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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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lessons from Bookmarks: Breathe Deeply of Sunshine

Just think about exactly what that means . . . On that first really warm, sunny day coming out of long and dreary winter (like today!), it is SO rejuvenating to just step outside, close your eyes with your face to the sun, and breeeeeeathe in. Try it. You'll like it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Orange Love

And now, the culmination of my 21-sketches brainstorming session on oranges (see 2 posts ago). I really do love everything Orange: the color, the fruit, the taste, the smell. So, appropriately titled, I think. This one has actually sparked an idea for a whole new kitchen re-design . . . someday.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lessons From Bookmarks: Take Time to Unwind

Continuing with my bookmark series ... The message behind the bookmark I designed here is simple enough. It's important to balance out the craziness of our lives with "down time". We are only human after all and can only go so long or push ourselves so far before we must unplug and give our minds and bodies a rest from the responsibilities of life. If we don't, we risk serious emotional and health problems. Coffee and energy bars can help us get through the workdays, but they are not permanent solutions.

"Unwinding" is probably different for everyone, and is not the same thing as sleep. In fact, if you try to go to sleep before you've had sufficient time to relax, it will probably take you much longer to actually fall asleep, and the sleep you do get might not be the most restful. But don't think of unwinding as merely a tool to help you get better sleep, either. Think of it more as the sugar in a cake recipe. If you bake a cake without it, it will most likely come out looking fine, but it sure won't taste as good. Remember, you work hard and you deserve a little time to yourself, a little sweetner. It will make everything else in your life seem worthwhile, if you actually give yourself a break once in a while.

For me, the perfect way to unwind after a long day (and since I work evenings, this means the time right before I go to bed) is by curling up on the couch with a hot cup of chai tea and my latest book under soft, diffused light. I read for about an hour or so and by that time, my entire body - inlcuding my mind - feels relaxed. I like to wait until I get to the point where I'm having trouble concentrating on the words on the page or on anything I have to do the next day - REALLY tired. I have learned the hard way that trying to force myself to go to bed when I'm not tired, results in me laying awake for hours and being uncomfortable. So this is not only something that is one of life's simple pleasures for me, it also helps me sleep better.

There are other ways to unwind, that don't result in sleepiness. For instance, I consider taking a long walk through my neighborhood at a brisk pace a good way to unwind as it releases stress and leaves me feeling refreshed and healthy (notice I said walk, not run). However, I never get on my computer to unwind as I associate my computer and being in my office with work. But working in my garden or sitting down with an embroidery project are good "time outs" for me. I cannot say, however that watching TV is a good way to unwind, unless it's for a limited period of time, because the constant flashing lights and colors coming at you tend to keep your brain alert and leave you with eye strain if you stare at the TV for too long. This is not the case with a book, which is simple black text on a neutral background.

Some other ways to unwind, even if they are work, but not what you do for a living could be:

• Cooking
• Sewing
• Painting
• Writing in a journal
• Playing an instrument
• Singing
• Bubble baths
• Going on a picnic
• Taking a bike ride
• Going out for coffee and conversation
• Visiting your local library

I'm sure there are many others, that I cannot think of at this point, but however you unwind, make sure that you are getting what you need out of it and enjoy yourself.

Friday, April 4, 2008

How Many Oranges Does it Take to Turn on a Light Bulb?

Apparently a lot, in this case. I counted 21 individual oranges or slices sketched (not including the 2 page thumbs at the bottom) before I tore the page out of my sketchbook to scan in. Why am I doing this, you ask? Well, I have this inkling of an idea, a vague sort of blurry vision bouncing around in my brain for a digital design depicting fruit - specifically oranges - and this is how I am trying to "spark" that idea into igniting. If that makes absolutely no sense, I'm sorry, but all I can say is that artists are weird like that and we all seek inspiration in different ways. In my case, I already know what I want to do with this piece - I just don't know how.

I want to create something that is both pleasing to look at and represents a certain level of artistic skill, but that hasn't been done before. I researched "modern fruit art" the other day and I honestly didn't find much that was illustrated in the same "style" I'm going for, but I also didn't get many good sources either.

A source is not to be confused with copying. A source is something that sparks you brain into "art-mode" and you end up creating a piece of art influenced in part by it, yet totally different. Still, as I said, I am finding a shortage of sources for this piece I want to create, so it's up to me to sketch my heart out until I find a design that I want to run with. I would do this anyway, even if I did have lots of sources; but in this case it simply means that the creative process is a little bit harder because I have to try to draw pictures in my head based on past memories and other stored information. It's not impossible and not unpleasant, but it does take a little longer, which in cases like this, often leaves us artists staring at a blank page for quite some time before a sketchable idea takes form.

The first night I attempted to brainstorm, I only sketched about 5 different orange styles before I ran out of ideas. But overnight, my brain, once primed, started conjuring up new images and by the second night I had all of the different styles, shown above, down on paper. As I was sitting there trying to decide which one would work best, I suddenly realized that the entire sketchbook page had kind of an interesting look to it. Like some sort of funky wallpaper (minus the written notes). I still don't know exactly how I'm going to proceed with this design, but I hope you enjoyed this cutaway of the inner workings of my brain. Now it's back to work for me!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lessons From Bookmarks: Perspective is Everything

I recently designed a line of bookmarks with little inspirational messages that I made up and I thought it would be interesting to explore the meaning behind each of them. If you are like me, you get a little thrill up your spine when you see a piece of art or good graphic design paired with the perfect written message. I love to collect samples like that and leave them all over my house to remind me of what's truly important in life. That is what I was aiming to do with these bookmarks - to share universal wisdom through art. I may have penned the words, themselves, but the truths behind them are timeless:

Perspective is Everything. The concept is just like reading the sentence. At first glance, it doesn't look like much, but if you chew over it for a little bit and look a little further in, you will start to understand the full meaning behind those 3 powerful words.

I'll give an example to make it easier to understand: a friend of mine recently called me to share the bad news she and her husband owed a lot of taxes this year and it was going to take some serious planning and reorganizing of priorities in order to get themselves in a position to pay it back. They had also experienced some medical hardships in the past couple of years and so had been more distracted than usual and had not payed close enough attention to their finances to avoid this situation in the first place. My friend called me, knowing that I would listen and be sympathetic, but that I might also have a different perspective on the matter. She was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the circumstances, just recently discovered, that she couldn't see past the problem.

When she asked me what I thought they should do, I first told her that I was very sorry for their situation and I realized that it was going to be a challenge to get through it, yet not impossible. I then grabbed my calculator and punched in a few numbers. Then I asked her, "Well, you've been thinking about getting a part time job, right?" (she has been a stay-home mom all her life, but currently only has 2 teenage boys left at home). She said, yes. Then I told her that based on my calculations, if she got a part time job, working only 10 hours a week, and put all her earnings toward paying off the tax debt, it would be gone in about 2 years. There were a few moments of stunned silence on her end of the phone, followed by a timid but hopeful "Really?"

We also discussed that it would probably be best for them to consult some professional advice for this matter as well. But it felt SO wonderful to be able to take some of the heaviness off her burden, just by having a different perspective. One of the last things I said to my friend, before we hung up was "Really, when you look at it, getting rid of this debt is only a matter of a few extra hours a week spent outside of the home and some numbers being pushed around on paper." And that is the truth. It doesn't have to become any bigger of an issue in her life than that; and she once she has a plan in place to deal with the problem, she will be free to enjoy her life and look forward to many other good things.

I don't claim to be a financial expert, or even a deep well of worldly wisdom, but I do know that sometimes all you really need is to see things from someone else's perspective. So don't be afraid to ask.