Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Other Love

  When I was a child (about 4 years old) I had two very distinct goals that I wanted to achieve in my life. They were my 2 loves. The first was to live life as an artist; writing, illustrating and creating artwork in general. I've pretty well covered this in previous posts. The other is yet to be shared.

  For some reason I got it into my head that learning was supposed to be fun! I suppose I got this from my father and mother who somehow taught me to read by the time I was 4. It probably had something to do with the well-written and beautifully illustrated stories which they read aloud, and the memorable trips to the library which seemed full of treasure just waiting to be discovered. It may have been the sense of wonder fostered by trips to magnificent parks with vast lawns of green and lush foliage in which mysterious creatures (like the wondrous "Walking Stick") could be found.

  Whatever the reason, I definitely thought learning was fun. Unfortunately, when I went to first grade at the age of 4 (kindergarten was skipped because I could read) I found, to my great disappointment, that school was NOT fun! I clearly recall walking around the playground with a scowl on my face (not the best way to encourage friendly overtures) thinking that this was all wrong, that learning should be fun, and when I grew up I was going to make it be fun! I imagined thinking up some new and wonderful way of teaching (the exact method was a bit blurry). The whole world would use it and every kid everywhere would have FUN! The weird thing was (well, apart from being 4 and thinking that way) I pictured myself doing this by the time I was in 1st Grade! Apparently, I thought all I needed to accomplish this was a year to work on it!

  That was possibly the first unrealistic target I set for myself (riding a black horse with a white mane and tail to school is another) and it wouldn't be the last. Alas, I'm still working on that!

  Anyway, although I obviously didn't make that target, it was an idea that followed me around, niggling me from some little-used portion of my brain. As an adult it resurfaced and resulted in various activities that I found very fulfilling. One of the first was becoming involved in the PTA at my girls' Elementary School. I was appointed the "Cultural Arts" Chairperson. Such a grand title! Basically, I was given the opportunity to create events and activities that brought the Arts into the lives of all of the children at the school! What could be better? I embraced it enthusiastically!

  One of my all-time favorite events was the "Arts and Crafts Fair". Although there was a little gallery, this was not just a showcase of artwork that the children made, oh no! This was a hands-on, make it on the spot explosion of creativity! Here are some of the Craft Stations we had set up in the "Multi-purpose Room" (otherwise known as the gymnasium);

1. Drawing on T-shirts; We had baskets of fabric markers in as many colors as I could find. I sent out numerous notices leading up to the fair, reminding everyone to bring their T-shirts and/or tennis shoes, but just in case someone forgot, I also had special paper available to make transfers. Volunteers had cut out pieces of cardboard to put inside the shirts and stretch them out. There were no rules, other than my all-time favorites of putting the cap back on a marker before taking another and no making fun of anyone's work!

2. Mask Making; This was a station where the kids could decorate pre-cut mask shapes. Volunteers spent several nights cutting paper plates in half and then cutting out almond shaped eye-holes. The table was laden with markers, feathers, beads, rhinestones, lace. fringe, pom-poms etc! Also many bottles of "Tacky Glue", a nice kid-friendly crafter's glue.

3. Cookie Decorating; Only 2 moms worked to bake literally hundreds of giant sugar cookies! Each child got one on a paper plate. We had plastic ketchup-type squeeze bottles filled with many colors of icing, and plastic tubs of sprinkles and shaped candy pieces (such as stars and hearts). I guess no one had concerns about too much sugar back then! Hey, it was a "special occasion"!

4. Found Object Sculpture; My personal favorite. We collected all kinds of "junk" for weeks beforehand. The parents donated everything. Before setting it out we went through it, made sure anything we put out was safe, and sorted it according to categories. Every child got a Styrofoam base and circled the table helping themselves to whatever caught their fancy. Bottles of good ol' Tacky Glue were placed at intervals around the table. There was also a few long tables where kids could set their sculptures to dry and display. It was a Super Recycling Project! I especially liked the ones made out of old toys.

5. Music Making; A few very imaginative parents built all sorts of funky percussion and string instruments out of cans, cylindrical oatmeal containers, varying levels water in bottles, and what-have-you. A very noisy station! In fact, making as much noise as you wished was encouraged! This station was set up in a room of it's own because we wanted kids to be as loud as they wanted without anyone shushing them.

6. Cooperative Mural; This consisted of a very long and wide piece of butcher type drawing paper taped up along an entire wall. Markers were provided at intervals and anyone could "draw on the wall". I think there might have been a theme, but I doubt anyone enforced it!

  These are all I could remember. There may have been a few more. We had a very active PTA and great Parent Volunteers - there's no way I could have pulled this off by myself! When the night arrived, it was pandemonium - but in a good way! It was extremely loud, but the noise was happy! Kids were running all around, going from station to station engaging in the activities. I remember taking turns manning the T-shirt table, the Mask-making, the Cookie Decorating and the Found Objects stations. It was SO MUCH FUN!

  And I have had so much fun re-living that experience that I'm afraid I've gotten a bit long-winded! So I'll end here and save the rest of this tale of my other love for another day (or two). Once again, thank you for visiting and listening. If you have had a similar experience or a favorite fun craft for kids that you'd like to share, please feel freeeee to leave a comment!

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Liebster" Love - Pass it On!

  A  few weeks ago I was the happy and humble recipient of the Liebster Award! It's an award that originated in Germany (I've since found out that "liebster" means favorite) to help people discover the hidden gems to be found in little-known blogs. It is awarded by a previous recipient; a fellow blogger who likes your blog and would like to share it with others. Each recipient then pays-it-forward by awarding it to 5 more bloggers whom they admire and would like to share with the world. ( You are not obligated to pass it on - if it's not your thing, no worries!) 

  The only rules are; 1. You thank the person who awarded you and link back to their shop; and 2. The blogs that you pass the award on to must have less than 200 followers. I think it's a great idea to help some of us lesser-known but totally worthy bloggers to be seen and heard!

  In my case,  Palomasea of Gypsy in Me (one of the bloggers I follow for her beautiful images and words of inspiration) passed the award on to me. If you haven't visited her blog, I urge you to do so! You will surely find something there (a beautifully presented picture or a simple yet poignant phrase) that will spark your own creative energy.

  It has taken me a few weeks to pass on the award, as I'm experiencing some interesting life changes (one of which is a decision to move cross country!) which prevented me from having the time to write an appropriate response and present the award properly. (More on that at another time!) So, without further ado, here are the blogs I have chosen. It would be lovely if you would visit them and comment on their work. They all have something in common; they are hard-working folk making time to create something beautiful, courageously putting themselves out there, generously sharing their vision.

 Diane of the Singing Swan; Folks, I cannot tell you what this awesome gal has been through and bested in her life as it is not my story to tell, but suffice to say that I admire her greatly for her spirit and courage. We met online a couple of years ago, and though we have never actually met in person (she lives on the other side of the country) I count her as one of my dearest and most treasured friends. She lives in a remote mountainous area and doesn't always have access to things some of us take for granted (like high-speed internet or sometimes even hot water). She is an amazing photographer, quilts, sews, draws, writes - and just plain has a unique outlook and common-sense wisdom that I love. She started a blog, and soon thereafter experienced computer woes, so there are only a couple of entries there. I think it would be so lovely if a bunch of folks were to visit her blog and comment upon it in the spirit of generosity, so that when she does find a way to check in, or better yet gets that dang computer (she likes to call it "confuser") fixed, she will have a wonderful surprise waiting for her there!

Cindy, of The Slumbering Herd; Simply put, I fell in love with her "Beasts"! She draws these wonderful, quirky, colorful intriguing creatures called Beasts, and my eyes and heart and mind just can't get their fill of them! She writes just a little bit of a storyline about each, which only serves to draw me further in to their mysterious life. We belong to a team on Etsy called Doodlers Doing Doodles (cuz ya know I love to doodle!). In the course of admiring her work and sharing conversations, we have become good friends. I so think her Beasts deserve a much wider audience! Go on, take a peek! Then come back and tell me how right I am! :)

Singleton of Just Give Me Peace; Ohhhh, this gal with her freewheeling imagination and generous peace-lovin' hippie spirit! She takes me back to a less conservative version of myself and reminds me to live the life unconventional. She is also a member of the fabulous Doodler's team and the founder of the "Porch Party". It's a sweet little place, filled with objects created in our shared imagination, where we can go and just hang out and dip our toes in its cooling rejuvenating waters. "Huh?", you say. Check out her blog - then you'll understand! But your life may never be the same!

Lilah from Vegan Food, Art and Music; This gal is a chef, an artist, has a shop on Etsy, and is a Mom! And yes, she is also a member of the fantastic Doodler's Team! I have a special affinity for her work as she also draws coloring pages. I love the quality of her drawings - the lines are light and airy and freeeee. A word about the recipes - just reading the last one (vegetarian pineapple upside-down pancakes) made me gain weight! (Okay, that's an exaggeration, but my mouth watered!)

Oh, shoot, I can only pick one more! Well it has to be.....
 Zenobia Southcombe; Zee is one of the first bloggers I met, who took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. She is an artist (I love her Pirate Ship painting) and a teacher and possessed of a generous spirit. She encourages other artists by showcasing their work and interviewing them on her blog. She introduced me to the notion of Guest Blogging, and then did a swap with me, wherein which she shared Facebook tips with my guests. She also interviewed me as an artist and posted some of my work. She is very passionate about teaching, which is something she and I have in common. But I must warn ye, she has a liking for pirates, so beware when you visit her blog, that ye not find yourself on the morrow, swabbing decks beneath a Jolly Roger, at sea with no land in sight!

Well, that is all for now. I do have some major changes occurring in my life, which I will share at another time, cuz this blog post is about my friends. Please visit with them and shower them with love and good wishes, as they are a good-hearted bunch!

And here's a picture, just for sticking around and listening! ("The Dragon's Tears" - from the latest Doodle challenge)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rose-colored Lenses

    I'm not a big fan of looking at life through rose-colored lenses. I like to think I'm more of a realist. I strive to see things the way they are, as opposed to the way I want them to be. At the same time, I lean toward optimism. I believe that I can create the outcome I envision and cause things to go in the direction I desire. I don't think this will all just magically occur because I wish it. I know there is hard work involved - that I have to do more than just sit back and dream a lovely dream. I know there can be detours along the way, not to mention outright obstructions, but I feel I will win through to the end if I just keep my eye on the goal and persevere. When something bad happens I try to learn from the experience, so I can avoid it in the future and incorporate it into my journey in a way that propels me forward. Sounds reasonable, huh? A winning formula for success! Not quite rosy, but perhaps a touch of mauve...

    So, in the interest of keeping things real and providing a clear and unobstructed view, it's time to reveal my flip-side. There are days where I just want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers up over my head. A storm moves in, bringing thunderclouds of dark negativity and it begins to rain, rain, rain on my little parade. Sometimes (I like to think most of the time, but I'm not an impartial observer) I grab my metaphorical galoshes and umbrella and slog my way through, shouting out mental words of encouragement; "This too shall pass! "Focus! Focus!" "Just get to work - what's next on the list?" "Don't give into that @#%^&*!" "Can't make a healthy omelet without  paying a premium price for cage-free eggs and separating the whites!" (Ok - I made up that last one just for fun :0)

But, there are times when I just give in to the dark side. I don't know why exactly. Maybe I didn't get enough sleep the night before. Maybe it just suddenly seems easier. Or, maybe life is just a big computer game and I used up all of my Magical Optimism fighting the Demonic Demons of Darkness and now have to die a virtual death and be re-born before I get any more. (I like that idea! Can I get a new avatar with a younger body?)

   Whatever the reason, suddenly it's a full-blown Pity Party just for me! The room is dark, but  nobody's there to turn on the light and shout "surprise". Oh look, there are banners! So uninspiring! "There's too much out there - you'll never get noticed!" "Nobody even knows you're there!" "The Universe is conspiring against you!" "None of this matters anyway!" "What's the point of even trying?"

   There are games to play, but they're a bit depressing.  Act Like You Don't Care About Anything; that one's almost too easy - a child could play it. Nothing Can Make You Smile; always a crowd-displeaser. You don't even have to dress up! In fact, it's best just to stay in your pajamas. No need to take a shower or comb your hair either - why bother? It's the perfect costume for the "Nothing Really Matters"party theme!
   (Ahem.) Is it too late to pretend I didn't just write that? Cuz, I'm thinking maybe those rose-colored glasses aren't so heinous, after all. (Sigh.) There was a reason I wanted to write this - now what was it?

   Oh yeah! I wanted to share my journey with you, but it's not a true picture if I don't let you in on the hard times involved. If I just pretend everything is rosy it's of no use to anyone. The hard truth is that my decision to quit my day job and try to make a go of it as an artist and writer is hard on my family finances and it does cause me stress. Sometimes I deal with it just fine, and sometimes I don't.When I don't there are a few things that I have found helpful;
1. Do NOTHING. Ride it out. I literally (or figuratively, depending on where I am) send myself to my room! Just like a real storm, eventually the clouds dissipate or roll on and I venture out again.
2. Avoid snapping at anyone! Say nothing destructive. Fewer awkward apologies later!
3. I snuggle with my dogs and tell them my troubles. They are very good at listening, keep their comments to themselves, and possess a magical quality that dispels darkness faster than anything else I've tried!
4. I don't beat myself up afterwards for feeling the way I did.
5. When it's over, I create something. ANYTHING!

 Well, that's all about that! Sorry about those rose-colored glasses. I think I just heard the crunch of glass under my heel...

And here's a new work of art just for fun and to say thanks for listening!


And here is my therapist, Honeybear. She's licensed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Promoting Your Business on Facebook by Guest Blogger, Zenobia Southcombe!

Today I'm happy to introduce you to an awesome artist and teacher, Zenobia Southcombe. She is here to share vital information on how to set up a Facebook account for your Art (or any other) business. This is the kind of tutorial I was dyyyyying to have when I first ventured out into the Social Networking World! In fact, I'm sure there are things I never did quite get, so let's read this and learn together, shall we?

Using Facebook
  This article is to help you get started with Facebook to promote your Etsy art / craft business. However, it would also be useful if you are using a different platform to sell your art. There are a lot of articles online that can help you grow your Facebook page (so there’s really no point in writing another one!), and Facebook also has a lot of tutorials itself (you can find links at the end of this article). The aim of this post is for people who are new to Facebook, social media, or online promotion.
Getting Started
1.        Make a Profile Page. You need to do this before you do anything else on Facebook. This is simple to set up, you just need to go to enter the basic information shown below, click “Sign Up” and you’re done! You can then edit your profile, add photos & videos, and add your links.

2.       Make a Fan Page. This is your art business page that people can ‘like’ and share with their friends. On the left-hand column, you will see a clickable link “Pages” with a little orange flag.

Click on this, and at the top of the page is a button “+ Create a Page”.

You need to then choose whether you would like to market your page as a ‘local business or place’ or ‘artist, band, or public figure’. When you click on the chosen icon, it will ask you for more information. If you chose ‘business’, you need to enter the category and physical address of your business (so choose this option if you have a physical shop or open studio as well as your online business). If you chose ‘artist’ then it will ask for a category and name – it is very important to note that the name of your page cannot be changed! So choose carefully.
Click ‘get started’ and you’re done -  a series of pages will pop open, and Facebook has some very clear tutorials about how to add & edit information and photos.

How can I connect with Etsy & my Blog?
1.       My Esty. This app links straight to your Etsy store, and shows your banner, items, pricing, and a button to click to go to your store.

You can find this app here:
*Note that when you add Apps, you will be asked to log in as yourself, not your fan page. Once you have added all the apps, you can switch back to your fan page by going to Pages > Switch.

2.       Add a ‘like box’ to your website and blog. If you are on Wordpress add a “Facebook Like Box” Widget, paste in your page’s URL, and you’re good to go! If you are on blogger, go to this site: plug in all the information, and you will get an HTML code. Then go to your blog, add a HTML / Javascript Gadget, and paste in your code. All done!
Where to next?
The following links will help you go further with your page:
This is the absolute go-to for Facebook page help! I suggest that you take a while to read through some of the information on there, and refer back to it as your page grows. I highly recommend looking at the “Pages Guide for Businesses” when you start up.
If you haven’t heard of this duo yet, I advise that you get to know them! They run a show that can be downloaded from their site or through iTunes, and have a wealth of information to share. They have done a few sessions about Facebook, and here is the link to find these: The great thing about these is that you can listen as you work!


Thank you, Zenobia! I certainly found that helpful and will be reviewing my own Facebook set-up with your advice in mind!

Please visit Zenobia at her blog and her Etsy shop, and leave a comment to let her know her help is appreciated!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Artwork Revisited

Warning - Heavy Verbiage - No pictures till the end!

It's not very often that I go back and re-work something I've created before. This has to do with the way I work. When the inspiration hits me to create something, I often work in a frenetic, in-the-moment, spontaneous fashion, as opposed to an organized, steady, planned approach. It's as if the artwork itself is alive and eager to be seen - and it's very demanding! It has a lot to say and, since it's in my head, it's rather hard to ignore! In fact, lately I've noticed that I actually hear a voice. I'm sure it's been there all along, but now that I'm concentrating on creating artwork every day, it's gotten rather loud!

Now, don't get excited - It's not like it's "God" or my deceased Grandmother speaking to me from the other side, guiding my hand, or anything like that. I think of it as my "Inner Artist's Voice". During the creation process, we have lovely little chats, the Voice and I. You know, an inner dialogue. Surely, I can't be alone here. Other Artists must hear it as well. Or, I'm crazy! I'm okay with that. I like being able to hear myself think!
Often, the conversation is about finding hidden significance in the artwork. Apparently, sometimes I subconsciously put things into it and don't realize they are there, until the Voice points them out! ( Huh. I thought I just randomly sketched the hand that way. No - it's clenched for a reason!) Sometimes the Voice draws my attention to random thoughts, stirred up by the creation process, that blossom into realizations about the meaning of life and my/our place in the Universe. (Oh, I see. Sheesh! There are lessons everywhere.) Often, the Voice has a story to tell about the background of the characters in the work. (Alright, alright, I'll note it down so I can write the story later!) Sometimes we discuss how others might react to the work. (I usually get carried away and think it should hang in a museum. Invariably, the Voice cautions me to focus on being inspired by the work itself, not on imagined fame and fortune!) And of course, the Voice insists that I keep on working till it's done; following me into the kitchen ( I'll just get a quick snack and get right back to work.); around the house (I'll just get dinner going - I can work while it's cooking.); to bed (I can't keep my eyes open anymore. I'll get up at 5:30 and get right back to work!). I tell ya, the Voice sure knows how to get that artwork done!

Eventually, as more and more of the artwork is transferred to paper or canvas and less remains inside my head, the Voice has fewer remarks to make, and my pace will slow.  Finally, it all comes to a halt after the Voice and I spend a little time looking here and there for something to add or tweak and we both come up empty.  Then, we're done; the Voice, the artwork and I. Our conversation is complete. There is nothing more to be said. Finis.

It sometimes happens that later (could be days, could be years) I see something in a finished piece that I suddenly wish I had done differently. It bugs me a little, but I don't usually go back and re-work it. It's hard to explain why. To me, each piece of artwork is more than just the solid object I see in front of me. It's also the physical manifestation of all the thoughts and energy that went into creating the piece at that time. The spirit with which it is infused is what I had inside of me then, what inspired me to make it the way I did. The time for its creation is past. I don't like to mess with it. Does that make sense to anyone else?

That being said, there were a few times I did attempt to go back and re-do a couple of things. They were acrylic paintings that once hung proudly on my walls. Now they are leaning against a wall in storage. I keep them to remind me of my folly!

Despite that, this past week I found myself re-visiting a piece of artwork I had done a couple weeks ago. You may remember it. It was an Etsy Team challenge based on the theme "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". The original idea pretty much popped into my head and frantically drew itself on the paper. I colored it in a frenzy. I remember thinking, as my hand flew back and forth across the paper that it was an "Expressionistic" way to apply color. I felt exhilarated while doing it, and exhausted when I was done. Because of the manner in which I did it, it had a sketchy look - but I liked it. I thought I was done and moved on.

Well, apparently it was not done with me! Off and on, throughout the week, I could hear the Voice calling me; "Look here, there's more to do!" Thoughts about it and images popped up unexpectedly. Intrigued, I kept picking it up and looking at it, and clicking on the online picture to view it there too. Finally, I said; "Okay, I'll do more work on it. When I have time. After I finish this that and the other thing." I put it on a list.

The Voice was not satisfied. Apparently, putting the work on a little shelf in my mind for later was not what it had in mind. I moved it up to the top of the list.

As it turned out, I did have more to do with that drawing, and it had more to do with me! The Voice was right to nag me. I liked the original idea of the girl walking a path through a Forest, the trees dark and tangled on one side and filled with light on the other. I liked the idea of the fork in the path and the choice to be made about which path to follow. I liked the idea of her face having the look of a Yin-Yang symbol on it - half white, half black. So there was nothing about the drawing I really wanted to change. I was just going to give it more definition, fill in more color, and make the dark and light aspects really stand out. Ok - basically it just needs more coloring.

On the surface, that was true. But it turned out to be so much more than that. In fact, I think it was not so much what I had left to give the drawing, but what it still had to give to me. For example, as I colored the girl, I noticed how I had drawn and colored her in a very ghostly fashion. Without really thinking about it, I was illustrating the idea of a struggle of the spirit, rather than one's corporeal self. I noticed how the hand on the "light side" was open and reaching out, while the dark-side hand was clenched in a fist. The light-side foot likewise stepped forward, unnaturally elongated to emphasize the point, while the dark-side foot was planted firmly on its path. As I colored the dark-side trees and brambles, I added deep shades of purple and blue and randomly thought to myself how beautiful the dark side was. ("Aha!" said the voice. "Think about that." I did.) In the end (when the Voice fell silent and I really was done) I understood (on a very personal level) how the drawing illustrated that the inner struggle, in itself, is an integral part of our spiritual growth, as individuals and as a species.

And now my Writer's Voice (What? Is she Sybil?) has fallen silent. Apparently I have said all there is to say about that. So, without further ado, here are the two images. The first "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and the second, which I named "The Dilemma". I enjoyed my time with it. I hope that you do, too!

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

The Dilemma  (See it in my Etsy Shop)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lessons Learned (Or the Saga of The Mermaid Huntress)

When last we met, I was preparing to take the Mermaid Huntress through the last stages; finishing up the layering of colors and refining lines overall, then adding a nice blue watercolor wash. Remember when I said that sometimes things don't work out, and if they didn't I would be philosophical and shrug and say "Oh well, I learned never to do that again"?

(Sigh) Things did not work out. I was not entirely philosophical.

At first, everything went well. The final layers of colors came together and I was pleased with the result. Next came the experimental part - the watercolor wash. I like watercolors. I like the fluidity and the effects that can be achieved with washes and letting a bit of the paper show through here and there. I love using pearlescent watercolors over ink in my fantasy work. But I've never mixed them with color pencil. So now, why would I take the chance when there was a deadline (all of the Team challenges have to be finished by midnight on Friday) and when I'd publicly (that would be you!) promised to display it?

Well, a challenge is about stepping outside of your comfort zone, expanding your horizons. Doing a Mermaid in color pencil is something "right up my alley". I've done lots of them, probably in the hundreds in my lifetime, so far. In fact, I added some to this blog  to add a bit of color and break up all the verbiage! (These particular Mermaids are either on my website now, or were recently sold. They are all small - only 3.5 x 2.5" - done as Artist Trading Cards.)

So, "Mermaids" not necessarily a challenge. To change things up I decided to do a 9 x 12' drawing, giving me space to do a full scene rather than a small vignette. The idea came to me almost immediately. I wanted to do something that showed a Mermaid, not striking a stylistically, beautiful pose, but doing something I imagine she might do to survive in the sea. I wanted an element of danger, as I imagined there would be in an ocean full of predators. And then I saw her quite clearly, pressed back against a rock, tensed for a fight (to the death if need be), a Mermaid Huntress following the shadow of a Great White overhead.

I drew it in pencil rather quickly, with the image fresh in my mind. As I began planning the colors, the idea popped into my head that a wash of blue water color in the background would give it the right look - after all it was an underwater scene. I could have left it at that, and just filled in the background with watercolor. Easy enough to do. But then I had the idea to wash the whole thing with blue watercolor. I thought it would be beautiful if the entire picture had a blue overlay so it would really look like it was underwater. (Sigh)

So there I was, with a nicely colored drawing - all the colors looked just right. Instead of coloring it solidly as I usually do, I left a little paper showing through here and there so the blue watercolor would soak in. Time for the wash. I did hesitate. After all, it looked nice the way it was. All I had to do was color the ocean with color pencil. I knew that would turn out fine - I'd done it countless times before. What if this wash messed it up? I wouldn't have time to start all over...

This was about challenges, right? I got out my watercolors. The pearlescent ones. Thought they'd add some shimmer and shine. Oh dear. The blue is looking grey. Well, I'll just add a little more to deepen it. Gasp! What's happening to the Mermaid's pale skin? It has grey spots all over it! Oh no - whatever makes the watercolor pearlescent is giving the Mermaid speckles! And there are grey streaks all over the picture. This isn't going well at all! Blot, blot, blot with paper towel! Try adding regular watercolor! Oh no, the paper is too wet - it's going to scrub up if I add more! Ugh! It's ruined!

I (literally) put my head in my hands and considered the consequences. It seems silly now, but I truly despaired. I felt all kinds of yucky emotions; sorrow that I'd ruined something beautiful, disbelief that I'd poured all of that energy and creativity into something only to have wasted it, shame that I'd felt so smug about doing a Mermaid challenge, embarrassed to publicly admit I'd made a mistake, and hopelessness. I gave up. I decided to go have a late lunch (somehow the day had slipped away and it was waaay past lunchtime) and think about it later.

Eventually ( a little food and some time helps) I began to rally. I was sitting on the couch, watching some mindless TV show, determined not to think about my mistake, when little by little I started to climb out of the gloomy depths. A thought came to me - maybe I could still do something with it. Another thought - maybe it was still salvageable. Another thought - I owed it to the work to try. Another thought - it couldn't hurt - it was already too late to start over, so what could I lose but a little more time. It was as if the drawing was calling out to me, from the spot on my art desk where I'd (sob) abandoned it. I actually kept sneaking glances away from the TV and toward my desk where it lay. Finally my mind reached the tipping point - more thoughts collected on the artwork side of the scales and fewer remained on the TV. Click! Decision made - TV off. I went back to the desk, a little wary of what I would find there.

Well, it was bad, but not as bad now that it was dry. I looked at it as if it were a patient. Symptoms; grey speckles on the Mermaid's skin, drawing of shark obscured, overall color washed out, watercolor wash splotchy. Diagnosis: Original drawing sound but obscured by bad color. Treatment - fix the color. Prognosis - 50/50. :)

So I started in refreshed, even a little excited about the challenge! I was at peace with the thought that it still might not work out. I didn't mind admitting that I'd made a mistake. I no longer cared what anyone else might think. All that mattered is that I give it my best effort and if it worked - hooray! If not, I would take stock of what I had learned, and share that with others.

First order of business - the Mermaids skin. Now that the paper was dry, it turned out that a fresh application of color pencil took care of the speckles! Say, that meant I could do the same for any other object that was washed out! Here you go, Shark! A  little darkening of your original color and voila! You look marvelously menacing! Here you go plants! Let's brighten up your leafy parts and add a little definition - nice! Hey, rocks, lets' deepen that nice purpley color a bit, so you'll make a better backdrop for the Mermaid - let's make her pop! Oh, what fun! I get to re-do the swirls in the Mermaid's hair! Always a favorite thing to draw anyway. Gee, your hair actually looks better - terrific!

Yeah, but what about that awful splotchy watercolor background? Well, on closer inspection it's kinda cool, cuz it pools here and there, just like water. Dirty, muddy water. Hmmm. How about I take my good ol' trusty color pencils and enhance this effect? Let's see - dark blue in the pools, white swirls to highlight the eddies... Gasp! Look at the cool effects! This actually looks good! Much better than the wash I had envisioned.

The picture was saved! And, I had learned something after all. With art, it's not always just about the result. It's also about the process. Not everything works out - but everything you try tells you something about the materials and about yourself.

Without further ado, here is the final result: 

 Ok - that's done! What's next on the list?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Creative Process for The Mermaid Hunter cont.

Let me start off with an apology. I promised to show you the stages of my creative process on The Mermaid Hunter sketch, but I seem to have jumped a couple of stages. I got carried away and forgot to stop and scan! So here we are (a couple stages later). I'll try to make up for it by explaining what was done.

First of all, here is the sketch as it looks at this moment:
Not so sketchy now!
Here is what I have done so far;
1. I decided to outline all of the lines I liked in dark blue colored pencil, because I want an overall hue of blue to run through the final picture. This is because it's an underwater scene. I plan to add a blue watercolor wash over the whole thing once the pencil work is done. I think this will work out the way I envision - we'll see! (Not everything does and I just have to be philosophical about it - shrug and say "Well, at least I learned never to do that again!"
2. I began to layer in light shades of the different colors I wanted throughout the picture. I added a layer of light greens to many of the objects (Mermaids tail, skin, hair and scales, plants, narwhal tusk). I used a variety of shades (apple, grass, spring, chartreuse, french green and true green). I added light shades of blue as well - to the mermaid skin, tail and scales, the shark, the rock, the water. Then touches of pinks - magenta, hot pink, mulberry - to the skin and sea anemones. I added a touch of lavender to the shark, rocks and tail. I finished off the colors for the shark by adding a layer of silver. I added a jade green to the rocks.
3. I considered the layering was done and began refining each object. At this stage I deepen the colors on each one, sometimes adding a little extra color here and there, and blend the layers together. I blend them by using the lightest shade on the object, or white, cream, or a colorless blender. In this case I used the lightest tones on the long seaweed plants and cream on the ones growing out of the rock. I don't want the color to be too solid as I am hoping (!) the watercolor wash will fill enough small uncolored space to give it an overall underwater effect.

After I did the plants I realized I had jumped a couple stages of the process, made myself STOP (it's hard to do when I'm into the flow!) and scanned in what was done so far. So now I'm off to finish this stage, which is to fully color all objects. I'll be back (I promise!) when that is done, so we can all look at the picture before I hopefully don't ruin it with the wash!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Creative Process

I'm always interested in other artists' creative process, so I thought maybe someone would like to see what steps I take in creating a piece of art. If you are an artist and would like to share what you do here, I would be very happy to make some space for you.

Here are sketches for two works in progress. Both are in pencil, smudges and all! I did them this morning, but had been thinking about them since yesterday. A little information about each follows:

Mermaid Hunter - I am doing this in response to a team challenge on Etsy. Etsy has hundreds (maybe thousands?) of artists in every type of media and style. In the Etsy Community it is helpful to join a Team of like-minded Artists. These are folks you can engage with in a give and take of ideas. One of the teams I belong to is Doodlers Doing Doodles. Perfect for me - if you know me from my coloring pages website (shameless plug ) you know I have created hundreds of doodles for others to print for free. The Doodle team issues a weekly doodle challenge based on a theme. This week it's Mermaids. The idea below came to me yesterday. I mulled it over off and on and tried to think of something else that would interest me more, but it stuck, so it's the one. Here is the initial sketch. I need to google Great White Shark silhouettes to make sure I have drawn it correctly - may have to make a correction there.

The second sketch is for a piece of original art for my kids Etsy shop (another shameless plug) Little Dragon Dreams. I'm pretty satisfied with it and don't foresee too many changes.

That's all for now. Tomorrow I'll refine whatever needs refining and then draw over the lines I want to keep in color pencil. Hopefully by Thursday I will add all of the color using a combination of color pencil and watercolor.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Identity Crisis!

Don't know if anybody noticed, but I've been a bit absent of late. I had to take some time out to weather a "Shop Identity Crisis".

I have this shop on Etsy, you see. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, it's an online marketplace for Artists and sellers of Vintage goods. DO NOT GO THERE NOW - you'll never come back! It's HUGE. There must be thousands of shops offering millions of handmade and vintage items (stop drooling and continue reading). Yes, it's the stuff dreams are made of - or nightmares if you're a shopaholic or married to one!

I've had a shop there for years - since late 09 I believe. For most of that time it was mostly just an outlet for me; a place I could put my artwork for others to view and (once in a very blue moon) buy. It was certainly NOT a reliable source of income. On the other hand, I didn't spend much time on it. I was working full-time, raising a son, writing a book, and dreaming of that golden ship sailing into the harbor (you know the one - it has your name on it and your bust hanging off the front end).

My business plan could be summed up in this manner;
1. Create some art whenever I have time.
2. Throw it up on the online gallery wall and see if anyone likes it.
3. Sit back and wait for the orders (and offers of fame and fortune) to roll in.
4. In the event that #3 took too long, sigh and comment about how hard it is to make it as an artist.
5. Grumble.
6. Repeat #1.

Surprise, surprise - not a rocket ride to Success!

Well, as you know I have realized the error of my ways (well not all of them - I'm saving some for later) and have finally come to the conclusion that Promotion is Important. (Maybe that should be in caps.) So, I've been working very hard on promoting. (It may not seem like work sitting on my *** tapping away on the keyboard, lifting nothing heavier than a cup of coffee - but my aching back, squinty old bloodshot eyes and stiff fingers say it is. Good thing I built up a cushy backside. It's as if I've been preparing for this for years!)

But, I digress (another big surprise). This is about my identity crisis, not another rant about promoting! As I was filling up my Etsy shop with new and wonderful works of art (I got all the way up to 80 btw!) I began to notice something odd. The things in my gallery didn't "hang" well together. And that leads to a problem I've had all my life; I tend to go off in too many directions all at once.

(Flashback to me as a little girl. My arms are loaded with stuff; some of which is trying to escape. My mother, an exasperated how-many-times-do-I have-to-tell-you look on her face saying crossly:"Sheryl, stop trying to do everything all at once! Just do one thing at a time!")

As an artist and writer I tend to get a little - hmm, enthusiastic is a nice word. Spastic, dispersed, frenetic, are other words (not-so-nice). I'd think of an idea, or s/one would suggest s/g to me, and I'd get all excited & be totally convinced it was the thing to do - but b4 I'd even get started I'd immediately start thinking of another way to do it and another style it would work with and another thing to add, and another, and another... Then, if in the middle of this, I get an idea about an entirely different thing, or someone happens to mention s/g else they would like me to do or thinks I should try, I'd head off in that direction, and then if -  Well, you get the idea. At times, it resulted in inertia. It was like I was in the eye of a hurricane of ideas - suspended in midair, unable to move in any one direction. That was bad. Sometimes, it resulted in a lot of projects going at once, but none really taken to fruition. That was bad too.

Eventually I learned a trick to handle my little problem.
Yes, lists. Lots of lists. Ask my husband and my son about my lists. (Guaranteed eye-roll in case you're fond of those.)

I learned to pick just one thing, and narrow my focus on that, while keeping a notebook (or scrap of paper, or corner of the utility bill, or a gum wrapper...) nearby to jot down the incoming onslaught of ideas. I work like a madwoman on just that one thing till I feel I've exhausted it (all the while noting things down here and there). Now, I may never get to all of those things I noted down, but my mind, silly thing, is tricked into thinking I will! It leaves me alone long enough to get something fully accomplished. Then I look up and say (sometimes out loud, but just because my dogs like the sound of my voice) "What's next on the list?"

It works! I finished a full 10 piece set of illustrated Math workbooks, a 400+ page novel, wrote & illustrated several little storybooks for kids, and finished many pieces of artwork in this manner. However, it does result in some funny themes in my creative life. For example, I would get interested in creating beautiful Art Nouveau-style illustrations and would spend a week or so (sometimes more - whatever it took to satiate the artistic beast inside) just doing that. (Meanwhile I'm bombarded with new Coloring Storybook ideas, Abstract designs catch my eye and try to woo me away, interesting product ideas pop up and screech "Make me! Make me!"  "I will, I promise!" Note, note, jot, jot, quick sketch.) Then, suddenly, one day I'm done with it - I feel like I've taken it as far as I want to go. I look over my lists (gum wrappers, scraps of paper, etc) and whatever is screaming the loudest (let's say it's digital Abstract designs) gets my full attention.

If you're not totally lost by now, you may recall this had s/g to do with my Etsy shop? Yes! Because, you see, my poor Etsy shop reflected all of these various stages! When I started it, I was very much into Fantasy Art. So the banner had this rosy-fading-into-lavender background with a Celtic knot border, and a lovely somewhat blurry white owl (did you know that Guinevere is another name for owl?) hanging in midair under a softly, glowing moon and a single star. Awwwww. Too late! It's gone! You can't see it anymore - it is outta there! Why? It didn't play well with my (later stage) digital Abstract designs in bright, bold colors or the glowing Pop Art kids prints, or the black and white Kids Coloring Storybooks, or the retro look" Puppy and Kitty in the Garden" prints. Here, see what I mean? Be forewarned - it makes me queasy just looking at these next to each other!

See? And thus, we come (finally) to my Shop Identity Crisis. My shop is deeply personal. After all, it is a reflection of what I do as an artist. I tell ya, I agonized over this for days. I didn't want to get rid of anything - I love them all! Eventually, I knew what I had to do. The shop had too many personalities to fly under one banner. And so, I came to the painful decision to split them up. A new shop to hold all of the Kids Art. A new banner for the first shop that could accommodate varied art styles. And that's what I have been working on since we last "spoke". It took a lot of focus because even just the thought of a new shop dedicated to Kids Art got my wheels spinning and my gears grinding! (Focus, focus, note, note, jot, jot, sketch, sketch)

Aaaand, I'm done! New shop, new banners (altho the kids' banner needs some tweaking). I'm so happy! I feel whole again! And I have LOTS of new ideas for both! Look, look! You can go to Etsy now!
Original shop;
New Kids shop!!!

But you will come back, won't you? :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Slo-o-o-wly venturing out of my Social Media Shell

Hahahaha! Now that I see it (the picture) on the web, it looks pretty funny! It's just a sketch I did to illustrate how I feel about venturing into the World of Social Media. Please don't judge it (or me) too harshly. It's smudgy and not well-thought-out; a little like myself today! Let me point out THIS IS NOT FOR SALE! A timeless treasure like this is something my family will want when I'm gone. I'm sure it's destined for the scrap book (or scrap heap - sometimes I get those mixed up).

Ok, now that I got that out of my system, maybe I can get some work done. I finally figured out how to find and follow directions on creating a blog, and did a little tweaking to this page. By "a little tweaking" I mean I fooled around with it for a couple of hours, instead of working on my art.

I hope the tweaks are an improvement. I played with the colors of the "page" behind the text to (hopefully) make reading this a little easier on the eyes. I stayed with the exploding, psychedelic cosmos background scheme, though. It's the only one in colors I like, so unless I figure out how to make my own (not likely to happen any time soon) we're stuck with this one. Please let me know what you think - and pass on any tips to make it better.

So, yes, this week has been pretty much spent on confronting my Social Media fears. My kids (who know their way around this strange, new landscape) are very busy with lives (and jobs) of their own and it's hard to schedule a little "hold Mom's hand and walk her through the scary Facebook set-up" time. (Kids, if you're reading this, it's ok to feel guilty! Too bad it's not still Mother's Day, cuz I would totally milk it!)

Oh! I did have time to do a piece of artwork with one of the teams on Etsy. The team's name is "Doodlers Doing Doodles" and (since I consider myself a "Professional Doodler" :) it seemed like the perfect fit for me. Right after I joined one of the members suggested a Doodling Contest. We all voted on the "prompt" (a word or phrase to define the theme) and then we had a few days to turn in our doodles. What fun! The prompt was "Flight of the Bumblebee". Right away I had a funny sketch in mind (something about a thief in a black ski-mask, wearing a black and yellow striped turtleneck shirt and black pants running away from police with a stolen honey-pot - huh?). For a couple of days I thought about it off and on, and then finally sat down to do it.

Well, Doodles don't always behave. They do have a mind of their own (which is just barely connected to your control center). My Doodle directed me to put down the pencil and turn to the computer drawing program. What? I didn't intend to do that! Next it made me choose the curved line drawing tool and create loop-de-loops all over the page. What was going on? Not part of the plan! Then I went; "Hmmm, I see where this is going!" And my Doodle did the rest! Here it is in black and white and then fully colored;

I liked it so much I made it into an art print and put it in my shop! And that's what comes of a little interaction with your fellow artists! It's funny, I've actually had a shop on Etsy since late 09, but never got involved in the community. I think there are probably thousands of artists using Etsy to create online shops. I'm just now starting to interact with a few, and I must say I've found them to be generous in spirit. I knew there were groups called Teams, but didn't know their purpose, or how to join one (did you have to be invited?) or even why one would want to. While having a full-time job, I had a limited time to work on my art and writing, so I just ignored anything else that might require a bit of my attention. But now that I have a little time to pull my head out of the sand and look around, I can see there many wonderful and like-minded folks with whom to interact.

And I guess that's why I am slo-o-o-wly coming out of my Social Media Shell and inching toward being a fan. There are literally millions of folks out there with valuable advice and encouragement, as just as many who need both. The Social Media lets us reach out with both hands - to help on one and receive help on the other.

It's Cosmic! (Now the background colors I chose are beginning to make sense... :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Discovering What Works

Things are looking up since my last post! My artwork is starting to sell! Funny - it's the same style of art I did before that sat on a shelf by its sad old self.

So, what changed?

Me! I changed! I decided I was going to do whatever it takes to make it as an artist and get on with doing what I'm supposed to be doing - creating things that brighten others' days, inspire and encourage and nourish the soul just by looking at them! That's what I like to do and this is the way I do it. Other folks have their ways - through music and song, teaching, creating products that improve lives, fixing things that are broken, fixing people that are broken, performing medical miracles that save lives, being an awesome parent and home-maker, being a tireless supporter of one's family, etc. I can't list them all here because the list is as endless as individuals. Anyway, I decided it was time!

Once I made the decision, I couldn't just sit back and wait. I did (and still very much do) have to follow through with action. Quitting my day job was just one step to give me the time to do what I needed to do. I still have to DO those things!

 And one of the hardest things I had to do, am starting to do, is just put myself out there any way I can. That's why I started this blog. That's why I did the street fairs. That's why I'm trying to wrap my mind around how to use Facebook and Twitter even though I don't understand some of the terms they in the directions! These are the things I have to force myself to do - the creating end has always been fun and relatively easy.

So now I've got my Facebook page set up as an artist and my online store is well-stocked with over 70 items! I also joined some teams on Etsy so I would become part of the community and not just one lone shop-owner trying to make a go of it on their own. That has turned out to be an eye-opener. I've always just gone off on my own to do my own thing - never really became a part of a community of artists. I dunno - thought it would take up too much of my time that I could better spend creating artwork or writing. I found out it's actually a very good thing to "hang out" with other artists. We share ideas on promoting our shops, tips and techniques for making things, encourage and inspire each other. Isn't that what it's all about, anyway?

Alright, this has gotten a bit long - lotsa words and no pictures - enough to put you to sleep! So here's some new pics to brighten your day! Some of my Abstract Art from a series called "Patty-Cake". It celebrates sisters and friendship.

Don't forget to come visit me! Best Wishes,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Am I Crazy? Continued...

Well, in my quest to make it as an artist (by which I mean actually be able to pay bills through sales of my art as opposed tojust siphoning off the grocery money to buy more art supplies!) I tried a couple of Street Fairs.

1. The first one was a cute little event sponsored by the local Humane Society. It featured lots of pet related activities. I thought this would be a good venue for my little Coloring Storybooks as each features a cute animal character. As an extra "draw" I put up a poster advertising $2 Cartoon Pet Portraits. I also set out a table with free coloring pages and crayons for kids to sit and color. Sounds good, right?

WRONG! I did end up doing a bunch of Pet Portraits, but only sold a few books. Turned out people mostly came for all the free pet related give-aways and activities. And the crayons started to melt in the sun, so I had to take them off the table. There went my cute little display. Oh well. At least my booth fee went to a good cause...

2. The next one was an Arts and Crafts Fair. I put a lot of preparation into this one. I bought the neatest display items for my paintings from a Dollar Store. They are little easel type stands made of wrought iron with the words "DREAM" cut out in metal on the fronts. They were perfect for my "Dream Horses" (see pic). And only $1 each! I also got a couple of heavier and larger tabletop display easels (in black wrought iron) from a local discount home decor store. I had visions of huge crowds of people and was worried I wouldn't have enough merchandise so I created a lot of new pieces. I made paperweights from recycled glass - they were cool once I figured out how to get my artwork to stick to the back - that was an exercise in trial and error! I made Art Nouveau-style bookmarks, painstakingly cutting out each design so that, once laminated, the text would peek out thro the drawing. (See pic). I made high res Xerox copies of some artwork so there would be cheaper versions of the originals. I digitally colored, printed and cut out my paper Qt-z dolls and packaged them with a couple of outfits. Plus my coloring storybooks, all of which I bound myself. I was ready!

It went better than the first one, but not exactly as I had envisioned. The canopy I bought on sale was broken so I had to set up under a tree to get out of the sun. A low-hanging branch seemed to have it in for my forehead. The wind kept blowing over my cute little display, so I ended up taking them all down and laying things out flat. Thank goodness I had the paperweights to hold them down. There weren't many kids so the coloring table I had struggled to bring and set up went unused. Everyone kept saying the fair wasn't as well-attended as the last one. My viewpoint of it was it was mostly a large group of friends (most seemed to know each other) who came to hang out for a few hours - it was more like a party. However, I did make some sales (most of the paperweights, some bookmarks, a few books, an original painting and a print) - although not enough to balance out what I had spent on displays, a table, chairs, and the art materials themselves.

On the upside, getting ready for the fair gave me a goal to work towards and helped me hone my skills as an artist. I also had a lot of inventory for my Etsy store! In fact it took me a couple of days to get it all uploaded. And I put myself out there, which is always a plus!

So, what have I learned? Street fairs can be unpredictable and it's best NOT to spend too much time and money on displays - cuz they may not work out at all. Also not a good idea to expect too much going in - look at it as an opportunity to put yourself out there and show your artwork Use it as a driving force to get a lot done by a deadline.

Will I do another one? Yes! Why? Well, I may be tipping the scales toward crazy....
Till next time,
Sheri McClure-Pitler

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hello, Anybody out there?

I feel like I'm standing on a hilltop, shouting into the wind. I'm finding it's a challenge to make myself be seen and heard above all of the other voices out there. I picture all of us, as individuals, shouting to be heard, each one drowning out the other, all becoming lost in a sea of sound. Maybe we could each take turns listening.

Some days I'm very sure my work has value, and that I have something unique to offer. Other days, not so much. I've always been better at creating my work (writing drawing, painting) than promoting it. The days I spend the majority of time working on promotion - those days I tend to end up in a corner of the couch with a dark grumpy cloud over my head. Occasional bolts of lightning shoot out of it - targeting me with doubts. Sometimes, anyone who gets near (husband, son) gets zapped too. Sorry!

The days I spend actually working on creating something, I'm in my own happy little universe for hours on end, and by the end of the day I think I can do anything, be anything... Need to bottle that - for the grumpy days.

I'm sure I'm missing something, in the way I go about promoting. I kinda missed the Facebook and Twitter boats. I have a Twitter account but don't really get how to use it. Does anyone really care if I'm on my 3rd cup of coffee? When I get an email that someone's following me, I always think - why? Don't they have their own stuff to do? And I closed my Facebook account almost as soon as I opened it. I just wanted to tell people about my artwork and invite them to my website and my etsy shop - what's all this about parties and events and someone went to the zoo and here's a zillion pictures of my new cat...

Wow! What an old codger! (What the heck is a codger, anyway?) Guess I need an attitude adjustment. Maybe I'll try following somebody back - see where that leads me. And my daughter says she'll help me with Facebook...

Anyway, as to whether I'm crazy or not (for quitting my job to follow my dreams) - it's still up in the air. Some days (the "promotion" days - like today, in fact) the scales tip towards crazy. That's why tomorrow I'm going to make some new artwork! I have a couple pencil drawings - a pouty little princess, a couple of Wizard faces - that I did while sitting at an arts and crafts fair waiting for that gallery owner to drop by and be floored by my offerings... I think I'll flesh them out - give em life. And then maybe I'll put some time in on my 2nd Fantasy Book. It will probably be done before the first one ever sees the light of day!

Oh - and here's a few pictures, in case anyone is out there....
And here's my websites too. See, I can promote!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Going for it!

  Now I've gone and done it! I quit a perfectly fine job with perfectly fine paycheck and perfectly nice co-workers during a time when a lot of folks can't find work at all. Am I crazy? Why did I do it? I'll tell you why and leave it up to you (and Time) to pass judgement.

   I did it because I'm just too damn old to put off following "The Dream". You know what I mean! That dream I had when I was young of who I was and where I was going and what I was going to do and who I was going to be. That vision I had of the life I was meant to lead. That back-burnered dream that simmered all those long years I spent doing other things and following others' dreams. I'm surprised it wasn't burnt!

   I did it because I finally realized I don't have all the time in the world to get around to that life anymore. I'm too old (56, in case you're wondering) to mess around spending the majority of my time doing other things. I realized that nice 9-5 (well, 8:00-5:30) job was my life. After 45 hours a week, plus commute, plus house-cleaning and errands on the weekend, there was not much time to spend on the things that were really important to me; my art and my writing. In other words, the most important things in my life got the "short shrift". The "lick and a polish". Suddenly, things seemed off balance - all out of whack!

   I did it because nobody else is going to make that dream come true but me. No one is going to come along and "discover" me while I'm sitting in an office. No one is just going to hand me the life I want. It's going to be hard work creating that life. I know that. I'm used to working hard. I worked hard as a mom of three young children with a husband out of town months at a time. I worked hard as a teacher in a year round school, caring for others' kids while raising my own. I worked hard to facilitate other people's dreams in several companies, while trying to improve my own little part of their machine to make it run smoothly.

   I did it because now it's time to work hard for me.

   Now, I'm not saying I've totally wasted my time. All along I've kept my hand in at the things that mattered. I usually ended up incorporating some part of my dream in every job - mostly through writing manuals or policy. I did manage to finish a 400 page juvenile fantasy novel, but I didn't get it published. I wrote and illustrated cute little Coloring Storybooks that I put together myself. I created original works of art here and there for myself or my kids. I created a website ( if you're curious!) with  hundreds of free coloring pages - mostly drawn by myself. I opened an etsy store and put a few items on it. Made a few sales here and there. Enough to make me think, for awhile (actually for a long while) that I was living that dream, that I really was following my true path in life.

   But I wasn't. It was all done piecemeal - a little bit at a time, or in a rush on a weekend  - creating my own deadlines that no one else cared about - just so I could live a little bit of that life that I felt I was meant to lead. Just enough to keep me going spiritually. Just enough to lull me into thinking my life had meaning. 

   What happened? Why did I suddenly, Matrix-like, wake up? I'm not really sure what did it. One thing that happened was I got a literary agent for the novel - a stroke of luck, really. A friend of my son's took a look at it as a favor and realized it actually was good. My book should be published in about a year, but until then there won't be any money just rolling in. So, why couldn't I wait it out on the job just one more year? Why couldn't I just keep punching the clock and taking the paycheck?

   I don't know, exactly. Suddenly, I just could not wait to live my life any longer. Suddenly that perfectly fine job with the perfectly fine paycheck and the perfectly fine co-workers seemed like a drug that was keeping me sleeping my life away, day after day, year after year, decade after decade. Suddenly, I felt like I no longer belonged to that life -and that by continuing to work there I was just pretending to be part of the group, while in my heart, mind and soul I was off living my dream. It didn't seem fair to my employer, my co-workers or to myself - although it certainly would have been more practical!

   And so, here we are. I took a leap. Am I crazy? I guess we'll see...