The Art of the Proposal and Yes, I’m Really an Artist

Yesterday I wrapped up my last art proposal out of twelve. A couple more opportunities had popped up since my last blog and I couldn’t resist the challenge to create more art. I’ve had one refusal, but so far, three acceptances/shows, including the AKC Art Show at the Dog Show that is happening right now in Wichita, KS. I will have a weekend show at the holy grail of dog art, the AKC Museum of the Dog in July 25th and 26th, and I will again have a piece in the Stray Rescue Urban Wanderer’s show this summer. And something I’ve been working on for so long, the main reason for this blog, my steampunk art, A Midsummer’s Night Steam Steampunk Art Installation will commence on June 5th and run through the month of June at 1900 Park, Creative Space. I am so thrilled to have all kinds of my steam art available in one spot. I have begun to collect more fabric and pieces to put some great works together.

I have been chomping at the bit to get creating, but the proposals took quite a bit of my time, almost a month. Each submission had it’s own paperwork, rules, standards, ideas and formatting. My creative writing skills were well utilized, but I was really hoping to get back to the adventures of Kate Church or designing more hats. I won’t lie, I whined about it in social media more than a few times. I had to remind myself to be grateful that so many artistic possibilities were out there to begin with. Which brings me to part two of this blog.

Last year I walked away from corporate America much to the surprise of friends and family. I had already lost my full time job last spring. I found a new job in the same industry (media), but quit after a couple months. I was burnt out and my heart was screaming “do what you love”. So I decided to work part time to pay the bills which allows enough time for my art. I’ve had a website for my dog art for years and have been blogging about my steampunk art and writing for over three and half years now.

What’s funny though is I still get questions. Are you really an artist? Really? How do you find the time? Do you live in a loft? Can you make money doing that? I have to laugh at all of them. Yep, I’m an artist. I was basically a prodigy. I remember drawing before I could talk. I was gifted and had a super imagination as a kid (I still do). I’ve participated in several huge public artworks. I did move from the suburbs to the city and my view is spectacular, although it’s not exactly a loft. But I do leave the accordian door to the bedroom open which gives the apartment a nice airy feeling. Yes, I am making money, not as much as I had hoped, but things are really starting to happen. My Etsy store has over 8,000 views. I get commissions and now monthly royalties from amazon. Life is getting good.

But I have to wonder, why people ask? I mean, I have the talent, shouldn’t I use it? Maybe I don’t look like your typical female artist (whatever that is). Maybe people expect piercings and tats, a mohawk, an unconventional lifestyle? Well, I do color my hair however I like it, I wear what I want, and I am a cougar (that’s for another blog), but I pretty much have a family and buy groceries like everyone else does. I did notice that after a recent bout of eye strain and wearing glasses instead of contacts got me a lot of interesting looks and unexpected respect. I know all kinds of female artists and wonder that in the post feminism/re-charging feminism world of #HeForShe why women artists STILL aren’t taken seriously.

I recently did a small craft/art show with almost all female artists, and most of them happen to be my part time co-workers. One of the younger gals stepped away from her table for a while after her boyfriend arrived. He watched over her work so she could take a break. After she returned and they stood together, much to her chagrin, almost everyone that approached assumed that he was the artist. I confess I’d be a bit miffed too.

Beyond the feminist aspect, I also get a little angry that art isn’t taken as a serious profession. The days I’m not working the part time job, I work at home. I might post a couple posts on social media, but then it’s off to the races art wise. I can’t tell you how many times I get interrupted by all kinds of requests, general building noises, etc. I feel the pain of anyone else that works from home. I’ve gotten in the habit of turning my phone off completely when I create. Art is my passion, but it is work that I do get paid for, and it needs to be done. Sometimes there’s research and inspirational materials I need to review. And I deserve time away like everyone else. I don’t have vacation time like a corporate job, but I need a break too. Sometimes even a walk to the convenience store or a glass of wine is a small bit of heaven.

On the flip side, I leave this blog on a positive note. There is nothing like having someone see your work and marvel at it’s beauty. Or the person or client that buys a piece and doesn’t bat an eye at its price. For this, I am so grateful. And as always, thank you for reading.

-Victoria

P.S. So much good stuff coming. I am going to do many more short visual posts from my phone as I finish pieces for a Midsummer Night’s Steam. Please share and keep your eyes peeled for my vision of Victorian retro-futurism.

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Mardi Gras Madness Begins

In my hometown of St. Louis, we have the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the US. Right now, the costume shop that is my “day” job, is hopping with customers ploughing through beads, masks, and decor.

I’ll be attending at least one parade, the Beggin’ Strips Pet Parade this Sunday, as long as the weather holds out. There’s also a Weiner Dog Derby race and band/party afterwards.

And I’ve added some great pieces (including the mask below) and a SALE in the Etsy store to perhaps help you celebrate. Use code LUVMASKS25 to get 25% off through 2/13 to celebrate both Valentine’s and Mardi Gras. The store link is here:

Haute Hen

So I created a new mask with some steampunk syle:

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I started with a basic plastic form (to keep the mask light weight) and painted it with copper and gold paint to give it a metallic feel.

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I added lace and my own scroll design which was hand cut before adding to the ears. I then added hand painted roses, embroidery, ribbon and gears for additional steam style.

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I was really pleased with the results and shot the pics for the store yesterday. Lipstick via Clinique, Shadows via Avon, Ben Nye.

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More goodies coming to the store soon. Thank you as always for reading!
Victoria

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-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads! The sequel, “Revenge and Machinery” is coming soon!

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Revamping the Vamp, Get to Know Will

When I was writing my first steampunk novel “Strax and the Widow”, I got distracted by whole different genre and character. I wondered what would it be like for a modern day vampire searching for “the one” in modern times. What do you do with eternity on your hands? Could you really fall in love with one person? And if that person were human, could you avoid killing them? Would you tire of an endless life?

I know that this theme is not exactly unique, but I wanted to write a series from the view point of the vampire. Climb into his mind and share his story. And thus my character Will and “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series was born.

I like the short story format for this series. Each one is written like episodic television; a new adventure or peek into Will’s past. The first in the series “The Long Moonlight” might start off a little mushy, but read it all the way through to discover what’s at the heart of Will.

I like Will. For a vampire, he’s still pretty human. He loves women, but like most men, even after being alive over 600 years, has yet to completely figure them out. He has tremendous powers and desires. He is tempted, and sometimes can’t control his undead yearnings. Will’s made some serious mistakes and like most of us, his past still haunts him. He’s sweet, dirty, passionate, smart, dangerous, sexy, and sometimes a jerk, but always complex and charming.

I’ve just released V.1o “The Vamp Hit List”. It will be available to download for FREE on Wednesday November 19th on amazon/kindle. Remember, you don’t have to have a kindle to get the ebooks. You can download the Kindle app to almost any electronic device.

The whole FIRST ebook series will be FREE FOR THE LAST TIME EVER on 11/30, 12/1, and 12/26. After that you’ll have to purchase them or the upcoming compilation of all the stories, “The First Ten Bites”. I hope to have it available in hard copies/paperbacks by late spring.

Will is going to go away for a bit for a revamp as I wrap up my second steampunk novel in “The Society Series”, “Revenge and Machinery”. Some of the titles will have new artwork and new formatting, so be sure to download on the FREE dates. More of Will’s new adventures will arrive later in 2015.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series. Please feel free to share the free download dates and rate on amazon and goodreads. I’d love to see your comments.

As always, thank you for reading,

-Victoria

The Vampire’s Little Black Book series is always FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads! The sequel, “Revenge and Machinery” is coming soon!

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-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)

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-Fine Art America-store coming soon

 

 

 

 

 

Day of the Dead 2014

It’s been an insanely busy Halloween season. I managed to squeeze in some new creations, all with a Day of the Dead/Halloween theme. My last creation first, a Dead of the Dead, Mardi Gras bunny mask, now available in TheHauteHen Etsy store.

I built this on a pre-existing black mask, a template I have used before in “The Heroine” series.

DOD Bunny 6

After hot glue, some embroidered trim and roses, I got the result I wanted. A sassy bunny mask that’s perfect for any costume occasion.

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Add a little makeup…

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And let the photo fun begin…

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Then on to business…I had a great buyer in my Etsy store who bought my Day of the Dead Groom Hat with a few modifications…

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And then she commissioned a voodoo belt for her husband, which was really fun to put together. I sent her a sketch, bought some neat pieces including a beaver skull from the Etsy store (and friend) Guiditta Testa.

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And Elizabeth Rios and her husband looked fabulous in their creations!

Rios 1 Rios 2 Rios 3

So much more happened last month, but that is for the next blog. Thank you for reading!

Victoria

And then some style. Day of the Dead Indeed

And then some style. Day of the Dead Indeed

Will has returned in v.9 of The Vampire’s Little Black Book series, “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers” on amazon/kindle. Volumes 1-8 are also available on amazon/kindle. They are always FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads!

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-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)

-Etsy-TheHauteHen

-Instagram-Steampunkcountess

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-Fine Art America-store coming soon

Random Thoughts on Being Sick

This is a short one and not what I expected to blog for October. My car got broken into about a week ago, but they stole nothing, just busted a lock. I’ve been working like crazy. Hopefully the next blog will be filled with Halloween and costume happiness. Meanwhile, enjoy these random thoughts on being sick:

-I absolutely hate being sick. Period.

-I have now returned to my classic pre-summer vampire white skin.

-Of course we have two of the most wonderful Fall days in St. Louis. The Cardinals lost in the playoffs, but the Rams and Blues won this weekend. Yet I am stuck on the couch or in bed.

-Why does everything look so good on tv, yet I have no appetite?

-I wanted to at least severely reprimand the guy (an adult mind you) that picked his nose in the fitting room line. OK, I wanted to kill him, but I can’t afford to go to jail.

-The part I hate most about going to the doctor (besides cost, I don’t have health insurance), explaining my low body temp. Today at Urgent Care I checked in at a comfortable 97.7. Yep. I feel like dirt and have the temperature of a reptile that runs through it. But my neck is swollen like a chipmunk. I’ve had strep and the flu and not run a fever. OK, at least my blood pressure was awesome.

-This time it hit pretty fast. Went from a slight headache Friday afternoon, to not sleeping that night because I felt like I’d gargled with razor blades.

-Sleep is my friend at last. When I did finally fall asleep on Sat. morning I had to text in sick to work. Got some OTC meds and gatorade and went back to bed. Watched some tv and did a little work on my costume. Took another nap. More tv. Bed early. Slept ten hours. Text in sick again. Urgent Care and pharmacy about 3.5 hours. Home and another nap. As of 3:30pm today, I’ve slept almost twenty-four hours. Sad to see most of my waking hours were at the doc’s office or getting meds.

-Surreal sick moment of the day, got my windows open and wake up from nap to people yelling and stuff. Turn on the tv to see that the Rams won. Lookout to notice the happy traffic of fans and the leaves changing color on the Arch grounds. Another beautiful day wasted. Cursed flu, but at least it’s a pretty day.

-The Countess is having tea and a bit of a lie down as they say in the UK. Stupid f’n virus, as we say in the US.

OK, will stop groaning now. What’s coming up?

Will the vampire returns soon in v.9 of The Vampire’s Little Black Book Series, “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers”. Since I really don’t feel like doing anything else, I will be writing a bit later on. Keep a watch on my social media links for its release.

Stay healthy my friends, and thanks, as always, for reading,

Victoria

___________

Will returns soon in v.9 of The Vampire’s Little Black Book series, “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers” on amazon/kindle. The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc and volumes 1-7 are also available on amazon/kindle. They are FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

Product Details

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads!

Image

-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)

-Etsy-TheHauteHen

-Instagram-Steampunkcountess

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-Fine Art America-stores coming soon

Masks I Have Worn Pt.1

As Mardi Gras approaches, I decided it was a great time to add a hat to my Etsy store. Actually I’m a working on a few toppers and I’ll be sharing each of them in the next few weeks. This time of year also had me thinking about masks; how wearing them can not only change our looks but our inside emotions as well. I’ll go into more depth on this in a future blog.

In the meantime enjoy the creation of this Mardi Gras Top Hat. Each hat becomes a little production with its own photo shoot. I like to mix in a unique hairstyle and makeup in the photos. This can sound a little vain, taking a lot of selfies. To me, it’s art. I create a character to match the fashion. First two pics are of the initial make-up I wore to work at the costume/party shop. I found the wig (California Costume) at the shop; it was a keeper. The mask is courtesy of Johnnie Brock’s.

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This second group was taken later that evening with the hat. The hat is really traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras opulent with a harlequin and his marching staff holding court from the top. A silver and gold mini mask sets on the front brim. An ornate fluer de lis and crown counterbalance the back side.

FrontFleur detail

Qtr View Back  Mask Detail

I touched up my makeup with kewpie doll cupid’s bow lips (OK, too much pouting on my part) and traditional Mardi Gras colors for t eyes: purple, green and gold.

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I really enjoyed the finished product. I hope you do too!

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Pt. 2 coming soon with more fun photos. Thank you for reading,

-Victoria

______________________________________________________________________________

The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc is now available on amazon/kindle.

Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

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Everyone Looks Better, I Wish

In the latest “Vampire’s Little Black Book” series, Will, the main character, jokes that “everyone looks better undead”. That phrase became the title of my new short story in which Will assists a newly changed Lycan. The good looks of the freshly turned male model do not go unnoticed by Will’s vamp cohort, Anna. In their world, the transformation to undead life is a ticket to not only eternity, but increased beauty as well.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be bitten just once and have all your perfections gone? But we don’t always have that option, unless you can afford a pro makeup artist or some pricey surgery. So what do you do when treatments and regular beauty days are out of your reach?

The answer is a choice, but you might not like either answer: accept what you see in the mirror, or do what is necessary to change it.

Recently I had one of those cringe inducing experiences that made me even more aware of our vanity or on a more basic level, the need to be accepted. This is a bit more personal, but please, hang with me for a while here.

A group of people came into the retail store where I work to try on some costumes. One young woman had picked out several pieces that were junior sizes and one plus size. These were the kind of costumes that basically fit a stick. She however, was a bit more than a curvy girl, so to speak. Now, I don’t judge. I am not a thin woman. In fact, my weight has gone up and down over the last twenty five years. I’ve gone from being super fit to borderline morbidly obese and back again. People will judge you no matter how you look. I learned to get over it. So I handed her the selections with a kind smile and tried not to worry.

She first tried on a deluxe princess costume that retails at over $225. I was respectful, didn’t say anything, until she complained loudly to her friends that not only was the costume it too tight, but she couldn’t figure out how to get it on.

I gently suggested that she try something else; that the brand of designs she had chosen were cut very small, which is absolutely true. I would not sell one of these garments to just make a sale to someone it didn’t fit. I just prayed she didn’t ruin the piece.

When the second small cut costume didn’t fit, I offered up the plus sized costume. I honestly don’t know if it would’ve fit her, because she didn’t try. Instead she left the fitting room without a word.

Please note: in no way did I bully this young woman. I didn’t use the word fat, which would’ve made me a hypocrite. I tried to be as kind as possible when suggesting she find a plus size, I didn’t raise my voice and I didn’t harass her. When she left the fitting room, I instantly knew that there would be trouble even though I was only doing my job. Sure enough, the next day, one of the guys that had been with her, called the company to complain for her and of course I had to listen to a small reprimand from a manager. His calling immediately told me that this woman was feeling badly enough that she was too embarrassed to do it for herself. Fortunately the manager understood my predicament and nothing further was said.

At first I questioned whether I’d done the correct thing. I’m an adult; I don’t feel the need to torture anyone on purpose. But after a few moments I realized I can’t fix how she felt about herself OR how she felt others perceived her. This brings me back to the choices we have to make in regard to how we feel about our looks and how we handle others reactions.

I wish the world was a more loving, thoughtful place. And having been in her shoes, I know how it feels to not have your pants zip up without a muffin top spilling over or maybe not go up at all. To have other people stare at you because of your size. But in this world of unrelenting wild opinions from a 24 hour cycle of endless forms of media, it can be a challenge to filter out a genuine honest opinion from the “someone” who has out for you. Or even worse, there’s the trolls who just want to start a war because they just feel like commencing a landslide of unhappiness. And more than likely, they blister others because they don’t like themselves.

I wanted to tell this young woman to learn to love herself, grow a thicker skin, and own it or change. The options aren’t easy. Anyone who has been a minority, has had gender/sexual orientation issues, been disabled or is in any way different from the “norm”, has been down one of these well-worn roads.

If you can like who you are, “forget the haters, cause only God can judge us” as Miley sings, you will be rewarded with unyielding confidence. Some will stare. Dare to smile back at them. People will say rude things; they don’t know you. Ignore their comments and only let positivity into your wonderful brain. Happiness is your best defense. Find others like you. There is empathy and strength in numbers. It won’t be easy, but with time and practice people will see your beautiful soul and not the shell of a body that carries it. Recognize constructive criticism. This is a dodgy one. Someone could be looking at your chest because you spilled a few bits of your lunch on it. Your fly could be down. A dress might be way too tight for the office. When someone corrects you in these kinds of situations, be grateful. The suggestions probably come from someone who genuinely cares.

Or you can change. But if you decide to go that route, do it for yourself. Don’t do it to attract someone you have a crush on. You’ve invested in yourself. Don’t blow it on anyone that’ll waste your time. This choice could be hard too. You might spend hours working out and dieting to get thin. You might get surgery that could be painful or have a long recovery time. You might have to save money and work two jobs to get a procedure done. People might try to talk you out of it; they may have liked the old you for nefarious reasons. And once you’ve reached your goal, whether you get a nose job, lose fifty pounds, or get breast implants, you’ll need to adjust to the attention. Some may not recognize you. You might be invited into groups that really aren’t that cool after all. Just know to be true to what you want to be, don’t continue to be swayed by others. They’ll just find something or someone else to pick on.

There is actually a third choice available, the worst one, which is to do nothing. Yep, to have no desire to accept who you are and/or don’t choose to change your “in the now” to a pleasurable place to be. Keep in that negative frame of mind and your life will be hell.  You’ll draw fake friends, users, abusers and the like. This small incident really got me thinking and of course creating. The next day, I did a whole series of masks with a variety of different emotions behind them. I’ll debut them with another blog shortly, but here’s a sample to hold you until then.

Iconic image of how a hero "should" be.

Iconic image of how a hero “should” be.

But for now, life is what you make it; it’s too damn short to be unhappy. It is not wrong to like yourself. You will be a better human being because of it. I do a lot of costuming, and cosplay, then share with anyone who’ll look or listen. I don’t see it as vanity. I make art, throw it on me, photograph it and in the process create more art. I’ve used self-portraits for the covers of my books. In the last couple years in working on mysteampunkproject.wordpress.com, it’s been a great adventure. I actually forget the negative parts of me. The true beautiful soul rises to the surface.

I wanted to tell that young woman in the fitting room to come back, try on another item that fits her size and wear it proudly. I hope she gives herself another chance at acceptance, to stand strong and be herself. Spread your wings and fly darling. I hope we all do.

Thank you most kindly for reading,

-Victoria

The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc is now available on amazon/kindle.

Product Details

Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

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