Monday, March 02, 2015

Back to Art....


Of course the year that winter has taken its sweet time arriving...



I had little traveling to do, except for a week long trip over to the Front Range, loving the dusting of snow around the La Sals in Utah...



So being mostly home,  I have fallen into a bit of a routine, writing and book things in the morning and art in the afternoon and weekends. I have done it enough to find that I definitely need the stitching to stay sane. I decided to tackle a fabric collage idea I have had for a long time, more for my own walls or a gallery show than for a illustration portfolio piece,..


Saturday Morning is somewhat of a family self portrait, thought the faces have been changed and my hair has never been as full and long as I stitched it,  but it's for the most part our bedroom and our dogs and definitely what Saturday mornings looked like when my kiddos were little and we were desperately trying to get a few more minutes sleep before they and the dogs, well, had other ideas. 


Started laying things down and stitched most of the background before tackling the bed, limiting how many layers you have to stitch through is always a challenge, as is working with such small bits of fabric that with over working start to disintegrate....


Hands and faces are always a challenge, and sometimes the best thing is to just start over...


Late February, the snow decided to start falling...




and Saturday Morning is progressing...




So, if I let sleeping dogs lie where they are, the rest of the winter...


sorry, it was so cute of a picture. If I keep at my schedule the rest of the winter, into the big melt, Saturday Morning, should be done soon, except for the question of home much needlework I do on it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Adobe's Photoshop turns 25...


I graduated from Art School the year Photoshop came on the market....hum, talk about bad timing. When I was in college the new technology was not in the Art Department, it was in the computer labs with the word processors and printers, only a few odd ducks had desk top computers of their own and
I do remember the cold lonely, food and drink free labs late a night when a paper was due the next day.
In the Art Department, we were still being taught layout with graph paper, rulers, T squares and those rub off letters. In the dark rooms? Well, I still have a really cool black and white photo of my roommate standing in a cereal box, a masking matte cut out of card stock to block the light. It all took a little luck, or a lot of paper to get it right.
Back then the debate of computer generated art was much of a discussion, or the evilness of it and the cheating of it. How wrong we got that should be a reminder not to predict the future because most of us are really bad at it. I do think paper and pencil, figure drawing and learning observation are still the foundation of any art program, digital or not...


I graduated in 1990 with a BA in Art and an emphasis in Child Development, going into college intent on getting an Art Therapy degree and then meandering to Tennessee to get my masters. I left college in love and followed a boy to Denver where he was attending law school.
We were married his second year at Denver University and I taught preschool. I could have continued in my studies, checked into the Colorado Institute of Art where I am sure everyone was becoming very much aware of what exactly Photoshop was and good do, but I didn't. I wanted one thing, to get my husband through law school, move back to the West Slope and start having babies...


Which we did and all the while I was developing my craft, alone, no internet, no social media and ignorant of what was happening in the digital world of Adobe and computer generated art and was blissfully happy...
Then...

My girls got older and I found my voice as an artist in fabric collage illustration and what do you do as a freelancer to get your name and your services out to art director? Well according to my schooling, that would be sourcebooks, yeah I know. I really knew then too, but so remembered my instructor holding up a copy of The Black Book and it becoming in my mind a testament to truly making it as an illustrator.
So in 2008, I laid out a few thousand dollars to advertise not in the Black Book, way way out of my price range, but in the Graphic Artist's Guilds Directory of Illustration...


The same time, I also shucked out a couple more thousand dollars to go to the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrator's LA conference....


Yup, 2008, the year most would say was the start of the "economic down turn." It sounded that way, sitting in the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel, listening to the publishers from New York try to put a good face on the layoff and restructuring the New York power houses were going through at the same time poo poo this new idea of independent publishing.
Yeah...late to the party again.

But I took the jump. I was a decent photographer and had already made the switch to digital, but had never edited a photograph and  had no way to lay it out and design an ad. So I called the people at the directory who kindly told me they could do it, for almost the price of buying Photoshop. I bought Photoshop and had a month to learn how to use it and make a decent ad, the deadline looming...
Luckily an artist friend told me about lynda.com...


Lynda, well actually Deke McClelland became my best bud, me intently watching and listening to his CS3 One -on One class, over and over again.
Good or bad, I got it done...


putting ads in #26 and #27 the following years and at least once in PictureBook, more for nostalgia.
What did I get for a whole heck of a lot of money spent? Well, definitely did not make my cost back by the dollar. It is hard to say if it was the source books, my website or postcards, but National Public Radio found me...

As did Cricket Magazine Group...


Plus an art director in New York whose firm only worked for Broadway. I was considered by a few publishers and art reps, all intrigued but in the end not all interested enough or with not a firm enough idea what to do with me, I pretty much invented or brought to illustration a new medium, as I like to say, putting a new spin on the traditional art form of applique and needlework. One art buyer I chatted with said it was not unusual for those of us with very unique styles to not get a lot of work, but the work we do get is big and that has definitely been my experience.
And through it all, I kept learning Photoshop, mostly by discovery new ways to do things in the process and I kept using the CS3 version, it more than enough to meet my needs of photo editing and simple layout. Until...
Until, I decided to take my destiny in my own hands, instead of finding someone else to give it to and started a publishing company...


Read here, to find out about my days writing a novel as well, in those quiet years of being a stay at home mom.
Now,  I've going back to Adobe again, knowing I would be needing its software and this time subscribed to the Creative Cloud and not only updated my Photoshop, but download Illustrator and InDesign as well.
And I went back to my old friend, lynda.com to learn what I need to and again, not with all the time on my hands, but with deadlines looming of bookcover design and such..


This time I think I managed to be on the front wave of something new, the new era of publishing where those of us looking out on canyons and isolated roads...


can compete with the best of them in the skyscrapers of New York and LA...


or at least tell our stories, the one they are not interested in, just as well.

So Happy Birthday Photoshop...
and thank you Adobe, for invented something that has allowed me to live where I want...

and do what I love...





Sunday, February 08, 2015

So, I Wrote A Book...



So I wrote a book, read about that here, over a ten year period, with a lot of starts and stops, a lot of do overs and motivation from both people being very encouraging and well a few not so much, but being the last born child that  I am, the nay sayers often can motivate me more just to prove them wrong.
And I "got err done"...
But now what?
Well, the conventional way would be to start looking for an agent, since 99% of the big top publishers in New York only take manuscript through their relationships with agents. I have been learning the ropes of publishing for enough years to know that finding an agent could take a writer several years....yup, several years and within that time, long periods of nothingness while agents are "thinking". It is not uncommon for an agent to ask to hold on to something for several months and then say "no thanks," in the end.
Way back, about four years ago, when I thought I was writing a Young Adult  trilogy, I took the first part of  Moonflower to LA for the SCBWI conference...


I know it is a hardship, a week on the edge of Beverly Hills, but I did meet with a New York agent who really liked it, but thought that although the main character, Luna is only eighteen at the end book, the story was too complicated to be a YA and encouraged me to write it as a complete story instead of a trilogy.
Seeing her point, I came home to this...

and went back to the keyboard and wrote another, oh, 60,000 words and tried the whole agent thing again, but this time in the "adult" or general market, polishing the first 25 pages, synopsis and cover letters to hook an agent in the querying process. Did I mention I have friends who have  been "querying" for several years on manuscripts that I think are rather good myself!
So, after pursuing the very helpful blogs, books and online sights that teach you the process, I tried to do step number one....and that is where I got stuck.
The most common advice is to make a list of about 30-50 agents, prioritize them and send out about 5 queries, sending more out when the rejections started coming in, keeping about 5 out there at all times.
Well, I sent out 9 queries, and sent them to probably the 8 top agents in New York, and 1 to the top agency in London....and I got form emails of "not thanks" from about 6 and have not heard from the rest.
Then I decided to get off that train, for several reasons, most of them too personal to really be advice for anyone else, but here they are...
You see many agents in their previous lives were attorneys and several more, well, in their bios they actually debated about a career in law or a career in publishing. Which makes a lot of sense, both paths needing the skills for negotiating and navigating all that "heady stuff".
Why did that matter to me?
Because I am married to an attorney and the thought of "getting in bed" with another one, many of those advice sites talk about the very close relationship writers and their agents have being second only to marriage, well, that was not very appealing to me. One attorney, no matter how cute he is, is enough for me...

Secondly, in my perusing of agents bios and what they did and did not want to look at, I was amazed at how often the New York agents would declare "no Westerns"...


Now, I live about as Far West as you can get and while I would not describe my stories as in the same vein as Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey, they are definitely set in the West and I actually like westerns and if I am not technically writing in that classic genre, it is definitely part of my writing  DNA.
So by this time, New York publishers weren't looking so good.
Next on the list, well how about a regional publisher? One situated in the West and no agent needed, writers working directly with the editors. After perusing about ten of those, University Presses and etc. , I found almost all only published nonfiction and the few that published fiction, were so narrow, it would be hard to work with them.
So, now what? Self Publish?
Self Publishing, or what has now morphed into the term, "Independent Publishing", is certainly the talk and as I mentioned above there are now a whole lot of helpful sites, organization and books that will tell you how to do about everything you don't know how to do and helpful freelance editors, writing coaches and book designers willing to do everything for you...for a hefty fees of course.
Should I just jump on that train?
Did I mention I was a last born child, an artist and a little bit rebellious?
Did I mention my husband was an attorney and could do all that negotiating stuff. He is also a pretty good editor. My papers in college went from B's to A's after he got his hands on them.
As I mentioned, my true profession is as an illustrator and well cover design is really a close cousin as is web design and well all other design.
So, after getting him on board, we decided to start our own regional publishing company, cause our kids were almost raised and well, it was getting a little bit boring...
That was last summer and life has been nothing but boring... read here, but we are holding onto this new crazy idea and Moonflower will be our first offering, our "guinea pig" child, you know the first one, you are still learning on and make all the mistakes with.
Then...well, I have more stories in me and there are a whole lot more stories here relevant to the Four Corners and the Inter-mountain West, both fiction and nonfiction that I know others are writing and I know a few other people who have skills like a retiring elementary teacher who has about thirty years experience in Children's literature and teaching kids to read and even one friend who actual has a degree in linguistics, all close cousins to the jobs we might need help with.
So, I wrote a book and now we are starting a publishing company...


cause we are nuts!








Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cooking Up A Bounty...


About a year ago I realized I was, though happily working away in the studio, spending a little bit too much time with these guys...

and not enough time with real people... not internet people but real flesh and blood people, so the solution?
I decided to volunteer at one of our local soup kitchens. It would be great, one day a week, I'd go in, help cook up a meal and be back to the studio for a half a day of work. Well....


A year later, I am now the official food coordinator and one of the head cooks. What does that mean?
I now have to be very careful how much time I do spend away from the dogs and the studio. About once a month, I commandeer someone, my kiddos... 

                  

or husband to make a hour and half to Farmington New Mexico, where there is a Sam's club to do the shopping for the soup kitchen...




literally a more than one person job.

Like most soup kitchens, we are part of a larger charitable food bank network and get almost all of our meat and other goods donated by our local grocery stores...


And since we are right on the edge of the "bean capital of the world"...



we have beans, lots of beans. The below, called Anasazi...



found dried in ruins like these,...


but propagated and now grown and sold in local grocery stores.

We also get much our produce from regional growers, sometimes having to process pallets and pallets of onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and sometimes things like exotic peppers...

                 

Being a small town, with limited services, but high poverty both in the white, Hispanic and Native American populations, it's great when we all work together, the soup kitchens, the food pantry and the shelters.

It's a treat when local growers share their bounties, and they did often this Fall...





The end result?

              

Well last week, a hearty beef stew with Colorado grown potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots plus corn and green beans with a heart gravy for 130 people. And as the warm bowls filled the bellies of those who needed a good meal on a snowy January, I felt the same satisfactions I get in the studio when I am pleased with completing a piece of art....hum? Maybe I'm not as far away from the studio on the days I'm away from the studio?