The October 2017 Smart Art Box: We Finally Played with These Awesome Acrylics!

What came in the October 2017 Smart Art box.
What came in the October 2017 Smart Art box: brushes, one canvas, three pouches of Sennelier Abstract acrylic paint, a set of eight nozzles for those pouches, and an instruction/information pamphlet. We replaced the included canvas with two 8″x8″, pre-primed canvases from our local Blick (née Utrecht).

2017 was one hell of a year. You all know most of the awful that went down last year, the stuff that has had an impact on a global scale. But it was a difficult year for my wife and I to get a lot done on a personal level, too, because of changes at her job. She had to make three trips to Wisconsin, learn SQL, learn some other stuff, study a lot, take several tests, earn several certifications, and work as part of a team to smoothly transition a hospital and medical school from one medical records system to another.

Our materials are all laid out.
All laid out. In addition to the Blick canvases, I brought my tube o’ brushes to the table. (And that table, by the way, is gloriously covered in a disposable paper tablecloth with plastic-like backing, mostly so I don’t frustrate my wife.)

It wasn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds.

My big brush.
This brush looked more my size for initially covering the canvas. I suspected that a bit of yellow ink stain on the bristles wouldn’t matter much when working with heavy-bodied acrylics.

But 2018 has arrived. That transition has been made, smoothly or otherwise, and over the four-day weekend my wife had for Christmas, we finally got a chance to dig into the pile of Smart Art boxes that have taken up residency in our dining room.

Sennelier Abstract in purple.
This is Sennelier Abstract paint in purple. It spreads on canvas wonderfully.

Because it struck us as a less-worry/more-fun sort of scenario, we opted to do the October 2017 Smart Art box, which featured Sennelier Abstract acrylic paint pouches.

A squirt of Sennelier Abstract in vermillion.
This is a squirt of Sennelier Abstract in vermilion, directly from the pouch without any nozzles attached, against a canvas swirled with purple and titanium white. I just really liked the shape of this squirt, and how visually obvious it is that Abstract is a yielding, pliable acrylic.

This was my first time playing with heavy-bodied acrylics since probably sometime in the 1980s. I didn’t know how to properly use those acrylics back then. I don’t know much more now. But I do know that pouched Sennelier paints are smoother, creamier, and way more fun to work with than those other, tubed acrylics were back in the day.

Wet, mostly finished, canvases painted with Sennelier Abstract acrylics.
These are our (mostly) finished canvases. Mine is the redder of the two, while Linda’s incorporates more purple. Linda liked using the various nozzles that came with the paint pouches. I liked using the simplest nozzle for making distinct lines, but my favorite tool on this project was an angled brush. We would both decide, later, that the edges of both paintings needed to be finished, and I would decide to add more white to my canvas.

Linda also enjoyed the Sennelier paints. Her point of comparison was to cheap, bottled acrylics, rather than stiff, tubed paint. But we both noticed the differences in working with Sennelier Abstracts, and we both agreed that we love this paint!

Linda and I with our paintings.
Linda—she’s the one in the apron with the “L” on it—and me with our paintings, before the final touches would be made. Even when working from the same source material, as was the case for this project, our end products end up nothing alike. If you want to see more of how our perceptions and expressions differ, see here, here, here, or here.

We both also agree that we’d like to add black, blue, and yellow to the trio of colors from the Smart Art box, and that we want to paint more canvases. We painted these first pieces on Christmas day, and we viewed doing the project as a Christmas present to ourselves and each other—but especially to ourselves as a couple.

Linda measuring where our new paintings will be hung.
Much like painting 8″x8″ canvases with small brushes, I lack the patience for measuring and hanging small works together in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Fortunately for me, my wife has more patience than pretty much anyone else I know. (She also has a spirit level, and she knows how to use it.)

Our new paintings finally took their place in our living room mini-gallery on New Year’s Day, and now we’re itching to make that gallery grow!

Our new paintings are hung.
Finally, our new Sennelier Abstarct acrylic paintings are hung next to one of the bookshelves in the living room, just above an acrylic piece that Linda painted as part of a team-building exercise at her work. We’re completely cool with hanging our own work, and are in fact currently having our ink drawings from the July 2015 Smart Art box custom framed!

Kudos to Smart Art for introducing us to a lovely paint that we might never have otherwise tried, and to Sennelier for making that paint in the first place!

Daily Post: Knowing Your Neighbors

This was written in response to today’s prompt Neighbors, from The Daily Post, a good site for helping you get to know your neighbors on It was written with Bear, and edited using ProWritingAid.

An adorable senior Maltese standing in a dog stroller.
Nena in her stroller on the day we got it, with Linda’s leg visible through the mesh. The stroller is great for taking Nena on longer walks around the neighborhood!

I grew up in small towns, brought up with the notion that people in cities don’t know their neighbors. I believed that notion. I thought it reasonable that city folk, having come from other places and having myriad options for work and entertainment, might have neither the time nor inclination to get to know the people around them.

Good lord, was I wrong.

I now live in Anaheim, California. People may argue that Anaheim—even all of Orange County—is just a suburb of Los Angeles. But Anaheim boasts a population of over 300,000 people. If St. Louis is a city, then Anaheim is, too. And in Anaheim, I know my neighbors.

I know the military couple who rent the condo next to ours and whose Pomeranian owns more outfits than some children I’ve met. I know the athlete who lives alone, the Porsche mechanic whose wife lives in another country, the mechanic’s roommate and the mechanic’s cat, and the young couple at the end of the hall with their year-old daughter.

I know the people who live on the floor beneath ours, and the people whose units face the street.

In short, I know everyone who lives in our building.

My wife, Linda, and I know most of the people in the buildings immediately to the north and south of ours, as well as the building directly to the west. The further a building is from ours, the less likely we are to know its occupants.

We don’t know all the people on our block. That I’ll admit. But we might know all the dogs.

We know Winston, Brooklyn, and Jack (RIP), Bella and Bert. We know Rocco, Kona, Loki, Bodie, and Penny (who moved away). We know Charlie, Peyton and Kennedy. We know the American Eskimo dogs whose names we can’t pronounce. We know Sasha. We know Elway. We know well-dressed Bella. We know Miles who, like Penny, has moved away. We know Roxie, Lilo, Dumpster, Alphie, and Fiona.

We know our neighbors for two reasons. The first of these is interest.

Linda took interest in providing a platform for communication between neighbors,  so she set up a private group on Nextdoor for people—homeowners and renters, alike—who live in our development. She then took on the task of getting everyone to join.

She’s done well.  A high percentage of our neighbors have joined the group, and it’s more active than I expected, with people using the platform to find lost packages, announce HOA meetings and maintenance projects, discuss problems, and organize to find solutions.

The second reason is that we have a dog. Some of our neighbors interact with us because of our—admittedly ridiculously cute—dog. Even before adopting Nena, we knew our dog-owning neighbors, collectively, better than those without dogs. People who own dogs tend to walk them. They wander outside more often than people without dogs, and that makes them more available for social interaction.

As does the dog, itself.

It’s acceptable to want to greet another person’s dog, to want to pet that dog, to ask their name and their sex and their age, and to talk baby talk to them upon introduction.

Try that behavior with your adult, human neighbor. I dare ya. Unabashed delight is reserved for pets and small children.

In the last small town I lived in, for roughly twenty years, I knew my immediate neighbors, but not much beyond that. I didn’t know my neighbors there any better than I know my neighbors here.

In fact, the reverse is true.

Want to know your neighbors?

Live where you want.

Take interest in the people around you. Sometimes, their concerns are—or should be—your concerns.

Then get yourself a dog.

Edited November 3rd and 4th, 2017, to add links to a few of my favorite “neighborly” posts based on the prompt:

This, That, and the Other: Regrettable Greta
The Introspection Connection: The Apartment
Litterbox Riot: neighbors