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Our Second Anniversary San Francisco Trip - September 15 and 16, 2009


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

It's been an incredibly busy week, but I wanted to share the photos from our nice two day mid-week getaway for our second anniversary. We spent two days in Golden Gate Park, and there is so much beautiful vegetation there that we took tons of pictures.

Our anniversary was on a Tuesday, so we took Tuesday and Wednesday off to spend the day leisurely going through the park and visiting both the deYoung Museum and the Conservatory of Flowers.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

We had a picnic on our anniversary near the Conservatory of Flowers on Tuesday afternoon. Here's the bench where we shared some fruit, cheese, veggies, hummus, and naan. It was bright and warm out, and we enjoyed sitting in the sun.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Outside the Conservatory of Flowers, we came across a drum circle, which is pretty common for the park. Usually we find them across the street at Hippie Hill, but this time they were gathered near the flower beds. It's nice to see that we keep some culture in the park.


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After lunch we headed to the Dahlia Garden behind the Conservatory of Flowers. The dahlias were all in bloom, so I took tons of pictures! Here's a few of my favorite varieties.

This red and yellow flower is so vibrant and rich! I love the delicate inner petals, and the way the yellow tips fade into the red.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

I really love these little round varieties of dahlias. Mark made a comment that it looks like they've been trimmed into their perfect shape, but they just naturally grow into little petal puffballs. Aren't they neat? They had several colors of this type as well.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

This big beautiful bloom reminds me of a watercolor painting. The purple is so delicate on the white background of each petal that it looks like each petal had been hand-painted. So pretty. I also love the hint of yellow at the center.


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Hey, who's that handsome fella down there taking photos anyway? I wonder if he'd like to come to dinner with me ;)


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Another fun and BRIGHT variety of dahlias to photograph. We spent about a half an hour snapping photos around these beds, but we could have easily spent another hour or two out here with the amount of varieties planted.

I can't wait to have a yard so I can plant some dahlias myself. They grow really well and don't require all that much maintenance, and look how gorgeous they are!


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Just past the dahlia beds there were a whole bunch of lilies growing up the hill. I love how thin and papery their petals are, and I love the color variations on the internal petals.


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I'm always intrigued by the size of these big trumpet vine blooms. The coast must be the perfect climate for them, because I've seen them predominantly in San Francisco and Santa Cruz. The vine itself gets huge, and these flowers are at least twice the length of my hand. I couldn't get close enough to get a better shot of the inside of the flower without disturbing the bed below them, so I can't show you their little pinkish centers. Very cool flowers though!


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To the left of the lilies and hanging vines there's a tribute to the Painted Desert. Different cactus and succulents live in this area, and collected red rocks and petrified wood line the bed. Mark and I really enjoyed the nubby little cactus at the bottom of the big striped plant. They look like they don't have thorns, but rather just little studs all over the leaf of the plant. I'm sure the little studs are a bit thorny though!


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This succulent plant had taken over the entire hillside just up the way. I love this kind because it looks like little green rubber roses to me. Succulents are neat because you get all the interesting parts of the cactus without the weaponry. I used to have a small collection of my own, and someday I hope to have some scattered about my garden.


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As we were coming up onto Fuchsia Dell, we heard some rustling in the bushes. We came across this little guy! He was hanging out and looking for some snacks, so we caught a couple pictures of him while he dug around for bugs and worms. Cheery little buddy!


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Fuchsia is one of my favorite flowers! I love hanging flowers, and these are cheery and delicate and bring a lot of color to the spectrum. This purple and pink variety is one of the most commonly found, and there are a range of other colors as well. We were losing light fast when we got to the dell, so I snapped a few quick photos and managed to catch a couple good ones. Whew!


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

The fog began to roll back in, and we were tired and hungry from hiking and such, so we decided to head down to the coast for some dinner. We drove down to Ocean Beach and took a few minutes to relax looking at the coast before we went in for dinner.


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Aww, anniversary smooches! <3


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Ocean Beach is at the opposite end of Golden Gate Park than where we started, but you can still see some of it as you're walking up to the restaurant. Here you can see the windmill that's near the Tulip Gardens. Mark and I plan to hit up the Japanese Tea Gardens and the Tulip Gardens next time we head up there.


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We ate at the Beach Chalet, which is a restaurant upstairs in a historic building. It's got a great view, fantastic food, and very nice servers. We've been there once before for lunch, and I was really excited to be back for dinner.


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We started with a couple tall beers and some nice seafood appetizers. We split a cup of clam chowder and some calamari. I'm pretty sure the beer was brewed either in-house or locally, too. Very tasty.


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By the time we got our appetizers, a live jazz band was set up and started to play. It was so perfect! They were mellow but upbeat and it was neat watching the guy play the bells. Later in the evening there was also a flute and a saxophone. It gave the place a great atmosphere.


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We had a great view of the ocean from the window at which we were seated. As the sun began to go down, it started peaking through the fog. By the time it was nearing the horizon, this is what you could see.


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Mmmmmmmmmm.

Mark got chicken carbonara and I got seared scallops on a corn and bacon hash with some fancy sauce that was delicious. Everything was perfectly prepared.


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It sure was a nice evening! We were watching the sunset out the window as we waited for our dessert, and I had the waiter snap this picture for us.


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Here's our oh-so-yummy dessert. We had a mango gelatin with a berry center that was both sweet and a little tart, and was light enough to not be too much after that big dinner. I was skeptical at first, but it was quite delicate and tasty. Plus it was pretty!


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Here's a short timelapse of the sun as it finally broke through the fog all the way at the last minute. The glass and the camera flare the sun's glare out quite a bit, but it's a nice little snippet of video.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

We had such a lovely dinner, and such a nice day! After dessert, we headed back down the coast a bit through the fog, and caught the freeway back home for the night. I just redecorated our bedroom, so it was nice to come home to a bed full of fresh new linens. We slept in a bit in the morning, and then headed back up to Golden Gate park.


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Wednesday we started our day by visiting the Conservatory of Flowers. This is the main room, a big building with lots of glass painted white to protect delicate blooms and maintain a rather swampy atmosphere. I was thankful that it was warm, though, since Wednesday I managed to leave the bag with our coats, my sweater, and my scarf all sitting on the kitchen table. I was running around San Francisco in a tank top, and it was a little chilly! I was thankful to spend a little time warming up in the greenhouse.


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Visiting the Conservatory was worth the wait. I've been wanting to go for a while, but they're closed on my day off, so it never worked out. However, once we got inside, I was overwhelmed with beauty. Everywhere you look, a beautiful and exotic plant was thriving and blooming. In the first room I got more photos on my way out than in because I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but here are some lilies that were so translucent that I could barely get the pink at the tips in the photo.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Here's the first of the carnivorous flowers in the conservatory. This vine grows flowers that resemble something fleshy that insects are attracted to thinking it'll be a meaty snack. They follow a fragrance emitted from the center of the flower, and get trapped in the belly of the beast! Flowers that eat bugs... now that's a way to do it! I should get a few of these to keep growing around my herbs in my balcony garden to help prevent infestations of little flies.


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The next room was filled with tens of thousands of orchids, some big, some minuscule, all delicate and amazing. These were small and precise, and I loved the patterns on their petals.


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This orchid was not only one of the smallest I've ever seen, with the center being smaller than my pinky, but the most unique that I've ever come across. I've never seen such an interesting shape, which looks to me like a plant in the act of dancing. Each orchid was slightly differently posed, making it look choreographed. I am in love with this flower.


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I can be honest when I say that these orchids are the smallest I've ever seen. While the last ones I showed you were small, these are itty bitty. The entire flower, which is eerily translucent, is only the size of a nickel. I had to stop and stare at these for a few minutes.


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The following room in the conservatory was the Aquatic Room, which opens up to a big central pond. Around the room are various hanging plants and the pond surface was covered by lily pads. This room was certainly the most humid of them, but it had some of the most exotic varieties of flowers, and had several types of ginger.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

The following room in the conservatory was the Aquatic Room, which opens up to a big central pond. Around the room are various hanging plants and the pond surface was covered by lily pads. This room was certainly the most humid of them, but it had some of the most exotic varieties of flowers, and had several types of ginger.


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One more carnivorous plant, another which resembles meaty flesh. This one was the most fragrant of the bunch, and was also my favorite.


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Here the cute huz and I are standing in front of the pond in the aquatic room before we headed into the next room.


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The next room was decorated to model after a victorian floral display house, where gardeners would keep flowers in large pottery in order to change out the display often, both to care for the flowers and to keep the display fresh for returning visitors. The center of the room featured an ornate planter, and all over the room there were displays such as this multi-orchid collection.


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After viewing the Conservatory, Mark and I spent the rest of our Wednesday visiting the deYoung museum, seeing the Tutankhamen exhibit and viewing their permanent collection of African cultural art, Impressionist paintings, Americana art, and American Sculptural and Decorative Art.

We really enjoyed our nice two-day anniversary semi-getaway, and finished our evening by catching frozen yogurt with a few friends. So nice!

McCloud Trip, August 28, 2009


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

We had a very nice trip to the McCloud house a few weekends ago for Lilli's birthday. Met my parents up there, and Madison and Catie joined us on Saturday morming.

Saturday afternoon we did a little driving tour of the falls. We started at the Lower Falls, which you can see here. The water is mostly Mt. Shasta run off, so it's really cold even in the summer. Even so, there's usually someone brave enough to jump off the lower falls into the deep pool below. That day was just us and a few fishermen, so nobody jumping this time.


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We met this little buddy at the Lower Falls scavenging for snacks. He hung out long enough to allow me to take this photo, then scurried away.


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Mark is, as always, taking some beautiful nature photography as well. He got some great shots of the falls here, and some really neat panoramic shots later on in the trip.


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The area around Mt. Shasta has traditionally been supported by logging. McCloud itself had its own mill. Occasionally you see downed trees, though it's not nearly as often as before.


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Here's a pretty view of Mt. Shasta from the Middle Falls trail. Almost everywhere we go up here we can see the mountain. It's peaceful and majestic, and looks so vibrant in the fall. There's very little snow up there right now though, so it will be even more stunning in a few months.


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Here's the gang, hiking the short trail in to Middle falls. We brought Lilli's dog Sweetie with us, and she was having the best day ever!


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Here's middle falls, which we've visited before from a different angle. Last spring we hiked the half mile from lower falls to middle falls along the river, and we got some pictures of middle falls from the river level below it. Here we're above at the observation trail, and we got some great photos this time as well! Mark got the coolest of them with the nice camera though.


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The bro and his lovely girlfriend Catie, who are absolutely 2 of my favorite people to spend time with. Cute as always.


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Mom, Dad, Catie, and Madison getting a better look at the river along the trail.

We're not far from the area where I fell into a fire pit that was not completely extinguished and burned my hand when I was a child. The guy only covered his fire over with gravel, which is obviously very dangerous. You're required to fully extinguish camp fires in the mountains. The worst part was the guy was no more than 10 yards from the river, so getting water to pour on the fire was not a difficult task. Luckily, my parents thought fast and dunked my hand in the icy waters of the river, and wrapped my hand in fabric they kept soaked with cold water while they took me to the emergency room. If it weren't for this, my hand would have been badly scarred, but I've got almost none. There's just one tiny scar in the middle of my palm from this incident.


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Here's mark snapping a shot at Upper Falls. It's so vivid and green out here that I always go home feeling filled up and refreshed. Plus, the air smells great up in the mountains, and especially near the moving water.


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The majestic size of the pine trees reminds me of how small I am. The trees reach straight up and stand so firm and still. Nothing like going to the woods for a little perspective.


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Nature is good. <3 The Upper falls aren't as drastic a jump as the others, but there are several areas of movement and action. This area has quite a few little patches of falling water, like this one. The water almost looks pretend in the camera lens, but in person it encompasses the entire area. The sound is vibrant, bright, and crisp, but still soothing and relaxing. Droplets of water are caught on the breeze created by the force of movement and mist onto your skin. The sun reflects off a million facets of the river. It's breathtaking.


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Sweetie was definitely having the best day ever! She loves to walk outside, and was so caught up in her surroundings that she kept running into our feet. Look at that big grin on such a little sausage.


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A little further up river is Lakin Dam, which has a completely different feel than just a few miles downhill. The water is still and smooth, which creates a feeling of calm along the back end of the dam.


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I took this photo from off the top of the cement pathway along the edge of the dam. Let me tell you how focused I was on keeping my balance! I love the feeling of being close to the edge, but also don't enjoy the thought of falling several feet onto jagged rocks, then being soaking wet when I finally pull myself from the river. Being above the moving dam also makes you feel like the wall is constantly moving, so I only spent a few minutes up there. It was certainly worth it though!


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My dad and brother were also atop the dam with me. Isn't the view great? They're looking off to the smooth side, but I also love the rushing water falling behind them.


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Sweetie had a good hike, and so did we! But it was hot out. and we were all pretty tired. Time to go home!

Madison and I made dinner for everybody, Madison and Catie made dessert, we had a few drinks, and we all watched Benjamin Button. Such a nice mellow evening. :)


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Here we are (except Mom and Dad) in front of the house on Sunday before starting our drives home. Thanks McCloud, we'll see you next time!

I'm an artist, and so are you! (Even if you don't know it yet)


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Ten steps to finding the artist you have always been but forgot about


Art. Crafts. Making things in general. I love them almost to a point of obsession. I'm a multi-media artist, meaning I make many different types of art using many different types of supplies. I'm also a hairstylist by day, which is another realm I get to play in creatively. When I talk about my creative lifestyle, I hear the same conversation all the time. “Megan, how did you get to be so artistic? You're so creative! I don't have a creative bone in my body.” And I tell you what, I don't believe a word of it. Maybe you had a bad day in 3rd grade painting, or you tried to knit a scarf that looked more like something your cat knit it than you did. Maybe you've just never been introduced properly to the vast world of arts and crafts, where everybody can find something that they just love to do.

Well, here I am. I'm here to introduce you to that wonderful world, and after you finish this article, I challenge you to take me up on my artsy-crafty invitation and join the fun! Here's ten things you can do to get started:

Forget the “I'm not artistic” nonsense.

My husband said it best the other day. “We're all born artists, we just forget.” I believe that art is more an action than a product. The art is in the doing, in the creating, and this action of creation is something of which we are all capable. The resulting piece of art or craft is a terrific bonus, but it really is the journey through the creation of a piece of work that gives it value. In other words, just getting in there and doing something makes it art!

Don't take “being an artist” too seriously. Have fun with it!

Certainly there will always be people who study the arts exclusively, and people who devote their lives to the furthering of the arts. However, that doesn't mean that every person who wants to try an art or a craft is held to the same standards. In most cases, you are your worst, and sometimes only critic! Going back to our last point, the creation process is just as important, if not more so, than the physical object you end up with afterward. Sometimes the most fun you will have on a project will be the worst results you produce. And from this, you have more knowledge and skill to bring to your next project. As you learn more, and with practice, the final results will improve as well. Meanwhile, be excited that you are creating something that is uniquely your own.

Find your craft.

First thing is first: not every style of art may be up your alley. Then again, you might be like me and not be able to narrow it down at all. My solution? Give them all a shot. The important point here is that you're not going to know what types of arts and crafts you're going to like until you try! And hey, if painting isn't your thing, maybe you'll like cross stitch. Too tedious for you? Maybe you'll like making fun things out of plastic fuse beads. Into recycling? Make altered-art books or recycled jewelry. People who like to work with their hands may like knitting, crochet, polymer clay, sculpting, or ceramics. Like to play with fire? Try glass blowing or metalworking. How about taking a class in graphic design or print making? Maybe it's as simple as covering ordinary objects in glitter. Your craft-of-choice could be as complex as weaving a panel of beads to create a beautiful design. The possibilities are broad, and this list is only a short push in the right direction. I'd even suggest that those of you who have a specific craft that you enjoy to branch out and try something new. Think about the prospect of bringing alternate ways of thinking to your current favorite medium. It's always great to broaden the horizons.

Buy a kit.

So you've decided to try something new. Congratulations! I applaud you in taking the first step to opening your artist's eyes again. Now that we've got that out of the way, what's next? You're going to need supplies. But where should you look? How do you know what exactly you're going to need? Are there specific tools required that you're going to need in order to complete your project? It's a lot to think about! And if you'd rather get into the fun part and skip some of the time it takes to research, locate, and purchase all the items you need to try out a new craft, a kit is immensely helpful. Not only do you have everything you'll need for your project right in front of you, but you'll most likely also receive detailed instructions and suggestions for use. Another good thing to note is that kits often come with a sampling of supplies, so if you decide you hate resin casting after the first series of pours, you don't have a gallon of casting epoxy sitting in your closet for the rest of your life. You can make informed decisions on which brand you like best before spending money on large amounts of supplies.

Set up your artist's environment.

Now that you've got your supplies, you're going to need a work space. Find a space you can claim for as long as your project needs to be out. This means if you require both working and drying time, for example, you've got to allow time for both. Things that need to remain untouched, such as casting resin, yarn dying, or paintings, should be out of the way of small hands and paws.

Begin by choosing a work-surface location. I work at one of three primary locations: my coffee table in my living room, my dining room table, or the desk in my office. When working at my coffee table, I sit on the floor or on a cushion, and it's just the right height for beading, clay work, or as a matter of fact, typing this article. I can also watch a movie with my husband if the craft I'm doing doesn't require 100% of my visual attention. My dining room table is great for painting while using my table top easel, beading, scrapbooking, or any other craft that requires a lot of supply real-estate. My desk is mainly used for sewing, but it's also pretty multi-purpose when it's not mid-summer. Boy it gets hot in there mid-summer.

Clear your work area completely, including the floor around your desk or table if you're working on one. If your craft requires it, drop cloth your area to protect furniture and flooring. Keep a clear walking space to the sink and garbage. Have a little trash can for any scraps nearby, and keep a roll of paper towels handy to wipe up any accidental spills. If your craft requires safety equipment such as gloves, a mask, protective glasses, or a handy fire extinguisher, prepare these as well. Better to prep safe every time than not be ready if there is actually an accident of any kind.

Lay out your supplies for the phase of the project you're working on. If your project has more than one phase, such as a construction phase and then a painting phase, only lay out the supplies you currently need to avoid clutter. It's a shame to spill expensive paint or knock over a container of beads because it was just laying around. Place tools in easy to reach locations, and don't forget to leave yourself some empty surface space in front of where you'll be sitting or standing so that you can work. If you use a beading mat or a cutting board, or anything of the like, lay it out in this location. Make sure your current supplies are all visible and easy to reach.

Experiment.

The time has come! It's your time to shine! You've got your supplies, everything looks nice and tidy, and now we get to actually work with our materials. If this is your first time working with a specific type of chemical or product, make sure you read all the instructions and safety precautions first. It's best to work in a ventilated area if you're working with any chemicals or paints.

Use examples as a jumping-off point to create your own works of art. Play with techniques, color combinations, and different usages than what may be considered conventional use. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work out the first time. If it's not a challenge, you're not really learning anything. Embrace your mistakes as methods of learning, and try again with your newly-acquired knowledge.

Pretend you're a kid again.

Kids know Grandma doesn't really have hot pink hair. (Well, my grandmas sure didn't at least.) But if they want to draw Grandma with Day Glow Pink hair, they're gonna go ahead and do it. If they draw a line and it isn't in the right spot, they don't get upset. They just draw over it. If they want to draw a B52 bomber swimming with the San Francisco Giants through a rainbow colored stream of glitter, they'll go ahead and do that too. If they want to sculpt an elephant with three legs, that's great! Once, when my brother was a kid, he painted a little ceramic duck with freckles on his beak. I think they may have even been blue freckles. We sure didn't stop him, and it was actually really cute!

Your painting doesn't have to look like anything in specific. Your bracelet can still be a little off and be functionally worn. A scarf with a few dropped stitches is still going to keep your neck warm. And dang it, if you want Grandma to have hot pink hair, go ahead and give it to her. You might find it to be a little liberating.

Take inspiration from life.

Now that you've had a little time to play with your supplies, it's time to allow yourself to develop some artistic style. A great way to get started is to take inspiration from things you look at every day. Pay attention to things on your drive to work that you can incorporate into your art. Look around your house for interesting concepts or designs. Take a walk in nature to collect supplies for your next project, or just to refresh and inspire you. Walk around downtown, or in an industrial neighborhood. There's so much out there that your art can mimic.

Also, there's a lot to be said for looking at other people's art. Use the collective artist's community to learn new techniques and to get fresh ideas. Use this interaction with other artists to help you open up to new possibilities in your own work. Go to a gallery, get active on a forum, look at photo groups, and continue finding new subject matter to keep you thinking about something new.

Give yourself time for art.

I think of art as not only a necessity, but for many people like myself it's also cheap therapy. I get a break from working, I get time to work through any issues I'm having, I get to spend some time alone but still being productive, and I get to do something I enjoy. If I'm having an especially creative day I get the satisfaction of feeling unique and original. Plus, I usually end up with something pretty cool when I'm done.
Art takes practice. Not only do you need to allow time for yourself and art, but you need to allow time to improve your skills. For best results (and sanity levels) I make time for art no less than every other day. Though honestly, now that I'm back in my art classes for the semester, I get a dose of art pretty much every day. Your personal requirements may not need as much time devoted to art, but I recommend at least setting aside an hour two times a week to start. You can adjust your art schedule as necessary, but this will give you enough time while you get going.

Join the club!

You've found a craft. You're even getting pretty good at it. You've read forums on-line, you've found several books, and you're even thinking about your art or craft while you should be working. Now, go share the love! Find some new friends who share in your new found love. Look for meet-ups or clubs in your area where people get together and make or talk about art in a social setting. Hold a Craft-In. Make cocktails and appetizers and throw a scrapbooking party for your girlfriends, or bake muffins and go embroider or paint with the people at your local retirement home. Get your guy friends to come over and print some funky new t-shirts with funny sayings. Teach your husband to weave with a weavette so he can help you make him a blanket. (Hey, it was his idea!) Heck, call your mother-in-law and find out what her favorite craft is, and spend a little bonding time doing something enjoyable.

Art is amazing because it is neither individual or social. Or maybe it's both. You can create work singularly and have entire control, or you can work with a group and be proud of the way people come together to create something beautiful. Art is fun, exciting, stimulating, and can tie people together. It can also be a great way to self-discover and grow.

I hope that I've been able to show you a few ways to discover your inner artist, if you don't know that part of you already. I also hope that if you are an artist already, you remind yourself often of the powerful skill you practice as you make your journey. Art is a journey, and what a colorful one at that!

Zag Company Picnic 2009


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I thought I'd post the photos from the company picnic that we attended for Zag Technical Services, the company my husband works for.

They treated us to a fun afternoon at our local minor league baseball field. We saw the San Jose Giants play the Modesto Nuts, whom Mark used to see play as a kid at home in Modesto with his family.

I honestly didn't pay much attention to the game itself, but I did have lots of fun!


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Gigante is the big goofy mascot for the San Jose Giants. I didn't ever get a clear shot of his face, but just imagine big, goofy, and just as orange as the back of his head. What in the world is he, anyway? A giant kitty? I've never heard of orange furry giants.


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Here's Mark being extra cute while we get some sun and drink a couple beers with his buddies. Look, the transition lenses work too!


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These girls were playing scantily-clad tug of war apparently, and you know one of them ended up getting grass stains on that pretty white tank top and short-shorts. They had a good run at it though, it was close!


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Ack! Don't order a salad at the San Jose ballpark! Their idea of salad is wilted, yucky iceberg lettuce, and no dressing. Isn't that appetizing? I sent it back, and Mark snapped a photo of his before we sent his back as well. Lame!


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A couple of Mark's coworkers, our friend Jeff and PedoBear over there. :p


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Aww, aren't we cute?


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

*giggles*

They make soap for that.


IMG_3240
Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Cheers, beers!

Thanks Zag!

Ghostly Kisses


Ghostly Kisses
Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

This 30-second-long exposure is creepy and cool at the same time! We're outside at my mom's house at around 1am, and the big funky green thing behind me is our old greenhouse. There wasn't a lot of light, but long exposures sure brighten things up.

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