My Artistic Beginnings

Art has always been important to me, although at times it may not have seemed like it. I remember when I was in kindergarten I actually had a note sent home with me one day because my coloring was so terrible. Well, it was terrible at school. When we had our coloring time in school I seemed to be completely unable to stay in the lines and turn out a respectable picture. At home, well, that was a different story. At home I could color like a champ, nice and neat, everything between the lines. My mother was more than a little surprised at the complaint from my teacher and sent one of the coloring pages I had completed quite neatly so she could see for herself that I wasn’t a complete failure. From that point on I promised to do my best coloring at school and I moved on with my life.

As I grew there were a couple of rather large stumbling blocks that I encountered with my art. The one that was the most devastating happened when I was 12 years old and in the seventh grade. By that time I had not only become first cellist in the school orchestra, but I had also fallen in love with science. I guess I’m just an all-around geek. In my science class we had been learning about heat and the different colors of flames and which colors corresponded to the coolest and hottest temperatures. Unfortunately, at the same time in my art class we were learning about warm and cool colors. We were given a test in art class and when asked what color I associated with heat I answered white, because in science I had learned that if something is white hot it’s really, really hot. When I got my test back and saw that I got that answer wrong I tried explaining to the teacher why I had given the answer I had given. Rather than acknowledge my confusion or try to explain to me that there is a difference in terms between art and science, my teacher proceeded to excoriate me, pointing out that I was an idiot and that I would never understand art. (No, I’m not exaggerating. I later found out that he was anti-Semitic, which could have added fuel to the fire as I’m Jewish.) His words cut me to the core, and until that time I had always thought that there was no right and wrong with art, but apparently I was wrong since I was flunking a class for the first time ever. At that moment I gave up on art and poured my creativity into other outlets.

When I was about twenty I tried my hand at art again. I had been watching Bill Alexander and was amazed at how he could turn nothing into something beautiful in just thirty minutes. Unfortunately my personal circumstances at that time were less than optimal and once again I had to shelve my art. Then when I was thirty-seven something amazing happened. Our son was born. Years before his arrival we had already decided that we would homeschool him for a couple of reasons, but after he was born there were even more reasons for us to homeschool, so we did. It was during our years of homeschooling, while I was trying to foster an appreciation and love for art in our son that my love for art reawakened.

During his academic career I made sure to include some type of art in most of his subjects, and when it was time to “do art” I tried to make it as fun and engaging as possible. We would also look at the work of different artists like Monet, O’Keeffe, and Van Gogh. Looking back I think it was more than fostering a love of art in our son, but rather fostering his creativity. Our art ran the range from crayons to watercolors to salt clay to Legos. I remember one summer we tried setting up a pendulum paint dispenser on the tree in our back yard. It was an epic failure, but we sure had fun! Even, or especially, in our failures I tried to remain positive and encouraging, always letting our son know that with art there is no right or wrong. Art is what it is, and whatever you create is just perfect. That’s not to say that a person can’t seek to improve their artistic skills, just that there should be no pressure on a person who is exploring art for the first, or fiftieth, time. Creativity is a very individual thing and art, in whatever form it takes, can be an excellent avenue to explore that creativity. I encourage you to give it a try and see where it might take you!


Old Barn Window Colored Pencil Final Part 2

Final CP Old Barn

Well, here is the finished colored pencil version of the Old Barn Window. I broke a number of “rules” in doing this piece, and I’m very glad that I did. I really like how the wood turned out. I like how the stonework turned out as well. I’m not so crazy about the plants in the foreground, but I do know how I would do those differently in the future, so that’s a good thing. All in all this was not only a very relaxing project, but it was a great learning experience as well. Next I’ll be tackling this barn window in graphite!

Old Barn Window Work In Progress Part 1


There’s just something about old barns that I absolutely love. Yesterday I started this colored pencil painting of the window of an old barn. To be quite honest with you, until today colored pencils and I have been at odds with each other. Part of that reason I that I’ve tried to imitate other colored pencil artists’ techniques to achieve the results I desired. While I have learned a lot from these other artists, their techniques aren’t quite right for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – there is no right or wrong in art. It is what it is. Yesterday I gave myself permission to relax and simply paint with my pencils, doing what felt right for me and having confidence that I really have learned and know what I’m doing. And guess what. I really like how this is turning out!

Something else that I’ve decided to do with this old barn window is paint it in four different media – colored pencils, graphite pencils, pastel pencils, and soft pastels. I want to have a good visual at the similarities and differences between the media and how those differences affect the final result. It should be interesting and I look forward to sharing my results with you!

Winter Landscape

There’s something about bare winter trees that I just love, and this landscape (done from this tutorial at captured my attention. I’ve been wanting to try it for quite some time and finally dove in a few days ago. I just finished and wanted to share the results, as well as some of the process, with you.

This might sound silly, but the more I art (as my husband and our son say), the more I realize just how important the process of creating is for my emotional well-being. I love finishing a project, but while I’m working on it I find myself in a very special place – a place of quiet and peace where I can lose myself in the colors, in the forms, and in the subject. I can feel myself calm down and slip into “the zone.” Once I’m in the zone everything is good and all that matters is the process and the act of creating. Even after I’ve finished a piece the calm stays with me and I look forward to starting again – choosing the right paper, the right subject, the right media, the right colors.

I would like to invite you to try your hand at “arting” even if you don’t think you know how or don’t think you can. If you have a pen and paper, if you have a can of Play-Doh, if you have markers and coffee filters (yes, really) you can art. Tap into your creativity and see where it will take you!


Keeping It Simple

I can be easily distracted, especially by colorful, shiny things. When it comes to my art I can get distracted as well. I can get so caught up in trying to find the right tint or the right value for something that the fun just sort of fades away and the art becomes a chore. That doesn’t leave me in a very happy place. So the other night I grabbed a piece of colored pencil paper and my graphite art pencils and had a little fun.

My husband likes barns and I’ve been trying to draw him a nice barn for a while now. I’ve tried pastel pencils, soft pastels, and colored pencils, but the outcomes have been less than what I would have liked. It seems I just needed to keep it simple, stupid!

By using graphite I was able to concentrate on the subject, on the light, on the shadows, and not get caught up in tints and trying to blend colors properly. Don’t get me wrong. I love bringing color to my art, but sometimes simplicity should rule the day. Life is filled with enough frustration. Why bring that to our art?

Here’s the finished barn sketch. Unfortunately I didn’t realize until I was well into the piece that the paper had some scoring on it. I was so excited to get started I didn’t even think to check for that. But my husband loves it, and so do I. When I look at it not only do I see a barn and silo, I also see simplicity and the freedom it can bring.

Graphite Barn

You can find my paintings at Smurgles Art!

My Art Buddies

A few days ago I finally put together some wire cubes so that I could better organize my art stuff – paper, supplies, finished pieces, you know, stuff. The great thing was that the two bottom cubes were empty and just happened to be in front of one of our furnace registers. I really wasn’t planning on using those bottom cubes for storage as my back doesn’t like it when I bend too far, so rather than let the space (and the heat) go to waste I outfitted the cubes for our cats! It didn’t take long before Benny (on the left) and Dusty (on the right) settled right in.


I’ve written before about how art is great therapy, and it is. But I’ve found that our animals (five cats and one guinea pig) are even better. In fact, I think they’re just about the best therapists around! It’s always a joy to be able to give back to them and help them stay comfy and happy after all they’ve done for us!