Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year End Gratitude

I had a battle with my vacuum cleaner today that left me snarling and swearing yet again. (It reminded me of the time when I was expecting David, and I got so mad at my then vacuum that I rushed out onto the front porch in my nightgown and hurled the machine into a snowdrift right in front of a couple of horrified neighbors).
Anyway, when I finally simmered down this afternoon, I realized that I actually have a lot to be grateful for: my family, my friends, my dog, my home, my interest in art and writing and anything creative, my spiritual values, my health, my books and art supplies, the fact I live in a democracy, and so on. My plan is to bring in the New Year by writing a list of all the things I have to be happy about, and to give thanks.
Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2007!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eyelet Dyslexia and Resin

These two subjects aren’t connected, but then either is my mind today. I think I’m in an end-of-the-year funk, mainly because I didn’t accomplish most of the goals I set myself this year and there’s less than a day and a half left of 2006. One thing I did learn how to do this year—yesterday actually—was to set an eyelet. Both Carmi and Marissa had shown me how to do this. But whenever I attempted it on my own, my eyelets always ended up looking like the rings of Saturn. How could someone who taught herself Photoshop fail to set an eyelet? It’s simple really: I had the wrong attachment.
Yesterday I went to Mary’s for a play day where we did some polymer clay and resin-pouring (it's addictive) using some of the cool vintage bezels that Mary incorporates into her jewelry. She teams them up with all sorts of nifty bits and pieces she seems to find in the most unusual places. You can read more about Mary and her art on her new website.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Combining Stuff

Sometimes I’m pleased with what I do in a journal and sometimes I’m not. But whatever happens, there’s always a story behind the bits and pieces I’ve combined to create the finished “product.” When I look back on the pages I’ve done, I always journey back to certain experiences I’ve had. Separately they each mean something different to me. But when they’re all put together, they tell a visual story that becomes something new…not that I usually know what that story is!
For the background of these two pages, I used some of the marbled paper Debbie and I made a couple of years ago using food coloring and shaving cream. The heart is a Photoshopped piece of Styrofoam I found on the beach at Meaford when Emma and I went on vacation together last year. The stickers are from a particularly fruitful excursion to the Dollar Store, and the highlights were taken from a swatch book of rub-ons that I bought at Bizzy B’s.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Using Stuff

At one of our club meetings, Cherri told me about cleaning out the studio of a beloved friend after her death. All the unused paper and art supplies really struck a cord with Cherri. It convinced her to use what she had—and to use it now.
I think about this every time I hesitate to use something I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Take the embellishment of the woman on this spread in my process journal, for example. What possessed me to spend $5 on something that doesn’t fit in with my art triumvirate—funky/distressed, angelic or Renaissance? But as John says: it was a bright, shiny object, so I had to have her!
It occurred to me this morning that I would probably never use her though. I could give her away to Susan or Mary, which is what I usually do when I can’t figure out what to do with something I like. However, this time I decided I would use her anyway, as an exercise in…well, just as an exercise in using something I was holding onto. But could I in all conscience waste a $5 embellishment in my process journal? What if I found the perfect place for her tomorrow? Then I decided that in the unlikely event this happened, I could just take her out! And you know what? She’s definitely out of place in this project, but she’s also fits right in (which, come to think of it, is basically the way I feel about my own position in life).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Recovering from Christmas

Have you ever thought about how much work goes into preparing for certain events in your life that pass by in the blink of an eye when they finally happen? While the 25th was a wonderful day, I’m glad it’s over (frankly) because I won’t have to do it again until next year.
For the last couple of days I’ve been indulging myself…doing some art, watching the first season of Beverly Hills 90210 with Emma and David—John has higher standards than the rest of us—and trying to avoid making meals at all costs. Not that anyone has complained…yet.
I went to Toronto today to have lunch with Gaynor, and to spend the generous gift certificate Pam gave for Christmas at Bizzy B’s. I know some people don’t like receiving money or gift certificates, but there’s nothing like a guilt-free shopping spree in my opinion—especially when you get to choose your own books and art supplies. Speaking of art supplies, Emma gave me four vintage maps for Christmas that she’d bought in The Netherlands, and I’m looking forward to scanning them and then playing with them in Photoshop.
But first I have to fix my scanner because it’s full of dust. I’d planned to do this before Christmas, but then I realized that it would take me a while to disassemble it, and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. The last thing I fixed was my mouse. I used the screwdrivers from eyeglass repair kit, and it took me about an hour to take apart the inside and remove all the dog hair with a pair of tweezers. Now it works like a charm.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Wishing Everyone the Best!

Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukah or just being you, I hope you have a wonderful day—although come to think of it, Hanukah ended a couple of days ago so I missed the boat there!
Right now Emma and David are watching Scary Movie 4 and eating popcorn. Judging by the laughter coming from upstairs, they’re enjoying it. Still, I’m hoping they fade soon because I’m waiting to play Santa Claus, and I don’t like to do it until everyone has gone to bed. But I’ve already eaten Santa’s snack. (What the heck!)
This is the best shape I’ve ever been in for Christmas. The house is clean and tidy and decorated. The presents are all wrapped. The cards are displayed in the special holder Dad bought me a couple of years ago (this one was made by my friend Lynne Sadlier). I cooked k. d. lang’s vegetarian chili for dinner tonight, which I personally loath but the rest of my family loves…and I even have brunch planned!
The only thing I didn’t get done was to give Lily a bath. Naturally the poor dog is devastated that she won’t be looking fabulous on Christmas morning—but wait until you see your new blanket, baby!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Emma is Back!!!

Emma’s plane was only 45 minutes late. She was worried the fog that closed down Heathrow would move east, and that she would have to spend Christmas alone in Amsterdam! Thankfully that didn’t happen. I was so relieved I started crying as soon as we got to the airport and knew she’d landed safely.
There were hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for passengers from places like Prague, Moscow, Kansas City (!) and Amsterdam. It was a surprisingly sedate crowd—with the exception of me. I started shouting and crying and waving madly as soon as I saw Emma, and she was just as excited.
Even though she’d been up most of the night partying with friends and had a long flight, Emma was full of beans and good humor. I think we laughed more tonight than we have in the last four months.
Emma says she missed being able to sit on a couch, watch movies on her TV, sleep in a double bed, our food (especially PizzaPizza which we had for dinner tonight), and North American sanitation. What she liked about Amsterdam was riding her bike everywhere (even to clubs), eating at Febo (a food automat), chocolates and cheese, and the general laid back vibe and sense of culture that living in Europe brings. My guess is that she is going to experience culture shock for a few days at least.
She brought each of us a little pre Christmas gift. Mine was a nativity set from Paris because she knows how much I love them, and I wish I’d taken pictures. Instead, I scanned this photo of the two of us taken on Christmas Day, 1984.

P.S. Heather—check out my blog for Saturday, December 16th to get information on where to buy that Hallmark stamp you asked about.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas prep

I once read an article about preparing for the holidays, and one of the women interviewed said that she’d like to be reincarnated as a man as Christmastime. Personally, I thought this was hilarious. Not that my guys aren’t helpful, but it’s basically me that does most of the work.
Come to think of it: where are you Emma? Emma usually buys most of the stocking stuffers, and she’s so much better at it than I am. I was trying to think like her yesterday at the Dollar Store and my mind went bust. I almost bought David a mini colander for his stocking. What was I thinking…help!!!
At least the tree is done. It takes me about seven hours to get it the way I want it. First I have to fluff the branches…this takes ages…then put on six strings of lights, the bows and finally, all the decorations.

I had dinner with Andrea last night and she was amazed at how long it takes me to decorate our tree. “Of course it has to be perfect for you, doesn’t it?” Oh Andrea, you know me so well. Mind you, looking at the photo of our tree just now, I realize that some of the bows and decorations need tweaking. But I will resist doing this. I will.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pre-Christmas Clean Up

No, it’s not done, but at least I’ve made a start, and I’m discovering that it’s partly satisfying, partly humbling. I really hate coming face to face with my deeply slobistic tendencies. Actually, they’re more than tendencies; they’re a deeply ingrained constellation of habits. (I needed an excuse to use the word constellation here!) Fortunately, there were two highpoints to this otherwise grueling weekend.
The first was going to Pam and Brian’s Christmas party. I don’t know Pam does it. She had a big party on Friday night, another one on Saturday and at the end of the week she’s holding a soirée for 100 neighbors. She sails serenely through it all, handling any problems that come up effortlessly and just generally doing a top-notch job. (Did I mention that she’s having the family Christmas this year too? All I can say is: Alleluia! )
We had Christmas at our place last year and I was a nervous wreck for at least two weeks beforehand. The food thing usually goes well for me, but I always worry that people won’t be comfortable, that I’ll use the wrong china or the place won’t be clean enough. Frankly, I’ve never been very good at entertaining—not that anyone has ever complained—but I hate all the preparation. When I asked Pam yesterday what her secret was, she told me that she just does it, but I’m convinced there’s more to it than that! Innate talent? The entertainment gene?
The other high point was having a long talk with Emma on Sunday afternoon. Five more days and she’s home. I can’t wait!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out!

For Heather: here’s a picture of the Hallmark stamp I mentioned two or three days ago on my blog. It’s available from Viva Las Vegas Stamps and you can order it online. I don’t know whether or not they still do retail sales, but you can check with your local stamp store. I bought mine at Bizzy B’s in Toronto.
Trolling through several boxes of stamps to find this image made me realize there are a lot of stamps I haven't used. A couple of years ago, I kept a black and white stamping journal, and now I feel the urge to start a new one. Oh, oh. All I need is another, all-absorbing project! (But aren't they all?)

Friday, December 15, 2006


Tonight I finished my ideas journal. I’ve been keeping it for most of the year, and I’m really looking forward to starting a fresh one. There’s nothing like a new journal! You’re almost afraid to start putting anything in it because it looks so pristine and pretty.
But I haven’t been neglecting my process journal even though I haven’t had much time to work on it this fall. Here’s a recent spread using Claudine’s crackle paint technique from her book: Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond The Unexpected…along with a Luna Lights trading card/Izone mishap. Brenda got me hooked on my Izone, but it turns out the latest package of film I bought is expired. Dang. It’s hard to get Izone film here in the boonies, so I’m really ticked off. Nevertheless, I’m using it anyway. Life is an experiment whether I want it to be or not.

Speaking of Claudine, I read on her blog recently that her computer went kaput, and I felt so badly for her. Then when I checked my email a minute ago, I heard from Jeanne. When I read that her hard drive had also crashed, tears sprang into my eyes. It’s just devastating to lose your precious stuff. This happened to me four years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Hang in there girlfriend!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sleep Therapy

I felt like a new woman this morning after having had eight hours of sleep. Six is usually my maximum, but it’s obviously not enough—at least when I have a lot to do, which is usually my state of affairs come to think of it.
The other thing that rejuvenates me is cleaning. Not that I’ve ever been neat and tidy person, but somehow getting my environment in order brings me a sense of peace.
John and I have been watching The Lost Room on the Space Channel all week, and without going into any plot ins and outs, it centers on objects that have special powers…a clock, a comb, a key, a bus ticket, and so on. The characters in possession of these objects are obsessed with them, and some are even on an insane quest to collect more.
It struck me while watching this show how much objects dominate our lives. We think about them. We buy them. We have to find a place for them. We even insure some of them. (I have a rider on my insurance policy that covers my art supplies, but I doubt I’ll ever use all the stuff that I have).
Where am I going with this line of thought? I’m not sure. However, I do think there’s a difference between an object as a form of identity and an object as a possibility. If you think you need to own things to be perceived as a worthwhile person, that’s not healthy. But when you see an object as something that can help you to explore or enrich the world around you, that’s a positive thing. For example: art materials should be used, not hoarded. I think I’m going to make this my New Year’s resolution!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Card Thing

I made an executive decision yesterday and decided that this year I will not make my own Christmas cards. If I had more time, I’d keep fiddling with the one I’ve been working on in Photoshop, but it’s taking forever. No surprise there. And I’m way too busy right now to continue obsessing about it.
So. to make a long boring story short, I actually went out and bought Christmas cards at The Bay yesterday. Horrors! And they’re Hallmark’s too! Somewhere I have a rubber stamp that says: “Eat your heart out Hallmark,” and I’ve used it on the back of my handmade cards many times. Guess I’m going to have to eat humble pie this year because the irony is not lost on me.

I have several friends who send me lovely handmade cards like Beverly, Yvonne, Debbie, Mary, Carolyn, Susan and Marissa—I know there are more, but my thinking skills are sub par at the moment. And Carmi is an absolute card dynamo. How does she do it? Guess I’ll find out soon enough because I’m going to be writing an article on her for RubberStampMadness.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cherryl Moote’s New Book!

I’m in awe of how much Cherri Moote has accomplished. In addition to being an artist, bookbinder, calligrapher, creativity coach and teacher (I’m sure I’ve forgotten something), she’s written six books. Her latest, Building With Your Creative Stumbling Blocks is chock full of fun exercises and Cherri wisdom, and you can now order it directly from her website.
Along with several other people, I copyedited Cherri’s book, and she’s still speaking to me even though I marked up her copy with a ton of commas. Apparently Eva put in even more than I did, so she’s officially the Tsarina of Commas and I’m merely the Acolyte. This put my mind at ease I can tell you.

Yesterday Cherri had a sumptuous luncheon for everyone who had helped on her book. And I must emphasize the word "sumptuous" here. I ate so much that I had to come home and sleep it off for a couple of hours. No wonder she doesn’t have any problems getting feedback. Before I forget, Cherri also gave each of us a 2007 calendar of fantastic photos that she and her husband Stan took recently on their 25th wedding anniversary trip to Tuscany. (I told you she was proactive).
While we were at Cherri’s house, we saw all her wonderful calligraphy—get your own art up on the walls, people—and her refurbished studio space. Oh my gosh. How can one person be so orderly? I think this is one of the reasons why Cherri accomplishes so much. Hmmm…do I really have time to start reorganizing my life right now?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I need a vacation...

Every year at this time, I’m exhausted. It’s usually the busiest time for me work-wise, and there’s all the preparation for Christmas involved too. I went shopping with John and David today, and it was awful. Too many people and too much choice. But the worst thing was getting lost at Square One.
The mall is so large, we just couldn’t figure out how to exit to where we’d parked the car. It was a nightmare. Not for the boys, but for me because my actual nightmares usually take place in a shopping mall. I have no idea why they do. It’s not a childhood thing…I was never a mall rat because there weren’t any to hang around it then, but I was actually panicking about not being able to get out.
Enough about that. I’ve been working on this year’s Christmas card, and last night the power when out while I playing with it in Photoshop. This is the third year in a row it’s happened—no exaggeration. Now I think I’ve figured out what the problem is. It’s my neighbor around the corner.
Each December he adds something new to his Christmas light display, and I’m sure it’s gobbling up every spare kilowatt of electricity in the immediate area—and then some.
But you have to admire the guy’s creative drive, especially in our cold climate. Although I’ve never met him, I send him my card anyway (here’s last year’s) because his display saves me work—all I need to do is put out my reindeer with the twinkle lights and moving head. Anyone coming to our house is so dazzled by my neighbor’s display they never even notice ours. I’d love to know how his immediate neighbors feel about his Disneyland approach to Christmas, but I’m afraid to ask!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Studio Essentials

I liked the part in Lynne Perrella’s book Alphabetica where she asked several artists to list their top ten studio essentials. I was thinking about this tonight, and decided that even though my space is crammed with embellishments, ribbon, collage pieces, bark, wood, shells, rocks, assemblage parts, wooden boxes, and so on, I could probably do without all of this if I had to. Without further ado, here’s my list:
My dog: But you could say that Lily makes herself essential because she’s always available, non-critical and loving. Plus she reminds me what time it is.
An X-acto knife with a fresh blade: To be honest, this was this first thing that came to mind. (Sorry Lily).
A Uhu glue stick: No other glue stick does it for me. I should receive some kind of long service award from the company that manufactures it.
Abobe Photoshop and my beloved Epson 1270 printer: Okay, so there are two items here, but to me they’re interconnected.
My drafting table: I’ve had this since this the 70s and it’s my art altar!
Luna Lights: The instant antidote to a creative block.
Golden Black Lava paint: I love this “art asphalt.”
Golden Liquid Acrylics: Good for smooshing, glazing, monoprinting or just looking at in their containers.
Paper, paper and more paper: And did I mention paper?
My parts cabinets: It’s nice to know that a lot of the junk I’ll never use is neatly stowed away and ready to be fondled if the need arises—which it frequently does.
Baby Wipes: For my outer (and inner) art baby. She always seems to need a good freshening up.
My Pilot Razor Point Pens and current journal: I know I’ve doubled up again, but math has never been my strong point.
I’m going to stop now because I’m over my limit, and the temptation to poke through everything I own is very strong and must NOT be given into!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Miss Em Update

Or should I say “Ms Em” since she’s writing a paper on Mary Wollstonecraft? I remember reading A Vindication of the Rights of Women when I was in university, and thinking how radical it was for the 18th century. But I can’t imagine trying to fathom it from the point of view of the law—or, come to think of it, the lack thereof.
Emma just got back from visiting Paris with three of her friends on Sunday. The first thing they did when they got off the train was head straight to the Eiffel Tower! (Emma and I went to the top in 1993, but John and David were too chicken to go up. What a view! It was like looking down on a stone forest because you couldn’t see any green).

Emma and her friends saw more than we did. In addition to going to the Louvre, they also went to Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and the Musée d'Orsay (her favorite). They sampled plenty of fine French food, and as anyone who has ever been there knows is the best food anywhere. At least in my opinion. And they went shopping naturally. (Emma bought a fab jacket I can’t wait to see).
For those of you who have asked whether or not Emma is getting any work done, I don’t ask. Both she and David are way more responsible than we ever were, so it would be hypocritical to ride herd on them. John spent his time at the University of Glasgow skipping school, playing bridge and partying. I spent four years at the University of Toronto sleeping in and having long intellectual conversations with cute guys when I should have been in class. How either of us ever managed to graduate is beyond me.
I do recall some grade school emergencies though. One Sunday night when Emma was in the sixth grade, she announced that she had a project on French culture due the next day. It was back in the pre-Internet era, and no libraries were open, so we cut up a couple of my art books, and a copy of House & Garden that had some pictures of a French Chateau. Then I told her everything I knew about Simone de Beauvoir, John Paul Sartre and the Impressionists. What I didn’t know, I made up—and she still got an A. I’m sure this said way more about her teacher than it did about my knowledge of France!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Artist Trading Cards

Even though I’m really feeling under the weather, I’m excited about teaching a couple of classes on Artist Trading Cards after Christmas: one for Bizzy B’s (date to be announced) and the other for Cherri Moote’s Day of Many Minis on March 4th.
I started doing ATCs a few years ago—before Photoshop—and then slowed down when I got my perforator and started making artistamps. But I’ve never given up completely. Here is one of the two ATCs I sent to a mail art show in Malaysia last year. (I’ll post the other one tomorrow). It’s a mini collage using the bits and pieces left over from an unsuccessful attempt at making paste paper. Actually, I shouldn’t say it was unsuccessful because I do like the ATCs that were the end result.
Right now I’m trying to focus in on exactly what to offer students because I have to write a workshop description and provide some samples. So far I’ve designed a quick little portfolio, and I’m experimenting with background techniques. The fun of ATCs is that you can use anything you want…it’s all play. Maybe too much play.
The last time I taught a workshop (on coloured pencils), it was supposed to last two hours. Typically, I was way over prepared and ended up asking students—there were fourteen I think—if they would just like to continue on for the rest of the day. Everyone stayed except for Susan Wilkie who had another engagement. But she got her own private update later.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Busy-ness Continues

I finished my first three commissions! They were done for Elizabeth Nardella who owns A Scrapbookers Dream in Bolton, Ontario. She wanted an astrological theme, and here’s the Libran component of the trio.
In case you haven’t been to Elizabeth’s store, she has an amazing array of merchandise. I particularly like her papers, and I’ve amassed my own personal collection. (If you’re free next Saturday, Elizabeth is having an all day Christmas open house with free demos and make-and-takes).
In addition to the digital collages for Elizabeth, I got back into framing mode and sent more pictures to Made By Hand, a fine art and craft show and sale, which runs from November 23rd to January 2nd at The Art Gallery of Peel.
On Friday I got a call to say that all three of my pictures had sold, and they asked if they could have more. To be honest, I was astonished. Brampton has never been a good venue for me, so I usually don’t bother exhibiting here. The only reason why I went into this particular show is because I happen to like the coordinator! It will be interesting to see if this is a fluke, or if anyone else will be drawn to my work.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Our Club Meeting

Life has been so frantic lately that I’ve had precious little time to just kick back and enjoy myself. Since I was doing the demo tonight (a crackle background and collage), and providing the next challenge (a mini album), I was in that state of mind where you’re just checking items off on your to do list and wondering when it’s ever going to end. But our club meeting was just what I needed to feel like I have a life that’s more than a series of obligations. (Going out for Japanese food with David beforehand sure helped too).
Carolyn had provided this month’s challenge, and when I saw it, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to anything with it. But I was wrong. I’ve always wanted to invent a game, so this was it. I painted 100 wooden letters bronze and gold to fill the jar and called it “BE.” So far there are no rules because I haven’t figured them out yet. But the idea is to make verbs. (Cherri thinks I should call it Strip Scrabble. Carolyn thought this was a great idea too, but then again those two are much racier than I am).

Everyone seemed to enjoy crackling paint and making their collages. I was really impressed with what everyone did using such a simple technique, and how individualistic their pieces all were. I didn’t do anything other than demo myself. I was just too bagged to complete anything. Besides, it was more fun seeing what everyone else was doing.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Mister Evan!

I didn’t realize that my nephew Evan knew I had a blog, but I got a comment from him the other day reminding me that November 20th was his birthday. Remembering Emma and Lily, and forgetting Mister Evan? As Vizzini says in the Princess Bride—“IN-CONCEIVABLE!” In my own defense I will say that I called and left you a happy birthday message on the 20th kiddo, but you were probably out partying with your buddies instead of waiting at home for my call. Obviously you need to get your priorities straight, so we’ll have a heart-to-heart the next time we get together. But just to prove to you that I’m a loving aunt, here’s your happy birthday digital collage.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

One of my favorite things…

Yes, it’s fonts! Back in the 70s I did a lot of ad and bookwork using Letraset. Fonts like Tango, Sinaloa, Arnold Boeklin and Cabaret were really big then—and I used them more than once. But when I look at something like Lazybones now, I cringe. I don't think I could ever use any of these typefaces again. They were all basically what I refer to as “stoner fonts.” Very groovy and psychedelic, but best left back in the 70s where they belong.
I recall a boyfriend I had then giving me an old typewriter that I used for journaling. It never occurred to me to enlarge the typeface for any of the projects I was working on because there was a certain look going on and you found yourself automatically plugging into it. But that old typewriter is somewhere in the mountain of debris that fills our crawl space. It would be fun to find it and make my own font because I really like the distressed look. I also like mismatched letters. The font shown above is called Hackers, and it’s an interesting one to use. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the “S” looks like a dollar sign, so I try to avoid words with that letter!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Busy, Busier, Busiest

This morning John asked me if I had a photo of myself so he could remember what I looked like! The poor guy has received scant attention from yours truly for weeks now because I’ve been so busy. Still, he’s being a good sport about it all. He even made a tasty dinner for me to eat before Christina Lazar-Schuler’s special class at Bizzy B’s tonight. But more about that in a moment…
I haven’t had a minute to relax since Holly Jolly—in fact, I haven’t even unpacked! I received my first commission (for three pictures), more requests for my Mélange CD, which sold out on Saturday and orders for two more digital collages, so I’ve been hard at work. It’s all good, but it’s stressful too.
I had really been looking forward to Christina’s class, which was working with a mini chipboard album (love that chipboard). But I had nothing ready by this morning, and I was freaking. John suggested I use my own digital collages instead of trying to get some photos together. I’m really glad he did because I’m so pleased with what I produced—not that I’ve finished of course. But I will be seeing Christina on Friday night before she goes back to Vancouver, and I’ve promised myself that I will finish my Renaissance project. And show it to her.
If you ever get a chance to take a class with Christina, jump at the opportunity. She’s so generous with her time, materials and expertise. I always appreciate a handout to refresh my memory, and Christina’s also included a color photocopy of the pages she did for her sample. I’m really impressed.
Now where was I? Daniza and I worked across from each other and I loved what she did. She sanded her pages for a distressed look and the whole effect was very cool. Then Carmi came by Bizzy B’s to pick up Christina, and while she waited, sewed on something tiny and scrumptious. (No, Susan—you will not start sewing too). I can’t help thinking how lucky I am to know so many talented and inspiring people.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holly Jolly Wrap Up

I really had fun at Holly Jolly today. Carmi does such a professional job of organizing it, and there’s something so inspiring about being in a room filled with people and their art whether it’s photography, jewelry, chocolates, needlework, cards or whatever. Frankly, it’s a relief to get all the preparation over with too—I hate that part of it since I’m always going off on a tangent and having to discipline myself.
Because I’ve spent so much time on my own lately, I just wanted to socialize…i.e. talk a lot about what I do to everyone who stopped by. In fact, I think one guy actually bought a picture just so he could shut me up. And Mary—being right next to me—probably learned more about Leonardo Da Vinci’s patron’s mistresses than she ever wanted to. (Speaking of Mary, she set up a little table and made jewelry during the sale, which I thought was really cool).
I had repeat customers from last year, and it was nice that they remembered me. My sister Pam, sister-in-law Wendy and my mother came too, and they all bought pictures. This is one that Pam chose and it’s a personal favorite of mine. (Yes, it’s one of Leonardo’s patron’s mistresses). I seem to know what Pam will like because it’s what I would go for if I were buying my own work!
One funny think happened today. An elderly woman came by with her daughter. She obviously wasn’t in the mood to be impressed by my digital collages, so she said to me: “What’s this any good for?” Now this is exactly what you say to yourself in those dark moments when you question your creativity. But somehow, when a stranger gives voice to it, you realize how hilarious it actually is. So I laughed, and said: “Maybe you could hang one on your wall!” She looked surprised and then nodded. (No, she didn’t buy a picture, but that would have been a great punch line, wouldn’t it?)
Anyway, I was so tired when I got home tonight that I fell asleep on the couch and had a dream about being a pixel trying to measure itself. Too much Photoshop obviously. I guess it’s time to do some cooking and cleaning for a change.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Miss Em!

It’s Emma’s birthday today and we had a lovely chat this morning/afternoon. She was in the middle of cleaning up her apartment because she was having friends in for pizza, and then they were going out to a club. I can’t believe Emma will be home in less than a month. My plan is to have the house spick and span, stocked with goodies and the tree up, so she can just relax when she gets back.
Right now the house looks like a tornado has raced through it, and that tornado is me. There’s stuff everywhere as I’m still not finished all my framing for the Holly Jolly Holiday Sale yet. I’m not including everything I did last year, but this little picture, The Heart of a Poet, was one of my favorites from the 2006 sale, so I’m including it again. Four people bought one including my niece Bridget. I’ve done about fifteen new pictures, plus 10 collage sheets, so it will be interesting to see what people like (or don’t).
Now that the end is in sight, I’m getting excited about spending the day with everyone. Mary and I are neighbors again this year and I’m really looking forward to this. Everything I’ve learned about selling, I’ve learned from Mary. Come and see her in action, if you can! (Plus my other buddies too).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another Ann ATC

Looking at this ATC from a year ago September, I think I’d do it differently now. I was obsessed with scanning dried rose petals at the time, and lost Ann in the process. Then I merged the layers in Photoshop, so I’m stuck with it unless I want start again from scratch.
I spent hours today working on a Renaissance collage and was disappointed with the results. (Maybe it was listening to the same Britney Spears song over and over again? Must be K-Fed lurking in my subconscious!)
It never fails to surprise me how the creative process changes from one piece of art to the next. You think you’ve got it—that magical X-factor—and then the next thing you do defies any attempt to come together. The pieces I have the most trouble with are rarely the ones that appeal to anyone but me. But I like them because there’s a whole story going on that only I understand and appreciate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Today I got a lot accomplished. The good thing about pressure is that forces you to do things you’ve been putting off. Last year after Holly Jolly I had all sorts of plans about what I was going to do for the next one. Now that it’s suddenly five days away, I’m asking myself: “Why haven’t I done everything I promised myself I would do? After all, I’ve had a whole year to do it!”
But then I realized I’ve actually accomplished quite a lot since the last Holly Jolly sale. I’ve written a book for one thing, so why should I give myself a hard time? Because of my book, most of the digital work I’ve done in the last few months has been in black and white. I think I will frame some of them in the future, but right now I’m focused on color—and really enjoying it. I hope people like my new stuff, but you can never second-guess what appeals to people. The bottom line is: if it works for me, it works.
David took three of my digital collages up to The Art Gallery of Peel for their Christmas Sale. To be honest, I just grabbed what was handy and gave them to him. I also formatted another ATC of Ann for Canadian Scrapbooker.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Jeanne Schedler

I took a break from my Holly Jolly prep this afternoon to take a good look at the collages Jeanne emailed me earlier this week. I like these two in particular. “Hmm,” said John when he saw them. “Quite interesting.” And I agree. There’s something really unique about them. I think it’s the combination of vivid color and spontaneous painting combined with tiny collages and doodles. Very fresh and inspiring…it makes me want to paint!
Jeanne told me in her email that she’s working like a “madwoman” to finish a 60-page collage book that incorporates all sorts of hands-on techniques and altered visuals. I can’t wait to see this when it’s finished. She also told me that her studio would give Bacon’s “a run for his money” Don’t you just love it when someone is so caught up in the creative spirit that they have no time to eat, sleep or clean? You go girl!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sonja Wernke

Interviewing people is one of the best parts of being a freelancer. I always learn a lot, and sometimes I’m even inspired to do more with my own life—just like I was when I wrote about Sonja Wernke for the November/December issue of RubberStampMadness magazine. Brought low by a series of health problems (and depressed about it), Sonja fought back by making art. Not only is she a woman after my own heart—she loves to journal—but she also started her own stamp company 1 Stamp Dreamer online. Obviously Sonja doesn’t let a pesky little detail like illness stand in the way of living a full and creative life. When I feel discouraged about things, I’ll think about her and the healing power of art. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is to be creative when you’re feeling low. But if you push yourself…if you just mess about with your art supplies, I can guarantee that you’ll end up feeling better. Just ask Sonja!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gearing up for Holly Jolly

I really enjoyed participating in the Holly Jolly Holiday Sale last year. It’s fun to sell your stuff, see what everyone else is doing and talk to the people who stop by your table. As you all know, I do love to talk!
This year the sale is on Saturday, November 25th from 10 am until 4 pm at the Swansea Town Hall in the Bloor West Village. If you go to Carmi’s website you can see a list of all the vendors and find directions. I don’t know everyone that’s participating, but Carmi, Mary, Aracely, Christina, Karen, Paul and Marissa will all have nifty stuff for sale. The new vendors look interesting too.
I like the timing of Holly Jolly because it starts me thinking about Christmas. I’m not the kind of person who starts shopping for gifts in January. Getting into the spirit of the season is important to me, and last year I bought several gifts at Holly Jolly. Everything is created with love, so it’s nice to spread it around (and buy yourself some treats too).
I’d like to say that I’m organized for the sale, but I’m not—yet. My original plan was to do some small paintings to sell in addition to my digital collages. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of freelance work lately, and this has prevented me from doing everything I wanted to do. Being super busy has forced me to focus though. I’ll have several new digital collages ready, plus ten new collage sheets that I’m also going to put on CD.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Happy Birthday Fur Baby

Lily is eleven today. Here is a picture of her as a puppy snoozing on my winter coat. I was wearing it the day we brought her home. The breeder suggested I put her inside my coat and snuggle her up next to my heart. (Even though I always looked like a football player in a snowstorm when I wore that coat, I still have it because it’s like my wedding dress—the symbol of a happy memory I don’t want to forget).
We have nothing special planned for Lily’s birthday. I could throw her a party and invite her best fur buds, but she doesn’t have any. Large or small, she will chase off any dog that invades her territory. (And don’t get me started on the cat thing). So what I have planned is a special birthday dinner of steamed veggies and Kraft Dinner. Do they put something in KD that makes it addictive? Whatever it is, Lily just goes mental over it.
Then again she loves anything foodish: avocado, peanut butter, cheese, banana, pancakes…the list is endless. She even broke into some chocolates one Christmas morning and didn’t miss a beat even though chocolates are supposed to be poisonous to dogs. I’m sure if I baked her a cake, she’d go for that too. But you have to draw the line somewhere. When you can.
Lily has slowed down some in the last couple of years. But she still climbs stairs easily, jumps up on the furniture, and chases squirrels and airplanes. You couldn’t ask for a more loyal and loving friend. I’m going to sign off now and hold her close to my heart.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Artist Trading Cards

Back in August, Carmi did an ATC a day and posted the results to her blog faithfully. I did the same thing a year ago, but I wasn’t as ambitious as Carmi. She used all sorts of different techniques, while I did everything in Photoshop. But I’ve started thinking about doing an ATC a day for a month again soon…and then putting everything in a Moleskine journal.
What got me started thinking about this—and looking at Carmi’s August blog entries—was talking to Barbara at Bizzy B’s yesterday. Barbara is looking for ATCs to submit to Canadian Scrapbooker. Other than the size, the only rule is that the card must include a photo. The deadline is November 26th, and I know I don’t have time to do something new. But I immediately thought of the ATCs I’d done of my cousin Ann last year.
Ann passed away in March 2005, and for her celebration (she didn’t want a funeral), I made up two large photomontages of her as a child. These images stayed with me, and I started playing around with them in Photoshop. This one shows Ann in her back garden as a child in the late 1940s. Of course the original photo was in black and white, but I just had to give her a pink dress and bow. And I’m probably overdoing the constellation thing, but it’s my blog and fly if I want to. (Yeah, I know, I know. I always liked Lesley Gore, but I’m probably dating myself big time).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Busy in a Different Way Today

I spent yesterday on my own, but today was just the opposite. I went to Susan Wilkie’s for lunch, and then we headed off to Bizzy Bee’s for the first Altered Book/Journal Club hosted by the store. There were nine people there, and I think most of them had taken Mary’s altered book class like me. (I’ve actually taken it twice, and I know I’m not the only one).
Mary brought her mother lode, which we all dived into…or is it dove? And come to think of it: can you even dive into a mother lode? In any case, it was inspiring to have all Mary’s books to look at. I’d never seen her journal before, and it was fantastic. She also gave us a handout and talked about the basic principles of collage.
I have to admit that I did absolutely nothing but gab to everyone and troll the store. Susan and I agreed that we can’t work as well in a crowd as we can on our own. But I noticed she actually applied herself while I foraged like a madwoman through a new shipment of 7 Gypsies embellishments and looked for Christmas presents for myself. (That sounds a little tacky doesn’t it?)
Mary brought the angel book for Susan who is next on the list, so I got to see her contribution and Carmi’s. Their work is just luscious, and it’s hard to believe we’re almost at the halfway point.
When I got home, I phoned Emma who got back from Barcelona last night. She met her friend Emily there earlier this week, and they went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Gaudi’s cathedral, the Miro Museum and some early city ruins. Since Emma’s been in Europe, she’s really become interested in art. She told me tonight that she wants to do art some projects with me. This will be FUN! (Here’s a picture of Emma in Luxembourg that I have on my computer screen).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Productive Day

John and David were out all day so I got a lot done. Not that they’re demanding, but when I have no interruptions—other than Lily—I really seem to be able to focus.
I worked for hours on a new digital art piece, but I don’t know whether or not I like it. My style is definitely changing, and I’m not sure where it’s going. Next on the agenda is buying a Wacom tablet. Jeanne Schedler has one and says it makes all those Photoshop tasks go so much easier. (It would also be fun to draw with it too).
One thing I did finish today that I’m happy about is a second collage sheet with color wheels. One of my obsessions is color theory and earlier this year I read Goethe’s writings on the subject. So there’s some Goethe here, a Newton sketch of how music relates to color (I can’t figure it out though), Chevruel’s 19th century color wheel—and my personal favorite: the one designed by scientist and naturalist Moses Harris in 1770. I’d love to have a copy of Charles Henry’s Aesthetic Protractor, but finding it is proving difficult. Henry believed that color could be used to express certain emotions when combined with the angle and direction of a line, and apparently Seurat used his theories to develop pointillism. For some reason, protractors have always intrigued me—I have several—so I hope I’ll be able to get a good look at Henry’s one day.
I had wanted to get another ten collage sheets together for the Holly Jolly Craft Sale, but realistically, I won’t be able to do this—I’m just too busy with freelance work right now. I already have 51 sheets available on four CDs (or printed up on matte heavyweight paper), and 20 sheets of perforated artistamps, so I have plenty of things to sell. Oh, and my digital collages as well.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Beth Barany

Faces fascinate me. My niece Claire looks like a Renaissance Madonna, and I want to take some pictures of her and play with them in Photoshop. I also love this photo of my writing coach Beth Barany that I scooped from her website and then incorporated into a collage that includes one of Christina’s digital brocades and a a couple of flower photos.
I’ve been thinking about Beth today because I know I wouldn’t have finished my book as quickly—and dare I say: as well—if I hadn’t spent several months working with her first.
I don’t think you can be proactive unless you truly understand what motivates you, and that’s just one of the things Beth helped me to do. She also gave me insights into the way I work, plus the confidence and support I needed to do the book my way—and stick with it too.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a big fan of coaching. If there’s a dream you have that’s not happening for you, personal coaching could make a big difference in your life. We’re apt to think we’re lazy or just not talented enough when there are plenty of other factors we should be considering. The coaching process is always geared to personal insights and practical action to get you to where you want to go.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Busy Day

Today was the deadline I’d set for completing the first draft of my book. I’m actually ahead of the game because John finished copyediting it last night, and as a writer I once worked with used to say, “There’s tons o’ changes.”
John made some really great suggestions and noticed all sorts of groaners. But he said it was better than a first draft, and that he really liked my book. It’s made enough of an impression on him that he’s started quoting me if he feels I’m not taking my own advice!
One funny thing about John’s copyedit was that he thought the conclusion was the preface! I had to laugh about that because the end often seems like the beginning, doesn’t it? Fortunately my book isn’t a linear take on things. But yes, I still have to write the preface…or more accurately, the introduction, and tomorrow I’ll start the rewriting, which I know from experience, will be a lot of work. Rewriting lacks the excitement of starting from scratch. At this point though, I’m just happy I’ve come this far.
I worked on my website today and started some new digital collages for Holly Jolly. This one is a collabo between David and me: his glass brick and my Photoshop-ing. Oh, and I can’t leave Christina out…the groovy circle is one of her Sketchy Evidence brushes.
I’d never heard the word “collabo” until David suggested that we do more of them. Apparently it’s rap speak for a couple of performers who do a song together.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Leaving Comments

I’ve had several people ask me recently how they can leave comments on my blog if they’re not a Blogspot member. What you do is go to the bottom of the entry. You’ll see a line that reads “Posted by Susan Williamson…” and right next to it “Comments.” You click on “Comments” and it takes you to a pop up screen where it says: “Choose an identity.” You can put your name in the space provided or leave it out. Then you type your message in the box above and click “Publish Your Comment.”
I really find choose your identity hilarious given that most of us seem to have multiple personalities going on inside our heads. Or maybe it’s just me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Brian's Invention

Last night at the family birthdays, my brother in law Brian showed me his latest invention. It’s a walker (built of ABS piping with industrial castors) that he constructed after about 40 hours of experimenting with his idea.
For those of you who don’t know Brian, he was diagnosed with MS a year ago, and he loves to play volleyball. Another person might have decided to sit back and feel sorry for himself, but not Brian. He’s been playing volleyball every Monday night for years, and in June he hosts the Pond Scum Beach Volleyball Cup at his cottage up in Meaford. There was no way he was going to stop doing something he loved.
This volleywalker (Pam christened it The Tantalus because it reminds her of a spider) allows Brian to move around on the court and play without losing his balance. Brian goes for five hours of physical therapy every week, and his physiotherapist – a volleyball player herself – says it works much better than anything else she’s seen. She and Brian actually play together each week.
We don’t ask for bad things to happen to us, so it’s really inspiring when someone like Brian meets the challenge head on and ends up with an invention that will help other people too.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Christina's New Photoshop Brushes

After a few days of really intense freelance work, it was time to play with the two new Photoshop brushes I’d ordered from Lazar StudioWERX the other night. I treated myself to the Florishoodled and Poloroid Transfer sets to start with, and they were even better than I expected (Jeanne – you must have these brushes!!!) I used one of John’s sky photos, added some lettering, and then went to town.
Saying that I “went to town” makes it sound like there was a lot of effort involved, when it was actually the lettering that took 90 per cent of my time. The brushwork was pure digital gratification.
I’m always interested in anything new that Christina Lazar-Schuler comes up with. She’s one of the most creative people I know: fine artist, digital whiz, savvy businesswoman and great teacher. How can I resist ordering her other two sets? I won’t be able to...obviously.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

David's Website

David has his website up now. He went for a minimalist look and features some of his sketches, and his stationary and suspended forms. He did the whole thing in GoLive, which is what I’m using too, so I know he will be able to give me some tips.
I think David’s glass bricks are really cool, and my favorites of the work he has done so far. Many of them have little windows so the light can shine through. He’s sold several of them already. Right now he’s working on more complicated pieces that almost look like conceptual puzzles. He builds molds out of clay set in sand, and then pours in the molten glass. It takes about 48 hours for the glass to cool down completely, and then he can polish or roughen them up.
The other day David heard from Galerie Elena Lee in Montreal. They want him to be part of a group exhibition in March next year. This is very exciting for him (us too). If you go to their website you can see a great cross section of glass art. I really enjoyed looking at everyone’s work and found it very inspiring.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Dollar Store

Debbie and I went to The Dollar Store this afternoon where I bought a rubber mallet (yes, I need this to flatten bottle caps), some cheesecloth and two measuring cups. We also went to Michaels. Debbie wanted to buy a wood-burning tool, but she’d forgotten her coupon. I hadn’t so I got a few things for the Holly Jolly pictures I’m working on. Then we both bought Halloween candy. As soon as I got home, John and David raided my stash. Okay, so I did too and I’m feeling a little sick after eating several Mars and Snickers mini bars. Serves me right, and now I have to buy more candy.
But back to The Dollar Store. I’m a complete addict. I’ve scored more bargains there than anywhere else. My absolute favorite buy was – or rather were – eleven really good pieces of a nativity set. I can’t recall when I’ve been more excited. I rushed home, set them up, congratulated myself and then said to myself: “What am I thinking? Why didn’t I buy nativity sets for all my friends? Pam would love one too.” So I rushed back and they were gone! In the space of an hour, The Dollar Store was sold out of several hundred figurines. The moral of this story is: if it’s too good to be true, buy everything.
The altered puzzle shown above was a club challenge from last year. I bought the wooden puzzles at The Dollar Store in Meaford. It may be a small town, but there’s no better dollar store anywhere. It’s awesome.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Paul's Book

I’ve done some interesting freelance work this year, and my favorite by far was doing this cover for Paul Godin’s science fiction book The Program. Paul and I discussed what he was after visually, but he basically left it up to me. After reading his book, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I did a Luna Lights painting for the top of the cover, and used a picture I’d taken of the sky up at Meaford along with a scan of some computer circuits. The biggest challenge by far was finding a face I thought reflected the essence of the hero (as I pictured him in my mind). I ended up buying a stock photo, and after plenty of experimentation with the various elements in Photoshop, I ended up with what you see here.
The interesting part of this project for me was the type. Originally I’d chosen a simple sans-serif font, but Paul wasn’t sure about this. I sent him a selection of typefaces to look at and tossed in some jazzier fonts I would never have chosen myself. Paul chose one of these, and lo and behold it was perfect. Paul is a photographer and writer, and he now has a website designed by his wife Carmi. If you check it out, you can read a page from The Program and his other book, Na Gren.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Website Matters

I’m sure I have the wrong temperament for doing a website. Because I like everything to fit together and make sense, it’s turning into a nightmare. If I could afford it, I’d hire someone to do my website, but I’d probably drive them mad. I spent a few hours earlier reading through my book and making corrections. Compared to the website, it seemed easy – and I never thought I’d say that!
I hit a real low point yesterday afternoon. There is just so much to do I can’t imagine ever getting it done. For instance, a lot of my work still needs to be photographed, but since I have better luck taking pictures outside and it was raining, I had to comb through the photos I already have instead. (Here are two tins from my Bia Box I won’t have room to include). Today I was all set to take pictures again but the wind is so strong it even blew some of the shells I’d brought back from Cape Cod off the porch. Am I whining or what?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Our Club Challenge

For this meeting we had to alter a fan. John had the bright idea of turning it into a crossword puzzle. I didn’t do this because it would have taken too much work, so I decided to turn it into a fetish object or mask instead. I’m not crazy about what I did, although there are parts I do like. My plan is to dismantle what I’ve done and incorporate some of the pieces into other projects.
David agreed to model it for me. The poor guy has been really sick all week, and I dragged him away from his place on the couch (where he was watching Lord of the Rings) and took him outside. You can’t see his eyes because this mask needs someone with widely spaced eyes like Kate Moss for it to really work.
Carolyn taught us how to do embossing on metal tonight. She’d been to a class in Texas and came back with this huge array of tools – her stash would be the envy of any dentist – and we all made a dog tag. I was sitting next to Mary who told me that metal embossing is addictive. Even though she had already shown me how to do it, I just can’t seem to “get” into the spirit of things, metallically speaking.
Mary is in downsizing mode and she gave me some great art and map books, a few little canvases and a bag of dolls. When I got home, John and I watched Alias, and I started removing doll heads and arms. I’ve always loved dolls, and I felt guilty dismantling them, but I do feel an assemblage coming on…

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why Bother Sleeping?

It’s not that I don’t like to sleep because I do, but I wish I could be awake 24 hours a day. Life is just so interesting that I hate to miss any of it. Tonight I’ve had a grand time preparing little canvases for Holly Jolly. While I was waiting for them to dry, I decided to play around in Photoshop. I’m really missing Emma, so I looked through all sorts of digital photos I’ve taken of her and found this one I like. I wanted to call her Starr when she was born, but John really dug in his heels on that one. I suppose Starr is a trailer trash kind of name. Sigh. Anyway, nothing is stopping me from providing her with her own constellation now. Thanks Photoshop.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

That Marketing Thing

I have a hang up about marketing myself. Not that I think I’m above it all…I’m below it actually. But lately I’ve been facing facts. I do have to do this if I want to make money. I notice that artists like Claudine Hellmuth do commissions. This is something I think I would really like doing.
Here’s a picture I did of my sister Pam and her husband Brian. I used a photo I’d taken of them at a party and sandwiched it with another photo I’d taken at their cottage and the scan of a map. It’s one of the most ambitious things I’ve ever done in Photoshop because I used multiple layers and techniques in order to get the slightly surreal look I was after. (This is version twelve).
I’ve also been working on my website. Carmi has inspired me to do this. Somehow when a friend can do it, it seems real and possible to me too. I’ve been learning GoLive from the tutorials on, and now I actually think I can do it. The problem is the gazillion images I need to organize and all the photos I have to take…plus the writing of course. But I have to stop vacillating and just get it done. I’d like to get my website up by the
Holly Jolly Holiday Sale if I can. Nothing like picking an arbitrary deadline to galvanize me!
I’ve also started working on some new things for the sale, and I’m enjoying it. Last year I was anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. This year is different. I’m doing some pictures on wood supports and canvas. I don’t know whether or not they will appeal to people, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. It would be nice if it was more gain than venture though!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Emma emailed me today to say that she’d read my blog about Marion Zimmer Bradley, and that I’d never mentioned this to her before. Up until now, I’ve only told a couple of people. Not because I’m embarrassed…I’m sure being trashed by MZB and that Woman’s World editor means I’m in good company! These things hurt, but you have to get past it. I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity for the last few months though because of my book, and all sorts of things have surfaced. To me, talent is more about persistence than anything else. However, when something negative happens, it does make it harder to “carry on” (to quote Tim Gunn).
Emma went on to say: “That makes me wonder if, when people like Marion criticize others that are aspiring to pursue artistic careers, they aren't dealing with more personal issues - e.g. a sense of personal failure despite external "success," or perhaps a subjective sense of being "all-knowing" or "above" other creative people. Really, those people's actions have nothing to do with you and your creative talent.”
After reading this, I started thinking about why some people are hard on others. Is it a power trip, a sense of superiority or simply a cruel streak? (Not that the repercussions of a cruel streak are ever simple). One thing experience has taught me is that people who are nasty usually have do have issues. You can spend a lot of time trying to analyze their actions and justifying your own, but the bottom line is: if someone is cruel to you, step out of the line of fire and regroup.
I’ve been reading this book called The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, which is about the mythic basis of storytelling. He mentions Threshold Guardians that bar the gateway to the hero’s journey. They test the hero’s fitness for the trip ahead. To me, MZB played that kind of role for someone like me. You have to pursue your vision, whatever it is, and just get past them. On a personal level, I’ve been an editor and I would never treat a fellow writer or artist that way. People continually surprise you, so it’s always best to relate to the best self in others and see them as they really are: full of promise and potential.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Looking backward...looking forward

There was a time in my life where I was really into writing short stories, and I even had some of them published. There were lots of rejections though. One in particular I’ve never forgotten. I’d submitted a story to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, and received a really vitriolic letter back from Herself in which she basically told me I was a no-talent wannabe and should give up writing fiction immediately!
Shortly afterwards, I took a workshop with the science fiction writer Judith Merrill. She was a gravel-voiced, no-nonsense person who frankly scared me because she never smiled. But I decided: “What the heck, I’ll submit the same story because I like it.”
Then Judith called Edo Van Belkom and me in for chat. She asked me about my life, and then she said: “What does your husband think about living with a novelist?” And I told her he was actually very supportive and a lot more domesticated than I was. “That’s good news Susan because you can do it,” she replied. I haven’t of course. I mean I have written a novel and parts of few others, but I haven’t had one published. Edo, however, has gone on to publish at least two horror novels that I know of.
Another hostile rejection I received was from the fiction editor of Woman’s World. I’d submitted a romantic short story and she sent me an extremely hostile letter saying she didn’t think much of my mini mystery. Huh? At least MZB took the time to carefully read and trash my story, but I’m sure the Woman’s World virago didn’t even bother. Don’t these babes realize that writers who submit stories to their magazines actually buy and read them? Not that I read Woman’s World anymore, that’s for sure.
Oh well, any fiction writer has to be a gambler, and I’m definitely that. For the past couple of days I’ve been rereading my short stories. Of the fifteen or so I looked through, I’d say one is really good (not the one I expected either), two are good and the rest, while serviceable, shouldn’t be pursued. While I’m no longer interested in writing short stories, I think I just might submit the ones I do like to some writing contests still open right now.
P.S. The collage shown above was rejected from a juried show.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Relax? I don’t think so!

My plan to take it easy for a couple of days has collapsed. I tried to kick back by doing some art, and now my room is in a chaotic state once again. I’m incapable of working in an orderly, linear manner. I wish I could, but I just can’t.
Yesterday I completed my challenge for Carmi’s Commandos in just a few hours. My goal is not to mad dog these projects or to get worked up about them. When I told John I’d finished, he was taken aback. “Really?” he said. “You have?” I can’t say I’m that happy with what I’ve done, but it’s done. (I’ll post a photo on Friday). David really likes it, but personally, I think it’s the weakest one I’ve done so far. I can live with the results though, which is progress.
After I’d finished last night, I started thinking about Holly Jolly. Here’s one of the 8 x 10” prints I’ll be selling. This year I’m only going to sell things I really like – not that I didn’t like everything I sold last year – but I’m at the stage now where I think some of my images should be gracefully retired. I also want to make room for new stuff, and some little mixed media pieces.
About midnight, I started taking bits and pieces out of boxes and just generally brainstorming. By the time I went to bed, well let’s just say that even Lily was having problems trying to find a place to lay her weary head. She actually barked at me a couple of times to let me know that she was annoyed that her/my chair was stacked with boxes. I ended up taking off my dressing gown and making an informal dog bed for her on the floor where she snored like a truck driver.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Exploring the Possibilities

Beverly and I had a great eating, gabbing and trolling the booths at the Creativfestival. The reason I’ve never gone before is I thought it was all about sewing, and years ago I made the decision not to get involved with this because there are so many other things I want to do. As it turned out there was plenty of inspiration for someone who prefers paper crafts like me.
Bizzy Bee’s had a terrific booth with a really interesting selection of merchandise. We visited with Daniza – she always knows what I like – and I bought some flowers (see photo) that I don’t have a clue what to do with, but I’ll figure it out.
Then we stopped by Carmi’s booth, which was like looking into a little jewel box. I picked up some Dove of the East charms which are beautifully made, and chatted to Carmi and June Hayter who is helping her at the festival. (June says she reads my blog, but can’t leave comments because Blogger won’t let her. This is the third time this week someone has told me this, and I’m not sure what to do about it).
What I like about going to something like the Creativfestival is seeing friends you haven’t seen for a while, making new ones and being exposed to all sorts of things that fire your imagination. When I got home, my mind was buzzing with possibilities. What I need to do now is explore them!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Create is a Verb

I can’t believe it, but I actually finished the first draft of my book tonight. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. All 150 pages are now printed up and ready for John to start reading tomorrow. I still need to write the preface, but I’d planned to leave it to the end anyway just in case the book needs a major overhaul, which it undoubtedly will.
I’m sure John will notice plenty of things that need to be expressed more clearly. He can be a real nitpicker, but this always works to my advantage because I trust his judgment. I remember writing a booklet for the mail art show I curated at The Art Gallery of Peel a few years ago. John thought the first several pages were weak, and I was really annoyed at him – mainly because I was fed up with how complicated curating an art show turned out to be, and I didn’t know how to do justice to the hundreds of people who participated. Nevertheless, I started over again and ended up with a credible piece of work.
I hope he’s not too hard on me this time, but at least I’m prepared for it. Already I can see a lot of things that need changing. The beginning of the book should be stronger for a start, and I think I’ll probably end up dropping some pages, or combining them, and there’s at least eight layouts that need work…plus all sorts of bits and pieces that have to be added.
On the whole, I’d say the illustrations are fine. The real chore will be in the rewriting and there will be plenty of that. I just looked through my print outs now and there are way more graphics than straight copy. But it was the writing that was the real challenge for me. Somehow writing fiction comes more easily. (Then again, writing about something non-linear like creativity would be a challenge for anyone).
Tomorrow I’m taking a break. Beverly and I are going to the Creativfestival in Toronto, and I know I’m going to really enjoy it because I’ve accomplished something worthwhile this week.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

This and That

Jeanne sent me this much appreciated link today which has a photo of the painter Francis Bacon’s studio. My theory is that he didn’t need a place to stand; he levitated to paint. And Mary, you will appreciate this: a team of archeologists went through Bacon’s studio and labeled everything (all 7,000 pieces) before it was relocated to a gallery.
I was thinking about Bacon’s studio off and on all day while I worked on my book. By dinnertime, I’d accomplished zip – I hate days like this – and so I decided to redeem myself by cleaning up. To be honest, I haven’t finished yet, but I did find a crushed bottle cap that would be perfect for a set up. Now that I have some space, maybe I’ll actually accomplish something creative tomorrow.