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!

Quick question...

Ok, I think it's pretty darn awesome that we have sold over 1500 copies of Amazing Alabama on Amazon... not to mention the other ways people can purchase my book (Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, NewSouth Books, my website, and at countless museums and gift shops around the state).

But take a look at this:

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The above map shows where in the country Amazing Alabama has been purchased from Amazon. Other than the usual suspects (locations around Alabama and the southeast), I've sold books to people in California, Colorado, Washington state, Missouri, Illinois, and Massachusetts (to name just a few).

**happy dance**

Therein lies my question: What (other than the incredible artwork and insightful research - heehee), compels someone to purchase a coloring book (from a relatively unknown author/illustrator) about a state all the way across the country? Did they live here at one time? Are they a coloring book collector like me? Are they getting ready to move here and wanted to learn a bit more about our incredible state? 

Inquiring minds want to know
— The Enquirer (TM) 1981

Random holidays that are TOTALLY worth celebrating

Recently I did this survey thing on Facebook where you see what random national holiday falls on your birthday. Mine is National Pasta Day (October 17th) and I couldn't be happier. Well, that got me to thinking about all the other strange holidays we celebrate as a country (some bigger than others), and there is REALLY a holiday for just about every day of the year... and some days there are more than one! When doing all this super technical research (read: procrastinating and goofing off), I came across this list : 12 Totally Random Holidays Every Designer Should Celebrate. The article lists holidays like National Sweatpants Day (Jan 21), Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (Feb 18), and Drawing Day (May 16), but I've got a few more that I'd like to add to this list. 

Handwriting Day January 23

This is something I'm trying to get better about. When I get to writing too fast, I'm super sloppy. I'm trying to slow down and really concentrate on writing neatly.

Napping Day March 12

Seriously? This is TRULY a holiday I can get behind!
(checking calendar to make sure I'm free this day...)

No Housework Day April 18

Ok, most days are "No Housework Day" for me... but I'll totally celebrate it on April 18th!

Read a Book Day September 6

Again... clearing my calendar for this day! I absolutely LOVE to read and I've got an enormous reading list right now.

International Coffee Day October 1

Ok, I honestly celebrate this every day, but I'll be happy to make this a special holiday!

Author's Day November 1

YAY! I had NO IDEA this was a holiday! ESPECIALLY since my first book, Amazing Alabama, was officially published on November 1, 2017! It was meant-to-be! 

Make a Gift Day December 3

EVERY YEAR I like to sit down with the kiddos and make Christmas gifts. Whether we do it for one person or multiple people on our list - making gifts is something we (I) love to do! This year I'm going to have to start thinking of something SPECIAL to make on "Make a Gift Day". Maybe I'll create a DIY and you can make a gift with me! 

What random holidays do you remember to celebrate each year? Certainly I'm not the only one who can TOTALLY get behind National Inspire Your Heart With Art Day (Jan 31) or National Coloring Book Day (August 2) or Candy Corn Day (Oct 30)... Right?

The business of design

So, this title is totally misleading. I'm no businesswoman. I didn't take any business classes in college. I failed (my only failing grade - but I STILL failed) economics (micro and macro... so maybe that's TWO failing grades - whatever) and only took enough math to suffice for my fine arts degree.

For 15+ years I worked in the corporate design world and my schedule was all laid out for me. Fast forward to the summer of 2016 - I decided to branch out on my own... become my own boss... be a business owner. And not just any business - I wanted to be a work-from-home artist! 

It's incredibly rewarding, but I had no idea how hard it would be to WORK at home.

At least if you go into a place of business, it's understood that you're there to work. When I go into my office at home, there are 50,000,000 (that's a lot of zeros... but totally accurate) distractions throughout the day. The dog needs to go out. The dryer just buzzed. Dinner needs making. The neighbor's dog got out of the backyard fence AGAIN and I've got to go take her home. Oh look - there's the mailman. Dad calls to chat. One of the kids wants a popsicle. I've gotta make lunch. Someone ran through the sprinkler (again) and I need to cover the wood floor in towels so they can change clothes. 

Needless to say, my productivity hasn't been quite what it should've been. 

2 years later - here we are. I'm now in a place where I understand where I'm going wrong and I'm taking baby-steps toward a more productive business model. I'm still no business-virtuoso, but I'm working on it... slowly but surely. One thing I did today was open up my first business checking account. YAY ME! Next, my plan is to get all my business expenses (capital, licenses, software, office supplies, etc.) captured into a financial program like quickbooks or something. I think I'm going to set aside some time this afternoon to research those (as well as the one that I can sign up for through my bank). Any suggestions would be helpful.

I've also been thinking a lot about how to increase productivity. Here are a few things I've written down in my bullet journal (sorry I can't remember where these came from, so I can't credit the OP): 

What other productivity tips-and-tricks do you have? Maybe MY #1 should be to schedule out my ideal day. That way I can account for design time, drawing time, business time (instead of putting THAT part off 'til I've got a mountain of stuff to sift through), and housework time. 

Well hello there!

Remember me? I'm your fun and funky pen-and-ink artist... the one whose ashamed and appalled that it's been TWO MONTHS since posting anything. I know, I know... but I've had quite a busy couple of months launching my new book, Amazing Alabama, traveling all over the place hosting book talks and coloring parties, we moved my stepson and his girlfriend into their new (adorable) little house, we had family here for Thanksgiving, more family for Christmas, celebrating an engagement, more family after Christmas, football (GO DAWGS)... I'm POOPED! 

For now, I'm going to leave you with this little piece of SOLID GOLD!

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