Wild Art Dolls Have Arrived!

As of this morning, all of the Wild Art Dolls articles have moved back to this website. Whew! That includes the free doll patterns.

(I will update the GIFs as full-size PDFs, later. Meanwhile, you can rescale GIFs to print, full-size. In most cases, my cloth doll patterns were designed to fill an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper.)

If you find any broken links, broken images, or text that doesn’t make sense, let me know in a comment at the broken page (or wherever things seemed to break).

I have temporarily removed the voice recordings from the doll art pages. They were in an old format that most computers can’t recognize. I plan to update those recordings, later.

I’ve restored the site’s Search form and the Categories list to the sidebar of this website. That should help you find anything you’re looking for.

Also, I’ve removed old “featured images.” That should resolve the problem where stray graphics were turning up in odd places.

Next, I’m planning to move all of my mailart-related articles back to Aisling.net.  Those articles were at Mailartists.com, and they’re even more outdated than the wild art dolls articles were. (It’s difficult to believe I’ve been online about 20 years…)

So, this next part of the “back to the garden” project (as I’m calling it… a Woodstock reference) may take considerably longer.

Meanwhile, I appreciate your patience as I shuffle files, fix broken code, and all that non-art technical stuff. It will be worth it, when this is completed! (<– That’s become my mantra. LOL )

And, one more thing… you can download free, printable coloring pages by Coloring Group members — including me — at the Free Coloring Pages page at ColoringGroup.com.

About the Coloring Books…

If you know me in real life — and possibly even if you don’t — you probably know that I draw. And draw. And draw.

It’s something I’ve done all my life. I draw on shopping lists. I draw on church bulletins. I even draw in the margins of my Sudoku pages as I complete each puzzle.

So, when I saw an opportunity to share my drawings with others, I jumped on it.

I’m talking about coloring books.

This is kind of “how I spent my summer vacation.” Since somewhere around the middle of July, I’ve been assembling my latest drawings and creating new ones for coloring books.

When I started out, I thought, “Sure, this looks easy.”

* headdesk *

Boy oh boy, was I wrong. Coloring books…? Not so easy, after all. Not if you’re a perfectionist like me.

  • I want every drawing to look “just so.”
  • I want every book to be available in right-handed and left-handed versions.
  • I want each book to be the perfect size for the illustrations. And so on.

I put together five coloring books (under another name, so not to embarrass my family) before I felt like I was finally getting the hang of this. (They weren’t awful books, but they weren’t up to my usual standards, either.)

Things I learned:

  • If my one-year-old granddaughter likes a design well enough to grab a crayon and start coloring it… it’s a good design.
  • Testing some of my designs with adults: some people like big lines. Others like fine lines. Some like big coloring areas. Some like super-intricate designs. And so on. It’s best to focus on books that will make many people happy, but expect criticism.
  • I’m far more finicky about how my books look than the pre-press guy assembling them for publication. Sometimes, my requests drive him crazy. (In this case, that “pre-press guy” is my husband. He does this kind of work for a living.)
  • And… when I use software to create mandalas, the results aren’t always what I expected. (More on that, in a minute.)

But finally (cue the drumroll), I have three books to talk about. Each is for a different kind of coloring enthusiast.

My current favorite is a coloring book that fits in my purse. At 5 1/4″ x 8″, it’s just a little larger than a standard paperback book.

Pearls, Swirls, and Stars - coloring bookIt’s Pearls, Swirls, and Stars, a Coloring-on-the-Go coloring book, and it contains 50 kinda-sorta hippie coloring pages.

I had a lot of fun with this book, because I’ve been drawing these kinds of pictures since my early teens. They make me happy, and I’ve always liked coloring them myself. I hope you’ll feel the same way.

This coloring book offers a lot of variety… simple drawings (like on the cover), mandalas, and repeating patterns.

Some can be colored quickly. Others might take a few hours (depending on how many colors and how much detail you like).

Each design is printed on just one side of the page. (I still recommend putting a sheet of paper underneath the page you’re coloring, just in case the ink seeps through.)

Like all of my coloring books, it’s available in two different editions, one for right-handed people and one for left-handed people. (I hate to reach across a page to color, and I’ll bet other people do, too.)

Here are the book links: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Bold and Easy Coloring Pages 1The next is Bold and Easy Coloring Pages. It’s a collection of coloring designs with bigger-than-average coloring spaces and bolder-than-usual lines.

I created it when my daughter & I realized my granddaughter really liked easy-to-color pages.  Then, as we talked about it, we thought of other situations where bold, easy coloring pages might be really helpful.

So, it became a book. Like my other books, this one is also available in right- and left-handed editions.

Here are the book links: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

And finally, with some embarrassment, I’ll admit that I created Rather Sexy Mandalas.

Rather Sexy MandalasIt started as a collection of mandalas I rejected because people might see something rude in the images. After I had about a dozen of those coloring designs — and on a day when I was tired and my inner 10-year-old seemed to emerge — I added more (possibly) vulgar designs, to create a book.

I began with some of my swirly, hippie-style designs, and used software to create mandalas.

I blushed when I saw the results.

Most people probably won’t see anything “dirty” in the mandalas. In fact, they’re pretty designs, based on artwork in my Pearls, Swirls, and Stars book.

However, if you look at them “just so” and color them to highlight suggestive shapes in the mandalas… well, the cover image will tell you whether it seems kind of rude, or not.

Here are the book links: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

So, that’s what I’ve been working on this summer.

Construction – or reconstruction – in progress!

The site update project…? It’s now at the Totally Messy stage of things, and it may be like this all summer. I’m merging some of my other art sites with this one.

For the moment, SantaFlamingo.com is offline.

WildArtDolls.com is online for the moment, but I’ve just imported all of its articles. This means some of my categories are duplicated, garbled, or otherwise weird. A few articles may be, as well.

Update: The files have been moved and updated. If you see a broken link on any of my doll-related webpages, let me know in a comment. Thanks!

And, of course, I’m working on this (again) in the middle of major changes in my life… including a move. As of this morning, HT and I aren’t sure if we’re staying in Florida, heading back to New Hampshire, or doing something else altogether. (The marriage is fine. The question is about the best location for our respective careers… at least until winter.)

So, I appreciate your patience as I reorganize, restructure, and generally tweak this site (and others) and make Aisling.net a one-stop resource for mixed media art… and a whole lot more.

Early Selfies 1839 – 1913

selfie-1913The search for the earliest “selfie” (self-portrait, as a photograph) seems to be at full tilt.

One of my favorites is dated around 1900.  It’s shown at the right.  The largest version I can find, online was posted by Sabine Niedola.  (The largest, clear image is usually the first — or one of the first — posted online, and I like to give credit to the person who first found it.)

Frankly, the subject’s features look a lot like my own portraits from the 1980s. I’m also pleased to see her hairstyle. I’ve tried that kind of style — even with ultra-thick hair — and it turned out the same as hers.  So, I wasn’t alone with the “pouf” issue. (I know about “rats” — long, sausage-shaped supports hidden under the hair — for better-looking versions of this style. I just wasn’t that committed to the style.)

Note: Since I posted this, my friend David Locicero pointed out authenticity issues. This may be a hoax or a cosplay photo.

Something looks a little like an outlet, on the lower right side of the photo.  I’m not certain it’s an outlet, but it might be.  I don’t know enough about household hardware from the early 20th century, to be sure.

My bigger question is about the matted photos on the shelves. The double-matted pictures are more consistent with modern-day presentations. In the past, someone who could afford that kind of matting would have framed the photos under glass.

There’s also the question of the light fixture (if that’s what it is) on the ceiling in the reflection.  And, the high quality of the mirror reflection.

But, whether it’s an authentic photo or not, it’s not the earliest “selfie.”

Robert Cornelius, self portrait, ca. 1839. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Robert Cornelius, self portrait, ca. 1839. Courtesy Library of Congress.

One in the running is a self-portrait by photographer Robert Cornelius.  He’s the dashing young man in the photo on the left.

The fashions are, of course, post-Regency, but I still see a little Colin Firth / Pride and Prejudice in that photo.

Ah, if time travel were possible…! (If he came through a time portal, like in Kate and Leopold, I’m sure many women would swoon.)

For good reason, he’s been featured as Victorian Hottie of the Week.

According to some, that’s his own photo from around 1839. Others simply say it’s the first actual portrait photo… taken by an unknown photographer.

It’s difficult to tell.  Many websites give a nod to the Top 25 Most Ancient Historical Photographs as the source of Mr. Cornelius’ picture, and that site says it’s a self-portrait.

You can learn more about him at this FindMyPast.com.au article, Historical ‘selfies’: in search of the world’s first self-portrait photograph.

selfie-1914-Anastasia

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia

Then there’s the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia’s self-portrait, on the right, dating to 1913 or 1914.

The Daily Mail featured the picture in a really nice article.

I’d always hoped Anastasia had survived the attack on her family. Alas, DNA evidence suggests otherwise.

Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by the white blurry image in back of her.  Online, that’s sparked some discussion with no firm conclusions.  Very cool.

If you enjoy old self-portraits like these, visit Google or any search engine and look for “oldest selfies” and “earliest selfies.”  You’ll find plenty, right now.  (I’m not thrilled with the term “selfie,” or that it’s the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013, but if you’re looking for early self-portraits, the term makes online searching much easier.)

Just watch out for faux historical selfies, created with the aid of Photoshop.

 

Zine Publishers… Permission?

Right now, I’m going through a 10′ x 10′ storage unit. It’s everything we put in storage when we moved here in 2008, and — finally! — we had it all shipped from TX to NH.

colorfulart-vidordesignI’ve found most of my art zine collection. They’re art zines from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Titles include:

  • The Garage.
  • Tublegs (Traci Bunkers).
  • IN(ner) Question (Elizabeth Metz).
  • Ink & Ruminations (Jane Dickinson).
  • Through the  Door (Michelle Lawhorn).
  • The Gleaner Zine (Sherylynne Carriveau).
  • Memory & Dream (LK Ludwig).

In some cases, I have just a few issues. Others… I have lots.

What I’d like to do — with the respective owner’s permissions — is scan some (not all) of them and make them available for free download.

I repeat: With permission!  (In other words, if you published an art zine and you don’t want it scanned & made available, don’t hit the ceiling.  You don’t have to contact me. If I don’t have your specific, written permission to copy your art zine and share it… nobody will see it.)

A few zines aren’t on that list, including The Studio and Dog-Eared Zine. That’s because I either didn’t keep copies, or I’m about 99% sure the owners are still using copies of those zines for income, or both.  (I still treasure Dog-Eared Zine and actually hand-carried several issues with me when we moved in 2008.)

Anyway…

If you published an art zine that I might have, and it’s okay for me to scan & share it (free), contact me at zines (at) aisling.net.

If you publish (or published) an art zine and you’d like people to know they can download free copies, contact me at that same email address. Tell me the URL where they can find it.  If you have a small graphic (250 x 250 pixels, or smaller) that you’d like me to use to link to your free zines, send it via email and I’ll use it.

Thanks!

Stage Fright, Perfection, Flow, Teaching, and Art

Chairs for audience or students.Stage fright has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  It’s very selective.  I’m fine in front of a crowd of thousands, especially in halls where the lights are on me and I can’t see the faces of anyone past the first row or two… and even they are too dark to see clearly.

Put me in front of an audience of 20 or 30 people, where I can see every face and every micro-reaction to what I’m saying…?  Panic. Total panic.  I have to steel myself to even think about that kind of public speaking.

That’s why, when I teach, I have a firm rule:  I need access to the classroom, in solitude, for at least 30 minutes before the students arrive.  (Otherwise, I’m likely to blurt all kinds of things… usually extreme and unexpected, if you’re not ready for the panalopy of creative ideas that rush through my mind like high schoolers rushing to class before the “late” bell rings.)

During my personal pre-class time, I give myself a “pep talk,” and use breathing techniques that would make Dr. Lamaze proud, to relax myself enough to teach.  With the right mindset — or at least mental distance from “not good enough” self-talk — I can teach a great class with lots of student involvement.

(Without exception, every class I’ve taught that fell flat… it’s because I wasn’t given that 30 minutes to prepare.)

Creating art can be a similar issue for me and many other people.  We may not have that visible audience, but when the initial spark of inspiration fades, the voice of the inner critic can be worse than any heckler in the classroom.

(You know that student.  She’s the one who sighs loudly and repeatedly. And, at the end of the class — when it’s too late to do anything about it — she tells you how deeply you’ve disappointed her, and how you really shouldn’t be teaching.  Or making art.  Or both.)

Regardless of where the message comes from, we’re often striving for impossible perfection… as artists and as teachers.  The slightest shortfall or flaw seems magnified on a big screen and in HD, and every metaphorical pore and blemish is the size of the Grand Canyon.

In fact, we’re often our very worst critics.  We hold ourselves up to impossible standards, and we’re usually using the wrong measuring stick.

Last night, I was disgruntled.  I’ve been working on a series of small (5″ x 7″) oil paintings, based on memory and photos I’ve taken.

Unfortunately, the results are — so far — uninspired. (I’ll get back to that in a minute.)

Pandorica-inspired ink drawing

Click to download the ATC file. (Original is 5″ x 8″.)

So, I took out my pen and paper, and started doodling one of my Pandorica-inspired pieces. (The Pandorica is a Dr. Who story element.)

I was so caught up in it, I let it run to the edge of the page.  And then, I felt so disappointed, because that meant the piece would require an additional, larger support, just to be matted.

This morning, my husband pointed out that it’s a perfectly good work of art, as it is, and there are worse things than needing something in back of the work so it mats well.

He also reminded me that art is about the inspiration.

That gets me back to my paintings… the ones that aren’t turning out.  I said that they aren’t inspired, and I mean exactly that: I’m working on them, production-style.  By definition, that’s an industrial approach. (Yes, I am reading Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception.  It’s brilliant, inspiring, and terrifying, all at the same time.)

So, I went back to my Pandorica doodles.  I’m waiting for this evening’s sunset, hoping the colors will be inspiring enough to spark (and complete) some or all of the six little paintings currently on my easel.

I want to take them with me to M.I.T. next week, when we’re hearing Seth Godin speak and participating in whatever’s going on at that event.  I’d like to hand out art, at random, in kind of a random acts of kindness gesture.  In other words, just for fun.

But… I feel a little stuck.  And, I’ve been trying to work with a deadline more than inspiration.  Bad idea.

It’s compounded by my fear of disapproval, or — worse — no reaction at all.  Boredom.  Kind of a “What, you think you’re an artist…?” reaction, as they drop the art in the trash.  (Have I mentioned how well I can awfulize when I’m in this mode…? *chuckle and sigh*)

Okay. I’m not sure if this is more stage fright or the visual equivalent of writer’s block.

Either way, it’s putting the emphasis on the finished work and others’ opinions — even their potential opinions, if it’s work I haven’t shown anyone — instead of where it belongs, on the inspiration, and the creative expression that results.

But, what I’m describing in angst-laden terms is how we, as artists, make ourselves tiny and insignificant.  And, it’s why we often stall and lose precious time in which we might be making art.

It’s a toxic, all-or-nothing approach.  It’s so far from being in flow — in the creative process where we’re in touch with the sublime — we couldn’t find it with a road map, a compass, and a laser-tuned GPS.

The teaching…?  I quit, years ago. Yes, that’s letting small-minded people win, but that’s okay with me.  It’s a battle I never wanted to fight.  I’m happy to leave those political games to others who savor them.

The art…? That’s another matter.  Recovering my willingness to be creative, out loud… thats why I changed this website back into the blog it was in the first place, back in 1995 or 1996, when I began it.

And, it’s why I’m staring down virtual stage fright, posting last night’s Pandorica piece here, as a graphic and as an ATC you can download (and print at 300 dpi). Click on the illustration, above and on the left, to print your own copy.

Journals as Story Bibles

When I’m not working on art, I’m usually researching and writing books.  Well, that or baking bread or cookies… or indulging in a movie or a TV series like Downton Abbey. 

Anyway, as I was cruising through some Google+ communities I’m in, I saw a link to journaling as a way to build a book.  (Specifically, she’s talking about a novel, but I’m sure this could be adapted to nonfiction, as well.)

If this idea interests you, the best place to start is here:

Writing in a journalCreating a Story Bible: The Basics

“Writing a novel isn’t easy. Tracking your world, your characters, and other important events can save you time and save you from plot holes before you even write them into existence.” click here to read more at that website.

I’m experimenting with writing-related software that will catalogue details similar to what she describes in that journaling approach.

However, there’s something rich and juicy about using pen-and-paper as much as possible, when writing.

Oh, I’m still using my keyboard to compile my books.  The ease of working with voice recognition software — so I don’t have to type anything, if I don’t want to — is a time-saver and avoids ye olde carpal tunnel issues.

But, anyway, I’m always interested in diverse ways to use journals for creative purposes.  And, this might be a great starting point for a journal about an imaginary realm for artistamps.

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree – 2012

This year, we chose some real, alternative Christmas tree options.  We had two trees in our living room. (I’ve always preferred to have more than one tree for the holiday season.)

One “tree” was actually a bunch of small branches, arranged in a large glass jar, so they looked like a small Christmas tree. I picked up those branches at a nearby Christmas tree lot, where they had a stack of extra, odd-shaped branches in a pile to go to the trash.

We decorated that arrangement with all the normal Christmas-y things, including a lot of small, sparkly, multicolored ball-type ornaments. The size suited the small scale of the tree design.

To visitors, it looked like a normal, small (2 – 3 foot tall) Christmas tree.  We liked re-purposing discarded branches to create it.  It felt very “green,” on several levels.

Our other tree involved some serendipity.

Aisling's 'Charlie Brown' Christmas tree 2012.I was out for a walk, and noticed a wonderful, large branch by the side of the road.  It was about four feet tall, and I think it had been pruned from someone’s pine tree.

I brought it home and found a really large, gold, globe-type ornament to hang on it.

(It drooped, naturally.  It’s the way the branch had curved on the original tree… it’s not sagging or anything.)

The effect was almost exactly like the little tree in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

I propped it against the wall, in a shallow bowl of water.  It lost absolutely no needles during the holidays, and it’s still pretty soft & flexible, now.

This afternoon, I’m taking this little tree and our jar of branches to the nearby woods, so the branches return to nature.

These were among my favorite Christmas trees ever, and no trees were killed (or money spent) to enjoy them in our home.

I think this is the beginning of a tradition in our home, and it just sort of happened this year, because I wanted a couple of small trees that fit the size of our apartment.

John Cleese on Creativity – Video

In this video, John Cleese — who, as part of Monty Python, is one of the 20th century’s most innovative, creative people — speaks for about 35 minutes about creativity.

This is a somewhat older video, but Cleese makes some very good points.  Sure, he’s a little silly, excessively political and downright pompous at times.   However, I like it when he says things like:

Creativity is not a talent. It is not a talent. It is a way of operating.

…It’s not an ability that you either have or you do not have… it’s an ability to play.”

http://vimeo.com/18913413

Thanks to Robert Genn‘s Painters Keys for suggesting this.

Note: If that video is missing, here’s one other locations for it: youtu.be/tmY4-RMB0YY  (It’s not a clickable link. If it were, the video would auto-embed at this site.) Or, check “John Cleese on Creativity video” at any search engine; that should point you to other copies of it.

OR… if you don’t have 36 minutes for that video, some of the highlights are in the edited version at the foot of this page.

In his related post, Genn said…

“To be creative we need five conditions,” Cleese says. “Space, Time, Time, Confidence and Humour.” Yep, “Time” comes twice.

That’s something I like in this video: Cleese stresses the importance of time… not just productive time, but time that’s necessary to get that open space in your mind.  To someone else, it might look like you’re doing nothing, or nothing of importance.  However, it’s one of the most essential parts of being creative, and allows you to cast off the limiting and distracting thoughts that stand between you and that necessary, open space.

scripty-divider

Here’s a shorter, edited version of that same video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijtQP9nwrQA

Matthew Diffee and Mother Sea Turtles

Are you a mother sea turtle?  If you’re a creative person, maybe you should be.  That’s the advice of Matthew Diffee, and I think he’s right.

Matthew Diffee Interview

Human Demo: New Yorker Cartoonist Matthew Diffee Shows How To Be Creative – Forbes

news.google.com

… Among Diffee’s pieces of advice for aspiring creative people is this aphorism: “Be like a mother sea turtle.” By that he means lay a hundred conceptual eggs in the sand, then swim off and don’t fret over what becomes of them. Most of them will never hatch; most of the hatchlings will get eaten by predators. That’s not your problem. Your task is just to keep laying eggs. …

In a way, when he says, “Your task is just to keep laying eggs,” I’m reminded of the Cult of Done Manifesto, where Bre Pettis says, “There is no editing stage,” and “Once you are done you can throw it away.”

As artists, I think we can be held back by fear of failure.  In our heads, we’ve already become critics, even before picking up the pen, pencil, or glue stick.

It’s important to just go for it, and allow serendipity to play a part in the dance we call creativity.

a lot of people have been summarizing Matthew Diffee’s SXSW 2012 talk.  (It must have been tremendous.  If anything could make me think about braving the crowds — and heat — of Austin for SXSW, the comments about Diffee’s talk might be it.)

And finally, here’s one summary that I like a lot. Click on the link and scroll down to the section that starts “Best sesh.”  I think the summary at the very end of the article is the important part.

SXSW Day 3: It’s all about Bob (Marley) and creativity – Vancouver Sun (blog)

news.google.com

SXSW Day 3: It’s all about Bob (Marley) and creativity. Matthew Diffee, a cartoonist whose work appears in the New Yorker, defined his YEP! approach to idea generation at “How to be an idea factory” session at SXSW.

… Caffeine kicks starts the “Process”, so he sits down with an empty sheet of paper and doesn’t stop the free flow of ideas until the paper is full and the pot of coffee is empty.

How he does it: He simply starts with a word or phrases and then applies the following: Add things to one of the ideas…

And, speaking of Bre Pettis, if you’ve never made an art shrine in a book, here’s his video showing one way to start the project:

Make a Book with a Secret Compartment

About 10 years ago, I taught a class like that at Artfest.  I have no idea how Pettis took only 20 minutes to cut the pages; some of my students spent the entire day cutting.  (Yes, that was the last time I tried to teach that as a one-day class.)  Usually, the cutting took me about an hour and a half, with breaks to keep my hand from cramping as I held the cutting blade.

During those breaks, I’d work on elements that would go inside the art shrine.  I’ve always liked tooled metal, similar to the journals Tracy Moore created, so I found ways to include some sheet metal (doesn’t have to be very thick) in some of my altered books and art shrines.  To stamp the words into the metal, I like a good, heavy tooling set like this one.  (Some of the lightweight sets sold at arts & crafts stores… they just aren’t sturdy enough to hold up for very long.)

And then, I’d go back to cutting more pages in the book.  It was tedious, but the finished altered books made it worthwhile.

Today, I’d probably do a lot of the cutting with a Dremel tool or something.  Yes, it could accidentally gouge some of the back cover, but if you use Pettis’ idea of putting a felt liner there, nobody will know if the Dremel got a little out of control.

I’d also consider using a wood burning tool here & there, along the inside edges of the opening.  That could look cool and antique-ish, and cover any raw or weird areas, as well.

Tea staining could work, but it won’t be as good at disguising “oops” areas where the blade may have been sloppy.  And, in a single-day workshop, the tea won’t dry quickly enough to move to the next step — sealing the edges — unless you use something like an embossing tool (heater) to dry the pages.

After whatever edge treatment I chose (if any), I’d cover the edges with clear, matte finish acrylic gel medium, so the pages would hold together, but it wouldn’t look too obviously glued. (For some projects, I might mix in some small, dried leaves or glitter, depending on the effect I wanted to create.)

This next video starts with some altered book ideas, but he’s using a board book and cutting out part of each page.  Then, he wanders into some interesting mixed media techniques that might work well with the first (shrine-style) altered book, above.

My Altered Book Begins

I hope those give you some creative ideas!

With thanks to David Locicero for telling me about Matthew Diffee’s interview.