Journal Tutorial

One way to promote engagement in the classroom is to provide the kids with a fun activity. Something they can make in class and use both in class and at home. What about using some of your classroom resources (that I think you already have) to make an Alabama Travel Journal? These can be used to take notes in class and mark the state Capital(s) or to draw pictures of fun landmarks around our state. They can be taken home and used during the Alabama Bicentennial to mark celebrations they want to attend or to map out their Alabama road trip for next summer.

Several of you have asked, so I’m going to give you a quick tutorial on how to make your very own Alabama Travel Journal. This activity isn’t just for 4th grade teachers! Parents, Grandparents, etc. - use these instructions and help your kiddos make their very own journal. And why not make one for yourself while you’re at it?!

There is a link to download the map (at the bottom of the page).

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Click here to download the map for the inside front cover. When you print it, chose “landscape” printing and either “full size” or “fit to page” and it will print perfectly for your book.


I hope you enjoy enjoy this fun little tutorial. ’ want to hear how your kids liked this project and I’d LOVE to see the finished product. Please shoot me an email so I can share the fun with you!

Sunny Summertime

Is there anything (other than maybe the beach) that says "summer" more than sunny sunflowers? How bright and beautiful they are. You usually think of flowers as being dainty, but not sunflowers.... some of those stalks are incredibly THICK...  they're just sturdy flowers. 

These girls had so much fun running around in the larger-than-life flowers while I took countless photos. There are plenty to choose from too - they were smiling so big that there isn't a bad picture in the bunch!

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And bees LOVE THEM too! There were THOUSANDS of big fat beed buzzing around trying to suck out all the nectar. We didn't bother them and they left us alone too - they were more interested in their meal!

I was so inspired by the sunflower patch that I came straight home and drew one of the dinner plate-sized flowers for my #100daysof4x4drawings !!

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Toes in the sand...

Summertime is beach time. 

I say that, but until last month, I hadn't been to the beach in WAY too long (like YEARS)... which is silly since we live to close to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. 

Anyway, Steve had to go down to SanDestin, Florida to speak at a conference, so we decided to make a mini-trip out of it and take a friend for Maggie (since Abby was at camp). We stayed in Sandestin for 1 night and then headed to Mexico Beach, Florida (about an hour away) for a few more days. 

We walked on the beach, we ate tons of seafood, we played games at night, we never turned the tv on, we took naps, we ate sandwiches and chips under our umbrella on the beach, we swam, we played in the sand... 

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We even ran into some sweet friends from home! 

One thing I had plenty of time for was painting and I'm so glad I took my travel paint bag with me. I usually carry a water brush and a few extra small brushes, watercolor pencils, my travel watercolor pallet, and some pens in my bag and it worked out perfectly! I'm an early-riser and I would go outside on the screened porch in the morning to start my daily painting and then I'd pack it up in my bag to paint on the beach too. 

When can I go back? Who wants to go with me? Let's rent a house and go spend a long weekend eating seafood and sitting on the beach painting!

I'll bring the umbrellas!!!

Almost there...

If you've been following me on Instagram for a while (or at least since April), you know I've been doing a 100 day project. I even quickly posted about it on the blog several weeks ago here. The task was to pick something creative to do for 100 days and stick with it... for 100 days (obvi).

Anyway, I chose 100 days of 4"x4" black and white line drawings done on my ipad and I'm currently on day 68. SIXTY-EIGHT... I can't believe I've actually stuck with this for 68 days... that's 68% of the entire project - FINISHED!

I've created a specific little hashtag for this project so go check it out to see all the drawings in my series: #100daysof4x4drawings or you can follow along with me on Instagram (if you don't already) at @alabama.pen.paper

Some of them I'm not a fan of and some days I've missed it for various reasons (I've been out of town, I've had too much other stuff going on or maybe I just wasn't feelin' it that day), but for the most part I've truly enjoyed these quick little drawings.  

Now what am I going to do all 100 of them when I'm finished?

And so it begins...

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While looking through photos the other day looking for that hideous one I posted on the blog yesterday, I came across this one. This, folks, is a picture of me on Christmas morning in about 1984-ish when I got my very first drafting table (otherwise known as an "art table"). I can't see what those papers are, but I can only imagine that I had ALREADY started "creating"...

... and I've been creating ever since!

 

Awkward phase

Everybody has a dorky phase. Everyone. Some people get over theirs when they're little, some are teenagers, some are 30, and some (like me) have super awkward dorky phase that lasts from about age 7 all the way 'til they're out of college. I mean, it was the 80's... being dorky was cool, right? 

Come on...don't leave me hanging over here...

Whatever... I'm saying I win. 

Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted 20 random non-artsy facts about myself and fact #8 was about my favorite stuffed animal growing up - Goat Boy. Since NOBODY asked, I thought I'd share a bit more about him. I got Goat Boy at Carowinds in Charlotte when my dad's company went there for their company picnic one year. We usually went to a park and had an ACTUAL picnic and played games (egg toss, sack races, bingo, etc.), but this year we went to an amusement park. Dad told me when we got there that he would buy me one thing and to make sure I made the right choice, I waited until the very end of the day to choose. We were literally walking out of the park and Dad said, "If you don't choose something NOW, we're leaving!" I looked up and the heavens parted (literally - Goat Boy was hanging from the ceiling at this little toy hut) and I said, "I want that one" and pointed to my new best friend. There have been debates over the years if Goat Boy is in fact a goat or a deer or a llama... but I know the truth. He's CLEARLY a goat (and a very handsome one, if I might add)!

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This picture of me with Goat Boy is from about 1985-or-so. I'm not sure why Goat Boy is wearing clothes in this picture... maybe they're pajamas. He normally chose to wear only his birthday suit and I'm ok with that because he is a GOAT. For that matter, what am I wearing? I hope to goodness it's some sort of pajamas or gown... or maybe it's a robe. 

I still have Goat Boy, although I'm not sure where he is. But you wanna know what else I still have too? The airbrush t-shirt I had made in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Goat Boy's portrait on the front. Wait, what? Why yes, I did say, "Airbrush"... everyone had a shirt with their favorite stuffed animal on the front, didn't they?

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I was talking to my husband the other day about Goat Boy and our secret language (Shut Up!!... I was an only child, ok?) and he brought up something about my wonderfully realistic airbrush portrait of Goat Boy... Can you IMAGINE what the artist thought? Good grief... what a DORK I was!!! I mean, she did a GREAT job on the representation, but can you imagine what she was thinking as Goat Boy was sitting for his portrait? 

Well, my parents thought I was cool...

At least I THINK they did....

 

Art journal play time

If you follow me on instagram, you've probably already seen these either in my feed or my story. My usual black-and-white drawings are still there, but I've been playing around with bold bright colors lately in my art journals. 

Yes, I said journals plural... as in "more than one". BUT I can have multiples because I practice different techniques in each one of them. One is a reclaimed agenda that my daughter NEVER used (I am priming the pages with gesso as I go), one is a watercolor journal with super thick pages, one is a cute journal I got at Hatch Show Print in Nashville, and one is just an old book that I'm playing around with painting in. 

 

Everybody else uses multiple journals too, right?

20 random, non-artsy facts about me...

Ok, I'm having writers block today, so what Im going to attempt to do is give you 20 normal, random, non-artsy facts about me. 

EDITED: this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Not including art-related stuff? That makes up a HUGE part of my life! 

  1. I played the handbells in high school. I went to a small private high school and handbells was one of my electives. Weird, I know. I haven't picked one up in over 20 years, but I can still remember my part in Carol Of The Bells.
  2. I love the color orange. Red orange, sunset orange, pumpkin... LOVE!
  3. I LOVE taking my shoes off. Seriously, as soon as we walk in the door, I flip them off - in the kitchen... much to the dismay of my husband. 
  4. I collect Chinese Checkers boards. I've got several and I'm always looking for "new" ones when I'm in antique stores. I found a really cool one the other day, but it was $65. That's a bit much for me. 
  5. I'm an only child. No siblings... my Mom and Dad were my playmates. 
  6. I LOVE the smell of gardenias. WE have a huge gardenia bush in our backyard and I cut a new batch of flowers every few days in the early summer to bring inside. 1 gardenia blossom can make an entire room smell HEAVENLY!
  7. My favorite flower is a Black Eye Susan. They're so happy and sunny and I LOVE to see them growing wild on the side of the road.
  8. I had a goat stuffed animal when I was a kid and his name was "Goat Boy".  Go on, laugh... I bet I'm ALSO the only person who had an airbrushed t-shirt of her goat stuffed animal. Ok, don't make fun - remember I said I was an only child? Yeah... my PARENTS thought I was cool...
  9. I LOVE grape flavored stuff. Grape soda, grape bubble gum, grape koolaid, grape popsicles... 
  10. I love to read and re-read books. When I find a book I love, I will read it over and over again. I like to read new books too, but there's something neat about re-reading an old book... I ALWAYS find something new the second (or third) time I read it. 
  11. Taco soup is probably my favorite meal. It's so cheap and easy and I make a HUGE batch and we eat on it for at least 2 days (3 if the kids are at their Dad's and it's just me and Steve). Steve likes to eat his with Tostitos Scoops.
  12. I hate to vacuum. I put it off and put it off 'til I can't stand it anymore. We're talkin' dog hair blowing around like tumbleweeds. 
  13. I hit a lull just now and asked my 12 year old to give me a fact about myself and she said, "you love to cook". She's right - I love to cook.... and I'm really good at it too. I like to try new recipes, but for the most part - I just make it up as I go. One thing I can't cook though - biscuits. Can I even call myself southern if I can't make biscuits? 
  14. I'm allergic to cats. Yes I have a cat. Yes I'm allergic to her. My allergies aren't as bad as they USED to be, but if the accidentally scratches me, I get all itchy and my skin swells up like a mosquito bite. 
  15. I LOVE pens. I have hundreds - felt tip, brush pens, fine tip, markers, gel pens, ball point pens, fountain pens. It's not an obsession... I prefer to call myself a connoisseur. For real.
  16. I have a pair of Teva sandals that I bought in 1996 or 1997 and I'm still wearing them in 2018. I know they have made leaps-and-bounds in comfort, but my shoes still look brand new... If it aint broke - don't fix it (or buy new ones).
  17. My youngest loves stuffed animals (specifically pigs) and I'm more than happy to buy them for her, because you know what? I love stuffed animals too. 
  18. If I had to chose my last meal, it would be pinto beans (cooked with a ham bone), soupy taters, and cornbread with spicy chow chow. My Granny was an EPIC cook and she could make an awesome meal out of the most humble of ingredients: a $0.99 bag of dried beans, a leftover ham bone, a $2 bag of potatoes, a little bit of butter, and some cornmeal. 
  19. I would LOVE to have a chicken coop in my backyard to have fresh eggs and sweet chickens clucking and pecking around. They're allowed in our city, but I don't have a fenced in backyard, so I need to figure that out first. 
  20. I like to sew. I don't do it very often anymore, but I used to love to be elbow-deep in a box of fabric scraps piecing together a quilt or hemming pants or sewing curtains... there's a really awesome sense of accomplishment when you make something useful. 

Maybe that last one was a bit artsy, but not in the traditional sense (painting, drawing, crafting, creating, etc.). So that was 20 random non-artsy facts about me. These were really fun to come up with! 

 

 

Excitement Among the Fish

FLIMP Festival or BUST!

Last weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and did something I've never done before. Actually, THREE things I've never done before...

  1. I created a sidewalk chalk drawing... on asphalt.
  2. I competed in an art competition (sidewalk chalk art).
  3. I did all this in front of other people... like PUBLIC ART... while people were watching!

So this is what I started with...

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The FLIMP Festival is an art festival at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art and it's a 2 day event. Friday is the day for chalk art and Saturday is the day they are open to the public. There are crafts, dance and musical performances, food trucks, competitions, and of course - the chalk art. I don't know how many people usually enter this competition (it was my first time), and I was contestant #111. 

So the theme this year was "Gulf Coast Jubilee" and it was based off two different  exhibits they have going on right now inside the museum. As demonstrated by the other artists, "Gulf Coast Jubilee" could be interpreted to mean many different things having to do with the gulf coast of Alabama. Mobile, Mardi Gras, beachy stuff, sea life, mermaids... I chose to interpret it in the literal sense

...Hundreds of live sea crabs and fish... completely covered the beach at Point Clear and Zundels Sunday morning. A fisherman of experience in explaining the unusual occurrence stated that it was a “jubilee”... People who saw the wild scramble of fish and crabs on the sandy beach say they won’t soon forget the sight.
— Mobile Daily Register, July 29, 1912

To me, a "Gulf Coast Jubilee" is the natural phenomenon (I LOVE that word - phenomenon) which occurs on the beaches of Mobile Bay at least one time per year. All kinds of crab, shrimp, red fish, flounder and eels will go absolutely crazy and swim ashore. It's usually in the early-dawn hours and people come from all over the place to harvest this easy-to-catch seafood! 

EXCITEMENT AMONG THE FISH—Yesterday all the fish in the bay seemed to be making for the Eastern shore. Large numbers of crabs, flounders and other fish were found at the water’s edge, and taken in out of the wet. They were counted by the bushel. Annually this phenomenon occurs with the fish along the Eastern shore. They all appear to forsake the deep water, and swim and cluster in immense numbers to the shore.
— Mobile Daily Register, July 17, 1867

If you would like to read more about the Gulf Coast Jubilee, you can go here or here, or you can watch a really cool video of it here. My piece, titled "Excitement Among the Fish" paid tribute to this natural phenomenon.

And here is the final piece - Excitement Among the Fish

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And guess what..... 

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So I GUESS that means I accomplished 4 new things and not just 3... Not only have I never entered an art competition (until last weekend), but I've NEVER WON either! 

Alabama Book Festival

A few weekends ago I was privileged to be invited to the Alabama Book Festival set at Old Alabama Town in downtown Montgomery. I presented Amazing Alabama on a panel with Peter Huggins, who talked about his latest book, Thibodeaux and the Fish and (of course) we came home with our very own signed copy of his book. 

Later in the day, I was given the honor of interviewing my good friend Ash Parsons about her new book The Falling Between Us and we had so much fun! Not only am I a total "fan-girl" of Ash's, but we're also really good friends, so it was a super easy, laid-back interview. Her genre is young adult, but both of her books are extremely rich with emotion and drama and suspense. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her!

Other than authors giving book talks and interviews, there were workshops (podcasts, writing, etc.), vendors (my publisher NewSouth Books was there), book sales and author signings, food trucks and tons of fun activities for kids. The Alabama Book Festival is an event I always love going to. 

Here are a few photos from the day:

That one photo may or may not be of Ash and I posing with some Disney princesses (and prince).

You'll never know...

 

 

And YES, I finally got Ash to sign my copies of both of her books. 

MIA... update

Ok, so I'm ashamed to say that I just looked at my last blog post... and it was almost a month ago. Ooopsie. I was hoping I'd get better about the frequency of my posting, but I'm just having trouble MAKING myself sit down and write. Writing is something I've never really been too fond of and I don't honestly think I'm that good at it. Right now I'm doing an online "business for creatives" class that teaches you how to take your art/business to the next level. It's called Level Up, and it's by Caylee Grey, and I really love it. ANYWAY, lesson one (#1... the VERY FIRST LESSON right out of the gate) is about writing.

Wouldn't you know it?

Write your story. The story of me. My story as an artist and business owner. 

Whatever... I guess writing IS pretty important...

 

SIDE-TRACK OVER. Sorry.

I wanted to give y'all a bit of an update on all things "me"... What's been happening in the world of Laura Murray Creative! Well for starters, I'm working on a 100 day project of little 4" line drawings. Some are things out of my head and some are everyday things like my dog sitting in her bed looking out the window. I'm sharing those images on my Instagram @alabama.pen.paper and I've created a specific hashtag if you want to look those up: #100daysof4x4drawings . I'm on day #29 right now and they're really making me happy (for the most part...  a few of those days I just wasn't feeling creative and I struggled... I see you, Day 22 and Day 24). Here are a few of those images to whet your appetite: 

Last week I had the honor of being the guest artist at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn at their Family Art Day, and it was a BLAST! We made our own "Amazing Alabama" travel journals. The little books included a fun colored front and back cover, a county map of Alabama, some plain pages, some graph paper pages (because who DOESN'T love to draw on graph paper?), and we stitched it all together using a VERY simple version of the Japanese stab-binding technique. This is a very detailed version of our binding.

Here are a few photos from the event: 

The 4th photo from the left I'm with my friend, the fabulous artist Lauren, who owns The Local Market in Auburn. LOVE her!

Another thing I've been working on is my garden... finally. I'm super excited about the things I've got growing this year. I planted 3 different types of tomatoes (1 large slicing tomato, one heirloom grape tomato, and one yellow cherry tomato - my FAVORITE), bush peas, vine peas, sweet potatoes, romaine (because why not - I MISS eating salad), mesclun, chives, basil, rosemary (my plant didn't fare too well over the winter), heirloom carrots, radishes, and spinach.  I don't have a HUGE garden, but I only planted small amounts of everything. My biggest issue with our garden is that we don't have FULL SUN ALL DAY. It's full sun for a few hours, then dappled sun the rest of the day. Surprisingly tomatoes and peas work pretty well back there - I'm just waiting to see about the other stuff... 

All-in-all, I'm keeping busy. Between drawing and the yard and the garden and cleaning house and working on a few new projects (more on that later) and end of school tests and recitals and stuff, I'm ready for summer.

Are you?

 This is just a fun little spread I've been working on in my art journal...

This is just a fun little spread I've been working on in my art journal...

writers block?

My goal is to write a couple of times per week, but I'm having trouble making myself SIT DOWN and do it. I have so many ideas for new designs swirling around in my head all the time that I have no problem picking up the iPad or my journal and sketching out 5-10 new drawings at a moments notice. But writing... it isn't really second nature to me. 

Any bloggers or writers out there have any suggestions? I found a few motivational posts on Pinterest (like this one and also this one) with things to write about, but (true to Laura-form) I keep reading through those lists trying to decide what I want to do. Hahaha. 

So... right now I'm just going to REMIND MYSELF of this super fun quote I found recently:

The most effective way to do it, is to do it.
— Amelia Earhart

And... I'm doing it. I'm writing about nothing, but I'm WRITING. 

retreat

I have always romanticized painting en plein air. Know what that is? 

The official definition is "pertaining to a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio."

In layman's terms, painting "en plein air" means painting outside - what is right in front of you. The term was coined in the late 1800's during the impressionist movement in France by the likes of VanGogh, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, Rosseau, and so many more. Monet famously painted hundreds of different views of his garden at his home in Giverny, and recently, art conservators even found a dead grasshopper embedded in the brush strokes of one of VanGogh's paintings.

Painting en plein air is something i love to do, but it's a luxury I really don't make time for. 

That's why I REALLY want to go to an artist retreat. A quiet picturesque place where I can bring all my art supplies and just paint or draw. Like this place in Virginia. It sounds just luxurious and LOOK at the photo gallery! How can you NOT be relaxed and creative in a place like this? You can take any kind of classes you want (painting, printmaking, drawing, etc.) and you have plenty of free time to just sit outside in the gorgeous "plein air" and get creative. 

I hear what you're thinking - why can't I just set aside a weekend around home to sit outside and paint? I could... and I probably will one weekend soon... but it's different. If I'm at home I'm distracted by the dishwasher and tv and phone and kids and cooking and laundry and a billion  other things I SHOULD be doing.  

So for now, I guess I'll see about buying myself a travel easel and supply box like this or this or even this

Weekend road-trip

This past weekend was an epic road trip adventure through the incredible state of Alabama.

Friday started with my book, Amazing Alabama, being used as decorations for the Alabama Society Daughters of the Revolution state conference on Friday afternoon. I was so incredibly honored, and the ladies all LOVED the centerpieces.

After the DAR conference, Maggie and I were joined by our friends, Shannon and Avery, and we headed north! The first stop in our trip was the Florence Lauderdale Public Library for a book talk. We really had a great time learning about Alabama, the history of coloring, and we even learned some new coloring tips and tricks! 

After the book talk was over, we enjoyed some local Florence flavor at Trowbridges (who is celebrating their 100th birthday this year). If you eat there, you have to MAKE SURE you get the pineapple orange ice cream, which is on the list of 100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die. It's super creamy and delicious! After filling our bellies, we went to see Leo III and Una, the sibling lions on the campus of UNA, the Rosenbaum house (Alabama's only Frank Lloyd Wright house), and Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller. We even got to see the infamous water well where Annie Sullivan taught her "water".   

The next day we drove through Cullman on the way home and stopped at the Ave Maria Grotto. This is one of those hidden gems in the state that everybody should go see at some point in their life. The dedication and artistry of Brother Joseph was incredible. 

Our Alabama road trip came to a close with a trip to Whataburger, a visit to the marble quarry in Sylacauga, and a road trip classic... coke and peanuts! These 2 little girls had never tried this southern delicacy before... What kind of mother am I???

Backtracking just slightly, I wanted to say that throughout our entire trip, we had fun getting our Past Ports stamped. If you don't have one yet, you can get them HERE. If you don't know what they are, you can learn about them HERE. It's a really cool booklet that's $10 and you can go around on your own epic Alabama road trip getting stamps from all the 67 counties! In fact, you can use it in conjunction with your very own copy of Amazing Alabama - get your Past Port stamped and color the county you're visiting. 

Maggie and Avery already have 3 stamps (I've got 4)... how many do you have?

Mini-tutorial

One thing I love to do is write fun titles on everything. Whether it's for my kids' school projects, or my journal/calendar, or our weekly menu, or on to do lists... I just like to make things LOOK special. If it's pretty, I'm more likely to look at it or pay attention to it. Those of you who know me know about my colorful bullet journal/calendar. It just makes me happy to open it up and have all these colors and fun stuff staring back at me. 

Anyway, I wanted to give you a quick rundown of how I make one of my fun titles. This is my favorite way to create them and it's super easy. I'm not using anything you can't get at Target or Walmart. Since today is the first day of March, we're going to letter the word "March" in a fun spring green.

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After I get the word written with my super fancy CRAYOLA MARKERS (heehee), I'm going to go over it with a quick outline. In this instance I'm using a professional drafting pen, but any felt tip or gel pen will work. 

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So far, so good... right? Next I'm going to take a light grey marker and create a slight drop-shadow on the letters. I like my drop shadows to be to the bottom right (personal preference).

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At this point you COULD be finished. Or you could add a bit of a white highlight to the letters (like I did) with a white gel pen. It NEEDS to be a gel pen because they sit up on top of the paper and whatever else pen/marker/color you have below it. 

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There you have it! A nice bold fun header for whatever you're working on! 

If you try this technique, shoot me an email or tag me on IG at #alabama.pen.paper !!!

 

Work in progress...

You all know by now that I have published a book called Amazing Alabama - our state's first coloring book. It took me a little under a year to complete and each of the 67 counties has its very own coloring pages. I'm not originally from Alabama and didn't get to take Alabama History in the 4th grade, so this was a really cool research project for me. 

Well, now I'm working on the Georgia version. It's not going to be called "Gorgeous Georgia", but if you have any other ideas for a good name, please shoot me an email and let me know. Anyway, Georgia has 159 counties (as opposed to Alabama's only 67), so this book will be structured a bit differently. Not ALL of the counties are going to have their own page - mainly for logistical reasons. Nobody wants a 180 page coloring book that would probably cost $40! Not to worry - all of the counties will be represented. 

I actually grew up in Georgia - Athens, in fact. My Dad was in sales and used to drive those Georgia backroads all the time. He has been really instrumental in helping me figure out neat "off the beaten path" things to include. I'm about 1/8 of the way through right now. That's not as far as I'd like to be, but I'm having to do a lot of weeding through... Georgia has a TON of really neat things! I've been sharing a few things here-and-there on my Facebook and Instagram, so if you don't already follow me, you NEED TO. Hey, you've got to stay up-to-date with everything! 

 

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One of the really cool things I had to include is in Athens (Clarke County). Did you know that there's a tree that doesn't belong to anyone? The (very edited) story goes like this: a man died and left a trust in the name of his favorite tree (yes, a TREE) so that it would be taken care of in perpetuity. This tree is rightfully called, "the tree that owns itself".

 

Bulloch County, GA is home to the U.S. National Tick Museum at Georgia Southern University. Let me tell you - let felt like CHRISTMAS when I found that little gem!

 

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This one is still in the sketch-phase, but the world's ONLY life sized elephant funerary monument is in Colquitt County. Did you know that? I sure didn't...

 

Cobb County, in north Atlanta, is home to the Big Chicken, a fast food beacon that has been around for over 50 years. At one point it was scheduled to be torn down, but the people of Cobb County pitched a fit and started a petition to save it! If you've never seen the Big Chicken, you really need to make a special trip. 

 

I'm already planning an epic Georgia road trip this summer with one of my daughters. We're going to try to hit all 159 of the counties. Has anyone else done this? I need to get a brand new crisp (properly folded) Georgia map and draw out a route for us... tell me I'm not the only one who still does this...

What neat things have YOU found along the backroads in Georgia that I need to make sure we see?

Bullock County, Alabama

Back before Christmas I had the privilege of meeting Midge Putnam, from Bullock County, at a meeting in Opelika. Midge is like a one-man-band, and I get the idea that she's really good at what all she is involved with! She works with the Red Door Theater, the Tourism Council of Bullock County, she's a Spanish Teacher at Conecuh Springs Christian School, she's an active mom, and she's also really involved in the local Girl Scouts! Anyway, we started talking about ways she could get me down to Union Springs for a series of book talks. It started out small (I was just going to come to a local bookclub and talk), but I had no idea how incredible this day would turn out to be!

Several weeks ago, after she and I had already nailed down our plans for the bookclub talk, she sent me an excited email saying that ALL the 4th graders in Bullock County were getting their very own copy of my book, and would I mind coming a bit early to visit the schools. 

We visited 2 schools that day - the first one being Union Springs Elementary School Those kids were so excited and they asked really incredible questions. They quietly looked through their books and followed along as I talked about several of our state's 67 counties. Their Principal, Marvin Lowe, really should be proud of his smart, excited kids who are so eager to learn. And at Conecuh Springs Christian School, we were joined by Debbie Collins' sweet 4th grade class to learn all about Bullock County, coloring, the Bicentennial, and a whole host of other things that our state's 67 counties have to offer! 

A HUGE "Thank You" to people like Midge who see how endless the possibilities are when it comes to educating our youth and getting kids EXCITED about learning. I know Amazing Alabama is a coloring book, but if I can get just one person to show a new interest in something they learn about our incredible state, then I think I've done my job!

Let's talk about color...

What are your favorite art materials for coloring?
— the #1 question I get asked when I am talking to groups about my book

I think it goes without saying that crayons have had their day. Everyone has picked up a crayon at some point in their life and most of us remember the smell with fondness. Today I usually chose something other than crayons, but I'm not saying I don't ever use them (ok, I honestly can't tell you the last time I've picked up a crayon). Since the sharpened tip gets worn down so fast on crayons, they are really only good for coloring right out of the brand new box (unless you get one of those huge delux boxes that has the little sharpener on the back), or coloring large things - like the sky, the background, etc. Crayons are also wax-base, so there's no mixing them with other materials. The wax resists ANYTHING water based (markers, pens, etc.). 

Speaking of water based markers and pens, that brings me to one of the coloring implements I can't do without - Crayola Supertips. You can buy a set of 50 of these at Back-To-School time for about $3, or you can click on this link to order them on Amazon. I love these because they're cheap, they come in TONS of colors, they don't bleed through (most) paper, and they have this neat thick/thin tip so you can practice calligraphy (crayligraphy) with them. 

Another ink-based product that I REALLY like is a nice set of fine tip pens. My FAVORITE set is the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners (link here), but the more inexpensive Paper Mate Flair Pens (link here) work well too. They both come in oooooodles of great colors and are PERFECT for writing or coloring in those tiny hard-to-reach spaces. You can find these at Target or WalMart (as well as Amazon) and the prices are going to be comparable. 

But I would be remiss without mentioning (in depth) my favorite thing to color with - Prismacolor colored pencils. I bought my first set in 1997 when they were on my supplies list in college (fine arts classes) and I've never looked back. I have since bought several sets over the years to supplement my old ones (as I wear them out), but some of the originals are still around. Prismacolors are the best because they're professional grade and the lead (it's not actually "lead", but that's what I'm going to call i) has more pigment and less filler, so the color is richer and brighter. They can be layered, mixed, smudged, and you can draw over them with your fine tip pens (or markers) since they're not totally waxy (think: crayons). Now, you can use Crayola brand colored pencils if that's what you have - there's no requirement for buying the super fancy colored pencils. What I AM telling you though, is that once you use the good ones, you can totally tell the difference in the quality and the way they feel. My kids are completely spoiled and have to have to use my pencils when they have school projects... In their eyes - all others are inferior!

One drawback is that these pencils are quite a bit more expensive than the generic or Crayola version. A tin of 72 Prismacolor colored pencils will set you back around $80 if you buy them in a Michael's or Hobby Lobby, but you can get the EXACT same thing on Amazon (this link) for under $25! 

When you have your pencils, pens, markers and coloring book (hopefully you're coloring in my new book, Amazing Alabama) all laid out and ready to color, please HUMOR ME and remember these 5 simple rules:

1) PRACTICE! Coloring is like learning and instrument or playing sports - if you don't practice, you're never going to get any better at it!
2) GO SLOW! It's not a race. You don't have to finish the entire coloring book in 2 hours. Really take your time and build/blend your colors to get a really nice effect... without destroying the tips of your freshly sharpened pencils!
3) Keep your pencils sharp and re-cap your markers/felt tip pens. Coloring with sharp pencils gives you more control over where you add the color, and re-capping your pens should be a no-brainer! All the water-based pens/markers that we are using are going to dry out if left uncapped. Protect your assets and make sure your caps are securely fastened!
4) Always, always, ALWAYS test your ink first! I included a tester page in the front of my coloring book, but if the book you're using doesn't have one, just flip to the back page to test your markers. You need top make sure you're only coloring the image you intended to color - and not the page below (bleed-through). 
5) You don't always have to follow the rules. Coloring is about experimenting and trying new things, so have fun and get CREATIVE!

Read Alabama...

I'm so incredibly honored to be included among the other 3 incredible authors who are participating in this year's Read Alabama events in Jasper, Alabama. 

CLICK HERE to learn more about the event, get directions, or to add it to your calendar!