Easy Holiday Wreath: Bullet Journaling Inspo

After a six month hiatus, I decided to pick up bullet journaling again. Mainly because I’ve been working on producing an event/workshop based around the book, DOT JOURNALING, by Rachel Wilkerson Miller (The Experiment Publishing) for my job as Event Producer for a local bookstore.

I love the book and Rachel’s very fun and easy-to-follow voice and tips and so, I’m back at it again! I’m keeping things simple this time, however, because the reason I couldn’t keep up with it last time was because my inner perfectionista needed to treat each spread like a work of art. And with my own art, blogging, work , friends and family requiring my time, I just couldn’t add ‘ create planner’ to that long list of To Dos.

So, 2018 is going to be simpler! And I’m practicing with my December spread above! Now, simple does NOT have to mean boring, so I added lots of embellishments- SIMPLE embellishments!

I forgot how much fun doing these planner layouts could be for a stationery addict like myself! All those pretty products, doodling, and LISTING!!!

If you want to learn how to make a very easy wreath to incorporate into your journal repertoire of tricks, just read along!

Supplies:

1. Black felt tip pen . I used the Rotring Tikky in 0.4

2. Two thicker felt tip markers. In this case, keeping with the festive theme, I chose Stabilo 68s in #19 and #53 (burgundy and pine green shades)

3. And that’s it! (Told you it was simple!)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Draw a semi circle using the black pen. It does not need to be measured or perfect. In fact, I left my imperfections in this picture to lead by example! 🙂

 

2. Add a leaf to either end/tip of the line.

 

3. Add a bow to the center. It’s ok if you can see the line of the semi circle through the bow. The market over it will make it less noticeable. However if this will bother you, draw your circle with a pencil first, add the bow, and then ink the piece.

 

4. Color in the leaves with green and the bow with red.

5. Scatter little red dots around the leaves to simulate berries.

And that’s it!! You are all done! Have fun using this technique in your layouts!

Art Workshop : Watercolor Gift Tags

 

For the Holiday Season, I wanted to give something fun and festive (and useful! ) to the community with a free demonstration on how to make watercolor gift tags.

Here was how I set up the space at University Bookstore:

 

 

As you can see, I also organized a Gift Wrapping class ( which someone else taught) that was held right after mine!

My class went really well and we had such a fun time make lots of tags to take home and use for all of our gift giving this season!

I taught them how to do three different styles of tags:

1. Messy Abstract

2. Repeating Pattern

3. Dip dye

 

TOOLS:

1. Watercolor paper. I used Fluid 140lb cotton cold press. It was the perfect weight to hold our wet techniques but not too thick that the tag press wouldn’t punch through.

2. An assortment of watercolors in whatever colors you want. I picked turquoise, mauve, sap green, vermillion, gold, and a palette of glittery kids paints.

3. Watercolor brushes. A good selection would include a large mop or sumi-e brush as well as a smaller round brush.

4. Lots of water and paper towels. Perhaps a sheet or kraft paper to work on top of.

5. Glitter. I used an ultra fine gold

6. Mod podge and small foam brush

7. Tag Punch

8. Twine

9. Scissors

10. water jars or cups

11. One hole punch that will allow the twine to pass through

 

TECHNIQUES:

1. Messy Abstract

This is kind of the anything goes (including the kitchen sink) technique! I told my students not to fear messing up, because you CAN’T mess up here! The beauty of punching out small swatches of paint and pattern here is that it’s very forgiving- as long as you don’t overdo it, you’ll end up with some lovely swirls of color!

We used several techniques to achieve our sheet of abstract paper: wet-in-wet, splatter, drip, and salting.

GRACE’S TIP #1 : tape your paper down!!! Or at least the corners – this gets wet really quickly and the page tends to buckle!

Instructions:

1. Wet the paper with clean water using the large brush. Make sure the paper is glistening but there are no huge puddles of water.

2. Load the same brush with pigment and lay down that color on the paper. Notice how the color swirls when it touches the wet page.

3. Wash out the brush with clean water in your jar and use it to pick up another color. Lay this color down on the paper as well. The two colors will mix in beautiful ways. Make sure to leave white space on the page as well for textural interest.

4. Splatter and/or drip paint onto the paper as well. Basically, get paint on paper however you feel inspired.

5. Finally, when you are satisfied with the color patterns, and while the paper is still moist, sprinkle some large-grained salt on the page and set the whole thing aside to dry.

 

2. REPEATING PATTERN

This is another simple and loose technique, where you make repeating motifs all over the page. I chose bright green leaves and stems with little red berry dots – in keeping with the Holiday theme.

Grace’s Tip #2 : To add brightness and overall visual interest in your final tags, make sure you leave a lot of white spaces in your pattern. 

Set aside to dry.

 

3. DIP DYE

For this technique, you need to punch out some tags first.

1 Fill a shallow bowl or cup with a thin paint mixture (pain diluted with water to a saturation that pleases you)

2. Dunk the tag into the paint to a height of about 1/2 to 3/4 way up. Do this quickly.

3. Set aside to dry

Grace’s Tip #3: If you can rig up a little “clothesline”, you can clip the tags onto the string to dry, since both sides have paint on them.

 

Punch out the pages you left to dry in techniques 1 and 2 and voila! Gift tags for all your presents this year!

 

Optional embellishments:

Glitter : Add a strip of Mod Podge to the bottom of the tags and sprinkle with glitter.

Paint Pens: use white gel or paint pens to put tiny dots on the tags to simulate snow

 

After the class, I sent home the students with little kraft sleeves full of their creations, along with some bakers twine:

Here are some of the beautiful tags that the workshop participants made. If you make some tags of your own, I’d love to see your work – share them on Instagram with the hashtag #gracerajendranworkshops :

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide: Self Improvement Books

I’m on a constant journey to improve myself so I can’t ever walk past the Self Help section without taking a peek at all of the latest books! Here are some that caught my eye this year

1. SIDE HUSTLE – Chris Guillebeau

We all dream of making a living while living our dream – whether that’s being a full time artist , opening up your own food truck, or spending more time at home with your family – but for most of us, the cold hard fact is that we just don’t make enough (or have enough saved) to be able to quit our jobs. Enter Chris Guillebeau with his wise and easy-to-follow guide to increasing your revenue stream : SIDE HUSTLE. While the added income is not bad at all, the most important things a Side Hustle can bring you are job security and improved options. I got to work a book event with Chris when he came to my store this year and it was packed – a good indication that he knows what he’s talking about!

What I loved a great deal about this book is the layout – when you’re busy with life, work, AND  side hustling, you really don’t have time to sift through large books of esoteric information. Chris writes in a very accessible, well-formatted way, offering step-by-step guidance on how to launch and make money from your side hustle in a month. A MONTH!! Now, I think, that if this is truly your dream, you can devote one little month to giving it a shot. A great book for just about anyone – we all have dreams AND need more money! – and a wonderful book for those starting to make their new year’s resolutions and plans.

2. IKIGAI – Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

I love staying busy! On any given day, you’ll probably find me working on at least three different projects, and writing lists and plans for even more in the future. This intentional work and purpose brings me joy and feeds my mind and soul. So, imagine my thrill when I saw this exquisitely lovely little book tucked into the Self Help section at my book store!

The New York Post has said:
“If hygge is the art of doing nothing, ikigai is the art of doing something—and doing it with supreme focus and joy.”

This book is based on research on the residents of a Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100 year olds and how they found the ikigai – the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect-that brings joys to their lives. When you find what you love, you have a reason to get up every morning and you never want to retire from your job. Now, who wouldn’t want to live that way! Start off the new year by using this book to find your OWN ikigai – and make 2018 the year

3. WAYS OF SEEING by John Berger

This book is technically not coded for Self Help (it’s in Art Criticism) but I’ve included it in my list because it WILL change your perception of the world and hence, change your life. It’s not a really book either but we studied it in my book club a few months ago and I really got to know it well!

John Berger’s classic, based on a BBC series from the 70s, will open your eyes to the subtle nuances and inherent implications of art and other visual imagery, such as ads. Little things like how the figures are posed in the painting or photo to the environment they are placed in all come together to , excuse the pun, create a larger, deeper picture. This book makes you think and question things. And that is always a good thing.

4. A BOOK THAT TAKES ITS TIME from FLOW magazine

I adore Flow and it’s one of the few magazines that I get make sure to get every issue of. It’s beautiful to look at, inspiring, and full of great advice on living a more creative and mindful life. This book of theirs is no different! Full of activities, illustrations, and tips to help you slow down, reclaim your life, and focus on the simple joys. You can learn calligraphy, create a collage, even use the postcards they include to send snail mail. The perfect book for the artists and journal keepers in your life – and pretty much anyone who wants to start a creative habit and live intentionally in the new year.

Notes From My “Holiday Books” Talk

I was part of a group of five booksellers who spoke at our Holiday Book Talk this evening at the bookstore. Since I’m currently doing a series on great literary gift ideas, I thought I would share my picks from tonight!

1. THE SECRET LIVES OF COLOR by Kassia St. Clair

This beautifully-presented book tells the stories and history of over 70 shades of color – from the white that protected against the plague to how shocking pink came to be called “shocking”. This is the perfect book for the artist on your list who is interested in the symbolism of the hues in her palette, the history buff who is intrigued by how color, politics, and sociology influence each other , or even perhaps the science lover who is interested in discovering the origin and chemical composition of the colors we take for granted daily.

2. BIRDMANIA by Bernd Brunner

I had the pleasure of hosting our recent event with the author and after hearing him speak about it, I can say that this is truly a book for the bird lover on your list. The beautiful full color illustrations are a visual feast and while you may be tempted to ask yourself whether the world needs yet another bird book – I am here to tell you YES, it certainly does! Because this book is not only about the birds but is unique in that it tells the fascinating, humorous, and sometimes even slightly disturbing stories of the passionate ornithologists – amateur or not- throughout history. Lovely tales such as that of a loyal friendship between a woman and a lyre bird as well as rather odd ones such as the story of George Archibald, who performed mating dances for an endangered whooping crane to encourage her to lay and Mervyn Shorthouse, who posed as a wheelchair-bound invalid to steal an estimated ten thousand eggs from a Natural History Museum.

3. WHERE THE ANIMALS GO: Tracking Wildlife With Technology In 50 Maps And Graphics

This is also full of wonderful illustrations and packed with maps, charts, and information. Hence it would be the perfect book for pre-teens to grandparents! Where the Animals Go is the first book to offer a comprehensive, data-driven portrait of how creatures from ants to hawks to sharks navigate the world. Based on pioneering research by scientists at the forefront of the animal-tracking revolution these stunning, four-color charts and maps tell fascinating stories of animal behavior, such as how baboons make decisions and what storks like to snack on.
It’s the perfect book for nature lovers, conservationists, and even those tech-obsessed friends and family on your gift list.

4. LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES by Sara Rich And Wendy MacNaughton

It’s hard picking gifts out for foodies sometimes. They usually buy all of the latest cookbooks and gadgets for themselves. However, LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES is more than just a cookbook – it combines graphic design with food in a fun, unique, and gorgeous way!  Sarah Rich and Wendy MacNaughton discovered a painted manuscript of recipes at an antique book fair that they immediately fell in love with. Completed in 1945, this stunning collection by one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century, Cipe Pineles, is like a scrapbook of her childhood’s Eastern European food.

Filled with beautiful illustrations, recipes, and letters, this book is perfect for lovers of design, fashion, history (especially mid-century ) , memoir, and , of course, food,

5. IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life
By Hector Garcia

What would the end of the year be without resolutions and promises to live a better life in the new year. This lovely little book is perfect for those interested in that or looking for an alternative to the Hygge trend of the past couple of years.
As the NY Post puts it : If hygge is the art of doing nothing, ikigai is the art of doing something with supreme focus. It’s the place where passion, mission, and profession intersect and is a wonderful and meaningful gift to pass on to friends and family this season.

6. My final book is SEATTLE WALKS by local author, David Williams.
This book practically sells itself so I don’t need to say much about it but if you’re looking for another great gift to start the new year off right, this would be a good one. In Seattle Walks, David Williams weaves together the history, nature, and architecture of Seattle and recommends walks that take the reader on a wondrous, unexpected tour of a city that you may think you already know everything about. A great gift for the outdoorsy types on your list, architecture and history buffs, and for families looking to find ways to spend time together in the new year.

Holiday Gift Guide: Gorgeous Art Books of 2017

It was very difficult to narrow down my favorite art books of the year to just four picks. Really, really difficult! Books about art are my very real weakness and there have definitely been more than four that I bought and loved this year. However upon deep deliberation, these four stood out in their uniqueness and beauty. Briefly, however, here are my picks for Gorgeous Art Books Of 2017:

1. The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St.Clair.

Colors have so much power and symbolism behind them and when, in this stunning book, you discover their unique, and sometimes strange histories – like the white that protected against the plague – you won’t look at your paint palette the same again. I think it’s very important for people who work with color to understand that particular tool and element of their trade. This book also works as the perfect gift for the history buff who is intrigued by the interplay between color and politics, or even the science lover who is interested in the origin and chemical composition of the colors we take for granted today.

2. 365 Days of Art by Lorna Scobie.

When this book was released, I had just made my recurring- and quite optimistic vow- to stop buying more art inspiration/prompt books. Heaven knows that I have more than enough art I’m working on myself to keep me more than busy. And, while it’s true that, like with coloring books, I never actually work in the books, I do love them for their beautiful Illustrations and consider them art monographs in a way. Lorna’s lovely art is fun and vibrant and happy and with great prompts for every day of the year, even if you just look to it for inspiration, it’s a wonderful way to start the new year off on a good artistic foot.

 

3. This Truck Has Got To Be Special by Anjum Rana, illustrated and designed by Hakeem Nawaz, Amer Khan, and Sameer Kulavoor

My family is from India and my color and design sensibilities definitely draw inspiration from that vibrant subcontinent. Whatever CAN be decorated WILL be decorated! Including something as industrial and utilitarian as a truck! Google Indian (and, in the case of this book, Pakistani) trucks and you will see some gorgeous specimens! Told in a narrative format, this art/picture book tells the story of a Pakistani truck driver who had finally acquired a truck of his own and wants to make it a work of art! As the artist he commissioned begins working on the truck, the driver reminisces about all of the journeys he’s been on. You will just get lost in the stunning and intricate (and colorful!!) illustrations and, although this book is certainly perfect for kids, I think adults will appreciate it perfectly and that’s why I included it in this section.

 

4. In The Garden Of My Dreams: The Art of Nathalie Lete

For me, this book was love at first touch! Yes, TOUCH! The cover is a soft, PADDED, shiny sky blue!!! Once you stop pawing at it and actually open it up, you will enter the dreamy wonderland of Nathalie’s pop/folk art imagination. Lots of inspiration and beauty – a contained burst of joy on your book shelf, art desk, or coffee table.

And there you have it! My art recommendations for 2017. I hope you check these out for yourself. And, if you have any recommendations for me – what art books did you lose yourself on this year – please let me know in the comments.

Next week, I will be rounding up my Self Improvement selections for the year.

 

 

 

Pretty Things Holiday Edition: University Bookstore

I just adore Christmas – to me, it truly IS The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! All of the beautiful colors, the glitter, the inherent joy in every little object. That’s why I’m doing a weekly Holiday Round-Up of Pretty Things I see at the various stores I frequent.

Here at University Bookstore, the theme seems to be whimsical, glittery pastels! Which is pretty much my theme for the entire year anyway so I’m blissfully taken by all of it!

Here are my the top four things on my wishlist:

1. SPARKLY, GLITTER STOCKING!!!! Ummm, where have you been all my life?!

2. WHIMSICAL ANIMAL ORNAMENT

I got a similar one a couple of years ago that featured a glittery pink Eiffel Tower and I absolutely treasure it! I like Christmas stuff that I can use all year round and that ornament has a permanent place on my bookshelf. These two little guys are going to join it!! Firstly, I can’t resist foxes and much less, a fox with a golden tail, and secondly – how sweet is this little alpaca! And check out the festive tassels!!

3. CHAMPAGNE FIR TREE

I love the color (a soft champagne gold) and the subtle sparkle (of course I do!!) of this very lovely little tree. And probably one of the best shapes for a Christmas tree I’ve seen around – that wide base adds a lot of dimensional charm.

4. PRECIOUS LITTLE PASTEL VILLAGES

These folksy little houses are sweet and lovely and just oh so Christmas-y. I swear I hear carols every time I look at them! And that delicate shade of rosy pink!!

 

Book Review: Eruption

“A natural disaster is not a disaster until it becomes a human disaster; otherwise, in the minds of most people, it is a mere spectacle.”

This is one of my favorite lines from Steve Olson’s 2016 book, ERUPTION: The Untold Story Of Mount St. Helens. It perfectly sets the tone for the entire narrative : an honest and humanistic telling of the events of 1980. No one was prepared for what happened – the eruption was one of the largest in American history, killed 57 people and caused over a billion dollars in damage.

ERUPTION is coded as Science and the strikingly beautiful cover – featuring an erupting Mount St. Helens – only hints at the depths the book goes into while telling the tale of this dramatic natural disaster. You think you’re going to learn about the geology of volcanoes – and you certainly do – but the book is much more than that : a sympathetic tribute to the humans who found their lives intertwined with Nature in a powerful, life-altering way that fateful summer.

Olson is a master at weaving these stories through the narrative in a way that is easy and uncontrived. We learn about the science teams, the logging industry, and the local residents who were all major players in what transpired during those months and trace the final days of those who perished. We discover how decisions made even decades ago influenced the events of that day – of all the economic and political factors that shaped the fates of the victims.

I can’t recommend this book enough! It was a sweeping, cinematic look back at an important time in our nation’s history and Olson helped put everything into a larger context, interweaving personal tales with politics and capitalism in a moving and evocative way. It’s a great book for those interested in Natural History, Conservation, or the Pacific Northwest.

DIY Fiesta Nails

This nail design is as simple as it is fun!! The perfect antidote to gloomy, grey weather since it evokes the bright colors and energy of a tropical party and the beautiful confetti that sparkles and sprinkles out of piñatas.

Even more importantly, it is very easy to recreate by yourself- without anyone helping you paint the nails on your dominant hand- and all you need are two colors and, of course, a topcoat.

For your base color, pick a vibrant, fun, bright – I chose a hot pink from Republic Nail’s Frida Kahlo collection. For your accent color, any confetti-style polish in a clear foundation will be perfect. I wanted a multi-color, metallic confetti in Latin-inspired jewel tones so I picked Craze by LA Colors.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Lay down two coats of your first, base color. Let dry between coats.

2. Once this is dry, add the confetti polish to the tips of your nails. If you’re having difficulty getting enough of the confetti on, pour the polish into a shallow, disposable dish and use a toothpick to grab and apply the little dots.

3. Let dry and then add a coat or two of Top Coat

Enjoy your fun and happy new nails!!

 

 

3 Step Leopard Nails

I’ve been growing my nails out for the past couple of months and have been having a lot of fun playing with nail art. Since I have to paint both hands myself, I need to keep the designs simple so here’s my latest – one of my favorite patterns of all time – leopard!!

There are only 3 steps and you only need 3 nail polish colors.

TOOLS AND SUPPLIES:

1. A light colored base coat – I used Wisp, by Sinful Colors

2. A darker color for the inside of the spots – I used Tan Lines, again from Sinful Colors

3. A clear topcoat

4. A black, round tip nail art pen.

5. A wooden toothpick

 

STEPS:

1. Lay down your base color. Let fully dry.

2. Using the toothpick to pick up little dabs of the second color, make little flat circles on your base color . Let these dry fully as well.

3. Make the characteristic black border around the spots with your black paint pen. Once this is dry, seal with the clear topcoat.

Oh wait! There IS one more step: impress everyone with your gorgeous manicure!! 😄

I hope you try it for yourself! If you do, share your pics with me on Instagram using the hashtag, #gracerajendranworkshops

Remember, most of all, to have fun!

 

Little Things Got You Down? : Or The Power Of Perspective

My morning started off in a rather – no, VERY – irritating fashion. Not feeling well, I wanted to stay in bed until the last possible moment. My cat wanted to create a ruckus until I got up to play. She won – as my apartment walls are thin and I didn’t want to punish my neighbors as well.

This, I could have dealt with. My bathroom overflowing in a horrible manner and forming one of the Great Lakes – I just could NOT deal with. This badly-behaving bathroom only tends to do this when I’m on my way to work too! Many, many towels and a few choice words later, while I was in the middle of a WHY ME???? tirade, I stopped to reflect.

What am I gaining from this foul temper? The answer – just a bad mood all day – wasn’t pleasing or acceptable to me. It wasn’t helping now and it certainly won’t help later because I’ve set myself up with the mindset that every little thing today will just bother me more and more.  That’s the way irritating Little Things are. I read once that tiny constant annoyances are worse for our stress levels than dealing with one big thing. Maybe because the tension from those small things keeps building up since we think they’re actually too silly to deal with properly.

Back to this morning. It’s been a very busy, harried few months, both at work and at home, so I know that I’m more irritable now than I normally would be. Rushing around tends to do that to people. So, my mood was understandable but it still wasn’t doing me any good.

While I was squeezing the water out of the fourth towel, I thought back to a conversation I had last night about the horrible and heartbreaking homelessness  problem in this city. That jolted me into perspective really quickly.

And I repeat – this advice is for all the little things that bug you in your day, not for major illness or loss. For those, a grieving process is necessary and essential. In my minor case, I just STOPPED that flow of negative thinking, took a breath, and reversed that negative trajectory I was on.

Instead of listing all of the bad things, I thought about all of the things I was grateful for. A simple switch of words.

Horrible plumbing? Well at least I HAVE a bathroom.

Can’t sleep in? At least I HAVE a cat that can’t get enough of me.

Stressing over missing my bus to work? Well, at least I HAVE a job.

Sounds too easy – and somewhat too much of a cliche – to work. But you know what, it really did! And my dark mood lifted, I feel more optimistic about the day, and here I am, writing this post!

With the Holidays upon us, we are all going to start feeling extremely frazzled and rushed. Our fuses, quite naturally, are going to be short. When you start feeling like things are rapidly  going downhill:

1. Pause

2. Breathe

3. Reverse