Tag Archives: inspiration

The Art of Musical Instruments


Over the last six months I have used broken and abused musical instruments as a jumping off point for several pieces of art, but a recent visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, AZ, reminded me just how beautiful instruments can be. Beyond the vibrations they exude, beyond the creativity of composition, beyond the artistry of performance, musical instruments are works of art unto themselves. Take a look at some of my favorite pieces (and visit the MIM for a first-hand look at these glorious objects).



It’s all a Matter of Perspective


When 2017 began, I purchased a goal-setting journal and spent a good deal of time mapping out my big picture for the year. My goals included mundane things like eat better (which I have done), lose 30 pounds and keep it off (which I have failed to do), and learn to let go of what I cannot change (which I’m still working on). My goal list also included making time to create and moving my business forward with an over arching theme: The year I become an artist.

At the time, it seemed like I was dreaming big with the idea of becoming an artist, as if some magical event would transpire in the wee hours of the morning, and I would wake up to birds chirping, the sun shining, and a bright “Artist” badge waiting in my jewelry box. Instead, over the last nine months I have struggled every day to call myself an artist.

One day when I was staring at myself in the mirror trying to decide if I looked like an artist (as if there is some specific way I should appear) and (of course) finding the image woefully lacking, my Lochinvar worked to reassure me by taping some affirmations inside the medicine cabinet door. Now, every morning I read (yes, out loud) four small messages that remind me to be keep trying. (Once more into the breach!)

I try to replay those messages in my head when confronted with frustrations and failures from snarky comments like, “Huh, I could draw that,” to my inability to create a website with a functional shopping cart. And, overall, I think I’m making progress thanks to some recent successes.

A few weeks ago I was juried into the Fountain Festival, a large arts fair in Fountain Hills (AZ) scheduled for Veteran’s Weekend (Nov. 10-12). The organizers required me to submit multiple photos of my pieces and explain my materials, process, etc. When I received the e-mail accepting my work in the drawing category, I felt a sense of vindication. Funny how one email that referred to me as an “artist” and had information about displaying my “work” can make such a difference.  I’m still waiting for similar messages from organizers of a couple more large art fairs, but acceptance at the first one certainly gives me hope.

In addition, Lochinvar has worked diligently to straighten out the website situation. He has our site up and running (HOORAY!), so someone besides friends and family can actually see what I’ve been doing in my studio. (Check it out here.)

Finally, last week I was accepted as a full member of the San Tan Artist’s Guild (S.T.A.G.) which is made up of about 60 artists in a wide variety of mediums. As part of the application process I was asked to bring a few pieces of work to show members of the guild at the September meeting, which was pretty nerve wracking. However, by the end of the night, I left feeling like the people I met took it for granted that I was an artist. They talked to me as if I were an artist; they looked at my pieces as if they were art. (I guess that badge was lying around somewhere after all.)

Because of these recent events, I am starting to see myself as an artist, but I’m not sure that I will succeed by the end of the year. After all, the voice in my head is perpetually critical, and my seeming inability to defend myself against naysayers is troublesome for the warrior woman I think I should be.  Fall is upon us, and I can feel the days growing weary after the scorching heat of summer. With only a few months left to accomplish my goal, I keep reminding myself that it’s all a matter of perspective. That moving forward, moving the needle, just moving is sometimes enough.




I tell myself every year that I’m not going to do school work during the summer, but I always end up taking classes, attending week-long planning sessions, putting together presentations, writing quizzes, scouring the internet for cool lesson ideas, and reading articles in preparation for the next school session. This year has been no different.

As I feel the summer drawing to a close (I’m signed up to conduct freshman boot camp in a week and a half.), I realize there are several things that I wanted to accomplish that haven’t gotten done. Some of them are deep cleaning house chores, but several of them deal with creating myself as an artist. So, I decided to ignore the chores and work on the art. That means I’ve spent some frustrating hours rebuilding my new website. (Yes, this is the third time. Cross your fingers; it’s almost done!) It also means sending applications to be juried into a couple of local artists’ groups. Yesterday, one of the applications asked me to describe my “process.”

This set me back for a few minutes while I contemplated how I go about creating anything. The creative process is different for each of us, and I’ve never really thought about what mine looks like from an outsider’s point of view. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pretty silly and somewhat invisible.

First, I turn on my tunes. I have a 262-song playlist on my computer that I use specifically for creating. It includes the likes of Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Bob Seger, The Eagles, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles, Bread, Jim Croce, The Fifth Dimension, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, .38 Special, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John, Charlie Daniels, Molly Hatchet, CCR, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey, and many, many more musicians. The cranked up music usually leads to me singing along (loudly) and dancing around my work room. (Yup! This is the silly part, but it feels good!)

Usually, the theme has been rolling around in my brain for a few days. (This is the invisible part.) I lie awake in the silence of the wee hours of the morning envisioning topics like angels, sweet felines, the ocean, flowers, or butterflies – all among my favorites. In my head, I see beautiful watery colors that swirl and roll together like storm clouds. Thus, by the time I get to my studio space, I have an idea that’s been bubbling up for a day or two, so I start pulling materials while I’m dancing about.

Last January I reorganized my creative space by sorting all of my materials by color. (Previously, they had been sorted by type or theme. For example, all the ribbons were in one box, and all the paper flowers in another.) Now, pulling out a basket of color is a great deal of fun. I empty the basket on to my work table and start sorting through the items to get some inspiration for dressing up my theme.

Next, I leave the mess on my table and head to my drawing space to create the big ideas that I’m going to paint, color, and embellish. While I’m usually a very organized and tidy person, the chaos of the dumped basket with a pile of drawing pens and music playing creates a free and fun atmosphere that lightens my soul. Which, of course, is the point of the whole exercise.

After I have completed the drawing, I take it back to the table and transfer it to whatever background I’ll be using like card stock, a canvas, an old tray, a cigar box, etc. (Recently, I picked up a small curio cabinet with three little shelves which has been calling my name.) Once the main ideas are on the background, the fun really begins. I break out the paint or alcohol markers and sift through embellishments.

At this point, I usually decide I need a couple of other colors or at least some metallic touches to spice up the piece. So, I “have” to break out another basket of stuff to play with. Of course, after a couple of baskets are dumped, the chaos can become overwhelming, and I need to walk away for awhile. (Here, my feline friends hope that I’ll forget to close the door to my work room so they can knock everything off the table and play with it.) It’s usually a day or two before I get back to finish my project, and by that time my brain has sorted out the details of its own accord. So when I open the door, I’m confronted with a “mess” to clean up, leaving out only what I’ve thought about for the last 24-48 hours. I crank up the music, put stuff back into baskets, and move along with my piece.

Allowing my brain time to process something on the back burner, making a mess, and then figuring out how to clean it up and finish what I started seems to be my way of dealing with just about any project I’m working on from planning a dinner party to creating a research unit for my English classes, or constructing a piece of art. I know that it’s really the down time that gets the job done. So, when I feel I have the most work to accomplish, I often have to remind myself to do something else, that walking away for a short time will provide the answers I need.



The Color of Spring


Everyone has a favorite color. Mine is blue. I love all shades from pale, nearly white icy blue to the deepest inky midnight-funk-jazz blue. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Glacier Bay in Alaska where the gray, mineral-filled water makes the ice appear a vibrant aquamarine. It was heaven. Of course, if you just slide around the color wheel a step, you’ll hit the greens – which are also near and dear to my heart. So, imagine my excitement when I took a look at the Pantone Color of the Year – “Greenery.” (FYI: According to the website, Pantone’s color of the year is “A symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”)


I realize that Pantone released this color choice about a month ago, but (apparently) I’m not on the inside track for these things. Go figure. This color of lemon leaves, early March grass, and Kermit the Frog, represents a pretty big leap from the 2016 colors of the year (Yes, there were two!) which were Rose Quartz and Serenity – think pale pink married to pale blue to create some lovely shades of hazy purple. Excluding those dreamy tones, the colors have been bold and/or vibrant for the last 10 years: Marsala (2015), Radiant Orchid (2014), Emerald (2013), Tangerine Tango (2012), Honeysuckle (2011), Turquoise (2010), Mimosa (2009), Blue Iris (2008) and Chili Pepper (2007). However, in 2006 the color was Sand Dollar.

All day I’ve been contemplating Sand Dollar. Though the color is definitely a neutral beige, the name conjures up the perfume of salty air, the feel of the waves tugging at my toes, and the sun reaching its golden tendrils across a blue expanse as it sinks below the horizon. (Sigh.)

Just naming a hue carries such visceral associations that I can close my eyes and picture the last time I saw it and contemplate what a wonderful, colorful world we live in.


More Bang for a Buck


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.