creative life

All posts tagged creative life

Magic and Loss: Or Elfhood, Revisited

Published December 8, 2017 by admin

I did this post a few years ago, trying to explain my feelings on December. They’re many and complicated and sometimes contradictory, but I’m still really proud of this post, and long though it is, figured it deserves a second look. It gives a decent-ish summation of my world view, so there’s that. Plus, you get photographic evidence of me as an elf. You’re welcome.

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I’ve mentioned it off and on, but December is not the easiest month in the world for me. While I like the seasonal aesthetic, it seems like if anything awful, life-changing, or downright weird is going to happen, it’s likely to happen in December. Seriously, we’re talking medical-mystery grade illness with wacky false diagnoses, weather that had me hiking out of ditches and almost having to hold the door of my car closed during a snowstorm, breakups, monumental fights, family deaths, friend deaths, pet deaths, near muggings, and that time I was accidentally set on fire at Christmas Eve service. Apparently I live an active life.

It’s also traditionally been the time I’ve pulled down a lot of holiday gigs, because, eh, just because the season can be hard emotionally doesn’t mean I’m not showing up and doing what needs to be done. Obviously, sometimes the two collide in ways I could never anticipate.

Read the Rest Here

 

 

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SJ Reads: Steal Like an Artist/Show Your Work

Published November 6, 2017 by admin

Since so many people are doing Nanowrimo, I thought it might be interesting to focus SJ Reads this month on books about writing and creating. I know, way to get original, amirite?

Anywho, let’s start with something light and easy.

I’d had the books of Austin Kleon recommended to me before, but because I am a stubborn beast, I put off reading them. Which I shouldn’t have, because they’re really easy to get through. Deceptively so. They’re the type of books that you can read in a sitting, then immediately have to reread so you can get the full effect.

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I really like how empowering this book is, plus his unique approach to his own art and writing is really fun to look at. Kleon discusses how he came upon his technique, plus he walks people through what it really means to be an artist with the obvious experience of someone who’s been there. There are some nuts and bolts things, but there’s also a lot of positivity and encouragement, something that artists of all types just don’t always get enough of. Based on an address to college students, this book is filled with great material that a reader can go back to over and over again. The words are also the graphics, so there’s a lot to take in visually from an actual artistic perspective, as well. This is something that’s really nice for people who are starting to get into their career, or who may need a pick-me-up.  It’s nothing to do with specific technique so much as it is helping you lay out your journey and not feel so alone. Get it here!

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This one is more about marketing (though it’s not really based around that concept). This leads with the idea that generosity and using a network trump networking. Admittedly, this one has been harder to stay with, not because I necessarily disagree with it, but either I haven’t been in the right frame of mind each time I go to read it, or it just doesn’t flow as well as the first book. It does feel like there’s a little more nitty gritty to this one, so it’s a title I plan on going back to. Definitely worth a look, as well. Get it here!

 

 

 

 

Costume-palooza: The Swedish Chef

Published November 1, 2017 by admin

What, it’s Halloweek, you really expect me to stop celebrating because it’s November? Silly reader! Sadly, I didn’t touch on all my favorite past costumes this year (gotta leave something for next year), but I definitely want to include this year’s effort. Plus, hey, how about a fun, light post while you’re waking up from your candy coma this morning, right?

One of the big influences from my growing up was the Muppets. Jim Henson was and is a big part of my life – his fantasy work got my mind working in ways it never could have without Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Storyteller. The Muppet Movie provided the optimism and idealism I needed at certain times in my life. I grew up a hardcore Sesame Street devotee. Somewhere along the way enjoying everything Henson turned into me really wanting to figure out how all of that was done, and most likely was a reason I started getting into making big character suits, complex outfits that involve rigging, and working with puppets professionally. It’s really not that hard to make the leap from point A to point B in this case. For better or worse, I’ve not gotten to work with a Henson property yet, and after this they will probably never let me near them in the future, but oh well. This costume was totally worth it.

The Swedish Chef has been a long-running inside joke for years with me – it’s one of the voices I can do really well, and he just amuses me. I love puns, love silly stuff, and the old chef sketches just make me laugh so much. Depending on how bored I am and how good of a friend you are, you may or may not have had to suffer through me serenading you with popular ballads as done by the Swedish Chef on your voicemail if you don’t pick up.

So yeah, ta-da!

 

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Or is that ‘Bork bork bork!’?

 

 

As far as difficulty level, it wasn’t so bad, just mostly finding the different pieces. Apron, tie, and pants were shopped (and the pants were a miracle find that I didn’t expect), shirt is something I own for some reason. Obviously made the head, hat, and hands. Part of me is sad I didn’t spring for the antron fleece, but part of this exercise is I wanted to see if it was absolutely necessary to use it to do something like this. Short answer is no, but I do prefer it or a fabric with a stretch to felt. I think some of the detail work might have been smoother otherwise, but this idea was happening fast and on a budget. I played around with a spray adhesive vs some of the more industrial glues I’ve used in the past, and it actually worked out because I went back and adjusted some structural things on the head several times and I don’t know if I could’ve done that with something heavier.

All in all, this was a little bit of trial and error to make, but still a ton of fun. He’s fairly comfortable to wear, and I can foresee him being part of my notorious holiday card schemes in the future.

Costume-palooza: Bring on the Weird!

Published October 27, 2017 by admin

Every so often, it seems like I feel the need to just go way over the top and do something…different. I’m not sure if this is from some subconscious need to prove myself or sheer boredom with the typical types of Halloween costumes, but this usually puts me in a really good mood until the moment everything starts falling apart and I have to make it all work. And then I love it again.

I know, it’s complicated. What can I say.

I was doing some work on an event one year and stumbled onto a French artist who does work with combining synthetic skin with fashion pieces (no, I have no idea what I googled to even find that), and it got me thinking of ways to use that concept which has led to a multitude of diverse projects – everything from a revamp of Elizabeth Bathory and a gruesome clown for the event I was designing for, to pouches and purses to spice up those late night trips to the grocery store (Okay, they’re actually for cons. I only accidentally wore one to the store once and it was completely worth it).

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And this thing. The whole killer prom queen archetype admittedly fascinates me for various reasons, and this was my take on it: cuteness on the top, party on the skirt (or however the saying goes). Originally this was made for a Simplicity Pattern design contest where you had to use one of their patterns in a new way. I’m not sure if this just wasn’t what they had in mind or it was the fact that I may have used one of their Disney patterns to base this off of, but obviously I didn’t win because people are no fun.

I’ve never quite gotten the whole look where I want it – I probably need to make a prom queen banner, and admittedly if I’m wearing it out I have no desire to dump a ton of fake blood on me because I have been there for professional reasons and I am not that invested in a look in my personal life. I’ve toyed with the idea of latex and paint up my arms to gore it up a bit, but again, I don’t really cherish the thought of doing that in a hotel bathroom. Anywho, skirt is latex over fabric with various (fake) parts ordered through the interwebz. Also molded the hand for the bag, though I’d likely try it a slightly different way if I had to do it again (also makes me wonder where I put that mold).

So that tided me over for a couple years, and then I had the need to go further, to be bolder, to be…more.

Again, I was playing with stuff professionally and a friend and co-designer and I somehow hit on the idea of delving into the world of stalkabouts, but tried to make things somewhat more user friendly for a gal – not that gals can’t wear a full suit, lord knows I have – but in this particular situation it was better to do everything possible to keep full visibility. We decided to play with a few different variations, and of course I wanted to incorporate this into my definitely not having a life crisis costume moments, so we ended up combining my fascination with Gothic Lolita street fashion and, well…weirdness.

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So what this is supposed to be is a creepy girl with her imaginary friend/demon companion/whatever – admittedly I think I can do more for it to read better, but I was literally finishing it as we were going out the door to road test it (and that, itself, had some more entertaining moments of my life that aren’t suitable for a public blog). Eventually I’d like to put a leash on Martin (that’s the demon’s name, because I was watching a lot of Doc Martin at the time) to kind of pull things together a bit. Unfortunately, poor Martin caught a hand in my car door at one point, and got dropped on his head, so I’m going to have to give him some TLC before wearing him out again – I’d also like to adjust his height because while walking through a convention hall is fine, the actual doors are not so easy. And I probably need to adjust his arm position, too, because he grabbed a lot of people’s butts and I just don’t need that problem in my life. The rigging, too, probably needs some slight re-calculating, but overall it’s actually more comfortable than it looks, just a bit hard to get into and navigate. Much to the distaste of those around me, Martin lived in my car for a while and then hung out in various rooms for my own amusement before retiring to current lair.

My friend the Amazing Larry did the initial dress, but I’ve since added things to it and adjusted the fit a bit. I did the cape, but have since swapped that bonnet out for one I was given. Obviously the bag is all me, and I did most of Martin, though I was working a lot at that point so Larry cut the basic skeleton pieces so I wouldn’t be a hazard to myself.

Like anything else, everything is in progress, and fluid, and I think that’s important to keep in mind, especially when doing big, weird things like this. It’s always how it is at the moment, or where I’m content for it to be for right now, but I fully expect for things to keep morphing and adjusting in the future – just like my life, oddly enough, so I suppose these are less reflective of some weird discontented breakdown and more reflective of me being in process. And that I am positively cool with.

Guest Post: Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Published October 25, 2017 by admin

So today we’re bringin’ back the guest post for one of my favoite fiends, Emerian Rich!

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What would you do if you could create anything your imagination could think up?
I don’t know about you, but as an artist, I’m often frustrated at the fact that I can’t create exactly what I see in my head. The disconnect between what we can imagine and what my artistic limitations are is something I struggle with as much as the next artist. No wonder artists create one master piece per 3-5 duds that are kept in the workshop, never to see the light of day (or possible purchased by mom).

I was so excited when I decided the gods of my world in Dusk’s Warriors would be able to conjure whatever their imaginations could think up. At last! I would be able to create out of nothing, everything I imagined. But as I sat in front of my blank page and attempted to put those words to paper, I drew a blank. Is the perfection of having carte blanche too much freedom? And how was I to now create in words what I could not create in art?

Once I slapped myself for putting too much pressure on, I figured out a way to bring the joy of conjuring to life. I closed my eyes, turned on my phone voice recorder, and pretended I was Severina, standing in front of her new world. As I imagined conjuring the land of Dusk in my imagination, I spoke aloud what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. I’ve placed an excerpt of conjuring from the book below.

So next time you are struggling with a project, be it art, writing, or music… Take a moment and think about it in another way. Could you write a poem about the piece to convey the emotion you feel? Can you create a song about a writing project? And when you go back after trying it another way, will it come more easily?

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Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:

“All hail, the queen of Night’s Knights has returned! Emerian Rich’s unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shuarette, Lilith’s Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.”

~David Watson, The All Night Library

Praise for Night’s Knights:

“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

Available now at Amazon.com in print and eBook

https://www.amazon.com/Dusks-Warriors-Nights-Knights-Vampire/dp/1544628803

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Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, HorrorAddicts.net. Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

 

 

Dear Writers: Please Read (A Book)

Published October 11, 2017 by admin

We’re back to some practical advice for this month, so pull up a chair and let’s dish.

About a year ago, I was guesting at a convention and was hanging out with some other authors. The topic of books came up (duh), and what we were reading, and I heard something which was utterly offensive to my poor ears which you think would be cynical to stuff like this by now.

“Oh, I don’t read, I don’t have time. I just write books.”

Or something. I’m paraphrasing. I think my ears are still crying.

Look at that sentence. Look at it!

If you write or want to write, I want you to stare long and hard at that sentence, and never, ever, do that. 

Look, I get some of you probably think this is bottom of the barrel basic knowledge and a waste of a blog post, but I also didn’t think I’d hear an author who was there giving out advice admit they didn’t read books.

And they weren’t the only one. 

I think I stared and was probably lifted up and carried off before I could open my big mouth.

Here’s the thing: to write well, you have to read. You just do. You don’t learn about different voices in action, or structure, or different takes on genre, or well…anything unless you’re actively seeing what all is out there.

And when I say read, I mean read everything. Everything ever written. Right now.

Okay, okay, that may be a slightly tall order. Definitely read, and please diversify. Don’t read only what you write to try to get a leg up, because you aren’t all those other people, and by time you think of the perfect idea to write to market, the market’s gonna change. You don’t read just to imitate people or try to sell. You read to become a more well-rounded artist and person. You may agree with how some people write and not others, and that’s fair. That’s cool…but you also won’t even know what you agree with and why if you don’t start flipping some pages.

Some of the most frustrating conversations I’ve ever had are with fantasy authors who only read like three other fantasy authors. Or people whose sense of the horror genre starts and ends with Stephen King. The problem is that 1) that gives you an extremely limited range and 2) If you are put in the position of sitting on panels or giving workshops, you are then going to be giving people limited and bad information.

Seriously, don’t be that person. Don’t be the “expert” who doesn’t know at least what some of the subgenres of the basics are. Don’t get so stuck in the romantic aspect of young adult stories that you forget other types of plots are a thing, despite having a huge chunk of titles proving you wrong. No one is going to know everything (no, you’re not), but at least get a feel for things that aren’t just your preference. Know some different mediums. Know what you don’t know. Then go read that.

I look at it like this: if I didn’t read nonfiction, I wouldn’t stumble onto some really fascinating things I could use in some of my titles. If I didn’t read folk stories, Olde School never would’ve gotten written. If I hadn’t started reading manga, I wouldn’t be nearly as brave to try new structures and tangent my plots and do different things. Reading graphc novels has taught me the beauty of trying to streamline and be concise. Anthologies have shown me just what you can do with a theme (and a set word count). Ray Bradbury is a master class of short stories, but his essays are equally important. I spent my entire time in college reading a huge range of plays (some required reading, others things that were loaned to me). All of them shaped the type of artist I’m becoming and my sense of story and action in different ways.

Articles, memoirs, poems, speeches, plays – you can gain something from all of these, whether you’re directly applying it into your work or not.

And, yes, you also learn what not to do. Or, you learn what works for you and what isn’t in your comfort zone or isn’t one of your strengths.

And, honestly, if you aren’t taking the time as an author to read, than I’m going to assume you’re writing for very different reasons than I am. If you can’t make time to support the art that you yourself are pursuing, than how do I know you’re developing your craft? How do I know you have any real respect for how hard everyone else is working? No one starts out fully formed and in a vacuum and there is always something to learn. Actors still take acting classes, artists still learn new techniques. Probably one of the most important things you can do if you’re a writer or want to get published is to get thee to your local library (because libraries are awesome) and see what’s up.

Seriously. Read a book. Then another. And another. Rinse, repeat.

So how about you? If you write, how important is reading to you? Do you stay in your comfort zone or read different things? Talk to me about the pros and cons!

 

Costume-palooza: Batgirl

Published October 3, 2017 by admin

It’s one of those weeks where I’ve got nothin’ new goin’ on, so let’s go to the archives and see what we can talk about. And since it’s Halloween and my daily artistic life is costumes, guess what another theme this month is…

Pssst, it’s costumes. Totally costumes.

At the moment I’ll stick with stuff I’ve done for myself, because I’m still going through the 9 million possible portfolio shots I’ve taken in my lifetime of other stuff that I have yet to edit and arrange (seriously. So great with documentation, not so great about doing stuff with it). I also like showing stuff I’ve done for myself, because some years I pull out all the stops and other years I am tired and lazy and end up being a car lot noodle (and you think I’m kidding).

This one falls somewhat between extremes, and is admittedly one of my faves. Babs Gordon/Batgirl somehow ended up as like a giant beacon of a role model for me as a kid. I grew up watching reruns of the old Adam West show, I vaguely remember reading comics during church choir practice when I was supposed to be paying attention (I guess I felt I wouldn’t be allowed to borrow them from my guy friends, so I have no idea. It seems silly that I was hiding that habit, now). Of course, as I grew up and really delved into her storyline, it just blew me away. The fact that this character could go through intense trauma, be forced to give up the one of the things that made her who she was, and then come blazing back as Oracle has always stuck with me through my own changes and growth. And sorry, I do not accept non-Oracle plotline Babs. Not gonna happen.

It was the animated series, though, that really grabbed me by the nostrils as a teen. That whole show had an artistic sensibility and design that I really hadn’t seen up to that point. The storylines blended humor with some really serious plot points, and kept the characters fairly true to their roots. I can’t help but think that I learned a lot about story development from that show, as well as episodic fiction, because I just straight up devoured it as long as it was on. Beyond the Tim Burton movies or anything else that I’d grown up on, Batman TAS was and will always be my Batman. So years ago when I was part of a group costume challenge where we decided the theme was cartoons, after some brief debate, I went with Batgirl.  Admittedly I had to go with the redesign because I was also working a ton of hours building Halloween event stuff, but I’m pretty in love with the outcome.

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The basic suit was actually done with cuddleduds – they have a nice sheen and honestly with my body proportions (long torso, wide hips, short legs), I didn’t have the time or desire to build my own catsuit (and I likely would have had to. I’ve had some bad moments with store-bought catsuits). The tops are usually pretty long, so if I keep it pulled under the belt, you really don’t notice from a distance that it’s not all one piece.

The cape was fairly easy to do out of stretch jersey, and it took some off and on googling to figure out which bat was the right bat for that uniform. Admittedly the belt isn’t completely right (I think it’s actually like a series of circles). At the time I could only find partial views of her head to toe (or mid-move where things were blocked), so I went off the original belt a litle bit combined with what I could see, but I don’t really mind it. I was going for a purposefully cartoon look to match the TAS feel, so I used car upholstry liner as the base then covered it with fabric. Gloves and boots are bought because I don’t hate myself that much, and I made gauntlets to go over the gloves out of a yellow party satin and more car liner. The mask is spandex and involved me sitting still for it to be draped to the shape of my head – the one thing I didn’t do (and should have) is put the wig on for that (it may have still been in transit, actually), so the fit is a smidge off, but nothing too bad. The mask was the thing that did take me a while to do since I wasn’t the one draping it. Figuring out how far the darts had to go and positioning the holes did give me some fits, but it was definitely worth it. I think, all in all, I got this done for a little over 150 – for as simple as it looks it did take a little bit to pull off.

 

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Obviously I don’t have fun with this one at all.

 

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Want a creepy read for Halloween? I’ve got ya covered! Check out Mooner, my historical vampire tale, or try any of the genre-defying shorts in Lost in the Shadows! Not into horror? No prob, check out all the other fun titles I’ve written!