This is what I was working on when I became aware of Zoning

Entering the Creative Zone

I’d not thought much about it before. But now I can identify the main reason I like creating art and graphics. It’s the gift of being able to enter into “the Zone…”

Recently, I was working on the computer creating a representation of a strawberry plant. As I was manipulating the pixels, this is what was going through my mind: “leaf, leaf, leaf, leaf, curve, curve, up, up, smooth, deepen green, add more yellow, contrast, no, lighter, stem, smooth the arc…” When I worked on the blooms, as I blended colors and shapes, I also imagined smelling their fragrance. This is the moment I suddenly “woke up” from my reverie and became conscious that I was in the state of DOING, not thinking—I was totally engaged in the moment, becoming fully engrossed within my creative endeavor. That’s when I grasped just how much I give myself over to this trance-like process.

After much consideration, I think “Entering the Zone” is a form of active meditation, a means of exercising the intuition (as opposed to the intellect). Whatever it’s called, I believe any artistic thing created with intent retains the artist’s energetic signature and it seems to have a lasting effect. To me, this comprises a sacred act. To impart to one’s art the qualities of what is aesthetically pleasing is special. I’m becoming more aware of how noticeable this energetic residue is to others.

The only other person I know who talked openly about “the Zone” was the cousin of a friend, an Indiana University professor of some renowned in computer language. At the time, a couple of large Texas corporations were courting him to work for them and offered three times his teaching salary. When I asked him why he stayed, he said that whenever he teaches, when he speaks he goes to a place where the words easily pour out of him. He enjoys being on the threshold so much that he would not trade the feeling of being in the Zone for anything. He’d really miss out if he simply worked at a desk all day.

Becoming consciously aware of the value of creating while in the Zone also means taking responsibility for the energy I impart. With Kathleen’s book, I was “there,” in timeless time during the entire creative process–open to Spirit and able to indulge my intuitive nature. Nothing‘s left to chance. Symbolic content was also streaming in. Deciding to illustrate her book using appropriate symbols served to contribute another layer of meaning to Kathleen’s book.

Well, something must have clicked just right because of the book’s phenomenal success just within the first few weeks of being electronically published. Even though the Kindle version has been available for two years, the book has been blessed with unprecedented sales. Maybe it is simply Kathleen’s time to shine. In this case, I’m glad to have been a catalyst. But maybe, just maybe, the energetic is a powerful factor in its success.

But there is a downside of being in the Zone. And that is it can become physically detrimental over the long haul. For the sake of one’s vision, every twenty minutes you are supposed to look up and re-focus the eyes at something in the distance. But all too often, I’ll be submerged for hours. Once I “come up for air,” I have to make a point of standing up and walking around.

One miscellaneous comment: when I am in the creative Zone, the cat loves to sit on my lap. It’s as if he is riding the creative wave with me. Perhaps he might even be actively accommodating it.

Typography Class: Book Design Tips

If I was still teaching first year Indiana University graphics students (after declaring Graphics as their major at IU), I could use the following examples to demonstrate some basic graphic design typographical tweaks and tenets.

Each page of a book should be inviting to the reader. Every unit of text must relate to every other unit and be in harmony while maintaining its typographical distinction. It’s a balance. For instance, the 2-page spread I’m using as an example (created for Kathleen Wiley’s first book, “NEW LIFE: Symbolic Meditations on the Birth of Christ Within,”) perfectly illustrates this. Each chapter’s beginning page has six separate elements to juggle. I managed this by sculpting the white space.

New-Life-spread-loThe first five sections within each chapter have centered text. First, I bunched the three uppermost elements together at the top as a unit because they appear together on the Table of Contents page. As the purpose of the first three lines is informational, I used the easily readable Gill Sans font family: light for the Chapter number (a), bold face for the chapter title (b) and regular to note the scripture.

The next section (4) is Kathleen’s first voice–her insightful commentary about the meaning of a particular biblical passage. I set it using Garamond Italic type and centered it. Usually, centered text in italics is difficult to read. I used italics anyway because I wanted the reader to slow down. I balanced readability issues by increasing the font size and leading and carefully manipulating the collective shape of the text by making sure each line ended with a noun or a strong word. I carefully removed hyphenations and eliminated widowed text (one word at the end of the paragraph taking up an entire line.)

Section (5) is the scripture associated with each chapter. I significantly indented the text block on both sides, making the biblical passages similar in feel to how they usually appear in context. Because it was of the same serif type family as Kathleen’s commentary above, I just used Garamond’s regular text font. I also wanted it to be significantly different from the major text font.

In her major commentary section (6), Kathleen is in a more analytical mode. That’s why I changed the typeface back to the sans serif, Gill Sans, and split the text into a two column format. The tone is different, more intellectually removed from the subject, but contemplative. To set off each chapter head so as to give the eye a focus, I inset a decorative initial capital letter within the first paragraph of text. The major text continued in its two column format until Kathleen’s ideas were complete. To signify the end of the major text, I placed Kathleen’s iconic key lock.

The last section, chapter (7), is “Inner Reflections,” the chapters’ quiet Call to Action.

Although this final section may appear to be centered because of the title, the type is in fact justified left, ragged right. I used Gill Sans Light and indented it within a thin-bordered box to make it easily found for those who wish to quickly refer to the meditation.

Even with all these typographic rules in place, no two spreads appear alike. Each thought is a visual an expression unto itself, yet contributes to the harmony of the book as a whole

Two Publications, Side by Side

Two books designed by Darlene in 2015.

Two books designed by Darlene in 2015.

This week in the mail,  I separately received physical copies of both books I designed in 2015 for two different authors and the subjects could not be more different from each other.

The first book project, a behemoth 336-page hardcover, “Mythos Arcanum” (written by Joe Aragon, published by MAGI), was completed and signed off by me during the summer of 2015. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, I created the lion’s share of the illustrations. I am surprised at the amount of time it took for the actual printed product to appear. MAGI took the route of having a traditional print run.

I started my second book design, “NEW LIFE: Symbolic Meditations on the Birth of Christ Within” (written by Kathleen Wiley and published by Soulful Living, Inc.), immediately after the first book was put to bed. I spot-illustrated this 98-page soft cover with line art of different birds and signed off on Kathleen’s book last week. Then I prepared the book for publication through a digital vendor and it took only about a week to become available. That’s how I received physical copies of both books in the same week. The difference in the time factor astounds me.

When looking at each title, side by side, it is difficult to believe they have anything in common. Yet I designed both books to conform to the principles of the phi ratio. Now, the first edition of Kathleen’s book had already been publicly available for two years. But a good friend of ours (who had helped me proof read Mythos Arcanum) recommended to her friend Kathleen that she consider having her book redesigned by me, using the golden mean.

When I first contacted Kathleen, mid-August 2015, about a possible re-design, I wrote: “To most people, in and of itself, a page of words is just a page of words. Anyone, even those without an aesthetic sense, can create perfectly reasonable page presentations from templates. But there is no life, no sparkle or soul to an uninviting wall of words. When the eyes get tired, reading becomes a chore and comprehension suffers. To rest the eyes, the book gets put down, producing an unconscious psychological resistance. It’s harder for the reader to resume. Without a compelling incentive, the book may never get picked up again. And that is sad, for both reader and author.

“I’m telling you this because it’s something you may never have before considered. When done properly, the design aesthetically serves the text. The eye is pleased. The result is happy. Good presentation has power. That is what I offer…

“When I undertake a book project, as I read the text, I can “see” the page take shape in my mind’s eye. Is it channelling or divine inspiration? To use my gift responsibly, I must carefully choose which projects I am to undertake. When Patty first mentioned your book to me, I felt the “rightness” of working with you and thus feel led to work with you. The fact that you recognized the potential of the golden mean proportion also speaks volumes in your favor.”

My passion is to create a thing of beauty. Beauty speaks. Eloquently. With book design, my facility is to create a visual portal through which people may more easily access the depth of the ideas being expressed. It’s like opening a gateway to a different world. Resonance is achieved through the subtle balance of negative (white) space, text, and graphics using correct proportion and placement. It is my gift, my genius.

Its only been a couple of weeks since Kathleen’s second edition has been available and already it has generated some notable buzz. For instance, she showed up at a bookstore in her town and inquired if they were interested in selling the book of a local author. They were so she left some copies behind. Before the day was out (or at least a short time thereafter), the bookstore called and offered to promote her book and do an author signing. They are even willing  for Kathleen to do talks and give classes about her material through the bookstore on a monthly basis. I’d venture to say the book cover design worked in her favor.

It is a joy to see how Kathleen’s star is now rising. I am so pleased to have been an integral part of her success. Kathleen is now anxious for me to begin design work on a second title of hers and I’ve already started.
The publication of Joe Aragon’s book will be officially announced on December 5th, 2015. I trust that Mythos Arcanum will receive similar notoriety albeit from a different audience. Only time will tell. I’ve decided to submit this book to an RPG design competition. Because good design has mostly not been a large consideration within the Role Playing Game industry, I am more than curious to see how well aesthetics can be recognized and honored.

Title Illustration for Chapter Two suggesting a relationship between the platonic solids and gaming dice.

Introducing Sacred Geometry in a Gaming Context

Back in 1990, my late husband taught classes on the beauty of sacred geometry. He believed if one is to come into resonance with the universe, one must be able to accurately visualize the dance of Platonic solids and know how they fit and transform into and out of each other. Coming into congruence with sacred geometrical shapes and knowing how to visualize them at will is great knowledge sought after by those in the know.  In esoteric circles, the novice must appreciate the profound relationship between sacred geometry and the proper creation of a magic circle.

For my husband’s classes, I created all his hand-outs, including ton sacred geometry. For his publications, I created educational illustrations exemplifying the concepts of sacred geometry.

OphanicGeometry01

The above illustration is the first page from our chapter on sacred geometry [“The Ophanic Revelation” (c 2006)].

The classic five Platonic solids are 3-dimensional polygons that have a sequential relationship to one another (known as duals or congruency). Congruency occurs when one polygon–with its unique shape, size and facets–can be transformed into the next polygon simply by changing it’s placement by flipping or rotating them. The five Platonic solids are the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. Goethe once wrote, “geometry is frozen music.” What an beautiful way to describe the elegance of these patterns.

Because of my familiarity with sacred geometry, I was fascinated to encounter a client, from the unusual venue of gaming, who was conversant with the Platonic solids. In his text, he addressed the five Platonic solids and supplied an illustration of the same. I wondered to what degree he was acquainted with the forms. In my role as his book’s designer, I expanded on his seed idea. Instead of all the solids appearing at once in a single chapter head, I assigned one geometric solid to each chapter in the book. As there are only five solids, I had to add an additional polygon for chapter six and chose a star-tetrahedron. To pique the interest of the inquisitive, I added a small splice of text revealing the symbolic meaning represented by each Platonic solid.

Continue reading

The medieval layout template created for Mythos Arcanum is phi-inspired.

Just Finished Designing a Book based on the Golden Mean

How delighted I was to discover a client who genuinely wanted to base the layout of his book, Mythos Arcanum, using the proportions of Phi. Most people are not acquainted with the power of Phi and why it is important. Throughout history Phi has been identified as the golden section, golden mean, golden number, golden ratio, golden cut, and the divine proportion. According to science, Phi represents a canon of Beauty.
What’s so special about Phi? The divine proportion is fractal and arises from the division of a straight line into two segments so that the ratio of the whole Continue reading

Surfing the Apocalypse

Escaping Reality

Escaping Reality

As regards the collective conscious, it’s best to meditate on how and in what direction the major sweeps are moving and notice what appears within its eddies. When adopting the long view of time, it becomes easier not to get as caught up within the drama of the different energy swirls. Once there, it takes more effort to escape the toroidal motion of the force. We are all navigating the time swirls. If we are not mindful of where we are going, we are apt to slip and fall inside a downwardly-moving conical spiral.

The key to knowing how not to fall victim to circumstances beyond one’s control is to become self aware. I’m not merely talking about being mindful of current events, although that’s helpful too. It’s as simple as to become aware of the symbols which suddenly turn up in ones life, especially Pay special attention to synchronicity. When I encounter moments of synchronicity happening around me, I first take it as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction. For content, I read the symbol. If I heed the action required to enact the meaning of the symbol, I can avoid, mitigate or enhance the probable outcome.

This is a part of my spiritual knowing. If I read the symbols coming into my life correctly, I am being lead to revisit my early days as the first female artist working in the genre of role-playing games (RPGs). I have been doing this mildly in the last few years but stepped it up since the death of my husband last year.  I have been trying to fathom why it is important to connect with gaming and have finally come to an understanding.  Continue reading

New Responsibilites

May 20, 2015

It’s too early to determine the sex of the just rescued black kitten. I’m calling him/her Ebony who appears to be only three weeks old. Ebony’s fuzzy long kitten hairs are stunning as the tips of the hairs seem to be tinged with silver. I don’t know if that is only a property of a newly born kitten’s coat or if it will remain this way. The kitten’images eyes are a blue color. I think they just opened. I tried unsuccessfully to photograph the hapless little one with my iPhone. The result was always blurred. I came across this  pic that greatly resembles Ebony, sans hat.

 

There are a few amazing things about this tiny, little fella. First, it’s the loudest darn kitten I’ve ever heard. Wow, does it have a set of lungs! But the crying saved its life. The plaintive sounds coming from a certain spot inside a long vertical, metal gutter were loud enough to get the attention of the maintenance man at work. The night before, it had rained so it’s likely a torrent of water washed him into his predicament. How long was this poor, nearly drowned little kitten trapped inside his metal prison before its cries were heard? To top it off, the sun was hot enough to greatly increase the temperature inside the metal gutter. The traumatized little one surely possesses a great will to live.

Another amazing thing is this kitten’s ultra-sharp, micro-needle claws. They are the sharpest I’ve ever encountered. Although translucent, the prickling little claws are capable of some surprising damage.

May 21, 2015

I have never before had to feed and care for an orphaned kitten as its primary provider. I found using an eye-dropper for feeding to be minimally effective and that using a little bottle created for this purpose to be much better. Every three hours, sometimes more, I have to prepare a formula, heat it for 4 seconds in the microwave, place it in the bottle and get it in the right position inside the mouth. It’s an exhausting commitment.

My other cats are not sure they like what they see. I’ve had to reassure them they are still loved and cherished. Nothing’s changed. It’s only a mild inconvenience. From the first moment it came into the house, the little one loudly announced its presence. I knew it was crying for a mama who would never come. My two older cats regard the little black kitten as a hairy little monster who is being disruptive. They can barely tolerate the change in the status quo.

I’m reassuring my beautifully proportioned Tuti, young hyper-active Russian Blue fireball (who, age-wise, would translate into being a super confidant teenage girl) that before her is an entertaining toy that’s just not quite ready. “You are bored with your old toys,” I tell Tuti, “and you need something more challenging than just bugs and lizards. It will be Ok, just wait and see.” So far, she’s not buying it.

I’m not sure how my big ole boy, Lennie, a neutered male ginger (who would translate as approaching grandpa), is reacting. He did not like the din of the kitten’s cry. Lennie’s been attentive. He’s usually been in the same room as me, watching as I feed it. The kitten no longer cries for his mama in the same way it did before. I suppose that means I’ve been accepted as the mama. Lennie is more tolerant now that the awful sounds have subsided but he remains distant and unapproachable. I wonder if Ebony could stir the memory of Fred, Lennie’s old buddy and pal. Before Fred’s unexpected demise, he and Lennie were inseparable.

May 22, 2015

I noticed Ebony attempt to scratch behind his ear with his hind foot. He fell over. Ebony’s still learning coordination. This kitten is willful and strong. Though its cries were loud at the beginning, his little purr is soft, precious and delicate.

May 23, 2015

I think Ebony is a male. Today he’s learning depth perception. I watched him stare at something. With eyes fixed upon it, he’d move his head back and forth, up and down, then reach out to see if he could touch it. I also noticed him focusing his gaze upon his front paws while he purposefully moved them in front of his face. Is he trying to judge spacial relationships? Fascinating.

 

Darlene's lettering

Darlene answers a Question involving Letters

Question from Martin: Wanted to contact you concerning the lettering in the original TSR Deities and Demigods, particularly the Melnibonean lettering. I want to create a font based on the style. Any information would be appreciated.

Dear Martin,

Ah yes, I remember that one!  It would certainly be a challenge to recreate as a type font.

Like some Greek and Celtic characters, the “o” is based on a diamond shape. The alphabet’s main feature are its huge triangular serifs that taper down to a point. I based the idea partly on the cuneiform writing of Mesopotamian clay tablets. There was also an Anglo-Saxon manuscript I saw once at the British Museum which had memorable tapered finials. Those scripts were my inspiration. I seem to remember I did an entire page using a script like that. I believe it was in “White Plume Mountain,” one of my first commissions for TSR back in the late 70’s.

Hope this helps. I would be interested in seeing your results.

D

 

Sister Diana and Brother Bert with me at GaryCon at the end of March, 2015

Appreciating GaryCon VII

My Reflections upon GaryCon VII were written on March 30, 2015 and posted in Facebook. I repost my words here, to remember:

“Even though Wisconsin was as cold as I remember, GaryCon VII was warm and inviting. Welcoming all who arrived stood a life-sized Sheldon wearing a GaryCon VII t-shirt. I intended, but forgot, to have my photo taken with him.

“My beret’s off to Luke, Ernie and Dale for their excellent organization of this grand event. You all do Gary proud and I am very pleased to have been a minute part of it. From what I could tell, a grand time was had by all. I’d like to call out some people (in no particular order):
“To Luke, thanks for your kind generosity with my host regarding accommodations;
to my hosts Carlos and Amanda Roo, everyone owes you a debt of gratitude as I would not have been able to attend without your gift of an air ticket and I’m doubly glad you did so well in your tournament;
To Cindy, your daughter is beautiful and talented–she must take after you,
to Lloyd and Zach, I’m glad you were my neighbor and I appreciate you lending me your art materials and I admire your fearlessness;
to Jeff, so sorry not to have connected more with you than just that short moment by the stairs… Vlee Vlee;
to Mike, thanks for bringing me up to date and for the lasagne at The Pub;
to Jim, you are looking well and so I’m glad you are on the mend;
to Tim, thanks for the pizza, the drive to Delavan to reminisce and recharge and for always being encouraging;
to Frank, thanks for your gracious self, your precious smile and for the personal tour;
to Stefan, you are one amazing, talented and entertaining dude and I’m so glad you liked the commission once you saw the art printed out–as we now know, it’s often deceptive if one only views art electronically–and good luck with the video, you deserve it;
to Lawrence, I got to sign several White Plume Mountain modules which I haven’t seen in an age and I do believe the calligraphy was my very first published TSR commission;
to Diesel, I’m glad to be getting to know you and your wife Lisa better and look forward to being with you again in Texas,
to Barbara, so great to meet you in the flesh… I consider this to be the start of a beautiful friendship;
to Steve, although you’re an old goat, I will probably be doing more maps for you;)
to Skip, you are looking good and I’m sorry you had to leave so soon but your excuse was totally understandable so thank you for compassionately caring for the poor feline critters who brave their way to your doorstep;
to Penny, thanks for grabbing my attention–it’s great to finally meet you in person and ditto about the cats
to Dan, you are quite the bard and I’m sorry we did not get a better opportunity than to meet in passing as you were performing and I was leaving… maybe we’ll meet, anon;
to Dave, you are still an incredible listener, a caring friend with a gentle soul–bless you;
to Harold, I never knew you with a mustache but I’m happy you are involved with the Breadloaf Bookshop, one of my favorite haunts as I used to man the shop from time to time so I’d be happy to help you out graphically should you ever need it,
to Heidi, congrats on your first DM session and I love to read your Facebook posts;
to Steve and Kiff, it was great reconnecting with you two and I appreciate the cc tip;
to Elise, you’re still looking great and I’m sorry we didn’t get a better chance to talk;
to Scott, thanks for the soup and for the conversation on Saturday night;

to my my sisters Dawn and Diana and my brother Bert for stopping by to say “Hi.”
and finally, to my loyal fans for their interest and anyone else I may have neglected to list, thanks for all kindnesses… ”

Btw–I was given the title, “Our Lady of Gaming” seven years ago at the last Gaming Convention I attended in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin when Gary was still alive. It is with pride that I adopted the same designation at GaryCon.

Our Lady of Gaming