Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Watercolor + Liquid Gold

So I experimented with a few new things yesterday:

1. Fredrix Watercolor Canvas (one of the excellent finds from the studio sale I attended way back in February).

2. Liquid Gold Leaf + Watercolor

The Watercolor Canvas I LOVE.  I've got two more to play around with still, and I'm thinking of continuing use of the liquid gold with watercolor - the effect is pretty cool.  





Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring is here!

...Well, almost.

After a sunny weekend, we got another storm Sunday night, and woke up to a few inches of powder Monday morning.  But already it's on its way out.  As I write this, I can hear the drip-drip-drip of snow quickly melting off the roof. 

Still it's an overcast day, so I decided to brighten it up by pulling out my watercolors and trying my hand and painting some spring flowers.





I love this time of year.  The little buds on the trees are near bursting, and fresh green shoots are poking their way out of the earth.  I can't wait for all the colors to arrive!  They will be well worth the wait :-)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nesting for Creativity

As I mentioned last week, I recently did a little spring cleaning around the office.  Now my art space - my first, real, all my own spot reserved 24/7 solely for my creative work - is feeling much fresher.

Or at least it was up until I got back to work the following day.  At the moment, my desk is again cluttered with papers, pens and projects in-progress.  Does it help that it's at least all organized into separate piles?

My mind tends to reflect the state of my surroundings, so I generally try my best to keep my space neat and clear.  In fact, one of my favorite morning rituals is sweeping the floor.  Maybe that sounds hopelessly OCD, but it really enhances how I feel and think.  It's like wiping down my mental and emotional chalkboard and starting with a clean slate, first thing in the day. 

But sometimes I get lazy, things get messy, and my mind starts to feel a little scattered or sticky.

For this reason, I am currently working to cultivate a space that feels neat, nurturing and inspiring.

Just as we make nest for our baby-babies, this ritual is equally important in the rearing of our creative-babies.  My goal is to surround myself with colors, images, and textures that nourish my heart and creative spirit.  My hope is that putting a little love into my studio will both motivate me to keep it consistently clean and organized, and also enhance my process and productivity.

I haven't got much to work with starting out, but a quick trip to the Goodwill provided adequate fodder.  For less than $2, I brought home a couple of cute and colorful frames, complete with hangers and matting.


I just wiped down the glass and frame, made a few little snippity snips, and in no time at all had some cute, original artwork to perk up my otherwise bare walls. 


I never seem to get tired of foxes. 


I love thrifty deals and making old things like new :-)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dreaming Small: Why it's scary to look our Heart's Desire in the eye

It's been about a year and a half since I started using Adobe Illustrator.

I first approached the program the same way I approach most things in life: Relying upon experimentation, trial and error, and intuitive hunches to find my way and make it work.

And initially, I had some success.  What most excited me was that I now had the ability to render my hand drawn art in digital format, where it could be edited, colored, and manipulated in ways I'd never before thought possible.

I felt I had discovered the best of both worlds: handmade and computer rendered.  Tangible and intangible.  Fixed and fluid.

Of course I realized I was barely scratching the surface of possibilities with my rudimentary grasp of the program.  Especially when I would look at the jaw-dropping work being created by professional designers with the use of Illustrator, and the digital paintings artists were creating in Photoshop.

And oh my gosh, these people had developed such a sharp eye for design.  Their use of color and typeface, their flawless drafting skills and brilliant compositions. 

I've always wanted to be an artist, yet my whole life I have pursued that passion somewhat timidly and exclusively unprofessionally.

I wouldn't try to be the best artist in the world, because I knew I never could be.  So I wouldn't think of myself as a REAL artist.  REAL art was for other people, who went to art school and had studied technique and theory and had pretentious chips on their shoulders about what makes art "good" or valuable.

I built up these ideas in my mind about the uninviting and unappealing realm of professional artists, in order to numb any latent desire I had to rise to their ranks.  Secretly, I was terrified of trying my best and putting it out there.  The worst thing I could imagine was having people dump all over the very thing I had poured my heart into, not because I'd intended to achieve anything, but just because it made me happy.

Similar things could be said for why I've never sought to become a professional writer, even despite my formal education in the subject.  "I write for the love of it," I told myself.  "Why would I want to taint one of my greatest loves with a feeling of necessity?"

Translation: Why would I want to invite people to judge the most intimate, important thing in my life?  What if they decide it sucks?

What if it turns out that my life's greatest source of joy and purpose turns out to be WORTHLESS?

That right there.  That is the crux of it.

So I yielded to the fear, and vowed to keep myself safe.  Safe from criticism, safe from disappointment, safe from failure.

And only just now is my heart finally mustering the courage to say, "To hell with your insecurities, Imma do what I WANT."

I'm glad one of us has the guts to do it.

Which brings us back to now.  And me trying to teach myself Illustrator and graphic design.

After years of compulsively, voyeuristically taking in just a small sampling of the amazing work being put out into the world, I realize that in order to become a better artist, I need to learn good design.  And if I want to execute good design, I need to become a better artist.

And if I want to grow into the best artist and designer I can be, I need to become a true student.

Looking back, I wonder why I chose not to pursue art formally in school.  The easy answer could be, "Because I wanted to be a writer more."  But I clearly recall holding the university forms in my hands to apply for a double major in both writing and studio art.  Why did I never follow through?

Because to allow myself to become an art student would have been to admit to the world that I wanted to be an artist.  And I just wasn't ready to be that vulnerable.

So this is me, ten years later, formally announcing that I am an informal student of art.  And that yes, I want to be AM an artist.

Though my greatest teachers are still experimentation and trial and error, I am approaching art with a new attitude these days.  I'm actually reading about art and design, for what feels like the first time.  I'm lurking on internet forums and watching YouTube tutorials.  I'm following blogs and obsessively stalking my favorite artists on Instagram.

I'm noticing that the most successful artists have very distinct styles.  I'm wondering: What is my distinct style?  What is my subject?  What kind of art do I want to put out into the world?  What feelings and ideas do I want to share with people? 

Questions I never before thought to ask myself, because I was content to simply doodle and keep my art small and unassuming (hence the name of this blog: Small Fox Press).

But now I'm less and less interested in sheltering myself from negativity and more and more dedicated to following my heart and giving it my all.

Here is my latest project in my self-directed studies:  Hand-carved stamps, scanned into my computer, and edited in illustrator.

I'm not sure which color scheme I prefer, but I'm imagining one in printed form, each portrait hung separately on the wall in unframed glass.  Maybe in the bedroom, hovering over Evan and mine's respective sides of the bed.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun doing it.

And I'm getting more and more comfortable with the idea that that is the most important part.








 
I believe we all come into life with special lessons to learn, and I feel like a big one of mine is allowing myself to put down my imaginary measuring stick and let go of comparison and the desire for the approval of some unnamed "other."

I know everyone struggles with this from time to time.   I think this feeling of "not enoughness" is at the heart of all imbalance and disharmony, both for individuals and society at large.

Can you imagine a culture in which people work and create and serve with pure, unadulterated love? Where we are taught to cultivate self-acceptance instead of self-loathing. Where a cooperative spirit is praised over a competitive one, and we celebrate the happiness and success of others as though it were our own - understanding that there is no finite supply of these things, and that the more joy we share, the more we create.

This is my dream for myself, and it's my dream for the world.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Best Day EVER!

Yes, the sun is out and the snow is gone (for now) and it's the first day of the year that really feels like spring!

But that's not the only thing marking today as so monumentally awesome. 

Let me preface this story by admitting that I am a person of very modest means.  I moved to Virginia in November with a few hundred dollars saved up, no job prospects, and no plan.  Over the past several months, I've played music on the street, taught art classes to Girl Scouts, sold commissioned artwork, and just barely managed to scrape by.

It's not that I haven't been looking for actual work.  I've applied to work at day cares and delis, at grease businesses and elderly care homes, and even posted babysitting ads on craigslist.  No dice.

So maybe the universe is trying to tell me that's not my path.

I so want to be able to do art for a living.  I haven't got many supplies to work with, and they're certainly not the highest quality, but I make do with the inexpensive, eclectic mix that's available to me.  I've been thinking for a while now that I could do such better work with REAL, quality supplies.  And that's partly been my motivation for seeking gainful employment at some "real job."

I would daydream a lot about how great it would be when I could afford to buy all the art supplies I wanted.  New pencils, sketchbooks, nice canvas, paints and quality brushes, ink and paper.  I saw it all in my mind's eye so clearly!  Money wasn't an issue, and it all came so easily.

The universe responded.

Not by giving me the money I needed to afford shiny new art supplies.  But by presenting me with quality supplies that were affordable.

This morning I drove down to Front Royal where an entire art studio was being cleaned out, and all items being sold for just A DOLLAR.

The last time I scored such an incredible $1 deal was back in December when I found an awesome vintage chair at the Re-Store in Purcerville.

I'm so thankful right now.  Paper, canvas, sketchbooks, so many pencils and fountain pens and nibs and ink and it's all pretty amazing!

I even documented my haul.  The box below and its entire contents were sold to me for $1.





The slides (which are of French Impressionist paintings), bottles of ink, set of brushes and pencils were all purchased for an additional dollar each.  I also brought home canvases, pads of watercolor paper, nice drawing paper, a big sketchbook, and a box of neon acrylic paints (not sure what I'll use those for).  I spent $24 total.

Thank You!!!

I'm ready to get to work :-)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Free Paper Cut Template!

I dunno about the rest of you, but birthday season is coming up for me.  

Which also means: It's card-making time!

As you may recall, a few months back I decided to dabble in paper cutting.

After a brief hiatus, I am back at work with blade in hand!

Today I thought I'd share this cute template with you so you can give it a whirl for yourself.






Print the image out at whatever size you want and on whatever color paper you prefer, and cut out the design.

For a professional tutorial by lovely paper cutting artist Elsa Mora, visit all about paper cutting dot com

Like she says, its advisable to start with the smallest details first, and work your way outward.  I'd also recommend using a tiny pair of scissors over a blade for the lettering.

Once finished, the paper cut may be adhered to the front of a blank card.  And voilĂ !  Handmade sweetness sure to brighten someone's special day.

I'd love to see photos of any finished products!  

If you give it a try, be sure to share on twitter and mention me @missliamendez so I don't miss it :-)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Gnome update: I published a book!

And it's available now on CreateSpace!

Here are a few previews: 
 

"Gnomes have a particularly
long history of friendship
with members of the avian kingdom."


"...If you happen to meet a gnome who can carry a tune, 
rest assured that what you are witnessing is the result 
of countless hours of dedicated study."
The process of creating this book was a great experience for me.  I learned a lot, and found out just how easy self-publishing can be!  Most importantly: I realized that there's nothing stopping me from putting out into the world anything my heart can dream up.  It's a pretty powerful revelation.

It's really amazing to think that a few weeks ago, none of this existed at all.  And that the whole journey began with a little spark of inspiration and few ounces of leftover clay I dug out of the closet.

Thanks to everyone who has cheered me on in my creative adventures.

Your support and kind words are more valuable than you may know :)

Like I said, the book is available now on CreateSpace, and should be up on Amazon in about a week. 

So check it out!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Day!

It's been coming down steadily all day.  Thankfully I've been able to appreciate the snow storm from behind my studio window.  I've been busy photographing and editing and brainstorming since breakfast - and man, does it feel good!

I built a makeshift lightbox the other day for photographing my ceramic figurines, and am pleased to report that it's really getting the job done.  It wasn't hard to make at all - all it took was a blade, an empty cracker box, a few pieces of printer paper and some tape.


As you may have guessed, that's one of the gnomes in there.  His name is Jonas.  He's from Sweden, and is a voracious reader.

I know I said just the other day that I would be putting these little fellows up for sale on my Etsy shop soon, but I've since been inspired to undertake a new project involving the gnomes - which is still super secret, but I will say that I'm VERY excited about it!

I'll be sure to update again soon.  Until then, I'm going to crawl back under the electric blanket.  Brr!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fun With Ceramics and New Shop Items!

I've had such an exciting weekend!

Saturday was a red-letter day for two reasons: First, because I got to read to a bunch of cute kiddies during storytime at the local children's museum.  And second, because the clay figurines I'd made a few weeks earlier had finally emerged from their final firing in the kiln!

The idea originated after I sculpted a few gnome friends out of polymer clay.  Evan had just repotted some of the plants my dad had given him back in August, and I thought it might be nice to have a groundskeeper around to keep an eye on things.



But of course I couldn't stop at just one...

So then came the traveling gnome.



The polymer clay was very easy to work with, and it afforded some great texture and detail.  But the pieces felt too fragile, and the acrylic paint and finish just not fit to withstand life in moist dirt, let alone on the road.

What I really hoped for was a gnome better suited for a life of adventure.  Durable enough to tag along in a pocket, and with a waterproof glaze that could tolerate the elements.

Thankfully, the nice lady at the paint-your-own pottery shop in downtown Winchester was kind enough to indulge my gnome fantasies by selling me a pound of clay and tediously loading and firing all of my tiny creations (twice!).

I now have eight, one-of-a-kind ceramic gnomes, ready to venture out and see the world!

There are, however, a few minor details to which we must tend before I can send them on their merry ways (personal identification cards, travel documents etc.) ...But I'm hoping they'll be ready for their Etsy debut by the end of the week!

In the meantime, you can take a look at these other ceramic friends I made.  They are available now at my Etsy Shop!

Here's Bonnie Bluebird.

 
And this is Sprinkles.


 And here's a tiny house.  Just because :-)


Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check back soon for more gnome updates!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Valentine's Day Linocuts

The past few weeks have felt so stressful.  

It's been 3 months since I packed my things and flew across the country to make a new home in Virginia.  I'm really in love with where I live, and feel so grateful to be here.  But it's definitely proving to be an adjustment.

My life has undergone so many dramatic changes over the past few years, I think it's easy for me to underestimate sometimes just how challenging these big transitions can be.  

So when the adrenaline from the move has worn off and I still find myself struggling to find work, make friends, get my life together! - I sort of freak out and get down on myself for not being more adaptable, self-sufficient, completely perfect and awesome in every way...

It's good to pause and take a step back to notice these things.  Especially since my tendency to expect super-human performance from myself can really hinder the creative process!

Last night I was able to let go for a few hours and just surrender to the flow of creation.


 I love carving block prints.  It's such a meditative process.





These cards and more are available for purchase at my Etsy shop!

Drop by sometime and take a gander :)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The little things

 I found a pink-petaled mug covered in Siamese kitties at the hospice thrift shop down the street.

It might be my new favorite thing.

Or at least its' currently tied for first with homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups. 


The cold snap hasn't been good for much, but it's certainly made hanging around indoors easy.

I've been working on some doodle illustrations for a fun new project.

Here's a little sneak peek:


Last night I sat drawing at the kitchen table for hours, wrapped up in an electric blanket.

So I guess winter isn't so bad :)

And in case you're eager to give them a try...

Here's my (highly unscientific) "recipe" for peanut butter cups:

- Coconut Oil
- Sugar
- Vanilla Extract
- Salt
- Peanut Butter
- Paper cupcake cups

1. Chop/shave chocolate and place in small sauce pan

2. Add about 1 tablespoon of Coconut oil for every ounce of chocolate.

3. Add about 1.5 tablespoon of sugar per ounce of chocolate. (All I had in my cupboard was sugar in the raw, so I ground it very fine using a mortal and pestle.  Store bought powdered sugar would probably also work, but I can't recommend a dosage so you'd have to just add to taste).

4. Add a pinch of salt.

5. Place pot over low heat and stir until all ingredients have melted.

6. Remove from heat and stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

7. Pour a thin layer of melted chocolate into cupcake cups (it may help to place cups in a cupcake pan if you have one, but I didn't and I managed just fine).

8. Add a dollop of peanut butter to each cup

9. Cover peanut butter with remaining chocolate, and place cups in freezer to cool.

Enjoy!