Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Mixed Bag Of Tricks

I finally finished that macro flower. It's bold and kind of daring in coloration. I darkened the shadows and brightened the highlights until it matched what was in my head. In other words, I used my artistic eye to flesh out the details instead of just following what the photograph "told" me. I'm trying to develop my artistic eye and allow myself the freedom to interpret what I see, not just try and copy a photo of a subject. It's all about building confidence in what I see and how I allow that to be translated through my hand, onto the paper.

That confidence is hard won. It's taken me a few years to get as far as I have with my belief in my own artistic abilities. The past couple of months have shown the most progress in this journey. I have recently realized that it not only is through my own personal inner work & struggle but the growth also relies on the input from friends through blogging.

Making art is mostly a solitary process, a relationship between the artist and her medium that shuts out all interlopers. In fact, if someone interrupts me when I'm painting it's the only time in my life where I become aggressive at all. I'm protective of my process as it occurs. I actually have found myself growling under my breath if someone "joggles my proverbial elbow" by being just too intrusive or inquisitive. But a connection to readers and fellow artists alike can happen after the art is completed and an interesting thing happens. A circle of encouragement forms around each piece of art and this virtual love-fest really bolsters the insecure artist.

It's such a strange thing that occurs with blogging. Instead of feeling that pressure from others saying, "you're so good, you're so good!" and you think, "am I really?", the artist is allowed to watch as her art is praised as wonderful, extraordinary and beautiful. She then gets to be the "Mother" of that piece, which allows her to be proud of her creation but not pressured to perform. This is why I'm growing in my confidence instead of shrinking from the pressure. 

Now that I've said my soliloquy, lets get onto the purty part, lol. Here's my piece, it has no name yet, fell free to suggest one. A bookmark goes to the person who suggests the best name!

Please Name Me!!
Since I did say today's post was a mixed bag of tricks, I'll also show you something I made using a very cool new tool a blogger friend wrote about and urged her readers to try. The site is Tagxedo and it allows you to make word clouds! I always wondered how those were made, where were these people going to make this fun visual? Now I know! The cool thing is that you can put in your blog URL and the program will go and pick main words from your words minus the common ones like "the" and "is" etcetera. You can then go and tell the program to eliminate that word and emphasize other words. It does take a little learning to get how to tweak your cloud but when you "get it" then you're off to the proverbial races! Two things that will REALLY help you using this tool (before I show you what I made and you get all distracted by the pretty words...).
  1. When you pick a "THEME" color palette click the lock to lock it down so it won't inadvertently change as you fool around with the other controls.
  2. When I picked a shape (I picked the rectangle) it put the background as a grey color and no matter what I did I couldn't change it. But when I downloaded the picture I discovered that the background color was to show me where the boundaries were and now downloaded, the background was white. So don't panic if this happens to you when you use it!

Just think of the possibilities! You could pick a heart and fill that heart with love words for your husband for Valentine's day... or for your child's birthday you could frame the print out of your word cloud created using all the words that come to mind when you think of that child. Go try it out, you'll have a blast, I did. Ok, carry on peoples. Nothing more to see here. My bag of tricks is empty.

Until next time,
Love from up here in Canada.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sketching: Ball Of String

So I was hemming and hawing about doing a drawing for an art challenge given by Inspiration Avenue. You see, I'm a new member there (I've been a member for about a month). Embarrassingly, I haven't done a challenge to date and we put a new one up every Monday morning. I decided that this week I would definitely get my butt in gear and do whatever challenge given this week. Then I read the challenge... Oh God, how does one draw TEXTURE??!? 

I looked at our shaggy rug and shivered in fear. I thought of all the things with texture, hair, fabric, carpet, crumpled paper, rope... all of these put the fear of God into me. I don't have much confidence in my freehand sketching ability. I don't really know why I'm so meek about my abilities. 

I decided to just jump in and draw something. I chose to create a ball of string. So I got my favorite soft H pencil out and started sketching. I was shocked with the outcome. I guess I'm better than I thought. Now I'm going to go sketch a pine cone, an apple core, an old rope, an egg shell and a peanut shell. Hehehe. I'm on a roll! Look at me go!

BALL OF TWINE by Jennifer McLean
I'll be back in a couple days. I have a macro flower to blog about... then cool tools, then some amazing artists... and so on, and so on...

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Do You Remember Dr. Love?

I must apologize for my absence in the last week. I've been dabbling in many projects lately and posting seems to always end up off the bottom of the list. I really hate that an am going to make a concerted effort to post more regularly. Wanna know why? Of course my first reason to be more consistent is that it'll make you who actually read me (waives to my loyal little group) happy but I have a new reason! I've been syndicated on The Blog Farm. Cool, huh? I've always wanted to try this, see if I could increase my readership, but just never "pulled the trigger". Well, consider the trigger officially pulled, people. We'll see how it goes, I'm crossing my fingers!

I have this lovely friend who lives across the border. Her name is Ellen and although I've known her only a short time I'm becoming very fond of her. She commissioned a bookmark from me (I would have just made it for her, but she was sneaky and used my Etsy Shop against me, lol. She went and paid for a commissioned piece, THEN told me that she did! You gotta watch those wily ones, they're tricky! Well, I couldn't let that go unpunished so I also did her a painting. That'll teach her!

(1924 - 1998)
She had requested that the bookmark include her favorite quote by The Love Doctor, does anyone still remember Dr. Leo Buscaglia? I do, I wrote a thesis on him for my philosophy seminar class in University. I read every one of his books on loving thy neighbor and giving out hugs to strangers. He was a gem of a man and so enjoyable to read and watch on tv. It was so pleasantly surprising to find that Ellen admired him too! (We have so much in common, it's spooky.) So the quote she wanted was this:

"Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God"

I decided to do her a fun, colorful bookmark with one side and abstract watercolor and the other the quote she requested. I am really loving how the backs of my bookmarks are coming out! What I do is get a large piece of paper that's like 6x the dimensions of a bookmark (therefore I'll get 6 bookmarks, ya, duh Jenn). I then get out my Holbein watercolors (I LOVE them for their amazingly bright, clean colors) and freely ad paint to the paper, trying to be artistic about it, lol. Then I cut the paper up to the requisite sizes and add ink to highlight the changes in color and the amazing undulation of the paint through water. I love how watercolors do that! So, without further ado...

The font was REALLY hard to do, but then I'm not a font aficionado. Geez, is that spelled right? (it's a well known fact that I cannot spell my way out of a paper bag, carry on.) Speaking of spelling, my last name is spelled McLean. Now, you're asking, why the hell do I need to know this freaking little tidbit of information? Well, let me tell you a story.

I watched my Grandmother parade around in short tartan outfits, her whole body covered, from hat to socks, in our McLean tartan pattern. It was quite embarrassing in restaurants, let me tell you! This is not a good look for anyone, let alone an 80 year old woman (but remember, this is the same woman who, in the early 90's, became the oldest living female to bungie jump... well duh, Jen, she couldn't jump if she were dead, you'd have to push her.) Anyway, I digress. Obviously all my life I've been a card carrying Scottish heritaged lass. I know heritaged isn't a word, move on. Then came 

A few weeks ago my uncle started researching our family tree, taking over from where my mom left off years ago. He phoned my mom howling with laughter. It seems that we shouldn't be embracing the Scottish kilt as our family talisman, we should actually be thinking more green. It seems that a few generations ago my ancestors immigrated for one short generation to Scotland from our homeland of Ireland. Well blyme, I guess I better learn how to drink green beer & look up the deeds of St. Patrick! I'm thrilled though, I get to celebrate a new holiday, I already fit right in because my favorite color is green and I could seriously use some more luck. Do I have to catch one of those little leprechauns and rub him on something to be lucky? What? I'm new here. Some instruction & guidance would be good. I hear we're a friendly bunch, do I have any volunteers to teach a former Scott how to be thoroughly Irish? I'll buy the green beer!

Oh, did you want to see Ellen's painting? Yes? You do, you say? You've been slogging through my family troubles just so you could see it? Ahh, loyalty is such a beautiful thing. Thanks for sticking it out. Without further ado... (oh, I said that above, well no one ever said I was bright, lol)

Hey, I should call this "Luck of the Iris". Hehehe. Oh I kill myself! You should laugh with me, not at me. How rude. ;o) Kinda purty isn't it? I drew and inked it out, then watercolored the background, then added the grasses using watercolor pencils but I didn't add water. I wanted the texture of the pencils against the cold pressed paper. Then I added watercolor to the iris itself. I was lucky to discover that I owned a purple Sakura Pigma finliner (gotta love that archival ink!). It was the only way I could think of to add the incredible detail on a real iris. I love how it came out. Ellen did too. 

I have another piece of art done and I'll post it soon, I had to wait until my package arrived safely in Pennsylvania before I could post about it (I think it's a possibility that Ellen lurks around here, just the way I lurk on her blog. Yup, I'm a lurker, an Irish lurker.) Thank God for spell check because I just spelled Ellen's state Pensilvania. I hear you laughing over there! No merit badges in spelling for this babe, only hom-ec awards, lol. (I think I fried the best egg and fluffed pillows expertly.) 

I'll be back soon, will you miss me? I'll leave a trail of gluten free cookies back to my blog so all you one readers can find your way back to me. Thank you and goodnight, you've been a wonderful audience.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Follower L♥VE Giveaway Hop Winner!

It's that time! I get the privilege of announcing the winner of my Follower LVE Giveaway Hop! It's been a lovely week and I want to thank everyone who entered. Your comments and following of J.A.W.S. and I.A. is appreciated, truly. 

So, here's what I did. I wasn't scientific about it, lol. I found my prettiest hat, wrote everyone's entry on a little piece of paper and chose a winner! And now, without further ado, (drumroll please!)

The Winner of  the book "Catch Me" by Lisa Gardner & an Original Watercolor Bookmark from my Etsy Shop is... 

Sherry Kaye!
(I will be contacting Sherry today and getting her mailing address
 so I can mail her the new book and bookmark she has won! 
If you are Sherry, Congratulations! Please email me your info.)

Again, CONGRATULATIONS to my Follower LVE Giveaway Hop Winner! I certainly hope you enjoy this spectacular book as much as I did. Here's a link to the review I did for "Catch Me" if you'd like to read all about it.

Talk soon? K!
Much Love,

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I've Joined BLOGLOVIN'

I'm a new member of Bloglovin', if you'd like you can follow all my new posts there and be emailed whenever I post something new! Tomorrow the winner of Follower LVE Blog Hop Giveaway will be announced so stay tuned!
I'll be back soon,

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award!

Thanks to Kat of
Kat's Daily Inspiration
Well color me happy! I received a comment on my blog yesterday informing me that I was being blessed with an award. Thank You so much Kat from Kat's Daily Inspiration. I actually really needed to hear I was doing "GOOD". I must admit I've been a little disappointed in my New Linky Follower Tool filling up. With such a large Follower LOVE Giveaway going on until tomorrow I assumed more people would show up and sign up. So it really boosted my ego to receive this award. 

Now I get to do two things...
  1. Tell you 7 things about myself that you may not know.
  2. Give this award to 7 of my favorite deserving blogs!
7 Things You DON'T Know About Me: 
(but do now that you've read this list!)
  1. I changed my name in my last year of University so my diploma would read "Jennifer Lynn McLean", my chosen name, not my father's :o)
  2. I'm allergic to avocados. This is new information for me too! I just found this out 3 days ago when I had an avocado for the first time in years.
  3. I took a total of 7 years of music lessons, 4 on piano, 1 with the recorder and 2 with the ukulele and I still can't read music.
  4. I've lived in a total of 25 houses in my lifetime, that's approx. a new house every  1 3/4 years! (and several houses I lived in for more than 5 years!)(Needless to say I'm a REALLY good packer, lol.)
  5. I am secretly an acquisitive person (Characterized by a strong desire to gain and possess stuff) so I'm really careful not to collect or covet anything. I'd be a hoarder if I let myself, lol.
  6. My grand mother was the world's oldest female bungie jumper in the early ninties. She was contacted by the Maury Povich show to be a guest.
  7. If I purchase a non-fiction book to read and someone else reads it first, I'll never read it myself. I think that my interest is piqued at the moment and after you read it (and mention some of the interesting bits), I'm not enough interested to discover the book myself. I have so many books I want to read that I just move on and reading that book goes down the list and I never get back to it. It's happened time and time again.
  8. BONUS thing about me... I just found out last month that I'm actually Irish, NOT Scottish! Holy Cow, my bungie jumping grand mother just rolled over in her grave! Damn that, lol. But on the bright side, now I know why my favorite color is green!
Tada! Seven wierd & wonderful things about me you never knew. (and probably didn't want to know anyway! Hehehe.)

Here's my list of Wonderful & Highly Deserving Blogs: 
(please go check them out, they're terrific!)
  1. Ellen @ The Card Monkey's Paper Jungle
  2. Abby @ Abby Has Issues
  3. Andrea @ Andrea Joseph's SketchBlog
  4. Tilen @ ArtPlanet
  5. Dion @ Dion Dior & More
  6. Michael @ Sustainably Creative
  7. Stephanie @ Stephanie Corfee Intricate, Vibrant Artwork
I've finished two MAJOR projects that I've been working on for WEEKS. Unfortunately, I can't show you either of them for a few more weeks because A) one of the projects is for a friend and I want her to be surprised when she opens it & B) the other project is being entered into competition and until I hear I don't want to share, lol. In other words, it's going to be a few more days until I have more art to share. I'm almost done a macro flower, though... think vibrant, colorful and close up! Can't wait to show you all!

Talk to you all later, my bloggy friends. 
We'll sit down for a hazelnut cuppa and some Oreo cookies. (Do they make those gluten free? No? Dang.) 
I guess that's another thing you didn't know about me, I LOVE Oreo Cookies. 


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Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: "Catch Me" by Lisa Gardner

So, I finally finished a fantastic book that I received for free from Penguin Books as an "Advanced Reading Copy" to be reviewed by ME!! I was so thrilled to be asked to do my first review. I must admit, I'm an avid reader. I know this is new information to most of you who regularly read my blog, Just Add Water Silly

Usually I'm waxing poetic about new amazing artists I've "discovered" on my travails through the blogosphere, or expounding on what fun it is to paint and have the outcome be just exactly what you wanted it to be. You are also probably used me interspersing these artistic centered posts with other posts about cool tools or new artist's supplies or even explanations about artist's techniques. What I have never done is review a book. Until today!

Now, back to my announcement. I LVE to read. I was actually kindly but mercilessly teased by friends and acquaintances alike about the fact that I was never without a book. Now that I have a Kindle it's filled with hundreds of books that I've read or have yet to read. I love it. What a thrill to have a book just magically show up in my mailbox, asking to be read and reviewed. Yes! I'm on it!

The title of this thrilling mystery (my favorite genre, by the way) is "Catch Me" by Lisa Gardner. The back cover pulls you expertly into the story by giving you two pertinent details...
  1. Charlie Grant claims she will be murdered in the next four days.
  2. She wants Boston's best murder cop, Detective D.D Warren to investigate her upcoming death four days hence.
This begs the question... Is Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant (known as Charlie) actually about to become Boston's next murdered citizen or is she just as crazy as she sounds. This is what Det. D.D. Warren has to find out and she only has four days to do it.

This book is the sixth in Lisa Gardner's series centered around Det. D.D. Warren, a Boston murder cop with a "get'er done" attitude. Det. Warren, now 41, has just had a baby. D.D's afraid motherhood is going to soften her. She comes off of maternity leave to find herself having to balance two unusual cases. One involving Charlie Carter and another that seems to involve a vigilante killer plumbing Boston's seedy underbelly for child predators. Yet the cases seem to strangely be connected. But how could that be?

Author: Lisa Gardner
Gardner is expert in instantly pulling you into her story. Her writing is tight and adds only minimal extraneous information. I didn't find myself thinking, "get on with it" once throughout this fantastic read. That's rare these days. So many authors seem to fill pages with every detail surrounding each character that one feels "trapped" in too many words. Not with Gardner. She gives many details but stops at just the right point where you're learning about the characters and their environment but you're not bored. It's a well balanced book.

Let me also say that her character development is perfectly paced. Her first "punch" of information to hold our interest is followed by enough details to flesh out each additional main character. In just one book I've gotten to to "see" the main characters as multi-dimentional people who I want to read more about. Gardner forces you to wish her books were longer and makes you thankful you can go and get her preceeding five books.

This is a "can't put it down, read past your bedtime" kind of book. Gardner adds double twists, keeping the reader guessing until the very last page. A truly spectacular read, I can't wait to peruse her other offerings. I'm hooked on this author and her fully developed characters!!Thank you to Penguin Books, I had needed a new author, they provided a perfect fit.

My suggestion, go to your local bookstore or and get this book. You won't regret it. I'll be back with a more art focused post soon.

We'll talk, have coffee. K?

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Publishing for review. I was in no way compensated for this review it is my own opinion.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

I've Been Featured!

A lovely woman with a craft blog contacted me and said she'd like to feature my bookmarks on her craft blog. Her blog is "It's About Time Mamaw". I also offered to donate a bookmark for a giveaway she could do with the feature post. I'm just thrilled with this honor, thank you Patricia, for showing all your lovely followers my bookmarks! The feature post will be up on her craft site on February 9th, please check it out! 

She also wants to add my Etsy widget on both of her sites! (she has a book review site here) I will be doing a guest post on her book blog on the 11th of February too! 

I'll be back soon with that book review, I bet you can't wait! It's a really good book! I'm also working diligently on new art, stay tuned, hehehe.

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