Inspired By…Alexa Barry!

If you’re looking for a good book, and you want the recommendation of someone with superb taste, look no further! No, I’m not recommending myself, I’m recommending the lovely Alexa Barry, my guest for today’s “Inspired By” interview! For more interviews and to learn more about the “Inspired By” project in general, click here.

Meet Alexa!

Kim Harris Thacker:  Tell us about yourself and your creative work.

Alexa Barry:  Hi I’m Alexa, I’m a mummy, wife, aspiring author, tea addict, and a beginning runner. I am also madly in love with YA fiction. If I ever meet you I’ll try and match you up with your perfect YA read.

(See? She’s TERRIFIC at recommending books!)

I’ve been blogging about books since 2007, which seems incredible! I seem to go through cycles with the blog, posting a lot or hardly at all, but I always get pulled back. I just love talking about books it’s addictive!

KHT:  How did you become involved in book blogging?

AB:  I started reading blogs back in 2006, but they were mainly personal blogs. Then I found my first book blog (which sadly I can’t remember the name of) and thought I’d like to do that. So on the 27th December 2007 Not Enough Bookshelves was born.

KHT:  What excites you the most about book blogging?

AB:  I love reliving a great reading experience by blogging about it. I really love connecting with other people who are passionate about YA, there’s nothing like finding someone who loves a book as much as you do.

KHT:  Tell us about your work routine.  Do you have an office or workspace?  Do you work for a certain amount of hours each day/week?  Do you listen to music while you work? Wear bunny slippers?  Eat gobs of bon-bons?

AB:  Ohh I’d love an office and a paycheck ;) I’d even settle for bon-bons, but mainly I blog on the run, when and where I can. 

KHT:  Tell us about a project you worked on that meant a great deal to you/has been your favorite project so far.

AB:  I absolutely loved putting together the Couple Christmas Countdown for the past three years. I posted my ten top couples of the year and lots of authors and bloggers very kindly contributed guest posts on there own favourite couples. It started as just romantic couples, but then grew to include great friendships and sibling relationships.

You can find the links on my blog here. They are all brilliant, but I do have a soft spot for Sarah Rees Brennan’s post, as it got me hooked on The Vampire Diaries

KHT:  Tell us about your current project.

AB:  I’m working on my review of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and I can’t wait to write about it.

KHT:  Where do you get your inspiration for your work?  Do you ever encounter “writer’s block”?  If so, how do you get past it?

AB:  The wonderful books I read. When I fall in love with a book I just have to blog about it. It’s one of the reasons I don’t post negative reviews, I just can’t get inspired to say why a book hasn’t worked for me. Plus it’s so much harder to write a fair negative review – some people do it brilliantly but I just can’t.

KHT:  Do you have any advice for folks who would like to get involved in book blogging?

AB:  Read a book, set up a blog and go.

KHT:  What/who inspires you?

AB:  There are so many great book blogs, but here are three favourites:

  • AngieVille – Angie just writes the most brilliant reviews and a review of hers introduced me me to Sarah Addison Allen books, so I’ll always be grateful.
  • InkCrush – Nomes is sadly not blogging so much lately, but I just love her reviews, they’re so warm and funny and you can really feel how she feels about a book.
  • Holes in my Brain – I love Audrey’s style and although I usually don’t like ratings she does hers In Harry Potter Terms, which I love.

KHT:  Of course, I have to ask:  What are the names of a few of your favorite books?

AB:  Such a hard question Kim! Here are five YA books I really love:

Inspired by…Lynn Hicken!

I met Lynn when we were both serving as missionaries for our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Baltimore, Maryland. Lynn was so kind to me, and I looked up to her so much. I still do! She’s doing amazing things with her time and talents, including creating a cookbook (that will get it’s own post!) called, Nomemade, since it’s full of recipes for foods found in and around her hometown of Nome, Alaska. Since Lynn’s mom is Vietnamese and has a big influence on her cooking, many of these recipes have an Asian influence. For example, one of the recipes is for Pho, which is a traditional Vietnamese dish, but for a fun and yummy twist, this recipe is for Moose Pho! So awesome!

Anyhow, Lynn is so super-talented. I’m really pleased that she agreed to let me interview her for my “Inspired By” series. For more “Inspired By” interviews and to learn more about the “Inspired By” project in general, click here.

On to the interview!

Kim Harris Thacker:  Tell us about yourself and your creative work.

Lynn Hicken:  My Name is Lynn Hicken. I am a wife and a mother of two little ones. I am an avid reader, I love to disappear into the world of fiction. Sometimes when I read a book my mind is left with strong mental images and I become obsessed with seeing it in physical form. Since not every single book I read is going to be made into a movie, I sometimes cast the characters myself with actors that I could personally see portray the characters. Then I try to collect good quality pictures of them, sometimes with their heads tilted a certain way, whatever it is that I’m seeing in my head. Then I open them in Photoshop where I begin to manipulate the images. I erase their backgrounds, I change hair color and eye color as needed or even edit their clothes. I play with the color and lighting to make the images match each other. I add a new background and try to make it look like actors are having a conversation with each other- something out of the books. I add the text from the certain scene that has been running through my mind. Online, most people call these banners because they are either for a website or a signature banner on fan forums of the books. Sometimes I also make them into wallpapers.

KHT:  How did you become involved in your art form?

LH:  I’m not gonna lie, my love of reading all started with Twilight. I know, go ahead, roll your eyes. I would too. But if I’m being honest, it was the first book that completely sucked me in and left me starving for more. Because of it, I joined a website for fans called thetwilightsaga.com. This was back in 2008ish and a lot of people were using photoshop to manipulate images of the Twilight actors to portray scenes for future movies that hadn’t been made yet. They also did it to make images for their fanfictions that they had written. Seeing other people do this got me interested so I started messing around with Photoshop and practiced by following tutorials online to learn new techniques.  

KHT:  What excites you the most about your art form?

LH:  The best part for me is when it all clicks together as a finished project and it actually came out looking the way I imagined it. Everything meshes together and it looks like a scene from a movie, not something I’ve chopped up and thrown together.

Here’s an example of one that came together for me, based on the book Stolen by Lucy Christopher:

KHT:  Tell us about your work routine. Do you have an office or workspace? Do you work for a certain amount of hours each day/week? Do you listen to music while you work? Wear bunny slippers? Eat gobs of bon-bons?

LH:  I just sit at home and mess around on my laptop. I just do it when I feel so inspired. Nothing else really. Pretty boring.

KHT:  Tell us about a project you worked on that meant a great deal to you/has been your favorite project so far.

LH:  I really enjoyed a series of banners I made for The Wicked Lovely books by Melissa Marr. These ones took a lot of work because they are animated gifs instead of regular jpgs. This means that the image actually changes and with each minute change I had to make a new image.  It’s time consuming but very rewarding.  The books are about fairies and the fairies have “glamours”.  They look a certain way to humans where they appear normal but when the glamour is removed then their appearance changes.  Here are a few of them, and links to others (Remember that the images change, so watch them for a minute!):

KHT:  Where do you get your inspiration for your work?

LH:  Inspiration is always from books. Whatever it is that sticks in my mind, that is what I try to recreate by using Photoshop.

KHT:  Can we see more examples of your work?

LH:  This is from the book Fire by Kristin Cashore.  The main character is a girl named Fire who’s hair resembles Fire.  It was so much fun to make and I loved the end result.

Here’s the original image of Scarlett Johanssen so you can see how I changed her hair:

These are some banners inspired by Matched by Allie Condie:

Inspired by the “Shiver” series by Maggie Stiefvater:

Inspired by the “Maze Runner” trilogy by James Dashner:

Inspired by the character Bananach from Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr:

You can see the rest of my deviantart gallery by clicking here.

KHT:  Can you tell us about the banner competitions you’ve entered?

LH:  Some websites will hold banner competitions. They’ll ask fans to make a new banner for their website and often there is a prize involved. I was a runner up for http://hungergamesmovie.org/ with this piece:

The guy who ran the competition was so nice and gave me an Amazon gift card prize just for being a runner up. It helped to fund my book addiction.

I was a runner up again for http://www.breakingdawnmovie.org/ for an animated gif with a slideshow of movie stills (The file was too big for them to run on their website so they couldn’t use it, and it looks like we’re going to encounter the same problem here.). Just click here to see it.  

Here are some still versions I also entered:

KHT:  Do you have any advice for folks who would like to get involved in your particular art form?

LH:  I have had many people ask me “How do you make banners?” If only I could answer it simply for them. The best advice I can give is to start looking up Photoshop tutorials and practice, practice, practice.

KHT:  What/who inspires you?

LH:  One of my online friends is Leesa. She is so talented at this and I strive to make banners that reach the same level of awesomeness that she makes. Her images always come together so nicely, as if they were meant to be together in the first place. I don’t know how she does it but every banner she puts out looks amazing. We also both love the same books and often read “together” or read the same books at the same time so we can discuss them. Then we “cast” our characters together. Check out her deviantart gallery by clicking here.

KHT:  Of course, I have to ask: What are the names of a few of your favorite books?

LH:  My list:

  • The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
  • Birthmarked & Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  • Shiver, Linger, & Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Graceling & Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • I am Number Four by Pitticus Lore
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer (And the Twilight series too)

This list can go on forever but those are some off the top of my head.

Lynn, thank you so much for joining us today! You are so amazingly talented. I can’t wait to host you again, so you can talk about your cookbook!

Inspired by…Cathy Ensley!

I first met Cathy at Moscow’s public library, where she works as the children’s librarian. We hit it off, especially when we learned that we both write! Cathy asked me to come to her writer’s group, which I did, and we’ve been great friends and supporters of each other’s writing ever since.

On to the interview!

Kim Harris Thacker: Tell us about yourself and your creative work.

Cathy Ensley: I’ve dabbled in a variety of art forms in my lifetime. I’ve tried oil painting; water color; pen and ink. I’ve sewn my own clothes. Designed and made beaded jewelry. I’ve been, and continue to be, a scrapbooker. But what I always return to, what holds my attention like nothing else, is writing novels.

Having been at it for a couple of decades now, I’ve lost track of how many manuscripts I’ve written. I’m not fast; all of my writing gets done in the time leftover after working full time as a children’s librarian. I’ve also refused to give short shrift to relationships with family and friends.

Even so, my output has added up over time. I’ve written somewhere around eight manuscripts. Two were historical sagas—very long! Two were young adult novels. Three or four were romantic comedies. There were also numerous ideas that fizzled after the first fifty pages. Or never made it beyond the rough outline stage.

I’ve never tried very hard to sell any of them. I knew They amounted to my writing apprenticeship. I had much to learn in writing each one. But that kind of behavior (not trying to sell my work) will soon change.

In March, I made the excruciatingly difficult decision to take an early retirement from my delightful, secure, and well-paying job with good benefits—to take a leap of faith. On August 1, I will start pursuing a new job—writing—not as a hobby, but as a third career. (I was a dietitian before I was a children’s librarian.)

It was now or never. Fortunately, my husband didn’t complain about my decision. He’s been with me even longer than I’ve dreamed of being a publishing author, and is willing to give me the chance to see what I’m able to do.

KHT: How did you become involved in writing?

CE: I’ve always loved to read about people in different places and times. I love seeing the world through their eyes, thinking their thoughts, feeling their emotions, understanding the decisions they make. When I was in my mid-thirties, I started to wonder if I could write my own stories. I remembered that I had written stories when I was eleven years old—long, rambling stories that I had no idea how to end.

I wrote for a few years during junior high and high school, and then became so busy—going to university, getting married, having three children, designing and helping to build our house, learning all about landscaping and gardening, taking a part-time job as a nutritionist, getting a M.A. in English Literature—that I forgot all about my interest in writing for 20 or more years.

When I remembered it again, I was eager to write, but I had no idea how to write a story. Like the stories of my teen years, I didn’t know how to end them. I also didn’t know how to keep them going. With days or weeks between writing sessions, every time I wrote, the story had morphed into something new by the time I finished a page. It was quite frustrating!

I started reading books that helped me understand how stories are put together in addition to writing my manuscripts. Thus began a long, compelling, apprenticeship.  

KHT: What excites you the most about writing?

CE: I love reading a well-written novel for the sheer enjoyment of it. I also love being able to understand the craft—what the author did to create sympathetic characters, or to build suspense. In the same way that some people are challenged by crossword puzzles, or Sudoku, I am challenged to see if I can tell a good story.

KHT: How does writing allow you to explore the world?

CE: Reading fiction set in different times and places is a great means of armchair travel. But writing fiction has also catalyzed my exploration into the world of human psychology. In order to understand people, and to create characters, I’ve spent a lot of time studying what makes people tick. Does a writer need to know so much about the subject? Probably not, but it’s been a compelling study for me. I hope it has helped me to create characters that are not flat, but multi-dimensional. Characters that stay true to their traits, but also use their strength to overcome their weakness.

KHT: Tell us about your work routine. Do you have an office or workspace? Do you work for a certain amount of hours each day/week? Do you listen to music while you work? Wear bunny slippers? Eat gobs of bon-bons?

CE: Now that my children are grown, I confiscated my son’s bedroom and turned it into a writing room. Over the past five years, I’ve tried to write for an hour each morning before work, if at all possible. All too frequently, either I need to be at work early, or some pressing need swallows up the time. After work, and after I’ve set dinner on the table (anywhere from 7:00-8:00 pm) I’ve already put in a long day and am unwilling to get out the manuscript and keep plugging away at it. On weekends, I’ve tried to get in about eight hours’ worth of writing. It’s so slow. In the past five years, I’ve completed only two manuscripts. But I have also managed to keep my paid job, my relationships intact, my marriage, and my overall good health. 

I read a post recently by a woman my age who, like me, works fulltime, AND publishes two manuscripts each year. A “superwoman” to be sure, she’s been doing it for the past several years, but she’s also paid a heavy price for her output. Her doctor recently diagnosed that she was suffering from Adrenal Exhaustion, and ordered her to give something up: either her full time job, or her writing career. 

As to writing habits, I’m boring. There’s no music. No chocolate. No food of any kind. If it’s the weekend, my one bad habit is that I sometimes don’t get dressed until noon.

I tend not to waste my writing time, as it has been so very scarce. Once I’ve retired, I’ll need to be mindful of falling into bad habits that could steal my time, such as spending too much time on the internet. I’ve heard that’s a problem for many writers.

KHT: Tell us about a project you worked on that meant a great deal to you/has been your favorite project so far.

CE: Each of my projects has taught me about different aspects of writing fiction. My favorite, I suppose, was my second manuscript, in which I learned everything there is to know about the early stages of the French Revolution in both France and Saint Domingue (now Haiti). Added to that was research about what was going on in the American colonies at the same time, as well as the Quakers and the Abolition movement in England. I did way too much research, probably enough to fuel an entire writing career, each novel focusing on a different facet of my research. Indeed, that long manuscript should’ve been written as a trilogy—and maybe in the next year or two, I will tackle it.

KHT: Tell us about your current project.

CE: I’ve just begun to write a historical inspirational romance set in Spokane, Washington around the year 1917, that I am so excited about! It’s a Mail-Order Bride story, which is going to be delightful and delicious to write. I won’t say a lot more, but the characters include an uptight lawyer (the hero), his flighty 13-year-old daughter, his social-climbing mother, a visiting Russian princess, an ex-bootlegger, a well-meaning but misguided preacher, the heroine’s blind, 14 year old sister and, of course, the heroine. She is a mail order bride about whom the hero has no knowledge until his daughter informs him that she is about to arrive at the train station.

KHT: Where do you get your inspiration for your work?

CE: Inspiration for my ideas comes from everywhere. It’s not about finding ideas as much as it is about knowing which ones will be so compelling to me that I’ll stick with them until I’ve finished the book. As far as where I get the inspiration to keep writing, I look at people who are making a career out of publishing and say, “If they can do it, why not me? How are they accomplishing it? What are they doing that I’m not?” I think it boils down to a professional attitude: It’s not their hobby; it’s their job.

KHT: Do you ever encounter “writer’s block”? If so, how do you get past it?

CE: My form of block never involves being unable to put words on a page, but I have experienced block. Sometimes a lack of confidence in what I’m doing has me writing and rewriting scenes almost to an insane degree. Instead of pulling something out of the story, I work and re-work it, trying to get it to work. In the end, I still don’t know for sure if it’s working—or I didn’t know.

A recent study of Dramatica Theory, and use of Dramatica Software, has (hopefully) banished that problem forever for me. My new confidence about what I’m doing should (crossing my fingers!!!) make writing so much easier and speedier, now that I won’t get caught in an endless loop of, “Should this be part of the story, or not? Am I really writing two separate books here? Or if it’s a subplot, does the subplot fit?”

KHT: Do you have any advice for folks who would like to get involved in writing?

CE: If you think you want to do it, pursue it! You’ll know soon enough if it’s your passion. If it is, probably nothing will stop you, which is good, because the road to traditional publication is usually very long and difficult, and it doesn’t end at publication. Once you’ve become published, you have a whole new set of problems, mainly that of how to stay published.

KHT: Of course, I have to ask: What are the names of a few of your favorite books?

CE: The list could go on and on, but I love best romantic, historical sagas. I love books set in faraway times and places, especially in our own country, England, France, India, and Australia.

Cathy, thank you so much for joining us today! Your stories sound amazing. I’ve been inspired by your sheer determination to tackle writing not as a hobby, but as a full-time job, as you mentioned earlier. You’re a true student of the craft, and I know it will pay off. Best wishes and happy writing!

To learn more about Cathy’s writing (and many other interesting topics!), visit her website, Catherine Ensley’s Words World & Wings.

Inspired by…Emily Hart Wood!

I first met Emily Hart Wood through my husband, who went to school with her and her husband. But Emily and I really got to know each other when we worked together at an after school program for at-risk children. One of my favorite experiences with Emily is when she and I decided the kids in the program needed to perform a song from the musical, “Oklahoma!” for the school district’s end-of-year celebration. The kids learned a choreographed dance, and Emily even designed t-shirts for every child and program teacher (I still have mine!). She was known by all of the kids to be a tremendous artist, who could just whip out a cartoon for them at the drop of a hat. She is a creative, kind-hearted, beautiful person, and I adore her. I feel so very lucky to know her, and that she agreed to let me interview her for my “Inspired By” series. She is one talented artist, as you will see.

(To learn more about the “Inspired By” project, click here. For more “Inspired By” interviews, click here.)

And now, here’s Emily!

Kim Harris Thacker: Tell us about yourself and your creative work.

Emily Hart Wood: Hi, I’m Emily. I am a painter based out of the suburbs of Salt Lake City. I paint and design from a home studio where I am surrounded by boys: my husband, two little boys, and my dog, Trouble. We travel as much as we can and spend as much time as possible at Bear Lake. Our family likes running around outside, snowboarding, riding bikes, longboarding, music, reading and collecting found objects and books.

KHT: How did you become involved in your art form?

EHW: Creating artwork is a very intuitive thing. Most children just naturally want to create and I was no exception. I remember at a very young age always having the belief that I was an artist, and so that is what I became. I was the kid scribbling and drawing during class. I drew all over my notes in school, made drawings for my friends, and by high school was filling up sketchbooks. My initial interest was in drawing, and it wasn’t until I got into my art major that I really discovered painting. Now I feel that I have begun really using both of these together.

I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Weber State University and had a wonderful experience there. They have really stellar art professors and programs. If anyone is trying to figure out where to study art in Utah I would not hesitate to recommend WSU. I also got to participate in a study abroad program with Weber in Venice, Italy. The experience really taught me a lot. I got to see an amazing array of work from the Renaissance Italian masters to Modern and Contemporary work. The Biennale was being hosted in Venice that summer, and so we got to spend a lot of time studying that very contemporary work. It really helped me experience art in a different way, and open my eyes to the possibilities.

KHT: What excites you the most about your art form?

EHW: Where do I begin? Just being able to create excites me. I am so just grateful to be doing what I love, no matter what comes of it. It is so fulfilling.

KHT: Tell us about your work routine. Do you have an office or workspace? Do you work for a certain amount of hours each day/week? Do you listen to music while you work? Wear bunny slippers? Eat gobs of bon-bons?

EHW: My work routine has had to become much more scheduled out now that I have more deadlines to meet. Also having two little ones, I have really had to set aside time to work and have even started to need some childcare. Before I had children I would work in big spurts and stay up all night painting. I still have late nights occasionally, but now have to find blocks of time throughout the week when I can paint.

 I usually will see images, colors and ideas in my head and will have to scribble them down in my sketchbook. I then think on them for a bit until the painting is essentially fully developed in my mind before I even get out my paint and brushes. I build my own surfaces out in my garage with my power tools. Then paint away in my home studio that I affectionately call the “art factory”. I listen to music or watch cartoons if I have my little boy with me. I use whatever mediums that feel necessary at the time, fabrics, handmade papers, drawings, colored pencils. I always finish a piece by signing it and drawing a little image on the back. The picture on the back has kind of become a ritual that I do that makes the painting feel more personal to me. The painting has a little secret that l know about and the random viewer doesn’t.

Here is a time lapse of Emily at work in her studio:

KHT: Tell us about a project you worked on that meant a great deal to you/has been your favorite project so far.

EHW: I was in a show in LA based on the great Bill Murray. I feel like I always reference the piece that I did for this show, but that it is because I love it so much! This painting really felt like a turning point for me with my work. There is a sweetness to my Sailor Bill that I find very endearing.  It was more “me” than any piece I had previously done, and I will always remember it fondly.

KHT: Tell us about your current project.

EHW: I have another solo show coming up in August at the Blonde Grizzly in Salt Lake City. It is entitled The Stuff of Dreams.

This body of work will be exploring dreams and reality.  All the pieces are nautical settings, making them more dream-like and less grounded in my eyes. I have been contemplating what happens in our minds vs. actual reality. I’m interested in to what extent what we dream up makes our own truth.

The title and work also references Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

Prospero:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

This fall I will also be participating in a group “Space” show at the R & R Gallery in Los Angeles that I am really excited about. It is a “themed” show based on outer space. It has been really exciting to participate in several themed group shows over the last couple of years at the Blonde Grizzly and at the R & R Gallery.

The galleries come up with these various, crazy, sometimes pop-cultural subjects for several artists to create for. Themes like “Classic Monsters,” “Cowboys and Indians,” and “Willie and Snoop” really make the artist stop and think just how to approach the subject in their own style. I have come up with paintings and subjects that I never would have painted before.

I have some other projects I am working on as well. I have my Etsy store up and running where I sell prints of some of my paintings.

I have also been designing for a local longboarding company, Losee Longboards. I designed a line of boards for them and have been illustrating for them as well.

 

 

Lastly, I am going to be showing paintings in The Great Frame Up Gallery  in Menlo Park, CA this fall, and am excited to get going on that.

KHT: Where do you get your inspiration for your work? Do you ever encounter the equivalent of “writer’s block”? If so, how do you get past it?

EHW: Inspiration can come from anywhere, really. I am greatly inspired by the beauty in everyday life. Since having children, I’ve become fascinated by how magical the world can be through their eyes and through their imaginations.

The music, books, and films I am exploring at the time always seem to be infused into whatever I happen to be working on. Music can especially be a very powerful contributor for ideas and compositions.

Being the mother of two little ones and trying to work from home has forced a lot more structure on me. It actually seems as if this would  be confining, but I feel like it has made my work thrive. The more I have had a demand on creativity, the more I have gotten used to having it flow more consistently. There are times when ideas come more easily than others. I have discovered certain tricks to get the creativity flowing. For example, running and listening to music without fail will give me ideas for paintings.

KHT: Do you have any advice for folks who would like to get involved in your particular art form?

EHW: One thing I always want to tell people is to step out of their comfort zone! Don’t let your work become so precious that you don’t experiment with it.  I  think every artist should look at themselves as a mad scientist , constantly pushing and exploring new ideas.

Education! I don’t think every artist needs to go to school. I know many great artists who are completely self-taught. That being said, I am very pro-education and don’t think I would be where I am at all without mine. So I would encourage young artists to go to school. Not always even to develop skill, but to learn more about art itself.

KHT: What/who inspires you?

EHW: I get so inspired by great artwork. It doesn’t even matter what genre. I could travel all over the world just going to art museums and exhibitions. Art History fascinates me as well as modern and contemporary art.

Other forms of expression interest me such as dance, music, and literary works. I am always inspired when I go to a concert, ballet, film, theater, or read something amazing. I really appreciate these talents as I do not have any of them!

There are several regular artists at the Blonde Grizzly and the R & R that I really love as well.

KHT: Of course, I have to ask: What are the names of a few of your favorite books?

EHW: I love To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harry Potter, Frankenstein, and The Hobbit.

I also adore children’s books. Some of my favorites are: The Giving Tree, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and Where the Wild Things Are.

Emily, thank you so much for letting me interview you today! You are such a fabulous artist, and I wish you the very best in all your ventures!

To learn more about Emily and her art, visit her website by clicking here.

Inspired by…Chris Mower!

I first got to know Chris Mower in high school, and he always struck me as a highly talented, cheerful person. I’m so glad he agreed to let me interview him for my “Inspired By” series! To learn more about the “Inspired By” project, click here. For more “Inspired By” interviews, click here.

A Word of Warning: Grab a snack before you start reading this interview, because all the great recipes Chris talks about (not to mention the photos) will make you hungry!

Kim Harris Thacker: Tell us about yourself and your creative work.

Chris Mower: Hmm… this is always the hardest question people ask in interviews. I’ll try to be brief: If it’s creative, I’m drawn to it. This has made it difficult to focus on one specific thing through the years. There are two things that I’ve always come back to though: web design and cooking. I try to balance both of those interests out as fairly as I can.

Lately, I’ve been highly focused on cooking and recipe creation. I feel at home in my kitchen; it’s a workshop of sorts for me where I can experiment with flavors, textures, and colors. I don’t really see any downsides right now to cooking, even washing the dishes and cleaning up the aftermath can be enjoyable. During those times I find myself contemplating what I learned, how I might improve a dish, or just shutting off my brain and giving it a break.

KHT: How did you become involved in your art form?

CM: Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away… oh wait, wrong story. Sorry.

Every December for as long as I can remember, my mother spent hours in the kitchen making delicious vittles for our neighbors as a Christmas gift. These treats consisted of English butter toffee, cookies, divinity, cookies, penuche, cookies, peanut brittle, cookies, caramels, cookies, chocolates, and cookies. I looked forward to this every year. It was a fun way to spend time as a family.

As I’ve carried the candy making tradition on in my own family, my interests have widened, though I always find myself coming back to the sweet sugar-packed goodies.

A few years ago I felt stuck in my job and needed a creative outlet. I’ve always loved writing and I decided that I could use that as a release. I didn’t have anything specifically that I felt like writing about—I just wanted to write and unwind. After a few attempts at writing about various things, I decided to focus on food, as it was something that has been a large part of my life (as my belly will testify). I created a website called The Cooking Dish (www.thecookingdish.com) and began to research and answer questions that I had. The only difference now was that I was sharing it with anybody else who might be interested.

My first blog posts were awful: I cringe when I go back and read some of them. I can’t decide if I should go back and rewrite them or leave them alone to remember the “good ol’ days.”

KHT: What excites you the most about your art form?

CM: I love almost everything about cooking, but a few things are especially pleasurable. First, working with food is a full-on sensory experience. The smells, tastes, textures, sounds, and looks of food are all very real and exciting; each sense plays an integral part in a recipe. The kitchen is the perfect place for a curious person like me who loves to play and experiment with those senses.

Second, food brings people together. I absolutely love being in the kitchen with family and friends, and food has a way of opening people up to sharing stories and ideas. I believe that anything good is worth sharing, and that’s especially true with food. As part of that, cooking with my kids provides great teaching moments. It gets pretty messy at times, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Third, cooking is introspective. Many times I’ve purposely taken the long route when cooking, such as kneading dough or whisking batters by hand, so that I have time to think. I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I believe, and even figured out difficult issues while cooking. It’s amazing to me how many parallels can be drawn between food and life. As I let myself open up, realizing I don’t know it all, the easier it becomes to learn.

KHT: How does your work allow you to explore the world?

CM: Food is at the heart of every culture. Take chicken for example. There are thousands of ways to cook a chicken and they differ from country to country. Heck, even in America chicken tastes and is prepared differently from state to state. Thanks to the Internet, I’m able to look up recipes from all over the world and learn how they’re prepared and experiment on my own.

I dream of traveling the world and learning to cook the cultural foods at each destination. To me, that would be heaven.

Another fun part of cooking is eating at a restaurant (I love foreign foods) and then coming how and figuring out how to duplicate the dish. I like the challenge, and I especially like saying, “I did it!” I recently changed my fried rice recipe after eating at an Indian restaurant. I loved the flavor of their fried rice so much, that I had to create it at home.

KHT: Tell us about your work routine. Do you have an office or workspace? Do you work for a certain amount of hours each day/week? Do you listen to music while you work? Wear bunny slippers? Eat gobs of bon-bons?

CM: Between my full-time job and freelance web design business I don’t get a lot of time to cook on the weekdays, which is unfortunate. Therefore, I usually end up cooking on Saturdays and Sundays. The weekends are also the best time if I’m going to be taking pictures of the food, that way I have the option of using morning, afternoon, or evening light.

The process of creating, making, and posting a new recipe to my blog is actually extremely time consuming, though I’m slowly becoming faster at it. I keep a notebook with all my ideas, and often will pull out the colored pencils and sketch what I want the final dish to look like. At this point I also begin to look for food pairings: textures, flavors, and so forth.

When I think I’ve got the idea to where I want it to be, I’ll purchase the groceries, bring them home and get to work. Chop chop chop, stir stir stir, etc. etc. etc.

During the whole process, I keep my camera and tripod next to me and take pictures every step of the way. I style the final dish for the beauty shots and take a few more pictures. Then, I edit the pictures and write my post. A 30-minute recipe can take up to 4+ hours from start to finish. During this time, music is a must… I find The Weepies especially enlightening. But movies are off limits during the creation period as they’re way too distracting.

KHT: Tell us about a project you worked on that meant a great deal to you/has been your favorite project so far.

CM: Creating my ninja birthday cake was a blast. It was the first (and so far, last) time I’d worked with marshmallow fondant. I also created a new inner frosting with mint, raspberries, chocolate and a couple other flavors. It was the BEST frosting I’ve ever tasted on a cake. It made up for the fondant, which in my opinion has never been tasty.

When all was said and done, the cake itself was pretty goofy looking but it tasted great! To top it off, I cut it up with a katana. I enjoy the nerdy things in life. I found out that it takes a lot of practice to use fondant, and it’s ones skill that I just haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet.

KHT: Tell us about your current project.

CM: I have numerous recipes that I’ve been developing, but haven’t had a chance to post yet. They’re more focused on meals instead of desserts. I’m pretty excited about them. One is a replica of a Chinese-inspired dish I had a restaurant.

I also recently started blogging for General Mills in their Betty Crocker and Pillsbury divisions. [You can click here to see one of Chris’s recipes–a yummy one for lemon-garlic chicken drumsticks!] So far, it’s been pretty good, but it can also be stressful. I absolutely love creating new things every month, but my schedule makes it difficult to balance that with my own blog and website design business.

KHT: Where do you get your inspiration for your work? Do you ever encounter the equivalent of “writer’s block”? If so, how do you get past it?

CM: Inspiration comes at random times for me. Sometimes I’ll sit down and have a brainstorming session. Other times ideas literally just pop into my head, so I’ll quickly scribble them down or sketch out a picture of what I’m thinking. The worst is when inspiration happens in the shower (and we all know that’s when the best ideas come) because I have nowhere to write it down and hopping out of the shower and streaking across the house to get a pen and paper really isn’t the best option.

So far I haven’t experienced any sort of writers block when creating recipes. I’m sure it’ll come. I definitely experience it on occasion when typing my blog posts or recipe descriptions. The only way I’ve been able to get past it is to just write something out, even if it’s crappy. It’s like a piece of dried ink in your pen. Sometimes you’ve just gotta’ scribble and write until the ink starts to flow again. Then, when the creative spark has returned, I’ll delete the crappy stuff.

KHT: Do you have any advice for folks who would like to get involved in your particular art form?

CM: I think it’s important to remember that cooking becomes more fun the more you know about it and are willing to experiment. I’ve burned my fair share of toast, ruined my fair share of eggs, and have made a lot of really cruddy (and nearly inedible) food. But that’s part of the game, and I love it. Laugh about it, take a bite to remember how awful it was, throw it away (or frame it?), and move on.

I once ruined an Easter dinner by cooking an already cooked ham to the point that it turned gray. It looked putrid and had the texture of a rubber band, but we tried it out anyway. I could only handle a couple bites it was so terrible. Every year around Easter we remember that large grotesque piece of meat as the “ham dog.” It was awful, but makes for a great memory.

Let’s have a moment of silence to remember the ham dog.

But seriously, if you really want to learn how to cook, you have to be willing to make mistakes. Embrace those mistakes. They will make you better.

And one more thing: start simple. Add one ingredient and spice at a time and then taste it. Add another and then taste it. Some of the finest dishes, in my opinion, have very few ingredients. More does not equal better. It also helps to read a few books. Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking is one I highly recommend.

KHT: What/who inspires you?

CM: My greatest inspiration comes from human expression through art. This includes music, photography, painting, writing, film, and dance. I don’t do all of these things myself (count your blessings, you don’t want to see me dance), but seeing the creativity and ability of the human race to express feelings and emotion through these mediums is profound and deeply inspiring to me.

KHT: Of course, I have to ask: What are the names of a few of your favorite books?

CM: I’m a book junkie and am always reading something. For the past 5 months I’ve been reading all I can about religion. I’ve probably polished off few thousand pages so far this year. I have a few more books on my reading list before I’ll move to another subject.

Before that I spent about 6 months devouring as many cooking-related books I could, and before that it was the classics: Pride and Prejudice (which I’ll admit was delightful), The Chosen, Little Britches, etc. For a long while, I was also reading all the business books I could get my hands on. To say the least, I definitely make the rounds.

When it comes down to it though, my favorite favorites are:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy. These ones take the cake for me. I love those books. I’ve read them numerous times and find them inspirational and captivating.

The Harry Potter septology (look at me, creating recipes and words, w00t!). I get lost in J.K. Rowling’s language and fun plot lines.

The Chronicles of Prydain (The Horned King, The Black Cauldron, etc.). Lloyd Alexander was a great story teller and these are remarkable.

Chris, thank you so much for doing this interview! You are a hoot! I had a lot of fun learning more about you, and I wish you the very best in all your many enterprises! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find something delicious to eat…

 
 
You can find Chris blogging and/or discover some of his recipes at these websites:
 
You can also follow Chris on Twitter (@FireSamurai) and Pinterest (FireSamurai). His facebook page, The Cooking Dish, can be found by clicking here

 

Inspired by…Wendy Chard!

I am so pleased to present my friend, Wendy Chard, for today’s “Inspired By” interview. To learn more about the “Inspired By” project, click here. For more “Inspired By” interviews, click here.

Wendy and I met about five years ago through our husbands, who were getting their undergraduate degrees at the same university and who were in the same poetry classes. Wendy and I clicked, just as our husbands had. Though it wasn’t long until our families went separate ways for grad school, we’ve stayed in touch.

Friends, meet Wendy!

Kim Harris Thacker:  Tell us about yourself and your creative work.

Wendy Chard:  Well, I’m a Mommy. I have two fabulous boys, a four year old and an eight-month-old baby that I get to play with all day, every day. When I can I like to play with fabrics, yarn, buttons, beads and putting them all together.

I’ve been making hats, headbands, hair pieces and jewelry since I was young and I just started making a bit of cash selling them. I like to play with new materials, new ideas and mostly deconstructing old clothes or accessories to make something new and fabulous.

KHT:  How did you become involved in your art form?

WC:  When I was six a neighbor taught me how to crochet so I would sit still. I used to make little rectangles, load them into a wagon and sell them door to door as bookmarks. I kept crocheting as something to keep my hands busy while watching TV. It became something therapeutic as I got older. One day my husband was getting rid of some old ties and I thought, “I should make something with those.”  

Then, voila, I made some headbands and started selling them like hotcakes. I’ve been taking all kinds of crazy things apart ever since.

KHT:  What excites you the most about your art form?

WC:  I’m pretty selfish actually. I like to make things that I like and then I keep them. When I start something new or begin experimenting it’s because I want something that I either can’t find in stores or can’t afford. So, I suppose getting a new headband, scarf or bracelet excites me.  

I also LOVE watching little girls’ eyes light up when I hand them a mirror and tell them that they should try on one of everything and pick their favorite. They get so excited! I love my boys and I make them new hats and ties but it doesn’t compare to a little girl looking in the mirror and seeing how beautiful she is.

The most exciting part, though, is watching women find their inner bombshell. Have you ever noticed that everyone has a mirror face? Start watching. Everyone: men, women and children all have a particular face when they look in the mirror. Some people pout their lips, some squint their eyes, flip their hair, raise their chin – personally, my eyes get REALLY big. Everyone has their “tell” when they’re checking themselves out. I love to see women check themselves out with a new accessory and feel like a million bucks. The hottie inside every woman just needs an accessory to remind her to come out more often. I love making something that brings that out of a woman.

KHT:  How does your work allow you to explore the world?

WC:  Well, I haven’t really. I suppose I’ve more explored women and girls and what makes them tick more than anything. I’m starting to better understand women – which is the world’s biggest mystery right? Just when I think I have someone figured out they surprise me. I love that mystery.

KHT:  Tell us about your work routine. Do you have an office or workspace? Do you work for a certain amount of hours each day/week? Do you listen to music while you work? Wear bunny slippers? Eat gobs of bon-bons?

WC:  Well, I have a card table set up in my tiny living room with a chair we fondly call my “Edgar Chair” that’s tucked away in a corner. I typically replay episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or blast the Indigo Girls (depending if my children are awake or not). Then I look at the ceiling and wish that I had gobs of bon-bons. Instead I usually have a Dr. Pepper hidden in the jungle of craft supplies and sewing machines and glue guns and occasionally you can find some random chocolate I’ve found to keep me inspired–because nothing inspires a woman like chocolate and Dr. Pepper, right? After I’m finished at night I usually have to crawl out from under the heap of materials I’ve buried myself under and shove them all into the corner to be organized the next day.

I’ve taken the last year or so off due to having a baby and moving across the country, but before my long sabbatical I worked several hours a night after I put my son to bed. Now I try to work at least a little bit each day. Soon I hope to have things up and running again with my “Edgar Chair” and Dr. Pepper easily accessible.

KHT:  Tell us about a project you worked on that meant a great deal to you/has been your favorite project so far.

WC:  My brother passed away about a year and a half ago. My sister-in-law asked me to take some of his shirts and make something for all of his nieces. I thought he might come back to haunt me when I made that first cut into his favorite shirts. He loved his clothes and took very good care of them so I was so nervous when I first started. Gradually it started to really come together and I made something that I hoped each of the girls would really like. It was really emotional but such a beautiful experience to make something that would remind them of him every time they wore it. They all turned out great and it ended up being so much fun.

KHT:  Tell us about your current project.

WC:  As I mentioned before, I’m just now coming out of my little year off. I’ve started lately to work on putting together some bigger pieces and I’m working on finding some courage to start creating clothing. I’ve always wanted to work on clothing but it seemed too intimidating and difficult. Now after having two kids, however, I’m starting to think there’s not much that’s more difficult than that. So hopefully my next big project will be a line of very fabulous clothing.

KHT:  Where do you get your inspiration for your work? Do you ever encounter the equivalent of “writer’s block”? If so, how do you get past it?

WC:  Because nearly everything I work with is created from “upcycled” materials I usually find something I love and let it “speak to me”. I literally ask it–say it’s a dress–“Ugly lacy pink dress, what do you want to be? Do you want to be a scarf, a headband; maybe we could make you into a funky new skirt. What do think?” Then I sit with it for a minute until I can picture what I want it to be. I guess you could say the garment already has a story and I like to hang out with it for a bit before I get the new story worked out.

I get “writers/ crafters block” all the time! Sometimes I call it baby block because it’s usually because I’m so tired. This may sound terrible, but I usually go back to working on something boring that I know I have to do until I find something else that I want to make. A lot of times I go back to my roots and crochet some hats or do something crazy like refinish a dresser. With patience and a lot of time spent on Etsy or Pinterest, some new ideas will usually start itching at me and I’ll know just what I want to try.

KHT:  Do you have any advice for folks who would like to get involved in your particular art form?

WC:  Just jump in head first. If you’re interested in creating anything, I say go for it. Creating something beautiful is such a wonderful experience and you feel so great when you’re done. Be patient, don’t give up and start small. Check out your local craft store or ask around for anyone teaching lessons. It’s definitely worth investing time to be able to make something handmade that you’re proud of.

KHT:  What/who inspires you?

WC:  Perhaps it’s cliche but I watch a lot of TV, movies, read magazines–all of them to find the new fashion trends. I don’t always like what I’m watching but I look for small things that I could make or that inspires me to make something beautiful.

I’ve never had the money to buy the expensive and beautiful pieces that I wanted so I’ve always had to “make do”. There are so many great ideas out there now – especially on Pinterest – for do-it-yourself projects that are beautiful and easy. I mentioned earlier that I like to surf both Pinterest and Etsy for inspiration for new ideas. I also like to watch what other women wear. Everyone has a unique fashion sense and I like to imagine what each woman would wear.

KHT:  Of course, I have to ask: What are the names of a few of your favorite books?

WC:  Wow. I have so many favorites it’s hard to narrow it down. To name a few: Enders Game, Life of Pi, The Only Alien on the Planet (rare but wonderful), The Goose Girl (thank you Kim for that one), Interview with the Vampire, Skippyjon Jones and the Elephant and Piggie books. I know it’s an eclectic group but that’s just how I roll.

Wendy, thank you so much for letting me interview you! I love knowing you used to go door-to-door to sell your crochet squares! That is too dang cute. And your story about how you turned your brother’s shirts into gifts for his nieces…how incredible. Your work is really inspiring! I love how focused you are on helping women and girls feel beautiful. Thank you for doing that!

To find out more about Wendy’s awesome projects, visit her website, “Between Linnet and Linen.”

Inspired by…Candice Ashment!

I am so pleased to present the lovely Candice Ashment as today’s “Inspired By” guest! Candice and I became friends in college, bonding over books, the outdoors, and the fact that both of us have curly hair (a very bond-worthy topic, as those of us curly-girls know). For Christmas one year, Candice gave me a beautiful, hand-made journal. I still have it, and it’s such a treasure that I have yet to write in it!

To learn more about the “Inspired By” project, click here. For more “Inspired By” interviews, click here.

Without further ado…here’s Candice!

Kim Harris Thacker:  Tell us about yourself and your creative work.

Candice Ashment:  I am a mom, and a mom first before all (or at least I try). I found that out the hard way when my daughter asked me with a deep curiosity, “Mom if we’re (her and her sibling) so important, then why are you always working on your art instead being of with us?” I’ll explain that later… I am a wife and mother of 3 super curious and creative kids (9, 6, & 22 mos.). I try to spend my time balancing kids & their homework (I swear I already did that, but feel like I am going through elementary school again!), my husband working full-time and working on a masters full-time, trying to cook creatively, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, teaching kid art classes (more cleaning up), volunteering my time to teach/make art projects for the school and my daughter’s class, exercising (seasonal outdoor outings whenever possible with the fam), and then… sometimes I conjure up time to work on some of my art projects that have been brewing for so long, that they’re all just begging to come out.

Well, as far as my creative work, there are three areas that I have been focused on for the past few years: printmaking (papermaking for my printmaking), oil painting, and kid art projects. But I should say, right now the order is kids art projects, then the other two. Here’s my story as an artsy momma, about how I came to be where I’m at today. When I decided to be a full-time artist a few years back, I would open the door to my garage studio and just grin from ear to ear and go all day like that, just as happy as can be. I spent months oil painting full-time. My kids got really excited when I started printmaking because they could more easily hang out with me in the studio. They wanted to be there with me, making it with me. Sometimes I would let them help me in my studio or I would let them just come and sit by me and create their own art. My kids knew I loved being in the studio, but I would always confirm, “I love you more than my art.” Sometimes, they’d wonder, and then I’d confirm again, “You’re more important than my art.” Most of the time, I didn’t really notice anything going on around me (or outside of my studio). I’d get so focused and have so much fun, that I completely loose myself. My husband had a night job, and so he “watched” the kids during the day.

I had all day to create collagraph prints, make paper to print on, ink them up, print on them, let them dry, and then watercolor the prints afterwards also. Then I would mount them, sign each one, mat and frame them (with my husband’s help- he’s my “apprentice,” a free apprentice.) I started selling at summer juried art festivals with my husband, and leaving the kids home with their wonderful grandparents. I loved creating art full-time, loved being around other artists (and my husband), and the best part- I got paid. At one of the art shows an artist, who was not selling her art at the time, asked me, “How do you find time to be a full-time artist?” My reply was, “I make time, it is all I do and I love it.”

One day, like most, I was frantically getting organized for an upcoming art show. My daughter asked me something that has changed my perspective on my life as a person and a mom, “Mom if we’re (her and her sibling) so important, then why are you always working on your art instead of with us?” Ha, she caught me so off guard! What a liar I had been, actions are louder than words. I don’t even remember what ridiculous excuse I gave her. I was just done, done with emphasizing my love and efforts into objects, instead of real people, my own flesh and blood. Once my dad said his happiest times as a father were when we were younger…. And I totally got it. They are so wonderful! Watching my children grow, say hilariously quirky things, teaching them so many skills/and that adults are not perfect, taking them out, reading books to them, and the wonderful list can go on- I stand on my opinion that poopy diapers will never be wonderful though.

This change that needed to occur in me, the ideal that my kids/family are more important than my art projects didn’t happen overnight, it is a constant battle each day I awake. I always have ideas in my head or on paper, and sometimes I am able to create them. Three years ago when my daughter was in 1st grade, I realized how shy she had become and lacked confidence. I asked her teacher if I could come in whenever possible to teach art projects to her class (they do not have a teacher for the elementary school) and she agreed!

I came on a weekly basis and my daughter was my little helper. She loved helping me and was proud of me. I hadn’t ever considered teaching children how to do art/craft projects- I have a BFA in oil painting and printmaking. Since that time, I have been able to “volunteer” school and help create a project for each grade, volunteer in my daughter’s class, and teach kid art classes. I am have learned how to teach children to love art, learn art, and learn to love themselves. This is part of what I do.

KHT:  What excites you the most about your art form?

CA:  So besides teaching art to kids, I truly love collagraph printmaking. I was introduced to printmaking when I was attending an art school in Wales, Great Britain. I honed in on collagraph printmaking because I can use found objects to collage and create a print plate/image. I’ve always “hoarded” scraps of various materials/mediums for later projects- and they get put to a good use with my collagraphs. I love how each of my prints are entirely distinctive, because they are hand-pulled prints (not off of a laser printer, but hand inked, pushed, and rolled out on my press by me). At first I printed on print paper, but later learned how to custom make my own sinuous paper for my individual prints/images. Both printmaking and papermaking are hands on, and I get super messy with ink and paper pulp. I love using my hands! One of the last creative steps is adding watercolor to each image/print. Even though my prints might be the same image, when I custom color one, it is the only one of its edition. My other beloved medium is oil painting. When I oil paint everything has to be set up just so in my painting studio or it can get kind of sloppy. I have always painted somewhat photorealistic. So right now, with little ones, I’ll have to catch up on it later in life.

KHT:  Tell us about your work routine.  Do you have an office or workspace?  Do you work for a certain amount of hours each day/week?  Do you listen to music while you work?  Wear bunny slippers?  Eat gobs of bon-bons?

CA:  When I paint or am printmaking, I listen to music, but I wouldn’t even notice if you came in the room and turned it off. I wouldn’t even notice if the CD repeated 10 times… that’s actually happened before. Like I said earlier, I don’t pay attention to anything around me. I even forget to eat! It’s been a while since I’ve done that though. When I teach art to kids, they make me talk to them, help them, teach them, and listen to them.

KHT:  Tell us about a project you worked on that meant a great deal to you/has been your favorite project so far.

CA:  I am attached to all of my paintings and prints, because they are obviously a part of me. I do have a favorite painting though, it’s not necessarily the subject or the outcome, it’s the experience I had when painting it. I started oil painting “Birth,” a cluster of beautiful, twisty aspens, when my first child was born. I painted on it here and there (I worked part-time also) over a period of 6 months and then put it away. When my second child was born, I got it out again and finished it. In the left bottom corner there is a clump of fresh green grass starting to come up, this color, the smell, the idea of spring… it reminds me of my children when they were born.

KHT:  Tell us about your current project.

CA:  I am working on a kid art project tutorial in the May issue for a new magazine called ‘The Sandbucket.’ “‘The Sandbucket’ is a quarterly publication for mothers, teens and all young-at-heart. Inside you will find parenting tips, DIY projects, activities to do with children, great recipes, beautiful photography and much more.” My tutorial is teaching parents how to capture their kids pencil drawings on canvas with glue batiking. I will be posting a less detailed tutorial on my blog soon. You can find more details if you visit my blog.

KHT:  Where do you get your inspiration for your work?  Do you ever encounter the equivalent of “writer’s block”?  If so, how do you get past it?

CA:  I believe that all of my ideas and images are from life experience around me at that moment, in the past, and what is most important to me. I’ve been blessed to live in two foreign countries and enjoy traveling as much as possible. I also have always had a love for children’s books… or maybe just the art- sorry Kim! Having kids and having lots of kids’ books in my house only intensified that obsession. I just look around me. I’m always looking at natural color and trying to paint it with my mind’s palette and canvas. If you’re wondering why I can’t pay attention to you when you’re talking, it’s not because you’re dull, it’s because I’m processing ideas and projects. I never run out of art projects, because being a busy and curious mother, I don’t have enough time to push even a fraction of them out! That’s enough to fill me for a lifetime.

KHT:  Do you have any advice for folks who would like to get involved in your particular art form?

CA:  I would say currently (alongside being a kid art teacher) I am a collagraph artist-I don’t know very many artists that create collagraph prints, so it’s exciting to be one of the few. There are so many possibilities that you can mesh with other printmaking methods and art mediums. You can develop your own individual techniques and processes.

KHT:  Of course, I have to ask:  What are the names of a few of your favorite books?

CA:  Sad to say Kim, I’m one of those people that do not have a favorite song, movie, artist, dessert, or book! I tend to browse and focus on a few for whatever reason coincides with me at the time. When I was a younger artist I adored the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli for his young talent, flawless skin and elegant drapery. Now I’m impressed with all of the individual artists that I have associated with, too many to name, to Eric Carle, the renowned children’s book artist for his originality that everyone tries to duplicate.

Thank you so much for participating in my “Inspired By” project, Candice. You know, what you said about not having a favorite artist rings true for me when it comes to books! I love so many books for such different reasons, that it’s hard to name just a few favorites. And I really love your thoughts on raising kids and developing your talents. That’s something I’ve struggled to balance for a while, now, and I appreciate so much what you said. Best wishes in all you do, friend!

To see more of Candice’s wonderful work, visit her website by clicking here.