Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mix & Match

Greetings from the studio!

Between baking batches of Christmas cookies and vacuuming up copious amounts of pine needles from our tree (uuugh), I've been working on lots of new *experiments* new favorite is something I like to call "the Mix & Match" :)  After dabbling with some different techniques, I am loving the look of these two styles together.  It's almost like abstract floral meets rock and roll/funk pop.  Does that make sense?  I love the look of watercolor care-free florals, but I needed something more.  Something edgy.  I think the strong stripes pair nicely with the delicate flowers.  What do you think?

Mix & Match, no. 1
Mix & Match no. 2
Mix & Match, no. 3
Stay tuned :)  More to come.

I think the paintings go great with the new COLORFUL album by Grimes, "Art Angel"... [which I'm seriously loving] <3
Art Angel (full album) by Grimes via YouTube


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

DIY: Colorful Stamp Pad!

Happy December, everyone!

Today I want to share a festive alternative to the basic ink pad that is sooo easy to make.  If you're a fan of stamps (like me!), you've likely felt a bit limited by the stamp pad options out there.  Not only that, but the colorful ones can be quite pricey, and are not always the exact colors or sizes you're looking for.  I am here to show you that you can easily create your own!  Any colors, any size -- the options are limitless!  All you need is some acrylic paint, a sponge, and water.  Yep, it's that simple.  Let's get started :)

Step 1:  Buy a sponge that is a bit larger than your stamp -- that way you don't have to reposition your stamp every time.  The stamp I used was MASSIVE, so I bought a large sponge.  Soak your sponge in water, and then ring out all the extra water so it's no longer dripping. Set on a surface that you don't mind getting a little messy ;)  I used a plastic plate lined with paper towel.

Step 2: Get colorful!  I used random blobs of acrylic paint directly on the damp sponge.  I fired up some red, green, grey, and light purple.

Step 3: Using a brush or wad of papertowel, shmear (that's a word, right?) the paint around on the sponge.  Make sure the entire sponge is covered with paint.

Step 4: Get your stamp ready!  I found this beauty on Etsy at Fat Joey Knitwear, Vintage and Crafts -- they have tons of fun treasures.

Step 5: Depending on what type of look you're going for with your stamp, you may want to water down your paint a bit to get a more defined stamp image.  I used a little spray bottle to gently mist the paint on the sponge.

Here's an example of the difference a little extra water makes -- the stamp on the right is clearer and more legible.  I would definitely recommend using the additional spritz of water if your stamp has any lettering on it.  Play around with some spare paper to figure out what combo of paint/water works best for you.  Also, if you're in the middle of stamping and need to step away to bake some cookies, wrap gifts, or build a snowman, place a wet paper towel over your sponge to keep it damp and prevent the paint from drying :)

Voila!  Here are my holiday cards; ready to rumble.  Hope you found this festive demo a useful alternative to a basic ink pad, and a fun way to funk up your stamp crafts! 

 It's officially Christmas song let's start it out strong.  
A personal fave by She & Him:

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by She & Him via YouTube


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Art of Fleur de sel

Happy Tuesday!

When I think of fleur de sel ("flower of salt" en français, or French sea salt), I think of it as a vital food ingredient.  I add a sprinkle or two to almost everything I cook, be it roasted vegetables, soups, or chilled dishes like salads and the bodacious burrata plate in the photo below!  Without fleur de sel, I must cooking would be a lot less tasty.  Fact.

A divine afternoon snack that I crafted with my foodie friend (& fabulous lifestyle blogger, Molly from DreamsinHD) at her home in Indianapolis
At an art critique several months ago at The Dahl Arts Center, I learned about the use of "resists" in watercolor painting --- certain things that you can add to your piece (before/during) that literally "resist" the watercolor itself to create a unique texture or appearance.  Some examples include glue, wax, oil pastels, rubber cement, tape, and salt.  As I strive to keep experimenting with my art, I decided it was time to expand my resist repertoire, so I used something I had on hand in the kitchen: Trader Joe's fleur de sel :)  



After letting the salty paintings dry, they turned out like this....

Ta-da!  Loving this new sparkly textured look :)

I call this one "blue sugar cookie"
The textured red reminds me of coral

Looking forward to experimenting with other salts and different resists! 

Today's musical selection is the sountrack to the new show "Master of None", starring the delightful Aziz Ansari (& his real-life parents!).  Highly recommend firing up your Netflix and watching it...all.  Just watch it all in one sitting.  I bet you can't not ;-)

>> CLICK <<


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Art of the Home Studio

My bliss: Fresh white everywhere, a sunny window, a wide window ledge for assorted collectibles, & (literal) cat naps
Hi there!  Happy Monday.  Today, let's explore the art of creating the home studio...or truly any artsy space in your home that is not dedicated to sleeping, cooking, lounging, or doing laundry.  Need a space to sew, scrapbook, bead, blog, or collage?  I encourage you to make a home (in your home!) for that space today.  

When I learned we were moving back to Minneapolis, I was thrilled, but I wondered how I would continue painting creatively without a studio outside of the home.  I had grown pretty accustomed to my weekly painting routine of working in my charming historic studio in downtown Rapid CityI was worried I wouldn't be able to stay as focused or creative in a home studio, and I wondered how I could find enough space for all my supplies.

I'm pleased to announce that the whole home studio thing is going great.  I tried to set up the new space as closely as I could to my old space in an effort to get the same vibe.  It also helps that the new space is all white, like my other space.  I placed my easel in the same location relative to the window to mimic the light I was used to, my favorite antique desk and upcycled chair are within close painting proximity, my giant drying shelves that house all my in-progress paintings are nearby, and fresh flowers are pretty easy to find ;)  Fresh flowers inspire a lot of my painting colors, and I need to have something organic/living in my creative space.  

The ultimate color inspiration

I also have a sink right outside my studio door, as I did in my downtown space which was near the break-room kitchenette.  This is great when I need to quickly freshen up my murky water or clean up a paint explosion (which are known to happen!).  The home studio space may be smaller, but it doesn't feel that way.  I have everything I need, and now I have the luxury of frequent visits from the cat (Cider).  He loves to take little naps on top of the paintings I leave on the window ledge.

Sleepy Cider

I am now more confident in my ability to create a productive studio space, whether it is in or outside the home.  By figuring out the essentials for my creativity, I was able to re-create the feel of my previous space.  Success :)  I suppose I use a similar process each time we move homes as well.  I have found that it's a great opportunity to re-appreciate the things that make a certain space feel just right.  Moving is also a useful time to consider what things have lost their utility, be it for function or decor.  It's refreshing!   Gather only the essentials that "spark joy" -- a massive kudos to the KonMari Method for explaining this concept to me.  I highly recommend her book to anyone who has an upcoming move to prepare for, or just wants to live a tidier life.

The process of setting up my home studio got me curious about the home studios of other artists.  I found some lovely photos of famous artists in their special spaces.  Some studios are messy, some are clean, but they all exhibit the signature essential that I also need: gorgeous natural light.

Link #1: 100 Famous Artists & Their Muses in Their Studios 

Link #2: 10 Famous Artists' Stunning Studios 

Link #3: Famous Artists and Their Studios 

Link #4: WARNING- this is a Pinterest link.  *Everything* is swoon-worthy. Clicker beware ;-)

On this rainy Monday, let's celebrate the joy of natural L I G H T, and enjoy a (local!) tune about sunshine :)

 "Sunshine" by Atmosphere via YouTube

Friday, November 13, 2015

How to Spot an Art Scammer

(meme image credit)
Welp, it happened.  I was officially the target of an art scammer. I went from feeling flattered to being completely disgusted in a matter of moments; not a fun way to start the day.  But, I'm over it (!!!) and now I want to walk you through how I discovered it in the first place (it wasn't the obvious Nigerian prince scam with a fake online bank account) and how you can protect yourself and your art.

Step 1:

If you receive a message that looks like the one below...go to Step 2...

Hope this message finds you well. I saw these creative works on your
website and I will like you to get back with more details if they are
still available for purchase.

"Cayman Brac, I"  , "Golden Pines, IV"  and   "Freedom"

I will appreciate an urgent reply.

Best Regards,
Stephanie Bawcom.

*note: I found it especially creepy that the scammer specified my three paintings by name and wanted an "urgent" reply.  You'd think if they urgently wanted the artwork, they would specify why.  The thing is, a lot of art scammers DO add extra info about why they want your art, etc. and this is simply used to play on the hearts of the artists...don't be a victim. 

Step 2:

Hover over the email address, and note if the name associated with the email is the same as the one associated with the address.  I actually discovered this by accident (thank goodness), but as soon as I noticed that the two names didn't match up, I got suspicious.  Chances are the person contacting you is using a fake name (in my case, they used "Stephanie Bawcom") and when you hover over their email address a different name will pop up.  For example, the name associated with the email above from belongs to someone named "Donald Johnson".  Plug the email address into this handy search tool of blacklisted art scammer email addresses.  There are also "anti-art scammer" blogs out there with message boards and posted emails of known scammers.  Give those a look-thru and see if any of the reported messages, names, or email addresses look similar.

Step 3:

Have enough evidence?  Stay calm, sleuth.  You're almost done :)  Report the scam here, then give yourself a pat on the back.  You have successfully avoided an art scammer. 

Step 4:

Read up! 

I sincerely hope this little tutorial helps someone out there avoid an art scammer.  Let's enjoy a Lily Allen tune in honor of this very special occasion:

F*ck You by Lily Allen via YouTube

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Meet the Abstract Giraffes

A beautiful giraffe enjoying some breakfast at Giraffe Manor  (image credit)

Hello!  Happy Thursday to you :)

Every now and then, I discover a new painting style or design that I become OBSESSED with, and I find that I simply must keep painting variations of it over and over again because I love it so much and want to perfect it.  I feel slightly possessed during the process, but also very focused and creative.  It's kind of beautiful, and when it happens, I just go with the flow and enjoy the unique freedom of my art.  

So, with that said....let me introduce to you my newest creation:  ABSTRACT GIRAFFES.  They are a fun fusion of asymmetrical shapes, my signature OJD drips, and a flair of giraffes.  Are the giraffes riding on escalators?  Are they standing staggered at a rock concert?  Are they watching a football game?  A hidden layer of abstractness, I suppose.  I like that they look like they're on the move :)

>>Coming SOON to the shop at<<

Copyright Olivia J Designs 2015

Copyright Olivia J Designs 2015
Copyright Olivia J Designs 2015

I was unable to find a giraffe song (I looked, believe me...most were kids songs or reaaaaally weird), so let's do a different type of music video today.  Last week, I stumbled upon this gorgeous mini documentary of Florence Welch (from Florence and the Machine) giving a tour of her home.  It's so dreamy.  Enjoy!

"My First Apartamento: Florence Welch" via Nowness

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Winners of the #skyscapesturgis Contest!

Hi, hi!

Thought I'd give a little update on the results of the #skyscapesturgis contest that I had going during my month as Artist of the Month at The Sturgis Center for the Arts...because my 3 winners requested some super cool custom painting ideas!

 Check 'em out!

Winner #1 wanted a rainbow trout-inspired painting!  I love it!  I'd never done a fish abstract, so it was a new experience.  Luckily, rainbow trout are beautiful, so I had a lot of gorgeous colors to work with :)
Winner #2 wanted a matching pair of paintings that looked like sunshine :)  Who doesn't love working with a sunny color palette?  I played with peaches, oranges, golds, coral, and a pearly light pink for these.
Winner #3 wanted a trout-inspired painting!  (Winners #1 + #3 are avid fisherman, can ya tell?) The fish "model" for this painting was mostly green with black spots, so I played around with the different green hues.  

Congrats to the winners!  In the spirit of winning....let's rock out to some Mr. Mayfield :)

"We're a Winner" by Curtis Mayfield via YouTube


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

For the Love of BØRNS

Garrett Borns from the band BØRNS (photo credit: Windish Agency press photo)

A few weeks ago I was contacted regarding a cool new contest through Talenthouse to create artwork for the band BØRNS.  In celebration of the band's October 16th release of the new record Dopamine, the group is looking for artwork inspired by the band, song titles, vibe, etc.  Fun, right?!  Plus, I've been in love with the song "10,000 Emerald Pools" since it hit my ears months ago.  Not to mention "Electric Love" was the song of my Summer.  This band is the perfect combination of gorgeous grooves, eclectic visual lyricism, and poignantly emotional rock-romance.  Does that make sense?  This band gets me swooning with obscure adjectives, but I can't help it.  Most of my favorite bands are hard to describe in simple terms because their music is just too brilliant for words.  Beyond the music, I officially became a *super fan* after I listened to Garrett Borns' interview with 89.3 The Current's host Mary Lucia in March.  Check out the interview and performances -- Mr. Borns is a candidly charming human being.

A Pinterest "mood board" was created for inspiration for this project, and after giving it a look, I definitely knew which way to go.  An organic visual that represents a combo of my watercolor works, some type of emerald green color (as a nod to "10,000 Emerald Pools"), and a cactus flair.  Ta da!  Wish me luck ;)  [Link to my Talenthouse submission]

Additionally, I had NO idea about this local concert (probably because it was sold out before we moved back to Minneapolis a few weeks ago), but for you cool cats who can find a ticket: BØRNS is playing at Coffman Union on the U of M campus Friday (yes, THIS Friday).

"10,000 Emerald Pools" by BØRNS  via YouTube


Monday, November 9, 2015

A New Space!

Hi there!  Whoa.  What a month!  As you may have noticed, I have not blogged since early October...welp, I've been a bit busy relocating back to the Twin Cities!  

Besides the obligatory packing (ugghh), I would have to say that the toughest part about leaving Rapid City was clearing out of my downtown Rapid City art studio.  I made so many great memories and paintings in that tiny space, and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend that time (albeit short!) in a cozy corner of a unique little city.  Not to mention my studio was right next to Tally's, a greasy spoon-type restaurant that has the best breakfast special on the planet.  And strong coffee.  Two essentials. 

I will miss The Black Hills for a multitude of reasons.  The gorgeous sunsets and the stunning vistas were all integral parts of the inspiration behind a lot of my paintings over the past few months.  Plus, the local arts community in both Rapid City and Sturgis were just amazing to work with for feedback and networking.  I learned so much through attending a great creative workshop at the Dahl Arts center and their art critiques were invaluable to me for feedback, new ideas, and the confidence to try new thingsI was motivated after my first critique to enter a local winery's art contest, and....I won!  I participated in my first live painting art auction for charity, and I even had my first "Artist of the Month" art show at The Sturgis Center for the Arts, which was so much fun!  Cheers, South Dakota. Its been real :)

Now...with that said....I am SO HAPPY to be home.  I missed the Twin Cities a lot, and it feels great to be back.  Here is a little sneak peek of my NEW space here in Minneapolis.  I cannot wait to share my new work with you :)

My colorful canvas tarp made the journey back to Minneapolis :)  Can't wait to fill it with new drops and spills!
The new studio space <3  Love the white.  Really love all the storage ;-)

Stay tuned for new creations and artistic adventures :)

In the spirit of returning, let's jam out to some Elvis.  This is why I love YouTube...

Return to Sender (reggae version) by Elvis Presley via YouTube


Thursday, October 8, 2015

In the Studio: A NEW 24x48 Commission

"Rise & Shine" (24x48 watercolor and acrylic on canvas)
Hello there!  I'm excited to share my newest commission piece: "Rise & Shine".  This 24x48 work was created for a client in Minneapolis who was looking for a large piece of art for their family room.

To get a good feel for what a new client is envisioning, I start by showing them a gallery of my paintings so they can select their favorite style...controlled drips, flowers, trees, hills, flowy nebula/glob things....all of the above?!  

My client wanted a large piece in the style of my classic drip/colorful skyscapes with the nature element (trees/flowers).  Next step: colors!  She informed me that the room for the piece has grey walls with a few pops of yellow/blue accent decor, but mostly plain.  Her requested colors for the piece were bright green, bright pink, and greys/blues/yellows.  ....time to create!

Some people create a vision board.  I use a vision window :)  Playing with bright greens + pinks

As with most paintings, this painting went through several revisions before I decided it was completed.  For one, this was my largest flower field that I've ever created on canvas before (!!), so it took some time to feel balanced with the right combination of both natural and vibrant in order to work in the bright pinks and bright greens.  But, as I started layering colors and textures, I realized that was exactly what the piece needed because of its expansive size.  Too few layers and the canvas appeared quite colorful, but quite flat.  With all the bright colors, I knew I wanted to make the piece feel playful, but not juvenile.  It needed the various background hues to create warmth and whimsical dimension.  

I also enjoyed painting this piece because it was a new canvas size I'd never worked with before!  I typically create vertical pieces, so this was my first giant horizontal creation -- I must was really fun!  With each new canvas size and orientation, I find that my beginning, middle, and end approach to the piece is generally the same, but my final touches are modified slightly in order to get the same OJD style. 

In honor of the [best] city [on earth] where this painting will be residing, let's fire up some Prince, shall we?  One of my favorite songs....
 Prince "FUNKNROLL" via Youtube


Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Hello!  I haven't created a painted mantra in awhile, so I thought it was time to make one :)  

Patience is defined as...
 the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset *

A go-to album that I've found for relaxing and cultivating patience is the Odesza 'Summer's Gone' album....harmonic beats with a zen twist.  Enjoy: