imAGYnations- my creative process

I have not blogged. When I went to Chautauqua, there’d been a number of people who’d strongly suggested I blog. I resisted. I part because I was fearful and unsure of what I would say. I mostly wanted to whine, and complain, and grouse and curse, and who would want to listen to that, especially from a kid’s writer and illustrator? So I didn’t blog, until my friend Margo built a blog for me in anticipation to our collaboration. During the first of the three computer crashes of last year, I lost the blog, and couldn’t access it. Which was a shame, because the people at Chautauqua, Patty Gauch, Peter Jacobi, Pat McKissack among them had been absolutely right, I LOVED it and it helped so much. But then I was about making it mostly about the work and only slightly about the gripes.

I’ve had grand plans to make this, WordPress work, but have let my financial situation (I can’t maintain much of anything as I have no steady income at the moment) and my lack of focus and confidence get to me. So the best has been spotty offerings. Because the launch of my second book, one that I’m proud of was less than stellar, and yet again, there’s been a round of people dying close to me, I slipped from having set goals and working every day to achieve them to just descending into wandering the meander in my head. 

It’s spring. I DID accomplish getting my book written, illustrated, published in the time frame I needed. I may not have accomplished what I wanted to exactly, when exactly. But I DID, and that’s freakin’ life. Hey, I knew that, so pick it up and dust yourself off and get on with it. 

I need to get a trailer done this month (new technology) and a new website designed (new technology AGAIN), and uploaded, before the end of the month when my old website becomes DEFUNCT. I can whine or I can get on with it. Time to get on with it. In the end it’s about doing or not doing it. Sometimes you do it and really sucks. It smells de-functy. But most of the time, it’s more like what just happens, frustrating, not expected, surprising often, but ultimately worthy doing what needs to be done, and having something to show for it. Yep, that’s what I’m telling myself until I finish the next two goals.

For breaks I have a bunch of writings, and some drawings for colored books I want to intersperse with the no doubt frustrations. To show I’m serious, I posted the next whine, er blog post, I’d been avoiding, because it’s time to not avoid, and just get on with it. Once I get the website and trailer up, I will also take on the past challenge of a new blog header  that I’d done with the lost site– embrace what you fear, and embrace what you love.. And all this means jumping on the horse I’m avoiding, and riding it down the new paths, and perhaps grazing a little bit until I reach the new destinations. 


My earthly dearth…

I had been hard at work on my current book with a deadline for the 25th to have it formatted and up in Createspace and Kindle. I’m not sure if I’ll make that. 


I bought an external hard drive to ease my angst (ironically, I’d bought a flash drive to save my files, had done my blog talk reviews for Jd Holiday on her It’s Story Time show, written on my blog, saved to flash and my computer crashed. Utterly and completely. And the jpegs and gifs were rescued but my books and all Photoshop documents were lost. Literally nearly the same thing happened– okay I was THINKING of blogging, but other than that, I backed up all the files (didn’t do the programs, major duh) but don’t know at this point if they were saved).


So now I’m waiting on wiser people than I to pull my butt out of the sling it’s in over the slow roasting fire. There’s been quite a few emotional setbacks in the last week, which is ironic because in the previous two I’d been thinking seriously of writing more humor. Seriously. (Especially when some had noted that there was a bit of an absence of Maine humor. It’s there, but far and wide, kind of like hopping the Portland Bay islands). Seriously.

And weirdness. I get epiphanies walking and sleeping and had one after spending the night with my eyes glued to my lighted magnifying glass (the real reason I don’t read as much as I used to). So hopefully in the next two days I’ll get on line.There are some things on process I want to share, but I can’t access my files to illustrate, so I will wait, bide my time till this weekend. And other things I want to share about the journey of publishing, not sure I want to invest, especially without the breakup of images. So there it stands.

Next month, besides trying to consolidate this blog with a website and all the other ventures, I will create Facebook pages for my books, as well as develop classroom guides, at least for Annie. And try my durndest to not be heartbroken over this shtuff and get that happy back.

Good LUCK!

room with a view

I get so verbose and introspective, and then I find stuff that just tweaks, sings, resonates, resides with me. Poor Hello, Fig, had me at “room with a view”. It all makes me smile.

hello, fig

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So it’s a new year (HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I’ve been remiss about posting, trying to figure out the blog thing, the marketing thing, the book thing and finish Duke Day for Annie. I’m working on the very last spread to be rendered. Coloring it, adding text and cover and I will be publishing it, I’m working hard for it to be DONE in two weeks (let me know if you’d like to review it or host it on your site).

So time does slip away, and I have to self impose deadlines or nothing ever gets done. On the other hand, I’ve redone Nana’S Gift three times, and will be revisiting it again after Annie, because I’m not satisfied with it. So balancing your time against the quality of the work is important.

Part of the delay, I developed my skill level. If you ever have need of a course in visual storytelling or Photoshop or other industry information, I’ve found Will Terry‘s courses (through Folio Art with Wayne Andreason or School of Visual Storytelling with Jake Parker and a number of other talented, established artists) well worth the coinage. Some of it I knew already, but even what I knew, having it reinforced and spoken in a new angle added oomph. Not to mention a few of the things I didn’t know.

It helped with the first spread of Annie, I developed a palette (helping with consistency and time management):

1 ddfa text suns up

I will have to reset the type, but I love this coloration and think it’s so much betterer… so I think it was well worth the effort.

I lost my books and my pdf files when my computer crashed and burned. I’d actually saved everything to a flash drive, or so I thought, until it was tested. It wasn’t the first time, but the fact I’d been as proactive as my means allowed me to, it devastated me emotionally. But it also meant I had to recreate everything from the bits I could cobble, if that.

I hope and want to think it makes a stronger piece of work for all of this effort. When I originally started this particular piece I vacillated from insecurity (who was I to tell this story) to insecurity (am I ABLE to do this story justice). It has been a journey, and I hope good things come of it, because I love my work, and of course am arrogant enough to think it’s necessary.

I rediscovered my love of blending and forms and expression. A few of my favorite details from Annie:

Blog Detail2 Blog Detail 1 Blog Detail 3 Blog Detail 4

Best of all by slowing some of this down, I’m not only getting some of the results I want, I’m falling back in love with all of it. I’ve been loathe to, because of my fragile nature now, but it is what’s demanded of me if I am to create anything that matters to someone else. It HAS to matter to me first. Ultimately it’s not time SPENT. This is all time invested. And what else do I have better to do?

I am having SUCH a good time working on my book Duke Day for Annie. My diabolical plan to trick myself, seems to be working and I’m falling back in love with what I do. Following your bliss can work, even if you misplaced it for a bit.

There’s something that I find sensuous about creating art, and I don’t mean that in a sexual sense so foggedaboutdat! I mean that it just involves all pieces of me, and when it’s going well or I’m involved, ALL of me is involved. I also loved teaching; I got way better at what I did because of practice and articulation.  I no longer have the time nor the energy to split between passions, so I though I could do a few tutorials on my blog, until I’m comfortable with my Youtube channel. 

I asked on my Facebook pages if people would be interested in knowing how I did this


in Photoshop, and got a couple of responses, so here it is.


Open you doc and set it to the specifications you’d like. I like working smaller and then making larger. It makes the work quicker and easier. Draw the forms you’d like (I have a real thing about form and reflected light, and that’s a lot of times what gives something form. Looking at actual objects, and their light sources and rendering them is something you should be doing if you’re interested in drawing. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make confident and capable!)


Think about what direction your light is coming from. I chose from the right (you can get all kinds of different effects if it’s in different directions or different kinds, Again. LOOK at things, observe them!) I chose the three basic forms. So you know you can draw anything if you know how to break it down into it’s basic form. You are not drawing a thing, you are drawing the relationships you see. The light, the contrast, the form, the color, I draw on top of the base copy by adding a layer. I work in just a few different painting/blending modes. If you want a guouche or oil feel with it go with normal mode. when you paint, you’re painting OVER the layers underneath. I choose multiply a lot because it’s watercolor, transparent. For a smooth lay down of color or value, use a larger brush– like butter! I blend. A lot. You can add texture through blending, painting or a combination. Play with it for the effect you’d like.

I add another layer (hint, if you like something ADD a new layer, LABEL your layers, so you don’t have to go through 35 layers to find the one adjustment you have to make because you missed it (don’t ask me how I know this one. A few times). I did this again in multiply:


and blend:


I added another layer in Normal to darken it; you can get rich, values and colors by adding layers upon layers. I will take a color I like and work in a percent of value (the opacity) and get a work up of values:


You can add color and pick out the highlights like I did (this technique is similar to the Grissaille):


You can play with the contrast and make it even deeper and “realistic” In this layer I added a little white and black overlay (at a lower opacity so it’s really just a tint and a value of the color. and of course blend. Take your time with figuring out where things go. Will Terry and Jake Parker said in one of their classes that the difference between artists who are there or mostly there is how they finish it (and oddly enough I included that observation in my book Duke Day for Annie, when Maude chides Eddie who wants to play hookie to “do the job, mind your finishes” the wording is specific. Anyone can do a job. It’s an artisan who minds the finishes and if you become good enough, people can look at what you do and they KNOW it’s your finish) Anyhow the finished, er done little project. I’m off to paint a bit more, I’m nearly halfway through my book, and I’m excited to have it done!  Let me know if this helped or if you’re interested in more “lessons” over the coming months, I will be expanding to interviews with my illustrator and writing friends (I’m very lucky I have some incredibly talented people I count as friends), as well as other stuff. I love being able to think about my process a bit further and share it. I just get worried, I’m counting my belly lint and it’s amounting to a bit of fluff, lol, so I hope you let me know I’m not alone in some of these things!

Anyone who has worked at something for a while and have it not work out, knows what I’m going through today. I have a few admissions to make, and truthfully I think we ALL tell  or don’t tell about ourselves as we are so fearful of others judging us. I realized a while ago we all judge and are judged whether we want to or not. It’s hard to make good decisions though based upon fibs, and that’s what I’ve been doing mostly for a very long time.

I don’t lie about what I do or who I know, or what I’ve done. I lie about the circumstance I’m in while I do those things. I have been hoping for a very long time the logistics of my life would get better. I did it for a FEW reasons. I didn’t want people to think me in a loserly fashion, so yes, shame has been a part of it. But I also wanted “success”—hard to convince a company to risk majorous scads of cash on an unstable only somewhat successful person. It’s one of the reason you see so many well-heeled people succeed in my business. Those who aren’t were able to get a system in place so the risks weren’t aversive. I’ve never been successful at that, so failure number one.

Except I’ve met and talked with people because of who I am. I’ve had experiences, some good, bad, and hardly any of them indifferent, and just about all of them worth writing about, and they inform my point of view and work every day. So in that case, it’s not that much of a failure, because I have an intrinsic understanding of a great many things and people, because I’ve walked the walk.  So that’s a wash.

I’d found some success, founded a very successful critique group and had been included in with some of the brightest talent out there. Ask ‘em. But was forever the bride’s maid. Part of it was the above. Hard to commit to deadlines and other things when you life falls a part on a regular basis, some of that was spent cold, and some of it hungry. I lived in neighborhoods with some serious issues and what others would call blight, I call it despondence. i had got to know intimately people, most other people have avoided their whole life. In many ways I come from those people.

And now I’m going to share something that will sound so arrogant, but it’s the truth, and it’s been my reality. I am exceptional as well. Have been most of my natural long life. Much of it is “good”, some of it “painful” but I’ve been outside of the norm even as a baby. There were times I really wanted to adhere to privilege, it’s the only way someone like me can survive sometimes. And there were times I had privilege. There were many I did not. There were even some where I was judged in a much different way (You have all these talents, why AREN’T you successful?).  What it mostly has been has been painful. The easiest time has been when I started looking for the things I have in common with people, and redirect their attention, and my awareness in that direction.

The really funny thing, I really would love to be an effective and successful writer and illustrator, but there are two things necessary for that, I’ve been avoiding. You have to be as truthful as you can be (even if you’re lying and making up fiction. Bogus reeks and many people catch on quickly). And you have to be emotive. I really don’t like feeling too much.

So this was me this morning (not really, it’s a drawing for the critique group I helped found— and that plays into this post as well):


I have been excited about the radioblogtalk show for weeks now. I enjoy doing it (Jd Holiday is a gracious and fun host, and I love that she volunteers her passion). It’s a great way to get more exposure, practice speaking without FEELING too public, and promotes books and literacy as well as myself. I love Halloween. It took a bit of machinating, and communications, miscommunications, recommunications, before the understanding of the schedule. I was excited because I was going to read a book on air (The Witches Hand by Peter Utton). Even better, Will Terry has been so gracious and I’ve learned so much from him, I was ecstatic to be reviewing the book Skeleton for Dinner written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by the oh-so talented Mr. Terry.  But the mung that has been amongst my lungs took over, and I missed the show (not even in its entirety.

The night before so happy and promising  it just blew my socks off, because though it’s not a paid gig (would be nice),  it was a credibility thing. And today: a disappointing thing. And felt very close to that failing thing.

On the walk to the library, my mind and heart still in a roil, all I could think on my life is so stupid. I don’t even own an alarm clock, let alone have a way to plug it in, though I don’t know if my Lauren Bacall voice was more of a croak than a come hither, this morning, and my spongy lungs were still beating me up. I had asked someone two weeks ago to make sure I got up, But I didn’t remind them, it became an oversight.

I really wanted to BLAME someone.

Once I moved past that, though I actually thought about this in light of a book I’m reading, Seth Godin’s Linchpin. I had been so upset some in my life didn’t see me or want to see me as a linchpin.  I had always acknowledged the gifts and benefits that others had given me. I’m in a strange place right now. I’ve always thought what I had to say in my books were important, even though I often put those things aside because other things came before. I hadn’t thought about the events as linchpins in mine. Or even how such a small thing could totally derail me, and months of work. Though in the last few days, the Ursula K. LeGuin quote about your work only being important to you has also been smacking me upside my head. Until it all came tumbling today. On the way to the library, I refocused some of my work. I really do detest sitting in my own mess. So this is more of where I’m at now:


Putting how I was really feeling, brought the direction I need to go into more fully into view. With Annie the message is we become our possibilities. But thinking of how hard we, I try, and how often we FAIL, I don’t think we honor process enough in books, especially for kids. Brain-farted a couple of ideas for some quick stories, I may put together after Annie, I think would make decent e-books and addressing those thoughts. Thought how this event does and should and will impact my novel that I’ve decided to suck it up Buttercup and hit the old NaNoWriMo with it. Talked with one of the librarians about what her linchpin was (today, mine was an alarm clock, because if I woke early enough, I would have been able to cajole and wheedle my voice into some submission, and I was reading about a Witch so crochety wasn’t totally unwarranted). She said she couldn’t think of one at the moment, but just by virtue of the conversation, she was now thinking on it (and I could see she was—what thing, no matter how small do we take for granted, but if it were gone the whole does not hold? And if it’s so why isn’t it being honored, reviewed as such?)

The upshot? I’m learning forgiveness, so perhaps all this hardship will do some good after all. I will make different mistakes, I don’t think I will ever stop relying on people, because honey, that’s what we do whether we admit it, want to, or know it. I just need to spread it out and be more forthcoming myself. I came away with projects, a new view. I’ll get up in that saddle again. And I will make sure I have a LOT more of it in my work. The concept of forgiveness is as strong as they come, because in the end it’s a SURVIVAL mechanism, and so is gratitude. I don’t and won’t talk religion. These concepts are grand in and of themselves, and we need them for ourselves and each other, and actually utilize them. In the end, blame doesn’t work, but responsibility is a different thing. Stories are good, truth is better, so if it’s a story, make sure there’s a kernel of truth to build on or it doesn’t hold. And use a huge smattering of forgivenees  and gratitude, because it is what embodies kindness. Another washing…

And then I remembered this:


At  the beginning of this day, I was an utter failure. At the end of it, I’ve fulfilled one of my life’s mission, to be kinder. Something I wouldn’t have done without all the drama, heartache (and I’m not exaggerating, it’s been a tough one) and trauma. My work, which perhaps no one but me will know or care about, will be informed by what I learned and believe (deeper) today. And tomorrow is another day.

Now that I’m cleaner, this is where I’m headed:



When I was a kid I would take at least four books along to wherever I went (unless it was my boycott period, and then it was comic books and lots of paper and pencils). I would often leave bits and pieces of what I took behind, living life only slightly aggravated much of the time, as I would reach for a thing and realize it was misplaced somewhere on the meandering road of my life and the dreams and thoughts in my head.  And meander I did.

I got older and traveled far lighter. I had some very comfortable (and exciting) times,  I loved Sotheby’s and Brimfield as well as meeting some brilliant and sometimes wealthy people with a fascination for time keeping and antiques. I loved meeting artists, and it was thrilling as a young grrl to help create a successful calligraphy group, respected internationally with enough pull to reach Nationally and internationally acclaimed scribes, and when I lived in Arizona, for that to extend to their society no matter the nomadic lifestyle. I helped build a house that was mistaken for a hotel.

At one point, I would shed myself of my possessions every 3-6 months, had actually lived in a tent on the side of a mountain (in the beautiful town of Sedona, Arizona), winnowing it by halves or thirds easily. Things started to shift for me when I had children. Or at least the first child. I became afraid of not having enough, when before, I could and sometimes would go hungry for days. The recycling I’d done as a kid, became more passionate, more profound and at the time I worked it into found materials craft classes. I became a collector.

The last few years though have become a time of loss, a time of trial by fire for me. I realized when I lost my blog and most of my files (all the Photoshop documents and the book projects, and it was the second time it had happened to me, though the last time seven years ago was through ignorance, this time from failure of material, and my circumstance) I’ve been trying to come back to where I had been.  What I realized when I needed to restart my blog, is that place never existed. I’ve always been a moving target, a somewhat opportunist (I will use whatever means at my disposal to commit expression), an observer. The blog that the Magnificent Margot Finke had started for me, had GROUNDED me at a time when I was about to whirl off into space. I talked about process, it made me think things through, and I found new people who liked my art, or writing or both. I’ve always had great big ideas, that I’ve run after trying to manage the abilities to master those ideas on the way, secretly knowing I will fail to realize them. But I will say my anger had come from it wasn’t enough that I did that to myself, but it seems the world keeps on doing it to me as well. So the nice thing is, I’m at no longer at the “WHAT the HELL?!” stage, but the “What the hell?” stage, if you get my drift.

What I hope to do. Talk about my process again. I hope people like my work enough  they check it out, even better, if they like it enough to buy it so I may live to create more. But even if they don’t, I’M passionate about it now. Prior to my blog shutting down and losing the books, I was excited to get up every day. I was beginning to fall in love with what I loved oh-so long ago, and had shied away from. I still did it. There were times when I’d invest myself. But mostly something intrinsic to who I am, I treated as a hobby, as there was always something more important to do. So perhaps my life falling apart is a gift, after all. I’ve shed most things, and learned I can live without most of them (though there are still a few art tools and material objects I would like,  at this time, I have enough to at least DO what I want to do),

And I want to do so much. I would like to finish Annie. I share the recent detail of one of the illustrations, as I’m so happy and proud I think I figured out how to create her character, which I was so worried about, and now the thought is making all the illustrations consistent,

blog Duke day for Anny Spread 3 copy

I also had completed my zombie illustration for my various stores:

Blog eat me

and had completed a drawing I’d hoped as a banner for this blog. I don’t want to find out how to apply it yet, as I’m under the gun for a lot of things, but it’s a cute concept and I will be continuing the challenge, whether I use it as a blog header as it will aid me in my goals of getting faster and better at illustrating, especially the story, the thing Bill Collins railed against so long ago, lol

New blog heading one copy

I will be attempting NanoWrimo, this month, and hoping to finish Duke Day for Annie. November 2, my sister Val and I have a show of our art going up at the Walker Memorial Library. I’m so proud of her as this is her first show ever, and though she hadn’t picked up a paint brush prior to her husband’s untimely death, her paintings are beautiful and precocious. I have a few projects that others would like to collaborate with me on, and I have about a dozen projects  I hope to start and finish in the next couple of years that have roiled in the brainpan for awhile. One of my more exciting thoughts is to publish a serial graphic novel (or three, depending on the success of the first) via this blog. I also want to up my images on merchandise at my various online stores. For now, simply FINISHING this post and getting the blog up and running will do wonders for building my heart back up.  In a few months, I will also be sharing my space with my artists and writer friends, will continue to review and reinstitute the coloring pages. For tonight, posting the first blog and getting the appearance mostly if not completely situated will be a worthy enough goal.

By the next post, I’ll talk a bit about the process and progress of Annie, and get some of the links to my other dabblings nestled in their new home. I have other projects I’ll share the images of the fully rendered version of this perhaps:

Steam punk bride copy.jpg detail 5q Steam punk bride (and her whittled husband)

Feel free to ask questions or make comments I’ll try to address them all.

I hate being cold, and truth be told there are times I dread the idea of winter. Except it’s a wonderfully productive time for me. In a time I’m finally ready to allow myself. A time to bring the things I’ve been dreaming about, the stories I’ve made up for myself. the heart and vision I’ve had of this world out to play with others. Whether anyone pays attention to it or not. I do this for the kid who survived some rough beginnings became a daredevil a scaredy cat and is ready to become a mountain top. Wish me luck.

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