Category Archives: inspiration

Making Your Creative Mark + Giveaway!

cover cover cover
Greetings!  Today I’m sharing a new book with you, published by the folks at New World Library.  The book is Making Your Creative Mark, by Eric Maisel, PhD – something that I think will interest a number of you. Not only will I share a bit about the book, I’m also offering a giveaway since NWL was nice enough to send me a giveaway copy.  Woo hoo!

Mr. Maisel is an esteemed creativity coach and a prolific author.  He’s written over 40 books, including both fiction and non-fiction, but his specialty is helping artists of all kinds (visual artists, musicians, actors, etc.).  He coaches internationally, trains creativity coaches, and lectures internationally, and has created a book that contains nine keys to achieving your artistic goals.

Here’s the text from the book’s back cover:

Writers, painters, singers, filmmakers, musicians, craftspeople, and actors confront daunting challenges every day. It is hard to produce new work, find success in the marketplace, manage relationships, and keep spirits up. Many doubt that solutions to these very real problems exist, but they do, and world-famous creativity coach Eric Maisel has compiled them in this book. You will learn how to:

* make sense of the challenges of your personality, the challenges inherent in creative work, and the challenges of culture and marketplace
* quiet your overactive mind
* increase motivation and avoid blocks
* engage in practices that create and reinforce meaning
* align self-talk with goals, avoiding negative loops that block creativity
* identify stressors and implement stress-management techniques designed specifically for artists
* maintain emotional intimacy and healthy relationships in the midst of the creative process
* claim your identity as an artist
* rekindle passion for your art and feed that flame during dark days and dry spells

Intended for professional artists and those aspiring toward professional status, this book offers the nuts and bolts of sticking to a successful and fulfilling life in the arts.

Topics include The Mind Key, The Confidence Key, The Passion Key, The Freedom Key, The Stress Key, The Empathy Key, The Relationship Key, The Identity Key, and The Societal Key.  In addition the book contains an Artist Plan and a Refresher Course of 97 Creativity Tips.

How to Enter the Giveaway
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To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment here on this post sharing one (or more) of your creative endeavors, whether it’s cooking, creating art, singing, etc.

The winner will be drawn at random, and will be announced here on my blog on May 9, 2013.  Good luck!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Sketching at a Nursery

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Do you ever head to your local nursery to ogle the plants and drink in the amazing colors and textures, or is it just me?  I love to check out the plants and stop to smell the roses when I visit nurseries and gardens.  I find such places very inspiring artistically.

So, when I visited a nursery a few weeks ago, I took along some basic art supplies and made myself at home.  Not only did I take my iPhone to snap photos, I brought some sketching supplies: my art journal, micron pens, and watercolor pencils.  I passed on using water on site, and opted to blend the colors at home later in the day.

sketch1

There I was, plunked down next to some potted protea plants.  I was out of the walkway, so I took the liberty of spreading out my colored pencils for easier color selection.  I loved the colors and texture in the protea plant, and took some time to both sketch and color.

sketch3a

I’m definitely not a natural when it comes to sketching and drawing, but I really enjoyed playing. Sketching requires slowing down.  Really looking.  Being in the moment.  And since all those requirements are positive, I consider the process a success and a worthwhile way to spend my time, regardless of how the resulting image turns out.  In this case, I think it turned out well.

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After I blended the color at home with water and a brush I added a bit of  silver metallic ink (gel pen) to really emphasize the silver/gray coloration near the tip of the protea bud.

Folks can be curious when they see something out of the ordinary, like someone sitting on the ground sketching a protea plant, but I don’t let that stop me.  So what if I look silly or get dirty?  I’m not shy when it comes to creating and going after what I want, and I hope you aren’t either.  If you love plants and nature as much as I do, I encourage you to get out there, get dirty, and enjoy the process!  Whether you’re sketching or taking photos, taking time to create out in nature is always worthwhile…

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Rite of Passage

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My book, An Altered Existence: Fictitious Stories About Faces from the Past, is just over a month old now.  Self-publishing has been a wonderful adventure so far, and I thought I’d share a happy “new author” rite of passage I recently experienced.  Until a week or so ago, all my book sales had been done through Amazon and Etsy.  I hadn’t seen my book for sale in a bookstore, but that was about to change.

While on a road trip I stopped into a bookstore near my destination, and ended up selling them a copy of my book.  Yes, one copy.  They very nicely explained that because they’re a small store they could only start with one book, but I was so excited you’d think I’d made a best seller list.  I was even more excited when one of the two ladies I was doing business with walked over and put my book on their New Fiction section in the front of the store.

OMG – there it was!  My book – for sale – in a store!  It was a first for me, and naturally I had to take pictures to mark the occasion.  I was grinning ear to ear as I left the store and drove on down the road. It was a small victory, but I was elated anyway.  Woo hoo!  Later on in my trip I went to sell another 7 books, including five that were purchased by an antique store, and it was a wonderful feeling.  I wish I’d brought more books with me.  :]

It’s unlikely my little book will make a big splash in the literary world, and I probably won’t sell tens of thousands of copies.  This is a project that came from the heart, and seeing it through to being published – and beyond – is food for my soul.  I strive to be mindful and grateful in daily life, so you can be sure I’m going to appreciate all the firsts and unexpected joys this literary journey brings my way.

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Like the pleasure of seeing MY book on a shelf in a bookstore…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Estate Sales: The Thrill of the Hunt

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Do any of you frequent Estate Sales, or is it just me?  I’ve been to a handful or so in the last year, and I have to confess that I can’t get enough of them.  In fact, this may be a new addiction – uh oh!

For me part of the fun of an Estate Sale is the hunt.  Not knowing what I might find – peeking and peering around in search of things that I consider treasure.  Treasure, for me, includes vintage photos, buttons & notions, and linens.  I look for inexpensive crafting supplies for my at-risk art journaling students.  I’m now looking for more jewelry and findings that I can make necklaces with, and have also been known to pick up a vintage mini tart mold or two.
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Do I need any of this stuff?  No – these items are purely recreational, and are intended to appear in some of my creative projects.  That said, collecting and creating keep me out of trouble, and it’s a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment all things considered.*

Example: on a recent Saturday morning I visited two Estate Sales, and had a few hours of fun looking around.  My purchases for the day totaled $10, and I ended up getting four vintage photos (including one in a frame), one handkerchief, a knitted baby sock, two doilies, a thread spool holder, metallic thread, a vintage star cookie cutter, and two clipboards.  The next bit of fun is figuring out what I’ll make some of these items into. :]
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Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to shopping Estate Sales?  I’m curious about whether or not folks like to go on Friday when the sale first opens (for the best selection), or if they prefer to go on Saturday when prices are often half off.  I’d love to hear about your Estate Sale tips and tricks, and what you like to look for when shopping, so please post a comment if you can.
Happy Hunting!
Warm regards,
Melody
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An Artistic Upgrade: Paintbrush Holder

Hello there, dear readers!  Just a quick post to share a recent artistic upgrade in my world.  I love to find everyday things, inexpensive ones, that I can use in a different way.  In this case I found an old, glass flower frog and thought it might work well for my paintbrush collection.  I was right!

I used to have my paintbrushes in a white ceramic container that someone had given me.  It was certainly inexpensive and functional, and I used it for several years, but it was kind of clunky.

before

Before

after
After

This glass “frog” is much more streamlined, and looks much better in the upper right corner of my desk.  It needed a good scrub, but cleaned up nicely, is a great upgrade in both form and function.  Price?  One dollar.  Yippee!

Do you have any storage containers or tools around your home that function in an innovative way – doing something other than what they were originally intended to do?  Please share!

Warm regards,
Melody

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The Art of Assemblage

assemblage_-baby

Assemblage is the perfect art medium if you’re a collector like me.  A collector of what, you ask?  Odds and ends.  Quirky bits and pieces.  Vintage photos and doodads.  Assemblage is a fantastic way to use some of these found objects I’ve squirreled away.

For those of you who may not be very familiar with assemblage, it’s defined by Wikipedia this way: Assemblage is an artistic process. In the visual arts, it consists of making three-dimensional or two-dimensional artistic compositions by putting together found objects.

Some assemblage artists of note include Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell, and my late friend, Janice Lowry.  Janice was an incredibly talented assemblage artist, and it was a treat to see her work in person at her different art shows over the years. I was able to purchase one of her simpler pieces around ten years ago, and am so glad I did!  It’s a wonderful piece featuring a crow (below), and is a lovely reminder of Janice.

janice_lowry_assemblage

Two New Assemblages!
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I recently completed two new assemblage pieces, one centered around horses and the other based on an image of a baby girl (shown at top of post).  Here are some photos of these two new pieces…

Equestrian: 6″ x 16″ x 1″ – mixed media assemblage

horse_assemblage

horse_top

horse_nails

horse_bottom

Sugar & Spice: 13″ x 8″ x 2″ – mixed media assemblage

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baby_detail

baby_left

baby_right

Sources of My Materials
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I love that each of these pieces contains elements gathered from many different places on many different days.  Here is a brief run down of the places where a sampling of my creative elements came from:

Smaller wooden box (baby assemblage): junk store near Lake Isabella, CA
Rectangular wooden box (horses assemblage): an estate sale in Cambria, CA
Horse show ribbon (dated 1936): an antique store near Julian, CA
Horse shoe nails: metal junk store in Missouri
Photos: antique stores, flea markets and eBay
Baby food spoon: estate sale in Orange, CA
Baby shoes: CA antique store

As you can see, they came from many different places and were purchased over several years.  I didn’t know quite how the materials would be used, but they caught my eye for some reason, and I knew I wanted to add them to my stash of supplies.  I love how all the individual pieces came together to form these two wholes.

Balance in Assemblage Composition
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I strive for balance when I create my assemblages, and here’s what I mean by that:

  •  I include enough items to properly fill out the boxes, but not so many that my composition is chaotic and overly cluttered.
  •  I use a bit of color with the black and white/sepia that vintage items often have.  Some color, but not too much that the eye gets no rest.
  •  I use a variety of textures, so there’s visual interest, but make sure these textures fall into the color scheme and into a few major types/groups – so they’re not overpowering.  For example, in the horse assemblage I use metal, paper (including the photos), and fabric/ribbon – in addition to the wood of the box.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these two new pieces of art, and found the overview of my collection and composition habits interesting.  Have you ever created an assemblage?  Do you have a favorite assemblage artist?  Do tell!

Warm regards,
Melody

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

star_tree

I really enjoy decorating for the holidays, and was excited to change things up a bit this year.  We usually decorate with the same items and theme, and I decided this year would be different.  Why?  I guess it feels like I missed out on celebrating some things this year since I didn’t dress up for Halloween and was sick on Thanksgiving Day with a nasty headache.  So, when it came to Christmas I decided to go big.  I’m feeling particularly festive since I’ve been cleared by the doctor for full use of both my hands.  Hurray!  It was a real pleasure to decorate our home for the holidays, and I hope you enjoy what I came up with.

Doilies Everywhere!
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As I mentioned in my Doily-Inspired Mandalas post, I’ve collected a number of doilies over the past few months.  One of the lots of doilies included several identical white doilies, and I decided to make a garland with them – to hang over a doorway.  I also decided to use some of the larger doilies for wall decor.  But first I had to stiffen them. Armed with a mixture I made by cooking cornstarch and water, I did just that.

doily_garland

The eight white doilies are linked together with old-school brass brads.  I added some ribbon bows and vintage silver candy molds to add some “pop”.

doilies

These three large doilies look nice alongside the window, and the silver floral trim that I glued in the center really added some sparkle to otherwise flat pieces.

garland_tree

This view is from the bedroom, showing the backside of the garland – looking towards the tree.

tree_skirt

Our tree has to be elevated up off the ground because of our pet rabbits, and I decided to use a table cloth that my mother-in-law cross-stitched years ago for our “tree skirt”.  I love the look of it, and it has a lot of sentimental value.

lit_tree

Our main tree, lit.  I left our typical hand-painted tin Mexican ornaments off the tree this year, and used lights, glass bulbs and snowflakes instead.  I already had all those things though – the only things I purchased were the doilies used elsewhere in the room.

star

I found this vintage tinsel star at a thrift store in Kansas in 2009.  Cost?  A mere 75 cents!

stockings

This smaller green tree sits atop our bookshelf.  If those star ornaments look familiar, it’s because I shared how to make them in a DIY post last year: Aluminum Star Ornaments!  The star atop the tree is – yep, you guessed it – another stiffened doily.  I glued an old rhinestone earring into the center of the star to add some oomph.  The tree’s base and the the top of the bookshelf were “doilied”, too. :]

studio_tree

Here are the little tree and wreath that I put out in the studio, in the corner next to (and above) my desk.  Tinsel rules in the studio this year, but I still have doilies under the tree and under the tiny baby Jesus.

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And of course, here’s the Vintage Crocheted Wreath I shared on Tuesday – which is hanging on the inside of our front door.

I wasn’t kidding when I said there are doilies every where!  The look I was going for is Modern Vintage, which is how I often describe my artwork – particularly my collages.  I love vintage, but want to keep it “clean” and interesting – and I don’t want it to look too saccharine.  Pretty, unique, and a bit unexpected – those are words I’d like used to describe this year’s decor.  Do you think I succeeded in keeping a bit of an edge?

Do you have a theme that you work with when it comes to your holiday decor, dear readers?  I hope you’ll comment and share.  Oh, and if you’re interested in the recipe/process for stiffening the doilies with cornstarch, just let me know.  I’d be happy to post a link in the comments to the page I referenced when I worked on the doilies.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Vintage Crocheted Wreath

completed_wreath1

Back in October I saw a super cool wreath idea on the blog 20 North Ora.  ”Ms. Ora’s” wreaths were made with vintage crocheted potholders and doilies, and I just loved the idea of using beautiful needleworked items in a wreath. So clever!  I found the doilies and potholders I needed to make the wreath on eBay and followed the directions on the 20 North Ora blog post with just a few exceptions.

1. I did use a straw wreath as instructed, but covered it with inexpensive white acetate ribbon instead of lace.  The wreath I selected is 13″ in diameter at the outer edges.

2. I didn’t use any glue, I just pinned the doilies on with T pins. I like the idea of being able to take this wreath apart and re-make it in a different color scheme/pattern if I want.

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Straw wreath covered with ribbon

before_pinning
Crocheted pieces laid out, ready for pinning

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Pinned, before the bow was attached

close_up

I think vintage needlework is lovely and am pleased with how well the three round pieces and three square potholders came together on this one wreath.  I just added a simple bow of aged and tattered lace to finish it off, and it was ready to hang. What do you think?

Personally, I really love that this wreath idea is so versatile.  By mixing different colors and patterns you can make themed wreaths for any occasion – Christmas, Chanukah, Valentine’s Day, Spring, 4th of July, and more. Or just choose colors and patterns that will appeal to you year-round and skip the seasonal reference!

completed_wreath2a

Oh, and by the way, if you happen to have any vintage crocheted potholders similar to those on my wreath, aren’t using them, and want them to go to a good home, please keep me in mind! I’d be happy to adopt them.  :]

Warm regards,
Melody

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Sketch, Color & Blend!

Remember the doily-inspired mandalas I created in my art journals?  I’ve created a few more since that first post, and thought I’d share a recent creation with you.  I decided to take photos as I worked, to show the three main stages of my process:

1. Sketch the design
2. Color the mandala with water-soluble colored pencils
3. Blend color with a paintbrush & water

My sketch was very loose and rather sloppy.  It’s obviously not precise, symmetrical, or to scale, but that’s not what I’m striving for.  I’m focusing on interpretive renderings, more stylized designs, and am just having fun playing!

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Thus far I’ve added color with water-soluble crayons or water-soluble colored pencils, but will likely add acrylic inks and other media into the mix in the near future.

colored_pencils

I love seeing the colors come to life when they’re activated and blended with the water.  Making these mandalas is a great way to try different color combinations.

color_blended

Are you ready to make a doily-inspired mandala of your own yet?
Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Adventures in Sketching

red_onion

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: drawing is not my strong suit.  I’m decent when I practice regularly (which, prior to this, was only for a few quarters in college), but I’m not a natural.  I’m not a whiz. And I’m definitely not a prodigy.  But I am an eternal student.  I want to continue to learn, grow, and progress until I draw my last breath, so I recently enrolled in an online class focused on sketching.

Please don’t laugh, but this is my first online class.  I thought taking the class might help keep me focused on the positive and help keep me occupied after the surgery on my left hand since my right hand was pretty functional by then, and I’m glad I signed up.  The combination of video instruction, photos, and text works very well for me, and I’ll definitely sign up for more online classes in the future.

Alisa Burke’s Sketchbook Delight workshop really has been a delight, and has inspired me to take time to look, play, and practice.  And while I may never be amazingly fantastic when it comes to drawing and sketching, I will be better.  I’ll likely be able to do enough to satisfy me artistically, and to expand my creative output and options.  And that’s enough.  It’s worth the time spent and the uncertainty that comes along with embarking on an adventure in sketching.

Here are four of my sketch pages from the last month, in chronological order…

pressed_plants

leaf

flower_trim

red_onion_page

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into my sketchbook/art journal.  Have you taken any online classes that you’d recommend?  Please share…

Warm regards,
Melody

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