Tag Archives: fun

Marker Love

Standard

I’m a marker girl. I own a box of pastels, a couple sets of colored pencils and a carousel of gel pens, but markers are my medium of choice – and I have A LOT of them in water-based, permanent, and alcohol inks. Unfortunately, my VERY favorite set (a nondescript package of generic alcohol markers purchased for half price from Hobby Lobby) are running out of ink, and what is doubly unfortunate is that the store doesn’t have them anymore. (Imagine the outcry of indignation and sorrow!) Thus, I set out to find an affordable set of double tip markers to replace my beloved coloring companions. After looking at plenty of markers in local arts and crafts stores, I settled on a set of 72 Bianyo 8606 markers from Amazon.

DSCN3292

These arrived in a soft sided case for $39.99, which works out to about 56 cents a marker – a bargain for sure. (My former favorites were 69 cents each on sale.)

DSCN3293

I immediately liked the squarish shape of the barrel which made the markers easy to manipulate and comfortable to hold. Since I have arthritis, the fatter barrels are much easier on my hands.

DSCN3295

Each marker has a fine and broad tip along with the color number on both ends, so it is visible in the case no matter which end is up. I’m always happier when the company puts a number on the pen so I don’t have to!

DSCN3296

Whenever I get a new set of markers, I always start by creating a set of color swatches because I just don’t trust the hues on the caps. A set of swatches allows me to choose the exact color I want (or quickly see that I’ll need to blend a couple of shades to get it). Since the markers were not separated by color in the case,  I sorted them into color groups and arranged them by number before creating the swatches.

DSCN3301

Each swatch consists of two passes with the chisel tip and the color number written with the fine tip of the marker. These pages get stapled together and stored with the markers so the swatches are easily accessible whenever I use the pens. (I used to put all of the swatches into a three-ring binder, but found it too cumbersome over time.) This set is listed as “classic colors” and has a nice variety of both cool and warm grays, blues, yellows, greens, and reds along with a sable and a blending pen.

DSCN3298

After creating the swatches, I put the pens back into the case by color (sort of), which brings me to my only complaint about the set – the case. In the ordering photo, the markers appear to be in a stiff-sided case that holds them upright and in order. (Okay, I’m probably OCD about these things, but I like my pens sorted by color and number.) However, the case is unstructured so the markers don’t go in rows (which would make them easier to organize) and they start to fall over when several are removed at a time.

DSCN3368

That said, I liked them every bit as much as my “old favorites.” The colors dried quickly, and once dry they did not bleed when touched by a new color / wet ink (which is one of my pet peeves with water-based markers). In addition, the fine tip easily managed the small spaces on this coloring page from Creative Cats by Marjorie Sarnat (Dover: Mineola, New York) and the chisel tip filled in the backgrounds without streaking. (I tend to turn the page and color in different directions, so the fact that the ink blends into itself is a real plus.) I would give these pens a five star rating for color variety, value, and feel. But, I’d only give the case two stars, because I find it unwieldy and annoying. It provides basic storage, but it doesn’t help me organize the markers or quickly find the one I’m looking for. If that doesn’t bother you, I would definitely recommend these markers.

Advertisements

Easy DIY Art with Colarting Kits

Standard

When summer temps hit the valley of the sun there are only a few acceptable activities. One, of course, is hanging out in the pool; another is anything that can be done inside with air conditioning and a cold drink in hand. (The latter situation is also familiar to my northern friends who hunker down to escape the blustery cold of winter.)

As a teacher, I spend a good deal of my time in the summer thinking about and planning for school (which gears up at the beginning of August), but since I don’t have to do those activities on a bell schedule, I also get to spend a good deal of time in my studio. On 115 degree afternoons, the coolness of the basement beckons me to color, cut, and paste.

Thus, our Colarting (where coloring meets art) kits provide a means to escape the heat and create something to hang in my room, office, or home. Let me show you how it works with the Dreamy Kitty design.

DSCN3327DSCN3352

Each kit comes with three or four layers (depending on the picture) to create a 3-D design along with a package of standard embellishments and the foam tape used to give the art dimension. Full instructions are also included, along with a bonus coloring page.

 

 

 

In step one, each of the layers is colored in preparation for cutting and stacking. While a person could leave the larger shapes blank (white), I suggest filling them in to provide a background when looking at the pieces at an angle. This helps the piece look more professional when its complete.

DSCN3348

The middle layer has a gray space around the pieces to indicate what will be cut away. Because I know I’m going to cut these out, I don’t worry about staying inside the edges. As a matter of fact, I intentionally go over the line to make sure I fill in all of the white space. In addition, when I’m using several shades of the same color (like two shades of green on the squirrel shape), I color the entire shape in the lighter color using a chisel tip marker, and then go back with the darker color and fill in the details using a fine tip marker. This makes it much easier to color small, detailed areas.

As you can see, I have written the color numbers I used across the top (which will get cut off). Since I don’t always have time to color all of the pieces at once, this helps me remember which markers I used so I can carry the color theme over to other pieces.

DSCN3342

The top layer consists of cut outs that will rest on top of the middle layer pieces. I used the same basic colors to complete these pieces, too.

DSCN3345

If you plan to use a photo mat (which I highly recommend since it adds a professional finish to your artwork), put the background in the mat before you begin adding the layers. This allows the layers to stick out over the edge of the mat and adds to the 3-D effect.

DSCN3350

Now you’re ready to cut out the middle and top layer pieces.

Once everything is cut out, open up the embellishment packet and locate the foam tape squares. These will be applied to the back of the cut out pieces in order to create a 3-dimensional effect on your artwork.

It’s always a good idea to space out the foam tape squares around the edges of larger pieces (like the kitty). The smaller pieces may only need one or two squares to support them. Remember to plan the number of squares per piece to make sure you have enough.

Once the tape is stuck to the back of the layers, peel off the wax paper backing and apply the middle layer to the background.

DSCN3357

Repeat the application process with the smallest top-layer pieces. Here, the angled photo gives a better look at the shaded in bottom layers. (Take a look in the lower left corner under the lizard.)

DSCN3361

Once all the layers of the picture are attached, it’s time to have some fun with the embellishments. The packet contains basic embellishments in clear and silver to match any color scheme. Of course, you can always add extras from your own stash. (Consider buttons, beads, jewels, trims, pieces of broken jewelry, or even origami.)

If you don’t have a stash, we offer additional embellishment kits in multiple colors. (All of our kitty-themed demos on the website feature standard embellishments. The other themes sport a variety of items from my studio.)

Arrange the embellishments wherever you like. (I suggest placing all of them on the piece before gluing, just to make sure you like the layout.) Regular white glue or craft glue will work to attach the embellishments, or if you’re impatient (like I am), use a hot glue gun for immediate gratification.

DSCN3362

Finally, don’t forget to sign your work before putting it into a frame. Our kits create an 8 x 10 picture which fits into an 11 x 14 mat and frame. (I suggest you get a shadow box frame so your work will be protected behind glass.) If you use a non-shadow box, simply remove the glass to allow space for your 3-D design to pop out of the frame.

DSCN3365

The final product is a one-of-a-kind piece of art ready to adorn your office or home. Our whimsical designs are perfect for kids rooms, dorm rooms, hallways, and cubicles. They make great gifts as a project to be completed or as a finished product to make someone smile.

Check out the nearly 30 designs available at thecockeyedcolorist.com. Happy colarting!

 

Learning to Love the Gel

Standard

I have a love/hate relationship with gel pens. I realize to most people having strong feelings about gel pens may seem overly dramatic or personally indulgent, and they’re probably right. In the grand scheme of things how I use gel pens is not going to save the world or cause it to spiral out of its orbit on the way to total anihiliation. . However, (and there’s ALWAYS a caveat, right?) they are a source of joy and consternation every time I color.

Why, you may ask, do I invest them with such emotional power? The answer is simple: I don’t know. There. I’ve admitted it. It could be that I love the sparkliness (Is that even a word?) of the glitter gels, the edgy glint of the metallic gels, and the vivid hues of the florescent gels, but I hate (deplore, abhor, and several other synonyms, too) their lack of coverage in larger spaces and their tendency to smudge. (Yes, I COULD wait for the ink to dry before coloring next to it, but that would require a level of patience that I don’t possess.)

Thus, the very things that make gel pens fun also make them annoying. So, I’ve tried to devise ways to mitigate the problems with gel pens while keeping the lovely gel-iness (Now, I KNOW that’s not a word, but I’m feeling Shakespearean today.) that they bring to a design. Let me explain:

DSCN3216This is how my gel pens look on a larger swathe of page. As you can see, there is quite a bit of open space, even though I colored the area twice.

DSCN3217Next, I turned the page 90 degrees and colored the other way. While this helped fill some of the gaps, there is still plenty of paper showing through.

DSCN3218Of course, I could use a fat-tipped marker to get better coverage. (This patch was done with a Sharpie.) But it lacks the lovely sparkle and the intensity of color from the glitter pen.

DSCN3219So, I married the two to get the best outcome. Here is the Sharpie base with the glitter gel on top. This has the full coverage of the marker with the sparkle and saturation of the gel pen.

And, of course, the combination of the two opens the door for other effects. Here, I laid down the base coat with a berry colored marker, but still used the dark purple glitter gel over the top. This allows for a subtle variation of color that I might use on flowers next to one another or to color a bunch of grapes.

And different colors yield different effects (duh, right?). Here is a bright tomato red patch of marker covered in three different gel colors: pink, dark red, and orange. Each one changes the base to create something new. I might do this as an easy way to shade parts of a flower (especially if I have a limited number of marker colors or the markers don’t blend well.) Thus, I could color the whole flower in the base marker color, and then add darker parts with the red gel, medium tones with the pink gel, and light areas with the orange gel.

However, I should add, some colors don’t play well together. Here, I put silver (left) and light blue (right) glitter gels over that swatch of red and ended up with muddy ugliness. (Yuck! Yup, even the camera couldn’t hone in well enough to focus on this mess.) So, be sure you try out the combinations on a piece of scratch paper before you apply them to something you’re working on. (I HATE it when I ruin a perfectly good picture with the wrong color choice!)

Here’s an example of the dramatic difference gel pens can make in your coloring. I started with a base coat of medium pink Sharpie (left). Next, I added some pink glitter gel around the center and edges (middle). Then I finished by going over the outlines and coloring in the center along with every other space on the edge with purple glitter gel. Just this touch of dark adds a great deal of drama to the image.

DSCN3249

Here’s how the flower looked after I colored in the rest of the petals alternating gel ink and marker. To help keep the gel from smudging into the color next door, I did all of the marker sections first, and then went back with the gel working my way from the inside out and turning the picture so my hand wouldn’t drag across it.

As you can see, I tend toward high contrast, bold, unrealistic colors. (After all, I get enough realism from the evening news. I don’t need it on my coloring pages!) The colors work because the purple on the outside petals relates back to the purple in the center of the flower, and the darker color on the outside grounds the flower as a whole.

So, thinking back on my relationship with these pens, I can see that learning to love gel ink was really a matter of setting it up the right partner. Hmm… Isn’t that true for most of us?

Happy coloring!

A Real Who’s Who

Standard

Well, I have done it. I have taken the plunge and am in the process of building a website. (I just keep remembering the man who ate an elephant – one bite at a time!) It is a little intimidating but interesting. I’m learning about all kinds of tools, and layout, and content needed for thecockeyedcolorist.com . However, as a creative endeavor it is also fun. I enjoy the process, and I’m having a good time writing some of the descriptors. (Although the artist statement still eludes me, and that will be the topic of a future post.) In the meantime, I’d like to give you a sneak peak of one of our pages by including the About Us content describing our staff.

toasting-our-friends-5-2Jenny Medlock (aka The Cockeyed Colorist) is the (not so) evil genius behind a diabolical plot to save the world through crafting by making people smile whether they want to or not.

 

toasting-our-friends-6-2Jeffrey Medlock (aka Lochinvar) is the organization’s Yes Man, as in “Yes, I know you can do it!” and “Yes, I’m here to help!” His jack-of-all-trades role keeps the machinery moving forward.

 

stanzi-1-2Stanzilicious Poufy Pants is the Efficiency Expert. She calls the staff to the basement to work every day and provides periodic petting breaks to her servants – I mean workers.

 

banditBanditulyumptious is the Cat Encouragement Officer (CEO) who brings incentive toys to the workers and makes sure everyone knows when it’s time to quit for dinner.

 

smudge-2Smudgicles (aka Old Blue Eyes) is Chaircat of the Board who oversees the whole production. From her seat of power she supervises the CEO and doles out responsibilities to the minions.

 

licorice-2Licorice is the Chief Fool and Art Critic (CFAC) who sees himself as a feline Jackson Pollock working in cat spit instead of gloss enamel.

 

georgie3Georgie Porgy is the Chief of Annoying Technology (CAT) who is never around when you need her. She specializes in hiding until problems are solved, unless someone shakes the treat jar.

And there you have it – the creative team behind our new website and our new product line (Coming Soon!) We hope your life is as colorful as ours!

 

More Bang for a Buck

Standard

I know that many crafters are already familiar with the great “stuff” available at the dollar store, but sometimes I get excited about my finds and just have to share. A couple of days ago I was treading water between the end of school and the beginning of a meeting, so I stopped at a local Dollar Tree to pick up a snack. Of course, I couldn’t just hop in and out without perusing all the goodies – many of which just seemed to kamikaze off the shelves into my basket (go figure)!

I (obviously) started my excursion on the craft aisle where I found several kinds of glitter paint and glue. I was surprised to see the glitter hot glue sticks since those are not frequently available outside of craft stores. I also did not expect to see the large pieces of foam core / display board. These make a nice, sturdy foundation for lots of crafty ideas. Of course, the itty bitty clothes pins, colored buttons, and butterfly jewels are just too cute.

The office supply aisle yielded some pretty snazzy stickers and a couple of just fun items. I have to call your attention to the paper bracelets, though. These were hanging with the teacher/bulletin board items. I’m sure they’re meant to be reminders sent home to parents of small children. (Write the reminder and tape it around the child’s wrist so s/he doesn’t forget to tell Mom and Dad.) Still, I thought they could be pretty useful for remembering to bring something home or pick up something at the store. (Write your reminder and tape it around the handle of your purse or the steering wheel of your car.) Of course, many people do this sort of thing with sticky notes, but they always seem to fall off of where ever I place them.

Next stop was the toy aisle. I found a couple of nifty things to color for use in my classroom. (I thought the glittery poster board background on the balloon picture was really fun.) The other item is a colorable notebook cover and who doesn’t need more fun on their English notes? In addition, I found a bunch of cute puzzles. (Now, you have to understand that Lochinvar is a gifted puzzle person. He just glances at the pieces and knows where they go! This is a cool super power, but extremely frustrating to the rest of us mere mortals.) I envision that these could become the background for some nifty artwork. For example, complete the puzzle and glue it together. Then use a wash to tone down the colors and paint something related on top. How fun would that be?

Over on the wrapping paper aisle I found a series of “Diva” gift bags with the cutest cruel shoes. I envision cutting out the shoes and the words to use in a collage. Besides, who doesn’t love shoes? Of course, I have to love the pictures instead of the real thing because my feet would never tolerate such heels. I’d probably break an ankle just trying them on!

Over on the “home” aisle – where you find picture frames, small tools, etc. – I located these large-scale vinyl wall stickers. While I already have some of the floral and butterfly motifs, the over-sized elephant, birds, and balloon were newer designs. They actually come in two pieces which get matched up on the wall; although it would be cool to attach the stickers to an inexpensive canvas to give them a more artsy feel. It would also be fun to color the elephant before putting him up somewhere.

Overall, any time spent getting inspiration is a good time, but when those inspiration pieces are only a dollar, it’s even better! I hope you find colorful inspiration in your world.

 

Living Better is Art

Standard

Over the holidays Lochinvar and I took some time to rethink how we live. We both agreed that we need to live “better” which means changing how we approach daily tasks and time allocation. This includes spending less time in front of the television and more time pursuing creative endeavors, being more mindful of what’s happening around us and less absorbed in our cell phones, scheduling down time to make sure we feel mentally rested each day, and going out to “do things” instead of focusing on chores. (Yes, they still get done, but they are of secondary importance.)

In addition to this mental switch we have decided to treat our bodies to better living, too. Like most Americans we could stand to lose a few pounds, but more than that we just need to move. To that end, we have started building 30 minute “work outs” (and I use the term loosely) into our schedule three times a week. Getting some exercise has always been low on our to do list because (like everyone else who works 40+ hours a week) we’re tired. However, we feel that our bodies will reward us with some extra stamina for all the walking we do on annual vacations, so we’re willing to try. In addition, we have decided that exercise need not be just a four-letter word (like “walk” or “bike”) but also a five-letter word (like “dance”). To this end we are attempting to teach ourselves West Coast Swing dancing.

Yesterday I found a good video series that has the basics in small bite-sized chunks, and we gave it a whirl. (Here’s the link to Swing Shoes if you’d like to learn, too!) While neither of us is a particularly great dancer, we did have some laughs (and some frustration) trying to dance in the living room. After practicing the basic steps while counting together, we put on Pandora and tried to move with the music. Overall we did alright, I think. This morning I could still remember the basic steps we learned yesterday (which is a win for me). But when the music didn’t seem to exactly fit the beat (thank you Mr. Music aka Lochinvar) we lost the West Coast Swing and reverted to Two Stepping. Of course, if the goal is to raise the heart rate a little, this works. On the other hand, if the goal is to learn to Swing dance before our cruise next summer, this digression was not helpful. Hopefully, we’ll be able to add a couple more moves later this week.

In the interest of variety, we rode our bicycles today which is always an enjoyable activity. January in the Valley of the Sun generally holds clear skies and temperatures in the 60’s. The fresh air feels good breezing past my face, and the green belts are lush with winter grass. As an added bonus, everyone we meet who is walking a dog, playing with kids in the park, or taking an evening stroll, smiles and waves as we roll by. This friendliness is contributing to our sense of living well since it makes us feel connected to our neighborhood and the people around us who usually go unnoticed.

I really hope we can maintain our commitment to these changes. Although the “old” me wants to come home and be a couch potato, the “new” me is enjoying the sense of accomplishment and time well spent at the end of the day. Over the last couple of years our lives had become so hectic that we rushed through everything and focused all of our energy on work. But our recent discussions reminded both of us that our jobs are how we make a living, but it’s what we do with the rest of our time that makes a life.

 

First Friday Fun

Standard

To celebrate my birthday Lochinvar planned a trip to Phoenix’s First Friday, which is a monthly evening arts fair that coincides with free admission to the Phoenix Art Museum and the Herberger Theater. In addition, many galleries and downtown shops stay open late (until 10 pm), street fair vendor booths pop up in parking lots, musicians play on corners and in doorways, and artists show off their creations. Though this monthly festival has been going on for some time, we had never been. So, I was excited at the prospect of an evening of good food and artsy happenings.

4-fried-mac-and-cheese-with-rosemary-parmesan-french-fries

Fried mac and cheese and rosemary-parmesan french fries at Bliss Rebar

2-cocktail-at-bliss-rebar

Lochinvar at Bliss Rebar

1-1-cocktail-at-the-district

Moi at The District

We most enjoyed Roosevelt Row where we were greeted with lively crowds and vendors offering everything from ceramic cat mugs (SUPER CUTE!) to original sketches and paintings on everything ranging from traditional canvas to old 33 rpm records to handmade jewelry and hemp creations. We talked to an artist who uses tin cans to create fanciful figures which he sells to help feed people at a homeless shelter (which is where he gets the cans) and a woman with steampunk jewelry, including some cameos featuring bats and dragons.

 

After exploring this area, we walked to the Phoenix Art Museum where we were greeted by crowds of young people walking through the cavernous spaces. While I enjoyed some of the exhibits, the walls felt a little stark after the profusion of eye candy on Roosevelt Row.

Next we hopped on a trolley and went to Grand Avenue where we saw some really cool street decorations consisting of crocheted baby blankets wrapped around tree trunks, stuffed animal bags filled with plants hanging from branches, and stuffed snakes dangling from the canopies. The conglomeration of colors and whimsy made us smile.

6-cool-bike-shop-art

Even the bike shop sports some nifty art work.

Finally, after hiking the length of Grand, we picked up another trolley and headed back to the Arizona Center which we cut through on the way to the Herberger. Unfortunately, we were too late for the performances there (which ended at 9 pm), but we did see several people in costumes featuring fairy wings, feathers, and glitter.

14-arizona-center

The Arizona Center

15-herberger-theater

The Herberger Theater

At that point, we found ourselves in need of a snack and a nightcap, so we ended our evening at The Compass on the 24th floor of the Hyatt. The view was spectacular and we nursed our libations until the rotating restaurant came full circle.

17-view-from-the-compass

An attempt to show you the view of the city lights from The Compass

The next morning we visited CityScape for a nosh at The Breakfast Club where I had the mignon bene (a four ounce filet mignon with wilted spinach on eggs benedict complete with hollandaise and bearnaise sauce). This came with homemade O’brien potatoes (pan fried potato pieces with sauteed onions and bell peppers) and seasonal fruit. It (along with all the other food we had downtown) was artistry of its own!

Lochinvar and I had a wonderful time. We reflected on years past and those in our future, dreaming of many more adventures like this one. A life well-lived is definitely art.