A little birdie

When you spend 40 hours a week at a computer, you long for some hands on activities, and sometimes a good old fashioned craft project is just what the doctor ordered.

Last year I found two unpainted wooden toys at the store and decided to turn them into Christmas ornaments for my two nephews. I knew at 2 and 4 years old they wouldn’t appreciate them yet, but one day they would. I felt like one of Santa’s elves as I sanded out all the rough spots on a wooden train and a wooden propeller plane, and then lovingly painted each one and put their initials on them.

About a month ago my niece was born. What do you get for a month old baby who already has everything? It was perfect timing to make another ornament and continue the tradition. There are three of them now, that makes it a tradition, right?

I found a cute little wooden bird cutout with a wing detail at the craft store. It came pre-printed with some details on it, coloring book style, but after I primed it with gesso, they were all covered up. I winged it, no pun intended. (Okay, it was intended.) Each side is slightly different, with a lot of dots. I busted out some toothpicks for those. Doesn’t get much more arts and craftsy than that.

Just a simple and sweet little project.

Partysaurus Wallpapers

What do you do when a project you worked made you smile while working on it? I think you should find a reason to work with those things again. I couldn’t help smiling while drawing some cute dinosaurs for a project. But by the time the project was all done, not all of these party-goers were needed. I didn’t want them to feel sad since they didn’t get invited to that party, so I gave them a reason for existing–wallpapers!

Party all day long with my dinosaurs, just download them from the newly created Downloads page and put them on your computer desktop, your iPhone, even your iPad.


Trippin’ out

A couple of months ago my friend, Andrea, approached me about designing a poster for the organization for which she is currently President of the Board, Trips for Kids – Triangle (TFKT). This is the local branch of a national non-profit. Trips for Kids works with at-risk youth to improve their education and rewards those who have made improvements with monthly bike rides. The local branch is funded, in part, by the non-profit bike shop, Grassroots Bikes, located in Durham, NC. The shop is run entirely by volunteers, and the kids even help out there.

To grab the attention of the youth of Durham, TFKT had already used some graffiti elements in existing items, and has graffiti murals inside Grassroots Bikes. Inspired by this approach, I used some of the colors from those murals and incorporated graffiti arrows, ink splatters and textures in with bicycles and gears, as well as a photograph from TFKT’s collection.

It turned out to be a bold, fun poster for a great cause.

Cuppa corporate delight

Here at the credit union we just launched an internal site for employees. It’s called the Hub. Hopefully it will be the first place employees will go to find office forms, see photos from company events, learn about company news and find lots more things—sorta be at the center of things…get it?

To promote the launch of this site, we used a guerrilla marketing technique to create buzz. For three days leading up to the launch we posted tons of flyers in the shared areas of our office suites. There was a different design for each day. At night we took down the old one and put up the new one, so each morning employees were greeted with a different humorous, and somewhat vague, message about the Hub. Without going into details, it sure did create buzz! People wanted to know what the Hub was.

I think my favorite is one with an employee’s photograph that had been censored; black bar over the eyes type of censorship, though it was still clear who the person was, with a graphic of a koala hanging on the side of the photo. The copy teased that you could find out who secretly wants a koala as a pet by reading the employee spotlight on the Hub. Just fun stuff there.

On the morning the site launched, employees came into work and found a black mug with M&Ms waiting for them on their desks, and an email in their inbox letting them know the Hub was alive!

To give the mugs some flair and go outside the curling ribbon norm, I came up with a paper insert that looked like the Hub’s logo was in some cappuccino foam, and a “spoon” gave it some vertical dimension. There were several messages on the spoons, “There’s a latte going on,” “Stir things up at the Hub,” and “Your new daily fix.”

Each insert was cut out by hand and kept in place by a tube of paper nestled among the M&Ms in the mug. As I worked on the prototypes, I kept fooling myself and reaching for a sip of coffee that was really just paper. Friend and coworker, Ed took some pretty nice shots of it, which he allowed me to use. (Thank you, Ed!)

Everyone seems pretty pleased with their mugs of candy. I’m calling this launch a success.

The impractical organ

The Carolina Rollergirls took a few weeks off from practices, meetings and games. It was awesome. Breaks are a very important part of training. Tomorrow night we are starting up again and I’ll be glad to get back into the swing of things. I feel I really took advantage of the break. I tried two new exercise classes. I attended a design conference in Chicago. While in Chicago I tried a deep dish pizza, a Chicago style hot dog and had grapefruit sorbetto that was transcendent. I took an architectural boat tour, saw the aftermath of the pride parade, took in the views from the Hancock Signature Lounge and attended many inspiring conference sessions.

While at the conference, I started sketching. Sometimes I really enjoy digging into a somewhat detailed pencil sketch. I challenged myself by using only a cheap mechanical pencil. It was much more feasible to travel with that than a set of wooden pencils that might break or would need to be sharpened.

I like things that are a little bit off. I love learning about strange medical conditions or things like body farms. Visiting the Mütter Museum was something I felt compelled to do once I learned of its existence. With my pseudo-anatomical heart I was trying to go for the grotesque. The heart, as a symbol, is everywhere in our culture. Girls draw it on notebook paper. It’s on playing cards. New Yorkers (and tourists) use it to replace the word love on t-shirts. And in our culture the heart in our chest is also associated with love. I wonder how often we picture that Valentine-shaped object in our ribcages, beating away, instead of the wonderful muscular organ who actually resides there.

After I completed my sketch, I knew I wanted to turn it into an oil painting. I had gotten tired of sighing and admitting to people that it had been years since I’d done a fine art project. I needed to prove to myself that I could. And once I started, it was wonderful.

I took photos of my progress, starting with some basic color blocking, progressing to more and more detail, an experiment with darkening the corners and then undoing that, and finally something I think I am finished with.

Since animated gifs are fun, please enjoy the way this heart wiggles around and changes color. The color changes are mainly from the varying lighting conditions going on while taking the photos.

Using my point-and-shot to take a photo of it on my kitchen table really doesn’t do it justice, but I figured it was better than trying to scan my still-wet painting. That wouldn’t end well on many levels.


I’m pleased with the result, but I think I might try painting this image/concept again. I still have much to learn from this form. Also, it could be grosser.

Wizard of Oz: As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.
Tin Woodsman: But I still want one.

Sketchy girl

I have a hard time sketching in a sketch book. The formality of those bound pages dedicated to collecting my sketches is a little intimidating. But I love to doodle and usually have the most success on scraps of paper.

Now why I was thinking about giant winter hats on a mild summery day, I’m not sure.

After scanning the image, I added some quick flat color. Clearly there is something on her mind, but she’s still cute.

Oh, how you flatter

I’ve been getting a lot of spammers trying to comment on my blog. I moderate all the comments, so none of these have made it through. However, some of them are pretty great and can be quite the ego boost…you know, if you pretend they are real and not just some robot stringing words together. Here’s a sampling, a greatest hits if you will.

e.e. cummings says:

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