A very humble THANK YOU!

So my first novel, Waxing is Useless has been out for nearly 2 months now. It’s still somewhat surreal that it’s out there, but what’s even more surreal is the sweet, positive comments and reviews I’ve been getting!

To all out there who’ve taken the time to visit the Amazon site and leave a review,

You guys make me feel like this. . .

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WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

Lilac City Lunacy is in the works!
So I’m about ten chapters in and it’s reminding me why a first draft is called rough. Good grief! I’m struggling a bit, but still enjoying the world of the Spokane Guardians.
I’m digging deeper into my original characters back stories (esp. Hank and his mysterious family tree), introducing new characters, and creating a monstrous new menace!

Miranda and the pack will have their relationships and creativity tested, and their pack history, territory, and shoe sizes expanded. ūüėČ

Stay tuned for more news about “Lilac City Lunacy – Vol. 2 of the Luna Chronicles!

**Mini-spoiler** There may also be a bit of romance involved this time. Crikey!

Getting Real With Artist, James McLeod

Getting Real With Artist, James McLeod

 

I met artist James McLeod at a friends card party, and right away his mix of New York savvy and N. Carolina (southern) charm intrigued me. However, being somewhat shy of new people (yes it’s true) I was not being much of a conversationalist. Thankfully, the gal sitting on the other side of him was not shy. She, like him, was an artist and they struck up a conversation that eventually lead to James pulling out his cell phone to share pictures of his work. I was amazed, and hooked. His life-like sculptures looked ready to leap out of his phone!

I contacted him a few days after the party and thankfully, he agreed to speak with me. We enjoyed a chat at a local coffee shop, and the more I learned about him the more impressed I became. Down-to-Earth, warm, and funny, James McLeod is as wonderful a person as he is an artist. Keep reading to learn more about this incredible multi-media artist / Renaissance man.

SnS: Hello James and welcome to TheSquidandSquirrel. I understand that you are not from the PNW. How did you come to call Spokane home?

James: Well, I actually grew up in New York, but a few years ago I injured and re-injured my back and couldn’t walk or work for about a year. I lost everything, but I had corrective surgery and once I got back on my feet I had to start all over. So I had a cousin living here in Spokane. He said, “Yeah, this place is great. Why don’t you come check it out?” I told him I was at the end of my budget so if I came I’d have to make it work. I showed up with $400 and a suitcase. That was five years ago.

SnS: Wow, brave! What or who got you started creating art?

James: I’ve always been an artist. When I was four years old I made my first sculpture out of pipe cleaners. I made the big bad wolf. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He had legs and arms and feet, green pants and red suspenders. He was lighter around his mouth and his tail was extra fuzzy. I’ve been creating ever since.

Also, growing up in NY I spent a lot of time in museums and if you go to Manhattan a lot of the buildings are very sculptural. They have a lot of lions and people and muscles and all that kind of thing. I was forced to go to Broadway and off-Broadway plays and every class trip was to a museum, or something to that effect. So I was inundated with fine art, and that level of exposure had an effect on me.

SnS:. Cool. What is your favorite medium?

James: As far as medium, clay sculpture has been my thing for a long time. Now that I’m going to school I’m getting opened up to a lot of different things. Before this I was self-taught, through observing life, and other sculptures. Now I’ve dabbled in acrylic painting, and I’m not sure what to call the style. It wasn’t realistic in any way shape or form, but you knew it was human. You could identify what it was, but it was very folky, so I put it down. That’s not good enough for me.

SnS: You’re a perfectionist at heart.

James: Yes. My goal for my artwork is that when you see it, it should have a life. If it’s a thing, it should look like it’s going to get up and walk away, or at the very least you should see it thinking. That’s my goal when I’m creating anything.

I’m really getting into oil paint now. I took an oil painting class and found I have a gift for it. That’s the biggest thing about school to me right now. I’m being exposed to all sorts of things I hadn’t done before. I’m getting just enough instruction to take it and run with it, and I have plans to do a series of politically influenced works dealing with various aspects of activism. In school I’ve kept my subjects fairly sedate so that I don’t ruffle any feathers, but I’ve been told to take my hands off the wheel and run! So that’s what I’m going to do.¬†I’ve also gotten involved ¬†in bronze.¬†

SnS: Yeah, that piece you brought is amazing! (See picture below)

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Untitled

James: Thank you. I’ve always wanted to do bronze because when I was little we couldn’t have pets. So I would make my pets out of clay, and they would live and have babies, and little stories attached to them in my imagination. But my brother would come and pull out my clay tray, take them out and chop their heads off. So when I came back to play with them, I would find them mutilated. So I thought, “Well, if they were in metal he couldn’t do that!”

I’ve always wanted to work with metal and the piece I showed you was my first bronze. I’d like to do much bigger pieces but with what’s available to me right now, in terms of tools and kilns I can’t go too big. I would love to have a kiln the size of this building and make pieces that big. So that’s a goal.

I’ve also done a little 3D design, but it’s not really my thing. My focus is the imitation / replication of life. Not just the angles, but also the feeling of it. I’ve seen people who are technically perfect who could sculpt you perfectly, down to the eyelash, but you know it’s a statue. There’s no life in it. So I try to incorporate both perfection and life. Sometimes I make things a little bit stylized to give life to it because nothing in life is perfect. Sometimes when you cartoon it a little or give it an imperfection it makes it more lifelike. That’s the only departure from realism that I’ll do.

SnS: Have you had a mentor?

James: That’s hard to say. Yes and no. There have been people along the way that have fed into my box of tools. But I’ve never had a “mentor”.

Tybre Newcomer has been helpful and was instrumental into getting me the position in the sculpture studio as the tech. I get to help the students, which is a big opportunity for me because it helps me to hone my skills. It’s also made me more patient in terms of their learning process. No matter the skill level, whether a Picasso or Joe Blow from around the corner, if you put effort into it I’m ecstatic and I can show you how make it look like what you want to see. When you articulate to me what you want to see I can help you get that regardless of your skill level.

There was also a lady, Maryanne, in Colorado Springs, CO who gave me my first sculpting job back in 1996. In her studio I made animals, because she wasn’t good at that. So I made buffalo, chipmunks, and wolves. I also made generic people in proportion so that she could then take them and make cowboys or Natives to fit her Southwestern theme.

SnS: Some artists have a creative ritual, like listening to music, going for a walk, or rearranging their studio before they can work. Do you have a ritual that helps your creative juices flow?

James: Do you see this thing right here? *He holds up an Iphone with ear buds attached* That’s what I do. I listen to music, tune everyone out and I just work and listen. Listen and work. Dance a little bit.

SnS: So who do you listen to?

James: Oh Lord, I have a big playlist. I listen to a little dance hall reggae, soul music, and jazz. My favorite singer in the world is this lady named Ledisi, I’ve been following her since she was a regular person. She had been singing at the Blue Note in the Village in NY, and after I left NY I’d still go up there to get autographed CDs and now she’s really famous. But I love her. There’s nothing she can’t do vocally. From the highest high to the lowest low. She’s phenomenal. But yeah, so mainly I listen to soul, jazz, a little bit of Journey.

SnS: You just won something in school. Tell me about that.

James: Yeah, so excited!¬† There are 2 classes you have to take before you graduate as an Art major. One is Portfolio, where you take your ten best pieces, write a bio for yourself, do a resume, get a professional photograph of yourself, and do a Power Point presentation. Then every art professor gets in a semi-circle around you and your work and they critique you. They are very to the point. They don’t try to make nice, so none of that “Oh he’s sort of frail emotionally”. Oh no. So I got a lot of good feedback and it was a unanimous decision from all the teachers. Of course, they told me that they didn’t like the orange I used. But I like orange. I don’t care what they’re talking about. The orange is sort of an invitation into my world. It’s telling you that I’m in there and I’ve got more for you to see, so I won’t listen to that one. Still, I won Portfolio and a $250 scholarship.¬†

SnS: Congratulations! Are you going to display the ten pieces you made?

James: I’d love to, but I need to get ready for (SFCC) Exhibit, so I’m hoping to be able to make more things, better things for that particular show. Right now though, I only have 2, 3, or 4 of a lot of different mediums. I’d like to create a more cohesive group of items that have some type of theme before I show. I don’t want to have a Dollar Tree sort of show.

SnS: Understandable. So, what are you plans after school?

James: I would love to open an art school minus the art history. To me that’s a waste of time. Those people (famous artists in history) are glorified and seen with rose-colored glasses, when usually they are insane, on drugs, or whatever but we’re taught to think they were these awesome people. My only interest in them are their techniques. So the school I want to open up would solely be techniques, techniques, techniques and things of that nature. A place where you could use your own vision, and not be influenced by somebody from 1717. You have your own mind, your own thought process and my goal is to give you the tools to bring out whatever it is in you, that you want to portray to the world. Whatever that may be. I’m not here to indoctrinate anyone in anything, I’m here to give you whatever you need to bring forth what you want the world to see.

SnS: Do you have a favorite artist or two? Someone whose work inspires you.

James: Duane Hanson. I saw his work in my Modern Art class. It was so cool because it was like very realistic. Not only realistic, it had LIFE. Like when you look at his pieces you couldn’t tell that they were not living people.

SnS: Very cool. Where else do you find inspiration? (Nature? Books? A double espresso?)

James: I love going outside, which I haven’t done a lot of since I got to Spokane. I’ve been too busy with school and trying to keep my head above water. But growing up, we’d go visit my grandfather’s farm out in N. Carolina during the summer. I loved it all: the trees, the chickens, the dogs, the cows. I like to get out to the woods.

SnS: If you could travel anywhere for art inspiration, where would you go?

James:¬†I don’t know. Hmmmm. I love the sculptures in Greece and Rome. I love the realism in them even though some, like the David were sculpted to be a little proportionally off. That’s because they were meant to be viewed from a lower position, forcing you to look up. So I understand that. I’d also love to travel to Central America to see the Olmec sculptures.

SnS: Okay, what if you could travel through space or time? Where would you go then?

James: Well, this will sound cuckoo crazy and weird but it’s true. There’s this civilization called the Muu civilization that pre-dates all of what we call factual history. I would love to see that. See these people, see what they did, and how they did it. Half of their civilization is under water, and it’s like giant monolithic structures. So I wonder, who were these people? If they had the skill to make that level of structures, then I bet their sculptures were even more wonderful.

SnS: Anything you want people to know?

James: I’m currently accepting commissions for portraits or sculptures.¬†I’ve done a lot of personal commission work here. Mostly dogs, and I love dogs so that’s not a bad thing. I just need a picture of the head, from the side and top, and the front, and a view of the body and I’ll make it just like it is. I prefer to experience the dog in real life, to understand its personality so I know who he / she is so I can build that in too.

SnS: Excellent. Thank you for sharing your time and talent, James.

If you would like to contact James McLeod you can reach him at –¬†

jdbonthego1@gmail.com.

 

 

Taking a gander at Scott Bassett & his  Wild Goose Gallery

Taking a gander at Scott Bassett & his Wild Goose Gallery

 

Running a business well is difficult and time consuming. Running an art gallery as well, at the same time, is an amazing feat of energy and ingenuity. That is exactly what Scott Bassett does every day as President of Pawsitively Bassett Inc., owner of Bassett & Brush Design, and the Wild Goose Fine Art Gallery.

As if that isn’t enough, he is also one of the galleries resident artists! He’s worked in many mediums, but is currently focused on photography. Panoramic photography (as seen above) is his most recent passion. With a quick sense of humor, kind smile, approachable manner, and three dogs (Mac, Khai, & Tonto) all sleeping under the table, Mr. Bassett was fun and easy to talk with.

Keep reading to learn more about Scott Bassett – Artist, Businessman, and all around nice guy.

SnS: Welcome to TheSquidandSquirrel! I’ve visited your gallery, the Wild Goose and enjoyed your photographs many times. Now I’d like to know more about you, the photographer. So please tell me & my readers, are you a lifelong Spokanite?

ScottB: No, I’m not native to Spokane. I was born in Chickasha, OK of all places. My folks were military and at one point my dad was stationed here, so I’ve been in Spokane since 1965. I consider myself an implanted native because this is home now.

Before that, we were pretty much like wanderers because, you know, in the military you don’t ever really have a home. Of course I met and married a Spokane girl (born and raised) Tammy, and she had a big influence on my staying here, but I love Spokane.

SnS: Well I’m glad you stuck around. So, have you always been creative, interested in art?

ScottB: Pretty much! I’ve got a logo I developed that has a picture of me painting, when I was six years old. My mom took the picture. It’s an old black and white and I use that in my Scott Bassett Studio logo.

My mom was very into the arts. She dabbled, and painted in oils and things like that. I was one of her artistic sons, the other was my younger brother, and she was good at letting us explore painting and drawing. I’ve pretty much drawn most of my life, until I got into graphics. Once I got into graphics I was more into design. I didn’t get to do a lot of drawing, and I kind of quit painting when the kids came along, ya know. Life just got too busy. I only did the occasional watercolor on the side.

SnS: Did you go to art school?

ScottB: I went to Spokane Falls Community College and at the time the Advertising and Graphic Design course included some art classes. I took Life Drawing and Watercolor, which I dearly love. I took Oils also, but the fumes got to be a little much. I tried Acrylics. That was a disaster. I’m primarily a pencil artist and watercolorist.

My wife, Tammy, likes to tell a story that she sold one of my paintings for two thousand dollars, one time. After earning degrees from SFCC, we moved to the Puget Sound area where I landed a job. We lived on the coast, in Mt. Vernon, and I’d done a watercolor of a moored fishing boat, and hung it in our home. The boat was named Amanda, just like our baby daughter. It was moored and had oil tankers in the distance behind, and was very misty looking.

Well, having decided to return home, I had gotten a job in Spokane and was living here while Tammy stayed behind to sell our house. One day this guy walks in. He looked around and says, “I’ll give you your asking price if you’ll leave that painting.” And Tammy says, “Done!”

The truth is, she’d been willing to come down a couple thousand on the price of the house, so she counted that as the price of the painting and likes to say, “I sold your painting for two thousand dollars.”

SnS:  *LOL* A logical and valid statement in my estimation. So pencil and watercolors were your mediums?

ScottB: They are my mediums, along with photography. And now wood working, and glass cutting, and kinda everything, but I’m an old guy. I’ve had lots of years to gather skills. Things fascinate me and I just get sucked in!

My art on the side was pretty sporadic since I got into designing. Until about three years ago, that is, when I became infatuated with photography.

SnS: Tell us about your photography.

ScottB: I’ve always had a camera and been interested in photography, and for the last 30 years I’ve worked as a product photographer for our clients. Shooting photos of “widgets”, or hair spray, or whatever. Package design was my company’s forte for a while and we handled clients like Nat Geo and Disney, creating packaging designs for them. Eventually though, packaging took it in the shorts. It started to shrink as an industry once downloadable software came out, but we saw that coming and trained ahead for web design.

What got me going in panoramic photos though is some property we own up in Pend Oreille, along the river. We leave the property mostly undeveloped because we like it that way, and I carry my camera every time we go up there. I just sit there and shoot stuff like a mad man.

Panoramic images really fascinate me, so I started shooting panoramic, which is multiple shots that you then recombine to create one image. You have to do that because digital cameras don’t have the dynamic range of the old analogue cameras that used film. Film is amazing, I mean it really is! But it’s also very demanding, and you’ve got to really know your stuff. The digital cameras are limited though, so you have to do multiple exposures to get your shadow detail, and your high light detail, and mid-tones. So you you have to work with a tripod and shoot one section of your panoramic, then you move your camera to shoot another bracket of images. Then you move it again and shoot another bracket, until you have the whole scene as you’ve envisioned it. Then you go in Photoshop and put it all back together. It’s kind of time consuming to do it well, and get the color balance correct and all the images seamlessly matched. It just drives me nuts, but I love it! So when I get done, I go ‘All right, it worked!’ Then I print it out and do the happy dance.

SnS: Do you remember shooting your first panoramic photo?

ScottB: Yes. There’s a big grassy field, full of birch, aspen, and pine up near our property in Pend Oreille. There’s even a little mountain peeking up from behind the trees, and every time we’d drive by it Tammy would say, “Oh I just love this field. It’s just perfect.” Well, we’d gone up to the property in autumn, and the leaves had all turned yellow and Tammy just went nuts over it.¬†So I thought, ‘AH HA, Christmas present!’

I drove up four days later to take the photos and all the leaves had fallen. Oh geeze I cursed, but I figured I was up there so I took the photos anyway and it turned out to be a really cool shot, because all you got were these white birch and aspen that created a picket fence thing across the far end of the field. So that was my first real panoramic.

SnS: So what made you decide to start drawing on your mats?

Well, everyone raved about my panoramics and told me to do more, but Tammy said, “Well honey, they’re great but they’re just photos. You draw so well, why don’t you draw?”

So that got me thinking, and I started doing pencil drawings to print on the mat boards.¬† I do the drawing by hand and try to pick a subject that relates to the subject of the photograph. For Tammy’s field, I took reference photos of the fence post I’d leaned on, then did the drawing in pencil and put that on the mat board surrounding the photo.

SnS: What a great idea! And framing? How did that happen?

ScottB: So, I’m thinking I was being really cool with the mats, really top notch, but a friend of mine named Bob Brown, who’s a real wizard in the wood shop said, “You really should be making your own moulding.” Bob is my woodcraft mentor and taught me fine wood crafting. You can see, I’m easily influenced.

After that, my hand crafted fine art prints took on a life of their own. Now I build my own hardwood mouldings and frames, hand mount and lacquer my photographic prints, cut my own glass and mats, and finish them with a dust jacket on the back. The whole nine yards. Then each is signed and numbered with an artists certificate. I’m a bit OCD about it, but that’s what I pour my passion into.

SnS:¬†That passion is obvious. Your work is beautiful. What made you open the Wild Goose Fine Art Gallery? I mean, you’re a busy guy running a successful business and all.

ScottB: I was running out of room in the house! I did some art shows. We got the tent, grid panels, all that, and I did three or four shows one summer and thought, good grief, this is gonna kill me. I’m too old for this crap. So I started looking to get into galleries. I got into one in Priest River, ID and sold a number of pieces there, but I just couldn’t find the time to approach galleries. Plus many of them were backlogged with lists of artists waiting to show there anyway.

So, Tammy said, “Well honey, you’ve got that building down there. You could just squish Bassett & Brush into one half of it and open up a gallery in the other half.”

She always comes up with brilliant ideas, and I always take them and go overboard. So on October 1st of last year we began to clean this place out. By the end of six weeks, we’d emptied it, painted it, and fixed some things. On November 1st I called my friend T. Kurtz, who is an amazing pastel artist, and said, “Help I have a naked gallery!” Then I asked her if she’d like to come hang with us, and she said yes. So I said, “If you know any other artists that you are comfortable with, as far as the quality of their work, could you bring them?” We ended up having 14 artists from around the region displaying here when we opened, and the place was packed with stuff.

I’m amazed at the quality of the artists that have come. In addition to T. Kurtz we have work by Shannon Potratz, our other resident artist here at the Wild Goose Gallery. There’s¬† Gabe Gable – a nationally renowned bronze artist, Elizabeth Billups’ beautiful oils and prints, amazing watercolors by David Gressard, quilt art by Tammy Bassett,¬† fine wood craft by Bob Brown, and the list goes on and on.

SnS:¬†That’s quite the group. How many artists do you usually have displaying in your gallery?

ScottB: We usually have 12 to 14 artists. That’s about how many walls we have. ūüėČ

We try to keep an artists work all together, so when you’re looking at a wall it’s all Betty Phillips, or this is all of Shannon Potratz.¬†¬†**Remember that name from a previous interview? If not, check it out here.**

SnS: You said that Tammy, your wife has some of her quilt works here also, right?

ScottB: Yes, she’s very talented, in many ways. She teaches Preschool, draws – even though she says she can’t – plays the piano, and quilts. She’s been quilting for about 15 years, and she’s made some beautiful things!¬†

20171212_152641

Quilted candle holder by Tammy Bassett

SnS: I’ve seen some of her work. It is beautiful! I admire anyone who can use needle and thread. If I tried to someone might lose an eye! *LOL* What artists did you admire growing up?

ScottB: I admired Mark English. He’s an illustrator in New York. I loved his work. Initially, I wanted to be an illustrator for books and magazines. That was kind of where my heart was. I also loved animation and thought I wanted to work for Disney. That was back in the cell days, ya know. I decided I didn’t really want to work for Disney because I’d have to live in California and that just wasn’t for me. So I gave up on that idea.

Andrew Wyeth was another one of my favorites. I love his work. And Maxfield Parrish, he’s almost an Art Deco illustrator of books and magazines. If you look up his work you’ll probably say, “Oh I’ve seen that guy!”¬† Those are the ones I thoroughly enjoyed. I never understood Picasso. I just do not get him. I like Modigliani because he did such weird distorted stuff. In my odd moments I liked to play with that sort of thing.¬†

SnS: Scott, you are such a busy guy! What do you do to relax? Do you relax?

ScottB: I usually take naps. Actually to relax, I go up to the river property. Tam and I go up every chance we get. It’s close enough that we can get there pretty fast, and once there it all melts away.¬†

I love being up there. We’ve left the property mostly undeveloped and we like it that way. We walk up and down, watch the snakes in the grass, the geese on the river, the cormorants on the pilings. It’s where we decompress.

We’ve enjoyed the inside passage cruise to Alaska too. It’s just beautiful! And because it’s inside passage, you don’t have all that wave action. I don’t do well with that.¬†

We also used to do a lot of ball room dancing: fox trot, jive, and cha cha. Those are probably our favorites. I can’t do tango. I get serious and Tammy starts laughing.

SnS: Ballroom dancing. What got you into that?

ScottB: My folks got us into it. They were very big in the Round Dancing movement and taught for many years. Round dancing is a spin-off of Square Dancing. It’s Ball Room, but cued. Pre-choreographed to a certain piece of music, a caller will cue you through the maneuvers. My mom could cue a dance from the floor while she and dad were dancing. She was an amazing lady.¬†

So we started dancing with them, and when they got older and to the point of not being able to cue and dance, Tammy and I started demoing dances for them. So basically we were Junior Associate Dance Teachers, and we did that for about 15 years. It was great fun. 

So for us, fun is going on a cruise and dancing!

SnS: Well that segues nicely to my odd ball question. . . If you could travel anywhere, with anyone (living or dead) where would you go and who would you take?

ScottB:¬†I’d take Tammy. No question. She’s my best friend ever. We met in high school and have been married for 46 years, going on 90 ūüėȬ†

We would pack up a trailer of some kind and start going around the U.S.¬† We’d stop someplace and explore, move again and explore, just go see the U.S.¬†I have no desire to go overseas. We’re happy here. I mean, why go there when we haven’t even explored everything at home yet?

SnS: Understandable. Did you do anything fun over the holidays?

ScottB: I played Santa Clause for about 100 families at Tammy’s preschool. She runs the North Side Learning Center.

SnS: **Looking at his closely clipped beard and lack of moustache** So did you grow that out for the event?

ScottB: No, I used a false beard. In fact the reason I don’t have a moustache is because it’s a little bristly and Tammy won’t kiss me when I have one. So either don’t do the moustache, or don’t get kissed, and smooches are kind of important.¬†

SnS: That they are. So what’s happening at the gallery this month?

ScottB:¬†Right now we’ve got Robert Walton’s work in. He does what I call Romantic Western. It’s like, if you could sit and make up a picture of something western, then just embellish it so it’s just so cool and charming, that’s Robert. That’s what he does. He does some really cool stuff! Things like Christmas steam trains traveling through snowy river gorges. He also has work licensed by Leaning Tree Publications, which is where most people have seen his exceptional artistry. Robert is very talented.¬†

SnS: As are you, sir. And your wife, and apparently most of the people around you. Thanks so much for interviewing with TheSquidandSquirrel.

If you would like to visit Scott Bassett’s gallery – The Wild Goose – it’s at 3919 N. Monroe St. in Spokane, WA. Open 8:30 – 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, and Saturday by appointment – phone 509-327-9078.¬† Please also visit their page on¬†Facebook

 

Getting Down To Business With Artist & Entrepreneur Cameo Townsend

Getting Down To Business With Artist & Entrepreneur Cameo Townsend

 

Hello readers! I hope you all are having a fantastic day. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with young artist / business woman, Cameo Townsend. A gal with a good heart, a ton of chutzpah, a bit of a potty mouth, and a side of snark, she has big dreams for the future. She is clever, sometimes caustic, and super crafty. She dabbles in many artistic mediums, from knit goods to watercolors.

Beyond her art, she is a wife, a mother, and now an entrepreneur! She recently opened a brick and mortar storefront in Spokane, WA called Sticks & Dreams Gallery and Emporium. A true go-getter, this young lady has a lot going for her, and a lot to offer her community.

Keep reading to learn more about Cameo Townsend and her latest endeavors.

SnS: Hello Cameo ūüôā

Cameo: **Gives 2 thumbs up** Hi, I know you can’t see this but there it is.

SnS: LOL no worries, it’ll translate. ¬†So please tell us what drew you to art (no pun intended) and how long have you been an artist?

Cameo: I‘ve been doing art since I was a little kid. I wouldn’t call it doing art exactly, but I’ve always loved drawing. One time I took my makeup and drew a picture, and my mom asked me, “Why did you do that?” and I was like, “I don’t know. Because it was fun and I didn’t want to use markers?”¬†I had a creative child-like mind, I guess.

Actually, I’ve been making art since I was a kid. But professionally, only in the last year. I’ve taken some art classes, but I don’t think I’m a good artist. I think I’m better at helping other artists. If that makes any sense.

I like to try making new things though, so I just make a lot of stuff. If I can give it away, most of the time I do. I give it away so I have enough room to make more stuff. So I guess that’s really my answer. I’ve just always liked art, but nothing specifically drew me to it. There are things that have kept me in art though.¬†

SnS: I was going to ask you what medium or genre you prefer, but it sounds like you are a jack of all trades.

Cameo: Kind of, yeah. I don’t really do one thing, but I guess the most consistent thing I do is watercolor. I’ve used acrylics. I’m not amazing with acrylic. I’d like to take some classes in acrylics, or get new hands. You know, just like slip on some robot hands boop be doop.¬†I’ve also worked with oils. I hate working with oils. Oils are the Devil and they should die.¬†

I’ve also done some found art. I really enjoy found art, where you just stick some stuff on a canvas. I actually did one that was all buttons on a galaxy background. Because I’m the queen of galaxies. It sold the same day that I finished it.¬†

SnS: Wow! So you are basically self-taught?

Cameo: Yeah, I’ve taken a couple of classes. I took a drawing class in college, and a mixed media class in high school which was awful. My teacher hated anime’ so she was really mean to me. She hated video games too, so she was really, really mean to me because that was all I drew.¬†

SnS: Isn’t that what most high schoolers draw?

Cameo: **Laughing** ¬†Pretty much! But whatever, haters gonna hate. I still draw anime’ and enjoy it.

SnS: Good for you ūüôā ¬†So do you have any artists that inspire you, or that you currently admire?

Cameo: Yes, but they are mostly local artists. One of them is my “Aunt” (chosen family member) Isola Olsen who passed away a few years ago. She was an artist who worked in watercolor, acrylics, and oils. She lived here, but mostly showed on the west side of the state, and in Idaho. She did a couple of sessions with me and she was really nice. She kind of solidified my interest in watercolor. ¬†She inspired me a lot, and she kind of got me into continuously doing art.

My Grandma Jan, who also passed away, inspired me too. But she wasn’t an artist. She was just always telling me, “You can do good, kid.” She did all that feeling happy stuff.¬†

Denny Carman inspired me. I mean he helped me get my work out there. He’s inspiring, and awesome, and super helpful. I’m always thanking him and I’m sure he’s going to tell me to shut up one day. He’s going to be like, “Are you going to say thank you? Shut up.”¬†

I have a lot of people who inspire me. Connie Janney is one of the people I aspire to be like eventually, because she’s always just doing stuff. She’s always helping people, always doing classes, and she’s so nice! She’s just one of my favorite people. She’s my friend. We have some of her work in my gallery.

My husband is not the typical artist, but he inspires me too. He helps me with EVERYTHING. He’s a blacksmith, and he makes knives and stuff. But lately he hasn’t had the time to make anything because he’s been running me around to art shows and helping me set up shop. I’m hoping he’ll be able to get back to his craft soon.

SnS: Let’s talk about your shop. It’s called Sticks & Dreams, and it’s located at 903 1/2 W. Garland Ave. in Spokane, WA. What made you want to open a store?

Cameo:¬†Honestly, one of the things that made me want to do art, and build a store right now, was having a near death experience. I didn’t see God or anything, but being so close to dying made me realize that life is too short to do something for a living that you don’t enjoy doing.¬†

I also wanted to help out my friends and fellow artists who were needing a place to sell their work. And to be able to offer fun and artistic things at a reasonable price to people who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

SnS: Wow! Smart and altruistic at such a young age. You are definitely a unique woman Cameo. Now watch me segue. . . Speaking of unique, what kind of things can we find in your store, and in what price range?

Cameo: Every bleeping (*edited*) thing. Everything in here is $200 or under, and I literally don’t think we have anything above $150 right now.

All the art is $200 or less, but all the other little things are $2 – $35, for hand-made stuff.

It’s mostly art, prints & originals. We have wood burnings by Richard Flatt. A woman came in here and dropped off doilies and towels. She also made a thing called a soap cozy and I didn’t have any idea what that was. What the heck is a soap cozy? But as soon as she explained it to me I said, sure you can put that in here! We have wands by Miki Murdoch, art by Oksana Tepp, Connie Janey, Deb Harder, Ryker Murdock, Denny Carman, Leslie Adams, Kevin Montgomery. ¬†

I have packaged prints of my watercolors and calligraphy, as well as Connie Janney’s works in mandala and collage. We have photos by Ambrelle Coy, and digital art by Sarah Russel, and so many others. Oh and we have buttons from Melissa and Misty at Dizzy Bee, etched glass by Cassie Barber, and knit jellyfish key chains by Georgia at PG & Jelly. We have scented hand soaps, bath bombs, and so much more. It’s just crazy and wonderful.

SnS: What kinds of things are you missing that you might like to have in the store?

Cameo: I like outside-of-the-box things. So if you can bring me something that I don’t already have, most likely I’ll put it in here. I don’t have an exact answer for that though, so if you have something unique and weird, you should bring it in here. I have one artist who is bringing in doll heads, in boxes. They are creepy and I love them.

I have some pottery, but I’d like some more. . .

**hint** This is where you local potters should be thinking, “Gee, I should get on that.”

Generally we are kid friendly, as long as there’s no genitalia. **laughs** Sorry I had to refrain from saying something else. So yeah, no genitalia, but some of our buttons do have the “f” word on them. So parents be aware. Most of them though, are smart and sassy quotes that make me happy.

SnS: That’s great! Okay, so if a crafter or artist wanted to contact you to sell their wares, how would they do that?

Cameo: I like it when you take initiative! Come in and talk to me. You can email or message me, sure. But eventually I am going to want to see you and talk to you. Because if you don’t show me that you want to do it, then it’s not worth my time or yours. That’s one of the biggest things for me.¬†

Sticks and Dreams has pretty much every social media account, but if you want to work with me, come see me.

SnS: Speaking of social media, I’ve been keeping track of your storefront via facebook, and you have a few upcoming events. Tell us about those.

Cameo: Okay, so our first upcoming event is on July 22nd. We are having local artist Sam White¬†( pictured below) sitting outside our store doing an original painting from 1 – 4. When it’s finished we’ll raffle it off. The kicker to this whole thing is, you have to be present when he finishes the painting to be able to win it.¬†

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SnS: So you have to stay on Garland?

Cameo: Yes, pretty much. The whole idea is to get people down here to enjoy this area, and stay a while. 

SnS: Great! The Garland district is really growing. It’s exciting to see, and better to share. Now, I understand you are also offering some classes soon?

Cameo: Yes. I am hosting a (non-alcoholic) paint night on July 29th, for 10 – 12 people, with Maria McConnell from Bittersweet Canvas. We’ll be painting a night scene picture (below). The class is $45 / person and we supply everything, including snacks. All you have to bring is yourself, and clothing that is worthy of paint. ¬†

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We also have another class on Aug. 4th, a crocheting class for amature crocheters¬†who know the basics already. We’ll be making an adorable little manta ray, (pictured below) with Georgia Williams. The class is only $15 / person, but you need to bring your own H hook and yarn. We will provide the stuffing and eyes.¬†

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SnS: Wow, you are really going for it! So on top of running the business, you are a wife and you have 2 kids. How are you juggling all of this?

Cameo: I’m not. I’m falling apart backwards and lighting myself on fire.

Seriously though, my 10-year-old step-daughter is pretty self-sufficient. She is happy with her friends and her cell phone. My 2-year-old is really into cars, so that makes life easier. Plus thankfully, we have lots of family to help with him while I’m here. Unfortunately, he left a car in the living room yesterday and I almost tripped over it when I got home. That thing is annoying.

SnS: Just wait till he’s into Legos. The bane of parental feet everywhere.

Cameo: I’m so not ready for that. If that happens I’ll never take off my tennis shoes. I’m going to sleep in my tennis shoes, forever.¬†

Honestly though, I don’t really juggle any of this. I just aggressively multi-task.¬†

SnS: That is an enviable skill. The name of your store is Sticks & Dreams. This tells me that you have a goal in sight, a dream, if you will. Care to share your dream?

Cameo:¬†So, my husband came up with the name. He said the sticks are the brushes and the dreams are the paintings, so that’s been my artist name on all my social media. It’s where I started as an artist, and now it’s turned into this shop.¬†

I guess the dream is to just be able to run. Like, I don’t have to make lots of money, but I want the place to be self-sufficient. If I make only enough money to pay the bills that’s fine. If I make more, that’s awesome. But that’s not really the point of this.

The point is to give local artists an outlet for their work. To get all their art out there, and get people who normally wouldn’t be able to afford art to be able to buy some.¬†

Let’s face it, I’m a cheap-ass. So the whole idea of the store is so that the average person can purchase art, and have something beautiful. That’s why we have so many different tiers of pricing within the $200 or less range. I like being able to sell fun and beautiful items to people who might not be able to afford it otherwise, and I like helping out our local artists. That’s my dream.

SnS: So you are living your dream right now. Do you have a bucket list? If so, have you crossed anything off yet?

Cameo: I don’t really have a bucket list. I mean there are things that I want to do, but none of it is realistic stuff.¬†

SnS: It doesn’t have to be realistic.

Cameo: Okay then. There are places I would want to go. In fact I just want to go. . . everywhere. I’ve only ever been to Idaho and Montana, once on purpose and once on accident. *laughs* My mom is really bad with directions. I just want to go to places outside of WA, ID, and MT. I actually really want to go to NY. And, I’d like to see the Infinity Mirror show.

SnS: I hope you get to do that someday. Last question. If you could host a fantasy dinner and invite anyone living or dead, real or fictional, who would you invite and why?

Cameo: Okay, so this is going to be super clich√©¬†because I would want to bring my Grandma Jan back. I didn’t get to see her for a long time, and the last time I called her was on my first day of college. She was fighting cancer and didn’t know who I was because of all the meds. She died of pancreatic cancer before I could see her again. She was a really great person. She wasn’t a great lady at the beginning of her life, but she really turned it around. That’s one of the things I loved most about her.¬†

SnS: Well, I think she’d be proud of the person you are Cameo. You are amazing. Thank you for interviewing with me, and sharing so much with us all.

If you would like to visit Cameo / Sticks & Dreams online you can find her on Twitter, facebook, Instagram, and Etsy.

 

 

 

‘Emily Trace Mysteries’ author, Sue Eller is one rare bird.

‘Emily Trace Mysteries’ author, Sue Eller is one rare bird.

Author of one novella, a gluten-free cookbook, and two installations of the Emily Trace mysteries, Sue Eller is everything you’d ever want an author to be: quirky, kind, creative, accomplished, and coffee dependent. A self-proclaimed nerd and Star Trek fan, she is fun-loving, intelligent, and a genuinely nice person.

I met Sue at a Spokane Authors & Self Publishers (S.A.S.P.) meeting where she is the current Vice President. Warm and welcoming to this newbie, we struck up a conversation and spoke of our various writing adventures. Of course this eventually lead to my picking up two of her books: ‘Meadowlark Madness’ and ‘Taming of the T-Bird’ – the Emily Trace Mysteries. ¬†20170515_182546

Set in the Pacific Northwest city of Spokane, young widow and newly licensed P.I. Emily Trace has many mysteries to solve. She’d like to find out who killed her husband, and why. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) her small business, E.T. Investigations seems to keep her a bit too busy, drawing strange clients dealing with even stranger circumstances.

Full of interesting characters, nerdy humor, pop culture references, action, adventure, and even a touch of romance, these books are fun to read. Almost as fun as interviewing this amazing author!

Keep reading to learn more about Sue Eller.

SnS: Sue, please give us a little background on yourself. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Sue: Well, my mom wrote short stories, and even sold a few. So writing was always in my life. As was reading. I grew up on a farm, the eldest of six kids, and the only entertainment besides each other was a black and white TV, or books. My dad loved westerns, and I thought the Mickey Mouse Club was okay, but mostly I read. My mom would take us all to the local library and I would come home with dozens of books at a time. I would devour them and go back for more. 

To be honest, I’ve had delusions most of my life about being the next Arthur Conan Doyle, or Carolyn Keene, or Agatha Christie – without the whole murdering the husband thing, of course – but I actually went to school hoping to be a band instructor. I learned multiple instruments: guitar, keyboards, clarinet, saxophone, and violin, but I was told by an adviser that my dream of being a band teacher wouldn’t happen. He told me, “Women just don’t do that.” So I transferred to Whitworth College and switched my major to Chemistry. I minored in Math and French, and took an interest in computer science.

SnS: Wow, so when did you become serious about writing?

Sue:¬†In 1994 I began writing short stories and articles for a weekly newspaper. After a while I purchased the paper and ran it for four years. It was a good education for me. It was fun, and I learned a lot. After that I wrote my first novella ‘Return From Armageddon‘ in 1991. It was published in 1992 as an audio-book by Books In Motion. In 2012 I released the hard copy and Kindle editions.¬†It was later that same year that I published my first Emily Trace book, ‘Meadowlark Madness‘.

SnS: Okay, now I have to ask. Where did you get the idea for the plot of ‘Meadowlark Madness‘? It’s very unique.¬†

Sue:¬†Growing up on the Palouse, my grandmother would drive us kids to and from Spokane to shop. Every time, she would point out the meadowlarks singing in the fields. After a few times, I let my imagination wander and thought, “What if. . . What if those bird songs are fake? What if they are some sort of triggered sensor?” Somewhere between those thoughts and my love of Star Trek and aliens I dreamed up E.T. Investigations.

I wanted the hero of my book to have a name that coincided with E.T. for the pun factor, therefore Emily Trace was born. Emily Trace is very much like me, an alter ego of sorts. She is quirky, flawed, and totally addicted to coffee.

SnS: *LOL* There is nothing wrong with loving the java. ūüėČ ¬† ¬†So, did the plot for ‘Taming of the T-Bird‘ also come from a real life happening?

Sue: *Laughing* Yes, my husband Ray owned a T-Bird many years ago. He drove it to work and home every day, and every day it would die at the same spot. After a while of this, I began teasing him, saying that aliens must be to blame. The story evolved from that.

I wrote both books with two goals in mind. First, I purposely kept them clean. There is no graphic violence, explicit sex, or harsh language. I wanted it to be something pre-teens could read and enjoy. Second, I wanted to bring in themes that dealt with real life issues such as greed, family dysfunction, forgiveness, friendship, and the difficulties brought on by Autism. I have an autistic grandson, whom I love very much. I wanted my books to shed light on these issues, and one of my favorite moments was when a fan wrote to tell me that my book helped her to better understand an autistic family member.

SnS: That’s wonderful! Now, I’ve heard it said that some authors hear their characters voices in their heads, as if they are real. Are your characters real to you?

Sue:¬†My characters are very real to me. Some of them were inspired by friends or family members. One, Emily’s first client, Archie ‘The Keeper of the Paints’ was inspired by Wile E. Coyote painting a tunnel that the Road Runner ran through. My Darla character, Emily’s temp. was a complete surprise. I imagined her as a typical teenager looking for a job, but she turned out to be a bit of a wise-goth. She’s a good foil for my nerdy main character Emily.

SnS: It seems that you and Emily have a lot in common. You both share a nerdy love of Star Trek. How long have you been a fan and who is your favorite character?

Sue:¬†I’ve been hooked on Star Trek since September of 1966 when the first episode aired. Scotty and Bones were fun characters, but I thought Kirk was a sleaze. My sister loved Chekov, and I loved Spock. To me, Spock was the hero because no matter what, he was always intelligent, always in control. Plus, like me, he was a science nerd.

SnS: We’ve established your nerd credits for science and Star Trek, but I have it on good authority that you are nerdy in many ways. Can you tell me more about that?

Sue:¬†Well, I enjoy Dr. Who, LOTR, and Harry Potter too. In fact I believe that the first page of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” is quite possibly the best first page ever written.

Because of my various fandoms, I’ve attended a few conventions like InCon and WorldCon. I dressed up with a Tom Baker (Dr. Who) scarf and hat for one of them. The other I dressed up as Professor Trelawny.¬†That costume garnered a lot of attention, and a lot of people took pictures with me. It was fun. If you really want to understand the extent of my nerdiness though, you will have to come in and see my office.¬†

**There is only one way to describe Sue’s office. Super cool & nerdy chaos. The space is filled with file cabinets, book shelves, and tables. Every surface is covered by computer tech., books, papers, action figures from many iconic films, and even a life-size sorting hat! The walls sport a large map of Middle Earth, a sepia print of Spock, a lovely painting done by her niece, a paper version of Emily Trace’s infamous bird clock, and a massive story board.

SnS: Wow, you weren’t kidding about being a nerd! How do you get any work done in here?

Sue:¬†I don’t. I mostly work from my kitchen table. I’ve always been a busy person, being raised on the farm, going to¬†school, then work and motherhood. It’s hard for me to sit still for any length of time so I get my best work done outside of my office.

SnS: When you say work, you aren’t kidding. Not only do you write, but you and your friend Kate Poitevin (previously interviewed by SnS) work together as editors, and you are Vice President of the S.A.S.P. ¬†Please tell us about editing, and how you got involved in the Spokane Authors and Self Publishers¬†group.¬†

Sue:¬†My friend Kate¬†and I began our adventure as editors 3 years ago, to fill a need by other authors. We offered a less expensive way to get their books a preliminary edit. We felt confident we could do this as we’d helped Kate’s dad edit his autobiography years earlier, and because of my experience editing for my newspaper.

I got involved with the S.A.S.P. in 2013 after taking part in a multi-author book signing at our local Hastings store. I met some local authors involved with the S.A.S.P. (one being Dave McChesney, also previously interviewed by SnS.) and they invited me to a meeting. At first I wasn’t certain I wanted to join the group, but I went again. After hearing more speakers, and making some friends, I decided to stay and have been there ever since.¬†

SnS: Sounds like you have an extremely full schedule. When can we expect a new Emily Trace mystery?

Sue:¬†I’m pleased to say that I plan on having my third Emily Trace mystery out later this year. The cover art is nearly complete, and I’ve been working on refining the story line.

SnS: Well, after reading your first two, I can’t wait to see your next installment! So where can fans find you on-line?

Sue: I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Smashwords and EmilyTraceMysteries.com