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Why Starlight?

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So, why a “Starlight” Journal? What is it about starlight that is so important? Like everything in this journal, the name is not an accident.Yes, it’s pretty and enchanting, but it’s also more intentional than that. And yet, it is intentional in ways that I’ve only come to realize well after I named the project. Originally, it just sounded right. Even more strangely, I later discovered the meaning behind the name I had already chosen as a result of things having (I thought) nothing at all to do with this project...the universe works in mysterious ways, my friends.

Back to the original question- what is it that is so important about the stars? That turns out to be a more complicated question than it first appears. It’s bigger on the inside.

For one, there’s not a human being alive who can lay outside, stare up at the blanket of glittering stars dotting the void in front of them, and not feel awe in the original sense of the word.

Awe-struck, that is. Inspired, energized, impossibly insignificant and tiny compared to the vastness of the universe, and yet simultaneously meaningful and oh so ALIVE. It’s a transcendent experience; a universally transcendent experience, in fact.

“And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” -Friedrich Nietzsche


This Nietzsche quote comes with a lot of speculation as to its meaning. One possible and popular interpretation is that you become what you focus on, which is true. He’s probably talking about the metaphorical or psychological abyss here, but I think the same holds true when you gaze at the literal abyss- the open expanse of stars in the sky. You become that vast and inspiring universe. Or rather, you realize that you already are. The chemical components that make up life on our planet, including the blood that runs through our veins, is only formed in a dying star. And stars at varying levels of decay are what you see when you look up on a clear night. You’re watching the glittering dance of the universe-- its continual growth and evolution and decay; a thing with which every one of us is inextricably linked. We ARE the universe in ecstatic motion. Every one of us. We are the ecstatic dance of ancient stardust, looking up and focusing on the void and realizing that we are continually becoming, and already are, ancient stardust ourselves.

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When you gaze upon the glittering night sky, you at once realize just how small you are compared to the expansive abyss above. At the same time you also realize that you, the tiny individual, are both made of and a part of the whole that is this vast and powerful universe, literally and metaphorically. If you gaze too long at the universe, I think you become one with it-- or maybe more accurately, you realize that you always were one in being. And that is both a powerful and humbling experience. Which, really, I believe everyone should experience as regularly as possible. So the stars are immeasurably important for facilitating this sort of transcendent experience. Gazing at the stars makes us better humans.

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And then there is the light. Everything always comes back to the light--the name of my business, the name of this journal, even the name of my chosen medium (“photography” means “light writing”).  

It might seem a bit strange at first for the focus of a very dark, nocturnal adventure to be the light. But it’s true. You need the darkest dark in fact, the places with the least light pollution, to see the most light in the sky. Darkness and light are two sides of the same coin: darkness is only scientifically the absence of light, in a physical sense. So, in a way, of course you need to go through the darkest dark to find the metaphorical light within yourself as well. You need the darkness because without it there is no true light. The hero is always born at the height of chaos in the story, because the chaos and darkness is what creates the conditions that require a hero, or light, in the first place. This is why we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the ultimate hero, at the winter solstice. Because the hero is always born at the height of darkness. And this is where the theories on that Nietzsche quote can get really interesting, because right before he says “when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you” is a line about monsters- a warning not to become the monster you seek to destroy.

Metaphorically speaking, Nietzsche’s abyss is most likely our own darkness. And in many ways, we do have to face our own darkness; descend into our own darkness, and ultimately overcome it, in order to truly find and embody our own light.  

Light is always the highest good. The light illuminates- both literally and figuratively, and that is good. God said “Let there be light,” and it was good.  Because knowledge is what allows us to grow figuratively, and light from the sun creates heat and life and physical growth. Fire and light further are tools that humans have mastered to allow us to advance knowledge and technology in unprecedented ways. You can literally learn more if you have candlelight (or electricity) that allows you to spend more time reading and learning.

Just like physical darkness is the absence of light (and in a way, vis versa), and so one cannot exist without the other, good and evil (the human capacity for darkness and light) must also exist as two sides of the same coin. In order to have the highest good, we must also necessarily have the lowest evil. One cannot exist without the other.

Furthermore, in order to ensure that we are choosing the light, we must first face the darkness. We must acknowledge that the darkness is an equal option. Otherwise it’s not a choice, it’s a default.  And we cannot take credit for a default. We must gaze into the abyss of our own darkness, and instead of letting it consume us, instead of becoming the monster we seek to destroy, we must choose to focus on the lights that dot the abyss like stars. Because if we focus on the light, we become the light.

Maybe there is something to the act of gazing at the stars that physically mimics the metaphorical, and so we feel that awe and power resonate in our souls when we stargaze-- for the beauty is almost always terrifying, too. The terror of space and darkness could just as easily consume us if we let it. And yet, laying on blankets and gazing up, surrounded by the darkest night we can find, we do not look in fear at the empty blackness of space. Instead, we look to the light of the stars. And we delight in their light.

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For it is always the light of the stars that guides us along. In terms of movement and navigation, the stars have always been the guide, shining like beacons in the night. Their light orients sailors, and guides them along their way. If you are lost, whether in a forest or at sea, or even just within your own soul, the thing to do is always to look to the heavens- look to the familiar and steady lights in the sky, orient yourself, and follow them home.


Since ancient times, we humans have always looked to the steadfast stars glittering above us to light our way in a real and literal sense. But even as we evolve our technology, and the light of our cities drowns the light of the stars, there is still a significant but metaphorical way that we use the stars as guides: we wish on them.


It sounds fanciful- the stuff of fairy tales. But fairy tales are usually true in profound ways. A wish on a star is more than a delivery order to heaven. A wish on a star is in fact the embodiment of finding the highest physical light (which represents the highest metaphorical good, because lightness IS always goodness), orienting ourselves towards that highest good, and following it home. Once you name the highest good you can imagine in your wish, then you have your orienting point, and your guiding light. It is only once you determine where you’re going that you can determine how to get there. So, we wish on stars. We pronounce our destination to the universe, and then we use that wish to guide us to it, just like sailors following the stars home. And that is no more an accident than the name of the Starlight Journal.

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Get your copy of the journal here, and let this starlight help to guide you to your highest good.


This month’s shop release is also my favorite line from this article, so if it resonates with you especially, grab that line on a print, mug, tshirt, or other home decor item here. And as a bonus, get the design on the back of the Starlight Journal, which for me so embodies the importance of following the light, in the shop as well.

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Thank you, as ever, for your support and interest in this blog, my creative musings, and my creative work. If you’d like to support this blog, consider grabbing a product from the shop like the Ancient Stardust or the I Create Myself pieces featured today, or consider supporting my creative work in general on Patreon. Learn more about that here.

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April Art Feature - Now Bring Me That Horizon

Please excuse me for a moment while I geek out over how awesome this piece looks as leggings.

The shop feature for April is also one of my very favorite watercolor paintings, a piece entitled Now Bring Me That Horizon.

I wrote an extensive post already on my thoughts behind the philosophy of chasing new horizons (read that here if you missed it!), but I wanted to also talk briefly about the art piece that inspired my writing.

When I finished this piece and shared it on social media, people commented how much it reminded them of Peter Pan, which frankly thrilled me because I LOVE Peter Pan (the novel especially). And, fair enough, because I did include the two stars in the corner. Those two stars show up in a lot of my artwork, and indeed are even a part of one of my tattoos, and they come from Peter Pan in the first place, because it is in all seriousness my favorite book ever, if I have to pick just one. (If you’re skeptical of that, hold tight, because I have another post planned for later this year that will explain. But this is not that post.)

Second star to the right, and straight on ‘till morning. Neverland is arguably a land of great adventure, just over the horizon. But, interestingly enough, that was not at all what inspired this painting. Instead it was a different movie about a different black pirate ship…Pirates of the Caribbean. The 5th one, in fact, for I am an unashamed Pirates of the Caribbean fan and was unreasonably excited to see the 5th one in theaters, and I loved it just as unreasonably. It actually ended up inspiring me to create at least two pieces of art (two of my favorites), because of course on top of being about pirates, this movie also interwove star lore into it’s plot, and ya’ll, that is my jam. Incase you haven’t noticed, I am all about the sea and the stars over here. And also less obviously, PIRATES.

So I saw this movie in theaters and I came home just LIT. UP. And, having nothing else pressing to do, I just on a whim sat down at my desk and started playing with watercolor paints. The remarkable thing though, was that this piece developed over the course of several weeks. See, normally I am way too impatient for “proper” watercoloring. I can never quite seem to get things to have the depth and colors I want them to, and a good part of why is that I’m just too impatient to give them the time they need to really dry and then reapply. But for whatever reason, this time, I started with the sun and sky, and then was just playing with colors, and eventually I had filled the page. And then I walked away from it and let it dry….for a few days, actually. And this is the weird part. But I knew there was something to this one, even though I didn’t know what exactly. It was just an ocean scape. I’ve tried probably a million of them. But water is hard to capture in watercolor (ironically), and the galaxy trick is tricky too. So a few days later, I actually came back to it and, I think still listening to the Pirates soundtrack (or quite possibly watching one of the earlier movies on Netflix), I added another layer. Remarkably, it started to look better. So I waited a few more days. And then I added another layer.

Realizing quite by happenstance that I was on to something, I repeated this process a couple of times until I had what I thought was a pretty good sunset ocean scape painting. I added details of the stars, and (probably because I had Pirates on repeat that week), I also added a pirate ship. Although, that could have also just been my default. I don’t honestly remember. But I do draw pirate ships as a basic default if you stick a blank piece of paper in front of me and tell me to “sketch anything.” I don’t really know why. They just always come out. I think deep down I might be a pirate, or a mermaid. So I added a pirate ship here, too, and then I added some gold paint marker stars, the stereotypical Peter Pan stars, and a decorative boho moon.

Stepping back to examine, I had pretty well shocked myself. I didn’t realize when I began this painting that I was even capable of creating a watercolor painting as beautiful and layered as this. And it certainly was not anything I had planed on. Rather, it just emerged, an image from my (often literal) dreams. This is where the magic is. It’s that flow and freedom of just sitting down and playing around with your medium, and then being shocked and delighted when a beautiful pirate-y painting emerges — at once reminiscent of two of my favorite stories of adventure, and eventually even becoming a piece to spark philosophical writings on the importance of the pursuit. It’s the synchronicity and freedom of chasing an exhilarating but murky feeling through unknown waters (literally on the paper through pigmented water), not really knowing what you’re doing, and then realizing afterwards that all along you were chasing an unknown adventure and making a piece of art about chasing the unknown adventure.

That sense of freedom is even more fitting when you consider the title of this piece, which is of course no accident. The ship is obviously chasing the sun on the horizon, but that was more of an accident than anything pre-planned. The real meaning derives from a quote by the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow.

“Not just the Spanish Main, love. The entire ocean. The entire wo'ld. Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and some sails, that's what a ship needs. But what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom.

That sense of freedom, of exploration, of chasing the horizon to the Spanish Main and the entire world, is something that calls to me like the gold calls to the cursed pirates. I think to some degree that sense of adventure calls to all of us, and I really do believe that following the call can lead to the most amazing experiences that make life worth living. Not all treasure is silver and gold, indeed.

If this painting calls to you or inspires you like it does me, you can grab it as a mug, tshirt, leggings, sweatshirt, cell phone case, etc. in the shop here! If you would like this piece as a fine art print (the metallic prints especially are GORGEOUS) or as a canvas, please send me a message here! Know that either way you will inspire yourself and support a local independent artist, which will help me to bring you more art, inspiration, and philosophy.

If you enjoyed this and other blog posts, and would like to support this blog and my creative adventures in general, please consider becoming a patron on Patreon. Learn more about that here. You can also share this blog post with others on social media or directly, which also helps! Thank you, as always, for your support.

Love and light.

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Now Bring Me That Horizon...Thoughts on the Pursuit of Happiness

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Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Every American knows that these are the unalienable rights written right into the core of our nation’s founding. At first glance, it appears that the founding fathers did a funny thing there- the pursuit of happiness? Why not just life, liberty, and happiness? Surely that would be better! Who doesn’t want an entire nation of happiness? That sounds like Utopia! But actually, the founding fathers did a brilliant thing there. Because, as it turns out, it really is all about the pursuit.

Here’s the thing. We don’t actually WANT Utopia. Not if you look at the history and meaning of the word. Utopia sounds nice, in theory, sure. It’s an untroubled paradise. Where the sun is always shining and no one has any cares. But it’s not what we want, because it’s not what we think. '“Utopia” literally means “no place,” or “not place.” It comes from the Greek ou, meaning ‘not,’ and topos, meaning ‘place.’ And it was first used in the satirical book Utopia by Sir Thomas More in 1516. So really, the entire point of the word from its inception has been to illustrate that “Utopia” as we conceive of it- as a paradise of delights- actually does not exist. Perhaps it cannot exist. It has been suggested that if humanity ever did achieve a Utopian society, we’d just get bored immediately, and burn it down, for lack of anything else interesting to do.

The words “paradise” and “Eden” both bear examining as well. Because, strangely enough, therein lies the answer. See, these days, “Paradise” and “Eden” are interchangeable, with themselves and with “Utopia.” And, in some ways they are the same, or similar. But there is nuance here, and it’s worth exploring.

The word “Eden” especially is a weird one. Currently, Webster’s Dictionary lists three definitions:

  1. See Paradise, sense 2, which reads: “a place or state of bliss, felicity, or delight” (Sense 1 of “Paradise”, by the way, links you straight back to “Eden Sense 2” in a complete loop.)

  2. “The garden where according to the account in Genesis Adam and Eve first lived”

  3. “A place of pristine or abundant natural beauty”

Paradise and Utopia are both listed as synonyms for Eden, as are Never Never Land, Fantasyland, Camelot, and Shangri-la, among others. I find Never Never Land especially curious in this context, as Neverland is famously the place where you go if you refuse to grow up. A place that, like Utopia, sounds great, because who wants to grow up? Adulting is hard. But Neverland has a dark and sinister side to it too, one that is entirely overlooked in Disney’s telling of that tale. And of course, in the end, if you refuse to grow up because it is hard work, then you don’t get to grow up, because growing up is a privilege, too. It’s right there in the book. It’s my favorite line and it’s the very end of the story:

“There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.”

If you refuse the great responsibility of adulthood, you are also barred from the great joy and meaning of adulthood. You remain stuck in a naive Neverland, play acting, but never actually acting on the world with any meaning or potency. To even believe that there is such a thing as an untroubled paradise where no one has any cares is a naive view of the world. Because of course there are troubles in the world- we have the whole of the world to contend with; the whole of nature. And if you think that’s nothing but sunshine and daisies, you have a rude awakening coming. So no matter how you slice it, to exist in a state of Eden, or Neverland, or to strive for a Utopian fantasy that by definition does not exist, is inherently to be almost unbelievably naive, and therefore powerless. There’s a reason Neverland is for children.

But I digress. I am most interested in the etymology of “Eden.” The conception of it in modern times seems to stem entirely from the fact that the place in Genesis is dubbed the “Garden of Eden.” What then, did those ancient Hebrews mean when they chose that word? Here of course is our fundamental answer: Eden comes from the Hebrew edhen, meaning “pleasure, delight.” So when they wrote the story down, those ancient peoples intended it to mean “Garden of Pleasure,” or “Garden of Delight.”

Which brings us to Hieronymus Bosch, and his circa 1490s painting entitled, The Garden of Earthly Delights. And what a surreal fantasyland this painting portrays. Still almost a complete quandary among Art Historians, not much is known for sure about Bosch or his paintings. They aren’t even dated, so 1490s is an educated guess. All we know is that it first shows up in writings in 1517, right after Bosch’s death. None of the artist’s writings survive, so all we really have to go on is the piece itself, and the title. Even here, things have become muddled, because the piece is a triptych, with three inner panels and two outer panels that are visible when the piece is closed. The inner panels are each basically separate but related paintings. The outer two panels together form one complete image. The largest and middle inner panel is actually the only part of the whole that was originally titled The Garden of Earthly Delights, and yet the entire piece has come to be known by that name, and the names of the other individual panels seem to have fallen away. The left panel is sometimes known as The Joining of Adam and Eve, but individual titles of the rest are not mentioned in any online articles I could find, nor in the information found on the Prado Museum’s website, where the piece is currently housed.

[Note- most of my facts on the Bosch piece have been paraphrased from My Modern Met. Read their excellent article here. I also consulted Wikipedia and Museo del Prado, which has a wonderful interactive online exhibit of this perplexing piece of art. ]

“The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1490 – 1510). Prado Museum.

“The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1490 – 1510). Prado Museum.

Central panel of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”

Central panel of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”

Left and right panels of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”

Left and right panels of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”

Painting on the two outer panels that appears when closed.

Painting on the two outer panels that appears when closed.

Though we do not have the original titles of the rest of the panels, nor any word from the artist himself but the middle title, the subject matter is generally agreed upon. The outer panels are thought to depict the creation of the world, as outlined in Genesis—specifically the Third Day, after the animals and plants were added, but before the creation of man. Upon opening the panel, and reading it, as it were, from left to right like a book, we can see that the three panels depict in order: Adam and Eve with God in the Garden of Eden, presumably before they are cast out, followed by the central bizarre and surreal panel that is The Garden of Earthly Delights, followed by a hellish landscape that is generally agreed to depict hell itself. And thus this work as a whole shows the progression of creation and the downfall of man, as outlined in Genesis, with a bizarre twist in style that most likely originated with Bosch. Indeed, if it reminds you of the surreal melting clocks or other work by Salvador Dali, that is because it inspired Dali, when he viewed it at the Prado, and could thus be considered the grandfather of surrealism.

Now, we don’t have the time to even scratch the surface on the phantasmagoric collection of figures in this piece of art. Indeed literal volumes of speculation and symbolic interpretation have been written on that subject. So if you are so inclined to learn more about the details, I definitely encourage you to do so! But for my purposes here, suffice it to say that Bosch’s interpretation of the phrase “Garden of Earthly Delights” is downright chaotic at best. While never explicit, it is certainly sensual, lustful, bizarre, surreal, and in many places both confusing and disturbing. Some have even deemed it ‘hallucinogenic.’ This painting pretty clearly depicts human delight…but run completely amok.

The garden that we see in the first panel, on the other hand, while still a bit surreal, comes across more balanced and peaceful, without the chaos and entanglement of limbs and creatures everywhere. The second panel shows us human delight gone way too far, and the third depicts the inevitable result of hell. Curiously, the biggest difference between the second and third panel, at least from a distance, seems to just be the change in color scheme and background. Do we know that the third panel represents hell because it is black there? While the central panel is bright and vibrant and therefore cannot be a hellscape? Remove the color and the depiction looks strikingly similar.

Panels two and three, with color removed, and extreme darks lightened in the third panel to be more congruent. The chaotic elements, especially as compared to the first panel, look much the same in these two panels.

Panels two and three, with color removed, and extreme darks lightened in the third panel to be more congruent. The chaotic elements, especially as compared to the first panel, look much the same in these two panels.

This, of course, is the point. What IS the difference between human delight run completely amok, and hell itself? Perhaps it really is just the coloring we give it. For, whether we like it or not, humans do have a historical tendency to descend into hellish chaos when our delights run wild and undisciplined. We crave structure. We like inherently to put things into boxes; in their “proper place.” And we crave pleasure too. But only pleasure all day every day quickly becomes chaotic, or else it becomes boring and unbearable and we go looking for trouble, looking for chaos, just so that we have some chaos to make ordered. Too much chaos, too much delight, turns out to be as impossible to bear as too much order or burden. So perhaps Eden is not where we find true happiness after all. Perhaps only delight all the time gets boring. Or it gets chaotic. Or both. Perhaps this is why Utopia as Paradise does not exist.

We still have one word left to dissect though, and that word is paradise. Because, though it is listed as synonymous with Eden and Utopia, I would argue strongly that it is not at all the same. We’ve already covered the dictionary definition of the word, since it is so inextricably tied to the definition of Eden, but what about the etymology of “paradise?”

As it turns out, paradise doesn’t appear to have any ties to “delight” except in its use and subsequent entanglement in the Garden of Eden. “Paradise” originally comes from an old Iranian word, pairi-daêza, meaning “walled enclosure.” And is found in the First Persian Empire (330BE- 550BC) to refer to the empire’s “walled gardens.” Further, as the word evolved in Iranian, it curiously lost all sense of walls entirely and became merely a garden or vegetable patch. Why then, is paradise a walled garden?

Here we can only speculate. But I suspect there is something fundamental in this speculation, even if it cannot strictly be proven. So let’s speculate: What is a walled garden? Well, a garden is nature. Nature is a bit chaotic. It’s certainly awesome in the original sense of that word (“extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear”). And that combination of daunting and inspiring certainly speaks of the call to adventure- the urge to go out beyond the familiar and conquer the unknown, which is always a bit chaotic. If the garden is a garden of delights, then it can obviously get chaotic, because as we have seen, those delights can run amok. Except in this case, the garden runs into a wall—a wall on every side, in fact. Because this garden is enclosed. This chaos is enclosed. It is contained. It is not permitted to spill over into true unbridled chaos, say. Maybe, while still nature and therefore still awesome, this chaos is contained- familiar, domesticated, even just a bit. Maybe a walled garden is the perfect balance of chaos and order. Of delight and structure. Of nature and industry. Of wild and settled. Maybe that’s why it is the optimal place for human beings, we creatures who seem always to be chasing chaos in order to make order out of it; in order that we may integrate wild unknowns into our known domain (another ancient meaning for ‘paradise,’ by the way).

We chase the unknown, so that we can make it known. And then, having made the previously unknown integrated, having successfully enclosed a bit of chaos and gotten it sufficiently in order, say, we get bored with it, and so set off again to seek new and greater unknowns, and integrate them as well. We humans constantly balance the known and the unknown, chaos and order, delight and structure, walking the middle ground like a tight rope, for if we stray too far in either direction, we descend into a hellish existence, either clawing our own eyes out in boredom, completely crushed by tyrannical an immovable structure, or becoming completely overwhelmed and swamped by chaos.

Is it a coincidence, by the way, that “bored” and “border” sound so similar? Etymologically speaking, it would seem yes. A border is “the line between the wild and the settled regions,” while bored comes from bores, which are used to drill holes. Yet they are undeniably similar words. One encloses, draws a line quite literally between chaos and order, and the other tends to be suffocating, a slow torturous rehashing of the same familiar things, like something small slowly boring into your existence. Perhaps the moment when “bordered” slips into “bored” is the moment where there is insufficient chaos available within the current walls, and that insufficiency, that border, bores into us. And so we must cure the boredom with more chaos. We must adventure. So we head outside of the walls, into the wilderness, forever chasing the sun towards endless new horizons.

Because as it turns out, this search for adventure, this continual striving out into the unknown, so that we can make it known, this pursuit, is where we humans seem to find the most satisfaction. The happiest we ever seem to be is when we are balancing the chaos and the order, when we have sufficiently ordered our domains and then set out to chase new horizons, one foot in reliable structure, one foot tremulously stepping out into wild unknowns. We are happiest in the balance. We are happiest in walled gardens. We are happiest in the pursuit.

So, as Captain Jack Sparrow says at the end of his adventure, nowbring me that horizon.

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Your Tell Tale Heart

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“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.” 
― Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art

..And when things go wrong, what you should do is make good art. I love this concept. I KNOW this concept. I know this whole speech almost by heart. I basically preach this. It is always the making of the good art that saves you. Or at least it is always the making of good art that saves me.

And yet, sometimes I have to be reminded. And strangely, last August, when I was going through some personal hard times, I was continually hearing the chorus of “paint your feelings.” Which, I’ll be honest, is not usually my go to. I make art because I am inspired. And working on good art pieces that I’ve been inspired to create always takes me out of time and makes me feel better. So it’s always a good panacea for emotional pain. But rarely do I actually paint my literal feelings. But, I kept hearing it. So finally one day, slightly exasperated because “what does that even mean- paint your feelings!?” I sat down at my desk with a blank sheet of paper and my watercolors, and before I knew it, this anatomical heart emerged, along with the Pirates of the Caribbean line that I love so much.

I drew the veins in gold as a reference to the Japanese method of Kintsugi-

Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece.

This repair method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.

-My Modern Met Article

For me , I think, this artistic representation, with a subtle nod to the beauty of the brokenness, turned out to be the perfect way to process my broken hearted feelings, and also to find the beauty again, literally through the artistic rendering process. (For many more extensive thoughts on love and choice and whether or not you should lock your heart away, read my February blog post here: Always Choose Love.)

For Kay, who loves anatomical hearts of all kinds, this painting became immediately tied to her character of Cupid from Tell City. It would seem that once again, and even more unintentionally this time, I had created relevant fan art. Even when I try to make art about my own personal stories, it ties back into archetypal stories somehow or another. Ha! I guess no one can escape their destiny.

So yet again, when we sat down to determine what we should use to create Tell City merchandise for fans to rep, we quickly and easily landed on this piece too. Kay wanted the anatomical Cupid heart. So we hunted down a relevant quote from Tell City, I digitized and edited the image to change the text, and for the back I pulled in the Tell City “skyline” from the book cover and decorated it with the same fill pattern as the heart.

Et voila! Grab this heart for your own- as a reminder not to lock your heart away, or as a reminder of everyone’s favorite diapered cherub, or as a reminder of whatever else you might bring to the piece. Check it out here! And, if you don’t have one yet, grab your copy of Tell City here!

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This blog and my artwork runs entirely with the help of people like you. If you’ve enjoyed this behind the scenes look at my artwork, if you enjoy the artwork, enjoy Tell City, or if you just believe in supporting independent artists and authors, please consider sharing this post, buying a book or some swag, or for an even more in depth look behind the scenes, consider supporting Lusicovi Creative on Patreon. Learn more about that here.

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One Sacrifice Away

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As a freelance photographer, I frequently do contract work for Amazon. As of January 1, 2018, cell phones were banned in the Amazon warehouse and studio, blanket statement. Deal with it or leave. Which….some days, is really annoying. Especially at first, it was terrible. Everyone hated it. And everyone I’ve told about this rule, to this day, is baffled. “What? You cannot have your cell phone? What madness!” It seems like a huge sacrifice. But sometimes, with great sacrifice, comes great reward…

See, on the Amazon studio days, we have scheduled 15 minute breaks. And I am not one for whom idleness is tolerable….almost at all. I’m seemingly incapable of just sitting for 15 minutes. Occasionally you chat with coworkers, but even while chatting, my hands usually itch for something to do. So I started bringing in crossword puzzle books, and then my sketchbook. Specifically, at some point in my early art school days, I had obtained a small simple black 5x7 or so sized sketchbook. It was half filled. And then at some point in school I started using bigger ones and so this half empty book just was there on my shelf. Until one day last January, I grabbed it on my way out the door.

When I had downtime that day, I flipped through to see what was in the book from the years and years before. Browsing partly out of curiosity and partly out of a search for something else to do, I came across a series of pages that contained only stark outlines of varying shapes- a wine bottle, a leaf, an apple, etc. I came to the page with the apple and decided, for fun, to shade the apple and fill it in. So I grabbed my pencil and did that.

By the time I had added the dimension to the apple, it reminded me of the Tell City cover apple. As an added touch, I inscribed the classic Tell City phrase, “One Sacrifice Away.” But I still had time to kill. So I continued with my Tell City theme, and added an arrow piercing the apple, in classic William Tell fashion.

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These lines (also featured on the back cover of the hardcover dust jacket) have always been some of my VERY FAVORITE lines, not just of Tell City, but possibly of all fantasy writing. They manage to evocatively echo and reverberate both backwards and forwards in time, calling up many ancient myths, and also pushing forward into the unknown misty landscape.

The part that evokes Snow White in particular, combined with the imagery of a reflection in a well (which would naturally ripple) has always appeared in my imagination as a rippling mirror, that blurs the lines of surrealism. Is it a mirror? Is it water? Is the apple floating? Or reflected? Or all of the above?

So, with my favorite “One Sacrifice Away” quote swirling around in my mind, I added a rippling ornate mirror to the background of the now definitely Tell City fan art piece I had stumbled my way into drawing. I actually had originally envisioned adding a light shadowy panther’s face into the mirror as well, but I ran out of time.

When I left work and got back to my phone, I took a quick photo of the drawing and sent it to Kay, who I imagine squealed with delight to see it. With the distance, time, and extra perspective, I ultimately decided that to try and add the panther into the image would be overdoing it, so I left it as it was. Sometimes good art is knowing where to draw the line. (ha!)

If you have a copy of Tell City (and if you don’t, get thee hence to Amazon and grab a copy! Or click here.), you know that this drawing wound up in the intro pages to the novel- a thing of which I am immensely proud. I might actually even be more honored to have my artwork featured inside the book than to have my designs on the cover. “Cover designer” is a thing I am certain I am good at. I love doing it, and I’m confident in my ability to craft magical and enchanting book cover designs. “Graphite realistic surreal fan art drawer,” on the other hand, is something that surprised me. I hadn’t hand drawn anything in graphite in a long long while, and even in the heyday of my art school days, I was never particularly quick or skilled with realistic graphite drawings. I could manage it, usually, but it was always a struggle. This piece, however, just seemed to flow from my brain to the pencil to the page with unprecedented ease. Perhaps it was the reward for my sacrifice of not having my phone that day to waste time scrolling on….

Aside from being featured in the book (or perhaps, because it is featured in the book), when it came time to design Tell City merch, including this drawing was a bit of a no brainer. By that point, we had already paired the apple drawing in the front of the book with the poem that was a message from the oracle, and so as a bonus, all of the merchandise that has a back, features that poem on the back as well. And so, aside from having it in your copy of the book (Again, grab that here if you don’t have it already!) , you can also get this enchanting drawing on virtually any home good product or accessory you can image, or in a print. (If you want a signed archival fine art print, send me a message here- otherwise grab one printed on demand at the shop!) My personal favorite are the leggings!

Hopefully it resonates with you the same way it does with me.

You can support this blog (plus a local independent author) by purchasing and repping any of the products in the shop here. Or by buying the novel here (and share your reviews with us on social media!) You can also support this blog and my general creative endeavors and musings by becoming a Patreon supporter. Learn more about that here. Thanks for stopping by!

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Tell City Cover Evolution

If you didn’t catch the long version of the story of Tell City, hop over here and read it now! I thought it might be cool to share the simple visual progression of the Tell City cover, from August 2013 to November 2018. Enjoy! And feel free to ask any questions in the comments if you have them!

The first ever cover sketch from August 2013.

The first ever cover sketch from August 2013.

And a few pages later in my notebook, from a few months later, during a night of art making and listening to Kay read from the book.

And a few pages later in my notebook, from a few months later, during a night of art making and listening to Kay read from the book.

The first ever  Tell City  cover design.

The first ever Tell City cover design.

And the event poster that went with it.

And the event poster that went with it.

The most recent sketch of the full  Tell City  cover spread.

The most recent sketch of the full Tell City cover spread.

The first version of the newest cover, obviously it still had a bit more evolving to do.

The first version of the newest cover, obviously it still had a bit more evolving to do.

The final front cover design.

The final front cover design.

The final entire hardcover dust jacket spread.

The final entire hardcover dust jacket spread.

And finally, the best part. The cover design is available to order printed on virtually any home good or accessory you can imagine! They even have leggings and socks! Check it out and rep your favorite newest fantasy novel here! (All proceeds go to benefit an independent author and independent artist!)

The back of all the shirts.

The back of all the shirts.

You can also support this blog by contributing on Patreon. Learn more about that here! And support Kay by buying the book, below!

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The Sign Said "Welcome to Tell City...."

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The Craigslist post said “Artist Wanted for Book Poster Design.”

It was 2013. I had just moved to Indianapolis by myself. I had just signed a lease on a new apartment. I had just lost my job. I had just put together that my love of books and my love of making art could be combined in book design. I had just read a fantasy book (The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. 10/10 would definitely recommend!) that had reawakened my creative spirit in the midst of all the massive chaos and fearful uncertainty that had been my life for over a year. And the ad for the book poster design had likened the book currently being written and in need of advertising to Neil Gaiman, whose books I adore.

I responded to the ad. I believe I mentioned my love of Gaiman. The author and I went back and forth for a bit and decided to meet up at the local Noble Coffee & Tea. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea that I was about to meet my best friend.

The first ever sketch from 2013 of a  Tell City  cover.

The first ever sketch from 2013 of a Tell City cover.

We met up in August. I remember we had chai tea lattes (Noble Coffee & Tea has the best chai tea lattes!), and we sat outside and talked about our mutual love for Neil Gaiman, among other things. Kay told me about her book, which still only had 4 chapters written, and she didn’t know yet where the story was even going for sure, and I told her about my art. She told me about how she was trying to be smart about it, trying to get ahead of the marketing and build an audience for her first novel as she wrote, so that when it was finished there would already be people eagerly awaiting its release. So she was planning a book reading at Indy Reads Books, and needed posters designed to advertise the reading. I had my sketchbook with me, and by the time our meeting was through, I had sketched out a rough design for both a book cover and for posters. I think we were good friends from that instant on.

To complete the circle and start another one, in March of 2018, Kay and I took a road trip to Cleveland, Ohio, to see Neil Gaiman speak live. (!!!!!!) By then she was already writing her next book, and the Cleveland trip was actually a strange but brand new return to our normal method of writing and making art. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Some of the best moments from the Cleveland trip-including a horrendous quality but amazing photo of Neil himself, and two of my favorite ever photos of Kay.

Some of the best moments from the Cleveland trip-including a horrendous quality but amazing photo of Neil himself, and two of my favorite ever photos of Kay.

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So back in 2013, we designed the posters. The design included an apple that had written on it “One Sacrifice Away;” a line from the book that we both loved. We did a photoshoot at her house to get an image of that apple. It also featured her leather journal that she sometimes wrote in. And while we were making the fake apple, Kay had the brilliant idea to make everyone who was coming to the reading their own fake apple with the prophetic words. So we made a whole bushel of apples. And we made bookmarks. And we stayed up until stupid late hours at my apartment and at Kinkos getting everything prepped for the book reading. And then when she sat on stage and read from her book, I and all of the other attendees fell in love with the story of Charles D Garrett and his prophetic dreams….

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Over the next three years, Kay and I would get together whenever our schedules allowed for “Art Retreat Days,” which basically just meant her writing Tell City, and me working on whatever painting or photo editing or other creative project that I was currently working on. Often while I worked on my project, Kay would read aloud to me the latest in the adventures of Charles and his quest to Tell City. It was simply magical.

One year (I think it would have been 2014), Kay had just happened to have been planning a “Tell City Reading get together” by coincidence on the evening of my birthday. I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than that, so Veronica, Harrison, and I grabbed wine and cupcakes from the grocery store and headed to Kay’s house in Speedway. A small group of us gathered around her living room and fire pit, and took turns reading from the half completed manuscript. I’ve never experienced a party like it before. Everyone was in rapt, attentive silence. This book is just that mesmerizing. That memory is quite possibly my very favorite birthday evening ever.

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In the fall of 2016, the first draft of the novel was, unbelievably, done. Meanwhile several people had been telling me that they had just gone to Savannah, Georgia, and that I needed to go because I would love it. My birthday was coming up. I wanted to go on a road trip. Kay and I had been on a couple of short midwestern road trips at that point. And Kay had an entire novel to read through and edit, a task in which I was eager to participate. So we wrapped it all up into one jam packed extended weekend trip. We left from her house at 3 in the morning, drove to the middle of nowhere Indiana and paused to take photos of the stars, and then continued on our 18 hour drive to Savannah. Whoever was not driving was reading aloud and making notes in the printed manuscript. One day I’ll write a post about that trip alone, because we did SO much that it would be egregious to detail it all right now. But suffice it to say that it was a lovely, adventurous, magical trip. The city of Savannah definitely has my heart. And I learned that the combination of reading/editing and traveling/exploring new places is perhaps my very favorite thing. The second night we were there it rained, so instead of shooting more astrophotography in the purple area of the map that we had passed through on our way into Savannah the night before, we stayed in the Airbnb camper, and we spent hours meticulously crafting beautiful scenes in Tell City about poison and a falling coffee cup.

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About 6 months later we did another weekend Airbnb retreat, this time with Kay’s sister as well, and this time in Indianapolis instead of an actual road trip. Basically, we holed ourselves up in a nice place for a weekend and just went through the novel again from start to (almost) finish. And while we did that, I painted.

Sufficiently edited, Kay began querying agents and publishers, hoping that someone would pick up Tell City, and I turned my attention to other creative pursuits, one of which eventually became The Starlight Journal. By March of last year, Kay had decided to self publish, a tough decision which I ultimately loved because I saw it put the spring back in her step. Where she had been worn down and discouraged after months of rejections, suddenly she was reinvigorated.

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So we set about turning a google doc novel into a physical book. Now, I had had a sketch in my sketchbook from almost immediately after we did the first cover/poster design project, of a much more elaborate cover for Tell City involving the same cover apple floating in a flooded main street, one that I always envisioned as the actual Tell City, Indiana. We had tried a time or two over the years to at least take the underwater photograph needed of the apple, but for one roadblock or another we had never made it happen. And since publishing houses almost always insist on using in house or their own designers, there was never much need to create a true cover. Until now. So I dusted off my years old sketch book and found that original sketch, and then we went on a trip that ultimately improved upon the concept in ways we hadn’t even imagined.

The most recent sketch of the  Tell City  cover spread.

The most recent sketch of the Tell City cover spread.

For this cover design we needed: An underwater photograph of the apple, and images of the “skyline” such as it was of the actual Tell City. We had also been talking about taking a trip to Tell City just in general anyways, because I had never seen the real town, and because somehow along the way, Kay and I became adventure partners; and clearly this was an adventure we needed to have. And, well, boy did we.

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After a trying round of dueling schedules, we finally settled on the last weekend of June as our available time to make the trip to Tell City. We planned to set off late at night on the Friday, and arrive in the wee hours of the morning and check in at the same hotel that Charles does when he first drifts into Tell City in the book. This we did, driving through the winding back country roads of Indiana in the foggy dead of night. We saw/almost hit I think at least 4 different animals on the road, which Kay took to be a good omen, since the animal spirits in the novel also frequent Charles’s path.

You know what they say about the best laid plans, though… when we arrived at 3am at the Day’s Inn, we discovered two things. One, it was no longer the Day’s Inn, now it was called the Knight’s Inn (oh, irony), and two, the front office was most definitely closed. We could not check in. So we scrambled on our phones to find another open hotel, and wound up in one high on a hilltop overlooking a good part of the highway and some neighborhoods. Southern Indiana is gloriously hilly. As an added bonus, this hotel had a pool, which was just what we needed for our second part of the photoshoot. Finally settled we collapsed into bed and slept a few hours.

The next morning, we formed our game plan over complimentary hotel breakfast and coffee: first we would go into the town proper and just explore to get the lay of the land, and have lunch at a local place. Then we would come back to the hotel in the afternoon and do the pool photoshoot to get the underwater photo of the apple. Then we would have dinner and at dusk head around to all the spots in the city we wanted to photograph for the cover “skyline” shots. We had a lot of fun exploring the main street shops local eclectic houses, the water tower that is infamous in the book, and the flood wall and river park. It was especially fun assigning different locations as “Amanda’s house” or “Desiree’s shop,” places that are featured in the book. The book’s geography is based on the real Tell City, but necessarily takes some liberties and plays with the topography a bit. But even so, it was exciting to see the previously fictional place come to life, as it were. As we went we photographed “Steve the apple” (the original cover apple) on a tour of Tell City.

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In my sketch and in my head, I had always envisioned capturing the main street from a bit of a hill, but of course, when we got there, the actual main street was as flat as a corn field. So our skyline task for the day mostly involved traipsing the hills around the main street to find a sufficient vantage point that would look main street enough. We took lots of photos at many different vantage points and at a few different times. As dusk was falling and the deep purple blue of true night was settling in, we happened to be at the top of one of the hills, taking a long exposure shot down that hill towards the river, and for whatever reason I happened to look up. I was immediately astonished. I have always lived in proper cities, and Indiana especially has very bad light pollution in most of the state, so other than our brief drive to Savannah in 2016 (during which we regrettably did not stop for pictures!), I had never seen so many stars. But what was more, it was a perfectly clear night. So I pointed up to show Kay, and also pulled out my phone to check my Dark Skies app and see if we were currently actually in the purple. (Quick side note- I have an app that maps the whole world based on light pollution. Almost all of Indiana and the east coast is level green or higher, which means you barely see any stars. Purple is the next step down, and is the only place you can even hope to get to without going truly out west. So “take star photos in the purple” has been on my literal bucket/goals list for several years, and every time I tried up until this point, it had rained.) We were not in the purple, but I quickly noticed that just on the other side of the Ohio River, right across the border in Kentucky, was a small splotch of purple map. I imagine that the look on my face said it all, as I turned to Kay to ask if we could go. She laughed at my giddy childlike enthusiasm and agreed of course, even though it was already almost 11pm and we were both exhausted.

So we packed up the car, stopped at a gas station for snacks and caffeine, and just before midnight, headed across the Ohio into Kentucky….right into a thunderous rainstorm.

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Now, I have had a few treacherous drives in my life. And driving through unknown narrow roads in the rolling hills of Kentucky after midnight in a torrential downpour is not THE most terrifying drive I’ve ever done….but it’s in the top 5. It got so bad at one point that we had to pull of the road into a farmhouse driveway just because it was raining so hard we couldn’t even see the road. At this point we also pulled up radar and maps and tried to determine if it was even worth it to keep going or if once again, my efforts to photograph the stars in purple were to be thwarted by unceasing rain.

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We eventually and optimistically decided that, well, we’d already come this far. And it looked like the storm was actually not going to be over our final destination. And the torrent was easing so that we could see again. So we got back on the road. Luckily we had passed through the worst of the storm and the rain and clouds got lighter and lighter as we drove to our destination- a random strip of road in the Kentucky almost mountains. We finally pulled over and stepped out of the car and looked up…to see mostly clouds still obscuring the bulk of the stars, and a very very bright moon that we hadn’t considered. It was disheartening, but we had come this far. And it was still pretty enough, and I had some fun light props with me, so we figured what the hell, we could still get some interesting shots, even if they weren’t milky way photos.

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So we did that, Kay manning the camera button and I dancing with silk fans and flashlights and glow sticks in front of the long shutter and under the bright light of the moon. Those photos are definitely magical, but the true magic was yet to come. After a relatively short time, we noticed that the clouds were starting to dissipate, and we could definitely see more of the stars. Trying to determine the best viewing spot, Kay laid down in the middle of the road at one point and pointed up. “The milky way!” She exclaimed. Sure enough, there it was, beautiful and bright. A bit too bright, with the moon shining directly at us, but we took what photos we could anyways. Eventually the animals in the nearby forest started making enough noise to spook us, so we nervously packed the car back up and headed back out to the main road.

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At the main road we pulled off onto a gravel side…spot? Parking lot? Shoulder? Honestly I don’t know. It was the perfect spot to pull of the road though, and I wanted to try one other thing while we were there. This part of the road and this spot of gravel was in the shadow of the mountain and thus hidden from the moon. So I wanted to see if that changed the pictures any. Plus it was not so close to the forest. So we brought out the setup one more time and got some truly stunning milky way photos. (To me at least!)

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Then, as we were shooting the milky way, we noticed that to the north in the distance were more storm clouds. Far enough away to not be a concern. But close enough to see the lightning flashing among the mountains. So we turned the camera towards the storm, and waited for another flash of lightning… And waited, and waited...

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At one point one of us jokingly said a prayer to Thor, god of Thunder. Then Kay implored Loki and strangely enough, just as she did, there was one quick flash in the distance. Almost like they were laughing at us. I missed it on the camera (mostly because I hadn’t expected it to work!), but it gave me an idea. I pulled out my phone, and through the glorious wonder of the internet, played AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” on Youtube. To our utter delight and amazement, the first time the band says “Thunder,” the lightning flashed, and this time I was waiting for it. We danced and laughed and sang the whole song, taking photos of the lightning in the distance all the while. At the end of the song, figuring that it really didn’t get any better than that, and noticing both the hour and the mist starting to roll into the valley we were in, we finally called it a night and headed back towards Tell City and our hotel. We slept in late the next morning and, having gotten everything we came for and much much more, we finally headed for home.

I created the cover for Tell City from the photos we got that day, including the milky way shots and the storm, then we turned to the interior and all of the other marketing and planning efforts to launch a brand new book.

Seven months later and the physical books are out in the world, generating posts on social media from old friends and new fans alike. It’s strange but wonderful seeing the cover artwork, and the book, which is not only a truly wonderful and magical story itself, but which has so much magic wrapped up in the creation of it, and which is so dear to my heart, going out and making its own way in the world.

Wandering, if you will. As must we all.

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To read the enchanting novel, Tell City, by Kaylin R Boyd, and thus support both an independent artist and an independent author, click here. To learn more about Kaylin R Boyd, click here.

To support this blog, share this post with other book loving friends, and consider becoming a supporter on Patreon. Learn more about that here.

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P.S. Some behind the scenes shots from the underwater shoot that just didn’t fit anywhere else in this narrative….<3

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Always Choose Love

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There’s a famous quote from Mother Theresa that hangs right at eye level on the wall in front of my desk. I think when I wrote it down I might have paraphrased it, but my version at least, reads as follows:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self centered.

Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

What you spend years creating could be destroyed overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

It was never about them anyway.

This framework is how I endeavor to live my whole life. Kind, loving, creative, and happy, regardless of anything anyone else does in response. Because it’s not about them, it’s about me- my relationship with myself and with the divine. That’s all that really matters at the end of the day.

Now, there is a lot of criticism out there for this philosophy, particularly about the first line. As this month is arbitrarily the month of love, I figured I would expand on my ideas about this “choose love” philosophy a bit. (Ironically, as I type this, Spotify has shuffled to “Somebody to Love” by Queen. I kid you not.)

The main criticism of “always choosing love” is that it is naive to believe anything other than “love hurts.” And you know what? Sometimes you do get hurt. But it’s better than the alternative for three reasons.

First, if you lock your heart away you’ll lose it for certain. (I think that might be a line originally from Pirates of the Caribbean? But I love it so much that I’ve incorporated it fully into my own philosophy. Pirate till the end, I suppose.) This is a fairly obvious point. The only way to not choose love, is to choose not love. To choose to lock your heart away. And if you lock your heart away; if you bury it in a chest on an island where not even you can feel it because the pain of lost love is too much to bear, then you have lost your heart. And heartless is the last thing anyone should want to be.

But this actually goes deeper. Because, secondly, there’s a huge difference between naivety and conscious decision making, and the difference is “choose.” The verb in this phrase is not love. I’m not advocating that we all just try and love love love all the time, frolicking through a sunny field of roses and bubbles. That’s naivety. Believing that that is even a possibility is naivety. Because life is much harsher than that. As Wesley points out in The Princess Bride, “Life IS pain…Anyone who says differently is selling something.” But, maybe we need to continually sell ourselves on the redeeming parts of the world, like realtors pointing out only the good bones of a dilapidated house to potential buyers, which is effectively pointing out that they could choose to make the place better. Maybe we need to continually remind ourselves to choose love; to choose to make this place better.

The keyword is choose though. When you choose love, it is an inherent recognition that there are other options out there, and they are not as worth choosing. You could choose the easy way. You could choose to lock your heart away, to always choose the fast and cheap and mindless thing that “feels good” in the moment. You could choose that. We all could. Just as in the archetypal hero’s myth, the knight could choose to cower in his hut, and hope that the dragon gets bored and moves on and doesn’t destroy the village. We could all choose the effortless.

But, the thing is, the meaning is in the effort. Realistically, the dragon is definitely destroying the village unless someone stops it. And so if you stay in your hut, you will almost certainly be destroyed. But the knight who choses to turn and face the dragon, knowing full well that he very probably might be destroyed in the attempt, recognizes that at least there is nobility in the attempt. And at best, you actually slay the dragon and keep it from destroying the entire village. That’s what makes you a hero, because the meaning of life is in the attempt to fully live.

Yes, you might die if you face the dragon. You might get hurt so badly that you would rather die if you open your heart to love. And if you do either of those things unconscious of these truths, you’ll almost certainly be overwhelmed by your inevitable “failure.” But, once you’re conscious of the fact that you’re going to die anyways; that you’re going to get hurt anyways; that even if you love someone in a healthy marriage for 60 years, you’re both mortal; that if you lock your heart away you’ll lose it for certain, you understand that to take that risk is the only chance you have of living a full life.

The entire hero’s journey story exists over and over and over again to remind us continually of this fact. That waking up to the reality of life and choosing the risky option (knowing that it is risky, but that it’s the best chance you have) is so much better, so much more meaningful, than never choosing anything at all.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

-JK Rowling

Love is a choice. Not just once, at the beginning, but always. Every single day. Every single important instance, if you want to have a successful relationship across time, you have to continually choose to love. Being “in love” is a feeling, and feelings are ephemeral. Love is choosing to love another flawed and sometimes terrible human, even when you no longer feel like it. Even when you’re no longer seeing them through rosy glasses. Even on the days when they infuriate you. Love is a choice, and it’s not an easy one. But, the easy things are often not worth it, and the things in life that are oh-so worth it are often not at all easy.

Lastly, there’s something else that happens when you knowingly choose love - you give the person you’re choosing to love a chance to choose love too. You can extend your hand to another imperfect struggling human soul, knowing full well that they might lash out in return, and they might reject your offering of love, but the knowledge of that being a possibility (maybe even a probability) is what ultimately saves you from being overwhelmed by the sting of rejection if and when it happens. The knowledge that not everyone is as awake as you are will be your saving grace, because it will give you the enlightenment to see that this rejection, though it stings, is not about you. It’s actually about the inescapable pain the other person is in. You often can’t help them out of that. But you can love them in spite of it, and maybe if you’re lucky, you can even love them while they work themselves through it.

So what are you going to do, not even try, because you know you might fail? Or worse, not even try because loving someone through something might be difficult, instead of effortless? No, of course not. You reach out anyway, safe in your own knowledge that even their rejection cannot swamp you.

Choose love, my friend. Consciously. Fully aware that the person you’re choosing to love might not be even capable of reaching out to take your hand in return. Choose to reach out anyway. Let the knowledge of your conscious choice protect you from the sting of their hurts if they reject you. And even if they reject you, send them love and grace anyway.

[Disclaimer- Just to be crystal clear, I am in no way advocating here for continually choosing to “love” and stay with someone who is physically or emotionally abusing you. You can still secure yourself with the knowledge that that abuse on any level is more about their pain than anything you did wrong, but you should extricate yourself from such situations as swiftly as possible. There is NOTHING in the phrase “choose love,” or indeed even in the word “love” that inherently means putting up with any level of abuse. There is nothing inherent in love that means never criticizing, even. In fact I would argue the exact opposite (though, like anything, criticism can also go too far). Surely if you love someone, you want them to be their best, and that might sometimes mean pointing out ways in which they can improve. Helpfully. Constructively. But still critically. To not be critical ever is usually to enable destructive and bad behavior, and that should never be your aim if you love someone. And maybe the only way you can point out to someone that their behavior is unacceptable is to walk away immediately. To my mind, that IS choosing love.]

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self centered. But by knowing that fully and making the conscious choice to reach out a hand in reconciliation and love anyway, you indicate to them that they have an opportunity to be better. You indicate that you believe in their ability to be and do better, which might be crucial. The people who need the most love are often the hardest to love, after all. And maybe that’s because they don’t believe themselves that they can be good enough; that they are even worth loving. Most of us don’t. But most of us want to be. And if you reach out your hand in love to someone who wants to be better, but doesn’t quite believe them self capable or worthy, yours just might be the little bit of belief they need to try.

And you might be wrong. Maybe they can’t be the better person you hope they can be. In fact, very often, in my experience, you don’t get a hand of humble and graceful reconciliation in return. You do get burned. It’s risky business, this love stuff. Many people would say it’s a total crapshoot. And you know what, they’re probably right. One out of a hundred (or even higher) are not great odds.

But they’re the only odds we have. Choosing love, fully conscious of the potential consequences, is the only chance we have. Might as well take it. The worst that can happen is that you wind up where you already are.

And here’s the twist- the biggest challenge of them ALL. Harder than loving your family, your partner, or your friends, is loving yourself. Because we all know better than anyone else just how irrational, unreasonable, and self centered we ourselves can be. We’re the only ones who truly know our own darkest thoughts. So this is my ultimate challenge to each and every one of you. Not out of naivety, but out of fully conscious CHOICE, look at yourself- you unreasonable, irrational, beautiful mess of a human being- and choose to be kind to yourself anyway.

Choose to reach out a hand in reconciliation with yourself. Choose to stop mentally beating yourself up at an excruciating level for all the minuscule ways in which you aren’t perfectly perfect every day. Choose to acknowledge that you’re not perfect, and that you’ll almost definitely fail another hundred thousand times in the future, and then choose to try again anyways. Show yourself that you do actually believe you can be better, no matter how many times you fail.

Choose to love yourself anyway. It’s the only chance you’ve got.

And then, once you choose to love yourself anyway, endeavor to always choose love - for your loved ones, your community, and the whole world.

It’s the only chance WE’VE got.

Love and light,

Elise

P.S. Care to take this a step further? Try this journaling exercise from the Starlight Journal (from the page where some of these artworks appear). Feel free to share your reflections in the comments, especially if this exercise resonates with you!

Reflect: How would you treat yourself (talk, walk, dress, act) if you acted like you loved yourself unconditionally? If you don’t already, why not?

P.P.S. To support this blog and my continued art making and creative musings, please consider becoming a Patron on Patreon. Visit my page here to learn more. To support this blog and also get the “Choose Love” artwork on a t-shirt, coffee mug, print, etc, visit the shop here. <3

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I am the Captain of My Soul

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INVICTUS

BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY

Out of the night that covers me,

       Black as the pit from pole to pole, 

I thank whatever gods may be 

      For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 

      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 

Under the bludgeonings of chance 

      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 

      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 

And yet the menace of the years 

      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 

      How charged with punishments the scroll, 

I am the master of my fate, 

      I am the captain of my soul. 

William Ernest Henley was a Scottish poet who faced no shortage of hardship in his life. He contracted tuberculosis of the bone at the age of twelve. Then when he was seventeen, his lower leg and foot had to be amputated because of the progression of the disease. In his early twenties he spent twenty months in the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary due to further complications, in which he almost lost his other leg, and during which he wrote Invictus and many other poems. He was friends with Robert Louis Stevenson, and when Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, years later, he based the complex jovial character of Long John Silver on Henley. So, interestingly enough, many people know at least the last line in Henley’s poem, and almost everyone has at least heard of Long John Silver. I would argue that few people know that they both came from the same man and his incidental hardships in a Scottish hospital.

“Invictus” means “unconquerable” in Latin, and Henley certainly did have an unconquerable spirit in the face of his arbitrarily dealt life blows. Even in the face of death, his spirit seems unbowed. That indomitable spirit certainly made an impression on Lous Stevenson at least. And the thing that stands out most clearly to me is that this spirit is a clear choice he has made. And it’s a choice we can all make.

In the face of the terrible stormy seas of life and whatever turbulent and absurd waves fate throws our way, we can either choose to cower in fear, or we can choose to be the captains of our own souls.

For me this is a clear connection to the stars and the compass, which are featured in my art piece. When I make art, I don’t usually know where I’m going with it when I set out (ironically). In this case, I was hugely inspired by a chandelier I had seen on Pinterest from a celestial photoshoot, and, with time to kill and my sketchbook and pencil at the bar of my favorite coffee shop, I simply started sketching, first with the moon and stars garland, and then the compass emerged as well. Later I blended the line work with the watercolor and starry sky photograph as the background, and added the gold foil letters from Henley’s poem at the last minute on rather a whim. It simply felt like the two went together, just as well as the compass goes with the stars.

The stars and navigation are a truly remarkable thing, when you think about it. Because the stars, being fixed points in the sky, are what sailors and sea captains have used for most of human history to literally orient themselves and navigate to their destinations. But it’s not just literal. Our myths and stories have a long history of the idea of wishing on stars; essentially, metaphorically using the stars to orient ourselves and navigate to our metaphorical (or perhaps metaphysical) destinations.

Maybe the metaphorical use derives from the literal use in the first place. It’s a bit hard to say. Because the idea of light and stars as guides is so deeply embedded in human mythology that it’s hard to say which came first. Lucifer was the morning star, after all, God’s highest angel, and that tale is as old as time itself.

So, we mere mortals aim for the stars. We shoot for them, you might even say. Because the stars are the highest possible good we can conceive of. And perhaps because we have been using the stars to orient ourselves physically since the dawn of time too, so why not this too?

But there’s something else implied in this sort of navigation; this captaining of our own souls, and it is this: we get to choose the direction in which we sail. Metaphorically we are all captains of our souls, whether we take up that mantle with courage and forthrightness or not, it remains true. And that means that we choose the bearings. Or else we drift, aimless and lost, because the waters are constantly shifting beneath us either way.

So, in order not to drift aimlessly, in order to not run aground and destroy the ship, we choose our goals, and we use the stars and compass to navigate our way there. More than that though, we choose the spirit with which we follow those goals, in the face of inevitable dangers and even that horrific shade of certain death. In fact, it is the certainty of our own mortality that helps us to determine what we want to do with the precious few moments we have on this planet in the first place. So in a way, choosing a goal at all means metaphorically staring death in the face and proceeding anyways.

It’s a good reminder for us all, especially at the end of another January, when New Years resolutions made with bright eyed hope begin to look more like the arduous tasks of change they almost always are (at least the ones worth doing), that no matter how narrow the road in front of us, no matter how difficult the winds and the waters, no matter how strait the gate, we still get to choose our own destinations, and we get to choose the spirit with which we set sail.

May we all remember to be the masters of our own fates and the captains of our own souls.

Behind the scenes shot- Chai Tea Latte, Pinterest, and a sketchbook. Bliss.

Behind the scenes shot- Chai Tea Latte, Pinterest, and a sketchbook. Bliss.

The final pen and ink drawing that became the line work in this piece.

The final pen and ink drawing that became the line work in this piece.

Part of the watercolor piece that later integrated with an astrophotography photo to become the background for this piece.

Part of the watercolor piece that later integrated with an astrophotography photo to become the background for this piece.

Close up of the final piece.

Close up of the final piece.

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To support this blog, and to adorn your everyday life with this reminder to captain your own soul, visit my shop and get it on a pillow, travel mug, notebook, etc, here.

To support this blog and my artistic work in general, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon, here.

Love and light, creatives.

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How to use the Starlight Journal to Help with Overwhelm

Overwhelmed with all the things you want to accomplish in the new year? Trust me, I feel ya. Here’s my wild dream list for 2019:

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It’s a lot. So if you’re here with me, looking at your own list and feeling more panicked with each idea, grab your Starlight Journal (or get one here!) plus your favorite candle and some tea, water, or wine, and let’s get down to business!

Step Zero: Prep! Put your phone on do not disturb (yeah, you. I know it’s hard but I’m not kidding. Trust me, it will be SO beneficial.) Put some soft and inspiring music on as background noise if you want. (My favorite is the Deep Focus playlist on Spotify, or if you really want to get Starlight-y about it, check out our Starlight Party Playlist here.) Light your favorite candle and enjoy the scent, pour your favorite beverage, and grab your favorite pen and journal (Starlight Journal or otherwise). Really take a minute to appreciate the prep. Do a little wiggle or dance if you like, just celebrate that you’re taking this time to really set yourself up for success.

(Special note- if life is just TOO hectic right now, please remember that Step Zero is optional. It is an extra heaping of benefit, to really make a ritual out of this and to take the time for yourself. But, life is crazy. If kids are screaming loudly in the background, or you’re hiding in your car on lunch break, or hiding out in the bathroom from your family just to get a moments peace, please know that as long as you do the rest of these steps, this will still help. Don’t let an inability to find the time for candles and music and wine stop you from getting this clarity and focus! Start where you are, babe.)

Step One: BREATHE. This is always always step one! Close your eyes, even if just for a minute, and take a deep breath. Feel the air slowly fill your belly and allow your chest and stomach to expand. Then just as slowly, exhale entirely, and really allow your shoulders and face to relax. Repeat three times.

Step Two: Brain Dump. Literally just take a blank page (or five, if you need five!) and write down every thing, big or little, wild or small and silly, that you can think of that you would like to do in 2019 (or in the next six months. We tend to do this sort of evaluation at New Years, but there’s nothing inherently magic about January 1. You can do this ANY time you feel overwhelmed by all of your ideas or to-dos.) Take as long as you need to and just get it ALL out. All of it. Hold nothing back. That is basically the key. Dump out all of your ideas, no matter how big or small. Phew, sometimes that can take awhile. But that’s ok.

Step Three: Get up and walk around. Take a break, basically. Get some distance from the brain dump mindset. Walk around your house, do some stretches, refill your beverage, cuddle your dog or cat for a minute, do a quick sun salutation, whatever feels good and gets you out of your journal/headspace and more into your body. My personal recommendation will always always be walking and/or stretching, but you could even just throw on a hip hop song and dance for a minute. Whatever works!

Step Four: Return to your list and evaluate. Really try and study it objectively. Look for patterns, things you could group together; things that you know are not actually priorities; things that are easy tasks that you know you’ll do anyways. For example, even though it’s always a goal of mine to eat healthy home cooked meals and drink plenty of water, I’ve pretty much integrated these habits into my life at this point, so they are automatic. I’ll do them anyways, so even though they may still stay on the “list of things I want to do in 2019,” I don’t really have to devote extra energy into them, because they’re already habits. Whereas, I’m still working on having a more frequent yoga and workout practice, so that item will have to be more intentionally considered.

I think they key in this evaluation is to try and listen to your intuition while you are reading through the list. What things make you feel good, excited, lighter, when you consider them, and which things make you feel crappy? And, why? If the crappy things make you feel crappy because you KNOW they are important but hard, so you don’t want to do them, listen to the part that knows they must be done. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean allowing yourself to only do “fun happy things,” it means taking care of yourself and your space the way you would take care of someone you were responsible for: a child or an elderly relative or anyone else that you actually LOVE and want what’s best for. But generally speaking, we want to focus on integrating more of the good things that light you up into your goals. Because, seriously, life is too short not to do what lights you up.

Step Five: PRIORITIZE. Which actually means, cut out the excess. This part is the HARD part my dear, but I like to think about it this way: looking at this list, if I could only pick ONE thing to do in 2019, what would it be? And why? How does that one thing align most with my goals, whatever they are? And then, once you identify the one most important thing, most likely some other things on your list will become apparent supports for that one thing. It sucks to eliminate the other things that you really want to do, but by recognizing that if everything is a priority, then nothing is, and worse, nothing gets done, you actually enable yourself to get more done and done well. And remember too, that if you really focus on ONLY your one most important thing, you might get it done faster than you expect, without all the other things clamoring for your attention too, and then that will allow you to revisit your list and pick something else you would like to do. Just because you de-prioritize most of the things on this list for now, doesn’t mean you will never get back to them. It' just allows you to really free up your time and mental energy to focus on knocking out one thing really well.

So for example, my one thing for 2019 that is my highest priority is to focus on the light. My overall goals are to grow my business, which means having more income from my business services that light me up the most, and to be lighter in nearly every other way. So I’m clearing out clutter, both literally and figuratively. The art is what lights me up the most. The stories are what light me up the most. So I’m going to devote my focus this year on those things. And that means focussing on consistent posting and engagement with my audience, to grow my more residual income and allow me the space literally, figuratively, and mentally, to focus on the light.

So to accomplish that, my number one thing that I’m doing in 2019 is cleaning my apartment really thoroughly and getting rid of any and all clutter. Now, that’s a relatively small thing and will be done fairly quickly, in the grand scheme of the whole year. But I’m still forcing myself to get that done FIRST, because I know that when my space is more cluttered, my mind is more cluttered too.

Then I will move on to my second goal, which will be to declutter my business plan, which will be harder. But I’m planning ahead this year, and I plan to write at least 12 blog posts and schedule them, as well as schedule my emails and social media posts sharing those blogs. This will allow the consistency part to be taken care of for the whole year in one big chunk. And then throughout the year as new exciting creative endeavors come up, I can always write and share more, but the foundation and consistency will be there either way. Getting the thing I am worst at but which of course is most important (consistency) done and out of the way FIRST before I allow myself to really explore anything else is going to be key for me, I think. Because with that done, I will have the space to explore more of the light. Removing it from the list removes the stress and makes me FEEL LIGHTER, and that’s something that should carry through my entire year, which is why it becomes the most important thing!

Step Six: Celebrate! Once you’ve identified your single most important thing, and the few other things on the list that are there to help support that one thing, seriously, you deserve a happy dance! Prioritizing means de-prioritizing everything else and that is NOT easy, especially in a world where we are constantly overwhelmed with choices and the message that we can do and have it all. I believe that we can have it all (or most of it at least), just…not ALL AT ONCE. And identifying your number one priority is a HUGE step! Congratulations! Get down with your bad self. You deserve it.

Now, there are some follow up things that you can do to help you reinforce this decision for your one thing. Namely, paste it everywhere. Make vision boards, make a quick phone background of your vision board. Write that one thing in your favorite color marker on a blank piece of paper (be sure and leave extra white space around it, because that’s the WHOLE point), and stick that piece of paper somewhere you’ll see it every day. Make multiple and put them all places you’ll see everyday. Don’t let yourself get very far without a visual reminder of what your one priority is. And then, possibly most importantly, SCHEDULE IT. Break down what it will take to accomplish this one priority, and schedule it.

I’ll elaborate more on these follow up enforcing ideas in my next blog post, so stay tuned!

AND if you’re local to Indianapolis, you can join me on Feb 17th at Studio Alchemy for a live in person workshop that will walk you through these steps and the follow ups! Get your tickets and more event details here!

Cheers to a marvelous and lighter year!

Love and light,

Elise

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Don't You See the Starlight? Don't You Dream Impossible Dreams?

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Well, my friends, it’s hard to imagine this, but not only has the time for the Starlight Journal release party arrived, it has passed, and so has an entire month! And in that month we also hosted a second book launch. (Yeah, we might be a bit crazy sometimes. More on that launch in a later blog post!)

I spent SO much of 2018 working on creating this journal, and then on creating a magical party experience to launch and celebrate it, and then simultaneously creating the cover and interior for Tell City, that I’m frankly not quite sure what to do with myself now that it’s all over. So I’m taking this time to rest and do my best to really intentionally and thoughtfully plan out 2019.

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But for now, I wanted to share some memories and photos of the magical glittering night that was the launch party. For me, this launch party began long long before the end of October, but after about October 13th, it became my entire life. Every spare second I had I was gathering (or often making) pieces for the decor. I spent time combing the Goodwill aisles looking for trays and candles and vases to spray paint, and then multiple days spray painting everything I’d gathered for decor plus a giant piece of fabric to be a cape (plus some extra accidental things like my self, my boots, two friends’ yards… and then also my water bottle…I got a little bit obsessed with the galaxy aesthetic I was achieving with my spray paint 😂😅….no regrets!)

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I laughed in my friends’ faces when they tried to make plans with me three weeks before the launch party. (Sorry Aron, and probably several others.) I cried a LOT, out of stress, from the weight of feeling like way too much was on my shoulders, and most frequently I shed tears of joy and relief when someone that I hadn’t expected suddenly had my back in ways I couldn’t have anticipated (Thanks especially to Mike, Jacob, Kat, Colleen, Beth, and Megan.). The community support for this project launch was truly an incredible thing to behold. I was truly overwhelmed with love, and some days only remembered to breathe and eat because of my amazing support system. (Shoutout to Mike for almost single handedly keeping me fed for about 3 weeks there, and to him and many others for continually literally reminding me to breathe.)

Towards the end of October, Kay and I went on a “creative retreat” that was originally supposed to be a full on restful vacation. It was still restful. And it was still magical and wonderful, but it was no vacation. I wove dreamcatchers and we put together book marks and most notably I built my crown for the party on that trip. I went to a Halloween party the weekend before the launch and took my dreamcatcher supplies to finish up what I was working on at the party…we also at the same party combined stashes of essential oils and candle scent oils, concocting the “smell of starlight” in a spare bedroom, and waltzing the different combinations around the party, forcing everyone else to smell and lend their opinions on whether “tangerine” or “grapefruit” was the missing ingredient for the elusive scent.

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And speaking of capturing starlight in all its ephemeral forms, one of the funniest memories for me was probably what happened in the group chat a couple of weeks prior to the big day. In thinking about music, and drawing a large blank, I turned to my group of trusted advisors for help with music. And I got the best possible question in response:

“Are you looking for songs that mention stars….or songs that sound….twinkly..?”

To which I responded: Both? Both is good (gif included). Mike then huffed about my requests being vague and my instructions unclear. The best moment though was when Megan joined the conversation by just laughing hysterically at how preposterous we were both being, and then totally nonchalantly saying “No worries. I got this.” And boy, did she. She built an incredible playlist that I still listen to sometimes because I love it so much. 💖 

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Probably the dirtiest secret of this whole launch is that, due to the many different attempts at getting a proper and CORRECT proof copy for this journal, from many different and varied sources, I ordered the limited edition copy run more or less sight unseen, which is a horrifying and stressful experience I recommend to no one. But, it was a learning experience for certain. Basically what happened is that I ran out of time. The supplier I had planned on using when I set up and started promoting the party fell apart (quite literally) at the last minute. So I had to switch gears in production well after I had already sold pre orders and booked the venue. The date was locked in, but the book production was suddenly a giant question mark.  

I ended up going through IngramSpark to print on demand and do a smaller run of 50 copies, but this left ME with the task of gilding the edges, which was itself an entire string of failed experiments, saved only by Kat in the 9th or 10th hour.

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So there I was, at the literal 11th hour (and in fact until 3am), on Halloween night (so, three days before the launch party), taking shelter from the drizzly rain in my aunt and uncle’s garage (and also handing out candy to confused trick or treaters). I was armed with a makeshift workstation I had crafted out of wood, boxes, and trash cans, 50 books, three cans of gold spray paint, three sets of clamps, scrap wood ,and book cover protectors, and one of my best friends on the phone for hours talking about everything from Minecraft world building to book club to politics and spirituality and countless things in between. Finally, exhausted, I loaded everything up, drove home, and collapsed in bed.

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The weekend of the party had finally arrived. My apartment was a TRUE disaster, with half crafted decor items, piles of books and boxes of decor absolutely everywhere. I had finished the celestial globe that I considered more or less the decor centerpiece only days before the event, and I had amassed so many different decor pieces that were stashed in ALL available storage space in my apartment that even I didn’t know what all I had. Beth arrived Friday evening to find my frantic self dying my hair and trying to finish gathering together all of the things that had to go to the venue in the morning, while simultaneously mid-fashion crisis over what I was going to wear.

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See, I had been working for MONTHS with Leila, a friend of mine who is a dress designer, to craft the perfect “Starlight Dress.” And though it was done, and hanging in my bedroom, and I knew it was beautiful, I was having a crisis of self doubt most likely brought on by extreme exhaustion and stress overload. So my dear dear friend became my anchor, as I flittered around her fretting over nearly every possible detail, while she calmly reassured me over and over again that everything was fine, that the dress WAS perfect, that in fact I LIT UP when I put it on (which was ultimately exactly the words that reassured me). Eventually, with as much prep done as could be done, and after having reviewed the schedule for the next day umpteen times, we nervously went to bed. I don’t even know if I slept.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early with immediate and ridiculous chaos. A friend and co-worker had months before promised not only to attend the party, but to bring along her telescope so that we could have an observation deck if it was nice and clear. (It wasn’t. Of course. But, we couldn’t know that until it was too late. And anyways, the telescope still provided good aesthetic at least!) However, sadly she had woken up that Friday morning with a terrible flu. But she was determined to get the telescope to me, even if she couldn’t join the celebration herself, and so we had planned for her to drop it off first thing Saturday. So we woke up Saturday morning to discover that the street in front of my apartment (in fact, 90% of the streets that form the route from my apartment to the venue) was closed off due to a race. Not only that, but because of this closure and because it was a marathon race through the city, the cross streets were all closed too. And of course, Elizabeth lives on the OTHER side of Meridian from my apartment. So we began the day with the chaos of her trying to find her way across one small but crucial street, while sick, to deliver the telescope that ended up being futile except for decor. Ha. Let’s all pause for a moment of respect for her dedication.

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Telescope successfully delivered and packed in my car, Beth and I got around and headed to Starbucks to get coffee and breakfast (because…grocery shopping? hahaha what was that?), which LUCKILY was on my side of the street, so we were able to get there. Getting back, however, proved a challenge because until then, we hadn’t realized that the cross streets were also blocked off. They were open to us leaving from the alley, but closed to anyone trying to enter them. It was truly a mess. Luckily we went on our coffee run though, because that gave me the opportunity to learn to navigate my way through a sketchy looking back alley and winding parking lot of a community center just to find my way back to my own apartment parking. A feat which quickly became extra valuable when maybe 15 minutes later, Megan called me in an all out panic because she was trying to get to my apartment to help us load up and go to the venue….but ALL of the roads were closed!

“No no wait! I got this. I just had to do this myself! Where are you now? I’ll walk you through it, but it’s gonna be weird, so just go with me here….” And I sprung into human GPS mode. The Chestnut Praline Latte I handed her along with the hug of relief when she finally arrived helped us both too, I am sure. Two crises successfully dodged, and it was only 10am. We were in for a long day.

The next challenge, of course, was that after we loaded all three of our cars full with boxes of books, decor, and other party supplies, we had the happy task of navigating halfway around the city to get around the race closures. In the end, a 10 minutes jaunt up the street to the venue became a caravan of highway detours where we took about 30 minutes and went a little west and very far south so that we could ultimately go east and slightly north. The real challenge was that we couldn’t use GPS, because the GPS was telling us to take the closed off race routes, and though I knew the streets well enough to more or less map it in my head, I was taking many highway streets and had two other drivers who were not at all familiar with the highways to know the route I had mapped. So, trucker caravan style, we turned our cell phones into walkie-talkies and I led the caravan both literally and also via human GPS on the phone. In the end we all concluded that traveling in a caravan while on the phone with the other drivers is far and away the BEST form of highway travel. You can work together to get around busses, and other such shenanigans!

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More than a little frazzled, and running 30 minutes behind already, we finally arrived at the venue, Studio Alchemy, at about 11am, and began the tedious task of unpacking the cars and the boxes, with the happy and surprising company of some local very free range chickens! I am so much a visual person, that our first task was just to literally unpack everything and see what we even had to work with. While we did this, Addie (artist, friend, and owner of the studio venue) cleaned and tidied around us. Then began the task of putting the decor up and together, which I literally could not have done without the help of a veritable army.

Sarah and Kayla both arrived around noon, and Kayla took it upon herself to single handedly decorate the stairwell. Sarah ran out to get us all food, while Beth set up the Paypal point of sale app on my iPad and I signed 50 books. Neena, arrived shortly after with her small family, goo gone, and command hooks to hang lights, thank goodness, and immediately they set to work stringing lights, cleaning goo stickers off candles, and generally helping to make the place look magical. Halfway through the afternoon, we abandoned the idea to make glowing cloud lanterns (at, ya know, the last possible minute) and instead Neena and her munchkins spray painted the lanterns with the same galaxy colors, which turned out beautifully.

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Kelsey and Jeff arrived soon after with galaxy colored rice crispy treats and gold painted rock candies that Kelsey had made, plus the sumptuous galaxy chocolates custom made by Bloomington Chocolate Co for our event! They also helped immensely in the set up of tables, table cloths, food, photo booth, signs, and lights. Some clever group of this army (though I’m not even honestly sure who exactly) had the brilliant idea to use some of the string lights to create a constellation pattern on the ceiling, which quickly became an involved but ultimately spectacular feat of engineering and coordinating. Aron and Nicole arrived mid afternoon and pitched in as well, and I learned that Nicole is especially good at keeping people focused and on task, which I appreciated immensely!

Before I knew it, it was 5 o’clock. Every corner of the place was shimmering with galaxy or starry decor, and it was time to lock up and run home to change and get ready, so that we could be back for food and vendor set up by 6:30. This we did while blasting a medly of the wonderfully appropriate “High Hopes” by Panic! At the Disco, and “Rewrite the Stars” from the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman.

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Slightly behind, but looking way more put together and starlit (have I mentioned that Leila custom made me the perfect Starlight dress? Or that I made a starlight cape? and a crown? Because….go big or go home, right? Right!), we arrived back at the venue to find another small army of wonderful friends already hard at work setting up the food table, mixing the signature “Starlight Cocktail,” and even creating a tray of glasses with starry gold sugar rims. The other local vendors arrived and set up their tables of starlight related handmade goods, everyone chatting amiably.

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We turned on the last string lights, lit the last candles, sprinkled the last of the gold table gems around everywhere, and turned out the lights. It was breathtaking, and truly just amazing that after so many months of dedicated hard work from me and so many others, here we finally were. Launch day. It was here. The books were signed, the lights were out, the art was hung, the perfect twinkly playlist was exactly the backdrop I wanted, and the place had truly become as magical as I had always envisioned it.

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To be completely honest, I was so frazzled at that point, that it is only truly in looking back, in looking through the pictures and the videos, that I truly have paused to take in and appreciate just how enchanting and magical it all was.

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There was really only a moment or two between when the setup was “done” and when the place seemed to be flooded with guests. It’s truly a strange sensation to not only know EVERYone at the party, but to be THE reason they are there and THE person everyone wants to see and talk to. There’s a weird thing that happens where because everyone is there to see you, you don’t end up feeling like you got to talk to much of anyone for more than about 5 minutes. I think I only ate anything because Leila prepared a plate of food for me and put it in my hands. Every time I tried to make my way to the food table, I was sidelined. I don’t think I spent more than a second at my sales table, either. Megan, Beth, and Kristen get heaps and heaps of my gratitude because they manned that table and ran it the entire night like pros. I literally couldn’t have done it without them, and really, picking up or buying the books was the true reason all of these people were there!

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I managed to drift about a bit and mingled with everyone. The atmosphere and really the entire party was an astonishing combination of bustling and cozy all at once. People really seemed to be enjoying the books, enjoying the decor and activity stations, and connecting with each other in marvelous ways. Its heartwarming to know that I was able to facilitate and foster so many connections in the Indianapolis Art community. Old friends Addie and Scott were unexpectedly reunited and got to catch up. Kay was able to connect with some librarian friends of mine about her recently self published novel. And most impressively, a brand new and at first uncertain artist who had answered our call out for Starlight related arts good, was able to connect with and sell her first ever painting- to first time art buyers, no less!

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It was a magical night all around. Aside from the food and drinks and vendors and connections, we had an activity table in the center with dream catcher crafts, a group collaborative painting, and some loose activity and journal prompt pages from the journal. I had been really nervous that no one would want to participate in these activities, but every time I looked over, the table seemed to be full. I did a live Q&A and got to answer some great questions about the creation of the journal, it’s inspiration, and my favorite pieces.

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We had a local tarot reader, who frequently had a line of people waiting to see what was in their stars. We had LED hula hoops and other flow props being used by seasoned pros and curious newcomers alike. The dance of their lights twinkled along with the live musician on the “observation deck” for part of the night. Sadly, it was far too cloudy for the telescope to be used, but I think it sill provided the perfect aesthetic for the cooler outdoor party.

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Before I knew it, it was 11:30pm. Time for the raffle drawing, oracle scavenger hunt, and costume contest winner prizes to be given out. Harrison was the first to figure out the final oracle clue and so he won the scavenger hunt. The costume contest prize went to Addie for her (pun intended) truly stellar Andromeda constellation costume. The attention to detail and intention behind every part of it was breathtaking. Then to my delight, the person who I thought was a clear runner up for the costume contest for her also glittering attire held the winning raffle ticket and so got a second journal, Night Sky candle board and candles, a night sky art print, crescent moon bath bomb from Lesley Saligoe Botanicals, (seriously I love everything she has!), and a small box of Bloomington Chocolate Co’s special Galaxy Collection truffles! I think she was over the moon!

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After that, everyone slowly filtered out, Sarah and I had an impromptu dance party, and my magnificent sales team informed me that the books were very nearly SOLD OUT. We were down to I believe only 5 at the end of the party, and those quickly sold in the week after. We did a small amount of surface level cleaning, then went home and rested.

It was done. Done and only beginning, all at once, as I would shortly come to discover, but that is perhaps a story for another blog post. <3

 

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5 Things That Inspire Me

This blog was originally written and published by me on the blog of The Hatch, on December 28th, 2016. View the original post here.

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes, it hits you out of nowhere; in the shower, while you’re driving, or while you’re trying to fall asleep. And it’s all you can do to get the new amazing idea down on paper because your heart and mind are racing with the overwhelming excitement of it all.

Other times you sit for hours and stare at a bank piece of paper…. just waiting for all the ideas you had three days ago to come back and present themselves articulately so you can write, paint, draw, or whatever your chosen medium is. As a lifelong artist just starting out on a more full time and serious creative entrepreneurial journey, never has this been more of a problem for me.

Luckily, other creatives have gone before me, and from reading their works and listening to their talks (shoutout to Liz Gilbert, Neil Gaiman, and JK Rowling especially), I have learned that there are a few things I can always fall back on when I need a little help chasing down that fleeting wonderful moment that is inspiration.

#1- Find a story. There is nothing more inspiring to me than a story. Books, poems, songs, short stories, long novels, folk tales, fairy tales. Stories of all kinds are the most inspiring things to me.

I have been a bookworm all my life and have always been interested in “nerdy” things and stories like Alice in Wonderland and Doctor Who.  I am particularly interested in what are usually considered “children’s” fantasy stories: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid. I believe that these types of stories are relevant for everyone not only because they tell truths of the human condition which resonate with us all, but also because they tell them in beautiful ways that really capture our imaginations and can be understood by everyone. To paraphrase what GK Chesterton once said, fairytales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. And there is something immensely powerful and magical in that.


#2- Get myself to the sea or to the stars. Nature in general is always a great revival and refresher for the soul, especially in our fast paced, glorification-of-busy lives. I think to some degree we are all suffering from perpetual burnout, and nothing has ever been a better cure for that than to just put down our phones and get outside and present with the physical world and our bodies. For me though, the water and the stars are always especially inspiring. There is something so truly awe-inspiring, so universal, so amazing, about standing and just watching the awesome power of the ocean, or watching the endless glittering dance of the stars. It always makes me feel both immensely alive and great, and immensely humbled and tiny all at the same time. These two great natural wonders always put everything in perspective and help me to remember what is truly important.

#3- Ordinary people living extraordinary lives in a hundred little ways are a huge inspiration to me as well. Maybe this is just “stories” in a different way, but people who are passionate, from an amazing biopic about Walt Disney, to the woman who lives down the street and lives for her beautiful garden, never cease to amaze me. The human spirit is just so inspiring. The best example of this is my own Grandfather, who was the single most inspiring person I have ever personally known. An Armenian born in Jerusalem, and raised in abject poverty, he made his way out of that life, came to America, and built a remarkable life for himself, creating a family legacy of grace, determination, curiosity, love, and laughter. By his own example, he taught his family that it matters not where or what someone is born, but who they grow to be. I would truly not be the person I am today without my Grandpa’s fine example, and for that I will always be grateful and inspired.

#4- Speaking of being indebted to others, I truly believe that creative collaboration/brainstorming is one of the most inspiring things anyone can do. And you don’t actually have to be in the same room to creatively collaborate. Books allow us to collaborate, in a sense, with storytellers and inspiring people who lived halfway around the world a hundred years ago, but I still consider that a collaboration of sorts, because it is a meeting of equal minds, and results in a new blending of ideas that can produce new exciting things. Which is truly a little magical, when you think about it. But it doesn’t even have to be as esoteric as that. The digital age allows us to connect to amazing artists all around the world with the click of a button. Pinterest, for example, is flooded with truly astoundingly beautiful art. And if I am ever in a particular creative pickle, it is the first place I look to for instant inspiration. Just being surrounded by other creative ideas and beautiful artwork, whether in a museum, a bookstore, a gallery, or on Pinterest, I find myself instantly refreshed, inspired, and in awe.

#5- My final inspiration (and this is a new lesson that I recently had to learn), comes in the form of meditation and/or yoga, which is also essentially just prayer. Taking time to deliberately switch OFF and recharge, is so important that I could never stress it enough. And it is so much harder and so much more rewarding than it sounds. It is a constant practice and lesson of balance, and I’m certain it is something I will have to consciously work on for the rest of my life. But, when you think about it, unless you slow down sometimes, those moments of inspiration can never truly find you. Sometimes you have to slow down, be still, and give up on chasing the ideas, to let them come to you. This exact principle explains why those most brilliant ideas hit you just as you are drifting off to sleep, or while you are in the shower or driving on a long trip, because in those moments your brain is relaxed; and in that relaxation and stillness, inspiration has the space to come rushing in.

So there you have it: Stories, nature, ordinary people, other art, and being still. I guess when you boil it down, what I am really inspired by is anything that is wondrous, and curious, and beautiful. Those are the stories that I love to hear and discover. And as a visual storyteller, these are the stories that I love to tell.

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Why a Starlight Journal? Part 3

And so we come to the end of this tale...

One day while driving home from work after finding and researching yet another planner online that I thought could maybe be the one but of course was not, it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning:

I could just make it….

I have those skills. And I know what I need it to include. And at the same time as the idea to make it arrived in my head, I also had a flash of design inspiration. The minute I walked in the door I grabbed paper and a pencil and just spent an hour sketching out each template page. It was, frankly, magical. It was divine inspiration. Now I had a plan.

The sketches from that very first night...

The sketches from that very first night...

The weekly spread from the Creative Life Planner! I still use this basic format to this day!&nbsp;

The weekly spread from the Creative Life Planner! I still use this basic format to this day! 

Over the following few months I designed the templates and began researching printing options (and discovered that THAT process was 12x more complicated than I expected). I began designing the interior spreads, all beautifully and intentionally, and it was taking me longer than I wanted (hi, I’m Elise, and I’m pretty impatient, especially when I’m excited!), I was still making steady progress on this massive project.

And then, life happened. My lease was up, my roommate was moving out to get married, I wasn’t having any luck finding another roommate or another place to live, and my manager had basically just informed me that the salary I was currently receiving was the highest I was ever going to receive at the company, so I was already at the “top” financially speaking and it wasn’t enough to cover my bills. Something had to be done. Something drastic.

So, I moved in with family to cut costs, and I left the job to go out on my own as a freelancer. And those two things meant that my plan for what I was at the time calling “the creative life planner” was officially moved to the back burner and basically turned off.

***

Fast forward a year and a half to the fall of 2017, and I was in a dip of freelance creative life that basically became one giant panic attack of overwhelm- simultaneously zero options and all the options and I was questioning everything. So I sat down and wrote out everything that I *wanted* to be working on and doing with my life instead of panicking about how I was going to pay rent for the umpteenth time. The Creative Life Planner was towards the top of the list. I showed that list to a friend and he said basically “you’ve been slow burning on this for years now. It’s too long. Just finish it and move on already.” And I agreed with him.

But the catch was that I still had neither the time nor the money to do it the way I had always been picturing. In order to do it “properly,” it had to be fully illustrated, fully designed for a full year (or two 6 month books), and it had to be hard cover and spiral bound. Because it was an illustrated planner, damnit, and if I was ever going to hope to market and sell it at a comparable price, it had to be perfect. And those specifics were the things I had neither the time or money to create. So I was still stuck.

***

Then, it was Christmas time, and I was shopping for gifts. One of my best friends has a gorgeous  Tarot deck that we both love, and I was shopping for Christmas presents and also just looking up that deck and contemplating getting one for myself, when I noticed that in the “related products” section on Amazon was something called a “Tarot Journal,” by the same artist and meant to accompany the deck. So, voila, Christmas present found! I ordered it promptly.

When it arrived I was flipping through it because I thought it was just so neat! It was a blank journal, soft cover, but had illustrations from the Tarot cards scattered throughout the blank journal pages….and then it hit me. I could do this with my planner. I could do an illustrated journal. And that could be printed and sold on demand, and if it was a bullet journal instead of a lined journal, it could be versatile enough and still incorporate all of the things that I originally wanted. It was brilliant. It was another stroke of lightning.

Suddenly I was inspired and excited again! And it was almost January, so I was determined to get it designed and finished and up on Amazon’s createspace by January. Well, that was clearly unrealistic, but it was good motivation. I storyboarded the entire thing in a day, and then began putting together the InDesign file.

Of course, life continued to get in the way, and everything creative takes 100x longer than we think it will, because this creative work often has a mind of it’s own. But, the bulk of the work was finished up in just a few short months. The first proof copy was finally ordered in early June.

Sadly it did not measure up quality wise to the demands of this specific book. So after torturing myself and many friends agonizing over what to do about that, I went back to the drawing board and began searching for a way to print it at the quality I wanted. Eventually I found a factory that claimed to be able to do everything I wanted at a reasonable price, and so here we are.

We have launched pre-orders months in advance because, frankly, this is sort of an unofficial Kickstarter. I’m determined to do it anyways, no matter how long it takes. But, until we pre-sell 111 copies, I cannot afford to place the order with the factory at all. But we’re throwing a launch party in November, one way or another. And I’m hoping that the quality and value of the journal will more than incentivize at least 100 people to jump on board and help me make this dream a reality. To make this balance a reality. And I haven’t been disappointed yet by everyone else’s enthusiasm!

I’m confident that this is going to be amazing-- the launch party as well as the physical journals. It’s going to be magical, I’m sure. And luckily, I have my first proof copy of the Starlight Journal to keep me on track while I balance all of the demands of this launch and my regular freelance career. I literally don’t know what I would do without it.

 

Thanks, as ever, for listening to the long and windy story of how this journal came to be! I hope you enjoyed it! 

Order your own copy here -----> www.lusicovicreative.com/starlightjournal


 

The three different iterations of this project over the years.&nbsp;

The three different iterations of this project over the years. 

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Why a Starlight Journal? Part 2

At the end of part one of this story, I had just really come to terms with the fact that I needed to build some structure into my life. Because structure is the masculine energy that holds space for and therefore protects the feminine flow and creativity. I had all of the creativity and flow, but it was a raging river with no banks, and I was drowning in it.

I needed to build some banks to organize and contain and direct the flow. I needed some structure. So I set out to find some. I set out to find a planner to keep myself more organized. But like, one that I would actually use. Because, we’ve all had planners before that were great, and really should have been useful, but that just sat unused on the desk for one reason or the other They were the wrong size, or too restrictive, or too boring, or too open, or included budgets and workflows, but no space for appointments or gratitude, or were flimsy and broke down easily, or were too bulky to carry around, etc etc etc.

So I looked and looked for months. And bought SO MANY different planners trying to find one that would actually work; that actually included everything I needed. I wanted it to include budget tracking and also income and expense tracking. I wanted it to include meal planning and grocery lists. I wanted it to include space to just dump all of my chaotic thoughts out of my brain and onto the page so that they could be organized. I wanted it to be large enough to be useful, but small enough to be reasonably portable (so that I could have it with me and record every expense in the same place, every task and thought in ONE place, rather than the dozen half used notebooks I was currently using).

I wanted it to include uplifting and inspiring quotes and images. I wanted it to be beautiful enough that I would *want* to take it with me everywhere and want to use it.

I wanted it to have a place to focus on gratitude, because focusing on gratitude every day has actually changed my life.

I wanted each daily section to be large enough to write sufficient to-dos, but only actually have space for 5 things per day, because I know that trying to accomplish more than 5 things in a day very often just leaves you disappointed and hating yourself. (Realistic goals, people. It’s key!) I wanted to be able to map out my week at a glance, and my month at a glance, on one page. And I wanted it to still include creativity, fun, play. I wanted it to actually balance both masculine and feminine, especially since I knew that my own energies were so out of balance.

And here’s the other thing- while I personally was skewed wayyyy towards feminine energy and chaos, I was encountering a LOT of people that were actually skewed the opposite way. They were so rigid and structured that it was hurting them. And so I thought….as much as I need to incorporate more masculine energy, maybe the people who need to incorporate more feminine flow energy could also find balance by using something like this. Something that allowed them to plan and have structure, but also encouraged them to build creative flow into that structure.

But actually I'm getting ahead of myself now. What happened first was that one day while driving home from work after finding and researching yet another planner online that I thought could maybe be the one but of course was not, it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning:

I could just make it….

I'm getting long winded again, I know, I know. My stories are all exposition. Hopefully, you like hearing them anyways! ;) Stay tuned for part three! 

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Why a Starlight Journal?

So, I have a confession. I’ve never used a bullet journal before. Or rather, I didn’t use a bullet journal until I got the first proof copy of the Starlight Journal. Which rather begs the question, why did I make an illustrated bullet journal for myself? And the answer is a bit convoluted, to be honest. And it starts three years ago.

Three years ago I went through a mindset bootcamp program, of sorts, in an effort to figure out how the hell this thing called “adulting” works. I felt (like most people probably feel even still) that I had absolutely nothing under control, and didn’t know how to do anything. I had a job that I basically loved as a full time product photographer, but it didn’t pay me enough to even keep a budget. Because the math just could not work. There wasn’t enough. I was overdrafting my bank account regularly, trying to keep to a shoestring budget, and paying too much in rent and in debt repayment. I was single and lonely and I knew it was all wrapped up together, because who would want to even be with someone who was so much of a mess? I knew that something had to change but I had no idea what or how or where to start.

Enter something called the Dating Mindset Bootcamp, which was really not very much about dating and was very much about how to be in your best mindset for your best self. Going through the Bootcamp taught me for the first time about masculine and feminine energies and how we need to balance BOTH to have a good relationship with ourselves and therefore with others. If you have absolutely zero structure (masculine), then you are nothing but chaos (feminine), and while we do need some chaos to keep growing and to keep life interesting, too much of it is just as bad as too much structure and order.

The other thing I learned (or learned to see in a different light) was that I was waaaayyyyy chaotic. Like, the thing is that I am a pretty feminine person. I love dresses and frills and flowers. I love art and beauty and love. I’m obsessed with water, which is archetypically associated with the feminine in almost every single instance. I’m clearly very artistic and creative. I love arts, music, dance, and anything that flows. I’m terrible at time (which is very masculine), I’m SUPER emotional. One of my best friends astutely proclaimed one day on the phone that I “just feel almost everything profoundly,” and I think that’s 100% correct. It’s amazing some days and terrible other days, and it makes me very empathetic, loving, patient, and kind. All of these are good things. But being terrible at math (so, finances), and being terrible at knowing how time works, and having emotions so strong that they can take over my afternoon is often not so good.

I needed to build some structure into my life. I recognized that. Because structure is the masculine energy that holds space for and therefore protects the feminine flow and creativity. I had all of the creativity and flow, but it was a raging river with no banks, and I was drowning in it. I needed to build some banks to organize and contain and direct the flow. I needed some structure. So I set out to find some. I set out to find a planner to keep myself more organized... 

This is a long story, my friends, so I'm going to pause here for now. Stay tuned for the next blog post to read on!

(And in the meantime, since this story is such a throwback, enjoy this major throwback photo from when I went to visit my cousins in California. I had those flip flops in high school!)

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the Starlight Journal Pre Orders are LIVE

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TIME TO CELEBRATE

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Well, my friends, it’s finally here. The Starlight Journal pre-order launch! And the extra exciting news is that the first 150 copies are listed at an extra special discounted pre-order price, AND all pre-ordered copies will be signed!  Plus, if you order more than one copy, you can take an additional $5 off per copy. 

Some of you may be asking “so, what is the Starlight Journal exactly?” And so here it is:

The Starlight Journal is an illustrated bullet journal. If you’re not familiar with bullet journaling, check out these three resources:

-A quick guide: http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/

-A longer look: http://www.thelazygeniuscollective.com/blog/how-to-bullet-journal

-A video tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuaaotSpifM

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(and stay tuned for my own versions of each of those three things!)

 

But a quick explanation is that a bullet journal is a book of pages that are blank except for a faint grid of dots. The purpose is to be versatile. So, you could use a bullet journal as a planner and connect the dots to draw your own grids in for budgeting, meal planning, fitness tracking, a calendar, a marketing plan, etc. Or you could connect the dots to just make lined journal pages and journal, take notes, work on your novel, keep a to do list or grocery list, etc. You can also ignore the dots entirely and just sketch, doodle, brain map, etc. Or use the dots for specific design elements or 3D planning. Really the options are limited only by your own imagination! And for a journal about exploration AND productivity, that versatility in the format was key!

 

 

The Starlight Journal is designed with 150 of these gridded bullet journal pages, plus 100 pages of full color illustration and creativity prompts.

 

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I’ll save the in depth explanation of how I created and designed it for a later date, but what you should know is that I’ve worked for years to bring you this one beautiful, soulful, useful tool to balance and guide your life. It is meant for balancing the seemingly impossible task of keeping track of your life, with still making time for the important creative things like beauty, play, and the things your soul craves.

I created it for myself and for other creatives. It is for the dreamers, the thinkers, and the hustlers. It is for the curious, the adventurous, the people who want to get shit done without losing sight of the stars.

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All of our world is made of the dust of ancient stars, so is it any wonder that we humans have always looked to the stars to guide us home?

Like the stars, the Starlight Journal is both a guiding light and a source of grand inspiration.

 

Featuring a lush matte art hardcover, gilded edge pages, two built in bookmarks, 70lb matte art paper, 150 pages of bullet journal grids, and of course 100 pages of my original artwork and creative prompts, this beautiful all purpose journal is a place to explore, dream, doodle, and create.

 

It is a place of wonder; a place to find enchantment. It can be the tool to organize your life and your goals while still exploring your dreams and reaching for the stars; a place to turn your dreams into tangible reality. So, dear creative, what have you been dreaming of lately?

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Pre-orders are live as of NOW, and the copies will arrive in early November. We have a glittery launch party in the works, which I am SUPER excited about as well! (Think Harry Potter midnight book release parties!) It will take place in Indianapolis in early November, and I will share ALL the details very soon! (We are still nailing them down.)  So stay tuned! You will be able to pick up your pre ordered copy or copies at the launch party though, if you can make it!

 

 

 

 

Click here to get your pre-order copy now! (And remember, only the first 150 copies are at the special pre-order discounted price.)

 

Welcome to the Starlight Journal.

May you find some enchanting wonder among these pages, and leave feeling more inspired and alight.

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What to Expect from Lusicovi Creative

Dear Creatives,

If you’ve been following along on my social media at all (or even talked to me in person recently), you probably have gotten a general idea of what I’ve been up to and what’s coming down the line. But, for the sake of clarity, I wanted to write up a quick outline of the things currently going on at Lusicovi Creative, and also what to expect over the next year. We have a lot of awesome projects we are cooking up here, so bear with me on the length of this post. It might be a little longer than usual.

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First off, you really have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of this yet (because I've been annoying everyone about it), but the Starlight Journal, is finished and now in production!! This has been a project that I have been working on for YEARS, and I’m so proud of how it is turning out and I cannot wait to share it with you! There have been a lot of setbacks along the way, and honestly this is not at all the product I thought I was making when I started. But it’s so much better. Pre-Orders launch at an extra special discounted price (for the first 150 copies only) on August 1st (that's this Wednesday!) And the copies and official launch (including a glittering launch party) will be early November! So, for the next couple of months especially, as we go into launch mode, Lusicovi Creative is going to be almost all Starlight all the time! But, it’s going to be wonderful!  I won’t talk much more about that here, because we’re going to talk your ears off about it in the coming weeks, but I will end with this excerpt from the back cover:

The world is made of the dust of ancient stars, and we humans have always looked to the stars to guide us home. Like the stars, the Starlight Journal is both a guiding light and a source of wonder for creatives seeking balance.

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Secondly, I’ve already started working on this project preliminarily, but it has been mostly on the back burner since it’s inception almost a year ago. This project is also a book project, and is a collaborative, unique project that I am also really excited about and anxious to get back to! This book will be called Into the Sea: Fairytales of Atlantis, and it is a curation of artwork and stories that collectively explore the question: what if the story of Atlantis was a princess fairytale story? The submissions that we have gotten already are blowing us away, frankly, and this book is going to be truly beautiful. It is definitely still in the collaboration and art creation stage. So if you are a writer or artist (or you know a writer or artist) and would like to get in on this group creativity action- send me an email at fairytalesofatlantis@gmail.com, and we will be sure to get you included! The current plan is to create a group and be really active in there in September, into next Spring, and then final deadlines for submissions will be next Spring, so that next Summer we can launch a kickstarter to fund the printing of this beautiful book.  

 

Starting in August, I will be re-launching my society6 shop, in an effort to focus more on my artwork. This will be a way to achieve three exciting things! One, to make my artwork available and affordable. Two, to keep me generating new artwork and products continually (we will launch one new design per month from September onward!). And three, to give all you marvelous creatives and supporters a way to adorn your lives with some great boho and literary beauty! So look out for those shop updates every month starting in August, and if there is a particular piece I’ve done or that you want to see done and up in the shop, definitely drop me a line and let me know!

 

Another way that I’m pivoting to focus more on artwork is by focussing my business more on book cover designs than anything else. Because I am such a bookworm, and my artwork has always been pretty literary inspired anyways, this is the perfect way to combine all of the things I love to do. So, as such I will be collaborating with authors, particularly self publishing fantasy authors, not just as their book cover designer, but as general support as well. The reason I design book covers is because I want to tell the story in enchanting visual ways, and my aim will always be to work with storytellers to truly capture the story within, entice readers to pick up and buy the books, and therefore help my authors realize their dreams of publishing successful books. So you can expect to see a lot more talk of upcoming books from me in the future! (Pssst: the first one will be Tell City, by a very dear friend of mine, Kaylin R Boyd. We just finished the cover for Tell City this summer, and the cover reveal is scheduled for mid August, so stay tuned, especially if you like urban fantasy or anything at all by Neil Gaiman!)

As a super sneak peek, here is one of the images we shot for the cover of  Tell City. &nbsp;

As a super sneak peek, here is one of the images we shot for the cover of Tell City. 

 

With all of these big changes and exciting projects coming down the pipeline, you can also expect a lot more consistency from me in updates. I’ve obviously launched a blog, and while the blog posts over the next couple of months will be quite frequent as we really explain everything that the Starlight Journal has to offer, even after November, expect at least one monthly email update with the shop update, recent blog posts, and other fun behind the scenes news!  

Finally, though these are still long off dreams, I do want to mention two really big projects that are in the works for the future of Lusicovi Creative. One is the next book project after Atlantis, which will be an illustrated (with underwater photography + painting and montage) and re-imagined and re-written version of the classic The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. The second is even bigger in scope. But it will be a semi-annual magazine publication entitled The Starlight Emporium: Beautiful and Thoughtful Art and Stories. Combining many of the ideas and values of both the Starlight Journal and the Atlantis project, this will be a regular collection of beautiful and thoughtful art and stories that focus on anything curious, fantastic, and wonder-filled. There will be gorgeous photos and art, written poems, short stories, and articles that inspire, travel adventures, and featured artists, writers, and locations each time. There will also always be a featured “curiosity” article about anything interesting and related to a life of creative adventure (think health and wellness tips, financial talks, psychology, astronomy & other science, and ways to access creativity and divinity).

It will be for the curious, the adventurous, the thinkers, the dreamers, the magic makers, the ones aching for more creative connection. It will be physically printed, because there is just nothing like holding the physical art and words in your hands, or tearing out your favorite most inspiring pages and hanging them on your wall. And because, let’s face it, we all need to be better about getting off our screens and being grounded and in touch with actual wonder. It will be for anyone seeking wonder and connection in these frazzled, busy, exciting times of ours, and I cannot wait to get started on it. If you have any ideas for any art, stories, or creators and adventurers to feature, please email me at lusicovicreative@gmail.com and let me know about them!

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So friends, this where we are at. This is what I've been dreaming of lately.

This is what you should expect to see from me and Lusicovi Creative in the coming months and even years. I have to say, it feels really wonderful, grounded, and peaceful to have an actual plan more or less in place. Of course I expect for there to be curveballs and unexpected turns along the way. But overall I feel confident that this is basically the plan and trajectory. This is my mountain, as Neil Gaiman would say, and I’m very happy to be on the way there.

To follow along with this artistic business journey, and to support me and my art, make sure you are subscribed to my email newsletter here. I also humbly invite you to visit my Patreon page, and consider contributing whatever amount you are comfortable with to these projects. It would really mean the world to me. Especially if there is a project or piece that I mentioned in this email that you would like to see worked on and completed sooner rather than later, I urge you to support the project fiscally.

These projects are the things that light me up, the things that make my soul sing, and the things that make the hardships of life worth living through. So they are projects that I am always going to complete regardless. However, the biggest up in the air factor is always the timeline. The more time I have to devote to other jobs that drain my energy and soul, but allow me to pay rent and buy food, the less time and energy I have to devote to these projects, and therefore the longer it will take to see them realized. So if you believe that art is worthwhile, and that these projects are worth doing, please visit my Patreon here.   

All my love and light,

Elise

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Why Underwater?

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” - Loren Einsley

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Water is magic, in a sense. It is literally life bringing, life sustaining, and -can be- life ending. Water is beauty, power, grace, flow, divinity, creation, destruction, patience, awesome, fearsome, the source of all life and the thing that sustains life as we know it here on earth. It is the key ingredient.

Because it is literally all these awe-inspiring things, it is easy to associate it with the divine, and to see it as magical and otherworldly.

It’s even easier to associate it with divine mysticism when we realize that the oceans are still mostly a deep, unknown, mystery. Dip beneath the waves and your vision is changed, your hearing is changed, your air is gone, and gravity and light behave differently. It is about as close to another world as we earthlings can physically get.

 

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It’s no small wonder then, that psychologically speaking, water is representative of the divine feminine- of chaos, creation, power, beauty, flow, and life. The parallels are so self evident that they are universal. Every human on any corner of the earth at any point in time inherently understands the power, magic, and divinity of water.

Perhaps because of this universality, or perhaps they are just to intrinsically linked to ever untangle which came first, but either way, psychologist Carl Jung identifies water as the collective universal subconscious. Water is the dream state. The unknown and unknowable but beautiful alien realm. And that’s no wonder either, since whether we are daydreaming of a day at the beach,  or fighting night terrors of floods in our basement, water is the stuff of dreams both wonderful and terrifying.

The subconscious is a place to sort out the things that we know but we don’t quite know we know, or don’t yet quite understand. Much like the process of making art, it is chaotic, mysterious, and when it’s wonderful, it flows magically.

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For all of these reasons (plus my own personal divine Moana-like calling to the sea), I cannot think of a better realm in which to explore my work than in the flowing, brilliant, mysterious, fantasy land of dreams, the subconscious, and the divine that is the underwater realm. A better marriage of subject matter and setting would be difficult even to dream up.

And besides, as everyone knows, if there’s magic on this earth, it is definitely contained in water.  

 

To support my creative journey into the waters of unknown and light, visit my Patreon. 

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Why Fantasy?

Stories, particularly myths, legends, and fantasy,  are how we as humans examine, explore, and ultimately explain the human condition.

The editors of the book Fantasy offer a profound take on the merit of fantasy literature (and by extension, all fantasy art.) They state that fantasy authors create new worlds in order to rid their readers of preconceptions and prejudices that are found in day-to-day life. By removing these biases, moral standards and truths can be examined in new, fresh, ways, and hopefully, lessons can be learned that would otherwise be out of reach.

In his article “Children and Fairy Stories,” JRR Tolkien argues for the validity of fantasy as a genre in literature. Fantasy in this and most cases includes everything from ancient myths and legends, to folklore, to the classic fairy tales, to Tolkien’s own The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.

Tolkien makes the point that “the goal of fantasy is to lead the reader to a keener understanding of himself and his world.” The idea being that in the fictional work can be found deeper truths about the world around us. So by reading the story, we can better understand ourselves and our world.

RG Collingwood demands almost the same exact thing of art in general in his aesthetics. He claims that the artist proper works with the world from beginning to end to help the world see what he (the artist) sees; to help them find out things about themselves through the art.

He says that the artist, instead of being “the great man who imposes upon the world the task of understanding him, will be a humbler person, imposing upon himself the task of understanding his world, and thus enabling it to understand itself.”

My personal hope is always that people viewing my work in the context of the new fresh combination of technique and media will perhaps gain some insight into themselves or their world. (I’ll get into my technique a little more in detail in some later blog posts, so stay tuned!)

So, where does fantasy come from? What is its history? (Other than a long history of British writers defending it.) The short answer to this question is ‘human imagination.’

However, I am a little more concerned with its historical origins and how it has developed across time. For as long as there have been humans, presumably those humans have always strived to explain themselves and their world.

There are records as far back as 2000 B.C. of fantastical stories in Ancient Egypt, including one that is essentially the story of Cinderella. The myths and legends of Ancient Greece are, if not actually common knowledge, certainly not lost to the ages.

What is most fascinating to me is that across all borders of time and geography, humanity continuously comes up with essentially the same mythological and magical stories. If we keep writing this story, the very fact of its repetition begs us to ask why? What value does it hold to us? To ALL of us; all humans everywhere and at every time. There must be something worthwhile in there.

The description of “the story of an uninitiated young hero who must voluntarily battle and outwit forces much greater than himself in order to return home” can be applied to everything from Gilgamesh to Odysseus to Harry Potter to Luke Skywalker.

With only a little bit of a stretch, that description could even apply to everyday people in their everyday lives. Often in everyday life we encounter and must overcome forces greater than ourselves in order to simply survive the day and get back home.  My own entrepreneurial journey certainly fits this bill. Many relationships fit this bill. We are continuously going out there into dangerous unknown territory (either literally or psychologically/metaphysically) and back again to safety.

Fairy tales, the ancestor and cousin of modern fantasy literature (and quite often the inspiration), are often the same story again as the even more ancient myths, though perhaps slightly less fantastical. Often it is not a literal dragon that the Princess must fight, but everyday evil people, and metaphorical dragons. In some cases, she must face the slightly less commonplace evil magical Queen or Jabberwocky. In this way, Fairytales can usually be seen as a step closer to reality.

Magic is always involved in Fairy tales, but with that exception, the tales could take place in our own world, as opposed to in Middle Earth or in galaxies far far away. Even those that end up in Wonderland usually begin and end here in our world.

The best aspect about fantasy stories of all sorts is that they parallel real life. I suspect that this is why they are so popular, and why since the dawn of time, humans have been compelled to tell such stories. This is what makes them so valuable.

Whether the evil in the story takes the form of dragons, evil queens, or simply nasty step-sisters, there is evil present, just as there is in the real world. And by watching the heroes of our stories bravely face and conquer their dragons and evils, we are instilled with the inner strength and courage to conquer our own "dragons."

As G.K. Chesterton famously stated, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

By seeing metaphorical versions of our own challenges successfully overcome, we begin to believe that we too can face our own metaphorical dragons. If Alice can face a Jabberwocky, we can stand up to the bully on the playground, or the coworker taking advantage of us. We too can believe in “impossible” things. And there is magic and value in that, you can be sure.

 

To support my artistic excursions into fantasy, please visit my Patreon. 

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Why My Art?

Dear Creative Soul,

Welcome, welcome dear brand new blog reader, to my own personal Neverland: Lusicovi Creative; here there be mermaids!

My name is Elise, and I am an Enchantment Photographer. Capturing wonder and creating enchantment is my specialty. I am a giant nerd and am fascinated by stories, the sea, the stars, and exploring questions like "why are we here?" and "what is the human condition?" and "why are we all still SO universally drawn to fairytales?"

My artwork is always literary inspired with a bohemian feel. I believe that both fantasy art and fantasy writing are incredibly important, because they allow us to explore very real problems in a safe space. Voldemort does not exist, but Hitler did. Evil Queens and step mothers don't (usually) exist, but surly bosses and prickly landlords do. And as CS Lewis once said, "Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."

I have a lot of other people’s thoughts (and a few of my own) on the value of art in general (For more on that, read my first ever blog post here.), and that is all well and good. But still, a curious brain like mine, which is always asking “why everything” cannot be satisfied without also answering why this art in particular?

And the most honest answer is actually: I don’t know.

Or maybe, I don’t know yet.

Or maybe I do know already. Somewhere on some lower level that I cannot properly express. Because, in truth, the ideas just come to me, usually almost fully formed. And usually formed in ways that I don’t consciously understand how exactly to create them when I start out in the process of creating them.

I don’t always know where they come from, but I have noticed that they do usually come from other art, stories, and myths. They come from archetypes. Maybe, actually probably, in a lot of ways, they are themselves archetypes. The Pandora Series that I created as my college thesis certainly was archetypal. (Stay tuned to this blog for more on that later!)

Archetypal or not, they call to me to be created, like the sea calls to Moana. And just like her, the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. I just have to trust that following the inspirations will bring me to where I need to be. And so far, they haven’t been wrong yet.

This is why, above all, I believe in the value of art to inspire and challenge us, children and adults alike, artists and viewers alike, readers and writers alike.

And I would like to think that my art, by exploring these big ideas about who we are as humans, why we do the things we do, and what amazing magical things we are capable of, can inspire others to re-examine what they think they know about the world and about themselves, and that together we can all learn and grow a little more.

I believe in spreading magic, beauty, love, & light, so that together we can inspire and empower the world, and I cannot do this work without your love and support. I appreciate more than words can say the support, the encouragement, and anyone who believes in this same mission, and I honor your part in allowing me to continue spreading this inspiring message and truly living my artistic life.  

To support my ever evolving artistic career, and to help me create the inspiring visions that come to me, please consider supporting me on Patreon, or check out how you can work with me as an artist or photographer here.

And of course, stay tuned to this blog (or subscribe to my email newsletter here) to see many more art pieces, and to read many more thoughts and musings about the value of art, the process of my art, magical stories, and many more exciting projects that I have in the works. If you have any feedback, I would love to hear it. Just send me an email at lusicovicreative@gmail.com.  


Love and light, always,

Elise

 

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