Learning From Others

I love learning new skills but my tendency is to just try to figure it out on my own. That’s fine much of the time, but I know I am missing out on skills and techniques that others have already mastered, which will give me a boost toward reaching my learning goals. Sometimes I need to take a class from someone who knows more than me, so I signed up for an online watercolor class from Mary P. Murphy through Craftsy. The class consists of video demonstration lessons, opportunity for discussion and questions, and opportunity for critique of your paintings from the instructor as well as classmates.

The first lesson was about underpainting, which is basically laying down a light coat of paint as the background for subsequent layers of paint. For my first picture, I underpainted a random background of yellow, blue and red. Once that dried, I studied the underpainting to determine what the painting would become. In an earlier post, I just called this painting a background first and then figuring out what to do with it. Now I now this technique is called “underpainting”.

I painted a bouquet of bright flowers using the areas of yellow underpainting to paint yellow flowers since it would be hard to end up with yellow flowers on a darker paint.


The second technique of underpainting was to paint four quadrants on the paper with four light shades of different colors. I chose a single object (a shell) for my subject and lightly sketched it onto my paper after the underpainting dried. In each quadrant of the underpainting the shell was painted with the complementary color of that section. For example, the complement of blue is orange. This exercise was a good brain teaser! I’d like to try more like this.


The second lesson was all about composition and size with the encouragement to paint a small painting of a flower. I chose a photo closeup of one of my tulips with sunlight behind it to paint on a paper measuring 4 1/2″ by 5″.

tulip closeup

I started out with a light yellow for the tulip and then layered it over and over trying to create the colors with light behind. I still have a lot to learn about that!


I’m excited to start the next lesson.

Are you ready to learn something new? Head over to Craftsy and find something of interest to you in painting, drawing, photography, sewing, quilting, cake decorating, knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, jewelry, paper crafts, gardening, woodworking. They also offer free mini-classes. (Disclaimer: I am not receiving anything for promoting Craftsy- just letting you know what’s available to help you on your creative journey.) Have fun creating!


Sun Striped Shadows

June is not giving us a chance to ease into summer this year. It seems to only have one thermometer setting—HOT! In order to keep the house a little cooler and not have the air running constantly, I keep the blinds closed when the sun is on the west side of the house. One day I was fascinated with the shadows the blinds were casting on my plant.


I wanted to see if I could recreate that with watercolor. Here is what I came up with:


As you go through your day, keep your eyes open for unusual shadows the sun may be casting. Take a photo and use it for inspiration for an art project.

Eric Carle Inspired Collages

My grandkids love books and we enjoy reading Eric Carle books together. He’s the illustrator of over 70 books and author of many of those. His most famous book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been read by children in sixty-two different languages. If you have never read his books, you owe it to yourself to make a trip to the library or book store to spend an afternoon reading. His collage style of illustration is unique and inspiring to children of all ages.

After reading several of his stories, we pulled out magazines and some of my gelatin printed papers to looked for colors and texture images to make our own collages.


Ninja Boy, inspired by A House For Hermit Crab, made a shell and sea plant.

shell sea plant collage

My Princess, also inspired by the sea life, made this collage.


Miss Tickles headed in a different direction, preferring to add more of her hand-drawn art.


Melinda started her collage with an intricate background and I can’t wait to see her turtle when she gets a chance to work on it more!


I made a mosaic vase with flowers for my collage.


I was curious to find out how Eric Carle really did his illustrations to get the transparent look. On his website, he shares how he makes the illustrations from tissue paper he has painted. He even includes a pdf with instructions for his readers to try his method.

Without a plan in mind, using acrylic paint, I painted a bunch of colors on tissue paper. It’s not an easy task because the tissue is so thin.


After the paint was dry, I started cutting out shapes to make a bird in a tree. And of course, in honor of Eric Carle, I had to include a little caterpillar in my collage! I glued my painted tissue pieces to a sheet of paper with gel medium and many wrinkles. I later found out, he glues his tissue pieces to a white hardboard with wallpaper paste and uses a straight edge to smooth out the wrinkles. He probably uses a better quality tissue as well.


This was a fun project and I challenge you to try an art collage using Eric Carle’s inspiration and methods. If you want to learn more about his life, watch these videos:


“My pictures are collages. I didn’t invent the collage. Artists like Picasso and Matisse and Leo Lionni and Ezra Jack Keats made collages. Many children have done collages at home or in their classrooms. In fact, some children have said to me, “Oh, I can do that.” I consider that the highest compliment.”




In A Tickle is on Instagram!

It is hard to believe a year has come and gone since Melinda and her family sold their house, downsized their belongings, and moved into an RV full time to travel for their ministry, Because Family. Melinda still creates and plans creative activities for her kids, but finds it hard to fit in making a blog post about what she does. A few months back she decided the easiest way to show you what creative things she’s done, was to post to Instagram. If you haven’t found her yet, here are a few of her posts:


I have a goal of doing 30 completed drawings/paintings this year. This is my first one of 2016. I saw this on Pinterest so I decided to do a watercolor of it.

shorts from a shirt

Quick project tonight. I needed more sleep shorts. Used a large shirt for fabric and my pj pants as a pattern. 20 min–done!


We watched @wildkrattsofficial show about Praying Mantis for school today. Then I had everyone draw one. Mine is gonna take a little longer to finish.


It’s coming along. Slowly. I have a hard time doing projects that take a lot of sessions, but I’m liking seeing the progress.

ladybug wings

I had to make ladybug wings for My Princess for dance recital. Took longer than I had expected due to thread and Notion mishaps. However, It turned out great!


Practicing drawing by tracing children’s book illustrations I like. Tracing is a great way to build muscle memory for drawing and learn more about drawing different styles.

tank top lengthened

Added a skirt to My Princess’ tank top to give it some length.


10 minute drawing challenge from Mark Kistler on YouTube. Ninja boy and I practicing drawing together. I loved watching Secret City and @markkistlerartist when I was a kid.

Follow In A Tickle on Instagram and check out the rest of the Melinda’s posts.


Magazine Inspired Texture

Kids love to cut and paste. Recently Miss Tickles was visiting for the afternoon and wanted to make something. With some old magazines, scissors, paste, and paper, she had a wonderful time creating collages.


I didn’t want to be left out of the fun, so I also put together a magazine collage. I was mainly looking for images that would look like texture.


After looking at the collage for a few days, I thought it would be fun to recreate the “textures” with a black marking pen. I did not try to draw all of the collage, but as you can see from the photo, it almost has a zentangle look to it— although probably none of it is close to official patterns.


I also tried to recreate the textures with watercolor, which was much more difficult. I still have much to learn, but it was a good exercise!

Watercolor-Textures collage

What can you do with a magazine image collage to help grow your creative skills?

Pottery Impressed by Nature

Our front porch is populated by three different kinds of vines. Wisteria takes sole possession of one side, the other by some type of laurel bush/vine (which I don’t like) and a unique vine I have loved since we moved into the house. In spring, my favorite vine explodes with new leaves of a fiery red color and as the leaves mature the color changes to a light washed out green and then, finally, a darker green. It doesn’t matter how much we cut it back, it grows like crazy popping up in the middle of all the other plants. With an intense session of online investigation, I finally discovered it is an Ampelopsis Arborea or, more commonly called, Peppervine. The photo below shows new leaves and, if you look closely, the tips of some leaves are already starting to turn green.


This past December my husband Tom surprised me with some pottery he made that incorporated the leaves from this vine in the design.


Let’s take a step back and share a little history with you. In the summer of 1990, Tom had the opportunity to work for a potter friend and learned to throw pottery, eventually creating his own line of “Ugly Mugs,” beverage mugs with quite a variety of unique faces.



This fuzzy photo shows you some of his “Ugly Mugs”.

Well, I guess in his case, learning to throw pottery is like learning to ride a bike— once you’ve learned you can pick it back up at any time. Two years ago one of the crafters at Silver Dollar City’s Fall Harvest Festival, Nancy Fairbanks, discovered his pottery past and invited him to give the wheel a spin when he wasn’t on stage singing with the Sons of the Silver Dollar.

Photo credit: Nancy Fairbanks

Photo credit: Nancy Fairbanks

Again this past fall, Nancy Fairbanks invited him to play in the clay.

Nancy-Fairbanks Potter, Tom Johnson Silver Dollar City Performer

Nancy Fairbanks and her daughter pose with Tom at Silver Dollar City. Photo credit: Nancy Fairbanks

Nancy is well know for incorporating nature into her pottery. This inspired him to bring some leaves from our Peppervine and then to make impressions in the clay bowl and vase.


One of the pieces has the leaf impressions on the inside of the bowl. After throwing the bowl on the wheel he pressed the leaves into the wet clay. Later, during the glazing process, Nancy applied wax to the leaf patterns which kept the glaze from covering them. Once in the kiln, the fiery heat melts the glaze into the clay but keeps the leaf patterns clear.




So, now I have my favorite vines both inside and out to enjoy whenever I want.

A Unicorn and Her Stick Horse Friend Go to The Big Apple

When a granddaughter calls and asks her Pa if he can make her a stick horse, it’s not long before there is sawdust flying in his workshop.


But why stop at just a stick horse when it can be a unicorn! And if you’re making one stick horse, there’s no reason not to make two, since her little brother also needs a horse to ride.


Now Grandma was planning a visit soon, so it was decided the heads could go in her suitcase and the sticks could be sent through the mail since they were too long to fit her carry-on.

After Pa cut and sanded the heads, Grandma painted the horse’s eyes and the unicorn’s horn, made horse halters from a strip of leather cut off motorcycle chaps that were too long for Pa, cut ears out of scraps of leather, and sewed yarn to strips of heavy fabric for manes.


Pa used beeswax wood polish and conditioner to retain the natural cedar coloring and then used small brads to attach the horses mane and ears. He used upholstery tacks to attach and embellish the halters.



Just before putting on the finishing touches, Pa had a brainstorm that saved postage, ensured the stick horses to arrive intact and make storage for the horse/unicorn easy on Mom and Dad. He cut and drilled handles from some leftover maple branches (see bunk beds post). The handles could then be dismantled to fit into Grandma’s suitcase for delivery and into a storage container when not being ridden around Central Park. Pa made sure the sticks fit into the handles so they were secure when ridden but easily separated. Using household wax keeps them from permanently sticking into the handle.



Here are the stick horses saying goodbye to their farm friends and heading to NYC. Maybe they will meet new friends there, like the horses who draw carriages around Central Park!




Make Your Own Reed Diffusers


I tend to save things. My minimalist kids would say I save too many things. I like to think of it as being practical. I might need them for a project someday. A bunch of cute little blue bottles somehow accumulated in a box under the sink over the past few years.

Last week, I needed those cute little blue bottles for a project I did with our lady’s church group. We covered the bottles with clay. The ladies had a great time playing and creating with the polymer clay to make bottles for aromatherapy reed diffusers for their home. I even had enough bottles (with lids) to send each lady home with an additional bottle filled with fragrance oil.

The project fit perfectly with our devotion for the evening based on 2 Corinthians 2:15:

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.

Before our gathering, I decorated three bottles to help give the ladies ideas. I’ve never baked clay on glass before, but was assured by researching online it would work very well. I baked the bottles according to the clay packaging instructions just like other things I have created with clay. Using Premo! Sculpey® I baked at 275° for 30 minutes for 1/4″ clay thickness.


Some of the ladies had previously worked with clay and some had not, but I think they are all eager to try more clay explorations.

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered BottlesPolymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Polymer Clay Covered Bottles

Have you tried covering glass with polymer clay?

What’s in Your Pocket? Dry Erase Video Promo

I know it has been awhile since I (Melinda) have posted on the blog. I have been sharing pictures on instagram though, so if you would like to keep up with my creative projects, check it out.

My family and I just got back from a 70 day trip to the west coast and back. You can follow along on our adventures through our vlog. During that time we have been finishing up writing, editing, and publishing our new book. Here is what My Hubby wrote about the book, What’s in Your Pocket?, on the BecauseFamily blog.


I was asked last fall to help a few families with setting up security on their kids’ phones and computers. I went to their homes and sat with them and explained everything their children could do on their phones. I talked them through certain apps that are popular but their kids probably are too young to use. I even took them step by step through the process of setting up parental controls on their computers. Those opportunities were eye opening.

whatsinyourpocketoverIt didn’t take long to realize that this assistance was needed in more homes than I could ever visit. This is why my wife, Melinda, and I spent that last six months writing “‘What’s in Your Pocket?’ The parent’s guide to protecting your children online.” This book is short and sweet and intended to be a handbook to help parents gain the confidence they need to navigate their children’s online culture. The risks are real and the consequences are too dire to think about. We MUST pay attention to what our children are doing on their phones, tablets, or computers. 

“What’s in Your Pocket?” contains steps for finding out the info you need to set up your parental controls. It outlines a three step plan to affordably (almost free of cost) set up filters and accountability systems on your phones and computers, and it walks you through ideas for keeping communication open with your children about their online and social media accounts. You can buy the book on amazon. Buy one for yourself and your kids and your friends. 

To promote our book, we made a dry erase board style video. It was a lot of fun to draw for the video, and My Hubby edited and a friend did the voice over. I have enjoyed using my creativity to help our family’s ministry. Always remember that your creativity may look different from someone else’s, and what you are creative in can be super helpful to your family or work.