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The christmas season is here and ofcourse the stores are full of beautiful things , there’s so much to look at and endless potential for presents to gift your friends and family. However you’re a very talented creative person and something you can give to make christmas even more special to your loved ones is something with your own creative touch. Ofcourse there are lovely gifts for giving that you can acquire instore, but there are also one of a kind creative touches you can add that’s even more special.
1. Make your own christmas tags : This can be paper or ceramic based if you’re a dab hand with clay or porcelaine. Really think outside the box and personalise each tag for the person you’re giving to , adding their name and favourite things to it . In the spirit of recycling though why not adapt the tag so that once its taken off your loved ones present, it can find a place upon the christmas tree.
2. Hand design your own paper : Perfect for inky doodlers, painters or print makers why not make your own hand designed wrapping paper. Grab a roll of kraft brown paper and create your own hand drawn designs to really make it your own. Get experimental with coloured metallic markers or block printing to add different creative effects and touchs to each present you wrap.
3. Inky prints and wall art : Making a unique one of a kind print finished off in a frame is sure to be a gift anyone would proudly place on their wall. This is one project where you can just really be your creative self regardless of what kind of creative practice you’re in. If you’re a graphic design make a typography piece with personalised elements, photographer add your favourite photo or as an illustrator add a doodle. Valerie Mckeehan got creative with a black board , some chalk and her creative imagination so why don’t you?
The possiblities are endless really, go where your imagination takes you as no one knows the person you’re giving to better than you to make their christmas merry.
Image was created by illustrator Valerie McKeehan and you can find out more about her work here .
Morning Coffee; Oil Pastel and Watercolor Crayon on Gessoed Paper
I'm feeling sad today. Two nights ago I learned that one of my continuing ed. art teachers, Gary Sanchez, passed away suddenly on Thanksgiving from a heart attack. It's hard to believe--I was just about to choose which of his classes I was going to take next year. He was only 53. Kind, generous, and a remarkably gifted teacher; he will be sorely missed by so many.
I took both watercolor and oil pastel classes from Gary. Watercolor was not a new medium to me, but oil pastel certainly was. In fact, I wasn't even sure I would like it very much--I only took the class because I knew he was a good teacher and I thought I should expand my horizons. What I didn't expect is that I would enjoy oil pastel so much it would become one of my main drawing/painting mediums.
The above painting was one of my first homework assignments in that same class. Looking at it now I'm reminded of the fun our class had together, and Gary was funny, constantly keeping us entertained. I realize now that was a great way to keep us relaxed and light: we would sketch while Gary chatted, worked on his own pictures, and somehow managed to walk around the room giving us individual pep talks all at the same time. I can still hear him using the terms "hot dog"and "hamburger" in place of "portrait" and "landscape" to describe which way we should turn our paper (the same way he described it for the children's classes he taught, which of course was the perfect way for me to learn), or reminding us that Van Gogh ate his paints--a demonstration of how passionate we should be about our materials! (Or hungry.) Gary's website is still up and I encourage you to visit while it's there: Garyrsanchez.com.
Some of the reasons Gary helped me to love oil pastels include:
Going over this list makes me want to get out my paper and Sennelier pastels (the terribly expensive ones!) and draw something special. I often think the very best way we can honor our teachers and mentors, past and present, is to never give up on our dreams, no matter what. I'm so glad I got to be one of Gary's students, and I'm so glad I let him know when I could how much I appreciated his art and teaching. May his legacy live on.
- There are no limits: I can use my fingers to paint. I'm also a ceramic artist, and being able to use my hands and fingers as tools on the paper fits me to a T.
- Oil pastel color is rich. The colors blend like butter.
- You can use a wide variety of interesting backgrounds, from sand paper to canvas, so it never gets dull.
- It's a fast medium with quick results--and I'm a very impatient artist.
- Oil pastels are a good choice for creating sell-able, frame-able work. And who doesn't want to go professional one day?
- You don't need a lot of excess "stuff" to work with oil pastel--especially if you paint with your fingers! But seriously, they are a minimalist's dream: a selection of colors, something to draw upon, a few paper towels.
- And you don't need to break the bank to get started. Even a cheap set is good--much better than you'd think. Great for the budget-minded.
- It's a a very expressive medium--you can draw straight from the heart, right away--no experience needed. Really.
- It's also a very forgiving medium--if you don't like the results you can pretty much just scrape it away and start over. Better yet, you can look for "happy accidents" and work with those in new and creative ways. It all turns out fine.
- Oil pastels can be used in so many different ways: on their own, in collage or mixed media, applied thick and strong, or thinned with either water or solvent for a "watercolor" look. The possibilities are endless.
Tip of the Day: My art journals are full of Gary's advice and tips, but one of my favorites is from the first watercolor class I took from him. We were each given a picture of a sunflower to paint. When we were finished (and praised--Gary always made sure we got tons of positive feedback before he offered any other type of critique) he said, "Okay, now that you've painted one sunflower, don't stop. Never paint just one. Paint a hundred. Paint a thousand sunflowers. Become an expert!" It's good advice for any type of creative pursuit: e.g., don't just write one poem or screenplay, write a hundred, write a thousand! Become an expert--and never give up. See you next time.
Making a to do list is pretty easy and though some of us love making them, others may find them boring beyond tears. If like me you often find yourself saying:
” Hurray I’ll write this to do list and get everything done no problem!”
To then find you’re half way through the day and your to do list remains untouched then there’s something not quite right with that to do list you’ve got there. Although to do lists or making them doesn’t have to be boring, being creative we love to add a doodle here, a splash of colour there with some photos or fanciful fonts it just makes our day more forfilling.
So why not try this approach with your to do list? Staring a rather plain lined page of text is no creative feast for the eyes, however lorie at Elvie studio seems to have right idea with making that to do list fun ! So add your own style, favourite colours and really jazz up that to do list that will not only make it fun create but fun to tick off as you go about your day.
This image is by Lorie Vliegen and you can find out more about her creative work here .
By: Heather Dyer
Blog: An Awfully Big Blog Adventure
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Becoming a Writer
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, Dorothea Brande
, Fearless Creating
, Heather Dyer
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© នរមI’ve been reading a book called Fearless Creating: a step-by-stepguide to starting and completing your work of art, by Eric Maisel. Like Dorothea Brande’s classic book Becoming a Writer, this is less a ‘craft’ guidebook, and more a ‘process’ guidebook. It’s the sort of book that describes the creative mind set and shows you how to develop it.One of the exercises that Maisel says is the most important in the whole book is the ability to ‘hush’ your mind. ‘Hushing’ says Maisel, ‘is what we do when we go into a museum and sit in front of one painting for fifteen minutes.’ Hushing is a ‘quieting and an opening’ – and there is no creative life without this ability to hush.
Hushing sounds a lot like the open, receptive state of mind that is associated with ‘right-brain’ awareness, and is also the state of ‘choiceless awareness’ that meditation aspires to. When the mind is quiet and receptive – and not busy with mental chatter – ideas can rise to the surface.
Some writers achieve this state of mind by walking, swimming, doing yoga or washing the dishes. Others know it when they wake up in the middle of the night to write something in the notepad beside their bed. Maisel suggests that it’s only when the conscious, busy, ‘thinking’ mind has grown quiet that insights and ideas can surface.Maisel also explains that ‘hushing’ needs to be practiced in conjunction with ‘holding’, if any real work is to be done. 'Holding' is the ability to carry an idea for a book or a painting (or any other project )loosely in the back of your mind as you go about your day. By holding the project in the periphery of your vision you allow the ideas and stimuli that you encounter during the day (or during your working practice) to enter it and inform it. I’ve also heard this process called ‘being in the grist’, when almost everything you experience seems to somehow relate to, or feed into, the container of your novel.
Have you experienced the processes of ‘hushing’ and ‘holding’? If so, how do you achieve them?
It’s easy to presume that your doodles, illustrations, paintings and creative thoughts should make their way straight to paper or canvas although just for a minute why not think outside the box. Break the rules and do something creatively different that sets your doodles apart , not to abandon your sketchbook for to long but challenge yourself to something different. To help get you started heres just a few creative ways you can do that and truly think outside the box to show others just how creative you can be.
- Remember that rather dull phone or tablet case you bought thats lacking a certain creative omph, well grab yourself some paint or a paint based marker and create your own custom case design. Add your own style and choose your own theme to make a stylish creative case you’d want to show off and not hide.
- Mugs are great because they often get filled with heart warming teas or beverages although a plain little old mug is some what sad and gloomy. However with some ceramic paint or markers you could give it an unique handdrawn design of its own that is sure to make your tea breaks even better.
- For fellow lovers of fabric the dream is no doubt to create your own and you can even without a huge fabric printer. With some acrylic paints and fabric medium you can paint your own designs onto calico, making reams of your own one of a kind design to embellish any type of project from home furnishings to wallart and more.
- That little pair of converse you happen to have sitting in the hallway could use a splash of ink wouldn’t you say? Grab yourself some pens and markers ( ones that work well on canvas fabric and will not run) and create yourself a fashion piece that will set you apart from everyone else.
Image by artist Jaco Haasbroek you can find out more about their work here.
It's getting colder in Rhode Island and each day seems to pass in the blink of an eye. I've been keeping busy in my free time, spending it either reading books (currently Bill Nye's newest
), comics (Bravest Warriors
is a new fun favorite), or watching documentaries and educational programing via PBS, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube while I work on new doodle paintings.
I have one more small craft show coming up on December 6th (Blackstone River Theatre's Holiday Fair
). It's the last show I have lined up at the moment so it seems a nice time to wrap up the doodles for a while so I can dive back into developing (and perhaps writing) my story idea.
Generally, during the cold months I tend to go into a hibernation mode, wanting very little to leave the house after sundown except for occasional trips to the movies. I've seen Interstellar [twice], and Big Hero Six---both excellent. Interstellar was just about everything I imagined and hoped it would be, namely epic and beautiful and emotionally moving and ambitious and mind bending, while at the same time different (enough) in plot from my own. There are many components of the story that overlap but thankfully there's still enough unexplored in my idea that continues to push me forward conceiving my own epic space odyssey.
I certainly haven't been able to get enough of space related stuff since I began this project a year and a half ago and I'm fairly certain the obsession won't let up any time soon. I'm also fairly confident that there's room for yet another space exploration story in the world...
Anyway, as I mentioned, I don't want to leave the house when it's cold which has a nice bi-product of increased productivity. Staying in = working longer = getting more done. I'm quite content to "work" until late each night since there isn't much else happening to distract me. This has resulted in several new doodles in progress, including this one just finished this evening.
I really do love the doodle painting process, and while it will always be part of me, I suspect I'm using it now more as a diversion from tackling the things that scare me most---and that truly matter to me and my ambitions. I don't so much miss illustrating but I miss the idea of actively pursuing a career I want. When I close my eyes and imagine my dream job, it's working in a studio writing and illustrating my own picture books. So why is it that I'm not working towards this every day?
Perhaps it's time to really consider my priorities and find a way to tend to all the branches of my creative tree---including pruning those that aren't what and where I truly want to be growing...
All in all, I am extremely grateful to be in a position where I have the luxury of contemplating what I want to be when I grow up. I just don't want to miss my chance to make something of myself.
No better day than today, no better time than now. The winter light is fading. Better get to work.
By: Leslie Ann Clark,
Blog: Leslie Ann Clark's Skye Blue Blog
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how to write
, My Characters
, children's books
, Children's literature
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Being an illustrator is great fun. Why? Because you can use your imagination to go places you’ve never been and do things you’ve never done. For instance, I have always wanted a log cabin up in the mountains. As a teen, I used to imagine having a studio up a flight of wooden steps to a big room. It would have rafter ceilings and a window seat for me to look out of. It would be warm and cozy and I could sit and do my art all day long near a roaring fire in the wood stove.
When I began thinking of places for my character Burl the bear to live in, I made it just like “I” wanted it! Warm and inviting! When you walk through the doorway of my story, you will find a home that lives in my imagination. It will be a place that I love and I will revisit it many times as the story progresses. I must be passionate about what I draw or it becomes listless and boring. This process is what makes a story believable.
My experience tells me that children notice the tiniest of details. I did a school visit after Peepsqueak was published by Harper Collins Publisher. I read the book to the children and then we talked. Through out the story there was another story going on in the book. It was a little tiny mouse who appeared on many of the pages. The children did not miss it. They even commented on the mouse as I read to them. I let them in on a little secret. I named the mouse Elliot. When I told them his name they all squealed with delight and pointed to the cutest little boy in their classroom who was named Elliot! He was beaming. Suddenly he became part of the story. He was so happy!
These are the things that make a story magical in the eyes of children and adults alike. Its also why I continue creating images. I love seeing characters develop. I love finding their voices. .. what they are like… what they like to do. It does not stop when I leave the studio. I think about them all the time, until I finally know how they would react in any given situation. That way they become very believable creations and loved by all.
Stay posted, Burl and Briley are growing on my heart daily. I can hardly wait to illustrate the books that are in my mind!
Filed under: how to write
, My Characters
I love the posts over at Tara Lazar's site every November during PiBoIdMo! Some inspire me by presenting a new way to look at creativity, and some are reminders of things that I already knew, but seem to forget about when trying to create!
Do you make enough time to draw? Some of us doodle at any opportunity we get. Yet there are also times when we get so swept up in daily doings that we don’t quite draw as much as we’d like to for fun and enjoyment. Taking more time to doodle will not only keep your creative idea’s flowing , fill your sketchbooks with beautiful things but also make drawing fun feeling less like work. So here are afew places you can sketch with ease, seize the opportunity pick up that pencil and draw!
Places you can draw:
- On the bus
- On the train
- In the car
- On a rainy day
- On the phone
- In bed
- At the park
- In the garden
- On your lunch break
Remeber, you should draw because the more you do draw the more those amazing ideas in your creative mind will meet the page for all to see.
Image by Illustrator Chuck Groenink you can find out more about his work here .
By: Kate Leonard,
Blog: Illustration Friday Blog
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, Creative advice
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Last week we were spending a creative sunday discovering ways you can have fun filling the pages of your sketchbook. No doubt by now those exact same pages are filled with the seeds of a great creative project , now all you have to do is take those initial sketchbook ideas and turn them into something creatively amazing and here’s ways following last week’s post you can do that.
1. From a continuous fine liner doodle look at what you’ve created. Is there are character or motif on your page that you can trace on layout paper turning it into a developed illustration piece. Could you grow that initial idea; add extra aspects to it that weren’t there before and develop it into something new that might be a great addition to your portfolio.
2. What was once a spontaneous splash on your page might now be an amazing initial illustration idea all dried up and ready for developing. You might have a series of quirky inky characters, imaginative creatures and more that you can now scan and turn into anything from a surface pattern to a series of illustrative prints.
3. Were you brave enough to rip a hole in your sketchbook page? If you were and grew a little illustration into a bigger one, growing a concept for a story or filling it with typography script, you could now scan and digitally colour your pieces turning them into a book or series of prints for an online shop.
4. If you dabbled in paper collage and created a sketched paper piece, you could take elements from your experimentation that worked and move them further in your project. So for example if a black fine line doodle contrasted better on graph paper collage, then use those elements that work along with your drawing theme of choice to develop further turning initial sketchbook ideas into a series of framed pieces maybe?
5. The last sketchbook filling idea was to find one thing where you were and sketch it in different ways, materials and perspectives on your pages to create a number of motifs. Once you’ve done this you could retrace your sketches onto tracing paper to tidy up the best designs you want to use. Then begin incorporating colour and combine shapes to make new pattern prints that could be for many different things from phone cases to notebook covers, fabric and more.
Image by artist Sarah Ahearn you can find out more about her work here.
Dear creative overthinker,
I know no doubt there have been times where you were sat at your desk deep in thought or maybe you were previously to reading this. With your pen , paintbrush, camera or graphics tablet in hand your mind begins to fizzle into a whirlwind of creative over thought causing you to over think your entire creative practice. As you do this the creative work that you do that was “fun” to begin with that filled you with inspiration , motivation and enthusiasm begins to feel more like ” hard work” and thus bringing the creativity inside you to a halt. Thoughts such as:
” What if I post my design and no one likes it ?”
” What if I post this set of cards, notebooks and prints and no one buys them?”
“What if I go to that design interview and I get turned down?”
“What if I email this client the price quote for a commission and they think I’m really overpriced?”
In a nut shell thoughts like this cause “you” to stop and your creativity will stop with it, all the “what if’s” in our head’s are sometimes enough to stop us doing what we love to do. So my dear creative over thinker try to stop thinking so much , live in the creative moment, make smart prompt decisions that may scare the pants off you and be brave.
Image by artist Tim Bontan you can find more of his work here .
We’re all guilty at some point of not managing our time as effectively as we could have done. Whether you’re running late for a university submission, deadline for a client is looming or just finding it hard to keep on top of your to do’s maybe creatively managing your time better is something you could improve. Now you don’t need to make major changes to your routine to manage your time better, simply by bringing just some of the tips I have here into your creative day you’ll be surprised just how well you can meet those deadlines on time stress free.
1 . Seperate your tasks into time chunks whether 30-45 minute chunks followed by a break to refresh your mind ready for the next task.
2. Set an alarm to ring when your time is up this will prompt you to move onto the next task and if unfinished come back to your current one later.
3.Use app’s or timers to track how much time you’ve already spent on your project.
4. Pop on a tv series or film is another way of managing your time if you don’t mind abit of background noise, once the show is over you’re prompted to finish what your doing ( just don’t get to distracted watching it if you’re a adventure time fan it might be best to stick to the gardening channel instead).
5. Use a calendar whether paper based or digital to track how much time you have from the start date to finish for your project. This way you can allocate set days and time to progress with your project.
Image by illustrator Kritsten Vasgaard you can find out more about their work here .
Equal parts inspirational tool, diary, and space occupier for your tote bag (seriously, you'll want to carry this rad little book everywhere). Some pages may require you to reflect, some may ask you to get to know yourself a little better, and others may just ask you to draw slices of pizza. This book is [...]
For many of us just saying “yes” can be a huge obstacle to overcome. The feeling of nervousness and anxiety can well up in the pit of our stomachs , our hand’s become sweaty and minds begin to race with the thought ” Can I actually do this and should I even do this?” when creative opportunity comes our way. In any shape, size or form I realise now that creative opportunity is something to be grasped, having been quite the shy and anxious inky illustrator for years I often said no to things that could have lead somewhere because I was afraid of whether I was good enough , brave enough and strong enough the list goes on.
Many of you may feel the same at any point during your creative journey whether you’re just starting out, given the opportunity to exhibit at a gallery, pursue a design internship, go to university, take a commission and more. Sometimes its a little daunting to say yes but here’s why seizing creative opportunity no matter how scary is good to :
- You don’t know where it may lead but it could lead to great things
- You don’t know who you might meet but you may meet someone great
- You don’t know how you will grow but you’ll build experience along the way
- You don’t know until you try
Try to think less about why it might not work and more about what you have to gain because this will help put your creative thought in a much more positive mind set to pursue each opportunity 100%. If you’ve been brave enough to seize a creative opportunity how did you deal overcome the fear and just say yes?
Image by artist Sean McCabe you can find more of his work here .
Long, long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away, it was the time before computers. Even typewriters were not a common household item. At least, not in my childhood home on the front range of Colorado. Colorado Springs was small then, full of open spaces. The public library was way, way on the other side of town. There were no bookstores. The only library available to me was my school library. I checked out every book I could read. By fourth grade, my favorite authors were already Mark Twain, Jack London, Charles Dickens, James Fennimore Cooper, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and many more. And if I wanted to have my very own copy of a book, so I didn’t have to return it, I copied the book.
So is it a wonder that I became a writer when I grew up?
Even now, after all these decades, with the onslaught of computers, iPads and fancy programs that write text for you, I still write everything by hand. Even this article was first written by hand.
It turns out to be a good thing, to write by hand. Scientists now know that cursive writing is an important tool for cognitive development. It teaches the brain to be efficient, helps to develop critical thinking skills and refines motor control. In fact, children who learn cursive tend to learn how to read faster, generate more ideas and retain more information.
When I was copying my books in the fourth grade, I paid more attention to the details of the story. I experienced the characters on a deeper level because the very act of writing them out engaged all my senses. I had to pay attention to the words, how they were ordered, and how they were used. And, of course, I experienced the linear logic of the plot.
When I grew up, I began writing stories that featured the landscape and characters that were larger than life. A student of American history and folklore, my first books were picturebooks. If you want to know more about my picturebooks, check out JoAnn’s interview with me here!
I continued exploring the American landscape, blending folklore and history in my first middle grade novel, Big River’s Daughter
(Holiday House, 2013). The book comes recommended by the International Reading Association, and was nominated for the Amelia Bloomer Project (American Library Association, 2013). The book is listed on A Mighty Girl’s Top 2013 Mighty Girl Books for Tweens and Teens. My second middle grade historical fiction is Girls of Gettysburg
(Holiday House 2014) and takes on the daunting challenge of researching the Battle of Gettysburg. For this story, I walked the battlefields four times, experiencing the very landscape where my characters lived and breathed, and died. If you are interesting in my research process for this book, you might enjoy this interview by Laurie J. Edwards, here
. The book comes recommended by Booklist as “a unique, exciting work.” School Library Journal calls the book a “riveting historical fiction.” The book is listed as a Hot Pick on Children’s Book Council for September 2014.
Of course, writers have to pay the bills. While I never planned to be a teacher, it seemed a natural fit. I teach college freshman and older students. Of course, now all the students use computers to read texts and compose their essays. And iPads, and even their phones. Most of them are proud to proclaim they have never used a pen or pencil. I make them print out the research and drafts, and have them write out their annotations and corrections on the paper. I make them experience the words and the organization in order to determine how everything fits together. They don’t always appreciate the experience. But their essays are usually better for it.
As Julia Cameron once said, “When we write by hand, we connect to ourselves. We may get speed and distance when we type, but we get a truer connection – to ourselves and our deepest thoughts – when we actually put pen to page.”
You might be interested to see more:
“Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter
”, by William Klemm. Psychology Today. March 14, 2013.
Julia Cameron Live, "Morning Pages: why by hand?. The Artist’s Way
." October 4, 2012
|Image from Morguefile|
There’s nothing better to get a new creative project started than by making your own inspirational mood board. Creating your own mood board of idea’s and inspiration will help you to build a collection of concept base ideas to build a new art piece from whether a series of illustrations, photographs or painting. It’s not all that hard to do and once you get started creating a mood board can actually be a really enjoyable part of project building, although if you’ve not made one before here are afew easy tips to help you get started on making your own.
What do I put in a mood board?
A mood board can contain anything from doodles, words, photographs, textures , colour swatches, fabrics and much more based around a chosen theme for your project. So for example a theme maybe “ocean” to which you’d include images of its inhabitants , sea blue colour tones and meaningful words tied to the theme etc.
What do I need to make one ?
Its really down to personal preference but you can make a mood board easily in anything from the pages in your sketchbook, sticking them to a piece of artboard or a cork board with pins. There’s really no right or wrong way because your mood board is personal, there to give you idea’s and pull together concepts for your project that will help it grow.
Putting a mood board together.
- To begin putting your creative mood board together collect a series of images and inspirational materials linked to your chosen theme.
- On an a3 blank sketchbook page ( or any page size of your preference but bigger is less limiting to your mood board ideas) begin to add your mood board research to your page.
- Stick bits down with patterned washi tape or masking tape to make it more visual and allow you to change things around.
- Make it personal and have fun.
- Keep your creative mood board in sight throughout your project to stay visually inspired and consistant to your project theme to prevent getting creatively lost along the way.
Image by illustrator Katt Frank you can find out more about their work here .
By: Carmela Martino and 5 other authors
Blog: Teaching Authors
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April Halprin Wayland
, Book Giveaway Winner
, Bruce Balan
, children's poems
, Girl Coming in for a Landing
, Jama Rattigan
, Pat Brission
, Poetry Friday
, Stephane Jorisch
, Add a tag
The winner of our latest autographed book giveaway
is....KAY S! Congratulations, Kay!
Today is Poetry Friday and the fabulous Jama Rattigan
is hosting. A poem from my first verse novel is waiting for you at the end of this post. The poem is about...
In case you've missed TeachingAuthors'
series on Creativity, JoAnn
started us off with kindness and community, Jill left us on a high note with 5 secrets of creativity
, Esther got our juices flowing with a Writing Workout
inspired by punctuation, Carmela offered "4 Ways I Boost my Creativity
", and Mary Ann, back from a TA sabbatical (yay!), grants us permission
Here are four reasons why I think you should give up trying to be creative:
1) Don't you dare tell me what to do;
2) Get miserable;
3) Find someone so frickin' honest you want to hit them.
4) Write weird things. Other peoples' brains are are loony as yours. Trust me.
1) Don't you dare tell me what to do.
For me, authentic ideas come most easily when no one is expecting a product; when I let myself play with words...the reason I fell in love with writing.
If you're our regular reader,you know I've been writing a poem a day since April 1, 2010. I send them to my best friend, author Bruce Balan
, who sails around the world in a trimaran, and he sends me his poem. (BTW, Oct. 2nd was Bruce's birthday. Since it's past his birthday, kindly sing to him the Birthday Song...backwards
Bruce can always smell if a poem is an assignment. "It's stiff," he'll write. "It's not you."
After I shake my fist at his sail mail critique, I pretend I'm not writing on assignment. I toss out everything I think I'm supposed
to write and stand on my head...because I WANT to stand on my head. That's when words begin to flow from my heart.
|Me, writing a poem...okay, not LITERALLY on my head...|
2) Get miserable...(if you're already depressed, think of it as a big mud hole of ideas made especially for you!) Some of my deepest, truest words are written when I am in a muddle of misery...or when I think back to some terrible time in my life, feeling every heartsick, petrified or bewildered feeling. (Why would anyone want to bring back life's worst moments in living color? You think writers might be just a teensy bit cuckoo?)
So, how can you stimulate creativity in students? Make sure there's misery in their lives. When I read my students the tender book, I Remember Miss Perry
by Pat Brisson
, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
(about the death of a beloved elementary school teacher), the topics they choose to tackle are much deeper than if I give them time to write without reading it first.
3) Find someone so frickin' honest you want to hit him
. I write better when someone who believes in me and who is on the writing path with me (usually Bruce) reads my work and tells me his truth. (Sometimes I want to throw darts at him for his stupid, doo-doo head honesty--good thing he's in Thailand right now.)
Exhibit #1--recent correspondence between us:From: Bruce To: April Subject: RE: poem for September 25, 2014 Hi You,This feels more like a very short story than a poem.Doesn’t have your heart in it. It feels like an assignment.Love,B
From: April To: BruceSubject: Re: poem for September 25, 2014
(See what I mean? Can't he just pretend a little bit that he likes it?)
I read it again tonight and see that you're right. But maybe I can do something with it. But maybe I can't.
Not sure it's worth it.
I am so tangled up in my novel. I wish I could hire someone to sit with me and figure the darn thing out.
Why do we do this, again? I forget.xxx,April
From: Bruce To: April Subject: RE: poem for September 25, 2014
"I wish I could hire someone to sit with me and figure the darn thing out."Unfortunately that is not possible. I, too, wish I could hire someone to fix so many problems but those problems always seem to be ones I need to deal with…not someone else.I hate that part about writing.B
4) Write weird things. Other peoples' brains are as loony as yours. Trust me.
Go ahead, unlock the heavy wooden door in your brain and let the odd stuff out.
|Let the odd stuff out (this odd stuff is from morguefile.com)|
For example, here's a poem I thought no one would get. I wasn't even sure I
got it. And listen to this: my editor didn't throw it out--it's in my book, Girl Coming in for a Landing--a novel in poems
I want to
If I could
make peaches--grow them
from my pen...
or stretching my palms
up to the sun, watch as
they grow from my lifeline,
would be something
drawing and poem (c) 2014 by April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.
Okay, I'm done. I order you to be creative. GO.
And remember, Poetry Friday is at Jama's
Posted by April Halprin Wayland, who thanks you for reading all the way down to the end.
I'm ba-a-a-ck! I have been on sabbatical since the first of the year. In an ironic twist, the person who has written little in nine months has been asked to write a post on---creativity.
I wasn't writing, but I was still teaching my Young Authors Workshops. I did not feel my own creativity entirely dormant, because I was encouraging creativity in my students daily. They, in turn, forced me to explore new ways of thinking about writing.
This year some of my older students are into fan fiction. They are some of the best writers I have ever had. I believe they wrote better because, having their subject pre-selected, they could focus their energy on writing well, and often. They didn't experience the first block that a lot of my students have, finding something to write about.
I don't like giving my writers "prompts." Most of them attend schools where "writing prompts" are given at least once a school day to write about a very specific topic in a "journal." I thought this was a great idea until I learned from my daughter that the "journaling" was done for the five minutes or so the teacher took attendance. The teacher riffled through the notebooks from time to time but never actually read them. By the time students come to Young Authors, they have had it with "writing prompts" and "journaling."
This past summer brought the most challenging groups to my writing workshops. My students are ages 9 through 14. A few were extremely competent writers (one had even been published in a national magazine at age 11!) As I said, some were into fan fiction. There were the superhero fans. Since two of the workshops were during the World Cup, all some could think and write about was soccer. And then there were "the unwilling participants"---the handful that were there because their parents use day camps as daycare--and mine was the only one open that week. I was also working under the handicap that, no matter how the city recreational department described my workshop in the catalog, most of the kids (and all of the parents) were under the impression that it was a remedial writing/grammar/English-as-a-second-language class. (Or as the kids put it "More school.")
How could I get such a diverse group enthusiastic and creative about writing without getting too regimented and "teacher-ish." Focused but not too focused? Structured but not overly so?
First, I gave them permission to write bad first drafts. (Anne Lamott's advice from Bird by Bird, re-rephrased in G-rated terms.) Then, as a fellow TA mentioned last week, I told them not to think too hard. Finally, I gave them "freedom of subject" without letting them know it.
Just as a too specific writing prompt turns my students into a block of ice, unable to proceed with the voice of their language arts teacher echoing in their heads, telling them to "write anything you want" will make half the group also go into freezer mode, because it requires them to come up with something all on their own. I get a lot of kids who have no idea how to create something out of thin air.
So how do you give a prompt without being too general or too specific? Thanks to my students, over the years, I think I have come up with the best prompt. I give it as part of a list of specific prompts, the kind they are used to (and hate.) This is to give them the illusion that they have a choice in topics. (No one has ever picked a decoy prompt.) Then I give them the following suggestion:
If you could be anyone or anything, in any time or place (in this world and time, or another), could do anything you wish, and know you could not fail, who would you be What would you do?
This open-ended, semi-focused prompt seemed to bring out the creativity in everyone. The fan fiction people inserted themselves into their already-created characters and world. The soccer kids became members of World Cup teams. Super heroes made an appearance. Some became time travelers, putting themselves in the historical past, or the unknown future. All of them took this exercise in many directions I had not anticipated. It was great!
This made a great foundation for the students to expand their work. Once they had written three or four pages, it was easy for them to turn the main character (themselves) into something more fictional. Or, in the case of the fan fiction writers, change the pre-packaged main character into something of their own invention. In subsequent drafts we would worry about conflict and subject- verb agreement and logic. The main thing was to get over the initial road blocks to creativity, a blank page and a feeling of restriction.
I am still not back to writing. When I do get out my half-finish WIP, I hope to remember the lessons my students taught me this summer. Don't think too much. Don't sweat the details in the first (or second) drafts. Most of all, I will give myself permission to imagine myself in other time. Another place. Accomplishing what I have only dreamed of, knowing that I cannot fail.
It's good to be back, you guys!.
The ideal circumstances in which you can create include ample free time, an absence of worries, and at least one enthusiastic supporter cheering you on. You might experience that lucky combination—or even two of the three components—once in a very long while.
In your actual life, things break, neighbors need help, and work-as-obligation fills up the hours and then the calendar. The concept of “balance” becomes a glittery myth.
You do what you can. You attend to the broken things. You take care of your neighbors (and we are all neighbors). Joyfully (or sometimes begrudgingly), you pay your dues. You wedge your creative spurts into the cracks, and you relish each happy slice.
You learn to recognize those glorious moments when everything falls into place in spite of the circumstances, and then you get busy. You make hay—or poems or paintings or pots—while the sun shines.
You do your best. And you know what, kiddo?
The quarry road tumbles toward me
out of the early morning darkness,
lustrous with frost, an unrolled bolt
of softly glowing fabric, interwoven
with tiny glass beads on silver thread,
the cloth spilled out and then lovingly
smoothed by my father’s hand
as he stands behind his wooden counter
(dark as these fields) at Tilden’s Store
so many years ago. “Here,” he says smiling,
“you can make something special with this.”
Ted Kooser, Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim HarrisonBook Giveaway
Enter by September 26 for a chance to win an autographed copy of Barbara Krasner’s picture book biography Goldie Takes a Stand!
JoAnn Early Macken
Creativity is tough to define and tougher still to write about. I’m no expert, but I know what works for me, and likely, you know what works for you. So I thought it might be fun to see what a few famous creative people had to say about the subject. I hope one of these nuggets inspires you. I’m putting a few up on my own bulletin board pronto. :)
(Note: I apologize for the wonky spacing you'll see below. It looks perfect on the "compose" page.)
To cultivate creativity:
1. Don’t overthink.
“It’s impossible to explain creativity. It’s like asking a bird, ‘How do you fly?’ You just do.”
–Eric Jerome Dickey
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
“The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.”
“Rational thoughts never drive people’s creativity the way emotions do.”
–Neil deGrasse Tyson
2. Stop worrying that everything you write has to be perfect.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
3. Just do it.
“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.”
“Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the
most extraordinary results in human culture.”
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
4. Believe in your own unique and beautiful mind.
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look
at things in a different way.”
–Edward de Bono
“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”
“Rule of art: Can’t kills creativity!”
5. Trust your instincts…
“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”
…and let yourself go.
“Creativity makes a leap, then looks to see where it is.”
More excellent posts about creativity:http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/08/25/the-psychology-of-writing-daily-routine/http://writerunboxed.com/2014/09/12/the-surprising-importance-of-doing-nothing/
This is my last post for TeachingAuthors. I’ll miss my friends here, as well as you readers who comment to let us know you're reading (that’s always appreciated!). But I’m not disappearing entirely. I’ll be blogging at a new blog called Picture Book Builders, along with seven other published picture book authors and illustrators. Every Tuesday and Friday we'll explore one of the many, many elements that go into the making of great picture books. Hope to see you there! Check us out at www.picturebookbuilders.com
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered Austin Kleon
A great follow-up to Steal Like an Artist, which details how to be discovered.
Basically, find your people (easy to do with the interwebs) share a lot (easy to do with the interwebs) don’t be spammy (being spammy is easy to do with the interwebs) and learn to take criticism and stick it out for the long term.
My favorite part was when he says “No Guilty Pleasures” because he means it in the way that you shouldn’t be guilty about your pleasures--if you like it, embrace it.
I also like his emphasis on teaching and sharing skills and inspirations and opening up work processes as well as work products. I love that aspect of online maker culture right now. (I think Pinterest is great for sharing and discovering other people’s inspirations and work.)
Overall, it’s very practical, hands-on advice on how let other people know you’re out there, making things.
It retains the same vibe and design aesthetic of Steal Like an Artist and the two work really well together.
Book Provided by... my local library
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By: Anna Gratz Cockerille,
Blog: TWO WRITING TEACHERS
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Each year for the past nineteen years, the International Reading Association has published a list of What’s Hot and What’s Not in literacy education in their magazine, Reading Today. The list is based on… Continue reading
Happy Poetry Friday! See the link at the end of this post to this week's round-up.
I'm not sharing a poem today. Instead, I'm continuing our current discussion on creativity. As Jill said in Monday's post: "Creativity is tough to define and tougher still to write about." I agree!
I did find a satisfactory basic definition at OxfordDictionaries:
"Creativity: The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work."
But there are so many facets to creativity that it's hard to encapsulate the concept in one sentence. That's why I loved how Jill shared so many great quotations on the topic in her post. I'd like to add another quote to the list:
“Creation is in part merely the business of forgoing the great and small distractions.”
I came across this E. B. White quote in a book I read recently: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind,
(Amazon Publishing) edited by Jocelyn K. Glei of 99u
. The book is a compilation of quotes, interviews, and essays from experts in productivity and creativity. Interestingly, the tips often overlap with those in the article Jill linked to: "The Psychology of Writing and the Cognitive Science of the Perfect Daily Routine"
by Maria Popova.
I don't believe there really is such a thing as a "perfect daily routine." We are each unique, and what works to activate one person's creativity might stifle someone else's. Also, I often have to adapt my routine to fit what's currently going on in my life. However, I've found 4 specific suggestions in Manage Your Day-to-Day
that are really helping me resist "the great and small distractions": 1. Great Work Before Everything Else: "Do your most meaningful creative work at the beginning of your day, and leave 'reactive work'—like responding to e-mail or other messages—for later."
I recently made a rule for myself: No email before 10 a.m. It's been amazing to me how much this one simple rule has helped. Now instead of getting lost in email for an hour or more at the start of my day, I get lost in my current work-in-progress. Yay! I also have a second, related rule: check email no more than three times per day. This has really helped me be more focused and efficient when I do check email. 2. Jump-Start Your Creativity: "Establish 'associative triggers'—such as listening to the same music or arranging your desk in a certain way—that tell your mind it’s time to get down to work."
I call my "associative triggers" my "writing rituals" and I shared them last March
when we did a series of posts about our writing routines. 3. Feel the Frequency:
"Commit to working on your project at consistent intervals—ideally every day—to build creative muscle and momentum over time."
In the post on my writing rituals
, I talked about how I was in the middle of a "100-day, one hundred words a day (OHWAD) writing challenge." That worked at the time because I was writing a first draft. Now that I'm revising, I've modified it to a "100-day, fifteen minutes a day (FMAD)" challenge. I've committed to work at least 15 minutes/day, six days a week for 100 days. (I don't count my days off in the total.) I deliberately chose a very doable goal--15 minutes--that I could accomplish even when I have a day filled with other commitments. The challenge is working well for me so far: I began revising Chapter One on Day 1. Today is Day 27, and I'm now up to working on Chapter Eight. 4. Make Progress Visible:
"Make your daily achievements visible by saving iterations, posting milestones, or keeping a daily journal."
On Day 1 of my FMAD challenge I created a table in a Word document called Revision Log. In that document, I note such statistics as my start time, time spent, starting page and chapter, ending page and chapter, starting word count, and ending word count. Looking at my log now, I can see that my writing sessions have ranged from 20 minutes to over 2 hours. Without doing the math, I'd guess that I average about an hour a day. (If I wanted to get really fancy, I could put the stats into a spreadsheet and let it calculate my productivity rate.) For me, this log is a great psychological boost because I often fall into the trap of thinking my writing isn't going anywhere when in fact I am making slow, but steady, progress.
These are just four of the suggestions in Manage Your Day-to-Day
that have helped me. Even if none of these ideas appeal to you, I hope that my sharing them here will nudge you into thinking about how to support your own creativity. Are you already happy with your routine/process? If so, we'd love to know what works for you. Please tell us via the comments.
I'll leave you with one last quote, from Jonah Lehrer's Wall Street Journal article "How To Be Creative:"
"But creativity is not magic, and there's no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It's a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it."
Lehrer's article ends with "10 Quick Creativity Hacks" you may be interested in checking out. And for ten tips on how to make more regularly, see "How to Create the Habit of Writing"
by Leo Babauta at Write to Done
Today's the last day to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Barbara Krasner’s picture book biography Goldie Takes a Stand
Now you can head over to be inspired by all the Poetry Friday
poems. This week's round-up is at former TeachingAuthor Laura Salas's blog
I'm a true believer in Julia Cameron's concept of the artist's date, something I've been lucky enough to take advantage of in the last few weeks. But sometimes I like to tweak it up and break the rule of "go somewhere by yourself." Which is exactly what I did with my writer's group last weekend when we went on the Tanoan Studio Tour here in Albuquerque. Tanoan is an exquisite gated community of custom homes built around a golf course and country club. Walking through the immaculately landscaped neighborhoods as we made our way from studio to studio was almost as much fun as seeing the artwork!
|Writer's Group friend Elaine Soto choosing something |
wonderful from Blue Bead Designs.
Altogether we visited nine home studios:
All of the studios generously provided us with snacks, water, and juice (much needed and appreciated by the time we arrived at each stop. The Albuquerque sun becomes pretty hot after an hour or two.). Heat aside, though, it was a glorious day, indeed, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to share it with my writing friends. Thank you everyone for the fun and hospitality! Looking forward to our next adventure.
- Margaret Ferrer makes necklaces and earrings with an ethnic flair. Her company is Blue Bead Designs LLC, and she can be reached at (505) 301-2661.
- Sandy Miller-Lastra and Diana Swanson work in fused glass. Their imaginative designs range from kitchen cupboard pulls to delicate jewelry pendants. Contact Diana at firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 601-4417.
- Carolyn Poole is an artist working in oils as well as other mediums. She paints portraits, landscapes, still life, and . . . pets! Her business postcard features a bull terrier who I swear could double as Swatch of Project Runway. Carolyn's contact info is (505) 828-3909 or email@example.com.
- Brenda Bowman makes contemporary jewelry with semi-precious gemstones and glass beads. One item she had for sale that really stood out for me were her beaded wineglasses. She had wire wrapped the stems in a variety of colorful beads and patterns, an excellent way to know whose glass is whose at parties. Brenda can be contacted at www.brendasjewels.com.
- Debi Housley, Heather Housley, Marie Torres Cimarusti. Debi and Heather made beaded and felted crosses and hair ornaments, and Marie has a series of children's picture books. More info about her books can be seen on Marie's Amazon Page.
- Jessica Bonzon is a quilter. Besides traditional bed quilts, she also has home items such as place-mats, wall hangings and pot holders for sale. She can be reached at Pieces and Patches, (505) 828-1066.
- Karen, Kirsten, and Jenn Swanson had modern paintings, drawings, and decorated bags for sale. The tiny drawstring bags are perfect for storing jewelry purchases!
- Rachel Nelson, the organizer of the tour, was selling wreaths, notecards, and paintings based on her photographs of the Tanoan community. She also very kindly gave visitors drilled pine cones ready to be made into bird feeders. Just smother the cones in peanut butter, roll in birdseed and hang in the garden--how cute is that?
- Gloria Dial Hightower is a local author writing mystery and adventure novels. Her titles include The Cotton Rope Strangler, In Total Darkness, The Shadow Mountain Murders, and her latest, Simon of Cyrene. The first three, a trilogy, are set in a Country Club community--a lot like where we took our tour, LOL! Books can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, (505) 345-7192.
|Fused glass from Sandy Miller-Lastra and Diana Swanson |
All that color was just luscious.
|Blue and orange--always my favorite pair of |
|Fall is in the air with Pieces and Patches.|
Tip of the Day: Taking the time to see what other artists, writers, and craftspeople are creating in their individual fields is just as important as setting aside time for your own work. Whether you take your artist's date on your own, or make it an event to share with friends, just make sure you go. Now is a particularly good time for exploring as there are so many shows and exhibits planned with the holidays in mind. (P.S. Shows make great places to find those holiday gifts, too!)
By: Rachel Frankel,
Blog: Illustration Friday Blog
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This Art Crush entry has truly been a long time coming. I first came across Lisa Congdon by way of Meighan O’Toole’s former art blog and podcast, My Love For You (which is post-worthy in its own right–it was an enormous source of inspiration for me during my college years). While I definitely gravitated to Lisa’s work on a visual level, it was her personal story that drew me in. Freelance illustration had been her second career. She didn’t start painting or making art until she was 31, and here she was, participating in museum-level shows, working with clients like Chronicle Books, and just being a genuine, successful badass. Lisa is not only someone I look up to artistically–she’s also a prime example of a human being.
Lisa’s art career was secondary, after she accumulated over a decade of experience in the education and nonprofit industries. By pure chance, she stumbled into a painting class and began making art of all kinds from that day forward–fueled by pure joy instead of the desire to succeed quickly. Having always been an avid collector, her random ephemera would find their way into countless collages as well as a series of photos, drawings and paintings that would eventually make up her A Collection A Day project. As she continued to develop her craft and share it with the ever-expanding Internet, people began to catch on. Today, she is an accomplished and prolific working artist, blogger, illustrator, public speaker and writer. Some of her most notable clients to date include The Land of Nod, The Museum of Modern Art, Harper Collins, 826 Valencia and Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
Lisa unabashedly tackles the subjects she is most passionate about, and that fearlessness is expressed effortlessly in the execution of her work. She describes herself as a “visual junkie,” and is deeply inspired by patterns, travel, architecture and vintage packaging, just to name a few. A faithful blogger, Lisa writes about her own process in addition to other artists whom she admires, as well as her life “outside the studio,” which includes swimming, biking, sewing, and traveling. In other words, she’s just making all of us look bad! (I only kid.)
One of the reasons I relate to Lisa’s work is due to the versatility and ever-evolving nature of her aesthetic. Certain characteristics like neon hues and her penchant for all things Scandinavian are mainstays, but she continues to branch out and explore all kinds of mediums (block printing and calligraphy, to name a few). These explorations fuel her work and expand her direction, which is most recently geared towards abstract painting. She’s a wonderful example of why you don’t need to narrow yourself down to one specific style (something I often grapple with).
Lisa is quite a unique artist in that she is not only a creator, but a mentor as well. Breaking into freelance illustration can be a challenging and solitary undertaking, and she continues to give her generous time to those who wish to pursue and learn more about the field through classes, speaking engagements and conferences around the country. I first met Lisa at her first Freelance Illustration class at Makeshift Society back in December 2012, and it was one of my most pivotal learning experiences to date.
Lisa recently released her new book, “Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist,” which is a revolutionary and timely answer to the starving artist stereotype. It covers all areas of the freelance artist’s domain, such as photographing fine art, finding printing services, copyright, and diversifying income. It sits on the shelf above my working desk (I like to call it my “VIP” shelf) as I reference it constantly.
On that same note, I’m very excited to be taking Lisa’s “Become A Working Artist” class through CreativeLive next week! You can follow along with the class virtually by RSVPing here.
To listen to Meighan’s podcast with Lisa, click here. I also highly recommend her feature in The Great Discontent.
Follow along with Lisa below:
Purchase Lisa’s books below:
Whatever You Are, Be A Good One
A Collection A Day