So little time…so much to do…

In the last few weeks, I have literally traveled coast to coast.  I stuck my toes in the Pacific Ocean and just a couple weeks later I stuck those same toes in the Atlantic Ocean.  I have traveled by truck and trailer over 8000 miles, taught a 3 day seminar, set up and worked 2 conventions, taught 5 classes and special event all within about 3 weeks.  I can rightfully say that I am bone tired!

However, my schedule is packed so tight and I have so many deadlines that rest is not an option.  So, what is the solution?  I thought I would share my secret to organization and keeping productivity at a max.

The first thing I recommend is making a list.  The list needs to be quite thorough.  I list EVERYTHING that needs to be done from art projects to house cleaning tasks.  Once the list is complete, the next step is to prioritize.

This is my secret, the solution to solving my crazy schedule.  I recommend purchasing a large desktop calendar.  I use the one with each month on an entire page with plenty of room on each day for notes.  I also like the ones with room for notes across the bottom or side margins.Calendar

Now the fun begins!  With a pencil (in case you need to re-arrange), start putting the tasks onto the calendar.  My best advise is to NOT overload each day.  Be practical and give yourself time off.  It is not realistic to pack the days so full that there is no time to enjoy life!  I always keep at least two days open, just in case the grandkids come over or I get an offer to do something fun.  That’s the main reason that I use a pencil!  I can simply erase and re-schedule.  My calendar is ALWAYS visible so I can see it at a glance.

Once I have all my deadlines and tasks listed on my calendar, I no longer stress or worry about trying to get everything done.  It doesn’t mean I don’t have long days, but now I have the comfort of knowing that it is all under control.  I can focus on each project as it is scheduled which allows me to be much more creative.

I absolutely love what I do!  I feel that I have been blessed with a talent and the desire to share.  My head spins with new ideas and designs.  I have stacks and stacks of sketch books, note books and scraps of paper with ideas.  My biggest challenge is not coming up with new designs, it is trying to juggle working full time, being a designer, painter, wife, mom, grandma, and making it all work.

My calendar is my peace of mind.  I know how much I can pack into each day and keep my sanity.  Some days are still long, but when I look at my calendar, I can always see order, which keeps me calm.  Now my focus is on the important tasks at hand, whether designing, painting or (sigh) cleaning house!

What a Mess!!! by Chris Haughey


Messy Studio!

This summer has been a whirlwind!  I just arrived home from a travel teaching job in Rapid City, South Dakota and the Raindrop Convention in Portland, Oregon.  My house and studio were spotless when I left…and look at it now (and this is just a portion of it)!  I have just a week until I am off again, this time to Marlborough, Mass for the New England Convention.  My studio table is stacked from unpacking my travel tote, with new product from DecoArt (aren’t they the greatest?!),  surfaces to prep for NET, class pieces from Portland & Rapid City, brushes, sponges, sample demo pieces, class pieces, patterns, etc…YIKES…I have EIGHT projects to design and paint BEFORE I leave in just 8 days!

However, there is no way I can be productive in this chaos!  I will work my magic and get everything in its place.  It always looks worse than it is.  Abracadabra…look at it now!

Ready to Work!

Ready to Work!

It really didn’t take much time and now everything is in it’s place.  I can relax, design, paint like a white tornado!  I know for a fact that a tidy work space is much more conducive to productive painting time.  This blog is short, but to the point…Take time to clean after each project!  There is nothing more deterring to painting than a messy area!  So, if nothing else, tidy up and when the opportunity arises, the paint and brushes will welcome you with open arms!

Sketchbooks and Organizing Inspiration

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I am often asked how I come up with so many ideas. I love to design and believe I have been blessed with a talent to create. Trying to organize and systematize my ideas has been a challenge. However, over the years, I have created a logical approach to cataloging my designs.

1. Always have a sketchbook close at hand. Whenever inspiration hits, I sketch a quick image and add a few notes. Rarely does the finished product look exactly like the quickie drawing, however, it is the idea that I want to capture. Because of this, I find that spending a great deal of time with a “perfect” sketch is rather a waste. Besides, I like to keep my options open just in case my mind wants to travel in a different tangent.

2. Buy a nice sketchbook. I use a standard 9” x 12” Sketchbook. There is something inspiring about having a book full of blank pages just waiting for ideas. I have used scraps of paper, but a sketchbook is more professional, consists of quality paper, keeps every idea in one place and encourages entries.  Besides, little pieces of paper seem to disappear.

3. Purchase a small travel size sketchbook. A 4” x 6” fits perfectly into my purse and is always handy whenever inspiration strikes. It is amazing how much time we spend waiting. Why not spend idle time, being creative?  It would be nice to be able to sit down and simply pour out ideas onto every page, but not realistic!  The smaller pages can either be removed and taped into the larger sketchbook or re-sketched.

4. Sketch every idea, or at least jot it down. I am sure that many, many designs have fallen through the cracks of my memory. Nothing is worse that knowing it was a great design, if only I could remember!

5. Don’t be critical. I would be the first to admit that most of my hurried sketches are very poorly executed and would be embarrassed to show them to anyone. However, these are my ideas and not intended to hone my sketching talent nor for show and tell.

6. Gather themes together. I have a three ring binder and hole punch. After I have a multitude of sketches, I punch them and file them in a binder. I have a binder for Christmas, spring, fall, everyday, etc… When I get ready to create a new design, all I have to do is flip through my catalog of ideas.

7. Once an idea has been used, it is not outdated. I have sketchbooks that are so old that they are curled and yellowed!  I have sketches ten to twenty years old that still inspire new designs. It is amazing to realize how many ideas result from a simple sketch, even old ones!

I have re-used many ideas as they can be updated with trends or change of color. I am sure we can all look back on projects from the early days and see how far we have come. A simple sketch from twenty years ago may be a solid design, all it needs is tweeked using some of the skills acquired over the years.

8. Let your mind be free. I truly believe that we are so regimented with adhering to rules and regulations that it is difficult to loosen up and try something different. Dont be afraid to experiment.  If it doesn’t turn out…oh well, but if it is amazing…aaaahhhh!

9. Play in your sketchbook. If you are trying to figure out a color scheme, painting strokes in the sketchbook will make it much easier to visualize. I have saved much grief by testing on the pages of my sketchbook, after all, I don’t have to sand and start over on paper!

10.Get in the habit of using your sketchbook every day, or at least several times a week.  Even if I don’t sketch, I get excited just looking through my pages.  I can almost guarantee that by the time you turn those pages, you will have at least one or two ideas to add!

11. A sketchbook is the perfect remedy for painting blahs.  If I ever get out of the painting groove, browsing through my sketchbook will revive my spirits.  Sometimes, painting just won’t fit in my schedule, but I can peruse through my designs, select what I will be doing next and mentally get everything in order, such as surface, colors, mediums, etc…  Doesn’t always mean that I will stick to the original plan, but it is enough to get me going.

12. Write notes.  Just because it is a sketchbook doesn’t mean that it is for sketches only.  I jot down what colors I may want to use, background info, additional embellishments, anything that may work for this project.  Often I overload the project with suggestions.  This give me plenty of choices when I get ready to paint.  It also gives me optional ideas for the same design.

I love to paint and my sketchbooks are my source of inspiration.  My sketchbooks are near and dear to me and I have a stack.  I probably spend more time with my sketchbook than I do painting.  Several years ago, I was working on a new book and the publisher asked how it was coming (which means “is it almost ready?”).  I told him it was finished except for the painting!  LOL!    To me, the designs, colors, and surfaces are the biggest obstacle, the painting is the fun and easy part!

My advice is to purchase a nice sketchbook and have fun filling up the pages.  It is an enjoyable and exciting adventure.

Discontinued DecoArt and the Dilemma…

This year DecoArt discontinued quite a few Americana Acrylic colors, some of my favorites.  I hear many comments about our beloved colors that will no longer be available.  At first I was really upset and refused to believe the rumors running rampant on Facebook.  When these rumors were confirmed, I decided to settle down and approach this as the creative artist I claim to be.

When I actually started analyzing these colors, I realized that many were so very close to other hues, that I was a bit surprised!  For example, I use Green Tea in almost all of my designs.  My next choice (if I didn’t have a bottle handy) was Limeade…guess what?…both were discontinued!  Well, take another look, Lemonade is almost identical and is just as lovely.  I always had the worst time finding a good Christmas red.  Too bright, too transparent, too orange, too blue, etc… until I found Antique Rose which was perfect.  I was more than a little saddened to see this wonderful color on the list.  I could either quit painting Christmas or find another color.  I tried the new Watermelon Slice.  I found out that it is absolutely beautiful!  I was so excited with the results that Antique Rose has become a distant memory.

13_Set2015__20336_1024x1024So, this is my conclusion:  We can let the discontinued colors become a black cloud over our painting world, or we can venture into the world of experimentation and look for substitutions or create mixes.  I am not a fan of mixes as I never can mix a second batch that will match.  I did find out that in my adventure of trying to find comparable colors, I have ended up with some pretty and impressive results!  This would have never happened if my tried and true had not been discontinued.  So, looking on the bright side, I say “Thank You” to DecoArt for pushing me outside my color comfort zone, forcing me to be a little more creative and becoming a better artist!  I encourage you to take that same journey with a fresh attitude and dabble with gusto!

These are some of the color substitutions that I would recommend.  I don’t stress out too much on being exact.  “Close” often will work out fine, don’t be too fussy, it’s more fun to relax & enjoy the artistic journey.  The first color in the list is discontinued and the second is my choice.  I have notated some of the bigger differences, such as the substitution colors are darker, lighter, etc… All paints are available at Cupboard Distributing at a great discount!  Click on this link: DecoArt Paint Savings

Discontinued Color

Replace with…

DAO5 Taffy Cream DA07 Moon Yellow
DAO21 Crimson Tide DA097 Rookwood (darker)
DAO26 Mauve DA162 Antique Mauve
DAO27 Gooseberry DA286 Terra Coral
DAO28 Raspberry DA276 Razzle Berry
DAO30 Spice Pink DA292 Coral Blush
DAO79 Brandy Wine DA097 Rookwood
DAO81 Colonial Green DA178 Blue Mist
DAO89 Cool Neutral DA319 Burlap
DAO96 Iron Oxide DA219 Heritage Brick
DA102 Medium Flesh DA025 Dusty Rose
DA135 Ice Blue DA149 Silver Sage
DA156 Antique Rose DA324 Watermelon Slice (beautiful!)
DA158 Antique Teal DA107 Teal Green (brighter)
DA162 Antique Mauve DA128 Deep Burgundy (darker)
DA177 Green Mist DA209 Arbor Green
DA184 French Vanilla DA309 Banana Cream (brighter) or DA03 Buttermilk (softer)
DA185 Light French Blue DA098 French Grey Blue (darker)
DA197 Violet Haze DA236 Grape Juice (darker)
DA198 Dried Basil Green DA187 Reindeer Moss Green
DA206 Limeade DA252 Lemonade
DA210 Soft Blue DA277 Spa Blue
DA213 Admiral Blue DA035 Navy Blue
DA218 Gingerbread DA062 Terra Cotta
DA220 Traditional Raw Umber DA130 Raw Umber (never could tell the diff!)
DA222 Traditional Raw Sienna DA093 Raw Sienna (ditto)
DA237 Soft Lilac DA211 Wisteria
DA258 Butter DA309 Banana Cream
DA279 Blue Haze Light DA178 Blue Mist (darker)
DA280 Autumn Red DA018 Country Red
DA281 Slate Green DA152 Shale Green
DA282 Green Tea DA252 Lemonade
DA295 Butterscotch DA194 Marigold
DA298 Purple Wave DA272 Purple Cow

Please note:  these are my “go to” choices.  They will be “close”, but if you want an exact match, the mixing chart is listed at:   Discontinued Paint Mixing Chart

Mixing Media

There is a huge difference between Mixed Media and mixing media.  I find that more and more I use different medias to enhance my traditional painting.  I have been painting with acrylic paints for many, many years.  I absolutely love using the acrylics to design and create, however, the more I dabble with other medias, the more excited I become.

When first asked to teach some classes using stamps with acrylic paint, I said “Sure, I would love to!”  What was I thinking??  I am not a rubber stamper and never really wanted to be.  The things we get ourselves in!  Well, long story short, after playing and dabbling with the stamps, I was amazed at the outcome.  I could stamp intricate scrolls and beautiful designs in a matter of seconds!  What would have taken me many hours to accomplish, I created in a snap.  Wow, the doors of creativity were flinging wide open.  Hmmm…maybe trying something new wasn’t so bad after all!

Stenciling is another craft that often has a bad reputation with traditional painters.  When I first started using stencils, I kept it secret.  What would people think of me if they knew I “cheated” and stenciled all the holly leaves instead of tracing and basing them?  Somehow, I realized that using other tools to make painting easier was not cheating, but painting “smarter”!  After all, who are “they” and who wrote the “rules”?

So, I now analyse all the stuff available at my fingertips for all kinds of techniques, textures and interesting results.  Sponges, texture tools, tissue, misters, burlap, liquid glass, decoupage, texture paste…the list goes on and on…  Painting has become so much more fun now that I feel free to think outside the box.  And you know what?…I think my designs are much more fun, fresh and exciting!!

These are my words of wisdom:  Let your imagination take you anywhere it can, inspiration has no limits and, you never know, you might end up with something you never imagined you could create!

Creative Painting 2015

photo 1OMG…where to start!  We left -9 temperatures (-25 with wind chill) to arrive in sunny Las Vegas

topping at 73 degrees.  That in itself was such a reprieve from the blustery cold Ohio winter.  I am always so amazed at how quickly one can acclimate to warmth.  I soon forgot about heavy winter coats, gloves, scarves, mittens…  It was so nice to just walk outside or ride with the windows down.


Laurie and me having fun at the Special Event.

photo 4

Full house at the Vegas Special Event taught by Laurie Speltz and me!

photo 2

Full house at the Vegas Special Event taught by Laurie Speltz and me!

The  first day was the Special Event taught by Laurie Speltz and myself.  We had a sell-out class with 75 students.  I could tell by the enthusiasm and seriousness of the painters that they came to learn and have fun.  We painted fast and furious, learned many techniques and made many new friends.

Waiting for unload fun to begin…


  Anxiously awaiting…


  Will the piles and chaos never end???


Cupboard Distributing is looking good!

Next was set up…and if you have never had the privilege of helping with a booth set up, let me tell you it is a tremendous undertaking.  Transforming boxes and boxes piled high into a magical and appealing booth takes time and energy.  The Cupboard Distributing team started early in the morning and worked until evening.  The finished results were perfect!  Thank you to Laura, Lindsey and Drake…we have the best employees!


Center of attention and loving every minute of playing and visiting with painting friends!

We made a space in the center table for me to play and demo tools, brushes, mediums and answer questions.  It is always a treat to mingle with such talented painters.  I cherish all the kind comments and compliments.  One lady told me she was going through a difficult time in her life.  My patterns and designs helped her get through the tough times!  Imagine being able to do what you love and helping others at the same time!  How incredible is that?  This is what keeps me inspired when painting in the wee hours of the night!


Rubbing shoulders with the stars…Gary Jenkins!


Stan Brown, my bestie!


A rose between two thorns!!! LOL! Myself, Doxie Keller and Debbie Cole

The show floor is a great place to meet new friends, see old friends and rub shoulders with the stars.  Wish I would have had a little more time to take more pictures.  I was able to chat and catch up with my favorite designers, Doxie Keller, Debbie Cole, Kim Hogue, Sandy Strecker, Jaimie Mills Price, Della Wetterman, Tracy Moreau, Deb Antonik, Bobbie Campbell, Kathi Hanson, Janice miller, Glenice Moore, Ros Stallcup, Chris Thornton…the list goes on and on….  I was able to have fun with Gary Jenkins.  In addition to being extremely talented, he is a hoot!

Doxie Keller has the energy of five people and is an asset to our industry.  Her love for painting just keeps getting stronger.


Tracy Weinzapfel DecoArt Helping Artist and a bundle of energy!


Some of Tracy’s amazing and colorful designs.


Tracy “gearing up” for some Vegas fun!


Robert Warren sharing his magic!

I met Tracey Weinzapfel, a mixed media DecoArt Helping Artist.  She has a great eye for design, color and layout with a totally fresh outlook on creating with paint.  Her method of painting is funky and fun!  I was able to catch up with Robert Warren and watch his magic with a brush.


The booth was packed almost the whole time!


New DecoArt paint colors lasted only a short time. Like our attention-getting sign??

The atmosphere this year at the convention was electric.  The excitement, the enthusiasm, the energy was uplifting for all.  I love the camaraderie the shows create and always leave with many wonderful memories.  The long, weary drive back makes coming home wonderful.  The great thing about returning home is looking forward to the next convention!

PS. I do miss the sunshine and warm temps…Spring can’t come too soon!

DecoArt Courage

When DecoArt asks me to do a project for them, I always try to push my creativity in an unusual direction to provide a new look at traditional painting.  DecoArt’s Media Line is intriguing because it is so different and versatile.  Matisse once said “Creativity takes courage”.  I titled this “Courage” as it seemed to sum it up as I stared at the blank journal.  I wanted to design something totally new and unique.  Learning new techniques and using new paints and mediums can be overwhelming, however, the results are so amazing that they are almost magical!  This project is the Featured Video in DecoArt’s Decorative Painting Newsletter.IMG_7663

Because journals are so popular, I decided to use this as my surface.  Everyone can use a journal…kids, teens, adults…we all need to make lists, write short mementos, or just jot down ideas!  Journals are a perfect and thoughtful solution for any gift giving.  My daughter creates stunning journals just for her that anyone would be thrilled to have!

This technique is very loose which can be a little stressful.  I encourage you to relax and let the brush take you to fantastic places.  I had a professor in college that emphasized that the painting always reflects your feelings.  With that in mind, relax and enjoy the ride!  The process always takes you through the “ugly stage” before it arrives at the impressive results!

Click  to see the  short instructional video creative process from start to finish…

All supplies are available from Cupboard Distributing

DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics

DecoArt Media Misters

Loew Cornell Brushes

DecoArt Media Mediums


Instructions:  The design is painted on canvas paper, then adhered to the journal cover.  Coat 5” x 7” Canvas Paper with white gesso using small specialty sponge.  Allow to dry, lightly sand, wipe clean and repeat.

  1. Screenshot_01Starting with Turquoise Shimmer Mister, lightly spray top, left corner and ⅓ down left side.  Using Yellow Green Mister, spray from top right corner to bottom left corner.  Spritz a very light amount of Primary Magenta in the area of the pinecones.  While still wet, spray with White Screenshot_1Shimmer Mister to lighten.  Hold paper vertical and allow paint to “run” down page.  Lightly mist with water or alcohol using Mini Mister.  When drips are as desired, lay paper flat to dry.
  2. Screenshot_2Attach dictionary cling stamp to acrylic handle.  Using the Archival Ink Pad, coat stamp with black ink.  Stamp words randomly onto the background.  This does not need to be heavy or solid coverage.   Random and incomplete create more interest.
  3. Load oval wash with Burnt Umber and MaScreenshot_3tte Medium (50/50).  Using a slip slap motion, coat background area to tone down.
  4. Load toe of angle with Matte Medium and QBU to float across the bottom and part way up the right side.  Blend softly into background.
  5. Attach pinecone stamp to acrylic handle.  Coat stamp with black ink following instructions above and stamp image.  Allow to dry.
  6. Screenshot_4Load liner with Titanium White to paint first layer of pine branches.  Repeat with Sap Green and Turquoise Blue Hue.  Keep adding layers until branches are full.  Finish by adding a few qbo needles.  Keep these sparse, add solely for color interest.
  7. Load filbert with Matte Medium and Burnt Umber.  Wash over pinecones to tint.  Pick up Titanium White on dirty brush and press down to create the tips of pinecone layers.
  8. Load toe of angle with qbo and float around the outer edge of the pinecones and in between.  Without cleaning brush, repeat with Prussian Blue and finish by adding a light float of qbo.
  9. Load tip of filbert with a tan mix of Titanium White and Burnt Umber (50/50) to re-define the layers of the pinecone.  Load liner with Titanium White and highlight the top tips of the layers.
  10. To create the spatters, load round with a thinned mix of Prussian Blue and qbo.  Rap brush sharply onto another brush handle.  Always test on palette before spattering surface.  Spatter mostly around the outer edges.  Repeat with Titanium White, mostly in the darkest areas.Screenshot_6
  11. Trim paper to fit journal cover.  With oval wash, apply a layer of Matte Medium onto the cover.  Place painted canvas paper, smooth flat and seal with a top coat of Matte Medium.
  12. Using pad of finger, rub Titanium White around the outer edge (and spine) of the journal.  When dry, repeat with a touch of Sap Green.  If needed, add Burnt Umber.
  13. Screenshot_7With finger, rub a small amout of Ttianium White on the raised design of the metal frame.  When dry, tone down with a small rub of Sap Green.  Add a touch of qbo for interest in just a couple places.
  14. Varnish journal surface and metal frame with a coat of Soft Touch Varnish.
  15. To add the words, coat canvas paper with Gesso.  With oval wash, tint paper with Burnt Umber and Matte Medium (50/50).  Thin Sap Green with Matte Medium (50/50) to add a hint of color.  qbo may also be added.Screenshot_8
  16. Select word stamp of choice, coat with black ink and stamp onto the canvas paper.
  17. Cut word to fit metal frame and secure with adhesive.
  18. Cut fiber or ribbon and thread through the holes in the metal frame.  Allow enough length to tie.  Apply Quick Grip Adhesive onto the back of the frame and glue into place.
  19. Fill inside frame with Liquid Glass.

I am so impressed with the vibrancy of the Media paints.  It only takes a little to create rich, glowing colors.  Please visit Cupboard Distributing for more inspiration, information and for all supplies used for this project.  Email me with any questions