What is Lynn Even WORKING on???

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The purpose of this post is twofold: give an update on my life/career/personal cosmic flow journey, and make all the other aimless, slightly frantic Just Starting Outers feel a little less alone in the world...

On that second point, seriously, if you've lived with this ever-present urge to do something "big" or fulfilling, but have also been granted the traits of impatience and over-thinking, join the club; it has been really harshing my mellow.

A vivid illustration of the phrase.

A vivid illustration of the phrase.

Something I'm learning to overcome is this misguided belief that EVERY entrepreneur has opportunities exuberantly thrown at them the minute they decide to work for themselves. For example, when I was merely entertaining the idea of starting an art business, I bought an online class from a couple of business-owners/bloggers that I've always admired. This class was supposed to guide you from the ground up and be very relatable, so one of the owners began the very first session with the story of how she got started in her business. I was REALLY looking forward to hearing something about how broke she was or working a corporate job she didn't love - ya know, something that I could relate with and get excited about my own future. Instead, she gave a brief narrative about how she was teaching a seminar in Italy and decided to start this business in a similar field.

(Cue emoji with straight line for mouth)

Hey! That is HER story, and it sounds awesome! I still love her and aspire to be as accomplished as she is, but that little bit was a tad discouraging. She already had a big following, and was obviously enough of an influencer to teach seminars in Italy, so how did she get to THAT point?? Could we trace her career journey back to her stationery card line in preschool? 

Anyway, I do not personally have that influence yet. I have about 278 Instagram followers (not that I'm counting...), a handful of email subscribers, and a bitty little studio in the spare bedroom of our tiny house. I need to remember that Future Lynn (Hi!) will be reading this someday and will think about how far she's come and be so glad she kept going.

It may be bitty, but there's loads of love. And by love I mean cat fur. And plants.

It may be bitty, but there's loads of love. And by love I mean cat fur. And plants.

Now here's an event update! As some of you may know, I worked at a manufacturing company as the graphic designer for almost four years. I absolutely loved my boss and coworkers, but the work itself was either uninspiring (for me, personally) or nonexistent, which got to me in subtle, gradual ways and began leaking into my personal business practices (like getting easily distracted and unmotivated). Despite the fact that it paid well and, for all intents and purposes, was a good job, I knew I couldn't sustain this and that, if I did stay on, I would become complacent, and any artist out there will probably agree that complacency is the enemy of creativity. 

One day I saw a local coffee shop that I frequent - and actually hung a few of my paintings in - was hiring, so I filled out the online application and got hired! I quit my graphic design job and I officially start next week as a part-time barista. 

I've never EVER worked a job like this before. I've either been a student or a graphic designer in my short life, and I am honestly intimidated by how different this is going to be, but equally excited to work in a high-energy environment that I hope will get me all jazzed for life again! 

As for this art business that I have (which you know about if you are here on this website reading this blog), I've been a little AWOL with marketing and social media lately. This is mostly because I also do local freelance graphic design and am finding it challenging to balance those projects with painting and maintaining this site. I know that's an excuse and I vow to get better at it! Just...ugh.

On that note, however, stay tuned for some exciting new paintings and whatever else comes out during this transition phase! As always, thank you SO much for your encouraging words and little hoo-rahs. You guys rock my world. 

PS- have you seen the new backpack that's available in the shop?? It is SO cute (if you'd so kindly indulge me to toot my own horn for a sec). Check it out! 

Bedroom Paint Makeover!

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When I was in New York City a few months ago, my aunt and I asked a gangly, bespectacled older man named Ron for directions. What was expected to be a quick conversation and send-off quickly transitioned into a very detailed and impromptu tour of Greenwich Village, commentated with New York accent-laced reports such as "That bar over there has awful service; my friend went there and they barely talked to him" and "If a person dressed like a monk comes at you on this corner, walk away. It's a scam" and "Don't hold your purse like that! What, are ya carryin' solid gold in it? Just relax!"

We were strung along with Ron for about forty-five minutes. Whenever we thought our personal little tour was wrapping up, he'd exclaim, "Okay. TWO THINGS," then proceed onto another indefinite tangent expounding on those two things (for the record, it was never just two things...). He's one of my fondest memories of that trip.

The only reason I recounted that is because I'm starting this post with two things (this is for you, Ron):

  1. Hating how a room looks is a great first step toward progress.

  2. It's really important to not hate how a room looks.

Enter: our bedroom.

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In my defense, the border along the top of the wall was already there and I had no intention of keeping it in my life (you can see a pathetically half-hearted attempt at peeling it off in the upper right corner). But yeah, it was impossible to get a decent looking before shot of this room because THREE THINGS: dark beige, forest green, and dark wood blinds.

I've mentioned before how the bedroom has always been a last-resort for me; I mean, I don't really hang out in it, and it's usually dark anyway when I am in it. Overall feeling? Meh. I pictured Robert DeNiro saying that, if it makes any difference in the connotation.

Then I refurbished this dresserand the contrast between how that thing made me feel and the room I stuck it in made something click: I hated being in the bedroom. Like, you can TELL just by that picture, can't you?? Stuff is just dumped willy-nilly and I'm now feeling a creeping shame in making this public. At least the bed is made...

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Disclaimer: this is not a how-to. I was thinking of showing my process of scraping that border off, but it's tedious and there were too many pictures of my fingers. This is more of a "Look what paint and a little effort can do!"

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Since I put this room off for so long, I'd pretty much developed my personal style into its current plateau by the time I went at it. I knew with utmost confidence that I wanted the walls, trim, and ceiling straight-up WHITE.

Fun factoid: scraping off the border revealed that the walls and ceiling were all painted with the exact same dark beige shade. It kind of felt like being in an enormous cardboard box.

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You wanna know what happened when I painted everything white? The room was (significantly) brighter and already a quite a bit happier, so I started updating other details. I actually felt like investing in this room! For example, I'd never noticed that it gets the most sunlight in our house, so I packed it with plants. We bought that amazing orange chair at an antique market, I moved that bulky wooden desk into my studio, I replaced the blasé comforter with my grandma's cheerful mid-century quilt, and the piles of junk are much less frequent. As a bonus, that bright green dresser (also my grandma's) is so much more of a statement now that it's not languishing in a murky brown corner.

The other day, I went in there just to read and hang out. I have never done that. It's my favorite room now. I legitimately stand in the doorway on sunny days and gaze at it like normal people might look at the Grand Canyon.

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It even encouraged me to paint more so I could fill it with my personality (there's something about brown walls that makes all my colorful paintings look a little washed out). It's a veritable snowball of creativity.

Is there a room in your living space that you were totally indifferent to until you read this? Maybe just a coat of paint is all it needs to start the transformation into your favorite spot! Try it out! I doubt you'll regret it, but if you do, blame Ron.

Paint (and Style) Matters

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This is a cheerleader post - the type of post that says, "You can do it!" and does toe-touches. Metaphorically. If you're feeling stuck in a style funk or that you're not that great at painting/crafting/cheese-making/etc... Have heart! Here is a stellar example of my own style and material evolution.

I did that about three years ago. It was shortly after graduating college with an animation (not fine art) degree; I was experimenting and had to "make myself" paint. This piece was totally fine at the time! I'm not harping on Past Lynn for painting this because it's a process (Love you, PL. Never change).

I dug it out of the studio closet the other day and thought, How would I paint this exact same thing now? So of course I painted over it.

How fun was this??? I recommend this type of project to anyone. Here's what I learned:

  • THE TYPE OF PAINT YOU USE MATTERS. The before painting was composed of those cheap little craft paint tubes you get from Kmart, with a splurge of gold leaf paint, which I left alone in the after painting. I've since come around to the fact that high quality paint leads to really polished art and super cool color palettes I'd never achieve otherwise.
  • IMPROVEMENT CAN BE REALLY IMPERCEPTIBLE. I kinda already knew that in theory (see this post), but applying it directly and literally really drove that home. That's only three years of progress!

Actually, that's it! This was a quick cheer (much like my own cheerleading career, which is to say, it was brief and only done in private)...

 

As always, prints are available!

Listen to Your Creative Gut!

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If you're a creator (and, face it, you are in one way or another. Yay you), you understand that little funky feeling of meh. I felt that earlier today. There sat a canvas on the easel and I really reeeeaaally wanted to start a painting before getting into some freelance design work. I stood there for a while like an idiot with this new show I found on Netflix playing in the background, per usual (it was a good run, Parks and Rec. I plowed through you like a herd of corn huskers). Nothing came to me. Nada in my noggin. I finally sat down in defeat and started designing with some folksy music playing, since designing and watching Netflix on dual monitors leads to ZERO work actually getting done. I guess designing uses the same part of the brain as the Netflix-watching one... In the middle of an action card design (I'll post about this really cool project I'm working on later, with permission from the game developer!), a Ben Howard song came on (look him up, yo. Serious chill), and I instantly was reminded of looking through a rain-streaked window at autumn trees. It was romantic, nostalgic, and oh so vivd in my brain, so I got up and painted it.

With my fingers. I was so stoked about the sudden burst of inspo that I had to be part of the painting with nothing in between. It was so thrilling and consuming - all the silly little problems and irks life were discarded for a while. Oh, how I needed that.

Thankfully Pandora sensed my need and played a couple more chill songs before finishing with a roaring Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as I wrapped it up (I swear it sometimes feels like these programs are sentient).

The lesson in all this? Listen to your gut. Our creativity perks up all the time and gives us a little nudge in some exciting direction, we just have to say, "Why not?"

It's kind of like in that Parks and Rec episode where Ann asks April how you get your gut to talk to you and April says, "It's not about getting your gut to talk to you, it's about listening to it when it does." Aaaaaaaa that show.

This is not objectively my best piece - maybe not even in the top fifteen - but that excited, raw energy and emotion is valuable, and it speaks to me in great ways. Perhaps it'll speak to others, as well. Hashtag ART, y'all. *mic drop*

Psst. If you're feeling this like I am, art prints are available in the shop!

Quick Inspo: Make Some Art on the Cheap!

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So the reality is that frames can get up there in price, which makes sense since they take artwork to another display level and we like that. If we're being totally honest with ourselves, we must admit that even a meh-diocre piece of art can look SO legit in a swanky frame, and not just because "The Swanky Frames" sounds like an awesome indie band name. I'm going to share with you a super top-secret, confidential method to get some amazingly displayed art in your house for cheap, as long as you're willing to do some DIY painting if needed (and you'll need it. It's fun. Trust me). Are you ready?? "YES, LYNN," you enthusiastically reply.

Step 1: patiently visit thrift shops five hundred times a month until you find the perfectly framed piece of art. I needed a long, framed something-or-other to hang on our wall by the front door. The key is to look past the original artwork. Some things to consider:

  • Is the canvas/paper/whatever material the art is printed or painted on in good condition? Does it have a weird varnish over it that may not take paint or other art media? Is it easily accessible through the back of the frame (some frames are dumb and practically require a jackhammer to get into from the back and you basically destroy it and yourself in the process)?
  • Is the overall thing sturdy? Will it break once you try to get into it?
  • Is the frame - or however it's displayed - to your liking? Squint at it and pretend your favorite painting is in it. Is it working for you? It's so easy to see a decent frame and decide it'll do. No. Get excited. LOVE the frame. BE the frame.
  • Are you going to be morally okay with painting over original artwork if the perfect frame is super custom and would be difficult to dismantle? This post is about that exact scenario.

Step 2: Enter: the perfect frame.

"OMG something new I'm gonna step on it OMG OMG."

This magnificent specimen was only 10 buckaroos and it's PERFECT. I'm using that word so much right now. It has "Hecho en Mexico" stamped on the back and it's perfect. Isn't that design on the wood so good?? It has so much character and home-madeness.

Now, let's discuss the art.

This is one of those stretched velvet paintings that are commonly sold by vendors to tourists. I actually really did like the scene because it's just so innocuous that pretty much anyone would like it (mass appeal: a concept I'm still trying to understand as it applies to me, which is ironic? Maybe? I don't know). It wasn't signed, and probably took the artist very little time to do since these kind of things are produced quickly and frequently, so I had very few reservations about painting over it.

With Parks and Rec playing in the background for the entire evening (Netflix is convinced I literally do nothing all day long), I settled on the living room floor, taped off the frame, and just went to town. Side note: velvet is weird to paint on with acrylics, as it turns out. I'm assuming fabric paint is more appropriate, but the painting that was there served as a decent primer.

After hanging it, I seriously couldn't get over it. I sat on the couch for at least ten minutes looking at it. That frame completes the painting so perfectly and it fits in with our house so beautifully. Ughhhhhh I'm so happy with it. AND IT WAS TEN DOLLARS, PEOPLE.

This frame is obviously very Latin-American flavored, so I looked up Latin American art and used that as a basis for this painting; I strive to stay true to the character of a piece that I'm modifying, whether it be furniture or art, because it otherwise just looks awkward and forced. It's kinda like reasonably tweezing your eyebrows versus shaving them off completely and drawing them back on in a totally different shape that doesn't fit your face.

With that horrifying simile in mind, go forth and get thrifting!!!

Shameless plug: this painting is available as art prints (sans the awesome frame. Sorry), throw blankets, shower curtains, and a bunch of other cool stuff!

Art & Sorrow

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This will be a quick little post, but, I'll be honest, I kind of puttered around the house for the last hour to mull it over and put off writing it. If you've read any previous posts, you may have noticed the general theme in every subject is joy and a little whimsy, with an observation about how art and creativity enrich our lives in cool ways. This post is totally about how art and creativity enrich our lives in cool ways, but there's some sorrow threaded into it this time.

So almost three weeks ago, I posted this painting progress shot on my Facebook page:

I was messing around with modeling paste for some experimental fun and thought it might do well with a white rose motif. If you know me and my work, I never paint roses. It's just not my thing. No biggie.

I was halfway through this piece when I got a call that a very dear aunt had passed away suddenly.

Disclaimer: I am part of an exceptionally enormous and close family (think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," but with a bunch of Irish people). This event sent an emotional wave each one of us felt separately and together.

That was on a Sunday. The following week is truly a flurry in my memory, punctuated with the conflicting happiness of seeing so many loved ones that traveled here from around the country, and grief for the reason. We were all so busy getting ready for the funeral and being sad that I had ZERO desire to do anything creative. Art was literally the last thing I wanted to consider. Like, I didn't even think about it, which is crazy, because it's such a fixture in my life that I kind of constantly obsess over.

That little half-finished painting sat abandoned on my easel for a few days, until one day I was alone and completely sick of not feeling like doing anything. I needed to just have a purpose to channel my sadness into. So I (somewhat half-heartedly) finished it.

My cousin saw it and, long story short, it was displayed at the calling and funeral because, as serendipity would have it, "white rose" was the theme (remember how I NEVER paint roses?). Now it's a monument to a colorful, energetic, and unconditionally loving mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt that I didn't even know I was making.

My least favorite question I heard in school was "How do we define art?" It inevitably became a debate about what art is, how it's actually undefinable (ingenious answer from those artsy know-it-alls *laughs uncomfortably*), why someone thinks abstract art is NOT art, etc... As I've experimented with my creative side throughout my life, I'm discovering the question actually should be "How does art define us?" Art has proven time and time again to me to be its own thing, separate from our formulae and stoic theory, that reaches out to us in unexpected, sometimes blunt, sometimes subtle ways. And it is beautiful.

Cultivating a Creative Life

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This post's subject is kind of a correlation/causation quandary. How's THAT for an opening sentence? Bahaha.

What I mean is that it's kind of hard to tell if I've been more creative because I changed my environment, or my environment changed because I've been more creative... Regardless, there's no doubt they go hand in hand like two peas in a pod with a big bucket of clichés. My creative journey over the past year has been a practical and, so far, quite affordable one, and I decided now's the time to share a bit of what I've learned and done to improve my artistic flow and general lifestyle.

1. MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD.

Cooking is its own form of art. It requires risks (hopefully none that result in a mad dash to the bathroom...), experimentation, a pinch of passion, and a heaping spoonful of determination. I've subjected the household to some weird, well-intentioned goop, but that's gradually led to, I think, a decent grasp on the culinary. I make practically everything from scratch now and rarely use anything pre-made or canned. Sure, it takes more time, but I've exercised that "Go Forth and Be BOLD" muscle enough in the safety of my own kitchen that it's applying more and more to other aspects of life (like art)! It's also simply more rewarding in the end.

A personal favorite: angel hair pasta with tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh chopped basil. Om to the nom.
A personal favorite: angel hair pasta with tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh chopped basil. Om to the nom.

I highly recommend researching some recipes for the stuff you usually see pre-made, like creamed soups, sauces, and egg noodles. Some are really fun to make on your own! In the long run, it's cheaper and healthier. Win win!

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P.S. Recipes might be an eventual goal for this blog... Just a heads up.

2. ATTACK YOUR WARDROBE.

Hello, I'm Lynn, and I used to be a clothes hoarder. No joke. I would traipse over to any thrift shop/retail store and insist that I had to buy something to actually be accomplished. I distinctly remember these horrific denim and faux wood platform shoes I found at Goodwill when I was 15. I NEVER wear platform shoes or heels in general. But, guys, I bought those shoes. You know that song by Mackelmore? I was the living embodiment of "But {censored}, it was ninety-nine CENTS!!!!" Those shoes sat dolefully in my closet - never worn - until I got rid of them about 5 years later. 90% of my wardrobe was utter rubbish I secretly hated (those shoes are just a vivid example). Then, about two years ago, I discovered how FUN it is to purge my clothes! And, as an added bonus, I've given a ton of my friends my old clothing that they truly like, which makes it significantly easier to say goodbye (to the clothes. Not the friends).

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That's my closet as of 3:00 this afternoon. It's not the most remarkable picture that ever graced Blogdom, but this is the BEST my closet has looked. Ever. I only have things I truly love and make me feel like myself (I'm gazing fondly at you, cream and charcoal chevron knit hoodie down there...). Oh, how that has made my life so much easier and free. I'm also not spending $3.99 about five hundred times throughout the year anymore. #yourewelcomewallet

3. DECORATE YOUR WALLS (WITH YOUR OWN WORK IF YOU CAN!)

There are approximately six million online tutorials on making your own abstract art. If you're not super confident in your artwork, check them out. Get some visual interest in your home!

Cats also offer a certain artistic ambience.
Cats also offer a certain artistic ambience.

Above was a canvas I finger painted on the living room floor while watching Pride and Prejudice. The obvious advantage is that I could make it fit in with the rest of the décor!

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This piece (which is available in the print shop, FYI #shamelessplug) brightens up our rather dull breakfast nook/dining corner.

4. MAKE YOURSELF PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE.

I had to get over my self-consciousness and nervousness and march down to the local coffee shop with my paintings to request they hang them up. I was ridiculously anxious about this! My friend came along for emotional support and decided to secretly take pictures of me talking with the manager. So flattering.

Side note: I need better posture. Shoulders back, Lynn!
Side note: I need better posture. Shoulders back, Lynn!

Spoiler: they hung my stuff. This makes it seem more "real," if that makes sense. I felt like Pinocchio after he gets turned into a real boy. I had to take the initiative to put my work out there and now I feel like I have this new accountability to the community to keep painting. That's motivation.

On an equally scary note, this website, my Facebook page, and my print shop were all steps I forced myself to take. Each one was, technically, very simple and cheap to execute, but the return has been BEYOND what I imagined. I haven't made a living off of these things (yet! Ha!), but the fact that I am now responsible for how I express/promote myself has been an immensely important step toward my goal of full-time painting. Pre-Website Lynn was a lot more adrift than Current Lynn.

5. COMMUNITY!

This is a big one. I'll make it quick, though: if you want to get pumped about your craft/hobby/business, join some Facebook groups. Get on those hashtags and whatnot. I joined some entrepreneur groups on Facebook and followed a ton of artists I admired, then I started commenting on stuff. I've made some connections with people I aspire to be, and that's got me all kinds of jazzed for my own career! I don't know how I functioned before this.

6. INVEST IN YOUR CREATIVE CORNER

My office/studio is the tiny spare bedroom. It's not glamorous, but I've worked to make it into a space I can feel energized in. I need simple and bright to feel focused, as well as a Netflix machine somewhere within eyeshot.

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This room got a huge overhaul a couple months ago. Like my closet, it was full of stuff I just had. Not stuff I liked. It doesn't require much adding to make a space creative; more often than not, it requires subtracting. 

Overall, the takeaway might be that devoting more time to simplicity, finding community, and finding your inner boldness will jump-start your creative life more than you'd expect! I'm so excited for what lies ahead! Maybe an original painting shop? Hmmm... ;)

Happy creating!

How Living in a Small House Made Me a Better Artist

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Ha. So this post took me WAY back in all sorts of good and uncomfortable ways. The one word I refuse to use to describe it is "embarrassing," though, because that's a totally not-constructive way to view your progress! To start: this is going to be less about "artistic ability" and more about "just figuring stuff out." I'm totally not harping on any certain style and you may in fact prefer my old work over what I do now! That's a-okay! Just know I'm never goin' back again (if you sang Fleetwood Mac when you read that, we are automatically friends).

Circa-ish early 2014 - A monument to my attempt at pallet knives

After we got married, Jonathan and I moved into a decent-sized rental house that was pretty vanilla except for a cool brick wall in the den. It had three bedrooms, two living areas, and a ton of (beige) wall space to fill. I cranked out paintings willy nilly without a whole lot of thought; basically as long as they were mostly earth-toned and not too crazy, they would fit in. I would not call it a "bold" approach. I garnered a lot of inspiration from prints I saw at department stores, which makes it all the more ironic that that is now the total opposite of my style.

Also early 2014 - So much black. This guy got painted over earlier this year, may he rest in peace.

A common theme with my earlier paintings - and even my current ones to some extent - is efficiency. I wanted to just make as many as possible, so I'd buy those black canvases and paint quick shapes on them and call it done.

 

A lighter one, but an exact replica of a Kirkland print I saw online. How times change. Also, sorry for the fuzzy picture... this one no longer exists for me to take a better shot at.

 

The Dark Phase.

 

The Brown Phase.

 

Oh, so close to not being completely brown...

So what changed (besides my picture-taking ability)??

We bought a 850 sq. ft. house, that's what!

When we moved, I came to realize just how much crap I'd accumulated in just over a year. We had to majorly downsize to a two-bedroom, one tiny living room space, and I had to get SELECTIVE. Since I lacked any sort of personal, unique, and BOLD style, I tended to buy anything that was A) On sale and B) Not totally hideous. As a result, I didn't really like anything I had, including my paintings.

Then I had to choose wall paint for the first time! I'm actually quite grateful that the previous owners had such an affinity for brown and tan walls (and ceilings... maybe not so grateful for that aspect) because looking at vast swaths of my "comfort colors" made me realize I actually don't like them much. They don't make me feel creative; and here I was painting with them all. The. Time.

Having a small house that cannot physically fit the average American's paraphernalia is the best thing that ever happened to my style and general happiness. 

The approach to furniture and knick-knacks has evolved from "I have room for that. Why not." to "Does this enrich my life and is it worth the space it will take up?" Wouldn't you know it, once I started asking those questions, the answer was most often a resounding "NOPE." Applying that same mindset to my work afforded me a newfound pride and genuine pursuit of boldness in my style.

Below is a little style collage I threw together that spans the past three to four years. Something that really stood out to me as I made it (besides the gradual 180 with the color schemes) was how my control improved! The earlier paintings just seem a little more timid and desperate - like, I didn't really know what the brush and paint were going to do and I tried to paint despite that, instead of with it! It's as if the less I controlled the paint, the more polished and professional my style got! How does that even work??? Art is weird.

I've actually just been staring at this collage instead of writing for a while because it's making me feel stuff! Mostly I have a happy pride with how far I've come; this graphic is a visual compilation of hundreds of hours, paint, frustration, perfectionism, victories, and mistakes. If you've been a creative for a while and have a history of work, I HIGHLY encourage you to do something like this collage right here! Dude. It's pretty cool. I'm even more excited now to see where this takes me.

Love the phase you're in. Learn from it. Don't get too comfortable. You'll be amazed at yourself later. :)

How I Use Photoshop to Plan an Accent Wall

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Quick backstory: the master bedroom was painted the same color tan on the walls and ceiling with a border around it. It was one of the last rooms I tackled in this house because a) Everything was just so tan and unmotivating and b) I had very little interest in what the bedroom looked like. I mean, the most I do when giving a home tour is vaguely gesture at the slightly open door and say "That's the bedroom but it's messy and there's nothing in there anyway." Vicious cycle. I finally did something about the tan, which got me motivated to do more, but that's for a later post; right now, I just want to focus on accent wall planning!

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That magnificently professional picture is the original I took with my iPhone; however, side note: do you realize how hard it is to take a halfway decent bed picture? Pillows are the most rebellious photo subjects and our room is so tiny I had to scrunch up against the wall to get this shot. Rant over.

As you can see, the room is rather plain (save for that bonkers duvet that was my grandma's. I can't get enough of it). I painted the walls and ceiling a simple ultra white so I could have the perfect blank canvas for my wacky exploits.

If you don't have Photoshop/don't want to learn all this, you can still just take separate pics and throw them together for ideas, either on a mood board or Pinterest. This little project is more in depth because if I can, I just will.

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I cropped and adjusted the brightness in the picture first, then cut out the wall behind the bed with the lasso tool (I have a tablet that makes this easier, but the pen tool would work, too). I applied a subtle drop shadow to the original image for more realism (because heaven forbid this look WEIRD).

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Then the fun part! I scoured Hygge & West's wallpaper (my love) and took snippets of a few that popped at me. Now, I plan on actually painting this wall, not using wallpaper, so I had to keep that in mind. I'd prefer something a little more organic so I don't go bananas trying to make anything too perfect (I'm looking at you, bottom middle that I love despite myself...). This is more of a game plan to determine the right look and color palette, not what the final product will look like.

All I did was put the wallpaper on a separate layer under the original picture layer so it peeks out through the big hole I cut, and adjusted as needed. Some have had their hues messed with so they're not exactly what you might see on H & W's website, because I'm a ruthless barbarian when it comes to hue and color selectors.

There's no big reveal here (gasp! Betrayal!), but planning is its own process, and I'm still toiling over which one I like best (I've stared at that lineup until I'm cross-eyed) and I may even go back later and add more patterns. I just hope this helps you make some bold choices you otherwise wouldn't've made, since, you know, shopping photos is pretty low-risk as opposed to actually painting a wall.

Now get planning! Go wild and make some bad choices! What's there to lose here? :)

Why I Have Houseplants

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Houseplants have a somewhat unremarkable reputation; like, your mom had some that you had to water sometimes for chores kind of reputation, but it turns out they're super beneficial! I started collecting and indiscriminately murdering plants about three years ago, and I now feel like I have a decent grasp on what works to keep a plant generally upright and alive and how it really enriches life. SUNLIGHT

I used to not really care if our blinds were closed. I opened them sometimes so I could see what I was doing during the day, but otherwise, meh. Now that I have plants in every room, I'm super conscious of letting as much sunlight into the house as possible! As a result, I've noticed that I have a new appreciation for bright light and happy colors and that my overall mood has been boosted.

asparagus-fern

RESPONSIBILITY

In a list of good stuff, you'd hardly expect that word to EVER show up. Bleagh. But here's the thing: plants are basically low-maintenance pets. Their needs and rewards are more subtle, but there's a real satisfaction in keeping even just one alive for years (I have TWO out of COUNTLESS that have made it from the beginning, and I beam with joy at them. #proudmom). Watering used to be annoying to me, but now I see it as affirmation that I'm taking care of something living and dependent on me. It's kinda therapeutic in a way!

lilypothos

AIR PURIFYING

Plants are a little cheaper than a diffuser (unless you buy a fiddle leaf fig every other day #lifegoals) and are really effective at improving air quality in your house, especially during winter when the windows aren't open as often. NASA itself did an intensive study on this, and recommends at least one plant per 100 square feet of indoor space (nailed it). I can't exactly anecdotally testify that anybody's breathing is significantly better around here, or that it even smells better than three years ago (actually, it does, but that's because I got better at cleaning and we moved out of a run down rental), but just knowing that those plants are pulling their weight around here is nice.

schefflera

DECORATION

Plants are the dark wash jeans in the décor world; they are SO versatile. Blank spot on a shelf? Plant. Ugly subwoofer on the floor? Plant. Weird color scheme? Plant. You know how you sometimes feel like a room is just so plain and...boxy? Heck, you might think that right this second if you look around. Plants provide an organic contrast to all our indoor straight lines. Seriously, you cannot go wrong here. And can we talk about POTS??? The above picture was a somewhat unsatisfying gold paint attempt but I'm SO going to play with pots later. The possibilities are endless.

snake-plant

NATURAL

I mean natural in the sense that plants are "of nature." We humans have an intrinsic need to be connected to nature. Much like the food we eat, the more processed and removed from nature our environment is, the more it harms us. It's way too easy to not even notice after a while. Plants offer a reminder of what's important for our health (this is not a health and wellness blog so I'll stop there lest I rant endlessly).

pothos

CREATIVE BOOST

Ever notice how plants - particularly flowers - have been trending in the art world for the past few centuries? I'm telling you, plants, with their diverse leaf patterns and seemingly random growth methods, are a hive of creative expression. I can honestly say that looking at a plant sparks a little artistic thought that can go so many ways. If you're pursuing your creativity, a plant or two that makes you feel just a little something is SO good for you.

dracaena-limelight

 

SUPER BASIC CARE

Let the record show that I acknowledge I am not a plant expert. What I have learned, however, that the most effective methods of not letting plants die is 1) drainage and 2) reading them.

Drainage is a big one, folks. I've seen some fun, cute DIY projects for plant containers, but then they don't proper DRAINAGE! DANK DRAINAGE! This post is out of control. You either need to have a little reservoir for water to pool and evaporate, like the little dishes on the bottom of pots, which have holes drilled into the base, OR about an inch or more of large-ish gravel at the bottom of the pot. Otherwise, root rot. I had a plant that slowly turned brown and died a horrible, slow death. When I pulled it out of the pot, there was half a gallon of dirt water festering at the bottom. Thus, I learned that day. Drainage matters.

Reading plants is a little weird-sounding, like beta fish whisperer (which I'm convinced my husband is), but I've gradually figured out that a drooping plant with sort of wrinkly, soft leaves is thirsty (some are big drama queens about this), a plant losing leaves and color needs more light, and browning at the stem base plus drooping means too much water. There's more to it, surely, but I've managed to keep plants generally sustained by knowing those three things. The key is just to move your plant around the house if it seems to be suffering despite proper watering. It'll tell you when it's happy somewhere!

I do feed the plants once a week with this:

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I've been doing it for a while so I can't exactly compare how they do without it, but it can't hurt, right?

I hope this gave you a little nudge to nab a plant or two or twelve from the store next time you're out. Enjoy your little green friends! :)

I Designed My First Pattern!

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I'm so drawn to patterns, pretty much everything in my wardrobe clashes. How fun is it, though, to study the flow and repetition of a great motif?? It's Stay-In-On-A-Friday-Night kind of fun!

So I like patterns. And I decided to try my hand at a real, live pattern design with the idea in mind that I can eventually get good enough at it to design ALL MY STUFF. We're talking duvets, pillows, shirts, the siding on my house, EVERYTHING. Reality is a big bowl o' peach pits, however, and I've discovered that pattern-designing is not a "Just DO It" kind of task (sorry, Shia. You're wrong on this one) - it involves a lot of technicalities that I never even considered. I'm fine with the outcome, considering it's my first go. In fact, I'm downright pleased with it, but I know my next will be better, and so on. Yay for blind optimism.

Here's how I started:

Pattern Layout

 

That's a magnificently professional shot of my initial layout, pencil on canvas paper. Not pictured is the TV playing Curb Your Enthusiasm in front of me. We keep it serious around here.

To get to that point, I traced around one of my husband's seminary books to create the vertical rectangle (again, serious business here), then roughly sketched a horizontal line through the middle. The point of this is to create essentially six corners to start a design element from (marked in teal dots). So all my leaves, branches, and frog bottoms start from these points.

Pattern Painting

Next I started painting within my pencil guides.

Pattern Outlining

Then I grabbed a fine tip Sharpie and went to town after the paint had completely dried (which takes approximately one episode of Larry David loudly being misunderstood).

final pattern

Whoa, okay. I totally get that we just jumped like five steps, but they were kinda boring. Here's the gist: I took a picture of my final rectangle, brought it into Photoshop, enhanced the color, brightened the whites, and duplicated/flipped it a few times, then duplicated and flipped that. Thrilling. A lot of this was just tweaking size and discovering that it looked a little more organic if I rotated the whole pattern a little.

frondly-yours-black-small

 

Then I got Photoshop freaky and played with the "Subtract" adjustment. What a totally different vibe! I really dig the two versions, so I decided to make both available as pillows and various other fun stuffs in the shop.

pillows

Next time, I want to figure out the right layout so that the pattern doesn't look so...boxy. You can kind of tell where each segment is (I'm really selling this, I know). I also want to experiment with more geometric patterns down the road, too. But I LOVE messing with color schemes and patterns are perfect for just that! Aren't you just itching to try a pattern design yourself?? It's okay if the answer is "no" but it is pretty fun. :)

I Cut My Hours to be an Artist: The Beginning Stages

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What we make time for is what is most important to us. This is actually kind of embarrassing considering the stuff I've logged countless hours doing (gives Netflix an accusing glance), but this has really been hitting home lately; in somewhat unsettling ways. I've touched briefly on the subject of creativity and inspiration and the silly expectations we get stuck in. It can actually be self-crippling in a way because, say, if I feel more strongly than life itself that I'm meant to be a world-famous, critically-acclaimed painter, I can quickly and easily become consumed by that expectation, not the actual art, which in turn makes me feel either so inadequate I wonder why I bother, or resentful of anything in my life that I perceive as a hinderance to my goals. I speak from experience. Big time. I'm probably not way off the mark here that every artist has felt this to some degree (if you haven't, I will personally interview you and air it on all the major networks).

I've been trying to see it all more simply. Honestly, I just simply love painting. I love art. I love that it pursues me; it's right at my fingertips whenever I return to the easel no matter how much time I've spent away. Art has no expectations. It just says, "Here, try this. See what happens." Art feels like home.

home-workspace

 

So here's the skinny: I decided very recently to cut my hours at work so I can commit more time to "Home." I TOTALLY haven't had moments where I think, "WHATHAVEIDONE??????" and start scavenging for large boxes in case we have to live in an alley... but crazy awesome things don't happen without crazy scary feelings right beforehand.

Let's face it, there's a stigma in the world regarding making a living as an artist, and, frankly, it can sometimes be for good reason. I'm currently trying not to get hung up on that as I type this. I'm not going to try to argue that, but what I will do is list my reasoning for this big transition in my life that I've dreamed of for years so that, if you're in the same boat, I can help a fellow creative rationalize such an emotional decision.

  1. FINANCES: Okay, so, my husband's a youth pastor and I've been working a graphic design job with freelance design and painting on the side. With all that, we do kind of mostly alright. We live in a really affordable area and own our 850 sq. ft. house. BUT, we by no means live a lifestyle that many would call...decadent? Or even, in some circles, nice? And you know what? It's changed our perspective. Instead of working more hours so we can eat out more, shop at World Market with reckless abandon, and get our galley kitchen expanded out about twenty thousand feet, we've discovered the sweet simplicity of homemade hot chocolate and good conversation with people we really like. It's encouraged my creativity by making me see the potential in Goodwill finds. It's forced us to really analyze what makes us happy (disclaimer: it's not "stuff"). It's so cliché, I know. That's why we love it. So that's why I'm not completely wigging out about this. Sure, we will probably (definitely) have less income for a while as I work on my business, but we know what's important. We will make it work.
  2. FULFILLMENT: This builds off of finances. I was really really fortunate to figure out early on that I wasn't getting fulfilled through clothes, knick knacks, or imagining myself working at Pixar (I graduated with an animation degree). I'm such a simple person; I just want to hang out with my mom, catch a movie with Dad, pet my cats, make dinner with Jonathan, and live a life full of art and love. I for real just got this hilarious visual of Jon Lennon nodding his head appreciatively at me. Such validation. Are you living a life that reflects your fulfillment? Do you spend time deliberately? I certainly wasn't for the longest time and it's actually mind-boggling to look back on how I spent my days just two years ago. Complacency is the wall between us and fulfillment. But really, folks.
  3. SELF-MOTIVATION: This is the trickiest one. Ugh. I, ironically, just don't even want to try to explain this one. Here's the gist: I started joining freelance and artist Facebook groups. My whole Facebook feed turned into people seeking advice, posting wins, and showing off their amazing work. I got some help from some of the communities and have gotten more and more engaged with the members. It seems stupid-simple, but I don't think I would've had the chutzpa to walk into my boss' office and start the "So here's the thing..." conversation with him without the support of these internet strangers. I wouldn't feel half as motivated to paint without seeing the hard work of other artists. Seriously, COMMUNITY MATTERS SO MUCH. I can see a massive difference between Pre-Facebook Group Lynn and Now Lynn. easel

This is my most recent painting, "Isle Survive." This one is going to hold a special place in my little arty heart because it's kind of a symbol of this transformation. To me, this painting says, "I'm the real deal! I was made with passion and purpose." Same here, painting, same here.

 

How to be BOLD with DIY Ideas

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Do you ever have little visuals that pop into your head that get you briefly excited, but then you laugh it off? I'm talking stuff like gerbil-sized elephants and holographic carpet (I can't be the only one).

Or maybe it's an idea that's possible in this dimension/century, but it's still a little kooky...  It's really easy to dismiss it with a sensible "harumpf" and move on to more reasonable pursuits. I know there's an invisible arsenal of weird but awesome ideas I've had that I glossed over and missed out on something amazing.

BUT. I actually decided to try one of my weird ideas. And, guess what, I DIG it. I'm not guaranteeing a 100% success rate here - believe me, I know - but who're we trying to impress anyway?

It's a palm leaf patterned side table. Okay, so not as earth-shattering as mini Safari animals.

My inspo:

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That's a gorgeous wallpaper from Hygge and West. I'm not advertising them, just love their stuff big time. And, bonus, this particular design is by Justina Blakeney of The Jungalow. I absolutely CRAVE her blog and style. She does Bohemian right. Check it.

So, funny thing, planning a pattern is SUPER technical. This is not to be taken lightly, people. When I actually sat down to figure out the design, I felt like I was short circuiting.

pattern-planning

Like, what direction do the fronds go?? How does a pattern repeat?? I wanted something more wild than the wallpaper above, but not random. I'm so glad I plotted this project out (for once).

Here's the patient who'll be receiving the bold treatment:

table-before

Aw, she looks so surprised. This is a beautiful antique table I scored at a local thrift shop: it's sturdy, has the beautiful, straight lines I look for, and that 1940s-50s leather top we all know and love. Mostly. This poor thing may have been a rescue from an underground antique table fighting ring, because that leather top was in terrible shape. I don't have the savvy to refurbish it and I'd honestly bet it wouldn't be possible anyway considering the extent of the damage.

Confession: I was actually a little hesitant to post this since it's obviously a high-quality antique table, so painting it may be akin to defacing it in some circles, but here's my reasoning when it comes to making over antiques:

  • There are hoards of antiques stuck in attics and storage rooms and stores that already not being appreciated and may never be because it's "taboo" to alter them.
  • There are certain design elements that make a particular antique truly special (for this one, the gold leaf paint lines on the legs, top, and front drawer). The piece as a whole is just furniture. I chose to stay true to the uniqueness of this table and leave the gold leaf be and design around it.
  • At the end of it all, it was a person who crafted this piece with creativity and love, so what better way to honor that than use your own creativity and love to give it a better life full of appreciation than it would have had huddled in the corner of a vendor booth?

I understand that there are exceptions (like, historic kinds of exceptions) to this...

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SO. You have this intriguing idea and you have no idea if it'll actually work out. Ask yourself: "Is this a priceless 19th century Spanish fresco I'm planning on making over?" No? Then you're good. And hey, if you don't run a DIY and creative blog, you have even less risk here! ;)

taped-top

First order of business: tape off anything you don't want any paint lovin'. I'll admit, keeping the gold leaf design on the top was an iffy decision for me... I really had trouble visualizing how that would turn out and hoped I wouldn't regret it; but this is about being BOLD.

enamel

I went the enamel route instead of latex primer and paint. It went on nicely and seems to be pretty durable!

taped-off

 

stems

brush-stroke

After the enamel had dried after two coats, I used a small round brush to paint on the gold stems (the paint is normal acrylic) and get a decent layout of the pattern.

brush-paint

Then it was just a matter of mixing greens, whites and blues and carefully painting on the branches. Hint: Three colors of similar hue (in this case, green) seem to be the best choice for busy patterns like this. It keeps it interesting but not crazy.

before-peel

This was before I peeled the tape up. I'll admit there was some frustration with "wrapping" the branches around the edges and sides (you can see a little of the attempt on the front there), but then realizing it looked awful and trying to paint the entire top edge with green to cover it up and realizing that looked more awful. If I had a mustache, I would've torn it out.

table-final

And done! Wooty woot. I seriously love it more and more every time I look at it. It's the first thing you see when you walk through the door, and I think it's a perfect little welcome wagon that showcases that this is a creative place, and it's got an elegant yet Bohemian vibe that I'm starting to dig big time.

Do you have any wacky, zany, outrageous ideas rattling around? Take it from me, your friendly internet blogger and her pal Shia, and just DO it!

The "Art" of Inspiration

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I don't love "inspiration." It's the Creatives' Anthem, sure, but it's so fickle; it should be called "fleeting-euphoria-that-you-must-act-upon-NOW," but Webster has yet to respond to my calls. Disclaimer: I know my tagline "Make Life Inspiring" might seem contradictory to this whole post, but it actually works with it. You really do have to make inspiration!

But really, if you are a creative type in any capacity, and you don't feel inspired, congratulations on being a normal human (sorry, I know we hate being referred to that way). ;) As I've been making strides to transition my art from hobby to profession, it's become even more... sludgey...when I paint. That was the only word that came to mind (another note for Webster). On one hand, I'm super jazzed about getting my work out there and it's challenging me in really cool ways, but on the other I feel like I'm constantly on the brink of burnout and wonder why I'm even bothering. This is NOT a pity post, it's an encouragement post because I KNOW for a fact that this is reality for so many. I don't have a perfect nugget of wisdom that will transform your entire life and I'm definitely in the midst of learning a LOT of hard lessons that I can't even identify yet.

On THAT heavy note, I do have a pretty simple method I recently found that's really effective at reminding me that I really do love what I'm doing and that it's worth it, and lucky for you, I'm not the secretive, stingy type (which has been my downfall on occasion)!

PAINT WHAT YOU KNOW AND LOVE

Replace that first word with "write," "bake," "sculpt," whatever applies to you. It seems WAY oversimplified and, honestly, sounds like a phrase I would normally ignore for being a meaningless platitude. But seriously, guys, there's such a pressure to push boundaries and take risks (hey, this whole blog is a risk for me in its own way!!!), but pursuing the new and edgy and totally original just for the sake of responding to that pressure is exhausting! The subtle things you learn from delving into the familiar are endless and essential for creative growth, which is what I'm learning right this very moment. 

Here's exactly how I made this (gradual) discovery, because being vague on subjects like this is awful and we all want to look at pictures now!

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That is Lake Michigan as seen from Highway 2 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a.k.a. where my heart and soul live. If you know me on a remotely personal level, you will have already been aggressively made aware of this. I seriously love it up there.

beach-pic

I've lately been in the habit of painting aerial scenes of water, all starting with this:

Sea Kayak Painting

...which started with a cool featured image of rough waters I once saw on a streaming music site. While painting it, I thought Huh. I like kayaking in Michigan a lot. I'll just put a kayak in it. Whatevs. And you know what, that's one of my favorite pieces ever. I know now it's because I painted what I knew and loved. 

I liked painting that one so much, I just kept doing similar pieces: aerial views of water and waves, with the occasional kayak. It's not the most boundary-pushing, gritty art I've ever produced, but I have grown as an artist in this phase more than ever!

So on our latest trip to the Upper Peninsula (also known as the UP), I took a few pictures to reference on this next painting to give me an extra boost.

I wasn't going for realism here (I'm the queen of Nopatience Land), but reference photos can be awesome and, I'll finally admit, I used to really resist ever painting from photos because I wanted to be SO original, resulting in some wonkily inaccurate, under-developed weirdness where it just didn't belong. Remember that point about pursuing the edgy and totally original...?

painting-layout

This isn't really a painting tutorial (you can see one here if ya want!), but I'll include a few good ol' progress pictures.

final

Voilà! I happily thought of the UP the whole time I worked on this and ended up with something that's meaningful and loved, which, I think, is always evident in a piece of art.

Shameless Plug Alert: If you'd like a print of this and other pieces, check out my shop! :)

How to Use Fabric to Transform an Old Side Table.

This post is chronicling the aftermath of a personal DIY failure involving painting an unprepped surface (use primer, peeps!). This little end table was an innocent casualty of my madness, and I hope I've somewhat redeemed myself... So I've always kind of contemplated the idea of smearing some cool fabric on something and calling it a day - no painting or stenciling - which is an appealing prospect, and, wouldn't ya know it, it works! And it's SO easy. All it takes is some careful patience depending on how complex the furniture is, an exacto knife, scissors, Modge Podge, a brush, and Polycrylic. I would DEFINITELY recommend only doing this for relatively flat surfaces.

Modge Podge and Fabric

Modge Podge and Fabric

I found some really cool fabric at JoAnn. I also probably was the employees' greatest entertainment of the day because I just have no clue about fabric and have maybe been in a JoAnn once before so I wandered around for a while clutching the big... spool..? of fabric wondering what I was expected to do next before finding the lady who cuts it down for you (and I accidentally told her I needed more than twice as much as I'd actually measured for. I was under a lot of pressure, okay?).

Upside Down

Upside Down

Throw it upside-down-diggity onto the fabric and cut about two inches around the surface that will be covered. For the top shelf (bottom shelf in the pic), you can see that I won't have much room to secure the fabric underneath, so I had a lot of excess that needed to be trimmed. The other two shelves were easier in that department, but they made up for it with the side embellishments getting all up in the way and having to tediously cut around them.

Kitten

Kitten

I had a lot of help with this project. Kittens are known for their dedicated assistance in the use of sharp objects and glue. His name is Vinyl and a week ago he was near death on main street. That sounds like a mystery novel...Near Death on Main Street. Anyway, we're suckers for small, pathetic fluffs.

Once the fabric's cut, turn it right-side-dizzly, glomp on the Modge Podge, and smooooooth it out. Banish every wrinkle. IF THERE ARE ROUNDED CORNERS, do NOT Podge the Modge on them. I am supremely thankful and slightly surprised that my brain realized this from the beginning.

This table has rounded corners on the top (thank the Lord it's only the top), which is tricky, particularly for someone like me who's scared of fabric. After the Modge Podge had mostly dried (which takes almost no time), I turned the table back upside-down, cut the corners of the fabric as pictured, then used a small, flat brush to secure the two flaps on the underside with more Modge Podge. NOTE: you will get glue EVERYWHERE. That is obviously why I am doing this on the carpet in the living room... I need a workshop.

Sleeping Kitten

Sleeping Kitten

Cutting Excess

Cutting Excess

Use an exacto knife to carefully trim excess fabric and thread.

Polycrylic

Polycrylic

Now for the final step! Apply a couple coats of Polycrylic. Wasn't that a breeze??

Corner Done

Corner Done

Finished

Finished

Doesn't it look so happy and unique? And I didn't even have to painstakingly paint any little gray triangles! This would be an awesome method to easily refurbish a table that has really bad blemishes that couldn't simply be covered with paint. Are you thinking of anything you could fabric-ify??

How to Paint With Expression

This is going to be a little Bob Ross-esque with a dash of expressionism, and it's for anyone who cares at least a smidgen about art because it's a mix of tutorial and an illustration of how I personally go through the process of painting. So here's a glimpse into my little studio:

Studio

It's nothing fancy (this is an 850 sq. foot two-bedroom house, after all), but it's what I got and I made it mine.

Setup

These are the basic tools for acrylic painting: Paper towels, various brushes, pallet (the immortal ice cream container lid lives on), a container of water, and paint. It's actually pretty simple; it just looks messy. Probably because it is. Anyway...

The biggest challenge for me is getting over that daunting blank canvas. If you stare at it too long it will seriously mess you up. The possibilities are so endless that you start to feel utterly incapable of thinking of anything to paint at all. Mind. Totally blank. Like that canvas.

I am a half-hearted user of Pinterest (I'm sorry, Pinterest! It's not you, it's me), but my very selective "Painting Inspiration" pin can sometimes reboot my brain, or a random Google search. This time, I typed in "Marquette, Michigan" because that's where I want to live. I'm exercising a lot of restraint to not gush about it... The following picture caught my eye as I mindlessly scrolled.

Cinque-Terre-Italy

That is not Marquette. It was some article about European living in comparison to Marquette (Marquette's better. It will always be better). But my brain said "Oooo!" when it saw it so I indulged it.

Since this is going to be more of an abstract painting, my very first order of business is penciling in a vague guide of the painting's movement.

Penciling

This basically grounds me in the canvas and lets me see how the composition will look. You can just see the backward "S" shape, which is a tried and true layout for anything:

Pencil

I saw a saying once that really helped me with starting a painting (I can't find the author though...)

Get out of the way and the art will make itself.

Profound, right? It kicked my butt, at any rate. So I grabbed my trusty "mop" brush and just WENT for it.

Big Brush Type

This is one of my favorite brushes: it provides some fun texture depending on how you use it, and it covers large areas, which are both ideal for more emotional paintings like this one. It also forces me to commit from the get go because it just glomps the paint right on.

It's pretty important to consider your color pallet before diving in so you don't end up wasting paint and getting frustrated halfway through. I'm a huge fan of teals and oranges contrasting together with a purple-ish blend between them. Planning your colors makes it far easier to organize your paint dollops on the pallet so you don't end up accidentally mixing a bunch and getting amoebic dysentery brown.

Here's the paint dollops I used for this first part: yellow, orange, red, a deep magenta, violet, and a big glob of white. Start with the lighter colors, like yellow, orange, and red in this case, and work in the darker colors as you go along so to avoid ending up with a dark, muddled blob.

It sometimes helps to dip the brush in several colors at once so you can get a cool, quick multi-color effect.

First App

Then, make like Shia LaBeouf in a Nike ad and Just DO It!

Blob

So now we have a fun, humongous blob. The key is to just focus on one step at a time. This step is strictly color and layout. I'm pretty happy at this point about how the colors are working together, but I got a little crazy and deviated from that pencil guide, so it looks a tad flat on the left. That's what the white paint's for! Let's all take a moment to be grateful for white paint. It washes away so many transgressions.

Blending White Big Brush

CLEAAAAANNNN that mop brush and dry it off. Then dip it in that white paint dollop and go to town with it, wetting and wiping your brush as you go along so the white doesn't get contaminated.

Applying White

Blending White

After globbing white on, I used a smaller brush to blend some spots so it mellowed out the edge of the blob a little. Paint the whole canvas, even if it is with just white paint. Otherwise, it will never look complete and the bare canvas texture against the painted portions will look a little stark. I tried to incorporate just a hint of color with some sections of white to add a little interest.

Splashes Detail

Here's an example of some of the wild fun you can have with brush texture! Just stippling a lightly-loaded brush creates some neat effects.

Before Details

Done! Just kidding. It honestly looks fine as far as color and composition go, but it really is just a bunch of paint glomps. Now for the fun part!

Tiny Brush

It's our favorite little round brush! Hi, guy! We are so ready to paint small details with you and we will not be intimidated by that.

I took the canvas and paint out to the living room for this part because, let's be honest, it's way more fun to agonize over tiny paint details while crouched on the floor with Friends playing in the background.

So I didn't document this part all that well (do you know how hard it is to take a good picture of your own hand using a dinky brush??), but it's pretty straightforward: wait for the paint to mostly dry (it can still be slightly sticky), wet the small round brush really well before dipping it in a fresh white dollop, and continually wet it and dip it as you go along. The wetter the brush/ paint, the smoother it will glide on the canvas. If you do over-wet it, though, it'll dilute the paint too much and cause running. Just keep a paper towel ready to dab it up and try again.

Final

Now we're actually done! I just went with the flow of the painting for the small details and helped along some of the edges to mesh better with the little buildings; it's really about trusting the art with this and just having fun. Don't those small white lines make all the difference, though? Totally worth missing Rachel and Ross's first kiss for. No, I've never watched the show before or knew anything about it. I can show you the rock I live under in the next post. I have some great refurbishing ideas for it.

 

Giving a Clock a Second Look

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After the angst that was the kitchen cabinets, I allowed myself a happy little low-risk project. This Kohl's clock was from my Brown Phase (you know, like Picasso had a Blue Period? Yeah, comparing it to that makes it seem cooler. It wasn't. I know this). Ironically, I now hardly ever incorporate brown or even earthy colors into my art and design anymore, but there are vestiges like this still hanging around. NOTE: All views and opinions on the color brown are mine and mine alone. If you like earth tones, you do earth tones.

So first you remove the hands.

RemovingSecond

I have ZERO clock dissection training but a little Google and a lot of careful dinking around worked. The second hand just popped off (remove the battery for this. I figured that's a given...).

TakingoffHands

Then, using small needle-nosed pliers to hold the base cylinder in place, I carefully turned and lifted the minute and hour hands in the counter-clockwise direction. You can see the brush strokes on the hands from when I painted them because you couldn't tell what time it was when they were black! Major design flaw. Way to be, Kohl's Clock.

HAndsOff

And now it's ready! Removing the whole mechanism was evidently going to be much trickier, so I left that little nut and base to be painted around there in the center. By the way, I looked up at the wall to check the time about five hundred times while I was working on this. I'd never realized how dependent I was on this little guy!

FirstCoat

And really, from there, it was just a matter of figuring out the look I wanted. It started out with this ambitious, colorful, and intricate triangle design that pretty much went derp the second I tried to line anything up, so, in a fit of recklessness I painted every panel a shade of turquoise to form a gradient. HINT: When painting a one-hue gradient like this, start with the darker color on your pallet first (in this case, a mixture of the blue and sea foam green) and add white to that color as you go along. 

NOTE: I haven't regretted a single fit of recklessness while painting. If you're hating something, do NOT do it. Give yourself the satisfaction of obliterating it and use that adrenaline rush to make something awesome.

ANOTHER NOTE: Maybe don't paint on the coffee table you just recently refurbished... I had a few moments of panic. I'll never learn.

FinishedonTable

So after two coats of paint, and a fun gradient on the minute and second hands, I popped everything back into place! I LOVE the clean look of it and it fits so much better with the house's style now, though I still have a moment of shock every time I look at it. Time's are changin.' Buh-dum tssshhhh.

How to Refinish Old Kitchen Cabinets

When we moved into our house almost exactly a year ago, the kitchen had a big Tuscan vibe going for it: burnt orange walls, dark brown floors, and black, old world hardware. While I love dedication to a style, my style this was not. The walls were soon painted all white (except the backsplash, which I am temporarily keeping orange just to test out the pop of color... a simultaneously good and bad decision), but the cabinets and hardware would remain for months to come. Life's busy, yo. Before

What drove me most bananas was how grimy the cabinets and drawers looked. The hardware was worn out and the paint was discolored, chipped and just strangely gunky in places. I would soon discover why... (cue dramatic music).

So I whimsically went about removing the drawers and doors and hardware. Seriously, I thought this would be a Memorial Weekend project. Such innocence. Such optimism.

Here's a schematic of how I removed the cabinets and hardware (always start at the bottom hinge). I used a power drill because a lot of the hardware was one with the paint and VERY stubborn.

HINT: use small containers for all your screws just in case you need them later or you will definitely lose them and your mind.

BowlofScrews

 

Once I had completely bare slabs of painted wood, I took all the drawers and cabinets outside. I've learned from previous projects that sanding is a doozy that tends to leave me cranky and sore, so I went out and bought some paint stripper like I'd used on the coffee table project since scraping is slightly less exhausting (I am literally laughing right now because I just had NO CLUE when I started this, guys).

ScapedDrawerMess

I upgraded to a metal scraper instead of the plastic one that the paint stripper instructions recommended, which is a good lesson about how not following rules can be a good thing. I would still be scraping with a little plastic stub.

So here's why this was The Impossible Project: the cabinets had been painted with latex paint over oil paint. Let me say that again. LATEX (water-based) over OIL. If you ever put latex paint over oil paint, I will find you. And I will give you a stern talking-to. If you're not sure what kind of paint is already on something, rub some rubbing alcohol on it. If the paint wears off, it's water-based. At the very least, cover the oil paint with an oil-based primer if you plan to paint over it with latex.

I could tell that whoever repainted these cabinets was frustrated with how the latex paint was behaving since, you know, it couldn't stick properly to the oil paint, because this stuff was GUNKED on. GUNKED. That's why the cabinets never looked great, and why it took me hours upon hours of mind-numbing scraping and applying layer after layer of stripper.

CabinetComparison

So here is a valuable lesson: when you feel completely trapped in a never ending project that is making you miserable, be kind to you. I was projecting all my frustration onto myself and ended up getting really exhausted and dehydrated outside in the sun, which does not make DIY projects as fun as they should be. Remind yourself that the end result WILL be worth it and be willing to learn along the way. I definitely did, and hopefully this'll help you avoid some trials in your next big project that doesn't go exactly to plan.

Disassembled

Also, the room you're working on will look like this. I painted the cabinet bases without sanding or anything since dust in every crevice of the kitchen didn't seem like a stellar situation. It turned out fine. I can live with it.

DrawerStack

I finished all the drawers first and, after washing them down with some mild soap and water, brought them inside to start the next phase.

First I filled in the old hardware holes with wood filler. Just force it in and sand it smooth once it's dry (this was a welcome easy phase in a blissfully air-conditioned room).

MarkingPulls

The easiest method to measure the new hardware drill holes was just to lay the pulls down and mark with pencil where to drill, using the old hardware holes as a guide (I love using other people's work to make my life a little easier, I will not lie).

DrillingHWHoles

When it came to choosing a drill bit size, I just eyeballed it end-to-end with the hardware screws and tested it before drilling the rest.

PaintingDrawers

Then painting!!! So simple. I put three to four coats of ultra white latex with a roller. They dried sooo nicely. No brush stroke texture, no gunkiness. It was all leading up to this moment.

The cabinets, on the other hand...

DoorGap

NoClose

Buckle up, kids, you're about to take a ride on the rickety carnival roller coaster of hinge education.

I bought new matching hinges since the originals were black and gross. All the screw holes lined up and that's all I thought was needed. NO. NO IT WAS NOT.

HingeComparison

I've tried to illustrate where I went wrong. On the left is an original hinge and the right is what I recklessly bought. As you can see, the offset measurements were totally different, resulting in cabinet doors that were not positioned properly. I went back to the hardware store to find exactly matching ones. No dice. Who knew hinges were so diverse?? There were no courses at the Hinge Academy about this...

So guess what? Spray paint. That's what.

HingeLineup

PaintedHinges

After

The hinges look darker than they really are in the After Picture, but they match the new hardware really well, and since they won't really be handled ever, the spray paint should last. Our wee little kitchen seems so much cleaner and brighter than ever! I'm so glad this project is over and that I have really visible results of my labor. Now I'm going to take a nap because just writing about this wore me out again.

 

 

How to Refresh an Old and Over-Painted Coffee Table

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A few years ago, when I had no interior style beyond "FREE FURNITURE," I saw someone putting this black, oval coffee table by the dumpster on campus, so I snatched it up and it stayed black and scuffed for at least two years after that, moving with me to the rental house senior year and then my parents' basement after graduation and then into another rental house with my brand new husband, and where it became one of my first refurbishing victims. That was a huge run-on sentence about a coffee table. So I primed it, painted the legs white and the top mint green, slathered on a few coats of polycrylic, and, to be honest, it wasn't too shabby. It certainly sparked this passion in me to convert things that aren't making me really happy to things that do!

However, it gradually got really grungy, especially after moving to our current house, and since it had so many layers of paint already, I felt that painting over it would just suffocate it to death and not look all that great anyway. This rule applies: the more layers, the easier it is to chip and deteriorate.

Old Photo

So, here's the thing: I did not have any vision for this when I started. I just knew I had to get all the paint off the top. I figured once the proverbial canvas was blank, I would suddenly get a brilliant idea download. This project took me about three days because my download speed is relatively low, apparently.

02-Bubbly

I used some paint and finish stripper and just followed the instructions on the can. You should know that the tiniest little minuscule dot of this stuff on your skin will BURN. Take note.

03-Scraping

Once it had sat and marinated for the allotted time, I scraped that beast. This is the most satisfying feeling only surpassed by peeling up painters' tape (which is later!! Best project ever). I ended up having to do THREE coats of the stripper because:

04-Scraped

I counted it up, and there was (starting from the bottom): a coat of stain, a layer of white paint with some floral design on it (you can actually see the remnants of it in the above picture), a layer of black paint, my layer of mint green paint, and several layers of polycrylic. LORDY. It's like earth's strata up in here. I probably scraped off a fossilized troglodyte at some point.

05-Sanding06-HandSanding

Then, SANDING. Use a power sander. Really. I'll spare you the details of my body aches, but this was not an easy project! When sanding, go with the grain and just keep moving (think of Dory singing encouragement to you as you struggle through this part). Use a hand sander for anything the power sander has trouble getting (such as the border on this table).

07-Sanded

So. There it is. As I was working on the scraping part, my naive little self thought it might be cool to just leave it wood and stain the top in a cool design, but those dreams were dashed when I realized I just didn't love the wood color or quality. I stopped sanding to ponder it for a while.

08-Inspiration

I brought it inside and left it in that state for a couple days. Part of me was saying, "This is fine. We are now into shabby chic. This is our life now." But the more realistic part said, "This is just shabby and you should eat Ben and Jerry's and figure it out." I listened to the voice that mentioned ice cream and set to work finding inspiration.

You'd probably love for me to show what inspired me... but I can't. I was actually taking a break from Pinterest and Google searching every variation of "quirky oval wood coffee table painted" when the idea came to me. Hopefully this post and this post alone can be your inspiration instead! Ha!

So I wanted the wood to have some sort of say in this design since most of my furniture is painted and I needed some variety. I also felt kinda bad for it because it's been under oppression for who knows how long (yes, one can feel bad for furniture and still be totally normal), but it obviously looked awful...so break out the painter' tape!

09-Taped

Little runners of wood would a) look awesome, and b) make the mottled, splotchy pattern way less pronounced. I did some crude measurements and penciled two straight lines length-wise and width-wise to meet roughly in the middle (I am not precise. Life is short), then set to work taping. HINT: It's worth it (in my opinion) to use different tape widths in a design like this. I actually cut some strips up the center to make more narrow pieces.

10-Painting

I highly HIGHLY recommend using a roller for this. It's so much easier to evenly cover the surface and it also works better with painters' tape than a brush. Since it rolls paint on, there's less of a chance of it seeping underneath the tape. It's important to not load the roller too much; your first coat should look terrible.

11-FirstCoat

Then apply one or two more equally light coats and pretty much immediately start peeling! As always, go slowly and pull in the direction of the pattern.

12-Peeling

13-TopView

14-Final

And THERE! I think this is my favorite refurb to date. It is totally my style and makes me super happy to look at! That unappealing wood is now gorgeous as an accent. Since the paint is only three light layers, it has a FAR less chance of getting scuffed and chipped than it did before, but I will probably apply some polycrylic or some other durable finish later. For now, I'll let the wood breathe some more. It deserves it. :)

 

 

 

 

 

How to Paint with Diverse Colors & Display Your Work

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Going to the effort of finishing off an artwork with a custom frame or painting wrapped edges on a canvas is about the LAST thing I want to do after painting something. I hammer a nail on the wall (or two if it absolutely cannot be avoided), hang it straight, and give myself a gold star. The beauty of that kind lack of work ethic is that it fosters a necessary tendency to find the easiest way to do anything and still make it presentable... Here's a simple project for anyone who can relate with that, or just wants something cute and semi-custom quick. You'll  also get a bonus succulent painting tutorial with some little color secrets thrown in!

All you'll need are:

  • 4 wood slats (these are 12 inches long and found in any craft store)
  • Canvas paper, which is just treated cloth (this one's 9" x 12")
  • Paint supplies (paint, brushes, pallet [ice cream lids accepted], container of water)
  • Twine or yarn
  • Hot glue gun

WH-1

Start out by lightly drawing circles with pencil that roughly outline where your succulents will go. Try to get some variety in diameter and let it be somewhat random. This is a low-risk step so experiment all you need before you like the composition. Remember, the smaller your circles, the more you'll have to paint. smiley

WH-2

Now get painting! I used the same small, angled brush throughout the whole thing; they tend to be the most versatile. I started on the smaller succulents and gave them a nice vibrant color. HINT: Load your brush with two different colors of paint at once. I used peach and magenta for these.

WH-3

I painted with sky blue and medium yellow for the larger succulent. The two colors really add a lot more interest to it!

WH-4

WH-5

As you can see, I painted three different colored succulents in different hues (the purple-ish ones were magenta and sky blue, so I basically only used four colors for the whole first step). Let it dry a bit, then add some shading and highlights! This takes some concentration but really makes it look complete, especially that large green monster blotch. HINT: Don't use black for shading. Use violet or a similar deep purple - it looks more natural and doesn't get as out of control as black does. 

WH-6

Let it completely dry, then you're ready for putting it all together! We are so close..

WH-7

Glue one wood slat to the bottom back edge. Watch your heart rate because working with hot glue requires some coursing river-like swiftness.

WH-8

After the 0.002 seconds it takes to dry, glue the front slat onto the bottom front edge. I actually spilled some wayward molten glue on the painting itself trying to take this picture, but it's a sacrifice I must make.

WH-9

Glue the third wood slat to the top back edge. Then cut about six inches of twine, place it as center as you can at the top, then glue the last slat on top of it. Push down HARD so it all adheres together well. This seriously turned into a workout. Who said artists are lazy?? I guess I indirectly did at the beginning of this, but obviously I meant "resourceful."

Now hang that sucker UP. Drink some water and don't forget to stretch before the next project.

final-new