An Enchanting Evening with Guy Davis Blue’s Singer and Guitarist

ImageReturning to work last Monday after a full Winter vacation week spent happily creating in my studio was hard. As I settled into the daily routine, our school’s orchestra teacher sailed by my desk and said: “Suzanne, we’re going to a concert this weekend in Windsor, your husband likes the blues doesn’t he?”. Quickly Ellen explained her husband was of fan of blues musician Guy Davis-son of actor Ozzie Davis, and had found-through a fluke that the famed guitarist-who once performed in front of the Queen Mum was performing at North Park right here in little ole’ Windsor Connecticut! Last night Ellen and her actor husband Peter and talented musician-son Morgan came up to Windsor and after a bountiful meal at the Tunxis Grill we headed to North Park.

Mr. Davis is not only an accomplished musician-(banjo, vocals, guitar)-but a talented raconteur, he’s also very witty and an impish mimic. We felt blessed for the opportunity to be at his concert and for only $20.00 which included dessert-provided by new Windsor Bakery “Half Baked” and coffee. For more information on North Park Concerts click here: NorthPark.

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It’s Back! Chocolate Cream Soda at Hosmer’s

My husband and I believe in supporting small local and state-wide businesses. In other words, we try to keep our tax dollars within Connecticut Borders when we can.

Yesterday we took time out for an antique hunt with my friend Donna May Robinson-Pellittieri, We had a blast. Donna May a phenomenal doll and textile artist has the same interest in old artifacts as Mike and I and she’s renovating her home pretty much the way we are, with her own two hands.

I wanted to introduce Donna May to some of some culinary delights in this neck of the woods as well. After exploring a couple of antique shops in Windsor, we headed here in Williamantic Connecticut:Williamantic Brewery Company where we stood in line for ten minutes as the old Post Office-huge in size-was packed with Saturday visitors. Mike and I had their burrito, Donna May a turkey club. Note to beer enthusiasts-buy the growler so you can take home a wonderful sampling of your favorite brewsky.

Afterwards, we headed over to Hosmer’s Soda Company-just around the bend from the Brewery, this is where we spied the Chocolate Cream Soda sign. Hosmer’s soda is made from fresh mineral spring water and real cane sugar-no high frutose syrup here. The result is a surprisingly fresh soda pop that tastes like the kind you drank decades ago on a hot summer’s eve. Hosmer’s offers many flavors from chocolate cream-we bought, I tasted, I recommend, to Raspberry, Strawberry, Gingerale, Cola Blue-like Pepsi or Cola Red-like Coke, Cream, Birch Beer-a personal favorite, and many, many more.The price is reasonable to the point both Mike and Donna May filled a crate with assorted flavors.

We highly recommend Nutmeggers especially those who like to entertain-try this sweet little treasure tucked in the hills of Connecticut.

And below some links to the Antique shops we perused, and purchased some goodies:
KDMAntiques-open on weekends only

and there were more, but alas! no websites!

Donna May purchased some gorgeous antique buttons at Patti’s Treasures-a favorite spot for my husband and I. We ended up with a vintage orange fiesta pitcher. At KDM Donna May snagged a set of antique keys for five bucks and a beautiful victorian mirror. Mike and I are contemplating an antique bed there for our master bedroom.

Come visit Hartford County y’all!

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Would You Like a Cup of Snark with that?

Both of the Magnet/Pinback designs in this post can be found in my ETSY shop: smirkinggoddess

I love to turn everyday sayings into something new. It just makes my day. Even though I love some of the quotes in original form. In fact I have a sign ready to be hung up in my studio any day now that says: “Do one thing every day that makes you happy”. This quote is pure prozac for me. I love it. But somehow my warped sensibilities got to thinking. . .

There is no cure for this.


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The Cougar Double Standard

The magnet/pinback shown is available in my ETSY shop: smirkinggoddess

A lot’s been written about actress Demi Moore’s break-up breakdown lately. Such news is fodder for the market and online tabloids. Despite her natural beauty, talent and business smarts, it’s clear to me that an underlying disbelief and hostility towards a woman who falls in love with a younger man in today’s modern society is at risk for public humiliation. Well! mistress Demi should tatoo a scarlet “A” on her shoulder! Humph!

One can’t disturb this prejudicial tribe, the one that points out a wrinkle, a fashion faux pas or other disgustingly disturbing detail that will surely upend our daily lives if not immediately fixed. And if the issue fixed–especially if it’s a wrinkle– well then that’s frowned upon too. How dare she be perfect, and how dare she be imperfect.

Famous women should own a gene that freezes their age at 25. They’re not supposed to have baby spittle on their shoulder, sweat after a long jog or show up bare-faced in public. We demand they be more perfect than us, as it assures us that this kind of perfection does exist in this overwhelmingly imperfect world and then life feels well, a little better.

When Demi and Ashton married, I was curious, had America finally embraced the possibility that women could marry someone younger like men have done for years? To say the marriage didn’t work is wrong, as it’s clear they had a few successful years together because they had many shared passions. And Mr. Kutcher did love this woman, and she him. Is it the age difference that split them up? Not entirely, in fact no in my book.

I believe Ms. Moore’s angst and insecurities stemmed more from society and media labeling her a “cougar” and need to be forever 25, than her need to hold on to a younger man; and where did that stupid term come from? And what do we label all these men who marry decades younger women? Oh I know-how’s this-“GEEZER”. I also believe Ashton hadn’t sown his wild oats before he took the plunge into “we-hood”. Some people need to sow their wild oats-I wasn’t one of those people-but there are those who have to. I don’t get them and they don’t get me. I believe Demi could’ve ended up with another young man and the marriage would still be on. Fidelity is easier for some than others. We’re all made up of different stuff. How Ashton ended the marriage wasn’t right, but I believe he was so in love with Demi that it over-rode his judgment to consider if he was ready at the time for a long-term commitment.

But society won’t allow Ms. Moore to grieve privately and heal her soul. As one critic stated: “She went out partying with her daughter, she’s behaving like a 13-year old!”. Hmmm, what would this critic have said if Bruce Willis accompanied his daughter to a bar? And Mr. Willis married a decade-younger woman. In fact he’s older than his ex-wife. He’s a great guy, “I’m just sayin”.

I never enjoyed hanging out at bars, but did so with friends-of all ages when I was single-these watering holes are sometimes a necessary venue to meet people. I never felt comfortable dating younger men either, and didn’t. I looked younger than my years when single and this was an issue. I once hid in a bathroom at a party to avoid a decade younger guy who showed interest. I soon slipped out and left when I saw him bouncing on the backyard trampoline. I’m the kind of woman who prefers men in my age group-and that’s what I married. But that’s just me.

I also believe Ms. Moore is a good mother-actually I know-as a stand-in actress who worked with Ms. Moore on a movie once reported back to me on Demi’s sound and sensible character. This stand in actress didn’t mince words on another actress though. . .So let’s cut one of our sister’s a break. Let her heal, so she can find a love that works long-term for her, but only when she’s ready to accept it.

And let’s stop using the “Cougar” label-if we don’t crash down the double standard let’s find a label for older men marrying much younger women-how about: “Spotted Hyena”? As it’s laughable how absurd this double standard is.

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Creative Tri-State Women NIADA Comes to Connecticut-Finally. . .

For more info on the NIADA show and to sign up for workshops:

My interest for doll artistry developed almost a decade ago on eBay. My husband just started his online business and I was exiting my freelance illustration business to take a day job. We were getting married, we needed a house, and his business was flourishing, mine not so. I volunteered to get the job with benefits.

Doll making came in at an opportune time as my mood was dark, I wanted to continue as a freelancer, but logically it wasn’t possible with a fiancé soon-to-be husband in his own business. I remember I stayed in bed for three days, didn’t even wash my hair, bemoaning the re-entrance into the nine-to-five world. I feared having to spend art supply money on clothes– suits even, having to say things like “rank prioritize” and “sac all calls” and all the other corporate lingo-snigglets that spread like brushfire when working within the confines of a cubicle maze.

Luckily I found a job that allowed me to continue purchasing art supplies and time to create. I believe there are two kinds of women in this world, those who spend money on art/craft supplies and those who put shoes and clothes first. I remember back in college joking with my two best friends who were also art majors that our Christmas lists requested jigsaws, paintbrushes, and tutorial books-often making our mothers eyes roll.

I would surf on eBay-before etsy times- along with my husband, and happened upon artist dolls, all kinds. Fairies were hot, primitive dolls were hot. Seeing the crude prim dolls sell for a tidy profit I foolishly ignored my personal style to create hastily made prim dolls. Some sold, many not, this was one of many lessons not to jump on the popular bandwagon, but to find my way in the art world. Always create from the heart some say, I say always create by discovering your authentic voice, AND continue to hone your skills.

Eventually I discovered needlefelting through a course at Brookfield Crafts Center here in Connecticut. Suddenly I found a medium that worked for me, unlike the messy Paperclay that ended up more on me than my lumpy creations. From there I decided I needed a motivating factor-other doll artists to share ideas and techniques with. So I looked online, found some Connecticut doll artists and voila: Original Doll Artisans of CT was born.

One of the members Donna May Robinson Pellittieri is the president of Niada and this year-it’s in STAMFORD CONNECTICUT! It’s been seven full years since I’ve attended one of their conferences, and ladies and gents, all ye creatifs-it’s worth the trip to see the show and attend some workshops.

I’m signed up for Deborah Pope’s workshop-I’ve wanted to study with this fiber artist for YEARS!

Hope to see you there!

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A Wonderful Museum for that Man in your Life. . .

Last night my husband and I attended a fund-raising event for the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum in Windsor Connecticut. My husband’s been a member of this wonderful non-profit institution since it’s near-inception. It’s run by the very capable hands of John Ellsworth and Chris Watts.

There were vendors present selling hand-crafted jewelry and candles. Also, there were two separate tables for wine and chocolate tastings.

I tried both.

I also wandered into a small studio featuring gazillions of wires and boxes with nobs and screens and a computer. This was the ham radio station. A gentleman named Chris came in and demoed for us, he got “on air” but explained the night atmosphere wasn’t conducive to bringing in clear signals at the moment. Even so, he chatted with someone from New Jersey and another operator in the Mid-west.

The museum houses a display following early radio with TONS of examples from the 1920’s up to the 1960’s. I spotted a small brown radio with a baseball player silhouette on it. I commented to my husband that I bet it was a popular collectible in its day. Whereupon Mike replied: “That’s a $900. radio, John’s son found it at the garbage dump.”

The museum also has a display of vintage hi-fi curated by Robert Pienkowski, an avid fan, member of the museum and collector himself. And it has a sound studio in the works as well as a TV station. This museum has everything to teach young ones-and remind the old ones- about early American communication systems.

As the jazz trio played into the night, Mike and I set up the magnets on an authentic old refrigerator that I designed as a donated gift to the museum. This fully operational vintage refrigerator was restored by another member who fixes up these nifty relics and this one-filled with fresh soda pop made in New Britain, Connecticut.

If you get a chance, stop on by the museum! You won’t regret your time spent there.

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Adding some Retro Geek-Men Magnets to my Etsy Shop

The Above new additions to my line of humorous magnets are available here:SmirkingGoddess

Over eleven years ago I serendipitously came up with a new vocation for my husband Mike. He’s an electrical engineer-grad of Penn State. When we met, he’d been in the corporate world for almost twenty years. A long time to endure constant lay-offs due to the new American corporate economy of moving jobs overseas, hiring cheaper new grads–or in some cases just young what-evers–with no experience to muck up a job only to have to do it again, and Outsourcing. Please note, CEO’s never get outsourced.

After Europe moved in and bought up the last company he worked for I suggested he try his hand at building up his own business. He’d been successful at selling off sports collectibles and his coin collection on eBay, so says I: “Why not sell something you’re passionate about on eBay? Something old you can buy and fix up like, like I know! old radios!” I listen to NPR while painting and old radios just popped in my head.

Well as the saying goes, the rest is history. He started his business of selling, repairing and restoring not only old radios, but vintage car radios, vintage hi-fi and other sound equipment in our small railroad flat. Today he’s a global seller and I’m proud to say a “preservationist”. Mike’s need to keep the past alive through his work has also made him environmentally conscious as well. We’ve rescued many an old tube, radio shell, or stereo sitting forlornly on a curb waiting for pick up, thus saving it from landfill or more specifically-Mother Earth.

The above magnets and pinbacks I designed are terrific gifts for that Dad, or Grandpa in your life who is passionate about all gadgets that deliver a smooth, golden tone, built by American hands and some lovingly restored by my husband-expert:

Please note, the second button is a Ham Radio and yes I believe it was besides the phone, our first social network.

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How to Tell if you Moved to a Town with a Lousy Art Center

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My husband and I invested in a neighborhood slated to become an up and coming “artist district” eight years ago. Had I visited the Art Center Gallery I would’ve saved myself some time and disappointment-especially me, after we purchased our home, I threw myself into helping the gallery, I joined the Gallery Arts Committee, worked for three years presenting a project to receive grants to bring public art to public spaces (outdoor murals), plus I at times supplied the gallery with fine chocolates and desserts for openings and created flyers for the Art Council Gallery events. I also joined the Visual Arts Committee in town where I did receive positive help to move forward with my mural project. Our community had a lot to recommend itself, but in retrospect, this experience taught me why professional artists and artisans shy away from joining any local art councils and committees.

I wish I wasn’t anxious to help out to the point I didn’t acknowledge the painfully obvious examples that clearly marked the community as lacking the kind of support to build a strong artist gallery center to service the public and support local and state-wide talent. So here are my tips to you all seeking an affordable area to invest in, or for those who’ve already purchased a home, the list below gathers experiences I’ve had from more than one town:

• Prior to buying, walk in the Art Center/Council gallery and check the current exhibit-is the work sub-par with a few sterling examples? Did the ribbons go to crafty collages overwhelmed with glitter?

• Are the exhibits always based on a theme, is it a dumb theme? More like a call out to artists to create something not representative of their body of work? Say a theme asking artists to plagiarize a famous painting? Why would a professional artist take time out from a commission to participate in creating something that wouldn’t sell? Are there no serious curated shows featuring top-of-the-line examples of work done in a specific discipline i.e. wood, clay or painting?

• What does the Gallery Gift Shop look like? In our previous town everyone local was obviously invited to put a piece in the new gallery shop which included a stuffed Raggedy Ann doll with garish orange-red yarn-hair-and yes there even was a painting on canvas board of a poorly painted kitten in a basket signed by the artist “Betty”. My digital collage prints and magnets featuring vintage postcards of the area sold very well-yet my work wasn’t given prominence in the shop along with work done by other strong artists and artisans. I’d walk in to find some Sunday Painter propped their workshop flyer on my display, I was always moving that flyer as I didn’t want the public to think I was the teacher, nor did I think sticking it on top of my prints made for a professional presentation. If a town financially supports a building dedicated to local and state talent they need to support the professionals whose work supports them in return i.e. work that brings serious buyers in. And they need to support more quality artists to place work in their gift shop and have pictures of such items on the Art Center website to draw visitors. Some of the amateurish works got weeded out, but unfortunately the damage was done and strong work–one by a popular, nationally known outsider artist disappeared from the shop.

• When consigning your work does the gallery manager expect you to log in everything you’re consigning while she reads a novel? When your work sells does it take forever to get paid?

• How is the lighting in the Art Center Gallery? Is it soft track lighting to highlight the works of art? or severe. color damaging florescent lighting? Do they have proper and protective displays for sculpture? I stupidly encouraged an artist friend who is a member of a prestigious international artist group-( to submit one of her pieces for a show. The piece was stuck on a table next to the gallery guest book, at the opening one woman plunked her drink right next to it. I moved the piece to a safer spot and vowed never to promote this gallery to my colleagues again.

• What does the outside of the Arts Council Gallery look like? Especially at holiday time? Are professional pieces of sculpture arranged around the building? Is landscaping kept up? Our former town seemed happy to let the surrounding grounds go, potted miniature pine trees turned brown, and at Christmas time someone would stick garish orange-red bows and tinsel on all trees dead or alive. Yet downtown was another story, the mayor made sure all town-owned grounds were groomed. I emailed the “faceless”sterling committee in charge of this town’s cultural agenda offering to tastefully spruce the area up. I received a curt reply declining my offer. I emailed back that I lived down the street and stated dying trees and run-down landscaping de-valued our nearby property. They then did something about the property and even placed an impressive sculpture outside the entrance. Unfortunately the tacky Christmas display was up every year. Why couldn’t this committee kindly help the volunteer who took the time to put those garish bows up to select something more appropriate?

• What is your local arts council committee made up of? Or rather who? Is it overly ambitious Sunday painters looking to grab the email/snail mail list? Are all the committee members “computer illiterate”? Many are stricken with computer illiteracy to avoid doing any volunteer work that doesn’t serve their own personal agenda. It’s okay to insist on a win-win arrangement as in these hectic expensive times artists are on a limited budget and pressing time schedule, especially those working full or part-time to support their business. Yes volunteer, but the arts council should seek an incentive for quality artists/artisans to volunteer their time, such as waiving a show entrance fee, or yearly membership fee. Otherwise the volunteer turnover rate is high and this impacts the strength of the town’s cultural art’s presence at large. Stability is key. And lack-luster membership discourages valuable non-art volunteers from signing on to help.

• Does the local P&Z stand in the way of the Arts Council hanging a well placed banner at the train station or other high-traffic places? In some Connecticut towns and cities the P&Z seem to turn a blind eye to blight situations but oh would they be insulted at the idea of a well-designed banner promoting a local play, concert or show facing thousands of commuters every day.

• If you’re a volunteer, do your good ideas to build the visual artist presence crash and burn because some faceless committee who had the ultimate say said “no”. Are you never invited to meet this committee? Does this committee sit on art center project-agendas to the point nothing gets done?

• Do your ideas get stolen by a member or non-member with better town hall connections? Artists are small business people who support the local community through their taxes, shopping etc, they deserve the same recognition for their supportive efforts that other small businesses (i.e. local banks, jewelers, lawyers, insurance companies etc.) get when donating their time or money to a local cultural event. I did receive support for my mural project, but I initially put in all the work. After we moved from the town I was disappointed to receive at my OLD email account-I’d emailed them my updated address- a hastily sent LATE invite to the unveiling of the first public mural that went up in the town. I was indeed miffed that I wasn’t personally invited to see the fruition of my initial dream become reality, and a “thank you for starting up this project for our town” would’ve been the decent thing to do. Don’t discourage future professionals from moving to your town by treating them as if they’re invisible.

• Does the (paid) director of the town’s cultural arts center return your emails and phone calls? In our new town the director shoots emails all the time to members and keeps up on correspondence. The director job is all-encompassing and a busy one, but returning emails and phone calls is part of the job. I’ve had past experience from town-hired folk who never return emails.

• What kind of crowd shows up at the art shows? Is the crowd focused more on the refreshments and free wine than what is on the walls? Is work selling? Are they perusing the gallery shop or helping themselves to more fingerfood and booze?

This post may sound harsh, but if any professional out there could avoid wasting their precious studio time than I feel I’ve done my job here. Every town benefits from a strong cultural presence, but to sustain that presence, those in charge of the town need to know how to interface with local, professional talent. Some towns do this successfully. And artists pay attention too, if the town is really trying, respond by assisting in any way you can, they need you as much as you need them. A healthy win-win is for the good of all.

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Another Cost Cutting Tip for Artists

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The Above Magnet/Pinback is available in my ETSY shop:SmirkingGoddess
I have some artist friends who don’t subscribe to cablevision due to the expense. I must say in both instances, I saw how it positively impacted their children’s educational performance at school. Theie kids read more, and find more creative ways to entertain themselves. Patience seems to come a little swifter for these kids who don’t have a tiny box with buttons to push to produce instant passive entertainment.

However for those who wish they could afford Cablevision this tip comes from my husband, we learned this from the guy who painted the interior of our new home. Cablevision is expensive, many artists can’t afford $200. bucks a month for this costly indulgence. Now with Roku you can, you purchase the antennae up front, my husband sells them for 40. a pop. The atennae pulls tv shows off the internet, i.e. it streams the info. All you need is someone who knows how to hook up the device and you’re good to go. We often download netflix movies this way. And you’re able to download other channels. It is different from cable, but we get local and national news and a lot of the programs we normally would watch. This has been as big a savings for us as using the green light bulbs!

Herewith for more information: Roku

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Artists! Companies that offer Benefits to Part-Time Employees

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The above magnet is available in my ETSY SHOP: SuzanneArtist
For a short period my husband and I-before I found full-time employment-were without health benefits, it was a scary time in our lives. We cut down on risky physical exercise, he didn’t rollerblade, I didn’t bike. We took a lot of vitamins and I drank green tea. For those creative professionals seeking affordable health benefits, there are companies that do offer health benefits to part-timers. In fact, When I stood in line at the Starbucks on my lunch hour, I wondered if the guy waiting on me is a musician, artist, or actor. I always wonder that about employees at Starbucks, or Barnes and Noble and Trader Joes as part-time jobs that offer benefits often attract creative professionals who need the benefits but can’t work full-time due to their profession. Found out guy at Starbucks is an actor! So his gig at the Starbucks is a good thing in between his runs into the city for cattle calls around his work hours. Most of these companies have an area on their website where they post jobs seeking employees with a brief job description and you can apply online for any posted job. Whole Foods and Trader Joes actually hire in-house artists to create their signage and flyers. NPR did a fascinating story on this fine artist who works at Whole Foods in Philadelphia: Artistic Expression in the Produce Aisle

The below link is an article I found listing companies that offer benefits to part-time employees:

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Tips for Finding Income Opportunities to Support your Art Habit

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The above Pinback/Magnet is sold in my ETSY shop: suzanneartist

Firefox and WordPress just screwed up and lost this post-please for my efforts “like”, “StumbleUpon” or “Diggit” this post if you found it helpful-I’m rewriting it now:

My last post I gave a run down on some part time jobs I had over the years to support my illustration business. Unless one is married to a doctor, lawyer or someone with a six-figure income or inherited a bundle or has generous parents, trying to build a sustainable art business from scratch is hard.

Here’s some ideas on finding income to support oneself while waiting for the ETSY shop to take off, or a commission to come in, or a gallery to wake up and notice your work or and so on. Without further ado:

• Government Job-more specifically town jobs but they pay better than some jobs, and if they don’t they come with great benefits. This is at the tax payer’s expense but there are two sure things in life, death and taxes-so the income source is there. Working in the library shelving books, assigning beach stickers, working as a school aide (Para)-not all of these jobs will be part-time but if you work in a school you will be on the school calendar which means summers off, vacations off-sans pay but time to work your own business and you will have health insurance if full time i.e. 11-month employee. My suggestion is to seek school work in more monied towns near your area.

• Online internet freelance sites-If you check my links menu under my header you will note one that says: “Resources 4 U”-this is a list of links to sites help the creatif. I’ve only listed a few here, there are more, and dig deeper through surfing to find illustrator/designer forums where artists will recommend one over the other, Guru is one such recommended site. Please note I haven’t used some of these sites myself yet but others have made money this way:

Can you write? These sites find jobs for writers:
Can you draw? How about selling DigiStamps? My work is on this site:
This is my page:SuzanneUrban

Can you design logos? websites? templates? Initial pay may not be great, but surf around the sites and see how much some designers have made in a year, AND this creates a portfolio for you. A friend of mine recently hired a logo designer from 99designs for her new business. Herewith:

• Apply for a Grant-this is hard, but there are individual businesses making this easier for people-I find the government grant programs either online scams or you have to have non-profit status. Try these sites, also google or go to library or buy a Grant Writing for Dummies book to help you:

• Production Artist at a Newspaper-doesn’t pay well, but because of this for those of you who aren’t totally computer savvy, you could learn more photoshop, illustrator or InDesign while you work. People at newspapers are more focused on getting the product out under a tight deadline-so if they have to stop and show you how to use the rubberstamp tool in PS real fast, they will. (However this has been my personal experience). You can dress casual and where I worked they allowed me to run free ads on my art business. You can find free online computer tutorials here:Escape from Illustration Island

• Continuing Ed-Teaching evening classes or teaching at a local Arts Center or Art School can provide steady part time income. I’d shy away from teaching out of one’s own home, as you would need liability insurance and that’s expensive. What could you teach? Photoshop? Doll Artistry? Painting? Write up a course outline pick up a Continuing Ed catalog to get an idea on how to writeup a course. Be aware that if no one signs up for your course, you won’t make money. Call local School District office for contact name.

• Waitering for Caterers-you’ll need black pants, white shirt and a black bow-tie, the work is physical but pays well. It’s also seasonal for the most part busy during wedding and holiday season, quiet otherwise. I chose working for caterers over restaurants as I didn’t want to handle money or depend on individually doled out tips, or deal one-on-one with the public. Bartending at events is a great way to make money too, you would need to know a lot about mixed drinks so bone up or take a class. Let caterers know you can do calligraphy or create props out of foam core this could generate income. When I was at my poorest I was given food to take home too! Find Catering halls and Individual Caterers online in the yellow pages.

• Think sales-My husband and I are thinking of ways to expand his business income so I can move forward with working straight from the studio. Recently he noticed a sales person who made an appt with him was in his eighties. Sales positions seem to hire all ages. So my husband is interested in selling solar panels since he purchased some on the side. You get paid only by commission, and networking is key. If you get a part time job at a school i.e. in a largely populated institution add to your income by becoming an Avon or MaryKay or other company representative-pass catalog out in staff lounge-make sure this isn’t frowned on by superiors.

Last but not least-TWO Urban tips: Lower your living expenses swap out the incandescent bulbs with the new “green” ones. My husband recently swapped out all the incandescent bulbs in our home, this means my studio got hit too. The good news? The new warm light bulbs are wonderful! The even gooder news? Our electric bill was reduced 80%

I found cheap art supplies on Craigslist-need a kiln? ShrinkyDink machine? drawing table? Check out Craigslist in your area.

and. . .Check out my blogroll there are blog links to sites that can help you. I hope this was helpful, as a big peeve of mine are these enthusiastic suggestions from online career coaches who have never tried what they’re suggesting. Case in point-Monetizing your blog-in order to make money you need a HUGE follow-ship-this is hard to build-and one has to post daily on blog and be able to write really, really well and target a popular niche market and…

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Look What I Made-or the Shrinky Dink Art Experiment

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I am an illustrator/writer with a day job.

Day job seriously complicates my studio life, but it’s a necessity with benefits. When I’m too tired to create at the drawing table, I like to zip around Etsy to see what other artists are cooking up. In case you don’t know what “ETSY” is, it’s an online marketplace for artists, artisans, craft suppliers, and vintage artifact sellers. See here: ETSY It’s one of the cleanest, classiest, helpful-est sites for business-minded creatifs that I know of. And the “Quit Your Day Job” blog posts give me hope that one day, I’ll be in my studio full time.

While zipping on the laptop, I discovered illustrators on ETSY who sold delightful pins–”brooches” as they call ’em, that are created in a medium called “Shrinky Dinks”. “Whaaat?” I say. So I did my homework via Google and found Shrinky Dinks are a toy oven that come with printed plastic sheets of cartoon characters that kids color in, pop in the oven, bake and they shrink to create tiny pendant-size object d’artes. Here is more info on the ShrinkyDink Toy:

So I wanted this magical machine. And I found one, a guy named “Nick” on Craigslist who lived only a town a way was selling his. Nick, like most guys was a bit reticent in his emails. He was all business. When he agreed to my negotiated price, I asked for his cell number to arrange a pick up. Nick emailed: “Here is my Mom’s cel number. . .” Hmmm, “Mom?”. But I reasoned he was a new art student-grad faced with this terrible job market.

Not so, I called “Mom” and it turns out “Nick” is only thirteen years old. “He’s going through our closets finding stuff to sell on Craigslist-he’s making good money but I tell him he’s going to empty out the house!” Mom laughed. And so did I.

After purchasing some sample plastic sheets I found out-and this is very important to me, that one can recycle the #6 plastic containers to make shrinky dink art. So you not only can save on finding a Shrinky Dink oven on Craigslist, but save our planet and make art from #6 containers.Here’s a demo on YouTube:

I received my little Twinchie i.e. 2″x2″ sized plastic sheets. Shrinky dink sheets come in black, clear, white and I think a neutral color. They also come extra thick so they shrink to a thicker pendant size, and you can buy some that come pre-sanded on one side which allows for easier application of medium. The initial 2″x2″ sheets shrunk to nothing and much of my detail was lost. I came up with some larger designs-but am still limited to the Shrinky Ovens 4″x4″ sized cooking tray– I selected two, and traced in black felt tip pen the image onto the sanded side of the Shrinky plastic. I then colored in with Inktense pencils and highlighted areas with white gesso since I ran out of white acrylic.

<img src="Photobucket

alt=”UrbanGuardianAngel” />

Supposedly one can use just about any medium on this miracle plastic that shrinks proportionately into jewelry-size pendants. Sharpies, colored pencils, acrylic paint-but stay away from crayons-they’re too waxy or so say the experts.

I took pains to not draw my lines too close together should they shrink into a black blob. Still I worry, will the gesso crack and peel off? Is the InkTense pencil too waxy, will the smaller parts of the design shrink to nothing? Above this post are two of my brooch designs-my clownfish and guardian angel. Some artists create shrinky dink dolls with moveable parts, so I opted to create separate legs and a wing for my angel that I will attach with a decorative brad and wire. Just be sure you punch holes in your piece if you plan to have moving appendages.

My next post I will show you the results of my efforts. In the meantime, here is a list of what you will need to get yourself started on creating Shrinky Dink art:

Sandpaper-if using recycled #6 plastic
#6 Plastic or Shrinky Dink Sheet
Paint-acrylic, or watercolor
Colored pencils
Waterproof felt pens
Shrinky Dink Oven or Conventional oven-I prefer not to use my oven that I use for cooking due to fear of vapors. So I’d suggest a dedicated toaster oven-if you don’t have a Shrinky Dink Oven.
Small Decorative brads and or thin wire
Hole puncher

Draw in pencil a design, trace onto sanded side of Shrinky Dink Plastic, color in, and cut image out. Pop in oven and bake. Keep an eye on your work so plastic doesn’t over-cook. If you use a conventional oven, bake at 325 degrees for approx. one-five minutes. When using a conventional oven do not wander away! And please monitor all children participating. Melting plastic isn’t healthy stuff to breathe, so make sure you keep an eye on your baking creation!

Shrinky Mess<img src="Photobucket” alt=”Shrinky Mess” />

Above you can see what became of my clownfish Shrinky Dink. He shrunk to a miniscule size. As feared the gesso bubbled and flaked off. My clownfish looks like a piranha foaming at the mouth. I was so bummed out at how small the shrinky dink shrunk to that I pulled it out before it melted back into a flat form. Shrinky’s can bubble and twist before they settle into their last flat stage. I thought my Shrinky oven had over-cooked it, but in retrospect, I think I will switch to my toaster oven as I’ve read online they’re better in shrinking this plastic, and I want to work larger so I don’t end up with an ant-sized creation. The Angel I made will have to be tossed, ugh, as she will end up foaming like the fish.

All in all I rate this experiment only two stars ** two for the learning process, but despite what I’ve read, to create you own images takes more time them whipping out an image and cooking it in a plastic purple oven.

Images and copy ©2011 Suzanne Urban All Rights Reserved.

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Switching to Blogger


My new blog address is at:

Thank you for your patience, my new blog is also my website.

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An Enchanting Evening with Guy Davis Blue’s Singer and Guitarist

ImageReturning to work last Monday after a full Winter vacation week spent happily creating in my studio was hard. As I settled in to the daily routine, our school’s orchestra teacher sailed by my desk and said: “Suzanne, we’re going to a concert this weekend in Windsor, your husband likes the blues doesn’t he?”. Quickly Ellen explained her husband was of fan of blues musician Guy Davis-son of actor Ozzie Davis, and had found-through a fluke that the famed guitarist-who once performed in front of the Queen Mum was performing at North Park right here in little ole’ Windsor Connecticut! Last night Ellen and her actor husband Peter and talented musician-son Morgan came up to Windsor and after a bountiful meal at the Tunxis Grill we headed to North Park.

Mr. Davis is not only an accomplished musician-(banjo, vocals, guitar)-but a talented raconteur, he’s also very witty and an impish mimic. We felt blessed for the opportunity to be at his concert and for only $20.00 which included dessert-provided by new Windsor Bakery “Half Baked” and coffee. For more information on North Park Concerts click here: NorthPark.

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