The beauty of skulls

I know – kind of a weird focus for this week’s blog.  But I took a class this past weekend that gave me a chance to focus on using watercolors to capture animal skulls and I just got really engaged.  The class, taught by expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin , was held at the Burke Museum here in Seattle, in conjunction with Maria’s current exhibition at the Nordic Heritage Museum entitled “Imaging the Arctic.”

kris at work

There I was, with the walrus skull in front of me!  The Burke was very generous with their collection and brought out many smaller skulls as well that students could use at the tables.  But I was intrigued by the walrus – we’d seen some on our Arctic trip back in 2005 and I thought it would be good for me to work big.

As is often the case with my art work, I was not pleased with my class result.  I felt that I’d not captured all the bones and shaded areas but had instead somehow made some short cuts – looking with my brain and not with my eyes.  I’m learning that our brain really does add in what it expects and if I don’t keep looking at something, what I fill in does not match what is in front of me.  So I took lots of photos before the end of the day and bought some extra paper from Maria and brought my project home – and today I finished it.

Walrus skull


While there are still things that could be fixed, I’m pretty happy with this.  I learned a lot about dark areas, shading and creating a bit of roundness through paint.  Not all of those lessons are as visible as I’d like them to be, especially creating a bit more roundness, but I am starting to get the hang of this watercolor thing and moving past the frozen over the paper feeling I have when laying down paint.  And I think someone looking at this would know it’s a walrus.

I had fun painting with my step-daughter Anna who first introduced me to Maria, and in part started me on this watercolor pathway.  It was fun to take a class together and I’m just so impressed by how great her watercolor work is….below, her coyote skull.

Anna's skullMaria helped us with gesture sketches on Saturday as well and I’ve been practicing a bit each night, getting ready for our upcoming expeditionary trip to India.  I want to be ready to sketch animals we might see, as well as capture sights in watercolor.  As Maria says, practice, not perfection!




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Hatching an idea by playing with felt

Sometimes ideas come from something we see, say in a magazine or in a shop window.  Sometimes they come from a memory that gets jogged by something we see or hear. Sometimes they come from looking or touching fabrics.  That’s how the idea for my newest felt project came to me.

If you follow me here you know I recently completed a felt doll based on a pattern that Purl Bee shared from artist Mimi Kirchner.  I had a fun time playing with the felt that I’d recently discovered, particularly since the wool felt is so very soft and has such rich colors. As I’d looked at the hair options and fondled more colors, an idea hatched – could I make a doll that looked a bit like a ladybug?


Some of you may know that I collect ladybugs – have since I was a kid.  I kind of let that collection go for a while but in the last 20 years have rekindled it in a bigger way.  I have treasures from childhood and newer treasures that having an adult paycheck can make obtainable!  This project came about because of my love of ladybugs – and an inkling about how cute this might be.


There was just something about the beautiful red felt and the vivid black that called out to me – hey, let’s try this! – that I could not quiet, even though I have so many other projects to finish.  Something about the one hair style option that lent itself to a bug design.  And the muse would not be silenced – so I went forward.


And here she is – I am very pleased with the results!  I worked out a pattern to make a cape for her with a bit of 3-d effect so it could be interpreted as “wings”.  The close cropped hairstyle really does help to “read” as a bug girl.  And I just love the vivid black dots on the bright red dress!


I have some pretty vivid blue felt – I see a lovely dress with iris colored leggings – but I think that next project should wait for a while….it’s not burning inside of me to get out, and really, I do have many other projects to complete!  But I’m glad I let the muse carry me away with this one.


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Playing with some hearts

I’m usually so behind the times, but I actually took some time with watercolors and a few  ideas from Jacqueline Newbold and painted some Valentines!  Both processes were really fun!


I’m finding that I’m enjoying taking a little time to play around with new things – and sitting down at the table to just make a few Valentines became an intentional act last week.  There are always a few people on my list for which something in the mail is just the right thing so trying out a number of processes made more sense to me.  Somehow, having an end use always makes it easier for me to play longer.


I also found that combining some of my watercolors with some of my stitching, like what I did for some items I posted in my Etsy account, was even more fun and added just a hint of pizazz.  I’m thinking that there are more combinations in my future.


There is something almost primal, isn’t there, in hand making Valentines – something that takes me, at least, back to those pre-school hours spent with Mom at the kitchen table with paper doilies and construction paper to the school time spent making a Valentine for everyone in the class. Now I just have cooler supplies but there is still the good feeling in completing a little work of art for someone special.

Happy Valentines Week, everyone!

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Sometimes something just takes your fancy

Where has the first month of this year gone?  I’m still being intentional, but man, it sure seems like time is flying, intentionally or not!

You know how sometimes there is something that just strikes you?  Well, that was the case for me this weekend with this photo from the Paris fashion shows….I can’t put my finger on it, but this photo just makes me happy.  Love it.  Makes me feel like doing things.  Hopefully it will strike your fancy, too!

IMG_2117Happy Groundhog Day!


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Now where did these come from?

I think I noted in a post last week that I had some ideas for a different direction…ideas of things percolating that weren’t the usual mixed media paper art.  And here they are!  They kind of took over my psyche, my sewing room AND my art space….as well as a few other spaces in the house!  And sent me on search missions to find appropriate frames – but in the end, I am pleased with the results.

Be Mine

I dug deeply into the stash for paper – and when I couldn’t find what I wanted, I painted in acrylic and watercolor.  I made some marks with pens – and when that didn’t suit me, I made some marks with hand stitching.  I’d gotten an idea from something I’d seen about tearing the paper to reveal something behind and really like that look.  I had fun – I told stories.  Mostly, the photos or the paper told ME stories and I just followed along.

close up small val

For some reason, maybe because I had some red paper and stamps, things turned out Valentine-like which was interesting – it was NOT where I had originally intended to go.  But like I say, the ephemera seemed to have an idea of what it wanted to be and I was just along for the ride because it needed someone to attach all the pieces!

My original vision had been much more muted – using the colors and patina of the vintage paper with just a few bits of writing here or there to break up the whole.  But that is not what I got, which I find interesting or disturbing, depending on how I look at it.  These pieces also called out for vintage frames which has sent me on some search missions that have not brought much success so I’ve slowed down the process given I don’t have a way to finish all of them off!  I still have some ideas for those more muted pieces but the ideas have settled down a bit so I can clean out all the spaces and get some other work done while plotting out new quadrants in which to search for frames.

FullSizeRender 2

These items are now available over on my Etsy shop, hopefully in time for Valentine’s Day since that seems to be what the muses want at this point!  I see myself playing in this method a bit more – I really enjoyed it and they gave me more opportunities to use my hand dyed threads I’ve recently discovered.

And for those of you who might be wondering, yes, the felt doll actually got finished in the franticness of this arty week….I’m really pleased with her and yes, of course, I have an idea for another two already running around in my head….



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Documenting the Intentional year

You may have noticed over on the margin that I’ve included a link to A Documented Life. Are you familiar with it?  I’d not been – and to tell you the truth, now I forget how I found it in the first place.  But while I was on vacation that first week in January,  one click lead to another and I entered into the Art to the 5th website and their year-long documented life project.  Below is a photo from Roben-Marie’s blog.


What is it, you ask?  Well, it looks like lots of fun, actually, but it seems to be a site where we can all work in mixed media together and have a journal that by the end of the year will have at least 52 pages complete.  Four mixed media artists lead the charge as well as provide videos each week coupled with a prompt and a challenge to help jump start the creative process.  No pressure, no cost but they also offer tutorials for a small charge for other activities along the way.   I’ve lurked on Roben Marie-Smith’s web site for a couple of years and enjoy the results of her mixed media process so it will be fun to follow her on this site this year.  And in this, my intentional year, it just seemed right to join in.

Part of my intentional year is to also intentionally use the supplies I have already gathered around me so I set about to make another journal in which to capture this all.  But as with many things, everyone’s discussion of how they like the “suggested” Dylusions journal so much for this process means that one was soon delivered to my door!  Oh, well, if I stop buying completely what will all the stores do?

journal 1

I am also intentionally trying new things.  For me, art journals have often ended up being the “final product”.  I make them just right and end up trying out anything new over on the side on paper that gets tossed away.  In this journal, I started out trying something new that didn’t work, hence my journal note…..but I also tried something that did, using black gesso on note tags.  I am aiming to try new as well as tried and true processes to make this journal a work of art – as well as a work in progress.

journal 2I look forward to sharing some of the pages of my journal with you this year, though I must admit that I’m already behind.  But I like the idea of weekly prompts and I really like the idea of artists sharing how they approach the blank journal page.  Hopefully, if you are participating, you will send me links to your pages, too, or at least let me know your screen name so I can see your results in the shared gallery!


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Clearing the way for the journey at hand

It’s a new year with new journeys looming in the distance.  But as I wandered through my art space I realized that I have a lot of my older pieces of art still surrounding me.  They are dear friends and each has something to tell me, to remind me about processes that I like to use – but they offer a glimpse of the work I have  done, not the work I want to do. So it is time for a sale at the Etsy shop.


I love working in mixed media – using all sorts of scrap papers and covering them with paint or pen – and listening hard to my mind or my muse or whatever those little voices might be that lead me to the finished piece.


But I have some ideas percolating below the surface that are a bit more clean, a bit more void of paint and color and more about using papers and threads to create the collaged whole.  I want to give them a try but it is hard with all the colorful projects looking on from the sidelines.  So I’ve put most of my remaining mixed media collages on sale in my Etsy shop.


You can reach the shop over on the side of my blog by clicking on the picture under the Etsy line.  I would be ecstatic if you would spread the word to any friends who might be interested in particularly quirky one of a kind collages to brighten up their spaces.  My goal is to have these babies fly out of my art space so I can make room for new ideas, for new processes, for new energy.  To intentionally move forward and try some things that might be scary but hopefully will lead me to new art excitement.

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Enjoying the Journey – really

I know, I know, many of you are already good at enjoying the journey.  I’ve always been more of a destination kind of gal.  But I have so many destinations that I want to reach, it’s been bogging me down a bit and I’m getting caught up in my own baggage.  I have art journal processes I want to try, some mixed media ideas in my brain, my regular traditional quilt making  and some new hand sewing projects I’ve recently taken up.  They all can’t be completed at the same time unless I can find a way to bend the space/time continuum – but I’m not a scientist.  So I’m trying to find spaces to spend on each activity and to enjoy the journey.

My journey started in little ways.  I’m branching off into playing with felt (see previous blog) and my anxiousness to start the project without making another run to another store brought me to a shopping trip in my own closet where I unearthed some hand dyed threads.  Some were made by Elin Noble but some were my own product, made in a class taken years ago taught by Elin and her mother, Maureen, called Dyeing to Stitch.  It was such a fun class with some great results which were to be used for my art quilting, but if you read my blog at all you know that I moved away from that practice.  So the threads have laid dormant in my closet for many years, many in their original shanks.

colored threads

I was delighted to find that many of the threads really supported the colors I’m using in making my little felt doll and it has been a delight to take the time to hand sew using these special threads for my new special project.  I know that anyone looking at my finished product might not notice the subtlety of the variegated thread – but I’ll know it’s there and remember how I smiled as I sewed each stitch.


I’m not sure whether I believe that “things happen for a reason” or whether if you are just paying attention you notice more.  Maybe it is just because I am retired now and I have more time to notice – who can say?  But having something fall off a sewing shelf which lead me to re-work some of the shelves which meant I opened a couple of storage bins I’d not been to for a while helped me re-discover some old projects just at the time that they could become useful in new ones.  Serendipity – or just having too much stuff to keep track of effectively?  I like to think that I took that journey many years ago so that I could enjoy this one now – and I’m sticking to that!


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Sequins – a gateway drug?

It all started innocently enough.  Ingrid Dijkers had us sew some sequins in our junk journals in her File Folder journal class last October.  I came home with some extras, but you know, one wants to do a bit more so I went in search of sequins.

The mixed package from Michael’s just didn’t do much for me but I used a few and sewed some more onto paper for my journal.  I’m still dabbling in that journal a bit and know that I want to explore the sequins a bit more, along with other papers.

As with much of life, things happen that lead you down a forbidden path before you even know what hit you.  The instructor for my on-line watercolor class, Jane LaFazio, also does some beautiful work with felt and sequins that she posts photos of from time to time on her Janeville blog.  Really nice work, interesting one-of-a-kind projects that use lots of sequins and felt.  Below is one of her creations:


In her post she graciously includes the link to her source, Cartwright Sequins, so I of course have to follow and see what it’s all about.  Mind you, at this point, I am searching for sequins because I want to add a few to my mixed media journals – but of course they have so many beautiful colors, some even on sale, that I start to envision myself maybe playing with felt a bit and having another place to use those sequins.  And sure enough, Jane has also included a link to her felt source, Purl Soho in New York City, which I’d bookmarked a few months ago for their Liberty of London fabric!

So okay, you say, it isn’t that bad, after all how expensive can some felt and some sequins be?  That’s not the point.  The point is that looking around on the Purl Soho site and searching felt I come upon all the cool felt projects they have available and one of them is a set of darling dolls made by Mimi Kirchner.  I’d not heard of Mimi nor seen her dolls but there is something about them that is delightful.  They are made out of felt – don’t even USE sequins, yet now I have a partially completed doll in my basement.  All because I wanted to get a few more sequins for my mixed media journal.


In this, my intentional year, I can only assume all of this will be useful to me – or shoot, just plain fun to work with – so I’m going along on this crazy ride.  I’ll have some more posts about the trip through the process and I’ll try to use what I’m thinking to inform the pages in my documented life journal.


I must say, I did NOT expect that innocently looking for more interesting sequins would lead to here.  But isn’t that what life is about – the unexpected?




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This year I will be intentional

I did it – I chose a word.  It came to me as I was sitting down to finish up my last exercise in my on-line Jane LaFazio class.

Intentional.  Webster says it means Deliberate.  Done on purpose.  Conscious.

This word works for me on a number of levels, not just my art.  It gives me a touchstone, if you will, with which to examine my actions all year.  I think I told you I’m really not good at goals or resolutions, but I like using the word “intentional” to examine what I do or don’t do this coming year.

seed pods

It gives me free rein to follow whatever art prompts seem interesting to me – as long as I am paying attention and doing what I am doing intentionally, obviously it will either lead to a better art practice or teach me about something that I don’t want to do.  Either way, if I am paying attention, I will get something out of my actions.

bird for Etsy

I’ve also found that it is helping me a bit in other parts of my life.  I need to lose weight and  be a bit more fit.  I fuss about it a lot, I do some things but I don’t follow through well.  Since deciding that I will be intentional, however, I’ve found that I’m focusing on the final bites of dinner, deciding whether I want to keep eating or just want to stop and maybe save some for another meal.  Doesn’t seem big, but for me a huge change.

And it lets me be a bit more calm.  I often get anxious about going in one direction or another with my art – am I working on watercolors when really I should be drawing more faces?  Should I finish that art journal page instead of dabbling with that fabric project?  If I am truly being intentional, whatever I am working on has a reason or brings me satisfaction or leads me in a direction I want to be going.  Playing is okay – looking at pretty things, like this beautiful mood board created by Leslie Shewring, below,  brings something into focus for me that I might not understand right this minute but will be helpful somewhere along the way.


So here I go – forward intentionally, with purpose but also with a bit lighter step – 2015 is going to be a GREAT year!


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