See Sister Make Art: “Don’t Give Up, Cheer Up” (35B35)

Have we mentioned that it was Susanna’s 30th birthday on Tuesday? And did we tell you that Bethany surprised her? Well, I always say that one day isn’t enough to celebrate my a birthday. And I think Susanna’s birthday at least deserves one more post.

One of the reasons I was so happy that Bethany was going to surprise her was because I wanted to send Susanna a gift that I hadn’t finished in time for Christmas. I was actually going to give it to her three years ago when I drew her name for Christmas. And I was gonna make it for her last year for her birthday. And I was gonna make it when she was waiting to hear if her visa was approved and she was worried about a lot of things. But uh… yeah… that didn’t happen.
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So when once again, it didn’t work out for Christmas this year, I was SO excited to have a second chance and I determined to get it done in time to ship it to Zuni. And what is this fabulous gift I wanted to make? Well, it starts with a blank canvas and an inside joke we’ve shared for a long time…

Once upon a time when we were say, 16 and 12 years old, Susanna and I were on a winter swim team that practiced at Fairland Aquatic Center. The team had a wide range of swimmers – from 4 year olds to 18 year olds – all with varying swimming skills. Susanna and I were on (obviously) the older end and (maybe not so obviously) on the faster end of the team. So we were put in a lane with the older faster kids.
fairland aquatics center
Now there were two brothers (their names completely escape me) who were approximately the same ages as us and thus we often shared a lane. The problem was when our coach, Chris, decided that their little sister, whose name I also can’t be sure of but I think it was Anna, was also invited to swim in our lane. Now I’m sure that Chris had a reason for putting her with us. Perhaps since her brothers were older and faster he lumped her into the older, faster lanes. Perhaps it was a simple matter of not having enough lanes for all the swimmers. Perhaps the people her age were considerably slower than her and he felt she could hang with us.

She couldn’t. Anna was probably 9 and while she may have been fast for her age, she couldn’t keep up. If Chris asked us to swim a 500 for warm up, she’d swim a 400 or a 450 and hope no one noticed. We did. She would swim slow when were supposed to be going fast so we’d have to swim around her. And perhaps most annoying of all, she would stop at the wall at least 5,000 times a practice and ‘adjust her goggles’ so we had do flip turns around her.
Looking back I can see she was struggling and overwhelmed and probably not confident enough to tell the coach that our lane was too much for her. But at the time, we just found her to be incredibly annoying. And we decided that action must be taken. Before practice one afternoon, I told Susanna “Okay so we can’t be mean to her but this is getting ridiculous. Whenever she stops on the wall, we will also briefly pause on the wall, lift our heads out of the water and say loudly “Don’t give up, CHEER UP!”

Within two practices of carrying out said plan, either she or one of her brothers or most likely, one of her parents got up the nerve to as Chris if she could be moved out of our lane. Problem solved.

And ever since then “Don’t Give Up, Cheer up!” has been a phrase that incites (somewhat guilty) giggles from the both of us. And it’s not a bad life mantra if I do say so myself.
No offense to Susanna, but whenever she gives me a tour of her living quarters on Skype, she has very bare walls. As Dawn Bonker (of Greek Chili fame) once told me, “You’re never fully moved in until you have something on the walls.” Or she said something along those lines as we moved into our house Junior year of college and she immediately hung her beautiful art prints on the walls in her room. Of course I followed her advice and put up my “SUPER FLY” movie poster. Classy.
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But I digress… I thought making Susanna some “Don’t give up, cheer up” art would be a great way she could fill the wall space in her apartment(s) in London. Also, as her protective, caring, older sister, I wanted her to have a visual representation of my love for her. That way, if she got overwhelmed or was feeling lonely and wanted to give up, she would cheer up instead.

So I did some research on Pinterest and found a few inspiring pictures like this one, this one, this one, and especially this one.

With time running out, I decided to go for the ease of the vinyl stickers option and then fun of the dots option and the black and goldness of the black and gold option. So I started by painting my canvas black.
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Then I bought vinyl letters in two sizes. Turns out the 3″ ones were way too big for this canvas. I’ll have to save them for another project.
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Then I did a lot of crazy math…
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Which I used to put the letters basically where I wanted them. But I also moved them around a few too many times to get them to feel “perfect.”
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Once all the letters were in place, I looked at my supplies to see how I could make golden dots to outline the letters. I had two good options – a spouncer (the spoungey thing on the left) and a paintbrush.
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But when I sampled them, Fix liked the spouncer and I liked the paintbrush. Or I guess I should say, we both liked the more uniform look of the spouncer, but I preferred the size of the paintbrush. So the next day I headed out to find a smaller spouncer.
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I had to buy this mammoth set to get the size that I wanted. It’s actually hidden behind the other spouncers and spounge brushes in this pack.
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But then I decided to try out a couple different sizes and see if I shouldn’t do a combo of 2 or 3 spouncers. Blah blah blah, this is getting boring I know. Let me cut to the chase and say I decided to go with the two smallest sized spouncers. Sorry original spouncer. Don’t look so blue – I’m sure you will be perfect for some project that I do in the future.
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Now on to this project. From here it was pretty simple. I took my two spouncers and started spouncing (Is that a verb? Whatever, I’m running with it!)…
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And spouncing…
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And spouncing some more until all the words were covered up.
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Then I added some more dots around the edges of the painting and let it dry for several hours. Or maybe it was overnight? I can’t remember. But after letting it dry for a considerable amount of time…
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I began the fun process of peeling off letters. This message is perhaps not so encouraging.
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This is better…
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This is the best. After staring at it for a bit, I decided to fill in a few of the gaps. See how there is a lot more black showing through near the “CH” than there is anywhere else? I couldn’t stand for that. Then after letting it dry overnight (this time I am sure of the time frame because I wanted it to be as dry as possible before packing up to mail but I didn’t have any longer than that to wait if I wanted to mail it to Bethany before she left) I sent it on it’s way to merry England!

All in all, it was totally fun to make and Zuni loves it (or at least claims to) as much as I do. In fact, she was actually thinking of making me something that said “Don’t give up, cheer up” for a future gift. I guess great minds of great sisters think alike.

So (if you’ve made it to the bottom of this post) let me know if you think we were too mean to Anna. And if you like the verb spouncing.

***Incidentally, I made this one of my 35B35 goals so I’d actually finish it for her birthday this year. That’s 2 down, 33 to go! WHOOP WHOOP!***


4 thoughts on “See Sister Make Art: “Don’t Give Up, Cheer Up” (35B35)

  1. zuni says:

    I DO love it!!! What’s great is that my vision for it was TOTALLY different…so it’s not as if you gave me exactly what I was going to give you.

    It’s already up on my (bare) walls, making the room look much better and much more lived in.

  2. Melanie Brockman says:

    I believe you could have been more direct to coach Chris re Anna, but I don’t think you were overly mean unless she was a super sensitive kid. I like the project and the sentiment–reminds me of the verse I often send to our children’s teachers at church, Galatians 5:7.

  3. Stephanie Kreider says:

    I LOVE this!!! I’m totally making one for myself! Poor Anna, I’m sure she tells this story to her friends, but it’s a different version! Lol

  4. […] Rachel mentioned in her post about my birthday art, my room is rather sad. The walls are bare (minus my new art), my bedding is plain, the colors are […]

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