Monday, February 10, 2020

Whimsical Christmas Tree Ornaments from Upcycled Plastic

Back in 2011 an accumulated pile of plastic office folders sat on my drawing table, I'd purchased them thinking they'd last longer than paper. They did, but they were bulky, they wouldn't lie flat, papers spilled out of them. I didn't want to toss them as our landfills suffer enough waste–when a light bulb went off in my head. Why not upcycle the folders into Christmas tree ornaments? My mind churned with images, why not upcycle some of them into articulated little characters even; all I had to do was buy a marker that would dry permanently and not chip off the plastic. Easy peasy, or so I thought,

Finding THAT marker proved challenging.

I purchased several white markers all the manufacturer claimed would write permanently on plastic. But once dried, many drawings flaked off, other pens pooled out great blobs of white puddles on the plastic. Discouraged I shelved
my upcycled project until the Art Supply market provided a solution. In the meantime most of those white markets dried up during the wait.

Fast forward to 2019 I discovered these wonderful enamel pens and went back to the drawing table, all plastic folders were saved from 2011 so I got to work.  I had a Holiday show at the wonderful Red Bee Honey Barn Holiday Open House booked in December. so I  sketched out a Queen Bee character to transform into an ornament.

Happily the Queen Bee ornament was a hit and I've made more, and I'm sketching out new characters. Once the plastic folders are all used up, unless I receive some for free, or find some at a rummage sale, that's it, on to creating my illustrated ornaments from another sustainable source.

Are you an illustrator and do you create art from sustainable materials? Please share your work in the comments below, and thank you for working to help keep this planet a little greener.

My whimsical Queen Bee Christmas ornament can be purchased here:

Sunday, October 6, 2019

It's Stocking Stuffer Season Soon! New, Funny Fridge Magnets from Smirking Goddess™ Studio on ETSY

Cat Magnet Purchase here:
My ETSY shop is busy during Stocking Stuffer season and already I'm seeing some sales that are marked "gift" in my shop. So I'm stopping by here to share two new magnets I came up with this weekend. One for all ye cat lovers/owner-introverts, and the other is a play on the french philosopher René Descartes famous quote: "Je pence donc je suis", or "I think therefore I am".

In ninth grade my french teacher had us create a poster based on René Descartes' quote. I don't remember what I did, but as a young artist with ADD I do remember my poster made a splash with her and the class. Art was something I could rely on to boost my self-esteem. I just wish I knew how to exploit that more back in the old days.


In college after graduating I stumbled upon many collegues who'd weasled out of a test by creating a work of art based on the lesson plan for their teacher. I wish I wasn't so clueless to wait for an actual assignment from my instructor to create something, but the thought never occurred to me, because I was an anxious little goody-two-shoes distracted-kinda kid.


I discovered I had a sense of humor, and I could rely on that, so not all was lost back-in-the-day. Making people laugh helped me to regain some kind of centeredness. Mostly though, it just made me happy to realize I wasn't dumb if I could come up with the last smart-ass quip. Back then ADD hadn't been discovered, so dreamy kids like me muddled through as best we could. Were you one too?

To visit my shop for more Stocking Stuffer, Office Grab Bag, Hannukah Fun Gift and more I am just a click away:  

Purchase here: Descartes
Thank you for visiting, and always for supporting a small, women owned business. I appreciate all of my patrons to the moon and back!

Monday, September 30, 2019

EHAG Emporium-Halloween Art for the Eclectic Holiday Collector

I've been a member of EHAG-Eclectic Halloween Artist Guild for over ten years. I first discovered the group on eBay, back when eBay had community groups-or do they still? I soon switched to ETSY as eBay became more of a Flea Market and raised their prices. I still shop there occasionally, but it's not the inspiring website it once was in it's early days.

EHAG is a juried group of talented artists who are Halloween enthusiasts that create OOAK (one-of-a-kind) work for collectors who love the Fall holiday. Many of these members have a large fan base, and the quality of their art is consistent, and truly worth collecting.

Hand-drawn and painted Clay PumpkinHead Ornament
Although my membership has been a long one, my former day job and othe busy ETSY shop cut back on participating and offering up my Halloween art creations to my followers, something I wish I had time to do. With day job behind, and my other very busy ETSY shop doing fine, I'm back to SuzanneUrbanArt and come midnight my Halloween-inspired ornament will be available on the EHAG Emporium, I encorage all readers here to check out the remarkable work available.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

My SheCrow is Finished!

When we first moved to Windsor, I created what I called a "SheCrow" since my scarecrow wore a denim jumper dress. Unfortuantely, New England weather was too rough on her, and I didn't like her regular 'crow' stance with arms straight out, almost as if she was hung up on a wall. This time my SheCrow has a SheShed to live in before Winter skies drop snowflakes.

This year I made time to revisit my SheCrow idea, this time I wanted to use an old Tomato Cage as an armature. I purchased a boys size 10 shirt for 99¢ at Goodwill, a hanky for 1.00, garden gloves for two bucks and a hat for five at Joblot. A beekeeper friend gave me her tote basket, her hair is made from a hula skirt I got at Family dollar, her pumpkin head? A left over prop from past Halloweens. A friend who has a horse farm gave me the rough rope bale twine and the Fall gourds and foliage-all fake were on sale at Michaels. I used plastic bubble wrap, and garbage bags to fill out her shirt.

Wrapping the rope twine around the cage didn't work, because there's too few vertical wires-four in fact, wrapping didn't give me the desired cone-dress shape. So I purchased a grapevine garland and wire ribbon and first wound the wire ribbon around the Tomato Cage tying it to the horizontal cage wires. This created the skirt shape I needed. But her skirt looked too see-thru barren, my husband kept saying it didn't 'read' like a skirt. So then I wrapped the bale rope around the wire grapevine, It didn't have to be perfect, as she's a scarecrow, and I liked the messy wrap-around look with hairy rope ends sticking out with grapevine wire ribbon showing through, I tied one end of the bale rope to a vertical cage bar, wrapped around and tucked the ends in. After that for visual panache I wrapped the grapvine garland around and tied it to the bale rope in places, then applied the fake stuff and a small birdhouse for fun and color.  FYI Safety pins were needed to hold her hands to her hat and help her to grasp the apple basket. I cut a hole in the bottom of the plastic pumpkin, added glue to the inside top and slipped it over the tied ends of the Tomato cage top. I'm sure if you play with this concept you'll come up with some problem-solving ideas to make her skirt look like a skirt too.

Now she stands in our front area garden, I used some wire pins to anchor down the cage into the ground.

Here's a list of the supplies I used to make my own SheCrow should you be inspired to add a Fall lady to your garden, please share your pictures if you make one in comment section! I also brought my SheCrow onto our porch today as we're going to have a huge thunderstorm soon.


• Old tomato cage-tie leg ends of cage together with wire to form a cone shape
• Glue gun
• Safety Pins
• Left over rope used to hold hay bales together-a gift from a horse farm
Jute rope for belt
• Boy's shirt size 10
• Cloth napkin for hanky around neck, bandana scarf for shirt pocket hanky
Fake gourds
• Apple bucket
• Garden gloves
• Plastic bubblewrap and bags to stuff shirt and wrap around upper torso of armature
• Fake Fall Leaf garland
• Old plastic fake pumpkin for head
• Cheap fake grass hula skirt for hair
• Hat
Grapevine Wire Ribbon

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