Friday, September 30, 2011

Applause! Keepsake Portraits by Fran

Is that gorgeous? Now, take a look at this:

I just want to reach into the computer and pet them both. These beautiful pups are helping me launch a new feature on the CI blog: Applause!  It's the perfect way for me to introduce my amazing, good, creative friends to my other amazing, good, creative friends ...

Fran from Keepsake Portraits agreed to answer a few questions as my Applause! guinea pig. (Hey, she draws pets. Give me a break here!)

You built a career as a graphic designer at Hallmark and then began doing the portraits after you retired. When -- or how -- did you know that you were an artist and that your art was more than a hobby?
From the time that I was a very young child I loved to draw. My mom and dad owned a clothing store in St. Louis and I would sit in the back room and draw on the white cardboard that was taken out of the men's dress shirts. Anything I could find became my canvas. By junior high I began winning awards in fairs and through school activities. Of course, that pushed me to believe in myself and think seriously about art as a career by high school. 

When people tell you -- and I know they do -- "I can't draw anything -- not even a straight line!", what do you say to them?
When people discuss my paintings and say, "I can't draw a stick figure, you're amazing!",  I always remind them that there are many things I do very poorly. Especially math! That was truly a struggle in school. My talent just happens to be more visual. Thank goodness my husband does the bills!

Why do you like drawing pets?
When I early retired, after 23 years, from Hallmark as a Graphic Designer I decided to get a dog.  Always wanted a pet, but did not want one until I had more free time. Once our Golden Retriever, "Sadie" became a part of our lives, I started sketching her and received interest from friends and family who wanted me to draw their pets. The more I created the more I realized I could turn this into a small business. This became the beginning of "Keepsake Portraits by Fran." 

I have now completed over 300 portraits and am fulfilling my passion for art daily. What a blessing!  I also love going to people's homes, if they do not have a favorite snapshot of their pet, and photograph them and get to know their personality(s). This is part of the fee because it is important for me to get exactly what the client wants. I also have begun painting people as well.  Love doing both, and as you see in my sample below, many times pets and people together.

I love the way Fran talks about drawing on the white cardboard, turning anything she could find into a canvas. Art is where we find it.

Holiday Shopping Tip! If you'd like a portrait by Fran as a holiday gift, now is the time to commission it. Take a look at her gorgeous portfolio and click on the "email me" button at the bottom of the page if you're interested. Or, here's an idea: Send that link to someone else and suggest they commission a portrait for you!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creative Query: What's Your Gonzo Wrap?

A hail storm that hit our area this summer damaged the siding we had installed on the house years ago. Today, a crew of three men from the siding company showed up, walked around to the back of the house, looked at the siding and immediately said,

"That's a Gonzo wrap."

Gonzo was the installer who put the siding on. He was an interesting dude -- a stoner look, ponytail, skinny, solid muscles. Smoked a lot of cigarettes, if memory serves me right. He generally worked alone and he worked when he felt like it. We never knew when he'd show up. The job should have taken, maybe, a week. It took a month or more.

The thing is ... we didn't care. Because Gonzo was great. He was fun to talk with on the days he did show up and he loved his work. He took pride in every part of the job. The effort clearly paid off -- years after he put the siding on, workers who had never seen the house before knew without question that Gonzo was the installer.

So, here's my question for you: What's your Gonzo wrap? If we took the name off the writing, the photography, the baking, the strategy, the plumbing, the siding ... would anyone know it was yours?

Think about it. Figure it out. Embrace your inner Gonzo.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Good Ads: Marriage in Norway

I have a new fondness for commercials from the Nordic region. Part of this is my growing business clientele in Denmark. (Oh yeah, baby! Sokoloff Harness Communications LLC is international now! Show some respect.)

Part of it is my love for anything that makes me laugh out loud. This ad did the trick. Enjoy -- it's a creative idea beautifully executed. And you know how I feel about the star ...

Some people are lucky in life. For the rest of us, saving can be smart.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creativity Tips: Appreciate Every Word

Many of the wonderful readers who still subscribe to Creative Instigation are my personal friends, and have inquired re: how I'm dealing with the empty nest. For them -- and for all of you who are kind enough to visit -- this weekend, the nest felt better. Why? Because I was finally able to put my feelings into words. As I posted on Facebook:

I'm really, really homesick.

Homesick! That's it, exactly. As a writer, finding the right word was incredibly helpful.

And that wasn't the only weekend example of the importance of each and every word. While making an outline for a talk about my faith journey, I wrote, "I attend Beth Torah." Then, automatically, I crossed that out and wrote, "I belong to Beth Torah."

There's a huge difference between attending and belonging. I know. I attended the synagogue of my youth. I never belonged there.

Words matter. Today, appreciate every word. Choose yours thoughtfully and with care. Words shape our relationships, frame our beliefs. They matter, whether you're a writer or not.

P.S. I wrote this post on 9/11, and noticed when I signed on that this is post number 911 on the CI blog. Weird. And, speaking of 9/11, if you have a chance to see the documentary, Voices from Inside the Towers, I strongly recommend it. There's a mother interviewed who is so strong, so smart. And when she talks about hearing the news that her beloved son had died, her words are heartbreakingly perfect.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Creativity Tips: Carpe Something

I was looking for the perfect image for this fabulously motivational Monday post ... my intent being to urge you to start the week off strong. Do more than Carpe Diem. Carpe the Whole Dang Week.

But then I found this, on Cafe Press.

And I decided to let you carpe whatever you want.
Whenever you want.

Happy Monday!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Beginnings

You know what's better than happy endings?
Happy beginnings.

For those of you who have followed the blog a long time, my niece Amber remains cancer free and she is now OFFICIALLY my niece. Amber and my nephew Cary celebrated their wedding Saturday, Sept. 3. Amber described the evening as "magical" and it's the perfect word. It was enchanting. So much love and happiness in one room.

Amber and Cary gave me the honor of reading a poem by James Kavanaugh at the wedding. It's a lovely piece, so I'll share it here. Thanks to all of you who sent good thoughts and prayers to Amber and Cary as they triumphed over cancer. Now, please join me in wishing two of my favorite people a long, healthy, happy life together!

To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another--and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are--and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Creativity Answer: What's wrong? What's not?!?!

Yesterday, I posed a "What's wrong with this sentence" exercise re: the line heard on NPR coverage of Hurricane Irene:

"There was only one death in the area, but extensive damage was reported."

Thanks to everyone who posted or emailed an answer -- you were all right on the money. Here's a (possibly incomplete) list of what's wrong with that sentence:

As Bernie said, "It would appear that there was extensive damage to the person who died." Several others noted this too. In my opinion, the biggest mistake in this sentence is one that we read/hear all too often: The death of a single person is minimized.

American journalists also have a nasty tendency to dismiss the deaths of people who aren't U.S. citizens: "No Americans died in the plane crash that killed 30 people." Well, all righty.

Obviously, the one death in this report mattered to the victim's family and loved ones. It should matter to all of us. Loss of respect for one life reflects a loss of respect for all life. And constructing this sentence with "only" and "but" places far too much importance on property rather than people.

As Jo pointed out, the sentence is incredibly passive. We're talking death, destruction and hurricanes. No active verbs came to mind?

The Big Rabbit made an interesting point: Placing the most important part of the sentence -- the death -- at the end could emphasize it. People remember endings. They're like the P.S. on a letter. That message sticks.

I could rewrite the sentence for you, but there's not ONE RIGHT WAY to do it. There is one right approach: Think, then write. This sentence is a classic example of literally thoughtless writing. We all do it at times. We all need to stop. To paraphrase my dad, "If it's worth writing, it's worth writing well."