I usually wait until Thanksgiving weekend, but I couldn’t resist putting up my tree early this year ;). I love vintage Christmas decor almost as much as I love handmade ornaments, so I’ve combined my two holiday passions with this fun and simple craft. I hope you are inspired to give it a go!
This year, my main tree in the living room is covered in my paintbrush assemblage ornaments accented by bulbs in different shades of gold, some vintage pieces, and some softies gifted by friends and family. My second small tree in the spare room has all my bulbs decoupaged with images from art magazines. And of course, I have my own vintage jewelry tree hanging up in my kitchen! I did some tutorials showing my process for both the paintbrush ornaments and trees using old junk jewelry pieces last year, so be sure to check those out if you need some inspiration. I know for me, crafting these decorations has been wonderful art therapy in between my more taxing commissioned pieces, gifts, and pieces for upcoming shows. I know it can be difficult, but I hope you all take some time near the end of this year to reflect and unwind, and remember holidays are supposed to be fun – don’t pressure yourself too much or feel you have to stick to traditions that don’t work for you. Make these next couple months what you need them to be. ❤
I was first drawn to Charley Harper‘s work in the gift shop of a local museum. One of my dad’s main hobbies is birding and wildlife photography, and Harper’s Mid-Century-Modern style illustrations just screamed the perfect birthday gift.
Harper grew up on a farm in the Midwest, and was inspired by the wildlife he experienced around him. He called his style “minimal realism”, taking in the world around him and distilling the imagery he observed down to the most essential details. He said, “When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.”
Inspired by images from Harper’s body of work that capture his signature style, I encouraged my students this week to create their own minimal realist birds. Though Harper’s works were painted, they bare quite the resemblance to modern day digital art and graphic design. Instead of painting, we used a collage format to create our Charley Harper Birds. We used paint chip samples for our vibrantly colored creatures, colored cardstock for the background, and paint markers to add the linework details. From working on repainting the interior and exterior of a house over the last couple years, I had an accumulation of samples but never felt right throwing away even the colors I ended up not using. Upcycling to the rescue! At an arts non-profit, we love free materials ;). We outlined our geometric shapes onto the samples with a pencil, then cut them out and adhered them to a foam core board base (any heavier paper would work as well) with a standard glue stick. I’d suggest laying out the entire design before gluing in case you want to make some changes before the final masterpiece.
I teach adults with varying physical, psychological, and intellectual disabilities but this project is perfect for all ages and abilities. It is all inspired by simple geometric shapes and blocks of color, and can be done as simple or with as much detail as the artist desires. We created our works in an easy-to-frame 5×7″ size.
I hope you are inspired to try this at home (This would also be a fun project for bored kids, hint hint 😉 )! This is a simple, whimsical project that you don’t have to be an “artist” to enjoy. Unwind after work and get crafty with some basic, easy to access materials. As always, if you end up making one of these yourself I’d love to see pictures!
I’m back with another mid-century modern spring illustrations tutorial! Moving on to my next teacup, today I’m doing butterflies. Similar to my last tutorial, you can create any of these designs the same way on paper with any drawing or painting materials you may have on hand. If painting on glass, keep in mind you will need multiple coats if you want solid coverage, but you may also like the transparency – it’s up to you. To keep your designs permanent, they need to be heated in a conventional oven. Put glass pieces in a cold oven, then set to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and LEAVE the glass in the oven until completely cooled down.
For this design, you are going to start with 4 teardrop shapes for your butterfly wings. The top 2 should be tilted at a downward diagonal, and the bottom 2 at an upward diagonal. Try to smooth out your paint as flat and even as possible, spreading out any “globs”. I used a flat brush rather than a round, pointed brush to achieve more even coverage. For the flowers, add some upward facing bell or “cup” shapes at different heights. Once the orange dried on my butterfly wings, I chose to streak some yellow over as well with a smaller round brush.
Next, I added some accents over my solid shapes in white. I painted a smaller identical teardrop shape inside each of my wings. I also added an elongated almond shape to the top of each of my bells which will be the opening of each flower.
I also added the leaves by painting green teardrop shapes tilting diagonally upward centered under each of my flower heads. I dipped the opposite end of my paintbrush in paint and stamped dots down the center of each leaf as an added decoration.
The last addition after the leaves was a small orange diamond in between the bottom butterfly wings. This will start the body. The rest of the body will be added with line work.
Next, I added one more set of teardrop shapes inside the white on the wings in yellow. I also used a fine detail brush to add yellow stripes across the small diamond shape in between my wings.
Last is the line work that brings everything together and makes it pop. For this part, you can either use a black paint marker or a small detail brush with a pointed tip. Outline Your outer bell shape, white flower opening, and leaves. Add a line connecting the flower head to the leaves. To finish the flower, I then used the tip of my brush and a light touch, hardly pressing on the surface, to add 4 streaks radiating up from the base of the flower head. I also added 5-6 short lines inside each flower opening, and then used the opposite end of my brush to stamp tiny dots on the end of each of these lines on the inside of the flower. For the butterfly, I outlined each teardrop shape that make up the wings, as well as the small diamond shape.
The last detail was adding a line down the center of the wings, with two curved antennae branching off at the top.
It’s amazing what you can do with simple shapes! I will be doing 4 designs in all with different flowers and insects, check back for more! The final set will be available for sale in Express Yourself Artshop’s Virtual Gallery, an ongoing fundraiser for the arts and wellness program I direct.
The Mid-Century modern design style has been having a moment for awhile now, and while I’m not usually one to latch onto trends I have always liked the geometric, retro aesthetic of this period.
Illustrations from this period are colorful and based on combinations of simple shapes and lines, which make them accessible to even those who don’t consider themselves “artists”. In this series, I am going to show you how to create some cute mid-century modern inspired bugs and flowers in honor of Spring. I will be painting on glassware (I’ve been dying to do something with these clear tea mugs!), but you can create any of these designs the same way on paper with any drawing or painting materials you may have on hand.
Start with a red vertical oval for your ladybug, and scatter some different large polka dots around it for our flower heads. Paint goes onto glass differently than on paper because it can’t absorb into the surface, so you will need to let your shapes dry and add another coat or two for solid coverage. Try to smooth out your paint as flat and even as possible, spreading out any “globs”.
Once we have our red oval, we are done with our ladybug for awhile. Focusing on the flowers, I added two sets of concentric circles to the bottom of my large dots in different colors, letting the paint dry in between each addition.
After that, it’s time for the leaves! Our leaves will just be simple teardrop shapes, placed next to each other at an angle centered underneath our flower heads. Once the green was dry, I added some white dots down the center of my leaves for some extra decoration. You can add a dotted pattern by dipping the end of your paint brush in paint, and touching it to your glass (or paper) using the paint brush end like a stamp.
Last is the line work that brings everything together and makes it pop. For this part, you can either use a black paint marker or a small detail brush with a pointed tip. Outline all of the shapes that make up your flower in black. I added a teardrop shape to the very center of my flower, but you can also just outline the concentric circles and leave the center alone. I added a line connecting the head to the leaves to finish our flowers. For the ladybug, I put a line down the center of my oval and outlined around the entire shape. I then added a half circle in black sticking up from the top, with two short lines for antennae. I used the end of my paintbrush to add a dot to the end of each antennae. If you have some larger paintbrushes, you can also use the end to stamp the larger dots on the ladybug’s body. Otherwise, just use a round brush with a pointed tip to outline a circle shape in the size you want and then fill it in.
Voila! See, that wasn’t so hard :). You can make some beautiful Spring designs to cover anything your heart desires once you learn the basics of how to build forms with simple shapes. I will be doing 4 designs in all with different flowers and insects, check back for more!
As we get close to Christmas, I have no clue what kids today are asking Santa for! I don’t have kids myself, and don’t know many people with young kids. Also, 3-year-olds seems to have smart phones and tablets now, so … Do they still play with toys? Who are they planning to call, Big Bird? I have so many questions. All that aside, toys can be tools that help kids develop their interests and explore what they may want to be or do in the future. In homage to 90s nostalgia and the time when toys were still not quite high-tech, I’ve compiled a list of the best art and design toys from when I was a kid. I’m sure a lot of these will look familiar to many of you! And so our trip down memory lane begins…
This toy let you be a high-class big name designer, mixing and matching your own styles with plastic stencils you could shade over with a magic black crayon and then render in your favorite color story. That woman with the bob, chunky bracelets, and boots is basically the me of today. Check out that dapper lady on the top right adjusting her bow-tie!
First off, this commercial is just nauseating. That aside, this was a fun toy, again utilizing stencils so even those terrible at drawing could be a star, thus preventing any destroyed self esteem. I had the fashion design stencil set for this rather than the ones shown in this video – I was obviously a bit singularly focused. I liked my clothes far better than cuddly creatures, but I’m no Cruella de Vil, just cursed with being allergic to anything fuzzy.
Crayola Stampers Markers
You could make some wacky mosaic drawings with these markers, case in point the self portrait on the right, circa 8 years old. Remember the 70s revival yellow smiley face craze around that time? Those guys are in there.
Barbie Fashion Designer PC Game
Again with the fashion designing … I honestly did consider this career path but alas, discovered later on that I hated sewing.
As you can see, the earlier self portrait was pretty spot-on.
Nickelodeon’s Mix ‘N Spin
I never had this, but one of my friends did – The 90s kid version of all that pour art that is so popular now. Was there any design trend that people loved more than rainbow splatter painting in the 90s?
Watercolor Coloring Books
These books really lulled you into a false sense of security, giving you perfect blending and shading with just a smear of water, provided you followed the coloring book code and stayed inside the lines ;). Nevertheless, they were so relaxing to sit and fill in, and I spent many a rainy day with a pile of these in front of me, completing one picture after another.
Like color by numbers but with colored sand, you would peel off one number at a time revealing a sticky surface to pour the corresponding colored sand upon to slowly reveal a finished masterpiece. Though Disney ones were always super popular, my sets were of unicorns and tropical birds!
As a kid the shrinky dinks I had were pre-outlined, and you colored them in like a coloring book before putting the plastic sheets in the oven and watching them curl up, shrink, and harden into durable plastic pendants or flat mini figures. As an adult, I discovered the fun of using blank shrink plastic to design your own one of a kind pendants covered in art! I sold these for a couple years in a local handmade shop downtown, and they did really well.
These truly are the toys that made me! I hope everyone gets what they were hoping for this Christmas, though of course, no gifts could ever possibly be as epic as these.
I became a first time home buyer as of this summer, falling in love with a house that had great bones, a lot of potential, but some wacky aesthetic choices. The home had a single owner which was great … except that owner looked to have not made any design changes since she first moved in.
My boyfriend and I are both young-ish and not super rich, but there was no way we could live in this. So began a journey of creativity, (some blood while ripping out tack strips and carpet staples), sweat, and tears.
Bathrooms can be hands down the most expensive rooms to renovate. We really had to scrimp in some areas since we were trying to renovate an entire house in a little under 6 months. If you have a bathroom you hate that at least has fixtures that are in working order, it is completely possible to get creative and change the look without having to replace major features such as the toilet, tub, vanity, or even lighting.
This is what we started with. You can’t tell as much in the photos, but NOTHING matched! The stain on the door was different than on the paneling which was different than on the vanity. Mixing wood tones can be cool, but in a room this small … yikes! There was also silver in the (actually pretty nice) foil wallpaper as well as chrome hardware in the room but the mirror and lighting fixture were a brushed brass. The window was painted white as was the trim and the door to a small cabinet set into the wall, which was a bit odd, and the window had a scalloped decorative molding around it that just wasn’t doing anything for the overall look. The floor was just unfinished cement which we took as a blessing since we figured if there had been floor, we just would have been ripping it out :P. To me, the vanity and the lighting fixture were the biggest eyesores. However, we ended up spending over our predetermined lighting budget on new lighting fixtures for the rest of the house. Also, after many agonizing trips to every hardware and “everything” store in the area as well as many online perusals, we learned that it was going to be more costly than expected to have a vanity at least as big as the one we already had in the room. We were going to have to end up sacrificing either size or quality or both, and it just didn’t make sense to replace our current vanity with something smaller and less functional or with less longevity just to have a more modern look.
Just like The Rolling Stones said, Paint it black!
People seriously underestimate the difference a coat of paint can make. They always say you aren’t supposed to paint small rooms in dark colors, but rules were made to be broken. I have always loved black and golden yellow together, and I knew I wanted to keep the wallpaper in this room as the one thing original to the house. Keeping the room from being broken up into a bunch of smaller sections by having the half paneling flow right into the floor by using a deep black on both helps make the room feel less closed in. Painting the paneling a modern gloss black turns it from grandma’s house to vintage chic. I used the same gloss black on the vanity, which downplayed some of the carving and details on it I’d felt were too old-fashioned for my taste. All the molding and window trim in the house is white, so we wanted to keep that still. To tie that in as well as the white and cream swirl finish on the counter and the white tile in the shower, I spray painted the hardware with white lacquer spray. I used Rustoleum black gloss enamel on the mirror and lighting fixture. We used stick-on floor tiles in a black marble for the floor, which are super inexpensive but look way nicer than just putting in linoleum. They are not at all complicated to install oneself as they are literally like giant stickers and you just keep building around the first tile you put in, keeping one flush to the other.
I made the funny (yet super convenient) little closet just a part of the woodwork by painting it in the same black as well, and following the design of the vanity by keeping the hardware gloss white. The bathroom window is very large, and people tend to be nude in the bathroom so we definitely needed a curtain. I didn’t want to add in another pattern with the wallpaper being so wild already but didn’t want it to look like we just had a big black sheet over the window either. So, I opted for a matte-on-shiny subtle pattern, in black again for consistency. You can’t see it, but FYI, we removed the scalloped edge on the window! The fun black and white artwork is actually a matted and framed page from an art magazine. Magazines are some of the best sources for inexpensive artwork if you need something in a smaller size.
I am well aware that not everyone would want to make friends with this wallpaper, but the same techniques I used can be adopted to fit any style. There were so many different simple choices that could have been made to lend vastly different results in this room. If someone wanted to keep the wallpaper but give the room a more cute, shabby chic, cottage look they could have painted all the woodwork white instead of black. A soft grey would have also been an option. The mirror and vanity lighting could have been painted white or grey to compliment the paneling color choice, or just finished in chrome to match with the sink and shower hardware. The wallpaper could have been ripped down and any color paint imaginable could have been put in its place for a more simple, traditional look without the retro nods. Or, it could have been painted and wall stamps, decals, or stencils could have been used over-top to add some pattern. The ideas could go on and on, and all without having to do any major construction or buy a bunch of new stuff. Remember, something like this can also be a great intermediary step so you can still be comfortable while you wait and save up for a complete overhaul. You don’t have to wait to win the lottery before you can love your home! 🙂
Even though I studied interior design in college and ended up going in a different direction afterward, I still love it. From time to time, I do still assist friends/family/acquaintances with their designing woes, and I’ve had a couple of fun opportunities over the last year or two to work with my parents in updating my childhood home. I worked with them to choose fixtures, finishes, and furnishings for the home’s guest and master bath, and they used a kitchen and bath design business and a remodeling contractor from the local Midland area to bring the project to completion.
My parents and I have pretty different design styles. They can be a little uneasy at times about bold colors, and favor timelessness. My mother definitely has a traditional style, and is not one of those people who wants to change a design up every other year (or even every 5). She especially wants more “permanent” aspects such as tile and cabinetry to be something neutral so that the space can be updated in the future if need be with not much more than a different color of paint on the walls.
The house’s original bathrooms were done up in (now vintage) tile, as were many in the neighborhood when originally built. My best friend down the street actually had an identical guest bathroom to ours, only accented in white instead of grey and sans crazy wallpaper. We decided to pay homage to the origins and stay with the idea of retro, bold, fun tile, but this time in black and white.
Before: I may have mentioned the original guest bathroom was pink. In fact, this bathroom was just so into being pink that even the door and the window molding is pink. This is basically Dolores Umbridge‘s dream bathroom. It’s so odd and distinctly vintage, however, that it did have a certain charm and I was a little bummed to see it go. Yes, the ceiling is wallpapered – pretty trippy.
After: Saying bye-bye to the original vintage was so worth it, however, for the end result. Since we didn’t have to worry about the guest bathroom transitioning into a bedroom like we did for the master bath, we could go with a fun color not present anywhere else in the house, and chose a cheerful pool blue. Being the only color present that isn’t a neutral, the room is pleasant even for those who don’t like to be surrounded by rainbows 24/7. The white is broken up by pops of black in the striping and the textile accents. The ceiling is still kind of fun, though certainly not wallpapered! I chose a paler shade of blue rather than just going with a stark white to balance the already ever present, high contrast, bold blue- to – bright white transitions. My parents also love antiques, and there is a variety of vintage glassware and decor scattered throughout. We also chose some unique vintage inspired hardware that further adds to the little air of whimsy in this room. The artwork on the wall is a print of one of my watercolor and ink pieces, The Idealist.
Before: The master bath had already been through one soft redo in the 90s due to some cabinetry that was not faring too well. It had mainly been done for utilitarian reasons, and had pretty much the opposite problem of the guest bathroom … it was very, very bland.
After: Hello, gold! Black and gold play off of each other so well, so a lot more black was incorporated into this bathroom. The cabinetry and shower are opposite each other, so to balance all the white tile with the dark counters we outlined the shower itself and the inset shelf in black tile, and used a more concentrated floor tile. The photography on the walls are photos of birds my dad took, one of his hobbies being hiking and “collecting” birds on his journeys via snapshots. And, of course, more vintage glassware (I have an addiction! Luckily, they love it too).
Another fun project completed! Next, my parents will be picking my brain about the living room. Maybe I can talk them into more brightly colored walls … maybe even purple! Only time will tell ;). (Mom, if you are reading this, I promise I’m joking).