Category Archives: Uncategorized

Time to Get Back to Work


The last few months have brought some big changes to my life. Lochinvar has a new job, the child moved and started a teaching career, and we have spent the summer re-thinking the business. In the midst of our total reorganization, I’ve poured my creative energy into decorating projects around the house including coming up with some low cost artwork

This project started when I was at a home store looking at paintings to spruce up a guest room. It seems that I’m always drawn to birds, flowers, butterflies, etc., and I found several I liked. They were all fairly small and went for $20-$25 each. Since I couldn’t bring myself to fork over $80 to $100 to fill a small space in a big room, I decided to make my own.

I started with a package of four 9 x 12 canvases that I picked up at a discount retailer for about $10. Then, I used craft paint from my stash to create a multi-colored background that coordinated with my room. I started with a pale blue base, and then used a paper towel to “smudge” on sandy brown, dark yellow, and pearlized gold. These created a mottled background with a reflective quality from the pearl finish paint.

Next I taped together four sheets of paper and created a single drawing that I could then separate out onto the four canvases. This allowed me to have four pieces of art, but one unified picture.


I used graphite paper to trace the outline of my drawing onto the canvases. Aside from the canvases, this is the only other material I purchased for this project. The graphite paper came in a multi-sheet pack, and I only used one sheet to trace all four of the pages, so it was a bargain. (By the way, don’t use carbon paper for this step because you won’t be able to erase stray lines or marks.) Next, I went over the outline with a fine tip black sharpie.


Since I don’t feel I’m a great painter (and I don’t have a huge stash of paint colors), I used alcohol-based markers to color in my drawing.

As you can see, I colored the canvas just as I would color any drawing in one of my books. I started with some lighter tones in the middle, and then blended with the darker color around the edges. The ink was pretty wet and sat on top of the painted canvas for a minute which allowed for easier blending.

Here’s how the canvases looked after I finished coloring them all.

Here’s the two-by-two layout on my art table and on the wall in my guest room.

In total, this project only took two or three hours. The longest part was making the initial drawing, but by the time I finished it the canvases were completely dry. (I didn’t wait for the paint to dry thoroughly when I created the backgrounds because I wanted it all to blend. Each coat had time to mostly dry as I painted the other canvases, and then went back to the beginning for the next step.)

Once the drawing is made, it can be used over and over again. You could paint the same two-by-two picture in multiple colors (to sell, give away, or enlarge the art installation). Another option is to draw a one page sketch and repeat the same picture in four colors to hang together in a row or square (think Andy Warhol).

If you are not confident in drawing your own picture, consider tracing elements (like a bird, butterfly, or flower) from a coloring book on to the canvas.

In the end, this project provided a quick and easy low-cost option to add color to my guest room. It was forgiving and easily adaptable to any theme or motif. Happy coloring!




A Place to Play


Creating things can be messy. Sometimes I just need a space to putter and play, a space that no one else sees (usually), a space where I can cut and paste and doodle and color and comment and just be me. Over the years I have had notebooks that I intended to be just such a place, but often I find that the pristine pages are daunting. I feel I have to create something that is worthy of filling those spotless slices of snowy paper. It’s almost as if the blankness of the page makes me feel that I’m obligated to create “art” instead of just trying out some new markers. So a few years ago I started using funny old books for my artistic play space. I am particularly fond of weathered books related to childhood. They seem to give me permission to use, draw, or write anything I like. So, I am pleased to introduce you to The Everything Book by Eleanor Graham Vance (Golden Press, 1974). (A fitting title, don’t you think?) While this book is now considered vintage and sells for $15-$20 on various websites, I found it hiding in the children’s corner of a thrift shop and took it home for less than a dollar. It reminds me of my childhood when I traced and colored paper doll clothes and doodled in the margins of all my school notebooks (much to the dismay of my teachers who would have preferred to read papers without borders filled with scribbled swirls, strange creatures, and alien flowers).

One of the first things I do to a doodle book (as I like to call it) is personalize it. Here, I used a razor blade knife and cut out part of the cover art to create a frame for a photo and quote. The edges were a little rough, so I covered them with ribbon and decorated the corners with butterfly stickers. This photo seemed fitting since it was taken on my birthday just a few days before I started this book.The back cover is decorated with a piece of clip art I colored and some flower/butterfly stickers that seem to blend into the printed floral border.

The first couple of pages of my books almost always include poems or quotes that inspire me. For example, on the left is the text of “Curiosity” by Alastair Reid which reminds me to take a chance in life and art. On the right is the text to “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manly Hopkins which reminds me that imperfection is beautiful. Of course, I have some whimsical touches like the Chinese take-out page with fortune cookie messages that I always manage to save. (Yes, I gather them during meals with family and friends and then carry them around in my purse for awhile before they eventually make their way into my stash of found objects.)

The next page (left photo) has the text of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 (“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”) which reminds me that no matter what I do or don’t create, no matter how my job, my business, or my artwork is going, I always have Lochinvar.

After adding a few favorites, I venture into my own creations (right photo). Here I have a poem written on a napkin during a lunch meeting along with some cutouts and a picture of Emily Dickinson (who only had two of her poems published during her lifetime).

The book then becomes a mishmosh of doodles, pictures from magazines, quotes, snippets of writings, or anything I can pull out of my stash that inspires me. These pages are meant to just let me play with ideas which I might later turn into something more serious (or not). At the end of a particularly stressful day of work, I find that an hour of cutting, pasting, and contemplating can really change my outlook on life.

Some pages become a repository for drawing practices because I just can’t bear to toss them out when I’m done.


Other pages become all about the color and the words. Here I have used pieces of the pictures in the book along with highlighting key words about art and creativity and freedom of expression.

These are future doodle pages in this book. It takes quite awhile for me to fill up a book of this size because I save it for days when inspiration is running dry. Usually, after a play with a couple of layouts, I realize an idea for a drawing or crafty creation has crept into my head.

If you find your creativity needs a pick-me-up, try picking up an old book and just decorating it in some way. Maybe the pages will give you inspiration. At the very least, they will give you permission to play in a judgment-free zone.

Happy coloring!


Drum Roll, Please!


Tonight I’m unveiling my latest creative endeavor: a Paris-themed coloring book. It takes about 50 hours to draw one of my books. I start with printing the lettering on heavy weight drawing paper, followed by sketching the main pictures in pencil. Then I go back  over those in ink, erasing any stray pencil marks. Next, I use an ultra fine sharpie to draw in all of the designs that fill the page. When all the drawing is done, I scan them into the computer and create a quarter-inch border to frame them out.

Filling the page is actually one of the  elements that sets my books apart from others; I fill the paper without repeating the main design over and over. (Yes, there is repetition in background elements like flowers, hearts, grids, etc., but even these are varied somewhat.) Don’t get me wrong, there are some really great coloring books on the market (I’m particularly fond of Creative Cats by Marjorie Sarnat), but many others leave me nonplussed. For example, I love some of the mandala books, but I dislike that half the page is empty white space. (I know, using the negative space is a design element. I just don’t like all of that emptiness when I’m coloring because it feels like wasted paper to me, so I usually end up drawing in a bunch of doodles around the center image to fill up the page.) I’ve also seen some coloring books that fill the page, but do so by repeating the same design over and over. While a theme is fine, I prefer some variation. I love seashells, but I don’t want to color 12 of them that are exactly alike lined up in rows on my paper. (I guess my creative side rebels against that level of organization.) Of course, this perfect repetition also makes me feel like the image is computer generated, or perhaps an artist drew the first one, scanned it in, and then tiled it to fill the paper. Either way, it’s just too perfect for me.

Another element that sets my books apart is the paper. The covers are made from 90 lb. recycled cardstock while the inside pages are printed on 70 lb Rainforest Alliance Certified 
Vellum. I’ve tried several kinds of pens, markers, and watercolor techniques with good results. (Only the Sharpies really show through to the back of the paper, but even they don’t bleed on to the next page.) In addition, the binding is always on the short side or top of the page to allow more room for moving your hand around and getting to small areas of the design.

As  you can see, a lot of thought goes into creating a coloring book around here. So without further ado, here are some pictures to give you an idea of how the new book turned out. If you’d like to see this book (or other themes: Cats, By the Sea, Bugs and Butterflies, Angels!)  in person, we will be at the American Legion Cruise-In for Vets car show on Saturday, March 5 at Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley. Books are also available on the “Color Your Own” tab of this blog or by contacting me via email ( or on Facebook.



The Art of Procrastination


I read an article this week about why writer Adam Grant’s New Year’s resolution is to procrastinate more. As a high school English teacher his headline (“Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate”) struck me as someone trying to justify his online gaming or social media time, but as an artist and a writer I understand the point he’s making about allowing ideas to gel for awhile.

It’s funny, but my approach to all major projects, decisions, ideas, etc. is to jump right in – but only for a few minutes – before hopping right back out to contemplate. I guess I like to see what the fuss is all about (first one to try something new in at work, first one to volunteer for a committee, you get the picture), but then I like to mull it over before moving on. I never really thought of this as procrastination, but it turns out that it is. Research over the last few years tells us that (some) procrastination is linked to creativity. Of course, it also shows that too much procrastination causes stress and poor results, so the trick (as with all things in life) is finding the balance. When we have controlled procrastination we give ourselves time to think more deeply, to consider options that weren’t readily apparent at the outset of a problem or project, to envision multiple paths to success, or to come up with more creative ideas.

My version of controlled procrastination has always been to try something out, do some reading, talk to people about the idea, and then to just let it simmer in my brain for a few days – maybe even a week. If something seems to need a more immediate solution I doodle or play a mindless game on my phone (depending on where I am at the time).

I’ve also discovered that I work better with deadlines, so I set a day/time by which the decision has to be made or the product has to be completed. Of course, I always adhere to the Scotty Principle (from Star Trek) of padding that time when giving it to others, but cutting it a little shorter for myself. (I even remember discussing deadlines during the interview for my first writing job at The Mountain Press. The editor wanted to know if I could get things done on time, and we had a lengthy discussion about the value of deadlines in areas of life that had nothing to do with the newspaper business.)

Sometimes, though, if nothing happens when the deadline passes unheeded, I start to get bogged down. I find myself second guessing my ideas and decisions or feeling stuck. In that case, I always turn to some sort of artistic endeavor to get me moving again. Any kind of painting, crafting, or sewing project that I can focus on and complete does the trick for me. Sometimes it can be as simple as spending an evening coloring an intricate picture, because once I accomplish something (no matter how small), I feel I’m gaining momentum that I can apply to the larger endeavor. And, since I’ve accomplished this blog post, I’m ready to get back to work on the Paris-themed coloring book I’ve been contemplating for the last couple of days.

Here’s the link to Adam Grant’s article if you’re interested: “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate”