Friday, September 30, 2011

a peek at my fall garden

Welcome, fall. Ohio has a beautiful autumn season, the only downfall being that it gets cold much too early for me (For example, today's high is 54 degrees, and it's still September! This is unheard of in the South, where I heard rumors of highs in the 90s this week.). My fall garden is not so impressive, but rather is primarily only an extension of the spring/summer garden. However, being that last year at this time I had just moved here and had no fall garden at all, I'm going to call this one a success.

First of all, the swiss chard has not stopped growing since May! It doubles and triples overnight, it seems. I haven't been cooking with it as much as I'd like to. I'm still acquiring the taste for it. As a general rule, I like almost all vegetables (except beets--I'm still steadily trying to work up to the day when I can say I tasted a beet and liked it!), but chard is still growing on me.

As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be harvested (of course I would like it better if I wouldn't let it grow so large and use the baby leaves instead). Next to that you'll see the cabbage, which I never picked. I kind of left it there for the caterpillars. Sigh. It's just that after fighting with them over whose property these heads of cabbage were day after day for so long, I finally surrendered it to the squishy green beasts. It's riddled with holes and doesn't look appetizing, so I think I'll just let it be this year.

The tomatoes are still flowering! When I first heard of fall tomatoes (last year), I was taken back because in Arkansas, the tomato plants more or less shrivel up and die by the middle of August! Although the harvests haven't been as large as they were in September, between the 10 tomato plants, there are around 40-50 large green tomatoes present at any given time, and lots of tiny cherry and pear tomatoes. I've been picking the green ones as soon as they show a hint of pink and ripening them in brown paper sacks so that the squirrels can't get them. The vicious, conniving squirrels.

The fall lettuce has been pounced on and dug up a few times by those squirrels, but a few seedlings have managed to make it this far. I'm hoping for a nice lettuce crop soon, but we'll see. I'll probably cover this bed with plastic when it gets colder. We still have a few weeks until the first frost.

The fall cilantro crop is doing well. I love having fresh cilantro in my backyard...it's probably my favorite herb!

The fall peas are making their way up the trellis slowly but surely. My zone was just out of the range for growing fall peas, so I'll try covering them when it gets colder...I already had seeds and I just love peas so much that I had to try.

The zinnias are still going strong, although next year I think I'll plant ten times as many! I'm also planning to put some tulip bulbs in the ground this weekend for a fun surprise next spring.

I forgot to take pictures of the eggplants, but they are doing really well. I just harvested a big black beauty one a few days ago and five more are on the plant! It's actually leaning over from all the weight. The gretel eggplant has several small white ones as long as the squirrels stay away.

p.s. Don't forget that today is the last day to enter my custom garden keepsake illustration giveaway via Desirous of Everything!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the unstoppable forces of a vicious squirrel

I think most wild rodents can be considered cute/adorable/lovable/etc. in certain situations, and pests in others. Squirrels, mice, rats, etc. I never want to mean ill will or harm toward any animal, but sometimes, as a gardener, you just reach a breaking point when there is a pest in your garden. Well, for the past few months, I have been dealing with a ruthless garden intruder...the unstoppable forces of...a vicious squirrel!

Squirrels in Columbus seem to be particularly rough around the edges compared to squirrels in other regions. I guess they have adjusted to living in the city, you could say. Since moving here, I have always thought the squirrels were a little on the vicious side, and since encountering this particular squirrel, my theories have been validated.

But, in the squirrel's defense, I don't know if he is the only one at fault here. This particular squirrel was consistently stealing cherry tomatoes, so one day, to ward it off, Corey threw a miniature gardening shovel in its direction, simply meaning to scare it. Apparently the shovel brushed against the squirrel's paw, and ever since, it has been exacting its revenge on my yard.

Exhibit A: My back steps. I keep a lot of potted plants here so that I don't have to move them when my landlord comes to do yard work. The squirrel chooses to knock one over about two times per week, leaving a huge mess and usually injuring the plant. One of the plants I found face down in the yard, and others strewn about the steps. I also have a potted strawberry root ball that I have been waiting to see signs of life from, and every time it grows a leaf or two, the squirrel is sure to come by and rip them off (he follows this up by using the strawberry container as his personal litterbox). The squirrel also knows that if I've done any work back there, i.e. cleaned up last week's mess, it's prime time to come mess something up.


This poor succulent will recover, I hope, but I found it one day in pieces all over the grass below the steps, with squirrel teeth marks in many of the leaves. Luckily succulents can grow new roots from cuttings, but let's just say that I had one succulent in this planter before and now I have about seven.

Exhibit B: The fall peas and lettuce. The squirrel loves to dig these up, ensuring that I will not have good crops of either this season. I don't have the time to replant the seeds, since the frost will be here soon. The lettuce has taken it especially hard. I did three lettuce plantings, sowing more seeds each time the squirrel paid a visit, but he's still coming back to dig up the now-tiny seedlings.


Exhibit C: He takes a few bites of an eggplant (shown here: gretel eggplant) or tomato, then leaves the rest to rot where I can see it. The gnome is not such a good garden guard, as you can see.

If you have any hints--other than throwing a shovel his direction--for getting this little guy to leave my poor yard alone, I am taking all the advice I can get!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

it ranked somewhere just below the worst gas station coffee you've ever had

My apologies for taking a week off from posting! It was my first week back at school and quite busy. I'll still be posting regularly this school year though, not to worry! My new weekly features will resume shortly, but this morning I'd like to share another story from Italy, as it relates to something I encountered last week.

In Italy, these little espresso machines are everywhere. You drop in some change, make a selection, and a disposable cup drops down followed by sugar, milk, and coffee! It sounds too good to be true, but actually the quality of the espresso from these machines is very good. Since traveling requires so much energy, and I was on a small budget, I would happily buy a tiny cappuccino for 40-50 cents from these machines whenever I would come across one (train stations, hostels, you name it...even my language school had one!). A cappuccino from most bars would be around 1-2 euros, so this amounted to some good savings over the course of several weeks.

Last week--and I didn't have a camera with me, sorry!--I was running errands around campus and came across a similar machine amongst an array of typical American vending machines. I was desperate for a cup of coffee but didn't have time to go to a real coffee shop. The list of selections was amusing. I can't remember them all, but I do recall one being simply labeled, "French Vanilla," making no mention of what type of coffee was inside (maybe none?). I decided to go for the plain cappuccino so I could compare it to my Italian experience.

The price was $1, however, and I only had 50 cents in my wallet. I was about to leave when I noticed that as an alternative, I could swipe my student ID to pay. Luckily I had $1.45 left on my card from when I loaded it to make photocopies last year. I saw this as a sign of serendipity, but perhaps I was getting ahead of myself.

While waiting for the machine to finish making my drink, the first thing I noticed was the size of the cup. The machine boasted that each cappuccino was 14 ounces! I know everything in the U.S. is seen as better if it's bigger, but I was just not sold on this concept as I tried to imagine a traditional cappuccino that large. I knew that somehow it was going to be compromised, kind of like those gigantic, XL flavorless apples we have come to see as normal from the supermarket. The second thing that alarmed me was that the machine had a label on it saying to press "#" after your selection number if you would like more "lightener" in your coffee. Is lightener the same as milk, I wondered? I decided that for just this once, I didn't especially care, because I was exhausted and just really wanted some coffee!

When my coffee was done, I carefully took the cup out of the machine and gave it a taste test. First impression: yuck! It had very little flavor and did not taste anything like a cappuccino, but was more like a very watered down cup of stale hot cocoa. I considered throwing it away, but didn't see a trash can. Instead, I made my way out of the building. Still no trash can. I kept sipping on it, and the flavor improved slightly for a short period. By the time I had made it to my next destination, I had somehow managed to drink 1/3 of it. The flavor had started to worsen, though, and I was a little disgusted--it ranked somewhere just below the worst gas station coffee you've ever had. Seeing a trash can near the door, I quickly tossed it in before making my way inside and vowing to leave coffee-on-the go to the Italians from now on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

giveaway at desirous of everything

I'm sponsoring a giveaway over at Sarah's awesome blog Desirous of Everything!

You can enter until September 30th!

Check it out!

new work: my mother's apron



I'm not ready to reveal all of the pieces of this yet, but here is one photograph I took last week and the rough draft of the story that goes with it...more to come...

My mother has an apron. Its fabric is a rosy shade of pink, printed with tiny, red flowers, and trimmed in a matching red bias tape. The tiny stitches are impeccable, made with a sewing machine but without question, guided by a steady, skilled hand. My mother wears this apron while she cooks.

When it’s not being worn, the apron is folded neatly and laid to rest in the kitchen drawer which is home also to potholders and trivets, birthday candles and batteries--kitchen drawers tend contain the oddest of collections.

She made the apron herself, my mother did. She made it in her high school home economics class. Forty-six years old my mother is and the only apron she owns and uses is the one she made thirty years ago which, aside from a few minor stains, is still in perfect condition, and could not display better craftsmanship even after all of these years of sewing experience.

When I was fifteen, my mother and grandmother taught me to sew. I see it as a rite of passage in my family. I want to be as skilled of a seamstress as they are, but even after ten years of experience and a few formal sewing classes, I fear I can never be their equal with a needle and thread. I haven’t an apron of my own perfect craftsmanship. I haven’t an apron of my own craftsmanship at all.

Today I will bring out my sewing machine. Today I will sew my first apron.



And some informal thoughts about the objects in this series:

Why do the people in my photographs wear flower masks? Why do I use floral print?

I think faux flowers and printed images of flowers are the perfect representation of decoration. If you take them away, everything still functions, but still, something is lost. We don’t need floral wallpaper or floral sheets in our homes, we can have the plainest walls and the plainest sheets and the plainest things, and their function remains the same. The flowers are just decorations. I think that’s the way some people feel about many of the skills people use in the home. Specifically, I’m referring to women, because as a woman those are the skills that were passed down to me and what I know best. Surely there’s a different but similar set of skills that have been nearly lost among men. Maybe I’ll get into that in the future. But for now this is about me, and I’m a woman. We no longer really need to sew our own clothes. It takes ages to sew clothing and doesn’t really save money most of the time. We don’t need to mend things, because buying a brand new replacement doesn’t cost us much. We don’t need to cook. We could go out to eat, or buy prepared meals at the supermarket. We don’t need to knit or grow a garden or so many other things. Yet many people today are learning these skills and putting them to use, including myself. I find this fascinating, why we would want so badly to be able to create all of these things by hand when we could so easily buy them. We could spend all of the time we save not making things and put it to good use doing something exciting. I guess I just don’t see most people around me doing many exciting things with all of that free time. For me making these things is about preserving something which I feel is vital. I feel that if people stopped making things by hand altogether, as a culture we would lose something great and important. So that’s what I mean by decoration. It’s not out of necessity that I like to sew or cook or all of those other things I mentioned. Some would say it’s just a hobby. For fun. Playing house. It’s decoration. Not important. Dispensable. Those are their opinions. But I would tend to disagree. The masks talk about women’s work in the home being undervalued, as if it’s just decoration. But I think there’s something to this work that we don’t give enough attention.

Friday, September 16, 2011

what to do when you've got a weekend of potlucks

This weekend I've been invited to three potlucks! All are school-related, as the new school year starts next week. Whenever I have to take food to a party, I don't stress over making something elaborate, but instead choose from the most foolproof recipes I know! It's a good sign if I've made the recipe so many times that I have it memorized. My top choices are chocolate chip cookies, salsa, or hummus.

I've been in the kitchen whipping up dozens of cookies this morning. I put this recipe together by taking bits and pieces of other chocolate chip cookie recipes I liked. I've been perfecting it for almost two years now. I typed the current version out for you on my new typewriter while waiting for a batch to bake.

When you have a lot of parties to go to and must take a dish to each one, choose something that you know others will enjoy but that isn't stressful for you to make. After all, there's going to be a table full of food for everyone to choose from. These cookies are easy, delicious, and affordable to make in a big batch. If the parties were spread out over the course of a week or two, I could freeze the dough and bake them right before each gathering. They tend to go fast, so I made a few extra to leave at home!

Edit! It appears I left off 2 things on my cute little typed up recipe (oops!). That would be 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup water + 1 Tbsp. ground flax (the water + flax is equivalent to one egg, if you prefer to use eggs).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

studio visit with ceramicist carolyn baginski

I'm excited to introduce this new weekly feature! I am going to be visiting the studios of my artist friends and sharing them with you. I personally love getting a peek into other artists' studios, so I think this is going to be fun. Yesterday I met up with my friend Carolyn Baginski, who is a ceramicist in my MFA program. I had been to her studio dozens of times, but taking the time to photograph everything and interview her revealed things I had not noticed before. Let me share what I learned with you.

(Fun fact: I typed the interview questions out on notebook paper with my new typewriter!) Meet Carolyn! She was raised in Ohio, and holds a BFA in ceramics and art history from Ohio University. She then interned at the Women's Studio Workshop in New York, and had residencies at Watershed in Maine and Red Lodge in Montana. Now she resides in Columbus where she is working on her MFA in ceramics at the Ohio State University.

In Carolyn's work you will notice recurring themes of pattern, animals, and florals. She says that she gets inspired by traveling and seeing new places, especially when those trips mean time spent in the country. She pays special attention to comparing what she thinks the experience will be like beforehand to how it actually feels, and incorporates those ideas into her work.

Before her residency at Red Lodge, she included animals in her work like chipmunks and deer, which she thought of as the universal, generic animals to insert in an idyllic, fairytale-like scene. However, upon spending time outdoors in Montana, she realized that the animals she used were specific to the environment she grew up in. As a result, she says she hopes that her work makes people more observant in their environments, and helps them notice a designation of certain environments. She gives examples like a true wilderness area versus a national park versus your front yard. She says being in your front yard is "just like being inside...you planned the whole thing!" This is where her use of pattern comes in. By using patterns like florals, she makes a play on inside versus outside, planned out versus naturally occurring.

When asked what materials she likes to use besides those typically found in a ceramics studio, Carolyn replied, "Well, I like to screen print. I like to use ribbons, lace, and glitter. Model train grass, flocking...house paint, epoxy!" Upon asking for a description of flocking, she fetched some from a tall shelf to show me. Tiny pieces of fluffy, polyester fibers, flocking is applied like glitter, she explained. She motioned over to a piece of her latest project, Bunny Island, and said she was thinking of adding some flocking to it to resemble grass.

I then asked her to describe the most bizarre thing she had ever made, which she decided was a toss up between the recently completed Bunny Island, an imaginative fifteen foot long wall installation comprised of floating pieces of land covered in flowers and rabbits, and a closet installation complete with birds and a cuckoo clock, made during her time in New York. She said Bunny Island is meant to come across as dystopic, "like Jurassic Park."

I asked Carolyn what she felt was the most rewarding part of being an artist. She said, "The best part is that I get to do what I want, every single day, all day." I followed that up by asking what the most difficult part of being an artist is. She said, "Having confidence in your ideas. Knowing when to say, 'Yeah, I should make that!' Also, you don't have anyone telling you what to do." I have to agree, being your own boss is simultaneously the best yet most challenging part of creative work.

I also have to mention Carolyn's awesome apron collection, which is both fashionable and practical for someone who works with clay all day. She described this particular one as the "Rastafarian grandmother apron."

We concluded the interview with a sweet treat from Buckeye Donuts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

weekly thrift store finds

Remember when I said I was going to post my thrift store finds weekly? I apologize for taking a month to get started.

As I mentioned before, there's one thrift store close to my home here that I favor. I find most of my photo props there as well as other things (sometimes too many other things). I've been a little disappointed with other thrift stores I've tried in the city, so I usually just stick to this one and go about once a week. I don't know that most of my photo props are very interesting in and of themselves so in this feature I am just going to focus on those "other things."

Today I had some great finds! First I got these tall glass jars. I'd been wanting to find some large, lidded jars for terrariums to grow herbs in this winter (indoors), and I think these will be perfect. The herbs will have a lot of growing room to go up, but the jar's still wide enough for my hand to fit, which is good for maintaining terrariums. The tall one was $1.91 and the small one was $.90.

I don't really need any more coffee mugs, but I have this tiny mug from Italy that says "caffe" on it. It's about the size of a shot of espresso (see the picture for scale). Well, today, I came across this huge coffee mug in exactly the same style, which says "cappuccino." I thought it was too hilarious to pass up. I can't imagine having a cappuccino that large! $.90.

I also found this empty camera case. It's in great condition. I am a small purse kind of girl these days, so if I want to take a camera with me I have to grab an additional bag. This case is too small for an SLR but would be great for my 35mm point and shoot or any of my plastic cameras. Plus it's just pretty hip. I mean, who wouldn't want to be seen pulling a Holga out of something so legit? $.90.
And then...I found the Best Thing Ever. Okay. Back story. When I was younger, my family had a typewriter, and I would use it in collaboration with my mom to write little stories, which we would then illustrate. I still have a few of these! I don't know what happened to that typewriter, only that it's no longer around. For the past few years I have really wanted one, but being that I have a more modernized way of writing neatly--a computer and printer, it's hard to justify paying a lot (but there are some especially beautiful ones out there!). I'm always on the lookout for one at a thrift store, but most of the ones I have found have keys that stick. Today I found this one for $3.95 and all of the keys work except the little "o" key which sticks only about one out of every three times. So I got it and I could not be happier! I want to write everything on it. I might keep it in my studio at school. It will depend on how much my schedule overlaps with my studiomate Steve...he might not appreciate the noise the keys make!

identifying your creative process

Yesterday went so well! I stayed on my schedule all day and it felt so good at the end to have accomplished so much work. I am itching to post the photos I made but I'm making myself wait! I realized that when I share them right after making them, I feel this urgency to hurry up and make something else since I've just revealed my new material. But making creative work takes just a little more time than that and I don't really like to hurry through it (who does?).

I realized a few other things as well. I don't think I can do photo shoots five days a week. I hate admitting that because I love the idea of the 30 day challenge, but I just don't know if I can make it work for me. When I have a really good idea, I just want to keep working on it all day until I finish, and when I don't have a good idea yet, I think I should spend the time brainstorming, sketching, reading, etc. until I do have the idea, instead of forcing it. There is a lot more to my work flow than just shooting, and I need to make time for that.

I've learned a lot about my process through all of this and I am excited to keep going. Even if I'm not shooting every day, thinking about, researching, planning for, writing about, etc. my creative work five days a week is going to be a big improvement. I tend to put those things off in order to do my everyday responsibilities like lesson planning and grading, assignments from classes I am taking, etc. But really it's just as important as those other things which have clear deadlines. Also, not photographing every day will give me a chance to work on other creative endeavors, such as screen printing, drawing, and sewing, because being an interdisciplinary artist is important to me.

In the writing seminar I took this summer, we spent some time talking about our creative processes and work flows. We had about fifteen minutes or so to make a drawing of our creative process! This was mine. I enjoyed this exercise because I think it's beneficial to try to identify the cycle of your work. Ask yourself a few questions:

1. What inspires your creative work? Personal experiences, nature, society/media, other art?
2. From that source of inspiration, where are most of your ideas coming from?
3. What can do you to encourage more ideas? Writing, sketching, reading, conversing, exploring?
4. What keeps you from producing as much finished art as you would like? Lack of time, a mental block or fear, lack of ideas?

For me, answering these questions helps me pinpoint areas of success as well as weakness:
1. I'm inspired by my own experiences, objects of significance, and the way we live our everyday lives.
2. My ideas usually start with a personal story and from there I relate them to my feelings about the culture I live in.
3. I get a lot of ideas from reading, brainstorming in my sketchbook, and writing down personal anecdotes. I also find that having good conversations with certain people helps me develop my ideas further.
4. Usually I put too much pressure on myself to come up with a good idea right away, which gives me that sort of "writer's block" feeling. If I start brainstorming while I'm in the middle of another project, I feel more relaxed because I have more time to come up with something to work on next before I find myself in between projects.

Tell me about your creative work flow!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

getting the inside scoop on Spain's love of garlic

This evening I am thrilled to introduce my first guest post! This comes to you all the way from Spain and was written by one of my best friends, Casey. Casey and I lived together for three years in college and even studied abroad together in Italy in 2008 (yes, she witnessed some of those language mishaps firsthand!). A lover of languages, Casey has been teaching English as a second language in Madrid for the past year as a Fulbright scholar! She'll be in Spain for at least one more year, and you can follow her adventures on her witty, informative, and photo-filled blog Gee, Cassandra. And now I'll hand this over to Casey:

When Victoria Beckham relocated to Spain, she supposedly made a crack about how the place smelled of garlic. This did not sit kindly with Spaniards, who take their garlic seriously. Whether cropping up next to vegetables, seafood, or bread, it is a pervasive ingredient in countless Spanish dishes.
One day, at a restaurant going over English verbs with a Madrid native, my student said the unthinkable. “I don’t like garlic,” she divulged, glancing at the menu. She pushed la carta over to me, but the page blurred as I began daydreaming of what life would be like as a Spaniard who disliked garlic. “You pick,” I exclaimed, and those infamous last words became my introduction to callos, or tripe.
I personally enjoy the piquant flavor that garlic provides, and add a liberal crush of the stuff to many a recipe. One of those dishes is salmorejo, a cold soup often served as a first course. It can be found pre-packaged in the grocery store next to its more-famous cousin, gazpacho. While they both originate from southern Spain, this variety of tomato soup is different in that it is flavored with olive oil and thickened with breadcrumbs. It's served scattered with any number of toppings such as raw onion, green pepper, cured ham, or hard-boiled egg.

Many restaurants will offer salmorejo as a dip--my favorite was trying it with rounds of fried eggplant. If you don’t mind garlic breath for the rest of the day, you can even have it for breakfast, as a spread on toast. Whether eaten with a spoon or on a baguette, you should always have some on hand, just in case someone posh happens to drop by.

*Bonus garlic knowledge: in Spanish, a clove of garlic is known as a “diente,” or “tooth”!

Salmorejo

Ingredients for 2-3 servings

4 ripe tomatoes
1 green pepper
1-2 cloves of garlic (or more!)
1 slice of slightly stale or toasted bread
¼ cup olive oil (you may not use it all)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon white wine vinegarSalt and pepper to taste

For toppings: slices of hard-boiled egg, ham, diced onion, and/or the rest of the green pepper

Chop the tomatoes, half of the green pepper, and garlic and put into a blender. Add the bread, half of the olive oil, and a dash of salt. Mix together, and add a splash of water to make the texture creamier. Blend again, this time adding the white wine vinegar. Check the seasonings and add more salt, vinegar, and oil if necessary.

Once in the serving dish, swirl a bit of olive oil on top, add the toppings, and sprinkle with black pepper.


- Casey

the pros and cons of predetermined structure and how to find your own balance

I've noticed that structure increases productivity for some artists, but hinders creativity for others. I believe that's why when it comes to making art independently (on one's own time and without a particular deadline), some artists are golden and others struggle. The way to deal with this seems to be identifying which category you fall under and finding ways to balance it. I know for a fact I do better with a predetermined structure, but as I talked about yesterday, I think I can learn to work around this weakness and become more productive without someone or some calendar telling me what needs to be done.

This upcoming quarter, I'll have fewer classes but more independent study hours. Monday through Thursday I won't have any commitments until 11:30 am, so I've decided that I'll wake up early and get to school by 9:00 am each day and use those first few hours to be productive. I am totally a morning person and would aim for earlier, but I have night classes several days a week. I don't have classes on Fridays and I haven't decided if I'll work from home or my studio at school, but either way, I'll stick to a similar schedule. I'd like to be seriously productive five days a week, and give myself a break the other two. Quarters where I've been at school six to seven days per week were not worth the stress in my opinion.

I can't move into my new studio just yet, so this week I'm working from home and changing some of my bad habits! I think everyone deals with getting into routines that don't really work for them, so I'm okay with sharing. This is what I'm making myself do this week to reset my working habits:

- Wake up by 7:30 am and get ready first thing. I put off getting ready when I know I don't have to be anywhere, and I'd like to change that.
- After I get ready, I start my coffee and while it's brewing, I do last night's dishes. I made this rule for myself in January and it actually works perfectly. If you have no dishwasher and a slow coffee pot, I highly recommend it. Doing the dishes makes my home feel so much cleaner! I try to remember to put a load of laundry in at this point as well so I can stay on top of that, even though during the rest of my working time I am trying to avoid cleaning anything!
- While I drink my coffee (at my desk! not from the bed or couch or kitchen table), I read the blogs I'm subscribed to and write a new entry--which is what I'm doing now. I think blogging is a productive activity for creative types and a good form of self-promotion and self-reflection so I'm definitely willing to make time for it.
- After blogging, I respond to pressing e-mails and make a to-do list for the day if I don't already have one (unlike other to-do lists I've made this summer, however, it cannot include anything except art and school related tasks! anything to do with cooking, cleaning, gardening, non-art errands, etc. has to go on a separate list). Then I number the things on my list and get to work! I'll take a break for lunch in the afternoon, and try to wrap up around 4:00, at which point I can pull out that other to do list, hang out with Corey, cook an amazing dinner, or simply relax.

While I work, I can listen to music, but not watch/listen to tv. I've been watching Friends all summer and I have a tendency to want to start my day off by watching "just one episode," but it becomes a distraction. This is just a personal choice. I know lots of people who draw and paint while they watch tv or movies.

What guidelines help you stay productive when working on creative projects from home or without an enforced structure?

p.s. I have some new blog features planned out! This afternoon, stay tuned for my first ever guest post! Tomorrow, I'll be starting a new feature highlighting artists I know which will include a Q&A session and photos of them working in their studios. And Thursday, I'm bringing back the thrift store finds feature. It's a week of new beginnings for the One Lonely Apricot blog.

Monday, September 12, 2011

revamping my 30 day challenge

My desk in my studio last year...can't wait to move into my new studio soon!

Hello, readers! It's been awhile...my apologies! I am getting ready to go back to school over here (a week from Wednesday--we start late on the quarter system) and checking things off my to-do lists.

I'm still working on my 30-day-challenge but I'm not going to post about it every day, and I'm actually rewriting some of my rules. It was stressing me out too much to do a blog post on it every day and was limiting my creativity. It might be good for some people but for my way of working it was just too much. So, instead I'm going to make a post about it once a week, highlighting what I did the previous week. These posts will appear on Mondays starting next Monday.

I will go ahead and be honest and admit that I took one week off from my challenge. In some ways I guess that's failing the challenge, but the whole thing has been good for me and a learning experience. I think the challenge actually made me see all the ways I hinder my productivity when I'm in charge of all of my time! Ouch. But that's a good thing. During my week off, I wasn't taking a break completely, however, but working on fine details rather than making finished photographs. This included gathering new props, sewing new flower masks, brainstorming, and writing about my ideas. Totally necessary stuff! I'm getting back into shooting daily but I'm only going to shoot 5 days a week. I'll use the other 2 days a week to do all of those other important things that I just mentioned. I'm going to start at square one and do this for 6 weeks, so that equals 30 days of shooting. After that I would like to keep shooting at least 3 days a week.

I have also given my content serious thought and have narrowed it down more than before. I'll be talking about that next Monday. But, the biggest change is that I'm going to be bringing in more personal anecdotes, and pairing them with the work. I mentioned before that I took a creative writing for visual artists workshop this summer. In the workshop, the thing I was inspire to write most was short, autobiographical stories. I actually have a lot of stories that fit in with the topics I'm dealing with in my art! So I just needed to realize that and put it together. My plan is to work on 1-2 stories per week, so I'll spend a few days figuring out how to illustrate each story.

I have also been inspired by Elise of Argyle Whale to restructure the way I work from home or from my school studio, when it's ready, when I'm on my own time. It's easy to make blog posts and do other work while sitting on my bed in my pj's but this morning I started off my day by getting ready and am doing my work from my desk all day! It's definitely an obvious solution to increasing my productivity but hey, being your own boss is hard. So, no more tv in the background for me on my work days, no more cleaning my home for half the day as a means of procrastinating my creative work. I'm going to have a lot more independent working time this quarter (versus taking a lot of classes) and I am going to make the most of it.

How do you stay inspired to get work done without getting distracted?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

christmas cards, draft 2




I played around with the colors of the Christmas card designs some more. The first draft's colors were too dull for me. These look really bright on the screen but in print they will be perfect. Sometimes it can be hard imagining your work going from the screen, which is illuminated from within, to print, which is illuminated only by available light. After awhile you get used to it, but sometimes when choosing the colors for my illustrations I still feel torn.

I tried a version where I added texture with watercolors and snippets of photographs, but decided that I like the simpler look better. Corey thinks I should remove one of the trees and the stocking and take a picture of us to put in the middle. I might do that but I still want to offer some of these in the shop. I may go with this design, or do something completely different, or offer more than one! I'll decide by Friday. In the meantime, feel free to leave your opinion.

I'll be back to posting my 30-day-challenge this afternoon. Some things came up and I took a few days off from it. I'm okay with that, because it gave me a chance to think about my content and come up with some new ideas. I'm just going to add a few days on the end of my challenge or double up a few days this week to make up for it. I'll still reach 30 days of photo shoots by the end of September! Hurray.