Creativity Intervention, part 1: Suzi Blu

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Artwork copyright SuziBlu. Used with permission. Cool, huh?

 

It’s almost like there’s a script. I’ll be sitting in a public place sketching and someone will wander by, eye my sketchbook with interest and . . . longing. And then tell me about how they used to love drawing, or coloring, or painting, or some other creative endeavor. And how they realized they weren’t good enough, or were unworthy, or made to feel ashamed in some way for the simple act of picking up a pencil or crayon and letting themselves create.

Time for an intervention.

There’s more going on here than a lack of belief in someone’s creative ability. There’s a vulnerability around the SELF. You can feel it . . . grief and regret, a longing for that simple immersion into art. This is someone who used to find such a happiness in art. What happened here? Sometimes, if I ask, they’ll tell me the story. These stories hurt my heart.

Somewhere inside each of these folks the spirit of that happy little kid who was so excited to pick up the crayons is still there, missing the color, longing for the freedom. That little kid needs to be told that IT IS OKAY to make messy, fabulous, playful art. Or serious, expressive art. Whatever they need art to be.

So… how to reach that spirit?

Let’s start with mixed media maven Suzi Blu! Suzi believes that everyone has a right to be creative, and that your work doesn’t have to be revered by the establishment or displayed in a museum to have value. Your art is for YOU, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. The value is in the making of it. If you get a pretty picture at the end, great! But the outcome is not essential. What is essential is your presence.

She teaches that your art journal is a safe space for you to explore and play.  I think I first saw her videos (*gasp* — Really, it’s been that long?) NINE years ago. (Youtube link to an early one here! I STILL sing the art journal club song from this video. It makes my husband look at me funny.) I used an sketchbook before that, and sometimes took art supplies with me when I took my son to the playground. But Suzi helped me stop judging my work so harshly. I started carrying an art journal with me nearly everywhere. And the confidence and practice, those two things made a huge difference in my daily art experience.

Seriously. Go watch a couple of those early videos.  (If you’re in a creative slump, it might help you.) Warning: you may not be able to start, once you’ve started.

It’s okay. I’ll wait for you here.

Since those first videos, Suzi has helped thousands of people hand the crayons back to their inner child. She teaches classes, “playshops,” and leads online groups. She’s not just teaching technique. She’s leading people through an experience of making art in a joyful, exploratory way. And along the way, she helps them find their belief in themselves.  As fun and free-thinking autonomous individuals. As creators of their own life’s paths. Suzi believes, and demonstrates, that art is not something you do, but rather a way of living.

There’s something about her approach that is especially appealing to women. Some guys like Suzi, too. But her message resonates particularly with women. So many of us are broken in the same ways. And art can help us heal. Suzi’s walked that particular path, and it’s a topic she revisits in her art and in her videos. Sometimes we may need a little guidance in how to start that healing journey. Suzi can help with that.

Whether she’s showing you how to make a messy, ecstatically freeform multi-layer background, demonstrating how to shade beautifully with colored pencils, or dancing around in a tiara with puppets while singing, Suzi’s real gift is helping you discover your authentic, creative self. And that’s all kinds of awesome.

Suzi’s Patreon page is a great place to find cool monthly classes, and an involved creative community to help the seeker. Suzi has led me to take my art in directions I may not have thought to try years ago, stretching my ability, and helping me learn to trust myself. It’s been a lot of fun. Check her out!

(Plus, her dog is Very Cute. Bonus.)

 

Fragment

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Tea and a Tale on a Tuesday: Fragment by Craig Russell

Bertie (R.A.) MacAvoy sent me a book to read, without telling me much of anything about it, or why I should read it.

But I trust her. So I read it: Fragment, by Canadian writer Craig Russell.

Well, I meant to read just a chapter or two. But I ended up reading the whole thing, compulsively. It’s a slender volume. The story, however, is a big one.

Sometimes what’s scary about a thriller is its plausibility. One of the things speculative fiction writers do best is tell the truth sideways.  And there’s a lot of truth here. Craig Russell’s near future ecological and political world are a little too easy to imagine as reality. It was a compelling, but uncomfortable read: I found myself reading faster as the story progressed, hoping there might be some way to avert disaster. Maybe something in the way of hope, that might be carried past the pages of the book and into the outer world. The hubris and political manipulation in Fragment: yes, there are real-world analogs. Seeing the potential outcome as spelled out in this novel? Dread inducing. But I couldn’t look away.

As a key part of the novel, Russell has created  a particularly compelling, and unexpected, major character. No spoilers here … but I’d have liked to see the book return to this character’s unique viewpoint more often.

This book would make a challenging summer movie. It might be difficult to get made in the current political situation. But there are some important messages here. And the visuals would be mesmerizing.

Cleaned Up for Company

cleanedupcoverpromo2forwebSome folks were requesting The Naughty Fairies Coloring Book, sans swearing. If you’d like to color without risking your job or the ire of the Dowager Duchess, I am happy to provide!

The Naughty Fairies Adult Coloring Book CLEANED UP FOR COMPANY is the same images from BAD WORDS AND WORSE ATTITUDES . . . just minus the “bad” words.

Click here to go to the Createspace store!

Click here to find Cleaned Up for Company on Amazon

 

Fairies on the Loose!

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Just arrived home from a week-long journey which included (you’ll have to imagine the trumpet fanfare) receiving the proof copy of my new coloring book! Photo above taken in Charleston, South Carolina, where I was trying out the images with #Staedtler colored pencils. Their hard leads made for wonderfully subtle layering. I’ll post more photos after I’ve caught up on sleep. Meanwhile, you can get your very own copy from Amazon.com! 

Bertie and I are also expecting publisher edits back on our novels at any moment, so hoping for news on that front soon as well.

But first: time to pet the cats and get some zzzzzzz’s.

Coming Soon … Adult Coloring!

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Inspired by Real Life Events.

What do you do when waiting for edits to come back from the publisher? Well, write more, obviously. This time around, though, I needed something a little more immediately distracting, to keep my mind off my empty nest. So in addition to working on the next novel, I Made a Thing. This is it.

Waiting to get my proof copy back; should be available to order within the week. It’s been fun sharing draft copies with people and watching their reactions. I’m looking forward to seeing the test volume. I’ll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, I’m working hard at NaNoWriMo. Although it looks a bit like NaNoWriLess at the moment . . .

Hands Off!

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Are you pissed? Because I’m pissed. So I made this. Click the picture or the FREEBIES tab above to find a free download of this image.

I have a lot of friends and family who are on the more conservative end of the spectrum than I am. We get along because we choose to seek out and celebrate the things we have in common, rather than focusing on our many differences.

This past week we had found unfortunate common ground when a public figure bragged about committing sexual assault. It’s dismaying to realize how many of us have had to deal with this kind of attack, and how little we’ve been able to do about it in so many cases.

When I get upset, art gives me an outlet. Making this drawing helped me process my anger and frustration. I know not everyone is comfortable with their ability to get their feelings out on paper, so I made this drawing into a PDF for you or a friend to color. Just click on the FREEBIE tag above for more info, or click the picture at the top of this page. If you color it, I’d love to see your work! Feel free to tag me @moonsownsister on twitter or Instagram, and let me know if it’s okay for me to re-post your work!

I do ask that you not sell this work. If you repost, please mention my name and this website.

Fortune is Smiling

 

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Actual Photograph of ISS, courtesy of NASA. One of my tattooed friends explained to me that marking yourself with something you believe in connects you to it. You know what I believe in? This thing. Not getting a tattoo, but if I were, this would be a candidate.

A conspiracy of happy turns of events!

Mumblety-mumblety years ago, I attended a dinner meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers with a guy I was dating. They served a dinner featuring lots of the newly trendy cracked pepper, which allowed me to discover my allergy to pepper. And also, sadly, made me have to step into the hallway and miss a good portion of the fascinating presentation on this thing they were seeking support for: a space station. To be built by, just imagine, international cooperation. I wished frantically for Gene Roddenberry to be sitting next to me so I could elbow him sharply. I made do with nudging my companion.

The hope of the thing! The audacity!

But we couldn’t be sure it would be built. The number of things which could go wrong, while not infinite, sure seemed like it. And Congress, unsurprisingly, was dragging its feet over funding the proposed U.S. portion. But still … that the thing could be imagined? Seriously considered among the scientific community, and at least discussed by world governments? Breathtaking.

Years later, I still have that guy sitting next to me for convenient nudging. (Reader, I married him.) And I still have the glossy 8 X 10 artwork NASA distributed to us: the artist’s conception of the structure, hanging against the blackness of space.

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I am very fortunate to walk my wee dog almost daily with an amazing neighbor. She texted me yesterday to alert me to the International Space Station due to pass overhead close enough to see with the unassisted human eye. (The humor in this is that she did so at 6:45 a.m. The thing was due at 6:48. I was also fortunate in that I had, this time, closed my window curtains securely and so did not scandalize the neighborhood in my desperate flinging about of clothes and my sleep-draggled self.)

Good fortune indeed: the sky was clear enough in the necessary stretch so that we could see the ISS pass. Obliging clouds … we miss a great many astronomical events due to the South Florida weather.

And there it was. A marvel. A wonder. The product of so very many hours of human energy, ingenuity, labor, experiment, resources. And perhaps more astonishingly, cooperation of large groups of organized people. Good fortune smiling upon the enterprise? Or was it the power of belief? The commitment of so many to making an idealistic concept come into physical existence. How many times did that scientist stand in front of a small crowd, with his impassioned speech and his glossy prints? And he was one tiny fragment of the whole. How many more people dedicated their energy, the precious hours of their lives, into this dream? And look what they did. Humans. Tiny creatures on this speck of a planet, reaching out with our minds and our hands and saying yes.

Michelle and I craned our necks, saw the rising sun glinting off the solar arrays. We watched it until it faded into the clouds.

The sighting colored our walk with talk of technology, of the future, of things which were once wonders that are now every-day and taken for granted. Wouldn’t it be great if world cooperation to solving difficult problems were one of them?

I want to wave the International Space Station in front of people. People who have decided to care about things and processes that separate us from each other. “Look! Look what we can accomplish together!”

 

 

Tuesday: Tea and a Tome 9/13/16

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In my studio today.

My happiest time is when I stand in front of a white empty board: the space is full of hope.

— Kinuko Craft

Too much wrestling with tech yesterday left me irritable. Today is a new beginning! So I had a lovely cup of chai tea with a friend to start my morning. Cinnamon and ginger, allspice and cloves, quiet conversation: all warming and life-enriching. These things will soothe.

As will a peek into the visually delicious Kinuko Craft: Drawings & Paintings. I purchased a copy in New York recently. You may not know Kinuko Craft’s name, but you might recognize her paintings: ethereal, yearning,  ambient pieces that cup narrative in an enchanted, wordless space.

If you know her work, then like me you probably saw her paintings first on a book cover. I looked into her art after discovering her wonderful illustration for The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia McKillip, and realized that many of these paintings were familiar to me. Generally, yes, via book covers. A good cover stands alone as a work of art, but also serves as a sort of gateway, inviting a reader to come step through into the story.

An ill-suited cover can suffocate a book, but the right cover can make it sing. Craft and McKillip are well suited. As are Craft and Ellen Kushner, at least in the case of the wonderful Thomas the Rhymer. I read this story in 1990, when it was a new version of an old wonderment, and have revisited it since. I loved the Thomas Canty cover back then, and thought it couldn’t have an equal, but the US and Kindle reissues are graced with a Kinuko Craft cover that will likely draw in a new generation of readers. (You can see more about it on Terri Windling’s wonderful blog post over at Myth and Moor.)

But back to the book at hand. This volume (available through her official gallery for $25 at the time of this post) is a lovely production. Gleaming gold ink, lavish borders, and vividly printed illustrations. Worth the space on your bookshelf.

Kinuko Craft’s words give insight into her process and motivation.

“The stories invite me into a world the author has created. I start living there and let my own dreams and imagination explore and guide me.”  — Kinuko Craft

The art, though, is the main reason for picking up the book. Line drawings let us see pieces of the creation of the finished works. She has a very great technical skill in art, but as with the best writers, she transcends technique and takes us into worlds of her own creation. Dense, layered, rich with detail and color. Her paintings are so narrative, they don’t have subjects: they have protagonists.

Once a painting is finished I never look back. The journey is done, and I go on to the next adventure. — Kinuko Craft

Visit Kinuko Craft’s official website for more wonderment!

Future Home of Epic Hat Battles

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Tower of Geek at SuperCon in Miami. See if you can spot the Truly Impressive Hat.

If you saw my post on visiting Supercon in Miami, you might remember how much I liked the WordFire Press extravaganza, the Tower of Geek. Writers smiling, interacting one-on-one with fans. Happy volunteers helping people find their next great read. Where I had my awesome (if one-sided) hat battle (which I lost) and met some very cool people.

It reminded me of my old bookstore days. I didn’t have to look very far to find interesting people with sparkling minds back then … they just came walking into the shop. And then I got to talk to them about some of my favorite things: reading, and books, and art Star Trek and gaming and oh by the way if you like that have you seen this author. I didn’t make a lot of money, compared to some in other fields, but the quality of my hours was matchless.

The Tower of Geek is the kind of thing that makes you want to be part of it, whether you’re buying books — which I did — or being part of the crew. And I told Bertie.

And Bertie did what Bertie does, and wrote Kevin Anderson an e-mail. And sent him a book. And told him about the other we were working on.

And Kevin Anderson said yes.

So Albatross has been revised, the better to have a companion volume, and will be coming out in print and a new e-book, likely within the year. And Book Two, for now called Shimmer, is ready to be looked at by a pro Editor as well. And Bertie and I have signed both contracts with WordFire Press.

And I have purchased a new hat.

To celebrate.

Prepare for Epic Hat Battle, part Two!

 

Status Report Post-Launch

Q: How are you doing since your son has left for college?

A: I made my way onto a High Score chart at the SilverBall Museum in Delray Beach, Florida, today. Woot! *PINBALL, ya’ll!*

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Not sure why pinball scores are gendered, but that’s a discussion for another time. I’m “Female” high score.

They have good fries there, too. Bonus: there’s a Pokestop there, so I made it to Level 18 in Pokémon Go. And I drew one of their light fixtures in my sketchbook. This all suggests I’m doing pretty well, thanks for asking!

However, a closer look will reveal that yes, I was awake at 3 a.m. and approving final edits for a short story for magazine publication. (Yes, I did spend about ten minutes debating with myself about the inclusion of a comma or the word “and,” or refusing to accept the addition of either because I meant a particular word to be an adverb, rather than a verb!) And now it’s 6:03 a.m. and I’m checking Hugo winners (Congratulations, folks! N.K. Jemisin, cracking me up! Maybe next time, Chuck Tingle!) and reading about convention drama and then dashing off a quick blog post. The hour discloses: SOMEBODY is not sleeping. Sherlock concludes: perhaps all is not at its most serene here.

I believe in greeting and making space for the Big Feelings. There are a lot of those here. I have many folks in my circle experiencing the same sorts of things. We all know that there are no shortcuts to accepting this new stage in our lives. So … yeah.

Meanwhile: I have exciting books to read, art to view, pinballs to flip, a hand to hold, dogs to walk, cats to serve. Life is pretty good.