Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Blank Page – or Adventures with Fecundity


Fecundity is my favorite word. It is the ability to produce. When I am at my best creatively, I am relaxed, comfortable, and feel free. This state of being does not come naturally. I have (as do you, I suspect) what feels like A TON of things that must be done. I have roles of mother, wife, and friend that are important to me to fulfill. It is easy to feel very limited.

Yet, when I see a blank canvas:

behind the scenes 124I can’t wait to gather my paints:

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And fill it with color:

behind the scenes 129Don’t get me started when it comes to what is possible with polymer clay:

behind the scenes 126I can begin a piece feeling discouraged or sad, but it’s nearly impossible to hold on to those feelings when I play with colors and design:

dream onjourneywhat a lovely dayfeel betterjoymay find yourself smiling oftenbeloved let us love

As some of you know, I occasionally work with students in English. Yesterday, I spoke with a mother who needed guidance in how to help her daughter with her writing. She said that one of her assignments simply asks the student to write a story and provided a blank page. For the reluctant writer, a blank page is overwhelming. We discussed ways in which she could help her daughter brainstorm and organize her thoughts, which is really an amazing process when I stop to think about it.

Today, I think about how, even though a blank canvas, page, or a glob of clay doesn’t phase me, staring into the face of the unknown is daunting – just as a writing assignment with no real prompt and only white space was daunting to the reluctant writer. Jean Paul Sartre writes of this sensation in Being and Nothingness. To have nothingness can be ideal in that there is great freedom, but it can also be the source of great existential angst. Great power lies in the ability to create – and great responsibility accompanies that power.

I think, in the midst of experiencing some uncertainty in my own life, that returning to the metaphor of the artist is one that can inspire me to push through the angst and toward the sensation of hope, wonder, and playfulness. In the words of Fr. J.J. Lakers (who I write about in my post on Journeys), “I claim a certain right to expound a vision… by analogy with artists in a theory of artistic creation… when artists meet insuperable limits on the full and free expression of their longing in this actual society, they feel the limits intensely. Yet, where others who meet these limits may repress the longing or adjust to the reality, the artists refuse to surrender. They therefore set out to create new forms of life and interaction, if only in imagination.”

Here’s to the artistic spirit that dwells within us all – waiting to be unleashed. Here’s to fecundity.

– Free Range Al

PLEASE NOTE: excerpts of this blog using Fr. J.J.’s words may not be used without written permission.

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The topic for Illustration Friday this week is “Journey”, and it was a delight to create a design based upon that topic.

Fr. J.J. Lakers, my dear friend and mentor who died in 2011, often spoke of the “journey into the unknown”. He used that phrase a lot when discussing marriage in his Christian Marriage course. J.J. made me responsible for his writing before he died (he was a great writer and thinker), and I couldn’t help but return to a section in which he writes that spouses:

“…embark on a journey into the unknown. When they find themselves at cross-purposes, they are called to plunge in. They have a choice. They can respond with honest self-revelations which allow empathetic entries into each other’s tangles, or they can turn to judgements or self-justifications, to fight or flight. If they enter through God’s love, however, they committed themselves to transform flawed exchanges into passionate, vulnerable, respectful, and faithful responses.”

The idea of taking a plunge into the unknown can go beyond that of marital relationships, of course. There are so many twists and turns in our life journey that make it impossible to clearly see what lies ahead. I’ve found that the more I open myself up to the experience and the people around me, the more I gain from it and the more I develop as a person. This is not always easy. In fact, it is something I am trying to do now in the midst of great uncertainty. When I look beyond myself, though, and enter into honest and vulnerable discussions, there is much beauty and I am full of gratitude.

My current design falls short of fully reflecting those ideas, but I do hope it portrays a sense of play in the face of uncertainty, which is something I think J.J. would approve of.

Here’s to the fecundity of the journey…

– Free Range Al

PLEASE NOTE: excerpts of this blog using Fr. J.J.’s words may not be used without written permission.

(c) 2014



I decided to make a greeting card version of my Dream On postcard. It should be ready for posting tomorrow or Monday.

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The postcards are already in my Etsy shop:

I’m really pleased with how the card I designed a few days ago turned out:



All of my originals are done completely by hand using colored pencils and acrylic paint. I copy them onto blank cards using our Kodak ESP 7250. To keep the handmade feel, I initial the bottom of each card and write “The Free Range Artisan” on the back. I take pride in the fact that I keep my hands in the handmade idea of selling on Etsy and do not outsource my print work. Still, I have been listening to interviews with successful professional artists who use computer programs and have printing companies mass produce their work; I appreciate the way in which they keep their art unique and am in awe of their success. I certainly would not mind reaching the point in which I have actual clients and could afford a major printing run!

Another idea came to me today, but that will be something to show you at a later date…

I find myself dreaming a lot: dreaming of my next design, of how to make my Etsy shop a success, of what to write as an author, of… well, the list goes on and includes dreams for my family and hopes for my son.

What a gift it is to dream – to imagine what is beyond our current reality. My greatest challenge is finding peace when my dreams do not fit within what is possible; it can be a creative feat to find a way in which that need can still be met, but I think it’s an important challenge to take on.

May you dream big, and may those dreams become a reality more beautiful than you imagined…

– Free Range Al

Adding Color


Today, I decided to surround myself with color.

The past few days have contained special moments, but I was letting some rather dark concerns and thoughts into my mind. I think I needed to sort through them – I needed to honor the life of someone who brought me hope and laughter – but when I realized I was no longer honoring and was actually wallowing, I knew I needed to consciously find beauty and color.

I began working on a larger piece (I normally keep my work within the size of a greeting card or postcard) and am enjoying the practice of working on it for a bit, then returning to it after some time has passed. Usually, I try to finish something in one sitting. Here is a glimpse:

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I did start and finish a greeting card design tonight. The phrase came to me several weeks ago and I could not keep it in anymore! I’m letting the paint dry tonight before printing it on my cards.

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My earliest project was very bright:

Behind the Scenes 079I initially made these bracelets to sell at Saturday’s Market, but I might have to make some more because these are going to be hard to part with.

Behind the Scenes 078Today was my son’s first day of kindergarten. As I look through the pictures of him going to school, I can’t help but giggle at the obvious genetic disposition to choose the colorful over the subdued:

Walking to CarWishing you a colorful and lovely week!

– Free Range Al

August 13 – New Projects


Our wildflower garden continues to produce unexpected gems, which provided much needed beauty yesterday:

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The Free Range Artisan’s nest has been very busy lately. My chickadee finished his first two weeks of swimming classes at the YMCA, and we used special water-resistant wrap for his amazing teacher’s gift:

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True to my Free Range name, I am also a private English Instructor, and I presented information at an organizational meeting for homeschool families Monday night. Most of the prep work involved writing, but I couldn’t resist adding a few artistic touches:

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A very special birthday that is coming up prompted a new card design. I will be offering more at Saturday’s market and through custom orders via my Etsy store:

The Adventurer's Birthday Card

The Adventurer’s Birthday Card

I’ve also having great fun with polymer clay:

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Pigs with Wings



As much as I’m itching to work on more pieces, I’m taking it easy today. Tomorrow is my son’s first day of school, so I’m going to embrace  special hen and chick time.

Creatively Yours,

Free Range Al

New Day, New Postings


I’m not going to lie. Yesterday was a very difficult day. For the sake of maintaining some sense of privacy, I will not go into the details, but it was one of those days in which one stressful experience was immediately followed by another. There were some beautiful moments sprinkled throughout – my son and I took a few breaks from it all to dance and sing, my husband and I were able to listen to and encourage one another, and the place where I vote ended up being within walking distance (I do not like driving to new places).  I also received the support and care of a wonderful friend who made me feel less alone even though she lives in another state.

Today, I’m happy to say, is a totally new and different day.

I’ve been busy posting new pieces in my Etsy shop:

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Tulip in Bloom Pendant

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Pink Kite in Flight Pendant

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Happy Billy Buttons Pendant

I drew the images within the glass pendants using colored pencils. Each pendant is unique in that in contains a hand drawn piece that has not been digitally altered or copied. They are popular pieces at Saturday’s Market, and I love the way they add color to my table.

I also posted a postcard set with photographs from a ride on the Katy Trail:

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These pieces – and more – are in my Etsy shop:

As a thank you for reading my blog, I’m offering a 20% discount code to my readers only. Just type BLOG20 for the coupon code. This offer expires on Saturday, August 9.

Here’s to New Days!

– Free Range Al

Projects and My Other Hat


Saturday’s market was enjoyable. Thanks to those who stopped by my blue umbrella!

New pieces like these were displayed:

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I actually turned my flower sketches I shared with you awhile ago into pendant designs, like these:

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I had to keep one for myself, but I made many others and am looking forward to making more.

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I work with homeschool students when my husband has a day off from work or when my son is at school, and I’ve been wearing my English teacher hat for most of this evening as I prepare new courses (Animal Farm for one and a unit on J.D Salinger for another). I’ll put on my artist cap in a day or so… I want to post new pieces and more raindrop glass pieces are coming my way – I have big plans for them!

Creatively Yours,

Free Range Al