Summer Art

My sister is a crafter and a beach lover. Each year she combines these loves by taking part in a huge craft fair on the Wildwood boardwalk. This New Jersey shore town is a big tourist destination and the crowds insure she has lots of sales. Months ago when we started quarantine she suggested I use my abundant spare time to paint more pictures of the beach, the Jersey shore in particular, that she could add to her already beach themed inventory. So I did. Well, needless to say, this year, the crowds at the Craft Fair will be much small if it takes place at all. As a result, I’ve got all this Summer Art with no place to go!

I’ve always been a beach baby and every vacation I ever had as a child took place in Wildwood or one of the other towns along the coast. It’s my happy place so spending my time thinking about it and creating art representing it really wasn’t much of a hardship. When I think about it, it was more likely a form of therapy. Painting in general, has become my form of stress reduction during this crazy time.

Circumstances have decided that I won’t be sharing my beach paintings with the good people of Wildwood this summer so I thought I’d share a few here. I hope you all have a place that makes you feel as peaceful and centered as sea makes me feel. This quote which has been on my kitchen memo board since the summer began, says it all…

Smell the Sea and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly!

Sunrise in North Wildwood
This was inspired by a photograph of my brother-in-law and his granddaughter.
West Coast beach art-Sunset over the Santa Monica Pier. This was from a photo I took during my trip to Hollywood.
Morning walk along the beach in Ocean City, NJ

All images available at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CuriousKatStudio?ref=search_shop_redirect

If We Were Having Coffee…Back From Nowhere Special

Hello! Here we are on a beautiful Saturday in June. I realize I basically skipped the month of May in the blogsphere (and part of April and June if we’re being precise) but to be honest, there wasn’t much to report. Been no place, not done much, about sums it up. I have had one project going on and that has taken up much of my time. Sit and have some coffee and we can share our news.

If we were having coffee…we would be sitting on the deck enjoying this beautiul humidity free day, a rare occasion here in Southern New Jersey. We could have coffee, lemonade or juice, whatever you prefer and maybe a muffin from the local bakery, which I’m happy to report is now doing carry out.

The first thing I would ask you is how things are going, pandemic wise, in your corner of the world? Everyone is at such different places. Even those of us in the same place are in different places as far as our mind sets go. Some are ready to get back to normal and others, myself included, are inclined to take things slow. I’ll admit that I have the luxury to do that, whereas some people don’t. Are things opening up where you live? Are you no longer taken aback by the site of people in masks? I realized at the supermarket the other day that I wasn’t all that surprised to see cars with masks hanging on their rearview mirrors. I guess they are the new “fuzzy dice.” Weird.

(Of course in the past few weeks there have been many other scary, historic and challenging things taking place in our world and I have given them much attention and consideration in other parts of my life but here on my blog is my happy place so for now I’ll take a pass on all that except to say my hope is that we find our way through this to a place where compassion and kindness come out on top.)

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that yesterday was the official last day of the school year. This is my 13th year working as an instructional aide in the same neighborhood elementary school but as you might imagine, it was the strangest last day ever. I can’t imagine what the last few months of this school year would have been like without the internet and the advanced technology we now have. Even my third graders were comfortable and familiar with the world of virtual learning. They took to it pretty easily but I was happy to hear, during one of our Friday Google Chat sessions, that they all missed “real school” and seeing their friend’s and teachers in person. Fingers crossed for September. Did you know anyone learning or teaching remotely over the past months? How did it go for them?

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that the project that has taken most of my time over the past month was creating art. I have been learning all about watercolor painting, a medium that is comparatively new to me. I started painting in oils and acrylics when I was just 14 but watercolor was not something I tried until a few years back, I never realized how many techniques and styles there really were. I’ll admit, having that to focus on, having something to create and help me feel productive during this quarantine has kept me from going crazy. Even as an introvert all the time at home would have been too much without something else to focus on.

The result of all this time spent painting was that I had a lot of paintings!! A few Coffee Shares back I mentioned that I was thinking about opening an Etsy shop in order to sell some of my pieces. Well, I finally took the plunge and opened “The Curious Kat” a place to display and sell my artwork. It’s going pretty well. I’ve already sold about 8 pieces but those were mostly to friends and family who were happy to support my enterprise. I don’t really need to sell a lot though since I am creating everything by hand (not prints or reproductions) I can only work so fast!! It’s a lot of fun to share my artwork and I enjoy thinking of them becoming part of someone else’s home. Here is the link if you are interested: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CuriousKatStudio?ref=search_shop_redirect

Have you developed any new hobbies or skills to help you pass the time during the Shelter in Place?

If we were having coffee… I would tell you how much I’ve enjoyed our visit. I would also wish you and your family good health and happiness during this unusual time. Be well, my friends and don’t forget to visit our host Eclectic Alli where you can find the rest of the Coffee Share posts.

If We Were Having Coffee 4/19/20: Shelter In Place

Good morning!

If we were having coffee…this Sunday, it would be virtual no matter what since we are still in seclusion. Luckily, we’ve been sharing virtual coffee for years so we’re well aquatinted with the concept. Today we have nice strong French Roast or tea if you prefer. My wonderfully hubby, who bakes when he’s bored, made some chocolate and white chocolate Chip cookies last night that are to die for! Please take a few and tell me what you’ve been up to.

If we were having coffee... I would share that we’ve had an anxious week since we heard last Saturday that my father-in-law had unfortunately contracted the Coronavirus. The hospital checked him over, making sure his lungs and blood count looked good and since he was not coughing or having shortness of breath they sent him home to recuperate. He is over 70 and has diabetes but otherwise is active and in good health and seems to be on the road to recovery, thank goodness. Our worry now is that his wife and the other’s in his house will start to show signs of being sick too. So far so good. This is especially important since his step-daughter, her husband and their 3 year old son came to stay with them when all this craziness started thinking that his rural neighborhood would be safer than their city appartment. Irony at it’s worst.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that those of us in this house, fortunately are doing well health wise. We are also fortunate because since my husband, my son and I are all school employees we are able work from home and still have an income. My only trips out have been to the grocery store every two weeks or so. It’s a very stressful outing. I don my mask and rush through the the aisles grabbing the things we must have. I’m usually exhausted the rest of the day just from the anxiety. I don’t think it’s that I’m so afraid of becoming infected, since our numbers in this area of NJ are thankfully very low, but more that I feel guilty being out, like I shouldn’t be leaving my house at all. I realize that’s not rational but it just goes to show the mental state I’m in!

If we were having coffee…I would share that one good thing that has come from all this time at home is that I am creating lots of artwork and learning many new techniques. I’m hoping to amass enough inventory to open an Etsy store. Here are some samples. What do you think?

Pinterest and YouTube have become my life lines! There are so many talented artists willing to share their ideas.

If we were having coffee…I would ask how you have been spending your days during this unusual time. I hope you have found a way to stay positive and connected. Please visit our host EcleticAli an catch up with some other bloggers sharing coffee, see what’s been happening in their world.

Thanks for stopping.  Take care, Be well.

A Garden of Sculpture

I was sorry to read in the papers a last week that Seward Johnson had passed away. His name may not be familiar to some, but here in New Jersey, where he was born, we remember him fondly. Mr Johnson was lucky enough to be heir to the Johnson Pharmaceutical fortune but more than that, he was an amazing artist who created hundreds of works of art. He was also founder of a lovely place, not 45 minutes from my home, called Grounds for Sculpture.

Grounds for Sculpture, opened in 1992, is a magical place in Hamilton, New Jersey, not too far from Trenton. Beyond the vine covered walls you will find 42 acres of gardens and rolling hills featuring hundreds of Seward Johnson’s works along with those of other local artist. The park is filled with meandering paths, beautiful landscaping and surprises around every corner. Some of the pieces there belong to Johnson’s Monumental Scale collection, towering statues 20 feet tall, as well as many of his Beyond the Frame vignettes where the visitor can step inside famous Impressionist paintings. These are among my favorites along with his Celebrating the Familiar series. Several inside exhibits and restaurants are also on site. Miss Dee and I visited there in late August, our last outing of the summer break. Here are just a few of the lovely things we saw.

“A Turn of the Century” from the Monumental Scale collection, inspired by Renoir. This piece is about 20 feet tall and stands in front of Rat’s, one of the gardens artistic eateries..
“God Bless America” also larger than life! Obviously inspired by American Gothic.
Miss Dee getting to know one of the ladies in the Celebrating the Familiar series. This one is called “Captured”
A piece called “Summer Thinking” There is actually writing in the journal!
Here I have stepped into one of the vignettes called “Family Secret” from the Beyond the Frame series
So many lovely and peaceful pathways
Another Beyond the Frame vignettes sits at the edge of one of the property’s lakes. This one is called “Sailing the Seine”
“Daydream” a massive sculpture that can actually be seen from the road as you drive by the gardens
A Japanese inspired garden near the snack bar
Another Impressionist inspired piece “If It Were Time”
A fantasy in light and metal called “Fan”
A Van Gogh inspired room.
We made friends with this lovely lady at one of the inside exhibits. She is part of the Icons Revisited series
Even the Cafe where we had lunch was a work of art.

We had such a wonderful time exploring Grounds for Sculpture. We’ve already made plans to go again because our feet gave out before we saw even half of the many pieces on display. I think the Fall would be a great time to go back. Every season in fact, will add something new. Seward Johnson, in his 89 years on Earth, certainly added a great deal of beauty to the world.

Getting Creative in 2019

Happy New Year! It’s a little late, I know, but it still feels pretty new to me. Like many of us, I made some plans and resolutions for 2019 and one of them was to spend more time being creative (thanks Jill Kuhn for your inspiration!)

The biggest hurdle I’ve had with this was not finding the motivation, but finding a convenient space where I could spread out and not have to put everything away each time my family needed to have a meal! Some of my supplies were down in the basement, some in the kitchen hutch, a few in the pantry and even my bedroom closet! Well that’s all changed now!

My husband slaved through the last few weeks of the summer renovating what was formerly the kids play area downstairs (I mean, our youngest is 20, I think they are past needing it!) He moved his collections and “man cave” stuff down there as well as our guest area, freeing up our smallest bedroom for my art space. Yay!

Weeks were spent clearing out the room, stripping wallpaper and painting the walls a nice bright white. We are planning on replacing the carpet with a clean grey laminate but I’ll have to save a bit more for that. I’d purchased a smaller, black desk for our computer, which will still share the room so that was moved in. The final step was assembling the amazing new art desk my wonderful hubby had given me for my birthday back in December. It’s got so many compartments and it’s on wheels!

I’ve been picking up items here and there, curtains and cool storage containers (Anyone who knows me can tell you I get weirdly jazzed about organization!) My sister had a nifty little bookcase up for grabs (we actually traded her the bed frame from that room that we no longer needed-win/win!) and I was able to find a desk chair that looks brand new for just $25 on one of those online yard sale sites.

Then….FINALLY….this past Sunday, I collected my many art supplies from their many hiding places and put them away in my very own art room!! I’ve been like a kid on Christmas morning, just giddy with excitement and creative motivation, painting and experimenting with new techniques. One of the best parts is thatI can just leave it all out, ready for the next time I find a few minutes to create. I do have to remember to close the door, though, so the cat won’t walk through the wet paint or eat the brushes. She’s like that!

I’m hoping that this new found creative jag lasts a long, long time making 2019 the year of creativity! It just goes to show that sometimes resolutions or plans can take some patience, a bit of elbow grease and a little faith but they can happen. May all your plans for the coming year be every bit as gratifying!

The Weekly Smile…Some Creative Fun

This week I had a blast getting creative!

A friend asked if I would make some decorative alphabet letters for her son, who will be turning three next week and loves Disney. She purchased the 9 inch wooden letters that spelled out his name and gave me a list of his seven favorite Disney characters. I knew most of them but, I admit, I had to look up one or two. Hey, my kids are in college! I’ve been out of the Disney loop for a while! 😊

Just for fun, let’s see if you all can guess the character each letter was based on.

[Updated 2/22/17…Each letter is now pictured next to the Disney character who inspired it.]

Jake from "The Neverland Pirates"

Jake from “The Neverland Pirates”

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Mater from “Cars”

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Dory from “Finding Nemo”

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Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story”

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Sulley from “Monsters Inc.”

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Mickey of course!

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Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh”

And the finished product:

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Ta-da! I found painting the letters to be very relaxing, kind of like coloring. I highly recommend it to anyone who just wants to do something fun and creative.

The Weekly Smile is brought to you by Trent’s World. Stop by and check out the rest of the smiles or, better yet, leave one of your own.😊

Jack in Watercolor

One of the items on my Summer Bucket List  is to create at least 6 new pieces of art. The thing is, I love to draw and paint. It brings me great joy and relaxes me but I find that I don’t always make the time for it so that’s why it’s on the list.

My newest passion has been watercolor. I’ve been painting with acrylics and oils since I was a teenager but watercolor is pretty new to me. I’m discovering a lot of fun ways to work with it and I’m so thrilled that I discovered watercolor pencils because they make the medium so much more versatile. I guess that’s because good old paper and pencils is my first real love.

Yesterday I decided I was going to try doing a portrait of our cat Jack. Naturally I worked from a photo because I can’t count on him to hold still that long (at least not when I need him to!) Here is the result:

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I’m pretty happy with it although I’m not sure I captured his personality that well. 😊  I picked this photo because I loved the sense of light. I mean, what cat doesn’t enjoy a nap in the sun.

Next I plan on trying a cat portrait of his sister. Hopefully that will turn out well too, but either way, it’s great fun. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing leisure activity.

Coloring Yourself Happy

Last night I spent an hour playing with the new drawing pens I received for Christmas.  This is the result…

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I admit I shamelessly (more or less), stole the picture from one of the Christmas cards that came in the mail. I drew the image in pen first and then added watercolor. It felt sort of like paint-by-number or coloring. It was very relaxing.

I’ve always loved to color, both as a kid and with my own kids. Experts are now saying that it is a great way to lessen stress. There was even an article in today’s paper about some neighborhood “Coloring Clubs” where people meet to color themselves happy! I think a lot of adults have always enjoyed coloring and now they are finally ready to admit it.  In fact, it’s  become very trendy.

The stores are filled with fancy adult coloring books. Maybe if you spend $15 for a book it feels more like a grown up hobby instead of a childhood pastime! A coworker gave me one for my birthday and Santa brought one for Miss Dee. Of course, her’s is “Sherlock” themed so she can immerse herself in Benedict Cumberbatch while she de-stresses!

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I imagine you can use crayons in these books but it seems like they are mostly paired with colored pencils. This too, I think, is to stress the idea  that this is a grownup thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love colored pencils, but I still get more excited about a brand new 64 box of Crayola crayons with the built in sharpener, adult or not.😊

Don’t you just love when something so old fashioned (Crayola has been around since 1902 and crayons themselves date back to Egyptian times), suddenly comes back in vogue? I am especially tickled that it is something that does not have a screen or remote control and is not fueled by batteries or electricity, but by creativity and imagination! So how about if we all grab a box of crayons and some coloring books and get busy? I’m feeling more relaxed already.

 

 

Getting Arty

Item number six on my Summer Bucket List was to complete one new piece of art per week. I haven’t quite managed one a week but I’m pretty close.  At least I’ve kept my hand in and I’ve enjoyed learning some new techniques. Mostly I’ve been working with watercolor paint and pencils which are a new medium for me. But I have really enjoyed some of watercolors that other bloggers like Jodi at Life In Between has posted so I thought I would give them a try. These are a few of the results.

The first one is a pencil drawing I did from an old photo of Miss Dee. After completing it I went back with a wet brush and blended the water to give it a more reflective look. I am happy with how it came out except that I wish I had made the colors darker. The whole image seems a little washed out…

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This one is just pencil but I’m thinking I should go back and blend the water like I did I the picture above. What do you think?

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These two are images taken from postcards that Kate over at Sincerely Kate  was kind enough to send to me. They were both done with watercolor paint first then I used pencil and ink pen to strengthen some of the lines. I was inspired by my pal Jill Kuhn while working on the tulips at the bottom.  She created some beautiful poppies by using paint first then tracing around the shapes with pen in order to define the flowers. My flowers are smaller but I tried to use the same technique. Thanks for the idea Jill!

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It is really a lot of fun stretching my boundaries art wise. I had always worked in pencil or acrylic paint and the sameness had made art a little boring. Now I find that I am being inspired by all the cool stuff I see on other people’s blogs. It feels more like an adventure!

Trash to (sort of) Treasure

Summer Bucket List item #6!

Last week Hubby came home with a “found object” (this is our code for a trash picked item). It was a quirky little piece but appealed to me because of its uniqueness. He thought it had potential and he knows how I love to up cycle! This is what it looked like when he found it: 

It obviously graced someone’s garden for quite sometime but then became old and worn out. I saw a project! First I needed a clean slate to work with so I cleaned it and sanded off as much of the rust as I could then I covered the metal parts with a white latex paint specifically for metal.

imageNext, I had some mosaic tiles and grout left from another project so I covered the “leaves” with green tiles and used broken ones on top to form a flower pattern. I ran out of certain colors so I had to fudge a little…

imageWhile the adhesive dried, I painted some stripes on the pot just to liven it up and cover some marks that were on it. Finally I grouted the tiles added a cute little lemon thyme plant I picked up at the grocery and…Ta-da!

imageNow it’s hanging out in my garden! I had a lot of fun being creative and the only cost involved was the $2.98 for the plant! What do you think? 🌼