Hello!!! It’s been a minute since I’ve written a blog post. I won’t get into details, but after not painting for longer than a year and a half (due to fires, a bit of overwhelm and a flower obsession I had to get under control) - I finally have an animal painting to share with you.
It’s not like I haven’t been creating this past year and a half. I’ve been creating tons - just not like I normally do with paints, brushes and farm animals - (which is why you’re probably here and why you became interested in my world in the first place!)
To be honest, I was kind of dreading painting again. Not that I don’t love painting (I do love it - I seriously believe it’s what I was put on this earth to do), but I was wondering if I could actually remember HOW to paint.
If you aren’t familiar with my story - I’ve known since before I was 7 I was going to grow up to be an artist. So - I’ve painted for a lot of years. But - not painting for almost two years? That’s not something I’ve EVER done before.
Would it be like riding a bike and as if nothing was any different? Or would it when you haven’t exercised for a long time - and when you do, you feel like you’re going to DIE?
Good for me - when I picked up my brushes and paints, it felt like nothing had ever changed.
Well - that’s not entirely true. I was so nervous to start painting again that when I did grab my brushes - I dropped them all over the floor and then I tipped over my water dish so water went pouring down my cart and all over the floor and dropcloth. Once I gathered myself, shed a few tears and got into the actual work though, I think the painting went a little quicker because I wasn’t fiddling with every single line and stroke.
In April of 2021 - shortly after our first fire - my plan was to paint a baby pig. I’m working my way through baby animal paintings and a piggie is next! Brigid, who works for us at Steel Cow, has pigs along with many other farm animals on her family farm. So, Eddie, Harry, Ellis and I went to Brigid’s family’s farm to meet up with her to get the perfect photo of a baby pig.
Baby pigs like to be warm. They’re babies and don’t have a whole lot of protection from the elements, so their barns are very warm. When we got to the farm, Brigid let us check out the pigs. I honestly don’t have a whole lot of experience with pigs. (I’ve been around cows more than these guys.) They are so loud when they squeal!!! And oh how they squeal when you are trying to catch them.
Brigid helped me pick out a few pigs I thought would look good in a painting, and then she caught them. I was no help in catching them. They are close to the ground, quick, loud and so strong! After I fell over a few times and came up with nothing - I let the pro do the pig catching.
She caught three different ones - and held them up for me to grab their photos. By this time, my boys were bored and were off chasing the other farm animals and playing with the cats and dogs.
I grabbed a few hundred photos - then off we went. I was fully expecting to start painting on the baby pig just as soon as Brigid the baby goat was finished (yes, I named the baby goat painting after Brigid the person.)
We had thousands of tulips that were starting to pop, then Mother’s Day was crazy as we harvested and sold 5,000 tulips and got them into the hands of moms and grandmas all over town.
Then, of course the growing season began and all I could think about was ignoring Steel Cow fire cleanup and growing thousands of flowers. Fast forward a year to Feb of 2022, and we had another fire on our block. Urg. So, the process of cleanup and then flowers happened again.
When things were cleaned up the second time (We even had to get a whole new tin ceiling on our second floor - where my studio is) and settled down in December of 2022, I finally got back to painting.
I started William in the studio - then took him with me when we went to Florida to visit my sister and family this past holiday season!
During this time, I painted on him in the closet office of the spare bedroom! I actually liked to paint outside better, but the kids were running all over the place chasing lizards, and running all around me - so I came inside for some quiet.
After we had a wonderful visit with my sister in the sun and warmth, I brought William home to Iowa and finished him up last week!
He is a super sweet little guy. Here’s his official introduction:
He’s available in 5 sizes of canvas prints as well as 2 sizes of paper prints.
And, because he’s flipping adorable - I couldn’t help myself.
I dressed him up in flowers too. Here he is in flower form.
Because who doesn’t love a baby pig in flowers? Not me…..!!!
It’s quite absurd and I absolutely love it!
Thanks for following us along on our adventure! It’s been almost 19 years since I started Steel Cow, and I feel like we are just getting going!
PS If you bring William into your house, I guarantee he will make you smile. And we can all use some more of that 🙂
(because it's winter and it's cold and we're supposed to be hibernating this time of year and drinking tea by the fire in our cozy old chair reading our favorite books but we can't because something always seems to come up?)
(instead of picking up the five T-Rex's and their gazillion friends one more time and it's only 10:36 a.m.)
(That doesn't include yelling at someone or getting out your juicer that you don't remember how to use because it's been 5 years since you last bought a big bag of juicing carrots?)
The easiest self care you will ever do. Seriously.
All you have to do is buy a Steel Cow Dahlia friend (cow, pig, chicken or sheep etc.) Take it out of the box and hang it on your wall.
(You won't even have to touch it again if you don't want to. Trust me - my kids leave legos and taco socks and kinetic sand in corners (and not corners) of the house like they are three perfectly normal children and I have to touch these things all the time - whether I want to or not. And even if I did love that small little taco sock the first time I put it on my kiddos foot, with each time I fish it out from under his bed or pull it out of an old raisin container that's now under the couch, I love it a little less and less until there is such little love left for it I threaten to throw it outside and let the mice live in it.
But the walls? They don't touch the walls. They don't even notice the walls. They may or may not climb them, but generally speaking the walls are my safe space and they are just for me. So - chances are you won't have to pick up your print from the floor once you hang it on the wall.)
It’s our new Trademarked tag line for our new line of floral inspired art- and it’s perfect.
No matter what you have going on in your life - it's pretty easy to take a break from the chaos and look at some pretty flowers.
We make all our prints by hand with love in Iowa and as soon as you take them out of the box they’re ready to hang on your wall and give you a quick boost of self-care.
No juicer or broom required.
And they won’t wilt or fade like real flowers. (I love real flowers. In fact - I grew all the Dahlias and flowers on these images and I know the power of real flowers - these are just our way to share with you our version of fresh locally grown flowers!)
Beauty inspires and motivates us. It’s why we can't stop looking or listening or touching or thinking about beautiful things. (It’s why I have spent more hours than I care to admit looking at Cafe au lait dahlias on Pinterest and why I have actually set my alarm to go online and buy that gorgeous KA dahlia cutting or tuber before it’s gone - oops, did I say tuber, I meant tubers - don’t tell my husband…)
I believe that beauty is essential to life and to happiness (and it’s not just me - google it - it really is true.)
And I am so thrilled to share this collection with you. I’ve been working on this project for awhile now - it combines the art of my animal paintings with my new obsessive love for growing flowers!
I hope you love them as much as I do - they are so sweet and fresh and will cheer up any space, making you happier and more motivated (something we all need this time of year especially after the last two years we have all gone through.)
These prints are not only perfect if you want to freshen up a wall in your home but they are also perfect Valentine’s Day gifts as they are a fun way to give flowers in a non-traditional way!
(It’s also true that giving a gift sometimes feels better than receiving one)
In the Steel Cow Dahlia Friends collection all of my animal paintings are adorned with the sweetest Dahlias. I have grown each and every flower in these images - and they are filling me with such happiness right now.
(I am writing this in Iowa in January when everything is cold and white outside. It’s -9 F, which means you can throw a glass of hot water out into the air and it never makes it to the ground because it evaporates mid-air. Really. I just tried it with my 3 year old. It means that when you breathe in deeply, your nose sticks together and your lungs hurt. It means there are no flowers in my garden - but there are flowers in these prints and that’s why I am smiling right now instead of being grumpy and mad.)
As you may or may not know, I have been obsessively painting cows for over 20 years, and I started growing flowers in the spring of 2020. I have grown dahlias for two seasons and just like with the cows, I am obsessed.
I will write a short blog post shortly about my experience growing dahlias - it's limited, but I have started anyway! It's so rewarding and I am already looking forward to next growing season with the new 40 some varieties of dahlias I have picked out (again...shhhh to the husband!)
There's so much that goes into these images. So much love, so much time. So much thought. So many years of looking at animals and images and so many years of painting.
And so many mornings of watering, weeding, fertilizing, and nurturing the flowers.
I truly believe these are the best artworks of flower animals in the world and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
They are on sale now and The Girls and Friends are excited to bring you happiness and joy.
p.s. As with all of our prints, these babies are printed, stretched and made by love by us in our Iowa Studio.
p.s.s. I'll be coming out with a whole line of flower art in the next couple of months - so if you would rather wait and have something of ours with just the flowers and not the animals - They are coming soon!!!
p.s.s.s. In case you are interested these are some of the dahlias represented in the Steel Cow Dahlia Friends Collection: Cafe Au Lait, Sweet Nathalie, Jowey Winnie, Diva, Roque Starburst, Robin Hood, Cornel, Rock Run Ashley, Nicholas and an unnamed white ball variety.
You can find these dahlias by doing an internet search. Word to the wise - if you want to grow dahlias try to buy dahlia tubers from individual American farms as they tend to be healthier and prettier!
It's been awhile since I last put up a blog post.
I've not been great at consistently posting for several reasons, but last spring we had a fire at Steel Cow. It was a big one, the losses were great, but our building still stands and most of the damage was smoke damage - so as long as items in our building were made of metal or wood they were salvageable. Our printers, inventory, computers, electronics and lots of other things were thrown in one of the 16 dumpsters we used, along with most plastic things, and part of our ceilings and floor on the first floor. We had great insurance and for that I am so grateful.
I don't know if I will dive into the fire in more detail or not. Josh and the dozens of people who helped get our building and business up and running again were AMAZING and worked their butts off for us to be operating at small strength a month after our fire and and at full strength eight months after it happened. But I just want to kind of acknowledge that it happened and be on my way. At least for now.
I didn't paint much last year. I was on track to - Penelope was painted and released in January, our first Flower Cows were released in February, in March I started painting Brigid - a super sweet baby goat, we took a fabulous work trip to Texas (ooo - I do need to revisit this trip and the thousands of photos I took while there) and then on April 6, while I was outside planting some elderberry trees in our orchard, I got a call from my aunt who works in/owns a building on the same block as us in downtown Waukon.
Josh then drops his tea tumbler on the ground, runs faster than I have ever seen him run, and jumps into his truck as he peels out of our gravel driveway and almost runs over our gate in the process of getting downtown.
Oof - I am getting kind of anxious and teary eyed as I'm revisiting this even if for a moment.
I grabbed our three kids (who may or may not have been barefoot), threw them into our suburban, and shaking worse than any bitter cold I have ever experienced in the dead of winter, called my mom for help and barreled myself downtown. We live in a small town in Iowa and live on the edge of town less than one mile away from downtown, where our building is. Our building was built in the 1920's by my grandfather's grandfather. Josh and I purchased the building from my parents and grandparents about 14 years ago, remodeled all four floors ourselves 12 years ago and until about 3 years ago lived on the third floor above my studio and store.
I parallel parked like a bad ass in record time a block away, grabbed the kids again, then quickly made it to the intersection just south of our building. But I couldn't get any closer due to all the fire trucks and firemen. Josh was with them, but in the middle of all the emergency equipment, policemen, hoses and firemen - being under a very large outwardly stretched-to-our-third-story ladder was no place for a hysterical mom and her three little kids to be.
So, Eddie, Harry, Ellis, and I (along with my Mom, aunt, a couple of uncles, one of my best and oldest friends and a handful of other people) watched as our building burnt and black smoke rolled out of the windows from the street.
It was terrifying. (Not as terrifying as having someone you love or yourself go through health problems - I can keep things in perspective - but it was terrifying none-the-less.)
I was shaking and crying and really unsettled. All of my paintings were in that building (except for the paintings I painted in the last three years - those were at home and that was a comfort).
But - All of my paintings were in that building.
I didn't much care about anything else. Obviously, I cared about the firemen and my husband and didn't want anyone to get hurt. And I cared for our building itself and the whole block. Sometimes in these small towns if one building burns, it spreads to the next building and then the next and then pretty soon the whole block is gone.
But my paintings - All of my paintings were in that building.
And I have wanted to be an artist since I was 7 years old. It's the only thing I have ever wanted to be. I have prayed most nights about wanting to be an artist. All the candles I have ever blown out from age 7 on have been about wishing to be an artist.
I kept pretty much all of my paintings since I was in high school. And they were all in the building that had black smoke rolling out of the windows. And my husband wasn't going inside. That was either a REALLY good sign or a REALLY bad sign and I didn't know. (In a previous part of his life Josh had been a fireman for 7 years so I expected him to ask a fireman for gear and go in. And he wasn't.) Oof.
Just so I don't leave you hanging - As the minutes (which seemed like hours) went on, the fire was put out by some very talented and generous volunteer firemen just before it flashed and took off.
After an hour or so, I was able to go in and look at everything. At first it didn't seem too bad compared to what it could have been. And it wasn't. Thank God it wasn't.
But there was a ton of work to do. Months and months of work. Actually I am still doing work from the fire - (all the extra paperwork - grrrrrrrrr.......) and I have yet to rework and fix my paintings. But they all survived. They all survived!!
And, I actually had most of them stacked face to face and back to back with each sizes in their own stack, so because of this the smoke mainly settled on the edges and not on the face of the paintings. I think I have about 20% of them that need to be painted and fixed in some way to get the black smoke out. And for some reason, I know I will get to this even though I haven't done it yet.
Ak! I wasn't planning on writing about our fire. When I started this post, I titled it Artist and Grower. This post is supposed to be about flowers and growing them and why in my next post you will see some new images of my paintings with Dahlias - you know, so it will make sense and you won't be thinking "what's up with the all the flowers on top of the cows?"
But, as I write this, I realize this post is about a new me. A new identity. I have been identifying with only being an artist for such a long time I didn't realize I needed to tweak it just a bit for my life now. I am no longer an artist with a few kids who are fun but keep me from painting as much as I would without them. I am more.
Because on April 15th - a week after our fire and right after I finished painting that sweet goat named Brigid (I finished her in our Airstream camper which we placed in the middle of our wildflower field while my parents watched the kiddos at my parents house) - I made a decision to let Josh and the pros (Service Master by Rice) figure out how best to put our building and business back together and I was going to dive deeply into flowers and growing them until our business was back on course. Of course I would be around if I needed to be, but when I left most everything to Josh, my exploding head and my exploding heart wasn't exploding anymore. And Josh was amazing.
And I didn't paint as I didn't have the space I wanted to paint in, and instead I planted. And planted. And planted. And weeded. And watered. And fertilized. And got my hands and feet dirty. And got sunburnt. And killed bugs. Thousands and thousands of bugs. With my gloved hands. And they squished. And then I realized I shouldn't be squishing them - I should be drowning them in a bucket of warm soapy water. So I drowned thousands of more bugs. And I didn't feel bad. And I yelled at my kids. And I laughed with my kids. And I played with my kids. And I ignored my kids. And my kids chased away not one but two babysitters. And I cried. And I picked flowers. And I picked flowers. And I picked flowers. And I filled my flower cart. And I filled my flower cart. And I gave flowers away. And I took photos of flowers. Thousands and thousands and thousands of photos of flowers. And some were good. And some were bad. And it was just what I needed.
Because, now, as I am taking more than a few moments to look back at last year (both for tax prep and just as a general look-back.) I realize after the last two growing seasons of being completely immersed in flowers (because I have been given the gift of time from last year with not having to be anywhere or do anything due to covid and from this past summer of taking time off painting due to the fire), I not only am an artist who has a few kids and grows a few flowers in her free time.
And I am happy.
And I am ready to share what I have learned and created with whoever will listen or take a look.
p.s. I also have cats. My dad hates cats. My husband is allergic to them, when I was little and dreaming of being an artist the one side kick I wanted was not a husband or a child, but was a studio dog. And I had the perfect studio dog in the entire world who crossed the rainbow bridge 4 years ago. When we moved to our house 3 years ago we said we would get cats, but we chickened out because we aren't cat people. But now we have two perfectly adorable cats, Birdie and Sylvia. Because we found them in May as two week old kittens in our garden shed and our hearts couldn't say no. But - I am not a cat person, I just have a few cats....
p.p.s. and Josh Miller is not the author of this post - I am. For some reason I can't figure out how to make his name go away from right below here and I am not going to take the time to figure it out now.
This is short and sweet. If you would like to be entered into a chance to win a FREE 20” print of Lindsey (the cow shown above) please leave a polite comment of any kind in the comment section below! We will be randomly selecting a winner this evening around 8pm standard time. If you don’t see your comment right away, it will show up - we just have a filter for comments. Void where prohibited, lower 48 states only.