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Baltimore, MD
USA

Cat and Milk Studio: artwork by Caroline Devereaux.  Illustration, commissioned art, comics and sketches from an artist in Baltimore, Maryland.

Blog (USE THIS TO ADD POSTS)

Cat and Milk Studio news, and anecdotes from artist, Caroline Devereaux. Illustrations in progress and sales and discounts on commission portraits are posted here. 

Hello World!

Caroline Devereaux

Welcome

I launched this new website to kick-start my new full-time profession. My wonderfully-supportive husband-to-be agreed that I could leave traditional work in order to establish a business doing something I love: making art. In exchange, I promised I'd learn how to cook.  Although I have been doing art my entire life, and taking commissions for nearly 10 years, art has always been relegated to a mental back-burner; a pastime that would never actually pay the bills. Now, you can read along as I put that theory (and myself) to the test.

This is only my 3rd 'official' day as a freelance artist/homemaker/wedding planner/home remodeler but I'd like to report that so far, things are pretty darn great.  

What's this blog for?

In short: Squarespace.com comes with blogging capabilities, so I thought, "I better start a blog to get my money's worth."  I have high hopes for blogging about the new discoveries I am making in any of the areas listed above as part of my newly-acquired profession. 

ARTIST  
Squarespace.com - I've been a Wordpress gal for quite some time, but since this service touts itself for displaying portfolios, I thought I'd give it a whirl.  My initial reactions were: "Dang! that's expensive!" but I splashed out because it has lots of built-in applications like e-commerce and invoicing. Also, I'd heard a lot people talk about how easy it is.  Reactions that came later: I'm not really too crazy about the layout function of content editor, or the fact that my image files aren't stored in a handy online library. On the plus side:  I started this blog.

HOMEMAKER  
I used a Magic Eraser for the first time on a staircase railing that had turned brown and gummy from finger-grease.  It worked really well!  So well, in fact, that I only cleaned half the railing so everyone could admire the difference. 

WEDDING PLANNER 
Surfed the web and decided that a good first step would be to make more money...

HOME REMODELER 

Let's focus on relocating the cat hair tumble-weeds before moving on to bigger projects.

Let's focus on relocating the cat hair tumble-weeds before moving on to bigger projects.

Be social without ever leaving the house.

Caroline Devereaux

The last two weeks I've been setting up and tending to new social media accounts.  It's not my favorite part of the job, but hopefully my efforts will bring in new clients and professional contacts. Cat and Milk Studio now enjoys a presence on facebook, twitter, tumblr, pinterest and instagram. Phew! 

I've also signed up for Thumbtack , and I'm in the process of establishing an Etsy shop.  The more the merrier. 

Sittin' on the radiator box

Sittin' on the radiator box

Peppering the internet's communication platforms is one half of a two-pronged marketing strategy. Attracting clients through in-person networking, local art shows, and creating more word-of-mouth buzz is next on the agenda, but in reality, warmer weather and longer daylight hours will facilitate all the fun face-to-face stuff! For now, I've invested in a FitDesk (thanks, craigslist Eric!) and leave virtual business cards.

While social media notifications are buzzing away every 3 minutes, I've also been finishing walls the living room in time for a bookshelf-building "party" on January 30. Wedding plans are becoming more animated: the quest for a pizza-caterer for 120 people is a momentary diversion from the paper-flower construction. To facilitate a friend's music project, I am also is search of a drummer -- a rarity in Baltimore. The neighborhood rats and I are battling for possession of the chicken coop, it is still anyone's guess as to who will win the war!

Living high on the hog, these rats! 

Living high on the hog, these rats! 

Pet Portrait Give-Away

Caroline Devereaux

FOLLOW or MENTION me on Twitter @catandmilk before February 1, 2015, and you could win a free 5x7" custom pet portrait! Helping me get the word out about Cat and Milk Studio DOES have its benefits (for at east one person...besides me...).

I'll be choosing one lucky winner out of the known Twitterverse to receive a small sketch or watercolor piece of their own pet.  Anyone that shows up in my notification feed between now and Feb 1 is in the running.  S/he will be notified on Feb 2 through Twitter and will have the opportunity to contact me with their chosen photo to be turned into a handmade work of art. (Winner must contact me within 5 days to claim their prize.)

Included in your piece is: a high-resolution .JPG file of your pet, and the option to have the original piece mailed to you, for just the price of shipping and handling!

Happy Tweeting and thanks for visiting!

-Caroline

The Botulism Question

Caroline Devereaux

J and I spent the better part of an entire day bottling barbecue sauce.  It was one of those deceptive Pinterest-inspired ideas that we thought would be a cost- and effort-saving way to get our holiday gifts made in one fell swoop.  

Bottling tomato-based elixirs is more complicated than just dumping it into a tupperware bin and loading it into the freezer.  However, we weren't aware of this until we'd already ordered bottles, created and printed labels, and bought $60 worth of ingredients

Rather than a delightful afternoon of giggling and dabbing tomato sauce on each other's noses while It's a Wonderful Life played in the background, we were surrounded by stacks of sticky pots and pans, muddling through an improvised sterilization process for which we were completely unprepared. Starting by boiling bottles and caps for a half hour, but finding ourselves without the recommended pressure cooker to finish the job, we opted for another boiling water bath after the bottles had been filled with steaming sauce.   

The bottles were left out to cool, and we were pleased to find the majority of the lug caps had suction-popped inward. However, visions of angry phone calls from hospitalized, botulism-riddled friends and family lead me to load the bottles into the fridge as soon as possible, and toss in a recommendation to "KEEP FROZEN and once open, consume within 2 weeks." We gave (sentenced) our loved ones to consuming 14.5 oz. of barbecue sauce in a 14-day time span. Merry Christmas. 

 

NOLA Dreamin' on Such a Winter's Day

Caroline Devereaux

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I can remember being a little kid -- maybe 6 or 7-- and seeing pictures of New Orleans. It looked downright magical: architectural details forming an ornate backdrop for happy people celebrating and playing music. From the limited portion of Baltimore I'd seen, urban living was synonymous with poverty and gloom. Growing up on stories of affluent Eloise in Manhattan, I was fascinated by New Orleans' apparent  joie de vivre that didn't rely on money or circumstance.

At age 32, I finally discovered that childhood fascination was well-founded. A few weeks ago, I attended the wedding of two friends in the Marigny neighborhood, and took an additional couple of days to see the sights in the French Quarter and beyond. We visited Congo Square, (a particularly powerful place to stop and consider as America once again chokes on the bone of racial prejudice). We saw Marie Laveau's grave, the [supposed] resting place of the Voodoo Queen; we ate po' boys at the French Market and beignets at Cafe du Monde. We visited the Ninth Ward and walked along the levees that gave way to a catastrophic national nightmare in 2005. We strolled by the shot-gun houses in Bywater and the mansions in the Garden District, shopping and eating our way down Magazine Street. Of course, we ducked and dodged through the crowd on Bourbon Street, taking care not to spill our oversized Daiquiris.

Huge props to an application I downloaded to my iPhone called City Walks: New Orleans Map and Walks by GPSmyCity.com, Inc. It isn't a free-- I splurged and paid $4.99, I believe. It was hugely helpful in maximizing tourism potential; we could view sites around us or look them up by interest and then map the most efficient routes.

By the end of 5 days in Nawlins, I tell you, I was more exhausted than I was after 30 days in Europe and Morocco! The locals we met were friendly, unpretentious and proud of their city. I can understand why! NOLA is a colorful mash-up of French, West African, Spanish, Caribbean, Native American and so many cultures; the exuberance of a people who appreciate their history is infectious.  

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Christmas Card 2014

Caroline Devereaux

For several years, my parents have commissioned me to make a Christmas card for them.  You can check out some from the past years'  below.  

The cards are more than just seasonal greetings-- they are also keepsakes that commemorate special events for our family.  This year, my brother and sister-in-law are awaiting the completion of their new house, represented by the domestic scene in the background. I chose to keep the front door closed because their new house has yet to be revealed!

Additionally, this year my dad announced his retirement, and I left a traditional job in favor of starting my own business. These lifestyle changes involve a lot more freedom and uncertainty, illustrated by the porch and the frolicking dog. The porch's muted colors and strict linear qualities are predictable and tightly structured, whereas the dog seems to dance with wild abandon in a space that is without much form at all, a sort of "blank canvas."

The idea for this visual metaphor came from David Hockney's painting, "A Bigger Splash," which creates similar tension between geometry and movement. 

 

 


Ways to Warm Up Your Chicken (Not the Oven)

Caroline Devereaux

It is our first winter with chickens, and already I've learned a lot. We insulated the coop with thick plastic sheeting, and built a water heater that would make MacGyver proud. (According to my research, dehydration is the leading cause of backyard chicken mortality.)

Mingo, our smallest chicken, has already been through some rough winters; she lost several toes to frostbite in up-state New York, where she was a homeless beggar-bird. A few weeks ago, she started molting, and watching her go bald in the blustery cold was more than I could bear. On the advice of several chicken-health blogs, I busted out the ol' knitting needles and made a her tiny chicken sweater. The result was adorable.

I am a "jazz knitter" so I make up my pattern as I go. Mingo's sweater was based on this idea >> 

In case you ever get a mad hair to make a chicken sweater of your own, I will share some tips:

1.  Don't use super-bulky yarn.  If your chicken is as minuscule as Ms. Mingo, she will not be able to walk too well under the weight of "so much" yarn.  She also couldn't fold her wings down flat, which is why I decided that she should not actually wear the sweater outside after all. 

2. Use safety pins instead of velcro or button-closures.  Who has velcro lying around?  And buttons are more likely to fall off/get eaten up by the birds. 

3.  Have a good camera ready.  You're gonna wanna document this. 

I am happy to report that Mingo the tiny chicken is over the hump. She has really perked up since her feathers have been coming back in. 

Journal of a Plague-Free Year.

Caroline Devereaux

When you don't have a job, you can't complain about not having enough time. And yet, that is what I tell people when I explain why I haven't read a book cover-to-cover in about 4 years.  However, since I have subscribed to Audible.com, I actually do have literature injected into my life, especially on days when I'm just caulking and painting the living room or sketching. 

Lately I've been listening to Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. It was recommended in a 10-hour lecture about the history of London that I really enjoyed.  Defoe was a little kid when the Black Death visited London, but he writes from the perspective of a grown man who stayed in the city throughout 'the distemper.'  As you can imagine, it's chock full of grisly and harrowing descriptions of plague victims, but he also gives account of how the city government and population formed hasty policies to try to contain a huge, deadly disaster.  It must've felt like the end of the world.  It's interesting to hear the same questions laid to Ebola in 2014 as where made of the Bubonic Plague in 1665. 

"It may be proper to ask here how long it may be supposed men might have the seeds of the contagion in them before it discovered itself in this fatal manner, and how long they might go about seemingly whole, and yet be contagious to all those that came near them. I believe the most experienced physicians cannot answer this question directly any more than I can ... it may lie dormant in the spirits or in the blood-vessels a very considerable time." 

But calamities, no matter what year, tend to bring people together. Ebola and the associated hysteria hasn't produced these affects in America. It seems that conservatives and others are no closer to recognizing the humanity of Africans than they were before 'the distemper.' 

"Here we may observe and I hope it will not be amiss to take notice of it that a near view of death would soon reconcile men of good principles one to another, and that it is chiefly owing to our easy situation in life and our putting these things far from us that our breaches are fomented, ill blood continued, prejudices, breach of charity and of Christian union, so much kept and so far carried on among us as it is. Another plague year would reconcile all these differences; a close conversing with death, or with diseases that threaten death, would scum off the gall from our tempers, remove the animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing eyes than those which we looked on things with before. "

View of downtown London from Franks Cafe (a bar on the top of a parking garage) in Peckham. Would've stayed here longer except it was darn chilly. 

 

2 Comics.

Caroline Devereaux

This week's post is a couple of comics based on our recent experiences. You wouldn't know it from the tone of these, but we are actually really excited to be making concrete wedding plans.  I only had time to scribble these 2:  samples of a rich stockpile of ideas. Admittedly, most of my ideas are just illustrating the hilarious and brilliant things J says-- intentionally or by accident.

Favorite local businesses.

Caroline Devereaux

Baltimore is known for its iconic row-houses, so it stands to reason that there would be contractors to work on them. However, Baltimore is anything but intuitive, as we have seen over and over again during the course of my rowhouse renovation. It can be very hard to find contractors willing to work on little old ~1200 sf brick boxes.  I suppose contractors prefer working in the county, where they can make more money on bigger properties, with fancier-shaped gutters. 

Through trial and error, my partner and I have gradually pieced together a dream-team of Baltimore repair-people and resources that truly care about historic homes, no matter how small or old. 

Falkenhan's Hardware  
This hardware store is a neighborhood staple, and for good reason! They really know their stuff, and are quick to recommend great products and tools to aid in even the most outlandish DIY projects.  The nice thing about Falkenhan's (or Belle Hardware, in Bolton Hill) is that they have items in stock that are made for smaller historic homes, rather than run-of-the-mill big-box store offerings that cater to larger suburban homes. 

Robert's Lock and Key - 217 W Read St, 21201; (410) 728-7484 
Did you know that there are more parts in a deadbolt lock than there are bones in a human skeleton?  This probably isn't true, however, putting a deadbolt lock together from salvaged parts may as well be brain surgery.  I was at wit's end trying to fit out a rare-size lock for a custom door when Robert' Lock and Key swooped in.  By the way, if I'd bought the lock new, it would've cost around $400, but my "Frankenstein" lock set me back just $120. 

A snap from the process of removing the 'outhouse' from my basement.  This toilet was installed on top of a pallet that was tastefully carpeted.

A snap from the process of removing the 'outhouse' from my basement.  This toilet was installed on top of a pallet that was tastefully carpeted.

Jay Justice Plumbing and Heating - 443. 845 2666.
Jay does a great job;  you get the sense that he really enjoys his work. He is so honest and affordable that he secured a spot on our Christmas card list. Bonus: you are likely to hear some amazing and/or hilarious anecdotes from his adventures as a plumber in Hampden. 

Roving bands of roofers 
Many neighborhoods in Baltimore enjoy the phenomenon of "roofers" trolling around the streets each Spring.  As the weather fluctuates between surface-of-the-sun and sub-Arctic, Baltimore's ubiquitous flat rubber roofs expand, contract, and crack. Thankfully, they are super-easy to patch, so anyone with a ladder and a need for beer-money will hit the street and solicit repair services. We invested in a big ladder and we patch our roof ourselves now.  I go up twice a year to inspect the sitch-- not so much because it needs the work, but so that I don't have nightmares about the roof leaking.

Cullen's Roofing and Siding - I have not worked with these guys, however, they made the list based on the estimate alone!  When it comes to water-proofing my house, I don't mess around. So, when our (admittedly bizarre) hand-made porch gutters started peeling away from the masonry, I wanted a pro assess the situation. Four or five companies snubbed me on the phone, refusing to even take a LOOK. Cullen's not only showed up, but they also explained that the damage was not as bad as it looked, and even helped us work out a plan to repair the site ourselves. 

 

easy to spell dot com

Caroline Devereaux

From the archives: an illustration used promote my old DIY showspace in Baltimore, "The Cat and Milk." 

Armed with a large cup of coffee from The Daily Grind, I parked myself on a bench in Fells Point to brainstorm a good name for my art/illustration business. Many artists use their own name, which is all well and good and classy,  but my own vowel-besotted last name may be too difficult to spell/remember. For branding and marketing reasons, a domain name and Etsy store should be memorable and easy to spell.

For easy business recognition, I tried to work things like pen, paper, pets into the name.  I also wrote down a list of things I like:  cats, history, Hawaii and anything associated with it... This list quickly spiraled out of control into stuff I couldn't use in a [good] business name: napsthe Battle of Stalingrad, elastic waistbands... 

Other people have already claimed a lot of the names I jotted down:

Paperislands.com
Point Well Taken 
Crosshatch

Little island
Paper teapot
Paper Pineapple
Drawn from memory
Heirloom Images

Parrotfish:  Look at that smile. Who wouldn't want this dude on their business card? I want to call him right now!

Parrotfish:  Look at that smile. Who wouldn't want this dude on their business card? I want to call him right now!

And there were some that were still available. 
-- Cat on a bicycle
-- Cozy attic studio
-- Workbench designs
-- Captured by Caroline -- this one was a suggestion! 
-- paper coral
-- pen and pineapple
-- the parrotfish papers
-- penandparrotfish
-- cat and milk 
-- cat on the page
-- pets by hand
-- presentable pets
-- smalltimore studio
-- better cats

-- finer point pets
-- quiet still life
-- cat on a branch
-- tawny cat
-- suitcase still life
-- suitcase sketches
-- box of pencils

By the time I'd finished by coffee, the lunch-rush was beginning to gather on Thames Street. I still hadn't come up with a sure-fire name for this new business endeavor. So, to be continued, I suppose.