Harvest Fruit Digital Scrapbook mini-kit preview

Using What You’ve Got

64 Arts, Everyday Adventures

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been working on digital scrapbook pages again. That’s still true, and–based on my experience as a part of the Gauche Alchemy team (which I will be continuing for the foreseeable future, I love working with them!)–have been wanting to find a spot on a digital design/creative team. This means I’ve been submitting applications and had to put up a gallery of my pages so the team leaders could take a look at my work.

That last part had proved the biggest pain  in my ass. I’ve tried numerous plugins only to have one not allow multiple galleries on a single page, another that I tried had a nasty habit of hijacking ANY images I uploaded to this blog the next time I’d go to upload a layout (so if you ever came here and saw a lot of broken image links over the last month, that was why), meaning I had to re-upload and remap each and every picture in the affected posts. And y’all know how many pictures some of my posts use. So I kept looking for a better plugin. A better addition to this blog.

Turns out, WordPress has a native gallery feature that does pretty much what I need without bloating the install with any more plugins. I just didn’t know it.

Sure, I had to do some minor code tweaks to get everything the way I wanted it, but I’ve become good at reverse engineering WP themes, so it wasn’t the end of the world. And I still have to re-upload, tag, and credit a couple dozen layouts before it’s all said and done, but that’s minor.

In the end, I will have just the gallery that I want without having someone else’s programming to deal with, update, or rely on.

Now, what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Or our day-to-day creative spirit?

How many times have you put off that fun idea because you didn’t have just the right type of paper/fabric/bead? How much money have you spent on specialty tools when the basic ones, with a little ingenuity would have done fine? How many times do we get hung up on the what and forget the why?

If you’re anything like me–and I’ll bet we have a lot in common–you’re nodding your head to those questions. You’ve been there. We all have.

Living creatively isn’t just about following a set of directions to make the same crafts and tchotchkes that everyone else has. It’s about taking an idea and running with it in our own direction. Sure, sometimes you want to do exactly what they did, because you like their end result, but we always put our own mark on our projects because we’re human beings, not crafting robots.

So have some fun with it–whether that IT is a craft project, a meal, or just getting from point A to point B.

And don’t get hung up on the details.

(Except when the details are important, of course. Things like your safety, meeting obligations, and stuff like that are details totally worth getting hung up on!)

Now, if any of you have been curious about digital scrapbooking and wanting to try your hands at it, I’ve put together a little mini-kit perfect for October that I’m going to share with you: for free!

Harvest Fruit Digital Scrapbook mini-kit preview

I actually started this kit a few years ago, and I used it to make the invitations for that year’s BYOP party (which was the year of the Halloween brunch, hence the fruit images), but never got around to finishing it or sharing it. Now that it’s done, it’ll be available for download until October 31st or 500 downloads, whichever comes first. (And if, by some strange luck, we hit those 500 downloads really early in the month, I’ll put up a secondary link.)

The mini-kit includes 6 papers, 4 fruit images, 2 tags, a piece of organza-style ribbon, and a twine bow. All images are 300 dpi, the papers are jpeg files and the embellishments are png files with transparent backgrounds. Drop-shadows are on the previews, only. Enjoy!

[button link=”https://www.yousendit.com/directDownload?phi_action=app/directDownload&fl=SWhZekZqY1NvQnMxZW9LSFJsRHVnVE9yZWt5UmdteDRsUjJuWENHRzVZbz0&experience=bas” color=”#b00″ size=”3″ style=”3″ dark=”1″ square=”1″ ] Download [/button]

Sight Reading Your Life

64 Arts

A lot of the music we play, we tend to hear it first. We know how it sounds. We know what we’re shooting for when we got to actually play the piece before us in black and white dots sprinkled along the page.

And then there are the other times.

In auditions. evaluations, competitions, etc., there’d usually be a section on sight-reading. This bear of a task involves basically sitting down cold to a piece of unfamiliar music and playing it straight off. No clue how it’s supposed to sound.

Basically, we’re challenged to fake it. Not only fake it, but fake it well.

There are several reasons for this exercise, at least as far as I can tell and being somewhat removed from the situation these many years:

  1. Sight reading weeds out those who play primarily by ear, those who just follow along, and those whose sheet music skills are a bit lacking. There is, after all, faking it until you make it and out-and-out fraud.
  2. Sight reading shows observational skills: did you see that crescendo in the 12th measure? What about the key change or the coda? Missed that repeat in the second section? When we don’t pay attention to the signs on the road we could find ourselves out of sync or, worse, in an accident. [Talk about dissonance!]
  3. Sight reading shows how we react under pressure. It’s stressful facing the unknown head-on, especially if we’re being graded on it in some way! Calmer minds usually prevail and are less likely to miss those very important musical cues.

The different between a sight-read performance and a practiced one is as obvious as the actor whose still learning his lines, his character, and stumbles over large words and mannerisms that should be second nature if his portrayal is to be believed. There’s a huge quality difference, just like playing notes robotically is miles away from playing them with confidence, inflection and a feel for the piece as a whole instead of one breath after the other.

Of course, both musicians and actors are given at least a moment to go over their pages before diving in. This was especially useful in band competitions when it wasn’t a single piece of music but a composition of many instruments, melodies, harmonies, counterpoints and rhythms that had to be puzzled out in 5 minutes or less. We’d practice even this, on new pieces in the band room, learning techniques to be used later.

  1. Start at the beginning. What’s the key signature? How fast, slow, loud or soft do we start? Does everyone play on the first note or is there one clear leader that we all can then follow when it’s our turn.
  2. Look down the road a bit for changes to the way things began. Notes can change mid-song and usually have a good reason for doing so, to add depth or clarity to a piece or just make things interesting. But missing that change can leave you feeling lost.
  3. Scan the pages for large sections of notes. The more black ink on the page, the harder you’re going to have to work to keep those individual notes straight when you play them. Spend what time you have preparing for the tough stuff, knowing that the basics you’ve already got down.

Sure, in life we’re sometimes handed a situation with nary a moment to think before we must act. But those, I think, are pretty few and far between. It may not always feel like it, but we all have the capability to say to those in front of us “wait, let me look at this a minute” before we act or react. Knowing where the question or problem started is helpful in gauging the original intention or tone. If things changed: when and why? And being able to examine our options and think them forward a bit to try and anticipate any snarls to come prepares us for the moments that true split-second decisions are required.

And they keep trying to take music out of schools…