Embracing New Technology. Reviewing my Microsoft Surface Book

I would like to preface this by saying that I am not a super "techy person". I know how to do what I need to do and then I learn as I go. 

We recently had a big electronic shake up in our house. We had some technology that was outdated or not functioning correctly, we had some needs that changed, we had some storage issues and we had some glitchy programs.

My husband and I both use our computers for work. Him for research and teaching. Me for art, design and marketing.

We decided to take a trip to Best Buy "just to look" (famous last words). We had some loose ideas and a few directions we could go, as far as what would be replaced, what could be upgraded and who would get what, between my husband and myself.

It was a successful trip and this is what we decided. My husband took my old MacBook Pro, our oldest son got my husbands older MacBook Pro and I ended up with a shiny, huge new laptop (the HP Envy) with a special graphics card and other features we thought would help with my art and design business.

I began setting it up and transferring everything over, a task I do not enjoy. It wasn't long before I started having issues. Overall the battery life was terrible and it seemed like it wouldn't hold a charge for more than a couple of hours. For me, the interface was clunky and not intuitive, my programs didn't run smoothly and it was very glitchy. Physically it was huge which I thought would be a plus for creating artwork but it was so heavy it actually hurt my legs when I would work with it on my lap and it was too big to tote around. 

I hated it.

Back it went and we widened our scope.

We didn't know anything about the Microsoft line of laptops but got a super knowledgeable salesperson. After lots and lots of questions and a little "test drive", I went home with a new Surface Book which was almost double the cost of the one I returned. Agh!

This was part of my super quick, in-store test drive.

Well, someone was watching over me on this purchase. I was officially in love.

If you are in the market for a new laptop for your creative business, I highly recommend you look into this device.

It is a combination of many things….a traditional laptop, the back removes and becomes a tablet and drawing pad, it has a touch screen and a digital "pencil".

It's light and east to transport.

It is more responsive than my Wacom Bamboo digital drawing tablet and I have more control over the pencil accessory.

The graphics card thingy (technical term) makes running Photoshop a breeze. It opens so fast!

I am able to sketch directly on the screen with almost as much precision as with an actual pencil on paper. I am sure that will just improve even more with use.

The learning time period was super quick and it felt natural right away.

The keyboard is so comfortable to use. It is very similar to the Macbook Pro but actually feels smoother and quieter.

Overall, the design of the laptop is super sexy with this cool snake like hinge.

It took me a little while to figure out that the digital pen attaches to the side with a strong magnet but it's perfect for storage.

And best of all…the battery lasts forever! Well, not literally forever but I haven't run out of battery while working unplugged, using Photoshop for hours and hours and hours. I think they claim that the battery will last from 8-12 hours. I believe it. 

So far, it's a dream.

Below are some images I created with my new technical love.

Have you used this machine?

Until next week,


all rights reserved Pam Vale 2016, www.pamvale.com

Does Knowing The Process of Art Make a Difference in How You Feel About the Price?

Last week, I stumbled upon the video above, illustrating the process of creating handmade paper parasols. I was kind of blown away by the number of steps and the amount of hands that it took to complete each one. I guess I never really thought about how they were made.

Also, with all of the advancements in technology, it's easy to forget the time and talent that can go into making some items by hand.

It made me wonder if clients might understand how an artist prices their work, if they knew what actually went into it. All of the stuff you don't see. It's true that a skilled artist can make creating look easy.

Throughout my life, people have often told me that I make what I do (creatively) look easy. Often, at this stage of my career, what I do might even feel easy for me.

You don't always see all of the years of experience, education, trial and error, mistakes, money, headache, successes, etc… that came before that "easy" moment.

While some might not appreciate the skill and cost of preserving "crafts", this video is a perfect example of how much can go into hand crafting a simple, functional item.

For me, it definitely sheds light on how and why some things are priced the way they are.

Would thinking about how something was made or how many hands touched a product you were going to buy make a difference in how you felt about the price?

I'd love to know what you think about the video.

Until next week,


Artists Helping Artists, Coloring for Daniel Savage

I'm in several coloring groups on Facebook where I can interact with fellow coloring book artists and the colorists that purchase and color our products. It's a great way for me to connect with the "end users" of my art and get a feel for what they enjoy coloring.

About a month ago in one of the groups, I saw a call to help a fellow artist (Daniel Savage) that was facing some serious, life altering health concerns. A private group was started and a plan to help was hatched.

The result was twofold.

The first was 32 artists coming together by donating art in the hopes of creating and publishing a collaborative adult coloring book that could benefit his family. Less than a month later, that plan has been realized!

The second was helping to complete his own adult coloring book that he had in the works when he got sick. That too is done and available to purchase.

Please see all of the details and links below and feel free to share this. 100% of  royalties will go to his family to help at this difficult time.

I love using my art for things like this!

Here is a peek at two colored versions of the page that I donated.

Artist: Pam Vale
Colorist: Melissa Bradley 
Artist: Pam Vale
Colorist: Jenn Petracca 

On a personal note, here is a post from Daniel's wife, Mary, from November 10, 2016:

"We have been bursting with incredible news and it is finally time to share it with everyone! Today is Daniel's 44th birthday and as a huge gift to him, 32 amazing artist's, including our ten-year-old daughter, Katie, have gotten together and helped us finish Daniel's adult coloring book that he has been working on but became too ill to finish. Today, on his birthday, Daniel's book has been published and is available for sale on Amazon! Gnomes: An Adult Coloring Book of Gnomes Throughout Time is available here... http://amzn.to/2fGzeJe

These astounding people have also put together an amazing collaborative adult coloring book that is also available on Amazon and all proceeds from this second book will go to our family to help offset some of the costs of Daniel's health crisis. Coloring for Daniel: An Adult Coloring Book for Hope, Strength and Healing is available here... http://amzn.to/2fVSJm5

We are so proud of Daniel and Katie and humbled by the incredible generosity this group of artists has shown our family. Please take a minute and check out these two coloring books and if you have a chance, please try to share this post or create one of your own so we can get the word out far and wide and hopefully sell some books!"

Thank you so much to everyone involved in this project to help support Daniel and his dream of publishing an adult coloring book!"

 An Adult Coloring Book for Hope, Strength and Healing
35 coloring pages by 32 artists who have come together to honor a fellow artist and to make a difference in the life of his family
  • Each coloring page is printed on a separate sheet to avoid bleed through
  • 60 lb bright white paper
  • Hours of coloring pleasure
  • Each coloring page is designed for Fun, Relaxation, and Stress Relief
  • 100% of proceeds donated to the Daniel Savage family

Artist Index
  • Agy Wilson
  • Annyce Turlea
  • Antonina Kalinina
  • Cece Raven
  • Color Me Forum
  • Collette Fergus
  • Creative Life Studios
  • Cristin Frey
  • Genevieve Crabe
  • Hannah D'Agostino
  • Heather Johnsgaard
  • Heidi Berthiaume
  • Julie Thompson
  • Kim A. Flodin
  • Lianne Lynch
  • Ligia Ortega
  • Linda Franklin
  • Margaret Gates Root
  • Maria Wedel
  • Mary-Margaret Marx
  • Olivia Julius Dunggat
  • Pam Vale Branch
  • Paola Minekov
  • Samantha J. Decker
  • Sarah Clark
  • Shelah Dow
  • Steve Turner
  • Sue Chastain
  • Suzy Joyner
  • Teri Sherman
  • TigerLynx
  • Katie Savage

How to Find and Organize Ideas for Your Creative Newsletter or Blog.

When I started my weekly newsletter, I needed ideas and nothing was really flowing. It was so frustrating.

Thankfully I found a tremendous amount of inspiration and direction online.

I am happy to share some things that have worked for me. I hope you find them useful.

How to Find Ideas:

  1. Search for list ideas on the internet. There are an unlimited amount of blogs and websites that have long lists of newsletter and blog post writing prompts. Not all of them will apply but they are sure to spark some ideas and help you think outside of the box. CLICK HERE for an example.

  1. Start with a catchy title or phrase. Sometimes it's better to work backwards, finding a current event, headline, phrase or saying and then crafting your piece around that.

  1. Go back and look through old work. I have found a lot of inspiration looking through my past work. There might be a project I forgot about or some process or outcome that was unexpected. Sharing your progress and growth can be fun too.

  1. Share your favorite things. This can be really anything, as I believe that all of our experiences and preferences apply  to our art. How have your favorite things inspired your creative process?

  1. Look at Holidays and Special Events. Keeping a calendar of upcoming holidays can help generate post ideas. On the flip side, you can share about different aspects of personal special events.

Newsletter tips:

Based on research, below are some suggestions to keep in mind when crafting your newsletter and blog posts.

  1. Keep it brief. I think this might be the most important tip of all. Your readers are busy. Super busy. Give the information in a brief format or they will move on. 

  1. Keep it simple. Narrow your focus instead of trying to cover too much material in one issue. Maybe spread out your ideas over several issues or posts.

  1. Don't overthink it. It's so easy to get caught in the trap of complicating things or to think that we are not enough. Someone will benefit from what you have to say. Stay focused on the act of sharing instead of the possible outcome.

  1. Edit yourself. More is not always better. After you write your piece, step away and then come back to it later. That can really help you see the parts that are not absolutely necessary.  Delete those and even re-work what's left to condense and abbreviate.

  1. Proof everything multiple times! This cannot be stressed enough. Read it, reread it and then read it again. If you can, have another set of eyes read it as well.

How to organize and store your ideas:

Chances are that awesome ideas will hit you at odd times and in unexpected locations. You might think you will remember them  when it comes time to sit down and write but most likely you won't. Below are some suggested tools and ideas for capturing your brilliant thoughts while on the go.

One Note - I recently started using this app/program but really like it so far. You can create folders and.access it on many devices which makes it easy to quickly store ideas and keep them organized. Right now, this is my go-to option.

Evernote - I know this app is very popular and has a lot of features, however they made some big changes not too long ago and now I don't care for it. It was what I used before discovering One Note but since their changes I have had a few bad experiences, including loosing a bunch of work I had just completed. They also started charging for some of their services that had previously been free. With that being said, I do think it's worth checking out and deciding for yourself.

Portable notepad - Go old school and keep a small notebook in your bag, next to your bed, in your car, etc… this is great for jotting quick notes and ideas but for me, I tend to forget where I wrote things. Also, loose pages don't work for me as I misplace them easily!

Binders - Creating an actual binder can be a good way to stay organized with your ideas. When I have little scraps of paper with random notes, I can throw them in there so I don't loose them and have a batter chance of actually accessing them. This binder is also a great place to store any other details relating to your newsletter or blog, like colors or fonts that you use, passwords, upcoming holidays or special events, etc…

Emailing yourself - This is my last resort and actually now that I have One Note I am not sure why I would need to do this but it is an option and has served me in the past. I include the words blog post or NL (newsletter) in the subject line of the email so I can easily search for them in my extremely full inbox. Sometimes I just save the email as a draft.

So, there you have some of my favorite newsletter and blog post tips.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to my weekly newsletter!

Do you have tips or tricks for creating or storing content?

Until next week,


How To Create Your Own Travel Art Box

I recently saw this clever video on how to make a child's travel activity kit using a thin baby wipes box as the container. It was super simple, easy to customize and perfect to throw in a bag on the go.

It reminded me of an adult version that I created not too long ago. See what you think. Would you enjoy something like this? How could you tweak it to suit your favorite art medium or craft?

Step 1 - Decide what medium or craft you want to create your travel kit for.
I wanted something that I could use for drawing with pencil and ink but this could easily be adapted for coloring with colored pencils or markers.

Step 2 - Collect your art/craft materials.
In order to know what size your travel container needs to be you need to know what you want to put inside of it. Focus more on the static items and not the ones that can be re-sized, like paper.

Step 3 - Find a container.
I had a sturdy box with a lid from some pretty note cards. It even had one of the blank cards attached to the front. You could also use empty baby wipes containers, folio pad holders, mini hinged lunch boxes, even a tin mint holder could make a tiny travel art kit. 

Step 4 - Add your supplies to your container.
I had a little clipboard that was attached to a greeting card but you can also find them at stationery stores. I cut a small stack of my favorite paper to fit on the clipboard. I also cut a small folder out of card stock to hold and protect my completed drawings until I got home. 

I didn't secure my supplies inside the box but I have seen where others added strips of elastic or made little pockets to hold pens and pencils. The lid of my box closed tight but your could tie ribbon or wrap elastic around it to keep it closed in your bag.

That's it! I can throw it in my purse and draw anywhere.

You can search Internet sites like Pinterest for a massive amount of ideas or you can just keep it simple.

I'd love to know your ideas!

Until next time,