A Doggy Portrait

Whew.

I’ve kind of been in survival mode this past month. Work on our house started July 1st, and what they thought would be a five day project has turned into a much bigger (weeks long) ordeal. Tears, nervous breakdowns, the usual… I’ll spare you the details but good gracious. At the same time all the drama was happening with the house I also completed the illustrations on a children’s book (my first!) within an extremely tight time frame. Add some personal stuff to the mix and you could say that July 2014 is a month I will never forget.

I’m taking off tomorrow for a trip back to see my parents and siblings and attend a family wedding, and I couldn’t be more excited for the break.

Brian took Ada into the city tonight for a little Detroit action since he won’t see her for over a week, and I retreated to my happy place to do a little painting.

I wanted to do something lighthearted. A portrait of my long suffering childhood dog Bessy was just the ticket. Years ago my sisters and I (actually, it could have just as easily been my mom now that I think about it) wrapped Bessy in a blanket when we were bored, and ever the good sport, Bessy took it all in stride and even posed for a picture. This painting is inspired by that.

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It’s ridiculous. It’s sentimental. And it makes my dog-loving daughter happy every time she sees it on our gallery wall.

 

Open and Shut

When we bought our house in October, I think we were only able to open about two windows in the entire place. The house is 2,400 sq feet, so we have a fair amount of windows. Most windows were painted shut, and you could tell had not been opened in years. This is confusing to me. Why would anyone paint windows shut? Sure. I get that they are drafty. This winter I shoved plastic garbage bags in the gaps of as many windows as possible. It wasn’t the most classy look in the world, but you do what you have to do, right? Old windows are both a blessing and a curse. But you don’t paint them shut.

My first instinct when we bought the place was to grumble and moan about the windows, and I quickly decided that we would replace them all over time with something brand new, energy efficient, and probably vinyl (for cost purposes.) But slowly and surely, over these past few months I have been going around the house, wrestling with whatever windows have screens in them, and I’ve been having success! You might even say I’ve bonded a little with the windows? These old wooden war horses still work, wouldn’t you know? 70+ years and going strong! Okay, maybe not strong, but they are going. And they have so much character. (Please remind me of that next January when it’s 0 degrees.) But seriously. These windows have seen a lot. And I hope they don’t tell me about most of it! Ha!

But anyhow…do you know how amazing it feels to have fresh air rush into a room where there previously was none? I will never take that for granted, I’m telling you, especially on these hot summer days.

Case in point: windows in kitchen over sink. Yesterday as I was washing dishes and sweating my brains out, I couldn’t take it anymore. Fresh air NEEDED to be mine. I picked the side that actually had a screen already in it, jumped up on the counter with my tool of choice and went to town.

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The thing about these old windows…I’m not gentle. I use every ounce of strength I have to shove that metal putty knife in between the window parts. Window parts. I try not to get technical because I have no idea what I’m talking about. By the time I get a window open I’m usually in a full blown sweat. But it is the best feeling in the world…

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…even if you do unearth years of filth. And that’s after one swipe with a wet paper towel!

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Yummy.

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Sure! The walls have been half primed for nine months! (Going from orange to white) But who cares about a mess on the walls when we have more. fresh. air! And most importantly, that was a freeeeee improvement! And we all know those are about as elusive as a good night’s sleep when your three year old still sleeps in your bed every night. What???? I know. We’re working on that.

 

Art gallery

Happy Friday! If you found me through Cassie’s fabulous blog yesterday, welcome! She really is the sweetest, and you all had such kind things to say as well. Thank you for taking the time to comment! It was a little bit of sunshine in the cloudy, rainy, holy thunder Batman also when are my leaks going to stop? kind of week we’ve been having here in Michigan. Leaks, you say? I said I had stories! So yeah. New roof coming…hopefully next week? Week after? Bueller?

Anyway, some of you mentioned that you wanted to go check out my Etsy shop.

I felt kind of bad because I don’t really keep it stocked. I periodically add another abstract or something, but for the most part I mostly do commissioned pieces so it’s hard to keep my shop filled with random things (and then find room in my house to store those random things!)

That being said, if you saw something on my house tour that you kind of liked and you might want to ask me a couple questions, shoot me an email at juliepetuniaart@gmail.com. I can create for you something similar or something completely custom. We can talk price, size, and all the rest of that good stuff. The sky is the limit!

It’s all on the blog somewhere, but here is a quick recap of some of the pieces I have done:

Julie Craigo, mini landscapes

Julie Craigo, mini landscapes

One as seen below:

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Julie Craigo, portraits

Julie Craigo, portraits

Julie Craigo, still life

Julie Craigo, still life

Seen here:

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apples

As seen here:

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As seen below: (not my bathroom. I wish!)

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Seen here most recently:

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walk in the snow 1

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Seen here: (things like to move around in my house!)

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rose3

Seen below:

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A Different View (3) by Julie Craigo

Seen below:

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And then all the house portraits of course…a sampling of which can be seen on my Etsy site.

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juliepetuniaart@gmail.com

Text in paintings

Some people do their best creative work when they aren’t given any parameters. Free rein, carte blanche, you get the point. But for me, there is almost nothing more paralyzing than that. If you give me a menu that is four pages long and ask me to decide what I want to eat you will probably be waiting a loooong time. Salad? A burger? Oh wait, soup? It all sounds good. Designing and building a house from scratch sounds like a nightmare to me. Walking into a mall with an unlimited budget? Ahhhhh! (Like that would ever happen!)

It’s not that I am indecisive. My family will probably tell you that I definitely don’t suffer from a lack of opinions. It’s just that I like the creativity that comes from having boundaries- limitations, if you will. Some of my best meals have come about as a result of me having to scrape the bottom of my fridge and cupboards when I’ve been putting off a trip to the grocery story. But when I actually get to the store, I can’t think of a single dinner to buy ingredients for.

I think that’s why I’ve always liked putting together and arranging rooms. I’ve always had a budget and weird things to work around. When we first got married my husband and I lived in a tiny married student housing apartment with cinder block walls. I’ve had odd hand me down furniture that I’ve needed to make work somehow. Give me an empty room and $10,000 and I would probably go into a catatonic state. But give me $500 and let me loose on Craigslist and I’m golden.

As an artist, I love commissions for the same reason. I love working with someone to try to figure out what it is they want while maintaining the freedom to interpret it in my own way.

The latest commission I did had these parameters:

*Small. Something that can be propped up on a shelf.

*Colorful (include some orange)

*Abstract

*Gift for a male

*Include a specific Bible verse

That last part was challenging for me because I don’t usually include text in my paintings with the exception of this one I did a few years ago:

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I had so much fun doing that, but it was supposed to be cutesy. Not so with the abstract with the verse. And I certainly didn’t want the piece to look like a cheesy inspirational poster. The buyer and I got some laughs out of that one. We were on the same page. Phew.

So I came up with something that I would be happy to hang in my own home. And honestly, that’s always what I ask myself. Would I put this on my wall? If not, I can’t feel good about attaching my name to it even if it’s exactly what someone asked for.

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It’s a juicy little 8 x 10 that can either be matted and framed or left with the more unfinished edge showing. I love it both ways. Oh, decisions! Glad that’s one I don’t have to make!;)

 

New Book Basket

When I think about the fact that I have been searching for a basket for Ada’s library books for several months, I just have to laugh. I have a mental To Do list at all times of about 101 things, and this was on there, believe it or not. But I remember helping my sister pick out a basket for her kids’ library books not too long ago, so I know I’m not the only one who feels this is a priority. Nothing is worse than not having a designated spot for those borrowed books, and then scrambling, looking under beds, in back packs, and behind the couch for #10. Or was it #11? I knew I should have kept that receipt!

Let’s face it, I’ll probably still keep doing that since our library books seem to grow legs around here, but it’s worth a try.

I have a few extra baskets that I’ve tried to use for this specific purpose, but they all were either too small, too rickety, or just looked like I’d oddly set a basket down on the floor and…why? We also tried just storing them in a reusable grocery bag, but it never looked very tidy, and frankly taking books out and putting them away was always a little unwieldy…especially for a three year old who can be a little, uh, lazy shall we say?

Today Ada and I were at Target on the hunt for a fan for one of the bedrooms (it’s so hot!) and I “coincidentally” wandered past a clearance section filled with tons of black and white baskets that I had been eyeing for a couple months. Always the bargain hunter, I checked the little red tag and saw that they were priced at just under $8. Full price was $24.99.

Sold. I popped one in my cart and then immediately felt a little guilty.

“Ada, do we need this for anything? Where would we put this? What would we use it for? Are you sure we need it?” I actually had this conversation. I guess with myself, but Ada gets to reap the benefits.

She assured me that we did need it (she knows best), so home it came.

I hadn’t even thought about using it for the library books until we got home and I had a shining moment of clarity amidst my minor feelings of guilt about buying an awesome and cheap basket.

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So perfect. It is exactly what I never knew the room needed. Double duty served.

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2nd bedroom reveal

Our 2nd bedroom upstairs is acting as our Master bedroom until our Master bedroom gets fixed and stops acting as storage. The 2nd bedroom will hopefully someday act as kid room #2, so everything about the space as it sits now is temporary. But temporary could be a year? Two years? Who really knows.

Let’s look at it before.

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So….

Yeah.

Could not get rid of that fast enough.

I painted it months ago, but the real game changer was the fact that I FINALLY painted the closet. I wouldn’t let us use it until I painted it, because who knows about lead based paint and it was just pretty gross, in general. So I gave Brian the dresser and a cabinet to use, and my clothes have been hanging out on a table, in boxes, you name it. So awful. We still don’t have doors up, but at least now we have a closet.

The usable closet inspired me to really de-clutter the room and set it up so that it feels a little more permanent, even though it isn’t. I hung some things on the wall, accessorized, and organized all our clothes. The best part is that I didn’t buy a single thing for the room. I used everything that we already had, and that makes me love the room that much more.

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2br8

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One more time:

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Next challenge: to convince Ada that her bed is just as comfy as ours. #threescompany

 

Bad choice brown

Our stairway has looked like this for the past six months:

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It’s a big project. That’s why I waited so long to tackle it. It involves so much more than just painting the walls (which are a challenge with the high open stairwell.) Our new railing has also remained in a state of partly-covered-with-one-coat-of-stain for months. Not pretty. But when Ace was having their big BOGO sale on paint a couple weeks ago, I decided I needed to bite the bullet, take a chance with Valspar, pick a paint color for the walls, and get ‘er done. And I might as well finally finish all those coats of stain and poly on the big winding railing while I’m at it.

 

So?

 

I’ve been working diligently for days and…..

 

 

it’s still not done.

 

 

But!

 

 

It’s getting there and it’s better.  The dark brown walls are slowly being white washed in glorious, well, white paint. (You don’t even want to know how long I spent at the counter with the paint man at Ace discussing and examining undertones. I blame it on my unfamiliarity with the brands they carry.)

But first, I can’t understand the previous choice of dark brown here. I really can’t. I’m all for dark wall colors, but for the love, not here. And not brown.

It was just so wrong in this space. And also, I need a ladder.

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Light! Did someone just turn on five more lights! No, someone just painted the walls white. Okay, it was me.

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Do the treads and molding look really dingy? Well, they are. Huge project. Can’t wait. But seriously. I can’t wait.

It’s weird to look back and see how far we have come in seven months.

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It’s good for me to look at these old pictures and pictures in progress to remind myself that yes, indeed, we are getting things done in here even though almost nothing is done. But I keep plugging away with my spackle, stain, paint, and sandpaper, doing what little things I can do. Because even if I can only spend fifteen minutes here and there, it will eventually add up to wow, that’s come a long way. That’s the plan.

And, I will probably still be working on this house when I am 90, so, what’s the rush???

Say it ain’t so! ;)

 

On painting

“There’s no earthly way of knowing which direction they are going

There’s no knowing where they’re rowing

Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing?

Is a hurricane a-blowing?

Not a speck of light is showing

So the danger must be growing…”

-from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

That whole scene used to terrify me as a child, but the first part of it- before the boat started going really fast and they showed worms and chickens getting their heads cut off- that part has always stuck with me.

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*In progress*

It’s the way I feel every time I start a new painting. Not in the oh I’m so scared I’m shaking in my boots kind of way, but in the I have no idea how this is going to turn out and that is beyond thrilling. I’m not a factory. I don’t have a formula. So I’m along for the ride as much as anyone else is. I never know what my next brush stroke is going to be, or whether or not what I see in my mind is going to translate to the canvas. And there are always many moments early on in a painting’s life when I feel like this…

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…couldn’t possibly turn into this…

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And that is only about 50% completed. *In progress*

There is faith involved, that’s for sure. The faith that you can start with nothing and end up with something. People all get that rush in different ways- playing the lotto, trying a new recipe, beginning a new friendship, picking up an unfamiliar instrument, building a house, planting a garden.

“Not a speck of light is showing so the danger must be growing.”

Patience. And a few butterflies and a lot of work.

And then, out of nowhere, it does. The light comes, the parachute opens, the flowers bloom and the form takes shape. We all live with that hope, don’t we?

The great outdoors

I don’t know if the novelty of having a yard after six years of city living will ever wear off. This weekend we lived outside. We didn’t have anywhere to go, didn’t have any plans or rehearsals or company, and the weather was actually pretty decent. We only came inside to sleep, and the rest of the time was spent doing projects, yard work, gardening, breaking for quick dinner picnics, and then more yard work. Honestly, it’s how I remember spending many spring and summer weekends as a kid. Mom and Dad gardening, trimming and mowing much of their thirteen acres while my sisters and I ran around outside like wild children. So even if my experience with all this yard and garden stuff was more observational than experiential and I am really really learning as I go, it feels like such a natural and comforting place to be.

Although I have to say- yesterday I was so sore I could hardly move. And the bugs aren’t really out in full force yet, so check back with me in a couple months. But so far so good!

It’s literally going to take me years to bring back this yard and its gardens, but chipping away at it is so much fun.

One of the beds looked like this a few weeks ago:

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The ground cover was out of control. It was hiding a rock boarder as well as starting to overtake the old flagstone patio.

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I still have so much to rip out, but…progress. And one of my wonderful neighbors brought over some extra herbs and irises from her garden.

More weekend…

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This walkway was hard work. I decided during the process that I could never be a farmer.

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Hmmm, what do we have here?

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Oh, hey there. Buh bye siding. The forest green trim and shutters will meet their demise later this summer.

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Pineapple, olive and pepperoni- is there a better combo?

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About 60% of these flagstones were found buried behind bushes in the backyard. Recycle, reuse.

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It’s a sweet season in the fullest sense of the word.

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” -Vincent van Gogh