Hollands Vault Mural, Part 2

This week I’ve been able to put in about 8 hours of painting time in. It’s moving quicker than I anticipated, so I’m hoping I can keep up the pace!
On Wednesday, I painted in the background…
most of the vault sign…
Mickey Mouse ears…
and Jiminy Cricket!
Today I finished the vault sign…
started putting in balloons…
added Mike (who can’t believe he’s on the mural)…
blocked in one princes…
and another princess in her tower!
I won’t be able to go back and work until next Saturday as schedules don’t allow time during the week. When I work on it again, I hope to finish up everything I started today, as well as start some other characters, including three little flying ladies and a cowboy with his horse!
Any guesses on what characters are still left to paint? Who would you put on the mural?

Waters of Scotland

This week’s piece from the past is…

Title: Waters of Scotland

Size: I think it’s 8″ x 10″

Medium: Watercolor on paper

When: Early 2008

Purpose: Wedding gift for my brother and sister-in-law.

Time to complete: I worked on it off and on for about a week.

Thought process: My brother loves anything Scottish, and I wanted to do something special for them as a wedding gift. I was originally going to do a landscape with hills, but because both he and his wife love blue, I did water instead.

Problems I encountered: I hadn’t really dabbled in watercolors before, so attempting something as special as a wedding gift was really stressful. Getting the water to look right was especially challenging.

Favorite part: The hill in the back…or the rocks….or the wave. Too hard to choose.

Least favorite part: The fact that the clouds all slant the same way…oops!

Fun tidbits: This piece was the other painting I photographed in the middle of the parking lot when I did the Lighthouse photos.

Product availability: Products featuring this piece can be found in my Etsy store here.

Q&A: Commissions

This week’s Q&A topic is on commissions!

How do commissions work? Do I need a photograph of what the finished drawing will look like, or can I just use an idea and come up with something?

The answer is yes to both!

I have done many drawings where I have been given a photograph and am asked to draw it. Examples of these pieces are Milo, QD, Jaxon, and the Prinzi House.

Other times someone has an idea in their head of what they’re looking for, but they don’t have any reference images available. A great example of this would be The Well.

When Sarah won the certificate for the drawing at the auction, we set up a meeting time to plan the drawing. It was a super easy meeting as she already knew what she wanted, and she is super clear about what she wants. Her requests were simple:

– it has to be nature based

– a subtle biblical/God connection needs to be present

She ended up deciding on a fig tree at dawn with a well, jars, and grape vines.

Once we had the plan in place and we decided on a layout (I did a rough sketch at the meeting), it was time to figure out details. I needed to know things like what a fig tree looked like, what it’s leaves were shaped like, and how a grape vine climbed on a rock wall. Here are some reference images I used:

This helped get an idea of how the sun beams played with the tree

By putting all of these (and other reference images) together, I was able to create this image:

Do you only take drawing commissions? 

The answer right now is mostly. At this point in time I don’t have much time for really putting the time into paintings or murals to be able to do commissions on a regular basis. In the next couple of years, my youngest will be starting school and I hope to no longer be babysitting. So in the meantime, I am mostly doing drawings as they are the easiest to fit into my schedule. As long as schedules are flexible, I may take on a painting or mural commission, but I make sure that my clients know that I cannot guarantee them done in a relatively short amount of time.

How much does a drawing commission cost?

It really depends on the size and how difficult the drawing is going to be. Pricing for the most popular sizes (5″x7″, 8″x10″, and 11″x14″) can be viewed on the product page for Custom Graphite Drawing here. If you’re interested in another size, you can email me at any time at shawnaapps@gmail.com and I’d love to work something out with you!

Does it cost anything to just meet with you?

Never! We can talk about a piece, even sketch out a rough idea of what the piece would look like and it doesn’t cost you a penny. The only time you pay me is when I hand over a piece; some pieces may need a down payment, but that’s only if I have to buy paper or a canvas in a size that I don’t have on hand.

Did I miss anything? Any other questions you have about commissions? Let me know in the comments below!

Hollands Vault Mural, Part 1

What seems like forever ago, my friend Cheryl approached me with an idea for a mural. They were looking into turning their bonus room into a home theater room, and she had an idea of turning their gun locker into the Disney Vault. Over the past few months (maybe a year? It’s been a blur!), we’ve gone through many different versions of this mural, from just doing the Mickey ears and a variation of the Disney Vault sign, to various characters painted on the locker door, and even a film strip starting on the locker and weaving it’s way around all the walls in the room. Let’s just say my file for this project is very full with many different sketches and designs in it!

Honestly, I love having to change the design up and keep tweaking it. This project has grown, and we have finally decided on something that their family all loves and we’re all excited to have happen. 

The final design was something I came up with right before our last design meeting. They had compiled a list of must have characters for the Vault, and Cheryl had given me loose instructions on where each character was to go on the door (up high, down low, etc.). When I was sketching out the design on graph paper, it almost read like a scene; certain characters that were up high should be in the sky, but the ones down at the bottom were on grass. With a little bit of tweaking and some creative interpretations on what characters might be doing, I came up with the final design.

I was nervous going into that last design meeting; Cheryl and her family are super flexible, but this design was completely different than anything we had talked about. Needless to say, they loved it, and agreed that this was the design we were going to go with!

I finally was able to start the priming of the cabinet today. Between waiting for the room to be finished and the weather to cooperate, it was very exciting getting to actually start the project! I’ll be going over a couple more times this week to start painting in the scene and characters, and hope to finish the entire project by the end of the month! 

Stay tuned for another blog update next weekend! Can’t wait that long to see how it’s going? Follow me on Facebook for progress updates!

What is your favorite Disney character?

Throwback Thursday: Lighthouse

This week’s edition of TBT is….


Title: Lighthouse

Size: I think it’s 8″ x 10″

Medium: Watercolor, acrylic and ink on paper

When: Early 2009

Purpose: Birthday gift for my Mom; she loves lighthouses, and I wanted to do something special for that year as it was a big birthday (but I won’t tell you what milestone it was for!)

Time to complete: I worked on it off and on for about a week.

Thought process: I knew I wanted to do a lighthouse, so I just took some pictures I found online and put them together to make this piece. As blue is my mom’s favorite color, I made sure that there was a lot in the finished piece.

Problems I encountered: At this stage in my “career”, I had been out of school for a few years, and as I had two little kids (they were about four and two at that time), I was really out of practice with any form of art! Getting anything to work out was a challenge. I think the finished product was my third attempt at the piece.

Getting the waves to look nice was also difficult; I ended up getting frustrated and broke out the white acrylic paint. I felt like I was cheating as this was supposed to be all watercolor, but as one of my college professors used to say, “Using a ruler to draw a straight line isn’t cheating; it’s just using the tools around you!” So I used another tool I had, and I’m happy with the outcome.

Favorite part: Seeing it finished, watching my mom open it, and seeing it hang in her living room. I really am happy with the piece, considering how out of practice I was when I painted it!

Least favorite part: The lighthouse tower seems crooked to me still.

Fun tidbits: I didn’t have a high quality picture of this piece, and my mom didn’t feel comfortable trying to do it on her own. In order to photograph this piece, my mom and I met up halfway between our houses, and I spread a blanket out in the middle of a parking lot and took pictures of this piece and another piece! People must have thought I was crazy, but sometimes you have to do what works. We were really thankful that it wasn’t raining and the lighting was perfect.

Product availability: Products featuring this piece can be found in my Etsy store here.

Q&A: Resolutions and The Future

For this part of the series, I’m combining a couple different questions into one big post. I love that people are interested in where I think the business is going, and what my plans are for the upcoming year and even beyond that!

Did you make any resolutions for the business? What are your plans for the year? Any new products coming soon?

I didn’t really make any solid resolutions for the business, but I do have a lot in store for the upcoming year:

  • I will be taking an online class this year on drawing pets (like cats and dogs). I’ve had a couple commissions to draw dogs before, and although I think they turned out well, I know I can do better. I’m hoping that class will help me refine my drawing skills enough to make my pieces better.
  • I will be taking another online class, this one on illustrating children’s books. It’s always been a dream of mine to do something along those lines. The class also helps fine tune drawing skills, and helps with watercolor and pen and ink skills as well, all things that will help my pieces get better now.
  • I am going to work on improving my photography skills so my products look better in my online store.
  • I will be starting to search for upcoming arts and craft shows for the year! Right now I’m just planning on doing indoor shows as the investment of purchasing tables and a tent is something we can’t swing right now.

  • I am looking into new products, but haven’t decided on anything yet. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!
  • I want to improve the quality of the products I already have, from the quality of the images to the materials I use to create the products. The image that bothers me the most is the Chickadee; he looks great, but as I did a textured background on the original painting, the backgrounds on the prints looks grainy. I have already started changing quality for some products; I upgraded to a new paper for the note cards, and I’m so happy with the change!
  • I also want to increase the number of pieces that I create. Last year I did four drawings, fourteen paintings (2 oil, 12 watercolor), three murals, and four signs. I don’t have a number for how many pieces total I make per group or as a whole, but I just would like to push myself a little bit more to make more time to create 🙂
  • Projects that I have lined up for the year already include finishing two paintings, a mural, and a two part drawing. I’ll also be entering another gift certificate into our church’s mission’s auction for an 8″ x 10″ drawing, so will have that piece to work on as well. I’m also working on plans for other drawings (like my Lord of the Rings series) as well as some paintings.

What are your long term goals/plans?

Because the business is still so new, it’s hard to know exactly what the plans are. Here are the tentative plans:

  • In the next year or two I hope to be a full time artist, meaning I will no longer be babysitting during the day.
  • We’re still figuring out what is going to work best: an online store vs. just doing shows, using the current store host vs. switching to something like Etsy, things like that.
  • One of my friends and I keep tossing around the idea of having an actual store, with me doing my art and her doing her sewing. We’d sell products, offer lessons, and I’d love to host art birthday parties. That’s still a long way in the future, though.

I’m not sure exactly what the future holds for Back to the Drawing Board, but I hope to keep growing and improving my work!

If I missed any of your questions or this prompted more questions, let me know in the comments below!


Hey everyone!

In case you’ve been wondering, I have not dropped off the face of the planet! I’ve actually moved my blog over to my website!

Yes, I actually have a real website now. And it has a store! I’m selling original pieces, prints, gift tags, note cards, and will be adding watercolor earrings soon.

If you want to keep following my blog, head over to the website at: www.backtothedrawingboardart.com. The blog is linked right on the home page there! There should be a link for you to follow it there; I also link to any new posts on Facebook, so make sure you ‘like’ my page to keep up to date with all of my projects!

I hope you all are doing well, and have a very happy and safe New Year!!!

Much love,



Hey everyone! I’ve been getting asked some great questions lately, so after putting the word out on Facebook asking if there was anything else people wanted to know about me, here are all your answers!

How is this art business going? 

Things are going really really well. I’m surprised with how much positive feedback that I’ve been getting, and how many people are really interested in having me do pieces for them.

Is it overwhelming?

I don’t think it’s overwhelming with the amount of projects, but just the emotions of starting to really pursue my dream and have it be a reality is overwhelming! I do randomly burst into tears of joy because I never thought this would happen.

How is it fitting in with babysitting and family life?

It’s fitting in surprisingly well! I only work while kids are napping or sleeping, or if I have no babysitting kids and my kids are playing happily or doing art things with me. I told my husband that if the art business starts interfering with the family, that I would back off of it, that family comes first. So far, so good! I have a lot of big projects to work on this summer, so we’ll see how that works out.

Do you plan on quitting babysitting and just doing your art business?

At some point, yes. I don’t think I’m established enough for it to fully replace the babysitting at this time. Paigey is going to be getting braces soon, and we can’t afford that without having a steady source of income besides my husband’s income. I do love babysitting, and will miss it when I stop.

Who is your favorite artist?

I hate this question. I always get an eye roll or a groan when I answer! I think people expect me to have this obscure artist, and I disappoint them. It’s so very cliche: I absolutely love Vincent Van Gogh. And yes, my favorite painting of all time is Starry Night. Any of the impressionist painters inspire me, and I tend to prefer them over other artists. Dale Chihuly and Henri Matisse are new favorites as well.

And yes, for all you Whovians out there, the Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor” makes me cry like a baby every time I watch it.

What is the one drawing tool you cannot live without?

Oh, that would definitely be my eraser pencil! It’s awesome. You can sharpen it to get really tiny lines or cut the tip off and get fat lines, and I use it multiple times in each drawing I do.

I also love my kneaded eraser (you can mold it into any shape you want!) and my HB pencil.

I also finally got some blending sticks recently, and they are so much easier and less time consuming than using other things to blend. I think I’d get pretty cranky if I couldn’t use those, either.

I saw on Facebook that you actually have a studio?!? When did that happen?

Okay, it’s not an official beautiful art studio. It’s in my basement, and it’s been set up since we moved into our house in 2008. Now that I finally went through everything and organized it, I have space to work. It consists of a couple plastic rolling carts, a really old drafting table (I’m in the market for a new one), a stool, my beautiful new easel, and a bookcase. It’s not much and could use better lighting, but I have space to paint where the kids won’t get into my chemicals or paint. I just set up the kid’s easel in my studio area for our youngest today; he absolutely loved painting with me and is begging to do it again tomorrow.

I’ve heard you mention you have kids. How many, how old are they, and are they artistic?

My husband and I are blessed with three amazing kids. Our daughter is 9, and then we have two boys, 6 1/2 and 4. They are definitely artistic, but in different ways. Our daughter loves to draw and paint, our older son is more along the lines of technical drawings (he’s the one who will draw a building and then go and try to recreate it with legos or blocks), and our youngest is just an inspiration to me. He is very particular about color and actually will play around with things like shadows or monochromatic layering in his collages. He sees color and pattern and puts things together I never would have even thought of. It’s really exciting to see my kids take after me in some sort of way; it makes up for them looking like their Daddy’s side of the family and not me!

When are you coming to visit your bestest friend of 20-21 years?

Soon, I hope and pray! I can’t wait to see you when you’re in the area in just over a week 🙂 I miss my gf, and the kids miss their aunt ❤


Thanks for all the questions, guys!

Is there anything else you want to know about me? Ask away, and I’ll do a second post later 🙂

When Dreams Come True

The first thing I ever wanted to be when I was growing up was an artist. I would color, paint, sculpt, and create as much as I could with anything I could get my hands on.

That dream died sometime through the years, but I specifically remember it really disappearing around the time I was in middle school. The art teacher and I had a personality conflict or something, and I didn’t like the way she taught. If things weren’t done the way she wanted, you got a bad grade. It doesn’t matter if you tried your best or tried something out of the box and creative, you were docked points and I really really didn’t like that. I felt like I was being trapped in Harry Chapin’s song “Flowers Are Red,” and that was not okay in my little brain.

I ended up pursuing the sciences in high school; I took all the science classes I could, and wanted to either a veterinarian or a high school science teacher, triple certified in biology, chemistry, and physics. I didn’t take any art classes, and that was okay with me. I mean, who really ends up being the first thing they ever wanted to be when they were little?

College was a wake up call. I did awful in my science classes. The only positive thing I got out of the classes is that was how my husband and I met (he is now a high school science teacher). My second semester of freshman year I had to take an art class to fill a requirement. I wasn’t too thrilled with having to take it, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made in order to move on with your life.

I remember the second week of class; we had just started working on our first assignment. I rushed back to my dorm and got started working on it. A couple of my friends stopped by to pick me up for our lunch date, and I dragged my feet out the door. I didn’t want to leave my project!

It was like that for the next couple weeks. I lived and breathed those projects. In my free time (ok, so even when I should have been studying for other classes), I found myself sketching again. I felt alive for the first time in years, and I didn’t want to lose that feeling.

This is what happens when you spend too much time working on an art project; sophomore year of college

As the semester went on, I made a huge decision. I filled out all the necessary paperwork, and became an art major. I remember calling my mom and telling her. I think at first she was a little hesitant (I think she pictured me as a starving artist, and I can’t say I blame her!), but almost right away  she supported me 100%. I called my grandparents next; my grandpa is into painting as well, and they were so excited for me. I remember them saying I had to go visit them, and when I did, they gave me some of my grandpa’s paints, brushes, and even his tabletop easel.

Eleven years have passed since I made that decision to switch my major (man I feel old saying that!). I have graduated college with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Art History. I’ve done murals, paintings, and drawings for people and have an installment of six drawings on display full time at our church. I am the head decorator for our church’s vacation Bible school every year. I’ve helped people pick paint colors for their homes. I’ve taught art lessons both in my home, for a local home school group, and am teaching art classes at our local library for both adults and children a handful of times each year. Art is my life again, and it is amazing.

My youngest son will be going to kindergarten in just over a year. People are always asking me what I plan on doing when he goes to school. Will I continue to babysit? Will I get a job? What is my plan? I wasn’t always sure, but I had always hoped that I’d have time to really pursue my art. I’ve been praying about it lately, asking God to give me the desires of my heart: to be an artist. Here I am, just expecting it to naturally fall into place in my time, when Ryan goes to school. But that God of mine, he has a sense of humor. He said now is the time, he wants me to have my dream now. And here I am.

And I’m terrified. Each time I post a picture on Facebook I’m afraid that someone will look at my preview or even finished piece and say that I have no talent. That a five year old can do better than that. That no one is going to like what I do, and this dream will come crashing down around me.

I’m beyond excited. I love watching God work. I feel like he’s been telling me he’s wanted to give me this gift of pursuing my dream my entire life, that he’s been waiting 30 years for me to just reach out and take it. But I haven’t been ready. I’m still not sure I’m ready, but I’m here, trusting him.

I’m humbled. The fact that someone out there, or multiple someones, likes something I do so much that I have a list of projects to be working on. I get to do something I love and it makes people happy? That is just the coolest thing ever.

It also is exciting as my new business cards arrived in the mail this week. Seriously, it was like Christmas morning here! I know it’s been official for awhile that I’m an artist, but seeing it in writing makes it real: I am a real artist.

And it is an pretty awesome feeling having your dreams come true.