2/2/23

First Time Trying Gouache - Painting Strawberries

I've been having a lot of fun playing (my focus for 2023!) with the new art supplies I got for Christmas. Among those is gouache. If you're not familiar with gouache, it is a water-based paint. It is similar to watercolor in that it can be re-wetted (unlike acrylic), but is heavier in body than watercolor and dries opaque. Before this project, I'd never used gouache; in fact, it was barely on my radar until I participated in Sketchbook Party and so many of the instructors mentioned it. 

I did a bunch of research to decide what brand of gouache to try. I didn't necessarily need expensive, professional-quality paint, but I definitely didn't want my first experience with gouache to be impacted by the limitations of cheap product. The reviews led me to HIMI's 18-set of gouache, which many artists mentioned as the perfect compromise between price and quality. (Affiliate link here and throughout the post.) I filled a sketchbook page with strawberries for my first time using gouache. 


Gouache comes in tubes and in pans. The downside to pans (or cups, as HIMI calls them) is that once you've opened them, they tend to dry out. But remember, gouache can be re-wetted, just like the 8-pan Crayola watercolors you used in elementary school. 

For my strawberry painting, I used a total of 6 colors: red, pink, two greens, yellow, and black. I started by making blobs of red and pink in my sketchbook, experimenting with mixing the two and adding water to get different colors. I was pleased with how easy it was to use the gouache and how well it covered the page. I was also happy with how many different shades I could make from just the two pans. 


Next, I filled in the background with black gouache. Here is where I could truly appreciate the opaque finish. It covered beautifully and dried much faster than I expected. 

When the black was completely dry, I added leaves and stems in two different shades of green. 


Finally, I used a skewer to dot tiny little yellow seeds onto all of my strawberries. 


Overall, I was very happy with my first dive into gouache. I recommend giving the HIMI set a try. I'm looking forward to diving into it again soon. 

2/1/23

9 Fantastic Places to Learn About Black History in the United States

Happy February! Since today is the first day of African-American History Month (also called Black History Month), I thought this would be a great time to share some of the best places you can travel to learn about the history of Black people in the United States. These museums and historic places demonstrate struggles and triumphs, inventions and innovations, and together shine a light on the Black experience in the US. You can read about our family's visit to each place by clicking the links.


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 9 Places to Learn about Black History in the United States




 

1) Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Jackson, Mississippi


The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is one of the best, and most important, museums I've ever visited. It is also one of the most challenging. There is a lot of disturbing content in this museum. You will emerge a better person from having experienced it. 

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2) Negro Leagues Baseball Museum 

Kansas City, Missouri


The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is packed full of interesting artifacts from men such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, and Roy Campanella, talented athletes who were prevented from playing Major League Baseball during the era of segregation. You don't have to be a baseball fan to thoroughly enjoy this outstanding museum. 

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3) Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Topeka, Kansas


Anyone who has ever attended school in the US should visit the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. It is housed in a once-segregated school, restored to its 1954 appearance. Inside, you feel the injustice of legal segregation and the struggles of those who worked so hard to end it. 

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The Legacy Museum is the most powerful museum I have ever visited. (The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is a close second.) It is difficult, it is challenging, and it is so, so important. 

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5) National Museum of African American Music

Nashville, Tennessee


Our family LOVED this museum. Each gallery, representing different eras in African American music, was packed with interesting things to read, see, and do. Of the many excellent music museums we've visited, this is my favorite. 

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6) Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Birmingham, Alabama


The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is an outstanding place to visit on its own, but plan plenty of time to visit Kelly Ingram Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church as well. They're located across the street. Together, they tell so many important stories about the fight for civil rights. 

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The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is housed in the actual Woolworth's building where the first lunch counter sit-in took place. That lunch counter is still intact, complete with the original dishes, menus, and everything else. We learned so much during our visit. 

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8) Smith-Robertson Museum

Jackson, Mississippi


The Smith-Robertson Museum houses all sorts of exhibits about the history, struggles, and achievements of Black people in America. The building was constructed in 1894 as Jackson's first public school for Black students. The school's most famous graduate is author Richard Wright

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9) Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Tuskegee, Alabama


The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is packed with artifacts and stories about the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African Americans military pilots. Their success was instrumental in desegregating the military. There is so much to see here and so many inspirational stories. 

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There are so many more places to learn about Black history, including three we were supposed to visit during our 12-hour trip to nowhere:

  • National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Stax Museum of American Soul Music (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Little Rock Central High School National Historic Park (Little Rock, Arkansas)

We have technically been to Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park (Atlanta, Georgia), but only the outside. It was closed due to COVID when we visited. Seeing the inside is high on my bucket list. 

Some of the other sites on my bucket list include: 

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.
  • Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park (Church Creek, Maryland)
  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • American Jazz Museum (Kansas City, Missouri)
  • Whitney Plantation (Wallace, Louisiana)
  • Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit, Michigan)

Do you have any other recommendations for great places to learn about Black history in the US? Tell me in the comments!

1/31/23

Seattle Fun, June 2022

We spent a fantastic three days in Seattle last summer. It was crowded and hot, but neither stopped us from thoroughly enjoying Emerald City, so named because it is the jewel of the Evergreen State. Seattle is a wonderful place to visit, packed with so many things to do and see. 

Seattle Fun (affiliate link)

To make my layout, I chose seven photos that showed the range of things we did. With the exception of the Beneath the Streets underground tour, all of the photos are vibrant and colorful. They served as inspiration for my title work. I needed a pop of color at the bottom of my journaling for balance, so I grabbed an Ohuhu marker that was sitting on my desk. It worked perfectly. 

1/30/23

Conversation Hearts Ninja Valentines

I miss the days when Trevor would make cute homemade valentines for all of his friends. I was thinking back to the Ninjago valentines he made in first grade, which inspired me to make a new version of ninja valentines. They start with a box of conversation hearts, which gave me a great excuse to buy conversation hearts. They're one of my favorite candies. 

Hi-ya!



Ka-pow!


Not only are they cute, but posing them is ridiculously fun. Affiliate links below. 

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Conversation Heart Ninja Valentines



Materials: 


Steps: 


Wrap the box in black cardstock or construction paper. You can simply wrap it like you'd wrap a present, or you can measure, cut a rectangle to size, and score it along the fold lines to get crisp edges. I prefer that look, so that's what I did. 


Secure the paper with the black painters tape, or glue it directly to the box with craft glue. I used tape. Cut a rectangle from your desired skin tone cardstock, then draw on eyes and eyebrows. Glue the rectangle to the box. 

Cut a pipe cleaner in half, then bend each half in half. Bend the ends to form the hands and feet, then position the arms and legs how you want them. Use several pieces of tape to secure them to the back of the box. 

You can give your ninjas as is. But if you want to write a message and/or include to/from information, write it on a label sticker, then attach to the back of the box. This has the added benefit of further securing the arms and legs.

1/27/23

The Amazing Art of Gwyn Pevonka

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year came from my Aunt Vickie. It's an original artwork from the contemporary painter Gwyn Pevonka entitled "Washington Skies."  


To best understand it, you need to see the side view. 


Pevonka's process begins with painting one layer a day onto a canvas for 20+ consecutive days. Then she carves into the surface to reveal the layers beneath, kind of like the hand-caved candles I was obsessed with as a kid. For some of her pieces, the process stops here. But for others, including the one I now own, she adds those carved bits to the canvas and uses them to make what she calls Acrylic Assemblages. It's a fascinating process. 

I very much enjoyed looking through Pevonka's portfolio to see her range of work. I particularly love her animals, especially this hummingbird. 


Last year, I started a series where I made my own paintings inspired by contemporary artists, including Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and Deb Weiers. I've been thinking about ways to create something inspired by Gwyn Pevonka and have a few ideas I'll be trying out. Stay tuned!


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