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Archive for the ‘Graphic Design’ Category

Not to be confused with the 5-second rule (where some believe that if you drop something on the floor, it’s still safe to eat if you pick it up in 5 – maybe 3? – seconds. Yech.) Anyway, this is a whole different animal.

Look at that broad, open expanse – fabulous. Some basics, morning vitamins, access to everything. And that catalog lower left? About to run headlong into the 5-Day Rule!

I created the 5-Day Rule as a result of a massive cleaning effort on my part about 2 weeks ago. Wayyyy too much stuff on my desk, too many things in the way when I needed to get to the stacked sorters, too many chotchkas, just too many, too much and all a distraction. I was long overdue for a clean, inspiring workspace. But where was it all going to go?

I have 2 very spacious file cabinets and they were very full. But that’s where much of the paperwork on top of my desk had to go. It was a huge task and took the better part of 2 days. From those file cabinets I pulled outdated business papers; so many photos and materials from my long-ago dog rescue; and the old boyfriends. (I’ll always remember you in my heart, guys!) I pared and whittled and proceeded to fill both garbage and recycling containers — it was heaven.

Next, I filed away what needed to be filed and then, stripped the desk of what was left and cleaned it. What went back was only what I want and need, giving me complete access to the stacking shelves of current material that I use regularly. The desk is now a vast area of open workspace. Woo hoo!

Okay, so the Komodo dragon is a desktop essential. Somebody has to watch over the day’s work, right?

So what is the 5-Day Rule? Anything I put on the desk, such as that new mail order catalogue, for example, can only be on the desk for 5 days max. That gives me time to read it, order from it, whatever. After 5 days, any item has to be gone, whether in the trash or some other location. And I plan to be brutal about this. Dee Hock says, “Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.” I like that, and I’m sure it also applies to wherever we spend time in our work and creative efforts.  Feeling overwhelmed by clutter? Clear it – you’ll feel a cool breeze of creativity wash right over you. Really.

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It’s not for a lack of things to write about that it’s been so long since I’ve last posted. My mind is always humming away with things I’d like to write about. But recently there were other insistent things pulling me away, be it work, a few rounds of a nasty virus, the need to be OUT and not at the computer … you know how it goes.

So what was the impetus to finally settle down and write? What you’re looking at right now. My blog — more correctly, my blog theme. Last night, while waiting for a response from WordPress, I actually wrote all this by hand away from my computer. At the time, I had no idea if what you’ve always seen visually and what I’ve known for the last so many years was gone forever or reclaimable. Because as of last night, thanks to something I did, my beloved blog had slipped into something new – the theme I’ve been planning for a new site promoting my graphic design services.

While I may be a bit more savvy than the average bear at the computer, I am also quite capable of occasionally screwing things up. I wouldn’t have found myself somewhat frantically waiting to hear back from the “happiness engineers” at WP if that weren’t true. I knew I could move my site back into the earlier theme, but would I lose my widgets and customization? That was the question. So trying not to panic or bang my head on my desk, I waited. (I got my answer today, and did have to rebuild my widgets – no way to retrieve my earlier version.)

So blog problem aside, there’s been plenty of other stuff on the happier end of the spectrum – fabulous and fresh Jersey produce; reading and reading and reading thanks to the wasteland that is summertime TV; getting out and about to new places both on my own and with friends, enjoying their company, a movie, good eats and more.

In the end, despite my initial panic, the WP theme issue is just another challenge, a bump in the road along the way, and a reminder that there are many things in life we cannot control. All we can really control are our thoughts and how we look at what happens in our lives. Sometimes easier said than done, but true nonetheless. Not all that miraculously, I survived to tell the tale, and look … it got me taking along my camera and writing again. Not so bad after all.

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Somewhere along the line growing up I remember someone telling me “A job worth doing is worth doing well.” They were right then and they’re still right. Thing is, whatever the job was then has become wayyyyyy more complicated (albeit fascinating).

I promised myself I could finally pot this long-awaiting and patient coleus, called Electric Lime, after a certain amount of reading.

We’re no longer hand-printing a book report on honeybees, or making a great table in shop, or learning how to properly set in a shoulder in the suit we’re sewing. We’re not packing up a slew of pasted-up magazine boards to be shipped out-of-state to the people who’ll make them into negatives, or changing ribbons in typewriters, or Xeroxing off copies to send out. None of that. Now we’re reaching anywhere in the world simultaneously in seconds across multiple devices.

Check out this cutie – not even 1″ in length. I looked it up to see what it might be; it’s a black and yellow lichen moth. She seemed kind of lethargic, so I put a few drops of water in front of her, and she drank it right up.

My point is, my leap of faith will entail reaching a huge amount of people across a number of platforms and social media if I want to be a success. And that means a tremendous learning curve as well as time devoted to my craft in creating product (all while still working). Whew! I’ve been researching and looking into the many things I need to do, making lists, chunking them down into more do-able lists, and working away.

A few of these rhododendron bushes grow in the yard surrounding the porch. These “snowballs” are stunning and huge, about 8″ across. 

So today, I forewent any social outings to focus on my plans, and got out in the lovely cool morning on my back porch. I pushed over the vincas I potted a couple weeks ago and plopped down a notebook, my coffee, and the book I wanted to delve into this morning, Facebook for Dummies. I have assiduously avoided Facebook for any number of reasons, but cannot do so any longer, and like everything, there’s a lot to know. So the photos you see on this page are what I saw surrounding me this morning when I hunkered down to expand my knowledge.

A bright rose and pink vinca are still settling in, moved down to make room for coffee and a pile of work.

There is one thing of which any of us who take leaps of faith can be assured … we will never be bored.

 

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JeannesNewFlipFlops2

Why, you may ask, are you looking at a pair of feet in (… well, a pretty cute set of) flip-flops?

Here’s why. For the same reason you’re about to look at a yummy summer salad sitting on an antique kitchen chair complete with original milk paint, (which by the way, doesn’t hold up all that well to everyday wear and tear.)

Salad2

It’s an offering. A little tide-you-over. I’ve been somewhat absent from my blog, but I do think of you, and I do miss the delight of writing more frequent posts, as well as stopping by your blogs. (Just because I don’t follow you or comment doesn’t mean I don’t stop in for a quick peek.)

The last few weeks have included some exciting things – a visit to the Grounds for Sculpture to see the Seward Johnson retrospective before the borrowed pieces return to their permanent spots all over the world on July 1. So much to see, and such genius! I’ll be posting more on that soon. Meanwhile, here’s a little teaser of what’s to come.

SewardJohnson-HotDogMan2

Johnson is known for his sculptures of people in everyday life and his 3-dimensional interpretations of famous paintings. Throughout the grounds one finds groupings of people as well as individuals, such as this hot dog vendor along one of the walkways.

And then there was the NJ SCBWI June Conference where we all ate, drank and slept children’s books for nearly two days straight. It’s intense, exciting, rewarding, and based on everyone’s collapse on Monday, a major rush! The workshops, meeting and dining with agents and editors, connecting and re-connecting with fellow writers and illustrators is quite the whirlwind of an experience, and has us all coming home with a renewed sense of purpose, our dreams fired up, and ready to further our goals and experiences in children’s books.

Intermezzo: a French Bulldog illustration of mine, for summer. (p.s. This is available as part of a boxed set of Frenchie notecards.)

Frenchie-IceCreamSodaSig

And then of course, there’s work. LOTS of work. Not to complain; paying one’s bills is a good thing, but between it all, well, my blog bore the brunt of it. As have my poor LightBetweenOeans-MLStedman2porches which remain bereft of a single flower this year. (I’ll spare you the empty porch photos.) And then there are the everyday demands of just plain life. Busy!

And of course I’ve been reading. I am always reading, no matter what. Great book – just finished – I highly recommend it.

Soon I will share with you some truly amazing treats from the Seward Johnson exhibit.

So stay tuned … I do believe I’m back!

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Just like life is filled with dreams and plans, so is it filled with transitions.

TheMac2Over the last 2 months, I’ve had a number. The most recent, though initially stressful, has been the now-happy upgrade of my beloved Mac, the primary tool of my trade.  Reliant as I am upon my Mac to make a living, I was not happy to find it behaving increasingly squirrelly as of late. It’s stood up to the test of time, but has missed a few OS upgrades as well as the accompanying program upgrades. My Mac superhero, Steve, told me that right about now is when hard drives often start to fail. Gulp.

It seemed the time had arrived. So off it went to Steve to have a new hard drive and double the memory installed as well as the latest OS and other upgrades. He brought it back, did his on-site magic, and then the biggest transition began, my learning all the (sometimes) improvements of the latest and greatest software. Trust me … a transition! (I’m much calmer now.)

But the bigger transition has been – and will be –  in my diet. While not really horrible by any means, my cholesterol was found to be sufficiently high that it needed addressing. Before you could say “lower your cholesterol,” I found myself plopped on 3 drugs — me who takes no meds at all, just vitamins and supplements, and eats largely organically, MainStreetVegan-VMoran2relatively low-fat and 99% vegetarian is suddenly infused with three. And so began a series of escalating side effects, med changes and so on … not a happy experience.

Meanwhile, at a recent picnic I was pleased and surprised that a friend bought me a book – Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. – which she read because of the benefit of the suggested diet to the prevention of cancer. I started reading. The regimen the author describes is beyond vegan in its restriction of fats, and a possibility, but has some very strong limitations. Still, I want to find a way to change my diet sufficiently to get off the meds, so I ordered additional books, one of which is pictured here, plus  2 cookbooks, Forks over Knives and the Joy of Vegan Baking and The Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps.

If I’m to consider going vegan, I need to know I have options … lots of them. I’m a bake it with butter, sugar and eggs kind of girl, and this is going to be a HUGE transition. And so I’ve begun reading, investigating, considering and shopping. That I already eat animals rarely makes one part easier, but giving up dairy? Now THAT’s tough. So I’m cutting out more dairy and animal fat than I already have and wading in.

I know plenty about the quality, or lack thereof, of our food supply and the toll it is taking on the health of millions of people as well as the planet and the horrendous suffering it is causing billions of animals. I’ve never wanted to be a part of that and have taken many steps over the years to limit my participation. Apparently, the next step – this transition – is mine to take.

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And today, my hero is Steve. And it’s not the first time.

It might seem simple for some of you who know how the techie end of computers work, but those of us who work on, as I call it, the “pretty side”, (i.e. use the programs), it’s far from simple. When things go really awry, I panic. Like so many of you nowadays, the computer, particularly e-mail, for me, is an integral part of my business. And when this afternoon, Entourage – the Mac version of Outlook – took a powder, I panicked.

I e’d Steve, my Mac guy ever since I’ve had one, but decided I’d better call, too. He calls me back – literally in the car with his family on the road to their week’s vacation – and helps me. Is there any question as to why this guy is my hero? And it’s not the first time! When my older Mac died a number of years ago, the week before Christmas, I brought it to him at his shop, where it was determined it could not be revived. I order a new one, bring it to him, he migrates all my data and comes to my house on Christmas eve morning to integrate it with my peripherals, etc. so I could keep my business moving along. Need I say more?

So today, a couple hours later with his instructions and my compacting my e-mail program, and re-building the data – something I knew less than nothing about – and a follow-up phone call, I am up and running again. Panic over, breathing once again.

Here’s to you, Steve! You are my hero!

Now clearly that’s not his photo up there – I don’t have one and he probably wouldn’t like my posting it if I did, but … if you live anywhere in driving distance of Hunterdon County, New Jersey and need a sharp Mac guy, check out Steve’s contact information on the web.

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It was most recently my pleasure to do a small portrait for a woman in Walla Walla, WA who inquired about my doing a drawing of one of her French Bulldogs for a new business card. Between running my own Graphic Design business and applying myself to my writing and illustrating of children’s books, I didn’t know if I wanted to do a portrait. It’s something I have put aside in the interest of focusing on my future in children’s books. But I felt called to do this and felt I was getting a nod from the Universe. It somehow seemed significant that Toni Myers lives out by two of my current favorite authors, Sherman Alexie and Patricia Briggs. Plus I knew it would keep me refining my French Bulldog art and drawing skills.

Toni sent me a baby picture of one of her French Bulldogs, Truman. Toni and her family have show Frenchies and a small, conscientious breeding program, We Be French Bulldogs. She asked if I might incorporate her favorite flower, a purple pansy, in the image. I accepted the work, and we had a great working experience. I loved doing the work – both the portrait and the business card incorporating it  – and she and her family loved the results. What’s more, I had the opportunity to work with a truly delightful woman who now will be a part of more of my own French Bulldog work in children’s books.

Such an arrangement had never crossed my mind; in fact, I wasn’t quite sure why this iniitally seemed such a good thing. But I do believe in synchronicity —  things align in time and space for a reason. Surely this was one of those events, and it put smiles on two faces clear across the country.

You can order Frenchie cards and art here!

Note: All illustrations, drawings and photographs are © Jeanne Balsam and may not be reproduced in any format without written permission. Thank you!

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