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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

ATTACK OF THE GIANTS!

I was attacked today.  Yes, attacked.  It was amazing.

I know I’ve mentioned that I work from images.  Well, last night I fell asleep with an image of a Tyrannosaurus Rex inside my jacket pocket.  Why?  Well, I have no idea whatsoever.  But the image is a cool one, and the IDEA of having a T-Rex inside your pocket, eating up little bits of cookies and whatever else I stick in there, but I have to be CAREFUL, you know, because he BITES, well, that just made me laugh.  This morning, I woke with a SENTENCE IN MY HEAD.  “I have a giant in my pocket.”  And that REALLY tickled me, because everyone knows giants are too big to fit inside pockets.

And my kids noticed me thinking, and I explained to them what I was thinking about.  I’ve had these kids for awhile now, and they are pretty much used to me going off on wild mental tangents for no obvious reason.  Then I got into explaining to them, and the parts of the storyline that I could remember, and then I thought, well, a GIANT is in the eye of the beholder.  So, really a giant could fit in the pocket of a being MUCH larger than he is–a GIANT-GIANT, if you see what I mean.  And this could go on forever upwards in size, AND downwards in size, so everyone is a giant to someone else, and a tiny, Lilliputian being to others.

And this is how ideas happen, for me, at least some of the time.  My brain warms up, the circuits connect, and my thoughts travel gleefully and effortlessly from spot to spot, with no hesitation, and I smile and laugh and talk to myself and in general, probably look like a loon.  But creativity is crazy like that.  I think my last post was about that very thing.

So, that led me to think of a story I had planned to write–on my LIST of things to do in my notebook, and that was a story called The Inclement Giants.  It was a great little concept, but I never sat down to try to write it, because it just didn’t seem that clear.   And I realized, I might just have written that story, or at least the crux of the story in my morning musings–4 YEARS after I got the idea.  I spent a little time roughing out the WHEN of the story, and the WHERE, and the HOW of it too, because they are all integral plot points, you know.  And I found that, surprisingly, the concept fit into my Inclement world like a missing puzzle piece does when you finally track that sucker down under the couch after an hour of looking.  It just snaps into place, like it was meant to be there all along, and of course, it was.  It was MADE for that spot.

And so, I sat down with a piece of paper.  Just a thin, cheap piece of copy paper for the printer, and I drew my GIANT, or at least what I think he might look like right NOW.  He may change.  And, as you can see in this drawing, he’s really scribbly and rough.  But, I like that.  It fits, somehow.

drawing, sketching, Inclement Iowa, giant

First sketch…please note, I KNOW he has 6 fingers on each hand. It’s all part of the plot, and no, it doesn’t involve THE PRINCESS BRIDE. AND, I think his hands are too small compared to his body…will work on it.

And then, because I don’t like to waste anything, I scrawled down a few ideas for the T-Rex as well.  It will be a little kids’ book–if it is ever born.  The one about the Giants will be at least a chapter book for maybe 8 year olds, if not a novella for older kids.  But I see illustrations in it too, so it HAS to be a visual book.

And all that in a couple hours.  I love it when I get attacked like that, by inspiration, and then a rush of ideas just tumbles through my brain.  Now, I’m off to take my inspired brain into more page design for the VALENTINE, and then, I have to take photographs this afternoon.   So, my lesson today is…even after 4 years, a story can come together, and with surprising rapidity.  And I got a bonus story (maybe) to boot.  And, when an idea comes, it is like a strange, wonderful path into the forest.  Following it for a while can lead you to great treasures.  Follow your path today, just to see what there is to see.  Perhaps you will get lucky, and giants (or something) will ATTACK!

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.

Sketches of Soda–Doodling Works

So, today is a simple blog–an easy one.  It is a VISUAL blog, something I want to do more often, because, as they say, a picture really IS worth a thousand words.  So, here we go.

Do you all remember my post on doodling, and how important it is for learning and generating ideas and improving art skills?  You can read it here if you need a refresher.  Today I’m posting a big page of Soda Doodles.  I will use them sprinkled throughout my book Soda’s Valentine as space-fillers and such.   And they are a bit more “finished” than most doodles are.  I first sketched them all out quickly, and then darkened the lines that I liked and cleaned them up a bit with the eraser.  But you can still see “rough spots”, and I like that–it goes with my idea of having all my actual illustrations in the book be quick and gestural, instead of “perfect”.  So, here is the pencil drawing as I did it last night. The paper size is used is 14″x17″ and I drew with a bright yellow Ticonderoga #2 pencil (my Precious!).

mar_1956 copy

 

Oh, took me about 20 minutes to get these down.  And feel free to download and print this for your own use–copy what I have done, trace it, color it–do whatever.  You can learn a lot from someone else’s art, and it isn’t really copying in the end.  It is all about learning and developing brain connections to create your own art one day.  I learned much of my drawing skills during the ages of 10-14 by purchasing comic books and copying the drawings inside.  So copy away!

And here it is, in a reverse–meaning all black is white, and all white is black.  I will probably use this version, or something very similar, in my page design.

mar_1956 copy2

 

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.

 

Recording Day!

Today, BETWIXT and I begin a bit of a new journey.  We’ve been working on this new project for a while, mostly individually, but, we are bringing it all together today for a recording session.  Our goal is to eventually pitch our work to PBS or some other children’s network as an animated series.  Unfortunately, none of us knows animation.  But, we’re not letting that stop us.

Awhile back, I rewrote Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, as a script instead of a children’s book manuscript.  And I grabbed 3 of my children for the parts of Zack, Paxton, and Sylvia.  One of my kids, the oldest boy, was stricken with a huge case of very dramatic stage fright combined with the issues that go along with being 14.  Seeing as it wasn’t worth the fight, I “fired” him from his job–he was thrilled–and “hired” a friend of my 11 year old son to fill the part.  It was probably a wise choice anyway.  The 14 year old’s voice was deepening quite a bit, so he may not have been the best Paxton.

Yesterday, I got my cast together to do some run-throughs.  And it’s funny.  The 8 year old girl is much louder and more emotive than two 11 year old boys.  After coaching and cajoling, however, I think it’s going to work.  TJ and Jared of BETWIXT will be here this afternoon with recording equipment.  I will send the 14 year old and the dog to the movies (or someplace) and we will capture these kids doing what they do–I wish I could say “on tape” here, but it doesn’t work that way anymore.  Digital is the name of the game; there is no tape to be found in this process.  So, I’m going to stop blogging right here, and pick up this afternoon when we have finished the recording.  Hang on…

Several hours pass….

Hey there!  I’m back!  4:30 in the afternoon, and the recording is done!  Overall, it was a great day of work.  Sailor seems to channel Sylvia straight from my imagination (or maybe I wrote the character with Sailor in my brain) and Starson and his friend Michael really delivered on Paxton and Zack.

mar_1464

Even my Corgi, Sophia Loren got into the act by barking a voice for Flash.  The only one who was really not into the deal was Soda Pop, who normally meows loudly when you touch his tail.  Today, he was strangely silent except for one very pronounced hiss.  Oh well.  We’ll get him next time.

He was having NONE of it.

He was having NONE of it.

So, besides eating a bunch of vegetarian pizza and chocolate chip cookie bars, we accomplished the recording portion of our “pilot” project.  Jared and TJ did a great job helping the kids understand the process and get into character, and Jared totally rocked his professional recording abilities ALL OVER my photo studio.

mar_1481

mar_1476

You can even notice Flash watching the proceedings from behind the children as they read their parts.  In the next couple weeks, I will have a sample of what we did that day, perhaps with a couple new illustrations for our storyboards, and some of Jared’s score backing it all up.  It was a good day.  As most days in Inclement are.

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 Mish-Mash

Some days are a mish-mash of activities and projects.  Today is no exception.  First off, I have to tell you about my visit to Northeast Elementary School, which occurred day before yesterday.  We had a GREAT time!  The kids and parents listened to me read two books–Bug Summer-Raining Ladybugs, and Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly.

Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs

Bug Summer–Raining Ladybugs

 

Yes, THIS was the "lucky" book...

Yes, THIS was the “lucky” book…

In between, I did a quick Flash illustration, which made everyone very happy.

IMG_8598_1363

 

After all the packing and preparation, it was a worthwhile way to spend the evening.  And afterwards, the hubster and I got to go out for a sandwich together, which rarely happens.

I have also spent more time on Soda’s Valentine, getting pages ready so I can eventually publish!  Yay!  Here are a few more photos that are all tricked out and ready for page design.

jan_2387 copy jan_2431 copy jan_2437 copy

Then I spent some time on the photography portion of my business—I do run a photography studio called Images By Tracy Lovett, and I had to design a customer book of images that we did of her daughter–here are a couple of the pages from THAT project.

Untitled-30 Untitled-38

 

And you may learn more about my photography studio by checking out my Facebook page here.

After THAT, I was back onto Inclement stuff.  My friends Jared and TJ–the founding members of the band BETWIXT that I work with quite a bit, are coming down this Sunday to work on a collaborative project with me.  We have taken Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly and turned it into a script for what will hopefully become an animated children’s television pilot.  My 11 year old son, one of his friends, and my 8 year old daughter are going to read the parts for us, and we will record their voices so we can produce a finished audio portion of the show for future animation.  I am hard at work doing storyboards of the script as well.  Eventually, we hope to meet with people at PBS, maybe Nickelodeon, or other children’s tv networks to see if they are interested in what we are doing.

I was supposed to have a photo session this afternoon in my Studio, but one of the little ones wasn’t feeling his best, so we have postponed that until Saturday.  And that gives me  a bit of time to write my blog today.  After I am done here, I’m going to return to photography stuff for a few hours, editing some customer photos, and printing an order or two for Senior Portraits.

feb_3448 feb_3921

 

Oh, and I played a game of chess with my son–partial game.  Chess and I do not get along, and I always lose interest about half-way through.  I also need to stretch two canvas portraits for customers today.

So, that is what my plans are for the rest of the day.  My sons (who are homeschooled) have had an art day today, working on “macro” projects–they have to design a macroscopic world, either real or imaginary–and do a drawing of it.  One of them is working on rendering a corner of his room, up close, complete with a tiny city and buildings that, at least in his imagination, exist in that space.  The other one is doing an outdoor scene, where the stems of plants are enormous and there are critters of all sorts living and breathing and fighting and dying, all on a tiny scale.  I wish I had time for this project as well….it sounds so fun and full of possibilities.  But alas, I have a full plate already.

See, that’s the thing about creativity, and creative jobs.  Sometimes, they require laser-sharp focus, and many times, you are running hither and nigh, accomplishing many unrelated or semi-related tasks just to get through the day.  But, that’s my life.

So, back to it!

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.