Monday, January 30, 2012

Hello Monday! Hello Decor!

I know I said I would be showing off all kinds of new work on Mondays, but who says it has to be a new work of art? Geesh, that’s a lot of pressure and I’m new at this “art on demand” regimen I’ve put myself on! So it’s no surprise that this week got busy and I did not make it into my studio. Remember, I am wearing many hats! But going without creating something for a whole week would be like skipping showers. I could do it but in time I would start to stink! I have to create! So I have a few original creations I would like to share with you to keep rolling with the Mondays!
In this week’s hustle and bustle I got a lot of cleaning, sorting and decorating done around the house. After moving in June of 2010 (yes, 18+ months later,) I have finally hung a myriad of things on my walls. Lots of photos of my boys; dozens really. Art and artifacts picked up from around the world.  A giant fork and spoon. My mother’s travel photos. My father’s paintings. And this:

I picked up this beautiful 30”x30” tin ceiling tile from Second Chance in Baltimore. The store is a string of warehouses filled with reclaimed items. It’s a scavenger’s dream come true. The tin came with the distressed lead paint.

So I put on a mask and gloves and carefully put a thin wash of turquoise paint over the white paint and tin. I added a thin wash of brown to keep it looking old. When it was dry I coated a generous layer of clear acrylic polyurethane over the whole thing and once dry, repeated again. And without a second thought I nailed that sucker to the wall and called it architectural art!

In this grouping you will find two paintings: the purple one on the left I picked up in Nice, France from an artist selling on the street, and I did the one on the right, the landscape. It’s a pastel of Belgium that I did last year. I’ll fill you in more later, I promise.

The shelf was an ugly old red country thing. I painted it turquoise first, and then white, and then distressed it. I lined the back of the shelf with chalkboard paper and put a set of old skeleton keys and motorcycle tags from Belgium hanging from the pegs. And I proudly display a beautiful card that my cousin in Washington made and an vintage postcard of Le Arc De Triomphe in Paris.

The piece-de-resistance is my treasured cafĂ© sign from Europe. I rescued it right before our move home. It was yellow and battered and you could not use the board for writing. I lovingly painted the trim white and carefully painted new chalkboard paint on to the surface and reattached the Grimburgen beer emblem. I’m so happy to see it hanging in my house.

This last grouping is a little collection of favorites. The framed print is from an artist we stumbled upon in the little town of Giverny where Monet is from right outside of Paris. I finally got it framed and hung. On the stand you will see my crow print and my Hello Monday altered sign, a hand blown glass vase from my mother's talented partner, a ceramic vase my father made a couple decades ago, and a couple of my mini travel scrapbooks. It's turned into a happy little vignette of collectible memories!
It’s all coming together; all the little details that make my home a fun place to be, to live and to laugh with my family. The only thing better than the brightly adorned walls on this Monday morning are the monkeys I share them with. Hope you have a Happy Monday!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Fake It Till You Make It

That’s basically what I’m doing. I keep putting myself out there, out on a limb and fully exposed. But I keep thinking I’m just a poser, I have no clue what I’m doing and I’m standing here half naked at that. Who am I to call myself an “Artist?” A “Writer?” Struggling, aspiring, wishing, taking baby steps - maybe I’ll concede to that. I’m comfortable with “Dreamer” because I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I weren’t at least a little delusional! But “Positive Thinker?” I got called out on that one by my significant other yesterday….then I asked him if he’s read my blog on any given Friday? Does he know what I've been saying? But I realize that saying and doing are two different things.
Does it count if I keep telling myself it’s true? If I believe in my mind’s eye that I am THAT person, do I eventually become that person? If I walk the streets of Giverny and breathe the air heavy of oil paint and turpentine will it move my hand to paint? If I read a wicked smart news article by Marc Morford, could I churn out something half as witty, poignant and well-read? If I watch TED Talks, and read the Dalai Lama’s daily update on Facebook, will I have a brighter outlook? There must have been a spark somewhere along this path I’ve been walking to cause this kindle of hope that I could one day be THAT person. Maybe something in my cloud of dreams that keeps pushing me to take on the challenge even when I feel like I am still floating around trying to figure it all out. But it’s ok, I’ve got a plan. I’m going to “Fake it till I make it.”
Are you with me? This is only just the beginning. It’s a wild ride that could end up anywhere and I would love to have you with me as the story unfolds. You can follow me on my new Facebook Page or follow by email. Don’t hesitate to share the love and share my blog. The larger the audience I have the more pressure I have to come out of the clouds and land on solid ground. To fake it a little less, and make it a little more. So, what do you say? A few more Fridays with me? I can raise a glass to that! And there are a few other things that made my week:

·         My 13 year-old son helped navigate me through Photoshop Elements to create my own brand. What do you think?
·         I discovered that one of my favorite artists, James Gurney, will be showing in an exhibit in Pennsylvania all summer long.
·         A couple extras days off school meant more time with the monkeys. No, really, they were fine.
·         A big pot of black bean chicken soup (that didn’t last nearly long enough.)
·         Quiet time. Lots of quite time and no running errands. Making up for this time last month when I was wiped out from the Holiday Season!
·         Winning Words With Friends, but I don’t want to rub it in anymore…
·         I am convinced “Midnight in Paris” was a movie made just for me.
And how about you? If you’ve been reading my weekly Friday post, by now you know I’m going to ask you, “What made this the best week ever?” Go on, tell me, and then go to my Facebook page and tell me again…because you inspire me to keep on going!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hello Monday! Hello Ideas!

Hand Carved Lino Cut Stamp, "Not Just a Moth" by Kellee Wynne Conrad

Too many of them to be exact. I suspect anyone with a creative mind and a busy life will find themselves divided among their ideas, but clearly with good intentions. You see, it was never a lack of ideas that has kept me from finding motivation; most likely it was where to begin with all these possibilities, and where do I find the time, and what if I do the wrong thing, and should I delve into pastel or collage, and what if it turns out awful, and, and….And that is the ultimate form of a creative block. Not a lack of ideas, but rather learning how to narrow your focus and just do something until you find the path you were meant to be following.
But I have a plan. I’m going to get through one idea at a time and see where it takes me. I’ll put it to the side if I don’t like it and pick up something else, and sooner or later I will find the path that suits me well. I suspect it will probably present itself in its own due time if I just keep moving forward. If I just keep doing something, anything! rather than nothing at all. And when the inspiration strikes, I hope you will be here to witness it and watch as this story unfolds. Maybe, if I’m doing what I’ve set out to do, I will inspire you to start your own creative journey!
This week I have one more hand-carved stamp. I like to think of it as a mate to the raven. Just to show you what happens when ideas get carried away, I am sharing a few of the different phases this project has been through.

I started by sketching from a reference photo. As I finished the design, I defined where the lights and darks would be, and then darkened the lines to get it ready for carving.

I spent hours cutting away on a sheet of rubber. I had to decide where to keep detail and where to let it go, all along trying not to cut my fingers!

I experimented with printing it on watercolor paper and coloring it, but I discovered the printing ink runs and the texture of the paper blurs the detail of the stamp. I'll have to make adjustments with my supplies and try it again.

Just for fun I wanted to see what would happen if I made the background first and printed it directly on a collage. It was an uneven surface and the image was not clearly printed, but it has a neat graphic effect. I think I would fine tune the collage process and see if I could get a smoother surface if I were to attempt this again.
There you have it, just a few ideas I was working on this week. What do you think? Any suggestions? I would love a request for the next hand-cut design! Or something unique I could do with my accumulating stamp pile!
Mostly, I hope you found some inspiration of your own and go have a Happy Monday!
"It's never too late to be who you might have been." George Eliot

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Boys

A few stinky ones at that.

Socks left in every corner.
Wrestling that inevitably ends in crying.
Hands reaching into the food for a taste, while dinner is still cooking.
Talking way too much about private things.
Procrastination and a hungry dog.

Temper tantrums.
Gross sounds and smells, on purpose, in confined spaces.  
An inability to tell that I am in the middle of a conversation and do not want to be interrupted.
Having to be told more than once.
Not playing fair.

Last minute projects.
Hands in the pants and up the nose (at the same time).
A battleground over nutritious meals that need to make it downs each little (loud) mouth.
Toilet seat up or down, doesn’t seem to matter, it’s everywhere.
Ear buds in, tuning out.

Name calling.
Boredom only a couple weeks after receiving all the Christmas spoils.
Long monologues about the progress made on a particular game (eyes glazing over.)
Playing instead of working on homework.
Late nights even with early bedtimes.

Shall I continue? Shall I tell you how I really feel? All at once overwhelmed, infuriated and glad to be a mother. I take no pity and prefer no advice. They’re wild animals after all, I just have to keep throwing treats at them to get their attention! But this is what I signed up for and without the stinky, rude, loud, unruly boys; I would not be Queen of the House, The Monkey Queen, The-Crazy-Lady-That-Makes-the-Meals-and-Brings-Clean-Laundry…or half the woman I am today.  And I love my boys! I’m laughing about it now, but after a week like this, I think I could really use happy hour out tonight!  And no matter what, it was still the best week ever.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hello Monday! Hello MoJo!

"The Tell Tale Heart" Hand-carved lino print by Kellee Wynne Conrad
Funny thing happens when you confess your shortcomings and spill your weaknesses publicly. It lights a fire under your butt to go do something about it! In my Friday post I lamented my lack of motivation and fears of facing some of the plans that I have been yapping a lot about and failing to following through with. When the post was sent out to the world that day, it must have released the little doubting demons because I got to work on my hopes and dreams right away.

Lucky for me I have a long list of ideas. Unfortunately for me I have a long list of ideas. I know I can't possibly go down every path my mind seams to wander, but I know with a little effort and lots of practice the right path will present itself. Right now I am enjoying hand-carved lino cut prints (from original designs), sketching, and water color. Next week I might be back into pastel or collage. Someday I will be brave enough to pick up the oil paints. But the good news is that I am doing it, and it's even better knowing that you are here to see as it unfolds.

Accountability is a surprising motivator and because of that I have decided to dedicate my new Monday post to sharing my creations with you. (Wow, what did I just commit to?) And a celebration of this new commitment I am happily giving away a copy of my new lino print to everyone who leaves a comment! Or follow me on my new Facebook page and leave a suggestion for what I should carve next.  Just remember I need your address and you can send that to me through my e-mail. And don't be shy about sharing my blog with your friends. Thank-you so much for you support! And enjoy this beautiful Monday!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Desperately Seeking Motivation

Early morning view from my window.
I got jack diddly squat done this week. I might have made one good meal. I had a few good ideas, but they sat on the shelf while I played “Words with Friends”. There is a pile of pictures and frames on the dining room table that have been sitting patiently since Sunday waiting to be hung, just glad they are not locked away in a trunk anymore. Something smells in the kitchen and it’s probably the garbage. My kids are bored with nothing to do – homework I say! – but at last that’s done. I don’t think I got dressed before noon once. I guess you could say I have lost focus already.
 I wake up wanting to do something fabulous with my day. The sunrise spreads little rays of hope that I will really do something creative and new and special with my precious time. But before long time gets plucked away from me. The minutes are squandered and I am stuck somewhere between fear and the internet. I have all the resources at my finger tips but what if I step out on the wrong path? What if I finally get around to writing, but not one reads it? What if I make a cute bird print, but the idea for a four foot abstract would have been better? What if the laundry still needs to be switched over?
How easy it seems to get lost in our own desperate attempts to start something new. When I was a kid the future seemed overflowing with possibilities. I could be a dancer, a teacher, an artist, a veterinarian…there was an endless parade of choices before me. Nothing has changed except the time crunch and my mountain of dreams crushing me alive. So I put them all aside and focus on the job I usually know best - taking care of monkeys. It’s easier than climbing the mountain as these excuses keep rolling in one after the other.
I’ll do it one day, you’ll see. I’ll start painting or writing a novel or start a mass media frenzy…as soon as I sort through my closets and clean out my mind, put the Kindle down and stop postponing my future. You’ll see…if you keep following me…
Until then I owe one person a copy of the hand-carved lino print that I said I was doing, but have managed to procrastinate yet again. But hey, despite having no motivation what-so-ever, I am still having the best week ever. I still have the comfort of my home and my family to keep me happy!
Tell me how you have the motivation to keep going with your dreams? How do you find the MoJo to have the best week ever? (if you do I will add you to my list of recipients to receive my new print, which I absolutely promise I am going to get around to doing in just a very short little while from'll see.)  

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  -Albert Einstein

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hello Monday! Why Monday?

Why get excited when there is a whole week of work, of school, of chores, of marking off the to-do list before Friday ever gets here? Why celebrate a day that is usually reserved as the least favorite day of the week? Why look forward to the dredge known as Monday?  

Why? Because Monday needs love too.

Monday is a new beginning.

Monday sets the tone.

Monday is the first day of the best week ever.

And I love Monday!

Now you know I will be dedicating a new post to my other favorite day of the week. Now you get to enjoy more regularly scheduled ramblings from your (almost, but not quite) favorite blogger. And now I have one more thing to add to my to-do list and I am glad to be doing it!

But I implore you...what do you want me to share with you that will keep you coming back all year long? Maybe even tell your friends and have them take a peak onto the musings of this slightly nutty, sometimes serious writer, artist, mother, queen-of-the-house, woman who has too much to do, too much to say and damned if she doesn’t just keep on trying?

If you have never left a comment, now is the time to do it. When Friday rolls around, it’ll be Happy Hour and it also means I will picking a random comment to....

*win a signed print of my new hand cut lino print*

… come on and leave some advice, share the blog, follow me on Facebook…give to me and I promise I will give back tenfold!

Thanks, and have a happy Monday!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Laughing Out Loud

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day,

if I did not laugh I should die. ~Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes you just have to do it. You NEED to laugh. It’s necessary to laugh. And sometimes I forget such a simple thing. I get so busy getting everything “done” that I forget to have fun while I am doing it. I forget to laugh. Sure I’ll chuckle at a sitcom and smile when the kids give me a hug out of the blue. But bust out laughing, tears down your face laughing, milk through your nose laughing, peed a little bit laughing…that’s rare and it’s a shame. Honestly, I don’t think life is meant to be so serious. There is more than enough news to bring us down, but laughing and poking fun at the sheer humanity of this crazy life is intelligence at its finest.

This week was the best week ever. This week I laughed a lot. Here are just a few ways I managed to make it happen:

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Must, must, must read. Laughed at every single word. She brings comedy to the playground and doesn’t care if we have to make fun of the cut-off sweatshirt and legwarmers…or the hair growing on our chins and the mountain women still have to climb for equality.

The Colbert Report is back on my tv now that I signed up for Hulu Plus. Of course you can watch full episodes right on his site. I don’t watch news from any other source. His truthiness is all I need.

An Epic Fail. What can I say, except that laughing at other people falling down is hilarious.

This article by Marc Morford. Altogether it’s a bright way to look at life, but the humor in his intelligent way of getting a point across and the wry use of the English language makes me want to read it over and over again.

• Googling Santorum and finding that the definition fits. (do not do this if you are squeamish or prude!)

Natalie Dee – America’s favorite cracker. Followed by The Oatmeal and Toothpaste for Breakfast. All slightly offensive, just the way I like it, and all of them make me Laugh Out Loud.

What made you laugh this week? What made this the best week ever?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hello Monday! What's Your Word?

I struggled through the first day of this year trying to say goodbye to 2011. I held on tight as it put up a good fight. I was not ready to move forward. It’s just that I am a silly sentimental fool and I’ve never been comfortable when I am aware of time passing. When I was a child I remember agonizing over the end of summer when Dad would cover the pool for winter, knowing that another season of my youth had zipped by me. That’s how I felt yesterday while putting all of the Christmas decorations away, knowing when I see them again we will all have seen another year through. In 1982 I got sad knowing I wouldn’t be a kid forever, and it is only magnified a million times in 2012 when I know my boys won’t be kids forever. Yes, 2011 was that good of a year and I tried dragging out the final days as slow and sweet as possible. But now we are on day two of 2012 and I have a feeling if I face it with my usual “Happy Hour” attitude, I can make this year even sweeter.
So, before routine settles back into our daily lives and once again I forget to be melancholy about the ticking clock, I am preparing to make a few resolutions to ensure I am making the best of another great year. You see, I believe in these sorts of things…things that stop your life for a moment and make you evaluate if you’re giving it your best shot. I believe that every day can be a new start to the beginning of a new year, but the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to make a new start.
But how does she do this in addition to her crazy monkey schedule you ask? A few years back, a creative, crafty blogger named Ali Edwards started a trend of picking one word to represent your whole year. One word to help you set goals and make improvements. One little word to replace a long list of resolutions. This is my third year participating and I have chosen the word FOCUS.  I am aware that I get easily distracted from the things I want to accomplish, I let menial stuff get in the way of what’s important and I lose sight of the big picture or the simplest moment when I let life get out of focus.  
I will focus on the needs of my family and not short change them the time they deserve. I will focus on what’s important or useful in my home and get rid of everything else. I will focus on filling my mind with useful information, education and good advice and not allow the rest to fill my head. I will focus on reading and writing instead of aimless internet surfing. I will focus on the world outside my doors and enroll my boys in outdoor activity. I will focus on healthy eating for everyone in this house. I will focus on doing art, not just reading or talking about it, and then I will share it with the world. I will focus on being more mindful of my words and taking the time to listen to others first, before I have determined what to say next. This is the year where one little word inspires me to live a better life; where the ticking of the clock becomes a testament of time well spent.

“It is a process of diverting one's scattered forces into one powerful channel.” James Allen
So, how will you start 2012? How will you make it the best year ever? What’s your word?