just-for-fun art and illustrations

Wasn’t there some mystery about going to art class back in elementary school? It wasn’t as predictable as math, as mundane as history, as strict as spelling, or as embarassing as gym class. (Plus, you didn’t have to put on an awkward P.E. uniform complete with knee-length granny shorts. Sometimes you could ever wear a cool art vest thing and get messy on purpose!)

But the days of glory came to an end for all of us. (Well, I guess except for art majors. Lucky.) For me, the last art class I got to take was in my freshman year of high school. After that, it was over. Bring on Chorus and Home Ec, but no more Art.

So it’s been about seven years since I had any “formal” art training. I don’t pretend to be an artist or an illustrator. The closest I can claim is to being a photographer. But art still fascinates me, and I’ve tried my hand at it on and off.

It would be so cool to see a blog of just-for-fun art and illustrations The blog would inevitably document a development of the artist, showcase their experimentations, and hopefully even relate to things going on in their lives.

I have a few artifacts of my own from early to more recent attempts at art. I’ll share them just for fun.

I submitted this when I was thirteen to an illustration contest sponsored by my mom’s company. The theme was safety around the house, and all the top contestants were featured in their company calendar for the following year. Mine was selected as the September illustration, and I was so proud of it. It’s nothing fantastic, but it shows my lettering side a bit. When I was young, I would practice different ways of writing letters in all kinds of notes. Class notes. Notes to my friends. Notes to cute little boys in my third grade class. (It happened. What can I say?)

I must say the hair is very realistic.

The next two are more recent, and both relate to The Mountain Laurel, our school’s art and literary magazine. This one I drew for one side of a brochure we produced to hype up our edition initially focused on the theme of the fairy tale. I drew this with marker and then just played with the color on photobucket. I like the color scheme.

I like the blue horse in this one. The joy of art is saying, "I wonder ..." and then trying it.

This last one I drew not too long ago because even though I was on the staff of The Mountain Laurel for a year and a half, I didn’t know what the actual flower mountain laurel looks like. So I looked it up, and drew a single flower on a mountain. I like the symbolism of this one (although it’s lacking leaves and real mountain laurels grow in clusters, thus rendering it unrealistic) because our school is on a mountain, too. The symbolism is along the lines of “a light on a hill,” or this single statue of beauty standing out from its surroundings. Yet it’s still intentionally simplistic and imperfect.

Art is always imperfect, always a "working title." That's why I liked this little image to represent our art magazine.

 
Recommended blog: The Creative Panic
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irony

Someone should start a blog about irony . . .

Did you get the concept of irony the first time your high school English class delved into it? I’m not sure I did, and it never helped that most of the scenarios in the song “Ironic” by Alanis Morisette aren’t really ironic, but just terribly unfortunate (like “a death row pardon two minutes too late” or “rain on your wedding day”).

Ironic situations or statements are ironic because they are different than what you would expect to happen, or they take on a different meaning than was intended. But irony isn’t just for the stage or the story. Irony happens every day, and I enjoy finding it.

When I was student teaching, I called upon students for their best real-life examples of irony. One of my students said that his family member had lit some relaxation candles and left the house. They ended up burning down the house. I don’t guess they had the desired affect. (My own example of irony is terribly unfortunate as well, huh?)

Don't bet your bottom dollar on relaxation candles if irony has anything to do with it.

Someone should start a blog about the ironies they experience in life, the funny connections, and unexpected turn of events. One of my favorite sites on irony (since I have a category of favorite sites on irony and all) is Isitironic.com, where viewers can submit ironic experiences and examples and then vote on the best ones.

So, what would you rate my example of irony (based on a true story)?

This past week, I switched to a new moisturizer. It dried out my skin.

the signs of insanity (Pacman for breakfast and turkeys in the hallway)

Someone should start a blog about the signs of insanity . . .

Inevitably, it happens every time I’m back at the parents’ house for an extended period of time. It’s because no one’s here! Even though I’m on break, their lives go on like normal. Mom’s at work, the kids are at school, and my stepdad’s asleep or selling cars or both (He can also sleep and drive at the same time – I’m a firsthand witness.).

Insanity kicks in. It’s lessened by degrees when I’m scheduled to work, but still, there are the countless hours of solitude in the house. Why, you ask. I know I can’t be the only one whose friendships back home have all but vanished, but even if I had them, I don’t have the money to go out and do anything. So here I am. At least I have you, readers. Readers? Readers?!? (See, I never had posts this weird when school was in.)

Anyways, I’m probably well-qualified to start a blog about the signs of insanity that creep in and prey on innocent lives. Maybe you go insane under other conditions, but for me, these are the ones. Hey, this might be a great blog for someone going to prison to start. (Wow. How I digress.)

So, if I had to compile my list of signs of insanity from this week, here follows:

  • Talking to myself – This might not seem so bad. In fact, Vygotsky says “egocentric speech” starts at a young age. But what about when you’re laughing at your own jokes? Carrying on long conversations? Asking yourself questions?
  • Running down the hallway and gobbling like a turkey – This did happen.
  • Looking for recognizable characters in my food – Well, I wasn’t really looking for it, but I found Pacman in my breakfast the other day. Please tell me I’m not too crazy.

    You see Pacman in this peach-preserve-covered waffle, don't you?

  • Taking pictures of my breakfast
  • Reading audio equipment instructions for fun – Wait. I’m not that far gone . . . yet.

*I was partly inspired to write this post after visiting a fellow Wordpress blog mindoverMadness, the purpose of which is to showcase “the ramblings of a mad mind.”

birthday messages (to past and present)

Someone should start a blog about birthday messages (to past and present) . . .

Wouldn’t it be cool to see a blog that pays tribute to whoever’s birthday it is on the day of the post? Maybe the blogger would limit it to people who are alive or to friends, or maybe it would even include birthday wishes (or some kind of message) to people who are already dead. For example, if it were Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, maybe the blog post would be about how everyone views him today as an important figure in the Civil War and history of slavery. It could also mention things he’s remembered for (like the Gettysburg Address) – kinda a letter to Abe with an update on what his life means.

Well, I’ll give a full-length example of a post for such a blog because today is not Lincoln’s birthday, but it is tthe birthday of one of my best friends . . .

The Birthday Boy.

__________________________________________________________________________

Lucas,

Happy birthday! If you didn’t know, today is your birthday! I hope it’s a great one. It’s the big 2-0 on the 2-0! Make sure to wear something bright and do a birthday dance.

It stinks that we can’t all see you in person on your birthday, but at least I can still give you your present! Well, it’s really the invitation to a present.

You are cordially invited to attend the Montana Skies concert at The Brown Street Club on Saturday, January 14, 2012. I have made reservations for six at 6:30 = concert time. You may bring five of your closest friends for an evening of food, fun, and fentertainment (I had to keep the alliteration going.). Do I sound like a sweepstakes spokesperson yet? So we’ll go downtown, take you to eat wherever you’d like, head to the concert (where we might grab another bite to eat, or dessert!), enjoy the music, and then of course wander around downtown.

I can hardly wait. I’ve almost given away this secret like 15 times, but I made it! I didn’t tell you. Anyways, I hope this is something I tell you often: thank you for being my friend. I’m honored to know you, and I hope this will be another great year. God will continue to do awesome things in your life as you follow Him!

Your friend,
Celeste
__________________________________________________________________________
 
Questions/Answers about Aforementioned Birthday Gift

1. Who is Montana Skies, you may be asking? This is Montana Skies.

They mix guitar and cello and play everything from classical to rock. I’ll let you read and hear more about them from their website, www.montanaskiesmusic.com. There’s a free 13-track download there, too. What am I saying! You always know more about music than I do, so you’ve probably heard of them.
 
2. What is The Brown Street Club?
The Brown Street Club is a restaurant/music venue in downtown Greenville. They’re known for weekly live jazz performances. I’ve never been yet, so I hope it’s as cool as it sounds.
3. Whom can you invite?
Anyone, really. (I sure hope I’ll be on “the list.”) Of course, if you wish to invite more or less than five others, then we can adjust reservations. Reservations are the “tickets” to the concert, and they’re easy to change online.
 
4. Will pineapple be involved?
True partiers cut pineapple, not cake.

The best fruit known to mankind.

5. What time does the concert start?
6:30 PM, which is the time of our reservation. We might want to be there a little earlier just to ensure we get good seats and all.
 
6. Should you bring anything?
 TBA.
 
7. Did I really create a question number seven just so that I could have seven items in this list?
Yes. Yes, I did.
 
P.S. Another good number is 42. This post is now complete.
 

movies to watch for (and my predictions for best movies of 2012)

Someone should start a blog about movies to watch for . . .

Every time I’m ready to head to the movies, I have not the slightest clue about which ones are out, much less which ones are worth seeing. I probably can’t name a single movie out in theaters right now.

Someone should start a blog that keeps updated posts on movies to look out for in the near future. The blog could also include some movie reviews (after the fact), but it would focus mostly on upcoming movies.

Hm. So what kind of factors would the blogger have to consider in calling these movies worthy of “look out for this one” status? Probably, at minimum, these things:

  • Actors/actresses in the movie and their roles – Is this Harrison Ford in another Indiana Jones type film, or is he branching out and playing a softie minivan-driving dad?
  • Director, screenwriter, and the other big shots – If James Cameron is directing, it’s probably a winner.
  • Plot originality – No offense to the genre of romantic comedies, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Anyways, in celebration of the almost new year, I’d like to give my predictions for movies to watch for based on these factors.

Predictions for Best Movies of 2012

1. The Hobbit

Peter Jackson directing. Most of the original cast returning. Based on the novel by Tolkien. Follows in the footsteps of the trilogy for The Lord of the Rings, one of the highest-grossing film series of all time. Need I say more? Look for it in December.

Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins

2. The Great Gatsby

Sure to be another great book-to-movie, this adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel stars three big names: Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. The film is directed by Baz Luhrmann, whose previous work includes Romeo + Juliet (which also starred DiCaprio) and Moulin Rouge, which was nominated for Best Picture back in 2001. I’m personally stoked to see this film, since DiCaprio is my favorite actor by far for his history of films like Titanic, Revolutionary Road, Inception, and Catch me if You Can, to name a few. I also look forward to seeing Mulligan’s development as an actress. For her work in Never Let Me Go, she was described as an actress who “feels” instead of acts. I can’t wait to see the two together. This one also comes out in December.

Cast of The Great Gatsby

3. Men in Black III

Though worldwide earnings were “down” to $442 million for the second movie, I believe it’s safe to say that people like the Men in Black movies. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back in their classic partnership. Can you believe it’s been over 10 years since they first hit the big screen together? Smith has developed so much as an actor since then, breaking his “funny man” stereotype with roles in The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds, Ali, and I am Legend. Though he’ll likely be cracking jokes on screen for this one, I think his recent successes will bring a loyal fan base to theaters in May.

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black

4. The Wedding

Although I haven’t heard much talk about this movie, it’s one of those “ensemble” or “all-star cast” types, with the big names being Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, and Robin Williams, plus more. I won’t claim the plot is very original (it’s one of those “let’s pretend we’re married for this-and-this reason”), but similar films like The Family Stone, which Keaton also starred in, have done well. It’s sure to appeal to families that want a good laugh. Look for it in October.

5. Les Miserables

This must be the year for novel-to-movies, because yet another classic, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, is lighting up the screen. The film will attract not only the literature lovers and those just curious enough to see a movie about a book they read in high school, but also those wanting to see how the producers have adapted this from its popular stage form to film. (Besides, Susan Boyle popularized the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical version in 2009. When things like that seep into pop culture, people don’t forget it.) Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway are the three main characters. Expect to see it in theaters in December. (Are you, like me, starting to wonder why all the good movies come out in December? It’s gotta be some kind of marketing scheme to steal our money intended for Christmas gifts.)

6. Safe House

This is a suspense/thriller, and the main plot is that a CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) must move a criminal (Denzel Washington) to a new safe place before violent forces kill them both. I believe the movie has a few things going for it: Denzel, the genre, and, of course, the whole CIA ingredient. It’s out in February.

7. The Vow

Starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams and based on true events, this is the story of how a couple’s life is torn apart when a car accident takes away the wife’s memory, and she can no longer remember her husband. He has to try to win her heart all over again. The film hits theaters in February, the perfect time to catch the romantics looking for a good Valentine’s Day date. Both of the stars previously acted in Nicholas Sparks book-to-films, so they’re sure to know how to pull the heartstrings.

The Vow

*** If you’re mathematical, unlike me, then you might have noticed that 3 out of 7 of my top picks are book-to-movies. I can’t tell you what percentage that is, but I would like to recommend reading this recent post, What Should Come First . . . by fellow blogger BookBlob, if you need help deciding whether to read the books or watch the movies first.

not everyone gardens and wears dresses (part 3)

Ok, it’s finally here, dear readers. The last part of my seemingly endless (but supposed to be painless and easy) steps for starting a blog. Today we’ll wrap up with the last two steps.

6. Land somewhere. I probably don’t have to tell you that there are zillions of options when it comes to blogging websites! So how do you know where to land?

  • WordPress – My blogging experience is largely limited to WordPress. But that leads me to option #1. There’s a reason I chose WordPress, and if you’re reading most of the Best Blogging Platforms lists, then you’ll see that it’s always on or near the very top. You don’t have to be an Internet genius to set up camp here because of all the great templates and easy-to-use features, but you can still personalize and customize if you wish. If you want your own domain name (i.e. minus the wordpress.com part in the address), you can have it for just over $15 a year.
  • Blogger – Okay, it’s owned by Google, it’s user-friendly for the most part, and even though one drawback is the small number of templates available, you can link your blog with AdSense and make money when readers click on ads you’ve approved. 
  • Others and Microblogs – MovableType, Xanga, Twitter, Weebly, Blogsome

So, this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I tried to include some of the most reputable platforms that offer free blogging accounts. As always, do your research and see which formats seem to fit you (This might be another time to go back and look at all those blogs you bookmarked earlier.). For example, Weebly is much more complex, which the techies might enjoy, but if you were looking for somewhere to type up and publish quickly and without much behind-the-scenes work, then WordPress would probably be more up your alley.

Somewhere, there's a stadium's worth of people just waiting to read from you.

7. Blog. Oh, finally. Step 7 is here. Our journey is complete. Well, sorta. See, step 7 is an ongoing step. This is the part where you simply do your thing – blog. You have your subject and style, your blog name, your blogging community, everything. So start blogging!

Very early in my blogging days, I read some advice that has stuck with me and helped me figure out this blogging thing. First of all, blog about what you enjoy and love (If necessary, go back and read our step 4 for more on this topic.). If you discover that you really don’t want to keep blogging about your four pet hippopotamuses, don’t feel bad about changing the direction of your blog, somehow expanding what it addresses, or starting from scratch with the blog idea. If you don’t enjoy blogging, people probably won’t enjoy reading your blog either.

That's one of the beauties, that blogs reflect us.

Secondly, be consistent. It may take some practice at first to be consistent with your blogging. It is, in a sense, a new commitment. How often you blog does depend a lot on the nature of the blog (Forr example, a news blog might be updated multiple times a day.). Being consistent is important for many reasons. It keeps you writing, and it helps your readers know what to expect. Some bloggers plan out that they will blog every Monday and Wednesday. Your schedule doesn’t have to be that concrete, but if you’re blogging at least 2-3 times per week, then you’ll avoid the most horrific situation of readers stopping by, only to see the old post they’ve seen the last four times they visited.

In closing, blogging is a product, but it’s also a process. I can guarantee that you’ll grow and change and so will your blog. That’s actually one of the beauties of blogs, that they reflect us and help us see our lives in a different way. I wish you the best in your blogging endeavors.

My dear readers, blog on!

not everyone gardens and wears dresses (part 2)

As you may be able to tell from the title of this post, this is a continuation from an earlier post. As promised, I am embarking on the task to write advice on how to know when you’re ready to start a blog/how to know what you ought to blog about/how to name your blog/etc. Although the first post was only published yesterday, I must admit that I have in some small ways put off writing part 2 (in other words, I came up with 100 ideas for posts that would enable me to avoid writing the rest of this entry) because this is such a daunting task, no? But make sure you’ve read part 1, and here we go . . .

4. Narrow it down. Step 3 was to analyze the kind of blogs you enjoy reading and the kind of test posts you write (for the blog that doesn’t exist quite yet). Now, step 4 is the big dog. You have to take what you’ve learned about yourself and narrow it down to a concept for a blog, which I believe consists of two things: subject matter and style, or personality. I can’t overemphasize the connection between subject matter and style/personality at this point.

Subject matter is the meat of the message. What’s the actual topic of the blog going to be? Sports? Teaching? Learning a language? Your collection of fanfiction pieces? Your daily experiences working at an aquarium?

Style, or what I like to call personality, is the way you approach your subject matter. One way to find out what kind of personality you’d like to have for your blog is to ask, “What’s the purpose of my blog?” and “What do I hope my readers feel about my subject?” Are you hoping they’ll laugh about your daily attempts to feed a tank full of sword fish? Or would you rather they were wiping tears from their eyes after reading your alternate ending to The Notebook? It’s more than okay if your blog elicits different reactions at different times, but it will still be very helpful for you to kinda choose a niche so that readers know what to expect. (This also helps with choosing a blog name.)

So this is the moment of truth! This is when you just gotta do it! You gotta narrow down your subject matter and style. You have to make a choice of what your blog is gonna be like! You can do it.

(As a brief intermission of inspirational quoting, I’d like to remind you of something you’ve probably heard at some point in your life in the context of choosing a career or a spouse: choose the one you can’t live without. Do the work you can’t not do. Marry the person you can’t not be with for the rest of your life. I know those are kinda major life decisions, so how can I even draw a comparison? But I truly believe that a good blog does become part of your life, helps you make sense of things, follows your life. Of course, divorcing a blog is not as big of a deal, so don’t take this analogy in the opposite direction and convince yourself that you can never make a blogging commitment. The point is, blog about what you can’t NOT blog about.)

5. Pick a name. Take a deep breath. All the hard work is behind you. The good news is that your blog name depends very much on your subject and style, so the decisions you’ve already made will make this smooth sailing.

Simplicity is key. Try to keep the blog name easy to remember and related to what the blog is actually about. You can get fun and creative or go with something straightforward. The possibilities are endless.

Just one of many great examples is Themiddlestsister.com. This blog is a web-comic written and illustrated by the blogger and based on her memories of growing up with sisters. She’s one of five siblings, thus, the “middlest.”

Dear readers, I hate to prolong this entry once again, but I know you must be tired of reading. All that’s left is to choose a blogging community and to start blogging, so come back soon and we’ll wrap up this whole starting a blog thing, k?