Friday, February 27, 2009

Ramblings from the Islands In Wet Carpet Land

Yesterday was kind of a lost day. We made a trip to Tampa for an 11 am appointment and had to be back home in time to have the carpet cleaned at 3 pm. In between we searched for a restaurant that we never found. (I thought I knew exactly where it was until we got there and nothing looked familiar.) So, being really hungry by then, we kept driving until we found a place that almost made us wish we'd skipped lunch. By that time it was 1:30 anyway, so why bother to eat a "Greek" salad they forgot to put dressing on with petrified shrimp nestled in for a treat? I did ask for and receive dressing from the waiter, but even with the dressing this salad wasn't good. The people at the next table over made a complaint and got something comp'ed, I didn't listen carefully enough to figure it out, but I know the waiter gave them a freebee. I just didn't have the heart to make his day any worse by making it two in-a-row, even though the petrified shrimp did qualify.

So on to the carpet cleaning saga. The people on the phone had quoted a price which had to be verified by counting square feet when the carpet cleaner guy arrived, and that price actually turned out to be less than quoted, because our square footage was less. Here's the part that ALWAYS turns me off: the quote didn't include Scotchgarding the carpet, and the guy presented this $114 "extra" as if it were expected. (I hate having one price quoted and finding out a service is much more expensive than expected.) My thing is I don't remember ever paying for scotchgarding a carpet before, and there were times in the past the whole job didn't cost $114 - let alone as an add-on! So our carpet is "unprotected" and will probably shrivel up and crawl away before the end of the month or something. Also it's still damp this morning after keeping the A/C on all night like the guy recommended so it could be completely dry in 5-6 hours. Yeah, right! As soon as it warms up I will have the windows open, thank you very much!

Well, it was a weird evening sitting on our furniture islands in the midst of the wet carpet ocean around us watching TV. We watched Survivor, and this time I think the TV audience was "blindsided," because everyone but the sick guy voted off the sick guy and not Erinn who had been painted as a grinning she-devil by Coach, that we thought they were all going to vote off. Next, watching a taped American Idol, I guessed the winners again. Yay! I'm 6 for 6.

So today I can look forward to coming home and putting all the stuff back in its place from the carpet cleaning yesterday, but first I have to truck my paintings over to Ruth Eckerd Hall for the exhibit. Maybe I can even get some painting done by dinner time. Maybe, I hope!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Palm Island

As I was sitting at the Artists' Guild Gallery yesterday, I painted this landscape of Palm Island. The day had started out pretty cool, and having the door open early felt pretty chilly, but as customers came and went and sales happened, the temperatures heated up also. It was a good day with enough of a lull at times to paint, but also quite a few visitors kept me busy.

One comment still has me chuckling. A lady said that she thought my husband was posing for me. Well, hello! Unless he looks like a tree, I think he was just sitting there reading. People can be kinda funny, I think!

This one is available in my Etsy shop, DreamON. Click on the photo of the painting for a link to my shop.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Matting 101 - How To's

This is a brief description of the process for figuring out how to mat an original watercolor into a single mat for a standard size 16 x 20-inch frame. It is the method I learned from a professional framer. There are, of course, other methods people also use.

The original painting is 15 x 11 inches as it is facing right side up. The outside dimensions of the mat will be 20 x 16 inches (also facing right side up). In this example, each side of the mat is going to be 3 1/4 wide. That leaves the size of the opening at 14 x 10 inches. This allows the mat to overlap one-half of an inch on each side, top and bottom of the painting. This is enough to adequately cover the painting without having to worry about an edge showing, and I would recommend no less than that one-half inch.

Also, I would like to say that standard size mats can be purchased from a number of retail outlets. The need for a custom mat comes into play when your color choice for a mat is not something sold in stores or when the size of the painting is not something that will readily fit into a standard size mat.

This example shows the entire painting laying on the foam core. I left the photo with more contrast just to show edges and how it looks laid out.

With the painting on top of a piece of foam core cut to the exact same outer dimensions as the outside of the mat (20 x 16). Place your newly cut mat on top of the painting, and make sure that it is placed where you want it when the mat is aligned with the foam core top, bottom and sides. Take a pencil and mark the upper corners on the foam core when the painting is aligned.

Flip the painting up from the bottom (as if it were hinged at the top of the painting, keeping the top of the painting aligned with the pencil marks you just made).

This photo shows the painting attached to the foam core by tape hinges. To make the hinges, cut acid-free framer's tape (or similar product) in four even strips all cut to approximately 3 1/2 inches long. Tape a piece perpendicular across the edge of the painting attaching the painting to the foam core evenly spaced from the right side and from the left side. Attach a second piece of tape adjacent and overlapping slightly each piece of tape. Then cut four more pieces of tape each 4 inches long.

Tape these parallel to the top edge and perpendicular to the tape strips you just adhered. Two are all that are necessary and those two would be to the foam core, but tape seems to fail here in a humid climate, so I frequently use the additional two pieces as shown on the back of the painting.

The first example shows how the painting looks in the finished mat. Of course, the real mat doesn't have all the numbers scribbled on it.

If you want, you can hinge the mat to the frame at the top. Place the mat face down aligned at the top edge (where the hinge will be) of the side with the painting affixed to the foam core right-side up. Place one strip of tape parallel to the top edge, across the joint between the mat and foam core backing. This joint will be on the wrong side of the mat and the right side of the foam core backing.

All that remains is to put the matted watercolor into your frame.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day Visiting Manatees

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

We spent our day driving around Tampa Bay, literally. We took the long way, over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and up the east side with a stop at Apollo Beach for lunch at a place called Circles, which was very good, but the food could have been more spicy to fit my spice-craving Colorado tastebuds. I ordered the Nut-Crusted Grouper that advertised a Chili sauce, and I was thinking hot Thai Chili sauce. Oh, well, get over it, Mary!

The next stop was at the Big Bend Power Plant where manatees love the warmer water generated by the plant in the winter. A sign posted there said that many manatees had been saved by these warm waters and those of the natural springs whose temperatures year-round stay somewhere just above 70 degrees, as I remember. The temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico this month have been as low as 56 degrees Fahrenheit during a recent cold snap. When the Gulf temperatures fall, manatees move to these warmer areas. They can't live in cold water.

Our favorite area to see manatees is up by Homosassa Springs, but this was a day for a short trip. One big problem for these huge mammals, also called Sea Cows, is when they migrate inland up the rivers to the natural springs, they are clipped by boat propellers when boaters are not extremely careful. Manatees need to come to the surface to breathe, doing what they do naturally, but many boaters forget about them. It is, in fact, hard to avoid them. As my picture shows, this one has come to the top of the water for its breath and a large portion of its body is close to the surface of the water. Here at the power plant, there are no boats, but that isn't true in the rivers and bays around here.

I've seen lots of bumper stickers that say, "Look out for motorcycles - they're everywhere." Just a reminder for boaters, "Watch out for the manatees." They could be anywhere in the shallow areas this time of the year.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


It was fun this afternoon painting these new ACEOs. They are, like all ACEOs (Artist Cards Editions & Originals), exactly 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. These are all painted on Arches 140-lb. Cold Press Watercolor paper. I loved painting these little stylized poppies.
I laid them all down on a shiny black gesso-painted tissue paper surface, and thought it was fun how much they look like they were almost meant to be together as one. I will be putting them into my Etsy shop soon.

Speaking of black gesso-painted tissue paper, the black gesso makes an extraordinary transformation happen when it is applied to ordinary tissue paper. To try this, make sure you have a plastic bag underneath while painting. The white kitchen bags with the drawstrings work nicely if you cut them open on one side and the bottom and then open them out. The reason for using the shiny white plastic as a surface to paint the tissue paper on is that when it's dry, it's easy to peel off. The resulting product is almost rubbery and makes an interesting collage material. I used it for Molly's hat in my latest Fashion Diva. See previous post.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fashion Diva Series Continues

I haven't posted any of my Fashion Divas lately, but just so you know, the series has been quite successful for me, and I just sold the original of Amanda last week at the Artists Guild Gallery on Anna Maria Island. There are no prints at this time. Here's what Amanda looks like (on the right).

The selling of Amanda has prompted me to create Molly. I had the song "Devil With The Blue Dress" running through my mind as I created this painting. Molly is the star in the lyrics of this old 60s (I think) song. It brings to mind a funny thing that happened when I was in college.

The memory that runs through my mind here is my freshman year in the dorm, a few of us who lived on my floor had a party one Saturday night. At that time it was totally illegal to have alcohol in the dorms. Some other girls had gotten caught smuggling beer into the dorm in a pitcher (dripping, I think) earlier in the year, so we knew we had to be smarter than that. One of my friends came up with the idea of getting our beer in by putting it into one of those year-supply size of Kotex boxes, and it worked like a charm. We had a great party, complete with dragging out someone's red dress and a wig hat to dress up in and dance in all decked out, when this other song with those lyrics was played on the radio. (I can't remember how that song's title or how it goes right now). We all had a fabulous time, didn't endanger anyone by driving, we didn't get caught, and nobody got hurt - except for my roomie who ended up with a big hangover.

Anyway, Molly is shown above on the left. She's going to make her debut at the end of this month at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, for our Studio1212 display there in March and April. She is an acrylic with tissue paper collaged on over magazine pictures and a recycled acrylic painting underneath. So there were many layers involved in the creation of Molly. The base is 140-lb Arches Cold Press Watercolor Paper.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fallout of Poor Economy and Flourish Boutique On CNN

Through my Etsy shop, about a year ago I was contacted by Vanessa Cooreman-Smith of Flourish Boutique & Gallery in South Bend, Indiana. She had had a life-long dream of owning her own business, and it was coming to fruition later that year. She was interested in certain artists who fit into her concept. To make a long story short, I sent her some of my artwork, and she put it into her store. When we were on the road home from our trip last fall, my husband and I stopped in and met her and saw Flourish Boutique in person.

This is a segment of an email I received earlier this week:

"Dear Mary,
FLOURISH is on today!
Last week, I filled out an i-report on on how the changing economy is impacting my life and business. I was then contacted and interviewed, for the story that is now on Click below to read the full story, on how my husband Stephen and I are working to achieve our dreams despite the economy."

The story has apparently solicited so many comments that CNN decided to feature Vanessa and her husband today live on CNN. This is from an email I received late yesterday:Flourish Boutique & Gallery
We will be on CNN TV Live Tomorrow (Sat 2/7/09)
at around 10:35 am

Tune in to hear more about our personal story!
CNN will be broadcasting our 4 minute live interview from the studios at ND. Our story is one in an ongoing series on how the changing economy is impacting families and small business owners around the country.

Wondering Why we are sharing our story, or want to hear more straight from me?
Click here to read my blog:

Vanessa Cooreman Smith
Flourish Boutique & Gallery

Steve talked about the value of having attended sessions of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, a program for learning about the importance of reducing debt-load and advocating everyone's need to get out of debt. The two of them talked not only about how the economy has affected their businesses (Steve's a Realtor), but also the personal sacrifices Americans are beginning to make to mitigate their increasing financial woes. Vanessa talked about the changes she has made to the lines of clothing she carries in her store, and how she hopes that will be reflected in sales.

I wish them the very best! The success of small businesses is the lifeblood of our country, because big business has show an amazing lack of fiscal responsibility and planning.

The way I see it, jobs are critical to this economy. People will stop buying if they are not employed. Companies should be rewarded for putting American people to work, not just for their existence, and especially not because they have gotten themselves into trouble by over-compensating executives who thrive on cheating everyone they can. Companies seeking cheaper production costs and sending our jobs overseas has put Americans in real peril. Our government is borrowing against the future and dispersing money like rain. And this makes sense how?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Painting On Tissue Paper

I had what I call a spirit painting on a piece of watercolor paper with a variety of pastels that seemed a bit too bright for a background. To get a good background this way, wet the watercolor paper thoroughly, let it reach the "sheen" stage, and then drop in the watercolor colors you want. This technique works well to start a modern type of floral where you aren't painting from reality, but you can tell it looks like what it is supposed to be. It's a good start from which to begin painting negatively.

So anyway this particular background was too intense, so I got the idea to cover it with tissue paper which muted the colors considerably. I just applied pieces of tissue paper to the watercolor paper using acrylic gel medium. I liked the result and ended up making two paintings out of it. One of them is a cute little clothesline painting using the scenes I remembered from our Italian trip.

It makes a nice little piece of whimsey! It's painted in acrylics with black marker and a white gel pen to finish up.

For more information, click here.

(This painting sold in February.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Awareness

Now over a week has passed since I last posted about my asthma attack. At the time, I thought I was over the worst of it, but little did I know the dimensions of the event that was unfolding. It has been up and down over and over, and while I can say I think I'm over the worst now, I also have to admit how little I really know about this disease. I have been extremely depressed at times, and I'm sure that has contributed to the uphill road I have found myself on.

When I went in to the doctor for my follow-up visit, I was so weak that the thought of performing the expected breathing test seemed like a hill too high for me to climb. When I realized they weren't going to let me go without doing the test and I finally did it, the results were that the doctor thought I hadn't made any improvement since my hospital visit.

I find myself now on a steroid for a month that has bad side effects, including potential bone loss, which for a person with a family history of osteoporosis is depressing and far-reaching into an old-age like my mother and grandmother suffered. (Expletives deleted.)

To say I am down is so minimal. BUT. . .

I have begun to paint again. This is a painting like those we did in the Mark Polomchak workshop, but on 140 lb. watercolor paper. At the workshop he provided a special illustration board that was fabulous for his techniques. The techniques have to be adapted and thought out to make them work on regular watercolor paper, so I think that I will be working on this for awhile. But anything that makes me think and takes my mind off of myself at this point is good therapy!

Click here to see more details about this painting.

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