Thursday, December 22, 2011

I am

I am

To thine own self be true, they say.  I am having so much fun on Polyvore! It's important for artists to explore all sides of their creative selves. I started out my design journey by wanting to be a fashion designer, and this site lets me enjoy fashion design as something of a late night hobby. 
Have you tried yet?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Patina and Rust

via flickr

I'm so excited! I am going another show, this time in my home town of Jefferson City, MO.
A friend of mine owns this amazing little wine bar/ lunch cafe on High Street called Capital City Cork an Provisions.
One of their 'things',aside from fine wine and good clean food, is that they have a revolving collection of featured artists.
'Cork' has this amazing copper tile ceiling, and exposed brick walls and a definite vintage feel. ( Photo below courtesy of Dana Bryan).

The interior designer in me wants to make sure that my work makes sense in the space, looks like it was created just for there, while the artist in me just wants to make great art!

I am really interested in working with chemical reactions, like rust and other types of patinas. Because my main goal in any of my work is to create wonder, I am going to focus primarily on rust and patina finishes for this show.

I've found some inspiring work and an entire website dedicated to rust painting! Who knew!?

The A #1 most popular painting that I have ever created is this one, which sold right away. You can't tell from the photo, but it has a lot of metallic gold behind it which gives the whole painting an inner light.
Everyone that sees my work, asks about this painting and I probably could have sold 10 more by now. I am sure to have another version of this one ready for the Cork show. It won't be the same, I would never exactly duplicate my own work, nor could I, since this is a chemical reaction.

For my next show, I want a bolder use of color.
More like this painting I created for the last show.

At my last show, the art was arranged on a 'pastel/neutral' wall, so the look was soft and pretty. Cork has a storefront and I want my work to grab the attention and imagination of passersby.

Here is my friend Audrey McFadden's work on the walls at Cork. I love the way her colors just jump off the wall. Good job Audrey! To view or purchase her work, click here  :Studio Audrey on etsy.

Here's what's inspiring me now.

(artist unknown)

via flickr
Rusted door by Anne Raine

I found this artist, Willie Little, and I am in love....
via Willie Little

Check out his website, it is sooooo inspiring. I am particularly interested in this gallery 'oxidization paintings'.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Snobbery on a budget

I admit it. I'm a holiday decor snob. I like to DESIGN my Christmas displays, and I spend way too much money on silly things like glitter covered coiled wire. Last year for Christmas, the girls were with their dad in Denver, so I didn't even put up a tree. This year it's my year and we are going all out! But we are on a budget, so much of our Christmas snobbery will have to be hand crafted.
Here are some great ideas I've found....

You might think that being a professional artist and designer that I would MAKE many of my Christmas gifts. Oh no, not so. I recognize that not everyone is a fan of my brand. And I also used to be married to the son of a crafter, so I know all too well that gut twisting feeling of opening up a gift that you know someone spent so much time on, and at the same time trying not to cry at something so completely 'not me'.
On the other hand, I also admit to be a terrible gift giver, so gift cards are my way of saying 'i love you, but i ya go...go shopping. ' I found this darling way to give a gift card, that removes some of the guilt, and looks great too! (via

I have 4 extremely sentimental daughters who have each been given at least one ornament a year for every year of their lives. Some of them involve plastic canvas. And pony beads. But they also have bunches of really unusual and fun ornaments too. They love them, I love them, so I must use them and display them on the 'kids' tree, which I usually place in the fun half of the house...the kitchen/sunroom/dining room. Since it's kind of a historic mishmash of things...I tie it all together with handmade garland and gigantic handmade paper flowers.

I love this idea for making garland out of strips of fabric. The girls can sit and do this while they watch Law & Order.

I think we will create this version, tying the strips directly to the Christmas lights. 2 birds, 1 stone! (via That blog has tons of cute ideas!

For myself, I decorate a tree in the living room that is usually based around a particular color combination. For years it was red and black, when the walls of my living room were 'candy apple red'. I burnt myself out on red so badly that I can hardly bear to use red anywhere anymore. Last year it was teal and orange. This year, I'm thinking it will be an ode to turquoise. (Remember my turquoise painted bookcases?) I love the simplicity of this tree. Another thing I do, which some of those nearest and dearest to me think it just CRAY-CRAY is that I wrap all my gifts to match my decor. It's not any more costly and the gifts look amazing under the tree, waiting to be ripped in to!

I would love to do a flocked tree this year. I have seen spray cans of flocking, but have never tried it. I'm thinking this may be the year!

Okay, okay, now for the inspirational piece de resistance...I found this blog posting at It is as though the designer of this tablescape was inside my head! I love everything, and am completely inspired by this room. The designer is Tori of Sitting in a Tree Events and captured perfectly by Joielala Photographie out of San Diego. When you look at this 'scape as a whole, you might think big bucks, but when we take a closer look, there are tons of budget ideas here!

Little gold binder clips! Who would have thought? I am recreating these confetti filled ornaments, but using a combination of Martha Stewart large flake glitter, and hand made confetti. (Hole punch to the rescue!)

While these stockings are amazing and probably expensive, the garland is just a quadrupled strand of yarn and twine! Tres chic! I also like the 'tag garland' made out of scrap booking paper.

Here's my snowball's actually just yarn that I bought for 4.99 for a skein. I draped it and looped it between my sunroom and dining room and had enough left over to make bows on some of my presents.

I like the idea of using food for display purposes. These s'mores are adorable and ready to pop into the microwave for a fun after school treat.
The classic 'I'm a cheapskate' flower, the carnation, looks awesome in bright fuschia in a row of single bud vases. You could use a combination of recycled glass, like my favorite ,the Starbucks Frappuccino bottle.

Christmas doesn't have to be expensive, in fact I think being forced to get creative with materials you have on hand makes for more unique and interesting concepts. I can't wait to get started!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Hello! This hotel is gorgeous!

This past holiday weekend, Mike and I slept in 4 different places in 4 days. Our compensation for night # 3..... was night #4. Poor Mike, on night # 3, fixing the running toilet in the Super 8 with a plastic bag over his hand because he was soooo heebed out! Thankfully, the Hilton was just as lovely as the Super 8 was skanky. With the running toilet, the brillo pad of a blanket and the 9000 slamming doors in the hallway a distant memory....we enjoyed every corner of well appointed and comfortable hotel.
I am usually not a fan of 'theme' decorating...but being located directly across the street from Lambert Airport, a "TWA through the years" theme seemed apropos.

On each floor of guest rooms, there are framed photos of celebrities (mostly 40s and 50s) deplaning. I found Kim Kardashian's inspiration....although I think Maria Callas does it better!

The 'aeronautical' theme was carried throughout,although subtly in some cases, as in these lights over the lobby bar. ( And not so subtly, as in the photos of the 'ugly' side of Lambert Airport in our suite.)

Speaking of lighting, this Hilton was all about it. Most of the decor just whispered, whereas the lighting shouted from the rooftops "Look at me, I'm fabulous!"

Here in the main lobby.... (giant drum shades and blue neon)

In the ballroom lobby.... (mercury glass)

near the elevators ( stacked ball chandelier)

and in the wine bar (repetition on wood panels).
The lighting everywhere was great, even in the bathrooms and weight room.

The other predominant 'theme' in the lobby of this hotel was the use of white as an accent.
These ceramic sculptural plates behind the check in desk were inspiring yet soothing. White makes everything seem pure and clean ( so needed after night # 3!).

White flowers on a elliptical, marble topped and quite masculine looking table. I believe these are Amaryllis, a beautiful winter bloom.

I loved these gigantic white urns, which were in several places in the hotel. Here they create a screen between the Lobby and the Restaurant.

Small touches on an end table....if they weren't glued down....

Most of the art was vintage TWA propaganda, however there were a few abstract paintings that I loved, although mainly in hidden places.
In a back hallway to the ballrooms...
...entrance to the women's restroom! I love how this painting picked up the chunkiness of the pattern in the carpet.

This hotel was very 'me' on many levels with the mix of silver and gold, the white accents, the Venetian glass mirrors, the abstract art and vintage travel posters....I wish I would have designed it.
Please, somebody! Give me a hotel to design!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Notes on an art show

This last weekend was my first 'official' art showing (self produced, but official none-the-less). My good friend Wanda Timmons and I teamed up to put on this show and we held it at her studio, which is huge, and has beautiful walls. We called it "Hollywood to Highpoint...Avenue of Art and Design". Why? Well, I like to think my work is kind of like a fun party....and her furniture is of such high quality, that it rivals anything at the furniture markets in High Point. Both of us would have liked to have had a ton more time to prepare, but at some point you just have to go for it and put yourself out there.
My custom canvas work has been seen in the homes of my clients for years, but this was the first time I just created a bunch of art that I like and put it out there, hoping people would 1. like it too and 2. buy it. I'm pretty happy with the results. I talked to a lot of people (about more custom work) and sold a decent amount of art. I really enjoyed talking to people about my work and hearing the nice things they had to say, since my local arts' council called my work 'bland and predictable' back in June,I've been a little worried about it. Being a decorative artist, I have the unique perspective of being in the creme d'la creme of homes in my area. I KNOW what people what to hang on their walls, and it's usually not the disturbed, freaky, tense and angry stuff that isn' or predictable.
I wanted to create art that I knew would sell, but would also be soulful and have a story to tell, and still, be true to who I am as an artist.

This piece seemed to have been the favorite, and received the most feedback.
I sold it to one of my existing clients, and when I delivered it, I got to see it in its home, which made me so happy to see that it looked like it was designed to go there!
I created this painting, and its companion as somewhat of an afterthought. I love creating patinas and corrosion and things of that sort in my faux work, and just thought it would translate nicely to a canvas. Seems like maybe I should just stick with what I know. The 'fauxy' looking work is what was the most well received.

The companion piece to "Riveting" is "Rustic Landscape". It's the closest thing to realism that I created.
Here's another rust painting I created titled 'Patina'. This piece is the combination of a lot of highly metallic powders and paints, plus an authentic rust creating chemical process. It seemed to be still evolving over the two day show, which was highly amusing to the neat little candy man whose booth was set up right in front of it.

For this first show, I created two 'collections' to help keep me focused in my creating. The biggest collection was the "Memoirs" Collection, which featured soft, wispy images, rust, old book pages, stained cloth and other crusty, cracky kind of things. Here are a few pieces from that collection.

Bird on a Wire


Don't Fence Me In


This is a huge painting and was also one of the favorites. It has embedded book pages and lots of texture. A friend of mine approached me about recreating this for her family with her kids' birth certificates instead of book pages. I really enjoyed hearing ideas from people. Another couple asked me if I could recreate one of my tiny collages on a large scale with family photos.

The other collection I created had a working title of "Big Top". I personally am drawn to bold and bright things, with lots of black and white stripes and dots and humorous elements. I spent the most time on these works, although they are the smallest. Most of them were inspired by events in my own life, and creating these works brought me a tremendous amount of joy. I sold most of these, and I'm not sure if it was the price point, or the content. It will be interesting to see in May when we do another showing.

Some pieces in the ' Big Top' Collection.

Stick/Ball set on a silk strie' wall. I didn't know I would be hanging these there beforehand, turns out they looked AMAZING there!

A little 'red' corner in the shop

When I loaded up my work to take it to Wanda's shop, I thought I had soooo much to show. I had about 33 pieces in a variety of sizes. When I merchandised them, I though oh crud...I could really have about twice as much. But I'm not a factory, I'm an artist. Every piece I ended up showing I was really proud of and every piece I sold I was happy to let go of.

All in all, was it worth it? Well, yes....for the amount of exposure I got , the number of people who walked out of there with my card in their hand, the conversations about potential custom work, and just the feedback from the generous folks who came out to look and see what we were doing.
I'd have liked to have sold a few more of the big pieces, but I have to remember the time of year it is, and the economy we are experiencing, and the fact we were competing with the Christmas Parade, and an Illini game.. Plus, in this new world of 'fine art' , I am an upstart. A nobody. It's humbling to start a new venture like this. Hopefully, I'm just a nobody...for now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dancing Palms Painting

So I've been invited to teach an Abstract Paint Techniques class at an upcoming Decorative Arts Convention in January. It's in January, in Naples Florida...where it will be sunny and beachy and delicious.
For some reason, I have a very hard time with 'tropical' design. Living in the midwest, most 'tropical' stuff I find is cheesy and looks like it's straight off the shelf at Hobby Lobby. (Not that Hobby Lobby is bad, mind you....)
You would think the prospect of sunny, beachy deliciousness would uncork the mental blockage that surrounded this piece of art! I started it MONTHS ago....and didn't love it until rather recently. The color scheme is black,teal, eggplant, silver and 2 shades of gold. Once I changed the color scheme from bronze and red and gold, the painting just came to life. In class, we will discuss some ways to get the creative juices flowing and what to do if you get stuck.

Now, I'm super excited about it, and the trip to Naples, and I hope that lots of artists sign up for my class!
Here's the link! Open Decor Faux Show 2011

Scroll down to the "Dancing Palms" class with Elizabeth VanHoutan

If you have any questions about this class, you may email me at

Detail of raised dots and palm leaves

In this 'workshop' style class, we will not only create a painting on canvas ( your canvas will not have wooden stretcher bars), but we will create mini samples of other techniques that you can use when you go on a consultation for a custom piece of work.

You do not need to have any kind of realism skills to create this type of artwork. Most of the work I create and sell relies heavily on layers of shapes and colors and interesting composition.

See that funky sunburst in the corner? That's one of my FAVORITE images, which...I am not ashamed to admit, is applied by using a stencil. In fact, for this piece we will use several stencils, including a crocodile skin pattern and some other circular designs.
If you are looking for a great way to get off the ladders, expand your business, and have a fun weekend in the sun....check out the Open Decor show! Hope to see you there.