25 December 2010

handmade with love

Not having any cousins around, but having lots of grandparents, aunties and uncles in the area, my boys get a bit spoiled with presents this time of year. They don't earn enough allowance to buy gifts for all the adults they receive from, but I think it's important for them to give and not just receive.

Our solution is to figure out a project each year that they can pour their creativity into and make gifts with their own two hands. In the past we've made jewelry or large paintings. This year, everyone got a five-piece note card and envelope set with a mix of art on the front. They were fairly easy to make and turned out pretty cute. Here's a little sample of some of the art and how we made it:


For this one, you need some brown watercolor paint, various sheets of colored paper, glue, a bird punch and a cat punch. Punch bird shapes out of the colored paper and glue them on to your painted tree. Then punch a little cat at the bottom gazing longingly at the flock. The punch-outs were only $1 each at Michael's - can't beat that.


This worked best with my little one's tiny fingers. He dipped directly into the paint and blobbed on a rainbow of colors with a cheerful result. Entirely his idea; no two are alike!


Straight watercolor here; no special technique.


For this one, we used a doily as a stencil, carefully painting one color in the holes and another color out from the edge. Pretty and easy, too! Someone with nice penmanship can make it into a "thank you" note if desired.


Paper, glue and ink: taking advantage of my son's passion for drawing chibi manga figures. He drew a bunch of different characters, then we cut around each one and glued it onto the card over a paper oval (cut out from a stencil for evenness). I helped him outline the shadow and he colored it in with black ink. Totally cute!

We tied each set in a bundle with a little ribbon and they made the perfect gift for aunties, grandmas and big sisters ~ although most said they intended to keep them for themselves and never actually use them. :)

As for me... besides the portrait that I shared with you earlier, I was also able to help someone give a special gift to his parents. They needed a new mailbox, but instead of just giving one straight out of the box, this one was sanded, primed, and then handed to me to paint something personal on it. The numbers were obvious, but since the mom and dad are of Irish and Italian descent, the son asked for these flags to be painted as well. After that, it got a spray of clear-coat for protection.

He must be a really good son and know what his parents like, because I'm told that his mom nearly cried when she saw it. She must be very fond of her country and her mail. :)

Or, maybe it's just proof that everyone appreciates a personal touch.

Merry Christmas!

20 December 2010

sketchbook project progress ~ {part 3}

I've been a bit shy about my sketchbook, mostly because of my very slow progress, but thought it was time to share a couple pages again. Not all of them are finished, but that's how my sketchbook really is. Quite unfinished!

First, a "musings" page where I've sketched my worries and doubts... I keep coming back to this one as they occur.

The beginning of a story...

and some outlines of its continuation.

I have so many ideas in my head but so little time to sit down and work on them. Trying not to be nervous although there is much to accomplish before the January deadline!

I will definitely have to buckle down once all this holiday get-together, big-dinner, gift-giving fun time has passed. Happy arty holidays to all!

08 December 2010


Painted this watercolor for a gift this season. (I don't think he reads this blog!) Patterned it to hang together with this sketch I did back in July ~

because someone really loved it and we decided it looked a little like her. The intended portrait is a bit more detailed, so they're not exactly the same style, but I think they'll look cute hanging together in matching frames. Apparently there is a blank bedroom wall where they're destined to go.

I'm glad to have at least one of my holiday gifts under control! :)

05 December 2010

my california autumn

Inside, we've been admiring our decorated tree. But outside, the trees and plants are decorating themselves. Perhaps their ornaments are even more lovely.

The mini oranges are so tasty right now ~ tart but sweet.

This is the only blossom so I saved it, even though the rest of the bush got a good trim with the clippers.

Soon to come: a new flower. The bulbs popped up right after I planted them, but I can't recall what kind they are. It will be a surprise when the blossom is revealed.

Good ole rosemary always seems to have a bloom somewhere. The bees love it for that.

My most charming backyard jewel! She totally posed for this picture when I brought the camera out.

The lavender is drying from flower to seed. It smells so good. I like to harvest it and sew into little sachets for the laundry.

The geranium got a little too cold one night and all the leaves turned red. Still, it's doing its best to make some new flowers.

The ornamental pomegranates really look like ornaments, especially this time of year.

The peach tree's leaves are falling, falling into the water below. Before too long it will be bare and I won't have to keep skimming the pond twice a day.

The fish hide under the waterfall when I pass the net to catch up leaves.

That was a backyard tour. In the front, we've got the Christmas cactus right on schedule.

A little color in the flower bed.

Very happy mums!

Paper whites aplenty.

What do you see in the clouds?

28 November 2010

feels like the...

h o l i d a y s !

I love the scent of a Christmas tree in the house; it brings back all the happy feelings of anticipation and childhood excitement for the holidays. My boys helped me decorate the tree. Every ornament has a story, which is part of the fun when we bring them out each year.

I also decided to try out a snowflake doily craft from the happy home blog. Her photos are cuter but I'm pleased with how they dress up my plain chimney. Next I may try to make a button wreath, or perhaps one from the pages of a book.

Hope all my U.S. friends had a happy Thanksgiving and I wish everyone the happiest of holidays, whichever ones you may celebrate! :)

07 November 2010

sketchbook project progress ~ {part 2}

I've got a title page, now ~ an imaginary road sign on an imaginary road in the Santa Cruz mountains.  I would like to neaten up the lettering with some white ink but will have to go buy some first.  Since I used watercolor on this spread, the paper is now kind of wrinkly and I'll be challenged by a dark spot or two on the next page where the color went through. 

I haven't been working on my Sketchbook Project nearly enough.  So many pages to fill and so little time!  Must resolve to do much more this month.

I'm very happy that my new twitter friend, Juriko, has also signed up for the Sketchbook Project after reading about it here on this blog.  When the tour comes to town, I'm definitely going to check hers out.  I've just been working so sporadically that I hope my sketchbook will be there to join hers.  I had better run off and get to work!

28 October 2010

don't spoil your dinner!

I was in a bit of a long meeting this morning.  My hand began doodling of its own accord and this carrot mama began chastising her chocolate-eating boy in my notebook.  I liked her hairdo ~ what else can you do with long, fluffy stalks of green but a stylish updo?

22 October 2010

design evening

Went to a talk this evening about fonts & music, and saw my design professor from two years ago.   It was so nice to see him again; made me want to take another class.  I learned that he had put one of my projects on display in a small exhibit in the design center, so I popped down to see it and to admire the other selected works ~ several of which I liked very much.  They were all self-portraits.  This was mine: 

As I recall, in that project we needed to create a self-portrait in Photoshop, also utilizing scanned physical objects.  I used pieces of my paintings along with some scanned objects from my childhood and a photo here and there.   When I look at it now, there are a few things I would clean up were I to do it again, but overall I'm still fond of it.

21 October 2010

✿♥♡❀ L♡VE ❀♡♥✿

My sister Tami and her boyfriend Paul recently announced their engagement!  I'm so joyful and excited for them! 

But they're not nearby for me to hug and smother with congratulations {as they're enjoying a romantic Engagement Vacation} ~ so I channeled my enthusiasm into a little sketch of them instead.

Congratulations Tami & Paul!!

  ✿♥♡❀ L♡VE ❀♡♥✿

I'll fix it up and color it in Photoshop, but this is the first sketch.  

I'm so happy for their happiness!!

20 October 2010

the forest

Got my sketchpad and pencil...

 I went for a hike at Mt. Madonna with my sister, her boyfriend and my mum.  As we walked along, I sketched material to refer to for my Sketchbook Project.   I had already been hiking there this summer and found so much inspiration for a little sketch story.  Giant hollow logs, clusters of graceful fungi, wild huckleberries, steep trails and tall, tall trees.

I was curious to know how many photos it would take to photograph the trees from top to bottom.  It took six:

We climbed to the ruins of Henry Miller's summer home.  This little photo was displayed there, but there are just some old stone walls and foundation pieces left, so it was impossible to figure out exactly how the house had been situated.  We tried to picture the hillsides with forests cleared, providing views from Santa Cruz to Santa Clara, and what life must have been like for such a wealthy landowner and his family.

One interesting thing we noted was that the foundation under the mess hall seemed to be hollow underneath.  Perhaps I'll imagine and draw what's under there in my Sketchbook Project...

At the end of our hike, after visiting the pens of white deer, we were heading to the car when we were invited to join the celebration party of a wedding.  The couple was from Monterey and I believe the husband was a marine biologist.

Champagne and sangria with the groom's work colleague
(in amazing, colorful dress!), my sister and her bf.

Sangria and wedding revelry were a charming and unexpected way to end off our hike.  Perhaps I shall find a way to include all of those elements in my sketchbook.  It was a good day of research, nature, family and inspiration. Happy day!

09 October 2010


The ground has been parched as summer has suddenly returned upon us.  I went out to water the garden and who did I scare out of the flowers but Jerry, the praying mantis. 

Jerry had not done any modeling before, but turned out to be a natural.  I offered him/her a part in my sketchbook project and we shot a number of different poses and angles for future reference.  Jerry has the amazing ability to move very, very slowly while hanging on to smooth, impossibly vertical surfaces with tiny feet that don't even have gripping toes.

Performing acrobatics on the manifold, Jerry told me the critter that had nibbled the edges of all those leaves was now "handled".  I didn't ask any further questions, but I did recall that I used to hear a cricket in the bush and hadn't heard its song for a couple evenings.

We hung out until Jerry began to look off into the distance, dreaming of greater things.  I guess that's how it is when one befriends a praying mantis.

03 October 2010

sketchbook project progress ~ {part 1}

 A mundane and moody beginning

Here we are with the first pages of my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project.  My, my ~ it's really taking me a long time to get moving on this. 

This is a view of Highway 17 heading south towards Santa Cruz.  My topic is Lights in the Distance.  The overall idea I have is to set the sketchbook here, in the Bay Area and follow a story of various lights appearing in the distance that bring other characters with stories of their own.  That sounds kind of like aliens or something, but that's not what I mean ... you'll see.

Room in the sky to write something... possibly...

I started the sketchbook with the road heading south because I spent a lot of time there this summer ~ on the beaches and in the mountains ~ and found a lot of inspiration, especially in the redwood forests.  But for all the magic to happen with the lights, I wanted to set up a bit of a dull contrast with views of "normal life" first.  So, sorry if this is boring... at least it's deliberately so!

I plan to segue into more of a cartoon style very soon.  I haven't thought out the full story, thinking that the nature of a sketchbook should be less planned.  But I am looking forward to using different types of media or styles depending on what characters show up out of the lights.  I've encountered people in daily life sometimes and thought they should be characters in my sketchbook!

Reality before the surreality

I'm just using pencils to start with.  I'd like to paint but the pages are so painfully thin.  I think I'll either paste some pages together to fatten them up or paint on other paper and glue those in as I progress through the book, because I definitely would like more vivid color to show off the lights in the distance (and all that comes from them).  

Hope you'll keep me company and follow along on this project.

xo kimi

02 October 2010

emotion sketch ~ {sorrow}

I suppose I am fortunate in my life not to feel sorrowful very often.  Sadness is so overwhelming.  With full sorrow and grief, it seems that everything closes down to wrap around the pain of sadness and the outside world becomes faded and unreal.  For this reason, while painting this character, I let the features and background all blend together.

Later, playing with the image digitally, I darkened the colors overall.  The deeper tone suggested a moodier, deeper sorrow to me. 

Then I realized that in some states of grief, as a sense of apathy creeps in, there might not be much color at all.  So I tried one more, taking out the painful reds and muting the colors further.  I liked the way this one suggests darkness all around ~ reminding me that a true state of sorrow doesn't usually have room for light and hope.

It would be interesting to sketch the landscape around each of these degrees of sadness and find out what was happening to cause such a sad feeling. 

27 September 2010

first layers

I've started on two canvases using acrylics.  This is how far I've gotten so far ~ basically just the first layer down on each one.  The first one, above, is already quite busy but I'd like to give it something more to communicate.  The second one, below, still has endless possibilities...

We'll see where they take me!