2018

At the beginning of every year, most people resolve to be different in some way. Lose weight, cut back or eliminate bad habits, save money, or be more organized are a few popular goals.

I’m not one for making resolutions to start on January 1st. I do still make goals, but it’s hard to be consistent and achieve them. So this year, 2018, is going to be my “Try (My Best)” year. How can I fail if all I have to do is try? I can only fail if I don’t begin. Trite but true.

Living with depression. Illustration by Clare Jarvis, courtesy of Smosh.com

If you live with depression, you know how hard it is to even get out of bed some days, much less take care of the minor ordeals life can bring. If you have perfectionism of any sort, you know it’s challenging to begin something without knowing how it will end and that the final result will turn out the way you expected.

But if I try, regardless of what my mind is telling me… If I just start, without listening to that nasty voice of expectation… maybe something will happen. Maybe I’ll start enjoying life again.

So here are a few things I want to try this year:

  • Bullet Journaling – If you’ve been anywhere near Pinterest lately, you’ve heard of bullet journals. Supposedly, they are amazing things in which you can dump your whole life, track your progress, increase productivity, and keep memories. And, oh, the decorative opportunities! I have a lot of skepticism about it, but hey, it’s a chance to play with all my lovely coloring tools and office supplies.
  • Reading – I’m out of the habit of reading regularly. I have trouble focusing for more than a few minutes, and it’s scary how little I recall. Again, the mantra of this year is “Try.” I miss reading, and I want to be able to get back to where I can devour multiple chapters in a day, if not a whole book.
  • Sewing – I can sew. It’s a nice skill to have when perfectionism isn’t crawling on your neck, demanding that the corners be perfectly sharp and the seams be expertly finished. Perfectly serviceable should be acceptable, right? Another obstacle to sewing is my craft room, which brings me to the next thing I want to try.
  • Organization + Minimalism – Another super trendy thing I’m sure you’ve heard about is Minimalism. The great thing about it is you can define what minimalism is for you. So, minimalism for me might be sticking with two Ellowyne dolls instead of an army, or four sets of colored pencils instead of 12, or all 12 sets if I’m legitimately using them. (I don’t know how many sets of colored pencils I have, but I have made the decision to part with at least two sets). Once I’ve minimized, I will be able to organize more successfully. It sure will make packing a lot easier.
  • Research & Learn – My favorite thing in school was writing research papers. I even did it for fun outside of class. I miss amassing facts with which to bore or astonish people. I miss the challenge of trying to make the potentially dull interesting.
  • Write – I write a little, mostly for this blog. I would like to improve the quality of my pieces, and be more prolific. I think using my journal again, in addition to making a commitment to publishing more entries in this blog, will be a great start.
  • Goal setting – This is a skill I need to improve. My goals are nebulous at best, just like my resolution to “try.” While “Try (My Best)” is the main target for the year, I have to learn to set small goals so that in the future I can aim for loftier ambitions. Maybe 2019 will be “Dream and Achieve.”
  • Affirmations – I’m not talking about the touchy/feely sort of affirmations that you say in the mirror every morning to make yourself feel better. This is more akin to goal setting, like “I will be a millionaire,” or “I will have a famous blog.” I found this take on affirmations in Scott Adam’s book, The Dilbert Future. It’s worked somewhat in the past, but my commitment has always been lacking. I also can’t tell if I’m using magical thinking or attributing certain positive outcomes to the method inaccurately.

I’m sure there will be more things I’ll try in 2018, and will probably blog about all of them. I wish I had a better denouement, but I want to get this published and my intentions into the universe.

Avon Calling!

I’ve been playing with my cosmetics in preparation for the wedding. It’s been a lot of fun to experiment. Luckily, my best friend, Crystal Kearns, is an Avon representative, so I have easy, fast access to samples.

Without cosmetics, I’m still acceptable looking.

But after an application, va-va-VOOM!This is the result of one trial’s efforts. Thanks to Avon, nice lighting, and a good angle, I look wonderful, if I say so myself.

Here’s what I’m wearing:

I love the results, and think I have a new hobby.

Color Me Creative

For over two years now, I’ve been coloring. It started as a soothing activity, and quickly became a full-fledged hobby. I really enjoy experimenting with different brands and varieties of colored pencils, pens, and markers. I’ve learned a lot about color perception and coloring techniques in the past two years.

Now is a wonderful time to get started coloring. Media prices have dropped significantly in the two years since I began, and the hobby is relaxing as ever. Here are a few artists I enjoy and the colored pencils I like to work with:

A small, colored excerpt from Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden

Artists

  • Johanna Basford is probably the most widely know and overall popular coloring book artist out there. Her detailed and crisp nature scenes are a pleasure to color.
  • Millie Marotta is another well known coloring book artist. She illustrates animals made up of smaller shapes, which can instigate interesting experiments in gradients.
  • Another wonderful artist is Scandanavian Hanna Karlzon. Her drawings are nature based, bejeweled scenes. A terrific choice if you like bright and clear colors.

Colored Pencils

  • Marco Raffine colored pencils, 72 pack are great for the beginner colorist. While they don’t color as smoothly and easily as higher-end pencils, they still lay down color nicely and blend fairly well. As they are oil based, gamsol is terrific to use as a blending agent, but a white pencil or blender pencil will do the job.
  • The Prismacolor colored pencils, set of 150 is fabulous for the more serious beginner or intermediate coloring artists. A dream to blend these wax based hues, with or without the blender pencils. Favored by many colorists.
  • A squirrel
    Colored with Faber Castell Polychromos pencils, this squirrel is my favorite thing I’ve done

    With Derwent ColourSoft pencils, set of 72, you can experience the quality of the legendary brand. One of the easiest to blend pencils I’ve encountered.

  • Faber Castell Polychromos, set of 120 are a favorite of colorista extraordinare, Peta Hewitt, and me. While Peta prefers to blend using the oil-based pencils themselves (at which she is adept), I love using gamsol for my blending. Simply stunning results, either way.
  • For the intermediate to advanced colorist who hasn’t found the perfect pencil yet, I recommend Caran D’Ache Luminance series. They’re known as the Mercedes of colored pencils, and the price tag can be shocking when you consider the complete range is 76 pencils. These pencils blend smoothly and have superior light-fastness.
Pebbles colored using Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone colored pencil

As for specialty colored pencils, I have two recommendations:

  • Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone colored pencils have three varigated colors in a single pencil, making it easy to add depth and variety to your coloring. For an example, see the photo on the left.

In upcoming blog posts, I plan to discuss colored pencil techniques, review markers and gel pens and suggest the best things to color with those. For now, you can explore my idea list on Amazon, Color Me Creative.

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A hint for my honey: Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series


My Momoko Journey

You briefly met Momoko on Halloween. She’s my latest doll craze, and has inspired me to create a lot.

Momoko, holding her plant by It’s Perfectly Petite on Etsy, dressed in Sekiguchi Petworks skirt and shoes, cardigan by Clear Lan, with her cat, Ichiko.
Momoko and her goodies. Pants by Inomi on Etsy.

I’ve found lots of cute, scale accessories and furniture for Momoko.  I’ve loved creating tiny models ever since childhood, ranging from HO trains to school dioramas to 1:12 scale minatures. The little details I think to include make me happy. Now, I’m doing my most ambitious challenge yet: building a small sewing shop roombox for her, complete with roof, attic, and front porch. I’ve assembled dollhouses from kits, but I haven’t ever drafted plans, formulated a construction process (I always follow instructions, even when assembling flat pack furniture) or cut much wood. 

Momoko and her construction supplies. Outfit by Clear Lan.

Currently I’m working on the diagrams for the display and determining the assembly steps. While this is still in the theoretical stage, to encourage myself to continue, I’ve started purchasing the items I know I’ll need, and doing fun things like picking out the furnishings, decor, and color schemes.

As I build this, I’ll post updates to show how the project is coming along. You can also follow on Instagram, #mymomokojourney.

 

 

 

Happy Halloween 2017!

Meet Momoko, a 10.5″ jointed fashion doll from Japan. I’m just begun collecting and creating for her, and plan to share my craftables here on the blog. You can follow her “settling in” on Instagram #mymomokojourney.

To Every Season

In “A Matter of Tone,” I discussed trying to find my skin’s undertone. I had determined I had a neutral skintone. I wasn’t any closer to finding out what season I was. In fact, it felt as though I had taken a step back, because while I couldn’t be a “true” season, I had the flexibility of being a combination of seasons.

Pure winter palette. Colors I’m attracted to, but not necessarily for me. Source: Outfitideas4you.com

I looked at other factors besides skin tone. A lot of people are naturally drawn to their appropriate season, and I find myself collecting clothes in the winter color palette. Those are jewel toned, clear colors with striking contrast. I’ve been complimented more when I wear such hues.

There was a quiz towards the beginning of Color Me a Season that assessed your seasonal personality. I found myself checking off a few affirmative answers for each season, but was encouraged when I found that I answered yes to nearly all of the winter questions. But that wasn’t very definitive.

The book then goes on to describe hair, skin and eye combinations of the seasons. Because of the light hair and eyes generally found in Spring and Summer, those two seasons were ruled out. But I was getting frustrated deciding between Autumn and Winter. Many trips were made to the bathroom mirror to decide if my eyes were golden brown or dark brown. They looked red brown to me, but that seemed like an impossible classification. And what was my hair color as a child? Was it ashy or did it have red undertones? I couldn’t remember. Where my hair is growing out from the chemical dyes, it actually looks to be a very dark brown, finally matching my eyebrows that always puzzled me with their contrast to my natural hair.

I resorted to another book, Color Me Beautiful, the US classic version of seasonal color analysis. It opened quickly with the hair, eye, and skin combinations of various seasons. In the text about winter eyes, it listed it: red brown. Finally! I had the answer to my make-up issue. I was a winter!

Sample colors for Deep Winter. Source: Pinterest

But what sort of winter, if I wasn’t a true winter? I went back to Color Me a Season, paging through it. Towards the back of the book, there were illustrations of various seasonal combinations. I found one that looked similar to me, labeled “Firelight Winter.” By reading the description, I ascertained that it was that system’s term for Autumn-Winter, or Deep/Dark Winter.

Armed with this knowledge, I looked at the suggested make-up shades in the book and on Pinterest. I was now able to request samples of lipstick from my Avon representative, and purchase appropriate eyeshadow. I was now on my way to perfecting my wedding day cosmetics!

For reference, below are suggested make-up hues for Deep Winter:

Source: tealinspiration.com

If you’re on the quest to find your perfect colors, I suggest the following websites in addition to the books listed above:

  • Teal Inspiration – great source for color suggestions for cosmetics for any season.
  • Expressing Your Truth – an in-depth blog about determining many aspects of suitable fashion for you, from color analysis to determining your face/body shape.
  • Cardigan Empire – great examples of each season and sub-type in easy infographics.
  • Cladwell’s Color Quiz – great for determining your season
  • Kettlewell – a British clothing site, with color options for every season in every style.

In upcoming blog entries, I’ll cover the various ways seasonal color analysis has benefited me. It’s surprising what it can do for your confidence and shopping habits.

Rock and a Hard Place

Creative rock painting inspiration, found on Pinterest.

Pinterest started it all by showing me the pretty pictures of gorgeous painted stones. It seemed so easy: take a little craft paint, a brush, and a rock and voilá, you have a masterpiece. But it’s a challenge in a couple of different ways.

I begged for rocks from my now-fiance for Valentine’s. He indulged me, to my humor and delight. I found the essential beginners’ guide to painting stone, The Art of Stone Painting by F. Sehnaz Bac on Zulily. I knew I wasn’t capable of such intricate designs. My drawing skills are terrible, and my hands aren’t steady. I felt defeated before I even tried, and the stones sat in my craft room, untouched for months.

Envy inducing perfect circles. By lienzodepiedra on Instagram

I kept pinning beauties on my inspiration board. I was jealous of the effortless, perfect dots and brilliant designs. I felt I never would be able to imitate that.

One day, I was chatting with my bestie while pinning away. The inspiration, coupled with ambition, took hold and stuck with me. I was too busy to try rock painting that day, but I was going to throw perfectionism to the wind the next and attempt it. I knew my first efforts wouldn’t be awe-inspiring, but by gum, I was going to practice!

Getting started

I got started with pulling out the basics I would need: acrylic craft paint, decent craft brushes, a jar full of water, my gift rocks, some paper on which to paint, and a palette.

It just so happened that day was a stressful one for my best friend. I invited her to come over and offered her some rocks to paint with me. She had to bring her girls along, so I put out some paint supplies and rocks for them, too.

It was a hit with everyone! The girls were entertained by something other than a electronic gadget and still had fun. The most amazing thing was to see my very stressed friend who doubts her creative skills get Zen and happier because of the activity. We only stopped due to nightfall.

My stones weren’t painted quite as I envisioned them, but I felt satisfied by my progress.  I had enjoyed the process, too, which is different from how I often feel with some other crafts. I tend to focus on the outcome and am left feeling disappointed almost every time. But because I’m not the Renoir of rocks and yet don’t feel defeated, I am inspired to keep trying.

I plan to attempt more thoroughly planned designs than the ones pictured above. For that, I anticipate I will need the following:

  • Detail brushes, like the kind used for painting miniatures. I have Lor-Dac brushes from Amazon.
  • More, higher quality craft paint, such as Folk Art brand or Ceramcoat. I picked up some from my local art supply shop, Shelf Life. They’re awesome because they buy and sell lightly used art supplies.
  • Decocolor paint markers in various hues and widths of tip. I found a selection at Shelf Life, but you can also purchase them from dickblick.com.
  • Fineliners in white and black.
  • 2H lead pencil, for drawing patterns on light colored stones. Mine are from Hobby Lobby.
  • White pencil, colored or artist’s, for drawing on dark rock. I recommend Prismacolor colored pencils for smoother, shinier, less porous rocks, and an oil-based one such as Faber-Castell Polychromos for porous surfaces. You can generally buy a single white pencil from any art shop.
  • A kneaded eraser, for those mistakes drawing! Available at any arts and crafts store, or through online shops such as dickblick.com.

In all, I recommend rock painting for anyone who doubts their creative prowess. It’s easy-ish, a low investment for beginners, and full of mindfulness fun.

Additional Reading & Resources

Written by Denise Scicluna, Rock Art! demonstrates more readily achievable projects than The Art of Stone Painting.

A very detailed online tutorial on rock painting from Thought Co.

I’ve found rocks in a number of places, such as the floral crafts section at Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, and Amazon. I recommend these 2-3 inch white rocks from Amazon for more serious fans of the hobby. Twenty pounds sounds like a lot, but it’s not as much as you might think.

Another great online art supply shop is Cheap Joe’s. It’s somewhat local to me, so it has super fast shipping if I don’t want to make the trip to their shop.

Raccoon Sense

Like this stuffed animal? You may have raccoon sense.

In my first post, I mentioned something called raccoon sense. It’s a joking term that my fiancee and I use to describe my adoration of things I find aesthetically appealing because it is colorful or sparkly.

At first, I wasn’t sure why I chose the raccoon as my patron saint of design. Why not a magpie? They’re notorious for stealing shiny objects. My mother would refer to me as a magpie when I was a child because of my attraction to glittering goodies. But it didn’t stick.

After using the phrase “raccoon sense” when describing why I liked Christmas trees (even though it’s floral genocide), I googled raccoons and shiny objects. Here’s an excerpt from a pest control site about baiting traps for them which confirmed my theory that raccoons are mammalian magpies:

  • Raccoons are attracted to shiny objects. Place some wadded up aluminum foil in the trap to make them curious.
  • Do-It-Yourself Pest Control

But raccoons don’t limit their definition of shiny to just metallic objects. The newest electronic gadget might be consider the “latest shiny” in popular vernacular, and raccoons agree. Watch this video from Time On Scene’s YouTube channel:

I doubt that guy’s phone was as appealing to furry thieves as this one.

Let‘s just hope this guy has an unlimited plan. (And it was so cute, the footage of the little creature running away!)

Anything sparkling, shining, or glowing will attract a raccoon’s attention and invoke their tremendous curiousity. However, according to Wikipedia, raccoons have terrible color perception, with the exception of green values. This contradicts part of my definition of “raccoon sense” but I created the term, so I make the rules about it. Whatever, I do what I want!

I needed a pair of glasses for a road trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We stopped at Wal-Mart and it took less than 10 seconds to spot these.

This love of the sparkly comes in handy when shopping. I can look at a display and instantly fall in love with something, and don’t have to study the racks to find something I like to stylishly fit my needs. Take, for instance, the sunglasses on the right. I needed some and found this rhinestone studded pair. Shopping completed in record time.

Since my initial research, raccoons have become sort of a mascot for me. Here’s just a few reasons why, summarized in a handy list:

Source: http://iambored.pro/things-common-raccoon/

It should be noted that while raccoons have a bad reputation as a carrier of rabies, they aren’t always rabid even if they’re out and about during the day. Still, if you see one when the sun is shining, it doesn’t mean they’re safe to approach. They are wild animals and likely have young nearby (keeping them awake at all hours, just like human children!). They can and will attack if they feel threatened.

Another reason raccoons are my spirit animal: they can love cats. Although they compete for food, stray cats and raccoons occasionally team up and even become friends. The combination is enough to make you say “Awww!”

There you have it: a long, drawn out definition of “raccoon sense” and why raccoons are my spirit animal. (I forgot to mention their bitchin’ eye make-up, though.) To summarize: raccoons are cool because they love sparkly stuff and cats like me.

Additional Reading

A Matter of Tone

My wedding dress vision before my bridal dress consultation. Dress by David’s Bridal.

I have been preoccupied lately with finding my colors, looking for my season, and identifying my skin tone. It’s a part of the impeding nuptial frenzy for me, and really started with dress shopping a week after my engagement. The bridal stylist suggested ivory for me when I really wanted soft white.

Then came make-up considerations. I generally don’t wear cosmetics, but it’s my special day. However, a make-up artist is out of the question for me – I can’t afford it with the $5800 I allotted for myself. Besides, wanting to look your best for your wedding day will make most women second guess themselves and what styles work for them. (I don’t think men are excluded from this, but black tie dress puts the kibosh on many fashion and beauty options for the poor dears.)

At this point, I was stymied. I was searching for a dress appropriate for a courthouse ceremony, which had left me feeling defeated and ugly (the bridal appointment reinforced that). I was clueless about cosmetics, and terrified of attempting my own face on the big day, lest I look like the Joker with a hangover in my precious photos. So I did what I do best: research.

Since my mother shrieked at me once about wearing white, saying I “think I look good in white but really don’t,” after she dabbled in “Color Me Beautiful” and the bridal stylist steered me toward ivory, I decided discovering my season would be the ideal place to start. Besides, fictional Bridget Jones’s mother was always after her to get her colors done to boost her self esteem. I discovered during the course of my research that it’s a very British thing to do. I like British things, so why not?

The author’s wrist. The photo doesn’t do the color confusion justice. Are those veins blue? Purple? Green? Alien?

I began by borrowing Color Me a Season, available for free with Kindle Unlimited. It starts, like almost everything on fashion and beauty color analysis, by determining if you’re a cool or warm tone. For some people, it’s easy. Just look at your veins: blue means you’re cool and green means you’re warm. Mine were blue and green. Teal? Which precise point on the inside wrist was I supposed to be looking at? If you can’t decipher your vein hue, do the silver/gold test. Which blends and looks better? I couldn’t tell, although I leaned toward silver. Was that after years of reinforcement and training my eye to prefer silver? I have a couple of pieces of gold toned jewelry, and it looks nice on me. I just avoid purchasing it unless the piece is particularly pretty otherwise.

Once again, I was stumped. I skimmed two more books on seasonal color analysis, then took to Google. Google told me that there were three undertones to skin: cool, warm, and neutral. A revelation! I might be a neutral! A couple of quizzes later, I was convinced of it. The Bustle questionnaire was straightforward and complimentary, and full of information. Popsugar’s quiz gave percentages of warm and cool, but ultimately classified me as cool.

It explained so much. It now made sense, the conflicting opinions on white versus ivory, gold or silver, and why I received compliments on shirts in various seasonal color palettes.

People with neutral undertones are truly lucky once they embrace it. Their wardrobe palettes are more flexible and they have more choices in cosmetics. The options are open, but that can be overwhelming by itself.

So that left me with a new take on the same problem: how do I figure my season from here?