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!