Trying Something New

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This summer I created a lesson plan for my kids art camp which featured wax resist.  Here’s a reminder of the project we did:


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We applied very heavy crayon, folding and creasing of  paper and acrylic paint to fill in the creases.  I was truly in love with the finished product.  It has stuck with me for the past couple months.  For the camp, we used cheap Crayola crayons and construction paper, but what if I could find a high-quality light-fast product to replace the school crayons?  What if I could use a high quality paper?  Could I make artwork using this technique that could be considered legit?

I have had a couple failed attempts.  There is a product called Carandache Neo Color II wax crayons.  They apply like a classic crayon, but guess what?  They are water soluble. So, when I applied a wash of acrylic paint, instead of resisting the paint, it absorbed and turned my image into a massive mud pool.

I obviously needed to think about this concept a little more….

Here are some of the products I eventually came up with:crayons

These Stockmar crayons are from Germany and are pure beeswax.

crayons FC

Faber Castell also has a high-quality beeswax crayon.

Neo 1

and thirdly, I found Carandache NeoColor 1 crayons.  Above, I mentioned  the Neocolor II crayons being a personal disaster for this project (they are like runny watercolor sticks). But, the Neocolor 1 are full wax resist crayons. So the NeoColor 1 is going to give me the water resistance I am looking for.

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This is what my image looked like when it was only crayon.

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This is what it looked like after I folded, creased and distressed the paper.  Plus I added a wash of acrylic paint to get into all those creases.

I love how it looks weathered.  It also tones down the brightness of the colors. Up close it is soft like a piece of antique waxed furniture.  The only down-side is working with the crayons.  They are so clumsy and do not have a fine point.  Do any of you artists out there have any recommendations for a high quality wax resist product with a finer tip?  Oil pastels are no good because they smudge.  Whatever I use, needs to stay in place and repel water.  If you think of anything, that would make my day!

So, this was my first sample/experiment with the technique.  I have made a few more artworks as well.  They are in a sort of naive folk style.  I am not sure if they come off like folk art or simple child’s play.  They are challenging and anything but, but I still have to make sure they look sophisticated enough to be taken seriously.  I will add a few to show you and I would welcome your critique on what improvements I could make.

 Yep. pretty much, I am right back at it. Wondering what the hell I’m doing? thinking… I need to just hunker down….  Paint some traditional landscapes… maybe some happy little still lives…  But instead I am going off the rails again into weird-town.  As usual I am not making a good living because I am constantly experimenting and not focusing, I’m not honing my skills into a  specialty.  When do I cut myself off and tell myself to get a “real” job???

I know, I know….. but I just have to try it out …. just one more thing… one more idea… one more concept… 

  ….just one more!  I promise… Then. Then , after that I will try to grow up and be a little more dependable and predictable…

Here’s to another year of art making :)



Best of Art Camp 2016




I’m wrapping up my second session of Art Camp and thought I’d share some amazing child creativity. The kids ranged in age from 7-14 and were both girls and boys.

I gave each kid a 2ft x 4ft piece of black poster board, a close up of a symmetrical sarcophagus face, the exterior shape of a sarcophagus and many, many library books with real images as reference.

The kids were overwhelmed.  “How can we create something so massive and complex???”  I knew they could do it by breaking the sarcophagus’ into quadrants.  Focusing on symetry, each kid simply had to create one half of the image and then replicate it on the other side.

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Dare I say it went from a scary venture to something really fun.  On hand, I had 4 different shades of gold paint, black and gold washi tape, gold paper and gold pens.

The results were amazing!

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  These kids were maticulous and really taking their time, but I think it was well worth it.  I alotted two hours for the project but many were still plugging away on hour four.  The finished pieces sparkle and the detail is simply amazing.  I’m very proud of them!



This image came to me in a dream.  I’m trying to remember it… The back ground is all blacks, whites, and grays, but the birds, they are all going to be full color…


This painting is acrylic on oversized cold press paper.  It’s large – 24″ by 48″

Can’t wait to see what manifests!


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I am finally getting to the bottom of my picture framing pile.  My first 365 Art Show is May 4th, so I’m in good shape.  I don’t think I’d ever do a 365 again, simply on the principle of what one must do with all the work after!

The photo above is of  a large grouping of miniature water colors I framed in super happy mini-frames.  If you click on the photo, you can see them close up.  Just looking at them makes me yearn to get back to painting!

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I also spent a bit of time sanding old  and new picture frames to look weathered.  I love the old country farm-house look.  I think it pairs with my bright-colored paintings quite well. Here’s the finished product:

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Here’s another bunch of paintings I framed… a bit more modern…

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I have a wedding to go to in NY this evening, so my next challenge is to cram as many of these framed works as I can into my car and get them to The Framing Gallery.

I’ll be sad to see them go, they’ve brightened my day during these cold months.  It’s my hope they will find their way to other people’s homes and bring the same joy.

Plus, I need to free up my space so I can get back to being CREATIVE!!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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DAY #352 – KIDS

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As the days of my 365 challenge dwindle I tackle yet another item on my bucket list.

Swirling around in my head are two concepts.  One, I want to create some collages and two, I have these strong visuals of  kids I’d like to portray.  Kids. There’s nothing more fun than that!

Now this is a tricky topic.  If I choose one kid how come I didn’t choose the other? How about siblings? Do I have favorites?  This first kid isn’t even my kid, so we can take playing favorites off the table right now OK?

Quite simply, what it comes down to is that I have three kids in mind.  The only basis for picking these kids is that they really produce visual cues for me, meaning with just a mention of a name, characters come to life in my head.  I picture something instantly. Now I am working on a crazy tight time frame, so if these kids I am picking come natural to me then that’s the direction I am going in.  I’m starting to get a little brain fry here!

Now PARENTS – and I know a lot of you, don’t even start! It’s that simple.

Plus I don’t even know what I’m doing so you may not want your kid to be part of this anyways!

Ok. Back to the process because that’s why I’m creating this in the first place right?

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I first began by hand painting and texturizing paper with acrylic paints. I used rice , a fork and a brayer to create different textures.

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After I created a nice assortment of papers I sat down and began to cut. Now I have a concept for this piece which I will share with you tomorrow, but for today, I was just trying to lay down the foundation.

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In fact, I haven’t even decided on a head shape yet!  I’m not trying to create a real-life portrait, instead I want to choose each shape to work for & against the other shapes. You know, curves vs. angles or straight vs. tilted. I want to keep moving everything until the composition is interesting.

So this is only the beginning. I have quite a few layers I’d like to add.

We’ll see if I can get some of the ideas in my head to manifest or whether this is simply going to be a chopped-up papery mess…

I never quite know when I try something new. I’ll hold my breath as usual!

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It so much fun to enjoy the first snowfall!


You can’t have a bad day when you wake up, look outside the window and see this cute little man staring back.

Today I finished the acrylic painting of my living room.


This little 11×14″ painting is a tad bit quirky.  I deliberately decided to leave the view from the window very abstract/impressionistic, yet I painted the interior more realistic.  It looks like the artist slapped a painting up where the window would go.  I kind of found that strangely fun.

I do love painting fabric.  I simply adore pattern, decoration and embellishment.  I will have to look around the house for some more fabric vignettes.

So that was about it for today.  Tomorrow I get to start something new…but what?

Tis always the question!

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#340- The Christmas Sweatshop (14)

No school today.

It was a personal development day for the teachers.  Boy were my kids psyched!

A day off in December, what on earth could we do?

We decided to deck the halls some more and get into the Christmas spirit.

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Charley our Elf on a Shelf has come to the house.  Today he was hanging in the hall way.

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Way more important than the big green one is our gum drop tree!  It’s one of our favorite traditions.  Every kid that comes to visit heads right to the gum drop tree.  Who am I kidding, the adults do too!

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We are one of those faux tree families.  I just can’t see chopping down trees and throwing them out 3 weeks later.  I’ve had the same tree for over a decade and in this way I sort of feel like it fits my reuse/recycle motto.  My 9-year-old loves building the tree.  She thinks it’s the coolest puzzle ever.  She wanted to do it all by herself this year. She is getting so big and so very independent.

After the tree was set up, we turned on some Christmas music and pulled out all the paints and paper.  It’s time to make Christmas cards!

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My youngest is a tactile abstract kind of kid.  He likes the act of creating texture, smoothing with the brayer and stamping. So I gave him a giant sheet of paper and let him play.  My idea is to chop them up into small 4×6″ pieces and then glue them to pretty card stock.  We got the art made today, card assembly will have to be another day.

My daughter decided to create her own stamps.  She made a tree, snowman, Santa hat, reindeer and mitten.  We got the foundations done today.  Another day she will add details with paint markers.

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For my Christmas cards I sort of went the same way as my son.  I used the brayer to mix paints and create a textured foundation.  I then took some of my handmade stamps and created little vignettes.  Mostly trees and snow.  I plan on cutting up my great big sheet into card sized pieces and then I plan on drawing in birds, kids, and winter scenes. We used this copper paint today.  It looks like a fiery sunset.  I love it.

It was a blessing to have my kids home today.  We all needed some rest and a nice solid block of time to reconnect.


I fully understand just how quickly it goes and I simply adore days like these.

I am thankful.

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This is the last of my driftwood sculptures.

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When I found this piece of wood on the beach, I couldn’t help but see a cranky old man.

You know, the man who barely says hello when you greet him and he always begins his conversation by telling you what you’re doing wrong. Have you met him?

Oh and then put Mr. Grumps around children and you get to see the type of face on my sculpture.

My mom lives near a grumpy pants.  He always comes out to yell at us.  He yelled at us for giving the kids sparklers on 4th of July.  Sometimes we park in a place that displeases him.  Another time he said it was only ok for my mom to bring 3 out of her 4 grandkids to the pool because she’s only allowed 4 guests.  The best one was this weekend.  My mom lives in a condominium that might as well double as a nature refuge.  It’s beautiful.  All the units are on a lake.  Instead of watching TV, I went outside with the kids to check out the frozen lake.  The lake had about a half-inch of ice on top.  The kids threw rocks and sticks to watch them glide over the surface.  Then they made a hole and watched the air bubbles float under the ice.  I’d call it scientific children’s play.  They were testing every possibility they could come up with to see what they could do with this giant body of ice.

Of course Mr. Grumpy Pants saw us from his window.  Could he mind his own business?  Could he maybe take a deep breath and refrain from coming outside to say something? Nope.  He couldn’t contain himself.

Mr. Grumpy Pants just couldn’t leave us be.  He had to say something.

The door slid open and we heard a man yelling from up above. “Hey, hey you.  I have two things to tell you.  One you are standing in an area prone to poison ivy and two that area is slippery and wet.”   really?  You couldn’t come up with something better to yell at us for? How many people do you know catching poison ivy in New York in December?  and you are telling me that ice is wet and slippery? really?  I shot him a big wave and a smile. Then I hollered back “OK. Thank you!” That sort of stopped him in his tracks.  Maybe he thought I found him helpful?  Yeah, helpful ;)

The world unfortunately has its share of grumpsters.  I told my mom to have compassion for the guy.  Maybe he had domineering parents when growing up, maybe he suffers from a mental illness or still yet maybe, quite frankly, he’s just a cranky old man.  When you look at these people as wacky cartoon characters, it becomes easier not to engage or take it personally.

The moral of my long-winded story is – be kind. Don’t be a Mr. Grumpy Pants.

 However, if you should happen to cross paths with Mr. Grumpy Pants and he starts in on whatever he could come up with for the day, just smile and count your blessings.  Sometimes we have to experience misery in order to recognize kindness when we see it.

I’m thinking of sending my mom the sculpture Mr. Grumpy Pants.  This way when she has a tough encounter, she can go back inside and stick a tack in him.  This will work great…until we run out of room!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

The Holiday season has officially begun!

I have to say I am feeling incredibly unorganized. I feel like I should have created a token piece of turkey art today, but that would have required at least three days of planning.  Three days ago I was trying to figure out what I was going to make three days ago, so if you catch the trend, you’d know I’m barely hanging on!

I decided to keep going with what I’ve been working on this week.  Today was one of my favorites, a really twisted couple pieces of driftwood I found.

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I just marvel at mother nature.  Can you believe I found a piece of wood with such a perfect bird face?  The wings are separate, yet they seem like they could have come from the same tree.  Not so. I found the wood at two different beaches.

I nailed the pieces together the other day and today I decided to paint it as well as create a pedestal with a dowel to suspend my bird in the air.

I had to be at my family’s house for noon which meant in order to create something for today I needed to be an “early bird”.  Get it? That’s how I came up with my name for today.


I had to pack my kids luggage for the next few days, prep some appetizers for Turkey Day and then pack up some art supplies to travel with for the next few days.


This was the other bummer.  All the appetizers came out and I was stuck on the floor in the naughty corner working on my art for today. It’s really hard to stuff your face and paint ya know.  Don’t you worry though, some how I managed!

I have to thank my family for this year.  They are such troopers.  I’m always off in the corner doing my own thing and they step up.  They help with whatever I would have been doing if I wasn’t making art and cheer me on at the same time.  I can’t tell you how many family members sternly looked at me at 8pm tonight and asked if I had gotten my blog done yet!  This 365 challenge has not only impacted my life thus far, but also EVERYONE around me.  Especially my husband.  Man I don’t even know where to start.  When they say 99% of your life’s happiness depends on who you marry, I constantly pinch myself that I could have been so lucky.  Thank you husband.  Then there’s those kiddos of mine.  I don’t think they even remember mom before this year.  Mom didn’t volunteer at school as much this year, she missed a lot of field trips,  her afternoons were generally spent finishing up some crazy project, she wound up on the computer every evening and I’m sure she has come off just a little bit crazy, tired and unorganized.

The truth is, I can’t do it all.  If you are 100% committed to one area of your life, then the other areas of your life take a hit. However, I did stay home with my little cherubs for the past eight years and all my creative juices went directly to them.  So, we’ll say by the end of this year -we’re even!  I do need to thank them.  They go with the flow, they roll with the punches and still show nothing but love.

The upcoming year will be spent trying to find a true balance.  I need to find an outlet for creativity, yet honor my family and other areas of my life just as equally.  I’m pretty sure this is a struggle for most of humanity.  I know I’m not alone. It’s so very important though.


I leave you this evening hoping you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving, family and friends.  Today is a great day to take stock of your life, figure out who needs to be thanked and what there is to be thankful for.

I hope you feel as blessed as I do.  I really do!

Join me on Facebook: Be Creative Mary




I finished my “Wild Goose” sculpture made from driftwood found at the beaches here in Rhode Island.

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This is how the raw pieces of driftwood looked.  When I found that top piece of driftwood on the beach and I saw the natural eyes that could be created from the wood knots, I instantly thought bird head.  I just love creating things out of what you find.  It reminds me of looking for images in the clouds.  If you stare long enough, things begin to emerge.

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This is as far as I got the other day.  Today I decided to add a back fin or a hump.  I also added color to the head and details to the feather patterns. I also began to paint four lengths of driftwood in black and white stripes.  I was going to make legs for my creature.  It then occurred to me that geese have two legs not four.  Two would not balance this heavy wood structure, so I abandoned the idea.  It has been good and windy the past two days.  I am going to try again to head down to the beach and see if I can find suitable legs.  I think black and white striped legs would be a fun addition.


For now my silly goose is hanging with some of my black and white decor in the living room.  It’s cool painting your own sculptures.  Magically they tie in to my personal style.  Fancy that!

Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving.  I will be hanging with my family and playing with my niece, nephew and our kids.  We usually have a game of capture the flag and assassin (you murder people throughout the day with a wink or handshake, if you’re killed you need to drop to the ground and act out a dramatic death, then everyone has to figure out who is the assassin). I know. I know. It doesn’t sound all that festive and Thanksgiving-y, but the kids love it, so thus it shall be our family tradition!

I have a bit of traveling to do over the Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas holiday.  I only have 36 days left to my creativity challenge, but the upcoming month may be the most difficult yet!  It’s a super busy time of year.  The only way I have figured out how to make it through the past 331 days is not to worry about tomorrow.  So that’s my plan.  36 days of not worrying about it.  On days I have time I will push myself as far as I can go.  On days where I spend 5 hours in the car with whining children, I shall go easy on myself.  Either way, creative opportunities always seem to present themselves.  The unexpected always seems to go better than the over-planned. 

It shall work itself out.

After this I have a whole new something to worry about…what do I do when I’m done?

The answer is I have no idea.  I’m hoping my near future will unfold in some perfect design.  I hope this, because I really don’t know what comes next.  It’s been nice knowing my objective for a year now.  I’ve always felt like I don’t know what I’m doing.  It’s never very concrete. This challenge was a great way to put a label on my life.  To have some way to answer when people ask what I’m up to. I’m done though.  It’s served its purpose and run its course.  It’s time for me to reassess and pick another direction or simply rest.

Rest. Now that sounds very good :)

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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