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Where Ideas Come From…


I confess that I have a weird brain

Ok, Ok…  friends who know me outside of this blog…  Hmmm..  Scratch that… whether you know me from reading this blog or if you know me from wherever…

You can stop laughing.

Now!  Stop!  I tell you!

Cease.  Desist!   *SIGH*  Fine…

I’ll wait.  Dum de dum dum..

Ok, there, got that out of your system?  *SIGH*

Yes, I’m fully aware that I have a strange brain.  It makes connections that most people don’t make.  I’m not saying that in a “bragging” way because most of the connections that it makes are not for public consumption and  I wisely keep them under wraps.

I have thought occasionally that maybe everybody’s brain works this way and that EVERYBODY keeps the weirdness under wraps so everybody thinks that nobody makes these weird connections.  Which is just weird.

Because if we’re all “weird” and making “weird connections” then wouldn’t that make “weird” well..  Uhmmm  “normal?”

Keep Austin WeirdI should move to Austin Texas.  Ya gotta love a city who’s unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird

uh-oh… I’ve gone into Free Association Mode.  BEEP  Danger! Warning!  Danger Will Robinson!   Resetting Brain…

I Told you! that my brain makes weird connections!  I wish someone would make a “brain image recorder” because the movie of my brain would be well, weird.  Interesting, maybe, scary, probably, but definitely weird.

BUT!!!!!!!  WEIRD IS sometimes AWESOME!  Like when you’re a “creative personality” or you are a comedian then you get on stage and say just about anything that comes to mind.  And get paid for it!  Woot!  (I confess, money, or the impending lack of it is something that very near the surface of my thoughts almost 100% of the time lately… but  I digress…)

I do that you know.  😉 Back to the comedians:

In two separate interviews, two of my favorite comedians / actors: Robin Williams and Jim Carey answered essentially the same way when asked about “Where they get their ideas?”

Both of them said that they get ideas constantly, almost continuously.  The hard part is to not say them out loud because people would call 911 and nice guys with a really cool white jacket would show up.  Essentially they said they their brain is just wired that way; they can’t shut it off.

Hmmm… I guess that puts me in pretty good company.  LOL  I just wish I made as much as those guys.  🙂

Speaking of the weird, well unusual.. in a good way… when you visit my blog, check out the snowflakes.  COOL!  No, I didn’t do it.  It is something that Word Press does for the month of Dec.

Background on my latest design:

I've been a Bad Cowboy - Send me to your Room.  This design is available for purchase on over a 100 products at TxCowboyDancer Designs on zazzle.com

Bad Cowboy c2013 TxCowboyDancer Designs

Sometimes my ideas seem to just pop into my head but this idea is a little more concrete.

I was out at a club, Hmmmm, must have been a year ago at least… a friend of mine was looking at this really cute guy and said “I’ve been a bad cowboy.  You should send me to his room.”

Well I burst out laughing and promptly found one of those little cards they put at the bar to write phone numbers on, and wrote it down.

It has been in my “idea file” every since.  Uhmm.. not the card; the quip.   I have this text file on my computer where as strange and weird things occur to me that *might* end up on a t-shirt someday, well I jot them down.

And when I get stuck for an idea, I open it up and start skimming.  The first one that makes me laugh out loud.  Yes LOL for real, well, that is the one I start working on.

As I was finishing up this design I showed it to my room mate and he said.  “Oh I’ve seen that on a t-shirt before.”  After I said “Oh Crap!” I clarified with my roomie that my design, to the best he could recall, looked a lot different than the tee-shirt he had seen before.

So…  a quick internet search revealed that while I’m definitely not the first one to do a design along these lines, none of the designs I could find look like mine!  WHEW!  Want to see the search?  you’ll see that my design is WAY COOLER!  Jus’ Sayin’  😉

Mental note to Tony: before spending hours on a design, do an internet search to see if someone else has already done it and if they have, well do it different and better.  Whew!

My favorite TWO products with the new design…

I've been a bad cowboy send me to your room c2013 TxCowboyDancer Designs available on zazzle.com

Stretched Canvas Print – Available framed or unframed on skinny to thick canvases or on single, double, triple or quad panel configurations.

I’m going to do something new with this post, even though I realize it is already long.  See what happens when I let my “inner weird” break loose?  *sigh*

Anyway, I”m going to put two products up front and center: A dart Board and a Canvas Print.

You can see the rest of the products after the jump if you like.  But these two products are something that I always put new designs on but no one has ever bought.  Yet.

Probably because they are sorta expensive.  Eeek!  I know that I wouldn’t buy them.  Hey, truth in advertising!  But I’m an out-of-work librarian pretending to be a graphics designer!  LOL  Not some potentially wealthy customer with money to burn and friends to buy presents for…  *hint* *hint*

I've been a bad cowboy send me to your room c2013 TxCowboyDancer Designs available on zazzle.com

Dart Board featuring “I’ve been a bad cowboy” design. Available at TxCowboyDancer Designs

AN – KNEE – WAY…

These two featured products are ones that I think would be perfect for a MAN CAVE or a BAR or a NIGHTCLUB!

Hey!  Terri B.  Are you reading this?  Hmmmmm????

Roger?  How about you?  Show it to the owners!  Don’t you think one of these would look great at the RU?

Hey Debbie!  Don’t you want one of these for your new club?

OMG!  I know a lot of bar folks!  LOL  Not a word dear readers… not a word!

The REST of My favorite products…

…with the new design on stuff that is a lot cheaper and priced for mere mortals and not Guys looking to decorate their Man Cave or Bar Owners looking to sell beer…

jus sayin…  😉

Read the rest of this entry

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My life right now…


…with my fingertips glued, mostly, to the keyboard…

OR…

Why I’ve been going on and on and on and on about my graphic designs (for now) …

To Do List (CC)You folks who have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve gone through periods where I talked about dance and nothing but dance.

Then there were long periods where I talked about loosing weight, eating healthy and getting fit and pretty much nothing else.

In fact, there have been periods where just about any and every topic under the sun became the “topic dee jur” for several “jurs” where I talked about that thing a LOT… and nothing else but that for a while.  (my friends from France just probably had a heart attack at my butchering of their native tongue.  Sorry guys.  🙂

Why do you get stuck on the same topic for a while?  I hear the teeming multitudes (all fourteen of you) asking…????

Because well, I blog about my life.  And whatever is going on in my life at that moment.  And I’ve been working a LOT on these designs lately trying to get as many as possible online and ready for people to buy in time for the Christmas Season.

AND because I see the end of my 401k (on which I’ve been living) coming to an end in Feb,

AND sales from these designs are one possible replacement for that money and a way to remain self-employed, 

AND I hurt my left arm / shoulder about two months ago and it still hurts and working on the computer (and these designs) is something I can do that doesn’t make the arm/shoulder hurt worse

AND THOSE things, dearest readers, are topics for another blog post.  The topic “de jur” is:

How was that for wicked teasing?  Hmmm? (One must confess that I’m grinning like a bad boy at the moment)  Watch for an update on those other tantalizing tidbits later…

But I digress.  I do that you know…  😉

My latest design

I love booksYou fine folks reading this…

(didcha catch my witty pun?) look to the right at the design…  Get it?  *snort* *giggle*

I started off with “reading” in the sentence.  ROFL [slapping knee and grinning foolishly]  And my design  *guaff* *snort* *giggle*  is about BOOKS!  Woot!

I crack my self up sometimes….  See what happens when I do a blog entry with only three sips of coffee in me?  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  😉

Anyway…  long time readers of this blog may recall that I have a Masters Degree in Library Science.  And, until early last year, I worked as a Librarian.

I love to read.  Well, duh.  LOL

So here is a design with that in mind:   “I love books”  / “I ♥ books”

Since this is just the fourth post in this new series, here is a reminder about the format.  Each post will have three parts:

  1. A large image of the new design
  2. A bit of background on how the design came about (just below)
  3. A few of my favorite products with the new design (just below that)

I hope you are enjoying the “back story” on the designs as I create them.

Even if you don’t visit the store and do some shopping, please hit the share and like buttons so that others can find out about my designs.  Thanks!

Background on my latest design:

One of the things that I knew early on was that I actually have very little drawing skill.  I mean I have a good size chunk of creative talent, all modesty aside, but the mechanical skills involved in picking up a pencil or paintbrush are things that I just do not have in my toolbox.

I can envision what I want but I lack the skill to actually produce it in a traditional “artistic” sense.  Thankfully graphic design doesn’t really require 100% creation from a blank page, or in this case a blank screen.

You can build upon the works of others.  So part of what I do is look for photos or clip art which is CC 3.0 BY, CC 3.0 BY-SA, or Public Domain. (If you want to read more about it what those letters mean, check out the first article in this series)

I love books

I love books – original photo. Licensed under CC 3.0 BY jamarmstrong on flickr.com

I start with an idea, which is mine.  All mine, then I start scouring the Internet for images which are kinda sorta what I want and with work and modification in a graphics program will fit the idea I have in mind.

I wanted to do a “I love books” design.  And I found this photo.  I really loved the warmth of the colors but there were several problems from the standpoint of a “graphic” for shirts, mugs etc.  Here’s what I did to turn it into a more workable design:

  • Square fits more products than rectangle designs and are easier to work with
    — So I added extra background to the top and bottom
    — I smudged and blended the extra bits so they looked like part of the original photo
  • When using text in a design “Level” is best
    — so I rotated the image to level out the pages of the books
  • Clarity and focus are important
    — meaning that elements which muddle the picture have to be removed, so the red bookmark ribbon was removed
    — and since the “heart” created by the pages is definitely the focal point of the photo, I moved the book over, cropped one side, added borders on the sides (like I did for the top and bottom), smudged and blended so it looked like part of the original photo.
  • The letter "I" with a color gradient matching the original photo.

    The letter “I” with a color gradient matching the original photo.

    Big is better
    — (getcher mind outta tha gutter!)  *ahem*  Go ahead.  Laugh.  Get it out of your system.  *sigh*  Moving on… The small text in the original photo was removed
    — I looked for a “dramatic” font online (one which had commercial permission)
    — I then used the MAC Text Edit program to create a black version of the font; I did a screen grab to convert the “text” into “graphics” and imported the “I” and “books” into GIMP, the program I use for working on my designs.
    — I then reversed the colors making the text white and the background black.  I deleted the white, making it transparent.
    — Then, and here’s the cool part…  I pasted the now, transparent text onto the photo, moved it around until parts of the warm yellows and reds and golds showed through and when I found a spot I liked, I then took another screen shot, got rid of the “black” background, making it transparent, leaving the text in glowing warm colors which matched the photo.  Tah-Dah!
    — Then it was just a case of moving the text around until I liked the positioning.  Woot!

For the record, I am quite proud of myself.  Why?…  I hear the teeming masses (all three of you) asking…?

I love books 400x400 small TORNBecause, dearest readers, I had to LEARN to do all that flippin stuff.  Fiddlin’ and Finagalin’ with Fotos ain’t like makin’ coffee!   Sheesh!  Can we say “learning curve?”  OMG!  No wonder graphic designers / computer geeks get paid so much!   For the record, understanding layers for me was the hardest part.  It is finally starting to click but only in the most basic sense.

An-Knee-Ways….  I’ve come a long way.  And it is all self-taught.  Just little ole me (and lots of very helpful YouTube videos) learning how to do it.  And I’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible.  *grin*

In all seriousness, what makes me so proud of this design is that I had this picture in my head.  And the final design came out very much like what I had in mind.  Woot!

My favorite products with the new design…

As a reminder, since this is only the fourth announcement of designs using this new “standardized format”…  I’ll share with you a few of the products from the first batch on which I think the new design looks awesome.   If you want to see all the products with this design, then click on one of the many links scattered through this post and hop on over to the store…  Cheers!

Read the rest of this entry

100% Me — From Start to Finish


The Language of Dance

Language of Dance (c2013 TxCowboyDancer Designs)

Language of Dance (c2013 TxCowboyDancer Designs)

This is my design.  100% mine.  From start to Finish.  I did this!  Woot!  Uh-Huh!  [doing that circle in the air thing]  Doing my happy chair dance.  Who da manz!?  I iz!

Ok, ok.  Seriously folks this design is all mine.

Since this is only the third in this new series, here is a reminder about the format.  Each post will have three parts:

  1. A large image of the new design (like the one to the right)
  2. A bit of background on how the design came about (just below)
  3. A few of my favorite products with the new design (just below that)

I hope you are enjoying the “back story” on the designs as I create them.

Even if you don’t visit the store and do some shopping, please hit the share and like buttons so that others can find out about my designs.  Thanks!

Background on my latest design:

The idea for Language of Dance on my "brainstorming" list of design ideas.

The idea for Language of Dance on my “brainstorming” list of design ideas.

Way back when I first had the idea of creating designs for t-shirts, mugs, etc I sat down at my computer and came up with, literally, 14 printed 8 1/2 x 11 pages, double and single spaced…  quotes, quips, sayings, and design ideas.

Yes, dear readers, all nine of you who are reading this, without my usual dramatic embelishments, I can TRUTHFULLY say there is a fourteen page document on my desk right in front of me as I speak and on page ten there is this idea.

So… this was one of the very first “ideas” I had.  I had seen shirts with the word “Dance” in English written in different Fonts and different sizes arranged in a mosaic kind of pattern but I had never seen that done with multiple languages.

This is also one of the very first designs I ever created.  I actually used a word processor to do the design because of the large amount of text.  Using a graphics program really wasn’t working.

I used an online translation program to look up words from languages around the world. I basically just went down the list of languages and grabbed any that “looked cool” or that slightly resembled “Dance” in English.   I tried to choose colors from across the spectrum.  And them when I was done, I started cutting and pasting them into a shape that I liked.

Then I did a screen grab to convert the “text” into a graphic.   I then imported the graphic into a graphics editing program and fiddled with the twiddly bits and Tah-Dah…  I had my first design.

Stressed man pulling hair [CC]And then I fell promptly on my face.  I discovered that designing for t-shirts and mugs is a not an easy process and of all the designs I could have chosen for a “first” effort, doing something like this was NOT a good choice.  There are lots of problems with it from a design standpoint.  The wide range of colors means that it really looks best on a white background but putting a white background on white products is problematic.  And when creating the design I gave no thought to the size of the design area on the products onto which the design would go.

The upshot was that I eventually just threw my hands into the air in frustration and started moved on to something simpler.  And this design languished on the sidelines: even though I had created a few products; even though I had announced this design before (with the earlier) versions of it.

But now, after months of practice and learning more about graphics editing than I ever thought I’d know, I was ready to tackle it again.  Start from scratch and do it up right.  If you compare the “idea” photo to the “finished” design you can see that the idea is basically the same but the arrangement is far different, in order to accommodate the constraints required by the products on zazzle.

Cowboy smiley 110x110And I’m pretty happy with the results.

As with all my designs, it seems as if as soon as I finish, I get an idea for variations to the design.  So watch for future versions working with this concept.

My favorite products with the new design…

Sometimes when I finish with a design and load it onto the products I feel like “Grumpy Cat” who doesn’t like anything.  Because, well to be honest, they just don’t look as good as I had envisioned.

But then, sometimes, when I load a design I just go “WOW.”  This particular design has quite a few “Wows.”   I hope you enjoy them and if you do, help me out by clicking those like and share buttons.  Here are my favorites from the first batch:  (and no… the hunk does NOT come with the shirt… alas plus he might not even be legal!  *GASP* We shall assume that he’s of college age—you dirty minded… …of course I could be externalizing again…. but I digress  *sigh*)

Read the rest of this entry

Coffee Kitty is NOT a Morning Cat… Uhmmm… Person


Given how sleep deprived I am this morning…

Coffee Kitty is NOT a Morning Person

c2013 TxCowboyDancer Designs

…this design is somehow very appropriate.

Since this is only the second in this new series, here is a reminder about the format.  Each post will have three parts:

  1. A large image of the new design (like the one to the right)
  2. A bit of background on how the design came about (just below)
  3. A few of my favorite products with the new design (just below that)

I hope you are enjoying the “back story” on the designs as I create them.

Even if you don’t visit the store and do some shopping, please hit the share and like buttons so that others can find out about my designs.  Thanks!

Background on my latest design:

I don’t remember where I first saw this cat.  I think it was either on Facebook or maybe it popped up in a Google search.  I’ve slept since then…  😉

Following the trail back to the source of the image lead me to a website called Deviant Art;  a site I had never visited before.  Wow, talk about a different part of the Interwebz!  LOL

I Need Coffee Original sketch by (by YTCyberPunk)

This was the image that I first saw… I Need Coffee Original sketch by (by YTCyberPunk)

If you’ve never heard of Deviant Art, check it out.  It is a lot of fun, but a lot of, well, deviant, in a good “artistic” way.  Basically it is a place for artists and photographers to hang out and share their work, comment and critique, and take a peek at what other artists and photographers are doing.

Some of the work on the site is jaw dropping amazing.  Some of it is amusing.  Some of it, quite frankly, is awful.  Not awful in the sense of lack of inspiration or effort but in execution—sorta baby works by artists who still have “training wheels” on their paint brushes or mouses.  Mice?  Miceses?

Whatever you call more than one computer mouse.  But hey, art is in the eye of the beholder, and all of it is fun.  Think “coffee house” in Soho with local artists works on the wall, and you get the idea… only without the coffee and it is on the Internet instead of in New York… but anyhoo…

Hmmm… coffee must be on my brain this morning…  Slllllluuuuuurrrrrrrrpppppp….  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh….

You know you are truly hooked when you are only a third of the way through your first cup of coffee and there is NO WAY the caffeine  can actually be hitting your system yet, but your body reacts physiologically to the mere promise of more caffeine hitting the blood stream soon. *SIGH*

I Need Coffee (by YTCyberPunk) Ink Version

I Need Coffee (by YTCyberPunk) Cleaned up Ink Version

But I digress..   I do that you know…

So… on the Deviant Art website, has a way for visitors to purchase a digital copy of the artwork for their personal non-commercial use like putting it on a computer desktop as the background.  Or printing it off and framing it and hanging it on the wall.

But I didn’t want the image for personal use.  I wanted to edit the design and I wanted to sell the design on products like t-shirts and coffee mugs.  So, having never done this before, I said “what the hey” and took a chance.  I emailed the artist and asked her if she’d consider selling me the commercial rights to her drawing, including the right to edit the drawing and add captions.

It turns out that the “drawing” was just a doodle she had done during class and that she’d never actually ever sold one of her works before and was very flattered that I liked her drawing.

Since we were both “babes in the woods” so to speak, we talked it through, making the contract up as we went.  We eventually agreed that she retain copyright on the original drawing and that I would have copyright on any modifications based on her drawing.

I sent her a payment and in exchange I got a cleaned up copy of the drawing from her and the commercial rights to print the modified versions on  t-shirts etc.  Coolness!  My first official bizness KNEE-go-she-Ayh-SHUN! Woot!

Storyline showing development of the design

Storyline showing development of the design as I edited it

When I got the cleaned up “pen and ink” version, I decided that actually liked the original “messy” pencil version better.

So working with both the original “messy” file and the ink “clean” version, I took a bit of this and a bit of that and did a lot of clean up and editing of the “messy” version.

I added color to it a little at a time.  I did some MORE clean up, adjusted proportions, shortened the height of the steam, and eventually after several hours of work with a graphics program…

Tah-Dah.  I had a design I liked and that was ready to go onto products.

My favorite version is the cream colored cat.  But I am playing around with the colors and will at some point in the future have a black and white version and a grey scale version as well.  Watch for those.  🙂

Or I might change the color of the coffee cup or I might use the ink version.  Who knows.  But I’ll have to have more coffee first.  LOL

I just LOVE the expression on this cat’s face.  Especially since it is so close and contrasts so nicely with the big “smiley” face on the mug!  Woot!

My favorite products with the new design…

I had a LOT of fun coming up with captions for the bumper stickers and mugs, etc for this design.  I’m a coffee drinker and NOT a morning person AT ALL so this is a topic near and dear to my caffeinated heart. Read the rest of this entry

We’re not talkin’ “Daddy Warbucks” yet, but… One can hope, and you can help! –> My Songs and Books From the Rachel Maddow Show is a Chart Rocket!


Books and Music from the Rachel Maddow ShowMy New Article Books and Songs from the Rachel Maddow Show is a “Chart Rocket”!!!!

Ok, folks, something really cool is going on — I have a chance at a real, honest to goodness, money-making article!  Woot!  Yeeeeeeeee haaawwwwwwww!!!!!!

Those who have followed my posts here know that a little over a year ago I lost my job as a librarian.  Since that time I have been trying to switch from “unemployed” to “self-employed” and one of the ways I’ve been doing that is to write online articles over at Squidoo.

They say in the “writing business” that you should write what you are passionate about.  For me that mainly means dance, which unfortunately is NOT just a huge “money making” topic for writing.

BUT…  I do like books as well.  And, I do like the Rachel Maddow Show. And I noticed something interesting the other day when I looked at the “Top 100” lenses at Squidoo….  TWO of the Top 15 “lenses” which is what Squidoo calls “articles” are about BOOKS!  Now there is something that I can write about which I also can be passionate about.

I was a librarian after all.  🙂

So, I created a new lens:  Books and Songs from the “Rachel Maddow Show” (Current Season) and I published it on Friday the 12th in the wee hours of the morning.  Since that time here is how it has ranked: Read the rest of this entry

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