New Oil Painting titled Mutual Admiration

Initial sketch for Mutual Admiration

A few years back, my best friend and I started a tradition.  For our Christmas gift (or at least part of it) we would create something for each other.  I’ve given paintings each year and in return I’ve gotten a wonderful hand-painted plaster mask, a painting and this year, a wonderful piece of art done with watercolor pencils, plus a gorgeous handmade necklace and earring set.  I’ve been very spoiled!

This year, I was pondering what to do.  I started out with the idea to paint a realistic nude and the initial sketch came out gorgeous.  Somehow, things went downhill between finishing the sketch and transferring it to the gessobord.  I didn’t like the composition and I found I wasn’t very excited about it and realized that I needed to rethink things.  I do enjoy the challenge of painting realistically, but honestly, I don’t want to do that every time.  And this time I wanted to do something different – something fun and colorful but not too realistic.  By the end of the day, I had a new sketch of a woman and her cat completed.  And I found myself getting excited about painting this one.  It just felt right.  By this time, it was already into December, but I knew that I wanted to do this one in oils.

So, I got to work.  The skin tones came together fairly easily.    Painting in oils was the right choice.  I’m so much more at ease with the oils, especially when it comes to painting people.  Working on this painting helped solidify my decision to focus more on oils this upcoming year and less on acrylics.  Some things, such as my owl and the Art-o-mat blocks will still be done in acrylics.  But the rest will mostly be done in oils.  And I’m really excited about that!

Mutual Admiration

Above you can see the finished painting.  I’m pretty happy with it and feel that I made the right decision to scrap the original idea for now.  Best of all, it was done before Christmas and in time to exchange today, though just barely!  Thanks to thesunnysidebiz on ArtFire, it has a name, which is Mutual Admiration.  (I’m simply horrible at naming paintings and when I mentioned it needed one on the forums on ArtFire, she put forth her idea.  I’m very grateful!)   It was done on a 9×12 stretched canvas.

My next project is another owl, a special custom painting for my darling aunt.  This owl will be a red hat owl and it promises to be a fun project.  After that, another oil painting and I’m narrowing down the possibilities out of several promising sketches. I hope to spend New Year’s Eve doing what I love best… painting!
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and may the New Year be filled with many blessings!

Now Available in Art-o-mats!

That’s right, I just received word that my mini paintings have been shipped to the following three locations:
  • The Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
  • The Studios of Key West in Florida
  • The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (Opening on December 15, 2010)
Ah, now I’m wishing I could arrange a long weekend in Vegas!  :)   It feels great to know that my paintings are now out and about and available for purchase.  I have started painting backgrounds on a few of the remaining 30 blocks that I have left to paint.  Ideas are brimming in my brain and I’m excited to start creating some more pieces soon!  If you have found this page after purchasing one of my pieces, please comment or email me.  I’d love to hear from you and find out which painting you received!

While I was in Seattle at the beginning of last month, I had the pleasure of visiting a delightful shop called Venue Ballard.  It was full of wonderful jewelry and art.  I found a charming owl print that I just couldn’t resist.

Owl print

And how did I discover this business?

Art-o-mat at Venue

Art-o-mat!  Yes, they have one there and I was lucky enough to pick out six wonderful pieces, though I’m wishing that I had gotten a few more!  :)   I took the pieces back to my Aunt’s home where we were staying and had a great time checking out the pieces I had purchased.  Here’s what I got:


The little robot dude makes a great pendant.  :)   My aunt was kind enough to give me a silver chain and I ended up wearing him to the Art Walk the next day. I’m looking forward to the day when I have another chance to visit one of these machines!

Holiday Happenings at Quirky Dame Designs!

Fantasy Flower pin 

 I am back from a much-needed, very restful vacation and am getting back into the swing of things creatively. I’ve added a few new items to my shop.  Above is the Fantasy Flower pin and there are two more featuring cats. I also have some hand painted pendants in the works.  I’ve been having fun playing around with the smaller scale pieces. I love unique, playful jewelry and creating it?  So much fun!

While I was away, I was gathering inspiration.  I spent two weeks soaking up the sights in Hawaii and have come away with many wonderful photos to use as references and a couple of sketches.  I attended two one-hour demonstrations featuring Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers.  I am fascinated by the hula and plan on studying it more in-depth.  In the meantime, I worked on a sketch of a hula dancer and hope to turn it into a painting soon.  I’m also working on a whimsical 8×6 oval painting of a mermaid.

But first, I must paint my Christmas present for my best friend.  Each year, we create something for each other instead of just buying something from the store.  I love having the chance to dream up and create something special with her in mind.  That’s also one of the things that I love about custom orders.  Being able to tailor something to another person’s taste and vision is quite a challenge and it’s so rewarding when you have managed to capture what they wanted and even more in a piece.

Polka Dot Cat pin

Okay, I had to share the picture of this crazy cat!  It is another one of the hand painted pins.  He was a fun one to work on!  If you are looking for some colorful, quirky items as gifts for Christmas, I do have a few special deals at Quirky Dame Designs.

First, all prints, cards, hand painted magnets and pins ship USPS first class for free!  If you need quicker shipping, please contact me.  I will deduct what the first class postage would have been from the total of the faster shipping cost.

Sleepy OwlAlso, all mini paintings with easels, such as the one to the left, are 20% off!  I do accept custom orders, so if you see anything you like, but would prefer different colors, etc., please contact me about having something special made to your specifications.

Be back again soon with more news from Quirky Dame Designs!

Done! Well, mostly...

That’s right, the first 50 Art-0-mat blocks are done! Okay, mostly. I still have to paint the sides, sign them, print and attach labels, then package them along with the inserts. Oh, and I want some photos. LOL! So a bit more to do, but the hardest part is done. I will be ready to ship them out by or before next Monday. Which is awesome, because I leave state on Tuesday. I’ll get to attack the next thirty blocks when I get back.

Woo hoo! Feeling very happy and productive today. Now to celebrate by making dinner. :)

Update on the Art-o-mat blocks!

The last time I updated, I had just received the blocks. It’s been a crazy few weeks and I’ve been fighting to balance my time, making room in my schedule for everything that needs to get done. I’ve had to curtail some art time until recently. I’ll be going on a glorious three-week vacation to Seattle and Kona as of November 2nd, so it’s been a little nuts around here, trying to finish various tasks at the day job and home, wrapping things up all while doing three house-sitting jobs. By the time I leave, I’ll be needing that vacation!

Well, despite the harried schedule, I just finished my 45th block and wanted to share a little peak at the blocks. It’s been fun trying out new colors and ideas. My goal is to finish at least 50 blocks before I go. No problem, I’ll be over 50 by tomorrow night. (I’d love to finish all 80, but that may be a little ambitious!) Then I’ll send that batch out and finish the rest when I get home (and bring a few along on the trip to work on at night when I need an art fix!)

For now, it’s time to head back to the pets. It’s getting near their dinner time and I’ll have this sweet little guy begging for his meal. Remember this face, one day next year, he’s going to be the subject of an oil painting. I’ve been house-sitting him for a few years now and I’ve known for a while that he was going to be the subject of a painting. I’m still working it out in my brain and can hardly wait to dive into it. I plan on playing around with it and integrating the quirky style of the acrylic paintings I do into the oil painting. It’s going to be fun!

Art-o-mat Update

I came home from work today to find 80 Art-o-mat blocks waiting for me.  :)

A big pile of blocks!

I carted them downstairs to my work area and lined them all up.  Then I got out my gesso and got to work.

The work begins...

I went through and did two coats of gesso on each block.

Ready to paint!

And now I’m ready to start painting!  I’m going through my sketches and deciding which one to do first.  Mapping out my strategy.  Looking forward to beginning this process.  :)

My Artsy Weekend

I’ve been enjoying the long weekend and being very productive.  It’s been a nice change from the previous weeks and the weird mood I’ve been in regarding my art.  I haven’t been very productive at all and it’s been bugging me.  But I finally dove in this weekend and ended up working on several things.  What’s really nice is that it was a mixture of realistic and non-realistic.  I like a little of both.

Cat Portrait

First, I’ve been putting the final touches on the pet portrait.  I was going back and forth between painting the sides brown or gray.  I consulted a few friends and finally decided on gray.  I’m rather happy with the results.  It was a bit nerve wracking painting them, but I took it slow and easy and I didn’t get any gray on the front of the painting.  Success!  It’s now hanging and drying, waiting for the retouch varnish.  I’m trying to decide on a name.  That is my least favorite part of painting.  :)

Summer Poppies

After working all that time on such a realistic painting, I wanted to just play around and have some fun with something less realistic.  I had taken a photo of a poppy earlier this summer (which you can find in an earlier blog entry) and that poppy has been sticking with me.  I finally decided to do something with it.  So I watered down some acrylics and put them in some small spray bottles then grabbed a series of three canvases I had bought on impulse the other week, then sprayed them with the paint.  Then after it had dried, I sketched some poppies and started painting them.  They were quite fun to do.

Coffee and a Sketch

Saturday I had some running around to do, but I wanted to have a little fun, too.  I was in great need of some coffee, so before I left the house, I grabbed my sketchbook and pencil.  I decided to stop by Barnes and Noble and sketch for a spell in the cafe.  I’m a little addicted to the Starbucks Frappucinos and they have that delicious M&M blondie blast treat.  Mmmm!

I have a photo of my best friend that I’ve wanted to do something with for a while now.  Just on a whim, I grabbed that, too.  So, after getting my sugary treats, I sat down and did a few sketches for the Art-o-mat blocks (which are on their way!) and then whipped out the photo and got started.

Progress so far

I worked on it for quite a while, at least until a couple sat down next to me that I thought would end up breaking out in some violent spat.  That got a little uncomfortable.  I’ve continued to develop the drawing and will be updating this blog as progress continues.  I’m hoping to get an even closer resemblance by the time I’m done.  I need and want to challenge myself more often by attempting this.  I love to do the quirky, fun sketches, but it’s just as important that I do realistic, as well.

Saturday night I sat down to get caught up on some TV and I grabbed a small 5×5 canvas that I had painted previously.  It had this hideous pink background that I couldn’t stand, so I thought I’d just slap some paint on and see what came of it.

Hawaiian Sky

The summer we’ve been having here in Alaska can be described with one word: rainy.  It’s been driving me crazy and I keep dreaming of the vacations I have planned for November and February.  I’ll be going to my future home of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  One of the things I love seeing in Hawaii is those gorgeous palm trees against the brilliant blue sky.  That’s what I ended up painting on that little canvas.  I can hardly wait to see the real thing in two months, but until then (or until this piece sells) I’ll enjoy seeing it on the canvas.  :)

While working on the sketches for the Art-o-mat blocks, I’ve stumbled across some girls that I call The Quirky Girls.  They’re a little kooky or nerdy, but I love that in a person.  These girls have been great fun to create.

Quirky Girl Frankie

I had an 11×14 hardboard and another 5×5 canvas lying around, so I have used both of them to bring two of the Quirky Girls – Quincy and Frankie – to life.  Above, you’ll see Frankie.  She was done on the 5×5 canvas and, like the palm tree and summer poppies, is available in my ArtFire shop.  I’m still working on Quincy, but she’ll be making your acquaintance soon.  It’s been good to do these pieces and it’s helped me to work out a few things for when the blocks get here this week.

So that’s the update for now. I tend to do longer updates for this blog every week or two, rather than shorter updates a few times a week.  However, if you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, I do show pictures of works in progress and update people on various projects.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and I’ll be sure to post my progress on the above projects soon!

It is done!

Pet Portrait of Penny

Finished the pet portrait tonight!  For now, I will put it away for a week or possibly two, then take another look.  If there are any minor touch-ups that are needed, I’ll make them then.  Plus I will be emailing a photo to Linda, the artist who taught the pet portrait class I took in June.  If she has any suggestions, I’ll be addressing those as well.

This portrait took longer than I expected, mainly because I hit a bad patch with it.  There was something not quite right and it took me a while to figure it out.  I spent way too much time avoiding painting so that I wouldn’t have to work on it.  Not the best way to handle it!  But yesterday I had a breakthrough and the changes I made just seem to turn the painting (and my attitude) around.  It was such a relief to finally be happy with where the painting was heading and to actually want to paint again!  :)  

Now the only other major decision I have is whether to paint the two-inch sides a dark brown or a dark gray.  Decisions, decisions…

Fun With Flowers!

I have a Nikon Coolpix P80 that I hadn’t seen in months.  Maybe as long as a year.  I loved this camera – 10 megapixels with an 18x zoom.  So fun to play with it and I’ve really missed it.  I had a simple point and shoot that I’ve been using for pictures of my art to post on ArtFire, but recently I misplaced that, too.

I decided it was time to replace the Nikon.  I needed to list paintings in my store and I have a trip to Seattle and Hawaii coming up in November.  So I ordered a new one, a Kodak camera.  Unbelievable zoom and 14 megapixels.  The day after I ordered it, I found both of my other cameras.  Go figure.  :)

Thankfully, I was spared the hard decision of whether or not to keep the new camera, even though I knew I shouldn’t.  It came and I eagerly put it through it’s paces.  And it SUCKED.  I happily sent it back the next day.  I ordered a new battery charger for the old, beloved Nikon and was thrilled to receive that on Friday.

Today, I decided to pull out my Nikon and have a little fun.  It’s been months since I’ve been able to just play around and shoot hundreds of photos.  And I had forgotten how very much I loved doing it.  So I started out with birds.  We have a bird feeder outside the windows in our living room.  I spent 30 minutes crouched in the recliner, poised to grab a shot whenever I could.  I wished I could have opened the window so I didn’t have to shoot through it, but the birds were banging into it repeatedly today and they would’ve flown right into our house if I had.  :)   Here’s a few of the pictures I took:

Bird eating at feeder

Bird on top of feeder

That whetted my appetite.  My mother and decided to take a walk and knowing where we would be walking, I grabbed my camera and took it with me.  I knew we’d be around a lot of flowers and I thought it’d be the perfect chance to grab some pictures.  Try over 200 of them!  Thankfully, I have a very patient mother who was willing to sit and wait while I indulged myself.

Out of the 200+ pictures, so far I’ve gone through and edited 14 of them that are my favorites.  I’m going to take another look at the others, but I thought I’d share a few of them.

Flowers against the wall
Orange flower
And another flower!

If you’re interested in seeing the other 10 pictures, you can find them posted on my Facebook fan page at  I could’ve taken hundreds more and I do plan on going back.  So many more flowers I didn’t even get to explore.  Hope you enjoyed seeing these!

So many projects, so little time!

So I’ve been spending my time working on a few different things.  Thought I’d take a moment to post a little update on each one…

Cat portrait update

First, the cat portrait.  I’ve made slow progress on this.  I’m posting a picture of mainly the cat, as that is what I’ve focused on.  I’m thrilled to say that I’m almost done filling in her fur.  She’s got pupils, so she’s looking a little less creepy.  :)   I was over at my friend’s house this weekend and spent a little time with Penny.  I took a closer look and realized that her eyes are actually much greener than the picture I’ve worked from.  So I will be correcting that as I complete work on her.  Once I’m done with her, I need to turn my attention to the bird and the feeder.  My goal is to finish this by the middle of the month, so that she’ll have a little over a month to dry before the auction.

Mermaid painting

I started this piece as a way to get used to painting in oils again after an eight month break from them.  Plus I have a bigger mermaid painting forming in my mind and this was a good way to work some things out.  About all I have left to do on this painting is to add some detail to her tail and touch up a spot or two on the water.  Then I’ll be listing her in my ArtFire shop.

Art-o-mat Sketches

I’ve also been sketching away, coming up with some fun new ideas for the Art-o-mat paintings.  I’m having such a good time indulging myself with all sorts of fun ideas.  I’m looking forward to getting the wood blocks so I can finally get it going.  :)   Some (especially ones that don’t make the cut for the Art-o-mat pieces) I’m even contemplating expanding and painting in a bigger format. Many thanks to my best friend Alicia who came up with many ideas for titles during our lunch this weekend.  I’m awful with titles and she’s such a fantastic writer.  I’m so blessed to have her input!

Art by auntie and her niece

Another fun thing about these tiny sketches?  Seeing the delightful drawings that my six-year-old niece comes up with when she sits down to copy them!  She’s been adding her own art to the pages and I love seeing her put her own twist on things.  Here she’s decided to copy one of my pictures, but to do it with a real bunny instead.  Love it!

So that’s the latest on things.  My main objective over the next week or two  is to get the cat done and set aside to dry and then to get the mermaid done and listed.  That way I’ll be free and clear when the blocks arrive.  Plus I have many other unfinished paintings to create and a Christmas project to continue doing.  Just wishing there was more time in the day to do all of it!

Awesome news to share!

About six weeks ago, I was perusing the forums at Etsy.  I did a few searches for “art” and “artists” just to see if I could find any hints or advice from other artists. Maybe learn something new.  I came across a thread about something called an Art-o-mat.  My curiosity was piqued, so I took a look.

What are Art-o-mats?  I learned that they are old cigarette vending machines that have been repurposed to vend miniature works of art instead.  (They have a website at, check it out!)  How cool is that???  There are over 90 machines and for $5 at most locations, you can buy a small piece of art, jewelry, or even a little sculpture, for example.  I was enchanted by the idea, absolutely smitten.  What a creative way to recycle and put these old machines back in use.  And I love how it makes art friendly, accessible and affordable for people.

I spent some time browsing Art-o-mart’s website, Facebook ( and even a group on Flickr where artists submit photos of their work and people who have bought some can post their pictures, too.  I studied the artwork and realized that my art might be a good fit for this.  Feeling energized and inspired, I went for it.

I ordered a sample of the wooden block (pre-cut to the exact specifications they need) that they have available.  I love painting on wood, so that was the perfect choice for me.  While waiting for it to arrive, I started working on possible designs.  The painting must measure exactly 2 1/8″ x 3 1/4″ so I created a template in Word with 8 squares that size on a page, then printed out multiples copies and started sketching my ideas in the squares.  I also developed and created the designs for the promotional card to be included with the work and the placard that they would use to advertise my art on the machine itself.

Art-o-mat prototype, placard and leaflet

Once the block arrived, I decided on the design to use, then transferred it and painted.  Then I covered the sides and back of the block with black gesso and then, after letting it dry, I sprayed it.  Then it was time to put it all together.  Your submission must be complete and vend-ready.    For the back of the block, I printed out a label with the title of the painting, my name and my email address.  Then I wrapped the block and the promotional leaflet I had designed with the strip of acetate.  I packaged that up with my application and placard and sent it off around the first of the month.

Then I waited.  That was the hard part!  It was only three weeks, but it felt like three months.  :)   But while I waited, I continued to sketch out more ideas in case I was accepted.  I’m unbelievably thankful now that I did that.

This morning I arrived at work before it was time to punch in.  So I decided to finish checking my email.  And there it was… the email saying that they had accepted me!  I was giddy all day.  :)   Made it very hard to concentrate on the day job!  But now the fun part of gathering the supplies and finishing up the designs commences while I wait for my package of 50 blocks to arrive.  (Plus I have to finish the pet portrait!)  I’m going to be a very busy painter, but I’m so excited to have this chance.

I’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit an Art-o-mat in person yet, but I’m visiting relatives in Seattle come November and there is one there!  I will be visiting it and starting up my own Art-o-mat art collection.  I’ll also be in Hawaii, but Kailua Kona.  The Art-o-mat there is in Honolulu.  Oh well, one day.  :)   They have a list of locations on their website.  Check it out… maybe you’ll discover one in your hometown!

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