Back to Basics: Colored Pencil Kitty City

Besieged with allergies and a long night ahead (I’m shooting the noir film I mentioned before), I have taken it easy today, working a little on the upholstered chair you might remember from a previous post and spending time with the cats. This reminds me of a particular portrait I did when Maybe was a kitten, all from colored pencil!

Moral: You don’t have to have fancy supplies to make something worth keeping!

Painting Exploration One: The Puzzle Tree

The next series here at MarlaneDesign is
called Painting Explorations, and will cover the ways that someone who does not consider themselves an artist in the “I do paintings” kind of way can begin to explore canvas and paint. These will not be technical tutorials, but suggestions for opening up a new creative outlet!

One of my favorite paintings is called The Puzzle Tree, a tiny tree on rough canvas that I did when I was 17.The design resulted from having only several shades of green and brown paint to use and not much else. I like to think of it as an example of just using what you have and seeing what comes of it. It’s also an example of how playing around with paint when you’re first starting out can result in some fun things that don’t require much technical skill. There was little precision in creating this piece!

To do it yourself, try playing with a limited number colors inspired by a room in your house, using a cheap canvas. I got this one at a garage sale and painted over the unfinished sketch that was there, but you can get tiny canvases at art stores for as little as a dollar. Make it no pressure. Put on some music that you love or an episode from a fave talk radio program (I am fond of This American Life!) I recommend starting with acrylic paints, since they dry faster. Play with shapes and brushstrokes that are interesting to you, taking inspiration from a chair or statue that you love. Don’t try to plan what you’re going to do, just let your mind respond to the strokes that end up on the canvas, creating vignettes and maybe even stories. Look at every “mistake” as an opportunity to go a different direction. If you find that you’re painting a landscape, start doing the detail by going from the image that is the farthest in back (in this case, the sky) to the image closest to you (the tree). You might just end up with something that compliments your decor for years to come!

Noir Design

I’m working on a noir film right now, which really is all about the design.

The Big Combo (1955)

 A few things about noir from our good friend Wikipedia:
“Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low key black and white visual style that has roots in German expressionist cinematography.”

The mash-up article goes on to say that later films copying the style are known as neo-noirs. So I guess that’s really what I’m doing, because it’s in color. All I know is that I am murdered – very exciting!

This stunning art deco image is by Cristiano Siqueira, who has an Adobe Illustrator portfolio at

Even though I am not sure how these images apply to my design art, just being blown away by them is enough. Collecting them now will ensure that when that perfect project reveals itself, I will be ready. (Didn’t that kind of sound like something a secret agent would say?!)

Sunshine and Noir – Feast your eyes on an entire collection!

Poster to Fine Art

As I transition from college to “real life,” I find myself with posters that I would rather looked a lot less like posters. Here’s one idea for how to transform them from kiddie to pretty!

Using square wooden dowels, hot glue the top and bottom edges of the poster, starting from the middle and working your way to either edge. Then use a hanging material of your choice – here I use a brown leather for a slightly folk art look. It also works for calendar prints!

Alternative Hangings for Your Wall

Use both halves of a cardboard jewelry box and cut the photo to fit inside. 
It’s all the drama of a mini shadowbox with zero cost!
Alternative hanging items: You might notice the lower piece isn’t a photograph, it’s a gift tag that my mom painted for a birthday gift. Don’t be afraid to frame and hang your nontraditional art pieces!

 With that in mind, I’ve also included this little number, which is two stationary cards and an invitation to an art gallery show framed alongside family photographs. Backed with colored paper, I actually just popped them in place – the glass on the frame broke long ago. With the ease of access, I enjoy changing out what goes in this frame! (Which, btw, used to just be brown, but I sanded it and painted it green)

p.s. The artist  in question is Tony Fitzpatrick, and the show was titled No. 9, An Artist’s Journal