Friday, October 16, 2009

Too little time

It can be a curse to be creative. Take, for example, the Print & Pattern blog that fellow artist Karissa Chase recently shared on Facebook:

This blog is a delight to look at, but at the same time it gives me a crushing headache and the desire to hide under a piece of furniture. How can this be?

I'll tell you. I want to be able to take my art "out there" someday to the licensing world, and in particular this clean style of illustration (for lack of a better term....whatever IS it called, anyway) is something I don't know how to do. Something tells me it is done in Illustrator. Being self-taught and not having enough money to buy Illustrator, I am not yet up to speed on that program. Not to mention the time it would take.

And as I mentioned, I am trying to write.

And market my cat art as it exists in its current form, which is acrylic painted, primitive in style.

And mother, and homeschool, and once in a while wave a mop at my house in hopes that I can make it look a little less like the Munsters' home.

I am whining, I admit it. But I just don't know what to do. Sometimes it is easier just to blog and forget the whole thing. A nice online version of water-treading that gets me absolutely nowhere, not the slightest bit closer to my goals.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pulled in too many directions

It may seem, at first glance, like things aren't that well in my creative life. After all, I have not blogged here in months! The truth is, I've been doing too much to blog.

Some time within the last month or so, I have decided to take my writing seriously. I've been writing personally for as long as I can remember, and have a trunk full of journals to prove it. But I recently became too fed up with sitting on the outside looking in for it to continue one more day.

It's one thing to suspect I probably should have been a writer, when all the writers I know of are strangers, far away. They are mere names at the library, or on the bookstore shelves, or sitting on Oprah's couch on a book tour, smiling blankly at me from book jackets. But it became altogether different when my friends and fellow moms revealed themselves to be writers. Real people--right at arm's length! Human beings! Mortals, juggling family responsibilities just like mine! Oh hell, I can do this, I thought. I ought to get in the game and stop stalling, stop waiting for that perfect world where someone's paying my bills for me and I have 8 hours each day in front of a sunny window, coffee cup in hand and cat in lap, before I start pushing myself to stretch. Not just to spill into a notebook, but to go back, to edit, to improve.

[Mind you, I don't do much of any of that in my blogging. Who has the time? I am lucky I get to speak here at all, but I digress.]

I just knew it was time, not only to work on my non-fiction essays, to polish them up and send them out for publication, but also to tackle the age-old question: why don't I ever write fiction? Personality-wise, and in the way I think and observe the world, I seem so much like so many writers out there--fiction writers. So the other day I bought a copy of The Writer's Digest Guide to Creativity, and started to try their fiction prompts. What fun! And I've also begun to take the advice of every writing book or article I've read thus far: read, read, read. This is where I have historically fallen flat, and could be why I have never been drawn to fiction.

Meanwhile, the daily responsibilities of my life continue: housewife, homeschooling mom, freelance blogging sometimes has to wait. It's worth it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Found an old sketch pad tonight

I was clearing out an old corner of the basement tonight and came across one of my old sketch pads. I am so glad I opened it up to take a peek, though I must say it was rather jarring. Inside this modest 5x8 sketch pad was a glimpse into my life in the year I first met my husband. The sketch pad is full of--(get ready for it)--sketches!

You may wonder why that sounds weird, but let me tell you that eleven years later, sitting here typing at 9 pm with a 6-year old still chattering to himself in his room when he's supposed to be asleep, the idea of having a sketch pad and the kind of time to not only DO a ton of fun stuff but then DRAW it all as it strikes me as breathtaking. Nowadays, I can't even sit and read for five minutes without some interruption or some duty, beckoning. But I digress. Let me share with you one of the things I wrote in the sketch pad. It's a favorite of mine.

When You Walk, You See the Cats - 4/24/98

"I have lived in this neighborhood a week or two already, and every day I've looked at it through the window of my car. I zoom to and from work or errands, only fleetingly aware that this section of town exudes history and elegance. Old colonial houses, set amid giant trees at least the same age, speak of a time gone by, and I am usually too harried to listen. Today I decided to do what always must be done--set out on foot.

"When you walk, you see it all up close. Slowed down, you can hear it all--every kind of bird, every child's voice, every strain of music drifting through an open window. You can smell the food being cooked, the barbecues, spring's new flowers and the fallen buds that cover the ground fresh from last night's rain. And walking is when you see the cats. In windows, on steps, curled on porch chairs and baking in the sun on the driveway.

"A cat lover, I enjoy knowing where the neighborhood cats live. I don't know what good it really does me to know such a thing, but it makes me smile to pass them by, to see their tranquil, smile-like gazes. Outside, a cat is king or queen of the kingdom. You can see it in their body language. And they are so beautiful against whatever backdrop, especially this one. Quiet, fragrant, alive with spring getting under way. Beneath this blue evening sky, these grand old houses, these are my new neighbors. I am glad I walked tonight."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Baby books" for dogs and cats

Pet owners, I need to hear from you. Word has it that serious pet owners would enjoy having a "baby book" to commemorate the events of their pet's life. Not to mention it would be a great gift to give a pet owner who just got a new puppy or kitten (or ferret, or chinchilla......)

So tell me, what kinds of pages would you like to see in a baby book for a pet? To get started, I would guess:
--a page for the day the pet first came home (and photo of course)
--a page for his favorite places to go
--a page for his favorite animal friends, if any
--a page for the favorite toys
--a page for silly destructive things the pet did (like the day the dog ate the couch stuffing or pooped out little Johnny's long-lost ping pong balls; that sort of thing)
--a page about the pet's grooming experiences, mind you, there are pet books out there, and I could look at them, but I am trying to be original rather than copy someone else's format.

Thanks for any input!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mini Journals

I am so happy to say I can finally make & bind my own journals!! So far, they've been featuring my kitty art, but the sky really is the limit. The hardest thing seems to be narrowing down my options. Kitties? Doggie "baby books"? Scrapbooks, journals, text, patterns.....? Oh my.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hand-painted stool, ready to go!

OK, so my husband the professional photographer should have been the one to take this photo, but I could not wait one more day to put it up here on the blog. The nightstand is finally done, and looks way better in person. (It has a kitty scene on both sides)

This nightstand will hopefully soon be available at the colorful, whimsical gift shop called "Serendipity" in Hudson, Mass. I have an appointment there next week to show the owner some of my latest creations.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recipe for peace - at least for today

I've been struggling lately, with the need to create art in order to earn money for my family, versus the fact that I am utterly devoid of inspiration at the moment. I'm floundering, also wondering what medium would help me express myself should anything worth expressing suddenly make itself known. Do I want to be using acrylics forever?

Sometimes the best thing to do is just back off it. I took out a few books about Buddhism from the library yesterday, as I knew this philosophy would contain just what I need right now. With the last several weeks careening from the economy, straight up to melting ice caps and down to swine flu, I needed a little coaching in the feet-on-the-ground here-and-now. A little advice on learning to live with the reality that I can't control a damn thing and no one gets out of here alive anyway. And I was so right! The Buddhist readings set me on a better path. Today I took the day off from worrying about income or art. I headed to the kitchen and cooked.

Now, if you know me, you know that the fact that I am opting to cook is really saying something. I am a person who always joked, "sure I can cook; I just follow the directions on the box." Though I am eating more healthily these days and avoiding boxed things bearing instructions nearly 100% of the time (mac & cheese being our downfall), it's still not often I spend more than a half hour in the kitchen. But today I decided to make Indian chapatis by hand (actually, is there any other way?). With the help of my wonderful Indian food adviser, Aastha (yes, she is really from India), I added a few ingredients to make them taste good. (Methi powder--aka fenugreek--fennel seeds, salt, pepper and sauteed minced onion, to be exact). Then I made tomato soup from scratch using vine tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and sauteed cumin seeds. I also made sugar roti--or at least one version of it--which is basically chapatis with sugar folded into them. My son, who benefited from my peaceful approach today by lolling about in his PJs till the afternoon and making molecules out of clay, enjoyed the sugar roti dipped in honey.

I was so pleased to offer these handmade foods to my family! I did a little laundry, too. All in all a wonderful day. If I keep this up, the art will be happening naturally in no time flat!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

On creativity and contentment

I was riding around in the car today with my six-year-old son, thinking. (Oddly enough, despite the many distractions including other drivers, my son's chatter and nonstop NPR, my car is the place where I do some of my best and biggest thinking.)

Like so many other days, today I was noticing that a great many people look just plain miserable. I look at them as they walk down the sidewalk and navigate the parking lots. Grimaces and frowns sometimes seem the default facial expression--people burdened by who knows what assortment of woes. Horrible shoes, old age, heavy bags, 50 extra pounds or, these days, plain old existential dread. I think how easy it is to fall into that trap of just reacting in a miserable way to everything...hurrying to beat the clock, cursing the driver who just cut us off while yammering on his cell phone, reflexively looking at our watches in line at the post office (as though someplace else is more important than where we are)....and how much of that reflexive unhappiness is so very unnecessary.

This is where the creativity comes in. "You know, honey..." I say, raising my voice so it can be heard in the back seat. I look in the rear view mirror at my little boy, whose eyes are gazing out the window. "It's important to question everything." And then I make my usual futile attempt to explain what I mean. "...So many people are so unhappy, and they don't need to be. We don't have to try for so much. We don't have to need and want so much. It's OK to be happy with simple things."

That doesn't sound particularly creative. But it is, because from sunup to sundown we are bombarded by things that tell us to be dissatisfied. The news, for one thing. Advertisements. Arbitrary authority, like schools, which lock us into thinking one way--one way which just happens to put us on a crazy stressful rat-race track that starts with high-academic kindergartens and ends with MCAS and college admissions. We're homeschoolers (unschoolers, mostly) so I am able to keep my son's life very free, very unstructured. His creativity can soar nonstop and nothing gets in his way; no one tells him to close that book, change the subject, get up, go out, sit down, study this, think that. It might sound like I am digressing, but I'm not, really. Keeping him free--his body, his mind, his spirit--for as long as possible is my way of arming him for that world out there, where corporations or institutions tell us what we should buy all day long, but whose products clearly don't deliver what we all seem to desperately need: an unshakeable, detached contentment from whatever it is they're trying to sell.

If we had that, I think I'd see a lot fewer furrowed brows out there as I run my daily errands. Mine included.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wooden-tile gifts

I am having fun today working on wooden-tile magnets, pins and pendants. They don't have the biggest profit-margin, but I can't resist the solid feel of the wood and I love how they come out. And we all know it's important to have fun creating!

These wooden tiles are from a wonderful supplier on Etsy called TheGeneralStore. He sells them in different sizes, and he's so prompt! The tiles are bigger than Scrabble tiles. I know Scrabble tiles are all the rage, but I like my pins and pendants to be slightly bigger so the art can be seen better.

I leave some of them natural, some are painted white, some painted black. It all depends on the colors in my design.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mother's Day cards for moms of animals

Last night I finished my latest card design. It's a Mother's Day card for mothers whose kids just happen to have 4 legs and fur.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This used to be a plain wooden box

It had been a pale wooden box that I picked up from the recycling center, just 5"x7". Now I love it! The red felt I put inside really complements the colors in the design, I think.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Good dog vs. bad dog

A local pet supply store suggested I do a variation on the good dog-bad dog theme. So I had a little fun with these today. It's fun doing art that is not serious.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The nightstand that wouldn't take No for an answer

Today I was out scavenging thrift stores for furniture to paint. Do you know how it is when you see something and it just says "Buy Me"? I spotted this little narrow nightstand and immediately ran over to it. I didn't much care for the price, but by the end of my shopping trip it was in my basket anyway. I kept going back to it. Solid construction, a lovely shape and size. I'll be lucky if I can part with it once it's done. (The idea is to paint it and sell it. That's the whole point.) Even in its funny yellow color, other people noticed it in my shopping cart and commented. I picked up a few smaller things, too--a picture frame and small recipe box. I am having a lot of fun. No idea yet how and where I will sell my new creations. I'll figure that one out later.

Creative impulses running wild!

Trying to focus my creative impulses is like trying to herd cats.

If I got paid for making a variety of cool, creative things, I'd be doing pretty well. For instance, the other day I created some earrings out of paper. Dictionary pages, to be precise. (A friend has borrowed all my jewelry findings, but once those are back I will put up a photo.) I've got numerous wooden decor items (furniture, frames, etc.) in various stages of transformation into colorful works of art. My desk is covered with little tiles of wood being turned into pendants, pins and magnets. And I've been reading Photoshop tutorials so I can improve my digital coloring process, which should benefit my card business. At night I read up on Art Licensing and from time to time I tweak and rearrange my wholesale offerings on

Really. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, all this stuff was just fun. It's still fun, of course, but the small voice whispers more loudly when I'm not following a certain, direct line between art and money. Bills beckon.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hand painted stool - the finished product

I am so pleased how this came out!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A hand-painted step stool: the "before" image

I bought this today from Salvation Army for just a tiny price. It looks drab and awful, right? Well I am going public with a promise to transform it into something lovely. (Speaking the commitment in public helps make sure I actually DO it!)

Stay tuned, for the "after" photo. :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wide-Eyed Owl

Here is another pen & ink with digital coloring. This is SO cute as a magnet and pendant. I will put them up on Etsy as soon as I can.

Mermaid Magnets

Pen & ink has long been a favorite of mine, but doing simplistic pen & ink illustrations and coloring them on the computer is a relatively new thing for me. I like the clean, flat color I can achieve. Here's a mermaid I just did. It looks awesome decoupaged to a little wooden tile, and embellished with a little sparkly glitter!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Welcome to my new blog

I am a creative person. I'm also an artist trying to make money with art. This has a built-in conflict, and lately it's been taking a toll. My purpose in creating this blog is to have a place where I can share my art, my writing, and other creative ideas, without the self-censoring need for it all to "fit into the business plan" (such as it is) or conform to a certain medium or style (to fit in with the "body of work") before being shared with others. This has ben a stifling influence, and my inner artist wants to be heard. So...

My cat is in the window, the coffee's fresh brewed. I'm up to my eyeballs in scraps of paper and craft supplies, paints and recycled items awaiting repurposing. My 6-year old homeschooled child is playing happily on the floor, in a little "world" he has created out of Legos, Tinker Toys, modeling clay, a rock from outside, a folded blanket, a discarded foam square ("the aircraft carrier), wooden chess board (a "dock") and various pairs of my shoes (i.e. "boats"), populated with beanie babies, plush sea creatures, small die-cast vehicles and transformers who are in the midst of non-stop drama and intrigue, from the sounds of it.

But before I can get creative, I have to go out back with a bow saw and hack away at some more of the trees that fell last December. And complete the order for the store who may buy something this Friday. But my printer's not working today, so I have to FTP a file to the print shop and zoom over there later....

....I digress. (which technically could be the title of my memoir if I ever write it)

Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to sharing this creative life with you.