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Deciding what to draw or paint every day can be just as worrisome as wondering what to write. That's why I rely on my grab-bag of prompts for both activities, whether they're from magazine cut-outs, art history books, or my handy pile of themed index cards.
Today I thought I'd share some of my favorite idea-starters, ones that can be used for artwork or sketching practice as well as steering clear of the writing doldrums:
- Illustrate a fairy tale. It helps to choose a story you truly love, but if, on the other hand, you feel that "Sleeping Beauty" or "Little Red Riding Hood" have been over-done, or are too iconic, try choosing an unfamiliar tale, one from a culture foreign to your own, or one you've made up!
- Collage your current goals. Magazines are a great way to find your initial pictures, but don't overlook the hidden gems you might discover in junk mail, retail catalogs, or business brochures.
- Last night's dream. Although it can be fun to reproduce the objects and scenes from a dream, I personally find it more evocative to paint the mood of my dreams. Fortunately, I have always dreamed in color, but even if you're a person who dreams in black-and-white, you can still explore what you think the colors of your dream would be if they appeared on paper.
- A still life of five random objects. Don't think--just gather items without judging or evaluating their artistic worth. Your job is to arrange the items in such a way that they take on a whole new life and meaning. Aim for, "Wow! I never thought of that before!"
- Copy an Old Masters painting in pencil. Don't be overwhelmed if the painting you've chosen to copy is too big, too detailed, or just plain old "too good." Instead, play with line work, blocking out the composition, or a portion of the picture, e.g., a section of drapery, the trees in the background, the hands in a portrait.
- Cut up or tear a reproduction or photocopy of an Old Masters painting and turn it into a collage. Pay special attention to the colors and themes of any materials or ephemera you add to your composition. Try some startling contrasts or harmonious blending.
- Your hand holding an object. Sometimes when I'm really stuck for subject matter I'll simply draw my hand and wrist. To make the exercise more lively, I've started adding objects to the mix: my pen, a toy, a cup of tea. Often these drawings can be the equivalent of a complete, but much-less complicated, self-portrait.
- Draw or paint a landscape with only two colors. Limiting yourself to a two-color palette can be a fun and inspiring choice. Will you use complementary colors (say, red and green), warm vs. cool colors, or two shades from the same range, for instance a light violet paired with a darker purple? It's interesting to note how the colors you pick can often speak more loudly than an entire rainbow of color.
- Collage with black-and-white photos. Make photocopies or prints of vintage photographs, whether from your own family or those found in used bookstores or thrift stores. Tell a visual story; then add writing or calligraphy to embellish the composition. Alternatively, you can use the pieces to make a strong and surreal abstract.
- Cut shapes out of various colors of construction paper. Then arrange them into interesting designs you either glue to paper and paint over, or use as a reference to copy and turn into a separate, and original, piece.
- Draw to music. Never fails. Whether you're doodling or painting a masterpiece worthy of gallery space, listening to music while you work is a great way to loosen up and fully express yourself.
- Read a poem. Then paint your feelings, or illustrate your favorite line(s).
Many, if not all, of these ideas can easily be turned into writing prompts. For instance, rather than painting a fairy tale, try rewriting one like I did with "Little Goldie"-- my take on "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Happy creating!
Tip of the Day: Write these and any other prompts you can think of on scraps of paper. Fold each one into a square, then place it into a jar or bowl to select at random each day. Be sure to keep the prompts when you're finished; repeating the exercises with new subjects, mediums, and approaches is a valuable practice in itself.
© William Cho
I visited the studio of an abstract painter once. There was a group of us. All the others were painters; I was the only writer. We started flicking through a portfolio of abstract paintings, and I have to say that they all looked much the same to me: like wallpaper samples. But every now and again when the next painting was revealed, these other painters would collectively say: “Ah! Now that’s interesting!” Their reactions were spontaneous and genuine – and I realized then that they were seeing something that I was missing.
I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve come to understand that appreciating abstract art is about how a painting makes you feel. It’s not about what you think it is. But this is a difficult mindset to get into. Like a lot of people, I like to understand something. I like to know what it’s about. I need to be able to articulate what it is telling me. I’m not used to asking myself how a painting makes me feel.
I visited another abstract painter’s studio yesterday. She had a canvas leaning up against the wall that looked unfinished to me. There was an outline of what could have been the figure of a woman in the middle, and a pool of yellow in one corner and some bright splashes in the other. I wanted to know what it was about: was the woman falling? Was this the sky and this the ground? Which way up was it supposed to be? I wanted to be about something – I wanted to understand the message. “It’s not about anything,” said the artist. “It’s what it is, that’s all.”
A Young Lady's Adventure by Paul Klee
This painter works by feeling. She doesn’t know what she’s going to paint before she starts a canvas, she only knows the colours she wants to use, and which brushes. Then she’ll ‘play around’ until some combination of colours appears that she can ‘have a conversation with’. Then she follows the conversation to see where it leads – which might be nowhere. Or it might become something bigger than she herself was capable of, if she’d tried to impose a plan on it beforehand.
Painting and writing are both creative activities, and I recognized parallels in how she described her process. I know that my trouble with writing is that I need to know where it’s heading, I need to know what the message is, well before it appears. I know that this inhibits my creativity, and presents me from feeling the ‘conversation’ that the book might want to have with me. I asked her how she managed it. “The first thing you have to do,” she said, “is stop. Then, you have to feel with your heart where you need to go next. You need to be playful, you need to be brave, and you need to take risks. And you mustn’t be afraid to make mistakes.”I know she’s right. The best stuff is always the stuff that we never intended to write about. The best things can’t be articulated, and the most wonderful thing about writing fiction is when a story surprises you, and turns out – to your delight – better than you feel you could have made it. The same process would seem to apply both to painting and to writing – and also, in fact, to life.
By: Valerie Storey
Blog: Valerie Storey, Writing at Dava Books
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I'm a big fan of morning pages, but there are definitely times when I need a break. It's not that I don't find the pages useful, but every now and then I need to shake up my routine and make life more . . . exciting.
One of the ways I thought of doing that was to start my day with a "mini-project" instead of the usual three handwritten pages Julia Cameron recommends in The Artist's Way. I got the idea from a gardening book that mentioned how Renoir painted a single rose every day before tackling his main work-in-progress. I don't know if I could stick to a regimen that centered on a single subject, but I can certainly appreciate the need for a warm-up exercise. With that in mind I sat down and brainstormed what might work for me--and for you, too!
Tip of the Day: At the end of the month, collect all these mini-projects and use them to create a larger piece, or to inspire you in some fresh way. For instance, a sketchbook of mannikin poses could be the basis for a new children's book. The stacked journal entries could be part of a framed collage. At the same time, examine what you enjoyed writing or drawing the most. Did you have a favorite theme, color, or medium? Take note and keep exploring.
- Write a structured poem such as a sonnet, pantoum, or ghazal. Base the poem on last night's dream.
- Cut three pictures with a similar theme or subject from a magazine. For example, 3 pictures featuring purple. Or three pictures of dogs, or children, recipes, etc.
- Collage a three-page character bio--for either an existing character or a new one.
- Play with watercolor brushstrokes: random colors, patterns, feelings.
- Sketch one item only, e.g. a cup, an apple, a toy--using a single medium.
- Write three pages of dialogue.
- Place an artist's mannikin in a fresh pose every day. Record the poses in a single sketchbook used only for this purpose.
- A quick sketch of where you are right now. Try a different color of pencil or ink for each day.
- Write a stacked journal entry in three colors of ink.
- Clay: make a small pinch pot, egg cup, votive, bead, dipping bowl, soap dish, or incense holder.
- Three pages of flash fiction.
- Mini-collage on a piece of junk mail.
- Set a timer and create a new Polyvore set or Pinterest Board in twenty minutes or less.
Author: Nick Bantock
Publisher: Perigree Trade
Genre: Art / Creativity
Buy it at Amazon
When our creativity seems to have deserted us and we feel like we’re making the same piece of art over and over again, it helps to have a fresh perspective. Exercises designed to pull us away from the rut we’re stuck in can point us in a new and exciting direction. Nick Bantock knows all about these ruts, and has provided us with a guide to getting unstuck.
The forty-nine exercises in this book provide unexplored territory for our creativity to run riot. Using magazines, paint, postage stamps, and other assorted collage materials, we’re encouraged to be haphazard in our approach and to think outside the box. Our intent is not to produce art, but we may be surprised by the results of our activities.
Although this book is written for all forms of creativity, those who specialize in the visual arts will probably find it most helpful. Other creative folks won’t have some of the materials on hand or a good understanding of the concepts presented, but may still enjoy dabbling in unfamiliar territory as a means of loosening blocks. The Trickster’s Hat is chock full of fun projects that will stimulate the creative urge and open us to new possibilities.
Reviewer: Alice Berger
QUIZ: ARE YOU READY TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOK?
- How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
- Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It's not just kids.
- Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
- Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
- Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?
Don't start writing that picture book until you know these crucial concepts. GET THE ANSWERS HERE
If you want a career in writing, you must keep the stories coming. In the midst of life, with all its ups and downs, words need find their way onto paper. Here’s how to keep the characters talking to you.
- Create an office. Even if you don’t have a separate room, create some sort of office space. You need a consistent place to keep your computer, your drafts and supplies. Even if it’s a box that sits under your bed until you need it, don’t waste your precious time collecting supplies.
- Instant Success. Do something small that will give you success. Perhaps just a character description or a description of a setting. A bit of dialogue. Start and end each day with something that you know you can complete.
- Use psychology. Tell yourself that you only need to write for five minutes. Quickly get into the flow and when you finally stop, you’ve likely done twenty minutes. The key is to keep writing no matter what. If you don’t’ know what to type, try this: I don’t know what to write next. Repeat that 100 times if you have to until it turns into something else. Believe me, you’ll get so bored with that phrase that you’ll write something else.
- Plan marathons. Kids are spending the night with someone and the hubby is going hunting? Bingo. It’s time for a writer’s marathon. Star as soon as the house clears out and write until late into the night. Get up early and repeat as long as you can. Marathons like this can jump start a big project, or get you through those rough spots.
Plan a writing marathon to jump start a project or to finish your novel.
- Turn off the internal editor. Write, do not revise. Keep the flow of writing going and ignore the internal editor when s/he wants to stop and look up facts or check a dictionary for spelling. This isn’t the time for that. Instead, let the story flow.
- Stop early. Some writers swear by this technique: stop writing in the middle of a sentence and pick up right there on the next day. It makes sense. Just competing the thought gets your head back into the story and it’s easy to move on from there.
- Don’t wait. Are you waiting until you get answers to a bit of research or until you figure out a plot point? Instead, write and trust the process. Trust that there will be tidbits to save out of whatever you write.
- Trust your instinct. Don’t worry so much! And certainly don’t think about what a reader or an editor will say at this point. Just write. Trust your storytelling ability and write. Trust your sense of story. Trust your choice of words. Write, write, write.
Happy New Year, Everyone! Let's make it the best ever.
Usually at this time of year I list my writing goals, but for 2014 I only have two: to edit and submit my two current WIP's--one fiction, one nonfiction--for publication. That's it! Not that I won't be having some fun and entertainment in between marketing sessions, however, because 2014 is the year I plan to go much more deeply into my artwork.
This is particularly significant for me as my 2013 Christmas gift to myself was to renew my (very lapsed) membership in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
, not just as a writer, but as an illustrator,
A big step, I can tell you.
My theme for the year will center on animals and what I can best describe as "seasonal illustrations," pictures that portray and define the various months of the year and what they mean to me: winter snow, autumn leaves, spring flowers. To help me stay motivated and on track with this project, I've set myself a game-plan that will focus on a single medium every month:
- January: Conté brand products, both crayon and pencils.
- February: Mixed media and collage.
- March: Pastels; including soft stick pastels, pan pastels, and pastel pencils.
- April: Charcoal.
- May: Colored pencil.
- June: Graphite--all shapes and sizes..
- July: Watercolor.
- August: Rubber stamping (with collage and mixed media backgrounds).
- September: Oil pastel.
- October: Water-soluble pencils (both watercolor and graphite pencils).
- November: Pen and ink.
- December: Acrylic. (The scary one--I've left it for last, LOL!)
Sound fun? I think so! One of the reasons I decided to try this approach is that over the years I've acquired so many different art supplies that I thought it was time to a) stop buying anything new, and b) find out which ones I really like and which ones I can live without. At least that's the plan--hope I can stick to it, and I hope you'll be inspired to venture into a creative project of your own this year. Let me know what you find!Tip of the Day:
What would you like to explore in 2014 that's outside of your usual comfort zone? Jewelry, pottery, archaeology? I'd love to know--drop me a line, either as a comment here, or at my Facebook page.
Looking forward to what you have to share. Best wishes for a great year ahead.
My long-suffering Facebook Friends heard me go on at length yesterday about the 120 plus or minus cupcakes I had to ice and box up. During a roughly 6-hour period I also made an additional two-dozen cupcakes that didn't need icing as well as some mini-meatloaves and asparagus for dinner.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Gail. But did you do any writing?
I did some yesterday morning. And that led to something happening yesterday during my cupcake binge.
While I was revising a chapter yesterday morning, I realized that a lot of what I was reading was similar to what I'd read in the chapter before. I felt that the new chapter was necessary because it dealt with the protagonist's parents' response to what he was doing. But this is a mystery, and the details being discussed had all appeared in the chapter before. If I couldn't come up with a new significant step in the story, I might need to eliminate a section. If I eliminated a section, I might be left with a hole in the plot that would need to be filled.
While I was working on cupcakes, the significant step I needed came to me. I had a breakout experience. With breakout experiences it's easy to focus on the breakout, because that idea/thought is so important. But the breakout can't come without some input first. You take in information, work to a point at which nothing more is happening for you, then let your brain relax with a totally different activity. Like icing and fancying up cupcakes.
So the work/input is important, maybe the most important part of the process.The more you work, the more opportunities you have for breakout experiences. Conversely, the less you work, the fewer opportunities you'll have for those breakouts. Writing every day won't insure a daily breakout experience, but it increases your opportunities for having them at some point.
In fact, writing every day helps make it possible for you to keep working when you're not, technically, working because you're relaxed brain is doing something with the material you provided it with earlier in the day.
Author: Lee Crutchley
Publisher: Perigree Trade
Buy it at Amazon
Do you have trouble starting a new creative project? Is the blank canvas or screen too intimidating to face, so you try to avoid it? Do you wish and hope you could be an artist, but never follow through on your dreams? If so, The Art of Getting Started might be able to help you in your creative pursuits.
This unique book on jump-starting creativity doesn’t spoon-feed good ideas and suggestions for moving past blocks. Instead, it’s chock-full of exercises designed to get you out of your head and onto the page. While encouraging us to make messes and allow our work to be less than perfect, it forces us to take action and not sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.
It’s risky to start a new project when we don’t know the outcome. But if we never start, we can never know the joy of completion and the chance of success. If you work through the exercises in this book, you may find some of your creative blocks vanishing, leaving you free to create.
Reviewer: Alice Berger
Author: Julia Cameron
Genre: Creativity / Parenting
Buy it at Amazon
The Artist’s Way is one of the best-selling and most helpful books on developing creativity. But a special book was needed to help parents teach their children to honor their own creative gifts. In The Artist’s Way for Parents, Julia Cameron shares some of the secrets she learned in being the parent of a creative daughter.
The basic structure of this volume is similar to other “Artist’s Way” books. Broken down into twelve chapters with headings such as Cultivating Curiosity, Cultivating Limits, and Cultivating Independence, Cameron explores sub-topics within this framework. An exercise for parents and/or children is included after each lesson. Familiar tools are utilized, such as morning pages and creative expeditions (artist’s dates) along with something new – sharing highlights of the day with your child.
Allowing a child to have a safe environment to create in is key to maximizing his highest potential. But this may not come naturally, and guidance from an expert can be helpful. If you want to nurture your child in exploring his creativity, The Artist’s Way for Parents would be a valuable resource. I highly recommend this book and the others in the “Artist’s Way” collection by Julia Cameron.
Reviewer: Alice Berger
Blog: Kid Lit Reviews
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Today, September 15th-ish is INTERNATIONAL DOT DAY! DOT Day celebrates Creativity, Courage & Collaboration! .. Peter H. Reynolds wrote a picture book called The Dot! After teacher Terry Shay showed The Dot to his classroom on September 15, 2009. From there DOT Day was born! From Peter H. Reynolds: Imagine the power and potential of a …
International Dot Day is a celebration of creativity around the globe, inspired by Peter H. Reynolds' book, The Dot.
I was invited to contribute to the Celebri-Dots gallery, and came up with the image above.
To authors and illustrators: If you're interested in contributing a Celebri-dot to help inspired young people, here's more info.
September 15 is International Dot Day, when over 1 million teachers and students, inspired by Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot, plan to celebrate “teaching and learning with creativity”. This is my mark — see others by some of your favorite authors and illustrators here, at “Celebri-dots“.
Suggested Reading, Picture Books About Art and Imagination: Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar, The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven, I Want to Paint My Bathroom Blue by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak, Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty, How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird by Jacques Prevert and Mordicai Gerstein.
And More Picturebooks about Art and Imagination.
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By: Deren Hansen,
by Deren Hansen
Animator Patrick Smith, writing at Scribble Junkies
, shared some of John Lasseter's advice in a post on the 7 Creative Principles of Pixar
The first principle is, "Never come up with just one idea
Here's how John explains it:
“Regardless of whether you want to write a book, design a piece of furniture or make an animated movie: At the beginning, don’t start with just one idea – it should be three.
“The reason is simple. If a producer comes to me with a proposal for a new project, then usually he has mulled over this particular idea for a very long time. That limits him. My answer always reads: 'Come again when you have three ideas, and I don’t mean one good and two bad. I want three really good ideas, of which you cannot decide the best. You must be able to defend all three before me. Then we’ll decide which one you’ll realize.'
“The problem with creative people is that they often focus their whole attention on one idea. So, right at the beginning of a project, you unnecessarily limit your options. Every creative person should try that out. You will be surprised how this requirement suddenly forces you to think about things you hadn’t even considered before. Through this detachment, you suddenly gain new perspectives. And believe me, there are always three good ideas. At least.”
The first key here, and it bears repeating, is, "this requirement suddenly forces you to think about things your hadn't even considered before." There are a lot of people out there having good ideas. If you stop with your first good idea, chances are very good that someone has already thought of it. But with each additional good idea you bring to the table, the chance of someone else thinking of the exact same ideas drops dramatically.
The second key is the perspective you gain through detachment. That is, if you have more than one good idea then you've got a fall-back if one of the ideas proves less good than you thought. More importantly, you can compare and contrast the ideas and get a better sense of their relative merits than if you have only one, precious idea ... gollum. Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.
I can't believe how long it's been since my last blog post: over a month. Guess I've been busy! Most of August found me editing my new novel, The Abyssal Plain, and practicing the techniques I learned in a recent 2-day art class, Splash Ink Watercolor.I was attracted to this class for two reasons: first, the word "ink" made me think of fountain and gel pens, freewriting, and calligraphy. And I just love ink! Second was the course description that mentioned using our imaginations to paint--always a good sign of something interesting up ahead.In a nutshell, Splash Ink is based on Chinese art and theory. One of the things that surprised me the most was that the word "splash" actually means "pour" in Chinese, so the class wasn't quite as messy as I thought it would be. (I wore my absolute worst clothes and shoes on both days, terrified that we would be throwing paint all over the room and each other. Thankfully, this never happened and was straight out of my over-active "imagination." Splash Ink can be safely attempted in any work space or studio with a plastic tablecloth and paper towels.)To start off the first day of class, our wonderful instructor, Ming Franz, gave us each 12 sheets of good quality rice paper measuring roughly about 14" x 14" that we divided into sets of 4. The sets of 4 were kept together and taped to plastic boards. After taping, we then sprayed water onto the top sheet until all 4 sheets were saturated. We then poured ink and liquid watercolor and/or acrylic paints onto the top paper in the following order: sumi ink first, then blue, red, yellow, and white paint. Using the white paint was the most surprising to me as I've always heard, "Don't use white in a watercolor!! Ever!" But for this method it was essential. Somehow the white paint seemed to soften, blur, and highlight the other colors all at the same time, a very nice effect.After pouring the color and letting it seep down into all 4 sheets, the next optional step was to sprinkle salt onto the first sheet. We could also drip diluted dish washing liquid into the damp color for added depth and texture. Another option was to place pieces of scrunched-up plastic wrap in selected spots. Last of all we then carried our boards outside into the New Mexico sun to let the papers dry--which in our super-dry climate took about 30 minutes.Once everything was dry we were able to separate the pages, and wow: 3 sets of 4 abstract backgrounds in varying degrees of dark to light depending on the order of the papers . Here is one of my lighter pieces that was #3 in a set of 4:This next much darker sheet was the first of a set of 4. I also used some of the crunched-up plastic wrap to fill out the design:Day 2 was where the magic really began--we got to paint over the backgrounds with either acrylic or gouache (opaque watercolor) paints. Our homework assignment between classes was to study and meditate on our pieces so that we could "find the picture" inside each one, kind of like looking at clouds or cracks in the ceiling. There's an elephant! No, it's a giraffe! Ming also suggested we look through books and magazines for reference photos we could bring to class and that could help turn our background pieces into finished paintings.For me, a magazine picture of falling autumn leaves over rushing water seemed to fit the red paint splashes I already had on this particular piece:I was sorry the class was for only two days, because I certainly had a lot more backgrounds to fill. I ended up with even more when I took 4 of my least favorite sheets and cut them down into quarters, giving me a stack of little "mini-sheets" to practice on. Here's the result of my first small attempt at home; I called it "On the Way to Taos" as that's exactly what it reminded me of:Now that the class is over, I hope to continue using Splash Ink and adapting it to my own style and choice of mediums. I think it would be an incredible way to illustrate a book, especially one for children, or perhaps a dark and mysterious Gothic novel for grown-ups. Maybe I'll have to do this one day for a new edition of Overtaken!Tip of the Day: To learn more about Ming Franz and Splash Ink, take a look at Ming's book, Splash Ink With Watercolor (Looking East, Painting West). Not only will her beautiful artwork inspire you to try some painting of your own, but you might want to experiment with using Ming's paintings as writing prompts--a great idea for yourself or your writer's group. Happy creating!
By: Deren Hansen,
by Deren Hansen
I once heard that Shannon Hale's
approach to retelling fairy tales is motivated by the question, "What's bugging me about this story?"
I started thinking seriously about this question after reading several books that bugged me enough that I wanted to make a rebuttal (it's hard to set aside old debating instincts). It's not that I had problems with the books themselves as much as some of the ideas in the stories.
Two interesting things happened as I thought about the ideas that bugged me in each story and they ways in which I might handle them differently:
- I was drawn into the "normal science" process of thinking through each idea (that I described last week) and uncovered a host of interesting ideas.
- The different lines of inquiry came together as a fascinating story molecule.
Shannon's question, "What's bugging me about this story?" is a powerful idea generator if you follow it with a second question: "How would I do it differently?"
There's another important consequence: as you work through the ideas until you can clearly express what bothers you about the story and how you would handle it differently, you find you have something to add to the conversation
.Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.
I’m excited to share Franki Sibberson’s latest project with you. SOLVE IT YOUR WAY! is an innovative project to encourage creative problem solving and collaborate with others around the globe. I shared this… Read More
Last week I got a new office chair (my back thanks you!)
The next day, our office manager offered us the box it came in.
I found the good boxcutter. Intrepid Brooke found the brown butcher paper, scissors and a mile of tape and 45 minutes later...
I hope you note the nifty skylights, the comfy bean bag and the exclusive nature of our box...ahem Reading Cave. No sooner was it done, then kids hopped inside one by one for a relaxing read.
Now come on, do we work in a great profession or what?!?!
Enjoyed this article today: Why NonGeek Parents Have the Advantage in Parenting Young Makers. The whole piece was interesting but this bit especially grabbed me, because it’s singing my own song:
The parent panel was surprisingly united on several points. “Makers gotta make, so if you can’t get their stuff (maker treasure) under control just find a way to live with it.” “Kudos for letting your kids disassemble, repurpose, void warranties, and explore fearlessly!” “Allow projects to take time and make room for play and exploration–even if it means lots of projects are in progress at once (if you aren’t going to work on it in the next six months maybe it can hang out in the back of the closet for now.)”
Whenever I speak to homeschooling groups, I urge something similar. Never underestimate the importance of freedom to be messy. Creativity is a messy, messy business. Art is messy. Writing is messy. Sewing, woodworking, robotics, cooking, all these awesome pursuits we want our kids to dive into, all these handcrafts and skills we love to see them develop—they require room to get sloppy. The paint-spattered corner, the room abandoned to fabric scraps and bits of Sculpey, the table overtaken by wires and circuit boards…
I know it isn’t always easy, especially for type-A parents, to live with the clutter and chaos that so often surrounds a creative mind, but there are ways to compromise. For us, it means keeping the front of the house reasonably tidy, one main room where people can count on an uncluttered space, and letting the rest of the house wear a jumble of raw materials with abandon and zest. The girls’ room is overrun right now with wand-making supplies. The house smells like hot glue. Every time Scott looks at me he finds another piece of glitter on my face—I don’t even know where it’s coming from; it’s in the air.
Along with Freedom to Be Messy goes Lots and Lots of Down Time…that’s part two of my refrain: give ’em time to be bored, time to stare into space, time to tinker, time to obsess. So much of my work as a writer happens when I’m far from my keyboard…I’m writing while I’m gardening, while I’m doing dishes, while I’m curled up under a blanket doing a crossword puzzle. I may look idle, but I’m not. Things are churning in my head. Scott used to do his best writing on the walk home from the subway. Now, far from NYC, sans commute, he stands in the backyard, mind-working while Huck runs circles around him. Our kids know that we’re absent sometimes—lost in our thoughts, working something out—and they understand, they know we try to make up for it by being extra-present, fully engaged, in other parts of the day. But also by giving them that same kind of mind-space in return: big chunks of the day unscheduled, unspoken for. Let me get out of your hair so you can put glitter in it.
By: Emily Smith Pearce,
Blog: Emily Smith Pearce
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One of my favorite things is Terry Gross’s show, Fresh Air, on NPR. I especially love the interviews with actors and writers. Lately I’ve been listening to the podcasts while I’m doing something boring, like folding laundry.
Sometimes there just aren’t enough of Fresh Air interviews, though, so I’ve been looking for more conversations with authors and artists. Here are a few good ones I’ve found:
This Creative Life, created by YA author Sara Zarr (who btw also blogs here). There are interviews with a lot of writers and other creatives about how they work and live. I especially enjoyed the one with author Andrew Auseon (who is also a video game designer).
Mini studio-tours with artists at Little Scraps of Paper make me smile so much. The one above is of three collaborators who make these wacky wonderful costumey-snuggie-kind-of-things. Trust me, you just have to watch it. The videos are so beautifully filmed and just the right size for a quick pick-me-up. Thank you to Blair Stocker of Wisecraft for this hot tip.
Here’s a video of young fashion blogger/ Rookie magazine editor Tavi speaking at TEDxTeen about the strong female characters she’s looking for, and not always finding. YA writers, if you don’t know Tavi, you SHOULD!
What about you? Do you have any favorite creativity-related podcasts?
And by the way, are you on Twitter? I’ve been on it for years but am really just now learning the language and getting into it. I’m discovering all kinds of things there, including some of the above links. Meet me on Twitter @emilysmithpearc
A few other random things:
-Speaking of talks about art and writing, if you’re in the Charlotte area, check out the April meeting for the Women’s National Book Association (yes, men, you can join us, too): Monday, April 22, 6:30 – 8:30 PM at Consolidated Planning. The talk is titled “Latin American and Latino Women Writers and Literature in Translation.” More details here.
-Did you hear about the break in the Isabella Stewart Gardner art heist case? Soooo exciting. I used to work down the street from this lovely, one-of-a-kind museum.
-Saw Natalie Merchant the other night with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Great show. Her new material is as complex and thought-provoking as ever, though I have to admit my favorite part was the 90′s set she did for an encore. The nostalgia factor is hard to beat. Seriously, what pipes she’s got—and what a talented songwriter.
-Lastly, I love this DIY magic potion kit over at Elsie Marley.
What’s got you inspired these days?
When I was little, I could play "let's pretend" all day. I mean, like, all day. I could start the morning as a secret agent, switch to being a marine biologist by lunchtime, live on the 1840's American prairie by dinner, and go to bed as a Moomintroll. You could say I lived to play.As an adult, I'm pretty much into being my own character of me: writer, artist, friend, not to mention Head of the Laundry Department, Chief of Grocery Shopping, and Executive House Cleaner. But recently during a trip to Trader Joe's and wondering why I always buy the same old things, it occurred to me how much fun it would be to play at being someone else for the day--somebody who bought champagne and Gorgonzola instead of milk and vegetarian chili. And the best person I could think of being was my latest character in my new screenplay, especially as she is NOTHING like me. For starters, she's 18, LOL, and she's a former child prodigy (I may have been imaginative, but I was a long way from being top of the class). As I stood there in the store, I began to wonder what she would buy, and that's when it struck me: pretending to be your character, at least for a little while, would be a great way to know that character on a level way beyond filling out the usual character bio. Talk about research! For instance, you could:
Tip of the Day: The next time you take an Artist's Date, try taking one for your character. Where would he or she want to go? Why? When you arrive at the chosen place, experience as much as you can through your character's viewpoint. Write up your findings either on site or as soon as you return home.
- Shop for your character in a grocery store--even Trader Joe's! Buy items he or she would choose (or at least make a list of those items if you find them inedible or too expensive).
- Using these or other ingredients you have at home, prepare your character's favorite meal. Then eat it and describe your feelings after dining.
- Go to the kind of department or clothing store your character frequents. Pick out several new outfits, complete with accessories. Take notes (because you may not really want to buy a new tiara or desert kaftan) and use as the basis of your character's fictional wardrobe.
- Buy your character a present. What is it? Can you use it in the plot somewhere? (Note: if the item is beyond a reasonable budget or something you can't actually use yourself, you can always resort to "let's pretend." Just go to the shop where the item would be sold, and imagine you are buying it, similar to the way you "bought" their new clothes. A fun and inexpensive extra would be to purchase a card, wrapping paper, and ribbons to place in your WIP binder or journal as a visual reminder.)
- Re-create your character's last vacation. Again, if you can't really travel to the destination, at least get some travel brochures, maps, and pack a real or imaginary suitcase. A day spent pretending you are in Paris or Toledo could have a charm all its own, too! The imagination is a powerful tool.
- Dream for your character--it's not as difficult as it might sound. Before you go to sleep, think of your character's main story goal or problem. Ask your subconscious to solve it. The answer could surprise you.
- Go to your character's least favorite or most feared place. Absorb the reasons why he or she dislikes it so much.
- Next time you find yourself waiting in a long line, become your character. Why is he or she so anxious for the line to move? Where does she have to be before it's too late?
- Visit a nursery or garden center. Pick out 5-10 plants your character loves or hates. What has generated these strong feelings? If possible, purchase and plant the flowers or bushes in your own garden. Use the plants' characteristics and growth cycles as metaphors.
- Go to the library. Choose your character's 12 favorite books. Now choose one they have never read. Read it through new eyes.
- Watch your character's favorite movie. Write about a scene that has the most emotional impact for your character, and why.
- Using magazine cut-outs or other print material, assemble an album of "family photos" for your character. How does your character feel about each of these people--and why? Be sure to include some bad'uns!
By: Leslie Ann Clark,
Blog: Leslie Ann Clark's Skye Blue Blog
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All Things Artsy
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There is so much involved in designing. One must be up on the trends for color and pattern and more. I always have my eyes open to finding things I love to look at!
Here are the Pantone color trends for 2013.
I had to take a close look at them. . . some of them bore me unless they are paired with an “eye-catching” color. Color is so amazing! It can make your day! It can bring a smile to your face, and warm your heart. It can also bring you down. Why else do people get depressed when they experience too many gray rainy days? All that because of color? Yes! Think of the feeling you get when you take a walk and come upon a beautiful scene. Do you ever “OOOOoooh and Aaaaaahhhh?” Do colors grab you?
Colors can calm the soul. One of my favorite movies is Miss Potter. I like her spunk, I LOVE that she talks to her cartoons, and I also love the scenes of her beautiful English countryside. The colors speak peace and tranquility.
One might want calm and peaceful and serene colors for the baby nursery. So why did I decorate my first child’s nursery in bright sunshine yellow with brown and Kelly Green accents? ha! Because I crave bold colors! All I could think of was that my baby would wake up and want to be inspired by what she saw. The room had to be warm and happy and that is was!!
As the room progressed to fit two more daughters into it, we moved to pinks and browns. I loved it, but the girls were not really drawn to it. Interesting. In my house, you will find that colors change often. If I could, I would paint my house every year! My husband jokes about our bathroom being smaller because of the many times I have painted it! I am thinking of a new color as I type!!! I am leaning towards a beautiful blue with just the right amount of purple in it! Baby blue is okay, but I always want something with a little PUNCH in it! I like to walk into a room and hear my heart sing! La la! Wall colors can be muted but if that is the case, in my house, the paintings must sing! Oh how I love a noisy house filled with color.
So what am I to do? Follow the trends? Or start my own trends? Am I brave? These are the questions every designer must face. I always lean towards being a renegade trend setter! ha!
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By: Leslie Ann Clark,
Blog: Leslie Ann Clark's Skye Blue Blog
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Kicking Around Thoughts
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What warms your heart on a cold day? What warms your heart when the tides of change come crashing in? What warms your heart when the” no’s” become overwhelming? What warms your heart when the crowd scatters and you are “Home Alone”?
I have a whole list of favorite things I like to look at periodically. These are things that Warm My Heart. I found myself smiling and even laughing. They are things I feel that God has blessed me with. When I look at them I see stories! I see people, I see events… and more. Life is so much more than what we see during our day. Life is a tapestry of stories that intertwine and make memories for us. Some are so real we can almost re-live them just recalling them to our memories.
- God my Father, Jesus my elder brother, the Holy Spirit my helper.
- All my Family
- Friends / art friends
- Rosie and Violet
- Coffee with cream
- Odd things for the house
- Floor Pillows
- Coffee Shops
- Art galleries
- Sketch books
- Personal chef
- Trip to Maine and beyond
- Children’s books
- Goat yogurt and blueberries
- Colors : purply blue, raspberry, Yaya green
- Good movies with popcorn
- Breakfast in bed with a good magazine.
- my SONS.
- a zillion best friends!
- the valley between Kenosha and BaileY
- the mountains
- a crackling fire in the stove
- falling snow
- deep snow and 4wheel drive
- My cozy studio
- a good book
- a comfy chair
- writing a story
- a bike ride . . …… and today…. Matthew!
Today’s Warm Fuzzy came from a friend. She took this wonderful picture of her son sleeping with my Peepsqueak plush. He is so cute! Matthew is on my list!
What are your favorite things? I am sure mine will grow!!
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By: Tonia Allen Gould
Blog: Tonia Allen Gould's Blog
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Copyright Tonia Allen Gould, All Rights Reserved
What’s an idea? The mere concept of an idea is difficult, maybe even impossible to perfectly define. Even notable philosophers couldn’t seem to agree on what an idea truly means. The Free Dictionary Online indicates that according to the philosophy of Plato, the definition of an idea “is an archetype of which a corresponding being in phenomenal reality is an imperfect replica.” The web source goes on to say that according to the philosophy of Kant, “an idea is a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempiral.” But, even Hagel said it differently. He claimed that an idea means “absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.” In the dictionary, the definition of an idea reads “something, such as a thought or conception that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity.”
To me, an idea is something that begins as a glimmer; a mere flicker in the mind that can suddenly grab hold, and unfold through any period of time, like the single root of the ivy plant that grounds itself deeply into the soil before it grows upwards, clinging to a wall with its tiny tentacles, reaching out and hanging on, until it forms its own shape and dimension. The ivy grows and grows, like no other ivy plant in existence, and reaches for the sun in a way that suits itself in order to flourish. Like an idea, the ivy didn’t plant itself. Someone had to place it there. The gardener of the ivy had to have foresight to buy or rent the house, invest in the fertilizer and the soil and the tools; he had to invest in the plant and spend his time digging the hole and planting it in the hopes that it would grow.
Like the gardener; creative professionals must make an investment in time, be committed to the outcome, and diligently work to understand and meet the project objectives. That’s a lot of footwork and fancy dancing already. But, what about the ideas you generate…those tiny seedlings of thought, that grew and took shape and added a dimension to the project that were unlike every other idea before it…those absolute truths…those nonempiral transcendent concepts of reason…those imperfect replicas…what about those? Those ideas, my friends, have value and they are your greatest asset. Sometimes, we forget that and give them away too freely, as if they have no value. So if you’re questioning your creative worth, maybe you should start looking first at your assets. #yourideashaveworth
Controlling creative people appears to be a popular topic in the mainstream media nowadays. Following on the heels of Harvard Business Review’s incendiary article “Seven Rules for Managing Creative People”, Bloomberg Businessweek has published a short piece titled How to Manipulate Creative People. Unlike the HBR article which sounded as if it was written by someone who had never met a creative person in their life, the Businessweek piece (which is part of their annual how-to issue) is written by Matt Selman, an exec producer on The Simpsons who has run the writers’ rooms for over a decade.
Agree with what he says or not, Selman’s advice clearly stems from experience:
If your team is still irritated with you, badmouth anyone not in the room. Dumping on an unseen third party or revealing tantalizing office gossip always takes the heat off for a few minutes. Though if you’re going to make fun of people who work for you, be prepared to be made fun of by them. No matter how mean it gets, have the thickest skin in the room. Reward the completion of assignments with YouTube clips: Key and Peele, octopus vs. shark, bank robbery fails. If nothing else works, stall till lunch. It’s hard to be full and angry.
By: Valerie Storey
Blog: Valerie Storey, Writing at Dava Books
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April is National Poetry Month, and this year I'm celebrating the season with a small poetry/art journal project with a Japanese-inspired theme I'm calling "30 Days of Kimono." The idea came to me when I visited the Albuquerque Art and History Museum with my writer's group several weeks ago. The museum was hosting a special exhibition on Japanese Art Deco, and because I've always been a huge fan of Japanese style, culture, and literature, it seemed like a good time to do something with all that inspiration!Rather than restricting myself to just poetry, I'm using a variety of methods, mediums, and digital sites, including Polyvore, where I made the kimono pictured above, as well as a Pinterest board. To keep all my ideas in one place, I've chosen to use a Moleskine Cahier Kraft blank notebook, which means I can decorate the cover too (still a bit of a work-in-progress...):On the inside I'm writing down my poetry thoughts, found poetry snippets, and sketch ideas for larger paintings:I'm also pasting in drawings made on other types of paper. For instance, the sketch below is made on a Japanese paper I can't describe very well other than to say it's slick on one side, rough on the other (I don't know if it's rice paper--sorry!). I used a pen cut from a piece of bamboo, Black Magic ink, and a little watercolor, then cut it into a kimono-ish shape. The pattern was based on my recent visit to New York and Central Park.One of the most enjoyable parts of this project has been my research; any excuse to go to the library and immerse myself in good books is fine with me. Besides losing myself in several gardening books covering Zen gardens and tea houses, my favorite find was a classic, The Book of Kimono by Norio Yamanaka. Everything you'd ever want to know about the history, making, and wearing of kimono is in this comprehensive little book. And believe me, there is a lot to know about wearing a kimono--about 36 actions just to get into "the thing," (which is all the word "kimono" really means: "a thing to wear") and half of those include hand-sewing, my most detested task on earth. Then of course there's the good behavior required to not crush or ruin the kimono, including never letting your back touch the back of a chair or car seat. Reminds me of when my mother forced me to wear scratchy nylon dotted Swiss on Sundays--don't move! Don't eat! Don't breathe! Which was perfectly expressed in this bit of found poetry I took from various lines of my magazine cut-outs:
Piety, memory, cleanliness,
Tip of the Day: Whether it's National Poetry Month of National Novel Writing Month, why not choose a theme or subject you've always wanted to know more about but never really had the time to explore? Not only could it start an entire new direction for your creativity, but it could also help give you that special edge to stand out from the crowd.