Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I am interviewed in my role as book designer!

Mary Mackey, author herself, interviewed me about designing book covers. Here it is:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

More inking fun on 1 train commute

I love drawing with my Japanese ink brush pen. I do a quick pencil sketch and expand it with wet ink line. I realized, it was a flash really, that I don't have to anxiously keep bobbing my head around to keep one person in view to do a portrait. Or gently nudge someone so I can see past them! As people move on and off the subway, or get obscured, I simply look for someone a bit like them at nearly the same angle and keep drawing. I had people on the left and right of me watching eagerly as I discovered this and they too were swiveling around to see who would model an ear or mouth or jacket. So now I've invented the composite portrait. Ta da!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Quest for Jello

Today I was on a clear liquid diet in preparation for tomorrows colonoscopy. I went out at lunch hour and bought a chicken broth from a sushi place and began searching lower midtown Manhattan for another approved item on the list, Jello. It has the illusion of being a solid. 

At the corner convenience store the manager said "Yellow? Yellow?" as I said "Jello, Jello?" We did this a few times. He clearly didn't have any.

I next tried the upscale healthy mini-lunch, artisan coffee, artful minimal decor place. There the terribly buff and shellacked looking guy said "Noooo, we don't sell...Jello." You know, as if I'd asked for beef jerky or a jar of pickled pig trotters. "I'm on a liquid diet today, I really need to find Jello!" He sniffed. I left.

I tried and tried, diners, bagel shops, delis, a pizza Jello.

Finally, realizing there were several bar/eateries on the street, I waddled into the first one wearing my Nepalese knitted cap, two coats, pink scarf, and neon red plastic knee high boots. Brisk walking just is not possible in an ice storm wearing this gear while carrying my take out bag with the soup. I asked the wait staff "do you have Jello, like in Jello shots?" They sort of backed away from me. "Actually all I want is the Jello part?" They glanced at each other and with barely smothered smirks said "no."

In the second bar I asked the hostess if they had Jello shots. She stared at me for a moment and said "we don't serve Jello" and when I pleaded "but I'm on a liquid diet today," she looked at me with something like pity and said "no Jello, we don't serve that here." She glanced meaningfully at the exit.

I gave up. Midtown is officially a Jello-free zone. And I don't even like the stuff.

Monday, October 7, 2013

more "Inktober" efforts

I'm doing daily ink sketches and I generally can't resist adding color. I may try black line and gray wash as a compromise--so I will get more line aware. I'm still startled by drawing with a bold thick line...but I'm having fun.
Will soon go back to a daily poetry prompt too. Having Pocket Park published is great, but it also leaves me empty of a current poetry project. And until I get obsessed with new themes, time to just do it, keep writing and drawing. It is so good to do throwaway creative exercises. Occasionally something worth keeping, developing, comes out of it.
October is for familiars and witches.

Houndlet performs the Danish play.
This time, just ink and ONE color.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Launch for Pocket Park

Friday, November 15, 2013, 7 p.m.
Poet's House
10 River Terrace, New York, NY
(212) 431-7920

Pocket Park is published!

Yes, October 1st came and the status of my book is no longer "forthcoming" but "adopt me!"

Going on press to check color was a huge good thing to do. I was sick with a cold, but with tissues on hand, I took the LIRR out to East Rockaway, NY. where Sandy McIntosh, publisher at Marsh Hawk Press, picked me up and drove us to the printers, Sterling Pierce. After four tries we approved a better cover than Michael Arguelles, the color tech guru, had at first shown us. He was patient and ultimately shifted the cover to another machine that was able to deliver more contrast and saturation than the one printing the interior.

The interior looks really good, it helps to be on glossy brochure style paper. After getting a first set of proofs at home last month I'd adjusted color slightly on nine of the interior photos (too dark or too light) and now they printed just fine. I've created a color setting in Photoshop for each printer I use so the screen emulates their color. It's working, I'd guess about 90% on target, since a piece of printed paper will never be as bright as the stained glass effect of a glowing monitor. Or in design-speak, two different color spaces, CMYK vs RGB (like comparing Olive Oil to Popeye in a battle of color strength).

Digital color printing still isn't the equal of a traditional full 4-color's gotten a lot better in the last several iterations of the machines that churn these pages out. The digital printers are basically a seven foot long photocopier. Traditional presses can be the length of an Olympic sized pool and wide as a semi! My photos don't depend on subtle shifts in skin tone, that would be hard to do digitally. Pocket Park, visually, is about mid-tone gray and tan geometric urban planes contrasting with saturated hues of water and foliage. An urban park in color. With poems in black ink Garamond.

Sandy asked me to pick some photos from the book to put on the Marsh Hawk Press gallery section of their website. And to talk about how the book came into being, including my experience working with digital color. So here is my day wearing three hats: poet, photographer, and book designer. All three happy.

The skilled Michael Arguelles with me at Sterling Pierce, printers.
Due to head cold, I'm having a massive bad hair week.

Sandy McIntosh, publisher at Marsh Hawk Press.

4 pages to a sheet.

Look! My title page! Sandy tends to blink into the flash,
honestly he looked lots happier than this.

Good color all the way through.

Approved to print & bind.

Inktober, or how to get practice for a month drawing in ink

October is Inktober. Who knew? Now you do too. One a day.
Here is Mr. Acorn, based on nuts stolen from squirrels on a walk with my daughter Caitlin 2 weeks ago in Central Park. She also draws in ink, in her case, the blue and black of everyday ball point pens. This was drawn with a Pentel marker/brush and colored pencils.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mom, Julie Harris, and me, a cautionary tale

My Julie Harris story.
When I was 9-3/4, my mother took me on her yearly weekend trip to Vermont to visit her old high school. We stayed at the Woodstock Inn for a night and visited the town, woods, and ski slopes where she'd perfected her "Christys," and drove by the turn-off to the Woodstock Country School as she extolled the delights of hiking and fresh air in her Brooklyn accent. Larry Hagman had also gone to that boarding school, a year or so ahead, but they weren't friends, especially since Mom wasn't a bit interested in dating boys.
On our way back from the pilgrimage to my mother's youth, we pulled into a restaurant in Connecticut to get a late lunch and help me recover from the car-sickness I felt from my mothers smoke filled-car and its rough rocking suspension.
"I'm sorry, we just closed."
"My girl really needs something to eat, could you please see if someone in the kitchen could help us with a bite?"
I was pale and swaying.
"All right," said the waitress returning from the chef, "but you can't sit in the dining room, we have a private party there, we can seat you in this side room."
As we followed her, Mom glanced through the dining room door as it swung shut and grabbed my arm and hoarsely whispered "Oh My God! Julie Harris. JULIE HARRIS!!! is sitting in there!"
Mom kept muttering Julie Harris to herself.
We sat down. I gulped my water and ate a breadstick. Mom stared at me. She tentatively tried to straighten my bangs (impossible), push the topiary of curls out of my face (hopeless), and reposition the cat-shaped tortoise shell eyeglasses that habitually slipped off-tilt down my nose.
"You're cute, all kids are cute," she began. I could see she was doing her best to believe this. The drool stains from when I'd managed to fall asleep sucking on a stick of licorice hardly showed on my shirt.
"Look, you're out of water, you walk in there with that empty glass and nicely ask the waitress for more water and then when Julie Harris looks at you tell her how much you loved her in The Member of the Wedding. She played a kid in that. Perfect. Go on." She wiped my mouth with a corner of her napkin. Squinted. Removed my glasses. Then wet her palms with water and squashed down my hair. "Go now. Better without the glasses, go on."
I was deeply myopic. I only bumped into a few chairs heading into the dining room peering about for the waitress… Julie and the man were absorbed in one of those tense weird adult conversations full of silences and conversational stabs. I tip-toed over. My heart hammered. Julie was skinny and not that much bigger than me.
"Could I please have some waaaa…." I began.
Julie and her companion startled and stared at me with the same expression one gives a newly produced hairball.
"I told you we wanted privacy, privacy, get out, get out!!" She shouted over my head.
The waitress ran in, a white aproned blur.
"Get out!"
I ran.
"We're never coming back here! Get me the check." was the last I heard.

I rejoined my mother, breathless and red-faced.
"How did it go, did you get her autograph?"
I shook my head.
"No…I don't think she likes kids."
"Mmmm, actresses, probably don't know what they're missing not having a girl like you."
I put my glasses back on and decided I'd earned French Toast with whipped cream for lunch.
"How could she not like you, you're so cute?"
"I dunno."
"Why didn't you get water?"
"Waitress wasn't there."
"That's where you went wrong! You should have waited to ask the waitress for water, you don't ask Julie Harris for water."
"I'll never do it again, Mom, promise."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Let the book get printed, embrace promotion!

I am almost ready to send Pocket Park to the printer! Print proofs look good, I did final adjustments to a half dozen photos... It is getting one last proofreading before it goes because, you know, I don't want any new typos creeping in and having you, dear public, gently point them out.

My friend Flash suggested I could lead a workshop on how to take a regular lunch hour hangout and turn it into a project of seeing, of being there, using more of your senses, in the course of a year. That would be fun!

As I let this project stop, no more changes, revisions, additions, or deletions, I am still aware of the more perfect book I wanted it to be. This ghostly betterness has once again slipped my ability and I'm left with doingness.  I created this book to the fullest, the most that I could and that feels right. I wish I had better mental and physical equipment (a small DSLR would be able to capture motion, which my pocket camera cannot) but hey, I can only be the me I am and as much as I'd like to borrow some O'Hara, Sylvia Plath or Donald Justice, Diane Arbus or Vivian Maier... I was stuck with me. No, revise that, I was me but I paid attention.

I will give readings and see if the Eventi Hotel wants to work with me on a way to celebrate the book. I can create a site. I'm agog.

My mind is turning to new books, in the perfect blur of possibility. Like falling in love. The work-in-progress is saying, Claudia, this time, this time you will get closer, and in the process surprise yourself. So here I come, goodbye done, hello beguiling.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My first article on making fantasy maps is published!!!

I just received my copies of The Portolan, journal of the Washington map society. In 2011 I gave a talk in the map room of the library of congress to the society. The editor of the journal, Tom Sander, asked me to turn it into an article, with some of the images that had been in my PowerPoint slideshow. Since I'd sort of gone off script in the talk, my nervousness just miraculously evaporated as I spoke, I recreated the jist and added more to explain what I've learned over the years of making literary invented worlds become visible. I also looked at how changes in technology shaped how I worked. Not to mention fitting a universe in a tiny poorly printed paperback page. I got a bit more personal than the journal was expecting, but hopefully, their readers will enjoy hearing, again, about the joys, and sometime failures, of this particular craft.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Final moments on cover and then I WILL MOVE ON

Creating the ad for Fall 2013 Marsh Hawk Press books...there are two launching. Pocket Park has met its final count down. So will it be PATH, REFLECTION, or TREES?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cover me round 2, more abstract mostly

I thank everyone who voted on the covers I put together yesterday, your comments and reactions got me thinking about getting more mysterious, abstract, and focused. So here are today's contestants (click to see larger):

A, front runner from yesterday







Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cover me!

I'm finishing my book Pocket Park and getting files ready to go to the printer. The inside is done, the library of congress data arrived and I put it in its slot on the copyright page, I've made final corrections, and it will soon fly out of here on it's electrons.

But now—the cover. Do I have the best photo for it?

The one I picked is rather dark, suggesting the poems are likewise, and mostly, they aren't. But I'm afraid of using something too bland, too meh. So tell me, which ones look best?
Note, A is the current cover.











Summer Haiku

Trees discuss the heat,
lack of soil, they sigh and creak
in their rough girdles.

The US Open in the Pocket

The ball pocks
from serve to racket
heads swivel
following the play
on the outdoor
mega-wall display

the pixelated ball
is the irregular beat
of a collective heart

sparrows hop
close and closer
to unguarded bounty
as Forest Hills
thrills New York county.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Da Dawg Days in June

Sculpture in plastic clay of a character for a kids book I'm writing. Oh this is fun.

I used to sculpt a lot in high school. But when I got to college the studio art department was in the grips of worshiping abstract and conceptual art. Especially in artist's statements.

"Carlson, paint what you feel!"
Me, "I'm a freshman, I don't know what I feel. Can't I paint what I see?"

They thought they could quickly turn us 18-year-olds into Pollocks just by skipping the whole old fashioned training in anatomy, perspective, and color theory. Talent trumped technique.

They didn't much like realism. They sneered at illustration. The word "cute"was the worst insult. Sigh. So I became an English/Art History major. And turns out life is funny that way, discovered how much I liked writing and reading poetry. And kept reading children's books and cartoons.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rewriting against the clock

My second book of poetry (Pocket Park) will be coming out this Fall, but thanks to sequesters and unknowable seethings in the Library of Congress, my library data is held up. This offers the self doubting poet an excuse to revisit the entire book looking for awkward verbs, sad near rhymes, and potentially horrifying verbal gaffes on a par with my recent sartorial mishaps (the navy blue and black sock debacle on Tuesday). And in my deepest soul I wish I had written the deeper, funnier, more astonishing and intelligent book I envisioned at the start. But this is the truth of it, like watercolor, once the paint of a poem dries, it looses some gloss and movement. Unless you're effing brilliant like Plath but god knows I don't want her self-imposed deadline.

I've been reading many poets on revision. Such great advice. Decided to follow all of it. I've got one poem I'm putting through the paces right now. Made it shorter, expanded it, rhyme, no rhyme, amoeba like, tailored to form, mixed it up...and the poem remained of faint interest, no zing. It needs more of me somehow. Great, how do I extract heart, experience, and vision and make it new?

I'm sipping a small glass of sherry...Amontillado...and pondering options. Going to sleep sounds good. Getting out from behind the wall of myself sounds better. Hand me some TNT and courage please. Or maybe I need to stop being so pleasing. You must kill the obvious darlings, the poet as her own editor must be fierce.

Mmmmm, a vintage port would be nice. No poetry readjustment bureau tonight. Tomorrow is Jim's birthday, we plan to go write in a cafe and nibble appetizers. Poem, gird yourself. Deadlines.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Less is Less Unless it is More Good News

Last week I visited the Utrecht Art store, near where I work, and discovered their big redesign of all their retail outlets meant they dumbed down their offerings. Gone was the large cutting table where I could layout boards and decide how to frame my art. Gone were the useful array of books on art and technique (now down to one woefully inadequate kiosk with a dozen fairly useless titles and not even one book on calligraphy) and the general air of being a place that mattered was gone. I had remembered an energetic knowledgeable staff, dynamic manager, shelves with many good choices of tools, papers, and paints...and discount tables. It is now a sort of E-Z artsy store, akin to the art section in the Micheal's Craft stores. The place was like the cat that had gone to be "fixed" and came back with depleted interests... clearly the digital world is affecting viability of art stores. Will they mostly go the way of bookstores leaving behind just a few small specialty shops catering to real artists?

Lately I've had a "Potemkin Shelf" feeling at the big Barnes and Noble (Broadway and 82nd Street). As if the books being turned face out were the last in line. There's a subtle thinning of the stock...just what Borders went through in its final months. It makes me sad. Bookstores have been a mecca for my cover design eye and a feast for my insatiable reading heart. And big mega stores just means more walking and looking and browsing—a place where I pleasantly split into two selves in one, my body relaxes into a slowly strolling trance and my mind and eye are darting and diving—reuniting at the end of the checkout line. Luckily I still live in a college neighborhood where print books will last as long as there are students and professors to read or assign them. Also, I thank the graces for the New York Public Library....

Yesterday I ran over to Book Culture and bought a used paperback copy of William Carlos Williams book long poem Patterson. I am writing a book of poems about a small urban park—sharing space with my photos. I'm looking for inspiration, other ways of seeing. This tip came from Paul Pines, "one of the best collections of cityscape poetry is by my old friend and mentor Paul Blackburn in a book called The Cities, published by Evergreen. I recommend it highly. And in all of his work Paul had an eye for detail and ear for sounds and speech that was peerless and informs his work. He was a protege of Williams, whose classic book Patterson is another great one (both alluding to Lorca in some way, his Poet in New York). That book by Paul contains his great good-bye to W.C., "Phone Call to Rutherford," that great moment when Williams, unable to speak because of his heart attack, says, " have made a record on my heart."" I had looked at passages from Patterson back in college but what a different rich cornucopia it is to me now! Thank you for the leads.

So this brings me to my news, my book, Pocket Park, will be coming out Fall of 2013 from Marsh Hawk Press!!!!!!! I have 4 months to take the rough manuscript and finish, rewrite, reimagine, and find where I can add or subtract. What are the best city park poems you have read? Let me know, I'm stoking my imagination for the work and play ahead.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Claudia Carlson, age 18, journal entry May 24, 1975, Brooklyn, NY

This old flesh and it’s hers. I see how wasted she is. He hair was once so black you could see blue (of reflected sky?) in it. It is gray now and wispy-sad. Her stomach protrudes like a pregnant woman’s. An odd melon, the frost of the vine is so thin its sap retreating. A vine just waiting for the last frost, or is it the first? The frost that all the farmers wait for, the frost that signals winter killing the crops. Snow. We used to play in the snow. She was ever so young then, her teeth and eyes were always wet and so white. And she was tall then with that marvelous beauty mothers always have. She throws snow at me, I laugh dodging the crisp wet. Giggling we fall down. All the snow the world, mother it is ours then, a moment of being. No other words can express it, our day.
Walking, we are walking to the car? Our little blue English Ford Anglia. I know it is cold out and night for as we cross the street I feel that brown of the night. But where we are it is light. I think that light must emanate from the bag of warm peanuts we carry. They were so good those peanuts. I have never again tasted any so good as those. Night, holding your hand as we walk to the car after the show. The bag of warm peanuts.
Today you threw-up when you ate a pretzel.
When you eat and work you carry that bewilderment Grandaddy had before he died, when he was so so old.
He would slowly wheeze over to his chair of 50 years and arthritically drop himself into it. He would be so lost then. Then he would start to read his New Yorker but always his eyes shut and his head lolled to the side. His mouth open (pitiful yellowed teeth) and a small bit of drool would slowly make its way to his shirt. He would sleep.
Fumbling awake, his eyes lost in the past, he never could understand what this world now was doing. As time went on he understood less and less. He began to look like an aged baboon. (He always called me his “little monkey”) After awhile those bones ceased to live. My grandfather died and there was no love for him in my heart.
Today I saw how slowly she sat down. I saw that her body was as old as my grandfathers. She seemed so lost but I knew there was a difference. She is alive now because her past holds no hopeful maybes.
Oh lord, how sentimental, it makes me sick. The nauseous outpouring. It is purge. No art in this pathetic pity.
I do not cry for you, I cry for myself watching you.
Soon, if you cannot eat they will send you to the hospital. You will not leave there until you die.
When you ate your potatoes and sour cream tonight you hardly seemed aware of the mess of food in and around your mouth. I was embarrassed. Sin of disdain. I was embarrassed. I hate myself for that.
When you inquired of me and my visiting friend Lisa [Lisa Berger] if you looked horrible, I was a traitor. I gave you the perfunctory answer, “No, no mother, you look fine.” Traitor. I should carry a sign pronouncing me guilty of nontruth in the face of cancer.
People die ugly. I am not expected to love the physical that is, I must love that which was. How lucky I am that her mind is still hers. Or unlucky. She remembers her distrust and lack of faith in me. I have earned such disappointment.
Why couldn’t I do what I should have? Why wasn’t I even part of what you wanted me to be? I am your Judas. Your daughter who does not keep the irritation out of her voice.
I hate you for being sick. How dare you be dying. Why were you so damn self-destructive? I will die believing that your 30 years of smoking were your suicide.
You are just as selfish as I am. But I am young—you have every excuse. I have no right to ask you to die like a saint. You die as you lived, intensely. Your life seeped with bitterness and a strange child-like hope. How can I ever explain all your complexities and simplicity to another person? The brilliancy and faith in the impossible. How could a mind like yours believe in astrology? Or is it that only your mind could justify such a thing?
Poor Lisa. I invited her here not knowing how sick mom had gotten. I think I shall have to send her home again. I don’t want to make her live through your death agonies. It is not right.
Perhaps you will just keep fading. I am glad Dad is coming tomorrow.
Tomorrow, later.


I had a journal I lost in the fire, that was much more detailed about my life at 18 and the final year of my mother’s life. I though I’d lost all the writing from that year. Then today, in one other journal I didn’t know I had, I found the entry above.
My mother went to the hospital a day later and died. My friend Lisa stayed with me the whole time as I waited at home, spared that trip and guilty I didn’t go. My grandmother and “Aunt” Shirley told me my mother essentially drowned, slipped into a coma, and only in death looked calm. My father and stepmother came and took me to Long Island. Neighbors broke in and stole anything of value including my mother’s lovely silver Mexican jewelry. There were three more funerals that spring. Around the time my mother died, my father’s brother had a heart attack in his sleep and Dad with the police found him in bed three days later. Awful time.
The only thing I changed was the spelling, I let spell check fix my mistakes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ability to catch a likeness & inherent facial recognition

I read an article in New Scientist about super-recognizers. People with a freakish ability to recognize faces. Useful in law enforcement, such as matching blurry survalence screencaptures to mug shots or recognizing persons of interest despite their wearing a Mets cap and purple lipstick.

While I am not a super-recognizers, I suspect I am closer to the top of that bell curve. When my husband and I attend events or watch TV I'm constantly recognizing people and he can't. But he frequently recognizes voices while I rarely can.

I've been drawing portraits a long time. I love looking at faces. People, including other artists, will  say it must have taken me years of practice to be able to capture a likeness. I nod in agreement, not wanting to hurt their feelings, but it just isn't so. Yes, it has taken time to get comfortable with the materials, such as watercolor, ink, pastels, and now digital. What I don't tell them is this, I was able to do it the first time I tried.

When I was nine years old my mother, at one time a dabbler in art, sat me down and put a pad of good charcoal paper in my lap and handed me a stick of charcoal. Up to this point I'd only drawn the usual princesses and horses with crayons in a style that would be universally recognized as uninfluenced by observation of reality.

"Draw me" she said.

I remember that first portrait so clearly, gauging the widths and planes, the way some parts of her face seem to repeat themselves in style—a signature pointiness in ears and nose wings...what I now think of as fractals of facial development. I am back in our den, in our fine small house in West Hartford, the scratch and slur of my lines echoing my mother's face.

20 minutes later she demanded to see what I'd done.
She looked startled and then pleased. It looked like her. After that, I got extra art lessons.

I don't know if this ability is a genetic gift or oddity of development, but my father, Elof Carlson, as a young man, before he pursued a career as a geneticist, was able to draw portraits that also captured a likeness.

Unlike the super recognizers I do forget faces and almost always names. I'll walk by someone and get a flash of recognition...if you see me on the street and I'm staring at you while alternately looking off to my left it isn't sleepwalking or lack of meds, I know I know you and cannot approach because your name is a blank. However, your nose or chin will stay with me, until next time then.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Reading, poetry self-help column and diversions

Since I've been working too much and creating too little lately, I wanted to inspire myself now that the BIG freelance job is over (sounds of cheering).

I bought a paperback of Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual. So far, I like it. He explains clearly, based on a lifetime of writing and teaching. For instance Kooser says he may revise a poem up to 40 times "to revise toward clarity and freshness, and I hope that after I have labored over my poems for many hours they look as if they'd been dashed off in a few minutes, the way good watercolor paintings look." More to add when I finish the book.

I took out Mary Oliver's Rules for the Dance from the library. She covers prosody just perfectly and has a short but lovely collection of older classic poems to illustrate her points.
And just in case you think I've stopped reading my usual YA fantasy books, here are 3 quick reviews:

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen: first in a trilogy, a group of orphan boys are secretly trained to impersonate the lost prince. I found it totally engaging, the narrator Sage is clever and mischievous, and faced with awful choices if he wishes to survive, for only one boy can claim the throne. Engrossing, went on a bit too long in spots. The climax no surprise. I'd give this one an A-

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl. Kindle has kept this fan waiting 10 years for her next book and this is a Jane Austen homage using a Pride and Prejudice meets Emma as an armature. It is funny, lively, and not very true to the historic period, but hey, it is a fine diversion. I loved the first person narrator Althea who must force herself to marry a wealthy man in order to literally keep the roof over her head. She is in fine form when it comes to manipulating her stingy and heartless step-sisters who jealously hold the purse-strings since they inherited all the wealth. At times the 21st century poked through too much, but it was amusing all the way. I laughed out loud. B+

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Cyborg Cinderella in a dystopia that faces plague and possible invasion from the nasty folks on the moon. I know it sounds nuts—in a Flash Gordon way—but this is a delightful revamping of the familiar fairy tale. The partially human heroine is a mechanic and must obey the whims of her stepmother in a society that disenfranchises cyborgs (and augmented humans). At times the plot seemed to take too long and some of the secondary characters are under developed. We feel for our plucky self-abasing Cinder. More books to follow and I am hopeful this author will improve, this was fun, original, and I look forward to the next installment. B+

Paintshop Pro, from iPad to iMac

I saw great reviews for the new Sketchbook Pro (version 6) drawing program for the computer. Introductory price of $29. Since I've been using the pared down version on my iPad, I knew I liked it. So, yes, I got the full version for a full computer. Sketchbook Pro is so much cheaper than the industry leader Corel Painter 12. I know Sketchbook has fewer features, but hey, at 1/15th the price... deal! I can bring the files into Photoshop for the things it can't do.

There is more you can do of course on a program designed for a full operating system and plenty of memory, and I also used my Wacom tablet and took advantage of pressure sensitivity. Two hours later I had done a self-portrait, graphic novel style, a tough as nails version of me (yes, a bit younger looking), influenced by watching the movie The Hunger Games the night before. The middle aged Catniss Carlson? Except for a bow and arrow, I'd have to cut contestants down with my number 11 blade X-Acto knife.

Jim suggested a great article at Lifehacker about practice, the kind that only helps a little (mindless or overly repetitive; such as how I did piano lessons: start at beginning, make a mistake, stop, start over and repeat--so only able to play beginning well!) and mindful (working out problems and trying multiple solutions).  With this study, I thought about how to balance line with color so that it didn't get too finished, I wanted to keep a sketchy loose feel. I have plans to illustrate a picture book and want to develop the level of skills to do it. I was also dealing with a light source that had no strong direction and wanted to see how much of the purple shirt I should reflect back into the face.

What should I do next? I am frightfully bad at doing whole scenes, if I take it piece by piece, try this, try that, I may finally get the level of abstraction I need to do a landscape with a narrative event, i.e., an illustration.

Self portrait Sept 3, 2012, 1st Sketchbook pro attempt.