Book Cover Candy

May 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m reading. Not a surprise, I realize, but isn’t that what holiday weekends were made for? Reading, writing, making some art, getting one’s hands full of garden earth, visits with family or friends. Point is: not working. Connecting with that sometimes elusive concept called relaxation.

So while the sun is trying its best to make a solid show and my daughter has gone off socializing, I’ve got a good book, a cup of tea, a pile of new dirt and plants ready for planting. (And yes, hot fudge on the stove for later.)

It’s a really good book so far ~ Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. Again, this isn’t particularly surprising, but what did strike me was the uninteresting cover. The “ordinary-ness” of it.  It feels very safe, very stock-photography-esque. It’s pleasing enough, but nothing that would have grabbed me had I not already been interested in the author.

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I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll say it again ~ we do judge books by their covers. It’s our first impression. That first impression may or may not inspire us to read the back matter (what’s it about?). The back matter may or may not spur us on to actually open the book and read the first few lines. At this point, if the first few lines read well, you’re more than halfway there and your cover has done its job. If the first few lines read poorly, the cover may have surpassed its content  (one might give it a few pages, even a chapter to decide~ but at least it got you to look.) Reviews, of course, give books some major traction, but if you’re at all picky about how you spend your time, you’ll probably still go through these steps before plunging in. And it all starts with the cover.

Book covers can be fantastic visual candy. And they actually can make or break a sale. As a graphic designer, and as much as I both write and read, creating covers is a natural extension of what I do, but not one many know about. So I thought I’d share some with you below. So you know.

P.S. The sun, by the way, has lost. The clouds have won, the rains have come. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m reading. :  )

saxtonstudio.bookcovers

Writing by Hand

May 19, 2014 § 16 Comments

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In my late teens I had the opportunity to have my handwriting analyzed. It was the coolest thing. An old woman in a hospital, whom I never personally met, looked at my swooping p’s and looping y’s and sharply crossed t’s, the height of my h’s, the slants, the weights, the close-or-far-apartness of the letters, if they were small or large, tidy or swirly. What she discovered may well have been the best description of me I’ve heard. Her analysis also told me things I didn’t yet know, almost like a fortune, or a map. It was pretty fascinating.

Which reminds me that the physical, pen-in-hand act of writing is not only a form of communication, it’s a form of self-expression; another window into the soul.

It’s also a fabulous collector of thoughts. Sometimes a pen can’t keep pace with my thoughts, but sometimes the slower act of hand-writing keeps my thoughts in line, keeps them from running off to oblivion, balances my mood. Plus I get to make doodles on the page. (Silly? Not really – it’s actually part of the thought process.)

Something happens between the mind and the hand that’s different than what happens between the mind and the keyboard. Maybe it’s simply that hand-writing is organic. It’s breathing deeply instead of a quick lap around the track.

There’s a place for both the handwritten and the typewritten – one is not “better” than the other; in fact both are good, and both are necessary – but even without the scientific evidence at my fingertips (no pun intended), I am certain that both methods exercise different parts of the brain, some how, some way. (And yes, there are differences between printing and script to form our letters as well.) The entire mind-body-spirit is involved ~ how we think, how we process, how we sit, how we move our hands, how we feel. There’s got to be physiological implications.

And so, while this may be old news, the fact that teaching cursive writing in school is being phased out of the curriculum just blows my mind. I can’t believe it’s even up for discussion, much less already happening.

What about hand-eye coordination, thinking patterns, better comprehension when writing things down “painstakingly” by hand, knowing how to spell and use proper grammar and punctuation without spell-check tools, and yes, expression and creativity?

When it comes to writing by hand, there’s so much in the pro column here, and, as far as I can see, a big zero in the negative column. What is so damn important that basic penmanship skills get the boot?

All this really brings my inner cynic out front. Anyone interested in positive teaching, in my opinion, wouldn’t even consider taking this out of our schools.

Sure, electronic-based writing is more practical, and block-letters are easier to master than script. But there’s enormous value in writing by hand, and to imagine this capacity no longer existing is a truly disturbing thought. The very human-ness of writing by hand should not be relegated to dusty archives, hidden corners, calligraphers and ancient texts.

Please teach your kids to write! (I can hear it now… “But why do I have to do this? I’ll never use it!) Are we to be tethered to electronic devices for everything we do? (Next it’ll be paints. No more Grumbacher. Good bye Winsor & Newton! Why use real paint when you can do it with software?) Who decides the value here? How is that value measured? Will we cordon off whole parts of our brain?

There’s just too much telling people what to do, what to think, how to think, how to feel, how to be. Stop it already. And let kids learn to write. Print letters and script letters. By hand. It’s important.

And not that this is the crux of my argument, but you know, maybe they’ll even gain insights from having their handwriting analyzed one day… their own personally unique formation of words on a page, from head to hand to paper.

Making Art & Making Time

May 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

A poster I made based on an Andy Warhol quote recently prompted some lively conversation in a Facebook thread.

dontthinkaboutit2

One friend commented that she knew many artists, writers and musicians who seem reticent to follow their artistic passion, for a whole bunch of reasons… and how she’d read something years ago that stayed with her ~ something to the effect that if you don’t let your creativity out it will beat you bloody inside.

I tend to agree. With both Warhol and my friend’s observation.

Actually, make that, I pretty much wholeheartedly agree. It’s something I’ve experienced first hand. Never expected to ~ because art, writing, etc was “just something I did”, I flowed merrily along. I took it for granted. But at a time when I became swallowed up in life’s other demands that didn’t allow room for all that stuff I “just did”, I thought I’d implode.

At first I didn’t realize the source of my misery. I didn’t know how inextricably tied my creativity was to my well-being. I even felt guilty when I sat down at a canvas after many months off ~ there were more responsible things I should, and could, be doing! But my spirit was suffocating; I finally understood what was meant when they say an artist is “driven”, that it’s something they “have to do”. And yet, I wasn’t giving myself permission. That awareness came in the unexpected form of an ex – in a rare, remarkable show of support at the time – who actually put it into words. He happened to stop by during that pivotal moment at the easel and said: “Don’t be stupid. Don’t feel guilty. You’re meant to do this. You have to.” It truly hadn’t dawned on me, in quite that way.

That all said, I’ve been fortunate to be able to incorporate a few forms of my creativity into a living all these years ~ but if it’s not part of your daily experience, I’m a huge advocate of doing what you can when you can! It does you no good, nor anyone else, to let creativity smolder and stew inside you. Ideas and inspirations are there to be used and expressed. So if you’re called to, or just want to - do make more art!

Make time. Find time. Carve it out of stone if you must. Maybe a kick in the rear is called for. According to a (rather wonderful) post by Elizabeth Gilbert, setting a timer for half an hour every day can do wonders for creating discipline. Maybe you set aside a whole day. Evenings. Something that’s “doable”.  Stick to it. 

And one more thing. You have to trust the process.

Maybe you set aside your half hour or half a day and wondrous things flow and you feel great! But, maybe, you stare at a blank page the whole time and feel awful. But guess what? ~ so what! That’s going to happen sometimes, and it’s okay. It really doesn’t mean a thing.

The process you have to trust is that there’s an ebb and flow to creativity just as in all things in nature. We don’t always have control (an understatement, right?!). Best laid plans and all that. The point is to keep going. Exercise the muscle.

You have something to express, and it’ll find its way ~ you just need to give it the time and space to breathe on out, so it doesn’t manifest as tension gone inward. Don’t think ~ “just get it done.” 

Tools and Other Worthy Indulgences

April 30, 2014 § 4 Comments

saxton_calligraphypens

Some things are more worthy of indulgence than others. Long, hot baths come to mind. Good books. Time with friends, time alone, laughter, comfortable shoes.

And because I was just speaking of pens (previous post), my mind turns to the tools we use and how much the right ones matter. Even a simple, everyday pen can be a tool of ease or frustration, depending first on how well it’s made, then how well it’s taken care of, and finally, knowing when its time is up.

Not all pens are created equal; nor pencils, nor hammers, nor computers, nor cameras, nor carrot peelers. The list goes on.

Several years back I worked on a mural with a group of other artists. A handful of brushes were available, paints were provided and we’d all been part of the design, so it was just a matter of painting. Fun, right?  Sort of, but not really. Why not?

The thing is, we worked in acrylics, which was, at the time, a medium I was less familiar with than some of the others artists were, and I’d been feeling irritated by the way the paint went on. Then one day, towards the end of the project, someone handed me a different paintbrush. In that moment, within seconds of the first brush stroke, night became day. Winter became spring. Skies turned blue. Birds sang, trees blossomed! I was stunned. The paint suddenly flowed. All that time … struggling, thinking it was me, when really … what a difference a brush can make!

And back to pens for a minute ~ in the early days, when not using my trusty #2 pencils, I’d draw with an old-fashioned calligraphy pen – the kind with metal nibs; the kind that people of centuries-gone-by used for letter writing, under the light of a candle or a kerosene lamp, dipping the pen in and out and in and out and in and out of a bottle of India Ink. Precision was difficult, mistakes and ink blobs were relatively easy to perform, but if you took good care of your tools and practiced your craft, beautiful results could happen. I got pretty good at it.

Then, (thank the Pen Gods), someone invented a pen called a rapidograph. At first I was pessimistic. It wasn’t “the real thing”. But two minutes in, I was hooked. It was real, and wow ~ manna from heaven! ~ it made the whole drawing experience so much better. Changing and cleaning nibs – easier. Mess – hardly. Potential for precision – worlds apart.

Of course there will always be poor imitations, in which case any newness is hardly worth it. Just because it’s “new” doesn’t mean its “good”. Since the dawn of time tools have been made to make life 1.) easier and 2.) more efficient. If those two criteria aren’t met, (in my best New Jersey accent) “fuggedaboudit.”

Holds true of everything. Take ice cream scoopers, which also happen to be a favorite tool of mine. They have to be sturdy, with the scooper-outer part just the right depth, the handle firmly attached and nicely grippable. Definitely not made of cheap plastic stuff. The last thing you want is a sprained wrist when indulging in a much-deserved treat. Ice cream is intended as a happy experience.

I’m sure most of you have a “bad tool” story, and probably know as well as I that when it comes to tools, quality counts. So indulge, I say! – not because they’re a treat, but because the difference can be like night and day. The right tools can replace cursing with whistling. And time spent, that most precious commodity, becomes more productive and pleasant if not downright fun.

So here’s to the value of tools; no matter what you do, wherever you go, may the right tools be yours. : )

scoops_lomo

 

A Plethora of P’s / #70: Pen (and Ink)

April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.

saxton.P_penaandink“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

I’ve always liked this quote. It assumes the great power of words, language and intention, which are just a few of my favorite things, along with pens themselves, of course.

[Side note: I'd always assumed this was a line from Shakespeare. Sounds like it ought to be, right? But I was wrong. This is what learned: This line was quoted in 1839 from a play written by Britain’s Edward Bulwer-Lytton, both an Author and Politician of his day. No one remembers the play (Richelieu: or, the Conspiracy) but we’ve all heard the line. Apparently he’s also famous for the opening "It was a dark and stormy night". I just love learning new things. :) ]

In any event – back to P for pen. This is actually a guest P, created by a friend of mine and presented as a surprise, which truly delighted me. She’d taken a Zendangle course, and this was something she produced. Isn’t it great?! I adore it.

It’s also great because pens have always been an important positive in my own world. I am, in fact, most comfortable with a pen in hand ~ I just think better with a pen in hand. I’m also able to doodle if things are dull on the other side of the table or the other end of the phone, or in meetings, or just as an unconscious release of nervous energy. They’re great for making lists, and of course, for jotting down flashes of brilliance (that may or may not be brilliant on second look). My thoughts flow most easily when writing. As if the connection between mind and hand takes just enough longer than the one from mind to mouth, allowing for a richer expression, rather than a quick one.

Pens and I go way back. As a child I was always drawing and writing. My mother, a poet, was always writing. My parents had fallen in love through letter-writing. Pens were the natural order of things.

Then as my drawing skills developed, I got more and more courageous and soon stepped out of my comfort zone with pencils (which can be erased) to pen and ink (which cannot be erased). This is when I learned, sometimes the hard way, that mistakes a.) happen and b.) are not always remedied, but c.) can sometimes be made into something better. A life lesson from an unlikely source, but a good one I’ve carried with me.

So I, yes, am grateful for pens. And I do believe they are mighty. <3

Here are a few pen and inks from my archives.

old.treeFB

flowerswatercolor.crop8X8sig_72

saxton_yugoslavia_sm

bass2

 

(see our ongoing Plethora of P’s here)

Searching for Buffalo

April 13, 2014 § 7 Comments

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“Searching for Buffalo” / oil on canvas / Patricia Saxton

Several years ago I’d lost my way, so I ran away from one life, back to myself. Ten days turned into three weeks; three weeks turned into six months. It was probably the best gift I’d ever given myself ~ in essence, permission to do what I love; permission to follow my spirit.

It was a time before I became a mother, before I owned a home, before all the responsibility that comes with those kinds of major territories. I had my business, which I packed up (files, computers, printers) and took with me, along with my two cats, a heart that was tangled up in a very wrong place, and a strong desire to feel good, to spread my wings, to reach higher. It was the right time.

After my initial excitement, I will tell you this: panic set in. Friends had helped me drive across the country to the most magical part of the southwest, where I’d rented an incredible home owned by two artists situated on the edge of a national forest, and after I got settled in, and they left, there I was ~ face to face with nothing but myself, my dreams and the sound of coyote calls in the night. I was there to do something I’d often imagined ~ doing what I loved in a beautiful setting, unhampered by schedules, with no distractions, no blockades, no big worries, and with sudden, deep dread, I thought, “What if I fail?” “What if all this creative passion I’ve felt inside is just a cosmic lark? What if I freeze up, if inspiration doesn’t actually flow? What if I’m just kidding myself?” And the answer was, “Well, you’re about to find out.”

So I went to work doing what I set out to do. Following my instincts. Moving as the spirit moved. Every day I hiked, I swam, I painted, wrote and played the piano. I was a river overflowing. I could hardly keep up with all that ran through my veins, onto the canvas, the paper, the keys.

I made friends who introduced me to healing practices beyond measure, other friends who showed me the back roads. I became intimately engaged with the soft, red, craggy earth and rocks that loomed high above and all around. I ran with the open sky, I searched for buffalo, and I discovered a warrior inside.

There has never been any turning back from this experience. Bumps in the road, absolutely. Hard times, sure. All the stuff of life. But I can go back to this place in my mind at will. I can feel the warm rock beneath my back, the big sky above. I can recall the warrior. I can pull up the magic. And most importantly of all, I can know what’s possible if we give it permission.

Yes, I Love My Planet

April 8, 2014 § 4 Comments

saxton_unacceptable

I can see it now: legislation requiring the use of specific fonts. Reason: to save our planet. Repercussions of misuse: a.) fines and b.) scorn.

Why would I have such a thought? Two new articles have popped into my inbox, both having to do with sustainable fonts. Sustainable fonts. (One needs to see it twice to realize it’s not a typo.) The videos below show how changing fonts can save our planet, and how changing fonts can save us money. Interesting. Ish.

Yes, I love my planet, and yes, we should take care of Mother Earth. But I also love some of life’s cool benefits like art and design. Visual delight. Surprise. Beauty. What kind of world would it be if our creative decisions were delegated by font usage? I cringe at the thought. But I’m letting my imagination get the better of me; it won’t happen. (Right?)

In any event, here you go. So that you, too, can be in the know.

1. Change fonts, save the planet. Very hip. But. Hmmm. How about we just print less, waste less?

2. Change fonts, save money. This kid is very bright, there’s no doubt about it. Of course, there are thousands of ways the government could save money (don’t get me started).

Personally, I’ll continue to do my part by not littering, not being wasteful, turning off the lights when leaving a room, tending my garden, driving efficiently, printing less. Etc. But, yea, don’t be judging my Planet Love by how fat or skinny my font choices may be. One has to draw the line somewhere, and creative expression is one of the last great bastions of freedom.

Here But Not Here

April 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

 

saxton_3littlepigs.color2

I escaped today. Courtesy of three little pigs, a pencil and, I suppose, either my inner child or a light-hearted muse. It’s part of a project I’m working on, but, as sometimes happens, it took a turn of its own accord, and I was amused. It’s good to be able to entertain oneself, after all. :  ) To escape life’s more serious avenues and put your own smile on it.

So the turn made me smile, and also reminded me how the making of art is both an immersion and escape. It’s like plunging into the world, while fleeing from it at the same time. Engaged with the world, but not part of it. Maybe it’s the same for the art viewer ~ depending on the piece, a feeling of being somehow here but not here. The connection happens with the senses. Of course thought is involved at different points along the way, but if you start to think about it too much, some of the magic thins.

That said, there wasn’t too much thought involved in this one. The idea had lodged in my mind well before I picked up a pencil, and my job was to simply enjoy the drawing-it-up part, and within that process be transported, for a little while, to that familiar place that is here but not here.

Dear Mr. Crowe ~

March 31, 2014 § 4 Comments

Pardon my departure from art, poetry and all things positive, but this does relate to creativity, so I’m still within my realm. By writing this, I hope to save people from wasting their money needlessly. I know I’m not alone in voicing my opinion ~ but another voice can’t hurt. So…. without further ado:

noah

 …………………..

Dear Mr. Crowe,

Please tell me why on planet Earth you would devote your unquestionable talent to a film like “Noah”. And, by the way, I would most definitely ask the same of Sir Hopkins. You are two highly regarded, earned-your-stripes actors with big box-office draw – no need here to prove your worth. And I’d find it hard to believe you were in need of cash. So… why? Why did you make this film?

Did you really (really?) find the script dramatically compelling? The schizophrenic style (am I an Epic or am I a Sci-Fi flick?) somehow riveting? Were you energized by the idea of co-starring with glowing-eyed stone creatures? Was there something stimulating about creating potential controversy? (That said, I think the controversy here is far less “religious” than it is about a story gone wrong; so maybe that wasn’t your goal.)

And why do I feel like I was somehow conned? Considering the fact that for most folks these days a night out at the movies is nearly equivalent to the cost of a small vacation (yes, I exaggerate, but theatre prices are exaggerated, so there you go), one would hope it would be worthwhile. I just can’t fathom your intent. The movie was weird. Period.

So maybe I should have done my homework. My movie buddy said, “Well what do you expect from the guy who directed Black Swan. It was bound to be disturbing”. But I saw “Noah”, “Russell Crowe”, “Anthony Hopkins” and a few snaps of previews that looked like good, meaty biblical-era-type-epic-stuff, and thought, ‘yes! I want to see this!’ Who directed the thing didn’t cross my mind. (Big mistake, Ms. Saxton) If this has taught me one thing, it’s to be better informed next time I drop a little green on movie tickets and popcorn.

But the question remains: Why, Russell?

Sorely disappointed,
Patricia  ~ and I’m guessing a whole lot of other people, too

A Plethora of P’s / #69: Palette

March 27, 2014 § 2 Comments

proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.

saxton.P_palette

Palette is defined as a range of colors, especially those typically used by an artist. But we all have what I think of as a personal palette. Our palette can reflect how we feel ~ or project how we wish to be perceived. What we wear, the colors in our home, foods arranged on a plate.

And surely our personalities have color too ~ the sunny, the brooding, the comic, the serious ~ the whole wide range. And within that, are the shades of our moods. And around all that, there are the colors in our aura. (Imagine, what a kaleidoscope of brilliance we all must make together!)

And beyond all that ~ beyond what they may represent, beyond their gift of making the world more, well, colorful ~ colors, in my opinion, in all their tones and hues and flavors, are essentially magical. They can calm and soothe, they can excite and energize. They can heal, and they can disrupt. They’re emotional. They tell stories. They’re loud or soft, subtle and sensitive, harsh, tender, generous; they’re unyielding, protective, submissive, lighthearted, stormy, hot, warm, cool. They are infinite and inexhaustibly interchangeable. There are worlds within worlds of just the color red alone. The whole spectrum of expression is unfathomable.

So, with all that possibility, you can mix your palette to your heart’s content ~ a dash here, a broad stroke there, a sprinkling of this, a spot of that. (Note: mixing with love and a generous pinch of harmony produces the best results.) However you please, there’s magic for the making, if not only a lift for the spirit.

(see our ongoing Plethora of P’s here)

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