Soda Pop Wreath–31 Days of Halloween!

31 daysSoda Pop is the star of my book, I Hate Halloween, as well as Soda’s Christmas, and will soon have a book out called Soda’s Valentine!  He is an awesomely creepy black cat that lives with me, and I decided to create some sort of “wreath-like-thing” to hang on my front door.  I didn’t have a wreath form, and I knew I wouldn’t hang it outside.  BUT, I also knew I wanted to just use Soda’s image all over in a crazy, strange Halloween manner, and I came up with a sort of Soda Pop Rosette.

I used these printables–please feel free to download and print.  I printed on photo paper,  but you could use card stock as well.  You will also note from the photos shown that I had enormous print-outs–I have a large format printer.  But the printables posted here are scaled to 8.5×11 sheets for ease of printing at home for most folks.  Make sure you use a heavier paper like photo paper or card stock.  Anything else would be too flimsy, I think.

Soda wreath largesoda wreath mediumsoda wreath small

I cut out all the Sodas, then played around with them, trying to figure out my layout.  After that, I used a hot glue gun to apply adhesive, though, depending upon your paper choice, you could use craft glue or school glue or even double-sided tape.

13oct_4764 copy13oct_4770 copy13oct_4783 copy

I used these printables–please feel free to download and print.  I printed on photo paper,  but you could use card stock as well.  You will also note from the

13oct_4779 copy13oct_4797 copy

 

 

I lost count of how many I used, but I interspersed big Soda’s with little Soda’s and in between Soda’s.  I imagine that with someone who has more time than I do, there could be A LOT of different decor ideas you could accomplish with this very weird black cat photo.

Everyone who sees this is alternately delighted and horrified—especially the NON-cat people who come over.  I’m working on other ideas for these little cut outs, but, in the meantime, here is the finished Halloween decor!

13oct_7165

There is just something about all those green eyes staring at you….

Have fun with this one, and get to creating!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.  You may purchase her book “I Hate Halloween” here!

The Shape Of Things—31 Days Of Halloween

 

31 days

So, no Witch Of The Day, at least not yet.  I have a FULL schedule today, with homeschooling, editing, printing AND shooting on the list, so I am lucky to get this blog done!  ( I do have some things I’m imagining on, however–hopefully Witch Of The Day will get to join us soon!)  However, I have received a lot of attention for my Halloween Cut-Out shapes, and today I’m going to upload more.  But these are REALLY easy!

For Valentine’s Day, we all learn to cut out hearts by folding the construction paper and cutting HALF a heart on the fold.  Then you end up with a perfectly symmetrical shape, which is always the challenge when you want an even heart.  Halloween shapes–most of them anyway–work the SAME WAY.

For all activities you need construction paper of various colors, pencil, scissors, and I prefer a sharp craft knife for some of the “inside” cuts.  You will also need the Cut-Out Patterns posted here (right-click and download for free) or you will need to create your own patterns, which is easy enough. Little children can be shown how to cut the outside of the shapes with scissors, and then you can take over when it comes to craft knife cutting.

Pumpkins are particularly nice when created this way. They are pretty, and perfectly symmetrical.  So fold your construction paper, and cut out the shape of the half-pumpkin on the fold, INCLUDING half the mouth and half the nose

13oct_4904 copy

13oct_4908 copy13oct_4913 copy13oct_4915 copy13oct_4917 copy13oct_4927 copy

You may unfold at this point and be impressed at how cool your pumpkin looks.  THEN, refold and cut out the eye shape ONCE, pressing HARD with the craft knife and making sure you have an old magazine or a cutting mat underneath all of this to avoid damaging your table surface.  If you have a sharp knife and if you press hard enough, both eyes will pop right out with only the one cut.  Unfold and admire the majesty of a perfect Jack-O-Lantern!

 

13oct_4937 copy

 

13oct_4943 copy

 

Lather, rinse, repeat.  Repeat-repeat!  Have fun with it!  Make evil faces, funny faces, sad faces, sleepy faces!

pumpkins2

pumpkins1

Then try a ghost–same idea!  There are some bats here for you to cut as well!
. Cut on the fold! Easy-peasy!

ghost

How about a black cat!  Follow the pattern! Work on the fold! Cut him out!  Cut out his eyes with the craft knife, just like you did with the pumpkin, and trim off the extra tail–a little cat-surgery.  Again, simple!

cat

Have fun with this, and remember that ANY symmetrical shape can be done this way–and some, like the cat, can be altered a bit after cutting because they aren’t exactly symmetrical, but close enough.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.  You may purchase her book “I Hate Halloween” here!

ANOTHER 31 Days of Halloween

31 daysLast year I started an ambitious project on the first day of October, called 31 Days of Halloween.  The goal was to write a blog each day during the month of October about some creative activity that could be shared with the children in your lives.  I think I quit after Day 17, or something like that.  The reason was that I received news that my Dad had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  After I got that phone call, I quit blogging.  There were other blogs after that time, all of different topics, but I left my Halloween Blogging project unfinished.

Now, Dad is doing pretty well.  Surprisingly well.  And of course, life just happens, you know.  I couldn’t have predicted it, and I found I couldn’t work through it in my blog.  However, it has been a year.  And, in the back of my mind, I have been considering doing my 31 Days of Halloween project again.  Apparently I don’t have enough on my plate or something like that.  Today, I’m feeling pretty sick–my joints hurt, my stomach is upset, I’m tired.  But I thought that maybe a little writing is the way to get through this day, which has already worn me out even though it is only 9 am.  I wandered over here to my WordPress login, not sure what I would say in my post, but just decided to wing it.

What to do today, that is creative, fun, and related to autumn, I ask myself.  What can I say to the folks who might chance upon this blog and love to do creative things with their kiddos, or grandkiddos, or student-kiddos?   The leaves are still on the trees here, but I can catch tinges of color on the edges.  The sumac is rosy red.  The weather here is….well, they say it’s warm, but I’m currently chilling a bit, so I can’t comment honestly.  Even Soda Pop is feeling under the weather right now–he seems to have a touch of something in his tummy, too.  A vet visit may be in order.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I am dog-tired and my stomach is either really hungry or really NOT hungry.

So, today, I’m going to do a little cop-out.  Not a big one, but a cop-out nonetheless.  All my blogs from last October are still here.  They are still good.  Here are photos from a few of them.

All different, and all beautiful....

All different, and all beautiful….

boct_6861

boct_1585

boct_7165

Check them out today.  Pick something out that you want to do by yourself or with a child and do it.  I have a list of things I want to blog about THIS October, but no energy to complete the projects today.  Writing projects, art projects, illustrating projects, writing your own stories…..And they are coming.

Right after I nap a bit…..

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.  You may purchase her book “I Hate Halloween” here!

10 Years From Now

I have an interesting and sad story to tell. Recently I was approached by a woman who has a friend with a terminal illness. This lady who is sick–we will call her Helen, just because–is in her late 30’s, and has a pretty depressing diagnosis. I’m not going to spin it all out here with medical jargon and time frames, but every day is extremely precious to her. She has little kids. She is a very physically beautiful woman, as you can tell from her photograph. She uses visualization as part of her self-care and treatment, and she wants to be able to visualize herself as a woman 10 years older than she is now. 10 years would be quite a victory for her. But no matter what she does, she can’t see herself in the future, with the slight changes in her skin, new folds and creases, and, of course with happiness at being alive radiating from her face.

So, it was requested of me that I use my time and talents to create an age-progression painting or drawing of this lady, to be sent on to her so she could see herself 10 years from now. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live close enough to do a photography session with me so that I can capture her with my lighting and composition to aid me in the illustration process. But I was able to get a few headshots emailed to me, and I decided that traditional drawing and art techniques would be too time-consuming. It was impressed upon me from the beginning that time was of the essence.

Helen

I decided digital techniques, photo enhancement, and then, digital painting on top of the photo itself would be the least time intensive of my creative choices, so, I set out to age this attractive person.

I’m not going to go into each step of the process here.  Suffice it to say, I literally painted age on her face, using my Wacom pen and tablet.  Then I altered the background with various brushstrokes, and brush stroked her hair, skin and features so they felt painted more than photographed.  I changed her hair, and her garment.  I spent time considering the color tonalities of the nearly-finished piece.  I wanted her to glow, to look like she was elegant, mature, and living fully.

This morning, I emailed the final result to the woman who approached me.  It will be forwarded along to Helen, and I hope it helps her.  I hope she looks at her older self with love.  I hope she can feel the wind in her hair from that beach, and smell the ocean crashing on the sand.

Helen 2

And, as I clicked “send”, I thought about how I am growing older too, and someday will be 10 years older than I am now.  If I am lucky.  I think about how many things can happen in 10 years–careers rise and fall, families are built, homes are moved into and sold….I thought of how I complain about how I look now, and the changes that are going on in my own face.  I feel small when I look at this woman who may not have the same luxury of aging that I (hopefully) will have.  All of us, who are focused on the little creases and folds and laugh lines to the exclusion of loving ourselves and the reality that we are alive—we are small and misguided and really ignoring the purpose of living, which is to experience life, not try to hold on to a moment in time, or a look we once had.

Here is to the next 10 years.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Sick Is Good

Spent the past 2 days sick-sick-sick…what did I learn? That I smell when I’m sick, and I must go shower today. That an extremely sore throat and losing my voice is really an awesome thing, because when I AM QUIET, THE REST OF THE HOUSE QUIETS DOWN. Apparently, I possess and exude a crazy sort of energy that brings the energy level of the whole house up, and when I am forced to whisper, or not even talk at all, everyone else is quieter. I like that. It’s like a weird Jedi trick. So, I need to talk less, and whisper when I DO talk. MAGIC.

When I am sick (and quiet), more ideas come to me. I got an idea of Free Skyping with schools….I think I may do that. Just reach out to schools and see if they want to Skype with me–we can talk about books, or art, or whatever. I mean, I can’t do it every day, all day, but maybe I could set it up once or twice a month, like a Skype day. Skype with each school for half an hour or so. See how many kids I can talk with.

I also had incredibly vivid dreams while I was feverish. I dreamed of fold-up school buses–just a weird, origami school bus thing that pops out and starts up and chugs around town. How enormously cool is that? Is there a book there? A song? How about a piece of art? Or, how about a mental image that makes me smile and that is it? Not everything is a cool book or a piece of art…and thank you, Universe, for THAT. I also dreamed the dog ate my bra, which doesn’t really correspond to anything except randomness and canine abdominal surgery.

I had a thought of doing art out in my yard this summer. Just set a time every day, go out under the trees, and do art–a big pastel piece. Or maybe a little mosaic piece. Or origami school buses, or whatever. Maybe people would hear about it and come see it. Maybe they would join me. Or maybe they wouldn’t. It might just be me out under the trees. But, in either case, it would be very very freeing and fun. Maybe I would leave the art piece out in the yard for whoever wants to take it. And if no one wanted it, maybe critters would shred it for their own nesting materials. I like that. My art turned into something that another living being SLEEPS in.

Today, I am sipping hot tea, and having a shower. I have a few “must-do’s” today, photography for customers, and an Inclement project that must be worked on. I will sleep some more, and when my voice comes back, I will be more judicious when I use it. Right now, out-loud just seems too…loud.

This random picture courtesy of my random brain during my random illness. I just like it. And it is quiet.

oct_1046

 

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

A Night At The Theatre

I went to The Theatre last night. Not a movie theater. Theatre. You know, people on-stage, throwing lines to one another, taking creative chances in front of a live audience. And no, it wasn’t Broadway. It wasn’t The Lion King at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater (the nearest place you can see “Broadway” caliber shows). It was in my little town of Sidney, Iowa. It wasn’t high-brow entertainment. It was a high school production of that classic tale of teenage angst during the mythical 1950’s–GREASE.

Presumably, you know the story. I hope so, because actually, the story is the WORST part of GREASE, either the stage production or the movie. The BEST part is the energy that play has. It’s fast paced, fun, catchy, colorful, humorous–a romantic slice of time that probably never really existed quite like that. And it is something that teenagers can play with some authenticity, simply because the characters are teens themselves. It isn’t Shakespeare, it isn’t Oedipus Rex (Thank God!), but it is entertainment. And for the kids performing this play last night, and tonight as well, it is art.

598694_10152659898545181_1089324177_n

I have nothing but praise for the cast and crew. Not that there weren’t imperfections–this is high school, after all, and Sidney is not known for its emphasis on Fine Arts but rather for hard-hitting football, squeaking sneakers on the basketball court, and, of course, RODEO (but perhaps that is changing just a bit).  We are the Sidney Cowboys, after all.  We are a typical small town.  Sport in one form or another drives the town spirit and the newspaper articles.  Because of that, it is no surprise that the stage is located in an old high school gym with dreadful acoustics.  Consequently, the actors have to wear microphone headsets throughout. We do not have a Drama department as such in our high school–no money, you know, the same tired story of public education in most small towns.  The director of our theatrical productions, Mrs. Nicole Zavadil, is also the band director AND the choir director for both the high school and middle school students. She is one of the best teachers I have ever met, and she has little help with the frighteningly huge workload beneath which she labors. She provides something to these children in our town–a basic appreciation of performing arts–that has been sorely missing for several years.

482348_10152659897540181_745363744_n

I am not a theater “person”.  I didn’t major in theater in college, nor did I do a single production after high school.  I did have amazing experiences during my high school years under  a Drama instructor by the name of Ken Balster, who, magically, is still doing his thing in Clarinda, Iowa, just 36 miles away.  I had the unbelievable privilege of going to school in a community that was a little larger and richer than Sidney, and had a true proscenium theater facility.  We had more money in our Theater Department.  We did two productions a year, plus had acting classes, set design and construction classes–all sorts of wonderful tidbits in the curriculum.  I was very lucky to have that background.  But, that was as far as it went.  I did no more in theater for the rest of my life, and I put that part of my background away, forever, it seemed.  Forever, until I had children.  And then, all that came rushing back into my mind.

483891_10152659902240181_579486685_n

I remembered the teamwork, the collaboration, the trust that you have to have with the other actors, with the director, with the audience, in order to produce a play worth seeing.  I remember the culture of acting as an art form, of singing and playing instruments as art forms.  I remembered the friendships and the camraderie that results from getting up in front of an audience and performing something for them the best way you knew how, of throwing and catching lines and cues with fellow actors, of the laughter together, and the fear of screwing up, and the hope that you wouldn’t.  I remember how bad it was when people had an “off” day, and how like poetry it was when everything was clicking on the stage.  I remember how democratic acting in a play is–you don’t need to have extraordinary physical prowess to act a part (in most cases).  You can be an “average” person, and still participate. You simply have to show up and dedicate yourself to a practice.  You don’t need to be able to throw a ball, or run really fast, or wrestle someone to a pin.  In fact, you have to let go of all you know about yourself and become someone else.  And to do that with a group of other actors–well, THAT is the point of theater.  It is the ultimate team.  You become one of many colors on a canvas, mixing together to create something wonderful.  It is ART.

I wanted that experience for my children.

And last night, at the Sidney High School’s production of GREASE, I saw that.

525137_10152659900380181_388728649_n

Regardless of gymnasium stage, of limited budget, of a small school that doesn’t have the cash flow for a lot of artistic endeavors, I saw these kids had it.  They were experiencing it together, transcending reality for just a bit.  Those young women and young men were “getting it”.  They were having a shared experience, and had entered into that sacred contract between actors and audience.  They fed us the performance, and we fed them our attention and applause.  It happened.  Hopefully tonight (and the second night is always tougher), it will happen again–that flow of energy between actor and audience.

398887_10152659902495181_1809497618_n

So, I want to thank Mr. Balster, for allowing me that wonderful, privileged experience during my high school years.  Even though I never pursued it, it enriched me in untold ways.

And I want to thank Mrs. Zavadil, for bringing this experience to my children.  She has changed the fortunes of our choir and band programs here in Sidney in dramatic, beautiful ways.  And she has taken on the role of director of our plays and musicals, providing an experience in performance-based art that our kids simply would not have were it not for her.  She can never be compensated for what she is doing in our town.

409183_10152659900890181_1451180726_n

Last night, after the play, I was able to walk down the hallway and see each of the actors.  There they stood, flushed faces, hearts beating young and wild with the memory of the past 2 hours.  I remembered my own moments, after a performance, when the audience would file by and clasp my hand, telling me “Good Job”–part of the ritual bond between actor and audience.  I remembered how much that meant to me, that appreciation.  And so, I got to be on the other end. Life is a wheel, isn’t it?   I passed through them, these children of Sidney, and clasped their hands and looked into their eyes, and gave them the only gift I had–praise.  It was profound.

Good Job.

581478_10152659904275181_1953657769_n

Photographs graciously provided by Sidney Photographer Scott Lowthorp (c) 2013.  You may find more of his excellent photography at http://www.viewbug.com/slowthorp.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Art Games and Pi

mommonster

I watched a movie last night–Life of Pi.  We meant to watch it on National Pi Day, but we got busy eating apple and chocolate pie that one of my kids made.  It was an awesome movie, thought provoking, in many ways profound, and not the least of it is due to the amazing CGI effects. I regret to say I haven’t read the book, but the story in the movie was beautiful and moving.  Sometimes reading the book before you see a movie makes you not like the movie as much.  I will read the book now, and hopefully see even more dimensions to the story.  It made me feel inspired, ready to write, ready to paint, ready to exhale creative things.  It also made me feel small and humbled by its grandness.  I understand thousands of folks worked on it, and made it what it is.  But it still makes me a little bit sad to see that I may never create a masterpiece like that–something with all-encompassing beauty, and meaning, and thoughtfulness, something that inspires someone else.  Something that large and perfect.  And that is true for ALL of us, no matter our skill level.  We are all always afraid that we will not be good enough, that our aspirations will always outpace our skills.  I can SEE it in my head (in the case of art and writing and theater), or I can hear it in my head (writing, music, theater), but when I am done, it is a big let-down.  It just doesn’t live up to what I had THOUGHT it would be like.

And that is actually NOT the point of creative pursuits at all.  The point is to enjoy and grow.  Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m sure all those visual artists enjoyed and grew during the process of creating that movie.  But when working at home for yourself, or working with children, the intent is different.  Millions of dollars in revenue is not at stake.  Rather, you are trying to grow as an artist, or to encourage young people to do the same.  Someday, if you are good enough, WHEN you are good enough, THEN you graduate to the level of millions of dollars in revenue.  Until then, it is process.

So, while I was watching this movie, and thinking about how beautiful it was, and how much I want to DO that and my work may realistically NEVER be THAT good, I thought about my kids–and all kids out there, really. (And MOST adults, for that matter!)  They look at my work and feel just as awed, and sometimes, just as depressed that they aren’t THERE yet.  With children–say, ages 3-6 or even up to 8, kids usually aren’t that self-critical.  But then, something begins to transform in the synapses of their brains–they begin to SEE differently.  They begin to see the way they draw, and the way the REAL WORLD looks, and they see that those two things are drastically different.  And then, kids get frustrated.  If something doesn’t happen to nurse them through this period of feeling inadequate about their art, they will quit creating it.  It’s that simple.

Today, my daughter Sailor, who is 8, began saying she was bored.  I listened to it a bit, then suggested she do a drawing of me.  She drew me the other day, and did quite a good job.

momportrait

I told her to draw what she saw, and she did.  I praised her efforts extensively, and I assumed that assigning her to draw me was now a “go-to” move whenever she was bored.  It would benefit her to have the practice, and it would benefit ME to have her occupied and not whining about being bored.  So, she sat down with a pencil and paper, positioned me (I was writing the first paragraphs of THIS blog on my laptop), made me take off my glasses because “glasses are hard to draw”, and went to work.  And after 3 minutes or so, she said she hated what she had drawn.  I told her to throw it away and start again.  Nothing’s wrong with that.  I’ve thrown away more drawings and art than I could possibly count.  She said she had “done too much work to just throw it away” and whined about how she was getting bored with it again.

I realized I needed to take a different tack, and she needed some attention.  So, spur of the moment, I suggested we draw together.

THAT was a hit.  First of all, it is attention, and all kids love that.  Second, it is drawing together, and she loves to draw most of the time.  So, we created a “game” that I’m going to try with her at bedtime a few times a week: instead of reading, (which is incredibly valuable), we will try drawing at bedtime, together (equally valuable).  And, to take the pressure off trying to make things look REAL, which she is getting picky about, I decided we would draw something totally made-up.  MONSTERS.  And here are the rules of our game.

reggie

MONSTER DRAWING

1. Both parent and child MUST draw.

2. Both parent and child must use the same media–we chose cheap copy paper and Ticonderoga pencils.

3. The child “designs” the monster–for instance, Sailor decided that our monsters would have 4 eyes.  Then, she said they had two arms with three-fingered claws at the end.  Big teeth were on her list, and ONE foot.  The next go, she said one eye, no arms, batwings for ears, closed mouth with exposed teeth and 3 legs.

4. Don’t peek!  Sailor thought it was important to give the drawing parameters (#3) and then not share our drawings WHILE we created.  Our goal was to surprise each other with our drawings at the end.

5. Keep it short and simple.  I probably went overboard on mine, but we didn’t spend more than 5 minutes on each monster.  Setting a timer might be a good idea if either of you tends to labor over things unnecessarily.

6. When you are both done, trade pictures, and praise the child.  The child might possibly praise YOU as well–say thank you!

7. Tell each other about your monsters!  Name them.  Tell about what the monster eats, and where it lives and what its name is–Sailor named one of her monsters Reggie.  Sign your drawings as well, and it is helpful to put the date on them.

8. Do it again!

9. Keep the drawings in a file.  As you and your child practice more, compare your results to those a year or two ago.  It will be very gratifying to see how far you both progress–and you WILL progress if you do it often.

10. All rules are flexible.  Change them if it suits you!  Instead of monsters, design monster TRUCKS, or rockets, or planets, or food, or whatever.  As in all creative pursuits, NOTHING is written in stone, even these rules.

monster

 

So, I think I will work on this practice with my children more and more.  I will try it with my older children later this week during homeschool.  I am also going to create a GAME based upon this–for folks who find this a little too “freeform”.  Let me work on that.

In the meantime, don’t be afraid to draw with your child.  Your child certainly won’t judge you for your efforts, any more than you will judge them.  It is process, remember?  You are planting the seeds of art in their brains and in their hearts, which could grow into something marvelous.  Look at Life of Pi–the folks who created that started somewhere!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Entering Flatland

It’s interesting posting about creative things–a creative life, that is.  I am constantly striving for more creativity and opportunities to do creative things, but many times, my life is just…ordinary.  Dishes have to be done, and kids have to be gotten ready for school, and, since I homeschool 2 of my 4 kids, I have to plan for that every day.  Plus, I have a photography business to run, phone calls and emails to return, and I try to exercise, although sometimes that doesn’t happen either.  Creativity has to get built into that schedule somehow, if I’m ever going to do anything with it.  And sometimes…well, life feels flat.

feb_2348

See how drab this looks? Yup. Me all over today. I’m even WEARING gray.

Today is flat. I am flat.  I am tired and out-of-sorts and wishing I was sick so I could have a legitimate excuse to be non-productive, and for me, that is a bad thing.  I could tell it as soon as I woke up.  I have 3 books I’m working on here and there, and I’m excited about them.  I know I am.  I was yesterday.  But, there are “have-to’s” in everyone’s lives, and I have many “have-to’s” to do.  I often dream about what it would be like to just be paid to do what I love (writing, illustrating, photography) and not have to do the stuff that takes time away from those things, like the promotion, the customer interaction, figuring out pricing, cleaning the studio, removing viruses from the computers, maintaining printers.  I wonder, sometimes, if MORE time is spent doing things that I have to do to get ready to do creative projects than I do actually spend on the projects themselves, and I think the answer to that is an obvious YES.  It’s interesting how it works out that way.  You would think that you could just perfect your craft, whatever it is, and money would fall from the sky.  I mean, that’s the way it should be, right?

Wonder how it will work for MY fiscal crisis...

This was stolen from another of my posts because I’m too unmotivated (lazy) to take another one today..

RIIIIIIGHT.

Well, should-be’s aside, it isn’t the way it works for me.  And thinking about all the have-to’s makes it more difficult to get started, because I know it isn’t fun, and hey, I just want to do what’s fun, you know?  All of life should be a carnival!  Isn’t that the way many of us think?  Of course it is.  And I admire those folks who slog through all that with a smile, and most days I do too, but today, I’m flat.  I’m so flat I’m going to post pictures with this blog that are TOTALLY unrelated to anything other than I took them and they usually make me happy to look at.  In other words, I have no motivation to find, take, or create pictures that fit in with this post.  So, enjoy.

THAT looks like fun!

Ah, I used to love rollercoasters…

So, what do I do about it?

I make a list.

I sit down with clean white paper, and a sharp yellow Ticonderoga pencil, and I make a list of things that I must get done, no choices or complaining, I MUST do them.  I put stars next to the ones that REALLY must get done today. Photo-editing, stretching canvases, posting pix for customers, working on that Senior Pricing (I HATE working up pricing), communicating with some customers, and printing portraits. Then I put down other stuff as well, such as folding laundry, washing my sheets, picking up the Studio.  And I include EVERYTHING.  I put down Brush Teeth.  Even though I know I must brush my teeth and it really doesn’t need to be written down, I write it down.  Because I KNOW I will accomplish that one, and I will be able to cross it out after I’m done, and, hey, crossing things OFF the list feels good. Maybe I put a couple other really simple things on there, like combing my hair, and drinking a glass of water.  Whatever.  Give me the easy stuff to start with.  I LOVE to cross things off.  Then, I make another list, right next to it, of things that I normally love to do that really must get done, but that I’m feeling too FLAT to do today.  I list each of my book projects.  I list my new website that I want to get finished.  I list drawings I want to work on, and ideas that I want to develop, and new designs for the bathroom that I need to finish.  I also list “Watch Life of Pi”, because I purchased that sucker yesterday, and I really want to watch it.  But it is at the bottom of the list, because I want that to be a sort of reward, for when I get some of the other stuff done.

I love these guys.  This was last spring.  They are all dead now.

I love these guys. This was last spring. They are all dead now.

And after I do all of that, I put the list on my desk, and I leave the house.  I do none of it.  I go for a walk.  Because, you know what?  One of the best antidotes to feeling flat and uninvolved is to get into the world and breathe the air.  Really.  And to breathe the air while doing a bit of exercise–yes, I know I’m walking here, not doing windsprints, but hey, I’m FLAT today.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, you have to start at the VERY BEGINNING, and going for a walk is much preferable to sitting at home in the forced-air heating and working on that pan of scotcharoos that is calling to me from its hiding place in the oven.  I GOTTA get away from THAT, if I ever want to feel UNFLAT again.  Or, maybe in this case, the word is UNFAT, but that is a different blog.  My point is, a little exercise in the cool morning air will get me out of my own head. I will look at cloud shapes and chunky robins (they must have eaten scotcharoos as well) bopping across the frozen yards. I will see that there are other things in the world that bear paying attention to besides my list of things that I don’t want to tackle.  I will pump blood through my veins and wake up my grumpy synapses into doing something besides hitting the brain-snooze button.

Just not feeling it today.

Just not feeling it today.

After my walk, I will come home and have a banana.  Or an apple.  Or some broccoli.  Whatever.  As long as it grows in dirt, I will have it.  I won’t look at my list yet.  But it is there, on my desk, waiting for me.  I will help children do whatever they need to do.  Y-intercept equations or some such stuff as that.  Chemistry.  The Civil War.  To Kill A Mockingbird–I love that one.  Some art.  I will deal with them and give them my full attention for however long it takes.  And when I am done, then I will sit down with my list.  And I will pick ONE THING.  Just ONE thing, that I don’t want to do very much.  It will be a SHORT thing.  Something that will only take a few minutes, but I have built it up in my head to take 4 hours.  And I will do it.  Then, I will pick up my pencil and check it off.  YAY ME!

Shoes.  I just love shoes.  Really I do.

Shoes. I just love shoes. Really I do.

If I feel like it, I will pick another thing.  Another small thing.  And I will do it.  Then, I will take a break and read an article or something.  By the time I’m finished with that, I will be able to tackle another small thing.  And then cross it off.  And I will begin to feel dimension starting to return to my body, my world.  I will be a little less flat.

Perhaps I will go the whole day like that, just doing things a little bit at a time.  Perhaps I will only get the really easy things done.  Or, maybe I will get 3 hard things done.  Whatever.  But by the end of the day, when I’m ready for bed, I can look at my list and see some forward progress.  May not be much, but, I will mentally celebrate those things I DID do.

I love chocolate.  I DID eat some of these.

I love chocolate. I DID eat some of these.

And tomorrow, if I still feel flat, I will do the same thing.  I’m betting I won’t, however.  Forward progress, however small it may be, usually brings me out of Flatland fairly quickly.  I have had times–after my divorce, after the deaths of loved ones–where I’ve felt flat and uncreative and unmotivated and downright depressed for weeks, or months.  And making a list and crossing things off intermingled with eating healthy foods and getting some exercise is the only way I know to move through it. For me, it’s the only way I know–except for THIS.  I would be happy if I could JUST DO THIS.

Why can't I do THIS today?  Actually, even if it was summer, and warm, and I was at a pool, I wouldn't be able to do THIS.

Why can’t I do THIS today? Actually, even if it was summer, and warm, and I was at a pool, I wouldn’t be able to do THIS.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Page Design One Last Time

Another visual blog.  But I really wanted to share what has been going on with Soda’s Valentine.  I am almost to the point of putting in all the text, and then it is just a matter of putting it all together in a multi-page pdf, and uploading it to my printer.  So, we are nearly there!

Here are several finished pages without the text.  Please note where I have put the art in–sketchy drawings of Soda Pop.  I love that part of it.  I believe that while sketches are not “finished”, they are quite beautiful in their own right, and I love being able to show them in one of my children’s books.  Untitled-8 Untitled-9 Untitled-10 Untitled-12 Untitled-18 Untitled-113

Now, I would just blog and blog today, except it is my oldest son’s birthday!  I must give him a shout-out, because he was responsible for a good part of my children’s book beginnings.  It was he that wanted me to get a macro-lens so I could start photographing insects and bugs, and from there, my first book, Bug Summer–Raining Ladybugs was born.  So, happy 14, Sterling!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Facebook Is Crazy…But Then Again, So Am I

So, I Facebook.  Many people do.  But there are many people who don’t.  They think Facebook—that putting your entire life online for the edification of others—is a completely crazy thing to do.  Maybe it is.  I don’t know.  But many other people (and some of the SAME people who think Facebook is crazy) also think that the act of creativity is crazy.  And sometimes, it is.  Sometimes I’m up all night with ideas that are positively foaming over in my brain faster than I can write them down.  Sometimes I’m incredibly depressed that there ARE no ideas.  Sometimes I ask my husband to bring strange things home from work, like clothes that will fit my cat.

And he actually BUYS these things.  Now THAT'S crazy.

And he actually BUYS these things. Now THAT’S crazy.

 

Sometimes I get so involved in whatever I’m creating that I make messes in the house, drink juice straight from the carton, forget to eat and sleep, and have to be told that it’s time to shower.  And that’s just WHILE I’m creating.  After I finish whatever project it is, I have to “get it out there”, which involves being open to criticism, and praise, or, worse than either one, just being ignored and disregarded.  Being successful at creative pursuits means you have to share it, and wait for the response, which makes you scared and happy and proud and depressed and all sorts of things that, depending upon their intensity, make you crazy.  Plus, a lot of people think that allowing yourself to be that vulnerable, well, that’s crazy too.  So, I’m crazy, Facebook is crazy…it all works for me.

And the reason I’m “on” about this today, is that I’m beginning a small “thing” on Facebook.  I already use it for promoting my blog, and my photography business.  I use it for a few personal, family things as well.  But it is mostly for business.  However, I’ve decided that that stupid “status update bar” needs to be filled with something more than what I had for supper, or how my husband’s toenail fungus is really disgusting (it is).  I’m putting some actual WRITING in there.  Not necessarily every day.  And not about ANYTHING specifically.  Just about some experience I had, or idea or concept that became clear to me.  See, I can be notoriously thick.  In fact, I feel that much of my days are spent saying “Wha?” as I walk around in my own little mental world.  But suddenly, and with no warning, my brain light bulb will activate, all 15 watts or so, and I will “get” something.  Or I will experience something with new eyes.  So, I’m trying to record those fleeting moments because I think, somehow, that is where the true gold of my creative life really lies, and I record them, at least in part, on Facebook.

So, here is this morning’s post.

I took the dog out into a cold, gray morning, bare branches above and dull ground underfoot. We go to the same corner of the yard each time, and while she does her business, I always survey the parts of the property that I can see. (Not that we have an estate or anything–we have a modest home on a modest lot, no biggie.) For some reason, as I was looking at two evergreen trees in the backyard, I spied a small “sparkle” through the branches, just for a moment, but bright. I’m sure it was caused by a streetlight shining through the boughs from a block over or something, but it didn’t really matter, because, instantly, I was transported. It was, for a brief but interminable moment, as if I was in the yard during a full-on June evening, with the warm sun just gone under the western horizon, the grass thick under my feet, and the air alive with bugs everywhere. The whole world positively seethed with life, and the sparkle through the tree branches that I had spied back in March was just one of about a million other sparkles from lightning bugs doing their mating dance in the muggy Iowa night. I stood there, in the summer-that-wasn’t and breathed in all the life that was-soon-to-be, and it was wonderful.

 I love all seasons. I can find beauty in every single time, something to appreciate, something to enjoy, and it is one of my few really great qualities in my large collection of rather human ones. Winter makes me feel like I’m resting, giving my brain a break from all the riotous color and activity of the other seasons. For me, it is a necessary balance. But, I’m ready now, for flowers peeping and mown grass and lightening bugs calling busily through the purples of summer evenings.

 Then, the dog gave a tug on her leash, and I was rushed back to Iowa, March 2013. The clouds hung low and unremarkable. We headed back inside.

Now, this isn’t Salinger or Hemmingway or Stephen King (I WISH it was Stephen King!), but it is me, and it is completely what happened to me this morning when the dog was doing her “thang” on my hard-as-winter-bones yard.

Sophia

The dog.

Not terrible.  And it felt good to write.  So, there it is.

I’m under no illusions that I will elevate Facebook, or get rid of the Harlem Shake memes, or the sometimes awful political bickering that goes on there.  I’m just going to reach out to people with me, and who I am.  That’s it.  And really, that is ALL art.

Facebook is a great place to get your work in front of people.  It is maybe NOT a great way to actually gauge how good your work is (depending upon who reads it), but it is super for just “getting it out there”.  So, whether you are an adult or a kid or a kid-like adult, just put it out there, and be human with others.  And if someone else puts a bit of themselves out there, read it, look at it, appreciate it, knowing it is maybe a very important part of that person.

Later, Gator.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.