How is everyone doing?
It seems our world has changed very quickly and many of us are struggling with the anxiety of what the future may bring. Not only is our physical health in jeopardy, but also our emotional well-being, as we try our best to adapt to this ‘new normal’ life that is so unfamiliar to so many of us. It can be quite a scary time.
As an artist and designer who works from home anyway, I probably don’t feel the changes as drastically as most of you do. I am used to being here most days and besides the restrictions on shopping and our usual errands to the post office and bank, things are pretty much normal for me. But all it takes is reading a few articles online and my tummy starts flipping and I can actually feel the anxiety rise. It is times like these when I need to remind myself that if I can’t do anything to help, I need to let things go. Otherwise, they can eat me alive, and then I am no good to anyone – including myself.
We all have ways of dealing with grief, fear, and anxiety. I find that I tend to busy myself with organizing things here in my home. Those of you who know me know that I typically keep a rather tidy house. I feel that it is necessary when one both lives and works from home. Keeping things clean and in order makes for an environment that is both creative and productive. I am not one who can be creative when in chaos and I would rather spend time being productive than searching for things that weren’t put back into their place. Often people ask me how I am able to accomplish so much. I truly believe that a large part of the answer is that I have a clean, uncluttered environment and that allows me to get the most amount of work or creating done in the least amount of time. It is a good habit.
Now mind you, I am not obsessive in this trait. That would also be counterproductive to my goals, and I don’t want you all to think that I am ‘that fussy’ over every little detail. I like to think I am somewhere in the ‘grey area’. Just about everything has its place and I put things back where they belong when I am done with them. That way, the next time I need something, it is there. It really is as simple as that.
During times when I am anxious, however, I tend to want to do a bit more organizing than usual. For example, last week I cleaned out my utensil drawers in the kitchen. I also sorted through all my spices and straightened out the contents of my kitchen cabinets. It wasn’t a big job, and it didn’t take too long, but it felt good when I was done and gave me a sense of calm. Keith says we sort things or organize when we are anxious because it gives us a sense of control over our environment. I think he may be on to something. Some people “Stress- eat” or “Stress-smoke”. Why not “Stress-organize”? If it makes me feel better and calms me, it is a win/win in my book. I can think of many more destructive habits to have under stress.
While I was organizing the large cabinet in my studio I came across a honeybee drawing that I created a couple of years ago. It was done when I just received my Faber-Castell Polychromo colored pencil set and I couldn’t wait to try them out to create a realistic bee. I used Fabriano 140lb hot-pressed watercolor paper for the drawing. I taped it to the board, sketched on the bee and masked the bee part off with frisket:
I then used a honeycomb stencil to pencil in the background. The frisket mask helped keep me from getting the pencil on the area of the body of the bee.
I then started layering in the bee. The Polychromos are oil-based color pencils so that after adding several layers of color, they are able to be blended with odorless turpentine (on a cotton swab) for beautiful color transitions. This process is slow, as you have to add many light layers, but it allows the pencils to look like paint and you can achieve hyper-realistic effects.
As I continued on, you can see that I had not masked the wings. This was so you would be able to see the honeycomb design through them and they would appear to be transparent.
After several hours, I felt it was finished.
I was fairly pleased, as this medium was new to me. While it isn’t perfect, I find it was acceptable, and I learned a great deal while making it.
And into the cabinet it went for a couple of years.
When I pulled it out, it was still taped to the board.
I thought how nice it was and I felt determined to finish it up and frame it.
I wanted to make a frame that was something that would look nice and be a ‘bee theme’. So (naturally!) I chose to cut a frame in the shape of a honeycomb – a hexagon. I cut the frame from MDF and I made an inner ‘mat’ piece that I could paint with a contrasting color to accent the bee and bring out the darker colors in the insect. I thought about it for a while, and then I chose a direction and pulled out my supplies.
I decided to use some great products from DecoArt that I love to make this frame really special.
I also decided to use some of my M-Squared stencils from Sandy McTier Designs (http://www.sandymctierdesigns.com) and Tracy Moreau (http://www.tracymoreau.net). I love this entire line of stencils, as they are very versatile for backgrounds, lettering, and so many other nice effects. They are also very reasonably priced and well-made, too. I use them quite a bit.
After base coating the outer piece of the frame, I used the DecoArt Vintage Effect color wash paint to give it a soft, shimmering look. I love how translucent this line of paint is, and the gold has a beautiful, soft metallic effect that isn’t loud or gaudy.
I then painted the plywood ‘mat’ piece using the DecoArt Multi-Surface Satin paint. I have used this paint for many pieces of larger furniture in my home. It dries to a beautiful satin finish that is durable and doesn’t require a sealer. I find it takes at least two coats of this paint to give a nice, hard finish, and I painted the inner mat accordingly.
And finally, I wanted to use the honeycomb M2 stencil along with DecoArt Americana Decor Texture Metallic paint to add some dimensional honeycomb designs randomly on the frame.
I just moved the stencil around here and there to randomly apply the design. The texture added lots of interest and the metallic shine of the paint was just enough to catch your eye without detracting from the bee in the center of the design.
Below is the finished project.
I am really happy with the result. I am also happy that my hard work is no longer hidden in a cabinet and that I can have it out to look at and enjoy.
I will probably keep this for myself, as I really do love bees and it looks great in my bright studio for summer. I had all but forgotten about it until I decided to organize that cabinet.
I suppose the moral of this blog is that we can always find something good in even the most troubling situations. While some of us may feel anxious and unfocused, maybe it isn’t a bad thing to try to do something small to break that cycle of looking at the news and worrying. If you can be proactive, that is great. But if you can’t and are doing everything you are supposed to do (like staying INSIDE!) and feeling out of sorts because of it, I suggest you try to disconnect from the larger issues and maybe tackle something small, like a drawer or a cabinet, and it will help give you purpose and feel like you are accomplishing. Maybe you will find your own ‘hidden treasure’ like I did.
That sense of accomplishment can make all the difference in how you feel. I hope it helps you all.
Stay safe, well, and STAY INSIDE!
Until next time.
Looking for more creative ways to spend those days at home? Come and join me at my Facebook group – “Let’s Paint (and CREATE!) with Sheila Landry. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/paintwithsheila) It is a wonderful and positive place to share and learn. You may even make some new creative friends! We would love to see you join us!