New Paintings, And A Great Artist Resource

Just wanted to write a quick post to show you what I’ve been working on! Sometimes I get busy with other projects and I don’t paint as much as I want to, but a recent look around my at-home studio revealed more finished works than I realized I had. Or almost finished, I can never quite decide! But I’ll show you anyway. Here are the new ones:

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Also, fellow artists, if you haven’t been to paintmyphoto.com (and if you’re like me and usually need a reference photo to work from) you might want to check it out. It’s a place for photographers to submit images for artists to paint from. Some of these are painted from photos on the site. They’re free to use, and it’s really fun to paint somebody’s photo, post it, and see what they think.

Well that’s it for now! I’d love to see what you’re working on!

Crafts like the “DIY Sharpie mug” ease stress and provide a sense of accomplishment

I never thought of using paint markers, will have to see if I get better results than with regular Sharpies! Also I totally agree about crafting, I do it a lot and sell stuff on Etsy, but my stress levels seem to go way up when I don’t make time to be creative!

onthehomefrontblog

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A popular outlet for kids and adults, crafting is a healthy activity that provides multiple benefits, from the way it engages an individual’s creativity and imagination to the sense of pride and accomplishment it delivers.  In fact, CNN reported in March of this year that experts think crafting can help reduce anxiety, depression and chronic pain and may also help ease stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging.

Those are some pretty impressive benefits.  I’m not a big crafter but do love the way those creative pursuits happily engage my kids while providing them with an opportunity for self-expression.  Busily working on an activity, they lose themselves in the inventive process and for an hour or so they’re often quiet little worker bees.  In fact, from my experience, it seems crafting is almost meditative, totally engaging the crafter mentally, ensuring he or she is “in the moment.”…

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“Send Me Your Photos” Monthly Giveaway

I’m always looking for ways to improve my Etsy shop and get more sales. New items, more color options, better photos, relevant tags, more social media posts. And, slowly but surely, it seems to be working. But ultimately, there’s only so much I can do, and not just because I have more ideas than time or energy.

Customers want to hear from other customers. Obviously I have plenty of motivation to tell people to buy my items, because I made them myself, and because I am the one who benefits when my business grows. But when somebody else tries it and shares their unbiased opinion, it influences people.

Another thing that I think is really important is seeing what an item will look like when you’re wearing it. I know when I’m shopping for clothes online, I really want to know how a garment will look on an actual person. Even jewelry can look pretty different from my studio to your neck, wrist, or ears!

So if you’ve purchased something from me, or received a gift or giveaway item, I would love to see pictures of you using/wearing it. In exchange, I will be doing a monthly giveaway on my Facebook page. Post as many photos as you want, and as long as they include one of my handmade items, I’ll enter your name once for each one. Then at the end of the month I’ll pick somebody to send free stuff to.

This is an exclusive offer for my Facebook page fans, so if you haven’t “liked” the page yet, you can do that {here}.

And if you haven’t purchased anything yet, you can still get entries by sharing my page and posts. Or shop my Etsy {here}.

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Here’s me modeling one of my own necklaces. This photo would be so much cooler with you in it!

So post your photos, and I hope you win something you love!

On Being an Artist

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Being an artist seems like both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I feel really talented and amazing, like I know who I am and I’m doing what’s important to me no matter what anyone thinks. Other times, I get discouraged with my lack of sales, I feel like no one appreciates my work (which is probably unfair to my friends & family who think it’s awesome, but hey, self doubt comes with the territory) or I don’t even like it myself and wonder if I’m a “real” artist at all.

This contradiction seems to be true of many things in life. As a sensitive person, I can sympathize with others, but I also get emotionally overwhelmed. As an introvert, I know how to enjoy my alone time, but socializing seriously wears me out. I’m sure people with all different personality types have equal, if opposite, struggles.

But back to being an artist. When I look at my Etsy statistics over the last few years since I opened up shop, my business is steadily growing. I’m selling more jewelry every year, especially during the holidays. But that’s easy to forget on a day-to-day or even month-to-month basis. And when it comes to my paintings, selling even one is a rare accomplishment.

I understand, these days most people can’t afford that stuff. I could just be realistic and go back to my day job. Some days it really bothers me that my husband wakes up at the crack of dawn 5 days a week to do whatever the Army tells him to do, and I am not contributing anything because my depressive introverted self can’t even handle a retail job, and I don’t know if I’m qualified to do anything else.

(My husband does not feel the same way. Amazingly, he is supportive of my craft business, understanding of my struggle with depression and, old fashioned young couple that we are, he is happy with my contributions of cooking and sometimes cleaning the house and supporting his crazy dreams too).

But I had a sort of revelation the other night, as I sat on the floor blasting angry music and painting and crying. Lately I don’t seem to need much of a reason to hate everything, so there I was, a “beautiful mess,” as he called me.

Painting suddenly seemed like a very painful endeavor. It looked like a pretty landscape, but it felt like I was literally pouring my soul onto the canvas. Everything I love and hate about myself, everything I’ve been told about who I am and who I’m not and what I can or can’t do, all the loss and hurt and anguish of living in a broken world.

I thought about how God asks each one of us to give ourselves to Him in different ways. He wants to know us, and He wants to make us more like him, and sometimes that means suffering and sacrifice. Maybe for me it means giving myself through my art, not knowing what God might do with it in the future. I might become successful in the world’s eyes, or find a cause to support, or teach, or just inspire people.

Paul instructs us in Romans “to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (12:1). I am not trying to twist Scripture to justify what makes me happy. But perhaps this verse applies not only to our bodies but our hearts and minds, and maybe we are giving ourselves to God when we use the gifts He’s given us without holding back. Maybe this is part of how we worship God, how we know Him (and ourselves), and how we trust Him.

(Not that I don’t have issues with “holding back.” I am quite attached to my comfort zone, and my art seems to be confined to my perfectionism. I am a realist, and I have no desire to be abstract or modern, but my favorite works have always been impressionistic, the ones that seem to combine the characteristics of both the subject and the medium. Not saying God has a preference, but it probably wouldn’t hurt me to let loose a little).

Maybe you don’t believe in God and this sounds crazy or stupid. But maybe you do have something you’re passionate about, something you can’t seem to walk away from, no matter how unrealistic it might seem. I am encouraging you to pursue it.

Of course, some of you have responsibilities that you can’t blow off to follow your dreams. I just hope you won’t give up on your thing, the thing that makes you feel like yourself, because of haters or the fear of failure. Even if it’s just a hobby, even if no one else understands.

Because maybe that dream is inside of you for a reason, and if nothing else, maybe you will learn more about yourself as you pursue it. And what an awesome thing to learn. It might be painful or scary. You might have things about you that you don’t want the world to know; I do too. But there is no one else in the world just like you.

So what’s your thing? And how do you make room in your life to do it?

Image from YouQueen

Adventures in Gardening

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I really love this gardening quote that I borrowed from Better Homes and Gardens. There’s just something about nurturing a little tiny seed into a plant that bears fruit – or vegetables – and of course, being able to walk outside and grab something fresh and delicious to add to a meal.

We decided to try it last year to see if we could save money on groceries, since, being on the paleo diet, we eat mostly meat and fresh produce. Or maybe I just wanted another project. There’s another saying that goes, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.” Let’s just say, if that really works, I should do lots and lots of gardening. And I could probably use a little sun, too.

Anyway, we didn’t have a whole lot of experience, and it was kind of last minute. I bought a bunch of seeds, some soil, bird netting, stakes, etc and put some cinder blocks around the one little part of our rental house backyard where I wouldn’t ruin the lawn. I started the seeds inside in egg cartons. They’re free, assuming you buy eggs, and the plastic ones make perfect little greenhouses with the tops on (the cardboard ones are decomposable but they steal moisture from the plants).

Out of probably a dozen varieties, the only really successful edibles were tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil. But hey, at least we like those a lot, and they make for delicious salads. I didn’t realize the mixed flowers I bought would be four feet tall, so my pretty little border was a little out of control. But it did attract some beautiful butterflies.

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In Northern California, where my Dad and I tried our hands at gardening a few years back, the problem – once you break through the rock hard ground – is watering enough to keep things alive, and keeping the deer away. Here in North Carolina, it’s kind of the opposite. Your plants grow with little trouble once they make it past transplant stage, but so does everything else. Meaning weeds, weeds, weeds. Also bugs, and rotting from excess rain. It has been a weird couple of years weather-wise.

Nevertheless, I wanted to try again this spring. We’d bought a house and had a perfect spot for a garden, much bigger than the other one, and a little more knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. So I gathered my supplies, bought some new ones – including a few new plant varieties – and got started.

Despite some setbacks such as bug holes in my broccoli plant and only male flowers on the pumpkin one (from what I understand, it’s the females that bear fruit), I am happy to say we have not only cucumber, tomatoes (just turning red!), and basil, but also squash, bell pepper, and parsley/cilantro (are they supposed to look and smell exactly the same??).

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The great thing about gardening is that you can totally scale it to your available time, space, and budget. You can have a few plants in containers, or fill your backyard – it’s up to you! I’ve even experimented with growing from kitchen scraps. Has it really saved us money on groceries? Probably not yet. But I’ll take the cheap therapy, and the satisfaction of watching something grow.

Delicious Lemon Cake Recipe

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When it comes to dessert, as I may have mentioned, I’m a chocolate kinda girl. I have a sweet tooth in general and I’ll try almost anything once but my mom once said she doesn’t waste calories on sugar that doesn’t have chocolate attached to it, and I kind of take after my mom.

But we were having some friends over for a birthday, and I was told she likes lemon cake. Believe it or not, avid baker that I am, I have never made it. Like I said, chocolate lover. But I like a challenge and I like to make people happy, so I set out to find a recipe.

There were several options ranging from boxed cake mix with some add-ins to super fancy and time-consuming. When I bake, I almost always bake from scratch, but I do have my limits. So I found one that looked like a happy medium.

The recipe, from {Baking is a Science}, does include three separate components: the lemon cake and the cream cheese frosting, which are both pretty easy, and the lemon curd, which has to be stirred for 15 minutes straight.

But – speaking as a chocolate fanatic, remember – it was totally worth it. Everyone loved it, and my friend and I agreed that the lemon curd is the best part. It is very tart, which balances perfectly with the mellow flavors of the cake and frosting.

I put the curd on top instead of in the middle, with piped frosting around it (and with frosting in the middle). If you would like to frost the sides as well, I’d double the frosting recipe.

My only complaint is that the cake was a little spongy. Which some people like and that’s fine. I just prefer a denser cake, I guess for it’s richness and appearance and easier frostability (is that a word?).

Next time I might try this extravagant looking “Ultimate Lemon Cake” from {Rock Recipes } or this one with blueberries added from {Sally’s Baking Addiction}. I like to experiment. But if you’re looking for a classic lemon cake of moderate difficulty, I’d totally recommend the one I made here!

Vintage Distressed Furniture Tutorial

Great write-up! I did something similar with a dresser and matching headboard but didn’t take a lot of photos of the process.

Well, That's Pinteresting!

Looking for a HOT new DIY project for your furniture? Look no further! Distressing, antiquing, whatever you want to call it, has become the newest craze even in high end department stores. But why pay hundreds of dollars for furniture when you can make it yourself?!

I’ll admit I bought some gorgeous antique pieces of furniture two years ago from an antique resale store and yes I paid a couple of hundred for several pieces. Unfortunately, it was because I had very limited time to buy furniture before I moved, so I ended up buying it. Now that this has become so popular of a trend and I have more free time, I decided to do it myself for MUCH cheaper!

I have scoured the internet everywhere via Google and Pinterest for various distressing tips, and there are tons of different ways to do it. I have found my own…

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