Okay, I’m enthusiastic about coloring books. And, I’ll admit I’ve been carried away by the success of my “Bold and Easy Coloring Pages” series.
This series has wider lines that are easier to see if someone has a vision challenge. And, in most cases, the coloring areas are larger. That makes them easier to color by anyone with dexterity issues like arthritis or difficulty holding a coloring pencil, marker, or crazy.
(The cover at right shows the most complex coloring design in this book.)
They’re ideal for special education teachers, seniors with some disabilities, and anyone who wants a book that’s easier to see and has bigger areas to color.
But… last week, in my enthusiasm, I accidentally uploaded the wrong interior for “Bold and Easy Coloring Pages 4.” And, besides having designs I hadn’t planned to include in the final edition, one page actually had an error on it.
The word “embarrassed” doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I made the discovery.
Fortunately, I found it so quickly, only one person had bought the book. (The book now selling at Amazon is the correct one.)
If you’re that one person who bought it, please contact me and tell me: What country you purchased it in, when you bought it, and how much you paid.
In return, I’ll send you an Amazon gift certificate so you can replace that book, and buy another one of my coloring books (or anything else you’d like to use the certificate for).
Okay, I’m so hooked on coloring books, I may need a support group soon. (I am kidding. I can’t imagine wanting to be pried away from my art… ever!)
My latest is Lovely Designs 1 (now out of print), and it’s a little different from my previous books. In addition to the 26 coloring pages (printed on one side of each page), I’ve included six “DIY” (do it yourself) pages.
When I draw my coloring pages, I don’t sketch anything ahead of time. Instead, I go right to work with a large pen or brush-style marker. I make broad, sweeping strokes to indicate the main areas of the design.
Next, I scan those drawings, so I can clean them up a little in Photoshop. That’s partly to erase any truly impossible lines I’d included. However, it’s even more useful to get a fresh look at the art… in a different scale (small), and in a different context (on my monitor).
It’s similar to how I used to explain my online diary, back when people thought that was weird. (Long before “blogging” became a trend.)
I used to explain how much easier it was to see what I was doing well — and not-so-well — in my life. On the computer monitor, it was like reading someone else’s story, not my own. (That may not be easy to understand, but — in those days — people weren’t so deeply enmeshed in social media and in each other’s lives. So, to read a “story” online was like reading a news story or diary by someone else altogether.)
Anyway, after I tweak my initial drawing, I print it so I can add embellishments and details, by hand.
Six of those un-embellished scans became part of Lovely Designs 1, along with three illustrated pages explaining how I embellish them… in case anyone else wants to try their hand at this kind of art, but needs a “head start” to gain more confidence.
Also, Lovely Designs 1 contains two mandalas and two repeating patterns based on the same drawings.
For my left-handed friends, I’ve also created a left-hand edition of Lovely Designs 1. (I’m trying to do this with most of my coloring books. In my opinion, nothing about art should be inconvenient, ever. That includes having to reach across a coloring book, just to color the picture.) That’s its cover, on the right. (See the double-L logo at the lower right side of the cover, indicating a left-hand edition.)
(My current “art desk” is my bed. I have stacks of paper for drawing, plus a silverware drawer insert — $2 from IKEA, but you can find similar ones at Target, Walmart, etc. — filled with pens, pencils, paintbrushes, etc.)
Anyway, here’s what’s on my writing/computer desk and (at least partially) shown in the photo:
1. Computer (bearing a Honeydukes sticker from the Harry Potter shop at Universal Studios theme park), printer/scanner, and monitor.
2. One mic, plus one headset with its own mic.
3. Two pens, four thumb drives, a calculator, a portable hard drive, and a spare USB hub.
4. Two bottles of vits and a glass of water.
5. Lots of papers: My daily to-do notebook, and yellow, lined pad for notes. Notes from said yellow pad.
6. A printed page from my upcoming coloring book, still in progress.
7. Last but not least: A white mouse from IKEA.
(If you’re just desperate to see everything in detail, click on the photo for the 800 x 600 pixels version.)
Since I’m incredibly busy right now, it’s a minor miracle that my desk is this tidy.
I decided to post this since it’s kind of in line with “Real Professional Qualities,” my somewhat sarcastic article from Professional Quilter magazine, March 1986 issue.
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.
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.)
My next coloring book was 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.
Like when you really want to color in the middle of the night, but don’t want to turn on a bright light.
Or for people who don’t like to wear their reading glasses while they color.
The search for the earliest “selfie” (self-portrait, as a photograph) seems to be at full tilt.
One of my favorites is (supposedly) 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.”
The Earliest Selfie?
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
What’s a story bible? Well, it’s a notebook (or some other system) where you keep your ideas for your book:
Background information, like history (real or imagined)
Sequel ideas, if you might make this into a book series
There’s something rich and juicy about using pen-and-paper as much as possible, when writing.
Often, by using a journal as a story bible – mixing writing & graphics – my books seem to write themselves.
Oh, I’m still writing my books in Scrivener. For me, that’s the easiest way to create Kindle books and printed manuscripts. (I also use voice recognition software, so I don’t have to type anything, if I don’t want to. That’s a time-saver and avoids carpal tunnel issues.)
But the idea of using a journal – written and visual (art journaling) – plan a short story or novel… I really like this.
Let me know if you try it, and any tips you have for fellow artsy writers. Leave a comment – or question – below.
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’d 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 “Charlie Brown” Tree
Our other tree involved some serendipity.
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.
… 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. …
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. 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:
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.
I hope those give you some creative ideas!
With thanks to David Locicero for telling me
about Matthew Diffee’s interview.