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.
THE WHAT, HOW, AND WHY OF GICLEE PRINTS
Yesterday, My Man Jim and I drove down to my hometown of Kilmarnock, Va to pick up work from my framer, and leave with her the last two paintings to be framed. We also took the new pieces to the company which has been shooting the digital images for my reproductions of Women’s Studies. I have a customer who needs a print of “The Woman With An Issue Of Blood.” We needed to talk about several issues concerning this. It was a great shoot for the new work, and a great conversation about the giclee print.
Giclee? What the heck is that? Well, it surely isn’t an off-set lithograph print, which used to be the standard for all art prints mass produced up until the 1990s. It is a somewhat generic term used to describe a print made by an ink jet printing machine.
This is how it works in the simplest of terms. The imagery for giclee printing is shot with a digitized camera, where color adjustments and flaws can be adjusted or removed through a computer screen. The term “giclee” came from a French term which means to spray, squirt or otherwise force liquid onto something, and that is precisely how these prints are made. This printing method was developed in the 1990s with the invention of a state-of-the-art commercial ink jet printer equipped with thousands of tiny nozzles that spray the ink onto the paper or canvas. This allows the tiniest details and intricacies of color to be reproduced truer to the original than any litho process could hope to achieve. As stated earlier, it also allows you to print your work on canvas as well as paper. Canvas, stretched over a frame as an original oil painting would be, looks just like an original. Paper prints require glass for protection from dirt and other accidents, such as exposure to moisture or water, but canvas prints do not.
I can’t conceive of any reason why I would ever again use off-set lithography to produce a print. There are many draw backs to the off-set litho method of printing. First, the prep work and machinery used to print lithos requires one to print a god-awful amount of prints at one time to be economically feasible. Hundreds, or even thousands of them. Storage space for all these prints can become a real issue. Second, all of the costs are up front, and that can break your bank account! It can cost several thousand dollars for a single print edition, and make take years, if at all, to get your money back in sales. Third, they fade. Litho inks are dye based. They are not color-fast when exposed to sunlight or any other light source producing UV rays, such as fluorescent lighting. Everyone has seen the prints in businesses or opposite glass-lined walls that have “gone blue.” The reason? The yellow and red dyes have faded out from over exposure to UV light rays, leaving only the blue, which has a longer wave length. Giclee printing, on the other uses pigment based inks which do not fade. Although giclee prints haven’t been around long enough to stand the test of time, lab testing has proven them to be light fast up 100 years or more. I’ll take that any day! I’ve had too many customers cry for replacements when they hang an expensive lithograph print right in front of their windows. Nowadays, with the energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs becoming the norm in every household, even dark corners of a room are no long safe. One of the best reasons to use the giclee printing process is the ability to print on demand. You don’t have to print (and pay for) the whole edition up front. There are no metal printing plates to break down because everything is digitized and stored on a computer, CD or DVD. If you need one print, you can order one print. If you need five, or ten or 50, you can order those amounts and pay for those amounts. Fourth, As stated earlier, this process also allows you to print your work on canvas as well as paper. Canvas, stretched over a frame as an original oil painting would be, looks just like an original. Paper prints require glass for protection from dirt and other accidents, such as exposure to moisture or water, but canvas prints do not. Technology has indeed made the fine art print business fast and economical for just about anybody!
A few words of caution: Research your giclee printer. Make sure they use archival inks and papers. There are many online giclee painters out there who may offer the cheapest prices, but will also give you the cheapest quality of prints. If you want an excellent, long-lasting product, you can get that from a reputable printer who may charge a little more, but will still be very affordable.
THE ART OF MAKING ART IN A BOOK
Yes, that’s what I’m engaged in right now. Who thought putting a book together was an art? I never gave it much thought before. Until I had to do it myself! There is so much to writing I never knew! Ever since I was in high school and college, people, including teachers, always said I was a good writer. Friends and family members told me I should write a book. I read prodigiously when I was in school, which prompted the desire early in my life to do just that. I never knew what I wanted to write about, and the idea got shoved to the back burner as painting took precedence. Throughout the years, I gave thought to the book idea occasionally, but it never went anywhere except back into my memory bank, stored in the “Some Day” file. If you have read my page called “About My Book And Its Art” on this site, you already know how I’ve come to be writing a book, my first. Of course, there is a series of my paintings showcased in the book, but they aren’t merely paintings. They depict 12 women from the Bible, and the life lessons they can teach each of us through their stories. So, first I had to paint the paintings. That took me almost three years. In between paintings, I wrote about each woman. I wrote like crazy, anything and everything that came to my mind about them. There. I was finished! I thought I’d done a pretty good job!
I had no idea the hard part was about to begin! A dear friend who had some writing background offered to look at my manuscript. She was my first experience with “editing.” When I got it back, it was COVERED with red ink! Run-on sentences, punctuation errors, and poor word choices where her major complaints. But she loved my poetry and noted the positive things also. It was nice to know that not all the red ink was bad! Then, my son, who has a college degree in English with an emphasis on writing and editing, offered to edit the book for me, I gladly took him up on his offer. He CRUSHED me! I hadn’t had such a blow to my artistic ego since art critiques from The Pastel Society Of America many years ago! It was like having a baby you loved dearly, and someone telling you that it was the ugliest baby they’d ever seen, and you should try again! It took me a few weeks to get over my hurt feelings and really delve into the sense of his advice. I went into another writing frenzy, trying to incorporate the suggestions John had given me. I lost count of how many times I rewrote the whole thing. At least four or five. I began to have terrible misgivings. I cried. In tears, I said to John that maybe I wasn’t such a good writer after all, and had nothing to say that anyone would want to read. That’s when my son said these precious words, “Mom, EVERY writer says that at some point!. Get up and keep going!” Learning to accept editing advice in writing is just as important as critiques in art work. If anyone truly wants to improve his or her work, this is a must! .
I began to listen to webinars from noted authors. They offered tips, techniques and writing apps to help aspiring writers improve their skills. I read books on the subject of writing. I read many other books with an eye to discerning which writers held my interest, which didn’t, and why. I got a Hemingway app for my computer to edit my manuscript with. It was amazing how much better my manuscript read after going through that process. John is continuing his deep editing, which covers things like redundancy, sticking to the theme, unnecessary filler, and so much more. I had to define my target audience, and write on a level I’m not used to for easier reading. I Googled my book title and found there were millions of “Defining Moments” titles already out there, ranging from history, science, and sports to every art form. This means I will re-title my book.
Finally, I can paint beautiful paintings, create unique and imaginative poetry, write interesting prose, but it I don’t put it all together well, it is a lost cause. I exhort my fellow artists and writers out there to do your homework if you are thinking of putting together a book. If you want to write a book about your art, I advise these simple things to think about first: paint and write what you are passionate about. Target your audience, write to that audience, and write it well! If you cannot afford to pay an editor, at least download a writing app (several are free). This will catch many structural and grammatical mistakes and improve readability. Then, transfer it to your MS Word or Office Word and take it through spellcheck. If you are self-publishing, check the customer reviews of the publishing houses you are considering. Call and talk to their representatives. Compare their publishing packages, because they all offer different services in varying packages, depending on the price point you’re aiming for. Yes, there is an art to this thing! If you don’t do it well, it’s bad art!
THE LAST OF THE “WOMEN’S STUDIES” ART AND EDITING THE MANUSCRIPT
Well, it’s done. Last week I completed th e last of my paintings for “Women’s Studies”, number 12. She is “Pharaoh’s Daughter.” I had a few little issues with painting her, but overall, it wasn’t bad. Doing the calligraphy for her was amazing. I lined it all out, inked in the title, filled in the text, and completed the border, all without making a single mistake. That was truly a first for me, and also a miracle! Now I must move on to rewriting my manuscript and getting that ready for the final editing. This is not my favorite cup of tea! It is, however, something that must be done if I am to have a good quality, well-written book. So, onward!
With that in mind, I want to say a few words to aspiring writers out there. First of all, I read many, many books. Some are good, some bad. The writing makes the difference in many cases! A well written book will hold my interest, but a poorly written one quickly becomes boring. I can’t make myself finish reading a boring book. One that may have interesting subject matter, but is written so “scholarly” also becomes a dusty old tome on the shelf rather than a valuable addition to my library.
It was not until I got to the editing process of my manuscript that I began to realize so many mistakes new writers make, because I was making those same mistakes! After listening to some webinars from noted authors, I took their advice. I downloaded an editing app on my computer. The one I’m using is called “Hemingway” and is a free download, or you can pay a minor fee to purchase it and get free upgrades to the app as new versions come out. I paid the price for future upgrades. This thing has proved invaluable in improving the flow of my writing, its readability, and sentence structure. I had no idea it could make such a difference! There are other editing apps out there, too.
Now, it won’t tell you when you’re going off the main subject on tangents. It won’t correct redundancy or spelling errors. And it certainly won’t cut out unnecessary words, phrases, or sentences. You will need human eyeballs for those! (I transferred my manuscript back to MS Office Word for spellcheck.) But an editing app will help save your editor much time correcting mistakes you could’ve done yourself. Human editing is costly. It is priced out by the word count in the manuscript. Who wants to pay for words an editor will cut out? These apps will force you to rewrite in a more concise manner, lowering your word count. Any words eliminated before an editor sees it will lower your bill and make their job much easier and faster. Who doesn’t want that?
On top of all that, it will make you become much more aware of common mistakes and avoid them in your future writing!
Some words of caution: Don’t get so carried away by an app ruled by algorithms that you lose your writing style and personality. It’s OK to ignore a few things the app will tell you to change. Use common sense. Read up on your app to see what it does and doesn’t do, and break the “rules” where you feel it is necessary to retain the integrity of your work.