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These pictures were taken in an upstate New York cemetary that is alive with spirits. The guy, Spencer,
who looks respectfully horrified and really cute, is my friend, Fran Capo's son. Let me assure you that neither Fran nor I know enough about photography and zilch about photo-shopping to have faked these shots.


What does a pick up artist do?

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I was only able to stay a short time at Art group this week, but I managed to make some progress with my St John’s picture, and also do a quick sketch of Elizabeth, which she didn't seem to mind too much. Re my recent post mentioning Gill’s green bird against a green background, she tells me that her bird is a spotted flycatcher, and is green because it reflected the light from the trees around it. Who would have thought that a bird could reflect things? Must be the oil in the feathers.

I have been keeping a blog for nearly a year now, and have tried many different ideas to promote it. There does not seem to be any definitive advice on how best to make use of a blog, perhaps because it is a relatively new idea. Some people say you should interact with other artists, others that there’s no point in preaching to the choir. Some say just “do one favour a day”, others say stay up all night blogging, twittering etc for at least a year. I have tended to interact with lots of other bloggers, and found that although lots of people are looking at my website, nobody seems to want to buy anything. Over the summer holidays, I didn’t get much chance to do any social networking, and then as soon as my little boy started school, it was full steam ahead with decorating the house before half term and a birthday party which took about three days to get ready for.

I have been receiving a newsletter from Leanne and Cheryl, who run a support group on Blog Frog for women like me. Leanne says that other bloggers are probably too diverse a group and that I ought to try and aim for a niche. I had been trying to get more UK readers to my blog, but she thought I needed to be more specific than this, and suggested joining an artists’ forum. And so it was that I spent Wednesday evening googling “artists forums”. At one point, I found myself in one called “Pick up artists” which was actually for men swapping tips on picking up women! All very entertaining but not particularly relevant. Finally, I found one called Artistsforum.uk, joined and posted a query. It being half term, I was unable to get near it for several days, but at long last tonight, phew, discovered that one option is some web advertising, so I am looking into that.

I have quite enjoyed doing my blog, and one option I’ve heard about is to sell the rights of it to Amazon as, apparently, some people subscribe to blogs via a Kindle, and I would be paid royalties.

I have also entered my blog in the Derbyshire Times blogging competition, I’m not expecting to win and I don’t think there’s a prize, but it would give me some kudos if I did well. Wish me luck.

Anyhow, with the clocks going back, I am off for an early night.

My publicist friend gets free tickets to shows which is how I ended up here today. Since I didn't pay for my ticket, I managed to enjoy it all. The theater has a bar and the a stepped platform lined with chairs for the audience. One woman in an aisle seat laughed so hard that she and her chair toppled over and crashed to the floor. She must have been taking her Calcium and Vitamin D3 because she arighted herself and laughed harder than ever.



Snow good # 2

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This week, I have gradually been progressing with my church picture. I would like to do it as a snow scene, and now have a photograph of it, although not with any snow. I’ll have to use some artistic licence to add some here and there. Sue noticed what I was doing, “it’s a nuisance to photograph, isn’t it?” She said, “You almost have to climb on top of the wall”.

Also in a churchy vein, at art group, Kevin was doing a picture of Chesterfield’s famous crooked spire. He told me that, from some parts of town it was almost straight, whereas others it had that distinctive curve and lean that it is so well known for. Here’s a link to some photos of it so you can judge for yourself http://www.chesterfieldparishchurch.org.uk/ Kevin says that the view from the train station is one of the straighter perspectives. This might disappoint new visitors to the town, who might well be expecting something less straight.

Many of our members are painting birds at the moment, Gill has just completed a green bird (possibly a greenfinch) with a green background, Karen is working on a bird of prey, and Margaret is coming to the end of her kingfisher pair, something of a departure for her from her usual swans.


Friday night at the Diner

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I had hardly seen my husband all week and we were eager to talk. Unfortunately, so was the waiter. While he took our orders, he told us that his girlfriend took off with his best guy friend and now he can't afford the rent on his own. When he brought out dinner, he stayed to tell us about his mother's relationship with his stepfather and about Salt being the coolest movie ever because he wants to meet a woman who looks like Angelina Jolie.

After we left, my husband said, "I'm beginning to think the greatest invention was the dumb waiter."



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I just came home from seeing Waiting for Superman. I'm overcome with feeling. See it to understand our current non-educational public school system. The amount of money it takes per year to keep people in prison, a direct result of poor education, is at least four times it would be to send an inner city youth to the finest private school. Check out www.waitingforsuperman.com



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I have been revisiting my montage of Clowne, to add to it and try to make it more interesting. The line drawing you see here is part of St John’s Church, from the top left of the original painting.

At art group, Elizabeth had returned from holiday in Turkey, where she’d been staying at the “Titanic” hotel, and showed me their brochure. As you can see, the building is shaped like a cruise liner, and on the inside cover, a couple were posing like Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio in the film of the same name, she with her arms outstretched, he in the same position behind her. I asked Elizabeth if she and John had tried doing a “Kate and Leo” pose, but no, they had no one to take the photo (and presumably no autotimer on the camera either). Elizabeth was painting a watercolour jaguar (the cat not the car). Her hotel’s website is at: http://www.firstchoice.co.uk/holidays/turkey-antalya-holidays/lara-beach/titanic-beach-and-resort-hotel/. 

Madge had completed an oil painting of a waterfall in Yorkshire, but Maggie suggested it needed some trees on the horizon to add interest (I’d previously suggested a shepherd and some sheep, but I think trees are probably an easier option).

At the end, Madge’s husband, Mr Wilkinson, arrived to collect her with their large blonde and black Alsation, Zac, in tow. “He wants to show you his party trick”, said Mr Wilkinson. “Say six and seven eighths”. I did this, but nothing happened, at which point he put his hat onto my head and asked me to repeat the words again, which I did. The dog immediately jumped up and took the hat off my head in its mouth, proudly doing a lap of honour around the room before galloping out of the door with it. “That’s my hat size” said his proud owner.

More arty fun next week.

Fiction Contest: A Legitimate One

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Fiction Contest
The 2011 Willow Springs Fiction Prize is now accepting submissions. Domestic authors can submit a short story for $15, and international submissions are $20. Authors can submit as many entries as they like, but each submission can contain only one story. The winner receives $2,000 and publication in Willow Springs; every author who participates will receive a free one year subscription to the magazine. Postmark deadline for submissions to the 2011 prize is March 1, 2011. More guidelines are available on the Willow Springs website.


Art and Life

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Just came home from seeing The Pittmen Painters at The Manhattan Theater Club about a group of miners from a small town in England who discovered themselves through painting. I saw it on the day the LAST Chilean miner was freed from his long captivity in the mine. The actors dedicated the show to those miners and, in thick English accents, said that they would be learning Spanish so they could try out for what will be the inevitable movie coming from this miracle.

This week, I have created a fan page for Clowne Enterprise, a local support group for small businesses. The idea was inspired by a course on social networking earlier this year, when we were shown a video of an apparently very successful Ikea campaign, on Facebook. Ikea ran a competition featuring photos of their furniture on their fan page, inviting people to tag a piece of furniture, in order to win it. http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-10404937-71.html

Although I don't want to do this with my paintings, it did at least give me the idea for the group to try. There are about 60 members, including myself, and I had heard somewhere that about a third of the UK population are on Facebook, so it seemed viable. The group were in favour of it so, after meetings with them, researching and obtaining professional advice from Nick Cable of I-Run http://www.irun-barnsley.co.uk/ on what type of group was best, I created the page.

Clowne Enterprise building about to be renovated
To make the page more interesting, I included the story of how the organisation came about. I was able to find out the origin of the building by asking an elderly resident who has lived in the village for around 60 years. She had lived on that road as a child and told me it was the stationmaster’s house. I would ideally like to confirm this, so if anyone reading knows, do let me know. It then became a sheltered accommodation house before falling into disuse. For a fuller story, follow this link  http://www.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=16639603

After renovation and extension - renamed Station Business Centre
This week, I am adding a short video of one of the members for the welcome page. I will shoot the video of her, then teach myself how to use Windows Live Movies, and post the video on You Tube before adding it to the page. I am pleased with the page, and would recommend Leanne Chesser’s blog, which was a great help. http://www.building-blocks-coaching.com/facebook-strategies.html

I have even managed to add one of my own graphics to the page
I was able to have some of the members photographed, for a press release, and to add to the page. A handful of unsuspecting small business owners turned up for the regular lunchtime meeting at Sandros, looking forward to some pleasant Italian food and sharing news and tips. Without warning, they were asked to pop around the corner to the Clowne Enterprise premises for the photo to be taken, but nobody seemed to mind – it is all publicity, after all. I sent the taller people to the back, and the shorter ones to the front, and there were one or two giggles when I handed them A4 sheets printed with the Clowne Enterprise and Facebook logos (which I’d taken the precaution of laminating as rain was forecast). These sheets were printed with very cheap ink on cheap paper – it must have cost less than a “squid” to do, and I can re-use the Facebook ones at exhibitions. The Clowne Enterprise CEO, Paul, took several photos, on my camera and I later e-mailed the photos to him for him to draft a press release to publicise the page. I drafted some information about the page for the other members to use, and sent it to him to circulate. I am on the front row wearing an orange top. The wind has blown my hair to pieces – oh the glamour!

Unsuspecting CE members outside the premises
The whole project has been done for practically no cost, or “summat for nowt” as we say in the UK. I gave my time for free, and there were no web techies, no hosting, no advertising, no film editing costs, no photographer, and for the Welcome page, I even learned to save the page I’d designed on Word as a J-peg (in order to upload to Photobucket), by saving it into Paint. This saved the cost of printing it out and then scanning it in on the scanner, as I did when I created my Welcome page for my Artists of Derbyshire fan page. I hope it will help me get orders if I can use it to get people to look at my gallery website. I am also pleased to be able to do something with such possibilities at no cost, as it is a non-profit organisation, benefitting a poor area. The more use is made of the fan page, the better it will be. I keep watching new people joining the page daily. Even if they don’t make full use of it, at least it hasn’t cost anything. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Clowne-Enterprise/147514038618496

On the artistic front, I have booked a place on a course for artists who are starting out, on how to approach galleries about having exhibitions, and also how to make the most of websites and social networking. I’ll let you know how I get on, and may feature some of the other artists’ work.

This week has been a busy one as I have completed painting our dining room as well as looking after the little one. So that my husband could complete tiling the floor, I didn’t go to art group this week and instead settled for doing a quick self portrait done whilst looking after the little one (below). On top of all this, I have had a cold as well, and this was how I felt by the end of the week!
"Cream crackered"
This week I am taking things a bit easier. More news next week.



Smokey and Me

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Smokey is my friend, Robin's cockateil, but I wish he were mine. He whispers sweet nothings in my ear and his crest rises when I bill and coo at him.


What a Book!

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David Eggers nonfiction account of a family dealing with Hurricane Katrina is a great American tragedy. Zeitoun is the surname of the father of the family, a Syrian who owns a thriving construction company and a sizeable amount of real estate. His wife, Kathy, born Christian, had converted to Islam before she met her husband because she was impressed with the transformation of her childhood friend, Yuko, and disenchanted with her Evangelical church. Reading this book is not only an opportunity to learn about what happened during Katrina in a way that no one else could tell it, but also a look into what we can learn from the Koran. Long after I finish the book, this quote from the Koran will remain with me. I'll try not to use it on my daughter. "Heaven lies at the feet of the mother."


To edit, switch it up.

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I've been working on something long, a novel, novel-ini? I'll let it find it's own form. But I had it all in a piece in a file and was getting nowhere. Now I'm just writing parts of whatever comes to me on new pages and I'll see how it all fits together. Hope it will.


Autumn Leaves - or stays, more like

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As autumn progresses, the leaves are now turning brown and coming off the trees. Not to be outdone by Tescos, Wilkinsons now has a “Christmas shop” display at the front of its store. My son found a lovely muddy puddle to play in yesterday and made “rivers” using some very attractive red and yellow maple leaves, which inspired this week’s picture. 

My pencilwork began light as intended, but became more intense as I tried to depict the stronger tones on the red leaf in the middle, and by the time I reached the yellow and brown one under that,  I'd given up the struggle to "keep it light".  Still, I'm quite pleased with the result.

I chose pencil crayons because I was getting fed up of paint, having spent the week on a step ladder decorating at home. For the coming week, that shouldn’t be a problem, I will be tiling instead, so I will be OK with everything except lino prints(!) The leaves were a selection I picked up from the pavement on the way to art group. Fallen leaves don’t stay around long, so it is best to use them while they are as fresh as possible.

Meanwhile at art group, Karen was putting the finishing touches to her blue tit, while Barbara painted a waterfall at Lumsdale. Gill completed her waterfall set somewhere in Yorkshire, while Madge also finished hers, which happened to be somewhere in Derbyshire. Kevin was part-way into a pen and ink (with some watercolour) of a winding mill, depicted in some detail.

After a bit of a struggle with Picasa (see last week), I have now found what I have to do is embed a link from their page with my photo on, to the “from a URL” option on Blogger, opting for "image only no link" on Picasa first. 

Elizabeth’s Chater’s paintings of Venice and Lake Garda, mentioned several weeks ago, have now been uploaded onto the main website, ready for anyone to buy (£43.80 each - or the equivalent in foreign currency - Paypal will take payments in several currencies) + p&p.

And here is Sue Colclough's St John's Church, available as an A5 blank greetings card.

More next week.

One of my HOMIES

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I belong to a women's networking group, SIBLING. We meet once a month at a member's home. Each of us inspires the other and we've really bonded. One of our members, Carol Blake, a songwriter, produced this video of her song, FOOD IS BETTER THAN SEX.

Enjoyj both, I hope: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tW97We6rGKo

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