Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Tree

I love real Christmas trees but they can be expensive, plus I don’t own a Christmas tree stand.  In an effort to keep the “one use only” items in my apartment to a minimum (and save a little money) I decided to build my own Christmas tree this year.  

I drew some pictures of what I wanted and got out my trusty tape measure in order to determine the size.  I put blue painters’ tape on the wall so that I could get an accurate idea of the dimensions of the final product.  Finally I headed off to Home Depot with my son in tow to purchase the wood (not because I thought the wood was going to be heavy, but because sometimes I like to drag him along on shopping trips as a kind of slow torture).  Home Depot cut all the wood for me and, in a happy measuring coincidence, I ended up with only 4 inches of left over wood.

The assembly was fairly simple.  I used 2 screws to attach the cross pieces to the “trunk” of the tree.  I hammered small nails randomly into the cross pieces so that I could hang ornaments.  And the assembly was complete!

I love the way my decorated tree turned out.  In the dead of winter, anything that lights up makes me happy!  And my homemade Christmas tree can be used anywhere in the apartment for other holidays, as well as hanging family photos or artwork.  Birthday tree, anyone?

Have fun decorating, everyone.

- christina

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What a Sight

A few weeks ago I made an emergency visit to my local art supply store (sometimes a girl just needs a fresh, fine point, black Pitt pen) and this is what I saw.

I actually laughed out loud when I saw the Storm Troopers and the Sand Person in front of Dick Blicks.  As I approached the store I could hear the Storm Troopers talking and their voices were electronically enhanced just like in the movies.  One Trooper was giving the other one directions, “drive down Naperville to Ogden and go east …”  It just seemed so strange and out of place.

It turns out that an artist who had worked on the Star Wars movies was visiting the store on that day.  I was happy to have an explanation as to why those costumed people were hanging around.  As I shopped, the characters came inside (it was pretty cold outside) and one of the Troopers actually asked me if I needed any help finding something.  I was so tempted to ask him to say, “These aren’t the ‘droids you’re looking for” but I controlled my urge and behaved.  The whole experience left me with a big smile on my face – plus, a new pen!

- christina

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Village

This weekend I unpacked my mother’s Christmas village.  I hadn’t put it up for 2 years, so it was exciting to see all the houses again.  My mother painted each one and she chose the buildings based on her travels.  Her village collection includes a temple from Thailand, a totem pole from Alaska, and a small airport in honor of my father.
The houses in this year's village display

The stores in the village

The most unique building in my mother’s village is a pink house that has a name painted on it: The House of Negotiable Affection.  Yes, my mother put a whorehouse in her Christmas village! She loved being unique so the pink house in her village is typically my mother.

The whorehouse from my mother's Christmas village.
My son helped me put the village together this year and he decided that there wasn’t enough room for the pink house.  I have packed it away until next year, but I like knowing that it’s there.  My mother loved it very much and I loved her.

Happy Holidays to everyone.
- christina

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bernina Lust

My mother was an excellent seamstress.  I’m pretty sure she could sew anything, even without a pattern.  Her favorite sewing machine was a Pfaff, which makes sense because she was German.

I know how to sew, but just the basics.  I bought my first, and only, sewing machine about 25 years ago.  It’s a White – that’s the brand as well as the color.  It has been a persnickety little bugger for years, but it’s hard for me to justify buying a new machine when I do so little sewing.
 The problem is that I suffer from Bernina Lust.  2 years ago I worked on a Bernina machine at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in California.  The class was free motion stitching and it was mind blowing!  The machine was so smooth that I was able to create some wonderful pieces even though I had never done free motion stitching before.  I’m afraid that experience has ruined me forever when it comes to any other sewing machine.
My free motion stitching 

Alisa Burke, artist and Bernina expert,
was my teacher at CREATE
My BFF bought a Bernina machine in California (she too had been transformed by her brush with Bernina).  They offer really great deals at the retreat because the machines are used for classes.  I was able to resist the purchase twice, once in California and once in Chicago, but my resistance weakens every time I try to sew a mixed media project with my old, basic sewing machine.  I think I should start saving now for CREATE Chicago in August where I can give in and buy my own Bernina.  I predict that very soon Roxanne, my best friend’s Bernina, will have her own BFF.

- christina

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Colored Pencils

Recently I went to the Nature Artists Guild Exhibit at the Arboretum.  The art was mostly drawings, some oil and acrylic paintings, some fiber art, and 2 pieces of jewelry.  I was impressed with many of the pieces, but the ones that really caught my eye were done with colored pencils.  I was amazed at the level of detail in the close-up drawings of flowers.  I could see the veins of the leaves and the hairs on the stems.  How sharp must these colored pencils be in order to create those tiny lines?
I wanted to learn more about colored pencil drawings so I went online and did a search.  I discovered the Colored Pencil Society of America website (  They have an amazing online exhibition every year called Explore This.  I would swear that some of the pieces are actually photographs.

Looks like I will be adding "create beautiful art with colored pencils" to my list of things to do.  So little time, so many art supplies to play with!

- christina

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Museums leave me feeling inspired, but also intimidated.  I endeavor to understand the pieces that are collected in museums because surely it will help me understand the history and nature of art. Sometimes I am successful and often times I am not.  My sister, the artist, has taught me that sometimes art is important because the artist was able to imagine something entirely new and then dared to actually create it.  My favorite example of this is a painting she and I saw in a Washington DC museum where the artist had attached slices of bread to a canvas and then painted the whole thing white.  He was both imaginative and daring.

My travelling companions and I visited quite a few museums during our European trip this past summer.  Although photos are usually not allowed, I was able to capture a few of my favorite pieces.

These pictures are by Robert Delauney from the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris.

These pieces are from the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen.

I am attracted to the color, line and shape of abstract art.  Hopefully one day I will be daring enough to actually create my own abstract art.
- christina

Sunday, October 20, 2013

CREATE Revisited

Back in August my BFF and I attended CREATE Chicago, a mixed media retreat.  Each year we say that we are going to be very selective about the classes we sign up for, but once the catalog comes out we lose all self-control.  This year I took 5 classes and my BFF took 8.

A last minute choice was the “Dream House” class with artist Cindy Wunsch.  I used 2 10x10 canvases to paint my figurative dream house (not literal dream house).  The process started with collage on the canvas using fabric, paper, and ephemera.

The next step was to paint the background.  Cindy’s technique is to apply the acrylic paint using a paint chip as a brush.  The paint chips are made of thick paper and that prevents the paint from getting into all the cracks, leaving some of the collage to show through.  And paint chips are free!

Additional paint can be layered over the background.  We also added some spray paint using a stencil and some silver leaf.  Ephemera can be added as a top layer as well.  Finally the whole thing is sealed with resin, a process that Cindy did for us overnight.  I was so excited to see the results the next morning! 
My pictures express my belief that life should be an adventure
and I don't think of "home" as a physical place.

I love my paintings and I love the ones my BFF made as well.  

My BFF's "houseboat" that carries her whole family.
My BFF wasn’t so excited about the prospect of taking this class because she thought it would be too “touchy-feelly”  (since it was all about expressing your desires for safety, security, and growth through an imaginary house).  In the end, though, she loved the process and she loved her product, luckily for me.

What do you imagine when you think of your "dream house?"
- christina

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ice Dyed Fabric

A friend of mine is creating an art quilt. She is starting by dying her own muslin in a process called ice dying.  I asked her to please teach me how to do it and she thankfully agreed to share her supplies with me. 

We began by soaking the muslin in pot ash.  It prepares the fabric to accept the dye. The dye is in powdered form and comes in man bright colors.  We each chose 3 colors for our buckets.
The powdered dyes

The wet fabric is then placed in a bucket with ice and dye in the following order: ice, dye, fabric, ice, dye, fabric, ice, dye.  The bucket is placed in the sun for a day while the ice melts,  and then the fabric is rinsed repeatedly.

Ice, Dye, fabric and repeat the layering

The bucket needs to sit in the warm sun, covered
with plastic, for at least a day to melt the ice

The fabric at the bottom is the darkest and the one on top ends up being the lightest.  The results have a tie-dyed effect.
The fabric on top of the bucket ends up being
lighter than the fabric at the bottom. 

You can never be sure of the results until
the fabric is all dry.

I am not sure what I am going to do with the fabric but I love the results.  I hope my friend lets me join her again in a dying session, but it requires a warm, sunny day.  I think we will not have any more of those in the Midwest for a while.  At least I have some fabric to play with throughout the long winter months.
- christina

Friday, September 27, 2013

No Longer a Gelli Print Virgin

My BFF bought me a Gelli Plate for my birthday (I do so love her).  I have been watching Gelli printing videos on YouTube for months so I was anxious to break it in.  It is a wonderful tool to help me reach my goal of 100 decorated papers by the end of 2013.

I decided to start my Gelli experimentation using craft paint and stencils.  Here are the results.

Through the printmaking process, I learned something very important about myself.  I like my art tools to be CLEAN.  I mean really clean.  Clean like right out of the box/wrapping/packaging.  I have to come to grips with the fact that my Gelli plate has been slightly stained but it bugs me that my stencils are discolored as well.  And I scrubbed the dickens out of my brayer to get it clean.  I know that I need to relax about the messy nature of the Gelli but it will be a challenge for me.  Hey, personal growth is a good thing, right?

 I completed 9 papers today, which brings my total to 22.  I am almost one-quarter of the way to my goal.
- christina

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Birthday

It was my birthday last week.  I wore my tiara to work just in case anyone did not KNOW it was my birthday.

I received lots of "Happy Birthday" greetings (virtually and in person), great gifts from friends, and some wonderful cards.  Here are 2 that really inspired me.

Birthdays are great, as far as I'm concerned.  I plan to continue celebrating as long as possible.  My goal is to make it last until the end of September.  Do you think I can do it?
- christina

Sunday, September 15, 2013


I just attended my very first MeetUp and I’m happy to say it was very fun. I recently joined a group called “West Suburban Art Junkies” and the MeetUp was making ATCs.

ATC stands for Artist Trading Card.  They have to be 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches and should be traded not sold.  The MeetUp was held at the organizer’s house and she was kind enough to share all of her supplies with the 8 women who attended.  I had brought along some words that I had cut out of a magazine and tried to use those on all of my cards. 

I made 5 cards in total, which meant that I could select 5 cards from my fellow artists.  It was fun to see what everyone had made in the few hours that we created together.

I enjoyed meeting these women and plan to attend another MeetUp.  Rumor has it, we will be making shadow boxes next time.  That's another thing I have never done before.

Cheers to new experiences and new friends!
- christina

PS.  Click here if you want to learn more about MeetUp.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Setting Goals

I work best when I have a goal that I am working towards, but setting goals as an artist has been difficult for me. I need tangible and achievable goals, something more defined than "become a better artist" or "determine my favorite medium in which to work." 

My BFF came to visit me a few weeks ago so that we could attend CREATE Chicago.  We were immersed in art and spent a lot of time talking about where we wanted to go with our art.  We decided that we needed to establish goals to work on and I chose a simple and achievable goal (something with a high degree of potential for success). 

My goal is to create 100 pieces of decorated paper by the end of 2014.
Scraps of paper sewn together
ala Jenny Cochran Lee

Here’s the thing: I like decorating paper. All kinds of paper.  But I used to get stuck because I didn’t know what I would do with the paper once I was finished. Should I make a book? Would I use it for a collage?  If the paper didn’t have a purpose, then what was the point of taking the time to make the paper beautiful?  Well, I decided that making paper is a worthy goal in itself, even if I have no idea what I will do with the paper in the future. Hence, making paper is now my goal.

I have completed 13 papers so far.  I have been using rice paper mostly, stamping and painting it with acrylic craft paints. I will keep posting pictures as my numbers increase. 

Good luck working toward the goals that you set.