Aug 1 2013

august free desktop calendar!!!

august is here already!!!
since doing these monthly free desktop calendars i’m realizing more than ever just how quickly the months FLY BY!
my desire is to be intentional this month.
writing a good list of things that i plan on doing, both in my business life & my personal life.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” -Benjamin Franklin

august_wallpaper_calendarclick here to download this months free calendar!

(for personal use only)

p.s. would love to know if you use it!!! 🙂

Jul 29 2013

hearts for charity!

a few months back, i was invited by a friend to participate in a charity event, “HeArts of Clark County“, which is raising money for an improved life saving heart room of sorts at PeaceHealth Medical Center.

hearts_for_charity_artwe were asked to paint on fiberglass hearts to be auctioned off at a gala in the fall.
above are the humble beginning of my heart.

art_process_allen_designs_heartsand with a few more layers…

art_heart_charity_michelle_allenmy sweet daughter keeping me company one of the days.

art_process_vancouver_wa_michelle_allenstarting to come together.
this is probably after about 13 hours of painting.


charity_art_heart_peace_healthnot positive which side is meant to be the front.
and not quite sure which side i like better. maybe the bird?

hearts for charity michelle allen

hearts_for_charity_vancouverand after about 15 or so hours of very intense painting, it’s finished!

anne_john_vancouver_wa_artistmy friend Anne John is the lovely woman who organized and kept everyone on track.
not to mention, a crazy-talented artist!

jennifer_williams_artist_ridgefieldand the friend who got me connected, is this sweet & uber talented lady, Jennifer Williams.

michelle_allen_artistthis has really been a fun and meaningful project.
i’ve had a desire to get involved in my community in this sort of way for quite some time.
i’m thankful to finally have had the time and opportunity!

p.s. i think i look kind of cray cray in this picture!
i guess that goes with the guy at the preview/artist reception who told me that my bird looked stoned!

Jul 1 2013

july desktop wallpaper!

july artwork

yay for july and yay for sunny weather!
here’s a free desktop wallpaper to make your indoor time a bit brighter. 🙂


Just click on the image below to open the file, then right click to save. enjoy! :)
(for personal use only)


Jun 11 2013

how to make your camera strap fun!

i was tired of my plain ol’ black uncomfortable camera strap and wanted to create something with more comfort and “cuteness factor”. i’m not much of a sewer, so I would consider this a pretty simple tutorial.

camera_strap_diy_tutorialcamera_strap_tutorial_diywhat you’ll need:

  • muslin: about ¼ yard
  • decorative fabric: 1/8 yard (or leftover fabric strips)
  • thin fleece: 1¼” wide x length of camera strap + 1″
  • colored felts: couple sheets
  • medium sized hard bristle brush
  • acrylic paint: raw umber, orange or color combinations of your choice.
  • small beads(optional)

everything is easily available at your local Michaels( or Jo-Ann Fabrics(

make_a_camera_strapto start, take your camera strap off. camera straps can come in different sizes. measure it. (measure up to where the strap meets the leather.) add a bit more than a ¼” to each side and ½” to each end. then, tear your strips of muslin to those dimensions. you will need to tear 2 pieces per strap. don’t worry about being perfect; it actually looks cool if one of the pieces is a hair smaller or larger.

camera_strap_making_diy_tutorialnow we’re going to work on the back. take the same measurements and take your pretty fabric and tear it. you could also panel together some smaller pieces for fun like i did in the photo on the 2nd one from the bottom. then cut your strip of fleece about 1¼” wide.

sewing_camera_strapnow take just your backside, not your muslin, and pin your fleece down the center. i started with stitching right down the center so i could determine about how many stitched lines on each side i could fit in. to add a cute little detail, i actually did the reverse stitch several times down each line. now take your time and really watch the fleece. it likes to move around, even with it pinned down.

make_camera_strap_diypick your coordinating felt colors and have some fun! i chose simple circles with some alternating colors. remember: you are going to be stitching in on each side just a bit over ¼”, so don’t get too big.

DIY_camera_strapafter you have circles all laid out where you want them, go ahead and mark where they go with a pencil. there is no need to pin them because you’ll end up taking it out anyways!

how_to_camera_strapusing your free form/motion on your sewing machine, take your two-piece circles and starting in the middle, doodle your flowers or whatever you choose on your two pieces of muslin. take your time to watch the smaller circle so it stays flat. have fun and don’t be afraid to be messy. messy in repeat is organized pattern that doesn’t look messy anymore!

now you’re going to sew the front and back together. i like the frayed edges so I don’t turn mine inside out. make sure to check your camera strap to your fabric one last time to see how far in to sew. you don’t want to get too close to the edges nor be too loose on the strap

camera_strap_how_tomix Raw Umber and Azo Gold(or colors of your choice) acrylics with quite a bit of water to get an antique brown that I just love. you can also just use a good orangy brown. then, loosely brush it around all the circles leaving a rough ¼” of original muslin. don’t worry about covering every square inch, it will add character. i’m sorry i don’t have a better picture of this stage. if you need to, take a paper towel afterward to soak up the extra moisture.

camera_strap_making_blogtake the colored acrylic paint and again, loosely paint it on with a large hard bristle brush. leave areas of the brown to show through. i say “large dry bristle brush” because that way you can’t be too perfect! you shouldn’t have to water it down since you will already have so much moisture on your strap. also be sure to hit spots on the outside of the seam, this will help the muslin from fraying more than you want it to.

finish by hand sewing some beads on and you’re ready to make you’re camera oh so pretty.

making_camera_strap_colorful_tutorialputting on the new strap: tape the end of your strap to the end of a paintbrush and work your strap through your cover. you might have to “cup” your strap a bit to get it in but there should end up being a bit of give in your fabric by the end of it. if your cover seems too long for your strap it’s supposed to be that way. it will soon bunch up a little and you want it to be long enough to still cover the strap.

if you end up making one i would LOVE to see what you come up with!!!

good luck and if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comment section and i’ll answer them. 🙂

Jun 3 2013

pretty up your office! june wallpaper

i know i’m a few days late but…
i finally finished this painting of the squirrel a few days ago.
and in celebration i thought i’d share some love.

  Just click on the image below to open the file, then right click to save. enjoy! 🙂
(for personal use only)


May 24 2013

getting squirrely!

remember this painting that i started FOREVER ago???
well… i’m finally going to finish it!


ha! as i just scrolled down, i noticed that the unfinished painting… sits atop an unfinished dresser.
notice a theme here? ugh.


sometimes when i really like the direction a piece is going, i almost panic and don’t want to finish it, afraid i’m going to mess it up.
this is a bad habit. one that i really need to break.


a close up of my progress.
i hope to be back here to show you the finished piece by weekend’s end!

May 20 2013

blooming goodness

i just wanted to say a quick “hiya”!
i’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the studio painting this past week.
it feels real good.


and p.s. i really want to make one of these tables!
or a pillow like this!

May 13 2013

artist studio: cart before the horse

a short while back i had the privilege of visiting artist  jo james, of cart before the horse, in her studio.
i wish i would have had time to tell you about her sooner, as i’d like to better portray ALL the details & feelings i had from our wonderful visit!

jo james cart before the horse art studio

for one though- let me just say i was CRAZY INSPIRED!
inspired by their sold-out-to-a-creative-life way of living.
inspired by their contemporary folk art style.
inspired by her home and collection of artwork.

i can’t say enough good things about her.
she & her husband, dylan whom i didn’t get to meet unfortunately, ooze of genius creativity.
she is as kind, beautiful, fun and original as her art is.

a yummy vegan lunch she so kindly prepared for us.

their capacity for creating unique characters is brilliant.
childlike yet refined.


and their genius continues- check out this video her husband made! it’s awesome!!!

cart before the horse jo james
nail care has never been my thing, don’t judge!

their pieces are mostly limited edition and each one is made to order.
treat yourself to more of their imaginary handmade works of art here.
as you can see by this one-of-a-kind gallery, there is NO END TO THEIR CREATIVITY!

check it out- they’ve also launched a kickstarter for their Mobile Art Studio!

thank you jo for the visit. i look forward to our next meet up!



Apr 29 2013

make your desktop pretty! may desktop wallpaper

today IS going to be SUBLIME!
i hope you enjoy this month’s free desktop wallpaper.

may_desktop_wallpaper_freeour Allen Designs wiggles clock can be found here.

i like the idea of making that statement as i wake to encounter each day.
my days ARE better when i begin with that kind of attitude.
sometimes it’s fiercely hard. there are people & things that are constantly trying to drag us down.
it’s our CHOICE if we let them.
it takes practice & discipline to keep going back to a happy & thankful heart.
for me, i have to let myself lean into God and trust that he’s got my back.
he’s protected & provided, why should i doubt him now.

MAY (pun intended) you have a wonderful & sublime month! xoxo-m

 Just click on the image below to open the file, then right click to save.


please feel free to share it with your friends. 🙂


china flowers & crazy food

i am soooo tired, a LONG day at the factory, but i wanted to check in real quick and say “hi” and share a few pics.

china_flower_travellove the stamen on this pretty. it is “stamen”, correct?

allen_designs_whimsical_clocks_flowerthese colors are making me very happy!

food_in_china_travel_southernthis is actually a pretty decent round up.
tofu & green beans, corn, bread things that you fill with some sort of root/vegetable mixture, spicy fish (in the center there) and pork.

china_travel_small_lobster_seafood_soupand this… i’m not a big seafood buff. is there such thing as mini lobsters?
if so, this might be them.

well, i’m off to sleep.
thanks for peeking in on me!

Apr 27 2013

hello China!

yes, i’m here in China again.
at least twice a year.
i can’t believe this is my 10th year of coming here. am i really getting that old?!



i’m working on lots of new designs. pretty darned excited about them!
after 10 yrs., i still get completely blissed out in the development process.

seeing two dimensional art become three dimensional is just downright fun.

table setting: plastic wrapped dishes (that you still end up rinsing in boiling hot water), ashtray (ugh, so many smokers here in China!), toothpicks, tissues (instead of napkins. always) and peanuts (quite common appetizer).

fish soup.

i love the farmland here. small areas with lots of different crops, sustaining the areas nearby.

something new to me on this trip- riding a high speed train. 200 MPH!!!
a little nerve-wracking. glad i’m still here to write about it. 🙂

more china travels tomorrow. xoxo-m

Apr 13 2013

my art bag and it’s contents

i love creating art in different places; a friend’s house, an art retreat, etc.
the best way to be able do this i’ve found, is by having a designated art travel bag.

allen designs art bag monogram
the local craft stores never seemed to have all that i was looking for.
so i ended up going to home depot/lowe’s (can’t remember which one) to find a tool bag.
it was hideous and very manly.
as curly girl designs says, “i am fairly certain given a cape & a nice tiara, i could save the world”-
for me it should read, “given paint and a paint brush i could change the world!”.

artist michelle allen art bag
as you can see- over time a LOT OF paint has been added!

art bag whimsical travel art journal
i also took a box cutter and removed some of the inside separators that I didn’t need and were just going to get in the way.

art travel bag artist michelle allen
my friend Janne and i strongly believe that “arting” should be a word. right?!?!

traveling art bag tote painter artist
i love all the outside pockets on this bag.

art journal travel bag
over the past few years i’ve worked it’s contents down to my personal arting essentials.

what's in my art bag

arting bag colorful travel carry all artist
and there you have it.
that’s what’s in my bag.
obviously, you could make a bag like this for all sorts of hobbies- scrap-booking, sewing, crocheting, beading etc.
do you have one? if so, how does it differ? what’s in your bag?


Apr 9 2013

random bits of my life

lots of change going on in my life right now.
some of the change has me smiling ear to ear with the cheesiest of grins.
and some of the change is giving me a pit in my stomach the size of a grapefruit.

on the fun side- we’re slowly redecorating our close2myart/allen designs studio!
allen designs studiopainting some walls, rehanging & organizing clocks.
we’ve been in this space 1.5 years and haven’t really done much in terms of decorating.
so we’re all really excited about cozying it up a bit.

alexis & austinAlexis and her boyfriend… nice hair, eh?… like i’m one to talk 🙂 
another big thing… my oldest daughter turned 18 yesterday!
i seriously CAN NOT believe that she’s that old and that i’m THAT old!

succulentfinally got me-self a few succulents.
they’re doing their job and  making me happy every time i walk past them.

artist michelle allenand the not so fun-
my graphic design gal quit and i’ve been scrambling trying to figure out what to do.
i’m holding off hiring someone, which has me taking over her tasks along with my own everyday ones.
all along just trying not to screw anything up!
it’s been a good opportunity to reevaluate our needs in the studio.
as hard and stressful as it is, i feel like it’s going to be a blessing in disguise.

art fortune cookiefound in our fortune cookie a few days ago.
so true. so true.

Apr 5 2013

monograms & letter love

i’ve been working hard on and off over the past few months trying to paint the alphabet for a line of small canvas giclees.
i personally love, as most of you know, the letter A. (my A wall)
so i was thinking, there must be lots of people out there like me that love letters…
hence the line of monograms i’m wanting to produce.
paint brushes pretty blue artist
art studio michelle allen portland or

monogram g letter love allen designsi’m halfway through the alphabet now and i’m starting to have major self-doubts-
is anyone going to buy these?
am i wasting my time?
should i be spending my energy elsewhere?
am i the only one who loves/collects letters?

monograms letter love artist studiorisk is inevitable in business.
some risks work out and others bomb.
not sure which category these are going to fall in.

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” William Shedd

Arrow heart


Apr 2 2013

hand lettering & artist’s open studio tour

this year clark county, washington will be having it’s first annual artist’s open studios tour!
not sure of the dates, but it will be happening some time this fall.
clark county open studios

here’s a little logo hand lettering artwork thingy that i’ve been working on.

hand lettering open artist studio

not positive if it will be used or not but it’s been fun nonetheless.
open studios color web



and how about you?
been doing something fun?
ever participated in an open studios tour?

and btw, never ran yesterday… bad girl!
but did finally give in and shower. it had been several days and my husband was ready to kill me!



Apr 1 2013

easter & chalkboard art

happy late easter friends.
easter for us was filled with- church, family, a walk in the hood, lots of laughter and WAY too much food!
hand lettering font typography chalkboard art

the beginnings of chalkboard art.
and don’t judge my bunny… he’s got some issues!

chalkboard art hand lettering easter
can i just say, i love the freedom of the chalkboard.
perhaps the knowing that it can, and WILL be erased makes it more fun.

easter candy polka dot dishwhat would easter be without a bowl of these babies.
well, besides healthier!

magical forest heart hairLOVE this picture of my youngest!  it’s just dreamy.
thanks cousin monica for making this shot happen!

off to get some painting done now.
and maybe a short run. 🙂


April Desktop Wallpaper

 hello April, hello spring!
in celebration of this beautiful sunny weather we’ve had here in the NW-
we gift you with this month’s equally cheerful desktop wallpaper!

april desktop wallpaper allen designs“love first” giclee can be found here.

Just click on the image below to open the file, then right click to save.


Mar 30 2013

saying goodbyes & see you soon…

my heart’s been filled with some heavy stuff these past few weeks!
truthfully, more than i want to mention.

but the two list toppers are:
we had to put our sweet dog Parker of 13 years down.
it was, and still is- heartbreaking.

parker greyhound lab mix
seeing these pictures of his kind & always loyal face makes me cry all over again.
everyone who met him, LOVED him.
that was the kind of dog he was.
we will miss you Parker. 

subtle flowers

and the other- is that my dear friend Tammy left for Russia.

tammy primary progress ms

 she was diagnosed with PPMS (primary progressive MS) in 2010.
since her diagnosis, she’s already been experiencing glimpses of the many unpleasantries PPMS has to offer:
trouble walking, bladder control, strength, etc.
she’s only 40, two kids & a husband. she’s a giver. always helping everyone. constantly on the move.

she’s been led to apply for the clinical trials – HSCT (Hematopoietic Stem Cell Therapy), in hopes of being cured.
the one she’s accepted is in Moscow, Russia and she is on her way there now.
she’ll be in the hospital for 4 1/2 weeks.
please. please– keep her in your prayers.

this is a very expensive exploration that she and her husband are having to pay for out of their own pocket,
if you feel inclined to donate you can find more info. here.

Mar 18 2013

dinner party & healthy snack

this weekend involved many things.
some really sad, that i don’t want to go into right now.
and some happy.

flowers & wineit was our turn to host our dinner group.
there are 4 of us couples and we rotate houses.
we try for once a month but realistically it ends up being quarterly by the time our schedules all line up.

and let me just say… all the other ladies are AMAZING cooks.
that’s how i choose my friends! shhhh. 😉

curly girl cardthat being said, when it comes to our turn i always majorly stress out.
i want to bless them the way that they’ve blessed me.

hence the perfect reminder in the curly girl design card!
and it did hold true. of course.

healthy snack rawraw healthy snacksone of the things i made where these made by girl inspired healthy coconut date truffles.
probably not very lo cal. but healthy & yummy nonetheless.

dinner group table setting
dinner groupthe table setting i kept simple as to not overwhelm myself.
flowers & candles that was it.

i have a habit of wanting to shoot for the moon and then being disappointed in myself when things don’t end up perfect.
any of you do that?

in the end, it’s really about the conversation & the people.
which both, as always, were wonderful!

are you in a dinner group?
do you do themes? games? conversation starters?
if you’re not in one, maybe it’s time to start one…

Mar 11 2013

the theme is green

it’s late and i’m tired.
besides a few short breaks, i’ve been sitting at this computer all day long.
but i’m on a roll and figure i might as well finish it off with a blog post!

be your own lightbe your own light inspired self portrait

i’m currently in the middle of a 4 week ecourse, Be Your Own Light,
created by the talented and inspirational Vivienne McMaster.
and i am loving it!
the daily prompts, the creative play, the treasure like hunt for light.
i’m taking pictures that i would have never considered taking before.
this is the kind of thing that makes me HAPPY, HAPPY!

allen designs studiopicked up this old aluminum locker for the Allen Designs/Close2myArt studio last week.
okay, junk makes me happy too!

crocheted earrings portland artist
crocheted earrings by moss handmade, a gift from my husband.
we’re preparing to celebrate our 20th year of marriage in the next few weeks.
wow, how time flies.
perhaps there are many things that make me happy…

green smoothieslastly, i’ve finally jumped on the green smoothie bandwagon.
thanks to the dear Lacy Like.
it’s been 2 weeks of eating healthy (no sugar, bread, pasta, preservatives) & daily green smoothies.
i was feeling really great until yesterday, where the wheels felt like they were falling off the bus!
since then i’ve been having the overwhelming urge to go out and get myself some spicy cheetos & a milkshake.
i have barely, BARELY i tell you, kept my self control.
i’m trying to last 30 days.
we’ll see.

Mar 8 2013

Dangling Doodling Giveaway!

To celebrate the beginnings of Spring and Easter we are giving away
a free Sir Hop Dangling Doodling with every order on!

Sir-Hop-Dangling-Doodlingoffer good through April 1st.

tulips beach retreatmmmmm. seeing these flowers and how happy they make me,
is telling me i need to go buy myself a little bouquet to enjoy over the weekend!
#selfcare #prettythingsmakemehappy

Mar 6 2013

gathering of creatives

invited at the last minute.
i immediately said yes! a short bit later, had to fight myself from texting back with a big fat NO WAY.
i was utterly intimidated by this list of amazing women that would be in attendance.

IMG_3059intimidated not only by their individual successes, but also by their ability to communicate so well through words.

krr manzanita beach retreatfrom the left: kelly rae, leigh, myself, lacy, hannah, flora, mati, andrea, jessica and vivienne

seriously. SEE what i mean?

i had already committed, and there was a deep part of me that really wanted to go.
and be part.

to experience this community of women.

IMG_3092this lovely lady is the master orchestrator “connectress” of this special gathering.

radiate sessionsphoto by andrea scher
the setting was a small beach town on the oregon coast.
as you can see, the weather just happened to be PERFECT!

creative gathering oregon coast radiatehere’s the scene when we arrived.

creative artist gathering manzanita oregonarm photo by andrea scher
our time together consisted of all things lovely. sharing stories, making art, taking pictures, walking the beach,
giggling, eating delicious healthy food….  and mostly- encouraging & loving one another.

IMG_3117simple. but GOOD.
really good.

IMG_3083the word i chose to write on my arm was “vulnerable”.
i’ve spent too many years building walls.
brick by brick. hurt by hurt.
protecting myself from judgement, disappointment, failure, embarrassment- and the list goes on.
i want to be okay with who i am
and not worry so much about offending someone, having bad grammar or sounding stupid!

i have a voice and i don’t want to be afraid to use it!


this time has impacted and inspired me in ways i wouldn’t have imagined.
such, that i’m considering, with kelly rae’s encouragement, to do a small gathering of my own.
here’s a post she wrote up on how to go about it, in case this is something you might want to do.
you won’t regret it.
step out.
take a chance.
it will be amazing!

Mar 5 2013

March Desktop Wallpaper

we wanted to share a little gift with you this month-

free march computer wallpaperjust click on the image below to open the file, then right click to save.


happy March!!!
spring is in the air and we’re so excited.
don’t forget this weekend to set your clocks forward.
yay for longer days!


i like this.

Feb 10 2013

Close2myart Valentine Art Giveaway!

because i want to show you how much i love you, i want to do a quick fun giveaway!!!

forever love clock allen designsthe lucky winner will receive a love forever clock,

kitty cat ornament orange tabbya kittles dangling doodling,

heart bead frame allen designsa heart bead picture frame,

heart frame allen designs weddingAND a small heart frame!


allen designs heart giveaway

ENTER to WIN by one of the two below- or BOTH!

1. Leave a comment on this post: tell me your “go to” Valentine’s date/celebration idea.

2. Share us with your friends on Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment (here on the blog) letting me know you did.

Contest will close Thursday February 14th.

there is no cash back on the items
international entries are welcome but you would be responsible for the postage

Feb 3 2013

love bandit bunny

my art studio has been kind to me as of late.
painting & sketching up a storm.

love bandit bunny©2013 Michelle Allen, Love Bandit. Acrylic, graphite and ink on paper.

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 4.42.17 PMthe initial sketch.

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 4.41.59 PMand in process.

painting palettemore art in process.
not really sure what all this art will end up being used for.
but i’ve got some ideas… we’ll see.

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 4.42.55 PMoh, and can’t forget these cute new joli jewelry earrings i recently acquired.
LOVE her pieces!

looking forward to this week and getting lots done.
hoping the same for you!

Jan 26 2013

white westie dog

hello & happy saturday!
i’m super jazzed to be home from the gift shows and back to a schedule.
it’s to no one in our studio’s surprise that,
our most popular new allen designs clock this winter show season has been the westie dog. 

we added a few other lovely dog items we’ve found around the web for a little ‘doggie collage’.

1 Allen Designs Westin Clock  |  2 DIY Modern Dog House (use Google Translate)  |  3 Nautical Red Dog Leash

4 West Highland Terrier Print from local Illustrator  |  5 Healthy Dog Biscuits Recipe  |  6 Westie Photo by Bonnie Tsang

Jan 24 2013

letter love

i’m seriously loving letters these days!
is anyone else having this obsession?

t letter collection art handmade
letter r collection art monogram
letter k collection monogram artletter canvas art originals

collecting letters monogram j art handmade
letter E monogram art collecting

check out lisa congdon’s excellent blog post today on “making use of studio time“.

Jan 6 2013

happy new year & art monograms!

happy new year to you!

we spent our holidays up at mt. hood and were blessed with tons of fresh snow!
it was awesome!

 these were my pieces of art i made for my family exchange and also an exchange i do with a group of other artists.
i’m thinking i might do more of these they were so much fun.

well, i’m off to georgia tomorrow for the atlanta gift show.
not my favorite thing to do.
i’m totally a home-body.
but necessary in my line of work.
the upside… i get to see awesome friends like these- april, leigh & kelly rae!