Friday Favorites

I think I’m going to use this post to share a few of the things I’ve found lately that I REALLY LOVE! Some news stories, cool tutorials and things I WANT to make, a few things I need (read: want), and a few books.

First up, news stories. So these may not be actual “news”, but they’re pretty cool to me and I just thought I’d share.


This article is about Stan Herd, an artist in Minnesota, who actually created a massive Van Gogh panting in a field out of earth and plants. This isn’t the first piece of living art he’s created either. Go check out his website to see more of his stunning and unusual artwork.


Reading a good book is something I’ve always taken for granted... check out this cool YouTube video from Getty on how illuminated manuscripts (books) were made in medieval times.


Ok, on to the tutorials. I’m not posting photos to maintain the privacy of the original posters, but the links are embedded in here so you can go check them out on your own.

  • I REALLY want to make one of these linen aprons. I need one for speaking engagements where art (read: PAINT) is involved, but also I just like the way they look!

  • I also REALLY want to make my own rag rug. This tutorial uses a huge crochet hook, but I’ve also seen them where they’re braided and sewn. Not sure which one would be easier or sturdier, but I’d like to make one all the same. A rag rug would look super cute in my kitchen or on the back porch.

  • Along the same lines as the rag rug, I ALSO want to make one (or 13) of these adorable rope buckets. How easy does this look! These would be GREAT in the bathroom or my art studio or even in the kitchen! SO CUTE!

  • Ok, who DOESNT need one of these little car trash bags? I know I do! I don’t care what time of day or night it is… if my kids get in the car, they’re going to either drop trash on the floor or cram it in the cupholders or handles on the doors. #thestruggleisreal folks!

Am I the only one sensing a theme here? Can you tell what I’m longing to do in my free time (all 5 minutes of it)? SEW and work with fabric. My good friend Beth needs to come over so we can have a sewing/fabric craft girls weekend soon…


This book is the newest in my “girl power” collection of illustrated kids books and I LOVE IT! The timing of this new book by Kirsten Gillibrand is perfect. Next year in August of 2020, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment. On November 2 of 1920, millions of women women across the United States were allowed to vote for the first time.

I also absolutely ADORE this book about women in science. Not only is the subject matter incredibly interesting, but the artwork is stunning. This book is #illustrationgoals for me!


I really think our kitty needs one of these. Most of the cat hammocks you find suction cup to the window, but I want one for when the windows are open. She likes to look out the screen and listen to the birds. I think this one would work for that.

I also really want one of these. It’s an essential oil diffuser that looks like a CANDLE! So neat!


And I’m going to end with this wonderful piece of wisdom…

Finally...

Veni, vidi, vici!
— Julius Caesar (and me)

Book #2 is now a wrap! I have been pouring myself into Amazing Georgia, and now I’m excited to say that it is in the second phase of the editing process. Georgia is an incredible state and I have included points of interest from each of the 159 counties in my newest book.

Here are just a few to whet your appetite…


Along the same lines as Amazing Alabama, Amazing Georgia will be a coloring book journey through the state. Whether you color north to south, from Dade County to Charlton County, or hop around on an epic “peach state” road trip, I hope you enjoy this book and are inspired to get out and explore the fun and unique things Georgia has to offer.

Find Amazing Alabama for sale on my web site here, at NewSouth Books, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Books A Million, or your favorite museum store or gift shop.

Amazing Georgia will be available early fall 2019 from NewSouth Books.

Colorful Christmas...

For a limited time - get your own set of Color-Your-Own Holiday Notecards.

Send one along with a plate of holiday cookies to your neighbors, UPS driver, or mailmen.

Of course they’re ALWAYS great to send as Christmas Cards.

Or you could buy them to give the whole pack as a gift.

Better yet - you can buy them for your grandkids (maybe they’ll even send YOU one of them).

All 5 are pre-packaged in a little cellophane bag and tied with a red or green bow.

You can buy the set of 5 coloring notecards for only $12 (plus shipping) by clicking on the link here, or you can click any of the photographs in this post to go to the shop page.

Finally a bit of relief...

As I write this, the temperature isn’t even supposed to get above 60° today… Fall has finally arrived!

I’ve been super inspired lately with all the pumpkins and cinnamon and apples and Starbucks ads… so I’ve been enjoying the THOUGHT of fall… and finally we’re getting a bit of cooler weather.

I’ve also been playing around with some non-traditional fall colors while creating some patterns.

I think these would make neat throw pillows for my front porch swing…

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
— F. Scott Fitzergerald

Fuel for the soul

I found myself in Huntsville, Alabama last weekend - in need of a cup of coffee on an early Saturday morning, so I pulled out my phone and typed “coffee shop” into googlemaps. Several popped up in the downtown area, but only one was open at 8 (that was remotely close to where I was headed) - the Honest Coffee Roasters.

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What a beautiful coffee shop! It was light and airy. The mustard yellow leatherette chairs gave a sophisticated warmth to the stained concrete floors, black iron accents and blonde wood.

They had a small but fun menu with pastries, breakfast sandwiches and coffee drinks, but the cranberry scone with a lemon/honey glaze had my undivided attention.

And just LOOK at that beautiful cappuccino!

I was totally inspired by the cool retro vibe of the place, so I sat there and drew out a fun coffee shop mash-up. I’ve been really having fun with these food-collages lately…

Among the numerous luxuries of the table...coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions...is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.
— Benjamin Franklin

Identity Crisis...

So I recently took an online business class for artists. It’s part of the Make Art That Sells series by Lilla Rogers and Beth Kempton called MATS MBA (MBA stands for “Money Bad Ass”) and they teach everything from how to charge, to how to prioritize, to how to manage your time, to how to find your creativity when the creeping crud takes hold and you can’t seem to do anything (hey, it happens to EVERYONE). I’m a creative, so every other regular “business class” I’ve taken has been hard for me to get through. This one was taught by creatives for other creatives and it was delivered in such a way that I could really get it… finally.

Well, one of the weekly lessons was all about your brand. Lilla said something during that “lesson” that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.

You are your brand and your brand is YOU!
— Lilla Rogers

When I started my business back in 2015 (holy cow - has it been 3 years already?!!!) I drew under the business name of “Alabama Pen & Paper” and that was how I marketed my drawings, my stationary, my hand drawn journals, etc. and I kept my freelance design under “Laura Murray Creative”. Not only has that gotten super confusing, but it’s not a good business model for me. Since I am my brand and my brand is me - I decided to redo my ENTIRE business as Laura Murray Creative.

With EVERY new project I design, I start with my favorite part - my sketchbook. Here is how my “new” brand started…

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At this point, I loved all of them, so I showed the sketches to a few close friends who all picked something different (thanks, friends). I decided to narrowed it down to my “portrait” as the main focal-point of my “logo” since I am my brand and my brand is me.

I’ve created a 1 color logo, a black/white logo, a 2 color logo and a full color logo - one for every situation! You’ll also notice that I flip-flopped the words “Design” and “Illustration” on the final logo. I decided to LEAD with my passion - drawing. This is what I want to do more of.

Ideas for new illustrations and new illustration projects… THAT’S what keeps me up at night.

So as I transition away from Alabama Pen & Paper toward Laura Murray Creative, bare with me if some links don’t work. I’ve already switched my Instagram account (go check it out @lauramurraycreative) and Facebook is next.

PS: If you see any broken links, I would appreciate it if you would shoot me an email and let me know.

Journal Tutorial

One way to promote engagement in the classroom is to provide the kids with a fun activity. Something they can make in class and use both in class and at home. What about using some of your classroom resources (that I think you already have) to make an Alabama Travel Journal? These can be used to take notes in class and mark the state Capital(s) or to draw pictures of fun landmarks around our state. They can be taken home and used during the Alabama Bicentennial to mark celebrations they want to attend or to map out their Alabama road trip for next summer.

Several of you have asked, so I’m going to give you a quick tutorial on how to make your very own Alabama Travel Journal. This activity isn’t just for 4th grade teachers! Parents, Grandparents, etc. - use these instructions and help your kiddos make their very own journal. And why not make one for yourself while you’re at it?!

There is a link to download the map (at the bottom of the page).

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Click here to download the map for the inside front cover. When you print it, chose “landscape” printing and either “full size” or “fit to page” and it will print perfectly for your book.


I hope you enjoy enjoy this fun little tutorial. ’ want to hear how your kids liked this project and I’d LOVE to see the finished product. Please shoot me an email so I can share the fun with you!

Sunny Summertime

Is there anything (other than maybe the beach) that says "summer" more than sunny sunflowers? How bright and beautiful they are. You usually think of flowers as being dainty, but not sunflowers.... some of those stalks are incredibly THICK...  they're just sturdy flowers. 

These girls had so much fun running around in the larger-than-life flowers while I took countless photos. There are plenty to choose from too - they were smiling so big that there isn't a bad picture in the bunch!

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And bees LOVE THEM too! There were THOUSANDS of big fat beed buzzing around trying to suck out all the nectar. We didn't bother them and they left us alone too - they were more interested in their meal!

I was so inspired by the sunflower patch that I came straight home and drew one of the dinner plate-sized flowers for my #100daysof4x4drawings !!

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Toes in the sand...

Summertime is beach time. 

I say that, but until last month, I hadn't been to the beach in WAY too long (like YEARS)... which is silly since we live to close to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. 

Anyway, Steve had to go down to SanDestin, Florida to speak at a conference, so we decided to make a mini-trip out of it and take a friend for Maggie (since Abby was at camp). We stayed in Sandestin for 1 night and then headed to Mexico Beach, Florida (about an hour away) for a few more days. 

We walked on the beach, we ate tons of seafood, we played games at night, we never turned the tv on, we took naps, we ate sandwiches and chips under our umbrella on the beach, we swam, we played in the sand... 

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We even ran into some sweet friends from home! 

One thing I had plenty of time for was painting and I'm so glad I took my travel paint bag with me. I usually carry a water brush and a few extra small brushes, watercolor pencils, my travel watercolor pallet, and some pens in my bag and it worked out perfectly! I'm an early-riser and I would go outside on the screened porch in the morning to start my daily painting and then I'd pack it up in my bag to paint on the beach too. 

When can I go back? Who wants to go with me? Let's rent a house and go spend a long weekend eating seafood and sitting on the beach painting!

I'll bring the umbrellas!!!

Almost there...

If you've been following me on Instagram for a while (or at least since April), you know I've been doing a 100 day project. I even quickly posted about it on the blog several weeks ago here. The task was to pick something creative to do for 100 days and stick with it... for 100 days (obvi).

Anyway, I chose 100 days of 4"x4" black and white line drawings done on my ipad and I'm currently on day 68. SIXTY-EIGHT... I can't believe I've actually stuck with this for 68 days... that's 68% of the entire project - FINISHED!

I've created a specific little hashtag for this project so go check it out to see all the drawings in my series: #100daysof4x4drawings or you can follow along with me on Instagram (if you don't already) at @alabama.pen.paper

Some of them I'm not a fan of and some days I've missed it for various reasons (I've been out of town, I've had too much other stuff going on or maybe I just wasn't feelin' it that day), but for the most part I've truly enjoyed these quick little drawings.  

Now what am I going to do all 100 of them when I'm finished?

And so it begins...

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While looking through photos the other day looking for that hideous one I posted on the blog yesterday, I came across this one. This, folks, is a picture of me on Christmas morning in about 1984-ish when I got my very first drafting table (otherwise known as an "art table"). I can't see what those papers are, but I can only imagine that I had ALREADY started "creating"...

... and I've been creating ever since!

 

Awkward phase

Everybody has a dorky phase. Everyone. Some people get over theirs when they're little, some are teenagers, some are 30, and some (like me) have super awkward dorky phase that lasts from about age 7 all the way 'til they're out of college. I mean, it was the 80's... being dorky was cool, right? 

Come on...don't leave me hanging over here...

Whatever... I'm saying I win. 

Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted 20 random non-artsy facts about myself and fact #8 was about my favorite stuffed animal growing up - Goat Boy. Since NOBODY asked, I thought I'd share a bit more about him. I got Goat Boy at Carowinds in Charlotte when my dad's company went there for their company picnic one year. We usually went to a park and had an ACTUAL picnic and played games (egg toss, sack races, bingo, etc.), but this year we went to an amusement park. Dad told me when we got there that he would buy me one thing and to make sure I made the right choice, I waited until the very end of the day to choose. We were literally walking out of the park and Dad said, "If you don't choose something NOW, we're leaving!" I looked up and the heavens parted (literally - Goat Boy was hanging from the ceiling at this little toy hut) and I said, "I want that one" and pointed to my new best friend. There have been debates over the years if Goat Boy is in fact a goat or a deer or a llama... but I know the truth. He's CLEARLY a goat (and a very handsome one, if I might add)!

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This picture of me with Goat Boy is from about 1985-or-so. I'm not sure why Goat Boy is wearing clothes in this picture... maybe they're pajamas. He normally chose to wear only his birthday suit and I'm ok with that because he is a GOAT. For that matter, what am I wearing? I hope to goodness it's some sort of pajamas or gown... or maybe it's a robe. 

I still have Goat Boy, although I'm not sure where he is. But you wanna know what else I still have too? The airbrush t-shirt I had made in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Goat Boy's portrait on the front. Wait, what? Why yes, I did say, "Airbrush"... everyone had a shirt with their favorite stuffed animal on the front, didn't they?

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I was talking to my husband the other day about Goat Boy and our secret language (Shut Up!!... I was an only child, ok?) and he brought up something about my wonderfully realistic airbrush portrait of Goat Boy... Can you IMAGINE what the artist thought? Good grief... what a DORK I was!!! I mean, she did a GREAT job on the representation, but can you imagine what she was thinking as Goat Boy was sitting for his portrait? 

Well, my parents thought I was cool...

At least I THINK they did....

 

Art journal play time

If you follow me on instagram, you've probably already seen these either in my feed or my story. My usual black-and-white drawings are still there, but I've been playing around with bold bright colors lately in my art journals. 

Yes, I said journals plural... as in "more than one". BUT I can have multiples because I practice different techniques in each one of them. One is a reclaimed agenda that my daughter NEVER used (I am priming the pages with gesso as I go), one is a watercolor journal with super thick pages, one is a cute journal I got at Hatch Show Print in Nashville, and one is just an old book that I'm playing around with painting in. 

 

Everybody else uses multiple journals too, right?

20 random, non-artsy facts about me...

Ok, I'm having writers block today, so what Im going to attempt to do is give you 20 normal, random, non-artsy facts about me. 

EDITED: this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Not including art-related stuff? That makes up a HUGE part of my life! 

  1. I played the handbells in high school. I went to a small private high school and handbells was one of my electives. Weird, I know. I haven't picked one up in over 20 years, but I can still remember my part in Carol Of The Bells.
  2. I love the color orange. Red orange, sunset orange, pumpkin... LOVE!
  3. I LOVE taking my shoes off. Seriously, as soon as we walk in the door, I flip them off - in the kitchen... much to the dismay of my husband. 
  4. I collect Chinese Checkers boards. I've got several and I'm always looking for "new" ones when I'm in antique stores. I found a really cool one the other day, but it was $65. That's a bit much for me. 
  5. I'm an only child. No siblings... my Mom and Dad were my playmates. 
  6. I LOVE the smell of gardenias. WE have a huge gardenia bush in our backyard and I cut a new batch of flowers every few days in the early summer to bring inside. 1 gardenia blossom can make an entire room smell HEAVENLY!
  7. My favorite flower is a Black Eye Susan. They're so happy and sunny and I LOVE to see them growing wild on the side of the road.
  8. I had a goat stuffed animal when I was a kid and his name was "Goat Boy".  Go on, laugh... I bet I'm ALSO the only person who had an airbrushed t-shirt of her goat stuffed animal. Ok, don't make fun - remember I said I was an only child? Yeah... my PARENTS thought I was cool...
  9. I LOVE grape flavored stuff. Grape soda, grape bubble gum, grape koolaid, grape popsicles... 
  10. I love to read and re-read books. When I find a book I love, I will read it over and over again. I like to read new books too, but there's something neat about re-reading an old book... I ALWAYS find something new the second (or third) time I read it. 
  11. Taco soup is probably my favorite meal. It's so cheap and easy and I make a HUGE batch and we eat on it for at least 2 days (3 if the kids are at their Dad's and it's just me and Steve). Steve likes to eat his with Tostitos Scoops.
  12. I hate to vacuum. I put it off and put it off 'til I can't stand it anymore. We're talkin' dog hair blowing around like tumbleweeds. 
  13. I hit a lull just now and asked my 12 year old to give me a fact about myself and she said, "you love to cook". She's right - I love to cook.... and I'm really good at it too. I like to try new recipes, but for the most part - I just make it up as I go. One thing I can't cook though - biscuits. Can I even call myself southern if I can't make biscuits? 
  14. I'm allergic to cats. Yes I have a cat. Yes I'm allergic to her. My allergies aren't as bad as they USED to be, but if the accidentally scratches me, I get all itchy and my skin swells up like a mosquito bite. 
  15. I LOVE pens. I have hundreds - felt tip, brush pens, fine tip, markers, gel pens, ball point pens, fountain pens. It's not an obsession... I prefer to call myself a connoisseur. For real.
  16. I have a pair of Teva sandals that I bought in 1996 or 1997 and I'm still wearing them in 2018. I know they have made leaps-and-bounds in comfort, but my shoes still look brand new... If it aint broke - don't fix it (or buy new ones).
  17. My youngest loves stuffed animals (specifically pigs) and I'm more than happy to buy them for her, because you know what? I love stuffed animals too. 
  18. If I had to chose my last meal, it would be pinto beans (cooked with a ham bone), soupy taters, and cornbread with spicy chow chow. My Granny was an EPIC cook and she could make an awesome meal out of the most humble of ingredients: a $0.99 bag of dried beans, a leftover ham bone, a $2 bag of potatoes, a little bit of butter, and some cornmeal. 
  19. I would LOVE to have a chicken coop in my backyard to have fresh eggs and sweet chickens clucking and pecking around. They're allowed in our city, but I don't have a fenced in backyard, so I need to figure that out first. 
  20. I like to sew. I don't do it very often anymore, but I used to love to be elbow-deep in a box of fabric scraps piecing together a quilt or hemming pants or sewing curtains... there's a really awesome sense of accomplishment when you make something useful. 

Maybe that last one was a bit artsy, but not in the traditional sense (painting, drawing, crafting, creating, etc.). So that was 20 random non-artsy facts about me. These were really fun to come up with! 

 

 

Excitement Among the Fish

FLIMP Festival or BUST!

Last weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and did something I've never done before. Actually, THREE things I've never done before...

  1. I created a sidewalk chalk drawing... on asphalt.
  2. I competed in an art competition (sidewalk chalk art).
  3. I did all this in front of other people... like PUBLIC ART... while people were watching!

So this is what I started with...

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The FLIMP Festival is an art festival at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art and it's a 2 day event. Friday is the day for chalk art and Saturday is the day they are open to the public. There are crafts, dance and musical performances, food trucks, competitions, and of course - the chalk art. I don't know how many people usually enter this competition (it was my first time), and I was contestant #111. 

So the theme this year was "Gulf Coast Jubilee" and it was based off two different  exhibits they have going on right now inside the museum. As demonstrated by the other artists, "Gulf Coast Jubilee" could be interpreted to mean many different things having to do with the gulf coast of Alabama. Mobile, Mardi Gras, beachy stuff, sea life, mermaids... I chose to interpret it in the literal sense

...Hundreds of live sea crabs and fish... completely covered the beach at Point Clear and Zundels Sunday morning. A fisherman of experience in explaining the unusual occurrence stated that it was a “jubilee”... People who saw the wild scramble of fish and crabs on the sandy beach say they won’t soon forget the sight.
— Mobile Daily Register, July 29, 1912

To me, a "Gulf Coast Jubilee" is the natural phenomenon (I LOVE that word - phenomenon) which occurs on the beaches of Mobile Bay at least one time per year. All kinds of crab, shrimp, red fish, flounder and eels will go absolutely crazy and swim ashore. It's usually in the early-dawn hours and people come from all over the place to harvest this easy-to-catch seafood! 

EXCITEMENT AMONG THE FISH—Yesterday all the fish in the bay seemed to be making for the Eastern shore. Large numbers of crabs, flounders and other fish were found at the water’s edge, and taken in out of the wet. They were counted by the bushel. Annually this phenomenon occurs with the fish along the Eastern shore. They all appear to forsake the deep water, and swim and cluster in immense numbers to the shore.
— Mobile Daily Register, July 17, 1867

If you would like to read more about the Gulf Coast Jubilee, you can go here or here, or you can watch a really cool video of it here. My piece, titled "Excitement Among the Fish" paid tribute to this natural phenomenon.

And here is the final piece - Excitement Among the Fish

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And guess what..... 

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So I GUESS that means I accomplished 4 new things and not just 3... Not only have I never entered an art competition (until last weekend), but I've NEVER WON either! 

Alabama Book Festival

A few weekends ago I was privileged to be invited to the Alabama Book Festival set at Old Alabama Town in downtown Montgomery. I presented Amazing Alabama on a panel with Peter Huggins, who talked about his latest book, Thibodeaux and the Fish and (of course) we came home with our very own signed copy of his book. 

Later in the day, I was given the honor of interviewing my good friend Ash Parsons about her new book The Falling Between Us and we had so much fun! Not only am I a total "fan-girl" of Ash's, but we're also really good friends, so it was a super easy, laid-back interview. Her genre is young adult, but both of her books are extremely rich with emotion and drama and suspense. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her!

Other than authors giving book talks and interviews, there were workshops (podcasts, writing, etc.), vendors (my publisher NewSouth Books was there), book sales and author signings, food trucks and tons of fun activities for kids. The Alabama Book Festival is an event I always love going to. 

Here are a few photos from the day:

That one photo may or may not be of Ash and I posing with some Disney princesses (and prince).

You'll never know...

 

 

And YES, I finally got Ash to sign my copies of both of her books. 

MIA... update

Ok, so I'm ashamed to say that I just looked at my last blog post... and it was almost a month ago. Ooopsie. I was hoping I'd get better about the frequency of my posting, but I'm just having trouble MAKING myself sit down and write. Writing is something I've never really been too fond of and I don't honestly think I'm that good at it. Right now I'm doing an online "business for creatives" class that teaches you how to take your art/business to the next level. It's called Level Up, and it's by Caylee Grey, and I really love it. ANYWAY, lesson one (#1... the VERY FIRST LESSON right out of the gate) is about writing.

Wouldn't you know it?

Write your story. The story of me. My story as an artist and business owner. 

Whatever... I guess writing IS pretty important...

 

SIDE-TRACK OVER. Sorry.

I wanted to give y'all a bit of an update on all things "me"... What's been happening in the world of Laura Murray Creative! Well for starters, I'm working on a 100 day project of little 4" line drawings. Some are things out of my head and some are everyday things like my dog sitting in her bed looking out the window. I'm sharing those images on my Instagram @alabama.pen.paper and I've created a specific hashtag if you want to look those up: #100daysof4x4drawings . I'm on day #29 right now and they're really making me happy (for the most part...  a few of those days I just wasn't feeling creative and I struggled... I see you, Day 22 and Day 24). Here are a few of those images to whet your appetite: 

Last week I had the honor of being the guest artist at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn at their Family Art Day, and it was a BLAST! We made our own "Amazing Alabama" travel journals. The little books included a fun colored front and back cover, a county map of Alabama, some plain pages, some graph paper pages (because who DOESN'T love to draw on graph paper?), and we stitched it all together using a VERY simple version of the Japanese stab-binding technique. This is a very detailed version of our binding.

Here are a few photos from the event: 

The 4th photo from the left I'm with my friend, the fabulous artist Lauren, who owns The Local Market in Auburn. LOVE her!

Another thing I've been working on is my garden... finally. I'm super excited about the things I've got growing this year. I planted 3 different types of tomatoes (1 large slicing tomato, one heirloom grape tomato, and one yellow cherry tomato - my FAVORITE), bush peas, vine peas, sweet potatoes, romaine (because why not - I MISS eating salad), mesclun, chives, basil, rosemary (my plant didn't fare too well over the winter), heirloom carrots, radishes, and spinach.  I don't have a HUGE garden, but I only planted small amounts of everything. My biggest issue with our garden is that we don't have FULL SUN ALL DAY. It's full sun for a few hours, then dappled sun the rest of the day. Surprisingly tomatoes and peas work pretty well back there - I'm just waiting to see about the other stuff... 

All-in-all, I'm keeping busy. Between drawing and the yard and the garden and cleaning house and working on a few new projects (more on that later) and end of school tests and recitals and stuff, I'm ready for summer.

Are you?

This is just a fun little spread I've been working on in my art journal...

This is just a fun little spread I've been working on in my art journal...

writers block?

My goal is to write a couple of times per week, but I'm having trouble making myself SIT DOWN and do it. I have so many ideas for new designs swirling around in my head all the time that I have no problem picking up the iPad or my journal and sketching out 5-10 new drawings at a moments notice. But writing... it isn't really second nature to me. 

Any bloggers or writers out there have any suggestions? I found a few motivational posts on Pinterest (like this one and also this one) with things to write about, but (true to Laura-form) I keep reading through those lists trying to decide what I want to do. Hahaha. 

So... right now I'm just going to REMIND MYSELF of this super fun quote I found recently:

The most effective way to do it, is to do it.
— Amelia Earhart

And... I'm doing it. I'm writing about nothing, but I'm WRITING. 

retreat

I have always romanticized painting en plein air. Know what that is? 

The official definition is "pertaining to a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio."

In layman's terms, painting "en plein air" means painting outside - what is right in front of you. The term was coined in the late 1800's during the impressionist movement in France by the likes of VanGogh, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, Rosseau, and so many more. Monet famously painted hundreds of different views of his garden at his home in Giverny, and recently, art conservators even found a dead grasshopper embedded in the brush strokes of one of VanGogh's paintings.

Painting en plein air is something i love to do, but it's a luxury I really don't make time for. 

That's why I REALLY want to go to an artist retreat. A quiet picturesque place where I can bring all my art supplies and just paint or draw. Like this place in Virginia. It sounds just luxurious and LOOK at the photo gallery! How can you NOT be relaxed and creative in a place like this? You can take any kind of classes you want (painting, printmaking, drawing, etc.) and you have plenty of free time to just sit outside in the gorgeous "plein air" and get creative. 

I hear what you're thinking - why can't I just set aside a weekend around home to sit outside and paint? I could... and I probably will one weekend soon... but it's different. If I'm at home I'm distracted by the dishwasher and tv and phone and kids and cooking and laundry and a billion  other things I SHOULD be doing.  

So for now, I guess I'll see about buying myself a travel easel and supply box like this or this or even this

Weekend road-trip

This past weekend was an epic road trip adventure through the incredible state of Alabama.

Friday started with my book, Amazing Alabama, being used as decorations for the Alabama Society Daughters of the Revolution state conference on Friday afternoon. I was so incredibly honored, and the ladies all LOVED the centerpieces.

After the DAR conference, Maggie and I were joined by our friends, Shannon and Avery, and we headed north! The first stop in our trip was the Florence Lauderdale Public Library for a book talk. We really had a great time learning about Alabama, the history of coloring, and we even learned some new coloring tips and tricks! 

After the book talk was over, we enjoyed some local Florence flavor at Trowbridges (who is celebrating their 100th birthday this year). If you eat there, you have to MAKE SURE you get the pineapple orange ice cream, which is on the list of 100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die. It's super creamy and delicious! After filling our bellies, we went to see Leo III and Una, the sibling lions on the campus of UNA, the Rosenbaum house (Alabama's only Frank Lloyd Wright house), and Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller. We even got to see the infamous water well where Annie Sullivan taught her "water".   

The next day we drove through Cullman on the way home and stopped at the Ave Maria Grotto. This is one of those hidden gems in the state that everybody should go see at some point in their life. The dedication and artistry of Brother Joseph was incredible. 

Our Alabama road trip came to a close with a trip to Whataburger, a visit to the marble quarry in Sylacauga, and a road trip classic... coke and peanuts! These 2 little girls had never tried this southern delicacy before... What kind of mother am I???

Backtracking just slightly, I wanted to say that throughout our entire trip, we had fun getting our Past Ports stamped. If you don't have one yet, you can get them HERE. If you don't know what they are, you can learn about them HERE. It's a really cool booklet that's $10 and you can go around on your own epic Alabama road trip getting stamps from all the 67 counties! In fact, you can use it in conjunction with your very own copy of Amazing Alabama - get your Past Port stamped and color the county you're visiting. 

Maggie and Avery already have 3 stamps (I've got 4)... how many do you have?