Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Simple and Spontaneous

"Just Before the Storm", 8x10 Pastel on Wallis sanded paper, Kellee Wynne Conrad

On a cool autumn day back in October,
a gangly group of explorers descended upon this deserted beach.

The storm hung heavy at the edge of the shoreline while naked toes sank into the sand.

After watching the push and pull of the bay and chasing a piper or two,
a quiet busi-ness took over.

Driftwood monuments were erected.

A collection of shells formed patterns.

Deep trenches were dug.

Art and design found itself on the shores of this beach.

Pleasure was found by creating in the most basic natural forms.
And we found joy in sharing the moment together.

Remembering the simplest of happy memories makes this the best week ever!
Have you ever done something so simple and spontaneous that it
stands out in your memory as one of the best days ever?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Where are Your Dreams?

Begin it Now, Watercolor, Kellee Wynne Conrad

Remember those long summer days when we stayed out late playing, salty sweat staining our foreheads, dirt under our nails, and the sun kissing the backs of our necks? Not a care in sight as we lived out the many lives in our imaginary worlds.
We were mermaids, schoolhouse teachers, roller derby gang members, secret agents, pageant contestants, veterinarians, explorers and supreme leaders of our own lands. Our heads were filled with ideas for startup lemonade businesses, movies we would make one day and the people we would meet as we sailed around the world in search of lost treasure. Whatever we could dream up, we could do.
Then one day we began packing up the memorabilia of our young lives and stepped over to the world of adults. Somehow, without even noticing, all our little ideas and stories and dreams of our future self got tied up and tossed in the box along with childhood laughter and wild abandon. All those little joys were forgotten while we got so terribly busy growing up.
And here we are. Life is good. I’ve made it this far on luck and a prayer and a whole lot of hard work. I wouldn’t trade it for any of the lives I might have imagined as a child. Some of the most important goals I’ve had for my life have become a reality. But I seem to recall a box full of summer sun sitting of a shelf in the back of my mind….where did the free spirit of my childhood go and what have I done with all her dreams?
What have you done with your dreams?
What would your eight-year-old self say about you now?
Hand carved stamp, lino cut print, Kellee Wynne Conrad

I’m asking this before it’s too late. The mid-life crisis is right around the corner, just waiting for those who’ve gotten lost along the way and forgotten to live their dreams. I know some of you are doing it right now. And many more are making an effort. But I know so many more who say that you wish you were doing “x. y. z.”
And, so then I say, why aren’t you?
It’s time. I’m putting it out in the open for you to think about and when you’re ready we’re coming back to this subject. We will figure out how to follow our dreams before they pass us by!

 But I will tell you one thing is for sure - this has been the best week ever because I’m going back to the beginning and reconnecting with my hopes and dreams. Here are a few other reasons this is the best week ever:
·         I remember my favorite color is purple, I love unicorns and I want to illustrate children’s books.
·         I’ve been a hopeless romantic ever since Kindergarten. I think it’s due time to draw hearts on everything and get carried away again.
·         My siblings are my best friends no matter where I go.
·         I really do love my mom and dad and I am finally old enough to miss them and need them again.
·         Being a mom in real life is better than the game you play in your backyard on long summer days.
·         So is being a wife, by a hundred times or so.
·         I love arts and crafts time and I need it every day.
So, how about you? Do you remember your dreams yet? Are you ready to act on them? How will you make this your best week ever?

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Joseph Chilton Pearce

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hello Monday! Hello Mini!

Have you ever been doing something for awhile and just need a change of pace to let your brain think differently for a few days, maybe regain your creative mojo?  You know, the scrapper needs to start quilting, the quilter needs to start knitting, the knitter needs to start gardening, the gardener needs to start painting and the painter needs to start scrapping…. I needed a break from painting so I turned to my favorite craft - my good stand-by original. Yup I’ve been scrapping and I went to town making a mini album this weekend.

Here are few tips to make your own mini album.
1. Pull together a few leftover scraps from projects, advertisements, magazines or wrapping, and bits of buttons, ribbons or tags from your mending kit. If you are already a scrapper, you will have enough supplies on hand, I’m sure! But for everyone else, anything will work as long as the paper is heavy weight. Don’t forget the basics like glue, double sided tape, scissors, hole punch, pens, measuring stick, etc…

2. Measure the size of the cover you have chosen. I used the advertisement from a rewards card program I got from a clothing store, about 4x6.You could also use the cardstock from recycled packaging or a nice card you received in the mail. Cut several sheets of matching cardstock to fit inside the book.
3. Mark with a pencil where you will punch holes for the binding first before you punch away. Then stitch the pages together with a binding stitch or blanket stitch using twine or heavy floss.

4. Decorate the front cover of your book. I used stamps and embossing powder, big alpha stickers, decorative tape and a few found items off of new clothing. You could even cut the letters out of a nice magazine, and use the ribbon off of a gift. Be creative because half the fun is upcycling things you would have throw away!
5. Now fill up the inside with handwritten notes about this moment in time and add photos!

Voila! You have a mini book to remember today. Hope you have a Happy Monday!

I used the inspiration from a silly post I did about my boys a couple months ago. I gathered up some recycled supplies and a few leftovers from past projects. I decided to put some of my hand-carved stamps to use and I whipped up this little mini.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Train Your Brain

Just breathe. Everything is alright. The sun is shining and it’s warm outside. There’s nothing but fresh air flowing through the open windows. The kids are all out playing and the trees are covered in spring blossoms. It’s 78 degrees in March. Enjoy each day as it comes. Life is good.
This I know, but sometimes I let the little stresses creep in and the to-do list nag at the back of my mind too long. I let worry keep me up at night and doubt harbor space in my thoughts. My heart skips a beat in anxiety and I scratch at my skin to try to find some relief. The whole mental process of trying to stay on my game soon spirals out of control and I recede into a melancholy filled with unpleasant thoughts. It’s not the end of the world, but certainly uncomfortable for a spell. I know I am not alone; I have inherited these familiar traits. And I suspect it is a common side effect of being an adult.
I am not an expert at how to solve anxiety, but I have heard that scientists are working hard to understand this part of the brain, the part that involves emotions. One thing they have discovered is that when people undergo cognitive therapy they can retrain how the brain thinks “so we can become more resilient, less negative and, possibly happier.” No, really, I’m not an expert, just an avid listener to NPR and I could relate to a recent program with neuroscientists Sharon Begley and Richard Davidson and the discoveries they have made. (You can read about it HERE.)
So, I got to thinking about my own habits and how important “Friday Happy Hour” has become  by turning every week into the best week ever, even when it’s not. Even when I struggle with stress, anxiety and sleepless nights, the simple task of finding the positive and focusing on all that is good every week is one way I have begun to retrain my brain. In fact, I have not done a proper Friday post in a couple weeks and coincidentally my optimism is in the toilet….so I am recommitted to the "Friday Happy Hour". It has nothing to do with drinking, but if you want to raise a glass to positive thinking then you have the spirit.
These were a few of the reasons why this was the best week ever:
·         Did I mention 78 degrees?
·         Fresh brewed ice tea, shorts and an impromptu pedicure.
·         The boys are outside and out from under my feet.
·         Painting every day. Check out my Countdown to Spring Project!
·         A two hour lunch with my husband while the boys were in school. Sweet!
·         Finding a book I really love.
So, how do you cope with your emotions? How do you have the courage to have the best week ever, even when it’s not? I have a lot of work to do to retrain my brain, but if I can just make one step in the right direction, and I can bring you along as well, then I know I’m happier just thinking about it!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Countdown to Spring: New Watercolor Paintings

I’ve been twiddling my thumbs trying to get inspired after the end of my Leap Year Project. I finally came to the conclusion that there’s nothing like a project to keep me motivated, so I am jumping in with a new one as we count down the next twelve days until spring. I will be painting twelve floral watercolor and ink illustrations, one each day until March 20th and posting them daily on my public Facebook page.
And how would you like to win one of the original paintings?
Thought that might be a nice giveaway. So here are three ways you can be eligible to win:
1. Follow my Facebook page and then repost my link of this blog post from my page to your own account.
2. Follow me on Pinterest and repin my pin about this blog post onto your Pinterest account.
3. Include me and this blog post on your blog with a link back to  
When you have done one – or all three - be sure to leave a comment and/or link as appropriate so I know to find you and enter your name in the drawing. Each one of these actions will enter you (maximum three times) for a chance to win YOUR CHOICE of one of the twelve original watercolors that I will paint and post over the next twelve days. The final chance to enter will be 12 noon EST 3-20-2012 and it is open to anywhere in the world!

 I hope you have fun, share the fun, celebrate the fun and get inspired!

Watercolor Flowers, Day One of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad

Watercolor Flower, Day Two of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad
Watercolor Flowers, Day Three of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad
Watercolor Flowers, Day Four of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad
Watercolor Flowers, Day Five of Spring COuntdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad
Watercolor Flowers, Day Six of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad
Watercolor Flowers, Day Seven of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad
Watercolor Flowers, Day Eight of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad

Watercolr Flowers, Day Nine of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad

Watercolor Flowers, Day Ten of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad

Watercolor Flowers, Day Eleven of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad

Watercolor Flower, Day Twelve of Spring Countdown, Kellee Wynne Conrad

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I am a Retro-Feminist!

Self portrait, "Retro-Feminist" Kellee Wynne Conrad

Someone asked the other day what I meant when I used the word “Retro-Feminist” to describe myself. Hmmm, I knew it would come up eventually, but I really have come unprepared to the discussion that I, myself, have started. I have avoided sharing much of my political, religious and social agendas on my blog because I want this to be a place where every person can feel connected when they visit and leave feeling inspired about life and the need to share through their own creative expression. But for this subject, I will give my best effort to share my feelings on life and who I am, truly and hopefully without offense.
As this blog has developed over the years I have found that its purpose it to speak openly about my own struggles as a mother, a wife, a woman and the desires I have to be an artist and a writer. But when tasked with describing myself, I have found that coming up with just the right words is difficult as I am not easily pigeonholed into a typical stereo type. So a couple years ago I came up with the idea that I am a “retro-feminist”. I do not know if the word has been used in this manner before, but I rather like the idea that a woman can take part in some homemade care-giving, stay-at-home-mom living, feminine-affirming loving and still be fully progressive and modern in thought.
I use the word "retro-feminist" to describe my domesticated state. I stay home and manage the house and home in a good old fashioned do-it-yourself kind of way. I cook and clean, grow a garden, can and sew, bake bread, decorate, cut coupons, tell stories, chauffer, make and keep appointments, and the list goes on. I do it by choice and with high respect from my husband who never asked me to stay home in the first place. In fact when we first met, he had never had an opinion one way or the other of whether women should stay home or work. I gather myself quite lucky that my desire to stay home was respected AND supported.
But there is more to me than just being proud of my job as a homemaker - I believe women should empower themselves, be educated and informed and ready to face the world. I believe they have an important voice in politics, media, business, education, religion, the arts and the world. And I believe it is under-represented. I believe that the roles and jobs women fill in this world are often times not respected, including, but not limited to homemaking. I believe that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles, and the more we understand the inequalities that women face, the more we understand the pressures put on men and the stereotypes they have to live up to. 
Until just a couple years ago I hadn’t given feminism much thought. In fact it scared me because the only thing I thought of when I heard the word was angry, rebel bra-burners who hated men….but when I freed myself from those exact stereo types we are lead to believe about women activists, I began to see the reality of where we are with women’s rights in the 21st Century and that it cannot be over looked anymore. I could cite many recent references to the news and how far back into the dark ages we are traveling at this very moment in American history, but you have heard these stories already and hopefully it has awakened your common senses about how important and relevant feminism is our seemingly modern world. To help you out, I find the examples on the site Feminist Frequency to be well thought out, informative, non-offensive discussions about how women are portrayed in our society.
This month is National Women’s History Month and the theme is empowerment.
·         How will you empower yourself?
·         Will you educate yourself first?
·         Will you accept that staying home to care for the family is a valid and empowering career?
·         Will you be proud that you had the choice to go to work and that’s what works best for you and your family?
·         Will you stand up for deciding not to have a family and contributing to the world in other powerful ways?
·         Will you respect the choices that your mother or grandmothers had to make in their lives using the tools they had available to them at the time?
·         Will you teach your daughters their worth in the world and your sons to respect women?
·         Will you honor your wife and be grateful for the work she does to provide a well cared for home every day (a gift that I am grateful my husband has given me)?
·         Will you continue to open your mind and educate yourself every day so that you are not bound by what society is dictating we think about women but rather what is honorable, fair and right for all humans?
Hope I inspired you to think big about our culture and understand the point of view I come from when I describe myself. I know I am proud to take the role as a happily domesticated Retro-Feminist! I would love to hear your thoughts. And while you are here, will you join me on Facebook or follow this site and share it with your friends as I take this journey from motherhood into womanhood and on to the art world!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Signs of an Early Spring

I think this week I will just let the pictures speak for themselves:

It was the best week ever. Need I say more? I'm going to grab a Blue Moon Spring Blonde Ale because it's the perfect fit to celebrate an early spring. How about you? Are you celebrating Spring yet?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sketch 29 Challenge: Week Four and Final

So glad you could join me for my last week of the Leap Year Project I started for myself at the beginning of this month. I was hoping someone would be brave enough and participate, but I think this was a tough challenge and I didn't get any bites this time! If you are just joining and would like to see previous posts with my sketches, you will find Week 1 HERE, Week 2 HERE, and Week 3 HERE. And the original challenge HERE. I am rediscovering my love for creating fine art and just getting back into the regular practice of art after more than a decade off. This is my journey back and these are the bold steps I am taking. I hope you follow me on FACEBOOK to see what projects I have coming up! Thank-you for your comments and support!

Meditation in Circles (also known as I was tired that day,) pencil, Feb 23

Funky Fish, pencil, Feb. 24

Cherry Blossoms, watercolr and acrylic ink, Feb 25

Grapes, pencil, Feb. 26

California Coast, color pencil, Feb 27

Artichokes in Bloom, pencil, Feb 28

Bee Rider Illustration, pencil, Feb 28