2012 - a recap

Thursday, January 31, 2013































yes I sure do love tall very skinny condensed all caps san serif typography (Universe light extra condensed) & I love crows

A day is not always bright, 
and Nights are not always dark. 
All that matters is what's inside, 
because day and night 
are a reflection of you.
Avantika

Well Hello again 2013 ! here we are already on the last day of the 1st month of this brand new year. 


In my 5.5 years of blogging I've never done a year in review post I've never really wanted to look back, to reflect on the year just past I've almost always been in a really big hurry to clean the slate, start fresh, let's get going with this new year because surely it will be better, bigger some how, more satisfying, perhaps & hopefully more happiness inducing. Ahhhh, but I have become wise(er) in this blog's life. Like most things in life it seems the best lessons are often learned the hard way - I now  know that true happiness occurs  only in the moment, in the fleeting & in the now. 


But ... last year was a bit of a banner year for me so without further ado I shall reflect and mostly about my efforts in creative empire* building. If you recall my "one little word" for last year was CAN - I decided in the spirit of the power of positive thinking that continually telling myself I couldn't do something was counter productive to say the least. & what if I just decided to tell myself "sure, I can". So here we go - les highlights of 2012 - where I brag & go on about all the good things that happened to me last year.


I began the year with Kelly Rae Robert's & Beth Nicolls amazing e-course Hello Soul, Hello Business offered at Beth's Do What You Love e-university. I've taken (or have signed up for) everything she has on offer because the content is terrific, the experience & learning invaluable and I get to go to class with other creative women from all over the world here at the my teak topped desk, looking out over our little seaside harbour. What's not to love about that ? The Hello Soul, Hello Business course lit a fire in me where I believed that a fire was already burning. That rekindled blaze in combination with the idea that I would I can myself into 2012 prompted me to create & brazenly send out a promotional PDF to 20 potential dream customers/clients.


I heard back within the hour from Megan Gandt @ Madison Park Greetings, a one line reply SB we love your work ! I have a series of 10 everyday greeting cards coming out with them this month and I'm finalizing another 7 cards ! - this is a licensing gig, really the best kind of gig because I will paid royalties on the sale of all these cards. 


Next up, both Anne Brown & Sue Todd from Magnet Works also responded  very quickly to my promo PDF and I began almost instantly working on 6 designs that are currently featured in their Spring 2013 catalogue + there's a photo of me in my natural leafy habitat. Garden flags, mailbox covers and other assorted yard & garden items 


I created a banner illustration for a great client Little Bird Night Owl - check out my step-by-step.


I completed my 7th greeting card for American Greetings (& my first 2 cards are still selling well).


I was asked to create a custom typographic collage Call for Art logo for the mixed media magazine Cloth, Paper Scissors and the editors asked me to write a companion article about the process of creating that (or any other) typographic collage. I now have a gorgeous 4 page spread in the September/October issue - my first published article !


I taught a collage/mixed media workshop. Well ... Shut The Freakin' Front Door Missy Can Can - HUGE, huge, huge. I've been telling myself (while hyperventilating) my entire life that as much as I would LOVE to do something like this - I couldn't possibly actually do it. Well I did do it, I did it well & I really enjoyed it.


Then I taught another workshop & planned another ... I was booked to do a typographic collage workshop at Inkwell (favourite Halifax stockist of all things Susan Black) in the fall  but sadly it was cancelled because of too few participants - the important thing of course is that I said YES I can , I will & I'm looking forward to it.


I designed a collection of pewter & leather jewellery called Echo & went to Toronto to see the collection launch at the Toronto International Gift Fair  + stayed with my much adored nephew Michael for 3 days and had a big city ball. (1), (2), (3) days ! Uh Huh !


In October, at yet another workshop, this one a big 3 day event hosted by Deanne FitzpatrickI spoke for over an hour in front of an audience of 54 avid rug hookers (with a microphone) about design & creativity (+ created a killer hand-out to go with - I do love a great handout). I was completely terrified but once I got going I loved it and they had to wrestle the mic away from me ... seriously I loved it.


In November world famous design blog Print & Pattern featured my 2013 Botanica calendar - a piece I'm particularly proud of.



Wow !! 2012 you were a very, very good year.


* my attempts to make a decent & sustainable living from my creativity

d words

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
















Pink, kraft, black & white pattern collection Numero 1 - Susan Black


We are what we repeatedly do,

excellence then is not an act, but a habit.
Aristotle

Rather than fall behind in my Surface/Pattern design class I decided to dive in and create my first pattern collection the only way I know how - with brush, ink, pen, paint, scissors & glue. Scanned everything, did minor touch-ups in Photoshop & created style boards-ish in InDesign. I'm super pleased with my very first pink (of course) low-tech pattern collection.

Take that Photoshop - Kapow !

I'm still contemplating my one little word, the word that will/could/might become my mantra throughout this still fairly new year of 2013. I first thought of the word brave (but realized I actually am already pretty brave), tossed around less, lighten, focus and lately I've been stuck on some d words ...

deliberate, decide, develop, driven, diligence, desire, determined, dreams, discipline*, discovery, dedication, do ... dither ;-)

* discipline as in self discipline - it's a strong contender for my word - although I'm also toying with the idea of choosing a word per quarter, or even per month (such as Andee's doing over at Fit To Be Seen).  I would love to be more disciplined (although I must say I have made great strides in that department).

check out this fantastic list of words... do you have a word for 2013 ? if so, do tell us in the comments& why ?

oven fry

Monday, January 28, 2013

















































12 scenes from recent days - the gorgeous golden, orange light of sunset / do you oven fry ? / Sam / Virg / windowsill thyme / playtime with Oliver / Sam in the back fenced in yard / sweet lichen / Winnie Dixon ridin' shotgun while we run some errands / more golden from the second floor window / a mix of sweet & white potato oven fries, roasted salmon with lemon & broccoli / Samuel & his bunny

Do you make oven fries ? - yum & as good as the chip truck

Pre-heat oven to 425. 4 large white potatoes* peeled & sliced into fries, tossed well with a good glug of olive oil. Spread spaciously on 2 cookies sheets (do not overcrowd). Place in oven flipping fries once after 8-10 mins. Watch them carefully and turn again if needed so that all sides are crispy & golden. Sprinkle with garlic powder or italian seasoning or malt vinegar & sea salt. I love mine dipped in ketchup ;-) for a mix substitute 2 of the potatoes with sweet potatoes - sweet potatoes cook quicker so add the white potatoes first then after 7-8 mins add the cookie sheet of sweet potatoes.

a date with daunting

Saturday, January 26, 2013







Oliver / snowy tree with crow / golden clematis leaves / making dog cookies / grey blue palette / co-worker

One painful duty fulfilled 
makes the next plainer and easier.
Helen Keller

I had a big ol' real first date with Daunting today. I began the 2 day job of completely cleaning out my office (I'm more than half way there - tomorrow will be a piece of cake (even fun). I've gone through everything - supplies, books, magazines, re-arranging furniture + doing a lot o' filing (the old fashioned kind in a large 4 drawer filing cabinet). Filing work projects & my etsy inventory, instead of having things piled, albeit neatly, in my closet storage space. I've filled one leaf & lawn clear bag with recyclables so far and two other smaller throw away/give away bags. It feels so good ! I'm really readying myself and my space for some wild & crazy painting along with some mind numbing technical learning (teaching myself to illustrate & create patterns digitally) all beginning Monday.

Daunting and I met up with each other Friday afternoon and that initial meeting did not go so well. About 3pm I emailed one of my illustration (& typography) heros - Nate Williams. Someone I know to be both stunningly creative and also very generous of spirit. He loves helping other illustrators as can be seen in this fantastic article - I knew he would email me back and he did within 30 mins. Thank you Nate ! In as concise an email as I could write to him I sent him an example of this work and explained that I currently create it completely by hand and asked his advice about making the transition from knowing-practically-nothing to becoming fluent digitally (Photoshop & Illustrator). In his lengthy reply email (so sweet) he told me that Photoshop is the program that I need to know & inside + out (he said that Illustrator is good to know also) but Photoshop is the crucial creative tool of today's illustrators. Oh boy ! I thought and headed quickly over to Lynda's place, to sign up & to begin the 10.2 hour CS6 Photoshop Essentials tutorial he recommended. And that's when I ran smack into Daunting.

It's a long and sad story but basically by bedtime I had sunk to a very low place. You know how I'm always mentioning when anyone asks me about my photography I tell them that I am sooo not a technical person. Well it's true I'm not - at all. Technical things make my brain go fuzzy & my attention span goes AWOL. I realize I need to stop telling myself that, sing a new tune that goes something like - Hey ! me and technical things - we're tight ! Starting from zero and learning this incredibly vast & complex program is going to be one of the most challenging tasks I've ever set for myself and Friday when Daunting & Photoshop and I ran into each other I was completely intimidated, almost instantly defeated and within an hour of beginning the first few video tutorials the tall, dark & churning tsunami of gloom and doom and imminent failure had swamped me & my spirit. My evening basically sucked as I tried to climb back up  emotionally out of the deep hole of Oh No ! I-can't-do-this that I'd let myself fall into.

By tackling another daunting task today - the total cleaning of my office studio space - it's helped me have a little attitude adjustment where me & Daunting are concerned. It's not going to be easy learning Photoshop, I know that but I have lots of friends & peers willing to help out when I get stuck and I will get stuck.

I have to learn it. What I want to do with my creative life depends on it. Period.

Take that Daunting ! Kapow !

oh my, please watch Flora Bowley paint a 4 min. time lapse video of a painting from start to finish
I begin her Bloom True painting e-course Monday - so excited !

call me crazy ...

Friday, January 25, 2013













































do you remember this illustration from 2010 ? back when I was just gettin' my collage-a-thon on full tilt at that time. I've been cleaning out 5 years of computer files (yikes) and ya know I sure do have a lot of artwork & that's a good thing !

Ya huh ! call me crazy ... maybe
but don't ... call me maybe (ha ha ;-)

January - March end is e-university time here at 29 Black Street

I'm currently enrolled in two e-courses (& a third starts Feb 04th). I figured, goodness, I did it way back in my art collage days, flitting from course to course all within the same week and did it fairly successfully. Fingers crossed that I still have it in me.

The first e-cousre began Monday Module 2 of The Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design the practical creative design, drawing, colour & illustration content thrills me, the technical content, the use of Photoshop and/or Illustrator is killin' me - I am determined to learn & to overcome my lack of skills in these departments - I have no choice, I'm holding myself back by not having these tools in my toolbox, these 2 programs are essential for me to learn to create the kind of work I have in my mind's eye. It's frustrating. The second e-course which begins Monday is c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y different - it's Flora Bowley's wild, intuitive painting course Bloom True where I'll learn to paint loose & wild & big - I can't wait ! February 4th it's Illustrator 101 over at Nicoles Classes (hooray !) and finally I'm signed up for 30 days of Photoshop Essentials etc. tutorials at Lynda.com.

sun salutations

Thursday, January 24, 2013
















































an abstract painting of ice & sky / Eaton Park (steps from our front door) and the harbour at daybreak /  black pine bows in our front garden / long shadows in the back fenced in yard late pm / ice slabs / a favourite old house along Miss D & my early morning route /  more ice / & snow / a crow / the endless edge of the harbour / Winnie Dixon & 29 Black Street

omg ! I finally joined a yoga class (hooray) I have been trying thinking a lot about somehow, some way fitting a yoga practice into my life, thinking about it since the fall & for many reasons 1.) I sit at the beloved TTD* all day hunched like a turtle, my shoulders crunched up near my ears, my posture is terriblĂ© and I constantly have neck and shoulder strain/pain 2.) I'm as limber as a, as a ... well I'm not limber at all actually - me and limber are complete strangers 3.) yoga is so much about breathing and breathing (as you know) & me don't know each other that well either. I am a chronic breath holder - if I'm at all tense or worried I forget to breath oh yeah ya need to breath you ! & who knew breathing, really breathing could feel soooo amazing & 4.) it is excellent training for quelling the darn monkey mind an affliction that plagues most of us ... and certainly is a demon of mine.

Every Wednesday for the next 8 weeks 10am at the Cyrus Eaton Elementary School (click on Cyrus to see the world's sweetest ginger kitten). Yesterday's class, the very first and my body & mind were instantly making little sweet yip, yip sounds, purring & hhhmmming & aaahhhing and thanking me profusely for paying such good attention and care to both of them. To all of us. Yoga just feels fantastic - it's crazy not to do it. I have borrowed a yoga DVD from the library, yet again it's one I've signed out a ka-zillion times over the last few months, but this week ... this will be the week of sun salutations. Namaste ;-)

ps frigid cold, brrrrrr weather here in North Eastern Nova Scotia with the windchill factor it's -32C - let me tell ya that is cold.
It's a perfect night to have corn & haddock chowder for supper -yum.

* TTD - teak topped desk - merci Harry

tools & materials

Wednesday, January 23, 2013





Remember this piece ? in progress shots of my submission to Argyle Fine Art's Pre-Shrunk show - all pieces submitted could be any medium but must be 4" x 5" I made a 20" by 5" painting and then cut it into 5 trying to make sure that my composition allowed for 5 stand alone tiny works - it has been accepted ;-) the show of over 300 little art pieces begins Jan 25th in Halifax

Never, never, never give up
Winston Churchill

Yesterday I ordered new art supplies online from Deserres (my No.1 choice), Dick Blick the famous and incredible (for choice & selection) US based art supply company sadly is cost prohibitive to us Canadians because of very expensive shipping and hidden duty costs. I sometimes order from Curry's a Toronto based art supply store & a new great find also in T0 Above Ground Art Supplies near the OCAD campus just of Queen West (shipping from Deserres & Curry's is free over 75.00 and free over 200. from Above Ground). Thinking so much about art supplies I decided to share a few of my favourites and must-haves.

drawing pens - my favourite is made by Staedtler - 0.05/.1/.3 & .5 (others I've tried Micron & Pilot)
gel pens - love the colours, the opaqueness, the fine line & they write on anything - Walmart any kind
paint pens - same as above - colour, opaque & writes/draws on anything
markers - my favourite & wish I had 2 of every colour
tracing paper - Canson - I've tried many brands and this one's my favourite - super smooth
grid paper - any pad of gridded paper will do or should get one of these
kneaded eraser - Staedtler (do not buy the cheaper ones they become a dirty sticky mess fast)
mechanical pencil - Staedtler again ! though lots of choice in this category HB lead & occasionally a harder 3H lead)
exacto knife - & a big supply of No.11 blades  - because happiness is a sharp exacto blade
scissors - from medium/small size craft scissors to smaller manicure quilting types - sharp is key
rulers - clear see through & metal (for cutting)
self sealing cutting mat - a small portable 8 x10 size and a large tabletop version
portable light table - I have this one though I have my eye on this brighter & bigger version
coil bound sketchbooks - in assorted sizes, I love coil bound books best
water colour paper - Fabriano hot press bright white - smooth texture
vintage paper - encyclopedias, atlases, old letters, postcards, ledgers - anything yellowed & musty smelling
scrapbooking paper - especially small decorative prints, or small graphic prints (like teeny polka dots or stripes)
art paper - coloured, Japanese - check out this amazing paper store inToronto (Queen West) paper nirvana
neon paper - post its & note paper - I love my neon - Walmart again has a great neon stack
glues - basic white kraft glue & I'm crazy about ZIG glue sticks & pens in all sizes - love them.
gel medium - I use a matt gloss UV protection to glue and protect - much like mod-podge
paint - acrylics, gesso, gouache & watercolour
ink - both transparent & opaque acrylic ink + I love to use a pen with asst knibs to draw)
brushes - from large hardware store bristle & foam brushes, to teeny 0 & 00 sable for outlining & I love the forced looseness of drawing with  Chinese calligraphy brushes - lots of brushes lots of sizes
surfaces - heavy kraft board (I always recycle the backs of tracing paper pads), watercolour paper or these wooden canvases love their smooth surface

Wow ! that's a big list and finally (below) my favourite lined, coil bound, journal keeping book. Love these Ecojot brand jumbo 6 x 9 journals with super thick hard cardboard covers. They come ina huge variety of brightly coloured & patterned covers & many with great inspirational quotes. My current and almost used up journal has the above Churchill quote and my waiting in the wings new journal (below). The paper in these journals is subtley lined (oh my how I do love a very subtle line) and are thick with quite heavy paper, heavy enough to withstand the dreaded bleed through when using my most fav writing pen (buy them by the box) the Sharpie ultra fine point pen ;-)

I'm planning a post in February documenting my step-by-step journey from beginning, initial rough concept sketch (usually in my journal or sketchbook) through finished mixed media (most likely typographic somewhat) illustration which will show you & explain how I use all these fabulous tools & materials !


too many to-dos ?

Monday, January 21, 2013
















































Sam / windowsill thyme / Miss D in the backyard with setting sun / there's a carb free tuna melt under there - tuna salad + cheese under the broiler topped with salad / flowering basil / from the 2nd floor hall window / Virgil looking very Virgish / a new illustration in progress / the uniform of the* self employed - pink secondhand fleece hoodie avec worn & tattered T / WD & I out walking with the sunrise / Winnie Dixon in repose

Could it be that I'm finally coming to terms with the reason that I'm always feeling like I'm falling behind is not a lack of productivity & efficiency on my part but instead because I have too many darn to-dos on my to-do list. Another transforming gradual revelation. So now the fun part. Which to-dos can I keep and which to-dos need to go. I'll put that on my to-do list.

Interesting article on handling the to-dos better here

*OK & what's up with another photo of moi ? well I'm showing off the new haircut again and I think it's that "be myself" resolution of mine. Transparency & all. Here I am, it's me ... Susan - author of this blog ;-) splotchy marks on very old mirror.