Black, blue, and cow eyeballs

Did you learn about the color wheel in a school art class? I remember it vividly from elementary school. It looked about like this, just primary and secondary colors and basic understanding of complementary colors.

I remember thinking how “ugly” purple and yellow looked together, or generally if you mixed complementary colors. I didn’t think about it much after that.

Flash forward to now. I’ve been taking an oil painting class at Compass Atelier, which is fantastic. It’s great for artists at all levels, and Glenn, the teacher, is just wonderful. His way of explaining color and light theory, as well as practical application is really compelling. In my case, it’s also been a bit earth-shattering.

Do you know that feeling when you’ve believed, if only latently, something for the vast majority of your life, and then suddenly found out it wasn’t true? For example, there was a moment in 9th grade biology–the part where we had to dissect a cow eyeball–where I remembered a Kindergarten playground incident when someone told me that when you close your eyes, they roll backwards to face the back of your head. Let that sink in for a few minutes. Now picture yourself, or me, looking at a dish with an eyeball in it, and connective tissue. It was enlightening. And gross.

Back to art. It was probably science class, or something like that, where I learned or started to believe that black is the absence of color. Maybe I got it confused with the absence of light and outer space? I don’t know. Anyway. This time around, we’re working with a more sophisticated version of the color wheel (think rings and spectrums), and the concepts of hues (color families like red vs. blue), saturation, and value. It’s a great resource for color mixing–so much so that Glenn only recommended buying at most 10 colors “out of the tube.” We need way more than that in terms of shades nuanced colors, but you can get to anything with blending!

So here’s the kicker, and the reason this post has black and blue in the title. To help us with our blending, Glenn had us plot our oil paints (Gamblin) on the color wheel. That way, you can basically use lines across the wheel to help figure which colors and in what proportion get you to the variations you want… after you figure out the tinting strength of each. For example, as I have learned, Pthalo Blue, whoa mama, is waaaaay stronger on the tinting front than, say, Cadmium Yellow, so that changes the mixing ratios.

After plotting the “regular” colors, we got to Ivory Black (more on that later–vegans, you’ll want to read this*) and Titanium White. Guess where they went? In BLUE. Granted, the saturation was super low, but yes, black belongs to the hue blue. I was shocked. You can test this, and we did, by mixing black paint with yellow. Because what do you get when you mix blue and yellow? Green. What do you get when you mix black and yellow? Green–granted, muddy, dark and not the pretty jewel tone you might normally expect, but it’s green. Add some white, or a LOT of yellow, and you’ll see it clearly. It’s harder to demonstrate with white, but at this point I’ll take his word for it.

*It’s later. Ivory Black. Titanium White. Cadmium Red. Oil paint names start with the major ingredient–what was burned/processed to get that particular color. At least one type of black used to burn ivory (!) in a vacuum chamber, and the ash was the foundation of the color. Now they use animal bones. So, if you are a strict vegan and involved with art–either as a painter or a collector, here’s one more thing to worry about. Sorry.

The Art of Business, The Business of Art, Part 2

There’s a reason “starving artist” became a clichéd phrase. I read a murder mystery once where one of the (many) deaths was an up-and-coming artist. The motive: Kill the artist, destroy 80%-90% of his work, and own the rest, which will naturally skyrocket in value. How can you be an artist, stay alive, and and live a reasonably comfortable, stable, life?

Obviously, some people make it work. There is the work-many-jobs option. And there are the lucky/talented/hard-working ones who “make it.” But it seems a bit like kids who are stellar high school athletes and believe they can make it in the pro leagues, not quite recognizing the statistical improbabilities. We just see the ones who make it, we don’t see the thousands who don’t. (Apparently, this is also similar to drug dealers–the difference between the low-level neighborhood street corner pushers who aspire to be the head kingpin. They’re never going to make it, but the allure of the perceived lifestyle is too attractive. I want to say Malcolm Gladwell, or someone like that, wrote something about this.)

Anyway. Entering the world of e-commerce and POD sites (e.g., TeePublic, RedBubble) or those for small businesses (e.g., Etsy), it is abundantly clear that they are flush with really talented people. It’s also clear that people who started early and became well-established have a huuuuuge leg up on everyone else. (I’m looking at you, shops with 10,000+ purchases.) I’m trying anyway, but what do you do? Again, per my “I want an Intern” post, I’m not all that interested in the self-promotion activities that seem to be required. At first, I (naively) thought it would just be a matter of posting to Instagram–hey, that I can handle. Oh, foolish, foolish, past self.

Putting on my MBA hat, I figure it basically comes down to solving one or both of two issues. 1) Per above, finding the right way to reach the people who would like what I make. 2) Figuring out who I can most easily reach (preferably that others are not) and make what they like. The latter would be called “selling out” by some. Or “practical” by others. I imagine in some artistic circles “commercial” is a dirty word. I’m not so highbrow. But, that also isn’t what I love about art, because it’s not expressing me and my vision.

Recently, I was working “on spec” on some graphic designs for some corporate swag. It’s a great opportunity, and perhaps one path to pursue over the long-term as something a little stable. But oh, it did not satisfy my creative needs. And as someone pointed out (intentionally ungrammatically), “thems that pays the bills gets to decide.” But it was a little bit painful to have to execute on someone else’s choices when I thought something else would be better. I think there has to be a high ratio of time spent on truly creative art versus “commercial” art to make up for it.

So. Where does that leave me? Us? Pretty much where I was at the start of this post. I’m still trying different things to see what might work in this overly saturated market. Trying to find out if my actual interests might overlap with a hidden empty niche. Trying to figure out how to reach what is apparently my demographic, according to Instagram—hey ladies, roughly ages 25-40!. And continuing my art class, to make things, and just keep going…

While I’m doing this, if you’d like to help me out and like what you see on my website or Instagram (@frommytwohands), please share it with your friends and family (or strangers, for that matter). You could consider the pieces of mine that you see examples–I’m truly very happy to make custom pieces, especially of my alphabet collection given the personal nature of initials and then design preferences.

Oh and follows, I could really use some of those if you are so inclined, particularly on IG…. thank you!

Ack. Priorities.

The list of creative projects I want to do, that are either in progress or not yet started:

  • Rose garden duvet cover (finish)
  • Experimenting with watercolor
  • More doodling with colored pencils and pens
  • RBG cross stitch (finish)
  • Shades of blue and white braided rug (finish)
  • Braided-braided flannel möbius scarf (experiment)
  • Duvet covers for other 3 seasons (summer, fall, winter)
  • Baby quilt gift (way overdue to finish)
  • Decoupage/collage-based images of flowers or other scenes (experiment)
  • Paper or fabric flowers to hang on mobiles (experiment)

Yes, these could take quite some time… especially considering I can’t decide where to start.

Anyway, take this as a list of things you may see popping up here and there as I get going…

All the pretty shapes and colors

Over Christmas, someone delightful let me help with drawing these adorable holiday cards to go with little gift boxes. Picture a crowd of snow people peering in a window. Although I maintain the shape of the window could pass as a hearth, suggesting a caption like, “We’re melting!” (a la “Wizard of Oz”).

She had every drawing utensil known to humanity, AND knew how someone without drawing experience could self-teach in a fun way. Of course, an obsession was born. I got my own little sketch pad and set of colored pencils and pens on our way home.

I’ve been doodling ever since. Great masterpieces they are not, but very relaxing and oddly satisfying. And these won’t explode.

“Meh,” the mother of flexibility

Last year I became obsessed with quilting. Not that I knew how, but that didn’t stop me. I should also explain that to me, “quilting” meant the fun part of what is apparently called “piecing” together different fabrics in pretty colors and patterns. The quilting is the boring, annoying, hard part of stitching the “sandwich” of fabric layers together: quilt back, batting (warm stuff), quilt front. I’m told it’s much easier (and faster) if you have a long arm sewing machine, which are a) expensive and b) huge. Plus, any way you do it, you have to have a flat surface large enough to lay out the quilt, tape it down, and pin the layers straight with no bunching.

Do you know anyone with a table the size of a king size bed? Or a hard/uncarpeted floor clean enough to tape delicate fabric to, with no foot traffic?

Meh. So I decided to make a duvet cover instead. So much easier, and more practical for me. With that decision, I magically moved from about 50% to 80% completed on one project. I’m very excited. Perhaps I will even attempt pillow shams.

This is a very springtime duvet cover since it’s all pink, green and roses. Obviously, that means I need three more, one per season, to alternate with my plain white one.

Perhaps “winter” will have a flannel side to be especially cozy. I’m all about the cozy these days. More later on my personal take on the hygge craze.

Things that go boom

I’ve been reading about how to make soap lately. Lovely, homemade soap with herbs and essential oils. According to one school (the only school?) of thought, there’s simply no way to do it without using lye.

Apparently lye can also explode if you don’t stir it into the water quickly enough and it just pools at the bottom. The instructions didn’t describe how large an explosion it could be for a small batch recipe. Maybe it’s more like a sparkler than a firecracker?

Of course, there were also all the other warnings about safely handling lye and fumes. But I got distracted by the, “stir quickly, or it might explode.” Way to bury the lede.

(Side note: I only recently learned that “lede” is the proper word in this case. I can’t believe I’ve gone more than thirty years believing it was “lead.”)

This brings me to the ethical dilemma of whether to fully inform the household of the risks associated with soap making, or just cross my fingers, or put off soap experiments for the time being. I suspect option three is inevitable.

But never fear, there is still lotion (no lye), and candles (fire! But not at home) to play with.

New year, new look, new plans…

It turns out that starting a business, even a tiny one, is really hard to do while also moving to another state. My elves went on strike.

While they were on strike, it did give me the chance to reconsider what, exactly, I wanted to be doing craft-wise and potentially Etsy-wise.

You may have noticed a slightly new look to the blog. It describes in broad strokes what I’m interested in making…in some ways, it’s much broader and more experimental than before, and in others a lot more clearly focused.

The shop is on hiatus while I figure more of this out and do some R&D and potion-brewing, so the blog will mostly be about things I’m working on, or aspire to work on, someday.

Stay tuned!

Meditative crafting

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and my major accomplishments today include: walking the pup, drinking coffee, napping, and preparing for an upcoming job interview.  But most importantly, or at least, most fun, working on my braided rug.

It’s slow-going, but I’m enjoying the process immensely.  I get to bounce back and forth between the braiding and the coiling/sewing.  With the end of each strand of fabric I can decide what color to add in next.  With either braiding or sewing, it’s very straightforward and frees up enough of my mind to wander off in other directions, wrestle with dilemmas, practice some meditation mantras, and so forth.


I do wish the sewing didn’t need to be done on a flat surface so I could cuddle up on the sofa.

Also handy: using strips from an old duvet cover (the center of the rug) as well as new fabric.  Even the new fabric wasn’t too expensive: I could hunt around for remnants and end of bolt sales.  Some patterns were kind of bleh, but the colors themselves quite pretty, so perfect for my purposes.



Stuff You Missed In History Class: “A Brief History of Redlining” (sad/embarrassing); “Sir Christopher Lee” (very cool); “History Mysteries Double Feature” (creepy and frustratingly unsolved)

Babies everywhere

You know that time when all your friends are having kids? As a crafter, the first couple are met with “yay, I’m making a cute blanket!” (I have a rule against sweaters/clothes, since who knows what size those kids will be when they pop out?)

But then, blankets get kind of boring. At least for me. And then I discovered Alan Dart meets Beatrix Potter. Magic.

Sadly, his marvelous Beatrix Potter knitting patterns are lost to time, copyright and an out of print British women’s magazine from decades ago. I managed to find a copy (and pay way too much) on eBay, for Peter as well as Jemima Puddleduck and a few others. I haven’t made them yet, but as I owe a few baby gifts…