DIY Book Shelves: Gray Goodness

Our DIY family room makeover continues. We have shelves! This is terribly exciting because we have three small children + a ton of books that have been stacked all over the place for the past week while we work on the room. The book issue became a bigger problem as the days wore on because the baby (age 1) would knock them over. The other two girls (ages 4 and 7) would swoop in and then crack open the books, sit on the books, build forts with the books and fling books at each other. This led us to coin a 500-year-old proverb: "Books belong on bookshelves." (You can read about what we did with the old bookshelf here.) Luckily, we were in the process of making open wood bookshelves. Here's what we did.

First, we headed to Lowes. We picked out the three least warped "white wood" boards for the shelves we could find and then had them cut to our desired length at the store. Since we went with the cheapest wood (about $37), we knew we would have to sand and carefully prepare the boards, even more than usual.

Baby in stroller at Lowes

Children love going to large home improvement stores. They seem really grateful and happy to accompany their parents on such errands.

Seriously, we just try to keep them alive at places like Lowes. If you turn your back for a second, our two older girls will be playing house underneath 20 tons of drywall.

Jennifer Fenske at Lowes with piece of plywood

Once we returned home and after I nursed an iced tea to erase memories of the shopping trip, I set up my woodshop outside the garage.

Ya'll about to get jealous....this is one sexy wood working area:

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That's right. Picnic blankets make the BEST woodworking tables. Tyler Morris would not approve.

I sanded the "white wood" (what? is that like "white fish"...you don't really know what kind of fish that is? Did I buy Frankenwood?) making sure to round the corners and the edges. I used a sander we've had forever. It made it really easy.

DIY shelf project

The next day, I wiped the boards down with a damp cloth to remove any sanding debris. Then, I used Valspar Bare Wood primer and painted both sides of the boards and the edges. Jonathan walked by and said, "Why don't you roll it?" when he saw me waxing on and off with a paint brush. I think I thought the paint strokes would look....I don't know, painterly, or something so I ignored his advice. Big mistake---more on that later.

Wooden shelves with DIY gray paint

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the gorgeous shelf brackets were ready, so Jonathan started using his stud finder to locate the studs in family room wall. Here's a picture with the first shelf bracket up and ready for business:

Jonathan Fenske hangs gray DIY shelves

And here is Jonathan doing the ubiquitous "Stud finder? I'm right here!" picture. We are too cheesy, I know:

Using a stud finder to hang wooden shelves

After a while, here is what it looked like when all nine brackets were up. Loveliness! Jonathan is uber careful and used a level, measuring stick and anchors (for the non-stud areas) as he worked. We took this photo the morning after he installed the brackets. You can see the now-dried shelves, at right.

And speaking of those shelves, I ended up using the roller on the tops and sides of the shelves after my attempts to go "authentic" failed. The paint applied with a brush looked clumpy and sloppy. But with a few gentle roller strokes, the boards looked beautiful. Should've listened to my man, I know. Next time!

Straight 10 Shelf brackets from Tyler Morris Woodworking Fort Collins, CO

Gray wood shelves with brackets from Tyler Morris Woodworking, Fort Collins

I should note that Tyler's brackets come with little wooden caps to cover the screws. We are thinking about leaving the screws uncapped, for a more "gritty" look. Or, I guess as "gritty" as a suburban Colorado house gets.

After all of this work, I flopped on the couch and read HGTV magazine. A nice bit of escapism...especially when your house is torn up and the children are mewing for food and you're not really sure if you can get to the refrigerator.

A picture of HGTV magazine

Jonathan then installed the shelves, cheating one just a tad to accommodate its unexplainable shrinking overnight. This part went really easily, so easily I wasn't even around to help and just woke up to new shelves one morning. That's service! Thank you, Mr. Fenske.

Finally, we moved our mid-century dresser we found on Craigslist into place, added books and a pared-down collection of favorite things and installed our art from different rooms around the house:

A DIY family room from Jonathan Fenske of Fat and Appy Modern Art

We're not done yet...and we'll show you the rest of the room soon as soon as we install the desk. We're in the process of building it now (while baby naps today, I will be sanding it out in the "wood shop," er, garage.) The desk will go to the right of the Sweet Pea in Blue. You can see the white edge of the desk chair where it will be installed.

Going to nap now. Just kidding! I promised I would stop ignoring my children while I feverishly paint and try to find room for all of the books that do not fit on our new shelves (by design...we really wanted to start fresh with less stuff in the family room. Guess that means a book purge is in my future!)

Enough about us. What about you? What projects are you working on? Feel free to leave a link in the comments. 

Darling Gray: In Which I Ask Way Too Much From A Can of Paint

We painted our family room and kitchen (they are one continuous room) a seedling green in 2007. I was into gradients back then, so the color in the family room was lighter and the kitchen was a darker version of the green. I liked the color for years, but lately, I knew I wanted to go gray. At first, I was thinking a dark gray but Jonathan said that would be like living in a storm cloud in the most used room in our house. I knew he was right, so I went on the hunt for the perfect gray. Sadly for the gray color chips of the world, I was asking a lot. I needed the Perfect Gray to be smart, sophisticated, not purple, not blue-gray, unassuming, farm house honest, city loft cool, reassuring, a little brash, not too arrogant and neutrally neutral. That's not too much to ask out of a gallon of paint, right?

I have a bad habit of picking a paint off of a swatch, painting a room and later ending up hating it. So, this time around, I knew I needed to pony up a little money for paint samples. I headed to Lowes with three kids in tow. I poured over a lot of paint cards while piloting one of those ridiculous race car carts. The girls were their usual rambunctious selves, so I just threw fruit snacks at them from time to time. Luckily, Lowes is huge, so my children were able to blend in a little bit more.

Not so much at Benjamin Moore. It's a standalone store, and since I wanted to see their colors (I'd never used them, but had heard good things about their paint on Young House Love), we headed over there. I met the coolest mom who was also looking for her perfect gray, so we bonded over that while her girls played with mine. Sadly, my loud, boisterous and hungry children (it was near lunchtime) were a little much for the staff there, so we made a hasty retreat after I paid for two paint samples.

Now that I've gone the paint sample route, I have to say I will always do it this way. A sample is $2.98 and I ended up purchasing a total of four. The samples at Lowes are larger, but even Benjamin Moore's smaller samples give you enough to paint a huge section of wall if you want to.

Here's what we ended up with:

A selection of gray wall paint from Fat and Appy Modern Art for Children

The pattern thingie at right is our hanging panels over the sliding glass door.

At first, I was sure Gray Horse was my dream color. But then I remembered Jonathan's storm cloud warning. I think he was right---it would be too dark. So then I fell in love with Silver Spoon because I felt it gave the the punch I wanted. I painted Silver Spoon everywhere. And then I returned to it over and over, like a hopeful lover. We had to be together, right?

Alas, it was not to be. Silver Spoon was, well, kind of a Purple Spoon. And I knew if the wall looked purple, I would despise it with a white-hot fury.

So, I turned to Moonshine and you know what? It is a genius paint color. Absolutely perfect. Really. I first read about it on Young House Love and didn't think it would work because we have trim that's a warm putty, not white like  YHL 's John and Sherry. Their Moonshine pops with that white trim. But Moonshine being the lovely lover that it is...well, it did the trick. And I do feel more sophisticated. And about five pounds thinner. This is some paint, I have to tell you.

Here's the week's most unflattering picture. And this is the best painting pic we have. Egad.

Jennifer paints the walls gray with Benjamin Moore Moonshine

I love, love, love this gray! For the record, we color-matched Moonshine by Benjamin Moore to Olympic's Premium No VOC in satin. I have painted a lot over the years, and I have to tell you, this paint doesn't smell at all. There is zero odor or "new paint smell." As a mom of three small children, I blow kisses to Olympic. It's like we never painted. But oh, yes, we did.

Moonshine on kitchen walls

The kitchen picture looks a little shiny...I think I took the pic when the walls were still wet.

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So, I'm really happy with our new gray. I've also been busy grabbing a few things here and there, stretching my makeover budget. I bought pillows and baskets for throws at HomeGoods. Oh dear, I love me some HomeGoods.

A bag of items from Home Goods

We're getting there! Little by little. Can't wait to show you the shelves...I'm over the moon about them. Love how they turned out.

We're Jennifer (novelist, mom, blogger) and Jonathan (children's book author/illustrator, dad, runner and artist). We also have a line of affordable modern art canvases for children. Thanks for stopping by! 

Family Room Makeover: It's On Like Donkey Kong

Bad things happen when husbands travel. Things like reading one too many posts on Young House Love. Adding images to my Ideabooks on Houzz. Trolling Craigslist for mid-modern furniture.

So, while Jonathan traveled for work for eight days, I diligently tended the homefront, the Fat and Appy front and the three girls under age seven front (including two ballet classes, three gymnastics classes, one drama camp performance, untold grilled cheese sandwiches, three playdates plus a bottle of wine shared with my neighbor, Felicia. But who's counting?)

And while the little angels slept, I plotted big-time about what to do with our child-friendly family room that makes me want to surrender my Dwell subscription. We have good furniture (minus the bookshelves); we have great art. The room is light-filled. It's just never, ever come together. So this week, I Googled, trolled, schemed and dreamed.

You can probably see where this is going: It's time for a Family Room Makeover!

This morning, I purchased a mid-mod dresser on Craigslist that will anchor the new family room back wall. It's gorgeous, wonderful, amazing. We'll (and by that I mean, Jonathan) build shelves. He's even going to make me a corner desk since I don't have a proper desk but kind of drift all over the house with my iPad. A wall color change is also in need. Our seedling green was pretty in 2007 but I am over it, yo.

Here's what we're working with:

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Tons of toy overkill...would love your suggestions about what to do with that. We'll need to replace the floor lamp bowl at the back right that was broken twelve hours after an all-family IKEA trip. Also, we'll probably rearrange art because we like to do that. The rocker at right will stay---my parents redid it as a gift and I love it. The antique hutch at far left was my grandmother's and I adore it, staying. Have to figure out what to do with the television. We're not big tv watchers, but we like to have a set for Netflix DVD's. I can't imagine spending money on a flat-screenie-thingie. But that honkin' tube-style set is kind of ridiculous.

The bookshelves are already on Craigslist. You can read how I tried to warn potential buyers what they are in for with these pretty, lying shelves. They've been ridden hard and put up wet. We tried to love you, O Bookshelf, but you would have none of it. Farewell, farewell.

So, it's on! We'll share the journey with you as we go. And this will probably be the last time Jonathan travels for quite some time, don't you think?

Hello! We're Jennifer and Jonathan and we're tickled you stopped by. Sign up for our Fat and Appy emails at left or follow us in the normal places. Welcome! 

Art Movers: Home Edition

Jonathan thinks the best way to enjoy your art is to move it around. From time to time, Jonathan will play art swap and move a painting or print from one room to another, from family room to kids' rooms or from a bedroom wall to the living room.

Most of the time, I love this where-will-it-turn-up-next game. But every so often, I think, "Nooo! You can't move that. I'm too in love with it where it is."

But every time, I end up appreciating the new location. And then I think, "We should have done this before!"

This week, Jonathan moved "Painting" by Bruce Clark. I was totally reluctant. I love "Painting" (I blogged about it here) and thought it reigned over our living room in eye-popping 1980's glory. Here's what it looked like at nighttime:

A Bruce Clark painting

But Jonathan had a new plan, and so I consented. He moved "A Need to Nurture" into the space. At first, I wasn't sure.

A Need to Nurture Modern Art Print by Jonathan Fenske of Fat and Appy

But now after a few days, I really love it. I'm even eyeing other pieces, thinking of the places they could go---someday.

What about you? Do you move art around? Share your tips! We'd love to hear from you. 

Fat and Appy at the Farmers' Market

We did something new-to-us Saturday: we set up shop at the Bradburn farmers' market in Westminster, CO. Having a Fat and Appy table was a new experience, as was talking to other moms and dads about our modern art canvases. You see, I'm so used to looking at the canvases, thinking about the canvases, and working to share the canvases with the world, that it was a little strange to have to explain that, well, we sell modern art canvases. Most people thought they were looking at an original painting.

That's a tribute to our trusted vendor who uses a Giclee method to print our canvases. The quality of the canvases is stunning. They look like original paintings.

Jennifer Fenske talks to a customer at the farmers' market.

So, I found myself stumbling over the words a few times. I'll have to get smoother and less flustered.

While we were at the market, we made new friends with Daniel and Kristen from the Early Bird Restaurant in Bradburn. I enjoyed their wonderful coffee and a delicious piece of banana bread. I love discovering new indie restaurants, and I know we'll come back and eat breakfast at their restaurant in downtown Bradburn.

A vase of flowers

Big Idea was also at the market and they set up the best kids' creative activities. Our girls painted with foam and water for over an hour. They also decorated empty cardboard boxes.

The kids take turns drawing their versions of the guppy from Jonathan's book Guppy Up!

I loved the bustling nature of the market, the neighbors all stopping to chat and catch up, and of course, I loved the food.

Fresh organic strawberries.

Carrots at the farmers' market in Colorado.

Cupcake from the farmers' market.

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Jars of homemade jam from the farmers' market.

Jonathan read Guppy Up! to the kids at the market. This always cracks me up...kids really can say some hysterical things.

Jonathan Fenske reads the children's book, Guppy Up!

After he read, Jonathan drew his guppy character for the children and then they made their own versions.

Jonathan Fenske draws the guppy from his children's book Guppy Up!

Going from "online" to real-time was definitely a first for our new business. Maybe we'll try art fairs or other festivals. I'm not sure yet. I like the convenience of selling online...the store is open while I'm asleep! But there's something to be said for talking with parents and hearing their feedback and what they want for their children's decor. I would like to find a way to balance both. Either way, banana bread must be involved.

Welcome! We're Jennifer and Jonathan, and we make art, books, canvas prints and other fun things. Check out Fat and Appy to learn more. We are so glad you stopped by!

The True Tale of the Millionaire's Silver Chandelier

Our story begins like all good tales do: with a mystery. What would await us at the millionaire's home?

A little backstory: Three Thanksgivings ago, my brother and sister-in-law invited us to their house in Santa Fe for the holiday. We love visiting their very lively family which includes my three young nephews. There is always punishing physical activity to enjoy: hikes, skiiing, mountain biking; even one year, hula hooping.

As we prepared to leave our Denver suburb, my brother Eric casually informed us by phone that he had found us a really great place to stay. We were intrigued because normally we would crash at his house (at that time, four of us plus dog). It turned out that Eric's wife had family who were leaving town for Thanksgiving but really wanted someone in their house to keep an eye on it. We would be that someone, and I was happy to help. Eric said only: "They have a really nice house. We don't bring the boys over."

{We made the trip to Santa Fe, stopping as we normally did for the girls: sippy cups, potty breaks, screaming breaks (us, not them). Looking back, we thought two kids were hard, hah!}

We followed the directions to a swanky area of Santa Fe and then turned into the drive of a lovely home. The houses in Santa Fe kind of run together in my head (adobe, adobe, blue gate, adobe) but I could tell this home was gorgeous and a cut above the rest. But it was when we walked inside that we did the jaw-drop thing. The house was a stunner. A huge, long gallery connected both wings of the house. The gallery was like an art museum with paintings, southwestern artifacts, indigenous instruments. We broke into an immediate sweat, glancing down at our two little wild-child girls (who were 3 and 1 at the time).

The zebra-striped leather chair: off limits.

The fragile glass vase on the coffee table: super off limits.

The 100-year-old drum skinned with something priceless: so, so off-limits.

The master bedroom was huge, spa-like and uber gorgeous. The two pre-teen girls rooms were fantastic and gave me ideas for our girls for the future. The garage floor was heated and painted. I couldn't figure out how to use the coffee maker. Our absent hosts thoughtfully left us the password for their Mac. All in all, it was a wonderful, pampering and out-of-this world experience. Miraculously, we broke nothing.

Our second day there, we drove away from the house and spied something plopped on top of a neighbor's trash can. We're frugal people, so we did the usual double-take and discovered some swanky-type neighbor had thrown out a silver chandelier. Brakes applied, Jonathan got out and gave me the thumbs' up. The chandelier was dirty, but we could see it was very, very pretty. We decided to grab it, and none too soon, as a garbage truck rumbled down the street toward us.

It's been almost three-and-a-half years and this week, we finally decided to hang the chandelier. I had almost forgotten what it looked like. When Jonathan got it out of the basement, I was dazzled. It's really, really lovely with curved arms, delicate-yet-strong decorative finishes and a luminous silver glow. Jonathan took it apart, rewired it, added a chain and the chandelier was ready to go.

But first, we had to say goodbye to the chandelier that came with the house six years ago. Nothing against this light fixture, but it's not really our style.

Jonathan on ladder

Then Jonathan spent a little time getting the new chandelier to hang just right. It reminds me of old Hollywood glamour. Kind of fun for our suburban home.

Silver chandelier

The chandelier is really well made. The screws are straight screws and the UL tag looked very vintagey. Anyone know how old it might be?

Detail of a silver vintage chandelier

At our next house (someday, the Dream House!), I want to hang this in our bedroom. It wouldn't work there now---there is no light installed in the ceiling and to do it retroactively would be kind of nuts (we've looked into it).

Silver vintage chandelier

And, so there you have it: a true tale of a chandelier destined for the trash heap but recycled into a certainly more humble abode. We love  it, every sweet silver curve.

Cost of chandelier project: 

Chandelier: Free

Assorted parts to rebuild chandelier including six new socket covers, six bulbs, wiring kit with silver chain: $32

Ladder: Borrowed from neighbor, free

Oh Windy Day!

Today is a windy day. I did not know wind until I moved out West. The wind here can blow and blow and somehow, you are supposed to function like normal. And our neighbor Wyoming to the north has it way worse. I took the middle girl to the new amazing Margaret Carpenter Park and Open Space today. I put on a brave face, but the wind was fierce and cold. My daughter asked if we could go after 45 minutes.

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Back in the house, I found Jonathan sketching a fun cartoon fox for the upcoming Westgate Community School 5K. He did the design for the inaugural run last year, too. I personally love foxes. I had an encounter with one years ago during an early morning hike in Yellowstone. The image of the silent, running fox has stayed with me.

RUN_WILD

Jonathan was also working on Fat and Appy, our online shop for modern children's art. We've been adding the canvases in 3D, so you can see how the art will look. He just uploaded this cute Fisher Price car print.

Fisher Price Car Painting by Jonathan Fenske

As always, thanks for stopping by! Come back tomorrow for the true tale of the Millionaire's Silver Chandelier. Intrigued? I hope so!

We're Jennifer and Jonathan, and we make modern art for kids, in addition to some other projects. Subscribe to our blog at left, or sign up for our emails and receive 15% off of your next Fat and Appy purchase.

Pie! Birds! Buds!

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family! We are relaxing today around the house and will head to a BBQ with friends later on. Meanwhile, there are new, tender plants to tend. I currently have a peony obsession which I blame on the Denver Botanic Gardens. You see, I saw the paeonia "Fernleaf Double Red" getting ready to bloom a few weeks ago at the Gardens. I decided right then I had to have my own, must have my own! And then I found out that they are pretty rare, and tres expensive (about $30-50, bare root). So, I thought it wise not to kill a $50 bare root peony on my first go-round, so I picked up paeonia "Sarah Bernhardt" at the Home Depot for about $14. Here she is: Welcome, Miss Peony. Further blog posts will tell if I become one of those crazy ladies who is devoted to one type of plant or another. Actually, maybe it's not so crazy at all. I have mentioned my new-found peony thing to a few friends and they all tell me stories of their grandmothers' peonies. So, if my kids remember my peony bushes, maybe that's not so bad?

Picture of Peony
Picture of Peony

This is my perennial bed I've been stocking with free, divided plants from friends. I did add a $13 (also from Home Depot) Spirea. Also stuffed in this bed is Shasta Daisy, Jupiter's Beard and a ton of sedum from my dear friend Rebecca. More on her later---she's a very talented landscape architect. The willow structure was Rebecca's idea. I still have to weave in more willow branches. Hope to get to that next week. The kids love playing in it.

Picture of willow house
Picture of willow house

Our yarrow is getting ready to bloom. This variety is "Paprika." I have divided it three times already, and it's headed for a fourth after it blooms. It's a monster bloomer and grower.

Picture of yarrow in Colorado
Picture of yarrow in Colorado

Nothing much to show in the vegetable garden bed yet. I raised my plants from seeds this year, to mixed results. I've lost all the cucumbers (rats!) and have reseeded those, ever hopeful. You can spy broccoli in the middle and spinach to the far left. Carrots are in the foreground, too tiny now to see yet.

Early garden bed in Colorado
Early garden bed in Colorado

Our much-abused bird feeder is hot to trot this year. We are visited by dozens of (fat) birds each day.

Picture of birdfeeder in Colorado backyard
Picture of birdfeeder in Colorado backyard

And here is today's Peach and Blueberry pie. The crust I make without fail each time just wouldn't come together today--it was super crumbly, so I couldn't even roll out a top crust. I scraped and rerolled to make a ghetto lattice crust. Here's hoping it tastes good. Or that our friends at the BBQ are forgiving.

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DSC_0945

We hope your holiday is special and full of love and laughing. Thanks for stopping by!

We're Jennifer and Jonathan and we are delighted you are reading our domestic art and home ramblings! We create books and modern art canvases for kids at Fat and Appy. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Send your peony advice to Jennifer

Summer Arrives, Parents Hyperventilate

School is winding down, summer gymnastics and dance are upon us, there are some camping days ahead. Parents (that's us) are terrified. What to do with three girls home all day, all summer? We'll figure it out, I guess. So far, we're making water balloons.

Bucket of water balloons

Girl playing with water balloon

We're gardening, from seed. This is a dicey undertaking. At this early juncture, some of the seedling have given up the ghost. But we're hopeful. Our seeds came from Broomfield, CO-based Botanical Interests. Come on, babies, you can make it!

Broccoli plants from Botanical Interests

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we'll keep on adventuring and exploring. And we'll wear lots of sunscreen. May your summer-to-be be awesome.

Baby in polka dot dress walking

Don't Step on This Dog

Don't Step on This Dog A word to the wise: if your house is covered in toys and you have a habit of stepping on things, whatever you do, do not step on this vintage Fisher Price dog toy. Just don't do it. Trust me.

We have a special houseguest this weekend. Jonathan's youngest brother is visiting from Nashville and it's been wonderful having him here. We miss our families, way out here on the edge of the Colorado plains. So when we are blessed with a family visitor, I tend to really soak it up and enjoy the entire visit. I love hearing the kids tease their uncle and just generally fold him into our daily life.

Tonight, we had a simple meal:

Two kinds of rice (brown basmati and white) Three kinds of beans: Aduki/Northern mixture and Black (doctored with cumin, cayenne, chili powder) Sharp cheddar, cilantro salsa Homemade cornbread + butter Roasted carrots with a little salt Chocolate chip cookies (a free tub we got at Papa Murphy's for taking a survey. Gotta love free cookies.)

Hope you are enjoying a weekend full of family and friends. Happy Spring...we finally have warm weather here in Denver!

3 Pieces of Art That Make Me Happy

It's snowing (again!) and I'm having a quiet afternoon to write and work. I've been home from my corporate job for about a week a half and my new way of life is still sinking in. (I resigned from my social media job to run Fat and Appy and help Jonathan's career; you can read more about it here.) The house isn't perfect: clothes are strewn about and stubs of crayons the baby has chewed litter the floor. But there are signposts of peace--small pieces of art around the house that tell me I am home. They make me happy. I thought I might share a few with you.

1. Elephant Tea Pot

I realized I loved design and decor when I got out of college. I was in possession of my first apartment outside of Asheville. On a cool, fall Saturday, I wandered into an antique store in Asheville. I spied this elephant tea pot and bought it, relishing in the freedom that came with having a little money in my pocket. (I am sure it was a small amount of money, but still, it was mine!). This little pot has been packed and repacked a half-dozen times...it always goes with me.

Picture of an tea pot shaped like an elephant with baby

2. Blurry Pop

I love this painting by Mr. Jonathan Fenske. One humid summer day in Atlanta, Jonathan decided to lay out some popsicles on a board in the front yard. As they melted, he took pictures every 15 minutes or so. The art project came to an end when Kemp, our Australian shepherd, discovered the pops and ate them. (Want your own Pop? We have a Giclee print version inspired by Blurry Pop in our online store.)

A painting of a creamsicle by Jonathan Fenske

3. Swinging Bird Timestone Clock

We picked up this clock for super cheap at a thrift store. This hangs in our kitchen and is just delightful. It makes me happy just to look at it. You have to see it in action for the full effect (I took a five-second video).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2OB_WI2Pmc]

That's it from here for today...what pieces of art do you have that you love and make you happy? If you liked this post, you may enjoy our blog post, Art on a Budget: Six Ways to Find Art That's Affordable

How to Be Creative When You Are Exhausted: 3 Things You Need to Know

When people find out you have written a book, they often will share that they, too, have a book idea. It's in their head, this book, and one day, they will write it down. I get it, I really do.

Colorado artist Jonathan Fenske

Most of us--all of us, really--have something creative inside that's yearning to get out. We have been blessed with a gem of creativity and before long...it starts to rattle and roll around our heads and hearts until we just know that it must come out. Maybe it's a new recipe, maybe it's starting a blog or a book, maybe it's taking a photography class to finally master that new DSLR.

Whatever it is, this creative nugget can wither in the face of life. In the face of reality. The just getting up and getting on can smother even the most elegant and eye-popping ideas.

I know tiredness. I know messy houses with clean laundry piled high waiting for the folding fairies to show up. I know the exhaustion that comes from starting the day early with small children, commuting to an office, doing good, hard work, and then returning to love those children with dinner, baths, books and prayers.

After that, what's left? A scrap of an hour? But what of bills, organizing, phone calls with sisters, or a quiet chat with your spouse? How does anything creative get done in a home like this? 

I'm only an expert in my own life (and Jonathan would say his, as well, ha!) but here are three things that have helped us. I hope they can be of use to you, too.

1. Communicate to the people who live in your house what you will be doing. 

I have a persistent child who loves to draw out bedtime so it's about two hours long. If I give in to her nightly demands, I would never write another word in my life. So, I say to the older girls: "Mommy is putting you to bed at 7:45. You can read for a while, but I am going downstairs and writing." They hardly ever argue when I set up the evening like this.

You have to draw the line in the sand for your time to be creative. Protect that space. Maybe your time is your lunch hour when you walk to a coffee shop and bang out some words on your tablet at a dented coffee table (I've done this). Or perhaps you trade babysitting with another mom so you can attend a Craftsy class while the house is quiet.

I know some of you are thinking: "But I am tired and you're telling me to work more!" Yep, I sure am. Trust me on this one: when you step into that magic hour, you will work hard. But you'll come out jazzed, energized, more alive. And the best part? You won't be resentful or snippy because you are doing what you are supposed to do: fulfilling your calling.

2. Accept that you cannot do everything. And then do just one thing. 

We are launching an online store to sell stretched canvas prints of some of Jonathan's designs. My to-do list is a mile long as we get ready to roll out the store to bloggers, designers and our art supporters. My head could spin, but I learned long ago that today only has a few things on the list. Maybe five, sometimes just one. You'll get better at figuring out what goes on the list, but here's a hint: When it's on the list, it gets done. That's because you've given it a sacred place on the list, and you have focused your heart and mind on it.

It does no good to make lists that you cannot do. If you cannot devote an hour to writing a blog post, then don't add it to the list. Instead, your list should include the things you can do. Maybe it's Return Liz's email and Send invoice to client.

3. Never, ever compare yourself with anyone else's success. 

You've finally stepped into that magic hour. The work is happening and you take a moment to read a favorite blogger. She's just announced her new book contract, her development deal with a cable network and she tops it off by sharing glamorous photos from a recent trip to New York (sponsored by Glade!)

This is what you must know: you will drain away your last resources if you waste a moment of jealousy on someone else's success. 

You don't want her troubles, and she doesn't want yours.

Let it go, wish the wonderful writer/artist/actor/mom well and go back to your journey. Your gift is something the world needs and even though you are exhausted, it's up to you to make it happen. Being resentful or spiteful or envious only hurts your creative offering because we might not get to see it. Discouragement is an ugly step-sister to jealousy.

Guard your time well. Be grateful for your opportunities, even when they happen quietly, out of the public eye. Give thanks for each spark of genius you have. And may you have many more.

What about you? How are you creative even when exhausted? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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This Tilt-A-Whirl Life: Big Changes Ahead

It’s been a little while since we blogged. I blame it on the whirl of life: meals, laundry, out-of-town work trips, freelance writing, laughing, crafting, mopping up spills of all sorts. We are a carnival ride spinning in a blur of multi-colored lights. We’re trying to catch our breath, but the reality is: someone is going to throw up.

Denver artist, video scribe, Denver illustrator

This year is bestowing blessing after blessing on us: Jonathan is video scribing like a crazy person. He also published two children’s books and has a third coming out next year. Painting commissions also take up his time, as well as other freelance illustration work.

And if that wasn’t enough, we are launching a line of stretched canvas prints of Jonathan’s work. (We’re starting with the original art Jonathan created for our app, Healthy Creatures. You can see the beta store here…pardon the mess. Update: We moved to our new home! www.fatandappy.com We have more art to add and things to build out. We’ll also be moving the URL to www.fatandappy.com.)

So, something had to give. Jennifer (that’s me!), who has always had the steady-eddy corporate job, will be coming home to manage Fat and Appy and Guppy Up!, our two art businesses. Resigning a great job was a tough decision but with so much work coming Jonathan’s way, and so many opportunities at hand, we knew it was the right time.

I am excited and just a little apprehensive to transition in such a big way. Jonathan feels the same. But it’s our time to jump off the carnival ride…and whirl away as a family, together, toward whatever is ahead.

Warhol, Flying Planes and Cloud Gate

Two commission paintings are leaving the studio. "The Things We Leave Behind" is a nod to the client's love of Chicago, air travel and the Cloud Gate sculpture in the Windy City. Jonathan loves working with this client. This is their second collaboration, the first is here. If you look carefully, you can see Jonathan's mark on the painting and then reflected in Cloud Gate. Fun! Fenske_JD_blog

The second painting is also a repeat client and this time around, she wanted a portrait of Andy Warhol. It's packed and off in the mail already. I like the bright splashes of color. I walked past this a dozen times and I said (probably a dozen times), "I never knew I liked Andy Warhol so much." I just really gravitated to this painting.

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If you would like to commission a painting, just fill out the form below. Jonathan works with all sorts of budgets, so just ask. He'd be happy to work with you. If you want to see more of his paintings, check out his website. And don't forget to subscribe to our blog at the bottom of the page, we thank you very much! [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Commission Inquiry ' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

Free Book Friday Winner and Er, Another Free Book Friday Contest!

Hi everyone! Thanks to those who entered last week's Free Book Friday contest. We had nine entries, so I used Random.org to pick the winner. Drum roll, please..... Screen shot 2013-02-01 at 10.29.41 PM

The winner (#3 on my Random.org entry) was Comment #3 by Gina who writes a pretty awesome parenting/DIY blog. Congrats, Gina! She wins a signed hardcover copy of Love Is in the Air.

That brings me to this week's contest. There is more than one hour left on Friday, so I still feel okay in my soul about this being a Free Book Friday post. Eastern time zone people are asleep, but here in the Mountain West, we're just getting started.

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I've decided to give away two Love Is in the Air books this week since I think it might get monotonous to do this for five weeks straight as planned. So....for this week's contest, please simply share this blog. You can do so with the share buttons at the bottom of the post. (If you are reading this from the front page of the blog, you won't see buttons. You have to click the actual post and then scroll down.)

It's the honor system around here, so once you tweet, Facebook or whatnot, simply just post in the comments below where you shared it. The contest will be open until Wed., Feb. 6 and there will be two winners. Good luck!

Art on a Budget: 6 Ways to Find Art That's Affordable

Jonathan and I love art, and we share our home with paintings and other special one-of-a-kind pieces that mean a lot to us. I know from talking with friends who come over that they often want original art---but don't know where to start. It's too expensive, right? Well, of course, it can be. But it doesn't always have to. With a little work, Googling and luck, you can have beautiful art, all for not much money. We're living proof!

Okay, if you're still with me, read on for a few tips on buying art on a budget. (Or finding art on a budget...but we're getting ahead of ourselves!)

Art on a Budget Tip #1: Find An Artist You Love and Then Figure Out How to Buy from Them

I'll let you in on a secret: artists like to sell their work. And they usually do it with a smile on their face. So, get out and meet artists. You'll be collecting on the cheap, so head to undergraduate art openings at a college or university near you. Stopping in at the local yogurt shop? Chances are, there's an artist on the walls that month. Even Barnes and Noble displays art on the hall leading to the bathroom. Look for artist "studio tours" in nice weather. Go on gallery crawls where there are pop-up exhibitions happening on nearby streets.

Use Twitter to find artists by following hashtags such as #illustrator and #artist. Strike up Twitter friendships with artists and visit their websites. Often, artists will set up online stores where they offer paintings, prints and even pillows of their work. Want something different but completely cool? DENY Designs based in Denver sells home decor goods printed with amazing art, including stretched canvas.

Become friends with your new favorite artist. Get on their email list. Comment on their blog. Be supportive and introduce them to other potential collectors. They'll be grateful and when you commission them to paint the perfect 24"x24" piece for your foyer, they'll gratefully move you to the top of the list.

Once you find something that's in your budget, ask yourself just one question: Do I like this piece? If you do, buy it. This is where you decide to part with cold cash: if you like it, it's yours.

When I was in high school, I was really into Georgia folk artists. I adored R.A. Miller and found out a cool gallery in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. carried a few of his pieces. I walked in the door (probably decked out in a vintage dress and humming an R.E.M. song) and trotted out a few minutes later with this tin cut (below) for $40. (The painting on the left was purchased in Nicaragua off the street for less than $20. It has a cardboard frame...isn't it the coolest?)

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Pro Tip: When buying art from a cafe or bookstore, it's a universal truth that the frames will be atrocious. Look past it---it's okay. Head over to Dick Blick and re-frame your sweet new piece of art.

Art on a Budget Tip #2: Trade Something

From time to time, Jonathan (who is an artist and children's book author/illustrator, if you are a new reader to this blog) will trade with another artist he admires. It's how we got this piece by David Nielson when we lived in Atlanta a few years before we moved out West.

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If you aren't an artist with another painting to trade, maybe you are a graphic designer and can trade a website design. Or maybe you're an attorney who can give some contract advice to an artist. Stay-at-home mom? What about babysitting for an artist who needs help watching kids so she can work? Trading works best if you have a relationship already established with the artist. So, I say ask--you never know what you might be able to arrange. Back in Atlanta, we once traded a painting for a Danish Modern dining room table and chairs. (If you want to see that painting, "Chivalry Is Dead," click here. It's peeking over the shoulder of our friend Brian.)

Art on a Budget Tip #3: Troll Etsy

There are some amazing artists on Etsy.  It's like an art fair on your laptop. You'll have to sift and sort but when you do, slap a heart on shops you love and come back again and again. We purchased this print from 12fifteen and then framed it with a Target matte/frame combo. I love prints and think they are a great way to collect someone you love...even if more than one person has the same one you do. Total cost: $47.50.

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Art on a Budget Tip #4: Ask an Artist to Paint Your Walls

This one takes a little more coordination, but you probably won't be turned down. As long as you are not asking the artist to paint a Disney character (blech), most early-career artists will happily come over and draw something special on your wall and then paint it. Jonathan got his start doing murals all over the Upstate of South Carolina. Send a friendly email...what do you have to lose?

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Art on a Budget Tip #5: Don't Forget Sculpture

An often less-expensive path to an art-filled home is to remember sculpture, vases, birdhouses, lamps...anything that you love and expresses who you are.

This TimeStone clock makes me happy every time I walk downstairs for a badly-needed cup of coffee in the morning. The bright yellow bird slides back and forth. We found this at a thrift store for less than $5.

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These blocks were a gift for the new baby. They are fresh, modern and so pretty. From tiny giraffe on Etsy.

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Art on a Budget Tip #6: Make Friends with Your Local Thrift Store

Every thrift store in America has a huge bin of mouldering frames, 1970's owl art and assorted motivational posters housed in gold-tone frames. You, dear reader, are going deeper. Remember to disregard the frames and the cleanliness of the art. Pounce on anything that is clearly original and well done. Jonathan rescued this awesome 1982 painting from a thrift store down the street. It's by Denver artist Bruce Clark and I can't imagine what happened so that it ended up where it did, but we couldn't be more thrilled to be the new owners.

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I should definitely add that many quality galleries offer paintings in the low hundreds. Some even may have very small works for less than $200 if the artist is just starting out. Or they may sell high-quality prints that cost around $100. But if those prices are too steep for your budget, then I hope some of my ideas may help. Good luck and happy hunting!
Do you have a fun art collecting story? Share it in the comments!  And don't forget to subscribe to more Fenske art news by scrolling to the bottom of the blog and entering your email. Keep up with Jen and Jonathan on Twitter, too: @jenmanskefenske

Space Bug Eats Cheery Astronaut

As you may know if you read our blog, Jonathan loves vintage toys. He often sets them up in funny or poignant situations and then photographs them to see how the scene works. He takes the scene that he likes best and then paints with acrylics onto board. Voila! Sometimes, I see him processing an image from one of these photo shoots that makes me laugh out loud. This is one such image. It's called Final Transmission.

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

From the Studio: Paintings

Jonathan is having a rush of post-Christmas commissions. I thought I would show a recent one called "Working Well Together." This was commissioned by a Colorado client in honor of her brother's wedding. This picture isn't the best---in real life, the painting is brighter. You can still get the idea. In my opinion as the artist's wife, I like commissions the best because they are pre-sold. In a gallery, a painting can hang for months or years before they sell. A commission is just a visitor...there's no time to get attached. Working Well Together

Love Is in the Air: Jonathan's New Children's Book Is Published!

This week was a fun one in the Fenske household. Jonathan's first children's book that he wrote and illustrated published Dec. 27. Love Is in the Air (Penguin USA) is the story of a lonely balloon and a lively kite and their special day in the park together. Jonathan is pretty excited and I am over the moon. It's not every day you get to walk into Barnes and Noble and see your sweetie's new book on the shelf. Proud of you, baby!  

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

Love Is in the Air is available in soft cover, hardcover and (soon!) it will be an enhanced ebook, produced by Penguin's awesome ebook partner.

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

What's next for Jonathan? Penguin will release Guppy Up! Feb. 7, 2013. Plus, he always has new children's books in progress, and Penguin is interested in some new titles for 2014. So, stay tuned!