KEEPING IT REAL
This has been a busy and interesting week. Seems like I have accomplished a lot, even though I haven’t gone anywhere, although I will tomorrow. So, what did I do? Mostly, it concerned behind-the-scenes work.
First, for a couple of weeks I have been mulling over an invitation to join an artists’ association closed online group. It was founded and started by a pastel artist on the west coast who gives online courses on pastel techniques, business tips on running an art business, techie tips for selling online, and much more. I have listened to some of his free seminars, but I was hesitant to join this group because it mandates a monthly charge, and I wasn’t sure I would find it helpful. Now, I’m all about networking with like-minded people, sharing tips and information and such, but have found it exceedingly difficult with the local artists I have met here where I live. They are interested in me only if they think I will buy something from them. Otherwise, they seem to care nothing for any kind of communication. I found this extremely disappointing. I didn’t want to be paying a monthly fee for the same kind of treatment! Two days ago, I bit the bullet and signed up for membership in this group, The Abundant Artist. I’m beginning to think I’ve been blessed! Information sharing galore! Pastel wildlife artists! Photo-realism artists! Very high-quality art work in all categories! All kinds of artists in diverse mediums as well, but whose work I can admire even though it’s quite different from mine! Many are writing books, too. I simply see a wealth of information coming from this. Seems these people want to share, and that’s what it’s all about. Supporting one another. Keeping it real.
Second, at a business meeting I attended in the spring sponsored by the Shenandoah Arts Council, of which I am a member, a web page designer taught on designing web pages, and what makes a good page. One of his key points was the need for a “slogan” 5-7 words long, that described the contents of the site. I had been using “Art That Takes You There.” Other people responded with statements such as, “Oh, I LOVE that!” or “I wish I had thought of that” or “I sure could use that!” I had to say out loud, “It’s mine! You can’t have it!” I laughed when I said it, but I was seriously thinking I better protect this thing! My Man Jim and I began researching a copyright for it. We found out one cannot copyright a title or a short phrase, but one CAN register it as a trademark. Then, we began looking into legal fees for this, and found that the most rock bottom out there was Legal Zoom, and they charged $749 for the search through all the states and internet sites. IF it was found anywhere else, they would notify you, but you were still out of $749 because they spent their time doing the search. Now, God is so cool! He just brought the right information at the right time! I mentioned my dilemma over paying so much to my son, John (my editor for forthcoming book) and he sent me a U.S. Gov’t website for patents, copyrights, and trademarks where you can do the search yourself. Jim proceeded to do just that. It took a while, and he used many combinations of the words in the phrase just to be sure it wasn’t close enough to something else out there. It wasn’t. Next, he filled out the application forms for me. We paid the — get this — $225 fee, and their examining attorney will conduct a search and notify me the same way a private lawyer would have. Only, I won’t be out $749 or more, I’ll be out only $225 if it’s already in use. We went ahead because it appeared we were pretty safe. I will know for sure in 3-4 months. That is something worth sharing on an Abundant Artist online group post. I’m sure there are a lot of artists out there who’d like to know this information and save a lot of money! Now, that’s really keeping it real!
As for where I am going tomorrow, I am returning to my hometown of Kilmarnock, VA. My framer is located there, and she has finished framing the last two paintings of my women’s series for my book, “Pharaoh’s Daughter'” and “The Woman Caught In Adultery.” I’m excited to see them fully “dressed” and can’t wait to bring the last of my girls home, where they can join their sisters. There is so much diversity in this group of twelve women! Some were wealthy, some were dead broke, and a couple were even naked, All of them, just as we are, were naked before God almighty. But all, I believe, came into the sisterhood of Christ. Most had life-changing experiences, defining moments, if you will, where they changed the way they thought, and they changed the world. I hope I can do them justice as I tell their stories in my book, which I will title THE RICH, THE POOR, AND THE NAKED — Finding Peace Out Of Turmoil From The Stories Of Twelve Biblical Women. You can’t get much more real than that!
Tonight, I am feeling so blessed and sort of over the moon!
DARING TO TRUST
Here in the mountains of Virginia where I live, the timber, or canebrake rattlesnake is often found. It is a shy snake, preferring to be left alone, and would rather remain hidden or slither quietly away than fight, unless forced to. But, would you trust that snake not to bite you? That’s sure an open-ended question which depends on individual circumstances for answers, but the principle here is somewhat analogous to what I’m thinking.
We in the creative world depend a lot on trust. Generally speaking, creatives are trusting people. Of course, we trust our families, friends and acquaintances. But we also trust our customers, our online friends, and those strangers across the country who are interested enough in our work to follow our various artistic pages. These are people we most likely will never meet in person, but are extremely important to us nevertheless. We always want more of these, right? Whether we know them personally or not, our followers matter greatly to us. We depend on these people to provide a solid support platform for us whenever we launch a new art piece, music project, book, or whatever. They give us valuable feedback, answer polling questions about titles or book cover preferences, and so many other things that make our products better. We’d be lost without them!
How did these unknown followers find out about us in the first place? Some stumbled upon us like a hiker stumbling upon a snake on a trail, and picked us up off internet searches. Others saw our pages when one of their acquaintances shared our page or something we posted on a blog or Facebook. For most of us who self-publish our work, this sharing of information among friends and friends of friends is the life blood of building our fan base. Networking is key! We don’t have representatives out of major book publishing houses, art printing houses, or recording studios, to whom we’d have to pay thousands, doing it for us. It’s not an ego thing to have a large following, but rather, a make-or-break economic issue. That’s why you see so many people, myself included, asking you to share something about them you have found interesting and like. It helps us get the word out to the public that we have new art, music, or a new book coming. It introduces us to new audiences who would otherwise never hear of us.
Many of you have followed my Facebook art page during my creative process over the last three plus years while I researched, did photo shoots of models, and then painted the twelve women for my forthcoming book. The writing process was more behind the scenes and currently is in the editing stage, so my book will not be out for a few more months. However, I hope to develop a large following pre-launch, so that by the time it is ready to launch, thousands of people will be excited about it. This is where I am going to trust YOU, because you are vitally important to me, and I want to include you in the excitement! I’m asking you to share. Share my Facebook Art page posts, my web site, my blog posts. It doesn’t take but a second. I’m trusting that some of you, hopefully many, will do this for me and help me get the word out that a new book of art, prose, and poetry is on the cusp!
But don’t worry, I won’t come back and bite you if you don’t! You can trust ME on that!
LIVING ON THE EDGE
Centuries ago, mankind used to believe that the world was flat, and one could sail off the edge into the Great Abyss if one weren’t careful and got too far from land. Most mariners dared not venture too far out to sea, but found ways to operate within their preconceived boundaries. Today, we know that’s not true, but can you imagine the sense of adventure those first sailors experienced while they were discovering this?
Many years ago I was driving down a local highway where I used to live. I came to a small bridge that crosses the headwaters of the picturesque Corrotoman River. .At the end of the bridge, there is a steep embankment dropping to the water. Trees shrouded the bank in deep shadows, yet at the edge of the shadows, dancing in the bright sunlight and summer breezes, was a profusion of Queen Ann’s lace and orange day lilies. The sharp contrast of sunlit flowers against the dark shadows on the edge of the bank was startling in its beauty. I raced the ten miles or so home to get my camera, then hurriedly drove back to photograph the scene. As I picked my way through the tall weeds, I noticed a curious thing. None of the Queen Ann’s lace or day lilies grew down the edge of the embankment. Butterflies and insects flitted about the flowers, but all was still and quiet in the deep shadows at the edge of the drop. They were living on the edge. But they, like many of us, had no reason to explore further.
Some years later, after I had moved to the mountains, I pulled out those photos and created a painting based on that experience. I titled it “Living On The Edge.” This painting has always had a certain amount of personal meaning for me. Where would I be, where would any of us be, without our “edges?” What do we do when we reach our preconceived boundaries?
I’ve lived on many edges during my life. Most have brought about a lot of change as I dove off the end! At this particular time, I seem to be living on the edge again. Our youngest automobile is fifteen years old; we need a newer one. Our heat pump/AC died in June; we need a new one. I’ve been working on a book for three years, and am anxious to publish, but have to wend my way through the editing process. My Man Jim and I have been weighing the possibility of selling our home, downsizing, and buying a place with a much smaller and more manageable yard. Finally, as we seek God’s will in our lives, we are also considering some changes in the path He seems to be leading us down. Lots of edges! Lots of potential changes! Not a whole lot of specific direction, yet… So much going on, yet nothing is happening.
I know, I feel it in my bones, that we are on the cusp of something, but what? Will we fall off the edge into the abyss, or sail on towards a new world? We don’t have a specific reason to go further yet, but why not? What lies beyond the edge? Patience is not my strong point! I don’t want to sit on this cusp forever, and we’ve been bouncing around on some of these issues for several years. I want to get moving NOW! Alas, my timing is not God’s timing, and God is always right on time. What’s a person t do?
I can practice being grateful, that’s what I can do! . Grateful that our cars still work, even if not as reliable as we’d like, and that Jim is a good mechanic who can fix them most of the time Grateful that the AC unit for our bedroom area still works, so we have some respite from the heat after a long, hot day, until we can get a new unit installed for the rest of the house. Grateful that my son, John, is my editor extraordinaire, who helps me in ways an anonymous editor couldn’t, and who does the best he can under his own time constraints. Grateful that we have a decent home in spite of the pain-in-the-neck difficult yard maintenance. Grateful for listening hearts and guidance from friends as we navigate the changes we see before us. I’m learning to be grateful for what I do have rather than lamenting what I don’t have. So, let this adventure unfold in its own time. Living on the edge beckons! I’m grateful for that!
LIVING ON THE EDGE
WHAT KIND OF LEGACY ARE WE LEAVING?
Have you ever thought about that? Have you wondered what, if anything, anyone will remember you for after you’re gone? Even your family members? I know my kids won’t give a rip that the clothes in my closet were arranged in the spectrum order of colors. Most people won’t know I ever existed. For those who do, it won’t affect them as they go about their daily lives. Stop! Think about what you’d like to be remembered for. What did you do to show the world you existed?
Every day for months now, I have waked up in the mornings with a vague sense of disquieting malaise. Every day, the news has been increasingly more violent, vitriolic, and depressing. The political atmosphere has progressed from an exchange of differing opinions, to an angry battle of vicious words, to a violent war of riots, murders, and attempted murders. The atmosphere on the city and town streets across our nation is charged with intolerance and hatred. Yesterday, a truck was shot at because it had an American flag on display and a political banner the shooter didn’t agree with. An AZ congresswoman was threatened with death from someone of a different political persuasion. Our social fabric is breaking down, too. Families are failing. There is a war against our police. Just today, a friend of mine was assaulted as she rode her bicycle. She happens to be a racing biker, so she was able to avoid the assailant’s two attempts to grab her, and was not hurt. She got away, but so did the assailant. Sadly, he will try this on someone else because he was not caught. The same is happening on a much larger scale with world events. Most who perpetrate this mayhem might believe they are doing the right things for their agenda, but they will not be remembered kindly in the annals of history, either worldly, or heavenly. Through it all, the silent majority does nothing. Most don’t know what to do. Many are fearful they or their families will be targeted if they speak out.
This news junkie has been forced to turn off the TV for days at a time because it’s too much of a downer to watch or listen to. I recently swore off the internet for several weeks because of the same thing. I have severely limited my usage since I’ve returned. I wonder what will happen as our neighborhoods and country are being torn apart. So, what’s a person to do? Will I be part of the problem, or part of the solution?
I can’t tell anyone else what to do, but I can answer that question about what has worked for me. I do what God prompts me to do. If I don’t do that, or put it off, I find myself restless, dissatisfied, bored, and wondering what to do next to fill the empty time. I have discovered that I am happiest and fully at peace within when I am fulfilling His agenda instead of mine. God gives us gifts and natural talents, and the passions to use them for His glory. They were not placed in us to hide away unused, but to be developed. I gave up art several times over the last forty years. Once for ten years, once for five and another for four years, other times for two years or less. Each time, I thought the reasons why were more compelling than the art. Each time, I was unhappy. There’s a message here!
I found that I am not fully alive, not fully engaged, and not fully at peace with myself in spite of the sorry state of the world, unless I’m doing what God has given me to do. He gave me a book to write about twelve Biblical women, and how they found peace in the turmoil of their world. It’s God’s job to take care of the world; it’s my job to tell these women’s stories. Their stories are timeless! Their examples have given me peace! Painting them and writing about them has given me purpose! Surely, if I follow His directions, what I’m doing will help others make life-changing decisions and find their own peace in the midst of turmoil. That is my prayer. That is what I hope will be my legacy.
The woman who anointed Jesus left a powerful legacy, and we don’t even know her name! But, she is remembered forever. Every one of us has a powerful legacy to leave, whether it’s for family and friends, or for a larger audience. Will it edify, or will it vilify? Oh, my goodness! Tonight I’m feeling a lot like that woman must have felt! Finding peace in the turmoil!
This isn’t the usual type of post I write, but for the last few days, as I’ve considered Sarah’s story while I’ve been going through the editing process, I felt compelled to share what I intend to become the “CONCLUSION” of my book. As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit has been prodding me unmercifully about this for several days. So, I figured I better listen and do what He’s telling me to do, just as I did when He gave me paintings to paint and a book to write. Here is what will be my last chapter. it may change a little as the editing process gets to it, but the basics will not.
“Several things happened on Easter eve 2013 that weighed heavily on my heart. I feel compelled to share these things and my associated thoughts.
My Man Jim went to the grocery store to pick up some items I needed for an Easter cake I was preparing. As he left the store to come home, he got caught in heavy traffic being rerouted from the main highway around an accident scene. He asked a bystander what had happened, and was told that a child had darted out from between parked cars and had been struck by an oncoming vehicle. The ambulance had already left, and no one knew the child’s condition. Jim came home with a heavy heart and wondering about the outcome.
After I got my cake in the oven, I sat down at my computer to check my Facebook news feed, where I saw more disturbing news. A friend was receiving post reports from family members on the other side of the country. One of their little ones had gone on a hike in a national forest with a group of his friends and his daddy. A dead tree collapsed, falling on one of the children, killing him.
Still later, a post appeared from the local Fire & Rescue, warning motorists to avoid the accident scene here in town because the investigation was still ongoing, and that the child who had been hit had been pronounced dead.
Coincidentally, at the very same time I saw that post, I saw this meme from someone who knew nothing about what I had been seeing: “As you waste your breath complaining about life, someone out there is breathing their last. (Italics mine) Appreciate what you have. Be thankful and stop complaining. Live more, complain less. Have more smiles, less stress.”
Now, that hit me hard! I didn’t know any of the people involved in either of those tragedies, but I do know that on that Easter morning, the day we as Christians celebrate Resurrection Sunday, two families on opposite sides of the country woke up (if indeed they were even able to have slept at all that night before) to the fact that one of their most precious had breathed their last. As I’d taken these events in, I’d had a great deal of trouble myself getting to sleep Saturday night.
Think with me for a moment. Do you know complainers? I mean the chronic type, those who constantly rob your joy by their negativity about everything? If you compliment them for anything, they will tell you why you are wrong. If you have a plan, they’ll tell you why it won’t work. If you have a new idea or a suggestion for solving a problem, they’ll do their best to convince you why it’s not such a good idea. They’ll say they are just being truthful with you, as friends should be, when in fact, their negativity is really all about them. Misery loves company, right? They complain about people who wronged them. Circumstances which ruined them. Jobs they hate. The reasons why nothing ever works out for them. Yet, they practice the definition of insanity every day: doing or thinking the same things over and over, always expecting different outcomes. If you let them, they will suffocate you. So, here I am, complaining about the complainers. Please bear with me. There is a purpose for it.
On Easter eve, Friday had passed, Jesus had breathed His last, but Sunday was coming. This is a good part of what John 10:10 is all about. Jesus willingly gave up His last breath so that we, as believers, could have life, and have it more abundantly. Sometimes, I think we forget about that last part. The “abundant” part.
Two days later, I saw another Facebook meme: “Getting knocked down in life is a given. Getting up and moving forward is a choice.” Why do we knock ourselves and those around us down when we have such a beautiful option to rejoice in the good fortune of what we do have going for us? The thief is here to destroy, and take away our joy, and to kill, but it’s up to us to decide if we will let him do that. We not only have eternal life, we can have ABUNDANT life, right here, right now! Jesus gave His last breath so that we don’t have to waste ours with complaining, negativity, misery, and putting off what He’s given us to do because we happen to believe it won’t work, it’s a bad idea, or whatever.. There are those who no longer have the opportunity to even grow up enough to be able to make that choice.
These events made me do some serious thinking. I hope I can practice John 10:10 better. I pray for those families who have suffered such great loss. I have learned something at their expense. I decided right then and there to ditch the negativity and stay away as much as possible from those who won’t. I can no longer let them rob my joy. After all, isn’t negativity really a lack of faith? Essentially, it is saying, “I don’t believe God will take care of me. He really doesn’t love me. He’s not there personally for me.” Imagine what the outcomes of the women in my book would have been if they had harbored such thoughts! When I think about that as applied to my own life, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my life would be miserable indeed. Had I not listened one night to that little voice in my head telling me I’d have rest when my world was upside down, I wouldn’t have had that joy in my heart in the morning, which remains with me to this day. That is what changed my life. That is what gives me peace beyond all understanding!
I don’t want my breath to be wasted breath! After all, I don’t know how many breaths I may have left! I’ve discovered that when I’m not working on what God has given me to do, I’m not happy. Instead, I’m restless, dissatisfied, impatient and at loose ends wondering what to do next. Negativity creeps in. But when I’m pursuing the goals He’s given me to accomplish, I’m living life to the fullest. The joy and the passion I experience when I am working on what God has given me to do knows no bounds. It fills me, and surpasses all understanding! It extends into everything else I may have to do that day. That is abundant living! I want every day to be like that!
So does God. God wants His children to live life abundantly. It’s His air we breathe. We shouldn’t waste it, but instead fill it with joy, peace, praise, song, hope, and love! Fill your lungs with His air! Don’t put off doing what He has called you to do, thinking you have plenty of time to start it tomorrow, or next week, or next month… You may not have tomorrow, next week, or next month. Don’t waste Jesus’ last breaths. Remember what He sacrificed for you! Because He lived and died, you can face and overcome any difficulties in your tomorrows! You can have eternal life with Him in heaven, but you can also have, not just life, but abundant life, here on earth! Reach for it! Rejoice in it! Be redeemed by it! Find your peace out of life’s turmoil. You won’t have wasted your breath!”
* * * * *
John 10:10 – “The thief does not come except to steal and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
DITCH THE GPS — YOU NEED A MAP!
Everybody knows when they go on road trips, if they are venturing into unknown territory, they need directions. Most people today rely on GPS. GPS is great, and I love it! Why would I, or anyone else, need a map? Because a map shows the big picture that a GPS can’t. And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing in putting together my book, thanks to my editor.
When I started this project, my original intent was to paint twelve Biblical women at their defining moments. In between painting times, I wrote each woman’s narrative and some applications taken from their lives for living today. This required researching their stories, where they lived, or where they traveled. Some of these women covered some amazing amounts of mileage! Some of them lived in obscure locations. Sarah was one of those women who traveled an extraordinary amount of miles. She also lived in places most of us never heard of. I loved the research, and wrote all about these things for each woman whose history was known. I figured I had covered all the bases.
No, I did not. Enter my son, John Ebersole. He is my editor extraordinaire. He was reading over Sarah’s narrative. He contacted me, “Mom, have you ever considered including a map for Sarah?”
“No.” Why would I need to do that? I had written all about where everything was in my narratives.
“Well, if most of your readers are like me, and aren’t familiar with all these places, and they try to follow where Sarah was going, they will get so confused!”
Holy cow! I had never considered this before. It was easy for me. I had done the research. I knew where all the places were and how far away they were from other points in the stories. But then, I also remembered how I’d had to do a lot of research to find that stuff out. Most readers will read the stories, but not take the time to look all of that stuff up. I immediately saw the validity of his question. How many people actually know where Haran or Gerar, Shunem or Shushan, or Kemet were located? I realized that most readers would need a map to see where these places were to understand where many of these women went, or where they lived. I determined then and there that I would be drawing some maps for several of these women.
I have my son and editor to thank for this illuminating idea! Just another reason to appreciate his work! I am self-publishing, and have no established relationship with a long-term editor who knows me through and through. I wonder if this would’ve happened with an unknown editor who would’ve been randomly assigned to me by the publishing house? Sure, that editor would check spelling and grammar, sentence structure, redundancy, over-all flow of the writing, and adherence to the main theme of the book. I knew I would never communicate with this person to discuss ideas or issues. Certainly, I would never meet this person. I would pay him or her 20-30 cents per word for the job, and that would be it. But an illustrative idea such as a map? I doubt it.
It’s an editor’s job to make a book better. Come to find out, I do have a long-standing relationship with my editor, who knows me through and through! He really is making my book better! From writing tips, guiding me through the process of staying on target, suggesting excellent books on writing to read, proofreading, corrections and more corrections, encouragement, and now this map idea. That’s truly a road map for success! Thanks, John!
HOOK THAT “KILLER” TITLE!
Anybody out there like to fish? I sure do! I know that once a fish takes your bait, it has two options: it can let the bait go, or bite too hard and catch the hook. But you might not know which it is, so if you want to make sure you catch that fish, you must give a tug on the line to set the hook in its mouth so it can’t get away. Then, you reel it in…
Did you know that’s what book titles are supposed to do? I didn’t. Never thought about it before. You’d think being a commercial art major in college, I’d have realized that, and yes, I wrote lots of headlines (titles for articles or advertisements–same principle) in some of my courses. I do understand the concept perfectly, however, I’ve never written a book myself, so I had no personal experience to pound that concept into my mind for this project. I have been out of school too many years…
For the last three years, I have been operating under the assumption that I would title my book WOMEN’S STUDIES – Defining Moments. Early this year, after I finished all the paintings for the book, I began the difficult task of editing, and learning how to put it all together. Part of that pertained to titling. Oh, easy! I had that already figured out! Until I read the educating part. Wish I could remember who’s book or blog I got this from, so I could refer you to it. I think I may have gotten it from Stephen King’s book, ON WRITING – A Memoir Of the Craft, (excellent book!) but I’m not sure. I can’t check because I returned it to my son and editor, to whom it belongs. So, I will lay out what a title is supposed to be, as much as I can recall, since I didn’t take notes.
First, I’ll go with what titles shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be vague, or too long. They shouldn’t be confusing with similar titles out there. They shouldn’t be graphic or explicit so that you’d be embarrassed saying the title out loud to someone in a public place where you could be overhead. Especially since a great number of sales are the result of word-of-mouth recommendations. Most importantly, titles shouldn’t be boring. Well, I didn’t have to worry about the vulgar or too-long parts, but a simple Google search showed me that the key words, “studies” and “defining” covered literally thousands and thousands of book titles. Would you want to go through all those searching for one book? There are studies and defining moments of everything on earth, from science, history, the arts, athletics, politics, medicine, you name it! When I got down to the brass tacks, I also thought my title was uninteresting and vague. One of the things I learned was that non-fiction almost always needs a sub-title to bring clarity of what the book’s about if the main title doesn’t offer an explanation. My sub-title didn’t even do that! Thus, I knew right away I’d need to re-title my book, and use the WOMEN’S STUDIES title as a working title only. I referred to that in my March 15 blog, “The Art Of Making Art Into A Book”.
The second part of my education on titling examines what a title should be. The main title should be short. It should be memorable so it can be recalled and easily looked up or told to someone else. It should be interesting, standing apart from millions of other titles. It can be provocative, (not explicitly embarrassing). It helps a lot to have a “hook”. A successful title has these attributes.
How do you find that out? First, write a list of potential titles, maybe five or six. Do a poll among your family, friends , your Facebook followers or blog/ web site followers, to select the title and sub-title (if using one) they like best. This won’t be an accurate poll, because they know you personally or through online avenues, and already know what your book is about. They have preconceived notions, and similar backgrounds to yours. Your family and personal friends will buy the book no matter what the title is. Your followers may also, because you have been making them interested for months as you’ve talked about it. They want the content. But the thousands who are browsing in bookstores or online book sites know nothing about you or your book if you are an emerging, self-publishing author. This is where a non-biased poll comes into play. I put a poll up on PickFu (www.pickfu.com). For a small fee, they conduct instant polls on book titles, cover art, and about anything else you need. They send your poll question out to vetted respondents across the country. These people are like the browsers — they never heard of you or your book. They select what to them is the best title option you’ve presented, based on which one interests them enough to want to check a book out and see what it’s about. Then, they leave a comment explaining why they made their choices. Something has to grab them, to make them pick up or click on the book and at least open it to see what it is, rather than passing it by. It’s the first step to making that sale. If the title is ho-hum or offending, they won’t even bother to check, no matter how good your book is! That is the #1 job of a title, and it must be compelling enough to hook them into looking further. The title is the first advertisement most people will see about your book. If it’s memorable, intriguing, and the subject interests them, they will buy it and tell others, who can also remember it well enough to look it up in a store or online, and so on. I took my favorite title and another one that ranked very high among the respondents of my personal poll. I filtered it on PickFu to my target audience: women. 33 of the 50 women polled selected the title that was my favorite. The reasons? They were intrigued by the “hook” and wanted to know what the book was about. It tickled their curiosity. They felt the second option was boring. Just 17 chose the second option. Their comments ranged from “lofty”, “inspiring,” or “poetic.” They thought the first option was silly or risque. Their comments in favor of option #2 were nice, but it was clear from the numbers that this title wasn’t going to get the fish onto my hook.
Along with the poll results and comments came the demographics of the respondents: percentages of positive reactions for each option in the different age levels, income brackets, educational levels, and ethnicity. It was intensely interesting to me, and gave me a lot to think about. I believe it was one of the most valuable things I’ve done in this process, and I hope to run it again as I get closer to sending stuff off to the publisher.
Bottom line: if you are thinking about writing a book, no matter what the genre is, I urge you to take advantage of these polls. Many people don’t realize the importance of a title! They come up with a title they like, and believe the whole world will like it also. Trouble is, they are so close to their project, they can’t see how others might perceive it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed by books on the shelves or online because of boring titles. Usually, self-publishing houses have people on staff who will come up with titles, but according to my research, they often miss the mark as well. YOU are the creative one! Do your homework; come up with some titles you like, and some you might not like, but run the polls. Their results may surprise you! You have too much invested in your project to have it fail when it doesn’t have to. Your title is far too important to be weak. Take charge! Set the hook and reel in your sale!
WHY I’M USING THIS AS THE FRONTISPIECE FOR MY BOOK
I can hear it now… “What in the heck is a frontispiece?” I can explain. It is an illustration facing the title page or first page of a book. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Many of us have now learned a new word!
This is a pastel I painted of myself in my freshman year of college. I was eighteen years old, and had not been saved by the grace of God. As a matter of fact, I grew up atheist because my parents were atheists. But God had His plans for me, and He wanted me to know He was really there. When I was sixteen or seventeen, still in high school, I had a dream. It was one of those dreams one instinctively knows is more than just a dream. It was in the dark of night when the heavens opened, and there, I beheld a huge chorus of what I presumed were angels, singing. Their robes were so blindingly white and shining, with sun rays coming out from all around them, yet the room was still dark. None of it hurt my eyes in its brightness, so I kept on looking in wonder. Their voices rose in crescendos in songs of praise. The sound was indescribably beautiful in its melody, totally unearthly. I was mesmerized. I knew they had to be praising God. It was quite an experience to glimpse something so other-worldly! I don’t know how long it lasted, but the memory of it was strong with me when I awoke in the morning. I asked my father about it. He poo-pooed it, saying everybody has stupid dreams like that sometimes, and to forget about it because it was just a dream, nothing more. I never forget that dream, though…
Fast forward a few years to the scene in my dorm room. My roommates were holding a small table lamp, minus the shade, in an otherwise darkened room. They took a black and white Polaroid picture of me. What was I doing? I don’t know. Just clowning around. But I painted it, and I remember thinking then that it looked like I was praising something. Little did I know that ten years later I would be praising the same God whom the angels were praising in my long-ago dream.
All these years later, as I contemplated what I might want to use for my frontispiece, I ran across a box of very old drawings spanning from the first grade to college and beyond. They were all I had left from those early years, and as I leafed through them, I came across a sketch pad with this little pastel of me inside. I didn’t give it much thought except to remember the circumstances under which I had done it. A few days later, however, as I was sitting in the audience of our church during an Easter community choir event, it seemed God was really impressing upon me to use that picture. It makes sense. That was me then, before knowing Christ, but deep down, knowing there was “Something” out there. And this is me now, so many years later, doing what God has called me to do. And I’m praising Him for everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, because they are what brought me to my defining moments. There is so much of me in this book, both before and after knowing Christ, just like the women I’ve painted, so why not join them? I’m in the front of the book, in the beginning, just starting my journey, and what a journey it’s been!
IN THE BEGINNING…CARTOONS??
PROBLEM – How do you get that perfect design pattern on your art paper without ruining it?
AMPLIFY – I think, as beginning artists, we all go through situations similar to this: You want to paint that perfect figure, or scenic composition, or whatever. You pull out your paper and start drawing away. Oh, that doesn’t look right, so you erase it and start over. And over. And over again…ad infinitum… Next thing you know, you have an erasure hole in your paper, or if you’re using sanded paper, you have erased all the “sand” away, which will leave an obviously different texture, or worse yet, NO texture, which will affect the color in that spot. Even if you finally work out the design without making a hole or otherwise significantly damaging your paper, you have wasted hours and hours of time while killing your blood pressure.
The pattern is finally to your liking, so you start applying color. Now, pastel isn’t like wet mediums where you can control the lines of paint and keep your pattern intact and visible. It is by nature a messy medium. You have to smear it to achieve complete coverage. Even if you don’t, the pigment powder released by abrading it against the paper to make color adhere will get everywhere and smudge your pattern lines. You may not be able to see them anymore. You don’t want all that powder residue interfering with future colors on your agenda, so you grab your gum erasers and erase away at the residue. Trouble is, you’ve just erased your design pattern along with the residue. Nice clean paper again…with no pattern on it. Arrgghhh! How are you EVER gonna draw it back like you had it before?!?!? What was I saying about blood pressure?
You leave your studio, go eat lunch, get a drink, or do whatever else will calm you down, then head back to the drawing board. After more hours, you’ve filled in your pattern again. Your #2 pencil is worn down to a stub, but you’ve really nailed it this time! Your pretty, sky blue color needs a little blending along the edges, so you do that with your finger tip, only, the graphite from that #2 pencil blends in right along with the pastel, creating a dirty looking blue sky along the area of the pattern line. By this time, you’re a good candidate for a stroke!
SOLUTION/STORY – After you’ve counted to ten, twenty, or maybe even a hundred, you read this article and discover how to avoid all this in the future.
First and foremost, draw your design on another piece of paper. I use tracing paper because if it’s the right size, I can transfer it directly to the art paper. More about that part later. By doing this, you work out all your problems on the tracing paper. Proportions, anatomy, composition, details, etc., are worked out on this pattern.
If you need/want the finished art piece to be larger, you will need to enlarge the pattern. This is where “cartooning” comes into play. No, not “Dennis the Menace” or “Garfield”. This is a grid system, a technique as old as at least the Renaissance era. Michelangelo painted the entire Sistine Chapel ceiling using this method of transferring patterns. He drew his patterns out on paper, working out all the design elements and eliminating problems in this rudimentary beginning stage. Then, he marked it off in a grid pattern. He numbered the squares in sequential order. On a much larger piece of paper, he drew off a corresponding grid, enlarged to fit the space on the ceiling he wanted to fill, numbering those squares to match the ones on the smaller pattern, but enlarged to scale. Following the numbers on each smaller square, he drew the same lines on the corresponding square of his larger pattern. This “blew up” the pattern to the size he wanted without changing proportions or making mistakes. Back in that day, it was called “cartooning”. I do the same thing on a much smaller scale. Typically, I draw out a pattern and put it on a ¼” grid. I typically enlarge to 5/16” or 3/8”, occasionally as much as ½”. Perhaps you can do the same thing with an art desk enlarger, but I don’t have one and have not wanted to spend the money to buy one when I can cartoon it. (I’m just cheap that way!) Of course, I do all this in pencil so I can erase if I make mistakes. I like #2 pwencils, so it gets a little smeary, but I try to be careful. I also put in as much shading as possible, so I will have an idea of how it looks with a 3-D effect. I canalso get an idea of how the darker areas will balance out the lighter areas. The beauty of having a pattern worked out on another piece of paper lies in the fact that if you somehow do obliterate your lines on your art paper, you have something to go by to replace them.
Finally, I transfer the finished pattern to my art paper. How, you ask? I can tell you unequivocally it is NOT with pencil! I use good, old-fashioned carbon paper. I’ve had it forever and I’m not even sure you can buy it anymore! It may be obsolete! Anyway, I position the pattern over the art paper and attach it in place at the top with painter’s tape – very good because it doesn’t mess up the paper underneath with sticky stuff, and it comes off the paper very easily! I trace the pattern on with carbon paper because if I run into a situation where I need to erase some smeared areas on the unfinished art, I can do so without obliterating my pattern lines underneath. An advantage of using tracing paper for the pattern is that if you miss a spot in the carbon transfer process, you can easily see how to re-position the pattern to trace in what you missed. A word of caution: use only moderate pressure to transfer the carbon unless you will be using bold or darker colors. A dark carbon line will be visible under a very light pastel color, no matter how heavily it is applied. It is extremely difficult to erase, although it can be done, but you risk erasing the paper tooth along with the carbon. Best to use lighter pressure when tracing the carbon onto the paper. See? Pretty simple, huh? Let the color begin!
TRANSFORMATION/TESTIMONY – This patterning process has saved me untold heartache, time and wasted energy. Before I figured all this stuff out in The School Of Hard Knocks, I tried doing everything freehand—no patterns—and often ended up with a disaster. The same can be said for using pencil for the final pattern instead of carbon. There are plenty of other ways to make mistakes, so why not try eliminating a few? This might not work for everyone’s style or temperament, but it sure works for mine! I’m willing to bet there a few of you out there who would welcome a little less stress in the creative process, too!
NOOOO……… NOT COLORED CHALK!
A couple days ago a person from a local arts council where I maintain a membership was viewing my art prior to hanging some in their exhibition area. She made the observation that she never thought of pastels having such bold, vibrant colors. Alas, that is what so many people believe about pastels. What a mistaken impression! Another misconception is that pastels are merely colored chalks. That may be a matter of semantics, however, their manufacturing process is similar. So, let’s tackle the differences.
I’ll take the colored chalk issue first. What is chalk? To put it in simple terms, chalk is made from finely pulverized limestone (calcium carbonate), quarried from the earth. The powdered limestone is mixed with dry, powdered pigments if colored chalk is desired instead of white chalk. Water is added to make a slurry about the consistency of clay, then extruded into long, uniform “strings” about two feet each on sheets holding five strings. The sheets are placed in an oven where the strings bake at about 188 degrees F. After the chalk strings are cured, about four days, the strings are cut into the standard chalk lengths we all are familiar with, boxed, and shipped to customers. This medium is used widely in schools, and for sidewalk drawing. It wipes away and washes away easily. Colored chalks have a low volume of pigment material, which results in pale colors.
Now, what are pastels? In simple terms again, the chief ingredients for pastels are methylcellulous, a non-greasy binder, and pure, powdered pigments. The methylcellulous is just enough to make the pastel mixture adhere into sticks so that they can be picked up and stroked on a surface without crumbling uselessly. In addition, however, there may be added clay and oils. This mixture makes a slurry the consistency of tooth paste. Like chalk, it is also extruded onto sheets of about five strings. Pastels, however, must have a little moisture, so they are air-dried rather than cured in an oven. Because the binding content in pastels is so low compared to all other art media, such as paints, and certainly colored chalks and pencils, they produce the purest color saturation with a velvety texture unlike any other medium. Thus, their colors and effects are the most vibrant and vivid of all the art media out there. The small amount of oils and binder used in pastels produce buttery smooth consistency, and help the pigments adhere to the surfaces they are applied upon. They do not work well on slick surfaces, however, so a little “tooth” on the painting surface works well.
Because their pigments are so pure, pastels are very color-fast, however, they should be protected from prolonged exposure to UV light and moisture just like any other fine work of art. Pastels won’t turn yellow, crack, or darken over time, making them the most durable of all art media if properly protected. With proper protection, pastels can last for decades and centuries. Some surviving pastel paintings and drawings from the 16th and 17th centuries have survived just as fresh and beautiful today as they were when they were created. See my blog post, “What About That Glass?” for the UV protection advantages of museum quality glass for framing pastels.