One day I came into the bedroom and found my dogs laying on the bed like this:

Cheek to Cheek, Acrylic on canvas board, signed, 2001

Of course they were just begging to become a portrait.  This is another of my earlier works, but it remains one of my favorites and hangs in my living room.

More recently, I painted a commissioned portrait that bears a similarity:

Tuffy & Trudi

Tuffy & Trudi, acrylic on canvas, signed, 2005

This is another one of my favorite paintings.  I guess there’s just something about dogs snuggling together that gets to me.  And it’s all the better if it’s butt to butt.

My dog Kramer was the subject of the first painting I ever did:

Kramer Dreams of Bones
Kramer Dreams of Bones, acrylic on canvas board, signed, 2001

Never one to want to be left out, my dog Stuart demanded that he was the subject of the second painting I did:

Stuart Dreams of Dancing
Stuart Dreams of Dancing, acrylic on canvas board, signed, 2001

At the time, I was volunteering for PAWS/LA, which was preparing for its major fundraiser of the year, Pet Art. I was surrounded by a lot of pet art and was inspired to try something myself. I donated the resulting paintings to the auction and was astonished when they sold for $250 each. This gave me the confidence to move forward with painting and inspired me to open Pooches Gracias, my online pet portrait gallery (which is in the process of merging with Hollywest.com). 

About three years ago, I made it a goal to teach myself to knit.  It was a little rough going at first, but with practice I got the hang of it.  Though I’m still not an entirely confident knitter, I know my way around a pattern and while I’ve had some trouble with fit on sweaters (check that gauge, no matter HOW much you don’t feel like it–believe me–I’ve learned the hardway), overall the things I make turn out right.

I used many resources to teach myself to knit.  When one book didn’t explain something so that I could understand it, I’d go to another book or search on the Internet.  Lately, I’ve really gotten into knitting blogs and they’ve inspired me to try my own designs out.  I’m still learning though and definitely have a ways to go with that.

All that said, I thought I’d compile a list of the resources that have helped me the most in learning to knit:

Online:
Knitting Help – Possibly the best site I’ve ever used to learn to knit.  I wish I’d known about it when I first started!  This is absolutely the first place I’d go for knitting instructions.

Knitty.com – I love this website.  Lots and lots of patterns, instructions, inspiration, etc.  It’s not necessarily a beginner’s website, but novices can certainly benefit.  I am obsessed with this website!

Books:
Hollywood Knits – This was the first pattern book I got and it really inspired me!  I wouldn’t say it’s the best design book I’ve got (more to come on that later) but it was a good starting place for me because the designs are hip and the knitting directions were pretty simple to follow.

Knitting Pretty – Another pattern book with a good mix of easy & intermediate designs.

The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges – I love this book!  It is a very good starting point for creating your own designs and once you get past the beginner stage and understand knit basics, you will almost certainly want to have more flexibility in your knitting, which is exactly what this book helps with.  It remains one of my all-time favorites.

I will be posting more about pattern books later on.  I have a lot of them, some better than others, but all inspiring in their own way.

I make a lot of rings, large cocktail-type rings in particular.  Part of the reason is that when I buy gemstones I am always attracted to big stones with little regard to what I might be able to do with it later.  Cocktail rings are lots of fun to wear, however, so I don’t think that’s such a bad habit.  For design sake, though, I’ve been trying to buy only smaller stones lately.

Here is one of my first (and best) examples of a cocktail ring:


18k yellow gold, peridot

I made this ring fairly early on in my jewelry instruction.  It is entirely hand fabricated from 18k yellow gold and bezel set with an emerald cut peridot.  It is probably one of the best rendered rings I’ve ever done and I still wear it a lot.