Wednesday, December 10, 2014

the Holiday Spirit....

This time of year, my text messages start to look a little like greeting cards.

Much of the Holiday Spirit I have has always gone toward making things festive in my classroom while practicing Christmas music from Halloween on.  This year is different (I'm at home most of the time) and I have been thinking more about decorating, even though we won't be here for Christmas. James started it off with some twinkies and I started opening one of our boxes, and I figure we won't be done decorating until we leave for Helena for Christmas.

photo via

We are in a tiny apartment and have a new crawling baby, so getting a full-sized tree was out of the question.  I'm thinking of channeling more of the above feel?  Find little tree for a bucket (we have a bunch leftover from our wedding)?  I'll join the masses and give a tree update everyone on instagram if we pull it off!

Also, we have a TON of grapefruit right now (which is so delicious and makes me feel very healthy in the morning), and I want to sacrifice a few to channel this:

Anthropologie-inspired via U lala
Josey has been watching Happy Holidays from Elmo's world- she got a bunch of Sesame Street DVDs from Nicole & Matt on our West Coast Trip.  I love how she exclaims, "it's Christmas!" everytime she sees decorations.  Reliving the Holidays though the eyes of a child is so awesome, I love that we can do this every year with them.  

What are you doing to get in the Christmas spirit this year?  While I'm starting to feel that itch, to Wear my favorite Christmas sweater & belt "All I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS.  is _ _ Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! (Oo e ooo ba-bay)" at least once to my is a little playlist for you.  Enjoy!

PS: I got the BEST diy gift from a BFF.  I couldn't help but open it right away because her gifts are always wonderful, and I really want to share it here, because it's such a great idea, but I'm afraid I would spoil the surprise if all my girlies haven't gotten them yet...

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Sweetest Album.

James had a big birthday last week!  We celebrated him- 35 years on this earth.  It's a great place to be- halfway to the age of his parents, gifted with the chance to live life as children again through two little ones.

I wanted to gift him something, because I've been terrible about his birthday gifts the past couple years.  Josey and I found him a fleece-lined flannel before leaving MT.  Then on his special day, the mamas stopped in a bookstore on our way for Thanksgiving shopping.  Of course, I was lured to the cd rack, and accumulated almost 5 possibilities that he might like when this caught my eye:

Bela Fleck was my personal intro to bluegrass, and I have always loved to move and get things done to the Flecktones.  Alongside dancing elephants, James, Andrew & KK, and I saw Bela play with Bruce Hornsby (my absolute fav) at the Portland Zoo when Josey was maybe a teeny tiny seed.  I didn't know that he was married to a musician, though!  The first time he heard a recording of her music, he was pulled over for speeding!  His wife, Abigail Washburn "is every bit as interested in the present as she is in the past, and every bit as attuned to the global as she is to the local."  She also has great hair.  Check out her bio & website.

This new album is the first ever recorded collaboration with his wife, banjoist & singer Abigail Washburn.  When I held it in my fingers, I felt tears prickle in my eyes.  That's a good feeling, holding an album in your hand that you know to be truly special, it almost holds your hand to the checkout.

A work of ART.  I just read a great piece by Gillian Welch about how people make music to deal with tragedy in life, how before all the other meda & entertainment we have today, there was music.  This album deals with some things, big ones- death and destruction among the first to come to mind.  These songs are poignant in recent history, in the personal struggle of people today, but bringing the brutiful quality of life full-circle.  I will be singing these tunes for many years to come.

Even though it was James' birthday gift, I can't stop listening, pouring over the album leaf.  They've even included a special note about each song- placement in their lives and culture today.  The centerfold is a detailed photo and note about the 7 banjos played by the couple.  There is even a beautiful dedication & portrait of their baby boy, Juno.  I hope they record more music together as their family grows!


Have you finished your Christmas shopping?  I strongly recommend this one as a gift for the music-lover in your family!  I try to purchase most of our music from Independent Record Stores, and I encourage you to do so, too!  

However, if you do shop Amazon this Christmas, and you read this blog, please consider clicking on the link in the sidebar- my family earns a small affiliate from purchases referred.  

P.S. Here's Bela and Abigail talking a little bit about their separate Banjo styles and then playing the opening track, a classic American tune with their own spin, Railroad:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Grows Feature: {Courtney Blazon}

I was first introduced to Courtney Blazon through my friend Amy, who has one of her signature pieces in her living room.  Once I took notice of that picture, I saw Courtney's work all over Missoula, and completely fell in love with it.  During the summer of 2013, I became enamored with the women in her art and decided to commission a piece from her for this blog, which turned into a beautiful family portrait (hopefully our next cd cover someday, too).  Courtney is a bright and endearing individual, her smile is contagious and her work ethic is, too.  I am so thrilled to share her Grows Feature with you today!  Keep your eye out for her gift-pack at the end- one lucky reader who comments on the subject of overcoming criticism (will close comments on Friday).  Thank you all for reading, and thank you Courtney, for your kind and thoughtful answers here!

Pig N Whistle Small.jpgDescribe yourself for those who don’t know you.    

My name is Courtney Blazon and I am an artist and illustrator living in Missoula, MT. I am originally from Goffstown, NH and I graduated with a degree in Illustration from Parsons School of Design in NYC. I make large scale drawings on Stonehenge Paper using Copic Markers and Pen.

Tell us about a few past & current projects you’ve loved.  

I just finished working on some seed packets for Native Ideals Seed Farm, a farm in Arlee, MT. I have done thirty-six so far, and it’s always a joy. It combines the things I love about working as an illustrator: freedom to come up with different concepts, the need to expand my knowledge of the world (in this case, flowers and their pollinators), and getting to work on a series.
For my personal work, I am in the beginning stages of working on a 3’x 4’ drawing that combines the poem by Sylvia Plath entitled “Cut”, biographical details from Plath’s life in England, and the rhyme “Miss Mary Mack”. I am very excited about working on it!

Where do you work, and how do you make this environment productive?

I have a studio in my home (it’s really just a bedroom turned into a studio). I am very much a homebody, and my idea of a great few days is not having to leave home at all. Having my studio in my house makes this possible. I can also be more flexible with my hours, which I like. I am much more of a night owl, so being able to work all night and collapsing into bed  at 3AM is like heaven to me!  I don’t find it hard to make my studio productive. I view art making as my profession, and I treated it thusly.  

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How do you capture your inspiration?  

I read a lot of non-fiction science and natural history books, and gain many of my ideas from the natural world.I also love myths, fairy tales, oddities, poetry and historical photos.  I have a method to capturing my inspiration.  I keep a long list of work ideas using the program Wunderlist. These are often simple and basic ideas that occur to me when drawing, or from looking at or reading a book. Examples are: Ghost Ships, Dickensian Children, Ice Cream Parlor, Mucha Models. Something on this  list can become the basis for a piece.  After I’ve decided on what I want to focus on (say I want to draw Dickensian children in a 1950s Ice Cream Parlor that looks like an abandoned Ghost Ship), I make a folder on my computer, and I begin collecting pictures that relate to these concepts. I usually have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-80 photos that i look at initially for one large piece, before I really hone in on what visual images I want to look at for specific inspiration. I use these photos for reference for how a pair of 1950s ice cream parlor chairs would look, what the inside of a historical ship that has disappeared would have looked like, or poses I think I’d like my figures to be in.  I use these photos only as a jumping off point, and then I allow my imagination to take over and grow a little bit wild! I also look a lot at Pinterest, and keep Boards that pertain to my visual interest.

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Who inspires you?

Personal: My mom inspires me with her talent and with her drive to create artwork of all different mediums. My friends inspire me with their all their hard work and their entrepreneurial spirit.

Artist we probably haven’t heard of:
Walton Ford, Wangechi Mutu, Andrea Kowch, Dorothea Tanning, Anthony Goicolea, Amy Cutler, AJ Fosik, JC Leyendecker, Patrick Woodroffe, Mucha, Arthur Rackham, Albrecht Durer, Bosch, etc...I could go on and on and on!!

What materials do you use?  (please be as specific as possible)  

I use Stonehenge Paper, Pearl Gray. I sketch in my ideas loosely with a .05 Mechanical Pencil. Then I use Micron Pens (usually 02, 03, and 05) to ink in the whole composition. I do a lot of my shading and “fleshing out” of people and objects with the pens.  After the pen, I move onto using Copic Markers.  I have roughly 250 colors in my collection, so there is a lot to choose from. For each different colored area in my composition, I use 5-10 markers blended together to create a painterly and dimensional feel.  I then accent the marker with white china marker and a white gel pen. Lately, I have been using Pan Pastels for the larger spaces in the background.

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How does it feel when you know you're finished with a project? (or, How do you know you’re finished with a project?)

Well, my work is so dense and there’s almost no empty space, so it’s kind of easy for me to know when the piece is done.  It is a constant struggle for me to edit my need to add and add and add!  Right after I finish a project, I often feel a bit of a let down, after the joy that comes from the process of making the piece or pieces. Usually after a few days away, I can start to see the positives and negatives of what I just finished. I often just can’t wait to start the next thing!

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What are your upcoming creative goals?  

I’d like very much to complete a full narrative book of some sort. Whether this is a sequential body of work, or a collection of pieces, I am not sure yet.
I’d like to spend more time working in my sketchbook, and working on experimenting with mixed medias (inks, airbrush, colored pencil, gouache, vellum, etc.)

I would like to start to expand the reach of my work out of the region and into the Northwest at the very least. I go through periods of high esteem where I feel certain that I can make a go of it outside of our region, and other periods where it seems like such a daunting task.

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Share a piece of wisdom you’ve learned.  

Talent is a little bit important, but it is not nearly as important, or as necessary, as hard work. Unless you have internal motivation, it is diffcult to maintain a creative career. Also,  never take criticism personally. It’s important to develop a thick skin, because you will be confronted by endless odds and lots of rejection. Stay true to what feels right in your creative brain.


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What do you think of it all, readers? Can you see why Courtney has had to deal with criticism but through it has expressed unique style through her work? Here's her discussion question for you:

"Do you think criticism is important in your creative life? How do you deal with criticism?  How do you keep it from getting you down, while still allowing you to grow?"  

You can think on it, just make sure to comment by Friday to be entered in the gift-pack giveaway:

A12” x 18” Print entitled “The Ethical Culture School of Disappointment Island”, a T-Shirt Dress size L (fits like a Medium) and a pack of cut out stickers.

Also, to see more of Courtney's fantastic commissions and work, bookmark her website:  and follow her via Facebook.
For more inspiration head to her Etsy, and Pinterest boards!

All the best to Courtney in expanding your style throughout the Northwest! I for one, think her work is iconic in Missoula and look forward to seeing it grow!


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