Friday, September 23, 2016

battling negativity -- 6 strategies

My art, my blog, it's all about joy. Obviously life is not all beauty and joy, but it is our choice on what to focus. My choice is joy.

nasturtiums, garden, variegated nasturtiums, Alaska Mix Nasturtiums, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And yet, sometimes I don't feel it.

Lately I haven't been feeling it. I've been moody. Negative. There's nothing wrong. No good reason for it. Everything is fine. Matthias is doing well. And yet...

I know our weather isn't helping. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. The end of summer always makes me a bit sad, too. I've had a few artistic disappointments lately, but I've also had artistic excitements (I'm still dancing about this).

Life is ups and downs. Sometimes the downs win.

It helps if we have strategies for battling the negativity.

inspiration, paint chips, reminders, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Here are a few of mine:

  • Write a Joy List (the more I do it, the better I feel).
  • Get lost in a project -- embracing something you don't normally tackle is especially helpful. Try a new recipe, take a class, re-paint a room in your home, refinish furniture (I recently painted my desk chair with one of my favorite colors and reupholstered it with a patchwork of fun fabrics... the project focused my attention and now that I'm finished the chair brings me joy each day).
upcycling furniture, furniture refinishing, patchwork, patchwork upholstery, painted furniture, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
  • Take time for play. Letting go of more serious tasks and trying something just for the fun of it can help me shake off a funk. My sketchbook is the perfect place for this. Playing with my dogs, singing along to music or dancing in the kitchen while making dinner always bring me a lift, too.
collage, sketchbook, nasturtium flower, play, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
  • Organize, clean and purge. Cleaning is definitely not my favorite task, but there's something so satisfying about taking the time to clean and organize. If there's a space that you regularly ignore (for me was my desk) put that in order first. You might be surprised how much of a difference it makes to how you feel.
  • Spend time in nature.

luna moth, sketchbook, colored pencils, sketches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

  • Get off the internet, take a break from social media and generally unplug.

What about you? What are your favorite strategies for battling negativity?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sketchbook Conversations -- a Chat with Regina Lord

This week's Sketchbook Conversation is with Regina Lord. Regina is a full time mixed media artist living in Southern Arizona with her husband, two teenage sons, their dog Freya and Rocky the desert tortoise. Regina is inspired by the sunshine, nature, bright colors and Frida Kahlo.  

Here's her sketchbook story:

Regina Lord, Sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations

Keeping a sketchbook is one of the biggest parts of my process. It helps me gather ideas, work them out and lay the foundation to many of my projects and final paintings.  I have many sketchbooks for drawing and doodling as well as several art journals for miscellaneous painting, practicing portraits and experimenting with new mediums. 

Regina Lord, Sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations

Now that my art is my full time business, I have to keep the fires burning as much as possible. Nature is probably my biggest inspiration. I go walking every morning with my trusty dog Freya and look for anything that inspires me - flowers, birds, shapes, colors,clouds - and I take photos of what I see with my phone camera.  I am also committed to creating something everyday.  It might be 20 minutes of drawing or a full on painting on canvas. The more I create the more creative I am. 

Regina Lord, Sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations

I have so many favorite tools, but my top 10 that I use in my sketch pads and art journals are: IDenti Pen with dual tip (by Sakura),  SumoGrip mechanical pencil filled with B lead, Peel-off Magic Rub eraser pencil, Pitt artist pens with brush tip in various colors, Supracolor II Soft Caran d'ache water color pencils, Prismacolor colored pencils, Koi Watercolors, DecoArts artist acrylics, Stabilo All pencil in white and black, lots and lots of various sized paintbrushes.

Regina Lord, Sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations

My advice for someone who is just starting out: skip the first page. I think a lot a people are intimidated by an empty sketchbook and those first blank pages. I always, always skip the first page and sometimes I just randomly open in the middle and start drawing. Most importantly, make your sketchbook a safe place where there is no judgement and always draw what you love!

Regina Lord, Sketchbooks, Sketchbook Conversations

Thank you, Regina for sharing your story with us today.

You can find Regina here:
Website :: www.creativekismet.com  


You can catch up on the other Sketchbook Conversations posts and find more sketchbook inspiration here.

*Photos in this post © Regina Lord. Used with permission.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Joy List Monday

black and blue salvia, garden, blue flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry


Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

lantana, garden, flowers, autumn, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

My list:

  • the garden winding down, but still full of beauty
  • a bird visitor who landed on my back while I was working in the garden
  • the sky's beauty: clouds, moon, blue, cloudless, lightning...
  • finished cozy indoor projects
  • good food made and eaten with people I love
  • crunchy leaf walks
  • huge flocks of blackbirds flying and chattering in the mornings
  • working in my studio
  • my houseplants and planning the return of those that summered outside
  • playing and experimenting in my sketchbooks
houseplants, cyclamen, flower buds, cyclamen flower buds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What's on your Joy List today?

Friday, September 16, 2016

coneflowers -- a new botanical watercolor painting

A few weeks ago I wrote about the stillness and joy of mixing colors for a coneflower painting.

coneflowers, echinacea, vintage mug, flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Now that the painting is finished and photographed (and in my shop), I thought I'd share it here.

coneflowers, watercolor coneflowers, echinacea, echinacea painting, floral watercolor, botanical illustration, botanical watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry


This was one of the slowest paintings I've done for a long time. So many things going on. So many distractions.

coneflowers, watercolor coneflowers, echinacea, echinacea painting, floral watercolor, botanical illustration, botanical watercolor, painting process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

During this strange, difficult year I've lost my rhythm. It's taking me a long time to re-design my schedule, my routines, to create balance and flow. I haven't gotten there yet.

Things might have been discombobulated, but having this painting on the table in my studio brought me joy. It was a joy to work on. The colors. The movement of the paint. The details added bit by bit.

My flower models had to be replaced three times during the duration of this painting.

But eventually it was finished.

coneflowers, watercolor coneflowers, echinacea, echinacea painting, floral watercolor, botanical illustration, botanical watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And scanned. And signed.

coneflowers, watercolor coneflowers, echinacea, echinacea painting, floral watercolor, botanical illustration, botanical watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And photographed.

coneflowers, watercolor coneflowers, echinacea, echinacea painting, floral watercolor, botanical illustration, botanical watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Some things take time.

One thing painting has taught me is patience.

Wishing you plenty of both. Have a lovely weekend.

p.s. I also managed to create some prints of this one, too. They're available in my Etsy shop.

coneflowers, botanical art prints, watercolor coneflowers, Etsy, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sketchbook Conversations -- jumping in this week and sharing my thoughts

I have some really great posts lined up for the coming weeks, but before I share those stories, I wanted to jump in with a few thoughts of my own.

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

One of the things I love about this series is seeing how different artists use their sketchbooks -- there's such diversity. Every artist is different and every sketchbook is, too.

sketchbooks, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Some of the artists who've shared their stories here are professional artists. Some are not, which doesn't make what they're doing any less valid, any less art. Maybe I'm showing my own hangups with this statement, but I have a feeling that the moniker of artist and what it means to be a real artist hold some people back from embarking on their own artistic explorations.

I wish that weren't the case.

My goal with this series, with my Artist Interviews, with my Skillshare classes and with my blog in general is to encourage you to shatter those obstacles, to be curious and playful and to embrace creating for its own sake, in whatever way brings you joy. Your voice and your vision are valid. Trust them.

I also want to inspire you to explore new avenues, to try things you've never tried before, to ask the question what if? Before I embarked on my creative journey I would never have dreamed that it would be possible for me, a non-artist, to start painting, but when I saw that other non-artists were doing just that, I began to start dreaming and eventually doing.

watercolor, watercolors, painting, paint palette, colors, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I know that it is all too easy to look at what other people are making and creating, whether it be on blogs, Instagram, Pinterest and to feel overwhelmed or deflated, as if what you're doing (or even just dreaming) isn't enough -- good enough, interesting enough, big enough... whatever.

There's not an easy solution to that. All you can do is just keep going. Still your thoughts and pick up a paintbrush (or pen or camera or crochet hook or whisk...) and create. That is the important thing. To create. To bring something into the world that wasn't there before. It's certainly good for us when we do it and I think it's good for the world when we do it, too.

A sketchbook is an easy arena for creating. It's small. It's contained. It can be private. It can be a springboard into other projects. It can be a meditation. It can be a pep talk. It can be a playground. It can be a collaboration. It can be whatever you want it to be.

This is why I want to share other artists sketchbooks and their stories with you here.

With next week's Sketchbook Conversations post I'll be back to sharing another artist's sketchbook and story, but until then I want to encourage you to try something new today. Maybe it's a sketchbook. Maybe it's not. I know there's something that's been whispering to you. Listen. Listen and take the first steps in making your dream into a reality.

inspiration, fortune cookie wisdom, watercolor, studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry




p.s. this is my 800th post! It's amazing to look back and see how far I've come since the first nearly six years ago.

Monday, September 12, 2016

curiosity, creativity and joy

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and I believe those three are intrinsically linked.

Curiosity.

Creativity.

Joy.

The key is to always be paying attention. If you are, you'll naturally be curious about what you encounter and discover.

Last Monday on my Joy List I mentioned a fat caterpillar. I didn't include the photo I took of it because I didn't think it was "pretty" enough. Thinking back, that was stupid. Caterpillars are what they are. Perhaps not pretty, but fascinating, miraculous, magical.

caterpillar, moth caterpillar, imperial moth, imperial moth caterpillar, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I was delighted when I spied it in the grass at the entrance to the disc golf course and nature walk near our house. It was big, maybe four inches long. After we got home I was determined to find out what kind of moth it would become. It's surprising how poor the insect identification information is on the internet (if you know of a good site that's easy to navigate and that has quality information and photographs, please let me know!), but eventually I came to the conclusion that this was an imperial moth caterpillar.

A few days later returning from a walk I saw another huge caterpillar beside our back steps.

caterpillar, moth caterpillar, imperial moth caterpillar, imperial moth, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

After more internet searching I eventually determined that despite the color difference, this was probably also an imperial moth caterpillar. I have some books ordered at the library and am hoping I can confirm my speculation when they arrive.

In the meantime I looked through a field guide of butterflies and moths and became fascinated, again, by the diversity and beauty of this tiny fraction of insect life. Thinking about this and the vastness of all the other diversity and beauty in this world takes my breath away.

With the field guide open on my table in my studio and my paint palette filled with leftover paint, I couldn't help but be inspired to sketch a moth in my sketchbook.

moths, imperial moth, sketchbook, watercolor sketchbook, nature sketchbook, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Just quick and pale from a single layer of paint, but still it brought me joy. It would have been easier to have rushed from one "important" thing to the next, focused merely on checking off items on my to-do list, but it certainly wouldn't have been as fulfilling or as joyful.

The joy of the world's magic. The joy of discovery. They joy of taking the time to brush paint on paper.

Again, I'm reminded of the importance of slowing down. Of taking time.

Just taking the time to glance out the window brings me discoveries on a daily basis. Like these clouds the other day:

clouds, sky, storm, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I've never seen clouds quite like these. Hard to photograph the drama of the layers, like swooping sheets of cotton batting. Even though I ran outside with my camera, the best view was from the upstairs window through a screen (hence the screen texture in the photograph). If I hadn't taken the time to look out the window I would have missed it.

I'm sure I do miss a lot. Focus can only be trained in one direction at a time. Even so, watching, listening, paying attention is something I remind myself to do constantly. I never know what I'll discover.

These sorts of discoveries make it to my Joy Lists more than anything else (well, maybe not more than food...).

I've been determined, lately, to write Joy Lists every day, a habit I'd fallen out of. Writing them helps me to pay attention. It keeps me focused and aware and it helps me to cultivate daily gratitude (even on the most difficult days). Joy Lists might sound frivolous, but I think they're important.

Will you join me in writing your own Joy List today?


Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

My list:

  • caterpillars, moths and other nature discoveries
  • sunshine and blue skies (after seemingly endless rain)
  • a pile of gorgeous eggplants from my mom sitting on the kitchen counter
  • apples for baking, freezing and making into juice
  • nesting and working on projects around the house
  • my paint palette -- always, always, always
  • a beautiful glimpse of the moon and stars on my way home from work
  • being able to still cut flowers for the house
  • tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes
  • a new student project in one of my Skillshare classes
  • hummingbird visitors still feasting on my flowers
  • a sneak peek of something very exciting
marigolds, autumn colors, flowers, crochet doily, flower arrangement, simple bouquet, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Wishing you a week filled with much curiosity, creativity and joy!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Revisiting Summer Bliss

Although there are signs of autumn everywhere, technically it's still summer (at least for a couple more weeks).

And I'm going to keep enjoying all the things I love about summer for as long as I can before I say goodbye for the year.

Tomatoes. Garden fresh herbs. Nasturtium flower arrangements around the house. Hummingbirds and butterflies zooming through the garden. An abundance of painting subjects. Sandals.

Soon I'll be saying goodbye to them all until next year.

My Summer Bliss fabrics, on the other hand, can be enjoyed all year long. No need to say goodbye when daylight wanes and temperatures drop.

Summer Bliss, Fabric design, surface pattern design, watercolor, botanical watercolor, Spoonflower, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Adding smaller scale versions of my fabric designs has been on my to-do list for a while and I've finally gotten around to getting test swatches printed.

I love these new smaller scale prints!

Summer Bliss, Fabric design, surface pattern design, watercolor, botanical watercolor, Spoonflower, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The larger scale patterns would be great for pillows, curtains or tote bags.

Summer Bliss, Fabric design, surface pattern design, watercolor, botanical watercolor, Spoonflower, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The smaller scale patterns would be lovely in clothing, zipper pouches, as purse linings and in quilts.

You can see (and purchase) all of the designs on Spoonflower.

I'm still planning out the quilt (and other projects) I'd like to create from my fabrics, imagining the mix of smaller and larger scale patterns, considering the coordinating colors I'll want to use. Sadly, that sort of project gets put on the back burner these days. I'll get to them eventually. Until then I like seeing the fabric in my studio. These designs make me happy!

While I was working on updating my Spoonflower shop, I also made some of my designs available as gift wrap and wallpaper, something I've been wanting to do for a while.

I hope you are discovering and savoring the bliss in these last weeks of summer. I'm looking forward to the joys of autumn, too, but these last delights of summer are always especially sweet, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sketchbook Conversations -- a Chat with Anika Lacerte

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is with Anika Lacerte. Here's Anika's story:


I have been inspired to set a daily goal for myself by following creative people like @crystalmoody and @lisacongdon on Instagram, who have both done daily drawing projects. We have two little girls at home so I wanted to find a daily challenge that would be manageable for me, so I decided to draw every day in 2016, even if it was only five minutes. I figured a pen and paper was probably the simplest way to go.

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Moleskine, micron pen, inspiration, hand lettering, Anika Lacerte

I've always loved notebooks but haven't always used them regularly. I love looking back at this year's sketchbooks because I can see how I'm improving and it feels like an art journal, particularly as I add more words to my drawings now.

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Moleskine, micron pen, inspiration, hand lettering, Anika Lacerte

I keep my sketchbook beside my bed, so I am always reminded to draw in the evening. I am inspired by the progress I see in my own drawings and encouraged by the people appreciating my work on Instagram. It is important for me to be sharing my work, it seems to be a significant part of my drawing journey.

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Moleskine, micron pen, inspiration, hand lettering, Anika Lacerte

I am currently using a small sketchbook, it's a Pen & Ink blank sketchbook, 3.5" x 5.5". I love the heavy-weight paper, it's about twice the weight of a classic Moleskine book. That means I can draw on both sides of the pages and the ink barely shows through.

My current pen is a black Micron, size .03, which I am using because my other favorite drawing pen is slowly fading (black American Crafts Precision Pen, size .03).

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Moleskine, micron pen, inspiration, hand lettering, Anika Lacerte

If you're just starting out, I recommend starting with a low daily goal. My daily goal is to draw even five minutes a day. Some days I draw a lot longer, but I like that my goal is quite easy to achieve. And I think there's something unique that happens when I draw daily, even if for a short time, which is better than if I were to draw for a long time but only once a week.

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Moleskine, micron pen, hand lettering, inspiration, Anika Lacerte

I also recommend keeping the supplies simple. I use only a pen and a small sketchbook, which fits easily into a zip pouch so I can take it with me when we travel.

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Moleskine, micron pen, hand lettering, inspiration, Anika Lacerte

I enjoyed participating in #the100dayproject on Instagram, where anyone can choose a daily creative project and share their progress. I decided to not share everyday, which gave me the freedom not to have to show drawings I didn't like. It's fun to participate with others who are also being creative.

sketchbook conversations, sketchbooks, Moleskine, hand lettering, micron pen, inspiration, Anika Lacerte

I send free printables every month to my email subscribers, signup at thehandcraftedstory.com. I post most often on instagram.com/thehandcraftedstory.


Thank you, Anikia, for sharing your story with us!





*Photos in this post © Anika Lacerte. Used with permission.

Monday, September 5, 2016

the importance of taking time

Last week I got knocked down by some sort of bug. It's been so long since I've gotten sick that I was a little surprised (among other things).

wildflowers, autumn, late summer, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The day I started coming down with it, I ignored it. I had a whole long list of things I wanted to do and I plowed through them. For some of the day I was so involved in a project that I didn't take time to drink anything and pushed lunch later and later.

Looking back I realize that if I had taken time, rested, hydrated, cared for myself, I probably wouldn't have gotten so sick.

I remind myself time and again to slow down and pay attention to life's beauty and joy. And that's important. It's also important to listen to our bodies. Pay attention to what they're telling us. It's important to slow down and rest. It's important to take time for ourselves with nothing on our agendas.

nasturtiums, vintage pitcher, avon pitcher, nasturtium bouquet, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It's very easy to cut that sort of time out of our schedules. Because what it accomplishes isn't something that can be measured or quantified, it's easy to forget its importance.

Don't.

I know it's not easy. It's something I continually need to work on. Something I fail at. Something I need to be reminded of again and again.

tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, garden tomatoes, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The beginning of autumn is a good time for fresh starts. A good time to cultivate new habits, to readjust schedules and begin new practices. I'm working rest and ease into my schedule as my new practice for the fall. And I'm re-committing, again, to my Joy Lists. I need to go back to writing them everyday.

Quiet.

Slowness.

Reflection.

Gratitude.

I think we all could use more of them in our lives.

Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

sunflowers, late summer, autumn, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Here's my list today:

  • cardinals, chickadees and an unknown yellow bird enjoying the seeds from my sunflowers
  • new legs for one of the tables in my studio (really a salvaged door), giving me a high workspace -- no more hunching over!
  • nasturtiums, nasturtiums, nasturtiums
  • discovering a huge, fat caterpillar on a walk
  • going out to pick tomatoes and being greeted by a black swallowtail
  • perfect weather
  • grasshoppers
  • tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes
  • reading
  • nesting and working on small projects for the house
  • cooking and eating good food
  • being out in nature
wildflowers, meadow, late summer, autumn, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What's on your Joy List today?