Sunday, December 18, 2011

Night Owl

I am so excited to share my latest charcoal drawing with you all.  I am such a night owl and this image came to mind late one evening...

Are you a night owl too?  If you'd like this little guy to keep you company all night long, prints are available for purchase in The Shop.  There are two sizes to choose from as well as several framing options.

Also, you'll see some other new additions...

If you're interested in purchasing the original drawing, send me an email at and we can discuss price, framing, and shipping.
And finally, I'd really love to know what you think!  Your comments, thoughts, criticisms, and suggestions are always welcome.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Open for Business

The Shop is officially open!  (Find it in the top tab bar on the far right)

My work is now available for purchase through Society6 where you'll find affordable Art Prints, Framed Art Prints, and Stretched Canvases all in various sizes.
They also offer T-Shirts, Hoodies, iPhone Cases, and Skins for Laptops, iPods, iPads, and iPhones.  I'm working on adding these options soon.

If you don't know what Society6 is, I highly recommend getting acquainted with it.  There, you'll find an incredible collection of artwork created by artists from all around the world.  When you purchase a product from Society6, they produce it using only the highest quality materials, and ship it to you on behalf of the artist (that's me).

Find out more about their products and how they produce them here.

And here's a little behind the scenes video of how they hand make Stretched Canvases, one at a time, when they're ordered.

Society6 Stretched Canvas - a day in the life from Justin Wills on Vimeo.

The attention to quality craftsmanship is one of the reasons why I've chosen to make my art available through Society6.

So right now, you'll find some of my photographs in The Shop.  I am currently finishing up a new charcoal drawing and will be posting it as soon as it's ready.  Can't wait to show you!

Thanks for stopping by.

UPDATE Jan, 3, 2014:  I have since removed my shop and Society6 profile.  At this point in my life, I have other priorities that deserve my time and focus.  Thank you for all of the support and I still do accept some commission work from time to time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cottage Bench Drawing

Today I'd like to share a snapshot of my most recent drawing...

Cottage Bench . charcoal on paper . 8x10 . 2011

It's a smaller version of Cottage Chairs and was commissioned by a lovely couple from the church that I grew up going to.  Their family built the cottage that we rent every summer where these chairs sit overlooking the beach.  Just like the cottage, this unique bench was hand-built.

Drawing at a smaller size was a little bit difficult and at one point I wasn't sure if I could actually do it.  The last thing I wanted was to loose all the details and end up with a smudgy charcoal mess!  But as I kept at it, I really enjoyed the challenge.  I'm even planning on working in this smaller size for my upcoming drawings.  Until next time...

Thanks for dropping by.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bows, Boughs, and a Giant Grapevine Ball

Lately, I've been working on our outdoor Christmas Decorations.  Most of the supplies were given to me for free and have been re-purposed to create something fresh and new.

If you follow Charcoal & Crayons on Facebook or Twitter, then you may have already caught a glimpse of how our house looks all dressed up for the season.  Here is where you'll find the details...

This year my mom gave me a big box of her old outdoor Christmas decorations with instructions to use what I wanted and to rip apart or throwaway what I didn't.  Fun and right up my ally!

So the evergreen garland received just a slight makeover that included re-wrapping the lights and removing some little silver bows.  The red balls were already attached.  I thought about taking them off, but it seemed a little too tedious and besides, I quite like the pop of red colour that they provide. Twist ties (twisted together to make them longer) made attaching the garland to our porch a simple task.

Ribbons & Bows
After watching this great video, making three bows out of ribbon was pretty simple too.  Two spools of wired ribbon were actually the only items that I purchased (under $20).  A sprig of cranberries (from the box of goodies) was tucked into each bow.

Through the Grapevine
When my Mom heard that I was looking for grapevine branches, she immediately offered up the ones from her and her husband Sam's garden.  They get pruned every year and instead sitting by the curb as yard waste, they took a trip to our house.  Local nurseries may also have grapevines available, if you're on the hunt for some.

One Giant Ball
Years ago, I worked at a lovely little museum within an old Victorian style house.  At Christmas time, I made several large lighted grapevine balls for the front porch.  They were absolutely beautiful, so I wanted to create the same effect at our house this year.  Here's a look at the front of our house in the summer...

I originally wanted to make 3-6 balls to hang on both the upper and lower porches... but only ended up with one.  Lesson learned: need A LOT of grapevines to do this.  I think the best way is to add more elements every year and gradually build our Christmas decor collection.

 Plus, they aren't exactly the easiest things to make.  It's been quite a few years since I made them at the museum, and this time around, my first attempt was not pretty.  But by starting over and through trial and error, I figured it out.  If you're thinking of making large hollow grapevine balls like these, here are a few tips...

  • I used jute string to tie branches together because that is what I had on hand.  Florist or craft wire might be a little easier.
  • Tying branches together in bundles works so much better than using each one separately.
  • For example, start with the longest branches and tie 2-3 together.  Then shape them into a circle, similar to a wreath.
  • Wrap another bundle cross ways around the wreath shape and secure.
  • Shorter branch bundles, can then be added in, tying at the top and bottom poles of the sphere... in curved shapes.  Like this  )
  • Tuck in extra branches where necessary.

I apologize for the lack of photos with these tips.  Since I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants, I was too focused to remember to take pictures!  So if you have any questions, please leave a comment or send them to

The final step was to add two strings of lights to the inside the ball. This creates a beautiful nighttime glow on our front porch.

I have since added ribbon at top of the ball, hiding the extension cord.  I'm not sure if I like the way this looks and I think some greenery would look better... maybe that will be a project for next year!

Rudolph's Roost
The final touch to our holiday home this year was handmade by my Mom and Sam.  This little guy keeps watch by the front door...

So that's about it for our outdoor decorations this year... What about you?  Is your house all dressed up for the season?

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Favourite Hat {courtesy of Love, Hadleigh Designs}

Somehow, time has a tendency to get away from me where hobbies, art projects, and the usual daily family routines are concerned.  That's one of the reasons why this post sure has been a long time coming!

Even so, there is no excuse for not sharing about this sooner...

A couple months ago I received a package from Love, Hadleigh Designs.  And inside was one of Kristin's gorgeous handmade hats.  And since I was the lucky one to win her contest, my new favourite hat was free of charge!

Isn't it beautiful?

Definitely the first thing I reach for if I'm having a bad hair day.

Throughout the process of deciding on style and colour, Kristin was absolutely lovely to correspond with.  From newborn to adult sized, her products are incredible and can only be truly appreciated in person.  And as a busy mom of 4 children, I don't know how she does it!

So if you're looking for a hat that is not only stylish, but wonderfully handmade and of exceptional quality... Love, Hadleigh Designs should be your first stop!

Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tuning in to Christmas

Yep, I'm one of THOSE people...

...I love Christmas music.

On the radio, the television, and the CD player... I've been tuning in to the Christmas spirit lately.
I love the classics sung by the likes of Bing Crosby, the newer versions sung by the cast of Glee, and even the instrumental interpretations.  

Around here, it not only sounds like Christmas, it is beginning to look quite festive as well.  The usual decor has been exchanged for our Wintertime colour palette of Red, Grey, White, and Turquoise.

The Advent Tree is ready and waiting for December 1st...

And the big tree has been up for a week now...

Some of the tree's decorations are new, like this jeweled mercury glass ball.  Things from around the house also adorn the tree, such as starfish and Seashell Stars.  Decorative balls that are usually displayed in bowls are tucked within the branches as well.  The shimmering red and silver tree skirt was handmade by my Mom {thank you!}.

One of my favourite ornaments is this white and silver owl and luckily it came in a set of three!  The woodland creature theme also shows up on a plush reindeer pillow that my Mother-In-Law gave to me {thank you, Robin!}.  For now, until I find the perfect star, our temporary tree topper is a white finger starfish.  Who knows, maybe it will stay.  Silver, white, and red ribbon wrap down the tree and I found this video to be so helpful when doing this.

The baby gate has also been transformed for the season and Oliver's holiday buddies have arrived too...

Instead of adding lots of expensive pillows, a few extra throw blankets create a cozy place to sit.  I found simple fleece throws in red and grey for only $5 each.  Now, it's the perfect spot to relax, enjoy the inviting glow of the tree, watch some holiday movies, and of course...

...listen to some Christmas music!

Thanks for dropping by.

I'm sharing this with...

The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creating A Christmas Advent Tree

This year will be the first Christmas in our new house.  I am so excited about the holiday decorating, the baking, and the time we will spend with family and friends.  Since we've purchased a new large tree, the little tree from my apartment days was destined to stay packed away in the basement.  Until I saw this...


I'd been thinking of creating some sort of Christmas advent project for our son Oliver, so when I found this advent tree on I knew that my search was over!  And as an added plus, my little tree would be able to spread some Christmas cheer once again.

Here it is all decked out with little presents for Ollie - one for each day in December leading up to Christmas...

And here's how it all came together...

Cut It Out
Burlap can be found at the local hardware store this time of year, but instead of wrapping trees and plants with it, start by cutting it into squares or rectangles.  The size will depend on the toys and treats that will go inside.  Jute string is also cut into lengths.

Toys & Treats
Place a toy or treat - or maybe even both - in the center of each burlap square.  Some suggestions...

Dinosaurs and Chocolate Santas

Cars and Coins (chocolate or real)

Whether it's crayons, little books, blocks, cars, or dinos, whatever your child is into at the moment will do!

Wrap It Up
Bring the corners of the burlap together then tuck as necessary and tie with a piece of jute, string or ribbon.

Nifty Numbers
Stick-on numbers get the job done quickly and easily.  If you have the time, other options for adding on numbers include painting, stenciling, or using decorative tags.

"Tree" Lights
Since there aren't any electrical outlets where our advent tree sits, I thought that a string of battery operated Christmas lights would work, but I was unsuccessful in finding any at our local department store.  So I picked up a few packages of these battery tea lights or "tree" lights.  It's so worth the little bit of extra effort to turn each one on/off individually.  The flickering glow is absolutely magical!

Top That Tree
A little teddy makes the perfect tree topper.  A piece of numbered burlap is tucked into the little pouch on this guy (it's actually for a gift card), but could also be pinned, tied, or sewed on.

Our completed Advent Tree is a welcoming addition to our front foyer.  It is decorated simply with ribbon, "tree"lights, and 24 little burlap bundles; a knitted scarf becomes a tree skirt when draped around the base.

The tree sits on my recently completed Weathered Turquoise Side Table.  The drawers will be perfect for tucking away the burlap and jute when they are opened each day.  That way they'll be organized and ready for next year.  A pretty box or basket would work great for this too.

Now all we have to do is wait until December 1st!

Thanks for stopping by.

I'm sharing this with...

Stay At Home Nation


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weathered Turquoise Side Table

This past summer, I started working on a furniture project and now several months later...

It's finally finished!

What do you think?  The sides and top of this little side table have been painted, and distressed.  After much hemming and hawing, I chose to leave the drawers, legs and hardware since I quite like their vintage look and the burl wood veneer.


If you'd like to create a similar look, here's the how to...

Give the table a good washing and remove drawers.  Sand the surfaces to be painted.  If the surface is a veneer (thin layer of wood), like this particular table, be careful not to over sand.

A good quality primer, such as Zinsser Cover Stain, is the first layer to go on.  It is an oil-based primer, so inexpensive throwaway foam brushes are a good choice to avoid messy cleanup.

Time for the first colour.  This is Majestic Blue from Benjamin Moore.  Since we're going for a weathered look here, the visible brushstrokes are intentional... so don't sweat the streaks!

Wash & Wipe
The next coat is a wash made by adding water to Benjamin Moore's Ashwood.  Working in sections, apply the wash then brush off the excess with an extra dry brush.

Sand It
Sanding creates a distressed and aged look.

Seal It
Add a layer of protection with 2 - 3 applications of a clear coat such as Varathane Crystal Clear Diamond Wood Finish.  This is a water based polyurethane that has a clear, non-yellow finish and it's available in a spray or brush on format.

There we have it.  Finally.
For now, the table is in our foyer... a great little spot to place a bowl for mail, small items, and whatever the heart desires at the moment.

As always, your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are welcome.

Do you like the burl wood drawers?  Or do you think I should paint them?  What about the legs and hardware?  Let me know what you think! 

Thanks for stopping by.

I have not been compensated in any way for mentioning the products in this post.
They just happen to be the products that I chose to use for this project.

I'm sharing this with...

Stay At Home Nation
Under The Table and Dreaming 
Miss Mustard Seed

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Forks and Spoons {An Egg Salad Recipe}

Oliver likes his independence.

When out for a walk, he doesn't need a hand to hold.  And he'll be sure to let you know that if you try.

Since early on, he's been confidently eating finger food, and the days of mashing food and spoon feeding him seem like distant memories.

Forks and spoons have been a fun addition to mealtimes of late.  Yesterday we tried out some yogurt.

Oliver thoroughly enjoyed using his own spoon...

...and his upside-down spoon style was surprisingly effective.

So today, when lunchtime rolled around, Oliver was hungry as usual...
Where did that tummy rumble come from?

Time to fill up that tummy!  An egg salad sandwich does the trick, especially when eaten with a fork and spoon.

We used this Canadian Living recipe for egg salad as a referance and made it our own.
If your tummy is rumbling too, here's how to make and serve this classic sandwich just like Ollie...

Egg Salad

6 eggs
1 celery stalk
2 green onions
4 tsp olive oil mayonaise
4 tsp plain Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika

  1. In saucepan, cover eggs with cold water and bring to boil on high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes.  With slotted spoon, remove eggs from pan and place into bowl.  Run cold water over eggs.  Crack and peel egg shells.  Chop the hard boiled eggs. 
  2. While eggs are cooking, finely chop celery and green onions.  With a fork, mix together the celery, green onions, mayo, yogurt, salt, paprika and eggs.

Serve on whole grain bread, with a side of tomato and a glass of milk...

...and a fork and spoon, of course.

Thanks for stopping by.