Category Archives: my creations

Things that I created myself

New Acrylic Owl Painting

owl acrylic painting on blue background by Megan Manske

This acrylic owl painting was quite a while in the making. I created a different version of it in Photoshop (original here) about a year ago, and I thought it would be fun to re-create in paint. After all, acrylics are a whole different animal, and I wanted to get my hands dirty and see what I could come up with. I love Photoshop, but there’s something about painting…mixing colors, blending layers, the smell on canvas and acyclic paint, that’s just SO much more satisfying.

It ended up taking a really long time, mostly because finding uninterrupted time to work is always a challenge. I started out with the basic composition, but as usual, that’s all the planning that took place. I’m not a planner by nature…it stresses me out. I’m fully convinced that in life there are two kinds of people: those who stress out when they don’t have a plan to follow, and those who stress out when they have to follow a plan. I’m definitely the latter. I’m more of a let’s-just-go-and-see-where-this-end-up sort of painter. Sometimes it’s beautifully surprising. Other times, not so much.

The thing that really motivated me to get this done was that I wanted to bring it to the painting studio where I work. All of the artists who instruct their bring artwork to display and sell, and I have to admit, sometimes I feel like a fraud when I don’t have enough to bring in.  When you work with professional artists who spend a LOT more time than you do creating things, its easy to feel like you’re not living up to your potential. I’m glad though, because it lit my internal fire to get this thing finished. Whether it sells right away or not, I just like having it up on the wall, on display for people to see. He was hard to part with though, and I’m thinking I night have to make a print of this guy for the wall at home.

Owls are kind of our family’s thing. :)

Acrylic owl painting by Megan Manske detail 3

Acrylic owl painting by Megan Manske detail 2

Acrylic owl painting by Megan Manske detail 1

This is already a pretty photo heavy post, so check back soon and I’ll be posting the progression of how this guy came together!

If you like this, prints will soon be available for purchase in my Etsy shop!

Kaleidoscope Art and Root Canals {new artwork}

colorful geometric kalediscope artWell, my birthday is next Monday, and my gift from the universe turns out to be a root canal.

As sarcastic as that sounds, it really does feel like a gift, because yesterday I was knocked on my ass by the most excruciating tooth pain I’ve ever felt. When I say excruciating I’m not exaggerating…it was inside my ear, down my neck, up the side of my face, all over my jaw….I can honestly say that childbirth was less painful. An emergency trip to the dentist proclaimed the culprit to be an infected tooth that needs an immediate root canal.

except my molars are so wrecked from grinding my teeth that my dentist had to refer me to an Endodontist (aka root canal specialist) to do the work. He gave me a shot of Novocaine to dull the pain, wrote me some ‘scripts for painkillers and antibiotics (let me tell you, as an official Horrible Pill Swallower these thumb-sized gigantic pills TERRIFY me), wrote my referral, and told me to come back for a follow up visit after the procedure.

….except it turns out that the doctor he was referring me to is out-of-town for two weeks. Turns out a LOT of the local Endodontists are in Hawaii right now for some conference. Yikes. Nobody I called could see me until May 1st. No way. No how. NOT going to make it that long. After about twenty phone calls, I was lucky to find an office who fit me into their emergency slot on Monday morning. Hallelujah. I have honestly never been so excited for a dental visit in my entire life.

So yeah, happy birthday to me.

Anyway, the silver lining in all of this is that I’m home all by myself for a few hours. The pain was so bad at work this morning that I was barely functional, so my boss told me to just go home and rest. Finally, about four hours later, most of the pain seems to have subsided (maybe the antibiotics are finally kicking in), so while I’m able to think clearly, I’ll take it as an opportunity to post this new artwork I finished a few weeks ago. The finished image is up top, details shots are below.

I like this one. I really, really, really like this one. I’ve been able to do a lot of reading and painting lately, and I can’t even articulate how GOOD it feels. Hopefully I’ll get some more stuff up here soon.

Enjoy the pretty pictures, and take care of your teeth ladies and gentlemen. Tooth pain is a wretched bitch.

geometric colorful detailed kaleidoscope art geometry_detail2 geometry_detail3 geometry_detail4

Printable Holiday Gift Tags {freebie}

printable holiday gift tagsI was playing with some holiday colored designs for my shop (yeah, I know, but better late than never), and decided to turn them into printable holiday gift tags. We all like freebies, right?

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone to wrap presents a day or two before Christmas and then cringed when I realized we were completely out of tags and I had to endure my worst nightmare – braving the stores right before Christmas.

Hopefully these will spare you that pain, unless you’re the sort of person who still has to do all their shopping. If that’s the case, make sure you’re being nice to the store employees. When I worked retail, I was always kind of amazed at how mad people would get when, an hour before the store closed on Christmas Eve, we were out of the size/color/style they wanted to buy. Don’t yell at them about this. It’s not their fault. Be kind to the retailers people. Working long hours over the holidays is stressful and tiring, and you’ll be amazed at how much they’ll be willing to help you if you show a little kindness. But I guess that’s true in most situations in life, right?

I always thought that it would be awesome to randomly show up at a store with coffee or pizza for the employees on Black Friday. Then again, I don’t know how they would feel about taking food from a random stranger. Maybe Starbuck’s gift cards would be the way to go? Just a thought.

Anyway, whether your shopping is done or not (I’m 85% of the way there – now I’m just trying to figure out how to get away from the kids/boyfriend long enough to wrap everything), I hope your holiday season is a good one so far!

Just click here to download the PDF file.

**For best results, you should print them on card stock or very heavy paper.**

Photography Adventure { Chicago Christkindlmarket 2012 }

One of my absolute favorite holiday traditions is our annual day downtown at Christkindmarket.

They set up a little German style Christmas village in Daley Plaza, (for those of you unfamiliar with Chicago, that’s right by the Picasso, which I managed to NOT take the obligatory photo of this year). It’s become our annual tradition since my BF and I first starting dating. He, apparently, has been going for years, but I, on the other hand, had no idea it even existed until the first time we went (he says I apparently had never heard of lots of thing other people know about, but that’s another story).

Anyway, it’s an awesome day full of dark beer, potato pancakes, chocolate covered fruit on a stick, spiced wine drunk from ceramic boots, glass ornament shopping, strolling though Macy’s, wandering into whatever other stores happen to catch our eye, and then strolling back through the village one last time for a couple more treats before we catch the El home.

hand painted Christmas ornaments

Assortment of glass Christmas ornaments

mulled wine in a boot and german food

It’s hard to pin down my absolute favorite thing about the day. My BF and I don’t get a lot of time off together (our regular work schedules have no day off overlap whatsoever), so it’s a rare treat for us to spend a day leisurely strolling around, just enjoying each others’ company. It’s a day that we don’t have to worry about the kids destroying the house, or the piles of laundry in the bedroom, or the grocery shopping that needs to be done, or any of the other house house annoyances that can overtake your brain if you let them. It’s a day for soaking up the city, snapping photos, and just relaxing.

We had perfect weather that day too. It was just warm enough to be comfortable with a coat and hat on, and just cold enough that a few minutes in the warming tent for food and beer was welcoming. This week we’ve had a freakishly warm spell (as in 70 degree days in December – unheard of!), so I’m kind of glad that we went last week when the weather at least felt Christmas-y.  I adore warm weather, but walking around in a t-shirt and seeing people wearing flip flops amongst the Christmas displays would have felt a bit weird.

Assortment of glass Christmas ornaments in baskets

Assortment of glass Christmas ornaments in bins

basket of glass owl ornaments

owl ornament that we purchased

Of course we can home with some treasures, like we do every year. We picked up a couple new glass ornaments for our tree (pictured above) some adorable paw mittens for our daughter (one of which she promptly lost the very next day despite the clips I also bought to fasten them to her coat sleeves), a cool new beer stein to add to our growing collection, and some chocolates.

I always drool over the beautiful intricate wooden pyramid windmills every year (you know what I’m talking about? The ones where you light the candle and it makes the windmill spin?) but they’re always a little more than I want to spend, and too fragile to be lugging all over the city. Besides, leaving stuff on my wish list gives us a reason to go back the next year.

assortment of red and white ornaments for sale

Christmas trees in Daley plaza and Macy'scollection of beer steins

beer steins

I’m slightly obsessed with the glass ornament shops. I grew up in a house where the Christmas decorations went up the day after Thanksgiving, and I’m used to a Christmas tree literally dripping with ornaments, from cool glass antiques from the 20’s and 30’s, to cheap but pretty balls from Target, to paper and cotton ball homemade ornaments made in grade school. Every year my parents bought me one or two ornaments, and when I moved out my mom gave me a nice chunk of her massive collection to start off my own tree. I admire the beautifully curated and color coordinated trees that some people do, but in my own home I love a good mismatched collection. The best part about the glass ornament shops is that you can find almost anything under the sun. Glass ice cream Sunday? Got it. Glass rooster? Got it. Glass flags? They have a pretty huge assortment. I could spend days browsing in there.

chocolate covered fruit

hand painted glass ornaments

wooden Christmas ornaments

glass santa ornaments for sale

assorted candles for sale

candy for sale

Just looking back at my photos is making me look forward to going back next year. Probably getting a little ahead on myself when I realize that I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping, and we still have to go pick out our tree!

Want to see more pictures from the Chicago Christkindlmarket? You can see my photos from last year here.

Do you have any cool holiday traditions in your city? What are they?

Birth Chart Artwork {written in the stars}

natal birth chart artwork

I’m a Taurus, with a Leo moon and Aries rising.


It’s all above, in my birth chart.

Regardless of your belief in Astrology, birth charts are a very cool to base artwork on, because just like fingerprints, no two are alike. Your birth chart, or natal chart, is a visual map of where the planets were in the sky at the time of your birth. Since the planets are constantly moving across the sky, passing through the different constellations and houses of the zodiac, even people born just a few minutes apart can have completely different birth charts.

Ever know someone with the same sign as you, but think that you couldn’t be any more different? That’s because you are more than just your Sun sign, or the sign you identify with when you read your newspaper or magazine horoscope. Your moon and rising signs also play a very big part in who you are. Even though you may share a Sun sign with someone else, you and that other person have totally different birth charts. Take my dad and I, for example. We share the same birthday, and we both have that same stubborn Taurus streak (or so I’ve been told) but we are otherwise very different. If you were to compare our birth charts, you would find that we had different moon signs, different rising signs, and planets in completely different places.

Even two people born on the same date, at the exact same time, but different locations will have very different natal charts. The inner planets move through the sky very quickly, but the outer planets, like Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (and yes, I know that Pluto is no longer really a “planet”) are sometimes said to have more of a generational effect, as they take much longer to pass around the sun, and people born in the same generation will most likely have those planets in the same positions in their charts.

I’m no expert on any of this, but I do find it really fun and really interesting to read up on natal charts and the position the stars and plants have on your personality. It’s much more involved than I could ever hope to go into here, but just for fun, here are the three main influences:

Sun Sign

This sign governs the outward you, the you that everyone else sees. Your personality and your general outlook on life.

For example – my sun is in Taurus. Typical Taurian traits? We HATE to be rushed (ask my BF how annoying he finds this) and we’re known to be a bit stubborn. We’re also very persistent, and will pursue our goals with dogged determination, come hell of high water. We also love working with our hands (check), tend to be homebodies (double check) and crave stability (triple check). We are hard working but are generally laid back and easygoing, sometimes to a fault.

Moon Sign

The moon governs your emotions, your subconscious, the inner you, your fears and your moods. It’s the “you” that come out when no one else is around to see it. It’s your intuition, your vulnerabilities, and how you process your feelings.

For example, my moon is in Leo. This supposedly means I enjoys responsibility but may take on too much (this is ridiculously true with me), a love of the arts (check), a strong intellect, and desire to create. Supposedly people with a moon in Leo love to be the center of attention, but the introvert in couldn’t agree less.  I hate people focusing on me, but I DO love them paying attention to my work, so maybe there’s something there after all!

Rising Sign.

This is the sign that was rising in the eastern part of the sky at the time of your birth. It represents how other people perceive you, although it may not necessarily be how you would describe yourself. This sign governs the way other people see us, how we project ourselves in ways we might not even be aware of.  It’s the “mask” we wear, and the impression you make on others.

For example- I have Aries rising. It means trusting attitude toward people, being somewhat headstrong, an initiator, very competitive, but putting more pressure on myself than others. Direct and forthright. Independent. Self reliant.

In addition to your sun, moon and rising sing, the position of the planets and what signs/houses they fall into, and whether those are fire, water, earth or air signs (my chart for example, has a LOT of fire, but barely any water!) also has an effect on you! You could literally fill up books about it – and people have!

If you enjoy zodiac artwork, you might like the zodiac calendar I created for a design class a few years ago. I’ve been thinking of updating the dates and having them printed in the future. Let me know if you’d be interested!

Have you ever looked at your birth chart? Do you think it’s an accurate reflection of your personality?

I Blinked {and it was November}

rainbow kaleidoscope geometric design

Eeeeep. It’s November. Not even early November. Two weeks until Thanksgiving November.

It’s been a while, I know. I don’t know what happened. Well, actually I do. Life happened. Three of the four people living under this roof having birthdays, family pictures in the forest preserve, hockey games, and making beer in our kitchen happened. Day trips to Apple Fest, Halloween, and raking massive amounts of leaves happened. Sick kids happened. My day job, new weekend painting instructor job, contributing to Indie Gift Box, working on my Etsy shop, and a couple of freelance design projects happened. October was nothing if not FULL. Full, but also really good.

rainbow outline kaleidoscope detail shot

Complaining about being busy is really lame. I admit to doing it (more often than I like to admit)…but yeah, lame. Busy is good. It may be slightly stressful at times, and I do have a tendency to take projects on until I’m half crazy, but at the same time, I love everything I’m doing. I love my crazy home life and my family. I adore my new job being an instructor for a BYOB painting studio (wine and acrylics…what’s not to love?) I love working on slowly expanding my art business. I don’t HAVE to do freelance work or contribute to Indie Gift Box, or have an Etsy shop or a blog. But I do these things because they give me a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I love creating, and I love sharing it. I’m grateful that I have freelance projects to work on, and I’m glad that I have money coming in.

rainbow outine kaleidoscope art detail image

The important thing, and the thing I kept reminding myself over the last month, is that I do all these things because I want to. They shouldn’t be a huge source of stress in my life. So in October, I let life happen around me, caught my breath, and now that things have slowed down for a minute, here I am. I even had time to make this little rainbow kaleidoscope design, which I’m pretty pleased with. It was so nice to sit in front of the computer and create something for myself, for no other reason than because I wanted to make something. After being unemployed for almost six months, starting two new jobs at basically the same time and adjusting to juggling everything again was a bit of a challenge, but I finally feel like I’m back in control.

So, here we go again…

Autumn Love {and new art}

geometric kaleidoscope shape in autumn colorsIt’s really only been over the last few years that I’ve developed a deep love for autumn.

In the past, I always viewed it as nothing more than a gateway to winter, a precursor to numb fingers, frosty breath, and begging my car to start in ten below temperatures. But as I’ve gotten older, and began to really appreciate the rhythm of the seasons, I’ve begun to love autumn in its own right. I even love the word “autumn.” There’s something so satisfying about the way it rolls off your tongue.

I’m still a bit more infatuated with September (there’s no other month that has such magical sunlight) but this year October is close at its heels. Once a week I have to get up pretty early before work because of my babysitting situation, and this week I couldn’t help notice how breathtaking autumn sunrise it. You truly have every single color popping across your field of vision. The sun creeping up in a pink, purple and baby blue sky, gold and green grass, rust, maroon, orange and red bursts of color on the trees…it truly made me sad that I had to go to work and not spend the day running around the forest preserve with a camera.

But you know what? I kind of did. I realized that there’s a forest preserve just a few miles away from my job, and I have a camera phone. I went on a nice little photography adventure on my lunch break, driving through the trails and snapping photos along the way. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see some of them there. It was a nice little nature retreat in the middle of a busy work day.

There’s so much to be excited about this fall. I’m excited about pumpkin spice lattes, knee-high boots, rainbow trees, Halloween, homemade pot pies, a parade of family and friend’s birthdays, concerts, hockey games, photo shoots in the forest, s’mores around the fire pit, taking on new design projects, and lasagna.

So autumn, even though I’m a bit late to the game, welcome.

Like the design at the top of this post? It’s for sale in my Etsy shop.

Animated Kaleidoscope {new artwork in the shop}

Hello people of the interwebs! It feels like forever since I’ve been in this space. It really has been a crazy last few weeks.

Between my daughter going back to school and all the shopping that goes along with it, as well as two job prospects popping up at the exact same time, interviews, more interviews, getting an offer (!!!), faxing new-hire paperwork, shopping for office appropriate clothes because I managed to only own two pairs of “business casual” pants, as well as needing couple of tattoo-concealing cardigans, plus simply wanting to spend as much time with my family as possible before schedules changed and the bf and I go back to never having the same days off again, then all the brain-overload associated with the first week at a new job…life exploded all over the place. Busy, busy, busy. I haven’t been in front of the computer too much, and that awesome freshly gessoed canvas I was so excited to paint on? Still blank. Although I did come up with a pretty awesome idea of what I want to put on it. That’s the easy part. The hard part is finding a nice chunk of time away from grabby toddler hands to work on it.

I’ve said it before, but sometimes it’s much easier to create things on the computer, where all I need to do to protect it from said grabby toddler is unplug the keyboard. I was messing around, like I do when I can catch a bit of time to myself, (aka naptime) and I came up with this kaleidoscope design. Sometimes I come up with the overall shape of the image first, then play around with color combinations afterward and sometimes I do the opposite and choose a color palette, then compose a design around them. It depends what kind of mood I’m in, I guess. This one must have gone through ten or twenty different variations before I narrowed it down to these four below.

I think the one above might be my favorite. I had a hard time choosing, which is why there are four of them.

Anyway, since I had so many, I thought it would be fun to combine them and create the animated GIF you see at the top of the post. I experimented with animated GIFs here, and they’re actually incredibly easy to create. Check back later this week, and I’ll post a tutorial on how to make one. Super easy and fun, I promise.


If you like these designs, and you want one for yourself, all four prints are now available in my Etsy shop.

pink and purple kaleidoscope spiral art

Infinity Spiral {new kaleidoscope art}

pink and purple kaleidoscope spiral art

You probably know about my crazy love for making insanely detailed kaleidoscope art. This one through, is insane even by my standards. There were several times that it locked up my Mac for over 20 minutes. I got up, grabbed a cup of coffee, ate a string cheese, got the mail, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned up a bunch of random toys, checked my email on my phone a millions times, poured another cup on coffee (as you can see, I live a really exciting life), and it was STILL locked up in the rainbow pinwheel of death. Illustrator flat out refused to render it in color because it used too much memory. The JPG file for my printer is 25MB! The Photoshop file is 137.2MB!

Am I boring you yet? I just realized that this is probably boring to pretty much everyone but me. The point is, it’s a BIG file. Why so much detail? Because I want the finished product to be a BIG print. Right now I’m offering a version that’s 10″ wide x 20″ across in my shop, but if anyone is interested I can have it printed even larger.

Just for fun, here are some detail shots.

detail shot of pink and purple kaleidoscope spiral art

detail shot of pink and purple kaleidoscope like shapes

extreme detail shot of intricate purple kaleidoscope like circle

Red and Blue Kaleidoscope Art {now in 3-D!}

red and blue three dimensional looking kaleidoscope like circle design

Do you have any old school 3-D glasses at home? The really cool 1950’s style ones? If you do, you should slip them on and let me know if this kaleidoscope art actually looks three dimensional. I’d love to test it myself, but I don’t have any old 3-D glasses lying around my house (although I guess if I was feeling super crafty I could make some…but I’m lazy).

3D glasses

Don’t you love it when you’re creating something with a very specific style in mind, but at the last minute you experiment with something on a whim and your project does a complete 180? It actually happens to me a lot. This particular project was supposed to have all kinds of colorful rainbow edges, but when I experimented with it in Illustrator things weren’t working out the way they were supposed to. I ended up with this distracting stripe-y rainbow pattern going through the design and I hated it. I hope to keep playing with it and post a new version in a week or two, because in my head it’s beautiful (but everyone’s art is gorgeous in their head, right?). We shall see.

Anyway, when the rainbow effect didn’t pan out I tried changing the lines to solid blue, and suddenly it made me think of those 3-D books where the picture is printed in red, and then again in blue in a slightly different placement. I made a couple of quick tweaks and there you go – instant 3-D kaleidoscope artwork!