2020, A Time for Changes – Three Things I’ve Learned in My Years Blogging

3 Things I've Learned About Blogging -- The riverside Librarypng

It’s the seventh week of 2020, and I’m sitting down to write a post about my ~feelings~, so obviously, the year is off to a great start.
This URL expires in a few weeks, I’ll renew it, but it’s made me reflect on this blog a lot.
If you’re a regular reader of mine you’ll know that I haven’t posted a lot lately. Not to this blog, nor to my Instagram. Last year was a busy year, but more than that, 2019 was chaotic inside my head. It was so heavy on my shoulders that by October it had crushed me. That left little time for anything, least of all blogging.
Now that I’m feeling better, I can return to the part of my brain that thinks of books, reading, and this blog, and contemplate the future of it, while also reflecting on the past. I’m not sure how many years I’ve been blogging for (and frankly I don’t really care to know), but I’ve learnt a lot of lessons. Here are my top three.

1. When You Have a Business and a Semi-Public Life, Don’t Combine Them

I was quite public about my business (Potions Candle Co) on my bookstagram account, and vice versa. At first, I thought it was a great way to open my business up to more customers, but I never realised that it would come back to bite me.
Having customers follow both my accounts brought about an interesting predicament. Though no one mentioned anything, I felt immensely guilty posting anything to my bookstagram account when I had orders I needed to process, make or pack. I didn’t want to share that I was reading a book, in case it upset someone who was waiting on their order. Granted I think most people would understand that I had more than one order to do, and it simply wasn’t healthy to be working at 10 pm at night when I was reading, but I still felt guilty.
Not only did this reduce the amount of content I was producing for my bookstagram, it also fostered a strange sense of resentment toward Potions, for encroaching on my personal life in every way possible.
I still own Potions (which is Potions Illustration now), and most of my lovely followers are kind enough to follow me on both of my accounts, but because I take on very little client work, and my products are downloadable, there’s not the same pressure to be always working as there once was.
From now on, any other public venture I do, I probably won’t share on my bookstagram account, just for… you know, my own sanity.

2. Some Things Are Meant For Fun, Not For Success

Like this blog, for example.
When you’re searching for blogging tips and tricks (I often looked up something along the lines of: ‘how do I make the words come easier??!??!?!?!’) it’s easy to be sucked in my those million articles promising that you could get rich QUICK with just your blog, even if you never actually wanted to do it to make money.
So, you end up signing up to a handful of affiliate programs, get kicked off one for being too small, and make a whopping sum of $1.
Then, you sign up to AdSense before realising you hate having ads on your blog, so you install an ad blocker and completely forget that your blog still has ads, which, may I add, make you another whopping $1.
Finally, you start angling for some sponsored posts that never happen because you know deep down inside that your heart isn’t in it.
Then, you pull your head out of your a** of the sand and realise that you’ve misplaced the joy of blogging somewhere along the way. It fell out of your arms around the time you picked up SEO and those three hundred ‘How to Find Success on Pinterest’ articles that state the same thing in forty-two different font sizes (often all in the same post. My eyes. Halp).
Turns out, in the end, you sold the fun of your blog for $2 that you never actually got because you didn’t meet the payment threshold. Good job, kiddo.

3. Only You Can Decide The Direction of Your Happiness

How many times have I posted a poll on Instagram asking everyone what kind of content they’d like to see from me? Far too many. Why? I couldn’t tell you.
Perhaps it went something like this:

I run a book blog, and I couldn’t very well post anything other than books, could I?
I couldn’t have a mish-mash blog. That was what those Pinterest articles said. But maybe my followers thought something different?
Maybe they’d still read if I just rambled on about my ~feelings~.
Maybe they’d be interested in my favourite eco-friendly fashion brands.
Maybe they’d like an in-depth comparison of the quality of paper used by major notebook companies.
Best ask.
Oh, they’re fine with it.
But the Pinterest gurus…… they still say no. Better not. It’s a book blog after all.

Well, however it went, it’s no longer that way. I’ve realised (for the seven-billionth time) that I pave my own path to happiness, and no one can do it for me. It’s my choice to pick what materials I use for the path, what colour said materials are, if the path is windy, straight or uphill, it’s my choice where it starts and goes and ends.
I’m not giving the joy of my blog to Pinterest gurus anymore, nor am I selling it for $2 I never get. I’m just going to write stuff. Don’t know what. Probably book stuff. I like books. Maybe writing because that’s cool too. You never know, this might turn into my humble little place of self-rediscovery because we can’t all just go to Italy and eat pasta like that lady from Eat, Pray, Love.
Whatever 2020 brings for The Riverside Library, I’m going to enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s just a waste.
I hope my learning the hard way turns into the easy way for you! Happy blogging my friends!

You Need to Start a Commonplace Book, and Here’s Why

You Need to Start A Commonplace Book and Here's Why -- The Riverside Library

How often have you come across a line while reading a book, and felt a sudden surge of… something?

Something that makes your heart pulse a little more fervently, something that heats your chest, something that sparks a little fire in your soul. How often do you turn to whatever journal, book, or writing device you have nearby just to write it down, to remember it because it meant something to you?

Odds are, particularly if you’re a creative type, that’s happened quite a bit. It’s been a commonplace thing for many creatives throughout history, so much so, there’s even a name for the style of journaling. It’s called a commonplace book, and you should totally start one.

What is a commonplace book?

Simply put, a commonplace book is a journal in which phrases of note are copied or recorded for one's own personal use. This could be passages from books, quotes seen on Pinterest, things overheard, and even things you've thought.


How do you start a commonplace book?

Starting a commonplace book is simple. All you need is a journal, a pen/pencil, and a bunch of things you want to record.

Five tips for your commonplace book

Starting any kind of creative task can be daunting, so here are my tips for compiling your commonplace book.

1. Ignore the temptation to strive for perfection

A commonplace book isn't designed to be a beautiful thing placed on display. It's simply a place to record things you love. You can, of course, work hard to make it aesthetically pleasing, or filled with adorable drawings, but don't let the idea of creating something perfect stop you from starting. A messy commonplace book is better than none at all.

2. Don't worry about having things in order

Fill your commonplace book with passages as you find them. You don't have to work out a table of contents before you begin and proceed to categorise your work as you go. That will simply take time and cause confusion. The theme of this book is 'Things that Inspire Me,' resist the temptation to further divide that into subcategories.

3. Allow yourself creative free reign

Your commonplace book doesn't have to be solely reserved for quotes, or other written media. Mix things up a little with drawings, doodles, photographs, magazine cut-outs, or even pressed flowers. You can even write passages on different papers and glue or sellotape them into your book.

4. Make the experience an event

I understand that sometimes you don't have a spare moment to sit down and artistically add something to a notebook, but sitting down and recording things you love is such a relaxing experience. When I come across a passage I want to add to my commonplace book, I take note of it on my phone. Then, once I've compiled quite a list of things, I'll make myself some tea, sit in the sunlight, or cosy up with a blanket and a crackling candle on a rainy day, grab my pen or pencil and have a calm moment or two while I write. It's a form of self-care. Enjoy it.

5. Find inspiration everywhere

I have a list of things on my phone that inspire me. Strange things that I probably shouldn't reveal. Things like ants, climbing the gaps in cobblestones while carrying a crumb twice their size. Include strange little lists like these in your commonplace book, and seek inspiration everywhere you go. You can find it in nature, in books, in lyrics of songs, dialogue of movies, words of your best friend. If it inspires you, include it.

Stationary I love to use

I use a little journal for my commonplace book, which allows me to put it in my handbag and take it with me if I feel like I'm going to wind up somewhere that I'll be able to write. I picked up this blank book by seeso graphics at TK Maxx, in the discount section for around $2. If you're looking for something bigger, I thoroughly recommend Rhodia journals - their pages are some of the softest I've ever felt. As for writing utensils, I either use pencil (the pages in my journal are fairy see-through), or in my Rhodia journal, I use nothing but Stabilo Fineliners. I somehow scored a pack of 30 for $10, so keep your eyes peeled for discounts.

Thanks for reading! Happy commonplacing!



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The One Journal Every Creative Needs to Start Right Now -- The Riverside Library
The One Journal Every Creative Needs to Start Right Now -- The Riverside Library

You Need to Start a Common Place Book, and Here's Why -- The Riverside Library

My Top Five Favourite Illustration & Digital Art Apps

My Top 5 Digital Art Apps -- The Riverside Library

I spend a great deal of my time drawing digital art on my iPad, usually, it's label art for Potions Candle Co, or just doodling until inspiration hits.

Over the past two years drawing digitally, I've tried a fair few apps available on the Apple and Android App stores, and I have my favourites. I can’t say that I’ve tried every one available, and I definitely haven’t used each one to its full capacity, but I do get asked about this quite often, so here are my top five digital art apps.

MediBang Paint

Price: Free!

MediBang Paint is a powerful free app that I wish I knew about at the beginning of my digital art journey. I don't have a lot of experience using this one, but from the short time I have spent on it, I was very impressed, especially considering it's free.

The reason this one isn’t higher on my list is due to the ease of use. I’ve always found it particularly difficult to find my way around this app. The interface has a lot of features, and it may be more familiar to people with more experience with other (perhaps desktop?) drawing apps, but for me, I like my canvas to take up most of the room on the app, not for all the bells and whistles to get in the way.

Though, I must say, the variety of brushes available is definitely a major plus. It also has pressure sensitivity with the Apple Pencil (I’m not certain about any other brands of stylus). In my perusing of the interwebs, MediBang Paint seems to be the free app of choice of many experienced digital artists and graphic designers.

Pros: Powerful, Free

Cons: It looks a little cluttered to me, and I find that quite distracting.

Adobe Sketch

Price: Free!

Adobe Sketch was the second digital art app that I ever used, and I loved its artistic brushes. The fact that I could use a watercolour brush on a digital interface just blew my mind. You don’t need to pick up a paintbrush, but if you hit print, it looks like you actually did some traditional art. Obviously, that’s not a perk of the app itself, because any app that has paint style brushes can accomplish that, but still, I was blown away.

Sketch has five brushes plus an eraser, pressure sensitivity is available with the Apple Pencil (I’m not sure about other brands of stylus, though I’m 90% certain it should work with the adobe draw stylus). I like the way that Adobe Sketch is presented, the interface is clean, and the canvas takes up most of the screen.

I didn’t use Adobe Sketch a lot, purely because it wasn’t suited to the style of art I was productions at the time I used it, but when I did spend time playing around with the app, I really enjoyed it.

Pros: Interesting artsy brushes

Cons: Limited number of brushes

Autodesk Sketchbook

Price: Free!

Autodesk Sketchbook is another app I found a lot later than the Adobe apps. I haven’t used it an awful lot, because I found my number 1 app shortly after, but I’d say that Autodesk Sketchbook is my second most used drawing app nowadays, and that’s all for one feature - it is the only app on this list that has a text feature.

Sometimes you just can’t hand letter everything. I use this app exclusively for that feature now, but when I first tried to use the app for illustration it was hard to find a brush that I actually liked. Don’t get me wrong, they have a great selection, but none of them were what I wanted. There was always just something off. Of course, you can adjust them in settings but I could never tweak them to be exactly what I wanted, hence why I don’t have a great lot of experience using it.

Pros: Wide array of brushes, text option, easy to use

Cons: Brushes are unusual, and I never managed to find one I loved

Adobe Draw

Price: Free!

For the first two years of my digital art journey, this was the app I loved. I was quite happy to use it forever, it did everything I needed at that point.

The app has a heap of great features, including shape templates and a ruler, the interface is clean and easy to use. It’s limitations were what pushed me to find a new app. Like Adobe Sketch, there are only five brushes available, plus an eraser. On top of this, your drawings can only have twenty layers. The brush limitations didn’t other me an awful lot, because I generally only used one (my drawings were very basic), but the limited number of layers were definitely an issue.

Having layers is hands down one of my favourite aspects of digital art. I love being able to change a lower layer without it affecting the top layer - imagine doing that in traditional art! Being limited to twenty was very difficult in some of my more complex drawings, especially when I had to merge some and then I wanted to go back and change something I’d merged.

Having said that, I definitely think Adobe Draw is a fantastic app and I enjoyed the two years I used it.

Pros: Easy to use

Cons: Limited brushes


Price: AU$14.99

Procreate is the only app I have ever paid for. I ummed and ahhed about it for so long after seeing that it was the app of choice for artists and illustrators all over the internet. I begrudged paying the $14.99, especially having not trialled it first, but one day I bit the bullet, and reader, I'm so glad I did.

Procreate is a game changer. It is hands down my absolute favourite digital art app.

It took a while for me to get the hang of it, and for the first few months of having Procreate, I still favoured Adobe Draw, but slowly I found myself opening Procreate a lot more than I opened Adobe Draw, especially when I got my Apple Pencil.

Honestly, I’m yet to find something that Procreate can’t do. I don’t want to count the amount of brushes available, but if you find you need something that you don’t have, someone online has probably made one and made it available for free, so you can simply download it and use it.

You can even edit photos in Procreate.

If I’m being completely honest, there’s nothing about Procreate that I don’t like. If I ever find a shortcoming, I google it and discover a way around it. No ruler? No worries, just draw a line and don’t release it. It’ll come straight. Keep holding the line and press another finger on the screen and the line will move about in forty-five-degree increments. Want a circle? Draw one and don’t let go, it’ll form a perfect circle. Procreate is now the only app I use for my illustrations, and labels.

Pros: Everything

Cons: Only available on the Apple App Store

Do you create digital art? What is your favourite app?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

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My Top 5 Digital Art Apps -- The Riverside Library

Top Tips for Low-Light Photography: Shooting with a Camera

Top Tips for Low-Light Photography_ Shooting with a Camera -- The Riverside Library

Previously on Low-Light Photography Tips:

Just because it’s the dead of winter, doesn’t mean your photography time should decrease. If you’re constantly posting on Instagram to engage with your followers and grow your account, a reduced amount of photography time can be a real pain. Since the beginning of winter a few weeks ago, I’ve been trawling the internet for tips and tricks to beat that cold, dim winter light. Now, it’s time to share what I’ve learnt (I’ll do my best to be correct, but I might be wrong about a few things, forgive me).
I’ll be dividing this guide into four posts, the first is about general tips and tricks for taking photos in low-light the second (this one) talks about taking photos with a DSLR, mirrorless or other cameras with manual shooting capabilities. The third post will talk about using a phone or point and shoot camera and finally, the last post will cover editing for cold light.

Using a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera

This is definitely my most recommended tip and trick for dealing with low/cold lighting. I use a Canon EOS M3, one of the mirrorless cameras in Canon’s range which I absolutely love and would definitely recommend to everyone. Mirrorless cameras are great, they’re smaller than DSLRs but have very similar (if not the same) abilities. Of course, there are things I dislike about my camera, but that’s a story for another day (or not, but let me know if you want a review of my M3).The best way to combat low light is to use manual mode – but don’t freak out, it’s not hard! When using a camera on manual shooting mode, there are a few settings to play around with to ensure the most amount of light is coming through your lens. The key three are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.The most obvious is, perhaps, ISO. But that’s the one we want to leave until the very end because high ISO can compromise the quality of your image.

A Crash Course in Aperture

If you’re not familiar with camera terms (I’m not super familiar, all I know about photography is from a two-hour lecture I eavesdropped on when I was at the public library one day), aperture refers to the hole that the light travels through. Aperture is usually denoted with f/# (# being a number, not a hashtag). My lens’ aperture spans from a f/3.5 to f/22. I used f/3.5 when I want particular objects to be focussed, and other objects to be blurred, so most of my Instagram photos are taken with this kind of aperture (you’d think it called a low aperture because the number is low, but apparently, it’s a wide aperture – physics is weird). Conversely, I’d use a narrow aperture like f/22 to capture a landscape.Taken with f/22 – note the lack of blurred background or foreground. The entire image is in focus.

Aperture in low light

This is where the good news comes in – a wide aperture like f/3.5, which I use for most of my Instagram shots, lets in more light than a narrow aperture. Good news because you’ll likely be using that setting in a low light situation anyway.

Let’s talk about Shutter Speed/ Exposure time

The next aspect of the camera we’ll talk about is shutter speed. If you’re finding that your wide aperture just isn’t letting in enough light, or you don’t want to use something as wide as f/3.5, you can adjust your shutter speed to let in more light. It took me such a long time to figure out where my shutter speed adjustment was on my M3. I should have read the manual, but that would have been easy, and I like to do everything the difficult way.If you have an M3, the shutter speed adjustment is the dial that surrounds the shutter button (I just guessed the name for that, I’ll have you know – and it was right.) The placement of the shutter speed on the shutter button kind of really makes sense now that I think about it. It’s not just the placement of the shutter speed dial that makes sense either, the way that the shutter speed impacts the photo is very logical also – the longer the shutter, the more light that gets in. Therefore, in low light, you’d want a low speed. However, the slower the shutter speed, the more room for blurring because of hand movement. If you’re going to have a super slow shutter speed (slower than about 1/60 usually), you’ll need a tripod to avoid camera shake.On your camera, shutter speed will be displayed in seconds and fractions of seconds – the slowest shutter speed on my M3 is 30 seconds, the quickest is 1/4000th of a second (it also has bulb mode for super long exposure).

Now, ISO.

Play around with aperture and shutter speed before you adjust your ISO. I usually have my ISO set on auto, only taking it off auto if my camera can’t figure out what it’s doing, and then I’ll try not to go past 400, but I’ll go up to 640 at a push. Sure, I’ve taken photos on ISO 1000, even 2000 and my M3 has made them look as decent as my iPhone SE, but that’s not really what I want. The problem with high ISO is that it decreases the clarity of your photo, often making pictures look grainy.

There we go!

That’s everything I’ve picked up on my trawling of the internet for tips and tricks using a camera with manual shooting capabilities in low light. Next up we’ll talk about using phone cameras and point-and-shoots!Happy snapping!

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Top Tips For Low-Light Photography: General Tips and Tricks

Top Tips For Low-Light Photography_ General Tips and Tricks

Are you low with the winter blues, or is that just the light?

Ah, winter, that time of year with dreary, blue-tinged low-light. Perfect if blue-tinged dim things are your favourite to photograph, even better if they’re your ~aesthetic~, but that’s not the case for all of us. If you’ve found yourself upping that brightness slider on your favourite editing app just a little too much or tinting your photos orange to beat those winter blues, I have a few tips and tricks. It’s not just about the editing, it’s about the photography.Just because it’s the dead of winter, doesn’t mean your photography time should decrease. If you’re constantly posting on Instagram to engage with your followers and grow your account, a reduced amount of photography time can be a real pain. Since the beginning of winter a few weeks ago, I’ve been trawling the internet for tips and tricks to beat that cold, dim winter light. Now, it’s time to share what I’ve learnt (I’ll do my best to be correct, but I might be wrong about a few things, forgive me, I’m no professional).

The Guide

I’ll be dividing this guide into four posts, the first (this one) is about general tips and tricks for taking photos in low-light the second post talks about taking photos with a DSLR, mirrorless or other cameras with manual shooting capabilities. The third post will talk about using a phone or point and shoot camera and finally, the last post will cover editing for cold light (I’ll link them all here once they’re published).

General Tips

I did a poll on Instagram this morning asking if you guys prefer long or short posts, and the answer was a resounding short! So, I’m going to keep this to my absolute top three tips, and hope I can keep it under 1000 words.A lot of the general tips and tricks I’ll be chatting to you about are probably things you’re already doing, they’re a natural way to combat dim lighting. I’m going to cover them anyhow just in case you haven’t tried them yet.

Shooting the Sun

As a general rule in photography, middle of the day, sun high in the sky, isn’t the best time to take photos, nor is the night. You want to make the most of natural light as possible, so try to figure out what time of day has the kindest lighting. For me, it’s between 2 and 3pm. An inconvenient time, I’ll have you know. If you’re unable to shoot at those times of day due to work or school, I’d recommend taking a bunch of photos when you can like weekends, or your day off to make sure you have enough photos to take for the week.If there is no possible time when the sun (although hidden by a thick layer of clouds) brightens up the day enough to call it daylight, it might be an idea to invest in some lighting if you’re super serious about photography. Investing in lighting is by no means my first suggestion, it’s what I’d recommend if you’ve exhausted every single other option. I personally have no experience using artificial light to shoot it, all I know is that it’s not the best idea to use the lights in your ceiling as your main source of brightness.

Using a window

The window is generally the best source of natural light inside of a house. Shoot there. Even if the window is in an inconvenient place, like nowhere near your bed and you want a flat lay on a sheet, take the sheet to the window, and arrange your set up there. The results will be worth the hassle.Often an issue with windows is that the light only comes in on the one side of the photograph (the window side), and the opposite side is darker, and overall the lighting looks uneven. I’ve seen a lot of people recommend reflectors to combat this, but I’ve never personally used one. If uneven lighting is a real issue for you, hop on over to Pinterest or Google and see what others are recommending.

Avoid Blue

This one will come up in the fourth and final post in this series, but I felt it worthwhile mentioning here. Wintry light can often give photos a deep blue tinge, or a cold feel. If you really want to edit that out in the editing phase, it’s a wise idea to steer clear of shooting blue objects. Not only with they exacerbate the cold tones, but they’ll also lose their colour when you reduce the blue in editing.Having said this specifically about blue, I do think it’s important to be mindful of the tones that you include in. The colours will greatly affect the way your photo turns out, so it’s important to carefully select the colours of the objects you’re including in your shot.

That’s all for today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with part II of this winter photography guide!


What are your favourite little tips and tricks for dealing with cold, dim winter light? Let me know in the comments below!

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