Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Zeta is on it's way....

Stillman &Birn are gearing up to release the much anticipated Zeta Series Sketchbook.  They gave us a sneak peak into the covers this week on their Facebook page.  You can also watch this very quick video here...Zeta Video

And guess what??  They are putting one of my sketches on one of the Zeta cover bands.  You'll have to wait to see which one!

In the meantime, I thought I'd show you another page I did on the Zeta test paper.  This lily was done in Twinkling H2O's (luminescent watercolors), ink, charcoal, and a flat watercolor wash for the background.

The new Zeta Series Sketchbook has a beautiful, unique, heavy weight, smooth white paper. It will soon be available in a range of sizes in both hard bound and spiral bound.

Stay tuned, and thanks for checking in. xx

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dulcito Mio - Yum!

I love painting cupcakes!  It's one of the subjects I do a lot, probably because they are so yummy, colorful, and interesting.  There are so many ways to interpret a cupcake and they always work.

Late last year, I was asked to paint a cupcake commission for a beautiful bakery in Venezuela called Dulcito Mio, and needless to say, I jumped at the chance.


In researching this commission I enjoyed exploring the wonderful offerings of this beautiful bakery.  The brief was simple..."sparkly and colorful" with the logo on it.

So here is the result.  It's a 16 x 20 done in Silks Acrylic Glaze on 140lb hot press watercolor paper. I hand painted the lettering, which was by far the biggest challenge.

Randie and Denice, the owners of Dulcito Mio recently came to the US to visit family, and picked up the painting, and I'm very pleased to report that the LOVED IT!!

It's now at home on the walls of this glorious bakery in the heart of Venezuela.  So if you find yourself enjoying the delights of South America anytime soon, may I suggest a detour to Dulcito Mio to say hi to Randie and Denice, indulge in a delicious cupcake, and check out my painting.  The address is: 1204 San Antonio De Los Altos, Miranda, Venezuela

Thanks for checking in.  xx

Friday, February 22, 2013

When Artists Cook: They Pile on the Pancakes!

Hi everyone, Bethann Merkle here, by the time you read this, Lent will have begun.  For centuries, the day before Lent has been known as Shrove Tuesday.  It is also called Fat Tuesday (Mardi gras), a last opportunity to indulge in decadent foods for six weeks.  For a similar reason, the day has also long been referred to as “Pancake Day.”  It is said that pancakes are a fine means of using up foodstuffs not acceptable during Lent.

While all these monikers have their origins in Catholic traditions, Mardi gras and Pancake day have long been popular beyond religious boundaries.  This year, Pancake Day fell on February 12.  Only three days earlier, the Calgary-Quebec Exchange hosted the 57th annual pancake breakfast as part of our local carnival celebration.

If you observe Lent, tuck away the following recipe for next year. If your traditions are more flexible, make a pancake breakfast in February, and be sure you use all those tempting ingredients - eggs, dairy, fat and sugar.  

This recipe comes from my husband (and his dad), who is solely responsible for pancake production at home. If you would rather try crêpes, see this recipe posted around Pancake Day last year.  If you have gluten-free pancakes you love, please share the recipe in the comments.

Southwest pancakes
As adapted from a family recipe
Makes 3 large or 6 small pancakes

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • A pinch each of cinnamon and cloves
  • 1 cup buttermilk or milk
  • 1 egg

  • Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk egg vigorously, then whisk in buttermilk.
  • Add egg and buttermilk to dry ingredients, and whisk until batter is smooth.  
  • Use bacon grease, oil with a high flash point, or a truly non-stick pan, and ladle the batter on.  
  • Use less batter if you like thin pancakes; more if you like them thick.  Note that cooking time increases with thickness.
  • Serve warm with plenty of butter, maple syrup, and any other toppings of choice.  The pancake chef, chez nous, recommends fresh fruit or peanut butter and honey.

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
As one griddle team prepares for a fresh batch of pancakes, the neighboring crew flips the last golden cake. (Flapjack breakfast during Quebec City’s Winter Carnival)
Do you have a favorite pancake recipe? I would love to hear about it.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yearning for Spring

February drags on a little, and I find myself yearning for spring more and more.

I have noticed the bird life getting active and the days getting longer...perhaps spring is on it's way.

I hope so!

 (This Cardinal was done in watercolor pencil and ink in my

Thanks for checking in. xx

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wisdom Cirlce: Limitations

I always find this time of year rather a challenge.  It's easy to loose perspective, especially when the northern hemisphere winter seems to drag on.  My husband and I find our heads filled with thoughts of escape and change, but having young kids tends to ground us in reality.

Without the glorious inspiration of nature alive around me I find my art is subdued and sometimes monotone.  However, it has been the preparation of my workshops for 21 Secrets and Life Book 2013 that have keep me focused, and the challenge of commissions that have kept me fresh throughout the dull months of winter.

Down-times are a fact of life, and it is usually then that I allow myself to swim in the passive and let the neutral tones take over my work.  I find that allowing my thoughts to fall out of my head and into a mandala to be the most powerful form of therapy and expression.  I let these mandalas take on a life of their own, even if it seems completely removed from my usual style and color. (I teach a little of this technique in my online class "Wisdom Circles" if you are interested.)

When I create mandalas they take two forms: color and design.  Sometimes it's color that calls me, other times in design.  Either way my mandalas, or wisdom circles, are very powerful meditation aides for me, and deeply personal expressions of my processes and experiences.

Like everything in life, artistic confidence waxes and wanes.  There are crisis points where I ask myself if I really should be doing this, let alone sharing and teaching.  But I try to put a check on the internal dialogue and plow forward anyway, because at the end of the day, art is who I am...take it or leave it!

This mandala, called "Limitations", was done using Silks Acrylic Glaze, Dimensional Fabric Paint, Gold Gel Pen, and Embellishment on tinted pastel paper.

Thanks for checking in xx

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Bouquet for Love

I am always thrilled and honored when I receive a commission.  Although they bring some measure of stress, it is wonderful to be challenged with your art in a way that doesn't always give you complete freedom.

A little while ago I received a request for a painting.  My patron wanted to give his wife a bouquet of flowers for Valentines Day, but wanted them to be endearing. Her wanted her to have something that would be special to both of them, so he asked me to do a painting that contained a selection of the flowers that were most special to both of them.

Each of the flowers he chose had a sacred, love filled meaning to them both. Representative of times together, places they visited, and moments they shared. It was beautiful and inspiring and I was so happy to do it.

The challenge for me was that two of the wild flowers he chose were not known to me.  That always makes me nervous because before I paint a floral work, I like to see the flowers in context, to touch and feel them, to see them in their natural surrounds, bathed in sunlight and dancing in the breeze.  But given it is the middle of winter here in Iowa, there is a distinct lack of wild flowers so I had to research and use photo reference.

To cut a long story short, he presented his beautiful wife with the painting for Valentines Day and I was deeply moved by her response to it.  It is between them and this painting is now a symbol of their love, life, and memories. But let me say that nothing could give me more joy and honor than to do something like this.

This painting, I have called "Wildflower Memories" was done in Twinkling H2O's - luminescent watercolors, pen & ink so it's glittery, shimmery, and dances as you look at it, like the flowers are actually moving. Thank you AH for the opportunity.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Thursday, February 14, 2013

When Artists Cook

Make a personalized Valentine card.

Happy Valentine's Day everybody! This is Jenn from Just Add Water Silly. You should know, I'm all about the LOVE. I'm not one of those curmudgeons who doesn't like Valentine's Day because it's so darn commercial. I don't care HOW commercial it gets, I embrace the LOVE. Yes, I know that one should send love to one's loved ones not just once a year, that's a given. But I think having a day that you can totally spoil someone just for the hell of it is GREAT. The one day that you can legitimately give chocolate even to the most diligent dieter and not be told you're a saboteur, heheheh. Yup, I'm all about that kind of celebratory day. Bring on the hearts, flowers, chocolate and LOVE. Anything with that combination of things can't be bad, right?? Who doesn't love getting spoiled by the ones they love? Not me, that's for sure!! I thought I'd give you a terrific recipe you can use to spoil the ones you love. The recipe will make hundreds of little hearts (about 1.5 inches square) so you can shower several lucky people or you can get a big decorative box and FILL it with love hearts, hehehe. Add a note that says you want the same number or kisses back. ;o) Enjoy!  

Jenn's Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Recipe:  

Yield: This recipe makes a large number of cookies or if you have large cookie cutters, it's perfect and will yield about 24 cookies.
Ingredients: 6 cups gluten free flour mix (we used a general mix that didn't have xanthan gum so we added that) 4 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum 3 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 2 cups butter 2 cups granulated sugar 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla  

Send chocolate
1. Cream sugar and butter until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  2. Add eggs & vanilla.  3. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, be sure to mix very well if adding xanthan gum.  4. Add in portions to the butter mixture. Mix well.  5. Put a handful of freshly made dough between two sheets of parchment and roll to desired thickness.  6. Repeat with the rest of the dough.  7. Put the rolled dough, including parchment onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes or longer. (there's no need to flour dough as you cut out the cookies)   8. Repeat with scraps until all dough is used. (We didn't find that the dough got over worked even when it felt stiffer, the cookies still turned out perfectly.)  9. Bake@ 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until cookies have a very slight browning on edges. Let cool before removing from pan. 10. Decorate with royal icing.
Notes: ~Cookies freeze beautifully. ~To get cookie cutters to unmold, use granular sugar, totally cover inside of mold then push into dough. ~Don't roll them too thick, although you don't really need to worry about over working the dough. 
I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day and it's filled with bushels of LOVE. If you'd like to come over and join my Artist's Play Room weekly challenge I'd love to have you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Bad Case of Stripes

It's no fun being sick, but right now I have two sick children at home. Reading books is a wonderful past time for both of them and we have a bookshelf exploding with beautiful children's books.  I get a lot of artistic inspiration from them.

My 7yo was reading this wonderful book by  David Shannon called "A Bad Case of Stripes". She thought this little girl was exactly like her and asked if I could draw one of the pictures out of the book so she could watch. We sat by the fire and I drew this from the book into my journal while she snuggled up beside me and watched.  It is one of the illustrations by David that I drew directly from his book with very little of my own interpretation.  It's a lot harder than you think.

Studying the work of other artists and illustrators is a great way to master illustration, practice technique, and get a sense of your own style, but be sure to credit the author/illustrator appropriately and never claim it as your own.

Faces, bodies and people are definitely not my strength, but they may well be my pursuit in the coming year.  I'm looking to take some classes in this area, and am wondering if any of you can tell me the teachers you would recommend who specialize in faces, bodies, portraits, and people? 

(This page was done in watercolor and ink in my Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook. It is a direct copy of an illustration by David Shannon from his book "A Bad Case Of Stripes")

Thanks for checking in. xx