Thursday, May 29, 2014

Journal - Death and Nature

This is my journal page from Sunday. 

Journal page © Sandy Steen Bartholomew
 I found a new church to go to and I have continued my habit of drawing and tangling during the service. This minister has really interesting sermons that apply nicely to modern life and give me a lot to think about. 

This week, he spoke about Death and its natural part in the cycle of life. His focus was on our need to make peace with death so our own insecurities and fears don't prevent us from being there for others in our lives who are facing their own deaths. I realized that this view also can apply to a lot of other areas in life. Taking a step back and saying, "This is not about me. What does my child/friend/spouse need from me to help them?"

As for Death - I have always pictured it as a character rather than a natural part of life. With my background in archaeology and Egyptian studies, "characters" like the god Anubis (the one with the jackal head) and Hades have made it seem like there was someone actually responsible for the death decision. And Death was also a place... I imagined it as described, not so much by Dante, but by Phillip Pullman - I'm trying to remember in which of the books Lyra has to travel through Purgatory to rescue the soul of her friend? I should look it up, but I will just get distracted in the process. 

And then there is Death, the fabulous character in The Sandman series of comic books. She was my favorite character. Very sympathetic and kind. 

So. There are so many ways to think about death. And I'm sure I have a lot more to say on the subject. (But not today). This nature version is the most soothing. The minister read this great quote from John Muir, which served as the inspiration for my journal page:  

On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. ... Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights.

 ― John Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lost in Austen

I just realized that I might be one of "those" women... ummm... the ones who get just a little lost in Jane Austen books. I've read most of them (a few times), and seen various versions of the movies, but my favorite is Pride and Prejudice. It's nice to know that I'm part of club.

It's not just the romance of Mr. Darcy (and Colin Firth), but the female leads are about as "kick-butt princess" as you can get in these kinds of books. I really love a character I can relate to who suddenly realizes - Prince Charming is NOT coming - and she needs to rescue herself from the tower. And THEN she finds true love. Feminism is all well and good, but I still want a happy ending.

My love of Austen has been spreading to other books and movies that are based on Austen or the characters' love of Austen. Just as Clueless did such a wonderful job of updating Emma, Bride and Prejudice is like a bizarre, Bollywood marriage between Grease and Pride and Prejudice. If you need a dose of "life-affirming-goodness" watch that movie.

One of my favorites is Lost in Austen. Modern girl Amanda is so disillusioned with her current life and obsessed with Mr. Darcy, that she hides in her apartment and rereads Austen, rather than accept a proposal from her boyfriend. One night, hearing noises coming from her bathroom, she discovers the character Lizzy has stepped through a door from her world to Amanda's. When Amanda steps through to Lizzy's world, Lizzy slams the door, trapping her there. Amanda makes a real mess of the "story"... it is hysterically funny and also rather painful to watch. But the best part is seeing the story from behind-the-scenes. Not all the characters are really the way Austen wrote them!

I've always appreciated the movie versions of the books because I find it really hard to picture the time periods and understand the social customs and dress without the visuals. These modern interpretations are even better since characters like Amanda, are just as confused as we are. When they are actually IN the story, they have to help us understand as they learn too.

I recently read Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale and, yesterday, I finished the sequel, Midnight in Austenland. These books were a lot of fun to read - again, the modern character has screwed up her life (or so she believes) and gets to time travel to Austen's world. In this case, it is actually a mostly-authentic resort in England with actors playing the male characters and love interests. Just as Austen's women start with all kinds of misconceptions about their own worth and family value, these modern women discover their true characters through their fantasy personas. (It sounds more complicated than it is...)

I had seen reviews of the second book that were not very favorable - saying it was annoying to have the character talking and arguing with herself. I actually enjoyed that as I find I do that too. (blush) Although this is the same resort - Austenland - the main character is different and there is a really good mystery too. The main character, Charlotte, doesn't come to Austen's world looking for love, she's looking for life. She's gone through a messy divorce and her ex and his girlfriend-now-wife are watching the teenage kids while Charlotte is on vacation. She has learned to shut down her emotions and can't feel anything anymore. I could really relate to a lot of the mental struggles that Charlotte goes through! And near the end, even more satisfying than any love outcome is a scene where she confronts her ex on the phone. She lets him know exactly how she feels about him, his girlfriend, and the way he is treating the kids. Kind of made me want to write down the script, if you know what I mean...

While looking up links for this post on Amazon, I just discovered that there is a movie version of the first book, Austenland! Now I have incentive to get up in the studio and get some work done... if I can finish some of my list, tonight, I will pop some popcorn and watch Austenland with Emmett (the cat)!


Monday, May 12, 2014

April Journals

I just got back to my studio a few days ago, so my April journal pages, for Journal52, are a bit late in posting. But I am still proud of myself for continuing to do them! I fell WAY behind with Danny Gregory's Sketchbook Skool, and then Lilla Roger's MATS Bootcamp started up again. Egads - what was I thinking!?

Week 13 - How Does Your Garden Grow?

Tangled Garden - © Sandy Steen Bartholomew

At this time - there was no garden growing, so I was inspired by a mural in my living room and a blog post on Busy Mockingbird (love that blog!!) where she uses fingerprints and stamp pads to do pointillism with her daughter... yeah! My piece was drawn with a sharpie Pen, then "painted" using my fingertips and Colorbox pigment ink pads.

Week 14 - Rain or Shine
Rain or Shine - © Sandy Steen Bartholomew
We had snow on the back patio that I didn't think would ever melt. The rain would come and wash off the top layer and leave yucky, dirty caverns of ice...

I splashed watercolor blobs on a sheet and then sprayed it with water until it ran and bled. Thinking it looked too wet... I pressed a piece of copy paper against it to blot the drips. Not what I intended... but this is the blotter sheet pressed against the "real" art. I liked the way it looked rainy and icy. 

Week 15 - Party Animals 
Party Animal - © Sandy Steen Bartholomew
Just say "No" to catnip! This one was drawn with Papermate ballpoint pen and my new love - Bic Cristal Pens in color. Drool. They glide... but beware of blops. 

Week 16 - Recycled Art

Since I was traveling and didn't have access to all the junk and old art in my studio... I used "junk" from the beach. I photographed the stones, driftwood and cool, wing-shaped shell, on the apartment table (above). I like the way the basic photo looks - but when I got back to my studio, I printed the photo onto Sheer Heaven, transferred it to mixed media paper and embellished with colored pencils and washi tape.

Recycled Art - © Sandy Steen Bartholomew

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mothers' Day

Hands - Sandy Steen Bartholomew
Happy Mothers' Day!

This is a piece I just finished last night for Journal52. I reused photocopied hands (mine and Lilah's) from a chunky book project from a few years back. Quite a few years actually, judging by the size of Lilah's hands and my wedding ring!

I transferred the hands using Sheer Heaven, then tangled the background with a brown Micron pen to look sort of henna-tattoo-ish.

The song is Mother's Hands by Debi Smith (one of the Four Bitchin' Babes - she has a gorgeous voice and great songs). I had actually written some of the words directly on my hand before photocopying. It's a lovely song.

Here are the lyrics (borrowed from Debi Smith's website):

by Debi Smith

Katie had just had her lunch, it caught me unaware
I cleaned some milk up off the floor, and was sitting in a kitchen chair
I had an independent daughter, like her mother beforehand
When I reached out to trace her little face, I couldn't understand
When I saw my mother's hand

         I have my mother's hands, and I have my mother's voice
         And I have my mother's eyes, though I have a daughter's choice
         I thought I carved my own life in unknown, uncharted lands
         I never thought I'd look down and see my mother's hands

I remember my Aunt Edna - looking straight into my eyes
My eyes, the eyes of a young girl, trying so hard to disguise
What I knew she would say to me as she gently stroked my hair,
"Each day more than the other, you're just like your mother"
I thought it wasn't fair that she saw my mother there (Chorus)

                  I wanted to be my own self, I thought I knew it all
                  I'd stomp and buck and whinny, like a young colt in a stall
                  And I bet I was a handful, though I didn't understand
                  I was always in the best care when in my mother's hands

The other night I lay dreaming my mother held my face
She kissed me on the forehead, and then she took her place
Among the mothers and the daughters in the ever changing sands
One-by-one their time had come when they'd soon understand
They all had their mothers' hands (Chorus)

c 1995, Degan Music, ASCAP

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lettering Exercise (I like THIS kind of Exercise!)

I haven't made it very far on my "list of things to do while on my week long sabbatical." Strange how everything really does take longer than you think it will. But at least I have a start on a few things...

One of my main intentions was to learn more about lettering. I had signed up for a class on Skillshare that looks great, but I get bored watching all the videos. I'll get back to that one when I get home and have the paints available for the projects. I did dive into one of the books I brought along though -
Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate, and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles


I loved the cover. Yes, I DO judge a book by its cover. And "ledger" is such an accurate description. I'm getting kind of tired of the recent trend to turn every book into a "workbook". Sometimes it feels like a sneaky way to add more (blank) pages to a book and charge more. But if done well, the workbook aspect makes sense - as it does here - as a ledger to practice your letters. But then, I don't like to write in books anyway.

The first section of the book has explanations and examples and step-by-steps. The second part is mostly dotted-blank pages with occasional tips and exercises. Then there are pages to practices techniques and special alphabets.

Here are some of the practice quotes I have been working on. The first one seems particularly appropriate!

The intention is to scan the hand-drawn lettering and add color, etc. in a computer drawing program. But I am blissing out on the sketching and inking part of the process. Maybe it is old-fashioned, but I take such great joy in the thinking-idea-brainstorming stage of sketching. Hunting for the line that is just right. Inking it all in, and then erasing the old lines.

I have some trouble with getting things centered and spaced just right - but THAT part is easy enough to fix on the computer. For this Hunker Down piece (also good advice for me) I decided not to follow the exercise exactly and to leave some of the embellishments looking more organic and flowy. And I didn't add the fancy dropshadows that make it look more like a carnival poster.

My weird enjoyment of drawing, inking, and lettering is making my choice for summer camp even more exciting. I signed up for a summer program at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. And as with all the schools I have procrastinated applying to - I used a scholarship as my decision maker. Since I got the scholarship - I HAD to go, right? ;-)

I have a fantasy about going back to school for my MFA... this school recently offered a new MFA in Applied Cartooning (that means using cartoons in other areas, like health care and education) and this summer will give me an idea of whether I might really want to go for it. Of course, I can't go anywhere until my son graduates high school (next year!) and I'd have to find some magic genie lamp that would enable me to rent an apartment AND bring my daughter and my cat with me... and maybe a Kickstarter campaign to pay the tuition and rent? It's just two years. I could do it. And my daughter has already agreed that she would be happy to come with me.  So I'll start with the summer workshop and then, if all goes well, I'll put the whole plan out to the Universe.


It is such a strange feeling to arrive somewhere when everything is still dried up and wintery and then watch as the green bits start pushing their way out of the brown branches and ground.

I was inspired to draw these flower remnants in watercolor and Micron pen...

As I look out the window now, there are green leaves starting to hide these old, dry petals and new white buds forming.

Down by the ocean, I was encouraged to see these brave daffodils exploring a tangle of brambles...

And a nest in a very unlikely, and public spot.

 Just one week later, there are little blue flowers everywhere! Lilah and I are in love with the secret forest garden behind the apartment. I want to create one like this at home. The dirt paths meander around and between rhododendrons and past a little yoga-tea-house, over a bridge and through a Japanese gate...

I found Lilah climbing an ancient tree in one of the garden "rooms" singing "Let It Go" to the vines. 
"It makes them grow better" she explained. 
Yes, I think that has been proven by scientists. 

She wore her rain boots so she could walk in the water. I kept warning her NOT to let the water go over the tops... yea, right. She was playing chicken with the waves. Her boots were so full of water, she walked home in her sock feet.

When it rained, or was dark outside,  we drew and tangled and watched movies.

"girl with ponytail, reading a ghost story, in bed"

I put up two new posts on the Zentangle for Kidz blog with some of our masterpieces...
Techy-Tangled-Kids and Sand Drawings.

Yesterday, it was so warm and beautiful, we took one more walk by the water before she headed back to New Hampshire with my mom. There were lots of surfers out, and tourists too. I always forget that the weekends bring tourists. Today it is quiet and calm again. But I also miss my daughter. She has the most amazing way of looking at all the same things that I see everyday and finding the magic in them.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Book Review (and thoughts): Show Your Work!

I made The List of all the projects I wanted to work on this week, all the online classes to catch up with and all the books I WILL read before next Wednesday. And then I crawled into bed and watched 6 episodes of Glee. Some days, just rolling over in bed is more than enough.

You've probably figured out that I am still recharging and recovering from TangleU. It was totally worth the damage to my system, but I do wish I was better at cutting myself some slack when it comes to recovery time.

Yesterday, I started on The List by reading Austin Kleon's new book, Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.

I took the book and a green pen, for underlining, and sat as close as I could get to the ocean, while still indoors (it's raining and cold). As I read, I realized that I had been sitting in the same spot last November when I read his other book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. I found that book so inspiring, I wrote a long blog post on it. If you are fond of "Found Poetry" - blacking out blocks of text to create new poems - be sure to check out his other book, Newspaper Blackout.

Show Your Work! was just as reassuring, enlightening, and fist-pumping as Steal Like An Artist. Where that one covered artistic influences and developing your own style and voice, this book shows you how to put yourself OUT there and use that voice. Seems to be a theme with me this year...

I love all the quotes and bite-size ideas. And the small, square pages and minimal amount of text. I come from a children's book background and don't understand the need for so many words in craft and inspiration books.

I'll list here for you some of the things that I have underlined in green because they feel so important to me. I will have to go back and re-read this one a few times and I encourage you to grab a copy too. The book is so reasonably priced to begin with, but Amazon has it for a such a ridiculously low price, I wonder that anyone will get paid for it. And here is Austin's web page:
He's on my list of "Amazing people I'd love to meet one day, but would probably have no idea what to say, if I did meet them."

A few of the things I underlined in green:

"...think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others."

"...if your work isn't online, it doesn't exist."

"Obituaries are like near-death experiences for cowards."

"...these days, most of us carry a fully functional multimedia studio around in our smartphones."

"I like to work while the world is sleeping, and share while the world is at work."

"Small things, over time, can get big."

"Online, you can become the person you really want to be."

"...a willingness to search for inspiration in places other people aren't willing or able to go."

"Do what you do best and link to the rest." - Jeff Jarvis

"Don't share things you can't properly credit."

"...our work doesn't speak for itself."

"Teaching doesn't mean instant competition."

"When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work."

"Shut up and listen once in a while."

"Don't talk to people you don't want to talk to, and don't talk about stuff you don't want to talk about."

"The Vampire Test"

"Having your work hated by certain people is a badge of honor."

"...the worst troll is the one that lives in your head."

"Even the Renaissance had to be funded."

"There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby."

"...use the end of one project to light up the next one."

"...the power of the sabbatical - every seven years, he shuts down his studio and takes a year off."

... and SO much more good stuff!

This book is like a deck of tarot cards - you could just flip to a random page and get some insight into whatever is ailing you. I will read through it again and completely different messages will pop out at me.

I'd love to know what gems you discover too. :-)


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