The Year of Creativity

I have dubbed 2014 the year of creativity. I’m taking a self-imposed hiatus from expectations and obligations with regard to all of my creative endeavors. I’ve been struggling for quite some time with an overloaded schedule. Combine that pesky little beast with overblown expectations and you have a recipe for anti-creativity.

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Lesson 1, Week 1

I need a little time to think.

The Don gave me an absolutely lovely birthday present. Lifebook 2014 is a year-long art course, but really it’s so much more than just a course. Each week you are taken through a different lesson. There are loads of instructors and a variety of approaches, materials, and groups which provide encouragement & feedback.

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Warm-up, Week 1

We’re only four weeks in, but I’m already seeing such a wonderful impact on MY art. I’ve learned new techniques that I wouldn’t have tried myself and expanded my ideas in so many ways. And while the lessons are fabulous, I find that I immediately want to hop over to my current work-in-progress and apply my new knowledge.

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Lesson, Week 4

I’m having a blast and my studio is a wreck. Woo hoo!

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Because of Lifebook, I’m currently having a love affair with watercolor pencils and crayons. Especially the crayons. They are creamy. They blend and layer so beautifully.

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At the end of the year, you can bind all the projects together in a book which will serve as a roadmap and reminder of methods, materials, and techniques.

Here’s my current WIP. She’s on a 24×24″ cradled board, and has lots of delicious texture. Her hair was just waaaaay too purple, so I’ve gessoed over to mute it. Always a surprise! Those stars were applied with thick gesso and are raised from the surface of the painting. Can’t wait to see them after I’ve painted more.

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But enough about my art. A recent featured artist at Ink & Alchemy was Jane Davies. I can’t get enough of her work, especially the encaustic. Here are a few pieces to whet your appetite. Pop over to her website for more of her incredible art.
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As a reminder, with the new year, I have morphed More Ink into a sort of catch-all for creative wonderfulness. Feel free to stop by and share your work with us or post useful and inspiring links. We’re all in this together so let’s help spread the beauty of lit and art far and wide.
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I’ve also instituted a new way of featuring artists and writers. Each month on the pages which list featured writers or artists, a number of people will be featured for the entire month. If you’re chosen, you’ll receive notification so you can brag about it all you like. 🙂
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The artist features began in January and will change in a few days when the month changes. The writer features will begin for the first time on the first of February.
Have a great week, everyone! I feel creativity bubbling up and I must sign-off to answer that very important call.

Falling for Her Soldier, Ophelia London

Ophelia London has been kind enough to write a guest blog for today. She was born and raised among the redwood trees in beautiful northern California. Once she was fully educated, she decided to settle in Florida, but her car broke down in Texas and she’s lived in Dallas ever since. A cupcake and treadmill aficionado (obviously those things are connected), she spends her time watching arthouse movies and impossibly trashy TV, while living vicariously through the characters in the books she writes.

Ophelia is the author of DEFINITELY, MAYBE IN LOVE, ABBY ROAD, and the Perfect Kisses series including: PLAYING AT LOVE, SPEAKING OF LOVE, and FALLING FOR HER SOLDIER (Jan 2014).

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Hi there! Ophelia, here. I’m so happy to hop on your blog and give a little behind the scenes peek into the creation of Falling for her Solder, the third (and final—sob!) novel in my Perfect Kisses series.

When I decided to write another smexy category romance, I knew I wanted music to play a huge part in the story, almost like it was its own character. Since I’d already written a book about a rock star chick (Abby Road) and a high school show choir teacher (Playing at Love – book one in Perfect Kisses), I knew I needed to come up with something just as musically fun.

And what’s more fun than putting hot people in embarrassing/sexy situations? So I decided to take my sexy hero, Charlie—who is a staff sergeant in the Army—and make him learn how to ballroom dance. Fun, right? Of course, the ONLY reason Charlie agrees to dance is because he’s in love with a girl…Ellie.
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Anyway, back to the music…

Thanks to my father, I’m a huge Frank Sinatra fan. But Sinatra’s not very relevant with today’s romance readers. That’s when I settled on the smooth, croony sounds of Michael Bublé to be the backdrop of the dancing scenes in Falling for her Soldier. However, since Charlie is having a hell of a time getting his macho marching feet to move properly, he often gets frustrated and annoyed with Bublé voice and kind of blames him every time he missteps. A muttered “Bublé” becomes Charlie’s favorite curse word.

As I was writing all those frustrating/romantic dance lesson scenes, the “method writer” in me also began to get irritated whenever a MichaelBublé song would come up on the playlist. “Grr, I hate that Bublé,” I would often mutter as I skipped ahead to the next track. Not that I have anything personal against Michael Bublé. In fact, I pretty much love him and his dreamy blue eyes. (Swoon!)

In the final, big dancing scene, Charlie and Ellie don’t dance to Bublé, but to another dreamy crooner, although I won’t give it away here…  You’ll be happy to know, however, that Charlie does end up with a soft spot in his heart for Bublé, knowing that whenever a Bublé song plays, that means he gets to dance with Ellie…which is always worth it.

On a personal note, I was at a wedding reception and my not-yet-but-soon-to-be-boyfriend asked me to dance to John Denver’s “Annie’s Song.” It was probably the most romantic dance floor moment in my life. Do you have a favorite song you like to dance to? Tell me!

Visit me at my website, but don’t call when The Vampire Diaries is on. I can also be found on FacebookTwitter,  Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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Be a Maker

A guest blog written by Jonathan Kahn

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Before we get started, I have a riddle for you. What is both hand-made and fabricated by a machine? Read on for the answer.

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Did the holidays run roughshod over you… again? Do your Christmas memories consist of old specials on TV, bad traffic, and all-out panic? Year upon year, do you vow to start your Christmas shopping in August, only to find yourself staring at end-caps of pre-wrapped $9.99 gifts at 11:30 on Christmas Eve? Don’t be afraid to admit it; there will be no judgment here. In fact, this was me only a few years ago.

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I have mixed feelings about the commercial nature of Christmas. I like the way malls, stores and even cities decorate for Christmas, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t if not for the commercial appeal. But I very strongly dislike the way everyone is urged to buy gifts. The operative word in the last sentence is buy. I do like giving gifts, and I would love it if the gifts people gave each other showed thought and effort.

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Ideally, gifts that are made do this quite nicely. We all know someone who is skilled at carpentry or pottery – making tangible things with their hands. If you’re not one of those people, you’re in the right place – I’m not one, either. But I am good at other things. A few years ago I recorded a couple of classical piano pieces, put them up on Facebook, and burned a few CDs. That was my gift to family and friends. It may sound cheesy, but it was something I made with my own hands.

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This year, I published a collection of short stories. Yes, self-publishing is frowned upon in some elite circles. But like my classical piano recording, my little book is something that I made. It may not be a custom-built spice rack for the foodie in my life, but it’s not another $9.99 set of monogrammed handkerchiefs given in haste to someone who never wears a suit, either.

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Technology gets blamed a lot for making humans more isolated, but it’s really just an enabler (for good and bad behaviors). Technology enabled my two projects, by making them economically feasible for a guy who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them. Recording software meant I didn’t have to buy expensive studio and mastering time. On-demand publishing and e-publishing meant I didn’t have to commit to printing a thousand copies of my book.

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So now that we’re just past Christmas, turn that annual get-started-by-August vow into a plan for making your gifts next year. Stick by Robin’s blog, and you’ll surely get a few cool ideas. Oh, and in case you’re interested, my book is called Vanity Plate Tales. It’s available here.
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Do you make your own gifts? What do you make? If you don’t, what kinds of gifts would you like to make for your loved ones in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

Start now. You’ve got plenty of time until Christmas. 🙂

The artwork in this post is courtesy of Marcus McAllister. Visit him by clicking here or on any of the pieces above. You can find Jonathan Kahn on Facebook.