Sunday, September 15, 2019

How I Am Propagating My Coleus This Year

Coleus smothering my Caladium at the moment.
Coleus was the 'it' plant a year ago at gardening conferences, their beautiful lush foliage, shade-loving nature and variety of colors make them the must have annual for many here in the Northeast. I buy them as fillers in pots around our home, this year I combined them with Caladiums in my a planter by our garage and the effect is gorgeous for the semi-shady area.  I hate to see our first frost kill these colorful plants so last year I cut a bunch and sat them in ball jars of water; however I didn't really know what I was doing.

First thing I did wrong? I left the long stemmed blooms on them when I brought them indoors to overwinter, they dried up and shed all over our guest room. I didn't change the water on a regular basis, and the roots also got mushy looking and the plants grew tall and stringy. Plus I cut and simply dunked the whole plant in the water, WRONG!

 This year I did more research on successfully propagating and discovered many a Youtube video offered up a golden nugget of advice, not offered on another video. So you're in luck! All the info is here in one blog post. Below is what I did after bingewatching a few vids. BTW with climate change I don't trust when Connecticut will get it's first frost, so today I headed out to the garden to snip a bunch.

Cut at the fourth node.

1. First thing, I went out and cut a bunch of my Coleus right under the fourth node. The nodes are little bumps on the stem where leaves, shoots, and branches spring forth. I cut on an angle right after the forth little bump or node

2. I grabbed some large white pails that my beekeeper friend gave me, filled them a quarter of the way, and stuck all of my coleus cuttings in two buckets.

3. At my work table I stripped the Coleus cuttings of all leaves except for a very few on the top, the xtra leaves drain the the plant of much needed energy to grow roots, so lop off those leaves!

Bucket of stripped Coleus leaves.
4. Because Coleus has tender stems, be careful plucking off the xtra leaves, you don't want to break the stems.

5. After all cuttings were shed of their extraneous leaves, I filled some vintage Ball jars with water, BE YE AWARE! Only two inches of water is needed, otherwise roots will sprout from the first top node, and that would make planting in soil awkward. Leave your cuttings by a window that gets indirect light. And check them for when they need another drink of water, heated rooms can suck up moisture.

6. Leave the cuttings in water until roots appear, most plant pundits said a week should do.

7. When roots appear, pot up a bunch of pots with potting soil, NOT Top soil mind you, you need the light fluffy potting soil for these tender cuttings. Poke a pencil in the soil then plant one cutting in the hole. Continue on with all your cuttings, then place again in a window with indirect light.

8. In late April or early May, harden your Coleus plants by placing them outside for a few hours to adjust to the temps. On Memorial Day, you're ready to plant them in a non-drafty area-a strong wind can break their stems.

And voila! Instant gratification to add to your outdoor pots or garden, and no need to run to the local nursery to drop more money on the counter to buy some.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

My #SketchbookRedrawChallenge Project, Care to Join Me?

©2019 Suzanne Urban Art
When I view the gorgeous sketchbooks of other artists I feel bad, my sketchbooks reveal the recordings of an impatient person, not thoughtful journals carefully dileneating a day spent at a cafe, or museum or on a train. My sketchbooks have tons of linear drawings some upside down, others sideways, some inked in, mostly grey pencil.

It's time to change this.

Since the pages of my sketchbooks are disorganized, I realized this haphazard method didn't allow me to methodically build my drawing repertoire of subjects and things. My strength is characters, but I need to draw more houses, trees, flora and environments.  A lot of illustrators I know don't keep a sketchbook because they're busy with commissioned work, when they draw, it's a preliminary drawing for a finished product, not a study. And some, like myself had an off-site day job for years around the commissioned-freelance work, and some have families, so taking time to record doodles, life observations or a study from a picture is a challenge.

I think with the advent of computer use creating art the old analog way i.e. picking up a pen or pencil to draw, fell to the wayside. Many artists now draw on their iPad with Procreate, something I'd like to try, but is the physical act of drawing on paper different from the digital? I suspect it might be, watching artists sketch on Procreate in Youtube videos visually bothers me, the act is so rapid there's no texture, no erasing a mistake and starting over, no tactile engagement with instrument and paper and no serendipitous accidents.  I'd rather stroll through a museum or sit on a park bench with my sketchbook than an iPad, but for sketches destined to be printed on a product for my ETSY store, I really like the idea of giving Procreate a try.

However, now I don't want to be so busy that I can't take some time to crack open a book to a new blank page. Drawing in a sketchbook is relaxing, engaging, fun even if at first I feel uninpired or fearful of a lousy output. I recently picked up a new book at Jerry's Artarama, and already this book has a methodical theme as I promised myself to stay focused. I also need to make more space in my studio so I'm cutting out old sketches from past books pasting them in this one and re-drawing them, the old book will be tossed. I call this my #SketchbookRedrawChallenge. Since it's my characters that I love to create, I'm able to follow through consistently, something that's so important for this artist with some Attention Deficit Issues.  But the next book? Well that book I'd like to be more of a recorder of daily excursions. I've always wanted to visit the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and draw from some of the best masters. Hmmm, that's a start.

If you out there reading this would like to join in a #SketchbookRedrawChallenge use the hashtag and post to your Instagram feed, I'd love to see your work.

Youtube has a lot of videos of artists sharing their sketchbooks, bravely putting it out there for all to see. I find spending an evening, AFTER I've sketched in my own book quite inspiring. Here's some of my favorite videos:

Danny Gregory
Danny's journey to becoming an artist is fascinating, he started with a blog that led to published = books and now he's teaching online in Sketchbook Skool.

Emily Artful doesn't mince words, and as young as she is, she has a lot to say. She is hilarious and I think of her videos as part daily sketch in action and part stand up.

Fran's was the first Illustrator vlog I discovered, and I'm hooked. Her daily excursions and studio goings on never fail to bore. Fran is my inspiration to branch out and sketch in public, something I haven't done in years. I feel Fran brings a European sensibility to everything she does. I like that.

Another funny artist, with sensible insights to improving a sketch, her deadpan sense of humor keeps you coming back for more, as well as watching how she builds a drawing from start to finish.

Mary Doodles
Mary is funny, bubbly and is one of the first illustrators to start up a vlog I believe. Her enthusiasm beckons you to try some of her drawing experiments.

Friday, August 30, 2019

One Reason Why Illustrators must Charge What they Charge-Product Fail!

It seems to me  I am the only illustrator who FAILS so easily at product development. Part of my struggle is my passionate desire to work in more than one medium. I feel there's two kinds of illustrators in this world, those who do their one thing, painting on a flat surface, or digitally or both, and those who move effortlessly from clay, to cloth to paper and computer.

I don't fit in either of those categories.

But maybe other illustrators don't either. A lot of failed attempts go into my work, probably because I see my work not only on paper, but on cloth, clay and fiber and wood. I do not know if it's my ADD attention issue that creates what I feel is a slow learning curve, or whether all the other illustrators, especially those with vlogs also suffer the same kind of fails but the flops aren't shared for all to see. The picture above is what happened this morning.


I'm working on pins and ornaments for my second Etsy shop to upload for the holiday season.  Not wanting to throw out  (not good for environment) or invest time in giving a block of Prosculpt that's been kicking around my studio for ten years, I opted to use it up. I carefully sliced out shapes to bake in my polymer clay-dedicated oven- ( I advise baking in oven you use for food), once baked I would paint and add backs. Well. the oven dial to turn on the oven had broke. Luckily engineer husband fixed it. But I lost valuable time to work on this project and it was shelved a week to this morning. Today,, I followed the packet instruction, walked away for a few minutes and there you have it, smoke filled the kichen and all my pins were ruined.

Why does the universe do this to me? Why can't I experience a smoother process that other illustrators seem to enjoy?  Or am I assuming I'm the only one who flunks royally? Even if I"m not alone in this department, my frustration illuminates how much time is invested in what an artist needs to create the end product. Nothing happens over night for any of us, we went to school, or if self-taught–invested a lot of time and money developing our work to a professional level, and this level is organic, we're always learning, always improving, just like Doctors need to keep up on meds, engineers must be trained to use new equipment. Our sketchbooks are our training ground.

So this is why illustrators and artists can't sell their art for a price that doesn't cover the invested time or cost of medium. The price you pay ensures we too are sustainly employed.

Thank you for hearing me. If you'd like to visit some of my favorite Illustrator vlogs please click the links below, these three women give an open-eyed view of all that goes on in the life of a working illustrator, I highly recommend these informative and entertainingYoutube channels.



Holly Exeley

Monday, August 26, 2019

Turning My Sheshed into an Outdoor Art Studio

Besides my illustration work, I create YardArt for myself and for a local antique shop  (James Seligs Estate Jewelery and Antiques) that consigns my glass plate flowers, totems and other upcycled goodies. I also teach others to create art to personalize their own backyard oasis, as why should all design efforts go into just the interior space of one's home? Tomorrow eve I'll be teaching here: Glass Totem Workshop

My interest in YardArt literally bloomed when we purchased a house with a third of an acre here in Windsor Connecticut. I've spent summers adding area gardens to the fairly blank canvas of a yard. Eventually buying perennials and flowers got expensive, and the labor is intense. Sore muscles convinced me to add something besides flora, something that didn't need watering, or weeding or transplanting or dividing. Pinterest provided the best answer for ideas and if you visit my Pinterest board "Cool and Exciting Garden Ideas" you'll see a plethora of beautiful upcycled DIY projects.

However, this year, my YardArt projects were taking over my studio, our dining room and Solarium as the Sheshed was in a current state of disarray, stuffed with freebie items for future object d'art as well as a dining room set waiting to be painted. It was time to clear out and re-org the Sheshed and turn it into a working outdoor art studio.

The first thing to go was a Craigslist purchase, an awning tent new in box except I took it out to examine it all, got bored and shoved it back into the shed, the tent poles were sprawled everywhere. We asked our neighbors if they could use it, yes they could! Easy peasy. Husband helped me to roll in a kitchen island I painted white that a friend gave me. Next came a Facebook Marketplace find, a white cube storage unit that was taking up space in the house.

Once everything was out and furniture in I divided the 8'x10' space into things to turn into art and items for gardening. The kitchen island is my 'drawing board' I placed my seed bomb making kit, scissors, bowls and minor hardware inside. Wood shutters, deck balusters reside next to it. The cube storage holds glass plate flowers to finish and will house my huge pile of glass gems. The dining set is in the barn now, thus freeing up extra space, I convinced my husband I would paint it before winter so his 'He-Barn' won't be stuck with it. I'm quite pleased with the result and look forward to using my outdoor art studio for some holiday upcyled projects before the cooler temps set in.  Dividing my time between two studios is a luxury I never thought I'd experience. I am grateful.

HELPFUL RESOURCES TO GET YOU STARTED ON YOUR OWN YARDART: Finding objects to upcycle into Yardart is easier than you'd think. I joined the Buy Nothing page for my town on Facebook. Residents wishing to rid themselves of something offer it up on their town's Buy Nothing (town name) page. Also Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity Restore and Savers are a treasure trove for the YardArt artist.  Craigslist is a great alternative, but with Facebook Marketplace's popularity growing, I find myself not checking it as often, Facebook is less anonymous you can check the offer's owner by reading their profile. Your local Garden Club can provide glass vases and perennials at bargain basement prices too. And let's not forget tag and estate sales.

Free planter and Impatiens I recently scored off Buy Nothing Windsor CT FacebookPage

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Why Do I Struggle with Inking?

Inking in my illustrations doesn't come easy for me, I feel my lines are uninteresting, and I'm sometimes unclear when to thicken a line and when to keep it whisper thin. Although I admire the inking of Manga and Comic Illustrators, I'm not looking to ink lines so perfectly crisp and flowy that the end result looks like a well-honed machine did the inking. I want a delicate, handmade, look with enough of a hint of line weight that my drawings don't look boringly outlined. Inking is something I've struggled with for years and I think I know why.

I think my attention deficit (ADD) issue has played a big role in this struggle as well as my impatient Gemini nature and the general anxiety that internally haunts me compresses time into a looming feeling that the deadline was YESTERDAY. Even when I'm simply drawing in my own sketchbook this hurry up and rush it feeling permeates my mind.  My ADD impacts my self-esteem which in turn feeds my anxiety. I live in a world like those dreams where you show up late for a school test, can't find your pencil, realize you're not dressed and you left lunch at home–reside.

Yes I've had those dreams, hate them, HATE THEM.

Swiftly finishing a piece of art impacts the quality.  Rushing makes me skip over valuable steps, steps that make me observe, question and try another approach. Anxiety creates fear that the work won't get finished, so pull something together fast–Suzanne! Quickness makes my mind by-pass the inner pathway of the essential creative-thinking process and I end up turning a nice pencil sketch into something that's not quite right.

The first picture above is my inked in work printed on Spoonflower linen. I inked in the three characters to be printed on cloth then sewn into lavender sachets. When I received the linen I was disappointed in how heavy-handed my characters looked. I forgot, ink can really absorb into fabric, and the flat inking style made my delicate drawings look clunky.

So back to the drawing board went I.  I played with a dotted line approach. Years ago I experimented with a dotted line style and wish I stuck to it, but the unfocused ADD wagon pulled me away. Add'er's I suspect rebel against pidgeon-holing themselves into one area, but I realize now, it's not locking me into a box but rather allowing what comes naturally, to flow out. Thus one's own style is born.

My first attempt I grabbed a thinner Micron pen, and I dotted away with glee, only to realize a couple of days later I'd overkilled the dot motif, I let it take over, instead of slowly orchestrating a sensitive line.  My drawings had a ghost-like appearance, too light. So I turned to using a Colorase pencil to see if combining the soft tone of pencil with ink would work, but
the drawings were again, too heavy-looking for the delicate sachets I envisioned. Normally I would've quit this project for another month, or year, or more. . . However watching other illustrators truthfully discuss their struggles on Youtube keeps me FOCUSED these days. Youtube illustrator vlogs are my savior. I highly recommend this illustrator: FRANNERD

This time I chose a thicker Sharpie pen in purple. I thoughtfully each line, and dotted less,  I am pleased with the third try. I'm not worried there isn't any tone, as again, I want delicate renderings, as sachets go into delicate undie drawers. Being my own worse critic I could hammer out more tries, but over-laboring to the point of obsessing prevents me from moving forward, plus accepting my work as it stands now is an emotionally good thing.

I found this slow-draw process actually kept that nagging impatient-nervousness at bay, I guess the right side of my brain was taking over. So as hard as it is for me to slow down, it's the ONLY solution to mastering my inking style. I hope you like what I did, and if you want to know when the sachets are in my ETSY shop please sign up for my holiday newsletter, with plenty of fun offerings!

Friday, July 26, 2019

My Garden Totem for All Seasons

I've fallen in love with the upcycled structures garden artists are creating for their yards. In fact, I even taught a Glass-Plate-Garden-Flower Workshop recently at James Selings Estate Jewelry and Antiques here in Windsor. The workshop went well, I covered tips and tricks I'd learned from this new craft as I find no one Youtube or blog post completely covers every detail involved. Anyway, a totem workshop will follow.  The totems are more involved than the flowers but I love how the one I made for our side garden came out, even if it's a little dicey managing such a tall object. I do worry that the gold vase may lose it's sheen after awhile, but I plan to just spray a top coat of gold on it in the future if need be. This totem doubles as a birdbath and birdfeeder, a rock will be placed in the deep dish so wee birds have something to perch on when sipping water.

This totem takes the place of a Glass Plate flower in our side garden, and said flower now resides in a planter by our barn. I love it's new home, best of all, I love how garden art is so easy to move, no digging up, wrenching roots from Mother Earth and lugging to another location. I highly recommend you add art to your garden for this very reason.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Our New-Old Garden Path or Another Artist's Day Job

My husband and I finally budgeted for a decent  walkway leading up to our front door. As you can see from the 2014 photo to left, the cement path is a jarring, ugly contrast to our old home.
We hired a Connecticut mason, 'Jason the Mason' the kind of contractor that works with his own two hands to dig up the brownstone 'patio' in back that's overgrown with grass, weeds and moss and transfer all said stones to the front yard.

 We were surprised to see how thick some of the stones were, and Jason hauled each one in his wheelbarrow to the front. He asked us if we wanted a straight path or a cobblestone path, we opted for Cobblestone. Yesterday he smashed up the cement, hauled it away, and returned to pour crushed stone into the walkway. He asked if we wanted to just plunk the brownstone on top of the dirt then mow–when needed– over the path when grass grew in. Due to the amount of weeds seeping through the cement, we requested crushed stone. This doesn't mean the most tenacious of weeds won't rear their ugly head, but it'll be better than not having the crushed stone shield.

In unearthing the brownstone in back a curious metal object surfaced. A solemn but hopeful discussion centered around this object questioning if it were something of value. I once unearthed something in the front of our yard and wrote about it in a post here. Further inspection
determined the object was the remains of an old rusty bucket–(damn!)–and there it shall remain for posterity.

Jason is also an artist by trade, we found him through our landscaper who is also an artist. Our landscaper's wife met Jason when she lived at Artspace
a dwelling for artists in downtown Hartford.

When hiring your contractor, please keep this in mind as most artists contrary to the 'ivory tower' stereotype, are very hard workers.

Here is Jason's work: jasonwernerart