Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In the Highlands nothing is extinguished or forgotten.

Meet me at the old Bothy
my sweetheart bonnie lass
Near a snow covered hilltop
that guards a secret pass.

We'll ride out to the forest
upon a spotted fawn
to dance with twinkling faeries
in the misty morning dawn.
~Me ;)

©2010 LKG Photography

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Creative Black Friday

Ah, Black Friday.
The words conjure up horrifying images of squashing, pushing, shoving, trampling, screaming crazed human beings. I've only ever ventured out once on a Black Friday, bright eyed and bushy-tailed filled with delight and excitement only to return at the end of the day with tired, blood-shot eyes, a missing tail and a pissed off attitude to go along with it.
But, to make Black Friday a Creative Day with Lita? Hell, I'm game anytime there's a Creative Day with Lita! We both were really missing each other as it had been a couple of weeks since we had a creative outing. Life is not as fun without a little Lita-ness in it!

Our plan was to meet early so we could treat ourselves to breakfast before hitting not one, but two bookstores. Starting with breakfast at IHOP, we indulged in omelets and eggs benedict, conversation and coffee before heading out to Barnes & Noble. Surprisingly, it was not as packed as we expected it to be and we had plenty of room in the aisles to get a bit silly and snap some self portraits:

Finding Water

For the Love of Books

Book Browsing (pic by Lita)

After finding several books at Barnes and Noble, we headed over to Borders Books and spent a ton of time in the Reference Section. We never know where we will spend the most time as our interests number so very many. While in that section, we found several great books on writing and some that had "daily tasks". We love books with bite-sized bits of information and instruction. We both purchased this AWEsome book called "The Awe Manac." Last night I read through the month of January which has inspired tons of photography ideas already!

Lita purchased a book I had gotten last time called A Writer's Book of Days. In this book, you are given prompts each day of the year that will spark the creative writer within you. I purchased a hilarious writing book called Take Ten for Writers and in it, there are 1,000 inspiring exercises to help stimulate your writing in only ten minutes a day. One of the funniest ones that we came across (and that Lita is going to do) is to write as if you were an angry olive and stuck in a jar with a bunch of other angry olives. Too fun!

My purchases, doing my part to help the economy. :)

This whole week I've been breaking things. I broke the handle of my recliner and now I can't put my legs up to watch the telly or to read. I put my feet up on the little, round metal drain thingy in my bathtub only to watch it crack in two and reveal a big black hole that probably leads to the underworld. I nearly broke my vaccuum cleaner but luckily, I was able to figure out how to fix it. My bathroom sink sprung a leak. And, while at Borders Books with Lita, this sign fell down and hit me in the head:

Well, there ya go! A reminder that everything that happens, good or bad can be inspiration. When Lita and I are in a bookstore, we read passages and excerpts from books to each other, bouncing creative ideas back and forth like two players at ping pong ball tournament. We always come away from our bookstore outings with amazing energy and drive and always with a renewed commitment to lead an artful and creative life. 
So get out there and visit a bookstore! Browse, read, buy something that inspires you. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

50,000 Words Later

Creating My Story...50,000 words later

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!!
A few months ago I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Starting on November 1st, I joined 200,000 other determined people from all over the world and began to put pen to paper, not knowing if I would even make it past day one. Well, not only did I make it past that first day, but I wrote every single day with tenacity and focus. The day before Thanksgiving I crossed the 50,000 finish line five days early! My word count validated, I was declared a winner and got the cute little winner's badge now gracing the right side of my blog. :)

So, how did I do it and what did I learn? Read on to find out who and what helped me stay on track and the amazing things I discovered during this journey of frenzied writing.

About 2 months before the start date, I emailed a friend of mine who happens to be an English professor in Indiana and asked him if he had any tips for me.The advice was invaluable and I would not have reached the goal without him taking the time to send it to me. So, a BIG THANK YOU goes to Professor Rob. For anyone who would like to participate in the NaNoWriMo project next year, if you follow Professor Rob's suggestions, you too will be a writing winner! I also must thank those readers, friends and family members who encouraged me along the way: You know who you are! I love you all!

1) Don't use a computer-it will only slow you down and encourage you to fiddle with sentences and polish. Use a typewriter or write longhand. That way, you won't be tempted to polish. If any of the stuff is good, you can always type it into your computer later on.
The first week I wrote longhand, until I discovered it would have to be entered into the computer regardless in order to have my word count validated. But, that first week of longhand was so important for keeping the inner editor at bay. By the time I began to write on the computer I was already in the habit of ignoring the urge to edit.

2) Write in two different sittings a day instead of just one, aiming at 1,000 words each sitting. It's easier that way, and by writing 2,000 words a day instead of 1,600, you'll give yourself a cushion of extra words in case you get sick or have a bad day. The number one reason people quit is because they fall behind schedule. If you want to finish, you need an insurance policy against that.
This was the golden ticket for me. By writing in two sittings I avoided feeling burnout and by writing 2,000 words a day, I finished early and never felt too much pressure.

3)Use a wide variety of techniques and points of view. Shift between a lot of different characters. Flash back and forward in time. Write in summary, scene, thought, action, dialogue, monologue, first person, third person. This will keep your writing from getting stale and you won't repeat yourself as much. Not following too many rules and shifting between my characters kept me from getting bored.

4)Keep on an even keel-no big highs or lows, just steady production. That's what writing a book is all about. Avoiding the highs and lows and just showing up for work each and every day.
I realized how important this advice was when I would visit the NaNoWriMo forum and read posts form all the stressed out writers, who had fallen so far back in their word count that they were either going to give up or write "like crazy" for the next three days or so. I could feel their stress coming through the computer screen and I was really happy I didn't need to ride that roller coaster.

So, what did I discover during the journey?

I discovered that I could let go of control and perfection and just write.

I discovered that characters start demanding things from you that you weren't planning on giving them and when that happens, you just have to go with the flow.

I discovered I like being part of a collective community of people trying to reach the same goal.

I discovered that the challenge was fun and I've already decided I will do it again next year!

I discovered I miss writing. As a child, I would make up stories using Archie Comics as my prompts, I would write poems and keep diaries and journals. Now, it seems the only time I'm writing is when I'm blogging or travelling. I'm making a commitment now, to do it more often. To use writing as another way to exercise my creative brain. I'm not a writer, but I am a creative and writing can only help in the other areas of artistic pursuits in which I do excel.

So, here is an except from the middle of my Novel titled "Beyond the Bend" without any editing or corrections. I thought I should at least share something before I beginning the editing process.

Walking slowly down the long red-carpeted corridor, Corky looked into each of the small compartments as she passed by. Most were empty save for a few families and a lone man, bald head propped against the slightly opened window, trying to nap despite the late summer heat beating down on the glass. She felt her equilibrium being challenged by the movement of the train as she made her way down to the dining car. Pushing through the single door she quickly surveyed the scene. Her eyes moved across a room packed full of travelers in various stages of consumption and those that were not eating, were drinking and smoking. What a relief! She hated feeling guilty about smoking. Once the words 'Surgeon General' had been added to the warning label on packages of tobacco, the anti-smoking movement was gaining momentum. Unaware of the attention her fiery red hair and pale skin was attracting from most of the men in the room, she strolled over to a small round table, pulled it closer to the window, slung her bag onto the back of the chair and sat down, tension in her shoulders finally giving way to relaxation. She lit up a cigarette. It was still early afternoon and she wouldn’t be arriving into Kansas City until 8:05pm. In her haste, she didn’t grab anything to keep her occupied on the train. She packed in such a rush. So unlike me to do so. Sam was right about that. I was not spontaneous. Her lip curled up into a half-smile as she thought about where she was. Ha! Hopping a train without any pre-planning was spontaneous! Staring out the window, thoughts of Sam drifting away with the landscape, she became vaguely aware of someone standing next to her.
"What can I get you, Miss? Miss?"
The waiter was a tall blonde with soft features, a look she determined belonged more in California, than on a train heading through the Midwest. His shoulder-length hair fell sideways across his brows, his skin smooth, not yet showing any cares of the world.
"Martini, double olives”.  She gazed back out the window.
“Anything to eat?" He had his pencil in hand, ready to scribe the order. She turned to looked back up at him, annoyed by the addition of a second question.
"I ordered double olives, didn’t I?” She took a long drag from her Winston, blowing the residue toward him.
"Yes ma’am.”
 As she watched him sauntered off to the bar area of the car, she realized he switched from calling her “miss” to “ma’am”, a sure sign he thought her old or a bitch. Probably the latter. She wasn't in the mood for judgment from strangers. Sam had judged her enough.

Finally, I decided to celebrate my victory with a self portrait:

And, for my lovely Lita, a few outtakes:

These last few days I will be cheering on those that are still trying to become winners and encourage those that are lagging behind and I hope all of you will choose to participate next year. I promise you will find it rewarding! Write on...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From Snapshot to Creative Image

Bella Boy

I thought I would share with you, dear reader, one of my processes for turning a snapshot into a creative image. My favorite area of photography is street photography. Unfortunately, I live in the 'burbs and I don't get to shoot much of it unless I'm traveling. When I do travel, I don't take my tripod with me so I'm usually shooting on the fly. I call these images, snapshots. They aren't planned, there is no thought to composition or lighting. It's just "hurry up and get that shot before they spot you, come over and either demand you erase the photo or punch you in the face." 
So, you like the image but it's not the greatest. You don't want to toss it. You *wish* it worked but there are too many things about it you don't like. Wait! Hold on! Don't send that to the recycle bin! Instead, open that image up in Photoshop and create a work of art!

For the above image of "Bella Boy", I snapped this while walking down the street in Charleston with my friend Phoebe. It was a dreary day, completely clouded over. Some people love shooting when the sun is hidden. I think it makes everything look a little bland. I prefer to shoot in filtered light, with some clouds, but mostly the sun shining full on so that everything casts shadows. Of course, we can't control the weather, but we can control the lighting in Photoshop.

Here are the two images I shot, in all their original, dull glory:
In this first image, I liked the tall guy's stance but the image overall is a bit wonky and the words above the window are slightly out of focus.
In the second image, I like the focus of the words and the window much better. I don't like the guy in the shorts in either image. In fact, as I stopped to snap the picture, he was just walking by and I thought he was going to keep on walking. Instead, he had to stop and have a conversation with the star of my photograph and I was totally annoyed. In my head I was screaming "Get the &%#* out of my picture you moron!" Of course, as evident by the above photographs, he decided that I was taking HIS picture and he would stop and smile. Um, no. 

My workflow on this image starts with a crop. I'm going to crop the second image to where I want it and then straighten the image. The guy I want to focus on reminds me of James Spader from "Pretty in Pink". He looks preppy but with a touch of bad boy to him, cigarette in hand. I want the environment to be more urban so I add a new layer above my background layer and bring in a texture over the cropped image. I use an old piece of canvas as my texture that has paint stains on it. I set the blending mode to multiply and the opacity to 50%. Using a Layer Mask and a brush, I erase the texture from my guy but leave it everywhere else. 

I adjust the light, contrast and color until it's appealing to my eye and then I am finally ready to clone out the annoying guy in the shorts. Sometimes I may clone out things from my image first and other times I may do it last. In this case, I did it last so that I could use the texture to clone over him. I prefer to use a mildly soft brush when cloning. With him gone, the other guy now looks like a spoiled rich loner from the Upper West side, hanging out on a street corner, in a not so pleasant area, waiting to buy some pot. Oh wait, that's just my imagination. :)

I used the Burn tool to darken areas for shadow and the Dodge tool to add light to certain areas. I add a bit of grain and some grunge to the edges. Finally, I add a double entendre to the only window without words. I giggle. 

And voila! The Bella Boy is born and now, the viewer can look at the image and create their own story.

What would your story for this image be?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

She Claimed She Loved The Camera

She claimed she loved the camera. She responded to it's naked glare, it's slavish attention to every expression of face and body, with the kind of immediacy a trusted lover could expect. ~Anne Edwards

Not much time for traditional art this week but I did manage to process a few photos and take a self portrait. It's been a while since I was inspired to take a self portrait that wasn't on the spur of the moment or with the iPhone. I was inspired by the quote. Sometimes, it's the other way around and the image calls for me to dig up a fitting quote, one that captures exactly what I was trying to say when I took the photograph.

Still writing steadily every day for the NaNoWriMo project but the tank is running low. I love the meat of the story, but it's gotten scattered and really needs a lot more back story in the beginning. Editing is going to take a long, long time I'm afraid! However, once November is over, I must concentrate on finishing The Sketchbook Project since that will be due January 15th and we all know how fast the holidays skip by us!

So, here are the few images besides the selfie that I managed to process this week. Enjoy!
Leaf Defined

Damselfly with Lunch

Shall we meet by the pale dull pallor of an old gas light?

Speak poetry to me and you will warm my soul.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Exploration #12: Fifty Things

Exploration #12: Fifty Things
Write down (or document) fifty things about one of the following:
A trip to the library, a trip to the grocery store, a walk in your neighborhood.

I decided for this Exploration task, I would do a trip to the library. I have to make thrice weekly trips to the grocery store and to me, that's a chore. No way was I  gonna do that willingly. :) The library sounded so much more inspiring, especially since I've been writing for the NaNoWriMo project. And it has been awhile since I spent anytime in the library, having been replaced in my world by Barnes and Noble.

1) Upon walking in, I notice a set of three sculptures outside in the courtyard. I'm thinking I should have brought my good camera. At least I had my trusty iPhone.

2) The hours of our local library are daily 10am-8pm Monday through Saturday. The library is closed on Sunday. Really? Seems like a lot of people would want to go to the library on a Sunday. Unless they are like me- on the couch watching football instead. :)

3) The lobby has an exhibition currently going on showcasing local Haitian Artists. I wanted to take some pictures of the art but there is a big guy guarding them and he's looking at me suspiciously.

4) I did manage to sneak a picture of a sculpture. A large metal sheet with 0's and 1's cut out of it.

5) The entire bottom section of the library is dedicated to children and teen literature.

6) The shelves in the children's sections have stuffed animals sitting on top of all the shelving. Seems like there are more white tigers than anything else.

7) The Adult Non-fiction and Fiction sections were upstairs. That's where I headed to get the remaining 43 "things".

8) I found the Reference Section first. There was a great book I think I might like to own called "Shakespeare's Words". There is a sticker on it that says "Not To Be Removed, Reference Only."

9) The English Literature section was great! I could have spent hours here looking through all the books.

10) I brought a notebook with me to document my fifty things and I started writing books down that I want to get from Amazon. From the English Literature section, I write down Shakespeare's Words, The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Irish Literature and Tudor England.

11) There are two elderly men sitting in chairs reading newspapers.

12) Walking down the fiction aisles I saw what looked like an image of my favorite English personality and one of my favorite writers, Oscar Wilde. Upon closer inspection I discover a series by Gyles Brandreth known as The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries. Victorian murder mysteries featuring my favorite writer as a detective? How did I not know about these until now? Of course, I had to order them off Amazon as soon as I got home. Can't wait to delve into them!

13) I suddenly realize just how loud it is for a library. There is a lot of racket, chatter, clanging and what not going on. It's not any quieter than a Barnes and Noble.

14) I see a book that I absolutely must take a picture of. It's called Wanderlust and has a cute little cartoon gal on the cover with suitcase in hand. This one is for you Phoebe! Phoebe aka Wanderlust on Flickr is an amazing friend and photographer. Every image she takes is infused with magic. Click here to step into her wonderland.

15) I like the way the light is coming through the large windows. Looking down the aisle of books, it seems like you could walk past all these written words and head into the light. But what if it's a ruse and you  fall into The Well of Lost Plots? Oh my imagination. We are such good companions.

16) I'm starting to feel like a super spy on a reconnaissance mission!

17) I'm noticing that certain titles are catching my eye: Manless in Montclair, Frida's Bed, Venus Envy.

18) The Jane Austen section is surprisingly small. 

19) I find the Dickens section. It reminds me of the time I took Bleak House to read on a trip. I carried it around for 4 weeks before deciding to ditch the book in Germany. I just couldn't get into it and the damn thing was too heavy.

20) Someone sneezed really, really loudly. Germs are floating around somewhere now. I'm hoping I don't walk through them.

21) There are tons of computer stations upstairs, separating the Non-Fiction and the Fiction sections. Every computer station has someone sitting at it, typing away on a keyboard. 

22) My stomach starts growling. I'm not sure I can make it to 50. 

23) I spot The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. Loved the book, loved the movie.

24) I add another book to my list of potential books to get: The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber. It sounds very interesting.

25) I realize that I'm not making it very far. I've been stuck in the Fiction section for a long time, fascinated by the gazillion books that I need to read including The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. The cover caught my eye first. I'm a very visual person so cover art is a big deal to me. Want me to read your book? It better have an enticing cover!

26) I'm smelling cigarette smoke residue in one of the fiction aisles. Was someone who smelled like smoke just there before me? Or is it the residue of a spirit, one who roams the library? I get chills and have a shudder. Moving on!

27) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is propped up, facing out on the shelf. I read this book back in 2005. It was good. It's about two rival magicians in England. It was hard to get going but once it did I really enjoyed the story. It reminds of of 2005 when I made a goal to read 25 books. I think I only read 15.

28) The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane catches my eye. It's got a great cover and when I read the synopsis, I decide it's right up my alley and put it on my list of "must reads". 

29) The noise just increased dramatically and I peek around one of the shelving units to see tons of people coming out of a small room. They are all speaking different languages. I decide it's an "learn to speak English" class. :)

30) I see this book called Hater. I suddenly remember that I've seen that word, written almost the same way somewhere else. I took a photo of the word on the Pompano Pier when I was on my Creative Saturday outing with Lita. Here are both...eerie that I would see it twice in one week!

31) Another book jumps out at me. The Voodoo Season by Jewell Parker Rhodes. I loved the cover and the authors name. The text is way cool. It goes onto the list.

32) There is one elderly lady browsing in the Romance Section. She's got snow white hair and she is wearing teal pants and carrying a floral purse. I wonder if she reads romance just for the fun of it or if she is a widow who lost her love and reaches for him through pages of romantic prose. I want to be her friend. 

33) Not one single person is in the Science Fiction section. In fact the only person browsing for books besides me is the romance lady.

34) As I'm walking to the Non-Fiction section I notice a guy at one of the computers. He's wearing one of those funky winter furry ear flap hats. Interesting. I want to be his friend too.

35) A sign on the wall: Do Not Leave Valuables Alone. I guess thieves like to read too.

36) The first book that catches my eye in the Non-Fiction section is My Boyfriend's Back by Donna Hanover. I start singing the song in my head. Over and over and over. Damn you Donna!

37) I finally make it to the New Age/Philosophy Section. It's paired with the World Religion and Mythology. I could spend hours here but my stomach is no longer growling. It's screaming.

38) I see a guy with his laptop at a table. I can hear the sound of a chat room exchange. Is he having a secret online affair? Or does he come to library so he can visit sex chat rooms on his lunch hour? I don't want to be his friend, so I move on.

39) Suddenly, whispering on the other side of the books catches my ear. There are two of them and they are whispering very low. I want to know what they are saying but I can't make it out. I'm tempted to move the books so I can see who is doing the whispering, but alas, I'm a scaredy cat. I realize at this point I would actually be a terrible spy.

40) When I reach the Travel Section I'm reminded that I still have not renewed my passport which expires this month. I need to get on that pronto!

41) I spot The Joy of Signing. It brings back a memory of when I saw Children of a Lesser God for the first time and I became obsessed with signing. I taught myself to sign and could have a conversation about almost anything using sign language. Unfortunately, I've only retained a few words and the alphabet. 

42) The Art Section. It's huge. It's a good thing I didn't start here or I would have been stuck here the whole time. I see big tomes on Waterhouse, Van Gogh, Renoir. The photography section is right next to it. It too is quite large. These two sections alone make me want to come back when I have more time.

43) The crafts section is also really well stocked. I see tons of books that I already have and even more that I don't. 

44) A guy in a do-rag just walked by. I peek around the corner and notice the computer table again. There are three guys wearing do-rags. Those are weird things to just walk around wearing. I wear them, but only when I have a wig on, like in this image. To each his own I say!

45) Yay! I made it to the British History section. I think of John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich and start to drool. I wish I packed a ham and cheese in my purse. I have The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens. It's one of my favorite reference books. It's helped on many a Jeopardy! game. :)

46) I spend some time in this section and come across a book about my cousin, Sir Winston Churchill.(yes, we really share the same DNA). It's called Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills. The book fascinates me so I take it off the shelf, sit on the floor and just open it up to a random page. On the left page was a letter from Winston that read in part (written as printed): My beloved, yr beautiful letter of the 13th has just come in. I read them all with delight. You write such sprightly letters with a real literary touch and all glowing with love...
On the right page was a letter from Clementine that read in part (written as printed): My darling Winston, Here I am feeling rather lonely in this vast hotel full of middle-class English people. That just cracks me up. This will be an interesting read. Onto the list it goes!

47) I find the Tolkien section. My most favorite write EVER! I read The Lord of the Rings every year. I just purchased The Treason of Isengard last week during my date date with Daniel. I put The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien on my list. I flip through a few more of the books before realizing I'm getting a slight headache. I need food. I'm about to eat a book. I think The Hobbit might taste good.

48) As I head down the stairs to leave, I notice the shadows high up on the wall. They look like the Terra Cotta Soldiers in China. It freaks me out a bit.

49) Right when I walk out the door, some guy walking in spits a big hawker. I'm totally disgusted. Men are pigs. 

50) Walking to my car I notice a woman walking in front of me. It's the lady in the teal pants and she's got a book bag full of romance. And I got a list of fifty things and a bunch of books to buy. :)