illustration: petite pansies

My addition to Illustration Friday's "Garden" topic this week.

Most of us recognize the humble little pansy flower. They come in a variety of colors and add some gorgeous speckles of contrast to our gardens. But there's actually a lot more to know about pansies, much of which goes back centuries and has the potential to tickle your inspiration. 

Folk names for this little beauty include kiss-me-at-the-garden-gate, love-in-idelness, garden violet, and my personal favorite, heart's ease. But the word pansy means "thought" in French. This is probably why in the Language of Flowers it means "think of me" and/or "happy memories". It's also probably why some folks think gazing upon pansies are good for calming racing thoughts and quelling anxieties.

According to ancient myth, the god Eros accidentally shot one of his arrows into a pansy flower, causing it to "smile" as well as a flower can. And little Pansy has been smiling ever since... poor dear... in love with Love himself.

Did you know that you can actually eat pansy flowers? Some people even sugar them and include them in salads or garnish drinks with them. Of course, Martha has the low down on that.

No matter what pansies mean to you... whether you keep them in your garden, eat them off the side of your mint julep glass, or whatever... they're gorgeous little things that add authentic beauty to the everyday. And sometimes that means everything.

vintage floral fantasy

Do you dig on retro and vintage-inspired patterns as much as I do? The header image for LOL is a vintage napkin found at the VOA and the large image above is a detail of a vintage pillowcase (also found at the VOA).

My thrifting addiction aside, I recently discovered some awesome retro motifs from top designers on - where the three smaller images above come from. There are also some great finds that pull from vintage looks on Spoonflower. All of them are gorgeous and inspiring! However, a seamstress I am not. I'm more the designery type.

So if you're like me, this is how I handle my desire for vintage patterns on a dime without needing to sew anything.

1. Vintage Pillowcases. 
They're already sewn, ready to use, and perfect for mixing and matching. You can check Etsy's vintage section or (do what I usually do) scavenge thrift stores, the VOA, Goodwill, and hit garage sales.

2. Vintage Sheets.
I've actually made curtains out of vintage flat sheets and some fabric glue. They're already hemmed at the bottom. All you have to do is glue up a little rod pocket at the top and you're ready to go. I found a pair of matching lovelies at the VOA for a couple of bucks each. These also make great fabric stash additions if you're a sewing genius.

3. Misc. Vintage Linens like Tablecloths, Napkins, etc.
It's pretty self-explanatory, but just about any vintage linen will work. If you can sew, you can turn them into anything you like. If you don't sew, you can fabric glue them into anything you like. Or you can just drape them over a table, spice up the back of an average, boring chair... whatever. The possibilities are endless.

You could even frame some retro-chic napkins behind glass or stretch them over a canvas frame for instant, ready-to-hang art. Or cut out your favorite sections, blooms, bouquets, etc. then grab some spray starch and stick them to your walls. I haven't yet done it myself, but I hear the starch will keep your fabric (or paper) adhered to the wall and wash off easy later. I'm sure the all-knowing Google can tell us more.

The number one rule to remember is that it's not hard and it should be fun. If it's hard or not fun... come back to it later or find some alternatives. Life's too short. :)

today, be free

Today I will be free. Free of worry, free of self-criticism, free of anything that dulls the beauty of my life for even a second. I will not be ashamed of who I am nor will I try to hide myself from the world. I will affirm that I am perfectly imperfect as I am and liberated to life, laughter, and love.

Today I will be free so that I will remember that sacred and joyous abandon for all the days that come after this one. I will remember so that I may be present when my children need me, so that I might teach them what freedom truly means to their tender human hearts.

I will remember so that love - true and gorgeous and amazing love - might never pass me by but be always with me in the beautiful now. Oh how foolish we often are in the face of that love.

Today I will be free so that I never forget to be grateful, to hold on tight to all the dearest loves of my soul.

Today I will make it count.


So I created my own little hashtag a while back. #quirkyloveletters is my addition to the world of all things hashed and tagged in the social media universe. I'm hoping it will bring some authentic love awesomeness into everyone's lives and help us all keep the important, tender moments of life in our sights. Follow me on Instagram and/or search #quirkyloveletters for all the updates.

Also feel free to use #quirkyloveletters to share any and all of the quirky love stories and moments in your life. Let's start a movement. Or something like that. ;)

longing for inspiration

What is this thing we call inspiration? According to the Google-machine inspiration is "the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative." Mentally stimulated, huh? This feels off to me.

Isn't inspiration more emotional than mental? More visceral... as in taking place and felt somewhere within the body instead of the mind? Maybe it's all semantics but calling inspiration "mental" strikes of something too cerebral to me... something void of the deep, primal emotion and feeling that fills the heart and inspires the blossoming of flowers, the writing of symphonies, the birth of babies.

It's a force at work in the Universe that I dare to call a version of love itself - like kindness, compassion, tenderness, and hope. Inspiration is something like a longing.... a yearning to create in the act of being a part of something bigger than oneself. It's an awareness of something more, something hidden that can only be brought out by you. Only you. It's the Universe's first feeling - the original desire of creation - alive within your every atom.

To be inspired is to be in love with the world around you and to continually seek to surrender to that ecstasy of love again and again... knowing that the world loves you in return. Because you are the Universe looking back at itself, creating with every breath, every step, every heartbeat, every brush stroke and color...

Journal/Sketch Prompt: What does inspiration mean to you? Don't worry about getting fancy about it. Simply write down the word "inspiration" in the middle of a blank page and free associate all over the your paper with other words, phrases, or doodles that relate to that one idea. Alternately/additionally what inspires you? Try the same free association of words and images but with the phrase "inspires me" in the center of your page.

what is happiness?

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition. - Martha Washington 

The dictionary defines happiness as "the state of being happy". At the risk of unleashing my inner Chandler Bing, could that BE any more vague? I suppose it's actually an incredibly meaningless and meaningful statement simultaneously, depending on how you read it.

Anyway.... let's think about happiness for a second. Not what other people say happiness is, not what society claims will make us happy (money, things, "beauty", more money) but let's truly think hard on what it means to us.

Interestingly, perhaps we need to know what it is to be unhappy before we realize we can be happy. The ultimate mind-f*ck. After all, how do we know anything without contrast? But do we actually have to know what it is to be down and dirty miserable before we can know what it is to be just a little happy?

Interesting, existential, oh so deep... but maybe happiness isn't as complicated as all that. Maybe it's just a simple choice, a conscious decision to get over ourselves already and let the joy flood in once and for all.

Can happiness be found in a pill? In the bottom of a bottle? Or is it really in the fullness of our hearts, as all the ancient sages have tried to tell us? Maybe the key is being brave enough to authentically feel - to really feel even the scary feelings - and find out for ourselves.

Journal/Sketch Prompt: What do you think? Write some thoughts about happiness down in your journal or sketch out some things that mean "happy" to you. What's the key to happiness in your life? What have you come to so far through to this point of your life's journey? Find a happiness quote you like and copy it into your pages for later inspiration.

a series in progress

Here are a couple of the small scale acrylic abstracts on wood I'm currently working on for my new project, Mona & Blackbird. They will be completely sanded along the edges and stained with a deep walnut on sides and back then drilled (perhaps on all four sides for optimal customization) so they can go straight up on the wall as is. They give me a distinctly mid-century vibe... probably because I was watching Mad Men on Netflix when I was painting them. ;)

For me, abstracts are the pinnacle of self expression. I can use simply line and color to demonstrate an intangible feeling I can't otherwise explain or just hint at a mood. Words are hard to come by when I try to explain what looking at a particular image can evoke for me. All I know is that something about the combination of color, shape, and line makes me feel something... anything at all. And to me, that makes a piece successful.

Journal/Sketch Prompt: What do abstracts do for you? Are you more into representational art? Realism? If you dig abstract art, what are examples of some of your favorite artists or works? How are you inspired by abstraction? 

Take a moment and a blank page to simply make marks. Don't think about them. Just let your hand move and see what happens. Next, grab at least three colors (markers, pencils, even crayons) and repeat this exercise using all of those colors. What did you make? Post your work to the comments below or share on my Facebook page.

random love controversies

“We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.”- John Lennon

When I first started selling my work online back in 2010, one of the series I began with was one that I less-than-creatively called the "Make Love And" series. The idea was simple enough. Instead of all the (timeless yet tired) "Keep Calm" stuff floating about out there, I would make similar works that said "Make Love".

After a while the idea evolved into making love and doing things... mostly crafty things.

For the most part it was well received, with a few folks even requesting versions that represented their own personal interests and passions. But here's where things started to confuse me a little. Once the unique "Make Love And" editions were complete I heard things like "we have girls and my husband doesn't want it to say "make love"..."

Huh? No, seriously. I'm not being a jerk. My brain honestly just went "huh?" because I don't even understand this line of thought and I certainly don't understand why people who think this way would be interested in artwork that seemingly goes against their "family values". Let's not get into the "we have girls" part because... well I've been known to go on a few feminist rants in my day and this is not that post.

Still pissed I didn't get one of these rad tea towels when they were available.

So... I got a little more brash with the whole thing.

And tried to explain myself on all of the "Make Love And" listings in my shop: "How to Make Love in Public Places" speaks for itself. It's a funny reminder of how to create love in your world every day. Personally, I think there are LOTS of ways to make love. Just to contribute to the world being a more loving place with smiles and kind gestures could be considered "making love".

I actually had someone ask me to remove the header of this poster so it didn't say "make love" let alone in public places. Gah. The below image was an ad I started placing wherever I could in silent response/protest.
I can't say the detraction I experienced from just very few people didn't make me wonder if I was offending a whole lot more. I was admittedly a little worried about driving away business by advocating love. Wow... reading that back sounds so ridiculous now.

Anyway...oddly enough (not actually odd at all) this didn't deter me one bit but instead sort of fueled me to make some other stuff. I even invented a storyline with a fake band called Save the Unicorns (complete with street-team stickers and weird viral marketing things embedded in my website) who live in a fake post-apocalyptic world where people trade cigarettes for cookies and whose motto is "make love, make art, live forever". This is still the title of my poor, neglected tumblr blog. I think. And I even used a bleach pen to write this on a couple of my old t-shirts.

This has led to t-shirts, fabric collections and more. There's so much that I don't even know where all of it is at the moment. I'm sure you get the idea though. Best yet, Save the Unicorns led me to some ideas that continue to influence my work.

The concept behind what Save the Unicorns represents is one that is embedded in all that I do. To me, it's the magic of human potential, freedom, love, creativity, and ultimately a passion that can never be stifled. What I found among a few comments that made love into something unsavory... that took pleasure, kindness, and intimacy and turned them into fear... was something pure, powerful, and unstoppable.

Eventually I re-made those first posters and have settled into a more comfortable place with letting everyone know I'm all about making love, in public or otherwise without fear of ridicule. And that was really the hardest part. People can think what they want and I no longer think it's any of my business. Cheesily, if being into love is wrong, I don't want to be right anyway. 

I'm pretty sure some more t-shirts are imminent in the near future but for now... get your Unicorn fix with some awesome wallpaper below. One day I'll have so much stuff covered in these patterns... one day. :D Until next time - Make Love. Make Art. Live Forever.

"To me the symbolic image of the unicorn represents creative individuality, the mythos of human potential, and the promise of a hopeful, magical future where we all remember we are wild and free."

With me on the love bandwagon? Get free Hi-res (1366x768) Save the Unicorns wallpaper for your desktop. Click to download.

make art not blogs

I think I've come to a conclusion as to why blogging always seems like such a chore to me. I'd rather be making art. It's really just that simple. So... here is some I made recently. :) What are you making these days?

Below: this is what the pansies illustration started off as. Just a few sketches made with a round brush and black gouache. I scanned the rough drawings into my computer and the rest is Photoshop. That's basically my usual process when it comes to 2D art/prints.

Journal/Sketch Prompt: What's your process? Identify the usual methods you use to create. What little tricks and tips do you have stashed away in your magic hat? Have any of your methods become habitual or stale? In what ways could you push through them to get somewhere that's out of your comfort zone?

silk dyed spring eggs

Whether you call it Easter or Ostara, coloring eggs for spring is an ancient tradition. 

This year, we wrapped ours in 100% silk ties by using a scrap of fabric to secure them inside little packages. Twist ties also work if you've got them on hand. Then we wrapped them in some plain white fabric as well to keep the dyes from mingling too much in the pot. An old pillow case or sheet is perfect for this.

We placed our eggs inside a water and vinegar mixture (about 2 tablespoons of vinegar per 4 cups of water) inside a glass pot. Enamel would also work but metal isn't recommended for this process.

Martha Stewart said something about cooking them for 20 minutes and longer if they were going to be eaten. So I boiled them for 30 minutes but found these were way overcooked. My son still scarfed them down though, bless his heart (and his tummy).

Next time I plan to bring the eggs to a boil then cook for no longer than 18 minutes for softer and yellower yokes that make a better egg salad. ;)

I would also recommend that you try to find silk that is super brightly colored for the best results. Blues, reds, and purples seemed to work the best though we didn't have all the colors to experiment with. Blacks were great but browns and oranges came out kind of yellow-ish and marbled.

Suffice it to say, we had some less concentrated colors that just didn't show up as we had hoped. A bit of a let down for the four year old (and a frowny face for me to be honest) but also a great learning experience.

You don't have to use ties. Silk boxers or anything else made of 100% silk should work great for all your egg fun. Check out your local thrift stores if raiding your closest doesn't get you far.

Have fun experimenting! 

diy colored flash diffusers

I'm having such a great time playing around with my old(ish) DSLR, Sony Alpha 200 and my new portable flash (super inexpensive yet high quality - search Bower SF02965 on Amazon) that I wanted to share it with all of you.

But... like I've mentioned before, I totally suck at tutorials. I try but I just can't bring myself to meticulously take the pictures during the process and organize everything just right. It just takes the fun out of it and I'm not sure why it's worth doing if I don't enjoy being in that in-the-moment, creative zone and getting my hands dirty.

So... what I can do is give you a good idea of how I made these and then maybe you can go from there. You can do it! If you have any questions, I can try to answer them in the comments below.

Have fun! Experiment! Break the rules! Do it your way!

Step One: Find a translucent, creamy white, plastic take-out container. Not opaque like a milk container but still white.

Step Two: Make some (very) loose measurements - I totally eyeballed it four times - and cut your plastic so that it will fit over your portable flash with overhang on top and bottom. Now score the plastic with a craft knife at top and bottom where you'll be folding it over the flash. This just makes it fold over easier.

Step Three: Use Sharpies to color your diffuser if you want. You could make a solid color like I did or experiment with gradients.

Step Four: Fold over a long piece of duct tape so that it's not sticky except for at the very end. Now you want to wrap it all around the sides of your plastic diffusers to keep the light in (instead of flooding out the sides) when you snap a pic. Then wrap a regular long piece of duct tape around that so that everything is secure on all four sides.

Step Five: Add clear male velcro to your flash and small female velcro dots to the inside of your diffusers. Because your flash is inexpensive, adding a few dots of velcro doesn't hurt so much and you can have more fun and be more inspired by your equipment instead of feeling like things have to be babied due to the fortune you spent. These cameras are pricey enough, amiright? May as well have a good time using them.

That's it. These are really fun to play with in low light so that they illuminate your subject nicely with various hues. I'll try to get some pictures of the inside of the diffusers, velcro, etc. as well as some test shots with each color in the near future and tack them on to this post with a quick edit. ;D