Christmas and Resolutions for a New Year

It’s New Year’s day and I’m sitting here drinking my coffee.  I, in no way, had a wild night last night.  Our big plans were to cook some steaks that were in the freezer but then Nate got called offshore for a small job leaving me solo for the night.  I cooked myself lamb chops, ate a mini peanut butter pie I had been gifted with earlier that day, and drank a whole lot of wine.  I snuggled my pups in bed while I watched Netflix and it was so nice and relaxing.  I listened to the fireworks outside and I thought about how this is probably what it sounded like if you were living near a civil war battle field.  The holidays are so great because I actually do give myself a chance to breathe.  I don’t think about what other things I should be doing and I just take the day for me and only me and it’s okay because it’s what you’re supposed to do on days like Christmas and New Year’s.  Although, if I’m being honest I feel like I should go and open the shop today, ugh. ImageImageImageImageOn Christmas Eve, in Gramercy Louisiana, they have this crazy awesome tradition of lighting huge bon fires.  The story goes that it started as a way to light a path for Papa Noel (Santa Claus) so that he would know where to land his sled and bring presents to all the good boys and girls.  Over the years it has evolved into a wild night, almost like a festival; I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s one of those “only in Louisiana” things that I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing in my time living in New Orleans.  For ten miles, every 100 feet or so there is a HUGE bonfire.  It’s an insane sight to see.  Everyone is partying their tits off: high schoolers drinking cheap beer, kids sliding down the levees on card board, you never know when the fires are going to topple; it’s madness!  This was Nate and my first year seeing the fires.  Our friends Brent and Lissa had been before and drove us the hour or so it takes to get into the small town.  Gramercy really only exists because of the oil refineries in it.  It’s such a rural place that you would never visit otherwise.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Christmas day we woke up and drank coffee, we opened presents, I baked us some EPIC cinnamon rolls (thanks Joy the Baker!), and I made the dogs take pictures in their Christmas tree hats.  They are not fans of the Christmas tree hats.  We made bloody mary’s and took the dogs to the golf course to let them run around.  We called our families and took it easy.  It was so nice having the time with Nate because we’ve both been so busy.  He’s been offshore a lot and now that he’s been in he spends everyday working at the house while I spend every day at the store and my days off in my studio.  I can’t wait to get into our new house and get my newest series of paintings up in the gallery so we can have some more days like these ones.  That night, Brent and Lissa invited us over for an amazing Christmas dinner.  We drank mulled wine, played trivial pursuit and watched their new pig Lily Munster grunt and root around the house.  So low key and perfect.  I missed my family this Christmas but I still couldn’t have asked for a better one here in New Orleans.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageNow for my resolutions.  I have a hard time keeping them so let’s just call them goals.  These are realistic goals that I am setting for myself and I am actively going to try to achieve for 2014:

1)  In my business life I want to be better at record keeping.  I’m already prepping for 2013’s taxes and if I would just track things and organize my receipts on a regular basis I wouldn’t have such a daunting mountain of paperwork in front of me.  I want to take a day every month and track all of the gallery’s expenses.  I want to account for every receipt and keep them all together so that when 2014’s taxes roll around I won’t be pulling my hair out and if I ever get audited (please god don’t ever let me have to deal with that head ache!) everything will be neatly stored for my IRS agent.

2) In my life as an artist I want to make time to produce more work.  The hardest part about having the gallery is that I have NO time to work on my own pieces.  Every day people come into the store and ask if I am also an artist.  I say that I am and they inevitably ask which work is mine and then I have to be like, “Oh, this ornament…”  It sucks.  What I really want want to say is, “Yes, these insanely awesome paintings covering this whole wall just so happen to be mine, BAM!”  I’m already working to facilitate this goal.  While we’re remodeling our new home, I’m renting studio space from my friend at her shop.  Once we’re in the house I’ll have my permanent studio space.  I’m going to have a new grouping of work for February because I already have a group show planned for the 19th.  Let’s do this 2014.

3) In my social life I want to make an effort to go and see more live music.  I’m currently listening to a record I bought from the opening band of the Steve Earle show. They’re called The Mastersons, and I saw them back in November.  I had a great time!  I live in one of the greatest cities to go and see live shows.  Why don’t I go and do it?  I don’t know either!  I think this goal will be made even easier to achieve once we move into our new home and we’re walking distance from both Tipitina’s and Le Bon Temps.

4) Take more pictures, not just phone pictures, real camera pictures:  I’ve got a REALLY nice Nikon and a great little digital cannon.  Those pictures from Christmas, I love ’em!  I don’t bring my camera out enough.  That needs to change.  I also need to back up my photos on hard drives and print them out and stick them in frames.  Totally doable, you got this, Shannon.

5) Stop worrying so much.  I am a worrier, people.  It’s just in my nature.  It’s what I do.  While researching Ernest Hemingway quotes for my Dad’s birthday presents I found this one.  There are many like it but for some reason, this one struck a chord.  “Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will loose a couple of years.  If something is wrong, fix it if you can.  But train yourself not to worry; worry never fixes anything.”  Damn, Ernest you are so right.  I have definitely already lost a year or two to worry.  I’ve got to work on that.

6)  Then there is the usual get healthier.  I’m not talking about some crazy diet or running five miles a day.  I’m just talking about being more active, going for longer walks, eating less sugar.  This body is the one body I’ve been given, I’ve got to treat it right so it will take care of me in return.  So bring it on 2014, I think you and I are going to make a great team!

The Doll Show and The Most Surprised I’ve EVER Been

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I know the opening of the Doll Show was back on December 7th, but with the holidays I’m just now getting around to posting about it!  It feels like that always seems to be happening these days.  I’m happy to report, it went swimmingly!  The hanging day was a long one.  Thank god my friend (and one of the artists I carry at the store year round), Scott, was there to help me do it.  We were working from 10am to 10pm but we got all of the pieces up on the walls and out on their pedestals.  I also have a friend who blogs for Huffington Post and asked if she could feature the show to which I replied, “Uh, DUH!  Yes, yes please.”  That article went up the day of the show and you can check it out here.

The weather that night was crappy as crappy can be; cold, misty rain and because of it there was no one walking around.  That didn’t stop our party and we had a great turn out considering.

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ImageImageImageImageThat first picture is of my finished bottle toppers.  I’m really happy with how they turned out!  I’ll definitely be playing around with polymer clay again.  Thank you to my wonderful friends and family who made the show a success!  It will be running through January so make sure to pop in and see it if you haven’t already.

So now for the surprise!  My FAVORITE piece from the show was “Mr. Fred.”  When the artist brought him in, I instantly fell in love.  I wanted to buy him for myself and when I told Nate he poo pooed the idea and ended up talking me out of it.  He then went behind my back and had my sister Erin pretend like some one from her work had seen it and wanted to buy it for his girlfriend for Christmas.  Erin told me she had shown them the Huffington slide show and that was how he had known he wanted to buy it.  She made up such an elaborate lie, that she told me his girlfriend specialized in “dark fairy tale tattoos” and that she was going to just die when she got it.  Erin gave me the cash for the piece and I packaged Fred up with a thank you not to “Sam” and gave him to Erin to bring to work with her.  So yeah, I totally bought it…hook line and sinker.  In the week or two between when Mr. Fred left the shop to Christmas, I actually told people about how awesome he was and how I had wanted to buy him.  I showed them pictures on my phone.  I regretted not having purchased him for myself.  Well, Nate had been rubbing in how amazing my Christmas present was and how my mind was going to be blown on Christmas morning when I opened it, so when I ripped apart that wrapping paper and saw Mr. Fred there I was so overwhelmed by surprise I actually started crying.  The sneakiest and BEST husband ever, I tell you.  How was your Christmas?  Mine certainly was a merry one!  More on that next time.Image

Doll Show This Weekend

ImageThis weekend, I’m hosting my first actual gallery opening at the shop.  I’ve done many parties with new art on display but this is the first time I am ever actually shutting down the store for a whole day to rearrange, prepare, and hang artworks.  Kook Teflon made this show possible.  She’s a fabulous doll maker whose work I’ve been carrying for the past year and the one who curated the show.  I’ll just be adorning the gallery walls with the dolls and enjoying them all month long.  Every box of art I have opened so far has been amazing.  I am currently very stressed out with the daunting days I have ahead of me and also extremely excited.  I (very last minute) created two pieces that I will paint tomorrow so that they can be a part of the show as well.  They’re bottle toppers for you bar!  Pardon the poor picture quality.  Each has a beer to sit on top of.  The horned on is Krampus (obviously) and the bald guy with big ears is Horace the Bad Elf.  They can move from bottle to bottle with ease making them, in my opinion, the perfect addition to any holiday bar!  Expect pictures of the show to follow!

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Cotton

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Last month Nate and I celebrated our second anniversary.  Well, he ended up being offshore so it was a belated celebration and I could hardly contain myself when it cam time to give gifts.  The traditional gift for your second year of marriage is cotton.  I’ve decided to go the traditional route every year because it’s pretty fun, or at least it has been so far, figuring out what to give that falls into said category.  High off of last years’s success with paper, I knew exactly what I wanted to do this year.

I’ve had my gift on lockdown since February thanks to my Grammy.  I’ve never met a couple more in love than my paternal grandparents.  When my Grandad passed away suddenly it was hard on all of us, especially my Gram.  She made this needlepoint for my Grandaddy while he was still alive and he proudly displayed it on his desk.  My sisters and I have always loved it.  The needlepoint stayed on his desk, his office unchanged until my Gram said I could give it to Nate for our anniversary.  I’m a big sap and extremely sentimental and I am elated to have this (now) family heirloom in my possession.  Once we’ve moved into our new home, it will be proudly displayed somewhere I can gaze at it everyday and remind myself of the great love my grandparents shared and how lucky I am to be married to my best friend.

Public Art

I’ve been busy!  Can you tell by the lack of blogging?  Well because I’m a glutton for stress, I agreed to do a public art project.  My goal is to have it painted by the beginning of December.  I’m doing it as a collaboration with my good friend Jen.  She’ll be doing ceramic pieces for us to mount onto this oyster sculpture.

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This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to public art.  If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning then you’ve seen references to the bead dog I painted for the LASPCA’s Paws on Parade.  So far this sculpture has been much easier to paint.  It’s for the Jefferson Parish CVB’s Louisiana Oyster Trail.  What’s cool about this piece is that it won’t go to auction.  It’s already been purchased by The Galley Restaurant where it will stay.  I’ll keep y’all updated on the progress!  Before I go, a couple pictures of Alphie, the Alpha Dog.  

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ImageImageOh and speaking of Alphie, he made it on Buzzfeed!  What?!  

 

Halloween Recap

Holy crap, y’all!  I’ve been so busy.  I mean it’s November 5th and I’m just now getting ready to recap last week’s Halloween festivities.  First there was The Krewe of Boo Parade.  So much fun and a huge success!  It’s back in full force and was the first NOLA parade to throw only locally sourced throws.  Pretty amazing!  We hit up the after party at Mardi Gras World and followed that up with a night at Kajun’s Pub (our usual) and then I got sick the next day.  Whomp whomp.  Worth it!  We handed out treats, some of those hand painted oysters to thirty lucky folks along the route, and scared a lot of little children with those puppets!  I was a little worried parents would be mad at us, but they were dying laughing.   Image

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Gearing Up

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It’s almost here!  Halloween!  My most favorite holiday!  It’s been a great month so far and I’ve really been getting into the spirit.  My decorations have been up since October 1st, I haven’t been slacking on costuming or side projects, and we’re nearing the haunting home stretch.  Two weeks ago, my sister Megan and I kicked off October with a quick trip to the Angola Prison Rodeo followed by a tour of The Myrtles Plantation.  I hadn’t been to Myrtles before but now I am eager to head back for an over night trip.  It’s GORGEOUS and it’s supposed to be super haunted.

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My neighbor’s have this HILARIOUS Halloween decoration up.  Kudos, guys.  It succeeded in cracking me up!  I met this really lovely guy, an up and coming rapper, at the shop last Friday.  He knows Miley and promised me he would send her the picture.

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Scott has been hard at work.  He’s been sending me skeletons for the gallery and he made me a KILLER belt for my costume.  Above is a preview of the belt.  I just about died when I opened the box  That guy is so talented!

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Zombie Zack met his sister Nocturna for the first time last night.  I know this is odd behavior but I love those puppets!  I’ve had Nocturna for six years now and I’ve been contemplating ordering Zack for that long.  I finally pulled the trigger this year.  This amazing company, called Bump in the Night Productions, manufactures them.  Everything they put out is incredible.  I’m talking movie quality.  I also own their Peter Rottentail get up and I’ve been lusting after their Killer Klowns masks since they first released them.

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The Krewe of Boo is rolling for the first time in two years on Saturday night.  It’s going to be a historic parade because they will only be throwing locally sourced goods.  As always, I made some fancy ass oysters to give away to some lucky parade goers.  I don’t know if Nate will be in, but incase he is, I made him a special ersta and I think it’s the funniest one I’ve ever painted.  It’s based on that time Nate, Nocturna, and I went and got family portraits done at Sears.  Yep.  Thank goodness my husband accepts, nay embraces, my weirdness.

photo-1Here’s to a crazy busy week!  Hope to see y’all at the parade on Saturday!

Fancy as Hell, Mannequins

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I bought some mannequin heads several months ago.  You see, I was looking for some heads for displays when I happened upon this Esty shop.  I was smitten but I didn’t have an extra $900+ laying around so I decided to give mannequin painting a try and I’m so glad I did.  I started face and body painting in high school and all throughout college, I thought I wanted to move into special effects make up.  I ended up focusing on fine art and this ended up being such a fun way to merge my two loves.

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I found some cheap mannequin heads on ebay and decided to start with three.  These were originally going to be just your fun, run of the mill, displays but then I got really carried away.  I’m talkin’ really carried away.  I used paper clay to mold whatever additions I had decided upon to each head and then gave each one two coats of gesso as a base.  The first one I painted was a day of the dead woman.  I’m very familiar with this subject matter, I’ve painted it many times, and so it seemed like a natural first choice.  The only addition I made to her was her hair.  So as not to add to much weight to her head (didn’t want her being top heavy) there is a wad of tinfoil under her pompadour.

DODSecond I worked on my fishy lady.  She is by far my favorite and the one I worked the hardest on.  I added her hair, her gills, that giant sea urchin on her head (tinfoil ball again), her bustier, the fins by her eyes, and after she was all painted, I ended up filling in her eyes with clay and painting them again because the line of the pre-made lid was killing me.  I tried living with it but it was impossible.  The barnacle crown is made of real shells that Nate brought home from the gulf.  I have her for sale at the store, but truth be told I just want to keep her all to myself.

FishLast but not least, I painted this voodoo queen.  I actually started her before the fish woman but kind of stalled out.  I think American Horror Story combined with Halloween got my juices flowing again and I got the kick I needed to finish her up.  She’s in zombie face and has her snake neck tattoo because Le Grand Zombie Legba is a snake and the highest of the voodoo deities.  I’ve had those chicken bones drying out on my window sill since July.  I’m so happy she’s finally complete!

VoodooSpeaking of American Horror Story, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, they’ve been filming in New Orleans.  It’s been REALLY cool seeing the stars of the series walking around.  In fact, Jessica Lange is staying on the same block as The Green Eyed Gator.  I see Sarah Paulson almost daily and Dennis O’Hare and Lily Rabe often as well.  I saw Evan Peters and Emma Roberts while at Whole Foods tonight.  Can’t wait for a new episode on Wednesday!  Oh and I really can’t wait for Saturday!  Krewe of Boo will be rolling for the first time in three years and the Bearded Oysters will be strutting along for the ride.  I’ve got a couple of oysters to hand out!  Look for me if you’re on the parade route!

Demo Update: We’re Almost Done!

We are SO close to being done with demolition, upstairs anyway.  I’m so happy because it’s messy, tedious (I have pulled hundreds of nails out of baseboards and picture rails), and it takes a lot out of you.  Nate is offshore, so on Wednesday Ben and Bernardo and I did a full day of work as a final push.Image

We started the day out with a trip to the scrap yard.  Six hundred and eight pounds of bulk scrap metal, baby.  Too bad they only pay five or six cents a pound!  Still, it’s like free money and it was my first trip to the scrap yard with out Nate.  ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Like I said, dirty work.  As you can see we still need to take some doors and their frames out, pull up the linoleum tile, and there are still some window treatments that need removing but all and all it’s looking and feeling really good.  

Halloween How To: Eyeball Pumpkins

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It’s decorative gourd season, mofos.  That’s right it’s October 1st and that means I can OFFICIALLY decorate for Halloween.  While I waited until today to set up the decorations, make pumpkin turkey chili, and drink Oktoberfest beer, I painted those eyeball pumpkins you see above yesterday.  I LOVED the end result!  So much so that I bought three more white pumpkins this afternoon to turn into more eyeballs.  I thought I would take pictures along the way and do a tutorial.  I know what you’re thinking; “but Shannon, you paint for a living!”  I know but hear me out people, I think as long as you’ve held a brush in your hands at some point you ought to be able to get pretty darn close to my finished product.  So here we go!

ImageYou’ll want to start by choosing your colors.  Like I said, I had already done those two green ones the day before so I decided to go with some blue and one red.  I would choose a darker blue than the one you see pictured, more of a cobalt, but I only had a couple of my paints at home with me.  For crafting purposes cheap, student grade acrylics are all you really need.  I love Blickrylic by Dick Blick.  Super inexpensive and very easy to work with.  Their white and black have great opacity and blend well into their other colors.  You really only need two brushes for this job but I ended up using three.  I have a propensity for round brushes.  I don’t know why, but they’re really most all I use.  The one you see dipped in the paint is a round number 8 (for the iris/pupil) and the teal handled one is a round number 2 (for line work).  I ended up using a round number 4 for my pupil because I had it on hand.

ImageAfter choosing your colors, you’ll want to map out the size of your iris.  The reason I said I would have chosen a darker blue is because the easiest way to achieve the color gradations in these eyeballs is to just mix a little white into the color you’ve chosen.  This blue was so light it didn’t make much of a difference when I added the white.  If you choose red, make sure you don’t use so much white that you make your eye pink…unless you’re into that.

So my best tip for making a circle is it’s not going to be perfect.; you’re painting on a bumpy pumpkin after all.  My other tip is to be quick and loose about it.  The more you concentrate, the more wonky that line is going to get.  Just do some fast swooshes of your brush until you get a circle you’re happy with.  You will then fill in said circle with your chosen color.

ImageImageHere’s where things get a wee bit trickier.  Mix up a slightly darker version of your color.  I recommend mixing with a larger brush.  For the red, I added a SMALL AMOUNT of black.  If you were using a cobalt blue you could just use the color that comes out of the tube.  I ended up having to add some green to my blue to get a darker hue than the one I was using.  Once you’ve mixed up a color you’re happy with, dip your brush into your cup of water and then back into your puddle of paint a couple of time.  You want to water it down a bit.  It helps to have more of a liquid when doing line work.  From here you’re going to grab your liner brush and make lots of little lines around the outside of your iris.  Work from the outside in.  Again, don’t think about this too hard, just fast, loose strokes.  Lighten up on the pressure you’re applying to your brush at the end of the stroke for those pointier lines.  When you finish, use that darker hue to do a loose outline and smooth out all of those tiny strokes.

ImageTime to add pupil’s, y’all!  Same method as with the iris.  Remember I used my round number 4 for this but you can use either of the other brushes.  Whatever makes you happy!  Make a somewhat circular shape and fill that baby in with black.  Once you let the black dry, you can dip the largest of your brushes into some straight up white and add that little bit of sparkle aka those white dots to your eyeballs.ImageFinally, before you display these bad boys and become the envy of your neighbors, you’ll want to give them a spray with some clear coat, otherwise acrylic paint wants to just peel right off that slick pumpkin skin.  That Rust-oleum spray pictured above is my favorite.  Glossy, it won’t yellow, and it just makes your color POP!  That and it makes your eyeball look shiny.  We don’t want no dry eyes up in here.ImageImageThere you have it!  I have my eyeballs displayed on the stairs like you see in that last picture, although I want to go buy more ghost pumpkins and have eyeballs EVERYWHERE.  I’m talking everywhere.  I’ve made most all of my decorations this year.  Some were reused from last year but given a different life.  I’ll share a shot as soon as I complete the finishing touches.  Good luck with making your own eyeball pumpkins!  Leave me a link if you decide to give it a try!