Design Friday: Little ol’ half bath

I’m leading two redecorating projects at my parent’s home. One is a downstairs half bathroom. The other is the master bedroom. Both projects are coming into the home stretch. I was going to wait to debut the finished projects once all of the glass had been polished and the floors were swept into neat lines, but I realized that is not the point of my blog. I want to show the full, unpredictable design process since it is not a clean, simple set of steps.

At first thought, I believe a half bathroom could be finished in a weekend. And while yes, it could be, that doesn’t factor in Life. There is grocery shopping, family events, laundry, emergencies, and other oddities that pop up that turn a weekend project into a 4 month ordeal. If this sounds like your life, the key is to make small progress until the project gets completed. It also might involve setting up rewards as you complete a goal. One coat of paint up? Great, a glass of wine. Looked at some artwork? Great, a scoop of ice cream. Ordered artwork for the room? Well, that deserves a whole pint of ice cream.

I’ll give you some tips from what we’ve learned so far about this half bath project. Below is a current photograph of the bathroom. It is half of the half bath. Imagine the white toilet sitting beside the cabinet.
Decorating a Half Bath

This is where the project stands at this very moment. Yes, there is tape. See those white, chalky lines above the left section of granite? That was caused by the misplacement of caulk, which resulted in a paint resistant surface. Thank goodness for sandpaper that can remove such imperfections.

When we first began the project, we knew we wanted to install granite. This rectangular section plus the install cost came in under $400. We decided to keep the existing cabinet because the stain still looked good and the overall wear and tear was minimal. If this was going to be my parents’ forever home, we would have ripped out the cabinet, but it is a home they’ll likely stay in for a few more years. The cabinet is stained in a medium walnut color. It is a pleasant shade of brown, but it also has hints of yellow, which my mother specifically wanted minimized if at all possible. I assured her we could do that with the right choice of paint color and granite. It’s not an easy task, but it isn’t impossible.

When looking for granite, we searched the granite company’s yard for remnants. There are a few things to note about that adventure: 1) we were searching in bright, brilliant summer daylight. Whichever piece of granite we chose would be installed in a dark, never-sees-the-light-of-day half bath. Because of this, I didn’t want to go too dark with a color. It might look beautiful and rich in the sunshine, but in a windowless room it could look like a tar pit. 2) I needed to keep in mind about the yellow hue. Many of the brown granite pieces were mottled with brown and yellow. Under incandescent bulbs, which can have a yellow hue, that hint of yellow may become more powerful.

Granite1

Now, the current trend with cabinets is towards gray and white. Yes, white allows the other pieces of the room to stand out and it does make choosing colors a lot easier. With a white cabinet, you can pair it with a light, medium or dark counter top and have a beautiful effect.

But I wasn’t working with white. So what can you do with a medium brown cabinet? Choose carefully, that’s what you can do. Placing a dark, almost black counter top is a classic, regal combination. But this is a very small half bath. Black granite would be oppressive because it is so much dark color concentrated in one area. The counter top is the most prominent feature in the room and putting in a high contrast item would emphasize that even more. This is why I mentioned it being a tar pit before. It would suck your eye in and never let go. We could have gone the white counter top route, but I was concerned the bright color would draw the viewer’s eye towards the cabinet because they would be in contrast with each other. Like I said before, the cabinet isn’t in bad shape, but it’s not a custom piece of cabinetry that needs to steal the show. It needed to fade into the background. So we decided on a medium toned piece of granite. Without yellow or orange tints. With browns that complimented the cabinet’s color. Does it sound like we were looking for a needle in haystack? That is what it felt like while walking around that granite yard.

I’m not certain if granite companies allow you to bring home samples (ours didn’t), but I trusted my color sense. If you find yourself concerned about a piece being too orange, yellow, etc., you should ask the professionals who work at the company. It would be a terrible day to have your granite installed and then realize you hate the stone’s color in your home’s lighting. They should have advisers who can steer you in a direction of success.

With that major decision made, we moved onto the wall color and that’s where the real trickery began. The easy choice would be to keep the wall color light, but I really wanted to move away from a light color. It seems that especially in bathrooms, keeping the walls white when there are darker cabinets and counter tops can make the room appear builder grade. The wall color needs to meet the color depth of the cabinets/counter tops in order to look like a designer helped in the space. That is why I suggested we boldly go with a grayish brown. I wanted a modern color, but I also wanted it to be warm. It helps the dark cabinet hide in the background, but the contrast between the ivory-brown counter top and gray hued paint color is appealing.

Since I have some superpower with remembering colors, we went to the paint store and I pulled several colors that were in the granite. Then I pulled colors that were more red and more gray than the colors in the granite. Finally, I pulled a lighter color and darker color of my two favorite colors (when we were still in the store). Again, I did this because coloring is tricky in an artificially lit space. We brought the samples to the room and narrowed the choices down to four. Next was the most important step. We bought the paint samples and painted them on the wall. Though the colors all looked great on those little sample cards, they looked much different when painted on a larger section of wall. One was too green, another was too brown and the last two were just right. Of those two colors, one was darker, the other lighter. The color we ultimately chose was Sherwin-Williams’ Skipping Stone, which was the lighter color.

Sherwin Williams Skipping Stone

This color is lighter than our second choice, but is still quite deep and dark. I would choose a lighter color if this was a room my family spent a great deal of time in, but this is a half bathroom, which means, well, it’s a quick stop. That also means you can go more bold. You don’t spend a lot of time in the room and it is primarily closed off from most other spaces.

That’s the progress we’ve made so far. I’ll suggest using ivory hand towels when the time comes.  I’ll do a painting for the room and will utilize pearl, silver, taupe, Payne’s gray, and other flecks of neutral hues. Mirrors will be hung eventually.

I’ll be sure to share the next updates when they happen. Since we’re heading into the holidays, the progress may be delayed or accelerated. It depends on who is hosting the holiday get-togethers.

Happy weekend to you!

These new tires come with added character

Yesterday morning was like most mornings for my husband and me. We woke up at a dreadfully early hour, rose from the comfort of a warm bed, greeted the work out machines with tired willpower and began our day. Everything went as planned.

Until it didn’t.

I noticed that while he was scraping off ice from the car, it appeared to be sitting lower than normal. I didn’t think much about it, because he typically checks the tires when it is bitterly cold due to the bitter temperature’s knack for deflating tires. Once he was finished scraping, he jumped into the car and began to back out of the driveway. For whatever reason, I opened some blinds to watch him pull away when I saw the flat tire. I knew I only had seconds before he would be driving down the street and possibly ruining the car’s suspension, alignment, or something. I am no car expert and will never be, but I know metal rims grinding on pavement is not ideal.

I ran to raise the garage door. It moved as though it was half asleep, but the gears cranked and raised the heavy door anyway. Thankfully, my husband, for reasons he doesn’t know, glanced backwards to see the door opening and me running from the house. He was confused as to why I was motioning him to come back. The look on my face told him I wasn’t hoping for another good bye kiss. He backed up and pulled the car into the driveway. I watched in horror as the rubber tire began peeling off the metal rim. Though it was wobbly, deformed and the rubber was turning in on itself, the tire hobbled along into the garage.

Once the car was parked, he jumped from his seat. His face dropped when he saw what I had seen moments before. And just like that, the morning routine was unhinged. He called into work to announce his flat tire dilemma and wasn’t sure when he’d be in. They were gracious and told him to arrive any time.

The odd timing of this event was the research executed the night before. We had known we needed to replace the tires. He decided on the tires we needed and was planning to schedule an appointment the next day. I suppose you could say the cold weather accelerated our plan overnight.

All ended well, but there was some anxiety, some inconvenience and much stress. I can’t help but look at the situation as an allegory for life, particularly some of the parts of life that are most difficult. There are times when we think everything is fine, everything is going well and then something comes in to derail almost every plan we thought we had under control.

I see this through the lens of my husband, who applied to medical schools this year for the third year in a row. We gave up a lot for him to earn the prerequisites. We assumed since he was an older applicant, a person devoted to the medical path, working hard to support his family while going back to school, he would have little difficulty getting in. Given we are in the third year of applying to schools, this obviously wasn’t the case.

Recently he had an interview with a medical school and was extremely excited about it. He really liked the school, he liked the curriculum and training he would receive. The interview day went well, but we found out he wasn’t accepted. He called the school and learned that the points the interview committee had written down as concerns were not matching up with his file. This was coming from a knowledgeable person within the admissions office. She went so far to say she disagreed with many of the points made in the file. From what the admissions office can understand, it seems there was a mistake, perhaps the committee had him confused for someone else. But they said there is nothing they can do. The interviewers are graduates of the school and not personnel within the school. The door was closed. The decision, though questionable, was final.

Oh yes, we shed some tears. It seemed entirely unfair. It made us wonder What if this was the only opportunity for medical school this year? What if the opportunity just blew away because of someones clerical error?

When my husband was taking the prerequisite classes, everything seemed to fall into place. Even if we made an error somewhere with scheduling, the situation amazingly worked out in the end. It was because of these instances that we assumed everything would fall into place with being accepted to medical school. Just like we assumed those tires would be fine for another few days or weeks.

There are times in life when we get those unexpected flat tires. We want to look at them with tears in our eyes and just pray that the situation didn’t happen. We wish it could have been a terrible dream we get to wake from. But it did happen and we can’t give up on what we know matters for us in this life. Persevering despite the pain and the frustration is where so much character and knowledge is built. These traits aren’t learned as effectively when everything is going our way. Life’s flat tires help refine us. When we go through that difficulty and we’re stalled out in the garage, we have time to contemplate and assess. What caused me to be here? How do I move forward from here? What tools do I need? What should be done to correct the problem? Then there are the questions like these: Am I even on the correct path? Is there another opportunity out there that I’m not acknowledging because of my own bullheadedness? Do I need to have the help of a more knowledgeable, wiser person to help guide my direction?

These times are trying and frustrating, but they don’t have to stall us forever. Just like with our car, we problem solved and were able to get two new tires put on. We didn’t want the situation to happen that way, but it did so we worked with what we were given. I would love to avoid these situations and have everything work out perfectly from here on out. But I’ve gone through too many of these situations to know that is an ideal thought at best.

What I focus on is what we learned through the experience, specifically with the medical school rejection. For my husband, I learned how strong he can be. It would be too easy to let that unfair rejection fester, to build up resentment, anger and pity. He didn’t. He wasn’t smiling the next day, but days after he was his cheerful self again. That type of character and bravery makes me very proud of the man he is. The fact that he still wants to be a doctor despite two hard blows to his enthusiasm over the years illustrates the strength of his passion. I just hope he knows that. He went through a lot of refining over the past month, but he came out stronger. He may not have the shiny new tires our car does, but he has some strong character and that is something to be mighty grateful about.

 

The mid-November Winter Wonderland

FirstSnowNov2014
It’s official, we had our first snowfall of the late 2014 year. It’s difficult for me to admit at times, given my Florida roots, but on days like these I am glad I live in a colder climate. When you wake up and look upon a winter wonderland, it’s a beautiful sight. Rest assured, however, this opinion will change in February when I can’t shovel another pile of snow and refuse to leave the house even if all of the household necessities are empty.

Bearded Dragon

Here’s our little bearded dragon who seems somewhat unaffected by the snow. She was resting peacefully until she heard me moving around near her cage. She looks skeptical about the camera. We’ll say she’s also none so happy that her outdoor habitat is full of powdery white stuff that is far too cold for her reptilian body to experience. She’s already back to hibernating as I type. (That isn’t snow at the bottom of her cage, but rather her white-colored substrate. She lives strictly indoors with plenty of heat emitting devices. Just thought I’d clarify.)

If you read Friday’s post, you know that my husband and I were both sick. We both made it through a full Saturday of work and promptly passed out Saturday night. There might have been some NyQuil involved.

Sunday was a better day. We had a lazy start. I read The Giver by Lois Lowry. We have the movie on order at the library and I wanted to read it before watching the film. It only took half a day to read and was a delightful book for a Sunday afternoon.

We also made some cookies. Back in early October when I saw the mellocreme candy pumpkins in the store, I also spied some pumpkin spice candy corn. I debated between that flavor and the s’mores flavor, but opted for the pumpkin. They were strong – very strong – and though I didn’t enjoy munching on them by themselves, I immediately thought to add them to cookies. I envisioned white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and the chopped up pumpkin spice candy corn. Well, Sunday was the day and they turned out, well, interesting.

Candy Corn Cookies by Cortney North

Here’s the pretty picture. The taste was excellent, but I was hoping for more of the pumpkin spice flavor to come through. Next time I’ll add some cinnamon to the cookie batter.

Now the next picture I’ll show is what happens when you forget that sugar likes to melt and ooze if it isn’t tucked in neatly between the batter. We had some sugar ponds on the cookie sheets. If you make this same mistake, just know that broken cookies taste the same as whole cookies. The imperfections give them delightful character. Thankfully, this theory works with people too, ahem.

Candy Corn Cookies that Melted I promise that ooze isn’t cheddar cheese. I decided to arrange the candy corn artfully since the poor cookie was being photographed for its lack of beauty. What I learned is to place the candy corn into/onto the cookie before its baked. The candy corns inside the cookies were gooey and a bit chewy, which was a nice touch. The melted candy corn was as sharp as glass and tough to eat.

And below is the flavorful bag of candy corn.

Brach's Pumpkin Spice Candy Corn They were mighty delicious and well worth the wait. I like to experiment with baking so we’ll see what I create next. Have a happy Monday!

Decor Friday: These are best for hibernating

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today. As a side note, I’d love to know the origin of that phrase. I may skip around the internet and try to find an answer. Or I’ll skip towards my bed because I’m exhausted from all the germ fighting my immune system is being wracked with. I’m guessing this cold is a gift from my husband since he’s been sick for many days now. It’s not exactly the gift I was hoping for. The only thing on my mind at the moment is sleep so I rounded up a few rooms that I’d love to tuck myself into and hibernate within for the next six months.

This reminds me a hotel I stayed in while over in Assisi, Italy. I would gladly snuggle up in bed with 50 good books and never need to leave.

When I’m ill, I want warm and rustic. A good view wouldn’t hurt either. This room is a success in all categories.

Compared to the previous room, this is a bit more luxurious and less lodge inspired. It has pleasant feminine details such as the chandelier, curved headboard and chaise lounge.

This boardlines on log cabin, which I’m not a big fan of, but it’s just enough of the western lodge look to keep me happy. That incredible light fixture has a medieval castle-vibe, which I’m a big fan of.

This is a cozy spot for reading because sometimes you can’t sleep through one more day. The generous chair is perfect for pulling my legs up and resting. All it needs is an ottoman.

If I’m being honest, this is truly the room I want. A tall turret of a library. Again, this space needs an ottoman. And perhaps a more masculine looking chair, but I could curl up and spend days getting lost in my reading.

New in Shop: “Emerging Dawn” Abstract Print

Emerging Dawn by Cortney North

This is the first painting I completed after returning from my creative hiatus. I’m so excited with how it came out and I’m even more excited the print looks as good as it does. The originals always look better than the prints due to the depth – as with any original vs. print – but I worked diligently to keep the colors as true to the original as possible.

Emerging Dawn by Cortney North

There is something about the look of this one that reminds me slightly of Kandinsky’s artwork (specifically his abstracts inspired by music). I still haven’t been able to put my finger on what exactly has me recalling his artwork – perhaps the colors? the use of lines? the way I layered the warm colors together?

What I love most within this painting is the transition from light to dark. I enjoy creating an environment with my abstracts because they take on the impression of a natural, realistic scene without representing the scene verbatim. It’s my hope that the viewer’s imagination gets more inspired and allured by the possibility of what the scene is, which will then pull the viewer further into the natural scene they are observing.

In terms of color usage, I want to incorporate gray into all of my paintings. Recently I’ve been intrigued with using deep, dark grays that almost look black. It provides a rich atmospheric dimension, which is my aim, but I find it to be intimidating to use.

Emerging Dawn by Cortney North

I’ve named this painting literally since I see a jungle of flowers being lighted by the warm, early morning sunlight. I’d be curious to know what you see when you view the painting. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

You can call me the Clam Chowder manipulator

I began writing a post about the time off from my business and had hoped it would be finished by last night. It wasn’t because, well, life happened and by the time things settled down last night, it was time for bed. Being flexible, that should be a rule for happy living.

Yesterday I was able to finish up my painting, which I’m ecstatic to put up in my shop. The break clearly did its job and I’m thrilled with the progress in my creative life. I’ll hopefully have it ready today, but it depends on how the color matching process turns out from original to a print proof. There are times when that process tests my sanity, so I’m praying this won’t be one of those times.

After finishing up the painting, I wanted to do something entirely different, so I opened up my novel’s Word document. Since I’m starting from scratch, it feels a bit intimidating, but I quickly found my pace, blissfully working until I needed to make dinner.

That became another hoop jumping for my creativity. My plan was to make reuben sandwiches with clam chowder. I prepared the clam chowder first since I prefer to let the soup’s ingredients have time to get married. I sweated the onions and celery, then added the flour. All was well until I emptied the glass jars of clam juice and found I needed triple what I bought. I wasn’t about to make the trek to the store so I improvised. I added chicken stock, some beef stock and, because I love the flavor of this particular bouillon, a vegetable bouillon cube. I thought about adding in the juice from the canned clams, but, I’ll just be considerate of your gag reflex, that wasn’t an option per my olfactory sense. In the end, the soup was delicious and hearty, which is really all you need on a cold night. I have made note of the changes and will make the soup again once my sense of smell had adequate time to recover.

The second hoop jumping for my creativity occurred when I opened the bag of rye bread and discovered white pockets of mold feasting away at the loaf. Well that’s just grand. I had to opt for our regular whole wheat bread, which worked well though it lacked the zingy rye flavor that accompanies a traditional reuben. The cooking world tried to foil me, but I prevailed.

I can’t remember what else happened for the remainder of the evening. I might have organized the top of my dresser, but I’ll spare you those rip roaring details. Clearly those details aren’t nearly as exciting as adding vegetable bouillon to a soup base.

Vegetable breads are my new favorite

This past weekend was another one that flew by faster than a speeding jet. Friday night we watched X-men: Days of Future Past. I have been making fun of that title ever since the movie came to theaters because it sounds ridiculous. Having watched the movie, the name still sounds ridiculous, but at least it makes a bit more sense. A bit. It was a good movie and kept me very entertained. It also included Hugh Jackman so it wasn’t difficult.

Saturday was full of working at my job and then coming home to relax. That was until the football games started erupting on our TV five minutes after I walked in the door. There were so many good games on Saturday night. We were jumping between three games and were stunned by the upsets. Being OSU fans, we were pleasantly surprised by the Michigan State upset. I had been telling customers earlier in the day that I was concerned about the outcome. Michigan State has looked good in every game they’ve played so far. OSU has looked improved with every game they’ve played so far. I’m still shocked OSU won, though I’m not sure MIchigan State was playing with all their heart. Good game nonetheless and it means Buckeye country is in a celebratory mood versus a depressed one. That’s always welcome.

I should interject that while watching the football games, I baked two loaves of parsnip bread. Yes, you are reading that correctly, parsnip bread. It is a recipe from the Irish Country Cooking cookbook.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519mSlRXH9L.jpg

Book cover from Amazon.com

While blowing through the library one day months ago, I picked up the cookbook because I was curious about what Irish country cooking looks like. Well, it looks similar to some familiar dishes we Americans know well, but the food tastes extra delicious. The parsnip bread is a bit like zucchini bread, but the recipe author suggested covering it with apricot jam and a walnut cream cheese icing. I want to kiss the person who decided to adorn the bread with that combination. The first loaf was devoured in less than 8 hours. The second, well, is not long for this world. For dinner Friday night, I tried the Broccoli, Cherry Tomato and cheese tart recipe. After dinner, there was nothing left in the pie pan except a few crust crumbs. You could say it was a hit.

I’ve tried a total of three recipes in the cookbook. It’s a tricky cookbook in that the recipes’ measurements are often in grams or ounces. I’m mathematically illiterate and I’ve been able to make due. It’s not for beginners, but if you cook often, you’ll be able to guesstimate the conversions.

Side note: I love that guesstimate is a word. I’ve loved it since the 4th grade when my teacher told me that guesstimating would help me with math problems. As it turned out, not so much thanks to a heavy dose of dyslexia, but I still like the word.

Sunday was a relaxing day and one that was much needed. I even had time to take a 30 minute nap, which is unheard of and precious. I worked a bit on a painting I’m hoping to put up as a print in the shop soon. We’ll see. I have some ideas for where I’d like it to head, but at the same time, the more I look at it, the more it looks complete. In those circumstances, it’s best to let the painting sit while the aesthetic parts of my brain duke it out for the correct answer. I hope you had a great weekend and are having a great start to the week!

I’m off to go eat another slice of parsnip bread. It’s the new best way to eat my vegetables.

Decor Friday: The table lamp dilemma

The days are growing shorter with reckless abandon. That’s at least what it seems like here in Ohio. Unfortunately, this shift in light is a fact of wintertime and makes it necessary to have lots of bright, beautiful lamps turned on making a house look as though the noonday sun is shining from within. Or maybe that is my house? Yes, I do like it to be a beacon in the dark, cold winter.

Unless I’m watching a movie in which case I need it to be a deep, dark cave. I’m complex like that.

I love a good lamp and I really believe they can be one of the greatest pieces in a room. But, as with most items in design, they can be tricky, tricky. It is difficult to find the right size. Too big and you’re overwhelming the side table or cabinet it rests upon. Too small and it’s being swallowed up by the room’s other elements. They come in all shapes from thin, round, wide and short, wide and thin, tall and oppressing, well, you get the picture. Many lamps also have tricky proportions or look downright odd with a round drum sitting atop a beautiful base. I’ll be completely honest with you. When I’m coming up with a design, the lamps are the piece I dread the most because it is difficult to find just the right one. I also want a lamp that is sculptural, adds texture in a room and has a well-fitting shade. It’s a task that sadly involves some trial and error. If you’re in the market for lamps, you may have to purchase a few and try them out in your home for a few days. Eventually you will find the perfect fit – or close to it.

With that in mind, I wanted to conquer my fears and find a few table lamps that had flattering shapes, interesting designs and flexibility to be used in a variety of design schemes. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack.

Honeycomb Lamp – Teardrop at Wisteria.com, $299


I’ve been in love with this lamp and its cousin for a few months now. It’s a functional art piece that would energize a room nicely.

Ceramic Urn Table Lamp Base at World Market, $54.99


I’m placing this lamp base in the mix because it’s beautiful, shapely and turquoise. Who can resist turquoise? I am very aware that finding a well fitting shade to adorn the urn will be a task, but with a base that looks this good, it’s worth the search.

Marlowe Ceramic Table Lamp at William-Sonoma Home, $495-990

Marlowe Ceramic Table Lamp
This shape is a popular one at the moment as is the crackled glaze covering the lamp. The lines are beautiful, it is a classic, versatile piece with a modern acrylic base. There are varying colors available too. It’s expensive, but it will last for many, many years, which spreads out the investment cost.

Leera Antique Mercury Glass Table Lamp Base at Pottery Barn, $84-86, sale

Leera Antique Mercury Glass Table Lamp Base

I have a slight preference towards mercury glass lamps. They glitter when the light is on, they provide a great, old world texture and they can work in almost any room. What’s not to love?

Mercury Glass Lattice Table Lamp at Pottery Barn, $129-179

Lamp 1
Pottery Barn, I am intrigued. I haven’t seen this mercury lamp in person, but I like the extra texture of the lattice work. You could combine this lamp with the one above in the same room and have a coordinating lighting scheme.

Southport Table Lamp at Pottery Barn, $129-189

Lamp 3
Surprise! Another mercury glass lamp. I couldn’t decide between the two so I added them both. This would go well with the first mercury lamp I showed too. This one might be my favorite of all the lamps I included because of the traditional, versatile shape.

Hanging Lantern Table Lamp at Cabela’s, $129.99

Lamp 2
What’s life without some whimsy? We received the Cabela’s gift catalog recently and I saw this lamp along with a matching floor lamp. I was surprised how much I liked the shape and proportions; it is well designed. In the right room, I think this light could be successful.

If you’re in the market for new lamps, I hope this small assortment gave you some inspiration and best of luck to you in your search. Perseverance may need to be your friend.

This is my brain on caffeine

There is so much on my mind that I’m finding it difficult to focus on writing any one thought. At one moment, my mind is contemplating the next color I should apply on the canvas drying beside me. More blue? A touch of green? A hint of ochre? Decisions, they can be tricky. Then my mind jumps over to my writing desk and the possibility that my desk’s surface isn’t even. The computer seems to be slanted towards the left and it’s irking me. My aesthetic mind has fits whenever I sit down to look at the screen. I’m a few minutes away from grabbing a level and creating another task for myself. Then, when I realize it will distract me from other tasks, I forget about the uneven desk and consider the importance of businesses having cohesive brand identities. This includes a webpage, marketing materials and, for a brick and mortar store, interior design. I want to shout to the world of business that design is so important, now more than ever because everyone is visually focused. I want to grab a soap box and start calling out in the name of art. Then I round back to my painting because it should be dry enough for the next layer.

Did I have a bit too much coffee this morning? It is a possibility, but the unfortunate reality is that this round and round the information track of my mind is an every day, every moment occurrence. My husband has stopped asking the relationship of one subject to another during a conversation. I can explain it logically, but it is simpler for him to shrug his shoulders and go with it.

He’s a good husband.

But let’s round back around to the non-point I’m making. On my mind lately has been writing my novel, the act of which has resumed after deciding on the new plot. A month ago I was ready to throw in the towel on the whole project, but I’m a revived woman. Reading ‘Outlander’ helped put the final plot pieces in place. Not in a copying way, but rather a convoluted way that traces back to the distant reaches of my mind. My excitement to ‘begin again’ is overflowing. It always makes me laugh that I stumble upon the right material exactly when I need it. Coincidence? I think not.

Just now I took a step away from the blog to reassess the painting. I brushed on a bit of ochre. It was the correct choice. I love the dimension beginning to come through on the canvas.

That thought lead me to this. At some point soon I may write about the sabbatical away from my art business. I’ll probably wait until I have more time to process what I learned during my break. For now, I’ll relish my writing, painting, pondering and internal debating that is a constantly whooshing at high speeds on the speed track of my mind. Heaven help me.

It’s the only time I enjoy breaking the rules

Yesterday as I fell back into the groove of painting my abstracts, I was reminded of a painting class I took at an art center during 7th grade. I can only faintly remember the palm tree clad building, but I do remember the classroom; the tall windows letting in afternoon light and the still lifes assembled on pedestals around the room. One wide pedestal had more intriguing decorations than the others. There was a thick throw rug behind a collection of wooden birds and vases. This was the still life I wanted to paint. Our medium for the assignment was watercolor. As I concentrate my memory, I can picture my easel and painting cabinet complete with a small water jar and the tray of oval, elementary-grade watercolor pigments. You remember the trays, right? They were the concentrated smell of an art room.

I began my painting having been given instructions I no longer recall. At some point while painting my masterpiece, the bubbly art instructor came over to my easel, pondered my brush strokes, perspective and offered a bit of advice. She said with a jovial tint to her voice, “Cortney, you’re using watercolors, which means you actually need to use water in your paint.” She proceeded to take a brush, immerse it into the muddied water jar and fill each little oval with a tall bubble of water. The ovals were so full that If I had placed my brush into a bubble, it would have spilled across the white tray, spreading pigment where it simply didn’t belong. When I didn’t say anything in return, she patted my back and moved across the room to another student. I was left staring at these many abominations in my paint tray and wondering what I was supposed to do about it.

If you’re curious how I had been using my watercolors, this is my answer: I was using the watercolor pigments as though they were acrylic paints. There were no watery, sweeping brush strokes for me. That was not the effect I had in mind. No, I wanted precision and saturation that can only be achieved by creating a small well in a paint oval with only the smallest bit of water. Layering my watercolor? Please, I didn’t have that level of patience as a seventh grader.

I wish I could say that I took her advice and dutifully washed my paper with sweeping strokes, but I didn’t. I’m stubborn by nature and once she was safely across the large room, I careful soaked up the bubbles of water and continued with my original technique. I needed to finish my painting in the style with which I began. Every art teacher I’ve ever had would nod their head in frustrated agreement knowing I would do no less. My poor art teachers and professors. Please know I am grateful for each of you every day.

In the time since that episode, I’ve had my share of watercolor classes and have been well versed in the proper way of painting. But that was precisely what brought about my memory as I painted yesterday using broad sweeping brush strokes with my acrylic paint. I was using watercolor techniques with my non-watercolor paints.

If only I could go back and tell the instructor, “Look, I’m finally using an ample amount of water and it looks beautiful!” Something tells me she would not be impressed. In fact, since I’ve had a few similar conversations before, I know she would look at me, look at my painting and shake her head with defeat. “Yes, it does look beautiful,” she would say as a lengthy sigh left her mouth.