Tag Archive | art

Paint a pineapple pot

Have you ever grown a pineapple?

I have to admit, the notion had never crossed my mind until reading a fantastic little book that I found in the library this past spring. I enjoyed this book so much that I even bought a copy for myself.

toad cottages

Yeah, I know it says it’s for grandmas and I am a long ways off from being one. But the ideas in here are so fun, I didn’t feel like waiting around when I can do them with my own kids. There are so many sweet ideas, many of them somehow related to gardening or the outdoors. Rana and Granota have had a lot of fun building a variety of fairy houses all summer out of pieces of bark, moss, acorns and whatever else they can find in the yard. I really love how the book encourages creativity and an appreciation for nature.

One of the long term projects is growing a pineapple plant. You start with a fresh pineapple from the store which, of course, you get to eat, so even if your plant goes kaput, you really haven’t lost anything. Before slicing into your pineapple, however, the first thing you need to do is carefully twist off the top bunch of leaves. It’s surprisingly easy to do. Remove a few of the lower leaves until you can see little brown dots in the nub of flesh; those brown dots are where the new roots will sprout! Then stick your pineapple top into a jar of water, making sure those little brown dots are always submerged. After a few weeks, you’ll have some healthy pineapple roots swirling around in the water.


At this point, the plant needs a permanent dirt home. I bought a large terra cotta pot for the job, but far be it from me to just leave it plain. I dithered around for awhile, trying to decide how I wanted to decorate my pot. Finally, I got inspiration from an iron-on transfer book I have (does anyone still use those?). Obviously, there will be no ironing on a terra cotta pot, so I got my pencil and freehand drew the pictures I wanted based on the ones in the book. It was a nice way to spend a hot summer day, sitting out on the porch, soaking up the vitamin D and being artsy.

The painting itself took place over the next week or so. Believe it or not, four kids provide plenty of interruptions. Who knew, right? Sometimes I sat out on the porch, sometimes I moved in to my sewing room if it was too hot, but all the while surrounded by my brushes and paints. Those were happy moments.


There are two large flowers and two birds encircling the pot


Flower #1 didn’t turn out quite as I had envisioned, but I like the colors



This side is my favorite


Now my pineapple has a fun and pretty place to call home. And now you want to go buy a pineapple.



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…

A more refined torture

I am a beginner painter. While I consider myself to be a decent artist with pencil, painting — specifically watercolor — is still something I’ve yet to sort out. Oh, sure, I painted plenty of pictures in elementary school, but nothing with any real artistic value. Perhaps if I had been able to take an art class past 6th grade, I would have a head start on this medium, but I was too busy taking French. Priorities.

A little over a year after my husband and I had moved to France, an event occurred that sunk me into despair. The wife of the French pastor at our church noticed and encouraged me to join a painting class at the small art school that she attended in an old mansion. It gave me a reason to get out of bed and leave the apartment, which I desperately needed at that time in my life. She signed me up for the beginner’s watercolor class and introduced me to the instructor, Chantal. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t so much a class as a painting club, full of older women who had lots of time in their day. I was the youngest in the class by a good thirty years, which automatically made me la petite — the little girl. Fine, I could live with that.  The next thing I discovered was that all of these women already knew each other and had been in this class (club) for a couple of years. Now I’m really the newbie. Chantal would bring a few items to set up in the middle of the table as a still life and then we were all supposed to set to work. On the first day, I sketched out my picture of the pitcher in the middle of the table. Then I erased a few lines, tweaked the perspective and generally fiddled around with it to put off the inevitable disaster that would happen once I put paintbrush to paper. Chantal noticed that I was stalling and in her loving French way, told me, “You can’t spend all day drawing it! You need to start painting!”

I am no stranger to the color wheel. My dad has sold paint for most of my life and, when I was a child, gave me my very own color wheel with rotating windows. I understand complementary colors and mixing colors; I am familiar with the concepts of shade and hue. I did not know, however, that watercolors do not conform to those rules. I was at a loss. My pitcher was brown and muddy and nothing I did was making it look any better. Subtle cracks on the real life object translated into glaring scars on its painted counterpart. This was going downhill fast! By the end of the session, I felt like crying. Chantal was no help at all. There was no actual instruction, but plenty of critique.

But, I kept attending. It was something to do, after all. Every session was a struggle. I had a horrible time trying to denote the transparency of glass bottles, the composition of my hat picture was pas bonne, the very real irises looked flat and artificial. And still, no real help from Chantal. About three months into this, I was mortified to learn that there was an art show where each student was expected to submit two pieces. My portfolio was severely lacking. Most of my paintings weren’t even finished. Finally, I chose a scene of a Moroccan courtyard and the sad irises. My husband and I attended the show, saw my paintings, and sighed at the much better artwork all around them. Part of me feels like I could get good at this if I had any idea what I was doing.

My daughters were convinced that we were having the time of our lives.

As of this writing, this particular talent still eludes me. Today is 6 June, which, if you paid attention in history class, you’ll recognize as the anniversary of D-Day. I taught a lesson this morning to my French students on the critical and amazing battle of Pointe du Hoc. It left me feeling rather patriotic and I felt like doing something to commemorate the day, so I pulled out my paints. I always have grandiose visions, but should have toned them down, especially in light of the fact that I haven’t painted a thing (bedroom walls don’t count) in two years. I used our own photos from our time in France. The first two times, I attempted a co-mingling of the French and American flags. Apparently, I am no good at flags. The third time, I opted for a landscape featuring the bullet-perforated Nazi observation post at the tip of the Pointe, topped by the large monument, representing a grappling hook, in honor of the American Army Rangers who fought there. It turned out… fair. I still have a long ways to go before I have any show-worthy pieces!

  Flags attempt #1                                                                                             Flags attempt #2