Liebster Award

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I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award by Nicole of the blog Sewing with Scooby Snacks!  Thanks!

Liebster Award (Pattern and Branch)

According to Nicole, a Liebster Award helps new bloggers connect and become active in the blogosphere.  She’s given me several questions to answer.  Then I have to nominate  11 blogs with 500 or fewer followers and ask them some questions of my own (as well as leaving them a comment letting them know they’ve been nominated).  It sounds like fun to me, so here are my answers to Nicole’s questions.

 

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

That’s a tough question, but it would probably involve eating something sugary.  I really love sugar.

 

Why did you start your blog and how long have you been blogging?

I started my blog for a few reasons.  I wanted to share my creative pursuits and hopefully inspire others to try new things just as I’ve been inspired by many of the blogs I read.  I also wanted to try blogging as a potential future job.  I’m testing the waters to see if I like blogging, if I want to do it long-term, and if I want to do it just for myself or professionally sometime down the road.  I began the blog last year, in September.

 

What is your favorite post that you have ever written? (please provide the link)

I have to admit that I had a lot of fun writing my Craft Fails post.  It’s also been my most popular post to date, mainly because of the picture of my husband.  I keep hoping other people will submit their craft fails for me to post.  We’ll see…

Craft Fail: Giant Sweater

 

Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.

Hm….Okay….

#1:  My favorite book from probably the 7th grade on has been Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

#2:  I have taken out a recreational clamming license the last two years.  Clamming is so cool!  Our town even has a Shellfish Constable!

#3:  I love going to the Brimfield Antique Show in western Massachusetts.  My record is 12 hours of shopping.  I love it so much that my cousin Adam told me I should only speak the name of Brimfield in a whisper.  BRIMFIELD!

#4:  I like edible flowers–planting them and eating them.

#5:  I went to a Moody Blues concert in high school.  I think I was the only high schooler there–everyone else was either my parents’ age or a baby.  And yes, it was awesome!  (Wow!  I just looked them up to add a link, and they’re still touring!)

#6:  Once some Catholic sisters tried to convince me I didn’t need a boyfriend and I should join their order.  If I wasn’t already dating my future husband…and wasn’t already Protestant…I might have been tempted.  They were the coolest.

Oh, whoops.  I kind of got into the random facts.  #6 can be a bonus.

 

What project have you created that you are most proud of? (crafts or cooking)

That’s tough.  It changes all the time, but I was pretty happy with the dress I made for my cousin’s wedding last year.

“Let’s start at the very beginning…” with a dress

This dress was made from thrifted knit sheets

 

What is your all time favorite movie?

I don’t have just one.  A few favorites are Babette’s FeastLabyrinth, Cold Comfort Farm, Out of Africa, etc., etc.

 

What sparks your creativity?

Seeing the work of others and wanting to try new things.  Sometimes I get ideas from books or magazines (or Pinterest or blogs), sometimes I see something I want in a store but can’t afford, sometimes I just want to try something I’ve never tried before.

 

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

Hm, that’s tricky.  I could live in my town for the rest of my life, I love it so much.  But there are times I want to live closer to my family or…in Italy…

 

If you could have one wish, what would it be?

Of course I would wish for more wishes!  Does it have to be something other than that?

 

What is your favorite restaurant?

I don’t know that I have a favorite restaurant in all the world (there are so many good ones), but I do love Bertucci’s pizza, so I’ll pick them for this one.

 

What has been your biggest challenge?

In life?  Probably fighting against my own selfishness and fallen human nature.  Let’s just say I’m thankful to know Jesus so I don’t have to stay in that rut forever.

 

That was fun!  I’ll have to figure out who to pass this award on to and what to ask them.  Stay tuned!

Nursery Rhyme Art Project: Painting!

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This is the last post on my latest art project based on the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”.  You can find the earlier posts here, here, and here.  I hope you are ready for a lot of pictures!  I tried to catch each step of the painting so you can see what I did.  (If you feel impatient, just scroll to the end.)  First up, preparation!

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)First I had a friend cut some hardboard/Masonite into a circle for me.  I traced the Hex sign from the first post to get the circle shape and size that I wanted.  I gathered advice on how to prepare the surface, and then sanded it a little bit and covered it in gesso.  I also painted an X on the back in gesso to keep it from warping. (Thanks, Tanja!)

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)Once that was dry, I transferred my sketch onto the prepared board.  You can see I did this before I colored in parts of my large sketch.  I wanted you to get an idea of the process, even if things are a bit out of order.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

I also made myself a little color key.  Once I found the colors I liked in pencil, I tried to match them to paint colors.  Because I don’t usually paint, I wanted to avoid having to mix colors in order to keep things consistent.  I was pretty fortunate to find the colors I wanted fairly easily.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)Finally getting started!  I’m usually behind the camera, but I love to see pictures of people working on creative projects, so I had my husband shoot a few pictures of me painting.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)Here are the center circle and the second circle.  The center is an imaginary sixpence.  I took some elements from real sixpences to create the image.  The second circle is the rye in the nursery rhyme.  I liked blue as a background because it made me think of a blue sky over a rye field.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)Next was the yellow stripe on the blackbirds’ wings.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project: Painting! (Pattern and Branch)Then came the bottom of the pie.  I tried to apply the color on this ring in order from lightest to darkest.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

This was the beginning of the outer crown ring.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

I liked the red jewels, but wasn’t sure about my second color.  I knew I wanted two jewel colors, so I tested out the idea on my color key (several pictures above) before trying the green on the actual crown.  I was happy with how they looked in the end.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)Here it is before the final varnish.  I got nervous at this point.  What if the varnish somehow messed everything up?  I would have to give the library a photo and say, “Well, here’s what you were supposed to get!  Sorry!”  Luckily, my vivid imagination doesn’t often play out in reality (Thank God!  Do you know how many bridges would have collapsed just behind our car or how many medical emergencies I would have lived through?!)

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)Getting ready to varnish…(Having a child in preschool taught me that produce trays make great paint/craft trays.)

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)Finally finished!  It took awhile for that to sink in for me.  Here’s one more shot.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Painting!  (Pattern and Branch)

Do you think it looks slightly convex?  My husband and I think that every time we look at pictures, even though the surface is flat.

I sort of wish I had added up the hours that this took, but sometimes I’m glad I didn’t.  It made my life very busy, but it was so great to be busy with something I loved.  It made me excited to get up each morning.  I haven’t always had that feeling, so it was a real gift.  I hope the library and the kids there like it.  I loved working on it.

 

Nursery Rhyme Art Project: Full Scale Sketch

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I’m back to show you the next step in the art project I’ve been working on based on the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”.  You can see the first two posts covering inspiration and preliminary sketches by clicking the links.

After working out my ideas in the small sketches I showed you last time, I made a large, full-scale sketch with my final ideas.  The goal was to get things just how I wanted them to look so I could see the ideas and also so that I could transfer the drawings to the board I was going to work on just as I had drawn them.  I also hoped to experiment with color in the full-scale sketch.  Let me show you:

Sing a song of sixpence

Nursery Rhyme Art Project (Pattern and Branch)

A pocketful of rye

 

Nursery Rhyme Art Project (Pattern and Branch)

Four and twenty blackbirds

Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened

The birds began to sing.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project (Pattern and Branch)

Wasn’t that a dainty gift

To set before the king?

(That outer ring is crown.)

When the pie was opened

You can see that by the end, I had taken out the words “Six Pence” and the extra grains of rye that were scattered about.  Since the audience for this work is children ages 0-2, the words seemed unnecessary, and the scattered rye took away from the more simplified, clean look that I was going for.

I got excited about color once I finished the drawing, but soon realized that doing just a quarter of the piece in color would help me figure out the colors that I needed.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project (Pattern and Branch)

It was a good thing I did this because I decided to change the crown in the outer circle to be more recognizable as a crown.  You can see both versions in the same sketch below.

Nursery Rhyme Art Project (Pattern and Branch)

Yay for color!  That’s how I almost always feel about color, actually.

Next up:  preparing the board and painting!

 

Nursery Rhyme Art Project: Test Sketches

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Hi, friends.  Today I’m going to share some of my test sketches from my current art project.  Last week I talked about the influences that went into it, and today I’ll show you how I began to bring the project out of my head and onto paper.

The first step was to break down the nursery rhyme (“Sing a Song of Sixpence”) into different parts.  I chose four:  the sixpence, the rye, the birds in the pie, and a crown to represent the king.  I used Google Images to look for inspiration in each of these areas.  Then I did little test sketches to see how it felt to draw each image more or less as I had found it online.  After that, I began to change the image to suit my purpose.  Check it out:

The sixpence:

Nursery Rhyme Art Project: Sixpence (Pattern and Branch)

 

I did a little bit of research on the sixpence, but really wanted my own take on it, so I tried to limit my information (I can tend to go overboard in the information department, so this was important.).

The rye:

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Rye (Pattern and Branch)

I came up with my idea for this image fairly quickly, so there aren’t many initial drawings.  If you look in the bottom right corner, you can see what I decided on.

The blackbirds and the pie:

Nursery Rhyme Art Project:  Blackbirds (Pattern and Branch)

In my limited research on this nursery rhyme, I found out that there were cookbooks around the time this nursery rhyme originated that explained how to make a bird pie and keep the birds alive so they would fly out when the pie was opened as a surprise for the guest!  I also read that there are versions of this nursery rhyme where it isn’t birds baked in the pie, but naughty boys.  Seemed good to stick with birds.

 

The crown:

Nursery Rhyme Art Project: The King (Pattern and Branch)

I don’t have a lot of confidence in drawing people.  One of my college portraits of my husband, then my boyfriend, made him look like he was from the movie “Planet of the Apes”.  (That should probably be a Craft Fail…).  Instead of drawing a king (or another character from “Planet of the Apes”) I decided to use a crown to symbolize the king in the nursery rhyme.  I had more trouble with this section than you might expect, but I finally settled on a good option, as you’ll see in future posts.

I hope you liked this little peek.  Next week I’ll show you how I put all these together to get my full-size rough draft.

 

Nursery Rhyme Art Project: Influences

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Hi, friends.

I know it’s been quiet around here….I’ve had my nose to the grindstone working on my latest project.  I want to share it with you in stages, so here is the first installment.

Our local library recently received a grant to fund an early readers’ program for children ages 0-2.  They invited 10 local artists to make an artwork around a nursery rhyme in any medium.  I chose this one:

Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocketful of rye.

Four-and-twenty blackbirds

Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,

The birds began to sing.

Wasn’t that a dainty gift

To set before the king?

There are further verses, but these are the ones I am working with.  (Later verses and other versions have naughty boys baked in the pie and people getting their eyes pecked out.  I decided to skip those.)  My inspiration came from a friend’s young son who loves this Amish barn sign (I think that’s what it is called) that I have on our wall.  (If anyone knows more about these kinds of round signs, I’d love to read it in the comments.)

Amish barn sign (Pattern and Branch)

His favorite part is when we spin it (it has a nail through the center).  I liked this circular format, so I traced this shape and a friend cut it out of hardboard/Masonite for me.  Then I went to work researching the objects I visualized for the finished piece.  I also liked the idea of a flat, slightly folk-art feel, so I tried to incorporate that.  I’ll share more with you next time.

Top 10 Cures for Winter Blahs

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This one goes out to all those who live in the Northern Hemisphere…in the colder places.  Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere can revisit this one at the end of your winter…for now, please send us warm weather!

Beat the Winter Blahs (Pattern and Branch)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with winter, even though it’s not technically over until March 20.  On that date, all snow will magically disappear, the weather will get up into the 50′s, (or higher!), and flowers will bloom.  It will be lovely.  At least, this is what I keep telling myself.  But until then, here is how I’ve been fighting the winter blahs.  Get ready to use your imagination and “pretending skills”.

1.  NEON.  Yes, neon is back from the dead, so use it to your benefit.  My nails are covered in neon yellow (by Revlon, from Target) at present and I now own three colors of neon earrings from Claire’s.  Today I wore pink.

Revlon Nail Art Neon Nail Enamel

2.  Color in general.  Add color to your wardrobe!  I mean, we should all do this all the time, but until I lived up north, I never knew what it was to CRAVE color.  So, I wear it.  Currently, I’m a fan of blues, greens, yellow, pink, etc., etc.

3.  Surfing movies.  This started with Soul Surfer.  Let me warn you:  it’s a slippery slope!  Netflix has a lot of surf documentaries, and you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy them!  But sometimes…these surfers go to COLD places!  Beware!  When you see them pull out those wetsuits, they have ventured away from Hawaii.  If that happens, you can always watch Kelly Slater in Tahiti.  Even if you hate surfing, just vow to only watch movies set in warm places.

4.  Obsessively check weather websites with month-views.  Then you can see that the weather should be getting warmer later in the month.  Whenever you see it dip back down into the 20′s, tell yourself it will change by the time that day comes around.

5.  Visit greenhouses.  Buy flowers.  Or just tape pictures of flowers around your house.

Beat the Winter Blahs (Pattern and Branch)

6.  Start sewing, thrifting, or otherwise shopping for an Easter outfit.  Remember, Jesus is risen!  It’s a party!  No black!  (See point #2.)

Beat the Winter Blahs (Pattern and Branch)

Last year’s Easter outfit. I loved this one….

7.  Exercise.  I hit a point this winter where I felt REALLY cranky and like I wanted to scream and run out of our house (sometimes we’re dramatic over here).  That was when I went back to the gym…and I’m much happier with a little bit of exercise.  If you aren’t part of a gym, you could become a mall-walker!  (I’m not actually kidding about that.)

8.  Drink coffee.  With caffeine.  That always makes me happy.  And nicer.  Just don’t drink too much or you won’t be able to stop talking and you’ll start to twitch.

Beat the Winter Blahs (Pattern and Branch)

9.  If you have kids, sign them up for swimming lessons.  Hey, I know it’s weird, but then you get to sit and watch them swim in that warm indoor pool air.  You could wear a tank top and flip flops and pretend it’s summer.  Or you could go to a sauna.  Or just sit in front of a space heater.

10.  Have summer in the winter!  Last week we cranked up the heater and put on shorts and t-shirts.  Then we made hamburgers on our Foreman grill and had cranberry shortcake.  It’s not the same as strawberry, but it’s still good.  Tim Gunn would tell you to make it work!

Yes, there is a lot of suspension of reality involved in these suggestions, but sometimes living in a dream world can be good for you and everyone around you.  Don’t worry, eventually spring will catch up to you and you can go back to living in reality.

Landscape

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I love beautiful landscapes.  I love looking at them whether in person, as a photograph, or as a painting (and probably in many other media, as well).  Since discovering new artists is something that I love, I thought I would share some of my favorite landscape artists with you as well.  I’ll link to each artist’s site or a gallery that carries their work.  Here they are, in no particular order.  Let’s go!

Dorothy Kerper Monnelly

Salt Marsh Island, Clouds by Dorothy Kerper Monnelly

“Salt Marsh Island, Clouds” by Dorothy Kerper Monnelly

If you love photography in the vein of Ansel Adams, you will love Dorothy Kerper Monnelly’s work.  Her images are pristine, precise, and expansive.  She also has two books out.  For My Daughters is her most recent, filled with her mother’s poetry and her photographs.  It’s a moving homage to a great poet by a great photographer and to a great mother from a loving daughter.  Her other book is The Great Marsh.  If you want a picture of an important part of the New England landscape, you can find it here.

T.M. Nicholas

“Sierra Morning” by T.M. Nicholas

T.M. Nicholas is an oil painter of the Rockport School of Art.  He is also the son of landscape painter Tom Nicholas, with whom he shares a gallery in Rockport, MA.  His New England landscapes are some of my favorites, but his work is fabulous no matter which part of the country it depicts (like in the picture above).  I met him a few years back and when I found out what he did, I looked up his work.  I was so much in awe of it, that I couldn’t talk to him the next few times I saw him.  It was sort of like a celebrity sighting, you know?  Luckily, I got over it.  :) His work makes me wish I had good money to spend on fabulous art or the skills to trade for some fabulous art.  Guess I’d better work on my sewing, huh?

Julia Purinton

I’ve seen Julia Purinton’s work in exhibitions several times, and I’m always struck by the luminosity of it.  Looking at photos of her work online doesn’t truly do it justice (as with all of these artists).  There is a real depth and light in her landscapes that isn’t fully captured by technology.

Pamela Turnbull

"Farnham's View" by Pam Turnbull

“Farnham’s View” by Pam Turnbull

After living in New England for several years, I decided to start a small art fund, so that someday, when I found a painting of the marshes that I loved, I could buy it.  Then one summer, at an art fair, I found the perfect painting called View from Farnhams.  It was by Pamela Turnbull.  (The above painting is similar to mine, but is not the same one.)

Tom Hughes

“Ready for Spring” by Tom Hughes

I discovered this painting several years ago and jokingly put it on my Christmas “wish list”.  It perfectly captures New England on the brink of spring.  His work is stunning.  I was telling Tom (T.M.) Nicholas about how fabulous it was and, guess what?  They’re friends!  It was almost like a double celebrity sighting (except that I’ve never seen Tom Hughes, but maybe we can just pretend).  :)  Sadly, no one has yet bought this artwork for me.  Maybe someday…

Caspar David Friedrich

The Sea of Ice 1824 - Caspar David Friedrich - www.caspardavidfriedrich.org

“The Sea of Ice” 1824 – Caspar David Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich’s work is moody, mysterious, and romantic.  I love the drama in his paintings.  His “Wanderer Above the Sea of Mists” was always my vision of Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff returning to Wuthering Heights in her book Wuthering Heights.

Ansel Adams

“Tetons and Snake River” by Ansel Adams

Who can talk about landscapes without talking about Ansel Adams?  His work is unparalleled.  He captures light, dark, and all the gradations in between with unwavering clarity.  When I was in the ninth grade, he inspired me to want to become a photographer (these days I can’t seem to stick to one medium, but I still love to take pictures).

We don’t have time and space now to visit the many other talented landscape artists I’ve found, so maybe we’ll return to this again, buy you can always visit my Pinterest page and look in the Art board if you’d like to see more of my favorites.

Cross-Country Skiing

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Here are some photographs of Monday’s adventure.  I don’t know about you, but I was starting to get cabin fever!

Cross-country ski day (Pattern and Branch)

Cross-country ski day (Pattern and Branch)

Cross-country ski day (Pattern and Branch)

Cross-country ski day (Pattern and Branch)

Cross-country ski day (Pattern and Branch)

Cross-country ski day (Pattern and Branch)

Cross-country ski day (Pattern and Branch)

I had a great time skiing along, feeling alone but not lonely when I realized that I wasn’t alone.  See that little speck just to the right of middle in this last photo?  Luckily it’s far away, but it was a coyote!  He may not have been too interested in me (thank God!), but I felt pretty nervous when I saw that we were sharing a field.  I’m just thankful to be telling that story instead of being that story.

A Mystery…

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While going through some old books, I came across this book that I’d read and saved from my childhood:

A Mystery! (Pattern and Branch)

Illustration by Jon Nielsen

I can’t remember the plot of the book, but what I really like is this cover picture.  My husband and I started to reimagine the story that went with it:

Donna Parker:  Who are you?  What are you doing here?

Intruder:  I, uh, um….

Donna Parker:  Wait a minute!  What…?  Are you…?  Are you doing the DISHES?!!!!

Intruder:  No!  I…Of course not!  I’m a man!  Men don’t do dishes!  I was, uh, fixing your blinds!

Donna Parker:  Where are all the dishes I left when I stepped out?

Intruder:  I don’t know!  Someone else must have broken in before me and done them!  You know, there have been a lot of these do-gooder break-ins lately.  I’ll just be going now.

Donna Parker:  You can’t fool me!  You have DISHPAN HANDS!  Have you been using my hand-softening dishsoap?!

Intruder:  I TOLD you!  I don’t wash dishes!  I just used it to wash my hands.  Is that a little old lady who needs help crossing the street?  Gotta go!  ‘Bye!

Donna Parker:  Where did those flowers on the window-sill come from…???

Full disclosure:  My husband washes dishes even more than I do, so I know men wash dishes.  We thought our version made a pretty great mystery for Donna Parker, though.  What do you think is going on in this picture?

It’s been a bit quiet over here…

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You may have noticed it’s been a bit quiet over at the blog lately.

Quiet Time (Pattern and Branch)

One reason, strangely enough, is that I needed to spend more time making things and less time planning blog posts.  This year is for learning balance.

Quiet Time (Pattern and Branch)

The other, in line with that, is that I’m working on a project for our local library.  I’m looking forward to sharing some of the process once it’s further along.

Quiet Time (Pattern and Branch)

In keeping with quiet, I thought you’d like to see some of what I’ve been seeing in my quieter moments.

If now is winter for you, I hope it has been good.  If it’s not winter in your part of the world, think what you have to look forward to!  ;)