Shalom's Cottage Home Blog

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Rock Island, IL, United States
Hi, I'm Shalom. Artist, crafter, gardener, flea market enthusiast, bargain hunter, and lover of flavor. Welcome to my journey!

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Sketchbook - check, Idea File - check, Paint & Paper - check, Caffeine???

So, I came up with this idea that there MUST be some correlation between how an artist drinks their coffee and the type of art they produce (since, logically, one's artwork is an extension of one's personality). But I couldn't prove it, so I decided to do a little survey. The results were as varied as the artists themselves who participated, but I did get an interesting window into one essential part of their lives. They all like coffee - a lot. Well, OK, some people prefer tea, but they are just as particular about it.

I, myself, drink at least 2 cups a day, heavily creamed and honeyed with a touch of cinnamon, and I prefer to enjoy it, slowly, with both palms wrapped around a warm, heavy mug. But, hey, if styrofoam's the only option available I won't complain, if I'm in need of a little pick-me-up. And for me, just inhaling deeply of the fragrant aroma before I even take a sip, is a pleasure unto itself.

What does that have to do with my personality and my artwork, you ask? Well, perhaps nothing. But I DO know that that kind of coffee is considered "girl coffee" and I am definitely a girly-girl. I like to dress in bright colors and florals, I love nature and beautiful surroundings and I believe my artwork reflects this part of my personality. Sometimes, I find myself just staring into my coffee mug, enjoying that quiet moment, tucked under an afghan on my couch in my beautiful living room, and I think "what a lovely picture this makes".

But that's just me. Here are some of the coffee preferences I gathered from my survey of artists, matched with the type of art they produce:

• Black with sugar: exotic-style jewelry with a devilish twist

• Straight black: unusual painted sculptures made from everyday objects

• Will take it anyway she can get it: delicate charm jewelry, featuring lots of flowers and hearts

• With sugar and cream: bright colored, comedic art

• Triple espresso with light cream and lots of honey: delicate beaded hair jewelry

• Black: funky graphic designs

Maybe I'm just reaching, but I do kind of think I can "see" some connections here. Or maybe I'm just making them up. But I thought it'd be fun to do this little experiment and it was. Mmmmmm I want some coffee NOW!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

When A Project Goes Bad

"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?", Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Truly, sometimes the best response to any of life's less-than-stellar moments (or in this case, accomplishments) is to laugh, thereby gaining the most useful thing we can out of it, since laughter is good for us.

I took up this project several months ago when I thought I'd like to try my hand at collage (I'm the kind of person who can't resist chasing every rabbit off the beaten path). I had a "vision" of sorts in my head, then I roughly sketched out a design and then I just started cutting and pasting and painting, thinking the piece would take form "naturally". But I didn't like how it looked finished the first time, or the second, or the third....And finally, I just rinsed my brushes out, let the piece dry and decided that "collage" is not for me. Not even for fun - so much do I hate this piece that I have created. It doesn't matter how long I have it turned against the wall, hoping that the next time I look at it with "fresh eyes" I will have a better appreciation for it. It is simply, without a doubt, the ugliest piece of art I have ever created and now there is nothing more I can do with it, but to laugh at myself and let a few others laugh at it as well. Now, I suppose, compared to something a pre-schooler might put together, it is relatively good, but it is just not good enough for me. I didn't even enjoy the process - I was frustrated the entire time. Lesson learned. Back to the beaten path for me - it is long enough and I will probably enjoy myself much more, if I just admire the scenery along the way, instead of getting lost in it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Happy Day in Spring

Continuing with the Spring theme . . . I just polished off this little girl (it's definitely a girl) at approximately 4am this morning. The tree was part of an old graphic I had done for my website a while back and it's been kind of sitting in the back of my mind for a while, poking at me now and then to do something with it. So I sat down last night, intending only to "play" with it a bit. 4 hours, several cups of coffee and wasted test-prints later, I was done. But that's the glory of being in the "zone", when you have an idea you really like you just have to run with it. I think what I like about this one, other than it's cheerful cuteness, is that I have finally conquered my fear of "simplicity" with this design. I tend to want to add more all the time, I guess to prove to myself and possibly others that I am a "real" artist. But, you know, sometimes you just don't need it to tell the story.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Welcome, Songbirds!

In the absence of anything truly relevant to share with you, artwise (too many other necessities of life have gotten in the way of my creativity lately, filing taxes, a really dirty house, Easter activities), I thought I'd show an old favorite of mine. I painted this with watercolors a few years ago as a gift to a friend who was going through a difficult time. She has the original and I will never sell any copies, but I did scan it before I gave it to her, so I could enjoy looking at it from time to time. It was warm today, for the first time in I don't want to think how long (winter here has really been a drag this year), and the birds have been happily twittering all day. Their enthusiasm is contagious - I think I finally have enough energy to tackle a few more of those "necessities" I mentioned above and I really can't put them off any longer. The sooner they are out of the way the sooner I can get back to creating!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Meet Lavinia

I just couldn't resist doing a little bragging today! I just finished this design today at 3am and I am so proud of it. To me it represents a new milestone on my journey as a digital artist - I feel I have embarked on an exciting new path with the style of this piece. When you are a relatively "new" artist and are working on developing your own style (one that you are totally in love with and that is also recognizable), you can definitely tell when that style begins to take form. I am very pleased with how this design turned out and feel a new creative energy spinning around inside my brain now. This is "Lavinia", the 1st in my "Shy Peacock" series for 2008. Look for her cousin, "Chloe", coming soon!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Enjoy Your Trip!

(Photo courtsey of
"Life is a journey", they always say. So why do we only see how far away our next "destination" is? I'm as guilty of this as anyone, so I thought I'd come up with a list of little ways to recognize what makes up the "journey"; since probably 90% of our lives are spent on the trail to the next big thing and only 10% of them actually enjoying our accomplishments.

The Journey of Life is . . .

• being snuggled in on all sides, between my husband and my dogs
• the scent of creamy coffe mixed with honey and cinnamon wafting upwards as I stir
• warm sun on my face during an early spring walk
• the first green spikes of hardy perrenials poking up from the barren earth
• laughter among friends in between outakes of a song practice session
• the newest issue of a favorite magazine in the mail
• seeing a promising new sketch on paper at the end of a brainstorming session
• coming home to a hot, delicious crock pot dish
• driving around town with the windows open and the radio blaring
• wearing flip-flops instead of socks
• getting lost in the 75% off clearance section at a favorite store
• being generous with my time - putting a smile on someone's face
• staying up til 5am with a book I can't put down
• finding a fabulous new blog that promises waves of future inspiration
• a new pair of shoes or earrings
• song birds in the morning
• cooking with my husband (I chop, he cooks)
• wearing my favorite color - pink
• looking at old pictures and tearing up or laughing, again and again
• playing the piano or singing as loud as I can when I'm alone in my home
• seeing the pride my art students have in their work, after they apply what I've taught them
• when the seed packet displays return in the stores
• the feel of a freshly mopped, smooth wood floor beneath my bare feet

I could go on and on, but it's getting late. The important thing is that each of us take time to pay attention to the many moments that make up our days, because those days stretch into lives. A life well-lived is a life that is lived in full. Enjoy your life!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why I Love Digital Art

I run into all sorts of interesting responses when I tell people that I specialize in "digital art", ranging from "What's that?" to "Oh, so the computer does all the work for you." I much prefer the former, because it gives me a chance to open someone's eyes to the wonderful world of graphic design as an art form. The latter response I usually just try to ignore, because anyone that will look down their nose at your craft without actually understanding anything about it, is usually so caught up in their own little world that they really only want to hear themselves talk. I'm not going to launch into a long schpeel about how intensive and detail- oriented digital art is, because it really doesn't matter (although I do have to point out, that it takes more skill than simply point-and-click, as is a wide mis-conception). But, since I do find myself so drawn to it, and am fascinated and inspired by many other talented digital artists, I wanted to take a moment (as much for myself as for others) to sing it's praises. I really have no idea what kind of a list I'll end up with, but usually the best way to figure yourself out is to start writing down all the thoughts in your head, so here goes:

• You don't have to clean up a bunch of messy paint after each session of "creating" and it doesn't smell funny. You can also wear your nice clothes, if you want to.
• The simplest sketch, can be turned into "art" with a little skill in tracing and an eye for color.
• Simple is good. Less is more. If you can evoke the proper response with a clean-cut image on a white background, there is nothing more that needs to be added.
• It is forgiving. If you don't like the way that line curves, or you want to move that object over there (or delete it altogether), you may do so to your hearts desire.
• It can be modified. Have a dream in the middle of the night for a whole new "look" for your original idea? No problem. Just save a new file and get started (the old one will still be there, if you decided to go back to your Plan A after all).
• Half the "fun" is in creating and putting together a collection of shapes, object, lines and colors that by themselves had no meaning until you came along and gave them new life.
• How many different ways are there to design an orange? Let's find out.
• Layers. Layers. Layers.
• Color. Color. Color.
• How many "stories" can be told with just one picture?
• The blending of reality and imagery - it is imagination brought to life.
• Sometimes all you want is a really cool pattern.
• Words can be art. Visual poetry.
• It's easily reproduced - bringing art to people all over the world, as efficiently as possible.
• The possibilities are endless.

Well, I think that about covers it for me. In the end, you just have to "feel it". Art is personal, and there are many different tastes and styles. I've chosen to embrace digital and I hope that many others will come to enjoy and appreciate it as the art form it is. It sure makes me happy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Turning Ideas Into Assets

Ever been flipping through a magazine or just minding your own business somewhere and have one of those “mind bursts” where an awesome idea pops up and you just have to jot it down before you forget? That happens to me all the time and for years, I had notes in dozens of magazines scattered all over the house and drawings in various notebooks that might have or might not have been the main one in my purse at the time. And it seemed that every time I actually had some time and wanted to sit down at my craft desk to work on making a specific idea into real artwork, I could never find the original sketch or picture. It wasn't a big deal (just more of an annoyance) until I decided to go into business and I realized I needed a better plan for collecting and organizing my thoughts, since they would most likely turn into money-making artwork some day. I started to think of my ideas as valuable supplies that couldn't afford to be wasted, and in the few years I've been selling my artwork, I've developed a plan that (with a little tweaking from time to time) seems to be working.

• I have an “Idea” Binder. This is quite a behemouth of a binder, but it is really quite useful. I have divided it into several “categories” and in each of those I put page-protected sheets of blank paper with pictures I've cut out of magazines that fit the category. These pictures are not arranged any certain way and they tend to be cut out at odd angles and secured with 1 or 2 pieces of scotch tape (my pages wouldn't win any graphic design layout awards), but now whenever I get in a mood to create a certain type of artwork, I have only to flip to the category I want and browse through the pictures I've personally selected for instant inspiration. I collect these pictures, whether I have a specific idea in mind at the time or not, because if they stand out to me at all, I never know when I might need them at a later time and I don't want to have to go searching for “that one photo I remember from a magazine (not even sure which one) about 3 months ago.” I might have even tossed the magazine away by that time – Ouch!

• When do I have time to collect all these picures you are asking? There really is no set schedule, but I do try to have a pen or colored marker handy when I'm flipping through a new mag, so I can put a star by the pics I really like. Then, if I know the whole magazine is a keeper, I will write “KEEP” in big, bold letters on the cover, to remind me not to toss it when I do house cleaning. If I do decided to get rid of some piles of paper, I will usually briefly flip through the mags first and either cut out the highlighted pics first or just stack them on my desk to be dissected later. If I have time to cut, but not sort, I will tuck the new pics into the pocket of my binder and the next time I crack it open looking for ideas, I will take a few minutes to add the new pics into the appropriate categories.

• I carry a small sketchbook or notebook with me at all times. I work evenings at a hotel front desk and I keep my sketch book in my lunch tote so it is always handy if I have the time to flesh out a new idea while I'm at work. I usually have 1 or 2 newer magazines in there too for some visual backup. If I'm just out and about with my purse as company, I at least have a small notebook handy, so I don't miss out on any potential “mind bursts”. These notebooks frequently contain my grocery and to-do lists as well, but they are there when I need them. To keep all my personal sketches organized I have also added another section to the back of my Idea Binder, where I put all notes and drawings that didn't originate in my main sketchbook. Once it's time for a new sketchbook, I will usually tear out my “favorites” and add them to the binder as well. I should also add that I always sign and date my sketches, for future reference (I figure this might also come in handy if I ever have to deal with copyright issues).

I have found that anything I can do to keep my most important assets (my ideas) in one place, organized and easily-accessible saves huge amounts of time and lets me get right down to the business of creating – which is hard enough to find time to do as it is. Just thought I'd pass the word along.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Don't Wanna Go To Bed!

It's after 2am and I feel like I'm just getting started. All day long I rush around doing everything that is necessary to run a house and fufill my obligation to others, so that by the time normal people would be pillowing their heads, I'm itching to go into my office and have a long rendezvous with my computer. I kiss my husband and dogs goodnight, pour what's left of this morning's coffee into a mug and nuke it for a few minutes (yes, I do and it's really not that gross), make sure the pot is set to turn on at the proper time the next morning and that my husband's lunch is prepared; then I close my office door behind me and it's blessed silence without interruption for 2-3 hours, sometimes more (depending on the size of the coffee cup). I've never quite figured out what it is that turns me "on" at this time every night, but I've come to accept that it works for me and I get a lot of "my work" done this way, so why fight it? When the morning comes, it will take every ounce of willpower to roll myself out of bed before noon (and this is true whether I go to bed at 9pm the night before or 2 am the same day), so I figure while I'm awake and kicking that is the time for me to spring into action. It's amazing how much you can accomplish with several hours of uninterrupted time: get halfway through a brand new digital tracing of a sketch, redesign a whole web page, get a ton of that pesky online marketing stuff out of the way, update my business files, do some serious research on a new topic, and the most rewarding part is being able to actually cross some things off my To Do list before I do finally crawl into bed.

I spent a large part of my life up until this point (still a few years shy of 30) trying to figure out why I was so different from other people, and was constantly miserable. But when I realized that true beauty is in accepting yourself for who you are and then expressing it joyfully, I became a much happier person. Staying up late to get things done is just a small part of how I feel I've "matured" as an individual, but now that that's out of the way and I have found a consistent schedule that works for me, I am now free to work on all the other parts of me that need "polishing". Even if you don't know exactly where you're going yet, once you start to figure out who you really are, you'll know you're at least headed in the right direction.

Friday, March 7, 2008

In Preparation for Spring

I feel it - even though everything outide is still brown and the air is chilly and I'm wearing socks and sweaters constantly - an inner sense that the earth is changing. As someone who hates winter and cold with a passion (even though I live in the midwest and should be used to it by now), I always look for the earliest signs of spring, long before most other people would: tiny brownish-red buds forming on the naked brances of the trees in my yard, the sun that feels warm (not just bright) through my car's windows. And I am tempted to peek under the clumps of dead leaves in my empty flower beds for those first yellow-green spikes from early bloomers. It still feels like winter, but in only a few weeks, Spring will popping up everywhere and there will be no stopping it. Just knowing that the end of winter is in sight, puts light in my heart and a bounce in my step. I feel a new energy and my hands itch to start making lists for plans well into the summer months. Already I have some new flower bulbs lined up, ready to go into the ground as soon as it's safe. And I also am seeing my house - really seeing it - in a new and very dirty light and realizing that it's about time I gave it a thorough cleaning. One thing I always have to do to welcome a new season is buy a new silk floral arrangement - this time it was yellow dogwood blossoms on an irregular branch. It looks very lifelike and spruces up my kitchen just enough to inspire me to get going on the rest of my house.

Life goes on and on, and just when we think it's out of anything useful, it recycles it'self all over again and if we are lucky enough to be a part of that process, we should be very thankful.