After my triumphant return last week, I didn’t want to break the streak. I really have done very little craft-related in the past, oh, I don’t know, four months, so the pickins are slim. Today we will look at some crayon, uh, well “art” is probably too strong a word in this case. “Exercises”? We’ll go with exercises.

You may or may not remember my entry for the GNR fan site avatar contest — it was part of a guitar that I then embellished with a rose and the words “Paradise City.” I did it in colored pencil and it didn’t have the richness of color that I really wanted. I did discover in that process, however, that guitars are fun to draw. I can’t play a guitar and I’m not a big guitar geek who can identify all kinds of makes and models and their significance in musical history. I know just enough to lead people to believe that I know more than I really do, but not enough to maintain that illusion for any length of time, especially if someone wants to get into the technicalities of amps and pedals. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the art of a guitar. And there are some guitars out there that are really quite beautiful. So I drew a couple more.

The first one is the same guitar that I drew for the avatar contest, only this time, I was seeking to attain a truer color. And there was a learning curve! Starting at the top of the colored section, if you go around counter-clockwise there are four distinct test patches. In these test patches I was attempting to figure out which colors should be laid down first, how much overlap to give them, how much pressure on the paper, what kind of strokes to use and which direction. Important things to know and many of them were counter-intuitive to other mediums, such as watercolor or colored pencil.

Finally figured it out on the bottom right section.

Finally figured it out on the bottom right section.

One of the distinctive features of this guitar are the “tiger stripes” in the wood and you can see that I was struggling to achieve those, too. In the end, I found that in order to give it the proper depth, I had to draw the stripes on first and then color over the top of them with the main colors. That way they looked more integral to the wood and not merely laid on top.

The second guitar is George Harrison’s Gretsch Country Gentleman. I really had a hard time trying to get a decent color on the pickup plates and ended up with this muddy mess. I still haven’t figured out the right crayon combination in order to get that dull brassy color.


You may also notice the logo on the lower right side. I wasn’t paying attention and colored it white at first. Dumb. I tried scratching it off, but pretty much once you’ve put crayon to paper, you’re stuck with it. I colored black over the top of it (like it was supposed to be) and couldn’t even get close to a clean edge. Then the next problem was that I then had to carefully color around the logo on the pick guard which was this light almond color. Another muddy mess. Lesson learned: apply light colors first! Which I should have known, but in my attempt to correct the original mistake, I wasn’t thinking very far ahead.

Another sketch I made is of Axl. I know, I know. I have a book with pictures and he makes a good model because he sits still. For this one, I decided that rather than trying to achieve realistic coloring, I would focus more on getting the values and shading right. So I chose some flamboyant colors. Any person’s skin who is this pink needs to be admitted to a burn unit. Think of it more like pop art a la Andy Warhol with Marilyn Monroe.

axl pop art 2 - reduced

Having learned my lesson from the Gretsch guitar, I colored the white reflections on his hat first, then added the blue and then the black. That actually turned out pretty well. Now the hair… well, I was experimenting with different colors and ended up with too many and so lost some of the depth and definition. And you might be able to tell that, by the time I got to the coat, I was getting bored and didn’t feel well, so it kind of got the scribble treatment. As far as technical prowess goes, I believe the face is recognizable despite it being just a little bit too wide. That happened because I drew the initial sketch flat instead of raised (like on an easel) and it distorted the proportions. It bugs me a little bit that I did that, but eh, I know I can do it right, so I try not to dwell on it too much.

So there you go. Some stuff I’ve done. We’ll see if I can maintain this frenetic pace.

Oh, and in case anyone was curious, my submission did not win the avatar contest.

Music inspires art

A month or two ago, I joined a Guns n’ Roses fansite. Don’t judge. Anyways, they recently had an art contest to design a default avatar for new members. I came up with a bunch of ideas, but the one I ended up working on was a drawing of guitarist Bumblefoot’s Gibson Les Paul. I studied all the details on that thing to be as accurate as possible then set to work with my colored pencils. I forgot, however, that some of the pencils do not produce a true color — the brown and orange, in particular. The brown comes out as a tannish ochre and the orange has a peachy cast to it. I didn’t have any other options, so I had to forge ahead with what I have. In the end, I drew a really cool looking guitar, but because the color is not quite right, it no longer resembles Bumblefoot’s. Now it looks like Slash’s. I suppose that’s acceptable. ha!

Gibson Paradise City reduced

After I submitted it, I got to looking at it and thought, as cool as it is, it’s rather pastel. And Guns n’ Roses is not exactly a “pastel” kind of band. So with rudimentary photo editing skills, I turned it into a negative. Kind of a cool look.

Gibson Paradise City 1000 - negative

As far as any other projects… well, I’m no further along on anything than I was last time. I’ve been writing, reading, taking care of sick children. In the Baby Steps department, I did completely clear off my sewing table so now, at least, if I’m hit with the urge to sew, it’s all ready to go. As long as Rana doesn’t get in there and spread all her stuff out everywhere…

I bought a book

A couple days ago, I went poking around the thrift store sans kids. We have the lamest thrift store I’ve ever been in (no, I take that back; I’ve been in those ones that feel like somebody’s garage sale). It’s small and they never turn over the stock, so if it doesn’t sell, it will be there probably until the end of time. Occasionally they get something new. The clothes are all crummy, though, and I have no need for knick-knacks at this stage in my life, so I spend most of my time looking through the books. I found a book for each of the kids and a couple for Mr. Gren, but couldn’t find one that caught my interest. There were tons of cookbooks, but… eh. I already have five French-English dictionaries and they’re all better than the two I saw there. Gardening books are no fun with nothing to garden. Then, tucked between Christmas craft books, I found one called “Knitting School: A complete course.”

For years, I’ve resisted. I didn’t want to learn to knit. I like crocheting and I’m stubborn and wanted to be able to do everything with crochet. And while there are some things that crochet is better suited to than knitting, I’ve slowly been coming to the point where I have to admit that the reverse is true, too. And there are things that conventional knitting can do that I can’t do on my knitting board. {sigh} It still sort of feels like betrayal.

This past summer, one of my dear cousins was attending a town-wide yard sale and asked if I wanted anything. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but just told her to keep an eye out for anything craft-related. She ended up finding a pair of knitting needles (size 8, they appear to be) and a skein of fingering weight yarn. I haven’t done anything with these knitting needles yet other than continually try to get them away from Konik who likes to use them as drumsticks. Now it looks like the needles will be able to be used for their intended purpose.


The book covers all the basic stuff: casting on and binding off, different stitches, fancy stuff like collars, cuffs and buttonhole plackets plus a handful of very, very basic patterns. I don’t know when I’ll get around to using it. I still need to finish Konik’s second sock and my friend R’s Axl doll (currently dismembered body parts in a bag). Those should probably take priority.

So there’s that.

But once again, I feel like I should apologize or at least offer some explanation for why I’m absent more than I’m around lately. The thing is, I don’t really know why. It’s like some sort of crafting depression. Other than about five rows on Konik’s sock, I haven’t done anything. Actually, come to think of it, I really haven’t done anything. Not just crafts. Nothing. Just sitting here in this chair. No, wait, I lied. I did do this.


It’s full of more inside jokes than you could shake a stick at, so I’m not going to bother trying to explain it. So there you go. There’s the one something I’ve achieved in the past two weeks.

I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I don’t like it. I don’t want to stay this way. Hopefully there will be better days ahead soon.


It’s pretty dang cold in the cabin today, so any wit I may have planned for this post is frozen stiff, kinda like my fingers. Mostly I just wanted to show you some of the cool stuff I got for Christmas!

First, my ever-observant sister-in-law got me the crayon drawing book I had mentioned here a few weeks ago. I am so excited about this, I can’t even tell you. I went to the store yesterday to buy some crayons, thinking I would get the 64 count box. Apparently, I haven’t been paying attention to crayon developments. They had the 64 count, and then a 92 and then a 120 count!! Wowzers! I figured, the more colors the better, so I splurged. When I got home and opened it up, I found the large box contained two 48 count boxes and one 24 count. Wait a minute, what kinda rip-off is this…? I opened both 48 counts and much to my relief and delight, saw that the crayons are all different. There really are 120 colors! Yay! There won’t be any color drawing around here, though, until my hands have thawed out.


The other book is crochet animals from Rana. There are some cute patterns in there. The descriptions of the animals are kind of goofy, almost like they were trying too hard to make it interesting. You don’t have to convince me why I need to make a pirate panda bear. It’s cute and that’s good enough reason for me. Rana is looking forward to me making some of these animals; I think she may have plans… haha


In my stocking, I found these two little goodies from Mr. Gren. One is a disappearing fabric marker. I usually use a bit of chalk, but it doesn’t work on all fabrics. I’m looking forward to trying out the marker on my next sewing project. The other, strange-looking object is an ergonomic crochet handle. Sometimes I have trouble with my hands cramping up, especially when using the smaller hooks, so this should be a good help! I’ve already been using it.


So three cheers for Christmas! These gifts should lead to some interesting projects and posts this year. Oh, yeah… “year.” Happy New Year to all of you!

More from the Underground Tattoo Parlor

Originally, I was going to post today about the little ornament that I crocheted for my friend. But I’m just too dang proud of myself and I have to show off my teeny tiny tattoos. They turned out pretty sweet if I do say so myself. And I do.

I finished drawing on the tattoos yesterday afternoon. Inexplicably, the tats on the second set of arms turned out larger than the first ones. Hm. I was in a little bit of hurry because the clock was counting down to the end of naptime and Granota was chomping at the bit to be released from her room. Apparently when I’m in a hurry I draw bigger.

Fine art. Literally.

Fine art. Literally.

To me, the second girl turned out better, but the first one’s not bad. The other tattoos are all comparable.

Yesterday evening, I worked on coloring them in. What really would have been nice would be fine-point pens in different colors besides the one black one I own. I was digging around in my drawer of craft paint and found some fabric markers that I had forgotten about. I made a little test scribble on a scrap of fabric and initially, it seemed like these might work, although the colors were limited. I started on the Victory or Death tattoo with the red marker and all seemed well, but ever so slowly, the red began seeping into the yellow. I didn’t take a photo of that one; it didn’t look so hot. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. Paint will right those wrongs.

I left that set of arms alone (the reason I made sets — which right now are attached together with thread — is because the hands didn’t all turn out the same due to variations in cutting the pattern) and pulled out the other one to paint with the miniscule tips of my new paintbrushes.

And it worked like a charm. Even my little GNR egg people look pretty good.

In living color.

In living color.

The cutest little rocker skulls you ever did see.

The cutest little rocker skulls you ever did see.


Purple eyeshadow and semi-crossed eyes, just like the real thing. I’m really proud of that blue rose, though.

You better believe it.

You better believe it.

The cross tattoo is the largest measuring 1 1/4″. The smallest is the rose which is only 1/2″. The rest are all 7/8″. That’s little, folks. The hardest part was the thin yellow stripes on the cross; I had to do a little touch-up on those. They aren’t perfect, but it’s late and I figured I had better stop before I did any more damage.

If all goes well and children go to sleep on time tonight, I’ll be able to finish up the other arms and then get back to constructing the doll. I’m still trying to decide if I want to use embroidery floss or yarn for the hair. I did a few searches online and it seemed that the only doll hair that matched the color of Axl’s was either curly or only came in Barbie doll quantities. Besides, with the way Falilla the Fairy Doll has been shedding over the last year, I think I need something that I can sew on a little better. Any opinions? Yarn or floss?

Underground Tattoo Parlor

Don’t tell: I’m practicing tattooing without a license. No permanent damage to anyone so far. I’ve spelled everything right and my artwork is pretty close to what it should be. Good thing my client thus far is just a scrap of fabric.

Granota -- still clueless as to my intentions -- decided to add some doodles of her own.

Granota — still clueless as to my intentions — decided to add some doodles of her own.

I needed to test out my art-in-miniature skills before tattooing the tiny arms of the Axl dolls. I hadn’t quite decided on my medium yet. A ballpoint pen worked ok. An extremely fine point pen was the best for drawing the outlines and I was very glad to see that the ink doesn’t bleed. That was my biggest concern.


Back when I bought all (most) of the supplies to make these dolls, I also bought uber-fine point paint brushes and I think the smallest one will do nicely to fill in the colored places on Axl’s tattoos. Seriously, this thing has like three bristles.

Right now, my biggest struggle is the Appetite for Destruction cross. I can draw the cross, but the skulls end up looking like itty bitty eggs with eyes. That may have to be close enough.


"If I wanted a tattoo of eggs with eyes, I'd have gotten it already."

“If I wanted a tattoo of eggs with eyes, I’d have gotten it already.”

The dolls are coming along. Last night I finished embroidering the faces. Embroidery is not my strong suit. It’s hard to say that they look like Axl right now without any hair, but they do have green eyes and orangey eyebrows (it’s hard to match embroidery floss to hair color).

Next up: Tiny rock star clothes!


Brought to you by the letter B

B is for buffalo. And brown. Also, bison, if you’re into particulars. But don’t be surprised if the rest of us ignore your smug self and continue to discuss buffaloes. The American Bison has been referred to as a “buffalo” since 1635 according to the American Heritage Dictionary and frankly, 377 years of public consciousness is hard to change.

“Jen,” you may be asking, “what is the big deal about buffaloes?” Well, I’ll just tell you. I had a dream. Not a MLK Jr. type of dream; my dreams, while vivid and detailed, rarely have anything to do with moral and civil betterment. This dream was about a buffalo. Track with me here.

Fun with photo editing.

I was running through the plains of Colorado, desperately trying to escape the buffalo that was charging me. But guess what? I am not faster than a buffalo (they can run up to 40 mph!). The buffalo caught me and pinned me to the ground. I cried and pleaded with the buffalo not to eat me. Apparently it was one of those rare carnivorous buffaloes (that’s not really a thing, just so you know). The buffalo then told me that he would release me on one condition. “What? What?” I cried. “If you promise to blog about buffaloes on Monday, Tuesday, Gretchen, and Saturday, I will release you.” Fair enough, I thought, so I agreed. The buffalo stood up and I was instantly teleported to Norway. It’s nice there (I’ve never been there).

There you have it. Today is Monday and I am fulfilling my promise so that I won’t get eaten by a buffalo. What about Tuesday, Gretchen and Saturday? Well… I don’t think I want to dedicate a full week of blogging to buffaloes. Besides, I’m having trouble finding Gretchen on my calendar, despite helpful advice from a friend who told me that it falls between Barb and Carol.

Buffalo mama and baby in June at Northwest Trek animal park.

In keeping with my nature, I began researching buffaloes and learned all kinds of interesting things. Did you know that the reason zoologists talk about American Bison is because there are also European Bison? True story. European Bison look nearly identical to American Bison, although slightly taller and not as heavy. They used to live all over Europe but were almost driven to extinction by the early 1900s. Only 12 captive European Bison remained and it is from those few that the herds of today were descended. Now they mainly live in the forests of Eastern Europe. The European Bison is also the national animal of Belarus as the American Bison is the national animal of the USA. See all the things you can learn?

I didn’t want this to be completely unrelated to crafts, so I printed out this picture of a buffalo (American version) and colored it for you. And I made sure to include a bit of my beat-up cutting board in the photo so that you could be certain that this work of art is, in fact, mine.

I guess I should sign it.

As I was coloring, it reminded me of a book I saw in a catalog. I want this. It looks like a lot of fun!

It says “look inside,” but you can’t because it’s just a picture. But if you click on it, it will take you to Amazon, where you actually can look inside.

So the next time I color a buffalo, it will look even more lifelike. It may even talk to you and give you a free trip to Norway.

And, if you can’t get enough of buffaloes, you would do well to watch this video. Seriously. It will make your life better. I’m not kidding. And there are four episodes!

Guest blogger today!

On Friday, Rana approached me with a picture she had colored, the camera she had used to photograph it and suggested that it be part of my blog. So here we go! I’m the scribe from here on out.

Let’s have a unicorn club!

The unicorn picture has the red for the fireballs. It’s running on a rainbow. The unicorn is purple and red with a blue horn. It has planets and it has yellow twinkling stars. The red stars are the fireballs. Because space has fireballs. The yellow moon is shining bright.

Now a song:
Unicorn unicorn don’t run away
Unicorn unicorn, please stay
Unicorn unicorn, you’re too pretty to run away

My voice is going away and I’m tired of talking. The End.

Ok, it’s Jen again. I’ve got some cool stuff going, so check in later this week to see my progress. I’ve got to learn some more embroidery techniques, how to make a weft of hair, and find where I put that remnant of sheer green fabric I bought a year ago for this purpose. Hmmm.

Trying to find a job nowadays is like…

Mr. Gren has been looking for work since November. We haven’t had a paycheck since March and he’s ineligible for unemployment benefits because he worked at a church (which doesn’t have to pay and couldn’t anyways, which is why they let him go). He has applied for probably close to 200 jobs since November. Camp director, bank teller, pest control, you name it, he has probably applied for it. He has had interviews with four companies and, just when we think there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, something crazy happens: He’s the #2 guy; the company decides to look only at internal applicants; the whole thing turns out to be a scam. We have to be out of the house by the end of summer, which adds even more pressure. A few nights ago, Mr. Gren and I were discussing what the past few months have felt like and I drew a few cartoons to to illustrate it. (Click to make bigger)

Trying to find a job is like:

Sitting in a dark room with no doors.

National Lampoon's European Vacation. Horrible movie, but apt analogy.

Trying to pin the tail on a donkey with no butt

Worst. Party. Ever.

Playing darts in the carnival fun house.

It starts out ok

But after awhile, the delusions set in.

It’s a barrel o’ laughs out there, folks.

In good news, I did get my sewing machine back yesterday, so… yay!