Friday, June 24, 2011


I think everyone has a romanticized version of themselves. Like if you had to define yourself as a person - the words that you would choose are a projection of the qualities that you desire... and to some extent every person thinks: I defy labels. Really, we don't, but we all think that.

Labels, of course, are subjective.

So, what I know is that I probably have little use for "the rules," whatever those might be. If you've visited this blog semi-regularly, you may have noticed that there is a lack of format (which, unless you have OCD and you check here daily) is due largely to the fact that I do a blog entry when I actually have something to share, as opposed to having a format.

I don't desire to abide by a format in my free time, which I consider this blog to be. Formats are just like rules, and usually they're kind of arbitrary and eventually they get boring or feel like an obligation. Obligations come with expectations and guilt, particularly when expectations aren't met... and I like to avoid that. Formats also involve a time table and repetition. I'm not really a format kind of girl.

When I was a child I had a lot of toys, particularly Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. And one day I was downstairs playing in the Barbie Section (that was the name of the area in the basement that had been apportioned to me & my sister as a play area) and realized that I had no desire to be a doctor or a lawyer or an astronaut (or whatever the third rung of that analogy is supposed to be). My childhood ambition was either to be a princess or a hairdresser...

I mean, I styled a lot of doll hair, and I had all the latest dolls from Herself the Elf, Rose Petal, Hot Looks dolls, Strawberry Shortcake, She-Ra dolls, Golden Girls (not the sitcom), Barbies, Maxie dolls (like Barbie), Jem and the Holograms... some of those probably also account for my princess aspirations (besides the fact that princesses had pretty dresses)... Anyway, I am neither a princess or a hairdresser.

I'm not a goal-obsessed person. That's probably why I got that art degree.

So, every now and then an idea for a 'thing' will pop into my head. And I may write it down or draw it in the back of my sketchbook, or I might not. And if I just remember it - that's fine.

So, for a long long time I had this idea about a project with butterflies, and really, I didn't sit down and meticulously plan out the details... I just finally did it. So, one Saturday morning one of the showtime channels was playing "Ripple Effect" and I sat there and sketched out butterfly wings... and realized that I think that Forest Whitaker plays phenomenally annoying characters (yes, I've seen the Criminal Minds spin-off).

And eventually, I scanned those and inked them, and scanned those, and made a 'body' and then 'antenna'... and piece by piece, slowly, and perhaps organically the project finally came together. And I realize that I tend to think of my work in process terms - like I scanned that, inked that, etc — because generally, those are the givens. The colors, the shape, the composition — I think of those as simply being inherent and I suppose, beyond explanation...

And sometimes I think things have amusing and unintentional parallels and connections. Because to 'colorize' the butterflies — I used scans of my watercolor paintings. And perhaps, when you were a child you had a watercolor set and made a butterfly by painting half and then folding the paper in half and pressing it together. I don't remember ever having done that at home — I actually only remember doing it in the fourth grade...

But then, I paint watercolors that don't follow "the rules." According to the rules - if you use some sort of gimmick - like salt on watercolor - you should do it sparingly, just in an area or something. Oh, pfft to that thinking.

When I paint with watercolors, other than knowing that I will be using paint, salt, water, paper, and a brush — I don't plan my compositions — they happen. It is what it is, which must be very wrong to the people who will tell you that there are rules...

So, I finally finished* the butterfly project that I've been thinking about for about a year now.
*finished is a relative term.

morning dew fairywing

rose madder majestic

morning aurora swallowtail

You can see the rest of them at my sarahkdesigns shop as they trickle into the butterfly section.
I suppose if I had planned it and put it on a time table - it would have been done a long time ago. But, that's just not how I work.

Now, since this is the last day of my 'vacation' — let's see which new project gets my last day of vacation, so I'm relaxed and focused attention. Will it be the calendar graphics, the bird project, the dancers, the 'portraits,' the watercolor over photographs, or the girls? Or, maybe I'll finish cleaning the living room. Okay, yeah, the living room probably isn't going to win that one.

Have a lovely weekend, and do whatever is going to make you happy : )

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Outside: irises (part 3)

This is the third installment of the irises. I don't quite remember what type the first image is, other than just pretty... The second is honky tonk blues, the third is jacaranda falls (which came from Frank's Nursery before it when out of business), and the fourth is a superstition.

Superstitions are 'black' irises - in other words, when the sun isn't hitting them directly they're very dark. Mine are planted along a fence, and it's almost impossible to take a picture of one that isn't backlit, unless, of course, I want to wander into the neighbor's yard. I really need to move these ones to somewhere slightly more practical...

So, today is summer solstice. It's the official start of summer according to the calendar, and it's the day with the longest period of daylight. And it's also my birthday.

So, even though it's 68˚F with a possible high of 86˚F (and rain, damn it, weather!) - the oven will be turned on, and the traditional birthday cake will be baked. Yes, Betty Crocker Cherry Chip cake with the corresponding Cherry frosting. I first had this cake when I was probably about 6 years old. It was at Grandpa Duda's birthday party - and by far it was the most awesome cake I had ever had as a six year old. White cake, yellow cake, chocolate cake, that ridiculously dry German chocolate cake — they've got nothing on cherry chip cake, particularly not when it has the corresponding cherry flavored icing.

Grandma & Grandpa Duda (c.1988)

Anyway, I got my love of kitsch and cheap jewelry from Grandma Duda; and my green eyes and my premature gray hair (well, okay, Grandpa Duda probably contributed to that too. I don't have any memories of him without white hair... allegedly his hair was once brown). I got my first pet from Grandma Duda - 2 bettas (Calvin and Mike). And generally, Grandma Duda bought me and my sister a lot of weird kitschy stuff... plus, she also showed me the first cockroach I ever saw - which was a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach - consequently I thought all cockroaches were giant so when I saw an ordinary cockroach for the first time I was like "oh, that?" Grandma Duda was a secretary for Richard Alexander of the herpetology division of the Natural History Museum at the U of M. So, she always had something strange to show us grandkids... plus I got that Naked Mole Rat t-shirt that I wore all through high school from Grandma Duda via her job...

Anyway, since it's my birthday I'm going shopping today, and no doubt, there will be some kind of "Grandma Duda" purchase. Yes, I'm going to buy something inexpensive that I really don't need that probably has no practical purpose. It's in the genes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


So, the bluebirds...
Yes, I think I've mentioned the eastern bluebirds a gazillion or so times. When we're lucky, not only do they visit our backyard, but they nest there. So, below is a picture of the old nest box... it is no more. It was old, and it was literally falling apart. That's what happens with weather and age. My father made that nest box. And my father made the new nest box that after some swearing and consternation was installed in it's place.

Yeah, it's a wooden box bolted to a metal pole. The bolts holding up the old box were rusty. One of them had to be removed via hacksaw because the wrench and the can of WD-40 just wasn't going to cut it. Good thing my father bought me that hacksaw for Christmas, I guess...

This was the old box.
So, anyway, the bluebirds have been hanging around the yard again. They watched the demolition of the old house. There was much squawking and wing waving. And then, hours later they were in the backyard, nesting materials in beak, building a nest in the other nest box... you know - not the nice new one. Birds.

So, anyway, it is now Father's Day. So, if you're a father: Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day is one of those kind of annoying sneaky holidays. It creeps up on me every year. I love my father, don't get me wrong, it's just that Father's Day has this annoying habit of being on or around my birthday. No one likes multitasking on their birthday... There's a 2 day delay this year, but I still have to share it with the first day of summer.

Anyway, every year there is a last minute Father's Day gift... so this is this year's. Yup, it's a drawing of a male eastern bluebird. Yes, I draw a lot of bluebirds, you can see them here.

I sat down in front of the computer whilst catching up on the Daily Show & Colbert on hulu and drew the bluebird on a branch.

Then that was scanned into photoshop. I cleaned up the scan and adjusted the layer to just black and white. Then I blocked the scan and started filling it in with colors and used a photograph for the background.

This was the photo I used for the sky. I took it on Thursday morning while it was sprinkling on and off. Stormy skies are generally the most interesting to look at. Obviously, when I used it in the picture I adjusted the colors and levels.

I printed out the colorized scan of my drawing onto some 2-ply plate bristol and began coloring it with my favorite medium: prismacolors.

And there it is. Well, I have to sign it and slice off the border so I can fit it in a picture frame, but otherwise it's done :D

Have a Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Outside: irises (part 2)

So, this is the second installment of the irises. The first two photos are "honky tonk blues," the third pic is a "batik," and the fourth - well, I think it's an "above the clouds."

As for those light purple colored irises that smell like grape - those are Iris pallida 'Variegata'
We have some growing on the side of our house, I always just kind of thought they smelled like grape — although probably because we never had grape soda. There's a fairly famous beverage company in Michigan: Faygo. Anyway Faygo Rock & Rye was a family staple, because otherwise it was Coke or Pepsi. Rock & Rye is one of those pop flavors like Dr. Pepper - I'll be damned if I can explain what exactly it tastes like, and I suspect it has nothing to do with the alcoholic beverage of the same name. But then, what exactly does Coke taste like — you know, besides Coke?

Anyway, the pallida variegata grow by the side of the house. But unfortunately, they grow to be about 3-4 feet tall. And the stems are so loaded with blossoms that they literally fall over. I have to go out and prop them up with pruned tree branches every year. They're pretty though, and I love the way they smell.

On a completely unrelated note, my 'Artfire collection' was the collection of the day for 10 June 2011 - check it out here. Very cool : )

The bluebirds had 5 babies this year. I neglected to mention this while they were in the nest, because last year's first attempt at a nest ended in tragedy — due to English house sparrows who went into the nest and killed all 4 babies. I hate english house sparrows. When I can: I kill these birds. I live in Michigan — they are an alien invasive species.
European House sparrows are an invasive species in North America

Anyhow, the bluebirds had five babies. They fledged, without incident. I actually saw the last fledge out of the nest. It was adorable, mostly because it was literally just standing there on the back porch looking up at me. Anyway, that was like 2 weeks ago. Last night I happened to look out in the back yard and wonder what the strange little birds were sitting on the old rabbit hutch. I got the binoculars, and low and behold — they were the baby bluebirds. Well, I guess now they're technically "juveniles." Juvenile bluebirds are pretty much gray on the head, back, and wings, their belly is white with spots of gray, and they are identifiable by their blue tails. (see this photo from a google image search) What a bunch of cuties. This is actually their Dad. And this is their Mom.

You can find my many homages to eastern bluebirds here and here.

As I type this I am waiting for paint to dry. I've had this idea floating around in my imagination about combining photos and watercolors and probably salt and then the other day I saw this technique with alcohol. So, yeah, photos had to be selected, and then formatted... and there was some gnashing of the teeth at my printer which apparently does not understand the meaning of the term "borderless." But anyway, I'm waiting for the paint and salt and alcohol to dry now...

Surely, if I ever have an autobiography, there will be a chapter entitled "Waiting for Paint to Dry." And it will somehow be a very long book with many pictures...

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Outside: irises (part 1)

As I've mentioned before: irises are my favorite flower. While I may spend a lot of time wandering around photographing other people's flowers, flowering trees, trees, the sky, tree bark, etc. — irises are my favorite flower and I have a menagerie.

Yes, somewhere in my past there has been a great deal of money spent via the Schreiner's catalog. So, they're like my children. And every year when they appear I finally remember to weed them, and then I take a ridiculous amount of pictures. So, this is Part 1 of at least 4 parts...

The first picture is a Merlot, the second picture - I have completely forgotten the name, and the last 2 are Gypsy Romance. Gypsy Romance — I completely fell in love with these when I saw them in the catalog. I had to have them. I assembled an entire order just so that I could justify buying them...

I guess it's beyond about time to start working on the graphics for the 2012 calendar; there's always something with irises...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer begins...

Well, summer officially starts on 21 June... which I know because it's my birthday. But it's summer now. The weather really doesn't care what the calendar says. It's humid and 70-80˚F out right now — that's summer weather.

So, a couple weeks ago I happened to look up at the obsolete tv antenna that towers over the house, and sitting way up there on the top of one of the rods was the male hummingbird. It's amusing to see such a tiny creature sitting way up there, where presumably he's surveying the territory. So, I cleaned up the feeder and made some bird kool-aid for him and the rest of the hummingbirds to fight over... and this weekend I finally got around to taking all the snowflakes down. Yes, I still had vestiges of the winter decorations hanging around the place. Laziness, I suppose.

So, the hummingbirds and the butterflies are now up.

A few years ago I was looking for snowflake Christmas ornaments at Target, and I happened to notice that they had all these resin bird ornaments... so I picked through them all, carefully, and literally bought all the hummingbirds that didn't have broken beaks, as resin is fragile, and these were just hanging on hooks. They had bluebirds and chickadees and goldfinches too, and yeah, I bought some of those as well, but they were all made in a perching position, where as the hummingbirds are flying. (Some day I'll get around to making something that my bluebirds can sit on)

So, anyway, all the birds were painted as the male form of the species... so, I brought them home and repainted them. I made males and females, and went so far as to use iridescent nail polish to make their feathers more authentic. So, every year when I finally let go of my laziness for an hour or so - I get them out and put them up - and they stay up until October or November - long after the real birds have flown south.

I made the monarch butterflies probably about 10 years ago. I suppose it's silly or childish or whimsical or maybe a little 'Flowers in the Attic'-ish, but I like weird stuff I suppose. And if you looked at the pictures and you're wondering - that brown blob on top of my computer is a snail knick knack.

I did some paintings on a whim last weekend, so now I need to scan them and varnish them, and sign them, and print out and attach the labels for the backs of them... I finally went through my paints this week (since the garbage was off by one day in observance of Memorial Day), and threw away all the bottles that were dried up and chunky or almost completely empty. I do that every now and then, particularly when I can no longer fit all the paint into the basket that holds the paint. The overflow of arts & crafts supplies gets to be a little much every now and then...

The summer flowers are here. The irises are blooming! Irises are my favorite flower, hands down. I love them in virtually every color (except the brown ones - that I will never understand). But violet (and any other shade of purple) is my favorite. Violet is also simply and unilaterally my favorite color.

Plus, after probably not having ridden on an actual bike for like 15 years - I bought a bike this weekend. Yes, it's a lavender shade of violet, which was most of the appeal... aside from the fact that it's a female model, adult sized, and has brakes. Yeah, I'm not one of those cyclist people, so, really I bought it because I want a bike to tool around on mostly for leisure purposes - which means riding it around the block in a residential area where I am least likely to be impeding traffic or hit by a car.

Hopefully your summer is filled with color and happy things, and maybe air conditioning, a fan, or the occasional cool breeze.