Safety in Numbers

My sister and I developed these graphics to show support of diversity, and to let others know that the bearer of this logo is safe for varied peoples to be around. They are free for anyone to use and share. Contact me if you would like alternate file types.

Here are some items we are using on Zazzle. Feel free to order them or create your own.  

High resolution graphics are also available at this Facebook album.

Inspiration Exists

Today I realized I haven’t written a blog article in five months. It’s not due to laziness.

Creativity is a delicate practice, and an unrelenting one. If you work at it every day, you will eventually reach a point where something comes for you every day, whether you’re ready for it or not. It sounds like every creative professional’s dream come true, but it does have a unique set of challenges. Remembering to eat, running errands, housework, paperwork, many every day necessities take second tier. And one can only keep that up for a limited time before the maintenance of living becomes cumbersome. 

In May, my husband and I started a new chapter in our lives—indie publishing. I have always known that creative pursuits take time, energy, focus, and patience. This new endeavor is no different. As he works to develop his world and further enhance his stories, I have taken on new roles, too.

I’m functioning as his primary marketing coordinator and graphic designer. I’ve been working on his book covers, social media graphics, website, and photography. I have also worked with many bloggers,  reviewers, and media contacts to keep gaining visibility for his books. In the midst of all this, I haven’t made time for mandala art. But I haven’t given up on that, either.

These past few months, I’ll have to admit, writing blog articles became second-tier. I still feel like supporting creativity is my main purpose. I’ve made new friends and found new resources. The publishing efforts have reached a comfortable rhythm, and I have so many new experiences to share with you. Upcoming Kreative Joose articles will feature more resources and helpful techniques for designers, writers, and artists. Hang with me and stay tuned!

In the Realm of Book Cover Design

I have the otherworldly pleasure of being married to a fantasy writer. He started writing novels over 10 years ago. Since then, he's been fighting to break into the fortress that is the publishing industry. We recently learned about KindleScout, a reader-driven site for never-before-published books by emerging authors. One necessary element of entering was to provide cover art for the submitted book. I naturally volunteered to help.

Mandrake's hand after first major battle
Liefdom takes place in a unique realm created by Jesse Teller. It's the story of a fairy named Gentry Mandrake. Born with natural weapons in a race known for pacifism, he is cast out and hated for his differences. It's a hard book to visually represent, filled with love and darkness, hope and death. We didn't want a detailed illustration of one scene on the cover, preferring to instead come up with a simple, striking visual.  

When I asked Jesse if he had anything in mind, he mentioned a drawing of Mandrake's hand I had sketched a few years earlier. He also wanted a parchment background to give it a sense of age. In Liefdom, the main love interest is a fairy who inks the designs of butterfly wings. I wanted to also use colored ink splashes somehow.

Jesse wanted hand lettering for the title art and insisted on working with Chris Mostyn, a talented artist and friend. He was great to work with, very responsive. After a few initial sketches, he sent us this:

Hand lettered title art by Chris Mostyn

We put it all together and came up with a strong design that invokes struggle, pain, and beauty.
Initial cover design

However, after doing a bit of research and reading some fine print, we decided we needed a less bloody version! We tried taking off the red, but it lost impact in the process. For the final cover art, we eliminated the hand and brought in more splattered ink. The ink splashes are actually watercolor, with added saturation and multiplying done in Photoshop.

The dark lower portion of the cover begged for something to anchor it. I needed a brief line of copy to balance the title art. It was the perfect place to include a mention of Perilisc, the name of the continent in which the story takes place.

It's organic, tense, and beautiful. The spotlight behind the title adds contrast, and a sense of hope, while an inexplicable darkness creeps up from below.

Final cover design

For more about Liefdom and Jesse Teller, visit his website.

A Surprisingly Tight Line to Walk

A dichotomy of passion and ego drives many artists, a desire to create something meaningful and a belief that one's creations can change the world. Anyone who's been to art school, or put their work out there for feedback, knows how hard it is to listen to criticism and learn from it.


In my case, compliments are equally hard to take. As soon as someone gives me a compliment, I feel like a spotlight is on me and I'm overcome with apprehension. What did they say? Do they mean it? Are they just being polite? How much enthusiasm should I show here?

For many years, I smiled and said, "Thank you," or "Oh, that's so nice of you." But after a while, that sounds less genuine. I've been designing quality work for 15 years. Pleasant surprise doesn't seem like the right response.

I'd rather react with confidence, "Yes, thank you, I agree," or "That's one of my strengths, actually." My fear is that such replies sound too arrogant. How do I react with appropriate confidence and delight without sounding absurd? It's a surprisingly tight line to walk.

I draw mandalas to work on understanding certain topics. For a couple of months now, I've wanted to draw one in complementary colors that somehow shows what compliments feel like. I started this project not knowing I was working on it. With all my daydreaming, I hadn't actually thought about the content of it. Each unfolding layer surprised me. At different stages of working through this piece, I felt a wide range of strong emotions—peace, sadness, anxiety, fear, despair, excitement. 

Graciously receiving compliments is complicated—part spotlight, part control, part etiquette, part deliberation, part applause, part encore. It's a dance I may never master, but maybe this study brings me a little closer.

Listen to Your Muse

Whatever your plans, be receptive to new ideas. Continually allow for revisions or adjustments that might take your work places you didn't anticipate.

This watercolor piece ended up differently than I had planned, but I couldn't be happier with the end results. I'd been thinking about this one for while. I wanted to use analogous colors—blues, greens, and yellows—to create something earthy. Then, I was going to title it "Analogue" as a statement about enjoying nature without digital interference. That was my plan. However, in the face of inspiration, I abandoned the concept entirely.

That concept did guide me through most of the piece. I even penciled in trees on the outer layer during initial sketching. As I drew layer by layer, I would look at the page, visualize something, and draw it. I knew most of it would be abstract, so I didn't think too much about what the shapes would represent. I knew I wanted trees; that was all I had figured out. As I started adding color on the interior levels, something kept bothering me. What were those long triangles pointing up between the trees?


As I continued painting, I kept feeling like something else needed to accompany the trees. I didn't know what. And I didn't know what the triangles in between them would be.

"Inspiration exists, but it must find you working." —Pablo Picasso

I kept adding color, building out to it, even painting the background beyond the mandala. The point is, I kept working. Even though I hadn't quite figured out the plan, even though I knew I was missing something.

I kept asking, "What kind of triangle silhouette do we see next to trees? What could those shapes become?" I had painted nearly everything else when the idea of steeples was revealed to me. Poured in with it came in the notion to alternate different kinds of steeples. I titled it "Analogous", using the many meanings of the word to apply to the color palette as well as religions that coexist alongside each other. At the very end, I decided to add black outlines reminiscent of stained glass.

This piece exceeded my expectations in every way. If I hadn't listened to my muse, it would have been a lukewarm sentiment about nature. Instead, it's a powerful statement about religion and spirituality.

Break the Rules! A Quick Way to Spontaneous Creativity

Artists like to talk about process. The steps we take to create work are part routine, part conditioning, part mystery. Process is a vehicle to creation. It's a way to teach the mental patterns. But it's not an absolute necessity. You've probably heard the saying, "You have to learn the rules before you can learn to break them." This certainly applies to the creative process.

In college, I spent semester after semester learning the process of design. Research. Sketch. Choose the best idea. Create it. Fine-tune it. Re-evaluate whether it was the best idea. Start over as needed. Polish. Present. We'd spend several weeks on one project at a time. One professor challenged us to condense this process. He'd assign a project to be completed within one 3-hour class. In the real world, time is not always available. Often, you have to work fast and be good at it.

Creating quickly and effectively, relying heavily on impulse and intuition, is a fantastic skill to practice.

In my recent endeavors, having just learned the process of drawing mandalas, I became intrigued with the idea of abandoning that process. How would I do with no gridlines? What would I draw with less time to think?

I had to try it, if for no other reason than to sate my curiosity. Armed with two weights of black Sharpies, I picked up a blank sheet of paper and began. Here's what I did in one session. I spent about an hour and twenty minutes on it. 


It's a little lop-sided, but I'm glad I tried it. For now, I prefer penciling in guidelines, sketching out a preliminary drawing, and spending more time on each step. Taking my time and building from an initial sketch leads to better symmetry, which is more appealing to me for mandalas. 

This is a great experiment, though—a clear representation of where my freehand skills are right now! I may revisit this technique later down the road, either for a change of pace or to check my progress. Sometimes it feels good just to get something new down on paper. Changing or abandoning your ritual can refresh your mindset.  

For now, I'm ready to move on to a different medium. I'm planning a mandala in watercolor. I'll let you know how it goes...