My husband and I visited the Florida State Fair for Valentine's Day. It was a beautiful, blue skied-day, cool but not cold. The kind of day that calls you outside. First, we strolled through Cracker Country, a permanent village made up of historic Florida buildings.
Next, we toured the farm exhibits. The baby goats were hard to resist.
Then the smell from the food carts lured us to the midway.
Last stop, the exhibition hall, where we stepped into the middle of a crew setting up for a mayonnaise commercial in a circus exhibit.  Yep, mayonnaise and circuses. Who knew?
It was just the kind of day I needed to recharge my muse batteries.  We all have dry spells, when the creative well is empty. One of the best ways I've heard to refill the well is to have fun, do something different, get away from your normal life. If you're frustrated by writer's or artist's block, you can't find the solution to that problem spot in your drawing, can't find the end of your story or worse, you've run out of ideas for new work, your brain needs a break. Get away. Take a walk somewhere interesting. Go to a concert, a circus, a fair. Even reading a great book can give your brain the vacation it needs to recharge. The trick is to completely forget the work that tied your mind in a knot. It'll unwind when you stop trying so hard.

Today's art is inspired by the circus exhibit. It's my first attempt at drawing a fantasy creature from the book I'm working on. And the book isn't a fantasy. Ponder that!

Spring's here, no doubt. The azaleas are blooming and bees buzzing, oak pollen turning cars green. All that activity woke my muse from her long winter nap, ending an excruciating dry spell. She's granted me three picture book stories and rough sketches for a dummy book. While attempting to resurrect last year's novel, the protaganist of my very first book appeared. I listened to her telling her story in my head for a week and finally gave her the floor.

That's the thing about stories. You can't always control them. I considered my first book a learning experience and wasn't sure I'd ever revisit it. But here it is revived. I spent a week digesting the original's weak plot and passive protaganist and brainstorming new material. Chapter one is roughly written and the story's unfolding bit by bit. There's so little of the first book in it, they're barely related.

Picture books aren't docile either. Once you step into that realm, ideas for new stories multiply.  I've been working on a dog book for kidlitart's dummy book challenge. Last weekend, a new story popped up and wrote itself in one day. I thought, maybe I should illustrate this story instead. New stories always seem shinier than old ones. They glow with potential, especially since no one else has seen them.  Then you take them to critique and before you even get there, doubt dulls their finish.  Afterwards, no matter how high the praise, you know that story won't shine again without lots of polish.

But I'm not complaining. I'm happy to have something to polish and I'm learning to accept the mercurial fountain that springs stories to life, grateful for the words that come.