Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baby Holidays

Usually Lilah and I sit in the third row from the back when we go to church. Right in front of the family with the little boy and the new baby. This Sunday, we snuck in late (that's also usual...) and Lilah chose the very last row. The other family snuck in even later and sat in front of us.

While the minister spoke about this season being about a little baby... I started really observing the little baby right in front of me. When it is your own baby, you are so completely exhausted and overwhelmed... I've never had the chance to just watch a baby sleep before... without the "mom thoughts".

She was so - complete. I mean, not only was her little face so perfect, but she had everything she needed. She was wrapped up snuggly, had her mom and her dad and her brother right next to her. She was completely at peace.

I didn't even realize I was drawing her at first. (I found out later her name is "Phoebe").

My mind went from the significance of babies at Christmas to babies at New Year's. Just as Santa has taken over "the Holidays," parties, champagne, the New York Apple, and Resolutions have taken over New Year's Eve.  But I remember when I was little, the animated cartoon was about an old man and a new baby. It was very important that the Old Year be respected and acknowledged, and celebrated. It was just as important to make ready for the New Year - the excitement of the new baby and all the possibilities.

In the past few years, since my family split, I have had the lesson reinforced that children are not "ours" - they don't belong to us, like possessions. They may be treated like household belongings by the court, but we really only get to borrow them for a short time before they move on with their own lives. Having my children with me is a privilege. Even when they drive me crazy. And watching this little baby sleep in her bucket, I had the weird idea that time... each New Year... is a lot like a small child. We can't hold on to the time. We can't set crazy expectations of what we will accomplish or create out of that time. And it doesn't help to wish we had MORE time - or that the child would stay little. But we CAN enjoy each moment and appreciate having the time we have. I like the idea of sharing our joy, experiences, creativity and new knowledge - rather than setting "resolutions" and goals that just leave us disappointed at the end of the year. It's not a competition.

So whatever "new baby" you may be welcoming this year, I hope you take a moment to realize what a gift it is - no matter how exhausted it makes you! ;-)

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I Like Dead Flies

"Why I Like Dead Flies" - that was the title of my application essay to Brown University.

When I was 8 years old I decided I wanted to be just like Indiana Jones when I grew up. (Except, a girl, of course). There was only one book available, with color pictures, about Egypt and that was from Time/Life books. It was enormous. I knew every photo by heart. I kept notebooks with diagrams of tomb layouts. I learned the basics of hieroglyphics. I dug up my grandmother's lawn. I obsessed.

That year, my mom took me to Washington DC to visit the Zoo and The Smithsonian. My heart almost stopped when I learned that the King Tut exhibit was visiting. The line wrapped twice around the Gallery. There was no way we could get in... my mom said, "You'll just have to wait and see it in Egypt."

So, I did.

I talked about Egypt and being an archaeologist so endlessly that I infected my father who also had a passion for history. He eventually gave in and, when a period of relative calm occurred in the middle east, he took the chance for an adventure of a lifetime. Or in my case, three adventures now, or maybe I've had three lifetimes? I was 12 that first time. And I will be forever grateful to my dad for taking the leap. The magic was still intact. When I visited a few years later with my college professor, so much had changed. And when I returned 20 years later, it was almost unrecognizable! Seriously, they had PAVED the Valley of the Kings (where Tut's tomb is) and made tourists ride in little trams (like they have at Disney in the parking lots). I don't think I know an expletive that could express my true feelings. Then there are the four lane highways, the smog and the trash... but this isn't really what I wanted to tell you about.

In 1986, I was in High School and applying to colleges. Actually, although I went to art schools every summer, I was only applying to Brown University for Egyptology. It was my destiny. My mother presented me with a book that had just come out called Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters. And she inscribed it for me:

And when I met Elizabeth Peters, she also inscribed it for me. :-)

And off to college I went with a love of Egypt and books and a new role model in the form of Amelia Peabody, the "indomitable Victorian Englishwoman" and "intrepid Egyptologist". Her "gorgeous, irascible archaeologist husband Radcliffe Emerson" and their "obnoxiously erudite son Ramses" set my standards for what I expected from my own future family. Weirdly enough, my own son, Alexander, is an awful lot like Ramses! (Ramses grows up to be a really great person, don't worry). And looking back, I can see why my own marriage was doomed - how could any ordinary man compare to Emerson?

At Brown, I got to meet Zahi Hawass, the Director of Antiquities in Egypt. If you have ever watched any of those Egypt specials on the History Chanel, they always interviewed Dr. Hawass.

 But I was also immersed in some very dry studies of ancient grammar. Too many languages that made no sense to me. History that went... backwards? (B.C.) Chronology, reigns of pharaohs, terminology, classes led by lifeless, nerdy grad students... OMG what am I doing here! I realized I wanted to dig! I wanted adventure! I wanted to draw!

I dropped out and went to NYC. (That's another story). But I also learned that Elizabeth Peters was really Barbara Mertz, a real-life female Egyptologist with a real PhD. She had written tons of scholarly type books about Egypt too, like Red Land, Black Land. And when my sister started her mystery book company, Sherlock and Co., and I started my murder-mystery rubber stamp company (Bartholomew's Ink) - we frequented the Malice Domestic Mystery Conventions. At Malice, I learned that this woman ALSO wrote the Barbara Michaels gothic mysteries that I loved!

That last book, A River In the Sky, takes place in Jerusalem. I read it while I was on my trip to the Middle East a few years ago.

One year, I carved a rubber stamp for Barbara of her logo - Isis with her wings outstretched holding a martini in one hand and a chocolate bar in the other. I wanted her to remember me as more than just another fan.

Time passed. I sold my stamp company to Stamp Francisco. We moved back to New England. I lost touch with the mystery world and had little time to read long books with no pictures after my kids were born. I stopped reading Kmt Magazine (Yes, there is a magazine for Egypt freaks... ahem... scholars).

Occasionally I wondered why I hadn't seen any new books by Barbara.

KMT magazine

My mom, bless her heart, still reads books with no pictures AND Kmt Magazine. She showed me the latest issue (Volume 24, Number 4) which explained that Barbara Mertz had died from Cancer in August this year. She was in her 80's and had an amazing adventure of a life.

KMT Magazine
 I am sorry that I never got to take a trip to Egypt with Barbara, but mostly I will miss Amelia Peabody. And Emerson. And Ramses. And all the other characters that were like family to me.

I realize that there is a message in here about life experiences all building on each other and how we never really know where they will lead us. I'm not a failure because I gave up on my archaeology dream and turned to books. Barbara pursued her dream to PhD level and STILL ended up with books. :-)

When I look back I see that SO much of my illustration work in those years after I left Brown was highly influenced by my passion for Egypt. Here are just two examples:

Above is a very bad scan of a  postcard. The original art was 18x24" - white and flesh colored pencil on black paper. It's a self-portrait of me and my bear, Longfellow. I still love that piece. I used it as my business card for ages.

The one below is a pencil drawing of canopic jars.

Hearing the news about Barbara Mertz' death is kind of like walking into a closet door that I was so used to walking past, that I had forgotten it existed... until I cracked my head against it. Now I can't resist poking through all the books and boxes and drawings and photographs that were stacked inside. It feels like someone else's life!

But I can't stop thinking what to do with these treasures that I've unearthed...?

Note: The Barbara Michaels series of books were the "spine-tingling" ghost-mystery sort of books. Oooo I love those! Barbara just sent me one final chill... I went to her website, MPM, to find a link for you, in case you want to know more. It said there that she died on "August 8". I got serious goose-flesh.... take a look at the inscription that my mom wrote in Lion in the Valley... yes, I first "met" Barbara on "August 8".
Creepy. ;-)

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Bauble Tree

It started as a "great idea" - as they often do... and turned into a major project! Now my eyes are starting to cross from staring at the screen and I realize I haven't eaten anything since... wow... it's been more than 7 hours! I think it is time to call it a day, post the new ebook, and go watch some "Vampire Diaries" to relax.

Over a week ago, I decided I wanted to create a new tangle, as a gift, and post it on here to wish you all a wonderful holiday. Seemed simple enough, right? So I created the new tangle, called Bauble, and then thought it needed a tangled Christmas Card to go with it. If this is sounding like the book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" - then you can see where this is going. Although no cookies were involved. Yet. Bonnie did leave some yummy looking cookies that will be my reward for finishing this!!

The image for the "card" grew... so I decided to take step-by-step photos of the decisions and process. I took some more photos as I added the shading... then Lilah (my little Art Director) said to do it over in color (!?) So, of course, I did. More photos. "Hmmm," I thought, "maybe you folks would be interested in seeing the steps involved?" So I laid it out in InDesign and made a pdf. And it turned out to be 35 pages long. Whoa. So I added tips and instructions and thoughts... and it kind of turned into a little book.

I asked my sister and Bonnie to take a look and say if it is OK to post. My sister has probably already gone to bed, and I don't want to wait until tomorrow, but Bonnie gave it the thumbs up.
Here is her "advance review":

I love it. It's a great tangling adventure and worth $8.50 for sure.  It's a great source of information on color, shading, and design and such a relief after looking at all the tiles posted for the class I took. It puts the fun back into tangling.  
- Bonnie, (My Main Minion)

That sounds like a thumbs up to me.

I've posted the new ebook, Inspiration Sketchbook #3 - The Bauble Tree on Etsy and on my Wazala shop. If you'd like to pay full price ($8.50), you can purchase it on Etsy.

But since I love you all and can't send every one of you hand knitted socks, I CAN give you a special code so you can download the ebook from for just $1.00 (until December 25, 2013) The special Holiday Super-Secret Code is: V7FVMBN547. Be sure to enter it into the right spot in the shopping cart when you check out or it won't work!

Update: This is the shopping cart screen (above). After you put the ebook into your cart, you need to put the discount code (V7FVMBN547) into the box that says "Discount Code" and then press "Apply". Your total will then show "1.00" Unless... you buy lots of other things while you are in my shop. ;-D

After you pay, you will receive an email receipt in your inbox from Wazala with the download link in the receipt.

Yes - the images in the ebook are of Christmas trees... or Holiday trees... but there is nothing religious about the book and it is actually about composition and shading and coloring and could be applied to any artwork you do. And any season of the year. Even NON-tangled art. Gasp.

I hope you enjoy it tremendously! And if you make something cool or it helps your art in some way, I'd love to know!

Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year - I hope it is wonder-filled. :-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Open Studios - Dec. 14 and 21, 2013

Time to step out of the bat-cave and open those studio doors up!

I hope you will be able to come and visit The BeeHive on December 14th or the 21st.

December 14th is the Warner Holiday Shopping Tour...
 There are lots of fun things going on around town on Saturday! At The BeeHive, we'll be decorating cookies and maybe some ornaments or something. Lilah will be in the studio and she'll probably want to teach you how to draw Lilah Beans if you let her. We will also have some great Zentangle for Kidz! Kitz available... I'll get those onto the Etsy site soon too. I've got all the Zentangle books and a whole bunch of new art and craft books and many older ones that are on sale.

I started trying to decorate a bit today. I hung two wreaths outside the windows. The shadow on the inside blinds was really pretty...

We'll be doing another Open Studio on Saturday, December 21st (from around 11-3... or 4...). This one should be more relaxed.... but who knows. We'll have some projects to play with... I'm thinking of the ArtGirlz multicultural snowmen. (Because I want to play with felt!) And Bonnie will make some cookies... so come and hang out. The Holidays are so crazy and exhausting and I hate shopping and crowds. So if you want a break from all that, come and play and we'll chat and laugh - FUN! :-)

The Spirited Beans

I knew it would happen sooner or later... Bonnie, my Main Minion and Studio Manager (also Chief Butt-kicker), is starting to truly understand my "brand".  Here's a bird's eye view of part of the progression...

Bonnie is mastering the process of how I like to mail out orders - ie: notes on the orders, little goodies in the envelope... I stress that MORE is always better when including goodies.

I realize that she has embraced this concept when I have to reorder stickers and tattoos a few weeks later.

I like hand-addressed envelopes.

I like to stamp a hand-carved Lilah Bean on the envelope.
No way.
Oh fine.

I like to stamp a hand-carved Lilah Bean on the envelope. AND she has to have pink cheeks and "tangled" hair.

I keep a pink Prismacolor and Sharpies near the shipping table just for this purpose.
Not going to happen.

We shall see... ;-D

from an email yesterday:
The Lilah beans had rosie cheeks, tangled hair, and mittens

PERFECT!!! :-)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This... to this... to this...

Yesterday, I read a blog post by Kris Carr (one of my female heros) about Manifesting Your Desires.
She had recently stumbled upon the book E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality by Pam Grout, at a conference.

Kris' summary of the book:
"As you know if you’ve read it, E-Squared is hilarious, easy to understand, and very compelling. The book basically demonstrates how your thoughts create your reality, and it includes nine simple experiments that prove it."

That intrigued me as I have been following Mike Dooley and his "thoughts become things" philosophy. I've been getting notes from the Universe for quite some time now.

She decided to test out one of the first principles in the book where you tell the Universe (or whatever you believe in) that you want a sign and then it manifests in a day or two. She asked for a green juice. I manifested the E-Squared book.

Well, no, actually I ordered it from Amazon Prime and it just got here this afternoon. (huh... that was less than 24-hours...).
I haven't done my real manifesting test yet.

On with the story...
I tripped over the Amazon box when I got home this evening and sat at my computer to check emails as I was opening it. I read today's email from The Universe and at the bottom was this note:

"Do you like to hike, Sandy? Are you in good shape? We have an optional trek up to Huayna Picchu, 2 hours roundtrip, that looks WAY DOWN on Machu Picchu!!! This hike might change your life!
See you at the TOP!!!!"

Yes, I like to hike. (And I like drinking piƱa coladas in the rain...). I could be in much better shape, but I'm better than I was a year ago... and YES! I HAVE been thinking I really need to go to Machu Picchu. I clicked through the link and my jaw was dropping onto my keyboard by the bottom of the article. Sure, it's crazy expensive... yes, it's the same month as TangleU (next April) - but it's at the beginning of the month, TangleU is at the end. It IS all-inclusive.... with amazing people... The Universe has been telling me I need to reach higher.... can't get much higher than Machu Picchu (without an oxygen tank)... I've wanted to go since I was a little kid... I haven't been on a real adventure since the Middle-East trip a few years ago...

Whoa! Manifesting is NOT about dueling it out in your head!!

This is a lot bigger than a green juice, but I'm putting it out there to the Universe....

Hey Universe, if you are listening, I'm ready to step up my game. I want to go on this amazing adventure to Machu Picchu with Mike Dooley and these other cool people. What do you say?

I even "bolded" it so the Universe knows I mean business.
And now, I guess we wait?

While we are waiting... I'd love to know what kinds of things you all would like to "manifest"? And not just what you'd love if it just magically "appeared" in front of you, but what would be worth it to stretch a bit farther, or reach higher? You know, take the risk of pulling a muscle...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Creative Lineage

In my last post, Steal Like an Artist, I mentioned some of the amazing new ideas that I am learning and processing from reading Austin Kleon's book. Today I really understood what he means about creating your own (artistic) family tree. Building your collection of influences and inspirations that become your new artistic genetic mashup for your future work.

"Seeing yourself as part of a creative lineage will help you feel less alone as you start making your own stuff."

And as we talked about before, it's more than just imitating the style of the work you love, it's understanding WHY it looks that way and WHO the artist is behind it and WHAT inspires THEM...

My newest hero-obsession-artist-role model is Oliver Jeffers. I own a few books of his already since I have been obsessed with childrens books since I was a kid and still collect them and have lots of signed copies... I had found his Hueys book last year and was attracted to it because of the Lilah Bean feel of the characters. But today, a few hours ago... I was reading through my email - quickly - and saw a post from SwissMiss (one of my favorite design blogs) featuring a cool map by Oliver Jeffers. As I said... that was a few hours ago! I explored his website, blog... videos... this guy is amazing! His sense of humor, the way he works, his art, his studio, his sketchbooks.... My newest hero-obsession-artist-role model is Oliver Jeffers.

He has two videos about himself on Vimeo, one from a few years ago and a more recent one, they are both wonderful and the new one is even funnier. Here's the one from 2010, and here is the one from 2013.The videos are a lot like his books (and he has great trailer video FOR the books too!). The funny little details... notice in the second video when he is "hunting" his sandwich for lunch? At the end of the video, he takes a bight of the sandwich, and the spear is still in it! Yes, I think that is hysterical!! :-)

When Oliver talks about all the materials he works with and where he keeps the stories inside himself... there's just no limit to what he is capable of. When he is shuffling through his flat files and notebooks I wanted to pause the film and take a closer look. I love looking at the behind the scenes sketches. But I have flat files and sketchbooks just like those - and that made me feel really good too. Like finding a kindred spirit. I've added Oliver Jeffers to my artistic family tree! His Oliver Jeffers Amazon Author Page has a list of all his books if you are interested.

And here is a photo of my own collection of sketches and notes shot just now on my hotel room floor. This represents about 1/1000th of all my notes and sketches!! :-)

Today is my last day of my oh-my-god-I-need-to-get-away Retreat. I should be doing more drawings for the Fashionista book, or taking a walk, or sleeping... but the internet has distracted me once again! And I felt compelled to distract you as well to share this cool insight. But, I will save you hours of time by providing direct links to all the good stuff! Very considerate, eh?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Steal Like an Artist, A Strange Sort of Review

In the past few months, one of my blog readers, Littleviews, has repeatedly (here) suggested (and here) that I read the book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. I ordered it and it arrived just as I was running away last week.

The little black cover appealed to me immensely, and I discovered it to be the perfect book! Few words, lots of graphics, meaty substance... yes, I can read this. I found myself nodding emphatically and just now, I read through it again, with a pink pen in my hand. I underlined and drew stars and nodded some more.

One of the... events... that happened this spring that I have alluded to, but did not feel I could openly write about on this blog... well, that event or incident has been weighing on my mind lately. Maybe because I am hiding and thinking a lot this week. Maybe because I am trying to clean out some of those crappy thoughts that just make me stamp my feet, yell "it's not fair!" and eat chocolate. And maybe because I am trying to be braver and more fearless and face some of this head on. Be gone evil one!

After reading Steal Like an Artist, this incident kept poking at my thoughts. Also, the incident that happened with artist Lisa Congdon's Nordic animals being ripped off... she is one of Lilla Rogers' artists, so that came up in the class I was taking with her. When Lilla was asked how artists can stand up for themselves after this happens, she said we should use social media - and that worked really well for Lisa!

What was my "incident"?
I buy a gajillion books on all kinds of subjects and I don't care if it has "doodling" in the title, I still want it. So I was really excited to sit down and read "Zen Doodling" by Carolyn Scrace.

This book is really nice with lots of gorgeous art and I was happily flipping through it when I suddenly felt like someone had punched me in the gut! Stuff started looking... familiar.

Just so you don't think I am paranoid, here are a few of the things I noticed almost right away...

If you are interested, you can see a pdf of all the comparisons HERE. I made the pdf to show to my publisher and lawyer. If you enjoy getting indignant, ;-), or you think I may be a looney, feel free to take a look.

I know that it is to be expected that there is going to be some overlap with all the Zentangle books coming out all of a sudden. But many of the topics that I cover in my books... like... mind-mapping, drawing houses in a fan shape, tangled snowflakes, printmaking with foam plates, tangling on rocks, using Klimt as inspiration for drawing womens' faces (seriously!!!?)... these are NOT common to Zentangle or even Zendoodling. Or Doodling.

Whether or not you agree that there are striking similarities between the works, the incident has been "stuck in my craw!" for many months. And, no, there isn't a durn thing that can be done about it. BUT, if you still want to order the book, and as I said, it's a nice book, and cheap too, please click through the link above because that way, I will earn a few cents on the Amazon affiliate commission. (Yeah, just a little bit of sarcastic cynicism there, but at least it is sincere!)

In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon says, "there's only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that's not worth stealing." So... I'm flattered to be in the first category. In his Ted Talk, Austin talks about the creative lineage of ideas and how ideas can be traced back and back with artists being influenced by one another. But each one incorporates all their different passions and influences and "thefts" to create an authentic retelling. For example, I can tell you how I came up with the idea of putting houses in a circle, based on a failed drawing of fan blades and the influence of my home in Guam. In order to properly "steal" from me, Carolyn should have incorporated her own influences and built on my idea so her work was authentically hers. It feels to me like she was using my books almost like a checklist of what she had to put in her book... but without the reasons, inspirations or history.

Austin Kleon says, "Don't just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style." In the example of the houses in a circle (my "Flores de Casa") - good god, Carolyn did a beautiful job of drawing houses!! But she misses the point. First of all, that is totally NOT a "doodle" - that's "art"!! And just by putting it there, doesn't mean her reader will be able to draw it. It's kind of... showing off. The thinking behind the style in my books is to empower the reader to try stuff and then create their own work. I give enough steps to show how to get started and a finished piece that doesn't intimidate. And in many cases the reader will say, "cool idea, but I can do it better." YES! That is what I want.

Alright, that's enough. My temper has calmed quite a bit over the past few months and I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and trying to process it using things I have learned in recent classes, including the relationship class! That was actually the most helpful... I looked out at the ocean and thought "what do I want to happen?" No. I don't want to go to court. I don't need the book pulled. I don't need a huge apology check (although I wouldn't turn it away!) And I've learned enough about the publishing world to know that some of this may not have been her own fault... but still, she has a ton of books published, she should know better. But if all those reasons aren't what's bugging me, then what?! Relationship class analysis: I wanted MY publisher to stick up for me. I wanted to know that my work and me, as an artist/author, had value to my publisher. That I was worth defending as a person if not a commercial item. And why...? Because... Carolyn Scrace hurt my feelings. She automatically gave Klimt credit (because I did), and acknowledged him as the influence for that section of the book... but she didn't think I had enough value to deserve credit for the parts of her book that I influenced.

It all boils down to the fact that I AM an idea person. The greatest compliment in the world and my ultimate purpose in life is to know that I had a positive impact on someone.

The greatest insult is to influence someone so profoundly that they incorporate your ideas into a mass market book - but they are too embarrassed to acknowledge that influence.

 And the ultimate humiliation, for me, will be the person who reads her book first, then mine... and assumes that I STOLE from her.

So - that's it. That's all of it. I put it all out there for you and I'm not going to hold any of it in my head anymore. Except for that last bit about being judged unfairly... I can honestly say that I no longer care about that book.

What I DO care about is that I am in a stuck place with my feelings about Zentangle in general and this book about it that I have been working on and restarting for FOUR YEARS! Once again, Steal Like an Artist gave me some interesting insight on it.

"Write the kind of story you like best - write the story you want to read."

Ah-ha! Of course... that's why I enjoyed writing the other books!

"The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life." - Jessica Hische

So... ballpoint pen doodles?

No, seriously. I've spent a few days sitting in a hotel room with a view of the ocean, sorting through a decade's worth of idea notebooks and piles of papers and scraps... I made lists and sketches and discovered a shocking theme...

I love books!

Who knew, right? I sent an email to Bonnie (my Main Minion) listing all the book ideas I had found on those scraps. There were way more than ten. Everything from murals, to art journals, to kids' books... and that's just from the scraps I brought WITH me. I have twice as much that I left in piles at home in my studio. There were great ideas for actual projects and things to build, but overall, I seem to think in books. I'm still startled by that. When I procrastinate... I come up with book ideas... and think up ideas of paintings and projects that I would like to... put into a book.

I will have to read Steal Like an Artist a third time because the rest of the book gives more practical tips on how to take action on these thoughts. I was relieved to see that I already DO some of the things, I just didn't know WHY.

And since I have "stolen" so many ideas from Austin Kleon for this blog post and I want to thank him for saving me the therapy time and expense... I'd like to pay him back by encouraging every one of you to get his book!!! (He has a new one coming out in March 2014 too.) It's inexpensive and will make a great gift for any artists and non-artists you know - and will fit in a stocking. I also encourage you to buy my books ;-) and to remember to show your support of all authors and artists by not only buying their books, but also by taking the time to leave positive reviews on online shopping sites. It can be very tempting to be snarky, and can even feel good for a minute, but ultimately it does more damage. So instead of leaving mean comments on the products/books you dislike, try only leaving good comments on things you love.

One last quote from the book:
"The best way to vanquish your enemies on the internet? Ignore them.
The best way to make friends on the Internet? Say nice things about them."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Just in time for the holidays (stocking stuffers?) - I finally listed my new tattoos!
There are three sets of temporary tattoos, including the Gingerbread Set, the Grumpy Snail Set, the Tangle Set, and the Lilah Bean Set. Click the links to see details, sizes, prices, etc.

Here's some inside info on the Lilah Bean temporary tattoos.

There are two of each Lilah Bean design, and one of the Lilah Bean Mushroom stack.

That one can be cut apart and recombined into a super tall stack or used to create a tattoo bracelet.

Or... the Lilah Beans can be cut and used on their own on fingers, toes, ear lobes...

Wouldn't you love to see them hanging out of a nose or peeking out of a collar?
Oh... is that just me?
Well, they are known to be a little mischievous, so be careful where you put them.
Get them HERE on Etsy or HERE on Wazala.
I am planning to do more designs, so please let me know what you think - and any preferences you have.
Bonnie wants more Zentangle-ish and "pretty" designs.
I like the kooky stuff.
And Lilah, well, she wants more Lilah Beans!

What do you like?

Monday, November 11, 2013

5 Things That I Love on the Marginal Way

#1 - Rocks

My absolute favorite thing about this stretch of the coast is the rocks. The colors, sizes, shapes...  A beach like this can actually bring on a panic attack from sheer distraction and overwhelm. "Oooo shiny!" For me is also "oooo rocks!" I sit on a boulder and stare at all the colors and I want to start painting with watercolors again. I have a whole bunch of photos from over the years that I have been "saving" that are all unusual shapes and textures that would be a challenge to paint.

Just realized I mean that in both senses of the word... I would love to do paintings OF the rocks and paintings ON the rocks. (Side note: one of my first biz ventures as a kid was a rock painting gig.)

#2 - Piles of rocks

The piles say, "Yes, I am still here. Maybe not next week, but for now, I am here."

I love that last picture, looks like a momma and baby rock pile.

#3 - This old house

Years ago, when it was actually for sale, I found the listing and it said, "3.5 million, needs work." 
Most houses don't have vines climbing OUT the windows. 
It's no longer for sale, but I have since learned a few more details... like the dining room can seat 20. And the yearly taxes are more than the down payment was on my current home. Still, I walk past it and say "hi" and it makes my heart beat really fast. I am a sucker for the abandoned and the ancient and I have a super-power that lets me see the potential... in my heart, and in my imagination, this place is an amazing art retreat center with studios and a chef... It has a huge lawn and what about that VIEW?! All it needs is someone with loads of cash and incredible faith in me. ;-)

#4 - The endless expanse of water

... and sky. For someone like me who is so overwhelmed by the everyday, ordinary input that most people don't even notice... there is something incredibly soothing about a blank canvas and open vistas. "Where the sidewalk ends" and all that. I can sit and look and the thoughts kind of stop... for a bit. At the very least, I can't remember what seemed so important and crazy that it drove me here in the first place.

#5 - This old tree 

It hangs out over the rocks, pummeled by weather and waves.. and it looks like a creature from a Jim Henson movie. A dragon, maybe?

This is my favorite nook to sit in and I am sitting here now, composing blog posts and watching the sun go down. It's getting really cold and too dark to take photographs. I've got a bit of a hike to get back to my room before it gets really dark and the people have disappeared on the path. It's a little creepy, but magical too.

I've been posting my thoughts, and culinary adventures, on my Facebook page since it is more immediate and random. I've spent the past few days sleeping and binging... not really... but I have allowed myself to wallow in the sadness, discouragement, and exhaustion that I have been avoiding for months now. I slept ridiculously late, ate all the foods I have avoided all year, spent too much time on the internet and indulged in self-pity. And I would have gone to see about 10 movies, but the theatre nearby CLOSED! The nerve! (More self-pity, see?) And given enough time (this doesn't work if you only have two or three days!) not only does my skin break out, the headaches slam me, the insomnia attacks, queasiness... all that good stuff... but what happens? Yep. I get bored. I start feeling the urge to clean and organize (inside my head!) I start making lists... clean up the calendar... sort the little scraps of paper... maybe even start the next book! 

I'm at the bored and queasy stage. 
I am remembering WHY I changed my eating habits. 
I rearranged the tiny room and the chamber maid will probably freak out... if I ever take the "Do Not Disturb" sign off my door. ;-)
And I have a PILE of really good ideas... literally falling off the table...
I dragged the outdoor patio table in and cleaned it (yuck!!?) so I could spread out even more... 
"I wonder if I could get this done before Christmas?"
"What kind of packaging...?"
"Would someone take this class...?"
"Is it possible to completely invert my nocturnal schedule and habits?"
"Is there a new Vampire Diaries on Hulu?"
Deep thoughts, eh?
Now, I feel the urge to start purging my head... I apologize in advance! ;-)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Part Two: Zip Lines and "Summer Luvin'..."

Summary of the last post: climb up mountain, jump on zip line, new experiences, whooo-hooo!, crash into trees, pick pine needles out of teeth, climb up new mountain. Repeat.

I promised to let you know how the date turned out...

If you follow the zip-line analogy... here's my journal entry from last night:

Well. Now I know what THAT feels like.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Zip Lines and "Summer Luvin'..."

As I mentioned in my last post, there are so many things that I write about, but then am not sure if I should post them. Since I am feeling a teeny bit more confident today than I did yesterday, I will take a little leap and post this thought I started back in September when I was in Santa Fe and then continued in Providence... then shelved.

In Santa Fe (September):

There are groups of men EVERYWHERE here in Santa Fe. In the restaurants, bars, super markets, in packs in the park and standing around in parking lots. It's almost creepy. In my real life, I rarely come into contact with a "man" never mind a group of them. And they are usually in suits, somewhere near an office. My world is filled with women. Which is fine. But I am remembering that... before... my real friends were always men. I like talking to women and I am finding it easier to form bonds and find common ground now. But when I checked into the hotel here, I found it so easy to strike up a conversation with Abel, the desk clerk. I know his family is in Jordan ("Oh my gosh, I was in Jordan a few years ago! How come you haven't gone home to visit? It's such an incredible place...?) He hasn't returned because his family wouldn't approve of his tattooed arms and the trip is incredibly long. Very true! It wasn't until I was dragging my bags up the stairs that I realized he had been seriously flirting with me: "I will make you dinner. I'm an excellent cook!" Mmm-hmm. That was his response when I asked where I could find something to eat at 10:00pm on a Wed. night.

It had been about 25 years since I had a proper date. I guess I wouldn't recognize flirting if it knocked me in the head... which it did. This summer. Back to that in a minute. First I want to talk about zip lines.

Just after Santa Fe:

The only zip lines I have been on in real life are the one's in people's back yards. Those are fun, but safe. The big scary ones that start up really high in the air and end in the trees? Those are the ones I am thinking about. I realized that I approach every one of my big experiences as if it were a zip line adventure. This year alone... teaching at TangleU, Zentangle Workshops, retreats, Art Camp on Mayhew Island, and now, this Santa Fe retreat...  I work really hard preparing, climbing the mountain, with travel prep, class prep, and blogging. I get to the top, breathing hard and nervous/excited. Grab onto the handlebars and launch myself into the void. The excitement and terror are equally intoxicating. I meet amazing people, learn incredible things - I keep my eyes wide open as I scream my way down the mountain!

And then... smash into the trees! I barely have time to pick the pine needles out of my teeth before I am climbing up another mountain.

Despite the fact that I love meeting people and learning things... the crash ALWAYS comes at the end. When I return from camps or classes, I feel so exhausted and depleted and... lonely... that I could cry for days. It doesn't really make sense, and it never stops me from going for another ride. But I think the excitement and the camaraderie  - and the intensity in just a few days or weeks - makes the contrast at home so much more severe (thus the trees whacking me in the face). As a severe Introvert - I don't really mind being "alone" - I crave it - but I don't have a reliable way to recharge my batteries or even a helmet to wear while flying down the mountains!

If you are still reading, we can go back to the flirting part...

In Providence (October):

I just watched "Grease" on Netflix while eating take-out sushi and drawing icons for homework. This movie came out when I was in 5th grade and the boy that made my heart thump was named "Danny". We girls would sit on the playground wall outside Pine Street School and watch Danny and his friends do daring tricks on the stair railings. Ah, love. I just couldn't stand the other girls singing - at me - "look at me I'm Sandra Dee. Lowsy with virgiiiiiin-iteeeee!" Seriously? I was 10! Girls are so cruel. I loved that movie but I was always pissed at Sandy for just tossing it in and changing herself completely just so Danny would like her. He didn't deserve her. He was such a wimp! He would never stand up to his buds and defend Sandy. His image was more important than how he felt about her.

But I do like the beginning where they are singing about their summer romances... "Summer lovin' had me a bla -ast. Summer lovin' happened so fa-ast...!" And it got me thinking about my own summer romance...

A guy walks into a studio... yes, the beginning of a classic joke? But very few guys ever walk into my studio! I had a class going on and didn't pay much attention to him until he asked us some questions and we began to tease him mercilessly. He didn't leave. He kept asking for more! He did give us some great ideas on how to attract more men to the Open Studios too - serve beer and wings and keep a broken lawn mower out front - a sure thing. We all missed him as soon as he had left. :-)

A few weeks later I received an email asking me if I'd have dinner with him. Honestly, it scared the bee-jeezus out of me. No one has asked me out in 25 years! And there was some really yicky stuff going on right then in my life (again, I can't write about it). So I finally responded to him and said "my life is a whack-a-mole game and I can't risk endangering anyone else".

That's original, right? Strangely, that didn't scare him off. He said he was ex-Navy and nothing scared him. :-) Sweet. (I think he lied, because, as it turned out, I scared him). Still, in the next few weeks, we had a TON of fun! Pig roasts, road trips, motor-boating in the dark under the stars, meteor showers, drinks in bars, pubs, and that pig roast... I drank more in those three weeks than in my entire life! It was a mini teenage rebellion (I've been putting mine off for too long!) I had climbed yet another mountain, and flung myself into the void on yet another zip-line. But this time, I had an adventure-companion. And he was sweet and funny and amazingly creative. He was a grown-up gifted-kid, just like me. And my kids liked him. And I liked his kids.

Yes, you noticed the past-tense, right? Just as I realized I was about to go crashing into the inevitable trees at the end of the zip-line, I looked over and he was just... gone.

So it's been a few months and as it is with all my exhilarating experiences, most of the ache fades and I remember the great stuff. Now I am thinking of the whole adventure as a really tough assignment for one of my classes (the relationship one). Whatever the reason for it ending - and I have plenty of choices - I learned an awful lot about myself. I may not have a clue what I want to achieve in life, but I have a really good image of what I want in a partner-soul mate: humor, imagination, creativity, respect, admiration, self-respect, loyalty, friendship, love, and most importantly - I want to be not only ON his Priority List, I want to be in the top 5.

In summary... the zip-line experience (in art and love!):
There's the anticipation, the terror the first day, falling in love with the other "characters", making new friends, learning new things about myself and other people, realizing some of my assumptions were wrong, experiencing some disappointments, discovering new strengths and talents, realizing the end is here, the wrenching pain of returning to "real" life, the terrible loneliness, the fabulous memories... then planning to do it all again!

Note: I have an update on the summer romance, but I may wait a little to say anything... ;-)

Friday, November 1, 2013

When you care enough... to not say anything.

I disappeared. And I plan to do it again really soon.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that usually means that there's a lot happening... that I can't blog about. Well - I DO blog it - but only in my head. I write incredibly long, very thoughtful posts. ;-) Sometimes, there are even pictures or drawings to go with them. Someday, I will be THAT kind of person who is brave enough to say what she thinks and not give a flying fig newton what anyone else thinks. (Oooo... fig newton.... See? I still care.)

I would like to tell you about some interesting things I learned about myself - and other people - this summer. And what I have learned from all these classes I took this year. Can you believe it is November!? At the beginning of this year, I decided that I needed to go back to school. I researched online options for MFAs - nothing excited me. So I put together my own program with Surface Design, Illustration, Mermaids, Fairies, Inktense pencils, writing, nutrition, and relationships... I'm missing a few in there I think? But you get the idea. And every thing finishes up next week. I made it. Almost.  I did what I set out to do. Now I have to process it all. Then figure out how to show you what I learned.

Back to flying fig newtons...

Art is hard. What I do may not seem like a "real" job to some people, but it can be even harder since there is no easy path to follow. There are stereotypes hitting you from one direction and the economy from another (Art may be the first thing cut when times get difficult, you can't eat a painting. But Art is the only thing that remains when a civilization disappears). And then there are the internal debates - trying to please the client, altering your style and values to fit the demand, fear of failure. And job insecurity...

It's easy to forget our personal goals too. I found myself judging my accomplishments and thinking "I haven't published any real books this year - what have I been doing with my time?!" I had to list the places I had taught and the ebook and the trading cards... and then I remembered that my goal had been to LEARN this year! And not everything I learned this year came from a class - but I definitely gained knowledge!

I've been pushing myself and trying on different hats - some got flung across the room - and decided I don't like hats... and agonizing over assignments and people and places and things. And what I have come back to is that I suck at all that stuff. But when I slurp up everything I see and then percolate and then just toss it up in the air - I am happy.

Example: Planning an excursion out "there" with my kids is hell. Walking in the dark, holding hands with my daughter... dumping all the Halloween candy on the floor, picking the best of the best (with a glass of milk) and snuggling while watching E.T. - that is bliss.

Example #2: Sketching and sketching and researching and scanning and wracking my head to come up with a clever solution to an illustration homework assignment... Hell. I remember why I quit.
Walking around the entire outside of my son's High School desperately searching for an unlocked door... in the dark. Finally sneaking in as a student ran out... then slipping into the auditorium just as a bunch of red-dressed flapper girls take the stage... ah? Ah. Just stop, Sandy. You don't need to be anywhere else. Yes, Alex, I am happy to wait another half hour while you rehearse... besides, I see something that I would LOVE to draw...

Anything Goes
 PS - Yeh - THAT makes me happy. :-)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Irresponsible, procrastination... Ah, Bliss!

What I did today...
Slept obscenely late, in a big fluffy bed. 
Did not shower. 
Did not check emails. 
I DID get dressed. 
Went outside.  
Soaked in the sunshine and the architecture and the noise. 
Walked over to the big-ass Mall.
Walked every single floor of the mall. 

Visited Papyrus, Crate and Barrel, and lots of other shops I don't have in NH and slurped up the ideas and colors. 

Finally ate breakfast at 1:30pm. 

People watched. 
Saw GRAVITY at the iMax theater... In 3-D! ... OMG! (Really puts my own "bad day"s into perspective). (Thanks Dad for recommending it).
It made me miss my daughter. 
Took sushi back for dinner. 
Watched 13 GOING ON 30 on my laptop. 
Now, I need to start on my homework. 
But I have had a lovely day!


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