Category Archives: Articles

My Favorite Art Blogs

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My Favorite Art Blogs

Art is one of my passions. Blogging is another. Here, in alphabetical order, are my ten most favorite art blogs:

  • Artistcoveries. Judith started this blog in March, 2016 to share her process of discovery as creates. She’s self-taught, and it’s been exciting to witness her progress. She lists lots of resources that she’s found helpful.
  • Beez in the Belfry. Sandy Steen Bartholomew is a talented illustrator, comics author, and mixed media artist. I learned of her when I bought one of her Zentangle® books (she’s also a Certified Zentangle Teacher). She blogs about the many facets of her life, even offering glimpses inside her studio.
  • Colossal. Featuring artists working in all facets of art, design, photography, crafts, illustration, and more, Colossal consistently wows me.
  • Living on the Edge of Wild. Deborah J. Brasket is a writer and artist. She posts about whatever is on her heart and what she’s recently painted or seen and shares her writing.
  • Frugal Crafter. Lindsay Weirich is an artist, writer, and craft designer. She is also an excellent teacher, as evidenced by the wonderful step-by-step videos she produces, shared on the blog and on YouTube.
  • Oil_painting_palette wikipediaMy Modern Met. Similar to Colossal, this website showcases gorgeous art, design, photography, and more. I always find something new there.
  • My Street Inspiration. This site displays examples of creative artistry you find on the street—murals, public art, graffiti, and street musicians.
  • Nathalie’s Studio. Nathalie Kalbach is a mixed-media artist. She designs stamps and she shares her art journal and discusses her projects. She shares visits to museums and documents her strolls through the ‘hood, Jersey City, and Manhattan across the river. (Her photos make me homesick for New Jersey.)
  • Sketch Away: Travels with My Sketchbook. Suhita Shirodkar always has her sketchbook with her and records what’s going on in her life. She’s also an art workshop instructor and makes recommendations about supplies she uses.
  • Writing and Illustrating. Kathy Temean is heavily involved with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in New Jersey. Every Saturday she posts an interview with an illustrator, complete with pictures of their work and questions about their process, how they got started in the business, and everything else artistic minds want to know. She also deals with the writing side, and often picture book authors will offer copies for a giveaway on the website.

That’s it—my ten favorite art blogs. (Just so you know, I wrote a separate post about my favorite Zentangle blogs.)

Now it’s your turn. Is there an art blog you love that I’ve overlooked? Or do you blog about art? Share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #115

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Feeling artistically dry? These twelve articles will quench your thirst.

8 Craft Ideas for Gifts and Christmas Decorations

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8 Craft Ideas for Gifts and Christmas Decorations

When our five children were small and we were barely getting by on Greg’s teaching salary, the best Christmas gift ideas were things we could make ourselves. Life has changed, and I don’t often give handmade gifts anymore, but here are some beauties I’d like to make some day.

  1. Handmade Christmas cards. These can be a family project.
  2. I made these beaded candy cane ornaments with my kids when they were small. We made lots and gave many as gifts and used the rest on our Christmas tree. For extra sparkle, be sure to use red translucent and crystal clear beads rather than opaque red and white.
  3. Many of my neighbors lost trees during two horrendous storms this past summer. If I had known about this rustic Christmas tree project, I would have offered to haul away some of their branches.
  4. I’ve been wanting to make pillowcases this way. I’ve seen them done up in Christmas fabrics, juvenile fabrics, and designer fabrics. Gorgeous!
  5. Remember latch hook rugs? You can use the same technique to make rag rugs. The author used cut-up bed sheets and tied the strips to the canvas, but if you have a latch hook (you might be able to find one at a thrift shop), you could do it a lot faster.
  6. Crafty people, do you have more buttons than you know what to do with? (Did you inherit your Grandma’s prized button box?) Make a button garland.
  7. If you like to embroider, you can make a lovely snowflake/floral mandala.
  8. I find it hard to part with fabric scraps. I believe in my heart I’ll use them someday in projects like this English-paper-pieced bookmark.

Christmas balls

Now it’s your turn. Are you making Christmas gifts this year? Or have you in the past? What was a successful craft project? Share in the comments below.

Walking in Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

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Sunday was my birthday, and last Saturday my daughter Katie took me to Boyce Thompson Arboretum. A forty-five-minute drive from her home, the Arboretum is surrounded by desert.

It’s close to Tonto National Forest and I expected there would be lots of trees. (Click on the smaller images to enlarge and scroll through.)

But there’s so much more. Cacti, succulents, and flowers that thrive in the desert:

Roses! and butterflies:

Sculptures and benches and structures from which to rest and enjoy the view:

And speaking of views, you can see mountains from the trails.

 

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Katie

 

I love the desert, and Boyce Thompson Arboretum shows off its beauty. We saw only a small portion of the park during the hours we were there, but Katie is a member of the Arboretum and promised me I can visit any time I want as her guest. We’ll be back soon.

Why Do Authors Need a Newsletter?

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Why Do Authors Need a Newsletter?

I’ve heard that publishers contemplating buying a new author’s work want to know how big his/her email list is; in other words, how many regular subscribers will get a personal notification from the author about the upcoming publication? Clearly, a regular newsletter going out to your readers is an effective marketing tool.

Nevertheless, the quality of your work is your first best sales influencer. Those writers whose every book I purchase (Grisham, Cornwell, Evanovich, Grafton) won me as a fan because I read one book, loved it and sought every other offering. I’ve never even seen the newsletters of the authors I mentioned.

However, I do subscribe to several newsletters; I’ve also unsubscribed from many which I initially liked but which turned into continual sales pitches (and I’m going to mention one in particular: Jeff Goins, who saved my life with his 500 word challenge, but who now promotes himself and his workshops tirelessly).

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How can an author write a newsletter that fans will eagerly devour?

Katie Rose Guest Pryal says, “Newsletters are a special way to share personal insights with your readers. Newsletters, therefore, create connections with your readers. . . If you convince someone to let you into their inbox, you have to make it worth their while. . . It is, in its very form, personal.”

Write in a conversational tone, as if you were writing a letter to a cherished friend (what a lost art!). Julianne Q Johnson suggests, “What’s going on in your life? What are you working on right now? What book have you read lately and what did you think of it?”

If I had a newsletter right now (I’m planning to start mine when my work-in-progress is ready to submit), I’d write about the kitchen and bath remodel going on at my house (oh, the horror!).

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Marylee McDonald sends out one of the best author newsletters I’ve ever read. She specifically targets it to other writers. A recent issue included a description and a link to a training podcast she was part of, a short introduction and a link to an article about a writer friend who fought his way back to writing after a massive stroke, and three calls for submissions from periodicals and publishers. Most of her newsletters do not mention her latest book or her side career as a writing coach and workshop instructor. Her followers already know about those and know they can click on her website link for more information.

Catia Shattuck says,

Remember that while you can use your newsletter to sell more books, the main part of your newsletter shouldn’t be selling your books. Your newsletters allow readers to get to know you, and then, just a small note about a new release will result in them buying your book. If you just use your newsletter to advertise your books, you will lose subscribers. A good recommendation is to sell every third newsletter.

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“Keep it short, sweet, and structured,” says Jane Friedman. She adds,

Hardly anyone will complain that your emails are too short; the more frequently you send, the shorter your emails should probably be. It can also help to deliver the same structure every time. Every newsletter Ann Friedman sends has links to what she’s recently published and what she’s been reading, plus an animated GIF of the week.

Some more content ideas for author newsletters:

  • Writing tips
  • Musical inspiration for stories, or writing playlists
  • Short stories using characters from your books
  • Repurposed past blog posts, but in condensed form (when readers are in email mode, the shorter the better)

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Reminder: if your newsletters are nothing but sales pitches, readers will unsubscribe or delete them without reading.

Need more suggestions? Check out these articles:

Now it’s your turn. Do you have an author newsletter? Do you follow any good author newsletters? What do you like to see in an author letter? Share in the comments below.

Chris Thile, Mandolin Virtuoso

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Chris Thile, born in 1981, is an American mandolinist and singer-songwriter known for his folk and progressive bluegrass work in the trio Nickel Creek and the quintet Punch Brothers. He is also an accomplished classical musician. You may want to bookmark this post because there’s a lot of music here.

Thile was a child prodigy who begged his parents for a mandolin from the time he was 2 and picked up the mandolin for the first time at the age of 5. With his father, and Sara and Sean Watkins, he formed the acoustic group Nickel Creek in 1989, which became a trio when his father bowed out.

He also participates in the quintet Punch Brothers along with Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar), and Paul Kowert (bass).

Thile also performs solo. His style is variously described as folk, progressive, bluegrass, “newgrass,” and roots music.

My brother, Bill, told me about Thile years ago, but I didn’t start following him until I stumbled upon this video where he plays and sings with one of my favorite musicians, YoYo Ma, and others:

Thile was awarded BBC’s Folk Musician of the Year award in 2007, a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award in 2012, and he has been nominated eight times for Grammy Awards, winning four Best Album awards in different categories in 1997, 2002, 2013, and 2015 (Bluegrass, Contemporary Folk, Folk, and Contemporary Instrumental, respectively).

A two-time guest host on Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, Thile was Garrison Keillor’s hand-picked successor. After allegations of Keillor’s inappropriate behavior surfaced, the show was renamed Live From Here.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think of Chris Thile? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Creative Juice #113

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Creative Juice #113

Articles curated especially to enhance your creativity.