Archive for April, 2009

One of the greatest joys of being an art teacher is having the ability to share your knowledge and excitement for the subject with students.  However, one of the greatest challenges of being an art teacher is finding the time to create your own art. 

I teach 7 classes a day to kindergarten through 12thgrade students.  I am constantly having to switch gears.  Each class is usually involved in drastically different projects that besides all being art, usually have nothing to do witheach other.  On any given day I may be teaching pottery in one class, basic drawing in another, printmaking in yet another,discussing the differences between Christian and Secular influences on modern western art withmy advanced students and drawing cookie monster with the kindergartners.  It can be very crazy and hectic to say the least!

I love my job and get great joy from it yet I miss having the time to create more of my own work.  I miss being able to lock myself into the studio, blare music and get lost in a painting for four hours.  I have found the need to be creative about finding that necessary creative release.

Recently I was made aware of a really cool online art magazine and website.  If you like to create any kind of art and have not yet had the joy of experiencing http://www.arttradermag.com/, I highly suggest you check it out.  This quarterly magazine is available as a PDF download for FREE!!!! The quality of the articles is absolutely amazing, not to mention that advertising is kept to a minimum.

After finding Art Trader Magazine I found out that the same site offers online workshops as well! I recently enrolled in the Whimsy Art Workshop I.  Each Wednesday I can log in an download a PDF workbook and watch about 5 10-15 minute companion videos on a particular subject.  The workbooks are of the same quality and caliber of the Art Trader Mag!  The videos are wonderful and helpful as well.  Each week you can also attend and online chat session with the workshop hosts and other participants to get questions answered and feedback on your progress.

I also recently found a site called http://www.atcsforall.com/.  On this site you can sign up for swaps with other artists and trade ATC’s.  ATCs(artist trading cards) areminiature 2.5×3.5″ artworks.  The idea behind them is that you make them and then you trade them with another artist.  Sometimes I like to swap but sometimes I also like to just look at the swaps and make the cards based on the themes for myself.  The great thing about ATCsis the small size.  They do not take a lot of time to make but I am able to experiment with a variety of subjects and media.

I was on another ATC site that closed down about 2 years ago.  I was really into making cards then but got away from it.  I am glad to have found this creative outlet once again.

Below are some of the cards I have recently made.  To step out of my “comfort zone” I tried two unusual subject matters.  The first set of 4 are “Whimsy Goth Girls”.  Lighthearted yet with a dark goth twist.  The second set of 4 are based on the style of artist and film director Tim Burton.  Enjoy!

Whimsy Goth Girls

Tim Burton Style/Characters


Please note that all artwork is copyrighted.  Do not copy my artwork or use my pictures without my written permission. Thanks!

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I have been working on building and planting a garden for about 2 weeks now.  I felt it was really important to plant a garden this year.  I am all about become more self-sufficient and I love the idea of living off the land and a garden is a great way to do that.  I have planted gardens in the past but have always planted directly into the ground and have only had moderate success.  We have a very clay soil and our yard is overrun with crabgrass.  Both can be detrimental to a garden if not dealt with properly.  To be honest, in the past I was just too lazy to really generate a productive garden. 

In the back of my mind I have always considered the possibility of planting a raised-bed style garden.  This would essentially eliminate my soil issues and would help to make the weeds much more manageable.  Well, this season I decided it was time I actually did it.

My plan is big but it is a multi-year plan.  I decided to start small this year and make four 4×4′ raised beds.  I have plans for additions to the layout over the next few seasons but I didn’t want to get overwhelmed so I started small.

I built my raised beds myself.  I purchased untreated 8′ 2×8’s and cut them into 4 foot lengths.  I made squares and secured them with 3″ decking screws.  The whole process took about an hour for me to do by myself.

The next step was placing the beds and preparing them for planting.  The first thing I did was layer the bottoms of the beds with several layers of old newspapers.  The papers will eventually compost out but serve as a barrier for the weeds while your plants get started.  They are not completely weed proof but you will get better results than you would if you planted directly over the grass.

Raised beds require the addition of soil.  I chose to use a mixture of organic compost, peat and organic garden soil.  To determine the amount of soil you need for a garden bed you will first need to convert all measurements to inches and then use this formula: LxWxH/1728 (the number of cubic inches pre foot).  My garden beds needed about 10 cubic feet of soil each.

After adding the soil to the beds I decided that I wanted an extra layer of protection against weeds and opted to mulch the areas between and surrounding each of my garden beds.  I began by laying down a weed blocker fabric over all of the paths.  I then covered the paths with old pine needles and such.  I chose pine needles because we raise Loblolly Pines and have forty acres of pine forest that is full of pine needles! It was free and readily available.  Other great choices are hay and bark mulch.  Of course if you have the time and money you could also build brick or stone paths around the beds!

We have three English Mastiffs that love to dig and three horses that are magnetically attracted to gardens when they are ranging so I also found it necessary to build a fence around my garden to further protect it.  Again, I was able to use repurposed items I found around the place.  For my fence posts I used some old T-posts that were in the barn from when we rebuilt our pasture fence last summer.  The fencing itself is a variety of random things I found.  It is part extension cords, part nylon rope, part electrical wire and part fencing wire.  It is funny looking but it is functional!

Then came the planting!  For my garden I decided to choose the things that we eat the most of and add in a few things we should eat more of.  I also added an herb section.  So I spent a good part of this morning putting out a variety of tomatoes, hot peppers, banana peppers, red and yellow peppers, lettuce, sweet corn, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, sweetpeas, basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro, parsley, dill and sage.  I also added two new lavender plants and two new rosemary plants to the flower bed area in front of my house.  We also have pumpkins and cantaloupe planted in the back yard. (These we so into disked up soil.)

It was a lot of work to get started but I am excited about having a bountiful harvest.  I have already begun collecting canning jars and freezer jars so I can save all of the excess bounty.

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Sourdough Carrot Cake

2 – large carrots, grated to equal 1 cup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
dash of salt
1/4tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup starter
1/4 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins and/or 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
In a small saucepan add carrots and just enough water to cover. Simmer 20 minutes until carrots are tender. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugars. Add one egg and beat until smooth. Add salt, spices and baking soda and mix well.
In a separate bowl combine starter, milk and flour. Mix to combine and add nuts and raisins if desired. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and stir until well combined. Pour batter into a prepared 13×9 inch pan and bake at 350 about 40 minutes or until it tests done.
Cool and serve. Top with cream cheese frosting if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting

(If making a layer cake, double this recipe)
1 – 8oz package of cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a large bowl use a blender to cream together all ingredients.


To learn more about how to make a sourdough starter please read this article. http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/Recipes-Patterns-Instructions/no-knead_bread.asp.

To chat with others about their sourdough experience you can visit http://www.breadthemaryjaneway.org.

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