Masterpiece on Canvas

Trixie received an acrylic paint set from a school friend for her fifth birthday back in February, and she’s been chomping at the bit to use it.

The kit is something like this.

canvas art set

All I could see were acrylic paints waiting to be spilled on the carpet, sofa and just about anywhere else they shouldn’t be at Fancy Pants Ranch, so I made excuse after excuse to put off creating her masterpiece.

(Sample excuses: “These paints won’t work well when it’s cold,” “It needs to be daytime to work on this, not night,” “These paints are smelly and we need to wait until we can open the windows.”)

Except, last weekend I ran out of excuses.

We’d already been on an arts and crafts bender, making a homemade dollhouse on Saturday.

When Sunday rolled around, it was go time.

I reluctantly took the kit out of its hiding place and set up a paper-covered art zone for her to work on her creation.

I had to help her get the paints open and onto a makeshift palette, but she did the rest.


Here’s the finished product, two dogs on a sunny day.


I admire her bold use of color and abstract interpretation of both dogs and clouds.

P.S. This didn’t turn out to be a mess at all! So much worrying for nothing. But I still won’t be bringing acrylic paints home any time soon.






Art for the Home

Full disclosure: I don’t really know anything about art.

But I’d like to.

Owning real art seems like such a grown-up thing to do. It says that you’re past the stage of hand-me-down castoffs and IKEA furniture. You no longer own a futon. You own art.

Two years ago, I bit the bullet and hired a decorator to help spruce up Fancy Pants Ranch.

We bought our house six years ago without too much forethought. We were moving to our city. We needed a house. This one was available. It was new. It was nice enough. The location was great. We moved in.

Fast forward: as time went on, the mild Builder Beige paint on most of the walls didn’t suit our style. It was time for a change, and while I definitely know what I like, I don’t have the time or the eye to really put it all together. Hence, hiring a professional.

Working with a decorator turned out to be a great experience. She had access to a lot of great vendors that sell only to the design trade, meaning that we got some unique pieces that you don’t see everywhere.

She also encouraged us to add art to the walls. One big mistake I’d made in the past was buying art that was too small.

Here’s an example of a prior mistake:


I bought these two 8″ x 10″ prints from 20 x 200, a project that started in 2007 to produce affordable, yet cool, art. Prices now start at $24 for a small print. The two photos above show the end of a decadent party (my younger self very much relates to a stiletto smashed into a plate of cake) and two leopard-clad women (one with a young hand, one with a wrinkled, older one; I felt like this was the younger me connecting to an older me).

Now I regret getting such small prints. I still love them and want them displayed, but they’re hard to see and make so little visual impact. Right now they hang on a short wall in the kitchen where it transitions to the dining room. The only thing that makes them sort-of work is that I have two to hang together as a pair.

There is a short but helpful interview about choosing art for your home in the April issue of Allure magazine. The interviewee is Maria Gabriela Brito, an art collector and designer in NYC. Her words:

Go Big. The bigger the piece, the more it will transform a room. People tend to choose art that is too small for the space. Take your cue from the furniture your art will hang near. If your sofa is 70 inches long, go for a piece that’s 50 inches; if the couch is 96 inches long, try something that measures 80 inches. If you can’t find one really big image you like, you can cheat by placing two side by side. The bottom of the frame should sit six to ten inches above the top of the furniture, and the closer the top edge is to the ceiling, the higher your ceilings will look.

Here’s a slightly better example of scale from Fancy Pants Ranch:

photo-37 photo-38


This abstract black and white print is narrow but almost six feet tall. It makes a big impact on a short wall in the family room (wall paint is a dark charcoal gray, which repeats in the dining room. Other walls are painted light gray, bright fuchsia – yes! – and Orange Crush orange).

We also went in a different direction for a wall in the dining room, using sculptural elements.


The scale is hard to interpret, but the bowls range in size from 10 to 20 inches. Together they take up most of a wall and brighten up a space that otherwise can be dark.

A final piece of advice from Maria Gabriela Brito:

Before you automatically hang a new piece in living room, think about your entire house. Instead of the predictable console and mirror in a foyer, imagine a huge, vibrant print there. I especially love to incorporate smaller pieces of art in unexpected places, like a bathroom or kitchen.

Me, too! Great tips.


Art Acquisition

Last night we acquired a new piece of art for Fancy Pants Ranch.



It’s a collaborative effort from an upstart group of young artists who don’t play by the rules.

And, oh, yeah, they’re all six years old.

We won this at a charity auction for the kids’ school. MGM’s effort is on the far right, the purple figure with long teeth. According to the artist, his vision was to represent “a wolf.”

I offered to let him hang this masterpiece in his room, but he declined on the basis that it was too scary.