Coloring: Koi Pond

johanna-basford-secret-garden-koi-pond-fish-lilipads

“Koi Pond” – Ink design by Johanna Basford in Secret Garden.  Colored by me with Prismacolor Premier colored pencils.  Time to complete: approximately 1 million hours.

Not much else to say except that this one took forever!  Apparently I started it in March, after which it sat neglected for many months.  Finally finished it up over the last few weeks.  There are a few “mistakes,” as usual, but I tell myself that they add character.  🙂

Check out the rest of my completed coloring pages in my Finished Project Gallery (scroll down).

Colored pencil technique 101: more leaf sketches

Colored pencil amateur hour continues here at Allspice Abounds.  I think the key to learning something new is to not take yourself too seriously.  I’m trying to give myself the freedom to just try things and not worry about perfection (which is really hard for a perfectionist).  🙂  Below are my latest sketches, and what I learned from them.

Blue and orange leaves with shadows

Colored pencil sketches - blue and orange leaf cluster

My objective here was to experiment more with using complimentary colors to create rich shadows.  Last time I used green and red, and here I tried orange and blue.

What I learned: (1) It works, but you have to be really restrained when using blue over orange.  I think I pressed too hard with the blue.  (2) I have to pay attention to which direction the shadows are supposed go.  Art 101, right?  Here I added a shadow every time the leaves overlapped, but I don’t think I did it right.

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Colored pencil technique 101: leaves with shadows

Cluster of leaves with shadows

Brace yourselves: I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of YouTube colored pencil tutorials.  Whoa, there is SO much awesome stuff to learn about drawing and coloring with colored pencils!  My innocent adult coloring book obsession has turned in a full-blown fascination with the big, bad world of art technique.  Who knew there was so much to learn??

I made the sketch above using my Prismacolor pencils after watching this delightful video from expert colorist Peta Hewitt (warning: it’s 43 minutes long).  The sketch took me about 2 hours (!!) to complete.

Two mind-blowing things that I learned in the making of this sketch:

  1. You can blend colored pencils on paper just like you would with paints.  The key is using a white pencil or a colorless blender pencil.  The effect is pretty startling.  The colors blend together pretty fluidly, and the colorless blender brightens the color significantly.
  2. To create a rich shadow, use a color complimentary to the original color.  For the green leaves above, I created the shadows using bright red.  Cover up the red with more green, blend, and enjoy your beautiful shadows.

Did you ever stumble upon an entire world that you never knew existed, and then voraciously learn everything you can like a rabid beast?  That pretty much describes my week.  I may have visited my local art supply store three times this week.

If you’re looking for me this weekend, I’ll be glued to more YouTube videos with my pencils and new sketchbook in hand.  So much to learn!  🙂

Coloring: The Butterfly Gardener

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford - The Butterfly Gardener - finished

“The Butterfly Gardener” – Ink design by Johanna Basford in Secret Garden, coloring and custom artwork in the center square by me.  All coloring was done with Prismacolor Premier colored pencils (36 pack).

The coloring bug has bitten me yet again.  I don’t know what it is about adult coloring books that I find to be so ridiculously addictive.  All I know is that when I get the itch to color, it’s like entering a mystical time warp of colorful, flowery bliss.  My latest finish is this flower garden filled with a melange of delightful creatures.

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Rainbow raspberry kiss quilt top

Rainbow raspberry kiss quilt top in progress

After much indecision, here’s what I came up with!  Still a rainbow, but not as linear as my initial arrangement.  I added more warm blocks to better balance out the cools, and I mixed the blocks up a bit so the color transitions wouldn’t be too harsh.  If I’m honest, I’m not 100% happy with it, but I am NOT ripping out any seams at this point!

One thing I learned during this exercise is that I wasn’t born with an eye for color arrangement.  Getting that perfect mix and balance is really hard!  I admire people who are good at this, and I hope to get better with more practice.  There are few things in life that can’t be learned, right?

Raspberry kiss quilt - seams pressed open

Here’s a close up of the back.  The internal seams of the blocks are pressed to one side (to the darks whenever possible), and the seams connecting the blocks are pressed open to avoid bulk at the points.  All seam allowances are 1/4 inch.  There are approximately a million loose threads stuck all over this quilt top, but hopefully I’ll catch them all during basting!

I’m debating adding a thin white border around the edges, for two reasons: (a) to give the blocks a bit of room to “float,” and more importantly (b) to give myself a little wiggle room during basting and quilting.  Maybe it’s just my lack of quilting skill, but having only 1/4 inch seam allowances on the edge of the quilt often results in uneven edges for me.  I feel like the quilt top shrinks a bit during quilting, and it’s nice to have a little more fabric along the edges to compensate.

By the way, this quilt is huge.  It’s currently about 74″ x 90″, without the border or binding.  I don’t know where/how I’m going to baste it…. so suggestions are welcome!  I may have to use the huge table at Gather Here for this beast.

Will keep you posted!

Summer vacation

Raspberry kiss quilt - blocks assembled into rows 1

That’s right folks, I’m on vacation!  After a very challenging summer at work, I’m taking a few days off to recover before all the craziness associated with the fall semester kicks in.  It’s my favorite type of vacation, too: staying home with nothing planned.  I feel so freeeeeeee!!!

Case in point: I am writing this post out on the roof deck in the middle of the afternoon with a belly full of sushi and a cup of coffee brewing.  My sewing machine is in the adjacent room along with my rainbow quilt top in progress.  Maggie (my sweet kitty) is napping on her cardboard scratcher, and all is quiet here in Cambridge.  Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than this.  🙂

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Analysis paralysis

Circle of rainbow raspberry kiss blocks

With nearly enough blocks to start assembling my quilt top, analysis paralysis has set in.  I have a rainbow of colors, but should they be arranged in rainbow order or not?

The random order is a little less obvious than a classic rainbow, but do the colors get jumbled with such a variety?

Raspberry kiss - 81 blocks in random order

Then again, although rainbow order is super cliche, do the colors look more harmonious in a more organized layout?

Raspberry kiss - 81 blocks in rainbow order

Or should I do something else entirely?  Perhaps a hybrid of the two?

The quilt is currently 81 blocks strong (9 x 9), and I think I’m going to make 18 more, for a total of 99 (9 x 11).  So, I have some wiggle room to adjust the color scheme a bit, perhaps making more of one color than another.

I think I know what I want to do, and it involves a bit more rearranging.  What do you think?  Honest opinions welcome!

Amidst chaos, there is sewing

Raspberry kiss - green blocks during assembly

Amidst the chaos that seems to define the most recent events in world news, American politics, and my day-to-day life, there has been sewing.  Calming, peaceful, and focused sewing.  Do you sew to drown out the chaos?  I know I do.  It works pretty well, at least temporarily.  🙂

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Sewing room improvement: small but significant

Sewing room improvement - table risers - close up

Have you ever taken 5 minutes to do something and think to yourself, “Why didn’t I do this AGES ago???”

This past weekend I walked across the street and spent a whopping $11 and made a major improvement to my sewing room.  I bought four all-purpose plastic tubs, propped up my sewing table with them, and saved myself a ton of back pain.

I was truly amazed what this extra 8 inches or so of height did for my back.  I feel like a complete idiot – I should have done this ages ago.

Sewing room improvement - table risers

As you can see above, my sewing table is now level with my ironing board, which is a good sign that the table is now at an adequate height for working while standing.

You can also see how my desk is blocked when the “studio” is set up.  BTW, this is actually the desk I am writing this post in right now.  🙂

I don’t know how long these plastic tubs will last, but for $11, I don’t really care.  I’m just happy that I have temporarily overcome my idiocy and managed to fix this extremely fixable problem.  Hooray!

On managing people: a rookie’s perspective

Managing people

My new job never ceases to challenge me.  I’ve talked about it before, wondering how long it would take for things to calm down after a tumultuous transition from grad student to postdoc.  But you know what?  I’ve come to the conclusion that things are not going to calm down.  Stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are my new normal.  I know I’m not alone in dealing with work-related stress, and in the grand scheme of things am doing pretty well in life, but man, this is tough!

I think it’s safe to say that the work I’ve been doing lately is, hands down, the most challenging work I’ve ever done in my life.

The latest challenge?  Managing.  At 36 years old, this is the first time I’ve been responsible for a bunch of people on a daily basis.  This summer I have five students working for me full time, a combination of undergraduates and high school students.  Thankfully all the students are wonderful, very bright and motivated, and really a pleasure to work with.  The challenging part is keeping everyone moving forward simultaneously.

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