Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homemade Collage Sheets

When I'm in the mood for cut and paste, my very favorite project is to make my own collage sheets.  I've made sheets of Zetti hats, borders, tags, and in this past week, journal circles and numbers.  Just for fun, I give all the sheets silly titles such as "Border Patrol" and "Tag! You're It!"  Once the master is created, I simply take it to Staples and run off color copies.  Presto!  Homemade collage sheets!  When I need collage material for my journal pages, I just grab a folder full of my collage sheets and cut and paste once again!  This guarantees no copyright entanglements and compared to purchasing premade sheets online, it's super cheap!   

Monday, April 29, 2013


Don't spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario.  It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.  When things go bad, don't run, don't hide.  Stick it out, and be scrupulous in facing every part of your fear.  Try to be still.  It will take time, but you'll find that even the gravest problems are finite -- and that your choices are infinite.
                Michael J. Fox

Last Tuesday afternoon, my neurologist delivered the news that I had Parkinson's Disease.  Frankly, I wasn't as shocked or surprised as you'd think; I've known for months that something was really amiss.  I woke up Wednesday morning feeling as though my life had just restarted.  I spent the balance of the week and then the weekend, painting and journaling till each night came and I fell into bed, shaky and exhausted...and fulfilled.

Of all the art I created last week, I keep coming back to this image.  It came together serendipitiously as the most important images often do: a quick watercolor sketch and a clipped word that spent weeks floating 'round my studio table.

This is me.  This is you.  Whether our circumstances are ordinary or extraordinary, every single day we pull ourselves out of bed and face a new day, we are brave.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by last Thursday and left behind words of encouragement or well wishes.  They were so needed.  I hope this space will continue to inspire and uplift as I continue on my journey through art and life.  I feel better knowing that instead of being a lone lioness, I am, in fact, surrounded by an entire pride of lion-hearted souls.  Let's step forward into the unknown each morning, hands smeared with paint and heads held high.  There is so much more art to be lived. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Self-Soothing with Paint

Quietly and softly painting quiet and soft things this week in the wake of a diagnosis of Parkinson's.  Art is the best coping mechanism I can think of and so I paint and journal and doodle and paste.  I plan to continue to do so for a very long time.

This is another piece inspired by Mindy Lacefield's class Paint Your Story.  The body is definitely different from what Mindy does in her paintings but the head is still not my own.  For now, I sort of don't care so much as I appreciate the simple act of smooshing paint onto the canvas and seeing a character develop.  It is a soothing process and exactly what I need right now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Sketching from Life Tips & Hints

I continue to flex my sketching muscles in my current "daily diary" journal and for today's Watercolor Wednesday, I thought I'd pass along some things that I've realized since beginning:
  • Before tackling large, complicated, intimidating scenes, begin with familiar everyday objects.
  • If necessary, prop the item up in front of you on a slanted surface so you don't have to cope with foreshortened perspective.  I put a little sticky poster putty under the object as well so it doesn't slide off.  I do this with objects that normally lay flat on the table.
  • Edit out small details that are too difficult to draw/paint and that are not essential to understanding with object you are trying to render.  For example, in reality, my glue bottle is covered in dried glue fingerprints but I didn't think I needed to show those hard-to-paint bits of glue to create a painting that screamed "Glue bottle!"
  • Try outlining your object two times with a loose line.  This can give a sketch energy and interest as well as distract from any perceived imperfections.  (Remember that imperfect sketches are almost what define this style of journaling.)
  • Distinguish between primary and secondary lines by using different line weights.  For example, for the outline of an object (a primary line), I use a .05 Micron pen and for smaller interior, or secondary lines, I use a .01 Micron.
  •  Include your own handwriting and lettering.  Both complement this style nicely.
  • If your object seems like it is floating on the page, try stamping lightly in the space surrounding your painting.  My favorite color of stamp ink for this purpose is Staz-On's Dove Gray.  In addition, frames around the page can help enclose a painting; cast shadows also help the object look as if it is sitting, rather than floating, on the paper.
  • Most importantly, relax, have fun, don't give up, and stay loose!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rainbow Umbrella

There's been a lot of worry on the homestead lately about issues I don't discuss here at Lost Coast Post.  (I try to keep the focus on my art with occasional discussion of my health challenges if I think it might inspire others.)  Even if I don't share those personal difficulties, they are behind-the-scenes influencing my art on a daily basis.

This painting, inspired by Mindy Lacefield's online class Paint Your Story, generated a lot of deep thought.  I thought about how blue I feel when it seems clouds of worry and doubt and fear follow me around day after day.  I thought about how, even as I have my own concerns, I worry first about others.  Sometimes that gets in the way of allowing myself to tend to my own needs, to indulge in much needed self-care routines.  This little monster is also dealing with a storm of worries and yet he decides to protect the posies instead of his own head.  Hopefully, he'll soon realize that his umbrella can shelter both during the coming bout of unpleasant weather.  It is a good lesson for monster and artist alike.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Trying to Paint My Story

As I've said, I am very selective about which online classes I take: I am really looking for classes that help me add to my personal style and technique repertoire rather than ones that show me how to mimic another artist's look.  That said, once I read the description for Mindy Lacefield's Paint Your Story, I knew immediately that I had to take this class.  (The title alone sold it to me.)  I love creating characters that look as if they have a tale to tell.  In fact, most of the creatures and critters I create are visual proxies for things I am feeling, thinking and experiencing.

Mindy gives you the platform to develop your own lexicon of marks, symbols, and colors but I found the painting technique she demonstrates difficult to assimilate into my own style.  The pieces I've created so far definitely look like they were inspired by Mindy.  During the learning process, that's OK but as always I am striving for my own unique "look."  I'll keep working and see how this new style of applying paint to canvas can be incorporated into my current work.

This pensive bunny is the first piece I completed for Mindy's class.  Mindy suggests using alcohol inks in your backgrounds.  That idea intrigued me because my stash of alcohol inks are just gathering dust.  However, I immediately discovered that the ink continually bleeds through any paint placed over it; that's the reason this poor bun-bun looks like he has the measles.  Still, there was something compelling about this image and the process so I blundered onward and tried to smash up Mindy's techniques with my most common subject matter - monsters.  Tomorrow, I'll share the result of that experiment.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hey Fishy, Fishy

I love painting fish!  There are almost infinite variations and combinations of shape, pattern, color, and size so it is easy to draw a basic fish shape and then get imaginative with the details.  I've been painting a lot of fish lately for my upcoming shows and it has been fun to dig out the iridescent paints.  All my fish paintings sparkle in the light, something that is impossible to capture in a photo but I hope this particular picture gives you an idea what I've been up to lately in the studio.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Sketching from Life

There's something I've wanted to do for as long as I've been journaling (over 13 years) and that's to keep a journal made up entirely of pen & watercolor sketches of the world around me.  However, I've always been very intimidated by artists who work this way and for far too long I've let fear rule.  Well, in the last week or so, I've had a major breakthrough and I have pledged to do exactly the thing that terrifies me the most.  In fact, all the parts of my new watercolor journal will be bound together right after I finish writing this post.  There is a world to be documented and I cannot wait!   

The most important thing to remember when sketching from life is that the imperfections are what make the work so authentic and lively.  Throw out silly notions of perfect proportions and uber-realistic perspective.  Try simply to capture the essence of what you are witnessing. 
These sketches of everyday objects around the studio fill me with a joy you cannot imagine.  I took a leap and instead of falling, I flew!  It is an exhilarating experience!  I put something in front of me, sketch lightly with pencil, ink with a Micron and then paint.  Easy-peasy!

If you are interested in giving this a try, I highly recommend the following books:

How to make a Journal of Your Life by Daniel Price

Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures by Cathy Johnson

One Drawing a Day by Veronica Lawlor

An illustrated Life by Danny Gregory

The Creative License also by Danny Gregory

and finally, The Art of Urban Sketching by Gabriel Campanario 

Happy sketching!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sly as a Fox

As hard as it is to step away from the journaling frenzy, I've been trying to get back into the rhythm of painting every day as I have three big shows to hang in 2013 and I never seem to have enough pieces to fill the venues.  My ongoing show is titled "The Motley Menagerie" which means I am working on all sorts of critter paintings, from birds to fish and horses to beetles.

This fox painting is my most recently completed piece and I have to say, it isn't my favorite.  It isn't terrible but there's something about it that bugs me.  This is actually the second fox incarnation on this canvas; a previous attempt is buried under a coat of gesso.  However much this piece annoys me, I'm going to leave it be and move on to other work.  There's no time to waste on satisfying my inner critic.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Another Monday is here and so is another monster!  I've actually drawn this particular beastie several times across various journals and sketchbooks; there's something about him that charms me!  I'm seriously considering making him the star of a little comic strip.  Just trying to keep pushing my illustration skills...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Edgar Shares Some Link Love

This is Edgar.  Edgar lives in Fiddlestick Hollow along with Ellery and Egor whom you met on Wednesday.  In this portait, Edgar looks a little like a deer in headlights but the court artist assures me this is a faithful rendering of this stylish little monster.  

In addition to Edgar, I also have for you five more links to investigate in honor of Tammy's "Share the Link Love" campaign for April.  Check them out, leave a comment, spread the love of blogging far and wide!

Lesley Barnes fashion illustration Tumblr

The beautiful book arts of Constance Rose

Monstrous inspiration from Creaturemag

The awesome Doodler's Anonymous Flickr pool

The completed Millenium Postcard Swap!  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Lexicon: A Circle Journal

Some time ago, I signed up for Diana Trout's Circle Journal online class and while it took me a bit to get around to watching all the videos, once I did, I was hooked.  Diana provides a nice, easy structured environment while encouraging play and experimentation.  I highly recommend this class:  it is reasonably priced, filled with step-by-step information and inspiration and once you join the classroom, the material is available indefinitely.

What Diana calls a circle journal, I know as a maze book but whatever the name, the concept is the same: a multi-spread book made from a single sheet of paper.  Decorate, fold, cut, fold, and then decorate some more.  This book structure also includes a pocket where one can store an additional page but my book did not take advantage of that feature.

It took me a long time to finish this class because I couldn't come up with a theme for my circle journal but finally it hit me: I wanted to do a little artist book about my personal lexicon.


A lexicon is a set of symbols or images that appears regularly in an artist's work.  The artist may or may not be aware of the existence of their personal lexicon but if not, it is easy to discover.  Search through past work and see what symbols repeatedly make an appearance.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my personal lexicon and although there have been some additions in recent years (namely the fox and owl,) my lexicon has remained unchanged for over a decade.

These photos are presented in the order the book unfolds.  Although each page has a different topic, I united the entire book by repeating certain elements:  the black chevron stamp (from Pam Garrison), the numbered circle stickers, the hand drawn stars and tiny circles that run across the top of each page. 

On each page (with the exception of the spiral,) the featured symbol is drawn with black Sharpie and colored with Portfolio water-soluble oil pastels.  This also helps to make the book look cohesive.

I had a tremendous amount of fun creating this little book and once I finished, I promptly made two more books which are waiting in the wings for topics.  I have found that I find short-term artist book projects much more enjoyable than thick, endless journals.  I like the sense of accomplishment when I finish and the small books are easier to store or display.  I like to pile my artist books in a basket in the living room, inviting visitors to pick them up and interact with them.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ellery & Egor

Here's a couple more monsters that lurk in the shadows of Fiddlestick Hollow's royal court.  Ellery is a sweet-natured soul with luminous turquoise blue eyes and music in his heart.  He spends his days tutoring the princes in poetry, cupcake-making, embroidery, and other gentle arts of the home.

Egor is obsessed with good dental hygiene owing to his formidable set of teeth.  However sharp his grin, he is really a quiet sort of chap who enjoys a hot cup of Earl Grey and a chocolate biscuit every day at teatime.  He also has an enormous closet as he is quite obsessed with wearing all the latest looks.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just Play: Glue It Tuesday Week 4

I don't know how many journal pages I've done in which I command myself to "Play!" (or "Dream" or "Believe" or "Hope" etc) but I guess it is a message that bears repeating because here's another one just in time for this week's Glue It Tuesday.  It's another monster (surprise, surprise) and I made myself giggle aloud with this one.  Hope it brings a smile to you today as well!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Morning Yeti

"Monday Morning Yeti"
The resident yeti here at Lost Coast Post is obviously not a Monday morning creature.  (We are kindred spirits, he and I.)  There's a lot to show you this week including more of this series sparked by Mitsi B's mini class Break On Through

Hopefully, sometime this week, I'll also get around to showing you an artist book I made after taking Diana Trout's Circle Journal class.  Sometimes it takes me a while to work my way through an online class but when I do, I always feel more enriched and inspired.  I live in a rather isolated corner of California so online classes are my primary way of expanding my artistic knowledge post-art degree.  Finances are very limited so I am extremely picky about what I take; I prefer classes that are easily adaptable to my own visual style, thematic interests, and supply stash.  I also appreciate classes that remain open indefinitely so that I can work at my leisure and/or return to the course material for a refresher.

Anyway, there's a full week ahead here at Lost Coast Post so I do hope you'll join me!  

PS...As we've all heard, Google Reader is going away.  I personally do not use a blog feed, preferring instead to visit each blog individually.  I have heard good things about both Feedly and BlogLovin' so I think it is just a matter of personal preference.  I also have a "Follow By Email" option in my sidebar if you would prefer my posts be delivered directly to your inbox.  Generally speaking, I publish Monday through Friday with rare Saturday posts scattered here and there throughout the year.  However you choose to follow my art adventures, I deeply appreciate your visits and comments!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Monsters, Monsters Everywhere! (And Share the Link Love Week 1)

"The Village Menace"
This has definitely been the Year of the Monster for me.  I've completed 127 creatures and critters so far this year in my quest to create 365 characters in 2013.  Just 238 to go!  Fortunately, I am constantly inspired by various storylines floating 'round my head and new creatures are emerging faster than I can render them.  Fiddlestick Hollow is a very crowded place indeed!

I'd also like to support Tammy at Daisy Yellow in her campaign to bring back fun to blogging by participating in her Share the Link Love for the month of April.  Here's some recent links I found very inspiring:

Teesha Moore's reminder to listen to your intution...

Ellen honors her mandala instructor with beauty and grace...

Tammy blows the word "doodle" out of the water in a riot of color and pattern... 

Meet the magical monster horde of Delphine Durand...

Hanna shares her sweet little scrap notebook...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The King's Advisor

"Ogden the Wise"
Every kingdom needs an advisor and in King Douglas's realm, that role is filled by Ogden the Wise.  He's soft-spoken but firm, a keen and fair counsel to the monarchy.  He sits on the queen's shoulder, nibbling her hair, offering bits of sage advice, and occasionally swooping down on one of the many mice that inhabit the castle.  (The Queen, by the way, has yet to make an appearance in my work, perhaps because she is shy or perhaps because she is still evaluating my worth as court artist.) 

PS...This marks my 500th post here at Lost Coast Post, a milestone I think is worth noting since I have had an on & off relationship with this blog in the last 6-plus years.  I am currently publishing five days a week which is somewhat of a grand feat for me given my health and schedule.  A big, warm thank you goes out to every single one of my readers for following along with my various flights of artistic fancy.  Absolutely could not do all this without you!
x0x0 - Michelle

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Better Late than Never - Glue it Tuesday Week 3

Let's pretend, just for a moment, that it's Tuesday so that it can be time, once again for Glue It Tuesday, invented and hosted by the wonderful Aimee of Artsyville.  For this past week, I've been practicing something I'm actually terrible at which is "Less is More."  I'm actually an incurable "More is More" type of person but I thought I'd give the former philosophy a whirl.

I'm not sure how successful these collages are but they didn't take much time and they challenged my overloaded brain to do more with less.  I'm definitely going to try this approach again!

On Meeting Royalty

All this week, I'm showing this set of pieces I'm calling "The Denizens of Fiddlestick Hollow."  You may or may not recall that Fiddlestick Hollow is the ficitional place I go in my head when I'm practicing my illustration skills.  I've been developing this little world here and there for over 13 years and bit by bit, it is revealing itself to me.

His Majesty, King Douglas the Befuddled
As I worked on these illustrations, I was delighted that a narrative sprang to mind almost immediately.  I have had the pleasure of meeting the court of His Majesty, King Douglas the Befuddled.  (On Monday, you met the court's pet dragon and yesterday introduced the king's two sons.)  In addition to some of the court, I've also chanced upon many of the unique and wacky creatures that populate King Douglas' realm and you'll see those critters too in coming days.

I've had so much fun playing court artist that I ran through every last piece of black mat board I owned.  Once payday hits in April and I can run to the local frame shop, I'm going to stock up.  I have a feeling many more Fiddlestick Hollow citizens are patiently awaiting their debut in the real world.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Two Princes

Once I completed Mitsi B's mini class Break On Through, I immediately began to fold the techniques shown into my own.
"The Two Princes"
  • I threw out techniques I knew I would never use due to lack of supplies or other reasons.  For example, I never use fixatives or spray paints because I live with an asthmatic and two cats and that stuff is hard on one's lungs.  This means no use of charcoal in these pieces for shading or spray paints for a burst of color.
  • I stuck with a specific set of collage materials to give this series a cohesive look, something I always do when working on a series of pieces.  I repeated visual elements and I also used a specific palette of colors and set of tools to strengthen that overall, unified look and feel.
  • While I began by working intuitively (making a background and then seeing what I could find without preplanning), once that part was over, I worked very deliberately to create characters inspired by my previous drawings and doodles.  This marriage of the intuitive and intentional working processes resulted in unique images that reflect Mitsi's wonderful inspiration and my own aesthetic. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Born to Catch Dragons

I was born to catch dragons in their dens,
And pick flowers,
To tell tales and laugh away the morning,
To drift and dream like a lazy stream,
And walk barefoot across sunshine days.
James Cavanaugh

Welcome to the first of April and another week of ramblings about my art and art life!

Last week, I revealed my most recent journal pages and my budding love affair with black gesso.  As I played in my journal, I knew that I wanted to keep pushing and experimenting because I could feel myself pulling closer to the "more edgy" art I've sought for years.  I was beginning to work on a more intuitive level but I needed a bit more inspiration.

"Born to Catch Dragons"
Enter serendipity!  I happened to check in on Roben-Marie's blog and saw this post regarding her new work inspired by an artist nicknamed Mitsi B (aka Michelle Kral.)  I followed the virtual breadcrumbs to the Ning site, The Trodden Path, and onward to Mitsi's mini workshop Break On Through.  Thirty-five dollars later and I was watching Mitsi complete two mixed media paintings from start to finish.  The process was simplistic and magical and I took to it immediately.  This new material is the perfect companion to my current explorations of a shadowy cartoon universe.

All this week, I'll be showing my Break On Through classwork.  My pieces made in response to Mitsi's class definitely have her influence but I see myself in them too. 
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