Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Swim Kid/Swim Mom

Magoo had his first official swim meet for the West Hartford Waves this past Sunday.  We'd done mini meets with his Stroke & Fitness class, which was a great intro, but the legit swim meet is a bigger beast.

For one thing, they're longer.  I'm talking 4 hours. For another, there are WAY MORE KIDS.
There were 68 swim events and Magoo swam in only four.   There's just that many kids - they get spread out.  But, in the four he swam in, he did great!

(Above) here he is getting ready to dive (he's the one already in position.)  (Below) Doing the breast stroke.

His father and I couldn't be more proud of him for getting out there and kicking tail.  Go Magoo!

In swim, as in most child activities, the parents are put to work.  I was a timer for the time trials a few weeks ago.  On Sunday, I volunteered to be a runner.  OH BOY - that was a job!  It seemed simple enough: after each race collect the time cards from each lane and take them to the main table.

What they don't tell you is that the floors are wet and slippery, the place is mobbed with kids you have to maneuver around, some timers won't be ready for you, others will ask you to get them things, and that each race happens very, very quickly when you have to run back and forth and back and forth.

The first half of the meet might have taken forever to my husband sitting in the stands, but I was sweating my tush off running back and forth on the pool deck!  That said, I liked having a job.  I think I'll just aim for back-up timer next time.

Hope all is well in your part of the world.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Thanks so much for stopping in!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Open Studio Hartford 2015

Standing by my wall of koi watercolors after set-up.
 Open Studio Hartford was this past weekend and it went really well.  I had a new space on the first floor and it was hopping!

The Color Series (below) was a big seller.

I also sold a ton of the face rocks.  (I need to make more for the Holiday Pop-Up Show I'm doing in December.)

I didn't sell nearly as many Game of Thrones prints as I thought I would, but that's OK.  I like to do fun pop culture things from time to time.  You never know what people will actually buy, but they usually get people talking and smiling.

It's always lovely to see friends and other artists as events like this.  It's 1/2 part art and 1/2 part party!
Angela Shenk (Left) is my artist buddy.  We always get spaces right next to each other so we can chat, laugh, and act crazy in the lulls.  My good friend, Jackie (center) came by to visit.

My other artist friend, Kimberly Heil, was all the way up on the 4th floor.  (She'll be at the Pop-Up Show too.)  I'm so glad she swung by to visit.

Open Studio Hartford is the one big show that I do every year.  BIG THANKS to everyone who organizes it, to the artists that make it so great, and to all the patrons who come by and support local artists!

Wishing you all a great week!


Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Hodor Challenge

Hodor Doll                  Julie Phillipps

Hi all!  As some of you may know, Open Studio Hartford is next weekend (Nov. 14 &15) and this year I am featuring some Game of Thrones artwork.  I also tend to make some cute softies of some of my characters, little ninjas and such.  These are not huge sellers, but I think they are lovely and look good in my area.  Sometimes a person buys a book and a softie to go with it.  It makes a nice gift.

Anyway - this year I thought I might make a Game of Thrones softie - just for fun.    Hodor seemed like the best choice.  The character lends himself to softie interpretation.   But, since it would be highly unlikely that this piece will sell (based on the asking price the amount of work will demand), I gave myself a challenge.  I'm allowed purchase a single thing to make it.  Everything I use, I have to already have.

So I went into the basement where I keep the fabric stash ...

... and found enough peach, black, and a variety of grays to get the job done.  Some of them were not the perfect fabric, but I did have enough to make do.   Then I made a pattern...

So far so good.  I sewed up Hodor's body easily enough.  The trickiest part was the hair.  I used a scrap of warm grey faux suede that I had been given and it was a little difficult to hand sew to the head.  Patience and a sharp needle prevailed.

I didn't have enough of the textured grey fabric that I loved for Hodor's tunic, so I made it out of a flat grey that I had.  I cut a front panel of the textured grey and sewed it on front.  I made a collar out of the textured grey as well.  It gave it a nice, layered look.  Sewing clothes for dolls kind of blows.  I hate turning all of the hems.  But Hodor is supposed to look a little shaggy, so I could let all the frays hang loose.  Yippee!

I finished him off with a strip of faux suede as a belt and some leather laces tied around his boots.

Hodor Doll                  Julie Phillipps

Hodor took 4 1/2 hours to make.  I plan to ask $80 for him, which is a very good hourly rate for my work, but I would be highly surprised if he sold.  When people see a doll, they think Toys R Us factory-made doll prices.  They don't then to think artisan and craft.  But that's just as well, I kind of love him.

If you're in the Hartford area next weekend, come give Hodor a squeeze at
Open Studio Hartford
Artspace Building, First Floor
555 Asylum Ave
Nov. 14 - 15
11 - 5pm

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Your Own Personal Tim Gunn

I love Project Runway.  I've always liked fashion - but that's not the reason I love this show.  I love it for two reasons.

1.  To me, it is the more accurate portrayal of what it is to be a creative person working in a creative field.  Sure, I don't have an editor that tells me I have 2 days to create a picture book with only characters found in a hardware store.  But I do struggle with ideas, how to execute them, whether my idea is good or awful.  I get judged - sometimes rather harshly - and it's on me to decide what criticism to take and when to stand my ground on a project.  I have highs when I feel I am rocking the world and lows when I feel I have completely failed or I wonder why I can't catch a break. I understand what the designers go through, and I'm sure other creative professionals do as well.

2.  I love Tim Gunn.  Time Gunn is the special sauce that makes that show a cut above the rest.  He is knowledgeable, critical with kindness, and supportive.  He may be a designer's cheerleader, or a sounding board, or the voice of reason.  But no matter what he says to each designer, you understand that all he wants to do is help them be their best.  It's awesome and rare.

I decided I need my own Tim Gunn.  So I made one.

When I'm having trouble with a story, I will imagine My Own Tim Gunn saying, "Make it work!"

When I am editing, Tim Gunn will remind me "To use your critical eye."

But no matter what project I'm working on, I will have My Own Tim Gunn standing close, giving me a small smile, and encouraging me to do my best.

Do you want your own Tim Gunn?  Download my template and make your own!  (Mine is 6" tall. Printed on white card stock.)

My Own Tim Gunn by J. C. Phillipps

Have a great day!
Enjoy this glorious November weather!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Birthday Cake

Last week, it was my birthday.

On Saturday night I had some friends over for a karaoke birthday party.  It was super fun.  My husband knows me well enough to bring the cake in, lit, so everyone can sing to me.  Because I love my birthday and I love that kind of stuff.  (Pictured above.)

I made two cakes for the event because there were so many people with dietary issues of one kind or another.   One was dairy-free and gluten-free, but it had nuts and soy.  The other had gluten and sugar, but no nuts or soy.  They were both chocolate, though.  Of course.

We ate, drank, and were merry.

Monday was my actual birthday.  Mike took me out for dinner.  Magoo stayed home.  There was one slice of birthday cake remaining.  This happened.


In other news...

Open Studio Hartford is just two weeks away.  It's November 14 & 15th from 11am - 5pm each day.  I'm in the Artspace building, just like every year.  First floor.

I'm busy making sure everything is matted and bagged or framed and wired to hang.  I have to make price signs and elevator signs and finish some stuffed animal characters and make a few more tiny towns.  Busy, busy.

But it's fun.  If you're in the Hartford area, come check it out!

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Have a great week!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Julie in the Studio

Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith Photography

I have a friend, Phyllis Meredith, who is a wonderful photographer.  She was interested in taking a series of photographs of artists in their studios.  I was one of her lucky models.  This one (above) is my favorite.  In a situation where there is so much color (like the painting and the palette) I wouldn't normally be drawn to a black and white image.  But I love how Phyllis captured the light and the tone, and my focus.  When I'm really into my work, I'm in a quiet place.  I think she captured that beautifully here.

Also, it reminded me of an old photograph I have of my grandfather, Frank Phillipps, working in his studio.  (He had an advertising agency, so that's where he is in the photograph, doing ad art.)

Here are the rest of the photos from the Phyllis Meredith shoot - well, not the rest of the photos.  She took quite a lot.  I whittled them down to my favorites.

Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith Photography

Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith Photography

Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith Photography

Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith Photography

If you're in the Connecticut area and you want a photographer for family photos, senior pictures, or whatever, check out Phyllis Meredith Photography.  She's lovely and she does fantastic work.

In other news :

I have a few events coming up.  I'll be doing a monster hunt for the town's Halloween Stroll.  I've made 30 monsters to hide and about 15 to sell.  I'm told there's an average of 2000 people who come to this things, so let's see how that goes.

Open Studio Hartford is November 14 & 15th.  I'm getting all my ducks in a row for that.  Mostly I have to mat a bunch of stuff.  Cutting mats is not a perk of the job - but it must be done!

Finders Keepers.  The WeHa Artists Emporium is doing Finders Keepers again December 1 - 12th.  (31 days was crazy long last year.  We're making it more manageable.)  And on December 13th we're doing a Holiday Pop-Up Show in town, which is basically a smaller art/craft show in someone house.  It'll be fun!

That, in addition to picture book work, is keeping me pretty busy these days.  It's a good thing I've already started my Holiday shopping.  :)

Thanks so much for stopping in!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Picture Book Summit

This past Saturday, I got to do something really great.  I attended an online conference.

Conferences are great for anyone who writes, because writing is such a solitary job.  It's nice to connect with other writers who are struggling with their work, who share their inspiration and craft, who get excited about the same things I do, picture books.

And - bonus - it was online.  I didn't have to drive anywhere.  I didn't have to book a hotel.  And I could pop in and out throughout the day.

Some people can handle two days of info-dump, but I can only do about 3 hours and then I'm fried.  I need to let that info sink in and take root, then I can go back for more.  This online summit was taped, so I watched a few presentations that day and I can catch up on the recordings of the rest - brilliant!

I also loved that it was specialized.  All of the conferences I have been to before cover Kidlit on whole, meaning picture books, early readers, chapter books, and young adult novels.  That's a pretty vast field.  So if you're an author illustrator of picture books, like me, you might not need a workshop of crafting the perfect hook for a science fiction YA romance.

What I'm trying to say is, this thing rocked.

Since I spent the better part of last year perfecting two manuscripts that were in a holding pattern with an editor for 9 months (then were passed over,) I am now chock full of other story ideas.  That can be good and bad.  It's great to have a lot of ideas, but it's hard to know what to focus on.  Or how to focus at all.

While listening to all the tips and wisdom at the Picture Book Summit, I took a lot of notes.  Some notes were general things that speakers were saying.  But as they spoke, I also got a lot of specific ideas for the manuscripts that I'm currently working on, and that's exciting.

I think most people think writing a picture book manuscript is easy.  (Celebrities certainly do.) Writing a mediocre picture book manuscript is easy.  Writing a great one is very, very difficult.  I'm aiming for great.

And when I'm trying to write the best picture book I can, there are many, many levels of revision.

This is where I flounder.  It is difficult to maintain the energy and fun of an idea after it's been poked and prodded for months and months - sometimes years.

So one of the best things to come out of the Picture Book Summit, for me, was a new sense of enthusiasm to get back to my projects and keep going.

I'm absolutely sure they will do this again.  If you're a picture book author/illustrator, go find Picture Book Summit on Facebook and become a member so you can get in on it next year.  And for those who put it together: Katie Davis, Jon Bard, Laura Backes, Julie Hedlund, and Emma Walton Hamilton (and all the tech people) THANK YOU so much!

Thanks for stopping in - I know I don't blog as much as I used to, but that's because I'm busy writing.  :)
Have a great week everyone!