Monday, February 27, 2012

Sketch 29 Challenge: Week 3

Sorry I'm a week late posting this...but better late than never! If you are wondering what this is all about, you can read about it on this post. Just a little challenge I devised for myself to get into a daily habit of practicing fine art skills so I can warm up to the next step! I'd love to hear your comments!
Simple contour line drawing of a Tomatoe with color pencil, Feb 16
Fish bones from the Smithsonian, pencil, Feb 17
Barn in Western Maryland, pencil, Feb 18
Banana Phone Illustration, Feb 19
Duck Meets Chicken, pencil, Feb 20
Fench city on a hill, pencil, Feb 21
Street Performer in Aix-en-Provence, pencil, Feb 22

Hello Monday! Hello Garbage!

Sometimes that is where the art ends up. If it weren’t for trial and error and the freedom to tear it up and throw it away, I’m not sure there would be enough courage to do it at all! As I wet my feet in the fine art paint I find myself timid and scared that it will be cold if I jump right in. What if I won’t be able to live up to the standards I have disproportionally set on myself? As I have mentioned – this is my journey back to art and finding out what I am made of can be scary! But coming to the conclusion that I will not be painting like Rembrandt on the first shot out the gate is a sensible conclusion to make and finding the freedom to destroy my own work-in-progress is liberating. If I know I am not bound to the piece, no matter how many hours have been invested, then I know I will more likely challenge myself and attempt that which I did not know I could do.

I was inspired by an artist I found online that has been growing in popularity. Her name is Genine and she has a lovely Blog and a shop on Etsy where she sells her prints. As far as I can gather she is self taught. Her watercolor illustrations are beautiful and happy and I guess not always perfect because the other day she threw out what I thought was a perfectly good painting. But her self reflection and willingness to share a failure is what inspired me to not only post my garbage-bound art, but take the chance in the first place.

For example, the Cherry Blossom painting I worked on the other day was my first attempt with mixing watercolor and acrylic ink. This is a technique I saw on Genine’s Art Blog. I tried twice and threw it away twice before accepting a version worth submitting for my own Sketch 29 challenge. In the end I still didn’t love how it turned out, but I had never used acrylic ink and wanted to try something new. There are other art pieces, like the raven watercolor, that make it only as far as the garbage as well. But as long as I give it another chance and know I have the option to fail as many times as it takes before I get it right, then I know I’ll find the courage to keep going. And wouldn’t you know,  I am learning as much from my failures as I am from my successes!
Hope you find the courage this week to do it! Even if it ends up being a throw away…oh, and have a Happy Monday!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: History of a Scrapbooker

When chocolate accidentally found peanut butter they suddenly became the perfect match. The combination just makes sense. When a woman has children and needs a creative outlet the result is the discovery of the perfect match of artistic design and storytelling. The combination just makes sense. And, voila, there you have scrapbooking, a worldwide hobby that provides a path for women to express their creative side and preserve memories.

First Scrapbook Album, Taylor's Baby Book
I didn’t know the hobby even had a name when I found a beautiful album 13 years ago filled with paper and stickers that I thought would be perfect for documenting my first child’s life. Oh, yes, I bought the deckle edge scissors and overly busy pattern papers and made pages with very little design sense at all.

But the years and supplies accumulated. The industry exploded and my love for it continued to grow. My style evolved and my bins soon turned into a whole room dedicated just to the craft of memory making.
Colorbok 2nd place winning page of my great grandmother.

 In 2004 I won second place in a National competition from Colorbok and Susan Branch that carried a $500 prize and publication. It was exciting, but I didn’t push myself to break out into paper craft stardom. I was still on a scrapbook rollercoaster, distracted occasionally by other hobbies and life circumstances, but inevitably coming back again to my beloved paper, scissors and glue.

First Page Publication from Studio Calico Yearbook Kit
Eventually I found the company that turned my passion into a full blown obsession: Studio Calico. I joined in 2008 and the 27th of every month became a sacred day that better not be messed with ‘cuz mama had to get her fix…and I would order a big box of supplies greedy with anticipation, disappointed if I didn’t have quick enough fingers to get what I wanted before it was all sold out.
Publication using Studio Calico Summer Camp

But this form of scrapbooking with a kit took my design abilities to the next level. I found a supportive online community and inspiration to last a lifetime. I began making pages worthy of regular publication, having more than half a dozen pages published in Scrapbook Trends Magazine. I began teaching classes and building an online resume. I had big plans of being on a design team and making my own products. 
Last of the scrapping days, June 2011, Studio Calico Paper Moon

I thought the future of me and my scrapbooking was a lot like a peanut butter cup: as long as they had ‘em in stock, I was going to keep eating them. But one day I looked at that sweet chocolaty treat and it dawned on me that I could keep eating it forever as long as I allowed it, but I knew deep down my secret passion for dark chocolate and almonds had been buried for so long and could not be denied forever….and right then I decided I had to “quit” in order to fulfill other dreams. 
Last known scrap page, June 2011, Studio Calico Paper Moon

It has not been an easy process leaving this world of paper I have built. I have so much time and money invested in scrapbooking and an online community that I love. I made the decision in the fall on 2010 and it took me a full year to finally put it away and pick up the pencils and paints.

Masses of scrapbook supplies, now obsolete.
Last week I made the final step towards having a studio instead of a scrapbook room. I packed up all of my old stuff, labeled what I wanted in boxes, put them in the closet and then made a massive pile of that-which-much-find-a-new-home. Then I pulled out the paints, brushes and canvases and have displayed them in a prominent spot (future post planned, stay tuned!) I am ready for the next big thing. I am doing the next big thing. It has been a long process to convince myself of doing the next big thing, but I am confident it is the RIGHT thing for me to be doing.
I know I will not turn my back on scrapbooking completely, I still have stories to tell about my boys and I love this form of documenting their lives, but I suspect it will be the anecdote to my new artistic profession. So there you have it, this is my scrapbook history – it was the best creative life I lived before taking the “Big Leap.”
 And this was the best week ever as I dug deep into the memories of the last 13 years.  I will forever be grateful to the creative life it gave me in the years it has taken space in my heart and the gift it has given me of design knowledge and creative spontaneity. Thank-you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hello Monday! Hello Ringtone!

I bought a fancy new phone as a little pick me up last week. That, and my old phone was d.e.a.d. I got it working, transferred contacts, added new apps, set a wallpaper and downloaded a new ringtone. Go ahead, call me! Turns out all I needed to pick me up was this new ringtone I downloaded. Banana Phone makes me laugh every time the phone rings…and I wait until it’s nearly finished before I pick-up. I think I might be driving my family crazy!

Banana Phone Illustration by Kellee Wynne Conrad

To celebrate my love for my new ringtone I illustrated a little picture and then played around with digital color. All just for the Banana Phone.  But don’t just take my word for it…play the ringtone and see why you would be happy to get a phone call, even if the call was just a boring pre-recorded reminder of your dental appointment.

               Link to download:     Banana Phone Ringtone for your phone

 OR Youtube Video:

Hope you enjoyed the silliness and have a very Happy Monday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sketch 29 Challenge: Week 2

If you have been following my Sketch 29 Project, then here you have another week of my effort to draw every day. Hope you enjoy my work as I make a little progress! How are you doing on your goals!?

Gettysburg, pencil, Feb 8
Cabbage, pencil, Feb 9
Bellagio, Italy, pecil, Feb 10
Flower, pen, Feb 11
Street performer in Italy, pencil, Feb 12
Egg Shells, pencil, Feb 13
Valentine as my eight-year-old self would make (a.k.a. lazy day sketch) Feb 14
Hot air balloon, watercolor, Feb 15

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Lighten Up Girl

“Yeah, you! What do you think you’re doing? Biting off more than you can chew? Going full steam ahead? Burning the midnight oil? Working harder, not smarter? Making something out of nothing? Putting in the hours of two full-time jobs and getting paid for none? Jumping on the bandwagon? Shooting for the stars and falling out of touch with reality?”
“Hey, I resent those accusations! Or I resemble them. Either way, get out of my head and let me do my thing. Why are you judging how I live my life and how I spend my time? I’m finally making progress on a few dreams I’ve been hanging on to, so who are you to tell me I can’t?” 
“It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that you better chill before you burn yourself out and give up. All work and no play is a recipe for disaster, even your family could tell you that. (In fact they might start telling you that they are hungry and the floors need cleaning, too, but that’s the price you’ll pay if you start cutting corners.) Maybe if you step back from the trees you will see the forest and the picture will become clear. And you could take a breath before you make yourself crazy.”
“I guess you’re right. I could use a break from my super charged brain right now; I can feel anxiety trying to slide in the back door and creep up on me. But what if I lose momentum and all my ideas escape me? They are coming by the dozens and I only have so much time to get it all done. The clock is ticking, the years are flying, and I don’t want to let the opportunity pass me by. There is so, so much to do if I’m going to make this work!”
“No, there is only so much to do if you keep adding to the list. It will all work out but you don’t have to rush it. Enjoy the process, enjoy your first job first, and enjoy each day and each moment before THAT passes you by. It’s only your own ambition (or overzealous drive) setting these ridged standards for yourself, so lighten up a little!”
Ms. Passion
“Ok, Logic, you are making sense, but can we compromise? Can I keep putting in the effort for the goals I currently have set, if I manage my time better and remember to have fun? I promise not to add anything new until I’ve crossed a few things off my list. AND I promise to put my first job first because I know that retirement will come sooner than later and I will wish it weren’t so! Can we agree?”

Ms. Logic
“Yes, Passion, we can agree. I wouldn’t want to take your dreams away from you when that has always been an integral part of who you are. And I know it’s important for you to see the progress and share it with others right now. Just do us both a favor and finish what you have on your plate before you take a second helping, ok? Now, get on with the weekend and have some fun before we’re all worn out!”

This has been the best week ever! I swear it was because all the right things are coming into place at the right time as long as I stay *focused* and keep Logic and Passion in check. This weekend is going to be the best ever because I have a list of all the fun things I’m going to be doing:
·         Watch the rest of the episodes of “The New Girl” with Zooey Deschanel. Serious laughs!
·         Go on a hot date. (Yes with my hot husband!)
·         Take the whole family to Taylor’s late night soccer game and out to Chick n’ Ruth’s for a monster size milkshake afterwards, ignoring bedtime altogether.
·         Go outside and draw En Plein Air for my Sketch 29 Project. This will be a first!
·         Read something that isn’t literature or current events or has anything to do with art. Fluff reading will certainly lighten my mind!
·         Make a good meal for the family that they haven’t eaten seventeen hundred times already.
·         Snuggle. Laugh. Breathe.
How about you? Have you had a conversation with yourself to see how you are doing? Has it been the best week ever?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sketch 29 Challenge: Week One

You can check out what this is about HERE
Poppy Pods, pencil, Feb 1
Grasshopper, pencil, Feb 2

Flower from my garden, pen and watercolor, Feb 3
First ever self-portrait, pencil, Feb 4
Death of the Devil after Albrecht Durer, pencil, Feb 5
Sea Shell, color pencil, Feb 6
Tea Cups Illustration, pen and color pencil, Feb 7

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hello Monday! Hello Museum!

I took the day off yesterday and went with myself to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Sometimes you have to go alone as to not be influenced by anyone else’s opinion. I went to see the print show which was a fine collection of more than 350 prints ranging from modern day and as far back as the 16th Century. It was impressive. The museum is free and they have an amazing Jazz Brunch on Sundays. I took my time and strolled through the whole museum. It’s certainly smaller than the Louvre or The National Gallery, but just as classy. I wanted to share my thoughts with you about a few of the things I saw along the way (Please excuse the quality of the photos, they were taken with my phone camera):
·         The recent popularity of Fantastical Art is not a new phenomenon. The early Renaissance painter, Albrecht Durer, was making grotesque and unusual scenes since the 1500s in his woodcut series called “The Apocalypse”. It’s amazing that we have been fretting the end of the world for so long. I think these prints were my favorite of the whole museum (yes, over the Impressionists!)

Albrect Durer (detail)
Albrecht Durer (detail)

·         When French Impressionists were at their height, so were the America painters. They are often overlooked for Monet and Renoir, but I do love the works of William Merritt Chase, Willard Metcalf and Childe Hassam. It was nice to see the museum had a modest collection of American artists.

·         As for the famous Impressionists, there were some of those as well. Monet, Renoir and Degas’ Dancer statues. But my favorite painting of that group was one of Cezanne’s paintings of the Sainte-Victoire Mountain near his home in Aix-en-Provence. I’ve been to Aix and I have seen the landscape with my own eyes. The color is not an exaggeration, it is beautiful and that is why so many artists flocked to that area.

Cezanne, Sainte-Victoire Mountain
·         No matter how hard I try, I just don’t care for Matisse. I’ve been to his home in Nice, France and I have seen his art in many galleries but I think his work looks unfinished. It’s sad because he worked tirelessly to achieve that style and well, it’s just meh. I have the urge to take the canvas home and see if I can’t help him get the job done!

Matisse (at least it's colorful!)
·         If you’ve been to a few art museums or studied art books, sooner or later you can start spotting certain artists from afar. Sometimes it can be a fun game I play to challenge myself to spot the artists before I read the plaque. Picasso and Monet are give aways, but I'mm still learning Corot and Courbet. There were so many familiar painters, but all new pieces to me as this was my first time visiting this museum.

·         Finally I must say, the world needs more women artists! The whole impressionist wing was donated from a couple of sisters who had diligently collected everything, including art. Rich, powerful women, The Cone sisters traveled to France and were major patrons to the arts, and yet they hardly noticed any women painters. I fear this habit still hasn’t changed in our modern day, but I have my eye out to discover the great women painters in every museum I go to, even if they are tucked away or wedged between the rest of the art world.
by Rosalie Lorraine Gill
Georgia O'Keefe

  • To finish up the trip I came home and tried my hand at the macabre! I have never done fantasy/fantastic art before, but Durer's wood carving prints inspired me, and I have my Sketch 29 assignment I gave myself, you have my try at sketching it and a close up of the print. This has given me all kinds of wonderful ideas! I hope you have enjoyed the tour and have a Happy Monday!

Death of the Devil after Albrecht Durer, by Kellee Wynne Conrad

Original print by Albrecht Durer (detail)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: The Year There Was No Winter

Memories from Winter's past. 1/2011

This week we had weather in the sixties again. I’ve heard rumor that this has been happening all over the country. A mellow sort of warmth has spread and people are traveling about in short sleeves and waving to one another in a cheery sort of way. Children play basket ball in the street and snow shovels are buried under other warmer-weather projects like garage organizing and yard sale sorting. I don’t know where my heavy coat has gone and it’s alright with me.
But I have to admit it’s a little bit weird, Twilight Zone strange even. When it’s 20 degrees above normal I begin to wonder how Mother Earth is feeling. How have we done this to the poor girl? How much more can she take? What else do we have in store? I think to myself, enjoy it while you can because something’s got to give…right? There it is, a little pit in my stomach, like December 21st is looming over us and the Mayans were right after all. But wait I digress….it’s beautiful outside and people are happier than usual and life is good. And when I start to worry over what is obviously the least of my worries, I come across just the right written words to bring me back from the edge of the Apocalypse.
I discovered the irreverent and poignant writings of Marc Morford a few weeks ago and he has given me much thought to chew on. He wrote a particular article for the San Francisco Chronicle/ SFGate that reminds us humans that we have thought the end was near for much of civilized life here on earth. That surely this is it, the world can take no more, busting at the seams with a population of 7 Billion!  Then Marc Morford reminded me that this world and the massive amount of humans contained in it, not only continue to survive but we are thriving!

I highly recommend you read the article, "Seven Billion Ways to Swallow God" for yourself and see if the word ride doesn’t leave you feeling proud of the human race, at least just a little bit longer until the cold returns…
For today, though, I want to make a Happy Hour Toast! To playing outside and turning the heat off. To sunnier days and smiling faces. To getting things done and keeping commitments. To good friends and even greater family members! It was indeed the best week ever! How about you?

"There is no battle. There is no good versus evil. There is only the flux and the pulse of existence, creation, expansion and contraction in an endless dance, signifying nothing, inventing everything."


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sketch 29: A Daily Creative Project

As I whittle away my time on the world wide web waiting for inspiration to strike, I realize it never will as long as I have a mouse in my hand instead of a pencil. If I’ve heard it a dozen times, I’ve heard it a million: I must practice, practice, practice if I truly want to be a _____ (insert here: writer, artist, musician, photographer, dancer, etc.)  I know you are nodding your head in agreement.  If you have just begun in your creative journey, are in the throes of it, have been ignoring the nagging desire or are just returning to your dreams after a hiatus, then now is the time to rise to the challenge!
I’ve done enough planning, dreaming, thinking, and talking about it, but today I start doing! I have given myself a new challenge: for the next 29 days of this February Leap Year I promise to sketch every single day. I will doodle, draw, color, work out my ideas and put pictures on paper. And then I will share them with you daily on my public Facebook Page and weekly on my blog. I hope you will follow along as I push myself one step closer to my goals. Even better, join in the fun and challenge yourself too! And tell me about it because I’d love to know if I’ve inspired someone to take the next step in their creative journey.
So, are you with me? 29 days to a more creative life. 29 days closer to your goals. 29 days of skill building. 29 days. every. single. day. And you know you’ll be glad you did! Now turn off this screen and pick up a notebook, we have work to do!