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