Pimp my altoid tin

So with the Taos trip only a couple of months away, (check out the countdown here) I am trying to get more on-the-go drawing and watercoloring in to stay current and well exercised in that department.  I have a fascination (ok, obsession) with packing light, especially when it comes to the day to day.  I carry a messenger bag around as a purse of sorts but really it’s filled more with art supplies.  When I go out for a day dedicated to drawing I have no problem taking my travel watercolor set and a wee pencil case with glue, tape, white gouache, pencils, pens, extra brushes of different sizes, etc, along with a sketchbook (or 2) .  But during my regular life, that bag can get a little cumbersome with all of those supplies so I will often leave some supplies at home.  This makes for not enough drawing in the sketchbook, and when the drawing does happen, it lacks the life of spontaneous watercolor.

Enter the teeny weeny altoid tin travel watercolor set…..

There are plenty of sites online that approach the construction of this handmade watercolor set in a variety of ways across a spectrum of complexity.  I have trolled them by the dozens and below is my version of how to make one.  I encourage you to google “altoid watercolor set” and see what comes up as one of the other methods might be more up your alley.  Here goes….

Start with a teeny altoid tin.  If you go with the average sized tin, you might as well stick with the travel set from the art store.  This little thing is just over 2 inches wide at its widest point.  Teeny.

Use some sculpey clay or some other bake-able substance to create little wells that will contain the watercolors.

Bake the wells into the tin per the package directions on the clay.

Once good and cool, paint the interior of your new set with a high gloss rustoleum paint to provide you with a small pallete in the lid of the tin and a water tight place for your paints.

Next, select some tube watercolors to use.  I had a set laying around of medium quality watercolors so I just used them.   These paints will work almost as well as a typical student grade set of the dry paints will, you just might have to work them a little to get them to give up their pigment.  The colors I chose are: Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Crimson, Burnt Sienna, and Sap Green.  Fill the wells.

Stir in a little water to each well and allow to dry.

My on-the-go watercolor set up used to look like this (and will for the Taos trip)

But for the day to day, all I really need is my sketchbook, the altoid w.c. set, a pen or pencil and my Koi watercolor brush (which avoids needing a cup of water to clean my brush).  It’s also good to have a cloth or tissue handy too for switching colors.

What does your on-the-go art supply stash look like?

…following up

My head is fairly spinning from this past weekend.  The trip to Kansas City, MO for the Arts Enterprise Summit was  wonderful from many different perspectives. Professionally, from a Drawing Down the Vision standpoint, it was a complete success!  Interacting with students from all over the country as well as fellow presenters, educators, entrepreneurs and artists was intensely rewarding.  With only an hour (twice over) in which to present a bit about our workshop and the development of the process over time, Adam and I were overjoyed at the deep level of insight that participants gleaned from some simple exercises in such a short time. We could not have asked to be more well received and I am brimming with gratitude for the opportunity to take our project to this community of people.

As an artist working to walk the nebulous line of art and making a living, it was a breath of the cleanest, freshest air that I have had in a long time in my career.  I met creative entrepreneurs, classical and jazz musicians, academics from the arts and business, visual artists, dancers and more.  The connections made with all of them are new avenues for me to learn about how others are forging their careers.  I believe wholeheartedly in continuously expanding my artistic community.  It’s crucial for both professional and personal development.  During the opening exercise at the conference called a Reciprocity Circle it became very clear how much we could all provide to and receive from each other if we just opened up the lines of communication about what we need to foster our careers (or build a backyard chicken coop, or find a local Irish Music session…)  This exercise set the tone for the fast paced business-card-trading, information-exchanging, relationship-building atmosphere that would remain for the duration of the summit.  I thought back to my last post and my musings on the notion of vulnerability.  During this weekend, baby ideas were shared in the light of day by many people to see if they could get some help in nurturing them into viable projects.  This took an intense amount of courage for many summit participants and I commend them.  Only through opening themselves up to vulnerability by asking around for solutions were they able to get some answers.  A positive community of supportive people is crucial to survive as an artist in the modern day.  I am tickled to have a slew of brand new like-minded thinkers to add to my community!

One major theme of the summit was the changing face of the arts and entrepreneurship landscapes and how technology with its inherent fluidity and constant update capacity would shape how artists and entrepreneurs share and promote their work.  I embrace this completely via this blog, my new Etsy account and opportunities to follow the progress of my work on Facebook and Twitter.  That said, the message that Adam and I were bringing via Drawing Down the Vision was that in order to become an authentic voice in the midst of all of this technology, you have to know how to unplug enough to dig deep and know yourself.  Only then can you provide something fresh and compelling online amidst the millions of others sharing their digital realities.  And so I will continue to update my virtual self as much as humanly possible (for me at least).  But between these updates, I will keep walking the woods with muddy dogs, splashing through puddles in my beloved wellie boots, watercoloring in my sketchbook, melting wax and juicy colors at the encaustic table, growing baby tomato plants, playing Irish Music, taxi-ing and supporting my amazing kids, crawling through caves, and painting with thread.  For me the physicality of this one wild and precious life is more compelling than spending too much time in front of a computer screen.  But with new, exciting and amazingly easy tools, my online presence only gets easier to maintain over time.  I will finish up this post with a blast of links and snippets of the stories and people who made the AE Summit something I intend to attend next year…..

Just a few of my Fellow Presenters and event organizers (think of me as a little fish in a HUGE pond….)

Andrew Taylor: Keynote speaker on The Art of the Business Model.  An all around hilarious and brilliant guy who is a fan of embracing the positive when thinking about the future of arts entrepreneurship.  He is also now known by some of us as the C.I.E.I.O…. (something along the lines of Chief Information Entrepreneurship Insight Officer)

Margo Tatgenhorst Drakos: Keynote speaker on some of her current tech projects, InstantEncore and the YouTube World Symphony.  A sage of what’s next on the horizon in the world where the arts meet technology.  She is a cellist by training, tech entrepreneur via great ideas and hard work, and a friend of Peter Gabriel.  (!)  I find myself thinking about building a mobile app for my blog…..

New friends Andrew Charnik and Michael Mauskapf of Symphony Bros. with whom I attended a fabulous gypsy-jazz show, visited a fun karaoke bar, survived a brief ice storm and a late night search for cheesy food.

Kristie Aiuto : (also a veteran of the above post-presentation adventures) is from Cincinnati and a friend of Adam’s from P&G whose speciality is teaching people how to get paid for following their passions.  Great to get to know her (and her friend Mike!) at the summit.

Micah Killion: Fellow panelist in the portfolio career discussion.  It is my great hope that someday a puppet character of mine will need a trumpet voice.  Micah is my guy for this idea…

Emily Weingarten at www.breadnutbakery.com.  I have hope for the future of education after meeting Emily… she will be pursuing a Master’s in Special Education.

Jonathan Kuuskoski:  An AE team member who makes this work possible.  He too was part of the cheesy food search….

Nate Zeisler:  Event organizer and our original contact at Arts Enterprise.  This guy wears many hats and all of them well.  He worked incredibly hard to make this summit what it was and I commend him for it!  I look forward to teaming up with Nate again soon!!

I could go on and on.  I am still looking up all of my new friends/co-workers and exploring their online presence.  It’s fascinating and inspiring to see all of the various ways they are all cobbling together these amazing artistic lives.  Before I log off here, one last really cool thing.  I came home to find an email from Etsy that one of my paintings had been selected by a fellow artist to be a part of her themed and curated ‘treasury’ which is like an online art show.  I am honored and humbled.  (and tickled, of course)  It’s nice to know people are at least looking at the work….. next stop sales.  Get ’em while their hot people!


A quick hello before I leave tomorrow on my adventure to Kansas City where the folks at Arts Enterprise are hosting their annual summit.  My Drawing Down the Vision cohort Adam and I will be sharing a bit of our research, process and current thinking about how keeping an active sketch journal is one avenue to clearer thinking and a more pointed communication with oneself.  It’s exciting and relevant stuff in this day and age where things move so fast that deeper thinking is difficult to fit in.

I must admit to being a tad nervous about the public speaking notion of this engagement.  Even teaching a small class is something for which I muster a decent amount of courage on a regular basis.  The butterflies (I like to think of them as internal cheerleaders) never really subside.  But when I am teaching what I love, which is this process of self-illumination via the sketchbook, I am able to transcend the nerves enough to get comfortable. I am banking on this phenomenon at the summit.  To me, public speaking embodies the very essence of vulnerability.  Awhile back I came across a TED video by ‘researcher-storyteller’, Brene’ Brown about the power of vulnerability.  I have kept this video in mind as we have prepared for this weekend, knowing that if I speak from the heart, and be myself, what we know and the work we do will shine.  I am excited to participate in the summit this weekend and to meet others in all of the interesting fields looking to bring more creativity to their work!

Meanwhile, on the home front, I have begun looking into getting some chickens.  We live  in an area blessed with tons of green space and our yard alone has an acre of land.  I know plenty of people in other areas of the city who keep chickens in their yards and would like to get a few going here.  I like the idea of gathering eggs and frankly, chickens are just funny animals to have around.  The only problem is, in spite of our local village’s original objective that the area keep its ‘rural atmosphere’, chickens are, at this point, prohibited.  So I began to do a little digging around by stopping at the Village Hall and getting the name of who to contact to get this ball rolling.  Although we have lived here a few years, I have only just begun to get acquainted with the government of the little Village we call home.  I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know the mayor’s name when I started this endeavor!  But I do now (thanks to a friend active in local food politics) and she seems at least open to modernizing Village Law to include the keeping of chickens.  The Village Manager checked with the Village Solicitor who suggested that the code be amended for all, versus the notion of our getting a one time variance.  There are simply too many hoops to jump through and the code language is distinctly anti-chicken.  And so I dip my toes into local law to see about getting some backyard chickens.  Politics and Law are not what I would call my forte, but animals of all shapes and sizes are.  It is a constant goal of mine to inject soul into my surroundings via the way I live and the work I do.  Have you ever really looked at a chicken?  They have a good bit of soul.  I’ll keep you posted on how this all works out.  Chances are, I’ll be choking back the public speaking nerves again at some point at a Village Council meeting to get chicken related by-laws changed.


Yesterday, with temps in the single digits, a sketchy friend and I decided to move our studios to the warmer climes of the Krohn Conservatory for a bit to draw plant forms and soak up the juicy green-ness and humidity there.  As always, this beautiful jewel in the crown of the Queen City did not disappoint.  We spent an hour or so drawing in the cactus room with thoughts of our upcoming trip to Taos

Upon leaving, I commented on the gorgeous citrus trees, heavy with oranges and lemons, wishing out loud that I might be able to try one of them.  The ladies in the front office overheard and handed me this Ponderosa Lemon to take home saying it had been laying around for a few days and I was welcome to it!  What a lovely gift!  We then got to chatting about some beautiful terrariums on display at the conservatory.  They gave me some tips on getting my own terrarium to grow more successfully.  I have plans to stock up on some charcoal and a new fern or two in the coming days.  Meanwhile I have this fabulous lemon to draw…. (Iris is fairly certain this is a large tennis ball destined to be her play thing.)

In other news, my ice box of a studio space is featured today in Terri Windling‘s lovely blog The Drawing Board as part of her “On My Desk” series.  A number of bloggers have showcased the work spaces of fellow artist/writer bloggers over the years and it’s a fun way to get a peek into each other’s spaces, if only virtually.  Terri is part of a village of artists who live and work in the town of Devon, England.  She and another web-fave of mine, Rima Staines embody the notion of Storyteller for me.  I feel a tremendous kinship with these artists half a world away.  They seem to write about the same concepts that interest and fascinate me… the blessings of an artistic community, the blissful presence of traditional music, the inherent wisdom of dogs.  Although their work is quite different from mine, the notions that drive it run along the same veins that seek truth and mystery in the day to day human experience.

Tomorrow this single-digit cold snap is supposed to break and I will again have the wax pots on…. hopefully to pop a few more works up on the new Etsy Site.  I will, of course, keep you posted.

a quickening

So the temperature outside is in the range of what I consider cold. And the gray bleakness still pervades most days.  And yes, snow is still falling a bit each day…. but there is something in the light.  A slant that despite the temps, speaks of spring time.  As human beans, we don’t have the luxury of sleeping the winter away in a hibernatory state and so we do things to keep us warm and active and hopeful through the dark months.  For me, playing music is one such thing.  Last night a few of us braved the chill and headed out to our current favorite sessioning spot at Newport, KY’s Claddagh Pub.  The folks there welcome the trad music we play each week with smiles and even applause.  The Co. Clare based manager told us last night that he felt like he was back at home with the music in the air.  As the near frozen Ohio river glided past outside the window, we played some tunes together to pass a few more winter hours.

In little over a week, Adam and I will be traveling to Kansas City to participate in the 2nd annual Arts Enterprise Summit where we will speak to participants about our work and research on creativity and Drawing Down the Vision via the illuminated journaling process.  I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting work.  The world of work, in both the arts as well as business, is a changing landscape.  Exploring the potential pitfalls and possibilities of both worlds, and discovering ways each can serve the other, are what this summit is all about.  One panel discussion I will be a part of explores the notion of a ‘portfolio career’ in which someone makes a working life out of a number of part time jobs.  This describes me to a tee.  When I started thinking about this, it occurred to me that my version of a portfolio career is more like a kaleidoscope career.  As it turns, it changes.  Each colorful bit feeding into the next and becoming part of a new pattern.  Each part of my working life winds up somehow nourishing all of the others.  I have occasionally been in the position of having to rethink certain job opportunities simply because they didn’t gel with my life pattern.  Through it all I am learning and re-patterning what works best for my life as a whole.

What feeds you?  How can your work life, your hobbies and creative passions feed the patterns that make up your ideal kaleidoscope life?

Dream Nest

Years ago, before I went to art school, I made stuff.  Being naturally artistic, this stuff was well crafted and made with a tremendous sense of play. I made mobiles with broken stained glass that was wrapped with wire – like jewels.  I made painted paper flowers which I still see here and there at the houses of friends and family members who delighted in these whimsical things.  My husband happened upon a junk yard whose owner/operator wound up teaching me to cut and weld steel.  I painted metal cutouts and gave them as gifts and sold a few too.  I had a few years of decent sales making these things and even paid for a workshop in Colorado, where I decided to Go Back To School for an Art Degree.

While in school, and since then to a certain degree, I have been creating large scale projects that are not necessarily fit for sale to the average buyer.  Smaller things were now laying around more as ‘studies’ for larger work, but not for sale.  Friends and family began to ask how they could acquire smallish work of mine.  “When’s your next show?” they would ask.  I signed up for – and backed out of – numerous coffee shop gallery shows over recent years, hemming and hawing at the simple act of making things to sell.  I am not entirely sure why this is.  I like making money when I can, especially now that I have lost most of my paying jobs.  (that will be changing in the coming weeks… more on that soon…)  But for some reason, I was stalled in the sales department.

Anyway, instead of worrying too much about it, I decided that it’s a new year and time for some new challenges.  Plenty of people, varied in skill, style and wares, have thrown their hat into the virtual sales ring of Etsy and maybe it’s high time I gave it a shot.  I am still applying to higher level art shows and opportunities where I can, but along the way, if someone likes something I am making, they can now buy it on Etsy.  Working on small works of art keeps me primed for the larger scale projects.  Etsy is a place for these small works and exercises to realize new life with a buyer. This is an exciting prospect.

In the spirit of starting small, I listed 3 new paintings today, all of them encaustic, 5″x5″, heart themed in time for Valentine’s Day.  Please stop by the new Micromovements, Dream Nest Etsy shop today to check out these new works.  Just for good measure, I’ll share images below as well.  It is my plan to update as often as new jobs and travels allow.  So stay tuned…. as always, I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, let me know what you think of the new work!!