Tag Archives: Art

My Glass Journey


It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and that is (partly) because I have been focusing on learning the art of stained glass! If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen plenty of my posts over the last 6 months or so involve glass in some way. Here’s the back story:

At the end of last summer, I was feeling like it was time for me to try something new. I get this urge from time to time, when things in my life are feeling stagnant, or I am feeling creatively stunted. It is what motivated me to take pottery lessons so long ago, to get my degree in landscape architecture (an expensive foray), to take the master gardener certification course, and to get involved with Toastmasters.

I’ve always had a thing for glass. Perhaps it’s not really glass itself, but light. Glass is a medium that changes appearance depending the light source, intensity, and movement. I guess what I really love is light itself. I love light.

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Ahem, back to my story. So late summertime, I’m looking for my next creative adventure and it hits me – GLASS! It is one of those things I always wanted to try, and I’m at a time in my life where I can easily afford to take a class and buy supplies, so why not? I googled “glass studios” and found a place about 20 minutes from my home. I also found that a local art center was doing a one-night class to make fall leaves. I asked my dad to join me and we made our very first stained glass pieces.

The stained glass classes at the glass studio were offered in 6-week sessions. I wasn’t able to sign up for a session right away, so in the meantime I took a couple of the one-day classes they offered on Saturdays. I asked my friend Stacy to join me.

Slumped Vase 

The first class was pretty minimal work. We had to select a piece of glass that would be slumped over a form in the kiln to create a vase. We could trim the edges of the piece however we liked. After we left, the studio owner would fire the piece for us, and we could pick up the vase the following week.

Although I had done some cutting to make the leaf mentioned above, I was still getting the hang of it. I found the glass cutters offered at the studio were a challenge for me to hold. I watched as the instructor held the cutter in his hand. His index finger extended down to the cutting head while the rest of his fingers gripped the handle. Well, that didn’t really work for me, since I was working with two less fingers.

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Learning how to cut curves.

Nevertheless, I persisted and was pretty happy with how my finished piece turned out. Unfortunately for Stacy, her piece broke when they attempted to drill through the bottom so she could use it as a lamp shade.

The Cutter

After that first class, I emailed the studio to ask if they had different cutter styles I could try out, since the pistol grip style was clunky and hard for me to control. It turned out they had a couple of options. The next time I went in, I tried a pencil-style one and one that had saddle-shaped handle. The saddle grip worked best for me, as it allowed me to grip close to the tip with my fingers and use the pressure from my palm to push the cutter.

I ended up buying a really cool cutter that has an adjustable grip handle. It has made cutting the glass so simple and fun!

Fused Wind Chimes

The next class we signed up for was to make wind chimes. We were given a wide array of fusable glass to choose from and allowed to go wild. Stacy went with an aquatic theme for hers, but I decided to make abstract leaves for mine.

Once again, we had to leave the items behind for the studio to put into the kiln, and then we could pick up our work the following week. I was really happy with how mine came out, although I think the stick I hung them on is a little too big, so I may re-hang it later.

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Fused Ornaments

As the holiday season approached, the studio offered fused ornament classes pretty much every weekend. By this time, Stacy and I had already started the stained glass course, but I figured the ornaments would make really unique Christmas gifts for the family.

Stained Glass Butterfly

The first night of the 6-week stained glass course, I had no idea what I wanted to make. I’ve never really been interested in the cookie-cutter stained glass designs you see in people’s front doors or in bars. I wanted my piece to be funky and artsy and different. The first night, I began sketching out this crazy spiral design that I’d been doodling in my notebook for weeks. It would look so cool, but as I drew it larger, I was intimidated by the complexity of it.

The following week was Thanksgiving, so there would be no class. Plus, Dave and I were going to Costa Rica, so I’d be missing the class after that as well. That bought me some time to think about it and come up with an idea. While in Costa Rica, we saw lots of blue morpho butterflies, which inspired me to do a butterfly pattern.

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Blue Morpho at La Paz Waterfalls, Costa Rica

My first thought was to do a realistic rendering of the blue morpho, but as I searched online for stained glass butterfly patterns, I came across a drawing of a celtic knot butterfly, and I knew that was the one I had to do.

Little did I know, as I began that project, just how hard it was going to be to cut out the curvy shapes. I broke several pieces before the instructor informed me that they had a saw that I could use for the especially curvy parts.

Even with the saw, I left a lot of extra glass on my pieces, which meant that I had to spend a LOT of time using the grinder to get my pieces down to size. At first I found it very hard to hold onto the small pieces, and my hands were cramping up. I asked if they had something to hold the pieces with, and it turned out there was! Once I used that, it alleviated the strain on my hands and made for a more pleasant experience.

By week 3 of cutting and grinding, I was feeling somewhat downhearted about my project. I confess, I’m an instant-gratification kind of person, at least when it comes to learning new things or creating something. In my artistic experiences, I tend to prefer projects that can be completed in one sitting. I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing something. Of course I am aware that working on something over time can also be gratifying, but I was really getting tired of grinding the life out of my glass pieces.

It took me most of the 6-week course (actually 5, since I missed a week while I was in Costa Rica) for me to complete the butterfly. I did learn a lot through the process, mainly that I should cut much closer to my pattern lines so I wouldn’t need to spend hours grinding.

The Octopus

Once the butterfly was finished, I wanted to try my hand at a slightly larger piece. I had a couple of octopus drawings I’d done in the past that I thought would be cool to modify into a glass piece.

I redrew the design on a larger piece of paper, and then traced over that with tracing paper to create my new pattern. Originally I wanted my octopus to be bright orange with pink undersides like the drawing, but I couldn’t find a bright enough orange in the selection of glass at the studio. I settled for a piece of glass that reminded me of the inside of a seashell. It was mostly beige in color, with hints of purple and green and an overall iridescence to it, like abalone. For the underside I found a piece of glass that was swirled through with bright orange-red. And for the skirt, as I called it (I guess really it’s the armpits? ha ha), and the eyelids, I chose an iridescent white. For the water I just laid low and went with a clear cobalt blue.

By now I was much more comfortable cutting the glass, and did not have to spend nearly as much time grinding, which was a huge relief. Also, by this time the new year had rolled around and the studio had put fresh grinding bits on all their grinders so that also made the grinding process less annoying.

I’d come to grips with the fact that this was going to be a multi-week process, so I was feeling less angsty about the time it was taking to get my octopus put together. It ended up taking me about 10 weeks from start to finish. I made some more rookie mistakes in the process, but I am happy with how it came out!

What’s Next?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been putting together a small glass studio of my own. I am keeping an open mind as to where it will take me. I have no shortage of ideas for future projects, and perhaps once I’m more confident with my skills I can start taking commissions. We’ll see!

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My glass studio in it’s infancy!

Throwback Thursday – Papers from the Past


Lately I’ve been on a roll going through old papers and either taking pics of them or scanning them and then CHUCKING THEM!

It feels so good to be rid of the excess stuff, and since I’m preserving it digitally, I don’t feel so torn about throwing it out. Of course, there is still the arduous task of organizing all the digital files, but I think I can handle it.

I’ve found quite a few gems which I look forward to sharing and expounding upon further in this blog.  I just wrote a post for my Daily Art Challenge page, sharing a nursery rhyme I illustrated in college.

Maybe it’s simply nostalgia, but I feel a strong connection to this goofy girl I once was. Check out some of my drawings from 2nd grade (age 7)

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I think the deer on the right is actually quite well executed for a 7-year old.

I don’t know why I was always writing “See” next to stuff. How demanding! Also, not to psychoanalyze my past self, but what’s going on with my hand in the drawing? And my teeth?

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I’m pretty sure there was some tracing involved in this one.

I wrote “Look!” at the top of this page and then must have decided against it. I was cracking up when I took a closer look at the audience. We have an exuberant vocalizer on the left, then a guy with T-Rex arms in the middle, and what appears to be a completely armless girl in a bikini on the end.

 

March Motivation


Hey there! It’s been a while since I wrote a current-events post. As usual, I am busy thinking up so many things I want to do and trying to do everything at once and then feeling overwhelmed and rushed and anxious about life.

How do you find balance? I constantly feel the need to create things; to produce. Whether it be writing or drawing or painting, it’s like an itch inside me that I am forever trying to scratch. That’s why I like Zentangle so much – it is easy to bang out a quick drawing in a short amount of time, and most often it looks pretty cool.

A few weeks ago I was out in sunny Southern California at a work-related conference, and they had a motivational speaker give the keynote. He was billed as a magician and a corporate speaker, and my first thought was that his performance was probably going to be the cheesiest thing I’d seen in a while. Fortunately, I was very wrong. He was amazing, and quite inspirational. His name is Vinh Giang – here’s his promo video.

Once I got home, I looked up Vinh on YouTube and I watched a bunch of his stuff so I could keep the inspiration going. I also happened upon a TED talk by David Litchfield, where he talked about how he challenged himself to draw something every day for a year.

So of course I got excited and inspired and decided to give myself a daily art challenge. Notice I said art and not just drawing, because why would I limit myself? (Insert eye-rolling emoji here… )

You may have already found it, or seen my oversharing of my daily pieces on FB, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and wherever else I could find… but if somehow you missed all of these, my daily art challenge site can be found here:

DailyArtChallenge

I am already kind of regretting that I made it a daily challenge instead of weekly or something, but so far I have managed to do it every day.

Vinh says in his talks: the biggest illusion you will ever experience in your life is when you tell yourself that something cannot be done. I’ve certainly fallen victim to this mentality many times. It’s something I want to change – I want to believe in myself, that one day I will be a professional writer and a professional illustrator. I don’t want to spend my whole life just thinking of what might have been if only I’d tried a little harder.

So, I will keep blogging and keep arting, and one day I will figure out how to make it all work!

Throwback Thursday: If I had 3 Wishes


In first and second grade, my teacher encouraged us to make books so we could practice our writing skills. At the time I was very impressed with myself because I wrote a lot of books. In looking through these “books”, 30 years later, I am amused by the fact that very few of them are actually finished. I would start off very excitedly and a few pages in, I would literally drop my pencil and move on to something else. The foreshadowing was unrecognized at the time, but looking back, it is quite telling.

Currently I’m working on scanning all my childhood paraphernalia, as it is starting to disintegrate into dust (construction paper is not meant to last). God knows I’ll probably get 1/3 of the way through and lose interest – in that regard, little has changed since second grade.

I do intend to share some of my early childhood creations, starting with this gem:

If I Had 3 Wishes

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Obviously I wanted long hair and a full set of teeth…

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Mrs. Bush was the best!

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My cat, named Bunny, disappeared one day and we never saw her again. Sad. Also, it would have been nice if I could look more normal so other kids wouldn’t make fun of me.

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My neighborhood was full of old people and it sucked.

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Who is this, RIngo Starr?

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Look at the sad pioneer woman!

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And her sad woodcutter husband!

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He’s about to get his 3 wishes! But aww, that’s the last page of my book.

If there’s one thing I wish Mrs. Bush would have taught us, it would have been storyboarding. Maybe I was just out that day. But to this day I struggle to plan things out – preferring instead to jump in and get started, only to find out that I’ve run out of paper (or time, or budget) before I could finish my story.

Perhaps one day I will learn!

California Dreaming


California recap – continued from my last post.

Saturday morning, I woke up and hit the trail. I had my eye on it all week, as it was right across the street from the hotel. Dave and I walk on the rail trail near us quite often, so I thought it would be cool to check out this Southern California edition. It was quite different from the woodsy Connecticut trail I am used to.

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I guess they never have to worry about snow and ice, or even that much rain, deteriorating the carving or messing up the stone path. It waas cool to walk along and look at all the funky plants.

I walked about a mile but it was so bright and sunny, I was starting to feel over-sunned, so I went back to my room. The freckles on my legs were popping out like crazy. Annoying.

That afternoon, I went up to Encinitas, which was just a couple of miles north of Solana Beach. My aunt Dotty was going to be in town, so we made arrangements to meet up for lunch.

We ate at the Lotus Cafe, which had lots of yummy vegetarian options. We sat and talked for a long time, which was really nice. We had only met once before, and this was our first one-on-one. I’m so glad we were able to talk and get to know each other better. The time flew by, and I think we would have kept talking for hours if we could have!

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Post-lunch selfie!

I had thought I would spend my afternoon at the San Diego Botanic Gardens, but Dotty pointed out that they had been having such a drought lately that the plants might not be looking their best. She mentioned that there was a meditation garden in Encinitas that was free, so I decided to check that out instead.

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It had beautiful ocean views. I stood and watched the surfers for a while.

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Nice shady trees in the garden

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Lots of plants I don’t see back East!

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A bee’s work is never done

I would have liked to have stayed at the gardens for longer, but they closed at 5, so I was kindly asked to leave. Oh well. It’s definitely a place I would visit again if/when I get to go back out there!

I drove back to Solana Beach (seriously, it was like less than 5 miles away), and I walked down to the beach to watch my final Pacific Ocean Sunset. *wipes tear*

I took approximately 500 photos, but I’ll just show you one of the cool ones:

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Would I watch the sunset every night if I lived there?

The next day, it was time to pack my bags and move on. Next stop: Anaheim. I drove up early in the day, because I was told that traffic would be hideous if I waited until afternoon. I got to my hotel just before lunchtime. So I grabbed a bite to eat and then settled into my room. If it hadn’t been 104° F, I may have taken a walk around and looked at the sights, but I wanted nothing more than to be indoors.

A few months back, when I posted on Facebook that I was going to be out in California, quite a few people messaged me asking if I wanted to hang out. Of course, I would have liked to hang out with everyone, but I didn’t have that much free time!

Jakki and I have been FB friends for a long time now. I don’t remember exactly how we met – it may have been on a FB group for people with ectrodactyly. Jakki also has EEC. She was still in high school when we met, and I have watched her go through college, find a man, and settle down. (Wow, that sounds like I am the ultimate FB stalker, doesn’t it?)

Well, anyway – Jakki and her boyfriend live close enough to Anaheim that they came and picked me up and took me out for the night! It was the first time that Jakki met another person with EEC, so it was a bit emotional. It’s always neat to meet someone else with EEC and see just how similar we are. Like long-lost cousins or something.

We went to Laguna Beach, which turns out has a lot of cool art galleries. We kept popping into them, mostly so we could cool down (it was still like 100° there, believe it or not!).

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Hanging with Jakki in the Dr. Seuss exhibit!

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This one spoke to me.

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We were posing in front of a dolphin, but he didn’t quite make the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we explored a bunch of galleries, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was yummy and gave us some more time to talk.

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The Mona Lisa watched me tinkle in the restaurant bathroom!

After dinner, we got gelato and ate it down by the beach, but by then the sun had already gone down. I was happy to see some stars though, as I was thinking it would be nice to see the stars over the ocean, but I never stuck around long enough after a sunset to see them.

So that was fun, getting to meet Jakki and her boyfriend. I hope she can make it to one of the NFED conferences so she can meet the rest of the EEC gang!

The next day, I was working from my hotel room and checking in on the booth setup for the trade show. I was pretty excited to get upgraded to a suite at the Marriott. It was hands down, the nicest hotel room I have ever stayed in. It felt pretty weird being in it alone though. It would have been fun to have had Dave there with me. It was too much space for just one person! Not to mention, I really didn’t want to leave it to go down to the tradeshow. haha!

I won’t bore you with talk of the trade show. Blah blah blah. Does anyone actually enjoy these things?

Tuesday evening arrived, and it was time to head home. Despite enjoying my time out there, I was missing Dave and my furballs, and the thought of fall back home. So I headed to the John Wayne Airport to wait for my flight.

I had a few hours to kill, so I figured I’d try out Ruby’s Diner, which is supposed to be a SoCal staple.

 

It was barely 7pm when I went in, and they were already closing up shop. I was able to get a sandwich and fries, and of course, a chocolate shake. I figured I would stuff myself before I got on the plane so that I could sleep without getting hungry.

Another two hours later, and I was on the plane! I should have taken a picture of my ridiculous getup – extra-thick neck pillow, light-blocking eye cover, and earplugs. By the grace of all that is holy, the seat next to me was unoccupied, so I was able to relax even more and not worry about bumping elbows with some shmuck next to me.

I wouldn’t say it was a deep, restful sleep, but it passed the time. Before long, it was 4:50 am, and we were taxiing into Newark.

While I was wandering around Newark waiting for my flight to Hartford, I stumbled into the MET store. I saw they had a little Spirograph kit for $25. I held it. I looked at it. I put it back. I went out to the gate, sat down, and ordered one on Amazon instead.

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Because I am 12 at heart.

I had this idea that I could use the spirographs to start a zentangle design. So that’s what I played with this weekend.

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Attempt 1

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Attempt 2

I think there’s some promise there! But the Spirograph is still hard to use. I had one as a kid and I was always getting frustrated because I would lose control of the pen and ruin the design. Maybe now I will have the patience to master it. Maybe.

Well, that wraps up my California experience. I hope I can go back again before too long! It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to go, but it took a work trip to actually get me out there!

Now I am sick – I picked up a cold or something on the plane, I assume. I was going to go to bed early tonight, so I guess I should get on that before “early” turns into “late”.

Au revoir!

 

My Happy Place


After a good month of not doing any Zentangles, I finally spent some time over the weekend making a couple.

 Usually I just draw them in black ink and then use a pencil to shade and add some depth, but I decided to experiment with color again.

I love color, but sometimes I find it hard to work with because I want to use ALL THE COLORS!  

Using all the colors can get a bit murky though. Or it can become an assault on the eyes.

Last night, our Toastmasters club held a speech contest. We had three really great and inspiring speakers. When I got home, I was pretty wired, so I decided to bang out a quick drawing before settling in for the night.
I really like how this one came out. It really just flowed so easily.

When I got in the car today and heard on the radio that Brussels had been attacked, I kept thinking about this drawing and how soothing it was for me. Weird, right?

I wish the terrorists would lay down their arms and pick up some art supplies. Maybe that will be my life’s purpose- to encourage art, not war.

Write or Draw or Paint?


Let’s hope no one was holding their breath after my last post because that was quite a long wait. I’m sorry for that. I hadn’t intended to take a hiatus. In fact, I had intended to write more! Instead, I fell into a funk for a couple of weeks and did not feel like posting anything.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I have not been completely devoid of creative output. I decided to revisit the One Zentangle A Day book and do it all over again.

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I’ve also decided to revisit Downton Abbey. I stopped watching it a couple of years ago after the tragic death of Sybil. I knew there’d be more tragic death to go through, but I decided I was already feeling rather low so might as well indulge myself in misery.

My evenings have mainly consisted of sitting on the couch and drawing while Downton plays in the background. Clearly, this leaves me with no time to write.

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Dave recently began working second shift, which means that he is not home in the evenings. I don’t think this has been the cause of my mellow emotions lately, but it probably doesn’t help. I’m sure it is a combination of the darkness of winter and the fact that I am on the edge of a virtual precipice. (So dramatic…)

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I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I feel like I am ready for a change. I can’t yet share what that change will be, only that I am not entirely happy where I am right now. I can either steel myself to carry on and soldier through the current situation, or I can make the effort to change the thing that is really dragging me down lately. And once I’ve made that change I will tell you all about it.

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This one took a long time! Like, four episodes of Downton Abbey!

As much as I am always talking about change and embracing change and blah blah blah, there is a great part of me that also wants to just dive under the covers and avoid anything that is going to be difficult. I find that the more I push myself out of my comfort zone, the easier it gets to try new things… but conversely, when I let myself start slipping back into the comfort zone I find it harder to get up and get back out again.

I am ruled so much by my emotions. I guess that was obvious when I said I didn’t write for the past two weeks because I didn’t feel like it.

I’ve read that people who are dedicated to becoming writers make time to write every single day, whether they feel like it or not. Same as artists who paint or draw every day, whether or not they’re in the right mood.

Pretty much the only thing I do every day regardless of my mood is basic bodily functions and important grooming tasks such as teeth brushing. Everything else is entirely subject to whether I feel like it or not. I’m not sure if that’s anything to be proud of.

In other news, last night my coworkers and I went to a paint bar in West Hartford. It was supposed to be a group outing/team building sort of moment, but half our group bailed. Whatever!

In case you live under a rock, a paint bar is what it sounds like. A painting studio with a bar. Artists lead the group in making identical copies of a painting that has already been created by someone else. Wine, beer and snacks are available.

Being a trained artist, I was a bit skeptical going into this, though I confess I was looking forward to blowing my teammates out of the water with my mad painting skills. However, since the two people who I had intended to impress ended up not even showing up (painting is for losers!), that was a moot point.

The painting we were to do was this winter scene with a snowman standing on it’s head, with stick legs popping out of his bottom ball. Ok, it is kind of cute, though probably not something I would have painted if given another option.

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Did you know that snowmen have legs?

I’ll admit that I did have fun doing it, I mean, of course I did. Even though it wasn’t original art, I still enjoyed smearing the paint around and everything. The paint was really low quality, like, crayola or something, so it didn’t behave as nicely as I would have liked. But I guess I can’t have expected them to break out the professional stuff.

In the end I decided that it was fun, especially for people who don’t have an art background. You get to create a painting in two hours while you drink wine and hang out with your friends. The instructors were nice and helpful. Obviously if painting is really your thing, you have to put your ego on the back burner and just know that you will not be creating a masterpiece.

Painting was never really my favorite creative outlet. But doing it last night reminded me that I *do* enjoy it, when I give myself the time. Maybe I will try my hand at it again this year. The last time I painted anything was in 2009, when my boss at the time commissioned me to paint his beloved dog, Bully.

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Bully, 2009

 

So in the end, perhaps it is good that I don’t always feel like doing one thing or another – I certainly don’t have time to write, draw, watch Downton Abbey and paint all in one day!