Friday, January 16, 2009


I owe my blog an update. But for today, I'd like to direct your attention to another blog, namely Eclairre & Coffee, who is featuring two sellers today... and I'm one of them! The other seller makes vegan cupcakes, and I have to say they look very yummy. I may have to pick a little something up from her shop for V-day, as a gift to myself. Hey, we can celebrate our love for ourselves on V-day, can't we?

So without further ado:

Go check it out!

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Flamingo Encounter

So earlier this week we visited the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a small attraction with a few nature walks, birds, alligators, and assorted other animals. It's a nice place, good for a day trip at a reasonable cost, considering how much the bigger parks charge for admission. One of the most interesting features of this park/conservatory is that they have a number of free roaming animals, such as pelicans, ducks, turtles and flamingos. What surprised me is how unbelievably TAME these animals are. This picture is a good example of what I mean:

On the left is my 2 year old son. He was just straightening up from feeding the ducks (note the two ducks at the bottom of the picture), when I said (from behind the camera), "Look out, there's a big bird above your head!" Because while he was squatting down to take care of the ducks, the flamingo on the right had wandered over and was literally standing over him to see what he was up to. There was a moment when I was certain these two would knock heads... and then I managed to snap this shot, even while trembling at the thought that such a large bird, with such a large beak, was standing mere inches from my beloved child.

Now my son isn't prone to panic. He takes after both me and my husband in that he analyzes the situation, then comes to his conclusion based on the evidence and his own logical thought process. I can only imagine what must have been going through his head at this point: i.e. there's an enormous bird standing right in front of me, how fast can I run, will my dad protect me from that gigantic scary beak, what will this pink monster do when it discovers I've just run out of food, I've never seen a bird bigger than me and I'm feeling a little freaked out right now.

In a matter of seconds he came to his own conclusion and quickly but quietly moved away. In the next shot, which I'm not allowed to post because it shows my husband's face (he's a little paranoid about sharing pictures on the Internet), my son is standing safely BEHIND his dad, scanning the area for any big birds that might be approaching from the other direction. I have to say, smart kid.

I had an encounter of my own with a flamingo that day: as I took a few steps back to take the first shot posted here, I bumped into a flamingo that was standing right behind me. Lucky for me he just grunted his objection and didn't use his own gigantic scary beak on me. So I turned in place and took his picture, and I'm posting it here with my thanks to him for leaving my backside intact:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I built a light box!

Well the holidays are upon us, and I realize it's been two weeks since my last post... lots happening here as per usual in December! While my blog has suffered somewhat from this craziness, I'm still working on my various art and craft projects, and also obtaining or practicing the requisite skills needed to improve my online shop - always learning, always learning!

So I decided to build a light box. These are something that pro photographers use, and they can be expensive to buy. If you google "build a light box" you'll get a number of sites with instructions on how to make your own - granted probably not as nice, but for small shops with a limited budget they can do the trick. I ended up spending under $20 total for everything I needed, and last Sunday afternoon I put it together. I don't have pictures of the actual box (my studio is currently doubling as a holding room for Christmas presents and I can hardly walk in there right now, it's a complete disaster), but I figured a few before and after shots of my items are in order.

So, without further ado, here is the before shot of my Ocean Swirls notepad:

And here is the after, using the light box.

Here is the before shot of my second notepad on Etsy:

And the after shot:

Now, I know I have a few photographers that visit here, so let me add that I still have a LOT to learn in regards to taking good pictures. For starters I'd like to add a second lamp to my box, on the side, so I can get brighter frontal shots while still avoiding glare. But looking at these comparisons, I'd say it's an improvement, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Latest Project - Mini Notepads!

In my last post I mentioned a project I was working on but didn't elaborate. Now that I finished a couple of them I figured I'd stop by and post a little bit about them! I'm calling them mini notepads, but some refer to these kinds of notepads as "jotters". Basically both terms refer to a smaller size notebook, often portable, in many cases (mine included) having a key ring for attaching to bags, backpacks or purses.

I had a lot of fun making these, and I'll definitely be making more of them. I'm using the covers of rescued hardback books for the covers (the term "rescued" here means snatched from trash bins, or picked up at yard sales.. which is very often one step away from trash bins for books, at least according to most yard sale owners). The front illustration on my mini notepads is an original, signed by me, which means no two will ever be alike. I hand-cut, hand-punch, and hand- everything else these little books, which is a decent amount of work, but I think the amount of effort that goes into any craft does tend to show in the end result. And in the end, so far every book I've made seems to kind of grow into itself, they take on their own little personalities, much like my writing used to do back when I actually wrote stories (sigh).

Plus these are refillable - the paper size is exactly that of a 3x5 card cut in half. And they're durable, made to last, or at least to survive a toddler (as I'm discovering). These are two reasons why my left brain is happy about them - it appeases my practical nature *grin*.

Anyway, enough talking about them! I posted one to Etsy for now - you can check that one out by following the Etsy mini plugin on the upper right corner of my blog. The second one I made for my mother-in-law for Christmas (shh don't tell, those of you that know her). The illustration on the front is called "The Learning Tree" and it was designed specifically for her. Here's a pic of that one:

And lastly, here's a pic of the one I'm "field testing" (lol). I call it "The Flying Commas", which is kind of a personal joke on me - I won't bore you with the story behind that one:

Anyway, I'll be making more of these. I've got two more that I hope to finish up in the next few days. For tonight, though, it's back to my water soluble pencils!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Current Projects

I figured I'd take a few minutes to post pics of some of the projects I'm currently working on. This first one is my first completed project using water soluble graphite... the picture doesn't do it justice and the flash is reflecting off some of the graphite (I'll have to figure out how to take pictures of pencil drawings!), but I love this piece and here's why:

It's called "Zeke Nudges Coffee Bean". If you notice in the lower left corner there's a little finger... well that's my 2 year old son. When I was taking pictures he was being a very big help, and in fact I got some great shots with him, too. In this particular shot he was very concerned that that little coffee bean might not make the picture, being so far away from the rest of the pile, so he kept nudging it closer to the bunch. The memory of that made me smile so I kept the final piece with his little finger included! I think it adds human interest :).

Anyway, water soluble graphite is a very interesting kind of pencil, and I'm definitely going to practice with it some more. I have no experience with watercolor, and there's some strategy involved with mixing these pencils and water to make a good finished piece, so that's where the learning curve comes in.

I'm also procrastinating on my latest graphite piece, the first in my Poker Face series. This is Antonio (gotta figure out how to reduce that flash glare):

I've always liked the "unfinished" look in some of the pieces I've seen from other artists, but whenever I try it mine always come out just looking... well, unfinished. I've still got work to do on him, I've just been lazy about it.

Lastly, I'm working on another project that I'm not going to talk about just yet.. too early. But it's exciting, and I really hope it comes out the way I'm envisioning!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Purist's Artform

So I discovered that I was included in a second treasury (thanks StratusSilver!). The curator's initial comment was that pencil sketch is a purist's artform. I found that to be oddly flattering. I think that pencil artists, particularly those working in graphite, sometimes get overlooked in favor of other more vibrant and colorful mediums. The truth is that I find working with pencil fascinating. It's amazing to me that graphite alone can create such wonderful works of art. Some of the best graphic artists can draw water, or the surface of the eye, or variations of a cat's fur, in such clarity and fine detail that it seems impossible that it was done with simple graphite.

I'm playing around with colored pencils but I'm not drawn to them the way I am with graphite. They're good as a supplement, and I'm happy to use them as such. I've also started playing with water soluble graphite pencils - I officially ruined my first piece over the past week! - but I'm reading up on technique with these unique pencils and I'm excited to give it another go. Hopefully some time this week I'll be able to get some practice in with those.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Pursuit of Excellence

I was reading something this morning about the difference between the pursuit of excellence and the pursuit of power, or recognition, or control - basically fill in whatever word here that might make sense in your own life that implies something personally gained. The pursuit of excellence is a God-given desire. It's a need to learn, to grow and improve. There's a satisfaction in knowing that you are strectching your gifts or talents, and an enjoyment in seeing the efforts of your work produce results. It's a contentment at the end of a hard day's work.

The pursuit of power (or recognition, or control), on the other hand, is a desire that others recognize or acknowledge your gifts. It's a self-centered desire, based on the approval of others, and really has nothing to do with improving your work or who you are or what you know. It's a need to be admired, or at least appreciated.

I'm tagging this post with my Left Brain, Right Brain tag because I think for me it has a lot to do with this difference. My left brain is always trying to figure out how to profit from what I do, how to make sales, how to spread the word about my work. My left brain wants to be recognized, admired. My right brain, meanwhile, isn't at all sure it even wants to make a sale - there's a nervousness about expectations once someone actually pays money for something created. My right brain just wants to create, to learn, to improve, and then to create some more. My right brain is satisfied with the process, while my left brain will only be satisfied with a measurable, profitable result.

Needless to say I feel far more satisfied with my art when I'm immersed in the process. On days like today I question the wisdom of even having an online shop - except that I believe hoarding one's talent is also the quickest way to lose it. I release it to the world because creative energy must always be on the move, must be free to ebb and flow, regardless of whether or not I make any sales. I tried the hoarding bit, and I ended up not creating anything. So it's off and away, out into the universe, and I release my expectations of what happens to it after that.

So there, left brain.