Watercolor Step By Step

I’ve been working on an art project for a few days.  It was really a glorified excuse to think happy thoughts about a friend who recently had a baby, but that’s okay.  I figured that if the project went well, it could be customized for other folks and sold on my (someday soon to be opened) Etsy shop.

The original efforts for this project were flower-centric, but something about that didn’t feel right.  While Ellie’s mom loves nature and flowers and such, she’s more of an animal rehabilitation/hiking/kayaking/loves-taking-care-of-people kind of person than a fancy-floral-arrangements kind of person.  She spent lots of summers in Africa, too.  So what’s better than flowers and a baby’s name?  Animals and a baby’s name!

Unfortunately, I’m not in the habit of painting African animals.  That meant some practice with basic drawing and cursive E’s (not really in my repertoire, either).

Cool, I can write in cursive now.  Not sure how the squirrel snuck onto the next page.

And then it was time to get to the fun stuff.

After a magic time-lapse, this is where I arrived:

I like that Ellie’s name is an important part of the painting, but it’s a little bit subtle in the sky (more subtle across the room than in this picture).  Because I liked the painting a lot, I got nervous about doing the ink drawing layer that I had originally planned for it.  Enter painting number two, which is more or less the same as the one above, with the additional layer of ink drawing on top.

So the advantages of the second version seem to be that the animals have more personality, and the name stands out more.  Despite those advantages, I think I like the plain version better.  What do you think?


The Unfun Side of Starting a Business

I’m still a long way from “opening up shop,” so to speak.  I’m painting and finding out about printers in the area who might be a good fit for my painting reproduction needs.  The painting is fun, and I generally feel like I’m making progress on the printing situation.  The technology makes sense, and I understand why certain papers and printing techniques are more expensive and thus more valuable.  I get that.

The problems do start with the printing though.  Even though it makes sense to me on a general level, all of that printer stuff means tons of cost/benefit analysis.  Do I need my paintings to be able to stand up to UV rays and fluorescent lighting for 200 years?  Or can I go with the less expensive but still nice options that will stand up to the test of time for about, oh, 50 years?  Will people value a reasonable price over archival quality?  What in the world am I doing?!

But today (with those questions and more swimming around in the background), I worked on conquering a bunch of things that I didn’t even see on the horizon until very recently.  I got an Employer Identification Number from the IRS (even though it’s borderline unnecessary for my exact situation, there are potential perks to having an EIN).  I registered my business with a start date of next month with the Virginia tax folks.  I found out the state and local tax rates and set up my online shop to accommodate those taxes.  I signed up for an account that gathers my sales numbers from Etsy to help me report monthly taxes in the future.

I had a mini panic attack while doing all of those things.  I recovered a bit when I submitted information to the right folks.  I sighed loudly.  Peanut sighed sympathetically (also loudly).

So that’s where things stand.  I’m so glad to have the first steps of the business side of things behind me.  I also feel like I need a drink, but it’s noon-ish, so I’ll have some coffee instead.

Back to Work (At Home)

Thursday was painting the porch day (one coat then, one on Saturday, only a tiny bit of trim left to paint before the job is complete).  I’ll post pictures when the project is done.  But the truly exciting part of the week was Friday, which turned into painting painting day.  “Painting painting” day is not to be confused with a day in which I painted things that were already painted.  Nope.  I painted some watercolors, which is arguably my job at the moment.

Things went as usual for a while.  I painted a few things that I kind of liked, a few that are downright terrible, and I sketched a bit in between.  Then when it was starting to get dark, and I was starting to get hungry, an amazing thing happened.  Not only did my inner hulk not come out because of low blood sugar, I also painted/drew something that I genuinely like.

It’s been a while since I created something I was proud of (in the watercolor realm), and I feel overwhelmingly relieved.  Whew.

Between You and Me

I’m going to show you a few of my favorite random pieces of art from Etsy.  Keep it between us, okay?  I would hate for all of my picks to vanish from my realm of possible purchasing.  Then again, you’d be doing my budget a favor. So on second thought, I’ll say that you should absolutely buy these.  You’re also morally obligated to suggest another good Etsy find to me if you buy one of my picks.  Buy away!

If you have no idea what Etsy is, it’s about time you found out.  It’s like Amazon for crafty or artsy folks.  You can buy and sell anything from beads to chandeliers or furniture (sometimes), jewelry or art.  There’s a huge range of stuff, too.  You could buy a $0.25 postcard or a $10,000 original oil painting.  If someone can make it by hand or if they can find a vintage version of it, you can find it on Etsy.

There’s also a funny site called Regretsy, but I’m going to make you work to find that.  It can be hilarious–a collection of the weirdest things available on Etsy.  Believe me, there’s some weird stuff.  It’s also wildly inappropriate sometimes.  You’ve been warned.

Okay, so today’s winners are listed below.  Each picture links to the object listing on Etsy, and you can find more things by the same artist by looking at their shop.

  1. I’m feeling somewhat nostalgic and wouldn’t mind spending a day or two in San Antonio, college stomping grounds extraordinaire.

    by Capow

  2. When have I ever turned down a great picture of trees and/or clouds?

    by irenesuchocki

  3. I am definitely thinking about Christmas lights already.  They’re corny and commercial and have nothing to do with the real meaning of the season, but I love them anyway.  They’re sparkly and magical, and I could stare at them for hours.  Sometimes I thank God for giving me a neighbor who puts twinkle lights into their trees around Christmas.

    by irenesuchocki

  4. This letterpress poster just makes me smile.

    by 1canoe2

  5. And this one makes me sing songs about Texas, so it can’t possibly be anything but good.

    by 1canoe2

Grumpy Face, Pretty Tree (Just like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”)

It’s been a tough day at work.  When people ask me for statistics or reports at my new job, I assume that they’re asking for something that I can in fact find.  Sometimes that’s not true.

Today’s search lasted for the morning and the first hour or so of the afternoon, and it ended with one sentence in the middle of a giant instruction manual that clued me in to the fact that the numbers I need don’t exist.  They could exist if I imbed some extra code in a few spots, but that data will never exist for the past.

I know I learned a lot while rummaging through manuals and websites and playing with different stats this morning.  I also feel like it’s the least the computer could do to give me a positive answer to carry back to my co-workers after that much effort.  The lack of a positive answer makes me feel like this:


Photo by adm


In an effort to keep this from being one big, insignificant complaint about something I can’t change, I’ll show you the painting that popped into my email inbox yesterday:


Painting by Duane Keiser


I like it.  I like it a lot.

I went through phases while I was studying art history back in the day.  Sometimes I only liked art that had awesome deeper meaning or came from a turbulent point in someone’s life or history or whatever.  Goya’s art was part of that phase.  And sometimes I wanted to look at pretty pictures without wondering what the tree symbolizes and what the blank space around the tree could mean on another level.  Keiser might have a great story behind this painting, and I’m sure that knowing the story would help me to appreciate it more fully.  For today, I just like the pretty tree.


I ran into Cuba Gallery’s Flickr photostream this morning, and I kind of love it.  Enjoy some of my favorite green picks from the collection:

First reaction to those pictures: “Ooh, pretty!”

Totally insignificant thoughts that came after the mental oohing subsided: I need to go to New Zealand someday (setting of first photo), the cherry tomatoes on my counter should probably be eaten soon, and is that Swiss chard?  My parents’ goats used to really like Swiss chard.  I bet those hobbits would have liked finding some Swiss chard on their trek across New Zealand.

And to think that Jack Kerouac made his fortune by writing down stream of consciousness stuff like this.  Except that he talked about drinking and sex instead of goats and Swiss chard.  Almost the same.  Maybe the combination of goats and Swiss chard is going to be revolutionary for our society, and that’ll be my ticket to a new career.  Forget goals.  I’ll be the modern combination of Martha Stewart and Jack Kerouac.  A match made in heaven.

Untitled (#685)

Okay, I’ve been thinking about what I wrote yesterday and have come to a few conclusions.  The most important thing is that I am decidedly happy to be staying in the same place for an unknown period of time.  I have to get used to that concept, but I like it here, and staying put for a few years doesn’t mean I have to stay for the rest of my life.  It’s not like vines will grow up from my yard and trap me.  (Have you ever seen the movie The Ruins?  A bunch of college students visit an archeological site in Mexico and vines start growing into their bodies.  Things go downhill quickly.  Yuck.  I didn’t want to water my plants for a few days after that.)

I’ve also decided that I spent way too much of the last quarter century mapping out every detail of my life.  Yet, miraculously, I managed to totally avoid thinking beyond age 25.  I guess I imagined that once you find a career, everything else sorts itself into neat little columns and rows.  My columns and rows look more like a Jackson Pollock painting than anything else, so I was somewhat off the mark with that.

[Click on the image above, then on the image at the destination, and it lets you create your own Jackson Pollock-esque painting.  It’s surprisingly fun.]

My new plan, now that there’s a gaping void in front of me, is to plan a whole lot less and approach a few parts of my life more purposefully (prayer is number one on the list, painting is number two… really similar, right?).  That’s it, the entire new life plan in fifteen words.