Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Monday, January 30, 2012

Radical Gratitude

I started my Monday dropping my van off at the mechanic's, and walking home in the frigid morning air.  Nothing wrong with the old girl (the van, not me!  Well, nothing wrong with me, either but...oh, hell, you know what I mean), just taking her in for an oil change.  I could've had a ride from Jill, mama of my Monday morning art student, but there was nothing wrong with walking the few blocks home, either.  In fact, it gave me time to reflect on the past year, and spend some time fuelling my soul with gratitude.
Here's a little teaser for a blog post coming next week...

A year ago, this week, I was walking into a divorce mediation that I was hopeful would allow me to remain in this beautiful house until she sold, and maybe even give me a six month grace before I had to put her on the market.  I had no money to hire an attorney, and in fact,  I was stretched so thin financially and emotionally, it's amazing I wasn't transparent...or maybe I was, and most folks were just too kind to say so.  In spite of the stress, I had come to a place of peace with the whole situation, and held as my intention the prayer, "I trust this to resolve for the highest good of all concerned".  I was not legally required to go through mediation, but I assured the mediator that it felt like the wisest, fairest, cleanest way to finish something that had been dragging out for several years.  Within two hours, he had us settled, and I walked out, stunned, with my house.  Not for awhile, but forever.
I'm learning to stylize animals for the mural that includes the dolphins shown above.  Tune in next week to see how Coyote, the jokester, appears on the wall, along with a bunch of his friends.
So, my gratitude list today started there.  But I did have to backtrack.  Though I wouldn't have ever asked for things to unfold the way they did, I will not say I regret the 15 years spent with Mr. Q.  Though there aren't years of fabulous times to remember fondly, there were some sweet moments, but more importantly, there were lessons learned.  Lessons about honoring the authentic voice inside that warns a woman she has stepped out of her own skin.  Lessons about when helping becomes enabling, and martyrdom being an act of ego not grace.  Lessons about authentic loving, and hardest of all, finding a way to respect the Divinity in a person whose behavior appears anything but respectful or respectable.  Lessons of sheer faith, in the face of fear and sorrow.  Deep hard lessons, for which I am deeply grateful.

When the papers arrived, all was not suddenly blissfully rosy.  In the midst of the divorce, I lost a friendship that was precious to me, and with that arrived a whole other set of lessons, some of which I'm still deciphering.  For the friendship I had, and the lessons that smacked me so hard they knocked the wind out of me, I sent a prayer of gratitude into the frosty air ( I did say it's radical, though it really doesn't feel it once you get the right perspective), and continued my cheerful walk homeward. 
Here's a project that will finish up this week.  Should be done in time for Thursday's post.

Gratitude lists are a one-thing-leads-to-another sort of thing, so of course, the next thing I thought of was the growing circle of deepening friendships that has spread like a ripple this past year.  Some of these friends you have met on this blog, some are scattered across the globe, some are newly made.  Some are right here in this funny little town, with a few driving past me as I walked smiling, back toward Belle Ami this morning.  There were several honks and waves (and a few calls throughout the day to find out why my van, which is a little hard to miss with it's circus wagon paint job, was parked at John's Mobil), making me feel so incredibly grateful to have been welcomed by these people, who mostly aren't quite sure what to think of the gal in the paint rags who lets her dandelions grow, and doesn't attend either the Lutheran or the Catholic church (this is a big deal in the Midwest, especially in small towns, in case you aren't familiar with regional American culture).  They may not quite get me, but they watch out for my well being.
Simple Abundance is a beautiful book about developing a practice of living in gratitude.

Others watched out for my well being this past year.  Starting fresh with pretty close to nothing in the bank, I had some close calls on the slippery slopes of finance.  The trade-off for the house was taking on more of the debts, many of which were perilously past due by that time.  I knew then, as I know looking back, that the days the cupboards went bare were a chance for me to grow my faith in a Divine source.  The cupboards did go bare, more than I would like to admit, but every single time I asked the emptiness, "well, okay, where is dinner coming from, then?", it appeared.  Sometimes, it was a phone call inviting me for a meal at  the home of friends, sometimes a box of produce dropped off on my back porch, by gardening friends who have done so off and on for years.  Only once did it come intentionally from a friend who caught on that finances were that bad, and gifted me not only a bag of groceries, but also a little stained glass sun catcher of a symbol that has specific meaning for me, and literally answered a prayer I had sent up minutes earlier.  It was a very humbling moment, and an unforgettable lesson in Grace.  I learned to say, "Yes, thank you", in the deepest sense this past year, and thinking of this, I walked the last half block home, grinnin' like an idiot, enjoying the bright morning sun, and the rosy glow on my cheeks.

I arrived back at Belle Ami to see Artgirl, Faith, waiting for her Monday lesson.  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but the fact that I start every work week with Faith gives great delight to my word-nerd mind.  Today, I hugged her "Hello", as usual, but feeling unusually grateful.  I have learned radical gratitude this past year.  Gratitude for the gifts that do not smell like roses, nor look so pretty, but today, there was no radical needed, for which I am joyfully,

Today, I celebrate with enormous gratitude, a calendar that began rapidly filling back at the end of November, and which is currently scheduled solid for the next two months (which was the norm before the economy did its nosedive), with a queue of jobs extending beyond that, to be scheduled as the current ones move toward completion.  Today, I have not only my own books that I am writing, but also a new related venture with another author, that may well be a very long-term partnership, and a glorious adventure.  And today, my cupboards are brimming with the nicest things, and the commitments I've made to share meals several times this week, are not requiring me to breath deep and remind myself that it will, somehow, be okay.  I'm not traditionally Christian, but don't even think of arguing with me the veracity of the loaves and fishes story.  I tested that one way too many times to doubt it. Having plenty in plain sight is a nice change, though.

Some of you will wonder why I'm sharing such a personal story, one that some would be ashamed of, so publicly.  Gratitude.  To tell those who helped me directly, or who simply believed in my ability to create a beautiful life, that they are never forgotten.  Mostly though, I tell these very personal truths to let others in hard times know that things can get better, and they get better faster when you hang onto your faith, deepen your spirit of generosity, and maintain a willingness to give, even when it seems there are no resources to share.  Oh, and make sure you are saying, "Yes, thank you!"

Choosing JOY,
in the face of challenges,
in spite of difficulties,
because of difficulties~
that's  Radical Gratitude. 

It changes your life.

If faith is a wobbly thing for you, and you haven't other resources you feel good about, you might like to connect with Unity, which honors all paths to whatever you call God.  This is not the same as Unitarian, by the way, though that may be your path.  Unityofthevalleymn.org is the spiritual center I spend time at.  You can google Unity and find one in your area.  You can also call Silent Unity, at 1-800-669-7729.  My experience is that these are gentle, respectful people who do not push one way of believing, or one concept of God, and I absolutely promise, no one will ask you if you have found Jesus (a popular question in the rural Midwest, that always brings out the smart ass in me...).

Wishing you abundance, joy, and beauty (and every good thing your heart desires).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hey Garbanzo, how ya bean?

This is the standard greeting my big sister, Robin, and I have exchanged since shortly after she went off to college.  This can be answered factually, or with the question,  "Do you like my hat?" (P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog! Go!, a favorite book of four-year-olds of our generation).   I just share this to clarify that any weirdness I may exhibit is not my fault, but was drummed into me by four older siblings.  It's an upgrade from "blame it on your mother".

That whole paragraph has very little to do with the rest of this post, except to serve as an explanation for the title, lest you think I actually converse with my garbanzos.  I know, after admitting to naming, talking to, and occasionally petting my fern, I shouldn't be surprised if you think I've lost it.  I did, by the way, finally name my three new house plants this morning.  Spike, Denny, and Sasha.  They seem to approve.  Oh, but this post isn't about that either.  Sorry, sidetracked.  This post is a recipe for reeeeeaaaallllly yummy garbanzos.  These are garbanzos that even people who don't like garbanzos like.  And they're easy.  And fast.

Throw all this stuff in a skillet:

One-pan dinner

Alright, not that fast.  There's a little prep involved.

While melting a Tbsp. of butter in a skillet
Clean and chop one bunch of green onions.
Toss that in the skillet, and while they start to soften, chop a tomato.
Toss that in the skillet, and while that starts to soften, toss in 1 Tbsp. of chopped garlic.
While that cooks gently, chop about half a bunch of cilantro, and throw it in.
Open the can of garbanzos, and dump it in, WITH the liquid.
Add about 1 Tbsp. of ground cumin.

Raise heat and bring to a boil, then boil gently until liquid is reduced to a sauce consistency.  Takes about five minutes.  Makes two main dish, or four side dish servings.

Speedy Garbanzos
Colombians serve this as a side dish to chicken and other meats. Vegetarians can serve it as a main dish with a good salad. Artists who worked a long day and need to get a blog post done and get to bed so they can be back to work crazy early in the morning serve it with a keyboard on the side. Yum.
Dinner and a blog post, all in one.
While enjoying your garbanzos, you might like to peruse my portfolio of painted pretties, at theartofthehome.blogspot.com

Questions or comments can be left below, or you can email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Worth the Wait

A few month back, Faith decorated her shelf boards, so that from a kid's eye view (from bed or desk chair), they are as interesting as what's displayed on them. 

Last summer, as some of you will remember, my Artgirl, Faith, announced we needed to do a carpentry project.  Frustrated with the clutter in the bedroom she shared with her younger sister, Ava, she needed shelves to help organize things, especially her art supplies.  Having made my own shelves from magazine instructions when I was her age, I knew a simple method that actually needed no real carpentry, just paint and a few minutes with a drill to install.  But what kind of teacher would I be, if I let slip an opportunity to teach wood working lessons to a ten-year-old girl?  So, we designed trays to hold small bits, and Faith conquered her fear of noisy tools to build them, using the miter saw, sander, and my nemesis, the hammer.  (Santa still hasn't brought me an air nailer.  Not that I'm hinting or anything.)
Desire is a great motivator.  Faithie wanted shelves so bad, she was willing to use noisy, scary power tools, so getting the hang of the level, and dealing with a little math and measuring were nothin'.

I'm not sure her daddy is going to get his drill back.

While we were building trays and painting shelf boards, though, things over at Faith's house were changing, as they do in a family with six children.  Faith's oldest brother decided to move into a home of his own, and this meant there would be a bedroom available.  For awhile, the two youngest girls considered sharing a bedroom, and turning the other into a shared art room, but somewhere along the line, probably on a day when little sister touched one too many of big sister's treasures, it was decided separate bedrooms was the way to go.
Finally, something for little sister to help with.

Once big brother's stuff was removed, paint colors were chosen, carpet was ordered, and Faith and I spent a day painting her walls (and her toenails...oops!), which appeared on this blog just before Christmas.  I popped over this morning to give Faith a lesson on using a level, and we started marking the walls for the hooks that hold the shelves up.  Faith finished that on her own, while I went fabric shopping for a client, and then we reconvened this evening to finish.  It only took us a few minutes to drill the holes, slip in the anchors, and hook on the ribbons. 
Organizing as a spectator sport?

Uploading the art supplies!

For simple shelves that take less than a day to paint and install, seven months was a pretty long wait, but considering these shelves came with a brand new bedroom, I'd say Faith thinks it was worth it.  The bear hug I got on my way out the front door confirmed it, and the last thing I heard, as the door closed behind me, was Faith promising to help one of her brothers make shelves for his room.  Artgirls rule!

When not getting youngsters hooked on power tools, I do work at splashing paint on walls.  You can check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

Want to make these shelves yourself?  We used 1 x 12 lumber, cut to length at the lumber yard; 1" grosgrain ribbon cut in 40" lengths, with the ends hemmed 1 1/2 inches to form loops; and the plant hooks you usually install in the ceiling.  Yes, they'll hold.  My improvised version, at age nine, used sixty year old barn boards, garden twine, and 4" nails that never hit a stud, and those held loads of books for years.  This time,  I actually followed the directions, just to keep Faithie's folks from worrying about things going bump in the night.  If you need more direction than this, feel free to ask in the comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's on your Walls?

Getting ready for the interview the other day, I realized again that most of my walls are devoid of art work.  I am in the process of framing some photos and mementos, and I do have the ability to paint more pictures of my own, but the truth is, I like things with a story, and most often, a story from someone I know.  I could buy decorative art at one of those discount home goods stores, and some of it is really pretty, but I simply have a need for more from the objects I decorate with.  Even the things that aren't so pretty, like Checkum, the marionette who never got strings, and instead became the adventure doll of my brothers' childhood.  Ramon and I made him for Jess, but we all played with him.  He hangs out in my art room now, next to a Mexican dragon, and photos of my brothers.  Maybe not pretty, but he makes me smile.

In my art room, A Mexican dragon guards a Colombian bottle, on the window ledge with an old childhood friend, Checkum..
For the last few months, I've been puttering along at creating a whole wall full of photos and art in my office.  A colored pencil drawing, given to me by my brother Jess, will be included in that.  My baby blanket also resides in the office.  It just so happens that it coordinates with the warm gold walls in this room, and it's the perfect size to drape around me to keep off the draft, on cold winter nights, as I sit here typing.  I have it around my shoulders right now.
A colored pencil drawing done by my brother Jesse when he was a teenager, waits to be hung in my office.  Underneath it is my baby blanket.  Hmmm.  Grandma Norma made me this from fabrics used to sew work shirts for Grandpa, and a bathrobe for my dad.  Wonder if this explains my fashion preferences?
When we were kids, our grandmother painted us birthday cards, in acrylics.  I display one of my granddad, with other ocean themed objects, in my bedroom.  Some of the best times of my childhood, which was pretty much packed with best times, were spent with these grandparents near their home on the Oregon Coast, so I love having everyday reminders of them.  The antique frame cost me pennies at a junk shop, and the whole lot sits on top of a battered old steamer trunk.  Not only am I reminded of my childhood, but also of an era long before I was born.  Somehow, I don't think I could ever find that at TJMaxx.
This painting, which sits on top of my antique trunk in my bedroom, is one my grandma painted of my grandfather clamming at South Beach, on the Oregon coast.
Some of the treasures I've accumulated weren't made for me.  I have most of my older sibling's stuffed animals, and even one from my dad's childhood.  Hanging in my costume closet ( you have one of those too, right?) are skirts my mother and aunt wore in high school, hand sewn, of course, and my brother's Jr. High Football jersey, that I remember mama sewing the felt letters of his name onto (Somehow Ramon managed to get out of the "do-it-yourself" rule on that one).  In my art room hangs a frame Dad made for my oldest sister, Robin's, first apartment.  There were four of them, framing prints, and though she kept the prints when she moved to Maui, she gave the frames to me.  I should have stitched a sampler for one of them "My big sister went to Maui, and all I got was this crumbly old frame".  As it is, the last remaining one holds the artwork from my very first commercial logo design.  Layers of good memories in this piece!
This moss covered barn wood frame was one my dad made for my sister's first apartment.  She passed it on to me, and it hangs in my studio, holding the pen and ink sketch from my first logo design.
 Lately, I'm turning toward collecting artwork done by personal friends.  Although I don't have old memories tied to these pieces, each one brings me pleasure in it's beauty, as well as fond thoughts of the friend who created it, and gives a splash of their energy to the space.  I like the idea of collecting art from artists at street fairs, but I think it's even nicer to collect the art of people I know.
This painting by my friend, mandala artist Ann Viveros, hangs above a group of meaningful objects atop the piano.  Titled "The I in Meditation", it is a fitting piece of art in the living room, where I do my morning writing, meditation and prayers.
 Sometimes, it's lovely to find a treasure filled with another's memories, even if they can't tell their stories.  I'm starting to keep an eye out for old handmade art, like this delightful sketch of a little girl I found at a yard sale.  She's nobody I know, and yet, she fits right in here, adding personality to my guest room.  You can find mass produced posters of similar drawings, but I promise the real thing has an energy you can't get from a new page printed in China.

The rabbit is one of many of my childhood friends sewn for me by my Grandmother.  The blanket was a yard sale find gifted to me by a friend under unusual circumstances.  The sketch of the little girl was hidden behind cardboard in a frame I picked up at another yard sale.  She's a perfectly charming addition to my guest room, even if I've never met her!
 So, a lot of my walls are still bare, awaiting just the right treasure to embellish them.  It's okay.  I would rather wait for something that tugs at my heartstrings, than fill my walls with pretty but impersonal pieces.  Please don't misunderstand!  I absolutely believe everyone should hang exactly what they like on their walls, so if prints of Paris speak to and about you, that's what you should hang. As long as it holds meaning for you, it will help create a perfect surrounding for your own beautifully lived life.  That's the really important thing.  While a beautiful home can be a backdrop for a beautifully lived life, it's the life you live that counts. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Author, Subject, or Illustrator?

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Kim Palmer of the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis newspaper that covers the entire state.  While she and I talked, well, okay, yes, mostly just I talked and she tried to slow me down enough to clarify, photographer Courtney Perry shot Belle Ami from every angle imaginable.  I don't know all the details of when this beautiful old lady (hey, that's the house, not me, watch it there, Bucko!) will appear in the paper, but I'll keep you posted.

Oh, look!   I added a new door and a courtyard beyond...

...or more like it, I finally finished the living room mural.  Well, pretty much finished.  There are still a few shadows to perfect, and the sculpture of a dripping wet human-sized Gwragedd Anwnn (Welsh water sprite) stepping out of the mural and into the room, to be added in the near future.
What I can tell you is that the days leading up to this were filled with much anticipation, little sleep, a good bit of flying paint, and the generous help of darling friends.  I hope every one of you reading this has a friend who will show up to do your dusting and sweep all your floors (thank you, thank you, thank you, Maureen Carlson), one who will gift you with beautiful furniture (thanks for the perfect chaise, Cat Isles), one who will help you haul said furniture up the stairs when she herself is bone tired (thank you bunches, Cindy Faus Heimerl), and a whole bunch more friends who celebrate your big moments, with warm wishes, hearty congratulations, and chocolate deliveries.

Detail of the mural, which a few short days before the interview was still a big white blotch, where the previous mural had been painted over.  Nothing like self-inflicted pressure to get a job done!
 Belle and I made two new friends, yesterday.  Reporter, Kim Palmer (click here for her article on prairie planting http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/137503533.html), has seventeen years under her belt, with the Star Tribune, the last seven of those working on the Home and Garden section.  When I asked why she chose H & G as her focus, she said "What I find most interesting about my beat is seeing the many ways people imprint themselves and their passions on their surroundings. And people are usually eager to talk about their homes and gardens (unlike many hard-news subjects, when they mostly want to avoid the press!)"  I know she made me feel very comfortable opening up, which though I obviously find it pretty easy on this blog, is actually much harder in person.  Kim says she also enjoys reporting on the renewed interest in gardening, especially urban gardening and the microfarming movement that is turning vacant city lots into verdant veggie plots.  I didn't ask if she would like to come back to view my mammoth, organically grown dandelions, next summer.

Freelance photographer, Courtney Perry, and reporter, Kim Palmer, let me turn the tables on them, ever so briefly
I knew I would also really like photographer, Courtney Perry (courtneyperry.com), from the minute she came through the door, though I didn't get to talk with her much, at the time.  I checked her website later, and discovered she is recently transplanted here from Dallas Texas, where she worked for the Dallas Morning News.  I emailed for more info, and she told me she moved here last year to marry her soul mate, and freelancing allows her to explore a new nook of Minnesota every day.

Playing duelling cameras with a pro could be dangerous, but Courtney's a good sport.
It turns out, yesterday was Courtney's birthday, but I think I received the bigger gift, in the following words from her email reply:  "I'll write more later, seeing as it's quite late and I'm quite tired, but for your blog post tomorrow, this is what I can share about me: today was my birthday, and my only work assignment was to go to your house, and it was SUCH A GIFT. The perfect birthday assignment. I was inspired, moved, comforted, and reminded of who I am. How amazing is that?"  How amazing indeed.  Thank you Courtney for such high praise, and welcome to Minnesota!  We're fortunate to have you.

So, my week has started with a bang!  And not just one.  Maybe more like fireworks.  Today I met with author Cat Isles about illustrating her latest book, and it seems I will also be writing a few bits for it.  It is on the art of correspondence, and includes a perpetual calendar, where one can record birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions.  My illustrations are probably going to be pen and ink flora and fauna, collaged with backgrounds of old hand-written letters.  Not sure how long the project will take, but you know I'll keep you posted on the progress of that.

And finally, I also received word today that the drywall crew is finishing up on my big spring project (whose ribs were featured on here a couple of months ago), so I get to start in on that in a couple of weeks.  With the other projects already on the calendar, this means my schedule is fully booked through at least the end of March!  Lots of fun paint projects coming up, so check back often for photos, and the stories of how the adventures unfold.  I need to make one more adjustment to the blogging schedule, by the way.  Rather than posting on Tuesday and Thursday, I suspect it's going to suit the schedule a little better to write new posts on Monday and Thursday nights, so look for updates around midnight Central time. 

Thinking of letting me write about what I paint on your walls, later this spring?  Check out my website, theartofthehome.com, to view my portfolio of possibilities, and get all the info on how to hire me.

Doing a project yourself?  If you run into a decorating dilemma you think I might be able to help solve, please don't hesitate to ask.  If I know the answer, I'll be happy to share it, and will likely throw in a whole lot of extra unsolicited advice, to boot.  You can click on "comments" below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beyond My Wildish Dreams

I have a rabbit that lives just outside my back gate, nestled under a wicker garden table that any responsible adult would have put away for the winter.  Actually, my friend Sherry did put it away when she tidied my yard for me, but ungrateful brat that I am, I drug it back out, because Bunny lives under it.   The only time I've seen her out in the open since summer, aside from the other day when I spooked her trying to get this photo, was the last time I had a flat tire.  That morning, she was laying in wait for me in the middle of the back lawn, and calmly watched me the whole time I changed it, not at all bothered by my crashing and clattering about.  Even the occasional application of swear words (medicinal purposes only) didn't faze her.  Most people (most grownups) I know don't like rabbits in their yards, but I love having this sweet creature guarding my back door.  No wild carrots will get past her watchful eye!

Beware of Guard Bunny!
Now, there's a dreamlike image to contemplate.  Come to think of it, I've actually seen some classic nursery art featuring dancing vegetables in the moonlight.  Yikes!  That could give a kid serious broccoli-phobia!  But I digress.  What I'm hoping is that over the next week, while I sleep, my four-legged friend will wander (hop, leap, bound) through my dreams and give me some inspiration for the animals in the Unity of the Valley children's mural.  I've completed as much as can be done, up to the point of including animals, and now I seem to be stuck. 

The artwork thus far is so much more stylized than my usual realism, that I haven't yet been able to get the animals to come off of the brush.  Oooh...there's another dream image, if you let your imagination follow that thread...(really, let your imagination follow that thread for a minute.  This post will still be here when you wander back).  So far, what's come off of my brush has been realistic forms in wild colors, or very nearly classic Disney, neither of which is what I'm aiming for.  Grrrr.

Time for some wildlife to peek from this rain forest dreamscape!
Any of these attempts would have made the client perfectly happy, but fortunately for me, this is one situation where there is no real deadline, and especially because the mural happens to look like a finished panoramic scene already, it can take as long as it needs, without bothering anyone.  I rarely get to create something completely my own vision, especially on this scale, so I'm enjoying the process of letting the art unfold at its own pace.  Okay, that's not entirely true.  I'm trying very hard to go with the flow, but to be honest, in case you hadn't caught it already, I'm getting frustrated.  Tonight, I'm hoping that my vision picks up its pace just a bit, and rabbit comes, leaping and hopping on a moon shadow, to clarify how she and her friends want to appear in this technicolor landscape.  And so, I"m off to bed.  To sleep, perchance to dream...

Dreaming up something wonderful for me to paint on your walls?  Most of the time, the process isn't so drawn out, and you can find reassurance from happy customers on the references page of my website.  theartofthehome.com.

Got any suggestions for me?  Send them via dream rabbit delivery, or simply click on the word "comments" below to leave them.  You can also email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bricks and Stones (or rather, plaster and paint)

I'm not one for lying and trickery, but some weeks, well... it's my job.  I finished last week creating a plaster arch surround that looks and feels like brick and mortar, and started this week working on my own courtyard mural, in the trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) style, which I think is coming along nicely.  So, I must confess. Yes, Mama, I've been coloring on the walls, and I can't help it if pictures lie! 
Before:  Lorine loved the brick showing through broken plaster, but without an aged finish on the walls, it didn't really have a context.

After:  Not only does the full "brick" arch make more sense in her elegant kitchen, it appears to be a continuation of the brick wall outside the window. 

Go ahead and touch it!  I started with a "mortar" base of primer tinted gray and mixed with silica sand.  Then I taped off bricks and troweled on joint compound, tinted brick red.  Once dry, I topped it with a clear coat, umber glaze, and black and white paint.  Now if I could just get the camera to not flatten out the shadows, grrrrr.

Meanwhile, back at Belle Ami, the living room mural is progressing.  The design morphed one more time into a courtyard, which was my perfect compromise between conservatory and back yard pond, neither of which was catching my heartstrings.

Mural in progress:  It's starting to look real, though without any plants painted in yet, it does sort of have the depressing feel of a pen at the zoo in winter.  Not for long!
More of my trompe l'oeil work can be seen on my website, theartofthehome.com.

If you are trying this yourself and have questions, feel free to ask by clicking the comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  If I have an answer, I'll be happy to share.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I rest my case...

Sometimes The Divine dishes up delicious fun, in the form of "coincidence".  Tuesday, I wrote about painting over previous work, and about the idea that anyone who really wants to learn to do something artistic can do so.  On Wednesday, I started this week's new project, which is to change the faux brick around an archway that I painted a few years ago.  This had been bid previously, but I wasn't thinking of it when I wrote Tuesday's post, though it might have been lurking in the shadows of my mind.  I didn't catch the connection until my client, sitting at the table watching me start to sketch the design for a plaster brick surround, asked "What do you charge for art lessons?  I want to learn to draw, I mean, like real things.  Do you think I'm too old to learn?"  She's a few years older than me, and no, she hadn't read Tuesday's post.
Arch with "broken plaster and brick" (before upgrade).
She showed me some "How to Draw" books she had bought herself, and her practice sketches, which were pretty good.  The problem is that the books show you a finished drawing, then what lines to draw at each step, so you essentially learn to copy someone else's sketch.  It's not a bad way to start, but Lorine wanted to draw her own pictures.  I'm not taking on new students right now, but since she was going to sit and watch me work anyway, I figured I might as well give her some instruction while I primed and taped.
Still life with drop cloth and clutter.
Looking around her kitchen, I found a handful of objects to combine with the coffee cup she had in her hand, and told her to take a last swig and pull up a chair.  I gave her a few quick pointers about drawing crosshairs on her paper, then finding the center of the group of objects in front of her.  I had her figure out the proportions of the topiary, and from there, showed her how to compare that to everything else, so she could get all the objects drawn to the same scale.  While Lexie the chihuahua supervised, I mixed mud, and Lorine scribbled, erased, muttered, fussed, scribbled, took a break to do her nails, groused, sketched, erased, sketched a bit more, and finally pronounced it done.
First drawing lesson, Lorine Schweiters.  Yes, first lesson. 
Learning to draw is basically about learning to see.  Lorine started the day insisting she couldn't draw from life, but by the end of the day, she was seeing herself in a new light.  While I was there today finishing trowelling on the plaster faux bricks, she had her daughter on Amazon, ordering Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  As I said, genetics are irrelevant.  Age is irrelevant.  Barring physical limitations (maybe), you can learn to do just about anything you truly want to learn.  Lorine recommends you not try arguing this point with me.

Curious to see the new and improved archway?  I'll post photos next Tuesday.  Can I just say, this new blog schedule feels very strange?  I would never have thought it to be so ingrained that switching writing days would actually make me feel a bit off kilter, but it has.  They say changing your routine, trying new things, or trying things in new ways is good for you.  Worked for Lorine, should work for me.  How 'bout you?

Wanna risk being bullied into a drawing lesson while I paint your walls?  I'm not that tough on all my clients, I promise, only the ones who really ask for it.  You can check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments?  Leave them below, or feel free to contact me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The art of change...

or the changing of the art. 

Living room mural at Belle Ami, before repaint.
I get asked a lot of questions when I'm painting a mural, and this last week the questions were, "Where do you get your talent?" and "Does it kill you to think that someone will eventually paint over it?" The answers may not be what you would expect.

I initially planned to paint the mural as if you were looking through the door into a conservatory, like the one shown in this magazine clipping, but with a fountain and koi pool, from which the sprite could have emerged. 
To the question of talent, the answer is "Life." People will insist it's genetic, and maybe there's a small part that is, but mostly I think that's just an easy out for those who would rather wish than work. Yes, I've always been creative, but it was my big brother Jesse who was the "born" artist in the family. He came by it easily, and created entire fantastical worlds in his imagination, then put them to paper with colored pencils, in astonishingly realistic detail. I took art classes in Jr. and Sr. high school, from the same teacher he did, and through the patience of Mr. Pickens, along with the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, I became fairly skilled at drawing what was put in front of me. However, it wasn't until I owned a sign shop and needed to design and paint an illustration on a sign, that I had to actually become a painter. It's this creative confidence to step up to the challenge that comes from my parents.

After nearly a full day of working out the concept sketches for a conservatory, I decided there was too much structure to make the painting believable from more than one angle, and besides, the living room already has the feel of a conservatory.  I scrapped the lot, and using this clipping as inspiration, decided on an exterior pool.
Growing up, we didn't have all the fancy toys our friends had. We had poster paint and Lincoln Logs, an Erector Set and X-acto knives, Tinker Toys and pipe cleaners. We had parents who expected us to use our imagination and solve our own problems, who treated us as perfectly capable and intelligent people.  They expected us to help cook meals, build sheds, mend clothes, garden, and  do hundreds of other skill-building tasks.  Because of this, when I need to do something, artistic or otherwise, I may get nervous as to how to go about it, but it never crosses my mind that I can't.

Yes, this has led to some rather spectacular misadventures, (how was I to know that entire wall of cabinets was going to come off as one unit, with me under it?) but what would life be without hair raising escapes and embarrassing flops? Of course I don't know how to do everything, but I've yet to encounter anything I truly want to do that I can't learn. There are a lot of things that I do not have any natural skill for that I have learned to do (not perfectly, but sufficient to the purpose), simply because I needed or wanted to. So, if it ain't in your DNA, but you still want to be an artist, start practicing.

Ahhh, the clipboard.  No matter how nervous a new project has me, just hand me my clipboard, with a stack of clean white paper.  Actually, anytime I'm freaking out, or just mildly edgy, hand me my clipboard and a pen.  It's like handing a pacifier to a baby, I tell ya. 
I'm still practicing. Which leads me to the answer to the second question. Does it kill me to have my work painted over? No. In fact, there are still some signs I painted more than 20 years ago that I truly wish the owners would have painted over! Artists grow, skill evolves, and in my case, most of what I do is commercial or decorative, so it's meant to serve a purpose for a time, and then be changed.

First I masked out the shape of the new door opening, which matches all the other doors in the room, then painted in a twilight sky.
I'm working on changing the mural in my living room here at Belle Ami. As it was, it was a good example of a one-day mural, and included the ever-popular white columns, making it a useful portfolio piece. It had good colors for the room, but there were a few problems with it. First, the columns weren't "installed" in an architecturally correct way, meaning that in real life, the engineering wouldn't work, unless the wall was very thin, which isn't how walls are built. Second, the purpose of the mural has changed, and I now need it to be a backdrop for a life-sized sculpture of a Welsh water sprite, a Gwragedd Anwnn, who will be stepping into the room. The third problem with the mural, is that it doesn't showcase the type of artwork for which I most want to be commissioned, and Belle Ami is, after all, both design lab and walk-in portfolio, as well as my home.

...then, realizing all the problems with lighting a twilight sky would create, I quickly scrubbed it off and painted a not-quite twilight sky.  See?  Still practicing.
The style of the new mural is intended to be true trompe l'oeil, French for "trick (or fool) the eye".  My goal is to achieve such realism that although you know it's painted, your eye does not immediately see where reality gives way to paint.  Is this a good time to admit that I've not done this to the degree I am envisioning, on this scale, ever before?  Well, if Necessity is the mother of Invention, then Determination is her father.  I think I know how to do this, and if I don't know how, I know how to learn.  Then, all it takes is practice.  And time.  Hopefully, not a lot of time.  Shall we see?

Want a change of scenery on your walls?  Check out my portfolio, and the info on how to hire me, at theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments?  Click on the word comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Making Changes

Early last year, I made a commitment to blog three nights a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I have to say I am pleased as I look back, to remember the nights it wasn't convenient, or that I couldn't think of a single interesting thing to share, and yet I pushed through, occasionally coming up with my best writing...and often just waking up at the keyboard, with odd strings of letters on my screen.  Ah, well.  The hardest part of being an artist of any type can be showing up at the page, when life is pulling you so many directions, or a cozy bed is beckoning.

For me, 2012 is starting with a work schedule that is full of decorating, writing, illustrating and teaching.  So full, I'm expecting to need help soon, at least to keep up with filing and dusting.  I'm also starting the year with a more balanced personal life than I have probably ever had.  Getting myself aligned spiritually and emotionally has also aligned me with a community of friends, and though I will never be a social butterfly, I do find that I have a few social commitments that are as important to me as creating art and writing stories about it.  For this reason, I've decided to drop the blogging schedule to two nights a week, Tuesday and Thursday, which means new posts will appear Wednesday and Friday mornings in the U.S. (Cypress, South Africa, Australia, et al...well, you do the math, please).

I hope 2012 is the year your goals are achieved, your wishes come true, and your dreams expand to crowd out any fears you hold (and any time in your schedule for dusting).  May you be healthy, strong, courageous, joyful, and CREATIVE!  See you late Tuesday night!