Category Archives: Tips

Workflow : INITIATE

Here is another card from my Oracle Cards project. The card is called “INITIATE”. I was inspired by a graphic I saw on Pinterest, which utilised curlicues, shape templates and borders.

For the background, I chose a photo of a piece of scrapbooking paper (oh, I have hundreds of those!).

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Which I then processed on my Samsung Galaxy S4 with the app PicsArt. I added a frame, some curlicues and a shaped template, from the Clipart section of PicsArt. Then I added the text “INITIATE”.

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My initial idea was to create an image that looked vintage and mysterious. I quite liked the above image already as it was, but I felt it was missing something.

So I loaded the image to Pixlr Express and toyed with a few filters and effects. Then I noticed a new set of effects that the developers post up for a limited time every now and then, like a teaser.

Of all the effects I tried on my image, this geometric one spoke to me the most.

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And there you go. :)

INITIATE : If you have a project or a plan but you have been procrastinating about starting it, now is the perfect time to put things into motion. Initiate action now, and things will fall into place. Don’t overthink it, trust your instincts and your heart will tell you if you’re going the right way.

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Art Licensing Caveats – from Joan Beiriger’s Blog

Since some of my Art is licensed with a number of Art Licensing Agents, I subscribe to Joan Beiriger’s blog, to keep up to date with the industry and also to chase up any leads Joan may introduce.

Joan has just written an editorial about what to watch out for when dealing with Art Licensing Agencies. If you are an Artist looking to get your Art licensed, or even if you are already a licensed artist, the following can still be useful information to bear in mind. I have taken the liberty of simply reposting Joan’s entire article here verbatim, for your ease of reading, in case you’re not subscribed to her blog. Joan is an expert on the subject and I’m most certainly not, so the purpose of this post is to simply disseminate Joan’s message to those who may not already know. (Note: Hyperlinks to books and resources mentioned below are clickable on Joan’s blog, but not on this page).

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From Joan Beiriger’s blog:


Art Licensing Editorial: The Truth About Art Licensing Agencies

WARNING! This is not an upbeat article and is depressing because the art licensing industry is like other industries where people sometimes take advantage of others. The purpose of this article is to warn artists that they need to make sure that they are signing a fair contract or at least know the repercussions in signing an unfair one when they agree to have an art licensing agency represent them.

The truth about art licensing agencies is that there are MANY agencies that are honest, professional, have a fair artist/agency agreement (contract)* and work hard to represent their artists. BUT, there are SOME that are unethical, and/or are not professional in dealing with their artists, and/or have unfair contracts, and/or have poor business practices. Sounds alarming, huh? Well, it is! And, that is why an artist needs to do her/his homework before signing with an art licensing agency. Read the following so that you do not make a bad decision and sign a contract that negatively impacts your income and even worse allows an agency to have control of all your art so that you lose your rights to it.

In the fifteen or so years that I have been in the art licensing industry, I have heard many complaints and some horror stories from artists about the agencies that represent them. Unfortunately, those artists with the horror stores were so pleased that an agency wanted to represent them that they did not read the contract closely enough, understand all the terms, or realize that some terms that should be in the contract were missing. The artist’s big mistake was not to acquire information about the agency’s reputation and business practices by asking other artists and not having an attorney that is an expert on art licensing contracts look the contract over before the artist signed it.

* The artist/agency agreement is a contract and is referred to as a contract or artist/agency contract in this article.

Common Artist Complaints about Agents
Most of the complaints I’ve heard about agencies are not as drastic as unethical agencies and unfair clauses in the artist/agency contract but about the lack of communication between the agent and artist, poor business practices, not getting enough or any licensing contracts with manufacturers, and not receiving enough money from the contracts. Some of these complaints were because the artist had unrealistic expectations such as earning a lot of money from each licensee contract. Read below for more information about agency complaints.

• Lack of communication
Lack of communication and not being on the “same wavelength” between persons is a common human foible. It often results in frustration and may be intolerable when working together. Some artists want to be in constant communication with their agent and feel adrift and slighted if the agent does not immediately answer their questions or respond when new art is sent. Other artists realize that agents are busy and will respond as soon as they have time and are not upset when they do not get a quick response. Although, it does not go over very well if the agent does not respond at all. No one like their emails or art to “drop into a black hole” and not know if the agent received it. Note: Some artists find that if they phone the agent they will get a faster response than if they email her/him. Agents may not have the time in their busy day to sit down and write an email but find the time to chat if their artists phone them.

Some artists expect agents to provide art direction, to send them the latest in art trends, and give feedback from the licensee when art is submitted. Or, there are personality clashes where communication between the artist and agent does not work because they are not on the same wavelength. Not all agencies provide art direction and some depends on the artist to keep up with trends. That is why it is important for the artist to talk with the agent before signing with the agency to see if there are any communication problems, if the agency provide the services the artist expects, and how the agent envisions the artists work will be used on products.

Artist Jill Meyer describes the process she went through in selecting an agency in her very informative article “Finding a New Agent.” An important part of Jill’s process in selecting an agency was talking and asking lots of questions of the agent before considering hiring the agency to represent her. Also important was talking to other artists about the agency and having an attorney familiar with art licensing agree that the artist/agent contract was fair.

• Poor Business Practices
SOME agencies do not have the best business practices. They are negligent in submitting art, do not make adequate follow-ups, do not keep track of art already submitted or licensed to manufacturers, and do not respond to emails from licensees or send signed contracts back to them in a timely manner. Any of these will damage the creditability of the agency. The following are some complaints I have heard from other artists and licensees.

1. Poor method in tracking art
– Some agencies do not keep track of the art they submit to licensees and thus submit the same art time and time again. Licensees are looking for new art; not art that they already have seen.

– Some agencies book keeping abilities are not very good and they do not keep track of the art that have already been licensed. Thus, they are at risk in licensing the same art for the same product to different licensees and breaching the terms of the contract granted to the first licensee.

2. Poor response to queries and return of contracts
Some agencies do not reply to licensee emails or return signed contracts in a timely manner. Art directors appreciate quick responses and it shows that the agent is professional which helps in promoting future business. Also, a slow reply to a query can mean missed opportunities to license and promote art.

3. Poor follow-up
– Some agencies do not follow-up frequently when licensees show interest in art and thus they may lose the opportunity to license it.

– Also, some are poor in following up when payment of licensing fees are late or contracts do not arrive when expected.

4. Poor method in submitting art
Some agencies submit their artist’s work to their entire client list in what I call a “shot gun method” in the hopes the licensee will be interested in some of them. Instead they should be submitting only the appropriate art for each manufacturer. Licensees do not appreciate getting a ton of art that is not suitable to be put on their products and will eventually not open emails from agencies that submit art that way.

• Not enough deals or pay enough
Artists may not get licensing contracts because the agency does not have a list of licensees that is suitable for the artists work. Of course, the agency should never have signed the artist for representation if they did not think they could license her/his work. Or, it could be due to the impact on the licensing industry with the change in consumer spending and also the increase in competition of artists vying for licensing deals. The change in consumer spending has drastically changed the way retailers sell products. Retailers now order lesser products from manufacturers and the shelf life is shorter. Thus, licensing revenue per image is less than it was before the recession struck in 2008. Consequently it is not the fault of the agency to now get fewer and not as lucrative licensing deals for their artists.

Artists and art licensing agencies are struggling to get contracts and bring in revenue. In the article “You Are Not Going to Make It in Art Licensing” art licensing agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios wrote, “Art licensing today is an industry in search of a workable model. The scramble is on – agents and artists who used to make their money by licensing art are now finding ways to collect from (mostly newbie) artists in ways that run the gamut from coaching to holding contests. Some agencies are accumulating artists, hoping that more people earning less money can make up for the reduced sku counts and short market runs. Branding agencies are taking on artists and art agencies are promoting brands, and both are consulting for manufacturers who are buying art worldwide and licensing art only when they have to. It’s a wild time in the biz.” Jim’s article is a very “tough pill to swallow” but his aim is not to discourage artists so they quit trying to license their art but to energize them by trying new ways to license it. To get Jim’s perceptive on licensing art in today’s market, read his article.

Note: I recommend that you read Belgium surface designer Ine Beerten’s article “The Big Contest Dilemma” if you are interested in entering a design contest. Ine wrote a really thought-provoking article about contests. She ended her post with “So what do I hope you take away from this post? I hope you think careful when you enter a contest next time, think whether it’s just an easy way for the company to get free artwork and cheap marketing and whether the prizes are truly fair, or if you can really gain something that is actually worth something to you. By entering these bad contests you only help them devaluating your own and other artists’ work!”

Artist/ Agent Contracts
In “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials” by licensing consultant J’net Smith, she states that “It’s easy to get excited about the prospect of finally signing with an agent and forget to make sure that the contract is not only fair to both of you, but includes everything you need. . . Don’t accept the first contract you are given without understanding all the obligations and ramifications of each clause. It may be your first and the most important contract you will ever sign.”

Artists may interpret the terminology and meaning of legal terms or poorly written clauses in a contract incorrectly. And, if clauses that should be in the contract are missing such as the date and terms specifying termination, the artist may be obligated that the agency continues to represent her/him forever. That is why it is recommended that an attorney experienced in art licensed legislation look over the contract before the artist signs it. It is less expensive to pay an attorney to make sure the contract is fair to the artist than to pay him/her to try to free the artist from a bad contract even if it is possible.

• Unethical business practices and contract terms
What I deem unethical is when an agency does not pay monies due to artists for licensing their art or taking advantage of artists by having clauses in their artist/agency contract that takes control of the artists work and denies the artist usage of their own work.

Several years ago two artists told me that their agencies were not paying them revenue for their art being licensed. Their agents insisted that the art had not been licensed and yet the artists saw their art on products in stores. In one case, the artist was able to get monies owed by hiring an attorney. In the other case, the artist found out that her copyright was infringed upon and the art was illegally used. It is important that artists be constantly looking for their art on products in stores and on the Internet. And, getting their friends to help. That may be the only way that an artist finds out that their copyright has been infringed upon.

In the article “Hot Words to look out for in contracts” art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing discusses the word “assign” and the consequence when used in any art/agency or licensee contract. He wrote “. . . when you see the hot word “assignment”, make certain that you’re not assigning the copyright or all reproduction rights to your artwork as a part of the agreement. If you do, it’s lost to you forever. Other people will control the reproduction rights to your art, and you’ll actually have to ask their permission to reproduce the art that you created.”

Lance relates a couple of horror stories that artists endured by signing bad contracts in his article “How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes in Licensing Your Art”. In one example, Lance said “. . . This agency, which just happened to be owned and operated by the same people who owned and operated the publishing company, gave itself the exclusive right to publish any or all of the artist’s work for the next five years and to sublicense his art to anyone they wished, whenever they wished”. He stated, “If there’s any one piece of advice I could give an artist about to enter a legal agreement, it is to read every single line in the contract and make sure that you totally understand it. I know that isn’t easy for most people, but don’t get in the water if you don’t want to get wet. If you find that there are sections or sentences that aren’t written clearly, don’t say what you want, take away a bit more of your rights than you feel you want to give, or if any of it seems confusing or contradictory, have the company rewrite it in plain English. . . . But don’t let this stop you from promoting your art for license. Most companies are quite reputable and many contracts are completely understandable by the average human. Just make sure you read every word, and know what it means”.

• Unfair contract terms and business practices
Not all agencies have unfair terms in their art/agency contracts but some do. Terms that seem unfair to artists are usually in the contract because of the way the agent decides to operate the agency. For instance, a clause in the contract may state that the agent will make all decisions in licensing the art. That means that the artist has no say-so in what company manufacturers her/his art, will not have the opportunity to approve or not approve the licensee contract or even see it, and cannot approve the amount of royalties or flat licensing fee that will be paid for the use of the art. That is unfair to the artist. But, the artist may trust the agent to do a good job and is willing to sign the contract because she/he wishes to be represented by the agency. What is NOT acceptable is if the artist is blindsided and not aware that the terminology in the clause gives the agency that right. And, that is the reason why an art licensing attorney should be hired to point out unfair terms in the contract before it is signed. Note: Yes, there are agencies that have that clause in their contract.

Below are more contract terms and business practices (may not be in the contract) that may be construed as unfair to artists.

1. Artists do not get to see licensee contracts
A variation on the above unfair term is that an artist does not see the licensee contract but gets to approve or not approve the contract. The agent sends a form to the artist with the basic terms of the deal so that the artist can sign it for approval. Just like the above term, the artist must trust the agent that she/he makes sure that the clauses in the licensee contract is fair.

2. Agencies continues to receive commission after termination
Most agree that the termination clause is the most important clause in the artist/agency contract. In his article “The Artist – Agent Relationship” art licensing attorney Joshua Kaufman states, “The greatest issue of tension and dispute between artists and their agents surround post-termination issues. . . . The issue of how long an agent is entitled to keep receiving its commission after the contracts terminates, is one that is strongly negotiated. Agents of course, wish to be compensated for not only the full term of their contract but for the term of the licensing agreement and of all extensions and renewals. The artist wants to limit the payment to the agent after their contract expires. Agents believe that they secured the contract, they work long and hard, had to wait for their money and should be entitled to their receipts throughout the term of the contract. ” Note: Most contracts do give the agency the right to continue receiving commissions from the contracts they obtained for the artist until the contract expires and no renewals are requested by the licensee.

3. Agencies continues to represent the artist after termination
Some agencies have clauses in their contract that allows them to continue representing the artist after the termination of the contract. The representation is for an additional several years after termination and is limited to those licensees that the agency obtained contracts for the artist’s work during the term of the contract. There are questions on the legality of this clause according to attorney Joshua Kaufman in his article “The Artist – Agent Relationship”. He states “One finds in many agreements prohibitions against dealings by an artist, post termination, with the agent’s clients. First of all there is a question (which depends on which state law applies) whether those clauses are enforceable and to what extent. . . If the agent’s client list is very large, and there is a blanket restriction against dealing with the agent’s clients, and this precluded the artist from doing business or greatly hampered their ability, many states will disallow the restriction.”

4. Do not allow any interaction between the artist and licensee
There may not be a clause in the artist/agency contract but some agencies do not allow their artists to interact with licensee art directors. All licensee requests for high-resolution art are sent to the agent who forwards it to the art director. And, all requests for editing of the art go through the agent. This is awkward and frustrating to the artist. It is much easier and faster for the artist to make art changes if she/he works directly with the art director.

5. Artists do not get to approve samples
Not all licensing contracts allow the approval of art on the products before they are manufactured. But if it is in the licensee contract, the agent normally approves the samples and not the artist. That restriction may not be in the artist/agency contract but because of licensee time restrictions it is not usually possible for the agent to ship the sample to the artist for approval.

6. Artists are required to pay part of booth and marketing expenses of the agency
Many agencies do not require artists to pay any of the agency expenses. But, if they do required their artists to help with trade show and other agency expenses it should be clearly spelled out in the artist/agent contract according to art licensing consultant J’net Smith in “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials”.

Summary
There are many good art licensing agencies. But, do not get blindsided and sign a bad contract. Do your homework and ask agents for recommendations of artists in their agency to talk to and/or look at agency websites for the artists the agencies represent. Select a few artists and find out their contact information from their own website, Facebook or LinkedIn. Either phone or email them to ask questions about the agency. Make sure that you fully understand all the terms in the artist/agency contract. And better yet, hire an attorney that knows the ins-and-outs of art licensing to look over the contract and point out any unfair clauses before you sign it.

For a list of agencies, read “List of Over 50 U.S. Art Licensing Agencies”. But, you need to research the agencies yourself because I am not familiar with all of them or their artist/agency agreements (contracts).

Resources:
The above post mentions quotes from the following articles. I recommend that you read these articles because they contain a lot of important information you should be aware of.

• “Finding a New Agent” by licensed artist Jill Meyer

• “You Are Not Going to Make It in Art Licensing” by art licensing agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios

• “The Big Contest Dilemma” by Belgium surface designer Ine Beerten

• “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials” by art licensing consultant J’net Smith

• “Hot Words to look out for in contracts” by art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing

• “How to Avoid Mistakes in Licensing Your Art” by art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing

• “The Artist – Agent Relationship” by attorney Joshua J. Kaufman

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Workflow : CLARITY

I was just fooling around with some new filters the developers of Pixlr Express had put on the App. I had no set plans or ideas to create another Oracle Card image, but this one literally created itself. Divine inspiration? 😇

For the background, I chose a colourfield image I had created previously using the Android-only app “Impressionist Fingerpaint”.

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I simply ran this through the App Pixlr Express, and liked the effect that created this crystalline entity.

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Then, still in Pixlr Express, I added some lights to add depth to the image.

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Finally, I loaded the image to PicsArt, tweaked the brightness, contrast and saturation, then added the text CLARITY.

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CLARITY : By stilling the voices in your head that constantly clamour for your attention, and by deliberately calming your mind, you will be able to see clearly all your options and opportunities. Clarity will come to you like a crystalline vision bathed in a bright light. Let your intuition lead you.

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A Sore-y Tail

My Pitbull-Mastiff cross puppy, Shelagh (okay, she’s 2 years old now but still as exuberant as a puppy) is normally a big bundle of energy first thing in the morning. Her tail is the first thing you notice. Slapping you around the legs, that is, as she dances around with her entire body wagging with happiness.

Shelagh was introduced to our swimming pool at a young age, and very quickly learnt to jump in to retrieve her favourite ball. It used to be a soccer ball. After getting the “Shelagh treatment” it is nothing more than a deflated sac with an orange rubber lining that sometimes peeks out of a large hole in its outer skin, rather vulgarly. But despite its imperfections, it is still Shelagh’s favourite pool toy.

After 4 1/2 months of cold weather, we finally declared our swimming pool open again. The water is still quite cold, but once you’ve mustered the courage to jump right in and swim around a bit, it’s just dandy.

After such a long time without being in the pool, I was impressed that Shelagh remembered what swimming was all about. She ran straight to where “Ball” was kept, grabbed it and did her “Victory Lap” around the perimeter of the pool. She jumped in to get “Ball”, and even remembered to let us hold onto her back as she swam. After an hour of vigorous exercise, I towelled her dry and let her run around the garden before letting her back into the house.

That was when I noticed that Shelagh seemed strangely unable to settle down on the chaise, like she usually does. She would turn round and round, flop down for a minute, then she would change her position and whine. She jumped off the chaise, lay down on the rug, jumped up again after a couple of minutes, whined, wandered over to the kitchen where she lay on the wooden floor. A minute after that she came back to the chaise, tried to settle down again, got up again etc.

I noticed her carrying her normally waggy tail low, almost tucked under. I wondered if she’d broken her tail, if she’d thwacked it too enthusiastically against something hard. When I touched her tail where it was drooping, Shelagh yelped in pain. I tried to make her wag her tail like she normally does, but she couldn’t lift it over her back. Oh no!

It was night and the vet was closed for the day. So I hopped on my computer onto Google and the keywords “dog broken tail?”. A few entries down, I came across a site that described exactly Shelagh’s symptoms. There are many terms for this condition – caudal myopathy, sprained tail, limber tail, dead tail, cold water tail.

Cold water tail. I’m almost certain that’s what poor Shelagh has. You could think of it as RSI (repetitive strain injury) of the tail, caused by over-exertion after a prolonged period of inactivity. My poor baby’s tail was inflamed, hence the swelling at the point where the droop began.

Limber tail can occur in any dog with an undocked tail, but certain breeds, especially pointing and retrieving dogs, seem particularly susceptible to it. Among these breeds are Labrador, Golden, and Flat-Coated Retrievers; English Pointers and Setters; Beagles; and Foxhounds. Both sexes and all ages can be affected. Other common names for the condition are “cold tail” (especially among Retrievers, who often exhibit symptoms after swimming in frigid water), “limp tail,” “rudder tail,” “broken tail,” or even “dead tail.”

The exact cause is unknown, but there are a few different factors that seem to be linked to limber tail. Overexertion seems to be a common precursor, especially if an animal is thrown into excessive exercise when he or she is not in good condition.

Limber tail has an acute onset. It is not a condition where the tail gets progressively weaker. Instead, it is an acute inflammation. Typically, the tail is suddenly limp and the dog may seem to have pain near the base of the tail. Over the next three to four days, the dog slowly recovers to the point where by four to seven days he’s usually back to normal.

The condition resolves over the course of a few days or a week and usually leaves no aftereffects.

(Source: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/8_1/features/15685-1.html)

So no more swimming til you get better, my dearest Shelagh. And even then we will make sure you don’t over exert that beautiful tail of yours. I like it best when it’s carried proudly over your back and wagging with pure joy!

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Elements of Design

Have you got 5 minutes free time and don’t know what to do? Why not be creative and make yourself a pictorial quote? I’m not sure what the real term is for these things, but you know the ones I mean…those cute and quirky quotes that go along with equally cute and quirky backgrounds. Memes?? It’s very popular on Facebook at the moment. Instead of commenting in boring old plain text, why not find some quotable quotes online and share them instead? Okay I may have started that trend, shame on me LOL.

Anyway, today I’d like to share a quick and fun tutorial with you. See, with just 2 simple Apps you can create your own pictorial quotes and amaze your friends. Don’t worry if you, like me, can’t draw, it’s all done for you.

Yes, just 2 Apps:
InstaQuote for iOS
InstaQuote for Android

Elements of Design for Android

Note: Elements of Design is a Live Wallpaper. When you load it, it doesn’t show up as an App on your smartphone, but rather in a folder called “Live Wallpaper”. The beauty of this App is that you can set numerous parameters and tweak various elements and then to save, simply take screenshots of the action. (Sorry, iOS Apple users, I don’t think the Live Wallpaper option is available on your device, neither will you find Elements of Design on iTunes. But I’m sure you can find tonnes of other similar Apps on the iTunes store for this purpose).

Here’s the blurb on Elements of Design, taken from the Google Playstore:

Turn your background into a beautiful abstract work of art with this fully customizable, animated live wallpaper! Combine some of the most popular elements of contemporary graphic design into animated eye candy with the touch of a finger! Overwhelmed by the number of options? Choose from one of 16 preset themes!

Watch flowering vines weave across the screen, add an animated honeycomb background, or make elements appear with a single touch. This full version has plenty of beautiful options to keep your phone fresh and your eyes entertained!

Right, so today I came up with a funny quote that I wanted to share with my friends. And, being lazy, I wanted to create something original but which I could do in less than 5 minutes.

To do this, I opened up InstaQuote on my trusty Samsung Galaxy S4. I left the background blank (or defaulting to whatever) while I worked my quote into the text field.

Then, I simply set up Elements of Design, played with the parameters, then took some screen snapshots. I then loaded the screenshot I liked that I thought would work best, and placed it into the background. I didn’t even have to crop my background image, InstaQuote did that for me.

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Et voila! An Instant Quote (well, more or less).

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😄😇😆

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Selfish People

Our local McDonald’s sometimes has free newspapers for customers to read while they’re having their meal. I sometimes go there just for a hash brown and a coffee and a good read. The newspaper belongs to the establishment and does not leave the premises with the customer, unless McDonald’s is offering a free paper to take away with their breakfasts, which sometimes happens. After you’ve read the newspaper, the unspoken agreement is that you either pass it onto someone else who may want to read it, or you place it back on the countertop for anyone else coming in later.

I was at McDonald’s on Saturday with my son, for breakfast before going to the cinema to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. As we sat down, I noticed a woman in her 60s at a nearby table with the weekend papers. Now, the Weekend West, as our newspaper is called, is a veritable tome, comprising a main news section, and various other pull-out supplementaries such as Fashion, Lifestyle, Travel, Sports, Entertainment, Gardening and Children’s.

The woman was reading one of the pull-out supplementaries, so I approached her and asked if she was done with the main news section of the paper. She looked up at me and immediately placed a proprietal hand over the newspaper, while shaking her head and saying no, she was still reading it.

Fair enough. I could wait a while til she finished. My son and I ate our meal and I kept my eye on the woman, so I could ask her again for the newspaper once she’d finished.

She finished the supplement she was reading. Then she dug into her handbag and brought out a piece of tissue paper. She delved into her bag again…and brought out a bottle of, wait for it…nail polish remover! She then placed her elbows right on top of the pile of newspapers on her table and proceeded to meticulously clean her fingernails. One by one. Slowly and patiently. While the unread papers lay there.

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I couldn’t believe my eyes.

What this woman did next was even more selfish than I’d already observed. A little boy, presumably her grandson, ran in from the playground outside and climbed onto the chair next to her. She immediately put away her nail polish remover and started to play with him. Did she put aside the newspapers so someone else could read them? Of course not. She let the little monster rifle his grubby hands through the papers instead, and laughed delightedly when pamphlets, brochures and mini magazine supplements went scattering onto the floor. Did she pick them up? Of course not.

The little boy was joined by his father, mother and 3 siblings of a similar age. The kids ran off back to the playground soon after, but their parents sat talking to the woman. All that time the newspapers lay on the table between them, unread.

We were at McDonald’s 30 minutes. And in that time, that selfish woman cleaned her nails, played with her grandson and had a conversation with her son and daughter-in-law. Time spent actually reading that newspaper?

Zero.

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Okay, rant over. But I don’t get it. How can some people be so selfish, self-centred and inconsiderate? Maybe she was just ignorant? Because I sure wouldn’t like the other plausible explanation…which is that she had deliberately made up her mind NOT to let anyone have the papers, as a show of power, because it made her feel good about herself.

One thing’s for sure. Selfish people like that woman are part of the reason why this world of ours is so riddled by malaise, apathy and ignorance. Kindness is free and costs nothing, we should spread that around at every opportunity. Practice random acts of kindness wherever you are, and whenever you can. The seeds of happiness lie within acts of mindful kindness.

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Feet Of Clay

Let me tell you a story. It’s not a new story, there are very few of those around nowadays. Like many other stories you would have heard, this one is as old as the hills, and as new as today’s newspaper. I’m just going to tell it in a different way, that’s all. The lesson is still the same, as it has been for millennia. The situations, events, circumstances, protagonists etc might all be slightly different, with an infinity of variations, but the archetypes are always the same.

Here’s how it goes:

Once upon a time there was a young girl who noticed a young man. Something about him caught her eye and fired her imagination. She started thinking about what it would be like to be with him all the time, holding his hand, looking into his eyes, hearing his voice uttering words of love. He was all she’d been waiting for her whole life. The future appeared to be a shining mass of bright light, filled with laughter, love and happiness, stretching as far as the eye could see, and beyond. Even the thought of him, and she thought about him all day long, filled her with longing and a deep, almost physical ache. Everything he did was great, brilliant, awesome.

He is quite The Catch.

And so our young lady sets out to get our young man’s attention. He already had a large circle of friends, both male and female. She joined in his social circles online, found out what he liked and disliked, learned about his preferences for Music and made them Her preferences too. Learned what his principles were and made them Her principles. He didn’t like chocolate, so she decided she didn’t either, even though she did. She did everything she could to fit in with his group and then when she felt she’d prepared enough, she set about trying to get his attention. Not to take him away from his friends, but to set herself apart in his eyes as a potential partner in Life. Why not? She’d moulded herself to be just like him, there was no reason for him not to be attracted to her. Surely he would recognise himself in her? She made herself smaller to fit in through the crack in the door of his soul.

And so she centres all her energy on The Courtship.

Her ploy seemed to have worked. Suddenly she found him paying her more attention than ever before. It was almost as if he’d suddenly woken up and noticed her standing before him. Suddenly he was spending a lot of his time with Her, sharing adventures, jokes and his innermost thoughts with her.  He couldn’t believe how much they shared in common. She was so easy to get on with, always had a kind word for him, was sweet, sexy and funny, supported his causes and interests, bought him CDs of his favourite bands, showed him news articles that she knew would interest him. He bought her flowers, took her out on her birthday, brought her around town in his car, surprised her with a romantic dinner, a weekend break in the country, a concert, introduced her to his family, bought her a diamond ring and promised her his eternal love and devotion.

Ahhh, Romance!

And so our intrepid young adventurers got married. They could not afford to buy their own place, so they rented at first. In the beginning, everything was new, rosy and exciting. They discussed having children, and started planning a family. Not long afterwards, out of the blue, he lost his job. She became the main breadwinner while he looked for jobs. The economy was not very good then, the bills started to mount up and still he didn’t have a job. She then found out she was pregnant, and she was not quite prepared for his reaction when she told him. He bemoaned the fact that now they would have another mouth to feed, when they could hardly pay the rent and utilities. She was shocked to her core, and started to wonder at his change of character. He, on the other hand, was enraged at her apparent lack of concern about their financial welfare. How dare she fall pregnant at a time like this? When the baby is born and she is on Maternity Leave, how would they survive if he still hasn’t found a job? What if the baby was ill, deformed or had a disability? How would they care for it then? For the first time, they had a major argument, and he hit her. He was really sorry for it right afterwards, blaming it on the stress of finding a job so he could look after the family. He promised it would never happen again. But it did.

The Honeymoon is over.

The cracks were starting to show in their relationship. She slowly came to realise that her husband’s feet were made of clay. He wasn’t the God she thought he was. For his part, she didn’t seem the genuine article either. Where was the girl that shared so many similarities with him, to the extent that she appeared like his twin soul? Had it only been a farce to win his admiration and attention? Had she changed? Had he changed? Why did they even get married, they had nothing in common? He realised he hadn’t really bothered to get to know the real her, as she’d made herself fit into his world and not the other way round. He decided he could no longer talk to his wife the way they used to. So he turned to his social media circles and started an affair with a mutual friend, who as it turned out also shared lots of things in common with him. SHE was always there for him, always had a kind word, was always on his side, appreciated him for who he was and never tried to change him, sent him little presents in the post, that he had to hide from his wife. She could have been thousands of miles away, or a few doors away, it didn’t matter. Her arms, virtual or real, were always wide open to welcome him, whereas his wife was preoccupied with other matters and had her own interests. All was going well until one day when details of his affair were discovered by his wife.

What a Rude Awakening!

She was naturally upset and disappointed by his betrayal, and wanted to know how he could do such a thing to her. Had their courtship, romance and marriage all been for nothing? Did their shared history not count for anything? How could he be looking for love elsewhere, when it had always been right there in front of him? Why did he? At first he denied the whole affair, but she had evidence. He tried to pretend that it was only a harmless flirtation, but again the evidence pointed to the contrary. He’d betrayed her trust, invested his time, attention, money and innermost thoughts with another woman. He’d even let the other woman play with his mind and turn him against his own wife. They’d even gotten as far as to promise to leave their respective spouses for each other. How was that a “harmless flirtation”?

This Isn’t What Anyone Expected!

So, what was the answer? Leave or stay? Go and accept the offer to start a new life with the mistress, and deal with the fallout and consequences later? Or stay and reconcile with the wife and promise to be faithful for evermore? Could he ever regain her trust, after what he’d done? Should he accept and admit his wrongdoing, and sincerely make amends for it? Or was his mistress right about his wife being cold and calculative? Did he really ever love his wife, or had he just been in love with the idea of her? As for her, the questions swirling in her mind at this time would be who would look after the family once the baby was born, if she was not at work. And if she could not afford to NOT be at work, who would look after the family while she was at work? Her husband sure didn’t seem interested in being a family man. One minute he promises her that he’d cut off all contact with his mistress, the next he’s back to claiming it wasn’t an affair and that he hadn’t been unfaithful. She knows for a fact that he hasn’t cut off all contact with his mistress, that they are still in touch and still discussing things that should only be discussed between a husband and wife. How can she trust him ever again? He could just be biding his time, playing nice to her until their circumstances improved, and then he’d be gone in a flash, leaving her holding the baby, literally. Where did his loyalties lie? Where had they ever lain? Was she setting herself up for a great fall?

Now we come to the Crossroads.

Choices, choices. Weighing up the pros and cons. No more thoughts about romance or love, just about survival. Could she be able to make it as a single parent? Would he be honourable and live up to his end of the bargain and help support their child? Why are they even bargaining? What happened to their relationship, how did it get to this Crossroads? She must decide whether to cut her losses and go, or stay and try to repair the damage her husband did. Why her? Because he won’t. For his part, he may feel a sense of responsibility or remorse for his actions, or not, but clearly he is torn. He could stay with this stranger who is his wife and try to patch up their relationship…but the temptation placed by his mistress is pulling him still, and he simply can’t bring himself to stop communicating with her. So he keeps going back to the drug that he’s become accustomed to, even though in his head he knows better than to do that. But for now his heart is leading him. It seems so much easier to just give in and go with the flow, rather than fight to regain what he had in the past. He thinks his wife is making a mountain out of a molehill. He just wants things to go back to the way they were before, when he was having his clandestine affair and she was not aware of it. If only she hadn’t found out when she did! He wants to have his cake and to eat it too.

After The Fighting, We All Rest A While.

Both our young lady and young man have now reached an impasse. Everything that had to be argued or discussed has already been argued and discussed. Maybe they just weren’t “meant to be”? They both withdraw internally and try to figure out what went wrong, and how to rectify things, how to reach a compromise. She reads books on relationships, she looks online for stories similar to her own, she joins forums and groups to find answers to her situation. She writes in metaphors and poetry to excoriate this painful period of her life. He throws himself into his hobbies, stays out at night or else holes up in his study. He starts looking at online sex sites for relief, and engages in conversations with total strangers, with the mistaken belief that he will find salvation there. She wonders if she would be better off with another man, one who would embody all that she thought her husband was, before his betrayal. She wonders if history will repeat itself, if all men are the same. He wonders if his mistress will still leave her husband for him, if he were to leave his wife. Unfortunately, by now, as happens quite often with unfaithful spouses, his mistress, being a serial adulterer, has found herself another toyboy, and has declared herself taken. For the moment, at least. But still he keeps going back and knocking at her door, out of force of habit and because he doesn’t know what else to do. He hasn’t bothered to do any soul-searching, to find any answers other than the obvious one staring him in the face. The child in him is hoping that it will all go away on its own and that miraculously, without any effort on his part, everything will be alright again. He misses his mother.

 The Next Step.

Now we have both our protagonists wondering what their next step should be. If she decides to let her husband go, there is no guarantee that the next man to walk into his life won’t be just as bad, or worse. There is also no guarantee that she’ll ever find another man who loves her…as she will not be single and free anymore, but a single parent struggling to make ends meet, and she is not getting any younger. That in itself is too high a hurdle for most men to jump. Many will simply look away and walk on. As for him, finding that his mistress is no longer available to him 24/7, he must decide whether to return to wooing his wife back all over again (once he’s worked out whether he really loves her or not) and regaining her trust, or to find another Catch. If the latter, then he goes back to repeat the first step in any relationship all over again. Karma will bite you in the arse!

If our young lady is smart, she will decide NOT to go looking for another relationship. Just let Life happen. Live in the Now, take things one day at a time, as they come. Work on raising her child and finding a means to support her family. Find herself. Whatever the case, DO NOT repeat the typical cycle of Love. If True Love exists, let it come in its own time. If it wants to. The form is not important, the Soul is. It might be another man, it might be a woman, it could even be her husband finally realising his faults and coming back to her. That is unlikely, until he accepts his wrongdoing. You cannot change what you do not accept.

Or, she may find it in the unconditional love, companionship and loyalty of her pets. It is what it is. Let Life Be.

Just be open to all possibilities. But DO NOT repeat the cycle, for that is just futile and the end results will be the same. Again, think in terms of archetypes, as every person is different, every situation unique.

~Don’t say I didn’t warn you~

feet-of-clay(I got this image from a fellow blogger who I’m following, whose descriptions about her own efforts at positive living are in turns inspiring, heartfelt or just downright funny. http://dailydoty.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/feet-of-clay.jpg)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pixite’s New Apps : MATTER and UNION

I wrote about 2 of Pixite’s other Apps, FRAGMENT and TANGENT, previously here. Fragment has now been released on the Android market, hurray, but the others are still only available on iOS. Hopefully they’ll follow Fragment onto the Android platform soon.

Rather than creating hyperlinks to Pixite’s Apps, here is the link to Pixite LLC‘s website itself, where you can see ALL of their Apps.

Pixite’s 2 newest additions to their stable of Apps are MATTER and UNION. Both Apps contain all manner of blending, juxtaposing and layering of objects, shapes, colours, textures.

Each of Pixite’s 4 Apps I’ve mentioned above have a facility for transferring your edited images from one App to another easily. Therefore you’ll be able to process your image in one App, move it over to another whilst in-App, process that, then transfer it back to the first App or even to a third App. Very nifty!

The User Interface of all 4 Apps is pretty uniform and intuitive. I was so excited about trying out MATTER and UNION that I didn’t bother to read the instructions or watch any video tutorials. I jumped right in and had a good play. So I won’t tell you what each button does on the Apps, or how to tweak the effects. The fun lies in making it your own hands-on experience. Go play!

Here are some of my experiments. Some were done purely using MATTER, others purely with UNION, but most of them were the product of both Apps. I’ll be experimenting more with these 2 Apps as well as the older 2, so watch this space! ;)

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Posted from WordPress for Android.

http://www.alyzenmoonshadow.wix.com/alyzenmoonshadow

Fun with FRAGMENT and TANGENT

Fragment and Tangent by the same App developer Pixite, are 2 iOS-only (Apple) Apps that I have on my iPad2. My Samsung Galaxy S4 is my workhorse for artistic creativity. But good what I call “Geometrical Art” Apps are hard to find on the Google Play Store. Fragment and Tangent are 2 of the best in their class. And so sometimes, when I Just have to have some aspect of geometry in my artwork, I turn to my iPad2.

When I do, it’s usually for hour-long sessions, as I must make the most of my time on my iPad2. So I generally use these “random generator” Apps to generate dozens of random images, which I afterwards transfer to my S4 for future use. Did I say already that I love Randomness? :D

Anyhow, this session was particularly fruitful. I’d already got a folder of previously randomly generated images using 2 more of my favourite iOS Apps, AddLib S and AddLib U. So this time, all I had to do was run some of them through Fragment and Tangent.

Et voila! Instant gratification! These are just a few of the images I generated. They will be used in conjunction with other Apps on my S4, to create new pieces of artwork.

Enjoy!

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ADDENDUM:
As of 23rd August 2014, the App “Fragment” is now available on Android. Yay, Happy Days! Also, Pixite have a couple more new Apps that I’m interested in, namely “Union” and “Matter”. I am just playing with these 2 on my iPad2 now, I’ll write about them next.

Posted from WordPress for Android.

http://www.alyzenmoonshadow.wix.com/alyzenmoonshadow

Quit Liking It! Say Something Instead.

LikeButton

There’s a new thing surfaced on Facebook just now, about how to improve your Facebook experience, by simply NOT hitting the “Like” button. Strange as that may sound, and somewhat illogical, it IS true and it actually works. The premise is that if you DON’T click on the “Like” button, but instead leave comments on posts that interest you, Facebook’s algorithms will actually stop sending you all those annoying links to “Like” this business or that organisation, that celebrity, that political party, that new diet etc. Your feed will instead become more human, with more people entering into actual conversations than never before. All those friends that you’ve  lost into the FB ether may resurface when your feed isn’t top-heavy with news, business, videos etc that your previous clicking on “Like” generated. Try it!

Read these 2 articles about this strategy. The first one by Medium is about NOT clicking on Facebook’s “Like” button and the consequences. The second is by Wired where the writer did the total opposite and clicked “Like” on absolutely everything in their feed.

https://medium.com/@schmutzie/i-quit-liking-things-on-facebook-for-two-weeks-heres-how-it-changed-my-view-of-humanity-29b5102abace

http://www.wired.com/2014/08/i-liked-everything-i-saw-on-facebook-for-two-days-heres-what-it-did-to-me/

So, okay, I’ve only just started this experiment, and right now I’ve no idea how long I’m going to stick to it, or whether it’ll be a lifelong practice.  Even though I actually only started 5 days ago, already I’m seeing a change in my Facebook feed, and I’m feeling way better about myself as a person, as I feel I’ve learnt a great lesson. And that is why I feel prompted to blog about it right away NOW!

Anyway, here are my thoughts on it:

1. It makes me pause and think before I comment. I may be using the 👍 button quite a bit to start with. I have found myself skipping posts that are of no concern to me, instead of simply clicking the “Like” button to acknowledge it because it may have come from a friend. So, my friends who are reading this, apologies if I no longer “like” your comments, posts or images, but rest assured you will instead find a comment from me. 👍 See, I’ve started already! 😄

2. I get more selective about what interests me. The real things that matter get my attention more than updates on who’s cooking or eating what, selfies, who’s on holiday where, online shopping deals, cute kittens (hard one, that). Hopefully, my feed will be more about the things that really matter to the world – like decriminalising cannabis, for one (this will sound strange coming from someone who’s only experience with cannabis was a puff on a joint at a party in Spain 10 years ago. But I have been following Rick Simpson and fellow advocates of the miracle cancer-beating properties of cannabis oil, and I have lost friends and family to cancer in the past and very recently, so the subject is close to my heart).

3. If everyone does this, we’ll be getting many more notifications than before, as more people engage in actual conversation instead of the passive virtual nod which is the “Like” button. As a society, we seem to have somewhat lost the art of conversation. By not clicking on the “Like” button and by saying something instead, we encourage further discussion and communication between friends, which is what Facebook should be about. It’s time to regain control of the true value of Facebook.

4. Funnily enough, with my actively telling Facebook what I “don’t want to see again” re: pages and businesses, it seems to have freed up space in my Wall feed for previously disappeared friends to reappear. So far, around 6 people who quietly vanished from my feed have returned…and without my searching for them to “like” their photos or make comments on their posts yo keep in the loop. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, I can’t be certain.

So, to those of you who have read this, I would kindly ask that you not simply click “Like” on WordPress either, but instead say something about this post. If it moves you to comment, do it. Otherwise, simply share it with your circles in another way. The same goes for every post that you read and like. Quit Liking It! Say something instead. And watch the world unfold before your very eyes. I’m waiting. :-)

 

Posted from WordPress for Android.

http://www.alyzenmoonshadow.wix.com/alyzenmoonshadow