April 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 04.29.14

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April 29, 2014

Journal page

Grids are fun to play with. There is something about breaking your page up into little pockets that makes a large page less scary. I filled in one box a day for a period of a week. Somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted to only use black and white. So fun.

(Click on image to view larger)

Pen and ink. Done in my single pamphlet journals.

April 28, 2014

Recent Reads

50. An Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age
Book blurb: A funny thing happened on my way to middle age. I became an athlete. And not just any athlete, but a runner—all without taking a running step until I was 43 years old. 

This is a memoir about how the author went from being a couch potato who was "overweight, uninspired, and saddled with a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoking habit" to running. In parts funny, in parts poignant, with some learned-the-hard-way lessons shared, this is a fun read for runners and other "adult-onset athletes". Rating: 3 stars.

51. Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus
Book blurb: From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.

I listened to this on audio narrated by Johnny Heller, and while I did not love the narrator, I found the topics covered in this book fascinating. This is really a biography of Rabies, and covers its history, our co-evolution with animals, particular dogs, mythology and legends, literature and film, science, medicine, and the search for a cure. Seriously though, they had me at vampires and werewolves! This well researched book reads like a thriller, and I connected so many dots while enjoying this fascinating ride. So why not 5 stars? Because I did not love the narration, and the book could have used better editing in parts.  Rating: 4 stars.

52. The Walking Dead, Vol. 05: The Best Defense
Volume 5 contains issues 25-30.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, zombies are not the scary part of this story. Something happens that makes a couple of people leave the prison to investigate. I thought I would be happy to get away from the whining for a while, but I was so wrong! A little whining never hurt anyone. There are some very disturbing developments in this installment, and I actually had nightmares last night. Note to self: do not read this series before bed. Rating: 3 stars.

53. Watercolor: Paintings of Contemporary Artists
This is not a book you read as much as one you look at. Think of it this way: You hold in your hands a portable gallery of the portfolios of various artists who play with watercolor. As with any gallery viewing, I loved some work more than others, but overall am inspired by seeing how far these artists have pushed the medium in their work. Rating: 3 stars.

April 27, 2014

Newburyport Literary Festival

It was a cold and rainy day yesterday, which in my mind is the perfect day to attend a literary festival. How to select which authors and panels to attend, when there were so many great choices? Below are the ones I decided to attended.

11am session: Andre Dubus III reads from his work in progress
The New York Times calls Dubus’ latest book “staggeringly good.” Join us for a reading of his work In progress.

Presenter: Andre Dubus III

He was funny, and entertained the crowd by reading his knitting essay.

1pm session: Inspired by Hollywood and Hitchcock

Hallie Ephron talks about growing up in a Hollywood family with screenwriters for parents and three talented sisters, all accomplished writers. She talks about how the Ephron girls were groomed to write, and how real family drama and a love of Hitchcock movies fuel her suspense novels – including her newest bestseller, There Was An Old Woman.

Presenter: Hallie Ephron

She told a funny and poignant story about her parents and famous sisters.

2:30pm session: Real Life in Literature: The Art of Mixing Fact and Fiction
Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, "realistic fiction" offers an engaging novel that is plausible, yet wholly crafted by the author. Listen as three best-selling authors discuss their use of historic persons, settings, and events to support their imagined story lines. Join Jenna Blum, Caroline Leavitt, and J. Courtney Sullivan as they talk about the challenge of weaving fact into their fiction.

Presenters: Jenna BlumCaroline LeavittJ.Courtney Sullivan
Moderator: Dawn Rennert

Loved this panel of smart, funny, and articulate women who rocked the stage in their cowboy boots.

4pm session: Marge Piercy reads from The Cost of Lunch, Etc.
Marge Piercy’s debut collection of short stories, The Cost of Lunch, Etc., brings us glimpses into the lives of everyday women moving through and making sense of their daily internal and external worlds. Keeping to the engaging, accessible language of Piercy’s novels, the collection spans decades of her writing along with a range of locations, ages, and emotional states of her protagonists. Whether grappling with death, familial relationships, friendship, sex, illness, or religion, Piercy’s writing is as passionate, lucid, insightful, and thoughtfully alive as ever.

Presenter: Marge Piercy

I am a huge fan girl of the author, and recall binge reading her books while in college. She is also a funny and entertaining reader. Who knew?

After a fun dinner with new friends, attended the closing ceremony.

7pm session:  Closing Ceremony
Editor-in-Chief of O MagazineLucy Kaylin, will moderate a panel discussion on the business of bookselling and the influence of Oprah’s Book Club and magazine book reviews. Authors who have benefited from the “Oprah influence” will join Ms. Kaylin in conversation.

Presenters: Jenna BlumAndre Dubus IIIWally LambRichard Russo
Moderator: Lucy Kaylin

Another fun and informative session.

All in all, had a fun day. If you are a reader, do add this event to your calendar for next year.

April 26, 2014

Elizabeth Gilbert at ICAN's 2011 Women's Leadership Conference

Recently finished and loved The Signature of All Things, and stumbled upon this talk the author. Brew a cuppa, and give yourself the gift of listening to it today.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

April 25, 2014

Journal page

I started with a page that had a wash of craft acrylic paints and some test alphabet stamps. Decided to use my dancer stencil to draw the outline, then added doodling. Really like how this page turned out.

Those of you who are observant might notice that my date stamp does not show the year. That is simply because my old date stamp ended with 2013, so I use it without the year. 

April 24, 2014

Cinemascope: Mystic River

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2003.

Plot line: With a childhood tragedy that overshadowed their lives, three men are reunited by circumstance when one loses a daughter.

Directed by Clint Eastwood and based on the book by Dennis Lehane, this is such a great movie with an incredible cast. I have watched this one several times, and am sucked into the story each time. And if you have yet to read the book, I would recommend that as well.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

April 23, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 04.22.14

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April 22, 2014

Journal pages: Faces

I am obessessed with drawing faces. I see an interesting face, and my first thought is "I want to draw that". Now, I do not claim to draw them well, but over time with my almost daily practice, I can see that I am developing a style of sorts. So here are my most recent faces. As always, click on images to view larger.

Inspired by HONY.

Self Portrait done while looking in a mirror. A sister in an alternate universe maybe?

Another selfie done same day, same mirror, a couple of hours later. Looks more like me, but not quite.

Inspired by HONY.

I watch GLEE. It is not as good as the first season, but I still watch it.

Inspired by HONY.

This sketch was done in my cheapo writing/sketching journal using black and blue pens and a blue highlighter for that blue hair.
You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

April 21, 2014

Recent Reads

46. One Watercolor a Day: A 6-Week Course Exploring Creativity Using Watercolor, Pattern, and Design
A really fun way to explore ways to play with watercolors. The book has some great exercises, and examples of how various artists capture the same subject. Rating: 4 stars.

47. Incidents in the Night: Volume 1
Book blurb: David B. understands that subconsciously we search books for magics that will help us avoid being confronted by our own mortality, and he has made this the conscious subject of Incidents in the Night.

This graphic novel starts with a man dreaming. He dreams about finding a particular series of books, and when he awakes, he wanders the Paris bookstores in search of said books. History, mythology, literature, and a murder mystery all play a role in how this story unfolds. I loved the black and white illustrations, but found myself confused at various times in the story. Maybe something is lost in the translation? Rating: 3 stars.

48. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Running
A little dated, but still a good resource for the beginning runner. Skipped the marathon and other sections that are not applicable to me.

So, I knew this, but was reminded again that we burn about 100 calories per mile. Whether one walks or runs. Hopefully one can run more miles than one walks in the same time, so more calories. But still 100 calories per mile. So that Starbucks scone is the equivalent of 4 miles? Sigh. Rating: 3 stars.

49. The Martian
Originally self-published in 2012, this debut novel got purchased by Crown and re-published this year.

The story is about an astronaut who is left for dead on Mars. Turns out he is not dead, but will he survive? To write more is to give away some of the fun in discovering what happens next. 

It is clear that the author is a nerd, and I mean that as a complement. This is the kind of sci-fi that I enjoy - no green aliens, just human skill and ingenuity working out how to survive in a tough situation. And let's face it, it does not get harsher than being stranded on Mars while everyone thinks you are dead. The science and math is great, and I'd hope that teachers in middle school can look past some of the language and recommend this book to their students. Seeing how all those potentially boring classes could save your life - what better lesson plan could one ask for?

I found this a highly entertaining and fast read, and though the weakness of a debut author are evident, it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours. I hear the movie rights has been optioned. Cannot wait. Rating: 4 stars.

April 20, 2014

Eduardo Salavisa. A drawer of the daily

Someone in Sketchbook Skool posted a link to this video, and I wanted to share it. Why? It just makes me happy. Let me know if it makes you happy too.

April 19, 2014

Journal pages

I continue to play with colored pencils. They are harder to use then it would seem, but I have fun none-the-less.

I write on both sides of the paper, and find that the colored pencil transfers when I do that. A simple solution is to have a sheet of wax paper between the pages with colored pencil. Any kind of paper would work as a buffer really. After I am several pages away, I find that I can remove the wax paper and there is no longer a transfer problem. 

This one makes me smile. Not good perspective, or accurate, but for a fast sketch, it captures a moment in time. And that is what it is all about isn't it?

These sketches was done in my cheapo writing/sketching journal using colored pencils and pen.
You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

April 17, 2014

Paddy & Nico

The most delightful thing I saw on the web this week.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

April 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 04.16.14

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April 15, 2014

Journal page

Part 2 of my homework assignment for Sketchbook Skool this week was to go out and sketch. I had plans to meet up with friends for Sunday dinner in Harvard Square, so decided to get there early and do some people sketching at The Coop. Love this bookstore.

 My first victim, I mean target, was this guy.

 A quick sketch with my G2 - don't have to worry about waterproof ink with colored pencils. Turned around and sketched this woman next.

Decided that I needed a third person to round out my session. Added some text and border and I was done.

It is always a little nerve wracking to sketch/paint in public. Interesting that I never have this issue while writing. Do it all the time. It is almost like I am waiting to get busted by the artist police: sorry ma'am, but we need to confiscate your art supplies. Like how this turned out. Am thinking that it would be fun to sketch the environs too. Next time.

This sketch was done in my cheapo writing/sketching journal using colored pencils and pen.
You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

April 14, 2014

Recent Reads

42. The Walking Dead, Vol. 03: Safety Behind Bars
Volume 3 contains issues 13-18.

Our weary, dirty and hungry band of survivors stumble upon a prison. Sure it is filled with zombies, but they move slowly and are easily dispatched. And there might be food inside. Could our motley crew have found a new home? What they certainly find is something more dangerous than zombies: each other. Rating: 3 stars.

43. The End
Blurb: The End is a collection of short strips about loss, paralysis, waiting, and transformation.

This is probably not the graphic memoir I'd recommend picking up in the middle of the night when you cannot fall back asleep. But then again, it might be the perfect one to read while the house is dark, and the only illumination in the room is from your book light falling on the page. The book is assembled from the author's sketchbook in the year following the death of his partner, and is a lovely meditation on love, and loss, and grief, and life. Rating: 4 stars.

44. The Winter People
Here is a blurb: a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.

When will I ever learn to not fall for the hype?

West Hall, Vermont is a town with issues. A place where people mysteriously disappear, and ghosts seem to walk among the living. I really liked the premise of the book, and quite liked that the story unfolds in two time periods: the 1900s and present day. However, in my opinion, the author dilutes the strength of that technique with too many narrators who do not add to the story.

There is too much telling in this book, and not enough showing. At no point in the story did I feel immersed in it, and while I liked that the main characters were all women, none of them were compelling. If like me you were thrilled with The Monkey's Paw, and had to sleep with the lights on while reading Pet Semetary, you too might find this book disappointing. Rating: 2 stars.

45. The Walking Dead, Vol.4: The Heart's Desire
Volume 4 contains issues 19-24.

The action starts right away with the arrival of a woman with two zombies on a chain. Relationships change, lots of action, but not much development to the story line. This is the least interesting volume in the series so far. Rating: 2 stars.

April 13, 2014

Journal page: Sketchbook Skool Week 2

The thing about taking a class is that it pushes you outside your comfort zone. This week our instructor is Koosje Koene, and one of the homework assignments is to sketch with colored pencils. Now I've got several sets around, bought years ago, and hardly ever used. Perfect nudge to use art supplies I already have in my stash. 

In case you could not tell, these are apples and a lime. I got the colors right, but clearly need to work on my form and tone. However, I realized that I love my Prismacolor pencils. So creamy, they glide on like butter on hot toast. Will certainly be playing with them this year.

This sketch was done in my cheapo writing/sketching journal using colored pencils and pen.
You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

April 11, 2014

Journal page

When I started drawing a couple of years ago, I dared not try faces. But they kept calling to me, so I dipped my toes in. Needless to say, they were not the most attractive portraits of people, but I actually slowed down enough to really look at their faces. I continue to have mixed results with faces, but then the other day, I drew this one.

As part of Sketchbook Skool homework, I drew and wrote about an experience with my nephew. And this actually looks like him. Even he recognized himself. Also wrote about a book discussion we had on FaceTime. Am inordinately proud of this drawing. 

This sketch was done in my cheapo writing/sketching journal using PITT pens.
You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

April 10, 2014

Cinemascope: Divergent

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2014.

Plot line: In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late.

This movie is based on book #1 of the Divergent trilogy, a dystopian young adult set of books that is quite fun to read. Book #1 is the best book in the trilogy in my opinion, so I was interested to see how well the movie turned out. Had a movie and dinner date with 11 year old Luke, and we both agreed that the movie was good, but the book is better.

A couple of things that I found interesting:
1. Shailene Woodley, who plays Tris, is also the lead girl in The Fault in Our Stars movie scheduled to be released later this year. And was it just me, or was a pony tail a distraction during all those fighting scenes?
2. Ansel Elgort, who plays her brother in this movie, is the Shailene's love interest in TFIOS. Strange. Kinda like Hollywood had no other options for actors for their YA movies this year.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 04.09.14

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April 8, 2014

Journal pages: Faces

I don't draw faces very well, but I still love sketching them. Interesting faces call to me, and I sketch people from videos I watch or blogs I read. I am happy if there is a bit of the sketch that captures the essence of what drew me to that face. Here are some of the faces that I found interesting lately.

Anita Hill on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Danny Gregory video talking about Sketchbook Skool.

Inspired by Roz. I love how she captures faces.

I watched a video of this artist and his work.

Daily inspiration from HONY. Loved her expression.

Watched a video of this artist and her work.

Daily inspiration from HONY.

There sketches were all done in my cheapo writing/sketching journal using PITT pens.
You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

April 7, 2014

Recent Reads

37. The Walking Dead, Vol. 02: Miles Behind Us
Volume 2 contains issues 7-12.

The zombie epidemic continues, and we follow along as our band of survivors seek food and shelter, fending off attacks as best they can. While not as interesting as the first book in the series, this installment moves the story and characters along. An interesting exploration of how people react differently to grief and shock, and the morality of killing zombies. Rating: 3 stars.

38. Journey
This little gem of a book is a picture book for children. It has no words, so every reader will make up a slightly different story as they "read" it. And you might get a different perspective with each re-read. 

This is the story of lonely girl who draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and enters a world full of magical adventures and a few dangers. I so loved how the story captures the magical worlds that reading a book, or creating art can immerse us in. The art beautifully illustrates the wonder in discovering the magic within ourselves. Rating: 4 stars.

39. The Swan Gondola
I really liked his earlier book, The Coffins of Little Hope, so was looking forward to this one.

I am not a quitter, but at page 261, I have decided to throw in the towel. This story started out so well, and I love the setting of the 1898 Omaha World's Fair. However, the main characters are not well fleshed out, I found the romance boring, and I lost interest with where the story was headed. I've made myself sit down with it several times after I lost interest, but to no avail.

On the plus side, there are some luminous passages, and I love some of the imagery the author conjured up. Also, there are some really interesting minor characters. I really wanted to love this book, but alas did not.  Rating: 1 star.

40. Ideas & Inspirations for Art Journals & Sketchbooks
This books is 64 pages of examples of how the author keeps her art journal, and while I liked the colorful pages, this is not my style. This might be a good resource if you are a newbie to keeping an art journal, and looking for some ideas on how to get started. Rating: 2 stars

41. I Want to Show You More
I'm not a fan of the short story, as they often feel rushed and ultimately not satisfying to me. You probably already know this about me, and were wondering why I picked up yet another collection. 

So imagine my delight when I started this book, and found myself having to slow down to stop from binge reading it in one sitting. These interlocking stories explore God, sex, religion, faith, love, infidelity, parenting, aging, loss, running, well, the human condition really, albeit a privileged one. Sure, some stories are stronger than others, but each and every one had me pause somewhere in the reading, and re-read a line or two. The juxtaposition of the surreal with the horribly realistic is so well done, and the honesty of the writing is such a breath of fresh air. 

Here is my advice if you decide to read it: Do not read it all in one sitting. Stay soft while reading this collection. Remind yourself that we are all human, and fallible, and doing the best we can. Can you read these stories without being judgy? Try it and let me know. Rating: 4 stars.

April 5, 2014

Art Journaling with DIY Stencils (Video)

I'm in the midst of a stencil making jag. Sure that are plenty of stencils you can buy, but making your own is so easy. I'll share my tips and tricks for DIY stencils.

If the embedded link does not work, click here.
You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

April 4, 2014

Journal page

I've been trying to sketch regularly, and I can see improvements. This is my little Gorilla Pod tripod, and it was actually fun to do all that cross hatching while listening to a podcast.

Done in my cheapo writing journal. Trust me when I tell you that buying and hoarding all those supplies do you no good. Take them out. Play with them. This is not something that will be put on the walls of MOMA, just a way to get my hands and eyes dancing together. Added the dash of red with a marker. I am inordinately pleased with this page.

April 3, 2014

Cinemascope: Heat

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 1995.

Plot line: A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.

This is an oldie but goodie that I recently watched for the third of fourth time. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro at the height of their acting careers if you ask me. Be warned that it is a long movie, so have plenty of snacks, and settle in for a really good story that makes you wish Hollywood still made movies this good.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

April 2, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 04.02.14

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April 1, 2014

One Little Word 2014: March

And just like that another month is over.

As you might recall, my word for this year is Cultivate. I am taking a more laid back approach to my word this year. Am picking a theme for each month, and then seeing where I end up.

My focus this month was to cultivate authenticity

"Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen." [The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown].

As girls and women, we get messages from a very young age about being "good". We must be a good girl, a good daughter, a good wife, a good sister, a good mother, a good person. But what does being good really mean? My experience has lead me to believe that being good is not a moral imperative, rather it is fitting into whatever restrictions our families, society and/or our community deems is right for us. What they are comfortable with. 

When we are good, we are often not real. We hide our light, we make ourselves smaller, we accommodate, we compartmentalize, we numb, we disconnect. I was startled when I realized that I was doing these things to make other people more comfortable. So over the decades I have been dismantling this good girl self to find out who I was underneath.

I've worked on being authentic for decades with varying success. And you know what my biggest challenge has been? Trying not to hurt someone else's feeling. My own feelings be damned. And it always comes back to bite me in the ass. 

This month, I paid attention to when I was letting something go that really needed to be addressed, because I did not want to hurt someone's feelings. I paid attention to how I felt before and after I addressed the situation, and learned much about my own internal messages and fears about conflict and accountability. About not being a good girl.

Here is what I am learning: We are responsible for our actions. We are not responsible for how other people feel or respond to our actions. Even writing that makes me uncomfortable. But there is truth in that, so I am making different choices.

I read something a long time ago that has stayed with me: Your opinion of me is none of my business. 
Surely not said by a good girl.

These are some of the ways I cultivated authenticity this month. How do you do it?