Pre-Holiday Pet Portrait MARATHON

We still have time to do this, so we’re going for it!

Berger Picard "Daddy" by Xan Blackburn
Berger Picard “Daddy”
Work in progress
Acrylic on panel 8″ x 10″
© Xan Blackburn 2012

MONDAY, Nov. 26 – Mon., Dec 17

Just in time for holiday gifting, I’m taking three weeks after Thanksgiving to do a portrait marathon!

As always, it will be first-come, first-served, sign ups starting on Friday the 23rd, at 9am PST.
That’s right; “Black Friday”! Take a little break from the shopping madness. 😉

This time, you’ll have a choice of either 5″ x 5″, gallery-wrapped canvas or panel (either can be displayed without framing, but framing is great for either, as well),
or 8″ x 10″ panel. The 5″ x 5″ portraits are $80, and the 8″ x 10″ are specially priced for the Marathon at $150 (that’s $110 off!)

I’ll remind you on my blog and Facebook that morning, with the link to the sign up form, but for those of you who will need no reminder (you know who you are! LOL!), here’s the link. Any entries before 11/23 9am PST will not get on the list, so … wait … for … it …


In the mean time,

I’m still working on my portrait of Lily and her Daddy.  I’ve also been designing holiday cards for a commercial client, and my husband’s business.  
But, and this might interest you, I’ve also designed a card just for you.  It’s a little thank-you to my readers and clients, with a little DIY extra.  If you’d like to receive a card from me, please fill out this address form.  And, even if you don’t, THANK YOU.  

Fall Portrait Marathon: the simpler version

I’m getting some feedback that my first post about the marathon was maybe a bit confusing.  Let’s see if I can be a little more clear.

What: I will do ten 5″x 5″ portraits, acrylic on canvas, of ANY species for $80 +shipping
Why: As a benefit for Creatures Comfort, a feral cat rescue program, which will receive $20 for each portrait 
Who: The first ten people to send me an email ON MONDAY, NOV 7th, after 9:00am PST, with a clear photo of their pet
When: The painting work begins Tuesday, Nov. 8th, and you can watch it here on the blog.

  1. Choose ONE photo, clear and high-res, of any ONE pet (dog, cat, hamster, ferret …), attach it to an email.  (tip: If you have a really big photo file, but it’s of the entire pet, crop it down to just the head, down to the shoulders.)
  2. The email should have your name and your pet’s name as the subject.  
  3. Send the email to with 
    • your name and your pet’s name
    • any notes about your pet you want me to know, to help me choose a mood for the painting
subject: Humphrey Blackburn; Wabi  

message: Hi, Xan!
Wabi is a little thing, mischievous and cuddly. Her favorite thing to do is eat dandelions.  Attached is her photograph.  Can you put some dandelions in the painting, maybe?



   4.  I will send you a PayPal invoice.  When the payment goes through, and I’ve completed the portrait before yours, I’ll begin the portrait of YOUR pet!  😀  (If you’d prefer to send a paper check, we’ll work it out the details together.)


Better?  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  Maybe someone else has the same one, and we can help them, too.  🙂

They’re HERE! Limited Edition Holiday Cards

“Play Bough”
Limited Edition holiday card for 2011
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

With thanks to Rebecca Forrest for the concept, I had a lot of fun painting this image.  The fawn greyhound reminds me of my own Brilly, who was a handy model.  

This really is a limited edition!  I had a small number printed, and when they’re gone, that’s it.  There will only be a few of these winging through the postal service, making them a good choice for someone looking for a more unique card.
As always, Stroke of Green offers products as green as I can get them, from the printing to the packaging.  They come 10 to a package for $20, and are blank inside for your own message.
Some of you responded to my earlier question about whether they’d prefer “pretty/serious” or “funny” cards.  The consensus seems to be “both!”  Thanks for helping me narrow that down!  LOL!  Maybe I’ll have to do two cards a year, or just figure out how to do both in one card.

Hand-made blank books

Whew!  Well, it took some jiggering and figgering, but I worked out how to make my cards into truly neat little perfect-bound blank books!

I wanted to expand what I could do with my eco-friendly greeting cards, and expand my line at Stroke of Green.  I brain-stormed for months, and finally hit on these little guys.  But, how to make them books?

I studied up a bit on book-binding possibilities.  I knew I wanted to do it myself.  I explored various sewing options, and other binding possibilities, but they all cut into the images too much, or would mean buying job-specific tools and supplies, which I wanted to avoid, to keep the affordability in line, and the learning curve fairly easy.

Eventually, I wound my way around to perfect binding, which basically means clamping and glueing the books together.  That seems pretty straight-forward, right?  I looked around online to see how to make a binding jig, to clamp the books during glueing, and alerted H that he’d be helping me make this thing, and gave him this sketch.

The idea is to plonk all the pages and one side of the cover in against that right angle in the lower left corner, against two pieces of wood, to align them all nice and square.  Then you tighten the clamp down using the wing nuts (across the top), which leaves just about an eighth of an inch of page edges exposed so you can glue them.

In the end, that looked like this:

As you can see, we used bits of scrap that happened to be within reach in the shop, some Gorilla Glue, bolts and wing-nuts.

Now, of course, it’s not ever as easy as you think, right?

First I had to figure out how to size the books, based on available paper, source and order the paper, cut it and trim the covers, score and fold the covers, figure out how many pages, try various glues to see which one worked ……….

I ended up buying sugar cane paper (a.k.a. bagasse), which is made from a waste product of the sugar industry (sweet!) I ordered just one ream to begin with, and, after messing around unsuccessfully with my rotary paper cutter, I took it all to Kinko’s to use their guillotine cutters.  The helpful guy at the counter informed me he’d do the whole thing with his big machine for $4, so guess what I did?  Yeah.  That was the easiest part of the whole project!

I figured I’d need to trim both the cards and the paper to make 4″x5.5″ booklets, to get the most out of each.  I still had to trim the covers myself.  The rotary cutter worked alright for that.  Besides, each design is different, so I wanted to be able to trim so that the designs didn’t get important stuff cut off.  Then I needed to score the covers, so they’d fold neatly around the pages.  I tried this and that, and ended up making a simple jig on the edge of my cutting mat, like this.  –>>
I taped one trimmed card to the edge (very securely) so I can tuck the card to be scored under it just so,  place a piece of scrap paper over the cover, fold down the taped card, line up my ruler, flap back the taped card, and use a ball point pen to run along the ruler over the scrap paper and the cover.  Sound like a lot of steps?  Well, kind of!  But it keeps things consistent, and the scrap paper keeps the pen from marking up the cover, or tearing it.

Then there was the glue question.  I wanted to use Gorilla Glue, because it’s a little more earth-friendly.  Sadly, it also has the tendency to foam up and dry hard as rock, making bumpy edged, inflexible spines. No good.  Then I read that white glue (like Elmer’s) would work.  Well, not really.  Pages just popped out.  Then I read that contact cement should work, drying quickly and flexibly.  That worked!  My little books came out like “real” books!  Yeay!

It was during the glue experiments that I had to solve the mystery of why some pages wanted to pop out more than others.  I saw that, even machine-cut, all nicely stacked up, clamped page edges were not making a flat surface.  Can you see that in this really bad picture?  (Someday, I’ll figure out how to take decent pictures!)
Some websites talked about sanding the edges of the paper, to make it more receptive to the glue.  I had done that, with varying success, but I decided to sand them down ’til they were all flush.  That took a little elbow grease, but I need the exercise, so that’s alright.  Once they’re all sanded flush, dusted off, and then glued, everything comes together smoothly, and stays that way.

So; trimmed, scored, folded, stacked, clamped, sanded, and ready for glue.  I glob on the contact cement all along the page edges, and onto the spine of the cover.  The first layer, I really massage into the paper edges with the brush, and it pretty much absorbs.  Then I lay another layer on, nice and thick, which stays on the surface.  I let this cure for 15 minutes, then go back and take it carefully out of the jig.  Ever so carefully, I fold the spine down over the glued edges, knowing that if I get it wrong, that’s it, since you can’t un-stick it once it’s down.  Then I burnish the edge with the smooth side of a box cutter (it’s handy, what can I say!), and set it aside for a few hours.

Voila!  Easy as pie!

I’m really enchanted by these little books, I have to say.  And I made them all by myself!  They have a substantial feel, the covers are nice, colorful and smooth, all those blank pages are so inspiring … Yeah.  I now have one by my bed to take down those midnight inspirations or weird dreams, one in the kitchen to jot down cooking experiments that actually worked, or grocery lists, one on my computer desk for the never-ending notes I’m always needing to put somewhere right this second, and one in my purse for those many times I need a bit of paper, either to leave a note or make one for myself (inspiration tends to hit me at odd moments).  I’ve been stuck waiting, for planes or busses or whatever, and wished I’d had a journal to blab to.  Now I’m all set!

You can get your blank books for a tidy $10 at Stroke of Green.  Choose your own cover from my available cards (leave me a message in the order form if you want one I haven’t listed).  They make nice little gifts, too.  Hm!  Mother’s Day is coming soon, isn’t it?

Whoo hoo!! New Cards Arrived!

Oh boyohboyohboy!!  UPS just dropped off three boxes of my new cards!

I’m so excited about these!  They’re non-holiday-specific, one step greener than my Christmas cards were, and a different style.

The “You make my heart RACE!” card would be perfect for Valentine’s Day (6 days off – still time to order!), or just any time you want your honey to feel what you feel (anniversary? birthday? congratulations?).

The “Congrats” card just makes me laugh!  It’s a fun way to celebrate.

The third may be my personal favorite (if I’m allowed a favorite “child”).  This one can mean so many different things: “Missing You.” “Excitedly anticipating your arrival.” “Thinking of you.” Or maybe, “I saw a squirrel!  It went that-a-way!”

Anyhow, they’re up and ready for sale at Stroke of Green, at 5 for $10, or 10 for $20.  They’re printed with vegetable inks on partially recycled paper, with recycled paper envelopes, and come in a biodegradable cellophane bag.  Yeay!!

Stroke of Green’s First SALE

Ten cards and envelopes usually sell for $20.

 cards are now on sale! 

20% off: 
$16.00 for 10 cards!

Stroke of Green is my greeting card company, for those of you just joining us.  I launched my new line this fall with several holiday-themed designs, had them printed with soy inks, added recycled paper envelopes, and biodegradable cellophane packaging for an eco-friendly greeting card choice.  
My New Year, 2011 card is perfect for the folks who don’t know what holiday is appropriate to mark, or sort of *ahem* missed the one they were aiming for.  Everyone knows when the years change, right?  
Well then maybe this card is a good reminder.  😉 
I’ll be rolling out lots of new designs in the new year, for all occasions; funny, happy, sad, and just-because.  This year’s holiday collection is all dog images, but coming designs will include all sorts of creatures, including humans, and maybe no creatures at all.  Designs for all tastes (I hope!)
If you haven’t been by Stroke of Green yet, check me out.  Bookmark me for the future, too!
Oh, and I have a Stroke of Green Facebook page as well, where I post various eco-friendly ideas and products I find.  Feel free to join in that conversation, too.
See you there!

December Fundraiser

December’s Fundraiser is to benefit the Gentle Barn. The work they do is heroic, helping both animals and people to heal from abuse and life’s worst challenges.  It’s hard work.  They need all the help they can get.  I’m too far away to go muck stalls and exercise horses, but together we can put a little something in their stocking, anyway!

The Deal:
20% of the sales from cards purchased on this page will be donated to the Gentle Barn folk.  That’s a big win, for the people and animals there, for the planet, for your friends and family (who get the cards), and for you.  It feels good to give!  
Go HERE to participate.