Knitting, New Year's Eve, & Doctor Who

I've been relaxing over our holiday break by knitting.  I can't really be still for very long unless I have something to do. The maroon hat at the top of the photo is from a pattern on Lion Brand Yarns site.  It's called Herdwick Dell.  It has a matching scarf pattern that I will make later.

The dark charcoal gray cowl is an Irish Fisherman pattern, also from Lion Brand.  I love cowls.  They don't slip off like a scarf can and they are really gaining popularity again.  I started this one for one of my sons.  He knits too, but does not (yet) attempt cables or intricate stitches. I will  take more photos to show the lovely stitches in this pattern when it's completed.  After about the 30th row you start to really get the rhythm of a pattern.  I'm obsessive once I get going on a pattern like this.  If not, I'll totally forget where I left off - even if I mark the pattern.  It takes me some time to get back into it once I've let it lay too long.

The light gray piece is a hat for Hubby.  I just did a K2P2 ribbing for about 4 inches, increased a couple of st on each end and began working a moss stitch for the crown.  I'll use one of the other hat patterns for the shaping - keeping in my pattern.  I hope to finish it and the cowl before we return to school next week.

As I knit I like to watch (actually listen is more accurate) movies or favorite TV shows.  For these projects I've been watching Doctor WhoNew ones and old ones.  Love me some Netflix!  Since watching so much of the Doctor whilst knitting maybe I should be knitting a fez!

Usually drawing and illustrating are my favorite downtime pleasures.  Just doodling around in my sketchbooks - creating wild creatures and people is great to keep me fresh and to relax. But after teaching illustration and design every day, I need a break now and then.  However,  Hubby bought me two new books to feed my painting/illustration needs:  James Gurney's "Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter" and "Imaginative Realism".  Both of these books are great resources for any artist.  I highly recommend them for artists of all media.  Follow James' blog for daily inspiration.

Have a great New Year!  Be Safe.  Be Happy.  Be Creative!


Jamie Oliver's Wish

I adore Jamie Oliver.  Whenever I get the opportunity I watch Jamie Oliver At Home.  I love his approach to cooking and food. You can feel his passion as you watch him prepare deliciously fresh dishes.

In this TEDtalk he discusses his wish for arming families with the tools they need to fight obesity.  I teach high school and I'm appalled by the lack of quality, freshness, and diversity in our school lunches.  I applaud Jamie's mission and hope that America (and the rest of the world) wakes up and starts cooking at home again.  What's most frightening is the youngster's lack of real food knowledge.

I grew up with grandparents (and parents) who farmed.  We kids would help grow and harvest what we ate.  We helped with the livestock.  When we had chicken for dinner one Sunday a month, we were the ones who killed and prepped the chicken(s) for the table. We knew where our food came from.  We knew a beet from a turnip. We knew the difference between butternut squash and crookneck squash. We planted popcorn and Silver Queen corn.  We knew that we would itch "somethin' fierce" if we didn't wear gloves to harvest the okra.  We ate beans of all kinds, cabbages, turnip greens/collards/kale, and all other manner of vegetables grown by our grandparents or us.  Nothing is more satisfying than picking really ripe tomatoes and eating them right there in the garden.

I am now determined to garden more this next summer. I've let it slip into a few potted plants like tomatoes, bell peppers, and my sad herb garden.   I want to grow as much as possible.  I have let teaching take over my life the last three years; giving up a lot of the things I used to do as I develop lesson plans and take graduate classes so I can be a better teacher.  But I miss gardening and canning.  I really love to cook from fresh ingredients and I too have fallen into the quick meal, fast food trap way too many times this past couple of years.  I'm hoping that I can separate my work life and home life more this year.  Teachers are never really "clocked-out".  But maybe I can work out a healthier schedule.  One that includes more freshness and a lot more Jamie Oliver!  Thanks Jamie - keep up the fight!  We're here helping where we can.

Merry, Merry!

May all your Celebrations be Jubilant!
Your New Year filled with Health & Peace!
And may you always be Loved.

Holiday card created in Adobe Illustrator CS5-Sandi VanWinkle 2010



click to open animated version in browser

I was sworn to secrecy for a bit, but now I must let you know I will be a Gran-Mumsy this summer. Yes. My oldest son and lovely wife; my sweet daughter-in-law will be welcoming what I'm calling the WeeGran. They are ecstatic and hubby teases me about my moments of maniacal grinning and baby clothes ooo-ing and aahhh-ing.

I took a trip to the attic to dig out the toys and other artifacts from my son's early life. I sat among the little stuffed animals, which I had lovingly packed away for just this event, and thought of all the beautiful moments I had enjoyed with my sons. I'm such a sentimental romantic. I envision lots of fun playing in this attic with WeeGran. We'll build puppet theatres and play dress-up. We'll invent impossible machines just like his/her Daddy did when he was just a wee-lad. Oh the places we'll go and the things we will conjure. It will be magical.

Everything I see I want to buy or make for Wee-gran. I have begun to collect knitting patterns for unisex items. I've also started to think of really cool toys to make so WeeGran can have their own unique playthings. And I really want to help decorate the nursery. I used to paint murals for others children. I would create magical spaces for those little ones to live in. I used to paint my sons rooms too. But they got tired and...well...somewhat embarrassed by rooms filled with characters. But now I have another opportunity to create a fantasy space just for WeeGran.

Oh, and the penguin daddy-to-be I created for my son. He once painted a penguin that was so beautiful and won an award. Over the years whenever I see penguins I think of that painting. He also happens to like penguins, which is lucky for me, since I can't pass one by without "collecting" it for him. I know he will most likely grow tired of them long before I do. I just thought it would be a wonderful image to announce WeeGran. All we can say!


New Edition of Jack the Healing Cat!

Recently, we decided to republish "Jack the Healing Cat" Jack will be available in both English and French versions. Currently, the English version is available from Celtic Cat Publishing or from Amazon. Look for the French version in a few weeks at the same websites. In the meantime, here are some teaser illustrations from the book.

I created the original illustrations traditionally in watercolor and colored pencil. I was never quite happy with the first printing. It wasn't the printer's problem. They just didn't have enough oomph. I didn't get to see a proof the first time we did this process and so, had to live with it. This time around I was also the layout designer and seized the opportunity to digitally enhance the illustrations in Adobe Photoshop. The colors are now richer, the text layout is more dynamic, and basically the book just flows better. At least we think so.

I hope you enjoy the new edition of "Jack the Healing Cat" It will make a wonderful gift for that special child (or adult) on your Holiday shopping lists. I enjoyed so very much creating this very special kitty known as "Jack"


I wish to fly free from what holds me back from creating, drawing, painting.
Magical Things - Photo/Art composite by Sandra Van Winkle


Halloween Wear !

Two selections for Halloween from my cafepress shop   I posted about the design process and Halloween  before.  I love Halloween.  It is one of my favorite holidays because it allows that inner child in us to be whatever we wish to be.  It is imaginative and magical in a way that invites creativity.  If you want to show your Halloween Spirit, please check out my shirts and related accessories.


Granny O'Grimm

Oscar 2010 Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty [HQ] from Yakupcan AYATA on Vimeo.

Looking around today for interesting videos for my classes I remembered "Granny" and thought everyone would enjoy watching this great little film.  I love animation.  If I had the time I would go back to school for animation and film.  I don't have the time so I have to be content with enjoying the labors (and creative musings) of such talented people as those above.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sarah and the Search for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Once upon a time, as Sarah was sniffing around in the forest, a small creature jumped upon a toadstool in front of Sarah. "Are you going to the Mad Hatter's Tea?" the creature asked.

But before Sarah could inquire about the tea...
...The silly creature disappeared through the hedge. "Well! I must find this tea!" said Sarah

And off she went, past the hedge and began to follow the trail into the forest.

Before long she came to a cottage. "Here love, eat this delicious lemon tart." said the kind lady who lived in there. "It will give you strength as you search for that Hatter and his band of clowns."
Sarah thanked the kind lady and went on her way again.

"Oooo! I shouldn't have eaten that tart! I'm beginning to feel strange. I must find that tea party!"

Suddenly she came upon a strange site!

"What in the world are you?" she asked the strange creature perched upon a most magnificient toadstool.

"Why, I'm the Smiley Cat, of course." the creature purred, but offered no help as to
where the Hatter might be holding the Tea Party.
"Maybe they are through here." Sarah thought and went off into the underbrush to seek the party.
"Hey! I hear somebody coming." Nan said to Billy.

"Wait a minute! Wait just a minute. Where do you think you're going?" Nan asked Sarah.

"I'm off to find the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Do you know where it is?"

"Nah! We don't know nuthin' about any stinkin' Tea party."

"Go on with ya!" and with that Nan dismissed Sarah.

So, Sarah set out again to find the party. She ran into a lot of strange
creatures and friends during her journey.

"Hmmm...Yes. Yes I think it was, no. Ah yes, it is, no, that's not it."

"Shucks, I don't know."

"Well, it is across the ravine, through the forest and into the desert. Wait. No. That's where I used to live. Sorry."

"I really can't say. I've been so busy getting this web finished. Not much time for tea parties and such. Sorry, wish I could help."

"Well, thanks anyway." Sarah told all the creatures and continued on her way. She thought it was getting too late. She feared that she would be very Late for the tea.

When suddenly she came upon a dark passage in the Laurel.

"Do you think this may be the way to the tea?" She quickly went through the opening into the darkness. The tunnel went on for a very long time. Sarah thought she would never get to the other side. "Oh, she thought, I'm never going to make it in time." And then...

...there was the Mad Hatter!
"Welcome, Miss Sarah." the Hatter said. "We have been waiting for you."
And together Sarah and the Mad Hatter walked through the beautiful gardens to...

...Tea! at last! Sarah was so happy that she had finally found the Mad Hatter and his wonderful Tea Party!
She just wished one thing....

That she didn't have to dress up for it!

May you all have marvelous adventures and lovely teas!
Join more tea parties by visiting our magical party planner, the Fabulous Miss Vanessa's blog.


Please click on the invite above to attend more Mad Tea Parties!


Templates, Time & Backgrounds to Share

Thought I would try out a new blog look. How I love playing around with technology. Of course all the 1001 other items on my list have been put on the back burner while I attempt to alter my CSS and html. I hope all of you on Spring Break are having a great time. I've had a busy interesting week so far. Still have a lot to do around here.

The new blog background image is a photo-illustration that I created from photos of my sons. I shared a similar image with you in a previous post. Over the years my sons were sweet to pose and dress up for their wacky momma. I love ya guys! Anyway, I may change it. I haven't decided yet whether I like it or not. And I may create an entire new blog. Who knows?

The image above (space scene) is one I made a couple of days ago. I made it for my desktop background and I have included a link to my Picasa album so you can download it for your desktop also. Just click on the image and it should take you there. It was created in Adobe Illustrator CS4. I love this program. It is so very versatile for creating a multitude of projects.

And I would love for you to check out my new FireFox Personas. If you use Mozilla as a browser, it is easy to add Personas to the header and footer of your browser. I have created about six, but they must be behind on the process of getting them listed. Keep checking back.

So much for today. I hope you are enjoying life and wildly creating! Be wickedly creative this week!


More Doodling Adding Photoshop

Yesterday's post discussed Doodling. On occasion I will doodle odd people. I just make up these characters. They have no relevance to reality or anyone real. And they usually just begin with a few scribbly lines that sort of find themselves forming faces. They aren't perfect and are flawed in strange ways, but it is relaxing to play around and let these characters develop. When I'm drawing from life I will draw several versions and take reference photos to check for accuracy, but this is doodling, not portraiture.

The bottom image is scanned from my sketchbook. I use Derwent graphic pencils and kneaded erasers to smudge, erase, and 'play' with the lines. I happened to be in a pensive mood the day I drew this. It was the last day before classes were to begin again after holiday and I was feeling a bit like the students do - where did the time go?

In the next image up I added some layers of color in Photoshop using various blend modes for each color. The pencil sketch layer blend mode was multiply so I could add others under it for the 'painted' effect.

The next image up has additional filters added to the existing colored version. Each image from there uses the same composite image with other filters. Some contain multiple filters in order to achieve the look.

This gives us a variety of images with an unlimited range of use. For illustrations I can freehand draw my characters, scan them, and create any variety of moods, settings, styles for posters, etc within Photoshop and Illustrator. Utilizing all the tools helps us find the perfect methods to keep our work fresh.

Just wanted to share other methods of "doodling" with technology with you.
This image can also be seen on Illustration Friday under "Focused"



Does our doodling, and more importantly, what we doodle say anything about us? I was started down this path of doodle contemplation by James Gurney and his wife's random doodle. On his blog he has posted a widget where you can cast your vote as to what you doodle.

I think it depends on my mood as to what kinds of things I
doodle. I find myself in faculty meetings doodling images that relate to the presenter's subject or a random phrase that catches my fancy and begs to be visualized. If I'm at home with some free time on my hands (a rare bird indeed) and trying to decide whether to draw, knit, sew, paint, or do some creative Photoshop or Illustration work, I tend to doodle weird things. Maybe it is my way of attempting to focus my mind. Sometimes it works.

Time magazine has a study posted that doodling actually aids us in paying attention during meetings and lectures. Good news for me.

NPR also questions,
"Bored? Try Doodling" Seems we doodlers are in good company. NPR also quotes from the same study by Jackie Andrade, a professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth.

Wired among others got in on the doodling study.

My included doodles on this post are just a sampling. I also doodle a lot of trees.
Trees and natural objects make me feel good. I cannot explain it any better than that and even though I push my students to defend choices in their art and design with more than a "I like it, it makes me feel good" defense, I believe what you doodle should be nurturing to you if you need it. Trees are my nurturing imagery.

What do you doodle? Do your doodles involve exotic escapes? faces? robots? Have fun and always be creative!


Shining & Wishcasting

Wynken, Blynken & Nod, Watercolor/Pen&Ink by Sandra VanWinkle 1995

I love my reader lists. During the week I don't get much of a chance to keep up, so on weekends I make up for lost time. I just discovered through The Wright Stuff blog that another blogger was asking the question "How Do You Want to Shine?"

Well, that gives us something to think about doesn't it? In my previous post today I mentioned a few of the careers or avocations that I would like to have or do. But shining. That's something else.

Wishcasting. I've been sitting here reading and wishing I had taken a few more plunges, leapt over a few taller buildings or just ignored the wicked little voice inside my head that kept saying "Art isn't a real career. If you love it this much, it can't be work. You have to make a living, get over it."

How do I want to Shine? I want to be truer to myself as an artist. I want to shine in the field I've always longed to be part of. I want to create works that are interesting. I want to create works that start dialogues and stir emotions- good or bad - within viewers. I want to get up every morning and shine at focusing my art and my life in directions that I want to go. Not directions I have to go.

I wouldn't change a moment of my life to this point, but now I want to take what I've learned, what I've experienced and allow myself the luxury of creating art. I want to shine as an artist who is true to all her selves - woman, mother, teacher, artist, without one sacrificed for the other. I want to shine at "casting my net and be never afraid".

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish,--
Never afraid are we!"
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
And Nod.
-excerpted from
"Wynken, Blynken, & Nod by Eugene Field (1889)

Design, Illustration & the Making of Fantasy

Every day I teach creativity. And every day I assure students that every aspect of what they learn, whether it is theory of design, art history, typography, or proper ways to do thumbnail sketches, storyboards and applications in software, can be utilized in a wide variety of careers.

When I was their age I wanted to be a photojournalist and travel the world for great magazines like National Geographic, The Smithsonian, or Life. Before that I wanted to be a naturalist and go about through jungles and arctic regions studying and illustrating flora and fauna in great sketch books which would be coveted by all the museums of the world.

Now, I teach my students to have faith and believe in their dreams and to learn everything, absolutely everything, they can about art and the importance of craftsmanship. I teach them traditional tools and methods as well as new digital technologies for creating their concepts.

Did I get to travel the world? Did I ever illustrate those unique insects or that perfect blossom? Well, I have illustrated insects and blossoms, but like Dorothy I did it all in my own backyard. But you know what? I'm still dreaming about it.

In the meantime, this video shows how important our creative fields are, not only to entertainment, but to help us connect with one another, to creatively problem solve and work collaboratively as a team.

Oh! and any film makers out there who are looking for a hardworking artist with wanderlust - you can contact me here.

Be Happy and Always Be Creative!

Mort Drucker

Reading my Google Reader feeds. One of the blogs I follow is Gurney's Journey. James Gurney is an artist that I admire a lot. He gave us "Dinotopia" and continues to create wonderful illustrations of beasts and fauna that no longer (or never did) exist.

This was on his blog and I wanted to share it with you. Most of us know Mort Drucker's work in Mad Magazine. My high-school students will be creating Mad Magazine "covers" soon that will star our administrative faculty. The principals are all excited about participating in this parody. I will share those with you when they are finished.

For now enjoy the master at work.

Take care and Be Creative!