Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fellow Artists at Heartland Pagan Festival and Resources for Artists

Dan and I are having a wonderful time at Heartland Pagan Festival hosted by the Heartland Spiritual Alliance outside of Kansas City, the land is just gorgeous and the people are fantastic!  Heartland is one of the largest and oldest Pagan Festivals in the United States, we're delighted to be here.  I'll post more about our adventures at Heartland (and photos) later next week when we get back.

I did a workshop on Friday afternoon about creating fantasy/fairy/Pagan art, and I got to meet many other artists, some just budding and some well on their way.  I discussed my artwork, and how I add magic to my artwork, and my journey as a magical artist. I shared some inspirations, suggestions and tips on how artists can hone thier skills and get their work out there, options for producing their own prints and merchandise, as well as how to get started with publishing their art.

I wanted to share some of resources here that I mentioned for easy access for those who attended the workshop so they will have them at their fingertips and anyone else interested for that matter.  Clear Bags is a great resource for packaging products for prints, cards, bookmarks, and they carry backing boards as well.  The bags I like are the protective closure bags, they're acid free and a great way to display and sell your prints.  Cafe Press is a great way for an emerging artist to offer really cool merchandise featuring their art without the start up cost of the equipment needed to make your own merchandise.  You upload high res art files to the site, choose what merchandise you want the art on, and they sell it, make it, and ship it for you.  You earn a percentage off each item sold on their website.  Zazzle is another service similar to Cafe Press, I haven't used it, but I know many artists who have with success.  PS Print is an online digital printer, the offer brochures, business cards, postcardes,and even posters, an artist could get lots of ideas for promotional materials here.  Watch for their sales which they run frequently so you don't have to pay full price for their printing.  Gimp is freeware "similar" to Photoshop.  If you can't afford Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (either of which I highly recommend) this is a decent alternative and does much of what you would need as an artist on the web. Stitch two part scans of your images together, resize for the internet, and add watermarks to help protect your work and ensure credit when others use it on thier website.   I'll post tutorials later for some of the basics, but there are many all over the web to get you started.  Deviant Art is a website where you can showcase your artwork easily without designing an entire website, you can also network with other artists and give and recieve feedback.  My art, step by step on my website, for those interested.  Homestead is where I designed and host my website, it's pretty simple to use even if you don't know html code (which I don't) you can easily design and manage your own website.  They have lots of easy to use tools.  The "free" offer is only a 30 day trial, so don't get all excited about it being free, but you can do alot with this system.  Uline offers shipping supplies, for large prints that won't fit into flat rate envelopes I like the Stay Flat heavy board kraft envelopes.  Their boxes all ship flat for easy storage.

Thanks to everyone who attended the workshop, I really enjoyed meeting you and discussing art and magic.  Now for more fun this weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Creating Voice of the Trees Cost: Late Nights, Hard Work, Frozen Pizza- Rave Reviews: Priceless!

Well Readers, it's been a long time since I started this journey writing about and creating a deck of cards based upon the Celtic Ogham that we now call Voice of the Trees.  It's been a journey of ups and downs, I was nervous about how it would be recieved, this being my first attempt at writing an entire book.  Any creative person who says they aren't at least a little nervous to put their work out there, is a big 'ole liar. 

I had originally set out to create a deck about the Celtic ogham and write a book about it.  I wanted it to be something that would bring the Celtic tree ogham to life, make it more accessable, a system with an old background but updated for the modern reader.  I wanted to stay true to the history and magic of this system.  Had I done what I set out to do?  I thought so, but time would tell.  

 Well, my copywriter (the person who writes the ads, and the descriptions on the back of the book) at Llewellyn recently told me to gather together some blurbs for the book.  Blurbs are those little quotes that you see on the back or inside of a book.  they are generally written by other authors who have read your book and they say what they think of it.  The art's been on my website for some time, and I've gotten great response, but the book had been seen by very few people.  I'm still working on the edits that my editor sent, so what was sent to the other authors was not the revised version to be printed.  I went through my list of people I thought would be wonderful to give their opinion on this topic and hopefully would.  They're all experienced and well respected writers and one accomplished writer/artist as well.  Then the manuscripts were sent out. 

I held my breath.

I wondered, hoping no one would fall on the floor laughing, or worse yet groan, "How cute, you tried, but you should go take a class or something."  These are the things that flit through your head late at night, alas.
And by one... the reviews began to come in. 

Advance Praise for Voice of the Trees: 

"The Ogham alphabet of Irish bardic lore plays roughly the same role in Celtic tradition that the runes have in Norse and Germanic spirituality, but there may be a hundred people who've cast the runes for every one who has even heard of Ogham. This may be the deck that changes that. Capably researched and sensitively rendered, Mickie Mueller's Voice of the Trees is an attractive and accessible oracle based on the Ogham. It will be of interest not only to contemporary Druids and Celtic Pagans, but to anyone interested in a divination system that has, if you'll pardon the pun, deep roots in both the living Earth and the Celtic past." 
   Ancient Order of Druids in America
   Author of the forthcoming The Celtic Golden Dawn

A beautifully illustrated journey of guidance and meditation through the ogham forrest. Mickie Mueller's Voice of the Threes will speak to you with wisdom and guidance to aid you when facing the crossroads of your life.
- Christopher Penczak, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft & The Three Rays of Witchcraft

"Mickie Mueller provides us with a fascinating look into the wisdom, lore and beauty of trees. Based on the Ancient Ogham system, this unique and gorgeously rendered presentation serves as an inspiring reminder of the powerful influence trees have on all of our lives."
~Lisa Hunt, author of Animals Divine Tarot and The Fairy Tale Tarot

"I was thrilled to read Voice of the Trees.  This is far more than another tired tome on Celtic tree lore.   The spectacular artwork alone is worth having for deeper trigger they provide into understanding a divination and belief system often not treated so thoughtfully.   Mickie Mueller's kinship with and understanding of Celtic sacred trees not as often honored delves into still more areas not often explored by modern Celtic Pagans.  What she created is a tool to serve our community reaching far beyone mere divination practices."

Edain McCoy, author of Celtic Myth & Magick: Harness the Power of the Gods and Goddesses

Gasp!   Needless to say, I'm over the moon.   All my hard work was worth every late night, every last research book scattered about, every outing missed, every frozen pizza dinner!
Well, I had to share because I'm delighted, and so very grateful that these talented and busy folks were kind enough to take the time to read my manuscript and contribute blurbs.  Back down to earth I must go, finish the edits and work on the next few projects that await me on the old wooden art table. 
Come oooon September!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Would Anyone Like to Hire a Slightly Used Illustrator?

Well, it looks like I'm going to spending a lot more time at the old wooden art table soon.  Long story short, the company I'm working for is is probably going to have to lay me off.  No one wants this to happen, but it's out of our hands. *kicks at the dirt with foot*   Blah.   We knew this was coming for quite some time, that's one of the reasons I had been working so hard at my day job, and have been sporadic at best on the Internet.  We had lots of extra work doing reports, answering questions, compiling facts and figures and doing sales pitches about why we are a great multi award winning display company.  But alas, it was all to no avail.  While we do very big displays for major ad campaigns, we are a small company. Anyway, it looks like soon I'll be looking for other sources of income.  I don't know how long, it could be next month, or I might have a few more months to go, I'll stay as long as I'm needed. I'm looking at this as an opportunity, and I'm really excited to have more time to create my art which is what I love to do! So I'm getting all my ducks in a row as they say.

Here are my ducks, below!

 I'm really excited and have just set up a new profile at  (see above, cool right?)  So while one door closes, another opens, as is life.  I should have time to create lots of new and exciting items for our Etsy shop, new fairy art, commissions, work on my new book, and yes, even pick up some freelance illustration and freelance copy writing jobs.  I did both digital rendering and copywriting at my previous day job, so why not, right?  I already have a CD cover I'm working on.  I'm especially interested in picking up some book illustration assignments, since I've done many for Llewellyn lately, and really enjoy it. 

Instead of getting down about the situation, I'm looking at it like the future is wide open, let's do this thing!  I've always been a "glass half full" kind of gal, so we'll see if my philosophy will agree with my bank account.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Night Magical Movie: Mirrormask

We thoroughly enjoyed this weeks installment of Dr. Who on BBC America last week, talk about nailing two great things together!  Neil Gaiman the visionary author of novels, comics and screenwriter wrote the latest episode, "The Doctors Wife" and it was just dripping with his signature style.  The first time I discovered Neils work was back in my days as a comic book digital colorist when I was introduced to his groundbreaking Sandman series (including the best personification of Death ever).  So after digging my favorite Doctor as imagined by this otherworldly writer, it got me thinking about another of his creations, the 2005 movie Mirrormask.

Written by Neil Gaiman and directed by long time collaborator, artist Dave McKean, this fanciful flight into a magical world is an absolute feast for the eyes and the imagination!  How many kids wished they could run away to join the circus?  Well, what do circus kids wish for?  To run away to real life of course!  Helena (Stephanie Leonidis) was born into a circus family. The teen loves to doodle imaginative scenes all over her room but dreams of a normal life.  She has an argument with her mother (Gina McKee) about leaving her circus life, and her mother becomes very ill shortly after, Helena blames herself and turns to her father. (Rob Brydan) The night before her mothers surgery, Helena finds herself in a strange land where everyone wears a mask. 

She meets a man named Valentine (Jason Barry)  a self important juggler who becomes her guide and companion in this bizarre world.  She is immediately mistaken for the princess from the Land of Shadow who looks just like her and has apparently gone missing after stealing a relic from the City of Light, the Mirrormask.  To add to her problems, the City of Light is apparently being consumed by a "darkness" that devouring the land and leaving the White Queen in a a state of unconsciousness.    She also learns that there is a Queen of Shadows who wants to bring her daughter home at any cost.  Both queens resemble Helenas mother. 

Helena and Valentine encounter many strange characters on their travels, a library of flying books, creepy talking sphinx cats with human-like faces the say "hungry", monkey birds all named Bob except one named Malcolm,  floating giants, fish that fly, and eventually end up in the Queen of Shadows palace, and beyond.  One of my many favorite scenes is the creepiest makeover since the Lilly's transformation in the movie Legend, this one being executed by golden clockwork beauticians to a halted and freaky version of The Carpenters' "Close to You" full of minor chords, ticks and squeeks. and Have I piqued your interest yet? 

There was a brief scene where Valentine finds himself having a vision of himself in Helenas world waiting tables.  Horrified he shouts, "That's not my future... Nooooooo! I don't want to be a waiter!"  at which point I laughed hysterically having waited tables myself, I knew exactly how he felt. 

I won't give you spoilers, but I will give you a glowing recommendation.  If you've ever read any of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKeans comic books, it's as if they have sprung to life in this film.  This team seems to have no boundries when it comes to bringing whatever their minds dream up into existance. This is like nothing you have ever seen before.  Not only is it a great story and visually astounding, but the acting is wonderful also.  Stephanie Leonidis brings an interesting appeal to Helena, and a deep resonance.  Barry manages to believably run the gamut of emotions and attitude from exuding a wonderful cocky charm,  to sorrow and betrayal all from behind a large mask.  The soundtrack from the film (Ian Ballamy) brilliant and really adds to this quirky and unbelievable world Gaiman and McKean have crafted.

If you can't run away with the circus, run away to Mirrormask if only for a short time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Proof Pages For My First Book Have Arrived

My wonderful editor Becky Zins sent me the proof pages for Voice of the Trees, whoa, it makes me feel like a "real" writer!  Now, keep in mind my friends, I know, I've been getting paid to be a writer since 2007 when I first submitted an article to Llewellyn for publication and I've been writing articles for them every single year since, and have even written articles for trade magazines and copy-writing for my day job.  The official rule is, if you receive money to do it, you're a professional.  Yes, I've seen my work in print and in the bookstore, which is a really cool feeling, but to see this whole manuscript all laid out with the illustrations in place, elegant titles, and especially the page with all the legal info, well, it brings this project to a whole new level of real!  After all, it's my first frikkin' book, and I think the writing bug has bitten me!
So is my work as a writer of this project over?  Hardly.  The next step is to pour over the proof pages and pick and polish every last aspect of this book and adjust things addressed by my editors notes, so that when it falls into your waiting hands along with it's accompanying deck, it will be perfect!  That is why we need editors, they have a great eye for noticing anything that's amiss, so she sends notes along with the manuscript for minor changes to consider, double check a piece of research, change a redundant word, switch a sentence around for clarity, that kind of thing.  I don't know what we would do without editors, I have many other authors that I consider my friends, and they all agree, sometimes when you look at that line that's been underlined in red you say, "What was I thinking?  Yep, fixing that right now!"  Sometimes we look at our own work for so long, it needs a fresh set of highly trained eyes to catch things.

So is it a daunting task?  Partly yes, but mostly no.  It's been awhile since I wrote it so it's fun to revisit it again, and Becky was my dream editor so I'm honored to work with her and actually looking forward to digging into her notes and tweaking the book.  You can learn so much from a good editor!  The good news is, it's not an overwhelming amount of edits, so I guess that means I did alright, and every author has edits.

So the press date is June 1, so I have to give this project my immediate attention.  I'll be a busy gal, sounds like pizza for dinner this weekend guys!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Night Magical Movie: Ghost Town

In spite of what should be a stressful day, I'm feeling a bit silly.  Ahh, a magical comedy!  Ghost Town really surprised me, and was much better (and funnier) than I expected it to be.  Ricky Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a dentist who has terrible social skills finds himself having some strange experiences after what was meant to be a routine colonoscopy.  Not your typical Romantic Comedy.  It turns out that he died during the procedure for 7 minutes, and now he can see dead people, ghosts, everywhere, which irritates him to no end.  They all begin to follow him all over the place asking for help with their unfinished business.  

This disturbs Pincus terribly, he's not really fond of the living, the dead seem much more annoying. The pushiest of the Ghosts of New York ghosts he meets is Frank (Greg Kinnear) who died in his tux, and keeps trying to get a signal on his phone.  He persuades the reluctant Dr. Pincus to help him convince his widow that her new guy is no good in exchange for keeping the other ghosts at bay.

Tea Leoni plays Gwen, Franks lovely and clever ex, who is also an archaeologist, and when she asks the awkward Pincus to examine her mummies teeth, they surprisingly begin to hit it off.  this is where things get complicated. 

Gervais may be an unexpected romantic lead, but he pulls it off with awkward charm, and brings an inner warmth to the outwardly unfriendly dentist.  He's a very complex character and you find yourself laughing at his nastiness yet routing for him at the same time.  Greg Kinnear plays it perfectly, selling what he wants yet somehow charming.  There are so many hysterical moments in this film, the dialog is very clever and the circumstances seem to just flow naturally.  The chemistry between Gervais and Kinnear really works, I would love to see them team up in a film again in the future.  Gervais brings something of his character from HBO's Extras, which I was hooked on.  He's very good as the guy who always seems to end up in an awkward situation. 

Various needy spirits trying to enlist help from Pincus
When the nurse in the hospital says, "Come back soon."  as Pincus is leaving he retorts, "What a terrible thing to say in a hospital!"
The film actually while being funny and clever, also offers some subtle spiritual lessons about human kindness and manages to do it in a non preachy way.  Through much of the film, we were laughing out loud, we thoroughly enjoyed it, and in the end it left us feeling happy.

Happy Monday!   

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Night Magical Movie: What Dreams May Come

I got to thinking about life, death and everything in between today and with all the redbud trees in bloom right now in the midwest, my thoughts wandered to one of my favorite magical movies about the topic, directed by Vincent Ward in 1998, What Dreams May Come.  I love the illustration of the afterlife in this film, it's poignant, wise, and moving.  This is also one of the most visually striking movies I've seen, it's inspiring, and I know many people who like to think that is what the afterlife is like.  This is a movie about the importance of love, relationships, and explores the ways in which we view each other and our changing places in our lives.  It reminds us to treasure each other.  This excellent story is based on a novel by the same name by Richard Matheson.  I haven't read the book yet, but apparently it differs in many ways including interestingly references to astral projection, seances and Summerland which is the name for heaven in both Theosophy, Wicca and modern Paganism. 

Robin Williams is Dr. Chris Neilson and his wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) have been struggling since their children  were killed in a car accident years ago.  Chris finds himself helping out victims of another accident, a huge pile up, and is killed when a car smashes into him.  He finds himself in a dreamlike land, realizing that he is now dead.  He meets his mentor in the afterlife, Albert, the doctor that mentored him in life who is there to guide him in his new existence.  Delighted, he discovers that his version of heaven is living within the painted magical world created by his artist wife! 

He is suddenly devastated when his world begins to come apart and he discovers that his wife and soul mate has fallen into despair after loosing her family and has committed suicide.  He learns that suicides are not punished for the act of taking their life by any other source than themselves, having fallen so deep in sadness, they simply can't move on even after death.  She can't join him, and probably won't even know him, if he can even locate her.  He then resolves to find her, help her, and bring her back with him, or stay with her, something that no one has managed to do before. 

Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.) helps him find a wise guide known only as "The Tracker" (Max von Syndow) to take him into the darker realm where heavy souls reside to find Annie.  Chris learns much on the way about his family, life, relationships, and most important, love.
Chris and Albert meet with The Tracker

This film is completely gorgeous.  Scenes are either breathtakingly beautiful or devastatingly terrible, but ever detailed, passionate and visually alive. 
It won an Oscar for visual effects and was nominated for art direction, no surprise there. It won many other awards for it's stunning visual effects as well.   My favorite is the world created by his daughter; a living vision of a fantastic childhood diorama. 

I also adore the tree painted by Annie that is part of Chris' world.  I also love that Chris learns that people aren't always who you think they are, and his unending devotion to his wife is inspiring.  This is a beautiful magical movie that will move your soul and leave your heart feeling full.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Beltane Visitor

Late last night while I was sleeping, my husband discovered a lovely Polyphemus Moth that had fallen from our oak tree and landed on our porch.  My son and I were taking out the trash this morning and we found that it was still there, right in front of the door.  I took a few pics, and noticed it wasn't moving, so I tried to pick it up, and it flapped a bit, but did allow me to carefully cradle it in my hands.  I was worried it may be near the end of it's life since it didn't fly away, so I placed it in my pot of rosemary on the deck.   Apparently they only live a week, and I figured if it was preparing to cross over, at least it would be more comfortable there, and safer too. 

This is where we found her this morning, the males have much bushier fern like
antenae that the females, so I think this one is a female.
I've been keeping an eye on her, so I got to thinking that perhaps she's a messanger of the faeries, and I wondered about what message this moth may have for me to have gotten my attention on this Beltane morning?  I'm going through a transitional period with my employment right now, and find myself trying to decide what direction to turn in for my day job.  Moths have similar symbolism as butterflies; change and rebirth, reinventing yourself,  but moths of course are nocturnal which gives them some slightly different symbolism, more philosophical, being creatures of the night, and the moon, dealing with intuition.
The moth has no trouble making it's way through the darkest hours, and we can learn from that. We can use our intuition, dreams, and our inner knowledge to get us through what may seem like the dark hours of our lives. The moth also indicates a knowing that your needs will be met.
We placed her in the pot of rosemary on the deck.

The moth also is drawn to light, whether the light of the guiding moon, or the dangerous flame, her faith and determination draw her ever towards the light in the darkness.  The moth reminds us to remain determined but careful not to fall victim to blind faith. The moth also reminds us to adjust our course if needed, rather than driving onward ignoring signs along the way. 

I love her sweet little face!
I hope I've made my Beltane visitor comfortable in her pot of rosemary.  I intend to listen to her messages, as I work through these changes in my life and know that all will work out for the best.

Go out, green the fields, live in the now, and enjoy the earth as life bursts forth!