About 2021

In 2021 it seemed that covid and more covid once again ruled the air waves and our minds. It was a year of loss for many. Loss of loved ones and loss of health, loss of social contacts and for many of us a loss of trust. I can only hope that things will get better soon for everyone who is struggling with loss of any kind.

For some making art has been an escape, for others like me it became more difficult. I feel privileged because I had a choice of creative paths to help me get through these difficult times.

I took up the classical guitar to keep my mind off of unpleasant realities and have found that I really love this journey.

As far as writing goes, I made the mistake of starting a dystopian novel before the pandemic began. Since it felt too much like dystopia became my reality, that writing project shut my writing right down. Someday soon I’ll begin writing again, more likely than not with something different in the realm of fiction. Something satirical, something hopeful. Maybe even something with a happy ending.

My camera and digital tools have kept me involved in creating visual art. Since my walls and print drawers are getting crowded, I plan to create more digital art than paintings or drawings in the future.

The following images are a sample of the  digital art that I shared on Twitter this past December as I joined artists from around the world who shared their art using the hashtag #ArtAdventCalendar.

The AI algorithms and me


photograph by E.M.Schumacher – a scene from the Blindman River in Alberta

‘It was a dark and dreary day, but I didn’t let it stay that way’. That should be my caption for the photo above. I am always drawn to this view but the day and the time of year does not show that. So the image below is what I changed it into;

Digital Art, E.M. Schumacher, 2021

And here it is, with its very strong relationship to abstract painting that I created years ago.

It would have taken me hours and hours to decide which aspect of my ‘style’ to apply to the brightly coloured landscape above, but in mere minutes the Al algorithms of Google’s Deep Dream Generator applied the style of my painting to the photograph to create my digital image.

This app can be used by anyone to create digital art. A background in art is not needed and there is free version available.

For myself, knowing that I can apply the style of an art work that I created myself to my own photographs or my own digital images to create something new where the style remains my own is an amazing outcome. Since I use only my own work I retain the copyright on the resulting imagery.

Anyone who uses images where they do not retain the copyright, even just to style other images, would not retain the copyright on the final digital image that is produced by the Deep Dream Generator.

The deep dream generator also offers monthly paid subscription plans that allow for the generation of a higher number of images as well as higher image resolution, up to 5 mega pixels.

As a visual artist I see this as a tool that will let me experiment while also saving myself some time. After years spent printmaking, drawing and painting, I have many ‘styles’ of my own to work with. But letting an AI algorithm do the work for me has me wondering if this might end up feeling like a lazy way out. That and just how much digital art does the world need right now?

My camera and the birds

A cedar waxwing enjoying the choke cherries.

This year has been one for the record books what with a pandemic that comes complete with masks, social distancing and far too many unknowns.

So like many others I have started to dabble in bird watching, taking along my trusted camera of course. You would think with so many birds around the house it would be easy. But no, as soon as the camera comes out they fly up and away before disappearing into the the tree tops, if they even stay that close.

But like everyone else I need to unglue myself from the screen and get outdoors. I am fortunate to live in the country. If only the birds would cooperate!

We don’t have bird feeders in our yard because our place came complete with a feral cat colony and I feed the cats well enough already. I’m not about to make it any easier for them to decimate the bird population.

I couldn’t help but notice that it is so much easier to get a good bird picture at the neighbours though. The ones who do have bird feeders out. It feels a little like cheating but there is more variety at the feeders. And it does make me appreciate the good shots that I get at home more.

Now that most of our birds have migrated south I expect to be taking lots of pictures of chickadees this winter, if only they will stay still long enough. Happy bird watching everyone.

Inspiration comes from doing. . .

I didn’t sleep well last night and that left me feeling very unfocused today. I had a hard time doing much of anything, let alone writing or making art . So how to solve that one?

When I tell someone that I’m an artist, or a writer ( depending on the day because I do both) they often reply with some version of ‘you can’t be expected to work if you’re not feeling inspired’ and then I have to hold back.

Anyone who wants to get anywhere as a creative – artist, writer, musician , designer or what have you has to throw that one out the window. Do it early and do it fast. In order to achieve anything in your creative field of choice let that one go. Into the trash. Shut the lid and leave it behind forever.

Then do something. It might involve a creative task or a short walk or spending an hour catching up on tasks you would prefer to avoid. Whatever works. Everyone is different. For me, I enjoy making digital art. It can be quick and fun. I didn’t need to buy expensive software because there are plenty of good free open source programs out there for which, I will say it again, I am eternally grateful.

Today I used Gimp, a free and open source image editor to change a photograph of an abstract mixed media painting that I created some years ago. I had fun doing it and ended up with three very different images from what I started with. It got the creative juices going. So back to work now. And tonight an early bedtime.

‘Green Ribbons over stones’ digital art by E.M.Schumacher
“Green burst over Stones” digital image by E.M.Schumacher
“Blue Pixels over Stones” digital image by E.M.Schumacher
“Water over Stones” mixed media on paper abstract by E.M.Schumacher.
(The image that started it all!)

Self Publishing again!

The first novel that I self published ‘Secrets, Lies & Rodeo’ is once again available on Amazon in print form, as well as in ebook format.

Here’s the new book description I wrote for it;

Living near a sleepy satellite town allows for country living, horsing around and getting to know the locals. But what you see on the surface isn’t always what you get. It is easy to meet people, but it takes time to get to know them. One woman leads the reader through her own inevitable struggles and those of her misfit colt Rodeo, while she shares stories about her neighbors and friends and occasionally spills a secret or two. But there is one secret that she has promised never to reveal. When heartbreak and tragedy strike, that last deeply hidden secret finally comes to light. Then too, so do all the lies that nearly destroy the family closest to her heart, along with the life of the only woman who might be able to hold them together.

Self publishing requires yet more skills and sometimes I think, even more effort than it took to get the words on the page in the first place.

I’ll be getting myself out there this summer to promote and sell my novel after my book order arrives. I’m also hoping to arrange readings and author’s talks for writer’s groups and local libraries. There are farmer’s markets and craft sales to check out too. My sales skills are about to be severely tested!

Anyone who wants to self publish can find a whole array of services to help get the job done, but like everything else it is buyer beware, and the costs do vary widely. Anyone seriously considering self publishing should check out the information on writer’s forums and of course in the forums on the print on demand or POD service of choice.

It is important to be honest about one’s own skills before deciding what to pay for and what to do on your own. I decided to keep most of my budget for promoting and selling my novel. So I’ve been doing things like cover design and formatting myself. Help from family and friends got me through the editing work and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Working through the formatting has been the hardest part of the job for me. But what I’ve learned there is to work with a simple text document to start with and to stick with it until the writing and editing is finished. After that I’m pretty sure it will be easier to apply formatting than to try to change the formatting afterwards.

I’m still working on my YA science fiction novel and doing my best to keep my writing time free of distractions. It’s a very nice feeling though, to have one book behind me and to know that I did the best job I could possibly do.

Writing, painting and fabric, oh no!

Outside it’s spring and beautiful. Inside it’s me again, thinking that I’ve finally cut down on the impossible number of creative projects I tend to plan for. Not!

So here it is. I am well into my new novel which is dystopian science fiction aimed at the young adult market. Myself and every second writer in the world are, at the moment, all creating dystopian fiction it seems.

This time I will do it the right way according to all you marketing gurus out there and produce a series of three related novels. The story lines are already all tumbling around in my brain. Because I don’t work very well from detailed outlines, there are mornings when my head clearly wants to explode. Shutting down is hard.

I am trying to get in at least two hours a day writing, which hopefully turns into two or more finished pages. Also like a more or less normal person I plan to take weekends off. Summer is coming, after winter is coming and Game of Thrones finally ends.

I have a pretty firm deadline in mind for one of three, but I refuse to do the math. Too scary. I plan to book myself into a cheap hotel room somewhere for a writing marathon if I’m not close by the end of September.

Marketing my paintings and prints has not gone as well as I’d hoped at trade shows like the Edmonton Expo and I’m sorry to say that I won’t be back. Except to go and enjoy the event myself of course.

Since I’ve set firm goals for my writing I’m not even going to pretend that I can do the same for my painting and art work. I still paint at the Rimbey Art Club and will still show locally. Only now I’m only working on what really moves me. And giving each piece all the time it needs. More on that in a future post.

Oh, and just in case I find some spare time, I’ve started a quilt. Something to do when I need to get out of my chair and move around during those longer writing sessions. So I have cut down. Sort of. Wish me luck.

I am at the very beginning with this quilt; the blocks are up on the wall in the studio and I am just starting to sew them together. There is so much more to come. Borders, batting, and backing need to be added. Then I’ll do the quilting and binding, and finally I might add applique and maybe some thread painting.

October and choices

It’s October and once again I don’t know where the first half of the month went.  Projects are firming up in my mind and as always there are too many of them. 

I’ve always been an ‘idea’ person.  No problem at all thinking of things to do.  The big problem for me has always been narrowing it down to what I am actually capable of getting done.  The reality is that I am only one person and that there are only so many productive hours available to me on any given day.

Social media can be a boon and a curse at the same time. As a rural artist it gives me a way to share my work and connect in a way that I couldn’t otherwise.  But it also has these big hungry jaws that gobble up my time if I’m not careful.

Choosing from all the creative things I’d like to be doing won’t be easy, but I’m starting with ink drawings.  I love to draw and don’t do enough of it. 

I’m going back to using the desktop app from Toggle to track my time and likely cringing whenever I look at how much time I’ve really spent on social media compared to how much time I’ve been working on my projects.

I started sharing early ink drawings and mixed media on Twitter today using the #inktober2018 hashtag. I’ve missed the first half of October but tomorrow and for the rest of the month, I will be doing my best to post a new drawing a day.

This ink and watercolor drawing is called ‘Water over Stones’  and led to a whole series of abstract mixed media work on paper. 

Printing for the Edmonton Comic Expo

We have run out of summer weather here in Alberta.  I’m sad that it’s ending, but I have been so busy that this means that I might actually have something called spare time again!

Well I will,  after the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo which is held at the Edmonton Expo Centre from the 21st to the 23rd of September . This will be my second year at my table in Artist’s Alley there.  And the first year that I’ll be bringing prints of my work.

Yesterday was spent running off prints on my new Epson XP-960 after weeks of sourcing paper, ink and other supplies so that I could proof various versions of my images.  That’s why the view of my studio wall has been constantly changing.

I’ve been going through far more paper and ink than I ever thought possible trying out variations based on my paintings and drawings.

Now that I have it all together, there’s packing and organizing to do.  If I have time maybe I can even get one or two new images done to add to my print book.

I love the crowds, the cosplay and the energy. And I can’t wait to get there, but there’s never enough time to do everything I want to get done.  That’s another reason that I’ll be happy to be there, finally nothing to do but visit with people and enjoy my time at the Expo!