Tis the Season: Holiday Artwork by Rachel Finegan

Today’s post comes from my friend, Rachel, who is a fantastic artist.  While not a blogger, I asked if she would like to feature some of her Christmas-themed work and she generously agreed.  She also gave me a short statement about what the holiday season means to her, which I have included below.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Rachel’s art, you can follow her Facebook page or follow her Instagram account, illustrachel.


I was thinking about the post idea, ‘What does the holiday season mean to you?’

It’s cheesy but, to me, Christmas means the promise of light in the darkness, and hope when all seems lost. I like that we celebrate Christmas in one of the coldest, darkest, bitterest points in the year; because to me, we celebrate that light and life will come again, and the darkness will be just a memory.

wreath Continue reading

Adventures in Amsterdam

The second chapter of my European adventure is well under way!

I arrived in Amsterdam on Monday night, which was an adventure in and of itself.  My flight from Scotland was delayed, which was okay, it just meant I got to my hostel later than expected.  Getting from the airport to they city’s center was an easy train ride, followed by a half-hour walk through the dark streets.  I got to my hostel at 11 PM and promptly went to sleep.

Two full days proved to be all I needed to check all the boxes in my “To See” list.

Yesterday was spent in art museums.  My first stop was the Rijksmuseum, which is the Dutch national museum.  I spent a few hours wandering the galleries, soaking in the country’s history through paintings.  There were a few of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings in the collection, which were amazing to see in person.

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Stereotypical tourist shot featuring the “I amsterdam” sign, tulips, and the Rijksmuseum.

I lingered for a LONG time in the Van Gogh Museum, which might just be one of my new favorites.  I feel like I appreciated the collection more than anything I’ve seen in quite a while.  Going from room to room reading about Van Gogh’s life and viewing his art, I actually felt like I was getting to know him.  It was more than just empty information.  I feel like I encountered a flesh and blood man.  The collection was impressive–there were at least a hundred of his works on display.  (To think that, in the States, just having one is a big deal!)

This morning, I got up early… but not early enough to beat the crowds at the Anne Frank House.  I arrived right at opening, but the line was already stretching down the street and around the corner.  Half-expecting this would be the case, I brought my Kindle and read a book during the two-hour wait.  The museum was definitely worth it.  To walk through the Secret Annex (entering through the original concealed door), to see Anne’s handwriting in person, to watch videos of her father reflecting on the experience… it was incredible.  I was deeply moved.  At the end, they had a book with all the names of the Dutch Jews who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis… the book was the size of a Bible.  Over 10,000 names.  That really hit me–I can’t even wrap my mind around those kind of numbers.

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Dutch tulips!

My second stop today was the Rembrandt House.  Although not as moving as my first stop, I thoroughly enjoyed touring the rooms and studio of one of my favorite painters.  Like Van Gogh, I learned a LOT about the artist that I didn’t know before.  At the end, there was an hour-long video (produced by the BBC) about his later career.  I watched the whole thing… partially because my legs were tired from walking all day, but mostly because it was fascinating.  They examined several of his paintings in-depth, which gave profound insight into the painter’s methods.

Aside from grand museums, it’s been enjoyable just walking around Amsterdam.  It’s a great city, filled with beautiful buildings and picturesque canals.  The city definitely has its dark corners and dodgy bits, but I was able to avoid them.

Also, bikes!  There are bikes everywhere!  I have to continually remind myself to watch out for them, lest I get run over.

One of my favorite bits has been meeting locals.  I had a long discussion with a man in a cafe this afternoon–he told me all about Dutch art, history, and even pointed me to some lesser-known museums (which I will have to visit if I’m ever back).

So… that’s Amsterdam!

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Canals in the Jordaan neighborhood.

 

 

When I’m Not Writing, I’m Doing Something Useful (Writing 101, Day 11)

Someone once asked me why I didn’t have any useful hobbies.  I didn’t respond to the question.  It wasn’t worth my time.  In response, though, I have some questions of my own.

What is more useful than learning to see things from other people’s perspectives?  Reading does that.

What is more useful than creating something beautiful?  This happens every time I pick up a paintbrush.

Lately, I’ve spent a great deal of my free time writing.  I mean… what do you expect when your course is titled Writing 101?  But writing isn’t all I do.

I love books.  Those three words don’t even begin to describe my love for the written word.  I count myself among the world’s bibliophiles.  To read a book is akin to breathing.  As long as I can remember, I’ve been a reader.  Nothing has changed over the years.  College was awesome because it gave me an excuse to read all kinds of interesting books and get graded for it.  I used to be a one-book-at-a-time kind of girl.  Now I usually balance two or three at a time.  My bedroom has no less than six shelves–all full to the brim.  My “To-Read” list is endless.  In case you were wondering, right now I’m balancing a book of feminist essays, Love Does by Bob Geoff, and some fluffy YA fiction.

I also love art.  One of my favorite places during my semester in London was the National Gallery.  Whenever I had twenty minutes to kill, I’d duck in and spend time with Monet and Rembrandt.  But my love isn’t limited to viewing art.  I love creating it.  Like reading, I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember.  I got very serious about it when I was eleven and have been striving ever since.  A year ago, I picked up watercolors.  It’s been a blast learning the ins and outs of the new medium and combining it with my drawings.  My work isn’t high brow, art museum level.  It’s not even Art Major level.  But it doesn’t have to be.  I don’t make art to excel–I make art to fill me up.

Reading and painting bring me life.  They make me happy and they make others happy.  I love giving people hand-crafted art to put on their wall or hold their pages in a book.  What is more useful than touching the lives of the people you love?

This is just a sampling of some of the things I've painted recently.
This is just a sampling of some of the things I’ve painted recently.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Fall Posting Schedule

Seasons are changing once more and, as always, we must change with them.  At the beginning of summer, I crafted a blogging schedule and my follow-through was pretty dismal.  However, the beautiful thing about failure is that it provides opportunities to learn and grow.  I’m all about learning and growing.

Here we are at the beginning of another season and it’s time for another attempt.

Without further ado, I present to you my Fall Posting Schedule!  (With new banners!)

Orchard Moments: This is a revamped version of my attempted summer feature, Pleasant Valley Thursday.  My original intent for these posts were to give insight into what it’s like to live at an apple orchard while simultaneously complaining about my field labor job.  The problem is that the formatting just didn’t work.  When it came down to it, I just didn’t want to make big long posts explaining the details of farming.

In the new feature, I’ll post brief glimpses into orchard life–photos, blurbs, funny things that happen, etc.  This way, I can still share a significant part of my life with you all without getting bogged down.  These posts will come out on Tuesdays.

OrchardMoments banner

On the Shelf: These posts became regular over the summer and quickly became one of my favorite parts of blogging.  Each week, I pick a book that I’ve recently read and do an informal review.  I provide a brief summary of the text, rate it on a five-star scale, and discuss my thoughts/experience.  If the book has been adapted into movies, I sometimes share trailers or favorite clips.  Occasionally, I share fan art.  Sometimes, I’m juggling multiple books and am not in the position to write in detail about any of them.  When this happens, I like to make a big post where I briefly touch on everything.  During the summer I published these on Tuesdays, but have decided to move them to Thursdays.  This way, I have time during the week to draft quality posts throughout the week instead of scrambling to pull them together the night before.

On the Shelf Banner

#WeekendCoffeeShare: I know several other bloggers who do these and I’ve recently joined in.  The idea is to draft a post where you discuss your week as if you’re meeting up with your readers for coffee.  It’s a great way to casually talk about things I normally wouldn’t blog about–random happenstances, complaints, and all the in-betweens that make life fun.  It’s hosted by Part Time Monster.

Month in Review: At the end of each month, I’ve decided to pause and look back, focusing on three areas: Blogging, Books, and Life.  I feel like this is a good step towards regularity–it’s a way to look back on my blogging habits and find ways of improving.  It’s also a good way to help position myself in life.  By reflecting on where I’ve been, I can figure out where I’m going–a theme at the heart of what Keep Your Feet is all about.

Month in Review blog heading

Sketchbook Corner: One of the ways I de-stress is by creating art.  I’m not amazing, but when enough art piles up, I like to post it.  This feature is infrequent, but fun.

I’ve also decided to participate in the WordPress Blogging University Writing 101 course.  This means four weeks of daily assignments that will help me find inspiration to write every day.  I attempted to take the course last month, but never received any of the emails, so I am trying again! I’m looking forward to the challenge.  It will definitely be a time commitment and I know that I might not be able to keep up perfectly.  But I’m going to try!  I really love that WordPress offers these classes.  I love polishing my site and exploring new styles of posts.  As always, I hope this opens opportunities to get to know other bloggers and find new sites to follow.

I’ll also be working on updating my features tab found at the top of the page to match the new schedule. Such things take time.

It should be a great fall!  Feel free to join with me as I embark on a season of apple orchards, books, and fun! I’m excited to see what the next few months holds for Keep Your Feet.

Sketchbook Corner: End of Summer Haul

It’s been ages since I did one of these.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to do with my art–especially my paintings.  In the last Sketchbook Corner, I mused on the possibility of selling my work at the small store attached to my family’s apple orchard.  Since then, I’ve decided not to sell my work.  I make art because I love it.  And I love to give it away.  Since I began painting a year ago, one of my favorite things aside from the joy of creation is to give a piece os my art to someone who will appreciate it.  Countless bookmarks and little landscapes have found their ways into the hands of people I care about.  The delight on their faces when they look at my work is more valuable than any money I’d make by selling.

Lately, I’ve been revisiting colored pencils.  I’ve avoided them for years, but picked up a set of new ones on a whim.  So far, I’ve been happy with them.  They are less time-consuming than watercolors and there are more color blending options.  Check out my usual batch of ladies and mermaids:

I’ve been doing my best to pick up my paints at least once a week.  I’ve been working on (more) ladies…

… as well as some nature.

I like doing Sketchbook Corners, but they’ve become infrequent.  Which is sad.  If you’re reading this, I am in need of feedback…

Would you prefer art posts that are large and substantial, but infrequent OR more frequent, small posts?  Please let me know!  Your feedback is appreciated!

Sketchbook Corner

One of my favorite features here on Keep Your Feet is Sketchbook Corner.  Since I’m participating in Blogging 101, I feel like I should explain the history of these posts.  They began sometime last fall during school.  Unless the class is completely gripping, I usually find myself needing to do something to do with my hands.  I took up doodling in the margins.  Eventually, I was struck by a thought: Why not share these on the blog?

Thus, Sketchbook Corner was born.  Every couple of months, I like to share the art I’ve been working on.  I’m no studio art major… just a self-taught artist who enjoys creating things.  My primary medium has always been pencils–I’ve been drawing for over ten years.  Over the past year, though, I’ve expanded into watercolors!

At least once a week, I put in a movie and settle down with my paints.  It’s a wonderful way to relax after a long day of work.  I enter my own little world and, for a while, time stops.  I’m always completely shocked when an episode of a show ends–did an hour really just pass?

Enough rambling from me… here is the art!

I’ve recently taken up colored pencils again and have been revisiting some old doodles in my sketchbook.  Here are some colored ones below:

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Top left: Ginny Weasley Bottom left: Random mermaid Right: Some of my original characters

I really enjoy painting bookmarks–they’re functional and make for great gifts!  Normally I paint people, but have recently pushed myself into the realm of flowers.  My dad told me that if I can find a way to market them, I could make larger flower paintings and sell them at our family’s apple orchard store in the fall!

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Other paintings… Be sure to click into the gallery to see my comments about them!

Stay tuned for another Sketchbook Corner in a month or so.  Thanks for stopping by!

Weekend Wrap-Up

It’s only when you work full-time that you realize how absolutely splendid weekends are.  Despite it being rainy most of the past couple days, I’ve had some special moments.  Pajamas till noon, long bike rides, time with family.  Here’s a big conglomeration of it all.

Part I

Yesterday, I opened my copy of Persuasion by Jane Austen to find a wonderful surprise.  I bought it months ago at a thrift store and within the pages was a stack of photos that I can only assume belong to the book’s previous owner.  Most of the photos are of a bunch of young kids hanging out in summer.  Printing notes on the back tell me that they are from 2008.  It’s really special, finding photos that meant something to someone.

Who are these kids?

Which one owned the book?

Where are they now?

Do they still remember the good times they had together?

It’s a special thing, getting a glimpse into someone else’s memories.

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On another note, I hope to be discussing Persuasion in a few weeks during my weekly On the Shelf post.  I’ve got something else planned for this week, but Austen is coming!

Part II

I donated to my first Kickstarter campaign!  I’ve been trying to get better at financial giving and, instead of supporting a charity or ministry, I put my money to support one of my favorite bands.  Jenny & Tyler are a folksy husband/wife duo who sing lots of love sings and have a passion for social justice.  I saw them live in concert in October and loved every minute of it.  You can check out their music on YouTube and, if you like what you hear, donate to their Kickstarter campaign!  They’ll be using the money to fund a couple new albums and a tour!

Part III

I’m hoping to paint these tonight!  If I don’t get to them, I’ll for-sure paint them sometime this week.  I’m REALLY excited to see how the mermaid turns out.

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(Sorry for the crappy photo quality… I had to use my computer’s camera ’cause uploading from my phone wasn’t working.)

Part IV

I made the poor decision to go into Goodwill and Half Price Books this afternoon, which means unnecessarily buying books I won’t get to reading for three years.  Still, I managed to snag an autographed copy of Sarah Dessen’s new book Saint Anything!!!  It’s been a LONG while since I’ve read any of Dessen’s work, but I was a big fan in high school.  This book was ridiculously overpriced, even for a discount store, but I can now display it next to my other autographed books.  (I’d like to note that this collection includes a first-edition, signed copy of The Fault in Our Stars.)

Part V

I got to see Pitch Perfect 2 on Friday.  It was pretty crude at points and didn’t have the most original plot, but I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard.

That’s it for my wrap-up.  Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Sketchbook Corner: End-of-College Edition

When I was ten, I decided that I would teach myself to draw.  Eleven years later, I’m still pushing myself to get better with my pencils.  At the beginning of this school year, I decided that I would teach myself to paint.  I’ve never been particularly good with the medium.  They’ve always felt like foreign territory.  I’ve never known what to do with all the colors.  But I’ve stuck to my goal and this post is a testament to how far I’ve come.

Because finals have been fairly low-key for me this semester, I’ve taken to my painting with a vengeance.  Lots of nights have been spent working and plowing through Game of Thrones.  (I’ve watched a season and a half in less than a week.  Yay college.)

First, I’ve been experimenting with variations of water and trees.  This image has been in my mind for a LONG time.  While driving home from the North Shore over Spring Break, I remember looking out on Lake Superior.  The lake was pure gold, reflecting the sunlight, and was framed by an assortment of purple-looking birch trees.  The gorgeous image stuck with me.

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My other paintings have been primarily of people.  As you can see, I’ve been really interested in pretty women in flowing dresses–particularly those of ancient Greek/Roman style.  Be sure to click on all the images in the gallery to see my comments on each of them.  Aside from the first, I used stock images as references for these from the wonderful Faestock on Deviantart.

This final painting found its origins in a sketch from my Shakespeare class.  We were discussing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the time and I found myself drawing fairies all over my notes.  Although I actually picture her a lot differently, here is my exploration of Titania.  She’s not quite finished–I want to revisit the background and give it more depth.  But I’m rather pleased!

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Now I’d like to know… which is your favorite and why?

Sketchbook Corner

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done one of these.  I’m proud to present more of my art!

I’ve been sketching more than usual lately.  Here are some snippets:

See the uncolored Cinderella sketch in the above gallery?  I transposed it to watercolor paper and here is the result.  I wish I had been more bold with some of the colors, but it’s a start!

IMG_4259Also, I’ve been continuing making bookmarks.  Just as I did with the Cinderella painting, I take doodles from my class notes, copy them on narrowly cut watercolor paper, and paint them in.  I love creating art that’s actually useful.  These sure brighten up my assigned reading.

Finally, this is a project I’ve spent this week working on.  We just finished reading and discussing Tennyson’s Idylls of the King in my Courtly Love class.  At the end of the poem, Camelot ultimately falls because of Guinevere’s infidelity with Lancelot.  This painting is one of the few instances where I consciously construct the image.  I put a lot of thought into her pose and color scheme.  The text is a quote from the end of Tennyson’s fantastic poem.

I want to know…

“Do what brings you life” has become my mantra of late.  It’s been on my mind a lot over the past week.  Last night, after a hectic all-over-the-place day, I spent some quality time painting and catching up on t.v. shows.  I felt so at peace.

As I was going to bed, I realized that I don’t want to simply dwell on what brings ME life.  So much of this blog is about me.  I want to go beyond myself.  I want to know, readers, what brings YOU life?  What makes you tick?  What brings you joy?  What are the things that you can’t imagine NOT doing?

Answer in the comments!  It will make my day!

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Last night’s painting. It’s nothing special, but I loved the time I spent making it. Lyrics are from Rend Collective.