Here is a sneak peek at the front cover for my book Chocolate Rain, which will be published by Hawker Publishers this fall.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that it is an idea book for caregivers and families for activity design for dementia care. It contains chapters on how to develop activities suited to your particular situation as well as a fully illustrated 100 activities handbook.

The Pitch
I also give quite a bit of attention to developing your own creative capacities so that you can keep coming up with your own ideas on the spot. Most caregivers’ training develops the intellect which is obviously needed,  but dealing with dementia also asks for the ability to imagine, improvise, intuit, and play. These are all skills developed by anyone regularly engaged in creative processes, such as visual artists, inventors, writers, and innovators in any field.  I haven’t seen many books on creativity addressed specifically to caregivers, so this is a fairly new area.

I know from meeting many nurses and doctors through my experience as an artist in health facilities, that they are incredibly creative people who generally haven’t found an outlet for their creativity in their work. Or they feel attracted to the creative fields but don’t know how to start. Usually, doing the simplest craft project together, taking less than 5 miinutes, can open up a whole area of discovery for these individuals. My book contains at least 150 of these projects which are simultaneously activities for people with dementia, and artistically satisfying creative projects for caregivers, family or anyone interested.

The Process
I will remember this summer primarily as being spent in front of the computer or in my attic studio with the fan on, with quick forays out into the garden (but with my thoughts still in front of the computer).  It is a joy to be given the task of illustrating and designing the book myself.  But in the time given (it all goes to the printer at the end of September), it would be less nerve wracking to be working with a team.

As it is, I am the team, and that entails generating all the artwork and scanning it, reworking in Photoshop; checking the text and editing where necessary; doing the interior book design and cover; the typography throughout, preparing it all so it is printer-ready, checking what needs copyright permission and getting it, etc etc.

Coincidentally, I also have a life, so it is quite a juggling act. This week, I’ve written all the task areas out and for the first time prioritized, because I was getting lost in details.

Right now I am working on getting to a definitive page count as well as a consistent design for the chapter and section headings, which often involve illustrations.

Luckily for me, Rende is going to deal with a lot of the technical details which go beyond my Photoshop knowledge. He’s a real wizard with that.

Page of decorated tissue papers

I discovered this technique by accident. I came across some old deep turquoise colored tissue paper stored in the back of the attic. The roof had leaked and the tissue paper had been stained in a most beautiful way. The reason for this is that the dyes used in tissue paper are non-permanent and water-soluble.
I tried water staining some myself and one thing led to another. I use them primarily in collage, as wrapping papers and to give as gifts.

Here is the procedure:

various colours of tissue paper
water jar
comb or twigs etc.
designers colours (gouache)

I do this outside on a calm day, it spatters too much to do in my studio. 
Lay down plastic first. Have your other materials ready. Lay out full or half sheets of tissue paper on the plastic. From standing or kneeling position, spatter and drip water on the sheets. Puddles are fine. At this stage you can let them dry,apply designers colour or go on to dyeing paper with paper. I also use a comb with some missing teeth or twigs etc to draw patterns with the water on the paper.

Dyeing paper with paper
On the just spattered sheets of paper on the ground,lay over a dry sheet of a contrasting colour and let dry. When they are completely dry separate them and you will have splotches of purple paper, say on a blue background. And bits of the blue will have bled into the purple sheet as well.

Further treatment with designers colour
When the sheets are still wet, I mix up several little pots of designer colour, it should be quite fluid. I prefer working with metallics like silver gold and bronze, they sparkle on the finished papers. Spatter, paint or apply the colour any way you want. And let all dry.

CAUTION: when using designers colour, don’t sandwich papers on top of one another, because when the designers colour dries it will stick them together. You won’t be able to get the sheets apart without tearing them.

You may need to handle the sheets before they are completely dry, this is a delicate operation but possible if you are careful. It takes some practice.  Good luck.

Martha Marshall has a blog with more about treating papers for collage and other uses.

I just watched a great TED talk while I was doing the ironing this evening. I am a great fan of Marian Bantjes because of my calligraphic background.  She is one of the few real innovators when it comes to lettering.  Her work is labor intensive, dense and decorative. And extremely ‘in’ in quality graphic design, art, printed media, and web circles.

What makes someone an innovator? If I look at her, and Keri Smith for example, you have two young women who have given an entirely new spin to an aspect of art. They are both articulate, so can communicate what they are doing and why they are motivated to do it. But just as importantly, they both have followed their hearts. They are both curious and passionate about a wide range of subjects and they work across disciplines. I think another important factor that makes their work highly recognizable and individual is that they combine hand work with the newest technology. Both are young enough to be perfectly comfortable in the digital world, yet they have craft sensibility.
Both women have a large following, they are breaking new ground for others to follow and in turn make their own discoveries. I especially liked what Marian said at the end of her talk about why she does the work she does and why ‘truly imaginative visual work is important to the society’.

I highly recommend watching this talk, it is also richly illustrated with her graphics.