Tuesday, January 15, 2019

I Miss Polyvore

One of my early Polyvore creations . . .

No two ways about it: ever since Polyvore.com disappeared from the Internet a few months ago, life just hasn't been the same. Some days I miss the site so much I could cry. Why'd it have to go?  Polyvore was fun. Polyvore was creative. Polyvore was inspiring. And now it's been sold off to a company that isn't, well, into what Polyvore was all about it. Instead of being a collage/fashion/art/community-building site, it's turned into a not-very-interesting shopping outlet.
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about (sorry!) Polyvore.com was a do-it-yourself, drag-and-drop Internet playground for making online collages. Membership was free, and members had access to thousands of photo images, background colors, text fonts, and tons of digital ephemera to make some of the most amazing digital artwork I have ever seen. For me it was a huge opportunity to learn and practice alongside those same artists. 

I owe a lot to Polyvore. I was a member for a full 10 years and especially enjoyed the way the site was organized into groups of people with similar interests, e.g., Writers; We Love Dresses; Travel; Antique Furniture; Book Club; Shoes Rule!; Cats; Bracelets; Working Moms . . . and so on. Joining a group was optional, but being part of one provided certain advantages such as being able to participate in various contests, e.g., "Make a set that includes at least one cat," or, "Create the perfect steam punk outfit." Contests were a great motivation to do your best and most original work and winning was a blast, even if the "prize" was simply recognition and applause from the group. 

More than anything else, however, Polyvore for me a way to:
  • Design writing prompts.
  • Create blog post headings (like the one at the top of this post).
  • Help with my website design.
  • Illustrate my WIPs (especially in the wardrobe department).
  • Experiment with color combinations for drawing and painting.
  • Stay in touch with pen pals from across the world. My own little circle included creative and friendly women from Saudi Arabia, Germany, New Zealand, and Brazil. Because we only communicated via Polyvore email, and most user IDs were simply first- or nicknames, I have no way to reach any of them ever again.
One of the worst things to happen to the vast majority of Polyvore fans when the site went down was they lost all of their online creations. Fortunately, I kept every single one of my own, putting them into a separate file on my computer each time I made one. Something must have told me that doing this would come in handy one day, and it certainly did. I think if I had lost my sets along with everyone else, I'd be even more devastated than I already am. Truly my heart goes out to every member who lost hours and hours, if not years, of beautiful work.

Polyvore.com definitely enriched my life. Now that it's gone, it's up to me to motivate myself and to continue making collages the old-fashioned way, on paper and in art journals. Not quite so easy to do during a quick lunch break or just before going to bed, and don't even get me started on cleaning up the aftermath of glue sticks and paper scraps, but it's all I've got left. Maybe not such a bad thing in the end, but boy, do I miss those happy days of instant gratification! See you next time.

Tip of the Day: Without Polyvore, I'm relying a lot on Pinterest.com. It's not nearly as fun nor as interactive as Polyvore was, but it's a good resource for illustrating my characters' homes, closets, and vacation destinations. I can still bring my WIPs to life visually, just in a different way.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019, A Year to Explore

Image © Sierpniowka / Dreamstime.com

Happy New Year! Happy Creativity! 

One of the things I always like to do at the start of each new year is find a word that will set my intentions and guide my creative path for the next twelve months. This year the word I needed came into my mind precisely at the stroke of midnight:


Isn't it a great word? I love the idea of letting go of my old thoughts on what I imagined (or insisted) 2019 "should be." That doesn't mean I'm abandoning any of my works-in-progress, or giving up on my dreams, etc., but I want to take a new approach to how I work with these things. 

To start off with some good road maps and travel guides, I treated myself to two new art books (yes, I went to the mall after Christmas . . . ): Draw It: Tools, Techniques, Methods; A Workbook Manual for Sketching and Drawing, and Drawing 365: Tips and Techniques to Build Your Confidence and Skills. Both of volumes are divided into bite-sized segments of advice and encouragement that I can use every day, all year round. Already I've been inspired to try exercises such as combining brush pens with oil pastels, or using a Sharpie pen to make a complicated drawing from one continuous line, methods I never tried before.

As a companion exercise, I made myself a set of affirmation cards. Nothing fancy, just some plain index cards decorated with metallic gel pens and a sticker or two, but the messages I wrote out for myself are strong, each one a powerful  invitation to take the road less traveled.

Starting this week I want to explore new groups, new classes, new themes, new places to write and draw, new techniques, new mediums, and new story ideas. I want to travel with an open heart, an open mind, and an open sketchbook. (Yay, more art supplies!) Now if only the snow would melt . . .

Tip of the Day: There's nothing wrong with goals and plans--I've used them to my advantage my entire life. But once in awhile it feels good to either a) pack them away until another time, or b) consider whether they still serve you, and if they're really what you want to do. Sometimes the journey toward a goal can fulfill us in ways actually reaching the goal never could. With that in mind, I invite you to take the time to explore what it is you want to do with 2019 before you make any concrete decisions. Let me know what you discover!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Holiday Greetings 2018, A Year in Review

'Tis the season for all good things: delicious treats, wonderful visits with friends and family, cozy sweaters, sparkling lights and sparkling wines . . . the list of holiday pleasures could go on and on. It's also a good time of year for reflection: how did the past year go" What worked, what didn't? Did we reach our goals?  

For me it was an interesting year, with new goals and new challenges appearing as unexpectedly as reindeer down the chimney. On the whole, though, I'd say everything turned out better than I could have ever imagined:
  • I got an agent! Yes, I did. I'm happy and excited to announce that I have signed with Laura Strachan of the Strachan Literary Agency to represent my novel, The Abyssal Plain.
  • Which led to a revised manuscript. It was hard work, but in the end I couldn't have been more grateful to Ms. Strachan for her discerning and very perceptive evaluation of The Abyssal Plain. For several weeks she worked tirelessly to show me where I needed to make the book stronger and more cohesive. She also encouraged me to come up with a much better book description than anything I'd ever written before.
  • I took an illustration class. To celebrate my progress with The Abyssal Plain, I treated myself to a week-long illustration class with author/artist Neecy Twinem. For my class project I chose to work on my picture book, The White Pony, and I've made a ton of progress toward developing my ideas (and skills) further.
  •  Sold my house. And quickly too! Five weeks on the market and we were done.
  • Bought and renovated a mid-century downtown condo. I never knew I was capable of sanding so much paint off the walls without a single complaint, LOL! But I was dedicated to making our new little home the perfect base for this current stage of my life which is going to center far more around creativity rather than housework. Two and half months after moving in, the plan is working great.
  • Finished my Taiwan art journal. This might not sound as dramatic as some of my other year's events, but this journal has been a labor of love for over a year, and I'm glad to close the covers at last. More the equivalent of a multi-page "mood board" than a typical journal, I can now use the pages as an excellent resource for subject matter, color palettes, and writing prompts.
  • Read some amazing books. My favorite amongst these was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. I read it at nights after days spent renovating my condo, and I couldn't have made a better choice. The story-line took me far away from the world of paint chips and drywall. Highly recommended.
  • NaNoWriMo. I didn't win, but at least I showed up! And Had a Wonderful Time!
  • New Mexico SCBWI Enchantment Show. I'd never tackled anything remotely like this before, but somehow between book revision and condo renovation I organized a small art show for my local chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Eight illustrators and eight writers were paired together to create a collaborative piece of art and writing based on the theme of "Lost and Found." When all sixteen pieces of work were complete, everything was then put on display at the Erna Fergusson Library here in Albuquerque for the month of September. Part of the show included a reception where the authors read their stories aloud and the illustrations were digitally displayed on a wall-size screen. The whole event was just delightful, and I'm looking forward to working with the show again next year.
  • Ink drawing (almost) every day in my Moleskine. Besides reading whenever I had some downtime, one of the things I tried to do every day was create at least one ink drawing in my Moleskine sketchbook. I learned a lot working with ink (no erasers allowed!) for a solid year, especially how to embrace and cultivate "happy accidents."
  • Bought a sewing machine. When I couldn't find the bedroom curtains i wanted, I had to end up making them. Which was great: I bought a sewing machine, something I haven't owned in nearly ten years when I gave my old one away to a friend's mother. Back then I thought I was finished with stitching, bobbins, and seam rippers for good, but my new machine, a very simple and basic Singer, has me re-thinking all that. I may even start sewing a whole new summer wardrobe next spring. Project Runway, anyone?
  • Discovered I want to make metal clay beads and pendants. This was a rather late discovery, only occurring about a week ago. But I was curious as to why my beading had slowed down to almost nothing during the second half of the year. That's when I realized my whole problem revolved around not having the beads and focal pieces I wanted. Like my curtains, I would have to make my own. After all, I have a kiln, I love to work with clay, and I love to design things to make with clay. There's a studio just a few blocks away from where I now live that will be offering a class on the entire process in April. How lucky is that? Roll on 2019!

Tip of the Day: The end of the year is the perfect time to start imagining and writing down goals and plans for 2019. What will you do to create the year you want? I'd love to hear what you come up with. Thanks for visiting--see you next year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Happy Holidays: Stay Creative Every Day!

Image © creativeommonsstockphotos
Happy Holidays! How's your creative life going? If you're anything like me, you may be finding it a struggle to fit writing and/or drawing into a season that makes the day job extra-busy, fills up the social calendar with parties galore, and keeps you standing in line at the mall for what seems like eternity

Unfortunately, unless you decide to make your own holiday cards or gifts (a mistake I'll never try again, , ,) you might feel as if your muse has flown to Bermuda for the month, leaving you far behind. But don't give up: there's still plenty you can do to revive and restore flagging holiday creativity--cocoa and warm blankets included!
  1.  Too tired to pick up a pencil? Read! Escapist; comfort; genre; literary; poetry; nonfiction--whatever attracts your attention, go for it. On the surface, reading might seem like a creative cop-out, but it's one of the most important activities anyone can do to top up the "idea bank" while taking a much-needed rest. It also can lay the foundation for future creative work once the holidays are over.
  2. Play with Color. A sketchbook doesn't have to be used solely for sketches of actual objects or landscapes. Sometimes just arranging swatches of color into interesting designs and patterns can be enough to stimulate your imagination for more structured work. Something I love to do is paint page after page of watercolor washes using every color in my paint box. It's amazing how once the paint is dry you can see dozens of potential images within the wash to outline for later painting (or writing.) I also like to do this with cut-outs from magazines, concentrating on the colors rather than the subjects of the photos.
  3. Go to the craft or discount store with a $20 bill just for you. Buy yourself some stocking stuffers that will please nobody but yourself: stickers, washi tape, crazy pencils: items you won't be able to resist playing with once you get home.
  4. Go for a walk in a place you've never been before. This has been a little easier for me now that I've moved downtown, but seeing new settings, people, and tiny nooks and corners I've previously missed has given me fresh ideas for future work. I'm also making a list of places to revisit once the weather improves and I can sit outside to sketch or journal.
  5. Journal your feelings and ideas solely with inspirational, or unusual, photos and illustrations. No writing, just visuals. The finished journal can provide you with a wealth of ideas, prompts, and story lines well into the New Year. It's also a lovely item to just sit with, turning the pages and meditating on the individual elements.
  6. Watch old movies, particularly the ones you loved as a child. Write about why they're so special to you, and about the first time you watched them. How have your feelings and impressions changed with the passage of time in-between viewings?
  7. Plan a "vision quest" nap. Not only is this a great way to catch up on sleep, but it gives you a positive intention and a plan for creativity once you wake up. My personal method is to take a page from my visual journal, study it for a few minutes, and then tell myself to dream about it. This really works! Make sure you have a pen and paper next to your bed or couch so you can start writing the minute you open your eyes. 
One of the reasons we love the holidays is that they're supposed to be a chance to re-charge our lives with good will, good food, good company, and an atmosphere of magical wonder. Creative breaks, even if they're only spent in 20-minute segments throughout the day can be the perfect opportunity to engage and fully enjoy the spirit of this miraculous season. 
    Tip of the Day: During the holidays (or any time of the year, for that matter) indulge in a timed social media vacation. Social media is a wonderful tool for sharing and friendship, but it can also steal away time and energy that could be spent adding pages to your novel or improving your drawing skills. Whether it's for a few days or a few hours, give yourself the gift of creative time. Be brave--cut the cord!