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Usher in the Springtime Giveaway!

   Well, remember that snow we were supposed to have? What a laugh! I woke up that morning and squinted out the bedroom window-- why did it look so brown outside? Well, because there was hardly any snow to speak of! While flurries fell in the night, they didn't stick. It was still too warm. And so lots of grumbly kids went to school Tuesday morning, when we were all so sure there would be a snow day!

   But instead of being mad about it, I'm just going to count it as a blessing for my bulbs which are already sprouting and my roses which are already budding new branches in anticipation of spring. The garden is waking up, and I might as well dust the winter off with it!

   To celebrate the coming season, I've decided to host a giveaway here on my blog! I will select one lucky reader to receive a free set of my Jane Austen post cards! (If you by chance have already bought this pack, we can substitute a print of your choice instead of the card set)

  All you need to do is comment here on this post--- tell me, who is your favorite Austen heroine? Or do you have another great literary favorite? Are  you more of a Bronte or Dickens fan? Do tell! Also, if you share this giveaway via your blog, facebook or twitter, come back here and let me know in an additional post and you can be entered multiple times for the givaway!

  Sound fun? Let's hop to it!~

Givaway runs through  Wednesday March 6

In the art room

   The other day one of you expressed curiosity for what my art room looks like. The truth is-- it's really not that cute. It's usually bordering on....a complete wreck. While I try to keep the bulk of the house looking nice and in order, my art room is the tell-tale sign of scatter-brainess. I'm hoping to improve :)

   Or, rather, let's think of it more like a little hobbit's hole full of tons of things going on. Piles of paint brushes and paint bottles, stacks of books and cherished magazines, little Swedish Christmas cards strung above my lap top, where I chat with you and list prints and look up etsy invoices.

   Like you, I've seen photos of artist's studios where everything is neat and tidy and sometimes even spartan. I am so, so suspicious of the spartan ones ;) I find it impossible to create without the clutter, without my bits and bobs close at hand. I have been known to 'put something away for safe keeping' to never remember where I put it (I'm still hunting for a candle holder I bought for Christmas!) Obviously, I prefer my creative tools out and about.

   And so...this is it. Where the art is born. At my big splattered table that should be plenty of room....yet seems to get piled on so often that I'm having to eek out a space just large enough for my piece I'm painting on. How does this happen?

  Anyhow....you might have heard we here on the plains are in for some more snow. It's raining now....but should turn to snow in the night. It's always a magical prospect to wake up to fresh pristine snow, isn't it? Like a whole new world.

   Signing off for now!~

Dala Horse Post Cards

   I am officially restocked with new spring postcard sets, and my second set consists of these cute little dala horse inspired post cards! This set consists of two of my original paintings-- dala horse in blue and white and dala horse in pink and red. You'll get three copies of each card, and they come with white mailing envelopes. 

   I'm doing a new back design for my postcards as well and I love how it turned out-- you know me and my love for red (red, Dad, not OU crimson! lol)

   I couldn't resist tucking in Audrey's little dala from Hemsljod in Lindsborg into the photo. It's my hope to collect more real dalas, who knows-- they might inspire more paintings!

   These post cards are now available in my etsy shop! Hope you like them!~

Jane Austen Postcards are in!

I was so excited yesterday when the big box of postcards arrived on my doorstep! The Jane Austen postcard set is now in and ready to purchase in my etsy shop! The set also comes with white envelopes so you can mail them as a traditional card if you wish. What do you think? They've been a long time in the works! You can find them HERE while the sets last!


Preparing the Easter basket

    Sometimes an idea for a painting takes hold of me and I just have to sit down and make it come alive-- working for hours until it is finally what I envisioned in my mind. Preparing the Easter Basket is one of those paintings, and I am so pleased with how it turned out!

  I have long been an admirer of the art of painted Easter eggs in the Eastern European style and wanted to find out more about the tradition. Soon I came across the beautiful artwork of Ukrainian Easter eggs  (The individual eggs are called Pysanksa, the art itself is called Pysansky) and wanted to create a painting inspired by them.
    In my research on the tradition of Ukrainian Easter eggs and their use in Easter baskets on THIS great post about the painting of the eggs, and learned about the Ukrainian tradition of filling a basket with wonderful foods for Easter breakfast (and some beautiful decorative items, such as pysanky eggs and flowers) to be blessed by the village priest.

   According to Active Ukraine:
 "As the custom goes, 40 days before Easter all Ukrainians take up a strict fast, and avoid eating meat or dairy. Easter basket becomes the culmination of the lent, and is the most mouth-watering breakfast for the Easter morning, when all the delicacies are allowed once again." 

   For my painting, I decided to show a multi-generational trio of women-- a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter, all gathered around the kitchen table preparing the Easter basket for its blessing. I love the look of cozy little rooms, and I wanted this kitchen to exude the love and warmth of this family-- a combination of their religious and every-day life, icons hanging near kitchen utensils, the laundry hanging outside among the blossoms (Easter always ushers in Spring cleaning, doesn't it?) and a kettle of tea on the  stove. I am a lover of pattern and folksy style, and so everything seems to have a little motif of folk style to it-- from the linens to the canisters to the kitchen shelves. The 'era' of this pieces is left open for interpretation, the younger the person the more 'modern' the clothes become, yet they are all gathered around the table, enjoying this time-honored tradition.

    My friend Wendy did a great blog post about children's books involving these beautiful eggs and led me to THIS talented Pysanka artist, who explained the intricate artwork in this way:

    "The word PYSANKA comes from the Ukrainian word “pysaty” which means to write. PYSANKY are decorated by a complicated dye process similar to Batik. Melted beeswax is applied with a stylus, which is called a “kistka” or “pysaltse” to a fresh egg, raw, and clear of blemishes. The egg is dipped into a succession of dye baths, starting from the lightest, usually yellow, and ending with the darkest, typically black. Between each dipping, wax is applied over areas where the preceding color is to remain. After all the designing is complete, the wax is melted off and a hard glaze is applied. Bees wax is used because it stays liquid longer than paraffin, is more pliable, and has an adhering quality; and, of course bee-keeping was very common, so a large natural supply was on hand. 

The geometric motifs are the same as found in many forms of primitive art, but their use in PYSANKY gives them specific names and symbolic meanings. Ribbons and belts that encircle the egg with no beginning or end symbolize eternity. Triangles symbolize trios, such as the circle of life of birth, life, death; the Holy Trinity, and the natural elements of fire, air, and water. Stars once symbolized the pagan gods, and now stand for life, growth and good fortune. The cross appears in many forms and symbolizes the four corners of the world, and Christianity."

  Below are some photos from the Easter post by Active Ukraine which I found so fascinating and so inspiring. Many thanks to Oksana from Active Ukraine for allowing me to use them in this post! And please feel free to read the POST yourself, and visit their wonderful and extensive site about traveling the Ukraine. It's a wonderful site full of tons of great information and wonderful photos!

    And if you are inspired to make my little painting your own, it is now available in my etsy shop! EDIT- The painting has been sold! Thank you!
Wishing you many Easter blessings!~

Illustration inspiration: Varenka

A long while ago Audrey and I happened into a used book store. From the shelves I pulled this old library book, some of its pages stamped "discard" and from the moment I saw it, I was in love. Published in the 70s by "Bernadette", (later editions say Bernadette Watts)  the book Varenka tells the story of an old peasant woman who lives alone in a little house in the forest. She bakes and prays and lives a secluded life, until one day she sees villagers fleeing from the area saying that soldiers are coming-- and not the good kind. They urge Varenka to flee with them, but she decides to stay. She prays at her icons and stays warm within her little house.

  Ever so often, others displaced from their homes find their way to Varenka. A goatherd, an artist, a little girl. Together they make their home in Varenka's little house, praying for safety, and becoming friends. However, the war and its fighting and violence are coming closer... 

  So all the friends huddle and pray together for God to help them stay safe, and the night before the soldiers march through the forest a deep, deep snow falls, burying the little house until it looks like another snow drift, and the soldiers march on past, never knowing that Varenka and her friends are hiding inside.

And so, the story of Varenka ends with a miracle and thankful hearts-- a very sweet little story. But what I also love is the whimsical and childlike artwork that accompanies it, with all its folk motifs and bright, rich colors. For me, this book is so inspiring. I love the little domestic scenes and the little paintings within paintings-- whether its an icon or a beautiful painted pieced of furniture.

I'm pleased to see that some copies are available on Amazon-- and this book makes me curious to see other books by Bernadette Watts who both wrote and illustrated the story. It also makes me think of my own writing and painting...a project that I have not forgotten about!

I hope you enjoyed this little peek at Varenka-- Have a good weekend!!!~


  I'm cuddled up in my art room today in an outfit that would have me indited on What Not to Wear and dreaming of bright springtime flowers and folksy motifs. For Christmas my friend Beth got me this adorable embroidered tapestry with little domestic scenes of old-timeyness, like candle dipping and spinning. I've hung it here with me where I paint to inspire, since at the moment little homey scenes seem very much on my mind.

   Some other inspiration comes from some tiny little Norwegian baby mittens I found tucked in my church box on Ash Wednesday. I love the bright color and the tiny little stitches. And I love good friends like Beth and Mother Mary Ann, who found the mittens for me on a trip in Colorado, who think of me when they see these adorable treasures.

  And speaking of treasures, I made a few myself for my own little valentines-- like these red felt hearts with a lace overlay. I put the valentine cards in the lace, which is actually a pocket. I always like little notes, so I thought this would be fun to make.

  Well, as for today, I have some painting plans! So I better get to it! And you can count on there being some lovely folksy reds included! 

Jane Austen on my mind

"Anne Elliot"
Now available in my etsy shop

      Yesterday I was happy to finally put the finishing touches on my Anne Elliot painting, and now my Austen heroine set is complete! I've painted Anne at her writing desk penning a letter (to who? About what? Only she may know!) Outside her window I've painted a cityscape of Bath, which features a lot in Persuasion, the Austen novel about Anne Elliot and her once-lost love who comes back years later, and Anne discovers that he never really left her heart.

   And as if they were little omens about the finishing of this set of paintings, I've come across a few Austen goodies lately-- like a copy of Northanger Abbey at Target for a mere $3, and the dvd of the Pride and Prejudice (Mr. Darcy in the pond version!) at Wal-Mart for $12 just today. Perfect for a rainy day just shy of Valentine's Day, dont you think?
   For Christmas I received a beautiful little book called In The Garden with Jane Austen and it is a lovely read, with lots of historical information and color photography of gardens that Jane Austen knew, and even some that may have inspired scenes in her stories. The book also talks a bit about her home at Steventon, where she grew up and what is, now, basically a field. Evidently the old home was torn down a few years after Jane's death, and the idea of it just makes me a bit heartsick. All those rooms and paths and gardens where she grew up and her spark for reading and writing was first began....just a pasture now. It seems terribly unfitting! 

  However, the book would be a great addition to any Jane Austen site-seeing adventures, and also gives those of us too far away to visit a way to peek into her world.  So I highly suggest it!

  And now, for me....time to get back to work! It's gray and raining here and there is maybe a chance for a bit of snow. But after this winter...I'll believe it when I see it!~

   Have a nice Tuesday,

PS: I've decided to put the Tasha Tuesday feature on rest for a bit. I will bring it back when I feel fresh and inspired!~

The Maid with the Nut Brown Hair

     You may have spied this little lass in my photos of the Shades of Brown show-- she was one of the new pieces I just recently finished and she's called "The Maid with the Nut Brown Hair." When I was finishing her up and trying to come up with a name for her, I heard this rendition of an Irish folk song done by Loreena McKennitt (I've added it below), and on of the lines stuck in my head-- the Maid with the Nut Brown Hair. And so, she was named!

    When I was finishing her up, I was looking this pretty maid over and wondering what I could do to add a little 'something extra', something to make her unique and beautiful. And so I decided to highlight her complexion with a spray of brown freckles, and I loved it.

    As I tend to do when I'm sitting alone with only some snoring dogs for company (they really are the laziest of employees!) this act made me stop and go off on a tangent of thoughts. I've known so many girls and women who had similar complexions and hated it. I myself have a healthy supply of freckles, although they've never particularly bothered me. And as I get older and see little sprinkles of them develop on my little one's nose, I can see their cuteness and youthfulness. I hope as she gets older, she will see it to.

   And at the risk of getting a little on a tangent here, it made me consider myself and all of as sort of 'art projects.' Whether you are more comfortable with the idea of God as creative artist or the intricate dance of DNA, each of us is created uniquely and, I believe, lovingly. It makes me smile to think of a creator looking me over and thinking "Know what would just make her sparkle? A nice helping of freckles." Perhaps it's the same for you? Freckles. Or green eyes. Or curly hair. Or beautiful hands. Or a laugh that is unique and merry. I think we all have something about us or in is that is that 'finishing touch' of uniqueness and beauty.

   What do you think your finishing touch is? Whatever it is, embrace it. It makes you special :)

Saint Nicholas Dolls

    Time seems to have flown by since I last wrote! Things have been busy here on both the art and life front. I've got several commissions I've been working on, and I'm trying to finish the last Jane Austen inspired painting that will make up my Austen post card set. We've also been busy here with appointments and lessons-- and my little dancer's first dance competition is this weekend!

   And while some of my commission works must remain under wraps, I am excited to share with you these two versions of St. Nicholas that I recently made! One was a commission using wool from the customer's own sheep (how cool is that?) and the other is a doll I made for myself so I could remember the process, and also have my own St. Nick!

   It was definitely a learning process, but it was a good one and I'm very happy with how they turned out! The fur lining is faux, and the beards are from sheered wool, so these St. Nicholases are animal friendly! I even made their crosiers out of wire and burlap and added strands of rusty bells and gingerbread ornaments. (The ginger bread ornaments were things Audrey and I made over the holidays, you mix cinnamon, apple sauce and glue and then make a dough to create ornaments with. Since there's glue involved, you can look but not eat!)

  In other news, the Shades of Brown show is going strong, and there's a great post by Winnie Nielsen over at the Scandinavian Folk blog! She has shared some beautiful family photos and stories, you gotta check it out!

  And as always, thank you for coming here to visit me!~