October 27, 2014

The Lacquer Legion - October Challenge - After Dark - #LLAfterDark

The two weeks before Halloween are always kind of crazy at my housedecorating, putting the final touches on our costumes, etc. Crazy, but fun. Unfortunately though, I've gotten behind in my blog posts. My review of last week's Nail'd It just didn't get done and I have another Halloween mani photographed but not posted. However, I couldn't miss participating in this month's Lacquer Legion!

I've been wanting to do vampire nails for a while and I just bought a yummy new Wet n Wild polish that I was "dying" to try. So, I created a two-color ombre and added a couple of little glowing eyes to represent the night creatures—living and undead—who come out After Dark. The polishes used for this design are:
  • Wet n Wild - So Berry On Trend
  • Maybelline - Onyx Rush
  • Orly - Masked Ceremony (for a touch of dark sparkle)
  • Sinful Colors  Pull Over
  • Sinful Colors - This Is It
This is the first time I brushed water-soluble glue on my fingers before sponging on the ombre and, I have to admit, I'm a convert. It made clean up so much easier and less time consuming.

I really love this look and predict I'll use it long after the season of the witch is over for another year. 

Happy Halloween everyone!

October 17, 2014

Daily Design - Falling Leaves

Unlike many sections of Dallas, the area I live in is chock-a-block full of tall, old growth trees. This green belt surrounding a small city lake is one of the few areas you can see a wonderful display of the leaves changing color in the autumn. It's also one of the few areas where homeowners have to rake leaves, but it's a trade off that's well worth it.

Today's design is a tribute to those leaves, which I'll be enjoying (and raking) over the next few months. The design is inspired by several dotticures I've seen on IG over the past month. The polishes I used are:

  • Pure Ice - Shore Bet
  • Revlon - French Roast
  • Revlon - Entice
  • Sinful Colors - Pull Over
  • Sinful Colors - Big Daddy

Difficulty (1=Easy, 10=Difficult)

  • Dominant Hand - 2
    This is a very easy design to create. I used a fine nail brush to draw the edge for the brown tip on the ring finger and filled it in with the regular polish brush. I also used the fine nail brush to draw the tree. The rest of the design was created with a small tipped dotting tool. To achieve a good random mix of colors, I did two rounds of alternating dots in each leaf color
    —orange, yellow, green then orange, yellow, green again. I finished it off with a few random brown dots.
  • Non-dominant Hand - 2.5
    One of the things I love about dotticures is they're just as easy to do with my left hand as with my right. Even drawing the tree is almost as easy, due to the random nature of the placement of the branches.

Newbie Notes

I love finding designs that are easy to do and fun to wear, and this is one of those designs! Whenever someone looks at one of my nail designs and says "That's so cool. I could never do that." I always recommend they try a dotticure. They're easy to do, they look great, and they can be created without any special equipment (which can be important to someone new to nail art). I have my own dotting tools now, but when I first started I used things like toothpicks, bobby pins, and the tip of a pencil. In fact, so many different types of designs can be created with dots, you could never learn another technique and still create a multitude of beautiful nail art.

Recap: Nail'd It! - Episode 2 - Nail Candy

Sorry that life circumstances delayed this week's recap, but here we go!

This week we had China, Temeka, and Thao battling it out for $10K and a guaranteed spot in the finale.

The first Quick Dry Challenge was to create a nail design that could make the transition from daytime to evening for young professionals. Although she had a difficult client, who messed up two of her nails at the end of the 90 minutes, Temeka was able to pull everything together and claim the first win of the night.

Temeka's Quick Dry Design

For the Elimination challenge, the theme was "Candy" and the contestants were given a huge selection of real candy treats to incorporate into their nail designs.

Willy Wonka, eat your heart out!

Unfortunately, the bad-mouthing and backstabbing among the contestants continued this week, although it was somewhat diminished. The height of it came during the "twist" when, two hours into the challenge, the contestants had to exchange the work they'd already completed with another contestant. Because she won the first challenge, Temeka got to choose the switch assignments.

The worst was China griping about Temeka's sudden migraine being a ploy or an excuse. Now I don't know whether Temeka actually had a migraine, but as as the spouse of a migraine sufferer, I do know that migraines can come on in a matter of seconds, be quite severe in nature (my husband goes temporarily blind sometimes), and shouldn't be taken lightly.

In the end, Thao's candy nails reigned supreme and she won the challenge, with China coming in second (despite have one nail in her design that literally looked like a piece of poop) and Temeka being eliminated. I think it's interesting that Thao did the least amount of trash-talking during the elimination round—by concentrating on make her own nails as good as possible instead of trying to put down other contestants, I think Thao gained an advantage. (Take note, future contestants!)

Thao's winning design

The "Try At Home" section this week featured Speckled Egg nails. This is a very easy design that all us nail design newbies should be able to recreate with ease.

Sneak previews for next week look like more of the same—girls behaving badly instead of focusing on nail artistry. In fact, it looks like this might be the worse group yet. Too bad.

October 13, 2014

Daily Design - Halloween - Frankenstein

The season's first cold front has lowered the temps in Dallas from 92 on Friday to 62 (and falling) today. Now that the air's more brisk, my thoughts are turning to the best part about the autumn...Halloween! And when you're a classic movie fan like I am, one of the best things about Halloween is Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, and all their great black-and-white horror films.

Today's design is a tribute to Boris Karloff and the original Frankenstein. Each nail represents part of the story: the graveyards where Dr. Frankenstein found his "parts", the lightning that created the spark of life, the face of the monster, Frankenstein's triumphant cry, and the tragic encounter with the little girl picking flowers.

The design is original, inspired by the movie. The polish and materials I used are:
  • L'Oreal - Greycian Goddess
  • Sephora by OPI - Matte Top Coat
  • Black and white acrylic paint
  • Sable paintbrush with fine, detail tip

Difficulty (1=Easy, 10=Difficult)

  • Dominant Hand - 8
    Freehand painting is still difficult for me and, although the acrylic paint and fine tip brush made it easier, it was hard to get pictures and lettering I found acceptable. The lightning was the easiest to paint and the monster's face was the hardest.
  • Non-dominant Hand - Not Applicable
    This is one of those designs that I didn't even attempt using my left hand because I knew it would be almost impossible. Instead, I used the same base polish (Greycian Goddess) and created googly eyes with my dotting tool (looking in horror, no doubt, at the rise of the monster).

Newbie Notes
I've seen a lot of nail art created with acrylic paints, but this is the first time I'd ever used it myself. Wow, what a difference it made! Acrylics are much easier to work with than polish, mainly because they don't dry out as fast. In addition, I used one of my new ultra-fine brushes and that made all the detailed work (especially the lettering) go much smoother. It takes very little acrylic paint to create a design, so the set of small tubes I purchased (in red, yellow, blue, brown, white, and black) should last for a long time. Finally, the acrylics didn't smear when I applied the matte top coat. Overall, I had a good experience using acrylics and I would definitely recommend them to other newbies.

October 9, 2014

Daily Design - Autumn Vines

Now that the 31-Day Challenge is over and I've decided to keep this blog going, I realized it needs a specific focus—a "mani-festo" if you will (sorry, I couldn't resist). Since it's called "Nail Design Newbie" and I'm still a beginner when it comes to nail art, it seems fitting that my blog focus on the issues that concern those of us who don't have a lot of experience and are still learning how to make our nail design look presentable.

Each "Daily Design" post will discuss:
  1. The inspiration for the design (if I didn't create it myself)
  2. The polishes, decorations, tools, etc. I used
  3. Difficulty rating for the dominant and non-dominant hand
  4. A "Newbie Notes" section describing the problems I had creating the design
Let's get started!

The temperatures haven't dropped all that much in Texas yet, but I've been seeing so much beautiful Fall nail art that it's put me in the mood to do some. This design was originally created by Nails2Match but I changed the polish colors.

I've been trying a new base coat (American Classics - Bridge the Ridge) and top coat (Sally Hansen - Insta-Dri). The other polishes I used are:
  • Revlon - Elegant (base color)
  • Kiss Nail Art Paint - Black (abstract "wall")
  • Sally Hansen Hard As Nails - Brownstone (vines & leaves)

Difficulty (1=Easy, 10=Difficult)

  • Dominant Hand - 3
    This wasn't too hard to create with my right hand, although I had a little trouble with the polish on the wall sections being too thick.
  • Non-dominant Hand - 5
    The leaf shapes and vines were more difficult to draw with my left hand, but not impossible.

Newbie Notes

I'm fairly pleased with the way this design came out. My main complaint is that the leaves and vines aren't delicate enough and I think the trouble was my nail brush. I just bought a new set of nail brushes including a few with ultra-fine tips but I didn't use them here. I've noticed that I have trouble judging the size of design elements when I'm looking at a picture from the internet. Maybe it will get easier when I have more experience.

October 8, 2014

Recap: Nail'd It! - Oxygen's New Nail Art Show

Last night, the first competition show about nail art premiered on the Oxygen network. Nail'd It! features three nail artists each week who compete for a spot in the finale—1st place wins $10,000 and a guaranteed spot, 2nd place gets a second chance to get into the finale, 3rd place is eliminated.

The first contestants were Classic, Jamie, and LaToya and the competition was in two parts: a 90-minute, 2-D, everyday nail section and a 6-hour, 3-D, nail sculpting runway section. The artists created some great designs but in the end Classic won, Jamie came in second, and LaToya was eliminated.

Despite being excited about the premiere of this show, I have to admit that I was disappointed in the overall execution. Given that over 90% of nail artists are women, the Oxygen Network undoubtedly had a wide pool of contestants to choose fromand yet starting with the very first episode, they cast women who represented some of the worse female-on-female stereotypes including cheating, backstabbing, and being a doormat.

I will never understand why a network or a producer would choose to focus on a previously unrecognized art formwhether it's nail art, cosplay, creature design, body painting, or makeup—and then cast contestants that will show that art form in its worse possible light by focusing on conflict and bad behavior rather than artistry.

You know why Face Off (SyFy's makeup competition) is still going strong in its 6th season? Because they focus on the makeup artistry and not the conflict. The majority of their contestants are talented people who don't act like jerks; the few who do are usually gone before mid-season. (Side note: I've met several of the Face Off contestants and they are just as nice in person as they seem on the show.)

Unfortunately, most of the like-genre show have not followed the Face Off formula for success. Heroes of Cosplay got such a negative reaction when they chose to focus on bitchiness and conflict that it almost destroyed the show when it was overwhelmingly rejected by the general cosplay community. They have since made changes to focus on the more commonly seen positive aspects of cosplay but it may be too little, too late. I and many others stopped watching Skin Wars before the finale and I doubt it will get another season. The same goes for Jim Hensen's Creature Shop. Let's face it, there are jerks in every profession, but the showrunner chooses the show's focus, either positive or negative, and too many competition shows choose the negative.

That said, there were many things I liked about Nail'd It!. The judges (Jan Arnold, Tom Bachik, Elaine Watson) and host Adrienne Bailon all did a good job and gave interesting tips and feedback. The "try this at home" Nail Tip section was great—in fact, I wish it had been much longer. Plus, it's obvious that we're going to see a lot of great nail art and techniques.

I will continue to watch Nail'd It! and hope it steers away from negative aura that hovered over the first episode and focuses more on this amazing art form (unfortunately, previews of episode 2 don't give me much hope). Like many others, I'm hooked on nail art so I'll try to stick with it as long as I can. But seriously Oxygen, if I want to see egomaniacs behaving badly, I'll call into a corporate board meeting. Just something to consider...

October 7, 2014

Pink Overload — Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Let's get this out of the way right up front...I'm not a "girlie" kind of woman. I've always been a tomboy, you can count the number of times I've worn a dress this year on one hand, and I almost never, ever wear <shudder> pink. But I do have something that binds me in sisterhood to thousands of other women—I'm a breast cancer survivor. So at least once a year, I grit my teeth and embrace the pink to raise awareness about a disease that affects over 200,000 more women every year.

My Breast Cancer Awareness design  focuses on "three" in honor of women (including myself and Joan Lunden) who've battled the more rare and more virulent form of the disease known as triple negative. The accent nail is a three-layered pond design and the rest of the nails are three-layered jelly sandwich.

The polishes I used for this design are:
  • Sinful Colors - You Just Wait (translucent holo gold/rose)
  • Essie - Tuck It In My Tux (translucent shimmery white)
  • China Glaze - Hang Ten Toes (hot pink)
  • Sally Girl - In Love (rose gold/pink glitter)
Besides the usual "get your mammogram" message (seriously, get your mammogram) let me offer some advice as someone who's been in the trenches of the breast cancer battle.
  1. If you have dense breast tissue, insist on a sonogram in addition to your mammogram. My cancer might have been diagnosed 6-12 months earlier if I'd had a sonogram.
  2. It's a myth that triple negative only occurs in women with the BRCA gene. I don't have it and neither do 90% of the triple negative survivors I know. However, you should be tested for the BRCA gene, especially if your mom, grandmother, or aunt has also had breast cancer.
  3. If you are diagnosed with triple negative, even if it's in an early stage, choose an oncologist who favors an aggressive treatment plan (surgery, chemo, and radiation). To date, there is no drug that can help reduce the chance for recurrence of triple negative (like tamoxifen that's used with regular, hormone-receptive breast cancer) so it's important to get rid of it all up front.
  4. Much of the information you see on the internet about triple negative is scary and depressing, but remember this: it's more responsive to chemotherapy than other types of breast cancer and the longer you stay cancer free, the less likely you are to have a recurrence.
  5. Survival rates for triple negative get better every year and continue to rise as new treatments are discovered.
If you feel like throwing some donation money our way, please visit the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation and click on the "Donate" button—any amount would be greatly appreciated.

October 2, 2014

#31DC2014 Final Round-Up - 2014 31-Day Nail Art Challenge

I really didn't know what to expect when, a little over a month ago, I decided to participate in Chalkboard Nails' 31-Day Nail Art Challenge. It's not like anyone knows me in the nail art world, since I only recently started sharing my designs on social media. I figured it would just be an opportunity for me to try something new, push my limits as a nail art hobbyist, and see a lot af great designs from some truly talented artists.

Yesterday was the last day of the challenge and the experience was everything I expected and more. The nail artists I met during the month of September were incredibly welcoming to me as a newbie and I'm just blown away by all the encouraging words and helpful hints they offered during our time togetherincluding the discovery of the Flipogram app that I used to create my round-up video below. I'm very grateful for everyone's kindness, help, and advice.

Besides being my first nail art challenge, this experience is special to me for another reason. As I explained in my opening blog post, I became interested in nail art during the aftermath of my battle with breast cancer. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form called "triple negative" (the same type Today show's Joan Lunden is battling right now) in November 2008. Every year as summer turns to autumn, I face several weeks of testingincluding my yearly diagnostic mammogramto determine if I'm still cancer free. As you can imagine, this is a very nerve-wracking experience and I usually end up worrying myself sick.

Participating in the 31-Day Challenge was the perfect distraction that kept my mind occupied and prevented much of the anxiety I usually experience during this time of year. I'm very, VERY grateful for that too. (By the way, my mammogram was clear so, unless my doctors have new information, in November I'll be cancer free for six years. Yay!)

In the final tally, I created 32 new nail art designs (31 for the challenge and 1 for The Lacquer Legion), used about 50 different polishes, emptied a bottle each of polish remover and pure acetone, used about half a (large) bag of cotton balls, and wore out my flat paint brush. In addition, I have a really long list of new nail designs and techniques I want to try and a badge from Chalkboard Nails to proudly display on my blog. Overall, it was an amazing experience!

I wasn't sure if I would keep this blog going after the challenge was over, but it's been so much fun that I've decided to keep posting new nail art (and maybe other topics) as the mood strikes. I hope to keep learning and I'm looking forward to meeting many more nail artists and participating more in the community. 

Thanks again to everyone for such a wonderful introduction.

October 1, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 31 - Honor Nails You Love

Wow...I can't believe it's the last day! Today's challenge asks us to honor nails we love. The design I chose is one of my all-time favorites—it looks great, it's one of the few that I can do almost as easily onto my right hand as my left, and I learned it from one of my "go to" nails gurus. Today, I created a Waterfall design to honor Sammy, the Nailasaurus (@thesammersaurus).

When I first started doing nail art, one of my biggest problems (other than the fact that I sucked at it) was that so many of the nail art tutorials and designs were created for and looked best on long nails. I love longer nails, but I'm a writer and it's very inconvenient to keep my nails long. Luckily, I found The Nailasaurus blog and Sammy, who had short nails and did wonderful nail art that looked good on them. She also does product reviews and gives recommendations on how to have great-looking nails on a budget. She's my favorite nail blogger and I'm very glad to be able to honor her and her amazing designs.

The colors I used for today's challenge are:

  • Sinful Colors - Bright Lucite
  • LA Colors - Aquatic
  • Revlon - Blue Slate
  • Sinful Colors - Rain Storm
  • Kiss Nail Art - Silver
I'm going to do a round-up post tomorrow, but I want to thank Sarah at Chalkboard Nails (@chalkboardnails) for sponsoring this challenge and all the amazing nail artists who participated. I really pushed myself and learned a lot from all of you—and I've become a better, more confident  nail artist as a result. I look forward to all your future nail art creations and to sharing more of mine with you.

September 30, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 30 - Inspired by...a Tutorial

We've reached the second-to-last day of the challenge and I realized there's a nail art technique I haven't used yet—Splatter! I've watched several different tutorials to learn this technique, but I was never satisfied with how my final product came out. Finally, a few months ago, I developed my own method of doing splatter nails that works for me—maybe it can work for you too.

Anyone who does crafting probably ends up with some of these little bottles. They're a soft, squeezable plastic with a very slender nozzle. Another source for these bottles is to recycle them from "e-cig" liquid (that's how I get mine—I'm an ex-smoker and e-cigs are how I quit).

To use this method:

  1. Gather your polishes, bottles, and acetone. 
  2. Tape the fingers around the nails to protect from extra splatter (I've never found this to be necessary with this method).
  3. Put a base coat and two layers of your base color on your nails.
  4. Pour out a small amount of the first splatter polish color. Thin polishes can be used as-is, thicker polishes can be thinned with a drop or two of acetone.
  5. Squeeze the empty bottle and suction a very small amount of polish into the nozzle of the bottle. Let extra air mix with the polish.
  6. Hold the nozzle of the bottle about an inch above your nails. Squeeze the sides of the bottle with short, quick bursts to blow out the polish onto your nails.
  7. Reload polish and repeat for each nail. If the nozzle gets clogged, you can suction pure acetone up into the bottle and squeeze it out to unclog.
  8. Repeat with a new color until you're happy with the design. You can switch bottles with each color or use the same one (I usually change bottles).
  9. Remove tape (if used) and clean the splatter off your fingers with acetone.
  10. Finish up with your favorite top coat
I find this method is more accurate, less messy, and it gives me the smaller splatter drops that I prefer. Your mileage may vary.

The colors I used for this "Autumn Splatter" look are:

  • Revlon - French Roast
  • Revlon - Fall Mood
  • Sinful Colors - Pull Over
  • Sinful Colors - Big Daddy
Do you have a nail art technique you learned and then modified to fit your needs?

September 29, 2014

The Lacquer Legion - September Challenge - Crisp - #LLCrisp

I know this month's challenge at The Lacquer Legion is supposed to be about the crispness of the Autumn season, but when I see the word "crisp" the first thing that comes to mind is the magnificent Quentin Crisp!

Born on Christmas Day in 1908, Crisp was openly gay and flamboyantly effeminate during a time when it was unacceptable, and even dangerous, to be so. Yet, he always insisted on being himself and refused to conform to what other people, straight or gay, thought he should be.

When I was in high school, a movie of Crisp's autobiography The Naked Civil Servant was shown on American television (thank you PBS). It made me a life-long fan of both Quentin Crisp and John Hurt (who played Crisp in the movie). One of my favorite scenes was when Crisp volunteered for the Army during WWII but showed up to the induction center with bright red polish on his fingernails and toenails. When asked why he thought he would be a good soldier, he said that he was British and patriotic and that it didn't take any special skills to get killed. The army rejected him.

For this design, I used these colors and decorations:
  • Revlon - Elegant
  • Sinful Colors - Under 18
  • Maybelline Color Show - Onyx Rush
  • Maybelline Nail Tattoos - The Skyline Collection

In 1981, Quentin Crisp moved to New York City and loved it so much that he spent the rest of his life there. Sting wrote "Englishman in New York" after he met Crisp and they became friends.

While living in England and again in New York, Crisp listed his phone number in the public phone directory and insisted on talking to anyone who called him. I told this fact to a college friend, who didn't believe me, so we looked up his number and called him! He answered on the fourth ring with "Oh, yes?" We spoke with him for about 10 minutes and he was delightful in every way. At the end of the conversation, he told us "Enjoy your young years, my darlings. They go by oh-so fast."

When Quentin Crisp died in 1999, I was genuinely saddened as if I'd lost an old friend. I can still see him walking through New York with his trademark fedora and scarf, smoking cigarettes with the holder he grasped in his delicate fingers with their painted fingernails—refusing to be anyone other than his wonderful self.

We should all be so brave.

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 29 - Inspired by...the Supernatural

"A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale."
The internet podcast show Welcome to Night Vale has been described as "Prairie Home Companion as seen through the eyes of Stephen King" and "NPR meets The Mothman Prophesies." To me it's a delightfully bizarre, creepy, and outrageously funny show that I like WAY to much.

Night Vale is a fictional desert town with a community access radio program hosted by narrator Cecil Baldwin. It also has a (ir)regular cast of characters, including Carlos the Scientist, Old Woman Josie, Hiram McDaniels the Five-Headed Dragon, and the Indian Tracker. It also has a wide variety of strange phenomenon (that everyone seems to accept as normal) including an invisible clock tower that teleports to different locations, a glow cloud that rains animals, hooded figures, black helicopters, and angels.

For today's challenge, I chose some common elements from various Welcome to Night Vale broadcasts, including the show's logo (thumb), Cecil's Cthulu-like tattoos (pointer), the hooded figures in the dog park (middle), the glow cloud (ring), and the sandstorm vortex (ring). The colors used for today's challenge are:
  • China Glaze - Spontaneous
  • Wet n Wild - Distrubia
  • OPI - Alpine White
It's almost impossible to describe how entertaining Welcome to Night Vale isit really has to be experienced in all its twisted glory. To find out more, visit Commonplace Books or listen to episodes using Podbay.
"The City Council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Sommerset, near the Ralph’s. They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible that you will see hooded figures in the dog park. DO NOT APPROACH THEM. DO NOT APPROACH THE DOG PARK. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and, especially, do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you."

September 28, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 28 - Inspired by...a Flag

Texas has a very important governor's election coming up in November. Many people don't realize that, before 1995, Texas had not had a Republican governor in 150 years. Hopefully, after 10 years of Republican rule, a lot of Texans have come to understand why and will start voting for Democrats again (despite our grossly gerrymandered voting map). 

My nail art today features the Texas flag and the design is called "Turn Texas Blue."

Just a few of the important issues riding on this election include the rising cost of college, raising minimum wage and creating more high-paying jobs, developing clean energy technology, protecting women's health, and expanding Medicare (which will create 300,000 jobs and save 20,000 lives). Although Texas has had embarrassingly low voter turnouts in that last 10 years, I hope more people realize that if they want things to change, they have to get out there and vote.

The colors and decorations I used for today's challenge are:
  • Wet n Wild - I Red A Good Book
  • Sinful Colors - Rain Storm
  • OPI - Alpine White
  • Wet n Wild - Disturbia
  • China Glaze - Spontaneous
  • Revlon - Charming
  • LA Colors - Aquatics
  • Essie - Lilacism
  • Fergie by Wet n Wild - Hollywood Walk of Fame
Go Wendy!

September 27, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 27 - Inspired by...Artwork

When I first looked at the list for the 31-Day Challenge and saw "Inspired by Artwork," I knew immediately the artist I wanted to feature in a nail design—local Dallas artist, JVan.

His work is often classified as abstract, but much of his recent work has been more figurative. He most often paints on textured board or canvas, but he has also experimented with painting on metal, so I chose one of these paintings ("A Stitch In Time") as the basis for today's challenge.

Being an artist—whether you're painting, sculpting, writing, creating multimedia—can be a very solitary existence. If you're able to find a partner who understands and supports those periods of creative isolation, then you're very lucky. I'm very fortunate to have such a partner (and I hope he feels fortunate too) because the artist JVan is my husband. 

A Stitch in Time by JVan

We're in the process of making a new website where people can view his work and buy a wide variety of prints. It's not quite finished yet, but to see some of his work (more to come later) please visit his gallery at Fine Art America.

The colors I used for today's challenge are:
  • China Glaze - Platinum Silver
  • Wet n Wild - I Red A Good Book
  • LA Colors - Aquatic
  • Maybelline Color Show - Onyx Black
In his musical Sunday in the Park with George, one of Stephen Sondheim's characters proclaims "There are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart this world of ourschildren and art." I have to say that I agree. Do you?

September 26, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 26 - Inspired by...a Pattern

My father spent most of his professional life selling metal. Not in a scrap yard kind of way but rather selling steel and aluminum plates, rods, and other manufactured metal goods to large construction projects, auto and airplane builders, and the military. As a child, my father would take me to the warehouse where the metal was stored and I remember being fascinated by the wide variety of shapes and patterns on the various types of metal. The design for today's Pattern challenge is based on a common stamped aluminum pattern.

I used one of my new Shany stamping plates to create this pattern and I'm very please with how it came out. Stamping has been a difficult technique for me to learn, but lately I've been getting the hang of it.

The colors I used for this challenge are:
  • Wet n Wild - Undercover
  • Konad Stamping Polish - Black
  • Shany Cosmetics Image Plate #SH220
We're in the home stretch! Only five more days to go in the 2014 31-Day Challenge—have you planned out your last few designs?

September 25, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 25 - Inspired by...Fashion

Mention my name and "fashion" in the same sentence and most of the people who know me will smile, shake their heads, and say "Bless her heart..." 

It's not that I'm a fashion victim who wears combinations that make them cringe or anything—it's just that choosing fashionable ensembles for myself isn't my strong suit. Maybe it's because I've always been such a tomboy. Maybe because my body shape (big chest, short waist, long legs) makes shopping an incredibly  frustrating experience. Maybe because I've never had a job that required me to dress up. Whatever the reason, I'm pretty good at choosing flattering clothes for everyone except myself.

Luckily, I have a few people in my life who are really skilled at selecting clothing or accessories that I love and look good on me. My mother falls into this "fashion assist" category and she bought the scarf I used as the inspiration for today's challenge. Thanks Mom!

The colors I used for today's challenge are:

  • OPI - Alpine White
  • Wet n Wild - Break the Ice
  • China Glaze - Spontaneous
  • LA Colors Art Deco Striper - Purple Glitter
Are you a fashion diva or a jeans and t-shirt kind of person? How did you choose your inspiration for today's challenge?

September 24, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 24 - Inspired by...a Book

"Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” 
I'm a big believer in art therapy. Not creating pieces of art to help work through psychological issues (although that's good too) but renewing yourself by looking at a painting or sculpture, reading a book, or even watching a movie. As a result, whenever I need a reminder that there are still good people in the worldevery day heroes who struggle to do what's rightI re-read To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee's novel about racism in the Depression-era South has always been balm for my soul. As a child I strongly identified with Scout (Jean Louise) Finch, the tomboy protagonist who narrates the book. Her father, Atticus Finch, was named the all-time greatest movie hero by the American Film Institute (in the superb film adaptation)—but more importantly, his character was the type of father I'd always wish I'd had. I've read the book (and seen the movie) many times, at many different stages of my life and it never ceases to be an amazing piece of literature.

The original cover art for To Kill a Mockingbird was done in orange, green, and dark brown so I created a nail design with those colors.

The colors I used for today's challenge are all from Revlon
—Provoke, Entice, French Roast, and Fall Mood. Design elements include:
  • A drawing Scout does of a mockingbird
  • A gavel to represent the trial of Tom Robinson
  • A tree with a knothole where Scout and her brother Jem receive mysterious presents from the enigmatic Boo Radley
  • Atticus' pocket watch
  • The first words Scout says to Boo
  • Leaves from the book cover design
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'.” 

September 23, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 23 - Inspired by...a Movie

"With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But, not everybody could get to Lisbon directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up: Paris to Marseilles...across the Mediterranean to Oran...then by train, or auto, or foot across the rim of Africa, to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca... and wait... and wait... and wait."
The opening scene of Casablanca has a brilliant piece of narration that introduces one of the best examples of screenwriting ever created. It's concise, it grabs you immediately, it sets the tone for the rest of the movie...and it's a complete and utter fabrication! 

That's right, there was never a refugee "underground railroad" like the one described in the first two minutes of Casablanca, and yet many people believe there was. And that's one of the hallmarks of great writing—words so well constructed it allows us to completely suspend our disbelief and lose ourselves in a great story. My nail art for today's challenge is a tribute to that opening scene.

The colors and decorations I used for today's challenge are:

  • Orly - Voyeuristic Adventure
  • Kiss Nail Art Striping Polish - Black
  • Sephora by OPI - Matte Top Coat
  • Sassy & Chic Nail Jewels
I took a screenwriting course where, on the last day, we did nothing but analyze the script for Casablanca line by line—and it was fascinating! If you've never seen this movie, drop what you're doing and download it immediately... you'll be glad you did.

"Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

September 22, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 22 - Inspired by...a Song

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
I can't think of a time when I wasn't making up stories and writing them down. Writing gives me a voice, encourages my creativity, and helps to keep me sane. So what better song for the "inspired by a song" challenge than Paperback Writer by The Beatles?

In this design, I tried to show the world of a writer: books (because all writers were readers first), a keyboard, a little money (if we're lucky) and words, words, words. Writers love words!

The color and decorations I used in this challenge are:
  • Wet n Wild - Sugar Coat; Wet Cement; Undercover; Bite the Bullet
  • Sinful Colors - Bright Lucite
  • Kiss Nail Art Striping Polish - Black
  • Maybelline Nail Tattoos - Financial District Collection
  • Heart 2 Art Nail Tattoos - Comic Nation
Paperback Writer was the first song released as a single by The Beatles that wasn't a love song. It went to the number one spot in Britain, the United States, West Germany, and Australia. 

September 21, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 21 - Inspired by...a Color

We're in the final stretch and today starts the "Inspired by..." section of the challenge. My inspiration for today's design is China Glaze's color "Hang-Ten Toes," a bright pink I wouldn't normally wear but is perfect for this design.

Founded in 1960, the Hang Ten company represented the modern surf scene to all of us in the land-locked, "flyover" states. Fashion in the 1970s included psychedelic colors, polyester, crazy prints...and it seemed like everyone had at least one article of clothing showing the Hang Ten logo! Those two little bare feet prints represented sand, surf, and endless summer to an entire generation.

In addition to Hang-Ten Toes, I used Kiss Nail Art black striping polish (with a dotting tool and a fine-stroke brush) to freehand the little feet walking across my nails. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but I'm very pleased with the result.

With only 10 more to go, what remaining challenges are you looking forward to (or dreading)?

September 20, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 20 - Water Marble

Before today's challenge, I'd never tried the water marble technique. After today's challenge, I'll probably never do it again.

I've never tried any nail art technique as difficult to get right as this one! I always had respect for nail artists who use water marbling, but that has increased tenfold—especially the ones who make it look easy. I struggled for almost 2 hours to get something that looked halfway decent on my nails.

I did learn some important information about the water marble technique, especially from this excellent video by Ashley Savage.

  • It's REALLY messy. I taped off my fingers but I still got polish all over my hands.
  • Not all nail polishes will spread out into that nice "bull's eye" shape you need to be successful. I tried China Glaze, OPI, and Wet n Wild and none of them worked. I was finally successful with Sinful Colors (Bright Lucite and Rain Storm).
  • Water temperature definitely matters. Too warm or too cold makes the polish behave badly (clumping, drying too fast, etc.) Some people say water marbling works better with bottled water, but I didn't have any so I couldn't try it.
  • The size of the water container seems to make a difference. A shorter, shallower container worked better for me.
  • Never start as the edge of the polish when making a pattern—insert the toothpick or needle about 1/4 of the way in. (I ruined three bull's eyes before I figured this out!)
Overall, I'm glad I tried water marbling. For me, this challenge has been all about pushing myself as a nail artist. That said, this isn't one of my favorite techniques—too much effort for too little reward.

September 19, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 19 - Galaxy

I've been an avid science fiction fan since I was very young. I read the sci-fi novels of Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, and many others. I loved movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Forbidden Planet, The Days the Earth Stood Still, and even Planet of the Apes. And do I really need to explain what a huge Trekkie I was (and still am)? But it wasn't until I was flipping channels one evening and randomly stopped on PBS that I was introduced to Doctor Who.

Sure, the original series was supposed to be more of a kid's show and it could be silly at times but I loved the idea of a Time Lord (my first Doctor was the incredible Tom Baker), who could travel to anywhere in time and space, in a ship that looked like an old English police box that was bigger on the inside. And when the new Doctor Who launched on BBC America, I fell in love with it all over again! So there was no way I could create galaxy nails for today's challenge without including a blue box careening across the universe.

I used many different colors and glitters for today's challenge.

For the galaxy:
  • Maybelline Color Show - Black Onyx
  • Orly - Masked Ceremony (an amazing black-based glitter)
  • OPI - Alpine Snow
  • Revlon - Blue Slate
  • Revlon - Cafe Pink
  • China Glaze - Spontaneous
  • China Glaze - Fairy Dust
  • Fergie by Wet n Wild - Kaleidoscope Eyes
For the vortex and the TARDIS:
  • Sinful Colors - Pull Over
  • Sinful Colors - Rain Storm
  • LA Colors - Lime Life
It's hard to described, to people who aren't Doctor Who fans, why those of us who are love it so much. But this quotes comes pretty close:
Because I've seen him. He's like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. He's ancient and forever... He burns at the center of time and he can see the turn of the universe... And...he's wonderful. (Doctor Who - "The Family of Blood")

September 18, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 18 - Half Moons

Half Moon nail art designs can be really beautiful and classy. Whenever I get dressed up, I inevitably create a half moon nail art to complement my outfit.

However, for today's half moon challenge, I was feeling a little puckish and wanted to create something funand what's more fun than balloons and confetti?

I started with a neutral base coat, to make sure all the colors showed to their best advantages, then used french tip vinyls to add the glitter and create the edges of the balloons. The colors used for today's challenge are:
  • Wet n Wild - Sugar Coat
  • LA Colors - Candy Sprinkles
  • Orly - Risque Encounter
  • Revlon - Entice
  • China Glaze - Spontaneous
  • Revlon - Provoke
  • LA Colors - Aquatic
  • Wet n Wild - Wet Cement
Do you have a fun, new design you've tried during the 31-Day Challenge? Tell me about it in the comments.

September 17, 2014

#31DC2014 31-Day Challenge - Day 17 - Glitter

I have mixed feelings about glitter. In some designs, it can look really beautiful. During the holidays, especially Christmas and New Year's, it's very festive to have extra sparkle on your nails. 

However, glitter can be very difficult to work with at times. Some glitter formulas spread better than others; some have to be manipulated by hand to look right on your nails. Plus every one I've ever tried is difficult to remove.

But for all my complaining, I have many different kinds of glitter polish and use it often. My favorite glitters are ones that look more like confetti
it's like a party on my fingers! The colors and glitters I used for this gradient design are:
  • Sinful Colors - Bright Lucite
  • Revlon - Provoke
  • Fergie by Wet n Wild - Kaleidoscope Eyes
  • LA Colors - Craze
Anyone have a good trick to make removing glitter polish easier? I'd love to hear about it below.