Artist’s Spotlight – Mike Brennan

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features talented multimedia artist, Mike Brennan. I’ve known Mike for a few years now and am continually inspired by his dedication to his craft (he posts at least one sketch just about every day!). Enjoy his enthusiasm in this interview!

Mike Brennan

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Mike Brennan: I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. Drawing was my main go to, mostly pencils and ink. In high school I was introduced to chalk pastels too. I really loved the vibrancy of them. I was fortunate enough to have exposure to a variety of mediums along the way, and so I feel like for me it’s trying to figure out the best (or most interesting) media for a particular concept.

RO: What first inspired you to art?1286_10151559958660958_1936653038_n (1)
MB: My earliest memory of creating art was making cards for family members. And I also used to trace comics from the Sunday newspaper, Comic books, and when I was a little older I also remember recording cartoons on my VCR, pausing them and taping paper on the TV so I could trace them. I wasn’t aware of light boxes at the time 🙂 Tracing helped me understand lines and shapes.

From there I took as many art classes as I could in High School, and started to gravitate towards graphic design. I knew I wanted to go to art school for college, so I was fortunate enough to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology earning a degree in Advertising and Design, and then the School of Visual Arts majoring in Graphic and 3D Design. 

That set my career course in graphic design. Sadly with each passing year I did less and less personal drawing and painting, because really, who has time for that when you are creating all day for someone else? I also convinced myself somewhere along the way that I really couldn’t draw because I couldn’t do realistic renderings. I swallowed that lie until I didn’t even try anymore, until I read an important book last year by Danny Gregory called “The Creative License”. 

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
MB: Watercolor has been my media of choice lately, but I’m starting to experiment into mixed media a bit too.I still like drawing with inks, pastels, colored pencils. I try to mix it up from time to time, but not at the expense of being a jack of all trades master of none, 😉

1470246_10151871997180958_552693694_n (1)RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process? 
MB: It depends on what I’m working on. Lately, I feel like I’m trying at adapt and change my process as I continue to learn new things. Sometimes I get inspired by photographs, or books I read, other art. I tend to try to collect ideas BEFORE I need them. I use an app/website called Evernote. It lets you collect and organize your ideas so it’s easy to find them later. Once I want to move ahead on something, I usually start with a sketch or loose idea and begin developing as I go. Most times I just give myself over to the process to see what comes rather than have an established final image in my mind I’m trying to force myself to create. Happy “accidents” (and even not so happy ones) can be great learning opportunities.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
MB: I’m pretty impatient and get bored easily. Most days I spend an hour to three on a piece, before I feel like I need to move on. When I was attending the School of Visual Arts, I had the opportunity to design a 3-D skeleton based on the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I designed a life sized skeleton made of dog biscuits that was selected for a show in the Whitney Museum in NYC. It took me several weeks to create. That piece was a turning point in my art & design. The basic thought going into the design process was to come up with a strong concept, then figure out how to do it. In other words, don’t let cost, knowledge or skills, materials or anything else be a deterrent from a strong creative idea.

RO: You make a habit of taking art courses (a habit that is certainly admirable and 1525098_10151935307620958_212921335_nnecessary for any artist!) What is your favorite art class you’ve taken recently and why? In that vein, do you have any plans to perhaps teach a workshop in the near future?
MB: I hadn’t taken any art classes for years until recently. There was a million excuses of no money, no time, no energy, etc. What broke me out of the cycle was just deciding one day that if I really wanted to reembark on this creative journey aside from my day job as a graphic designer, I needed to do something different. I enrolled in a printmaking class. It was great because it put me in a place where I was experimenting just for the fun of it, meeting new people who were artists too and peaked my curiosity on new techniques and processes.

From there, I’ve taken a few watercolor classes as well. I really have loved those. It’s been a great mix of learning techniques, being in art community and setting myself up with challenges to grow and learn.

Even if you can’t enroll in a class at a local art center, I would advise checking out Craftsy.com. I purchased two art classes for around $20 each, where you watch a video instruction at your own pace and there’s even a place to ask questions and upload your progress.

The bottom line is if you really want it, you will find a way.

As far as teaching – I would LOVE to do that at some point. I’m always watchful to see what opportunities come my way, so who knows, maybe one day. It would be great to combine my love for art and my people-oriented heart.

1601030_10151929659680958_1095639281_nRO: You recently opened up a wonderfully quirky Etsy shop. What lessons have you learned from running the shop? Any advice to someone who is thinking of opening an Etsy shop?
MB: It’s a big undertaking, honestly. I started mine as a way to keep me doing some of my art, and have an outlet to sell some of my photographs as well. It’s like anything – what you put in, you get out. I haven’t been the greatest on keeping up with all the promotion that should really go into it. I find that I lack the energy/time/focus when I’m done creating my art to switch hats to PR and marketer.

RO: What subjects are your favorites to sketch? Any subjects you’d like to sketch more of in your work?
MB: Mostly people – Men, women, faces, poses, feet (much easier for me than hands). I also like to sketch dogs, birds, fish…I suppose it’s the organic nature of these subjects. I was just talking with someone the ether day about how I hate to do buildings, or mechanical objects, basically anything that requires me to be precise and controlled in my art.

My faith is a big influence in not only themes of my work but also in how I do my work. But not in a propaganda or preachy sort of way. I want to create art that engages people, moves them, makes them think, smile or see beauty. For me all those things trace back to my Creator.

I also have to be authentic in my art. Hence, doing what’s important to me or had influence 1607049_10152021340435958_1970299082_nin my life. That’s what led me to the Star Wars themed greeting cards I have on Etsy – combining two things that had tremendous influence in my past as a child.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
MB: I feel like I should say yes…But honestly, the only thing I can think of are 2 things: 1. I have a picture that hangs by my desk at home from my youngest daughter Faith that says “Daddy, I enjoyed being with you”. That reminds me of how important it is for me to stop working and just be with my daughters, as well as a reminder for me to spend some time with my Heavenly Father like that.

The other is an illustrated note that an artist friend of mine had sent me during a difficult season. She’s a fellow old soul.

1464695_10151805099480958_709725966_n (1)RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
MB: That’s a tough one. I loved so many different super heroes when I was younger (and still do). These days, maybe teleportation. But perhaps that’s a byproduct of living in the traffic infested NY/NJ area. When technology catches up to offer this, I’ll want to renegotiate.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
MB: Ok. Can’t decide on just one, so forgive me…

Be in it for the long haul. Don’t look for shortcuts. They will only hurt you in the end even if they advance you in the immediate.

Practice your skills but also put time into figuring out who you are so it impacts the art you create. The world needs YOUR art, but it needs to be YOURS, coming from the unique blend of who you are – your skill set, interests, influences, experiences (including pain and “dark” seasons of your life).

Never stop learning. Read. Observe. Asks questions. Be in community. Take a different approach to something that you consider yourself really good at.

Do the next best work you can do right now and don’t worry so much about being “successful”. Make art because you HAVE to. Because to not do it would stifle your soul. 998792_10152008955150958_99723871_n

Establish a challenge for yourself. I decided to do a daily drawing or painting for an entire year. It’s been tough at times, and sometimes i only manage a five minute line drawing, but the experience and journey is something that could never have happened apart from putting in all that time. April will be the year mark for me and it’s also fun to look back on my Instagram feed to see my progress over the past year.

Invest in a sketchbook and draw something daily. If daily sounds too daunting, just do something more than what you are doing right now. Then in three months increase that again. Just keep moving forward.

Have Fun and figure out how to make your art a GIFT to those who experience it!

 

Mike, thanks so much for sharing your heart for creativity and people! If you’d like to check out more of his work, visit his blog, website, and Etsy shop.

2013: The Year in Review

It’s the end of the first 2014 day, so I’d like to recap my 2013 goals:

1. Work out at least once a week
Mission accomplished! I wasn’t doing so hot with this one earlier in the year, but since August, I’ve been consistently kickboxing each week.  I hope to keep this up in the new year.

Book collection

Book collection (Photo credit: Ian Wilson)

2. Read 20 books I own that I have not read yet
This one wasn’t as successful. I only read one book in this category (Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey – Crystal Bacon), but I suppose it’s better than nothing.

3. Read 10 of the books on my Goodreads list.
I was so close to reaching this goal.  I read 8 books (list below), and I’m hoping to get in a full 10 this year.

  1. Bake Sale – Sara Varon (January 2013)
  2. The Medusa Plot – Gordon Korman (January 2013)
  3. A King’s Ransom – Jude Watson (January 2013)
  4. The Dead of Night – Peter Lerangis (January 2013)
  5. This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz (February 2013)
  6. Slapboxing with Jesus – Victor LaValle (July 2013)
  7. Drown – Junot Diaz (May 2013)
  8. Matched – Ally Condie (July 2013)

4. Publish a poetry chapbook with a press
This one, I now realize, may have been a misguided since I can’t control whether or not my chapbook gets picked up.  I can really only submit and hope, but I’m glad I at least tried.

5. Create more art (which is to say, work on a piece at least once a week)
This one had the opposite progression of my first goal: I started out really good, and then the art productivity steadily dropped. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on a piece of art in months, but I do hope to change that as I have a couple of weeks off before the start of the semester.

Music guitar

Music guitar (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

6. Practice guitar at least once every other week
I don’t think I touched a guitar this year, which saddens me. However, this result did show me that while I like guitar, it’s not a priority in my life right now. I’d rather focus on activities that really excite me. Once time for those things is carved out, perhaps I can branch out into guitar.

7. Watch every Jason Statham movie
This is another mission accomplished! I finished back in September, and it was a great feeling. This was definitely a fun, quirky resolution, and perhaps I’ll pick another actor’s movies to watch in the future.

8. Try to post something brand new on Etsy at least once a month
This goal, like my guitar resolution, showed me what is important—right now, Etsy is not. Honestly, I grew weary of working on a piece of art and wondering if it would sell.  I want to get back to working on art because I love it, because it’s therapeutic, because it helps me relax. For the time being, I’ve closed my Etsy shops.  I’m not sure if they’ll make a reappearance. I’d like to hope they will, but time will tell.

9. Post on this blog twice a week
The progress with this goal was sort of a wave curve. I started off great, then dropped off, then got back on track, then dropped off again. It was definitely progress, but I don’t know that I’d count it as a solid win.  

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

10. Pay off one of my two credit cards
Another not-quite-win here. I paid down one of them, but it hasn’t been paid off yet. Meeting financial goals is hard, but, like most goals on this list, I’d rather try than make no progress at all.

I definitely didn’t keep as many resolutions as I thought I would, which left me disappointed. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this list helped me to establish what is important to me and what can fall by the wayside. This new knowledge has helped shape my 2014 resolutions, and I’m hoping that I’m able to stick with them a bit better than last year’s goals. Then again, it’s not always the items ticked off the list, but the journey, that counts.

Artist’s Spotlight: Beth Laky

Here’s this month’s Artist’s Spotlight, featuring the lovely mixed media artist, Beth Laky!

Beth Laky Artist Photo

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what mediums?
Beth Laky: Gosh, I’ve been creating since I was an little girl. As the firstborn in my family, my creative and crafty Mom had more time to do art projects with me, and we did A LOT of them. As a child, my days were filled with construction paper and crayons, Fashion Plates and fingerprinting. By the time I was 8, I was taking watercolor lessons and dabbling with all sorts of different mediums. I created quite prolifically all through my school years – looking back I’m thankful to have had exposure to so many different arts and crafts.

Orange Fox Collage with Milkweed Seeds

Orange Fox Collage with Milkweed Seeds

RO: What first inspired you to art?BL: I’m not sure I was first inspired to art. I never made a conscious decision to pursue art as a child – it just seemed natural and right to create with my hands – as if it was placed in me and couldn’t help but pour out of me in one way or another. As I grew, I’ve discovered that I must be creating – it helps me stay sane! But more than that, it seems it’s just what I was always meant to do. I believe my job as an Artist is to point to the wonder in the world, storing up beautiful things in my heart to share and bring joy to others.

RO: What mediums are your current favorites?
BL: I’ve gone through many different phases where I’ll focus on exploring one medium. For years I’d say my medium of choice was watercolor, which I do still love, but since discovering the vast possibilities of mixed media, I’ve been on a roll. I love mixed media because the possibilities are so endless, and I can draw from the many tools and techniques (including watercolor!) that I’ve stored up over the years and incorporate them into one piece in a new way. Lately I’ve also been working on a lot of embroidered pieces. This was another craft I dabbled with as a teen and it offers a nice break from oil pastel and paint when I need it.

Tomato Embroidery, Kitchen Wall Art

Tomato Embroidery, Kitchen Wall Art

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
BL: Being highly introverted, I am a big observer. It’s not uncommon for me to sit in silence while driving and simply take in the environment around me. For example, this morning I was quite taken with the dense fog caused by the unseasonably mild winter, paying particular attention to the layers of vanishing trees as I drove through the woods. I am constantly looking at the details of life (something I write about often on my blog). A hike in the woods will find me fixating on the color and texture of a mushroom or the brilliance of one red berry tucked in a mass of prickers. These outdoor discoveries are my greatest fuel when I create art. I am endlessly fascinated with discovering beauty and simple truths in places that are easily overlooked.

I admit I’m very bad at keeping a sketchbook, and this is something I’m trying to do more of. More often than not, I develop a picture in my head, and a sketch hardly does it justice, but if I don’t draw or write it down, I’ll lose it over time.

RO: If you could spend the rest of your life focusing on one art form, what would it be?
BL: This is a tough question, but I think I would say mixed media because I can incorporate many of my other creative loves into this medium.

RO: I know you have a background in advertising.  How has that experience informed your

Indian Corn Mixed Media Painting

Indian Corn Mixed Media Painting

artwork?
BL: When I worked in advertising as a graphic designer, I found that my personal pursuit of art all but died out for a period of about 10 years. It seemed that I was unable to balance my creative energies between work demands and my own projects. Eventually I lost all interest in graphic design and moved into a more administrative role at my current job in the non-profit sector. So if anything I’d say that leaving advertising and graphic design has actually been the greatest influence in my own artwork, by allowing my desire for it to be rekindled.

RO: You opened up a fabulous Etsy shop in November 2011.  Can you talk a little bit about the process that led you to opening up your own virtual storefront?
BL: Oh, thanks for the compliments! 🙂 A few months prior to opening my shop I had both taken a few art classes to jumpstart my creative juices, and gone on a humanitarian trip with Liquid Water Inc. and Living Water International to serve a poor community in El Salvador. On my trip, I had the opportunity to work with a small village which lacked clean drinking water by drilling a clean water well with my team. Having my eyes opened to the poverty and lack of basic necessities in countries like El Salvador, I began to wonder how I could use the skills I’d been given as an artist to make life more beautiful for, and bring hope to others.

This conviction was the primary motivation for opening my shop, Bettina’s Treehouse, on Etsy, where I determined to donate a portion of my art sales to Liquid Water Inc. for the drilling of clean water wells in developing countries.

Sunflower Collage with Burlap and Buttons

Sunflower Collage with Burlap and Buttons

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
BL: Well, I have some pieces of art that I started a few years ago and have not yet finished. This doesn’t mean I’ve been working on it constantly over all this time – rather I find that many pieces I start go through a sort of “waiting period” where I know they aren’t finished, but I am trying to decide where to take things next. The inspiration does come. Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes a few months, and sometimes longer than that! It helps to be working on multiple pieces at once so I can move on to something else if need be.

RO: What do you enjoy when you are not arting?
BL: When I’m not creating, I can be found working with my hands in other ways – cooking, gardening or enjoying a quiet life puttering around my home. I love time with my family and friends, as well as reading, watching BBC movies or enjoying the great outdoors.

RO: As someone who takes great care in making each piece of artwork, is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
BL: Well, I’m a big supporter of buying handmade and supporting other artists and crafters on Etsy. One of my favorite pieces is a print by Katie Daisy of The Wheatfield which is an illustrated quote by Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I have this print in my living room and it often serves as a reminder to me that my life here on earth has purpose and meaning, and I must keep at the calling to be an Artist in every way.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
BL: If it weren’t so cliché I’d say “take time to smell the roses”! Seriously though, creating art in this new season (post my advertising job ) has helped me to realize how imperative it is to pause in our increasingly loud and distracted lives and reconnect with who we are, what we are passionate about, what is truly important. Our busyness causes us to miss out on true life. I hope that my art can illustrate this reminder to stop and remember, uncovering beauty in the most surprising places.

Moons and Stars Mixed Media Collage

Moons and Stars Mixed Media Collage

Thanks for sharing, Beth! Check out her lovely Etsy shop, Bettina’s Treehouse, and stop by her blog of the same name.

Progress Report on My 2013 Goals

So I’ve been meaning to write an update on my goals for a while now, and seeing as we’re a month and change out from the new year, I figured I should post my progress:

1. Work out at least once a week
This first goal is going really well. I was totally failing for the first half of the year, but since July, I’ve been kickboxing once a week.  Here’s hoping I can finish the year out strong!

2. Read 20 books I own that I have not read yet
This goal hasn’t gone quite as well. I’ve read a total of one book from this list: “Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey” by Crystal Bacon.  I’ve gotten distracted with other books I don’t own, which is always the case.  Hmm, looks like I have quite a bit of reading ahead of me in the coming month and a half…

3. Read 10 of the books on my Goodreads list.
I’ve read 8 out of my goal of 10 books so far.  I’ve started two others from this list, so I’m hoping to get this goal finished up shortly.

4. Publish a poetry chapbook with a press
I finished putting together my chapbook in February. I have since sent it out to four contests, all of which said no.  I’m looking for more chapbook contests with deadlines before the end of the year, but so far, this hasn’t been a fruitful search. I may have to wait until next year.

5. Create more art (which is to say, work on a piece at least once a week)
I started the year off strong with this one (and even joined a Facebook group dedicated to posting a new piece of art each week), but have since fallen off the wagon. I am going to try to revive this for the remainder of the year, even if it’s working on a piece every other week.

6. Practice guitar at least once every other week
One thing I’ve noticed is that as the year progresses, what is really important becomes abundantly clear. I absolutely love the guitar, but I like writing and creating art more right now. I would rather have those practices take precedence at the moment, so I have tabled this goal for now. Perhaps next year I’ll pick up the strings again.

7. Watch every Jason Statham movie
This one’s done!  I watched all 20 movies I had yet to experience…and wow, Jason Statham has made a lot of generic action movies. But he’s made some keepers too. I really dug “The Italian Job,” (really well done, good plot, and great cast) “Death Race,” (for its sheer over-the-top ridiculousness) and “Gnomeo and Juliet” (surprisingly adorable and admirable…mostly because Jason Statham’s gnome races lawn mowers). There were some odd ones, like “Revolver” and “Turn It Up,” but I enjoyed this venture into all of “Handsome Rob’s” movies.

8. Try to post something brand new on Etsy at least once a month
As with the guitar goal, I realize that sometimes the pace we set out for ourselves just won’t work out. After some deliberation, I put my two Etsy shops on vacation. I realized I stopped creating for fun and started thinking about the “marketability” of my art. I didn’t like this road, so I want to take some time off from my shops and create freely for a while.

9. Post on this blog twice a week
Welp, that hasn’t gone as expected. But as with the creating more art goal, I’m hoping to revive this and finish the year strong.

10. Pay off one of my two credit cards
Umm, let’s not talk about this one. Ok, it’s not that bad, but this goal more than likely will not happen until next year. But at least the end is in sight!

I shall post my final progress at the end of December. In the meantime: If you’d like to keep up with how I’m doing for the next month or so, check out my “Goal” 2013 Resolutions” page periodically, as I’ll update it as I read/accomplish things.

The Wanderer’s Guide to Life

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Galaxies are so large that stars can be consid...

Galaxies are so large that stars can be considered particles next to them (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I graduated college nearly five years ago, I would not have considered myself a wanderer (or hitchhiker, as is the case with Douglas Adams).  I was a girl with a very narrow focus on life, and I thought I knew what I wanted: a steady 9-5 job as an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company where I would climb the ranks and, when I got married (who knows when that was going to happen!), I’d move out of my mom’s apartment.  In my spare time, all I aspired to do was catch up on reading.

Fast forward a few years, and my life looks very different than the less-than-inspiring version I was aspiring to as a recent college grad (Not that having a steady job is a bad thing, I’ve just since realized I want something more than that).

When I stumbled across the above quote earlier today, it got me thinking of all the sometimes frightening but always wonderful turns my life has taken, particularly in the past three years.  As another exercise in gratitude, I wanted to list some of those changes:

I have two Etsy shops: Remember when I said I used to aspire to simply catch up on reading? I’ve since opened up to online shops where I sell crafts and fine art (btdubs, I’m having a 15% off February sale in both shops now through 2/15!).  Because I have this outlet, I’m constantly thinking of new ideas for projects, which keeps the creative juices flowing.

I freelance, well, everything: I mostly copy edit, proofread, and babysit, but it’s so different than a 9-5.  I’m grateful that I can make my own schedule and even have time for lunch with friends 🙂

I am in a healthy romantic relationship: I used to be the jaded, single woman who thought that all the good guys were either taken, gay, or my best friends.  Nothing I did to garner a relationship seemed to work.  And then one day (like so many people told me, but I never believed them), it just happened.  A friendship I had for about half of my life blossomed.  And it’s been awesome ever since.

I think it is rare to find a person (and I am lucky to have friends like this too) who loves you, flaws and all.  (I know, I know. I’m probably giving most people a toothache right now, especially so close to Valentine’s Day. If you are not in a romantic relationship, let me encourage to live your life fully now, not in a holding pattern.  The right time and right person will come).

I am a professor: I thought this title only came after numerous awards, books, hard work, and lots of coffee (well, tea in my case).  I’m glad that a local community college gave me the chance to be in front of the classroom.  I am in my second semester of teaching, and it has been by turns challenging and rewarding beyond any of my expectations.

I have recently been commissioned to make art: This is something I thought would never happen. I’m comfortable calling myself a writer, but not an artist.  The painting commission I recently received was a really great confidence booster.

I am living on my own (well, with a roommate): For the past two and a half years, I’ve been living with a college buddy of mine.  We play video games and banter about poetry, faith, and Gangam Style (ok, fine, mostly Gangam style).

I have an MFA in Poetry: When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I determined that I was done with school.  But then I heard about the Poetry program that my alma mater was starting.  I knew I had to apply.  It’s been a little over two years since I’ve graduated, and spending two years breathing, eating, and sweating poetry was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have a chapbook: A chapbook is a shorter poetry manuscript (about 18-25 pages).  I put one together a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty happy with it.  I didn’t think I’d ever have the time or discipline to put one of these together.  Now I’ve got one and a goal of mine for this year is to get it published with a press.  We’ll see how that turns out!

I find myself continuing to explore different possibilities.  I’ve signed up for bartending school and am looking into certification to be a teaching artist.  I’m also applying to and saving for writer’s residencies and art classes just for fun.  I feel that the world is open to me, and I want to try everything I possibly can!

Ok, so perhaps there is no “Wanderer’s Guide to Life” as the title suggests, but I think that’s because to wander means to explore.  If you have a five (or seven or ten)-step plan for it, the fun is sucked out of the adventures.

Of course, wandering comes with its own worries and questions (for me, some of those questions are: what should I focus my time on primarily?  Do I want a career? Can I pay the bills doing activities I love?), but I’ve found that these bigger questions tend to work themselves out if you put in hard work and pursue the activities that make you feel alive.

If you would have told me about my current life situation five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. My options at that time were few because I made it so. My life as it stands now was unthinkable to me back then because it’s completely different than the stereotypical picture I had in my mind.  But when I think about my current circumstances, I smile and know this is exactly where I needed to land.

What is one event in your life that was a pleasant surprise?

Adventures in Acrylic

The art class painting away!

The art class painting away!

Back when I was a kid and classes took a regular trip to the room with paint-splattered tables, I remember loving acrylic paint: the smell, the feel of it messing up my hands, the smoothness with which it colored the canvas.  But I remember the medium not liking me very much.  Even as a wee artist, I knew I didn’t have the best sense of proportion, shading, or dimension, though I couldn’t name these terms yet.

Yesterday, I took an acrylic painting class at Art Uncorkd in Whippany, New Jersey. I walked in and found it was a nice, small gallery space with a custom framing section and plenty of room for a painting class You’re even allowed to bring a snack and some beer/wine if you like!

The class was two hours long, and the instructor was great.  She took us through a step by step process of making our own interpretation of a picture very similar to this painting:Photo Jan 22, 7 13 19 PM

I decided to do something a little different.  I essentially cut the picture in half and only painted the right half (all of those fish were intimidating!).  At first, I thought I messed up right off the bat because my light half circle of water in the middle was not blending in to well with the rest of the color I put down.  But the instructor gave me some tips to smooth it out. The rest of the class and painting all the fishies was a lot of fun!

When I first sat down in front of my blank canvas, I was prepared to create something that, while fun to paint, wouldn’t live up to my perfectionist expectations. But for the first time, I pleasantly surprised myself!  Here is my finished product:

Koi Pond_LV Watermark Koi Pond_Side View

And here is a group shot of all the participants with the finished pieces:Photo Jan 22, 8 46 19 PM

I’m so happy with my finished piece!  So happy, in fact, that I worked up the nerve to list it in my Etsy shop, Lady Velociraptor.  Check out the listing here.

What is something new (or old) you have tried recently?  Did you like the results?

Books and Art and Confetti, Oh My!: My 10 New Year’s Resolutions

Confetti, Times Square

Confetti, Times Square (Photo credit: StuartMoreton)

I recently read this article about New Years Resolutions by Don Miller.  It gives some concrete reasons as to why some resolutions don’t seem to work out for those that set them.

Two reasons that stuck with me were 1. the resolutions weren’t meaningful and 2. no plan was made to go along with the resolutions.  It got me thinking about how these two specific reasons are exactly why some of my resolutions for 2012 failed.  I simply didn’t want the results badly enough or other goals not on my “official list of resolutions” were more immediate and promising.  One, honestly, I just plain forgot about.

To avoid resolution failure in 2013, I have made a list of 10 resolutions (or goals, as I like to look at them) that are important to me and that have a solid plan for achievement behind them.

1. Work out at least once a week
This is a failed 2012 goal of mine.  In 2011, I really got into kickboxing.  I stuck with it all year.  Around December 2011, I began to show up to class less and less.  I’d really like to get back into the swing of exercising because I always felt great afterwards (there are few things as refreshing as a post-workout shower).  Also, I miss being able to punch things and not getting in trouble for it 😉

I know “more exercise” is a pretty common resolution for most people, but health is pretty important to me.  During my last check-up this summer, my doctor said I was very healthy and all of my blood work was great.  I’d like to do my part to keep it that way.  Exercising regularly is a habit I want to get into now so that as I age and perfect health may not come as easily, I know I’m doing everything I can to stay in shape.

Books - bookcase top shelf

Books – bookcase top shelf (Photo credit: ~ Phil Moore)

2. Read 20 books I own that I have not read yet
I, like many other literatis, buy books quicker than I can read them.  I have bunches of books on my shelves that I have not read or never finished.  This is typically a source of much frustration since, oddly enough, what keeps me from reading this particular set of books is other books.  This goal is an attempt to help myself focus on the books I already have.

I was going to make the resolution to make my way through all of them, and then I realized that would be crazy.  I like a challenge, but there are times I know I’d just be setting myself up for defeat.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s my list of unread or partially read books (and I have a strong feeling I’m missing a bunch that are hidden in my room under well-placed piles of paper, clothes, and craft supplies):

Ordinary Genius – Kim Addonizio
Eve and Adam – Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey – Crystal Bacon
Notarikon – Bowman
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers – Shane Claiborne
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Boundaries – Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Vacations on the Black Star Line – Michael Cirelli
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Blinking with Fists – Billy Corgan
Jesus Freaks, Volumes 1 and 2 – DC Talk
Great American Poets: Emily Dickinson – Emily Dickinson
50 American Plays – Matthew and Michael Dickman
Fire to Fire – Mark Doty
Alabanza – Martin Espada
Harlot – Jill Alexander Essbaum
Necropolis – Jill Alexander Essbaum
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Eye of the Fish – Luis Francia
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
New World – Suzanne Gardinier
me and Nina – Monica Hand
Selected Short Stories – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hip Logic – Terrance Hayes
Teaching Poetry Writing – Tom Hunley
Absence is Such a Transparent House – Aby Kaupang
Still to Mow – Maxine Kumin
Breaking the Alabaster Jar – Li-Young Lee
Passwords Primeval – Tony Leuzzi
Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
Surprised by Joy – C. S. Lewis
That Hideous Strength – C. S. Lewis
Poet in New York – Federico Garcia Lorca
A Gentle Thunder – Max Lucado
New and Selected Poems – Thomas Lux
Gloryland – Anne Marie Macari
Ivory Cradle – Anne Marie Macari
Times Alone – Antonio Machado
Wild Domestic – Tamara Madison
What Learning Leaves – Taylor Mali
What Teachers Make – Taylor Mali
Song of Thieves – Shara McCallum
Panic – Laura McCullough
Pink Elephant – Rachel McKibbons
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Donald Miller
Searching for God Knows What – Donald Miller
The Tiny One – Eliza Minot
Western Practice – Stephen Motika
The Essential Neruda – Pablo Neruda
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair – Pablo Neruda
Lucky Fish – Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Evidence – Mary Oliver
Pier – Janine Oshiro
Dancing at the Devil’s Party – Alicia Ostriker
Volcano Sequence – Alicia Ostriker
Convergences – Octavio Paz
Sudden Dog – Matthew Pennock
Boy – Patrick Phillips
100 Poems by 100 Poets – Harold Pinter
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers – Bhanu Kapil Rider
Capirotada – Alberto Rios
Open Secret – Rumi
With or Without You – Domenica Ruta
Shadow Society – Marie Rutkoski
Barter – Ira Sadoff
Grazing – Ira Sadoff
Year of the Black Rainbow – Claudio Sanchez
Striking Surface – Jason Schneiderman
Hurdy Gurdy – Tim Seibles
Measure for Measure – William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Passion and Pride: Poets in Support of Equality – Bruce Spang
How Good is Good Enough? – Andy Stanley
American Sonnets – Gerald Stern
Early Collected Poems – Gerald Stern
Save the Last Dance – Gerald Stern
Stealing History – Gerald Stern
Dracula – Bram Stoker
View with a Grain of Sand – Wislawa Szymborska
Phantom Limb – Brian Turner
The Girl Who Feel Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There – Catherynne Valente
Door in the Mountain – Jean Valentine
The Water Books – Judith Vollmer
17 Love Poems with No Despair – B. J. Ward
Gospel Night – Michael Waters
This Sharpening – Ellen Doré Watson
Triangle – Katharine Weber
Tortured for Christ – Richard Wurmbrand

3. Read 10 of the books on my Goodreads list.
This is an extension of goal 2.  There are books I already own, and then there are books I would like to get a hold of.  Right now, I have 352 “To Read” books.  10 is barely a dent, but it’s 10 more than I would read if I didn’t make this goal.

4. Publish a poetry chapbook with a press
Last year, one of my goals was to have between 3-5 poetry submissions out at any given time.  I’ve been pretty steady with that submission number, so now I want to up the ante.  My manuscript has not been picked up, which is not surprising as I’ve only been sending it out for about a year.  But, I’d like to tinker with it before sending it out again.

In the meantime, I’d like to market around a chapbook, which is, essentially, a shorter manuscript.  Poetry chapbooks are typically in the ballpark of 18-25 pages.  This, I think (and hope!), will be much easier to put together.  Also, if I publish a chapbook, I may get more press and a better chance of publishing a full poetry manuscript. Yay, professional and creative ambition!

PASTEL

PASTEL (Photo credit: hichako)

5. Create more art (which is to say, work on a piece at least once a week)


This is one of my looser goals.  Since I work in so many different mediums, I want to give myself some wiggle room.  My main three art forms are poetry, photography, and mixed media art.  I’d absolutely love to finish a piece each week, but I’d need way more hours in the day for that.  Instead, I’m being a bit easier on myself and starting with simply working on a project in at least one medium each week.

This goal has a three-fold reason behind it.  When I create art, I feel free.  I love making something from nothing and letting the piece become a force of its own, gently letting me know which direction to go in.  This part has to do with making time to do something I love.  The second reason has to do with the fact that I have two Etsy shops: Roaring Out and Lady Velociraptor.  I sell mixed media art and fine art photo prints in the second shop and would like to increase the number of my wares.  Lastly, while I have been good with submitting poetry (see goal 4), I have not been good with publicizing my art for display in galleries and magazines.  In order to do this, I feel like I need a bigger portfolio.  This will be the year I create that portfolio to (hopefully) give me enough umph to walk into galleries and say, “Hey, I have art and you have wall space.  How convenient!” (except, you know, more professional-like).

6. Practice guitar at least once every other week
Like goal 4, this is another resolution that is branching off of one for 2012.  The 2012 goal was “learn guitar.”  Very vague, I know.  But, I did sign up for a guitar class in the fall and stuck with it.  Because of that class, I have enough material to practice with on my own (though I do plan to continue with the classes in the new year).  I say practice every other week because I already have a couple of things to do each week, like teach and create art and exercise and, you know, sleep.  So, again, I’m going a little easier on myself here.  If guitar goes well this year, I may up the ante in 2014 with practicing every week or every few days.

7. Watch every Jason Statham movie
So, I have a celebrity crush on Jason Statham (there’s explosions and fire and fight scenes when he’s on screen *swoon*).  This resolution is more for fun than improving personally or professionally.  Everyone needs some silliness thrown in 🙂

The movies I have left to watch are:

Jason-Statham

Jason-Statham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Turn It Up
Ghosts of Mars
Mean Machine
The Transporter
Transporter 2
Transporter 3
The Italian Job
Collateral
Cellular
Chaos
London
Revolver
Crank
The Bank Job
Death Race
13
Gnomeo and Juliet (I almost excluded this movie, but he’s the voice of Tybalt. I have to see this!)
Safe
Parker (coming out in 2013, as are, like, 27 other movies with Jason Statham.  I’ll get to those as they come out.  Geez, this Brit is prolific).

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

8. Try to post something brand new on Etsy at least once a month
As I mentioned in goal 5, I have two Etsy shops.  Last year, I made a resolution to post something on Etsy once a month.  The problem is that I counted renewing a listing for an already existing item as a “post.”  That just wasn’t meaningful enough for me because it was too easy.  So, I’m raising the bar.  I want to post a brand new item in at least one of my shops for each month.  I was tempted to say that I needed to post a brand new item in each shop every month, but I’ll start small for now.  If anything, it means 12 new items by year’s end.

9. Post on this blog twice a week
Much like the previous goal, this one’s 2012 incarnation was too easy.  The goal was to post once a week.  But I was already doing Poetry Monday once a week, so there was no challenge to do anything differently.  Now that I’m recording Poetry Mondays every other week, there’s a bit more for me to keep up with, especially since I’ll need two original posts on Poetry Monday’s off weeks.  Hmm, maybe I should start a Folk Music Friday….

10. Pay off one of my two credit cards
I figured I’d round out my resolutions list with a practical financial goal.  Not much to say here except I hope that by this time next year, I’ll have one less bill to pay 😉

Some final thoughts on an already long post:
1. I once heard someone say that people should strive for progress not perfection.  That’s something I’m going to keep in mind this coming year, and I encourage you to do the same.

Even if I only attend exercise classes regularly for one month and read 4 books from my lists, I’m not going to beat myself up over it because, hey, that’s more than I would have done had I not made these goals.  I can adjust resolutions this time next year if need be.  At the age of 26, I’ve realized that what makes a more interesting story is the journey rather than the destination. But crossing a big goal off the list is fun too 🙂

2. In the fall, I took an e-course called “Creative Courage,” which is organized by Stephanie Levy. In this course (which I highly recommend if you are a creative lady), participants were encouraged to make a list of 5-10 fun things we would like to do before the year is out.  This was an exercise in encouraging us to intentionally make time for activities we enjoy.  I made a list of 8 things and accomplished 6. I think what really helped me focus on these “mini goals” was the fact that I made an actual list and posted it in my room where I’d see it every day.  This constant reminder was so helpful and encouraging.  So, that’s what I’m going to do with this list, too.  I’m going to be staring at these same 10 goals all year and my hope is that I’ll get to cross them all off.

I’m sure I’ll be posting updates on these goals, which will help me with resolution 7 😉

What are your resolutions for the new year?

25 @ 25: Artist at Work

I’ve gotten quite crafty over the past month or so.  See?

This week’s 25 @ 25 features a picture of me getting my hands dirty with an X-acto knife, glass, scrapbook paper, and craft glue:

Want to know a bit more about this 25 @ 25 project?  Check out the post that started it all here.

Artist’s Spotlight – Vanessa Himeles

Welcome to a new feature of the Roaring Out blog!  I’ve decided to start an “Artist’s Spotlight” to highlight some great visual artists.  First up is Vanessa Himeles, a fabulous acrylic and seaglass master! You can check out her work at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChromaGoth

I recently interviewed Vanessa about her craft.  Check out her responses below.

Roaring Out:Your current creations are so fanciful!  How long have you been creating pieces?

Vanessa Himeles: I started drawing when I was 9, but it was around 15, that I started developing a style and completing pieces instead of just sketches or attempts. I still have some of my high school projects and I treasure them as much as my current work.

 

RO: What first inspired you to art?

VH: My older sister showed me how to draw a horse when I was a little kid. That’s how I got started. As I improved and moved on to new mediums, I realized that I could use art to create all the weird and often twisted fantasies in my head. The more unusual ideas I get, the more eager I am to express it through art. A lot of my inspiration for pieces is the desire to shock, creep out and, well, disturb the viewers. I also read a lot of Stephen King, so I’m sure his dark novels have influenced some of my style and inspired some of those fantasies.

 

RO: What mediums are your current favorites?

VH: Sea glass! The past 7 months I’ve been living in Castine, Maine, and having multiple beautiful beaches within walking distance keeps the sea on my mind. I think the combination of sea glass with acrylic paint is beautiful. My ocean-themed art is not “disturbing” at all, but rather calming and pleasant. How weird is that?

 

RO: If you could spend the rest of your life focusing on one art form, what would it be? Could you choose just one?

VH: I would choose paper mache sculpture. It’s time consuming to make a good base, build it up with paper, cover it with paper mache, and then paint or decorate, but the finished product is always rewarding. If space were not an issue, I would love to create 10’ tall goblins and a gothic style castle. Oh! And a giant chihuahua! Or maybe a giant paper mache ocean wave covered with sea glass? Maybe I’ll try one of those after I finish the interview…

 

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?

VH: My senior year of college I made a paper mache demon. It was about 3’ high and 1.5’ wide and took me about 25-30 hours to complete over the span of a week. A lot of that was done between midnight and morning.

 

RO: What do you enjoy doing when you are not arting?

VH: Reading Stephen King novels ♥, playing with our cats Mark and Addie and applying to law schools mostly. I am currently taking a year off before I begin law school this summer, so for now I try to spend my time relaxing. One of my goals for the year is actually to focus on art, so that’s what I do most days.

 

RO: Could you please talk a bit about your creative process?

VH: A project usually starts by me seeing some natural arrangement, like a large pile of snow, or playing around with some medians, like oil pastel, sea glass or paper mache, and thinking either,“I bet if I did this, it would look really freaky” or “maybe if I did this, it would look beautiful and intriguing.” I admit my projects almost never finish they way I thought they would. I make mistakes that I end up loving, or sometimes I take a step back, look at the piece and make a split decision to change something dramatically. For example, today I made a 6’ tall snow demon in the front lawn of my house. I planned on giving the demon small slanted eyes and two large horns, but upon stepping back and looking at the work-in-progress, I suddenly thought large rounded eyes and one large horn would be better. I know the project is finished when I no longer feel the urge to make sudden changes. I’m trying to get better at knowing when that point is!

 

RO: It’s obvious that you put a lot of effort into your handmade pieces. Is there something handmade that you own that is particularly special to you?

VH: One that is particularly special to me is a classroom activity from 1st grade. We used different colored paints to design a Chanukah stained-glass-like wall piece. Even though all I did was fill in the predetermined spaces with different colors I had a fun time trying to arrange the best combination. I remember taking the assignment really seriously and being so excited once it was done. I plan to always keep it.

 

RO: As a woman who works with many different styles, do you have any advice for someone who hasn’t quite found their artistic niche yet?

VH: I didn’t know I had a unique style until friends saw a work-in-progress in my high school art class and, on her own, knew it was mine. I still don’t understand how it developed and I only recently started to realize that there are certain forms of art I am particularly good at producing over others. I do know that I tried many forms of art, used dozens of different medians, and experimented with tons of ideas over the years. It didn’t happen over night, but rather over years. I know no one wants to hear “practice and it’ll happen naturally,” but in this case I really do feel it that as long as an artist is always practicing their work, styles and specialties will develop.

Thanks so much for checking out this first installment of Artist’s Spotlight!  If you like the work you’ve seen featured here, then don’t forget to check out Vanessa’s etsy store-front at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChromaGoth