Friday, May 31, 2013

Moving From Florals To Landscapes

It is never easy changing genres. You finally, FINALLY get the feel for one and then, in boredom most likely, you switch gears again. I am firmly convinced that it is the tension for improvement that keeps any artist great. If we fall into a rut, and trust me, it is SOOO easy to do, we begin to stagnate and finally become a cliche of ourselves. It is always a challenge to create something new, or at least, new to me. I have a need to try something new and easily become bored with the old.

CHINESE DREAMSCAPE was an image that struck me when a friend sent it to me. He grew up here but it had both wonderful and terrible memories of his childhood. It seemed so dreamlike that you can never imagine it being terrible. Life has a strange way of altering what we consider to be beauty and terror.

I covered the entire canvas with a light peach, almost flesh color. It seemed this color was everywhere and I've learned nothing compliments greens more than a rich under layer of peach tones.

It took awhile to add the blues as there were many blues in the distant mist and they made themselves known in the left foreground as well. Despite the deep greens and browns not yet blocked in, the sky and distant hills were going to show through soon enough.

Forming masses for CHINESE DREAMSCAPE
My wise teacher cautioned me to start with the distance and then work my way forward. So, working with darker to lighter blues, then adding white to a baby blue and finally white I was able to create the dreamlike effect that distance had. In the lower left I continued with the blues because soon there will be deep browns and greens that bump into each other as ripples on the water.

This is not completed, in fact there is still a great deal left to do! Yet, in many respects it has already achieved a dream like state. This is a painting unlike any I have ever done before.

There is almost a good reason to stop. Maybe with a little more color in the lower right side bottom, this could be a completed painting. It  has a dreamlike quality that could be compromised if I continued. Will I stop? Probably not because I already have in my minds eye the painting I want. However, as most artists will attest, you NEVER know what may happen along the way. I think that's always the challenge of art (and design)!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do Not Call Listing Means "DO NOT CALL!"

Everyone knows the drill; you sit down to dinner and the phone rings. Its some solicitor trying to get you to listen to their spiel. Depending how often this happens you say "No thank you" and hang up or, if this is an increasingly occurring event you look like the guy below.

"Read My Lips1"
A few years back the government, after years of complaining, finally listened to the "people" and instituted a "Do Not Call List" where we could register our phone numbers online and were assured that we wouldn't be bothered, at least as much. Of course, our politicians, ever mindful of THEIR self interests, not OUR self interests, let political and non-profit calls go through. 

The first time I registered the calls  did indeed go down. That law expired and the second time I registered under the new law, I got more phone calls than before! It was if I had registered with every tele-marketer in the world!

They even included a fine of around $8,000 per call this time around. That was a joke. I read somewhere recently that only about 10 companies had ever been fined. Its a shame. If they wanted to make up the deficit they would have made a fortune on the fines collected from the millions of calls made every day!

Now, to get around the personal touch of at least telling the caller to take your name off their list, we have robo-calls. These are automated and short of just hanging up, there is no way to complain or tell the person to f&@* off!

If you don't think this is design, think again. Ever been on a political phone bank? Watched the never ending appeal drives on PBS? Telephone banks take time and money to set up. And then there's the spiel. These people are trained to the nth degree on how to handle the unlucky called upon. It must be profitable because they are still in existence. Has there ever been a profession more hated and vilified than this? I don't care how many people it employs, it must be the job from hell. Do you know anyone who brags about this as a profession? I never have met one. They may brag to each other, otherwise I think it is an unspoken brotherhood. Sorta like a used car salesman or politician bragging to each other while the public remains at best skeptical.

Here's my take on this whole business ... Until the telemarketing industry pays my telephone bill, they have no right to call me unless I give them permission beforehand. Their argument is that they have the right of free speech. So do I. And I say, yet again, until they are paying for my telephone line the minute they call my phone they have crossed the line into my private space. They have violated my rights and money.

Its time the government finally steps in, begins fines and after raking in several hundred million the whole industry might just collapse on itself. If nothing else, thousands of seniors will be spared from buying things they never should have in the first place. Our reward? Eating dinner at last in peace!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What's It Worth?

After many hours, and it's still not done, I have been preparing for Halloween. I only had a few things last year and was only able to sell a few items at a local craft fair!

Raw materials all completed
This year I wanted to be more prepared. While I realized I could put Christmas items up now for two four month cycles on Etsy, in order to have items in time for Halloween decorating, I realized that it would have to be up and ready by the middle of June. If they haven't decorated by the middle of the October, it isn't going to happen. I want to be ready this time around.

In an earlier blog I wondered if I could be a bona fide artist if I decorated items that were marginally designed for some holiday; in this case Halloween. I can say, without ANY guilt or remorse that I can. I certainly have spent as much time painting these items, with their faces and such as I would have spent decorating my own items. Never content with whats there, I add, as any good artist would, my own embellishments.

I will be ready for Halloween this year and wonder, will consumers pay for what they think they could have done (but didn't) and if so, how much are they willing to pay?

Check out Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Painting What's In Mind's Eye

Do you, like me, have a stash of photos that you want to paint .... someday? I know you do. I KNOW I do. Its something we do almost second nature. You see a scene, think, "God, that is so beautiful! I will take a snapshot and come back or will paint it when I get home." You know the drill. Most of those photos are never painted, beautiful or not.

To improve on that process I have taken to actually "printing" those photos and put them in an album as a reminder. When I go to my art class with nothing in mind I can look at them choosing one for the next  painting. Or that's the purpose anyway.

In fact it was the mere sighting of a photo that I had with me that caused the final break with my first oil teacher. I was showing others a photo of what became CAVE LAKE, NEVEDA, a multi-media piece that I painted with a peach underpainting in acrylic and finished in color with oils. My teacher said it was too complicated and that it wasn't a good image to use. I painted it anyway. It remains one of my favorite paintings capturing a amazing scene of the side of the lake curving at an angle across the painting. I toned down the contrast of the shoreline and water creating a landscape that is quite realistic.
Georgia Dogwood

One of the photos I printed was that of a Dogwood blossom I had seen at a friends home in Atlanta. The trees were just flowering and of all the images I took, this one was my favorite. Yet, I could never seem to get it painted. I had sketched it out on a canvas earlier, put it aside and while retrieving the photo, have no idea where the canvas went.

Last week I woke up with a mental image of what I wanted to paint. And so, in one classes time I painted it. This was the result minus one factor.

When I woke up I had dreamed that the painting would have red in it. Streaks of red in the background and red edging all the petals with splashes of red here and there. The painting I painted had covered most of the red and yet again I made it appear too realistic. I looked at it that afternoon, evening, all the next day and finally getting up Saturday morning mixed some red, got a long bristled liner brush and put the red I wanted back in. It became a blend of impressionism and realism ... what I saw in mind's eye.

There can be no doubt this is my "style" and while it is getting looser, something I struggle with on every painting, it still has enough reality in it to stand out. I urge you to paint what YOU see, not what others see, or you are told to see, but what you see with that third eye, feel in your gut. Then and only then will we be free of the limitations imposed on us and let our own vision shine forth!

Both of the paintings mentioned are visible on my store at Please check them out and let me know what you think!

CNN - The Hunt for Relevancy

I can remember when CNN first hit the airwaves. While we didn't have cable until a few years ago, there were enough opportunities to tune in. If something really happened, you sought it out.

Ted Turner, never a shy or humble guy, had a vision.  He wanted to create on TV what many large cities had on the radio,  news 24 / 7. Everyone laughed but he prevailed and for many years CNN was the place to turn to for the news. Dictators too! It was said that Saddam Hussein watched Bagdad being bombed on CNN. There's the rub, if there was important news, it was the place to watch; that isn't true anymore.

I guess the new owners felt that the "design" that made CNN so successful, actual reporters actually reporting the news, needed to be changed. It slowly went from talking news reports, to talking heads and their opinions. Lets be serious. There is very little news on CNN anymore. They have gone from the Cable News Network to the Commercial News Network. Or another-wards, "Every Ad you never wanted to see...again and again and again." And what news there is is with reporters with their own clear agenda telling the people they are interviewing what they think. Truth seems to be irrelevant. You might get more interesting reports on KNBC 2 in Los Angles who at least do investigative reporting. Walter Cronkite where are you when we need you most?

Today, trying to see the tragedy in Moore, OK, I began to time the frequency of ads they were so frequent and many. There was almost an equal number of minutes for ads as there were minutes of news. NO ad cycle was more than 5 minutes away from the next batch.

CNN has been losing ratings lately and I think I read has been overtaken by Fox News. Isn't that a pip? Fox? The reincarnation of the movie "Network?" To shore up the ratings CNN hires as an interviewer Piers Morgan who oversaw the scandal of the Daily News in London as publisher of one of the most egregious invasions of modern life, literally stealing phone records for news. Kinda smacks of the revelations lately of the IRS targeting groups they don't like. They have failed to see that we want to see the news, not their version of the news or reports on things that are not news at all.

News does not have to be all bad, in fact we hope it isn't. Yet, at the same time there are real issues and problems around the globe that need to see the light of day, to be exposed. However, just like the rubber neckers on the freeway slowing down to scope out an accident, we are all curious about the tragedies that surround us and seek to understand what happened and why.

While news doesn't come free, well it does, the gathering of it for us doesn't. As papers, TV, magazines, and now cable, search for relevancy daily competing against the inevitable triumph of the Internet, there will be a marriage of the two. News is news. How it is reported and recorded, shared and covered is not dependent on the media used, but finding a way it will be told (and sold) that is relevant. I think taking Marshall McLuhan's message a bit further, the Message IS the Media. And while it certainly pays the bills, a commercial is not the news unless you make it so. The relevancy then is to find a balance between gathering the news and paying for its deliverance. Maybe fewer ads at a greater cost? Now there's an ideas whose time has come!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Can We Charge For Value Added to Purchased Crafts?

For years now, and I have the products to prove it, I haunt the craft stores usually after a holiday or event has passed. You never know who will have what, be it Michaels, JoAnn's and now Hobby Lobby here in SoCal. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween items come and go for the next season.

The problem is that while they are crafts clearly designed for the less crafty among us, can we charge additional value to them if we do so much more? And, if we do that, charge how much more for them?

I know that many of the same birdhouses I paint are used by many other crafters and sold on store sites like Etsy, or Artfire. However, what I do with them is very different and each of us, in our own way decorate them in often wildly different ways. In some respects I would say a blank wooden birdhouse or tray is no different than painting on a blank canvas. Of course, the crafter in me is saying that.

The line begins to blur though when we buy and decorate items (such as shown on the right) that are a bit more detailed. The amount of time needed to decorate each of these items is almost as much as anything that I might paint on a small canvas up to a 20" x 20" canvas.

Take, for example, the stacked three up pumpkins shown here. To dress it up a bit I picked up three variations of orange working from light to dark. Then added the black for the "carved" mouth and eyes. A trim of black goes along edges, front and back I should add so that no matter how it will be viewed, it looks complete. Next will come the painting of the hat, then various shades of green and brown shading to give the pumpkin depth and finally, when that is done a flash of a shocking color along the edges.

How much time to complete? It would be measured in hours, about the same amount of time as it takes to do a painting, often more, much more! Yet, as we crafters all know, it is rare that we can charge the same for an item such as this, three decorative Halloween pumpkins, that may have cost as little as a dollar marked down. The time it took was the same as creating a painting but for some reason, we have a skewed view of crafts opposed to "fine" art. We value them less.

For the buyer, they get quite a deal while the crafter ends up with little to show for the time and effort they have spent. I believe though, that for some of us, that isn't totally the point. We create because there is something in us that wants to create. If we can sell some of it, it is an affirmation of our vision and skill. The more we create, the more skilled we get. Of course, we all hope that someone, someway will "discover" us and that we may yet hit the big time! In the crafting world, you are never too old to be discovered. Ask Grandma Moses!

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Personalizing CRAZY QUILT Designs

Mother's Day, always a time of concern for any male, is the time where we show our mother's and wives a token of how much we care and usually depend on them. Being a crafter of some ability I spotted a wooden sewing box from a supplier online. Looking at the spec's it seemed the perfect item for my wife to put her needlepoint items in. A gift she would and could use.

The trick of any crafter is to be able to step outside the box. In this case it WAS a box but the majority of my CRAZY QUILT designs had been on birdhouses, a few trays and a plate. To worry about a multitude of sides, plus a lid and drawer multiplied the challenge.

While I am sure for some crafters, everything is planned, one of the beauties of this design is that there are really no rules. Well, few. Maybe that is why I return to it. The only rule I have is that every background color has the same pattern on top of it, everywhere it is used.

After showing this to a friend, she observed that true crazy quilts not only used a variety of fabrics but a variety of stitches as well. She lent me a book about making a crazy quilt and I was surprised to see the variety of stitches that were used and that there were fabric rules as well. "Artists" in many cases make up there own rules but I learned that I had violated quilting rules. I didn't care about that. The stitching issue though intrigued me.

The box will remain as is. I believe that it was a hit. It certainly is something that can be used. I would. However, it seems that we can never stop learning. Since I have to put some kind of a stitching on every piece of fabric, I can make the items I paint mimic that quilted pieces they mimic. We can never stop learning and thinking of new ways to use a design or technique that we like.

Always be on the lookout for something new to try. If you are a yard sale fanatic, keep an eye out for items that can be recycled. A sanding, primer, a new base coat and you have a brand new "canvas."

I would enjoy hearing from any of my readers the most interesting thing they have created. Who knows, you might give me a new creative spark!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rocket Cactus Birdhouse

Increasingly I am finding that the line, for me at least, is blurring between my crafting and what I hope others consider my fine art. My "Rocket Cactus" is certainly a case in point.

After painting the series of cactus plants; before, during and after flowering, I was done. I had moved on and tried out the old beat up pick-up and more recently the nasturtiums and lobelias seen once in a flower bed in my yard.

Yet one morning I woke up and realized the rocket birdhouse I had seen at Michaels, didn't have to be a rocket at all. Why not a flowering cactus? Why not a ROCKET CACTUS! Heavens, I certainly had painted enough cactus' lately, how hard could it be?

It turns out, plenty. It is one thing to paint a 2-dimensional canvas and quite another to try it on a 3-D surface. It was a challenge too good to pass up.

I sketched the surface after I painted the whole thing with DecoArt's Black Green. It looked pretty sad at that point. After sketching the lines in for the "flutes" of the cactus I started working in layers going from dark to light. I noticed walking one day that the seams between the flutes are quite pronounced so I made sure each one was there. It made an immediate difference.

I wanted the hole to be a flower but felt that one was not enough. So I added one to the top and then, since I spotted those coming out now as well, two buds.

The ends of the flutes tend to be lighter and often pinkish. So I made sure that was included just as I had on the paintings. The spikes though are the final touch. They are fun to do and leave no doubt what they are. I was both surprised and happy with the result. I think that I managed to capture the feel of a cactus, rocket or not!

Check it out on my store, You will have to admit its fun and pretty real!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Artist's Dilemma - Knowing When To Stop

After frequently looking at a photo I printed out for well over a year ago,  I decided yesterday to bite the bullet and paint it. I had finished my pick-up truck and was looking about for something else, something that would again stretch my abilities. While I am not sure I am done with the pick-up truck (see the previous post), I realized yesterday that I had achieved something that I had not done before but wasn't sure if I was done or not. I wonder if every artist faces this dilemma. I have a suspicion they do. It also made me re-think meddling with the last painting. Maybe we should do what we can, then let it alone and move on. I am almost sure that is what Van Gogh did. He painted with a feverish intensity then moved on. Ah, such discipline. It seems strange, when I do my crafts, that is exactly what I do. Once the finishing varnish goes on, its done.

Nasturtiums & Lobelia's

The photograph that I used was pretty much this vibrant, maybe a bit fussier but had striking colors and contrasts that demand notice. I concentrated laying a black and black-green acrylic base down at random, a bit of brown to show dirt, then a layer of buttermilk paint where every flower and leaf was to be. This was all done freehand, no underlying sketch, something I rarely do. Somehow I got the randomness down and even in the white version sprinkled across the background, it was striking.
Detail of Nasturtiums & Lobelias

Next came the blue violet as I was trying to go from the lowest to upper layers allowing the orange nasturtiums to float over the underlying lobelias. Tiny, almost immature green leaves came next and finally the long, stringy stems that seemed to be a mass that went everywhere.

I wanted to add enough to show the rampant confusion but not so much it would diminish the vibrance of the colors. It would have been easy to do and hence the dilemma. Is it done? Does it need anything more?

My teacher loved it and said she had never seen anything quite like it before. I loved the vibrant colors that seemed to float over the deep background. Putting down the stems I realized that I had to stop before they would diminish the vibrancy. Yet, well, do you continue with the fussiness? Do you add more details, make it more detailed or, leave it alone? Let the colors and shapes create enough of an image that your mind finishes the subject? For now, I will let it alone. Not another brush stroke. The temptation is there yet doing anything more would, in my mind, diminish the vibrant energy of both the colors and the brush strokes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Time For A New Subject - Stretching Outside Your Comfort Zone

Artists often get into ruts. You have success with one type of subject and do a few more and then, you become afraid to try something new. For me it was my cactus series....four paintings that seemed to capture with almost photo clarity the subject I wanted to be abstract. 
Original Scene

While on a trip earlier this year to the rock show in Quartzite, AZ I happened upon an old rusted Ford pick-up that was for sale. While the setting was anything but photogenic, the subject itself was. There was something both forlorn and yet nostalgic
as it sat there, rusted, sagging, hoping and waiting for a new buyer, someone who would breathe new life into its old bones. I had to at least photograph it and after printing out my photo I felt I had to paint it was but with a different background.

I don't know what it is about men and their cars, maybe cowboys felt the same way about their horses and whatever men used before they mastered the horse was cherished as well. 

One of my fondest memories was going to the Mercedes showroom with my caretaker when I was in the second and third grades. They had a silver Mercedes Gull Wing Coupe with a glorious red leather interior. They were kind and very gracious to let me sit in it. I guess the car that cost an amazing $5,000 then is worth about $500,000 today. That's not a bad return on investment.

This painting had a strange beginning. The background was basically a cloud of black and peach around the outline of the truck. The truck was painted first and there was a moment when I was willing to let it be just that way. Of course, I could always put that background back. Yet, I also remembered seeing scenes of rust and decay in the farmlands in Arkansas several years ago.
Midway through the painting
However, I felt that I had to forge on. I wasn't sure just how to create something I never saw and tentatively began with the sky. I made a horizon, played with blues and whites and thought at first I had made a mess of that. Then, using a fan brush I began adding grass and dirt being careful went around the painted truck. 

It wasn't until I stepped back from what I had done that I began to see that somehow there were clouds and mountains and that the meadow I had created in fact looked like scenes I had seen in Wyoming.

With a little imagination you could say they were the Grand Tetons and the meadowlands we saw. It all fit together.

Is it my best work? No. Does it capture the feeling of both the truck and countryside? Yes I think it does. There is some quality in the truck that makes you focus on it. The foreground and background give it a kind of place in space, but you are drawn again to the brave old truck. We all know that we most likely will never see vehicles made this way again. All metal that manage somehow to resist the rust of time.
Finished painting

I recently saw a terrible accident on the freeway where one car failed to stop in time and plowed into the car in front. When they separated you could see there was little of the car's front end left. The car that was hit lost control and flew into the center median. It too disintegrated into pieces of plastic that flew everywhere. I missed getting both hit and getting struck by the debris by seconds.

Looking at this old truck, it may have suffered damage in such an accident but more than likely the metal, while dented would have remained in place. The headlights would shatter and maybe the driver would go through the windshield as no one had seat belts back then. I would imagine this is some 1930's vintage Ford truck that has made it into the 21st century. Somehow, I just can't imagine any of our current cars lasting that long.

I urge all painters out there to stretch your wings and paint something totally NOT you. Find a subject you have never tried and you might be amazed as I was, that imperfect or not, this painting on some level ended up being a success.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is Adobe Doing Their Competitors A Favor?

Adobe recently announced that for the Mac world, the company that made Adobe a viable company and a company the majority of graphics professionals depend on, there will be no more upgrades for Macs. If we want to continue to use Adobe products it will cost us $20 a month for any one of their programs or $50 a month for their Suite in a new CC or Cloud based product. You will have to use the program online, on the web. No more versions that reside on your computer.

Adobe: Going, GOing, GONE?
I have said for several years now, that Adobe has become greedier, less responsive and its programs greater memory hogs (Steve Jobs hated Flash, vowed to destroy it and refused to allow it to run on the iPhone and iPad for that very reason) and humbly suggested that Apple buy the company. This is something their Petty Cash account could purchase in a heartbeat and create user friendly graphics programs the envy of any company in the world. AND, put Adobe out of its current misery.

Reading the announcement on TCUW, an Apple geek web site, they also noted that this move is going to open the market for those professionals who want to own their own programs and not have to RELY on the web, something that is still problematic for the majority of the world. I am what, 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles and let me tell you, I may suffer more power outages than Grandma in rural Iowa. In fact, Southern California Edison has their HQ a few miles away in the town I live in and we still get more than our share of outages. In fact one happened this morning! If everyone in my neighborhood fires up the TV, laptops, iPads and lord knows what else, my Internet service slows to a crawl or has no service at all.

TCUW also noted Adobe has taken this tact because of all the ripping off of their programs. I had to laugh. They think going to the web will reduce this? Really? When I think of how many attempts it takes to enter their serial numbers to get the program to work, I shutter even now at the thought. Probably just about any 12 year old will crack that "cloud" code and make copies even easier to steal. I am sure its already available on the streets of Shanghai for $5 a disk, a place Apple products are not only made but sold to an ever increasing consumer base.

I don't know about you, but there is still something in me that wants that CD or DVD with the program in my hot little hand. I want to see, in print, the Serial number and if and when I call for help, I don't want to depend on someone in a third world country to dependably find that number for me. If it gets corrupted, I want to reinstall it myself.

That said, I should also say that I love Adobe PhotoShop. I am self taught and have done some wonderful things with that program. I am constantly amazed that it seems to think like I do and just about everything I throw at it, it comes back happy as a lark. In fact, I am stuck at 5.1 because Adobe and I seemed to have a battle over the upgrade to CS 6.0. I am sure it does a few more things. However, and I've also said this all along, if I never upgraded again, I don't think I or anyone else for that matter, would ever learn all the things it can do because the possibilities are endless.

You have to applaud Adobe, in their shortsightedness, they have opened the door even more to the competition. That might be wonderful! Adobe should beware of what they want, it can have unintended consequences!

P. S. If I was Quark, I would jump on this opportunity like white on rice. Regain their past glory!

Crafting What You Like!

When I started my crafting experience, it began as a way to express my creativity, something outside of my work and then later with my own business of graphic design. I loved designing things...price lists, catalog sheets, taking someone's product and making it something that would sell for my clients. It was always challenging as I was often learning how to use the programs while I was creating the product!
Creating A Crazy Quilt Design

But later on, I started to long for something to create for myself. One day, while going to Michael's I picked up a wooden birdhouse on sale, bought a few paints and got a book on Pennsylvania Dutch designs and gave it a try. Needless to say, what I did then and what I can do now is very different. Its amazing how you grow. Well, that is if you stick to it.

I started taking actual classes for painting in 2006. I had always wanted to paint with oils but the few times I tried it on my own, I made mud. I didn't understand the relationship of colors with oils. They are very different from watercolors or the few paintings I made in acrylics. Of course, many artists sneer at "acrylics" so I started with oils. And to be honest it wasn't until the last day of my first 14 class session that it came together. I was able to create in 45 minutes a sunrise on a lake in Yosemite that is one of my favorite paintings still.

That was class. Meanwhile at home, I was still painting my crafts. They were nice but tended to be very two dimensional. I taught myself shading, and was found this gave amazing depth. Baby steps.

During a trip to New Jersey a visit to A.C. Moore was another revelation. I ended up buying a whole bunch of items not seen, at least yet, in California. They have winters and so much more time to do this kind of thing. I still have some of the things I painted there and then had to ship home in a parcel post package I purchased so much.

After the first set of classes at the Las Vegas Painting Convention in 2009, I was really hooked. The number of items grew and I began giving them away as gifts. That remained problematic though. I realized that many people didn't appreciate the time and creative effort it takes and giving them to people who didn't care was discouraging.

My daughter mentioned to me and now and then I would look at the site but just never had the gumption to create a store. When I started with another art teacher, she expressed an interest in selling over 25 years of her painting and decorative crafts and so I used her store as a learning curve for my own. So, she taught me how to use acrylics in fine art paintings and I helped her with her store.

Since I opened my store in Oct. of 2011, I realized that I could create anything I wanted and the cost was cheap enough to "test" the waters. After I entered a DecoArt contest last year with the first of my CRAZY QUILT birdhouse designs and won nationally, I realized that maybe I had hit on something. What I had created was different, nothing like anyone else's. I loved creating them and it gave me, in a sense, permission to create a whole new range of designs and products.

After a trip to Alaska I created several Northwest Indian designs, I tried the CRAZY QUILT designs on trays, boxes, even a notepad holder. Then after a trip to Quartzite, AZ in January and finding some small resin skulls, I created four LAST CHANCE birdhouses, each inspired by those skulls!

For me, at least, creating what I like, successful or not, keeps the juices flowing. I try not to get stuck in a rut and am open to just about any new idea and product to try it on. If you visit you will see exactly what I mean.

Craft on!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

FasTrak To Nowhere

Several years ago, it might be longer so forgive a senior for forgetting the exact time, the citizens of Los Angeles County voted for a 1/2% sales tax increase to improve the freeways and expand our fledgling Metro system. (I won't complain about Metro here but I have plenty to say.) I'm sure its no surprise to anyone that Los Angeles has one of the most congested freeway and highway networks in the world. So we were all ready to pony up and did!

Of course, one of the first things to happen was for Metro to build a huge new palace for itself near Union Station so all could see where our tax dollars went. Its an ugly yellow colored tower that looms over station and train tracks alike and seems to mimic a middle finger pointed at all the citizens of Los Angeles. Now what that had to do with improving the highways is anyones guess.

Los Angeles may have had too many cars and too few lanes, even carpool lanes, BUT they were free. However, those days are now over. Part of this new sales tax that we passed to improve our freeways, that was the intent, has been instead to turn all of the carpool lanes into tollways. So, not only were the carpool lanes used for another purpose, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars finding a way to tax us even more. So now, you pay 1/2% sales tax on every taxable item AND get to pay for the privilege of using the carpool lanes that we paid for.

FasTrak Transponder
To even get in the carpool lane now, you need a FasTrack transponder. This gizmo is to be placed in your car at all times and switched to the appropriate setting whenever you enter the carpool lane. Of course you need to be sure you have money in the card, another way to get just a few more cents out of you as they sit on your money, as it deducts on the fly so to speak.

Of course you have to wonder, who is going to be willing to pay for a single rider, and the costs, at least on the 10 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley are usurious, when you can simply switch the card to 2 riders and not have to pay a thing? They may have a way to find some of the cheaters so I can see a run on authentic looking blow up dolls along the line of "Lars and the Real Girl."

I was told recently that even getting in the Diamond Lane on freeway ramps without this transponder gets you a ticket. The person had a car full of people and figured it was ok to use. Its not like the ramp gets you to the carpool lane, you still have to fight your way over for that usually missing an entrance or two along the way. It looks like all of us will soon be wired into the freeway system making our movements trackable. Kinda like cell phones or chips we put in our pets. Angelenos won't need chips, we will have our FasTrak transponders!

This is not what we wanted yet we definitely needed upgrades to our freeways. There isn't a freeway or street around where I live that isn't torn up, some stretching into years. We agreed and voted for that. We did NOT vote for paying carpool lanes. The other complaint is that often, the carpool lanes, the ones you have to pay for, are no faster and sometimes slower than the "free" lanes. We should get our money back. If they can't design a way to actually move you around, they don't deserve our money.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Finishing Up!

I  have been working on three CRAZY QUILT items all this week, a birdhouse, a plate and a card holder. I got them finished AND photographed today. I even put one of them in my Etsy store but it seems to no avail. The birdhouse, one of my most popular items, and CRAZY QUILT, one of my best design categories,  has in fact bombed. It is a shame that I wasted so much time on a category that seemed to show so much promise.

As I related earlier, it seemed so much wiser to create three new items at once.  The paints were there, the design was in place so what was to stop this? Nothing. However, item interest seems to point to the fact that buyers might not be interested.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Painting a CRAZY QUILT DESIGN, 3 for 1

Here is the evolution of my CRAZY QUILT designs
You will have to admit, there are no other painters, designers out there creating a "crazy quilt" design on a birdhouse. I guess they are very desirable as the three I did are now gone. The other objects have been slower to move but nevertheless I figured it was time to create another.

As you can see, the painted fabric background is pretty sad. Flat and without much character. A bunch of random colors that looking at it makes me even wonder why I picked those colors.

However, I wanted a lighter palter and decided that I would choose two colors each from blue, green, purple. tan, gold and red. For extra measure I even through in a silver. You never know.

Patterns added to background colors.
As you can see, adding patterns does give some life to the flat colors. It is a real chore deciding how to add those colors. Some I took from the background, others were new colors that either complemented the fabric or the pattern.

There is still much to do. Finish the patterns - I hit a roadblock last night and after about 5 hours decided to call it quits for the night. Then I add the stitching connecting all the fabrics together, coloring bases and bottoms before antiquating and finally sealing this against the elements.

Hopefully this will all be available on my Etsy store soon.

Stay tuned! My next wild idea is to create a rocket cactus birdhouse.

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