Monday, April 24, 2017

From the Art Docent: Tin Foil Owl

How can one incorporate metal into a third grade art project that doesn't require loud hammering and sharp edges? Thankfully, I came across an awesome blog called Make It...a Wonderful Life that offered up an amazing idea using tin foil. Sign me up!

This was a two part lesson, because I needed time for the glue to dry in between. So the first part included the following:
1.) simple line drawing of an owl on cardboard, using familiar shapes: oval for the body, upside down triangles for the forehead and beak, circles for the eyes, and more ovals for the wings and toes. No details! 
2.) We set that aside, then worked on a Zentangle-type project to explore patterns and details that the kids might want to use later on in the tin foil assignment. 
3.) While half the class worked on creating patterns, the other half outlined their owls using tacky craft glue. Then the kids alternated until both projects were done.

Outline Drawing with Tacky Glue

Let It Dry

In the second class, the kids were given their dried projects, a tube of glue stick, a piece of tin foil, a paper towel, and an etching stick (or use a dull pencil). Part two consisted of:
4.) Smear a decent layer of glue stick to the surface of the owl project. 
5.) Lay down the sheet of tin foil and with a fingertip wrapped in paper towel (so as not to mar or tear the foil), rub the foil onto the glued cardboard. Start in the middle and work your way out, burnishing the foil into place. Find the dried tacky glue edges and mold the foil gently. 
6.) Use the etching stick (or a dull pencil) and with a light touch, score the foil with details (remembering Zentangle-type patterns from the first lesson). 
7.) Each student then took their turn wiping their project with shoe polish (the kind with the sponge applicator) to give the tin an antiqued look.

My Finished Project

I had a bit of a problem using the shoe polish. At home I applied a liberal coat and immediately wiped it off, which removed everything. I tried to let the polish sit for awhile, maybe a minute or two, and then when I wiped it, it all came off again, leaving no antiquing affect. The third try, I left if on for five minutes or so, and the shoe polish had dried. I couldn't remove it, and it left dark brown blotches (insert eye roll). What was I doing wrong? I had to get out the steel wool to remove most of it, but I managed to get the antiqued affect I was looking for. Check out the image above.

When in class, the shoe polish dried very quickly, and I barely had time to remove it before it started setting up. It was the same bottle, so the only thing I could think of was that perhaps when the bottle of polish was full, it was a lot more "liquidy," which took longer to dry. As the shoe polish in the bottle was reduced, it came out more foamy and thick and dried a lot quicker.  

Some pieces looked a lot more rusty than others, but overall, I was quite pleased. It was a fun project!

Students' Work Mounted for Art Walk

Students' Work

"Observe and reflect and become a little wiser everyday." ~ Author Unknown

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fabulous Five: April and Fools

I guess I use the word "fool" a lot in my writing. I wanted to get a blackout poem posted for April Fools Day, but instead, decided to dedicate the entire month to all the fools out there, whether they be a dunce or oblivious to the obvious or someone who rushes into things or even a person without skills. I think we all know what it feels like to be a fool or to be fooled.

Enjoy! And know that everyone starts off as one...but hopefully they don't stay that way ;)

Everyone knows his number.
It was written on a big truck.

Serious? What a fool,
choosing Mr. Easy
over the universe.

She'd soon pickup a fool
with a cup of ice and a lemon.

The only way out
Was to ask a little fool
Could you help me, please?

The big fool waited for the light,
half aware of the kiss.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Or shame on you, again ;)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Fabulous Five: A Tribute to the Road

Every morning and afternoon, I walk around the streets and avenues of my neighborhood. If there's no rain, then I take my ever-sun-loving Cherriers, Tilly and Tango. My phone camera is usually ready as I search out my the next close-up shot to share on Instagram--Come visit me! Poop bag in hand, two 10-pounders pulling on the leash, glasses to contend with...but somehow out of a bunch of blurry pictures, I manage to get a decent one.

We had some road construction/pipe fixing thing going on, and the finishing touch was filling the cut marks in the asphalt with black tar, and as the pictures show, it's turned into my latest fascination. On rainy days, the droplets sit poised on top. On sunny ones, the tar is shiny and reflects the light. Then there are the tread marks and thick, gloppy drips, which create great textures.

Now with spring break looming, a bit of wanderlust calls. I feel a road trip coming on... 

The Road has Legs

Rain Drops on Road Tar
Time to see the details. A time for reflections.

Yin and Yang
It's dark and light, good and bad.
It's balance...or maybe it's just a blob.

It's that crazy tar on the road, reflecting the sun.
I nearly got ran over by the school bus.

Get outta my way...I'm Riding with the Hides of Hell!
Ready for a road trip. Whoot!


"Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination." ~ Roy M. Goodman

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Thank You Cards for the Coaches

It's been awhile since I've been in card-making mode (see last year's Coach card), and being the paper nerd that I am, I volunteered to make two thank-you cards for the girls' basketball coaches. I sorted through my stash--scrapbook paper, hole punches, and glue--and told Alexa to blast Sam Hunt for some good times. This morning I put on the finishing touches and crept out of my basement studio with two cards, just in time for the awards/pizza party.

Ta da!

Coach Dan
(Atlas by L. Renard from Hammond's
World Atlas Classics Edition, 1958)

Assistant Coach Sebastian


"A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever." ~ Mary Lou Retton

“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back. Play for her.” ~ Mia Hamm

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fabulous Five: Lucky or Unlucky Blackout Poems

Here are five blackout poems that one could consider lucky. Give the black cat and the umbrella (opened in the house) a second chance. Enjoy and Happy St. Patrick's Day. May good fortune find you.

He ignored the thought of impending doom.
"I told you. I feel lucky."

Never once had wrecking his heart
made him want a cat.
Things change.

One time a chance kiss happened
and new beginnings broke out.
"This is unreal! It's silver."

He connected to the universe.
You there? Text back a message.

The rain rolled down her cheek
and fell into a dream.

"You gotta try your luck at least once a day, because you could be going around lucky all day and not even know it." ~ Jimmy Dean

Monday, March 13, 2017

Etsy shop: ESPIALDesign and Art for Heart Donations

I enjoy doing these blackout poems--which I affectionately refer to as BLOUTS--so much that I have a decent sized collection brewing. Here's the latest:

Officially starting another observation of the wall.
It was an exercise in staring.

So...what to do with them all? Why not sell 'em? I tucked them into cellophane envelopes and then uploaded them to my new Etsy shop. The proceeds will be equally divided between the American Heart Association as an on going effort toward my Heart Art Challenge and publishing costs for book #3. Check out a sample of the goods:

Check back for a running tally of the donations here.



 $8.00 will be donated to the American Heart Association (AHA)

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Green Books - A March Reading Challenge

I've got TBR piles all over the place: library books, e-books, new paperbacks, and old hand-me-downs. Writing, marketing, cooking, romances, and kid lit. How does one decide which one to read next? That's right...

Green book challenge, coming right up!

Last year, Green Books for March 2016, I read six out of seven on my green list. Not too shabby. This year I found six green books within reach. Below is the list of *potential* reads. I say potential, because I probably won't get to all of them, but they're pulled from the dark depths of the stack to make an appearance at the top once again.

Green Book Pile

Matched by Ally Condie (YA Dystopian) Used from the thrift shop
Up in the Treehouse by K.K. Allen (New Adult) New book from Amazon
Pack of Dorks: Camp Dorks by Beth Vrabel (Middle Grade) New from Barnes & Noble
Five Ways to Fall by K.A. Tucker (Romance) Used from the thrift shop
Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts (Romance) A giveaway from the RWA conference

...and not in my picture above but still green is Squish: Captain Disaster by Jennifer and Matthew Holm (Chapter Book Kid Comic) Borrowed from the library

Other Reading Challenges

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Currently: A List of Lucky Things

Currently, it's March! I can finally relax with all the hearts and love stuff and start thinking about hard work and fortune. Bring on the good luck, I say. I'm not Irish, so I don't celebrate St. Paddy's day, drink green beer, worry about mischievous leprechauns, or chase rainbows. I do try to wear green in case there's a hold-over who thinks butt pinching is okay. And yes I know, St. Paddy's day isn't until March 17; I'm just sharing.

That's right...should not.

Okay, so back to the lucky stuff. I went on a search and gather mission to see what I have tucked around the house...and of course, I had to make a list.

2.) Lucky cards (8)
3.) Jade turtle
4.) Iron piggy bank
5.) A Great Blue Heron
6.) Ladybug
7.) Wishbone
8.) Elephant
9.) Lucky dice (7)
10.) Lucky coin
11.) Fortune
12.) Horseshoe nails
13.) Iron key
14.) Arrowhead
15.) Color green

But, HOLD THE PHONE. I just read that it's the year of the "fire" rooster and according to Chinese astrology, I'm a rooster, this is my birth year, and luck MAY NOT be on my side. Say what? My whole lucky blog post is getting shot out of the water.


Time to reverse this...back to the basics. "Magic 8 Ball, will 2017 be a lucky year for me?" [Yes. Definitely.]

Okay, good. Carry on.

"Luck is believing you're lucky."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Heart Art Challenge: Finito!

Day 28: It's the last day of February, and I have to admit that I'm sorta happy about it. While the Heart Art Challenge has been eye opening--helping me to look for the positive, share it, and have fun--it's also been a distraction from some good writing time. I've been off my game for months...worrying about all kinds of things. But I'm ready to move forward and get back to it.

Here's my last project for the Valentine's month:

My Heart

"I forgot to add a bunch of stuff to my heart, but thankfully there's always room for more." ~ Stacia Leigh, quoting herself.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Heart Art Challenge: Day 27

Day 27: Earlier this week, I was at the library and right away Mindy Kaling's book drew me in. It's my favorite color and she's funny and cute, so I thought the book might follow suit. When I saw the big heart on the back cover, I grabbed it since that's what I'm about this month. I made it to page 80 before turning in for the night, but I couldn't find a bookmark. I guess I've started so many good reads that my stash was depleted. Snap! Great idea...

So this morning, I struggled through my Heart Art Challenge by trying to fold a heart using this Origami project from Pinterest. But I couldn't figure out what step 4 was telling m. I tried another version and it, too, had me scratching my head. Huh?

Origami Fail

Back at the drawing board, I used my old bookmark pattern and reworked the square into a heart shape. For a great tutorial, check out Tally's Treasury blog on how to make the corner bookmark along with creating the pattern. Here's how it went:

New heart pattern next to original.

Fold one triangle to the side.

Put glue on top of one folded triangle,
then fold second triangle over and stick down.

A heart with a triangle pocket.
Flip over and decorate!


It works!
A BIG bookmark reminding me of my favorite things:
books, love, hearts, and coffee.

"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, 
I go into the other room and read a book." ~ Groucho Marx

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Heart Art Challenge, Week 4

Day 20: Ready for some horrible haiku poetry? How about something inspired by Valentine's Day gimcrack, the Heart Art Challenge, and what we've been watching lately...good old Cap'n Kirk and Spock. Here goes:

Don't be a stressball.
Healthy and happy hearts mean:
"Live long and prosper."

Day 21: I distracted myself this morning with a celtic heart knot tutorial, something I found on Pinterest *shakes fist at computer* but I did it! Took a couple tries, though. Now, I can get back to writing.

A celtic heart tied
with "Sugar Rush" paracord
makes for a sweet knot.

Day 22: Last night I baked my favorite cookie, chocolate chip, and this morning I modified Anne Taintor illustrations. Hyuk-hyuk. Just having some fun.

Day 23: Our caring neighbor asked us to fish-sit for her while she's on vacation and hinted that if we became attached to him, that would be fine, too. Of course, with the seed planted, we immediately jumped on the internet to see how to care for a veiltail betta, then off to the pet shop to buy the necessary supplies. We named him Benny, and he went from a plain ol' bowl to a colorful filtered tank and some company, a tiger snail. We named her Margaret. Love my new pets :)

New Writing Buddies

Day 24: Remember when I cut a heart into my slice of swiss cheese and said, "Sometimes you have to make the magic happen?" Well, in this case, I pushed the water around to make a heart shape, and it looked really cool, reflecting the sky and trees above. But I couldn't capture it with my camera the way it looked in nature. I'm going with it because not everything has to be perfect, right? Good advice for writing the first draft of book #3. 

Imperfect Asphalt Heart

A drop of water,
Sitting on the hard asphalt
Reflecting the sky.

Day 25: Time for some boob tube; therefor time for some blackout poetry. I don't watch a lot of TV (the news is negative and Hollywood is crazy), so to get ready for the big event, I pulled out my proof book pages because I can't sit and do nothing. I like to have options around me just in case I need to check out. So I made my nest with my things within reach: laptop, book, markers, dogs for snuggling, and a mug of tea. We watched an actual Netflix DVD (The Infiltrator with Cranston and Leguizamo) and then some Youtube (PewDiePie's, "How About That"). Meanwhile...


Break out of the pothole
and picture a heart
in your mind.

Day 26: I've been inspired to write haiku after we got an Alexa from Amazon. "Alexa, tell me a haiku." One night in January while visiting a family member in the hospital post open heart surgery, I got the idea to write some healthy haiku. The nurses and hospital staff were phenomenal, so friendly and good-natured, too. Anyway, after a funny conversation with one of them, I came up with this:

Green hospital pants...
Tight crotch and a baggy butt.
One size fits no one

It sort of reminds me of Dr. Suess' story, What Was I Scared Of? about the pair of stalking empty pants. It comes from the book The Sneeches and Other Stories. 

Here is another #healthyhaiku that I came up with from those bittersweet hospital days:

Helium balloon...
One happy face floating by.
Don't forget to smile.

I say "bittersweet" because we chose to do the surgery, knowing there were risks versus no surgery and waiting for a possible heart attack. It brings tears to my eyes even now, thinking how we'd clung to each other, wondering if we'd see each other on the other side. Thank God we did, and it all turned out wonderfully. I loved seeing the faces of family and true much positive energy, so much life. This is why I've made January 6 the new Heart Day and February is a month of rejoicing love and hearts and health and... Well, you get the picture. One for the road:

My advice to you
Eat right, exercise, and love.
Keep your heart healthy

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Book Cover Quick Fix

"A great cover image makes a promise to the reader.
A poor cover image chases potential readers away." ~ Derek Murphy

Readership has been low for this book, so I took a step back for a moment of quiet review. Is something wrong with the cover? Yes, it's blocky, dark, static, and there's nothing eye-catching. 

RHOH, version 1

For some help on where to go from here, I watched a video by Derek Murphy called 7 Must Have Qualities For a Book Cover That Sells. I have a graphic design and illustration background, so things like contrasting colors, negative space, and balance aren't *necessarily* where I have problems, it's the marketing side I find très difficult. After watching the video, I made some notes:
1.) Did I choose the correct font? Does it speak to the genre I'm writing, which is teen romance? [No.]
2.) Is there enough interesting elements here to catch the readers eye? Derek Murphy says orange and teals make a rocking combination. Is the shirt color against the brass zipper enough? [Probably not.]
3.) Is there a humanizing element? [No face, but there is a hint of someone behind the clothes...right?]
4.) If I were to strip away the words, does the image convey what the story is about? [leather jacket means bikers, gangsters, something sinister perhaps. White-ish tee means clean, good... so together it could show a conflicted person, which is half the story...but it certainly doesn't say "teen love."] 
5.) Does it mesh with the other teen romances in the same genre? [No, there isn't a girl on the cover and the font choice is off.]

I'm an indie author in exploratory mode, learning as I go, and since I enjoy creating my own covers for the time being, I'm gonna stick with it. I'm not ready to give up on my image just yet, so I aimed at quicker fixes like color and font.

RHOH, New and Improved

Here's what I did to help seed the cover and story into the Young Adult (YA) genre:

1.) I over-layed the dark part of the cover--the black leather and the asphalt road--with an autumn brown. Instead of feeling cold, it took on a warm tone. The brass zipper stands out a bit more, which helps identify it more as clothing. 
2.) I changed the font to match Dealing with Blue since Will Sullivan is in both books. A sidekick in the first and now the main character in Riding with the Hides of Hell. Plus the font looks young and fun. 
3.) I tilted the title to create a feeling of action and speed. It's an adventure romance; the kids are going places on their motorcycles. They're feeling a bit off-kilter with the danger surrounding them and with their growing love. 
4.) I swapped the gritty, squat-looking heart with one that is clean, but not perfectly shaped. It's sort of stretched like it's about to turn into action lines, riding into the distance. It also matches the new font, young, energetic, and fun.

What do you think? I'm open to hearing how I can improve. Does the font work? Should I look for a different cover image? Does it say, "teen romance and road trip adventure" to you? Let me know in the comments! Thank you.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Heart Art Challenge: Week 3

Day 13: The thing I like about this blackout poetry business, is that it's one big doodle. I find the words, create an image to go with them, and overwork it to the point the paper looks exhausted, but it's fun! I let my pens and pencils walk all over, and it gets messy, and I'm okay with it. Very freeing.

"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." ~ Pablo Picasso

Heart Doodle

Day 14: Happy Valentine's Day! It's a day that some people detest and some people await with open arms. I've been on both sides, so I get it. Friends all around getting love notes and I get zip. Or the time of red roses, a night on the town, and a heart bursting with love. Now? Where's the time? I'm thinking about lunches for kids, traffic, lines of people, homework, what's due tomorrow...that type of thing. But doing this Heart Art Challenge has been fun...everyday has been about love. Sometimes, I see it all around, and when I don't...I have to create it. 

I carved the heart in my swiss cheese.
Sometimes you have to make the magic happen.

Day 15: Don't forget about the little things, like a favorite pair of jeans or a silver heart or its reflection...

Tilly Bean!

Day 16: Fourteen words of romance for Goodread's Romance Week: "He was lost. It was true. His soul had been touched, heated and altered." ~ Dealing with Blue

Blackout Poem

Day 17: What an intense day of writing. Today, 6 pm, was the deadline for entering the PNWA Literary Contest. I admitted my YA romance earlier, but then tried to brush up my Middle Grade story at the last possible moment. I worked steady up until 5:30 pm when my husband drove like a bat out of hell (#meatloaf) to get me to the Writer's Cottage on time. Boom! Five minutes to spare. Sweet relief!

Who cares about dirty windows when you've got
sunshine, Christmas lights, and hearts?

Day 18: Many moons ago, I wanted to be an illustrator. Paper, scissors, glue...collage is my specialty. I love all the textures and trying to cut little scraps for details. I haven't created anything new in a long time since I've been writing. Not enough hours in the day. But the King of Hearts is out again, worried about the Queen eating his cookie heart. Poor fellah.

King of Hearts

Day 19: What's a king without a queen? 

Queen of Tarts