Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sunset Cactus Painting

Since I had the paints out for the Expressive Flowers project, I jumped in and did the sunset cactus painting I've been wanting to do. I used literally the exact same paints as for the flowers, just replacing the green with black. Here's the finished artwork:


Sunset Cactus Painting

Materials: watercolor paper, acrylic paint, paintbrush

Place a piece of watercolor paper vertically on your work surface. At the bottom third of your paper, use the purple to create some mesas (the flat-topped, steep-sided hills common in the American Southwest). 

Without cleaning your brush, pick up yellow paint and create horizontal streaks on the top 2/3 of the paper. Add some pink to the brush without cleaning it first and add more streaks. Continue adding and layering colors. Do not clean the brush in between. Use yellows and oranges to paint streaks over the very top of the mesas to allow them to recede into the distance. Clean the brush and let the paint dry.

Use purple paint to redraw the mesas. This time, make them slightly smaller and a different shape from the previous time. You want just a hint of the previous mesas showing. Always use horizontal strokes.

Without cleaning your brush, add black paint and color the foreground. Leave the tops of the mesas purple. 

Now add some saguaro cacti. Remember that less is more in a desert landscape. I added a total of four - a tiny one near the horizon, two medium size ones a little closer, and the largest one the furthest forward.

The final step is to use straight black paint to create suggestions of rocks, bushes, and tumbleweeds in the foreground. No need to agonize over how to do that. Random strokes will read correctly as part of the desert landscape.

Have fun! This is a very forgiving project and an excellent choice for beginning painters of all ages.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Painted Blossoms - The Evolution of Expressive Flower Art

At the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) trade show, I always make a point of stopping to visit with any book authors in booths doing signings. I really enjoy chatting with talented artists who have crossed over as successful writers. Since crafting and writing are two of my passions, it's a lot of fun to meet others who enjoy both as much as I do. Last January, I met Carrie Schmitt and came home with her book Painted Blossoms: Creating Expressive Flower Art with Mixed Media (affiliate link).

I read through the entire book a few weeks ago, marking the pages that were the most inspirational to me. The very next day, my friend Yvonne posted a project she had done from the very same book! She mentioned that her artwork "looks like nothing from the example or anything from the whole book!" Now that I've finished my artwork, I can say I feel the same way!

I've never painted in an expressive style, but it was definitely fun to try. I started by covering a canvas with gesso, then selected five paint colors:

I pulled out my Frisbee and mixed up a few shades of green, then used those to paint swaths of color on the canvas. Once the background was dry, I used a clean brush to add large flowers (orange and yellow) and small flowers (purple and pink) to the canvas, covering about 60% of the background. I should mention that I did not clean my brush even once while painting flowers. I loved the interesting colors I got by dipping into a new color while there was still a hint of the previous color on the brush. For the most part, I went from light to dark, but I did go back and add the yellow and orange centers to the flowers after making the purple flowers. I did that my adding a lot of yellow to the brush and mixing thoroughly in the Frisbee.

Here's my artwork, inspired by Carrie Schmitt's Time to Bloom

After living with my artwork for a day or two, I decided it was incomplete. I used Schmitt's Surprise Garden chapter to add to my piece. 

I immediately hated it. Part of Schmitt's motto, and indeed that of pretty much every mixed media artist, is that if you don't like something, just cover it up. That's very unfamiliar to me, but I gave it a try. I used her Blossoming as my inspiration this time. 

I really enjoyed the process and the experience of going outside my usual style. Out of curiosity, which of the three versions do you prefer? I like the third best (which is good, since the 1st and 2nd are now hidden under the 3rd!). I'm going to pick five different colors and try again!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Kylinn’s Wish

My goddaughters, Kylinn and Ellia, both have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). People with EDS have faulty or reduced amounts of collagen, which is the protein that adds elasticity and strength to skin, muscles and tendons, ligaments, organs, blood vessels, eyes, gums and more. Without ample collagen, joints dislocate frequently, skin tears easily and heals slowly, and pain is frequent or even continuous. Kylinn was officially diagnosed at 6 and Ellia at 3, though all the symptoms have been there since birth. Kylinn in particular has had many injuries resulting in casts over the years. You can see a picture of her at 15 months trick-or-treating with Trevor with a green cast peeking out from her Winnie the Pooh costume.  

Last year, Kylinn and Ellia were each interviewed by The Wish Connection, an organization affiliated with AT&T that grants wishes to children who have chronically-debilitating medical conditions. After the interview, the wish-granting teams got to work. 

On the morning of August 29, we joined Kylinn's friends, family, and all the Avengers (except Iron Man) in gathering outside the front door of her house. We watched Kylinn accept the Avengers' request that she fill in for Iron Man and help them fight crime. She got into costume and headed across town to thwart an evil gang, received accolades and a key to the city from the mayor, had a shopping spree at the mall, rescued her grandma from yet another group of evildoers, had a celebratory lunch, and we all went to a giant party at the MINI dealership in San Francisco. The wish actually continued (for just the immediate family) for three more days, with visits and behind-the-scenes tours at San Francisco museums, a Giants game, and more. It was literally a dream-come-true for Kylinn. I've never seen her so happy. She kept saying over and over that it was the best day of her life. 

I'm so glad we were able to share the day with her. It was a great day and I'm glad to finally have it in the scrapbook.

Ellia received her wish about a month after Kylinn's. She traveled to San Diego for a whirlwind of activities, including swimming with dolphins. She did have a party once they returned home, but unfortunately we were out of town and weren't able to be there. 

May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month. Through awareness, there is knowledge. Through knowledge, there is power. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Latest Round-Ups from Fun Family Crafts (Part 3)

Here's the most recent batch of Fun Family Crafts round-ups I've created. 

There are so many cute Lego crafts on our site. It was hard to pick only ten to feature. My favorite is the ridiculously simple Ninjago cupcake wrappers. I wish I'd thought of that!

Putting together the Chinese New Year round-up was surprisingly challenging. Why? Because so many of the crafts are specific to one animal in the zodiac. While I'd love to have shown some of the awesome dog, pig, monkey and rabbit crafts, for example, each of those is only suitable for Chinese New Year one year out of twelve. Instead, I had to choose crafts that would work for the holiday year after year.

I love making the title blocks for the photo collages. It's so much fun picking out the colors, fonts and styles to match each theme. Yellow, purple and green were the obvious choice for the Mardi Gras Craft round-up.

We have a LOT of Valentine's Day crafts. Well over 600, in fact. There are tons of ideas for homemade valentines, valentine boxes, gifts, decorations, treats and more.

President's Day was an interesting round-up to make. We have tons of patriotic crafts, but not all of them fit for President's Day. I needed to make sure Washington and Lincoln were well-represented, and that there were options for all ages.

The round-up of Dr. Seuss crafts was another favorite of mine. For this one, I broke the rule about limiting the round-ups to crafts that are appropriate year-round. I absolutely HAD to include the Grinch craft.

The Star Wars round-up isn't new, but I updated the graphic to make it more eye-catching for May the Fourth. 

And finally, that brings us to the Cinco de Mayo round-up, the one that reminded me that I haven't shared the round-ups I've been making since September!

I make all of the round-ups using the premium version of PicMonkey. I love it. The free version is great, but I appreciate all the extras the upgrade offers. PicMonkey is offering a free trial of their premium membership. Click below to give it a try!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Little Passports - WINNER!

Thank you to all who entered to win the three-month subscription to Little Passports! I wish I could declare you all winners, but alas, I cannot. For those of you who didn't win, I'd encourage you to take advantage of the $15 off promotion that Little Passports is currently offering. Simply click the affiliate link below to get started with your Global Adventure!

And don't forget about the World Coin Collection from Little Passports. This is a great option for those who don't want to commit to a subscription or prefer something less expensive. 

Now it's time to announce the winner! Congratulations to... 


Please email me at cindy.mycreativelife at with your address and whether you prefer the US Edition (ages 7-12) or the World Edition (ages 6-10). As soon as I hear from you, I'll pass your information along to Little Passports so they can get your subscription started. Enjoy!

Huge thanks to Little Passports for sponsoring this giveaway! And, of course, for being awesome and providing a product that Trevor loves and that has encouraged his passion for travel.