Monday, January 5, 2015

White space

I don't know what made me think of this today but..... way back in 1988 or so, I was taking art classes at a local community college and I had a teacher named Craig Nilsen. He was tall and gangly with long, shaggy hair and his personal art was slightly off center so, of course, I adored him. He was that odd, cool guy and everyone wanted to be in his classes. He taught me graphic design, printmaking and when the first Macintoshes arrived on campus, he taught us all that the world and art were changing. He was right.

Craig was also the guy that told me that "white space is your friend". It's funny but I can't even say that in my head in my own voice - it always sounds like Craig. So much of what we were all creating was so cluttered with elements bleeding off the edges for no other reason other than that we could cram it in there. I could see the frustration in his eyes sometimes during class critiques as he tried to focus in on an art submission that visually vomited on every possible ounce of space.

The challenge, I would think, of being an art teacher is nurturing individual creativity while teaching basic rules & techniques. Most artists aren't very good with rules at all. And they probably shouldn't be. Rules, like pavement, are for the unimaginative souls unwilling to forge their own paths.

I assume that some students in the class were not on board with the whole idea of white space and never really understood its importance. I will  admit that it didn't come easy to me in the beginning. I was from the "more is better" school of thought. Slowly but surely, over years of classes with Craig, I realized that white space truly IS my friend. My art is better for it.... my book covers and illustrations cleaner... but it's more than that.

My LIFE is better because I embrace the white space of it. I can turn off the noise in the room so that I can hear the simple sound of my own thoughts and the muse whispering in my ear. I can close my eyes and breathe deep and de-clutter my list and my process. I do not - wait let me rephrase - I can not fill all the spaces in with unnecessary items, tasks, or commitments.  Of course, I need the important stuff in the middle... my family, friends, my art, my career and I need the stuff surrounding it that makes it all interesting and full of laughter. What I do not need to is to fill every nook and every cranny with the unnecessary stuff... the drama.. the negative... the stress. I have no room on the edges for excess baggage. I need the white space.

I don't know if the direction that my art has gone in would please Mr. Nilsen or not. I'd like to think he would find it at least amusing. Im pretty sure, however that he would be tremendously pleased that he impacted my life with 5 words that didn't stop at an art lesson... "White space is your friend". Thanks, Craig.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Crayon Re-Launch!

Ah... 2015...  time to make those New Year's promises and resolutions. Years ago, my running joke was that the only resolution that I could stick with was to make no resolutions. For the record,  I do have all of the usual ones: I will exercise more (any at all would be "more"). I will be more focused at work. I will spend less time on Facebook and use my time more productively. Blah blah blah. So what do I really think will be different in 2015?

Well for starters, I will become someone's grandmother this year. Our little Blueberry will pop out in April and change our lives and the world. And I know this because when her mother was born, that is exactly what happened. The innocence of babies can do that to you.

I also know that my career is going to go in wild, positive directions this year. In 2013, I published my first book, How Long Will You Love Me? Last year I published my second children's book, Stu's Big Party, and illustrated 4 others. Already on the schedule this year are 4 more books to illustrate,  my third book I Love You to Pieces, and an e-book about crowd-funding  - all before the summer! There is an underground rumor of a possible  revival of a co-authored silly book for grown-up girls as well. Add in more personal appearances and speaking gigs and my dance card is filling up.

I suppose if I have an actual resolution it is more on a personal, inspirational level. This year I will strive to be more aware of the world and the people in it. I will try harder to respect the journey that others are on even if I don't completely understand it. I will walk away less and speak up more when I see something wrong or a fellow human struggling. I don't have much but this will be the year that I give back more. I will purge my life of what doesn't touch me in some sort of positive way and be mindful that I need to be a positive force in the lives of others lest I be purged. I will let go of things over which I have no control. I will be more proactive in keeping and nurturing my relationships with my friends and my family. I will text less and call more. And I will be happy with all that I have and even more grateful for some of the things that I don't have.

All that being said... 2015 is really in my hands. I believe that what one throws out to the universe is what one gets back. If you dwell on how bad things are, that is what you will get back. If you concentrate on being pitiful and make excuses, the universe cannot help but throw those things back at you. And so it follows that positive vibes, light, and love will find you if that is what you project. Focus, energy and compassion are yours for the taking. Thats my plan. I declare to the universe that 2015 will, indeed, be the best year ever and so it shall be.

As for this blog space... I would say that it needs a make-over but, in truth, I never really made it up  properly in the first place. For the most part, I stopped right after I came up with the clever name. I really couldn't think of a "theme" that I could write about that I felt people (other than my mom) would read. Looking for input, I threw the question out to my Facebook circle. The most beautiful answer came from my friend,  Joe: "Personally, I think you should pull in where your inspiration comes from... You're not just an Author, but an artist, a visionary, an entrepreneur, a humorist... Anyone who can pick up a twig and say... "This would make a great handle for a hand formed clay serving tray shaped as shed autumn leaves" and then realize that vision has a rare gift for finding creative inspiration Anywhere. That spark applies to words, to the visual arts, to music... You've got it, and personally it fascinates me. And that's all I've got to say about that." 

And so that is what I have decided to do... stay tuned!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day #1 of my first book tour

I finished packing on Monday night so that I could get up and see what the world looked like Tuesday at 6:30 am without having to make serious decisions. By the way, its dark at 6:30 am. Very dark.

Southwest allows one bag of 50lbs to check for free. That bag contained 40 hardcover books, a pair of high heels, a couple of articles of clothing - oh and a flask of vodka. When they weighed it at the check-in (after the skycap almost threw out his back tossing it on the belt) it was about  46 lbs. I had room for a couple of extra books!

My carry-on bag was just as heavy (altho no vodka) with the rest of my clothes and 40 more books. Lets just say that getting that into the overhead bins was a challenge and leave it at that.

I also was allowed a computer bag - stuffed with my computer, my colourful sharpie collection and about 20  more books. Thankfully, I have a very strong shoulder strap.

Oh and i just remembered that I need to send some serious evil juju to the guy that selected my seat on the first leg because I was in the very last row - you know the only one that will not recline? - and the airblower above me had no off position.

We land in Atlanta and thankfully, I have almost 2 hours to get from my terminal to the next one. Of course the next one is NOT on the same concourse and here I am schlepping about 60lbs of books/luggage around, lost in the airport, wondering if Concourse C is a made up place like Narnia. I finally see a sign for C and am so glad that it looks like I can just jump on the Plane Train to get there. I almost wipe out a guy in a wheelchair when my shoulder bag slips off, throws me off balance, and almost topples me and my carryon bag to the floor.

At this point, I have used up almost an hour of my layover time. All I want is to get to my gate so that I can sit down, find the closest Starbux and also pee - not necessarily in that order.

The travel gods finally smile down on me and I find that my gate is directly across from both the Starbux and the restroom so I can almost do all 3 things on my list simultaneously. Armed with a giant mocha frappasomething, I find a spot to sit and wait out my now 45 minutes. I'm starting to regret putting the vodka in the checked bag.

I end up in a chat with 2 very nice older ladies. Im feeling all kinds of special and important because it has come up in conversation that I am an author. As I pull a copy of the book out of my computer bag, I hear a commotion behind me and see a bunch of big guys in football jerseys surrounded by men with large cameras. I didn't know who they were until I saw a giant bird marching around with them. He looked kind of like a brown chicken but he was suppose to be a falcon and I was in Atlanta. Im a baseball & hockey fan but even I finally put it together and realized that all of this hoopla was for the Atlanta Falcons. My little fan club of the two grannies were blinded by the bling and ran off to take camera phone picks of football players for their grandchildren. 

On a serious note, I was sitting next to a military guy who was a little disgusted with the attention that these guys were getting for playing a game vs him offering to die for their country. I was about to thank him for his service as he suddenly ran off to get some pics too. Apparently a brush with greatness is not to be missed even if it disgusts you.

The football players are there as a poorly thought out publicity stunt. They are announcing flights over the PA system. Not mine of course because they are mucking up the works in getting my flight boarded. When the football star finally calls our flight and we begin to board, I look over my shoulder and see that I am being followed by the giant bird. Sweet.

I have a better seat this time and try that "bat the eyelashes" thing to get someone to put my 50lbs carryon in the overhead bin. Im sure that the gentleman who helped me just thought I had something stuck in my eye and maybe felt a little sorry for me. What ever. The bag ended up where it was suppose to be.

I look towards the front of the cabin & the giant chicken/falcon is still there and I realize that the second page of my book has just happened. A bird is flying in a jumbo jet. I wonder if its a sign....


Monday, July 8, 2013


5'x5' floor installation in Gloucester, VA
I was always fascinated with mosaics and, decades ago, decided to teach myself how do it. I read up and put together a list of what the experts said not to do & I did those things first. They were right about some and wrong about others. Needless to say I developed my own style. Since I started, I have mosaiced small things, large things, indoor things & outdoor things. Basically, if it doen't move fast enough, I am liable to start sticking tile on it. 

Have you ever looked at a mosaic and thought-- Hm. I wonder how the artist got all of those little individual pieces together to make this piece of art?

This is how: 
We start with an idea and we imagine the finished artwork in our minds. We draw out what the final outcome will be to help visualize our goal. We accumulate the pieces we need, the necessary tools and set aside time to create. A mosaic artist then slowly, patiently must lay each individual piece together, working towards completion. Often there are changes in direction - either something isn't working as we thought, or materials become unavailable or the Muse just says "It would be better if...". So we adapt and refocus and continue forward. Time is always an issue. If I have learned one thing over years of being a professional tile-breaker: not even once has a mosaic project ever just finished itself. If I don't put in the time and effort it will always remain just a pile of tile.

It's not rocket surgery, its actually the same way that ANY dream is built. You start by creating a long-term vision.  You set & visualize specific goals. You gather the right materials, tools and resources. You make time. If you are like most people, you are busy - you don't HAVE time, you must MAKE it. You prepare yourself for obstacles along the way. You will run out of resources or someone will tell you that your idea isn't a good one. Ignore the nay-sayers. Keep moving forward. Your dream will not come true on its own. Just keep at! And if you do... if you make sacrifices and work hard and just keep moving forward... well then step-by-step, piece-by-piece, you'll get to the finish. And it will be worth it.

So what's your "mosaic"?

See more of my mosaics

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What I learned today

As an author, you start out writing your book because you love it and, sometimes, you love it so much that you are afraid to let it go. One day you decide it's time and you finally release it out to the world. What happens next is that you get so caught up in the "process" that you forget how much you love your book. There is editing and rewriting. There are illustrations to do over. There is marketing and paperwork. You get caught up in pre-sales and chasing reviews. Slowly you forget how much you love your book because it is real WORK now. 

And then, when you have almost forgotten, someone sends you a picture of his daughter sitting in her mother's lap, reading your book and you get goosebumps. You realize that your hard work has created a moment in someone else's life. And you love your book again because you finally remember.