Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas!! YAY!  We are eating delicious treats, watching Christmas movies, and burning wrapping paper in the fireplace.  Nate is comparing a couple of his presents:  the "Pit Mitt" and the "Ove Glove", while he tends to the fire.

These product names crack me up.

He also is happy about the Dominion box I painted.  I did a different scene on each side
a scene from Intrigue
Painting on the smooth wooden box was a lot different than painting on canvas.  It took several thin layers.  We're going to put a clear coat on top to protect it.
a vineyard scene
I can foresee drinking The Prisoner wine tonight and playing multiple rounds of Dominion.

Santa brought me some oil paints!
I am very excited to try these out.  I've never painted with oils before.

Time to fire up the cheese dips and bacon wrapped items.  We're trying out blue cheese on gingersnaps.  Have you ever tried that?  It's surprisingly good.  We're also trying bacon wrapped dates for the first time.  Lots of snacky tapas foods are on the menu today.   nom nom.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Santa is weird

The Picasso paintings I saw at Transfigurations inspired me to paint this Santa.

8"x10"x0.5" acrylic on canvas
Does anyone else think Santa is weird? Just me?  I saw a blurb on Facebook where a mom was appealing to other parents to not give expensive presents "from Santa".  She didn't want poorer children to notice the inequality and think Santa gave them the shaft.   Hasn't this always been an issue?  And why not just skip the whole Santa story altogether?  Why are presents from a stranger better?

Bad Santa.  Why is this lap thing a traditional Christmas ritual?  gross for everyone.
Here's some more things that are unsavory:
  • Keeping a list of everyone separated into "bad" and "good" sounds like borderline personality disorder.   
remember this scene from Billy Madison?  maybe Santa is like this.

  • If I don't measure up, I receive a lump of coal at the end of the year, just to rub it in my face that I am a failure.   nice.  Only a crazy person would do this.

I guess it's just a part of our culture and it's what everybody does.  Like watching football and getting a 30 year mortgage.  I don't get it, but oh well I do weird stuff, too,  so whatever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pine tree zen moment

10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas
Here's something I just did tonight.  It's a mash up of a Christmas tree / pine tree, mixed with my love of the ocean.   Nate is calling it Kiawah Christmas. Do you see the little light house I put way in the distance?

When I paint, I usually use one or more photos for reference.  (or sometimes I just wing it).  After I get started, there always comes a point where I need to stop looking at the photo and just go with the painting.  Otherwise, I try too hard to duplicate the photo and I miss out on taking advantage of happy accidents.

Dude - that's totally like life.  Like, you might start out with a plan, and that's a good way to get moving.  But there comes a point when you have to be willing to abandon your exact original plan and go with the flow.  Improvise, and take those unforeseen opportunities.

And that concludes today's Bob Ross zen painting moment.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas present, Christmas past

I'm working on painting a present for Nate for Christmas. (Don't worry, it was a request, so I'm not ruining the surprise.) He has been collecting lots of cards for different versions of this game called Dominion. Have you heard of this game? I usually mess up and call it Domination. At first, I thought it was some sort of D&D thing, and I was like, "No, I refuse". But it's not at all, it's more like monopoly meets rummy. You accumulate properties through accumulating money through accumulating a strategically planned set of action cards. Changing it up with different cards totally changes the strategy and keeps it interesting.

here's my favorite version of the game

So anyhoo - instead of having 10 different boxes of cards stacking up, Nate picked out a wooden briefcase type of box from Hobby Lobby to organize all of them together in one big box. My present is to paint a Dominion style scene on it. I hope I do a good job. If you never hear of this project again, you'll know that it turned out horribly.

if you never see this box again, it's because it looks like crap

I did some painting presents last Christmas as well.
There was this stormy sky / twisted tree scene I did for my mom:

12"x12"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

I also did a set of four little magnets. They're an all-star sampler of favorite wildlife spotted in my friend's backyard:

Coopers Hawk, Hummingbird, Duck couple, and Indigo Bunting

God bless 'em, they actually have these on display in their homes. 

Something else I plan on making for Christmas are some delicious toffee cookies.  We went to a Christmas party last Saturday, and amongst the fabulous food were these cookies. The hostess told me it's the chocolate chip cookie recipe off the back of the Nestle chocolate chips bag  BUT - instead of chocolate chips, you use toffee chips.   I have bolded this information for your convenience.  Trust me, they're amazing.

buy a bag of these and head off to tasty town

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Transfigurations at the Wexner Center

Yesterday afternoon, a friend and I visited the Wexner Center to view the Transfigurations exhibit.  A collection of paintings and sculptures that Les and Abigail Wexner have loaned are on display through the end of the year.  Their personal art collection is stunning - millions of dollars worth of original art, including pieces by Picasso and Degas.
Wikipedia photo of the Degas sculpture we saw
 Can you imagine?  This is the decor in their house.  If I exhibited stuff from my house, it would be, like, dog hair encrusted toys and Star Wars drinking glasses.    Come see the bounty of my manor!
Bailey has curated this collection titled "Things I Chew"
Anyway, it was an awesome exhibit, and we weren't allowed to take any pictures.  So here is one from the collection's website:
Femme assise dans un jardin Pable Picasso

This is one of several Picasso's on display that he painted of Dora Maar. We overheard a tour guide describing Dora as the Lady Gaga of her day.    This one was also my favorite Picasso they had.

What's as interesting to me as seeing the art itself, is seeing the collection the Wexners put together.  I wondered - why did they choose this one?  Why did they collect this group?  I think they have a much more sophisticated appreciation of art than I do.
Femme de Venise IV  Alberto Giacometti.
cool tidbit: A lot of Alberto's other sculptures are of his brother, Diego.

 The collection was mostly human figures in different forms of distortion.  Curiously, there was one artist represented that did not create human figures.  Susan Rothenberg's paintings were all flat horse silhouettes.
Hector Protector Susan Rothenberg

What makes great art?  Accuracy in representation of reality?  Unique viewpoint in abstraction of reality?  Does it need to be making a statement?  Stir an emotion, pleasant or not?   Does it need to be attractive, or just thought provoking?  Is art great only when it creates a new style and propels expression in a new direction?
Pink Lady Willem de Kooning
I love that these billionaires invest in art in a way that it's clearly important to them.  I love that these artists invested their lives teasing out an idea over decades.  And I love that it made me think about things in a way that pop culture never does.

I highly recommend visiting the exhibit.  It was really inspiring on many levels.
Or at least click over to wexarts to see it online.  If you like to over think things like I do, you can obsess over it for days.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Christmas List

I like to take Christmas nice and easy.  Too many obligations, and I'm instantly stressed out.  No good!  Christmas cards? Those were abandoned over 10 years ago.  Maybe I bake some cookies, maybe not.  Putting up the tree is fun, but I definitely don't do a bunch of shopping.   If I putter along through life Christmas at my own little pace, not trying to guess and meet everyone's expectations, it's a happy experience.

These Pinterest words of wisdom sum it up pretty well:

Brilliant!  Ditch the obligations and focus on what you love.  Here is a quick list of some Christmas favorites make my heart triple in size.

The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland.
We had this version on VHS (which we had recorded off of PBS) as a kid, and it's still my favorite Nutcracker.

White Christmas
I definitely watch this every year at least once.  I love Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye!

Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
Best Christmas CD ever.

Chris Cornell singing Ave Maria.
I could literally listen to him sing all day long.  Treat yourself right: listen to the entire Chris Cornell playlist.

And last, but not least, this light show:

Christmas joy in your FACE

Something else that I love is painting my little paintings.  Last night I painted a pine-cone.  After about 45 minutes, it looked decent enough so I slapped an "SR" on there and called it quits.
10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

Saturday, November 29, 2014

December wallpaper

December!  Is it going to be a crazy sprint to the end of the year for you?  Do you revel in all the holiday merriment?  Or do you bristle at "mandatory joy"?  Or...  do you keep it low key, picking and choosing the holiday bits you truly love?

Here's a peaceful snow capped mountain top for December's wallpaper.  Click the image size / ratio you want to view the full sized image.  Then right click the full sized copy to download it.

1920x1080 (16:9)

2560x1024 (5:2)

2560x1600 (16:10)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Show me how the piggies eat

Thanksgiving is this week!  Oh my gosh, I cannot wait to pig out.  I'm all about the side dishes.  And the pie.  And some wine and a nap.

the siren song of wine and a nap
This year we're not even making a turkey.  I always eat a piece out of obligation, but don't even like it.  We're going with a ham.  mmmmmm, ham.

Another food I'm excited about?  Brandied cranberries.  Whenever I bring it somewhere, people ask for the recipe.  I honestly don't remember where I originally got the recipe from.  Somewhere on the internet.  There are similar recipes all over.  It's so easy:
  • 4 Cups fresh cranberries  (rinse off and pick out the bad ones)
  • 2 Cups white sugar
  • 1/3 Cup brandy
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. In a baking dish, mix the cranberries and sugar (yes, dry). Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (until the sugar is all liquefied)
 Take out of the oven, splash the brandy over top (it will sizzle). Stir it in and serve warm. It's the bomb.

Since we're not eating turkey, I thought I would paint a turkey. (??)  But then I remembered my pelican painting and thought better of it.  Large birds might not be my forte.  I made up another fall scene instead:
10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

Clouds, trees, leaves blowing about...  the usual.  Know what you love and stick to it, that's what I say.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More winter strategies for not going stir crazy

'Winter Sunset' 8"x10"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

So what do you do on the days you're snowed in to stave off the cabin fever?  I've been painting snowy landscapes.  Here's one I just finished.  I like all the colors I put on the tree bark, and the colors of the cold pale sky.

Here's some more of my go-to happy winter activities...

De-clutter your house
Lets be honest, there is a good amount of crap that quietly accumulates in our houses that is just junk.  Don't save it up for a spring garage sale.  It's not worth it.  Pitch it and feel the freedom.   Watch an episode of Hoarders if you need motivation.  If something is truly useful and in very good shape, but you never wear or use it, put it out for AmVets to pick up.  Be RUTHLESS.  If it was that awesome, you would have worn it / used it / done it / whatever by now.  When I de-clutter, it usually leads to reorganizing and rearranging, too.  Just yesterday I weeded out some coffee mugs and kitchen stuff we don't need and then reorganized my kitchen cabinets.  Feels so good.

Check e-books out of the library
How do I combine my love of reading with my love of not leaving the house?  E-books.  You can buy them online, or you can check them out for FREE from the library.  The first time is a little confusing, but then it's easy peasy.  
Your library probably has eBooks through OverDrive.   You can go to your library's website and follow their links, or you can go to the OverDrive website directly.    Here is their quick step by step help page.

For my Kindle, I go to the OverDrive site and use their Advanced Search.  I like to get right down to brass tacks and specify exactly what I'm looking for: Kindle format, available now, in English, biographies.
Once I find a book I want, I click "borrow it", and then they ask me to choose my library and enter my library card number.
Then I click to download the Kindle version of the book...

and I'm automatically sent to my Amazon account where I click "get library book".

It shows up in  my Kindle in seconds.  (through the magic of wireless internet)

You don't have to worry about driving to the library or getting them back on time.   They take the book away automatically.  So great for taking tons of books on vacation, too.

Set a spring fitness goal
As soon as the first crocus blooms, I wanna do David Lee Roth high kicks and sprint down the street.  Start training now so you can hit the ground running come spring.
I like to sign up for the Cap City Half Marathon, which is always the first weekend in May.  It feels like a huge victory lap for conquering winter.
my first half mary in 2012

To make it to my goal, I make a spreadsheet laying out the weeks between now and May, and break down the mileage I need to be gaining week by week in order to be ready. It gives me a sense of progressing towards something.
I like Zumba, too

If you don't like running (or the treadmill), then for heaven's sake don't set a running goal.  Walking?  Cycling?  Something you won't dread.   Signing up for an event that's on the edge of your abilities puts the fear in you when you'd otherwise be unmotivated.  Set a big goal!  Why not.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter survival strategies

my latest: "Winter Approaches"  10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

Here comes winter. Too bad it comes barging in a month early and hangs around for 5 months.  Too much!  Cold combined with darkness... it can be a struggle to do much more than hibernate on the couch under all the blankets.  Ultimately, I would love to get to where we could "snow bird" (yes, like we're 70, I don't care) or just move south permanently.  In the mean time, here are some of my favorite strategies for keeping my chin up during the season of horrid cold death and darkness.

Pensacola, Florida
Plan a warm getaway for January / February-ish
Big or small, anything will do.   A luxurious week in Mexico,  a quick jaunt to Virginia Beach for President's Day weekend....  The key is to start planning something now so that once the holiday whirlwind is over, there is still something in winter to look forward to.  It won't feel so much like "ugh, now there's nothing but 2+ months of bleakness".

get some sunshine

Learn to ski, ice skate, or snowboard
One year we got season passes to Snow Trails and joined a ski club.    They have sledding with a tow rope, too, if you just want the fun without the falling down.   If you want more of a get-away, you could book a ski weekend at a bigger ski resort. We like Holiday Valley and Seven Springs.  Winter is the time for snow sports, so you might as well give them a try.  If you have fun, it kind of tricks your brain into thinking "oh good, snow!"

snow is your "friend"

Join or start a winter club or league.  
A league working towards a finale or championship gives a sense of the winter progressing.  For many years, we were in a bowling league with our neighbors.  A card club (euchre, poker...) or a roaming dinner thing would be fun, too.  Anything that is automatically on your schedule to get you out of the house and seeing your friends without planning and thinking each time is good.  It has to be easy, because even simple things can seem not worth the effort in the dead of winter.

get together with friends

I have a few more strategies up my sleeve.  Ones that don't involve leaving the house.  Why don't you mull these over, and in a few days, I'll post about library eBooks, spring fitness goal spreadsheets, and Hoarders.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Party Studio - Autumn Walk

Sunday night, my friend Kim and I hit up The Party Studio to paint and share some wine.
Cupcake Red Velvet pairs well with a fall painting.
As usual, the instructing artist led us through step by step.  So easy!   I went rogue with mixing my own colors again.     I think for simplicity's sake, they don't make you mix the colors too much.    You can do whatever you want, though, so I sit there and swirl all my paint together.  A couple other women did an entirely different painting.
at about the halfway point   

For extra fun, they had GLITTER available that you could add to your painting.  I'm pretty sure Van Gogh was into glitter.  No?  Well, whatever, I put some black glitter on a couple of the tree trunks.  
a touch of class
It gives it that fine art vibe.  I seriously love it and now I'm struggling with a strong desire to add sparkle to all of my paintings.  

Voila!  Here's the finished product on our mantel.   I'm liking it up there for fall.  Must cling to every last bit of fall before Winter starts.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Holiday Valley

Holiday Valley is a ski resort in Ellicottville, New York.   We've driven up there many times for a long ski weekend.  Gotta break up the long bleak winter somehow.

Ellicottville is a really quaint tiny village.  We always drive downtown at least once for shopping and dinner.   The Barn is a favorite dinner spot.
The Barn
I grew up in upstate New York.  Winter is harsh and beautiful there. The air is so crisp...  I forget a little until we go back.

My favorite ski lift at Holiday Valley is the Tannenbaum.  So peaceful and beautiful.  The trees create an almost magical tunnel of solitude.  Since this picture, they've upgraded the lift to an express quad.  I kinda miss the slow ride through the trees.

Of course, coming back down is the fun part.  I'm happy to putter down the green and blue hills making nice slow S's.    Black diamond is a little beyond my skill and knee comfort zone.

I need to complain about winter less and appreciate it's good parts more.  If I didn't feel trapped by it, that might help.  It can't all be ski weekends and Christmas eve, but sparkly white snowfall is kinda dreamy.  Here's my painting of a snowy night at Holiday Valley
10"x8"x0.5" acrylic on canvas

TONIGHT!  I'm going to The Party Studio to paint with a friend!  She's bringing snacks, I'm bringing wine, and we're going to paint a tree-lined path.  Can't wait!