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1. To the creative overthinker …

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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 .

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2. Creatively managing your time

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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 .

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3. 1 Page at a Time

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 [...]

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4. Just say “yes” and seize creative opportunity

some-opportunities-only-come-once

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 :

  1. You don’t know where it may lead but it could lead to great things
  2. You don’t know who you might meet but you may meet someone great
  3. You don’t know how you will grow but you’ll build experience along the way
  4. 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 .

 

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5. My No. 1 Tip: Writing by Hand!



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.

By hand.

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

Bobbi Miller

Image from Morguefile




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6. Create your own inspiration creative mood board

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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.

  1. To begin putting your creative mood board together collect a series of images and inspirational materials linked to your chosen theme.
  2. 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.
  3. Stick bits down with patterned washi tape or masking tape to make it more visual and allow you to change things around.
  4. Make it personal and have fun.
  5. 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 .

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7. 4 Reasons to Give Up Writing Creatively...and it's Poetry Friday!

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Howdy, Campers!

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... 

Creativity!

An example of creativity from morguefile.com
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.

My turn!

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

(See what I mean?  Can't he just pretend a little bit that he likes it?)

From: April 
To: Bruce
Subject: Re: poem for September 25, 2014 

Well, damn.

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 (Knopf 2002)!

WRITER: CREATOR

I want to
make something
                         beautiful.

Peaches.

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,

that
would be something
                               beautiful.

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 today!

Posted by April Halprin Wayland, who thanks you for reading all the way down to the end.  

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8. Permission Granted

     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!.

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9. Illustrator & Writer Lisa Congdon.

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:

Website

Twitter

Blog

Instagram

Purchase Lisa’s books below:

Art, Inc.

Whatever You Are, Be A Good One

A Collection A Day

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10. Artist's Date--With Friends!

Writer's Group friend Elaine Soto choosing something
wonderful from Blue Bead Designs.

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! 

Altogether we visited nine home studios:
    1. 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.
    2. 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 creationsx2@juno.com or (760) 601-4417.
    3. 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 crpoole@comcast.net.
    4. 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
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Karen, Kirsten, and Jenn Swanson had modern paintings, drawings, and decorated bags for sale. The tiny drawstring bags are perfect for storing jewelry purchases!
    8. 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?
    9. 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 tomglo@comcast.net, or by phone, (505) 345-7192.
    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.


    Yay! Earrings!

    Fused glass from Sandy Miller-Lastra and Diana Swanson
    All that color was just luscious.

    Blue and orange--always my favorite pair of 
    complementary colors.

    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!)

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    11. 4 Ways I Boost My Creativity


    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.”
    --E.B. White
    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.

    Reminder: 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  (Kar-Ben Publishing)!


    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.

    Happy writing!
    Carmela

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    12. Creative Writing is Not Hot

    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

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    13. Show Your Work

    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

    Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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    14. 5 Secrets for Cultivating Creativity


    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.”
                            –Ray Bradbury

    “The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” 
                                                                    –Pablo Picasso

    “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.”
                                                                               –Scott Adams


    “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
                                       –Edwin Land

    “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
                                                                        –Brene Brown


    3.  Just do it.

        “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.”
                                                                       –Twyla Tharp


    “Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the
    most extraordinary results in human culture.”
                                       –Ken Robinson


    “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.”
                                                                               –Sylvia Plath


    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.”
                                                                               –Bill Moyers


      “Rule of art:  Can’t kills creativity!”
                                       –Camille Paglia


    5.  Trust your instincts…

    “A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”
                                                       –Frank Capra


    …and let yourself go.

    “Creativity makes a leap, then looks to see where it is.”
                                              –Mason Cooley



    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


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    15. On Neighborliness, “Balance,” and the Unpredictable Timing of Creativity: A Note to Myself (and You, Too, If You Need It)

    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?

    That’s enough.

    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 Harrison

    Book Giveaway reminder:
    Enter by September 26 for a chance to win an autographed copy of Barbara Krasner’s picture book biography Goldie Takes a Stand!

    Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Poem Farm. Enjoy!

    JoAnn Early Macken

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    16. International Dot Day – Join in the fun!

    Over 1.5 million children from more than 75 countries have signed up to celebrate International Dot Day in their classrooms and individually. It is a day of COLLABORATION and CREATIVITY across the globe. Peter Reynolds says, “the theme for this year’s … Continue reading

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    17. It's International Dot Day!


    It’s International Dot Day!


    Inspired by Peter H. Reynold’s picture book the dot (Candlewick Press, September 15, 2009), the event, like the book itself, celebrates creativity, courage and collaboration, encouraging each of us to make our mark and see where it takes us.

    If you don’t know Reynolds’ book,
    run, don’t walk, to your local library to check it out (literally and figuratively), then to your local bookstore to make it your own.
    I promise you: the story of a caring teacher who dares her doubting student Vashti to trust her own abilities and bravely “make her mark” speaks volumes to all of us, no matter our age, no matter our role.
    My very well-worn copy has seen five years of readings.
    It’s my go-to book to launch school workshops, writing classes and presentations.
    It’s my recommended Rx/gift combo to anyone setting out to mine his own treasure.

    FYI: at last count, 1,677,200 human beings from 79 countries around the world have already registered to celebrate International Dot Day.
    Why not join them?
    The more the merrier.

    You can start by downloading the free EducatorsHandbook.
    For inspiration, view the videos to learn how others celebrate the date.
    Stop by the The Celebri-dots blog to read about the works of some famous creative souls, many of whom are children’s book authors.
    And visit TheDot Gallery to see what’s been created so far.

    And stay connected with Dot Day participants.
    Connect the dots via
    the Dot Day Facebook page,
    Twitter
    (use the hashtags #DotDay, #Makeyourmark)
    SKYPINGopportunities
    and Pinterest.

    Really and truly, there is no excuse NOT to be celebrating International Dot Day, not just today but all year long.

    I found my own participation in International Dot Day – i.e. creating this post, nothing less than delicious and had planned to sign off by RE-using the above Mason Dots to spell out my name, perhaps even on the dotted line.

    Since that is no longer possible, and I bet you know why, I offer up the following, courtesy of Mr. Samuel F. B. Morse.

                                           -- .- -.- . / -.-- --- ..- .-. / -- .- .-. -.-
    (Click here, input the above, hit TRANSLATE, then PLAY to listen!)

    Enjoy! Enjoy! Vashti and I are cheering you on!
    Esther Hershenhorn

    P.S.
    I was surprised to learn how few green and yellow dots there are in your typical box of Mason Dots.

    P.P.S.
    Don't forget to enter our Rafflecopter Book Giveway to win a copy of Barbara Krasner's picture book biography of Golda Meir GOLDIE TAKES A STAND! GOLDA MEIR'S FIRST CRUSADE.


     



     

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    18. #653 – Woodland LItter Critters ABC by Patience and Robert Mason

    HAPPY GRANDPARENTS DAY!

    wood;and llitter critters ABCx

    x

    Woodland Litter Critters ABC

    Written by Patience Mason
    Illustrated by Robert Mason
    Patience Press 6/01/2014
    978-1-892220-10-3
    Age 2 to 5 32 pages
    x
    x

    “The Litter Critters were all found hiding by Patience Mason. As they gather to watch the sunset at the shady river the Litter critters introduce young children to the alphabet.”

    Opening

    “Near the shady river at the end of the day, Andy Acorncap ambled along.”

    The Story

    Here is how it happens: Clarice the Caterpillar is long and sleek and singing a song as she watches the sun set. Greta the Giant Gnat buzzes as Luisa and Leif Liveoak, with their long legs and huge feet, dance and put on a show. I doubt anyone is looking at the Nut Family, the bunch of show-offs. Certainly not Rupert the Reindeer, he is too shy to look at anyone. Sarah Sweetgumball, who only wants to fly, keeps both her eyes upon one-eyed Tilly Thistlebottom instead of the setting sun. Tilly likes to bounce around the ground.

    Wallie the Walking stick towers over the Volt Vines’ family, whose ties are a tangled mess. Blue, one-eyed Xat and his master Xerxes the Xenos are the only foreigners, having flow in from the stars or maybe even Mars. Finally, everyone gathers around Zippy the Zygodactyl to watch the sun make its final descent and disappear. And that is how it happens most every evening.

    FG

    Review

    As the day slowly winds down, various woodland creatures—litter critters—watch the sun set. From Andy Acorncap to Zippy the Zygodactyl, various critters from A to Z teach young children their ABC’s and a little about creativity. The author created each of these critters from various pieces of the woods that fall upon the ground, hence “litter” critters. Each is remarkably lifelike in appearance.

    These critters are cute with their twig arms and legs, acorn bodies, and various decorations. Most of us walk over these cast-off pieces, never thinking at all about the possibility these could be critters. Patience Mason doesn’t think this way. Instead of stepping on the twigs and nuts, leaves and scattered seeds, she sees hiding woodland critters waiting for her to pick them up and give them life once more. These critters look real. Patience has done a remarkable job putting each together with imagination and creativity. Any child could do the same, though not at her level of artistry. Yet, with a little help, kids could create all sorts of litter critters never before seen. There is no artificial coloring added to any critter. Critters like Mike Magnoliacone and Greta the Giant Gnat, get their color naturally—Mike from magnolia cone seeds; Greta from sparkleberry leaves.

    UV

    An unusual feature in Woodland Litter Critters ABC, aside from all the critters, is the ABC’s are not only in upper case, as in every other ABC book, but also in lower case. Children can walk into their first day of school knowing both and be ahead of the class.

    I think kids will enjoy looking at each critter, trying to find them in subsequent pages, and possibly making their own. In fact, I cannot imagine any child who reads Woodland Litter Critters ABC not wanting to make its own critters. For families that have a creative day, this is an ideal book. The possibilities are endless. While this is not a craft book, there are certainly many ideas represented for kids to follow or mix up. Woodland Litter Critters ABC is the most imaginative and creative ABC book I have ever seen. The pages are not thick as in most ABC books, but torn pages are worth the risk to introduce your child to the likes of Ulysses Unicorn and Elvis Evergreen (with wife Elvira).

    Z

    WOODLAND LITTER CRITTERS ABC. Text copyright © 2014 by Patience Mason. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Robert Mason. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Patience Press, High Springs, FL.

    Purchase Woodland Litter Critters ABC at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPatience Press—your favorite bookstore.

    See the individual creatures of Woodland Litter Critters ABC HERE
    Meet the author, Patience Mason, at her website:   http://patiencepress.com/patience_press/Welcome.html
    Meet the illustrator, Robert Mason, at his website:   http://www.robertcmason.com/
    Find other books at the Patience Press website:   http://patiencepress.com/

    Also by Patience Mason

    Recovering from the War

    Recovering from the War

     

     

     

     

     

    Also by Robert Mason

    Chickenhawk

    Chickenhawk

    Chickenhawk Back in the World

    Chickenhawk Back in the World

    Solo

    Solo

    Weapon

    Weapon

     

    x

     

     

     

     

    woodland litter critter ABC

    Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


    Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: ABC's, children's book reviews, creativity, outdoors, Patience Mason, Patience Press, picture book, Robert Mason, woods

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    19. Making the most of your sketchbooks

    Elizabeth Caldwell

    Being creatives we all get lost in the blank pages of our oh so faithful sketchbooks, before putting pen to paper we’re filled with anticipation of the ideas we have within our creative minds that are yet to spill across our page.  As they begin to fill with endless inky pieces of potential and piles of scribbled sketchbooks are formed over time they can often become lost sat within a draw of your studio out of sight. Although sometimes it’s breaking out those old books that can help you creatively in ways you don’t always quite realise. So here are a few reasons to brush the dust off your sketchbooks and reminisce a little in past potential you’ve made.

     

    1. They’re proof of how far you’ve come: Your sketchbooks are filled with your thoughts and scribbles and it’s these that also make them memories of your creative growth.  You might one day find yourself thinking “My illustration/design/painting/photography isn’t quite as detailed or good as these creatives” and sometimes we take for granted just how far we have come on our creative journey.  So look back on your own childhood, high school, college or university sketchbooks and see just how far you’ve come, just how hard you’ve worked and you may even surprise yourself with how talented you really are. In turn this is sure to boost your belief in yourself and blow your little inner critic away.

     

    1. Fruits for new inspiration : If at times you’re feeling lost for ideas or aren’t quite sure where to find your inspiration for a new and exciting project then flipping through the pages of your sketchbook might just help you find it. Sometimes we can forget where we found our fruit for ideas but in that little sketchbook may be a scribbled motif that can help you grow a collection of beautiful patterns, illustration for a book, painting and much more. Recycle your old ideas and make them into something amazing and new because your style and skills are forever growing it’s sure to look different than it did before.

     

    1. Rediscover old techniques:  I remember during college days we were encouraged to experiment as much as we could with a vast array of arty materials and techniques to expand on the potential of what we create. Combining watercolours, print making or markers with ink might have helped you to create a beautifully detailed project or give you a texture or effect you’re looking for. It’s little things like these that may just be the finishing element needed for an upcoming project or simply for you to try something a little different.

     

    So it just goes to show how good your sketchbooks can be after all and gives you an even better reason to treasure them and not throw them away. Image by designer illustration  Elizabeth Caldwell you can find out more about her work here .

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    20. Typographer & Font Designer Drew Melton

    Ok, I’ll save you the spiel about how deeply I’ve fallen in love with typography and lettering, as that should be fairly obvious by now. Drew Melton‘s work essentially speaks for itself. His deeply expressive fonts and lettering demonstrate the importance of hand-drawing into the design process. Even in the sharpest, finalized versions of his work, you’ll a spontaneity that’s unmistakably fun and energetic.

    Drew is an L.A.-based graphic designer and typographer who’s worked with clients like McCann, Nike, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Penguin Books. He’s had quite the interesting journey to success in the lettering realm, some of which is marked by serious self-reflection and the ability to remain humble.

    One of the things that hurled him into the design spotlight was his Phraseology project, started with a few other designers and developers in 2011. Very similar to Erik Marinovich’sFriends of Type blog, Phraseology offers the public a chance to submit any word or phrase to be designed by members of the team. Soon enough, Drew was being commissioned for some big-time typography work by notable clients.

    Unfortunately, with that exciting attention also came some consequences. As much as I admire Drew’s hand at lettering, I might be even more enamored with his grace and honesty about his past mistakes.

    In January 2013, Drew bravely posted a public apology on his blog to several typographic designers, including Jessica Hische, Jon Contino, Dana Tanamachi, and Darren Booth, for drawing inspiration from their styles in ways that were not entirely “okay.” He spoke openly about his guilt and sadness at realizing that his creative process had been built too closely upon the examples of his heroes, and that his heroes were now upset with him.

    The topic of creative originality is probably one of the most sensitive. It’s something that is constantly under debate and argued by strong opinions. I’m a strong believer that nothing is purely unique, especially in this day and age. It’s the nature of craft and evolution to build upon an existing idea. But in an age when visual information is so widely accessible, when an illustrator or designer can essentially educate themselves by opening their web browser–it’s up to the creative to draw the line between inspiration and imitation.

    It’s a testament to Drew’s work ethic and passion for the art of typography that he was still able to gain success after this admission. Even while he struggled to define his style in the beginnings of his career, it’s clear that he’s succeeded.

    Drew is now focusing on font development in addition to personal design and typography. Some of my favorite fonts of his are LastraHandsome, and Magnifique.

    I highly recommend Drew’s interview with the Australian Graphic Supply Company (a previous Art Crush feature), as well as his feature (along with this wife, stylist and co-creative Kelsey Zahn) on Rverie. Follow along with Drew here:

    Website Blog Twitter Dribbble

     

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    21. Steal Like an Artist

    Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative Austin Kleon

    Who ever had this one checked out before me left a some sticky arrows in the front cover, which was good, because I ended up using them.

    This book is a short read--lots of graphics, fun typography, and white space, with some good advice about how to be creative and make your art.

    Kleon’s basic point is that nothing is new anymore, so steal inspiration from things you enjoy. As he reminds us, even the Beatles started as a cover band. Also, if you steal from 1 person, that’s plagiarism. Stealing from many is research.

    He tells the reader to think about the flaws you see in your favorite artists work--what could have been done differently? If they were still alive, what would they make today? If your 5 favorite artists got together and made something, what would it be? And then he tells us to go make those things.

    I also like that he tells us to give our secrets away. Part of it is building a name for yourself, but he also reminds us that Martha Stewart built an empire on telling the world how she does stuff.

    It was a great read and well-designed, with a lot of advice and inspiration on how to go out and make art. I really loved it and now I need my own copy to mark up and reread on a regular basis.

    Book Provided by... my local library

    Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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    22. How to develop your own style?

    b0880991a3dd35fff7d0df7e83c9719e

    Whether you’re an inky illustrator, a passionate painter, daring doodler, pro photographer or more finding that one of a kind style to be known for can sometimes seem a tad tricky to find. No doubt I’m not alone when I say that we can sometimes find ourselves gazing in amazement at the many other creative people in our field and think to ourselves “how am I going to get where they are”.  There may be a creative in particular whom you find yourself admiring both for their style and success acquired because they’re so individual, niche and unique at what they do. So your next head scratching question maybe “how can I develop my own style?” and develop it in a way that is going to make you different to all the other talented creative people in the world, because you yourself are one of a kind and have your own creative imagination to share. Well to answer your question here’s a few points I came up with to think about that may just help you creatively along the way;

    • Know that your style is forever developing and changing along the way

     

    • Your style will have characteristics, textures and a uniqueness of its own so don’t be to concern that it’s nothing like the next guy’s because originality is important

     

    • Discovering your own taste and stick to those tastes this can be anything from techniques to materials or the subject’s you draw, but don’t be afraid to explore beyond that ( don’t get scared to go out of your comfort zone).

     

    • Your style will reflect the kind of work you may want to be commission for, for example do you have a love for the human form, creating portraits of little characters or maybe alternatively you prefer to create sophisticated patterns with lots of colour.

    Deep down your style is there you just need to create more to see it and then you can share it with others. Image by designer Lindsay Letters you can find out more about their work here.

    0 Comments on How to develop your own style? as of 8/17/2014 6:17:00 AM
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    23. The Darkness We Need To Make Visible - Lucy Coats




    The sad suicide of Robin Williams last week has sparked another 'conversation' in the press and on social media about mental illness - and more particularly about the link between creativity and depression. 

    I think this 'conversation' - and the dispelling of ignorance and myths about these conditions by those of us who are sufferers speaking out honestly - is very important indeed. It is, if you like, the inner and unseen darkness we need to make visible, which is why I have written before, both here and elsewhere, about my own battles with the Beast of chronic depression and how, in some of those darker moments, I turn to writing poetry as a way to battle the demons. Externalising them on paper is, for me at least, a way of dispersing some of their power over me. 

    Sometimes, though, when the despair becomes a deep physical paralysis, even the act of writing a single word seems impossible, and it at those times that the 'world would be better off without me' thoughts creep in. To the 'well brain' this is inexplicable - but the 'well brain' of a depressive is not always in charge. That is what the people who accuse Williams of 'selfishness' need to understand. Suicide, where mental illness is concerned, is not a choice. It is the last, most desperate act of a despairing brain which just wants the demons to stop eating it.


    When I was first officially diagnosed with depression, I had a deep need to find a way to understand it which avoided medical jargon (to which I am deeply allergic). Being a writer, I turned to other writers to see what their experiences were - and how they had coped. The first name which came up was William Styron, whose book, 'Darkness Visible', about his own journey through depression became my manual. The title comes from Milton's 'Paradise Lost'
    'No light, but rather darkness visible served only to discover sights of woe'
    Writing is, for the most part, a solitary profession. In my case, I mostly sit in a room, on my own, making stuff up and setting the visions that churn around in my head down on a screen. It is hardly surprising that, living as I do in a daily creative world where evil Egyptian crocodile deities demand human sacrifices, immortal beasts battle horrid heroes and skeleton dragons with flaming red eyes menace innocent children, my own mind should sometimes rise up against me.  

    Every writer, whether with depression or without, will know that little nagging head voice which tells us that what we do is unutterably useless and pointless. Styron describes his thought processes 'being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world.' Reading those words was, for me, a recognition akin to a light being turned on in a dark room. When I first read Styron's book I did what I never do (being a respecter of the sanctity of the printed page). I underlined and made comments and wrote 'YES!!' in large capitals in many places. I have scribbled a lot more on it since. I felt as if, finally, I had found a fellow wanderer in an empty desert who could describe not only what and how I was feeling, but also do it in words simple and direct enough that others--those 'healthy people' on the outside of this condition--might be able to understand too. When Styron speaks of the 'weather of depression', I understand precisely what he means. For him its light is a 'brownout', for me a greyish fog impossible to see anything in except blurred shapes and outlines.

    It's hard for me to describe how strengthening and comforting it felt to read something which made sense of my own experience, and which reminded me gently of how many other writers have been in the depths of the pit too. Shakespeare certainly understood it - how else would he have written Hamlet? Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Camus, Manley Hopkins, Beethoven, Van Gogh - these and so many more were troubled by the Beast, so I am in hallowed company when I travel through Dante's 'dark wood'. 

    For now, I am in a stable place, where it is possible to 'riveder le stelle' - to 'behold the stars once more.'. But when the Beast visits again (as it inevitably will, because that is its nature) I will try to remind myself that I am not alone. 

    Captain Beastlie's Pirate Party is now out from Nosy Crow!
    "What right-minded child could resist his allure?" Books for Keeps
    Lucy's brand new Website and blog
    Follow Lucy on Facebook 
    Follow Lucy on Twitter
    Lucy is represented by Sophie Hicks at The Sophie Hicks Agency

    0 Comments on The Darkness We Need To Make Visible - Lucy Coats as of 8/19/2014 2:49:00 AM
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    24. Inspired by Caine's Arcade

    Perhaps you know and love the story of 9 year-old Caine's cardboard arcade, and what happened when a filmmaker stopped at his dad's used auto parts store in East LA to buy a door handle for his car.

    But do you know what has happened since then?




    In case you don't have time to watch right now, I'll summarize:

    This whole thing got huge. Caine's college fund has exploded into The Imagination Foundation, a "non-profit to foster creativity and entrepreneurship in more kids like Caine."

    There's a Global Cardboard Challenge going on in September and culminating in a Day of Play on Saturday, October 11.

    Let's save a bunch of boxes, give our kids time to make stuff with them, and then share our photos and videos #cardboardchallenge.

    Genius Hour, here we come!




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    25. Unlocking your creative energy

    Yvette de Beer will facilitate the workshop. Venue: Witbank Dam (Address will be sent to respondents) Date: Tuesday 15 April 2014 Time: 10:00 - 15:00 Cost: R80 SCBWI members, R150 non-members RSVP: By 8 April to Jenny at SCBWI.SA.Gauteng@mweb.co.za Yvette de Beer will facilitate a workshop using mixed media, drawing, painting and collage. Please note: • We will organise lifts so that

    0 Comments on Unlocking your creative energy as of 9/5/2014 11:34:00 AM
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