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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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

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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!

 

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

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

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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!

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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!

The Dark Side–31 Days of Halloween

31 days

So, yesterday I posted an original drawing AND a coloring page based upon that drawing.  I drew a witch–a classic, hair-flying, wart-faced, shrieking into the night witch.  I didn’t KNOW I was going to draw her, but she is what came out of my pencil when I sat down.

witch1Then I got a cute idea….(my husband runs screaming from my cute ideas).  How about a Witch Of The Day?  I do a drawing every day of a different witch.  After all, it’s Halloween season.  What could be more appropriate?

I started my second witch last night.  And she is MUCH darker than the first.  And by that I mean creepier, scarier, stranger, more-foreign.  She is Spider Witch.

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She has spiders—great-big-lush-furry ones–all around her, and ON HER.  She is terrifying.  Just imagine meeting her in a dark alley.  Or in JC Penney’s on a sunny afternoon.  But I finished the drawing and decided I really like her, malevolent though she may be.

However, what about kids?

My kids think she’s cool.  But, of course, they are raised by me, and I’m a fairly dark person at times, reading my Stephen King books and watching scary movies.  AND, my kids are treading on the line between childhood and…well, whatever comes after that.  Adulthood, I guess, although it doesn’t feel like such of a much now that I’m here.  What about little kids?

And I remembered my own childhood.  I loved scary movies from my first memories as a child.  Anything ghostly or supernatural was right up my alley.  I would have LOVED drawings like this.  They might scare me a bit.  But I guarantee that I would be right there with my pencil and paper trying to draw something just as scary.

So my point is this–imagination isn’t all unicorns and fairy tales.  Imagination is dark.  Imagination can be fraught with horrors.  It’s what makes you keep your feet on top of the bed at night, so whatever is lurking UNDER the bed can’t reach up with one clawed paw and drag you down, drag you UNDER THE BED with it!  Imagination is what makes me run up the stairs from the basement in the darkness, half-hearing some sort of creature, madman, whatever, pounding up the steps behind me.  And imagination is dark for kids, too.

When a child brings a drawing to a teacher, one filled with rainbows and flowers and the sun beaming down from the corner of the page, the teacher beams right along as well.  But if a child brings something dark to the teacher–a drawing with teeth and blood and MONSTAHS, well, the teacher might not respond with quite the same positivity.

We tell kids to talk about what’s bothering them.  But kids often times don’t have the vocabulary for their huge imaginations.  DRAWING what is bothering them, what scares them–what a great idea!  It should be encouraged!  Scary drawings are like lancing a boil–get that poison out and laugh about it afterwards.

Halloween is supposed to be SCARY.  We may have cute puffy ghosts and furry black cats and princesses and cowboys, but it’s history is about honest-to-goodness ghosts roaming the earth, spirits that cannot rest, and good old fashioned DEATH.

So, here is my Spider-Witch.  When I was a child—in fact, until I was in my 30’s, I had a pathological fear of spiders.  I would throw a heavy book on top of any spider creeping across my floor and make my husband pick it up and clean up the little spider corpse.  But, I started photographing spiders.  I started learning about what they do.  I learned basic spider anatomy, and spider behavior.  I now can go out and hold small spiders and not be scared at all.  I’ve never held a big one.  I don’t know if I want to.  But my point is, I’m not paralyzed by fear anytime I see one.  Sometimes I have spider nightmares–still.  That shows me that, deep down, I still carry a little bit of fear.

My Spider Witch exorcises that fear a bit. I have another version of her saved to my computer that has spider legs coming delicately out between her lips—UCK!   I even did a coloring page based upon her–the non-spider-in-the-mouth-one.

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Right-click and download her for all those kids who hold a strange fear-fascination with spiders. Show them the original.  Have them use it as a drawing guide for their own art.  Encourage kids to draw their own fears–put them down on paper in lurid color and then talk about it afterwards if they can.  Or write a poem about what they are scared of.  Do it yourself.

Make the world a little less scary with your creativity.

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!

 

Bat-Haired Witch Coloring Page

31 days

Ah, so I haven’t been writing since last week, but OH have I generated some Halloween ideas!  I may not get 31 up, but I’m going to do better than last year!  More to come on that (maybe later today!).  For today, I have a fun Halloween printable that can be used as a coloring page or as a drawing guide for older kids.  I am a firm believer in kids learning to draw from the work of others, and line drawings are a wonderful place to start.

This one is a witch with a bat in her hair, hence the title.  The original drawing is below.  I love the colors and the style.  It feels like a bit of an etching.

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So, I decided to turn it into a coloring page here, for download.  Please feel free to save it to your ‘puter and use it in class or whatever floats your broomstick!

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I love witches.  Some days I feel I psychically channel them.  I’m sure my family would agree!  Have fun with this one!  MORE to come!

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….

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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.

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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.

Iowa Reading Council Presentation

 

Today, BETWIXT and I had the privilege of presenting at the IOWA READING COUNCIL’S annual meeting in Ames, and to be honest, we had a ball.  portrait3We read a book, sang a song, discussed creativity, did a short drawing tutorial, and spent a few minutes writing a song together.  We had an audience of around 50 educators, and they were a lively bunch, all of them drawing and singing with enthusiasm.  I have attached my actual notes that I made for this presentation, so you can view them—I am striving to NOT apologize for their random, handwritten appearance, because part of MY creative process  is to grab paper, colorful, fine tipped markers, and just start writing, and the creative process is often a messy one.  In this day and age of perfectly aligned fonts, handwritten notes are, in their own way, a beautiful, human thing, and I personally believe taking notes by hand is something that should be encouraged and even taught in school.  As far as the colorful pens go, I am a very visual-spatial learner, and the color helps me to visually organize my notes—color is a great tool for making note-taking more fun and engaging.  Please feel free to look over my notes and use what you think is valuable.  If you reproduce, please give credit to Tracy Lovett   www.inclementiowa.com.  Thank you!

These notes are generally all about how to actually TEACH creativity to students!  Imagine virtually all children graduating high school having 12 years of learning on how to brainstorm, come up with ideas, and execute them!  This post is dedicated to simply showing the notes we are working from for our presentation.  There will be several links, and I will break down the ideas in future blog posts, but for now, here is the info!  Thanks for reading!

 

Creative Notes.Click on the blue letters at left to see notes all about HOW to teach kids to be creative.  WARNING–this will involve a little SELF-EDUCATION on creativity!  You must learn it yourself in order to teach it.  BUT, nothing says you can’t learn right along with your students!  If you prefer more organized notes, without the “character”, I have typed the first portion of them below.

 

RULES

  1. Creativity needs a safe place to happen.  This means that you, as an instructor/parent/adult, are never ever allowed to say words like “I am not creative.  I am not an artist.  I can’t draw well.”  It is very common to have to draw something on the board in front of the class (diagrams of some sort of concept) and to preface your drawing with these words, simply because you feel that your drawing skills may not be up to par.  Children sponge this stuff up.  And then they compare your drawing to theirs, and immediately place a judgement on their own work that might resemble yours and think to themselves, “Well, my drawing isn’t even as good as the teacher’s.  I must not be an artist either.”
  2. We need to redefine what being an artist (being creative) is.  We all believe that artists are creative folk that produce work like paintings, sculpture, books, plays, dances, songs, orchestral pieces, etc.  However, what about Michael Jordan, the basketball star?  How about Jonas Salk, the scientist who invented the polio vaccine and then gave it away?  Albert Einstein?  Steve Jobs?  Marie Curie?  Dr. Martin Luther King?  All of these people, and so many more had VISIONS, and they made those VISIONS INTO REALITY.  So, that can be our NEW DEFINITION of what an artist is!  Instead of painting, clay, words, scripts, musical notes as the only methodology of achieving art, we need to enable children and adults to see that LIFE IS THE MEDIUM.  After all, LIFE is a PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED.  And the best way to solve the big problems of life is to have IDEAS.
  3. So, what is the best way to have ideas, be creative, and problem solve?  First of all, most creativity happens during some sort of activity that is already creatively based.  Drawing, listening to music, sculpting, painting—all of these can stimulate parts of your brain to come up with other ideas.  Creative activities BREED ideas.  Movement based activities may work well for some people, such as dance, exercise, cleaning, yoga, running, hiking.  For others, simply writing lists is a great technique.  And this brings us to our next point, and possibly the most powerful tool you can use.  Grab a blank book of some sort, and start listing ideas—either random ones, or ones targeted towards a specific project or goal.  I call my book and IDEA BOOK, and everyone should get in the habit of adding to it daily, even children as young as kindergarten students.   List in it, draw in it, scribble in it, doodle in it, just note down what occurs to you WHEN it occurs—if you don’t get it down, it gets away!  Imagine 12th grade students who instinctively KNOW how to create lists of ideas to creatively solve problems and then go forth into the world armed with this knowledge!  How much more important is this concept than the ability to memorize facts!  If they get the practice in early, and then have it reinforced yearly as they progress through school, this is exactly what could happen!   More on the IDEA BOOK in the next few days—I have an entire post planned on the concept.
  4. Collect your ideas like you collect pretty rocks, realizing that many of your ideas will not be so great.  It doesn’t matter.  It is the PROCESS of exercising those idea muscles in your brain that is important here.  If you make the production of ideas a regular habit, your ideas will get better and better.  Use ideas to create things—Art, Music, Games, Books, Goals,  Visions, and, ultimately, LIFE.
  5. COLLABORATION IS POWERFUL!  Share your ideas with others who are also creating ideas.  Your ideas may breed and mesh into something completely different, powerful, and wonderful!  And if you follow rule # 1 and have a SAFE PLACE FOR CREATIVITY, sharing ideas becomes an exciting thing, not a scary thing.  BETWIXT and I practice collaboration through my stories and their songs—we always inspire each other.  And collaboration is one of the most important skills adults can have in ANY workplace.  Teach it at a young age, and never stop reinforcing it.
  6. Review all ideas regularly, and then decide which ones are actually workable.  Pick one of THOSE, and list the first five steps you believe will be required to turn that vision into reality.  THEN, do the work!

 

There you are—the first part of my notes, typed out for easy reading, and, in some cases, they have been expanded.  The IDEA BOOK is the concept I will go over tomorrow—lots of ideas there for incorporating that into the school day, and a few rules as well.

Thank you, folks, for reading, and if you attended our presentation today, we would love your feedback!  Remember, we are available to do presentations in schools for children and educators.  For more information, please get to me at my email: mayor@inclementiowa.com.  Have a great day, and more to come!

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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.