Monday, April 23, 2012

Simply Elegant Arched Soft Cornice with Beaded Fringe

When there's a lot going on in a room, I like to keep the window treatments fairly simple. And, when the walls in a room are covered with decorative painting, as in this master bath, it's critical that the window treatments enhance the look but not compete with it. This soft cornice with jabots does just that.

The gently arched valance echoes the shape of the painted arch above, and the softly curving jabots frame this window over a jacuzzi tub. The textured ivory fabric whispers rather than shouts, and a modestly sized beaded trim adds just a touch of sparkle.

The trim's decorative braid repeats the colors found in a large floral painting on the adjacent wall and coordinates with the teal mini blind.

In the photo below, you can catch a glimpse of one of the covered boards that supports the sides of the soft cornice. To achieve the perfectly flat, smooth look that I like on this type of treatment, I use a stiffener behind the fabric, along with interlining, and wrap the three layers around the "leg" on each side. The legs are attached to the dust board at a 90ยบ angle using L-brackets and long, thin countersunk screws. Hidden behind the jabot, they can't be seen from the front, but are indispensable in keeping this treatment smooth and wrinkle-free.

Sometimes less is more, and this quietly elegant window treatment, which holds its own in a room filled with decorative painting, is a testimony to that truth.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 5-5-5 Sketch Challenge

I often take time on a Sunday afternoon to go for a nice, long walk with our golden retriever, Buckley. We both love it, and it's a great way to get some exercise and spend time outdoors. A few weeks ago, I decided I'd throw my sketchbook and a few basic supplies into my backpack, and do a little sketching while I was out and about.

As Buck and I headed down the hill and into the woods, I had a great idea - I'd make a game out of it and challenge myself to spend no more than ten minutes on each sketch - five for drawing, and five for painting. And since I often spend way too much time walking around looking for the perfect scene to sketch, I decided to limit myself to only five minutes of walking time between sketch locations. After walking for five minutes, I would stop, look around, and draw something that I saw.

9" x 12", pencil, watercolor, and ink

For my first sketch, I sat on a fallen log and drew an old rusty fence that runs along our property line, working quickly to indicate just an impression of the woods, leaves, and trees. I managed to finish in ten minutes total, then I stuck my paints in my pack and let my open sketchbook air-dry as I walked on through the woods.

3-1/2" x 3-1/2" sketch (with Buckley's signature)

My next stop, five minutes later, was near a wet-weather spring where the ground was damp, so I perched precariously on a smallish rock, facing uphill to draw a mossy tree stump just a few feet away.

Intent on my picture, I tuned out the sounds of the birds and chipmunks and focused on applying splashes of color with my waterbrush. Suddenly, there was an explosion of paws, fur, and mud! A big slobbery dog was jumping on me (and my sketchbook), knocking me off my perch and flat onto my backside. There was mud in my paints and all over my sketchbook, not to mention my pants and jacket! Buckley was licking my face and trying to figure out if I was really okay, because, after all, it's not every day that he sees me sitting, or sprawling, as the case may be, on the forest floor. He's a very protective dog!

When, oh when, will I learn not to take Buckley along on a sketching walk? Invariably he tromps on the flowers I'm drawing or tries to climb into my lap, where I'm balancing my palette. But he's such a sweetheart that I can't get mad at him. He's just being a dog - a very large, friendly, rambunctious, and overly enthusiastic dog!

I picked myself up and managed to wipe most of the mud out of my palette and off my sketchbook. Heading up the hill to drier ground, I stopped after five minutes and painted these acorns lying on a bed of bright green moss...

That sketch turned out okay, but the next one I did was less successful. I had hiked up out of the woods and plopped down in the grass of the hayfield where I attempted to paint a dried up oak leaf that had been caught in the grass all winter. I'm afraid it's basically unrecognizable. Oh,well, they can't all be winners.

Buckley came running up to me as I was finishing my attempt at a maple leaf. I took one look at him and knew I had to make him the subject of the final sketch on the page. He looked like a two-toned dog - blonde on the top and muddy brown on the bottom. With wet mud dripping off of him, he smiled up at me as if to say, "This was so much fun! Can we do it again next Sunday?"

"Of course we can!"

Oh, and one more thing ... did I mention the other way I usually spend my Sunday afternoons?

Cleaning up one tired and very happy dirty dog.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sweet Baby Boy

Last year, on Good Friday, my grandson Nicholas was born. He came home on Easter morning, just two days old and cute as could be. He's almost a year old now, and I thought you might enjoy seeing how he has grown...

Won't it be fun to take a picture of him every year on Easter in that same rattan basket? 

Our photo session included a lot of outtakes. He wasn't too sure about the paper grass...


...but overall, he was pretty good-natured about posing.

 This sweet baby boy is the light of our lives.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dabbling in Gouache & Shifting My Focus

I'm always on the lookout for an excuse to buy art supplies. There's something so exciting about testing a new set of markers, opening up a fresh sketchbook, or trying out a new paint color. A world of possibilities awaits! I think it all goes back to those childhood days when nothing made me happier than a brand-new 96-count box of Crayola crayons (with a built-in sharpener!)

I recently enrolled in an online class on watercolor sketching, part of Strathmore's 2012 Online Workshop Series, taught by Cathy Johnson, one of my favorite artists and author of countless books on drawing and painting. Since opaque watercolors, or gouache (pronounced "gwash"), were on the class supply list, I had a good excuse to finally invest in a set. She recommended those manufactured by M. Graham, since they are rewettable and don't get crumbly when they dry on your palette.

M. Graham gouache paint set, repurposed Prang watercolor set with new gouache paint, old brushes, and an extra plastic mixing palette

I took an old (I mean really old, like from my childhood!) metal Prang watercolor set and washed out the paint, which was still remarkably moist and usable, and squirted in the three primary colors, plus black and white, that came in my set of gouache paints. Because of the opacity of the gouache, I couldn't use my good watercolor brushes - remnants of the gouache could affect the transparency of my watercolors - so I dug out some cheap old brushes to use with my new materials.

I had a 5" x 7" Daler-Rowney Cachet sketchbook with toned paper on my shelf, one that I bought years ago and have never opened. It was the perfect thing to use with the gouache, so, even though I always face that first blank page of a new sketchbook with a certain amount of fear and trepidation, I dove in and gave gouache a try!

5" x 7", ink and gouache

I decided to have a particular focus in this little sketchbook, one that will encourage me to notice the little blessings that fill my days and that I sometimes fail to appreciate - those moments that I might ordinarily give little thought to, but that are gifts from God, showing me how beautiful life really is.

5" x 7", pencil & gouache

We're constantly being bombarded with negativity on TV, online, and in the newspaper. I find that those things can really affect my attitude and put me on edge. They influence me in a way that's not healthy. It helps if I limit my exposure to the news, but more than just taking a protective stance, I want to be proactive in filling my mind with thoughts that are good and happy and uplifting.

5" x 7", pencil & gouache

I want to be aware of beauty, to be thankful for the first dogwood blossoms in the spring, for my dog resting his head on my knee, for the smile on the face of my sweet little grandson, and the special light that slants across my yard in the early morning. All these are the moments that make up my days; these are the real and true things.

5" x 7", ink, gouache, & watercolor

So I'll fill this book with simple sketches of gratitude. I won't labor over them. I'll have fun with them and play with my new materials, and on these pages, I'll take a break from bad news and politics, worries and concerns, and instead, focus on joy.

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