Thursday, June 04, 2020

Jacques Cousteau Riding a Killer Whale!

I just finished my latest paper mache project! I really love this one. It's Jacques Cousteau riding a killer whale. Why? Who knows why these things come into my head, but I love that they do!

I've always been a fan of Jacques Cousteau since I was a kid watching his underwater adventures on TV. My mom is French, so there's that too. He's an iconic character with his red hat and glasses, so I decided he would make a great sculpture.  I'm very proud of how he turned out. 


The whale is held up with a dowel over a wood & paper mache ocean. 


Close up of Jacque. I crocheted his hat and made his glasses out of wire.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Tips for folks working at a desk all day with neck pain



So, as a full time Administrative Assistant and a freelance illustrator too, I spend a lot of time at my desk. I work digitally, so I'm at the computer during about 90% of my work. Because of this, I've had neck problems throughout the years with a herniated disc and also a pinched nerve in my neck which all cause pain down my left arm. I think it really all started carrying a bag full of junk mail and packages on my left shoulder while I worked at the post office back in the early 90's for 6 years, but back-to-back illustration assignments hasn't helped my neck. I needed to find something that would allow more illustration and less pain. 😉

Whatever the cause, here are things I've noticed have made a difference:

1) Go to your doctor to see what you're dealing with. My doctor gave me anti-inflammatory meds which may or may not have helped since I was doing all the other things too, but I thought I should mention that if you are in pain, go see a doctor first. I had an x-ray and it was determined that it was a pinched nerve this time and not a herniated disc. If I hadn't felt relief she would have ordered an MRI, but thankfully I didn't have to have one.

2)Going to the Chiropractor or Physical Therapist. If you're in horrible pain like I was, this will help with the pain and mobility. It took at least two weeks to feel better for me. However, make sure up front how much each visit will cost and how much is covered by your insurance. I learned the hard way when I was under charged my first 5 sessions and then the owner realized it and had me pay the difference in one lump sum. Then I got a bill 2 months later because the insurance only covered 20% of the $6,000 cost since my deductible wasn't met.  No bueno.

3) When I had a herniated disc years ago, the physical therapist put me on a machine that stretches the neck to help the disc go back in. (Disclaimer, I am not a medical professional in case you didn't figure that out already.) Cervical Neck Traction is the term. It worked great, but once my therapy was over, I still needed something that worked. I searched online and bought an at-home traction system and I still use it today. Here's one on Amazon that looks a lot like the one I bought over 10 years ago.  Cervical Neck Traction Over the Door Device. Works great! I admit it's not the most comfortable thing for your cheeks and it looks like a big jockstrap, but it helps.

4) Heating pad/Cooling pad. I like this microwaveable one or something similar because it's long enough to help my neck and my arm. I microwave it, put it through my sleeve so it reaches my elbow and the other end is behind my neck. It was the go-to when I couldn't sleep because of neck pain. I also brought it to the office every day for a month when I had to go to work but could barely stand to because I was so uncomfortable.

5) Topical pain relief. I have tried Extra Strength Ben Gay, Sombra, Tiger Balm, Hemp Extract Pain Relief Cream, and Salonpas Pain Relieving Patches. Honestly, the thing I find works the best is the Salonpas Pain Relieving Patches. Sure, they smell like Ben Gay, but they're not messy because it's a patch you put exactly where it hurts. It's temporary, but it works great for close to 6-8 hours. I haven't timed it, but I have been sleeping much better since I bought these last week at Kroger!

6) Exercise. So, I'm guessing that sounds awful because you hurt, but trust me, you need to. Even when you're not hurting, stand up and get away from your desk at least 10 minutes ever hour. Walk, do gentle stretching, get a band like they use in physical therapy sessions and do stretches for your neck and shoulders. Google neck stretches for pain relief and you'll find loads. I continued the stretches I learned from the chiropractor/physical therapist and it helps. I've also done 20 minute workouts with 5 pound weights to help my muscles. I wake up sore and as long as I exercise then take a hot shower I feel really good.

7) Which leads me to pillows. I wish I had a great solution. I bought a pillow like this when I had a herniated disc because the doctor told me I needed support on my neck as a side sleeper. I love it. Recently, I thought I would invest in a new pillow since mine is probably 20 years old and I also snore, so I was searching for something that would help both areas. I purchased this on Amazon, but I find it very uncomfortable. I used it 3 nights in a row and my husband said I still snored. My neck didn't feel any better. On the 4th night, I went back to my old pillow. I feel like the pillow with the neck support is more comfortable than a big fluffy pillow that makes your neck bend in an unnatural position. And a pillow that's too hard and doesn't support your head just isn't comfortable.

8) Last thing and I think this is extremely important. Get yourself a stand up desk!!! They say that sitting is the new smoking, and if you need to stand more how are you going to get any work done without a stand up desk?!? I bought one for home and my boss bought me one for work, so all is good. This is what I bought for home on Amazon from FlexiSpot. It's not huge because I didn't want to take up my entire desk, but it works great. And if you need 2 monitors and realize there's no way it's going to fit them, here's another solution: A Dual Monitor Desk Stand that clamps to the back of the desk to hold 2 good sized monitors. They can move back and forth, but you really need to adjust the height once because it's not the easiest to do. But once you have the desired height during sitting it's great because the desk lifts easily and can be adjusted to find the right height for you. I also recommend a mat because standing up can get a little rough after a while. Here's one I bought on Amazon that you could also use in the kitchen. Anti Fatigue Comfort Mat. It's super comfortable, and I just move it out of the way when I'm sitting because I don't want to roll my chair onto it, but I just move it back when I'm standing.

I think that about covers it. As you can see, I love shopping on Amazon because you really can find anything there. It's especially great during this quarantine time when you can't go out and shop.

If you have any suggestions of things that have worked for you, I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Friday Faith Post

I was just sitting here thinking about God and what blessings I've had in my art career these past few years, and I thought I would write them down for anyone who's interested & also for my future self.

Years ago, I was blessed to work on 4 or 5 coloring/activity books through Warner Press. It was one of those things that I don't remember sending them a postcard, but they found me just the same. It was a great first gig for me and I love creating them.

Fast forward through several children's illustration assignments and getting more confident in my work, but not having consistent work. I walked away from an art rep, tried a different career path but came back to illustration because that's where my passion is.

So, I wanted that feeling back from when I did the activity books and prayed that I could find work for another Christian publisher. And guess what! Regular Baptist Press called me one day! Again, I don't know how they found me - probably childrensillustrators.com - but they were offering me a 2 year project with a family of characters facing every day situations and how they would relate to a Bible story. I just finished up the last section of that project 2 weeks ago, but it has taken me through a lot of stress and grief in my personal life and I will be forever grateful for having that to focus on. I remember back in January 2018 when I was showing my Mom the initial sketches I was doing and she was so excited for me. I didn't know that in only a few months she would be diagnosed with AML and pass away in May.

Within the last year, I joined Matt Tommey's Mentoring program, Created to Thrive. I mostly went to work on myself spiritually and include my art in the process. I've been enjoying it very much, and really love listening to Matt Tommey's videos and FB messages.

Just before I was about to begin the last section of my RBP project, I got an email from Zonderkids. They asked if I would be interested in illustrating one of their board books! Zonderkids is a Christian division of Harper Collins (I'm seeing a pattern here). I'm over the moon to have this opportunity!! However, I was super worried that things were going to get crazy with 2 projects at the same time and my full time office job. I worked hard to finish RBP final color illustrations, and in the process sat at my desk too long every night & weekend and pinched a nerve in my neck and pulled a muscle. O-U-C-H!!! So much pain. So, you can imagine how much I was stressed out over being able to do ANYTHING with my neck hurting every time I stood up or sat up. I prayed a lot. I asked God to take my worries and let me relax and know that things would all work out. I managed to get the cover and interior sketches sent in on time and get myself to the doctor and chiropractor/physical therapist.

Here I am 3 weeks later, still have some pain but not anywhere as bad as before. And yesterday I found out that the correct template will be released next week along with feedback on my interior sketches so that means the deadline will need to be pushed back. Whew! What a relief. I'll have the time and the good health it takes for me to do the best work I can. I'm so thankful.

I've also learned that I need to take better care of myself, physically and mentally. I need to get up from my desk more often and walk, and make exercise and eating healthier part of my life. I bought a sit-to-stand desk for my home office and my office manager ordered one for my day job. I'm grateful for all the opportunities I have. And I say Thank you, God all the time. :)

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

2019 was pretty great for me, and I'm really looking forward to 2020.
Each year I put little notes in a jar to help me remember the great things that happen in the year.
Here are some of the notes:

1-1-19  Three mile walk for the past 2 days. Very grateful for the ability to move freely & enjoy life.

1-22-19 I signed up for the Highlights Foundation Summer Camp July 7-12!

1-23-19 Market Street Cherry Pie is AMAZING!

1-24-19 I got 2 new really large monitors at work!

Alright, so somewhere after that I stopped writing the exact dates on my notes. haha January is always the best month on resolutions; right?!

But here are the other notes:

July 2019 I spent the most magical week at summer camp at the Highlights Foundation. (OMG That was awesome!)

August 2019 Awarded a 1st place Blue Ribbon at The State Fair of Texas. Way to Achiever your goal, Deb! You did it!

September Joined the Thriving Christian Artists Mentoring Program

October 22, 2019 Email from Zonderkids to illustrate a board book! Thank you God!

October Signed the contract to illustrate the board book!!!!!!

Left off the notes was the Sunday School project I worked on for the 2nd year in a row. That project has gotten me through some rough times personally. It got me illustrating consistently with the same characters. It gave me a big boost in my confidence so that when this book deal came by I didn't have the usual feeling of self doubt. I had confidence.

So my word for 2020 is Confidence. God gave me the desire to illustrate and it's my duty to practice, grow and create as often as possible.

Speaking of creating . . . I bought this strange, unfinished ceramic item for $2 in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby and painted it today. One side is the guy with the glasses and the other is the lady with the button lips. That was fun! I think it turned out great.



I hope 2020 has started off to be your best year yet!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Things I've created lately

So, it's been way too long since I posted anything here, but I've been busy creating.
I'm working on two illustration projects - Sunday School educational pages with Regular Baptist Press and also my very first board book for Zonderkidz. Super excited to be reaching this goal.

In addition to my illustration, I've been creating with paper mache. I created this Mister Rogers for The State Fair of Texas and he won a 1st Place Blue Ribbon! I've been a fan of Mister Rogers since I was very little, so I love that I won my blue ribbon with Mister Rogers. Everything is paper mache except his sweater. I crocheted that.


Last year I got a 2nd place Red Ribbon with a Conan O'Brien paper mache:
I also love to crochet. This past summer I also entered this Freddie Mercury in The State Fair of Texas. He only received an Honorable Mention award, but he sure is handsome.


And because I love to create, no matter what, I recently created this fun Christmas sweatshirt for our Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest at work:

Apparently, he wasn't ugly enough, and I was tied for 2nd but ended up in 3rd place after we had to pick a number between 1-100. 
Oh, and I made cookies too:

So back to work creating fun things! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you're inspired to create something today.

Bonus: I just read back to my last post almost a year ago. I did go to the Highlight's Foundation Summer Camp last July and OMG I LOVED IT! So much that I signed up for another workshop this coming July! I can't say enough fabulous things about that place. It's magical! Get there if you can!!!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Friday Five on Monday

I was going to post to this very neglected blog on Friday, but couldn't remember my log in. :/

So, here are my 5 for Friday on a Monday:

1) I recently completed another round of final artwork on a Sunday School project I'm working on for Regular Baptist Press. It's a 2 year project, so this marks the halfway point. I've enjoyed working on it, and I feel like with all this work I'm definitely improving with my drawing skills. Super happy that there weren't any changes requested on finals either. I must be doing something right over here. :)

2) I'm participating in #PBPitch and webinars. Last week was #PBPitch and although I didn't get any likes from agents or editors, I had a lot of good feedback on my pitches. Over the weekend I watched a webinar put on by the Utah SCBWI. Very informative and for $15 for a 2 hour webinar and an opportunity to submit to an editor at the end . . . what a bargain. Definitely recommend any webinar that regional SCBWI chapters provide.

3) I signed up for the Highlights Foundation Summer Camp in July!! I'm so stoked about this. It's going to be fabulous, I'm sure. It looks so beautiful there, and I've heard great things about their programs.

4) I'm writing again. There were a couple of months in there that I wrote down story ideas, (especially during Story Storm in January) but I haven't written a pb manuscript in months. Maybe it was finishing up the illustration project and getting more sleep, but I feel inspired to write again.

5) I'm taking better care of myself. I think it's all related, so I'm going to say that eating healthy, getting enough sleep and also making time to exercise is important for the creative soul. I tend to enjoy activities that require me to sit (drawing, writing, crochet, watching movies/TV) so I have to make time to move more and to eat things that are healthier.

BONUS:

I just signed up for 12x12! I wish I had signed up immediately in January, but I was worried I would be overwhelmed. With only 3 days left until registration closes, I decided to jump in anyway.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

First Runner Up in Sub Six Banner Contest


Recently, I entered an illustration contest just for fun. I've decided to get my work out there more this year, so it would be a fun way to play and work on my skills. It was for a Facebook Banner for Sub Six. The assignment was to draw a wild animal that represents the group which is basically support for children's book creatives (AKA the subtitle of the banner). I chose a turtle because you have to be patient in the publishing business. It's not typically a quick & easy journey. There will be many ups & downs and times when you don't think it's possible, but you have to dig deep and continue if that's what makes you happy. Well, I'm so excited to announce that I was First Runner Up! I'm so proud of that! There were so many amazing illustrators from different countries. The winner is from Thailand and the Second Runner Up is from Chile. Pretty darn cool!! :) Here's my design. I hope it makes you happy.