Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Spirit

"Handmade presents are scary because they reveal that you have too much free time."

Contrary to the above quote, I really don't have that much free time on my hands. I work a full time job, I have two dogs to care for, I practically live between two houses right now. I have NO free time. But I think it is incredibly important to find time to do what you love. For me, I sacrifice a couple of hours of sleep every night to unwind from my day. I usually stay up until midnight zoning out in my artwork of crafting.

I love Christmas. For the past couple of years I've tried to make about 60% of my gifts. I think it's easy, and a bit of a copout, to go to the store to buy your gifts. Sure, you could buy someone a sweater that about 10,000 other people probably have. OR you could MAKE someone a sweater that no one else has! Now, I realize that most people aren't like me. I realize that most people would rather have the new hip gadget, or designer clothing. But screw everyone else!!!! I work hard at what I make. I put hours that turn into days into my gifts. I literally sometimes make myself bleed while making my gifts. I put my heart and soul into my handmade items.

This year Christmas snuck up a bit too quickly. I still managed to make a bunch of gifts for everyone, but definitely not as many as I'd like. My poor boyfriend felt neglected during the Holiday season from all the pinning that I was going on Pintrest! So here you have it! Here are only a few of my handmade gifts. I don't even think I had enough time to take pictures of everything, but you get the general idea.

The first thing I made was for all of my girls at work! This was super simple, and everyone seemed to love it. I made them a "goodie bag" which said "For Your Mistletoes" on it. Inside of the bag was a bottle of lotion and some nail polish. 

With a little bit of bargain shopping, the whole ordeal cost me less than $3/person. 

Next I made my sister a dream catcher. This was super simple and a lot of fun to make. I used an embroidery hoop wrapped in ribbon as the frame. Then I used a vintage doily and tied it around the frame...or maybe weaved it around the frame. Then I tied on some tassles with beads and feathers to it. I made one for my sisters meditation space. Then my nephew caught a glance of it before Christmas and insisted that I made him one. With orange ribbon and green tassles of course. 

Next I made the girls in my family a heating bag. Again, this was super easy. Minus trying to figure out the sewing machine which I never used before! For the record, I do not claim to know a single darn thing about sewing. I have never used a sewing machine before. I can barely sew buttons onto a coat. But I figured why not?! I bought some inexpensive fabric at the store and filled the sewn bags will uncooked rice (not that instant crap). Then for scent I added some crushed cloves. 

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas. If YOU made some handmade gifts, I'd love to know what they were! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Always Attracted to the Strange

“... being different, being unique ... that afforded me a life, a journey that I am now so thankful for.” 

I love weird stuff. Maybe it's from growing up in a household full of antiques, creepy dolls, and paintings that follow you with their eyes everywhere you go. Maybe it's because "I want attention", or maybe it's just because I'm a self proclaimed non-conformist. Whatever the reason is, I love weird stuff. 

I don't think that always shows through in my art work. Most of my work is pretty generic in my opinion. Animals. We got that, right? But sometimes, I get this lightbulb idea and run with it. "Hmm I mean I could paint a cute fluffy happy looking dog. But no, I'm going to paint this sphinx cat. Because its ugly".

Here is the 3rd painting that I've ever worked on. The 3rd entry into my artistic adventure. I love him. Most of my family and friends who see this painting say that he's ugly. I don't care though. I put a lot of time and energy into him, and I think it shows. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Things are Getting a Bit Fishy in Here!

“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” 

For anyone who's known me throughout my photography career, it's been no secret that I've always longed for a fisheye lens. When I started my adventure into the art of photography, I gathered the basics. A camera with an 18-55mm lens. Then ventured to a telephoto lens, then an off camera flash. I spent years building up my gear collection, but a fish eye lens always seemed out of reach for me. It was a bit too expensive, and wasn't very practical for the type of work I did.

But Christmas came a little early for me this year! My boyfriend got me a fish eye lens for Christmas! I was so ecstatic to open it and I've barely put it down since! So here is a blogpost full of ridiculous fish eye pictures, mostly of my favorite subjects! My Dogs!!! Enjoy!

Thank you so so much to my amazing boyfriend! You're my entire world and I could never thank you enough for all you do for me!

Merry Christmas everyone!! 
(Shove it to those "politically correct" douche bags that are now offended by me saying Merry Christmas!) 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A niche for inspiration

The object isn’t to make art,
 it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.

I feel like my whole life thus far has been spent on trying to find inspiration. I've struggled for so many years with all this creative energy, but I didn't have a niche that I could focus it all into. I tried music, which was fun and freeing, but wasn't exactly "my thing". I did photography for a long time, and still do, which is also amazing, but I struggled with the interaction that came with working with models. I've dabbled in crafting and still do, but I wouldn't necessarily say that I'd want to make a living out of it.

So about 5 months back (give or take), I was inspired to purchase a watercolor paint set. I've worked with water colors once before in college when I had to write a children's book for a children's literature class, and I remember how wonderful the medium was. So I decided to give it a go again. I've worked with acrylics before, but found them to be frustrating and annoying. The plastic-like consistency of it drove me crazy. I felt like I couldn't control and maneuver it the way I wanted to. I suppose using various paint thinners and exploring the medium a bit more would help me work around that frustration, but the fact still remains that I'm not crazy about the way acrylics look. I wanted to create soft, delicate looking paintings, and acrylics are a bit too harsh looking for my style. I've also never attempted to use oil paints. I find them incredibly intimidating, but one day I will definitely give them a try.

My first watercolor was a complete and utter failure. I mean, it was really bad! It looked like a 10 year old tried to make a bird in art class. Maybe I wasn't inspired enough, or maybe I was leery about using a medium that I didn't have much experience with. Whatever it was, it definitely allowed me to create utter crap as my first painting. But everyone has to start somewhere, and I knew that afterwards I had a basic understanding of watercolor paint. I figured out how to manipulate the paint, how I could control it on the paper. 

I think the biggest mistake I made with my first painting was the I tried too hard. I really wanted to have my first painting be perfect. I set an expectation for myself that I had to make a museum-quality painting. Which was completely ridiculous and un-realistic. I can't believe I'm going to do this right now, but here's a picture of my first ever watercolor painting.

This is a picture of the painting before it was completely finished, but honestly it didn't get much better than that. A few tail feathers later and it still looked like crap!

But I didn't want to give up. Luckily for my second painting, I was incredibly inspired. I wanted to paint something for DK so he could hang it in his new place. We always had a sort-of inside joke about pugs and how they all look like creepy little aliens. I could have gone for something "prettier" but I wanted to paint something that was unique, and that would put a smile on his face every time he looked at it. Thus Pug Life was born! I worked on this painting every night for about 3-4 weeks. It was long, and tedious, but I really enjoyed every minute of the process. When it was finished, I was thrilled. I had finally created something that I was incredibly proud of. I had found my niche! I wanted to make watercolors work for me, and I worked hard to make that happen.

Now I'm whipping up paintings left and right. I don't have to think in advance of what I want to paint. It comes to me naturally now. I am actually inspired enough that after a long, tiring day of work, I still want to come home and sit down in front of my paintings for 3-4 hours before bed. I paint realistic animals, which is funny because I'm incredibly inspired by artists like Greg "Craola" Simkins and Ryohei Hase. 

I'm going to wrap this post up by saying that I think anyone, and everyone, can be an artist. I think anyone is capable of creating. But I think it takes practice, hard work, and persistence. You aren't born with talent, you develop it. Not everyone is born with a vibrant enough imagination to create great paintings like Craola does, but that's OK. Don't ever tell yourself that you can't do something. That's just an excuse to not put the work in. Just find your niche, practice hard, and it will all become natural after that.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns;
I'm thankful that thorns have roses."

Thanksgiving has once again come and gone, and I have to admit that I was feeling the holiday spirit much more this year than I did last year. Maybe it's because I'm living back home with my family, or maybe it's because I have a new love in my life. But whatever it may be, I had a lot to be thankful for this past year. All the positive and happy energy that was running through me played out in the week leading up to thanksgiving. It took shape in the form of LOTS of crafting and decorating.

The first stop on my "Thanksgiving makeover" was our drab fireplace mantel. 

 I vaguely queued my boyfriend it as to what I wanted the mantel to look like. He was a good sport and ran around to multiple stores with me as I searched through the extensive holiday decorations in each aisle. I only ended up buying a couple of wreath-type decorations. Other than that I couldn't see spending $10 on pinecones when my yard was littered with them. The best part of living on a farm with 140 acres of un-buildable land behind you is the endless supplies of nature crafting supplies.

My parents and I walked around the property and picked up various types of evergreen branches, pinecones, acorns, and bittersweet. I have to admit, I was quite happy with the end result.

The night before thanksgiving I decided to make hand-made placemats. This project was pretty simple. I took some poster board (I used a pinkish color to pop against the red tablecloth), cut each one to the size of a placemat and drew out a square with lines in it with the words "I am thankful for..." The whole idea behind it was that while everyone was sitting at the table, I wanted them to reflect on what they were thankful for. Everyone had a designated space on their placemats where they could write down what they were thankful for. This went over pretty well with everyone. My nephew was a little begrudging with it, but it was great to sit at the table afterwards and read them all. I will be cutting out everyones notes to frame for a Christmas gift for my mother. 

The next project on my list was to make a nice centerpiece for my mother. We bought two bouquets of assorted flowers at the market two days before thanksgiving. I decided to use those and two candles to create the centerpiece. Of course I had to throw in some left over evergreen branches from the mantel. 

But after all was said and done, it just didn't seem life enough for me. The table was missing something (other than all the food!). My inner country girl got a little creative with this one! I went out to the barn and took two pieces of split wood, drilled some holes in them, and placed tea candles into the holes. It made for a great decoration, and looked amazing in our country-style kitchen!

After most of the decorating was done I moved on to one of my favorite parts of the holiday! BAKING!! Now mind you, we really don't have a lot of people over for thanksgiving. It's my, my boyfriend, my parents, my sister and her husband and my nephew. But I swear to you, we cook enough food to feed an army. I can't even say "Well we will eat the left overs" because there's too many left overs to eat!!! But that's never stopped us before. By the time we were done baking the desserts we had as followed:
1 apple pie
1 pumpkin pie
apple pie cookie bars
chocolate chip cookies
Pumpkin dip with gingersnap cookies
This also doesn't include all the "finger" foods we make to pick on before dinner. Those included pigs in a blanket, pickles, olives, chips and dip, and I'm sure something else that I'm forgetting. So if you're ever looking for a place to eat on thanksgiving, or you know...the next couple of weeks to follow...just stop by my house. Even the dogs eventually get sick of eating turkey!

The first step on my baking extravaganza was my apple pie cookie bars. I found this recipe on pintrest (of course), and just had to try it out! They were so successful that they were almost all gone before dessert was even passed out!!

Next we dove into making the pies. My mother made the apple pie and I helped out with the pumpkin pie.

By the time Thanksgiving morning rolled around it was safe to say that everything was finished, minus the actual dinner. We purchased a 20lb turkey and I was slightly worried that our oven wouldn't be able to handle the weight! My mother made her famous french-stuffing which is a meat stuffing. It is made with the usual stuffing stuff, but also sausage and ground beef. We had mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes, butternut squash, peas, corn and of course cranberry sauce. Before we could put the food out I had to make the table look presentable. I think I did a pretty good job!

My brother-in-law carved the Turkey while we gawked at him with drool coming out of our mouthes. 

After we finished our dinner and dessert we all sat around the table an played a game I had bought the night before called Telestrations (if you've never played it before you are certainly missing out!). Our holiday was filled with fun, laughter and love. This thanksgiving was hands-down the best thanksgiving we have ever had. We have all had so many life-altering changes in our lives this past year. Last thanksgiving was spent at my sisters house because she was practically bed-ridden from her car accident. Now she is healthy and lively and stronger than ever! My parents make sure that our household is filled with love and respect. We all have amazing dog-children that keep smiles on our faces. And above all, I was incredibly blessed to have my first thanksgiving with my boyfriend this year. Luckily my family didn't scare him away!

So to wrap this up, remember to be thankful for all you have in life. Try not to complain about the way things are in your life. Remember that no matter how bad things are they could always get worse. Be thankful every day. I certainly am. I do not need one day out of the year to reflect on all that I have to be thankful. However, I will certainly use it as a good excuse to eat as much food as I can possible handle!!!

(Shango giving the stink-eye because he wanted more turkey!)