Knowing When To Say When

This is a look into being an illustrator.  I know many people think, “Gee, coloring for a living is so easy, I would love to sit around and do nothing all day but color and create!”

Okay folks, wake up. It does NOT work that way. In fact, if it did, don’t you think EVERYONE would be doing it???? I mean, let’s face it, art is interpretive, so you would not even have to be good at art to do it.  Eventually, someone likes something about everyone’s art. I hear many people question abstract art or the beauty in pieces by Dali. Art is objective, and beauty lies in the beholder.

At times, it seems everyone is suddenly an artist. I have heard so many people say, “Oh, I left art for a time, but came back to it.” I did not know you could leave art.  For me, art has ALWAYS been a passion.  I could never stop, not even if I wanted to.  When I see someone suddenly call themselves an artist when they have neither put the time or pain into it, well, I do get extremely annoyed. Especially if they charge prices for their work as though they have been established for years.  Suddenly, with the digital age, everyone believes they are an artist or a photographer.  This is paramount to auto-tune making everyone a great singer. Having said that, I will now become a complete hypocrite and say this…. I am glad that people are showing an interest in art.  It seems as though art has become a dying form.  Suddenly, families having wine and painting with complete strangers is a cool and hip thing to do.  I actually love this.  What I do not love, though, is when established artists are taken for granted because novices are unbalancing the playing field.  Imagine that you are at work. Now, I want you to imagine that you have been doing this job your ENTIRE life. One day, a new person is hired. This person has a few years of part-time experience in the profession.  This new hire does not know everything about your industry. This new hire is not proficient at their job description, and although their work is decent, it is up to interpretation.  Imagine you see their work as lazy and sub par.  Now imagine that they are getting paid MORE than you but they work less hours. They do less, make more, and what they do isn’t even remotely comparable to what you do.  I know, it sounds petty and extremely immature. Yet, this is how I feel some days.  I am starting to see why they say artists are sociopaths.  I am not mercenary. I actually love creating art and watching my creations evoke emotions in others, especially children.  A smile is the best payment for my work.

Having said all this, there comes a point when you must know when to say when.

As an illustrator, I have been quite fortunate and have had a steady flow of work.  Hardly lucrative, but work nonetheless. A couple of years ago, I was approached about illustrating a series.  At the time, this sounded like a wonderful adventure to me.  The sample story I was provided was simple.  The author wanted a simplistic 80’s style cartoon type illustration. In other words, the easiest art form of all.  The basics.  It seemed too good to be true,  to have my name associated with a series! I had worked with the company producing the series previously. Although a new company, they seemed to have great potential.  Sadly, the two works I had done with this company before had lack luster sales. I attributed it to the editing, and, moving forward, ensured any books I worked on after were as perfectly edited as possible.  As a home school educator, I know how important editing is.  What parent wants an erroneous book for their child? Plus, no libraries would even accept the books because of the horrific mistakes. It served as a valuable lesson.  I learned early on that there was a bit more than just illustrating involved in what I could allow my name to be associated with. Tied to the hopes that this company had a new editor, I was excited.  Then the first proof came. Nothing had changed; the errors were unsurmountable. Due to an illness of the author, however, I was in charge of approving the edits.  I submitted my editing concerns and believed they would be rectified. Sadly, the book itself, post production, was never properly edited.  Now here is a little tid-bit I forgot to share: my contract stated I was to have the illustrations for the first two books of this series to be submitted no later than November 2016.  I not only met that deadline, but exceeded it.  I submitted both fully by August 2016. Flash forward to today. One of the two titles was published.  As I stated, it was horribly edited.  It is now MARCH 2018 and I was still amidst a battle with the editors and formatters.  The errors were many.  The biggest issues were oxford commas.  It seemed that no commas were being used, and especially not the oxford comma.  Add to this “their” was spelled wrong, as were other words.  When I addressed these issues and the fact that one specific illustration was shown several times, when it was not supposed to be, as well as many being out of order, I was told the editor was fired and a new one was being trained.  I was also told all issues would be addressed to my satisfaction. The new editor/formatter kept constant email contact.  This was quite rare, as, previously, months would pass before my messages were responded to. It seemed I was the only one on a deadline. It was a refreshing change. It left me feeling hopeful that maybe this time around something different would happen. Then, when it came time to receive word, I was told their was an problem with production. It was late as they had computer issues.  This was nothing new; this actually was the same exact reason I was given previously about the first story. So, an app had an update and the app was no longer usable or something line that. Okay, so I do book editing and formatting for a company I work for. I am proud to say that on  many books I have illustrated, I have also served as the formatter and editor.  Keep this in mind. So when I was told it was an app, I was confused.  There is an app for that? I use programs on my computer, not apps.  I also do not worry about updates because I always have backups of my original software.  I honestly felt old and stupid.  I was unaware people who were professionals used apps.  I always use professional software. Nonetheless, I gave them the benefit of the doubt again…..on this editing……that they had been working on…..since AUGUST OF 2016.  This 25 paged picture book with 283 words.  By way of comparison, within the time frame of them trying to sort the editing and formatting of this story, I fully formatted, edited, and illustrated 3 other books all by myself.  One was even during a hurricane, when I had no electricity and had to use a generator for my computer and use my cellphone to upload the book to the printers. I do understand that their company had other books they may have been working on. Yet, I did 3 by myself, and they have a full staff? My patience was wearing thin, to say the least. The new editor/formatter spent hours trying to send me the newest proof.  Evidently One Drive was giving her problems.  After half a day, finally someone else within the company managed to get this proof to me.  When it arrived, it had not addressed any of my concerns.  I was told it was the app’s fault.  They were using unfamiliar programs now. I asked why one of my illustrations appeared to be scribbled on and was told they did that to stretch the image.  I have NO clue what that even means! So not only were there errors, now my art was, in my eyes, contaminated.  I am a stickler for English.  When someone says, I gets mad instead of I get mad, or I will get mad…..well, I do get mad.  It is improper.  There is no verb subject agreement.  It is WRONG. Their is their.  It is NOT thier! Even as I type this it keeps changing the spelling of it AUTOMATICALLY. Then yowled, it is spelled yowled not yowelled. I asked how the app messed these issues up yet again.  My response came swiftly and rudely.  I was suddenly informed this was to be a Canadian edit.  And in Canada they spell things that way.  Oh, and Yowelled was recently changed in the dictionary.  Wait, what?????? Okay, doubting myself, I went and grabbed a dictionary from 1960.  Nope, no yowelled in there. The chief editor stated verb subject agreement is not an issue in Canada! How can I argue with a chief editor on Canadian linguistics or grammar?

But HOLD ON A SECOND! It is March 2018.  I was told to address my concerns and that if there were issues I must let them know, or I could not complain once it was produced. I had been addressing these issues since the previous book was in the stages prior to publishing. Yet, only NOW in 2018, two years later, I am being told this is a Canadian Edit? I suddenly understood why they were having zero sales and why the CEO was considering closing the company completely. How could you not inform me of this before? And how low on that totem pole am I? I mean, you cannot add a comma but you can scribble on my art? This went from a letter that stipulated I was fully in charge of decisions and the only one receiving royalties to this?  Some one somewhere was either wanting me out or these people are trying to run a production company all wrong.  Either way, I decided it was time to politely walk away.  Thank GOD my contract allowed me to do so.  To make matters worse, I had just sent them the illustrations for the third title in the series.  That made three full books of illustrations all for not.  Back to the beginning of this, and coloring all day.  I have neuropathy, arthritis and fibromyalgia.  These three ailments combined make being an artist extremely difficult.  I also have glaucoma, retinopathy and cataracts.  I have had one eye operated on for cataracts but it sadly is worse post op.  Seeing is hard.  This makes doing what I love EXTREMELY difficult as I am not on pain medicine.  I am one of those (we are rare) who pain medicine does not work on.  Not kidding, they have tried everything on me.  I manage my pain by managing my time doing my job as best I can.  So, you can certainly realize that these three books of illustrations not only cost me time but a LOT of pain.  I have made ZERO from this production company on the book that was published.  As a matter of fact, in all the years (5 years) that I have been doing work for this company, I have made a grand total of, are you ready? $58.44 That includes the two books that are still in circulation.  For the record, a bulk of that came from the company’s owner who purchases copies to bring to trade shows. I make more on one commission than I have from them in 5 years. So, as you see, I do it for the love, not the money.

I have been told for years now to not accept work from this company. It was actually a very hard decision for me to walk away from this project. There are other factors and things that have transpired that I have not mentioned as I do not wish to insult this company publicly in any way. Amidst the proofing of the first title of the series, the production company actually asked me if I would be willing to publish the series or if the other company I work with would.  I guess that was my first indication that things were amiss.  My husband and daughter are extremely grateful that I have stopped working on this project.  I had high hopes for the series, actually.  It is a shame that the author would not allow an edit to include all readers…if that is even true.  It seemed so….well, odd. I will believe that they just wanted me out,  as I am too picky on spelling and grammar and maybe my art is just not what they like.  I know it wasn’t because my price was too high!  I now have three books worth of illustrations that I own the copyright to.  I plan on making good use of them too…..maybe.

I started art before I could hold a crayon.  Without going into graphic detail, as an infant in diapers, I would scribble on walls using what ever I could find, much to my Mother’s dismay. I am passionate about what I do and  I take it seriously. I can do hyper realism and make something look like a photograph, but I choose not to.  I like to create, not recreate.  Perhaps that is why I fell into illustrating children’s books in the first place.  I am forever grateful to the two school classmates who pushed me into illustrating.  They kept telling me I should get paid for what I was doing all of the time anyway.  The pay meant nothing; however. seeing people enjoy my art, that means everything.  Over the years, I have been hurt many times with art.  Everyone is a critic! I have had beautiful compliments paid about my work and then the same one who complimented my work turn around and insult it. Perhaps the best thing about being an artist is this, it allows you to learn and grow continually.  There is never a peak to learning in art.  There is always opportunity to see more, learn more, and grow.

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Returning From Holiday

There is nothing that can compare to a beautiful vacation aboard a cruise ship.  Sailing has always been my preferred method of travel.  In fact, I have not even been on a plane in over 30 years. If I had my druthers, I would live on a yacht as opposed to being on land. There is something so tranquil and calming that the ebb and flow the ocean provides. It can rock me to sleep like a mother gently rocking a cradle.  The beautiful salt air from the sea soothes my soul. It would seem for me, the roughest days I have experienced at sea were still more relaxing than the calmest of days on land.  Let me not forget to mention the glorious sunrises and sunsets at sea.  The horizon unfiltered by the congestion of buildings and clutter of man….simply stunning.

sunset at sea

Granted, planning a vacation at sea can be a bit nerve wrecking at times. Especially when hurricanes are involved. Last year’s hurricanes devastated many of the ports which cruise lines frequent.  Several of our cruise ports were shifted.  For me, this is honestly not a matter; I feel worse for those who have suffered living at the regions affected, and find it incredibly selfish when those who are vacationing complain about not being able to travel to these destinations.  A vacation is a vacation, regardless of where you go. This was the second time I had a plan to visit San Juan, Puerto Rico that was altered due to a hurricane.  The last time was in ’98. Eventually,  I will visit Puerto Rico.  In the interim, however, I am praying for those who live there and the horror they have experienced after the devastating effects of the 2017 hurricane season.  And to the passengers who insist on complaining,  I offer you this; imagine, for a moment,  that you were on the ship during the hurricane.  Redirection of ports is not that horrible, it is inevitable.  Nature happens.

wreckage

In all of my years of cruising, and there are many, I must say NCL is by far the best cruise line I have ever been blessed to sail on.  They have, what I believe to be, the friendliest and most talented of staff. NCL’s crew always make us feel like family.  Being an OCD neat freak, I must add that NCL is also the cleanest line.  A spec of dust cannot be found! NCL has become our preferred choice for sailing for 14 years now. I cannot recommend them enough to anyone who is considering a vacation at sea.  I realize have had been a little bit annoyed at times with the experience as a Latitudes member, (example is our cruise this past Thanksgiving, article click  here)  however, overall no other line comes even close to the wonderful vacationing experience NCL provides.

ncl

Now, some may say my daughter is pampered.  I mean, how many 14 year olds can tout that they have taken fourteen 7-14 day cruises in their life time? We have incorporated these cruises into Kira’s home school lessons, however! Each port has a rich history.  Even the ship provides education.  We loved Kira’s questioning the knots to miles conversion! There is a learning opportunity everywhere you look.

 

horses aruba

aruba horses2From the significance of Horses in Aruba………

 

truman key west

the impact Truman had on Key West, Florida….

cayman

to the relations of the United States of America and The Cayman Islands!

cayman 2

Not to say that we did not manage to have a little bit of fun amidst Kira’s cultural/historical and artistic educational experience.  After all, the entire point behind this specific holiday was the celebration of our little girl turning 14!!!

bday decor

kira bday cake

And NCL helped us by having our cabin fully decorated with cake ready when we first arrived!!

We had a glorious 11 days at sea in celebration of Kira’s turning 14.  The only down side was we are all sick now.  Evidently, someone on board (actually several someones) were ill.  Upon our arrival to land, we all fell ill.  Kira’s fever finally broke at 102.4 the other late evening/early morning.  I, myself, have been in bed non-stop. We feel a bit miserable, but it is quite worth our epic adventure.  After all, without the bad, how can you truly appreciate the good?? I finally felt able to move to my computer and try to post. I have managed to fall quite behind on things in my illness stupor!

There is a big artistic significance behind this vacation as well.  I will for now, however, leave that for a separate post.

 

Joys Of The Season

As this year is coming to a close, I wanted to wish you all a very safe and happy new year.  I pray that 2018 brings you all health and happiness!

Ferie TraditionerChristmas

Peace On Earth

Peace On Earth

Wishing everyone a very blessed holiday season.

We have our tree and have for about a week or so now…it is still not decorated.  It seems things are so busy we forget to take care of ourselves first!

Remember to stop, sit and enjoy the holidays amidst the hustle and bustle!!!

I have managed to eek out this quick drawing.  It is not as detailed as I envisioned it, however, time seems to escape me lately.

I am hoping to finish our decorating today and take our Christmas family photographs.  I also have a few cards and packages to mail….and yes, a few more gifts to buy.  It would seem each year I get things done later.

I hope you all have a beautiful holiday no matter what or how you celebrate!

For The Love Of Markers

Azile Marker art

Markers have certainly evolved since I first used Crayolas as a child. I fondly remember my first set of markers. I also remember the devastation I felt when they dried out.  As time passed my art evolved.  Occasionally I would use my Micron pens, but markers were mainly used to decorate handmade cards or packages. I seldom created art with them.

The more I delved into digital art, the more I longed to return to organic art.  Illustrating books, creating book covers as well as the advertisements and book trailers thereof left little time to do so. I could make a few smaller paintings, but drying time and such delayed any true sense of gratification. My graphite sketches and Micron ink drawings seemingly lacked. Then…. I discovered ….. Chameleon Pens.  I believe I first saw the video on Facebook.  No doubt my bestie had tagged me in the post.  It seems when a new art product arrives I am always tagged about it.  If only I had the luxury and wealth to buy these items. I remember sharing the post with my husband.  The idea of blending markers and one marker providing seemingly limitless colors was simply awesome to us.

Then came Valentine’s Day. My darling husband surprised me with the 22 box set. The rest of the available colors came shortly thereafter as an Easter surprise.

Chameleon Marker Art

I never thought I would enjoy markers again.  But I love these! They make creating art as fun as I remembered it. I have many other top brands of markers as well, but I always seem to go back to my Chameleon pens. They flow beautifully.

Flight Of Colors Marker Art

It has not become my favorite late evening activity. I doodle with my Chameleon pens.  It is a welcomed break from the digital monotony that has become my world amidst illustrating children’s books!

Alaska Marker Art

I still paint, wood burn, sculpt, sketch, and draw using ink, of course.  However, the ease and instant gratification from using the Chameleon pens are wonderful.  I have enough time after work and preparing my family dinner to actually complete a piece of art.  Nothing compares to waking up the next day and seeing my doodle sitting there. Even if it isn’t perfect, I feel better knowing it is complete and I feel accomplished.

To see more of my art please visit my website at www.alysathena.com

For The Love of Earth

Spartacus

Instead of talking only about myself and my art, this time I would like to remind everyone that today is World Environment Day. There is a wonderful website designed for it, which I highly recommend everyone read and join. http://worldenvironmentday.global/

As far as I know, right now our environment is the only one we have.  I would like to believe my great-grandchildren will be able to enjoy it, and all it has to offer. That, of course, is up to us to ensure.  Little changes we make can make a big difference.  Recycling is easier than most people think.  It becomes a habit.

I took the above photograph while visiting the Cedar Lake Gardens Festival in Williston, Florida a short time ago. It is a photographer’s dream! I was not able to capture all of the moments I wanted to, as it was extremely crowded for the festival.  I look forward to a return visit soon. This fella was the only animal on display, I am assuming as a guest.  Spartacus, an  African Spurred Tortoise, was quite large. Why did I choose him for this post? Well, you see, this environment of ours affects not only us.  The wildlife around us all call this home too. It truly is our responsibility to make smart choices. This world of ours is absolutely beautiful, as are all of its inhabitants.  Whether you believe in global warming or not, taking care of this planet and all she provides is essential. You would not let your home fall apart….why would you let your planet?

For The Love Of Animals

I have always been an animal person. As far back as I can remember, I would get into much trouble with my mother for bringing strays home. A fish here, a cat or dog there.  It was always something. At the age of 7, my mother gave in and agreed to get a cat. A delightful orange tabby, I lovingly named Champagne.  Do not ask, I do not know, I was only 7. Perhaps my mother believed that by allowing me to have this cat, I would somehow be deterred from my seemingly endless endeavours of rescuing every and any animal around our neighborhood. Alas, Champagne only served to validate my purpose in life as an animal lover and rescuer.  Realize, the irresistible urge drawing me to animals was completely reciprocal. On more than one occasion, throughout my life, I have had animals literally walk through my front door, or jumping into my car. My mother said I was an animal magnet.

Flash forward, to my  teens. Many rescues and multiple pets later, I discovered a deep love for photography. Whether it be the fact my art was less than realism, or the fact I simply loved the idea of capturing a moment and making it last virtually forever, I was hooked. On my 15th birthday, my mother gave me a Kodak Disk camera.  I fondly remember torturing my classmates and friends. I took pictures of virtually everything. I can only imagine how much was spent on developing my film. I know I spent quite a bit of time waiting to get my pictures back.  My, how times have changed. Hoping the shot turned out okay, praying no one blinked! But the quality was superior to my old Polaroid, and thankfully I did not have to shake the pictures FOREVER to see an image!

Over the years one thing has remained, the subject of most of my photography; animals. Unpredictable, but always photogenic.

I am quite blessed to live on five acres of blissful solitude, amidst farm country, yet only a few  miles away from suburbia.  My yard, enriched with wildlife.  Birds singing their beautiful melodies, squirrels darting from branch to branch, gopher tortoises burrowing. And, much to my heart’s content, feral felines.  These wild cats have become family. They have accepted us, thankfully, and will allow me to photography them.

I have awoken to peacocks, horses, donkeys and even ostrich in our yard. I have learned now to ALWAYS have a camera handy.

The subject of this photograph is Pharaoh.  A loving feral beauty who recently lost a batch of kittens, one of which she brought to us in the hopes of saving it. Sadly, it was too late for the precious kitten. The one downside to my animal magnetism is this, I cannot save them all. Lord knows how I have tried to. I am grateful for what time I am granted with each beautiful animal.  I am also grateful to be able to capture them, briefly, making it last virtually forever.