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Posts from the ‘Art Supplies’ Category

Top Lessons Learned on this Journey

Sunset over Rocks

Inspiration is everywhere!

Top things I’ve learned since becoming Art At Dawn

1. Inspiration is everywhereEvery waking hour is fodder for my art.  Sometimes it trickles up from my memories and other times I know it the moment it occurs.

I felt that very keenly this summer when my family and I took that trip out West.  Inspiration enveloped me and penetrated all my senses.  Look for upcoming posts on how it has begun to influence my work.

2. Consistency is key– I’ve found that I’m most productive when I keep myself on a schedule and hold myself to self-imposed deadlines. The times I flounder are when my goals are unclear or vague.

As I wrote about it in this post, I have developed a weekly schedule that helps to keep me focused.  I feel lost the weeks that I skip it.

I wish I could say that all this consistency allows my creativity to flow abundantly.  Not so.  There are times that I have to force myself to keep at it.  The important thing, I’ve learned, is just to show up and keep stoking the fire.  If the fire goes out it takes a lot longer to start it up again and feel the warmth of its glowing embers which feeds my art.

3. Time is precious– There are only so many hours in the day, and only a portion of them can be used for my art.  The trick is to use the time I have to the best of my ability and not kick myself when I run out of it.  (The best way to estimate my time?  Take the amount I think it will require and double it!)

But there is another side to the coin.  When I lose myself to my art, I often lose track of time as well.  I get in The Zone.  It is a great place to be in but requires the freedom of time, as well.

I've learned some tricks, along the way, to maximize the supplies I have on hand.

I’ve learned a few tricks, along the way, to maximize the supplies I have on hand.

4. Art supplies need not be expensive– that goes for studio furniture, too! Over the years I’ve amassed a lot of art supplies and learned some tricks on how to maximize the supplies I have lying around the house.

That goes for studio equipment and furniture, too.  I’ve also found some great deals at consignment stores and Craigslist, and am always looking out for discounted items to supplement my studio wishlist.

5. My talents are valid– It’s easy, in this field, to look around at my highly talented peers and convince myself that I don’t possess the skills and creativity that they have.  But I can’t do that to myself.  I can’t discount the feelings of excitement and happiness that often overwhelm me while creating a drawing or painting.

If I am passionate about my art and business I need to trust that others will see it and want what I have to offer.  (The trick is getting it out there where they can see it, too!)

6. Feel the fear and do it anyway– At times I am unsure of myself; where I am going with my art, and what I am doing.  I must allow myself to experience those feelings but then forge ahead. What other choice do I have? Giving up is not an option!

Sometimes I feel fearful when I am in a new situation or approaching someone about my art. I’ve found that what helps ease my anxiety is to think to myself, What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps I‘ll get rejected or feel out of my element, but the world will still spin and life will go on. So I swallow my pride and keep going- because I must!


I am so thankful to the friends and family who have encouraged and supported me along this journey.

7. Make time for family and friends– It is so easy to lose sight of the things that matter, if I allow it, especially if I’m wrapped up in a big project or preparing for a show.  I’ve learned that I constantly need to take a step back and look around me.  I need to take in the big picture and remember what my core values are.

I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to be using my God-given talents, but I cannot forget those who encouraged and helped me along the way.  I am so grateful to them, and I never want to forget to be thankful!

8. There is an answer out there for everything– I’ve had to forge many new streams in creating my business. I’ve had to find resources and learn to navigate them. Sometimes I’ve even had to learn new skills by watching tutorials or taking an online class.

I may have to dig for it, but the answers are out there. Thank God for Google!

9. Make a decision and stick with it–   This has not been an easy lesson to learn. Everywhere I turn there are decisions to make, and it can get overwhelming.  From what kind of art I should do, to where I should show it; decisions about what my art and business is about, and how I should run it.  Only I can decide and stand my ground- otherwise it would all get washed away in the current.

But then there are times when something doesn’t work and I need to let it go. That’s not an easy decision, either, but a necessary one to keep developing my art and business.

10. Prioritize– It’s remarkable how long its taken me to figure this out. There are so many things that need my attention and if I don’t prioritize, I wind up taking little nips but never finishing anything.

I’ve learned to choose 2-3 things each day that need to get done and then fill in with everything else. Often, I find that it’s better to get the more dreaded things out of the way first, as well. (ie: book-keeping!)

11. Make Connections– It can be hard to get myself out there and approach strangers- even if it’s in the name of my art.  I literally have to push myself to do it.  But 9 times out of 10, the people on the other end are friendly and helpful, and have led to more connections. These contacts have been invaluable and make it easier to go out and do it again.


Every failed attempt becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.

12. Don’t be afraid to fail– Not that I set out to make mistakes, but they happen anyway.  It would be easy to curl up and have a pity party every time they occur.  But I can’t.  Every failed attempt becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.

So bring it on!!

Do any of these lessons resonate with you?  What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your own business and/or creative pursuits?

Having a Learning and Growing Week!

Pearls of Wisdom

Little Pearls of Wisdom- Art At Dawn

At a recent show it wasn’t my painting, or cards, or frames, or even the magnets that got the most attention…

It was my little Pearls Of Wisdom.

Sure, they seemed to like all my other items, and were interested in learning how I created them, what my inspiration was, and how long it takes to make them…

But these little guys stole the show.

So what are they?  A little side project of mine.

I am self-reliant and capable- Art At Dawn

They start off as pistachio shells.  I’ve been embedding them in some of my newer paintings and therefore have a lot of them lying around my studio.

I also started embedding aluminum foil and, if you’re familiar with my work, have a lot of words cut out from magazines and junk mail that I’ve used in my Word Paintings.  (Though the words needed to be smaller, so I dissected an old copy of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.)

Put them all together and this is what you get.

I can see you’re still bewildered.  Why would someone put all those together and come up with this?  Even if its kinda cool looking- Why???

Be Sincere Yet Decisive- Art At Dawn

Because I wanted a little something to give to people who visit me at my upcoming shows and events.  In the past I’ve given out pencils and chocolates- but I wanted something a little more special and personal.

This is one of those ideas that came to me as I was running, when creative thoughts seem to bubble up from nowhere.  My rumination was, What little thing can I give others to show my gratitude for their support and encouragement?

Be a light, not a judge- Art At Dawn

Somewhere around mile 3 this idea popped into my head.  I couldn’t rest until I created a prototype- and once I started, I couldn’t stop!

Would you like one of my pearls of wisdom?  If you’re in the Columbus area come visit me at an upcoming show (download and print a copy of upcoming shows here.), or order something from my online shop and I’ll include one,  AND/OR… Leave a comment below of one or more of your favorite pearls of wisdom and I will send you an actual pearl of wisdom along with my latest postcard of new images.

I wish you a week full of wisdom and inspiration!

What’s in a Color?

Detail of painting, Elemental Wisdom

A colorful detail of my painting, Elemental Wisdom.

Those who have seen my work know that one of my signature ingredients is color.  But I’ve never attempted to explain the significance of those colors,

until now.

Where did my love of color in my art come from?  I think it began as a young teen who was attracted to artists like Marc Chagall, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, and Georges Rouault.   They used colors liberally to convey mood and emotion in their work.

When I began painting again, I was drawn to color,  just as they were, and began to experiment with it and make them my own.

My palette contains a spectrum of colors that I lay out before each painting and refill as needed:  Titanium White, Beige, Naple’s Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium (lots of yellows!), Cadmium Orange Medium, Cadmium Red Medium, Magenta, Cadmium Green Light, Spruce Green, Phthalo Green, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Purple Dioxine, Burnt Sienna, and Burnt Umber.  Lately I I’ve also been putting a few metallics off to the side: gold, silver, and metallic blue.

Do I have favorites?  Yes!

Detail of painting, Ebb and Flow

Yellows are one of my favorite colors to work with like this Cadmium Medium Yellow detail from my painting, Ebb and Flow.

Yellows.  It’s funny because I neither wear much yellow nor decorate with them, and yet I love to paint with them!  My two favorites are Cadmium Yellow Light and Cadmium Yellow Medium.

Cadmium Yellow Light is yellow in it’s pure, untarnished state.  It’s the color of the sun.  It’s blissful and happy.

Cadmium Yellow Medium is a more sophisticated yellow.  It is wise and intelligent.  It is also a great color to use as a glaze to brighten other colors.

Blues– Blue is a moody yet harmonizing color.  It is space and movement.  Perhaps not fast movement, more like a steady momentum through time.  It is also a good color to use in the shadows.

A blue I recently discovered is Wedgewood Blue.  It’s more of a mysterious, hazy blue and seems very appropriate for my China Paintings, particularly of my Beijing Market Series- with its smoggy beauty.  This color juxtaposed with the metallic blue is a knockout!

Detail from painting, Big City Lights

Blues can be moody and mysterious, like this detail from my painting, Big City Lights

Titanium White– I always feel a bit rebellious using this color.  I had an art teacher once who abhorred the use of white.  Her reasoning was that we would use it as a crutch.  She felt that we should mix our true colors and avoid white because it would wash our painting out.  

But, on the contrary,  I find that when I use titanium white, I create a more decadent version of that color.  Green becomes a honeydew melon.  Yellow becomes a yellow sherbet.  Red becomes, (you guessed it!), a soft pink.  These colors must be used sparingly but they can add a lot of oomph to a painting. (so, anonymous art teacher, I defy you!)

Burnt Sienna– A reddish brown. As a glaze, it has the ability to darken colors while allowing them to maintain their core values.  I really like this color, but dole it out in small quantities since it can quickly change a color to mush if not used wisely.

Ultimately, colors need to have more than paint to back them up.  They have to have design, composition, and a little knowledge to know which tones will look good together and how to blend them.   But it really isn’t rocket science, it’s magic.  Or at least, that’s how it feels to me.

Detail of my painting, I Thought of Art

Painting with Burnt Sienna is divine because it deepen the colors it is juxtaposed with, like this detail from my painting, I Thought of Art

How about you?  What colors are you drawn to in life and in art?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Have a Wonderful, Colorful Week!


15 Studio Secrets


Ribbon and String Holder

#13 A piece of cardboard with a notch on the end is a great way to coral your bits of ribbon or string. (Also good for headphones and electrical chords!)

I thought I’d share some “secrets” I’ve discovered over the years that have streamlined my art-making and made creating just a wee bit easier.  If any of them resonate with you then I’ve done my job!

1.  Studio furniture doesn’t have to be expensive. Check Goodwill, Craigslist, Ebay, etc.  I recently purchased 3 tables for my studio off of Craigslist for $25 each!

2. Bed risers are a great way to add more height to a table- esp. if you want to increase your storage underneath!

3. Tired of glue bottles getting gunked up and not working properly? Pour a small amount of glue into a shallow container and use a cheap paintbrush to apply it. The glue goes on a lot more evenly without gloppy bubbles. When you’re done the glue can be poured back and the brush and container washed.

4. Tired of your $4 bottle of white-out drying up again in the junk drawer? White acrylic paint makes excellent white-out. Use thin layers and it will dry pretty quickly

5. To protect your ruler when you need to draw straight lines with markers, attach a piece of masking tape (or better yet, painters tape) along the edge of the ruler. The tape will protect the ruler from the ink and it can be thrown away afterwards.

6. To find the edge of the tape faster for the next time, bend ¼” of the tape inward after using it.

Plastic Bag for trash

#7 A handy way to corral all those scraps as you work

7. Tape a plastic bag to the edge of the table to use as a catch-all for scraps, paper towels, etc. when you begin a project. It will make clean up much easier and keep the clutter at bay.

8. Disposable hot dog containers (found at Sam’s Club or kitchen supply stores) make excellent storage containers for little pieces in a project and helps keep them together if you need to clean up before you’ve completed it. (Also good for Legos!)

9. Don’t throw away old toothbrushes. They are a great way to add pizazz to a painting. Load up the paintbrush with paint, hold 6-8” over painting, and flick your thumb over the bristles to speckle the area.

10.You can mask off certain areas of your painting as you are doing the above by laying scraps of paper over the areas of the painting you wish to remain unspeckled.

11. Another good way to create a good composition while you’re sketching or photographing from life is to cut a 1” square out of an index card. (This doesn’t need to be exact!) Fold the card in half and cut half of a square on the folded edge. When it’s unfolded you can hold it up at arm’s length and get an idea of what you would like to create without the distraction of what’s surrounding it.

Square in paper as Composition Finder

#11- A Square cut into an index card makes an excellent composition aid for photography or sketching.

12. Another good use for index cards or post-it notes is to jot down the colors, sizes, and general directions for yourself as you are working on a project if you need to take a break or stop for the day. This way you won’t waste as much time trying to figure out where you had left off and what you had been doing.

13. To coral loose bits of ribbon or yarn, cut a piece of cardboard (Cereal or snack food boxes work well for this) about the size of a bookmark. Cut a ½” notch in the center of the top edge. Then wind your yarn or ribbon around the cardboard starting at the bottom and working your way to the top and slip the end through the notch to hold it in place. (This works well for headphones or electronic chords, as well!)

14. Old CDs and Plastic Lids make great stencils for circles.

15. Here’s the “MacGyver Way” to make a circle to a specific circumference using a thumbtack, string, and sharp pencil.  Tie one end of the string to the tack and measure the length of string to the diameter of your circle.  Then tie the other end of the string near the tip of your pencil.  Push the tack into the middle of where your circle should be (You may want to put a piece of cardboard underneath the paper to give the tack something to hang onto) and stretch the string out.  Now swoop the pencil all the way around the tack, keeping the tack taut.  Voila, you’ve got a custom made circle!

Creating a Circle

#8- The “Mcgyver Way” to create a circle of set dimensions


And, by the way, these aren’t really “secrets” (if you haven’t guessed by now!)  Some of these were passed down to me by instructors and mentors.  Some of them I figured out on my own.  What are some of your own tricks and tips for your art and/or hobbies?  I’d love to hear them!

I wish you have a Wonderful Week full of Controlled Messes and Streamlined Creativity!


6 Invaluable Studio Tools

Old Towels

Towels have saved many trees in my studio!

This week I’d like to pay homage to the handy objects that I frequently use in my studio.  Only one of them can be actually be found at the art supply store.  Most are cast-offs that I repurpose for my own needs.

Old Towels/Rags

These are a must to avoid the cost and waste of paper towels.  They’re also much more durable and absorbent.

I use them underneath artwork if I’m working flat and wipe off brushes as I use them.  I also bring them to the sink as I wash out brushes and containers to let everything air dry on them.

I’ve been using the same towels for a over a year now.  (Tossing them in the wash now and then).  I wonder how much it has saved me in paper towels?

Kneaded Eraser, the best eraser ever

Best Eraser Ever!

Kneaded Eraser

This unassuming little tool does not get as much attention as it deserves!   It can be found at any art supply store or craft/hobby store.

It works really really well and never leaves residue like regular erasers.  You can mold it to get into tight spots and use it to rub out smudges on various surfaces, much like those miraculous Magic Erasers.  Once its dirty you just knead it a little and the dirt goes away.  Where does the dirt go?  Who knows!  Plus, its fun to play with while you’re thinking…

Plastic Shoeboxes

Clear plastic shoeboxes hold a special place in my heart.  For one, they are the perfect size.  Not too big, not too small.  For another,  you can see everything in them.  They are far and away one of my favorite organizing tools for my studio as well as the rest of the house.

Paint Brushes Floating in Water

Another great use for plastic shoeboxes- water container!

I’ve also found that their low, flat size makes them perfect for water containers.  They aren’t tippy and hold a decent amount of water.  My brushes also fit well within them- which is good because I often use the back end as well as the the tip.  This way I can submerge the entire brush in to prevent the paint from drying.  The Paint Brush Nazis would say its a good way to damage my brushes.  But I do try to wash them out periodically and not leave them overnight very often!

Post-it Notes

I love me some post-it notes!  I have them in every shape and size.  Some are good for marking sections in books, others for making tabs in notebooks.

I also like to have them as I paint to make notes for myself if I need to step away from the canvas to take care of daily life (kids, laundry, errands- all the necessary evils that take me away!).  Often I’ll listen to podcasts as I work and I’ll jot down quotes or bits of inspiration on them.

A collection of Post-it Notes

My collection of Post-it Notes in various colors, shapes, and sizes

Lastly, they are good for keeping me on track.  I’ll jot down my priorities for the day, dates to remember as I’m going through email, or the things I need to remember for the next day.  How did anyone ever live without them?

Old Socks

There is life after a sock loses its pair or gets a hole in it!  Here are some of my favorite uses for them:

1. Duster for small crevices in frames and canvases.

2. Holder for small objects when I’m working “in the field” (elsewhere than in my studio)  Long tube socks are best for this because you can knot the end.  They’re great for transporting pencils and brushes as well.

Hand Warmer Made From Worn Out Socks!

Hand warmers made from worn out socks!

3. Hand Warmer- Recent discovery in my drafty studio over the garage during the sub-zero temps here.  I just pulled a decommissioned pair over my hands, cut out where my fingers were, and found that they kept my wrists and palms cozy while giving me freedom of movement in my fingers!

4. Excellent for picking up spilled beads or other little doodads.  Stretch over a vacuum hose and the suction will pick them up while the fabric prevents them from going in the vacuum!

A non-studio use for them is to fill a long tube sock 2/3 full with rice and knot the end.  Heat in microwave for 30 seconds and you’ve got yourself a headache tamer!  (Add a few drops of essential oils for the spa treatment!)


This is one essential that I’m still learning to utilize and becoming much more efficient in the process!

For tasks that I’ve been procrastinating (like filing or clearing my desk), I’ll set the timer to force myself to focus and not get sidetracked.  For days when I have limited time, I’ll set the timer and allow myself to work worry free and not stop to glance at the clock so often.

Timer on Smart Phone

The timer on my smart phone is well-used!

The timer works the other way around as well.  For times that I need a break I’ll set my timer and relax knowing I can let myself go for awhile and not worry about what awaits me on the other end.

I’ve also learned to use it as I go into stores.  I have a tendency to lose track of time in amongst the aisles.  I’ll set my timer for the amount of time I have minus 5 minutes so that when the timer goes off I can grab my last item and head to checkout.  Try it, it works!

What are your favorite creative tools in the studio, home, or in your daily life?  I asked this question on my Facebook Page and one person wrote that old cd discs make the best circle makers.  Great idea, Maryann!

Hope you all have a great week and stay warm!  This is turning out to be one cold winter!

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