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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Happy birthday to my favorite person!

In our culture we make a big stinkin’ deal about turning thirty, and then it turns out to feel not so different from any other birthday. Still, there’s a quiet momentousness to it: you let go of the doubts and confusion of the twenties, and grow into yourself. My “little” sister turned 30 last week, and I thought I should give her something suited to the occasion.

 

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Kate and Elliot have decorated their home primarily with photographs and other artwork from their travels. I thought back to the gorgeous Nouveau window in the front door at the Tesla museum in Belgrade (which we’d visited on our Eastern European tour back in 2007), and decided to recreate it for them. (If you click on that link you can see the original window.)

 

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Last things first: I ordered a custom frame (12″ x 36″) made from reclaimed barn wood (swoon!) from Signed and Numbered on Etsy, since it would take a few weeks to make and ship. I didn’t know yet which colors I’d use for the background, so I just chose a distressed “robin’s-egg-blue” (read: green) finish because it seemed like a color I’d want to use in the piece.

Then I picked up large sheets of paper from Dick Blick, one black for the “wrought iron” and one white for the background. Sketching and Exacto-ing was really relaxing, even meditative.

 

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Naturally I didn’t get down to business on the background until a few days before I was leaving for D.C. I picked up a set of Holbein oil pastels (a medium I hadn’t used since high school), plus a few more complex colors (Sennelier brand) a la carte, which were an absolute joy to draw with; alternating between the two brands reinforced for me just how important is the quality of one’s materials. The Holbein pastels were adequate; the Sennelier pastels were like drawing with (plant-based) butter (only not nearly as messy as that sounds!) Investing in the best-quality materials you can afford is money well spent.

 

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Okay, I’m going to be honest with you. I only finished the background the morning of my departure. I still think it looks pretty good for being a seat-of-my-pants effort though:

 

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(The other thing is that I can always swap out the background if I ever come up with something I’m happier with, and that Kate would prefer. At any rate, the “wrought iron” is the point of the piece; I just needed the background to offer a sense of depth and distance.)

Kate wanted to wait until Sunday to open her present, for the same reason that we try to space out our Christmas gifts. Open everything at first opportunity, and face the deflation of it’s all over already! They’d hired a hip hop band for the birthday party Saturday, and it was a really fun night. We stayed up late, Elliot made a delicious potato-kale-onion breakfast hash in the morning, and then they opened the box.

 

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A very satisfying art project, I must say!

 

4 Comments to Happy birthday to my favorite person!

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    October 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    What an awesome birthday present!! It looks so awesome and fits so well with the rest of the decor. I love it! Thank you so much!!!

  2. October 27, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Such a beautiful piece. Inspiring!

  3. Ang's Gravatar Ang
    October 28, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    So beautiful, Camille. You make the coolest projects, Seriously!

  4. November 9, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Wow, Camille, I love that!!!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.