Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dance & Powerpoint (A TED Talk)

Do you know how every once in a while you run into a concept or a presentation or a thought or a person and you actually feel the connections start to light up in your brain? It's such an exciting moment and for me this TED talk was one of those most recent moments. It's a completely fascinating meld of idea, presentation and challenge. Maybe you won't see it the same way but for me, it once again stirred the pot of potential and it's always amazing to see what comes out of that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A 2012 owl calendar

I'm still working on the mural project that is creeping nearer to completion. Unfortunately for my schedule, it's colliding with the production of my first stage play called "By Way of Wonderwood" that opens on December 8th. But it's certainly improving my skills as a multitasker. What a blast it has been to see costumes, props, stage sets, etc coming together! And every completed character on the mural is a triumph, too.

In the meantime, I found a wonderful downloadable calendar for 2012 through My Owl Barn that lets you choose from a wide variety of artists to customize your own calendar. It's hard to choose just 12! The founder of the project also invites you to use them as gifts for friends and families so put together a few!

Owl Lover 2012 Calendar

I'm excited about the coming year - what are you looking forward to?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Imagining big.

It boggles my mind to think of the mental gymnastics necessary to produce this art. But wow.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Starting to finish

I've mentioned several times now that I've been involved in a mural project that has been keeping me busy. As an update, I've been working as design lead on a mural project in a children's area (birth to pre-k) that involves 6 classrooms, a prep area, entry area and large common space (+3 restrooms with some small details in them). Each room has a theme and involves wall murals plus some installation and/or 3D items to bring fun and fascination to these spaces for the little ones that will be using them.

I am finally able to say that we're "beginning to finish". Step by step, elements are being checked off the list and while there's still plenty to go, there's some to share now too.

It's been so exciting to see these characters come to life!

Today's selection are from an ocean room:

And this dolphin is not done yet, but I'm so excited about him I had to share him anyways:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Counting sheep?

Between the mural, a trip to France and a computer that keeps trying to eat my camera cards, it's been a little hectic around here. (Oh and don't forget conference prep!) So once again my best blog ideas are waiting until

1. the mural is done
2. I'm over my jet lag
3. I can access the photos I want to share
4. I have something constructive to show about my hopes for the conference.

But here's another one of those creative gems that just makes me giggle:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mixing it up

I've been slow with blogging lately. Mostly because I've been knee deep in a very fun project that involves decorating a children's space. It's 7 rooms that have murals, installations, furnishings and a variety of things to make the kids feel welcome. I've had the privilege of being design lead for the project and - boy! - are we having fun!

So here's a snippet of something I was working on the other day. Doesn't it look yummy?

Btw - do you have any idea of how many paint colors are named after FOOD? It's possible to get a serious case of the munchies standing in the hardware store...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Practical problems with prepositions

I'm working on a new venture these days - wall murals. It's going to be a fun project and I'm very excited to see the finished results but today at the paint store I ran into a misunderstanding over a couple small words.

Part of the challenge came about because paint companies no longer seem to feel the need to print those "progressing" chips that have a range of intensities of the same color available. I wanted specifically to use Olympic's new lo-odor, VOC-free paint (*quick review below) but they simply had nothing acceptable on the paint chip display. So I had to take in a competitor's paint chip and have a custom blend done. I started small (1 quart) and while the color was right on, it did prove too intense for the large scale we will be using it. So, I needed to lighten it somewhat.

The helpful man at the paint store informed me that he could enter the mix colors from my quart and the computer would let him scale it in terms of percentages - 50% lighter, 75% lighter, etc. This was exactly what I was hoping for so I asked for 5 gallons at 75% OF the current tint. He mixed me 5 gallons lightened BY 75%. And I looked at the sample dot on the lid and thought "Hmmm, that's really light" but didn't think through the process until I got it out to my van.

So I'll take it to the job site and try it. In my defense, paint does darken quite a bit on the wall as it dries, right? I'm pretty sure it will be too light and I'll take it back and ask them to add 50% of the tint mix and try again. (I've checked with a couple math whizzes and they assure me this will make the 75% I originally intended. ) And we'll carry on.

And next time I'll watch my prepositions a little more carefully.


Quick review: LOVE IT!

The new Olympic No VOC latex paint goes on smooth, has (as they claim) virtually no odor (there's a very faint puddingesque smell if you get your nose right into it), and is definitely comparable in price to many paints. I've definitely needed two coats for good coverage but that's not a big deal compared to all the benefits. A review I found reminded that once standard tints are added it is not truly VOC-free (although even with my math I can figure out the VOC levels would be greatly reduced) so don't think I'm touting it as completely non-toxic but the no-odor factor has made me a fan.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Writer's Life

A friend pointed me to this video and it is too funny not to share. (I'm also a little envious of the beautiful bookshelves in the background.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A new resource: Library Insider

There's a new resource in town! The agents at Books & Such have introduced a new tool for authors called Library Insider.


It consists of two parts - a database of libraries and their acquisitions information to help authors target their marketing materials to the people and regions best suited to their titles. It's subscription-based and you can find out more here.

Along with it they offer a training package to help you learn how to navigate and best use the database. Behind the Stacks, with author and 25-year librarian Judy Gann, walks you through the process and the best way to get a positive response as an author. As they say on the blog:

"The database is half the equation; the training is the other half."

It looks to be a great resource (and there's a contest for a subscription discount running until Thursday! Check the blog for more info.)

Psst: You can find them on Facebook too.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Missing the Point

I'm a member of the Colored Pencil Society of America, a great group of talented artists that focuses on the medium of (what else?) colored pencil. The work of some of these artists leaves me absolutely breathless.

It quickly became a goal of mine to have artwork accepted to their annual international exhibit. Along with the exhibit, the accepted pieces are also showcased in the CPSA membership magazine, called "To the Point". Because I am not usually in a location to attend the annual exhibit, that issue has become a highlight in my year.

Somehow, that goal took on the flavor of an "ultimate" goal. Once that happened, I would "really" be an artist and would have professional confirmation and would cruise ahead with my other art goals and become famous and never step in a puddle or have to smell a bad odor again in my life. (Or something like that.) It became a BIG DEAL.

So last year, I once again submitted a piece to them and - wonder of wonders - it was accepted! I was thrilled!

Or would have been if I'd known about it.

Unfortunately, a mis-communication on the entry site meant that I did not see the notice of my acceptance. I found out about my acceptance when the curator of the exhibit contacted me via the CPSA co-ordinator to find out why my artwork hadn't arrived at the gallery. The exhibit opened TOMORROW, and I was 300 miles from my studio.

Needless to say, I was devastated for a time. "Aaaaggggghhhhh!" was the sentiment that kept running through my head. But eventually my husband interrupted my plans for hara-kiri and I decided I had a lesson to learn. And I eventually also decided to share it so hopefully someone else can learn from my mistake besides me:

When you're entering something, make sure you find all the information!

Entry deadline, entry requirements, date writers/artists will be notified, HOW they will be notified, when winners will be announced, etc. If you enter online, make sure the image/document is attached. Ask if there's something that doesn't seem to have gone through correctly. Make a note on the calendar and pay attention!

That's about it. It can always be hoped that an exhibit or competition will keep us updated and notified as events happen. But ultimately the onus is on us to be as responsible for our own work as we possibly can.

So when the exhibit issue of To the Point arrived a couple weeks ago, it was a bittersweet moment. But I intend to try again. And we'll see what happens.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A full band (Josh Wilson)

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy creativity. And seeing people be creative in their own field is doubly exciting if it's not a field I typically work in. So here's a snippet from a very talented guy, Josh Wilson. I got to see him in concert last weekend and and love some of the unique ways he blends his many musical talents with technology to give it that little extra spice. (I'd also recommend that you watch the video on YouTube. There are actually six Joshes in the video but it won't size properly for some reason.)

How do you suppose an author could make use of multiple appearances? :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winsome words

This week found me grinning over some tasty phrases and delightful thoughts. Here's a few of my favorites:

"impromptu wedding" - It was Valentine's Day after all

"gleeful preposterousness " - actually used in a review of one of my books. Favorite review to date.

"unbiased ratings" - is this actually humanly possible?

"Dyspepsi-Cola" - apparently there's a role playing game that considers this a usable item.

"valetudinarian " - sounds classier than hypochondriac, don't you think?

How about you? Do you keep your ears open for some brain ticklers?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A painting's progress (Olivia "Livvy" Schemanski)

I have always maintained that I learn more in watching an artist at work than any number of lessons or self-help books can give. So I was very excited that a friend of mine, 'Livvy' Schemanski, put together a video that showed the progress of one of her gorgeous wildlife paintings. How exciting to see this painting come to life on the canvas!

I have stood in front of this painting many times and marveled at her skill. Olivia has a depth of knowledge in the art realm that is simply astounding. Technical skill, creative insights, a wealth of experience, a fun sense of humor and a generous heart to go along with it have taught me a lot since I was fortunate enough to meet her years ago. Enjoy!

(If you want to see some of my work in progress, you can find it at my Val's Imagination blog. Not as dramatic but hopefully helpful all the same.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Robert Gray: Memory & the 'Smell of Books'

I will confess that I am one of those that enjoys the smell of books. Real, paper, bound-with- glue books. Leather and hand-stitching books. So this, of course, caught my interest:

Robert Gray: Memory & the 'Smell of Books'

I love that there are those that can categorize the odors in and on books. Each classification brought a distinct aroma with it. That smell of 'literary dust' is an intrinsic part of literacy to me. And I love the link with other people that feel the same way.

(But please don't bother to buy me a can of "Smell of Books". I thank you.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

What did you do to close out the old year and ring in the new?

I was at a friend's house, playing games, laughing and generally having a great time. I also tried sushi for the first time. Which made me realize I might share something with this character --

Happy New Year!
Let's dream big and see what happens!

P.s. Want to dress your own penguin? He's available at