Monday, June 25, 2012

No No Yes Yes - Mondays with Mira -Teaching Picture Books

Last week I promised some more exciting news but it will have to wait until later in the week after my newsletter people get first dibs. Trust me it is super exciting and my apologies for not getting this out sooner, but life has been a bit too wonderful with my twin sister and nephew here from Australia.

Meanwhile I have something a little different for Mondays with Mira... it's a board book!!! And even tho it only has 2 words that are each repeated to make 4 words max., it is very far from boring. You'll learn a lot about board books and some of the many things that babies and toddlers need to learn to become socialized little people: )

And after that I'm including some pics that Leonie and I took of each other and of my nephew and our little vacation to Fort Bragg.We've had a wonderful time together and am so sad that it's coming to an end : (
 From our little vacay up North in Fort Bragg. This is Glass Beach
 Here's Leonie with one of her first mosaic pieces. Leonie's first Master's Degree was in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was the first person in Australia to earn an MFA and Polaroid sponsored her many decades ago, supplying her with all sort s of cameras to test and push. As you can see I'm pretty proud of her. Her next degree was in Art Therapy from Pratt Institure where she also taught. Now she works with kids in Sydney
This pic below is one she took of her son, my nephew Sam, with my hubby Guy in the background.

 Here's Guy and me and Sam holding little portraits that Leonie and I made

 Here's Sam with the one I made of him (of course he gets to keep it)
 We went to a café in Fort Bragg and brought art supplies for a little art café experience. Always lots of fun.
 Must remember to look at this one whenever I think I look fat.
 This was on Leonie's camera looking out from her bedroom. Wild eh! These are galahs and they tend to be quite cheeky.

 This was supposed to be a professional head shot. We tend to have too much fun together.

 Me and Sam

 Me and the unicorn at Paxton Gate in SF. I think there's a resemblance.
Another of Leonie's beautiful photos
 And another
Photos by Guy
And Leonie. I hope you enjoyed : )

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mondays with Mira - The Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit

Welcome back. I have some good news this week and even better news next week. But right now today's good news is that I just sorted through all my children's picture books, of which I had an excessive amount, have purged the ones that aren't spectacular, and made 3 big piles of truly wonderful books to share with you in this Mondays with Mira series.

I chose today's book because I wanted to talk a little more about how to create a plot driven narrative and this book is a terrific example. It also has some lovely onomatopoeia, which if you're not sure what that is you'll either have to look it up or watch the video. First, a little viewer warning, if you're at all disturbed about the idea of animal poop, you may want to skip this week's video because The Little Mole Who Went I Search of Whodunit features lots of animal poop in detail. Intrigued? I hope so.

Finally, if you don't want to wait until next week to find out about my exciting news, sign up for my free newsletter here - where you can always get the latest news, free gifts, and special offerings : )

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mondays with Mira: How to Write and Illustrate Picture Books - Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead

Hullo. Today's video for older kids showcases Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead. It follows the classic plot driven structure of introducing a problem in the beginning - here the very first page, and then having a series of obstacles that the protagonist or main character has to overcome before solving the problem. Where this book differs though is that there are no children, only adults, and the main character does not overcome the problem. Hmmm, you'll have to watch to see what happens.

What I like about this book is how the author takes a concept book and makes a plot driven narrative with it that teaches us everything we need to know about an orchestra in a really engaging way. It's a bit long - but then it's Lemony Snicket and I imagine he pretty much gets to do whatever he likes. I also LOVE the watercolor and pen and ink illustrations by Carson Ellis which manage to be both minimal and excessive at the same time.

Finally, I want to apologize for the video quality not being the greatest. We've been experimenting with filming in different spots in the apartment and I kinda got buried in the couch in this one and the light was not good. Marge was also a little overenthusiastic with the zoom for some reason. Next video we're trying a tripod and either back in the dining room, my studio, or outside. Having said all this, the video still has plenty of helpful information in it. I hope you enjoy it : )

PS If you want to meet the wonderful Marge - here's her website

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Challenges in making art - My responses to dealing with self-criticism, developing a style, finding time for creativity & more

A couple of weeks ago, I ran a contest and one of the questions was about challenges in making art. I really wanted to address as many of these as I could that I thought might be helpful for others as well and that also had multiple variations on the same theme. So here they are:

1. self-criticism
I wrote an article about this, which was guest posted on The Abundant Artist, a terrific resource for artists here's the link  which if iI do say so myself : ) is pretty helpful!
We also do a fantastic transformational project for concretely dealing with this in the Hero's Art Journey.

2. having compassion for yourself
My favorite quote for this is from Stephen Levine in one of his books or one of the workshops I took with him and his extraordinary wife Ondrea years ago to - Treat yourself as if you were your only child.”  Meaning that if your only child were learning something and wasn't a born expert you'd have tenderness and compassion for them and reassure them that they were learning and it was truly all OK. This beautiful thought also applies to any form of messing up, where you have compassion for yourself and then do whatever you need to make it as right as you can.

3. finding time for creativity, courage, and prioritizing
This is pretty core in our current overflowingly time-crunched culture. 
Here are several strategies:
  • get up earlier to dedicate creative time
  • work in small blocks of time
  • block out sacred creativity time days or hours - if you block out hours set a timer to hold you accountable and get away from your computer and turn off the phone
  • go away or get your family to go away so you can have a working vacation
  • take a course where you have external accountability and goals
  • imagine that your life depends upon it or better yet someone you truly love's life depends upon it because in a way - it does - listening to our heart's desires and acting on our innate creativity makes us happier and therefore healthier people and makes us kinder and more loving to the people around us making them happier and therefor healthier people
other time tips if you are a visual artist include: 
  • working smaller and more portable. For example, I carry around some sheets of heavy weight paper or a sketch book and a piece of heavier back cardboard from a 9x12" sketchbook that I've torn off to act as an easel or small table, and whenever I'm stuck waiting anywhere I just whip it out and start drawing. Believe me the time flies and I get very happy.
  • along the portable lines, I love preparing smaller wood panels with acrylic paint textures and shapes and then relaxing on the couch when I'm truly pooped and drawing on them with an assortment of pens and markers. I also sometimes take them in by bag with the pens and work on them when I'm waiting somewhere. The panels don't need any kind of support underneath and my knees work just fine.
Yes it takes courage to be creative and to carve out time for something that may never have rewards that are commonly validated in our culture eg fame and fortune. But I do know from my dissertation research that art saves lives and that when you embrace that part of yourself, you're happier.

3. "getting past the fear of putting my art out there and fear of being successful"

Unfortunately the only way out sometimes is through. Do read the Critical Inner Voice article, which you might find helpful and take baby steps. Show your work in safe environments such as a course environment or among friends where you can get good helpful criticism. Learn as much as you can by taking courses where you improve your skills then start putting it out. Don't worry about getting successful. Your chances of that happening before you've put in a bunch of time and effort and work are slim. It does occasionally happen but it's rare. I love the extremes tho - am I good enough - to what if I get wildly successful. There's a middle ground worth seeking and always tell yourself -"I'm learning and growing." It really helps for whatever stage you're at both as a source of comfort and a reminder for humility.

4. how to teach art to others
Pay attention to what you like in how others teach and apply that to your own teaching. 
Read books on education and the art of teaching

5. "The fact that I can't paint or draw at ALL"
If you can drive you can draw or paint. It's as simple as that. Remember when you first learned to drive and how totally overwhelming it was and how reflexive it is now. It's the same with drawing. When you do one action e.g. putting down some proportional guidelines of where features sit in a face, and then you adapt them for a specific face, after a while you don't need those guidelines. You just know where they are supposed to be. The more you do it, the more skilled you'll become, especially if you have good teachers and really pay attention to what's around you and in front of you.

6. "Honing in on a style that truly feels my own"
Ah that's a challenge, especially if you like to experiment and try lots of different things. My style has definitely changed over the years but I think I have a specific look because I like bold shapes and color contrasts. I just do what feels right and true for me. Maybe put all your different styles together and see which speaks most to you or not worry about having one particular style and instead develop several bodies of work that are perhaps both conceptually and stylistically linked.

7. If my love for art will be overpowered by the reality of maybe having to put it aside to making a better living
This is where you have to decide what a better living is and how much you need. Here in the States we tend to sell our life blood for goods and it's not a good trade off. If there's any way you can swing working part time until you can either a) develop a following and decent financial return for your art, or b) come into a sweet inheritance, that's the best you can probably do (unless you have a partner who earns enough and is willing to support you). Reality sucks sometimes.

8. Someone mentioned the challenges of promoting creative works, which I'm not going to answer except to say it's all about social media these days - Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, and having a blog. All major time sucks but also very rewarding in other ways

I think I answered all the comments and hope they've been super helpful

love xox Mira

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mondays with Mira - How to Write a Picture Book - Baby Bear Sees Blue!

(Quick note - for those of you who participated in the contest, my next post will be for you but as it's already Monday - this one needed to come first.)

How to Write a Picture Book (and Illustrate it too)

I've been talking about "first seduction then deconstruction" as a technique for teaching about picture books but I've decided to simplify my titles to How to Write a Picture Book (even tho it also includes illustration). Right now my technique involves reading the story and then going back and talking about what makes it work!

So in that spirit, today's wonderful book is from my friend Ashley Wolff who you can meet briefly further down in another post and in any of my online courses.

As you will see in this seemingly simple story, Ashley packs a tremendous amount in for very young minds as they learn about all sorts of good things in Baby Bear Sees Blue, using spare rhyming text and beautiful and clever illustrations. I hope you like it. This video is also kind of a love letter to Ashley who is one of the many gifts in the world.