Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflecting on 2010, Welcoming 2011

Reflecting on Art

2010 turned out to be one of my most creative years to date. Part of the success of that was committing to a goal of three Creative Saturdays a month with Lita. By sticking to our plan, I was able to reach new heights in living an artful and creative life and, as a bonus, actually make money while doing it. This year I was published in three magazines, sold the most stock, the most prints and received checks in the mail for licensing images to a card company.  Both my digital art and traditional art skills improved and I participated in a couple of community art projects. It was also my most successful year for health and fitness, completing the Disney's Princess Half Marathon. I'm convinced, now more than ever, that the creative brain works better when you combine it with a healthy lifestyle.

As 2011 dawns, I have put out into the universe my new creative and personal goals. I started by creating a dream board, filled with images and words that will remind me daily what I am hoping to achieve. As I walk into my art room, a 12x12 square hangs on the door filled with my daily, weekly and ongoing goals. I received an abundance of new Photography goodies for Christmas and I am looking forward to challenging myself with vintage film cameras and modern techniques. 

Yesterday my mother-in-law gave me a near mint condition Kodak Brownie to join the Imperial Mark 27:

Beside my photography goals, I have traditional art goals and writing goals. I am most excited about following the Awe-Manac this year alongside my creative pack of girlfriends. Missy, Lita, Loraine and I will all be using this delightful book to help inspire and motivate us in pursuit of our creative and artful life. As well, Lita, Loraine and I all have writing goals for 2011. Lita and I will both be using A Writer's Book of Days for creative prompts and I will also be doing The Daily Reader with hopes that next year I will follow it up with the companion book The Daily Writer. Of course, my main writing goal is to edit my NaNoWriMo novel by June so that I can get it published (one of the perks of being a winner is you get your book published by Amazon!). My traditional art goals are to continue to fill up my art journals, create my miniatures and continue my mixed media and painting projects. 
Some of the books to inspire, including the Awe-Manac by Jill Badonsky

Another goal for 2011 is to offer a Blog Giveaway at least once a month! The giveaway could be a print, something I've made or painted, a book I think should  be shared or photography goodies. I'm excited to share more than just my images with my readers!

I wish all of you a creative and artful 2011, with good health, happiness and love!

See you all next year! ;-)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sketchbook Project 2011: Below the Chrysalis

Below the Chrysalis

My next pages of the Sketchbook Project. The theme I chose is Below the Surface. I will be working the next two weeks on my sketchbook pages in hopes that I will have it finished in time to be postmarked by the deadline of January 15th. You can see my previous pages here. I have plans to see the Sketchbook on tour during a trip to see my friends Phoebe and Missy so that is keeping me focused during this time of distraction. So, I shall continue on sketching and painting and hope for the best! The next Art House Co-op Project I've signed up for is the Million Little Pictures Photomobile Project. I've chosen the theme "From Here to There" and will be doing it during my next long distance trek along with my friend Gina who chose the theme "Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner."  If you love photography, I encourage you to join us in the project!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exploration #14: Sound Map

Exploration #14
Sound Map
Sit in a location for one hour. Document all the sounds you can hear and the times you heard them. 
Mark the approximate location of the sounds in relation to you on a map.

This Exploration task was a great excuse to go to Barnes and Noble and sip a gingerbread latte topped with fluffy whipped cream. I grabbed a couple of books on tea parties (my next Bunco party theme is The Mad Hatter Tea Party) and a Photoshop Magazine (which I ended up buying) before heading to a table situated next to the stairs that led up to the cafe. Sitting at a table next to me was a man writing in a notebook, who as you will read later, turned out to be a pervert. Diagonally from me to the left were a group of fire department cadets. When I walked past them they were discussing the properties of water. Behind me, on the other side of the stairs were two men who never once stopped talking. I thought an hour was going to be a long time to just listen to things but because the bookstore was full of last minute Christmas shoppers, the task was relatively easy and the hour went by quickly.

I began at 10:11am. Here is a rundown of what I heard, and experienced during that one hour. I did document the exact time I heard everything but to save you from tedious boredom, I'm choosing to blog in a more condensed form. I've also decided to forgo drawing a map, which I don't think is necessary to get the gist of what I heard.

The very first sound I picked up at 10:11 was someone whistling. I would hear whistling again at 11:04.

I heard various pieces of conversation at different times (if you are a writer..ahem, Nichole & Lita, you could use these as prompts and write a quick little short story *wink*):
"Oh, that's right"
"I understand that but.." (This was a store employee talking on the phone about a return. She kept repeating the same sentence but with more impatience each time.)
"I feel bad about that"
"That's so cool"
"Just forget about that"
"It's in my blood"
"It's pretty obnoxious"
"No offense"
"That one would be good"
"That makes sense"
"He stands out in the picture"
"I'm not going to lie"
"I'm kind of amazed"
"I have a question"
"When are you getting married?"
"Not surprising"
"Hey Willie!"
"Okay, thank you"
"It's never easy"
"Maybe we'll go on Friday"
"You know? Yea, yea."
"Jack, hurry up!"
"You're 30 and so skinny!"

I'm very sensitive to noise and the cappuccino machine drove me nuts. SHHHHHHH is the sound it made. Oh, the irony. Cappuccinos were made six times in the one hour span. I guess that's not too many. From behind the counter there was also the sound of a microwave beeping, someone scooping out ice, rinsing dishes with a sprayer, stacking dishes. A pounding sound, as if someone was hammering with a mallet also came from the same area. I tried not to look at what or who was producing the sounds, relying strictly on the sense of hearing.

There were three distinct shoe sounds: Clogs, High Heels and Flip Flops. The clogs sounded like a horse, the high heels where high pitched and the flip flops sounded sticky.

About half-way through my one hour, the single man at the table across from me sighed. He had been writing in his notebook vertically as if he was writing Japanese. He was writing with a pencil and had a white leather pencil case laying on the table next to the notebook. He wore glasses and looked just like Tucker from There's Something About Mary.

I don't know why I have to go and start up conversations with strangers but when he caught my eye, I asked him what he was writing. Now, mind you, I'm a total stranger to this guy, a girl at that. And this guy proceeds to tell me that he's writing a screenplay; but that his friend thinks he should write Erotica; but he used to be able to write about sex; but now he just wants to write it more raw; but he's not sure that would be acceptable; but that he wrote a story about two women getting it on that was published in PRIDE magazine and he got $125 for it.

I was squirming like a caged Cornish Pixie and wishing Lita and her can of MACE were with me. This vertically writing character had now become Mr. Creep-me-out and as soon as I possibly could, I got out of the conversation but not before he decided to tell me that he writes best when he's stoned and his friend thinks he smokes too much pot. After I went back to writing, he got up, wished me a nice day and left. Or, so I thought.

He came back, approached the railing below me, looked up and said "Do you like peppermint?". I actually do like peppermint but I lied and told him no. "Oh, because I was going to give you some peppermint chocolates I had in my car." Dude, I don't want anything you have in your car. All of a sudden I felt like Elaine with the TV Guide guy from Seinfeld. Was he going to come back with his penciled pages fashioned into a bouquet? Oh, gosh, please just leave.

Once that uncomfortable exchange was over, I got back to documenting sounds:
A girl laughs.
Someone shuffles their feet.
Something is being removed from a plastic bag.
Someone is flipping the pages of a book.
An unknown whirling sound drowns out everything.
My chair creaks when I shift to a more comfortable position.
A throat clearing takes place behind me, then coughing.
A toddler is trying to form words but is only successful with "da" and "mommy".
A food package is being opened. I think it's a scone. I'm beginning to get hungry.
A woman drags two tables across the floor and apologizes to everyone in the cafe for the noise it's causing.
A preteen giggles.
A small boy is not convinced he likes chocolate milk. His mother reminds him that he does.
A fork hits a plate.
A woman walks by humming.
Someone scoots their chair closer to the table.
The store phone rings.
Two cell phones ring and I hear texting going on as well at various times.
An employee walks by right as his store phone, which looks like a walkie talkie, rings.
A bell rings. An angel gets it's wings. :)
Someone is rocking their chair back and forth on the legs.
Paper crumples.
A child laughs. A fairy is born. :)
A couple walks by whispering to each other.
I finally notice the overhead lights have a continuous buzz. Now, it's annoying me.
Knuckles crack.
Keys jingle.
A woman asks where the Suduko puzzle books are located.
Someone shuts a book with force.

The best thing I heard and saw? After Tucker left the table across from me, an elderly chap sat down with a children's book. When he opened the book, a computer-generated woman's voice said something and the man looked at me and giggled. I smiled. He then proceeded to record a message into the book:
"This is your grandpa. I love you. Let's make this book together." I smiled again. This one moment made up for the creep encounter.

During this task, I kept imagining my ear tugging towards the sounds like Bilbo's ear in Fellowship of the Ring, when the Sackville-Baggins were looking for him at his birthday party. It was a fun task despite the Tucker incident and I'm sure I will now be paying more attention to the sounds around me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Flower Faerie & A Rainbow

Flower Pot Faerie

I made this Flower Pot Faerie for Lita for Christmas. She and I both love Faeries and butterflies. Purple is her favorite color. We are full of promise for living an artful and creative life for 2011 so I thought it was a perfect combination of all those components. Here is a short little tutorial on how you can make your own one of a kind Flower Pot Faerie. She will inspire you all year long!

Materials: 1 small terracotta pot
                Various decorative papers in your favorite colors, torn into small pieces
                Matching decorative ribbon and fabric flowers
                Mod Podge
                Gel Medium
                Fabric Glue
                Stamp pad in matching colors
                Fabric Butterflies or Butterfly Stickers
                Faerie Ornament
                Small silk flowers
                Acrylic Paint, matching paper colors 
                Spanish Moss
                Floral Foam
                Pot Critter 

Using Mod Podge, adhere paper pieces to the pot, overlapping as you go. Let dry. 
Once the papers are dry, add some watered down acrylic paint over the paper in various areas. Wipe off lightly with wet paper towel. This leaves some of the paint behind but still allows the paper to show through.
Once dry, apply a light layer of Gel Medium. Print out inspiring words on the computer using the font of your choice. I used the words inspire, dream, wish, create. Using a sponge, apply some rubber stamp ink to the words to age them a bit. Apply them to the papered pot with Mod Podge. When dry, coat the entire papered area with one more layer of Gel Medium and add a few fabric flowers or bows to finish it off.

Paint the lip of the pot with acrylic paint. When dry, glue decorative ribbon around the lip of the pot and tie twine right underneath. Push Floral Foam into the bottom of the pot. Position your Faerie Ornament into the foam and top with Spanish Moss. Add a pot critter (in this piece I added a frog) and some small silk flowers to one side. Tie thin wire around a paper or fabric butterfly and stick into the foam to fly above the faerie. 
Viola! You're very own Flower Pot Faerie!

After dropping off the Faerie to her new home yesterday, Lita and I took a trip to a New Age store, a Scrapbbook store and of course to Barnes & Noble as well as Borders. It rained all day long but at the end of the day, as we were driving back home, we saw a rainbow next to a church. While waiting at a stoplight, I snapped a picture of it out the rain splattered car window. A great way to end a wonderful day with such a great friend. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Self Portraits?

This week I had two different conversations with friends about self portraits. The questions were both the same: "why do I take pictures of myself?" I get the feeling that most people who aren't into photography think it's some sort of vanity project when in reality it actually has nothing to do with vanity or being vain. I thought I would blog a post about what I see as the benefits of self portraiture and why I choose to express myself this way.

Besides the obvious reasons of expressing myself as an artist and documenting a moment in my life, taking self portraits is a lesson in self-love and self-acceptance. We are bombarded with images of what society deems to be perfection but there is no such thing. Especially true for women, we are made to feel "less than" by commercial and print ads telling us that we will never be beautiful enough, tall enough or thin enough to walk the runway at a Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. We look in the mirror and see our flaws. My hips carry too much fat, my age spots are getting darker, a new wrinkle has shown up below my lip. 

Taking self portraits is a fun and silly thing. Running back and forth to the camera, trying to get the focus where you want it, working different poses, smiles, funny faces. You notice your boob hanging out or your underwear showing. You giggle at yourself. For a few minutes, your inner child comes out to play as you pose like your favorite movie star or model. Then, when you look back at your self portraits, you see the little adventure you took yourself on in order to achieve the image. Your not looking at your crooked smile or lazy eye. You don't notice the laugh lines or those extra holiday pounds. You see YOU. The unique, beautiful, fun, silly YOU. And you realize I am enough

You can take your image into a free program like Picnik or even Photoshop and make art out of your self portrait. Change the tones, make it high key, low key, turn it to black and white. Blur out your wonky bits and if that wrinkle really bugs you, then go ahead and erase it. It's not about the end result, but about the journey you took to get there. And Photoshop is healthier and cheaper than plastic surgery. ;)

I encourage all of you who read this post to take a self portrait. If you've never taken one before, the first one is a little scary but once you post it, you will discover that others don't see the flaws that you see and that you are most likely too hard on yourself. As you begin to lose the fears, the walls come down and you become open to self acceptance, to self love. And that is a precious gift to yourself. 

*my little journey for these self portraits included taking about 20 shots with the word JOY backwards before I realized it and nearly bringing the tree down as I tripped over the light cord. That's what I see when I look at silly, clumsy self...but, I love her anyways. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Tis the Season!

I had a wonderful weekend Christmas shopping with my friend Loraine and tree shopping with my hubby!
While visiting the first Christmas tree lot, my bullshit meter was going off the charts as the sales guy tried to rope us into a bigger tree by telling us the tree we picked out originally was actually spray painted with toxic chemicals that would kill my cats if they ate it. Say what?? Dude, I may be blonde but I ain't stupid! So onward we went to the next lot and found a most beautiful tree, smelling so freshly of forest pine.

The tree is now up, scenting the whole house with the smell of winter and Christmas; a few gifts have been wrapped, and some cute Christmas costume accessories were purchased. I'm sure they will show up in a couple of self portraits between now and Christmas Eve! Until then, I hope you all are enjoying the season, getting into the spirit and spreading that Christmas magic to all those around you! I took all these images this weekend while out shopping. I've decided to go BIG on my blog...I like the look! What do you all think? Now, I just need to design a new blog header for 2011. :)

Christmas Magic...yes, please!

Christmas Ornament Champagne. Try it, it's delicious. :)

Lunch at Brio Tuscan Grill

Reflections of Sephora...we got yelled at for taking this picture. Whatever! Scrooges! I hope the sales clerk gets coal in her stocking from Santa!

Santa Super Sleigh Bokeh

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside!

Supreme Pizza Soup and Whole Wheat Cheesy Garlic Bread

Baby, it's cold outside! Perfect time for some warm-your-body, good-for-your soul soup! This is a healthier option to Pizza, with the same great flavors but less calories, especially if you use Turkey sausage. Cook some up tonight. :)

Supreme pizza soup:
1/2 lb. Italian Sausage (I use Jenny-O turkey sausage which will save you about 90 calories)
3oz diced pepperoni (I used the pre-sliced and just dice them up into smaller pieces)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 C sliced button mushrooms
1 C diced red onion
1/2 C diced red bell pepper
1/2 C diced green bell pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic 
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 cans no-salt added diced tomatoes in juice (14.5oz each)
1 C Swanson's Organic reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 C black olive slices

In a large pot over medium-high heat brown sausage and pepperoni in oil for 5 minutes.
Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Pour off all but 1Tbsp drippings and return to burner.
Add mushrooms and sauté until juices are released, about 3 minutes. Add onion, bell peppers, garlic, Italian seasoning, and pepper flakes; cook for 5 minutes until veggies are soft. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes, broth, olives and the reserved meat mixture. Simmer soup until heated through about 10-12 minutes.

Total time: 35 minutes
Makes 8 cups
Per cup: 181 Calories (less if you use Turkey sausage)

Whole Wheat Cheesy Garlic Bread
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 premade 12" pizza crust (I use Boboli's whole wheat for a healthier option)
5oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Fresh Basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley or 1/4 tsp. dried parsley

Preheat over to 450°.
Melt butter with garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. Brush over pizza crust and top with mozzarella. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake bread directly on over rack until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and parsley and slice into 8 wedges.

Total time: 40 minutes (includes preheating oven)
Makes: 8 wedges
Per wedge: 218 calories

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not So Wordless Wednesday: The Hills in the Highlands

The hills in the Highlands are bonnie, 
    With the light and the shadow at play; 
And the winds that make redder the heather 
    Far up on the cliff and the brae. 
The white clouds are floating above them, 
    Like snowdrifts that never can fall, 
The hills in the Highlands are bonnie, 
    The hills in the Highlands are braw!

~Alexander Anderson (translated by me!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ice Skating at Somerset House

Feeling a bit of nostalgia for London at Christmastime, when she is dressed in her festive finery. I was there this time last year with my friend Jackie. It was a time for Gingerbread Lattes, Christmas Markets and a few hundred drunk Santa's roaming around.

I love this image of ice skating at Somerset House. Imagine skating 'round and 'round on a site that has played a role in history since the 16th century. There be ghosts amongst the skaters. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Exploration #13: Collecting Type

Exploration #13
Collecting Type
Document lettering you find out in the world. Take notes about where and when you found the samples.

I'm always taking pictures of signs, lettering and text. Sometimes it's just because the sign, words or colors are visually appealing to me or I might see a use for the text or lettering in digital art. Here are some "types of type" I have found, some old, some new. I tried to post a varied sample of different lettering styles. I've also posted where I found them.

Letters painted onto book covers and displayed in a bookstore window in Charleston, South Carolina

I love the type on this Art-o-mat machine. It reminds me of The Jetsons. If you've never had the experience of an Art-o-mat machine you must find one quick! Old cigarette machines are turned into art dispensers. For $5 you can pull out an original piece of art work from various artists around the world. It's so much fun to see what you get. Sometimes, the artists put little secret extras inside. It's almost like Cracker Jacks but without the calories! This one is located at The William Hasley Art Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Long Branch Saloon. I love the Western Type and I love the saloon. Whenever I take a trip back to my home town of Dodge City (yes, it's a real place and when I said I was going to "Get the hell out of Dodge" I actually meant it!) I come here to get a bottle of Sasparilla. And not the fake crap they sell at the grocery store. This is the real thing baby! and it's super delicious. I wish I had one right now.

Oh Boy! Schanpper's Hots!
A little roadside diner on Sanibel Island, Florida. They have delicious burgers and dogs but they don't have tables, chairs or booths. It's standing room only. I'm not a fan of standing around eating a dripping dog.

Well, now...I think the sign says it all. Cartoonish Type don't ya think?
Taken on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. No, I did not have one. I don't want a big ass!

Graffiti done with a typewriter type font which is one of my favorites. This was found on a wall in Charleston, South Carolina. Obviously, it's a good little city for this Exploration task!

I love this freely handwritten type. It was found on a pillow at The Paris Market in Savannah, Georgia.
I've used it to create visual art:
One good kiss can last a lifetime.

Drop shadow type which seems a bit whimsical for such a somber place!
Taken on Front Street, Dodge City, Kansas

Block Type which is paired with some cursive type, standard type and handwritten type. Whew.
With the colors added in my brain is on visual overload. I'll tell you a secret..shh..I like visual overload. :)

I love the type on this cafe sign. It's so Parisian even though it was taken in Conwy, Wales.
And, I must add...they serve best wild mushroom risotto ever. I'll be lucky enough to revisit here in the Springtime and you can bet I'll be ordering the risotto again!

I don't know what kind of Type this is but it reminds me of ancient Greece. Maybe because the "M" looks like the Parthenon? I actually took this for my friend Jackie because it's her last name and she's Scottish.
It was taken at  a centuries old pub in Aberdeen, Scotland. You know the kind...dark wood, big fireplaces, local characters with so many stories written on their haunted that patrons don't even bat an eye when a glass moves down the bar by itself. My mom and I were feeling the chills of souls gone by all during our meal. And, yes we enjoyed every minute of it!

Stenciled type taken with Lita during a Creative Saturday near Pompano Pier, Pompano Beach, Florida.
We'll have to take a trip back so I can stand on this parking block wearing a pair of cowboy boots. :)

Yay! It's Medieval type! And a great I'm going to heed this holiday season!
Taken at the Florida Renaissance Festival, Coconut Creek, Florida.

Scallywag Type? I don't know what you call it so that's what I'm naming it. I love the curly cues on the end of some of the letters. Of course, everyone knows this is the sign above the entrance to Disney World's Pirates of the Caribbean. One of my favorite rides ever. When I was a child and we would go to the one at Disneyland in California, there was this huge pile of treasure that you would ride by at the very beginning. I was mesmerized by all that shimmering gold. I think I may have actually drooled. Now that I'm thinking about it, I realize I must have been a pirate in another life. Yes, that's it. I'm sure of it. :)

A fitting way to end this blog post, don't ya think? Taken with Lita last Creative Friday in the parking lot of Champs Restaurant in Pompano Beach, Florida.

I hope this Exploration tasks helps you to look at type with new eyes. Now, grab your trusty camera and head out to take some pictures of signs! :)