Sunday, October 13, 2013

Meeting the Nutcracker Prince

Early this past Monday morning, our class with Lilla Rogers was given a brief to begin working on.  It was concise, stipulating that we were to study and sketch Winter Holiday ornaments and candy, in order to create a Greeting Card later in the week.  
My little Santa Belles started chingling in the background, 
and within an hour, I had gathered my inspiration board to work from.

Inexplicably, instead of the Reindeer and Snowmen and Candy Canes I had expected, my board was filled with Nutcracker Ornaments and Ribbon Candy.  Neither of which I have EVER had anything to do with at Christmas.  What the heck? 

Grumbling at what I believed to be wasted time, I began sketching, drawing the ferocious teeth that every operational nutcracker automatically has. 
How would he crack those nuts, otherwise?

And then, without volition or conscious reason, I went back and erased those teeth and drew real lips, with a reserved but sweet smile.  The eyes became kind and open, instead of ferocious, and the contour of his face became less of a caricature and more of a man.  I was falling softly in love with this Sweet Prince, and I didn't even know who he was.

Image courtesy of
I was remembering that about 15 years ago, Husband and I went with friends to a presentation by the Atlanta Ballet of The Nutcracker.  Halfway through, the men were glassy eyed, and I was struggling to understand the wordless ballet.  It was beautiful, but I had never read the Nutcracker story, wasn't raised with it, so I didn't know what was going on.  I felt bad about that, since this was obviously a beloved cultural tradition.

Enchanted by the ballerinas "on point", and the graceful strength of the men, I missed the whole story line and was sleepily glad when the final curtain fell.

Image courtesy of

So, as I drew and amended my Nutcracker, I decided that after I had finished this brief, I would go and find out what the story was behind this beloved symbol of Christmas that had 
taken command of my easel.  But first, it was more important to finish the assignment 
than to understand the story - at least to my way of thinking.

I kept working, unconsciously adding candy sketches, cedar trees, and a snowstorm.  Again and again, I edited out the candy and snow flurries - too busy, too busy - and they kept creeping back in like little mice.  The background kept on being black, when I wanted it to be Christmas Red.  As the deadline loomed, I sat back in my chair, arms crossed, and studied my results.  A drawing I was no longer in control of...somehow, my Nutcracker Prince had softly but firmly steered my artwork to what HE wanted it to be, and I knew it.  
I turned off the lights, and went to bed.

The first thing I did this morning was to search the Internet for 
"What was the story behind The Nutcracker Ballet"?

And there it was.  The girl falling asleep with her Nutcracker Christmas gift wrapped in her arms.  The dream battle with the evil forces, and the girl's decisive throw to kill the evil Mouse King.  An enchanted forest, the candy kingdom, and the snow storm - all introduced by this gentle Prince, who had taken over my drawing.  
This all took place in the deep of the night, of course, so the background had to be black.

I won't question  how that happened, or try to reason through it.  I would rather accept the sparkling enchantment that came alive in my studio for a few days, 
the traces of which linger still.  

Hello, Sweet Nutcracker Prince.  It is lovely to meet you, and more than a little mysterious that you took charge of my drawing, over and over.  You wore me out.

I know you now, and I can't wait to meet you under the Tree, 
or perched on the corner of my desk again.  
This time, I won't fight you so hard, and will get a lot more done with that extra time.

And now, I wish you Good Night - I am off to dream of cedar trees and snowstorms,
with Tchaikovsky's Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies wafting through the cool night air.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Back To School - With A New Tool Box!

Wow.  I can't believe it is time to Go Back To School already.

Monday morning at about 5:00 AM my time, Lilla Rogers, working in concert with Beth Kempton of Do What You Love for Life, will post the first mini brief in the classroom, and it will be Game On for five very intense weeks.

Just like the class that took place in June and July, the roster of students is as impressive as it is, well, intimidating - artists from all over the world will be slinging paint and brandishing Wacom Pens at all hours of the day and night as we race the deadline to submit our assignments every Sunday at 5:00 PM.  A few hours to breathe, then 
it starts all over again on Monday morning at 5:00.

It is utterly Exhilarating,
 and a Powerful Blooming Time
 for every single student in this class.

I have new tools to use in this segment: for starters, a new Wacom Intuos4 wireless pen tablet that I am besotted with. 


And a new understanding of Adobe Illustrator CS5,

and a subscription to to answer any questions I might have at any hour of the day (or night) about how to do something in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Because Lilla and Beth are all about business -the name of the course is Make Art That Sells after all - I also have a brand new website :

and a start on building my profile on the new 
Moyo Directory of Surface and Pattern designers:

Hard to believe how much I had NOT done to market myself before taking this class, and I have to say I've still not submitted to Art Directors, because I want all those websites finished before I do...what if they were to take a peek and say,
 "Well.  She simply doesn't have her act together.  Next, please."

The tools that I gained from the first segment in June/July would fill several tool boxes and are almost overwhelming - Lilla Rogers and Beth Kempton have packed these classes so full  that I'm still trying to absorb and put it all to use...and now, a new class begins!

Wowzer.  Time to go Get Cracking.
With my New Tool Box!!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Aha Moment in Skagway, Alaska

At precisely 10:47 AM on a misty gray morning in Skagway, Alaska, I had an enormous
 Aha! Moment - triggered by this fabric pattern:

I'm not 100 percent sure who the artist is that drew this happy group, but the palette and line work makes me think it is Helen Dardik -I apologize if it isn't, and would love to hear from anyone out there who does know. 

Now, this is a little complex, so bear with me here.

Skagway is nestled in a cove at the end of the Lynn Canal, off Chilkoot Inlet, with towering emerald green mountains draped around it - the gate keepers to the Klondike Gold Fields.   A pretty town, it is frothing with gorgeous blooms that drink in the cool, moist air.

We arrived by water, like most visitors do, and were given the day to explore. 
As we strolled the downtown area, I spied a quilt shop sign down a side street.
I'm not a quilter, but felt compelled to turn down the street to investigate.  After all, 
it takes art to make quilting fabric, and I was missing that kind of thing.  

Never mind that we were seeing jaw dropping art sliding past our ship every minute of every hour, I was craving the human-rendered connection to those miraculous vistas; patterns, color charts, and Photoshop in use by humans to capture the power of nature.

The magic stuff, you know?

Struggling through the crowds on the boardwalk that resulted from about 7,000 people being poured out of the cruise ships in the harbor, I made my way to the little doorway.

It looked like a good portion of those people were packed into this one tiny shop, the 

Turning sideways, I eased into the foyer and wriggled my way over to the left wall, where cut pieces were neatly folded into bundles with belly bands, stacked from floor to ceiling.  
Photo by The Rushin Tailor's Quilt Shop in Skagway, Alaska
  Something from Week 1 of  Lilla Rogers' Make Art That Sells  class tugged at my brain.

As I hung there in a space of my own, zooming up and down the corridors of my mind, chasing that tantalizing clue, a little girl eased up beside me and stroked the fabric bundles in the basket thoughtfully.  She already had a piece held carefully in her hand, and she spoke to her father, who was squeezed in behind her.  "I like this one, too...".  I looked around me and saw the same thing going on all over the shop.  Men, women, and children were carefully studying and comparing the thousands of bundles packed into every available nook and cranny, and their faces held a quiet pleasure I had seen nowhere else on this trip.  

I felt like I had walked into a chapel. 

I picked up the bundle of Llama fabric and suddenly, the Lilla Lesson came into sharp focus, running like Surround Sound in my head.  Every single item in the shop was the result of someone's artwork.   An Art Director had bought or licensed the art to use on fabric.  This fabric.  Suddenly, I wasn't just looking at a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes anymore, 
I was DISSECTING the designs, automatically!

See?  Here is one of the main characters from that fabric - a Placement Graphic:

Notice the eye contact, and the sweet, open face that says, "I like myself, and I like you. "

It is part of this fabric design, but it could also be pulled out and used by itself on a child's back pack, wall decal, pencil case, etc.

See these mountains?  See how they overlap and create a whole new motif to look at?  That little overlap area could readily be pulled out and made into a whole new design for a coordinating fabric, or a stand-alone design.

And this little guy could be lifted right out and centered on a child's T shirt - throw on a pair of purple pants, and you have a cutie-patootie outfit!

See what I mean?  Dissected. So many motifs in that one pattern, in yummy colors, that could be pulled out and used in clothing, children's tableware, bedding, wall art and decals.  That is what Lilla kept pounding into our lessons - give the Art Director who is looking at your work some Bang For their Buck.  Give them a lot in every design. 

I wasn't able to see the promise in these individual icons, until my Aha Moment - during the six week course, submissions by my classmates looked like random collections of artfully drawn and colored shapes, pasted onto the requisite 8 x 10 file.  I couldn't see the "X Factor" in many of the ones she selected to review, until 10:47 AM, Skagway time.  I got it!  

Good.  This isn't going to be easy, so I'm off to practice.  
A lot.

Thank you for visiting with me!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lilla Rogers and A Snail Tale

This past week in Lilla Rogers' online course, Make Art That Sells, Lilla scheduled children's book illustration as the lesson.  Bright and early on Monday morning, she gave us a subject to warm up on:


Obviously, if you've been given a teaser regarding an upcoming Children's Book Brief with a snail as the central character, you are going to hit the internet, 
looking for snail images and expressions.  

That is what children do - they look at body language and expressions, right?  

What I found at first was enchanting and then...ever more disquieting.

Snails kiss. 

They are curious about things.

They will look directly at you, apparently with all four eyes.

All of these wonderful images and thousands more are on the internet, and when I tried to quickly find them again to pay credit to the photographers, I did not have much luck.  I'm sorry about that, because I cannot imagine the work and expertise it took to have these intriguing characters sit for their portraits.

As I studied these faces and postures, I was continuously thrilled with how very human snails look - and took pains to create Happy Snails, Chipper Snails, Upbeat and 
Ready For The World Snails. 

 I was cruising.

                                 I had perky Bookworm snails,

                Wise old snails who used their shells as a recliner. 

And Madcap snails who loved hats.

At 5:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, Lilla posted the full Brief.

We were to illustrate the Hans Christian Andersen tale of The Snail and The Rose Tree.
If you've never read it (and I hadn't) it is a moody story of a snail who has no interaction with the World as we know it; who spits at the World, stomping off repeatedly for long ruminative periods to his snail den beneath The Rose Tree.

For whom he has nothing but disdain.

I was speechless.
Well, almost.  I decried the subject matter to Lilla, then stomped off to ruminate on my own.
Whilst ruminating, I re-read the teaser............which included a suggestion to practice
lettering the words: The Snail and The Rose Tree.


So, there you have it. Never, ever, sail off to create the world unless you know which world
 in the Universe you are to create.

Thankfully, Lilla allowed us to interpret the story in any fashion we chose.
She already knew we were going to squawk.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jolly Mon Rocks The Dock at Ocean Isle Fishing Center

It's Jolly Mon Tournament Time, and this year Capt. Brant added a new 
Fishing Tournament category for the youngest ones.  

Thanks to Rickey Beck and Chris Campbell, we have candid photos 
...and Grandson Brayden 
can show you what a Big Time he had 
at the 

He caught a Flounder within the first few minutes  - the competition was keen!

Capt. Brant weighed the many fish caught by excited and Very Serious youngsters, just like in an adult SKA Fishing Tournament.  
The young anglers had to walk the length of the dock and present their fish to the Weighmaster - and then hear the news and go back to fishing.  
They had one hour to fish, and every child fished every minute of that hour in 95 degree heat and blazing sun.  
There were No Quitters!

At the Jolly Mon Captain's Meeting on Friday night, all the little anglers received their awards - 
 along with the thundering applause of the crowd.


Are you ready for THIS?

Catch a Poagie out of a tank without using your hands. 

Brayden didn't catch the Poagie with his teeth, but did the next best thing:

Is this kid  a winner, or what?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mushrooms, Vintage Pyrex, and Drawing Mania

My eyes are burning, but my drawing heart is happy!  Lilla Rogers, my instructor for the online course I am taking, has us drawing these two subjects over and over and over.  Meantime, she is simply pouring information about the surface design business into our heads.

Yesterday, I drew about a million Mushrooms.  Well, almost a million.

Tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM, she will give us our REAL assignment.  That's when serious Boot Camp begins, and I can't wait to find out what the challenge is!

Going for a glass of wine and some fresh air.  
I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Back To School!

I am FLABBERGASTED and humbled by the amazing talent represented by the artists who will be in my class at Lilla Rogers' Studio School.  I've met most of them in a private group on Facebook, and now I am running to sharpen my pencils and clear my work spaces and get
 In The Zone 
for the start of this online class tomorrow.  

My work tables in Ocean Isle Beach, where I will be taking part of this course.

My graphics work desk in Atlanta, Georgia, where I will also be  working.

As a participant in the class, we will not only be getting invaluable input from Lilla Rogers and her staff for five intensive weeks, but we will also be entered in a Global Talent search sponsored by Lilla Rogers Studio for the Next Big Thing.  The entrants will have their work judged by industry experts and art directors.  Shivers!

Class starts tomorrow, and I can hardly wait.  

Friday, May 31, 2013

I'm Back!

Wow.  Has it really been since October??  Here we are at the end of May, 2013 and it seems like only yesterday that I put my Blog aside to design new fabrics.

I'm so happy with my new styles and new skills in Photoshop and Illustrator; so happy I took this time off to "get in the zone".  Some of my new collections are POWIE as far as color goes, and some are subtle and calm.  I don't know yet which I like better!

Here are some samplers of some of my new collections:

Penny Baloo

Turtle Bay Blue

Turtle Bay Grey

I'm going with the flow and letting it all pour out - somewhere in all of this, my personal "style" has to emerge!

I have been busy, busy, busy, learning Photoshop CS5 and Illustrator CS5 a little better.  A HUGE help has been this website:

My tip of the day is that if you are struggling to absorb as much as possible from some new digital software, go and sign up with this website!  There are hundreds of videos to show you how to do just about anything digital.  And the best part is that not only are the teachers great, but you can pause and replay videos endlessly.  

Today is the start of my new online course with Lilla Rogers:

Lilla Rogers online Studio School

And I will keep you posted on how it goes!


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