28 December 2012

Life of Art SitRep #151 Winter Interlude

If you've been celebrating holidays this week, I hope you've enjoyed them thoroughly.

This week, I created a new line of products for my shop from my new Checkered Rainbow design I teased last week.
Checkered Rainbow iPhone 5 Covers
Checkered Rainbow iPhone 5 Covers by RocklawnArts
Shop for additional iPhone 5 cases at zazzle.com

Updated LOA 2012 summary.

Rocklawn Arts blogged Checkered Rainbow design.

I also made a Yoda snowflake. You can download all sorts of Star Wars Snowflakes for free by the kindness of Anthony Herrera who designed the templates.

You'll notice mine is less fancy. I used regular copy paper which was kind of heavy for all the layers you have to cut through. The fine details were a challenge.

I plan to make a couple more snowflakes to send to the Sandy Hook PTA.
When school resumes for Sandy Hook, it will be in a new building. Parent-volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. We encourage senders to be as creative as possible, remembering that no two snowflakes are alike. Please make and send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to the Connecticut PTSA address at the bottom of this page.
Hit this link for details.

I encourage you to send a couple snowflakes too.

Happy Holidays!

Two years ago on TTaT: 57. Bridgman's Book of 100 Hands

23 December 2012

66. Extraordinary Chickens

Extraordinary Chickens66. Extraordinary Chickens by Stephen Green-Armytage

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's probably fair to say there are a lot more types of chickens out there than you realize. I've been to county and state fairs, so I'd seen some of these, but there are so many more crazy varieties out there.

If you look at the "Legs, feet, and spurs" section on pages 64-65, you'll see the dinosaur connection. Also a Leghorn is a type of chicken (think Foghorn Leghorn).

I like the ones with patterned or frizzled feathers.

A fun book to flip through with more information about the breeds if you're interested.

A year ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #98 Misperceptions

22 December 2012

64. Lost Worlds: Ruins Of The Americas

Lost Worlds: Ruins Of The Americas64.Lost Worlds: Ruins Of The Americas by Arthur Drooker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of ruins, so I knew of some in Central and South America, but I didn't realize there were so many more cool ruins about in the Western hemisphere. There's quite a variety too, from Incan and Mayan to European influenced ruins.

Drooker's black and white infrared photography of the sites is very cool. A lot of the images really appeal to me because they feel like ones I would take, a certain interplay of geometry in the architecture. Of course, I wouldn't have thought to convert a digital camera so that it shoots solely infrared images, so as close as my view might be if I went, it'd still be different.

I also liked that he wrote a page of basic history about each site and the people who lived there. It's a nice bit of background without being overwhelming and is much easier than reading a slew of tiny captions. It gives a nicer flow for reading and viewing a book mainly of photography.

Well worth a look.

Two years ago on TTaT: A Holiday Treat: The Prom: Take Two (part 3)

21 December 2012

Life of Art SitRep #150 Still here it seems

Well NASA says there's no scientific basis for the end of the world today, so I reckon I best get back to work.

Again, I had a slow week. There were a number of distractions, but I'm done wrapping presents now so that should help.

I made a new design for my shop but it's not up yet, so I'll show it to you next week.

Read Popular Photography's Dec. 2012 issue.

Took care of a variety of administrative type things.

I also saw The Hobbit. Made a trek to a theater with larger screens and proper stadium seating. Perfectly happy to watch it in 2D. I find 3D glasses heavy, prone to glare, and more distracting than immersive.

Also could have done without the jerk (or 2) who's goddamn phone kept chirping, presumably to notify him of texts or messages? I wanted to snap his phone in half by the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th times. Grr. Wanted to say something but couldn't place where it was coming from exactly and didn't want to disturb everyone else even further.

But seriously, you couldn't put it on vibrate at least? I had ear plugs in (because theaters are really loud nowadays, as though that makes sound better) and the damn chirps were still loud. What the hell? (Made me think of you, Dave2.)

Enjoyed the movie otherwise. Not as emotionally invested as I was after the 1st LOTR, but damn if New Zealand isn't beautiful. The hair, makeup, costumes, production design, sets were inspired accomplishments. Really beautiful craftsmanship.

A year ago on TTaT: Hoodie Holiday Song

20 December 2012

The Kindness of Strangers, part 4

To wrap up this week's Kindness of Strangers series, I look back to

The Screws of The Man: Part 3 redux

From the moment I found out there was actually a fee for a temporary No Parking sign permit, I knew that I'd hand over fifty bucks without blinking an eye. $112.75, on the other hand, was worth serious consideration: that's a good chunk of a day's travel expenses. I could stay in truly divey motels for 5 days to recoup, but five days? Not really what I had in mind. Besides, that might increase the odds of my car getting broken into while I travel.

I felt certain that if I committed to getting the permit, I would subsequently find a great spot on my block. A street cleaning ticket is only $35 after all. However ultimately, since I plan to load up and then leave, having a space directly in front of the studio is integral to a smooth start. I would pay the damn fine, I mean fee.

I called the station and got Officer McIntire again. He seemed to remember me. Since I didn't have access to a fax machine, I said I could stop by the station. I had to feed my friend Chala's fish anyway and the station is about halfway en route. He noted the time and asked how long it would take me to get there since it was the end of the day.

"Ten minutes."

"Ok, I'll wait for you."

"Or I can come tomorrow if that's easier."

"No, that's all right. If you can be here in ten minutes, I'll wait," he said.

I grabbed my checkbook and hoofed down the street. I knew I could make it just walking, but I ran a downhill block just to be safe.

When I walked into the station, I saw a woman and her daughter waiting by the window. It reminded me of the last time I'd been there, when my car had been broken into and I had to wait a long time before someone came up to the window. There was only one officer towards the back of the room and he was on the phone. I wondered how long they'd been waiting and checked my watch.

Another officer came up, opening the door to the little lobby. After explaining I wasn't with the others, I told him I was there to see Officer McIntire. The mother asked if her daughter could use the restroom since she was desperate, so he led the girl back and went to get my cop.

"We just got burglarized. I feel so violated," the mom said to me.

"Yeah, the last time I was here was because my car had been broken into." I didn't think to ask if they'd been mugged or what exactly, though it occurs to me now it'd be good to know what's going on in my neighborhood even if I am leaving soon. In fact, I acted just like most everyone did when I said my car had been broken into: preoccupied with my own errand, I responded with my victimization and little sympathy, just a commiseration that the police wouldn't be able to do much, if anything.

The door opened again, this time for me. Officer McIntire introduced himself and his 10 year old daughter, Caroline. His handshake was a notch or two below bone-crushing so I responded in kind as my best defense. As we walked back, he gave me the fifty cent tour pointing out the main office, the holding cell where they detain bad guys (there was one in there! I should've paid more attention to what he looked like), and other features of the station. What struck me most were the benches along the wall; for each bench, 4 handcuffs hung from a bar bolted to the wall above them. Otherwise, the main office just had a table surrounded by maroon vinyl chairs and some desks. His office was beyond that.

He and Caroline sat down, but then he asked her to get up so I could sit, so she moved to the chair beyond him. It was more of an alcove than an office since there was no door, but it was away from the main rooms with a hall separating it. Two desks sat across from each other, but the other occupant was out.

He started filling out the paperwork and telling me about his life. He's a widower which is why his daughter was with him at work. He has three kids: 10, 12, and 13; two boys, one girl. He showed me a recent photo on his desk located under a clear protective sheet with several others. Caroline retrieved the logbook and signs and started helping him with his old computer. When I told him I was moving to Massachusetts, he launched into tales of his wife who was from Attleboro, pushing aside papers to show me more pictures of people in areas of MA of which I was largely unfamiliar. I sputtered the occasional comment and nodded politely; he was gregarious and didn't mind that I was quiet.

The signs would have to go up Saturday. "If I print them out now, could you take them?" he asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," I replied somewhat half-heartedly as I considered having to lug them on to Chala's and then back, or going home first and then going to feed the fish.

"Are there trees or poles around you can hang them from?"

"Yeah, there's a couple poles."

"If you can put them up, then that'll save me coming in on Saturday."

Knowing how much of a drag I'd consider that if it'd been me, I said, "Sure."

His computer wasn't responding. I waited patiently, unfazed, because it reminded me of the computer I'll return to once I get it out of storage, how slow and finicky it was, and how much more so it will be if it even still works.

"After you got here so fast, I can't believe how long this is taking."

"That's ok," I assured him; and it was as I was glad to be taking care of it once and for all.

"You know, because you're from Massachusetts, I'm not gonna charge you. You just have to hang the signs."

My relaxed attitude had left me present enough that there was no question about what he'd just said. "You totally rock," spilled out of my mouth in an unexpected wave of elation.

"What's that?"

"I said, 'You rock.'" It felt like an awkward age displacement within myself when repeated. Still, my very nice officer turned out to be a VERY nice officer. Inward leaps of joy; I started paying more attention to his tales and committed his daughter's name to memory the next time he said it.

He told me how he'd gotten a speeding ticket in MA years ago, and not thinking he'd ever marry someone from the state, he didn't pay it because the state trooper who'd issued it had been a real jerk. Years later it caught up with him-- even though he had eventually paid it-- as his license was suspended. Apparently when MA switched over to a new computer system, they'd added a $10 "administration fee" to tickets to help recoup the cost: this he hadn't paid. When he called, he got the person who'd suspended his license. She took it off for him. This was his example of humanity within bureaucracy.

The printer jammed. He pulled out a crumpled sheet and I laughed; no amount of waiting could diffuse my happiness. More stories followed, he offered me water, producing a bottle from a white mini-fridge behind him that I hadn't noticed because it was covered with a fax machine and printer. A post-it kept losing its stick on the hutch above his desk, so he finally set it down.

When we were finally done, the two of them walked me out. I had 4 signs rubberbanded together, with strings through their holes-- he'd made sure Caroline picked out signs with strings attached for me-- and an envelope with "Ms. TTaT" written on it, containing my copy of the

I thanked him again, and he said he'd remembered that I was hesitant to pay the fee when we spoke on the phone.

"Yeah, it was really tough for me to decide to pay it."

"Well," he smiled, "now you can have a really nice dinner when you get to Massachusetts."

"Thanks again." I ambled home, clutching the signs against the wind, hoping the guitar for his son's birthday-- he was turning 14 on Saturday-- would be ready for them to pick up on the way home.

Click here to see where the original posts go from here.

Two years ago on TTaT: A Holiday Treat: The Prom: Take Two (part 1)

19 December 2012

The Kindness of Strangers, part 3

Apparently I didn't write about it, but the tow truck driver who picked my car and I up in Cairo, Georgia did drive us both all the way back to Tallahassee, Florida. I'd only had my car worked on at one place, so I had him take me there. Midas maybe? It was after 5 PM on Friday by the time we go there.

He took my car off the flatbed, a mechanic looked at it and said it was something they didn't fix. My heart sank. I asked if he could recommend somewhere that could fix it and he did. I looked out the window and the tow truck guy was already putting my car back on his flatbed. That was way above and beyond.

I called the other garage and asked if I could drop off my car. "Can you get here by 6?" I wasn't sure if I could, but I said, "Yes, I'll be there."

The mechanic I'd been talking to pointed out a woman who worked there and said she'd be happy to give me a ride home. The woman reaffirmed the offer, but I declined so I could drop off my car.

There was a lot of traffic, but we managed to get to the other garage only 10 minutes or so late. The tow truck driver took my car off again as I filled out paperwork. He offered to give me a lift home, but I knew he had get back to Georgia, so I said I'd be all right. I didn't want to abuse his kindness, he'd clearly done me several favors already. As had a number of other people that day.

Two years ago on TTaT: Sketchbook, page 60

18 December 2012

The Kindness of Strangers, part 2

Ostensibly stories about my relationships with my cars, they are also stories of kindness from strangers.

(Part 1)

Three Breaks: Part 2 redux

A kid's face was plastered to the front passenger window, and from the open sliding side door, an old woman called out, “Would you like a lift?”

I surveyed the interior: two old people and two young kids, grandparents and grandchildren probably. None were the threat I’d envisioned, so I got in. The Whitmans explained that they have a daughter and wouldn't want her to be walking alone on the highway. Having just considered my lackluster options from that position, I could truly appreciate the sentiment.

Within the next five minutes, it started pouring. I had really lucked out. They even offered to take me all the way back to Tallahassee, but I said the next gas station would be fine. It was a few miles down the road, so the grandmother peppered me with questions for the duration.

“In school?”

“No, graduated.”

“What did you study?”



“What?” asked the grandfather, driving.

Louder, “Film.”

His wife contributed, “Movies, the-a-ter, acting.” Since it wasn’t worth the trouble to explain that my degree was for behind-the-camera efforts, I sat quietly, trying to take up as little space as possible. The interrogation resumed, “Have you got a young man in your life?”

Warily, I replied, “Um...no.”

“My nephew’s an insurance agent over in Drifton. You should give him a call if you ever need any help.”

“Hmm,” I murmured noncommittally. Fortunately, the gas station came into view. “Thank you very much for the lift.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to ride back to Tallahassee with us?”

“No, that’s ok. I need to take care of my car. Thank you, though.”

“Wilbur, go on in with her and make sure she can get some help,” Mrs. Whitman finished. It wasn't until we got out of the minivan that I noticed Mr. Whitman was missing an arm, his shirt sleeve neatly pinned up.

He held the mini-mart door open for me, and I smiled a little upon seeing the Georgia peach lottery symbol in the window: I would have my chance at the $220 million Big Game after all. Though most of the cashiers were crazed with lottery customers, the guy babysitting the Subway within the store wasn't, and he kindly offered me their phone. Once I'd called Triple A, I thanked Mr. Whitman again. I would've shaken his hand but his right was the one missing; he didn't offer his left, so I just let him leave.

The nearest service station was 20 miles north in Cairo (Kay-ro), Georgia. I bought ten tickets and waited. The storm dissipated leaving thick, warm droplets glistening in the sunlight. As promised, within 40 minutes, a large flatbed tow truck arrived from Royce's in Cairo. High off the ground, it took two large steps to reach the cab and though I kept looking for a handhold at the top, there wasn't one. The driver secured my faded red sedan to the flatbed and took us both back to Florida...

The original series of posts continues here.

Two years ago on TTaT: 52. The Art of Non-Conformity

17 December 2012

The Kindness of Strangers, part 1

Sometimes I need to remind myself that not all people suck. I was thinking of reblogging these posts early last week as a way to shake off some recalled disappointments.

Then the shootings in Connecticut on Friday reminded me there's a broad terrifying spectrum of ways people can let you down. My disappointments pale in comparison.

Still, I turn to the kindness of strangers. They allow for kindness that can be its purest, with no strings attached. Not all people suck.

Three Breaks: Part 1 redux

About 20 minutes from the outskirts of Tallahassee, my seat belt grabbed me as my car suddenly ground to a halt amidst an empty rural highway; I had been on my way to buy tickets for a huge multi-state lottery, one which did not include Florida but did include Georgia. At first, I thought a tire had blown, but the steering didn't pull as my sedan hiccuped to the side of the road. Upon inspection, all the tires were fine. Nothing seemed awry under the hood, but that didn't necessarily mean much. One of these days, I really am going to take a class in auto repair.

The divided highway stretched to the horizon with nothing in sight; it had been many miles since I'd passed anything. Somewhere ahead was the gas station where I'd planned to buy tickets, but I had no idea how much further it was.

I restarted my car and drove a few feet, but I could tell from the aggravated sputtering that driving was making Red worse. I parked and set out the orange traffic triangles I'd gotten for Christmas, assuming they'd blow away, put a sign on my dash, grabbed my water and sunglasses, and started walking north.

The sky darkened and the wind picked up. Rain had been forecast for the past several days but none had fallen yet. Cars and trucks whizzed past without pause. Even if someone did stop, I had no plans to hop in some stranger's car.

Lush green weeds and grasses tickled my calves as I walked along the pavement's edge. There were still no structures within view: not a single house, billboard, fence, nor road sign. On the southbound side of the highway, a tan minivan reduced speed as it drove past. I looked over my shoulder and saw it traverse a dirt path crossing the grass divider: the minivan would soon be upon me.

If an abduction was imminent, I could only hope to outrun my assailant. The fields by the highway were broad with deep grasses, and trees lined the far edges. Assuming I could reach the wood, it would only provide cover. On the road, other motorists might see me and try to help.

There was no time left to strategize: the minivan was rolling slowly beside me...

Can't wait until tomorrow? Read the original posts.

A year ago on TTaT: Georgia O'Keeffe: Nature and Abstraction

13 December 2012

Life of Art SitRep #149 Perception vs. progress

I feel like I did a lot this week because a lot of my time was tied up, but when I look at my list, it doesn't seem I have much to show for it. How do you measure the value of education? By what you're able to apply, I imagine.

Caught the rest of The Efficient Photoshoot with Jared Platt and then Crafting Today's Digital Workflow with Eddie Tapp (& Judy Host) and Color Management with Eddie Tapp.

A couple of quick things I picked up and implemented:
Set Bridge keywords to turn on all parent categories when you choose the bottom detail keyword. Also set it so labels can be applied without holding command key.

Sometimes it's the small things that increase your efficiency and improve your workflow.

I also added 5 reviews to Zazzle of products of mine I've bought.

Two years ago on TTaT: A Holiday Treat: Hamlet was my undoing, Part I

10 December 2012

60. Color Index

Color Index60. Color Index by Jim Krause

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My main issue with this book is that it wasn't what I was looking for: color swatches with hex (or RGB) codes that I could use to gauge screen to print variations.

It has hex and RGB codes although the majority of colors are given only in CMYK and RGB values, but the swatches are so small, it's not the sort of reference I'd find useful.

The book is a bit wider than a mass market paperback. The swatches are presented in ~3/4" squares, but each swatch contains 2-4 colors.

The book has some simple information on color theory and focuses on combinations of colors. For what it's worth, I like the Quite Cool Hues best. (Ha! It should be Quiet not Quite.)

Color Index would be more useful to someone looking to see how various color combinations look together. Each mini-square palette is presented 3 ways: bars, pattern, design; so you can get a sense of their interplay.

Two years ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #44 In spite of the wonky

07 December 2012

Life of Art SitRep #148 Milestones

This week has been full of xmas distractions, but I think as I get the time-sensitive tasks out of the way, I'll be able to focus more. Despite the wrapping, ordering, and writing, I did accomplish a few things.

I officially graduated from Basic to Bronze ProSeller on Zazzle. This comes with a couple new perks I hope will help me ramp up my business.

In a similar vein, I watched Launching an Online Business with Lewis Howes on creativeLIVE. Though I'm not prepared to start selling people webinars and info products, there were some useful takeaways.

For one, I rewrote my Rocklawn Arts store's intro description with a greater focus on potential customer's needs and concerns while simplifying and clarifying the design as possible. Take a look and let me know what you think.

I completed another stage of archival work for photographs from 2010. It didn't take all that long, but it felt major after doing it in bits and pieces for ages.

Had my Brown Suede With Strap And Buckle iPad Mini Cover featured on an iPad Mini Cases for Her lens in the Faux Leather Section.

Noticed this very blog's sidebar mention of my products on Zazzle needed updating so I did that.

How was your week?

A year ago on TTaT: It's another step, but...

06 December 2012

Hoodie Holiday Song redux

That's right, it's the return of the Hoodie Holiday Song. Figured I'd get it up a bit earlier this year so you can enjoy it while still in the throws of shopping and wrapping.

December 21, 2011:
You know how it is when you get the first line of a song in your head, so then you have to write the rest of it?

Um...me neither? Let's chalk it up to an illness-induced delusion. ... Wrote this little ditty and thought of you all.


Click to play.
(Runtime 1:01. You'll probably need to turn up your sound.)
For the record, I do still have one more gift to wrap. When I thought of wrapping it last night, I wrote this song instead, and then today I made this video. I should really stop procrastinating. S'all right though, I take it as a sign I'm feeling a little better, enough to have some fun.

I hope you all have lovely, fun, restorative, and refreshing holidays!

Two years ago on TTaT: Tulips, to the left!

01 December 2012


I wasn't expecting an advent calendar, but I love my day one treat!

Thanks, Mom!

Two years ago on TTaT: 43. Half Empty

30 November 2012

Life of Art SitRep #147 Thinking bigger

Though I had days this week when I couldn't focus at all, there were times I saw possibility, one that seemed entirely beyond reach until this week. I have a new goal for next year. I'll probably need to do some things differently to reach it, as well as to figure out what those things are, but it feels exciting.

I didn't really set goals for this year, but I did start meeting the ones from the year before. It's a process.

This week, I added a new photograph to my shop: Super Moon over Washington Mountain. I made two significant changes to it in editing only to decide that they diminished what I liked best about the photo: the fiery look of the moon. I removed the changes and followed my gut.

Finished adding iPad Mini Cases to my shop.

Rocklawn Arts blogged iMac Mini Cases and Super Moon over Washington products.

Watched A shoot with Sue Bryce workshop on Creative Live. Though I have no aspirations to be a glamour photographer, she's very business savvy and I enjoy watching her work.

4 years ago on TTaT: Post-wash

28 November 2012

Super Moon

About 6 months ago, I waited for the full moon to rise over a mountain. With the moon closest to the earth in its orbit, it was a so-called "super moon" appearing up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than a full moon at its furthest point of orbit. My main concern, however, was the cloud cover which threatened to obscure my view entirely.
Super Moon over Washington Mountain Poster
Super Moon over Washington Mountain Poster by RocklawnArts
©2012 Claire E. Skinner, all rights reserved.

In the span of 8 minutes, the moon crested the silhouetted mountaintop and then disappeared behind the dark bank of clouds at the top of the image. I got what I wanted though. The clouds near the bright moon make it look like it's on fire against a diagonal strip of dark blue sky between the black hill and the near black cloud looming at the top right of the photograph.

Two years ago on TTaT: Sketchbook, page 57: Something Fantastic

26 November 2012

Catalogs and Ponies

"So your aunt Barbara was telling me your uncle was rounding up catalo... today, and it went well," Mom said. "I told her I expected palomino ponies."

Rounding up catalogs? Huh? What do ponies have to do with anything? "'Rounding up' what?" I asked.


Ah, that makes sense. My aunt and uncle live on a 1000 acre farm. Although they are both in their early eighties, they don't seem to have noticed.

Mom elaborated, "He used his car. He put feed in his trunk, left it open and drove across the fields. The cattle just followed him."

"Oh, you meant ponies for herding the cattle."

"Yeah." Fortunately Mom did not give me an exasperated look for being two beats behind her story.

Then it hit me, "Wait. You mean 'rounded up'... to get eaten."

I was having dinner with my parents and this was potentially appetite reducing territory for me.

Mom said, "Well, they take them to be sold. Where they go from there..."

"They take them to the farm," I interjected, thinking of the stories TV show parents tell their kids about deceased pets and then clarified, "The other farm. The one where they get to live out their lives peacefully."

"Maybe," Dad offered optimistically for my benefit.

"Sometimes they have a heck of a time getting them on the truck," said Mom.

"Did you know cows have best friends?" I asked. "I read it somewhere recently." (Online no doubt.) "They get upset when they're separated." Huh, I just took us right back to depressing.

"The children too," Mom added.

Children? I was missing something but decided to let it play out.

"The mothers don't like it when their calves get taken," she continued.

Aha, not human children. "Why would they?" It wasn't a question so much as a commiseration.

"You know, when the young calves are drinking milk from their mother, her older calves will come by for a sip or two because it's like she's giving out snacks."

"You wouldn't want to pass that up," I said.

"They always remember which calves are theirs."

Two years ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #42

25 November 2012

Justice, Vol. 1

Justice, Vol. 158. Justice, Vol. 1 by Jim Krueger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This volume of Justice has a compelling story, but it'd be worth a read just for the art.

The pencils by Doug Braithwaite painted by Alex Ross are really beautiful. I'm used to painted covers on graphic novels, but having the whole comic painted gives it a different quality than most. I hesitate to call it more artistic, but the images feel deeper.

I can see the influence Norman Rockwell had on Ross. Very cool.

With any luck, I'll get to see some of Ross's work in person. Looking forward to that.

A year ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #94 Black Friday edition

24 November 2012

57. The Non-Designer's Design Book

The Non-Designer's Design Book 57. The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin P. Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent introduction to design principles (contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity) with lots of examples for practical application. I will be designing my next business cards differently.

There's also a section on designing with type. Some of the type stuff I didn't agree with, but I think that has more to do with my disinclination to use certain type categories than a flaw in the theory.

I would've liked more examples relating to web sites since I don't have a lot of print needs for newsletters, brochures, and the like, but I think there's another book devoted to that.

Well worth a read if you're designing your own stuff or want to better understand what your designer is doing.

ETA (11/25/12): What was most clear to me after reading this book is how actively all forms of legal documents, terms & conditions, privacy policies and the like are designed to discourage you from reading them. I mean, I knew that already, but now I clearly see what they're doing (and not doing) to reduce legibility. Pisses me off.

A year ago on TTaT: The Tornado Building Painting

23 November 2012

Life of Art SitRep #146 Post-T-day

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday, and if you don't, I hope you ate something tasty!

Being Black Friday, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the sale going on at my site right now:

60% Off Wrapped Canvases & Prints
50% Off Cards, Postcards, & Ornaments
30% Off Mugs & Calendars
20% Off Messenger Bags, Laptop Bags, Tote Bags, & T-shirts
$10 Off Cases & Sleeves
15% Off Everything else

Offer is valid through November 23, 2012 at 11:59 PM PT.

One of my products did indeed get featured in Zazzle's holiday catalog and in one of their online shopping guides. You can see my Black and White Chevrons notebook featured in the Vintage Betty: for retro romance category.

I'm excited and grateful for the extra exposure. I just wish they hadn't centered my design in their images because that's not what people will see when they go to my product. Have no idea why this occurred in the first place and have heard nothing about who I would ask to get it fixed on the website. Think I will let it go and hope people think the design looks cooler when they see it as it actually is. (I think it's better anyway.) Focusing on being grateful for the opportunity, which I am.

I'm really excited that I discovered a faster, more efficient way to add a new product offering to all my existing designs.

My store now has iPad Mini cases:

This week, I also watched 3 Creative Live workshops with Lesa Snider, Photoshop Deep Dives on Bridge and Blend Modes, and Holiday Photo Gifts. I may get Photoshop figured out one of these days after all.

Ooh! The Photoshop Deep Dive bundle is still on sale. No idea how long this will last, but it's a steal at $99 for 7 day-long workshops, 6 of which delve into specific Photoshop topics.

Hope you're having a great weekend, everybody!

Two years ago on TTaT:

17 November 2012

Angel & Faith: Live Through This

Angel & Faith: Live Through This (Angel & Faith, #1)56. Angel & Faith: Live Through This by Christos Gage

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always enjoyed watching Faith's evolution as a character, so it's nice to see more of her here.

To say much else gets into spoiler territory. Be sure to read Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 first.

A year ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #93 Personal Best

16 November 2012

Life of Art SitRep #145 Eyes down the road

This week doesn't look like much, but I'm proud of the focus on less obvious things. Store arrangement, mainly.

I collapsed designs of varying colors into three new categories (Checkered Rectangles Designs, Bisected Stripes Designs, and Graphic Circles Designs) thereby reducing my main page display by 5 or 6 rows. Seems straightforward but feels big to me.

Went through about 7 folders in Bridge doing further edits. Picked out the next photograph I want to add to my shop.

Read 3 issues of Popular Photography. Clearly I have a backlog. The upside is that the older an issue is, the more I can breeze through it since cameras and gear get refreshed so often.

Also did the usual promotional and maintenance stuff.

Really doesn't look that impressive when it's typed out, does it? Doesn't really matter though; it's the substance that counts.

6 years ago on TTaT: 30 Rock

09 November 2012

Life of Art SitRep #144 Zigs and Zags

I started off the week by deciding not to add one of the new products available on Zazzle to my shop. Keeping up with new electronics cases is time consuming; I'd rather look forward than back with model compatibility. Also the new cases don't suit my designs all that well.

I did, however, notice new Laptop Bags which are cool. I meant to spend more time on big picture stuff this week but set some of that aside to add the new product.

Caught up on posting three recent new designs on my Rocklawn Arts blog.

In the medium picture realm, I moved all of my geometric rainbow patterns into subfolders of one main Rainbow Designs folder. I also did this for my Flower photographs and previously my Gingham patterns. This effectively removes 5 rows from my main store page which has been getting ridiculously long. There's more to condense, but I need to make some more decisions first.

Wish it were possible to move categories like folders on your hard drive. Alas, not no simple: involves recreating categories and subcategories, and moving everything. The system was behaving for a change and allowing me to delete the empty original folders. Since it was working I got perhaps a bit overzealous. There was a stretch of time where I thought I'd lost a whole product line. Didn't fortunately but the argh I felt was potent.

Also revised my product descriptions with proximity in mind. There are more changes to consider before embarking on the immense project of updating the descriptions of all my products (if that's even worth it for minor formatting changes). Consistency has been drilled into me since I was a kid, so it irks me to leave things imperfect, but the ROI for a massive time outlay is likely minimal. If I revise it all, I only want to do that once and I've got more reading to do first. For now, any new additions will get the revised treatment.

It's a start.

A year ago on TTaT: Dreamy Jackson Brodie

08 November 2012

Small Success

This fortune from the other night made me bust out laughing*:
You will experience small success, especially in romance.

That's about it, eh? I wonder what qualifies as small success in romance.

A crush on a new TV character?

A new crush in real life?

A coffee date? That really would be a small success because I don't like coffee.

What do you think would qualify?

*which quickly became a bit sobering as well as hopeful given my track record.

Two years ago on TTaT: Rocklawn Arts Veterans Day Sale

07 November 2012

Now I'm ready to celebrate

Having lived in Florida in 2000, any results prefaced by any variation of the word "projected" make me paranoid when the numbers are close. I was living in Tallahassee, the state capitol, at the time and working in a documents department. The day after the election, our department was swarming with men in dark suits looking up every fine detail of recount information. Didn't take long for the streets around the capitol building to be full of news trucks sporting satellite dishes.

But that was then...

I am greatly relieved President Obama was re-elected.

To reporters and news organizations, he's earned the lifetime title twice, so use it!
Fuck off with your "Mister"'s, it's disrespectful and comes off as racist.

To President Obama, congratulations! There's nothing left to run for, so enough with trying to compromise with intractable people. It's time to push hard on the things that matter.

I am psyched by Elizabeth Warren's election to the Senate. She's the kind of Democrat that could bring me back to the party. We'll have to see how it goes, but I'm thrilled to have ousted Senator Brown. My donations to Warren's campaign feel like some of the best money I've spent in a long time.

Wisconsin elected the first openly gay US senator. Bravo!

In the Missouri Senate Race, incumbent Claire McCaskill beat Todd “legitimate rape” Akin. Phew.

As I sift through results online, there is more to celebrate, but it's hard to find official results rather than, "Yeah, we think this is how it's going to go" results.

Enough with the projections, news outlets! When you're wrong there is no accountability for it and it can have devastating results.

Anyway, overall my feeling is yay with a large side dose of relief. Or probably that but vice versa.

Two years ago on TTaT: Sketchbook, page 54

06 November 2012

Go Forth and Vote!

I feel good today now that I've voted. When I put my ballot into the machine for tallying, I was happy to see that 1535 people had voted as of this afternoon. That's almost half of registered voters in my town and I'd expect there to be an uptick after people get off work.

There were still people steadily streaming in as I left, so that's awesome. Feels good, like people give a damn.

It was easy. I checked in and picked up my ballot. I took in my cheat sheet of candidates and questions' answers (you knew you could do that, right? You can bring in any notes you need so long as you take them back out when you leave). My polling place doesn't have booths, so you don't really go in so much as walk up to a partitioned area.

I went to one along the edge of the stage, picked up a black marker, and filled in the appropriate ovals. Being a little OCD, I double-checked that I'd filled everything in correctly and then walked to the checkout table. Then I deposited my ballot in the machine, noted the display with the number of votes it contained and walked out. Easy peasy.

We don't get "I voted" stickers where I live, but we do get to vote in our town hall.

You too can experience the joy and satisfaction of voting if you're registered.

Need to find your polling place? Do it.

Vote! Vote! Vote!

(But just once. ;)

3 years ago on TTaT: Clothes that fit: ideal or overrated?

03 November 2012

Worth Every Penny

Worth Every Penny: How to Charge What You're Worth When Everyone Else is Discounting51. Worth Every Penny: How to Charge What You're Worth When Everyone Else is Discounting by Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely worth a read for anyone with or who wants to start a small business. (I'm looking at you, Sizzle and Sarah, and probably several more of you.)

The subtitle of my copy actually read, "Build a business that thrills your customers and still charge what you're worth."

"Boutique is a business model, not a gift shop" is their main tenet. By providing quality, service, and expertise, you don't have to compete on price.

The book includes stories of actual boutique businesses of all sorts: a pilates instructor, plumber, and baker who sells cookies to name a few. It also includes stories of where some people went wrong with their businesses. The main thing is that it illustrates that the boutique business model can be applied to most any small business.

The book covers branding, products/services/customer experience, price, marketing and selling. Each chapter has action steps to help you navigate.

The tone is conversational and easy to read. Even if, and possibly especially if, it sounds crazy to you, give it a read to see what's possible. Then see what you can apply to your business. They've got lots of suggestions.

(Yes, by their standards, I'm doing it all wrong. But I've got my eyes open to ways to grow and evolve. I am a sponge.)

Two years ago on TTaT: Gettin' My Groove On... (vol. xviii)

01 November 2012

Life of Art SitRep #143 Storm Surge

It's been a curiously productive week. After stocking up on foodstuffs, moving my kinetic sculpture into the shed and moving some other items from the yard, I committed to work. (I was going to link to some of my kinetic sculpture videos, but they were displaying an embed error message. Further investigation reveals one of bliptv's datacenters in NYC is down due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.)

I was sure we were going to lose power. Even with a contingency for that, I wasn't sure my computer would work. And even if it did, I figured we'd lose internet when Sandy blustered through.

So I busted my ass in preparation for the inevitable, working late into the nights preceding the storm.

I created 3 new digital designs: Green Polka Dots on Red, Green Polka Dots on White, and a Geometric Christmas Wreath of which I'm particularly proud.

Updated my Rocklawn Arts lens to include all of my holiday cards.
Get 50% off all of my customizable cards and postcards, no minimums!
You can easily personalize (or delete) the greeting on any of my

Offer is valid through November 27, 2012 at 11:59pm PT.

Rocklawn Arts blogged Light Blue and White Gingham Pattern, Red and Green Polka Dots on White.

Rearranged my store a bit.

Deleted discontinued products from my links file and updated some others.

At this point, I still hadn't lost power or internet and Sandy seemed to be on the way out. I feel very fortunate. Irene caused more trouble last year. I fully expected the bridge to wash out again; luckily it didn't.

I took advantage of the good fortune by watching Retouching and Creative Photoshop Techniques with Lindsay Adler on Creative Live. Seriously fascinating to see how a fashion photographer retouches her beauty and avant-garde fashion images. Soaked in better understandings of some techniques as well as some cool new ones.

Made another template and several new return address labels.

Shot 9 Halloween self portraits.

Photoshopped one of the self portraits and posted it for Halloween. With everything I learned this week, I could easily have continued working on the image for much longer. I still see things I could fix, but really, it was just meant to be a quick photograph. Had to give up my perfectionism since I wanted to get it posted before Halloween was over.

How did you fare this week?

A year ago on TTaT: 43. I Am Maru

31 October 2012

30 October 2012

So more Star Wars then...

It's been a strange day. It started long before the sun came up with howling winds and pelting rain. It woke me up around 2:30 AM and kept me up for about an hour and a half. Looks like it woke my neighbors as well since there whole house was lit up. Then it woke me again a few hours later. Just no good sleep. I've had my share of spooky for the year, thanks.

On the upside, I didn't lose power or internet as Sandy banged through, just sleep.

After a long day, Deadline Hollywood Daily tells me: UPDATE: BREAKING: ‘Star Wars’ Returns — ‘Episode 7′ Slated For 2015 And More Movies Planned As Disney Buys Lucasfilm.

They are making more Star Wars movies. I'm not even sure how to feel about that.

From the article:
“The last Star Wars movie release was 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith – and we believe there’s substantial pent-up demand”, Disney said.
Pent-up demand. More like disgust and dismay that have only abated some with the Lego Star Wars video games.

At least Lucas won't be in charge although it said he'd be consulting. One can only hope not too much or in such a way that someone (ideally someone in charge) with better sense can ignore.

They're planning 3 more movies: episodes 7, 8, 9; so the story should pick up after Return of the Jedi. That should take us through 2019 at least. What do you think?

4 years ago on TTaT: And that's a picture wrap on Fall

25 October 2012

Life of Art SitRep #142 Full steam ahead!

So it seems when I have a week nearly free of interruptions, I get a lot done. Go figure. I wonder how I can get regular life to be more like that. I suspect delicate communication will be involved while setting as yet to be determined boundaries.

But for now, here's how the week went:

I finished adding a new line of Mini Messenger Bags to my shop.

Created a new Light Blue and White Gingham Pattern and product line:

Started working on a xmas lights photograph but wasn't quite getting what I wanted from it so decided to pick it up the following day. Realized I'd be better off taking a new shot with certain elements in mind, so I zagged and made two digital designs instead.

Created Red and Green Polka Dots on White and Red Polka Dots on White designs and products.

Also made 5 new templates.

Updated my Rocklawn Arts lens to include smartphone cases, Christmas and holiday cards.

Posted 63 products to promotional blogs.

Read Popular Photography Oct. '12 issue.

Rearranged my store a bit to improve and simplify navigation.

Blogged wall decals.

Watched day 1 of Creative LIVE in NYC. A free rewatch should be airing right now and day 2 starts on Friday at 10 AM ET here. It's seminar style with 4 sessions on different topics each day. Very cool!

Feels good to have a productive week during which I was able to finish some time consuming projects. How did yours go?

A year ago on TTaT: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales

19 October 2012

Life of Art SitRep #141 Seven minutes

Can I finish this post in 7 minutes to abide by my rule of shutting my computer off at midnight? We'll see.

Finished creating Wall Decals for my existing designs, woo!

Rearranged store categories but there was a glitch that was incorrectly intermingling my categories. After several emails to tech support and several attempts to fix it on my own, it finally seems to be working correctly again. Yay!

Updated links in my Rocklawn Arts store intro to newer phone cases.

Shot 4 photographs.

I started creating mini messenger bags from my existing designs for my store:

4 minutes over, not too bad. I'll take it! :)

Two years ago on TTaT: What serves me?

16 October 2012

49. I Will Teach You to Be Rich

I Will Teach You to Be Rich49. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're in your twenties or early thirties, read this book right now! You will benefit most from Ramit's approach. If you're older, still read it because there is lots of sound financial advice within.

I'm excited to let you know that Ramit Sethi is teaching a free course called Money + Business: Essentials for Creative Entrepreneurs starting tomorrow at noon Eastern time, 10/17/12 through 10/19/12. Watch LIVE on Creative Live or during the nightly rewatches for FREE. You can buy downloads of it if you miss it. Bonus of watching live is that you can ask questions via the chat room or twitter.

[10/20/12 Edited to add: So I watched the course (rewatches airing for free this weekend) and I'm less excited now. His teaching style isn't quite for me. A lot of useful info though not as much about freelancers and entrepreneurs as I'd hoped. Your mileage may vary.]

OK, back to the book.

I really like his approach to focus on the big wins. It's not about skipping lattes but rather saving thousands on your car and house, eliminating credit card and bank fees, negotiating for higher starting salaries, and investing early and easily. Also he encourages conscious spending, knowing what you want to spend your money on and setting goals to do so.

Most of the chapters have a series of action steps to do for the week. It's a 6 week program overall.

The edition I read came out in 2009, so things have changed a little since then. I wouldn't get an online savings account with HSBC. Their rates are terrible and they take a day longer than other banks to transfer your money in and out. Emigrant Direct's rates are also low right now.

I really like ING Direct which has savings and checking. It's not the highest interest rate for savings, but the checking is convenient. American Express has an online savings account with the highest interest rate I've seen in quite a while. You can even link it to an ING account if you want.

ING has been bought by Capital One, but won't change its name for a few months yet. If you're interested in opening a fee-free checking account with ING, send me a message with your email and I'll send you a referral. You'll get $50 for opening the account and I'll get $10. Or if you want a savings account with them, let me know and your bonus will be $25 (if you open it with at least $250) while I'll get $10. (Referrals would be awesome but, of course, you can also open accounts with them directly without the sign-on bonus.)

Automating your finances is one of Ramit's key tenets. Some of this doesn't apply as well to people with irregular, unpredictable income like freelancers. I'm hoping he covers some of that during his Creative Live workshop.

The book is easy to read, has a sense of humor, and the advice is straightforward. The goal is implementing the 85% solution: not perfect but you get started which is better than doing nothing. The sooner you start, the better!

Three years ago on TTaT: 38. Grave Peril

Register to Vote, Yo!

You need to get information from your state's election Web site, but you can find that at the United States Election Assistance Commission site. Just click on your state.

OR! You can use the National Mail Voter Registration Form.

If you live in Massachusetts, here is the Elections Division site.

The deadline to register to vote in Massachusetts for the November 6, 2012, State Election and Presidential Election is this Wednesday, October 17, 2012.

Print out the form, sign it and mail it in by Wednesday! Get it done!

I bring up Massachusetts because there's a big Senate race going on.

Current Republican Senator Scott Brown cosponsored a bill that would allow employers to deny coverage for birth control. (I urged him not to in a letter but he said it was a matter of "religious freedom" for the employers. No religious freedom for the employees it would seem.)

He voted to allow insurance companies to charge higher rates to women and treat pregnancy as a preexisting condition.

He also voted to defund Planned Parenthood which provides access to preventive health care for women including breast and cervical cancer screenings.

He has votes against three of President Obama's jobs bills and against equal pay.

He voted for tax breaks for billionaires and Big Oil.

No matter what I've written to him, the response is essentially the same: Thanks so much for contacting me. I'm not going to do that because I don't represent you. I plan to keep big business and the right wing happy.

We need Elizabeth Warren in the Senate and not just for MA's sake. If Brown gets re-elected, he could be the deciding vote in the Senate.

Elizabeth Warren is in it for the people, not corporations. She believes in equal pay for equal work, marriage equality, leveling the playing field, ... Read more on the Issues section of her site.
"Women also must have the full range of reproductive health care options available to them. This includes access to contraception, maternity and newborn care, and safe abortion services. ...A woman should be able to seek guidance from people she trusts, including her doctor and her priest, pastor, rabbi or other religious leader, without interference from the government."
It's the last bit that gets me: "without interference from the government." Yes!