Monday, March 26, 2012

things that are awesome

(A few things I think are awesome.)

I've got an idea for a new illustration - but I thought it would be fun to ask for some community involvement.

Leave me a comment listing five things you think are awesome. We're talking material things here, not intangibles like "true love." Objects. Things I can draw.

On top of helping me with my new piece, listing things that are awesome is a pretty good pick-me-up for a Monday.

Tell me, what things do you think are awesome?

(Note: You can list as many awesome things as you wish - just leave a separate comment for each five items. Assuming that this illustration comes to fruition, I will pick one of the commenters to win a free print. Be aware that I make no promises that I will actually finish the print or that it will happen in a timely manner. But if it does, I will send a print to one of my commenters. Thanks so much!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

uncommon goods summer design challenge

Design by Rachel Roellke | Funnelcloud Studio. Photo via Uncommon Goods.

One of the things that keeps me exercising and diversifying my creative skills is entering competitions and contests. I used to enter a lot of photography contests (I even won a few), but the recent trend to determine winners by the public's popular vote made me vow to never enter another contest that wasn't judged by actual judges ever again.

I get the reasoning behind picking winners by popular vote - in theory. The more people that like it, the better it must be. Democracy, right? Wrong. It turns out that design/photography competitions judged by popular vote are just popularity contests - not the popularity of the design, but the popularity of the designer. As in, who has the most friends, the most Twitter followers, the most reach on the internet? I think that's kind of lame. I also think it's lame to have to solicit votes from your friends. While I like to share what I've been working on, I'm not a fan of spamming my friends and family.

Also lame are the trolls who leave nasty comments just for the sake of being mean. I don't expect everyone to like my work, but these comments are unconstructive, hateful, and often left by people who don't understand the rules of the contest to begin with. I'm all for critique and constructive criticism, but as a general rule, if you spell the word "you" as "U" I don't respect your opinion. Also, didn't your mama tell you if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all?

This isn't a case of sour grapes - I've seen nasty comments left on just about everything (which is why I would never post a video to YouTube) and when it comes to my design and photography skills, I generally accept that there are a lot of people better than me and a lot of people worse than me and not everyone is going to like my stuff. Art, design, and photography are subjective. I get that. Accepting criticism is part of being a designer. In fact, I embrace constructive criticism (Note: "tHiS dEsiGn SUXXXX" is NOT constructive criticism!) and believe that if a lot of people love what you've created and a lot of people hate it, you've succeeded. Design should touch a nerve and draw strong options. It should never be middle of the road. It should never be okay, it should never be meh. (This is something I am striving for with some new pieces for my shop in 2012, but that is a post for another time.)

Author J.K. Rowling says it better than I do:

"...for some people to love it, others must loathe it." 

Agreed! Anyway, I really didn't mean this to be a rant on contest politics or internet trolls. I wanted to share my work, a cool company, and some exciting news:

Image via Uncommon Goods.

When I saw that Uncommon Goods was hosting a Design Challenge this month, I knew I had to enter. Uncommon Goods sells some really fun, quirky, and unique items and even better, they often sell products that are handmade by artists and craftsmen. (These items are noted with a blue hand icon in their catalog and on their website. You can also filter your search on their website to only show handmade items.) Furthermore, they strive to be an environmentally friendly and socially responsible marketplace. Good stuff, right?

The Uncommon Goods Summer Picnic Design Challenge called for artists to design simple, single color graphics that will be stamped on disposable plates and cups made of sugarcane. Considering the extreme lack of well-designed/attractive/quirky paper plates on the market (Those grocery store ones that look like your grandma's wallpaper? We can do better!), I thought this was a great idea. I wanted something a little outlandish and came up with an octopus holding forks, knives, and spoons in his eight tentacles. I drew, I scanned, I photoshopped, and then I sent it in.

And in the first round of judging? The judges liked it. My design was named one of the 15 finalists. Hooray!

But now for the dreaded part: THE POPULAR VOTE. The popularity contest. The trolls and their nasty comments. The soliciting your friends and families and followers for votes. Ugh.

So, all I'll say is this: If you like my Octopus design, head on over to Uncommon Goods and vote thumbs up. Check out the other designs, too. Got some constructive criticism? I'm all ears. Have something mean and hurtful to say about my design or anyone else's? Keep it to yourself, please. (Not that any of my readers would be mean and hurtful - I'm lucky to have had very positive experiences with this blog and my shop and I know I'm preaching to the choir - I just needed to get that off my chest and now seemed like the right time!)

Thanks for listening, friends. I appreciate all the support.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

go to your room!

circa 1981
Me, pre-trouble years (circa 1981)

As a child, I was no stranger to what they're calling nowadays "imaginative play." Which is a nice way of saying, I was good at getting myself into trouble. Now don't get me wrong - I wasn't a troublemaker. I was quite secure in my position as a straight-A, rule-following, goody two-shoes, teacher's pet.

But I was also quite creative. There were a lot of hatched plans and a lot of "I wonder what happens if I do this" or "I can make this myself." Hence, the trouble. Basically, all of these scenarios were early attempts at DIY gone wrong.

Most of these experiments took place behind the closed door of my childhood bedroom. And most of these experiments involved art supplies and cosmetics. Both of which are messy. Both of which can cause permanent damage to one's parents' home...

My favorite thing to do was "creating potions." This involved taking various cosmetic products and mixing them together to see what happened. I think I was inspired to conduct these experiments due to the way science was portrayed to children. "Chemistry" was pouring different substances into test tubes and then POOF! THEY TURN GREEN AND SMOKE COMES OUT. Since I didn't have "chemicals", I opted for a combination of nailpolish, perfume, and powder.  (Hypothesis: When I mix these things together, cool shit will happen.) Unfortunately, cool shit did not happen. (Results: It made a giant mess.) It made an even bigger mess if you accidentally spilled it on your bedroom carpet and then your mom found out. (Conclusion: Mom will be PISSED!)

(Note: You will later find out that Chemistry has nothing to do with green smoke or making potions. In fact, it involves balancing equations and moles and other things I still don't understand. It's math disguised as something that should be fun. Also, it doesn't involve nailpolish.)

Then there was the time my friend Becky slept over at my house. At god-knows-what-hour-in-the-morning, we decided it would be a good idea (and we weren't even drunk!) to use the box of kleenex in my mother's room to make paper snowflakes. IT WILL BE SO COOL, WE CAN *COVER* THE ROOM WITH SNOWFLAKES. IT WILL LOOK LIKE IT ACTUALLY SNOWED! Wrong. I also think that was the same night that we used a tube of Chapstick to MOISTURIZE OUR FEET. (Conclusion: Mom will be PISSED!)

And then there was the time my BFF Sarah and I decided to spend the afternoon after school working on some art projects in the kitchen. By art projects, I mean SPLATTER PAINTING, YES! And WHOOPS, how did that paint get all over the kitchen curtains and MY BELOVED PINK KITTEN SWEATSHIRT? However, there's an easy solution to the problem of getting paint where you shouldn't: Strategically arrange the kitchen curtains (which I should add, my Mom sewed herself) to hide the paint stains. Stuff the paint-splattered kitten sweatshirt under your bed. Until your mom finds out, because you know, moms are smart and kids are stupid. (Conclusion: Mom will be PISSED!)

Most embarrassing of all, was the time my kindergarten BFF and I were having a sleepover. This one actually occurred in her bedroom. Remember those little stampers that included both a stamp and ink pad together? Well, we had a green one that was shaped like a shamrock. And my friend's mom busted us late one night STAMPING SHAMROCKS ONTO OUR BUTTS.

I really have no idea if the moms were pissed about this one. Her mother was probably horrified that she had to tell my mother what we'd gotten into. (Lest I come home from a playdate and my mom wonder why I had a green shamrock on my ass. I'm pretty sure these things were frowned upon, even in the eighties.) But personally, I would have laughed my own butt off had my kindergartner been busted artfully decorating her butt cheeks. Then I would have been terrified that she'd end up with a tramp stamp. (Conclusion: Be grateful, Mom, that I didn't grow up to tattoo my lower back!)

I should clarify that these incidents did not occur when I was a toddler. You always hear the stories of little kids getting into baby powder or diaper cream and smearing it head-to-toe. And I always thought, I bet I never did that as a baby. No, I was worse. I did most of these things between the ages of five and ten. I knew better - which is why I closed my bedroom door before conducting said "experiments". Ironically, my punishment for most of these offenses was being sent to my room.

As a result of the trouble I got into in my own bedroom, I think my parents' plan for damage control was to encourage us to play outside. After all, how much trouble can kids get into outside? They can't ruin the furniture, the carpet, or the curtains, right?

True, but they can ruin other things..

There was the time that Sarah and I decided to use hedge clippers to cut a MAZE into my parents' bushes. That didn't end well. For either of us. (Sorry, Sarah!)

Then there was the time we decided to start an oak tree business. This involved the collection of acorns which were then placed into ziplock bags with a damp paper towel and allowed to germinate. Except that never happened because my mother discovered our cache of "baby acorn trees", yelled at us about wasting ziplock bags, and crushed our entrepreneurial spirit.

Then there was the time I used a nail to scratch my name into my parents' car. I'm pretty sure they should've killed me for that one. I wasn't intentionally being destructive; for some reason I thought I would be able to rub it off, like writing in dust. When I realized it was permanent, I calmed myself by thinking "They'll never know who did it." Because my childlike handwriting wasn't going to give me away or anything. Nor was the fact that I'd SIGNED MY OWN NAME ON MY CRIME. (Conclusion: Kids are really stupid. Also, Mom AND Dad will be really PISSED!)

And then there was the time I made napalm under our treehouse. No wait, THAT ONE WAS MY BROTHER.

In conclusion: Do not your children anywhere near nailpolish, chapstick, hedge clippers, or paint. Most definitely do not let them near your car. Do not let them have sleepovers. Or friends. Children are more destructive in pairs.

(Also, DIY tattoos are funny. So are butts.)

The Scintilla Project | Day 4: Prompt #1. Talk about your childhood bedroom. Did you share? Slam the door? Let someone in you shouldn't have? Where did you hide things?

Monday, March 19, 2012

weekend adventures: potomac overlook regional park

potomac overlook regional park
Saturday was St. Patrick's Day. We don't do green beer or green underwear (Seriously, is there any other day of the year that's more embarrassing to be an American?), instead we get our green in nature. And since spring has sprung early around these parts (hooray!), we're trying to spend every moment that we can outside soaking up the sunshine, the breeze, the green, and the blooming flowers before the mosquitoes and humidity are here to stay.

So we crammed the fam into the Mazda and headed out for a walk at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington. The overlook unfortunately no longer exists (perhaps the park should be renamed You Can't Actually See the Potomac From Here Regional Park), but it's still a nice spot for a walk. It's a small park, but there are some neat features including a charging station for electric vehicles and a dog watering station.
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
Another weekend, another walk in the woods, another post full of photos of my dogs:
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
(Gravy multi-tasking: Touching his tongue to his nose while peeing on some underbrush. SKILLS!)
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park

potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
potomac overlook regional park
Despite the lack of green beer consumption, like true Americans, the pups were hungover the next day and slept in until 10:30 (which is four hours past their usual wake-up time of 6:30. Unfortunately, they are usually morning people). Never under-estimate the power of a good post-hike hangover!

Heavy drinkers:
potomac overlook regional park
Oddly enough, we've been heading east (towards the city) for our outdoor adventures lately. As a result, we've been able to stop for a late lunch afterwards, which always seems to bring us to our new favorite place: America Seafood. For years, I've been trying to find a fish market in Northern Virginia. I love seafood, but we don't eat it often enough because there are so few places to buy it. (I'm not touching the fish from our local grocery store.) When we decided to eat a vegetarian/pescetarian diet for Lent, I did some research and discovered that there was indeed a fish market right in Arlington. Eureka! We've been going to America Seafood every weekend for the past few weeks to pick up some fresh fish to cook for dinner. On Saturday, we were both hungry after our hike so we ordered a shrimp po'boy for a late lunch. As soon as we finished it we wanted another one. We might have to add shrimp po'boys to our weekend routine now:

Another weekend, another walk in the woods, another post full of photos of my dogs, ANOTHER SHRIMP PO' BOY DEVOURED.

P.S. Oh yeah, and we also stopped for ice cream. (Frozen custard, none of that fro yo shit.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

my platform

Being that it's an election year, the news is full of political discussion these days. Most of it makes me want to smash things. I intentionally avoid discussing politics and religion on my blog - one, because to be honest I don't like talking about either. Both topics simultaneously bore and anger me. And two, because such conversations are intensely personal and result in controversy - which is another thing I try to avoid on my blog. I don't want to dodge the issues and I do respect differing opinions, however, I believe what I believe and I don't think that my opinions can change anyone else's nor do I expect that others' arguments will change my beliefs.

But all the political talk lately has gotten me thinking...what's my platform?


The Scintilla Project | Day 1:  Prompt #1. Who are you?

I wrote this post last night. This morning, the writing prompts for The Scintilla Project arrived in my inbox. I read the prompts and didn't feel inspired by either one. My plan for participating in The Scintilla Project was to use the topics that interested me, but not force the ones that don't. But then I realized that this post was the perfect response to Prompt #1: Who are you? Perhaps a list is a non-traditional approach to writing, but I'm non-traditional and since I'm not in school anymore, I'm fine with interpreting the rules so that they work for me.

I'll continue to respond to the Scintilla prompts that inspire me, but will post the topics at the bottom of the post, because I want my writing to stand on its own as opposed to just answering a question. If I had a mission statement for my blog it would be to document my life and my creative process (and the progress of my little shop) - through photography, writing, humorous snippets of my day, crude drawings, stories about my dogs, or just recaps of my weekends. I don't follow blogging trends, answer memes, do link-ups, or post something just because everyone else is doing it. I don't choose topics to increase readership. I write this blog first and foremost for myself. That being said, I really appreciate those of you who stop by to read, comment, and support my blog and my shop. The connections with readers, other bloggers, and customers that I've made through this blog (both online and in real life) are a huge bonus!

A good post is a good post - and if what I write is good regardless of the writing prompt and stands on its own as an interesting blog post, then yes, I'll share it on my blog. If my writing is a forced response to a question, undoubtably the post will be boring - to avoid this, I'll be skipping the prompts that don't inspire my best writing (or photography, or drawing, or however I choose to interpret the prompt!).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

coming soon: spring bada-bing!

After several successful holiday art markets in December, I was so pumped to apply to more shows in 2012. Unfortunately, there's a dearth of art markets in the beginning of the year. Plus, I feel like my shop has been in a bit of a winter slump.

But guess what's just around the corner? Spring! And spring art markets!

And I'm excited to announce that my shop has been accepted to Richmond Craft Mafia's Spring Bada-Bing!

I loved Richmond's Handmade Holiday market held at Plant Zero in December, and I think I'll love it even more in spring when I won't have to haul all my work through the cold. It's a great venue hosted by a great group of artsy people.

So mark your calendars and come on down (or up?) to Richmond next month - perhaps to spend your tax refund on some handmade goodies from some amazing local artists and crafters?:

April 15 - Richmond Craft Mafia's Spring Bada-Bing (Richmond, VA)

I'm looking forward to meeting some more blog readers in 2012, so don't forget to stop by Funnelcloud Studio to introduce yourself.

And with an upcoming art market comes the inevitable Holy Crap I'm So Busy stage, so now that the weather is finally nice, I'll be holed up in my studio for the next few weeks. Send caaaaake!

Monday, March 12, 2012

weekend adventures: washington sailing marina

washington sailing marina
I love being on the water. River, lake, or ocean, it doesn't matter - the water calms me. Despite the fact that the Potomac River separates Virginia from our nation's capital, I never really think of D.C. as a water city. I think many Washingtonians just view the Potomac as something to cross (either by going under it via metro or over it via Key/Roosevelt/Arlington Memorial Bridges), rather than as a source of recreation.

I particularly love boats - power boats, sailboats, rowboats, kayaks - being out on the water is even better than just being near the water. But I'll settle for watching boats from shore (particularly if I have a cocktail in hand). I even love just strolling among docked boats. Larry and I love to check out the boat names (some funny ones I've seen: MASTER BAITER, BIG BALLS, THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID) and discussing what we'd name our boat (THE GRAVY BOAT).
washington sailing marina
The weather on Sunday was glorious, so we decided to check out the Washington Sailing Marina on Daingerfield Island in Alexandria. We wandered among the boats (one was named KE$HA) and checked out a sailing regatta. I clearly know nothing about sailboat races because the boats appeared to be going in circles to me.
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
(However, I did learn that sailors are quite good looking!)

But it was cool to be able to watch boats (and planes taking off and landing at National Airport) with the D.C. "skyline" in the background.
washington sailing marina
Don't forget your portable couch, er, bench seat from your mini-van:
washington sailing marina
Due to the building height restriction, D.C. is an extremely flat city - besides the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, you might miss it if you didn't know what you were looking for. We don't have hundred story buildings here, we have ten story buildings. But I promise you, the monuments are here if you look hard enough:
washington sailing marina
A few more snaps of our afternoon:
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
washington sailing marina
A good reminder that I need to spend time by the water whenever possible. Now I just need some friends with a boat!

Friday, March 9, 2012

things I am afraid of

Let's talk fears and phobias. Everyone has a few weird things they're afraid of - some of them completely irrational (the very definition of a phobia, right?). Here are mine:

Some people hate snakes or spiders, but for me the creepy-crawly that freaks me out is grasshoppers. I'm not particularly a fan of any crunchy-bodied bug (cicadas, locusts), but the grasshopper is by far the worst. They look nasty, they swarm, they have hairy legs, they can fly, AAAND they jump ONTO YOU.

Scary shit happens when there's wind. As a child, I was afraid of swinging when it was windy because I thought it would blow my swingset down. As an adult, this happened, and our house missed being smashed by mere inches.

I was the kid who wasn't allowed to see The Wizard of Oz until I was TWELVE because my parents thought it was too scary. When I finally saw it, I didn't think it was scary at all. However, I have no desire to see actual horror movies. I've never even seen The Silence of the Lambs. It just sounds grotesque. (Related: A few weeks ago I saw a car with a license plate frame that said "It rubs the lotion on its skin." Do NOT go on a date with that guy!)

Anyway, Larry laughs at me about the scary movie thing - especially when I admitted that scary movies give me nightmares. The other day he was naming scary movies and asking if I'd seen them. Child's Play? No. Nightmare on Elm Street? No. Halloween? No.

I then admitted that I had seen Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Se7en. (Which I saw in the theater when I was IN HIGH SCHOOL. A friend's older sister chaperoned us unto the theater since it was rated R and we were under 17.) His reaction: "Seven?! THE HEAD IN A BOX MOVIE? I haven't even seen that!"

As I kid, I never could understand why people were afraid of the dentist - it was no problem for me (plus they had a toy box!). This is a fear I've unfortunately developed as an adult. I know I'm not alone - according to Wikipedia, 75% of U.S. adults experience some degree of dental fear.

chicago 2009
john hancock center, chicago, 2009
Cocktails and the view from the 95th Floor of the John Hancock Center, Chicago, June 2009.

I'm not a fan, but it depends on the situation as to how fear-inducing it is for me. Larry is much more afraid of heights than I am, so I have to be the rational one in these situations. I managed to coax him up to the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center in Chicago (I will admit that the wobbly elevator ride is a little harrowing), where he promptly ordered two cocktails (the view was totally worth it). I would love to go on a hot air balloon ride (this is a no-go for Larry), but the very thought of bungee jumping or skydiving makes me pee my pants. I wish I had the cojones to hike Angel's Landing. (Maybe someday. Or maybe not.) Also, to any structure with a glass floor, I say, WTF. I'm looking at you Sears Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge, and at you, Grand Canyon Skywalk. These situations invoke, as Larry would say, The No. 9 A-Hole Pucker. Sweaty palms, indeed.

You will never, let me repeat that, never, see me going up in a biplane. I'm also no fan of turbulence, take-offs, landings, or the plane running out of fuel. (This happened to me over Minneapolis and resulted in an emergency landing in Fargo. Fun times.)

I've mostly gotten over this one - I've had quite a bit of blood drawn in the past five years, so that's no problem for me now. (Though you won't see me getting a tattoo any time soon!) What I really hate are I.V.s - those totally suck and hurt like a bitch. And you still won't catch me signing up for any tests involving needles that give electric shocks!

No, thank you. Also, no it does not help to imagine your audience in their underwear. That's just sick.

There's something creepy about black water. Deep, mysterious, scary.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of the second freezer we had in our garage. It was full of frozen meat and it gave me the heebie-jeebies. I also wasn't a fan of thunder or sirens at night, elevator doors (one closed on me once - to this day, I still dash out of elevators quite quickly), cemeteries (gave me nightmares for weeks), or blood. Well, I'm still not a fan of blood, but I've had to clean up some dog injuries, so I'm getting better about it., I do not want to see your bloody finger, gnarly wound, skinned knee, etc. Yuck.

Oh, and for quite a while I had a fear of ax-murderers hiding behind shower curtains. Please don't think this is good reason to hide behind a shower curtain and scare me because then I will have to kill you.

We could delve deeper and discuss fears of the future, things that keep me up at night, etc, but let's just leave it at the so-called silly and irrational fears.

So, am I crazy? A 'fraidy cat? Anyone else want to confess what they're afraid of? Snakes? Spiders? Enclosed spaces? Clowns? Germs? The number 13, aka Triskaidekaphobia? - I still remember this as a vocabulary word we learned in 4th grade. (Also, did you know that fear of the number 666 is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia?)