Loving books AND their covers.

I seem to find inspiration everywhere. But one of my favorite places to be inspired is a bookstore. I love to read, and I hoard books; I had to build a bigger bookshelf to house them all. To me, books are one of the greatest adventures. In them I find, not only exploration of new places, but also insight into the minds of others. I can never read enough books to satisfy me. Wandering a bookstore is my favorite place to daydream.

The saying is that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I willingly admit that I do. Because I LOVE book covers. Sometimes I love the covers of books more than I love the books themselves. A good book cover can perfectly communicate the tone of the book. It can illustrate the feelings you’re about to experience when you open the book. Visual storytelling is equally as important as written storytelling.

So I decided to share a few of my favorite book covers. These are by no means all of them, but it will give you a taste of the types of artwork I love. Book covers are just as much a piece of artwork as art that you would frame and hang on the wall.

Mockingbird

Peter Pan

A Little Princess

Winter Town 

nottinghill

glaciers

let the great world spin

xoxo, Michelle

Conceptualizing a piece of art.

Sometimes I can completely get an idea from inside my head to the paper in front of me using sheer imagination. Other times, I need photos to work from to get accuracy of shapes and details within my work that contribute to the bigger picture. Typically, I sketch out a rough idea. Along the way, if I need help, I just start Googling images of keywords. Sometimes I have someone mimic the shape I want if I need a human outline. Then I can make a more refined version of my design, and I’m ready to bring it to life either on paper or in Adobe Illustrator.

Here’s how I brought my recent Gatsby illustration (a custom design for a friend) to life: I needed an distant perspective of a dock on the water, a car from the 1920s (a motif in The Great Gatsby), a pocket watch to symbolize the theme of time, and a perspective of someone reaching for something in the distance.

The final piece:

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Making it happen:

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xoxo, Michelle

I did a guest blog post!

I did a guest blog post on Kid Krazed about my two favorite things: art and kids. Fun! It even includes my photos.

Painted Hands | The positive effects of art

I don’t know how, but I’ve been able to hold on to my ability to create long after the imaginations of my peers faded away and they started focusing on “real life.” It’s so easy to lose it. Kids are born with a natural tendency to slip seamlessly in and out of imaginative worlds; I think that’s why some of the things they say and do are so entertaining to adults.

Painted-Hands

I’m always trying to think of ways to engage the kids I babysit in art. Creating comes so naturally to me, so it’s foreign to me to have to think for another. A key is to incorporate their interests in the art’s subject matter. They don’t always want to do the art themselves (and that’s okay, they’re still interested); they like to tell me what to do and then put my work in a “portfolio” (a 3-ring binder with plastic sleeves) and admire it. I have taped many pieces of paper together and drawn as Andrew dictated what train parts look like and where to put them; that helped him see his knowledge and love of trains constructed in an artistic way. When they were younger, I would just give them paint and brushes to explore blending colors, not at all surprised when they gave up using the brushes and just used their hands to smear the paint (sometimes it’s okay to make a mess). Now that they can do more, they know what they want to make, and I’m teaching them basics of setting up their workspace (to eliminate frustrations), like how to wash their brushes in a cup between each paint color and dry it on a paper towel (to keep the colors pure). I teach them the order in which they should paint something so that they don’t smear their work before it’s dry (ruined art is sad). I often help them to understand the shapes of what they’re trying to draw so that I don’t end up drawing it for them. I guide gently whenever they need help.

I think the bottom line is exposure. The more exposure kids get to art, the more likely they’ll incorporate it into their daily lives. Think about it: more exposure leads to a higher chance of them developing an interest in something artistic that they like. More interests lead to a more fulfilling life (you can never love too many things) and less boredom. And coincidentally, less boredom leads to less of a tendency to get into trouble.

Kids-Painting

A couple notes on some positive effects of art: having art in your home that you think is beautiful can enhance your mood. Art has existed for as long as humans have existed; it’s only natural to be connected to it. Creating encourages problem solving because you have to figure out how to put something together in a visually pleasing way. Art aids deep focus and getting lost in thought. To create is to have the ability to create possibilities.

Expose your children to as many different kinds of art styles as possible. It will allow them to explore and find their own aesthetic. There’s a lot of self-awareness that comes with learning what you like, and what you like to say, with your art. If you have a child who isn’t naturally into art and you would like them to be, explore other ways of engaging them. Try having them dictate something while you draw it. At least they are using their imaginations and visual skills to create, even if it’s not first-hand. They’ll still learn to appreciate art. Think about how many people enjoy art without actually having the skill to do it themselves.

Remember to dream beyond a piece of paper.

Michelle Dixon is an artist (and babysitter) with a passion for daydreaming and hoarding books. She is the creator of the online art shop Mary and Luna Fine Art and Designs, offering sweet and whimsical prints, canvas paintings, paper cut, and custom artwork. Find her at Mary and Luna or her Etsy shop.

the details that are worth it.

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I came across this ^ little piece of writing on tumblr (my favorite source of inspiration) years ago, and it now hangs on a little bulletin board above my desk. It serves as a reminder of why I’m trying so hard to be an artist. I guess I should share why.

I do art because I have to. I don’t know how NOT to. It just pours out of me. I absolutely crave taking photos, sketching out ideas, putting the world onto paper, making things and figuring out how to put it together in a visually interesting way, writing out my thoughts until my hand starts to cramp and I start to fall asleep. In my life, I’ve had countless other hobbies, but I always came back to art. Almost everything I love is connected to some form of art. And I see life more clearly though the lens of my camera. I’m drawn to anything that makes you feel something. I’m constantly seeking the things that matter, whatever they might be. I’m always in a little dream world in my head, just wandering. My life made a lot more sense the moment that I realized the things that made me the happiest and the most alive were the moments that felt fleeting, the moments that I wanted to capture in a photo or put into a piece of visual art, so I can remember how beautiful life can be. That’s the feeling I’m always striving for when I make anything; I want to make something that, when I look at it, I simply feel happy and peaceful. Life can be hard. Relationships (of any kind) can be hard. I want to make things that ease that stress, even if it’s just for a second. Looking at something beautiful can break that cycle of negativity in your mind, because it slows you down. It gives you perspective. It allows you to drift off for a minute and then re-focus on positivity. More than anything, I just like how art and making art can transport me to a place where I feel such a sense of wonder. I like to feel like I’m floating.

The reason I’m talking about this is because I struggle so much with the realistic details of starting an art business. I’ve been working on building all of this for over a year now, and in some ways, I’m great with it. I have a clear vision for what I want to do, and I see the big picture of how all the business parts fit together. It’s just those details that make me feel absolutely insane. I’m not a salesperson- I didn’t inherit that gene from my dad. Despite my history of excelling in math, I am not a numbers person. I’m basically obsessed with social media, but marketing does not come naturally to me at all. All these little things that go into setting up and running a small business give me a headache (literally) and make me wonder why I’m doing this at all. I get so wrapped up in these details that I can’t even figure out what the point of it all is. So I force myself to pull back from it all, and re-focus on the big picture (that comes so easily to me, it’s ridiculous). I’m doing this because I want to create things that that are beautiful and things that matter. I want my work to be my passion, and I want to be able to create as much and as often as I can. I want the thing that comes the most naturally to me in the world to be the thing I get to do everyday.  And I want to be me. Creating things makes me feel like myself, and I just love how serene I am when I’m in the process of designing, and then the intense pride and excitement I feel when I finish a piece and I like how it looks. That’s the reason I’m doing this. That’s what makes all these petty details (the ones I don’t like at all) worth it. Someday when I look back on all this frustration I’m feeling, I hope that it will have been worth it.

I have to constantly remind myself of these things:

  • There is a learning curve in all this; I have to cut myself some slack because I cannot build a business overnight. Especially when I’m 23 and have no prior business experience. (I think I just get so ambitious, thinking I can take on the world, that I don’t have enough patience for things that take time).
  • I have already done so much. I have to say, “Seriously, Michelle, look at what you’ve done.” Ambition is good, but I have to constantly remember that I’m proud of what I’ve already been able to do.

I felt like I needed to write about this, because I really struggle with this every day, even in the midst of creating something new and feeling happy about it. My mind is always my biggest battle. I never know if anyone knows what I’m talking about, because I realize that I’m a bit of an eccentric and, for the most part, a hippie and a daydreamer. But I’m sure there are other people who enjoy art the way I do. If there weren’t, art wouldn’t be as big of a part of human culture as it is. And this need for art goes back to the beginning of human existence. So if you’re out there and you’re just as much of a dreamer and a wanderer as I am, let’s be friends.

xo, Michelle

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New adventures.

So I’m beginning this blog to archive my life as an artist. I’m hoping that whoever finds this blog enjoys whatever I have to say or share, and that I can contribute something positive to the world. I’ve always journaled privately and been a social media queen, but this is a little different. I’ve never attempted to put the creative part of me into comprehensible words. I’m usually just a mess of thoughts and it takes a lot of focus to get my ideas into tangible form. But I’m a very hopeful person. Hopefully I can share something of value here. Bear with me as I find a flow and a blogging voice. I love to take photos and ponder and over-analyze and write, so this will be where that magic happens. I’d love to build a little network of people who enjoy what I have to say and what I create, and I’d love to love all you creative souls right back. Don’t be shy. I’m always here. And I promise to always just be me.

xo, Michelle

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