Denver Illustrator Mad Skillz

We’re feeling a little punchy tonight: it’s the end of Spring Break and we enjoyed a staycation. Which is to say we searched desperately for free or low cost things to do each day with three kids of varying ages (8, 5 and 2). Anyhoo, tonight’s meal was stir fry whipped up at home and supplemented with delicious potstickers from Thornton’s own Heaven Dragon. Plus: gigantic slices of navel oranges.

Bring on that weekend! Here’s a cute illustration from Jonathan’s latest picture book project called STUFF. He’s been working on this character this week and he says he’s finally there. Have a great weekend, ya’ll! And thanks for stopping by.

A picture of a boy looking up by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

 

Because Sometimes, You Just Have to Have Cat Illustrations

We’re still working away on our special projects, so again, please excuse the stillness here. I am *THISCLOSE* to finishing my middle grade novel, so close ICANTASTEIT. My heroine is making her journey home–for now, insert sinister laugh–and I’m tying up all of, well, everything. And this makes me nervous but also grateful. I am so very happy with this book. It has been a delight to write. And I can’t say that about every book I have written (this is my 4.5th; two were published; one wasn’t; and one was halfway completed before I realized it wasn’t a book I could write.)

And now, since you dropped by: here’s a cat illustration Jonathan did today for a local client. It’s a Kat Karnival!

An illustration of a cat juggling mice by Denver artist Jonathan Fenske

Love Is in the Air Review + A Cybils Nomination!

We were delighted to see that Laura Purdie Salas posted a review of Love Is in the Air yesterday on her blog. Thank you, Laura! She is the author of BookSpeak! Poems About Books and Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, both with Clarion, and a rhyming nonfiction picture book from Millbrook Press called A Leaf Can Be.

Image of Love Is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske

Here’s an excerpt of the review (we love her writing!):

“Drama! There aren’t many easy readers where I think, “Oh, no, how is this going to work out!” But I did with this one. When Kite floats to Earth and Balloon is going up, up, up, it’s very foreboding. And it seems hopeless…”

Read the rest of the review, here.

Also, we have learned that Love Is in the Air was nominated for a Cybil, the children’s and young adult bloggers’ literary awards. This is terribly exciting to be honored by bloggers in this way because literary bloggers were the first people to embrace Love Is in the Air. We have such a place in our heart for the bloggers who reviewed Jonathan’s first book. Thank you to Katie Fitzgerald at Secrets and Sharing Soda for the nomination. We’re also thrilled to see Jodie Rodriguez from Growing Book by Book on the judging panel, as well as Katie. She reviewed Love Is earlier this year. All three of these bloggers have been such an encouragement!

Housework: I Am Not the Maid

We have this thing in our home where little pink and polka-dotted socks roll inside-out and then beach themselves all over the house, apparently in a last-ditch effort to enjoy life before succumbing to a long, slow journey to the laundry.

I find these socks, these mournful little piles of cotton, in all rooms. It’s heart-breaking. Who will take a stand and care for their lost plight?

A picture of a sock on a floor

Sometimes, pedestrians walk past without a second glance. Cold, unfeeling monsters. In cute pajamas.

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Oftentimes, the socks stick together against all odds, defying the inevitable, and link hands, for one last fling.

A picture of brown socks on a couch

This is life from here. Lots of little girl socks. All over the house. And a lone woman crying, “I am not the maid!” This falls on deaf ears. And naked feet.

A sample illustration from Guppy Up! by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

An excerpt from Guppy Up! by Jonathan Fenske (Penguin USA, 2013)

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

We painted our family room and kitchen (they are one continuous room) a seedling green in 2007. I was into gradients back then, so the color in the family room was lighter and the kitchen was a darker version of the green. I liked the color for years, but lately, I knew I wanted to go gray. At first, I was thinking a dark gray but Jonathan said that would be like living in a storm cloud in the most used room in our house. I knew he was right, so I went on the hunt for the perfect gray.

Sadly for the gray color chips of the world, I was asking a lot. I needed the Perfect Gray to be smart, sophisticated, not purple, not blue-gray, unassuming, farm house honest, city loft cool, reassuring, a little brash, not too arrogant and neutrally neutral. That’s not too much to ask out of a gallon of paint, right?

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

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

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

Here’s what we ended up with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer paints the walls gray with Benjamin Moore Moonshine

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

Moonshine on kitchen walls

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

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

A bag of items from Home Goods

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

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

The Magical Wood Shop: Tyler Morris Woodworking

For our family room makeover, I knew I wanted gorgeous new bookshelves to replace the battle-scarred, petulant unit that we placed on Craigslist last week. (Update: it’s sold!  Score one for Team Honest. We told it like it was and still, a really sweet lady bought it. I think of her every day. Did she get home and as various parts fell off of it, did she slap her forehead and say, “Oh, now I get it!” I hope not. Maybe the old bookshelves got their act together after I publicly shamed them. Maybe? Probably not.)

Anyway, back to the bookshelves. We didn’t have the stomach (or budget) to purchase another set of bookshelves, so I decided to make them. I read a ton of blogs and settled on open wooden shelves with wooden shelf brackets. After checking out the shelf brackets at Lowes, I felt there was something else out there. I didn’t know what, exactly, was out there, but I figured Mr. Google would tell me.

My searching led me to Tyler Morris Woodworking in Fort Collins, less than an hour’s drive from our home. Tyler makes gorgeous shelf brackets and so I called him (probably babbling) about how I loved his brackets and I couldn’t wait for the mail and could I drive up there today, like in four hours, and oh yeah, I’m bringing three children under age eight to your workshop filled with dangerous tools?

Tyler graciously agreed to allow us to crash his woodworking shop. The first thing I noticed: it’s really clean and organized. I thought to myself: Jonathan would loooove this place. My man is so organized and the chaos of four women drives him crazy. True story: he just bought a plastic tub for all of our shoes we kick off in the garage. Our scattered shoe piles were pushing him over the edge. So now we have a shiny new tub that is brimming with eighteen colors of Crocs.

But anyway, back to the wood shop:

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Tyler and his team make shelf brackets, corbels (a fancier bracket for countertops), recipe boxes, serving trays, cutting boards and a branch tray that is out-of-this-world pretty. This is the cabinet where he grabbed our order. Look at that neatness!

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While we were in the wood shop, my two older girls made up a gruesome game why the baby wasn’t allowed out of her stroller. Basically, the game was all of the ways Baby Fenske could be injured if she were to climb out of her stroller and toddle around. (Of course, everything in the shop was safety protected, turned off and otherwise harmless to well-behaved children. My girls were, thankfully and unexplainably, good for our visit.)

Tyler Morris Woodworking

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Tyler Morris Woodworking Fort Collins CO

We chose the “Straight 10 Wood Shelf Bracket” which is gorgeous. There are four woods to choose from: Oak, Maple, Cherry and Paint Grade (which is American Poplar). Since we planned to paint our brackets, our choice was easy: Paint Grade. They are $18 a piece and feel like a mini-woodworking miracle. I had to restrain myself from petting the bracket and calling it “My Precious.”

Saturday, I lined up the shelf brackets for painting. They come pre-sanded, so it was a pretty easy job to cover the kitchen table with newspaper, grab the primer, brush and go.

Tyler Morris Straight 10 shelf brackets

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I applied one coat of Valspar Bare Wood Primer to each bracket. It was a little tricky getting under each part of the bracket. You also have to hold the bracket, so that part doesn’t get painted at first. I ended up laying each bracket down and painting over the part that my hand covered. I’m sure there’s some more proper woodworking way of doing this, but I just went with it.

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I let the brackets dry and then lightly sanded them. I took a damp cloth and wiped off any sanding debris. Now it was time to paint!

I chose a deep gray because I wanted contrast with the new wall color which will be a light gray. (I’ll do another blog post on the gray wall color.)

Straight 10 shelf brackets from Tyler Morris Woodworking

This gray is “Storm Cloud Gray” by Benjamin Moore, color matched to Olympic’s no-VOC Premium in semi-gloss. I love the way they turned out. As I went, I would sometimes miss a spot and the white primer would blaze on through. I got better as I painted all nine brackets, but it was dicey at the beginning. If you look carefully at left (above), you can see one of our gray paints we sampled on the wall.

Straight 10 shelf bracket by Tyler Morris Woodworking

I adore these shelf brackets and can’t wait to see them on the wall of the family room. Thanks so much to Tyler for his good-natured patience with our visit (and my pesky questions). We’ll post more pictures soon!

Next up: Can a gray wall color battle insecurities, make me feel designer-ish and generally produce a peaceful feeling of well being? I certainly hope so! 

Back to the Drawing Board: Guppy Up!

Back to the Drawing Board: Guppy Up!

When you are writing a book, some scenes don’t make it in for various reasons. For my second novel, my editor wisely cut about 20 pages that were truly terrible involving a cult-like artists’ colony (bless her).

Here’s a fun illustration that didn’t make the cut for Jonathan’s children’s book, Guppy Up! (Penguin USA). He ended up writing some other rhyme, which left this scene with no place to go. Enjoy!