this joy + ride: issue 70

We're most delightfully pleased that Jonathan is featured in this joy +ride issue 70 today. this joy + ride is an elegant compendium of art, designers, photographers, poets and other creative folk, published twice per month by shari and sheri. What's awesome about today's edition is that it features the illustrations from STUFF, a new picture book that Jonathan worked on all summer. I've been dying to show you illustrations of this project for months, but I kept it under wraps so this joy + ride could feature it first. So, here's one illustration to enjoy. Hop over to this joy + ride for the rest!

An illustration of the children's picture book STUFF by Jonathan Fenske
An illustration of the children's picture book STUFF by Jonathan Fenske

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For Better, For Worse; In Art, In Writing

Jonathan is really, really supportive of my writing. He's given me time, space, encouragement and the occasional dry-your-eyes pep talk our entire marriage concerning my writing dreams. That's why my two novels are both dedicated to him. Without my husband, they would not exist. I mean that most sincerely.

We usually work on separate projects but over the past few years, we've melded our artistic brains together on occasion. Fat and Appy Modern Art for Children is probably the biggest effort. But we also joined forces for my middle grade manuscript, MAGICAL RAINTREE DAUGHTERS.

Our newest project is a picture book---my first one ever! I thought ideas for picture books only flowed to one Fenske in the house, but a story popped into my head this summer. I was kind of shocked. Then, I wrote it down. Pages and pages overflowing from my pen. I handed it to Jonathan, sure he would connect with the text and bow low before me. (Just kidding on that last part.)

Illustration by children's book illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a boy jumping on a couch.
Illustration by children's book illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a boy jumping on a couch.

He read it right away and then handed it back, saying kindly that I needed to get it down under 300 words. In other words, I needed to slash oodles and oodles of text. Words. Phrases. Helpful adjectives. You know, my stuff. 

Jonathan was completely correct. So I edited. Cut. Cut some more. Argued over word choice with Jonathan. Described some illustrations to him. Daydreamed about others that might come into shape once he started drawing.

It's still a work in progress, but Jonathan has given me a rough illustration style he's going for to match the sparse (now 199 words!!) text and the (I hope) evocative feeling of the story.

More details later. But I wanted to post this illustration because, to me, it represents love and dreams.

Purple Man, King of the Suburbs

Do you have sign spinners where you live? You know, those people who twirl signs at street corners advertising local businesses. Jonathan and I had never seen so many until we moved to Colorado. They are everywhere: signs flipping and spinning, earbuds shoved in ears, jug of drinking water on the ground nearby. The BEST sign spinner worked the street in front of the Thornton Fazolis a few years ago. Our eldest daughter dubbed him "Purple Man." He was majestic: animated sign style, flowing cape, masked face. This is no overstatement: Purple Man rocked the 'burbs.

One day, we pulled over. You might say we were compelled to. Who was this guy? Jonathan asked him if we could take a picture and we expressed our sincere admiration. THIS IS WHY THE WORLD IS AWESOME. Of course, Purple Man posed for us.

Later, Jonathan made this illustration. Purple Man, wherever you may roam, we salute you.

An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a sign spinning Purple Man
An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a sign spinning Purple Man

Thanks for visiting I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske. If you like Jonathan's illustrations, you can see more at www.jonathanfenske.com

Hatched to Run

Jonathan just finished an illustration for the Westgate Community School "Run Wild" 5K that will be held in September. The school has begun to work with chickens, starting with tiny chicks that lived inside until they were able to make it on their own in their brand-new chicken coop.

Look carefully: do you see the prosthetic leg on the chicken? That's a tribute to one of the Westgate chickens who apparently had a leg amputated. Brave chick.

An illustration of a chicken running by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
An illustration of a chicken running by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Girl Nursery + Guest Room Budget Makeover

I redid this room a few months ago, but I could never get really good pictures, so I put off writing about it. I still don't have great snaps (sorry!), so I'm just going to throw it out there. Ya'll are crazy understanding and super supportive, so I think it will be okay. Let's dive in! Here is what we were dealing with: a combination guest room with queen bed and nursery space + crib for our third daughter. (Third kids don't get fancy nurseries....life IS unfair, I know.) We had the green wall color for about six years and I was over it. I had replaced the duvet cover with a Target sale duvet cover but it really wasn't the right choice. It was high time for a redo...something that our little girl could grow into when the crib was removed and she would sleep in the big bed.

Nursery_Guest-Makeover
Nursery_Guest-Makeover

I usually start with a color "feeling" and in this case, I wanted strong, intense colors like aqua, raspberry and perhaps yellow. But in recent years, I have been dialing back the saturated wall colors in favor of more neutral tones. (I did this with our family room makeover last summer. Gray was the word of the day.). So, I decided in this room, I would go for a neutral wall and then turn up the volume on the bed covering and the accessories.

Here is the "After":

DSC_0472
DSC_0472

I went with "Pink Cadillac" by Benjamin Moore color-matched to Valspar Ultra No VOC on the walls. This delicate paint is almost cream with a hint of pink. I love it and it gives the room a warmth that was unexpected. Jonathan painted the butterflies on the wall. I have seen a lot of 3D paper butterflies tacked onto girls' walls on Pinterest, but I have to admit that my girls are rough. They would tear down paper thingies in seconds. Plus, I figured I would be forever sticking butterflies back on the wall once the adhesive wore off. So, I asked Jonathan to paint some butterflies and he agreed. Love my man!

The art is from Michael Mabry and it's actually cover art from Land of Nod catalogs. Michael designed LoN catalogue cover art for about ten years, Google tells me. We found these beautiful, professionally framed prints in a thrift store for $10 each.

The curtains are pretty polka-dot cotton panels that we had in the linen closet from our last house. I love reusing things and it saves money!

A closeup of the modern bed with pink pillows and artwork
A closeup of the modern bed with pink pillows and artwork

The quilt coverlet (Overstock.com) really set the tone for me to jazz up the room with fun pillows and art. The monogrammed pillows are from my friend Laura's Etsy store, which she has since closed. The gray pillow is from HomeGoods and the flower and butterfly pillows are MudPuppy from Target.com.

Monogrammed by SimplySweet by Laura on Etsy
Monogrammed by SimplySweet by Laura on Etsy

I was able to add a pop of yellow color with the lampshade (Threshold from Target) which we simply affixed to an ancient Martha Stewart lamp base we have had forever. The art is from my middle daughter and is framed with a Target frame. Chair is vintage.

A picture of a nursery and guest room painted with Benjamin Moore Pink Cadillac paint color matched to Valspar No VOC
A picture of a nursery and guest room painted with Benjamin Moore Pink Cadillac paint color matched to Valspar No VOC
DSC_0490
DSC_0490

Jonathan painted the Fisher Price race car above the BabyMod crib. You can purchase a canvas print of the car on our Fat and Appy store. The rug is from Angela Adams--we have had two of them for a long time.

A picture of a Fisher Price race car by illustrator Jonathan Fenske
A picture of a Fisher Price race car by illustrator Jonathan Fenske

That's it! The room is bright, cheerful and has a young sophistication that will grow with our sweet babe. Plus, we can still host overnight guests (and the baby can bunk with us).

If you liked this post, you might enjoy the True Tale of the Millionaire's Chandelier, stuff you can decorate with for just $6 and our Family Room Makeover.

Art for Sale: Original Fenske Drawings

It's time to move art! (You know we love doing this...) Jonathan and I are making room for some new pieces on our walls, and we have a few drawings we're going to sell. As a side note: it's sometimes hard to part with favorite art. But as we tell the girls all of the time (when they want to hoard things like paper wrappers from straws): "We can't save everything."

If you are interested, please shoot me a note (jennifer AT fatandappy DOT com). Shipping is additional to the prices below.

The Little Woman,  graphite on illustration board. Image is 11"x14"; total board size is 16"x20"; 2008. $99.

Fisher Price cowboys

A drawing of a Barbie by Jonathan Fenske

An image of a vintage bear

The drawings will need a frame with glass. (We like frames at Dick Blick.) If you would like Jonathan to paint something just for you, please contact me as well for commission information. And we feature a fun line of Giclee prints of Jonathan's work (on well-made, gallery-quality canvas) at www.fatandappy.com. Prices for prints start at $99.

We also just uncrated four paintings from storage. Fun to see these beauties from a few years ago.

A painting of a red tricycle
Ride Free, 30"x24", acrylic on board, 2008.
A painting of a spring horse from a playground
Spring Chicken, acrylic on board, 18"x24, 2008.
A spring horse from a playground
Buck-A-Duck, 24x18, acrylic on board, 2008.
A painting of Legos by Jonathan Fenske
Building An Empire, 16x20, acrylic on board, 2008.

A Life at 3:42 p.m.

This afternoon, my writing was done and the house slept quietly. I even had a dinner plan that would be pretty simple (pasta, parmesan, crumbled bacon with broiled asparagus). Feeling a little creative, I decided to take some shots with my Nikon that captured the suburban experience. No posing, no cleaning, no editing. Just fast shooting in about six minutes. (And Phoenix followed me upstairs, downstairs and outside, of course.) It's been about seven months since I quit my corporate social media job and I have happily and sometimes clumsily adjusted to the rhythms of my new role that puts me at the center of the home, where I long wanted to be: wife/mother/homekeeper/small business owner/creative writer. I've learned to embrace clutter (as long as I know it can be cleaned up!); uncertainty;  the joy of creekwalking in the middle of the day; multiple kid school and babysitter pick ups; and the unbridled excitement I have to be working on a novel again.

Here is our house at 3:42 p.m. How grateful I am to God for these small moments of a simple life. (Caveat: Sometimes, it's not so simple, but today, it is.)

A silver dish of oranges

A picture of a girl's cardigan

An Australian shepherd and sleeping child

I Love Your Work Jonathan Fenske

A child's illustration

A picture of an Australian Shepherd

Buzzy Buzzy Creative Hive

Things are a little quiet on the blog lately. That's because Jonathan and I have both entered a season of writing and illustration projects. We're cranking to meet completely self-imposed deadlines for our literary pursuits. I am back at work, six days per week, on Magical Raintree Daughters, a middle grade (ages 8-12) fantasy adventure novel. I'm about halfway through with it. I'll be finished at the end of the month. I posted the first two chapters on the blog a while back. They have been revised a good bit but you can see where I am going. Here's a little hook I am working on: Cassiopeia Raintree can cheat death with her hands and feet. The middle child of three magical sisters, Cassie is a climber. But she’s always had to hide that gift until the night a smoak kidnaps and drags her to the land of the evil Aramynes. That’s when Cassie finds out the Aramynes were turned to monsters years ago…and it’s all the magical children’s fault.

Chapter_One_Dragoblin-novel-by-Jennifer-Fenske
Chapter_One_Dragoblin-novel-by-Jennifer-Fenske

I love writing again in novel form. As much as I enjoyed writing my first two novels (and publishing them..that's really fun!), writing for a middle grade audience is completely a blast. Each day, when my eldest daughter comes home from school, she reads the latest bit and tells me her thoughts and offers suggestions.

Some people have asked if I am going to post more of the book. I plan to sell it (hopefully) so at this point, I'll probably bring it back inside the studio and not post more of it for now.

Jonathan is working on a new children's picture book. He's not ready to release the title yet, so I'll just include one illustration here. I love this book and can't wait to share more with you. That hyena illustration really cracks me up. He is also excited to finish the illustrations for Poor Peter Burke (the manuscript is complete).

An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Happy Halloween from Poor Peter Burke

First off, I would like to wish a happy, happy birthday to my dear sister, Katie. I hope it's a great one. In Katie's honor, and since it's Halloween, I wanted to share with you a snippet of Poor Peter Burke, a new children's book I am working on currently. Peter Burke has some rather eccentric tastes, much to the confusion of his parents. Here's an excerpt from the manuscript and a sample illustration, below:

POOR PETER BURKE by Jonathan E. Fenske Poor Peter Burke, peculiar lad,

Began to worry Mom and Dad

When he developed little quirks

That most perturbed the elder Burkes…

 

He loved to read and loathed to gab,

And leaned a bit to the macabre

At bedtime snubbing Mother Goose

To sample Poe’s dark omnibus…

 

He had a pet, a raven that

He rescued from the neighbor’s cat

And promptly named Sir Edgar Allan

(Alas, the cat retained a talon)…

A picture of young Peter Burke and his pet raven by Colorado illustrator Jonathan Fenske

When Life Punches Your Pumpkins

Someone out there needs to read this, right now: your creative dream is worth it. We believe in you, even though it seems no one else does.  A picture of some rotting pumpkins in Colorado

What you paint or draw or write matters. It's creation, it's beauty, it's art.

The world needs what you make. Otherwise, the cesspool that is currently passing for our entertainment culture will continue to devolve. You need to fight the good fight.

So, hear these words, friend: Lift up your head and keep going. Write another page. Sketch another character. Write another verse. All of us in the creative community, we're rooting for you.

Jonathan and I know creative disappointment. People ignore our emails; editors take months to respond to proposals; often the answer to our labors of love is "no." We get it. But we keep going, and you need to, too. Even when you are exhausted and discouraged.

Take a deep breath. We recommend a good walk (Jen) or a thrashing run (Jonathan) and then get back at it----the screenplay, the novel, the poem, the picture. Your dream is so valuable to this world.

Don't hide it; keep going, dear dreamer. We're with you, all the way.

Love,

Jennifer & Jonathan

We're Jennifer and Jonathan Fenske and we write children's books and novels, and once, we made an app for iPad. We also make baby girls, with some regularity. Visit our online store for modern art for kids, FatandAppy.com. 

Fat and Appy Is Open on Etsy!

We opened Fat and Appy Modern Art at FatandAppy.com a few months ago, using the Shopify platform (which we love). But a lot of people we respect (and have successful Etsy shops themselves) nudged us to "get on Etsy." I've been shopping on Etsy forever, so it wasn't a hard sell. I just knew it would take a lot of work to load in the store, set up tags, photos and pull it all together in the "About" section. And then last week, we finally decided to take the plunge. Jonathan and I both worked hours rewriting copy, enlarging jpegs and brainstorming tags. We also launched a new design, called "Identity Crisis." It's available in four sizes, starting at $99.

Rody bouncing horse by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Our new Etsy store can be found at FatandAppyModernArt. I think it's so exciting to be in the company of thousands of creatives who are making things. I hope we can debut new products on the Etsy store or maybe even original drawings to get feedback. I've even been cooking up a 3D printer project. I have endless ideas...but I just try to take them one at a time and decide what to pursue. My notebook is full of ideas; Jonathan has a similar notebook and his is crammed with project ideas, too.

And now we can check off Etsy. Hurray!

Tomato painting by Jonathan Fenske

A fox print by illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Yeehaw Colorado painting by Jonathan Fenske

A fried egg print by Fat and Appy, designed by Jonathan Fenske

In Sketching Our Children I Find a Fleeting Freedom

It seems a fruitless task, the sketching of our children, for how can I in anyway capture adequately the beauty of the child that sits or sleeps in front of me? A sketch of a sleeping child by Jonathan Fenske

So interesting, and against my perfectionist nature, to know that my attempts will be subpar at best. But in this realization there is a release of sorts: the usual pressure to perform subsides, for these sketches will not be masterpieces, but moments thrown down to revisit at a later date, tangible proof of a special point in time after so many other points are lost to life’s too-quick passing.

A drawing of Jonathan Fenske's middle daughter

This need to capture these moments is my challenge and motivation. There are the technical aspects of course. Twenty minutes, tops, is not really much time before the daughter in front of you asks once too often “Daddy, how much longer do I have to sit still?” and you realize creation is crossing into torture for both sitter and artist.

A drawing of a child by Jonathan Fenske

The sleep sketches are even freer of predictability: five, perhaps ten minutes, the knowledge of a coming change pushing my pencil rapidly along. And then, the change made manifest with a snuffle and a roll, and deep sleep recovered in a different pose.

An infant sleeping by Jonathan Fenske

But for these small swatches of time I get to look unabashedly at my children’s faces, studying, remembering, tucking away the geometry of their features. Features I now recall when they are at school, or I am on the road. Features I hope to still recall when they leave their mother and me and stretch toward the horizon of adulthood.

Sleeping child drawing by Jonathan Fenske

As you who are parents well know, at the end of a hard day, full of sassiness and scuffles, whining and tantrums, there is a voice of despair that tells us we are underappreciated, that our failures outweigh the successes of our parenthood. Sketching my daughters is one of my releases from this voice, for as I study the peacefulness that attends their slack mouths and soft faces, I find in their letting go I am able to let go myself. Today’s slate is wiped clean. Tomorrow’s is as smooth and unlined as the calm brows of my lovely children.

Wet headed daughter sketch by Jonathan Fenske

 

A quick sketch of a sleeping baby by Jonathan Fenske

A sketch of a surprised baby by Jonathan Fenske

New Red Fox Collection Debuts at Fat and Appy

Really, really excited to tell ya'll that today, The Fox Has Landed. We're launching a new collection in our online store that offers parents modern art for children, Fat and Appy™. The new art collection is called Red Fox and the designs come from Jonathan's children's book Red Fox in a Shadowed Wood, a moody, evocative tale that's really different than what he's done before.

A fox print by Jonathan Fenske

Red Fox in a Shadowed Wood follows the adventures of a curious fox who travels homeward under the cover of night. Along the way, he encounters a lot of interesting things.

An art fox print from illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Jonathan Fenske fox art

Some of the adventures are a little scary, like the Black Car. But don't worry, {SPOILER} our adventurous fox makes it home okay! I really, really love this book. Jonathan is currently shopping it around, so hopefully we'll have great news to report soon.

We've released six designs for the Red Fox collection. Which is your favorite?

Psst: Don't forget! It's easy to save 10% at Fat and Appy when you sign up for our emails

And a Dog Comes Home

I posted the update below on my personal Facebook page yesterday. This is what we're up to this week: "There comes a time in a family when the children beg for a dog. They plead for a dog. They make posters about dogs. And the parents say "No way." And then, the parents remember how dogs can be awesome. They recall beautiful dogs named Kuchen and Kemp who graced their lives. And then the parents, who really love their children but also recall that they, too, love dogs, say "Yes." 

Introducing Phoenix Orion McGruff Mars Fenske. "Phoenix" is for the mythic bird that rose from the ashes because this dog is the spitting image of sweet, departed Kempie. "Orion" was his given name by his loving first mama. "McGruff" was Jonathan's first name choice. And "Mars" was my first choice for a name after the painter Marsden Hartley. 

It's good to fall in love again."

Meet our new sweetie:

A picture of the Fenskes new Aussie

A picture of the Fenskes new Australian Shepherd

But maybe the best part is how Phoenix has just slipped into our family like he's always been there. After about five days of watching him like a hawk (and never leaving him alone with the baby), I've relaxed and have started trusting him more. This dog has made the backyard almost magical. He's watched the girls make "bird nests," collected herbs with them and listened to endless fairytale stories told in deep green grass.

A picture of the Fenskes Australian Shepherd

It's been fun to discover again how dogs see the world. He's devoted to me, rarely leaving my side. (Phoenix is under my chair as I type.) He lives to play, run and walk which is really good for me because, too often, I put off a walk to do something "more productive." I can't do that anymore. He makes me hop up, slip on my shoes and hit the pavement. Sure, Phoenix has some naughty habits to undo (he thinks the kids are sheep, as is an Aussie's nature) but it's nothing we can't handle. Even dear, departed Kemp was a rascal when we adopted him back in the day. Given enough attention and training, Phoenix will be just fine.

Fat and Appy Modern Art for Kids on 5280.com

When I was in Racine, WI last week, I had the pleasure of talking to Daliah Singer of  5280 Magazine about Fat and Appy, our line of modern art canvas prints for kids. You can read her sweet article about our art in the 5280.com story.  She really "got"  what we are up to with our small business. I am so happy we chatted! Here's a sneak peek:

"As a mom to three daughters (ages seven, four, and 18 months), novelist Jennifer Manske Fenske knows something about decorating kids' rooms. But as the wife of an artist—and a creative woman herself—Fenske had trouble finding works to hang on the wall that felt appropriate and unique for her girls. "I believe that children really do deserve pretty art," she says. "I think that they are incredibly intelligent and that they respond to art that speaks to them.""     

Black-dog-by-Jonathan-Fenske                              

Family Room Makeover: It's An "After"

We're done with our DIY family room makeover! Well, I guess you can never say "done" because there's always something, right? We would loooove to install hardwoods one day. And we'll always arrange art around our house. And I did just order a Threshold side table on Target's "Clearance on Clearance" online sale. Target, you vixen! Anyway, we all know decorating a home is an ongoing process. This summer's project, however, has come to a close. You can get caught up on the beginning and our open shelf building and even our desk construction. Other readers will remember this is where we started in June: too much kid clutter, a green wall color I was beginning to loathe and bookshelves that were falling apart:

A family room

And here we are now. This is our "After."

A modern family room

We arranged the chairs and couch to create (we hope) a welcoming space that says, "Sit down and relax." Before, the couch faced all of the toy mess and I always felt like sitting down was something to do in a hurry, on my way to pick up a toy. I rarely ever sat on my couch (that I love!). I would despair of the kid junk, too. We don't have a toy room or spare room for kiddie flotsam. I just couldn't figure out how to fix it. And then I did.

Two orange chairs with a yellow coffee table

We ended up donating most of the baby's toy bin. Rattles and teethers were all tossed, since she's past that stage. Toys she never played with (even if I thought they were so cute or so German or so eco-friendly....all donated because if a child doesn't play with a toy, then why keep it?) After all of that purging, we were left with a basket worth of awesome baby toys. Then, we sold the bins on Craigslist. The second toy bin was curated down in the same manner, although our 4 and 7-year-olds had veto power over most of the save-toss decisions. We placed that bin in the basement and if they want a toy that they can't live without, they can go down there and get it. This has happened exactly once.

Pillows from HomeGoods

The yellow table was a surprise. I originally wanted an ottoman in front of the couch and even started a jam jar fund (when I want something that's outside the household budget, I start a glass jar with a picture of the thing I desire. I sell stuff on CL until I have enough funds.) Anyway, as the jar fund began to grow, the ottoman started looking pretty indulgent. For the cost of a well-built fabric ottoman, I could do a lot more with my decor budget. So, I shifted gears and went the coffee table route. But I wanted rounded edges, no cold stone or rough wood. I found an inexpensive Queen Anne-style coffee table for $40 on CL and then purchased about $21 in paint. I used Valspar's Oatland Daisy after I sanded the table and did some very minor repairs.

A living room makeover with Petrie sofa

The open gray shelving combined with the mid-mod dresser is definitely my favorite part of the entire room. You know how you want something to go in your head sometimes? And it hardly ever turns out that way? Well, color me happy, because this time, what I envisioned actually worked out. I hope I'm on a roll.

Modern shelves with wooden shelf brackets

I won't lie, the baby knocked over this vase of zinnias after she woke up from her nap. We do not keep anything delicate at her height. (I held back the other two girls by drawing an imaginary line behind the couch while I took pictures.) I'm just keeping it real, folks. This room does not look like this now. It won't ever look this way again. That's why there's a stack of library books in the next picture. The only thing we can keep down low are books and usually, they are strewn around the room. We don't do knick-knacks. Or balls of pretty HomeGoods twine. Or jars of sea urchin skeletons. Are you kidding me?

A vase of zinnias on a coffee table painted with Valspar Oatland Daisy

The art on this wall is work by (clockwise from top); Robert Matre, Matre Gallery, Atlanta; Near and Deer from Fat and Appy; and Katie Fenske Bridges. You can see her amazing Etsy jewelry shop here. The chair is vintage.

Jonathan Fenske art and other artists

I posted this picture the other day (it's from last week). I love my desk and I'm thrilled it cost a fraction of a store-bought desk. Hurray!

A picture of a family room makeover with Jonathan Fenske art

A DIY wooden desk

I thought the coffee table might be too hard at first for our rough-and-tumble girls. All of the girls have rolled off the couch and hit it at least once. But they are learning to avoid it. And I placed a few extra pillows under the coffee table for fort building. It's funny...now that they don't have all of their broken and abandoned toys living in the family room, they use my stuff to play: baskets, pillows, blankets, cushions.

A Petrie couch with a yellow coffee table

Whew, that was some summer! You can't see it, but the girls are panting around the corner, dying to be released to trash the room once more. But that's living with kids and I'll take it every day of the week. The best part of the new room? I "enter" by walking past the couch and snuggle into the cushions. Within minutes, at least one child has piled on top of me. Babies climb up, 4-year-olds nap and 7-year-olds talk theology and pranks on that couch with their mama. It's heaven. So, I would say my main goal of making the room fit our family better has been achieved. And I don't have to paint anything anymore...at least for a while. Happiness!

Sources:

Wall paint: Benjamin Moore "Moonshine" color-matched to Olympic's No-VOC in satin; Couch: "Petrie," Crate and Barrel; Mid-mod dresser: Mod Mid Century; Orange chairs, ottomans: Storehouse; Wooden desk: custom; Open shelves: "Straight 10" shelf brackets by Tyler Morris Woodworking, Fort Collins, CO; Paint on desk and open shelves: Benjamin Moore "Storm Cloud Gray" color-matched to Olympic's No-VOC in semi-gloss; Rocking chair: vintage; Coffee table: Craigslist, painted with Valspar "Oatland Daisy" spray paint in flat (legs and sides) and same color but with liquid paint in satin (top); desk chair: a store in Atlanta, I've forgotten the name, sorry!; Media cart, curtains, trash can and silver shelf: IKEA; Pillows: HomeGoods; White pouf: Crate and Barrel; Art: most is FatandAppy.com or Jonathan Fenske; also, Robert Matre, Katie Fenske Bridges; Bruce Clark; Emma Klingbeil. We're Jennifer and Jonathan. And we're parenting three girls and making art. Thank you for visiting our blog! Please stop by again. 

A New Wooden Desk in the Family Room

I'm happy to report our family room makeover is complete. Today, I'll show you the corner desk Jonathan and I collaborated on. A little backstory: I don't have a proper desk in our house. We have a desk in the living room where Jonathan works, and I mooch off of his space when he's not working. It's an arrangement that we started once I quit my social media job back in April. So, we've kind of limped along, me working when he's not. We know we need a permanent solution (finish the basement? rent a studio offsite?) but for now, we're winging it. That's how I came to the "what should I do with that corner in the family room?" You might remember that the "Before" family room looked like this:

A family room

Check out the back corner on the right---that space to the right of the red rocking chair. I knew I could put something there special, and it finally hit me: a DESK! My own desk, lah.

Jonathan is Mr. Frugal and when he heard I was looking at $300 West Elm Parsons desks (he heard because I said, "Honey, I think I'll put a Parsons desk here!"), he went into DIY mode. Love my man.

We picked up a cheap piece of oak plywood from Lowes (about $15) and some thin oak strips to give the cheapie board a nice edge. Then, we used the paint we had for the open bookshelves, Benjamin Moore Storm Cloud Gray color matched to Olympic No-VOC Premiere paint in semi-gloss. (You can read all about those shelves in our recent shelf bracket DIY post.)

First, Jonathan attached the thin trim strips to the front and one side of the desk (the back and other side would touch the wall, so they didn't need trim.) He pre-drilled the holes (to keep the wood from splitting) and used deck screws and wood glue. Then, he propped it up in our indoor/outdoor woodworking shop. (Otherwise known as a "garage.") It was now my turn!

A picture of a DIY wooden desk being built

Jonathan countersunk the screws for me, leaving a little hole to fill with Plastic Wood. I scooped some up with a spackle knife and swiped it on. The Plastic Wood tends to sink, so I did this twice after letting the first application dry. We did all of this so the trim edge would be smooth with no bumpiness from the nails.

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After that second application, the hole was nice and flush. I sanded it well.

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I then brought the desk top into the house and primed it, using the Valspar Bare Wood primer we used for the open shelves. I also primed the two Parson legs I bought from Lowes. They were about $9 a piece and are made of a solid hardwood. Pretty and simple. We just needed two because the back of the desk was designed to rest on little rails. More on that later.

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The next day, I moved on, painting the legs with the gray paint. This is my favorite picture. Of course, we have peanut butter on the floor. Don't you? (True story: Our 17-month-old toddler will go into the pantry, take out food and leave it on the floor. She'll sit down beside it, as if to say, "I like to eat, people. So, why aren't you feeding me NOW?")

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I painted the desk top, using the roller. I like the even coverage and it's faster (for me, anyway). Gray happiness!

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At this point, Jonathan jumped back in and attached the leg brackets. This was pretty cheap---I think a few dollars each. We bought two, of course.

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And here's a shot of the table leg, masterfully painted, don't you think?

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Jonathan carefully measured and mounted the poplar support rails, pre-drilling the holes before attaching them to the wall.

A how-to-DIY desk project from I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske

Using a level, he made sure the desk top was level before attaching the desk to the rails (from underneath, so the screws wouldn't show, and, once again pre-drilling the holes).

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And after drying and arranging, here it is:

A picture of a family room makeover with Jonathan Fenske art

Sources:

Orange chair: Storehouse

Desk, custom: (read this post!)

Art: Sweet Pea in Blue and Fast Car, both by Fat and Appy™ Modern Art for Children (this is our line of modern art prints on canvas). Canvas of rock and tree with silver frame: original still-life painted by Jonathan Fenske.

Paint: Benjamin Moore Storm Cloud Gray color-matched to Olympic Premiere No-VOC in semi-gloss.

Chair: Modern furniture store in Atlanta---can't remember the name

Trashcan, curtains, silver shelf: IKEA

White porcelain votive holders: Target

Sitting fox: Zsolnay

Stained glass window: Vintage

And another shot, from the left.

A corner wooden desk tutorial from I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske

You know me, I like to get all artsy.

A picture of a colorful birdhouse from I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske

This is a tincut from the Georgia folk artist R.A. Miller. This is the first piece of art I ever bought. I was 18. I still adore it.

An RA Miller tincut in artist Jonathan Fenske's family room

So, that's the path from boring blah spot to my own little corner and my own little chair! I'm really happy to sit there, work, organize and kind of just daydream sometime.

What's next? Pictures of the entire room so you can see how our family room makeover turned out! I was held up a little by some long days of cloud coverage (photos with a flash drive me crazy, and I wanted to spare you that). Also: I picked up a Queen Anne-style coffee table and painted it, so that took a few days. It's in the new room and I wanted to debut that cutie pie table here. So, soon and very soon!

A Fenske Commission: Straight to the Moon!

Another commission is leaving the studio. This (as yet untitled) painting is for a client who wanted a vintage Western + space story using Jonathan's collage-style painting method. They have a Cape Canaveral and NASA family background and were fun for Jonathan to work with over the past few months. I loved seeing this one take shape...it's really cool. A painting by Jonathan Fenske

If you're interested in a painting commission, drop Jennifer (that's me!) a line at jennifer AT fatandappy DOT com. If you like the collage-style painting method, but don't want to go the commission route, check out our online store of affordable Giclee canvas prints. Here's Yeehaw Colorado ($119) for a 16"x20" canvas print:

A painting of cowboy themes by Jonathan Fenske

Pro Tip: Don't forget! Sign up for our emails and save 15%! This discount will go away this weekend (we're dropping it to 10%) so make sure to save now! 

Some Recent Fenske Illustrations

Jonathan has been doing a little bit of everything this summer: editorial illustration, video scribing, painting commissions and logo designs. Here's a quick look at two projects. This illustration is part of a series for a large quick-service restaurant chain. I love the pattern Jonathan did on her bathrobe! This illustration is making me want to design fabric again! (A long-standing dream of mine.) A woman in a bathrobe with coffee illustration

Here are several logo treatments for the Los Lunaticos cycling team in Santa Fe, NM. What's your favorite?

Various logos for a cycling team in Santa Fe NM

We hope your summer is filled with creativity and fun! Today, I'm hoping to take pictures of our newly improved family room. I keep trying, but with three kids running about, the room is always a disaster. I think I'll have Jonathan take the girls out for ice cream or a bike ride so I can finally get some snaps of the room. Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by our blog. We're Jennifer and Jonathan, makers of high-quality modern art for kids, among other things. Visit FatandAppy.com , and sign up for our emails to save on your next purchase.