Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Resources for Writing

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I keep a pretty insanely full writing binder of resources, inspirational items, and advice from different sources, in the hope that they will all lead me down a path to somewhere!

A few days ago I decided that this binder wasn't quite bursting at the seams enough, so I researched some writing prompt ideas.  I came across a pretty helpful site that I'd like to pass along to any other aspiring writers out there:, the Poets and Writers Magazine--incidentally, as I look back at the site now to include their links here, I see that their New York office is closed due to Hurricane Sandy.  How crazy that something so huge can be happening just across the country and our California weather is still so mild.

The Poets and Writers Magazine has several resources other than the writing prompts I came across the other day.  There is a blog about upcoming writing contests, a classified section with calls for manuscripts, an E-newsletter, and a whole host of other things to explore.  I'm having trouble pulling away from it to continue writing here!

I thought I'd share my favorite writing prompts, plus my response to one of them:

Erasure poem: find a text that branches out from your regular reading material, underline words or phrases you like, and then white or cross out the rest.  Use the remains for inspiration.

You and Me: write a poem to your past or future self to warn or reassure, and ask questions without answers.

A Universal Message: everything you encounter today could be a sign from a greater power.  Write a poem connecting these seemingly incidental occurences.

Start a Collection: take a week to collect photos, small objects, favorite passages, and overheard conversations.  Keep your collection in a shoebox.  At the end of the week, take everything out and use the ingredients to write a story.

Art of Arbitrary: open any books from your shelves and choose words at random.  Write down 10.  Use this list to write a poem of 5 couplets without using the first person.

My choice was pretty clear.  Since I tend to be rather painfully organized and a creature of habit more often than not, I was attracted to forcing a little randomness (plus I have a lot of books to choose from!).

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Nina Boyd

Upon a gath'ring ceremonial
they formed 'round a god made corporeal
But now rejecting the light,
lonesome orbs spin from sight.
The vast skies unwind
Free from temporal bind.
Planets tumbling into blackness
Dodge chaotic, cosmic madness
An ordered universe is gone
We look up and see only space.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"What Do You Do?"

Alice in Wonderland Art Jam
I've been thinking a lot about how I answer the question, "What do you do?"  Even though overall I like my "nine to five," as they say, I don't consider it self-defining by any means.  What, then, compels me to answer that question by filling in the blank with this job?  What keeps me from proclaiming myself a writer or an artist, and instead makes me define myself by what I do to pay the bills?

Alice in Wonderland Art Jam
I've come to the conclusion that I can't fairly call myself a writer or an artist until I start becoming those things more--that is, until I actively spend more time producing art than I spend at my nine to five.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Fellow Artists: Matt Beard

"Bird's Eye View" by Matt Beard

I have always loved color, and Matt Beard does it well.  An artist living in Humboldt County, he seems very influenced by nature, especially the ocean--and what better inspiration for color than those California waves?  I thoroughly enjoyed browsing all of his galleries, noticing in each one that his landscapes all seemed to reflect the rhythm and texture of waves--even landscapes that had minimal water in them. 

"Redwood Roots" by Matt Beard
"Shoebox Series #4" by Matt Beard
Ironically, in my search for pieces that demonstrated remarkable use of color, it was Beard's ink work that caught my eye.  Once I saw his line work and excellent balance of black and white, I had to see if he also worked in color.  I'm glad I kept browsing his site, because I found some truly breathtaking compositions, handled with bold, graphic simplicity.  
"Afternoon Mourning" by Matt Beard
Each piece is unique, but has that unmistakable signature style we as artists try so hard to develop.  Plus, not only are the pieces rendered well, they also invite the viewer to explore the world.  They are a great tribute to places, and the feeling that permeates those places.  Matt Beard really captures the essence of each landscape, whether it's redwood forests or rolling waves.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cooler Weather + Cozy Blankets = Disaster!

There is nothing cozier than climbing into bed with some paper and a pen.  Add the long-awaited dip from 100° to the mid 60s we've had here and you've got yourself a recipe for a novel.

"Storytime" by Nina Boyd

Speaking of novels, it's almost embarrassing to admit how many I'm currently in the middle of writing.  See, the problem with that cozy bed I mentioned earlier is it lends itself to writing, writing, and more writing--and not necessarily finishing long-term projects, or hammering out details of near-completed ones.

Maybe the 100° weather should come back.

Art's Still Got It

I subscribe to so I can receive an "image of the day" from their collection of illustrations.  There is no newsletter or any written communication accompanying these images--the picture, alone, speaks for itself.

On the 18th of October, the image was from Alice Brickner, entitled "How Much is Enough?" and was quite a blunt depiction of how we can get caught up in the pursuit of more: in this case, more money.

Her illustration almost makes money look like it can be mined from underground, like mineral deposits in layers of rock.  The painting shows a seemingly happy family walking along a path down a hill, and in front of them, nestled under the hill, is a bar graph, showing stacks of money increasing in size.  The graph is blocking their path.

I recently read a book, Comfort, by Brett C. Hoover, that examined different people's ideas of what it means to be comfortable.  Many of those interviewed mentioned financial security, and most measured that differently. 

As an artist and writer who keeps her current job more for the free time it allows than for the stellar wages, I have really started to examine the role money plays in my life.  (Incidentally, reproducing Brickner's illustration in this blog even as a thumbnail would've cost at least $99, so my apologies for the mere link!)  Does it block my path to happiness, as in Brickner's illustration?  Does it dictate my level of comfort, as with the interviewees in Hoover's book?  Should it be as important as I've made it?

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Salute to the Greats

"The Snowman" 
by Peter Szumowski

Where would we be without those greater artists to inspire us?  I spent some time browsing yesterday and found some new favorites to add to my long list.

Both my greeting cards site and my prints site offer sort of "master galleries" that sell prints of famous artists' work.  

Now, even after being obsessed with art since the age of seven, I definitely don't know about every master, so I'm trying to browse these galleries more frequently.  

Here are some pieces I've just discovered.

"Winter Breakfast"

I tend to lean toward scenes that are realistic but hint at the magical--I suppose because, to me, that's the most hopeful depiction of life.  

In my own art and writing, I'm always trying to create that semi-hidden layer of mystery, and when I go out in the world I'm always looking for it.  

After all, how is the day meaningful without a little enchantment?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Step by Step, Line by Line

A couple nights ago I began two more Halloween cards, with the vague idea that I should do a harvest scene to take advantage of the bright fall fruit colors. I've been having a lot of fun lately working in ink, which is the perfect medium for bold hues. It sounds very professional when I say "working in ink," but if I was more specific, all pretense goes out the window when I call it what it is: working in Sharpie! You'd be surprised how well these pens meant for labeling boxes stand up to their more expensive competition.  I thought it would be interesting for any beginning artists out there to see the stages even a simple 5 x 6" illustration goes through to reach completion, so this entry is lined with shots of just that.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One Artist in Support of Pinterest

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I've heard lots of things about Pinterest, most of them accusatory.  I wasn't sure what to think of the site.  Yesterday I found myself signing up for Pinterest so I could follow my sister's Pinterest board.  I also found that I wanted to make my own board, too.  And it's great!  I've always been a saver of ideas and snippets for later: a scrap of wrapping paper will inspire my next drawing, some sheets of scribbled Sharpie colors will narrow down my palette decisions for a painting, lists of words I like will help me edit vocabulary in my stories.  All of these things take up space, however.

Friday, October 12, 2012

...And now I'm a blogger.

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For a long time, I debated whether or not to begin an art or writing blog.  There were lots of reasons to consider it: I've always been the type of person to keep journals, I find quite a nerdy delight in note-taking, and I generally just love language.  

In fact, if I had to pick the way I communicated with people from day to day, I'd definitely choose to write to them.  There is something about writing that erases uncertainty, prevents miscommunication--at least for me.

See print
But to blog about my art?  I thought, why did I need to keep a weekly journal about that, and why online?  I already had several art websites, complete with artist bios I'd written and colorful descriptions of my pieces. 
Did I really need anything more?

See print
Then I realized how much a blog would keep me on track.  People who know me well also know that I'm notorious for abandoning one near-complete project to start another.  I can't count how many times I've done this.

 Once I finished art school, the best technique I found for completing pieces was to have the goal of "publishing" them on my website.  What better way to support this than with a blog that displays my in-progress projects, shows updates along the road to their  completion, and ultimately pushes me to finish them?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is Young Adult Reading Off-Limits?

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I've been debating what age group my writing should target.  On the one hand, I want to explore themes that may be beyond young adult interests, but on the other hand, I'm not sure my writing style is sophisticated enough for "adults."

I have to add those quotations, and even as I write this I'm laughing inwardly at myself and the stigma I attach to that word.

When I think of "adult" writing, for some reason I always picture the Tom Clancy section at the bookstore or the Nora Roberts selections at airports.  I think to myself, I could never write like that!  The really funny thing is I've never read either of those authors, but somehow I'm certain they define the "adult" writing I'm thinking of.

I'm being silly, of course.

See print
At age 28, I still enjoy Harry Potter and want to investigate series like The Mysterious Benedict Society at my library.  This kind of writing is fun to read and wonderful to create.  Who wouldn't want to escape the world of politics and grocery shopping for a magical realm that measures characters' worth not by their paycheck or looks, but by their courage?  This world shouldn't be closed to us when we leave adolescence!

Maybe I've answered my own question about my writing, or maybe I've created many more questions instead.  Am I the only one who thinks this way?  Does anyone else enjoy Madeleine L'Engle's Time quartet more with each passing year?  Who else besides me keeps books beloved at age eleven and explores them almost twenty years later, relishing their simple themes and subtle depth?

Maybe there should be a new genre--Young Adult Meant for Adults! 

We'll work on the name.  In the meantime, I guess there's no reason my writing can't be a little of both.

If you're an avid reader visiting this blog, post your favorite Young Adult books below!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sales at my Imagekind and Zazzle websites!

It's that time of year, not Christmas yet--Halloween!  And I feel Halloween is one of the more under-appreciated holidays when it comes to cards.  Shouldn't we all be sending greetings to celebrate the chance we have once a year to dress up and be spoooooooky?

Therefore, I'll bring a couple of things to your attention:

Buy the card

New Halloween cards are now on sale at my Zazzle store.  Enter code THEOCEANBLUE at checkout to save 14.92% for Columbus Day.

Buy the print
New Halloween prints are now on sale at my Imagekind store.  Enter the code
KETTLECORN30 at checkout to save 30%.

Check back throughout the month for more Halloween news!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What is it about selling our art that makes us so happy?

About two weeks ago, my day was brightened considerably when I checked my email and learned I had sold one of my Halloween greeting cards.  The profit?  Definitely a sum worthy of that proverbial “sniffing at:” $0.12.

And yet I was in a great mood for the rest of the day.
I suppose it has something to do with the fact that a sale, no matter how small, shows that someone—most likely a complete stranger, no less—liked my work enough to spend time browsing it, and then to part with a bit of hard-earned cash to own it.
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Is it just me who becomes ecstatic over making less than a dollar on something that took multiple hours to create?

I don’t think so.

I should reiterate that this particular sale was on a website where I sell prints and cards, not originals, so modest profits are a given.  This sale was also on a note card, the most inexpensive of all the products--but even so, $0.12 seems like such a small return, doesn’t it?

Maybe not.  Because along with that $0.12 comes affirmation that my work is good, encouragement to keep producing, and hope that this mystery customer may return and enjoy another one of my pieces enough to want to own it.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent as little as $0.12 to obtain that kind of boost, so earning $0.12 along with that boost seems pretty wonderful, all things considered.