Friday, May 28, 2010

What to do at Grandma's House?

Wakeman House Living Room.

First things first... This isn't my grandma's house. This is the amazing guest house I rented while staying in Ohio at the end of last month. Though there were 3 bedrooms available for rent, I was the only one staying there during that time and so the whole house was mine.

As I live in a very small (750sq ft) house, this one, at over twice that size felt gigantic to me and while I may never want to own (and clean) something this large, I certainly appreciated the space while I was there.

One afternoon I had about an hour to kill until I was to get ready to meet a friend for dinner and I had it in my mind that I wanted to lie down for a while and just chill, and so I did just that - right in the middle of that empty floor space. After lying there for only a moment or two, I was mentally transported back to various memories of staying over at one of my grandmother's apartments. (Neither of my grandparents ever owned their own home.) I was remembering times when my parents would take me to visit and I would beg to spend the night and so they would leave me there, all excited to hang with (one of) my gram's.

After they would stuff me full of whatever deliciousness their refrigerators held, I'd soon grow bored and restless watching The Lawrence Welk Show, (or something equally unexciting to a 10 year old) and not having any of my toys with me or even a book to read. The next day would be worse as Gram would have no games to play with me, no kids in the neighborhood I knew, and I wasn't allowed to leave the sanctuary of the front porch. This was excruciating for a young me.

Lying on that floor I couldn't believe how fortunate I was to be staying in an unfamiliar place, and to have that quiet uninterrupted space with nothing to do was like heaven to me. So interesting how our perspective changes with age. (Though I did have a few luxuries with me like my iPod, a journal, and a cell phone equipped with internet access.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Reflection Pole

The finished column on Jaqui's porch.

On a recent trip to my soul sister Jaqui MacMillian's house, I joking asked her if she had something she'd like me to paint a mandala on to which she instantly replied, "Oh yes! Because I know it will be really valuable someday!" She is too kind.....

An interesting blank canvas

For painting, she offered up this wooden column that came from her old house in Washington DC. I imagined it to be covered in different mandalas, but once I started with her Liquitex acrylics (which were new to me) I realized that painting just one might take me a while. (the paint soaked quickly into the wood and I had to keep adding coats so it would be as vibrant as I wanted it to be.)

One on the top

For reasons unknown to me at the time, I didn't just start with one mandala, but two the same - one on top of the other. This is the one on the top -

Then one on the bottom

and this was the one on the bottom. Sitting on the floor of her porch with the column in front of me was the easiest way for me to work.

Adding details to the top

Adding additional detail to the top,

and again on the bottom

then the bottom.

Not sure why I did two together

As I started to finish up, I started to panic because I wasn't really sure that I liked it at all. These weren't the colors or paints I was used to working with and I thought it looked like a little kid had (badly) painted it. I was certain Jaqui would hate it and I was embarrassed for her to see it - thinking she would want me to paint over the whole thing & start again.

Why are artists so unbelievably hard on themselves? Why am I so hard on myself?

It was at this point that she came out on the porch and I sheepishly showed it to her, bracing myself for her reaction.

She loved it. (Whew!) When she asked me if it was done, I said I wasn't sure. As she went down into the yard to work on her garden, she called me down to show me something. Shae said, "Look at it from down here" and I did and I almost cried. It GLOWED. So beautiful... I just couldn't see it up close. Irony in art for sure....

Until I realized it represented Jaqui & me. The people around you, are the mirror's reflection of you.

I added just a bit more detail in black, the word "transformation" on the side, and my signature below. And then it FINALLY hit me as to why I painted two mandalas that seemed to almost be reflections of one another. It's because that's just what they are.

Me & Jaqui MacMillan

Remember up top when I called Jaqui my soul sister? We aren't related but from the picture above you wouldn't know that. I just met her last summer and she is an absolutely amazing human being. Meeting her was one of those situations where you felt like you've already known someone your whole life but are now just only meeting them in the flesh.

A sometimes difficult concept for me to grasp is that what you put out, you attract. I have all these absolutely wonderful amazing friends in my life and I always have to remind myself that in some way, they are all a reflection of me.

Which is why the mirror image mandala isn't so much a surprise to me any more. :o)

Love you Jaqui!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Similar Inks: Diamine Turquoise and Herbin Bleu Pervenche

Diamine Turquoise and Herbin Bleu Pervenche

Just a couple of similar looking fountain pen inks as I swabbed them. Diamine's Turquoise and J. Herbin's Bleu Pervenche. I am not suggesting in any way that they look/act the same in a pen, just happened to notice the similarity.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My First Book: Art Created Through Personal Evolution

My First Book

I've been longing to see my mandalas in book form, so I recently had a small book made through Shutterfly. You create the book by uploading the images into a series of templates. You can add text or choose to just show the images.

My First Book

The first thing I noticed was how awesome the images stood out against the black. The next thing I noticed was how quickly the black cover gets smudgy from finger prints. The black pages also seemed to scratch easily...

My First Book

All of my images were either shot with my digital camera (Canon SD1000) or scanned on my personal scanner. Some reproduced better than others, and all in all, I would probably do much better with someone else scanning these images at a higher resolution and then tweaking them in so they match the original best as can be. (Though I am fairly notorious for pushing the contrast on my images.)

My First Book

I noticed that some of the layouts worked better than others.

My First Book

The way this book is bound (perfect binding?) it can't open flat (which I hate) and that pretty much means not to align your images with the center or they can't be fully enjoyed. (So what's the purpose of an 8x8" book if you can't utilize the entire page?)

My First Book

Blue mandalas....

My First Book

As much as I wanted to do some that filled the page like the one on the right, too much gets lost in the crease.

My First Book

Perhaps I should have chosen a white background for these.....

My First Book

So many different image templates... the one on the left was a bad idea as once again, the images got lost in the crease.

My First Book

I enjoyed grouping the images by color.

My First Book

Such vivid color.

My First Book

A few of my favorites.

My First Book

Back cover.

All in all, this was pretty much just a test. The cost (expensive) through Shutterfly doesn't really allow for any kind of profit margin if I wanted to resell these. I've explored using Blurb, but the program to run it is too powerful for my old PC. I'm currently working to have some of my images scanned through my local photo retailer and I'm considering some of the book options they have there as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Clairefontaine Twinbook

Clairefontaine Twinbook

The new staple bound Clairefontaine Twinbooks allow you to use one book for two subjects - lighten the load in the old school book bag, eh?

Clairefontaine Twinbook

The Twinbooks contain 96 pages of 90g bright white Clairefontaine paper (perfect for use with a fountain pen) in graph form. The cover is a glossy cardboard.

This book is approx. 6 3/4" x 8 5/8"(a larger book at 8.25"x11" is also available) and comes in assorted colors.

Clairefontaine Twinbook

The 1st 48 pages are notched/tabbed in a way that allows you to easily work in the first or second half of the book. I love that the corners of the paper and the cover are rounded - much easier on the palm of the hand as you reach the bottom of the page.

Clairefontaine Twinbook

A staple bound book means there will be a few spots throughout the book where it opens flatter than others.

Clairefontaine Twinbook

The spine of the book is slightly rounded, and I wonder if it would open a little flatter if they would square off the spine... I'm such a stickler for my journals & notebooks opening flat.

An additional review of the Twinbook is available at The Pen Addict.

Buy Twinbooks at Writer's Bloc. $3.30 for the Medium, $6.25 for the Large.

Twinbook provided by Exaclair

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mandala for the little girl who got her foot caught in the door

Mandala in Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Bordeaux

My elementary years started in parochial school, having attended 1st, 2nd & the beginning of 3rd grade there. I never went to kindergarten and was enrolled directly in 1st grade at the age of 5. I was a tiny little thing back in 1st grade - so small that I had to have a school uniform custom made to fit me. I had a difficult time acclimating to school and also making friends. Many of the children came from well-to-do families and as I did not, it often made it hard for me to relate to them.

I can remember being terrified of the nuns and priests that taught at the school. I always felt that they were some how "above me" but not necessarily in a spiritual way. Each day as I went to school, I'd feel bombarded with feelings that I was "less than" everyone else around me.

To enter the school, there were about 8 wide steps leading up to a series of heavy doors. For a pipsqueak like me, those doors weighed 10 tons and it was a struggle for me to open them on my own.

One day during recess, I climbed those steps to go back inside and as soon as I managed to get the door open, the air pressure from inside pulled it closed which knocked me down and somehow, my foot got caught in the door. Laying on the top of the steps screaming for help, children on the playground not 50 feet away, no one comes to help. I can see them staring at me. I am lying on my backside with my foot caught in the door and no one will help me. I wiggle and squirm until I finally manage to pull my foot free......

I have begun to slowly work my way though the book Seth Speaks, one of a series of books in which Jane Roberts channels an entity named Seth who provides some profound information about life. One of the concepts that Seth talks about is that there is no past, present and future - that each is happening simultaneously. As this is an idea that I resonate strongly with, I decided to do some emotional healing work by imagining I am sitting with myself at a younger age and coaching her through some trouble spots as if she were my little sister. In my mind, If I can give her strength to move through difficult situations and all of this is happening on the same time line, the information I provide to her will affect who I am now.

Thinking about that little girl laying on the ground, crying over her foot being stuck in the door, I created the mandala above while imagining me sitting next to her after she freed her foot with no assistance. I told her not to feel bad that no one helped, but to embrace the fact that she freed herself, and how life is a series of events where that kind of persistence will be a blessing...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Quo Vadis Bookmark

Quo Vadis Bookmark

Quo Vadis has recently started producing these handy book mark/book straps as a way to reserve your place and keep your book closed. It includes a handy ruler on one side,

Quo Vadis Bookmark

and the Quo Vadis logo on the other. (Quo Vadis means 'Where are you going" in Latin)

Quo Vadis Bookmark

Take your journal in one hand,

Quo Vadis Bookmark

and insert the book strap,

Quo Vadis Bookmark

(I like to place it about midway from the spine of the book)

Quo Vadis Bookmark

then pull the strap around the book - Viola!



Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens recently put together a video showing how to use the Quo Vadis book mark/book strap.

Be sure to check out Laurie's review of the book mark on Plannerisms.

You can buy these at Goulet Pens for $1.50 each, and they will start to be included with all Quo Vadis planners which have the Soya and Club covers.

Book strap provided by Exaclair.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saturday 05/29 Bethlehem, PA - Mandala Workshop with Stephanie Smith

Mandala :: Release

Mandala: An Artful Meditation
creativity workshop w/ Stephanie Smith


Saturday May 29th 10:00am-12:00pm

hosted by blue stone yoga
at Christ Church UCC
75 East Market Street, Bethlehem, PA

Visionary artist Stephanie Smith will teach a simple process to create a mandala on paper. She will also offer additional techniques for mandala creation by using found objects such as pebbles, seashells, etc.

No previous art experience is necessary, and everyone age 17+ is encouraged to attend. All materials will be provided.

Advance registration $25
Day of the event $30

Call 484-893-0336 to pre-register today.

About Stephanie Smith

In the last three and a half years, visual artist Stephanie Smith has created over 1200 mandalas on paper using a diverse range of media such as pen and ink, watercolor, markers, and pastel. Impermanent ones have been created using chalk, stones, sticks and seashells but they all share one thing in common- Stephanie creates them as a way to encourage personal growth within herself, and also in the participants of her workshop entitled: Mandala :: An Artful Meditation. By empowering people to express themselves through the use of a focused yet artful process, participants can utilize the mandala not only as a rhythmic meditation, but also as an honest means for self reflection. Drawing on over 5 years experience a corporate trainer, Stephanie makes this material easy and accessible to everyone.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Brause Calligraphy Pen


For me, the hardest reviews to write are the ones when you just really, really don't like something. It's hard not to come off as sounding like, "I hate this!!!" even if you do. No matter how frustrated I might be with a product, I feel that it's really important to do my best to stay objective and let my experience with the product speak for itself.

Case in point, the Brause Calligraphy pen shown above.

Karen Doherty (Exaclair) recently sent me this pen to test after I voiced my curiosity about it. It retails for about $15-18, and I was expecting it to rival the Lamy Joy. (Which sells for $29)

Out of the box, the pen feels pretty inexpensive. The color of the cap is slightly lighter than the body and I don't know if that's by design or error but it looks kind of odd.

Uncap the pen and set the cap aside, as the design does not you to allow to post the pen. (Put the cap on the back of the pen.)

To insert a cartridge, unscrew the body from the nib section and be very, very careful to not lose the tiny metal body ring. Taking the ring in my fingers and flexing slightly, it feels as though it could bend in an instant.

Wait a sec... would you believe, that during the course of my writing this review... the metal ring has gone missing? I swear... I had the pen sitting here taken apart and I don't know where it went. I didn't hear it hit the floor.... Oh well.. The cap pretty much stays on without it...

Taking one of the included ink cartridges, you push it into the nib section until you feel a pop. (The cartridge seal breaking.) Give the cartridge a squeeze to help the ink start flowing to the nib. Once able to get the ink flowing, I put the nib to paper and was extremely disappointed. Brause is one of the world's most recognizable names for calligraphy nibs but the nib on this pen.... I'm seriously thinking that it can't have been made by Brause. The slit in the nib is so tight that it hinders consistent ink flow. If you use the pen delicately, it barely writes. You have to really bear down on the nib to get a true 1.5 nib width and even then, it's sketchy....

My biggest concern, is that as I'd had the pen sitting here for about a week (capped) and when I went to use it again, it was a joke trying to get it to write. A page of scribbles later and a few squeezes to the cartridge finally got the ink to flow. I find this annoying and unacceptable. If any of my fountain pens acted in this manner it would be banished for all eternity. When you want to use a pen, it should write the minute you pick it up, uncap it, and put it to the page.

As a test, I just went and dug out my Sheaffer Calligraphy pen - the one I found brand new (paid $3 for it) at a flea market 2 years ago. The cartridge in it has to be in there at least a year because I never use it. I unscrewed the cap and put it paper... and it wrote without hesitation.

While I appreciated the opportunity to test this pen, I simply do not have anything good to say about it. The whole pen feels cheap and in my opinion, is too expensive for what it is. What always frustrates me is an entry level product that might turn people off from a particular skill because they are apt to think it's "them" and not the product.

 
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