Friday, January 12, 2018

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday Post - January 12th

Hey everyone!

So it's been an incredibly hectic start to the new year here! It seems like it might be late February before we can get "caught up" and then I will be taking off 12 days early in March to go home for a visit which will, of course, put me way behind again I suspect. *sigh*

It's best to just keep the focus on the day in front of you when it all feels a bit overwhelming and that is usually what I prefer to do anyway. Sometimes though I can't help but look ahead and it's never a good idea really! lol

So then, deep breath. . . and let's focus here and now and I'll just take a treasured moment with a cup of coffee and a date and almond pastry to share with you this month's inspirations and oddities! :)


First, and I could spend an entire blog post on this one, is an Irish animated film that we watched recently called "The Song of the Sea".

Song of the Sea follows the story of a 10-year-old Irish boy named Ben (David Rawle) who discovers that his mute sister Saoirse, whom he blames for the apparent death of his mother, is a Selkie who has to free faerie creatures from the Celtic goddess Macha.

This film, every frame of it, is entirely hand drawn, a rarity in this modern age of digital and, I believe, it is part of what makes the film so breathtaking. This had been on our "to watch" list for a few years and we almost removed it because we rarely seem to take or make the time in any one evening to watch a full length movie. 

I am SO glad we watched this though!!! Now that I'm infused with the beauty of Song of the Sea, I have to say that this is one of the most visually stunning animated films ever made. It's awe-inspiring and filled with absolute magic. 

One of countless beautiful still-frames from "Song of the Sea"

Now, as I am always looking at the natural world for inspirations for my written stories I thought I'd share a few links to some of those wonders that I have yet to figure out what to do with but which will remain on my list for the future. :)

How about a world that has "glass" katydids? Ohhh, that would be OUR world! :)

Glass Katydid

I've heard of luminescent jellyfish and have seen many photos of them. . . but never saw one in action in the deep!

Halitrephes Jelly

And one more. . .

The reality of the prehistoric world of dinosaurs gets more interesting all the time!!!

Duck, Duck, Duck. . . Dinosaur?


And lastly, I've mentioned before that I have been quite taken with the world of RPG's of late. What began with Gary Gygax and the original Dungeons and Dragons over 40 years ago has become a force again in our world with a resurgence today and it seems to only be growing and expanding in it's creative influence. So a shout out to Wizards of the Coast who achieved a rather impressive feat. Topping MANY best seller lists this past month with their release of "Xanathar's Guide to Everything".  Amazon, USA Today, Detroit Free Press and on and on. . . it's already the most successful D&D related book of all time and what makes it more amazing is it sells as a "non-fiction" book because it's a rules and world primer! Only in D&D my friends could a non fiction book about a fictional game world become a best seller! :)

RPG's are creating a whole new generation of storytellers and I find so much inspiration in the way these stories are collaboratively told. The sci-fi/fantasy genre is only going to grow in the coming years which is great news for all of us who love the places they can take us.


Hoping your week ahead is INSPIRED and at least a little ODD!!

Thank you for reading!
nicolas

Friday, January 5, 2018

Five Words for 2018 - First Friday Post - January 5th

Happy New Year to you all! I hope the first days of the year have been bright and inspired in each of your worlds. :)

Over the years I've had quite a few people ask about the words I choose each New Year as my focus words for the coming 365 days. Thinking of it again of late, I have been more focused on exactly how that process works and the answers were a bit surprising to me,  so I thought I would share them here with you as well as the words that I've chosen for 2018.

I tend to not spend too much time choosing the words each year. At least, not right at the end. I start thinking of them early in December and by the last days of the Year, I pretty much have the new words settled on.

What I discovered this last week or so as I thought about 2017's words was that the words really reveal themselves to me and I learn the most about them in relation to myself at the END of the year!
All year I DO see them above my calendar or on my desktop and I take time with them all at some point, maybe picking one for a day to really focus on or apply. But it is at the end of the year, when I am looking back, that I seem to find how those words worked for me or what I learned over that year as it pertains to them.

Last year, one of the words I chose was "Vagary".  Strange word, right? It is. . . and I chose it for it's more archaic definition which I only discovered as it was Merriam Webster's word of the day sometime before and it just sort of stuck with me in the back of my mind.

"In the 16th century, if you "made a vagary" you took a wandering journey, or you figuratively wandered from a correct path by committing some minor offense. If you spoke or wrote vagaries, you wandered from a main subject. These senses hadn't strayed far from their origin, as vagary is probably based on Latin vagari, meaning "to wander." Indeed, in the 16th and 17th centuries there was even an English verb vagary that meant "to wander." Nowadays, the noun vagary is mostly used in its plural form, and vagaries have more to do with unpredictability than with wandering."

I chose the word hoping that it's own wandering in the sense of it's definition over the years might help remind me to wander in my creative journey. To stray from the well worn path. To pay attention to, or think back on, my own wandering journeys in life. Maybe even to be a little more unpredictable creatively. So how it affected me on any given day I cannot recall BUT I know that as I spent time over this last week of the year looking back, I DID practice and invoke vagary and I can see how the wandering I did in my creative work paid off.

My life, I came to see, has been one great adventure in vagary. Changing careers four times, each by choice even when things were just fine in the previous ones. Striking out on the cusp of 40 years old to begin an art practice/Etsy shop by taking up a new medium of polymer clay. Moving across the country on a gut feeling just before I turned 24. Living in a big city til then, then a small town, then onto another big city and now a small town again.

Yes, I've wandered. Strayed from the path. Practiced vagary before I even knew the word had that older meaning.

So in realizing that these words seem to etch themselves deepest at the end of the year, I decided to choose five words for 2018 and went with simpler, less archaic choices. lol

Because these are words I might easily overlook in that search for a little pizazz. (Ooooooh wait. . . pizazz. . . hello word for 2019!)

For 2018, I chose these five words:

Challenge - challenge myself to try new creative ideas, follow inspirations, push forward on my bigger long term goals, stretch my comfort zone into the difficult and uncertain creatively and challenge myself to venture into realms not yet explored in myth, fantasy and sci-fi reading. 

Value - Value my work and my time. I have often undercharged for just about everything I've done in life at some point or another. I forget, when say we are speaking of custom orders, to factor in the time spent communicating, planning, looking for materials I need and trying and retrying techniques etc. Maybe it's meant to show me how to value my time by accepting fewer commissions so I can do even more of the work my heart wants to do. I've also recently begun donating to funding art projects on kickstarter. I'm learning to discern value of what I give to there as well since I cannot donate to everyone I would like to. 

Whimsy - Sofie laughed at this one because, really, do I need a reminder of this? lol But yes, I do, and in this case I am thinking most of my writing. Finding the balance between a good, emotive and large scale story and the magic of a fantasy world. A small example: It's all well and good that I've included the plausible use of messenger birds for long a distance/expedient message delivery system but where's the whimsy? Ahhhh, so then I decide that these are "honey guides",  birds who find their way home or to another location based on a particular scent/strain of honey that they are conditioned to seek out and identify. And they have small quivers on their backs to carry the messages. There are real "honey guide" birds in our world though they are not messengers. . . all I did was stretch the truth a bit there to make them more homing pigeon-like if one could train them to discern the various scents of the honey over distances. :)   So yes, finding whimsy around every corner in the year to come. 

Organization - OK, yes. . . Boring! But boy could I use a bit more of this. Work space, packing room, notes and ideas, recipes, you name it. I tend to let things get a bit too in disarray before I tackle them and that's never fun.

Routine - As in a more monastic sense of the word. Monasteries have always fascinated me no matter the type or the belief. I've spent time in a Zen monastery here in the NW though I am also drawn to the Benedictine rule and Franciscan sects and the schedules they keep. Now if the pslams and vespers were say, writing and creating time instead, I'd be in a robe faster than you could blink an eye!!  The simplicity of the life and the repetition of it is what draws me.  I need it to be my most productive.  Work periods, meal periods, end of day etc. Not so regimented that there is no room for spontaneity but certainly most days, most weeks, and most hours are best filled with that scheduled intent for me. 


       So what will those all bring? Well I hope to share anything along the way if it pops up but it will likely be the end of 2018 before I can look back and assess all the little things that came to pass under each heading.  Once, in the Zen monastery, I was sent out into the world after a weekend retreat with a task. To pick a location and watch the entry door of said place for a few hours. Just to observe how people reacted and related to that door. It seemed pretty Zen and I expected to not "get it" because, you know. . . Zen.

None of the openings of the door were memorable in and of their own BUT, at the end of the day, the cumulative effect was very striking. I saw such a variety of ways people approached the door, how close they got before grabbing the door knob, if they were regulars I could tell because the door had a "hitch" to it, the doorknob was rickety and lower down on the frame than normal. Also, the door opened in and not out as most non-regulars seemed to expect it to. I saw how some people held the door for others while some were so in their own heads they didn't notice the person right behind them. I noticed people approach confidently or with a strong step and others cautiously and tentative as if the door might bite. . . And on and on. All of that from observing a door over a period of time.

So that's how I find the words work best. Over the long haul. I don't expect an enlightening occurrence any one time I choose to focus on a word. But 12 months from now? We'll see. ;)

Next month I will be back to my usual First Friday post showing new work.

Thank you for coming by, as always,

nicolas







Friday, December 29, 2017

An Exciting Year Ahead - 5th Friday Post - December 29th

Hi Everyone!

So here we are on the cusp of yet another New Year.  I've written before about no longer making resolutions but there ARE a few things I DO like to do before or at the New Year.

First, I love to choose three words that I want to be my focus for the coming year. I print them out and keep them above my editing station and I check in with them from time to time.  I haven't settled on any of the three yet for 2018 but I feel I DID manage to stay true to the ones I chose for this past year, especially "diligence".

Second is an old family tradition that I loved when I was a kid. Every New Years Eve I put several coins out on the windowsill and leave them out overnight until New Years day. The coins should be silver (symbolically, not literally) and when you bring them in on New Years Day, you put them somewhere safe so that you do not spend them the rest of the year. If you do this, it is said to ensure that you'll always have enough through the year and I will say that it's always worked for me. . . but not when I was a teenager. . . I was always broke then. : )

Third, I will make my annual reading pledge at Goodreads. Last year I chose 30 books as my goal and ended up reading 33 or 34 I think. . . I may increase it to 40 this year ( I can always sneak a few comic collections or graphic novels in if needed).

I'm looking forward, as always, to the year ahead. I've got a full range of new ideas for my shops, I'll be furthering work on "The Ledgerkeepers" novel, working on off Etsy web sites for that world and for my Shadow of the Sphinx shop. Oh and I will be starting up on Instagram in January!

Ok, can I just make two small complaints about instagram already? I signed up and chose an account name a few weeks ago.  It's not my name OR any of my Etsy shop names by the way. . . that's just me preferring a little anonymity. . . . and I was immediately bombarded with a list of people I might know/want to follow. Now, I have not been active on any social media platform for quite some time and so almost all of these people they've recommended are from the distant past. . . I just find it creepy that they instantly know and are linking me to people who I've known in the past! AND, I checked in yesterday just to get myself ready and I already have two dozen followers. . . only one of them is someone I know, the rest are random accounts, some seem fake, and a few local area business accounts. Come on now.  I have ZERO posts! Why would anyone who does not know me be following me already???  What if I start posting really bizarre or disturbing art? Still wanna be my friend there "Tiny Vacation Home Rental in PDX"?
Hmmm?

OK, rant over. :)

That said, I AM looking forward to getting the visual feed going and I am secretly hoping it allows me to find artists who inspire me from all over the world, like the old days on Myspace when it was still cool and ad free.

Well, I think that's it for this edition. . .

I am sending wishes to you all for a wonderful start to your own New Years and may it be filled with light, love and inspiration each and every day!

XO

Nicolas


Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas! - Fourth Friday Post - December 22nd, 2017

Hello everyone!

Since we have five Fridays this month I am going to take this one to wish each of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule!

I hope the last 10 days of this year are filled with light, love and the making of wonderful memories!

When I return next week, I'll go back to the Bewildering Pine, my usual fourth Friday post. In January I will begin revealing a bit more about the world I am creating in greater detail but next Friday's post will focus on the why.

Why I am taking time out from an already busy creative life to write these stories and create this elaborate world, what inspired them and where do my characters come from.

So until then, I send love and light to all of you!

Oh, I wanted to share this with you all too. Each Solstice or Equinox Sofie and I chose two fairy guardians for our altar. Last night it was time to pick our Winter Fairy Guardians. We choose them from the vast and well known flower fairy selection of the artist Cicely Mary Barker, then we print them out and mount them on card stock, setting them on the altar window.

Snowdrop Fairy for Sofie



Burdock Fairy for myself!

For me, I am reminded of the mischievousness of the burdock fairy. When I was home last February, I was doing some work for my mother in the driveway and came inside later to find hundreds of the sticky burrs on my pants, socks and coat. . . and just like when I was a kid, I never saw the plant! There they were as if by true fairy magic! It was an unexpected but lovely step back into memories of the past so I had to choose him this year!

Much love and fairy magic to you all!!!

Nicolas

Friday, December 15, 2017

Making of a Maker - Please Give It Time - Third Friday Post - December 15th

Ok so. . . most things I've done in my life, creatively,  felt like they came naturally to me.

Sculpting however, was NOT one of those things.  Not with sculpting clay, not with polymer clay and not with ceramic or porcelain.

I just was not very good at all when I began.

Given the multitude of other things I could have turned to, things I already had a fair capacity to do creatively, it might seem surprising that I stuck with sculpting at all.

I am so glad I did.

When I am asked advice about being a maker-of-things for a living, the first piece of advice I offer is to stick with it. "Please give it time" I'll say.  I know the frustration of the inner critic who's always sitting on your shoulder and telling you you can't do it, you won't ever be good enough. But you CAN. And you WILL.

In time.

I think many people give up way to easily on their creative desires, wishes and dreams. If you're doing something you love, something you've always wanted to do or just something you saw and were inspired to try for yourself, then just keep at it because you'll get better each time you do it, I promise!

You won't even realize it because it's a lot of little steps of progression that get us to the place we want to be. Only looking back in time can I see the growth by comparison. Even now, 7 years later, I still learn something new with each piece I create! A new technique, a new way to get a hippo's ear or a fairy house's rooftop to look just right. I expect that I will continue to learn and develop my skills for as long as I keep working at it and coming up with new ideas to try.

And when I say just keep at it, keep making,  I mean make A LOT! Repetition, honing skills and evolving your ideas, it's all going to pay off in the end. Though it might not be in the way you hoped or, as I did, you may end up going down roads you never dreamed of only to discover that those roads take you to a place where you are happier than you've ever been.

Then, one day, you get to look back at the first things you made/ sold and something recently that you sold and compare them. If you're like me, you'll shake your head and laugh because we all started somewhere. . .

Here, for you to see, was my sculpture starting point. A Bast statue made 7 1/2 long years ago. My first. . .  and that Bast did sell, surprisingly enough.

I had not developed any of the skills, the patina processes, detailing, a way of working out the stylizations or the techniques that allowed me to create the blue patina Bast right below it.  That's where seven years of making, working on it every single day, came in.


This is the first Bast statue I ever made and sold back in 2010. 


And this is the most recent one I've sold. Seven and a half long years later.
Next month I want to dive into talking about the one aspect of online selling that I always felt I had going for me. . . packaging.

Thank you, as always for dropping by!

 Keep making!!
XO
nicolas

Friday, December 8, 2017

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday - December 8th

Hey all!

Second Fridays are for sharing a few links to things that caught my eye the last month and that have all inspired my imagination in some way:

With the newest Star Wars installment hitting the theaters  I am reminded of seeing the very first as a young child and how it effected my imagination. Well, 40 years later there is no loss of the film's impact and how it still inspires to this day. This Kickstarter campaign fully funded and is over but it's worth a peek.

Lightsaber Oil Paintings

Scroll down a bit on that page to see the three amazing portraits of the lightsabers from the first film. Highly realistic and detailed. Odd and, yes, beautiful.  :)

<>oOo<>

I adore masks. So when I stumbled upon this site and the folk who design these amazing paper masks that you download the templates for and make yourself, I was absolutely giddy!

Wintercroft Masks

Use their category list on the left to choose your section. Masks from animals to mythical to sci-fi! I love them all.

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I am always looking for strange inspirations for musical instruments or games for my worlds. Here is a lovely collection of odd "instruments",

Music as it's Made

<>oOo<>

And another new twist to an oldie but goodie. Dungeons and Dragons has been around for ages now but I just read that 2016 was the most profitable year for the old RPG game and 2017 is on track to better it. I am always amazed that there are artists that find new ways to bring the old game more to life. This kickstarter which I myself supported was for artistic renditions of D&D first level magic scrolls.

D&D First Level Scroll Art

I LOVE scrolls and manuscripts of any kind and was immediately taken by the artwork, the "old tongue/language" and the thoughtfulness that went into creating these. Can't wait to get mine to frame and hang for inspiration . . . but I still have to decide which one I want!

Hope you've all had a wonderful week!
XO
nicolas


Friday, December 1, 2017

New Work - Stumptown Fairy Houses - First Friday Post - December 1st


Hello everyone!

Holiday busy-ness is fully upon us so this first Friday post is just an in-progress show and tell.
These are  start to finish pictures, of a new version of my Stumptown Fairy Houses. 

These are N scale 1:148 houses built on or into a clay "tree stump". 

Hope you enjoy this peek into the process and stages of making this little design!

Wishing you all the happiest of weeks ahead!

XO
nicolas

Each one starts with a simple, roughly shaped lump of polymer clay.

A little slicing away of the clay gives me something of a stump shape. Not too picky here as the next step will remove any of the hard lines. 

I use the edge of a clay shaping tool to start making the "bark" lines, I do this in layers so they overlap.



Then comes the next stages:

Next I add a simple shape of a house on top, gauging the size to allow for a door and window.

A flat rolled piece like this will become the first side of the roof once texture is added. 

Then the second side of the roof, sides of the trunk reaching up the house and a branch chimney get added on. In the end, this one will look as if it were carved from the tree instead of sitting onto of a cut stump.  

Here are a selection of them that I worked on all at once. The little "steps" and mushrooms have been added on the two in back. Then indentations are made for the windows and doors. They are then removed and the pieces are baked. 

The first part of the painting in the base color for the tree stump. The houses will get their own color so I am
not too particular here about getting paint on any other part. 

The houses get their gray base coat, the trunk gets it's lightest highlight and the roof tops get their black base color too. 

A few stages forward. Mushrooms receive their red coloring, rooftops their raw sienna color and the walls get an array of shades. Next will be the landscaping and the final detail touches. . . 

. . . of flowerboxes, roof tile colors, moss, windows and doors, wildflowers and spots on the mushrooms

Here are two of them complete and ready to go in the shop this weekend. 

"Ya'll come back now, ya hear!"