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BookSmithStudio.com | Nikki Smith Book & Visual Artist

Handmade books and various art explorations

Archive for the ‘Musings and Articles’ Category

Serendipity, my good friend…

October 27th, 2012 by Nikki Smith

Never under-estimate the magic of Serendipity…

Music In My Soul, copyright Nikki Smith of BookSmithStudio.com; All Rights Reserved.Music in My Soul, © 2012 by Nikki Smith; All Rights Reserved. Fine Art Prints Available.
Thinking back, I recall a party that I almost didn’t attend back in 1997 because I was feeling rotten.  I went anyway, to please an ex-boyfriend.  If I hadn’t gone to that party, I wouldn’t have had a conversation with a young woman entrepreneur I met.  She wouldn’t have planted an idea in my head during that conversation we didn’t have.  Without that idea in my head, I would have dismissed a brief conversation with a door-to-door salesman the next week, and likely ordered a pizza rather than inviting him in to talk.  I wouldn’t have gone into a doomed Internet business venture with him and dropped out of college.  Somewhere along that doomed venture, we wouldn’t have had a particular casual conversation, and I wouldn’t therefore have decided to take a hang-gliding lesson on a lark as a birthday treat.  I wouldn’t have met a different fellow also taking a first hang-gliding lesson as a treat from his wife.  That fellow I didn’t meet (who happened to like supporting small, women-owned businesses over big mega firms) wouldn’t have hired my fledgling little web development business for a long-term project.  A talented graphic designer, who worked at another small company also retained by that fellow I didn’t meet, wouldn’t have heard about me, and wouldn’t have recommended me to her brother who happened to need help that my little company could provide.

Of course, I turned down the business.  Fortunately, he tried to hire me again six months later when my work load wasn’t so heavy and this time I said yes.

That man?  He’s the father of my children and the reason I’ve taken so many leaps into the unknown; the reason I decided to give my artistic inclinations room to grow.  If I had stayed home from that lousy party years ago my life would have taken so many different turns that I’d probably be a corporate wage-slave somewhere rather than a successful entrepreneur, a mother and an artist.

Thank-you, Serendipity, for weaving your music into the story of my life…

Artwork: “Music In My Soul” by Nikki Smith
Copyright 2012 Nikki Smith of BookSmithStudio.com; All Rights Reserved.
A kind thank-you to the lovely model Johanna Taiger, and her photographer.
Fine Art Prints available on Metal, Acrylic, Canvas and Specialty Papers in sizes up to 45″ x 60″

On Art, Luck, Failure and Growth

December 9th, 2011 by Nikki Smith

I believe we can make (or at least influence) our own luck.  We learn, we observe, we inquire, we act, we fail, we re-examine, we apply what we’ve learned, we try again, we learn something new in the attempt, we share our successes, failures, strategies and insights.  We grow.

Or we don’t try, we don’t fail, we don’t learn, we don’t succeed and we don’t grow.

Personally, I’m for trying.  I love making art.  It is a need and a passion that I ignored for too many years.  My life has been enriched and my spirits raised by making room for making art.  It may not be practical, it may not pay the bills, but it dramatically improves the quality of my life — I have more moments of wonder, I smile more, I am more “whole” as a person.

And if my artwork resonates with someone else, if I can make that connection, then – wow.  I’ve moved them and it moves me.  What a high.

Everyday Art (Just for fun)

July 7th, 2011 by Nikki Smith

While I don’t always get a chance to get into my studio and devote the time I’d love to my “real” artwork, I can usually find something creative to keep my hands busy in the in-between moments of life.  Origami money - graduation gifts Birthdays, graduations, my kids, nieces and nephew are all great excuses

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to have fun with everyday art…

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Now go do something silly – I dare you!

New Year’s Creative Resolutions 2011

December 27th, 2010 by Nikki Smith

With a full-time business, a toddler and a new baby due any day, it can be hard to envision finding any time for myself and my creative life.  No excuses!  Where there is a will, there is a way.  I WILL make art!  I will submit my art to at least two magazines/challenges this year (beginning today).  I will carve out some art/creative time every two weeks, minimum.  I will post some new art on my blog at least once a month.  I will be more organized and efficient in my business so that my creative goals are achievable time-wise.  And I will be present in the moment – enjoying my art, enjoying my children and my family, enjoying my life – not just worrying about the next thing on my to-do list.

Time, action, and next direction: I made a goals journal last year – this year I will USE it.  Once a month (be specific – the first Sunday of each month) I will review past goals and write down new ones so that I can keep my goals in focus.  My husband and I will do this together so we can keep each other honest, accountable and motivated (it helps to have a partner!)  I will set some short-term goals that I can achieve each month and some long-term, big-dream goals which I will then break down into practical steps and actually tackle.  This will help me convert my dreams into realities.

I will DO.  I will ACT.  I will CREATE.

Creative Work, Creative Play, Creative Learning

August 1st, 2010 by Nikki Smith

This weekend I was inspired by my 2yr old daughter to create a photo concentration/memory game to help build her vocabulary. There are some nice games for kids that we’ve found, however they weren’t quite what I was looking for.  Building our own game allows us to continually expand her vocabulary by adding new photos and themes, and eventually increasing it from the simple 16 cards to a more challenging number as her skill and confidence grows.

I started out by actually making my own “real-world” concentration cards with photos for her.  That was fun, but they also get lost, bent, and bitten.  They need to be backed by matboard or some other heavy paper to minimize the damage a 2yr old can inflict.  Plus it’s not as easy to add more photos.

So, it was back to my “day job” creative skills – crafting a digital game instead of a physical one this time.  I do enjoy this type of creative work; it’s a nice break from building eCommerce stores and great that I can apply this skill set to improving the life of my child, too!

I’ll share two resources here, in case you are interested in doing this for yourself.

  • Basic Javascript Concentration Game.  First, About.com has a simple open-source javascript Memory game with 30 tiny cards where you provide your own photos.  I used this code as a base (to not “re-invent the wheel” for the basics) and customized it extensively so that it met my criteria and was more friendly for a toddler.  (I incorporated larger photos, a smaller number of cards [16 instead of 30], a flexible and expandable library of images chosen randomly rather than a fixed number of images, longer delay before images disappear on failed matches, ability to select a photo theme for each game, and the sound of kids applauding when she wins.) However, the above game is free and a great place to start for someone who has very basic html skills (i.e. cut-and-paste into head and body) and can create/resize their own images.
  • Photo Search Engine: COMPFIGHT.   I just discovered this site and I love it!  It allows you to search for Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr – just choose “Creative Commons ONLY” at the top.  What a great source for inspiring images that you can use guilt-free!  Most images just require attribution to the photographer if you are sharing it.  (Check the license on each photo and respect the copyright of other creative folks like yourself, please!)

So now for my creative play step – building the photo theme libraries of images.  What words would I like her to learn?  What would she enjoy?  What words that she already knows should be reinforced with more visual images to represent their variety?  I have started on the following themes, adding images both from the web (see above link) as well as my own photography:

People Theme.
people theme: jumpThis includes:

  • Head-shots of relatives (especially those who live far away) and playmates
  • Professions such as doctor, dancer and fireman
  • Facial expressions and feelings such as happy, sad and silly
  • Actions – people jumping, etc.
  • Other ideas for this category are body parts, ages, gender, etc.

Places Theme.
Places theme: cabinThis includes:

  • Types of buildings and structures: yellow house, tent, etc…
  • Nature scenery like waterfalls, forest, mountains, the beach, fields…
  • Destinations like home, school, the park, etc.
  • Cities, planet earth, landmarks, a map, etc.

Animals Theme.
Animals theme: squirrelThis includes:

  • Pets
  • Farm animals
  • Zoo animals
  • Baby animals
  • Unusual / less common animals (i.e. those that aren’t in her picture books)
  • More examples of animals she knows — the variety of colors, shapes and sizes of dogs, for example.

Numbers Theme.
Number theme: 2We’re trying to teach our toddler that “20” is “twenty” and not just “two, zero”.

This includes:



Misc things theme: robotMisc Things Theme.
This includes:

  • Anything that doesn’t fit somewhere else!
  • Random electronics like cash registers, calculators, cameras, computers, etc.
  • Robots, thermometer, teapot, fire, hammers, etc.

Other Theme Ideas:

  • Transportation Theme
  • Food Theme
  • Nature Theme
  • Characters Theme – just for fun: all of your child’s favorite cartoon or storybook characters.

Plans for the Future:

As she ages, I intend to make more complicated versions of this game to build additional skills like reading and reasoning.  For example, instead of matching two identical images she would need to match the photo and the word or first letter of the word (i.e. a picture of a house with the text “house” or the letter “h”), or match opposites (night/day, happy/sad), or two photos in the same category (i.e. two different images of horses, two different cats, etc.)  The possibilities are endless!

Creative Play and Creative Learning

The real-world test: What does my toddler think about this game?  It’s fun!
Is her vocabulary growing?  By leaps and bounds!

By the way, my daughter touches the screen to tell us which card she’d like to flip (“that one!”) and either mommy or daddy moves the mouse and clicks the square.  But it’s only a matter of time until she learns that skill, too!  (If only we had touch-screen monitors…)

She loves finding the matches and the sound of kids applauding when she wins!  When she makes a match she says “yay, two robots” (or whatever the item was.)  I’m constantly amazed at how much and how fast she learns, and this is just one more great way to foster those skills.  Way to go, kiddo!

Photo Credits for above images:
Jump, Cabin, & Squirrel: My family’s photos
Number 2: Flickr user Boklm
Robot: Flickr user Tinkerbots