Saturday, April 11, 2015

Oprah, Lego, and a Smidge of Art

I've been having a lot of roller-coaster weeks. Maybe you know what I mean? Where the very thing you have been dreading, can end up being a relief or a positive step forward. Then, what seems like a simple kindness from an unexpected source, turns into an unexplainable, soul-crushing blow. And then when you feel like you are constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for the next blow... nothing happens.

I am certainly learning that I am a lot stronger than I have given myself credit for - but I am also re-evaluating my motivations (and those of people I come in contact with).  I get so mad or discouraged and want to yell and stamp my feet!!! But - STOP, girl! That's giving in. That's letting "them" win - whoever (or whatever) they may be. That's not me. That's a distraction.

One of the odd side effects of having trouble sleeping - is that, when I do, I have some very intense, exhausting dreams. In one, I was in a place like the Grand Canyon, walking along the rim. I was in awe at the beauty and unreality of the scene. I was walking towards a very tall, green, majestic mountain covered with trees. I wanted to climb that mountain even though I knew it would be a lot of work. I kept getting distracted by the view of the canyon until I realized there was an uncomfortable pull coming from it. Like a vacuum suction, it started pulling things down and swirling away into a black hole. I was trying to move toward the mountain when I heard yelling and saw that I had one of my kids dangling off each of my arms. They were being pulled toward the edge. I knew that if I let go... I could make it to the mountain and safety...
I was digging my bare feet into the rocks to try and get better control and I felt like all my oxygen was being pulled out of my lungs from the strain...

Yep. That's when I woke up.

I admit it. I am tired. Physically, emotionally and mentally.

Today - I put on exercise clothes - with no intention of exercising - but as an excuse to not leave the house. I felt pulled toward the studio to do more cleaning (a different blog post to come, it's on the To-Do List) and lots of other "Shoulds."  I procrastinated a bit by folding laundry and grabbed my iPhone to listen to a story while I worked. I had recently downloaded Oprah's book, What I Know for Sure, and that is what started playing.

I finished all the laundry and as I walked through the dining room, I saw three partially built Lego sets...

I spent the afternoon building and listening to Oprah's voice.

That woman is amazing. Her own story is inspiring and heartbreaking. We listen to other women talk about their pasts, their mistakes and their dreams - and we can't believe they can be so cruel to themselves. And yet - what do we do to ourselves? We are always "too fat", "not good enough", a "bad mother"... stupid, insecure, scared... mean mean MEAN!

If I can forgive Oprah, why can't I forgive myself?

So I followed her lead and asked myself - what do I know for sure?

A few weeks back, that was the theme for a journal group I am in. It is actually a very hard question - but the one thing I know for sure, is that you get what you expect.

In other words, if you expect unhappiness, you get it. If you expect to suffer through the "terrible twos" with your toddler - you most certainly will. Expect bratty kids? You get them.

But if you expect miracles, kindness, happy children, an adventurous life... you get that too.

A weird example... I'm listening to Oprah and pressing little blocks together. I have no idea what the pieces are creating - I'm just following the steps in the directions. I hit a snag when the pieces are being assembled... sideways...? It makes no sense. It's not fitting easily... ugh... my fingertips are feeling bruised.... but I adore building with Legos. I love the challenge and the puzzles. I trust that this has a purpose and it will be worth it, so I just keep going.

About ten minutes later, I pop the annoying bit into place and put a few pieces over it to hold it together - and OMG! I suddenly understand WHAT I was making!? The Legos spell "1932" (just under the clock tower). That's why the pieces were sideways and wonky!
Well then.
I was expecting something cool to come from the crazy - and sure enough.

I am very proud of my fire station.

(I also built this fairy treehouse!)

What I learned today...
* Listen to Oprah, she knows her stuff.
* Give yourself permission to take a break. Recharge.
* You can't help anyone else if you are sick, tired or sad.
* It's perfectly OK to want what you want.
* Create something. It feels good.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wouldn't You Like to Be a Cartoonist Too!?

Today, April 2, is "CCS Shout Out Day!" CCS is the Center for Cartoon Studies - soon to be my Grad School. The school is only 10 years old (10th Anniversary is this fall) and today is the day to get the word out about the school and cartooning.

Besides the obvious folks, artists, I hope that teachers will also take note of this post. Cartooning is such a fabulous tool for teaching! A great way to present information TO students, but also for students to express their OWN ideas. Being able to draw well is not as important to a comic as the ability to get the message across. Sequential Art opens up a whole world of possibilities.

If you are interested in cartooning, in general, take a look at the school's website - there are great links to other interesting sites and news about new comics and awards and alumni work. The Schulz library, at the school, has an impressive collection of comics, graphic novels and art books. (Zentangle for Kidz! is in the collection! :-) There's a library blog too.

If you are interested in getting your Masters in Cartooning or Applied Cartooning, the school has rolling admissions and there is still time to apply. We'd be classmates!!

If you are curious but don't want to commit two years of your life to comic books... and you'd like a whole lot of info packed into one week - then check out the summer programs! (There are scholarships available too.) Take a look at my links below so you can experience comic camp along with me (Summer 2014).

Jul 07, 2014
Comic Camp! My hotel room smells like feet. So does the hallway. And the lobby... This place - the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction, Vermont - is an intriguing mix of blast from the past, mysterious - and "well, that's what ...

Jul 09, 2014
Comic Camp. The teachers here are either wind-up toys or highly caffeinated! They have so much energy and enthusiasm, even at 9:30 in the morning! Me, I'm exhausted just typing the exclamation marks! ;-) Seriously, they ...
Jul 10, 2014
We spent the morning learning the Old School (photocopies) and the New School (InDesign and Photoshop) methods of creating the actual, printed and bound, comic books. Then, after lunch, we got really serious!
Jul 10, 2014
This one incorporating a lot of rules, like "Pay It Forward" - in which you draw the first panel of the comic and then write the dialog for the second panel, then pass it on... yep, in just one minute. Sheesh. Other rules were ...

Jul 12, 2014
We finally got to hold our comics in our hot little hands! To recap - yesterday, we had two hours to draw our page and ink it. We went from brainstorming the story, characters, etc. right through to silkscreening and assemble... in ...

And here are links to my more recent blog posts and application, etc.:

Dec 06, 2014
Today I am up in White River Junction, VT for Portfolio Day at the Center for Cartoon Studies. I haven't shown an actual portfolio in twenty years! I was so incredibly nervous that I almost let the winter storm that woke me up, ...
Jan 09, 2015
I've never wanted to be a political cartoonist, but I do want to chronicle life, and the Charlie Hebdo incident has only served to reinforce my desire to go to cartoon school. Bored Panda had a fabulous post with cartoons drawn ...

Feb 06, 2015
When I was working on my cartoon school application, I had to draw a comic that included myself, a robot, a piece of fruit and a snowman (?!). I also had to write an essay and all the other usual stuff. Since this is graduate ...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tangle of the Week - Flora

Hi Sandy, 
I am new to Zentangle and am working my way through the tangles in the book, "Joy of Zentangle". I am looking at your tangle called Flora. In the book it is illustrated within a small square and in the last square the petals are cut off by the edges of the square.

I can't find any example of this tangle used in any of the illustrations in the book and I am confused as to what to do with it. Is it put together in a ribbon or is it used as one design to fill a space without repeating? Can you give me some help with this or point me in the direction of some Zentangles using this pattern? 

Many thanks for your help and for sharing your beautiful work. 

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Hi Joan,

I hope this answers your questions about the tangle in The Joy Of Zentangle book. First, that book was assembled by the publisher by taking random chunks out of other books. If you notice, the "tip" on Flora's page doesn't seem relevant?

Here is the original page, from my book Totally Tangled, with the steps and examples for Flora.

Flora can be used as part of Bauer. Makes more sense, right?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Got it! 
Thanks so much for getting back to me, Sandra.
I noticed the discrepancies with other tangles as well. 
Gonna order your Totally Tangled book. ‎
:) Joan

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

NOTE: If you are curious about the "Exercise" on the Joy of Zentangle page above... here is the page where the tip originally came from...

... it is from another of my books -  Yoga for Your Brain. The original page is showing how to use the trees, fence posts, etc that you see around you, as tangle inspiration. Context makes a difference.

Joy of Zentangle is a great introduction to tangling and talks about the philosophy and stuff - which my books don't really cover. My focus has always been more on the creative confidence aspects of tangling. Lately it has been a bit ...odd... to have to explain to people (and reviewers) that Totally Tangled and Yoga For Your Brain came out BEFORE Joy of Zentangle - not the other way around.

So if you are new to tangling, I encourage you to take a look at some of the "older" books too. And please DO let me know if you have questions or would like me to explain other topics - I have had some requests to do some more little videos explaining certain tangles. Anything else?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Tangles of Santa Fe - The Book

It was so nice to have The Tangles of Kells in "real" book form (see the post from last fall Tangles of Kells - Now in the Physical World! and the ebook post is HERE) - that I decided I needed to also do a printed version of The Tangles of Santa Fe. And with TangleU taking place in Santa Fe this spring... well, that gave me a good deadline and incentive to work towards.

Alas, I will not be able to attend TangleU, but my new books plan to be there! Actually, they will be just around the corner from the conference site, at Jessica Wesolek's fabulous gallery and shop, WOW! You might recall Jessica's name from numerous blog posts - Inktense workshops, Sheer Heaven, and we co-taught a Santa Fe art journaling retreat in 2013. She also has a whole series of ebooks on using the iPad as your art studio - including one ebook on how to do fabulous tangles and line drawings on your iPad.

If you can't wait for April, or you aren't going to TangleU, then by all means, please order the new book from my Etsy site! Or Amazon, if you prefer: The Tangles of Santa Fe.

I created new art and added a few more pages. 
And new covers.

Just like The Tangles of Kells, this book, The Tangles of Santa Fe, is all patterns and ideas, no theory or instruction on Zentangle®. There are 50 pages of tangles and designs, and many are stand-alone creatures or mandalas. Some show how to combine simple shapes to create complex shapes.

Both books are available in wholesale packs for CZTs or shops (not for re-sale online though).

And all retail orders for The Tangles of Santa Fe will receive a lovely, collectible postcard of my favorite new artwork from the book, AND a cool sticker... until I run out of each. All books are signed.

For your shopping convenience... here is a list with links to all the new books as well as the older e-books:

New Books:
The Tangles of Kells
The Tangles of Santa Fe

Wholesale Books:
The Tangles of Kells
The Tangles of Santa Fe

The Tangles of Kells
The Tangles of Santa Fe
The Bauble Tree


Friday, February 27, 2015

Ms. Moffatt's Merry Mandalas - A Review

February vacation is going by so fast! Last Saturday, Lilah and I had a wonderful start to the week - we built things out of clay, needlefelted, made brownies, watched movies....

And best of all - we colored while listening to stories on our iPads. Lilah has been listening to Cragbridge Hall, Book 2: The Avatar Battle and I was listening to The Elite (Book 2 of The Selection series). The Cragbridge Hall books are very exciting - a bit like Harry Potter... in the future... but with technology instead of magic. And time travel! The Selection series (the fourth book comes out in May! Eeeeee!) - is a cross between The Princess Diaries and The Hunger Games. Seriously.

And what were we coloring for hours on end? Judith Moffat sent us TWO copies of her NEW coloring book! She knew that Lilah and I tended to fight over who could color which mandala and ended up making photocopies - so we each got our own coloring book.

For a review of the first book, see my blog post from last summer. The first book was very detailed and geared more towards an older audience. Although Lilah and I both adored it. This second book, has simpler shapes and is easier to color - no matter what age or skill you are at. And the characters are so charming!

Two copies! No arguing!
Here are some of Lilah's creations... foxes, raccoons and squirrels... (love the rainbow tails!)

Love birds... (this is Lilah's favorite)

Robots... she was influenced by my color choices (see below) since I decided I was going to go a bit Steampunk with mine...

Lilah had just started on the mermaids when it was time to break for dinner...

The kid is prolific! I am notoriously slow when coloring, but I find it highly meditative and, besides, I'm not terribly competitive. Especially when I have my OWN coloring book! (Hey Judith - have I mentioned how thrilled I was to get my OWN coloring book!?!) :-)

So while Lilah did all those pictures, I only finished one, the Robots....

colored by Sandy Steen Bartholomew, mandala art by Judith Moffatt
Here's a close-up...

You might notice that we decided to go with (Prismacolor) colored pencils this time. Last time we also used markers which bled through the paper. If you prefer markers, either make a photocopy, or put a protecting sheet between the pages. The pencils are easier to blend too and these open shapes leave more space for blending, shiny areas and rusty spots.

You can get your own copies of the mandala coloring books on Judith's Etsy shop
Which one should you buy? 
Oh, dear, I'd say, "Both!"

Friday, February 20, 2015

Secret Art Re-Interpreted

Way back in November I got a very cool illustration assignment to work on a kids' book for  If you have kids, you'll want to check them out - they do online and print books. My project involved kids and swimming. A cute story with adorable characters. 

There were lots of revisions to the sketches over a few months, then all of a sudden WHOOSH -finishes due in three days! Yowza! Since this is a work-for-hire project, I don't own the right to show my artwork - which is fine since this project is helping to fund my cartoon school tuition. But, as usual, my little art director was working along side me and I have her artwork to show you. 

Lilah redrew a bunch of my sketches and then colored them as she saw fit. Her drawings don't bear much resemblance to mine, so I think my contract remains unviolated.

My favorite drawing is of the little girl with black hair floating in the water - at the bottom of the drawing below. She looks so happy and relaxed. That is exactly how it feels to float in a pool. Sigh. 

I can't help seeing all that white on the page as snow - very realistic right now. Brr.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: The Food Babe Way

I'm not so fond of advertising or doing plugs for companies - even if I actually use their products. I DO like to share about things that get me excited - like women who are making a fuss. A positive fuss. They stand up, speak out and risk becoming a target.

I've been following Vani Hari's food blog,, for about a year. The Food Babe makes a huge fuss - and she gets results. She's the Sherlock Holmes of food and she gets attacked - not just by the big companies, but by ordinary people who somehow feel threatened by her discoveries. Food is a very personal thing.

Vani recently came out with a book that pulls together her ideas and research from her website and puts it all into an easily "digestible" plan. It's not a typical diet book - although the cover text may sound that way.  She's not just talking about eating less sugar, but eating less freaky chemicals - like yoga mat foam and silly putty. Eeeewww!

Learning that creepy stuff is in Subway sandwiches... which I used to think of as "healthy" alternatives to McD's... seriously puts me off my lunch. But the Food Babe isn't just in this for the freak-out factor, she lays it all out for you, and she suggests alternatives, lots of action ideas - if you like to take action - and hope. Really, things CAN improve.

If you are more of a quiet action person, like me, don't get overwhelmed or offended by the Food Babe Army concept. It takes very strong people who are willing to speak up and keep attacking (verbally) in order to get real changes made in the industry. Start where you are.

I'm not at the petition or boycott level, but I can still make a difference. I like having the information so I can make changes in my own life and refrigerator. For example, we eat Annie's Mac and Cheese, not Kraft.

Another way I can make a difference is to share this book with you. Here's an official blurb that describes it nicely:

This is the book you absolutely HAVE to read if you want to know the tricks of the food industry and how you can use them to your advantage to be and stay healthy. The Food Babe Way goes into all the things they want to hide and tells you exactly what you should do about it. It’s a book that the fitness and diet industry have never written—because these fundamentals are so much more affordable than expensive supplements, workouts and gym memberships. In The Food Babe Way, you’ll learn how to:
  • Develop 21 simple, lasting habits that will get you off chemical-laced food for good
  • Avoid the top 15 ingredients that wreak havoc on your weight, beauty, and health
  • Spot manipulative marketing and manufacturing techniques the food industry uses to get you to eat processed foods or hide questionable ingredients
  • Replace the foods that make you fat, look older, and sap your energy with healthful, delicious substitutes
  • Prepare dozens of additive-free meals with easy and delicious recipes

You can get your copy of The Food Babe Way at:

I pre-ordered my copy on Amazon, a few months ago, when Vani first announced it. She also sent me a free copy so I could review it. I'm going to donate the second copy to my local library. 

The Food Babe is drop dead gorgeous. I admit to feeling skeptical when she describes what she looked like "Before." How could someone who looks like this, ever have been anything but fabulous? Take a look at the link for the trailer below.  It shows a few pictures of what Vani looked like on her All-American diet of fast food and junk food. That face and body look nothing like the Food Babe in the pictures above. 

Video book trailer:

I don't mean to sound superficial - I know that a person's worth is not to be judged just by their looks. But if you eat chemicals and crap, that eventually takes its toll on your body and shows on your face. Besides the whole "I like to support other women who are making the world a better place" thing... I have my own reasons for wanting to know more about what's in my food. Here's the quick version of my own story:

I had radiation as a teen which led to a destroyed immune system, tons of illnesses, mono, serious depression, medications, allergies, difficult pregnancies....

Things got so bad that I was allergic to the allergy shots! I had to walk with a cane because of severe pain and arthritis caused by a deformed hip bone (from the radiation). I suffered through eight sinus infections in a row one winter. When my daughter was born, I had strep followed by a second case of mono. If I went out in public... I got sick. It's very hard to be creative when you are miserable.

What changed?


I read a book called Potatoes Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity and despite a total lack of support from the medical community, I watched a miracle happen as I weaned myself off of my major sugar addiction.

You wouldn't believe all the changes that occurred, but if you have met me in person, you will notice that I don't use a cane - and I can hula hoop! I'm not on any medications and haven't suffered from serious depression in years. I am still 20 pounds overweight and have some trouble sleeping, but nothing like insomnia anymore. Seeing the Food Babe's book gets me so excited - if I could witness so many positive changes in my life - just from cutting back on sugar - what could I do if I got some of those other chemicals out of my system?!

If that sort of thing gets you jumping for joy too, you'll want to read this book.
If you are tired of pouring a rainbow of chemicals into your kids, you will want to read this book.
If you just want a clear list of what is safe to eat - and then get on with your life - you will also want to read The Food Babe Way!


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