Coloring Pages on Etsy

In the spirit of trying new things in the “social distance” era, I’ll be posting some work as affordable coloring pages to purchase on Etsy. There are three up now, but I’ll add more over time so “Favorite” my store and check back often.

They follow the style of my other work, a little whimsical, a little magical, a little real. The first series is similar to my “Brilliant Disguises” pieces from years ago, and combine drawn portraits and digitally collaged pattern. (The Watermark won’t appear on the purchased files.)

It’s not a 100-percent match to my other work, because I had to draw in and reference styles that would translate well to coloring by someone else. I also had to draw and edit digitally, with stronger lines and inking vs. sketch. But the work is mine, originally drawn with some sourced digital collage pattern. I love it and hope you do, too!

“Strong Like a Lion” digital coloring page. Hand-drawn portrait and digital collage by Stephanie Khattak.

It’s so important right now to support independent artists and keep a bored world entertained, haha! I am sure we will see an uptick in participatory art like this. It’s important to me to make quality work and keep it affordable, and coloring pages seem like a good way to do that.

Happy Art-ing!

Making Oil Paint

An upside of the social distancing we are experiencing, is that there’s not much to entertain or distract me from my studio. When things get busy, it is one of the first activities to be pushed aside, which makes no sense, because when I am in there, almost immediately, I feel relaxed and productive. I think it’s human nature, or at least American nature, to feel that if something is “fun” than it isn’t work, and if it isn’t work, than it’s not as important as work. Even though I like my actual “work,” I am not immune to that attitude.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to work with oil paint, but my studio supplies are getting out of control and I don’t want to buy anything new until I work on that. But I have oil sticks, pigment and oil binder. So, I decided to try making my own oil paint from pigment and safflower oil, and with a little oil mixed into oil stick.

I used Earth Pigments and Schmincke pigments (Pthalo Green), with Winsor & Newton binder and Shiva sticks. Since I’m happy with the outcome, next time I’ll use some of my precious Kremer pigments! This method worked for me, since I work in small batches and at this time, am not producing collector-quality works for sale or display. When I decide to upgrade the work, I’ll do more research and upgrade the process and materials accordingly, I am sure.

There are so many ways that creative work can bring joy and satisfaction. I love being able to experiment with raw materials to make something new. I’m self aware enough to know that I am not the world’s best artist, and that’s okay. My creative satisfaction comes from the act of creating something completely new, whether it’s a piece of art, a rubber print block that I carved and used, or mixing up paint in an new shade or finish. I enjoy breaking things down to their component parts and then rebuilding them into something useful and custom-made.

In this chaos, for me at least, it’s going to be important to look beyond the usual for validation and happiness. Everything from client acquisition and feedback to social media measurement will dip, so those things aren’t accurate metrics right now. My business, like most businesses, will just have to be what it is for a little while, but I can regain some of that validation through my creative work. While I don’t know what life will look like on the other side of this, it really does help to identify healthy and creative things that I can control, and do more of those things while the world works itself out.

There wasn’t sparkly green, antique rose gold or sheer pink iridescent oil paint in my world before I went into the studio yesterday, and now there is. I can see it, mix it, paint with it, and finish the day knowing that I built one small thing that does what it’s supposed to do.

Begin

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

T.S. Eliot

After a nice Christmas and New Year’s Day, by ten a.m. on January 2, I was at the veterinarian’s office saying goodbye to my 17-year-old cat, Molly. Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in August and mostly stable, her final weeks, while treasured, were helped along by painkillers, and balanced an increasingly volatile situation as her tumor spread along her cheekbone and toward her ears, mouth and eyes. Thursday was the day. I would never have been ready to let her go, but it was clearly not a moment too soon. I was grateful that it didn’t appear to be delayed into constant pain, either. Cosmic timing in many ways. As we say, 17 great years and one bad morning.

My acute grief and forever love for Molly is its own thing and needs its own post when I am better equipped to write it. But today Molly’s journey and the changing of the years made me think of the T.S. Eliot quote written above. Every end a beginning. How hopeful that is!

For me, new beginnings mean things like taking time to set healthier habits now that I am no longer needing to care for Molly in such consuming ways. I miss my old routine so much, even the dreaded eye drops that I know Molly doesn’t miss at all. (To be fair, she got the short end of that stick.) My heart breaks a little when I wake up in the morning and she’s not crunching from the pile of treats my husband gave her before his shower (we were definitely in cat spoiling mode!), or running to me for her morning brushes. While I never want to lose those memories, I am trying to make a new routine by reading from a book between the time I wake up until James leaves for work and beginning my own work day, filling my “Molly time” with something relaxing vs. opening my laptop or clicking around aimlessly online, or thinking about what I have lost. Every end a beginning.

My husband has his own changes to make and goals he wants to reach now that his routine is different. He had “night duty” with Molly because he naturally stays up later, but that often meant a few extra chores before he could relax and sleep. He’s working to channel that found rest and energy into his physical health.

Our theory is that things are different anyway. Everything from our routines to the way our house looks and sounds. (Who knew the absence of a tiny cat and her thousand toys could cause a house to echo?) Why not guide those changes for good, to the extent we can? Every end a beginning.

One day, we will be ready to open our hearts to a new kitty or two, and by that time it can make its own, beloved, precious place in our lives, not simply fill the Molly-shaped hole that is so deep now. Every end a beginning.

We can’t control much about the endings in our lives, but we can control where and how we start from. That’s the lesson that I take from this sad start to a new year that still has a lot of potential and joy to be discovered.

In August, on the day that Molly was diagnosed, I sat on the couch and carved a rubber block while she rested in her carrier and slept off her X-Ray tranquilizer. The repetitive motion of the carving helped keep my hands busy while my mind was moving in a lot of new and confusing directions. It was a fun little piece then, and now, I love it not only because it features my favorite subject, but because it reminds me of the beginning of this journey, of Molly’s victory lap. How rich and rewarding and challenging the months in between have been, and how at the end of it, Molly still shines and so do we.

Every end a beginning. Every darkness an opportunity for light. MollyPop, my “Muse who Mews,” inspiring me even now.

“MollyPop” print, Stephanie Khattak.

Midnight Ramblers

Digital Painting by Stephanie Khattak. iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, Adobe Fresco

Nights were dark behind the pine curtain. I have written before about our relative comfort with cemetaries. I’ve been thinking on that a little more lately, perhaps because it’s the “spooky season” and it’s getting dark a little earlier. But there is more to say, because the bigger picture is that we were just pretty fearless.

We were never really afraid of the dark, period. Literally or figuratively. We weren’t afraid to go out at night, we weren’t afraid to take risks to pull pranks or do silly things. We loved who we loved, no matter what, and we were so loyal to each other long before “Ride or Die” became part of the pop culture lexicon.

As the Bible says, to paraphrase Romans 8:31, if you are for me, then who can be against me? The verse is referencing God, but for us, it was each other as well.

During slumber parties, after we tired of making prank calls, we would inevitably clean out the hosts’ toilet paper supply and load into someone’s car. (Sorry for any rude awakenings, moms and dads!) We would then drive to a house or two or three and proceed to toss toilet paper into the trees, across the shrubs, over the mailbox and whatever else we could. When plain toilet-papering became too predictable, we upped our game to “Oreo-ing” (Take an Oreo apart. Stick the icing half to house or car windows. Eat the other half.); “Forking” (Plant a million forks in someone’s yard); “Hot-Tamale-ing” (Similar to the Oreo, bite a Hot Tamale candy in half and stick it to windows” and general sign leaving (posterboard, markers and phrases that ranged from encouraging to amorous.)

During these attacks of extreme creativity, we were chased by angry people on four-wheelers; had popper firecrackers thrown at our legs, bumbled into a herd of geese and were almost always made to go back and clean up, if the victims’ parents knew ours. Once, in an impressive counter-attack, someone was hiding in a tree watching for us, jumped down and ran to his neighbor’s house (next on our list!) and woke him up so that they could lie in wait for us. I don’t remember what they did to defend themselves, but it was extremely well-played. (Unsurprisingly, that person went on to join the military and plan counterattacks and defensive actions for the government.) Another time, a house light came on and in our infinite wisdom, we fell down in the yard and “played possum.” That person didn’t confront us then, but his college-age girlfriend was absolutely ringing my phone the minute we got back home.

When you’re a champion, others try to knock you down. Once, a group of guys planned to wrap MY house when I was having a slumber party. Luckily (for us!) my mom had turned a mailbox into a bird feeder and hung the metal part from our biggest tree. One of the wrappers, sneaking around, stood up under it and saw stars. They all had to come inside for the adults to decide if he needed medical attention. (He was fine.)

All of these things took place after midnight with very, very minimal supervision. Before we could drive, our parents drove us, but then we were set free. My friend Courtney and I were recently brainstorming ways to entertain her daughters. Wrapping came up, but was then dismissed with “well, now they’d just get shot.”

We could just as easily have been shot then! Or the cops could have come, or someone could have come out of their house and cursed at us, or hurt us in other ways. Were we naive? I don’t think so. I think we were just confident in the dark.

Because we may have been vandals, but we were a UNIT of vandals! My bestie may have thrown that particular toilet paper roll, but if it knocked over a rose bush, we accepted that were all in trouble. We had faith in God, too but at the time we didn’t really articulate it as such. We certainly didn’t go around saying “Every Oreo Stuck Perfectly. God Bless Us, Every One.” or anything like that. But we did have a basic faith that something, someone, somewhere would make sure we would be ok.

And I know we were lucky. I do realize, especially as a grown up, that in some communities and some groups, this kind of “fun” would not be fun at all. We were lucky, and privileged. The worst we got was cleaning duty.

It’s October, almost Halloween, and I had originally wanted to write about things that scared me. But honestly, looking back, the things that scared me weren’t shadows in the dark or bumps in the night, or even the desolate streets and spooky back roads we drove after dark in our clackety “starter cars” before cell phones existed. As I have thought about this and other things we did, I think “wow, we should have been more scared!” Some of the things we did make my heart skip.

But my friends were with me. We were emboldened. We were safe. If we were together, if we were for each other, then who could be against us? There were so many things I truly was scared of – being made fun of, doing something wrong, the asshole on the school bus, my English teacher. But not this. Not this darkness, and not these risks. WE were the things that went bump in the night. WE were the prowlers, the instigators, the throwers of toilet paper and catchers of fireworks and consequences. And we loved every minute of it. Call it naivete’ or call it faith, I mostly call it friendship.