Descanso Gardens

Have any of you other Angelenos been to Descanso Gardens? If you’re into flowers, this place is incredible. A coworker mentioned it to me a month or so ago, and I checked it out for the first time a couple weeks back. I signed up for a membership that day – I knew it was a place I’d have to visit over and over.

It’s peaceful, beautiful, and relaxing. I love being outdoors and wandering the various trails and paths. And when you think, “Maybe I’m not supposed to walk here?” chances are you’ll look up to find a bench a bit further down the way. It’s wonderful. I’ve taken in the views from some of the benches, parked myself on a rock to watch the koi and turtles in the pond, and have grand plans of bringing a book next time I’m there and possibly claiming a patch of grass in one of the many open fields.

This past weekend in particular, I was excited to return to see the cherry blossoms blooming. As magical as promised. I took lots of pictures in the short time I was there (bonus of a membership – I can come whenever I please so I don’t feel the need to make my time spent there worth the admission fee, which is a reasonable $8) – and want to share a few of my favorites with you below.

They’re all pictures of flowers, and you’ll see one of my (dare I say?) signature “bee butts” in there as well. Enjoy, and if you’re in the area be sure to check out the gardens yourself!

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Perry and Meap

I’ve actually done a bit of painting lately, and it seems I found my newest inspiration in the Disney Channel show Phineas & Ferb. It’s a great cartoon, if you’re into wacky adventures, awesome musical numbers, and humor that’s silly for kids but with enough layers for an adult to enjoy as well. I am, on all counts.

Recently, I made these paintings for my cubicle. The first is of Perry, the boys’ pet platypus, after he’s been dressed up by the boys (Phineas and Ferb) to be in their Cirque (circus) act. Perry is also leading a double life as a secret agent, and the boys don’t know about it. He’s been painted in acrylic on an 8×10″ canvas.

The second photo is of the boys’ alien friend Meap. Meap is an intergalactic security agent, and his mustache is actually a translator to help him speak different languages. Without it, he merely says, “meap.” He is precious, barfs rainbows of death, and is also painted with acrylics on an 8×10″ canvas.

And here are the two paintings together, as they hang in my cubicle.

If you aren’t familiar with this show, you should definitely check it out. It’s one of the most popular children’s shows on Disney Channel, if not across networks. It’s not so juvenile that adults can’t enjoy it and, quite frankly, grown-ups will laugh just as hard at the incorporated references and throwbacks between episodes. A friend turned me onto it, and I’ve become somewhat of a fanatic in the past couple of months. I anticipate many more paintings of these fun characters. (At the moment, they’ve even replaced Stitch as my muse… Never thought I’d see the day!)

What characters do you find inspiring?

Stitch – A Portrait in Paintings

One of my favorite Disney movies is Lilo & Stitch. Considering they don’t sell much paraphernalia for this movie, you might think it wasn’t particularly memorable. Well, that’s just not true! It’s a hand-drawn, animated film that has aliens in it, and it takes place in Hawaii, what’s not to love? I fell in love with it when it came out, and Stitch immediately became an inspiration for the majority of my paintings from that point on. I apologize for any infringement, but these are, in fact, my own original artwork. You can tell by the differing hues of blue in each picture 🙂

Stitch has a devilish smile, and his mischievous nature is infectious, but he’s also cute and fluffy. All these paintings are acrylic. The first two are from 2003/04, and are on 16×20″ canvases, but based on the pictures, you can’t really tell the scale of the painting. If I had the originals with me, I’d take new ones!

The following painting is dated 2003, and is on an 8×10″ canvas. A rare occasion where I signed the front of the painting.

This one, dated 2007, is 5×7″ and actually hanging on a wall in my bedroom.

There are more paintings of him out there. I had this habit, back in the day, of giving away artwork and not taking pictures first. Not just of Stitch, either! So if you’re reading this, and you happen to have one of my pieces, please send me a snap 🙂

Do you have a favorite character to paint or draw?

Pop-Up Cards

No matter how old I get, I’m still using the same techniques and making the same projects I was making as a kid. One of these everlasting projects began on the day I figured out how to make a pop-up birthday card. I remember the teacher and classroom, but can’t remember what the lesson was, although it involved cutting into a piece of paper to make shapes (namely a rectangle) appear to pop off the page. I remember putting it together in my young mind that I now had the key to making those super awesome pop-up cards I’d previously only seen in stores.

Below is a tutorial on how to make a basic pop-up card, as I first discovered in elementary school. I started each of those cards with 3 sheets of printer paper, markers, scissors, and clear tape. I’ve come a long way since then – discovering construction paper, then marbleized construction paper, and now scrap-booking paper.

What you’ll need for a basic card:

  • 3 sheets of white printer paper
  • Markers (or colored pencils, or crayons)
  • clear tape
  • scissors

Starting with one sheet of paper (hopefully not gnawed by cats like mine), fold it in half like a hamburger. This will be the fold for your card. Feel free to cut the paper smaller to make a smaller card, but keep in mind the pop-up part takes up some of your message writing space as is, so you mightn’t want to go too small.

Bend your paper again so it’s now in quarters. Be careful not to fold and crease the paper, you’re only doing this so you can make symmetrical cuts on both sides of your paper. Depending on how big you want your pop-up piece to be, make a cut about 1.5 inches high and about 1 inch from the center fold.

Unbend the paper back to its original half fold. Bend the flap you created upwards and crease the paper. Flip the paper over and fold the same way in the other direction.

Then, pop your rectangular platform through the inside of the card. (The side with the crease facing inward.)

Now it’s time to create some decorations! Using markers (that aren’t running out of ink…) draw whatever designs you want to pop-up inside your card. I have opted for a personal favorite of my younger self, random shapes and colors! When you’re done drawing the shapes, cut them out of the paper. Figure out how you want to arrange the pieces, then use little pieces of rolled up tape to stick them together. To be safe, run a piece of tape along the whole back of your design to keep it intact. Then, use another rolled piece of tape to adhere the design to the front part of your pop-up platform. Make sure the design is high enough that it doesn’t affect the closing and opening of the card. (Will be more noticeable with heavier paper.)

You’ll notice that you can see underneath the platform to whatever surface is below. This is where your 3rd piece of paper comes in. Fold the paper in half like a hamburger, and slide it into place directly behind the card and tape it into place. Tape one half first (make sure to get the corners and middle secure), then bend the card closed to tape the second half. This ensures there’s enough leeway for your card to close properly. The hole disappears, and your card is ready for writing!

You might be wondering why I recommend using tape for this project. After some trial and error, little me discovered that printer paper was flimsy, and that adding glue made it warp and bubble and caused the markers to run. Once I discovered construction paper, that’s when I made the switch to Elmer’s.

This card took me about 5 minutes to make today for this demo. I’m not sure how long it took at 8 years old, but I’ll tell you that the birthday card I made for my father yesterday took about 5 hours. Like I said, my skills have advanced and the detail has increased.

Below are some of the cards people have received from me in the past – and note that I’m aware the first isn’t a pop-up. I can’t include dad’s latest birthday card because he hasn’t received it yet, but you get the idea. Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, it’s another skill of mine that has improved over the years.

Not that you asked, but you might be curious… I do cut out all my shapes and letters free-form. There’s nothing wrong with drawing out designs first, this is just something I like to do because it adds an extra layer of challenge for me. It’s kind of funny, how everyone has their “thing.” I’m not the kind of person who can jam on an instrument without sheet music, but give me scissors, paper, and glue, (and the occasional sticker), and I can create a whole new colorful world from nothing.

One of the head counselors at camp, which was my home away from home for many summers, made a comment once that little kids have smaller worlds, and as you grow your world expands. I found this sentiment to be particularly true when it comes to how I’ve evolved as an artist. I’m still making these cards the same way I started when I was a kid, but my medium, creativity, and sensitivity to detail have all grown up along with me. With the discovery of better quality “ingredients,” these cards have a certain sophistication about them, especially considering they’re handmade.

Now that I’ve given you the tools to make your own works of art, I’d love to hear how you’ve added your own flair and taken it to the next level.