Entering Flatland

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

feb_2348

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

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

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

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

RIIIIIIGHT.

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

THAT looks like fun!

Ah, I used to love rollercoasters…

So, what do I do about it?

I make a list.

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

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

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

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

Just not feeling it today.

Just not feeling it today.

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

Shoes.  I just love shoes.  Really I do.

Shoes. I just love shoes. Really I do.

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

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

I love chocolate.  I DID eat some of these.

I love chocolate. I DID eat some of these.

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

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

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

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

 

Page Design One Last Time

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

 

Come With Me To Inclement….And Pack A Bag!

Today, I’m taking Inclement on the road.  Not in a big way, but still, I’m going to be out there talking to kids about my town, reading a book to them, and doing a couple illustrations.

eas_4716 copy

This isn’t one of our Creative Collaborations that I do with BETWIXT–gosh, I REALLY have to do a blog post on those guys.

bttruck

No, this is just a simple half hour at a Family Fun Night at a school nearby.  But although I will be there just half-an-hour, it is an important night.  You see, not only is Inclement just about my favorite place in the world to spend my time, and a place that provides so many ideas I don’t have time to write about them, it is also business for me.  And an important rule in business is that you have to get the word out that you ARE in business.  You have to let people KNOW what you do.  In half an hour, over the course of maybe two books, I hope to say something or do something or read something that sticks in those parents’ and childrens’ and teachers’ minds.  Perhaps they will buy some books.  Perhaps they will hire BETWIXT and me to do a Creative Collaboration at the school.  Perhaps a Mom or a Dad somewhere will sit down and draw something with their child instead of telling them to go play video games.  Whatever happens, whatever the outcome of half an hour, it can’t be bad.

Half an hour is a very short time.  In the scheme of the universe, it is like a baby-biscuit nano-second.  But the process for preparing for that half an hour is huge.

Here is my list today:

1. Pack computer equipment.  When I read to large groups, I do so with a laptop and a digital projector.  Makes it MUCH easier for everyone to see the illustrations in the books.

2. Pack the cords for computer equipment.  This is a biggie.  If I forget the cords, what is the point of having the computer?

3. Pack my illustration supplies–easel, BIG PAPER (sheets of 3 feet x 4 feet), chalk pastels.

4. Trim 150 bookmarks to hand out.  I printed them yesterday, and today, I have to trim them.  I hate trimming.  Oh, and I have to pack these, so I don’t forget them.

5. Money.  I have to get change and pack the cash box.  People may want to purchase books.  Can’t forget this.

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

Wonder how it will work for MY fiscal crisis…

6.  BOOKS.  I can’t forget books.  This is probably the biggest pain as far as packing goes.  I have 7 book titles now, and I’m going to take some of each.  Which leads to 7 different boxes of books, and I never know how many to take of each, so I always bring more than I need….

7. I forgot this in the first part of the list–check to make sure all the book presentations WORK on my computer BEFORE I pack it up.  If the book doesn’t run on the computer, there is NO POINT in bringing the computer.

8. Babywipes.  No, I don’t have a baby.  But, they are very handy in cleaning my hands after I use chalk pastels for 10 minutes or so.

9. Water.  I always get thirsty.

10. Carry everything out to the truck.  This is where my 14 year old son comes in, AND his father, after he gets home from work.

11. Get ready myself.  See, I have to tell myself to do this, because I get out of the house so infrequently.  I planned my wardrobe last night, fortunately.

12.  Oh, another thing I forgot–my camera.  I have to pack the camera so I can get pictures of me doing what I do, so I can BLOG about it tomorrow to whomever might be reading this.

13.  Eat.  When I get busy like this, I forget to eat.  Then I get really hungry during my presentation, and sometimes I feel like I’m going to “lose my cookies”, and that isn’t fun when I’m reading to families.  So, I must eat before I leave.

Tastes just like chicken...

Tastes just like chicken…

I think that is it.  Lucky 13.  All of this, to get Inclement out there, in front of families, to hopefully enchant them a little bit, to make people see what I see when I visit that little place in Southwest Iowa, from which all magic and wonder flows–at least for me.

tunnel

So, tomorrow, I may have a tale to tell about my brief half hour.  Perhaps I’ll have a booking for a Creative Collaboration for next fall.  Perhaps I’ll have a new idea for a book.  I will definitely be working on Soda’s Valentine.  Finishing layout, so I can turn the file into a pdf and upload it!  Yay, getting closer.  But for today, my focus has to be on this half hour that occurs around suppertime tonight.  Think happy thoughts for me!  And pray I don’t forget anything.

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.

What Should I Write About?

As I am busily designing pages for Soda’s Valentine (and you can learn about that process here) I reflect upon the most difficult question posed to me by both children and adults–“What should I write about?”.  I have 4 kids myself, and they are often-times stumped by what to write about.  Factual reports and papers are actually pretty easy, because they are assignments, and usually, the topic is assigned as well, so that takes away all the work of coming up with a subject.  But for writing a children’s book, or an adult’s book, or a poem, or even a blog, figuring out what to write about is sometimes the hardest part. Ultimately, this question is best rephrased as “How can I come up with ideas?”

For me, it is usually about what I see in the world. Visual things flip the switch in my brain, and make me generate ideas.  I am a visual-spatial learner, and I need visual input to activate the writing parts of my brain.  Which, in many ways is a bit contradictory.  Speech is a left-brained activity, and image processing is a right-brained activity.  So, creative writing is an interesting mix of right and left-brained activities that don’t always mesh well.  I am a compulsive doodler, for instance, and when I went to school, back in the dark ages, I doodled through every lecture, at least on the corner of my page.  My children tell me now, that this is often frowned upon severely.  But for me, when I doodle, it makes my brain much more able to handle the verbal concepts that are being presented to me.  So, that’s what I did, and I did pretty well in school.  It makes me wonder if we should be teaching a doodling class in school, for children who are visual learners instead of auditory learners–kids who learn by visualizing instead of by listening.  Anyway…

Some people process information–and come up with ideas for their writing in other ways.  Listening to music will spur some folks to come up with ideas, and other people need to take a walk or a run, do yoga, have a shower–these are all reflective of the way your brain learns and processes information.  Everyone’s brain is different.  Use what works for you.

bikeonetwo

If a bike ride with the dog works, go for it.

 

Today, I’m talking about what works for me.  However, the list at the end of the blog is good for anyone, regardless of HOW they get their brain to turn on.

Sometimes I have a very striking, visual dream.  Now, usually, the dream doesn’t TELL me a story (although that HAS happened, and I scribbled down the high points in my notebook for later use) but rather, there is an IMAGE in the dream that really gets me going.  For Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, I had a dream about….you guessed it….flying.  And when I woke up, I knew I wanted to write about a little girl who wanted to fly.  Then, we went for a drive on a windy day in April.  You know the kind of day–you can smell the springtime in the air, and the wind rolls across the treetops, bouncing all the new, baby-green leaves.  My brain lept to flying kites, a memory I carried from my childhood.  I put those concepts together—the dream of flying, and the memory of kite-flying, and the story began to percolate.  I needed a name for my character, and I briefly thought of naming it after my daughter Sailor, who was kind of the inspiration for the character, but, I rejected that.  I just don’t like to borrow THAT freely from my real life.  So, my brain offered up the name Sylvia, and coincidentally, I have a photography client named Sylvia, who, coincidentally again, I photographed in my Studio wearing wings as a very small infant.  The pieces began to fall together.  During this ride in the car, I wrote about 80% of the book in my brain–I made some notes on paper, but no real sense of anything.  Then, we got home, I sat down, and two hours later I had the completed story written–it almost wrote itself.  It took me an additional 6 weeks to do the 24 illustrations inside.

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Bug Summer is a bit different.  For those of you unfamiliar, my Bug Summer series of books is all about the insects my main character Zack, and his dog, Flash, encounter during their wanderings in Inclement, Iowa.  The books are heavily illustrated with art and macro-photography of insects–extreme close-up work, for those of you unfamiliar with the “macro” prefix.

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A giant spider….

 

I actually started photographing bugs roughly 6 years before I had a story written to go along with the photos.  I didn’t know WHAT the story would be, but I knew there would be a story.  So, I collected images.  And I drew sketches of who I thought the main character could be.  But I didn’t really DO anything with all this stuff for many years–I just kept the ideas, the images, and the concepts.

Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs

Bug Summer–Raining Ladybugs

So, what does all this mean?  Does it mean anything?  Personally, I believe that it tells us that creative writing is a process of following breadcrumbs through a forest, just like Hansel and Gretel.  And what is important here—following the trail even though it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.  I pick up the breadcrumbs that are there before me, and store them in my pocket (brain, or, preferably, I write them down in a notebook) and I don’t worry about how they all connect.  But those breadcrumbs that seem to lead in random directions, they accumulate.  And eventually, some of them make sense, some of them form stories, and, if I’m lucky, they form books!  So, maybe more than a writer and an artist, I am a collector of breadcrumbs (ideas). And I note them down–random stuff that appeals to me for whatever reason.  I do illustrations that way too.  In the same notebook, I have scritches and scratches of drawings (doodles!) that many times turn into pieces of real illustrations for books.

I also pick ideas that I know something about, that I really like, or that I want to learn about. I think most people do this naturally, but it is important to mention that you won’t be successful writing about a subject you just don’t care about.  I like childhood, art, science fiction, photography, insects, things that are a little bit mysterious, friendships, the environment, music, nature, magical things, wonder, Halloween, animals….the list really goes on and on.

Sometimes I am really brainstorming without knowing it, and a whole bunch of ideas will come to me at once.  This often happens early in the morning, when the sun is just peeping over the horizon and everyone else is asleep.  Writing things down is crucial–if you don’t get it down, it gets away.

sunrise_4100

This is magic idea time for me…

Read a lot.  I read every day.  I read things I love.  I don’t read as many children’s books as I used to, because my kids all read themselves, but I do try to sample what’s out there.  It really doesn’t matter though.  Find an author or two or five that you love, that makes you want to be like them, and read their stuff.  Ideas will flow from what they have written, and HOW they have written it.

So, how do you figure out what to write about?

1. Keep a notebook of ideas and sketches and words that you like.  Add to it daily.

2. Be a lifelong collector.  Your notebooks should be a storage place for all the weird stuff that strikes you as interesting or funny or scary or inspirational.  It may take YEARS for a unifying idea to help you make sense of all the “junk” you have stored away in your notebooks.  Don’t throw them away, don’t think they are stupid, and don’t feel you have to share them.  Your notebooks are for mental hoarding…keep them well.

3. Write it down.  Write down ANYTHING.  If you don’t get it down, it gets away.

4. Make a habit of putting something down every day, maybe at the same time.  Pretty soon, your brain will associate that time with creative idea-building time, and it will get easier.

5. Write about things you know about, things you love, things you want to learn more about.  Keep a running list of what those things are, so you know when you are on track.

6. Read every day, things that you love.  Reading and writing are inseparable.

7.  Do things that activate your brain.  I doodle.  I scribble.  Some people run, or move, or dance or listen to music.  Do whatever works for you.  Then record your ideas somehow!

8.   When you feel inspired, when the lightbulb goes off in your head, write.  Write your story, your poem, your paper.  If you are in the middle of something else, at least make NOTES for you to write from later.  This is very important!  Do it when the moment strikes!

9.  This is also important—there will be ideas you have that you will never use.  Just like there are trails of breadcrumbs that you follow and they never take you anywhere.  This is okay.  Just keep moving forward with ideas, keep picking up the breadcrumbs.  Something will come together.

So, I am back to page design for today.  Hopefully, I will have a bunch more pages to share over the course of this week, as well as other projects I am working on!  For now, start generating ideas!

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.

Snow Day

So, this is Winter Storm Q.  I am assuming it is named for the character from Star Trek, The Next Generation.  Whatever. There is NO SCHOOL TODAY.  So, I get time to work on “stuff” around here.  But here’s the deal.  There is also NO SNOW today.  At least, not yet. I laughed out loud when I read it on the local radio station that there was no school today.  It seems just a few years ago that they had school come hell or high water, and parents were complaining that they had to get out and pick up their kids in less than favorable conditions.  Which may be why they didn’t have school.  Regardless of reasoning, here is a shot from my front yard from 9:20 am.

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And here are some of my FB posts from this morning–some of them more lyrical than others.

Wow, Sidney, no school? And not a flake in sight…Oh well, more blogging/writing/art/photography time for me today…or maybe not. 4 kids in the house instead of 2….

If this snow materializes, there is a very good chance the hubster will be sleeping in his office tonight. Must remember to pick up a bottle of wine or three before the snow flies…medicinal, you know…

I grew up the daughter of a teacher. I can remember snuggling in my bed, listening to the flakes tap-tapping against my window in the darkness of early morning. It’s true–if you listen hard enough, and if it’s quiet enough, you can hear the snow fall. And why was I up at 5am, listening so hard to the virtual nothingness in my house as the snow stacked up on the eaves outside? Teachers’ kids didn’t get the news of a snow day via the internet (there was none) or cell phone text (ditto) or radio or tv. Nope. I can remember the thrill in my heart when the phone would ring–a REAL ring, not some strange-assed ring TONE–before the sun came up, announcing the PERFECTION of a SNOW DAY! My mom would mumble into the phone, hang it up, and then move down the hall through the dimness to tap on the door and whisper through it what I already knew. And even though I had the whole of a glorious day ahead of me, the entire world and all the fun in it knitted up in a crystal-white blanket, I could NEVER go back to sleep again. I was up, elbows on the windowsill, my breath fogging up the glass, watching it all come down.

Talk about a “pregnant pause”…I don’t know if I felt this anxious waiting for the births of my kids! SNOW! There is NO school, so just DO IT! When I looked outside at 4am, nothing but the brown old world out there. Time to dress it up a bit, give it a little sparkle. And if it doesn’t? If that dry air just hangs tight? If we get a dusting and that is it ( and oh, there is a small, cynical part of me that does really think that might happen, just because of the weather-HYPE that is the forecast these days), there we will all be, bereft, with our brown winter-world, holding our collective breaths until Sunday-Sunday-SUNDAY…

And there are others.  Doesn’t really matter, except my day is noticeably freer to work on Soda’s Valentine and other creative projects I have going.  So, that’s what I’m doing–this SNOW DAY is now a CREATIVITY DAY!   Here is the list I made for my kids when they get bored–a THINGS TO DO list, that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen (which is, ironically, what I’m doing right now.)

list

My kids hate me…

I think I will post a lot today.  Maybe 5 blog posts?  Is that possible?  Of everything I do today that is creative.  This “snowpocalypse” could be the end, you know….and I want to go out with a creative BANG.  Keep your eyes out!

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

 

Page Design—Getting Closer Now!

Okay, I took a few days “off” from blogging, simply because my children had a few days off from school. Sometimes it is good to take a little break from creativity if you are feeling “stale”, just to let things percolate in your brain and feel fresh again. Today, we are going to design a couple pages for the book! That is the next step, now that all photography has been completed (unless I find I need something else in the middle of things, which has happened before). So, here we go, with two pages all about the flowers.

First thing is first—the easy page. I am seeing this as a two page spread in my mind, which means when you open the book, these pages face each other. The first one is simple. I simply set up a blank document in Photoshop for the size of the page I need to design. 8.75 inches high by 8.75 inches wide is the size I need, but the finished book will be 8.5 inches by 8.5 inches, due to the fact that in the manufacturing process, the outer edges are trimmed off. This needs to be accounted for in page design, so I must make sure no words, text, or important parts of the illustrations are not in that .25″ trim area. This guideline is for laying out illustrated children’s books, and it will vary depending upon the manufacturer of the book.

So, the first illustration I am using for this pair of pages is this photograph, and I drag it onto my square page.

Untitled-21C2
It is very simple, straightforward, and will have text either running across the top or the bottom of the page, but NOT in the trim area.

The second page is harder.  I am putting two photos on the page, because they both illustrate the words I am using, and I like them both.

feb_1668c2 feb_1663c3

 

BUT, since the page is square, I must find a way to “layout” the images in a pleasing manner that leaves room for the text, AND doesn’t leave any empty space.  So, again, I set up a blank document 8.75″x8.75″ and open up the images I want to use.  I drag them onto the page, and, after a few minutes of playing around with them, I decide that I like this layout.

Untitled-31

 

It leaves space for the text in the bottom left corner.  It also leaves a big “hole” of nothingness in the upper right of the page. So, I must improvise.

I think I should fill any empty spaces on my pages with quick illustrations of Soda that follow along with what is going on in the page.  I love art, and I want this book to feel arty, even if it isn’t filled with hand-drawn illustrations.  I made the decision to illustrate in a fairly “loose” style, meaning I’m not trying to be too neat or clean with my drawing.  I want it to feel like a sketch, done quickly, simply because the photographs are so real–I want the drawings to contrast with the feeling you get with the photo-illustrations.  So, I opened up another program, Corel Painter 12, and did a quick drawing of Soda with a flower in his mouth.  You can see it here.

val1

 

It only took me maybe 20 minutes to do this drawing, and I think I really like the sketchy style.  Now that I’ve solved THAT problem–and remember, art and writing are an exercise of problem solving skills–I can proceed to putting my page together.  So, I have to drag the illustration onto the page I’ve already created and put it all together.  Here is what I’ve come up with so far.

Untitled-31C2

 

Please note I will add all text at the very end of the book design, simply because the hardest part of the book “assembly” is adding the illustrations. Typing in words is relatively easy.  Also note I will probably not use bright yellow all-capitalized text.  I simply did so here so it would show up for the blog.

Now, when I look at it, I like it.  But I don’t LOVE it.  I’m headed back to Photoshop…just a sec.

Untitled-31C3

 

Now THAT’S more like it!  The color scheme was bothering me a bit, and I think I figured it out.  This is much more harmonious than the red background you see above.  I still feel like there could be some more hearts and things in the background, but I will make that decision after I get more pages done.  Sometimes, you can spend too much time figuring out one or two pages, and then discover the “solutions” that work for those specific pages don’t work for the rest of the book.

So, here’s how I work with page design.

1. Know the size of your book, and thus, the size of your pages, before you start.  Everything will flow from that.

2. Keep all words and vital parts of pictures away from the edges of the pages.  They may get trimmed off during manufacturing.  Even if they don’t, the words can feel crowded if they BARELY fit.

3. I use Photoshop for my page set-up.  You can use whatever software works for you, OR, you could do all of this on real paper using real paints and colors.  But, the same rules apply–size is important, as is word and illustration placement.  I also use Corel Paint for illustration.  Use whatever you know.

4. I type in the actual words of the book last, right before I set up my book for final review and printing.  Typing in words that I’ve already written is easy.  Making sure everything looks good can take some time.

5. Fill each page.  If you have empty spaces, find another element to fill it.  Add pictures, drawings, or anything else that will make your page interesting.  Little kids like complex pictures–their eyes just FEAST on complexity, and they notice things adults don’t.  Have fun with the empty spaces.

6. SAVE IT.  This is something I haven’t mentioned yet, but it is crucial.  Save your pages OFTEN.  Save them when you don’t think you need to.  Save it in a couple different places, not just on your computer’s harddrive.  Put it on an external drive as well.  Burn your page designs to DVD.  Whatever.  Just make sure there is more than one copy of your work.  Designing your book takes a lot of effort.  Be smart.  Don’t make MORE work for yourself if your computer breaks.

Alright, that is just 2 pages out of 28 or 30.  So, I have a lot more to do.  I will keep you posted on my progress.  We are expecting a snowstorm day-after-tomorrow, so I am hoping to make significant progress towards finishing this simply because I can’t do anything else….except shovel snow.  Be good, and keep 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.