Monday, December 15, 2008

Thoughts on motherhood redux

First some birthday photos of Small Fry: This was the "official" party, all the little boys from his preschool played games and jumped on a big bouncy castle at the Y.
Playing with the bubble machine

Happy Birthday boy

Blowing out candles

The bouncy castle!

Playing the parachute game (this was ingenious, who knew 3 year olds could have this much fun with a sheet)

Doing the limbo! This was so funny to watch, i wish we had video of it.




And finally, as we prepare for our big day on Thursday and in what is possibly my last post of 2008, these are the thoughts that I've had stored up:
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"This is the easy part."

These words were uttered to me by my sister in law as she quickly pulled my 2 year old twin niece and nephew back from hanging on the edge of my brand new pack-n-play. I stared down anxiously at my 2 week old son inside and thought, "how in the world can THIS be the easy part?"

Experienced mothers the world over are now throwing their heads back in laughter. Because, of course, my sister in law was right: a 2 week old is candy compared to a 2 year old - and from what I hear a 16 year old is no walk in the park.

This Thursday we start the journey over as we will welcome our brand new baby girl. So after 3 years do I feel like I can handle the "easy part" again? Mostly, though to be honest I don't remember a lot of Small Fry's first year. One of the little weirdnesses of motherhood I've discovered is that you really don't clearly remember back more than maybe 8 months. Small Fry just turned 3 and for me to remember what he was doing at Christmas last year, when he had just turned 2, is a stretch. Its like he's always been just about this age. I do remember feeling, when he was a baby, that I wanted to slow time down, that every day he changed just a bit but enough for me to realize that certain little stages had just gone forever. It was bittersweet, I loved seeing the new little boy he was becoming but sad that toothless baby was gone, and then the happy crawler was gone, and then the cautious walker gave way to the confident climber. I have to be honest and say that since he has become the full on walking and backtalking toddler I am somewhat less enamored of this stage. But while his childish demands can be trying i'm fully aware that some day - not too far away - he won't want mommy to be with him all the time, he won't want me to get away from the computer and play blocks and read book after book. I should enjoy it now, instead of feeling how I usually do: like heaving a gigantic frustrated sigh and trying to marshal my thoughts into how i'm going to keep him occupied and how i'm going to meet my deadlines, and cook dinner, and clean house, and pay bills, and.. and... and..... The other night, after i'd been reading in bed a while, Small fry woke up crying. Jim Dear was out so I hefted my enormous belly out of bed and went to see what was the matter. It was a nightmare of some kind. Small Fry was already almost back to sleep but I pulled him up in my arms anyway. As he lay on my shoulder, breathing small boy snores, I tried to memorize exactly how he felt in my arms, exactly how his fresh bathed hair smelled and exactly how his sturdy little spine felt pressing through his fabric of his pajamas. Then I put him back in bed.

I used to think that as an artist, all of my paintings and drawings were like my babies because I had spent time and energy creating them and I couldn't bear to see them mistreated, or watch as an art director splashed type across my carefully laid out compositions. I love being an artist and it gives me great fulfillment as a woman to be able to do what I love. But now as a mother I don't feel as much that each image is my baby. For one thing, I see the art creation process as more similar to pregnancy instead of motherhood. In pregnancy, there is definitly creating going on, but it's all a one way street: if I do just right this painting will come out healthy and normal. But it won't surprise me with silly sounds and made up words. It won't make me laugh as it tells me to go FASTER MOMMY FASTER as we race the Kroger shopping cart down the frozen aisle, or make me smile as it treats its stuffed animals with unexpected grown-up tenderness.

And that - in the midst of living through the easy parts and the hard parts - is definitely the fun part.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Enough Black Wednesdays - GO BUY BOOKS

A few days ago, I received my Publisher's Weekly newsletter and read about the firings of two higher ups at Simon and Schuster. "mmmm" I thought, "thats probably not good." Yesterday, as Small Fry and I went in search of some after school french fries, I listened to this article on All Things Considered about the state of book publishing. Again I thought "this is seriously not good." Then I happened to be scanning through my local SCBWI digest and found this very detailed link about the number and kind of positions eliminated from publishing in the last week. I sat here and thought "yikes, the sky may not be falling but it is seriously teetering." Now most of this news focuses on the adult side of publishing, and as someone striving to be involved on the children's side I could tell myself that I'm safe. A quick scan of all these sources does not reveal any names on my rather large mailing list of clients and contacts. But how safe am I? Conventional wisdom says that children's books prop up publishing in bad times because while adults will forego books for themselves they still see children's books as "necessities." But how long can this last? When adults stop buying books, stop reading themselves, how long can they really be expected to read to children? How far away is the day when the notion that children need to read just simply doesn't occur to parents/caregivers?

Personally books are such a huge part of my life I can't imagine not buying them, or not reading, or thinking that its only important for Small Fry to read and not me. True there's been times when our house has been short on cash and we dust off our library cards but I've bought way more books in my life than I have movies or CDs combined. The idea of not reading something on a regular (and by that I mean daily) basis is so foreign to me it would be like someone telling me that I had to not breathe for several hours. But thats just me, apparently the vast lot of us doesn't feel this way. Why?? Why?? When I was a kid I made up a book mark that said "A book is an adventure you can do again and again." I still feel that way. So for all ya'll who feel similar the time is at hand for us to return publishing to the black in a good way - go buy books. For the rest of you who don't feel like reading every day, what are you doing right now? I can guarantee you that the bloggers you love to read, those who are great writers are also great readers, go be like them. Get off this blog and go crack open a book.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Getting and giving and thoughts on motherhood...

Getting...
I've been rolling this entry over in my mind for a while. This may be the last post I get in before Sprout puts in an appearance in a couple of weeks and there's been more than a few thoughts i wanted to put down on the blog just to get 'em out there. First I'm facing something that I have never had to do before in all my professional life and I just can't believe it: i'm.... i'm .... i'm having to send store-bought Christmas cards this year.

The shame is hard to comprehend I know.

Its just that every year since becoming an adult and counting my/our popularity by the number of cards I/we get in the mail I have ALWAYS been creative and made my own. First I would actually print cards to send to friends and as promos, then as my promo mailing schedule became more streamlined, I just handmade cards to send to friends and clients. But this year with everything being done for the baby I just don't have time to hand-make cards. My usual schedule of promo mailings is going out and I do have something special in the works for clients ... but friends and family.... well if I have time to do cards (and thats a big if), they are just going to have to tape up whatever Walgreens has on special. Which brings me to the same dilemma I face every time I buy a birthday card (which is often because i gave up handmaking birthday cards like a decade ago): do I choose based on the illustration or the message? C'mon you illustrators out there know that no store-bought card is as good as you could draw/write yourself, when standing in the aisles you think "why didn't think artists make the moon just a little bit more contrasty, thats what I would have done" or "what a great image, too bad the writer completely missed the mark with that sappy turn of phrase." So wish me luck as I jot Christmas cards on my Kroger shopping list, that I'll find something that will at least honor my tradition of always being the cool creative friend that sends hip hand-made cards.

Giving...
So as I mentioned I am doing something special for clients this year. I always do client Christmas gifts, it's fun, I think it's nice to say thank you for working with me, and I always try to do something different. Over the years I've sent everything from cakes to iTunes cards but this year I am giving something I've never done in the past: I'm buying a sheep. Yes, literally. No I am not taking a herd of sheep around to, what I am sure would be very surprised, art directors, I have made a donation to Heifer International in honor of my clients. We got the Heifer catalog in the mail and after looking at it and thinking about how much I've spent in the past on iTunes cards I realized I could buy a whole sheep for some deserving family out there. And with economic times being what they are, i think it's easy to forget that there are people in the world a WHOLE lot worse off than those of us who are just tightening our belts this year by shopping at TJ Maxx instead of Dillards. The Heifer folks give the sheep, and training in its care, to a family in South America or Eastern Europe and the sheep provides a living (selling wool) and the family can also use the wool for their own clothing, as the sheep has lambs the business grows. It's essentially teaching a man to fish so he can eat forever. Anyway I'm making a cute sappy little card to send clients explaining why they don't have an Amazon gift card but they will be getting a warm fuzzy feeling. Here's one of the illos for the card:


thoughts on motherhood.....
ok well this is just going to have to wait as it is now 2:45 and time for me to go get Small Fry, but suffice to say 2008 has been a year to reflect on creation in my life both from what I do as an artist, to the little one kicking on my liver, to the ongoing task of changing Small Fry from a baby boy into a good person. This one promises to be good ya'll so check back in a couple of days. In meantime here's a pic from Small Fry's 3rd birthday, he's the one stuffing cake in his mouth:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sample Day

UPS made a massive drop off at our house today. Among the packages were my new scanner (yay!), the party favors for Small Fry's upcoming birthday and a whole stack of samples of published work. Its always kind of coolly strange to get these in the mail. By the time I get samples, the job has been done and paid for many months previous. The period of time in which I worked on it has already faded in memory because I'm on to some other new project or deadline that's taking all my attention (these days its the looming deadline of Baby Sprout's birth). Still when I get samples I always enjoy seeing how the real REAL finished product turned out. Today I got samples of the lift-the-flap book that was such a focus of my summer. It came as a kit, the reader or teacher can cut out and attach the tabs for the flaps. I'm not sure if I'm going to do that or just leave it in one big sheet. It was a lot bigger than I somehow thought it would be which is weird to say because I knew it was roughly 8.5 x 11 but seeing it printed that size, it seems much bigger than when I was working on it. I am pleased with the finished product and really happy the art director made sure I got some samples. Anyway here's a picture of it laying on my messy drawing table:


On another note, I'm happy to say we are rejoining the land of the technology-abled. I took our broken digital camera to a local shop, Photographic Systems Unlimited, and miracle of miracles the guy just popped the case back together! And he didn't even charge me. I was so happy, I'd gone in prepared for having to fork over a serious amount of cash to get out virtually brand new camera fixed after it collided with the kitchen floor. So now I can more easily get pics online. And not the least of reasons to celebrate, as I mentioned before, my scanner has been replaced and seems to be working fine so give me a minute and I will get pics of Small Fry's Halloween scanned in (didn't make it to the camera shop til after halloween).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Illustration Friday - Pretend


Who doesn't remember doing this as a kid? Especially if you had an older brother. And really especially pretending that you wouldn't get your head knocked in when you ran into the car/tree/mailbox/house that was waiting at the bottom of the hill. The only difference between this illo and my own childhood experience is these guys are wearing helmets (mandated by Harcourt thank you very much.)

In other news, I actually had a great sketch done for last week's Illustration Friday topic - Wise, but discovered that my scanner has died! Momentary vent: is it possible to get a scanner to last longer than 3 or 4 years???!! I"m looking at buying my FOURTH scanner in 14 years. Good heavens, I have a printer that I've had since 1995 and it still works great.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Illustration Friday - Strings


Here's my idea for Illustration Friday's latest theme, strings. Probably 'cause I live in Music City the first thing that pops into my head when I hear the word "strings" is a stringed instrument - violin, cello, guitar, or, in this case a fiddle.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This is getting out of hand

So many of you have probably seen my postings about the Orphan Works legislation that has been circulating in Congress this year, if you haven't seen my earlier posts then check them out here and here. Some are pretty long but worth reading. Unfortunately I have a new development to report on that is ridiculous not just for the impact on this legislation, but also, in my opinion, also for the procedure used to pass it:

On Friday afternoon, in the midst of the bailout hoopla, the Senate passed the Orphan Works Bill of 2008 using a procedure known as hotlining. Never heard of that? Neither had I until a couple of months ago when they first tried it. I'll explain in a minute, first let me register my extreme displeasure with my elected officials for passing this bill that would, in the words of David Rhodes president of the School of Visual Arts, "socialize the expense of copyright protection while privatizing the profits of creative endeavors." The main problem with this legislation is that it redefines the concept of copyright as something that is the exclusive private property of the creator (to share or not share as he likes) to something that the public has a primary right to use and it is the creator's obligation to make it available. Think about that one for a minute. What if a law were passed that made it a homeowners' obligation to open their backyard for any stranger who wanted to park there just because they might like your proximity to a tourist attraction? That is the same thing this bill does except instead of some stranger tampering with a flower bed, these will be tampering with artwork that many of us poured our blood, sweat, tears, dreams and aspirations into.

Now is not the time to give up however. Plan B is to stop the House Judiciary Committee from folding their version of the bill and just adopting the Senate's. Doing that would make it much easier for this thing to pass, so lets keep it stalled in committee. Contact your representatives and tell them to oppose the Senate's version (or really, could we just trash this thing altogether?) Go here for an easy link to contact your representative.

Now about ridiculous part number 2. This bill was hotlined, to read a thorough definition of what hotlining is go here. Essentially it's where the 2 party leaders agree to call all their members (using a special hotline installed in the Senate offices) and if no one registers an objection or a "hold" then the bill is passed by "unanimous consent" (UC). Unfortunately that is a misnomer because often no details about the bill have been made public nor has there been any public debate. Even more insane is the fact that a constituent cannot easily find out how their Senator "voted", since it doesn't even have to be a senator that places the hold, or agrees to consent, it can be done by any staff member who answers the phone even without the senator's knowledge.

And lest you think this is something done only for "minor" legislation or non-controversial bills, get this: In the 05-06 Congress only 21 bills of 341 under consideration received a floor vote, with 94% passing on a voice vote or UC. Somehow I don't think 94% of that stuff was non-controversial. Wow, unelected individuals having a major say in how our laws are changed and our money is spent? NOW how do like your tax dollars at work?

So at the moment I'm pissed not only because someone is out there trying to snatch my copyrights away but also because my senators didn't give enough of a damn about my small business to have a real hearing on this matter. Yet they want me to foot the bill so their huge campaign contributors can save their businesses "that are too big to fail"???!!! I think not. Thank goodness for free speech so I can tell them to kiss my a**.

Friday, September 19, 2008

SCBWI Mid-south conference tomorrow

Tomorrow I get to wake up bright and early (like I have just about every morning since Small Fry was born) and head down to the Mid-south Regional conference for SCBWI which happily always takes place in Nashville. I was just going through my portfolio, updating it, adding new images, and I remembered how at last year's conference I had the critique that really set me on a new path with my work. A year ago my portfolio had some strong pieces but also a lot with a more "pastel" look that I learned just doesn't catch the eye of editors in the book publishing world. I was doing fine getting educational and institutional jobs with these but, as I stated when I started this blog, I learned I was going to have to step it up a notch and really put some drama in my images. Over this year I have discovered that this is VERY HARD TO DO. Especially when I'm on a wicked tight deadline. But I am happy to report as flipped through my updated portfolio that I can see a marked increase in drama this year. All the images have more movement, more detail, and bold contrast, gone is the pastel look. Of course I have yet to see if the art director at this year's conference notices this, and since she won't have seen last year's work she won't see an improvement, but for the moment I am happy with myself to see the difference.

In other news, looks like Sprout won in my reader's poll for baby sister's new name! While I got a few e-mails emphatically making the case for their vote I have to say this is a democratic blog when I want it to be, so Sprout it is.

Monday, September 1, 2008

More Adventures with Small Fry..... and the smallest fry!

Back in July, we loaded up the car and headed to Lexington, KY for a mini vacation. The destination was the Kentucky Horse Park which, as a friend of mine put it, is the Sea World of horses. It was a lot of fun and, really, if you are a horse lover at all, this park should be on your must-do list. While the Small Fry was a tad to young to appreciate it the way his horse-lovin' mommy did, it was a good time by all and the following are some of the great shots we got:

Of course there was the obligatory petting zoo. Here Small Fry and Mommy get to know a camel.


If Nashville is Music City, then Lexington is surely Horse City and the KY Horse Park boasts over 100 breeds in residence. One of the coolest exhibits is the Parade of Breeds where they bring out different horses in period dress and after the show you can pet them and ask questions of the handlers. Here's Mommy and Small Fry petting a Morgan horse


While we were there one of the things I really wanted to see was the Man o' War grave and memorial. For all of you folks uninitiated to the world of thoroughbred racing, Man o' War is considered one of the greatest horses ever to race and is listed in the top 100 athletes of the 20th century. He raced in the 1920's and only lost one race, beating all comers and setting records that stand to this day. When he died he was actually embalmed and laid in state at Faraway Farms in Lexington. He is buried at the Horse Park and the memorial is really beautiful, with a life size bronze statue surrounded by fountains and etchings telling his story. As an aside, there were many many bronzes at the park of all different horses and events. These were wonderful to see, not just as a horse lover, but also as an artist. Here's Jim Dear and Small Fry in front of Man o' War:


And finally, what does one do the most when one visits a park dedicated to horses? Well one goes for a ride! And ride we did... well not all of us, since Mommy was sporting a 5 month pregnant tummy, but Small Fry was on the back of pony every day we were there. I am happy to say that he took to it like a fish to water, he was never afraid and every horse we saw he'd say "I want to ride it! I want to ride ON it!" Here he is on one of the many pony rides:


On an entirely different subject, a week after returning from KY, we made the eventful trip the doctor's office to find out if Small Fry was getting a baby sister or baby brother. Now I am the most happy that everything looked healthy and normal on the ultrasound but the news of the day was that it is a baby sister! What's funny is that all along Small Fry insisted that it was a girl and not a boy. Here's her very first picture from the ultrasound:

And finally, since this blog changes the names to protect the innocent, I think I'll poll my readers to get a "handle" for the new baby girl on the way. Check the poll to the right and choose your favorite.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Illustration Friday - Routine

OK this is the first Illustration Friday post with an illo from the lift the flap book I mentioned earlier. I have more on the story of this book in this post. This is from the page about sheep shearing and I figured it matched the theme because of the ranch hands have a routine when they clip a sheep. The first illustration is the main or background illustration, the next illo is the flap. This flap splits in two - imagine a midpoint down the leg of the ranch hand in the red shirt, the left side is the back of the flap, the right side is the front of the flap and is "closed" or what is seen when the reader turns to this page.



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Christian the Lion


Tonight I was fiddling around on line reading some other blogs when I came across this on my friend Sherry's blog. Here's the story as I picked it up from her blog; this is quite a story and the video is a real tear jerker. I just thought it was cool so I decided to post it.
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In 1969, two friends, John Rendall and Ace Berg, purchased a lion. At the time, Christian the lion was a 35-pound cub. He had been born in a zoo. The friends raised Christian in their London home. All three hung out in a friend’s furniture shop on the weekends.

Within a year, Christian had grown to 185 lbs. Rendall and Berg realized they couldn’t keep him much longer. But they didn’t know what to do with him. A chance encounter changed that. Two actors from the film Born Free walked into the furniture store.

The actors recommended a conservationist, George Adamson, living in Kenya. Christian was soon in Africa. There he was rehabilitated and released into the wild.

In 1974, Rendall and Berg decided to visit Christian one last time. He was now a wild animal. Adamson told them it was doubtful that Christian could be found. No one had seen him in nine months.

The two flew to Kenya, anyway. On the day they landed, Christian appeared outside Adamson’s camp. Somehow, he knew. He waited outside the camp until Rendall and Berg arrived.

This video was taken during their reunion with Christian. What a story! What a video!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Winding Down Summer Projects and Flip Book Mania

Tonight I came out of the bedroom after putting Small Fry to sleep and I thought I really need to update my blog tonight... but sigh.... i have to be honest and say I just did not feel any real inspiration to write. But sometimes you have to shove the blahs aside and fake it so that one does not disappear into the ether in cyber space. One of the reasons I have not felt a whole lot of inspiration is because I am just slammed with work right now. It happens every summer so I'm not complaining (what with my habit of needing to eat) but I'm finally in the home stretch of the projects I'm working on. One of the projects I did this year was a lift-the-flap book. I think I mentioned this in an earlier post. I've never done a flip book before and I have to say this thing was excruciating. It was quite a challenge to get each side of the flap lined up with the underlying illustration. At one point Jim Dear pointed that he knew I was spinning my wheels with it because I was "looking in the mirror and sighing a lot" (I have a mirror over my drawing table that lets me see work at a distance without having to get back away from it). I told him that doing with was like having to paint the illustrations 3 times, but exactly the same each time!

Anyway I'll post a few pieces from it here. Unfortunately I don't have a cool way to show how the flap works so these are just the underlying illustrations that make up the main page.

These are the main characters in the book. Its a story about twins, Jack and Tracy, that live on a sheep ranch in Australia.


This was about how Tracy like to play with the baby lambs. It was quite interesting trying to match up my hay texture.


On top of the flaps this book presented two new challenges: drawing sheep being sheared and a weaving loom. I had to do quite a bit of research to see what goes into both processes. This is from the sheep shearing page, the ranch hands are cleaning up afterwards.


The last page, I was just kind of proud of this lighting effect.


Later this month I have to do give a talk to a women's group about "what I do" so I think I may take these illos and the sketches for them to show as this project was definitely different than the usual stuff I work on day in and day out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Illustration Friday - Fierce

I know this illustration has already appeared on the blog but I think this is great for this week's Illustration Friday topic.


Plus let me be honest I'm so swamped with work right the moment I can't even consider doing something new, much as I'd like to. Every summer for the last 9 years or so I've worked on this really cool project - it's the Vacation Bible School books and materials for Lifeway. But the problem with it is that entails a WHOLE LOTTA work in a very short time and its completely confidential until they publish their catalog so I can't even complain specifically about it show any of what I'm working on! And what I'm working on right now is this neat little lift the flap book. I've never done a lift the flap book before so this has been quite the fierce challenge (heh heh getit? fierce... it could have been my post.) Anyway I"ll hopefully be able to post some of this work in late July or August.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Local Orphan Works update

This past Saturday I attended a local community forum on the Orphan Works legislation sponsored by Jim Cooper, the Congressman for Tennessee's 5th District and John Hall, a New York Congressman and singer/songwriter of The Orleans fame. Lucky for me living in Nashville means we get to be on the front row of intellectual property issues because of the music industry. Most of the people attending were songwriters or connected to the music industry but there was a scattering of visual artists in the group.

The group started by airing everyone's concerns regarding the legislation. Most everyone had the same complaints already heard about the bill; possibility of making everyone's work an orphan, flimsy language detailing what counts as a 'diligent search', financial hassle of having to re-register your work with an unknown amount of databases. For a full re-cap of problems go here. If there was anyone in the crowd supporting this bill they never spoke up. Then Cooper and Hall spoke on how they stand on the issue. Hall told an amusing anecdote about how the McCain campaign tried to use one of his most famous songs, You're Still the One, without compensation by claiming that the campaign couldn't find the author of the song. Since Congressman Hall appears as both a songwriter and performer in the song's credits and works just across the building from Senator McCain, Hall was a little surprised they couldn't find him. At any rate here was the big information we learned about what's happening with this on Capital Hill:

• Neither Cooper nor Hall support this bill. Cooper said he would "do anything he could to stop the bill."

• The bill is NOT being fast-tracked. This is a very good thing as this had been a concern that it would try to be passed by summer. Cooper said everyone is now tied up with appropriations.

• Cooper said the bigger fight on this would come next year when Congress reconvenes after the election.

• Right now no one in DC is talking about this, so clearly we need to step to the fight. There is the possibility of procedural maneuvers being used to bring the bill to a vote without debate but Cooper and Hall doubted that would happen especially since they could see that there was a groundswell of opposition to it even if its not being the hot topic on the Hill at the moment.

• Hall suggested the possibility of having a Judiciary Committee field hearing regarding the bill. He felt that in cities like Nashville where intellectual property is a significant part of our economy that the Committee could benefit from hearing the people's complaints first hand. I think this would be a good idea, and personally I'm all for getting this to happen.

• Neither Hall nor Cooper really knew what was happening in the Senate with the bill. Both said usually you can count on the Senate to not do much, however one of the bill's Senate sponsors is Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and he tends to be a mover in the Senate. Anyone with ties to voters in Vermont needs to get on them about contacting Leahy to get off this bill.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Illustration Friday - Forgotten



My first Illustration Friday post. After reading about for a while about Illustration Friday, the creative mind expanding blog, I finally decided to try my hand at it. I hope I can keep up what with dividing my time between being a mom and cramming a 40 hour work week into 3 mother's day out days.

Anyway I sketched this about a year ago from the window of the Great Reading Room in the Nashville Library. You are pretty high up at that window and I noticed looking down on the roofs below that they would be a great place to come and get away from things. The girl wasn't there that day, but the shadows of pigeons as they swooped over the crumbling roof moldings gave me the sense that the space was waiting for something..... or someone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Orphan Works

So its been a while since I posted and there's a very good reason for that, although its not the subject of this post..... but I might as well get it out there: It looks like the Fabulous Illustrator is working on a whole other kind of project - the kind that take 9 months to complete and makes you lose sleep afterwards. The deadline for this particular project is sometime around Christmas so that ought to be real interesting.

At any rate I have been meaning to post for a while about the Orphan Works Bill catastrophe that is striking visual artists currently. Simply put the Orphan Works Bill is a proposed legislation that would allow anyone searching for a copyright to a particular creative work and not finding it, to simply declare it an "orphaned work" and use it for whatever personal or commercial use desired. Should the owner of the copyright discover that his work has been thus pilfered, he would have to bear the burden of proof that the work was his and not the infringers. This is the opposite of the way copyright law reads currently. I strongly recommend listening to the interview with Illustrator's Partnership co-founder Brad Holland about this for a more in-depth view.

I had promised to post updates of the bill as it made its way through Congress. There have been several calls to write and call representatives and recently several visual artists as well as representatives from independent record labels convened on the Hill to express their displeasure with the folks that work for us (i.e. the politicians). Below is the report I just received on this:

Visual Artists Go to Washington, Independent Record Labels Oppose Orphan Works Act

Last week over two dozen visual artists, representing illustrators, photographers, fine artists and the arts licensing trades went to Capital Hill to explain to legislators how the Orphan Works Act will harm creators and the hundreds of thousands of art-related small businesses that serve and are dependent on them. At the same time, independent music labels have joined the opposition to orphan works legislation as it currently exists.

The Illustrators’ Partnership has stressed that Orphan Works legislation should be limited to true orphaned work and not act as an unwarranted compulsory license imposed on commercial markets. IPA, the Advertising Photographers of America and the Artists Rights Society have joined to offer amendments to that effect.

Excerpted from the Washington Internet Daily/Monday June 09, 2008:

The visual-arts community hit the Hill last week to protest what it portrays as a hijacking of the orphan-works issue as it was presented in a 2005 Copyright Office report...

The Copyright Office ran a bait-and-switch from its 2005 notice of intent, which focused on facilitating libraries', museums' and other nonprofits' efforts to digitize collections to improve access to them, [Illustrators’ Partnership co-founder Brad] Holland said. Artists want the issue narrowed back to that focus, scrapping commercial use, he said...Copyright Office roundtables on orphan works never addressed alternates to registries, an "untested, untried, unaccountable market system" favoring Google, Getty, Corbis and other commercial aggregators, Holland said. [Cynthia] Turner [also of the Partnership] said artists would incur high costs registering works, and they hesitate to hand over high-res, commercial versions to Google or others.

In the same article, Washington Internet Daily also reports that the leading group of independent music labels has broken with the corporate music trade associations. The American Association of Independent Music has published a position paper opposing the current orphan works bills. The article quotes a music industry executive: "I can tell you that nobody in the music business" sought the bill.

... the executive said the bill is "de facto... establishing a new compulsory license" by putting unregistered artists at a legal disadvantage in court. The law can't explicitly require registration or it will violate the Berne Convention, TRIPS and other treaties the U.S. has signed, the executive said. Book publishers and music executives in the U.K. think the U.S. will be in trouble, the executive said, citing a recent visit: "I can tell you there are European commissioners that are looking at this right now."
-Excerpts from “Orphan-Works Bills Scorned by Visual Arts, Indie Labels” by Greg Piper, Washington Internet Daily June 09, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My First Ten Years

Today, May 8th, is kind of a big deal to me. Ten years ago I walked out of my job as a designer for a printing company never to walk back through any business' doors as an employee again. The story unfolded like this: about a year prior to this I had left a horrible, terrible job at a company that shall remain nameless (though, mercifully, it is defunct now) and had taken a part time job at this printing company. I was determined, at the age of 24, to start working for myself, to be able to support myself as a freelance illustrator. Frankly I never wanted to work at a horrible, terrible place ever again and I figured the best way to do that was to always be self-employed. So I started working part time and shopped my portfolio around on my off days. I stayed up late at night doing pieces that I thought would get me jobs and ever so slowly but surely the jobs started to trickle in. However at the same time I was doing such a swell job at the printing company that the owners, who were really nice people, began hinting that they needed me to be full time. I resisted. Then in the early spring of 1998 I was offered a contract to illustrate a book for a small local publisher. How exciting! I remember thinking I can't believe this is happening already! A couple of days after this Joe, the owner of the printing company sat me down and said "we really need you to be full time." I replied "well, uh, the thing is I just got this contract and its what I really want to do, and uh if I work full time I'll never be able to meet the deadline, and the thing is I really don't want to work for you full time." He gave a me look and said, "this is your dream isn't it." I nodded. I put in a month's notice.

One week later the publishing company canceled my contract citing the author's desire to go with a previous illustrator.

That day was not the best day in my life, and I suppose I could have gone back to my about-to-be-former employer and ask to stay on. But I felt like there was no turning back at that point, sure I was scared, but I had come this far right? I had a little money saved and I had a few other jobs coming in, so on Friday, May 8th 1998 I left the second of only two jobs I've ever had. The following Monday MER Images was open for business.

Looking back now I have no idea how I survived the first couple of years. . . the grace of God is what I think now. Obviously I owe a debt of gratitude to my clients, some of whom have become good friends and whose work has made me not just a better illustrator but a better artist (Keith and Jill you can pat yourselves on the back now;). The worry and stress of the early struggling years has given way to the thrill of getting a call from an art director in New York or Chicago, who I've never met, though they've been following MY work. There are still slow times, there are still times when I'm frustrated because I haven't attained every goal of my career but I try to keep that grateful attitude. Not everyone can say they do what they love for a living and that they've been doing it longer than anything else. I can. And no matter what happens there's no turning back, I mean I've come this far right?

See you in another ten years.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

As promised here is my illustration celebrating 10 years! Click on it to get a close look:


OK now that you've seen it, keep an eye out, it will be appearing as a printed poster later this year. Some questions to ponder: Is the dark rate saving the white rat or letting go? What's up with the diamond ring, and why are they in a circus? Is this some sort of bizarre rat proposal? Stay tuned for the answers and commentary in a later post.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sketch Time

Since I became a mom I have noticed that I can sketch a child's figure much faster and better than I used to be able to. By this I mean I can usually get the pose I want down in the first few tries as opposed to sketching, erasing, sketching again. Being able to do it quickly results in a sketch that is much more "alive." Not only can I get a body pose the way I want it, I can usually do hands, feet and expressions just as quickly - these used to be some of the harder parts for me. I don't know, is this just from a few more years of practice or because I'm constantly seeing little hands and feet and mouths and eyes all around me all the time? I don't know.... I like to think maybe a little of both. Here's a couple of unused sketches from a project that I just started, these feature some good hand movements I think:




In other news I'm just about finished with my promo illustration for my 10th year of freelancing. I'll be posting it shortly, but here's a teaser sketch:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Adventures with Small Fry

The Friday before Easter, Small Fry and I trucked down to mommy's hair dresser to tame his locks. The following are just a sampling of the near total photographic coverage of the event:

The Before picture:


Miss Patty cuts away, check out his mousse mohawk


The After picture. What a handsome little boy! This is right before Miss Patty handed him a blue lollipop.... mommy knew that white shirt was a bad idea.


Since this is supposed to be a blog about the adventures of an artist it is only fitting that I share some images of Small fry being an artist, of course he just the most brilliantly creative genius to sit in a high chair. Think I'm wrong? Watch the video and see how patiently he handles the art director's mundane requests to "put it on the paper."



video

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Face Space

A couple of months ago 60 Minutes did a show about how wonderful creation known as Facebook.com. We saw this embryonic billionaire CEO describing how great his creation is and how much (as yet ungenerated) money he will generate with it. Jim Dear and I sat and laughed at the TV, saying"its just a souped up version of e-mail!" and "who has time to do that stuff."

who indeed.

Sure enough, as if on cue, 24 hours after that show aired I started getting e-mail invitations: "So and So has added you as a friend on facebook, click here to confirm that you are in fact friends with So and So." Well this so and so was a friend from church... i couldn't very well NOT respond.... wouldn't that be tantamount to saying you're not my friend? So I clicked ok, created an account, and, with much reluctance, joined the throngs flocking to facebook.com.

My Wednesday lifesaver, Becky, (a.k.a. Small Fry's babysitter) has been telling me for some time that I need to join MySpace. Becky is this cute, 23 year old newlywed with plenty more time on her hands than the Fabulous Illustrator. She persisted in convincing me: It was so hip she said, you can show off pics of Small Fry she said, everyone's doing it she said. I said isn't that the very same website full of 12 year olds pretending to be legal? She rolled her eyes and said "some of them actually are legal, besides you can set your profile to private." My response (as it is for sooo many things) was i don't have time for that stuff. And i persisted in not having time until the Facebook invites started rolling in, because sure enough, right behind them, came the Myspace invites. Now my best friend from highschool, Jules, was telling me "you have to get on there and see who's gotten OLD!" So finally I did it, i joined myspace too.

It was all down hill from there....

A couple of hours, and a few clicks later, there were my profiles, gleefully touting all my accomplishments: marriage, parenthood, 10 years of being gainfully self-employed as an artist. I left jaunty comments on my friends walls like "Hey! whats up!" and "yeah its cold here too!" A couple of days after joining, while Small Fry was at mother's day out, I managed to waste an entire morning looking up people I barely even knew the first time I met them. And it wasn't long before I also convinced Jim Dear to join both Myspace and Facebook. My argument was that all MY friend's husband's had profiles, what if i got hit on by some 14 year old! As for my profiles, so far they are pretty low brow. I haven't added any pictures yet and I don't have a pimped out background. By Becky's standards it falls into the loser category. That's ok, one of these days I'll get around to adding more stuff to it, for now its just kind of nice to be able to smugly type in my password when Myspace says "only members may view this page, please confirm that you are, in fact, friends with us."

Epilogue:
Just for posterity, and for one time only, I'm going to list all the aforementioned Facebook and Myspace profiles here. Read 'em and say what a fabulous illustrator I am:
My Facebook
My MySpace

Jim Dear's Facebook
Jim Dear's MySpace

Becky's MySpace
Jule's MySpace

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Fabulous Illustrator has a new computer!!! Yayy!

So a couple of months ago I walked into my local Apple store, consulted with Rustin the Fabulous Mac Dude, and plonked down a small wad of cash for a brand spankin' new iMac. This last month I have been breaking it in on a huge project I do twice a year and, happily, it's really settling into its new home quite nicely. I don't buy new computers that often, in fact I have only ever owned four since I became Mac literate, circa 1994. My first was a Power PC7100. It was the computer I started my business with and it was such a weakling compared to what I have now, but oh, I still have a soft spot for that computer. I bought it in 1995 with my leftover college savings and when I finally upgraded to a new computer 5 years later I kept it in our attic for a while because i just couldn't bear to throw it away. The second computer I bought was a G4 tower which is still sitting right here, eyeing the new iMac grimly. It knows the computer hierarchy is about to change and it will have to give up the premier spot on the desk. A couple of years ago, after the Small Fry was born, I bought a laptop, a MacBook Pro. At the time it became the lightening fast computer, faster than the G4 and I had every intention of it being the new new studio computer but discovered that it was much more convenient with a baby to have TWO computers - one in the studio, and one in the house on which I could simultaneously do page layouts and color corrections, cook dinner, feed a baby, and check e-mail. So the G4 maintained its reign, but time (and software and internet apps) marches on and late last year I realized the G4 really was showing its age. It's 7 years old now and it had brought me into the second phase of my business: moving from surviving to thriving and moving into my swanky custom designed studio in the garage. Anyway after much hemming and hawing, budget crunching, and drooling as I strolled with Small Fry past the store in Green Hills Mall I called my husband at work and announced that we had a new computer.

Now I just have to say that I have always thought of my computers as having personalities. Maybe its because when you work by yourself and you work on this one particular thing so much, it begins to seem like a person, a co-worker. It has days it doesn't want to work as well as the days you could just kiss it for coming through for you. Maybe because it was my first, my Power PC was always a scrappy determined little machine, always hardworking, always dependable. It was like the nerdy guy in accounting that saves the company billions and then gives all the credit to his goofy boss. The G4 is much more dignified. When I first pulled it out of the box I remember thinking "now this looks more like a computer for grown-ups." Its like the old time CEO who works hard, plays hard and expects respect from everyone. The new iMac is pure bad ass. With its sleek styling and dizzyingly fast processing speed it looks like the young hotshot brought in to take over the company. It doesn't really care if people respect it as long as they get out of its way. I was hooked watching it toss 100MB files around like summer homes in a hurricane. But I better not tell it that it was not the fastest computer in the store that day.... just the fastest one I could afford! It may just have a Mac Pro complex somewhere behind that immense 24 inch screen. Thats ok, if it keeps working like it has the last couple of months, it can keep its new spot on the desk.... for the next few years anyway.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Feeding the homeless

Tonight our church is doing Room in the Inn. In nashville there is a program amongst area churches that feeds and houses homeless people for the night. Each church takes a different night and the Campus for Human Development, which started the program, brings the people to the church and picks them up in the morning. Church groups make dinner and breakfast for the people and then eat the evening meal with them. Its an ingenious plan really, the homeless folks get a better night than the one they would have on the streets and the church folk get a chance to see that homeless people are still people. Anyway I had signed up to bring some veggie dishes and then I get a frantic e-mail from my friend Holly, who was coordinating tonight's dinner, that they need more potato dishes - she's the only person who signed up to bring one. So i check the fridge and happen to have a half full bag of potatoes. I e-mail Holly that I can mash them but they will only feed about 6 or 8 people. She says bring 'em on, we need as much food as we can get. So I scrub and boil potatoes while Small Fry is napping. When i get them all mashed up in the dish, milk and butter added, these potatoes look pretty scrawny. I mean I'm not even sure they will feed 4 people let alone 6 or 8. if Jim Dear and I were eating them they'd be gone in one night (we eat too much but thats behind the point). Quickly i cast about the kitchen looking for something to stir in to make the potatoes seem less sparse, but there's nothing you can add to mashed potatoes except more potatoes! Frustrated I change them into a smaller dish so they don't seem SO small and go about cooking the other food I am supposed to bring. Everything gets in the oven and I'm cleaning up when lo and behold in the dish drainer I see one lone potato. Apparently in my scrubbing, peeling, boiling, frenzy i missed this one. At first I was annoyed-I'd already cleaned up everything-what am I supposed to do with ONE potato? Then I thought to heck with it, i'm going to boil and mash this one potato and add it to the scrawny potatoes at least there will be a little bit more. So thats exactly what i did. Even with just one potato it took a while to boil it down soft enough to mash but I worked on the computer and checked it every so often. Finally it was done and I mashed it up till it was good and creamy and added it into the scrawny potatoes. All of a sudden they didn't look that scrawny.... in fact they look like they could feed 6 or 8 people now, or maybe even 9. I can't believe one potato can do that much but it can. I'm sure there's an allegory there somewhere .....

mashing one potato

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm back from the SCBWI Winter Conference part III-Fun and Inspiration

Well this is going to be about some of the funnier things that happened at the conference, i thought they were funny anyway. On Sunday, toward the end of the conference, Lin Oliver mentioned that it was Jane Yolen's birthday the next day. Lin had a huge big bouquet of flowers and she suggested that we should sing Happy Birthday to Jane Yolen. Then she said "now I don't have a great singing voice but I know Arthur Levine does, so he can lead us in singing happy birthday!" Arthur was standing at the podium at the time and as Jane Yolen approached I (because I was sitting in the front row) heard her say to him "is this going to be like a Marilyn Monroe thing?" I think she was joking but Arthur says "I can do that!" Then he proceeds to sing Happy Birthday in this very breezy sultry voice (that was pretty good) just like the Marilyn Monroe sang to JFK. It was hilarious but when he was done Lin Oliver said "you know we're gonna but that on YouTube." Now I have looked and looked on YouTube to see if someone did actually post it but I haven't found it yet. If someone reading this finds it let me know, I'd love to put a link here.

Another funny was Carolyn Mackler's address at lunch on Saturday. She was really incredible, a great speaker and story teller. During her speech she mentioned how, when you write fiction, everyone assumes its autobiographical. When her book The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, a story about a highschool girl dealing with anxiety about her weight among other things, was published her friends came to Mackler and told her that after reading her book they had no idea she had lost that much weight. She responded "Thats ok, I write FICTION." She also explained her theory of how it is unnecessary to assume a lone, sullen person on an airplane is a terrorist if they have just started reading a book: if its a good book it's unlikely that they will blow up the plane before they have finished it.

The last speaker on Sunday was Richard Peck. I grew up reading his books and hearing my mom, who was a librarian, tell stories of hearing him speak at ALA conventions. I'd never seen him before and I really wish I had a video of his talk, it was so inspiring. He had almost a sermonly presence behind the podium. His point was about how creating books for children is one of the most singularly impressive and important things we can do, and how reading is one of the most important things a young person can do. I wrote down his quote "If you don't find yourself on the page early in life you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places." How true.

I'm back from the SCBWI Winter conference part II - Some good stuff some not good stuff

Well I'm getting back to this a little later than i wanted to but here's a continuation on NY:

One of the two disappointing things was the lack of one-on-one meetings that are often available at the regional conferences. I know the chapter that I am in, midsouth region, and the Southern Breeze region (AL, GA, MS) allow you to sign up for portfolio critiques which is just invaluable (see my earlier post). Such was not the case in NY which I knew going in but I thought there might be a little bit more of a chance to talk personally with the speakers. However after every session each panel was swamped with people wanting to do the same thing. It was a situation where there were just so many people i deemed it not worth it to stand and wait, its not like they would remember ME with 1000 other people trying to get their attention. The other disappointment, and i really think SCBWI could remedy this, was the lack of information on who viewed the Friday night portfolio show. I thought that we would be given a list of who attended so that we could follow up with mailings etc. However when i asked that night as I picked up my book i was told no, if the attendees wanted to get in touch with us then they would have taken a mailer. Well true, but I DID pay close to a grand to attend this conference and I AM a card carrying member of SCBWI so I kind of THINK that they could help us out a little bit more than that. I mean it would have been pretty simple to do: attendees would have had to show an invite to get in, they could have collected all the invites and then made a list from that. Even if it was just a name and publishing house, those of us industrious enough could have tracked down the rest. For all we know there were 2 art directors and the rest of the attendees were other hotels guests looking for food. I don't really think this was the case but I'm jus' sayin'.

BTW if you want a really complete play by play version of the conference check out Kristi Valiant's blog. And just for the heck of it here are my break-out session notes from a conference round-up e-mai. Each of these sessions were about what each editor wants to publish:
David Gale
VP and Editorial Director Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
This is their flagship hardcover imprint and it is retail driven.
They are reducing their list: 2008 is 76 titles, 09 and 10 will be even less, his personal list is 18 titles about a third of that are pictures books. In PB he looks for kid friendly, quirky. Does NOT want something intended for adults, does NOT want idealized kids. Looks for few lines and is not crazy about rhyme. In older books, he thinks teen horror will be the new fantasy. He read from a couple of manuscripts that he had bought that were horror. I have to say this guy was not that all that encouraging. He pretty much said it was better to send samples to the Junior staff instead of him "because the junior staff can make a name and get raises by finding new authors." As far as art submissions go, he seemed to think it was better to send to the art directors, i did not get the impression that he would really look at art samples alone.

Caitlyn Dlouhy (da-LOO-ee)
Editor Simon and Schuster imprint Atheneum. She has been there 15 years. She said was she is looking for can be summed up in one word - Voice. And she thinks illustrators have a voice too in their work. She considers style a voice, a consistent intriguing style is a consistent intriguing voice. She said she does look at everything, even art samples. She said she almost prefers things to come without an agent because "then no one has judged it before me." She said she will look at things that come with SCBWI NY conference marked on envelope. She edits 16-22 books a year and it is even split between PB, YA, and middle grade. She does look for artists for chapter book art and cover art. I have to say this lady was really refreshing after my first breakout session, she seemed very interested and open to new voices.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'm back from the SCBWI Winter conference part I

Well I'm back from NY and what I thought was just tiredness from our plane getting delayed and delayed and delayed turned out to be a 101 degree fever and a lovely case of the flu. So I've spent the last few days in bed not feeling human. This is my first attempt to look back over my pages of notes and try to distill some of the info I gathered:

The best thing about the conference for me was the panel discussions with various players from the children's publishing world: editors, marketing directors, agents, bookstore owners and, of course, authors and illustrators. The subject of "how the picture book market is doing" kept coming up. One panel assured the audience that the PB market is fine, at another time Tomie DePaola, while filling in for a missing Harry Bliss (who was en route through a blizzard), pronounced the PB market DISMAL! I found this amusing as it was much to the consternation of some previous panelists. But at the end of the conference Arthur Levine (of Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic) had a good point: there will always be need a for picture books because 4 year olds are not going to just skip them and go directly to chapter books! While the market might be suffering some right now due to lack of funding on the school library side he thought that the PB market was not as much in the dumps as many others claim it to be.

On a different subject than the picture book market, Saturday morning's speaker was David Wiesner, winner of 3 Caldecott Medals and one of my personal favorite illustrators. I've never seen him speak before and, really, I was just blown away. He has so much talent, I could just gush like a school girl. I used to like this guy so much I wanted my work to look just like his. In fact my senior project in college was a wordless picture book because I was so inspired by his wordless stories. Fortunately I got over wanting to work exactly like him and found my own style but i still love the idea of creating wordless picture books. Check out Tuesday and Flotsam to see what I mean. In a later session editor Caitlyn Dlouhy referred to him as being off "in the genius realm". I think she's right.

well thats the most of my first report. I'll write more later of some of the funny and disappointing moments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tomorrow's the day!

We leave for the Big Apple tomorrow and the SCBWI conference. I've just spent an hour trying to figure out how to get from the Newark airport into NYC. Before that I spent an hour wandering around Walgreens getting earplugs for Jim Dear and trying to remember if there's anything else I need... and getting distracted by the crazy stuff you can get in a 24 hour pharmacy. I mean, really, who needs a huge MP3 player? I kid you not, Walgreens is selling, for $9.99, an MP3 player that is 14 inches tall! It weights 2 lbs! How do you put that in your gym bag? But I digress.. before i wandered around Walgreens I went to the library to get a book for book club this month, then before that I stood at the kitchen counter and ate a piece of salami..... so the point is I haven't packed yet. Well I do have my portfolio packed so thats all that matters. I can show up in a sports bra and tee shirt and as long as I have rockin' work they'll be impressed right? right? riiiiiaaaagggghhht. I better go pack.

Happily i do have an awesome new illustration to show off. Its the Red Riding hood that I think I mentioned earlier. I've got it ready to post but I want to show its progression from sketch to finished piece. But here's a sneak peek:

Monday, January 21, 2008

To do list

Its been a hectic busy 3 weeks since my last post. I"ve had jobs stack up on one another and a child get sick. When you are a working mom, particularly one who works for herself, thats just a recipe for disaster... or at the very least stress and frustration. While driving to his mommies day out last week, the Small Fry got sick all over the back of the car. In a matter of about 25 seconds my whole day changed - Jim Dear was out of town so I couldn't even count on getting to catch up as soon as he got home from work. I called the doctor, called clients to explain what was happening, and reordered the whole day in my mind while cleaning up poor Small Fry, pulled over in a church parking lot in 19 degree weather (not to any other expectant mom reading this: keep a stash of bath towels in your car, very handy).

Fortunately today is a holiday and Jim Dear is back in town and off work so he is playing with Small fry while I catch up. Last night I came out to the studio and made my to-do list for this week. Its 3 weeks til the SCBWI conference and I REALLY want to finish my Red Riding Hood piece. I've got about 10 things on the to-do list so far and the week just started... but i'm working on Red before I do anything else....

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A new year's resolution

Happy new year! I should have posted this yesterday but what can I say... I was busy, uh, relaxing. Actually thats not entirely true, I DID work in the morning but after that i was busy playing with the Small Fry and spending some gift cards at Barnes and Noble. Truly taxing stuff that just kept me from the blog. At any rate I LOVE new years. It's my favorite holiday. I love all the glitz and glamour of New year's eve parties. I love the song Auld Lang Syne. I especially love the idea of a brand new year; of old, tired events being relegated to a past calendar and a fresh year with endless possibilities spreading out before you. I feel so sorry for people who see a new year as another reminder that they haven't gotten where they want in life instead of a perfect opportunity to start going in that direction. Thats another thing I love about this holiday: part of the tradition is to make a promise to yourself to take action of some sort. Its not simply a "wallow in gratuitous self pleasure" holiday, it taps on the door and reminds you that there may be unfinished business in your life so let's get on with finishing it. I've always made resolutions - some of them have been very grandiose and almost impossible to squeeze into a resolution (more on that in a minute). This year my resolutions involve more mundane things like remembering to take the recyclable shopping bags with me into Kroger every time I go shopping (seriously, parking the cart full of groceries by the frozen goods and running back out to the car with a 2 year old in my arms is getting pretty old). But a long time ago I made the resolution to work for myself as a children's illustrator. That is a truly tall order to put into a resolution as it pretty much can't be accomplished in one year. In fact its not really something you ever finish doing, its a lifetime of work. I bring this up as the point of my post because I made that resolution 10 years ago. This year, 2008, marks the 10th year of taking the plunge to follow my dreams into what was then a murky and unsure future. Happily I am writing this as a fairly established (though still seeking) artist who can pay all her bills. I will write the story of the event that got me to take that plunge later. For now I will just close with the moral of the story: make and follow your own resolution, better things really can happen. Happy 2008.