Monday, December 28, 2009

My Top Five (Personal) Moments of 2009 were so good to me and my family!

Some  moments that have stuck with me from this year...

5.  Joining a Zumba class!  This has been the BEST thing I have done for me, my health and well-being, and my sanity!  The excersize, returning to my "dance" roots while getting in (some kind of) shape, and getting a chance to meet some really great women!  The best part of it , beyond FEELING better, is that I WANT to go...which makes it a lot easier to go :)

4.  Watching my nephew, Austin (on the left), play with my son, Jack.  Austin is autistic, and doesn't always "engage" others in active play.  When we visited back home in Western New York over the summer, we were walking near my parents house - me, my two kids, my sister, and her two kids.  At one point, Austin reached for Jack's hands, and started singing "ring around the rosie" while spinning Jack around! This was incredible! Jack had been following Austin around for several days, tryin SO hard to get Austin to play with him, not understanding Austin's Autism.  You should have seen Jack's HUGE smile when Austin finally played with him!

3.  My two children going to school together for the first time! It was summer school, but it still counts! A couple hours to myself...Jack walking Ari to her class like a protective big was so cute!

2.  Finally making the connection with Jack's behavior and his sensitivity to food coloring.  I can't begin to tell you how much this has changed our day-to-day lives.  Jack is SO much calmer now, and no longer has a melt-down at the smallest problem.  His behavior at school is showing vast improvement, and he is following directions and rules much better. Sure, he's still an almost-5-year-old, and has his moments, but I used to be tense all day, not knowing Jack was going to have his next melt-down! If I could shout this info from the roof-top, I would.  I want nothing more than to help as many people as possible make this connection a LOT earlier than we did!

1.  Celebrating 10 years of marriage! I'm sure that someday, this will seem like a small feat...I want to reach 50 years together! But here, and now, I am really proud to be Mrs. D. H., and I am really proud of us, and truly Blessed to have such a wonderful husband.

I hope you had some wonderful, memorable moments in 2009...and I wish you many more in 2010!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Top Five (Art) Moments of 2009

2009 has been a very good year for me! My top 5 "art" moments of the year...

5. Reaching almost 200 sales in my Fine Art on Etsy shop. It took me exactly 12 months to reach my first 100 sales, and in the following 6 months I doubled it. I have also had my first 4-digit $$$ sale on Etsy, original Artwork sold to several different countries including Australia and Singapore, and prints went to dozens of states and numerous countries as well.

4. Having three of my drawings selected to be used in the Mercer Frame Collection at Restoration Hardware Stores across the country. I think they have an incredible style, and was honored that my work complimented their collection.

3. Meeting a very talented Poet, miss Laura Mecurio Ebohon, who asked to use my painting . "Guarded" on the cover of her new book of Poetry. It is such a thrill, and very humbling, when someone connects with my work on a personal level. But then to want to have her work - her poems - associated with my Art is even a greater compliment.

2. Creating, thruout the year, several drawings and paintings that I am extremely proud of. Pieces that have pushed me further, that have captured something special. The Angel Paintings are a high point for me - I knew they were special as I painted them. They were pieces that consumed me for several days, all I wanted to do was paint! I love those paintings that obsess you for days on end.

1. Traveling to Italy and experiencing amazing, incredible, mind-blowing Art and Architecture. The opportunity to sit and sketch in front of Michelangelo's David, the chance to see the Sistine Chapel in person, standing in awe at St. Peter's...what a mind-boggling trip. (and a big thank you to my hubby of 10 years for making it happen!) I'm looking forward to returning to Italy, perhaps with fellow artists, perhaps with my children, so I can embrace the history and beauty even more.

I have to think of my top-5 non-art moments, too!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family a warm and wonderful Holiday! May your day be filled with JOY.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Watercolor Drawings from the Live Model

Ah...the quest to use watercolors effectively continues!

I worked with my water colors the other night, delighted that all I needed to do was pull out my palette, add a touch of water to bring the paints back to life, and start painting!

I started with a few 2 minute gestures...this one is OK, although I can see I need to develop more "language" with the paint - the line quality over-all is very one-note.

When the model settled into a long pose, I started out with a 25 minute watercolor that was very colorful, and slightly abstract - her hips are especially exagerated.

I love the colors and the energy, the minimal amount of detail in her face and hands while still relating her gesture.

For the last watercolor I painted, I switched viewpoints and worked on Wallis paper, thinking that I may add pastel over the watercolor wash (I never did!)

The shadow along her spine was very strong, and it was coming across as too dramatic in my drawing...I was never quite happy with the values I ended up with on the back.

But I am happy with her face and jaw line, and the way the definition of her shoulder changes from line to shape.

It's not *quite* as steely-blue in person, and you can see I did try to add a little warmth with some orange and brown.  I think it would look very pretty in a silver frame.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Food Dyes, Behavior, and where we go from here...

I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow Mom from my son's pre-school class at a Birthday party recently.  I was scooping off a huge pile of colored frosting from my son's cupcake, pleading with the birthday boy's mom "Please don't be offended...we're trying a dye-free diet!" She laughed and said "You'll have to try a lot harder than that if you want to offend me!" (At that point I was really tempted to teach the kids a song about Nantuckett...) but I restrained myself and gave Jack his frosting-free cupcake!

While that exchange was taking place, another mom overheard and then approached me, immediatly explaining that her son, too, was on a dye-free diet.  He had the distinct "honor" of being the first child ever kicked out of his pre-school about a year ago when they could no longer tolerate his behavior.  I threw my arms around her and said "Oh my Goodness...I totally understand! I am so sorry!" (Jack had been kicked out of two far!) Then she pointed out her son to me - who was an absolute doll! Smiling, sweet, gentle, playing so nicely.  We chatted about how she discovered her son's allergies and how his diet was causing his irrational behavior - how he couldn't CONTROL his emotions.  It was like hearing someone talk about my Jack...the in-ability to calm down, the total disregard towards rewards and discipline, the un-explained aggression.

She promised to pass on some info about the diet her son was on, and I thanked her for sharing her story.

At the end of the party, the birthday boy gave each child a package of M&M's.  I was SO proud of my Jack...he said "Thank you, but I can't have the Red" and handed them back to his friend, no tears or tantrums in sight!

Recently I crossed paths with the same mom at Jack's Holiday party at school and she gave me some information on the Feingold diet.  I read it as soon as I had a free moment, shocked to see in print that our stories were not unique - SO many people have been thru the SAME thing with their children!  I promised to share some links, so here are some places to begin learning about the Feingold Diet and how it can help control ADHD behaviors in children.

This is part 1 of 2 explaining (by the sweetest woman!) the Feingold diet, including where Food Dyes come from...PETROLEUM.

and part 2 of 2 (Some kids do NOT have a disorder! They just need to change their diet!)  (be sure to pay attention around 2:40 - you'll be amazed at how the children's school work improves when the diet is changed!)

There are a bunch of other videos that come up in the same category - you can check out various news stories, where Red Dye 40 is being discussed - including how DIFFICULT it is to get a Dr. to say ON TELEVISION - Red Dye 40 COULD have a negative effect on your child's behavior.  This angered me...because I discussed Jack's behavior with his Doctors (different ones depending on who was available) for over 2 years - and every single one blamed my parenting and nothing else.  You can only hear "You are not disciplining your child enough" so many times.

Doctors, PLEASE consider diet as an explanation! Don't always blame the parent!

Parents, you KNOW that you can't be a warden all the time - I knew that Jack did not get his way all the time, that toys and treats were rare, that he played outside more than watched TV, that he was creative and smart and fun - and that his behavior problems were NOT simply "you are a bad parent".

I am also discovering that switching to low-sugar or sugar-free products could be doing more harm than good in Jack's case.  Aspartime is a no-no on the Feingold diet, and it is a common ingredient in sugar-free syrups, for example.

Whew.  The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. I'll add a couple more links for reference and then add some more patient with me! I'm learning right along with you!

The Feigold Diet -
The Faq's page - very helpful!

One thing that I have noted...I have always been sensitive to Aspirin, and that sensitivty has also found to be linked to a sensitivity to Yellow food dyes.  Foods know as "salicylates" can also cause problems in individuals.

There are some things I really need to study - for example, Oranges and Apples are a no-no for parts of the Feingold diet, and Jack LOVES orange juice and Clementines.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What are the BEST watercolors on the market?

I'm a lucky girl.  I have a wonderful husband  (I hereby declare my undying love for my husband.  I'm supposed to do that on this blog every once in a while! I'll wait here while you go throw up...)  who REALLY wanted to get me something nice for my birthday. 

Now, with my record as the WORST reciever of gifts ever, you'd think he would have given up on me by now.  There was the time he got me a watch, and I said "Oh no - that's too expensive!" Went to the store to return the watch, and came home with...a more expensive watch.  Then there was the winter coat - told him exact size, color, store, everything.  I brought it back to the store.  (in my defense, it DID have a spot on it) The list goes on, but you get the idea.

So as my last birthday approached, I mentioned that I wanted some new "grown up" watercolors so I could stop using the kids' crayola sets.  He asked what kind, and I said "Oh...never mind.  I probably need to shop around!"

Well he, my devious man, spent a great deal of time on-line researching watercolors and everything there is to know about them, and decided to surprise me with a wonderful set of 12 Holbein tubes of paint.  His searching determined that they are the best water colors.

He also bought me a pad of watercolor paper - and put the entire gift in a re-usable shopping bag, making sure I noted that he does read my blog, and not just to see if I pledge my undying love for him.

So all I had to do was buy a pretty new pallette to put all the paint on, and I was ready to go!  Now, I have done a little bit of watercolor painting before, but never with a good set.  And, I usually use my water color pencils as well - so I was drawing more than I was painting.

These are a few paintings from the first time I tried to just paint from the live model.

These are both quick sketches of the model.  I like the immediacy, the way the colors work together, and how fresh they feel.  I need to practice layering colors effectively, and learn which colors flow together best.  I also need to be sure to wash my brush frequently, because colors got muddy quickly.

The next two paintings were longer, closer to half an hour each.  This was more difficult for me - I did not get the proportions correct in the beginning, and I was too eager to build up darker colors - creating a stark value range instead of a subtle one.

The second attempt was a little better - I think it feels more like watercolor, and the value range is more subtle.  But I have to keep practicing how to mix and layer colors...the dark colors are especially tricky, because I can't "see" the color like I can with a pastel or even a watercolor pencil. 

 But what I love about watercolor is the ability to meet control and serendipity somewhere in the middle.  You can choose the colors and how much water you use, but you can't stop the paint from flowing and joining together in "happy accidents". 

Thanks, hubby, for the great birthday gift.   Now...will you babysit so I can go to figure drawing tonight? Thanks.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Classic Charcoal Drawings of the Female Nude Model

I just wanted to quickly share a couple of new charcoal drawings from our Thursday night figure drawing group!  The lovely and classic model took this rather complex and difficult pose for about 45 minutes. She has a beautiful curve in her back, and I love how the drapery moves around her figure and thru the space.  This figure drawing was done with vine charcoal and charcoal pencil on 11" x 14" white drawing paper.

We have been very lucky to get at least three great poses done in our group, this last lounging pose lasting for about 40 minutes (with no breaks! Our model was awesome!)  The pillows were beneath her head and feet, giving a great "sway" to her back, and a lovely twist in her upper torso.

You can view this Classic Figure Drawing in my Etsy Shop.

I'm very pleased with the amount of information I captured in that period of time, including the detail of the drapery.  Even though the whole figure has been addressed head to toe, there is a focus on the middle of her back, the cast shadow from her backside to her foot, and the fold of the drapery in the middle.

Friday, December 11, 2009

So I made a Pink Santa Hat...

I'm going to start by stating that I am not a great sewer.  (why does that word look so funny?) I have sewn about 13 sets of curtains and maybe a dozen square pillow covers, and two duvet covers.  Most of the time as long as I have to sew in a straight line, I'm ok.  I have also discovered that it helps if you buy fabric that is striped and all you have to do is STAY ON THE LINE.  Works awesome.

Anyway, it's the day before 5 family members are due to arrive in Atlanta from Buffalo to celebrate an early Christmas with my kiddos.  I'm chatting with my sister Cindy on-line and she asks if I have seen any Pink Santa hats - she saw a lady in the grocery store wearing a pink Santa Hat with Rhinestones and she NEEDS one for her Christmas Party Saturday night!

Now, I mentioned 5 people are coming to stay at my house, right? So three guest beds need to be made with fresh sheets, every bathroom (that would be 4) needs to be cleaned (I have a 4 yr old son if you know what I mean) and there are 3 floors of carpeting that needs to be vaccuumed, not to mention the dishes that need to be washed and all the other cleaning that needs to get done!

But...Cindy needs a hat! A pink hat! With Rhinestones! Why clean when I can make MORE mess? When you think about it, shouldn't I make the mess NOW, before I vaccuum? 

So I go to the craft store, buy pink suede with creamy fur lining, white fur for the trim, and a sparkly "C" to iron on the hat.

And I get home, and instead of cleaning, I make a hat.

C'mon...I can't be the only casual sewer who's sewing basket looks like a bird nest!

Let me take a moment to point out...I don't believe in measuring.  Or using a pattern.  Hey, it's a couple of triangles? How hard can it be?

Hmmm....the first triangle and the first lpiece of fur trim are not quite the same size.  How did that happen?

Should I re-sew it?

But I can't see the's burried in fur! Ah hell that's why I bought extra fur! Make a new tringle and a new piece of fur trim. Why sew and cut once when you can do it twice?!?!

OK so three pink triangles and four piece of fur trim later....

hmmm....this is not QUITE the look I was going for.  The material is fur-lined and therefor stiff so now I have the Elf version of a Dunce cap.

So now I have to figure out how to make a fur ball for the end of the hat.  How hard can it be?

Fur explosion.

 Ok a little better! The weight of the fur ball (*hack*) has helped achieve the shape we are looking for!  And I'm pretty sure I got all of the pins out of the fur ball.  Pretty sure.

So now all we have to do is...vaccuum the table, the floor, my shirt, my pants, the dog who rolled in the exploded fur, the kitchen floor (I wasn't even IN the did the fur GET there?!), put away the sewing machine, the random pieces of mis-matched fur and hat that look like some kind of santa hat autopsy, find the needle I dropped on the carpet, wash the dishes, clean the bathrooms, (oh crap I just stepped on the needle in the carpet) wash the sheets, make the beds, and clean the windows.

But at least Cindy got her Santa Hat. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments - easy to make, in-expensive, and fun for kids!

Several years ago, BC (that's Before Children), I was teaching private Art Lessons in my home to children and adults of all ages.  While most of the lessons were about developing our skills and understanding of art....we also found the time to have a lot of fun! At Christmas we made these super easy, fun, and DELICIOUS smelling ornaments with a very simple recipe!

You need...

1 cup Applesauce
1 1/2 cups Cinnamon
1/4 cup White School Glue

The 4 oz jar of cinnamon gave me about 1 cup.  Luckily I had one other container!  (this is a great opportunity to try those $1 spices at Family Dollar or the Dollar know the ones you always question...because they're only a dollar?)

Mix everything together - I started with a spatula and quickly switched to kneading it with my hands - it's pretty tough dough!

And in a few minutes you get a lovely ball of brown dough!  Let this sit for 20-40 minutes.  A great time to gather up your will need

rolling pins
cookies cutters
a drinking straw
various implements to make patterns
wax paper

I actually found most of these things in with our big tub of play doh!

So here is my son Jack trying to grasp what I am asking him to do.  ROLL the dough Jack...we are making ORNAMENTS.

See? No problem! Of course you don't want it too thin - maybe 1/4 inch thick, and consistent in thickness.  And, although my son is a fairly intelligent, I did have to remind him not to eat the dough several times (I'd also like to take a moment to say that since these pictures were taken, he has gotten a hair cut...why do you never see how long your kid's hair is until you see it in a photo?!?!)

Once you roll the dough, make your shapes! Jack started with this cute Penguin cookie cutter.  He then used the drinking straw to make a hole where the eye would be.  Be sure to explain that the hole should not be right on the edge!

As you line up all of your pretty ornaments on wax paper (I used a metal spatula to transfer them to cookie trays) you can add some detail with whatever tools you find - I used this allen wrench to make these little hexagons.  I could either leave them as-is or fill them with little decorative beads later.

So now you have about 2 cookie trays filled with ornaments! Yay! You can either let them air dry for about 48 hours, or put them in a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours.  We let ours sit over-night (I flipped them occassionally to help them dry flat) and then baked them a little bit the next day so we could start painting. 

This is one great bonus of these ornaments - they smell AWESOME!

Some things you want to gather for decorating...

newspaper or paper plates to paint on
lots of small brushes and water
paper towels
craft paint
glitter glue
and whatever else you want to add! I was wishing I had some pretty lace that I could use to make patterns on them somehow...maybe by painting the lace and pressing it on the ornament?
There's always more things to try!

So Ari woke up from her nap, and she joined right in - grabbing a brush and...painting right over my ornaments! O well....she's 2.  What can you do?  She was very happy with hearts and butterflies!

Jack decided to label each ornament with the first letters of his friend's and teacher's names...they will make cute gifts for his class.

Here are a few of the finished ornaments!  We are going to add our ornament hangers and we'll be all set.

I also think they look very pretty without a lot of paint (but it's hard to tell the kids that!) I tied a few of them to some of my Angel Cards, ready to give as little extras to teachers, classroom moms and friends!

I've checked a few other websites for cinnamon ornament ideas, and some recipes eliminate the glue, or add extra spices such as nutmeg.  This very versatile recipe can be used in a lot of different ways.  Have fun!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Some of my most popular Fine Art prints are ON SALE!

For a limited time only! I've added several of my MOST POPULAR SELLERS to the Sale Section of my Fine Art on Etsy Shop!

Buy it quantities available!

And many more!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vote for my Modern Custom Portrait on Etsy!

This is very cool! A fellow Etsy seller,, has nominated my custom, modern portrait of my sister Cindy for the ULTIMATE luxury Gift!
You can vote for my Portrait on the Etsy Community Voter - If I win, it means lots of great exposure on Etsy...and I would REALLY appreciate your support :)

Thanks again to Kristin for the nomination!