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 Lynda.com, 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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Checking in from the Pigpen

I keep telling myself I need to get organized. Right now I’m in the middle of several different projects…then again, I always am. But as usual, I’ve used every inch of available space with nothing to show for it. Even my bathroom has things going on in it. My thinking is that if I actually post these pictures to my blog, it will shame me into tidying up. Believe me, it’s been way, way worse than this. It’s at the point now though where it’s crossing the line to the chaotic. Help!!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Missing Emma

Here’s a picture of Emma advertising the Jeep we rented to go to Meaford about this time last year. I really miss her laughter and high jinks. Yesterday we had a long talk on the phone, and she wants me to go on a trip with her to Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco when she finishes articling in the summer of 2008. I can’t wait! (But I guess I’ll have to).
Emma has been gone seven weeks, and so far she’s visited Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Poland and The Czech Republic. She’s also going to England, Spain and Italy.
Did I mention that she’s there to study? Well, she’s managing to squeeze it in. At her age I had absolutely no self-discipline. I’d have probably bailed out of school after the first couple of weeks, and gone to Findhorn with the bass player of a second-rate band to talk to plants.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another Book Update

It’s hard to believe but I’m almost finished the first draft of my book. I’m not sure how long it will end up being because there are some things I’ve already decided to leave out. So far I have 146 pages and another eight or so to write, plus all the extra bits and pieces that go into doing a book, like acknowledgements, picture credits, contents and so on. My guess is that it will end up being 160 pages or so.
I’ve decided that I am going to try and get an agent and/or a publisher before I start rewriting. If I can’t, I’ll publish it myself. Marketing introduces a whole new challenge, and while I do have some ideas, it’s not really my forte. One good thing is that Teesha Moore says she’d like to run an excerpt in Art and Life, so that’s exciting for me.
To be honest, I’m really not looking forward to rewriting. It’s not that I’m fed up with the subject of creativity, but I’m worried that I may not have covered the subject properly. Actually, that sounds ridiculous now that I think about it. How could any one person do justice to the topic? Let’s just say, I hope I’ve done as good a good a job as I personally can.
Some of the edge has been taken off thinking about this because I’ve already started working on my next book. I’d thought about doing one on journaling, and maybe I still will, but right now I’m engrossed in planning my novel about angels. I don’t know whether or not it will fly, so to speak, but it looks promising.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Ideas Journal

I’ve been keeping this journal since January and I’m almost finished. I have over 150 pages of ideas, but fortunately there’s lots of repetition, which means that I’m not as much of a grab-bagger as I think I am. The problem of implementing them remains, however.
Yesterday afternoon David and I went to Toronto to see a glass art show, and to pick up some of his work. Then we went to Pages Bookstore on Queen Street and had a great time looking at art books. The reason I like the art section at Pages is because they have a lot of funky books by artists I’ve never heard of before. I particularly like the ones with artist sketches and notebooks.
There was a very cool book on Paul Klee’s puppets too. Apparently Klee made them for his son when he was a child. David found them very freaky, but I really liked the idea that Klee did his own sewing and carving. I was tempted to buy the book, but resisted and got David a couple of novels instead because he’s on a reading jag.
As we were leaving I suddenly remembered that Pages carries Moleskines, and I’ll need a new ideas journal soon. I’m not sure why I like working on graph paper, but I do. The good thing about keeping this journal is that I’m not worried about whether or not it looks finished. Keeping an art journal is all very well, but it has a habit of stealing time and energy that might be put to better use somplace else.
Afterwards, David took me out for dinner to a Chinese buffet. The waiter was very attentive…to me. When David pulled out his credit card, the waiter was really taken aback, and then amused. He couldn’t seem to believe that the child – well, not that David has ever really been a child – would actually treat his mother to dinner.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Art of Play

Einstein says that play is the highest form of research, and who am I to disagree with Albert? I’ve always been fascinated by the equipment needed to play any kind of game whether it’s a spinner, a deck of cards, a board or a personal marker. At one point I even came up with an idea for a fiction writing game, which I could still do something with come to think of it.
Anyway, John recently taught me how to play Bezique, a card game for two players that was developed in France in the 17th century. John is an absolute whiz at cards, but I managed to win one hand without understanding how I actually did it. Although we didn’t use a special scoreboard, I downloaded this one from the Internet and then played with it in Photoshop. It would be fun to come up with designs for games that don’t even exist – but might.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My groove goes AWOL

I’m not wishing I was still in Cape Cod, but somewhere along the way my mind took a vacation and isn’t ready to come back yet. All I want to do right now is to look at art books and read mythology. Is this the byproduct of over-focusing for so long? Could be.
There’s so much emphasis on producing in our society. You feel compelled to keep justifying your existence in one way or another, and then when you take a break from doing this, you start questioning why you started doing it in the first place.
I feel it’s part of my purpose to write a book on creativity, but why the big hurry, I wonder? It seems as if I’m continually setting myself new challenges – and meeting them – but then another challenge takes its place, so I never really feel like I’ve arrived. Pondering this has started me thinking that it’s probably more important to embrace the process than it is to focus one’s energy on producing results.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We're back

I haven’t blogged for 9 days now and it feels strange getting back to it. Quite frankly, I didn’t have time – too busy eating, talking, reading, sight-seeing, playing cards, taking pictures, collecting shells and going on hikes with John. I did nothing on my travel journal either, and I feel guilty about it. All that time I spent getting my art supplies together beforehand, and I didn’t even use them. I could have saved myself the trouble.
What I did do, though, was to come up with an idea for a novel – and I owe it all to John. One night in bed he kept tossing and turning. I’d almost be asleep when he’d suddenly twitch and wake me up. I finally decided to forget about sleeping and just think. All sorts of ideas came to me, and I ended up getting my notebook and writing away in the dark.
It feels good to have a new project I’m excited about. My novel will be a fantasy – not a Lord of the Rings kind of thing – but an alternative and contemporary reality. For a while now I’ve been researching angels. I’m not sure if this research will fit in with what I’m trying to do, but I hope it will. One thing I’ve learned is that you have to let your ideas take you where they want you to go. And quite often they lead you somewhere you never thought of going.