Sometimes, we just need to make (or view) art that makes us happy.
No rhyme or reason. No hidden meaning or multitude of deep layers. Just pretty, simple, understated things. Art that makes us happy, that makes us smile and forget what a mess the world is right now.
Lately, I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis. Maybe because my 30s are almost behind me but mentally I still feel 25. Maybe because I’ve been focusing so much on building my art business that, when things are progressing slower than I’d like, I feel like an utter failure. Maybe just because I’m tired and need a break.
I think that’s why I am ridiculously excited for the new Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. It looks so refreshingly bright, and simple, and colorful. It reminds me of childhood and a world full of imagination and possibilities. So, during a particularly rough evening where my mental health was, well, less than stellar, I decided to sketch Margot as Barbie. Then I liked the sketch so much that I finished it. Simply because it brought a smile to my face.
Have you done or seen something that makes you smile today? For no reason than to make yourself happy?
No? Then what are you waiting for? 🙂
Portrait of Margot Robbie in her role as Barbie
Margot Robbie as Barbie. A prime example of art that can make us happy.
The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
Artists are the stereotype when it comes to living a creative life. People often picture a French beret and a paint smock splattered with color. The moody writer also comes to mind, drinking copious amounts of coffee while jotting their thoughts down. Or, maybe the photographer, jet-setting around the world in a leather jacket and Aviator sunglasses, capturing moments with wind-swept hair and a smile.
Despite those stereotypes, that life is not meant only for the “artistic elite.” Instead, anyone can live a creative life.
Whether you are a professional artist, a hobbyist, an art aficionado, or none of the above, YOU can have a creative life. As long as you have the desire, I will provide you the tools needed. Keep reading for my top 8 tips on how to live a creative life.
How to live a more creative life:
1. Stay true to yourself.
Embracing what makes us unique ensures a diverse society.
Diversity in a community encourages individual thinking.
Individual thinking fosters innovation and creativity.
It sounds cliché, but—like a snowflake—each of us is one-of-a-kind. No one else is you, in your body, with your life and experiences. No one can mirror your exact thoughts, dreams, and fears.Let those unique traits guide your steps toward living a more creative life. Allow your individuality to color the way you interact with the world around you. Let it influence how you depict that world, whether on paper, film, or through music.
2. For a creative life, look past the surface.
Finding beauty in unexpected places can expand our own perceptions.
Having perspective can reveal the hidden potential in other people or objects.
With deeper learning, we are able to take what we know and manipulate it to solve other, more complex problems.
We artistic types are a different breed. Our genetic makeup includes a unique perspective of the world around us. That perspective is what allows us to see things others may not. So if you’d like to live a more creative life, I suggest looking past the surface of whatever you come in contact with. Having a deeper understanding helps us to be more adaptable and understanding, no matter the situation.
3. Create something with your hands.
The act of making something from nothing enhances mental health.
Artistic creation also improves mood and helps to relieve stress.
Completing a personal, creative project brings a sense of satisfaction.
Many artists, myself included, feel so much and so intensely that those emotions must find an outlet (or we risk imploding). What better outlet than to create something? Even if you don’t have a particularly artistic talent, find something you can do, something that you enjoy, and use those skills. Write a poem or gather your thoughts into a journal entry. Sketch your pet. Or, learn something completely new.
4. A creative life means making mistakes.
Mistakes allow us to learn, grow, and discover new ideas.
Our experiences, mistakes included, shape who we are as individuals.
Accepting failure frees us up to go after our goals without reservation.
Bob Ross said it best: “We don’t make mistakes. We make happy little accidents.” Such a simple change in how we look at failure can have a profound impact on our lives. Mistakes will happen. They are a fact of life. Without failure, how can we hope to grow and improve? So, instead of fearing failure, we need to acknowledge that it happens, then move on. After all, a life lived without risk becomes a life wasted. To live a more creative life, we need to take more risks.
5. Surround yourself with other creative people.
Creative friends challenge each other into continually improving our talents and skills.
Artistic people are a never ending source of inspiration and creative insight.
No one will support you and understand your struggles better than a fellow creative individual.
Success begets success. This is especially true for a creative life. By surrounding ourselves with talented people, we in turn become more talented. For example, when I see work from another talented artist, I immediately want to go out and improve my own skill. This is because who (and what) we surround ourselves has a huge impact on who we will become.
6. Do more things that spark passion
Passions provide a sense of purpose in living a creative life and can give that life meaning.
Having things we are passionate about helps us to be more resilient when we encounter obstacles and difficulties.
Without passion, we are much more likely to burn out, lose motivation, and feel unfulfilled.
We only have one life. Why waste a minute of it doing things that don’t bring us joy? Yes, life comes with responsibilities, but that makes the time we spend on personal pursuits especially important. Make time for who and what you love and find meaning in the things you do. After all, when you look back on your life, you want to be filled with satisfaction, not regret.
7. In a creative life, let yourself play and have fun.
Playtime as an adult releases endorphins, improves well-being, and reduces stress.
Play also keeps our minds sharp and boosts mental health.
When we play, we are present in the moment
Children need play in order to improve coordination, memory, language skills, and much more when they are young. However, just because we grow up doesn’t mean we should stop playing and having fun. Even adults are continually learning and growing. Play helps with our cognitive skills, our mood, our coordination, just as much as in children. So, pick up that ball. Play the video game. Get out the play dough. Just have fun.
Asking questions connects us to the people around us.
Curiosity makes us want to learn more, understand deeper, and that knowledge then fuels innovation.
Being inquisitive leads to happier, more empathetic people.
The final, but no less important, tip for living a creative life is to ask more questions. Be inquisitive. Don’t just take things at face value—search for hidden meaning and seek better, more thorough understanding of any topic or subject. Not only will you be more successful in life, work, and artistic endeavors, but you will also gain wisdom on top of knowledge.
Do you have any tips on how you live your life more creatively? Share them in the comments!
You purchased a print or an original artwork from the young@art shop. Now what?
How do you protect your art until it is time to put it on the wall? What do you do to protect your art once it has taken up its permanent place in your home? What happens if you move or need to put your art into storage for a period of time?
Artwork can be beautiful, but it’s also fragile. It’s best to keep your original pieces in a safe place so they don’t get damaged. The best way to protect art is with these tips:
Protect art from the elements
Keep art away from direct sunlight or artificial light. Sunlight can fade colors and discolor your paintings, while artificial light can make them brittle and damage the surface of the work. Further protect art by storing it in a frame that has UV-blocking glass.
Keep art in a cool, dry place away from moisture. Never display original artwork in bathrooms. No matter how well-ventilated, steam from the shower or bath can cause irreparable damage. When not on display, protect art by storing it in a temperature-controlled environment. This will help make sure that it doesn’t crack or warp over time due to weather changes, and avoid mold growth. It’s also important not to put your art near windows or vents, because these areas are susceptible to fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels.
Make sure to avoid touching the art with your bare hands. The oils in our skin can interact with other materials and wreak havoc on artwork.
Protect art from dust and other debris
Using frames & sleeves
Frames and sleeves are a great way to protect art from dirt, dust, pet hair, and many other contaminants. Frames are particularly good for hanging on the wall, especially if you want to showcase the artwork as a centerpiece in your home.
Good quality frames do not have to break the bank. I have found a great site that provides custom framing options for decent prices. Check them out at: CustomPictureFrames.com.
One of my own paintings framed using CustomPictureFrames.com
Upgrade frames with museum-quality glass
Glass adds an additional layer of protection, and museum-quality glass significantly reduces glare and filters the amount of light that touches the artwork.
Dust open-framed or un-framed artwork regularly
When glass is not a logical choice (such as with stretched-canvas paintings), make sure to dust art regularly. Don’t use a dust cloth, which has threads that can catch on rough spots of paint, or with a feather duster/stiff brush, which can scratch the artwork. Instead, use a soft, natural-hair bristle brush that is one to two inches wide and dust with a light touch.
When framing, always use a mat to separate glass from the surface of the art. Use an acid-free matting system that will keep the piece clean and further protect the art from outside elements.
Also, make sure not to use too much tape or glue when framing your artwork. These adhesives can cause damage over time, especially if they’re applied directly onto the surface of the painting itself (rather than onto cardboard backing). I highly recommend the use of acid-free linen tape specifically designed for matting artwork.
Using protective sleeves
For storing art long-term, protect art by sealing them in protective sleeves. They’re easy to store when not in use, and they provide ample protection for the artwork inside them. (Make sure to use archival-quality, acid-free sleeves. Otherwise, the protective sleeves will degrade over time and interact with the paper and media of the artwork.)
Also for long-term storage: Don’t put anything on top of your work that might scratch or damage its surface (like another piece of artwork). It’s also best not to stack things on top of each other so they don’t get crushed under their own weight—this could loosen screws or break off pieces from underneath them!
Mount art on a wall with proper hardware
Like frames themselves, proper hardware can help protect art from fall damage. If you have a large piece of art or something that needs to be hung on a wall, make sure you use a frame that’s designed for hanging heavy objects or has reinforced corners so it doesn’t rip off the wall if someone bumps into it accidentally. Heavy artwork should be mounted on the wall through studs or using wall anchors.
I always recommend getting an original piece professionally matted & framed to ensure the highest quality materials, proper handling of art. However, if you’d prefer to do-it-yourself, there are several tips and tricks on how to mat and frame art for proper display.
I hope that these tips help to protect your art so that it lasts and can be enjoyed for generations to come!
Mind mapping: ditch the list & unleash your creative thinking
What is mind mapping, anyway?
A visual, organic way to organize information
Mind mapping fell into my lap a while back during a time when I felt scattered and undisciplined (or maybe I came across it while pinning random pictures on Pinterest, I can’t remember). Lists no longer worked for me, if they had ever worked at all. And, that is a difficult thing for me to admit. Because I, being the true nerd that I am, have always had a thing for lists. Or, maybe I’m a perfectionist… maybe I’m just weird. Either way, I love nothing more than planning things with nice little checklists. Sometimes (okay lots of times) I will even add a task I have already completed just to have the satisfaction of crossing it off my list.
But lists and I have a love/hate relationship. For one thing, order has always been important to me and if I thought of an item that belonged somewhere in the list but there was no room to add it – well, that drove me to distraction and I often had to rewrite the whole list from scratch. For another, I would often get so hung up on making the list perfect that I would never get around to actually doing any of the items ON the list!
But what makes mind mapping so great?
The *idea* of mind mapping has been around for centuries, but the term and the practice we know it as today was coined by author Tony Buzan: “A Mind Map is a visual thinking tool that can be applied to all cognitive functions, especially memory, learning, creativity and analysis. Mind Mapping is a process that involves a distinct combination of imagery, colour and visual-spatial arrangement. The technique maps out your thoughts using keywords that trigger associations in the brain to spark further ideas.” (From the iMindMap software from Tony Buzan)
Simply put, the process goes a little like this:
You have an idea
You write the idea in the center of a piece of paper
You start to connect other ideas that branch off of the central idea as keywords, pictures, etc.
You fill up the paper with these word-associations, which spark more ideas, and more associations.
Think of a mind map as just that — a map. Maps use roads and paths to connect us from one place to another. Mind maps use words, thoughts, images, and color, to connect our thoughts together into one cohesive idea.
Have you tried mind mapping? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, what are you waiting for?! 😉
Let me rephrase that. I don’t mean giving up ENTIRELY (please don’t do that!). No, I’m talking about that fork-in-the-road intervention we all face at strategic points in our lives. Who am I? What is my purpose?
In all honesty, I have had my own “giving up” come-to-Jesus talks with myself many times in the past. Not so much, “What is my purpose?” as, “Why don’t people like meeeee?!” (Or, maybe I just had a mental breakdown and started talking back to the voices in my head. But hey, I’m an artist. We embrace a little bit of insanity.)
So how does giving up work, exactly?
1. Stop being stuck in the past.
With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here is my origin story of giving up (and finding freedom in doing so):
I began my journey as the kid who doodled all over her books in elementary school, then became the artsy girl in high school drawing anime characters. Finally, I graduated with a Bachelor in Studio Art, the budding artistic professional ready to take on the world. I have worked in graphic design, in preschool as an art teacher, and in all kinds of non-creative jobs scattered in between.
During some of that time, my muse stayed close. We were best friends. I had so many ideas, I thought I may burst if I didn’t get them down on paper.
Long dry spells inevitably followed. Days and weeks went by that saw me plagued with depression and anxiety and a constant struggle to find some sort of self-worth. Nothing I did was good enough. I felt inferior and longed for days past when things weren’t so complicated and hard. Giving up felt easy, but I needed to learn to give up the right things.
We should learn from the past instead of living in it. That way, when those dry spells inevitably return, we can be better prepared to handle them.
2. Give up on unrealistic expectations.
I’ve learned that universal acceptance and appreciation is just an unrealistic goal. Dan Brown
Like many times before, I found my footing again at the end of the dark hold of depression and anxiety. From then on I have spent every-possible-moment-since taking advantage of the inspiration. Painstakingly, I create quality content on my social media platforms. That includes making myself more marketable. I work tirelessly to grow my fan-base and extend my empire. Except that my empire is very, very small (really more of a village).
For a while that bothered me. (Okay… if I’m honest with myself, it still bothers me.) But, do you know what? I am learning that when I raise the bar too high, too fast, that’s when I crash and fall. Those unrealistic expectations can be killer to a perfectionist. And I have always been extremely hard on myself.
Which brings me to giving up on whatever measures of success have been ingrained into our brains from day one. So what if I have few followers? Those that do follow me, they are my people, my kindred spirits—they are YOU. And you are more precious to me than gold. Because you are real people who take an interest in what I do. You find value in the work I create (if not, you wouldn’t bother hanging around).
That means so much more than thousands of lukewarm followers who only stick around until the next trendy thing catches their eyes. And at the end of the day, I need to feel that my art means something to someone much more than I need to feel “popular.” If I can touch even one person’s soul, shed light on one dreary day, make only one person smile, I’ll consider my art a success.
3. Let go of what you can’t control.
You may not control all the events that happen to you. But you can decide not to be reduced by them. Maya Angelou
I have spent years fighting for control. Control over my circumstances. Control over how others perceive me. Things that I can never hope to attain but that I continue to beat myself up over. I cannot force others to like what I do or force others to invest in my work. But I CAN foster relationships and build trust with those who do. Which means creating quality art for quality people, numbers be damned.
Sure, I may not have 100,000 followers. So what if I still have to have a day job on top of my art business? If I focus on the good things, the small wins, I start to realize that I’m pretty lucky—and extremely blessed.
What do you have a hard time giving up on? Let me know in the comments below!
I have been asked many times for advice from artist friends, or artists I have mentored in the past. When someone came to me recently with the same request, I jumped at the chance to offer some of what I have learned over the years — and decided why not post it on here, in hopes that my advice it may help other artists out there.
The most important advice I have learned so far:
Create for you, not for everyone else.
Being an artist is rough at any age because we creative types crave affirmation and praise – sometimes to the point that when we don’t receive much, we start to doubt our own talent and self-worth. Don’t fall into that trap. You would not be creating art if you did not love it. Maybe you started because it offers stress relief. Maybe you started because it just came naturally. Think of those reasons when you start to get discouraged, then pick up a pencil, or pen, or whatever your tool of choice is, and just keep at it!
If you are unsure about something, learn.
There will always be those who are more skilled or more talented. Don’t be discouraged by them – learn from them! This was a hard lesson for me, but it’s been a good one. Once I let go of my need to be “the best,” I actually began improving tenfold because the insecurity wasn’t holding me back.
Always strive to be better, but recognize the value in your own work. You have a style that is all your own. Embrace and nurture it. Definitely learn new things, but don’t try to be something you aren’t.
Surround yourself with positive people.
If someone tells you that you can’t do something or that you’re no good, ignore them and try harder. Oh, and kick them to the curb. You do not need that kind of negativity (we usually do a much better job at being our own worst critic, anyway).
Figure out your personal brand.
This is important when you start marketing yourself. It’s important to think of you as a business and your artwork as the product it sells. How will people know what accounts are yours, that a site is yours? Not only by your unique art style, but also by how you market yourself. That means your “business” name, logo, color scheme, etc.
Many artists I know use their own name, which is the common thing to do. You can also make it more of a business-style name – for instance, my brand is young@art.
Trust me on this. It doesn’t mean that your art is no good, it just means that we as a society are over-saturated with – well, everything. Just keep at it. Engage your followers. Post as often as you can (but not too often! I’d say no more than once or twice a day) – and definitely look at the best days/times to post based on the social media platform. There are lots of resources that can help schedule posts in advance and whatnot.
Anyway, I hope that this helps! If you like, I’ve got lots of other resources on my site. And I’m always available if you have any questions, need a critique partner, or just want to chat about art.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton
How true that statement is. Everyone has things they love, and many of those things shape us. It’s inevitable. This is no less true when it comes to our art. We see things we like, we imitate and try to shape our style to include those things.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am NOT talking about stealing other people’s work and passing it off as your own. I am also NOT talking about imitating something so closely that the end result is something that is nowhere near your own work. I am talking about imitating things in a quest to find your own style. Finding styles that you like and working them into a style that is 100% uniquely YOU.
Throughout my journey as an artist, these are the top seven things that have shaped my style:
If you know even a little about me, you know about my love of Disney (also known as an intense, all-encompassing obsession). I had Little Mermaid everything as a little girl. Then Lion King everything. Then — well, you get the idea. I mean, I currently own approximately 30 Stitch stuffed animals. I am a member of the Disney Vacation Club. I go on Disney cruises.
(I may have a problem…)
My point is, it seems natural that Disney would influence my art style, seeing as I soaked up Disney animation from a very early age.
I started my love of Japanese animation (anime) and manga around middle school. It started with Sailor Moon (didn’t every girl from the 90s start with this? No, just me?), though my real love was Card Captor Sakura. It branched off into many different directions, but I started drawing in the Anime style, and it definitely leeched into my work after a time.
I blame Labyrinth for my addiction to all things shimmery. (C’mon, that movie is an explosion of sparkles. Seriously. so. much. glitter!!). It is my all-time favorite movie. I’ve watched it an unprecedented number of times. And I admit that I do like to add a bit of sparkle to my work every now and then… Oh, and I will always love owls.
4. Just Imagine: a Book of Fairyland Rhymes
For anyone that isn’t familiar with this picture book… oh, you’ve missed so much, my friend. In case you can’t see the theme, I really, really love fantasy and fairy tales. I think this may have been the beginning of it all. Guy Gilchrist is an amazing illustrator (and the writing is spectacular as well). He has this whimsical, slightly antiqued style with soft colors.
I came across Aimee Major when I was in high school. She was going to college for character animation (which I really, really wanted to do! Funny how life doesn’t work out quite how we picture…. Anyway, I digress). Her work was and is spectacular. She’s worked on several animated television shows over the years, and I remain a faithful follower of her work. And she definitely influenced my style in the late 90s.
James Hance. This man is my hero. He makes the most wonderful geeky masterpieces. I mean, seriously, his work is brilliant. C’mon, Wookie the Chew? He combined Star Wars with my all-time favorite stories – A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. So, I’m not ashamed to admit that he inspires me to be as geeky as I like in my art. If he can make such beautiful masterpieces, surely I can, too!
6. Antique photography
I love looking at antique photographs. The soft, muted colors (or soft shades, for black and white or sepia photos). The slightly warm sepia tint that comes through that makes them look worn and old. I think that’s why I’m growing to love watercolor so much. You can recreate so much softness that way.
7. Comic books
This is a bit of a broad subject, but I do love comic books, and I do feel they have shaped my style quite a bit. Especially comics such as Sin City. I really, really love the black-and-white/grayscale mood of the art with splashes of color mixed in at certain places.
So, that’s basically it. I’m sure I could come up with many more, but really, those seven things encompass most of what my style is comprised of. Now, it’s your turn. What sorts of things have influenced YOUR style? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
If you’re anything like me (and you probably are not, because I’m completely strange unique), then you like to find tutorials on the web and try them out. Or, you know, buy those Disney “How to Draw” books. Does anyone else remember those? Are those still a thing? I need to see if I still have mine. I’m pretty sure I got twenty.
(No, that wasn’t a reference to Little Mermaid. I swear.)
Ehem. Anyway, the point being, I love tutorials. And so, I’ve scoured the web for days on end (translation: I googled for about ten minutes) and found a list of art tutorials and projects that I love and want to try — and I hope you try them, too!
Tips for drawing backgrounds: I will be the first to admit that I hate drawing backgrounds. I don’t know why, but I do. So, that of course means that I should be practicing drawing backgrounds as much as possible because if it’s not something you love doing, you aren’t going to do it, then it’s going to suck, and then all your art is going to suck, and then you’re going to curl up in a ball and cry. So.
Step-by-Step Digital Painting Tutorial: Not only do I love this artist’s style, but the infographic-style of this tutorial is beautiful to look at and extremely thorough. I already follow several of her steps, so it will be easy for me to try this one out and tweak my current process!
Head over to Clementine Creative for a list of 12 watercolor tutorials that you can check out. (I, for one, want to strengthen my weak skill in watercolor. It’s a medium where you kind of have to let go — which I have a hard time with!!)
Talking about references… Looking at other artist’s work to help your skill along is never a bad thing (we all do it, and these tutorials are a great example). But, when at all possible, use live references (or at least photographs of live references).
Not only will you ensure that your style remains your own, you will also make sure you don’t inadvertently pick up any bad habits from other artists, either. (Sorry. We ALL have them.)
Along the same vein as clothing, shoes are something I am always trying to improve on. Well, feet and shoes. And I was going to look for a specific tutorial when I came across this link to a bazillion (okay maybe not quite that much, but close) tutorials and references on Pinterest. So, why try to invent the wheel?
Another aside on clothing: this book by John Peacock is amazing! I have one of its older siblings, but I may have to upgrade. It’s a great reference on different clothing styles throughout (most) of history.
One final tutorial on drawing figures – this article on Design Your Way has a ton of video tutorials on everything from eyes, to faces, to gesture drawing and poses.
You can also view more art references and tutorials on my Pinterest board, Art Reference – I update fairly frequently.
So, about those tutorials… Seriously. Try them. And let me know how they are in the comments.
I’ll wait. 😉
(P.S. If you have Netflix, they now have the entire Bob Ross series available to stream. That man fostered my obsession with art at a very early age. And, c’mon. Bob Ross. I dare you to watch it and not laugh you @$$ off or end up in a good mood by the end!)
“Why have a brand?” you ask. “I’m only an illustrator/writer.”
Good question! Personal brands are great for establishing a professional image. They help you to stand out from the crowd.
But where to start? Design is an evolutionary process. It starts with a whisper. Ideas emerge from that single thought and we let them roll around in our minds, where a small number start to take shape. We mold them. Then, when we have the idea in just the right atmosphere, we move it to pen and paper.
Half of the time we shred that paper into tiny bits and throw it into the wastebasket.
No? Just me? Okay, okay, maybe not quite so dramatic. But, I have never taken an idea from thought to reality without multiple revisions. It starts as one thing until I change this or switch that.
Branding has no magic pill. And, what works for one person may not work for another. But I can give you a few tips that I think will help – at the very least, it might give you some food for thought!
Check out the infographic below for more information:
As you can see, I have tried to keep my look consistent across my blog posts and various social media sites. I have:
a designated color scheme,
a basic look and feel to my graphics so that someone looking at them can easily distinguish this is something that I created,
select fonts that I use,
a name – young@art(c),
a slogan – “Art for the child in all of us”,
and, finally, a logo (I also have a couple of variations to the logo to fit different designs).
Have you thought about a personal brand for your professional identity? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
I have always stressed the importance of keeping a sketchbook. My studio at home is jam-packed full of sketchbooks – big ones, small ones, skinny ones, fat ones, (yes, this is sounding like a Dr. Seuss book…)
Karen Elaine’s idea of nano sketching, though. I admit I fell in love with this idea as soon as I read about it! Sketchbooks, minified! Sort of like flash fiction, only for art. And like flash fiction does for writing, nano sketching condenses your art into a small, confined area, which helps to tighten skills and sharpen focus.
So, what is a nano sketch?
Nano sketches are quick gesture drawings done with a pencil (no erasing) keeping the lines loose light and free.
Sounds pretty simple. We used to do exercises like this in art school. Sometimes we would have to look only at the subject and never down at the paper – you know, if you want to take this to an even more advanced level. Or are a bit of a masochist. Either way.
Nano sketches are quick and usually done in a public place.
Since the journals themselves tend to be so small, this makes sense. Think of the possibilities! I would love to take one of these on vacation with me and do sort of a sketch-journal about my experiences!
A real useful trick is to photograph your subject first so you have an image to refer to when things change (and they always do) and if you want to complete the sketch at a later time.
I love the above piece of advice. I almost never finish a sketch in time — and when I am drawing active scenes, it’s great to grab a shot of the instance for future reference. I don’t know about you, but it’s kind of difficult for me to sketch someone jumping in mid-air in the nanosecond it takes them to jump up and then hit the ground again.
If you can do that, you must be some sort of superhero, and you should be out fighting crime instead of sketching.
Making time for nano sketches every day is a quick and easy way to practice drawing and painting skills and to observe the world in an entirely different way.
Seriously, though, I have been trying to make it a goal to draw something daily. Even more so, to draw things I actually see (as opposed to things from my crazy ADHD mind) to help hone and refine my skills. Art is kind of like riding a bike. If you stop riding, you start to lose the basics and you don’t ride nearly as well as if you had ridden daily.
Or something like that. I’m bad at metaphors.
Anyway, I highly recommend you check this guest post out at Doodlewash! Karen goes into much more detail, and her sketches are lovely! (I mean, just look at that cat. So adorable!)
Scroll down to the end of the post for the link to the full article. And, enjoy!
Greetings, my name is Karen Elaine and I am an artist, author and teacher living in the mountains near Sedona, Arizona living with my husband and cat (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and visit my website!). I’m the author of Origami Card Craft and The Art of Kumomi as well as other books on paper crafting […]
via GUEST DOODLEWASH: Nano-Sketching by Karen Elaine — Doodlewash
Winter holds on in mid-March with a stubborn, icy grip. Despite the bright afternoon sun, the air is crisp. Those meandering through New York’s harbor still dress in layers of thick clothing for warmth.
In the midst of the crowd that has gathered, a young thief breathes into her threadbare gloves, rubs her hands briskly together, and joins the masses to begin her work. Bright coppery curls tucked under a cap are her only distinguishing marker. Pale green eyes hide behind a shadow and her plain clothing helps her melt into the background. Just one poor immigrant in a sea of other immigrants.
Most of these poor souls do not have the money to visit Liberty Island, so they come here instead. Hundreds of unsuspecting victims bundle close while they shuffle along the pier. Many stop to gape in awe at the colossal splendor of the Statue of Liberty.
Just as well, for their diverted attention allows the pickpocket’s careful fingers to work without too many mistakes.
In this line of work, mistakes can be a death sentence.
Within the hour, she has garnered enough money to last her till Sunday, if she is careful. She dares not press her luck for any more. And, anyway, it is foolish to keep too much on her person. Plenty of other thieves to watch out for in this city.
Hiding everything within her full skirts, she slips away from the crowd and begins walking. She daydreams about dinner and the full meal that will fill her belly. She may even splurge just a little and wash it down with a pint of ale.
Someone pushes past her then. The sudden motion pushes her off-balance and jars her back to reality. Heart pounding, she pats her skirts. She hears the quiet jangle of coins from beneath the folds of fabric. Thank goodness.
Now more curious than frantic, she watches the other person, a girl close to her own age – maybe a few years older. The other girl moves swiftly toward the end of the street. A thick mass of people have all but blocked off that side and she stops behind a particularly thick wall of bodies. Her foot taps impatiently while she looks to the left and to the right to find an open path. Her reddish brown hair threatens to pull out of the haphazard bun tied at the nape of her neck.
The thief moves closer. The other girl’s clothes are old, but clean and well taken care of. Even closer now. A silver pocket watch glints in the sunlight at the girl’s waist and catches the thief’s eye. She gasps. That watch could buy her new gloves. Maybe even a new outfit.
Just another step. Almost there.
Fingers brush against skirt fabric. It rustles. The other girl whips around. Fingers wrap around the thief’s neck and without warning she is shoved. Her body trips backward. She slams against a brick wall, the other girl surprisingly strong for her size. The thief feels fingers squeeze against her throat when she struggles. The other girl’s face, now scowling, leans in so close that the thief can feel warm breath on her cheek.
“You picked the wrong target, street rat,” the other girl hisses.
A knife presses into the thief’s side and she stops struggling. She says, “I’m sorry,” in a strangled choke. Tears gather in the corner of her eyes. “Please don’t kill me!”
The other girl rolls her eyes. “Good lord, you are bad at this.” She releases her hold and steps back. A sudden rush of air fills the thief’s lungs and she doubles over and takes several frantic, ragged breaths.
“What’s your name?” the other girl asks.
The burning in her throat makes it hard to form words. “Keelie.” Her voice sounds scratch and foreign to her ears. “Keelie Flynn.”
“Well, Keelie Flynn, I’m Annie McCain.” She holds out her hand. Keelie stares down at it, dubious, before she takes it in her own. “I’m surprised you aren’t starving or in jail, what with that sad little display just now. Though,” she adds, looking Keelie up and down, “you do look a little worse for wear.”
Keelie flushes. “I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.” She turns away – then back again. “Why do ye care?”
“I don’t.” Annie pockets the knife and leans against the brick wall to Keelie’s left. “I just happen to be the best pickpocket in New York City. Wouldn’t mind having an assistant of sorts. I could show you the ropes.”
“What’s the catch?”
“No catch. Just a cut of the profits. What do you say?”
Keelie takes a moment to think it over. While a small part of her wants to say no, she is tired. And hungry. And, to be honest, she really is a horrible pickpocket. “Okay, then,” she says. “I’ll do it.”
“Great! Now then,” Annie says with a smirk. “Lesson number one: when you pickpocket a female, always move the skirt with the breeze. Not against.”
Keelie Flynn and Annie McCain are two characters in an upcoming novel collaboration with Heatherlyn Egan. I hope you enjoyed this little preview of the characters! Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below. 🙂
Words no creative professional wants to hear. Pair it with an incredulous look and it’s enough to make blood boil. The truth is, real artists and artisans put a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears into the creations they make. They toil for hours. They lose sleep. They forget to eat. (Trust me. I’ve experienced it all.)
When someone implies (or outright says) that they think an artist/artisan’s creations are somehow worth less…
Honestly, I can’t even describe it.
Here is the best example I can think of: say you just interviewed for a big promotion at work. The interview went well, the committee seemed suitably impressed, and you feel confident that you are the best person for the job. Later, your boss comes up to you and says, “We like you, [name], but that raise you’re looking for? We just can’t afford what you think you’re worth. I mean, [so-and-so] would do the same job for half that price.” Then, the company low-balls you on their offer.
How would that make you feel? Pretty crappy, I’d imagine.
I have wanted to do a post on how much an artist’s or artisan’s time is worth. Recently a friend posted a blog post that perfectly illustrates just what goes into an artist’s creation, so I thought, why mess with perfection? The post, titled “Materials, Time, Creativity,” written by Matt Munson (on the site The Project Workbench) goes into detail as to why artistic creations are worth so much more than the average person assumes.
As the name implies, the cost of most artisan pieces can be broken down into three major categories:
“This is the easiest one for people to wrap their heads around. These are the hard costs of the stuff used to make the thing you’re looking to purchase.”
Simply, these are the supplies we use to create the finished product. For someone like me, it would be things like paper, paints, brushes, etc. These numbers are easily quantifiable, and oftentimes they are the numbers that most people assume should encompass the entire price.
Just because I spent $20 in supplies does NOT make my illustrations worth $20.
“Contrary to what you may believe or understand, the time of the artisan is worth something. Just as you would not do your job for free, it’s a bit short sighted to expect an artist to do their job for free.”
I love the quote above especially. Developers may love their job, but they still expect compensation for their work. Teachers may have a passion for education and children, but they still spent a lot of time and money learning to do the job they do, and do it well. Is that not worth something? Should they not be compensated for their skill and knowledge of their profession?
Artists and artisans should be no different.
“And here we reach what I believe is the toughest pill for a potential customer to swallow. The idea that the product you are creating has some value all its own, independent of the materials and time used to create it.”
When I am looking at a priceless painting by a world-renowned artist, I would never presume to think that the item has no intrinsic value. And, while we cannot all be Picassos or Van Goghs, I believe that an artist’s creations do have value all their own.
After all, if a person does not love something about that artist’s work, why on earth would that person bother approaching them for a custom piece? It makes no sense.
As for me – if someone comes to me thinking they’ll get something for nothing, they are sorely mistaken. And if they claim that they can make the same thing for a fraction of the cost, I will smile at them and say:
“By all means, then. You’re welcome to do it yourself.”
I struggle against the rope at my wrists. They did a thorough job tying me to this tree, but that does little to stop the irrational voice in my head that screams for me to escape. I tell the voice to shove it. We aren’t going anywhere at this rate.
So, this is how it all ends. Virginal sacrifice to some hideous god-monster.
What a sick joke.
Leaves rustle somewhere behind me. I tense. My eyes clamp shut. I grit my teeth in wait for whatever being has chosen me for its dinner. I wait for the hot, rancid breath on my cheek.
Instead, I hear a tinkling laugh.
My head snaps up. What sort of monster makes a noise like that?
A pair of violet doe-eyes meets my gaze, framed by silvery white locks and plump lips that are currently curled up in an amused grin. Under the darkening sky, she almost glows. Her mocha skin sparkles wherever the moonlight touches – soft like a caress – and she reminds me of a wood dryad or a fairy, the kind made popular in movies. Small. Dainty.
“No one has sent me a boy in ages,” she says. Her voice sounds like music.
Is this a trick where she gets close after I let my guard down, then turns into some vile creature to go in for the kill? I want to ask her this. My confused brain instead tells my mouth to spit out, “But, you’re so hot!”
“Am I? I don’t feel very warm.” She looks down and runs her hands down the front of her dress – which I notice is almost completely transparent.
Dear God, so it’s to be torture before death.
She looks back up at me and tilts her head. “You’re funny.” So close now that her breasts press against my stomach, her scent of peaches and cream envelops the air around me.
Definite, absolute torture.
“Are you going to eat me?” I ground out, heart pounding — this time, not from fear.
She laughs again. “Eat you! Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Because that’s what these people do. They sacrifice people to their gods. To you.” I lean forward and loud-whisper, “It’s why I’m tied to this tree.”
The goddess-monster-dryad-fairy takes her time to answer. She considers my question while hands and gaze peruse every inch of my body in slow, lazy paths. I may spontaneously burst at any moment. Blow up or be eaten… if either are like this exquisite torture I would die a happy man. But I’d still like to know.
“I do not eat meat, human boy,” she finally says. “I will not eat you.”
I slump against my bonds in relief. “Then, what’s with being trussed up like a sacrificial lamb?”
Her smile turns wicked. “I will not eat you, human boy,” she repeats. “But, I WILL feast.”
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”
The importance of sketching: artists hear it all the time. (No? Just me?) We should sketch every chance we get, they say.
Well, they’re not wrong.
Think of sketching like riding a bike. It takes practice to gain enough skill to stay on the bike, even more so to get it to move forward. We must practice to learn to stop. We must practice to do wheelies. When we don’t practice, we lose the skills we have learned. They grow rusty. Harder to perform.
So, yes, sketching is important, and below I’ve outlined my top seven reasons to keep a sketchbook with you at all times and practice, practice, practice! (Why seven? Because I’m a rebel like that. Take that, number ten! I do what I want!)
Sketchbooks are snapshots in time
Think of a sketchbook as a type of journal. Each time you sketch something in it, you are capturing – immortalizing – a moment in time. Journals do the same, just with words.
Sketching reduces stress
I can’t speak for everyone, but when I start drawing, I tend to get lost in my own world. Everything around me fades. My worries melt away. I fall into a zen-like state where nothing exists but that very moment. And, when I finish, I feel at ease and I am filled with satisfaction.
Sketching improves skill
Sketching, as mentioned above, allows us to practice and improve our skills. By sketching the things around us, we see the world with an artistic eye and a different perspective.
Sketching fights boredom
Before the time of smart phones, I never left home without a book (or two or three), a sketchbook, and my pencils. Waiting at the doctor, standing in a line, waiting for class to start (though that one was a quite a while ago…), you would see me with my nose in a book or else feverishly drawing something in my sketchbook. The time always passed much quicker, then – and unlike with smart phones, I actually had something to show for it at the end. 🙂
Sketchbooks store thoughts and ideas
I’ve actually got what I call a scratch-book in my purse at all times. It is sort of a sketchbook on steroids. I sketch, jot down ideas, mind-map (more on that at a later date). It helps me better organize my scatterbrained ideas.
Sketching makes us think
Sketching opens me up to whole new ways of thinking. When I start drawing, I look at things in a different perspective and in a new light. I ask questions. These questions lead to ideas. I jot the ideas down on paper and sketch them out. So the cycle continues.
Sketching allows us to truly experience the world around us
We have multiple senses for a reason. Use them. Never assume that because drawings and paintings are a visual medium that other senses don’t come into play. On the contrary. They evoke memory and personal experience. While a person may not actually smell a drawing of the sea, a well-done artwork will evoke a strong memory that transports the viewer into the scene. That is the power of experience.
What reasons do you have for keeping a sketchbook? Or, if you don’t draw, what sorts of tools do you use to experience the world around you? I’d love to hear them, so be sure to post them in the comments below!
Lonely is the feeling of nighttime that stretches forever, a shadow that devours and suffocates. Light withers and wanes in its icy grip. Flames extinguish.
Lonely is tears.
Lonely is the feeling that runs bleak and black down the heart. And with each stilted beat, with each pregnant pause, you hear nothing but thick, heavy silence and the drowning of dreams.
Lonely is cold.
Lonely is the feeling of remembered lost loves and missed opportunities. It shatters composure. Mutilates. Marks. Slices down deep with its razor sharp tongue each time you think, “I’m not good enough.”
Silence wakes her. Heavy, suffocating, broken only by ragged breaths and a name on her lips. She chokes back a sob and reaches for her phone, sends a text she knows she’ll regret.
You won’t answer, but… I miss you.
The screen remains stagnant. Wide awake now, she sits up in bed. Her cheeks are wet with tears she never cried, ones she has held back for over a year. She wonders why until she notices the date. Of course.
Today is our anniversary.
She shakes her head, hits delete.
Today was our anniversary. Can you believe it? One year since our wedding day. 13 months since you left me.
Pathetic, but she cannot stop the tidal wave of words. Her fingers move on their own. Her mind knows these texts are pointless, that he will stay silent. The number has most likely changed hands, but she continues to press send.
I miss you always, though I try not to. It’s paralyzing.
How can I forgive what you did?
I want to hate you. You left me all alone.
I DO hate you. I hate you for going away.
HOW COULD YOU?!
Anger punches her in the chest. Every negative emotion kept at bay pours over her until she gasps for air. Shaking, shrieking, she launches the phone. It bounces off the mattress and disappears over the side, landing seconds later on carpet with a muffled thud. She curls up and buries her face into a pillow – his old pillow.
Somehow, it still smells faintly of mint.
In the midst of the silence, her phone faintly chimes. Surely she imagined it, she thinks, until it chimes again. Heart thudding, she untangles from the sheets and races to it. There on the screen, two lines:
I’m sorry, but you’ve got the wrong number…
Her racing pulse slows. Silly to think, to hope…
This number used to belong to my fiancé.
Sorry for waking you.
Please ignore my insane ramblings…Not sure what came over me, to be honest.
Seconds pass. She moves to lock the screen when an icon appears to show the stranger typing.
Don’t worry about it.
You seem pretty upset. May I ask what happened?
What possesses her to continue this dialog, she cannot say, but she does.
He died just before our wedding last year.
Oh, God. Sorry. That’s horrible.
Today would have been our first anniversary. I guess it hit me too hard.
My girlfriend dumped me six months ago.
On my birthday.
I know it’s not the same, but… Never-mind. Pretend I didn’t say that.
No, I get it. Thank you.
They talk, commiserate a little longer — silly little words that act as a balm to her soul. Before long, her eyes grow heavy. She texts a goodbye, thanks him again. She pulls the pillow back in her grasp, breathes in deep, and closes her eyes.
This time, when she sleeps, the silence is a comfort.
As artists, we get asked this question a lot: “What is your favorite medium?” or, slightly similar: “What art tools do you prefer?”
Well, my lovelies, I have decided to compile a list of my absolute favorite tools of the trade, and why I love them, just for you. 🙂
I am a huge fan of mixed media art. For me, no one medium does absolutely everything I want it to do — but combined… well, then all bets are off. By itself, I’m not a huge fan of watercolor. I appreciate the beauty of the medium and I love looking at watercolor illustrations. But, it’s too fluid, and it doesn’t do what I want it to. (Stubborn, remember?)
However, watercolor paint makes a wonderful, ethereal backdrop and I will often use it to start color blocking my pieces. (I also reserve watercolor for larger pieces.)
Copic markers are like watercolor’s richer, denser cousin. Still liquid, still easily blended, but much more saturated. I usually start off with neutral gray hues to shade my piece and tone down the colors so that they look more natural. Then, I layer up the colors to add life to the piece.
This is my third tool of choice. Colored pencils are a great way to add detail to an illustration and to further pull out the colors that lay underneath.
I don’t always use acrylic paints, but sometimes an illustration needs a little extra texture and lift. Acrylics allow me to really pull out the highlights and give the piece an extra 3-dimensional quality.
Hot-press watercolor paper.
This is my preferred surface to work on. Watercolor paper holds all of the liquid media well, minimizes bleeding, and allows for easy blending. I prefer hot-press because there is a little less texture and tooth to the paper. However, I have used both and sometimes the extra texture is a good thing!
As a die-hard digital painting fan, I cannot even begin to remember what it was like before pen tablets. My preferred brand is Wacom, the industry leader in tablets for professional artists. I personally have the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Medium Tablet (CTH680) and I couldn’t be happier. Well, that’s not completely true. I have been eyeing that Cintiq Companion 2 Intel® Core™ for a while now. Maybe Christmas? (I’m looking at you, dear husband…)
Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 2.
I have recently become more interested in sketching out drawings digitally. Call me a traditionalist, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely do away with good old pencil and paper for my initial sketches. But I have found the iPad to be a freeing way to sketch — especially when coupled with good drawing apps that can transfer easily to Photoshop (more about that below).
I love this stylus for drawing on the iPad. It’s easy to use, it has pressure-sensitivity, and it moves like butter across the screen. (Not that I’m putting butter on my iPad. That’s just gross.)
I know there are lots of other tablets out there nowadays, but I admit I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to digital art and computers. While PC has come a long way, I’m just way too in love with Apple (all you PC fans, don’t freak out too hard — I love PC, too. I AM a Microsoft developer, after all. I do all my paintings on the PC!).
With retina display for stunning high-quality visuals, and mixed with the stylus I mentioned above and Adobe’s Photoshop Sketch app, the iPad is pretty tough to beat, in my opinion!
The only downside (currently) is that the drawings done on the iPad are not high-resolution. This isn’t an issue if you’re just sketching and moving into Photoshop for the final piece — but it would be nice to see this become available at some point in the future…
Adobe Creative Suite.
What digital art list would be complete without good old Adobe (especially Photoshop and Illustrator)? I love the new creative suite and how it gives you cloud space. It’s a great way to keep projects available on more than one device! For instance, I can start a sketch on my iPad when I’m out and about, save it, and load it into Photoshop later to start doing the detail work!
Weathering the Storm is a new-adult short story that I wrote several years ago. Recently, I dusted it off and did some major re-writes. The newly finished version is below for your reading pleasure. I would love to hear your thoughts! 🙂
Weathering the Storm
It was raining again. Those days, it always rained.
She hated it. The gray, dreary weather that had made its home here these past few weeks reminded her too much of her own life: lackluster and a little bit lonely.
Even with the constant threat of wet weather hanging overhead, the sudden downpour surprised her. All morning had been mild, if not pleasant. Recent rain showers left a deep earthy scent where the ground began to open up. The air hung thick and heavy around her. When she stepped outside, it stuck to her skin and hair. Clouds rested overhead, full to nearly bursting, but not the storm clouds she had grown used to. Even the animals came cautiously out of hiding.
It may have been pleasant to start but nature, she decided, was menopausal. It waited to have its little mood swing until she was only a block away from her usual Saturday haunt: a quaint little café just off the front of campus. Hot, muggy air mixed with a cool breeze while she walked. Mere moments later, the sky opened up. While rain hammered at the pavement, soaking her to the bone, she raced down the now deserted street toward the brick building on the corner.
Call her overly optimistic, but she had hoped for a clear sky that day. Just once. Seems like one thing after another went wrong lately. She was running out of ways to cope.
When she neared the entrance, she glanced at the large chalkboard sign that always stood just outside the café to advertise its daily specials. A large awning above kept most of the downpour at bay, but tiny droplets of water escaped through tiny spaces between the panels. They dripped onto the sign and smeared the chalk, rendering many of the words illegible. Wonderful.
At least she had finally found a dry spot. She rolled up her newspaper — a failed umbrella she had grabbed in a hurry a few shops back – and pushed at the door. The blast of cool air felt good on her warm, damp skin. She closed her eyes and stood under the vent for just a moment. The scent of rich, bitter coffee mixed in the air with sugary sweet baked goods fresh out of the oven. Both mouth-watering aromas drifted toward her. She breathed it in and some of the tension in her muscles eased.
Her disheveled appearance drew a few curious stairs. She ignored them. After a brief survey of the room, she picked the emptiest spot and took a seat in one of the plush leather chairs by the windows. Wet clothing clung to her skin. It bunched in odd places and made it difficult to get comfortable. The feel of it bothered her until, unable to stand it any longer, she bent to peel the fabric of her skirt off her thighs and rearrange the crooked hem. After a few failed attempts, she gave up. It felt awkward, but the chair squeaking every time she moved was much worse. Instead, she gathered up a pile of napkins from the dispenser on the table and tried to soak up what water she could.
She really hated the rain.
Satisfied that she had done what she could, she leaned back and stared out at the sodden city landscape, thinking it a miracle that the whole of Manhattan was not underwater. The sewers must have been good for something, after all. She gathered up her hair and squeezed the last of the water from its strands and, fearing the frizzy mess that was to come, pulled it back into a haphazard bun. Wayward strands escaped, anyway.
The waitress sauntered over a few moments later; a tall, long-legged blonde who gave her a sympathetic smile. She flushed, embarrassed, but ignored the pointed stare.
After the ordeal of getting there, she decided to order something fattening and delicious, along with an obnoxiously elaborate coffee – the kind nobody admits to ever ordering (but everyone secretly wants to). “Oh,” she said before the waitress walked away, “and an extra shot of espresso.”
It was going to be that kind of day, she decided.
She stared out the window absently, or tried to. Rain streaked the glass so much that she could only make out blurred shapes on the other side, so she gave up and fiddled with her phone until the food came. Then, after the waitress left, she cupped the tall mug in her hands and brought it up to her lips. She stayed like that for a moment, just letting the warmth seep into her skin while she turned her eyes once again to the large windows in front of her table and let her thoughts drift.
When he came into the café, she almost didn’t recognize him.
She could blame the way the soft music in the background had hypnotized her, or how the dimmed lights played tricks on her eyes. The plain truth, however, was that he simply looked so different. He had cut his hair shorter, no more the long and unruly locks he used to sport. He wore a button-down shirt and pressed denims instead of a faded rocker tee and ripped jeans. He had recently shaved.
But his eyes… those crystal baby blues framed by thick lashes. Those eyes she would know anywhere.
It was natural that he would be the last person she expected to see standing there. Two years had gone by since their senior year of high school. Two years since they last spoke, and the conversation had not ended well. She recalled the shouting, doors slamming, packed bags and a taxi cab, where she went off to college and left everything behind. Including him. At that moment, she had vowed to never speak to him again. She purposely avoided any of his frequent haunts. Every thought of him was pushed far into the back of her mind. As far as she was concerned, he no longer existed. But that moment, seeing him again, made her wonder what made them fall apart. The reasons no longer seemed so important.
Funny how life liked to throw little curve balls now and again.
Her mind snapped out of its trance to catch him shaking off his umbrella and idly observing the room. She watched his gaze move closer, until it rested at last in the direction of her seat. He seemed just as surprised at her presence as she was with his, but quickly regained his composure and proceeded to walk toward her.
“Is this taken?” he asked of the empty seat next to hers. His rich voice melted over her – at least some things had remained the same – and it took her a moment to comprehend what he asked.
She blinked, then shook her head after a moment and motioned for him to sit. The chairs were angled slightly toward each other, giving her a clear view of him, and also no way to hide. The waitress made her rounds, then, and stopped briefly to check on them. He ordered coffee, black.
After the waitress left, he looked over at her and stared a moment. Then an embarrassed laugh escaped. He said, “I’m sorry. It’s just been a long time since…” He cleared his throat and tried again. “How are you?”
She smiled on the surface. Butterflies wreaked havoc on her insides. “Doing all right.” That was a lie. At that moment, she was a nervous wreck. “And you? How is life treating you these days?”
“Oh, I can’t complain,” he replied, leaning back.
Awkward silence ensued, so she took a moment to look him over as he fiddled with the change in his pocket. He did look mostly the same on closer inspection, even the same nervous habit of drumming his fingers on his knee. Yet, it all seemed so different. He was a stranger to her now. She could not think of what to say and it made her heart wrench. Had she changed as well? Did he notice?
Why was he not saying anything?
She spoke up, the silence making her crazy. Motioning to his clothes, she said with a smile, “You clean up well.”
“Thanks. I’m all grown up now,” he said with a hint of humor in his voice. “I hung up my rocker look for business casual.”
“No more band?” she asked in surprise.
He shrugged. “Someone once told me that I needed to get off my ass and do something with my life.”
A flush crept up her neck. Those were her words, said in anger, and they had come back to haunt her. Guilt gathered like a rock in the pit of her stomach. She looked down at her hands.
“She was right.”
Her gaze snapped up to meet his. He smiled thoughtfully, then his gaze turned to the window. “I was floundering,” he said after a moment. “Adrift. It took losing her to make me see that. I quit the band later that summer. Enrolled in the music program at Columbia and started the following spring.”
Words failed her. Could she have really had such an effect on him? Did he really give up on his dreams because of her? That band had been his whole world. A crushing weight settled on her shoulders. Feeling awful, she stared down at the busy pattern on the carpet at her feet.
The harshness in his voice made her look up and meet his intense gaze. “Don’t,” he said again, softening his tone. “I remember that look. You said nothing that I wasn’t already thinking. I was just too stubborn to admit it and it took time to see that. I made my own choices and I’m happy with them.”
He did look happy, she noticed. Much more relaxed than the restless teenager so full of angst. Just then, he grinned and spread his arms. “I’m going to teach music,” he added, and she smiled at his enthusiasm. “Besides, I still play a little. Casually, with some friends at school.”
His words eased her mind. He opened up to her more as he talked, seemed to come alive, and the transformation was breathtaking. He spoke of all he had learned, was still learning. His cheeks dimpled with each smile. When the subject turned to kids he mentored about music, his whole demeanor softened. He really wanted to make a difference in their lives.
With each minute that passed, she felt that undeniable pull that had drawn her to him in high school. When the conversation slowed, part of her dreaded the silence. She smiled at him and said, “Wow, that’s really amazing. I’m proud of you.”
She meant it.
“Enough about me. I’ve completely hijacked this conversation.” He leaned forward and tilted his head, and she felt warm everywhere his gaze touched. He seemed to be memorizing her face. “What about you?” he asked. “How are things?”
She took her turn filling in the gaps of their time apart. Made the dean’s list (again). Had an accounting internship lined up for the summer. Yes, she still kept in touch with her pen pal from France. Then, the conversation dialed down to the required small talk. Her parents were well. His dad retired and moved down to Florida. Her brother joined the military to pay for school. His sister got married. He had no serious relationships. Not while he focused on school. She had one – only slightly serious – but that ended a year ago. That one was nice, but, just not the one.
Just not him, though she kept that thought to herself.
The conversation naturally waned. She checked her watch; a reflex action. Then, they sat in silence for a while, enjoying the atmosphere and their drinks, now slightly cold. Occasionally they turned to one another to make a comment or joke.
She wanted to listen to him talk more, to get lost in the sound of his voice. She tried to think of something else to say, or ask, or do, to spur the conversation. Nothing came to her. She looked around the room, then at him, then down. Suddenly self-conscious of how she looked, she smoothed the fabric of her skirt, played with her hair, sure that it was a mess and her makeup was all smudged.
He said, as if reading her mind, “You look nice, by the way.”
“Nice, or different?” She had no clue where in the world that question came from.
He sat for a moment, thinking. “Different… but nice.” She looked away and suddenly felt his hand on her own. “We all change, you know. That’s life. It’s not always a bad thing.”
She blinked at him, confused, but the waitress interrupted them before she could ask what he meant. He reached for both tabs. “This one is on me,” he said with a smile. She blushed. It seems she did that a lot since he walked through the door.
With no other excuses to spend more time in his company, she reached down for her purse then stood to her feet. He did the same. They stared at each other for a moment before she spoke, breaking the spell. “Thanks for the coffee,” she said.
“My pleasure,” he said. The tone of his voice told her he really meant it.
After a second to gather up the courage, she stood up on tiptoes and gave him a quick peck on the cheek, pausing to breathe in his cologne. He still smelled like the ocean. His body froze beneath her hands and broke the spell. She pulled away. A dazed look crossed his face and, embarrassed, she blushed again. “I’m glad we ran into each other,” she said. With reluctance, she turned to head toward the door. Before she had taken a step, his hand reached out and grasped her arm.
He turned her around and she turned her head up to look at him while he searched for words. A moment passed and he cleared his throat. “Listen, my friends and I are playing for this charity event on campus tonight. If you’re interested…”
“Sounds fun,” she answered; too quickly, she thought. Her heart thudded in her ears. Still, she tried to keep her voice calm and could only pray he had not noticed. “I’d love to.”
Those dimples appeared again when he flashed her a smile.
And, did he look a little relieved?
He wrote down the details on a napkin – along with his number, though she never really forgot it – and handed it to her. She took it with a smile and tucked it into her purse for safe keeping. They said their goodbyes again. He held the door for her to step outside first, then they turned to walk in separate directions.
To her surprise, the downpour had stopped. She held a hand out from the awning first, half expecting an illusion that would burst as soon as she stepped out of its safety. No rain. Not even a drizzle. Satisfied, she started walking down the sidewalk toward home. For a moment she watched water run along the curb and down into the sewer drains, leaving the street wet. The asphalt glistened from sunlight that now peeked through the breaking clouds. Birds chirped happily from the small ornamental trees lining the city walk.
Looking up, she spotted a rainbow in the distance and smiled thoughtfully.
With countless numbers of talent all over the world, it’s hard to narrow the list to just the ones below. However, I wanted to focus on my personal favorites because they have influenced my own art and writing in more ways than I could even know.
I hope that you enjoy the list and, with luck, you’ll find a new favorite or two. 🙂
W: writer, A: artist
Aimee Major (A) | I have been a follower of Aimee Major for years. I started sometime in high school (which is well over ten years ago… Yikes!) She inspired me with her impressive portfolio, and she’s worked on some really awesome animation projects. In fact, I was thisclose to moving to California to attend the California Institute of Art because of her. (I desperately wanted to be an animator. Funny how life doesn’t always work out as expected…)
CJ Archer (W) | This author is a new favorite of mine. I did a review (& illustration) of her most recent book, “The Watchmaker’s Daughter” that you can check out here. When I saw that she had a whole series of books called the Ministry of Curiosities, I went out and devoured them all! (Not literally. Sheesh.)
Dani Jones (W, A) | I have been a fan of Dani Jones for a few years now. Her work is charming and engaging. The rich colors and detailed scenes she creates draws you in, and I really enjoy reading her web comics.
Danny Beck(A) | I just discovered this man’s amazing talent, and I have to say: I am completely hooked! His mastery of watercolor is jaw-dropping and I adore his monster and hamster compilations. Cute plus scary? What’s not to love?
David SanAngel (A) | David SanAngel works as a Disney storyboard artist (win!) and has a resume as long as my arm. It’s impressive, and I am jealous. I found him on the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) Illustrators Gallery, and fell in love with his style. Especially the composition of his pieces, unique viewpoints and creative crops. (They make me realize how very much I still have to learn…)
Gayle Forman (W) | I’m a huge, huge fan of Gayle Forman’s work. I started reading with “If I Stay,” and I have been hooked ever since. She puts a lot of emotion into her stories, and the writing is smooth and borders on prose at times.
Guy Gilchrist (W, A) | My favorite childhood picture book is “Just Imagine: a Book of Fairyland Rhymes” by Guy Gilchrist; to this day, it has a place of honor on my bookshelves. When I found out all that Mr. Gilchrist has been involved in, well, it’s no surprise. The man is a fountain of talent.
Heather Theurer (A) | Well known for her amazing renditions of Disney characters as oil portraits – well, where do I start? The paintings are absolutely beautiful (Random aside: I would LOVE the Lilo and Stitch one…) and, not only that, but she captures their essence and emotion in each piece.
James Hance (A) | I have been a fan of James Hance for years. I am a lifelong Winnie-the-Pooh fanatic, and also a huge Star Wars geek so naturally his “Wookie the Chew” creations excite me to no end. His creative mashups of pop culture with geek culture also make my nerdy heart flutter. In other words – he’s brilliant!
Laure Halse Anderson (W) | This young adult author is another of my absolute favorites! She hits on the hard issues, and her writing is downright poetic. “Speak” will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Mary Uhles (A) | I met Mary at an illustrator’s intensive during an SCBWI conference. Her art is fun, full of soft colors, and very expressive. Her pieces really draw me in.
Neil Gaiman (W, A) | His books are an obsession of mine. I’m not ashamed to admit that. The man is absolutely brilliant! His work is breathtaking and amazing, full of magic and wonder. The worlds he creates — I want to live in them. And many of his works are on the dark side, which I really, really love. (American Gods or The Graveyard Book, anyone? Coraline?) Okay. I’m done gushing.
Robin Preiss Glasser (A) | Illustrator of the popular “Fancy Nancy” series. I just love her wild, whimsical art! It makes me happy, and I am forever trying to channel her talent for amazing costumes.
Susan Eaddy (A) | Susan is a fellow SCBWI member and an amazing, amazing artist. She creates eye-catching pieces with clay in vibrant 3-dimensional scenes that have a lot of depth and richness.
Tim Burton (W, A) | I’ve mentioned before that I love dark, twisted, and fantastical. Alice in Wonderland, Grimm’s Fairy Tales (the REAL ones), that sort of thing. Naturally, Tim Burton falls in that list. The man is a genius with his creepy dark worlds and whimsical characters, and he’s one of my top favorites.
I am a professional artist who specializes in pop art, illustration, and graphic design. My work includes both digital and a mix of traditional wet media. (Check out my art gallery to view my work!) I find inspiration from animation (e.g. Disney and Japanese anime), fantasy, fairy tales, and those magical little moments in everyday life.