I moved to San Francisco!

I found out in mid June that I had to move out. Kitten and Karl got the house with 20 acres they'd been hoping for and so Kitten's mare and filly will be living with her. The new house isn't large enough for me to live there with them though. So I had to move on August 1st.

Kitten knew I was saving up to move to San Francisco someday, so she suggested just going there with whatever resources I had. I spent five or six weeks of extreme stress and some overexertion packing for the move. I successfully purged a good third of my stuff and more than a third of my books.

It helped that I'd just bought a Kindle. I was able to let go of a lot of cheap paperbacks easier replacing them with free downloads.

For the first time, "books" wasn't the bulk of my stuff. "Art supplies" dominates what I own, 80-90% of what I have. I packed or sorted everything and did manage to pack almost all of the art supplies myself. So that was a whole lot better than what I managed on the move from Kansas to Arkansas.

I got here on August 2nd after a weekend in Nevada with a friend who picked me and Ari up at the airport and then drove us the last four hours to the city. I've moved in the same way I left - sent my packages by UPS and flew.

Ari is still the world's best Traveling Cat. He slept through the flight without so much as a mew. He was a total sweetheart even going through the security scanner. He just clung to me and looked around being cute, accepting his compliments till we finished and I put him back in the carrier.

We had the easiest flight of my life. He was tucked in under the seat in front of me right in reach. Then on the road trip he was in my lap and I used the handy zippered top flap of his new soft sided American Airlines carrier to reach in and pet him while he watched out the window.

So now we're here. I live in a residential hotel. My SSI is being adjusted for location to California's cost of living and the net result is that I'll have about the same spending money I did in Arkansas. I've applied for a street art/crafts license and will be screened on August 25th at 10:30am.

So this week I'm busy creating 12 original pieces and half a dozen unfinished ones, plus bring in examples of my prints. Happily I found the envelope of ACEO prints so I can make up a packet of those to show and don't need to go out to have prints made or try to get the line art on watercolor paper prints style done before I go. Though I might do some of those as an example anyway.

At the same time I'm picking up the best day job I ever had, I'm going to be cranking up my writing to get ready to put a novel or two out on Smashwords and Kindle. I've got such a stockpile of finished novels that it's a joke. I think it's time for them to get out and start earning me some money.

I hope to become self employed again by the end of 2012 - at least at the level where I still have medical coverage and other benefits but I'm not living on SSI. This living situation minimizes the amount of time and body energy I need to spend on activities of daily living. Here in California, I'll also apply for In Home Support Services to have help with those activities I can't manage for myself. California will also get me a scooter just because I need it, whether I work again or not - and that will give back my old gig doing street art in a way that I can maintain it.

I'm right downtown close to where I need to go to set up for street art. I've got a bus line that stops literally in front of my building and going the other way, it's just a very short block to the one-way street going the other way.

I've dreamed of coming home to San Francisco since the day I left. It's the one place in the country where I'm at my best and everything I need is in reach. It may be a bit more expensive to live here than other places but it's also my best shot at self employment success - and if all the dollar amounts are higher but I succeed, then so what if it's expensive?

I love it. Just the past couple of weeks here have been a quiet joy.


Oak Tree Bole
6" x 9"
Pastel on light blue Canson mi-Tientes pastel paper.

Painted from the second demo by Scottyarthur on http://www.wetcanvas.com in Soft Pastel Talk forum, the "Starting my Tree Studies" thread. This time I followed his demo tree for shape and successfully did a portrait of his specific oak tree instead of just loosely drawing a similar one. But I played with the colors and texture a lot and changed it dramatically in other ways.

I'm really enjoying doing a series of pastel landscapes. I'm working up to a Southern landscape posted for the January "Pastel Strokes" challenge of a big live oak tree in a quiet Southern neighborhood. I'll want to do that live oak before the end of the month -- it'll be tricky if I do include the road and parts of buildings that show and the mailbox as part of it. Trees are easier than buildings!

An Oak Tree
6" x 9"
Pastel on light blue Canson Mi-Tientes pastel paper.

Painted a few days ago from a demo by Scottyarthur on http://www.wetcanvas.com in the "Starting my Tree Studies, Join In if you Like" thread in Soft Pastel Talk. The tree loosely follows the demo, the rest of the landscape is all from my imagination. It was a leap for me being able to get the creek and landscape to look that good without a photo reference.

Wrote a short story for a 3 Day Challenge in my critique group. After some trouble sending it because I had used the wrong email, it's now gone out to my critiquers. Also did three critiques on Challenge stories for my two required critiques for the month of January. I'm happy to be caught up there!

So that's why this post is decorated with my furry muse, Ari Cat. He crawled into my lap and laid across my legs purring while I was writing. I had my elbow resting on his fuzzy head and he didn't complain either. I love it when he does that!


Lone Tree
5" x 7"
Caran d'Ache Neocolor II watersoluble oil pastels
Black Art Spectrum Colourfix sanded pastel paper
Photo reference by Bonnie "Artastic" on http://www.wetcanvas.com for January 15, 2010 Weekend Drawing Event.

I've been taking it easy since the first of the year. The weather's turned bad for my arthritis so life's been low key and full of pain. Spring will be wonderful when it comes though. I'm sure the spring in Arkansas is going to be a joy to me compared to spring in Kansas.

If I didn't mention this, I did complete last year's New Years Resolution with one pro submission. I sent out Vaumuru's Curse to Ethan Ellenberg Agency. Giving it time but once I start to feel batter, I'll send it some other agencies and publishers too. It's as good as I can make it without an editor's help.

I also want to get back to working on my oil pastels website, www.explore-oil-pastels-with-robert-sloan.com -- it's been very successful and this painting will probably generate at least one article. If I don't add more this month, I'll definitely start getting to it in February.

Meanwhile, after the intensity of November's massive Nanowrimo output and December's exhaustive intense editing spree on Vaumuru, I need a break. The weather is insisting I take one anyway. So this is a time to relax, plan, think and occasionally paint when my hands are up to it.

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A Winter Fantasy
5" x 7"
Richeson hard pastels on Fresh Grey Art Spectrum Colourfix sanded pastel card.
Photo reference by AlainJ on WetCanvas.com for the January 2010 Landscape Challenge.

Yesterday, my new 120 color wood box set of Richeson semi-hard square pastels arrived. I was working on an ATC with pastel pencils and immediately switched to trying the new hard pastels, which were great. I went nuts and did several cool artworks all in the same day playing with my new supplies. I even brainlessly tried creating a full layered painting on a sketchbook page, which didn't turn out too bad as a sketch but should be redone on coated pastel paper.

I've written them up on HubPages at Richeson Semi-Hard Pastels Product Review featuring the gnome ATC, the fruit sketch and its underpainting and a color Conte sketch I did to compare with them. These pastels are artist grade, lightfast and relatively inexpensive. I might try the other two Richeson pastel products as well, though probably not in a full range set to start.

This month I didn't even try to curb my spending on art supplies. I deserved a big reward for getting my novel submission out on time during 2009, so I went to Dakota Pastels for the first time and used the reserve in my account along with my check to put in a $300 order with free shipping. Leaves me tight for January but very happy with a big package coming.

Dakota doesn't do the big coupons Blick did and the high free shipping threshold makes them a bit less convenient. I can't do a Dakota order any given month and save shipping, it would take premeditation to save a little first because shipping starts to run high over $200 -- $15.95 or something like that. The price of my new SpectraFix fixative with the little empty spray bottle thrown in, for an example on this order.

I have heard very good things about their shipping and customer service policies though. They also have some products Blick doesn't. They tend to get Pan Pastel products sooner. They carry the mid-hardness Richeson Soft Round pastels as well as the Handmade top range and the Semi-Hard. They also have some Dakota-specific products that are great, including a wooden foam lined pastel box that comes in three sizes. I'm very tempted to get the compact size and start breaking pieces off every pastel I own to create a compact kit that has all the colors and hardnesses in one place.

One thing specific to Dakota that I finally indulged in was a coated paper sampler and a Green soft pastels sampler. They put these together at Dakota itself, choosing colors for variety but within a range like "green" or "darks" so that you can use the sampler to fill out whatever area your palette's weak in. I love landscapes and can never get enough greens, so I chose the Green sampler.

The paper sampler pieces are all 9" x 12" -- my comfort size for serious painting. Any bigger than that and I start having trouble finishing the project. This will also let me write up a good series of product reviews on coated and sanded pastel papers. They also have a sampler of sanded or coated boards that I might pick up next time.

Their prices run a little higher than Dick Blick, but Dakota Pastels is a specialty store. They have a bigger selection in pastels than any other online supplier and a good reputation with many professional pastelists I know. I'll still use Dick Blick for the things Blick carries, but I'm glad Dakota carries products that don't always make it to Blick.

Hopefully the new trays for Pan Pastels that LLC Colorfin has promised will show up soon at Dakota Pastels. That's one reason I might go back there in a couple of months, though I've been windowshopping at Blick as usual and could easily revert to my old Blick habits, especially if they do a coupon for free shipping on orders smaller than $200 the way they did a few times during the Christmas rush. It would be nice to build up some reserves again so that I could get something really big, like a new laptop in 2010... not going to happen fast though with all these art supply temptations!
Lots to post since New Year's -- I completed my New Year's Resolution for 2009.

That's sort of impressive, isn't it? Aren't New Year's Resolutions those things people virtuously decide to change in their lives and then screw up by February, going into an annual guilt trip over being fat, smoking, exercising too little or otherwise trying to change their bad habits?

Well, due to some circumstances way beyond my control, I had gotten into a very bad habit. Writing good novels and not submitting them anywhere, also writing good novels but not giving them the necessary aftercare -- editing, synopsizing and presenting -- so that I could send them to agents or publishers. So in 2009, my resolution was to get a pro novel submission out during 2009.

On December 31st, 2009, I submitted Vaumuru's Curse to Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. Talk about final-deadline pressure! I was going to try for sending it to four different agents this year, but the fibromyalgia flare I got from breaking through submission anxiety flattened me once I'd sent out my good presentation exactly according to their submission guidelines. I wasn't up to doing another market search, so decided within a week would be good enough for multiple queries with sample.

Still, the book is finished, edited to the best of my current skill and properly synopsized including its twist ending. Sending it out to more agencies and some publishers is not going to be as hard now that the hard part's done.

I made no resolutions for 2010 other than to enjoy my life, which is good now. I live in a climate that's much better for me, with loving family. I've got the energy to function here in Arkansas and have proved to myself that I can make a deadline on a project, even when life interfered to put off its completion.

Moving out of state took several months out of 2009 just at the point I was starting to get focused on it. Then the year's annual autumn writing fests got going, distracting me from the editing task. I actually did two novel submissions in 2009, because paying the fee, printing out my entry and mailing it to Canada to enter the Three Day Novel Contest counted as a novel submission. It could win.

If it doesn't, I'm going to re-edit this year's Three Day Novel and send it somewhere else, because it was a breakthrough and a fun little fantasy novel. Only 50,000 words, but fantasy novels dealing with Christianity as a topic are rare and non-trendy. I was writing from life about Christian ideas, beliefs, habits and phenomenons, in general contrasting real faith with religious fraud. I do not think it will offend Christian readers, the theme rests on familiar Christian ideas of good and evil and the pious characters are based on real Christians that I've known well.

2009 was a breakthrough on the editing process itself. The time crunch caused by NaNoWriMo, the Three Day Novel contest and a flu that knocked me down throughout October was actually a good thing in some ways. It made me finish up that edit in one month.

Long ago, I asked full time successful SFF author Leigh Brackett how long it took her to write a novel. I am so glad she was the one I asked, because less prolific writers might have answered anything between a year to five or ten years depending on the amount of research needed for the work. Ms. Brackett told me "About a month to write the rough draft, then another month, maybe a month and a half to edit it if it's giving me trouble."

I knew this pace was possible from meeting Leigh Brackett. She and her husband Ed Hamilton made a good living throughout the Depression when everyone else was out looking for work and not finding any. They weren't paid much per title but with each of them writing five or six novels a year, they kept up their house and a comfortable lifestyle in a grim economic environment.

In a purely technical, artistic sense, I think that kind of prolific speed gives a great advantage: practice. A given rough draft novel is not the soul-investment of a two year project, where acceptance or rejection carries the emotional weight of whether you personally are accepted-rejected or the defeat of two years of good hard work rejected every time it doesn't fit a market. It becomes a large, well-done, finished project comparable to a painter's doing a big canvas, something that may become a great success or just turn out well as part of your portfolio.

Most of all, writing a lot of them takes the learning curve and spreads it out over more than one book. Novel writing isn't easy -- to learn. It's a big complex skill as difficult to get good at as most human professions, but isn't taught as a six or seven year course in universities with a postgraduate program and a mentor. Instead, every novelist reinvents the process of writing a novel and develops a method that's intensely personal to reach a result that can be measured in pure technical competence as well as on more subjective criteria.

Once you can tell a good story, you can tell a good story no matter what it is.

But the editing process isn't going over and over the same one for years until you learn how to write one to professional craft standards. The prolific approach does a lot of sketches and fast projects, each one of them teaches me something. My prose is a lot cleaner now. I get fewer grammatical errors in Word and have fewer problems with pacing. That doesn't mean I don't need to edit.

What it means is that I've gotten a good eye for what always needs to be edited in every rough and started turning editing novels into a routine as familiar as writing rough drafts. When I got one done in a month, I started achieving Brackett speed. That will let me continue to write, submit, grow until my professional career launches. It almost guarantees that when I make a first sale, the next book I sell will be at least as good as the first one that sold.

Someone said it takes five million words of bad fiction to learn to write well. I tend to agree with that, so I don't mourn losing some of my trunk novels. Those that I remember the idea will probably get rewritten from scratch, something I enjoy doing that will improve them immensely over the lost version. Those that I don't remember were probably already subsumed into other projects.

To me, right now they're a big sketchbook full of potential. I could choose any of them to edit and finish to completion. I will be starting in on another one soon after a break for goofing around with art while marketing Vaumuru's Curse.

But I wanted to share that amazing triumph with you -- a New Year's Resolution completed exactly as phrased despite major life changes that filled more than half of the year with other unplanned activity. I did it. So can you with whatever you set out to do on New Year's -- just try to pace it so that you're not trying to do it all at once, that helps a lot.


8" x 10"
Pan Pastels
Sand color Art Spectrum Colourfix

Painted from a reference photo I took with my phone and from life. Rhiannon is an eight week old Corgi puppy. We just got her a few days ago. Karl traded a tiling job on the breeder's bathroom for a purebred Corgi puppy.

Kitten is a farrier -- a horse shoeing blacksmith. She's gotten Rhiannon to be her work dog and keep her company on trips, also to herd in horses from pastures when she makes house calls (barn calls?) to shoe them. Corgi is a breed of herding dog that's a bit like a collie with half length legs, they're very low to the ground with stubby little legs but quick and smart.

Rhiannon aka "Annie" is sweet, she's so friendly to everyone. Even cats, though the feeling isn't reciprocated and both cats have retreated with dignity to my room. It's always been Cat Central, the dog-free zone where they can lay about aristocratically without getting chased.

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A little catching up!

Back on May 25th, we moved from Lawrence, Kansas to Russellville, Arkansas. The move was like leaving my arthritis behind, literally on the day of the move I was stronger every hour as we drove south. I love Arkansas. It's a beautiful climate.

I've spent most of the summer settling in and getting unpacked. With chronic fatigue and mobility limits, the stuff that takes people weeks takes me months and so on. Ari likes the new house. Miss Gemini, seen in portrait in the last entry, likes the new house.

Sascha is in kindergarten now and loves school. She gets excited about it in a way that I never did. It's cool watching her bring her stuff home, she shows me things she colored and lessons she's done. I'm very carefully not telling her any of my school stories because I do not want to put her off it -- if she's having fun and enjoying it for what it is, let her.

I keep forgetting I have this blog, then updating at random intervals. Hopefully this time I'll get it going in a rhythm like my LJ and see if I can post more interesting articles on it, product reviews or art stuff the way I've done sometimes on my LJ.

Recently I've gotten started at RedGage.com which could be a lot of fun drawing together feed from my Facebook and Twitter and some other things -- and Blogger. So now I may try to mirror my posts from LJ here or vice versa, at any rate try to post here more often so the RedGage readers get something to read instead of just seeing it fade into obscurity.

I've finished the last edits on Vaumuru's Curse. The new ending is much more powerful. Now with a week to go to the end of the year, I need to write the synopsis and start sending it out to agents and publishers. It's about time I had a novel out on submission again.

Miss Gemini in the Window
6 1/2" x 8 3/4"
Cretacolor pastel pencils on Brown color ClaireFontaine PastelMat.

Christmas present for my daughter Kitten, portrait of her cat. Miss Gemini has three or four different tortie patterns stitched together on a midseam. She's gorgeous but her markings are unique and difficult to get exactly right. I succeeded, this is actually Gemini and not just a cute tortie.

She came to our door as a tiny waif in Kansas, walking up as Kitten came in with groceries to enchant her with big green eyes and a huge purr. Of course we took her in. Kitten checked for weeks to see if someone had lost this wonderful, people-friendly, loving and adorable cat -- but the only trace was that she'd been seen around a house where some college kids moved out recently. How could anyone abandon a cat this loving?

We lucked to get her. Kitten got her microchipped and took her in to the vet, which was where we discovered she was an already spayed two year old rather than the half grown kitten we thought she was. She's tiny. Only about seven pounds, well, eight now, she's packing on the ounces. Her fur went from dull and ratty to glossy and silky.

She loves everyone, even the children. She lets Sascha play with her and doesn't even claw if a child grabs her by the head. We had to watch out for her for a while because she wouldn't even defend herself, just put up with the children whatever they did. Sascha learned to be gentle with kitty.

A White Wolf
7" x 9 1/2"
Cretacolor pastel pencils on Anthracite color ClaireFontaine PastelMat.

This painting is a present for my son in law Carl. I did it on the 25th, so it wasn't late -- just pushing deadline. He loves wolves and we all enjoy the White Wolf roleplaying games, so doing a white wolf was a natural. It's a bit of an artistic breakthrough because instead of just doing wildlife, I've got the wolf in a dramatic setting too. More like a cool illustration than most of the animal art I've done.

I've had the best holidays of my life this year. Right down to grandchildren singing Jingle Bells without knowing all the words or sticking to the tune -- something I had completely forgotten about. There is an age when people don't know all those songs by heart and that's when they're the most fun.


Edit: Aha, got it! This is Flowering Trees in Washington State, watercolor, about 3 1/2" x 5" on the left half of a page in my watercolor journal done with Winsor & Newton Artist Field Box pan watercolors. Photo reference is posted on WetCanvas.com in the April 10 Weekend Drawing Event images thread hosted by WC member Elainepsq, who provided images from the Pacific Coast. Every weekend someone else hosts it and posts images of a variety of subjects, it's a cool activity in the All-Media Events channel.

Well, I'm trying to add another image for today's daily art but it's not working too well. I've had a lot of bad days the past month or two, spring does that to me in Kansas. The weather's been more changeable this year so I've had a lot more downtime.

Yet I have been keeping up daily art and posting it on my Livejournal blog: http://robertsloan2.livejournal.com -- quite a few days were just little three or five minute gesture sketches but I've got some other good things up, recently a yellow rose painting in oil pastel.

This summer for the Summer Fun Run on SFFmuse, I will be editing my 2004 Nanowrimo -- used to be The Hunt, now it's become Curse of Vaumuru. This is the one set in the magical North American Pleistocene, two shamans who share the totem of Smilodon fatalis and the one spirit that hasn't deserted them defend the Black Rock tribe against the cannibal Blood Eater tribe and its greatest warrior sorceror, Vaumuru.

Vaumuru cast a curse of stupidity on the Black Rock people and that kicked off a world of hurt.

I love the plot, love the setting, love the book and think it's a lot shorter in length it really needs to be to do that story justice. So this summer I will be expanding it in the edits, probably from about 80,000 words to about 120,000 words. I've been ruminating on it a lot during this drawing spree and it helps.

Heck, I may even be up to drawing the landscape, the tribal characters and the Smilodons by the time I do this, my art is getting better too.

One more try -- today's Daily Art:

Nope, nothing happened when I clicked the image icon. Annoying. It worked last time.

All right, solved, it's working now. Don't know why the popup wasn't coming up but at last it did.


Sunfish is 6" x 8" in oil pastels on canvas paper. Painted from a Walter Foster book, How to Paint Wildlife Portraits in Oil Pastels, Oils and Acrylics by H. P. McLaughlin, I did it to illustrate my review of the book on www.explore-oil-pastels-with-robert-sloan.com, my oil pastels website.

I started it in mid December and it's now got over 50 pages of product reviews, basic art instruction, oil pastels techniques, various step by step projects and other good content. I'm getting really excited about the site. It has more traffic than I expected for its not being up that long.

All that traffic encourages me to write more and draw more. So check it out, I have lots more good oil pastels paintings and drawings posted there along with lots of good articles. I do mean lots and lots!