile.

I hear from people all the time, such humbling stories about the struggle of finally getting back into art after a long dry spell, especially after having a child.  Maybe it’s not drawing, maybe it’s sculpting, or sewing, or music, or dance.

Whatever it is, maybe it’s time to start fresh.  Maybe you don’t have to start at the new year–resolutions can happen today.  Open a new book and fill the cover with pretty things that invite you in every time you look at it!  And if you do, share it with others, because in my experience, sharing helps.  Sharing makes people feel connected, even from miles away.

And here’s to the hopes for a wonderful new year–a new, beautiful blank book for each of you to start decorating…

Healing

These past couple of weeks have been a little rough, getting used to the loss of my beloved Boston, Adie.  It’s still strange not having her here by my side every day, following me from room to room, especially by my bed when I wake up every morning.

This past week, her ashes were returned to us, which I knew would be a little rough, but when I saw they had included a set of her pawprint impressions, I broke down all over again.  I had gotten an imprint of her nose before she passed, but I didn’t think to get one of her paws.  I didn’t think I even needed one, but it was such a lovely surprise, it makes me smile.

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There are several ways I’ve been trying to feel better.  I’ve been drawing portraits of her before she was ill, because I knew it’d be hard afterward.  I tried drawing her later, but it was difficult, and made me sad, and just didn’t look right.  So I went to a different medium, and tried embroidery, stitching this little portrait of her, surrounded by her favorite thing, popcorn.

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I loved spending time with all the little pieces of her face.  I like that the popcorn ended up looking like little flowers, in a way.

Someone on Instagram sent me a message, saying “maybe you could make one of your Dream Creepers for yourself that looks a little like Adie?”  It was a good sign, as I had already been tossing the idea around for a little while.  I chose the fabric, something soft (because Dream Creepers make great neck pillows for long trips), and my husband helped me put it all together.

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If you look closely, you can even see I added a little something on her snooter:  a little foil heart on her nose, sealed in resin.  She ALWAYS had something on her snooter from sniffing the floor for crumbs, and people used to laugh at my photos with the same caption over and over again:  “Adie, you’ve got something on your snooter.”

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I started to realize that those funny moments, the ones that made me smile, were where the healing was.  The best memories were the happy ones, and instead of dwelling on how much I missed her, I started remembering all the funny things.

Recently I visited a friend who is a tattoo artist.  Annie and I have known each other for awhile, and she knew how special Adie is to me.  She drew up the most perfect design of Adie with her favorite thing–popcorn–and added a piece to her snooter.  She tattooed it on me, and I was floored at how wonderful it looked (because Annie is an amazing artist).  I love it immensely, and I love that I get to carry her little happy face with me wherever I go.  Instead of being a super serious portrait, it makes me smile.

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Like the time I sculpted a goofy portrait of her, and she was less than impressed…

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One of the biggest realizations for me was this portrait I drew.  Initially, I wanted to draw her sitting in her “old man” pose, with her little pink belly hanging out, which always made me smile.  But it ended up looking sad.

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…Until I added a fart.  Because my hairy girl could clear a ROOM.  You wouldn’t expect something so small would make a smell so obnoxious, but it always made me laugh as I was gasping for air.  And it didn’t bother her in the slightest.

So that helped a lot.  For some reason, something like that goofy drawing makes me instantly remember the funny side of her, and makes me feel happy.  It wasn’t something I expected, but I’m grateful for it, that something so little helped me heal with a smile.

And in a perfect moment of great timing, my husband sent me this image, which happened to be in his Instagram feed DIRECTLY after my post of how a little toot-doodle made me smile again…

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And it’s the truth.

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