Art Break Wednesday: The Magic of Doors

altered book door collage 1-2013  RHB reduced with cSo, today is my birthday.

One of those milestone ones.  Others in my family are having them, too: my daughter turned 21 this month, and my son will turn 18 this spring.  (Last year, my hubby got a head start on the milestone I’m hitting today.)

This past year has been particularly full of struggles and joys, losses and new adventures.  Maybe that’s the reason for my current obsession:  doors.  The poet in me is all about the metaphor, for myself and for each person in my family.   Doors closing (some slamming painfully shut; others slowly creaking closed until you realize you’re in a different place) and others opening (new experiences and things to learn, new art to make, new poems to write, new endeavors to launch, new friends to meet…).

The artist in me is all about a visual description of that metaphor – books as doors!  What better than a book to transport us to new worlds, open up new ways of thinking and dreaming and wondering?

Hence, my newest artistic adventures.  Vintage books-as-doors collages!  (With poetry inside, too.)

door ajar with c







For this piece, I hollowed out a vintage book, embellished it, and tucked in this Emily Dickinson poem from another vintage book:

door collage emily dickinson interior with c


Precious Words

He ate and drank the precious words

His spirit grew robust;

He knew no more that he was poor,

Nor that his frame was dust.

He danced along the dingy days,

And this bequest of wings

Was but a book.  What liberty

A loosened spirit brings!


The door is adorned with a round filigree find from an antique shop, and a vintage jewelry part I bought from a European dealer on Etsy.  The door knocker (also purchased on Etsy) is a vintage brass doll house door knocker. I’m stashing all kinds of fun vintage bits of hardware for these.

Surrounding the door, with sidelights and a fanlight, is relief print I carved.   It’s a simplified version of a doorway in Dublin, the kind I got to see in person when my father-in-law took our whole family to Ireland when our kids were little bitty.

This collage is 9 X 12, in a cradled wood panel painted glossy black. I’m excited about making these collages in different sizes and with different details. When I took this to show my art critique group this month, seeking their feedback, one of the members bought it!  That was pretty encouraging feedback.

(More coming soon for sale in my Etsy shop!  I’m making them now.  Really – working on them right now!)

Do you remember any particular doors from your past?  I remember the wrought iron gates to the small courtyard in the house I grew up in in Florida. I remember walking through the gi-normous jaws of an alligator to enter Gatorland there, too.  And the imposing entrance to the Haunted Mansion at Disney World!  How about you?  How about now?

Perhaps you’re facing big transitions soon – as we’ll be adjusting to our youngest leaving the nest over here.  Or perhaps your journey will be less jarring.  Whatever doors you walk through this year, I wish you blessings as you come and go, and joy and adventure on the other side.

Art Break Wednesday: English Book Illustration 1800-1900


Last week I mentioned a few fun creative swaps I’ve been participating in.  One of those was a poetry swap, and I was lucky to have its organizer, Tabatha Yeatts, as my swap partner.  (Here’s my post about it on my author blog.)

In addition to a wonderful poem, Tabatha sent me some fine hand-crafted teas (from an Etsy vendor!) and – be still my heart – a lovely old book.

 english book illustration cover

ENGLISH BOOK ILLUSTRATION 1800-1900 by Philip James is a delightful, slim volume chock-full of creative greats of the 19th century.  The book was published in 1947 by The KING PENGUIN Books (London and New York.)  You’ll likely see it here again, because there’s too much goodness in it to share in one post.

english book illustration inside red

Tabatha couldn’t have bestowed this gift on a more appreciative recipient – I’m lapping it up like a kitten at a saucer of milk.  On my only trip (thus far!) to New York, while my daughter and friends went to the top of the Rockefeller, I snuck away to the (Pierpont) Morgan Library & Museum (okay, that’s another post, too, because a talented young architect who is the niece of my good friend Peggy was involved in its recent renovation). The point of this side journey here is just to mention that I spent all of my souvenir money on one thing – a delicious hardback book documenting an exhibit they’d hosted previously.  BE MERRY AND WISE, Origins of Children’s Book Publishing in England, 1650-1850 by Brian Alderson and Felix de Marez Oyens is huge, heavy, and brimming with history and exquisite illustrations.  I left the $115 price tag on its back.

So I am a very grateful nerd to have Tabatha’s gift to add to my shelf, which also includes such nerdy titles as A HISTORY OF THE BOOK IN AMERICA (Amory and Hall, eds.), THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE (2005), THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD (by Donna Norton, 1983, bought when I was in college or thereabouts and just because I wanted it), and THE ARBUTHNOT ANTHOLOGY OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE (late 1950s?), which I’ve had on extended loan from my mother-in-law, and several volumes about reading and writing in 17th Century America.

clennel after t shothard

ENGLISH BOOK ILLUSTRATION 1800-1900 features many representative black and white illustrations as well as color plates in the back.  These include woodcuts, wood engravings, copper-plate etchings and engravings, aquatints, mezzotints and hand-colored lithographs.  The century opens with Thomas Bewick and William Blake and moves on to the work of  Constable, Turner, Cruikshank, Crane, Carroll, Tenniel, Whistler, Beardsley, Caldecott, and Greenaway, just to name a few!


I am enjoying gems of commentary, such as:

Illustration is like décor in the ballet, one of several arts planned by a team of artists.  Dance, drama, music and design together make a spectacle in which each has its share.  Similarly, type, paper, binding and illustrations must all contribute to the art of the book. (p. 8)

Looking at illustration against the backdrop of a swiftly changing world, James writes:

With the surge of industrial development that followed the railways, sheer stark ugliness prevailed everywhere, but at all times there were book artists who displayed a widely varying mixture of these three typical characteristics, the love of Nature, a literary bias and the romantic temper; and in so doing they maintained the English tradition. (p. 13)

He lauds Bewick:

bewick horse

Bewick was the first British wood-engraver to earn and deserve a continental reputation. … Chief among his innovations was a new conception of the black and white picture.  He did not think of it as a white space on which black outlines and solids made a linear design printed in relief, the background having been cut away to a lower level, as in the woodcuts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries… . Instead he began with a black void out of whch the subject appears in a varying range of grey tones with pure white for the lightest parts. (p.18)

And, in describing a particular image on the second plate in the back, James presents painter J. M. W. Turner’s contributions to illustration in these words:

turner A Wake

They almost seem to have been breathed on the page; each subject melts away in an airy perspective on the dead white surface of the paper. (p. 26)

Isn’t that poetic?

Finally, a sentence that seems as applicable today as it was 60-plus years ago:

But in time every new technique is assimilated by the artist and the fluctuating struggle between the crafts and the machine becomes not a battle for extinction but a source of vitality. (p. 14)

I hope so.  I’ll never lose my bias, however, for a good old-fashioned, deckled-edge, well-crafted book!

Thanks for taking this detour back with me – there will be more, I’m sure.  Do you have a favorite artist from the past who inspires you today?

The Maker’s Summit!


I’m so excited! I just signed up to attend “The Maker’s Summit,” an all-day business conference on Feb. 2, 2013 for creatives, sponsored by Indie Craft Parade in Greenville, SC.  (The Indie Craft Parade takes place in September.) Speakers include Stephen Fraser (founder, Spoonflower), Grace Kang (founder, Pink Olive and and Kimm Alfonso (Etsy, community outreach).

It’s only a couple hours away from my home in Georgia, so within striking distance, even during a busy weekend on my end.  My husband and I met at/graduated from Furman University in Greenville a few moons ago, and our daughter is there now. Back in the day, downtown was not really any kind of destination spot!  I loved the art museum, but the rest in my memory was just kind of industrial terrain to stay away from.

Now the city is a vibrant tourist destination, with a gorgeous park at the waterfall, many fine restaurants and unique boutiques, horse-drawn carriages, art galleries, and character galore.  We love going up there!

I look forward to connecting with other artists and creative indie business owners.  In fact, I stumbled upon a comment on an Etsy blog about this conference from an Etsy shop owner who lives in the Atlanta area.  So we’ve already exchanged cell phone numbers and plan to meet up. :0)

It this conference is calling you, too, click on the logo above to learn more.  Happy Creating!


Art Break Wednesday: Pick a Card!


YAY Images

Any card!

Okay, not THAT kind of card.

This week I signed on to participate in an exchange of Artists Trading Cards (ATCs).  The deadline was last night and I think I squealed in just before cut-off.

I’ve seen them around and in the art magazines for a long time – these amazing little gems of art shared between creators and often sent to other parts of the country or world.  They’re about the size of playing cards, or sports trading cards, etc., and just about anything goes media-wise.

My amazingly generous and talented friend Beth Rommel has volunteered to help with this current project, which she blogged about here and here.  (Click over to see some lovely examples of her ATC’s.)  It’s fun to think of these colorful wonders not only arriving in someone’s mailbox, but perhaps left somewhere to brighten a stranger’s day, guerilla-style!

You might see the acronym ACEO as well – this stands for “Art Cards, Editions, and Originals.”  Artists often sell these at shows and online.  (On Etsy, for instance!  A search of ACEO, or ATC, will yield thousands upon thousands of results.)

One reason I jumped in for this project is that I’ve recently enjoyed receiving creative surprises in the mail.  I had the good fortune to participate in a Poetry Swap in December, organized by the also-generous-and-talented Tabatha Yeatts. My blog post about her gift to me is here.  And her post about my gift to her is here.

Another poetry friend Laura Shovan is blogging about a postcard project she’s got going on this month and next, celebrating her 44th birthday in February. (She’s documenting these one by one in current posts!)  I recently received my postcard (with an original poem of hers on the back) and blogged about it, too, here.

I look forward to creating my own Artist Trading Cards in the next couple of weeks and sending them off.  I’ll post a picture or two.

How about you?  Have you participated in any fun, creative swaps yielding a bit of wonder in your mailbox?


Art Break Wednesday: Registration is Open for SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators Day!


Interested in Children’s Book Illustration?  Whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned pro, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Southern Breeze Region is hopping with talent, resources, and folks to get to know.  Led by Illustrator Coordinator Elizabeth Dulemba, with assistance from Kathleen Bradshaw, the region offers ways to develop your craft and network with industry professionals throughout the year.  (Click here for the Southern Breeze Illustrators Corner.)

One of the most ambitious events is always Illustrators’ Day, jam-packed with talks from leaders in the field as well as feedback on artwork.

Robyn Hood Black, Jo Kittinger, special guest Greg Christie, Elizabeth Dulemba, special guest Peter Brown, and Kristen Applebee enjoy the SCBWI Southern Breeze 2012 Illustrators’ Day in Atlanta.

Held previously in September, the event is moving to the Friday just before the Southern Breeze Springmingle conference in Atlanta, the last weekend in February.

(Note:  I will actually be in the building but involved in the other Friday option that day – a verse novels intensive with Nikki Grimes!  But I look forward to meeting some of our Illustrators’ Day guests and taking a look at portfolios, etc.)

Here’s the scoop on the 2013 Illustrators’ Day:

Friday, February 22nd, from 10:00am to 4:00pm at the Century Center Marriott (the same location as Springmingle).

Cost: $65 per person for SCBWI members, $70 for SCAD or AIA students, and $85 for non-members. Audit options will be available to regristrants after the first 30 slots are filled.

Organizers are looking forward to the new date and digs.

“We hope that with this new change, our illustrators will want to stick around to enjoy the advantages of the entire conference weekend, although it’s not required,” says Elizabeth Dulemba. “We will also be overlapping some of our speakers.”

Binders Art Supply will host a Portfolio Viewing Cocktail Party from 4:00pm to 6:00pm for local Art Directors, gallery owners, instructors, etc. to drop by and view attendees’ work. (In other words, you’ll want to stay later, says Elizabeth! Please include take-aways with your portfolio – business cards, postcards, bookmarks, tear sheets, etc.)

“We will also have a display table just for book dummies along with the portfolios,” adds Elizabeth.  “We’re offering amazing new opportunities for our illustrators to learn more about the business of children’s books and perhaps get some good leads for freelance work.”

The  incredible line-up of speakers and mentors includes  Chad Beckerman, Creative Director for Abrams (Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers, and Amulet Books) Dianne Hess, Executive Editor at Scholastic and Blue Sky Press,and Will Terry, illustrator and innovator.

Illustrator Mark Braught will mentor the first 12 registrees (first-come, first-served) with an assigned project before the workshop. The goal:  to create a finished piece ready to show on Illustrators’ Day during the Portfolio Reviews.

Portfolio Reviews: The first 30 registrees will display their work and receive feedback from this illustrious faculty in a public overview manner (timed – no more than 2 minutes).   (Attendees should follow the Portfolio Guidelines on the Southern Breeze site.)

NEW! Dummy Display: This year a designated table in the portfolio viewing area will be dedicated to the display of picture book dummies.

Registration is now open!
For more information, for links to all these great speakers, and to sign up, click here.
For questions, contact  Elizabeth O. Dulemba: elizabeth at dulemba dot com.

Art Break Wednesday – Happy New Year, and Painting with Pencil?


Happy New Year!

I hope 2013 brings you lots of creative inspiration.

I’ve enjoyed reading other folks’ resolutions and plans for the coming year.  I have lots of projects up my sleeve, but at the risk of expending energy in the wrong place (talking about them) rather than the right place (um, doing the work), I’ll keep most of mine close to the vest.  I know myself too well.

Stumbled upon this great quote this week:

    Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)  (G.K. Chesterton quotes are the best.)

I’m already starting the year off a wee bit behind, as I’m getting today’s post up in the afternoon, rather than having ready to go just after midnight each week, which is what I try to do.  But, life isn’t perfect and neither am I;  may as well get all that out of the way early in this New Year.  (Confession:  I still have to take down our Christmas decorations and deliver a couple of “Christmas Eve” gifts… .)

In the spirit of drawing the line somewhere, though, I decided to take a break today from the “urgent” and spend a few minutes actually sketching in my journal.  (One of my goals for this year is to do more of that – sketching.)  AND, I decided to break open a fun new product I ordered in the fall – Pam Carriker’s “Liquid Pencil” Sketching Ink by Derivan.

Step One:  Find my sketch journal. (Yes, I had to look for it.)

Step Two:  Find a suitable subject.  I started out with the tiny young Chihuahua we rescued over Thanksgiving.  She was an eager subject but way too active.  I then settled on a wonderful small red vintage oil lamp that I bought on Etsy a month or so ago.  It has a lovely shape and a variety of textures with its metal base and glass globe.

Step Three:  Jump in.

I was a little skeptical about this pencil-in-a-bottle – what’s wrong with drawing with an actual pencil?  But I tried it on a brush and even a dip pen, and I must admit – it’s fun.

You get that lovely graphite look and feel, but with loose strokes and washes, and concentrated darks for contrast.  I simply used varied amounts of water here and there to thin the solution before dipping in.  A tortillon worked great for blending, and I tried a kneaded eraser in a spot or two with good results as well.

I give Liquid Pencil two smudged thumbs up!  (And don’t let the small size of the bottle fool you… this is potent stuff, so a little goes a long way.)  Be sure to check out the video with application examples at the link above.  I just played before watching, but the video might give you even more ideas.

I look forward to experimenting and “playing” creatively throughout the New Year.  How about you?  Can you “begin where you are” and let loose your Muse?  Thanks for visiting, and please share any thoughts about creativity below.

(And I do hope you’ll drop by each Wednesday.  Let’s see what we come up with this year!)