I wish I could say I’ve been busy doing super cool things, but mostly I’ve been either at the office or the dentist or reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a very hungry fifteen-month-old. I’ve neglected the Internet, my weekly manicure ritual, and routine art making. Can’t win ’em all.
Get Messy Art Journal | Brave, Weeks 1-3
I finally carved out a little time last night to finish up my art journal pages for the first three weeks of the Get Messy Art Journal program’s new Brave season. While the topic itself is plenty inspiring, I couldn’t get out of my own way. When we were challenged to make a zine, I reached out to the group for ideas on how to get started (and got plenty!), but I just couldn’t get past the feeling that this one just wasn’t for me.
I eventually yielded to the ol’ “nothing ventured, nothing gained” thing and made something more akin to a booklet (Is it okay that I just hate the word zine? I hate the word blog, too. And when people can San Francisco “San Fran,” I get unreasonably annoyed.). I tried to experiment with different materials, techniques and styles on each page. I don’t love it, but I think it was still worth a go. I’m tempted to photocopy it in black and white (to eliminate some of the here/there/everywhere-ness that’s bugging me) and see if that helps. Plus, I want to see what sequins looks like when it’s photocopied. Obviously.
Bubble prints made with soap and tempera paint (I will share a step-by-step soon — it’s so much fun), a magazine clipping of an open window, a bit of washi and a watercolored c.s. lewis quote.
I am much happier with how these other pages turned out. I’ve enjoyed mixing it up a bit with both materials and techniques and have already come a long way in forgoing perfection. Things really have gotten messy. (And I’m not just talking about the floor under Grace’s high chair.)
Grey and blue acrylic paint applied with all kinds of things (q-tips, an empty TP roll, large bubble wrap and a piece of corrugated cardboard), giant black card stock letters (you know I love when crap spills off the page), hot pink and black ink, a photo of Grace with some washi tape, and a magazine clipping of flowers
I’m still sorting out my personal aesthetic, but I tend to gravitate toward more white space than less. This was sort of the opposite of that. Lots of layers. Covered with more layers.
Left side: Laminated pages from Combray (from my college days), complete with my notes in French in the margins, vinyl mailbox letters from the hardware store; Right side: clear jewel stamps from Studio Calico, black archival ink, watercolors
These were my favorites of the past few weeks. The left hand page felt really personal, without being revealing. I like to keep a bit of mystery around here (quoth the lady talking about the mess under her child’s highchair). When I think about being brave, those first few years of college are front and center. Without getting too particular, or too depressing, I will just say that I am proud of myself and the courage I showed.
Also, I’m glad I hung onto some of my textbooks and novels. Most are in French, and the rest are about art. I was much more interesting as a younger person. Semi-related: I still regret selling back both my volumes of Jansen’s History of Art (although I remember feeling especially rich once I did) at the end of my senior year. If you’re in school and you’re reading this: keep those books. Be brave. And don’t do drugs.
This week there are no new prompts to tackle, so I’m sharing a few pages (as well as some previously shared favorites) I worked on lately while playing catch up, as well as links to fellow Get Messy members’ pages for added inspiration.
Materials used: Black tempera paint, pink washi tape, a magazine clipping, watercolors and a nearly dead Sharpie.
This was my take on the 5 Love Languages prompt. I had never heard of this before, but after taking the quiz, it seems I am all about words. And I hate gifts (bahshashdhahdha). I picked up a set of Crayola tempera paint for another project (bubble painting!) and couldn’t resist throwing a bit of black down on these pages. I tried to follow this tutorial for plastic bag printmaking from Alisa Burke… but halfway through Grace dropped an entire bowl of peas on Clark’s head. So. That didn’t really pan out. Nevertheless, I like how those inky smudges turned out.
Oh, and I had by sketchbook upside down when I was working on these pages. By accident. Not in some irreverent, artsy way. Can’t win ’em all.
That semi-go-with-the-flow-ness? That’s new. And it’s good. It’s probably the most valuable lesson I’ve learned during this first season — that creating something is better than creating nothing. And that perfectionism can be a real barrier to art making. And, like… life in general.
Materials used: Red paint pen from Blick (a freebie during one of their sales), bubble wrap with black and pink ink, white gesso (which got all mixed up with the black ink when I dragged it across the page with some cardboard), washi tape, pre-cut watercolor paper, black ink spray, black Micron, magazine clippings and… even more pink ink.
Clearly, I was on a pink kick. I really like the ink splatter on the right hand side (I used a straw the expedite the splattering/dripping process) and had fun experimenting with layers and starting with pre-made (by myself, like a day or two before) backgrounds.
Materials used: Strips of scrapbook paper from a Studio Calico kit, grey watercolor and and a grey sign pen, yellow and gold watercolors and a set of alphabet stamps from the Target Dollar Spot (that special, special place), and half a random envelope.
I love secret hiding places (in our future home, there will be a secret door covered with a old timey looking bookshelf) and tucked little love notes to Nick and Grace in the envelope. This has been a year of soul searching and prioritizing and making tough but good decisions.
I’m still working on finding a balance between crap everywhere and sufficient white space. I think it’s the claustrophobic in me, but I crave lots of white space… but I also crave an end product that looks like I actually made an effort.
Materials used: Faber Castel Pitt pen, blue watercolors with a waterbrush, magazine clippings… AND LAMINATED GLITTER (can’t stop, won’t stop).
This is my favorite of the four pages. And not just because of the glitter. But that helps. I’ve had that quote kicking around for ages (it’s from an old issue of Yoga Journal, I think), but this page felt like the perfect place for it to land. On the surface, it’s kind of depressing… but I think it’s also really empowering. When you find your place, you know. Stick with it, my friends. Anyway, the quote is:
Each of us feels some aspect of the world’s suffering acutely. And we must pay attention. We must act. This little corner of the world is ours to transform. This little corner of the world is ours to save.
–Stephen Cope, from The Great Work of Your Life
While the subject matter this week isn’t exactly light and fluffy, I’ve been all about playing. Playing with new materials, playing with new techniques, and playing with new messes all over our condo.
A few favorites from the Get Messy Art Journal Season of Love
But wait… there’s more…
Get Messy Art Journal | Blog Hop
I’ve loved learning new techniques and really appreciated the motivation that comes with weekly prompts. Best of all, though, is the community of members. My favorite thing to do lately is scroll through all the #getmessyartjournal Instagram posts and swoon over what everyone else is creating.
For more Get Messy Art Journal pages and all kinds of inspiration…. hop on over to the following blogs:
Weeks 1 + 2 were all gold and glittery. Weeks 3 + 4 were all dark and brooding. Weeks 5 + 6 are… well… all over the place. I only worked on (and I feel like all three are sort of unfinished) three pages, but so far… so good-ish.
Get Messy Art Journal | Weeks 5 + 6
The left side is a page from last week peeking through, plus a little laminated bookmark (ribbon and magazine clippings). I quickly sketched the birds with a Micron pen and then went back in with watercolors.
The other morning I noticed that our little neighborhood city birds are back, chirping at the crack of dawn. Maybe that’s what got me doodling birds all week. That blue bird, in particular, keeps showing up in my sketchbook. Once I finished up with them, I started thinking… what the heck do birds have to do with love? Clearly this was a case of working outside the boundaries of the weekly prompts. Anyway, I was thinking about how these little guys come and go, and somehow that lead to thinking about bizarre bird-related phrases like flying the coop and empty nesters.
Last fall, I saw a mother dropping her daughter off at college. They were both crying. And then I closed the door to my office (which is near several campuses) and cried because I don’t want Grace to ever leave. But I also think she might turn into a weirdo if I try and home-college her (that’s like home-schooling a 20-year-old). Anyway… birds, man.
Oh, and I realize seagulls don’t belong in trees.
The succulents and cacti are watercolor with detail in Pitt pen. The letters are left over from a display board I made for work (which, frankly, looked very third grade).
Is it me, or are succulents the new pineapples?
One of the prompts this week was to create a dating profile for yourself. I had trouble suspending reality (and what happily married person would want to), so I started thinking instead about what it must take to love me– all the wonderful things, and all the things that are less than wonderful.
I can be prickly.
I gesso’d the left side page and added some magazine clippings and a wash of purple watercolor before writing down a little Khalil Gibran. I broke out the laminating pouches (obsessed) to seal in a tiny bouquet of lavender. I sketched a little sprig to go with it.
The last page I worked on incorporates two prompts — a quote from a favorite author and dried flowers. I wanted to press some flowers, but ran out of time so I cheated and picked up some dried lavender at Whole Foods. It smells divine. This page reminds me of sort of a grown-up version of those scratch and sniff books.
For the first time since living in South Boston, we didn’t head out to watch the parade. Instead, I was being that mom at the pediatrician’s office. We got a contagious illness report from daycare this week (the dreaded conjunctivitis is going around), so when Grace started rubbing her eyes, I started becoming a nutcase. A word of advice: Don’t Google “pink eye” at three in the morning.
The nurse I spoke with this morning encouraged us to come in today, just in case. By the time 2 o’clock rolled around, I started to wonder if it was more likely Grace had accidentally squirted yogurt into her own eye, or that part of her bagel got in there or something. Needless to say: no conjunctivitis. I love our pediatrician, though (and the fact that they’ll see us on Sundays). We had no trouble getting out of Southie, but heading back in during the parade proved to be a bit more challenging.
One of the (presumably many) upsides to not being infected and being out and about? We had a little impromptu visit with my sister and brother-in-law during which Grace tried to eat a crayon and I learned that Selection Saturday is actually Selection Sunday. And I wonder why people don’t invite me to join their March Madness pools.
Oh but before I say anything else, sorry for talking about pink eye. I promise we did non-gross things this weekend too. Like the things pictured below.
The Weekend According to Instagram 32
First things first: The snow is melting… AND THINGS ARE GROWING. I spotted these little sprouts alongside our driveway on Sunday afternoon and literally shrieked in delight. I immediately emailed a photo to my husband and our neighbors. And I’m now taking bets on who thinks I’m crazier, our neighbors or Grace’s pediatrician. This weekend was great for my personal brand. Whatever that means.
Our neighborhood is ready for St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t want to live any where else. Most of the time.
A little weekend doodling. Watercolor + pen + birds.
I am obsessed with the artwork on these seed packets from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I am kicking myself for not buying their calendar at the Flower Show.
Aaaand another photo from this year’s Boston Flower and Garden Show. Nick and I always talk about living in a tiny house one day, and I think I found the one this weekend. Technically, I think this is more of a garden shed, but I am pretty sure there’s room for Grace and Clark’s imaginary bunkbeds. And if I take after my maternal grandfather at all (which I hope I do), I’m only going to get shorter so…. I think it will work.
After the Flower Show, we ducked out of the rain and grabbed tacos across the street at Rosa Mexicana. Aren’t my lunch dates adorable?
I started Saturday morning with a big cup of organic peppermint amour and some to do list-ing. Of the 900 things on the list for the weekend, I think I accomplished 3. One of those things was “make a to do list.” Can’t win ’em all.
A peek at my art journal (you’ll find more pages here and here).
Did anyone else read Richard Scarry books as a kid? They were a family favorite of ours. I ordered a copy of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever for Grace and seriously… it’s the best word book ever. Not surprisingly, her favorite page is the one where the bear gets dressed. She is all about her shoes these days.
Real talk: This has been a bit of a challenging week. In a good way, but also in an exhausting, nerve-fraying way. I knew spending some time making crap would help. And it did.
I worked on most of these pages in one sitting. And that sitting happened to be on the sofa, with a bowl of peanut butter cups, after Grace was sound asleep, with our temporarily disabled Frenchie snuggled close, while Nick watched the CrossFit Open live announcement.
I didn’t want to break out all of my art stuff, mostly because I didn’t want to give up any space already occupied by Clark. Or the peanut butter cups. Limiting my materials proved to be surprisingly helpful. I spent less time thinking about what to use, and more time using what I had in my lap. Also, using permanent black ink while sitting on a cream colored sofa? This is me living on the edge, people.
One of the prompts was “What would the world be like devoid of love?” I can tell you, I wouldn’t want to live in that world. I worked quickly on this one, to avoid getting depressed (just kidding… kind of). I used black and grey watercolors (I’m obsessed with this travel set) with a water brush, a white paint pen and a red Micron.
I mostly stuck with black watercolor and black ink. The result: most of these pages look tense and moody. Which, frankly, is how I’ve felt lately. Until the sun came out on Wednesday… and I became a normal person again, along with everyone else in Boston.
I started the backgrounds for these pages a few days ago before having a clue what I wanted them to become. I used a thick coat of white gesso on the left side and added very watered down acrylics along with a spritz of watercolor while the gesso was still wet. On the right side, I used a more aggressive spritz of that same green watercolor and doodled a bit with a grey sign pen. I used black ink and a detail brush to paint the abstract-map-ish design on the left hand page, and used strips from a Chanel ad for the right hand page. I believe the letter stickers are from a Studio Calico kit, but my mind is full of Raffi songs at the moment, so I could be wrong.
One of the prompts for Week 4 was to describe the greatest act of love. This time of year, a lot of my work centers around families and clearly that’s on my mind (see the crop top photo below). There are so many different ways a family can come to be. I knew the second I heard Grace’s heartbeat that we belonged together. But I also know you don’t need a biological relation to belong to someone. This may not be my final answer, but I think that giving someone a place to belong, and being open to belonging to someone else, takes tremendous love.
I like how the hand-stitching from the previous page peeks through on the lower left. The stamp is from A Beautiful Mess, and I used black archival ink. Which never. Comes. Off. The ripped paper on the left is a e.e.cummings poem (supplied as one of the prompts). I can’t really decide if these pages are done are not. I’ve been trying to let them be, rather than over-work them. Perfectionist habits die hard (that’s a movie script Bruce Willis and I are currently co-writing.)
This photo is of me and my mom (I am the one wearing the hot shorts and crop top. That’s not something I get to say every day. Or, really… ever.) I am not sure if my head is actually shaped like that, or if I am scissors-challenged. The full quote is “We are born of love; love is our mother.” Preach it, Rumi. When working through many of this season’s prompts about love, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am to have come from such a loving home, and to have such a solid foundation. I love this photo and owe so much to my parents.
I’m already itching to sit back down with my sketch book. But I think I will stick to the table going forward. I’m certain I’ve jinxed myself with the ink on the sofa comment.
You know how I feel about making time and space for creativity. (And if you don’t: I think it’s, like, important.) When things get busy or frenzied or it snows seven feet, I forget to take my own advice. I do laundry instead of doodling. I do more laundry instead of painting. I do even more laundry instead of writing.
When I imagine my ideal day and my ideal life, though, I somehow manage to get the laundry done and then I have so much fun creating that I get ink of my pants and that’s why I end up doing more laundry.
Making time to get a little messy helps me maintain order in the rest of my life. It helps me process things and come up with new ideas and solutions. There’s something about making, creating and producing that just makes me feel… well, proud. Satisfied. Energized.
Left: I took this photo in Detroit (fall 2013) — there was something about this house that really crushed me. I’ve seen it a half dozen or so times since, and it always makes me feel… well, feelings. I felt like the little guy needed some protecting, so I laminated the photo using these self-laminating sheets. And then I became obsessed with laminating and sealed a bunch of my favorite ribbons to use as bookmarks and/or added flair. Right: I split one of our engagement photos so that it could be opened like a door and tucked a little message inside. The background is gesso with watercolor.
My mom is a talented artist. When we were little, we’d ask her to draw all kinds of things. She’s quickly sketch these wonderful drawings on yellow legal pads, or napkins, or whatever we’d hand over. I think there’s still a “coloring drawer” in my parents’ kitchen, filled with crayons and pencils and paper. I love that this– the opportunity to play with art–was just a normal part of growing up for us. I want that for Grace.
Detail of second page: Peek-a-boo! Or whatever.
So. Anyway. I recently learned about and joined the Get Messy community (you can learn more about the program here – and sign up to join! Do it!). I’ve written plenty of sappy journal entries (oh, how I wish I had saved my middle school diary — what an ego check that would be) and filled countless sketch book pages, but I’m totally new to the world of art journaling. So in most ways, I have no idea what I am doing. Which is terrifying. And also, kind of fun.
It was -600 degrees when I worked on these pages, and was clearly channeling summer. I used some scrap paper to back a photo of Grace and me in happier warmer times and then wove pieces of washi tape through the remaining paper. The background is a random grid of watercolor with some black paper hearts I punched out when I probably should have been doing something more adult. Like vacuuming.
The week before I learned about the program, I was listening to an interview with Mary Oliver and she talked about the need for writers to be disciplined. That you need to set aside time every day and just write. That you’ll make plenty of mistakes. But you need to be disciplined.
Materials used: magazine clippings and scraps of paper, heavy body acrylic paint in silver (applied with a brayer), paper punch, micron pens, washi tape, needle and thread…. and glitter.
My main reason for joining the program was to work on becoming more disciplined when it comes to drawing and painting (and creating, in general). I’m excited to see how a daily or weekly or weekend-ly practice (workdays sort of fill up on their own) will help me develop and grow.
But beyond that, I am quickly seeing that the process is its own reward. All that opening up and letting loose and forgoing perfection and putting whatever comes out down on the page? It’s touchy feely and hippy dippy and good. It’s good.
Did I mention my obsession with laminating pouches? YOU GUYS, I LAMINATED GLITTER.
The program’s weekly prompts (the current theme is love, which is hopefully obvious — the theme changes every 6 weeks and new prompts are issued each week) and link-ups provide both motivation and accountability. Each month there is a public link-up, complete with its own prompt — this might be a good way to get your toes wet if you’re interested.
One of the art prompts for this week was sewing. I swooned over the stitch work of the other participants before deciding less is more (especially when me + needles are involved).
After two weeks, I’ve already learned a great deal from the tutorials. I’ve experimented with different materials and techniques. And I am working up the nerve to share a bit more of what I’ve thrown together.
Left side: Another laminated ribbon bookmark thing, a list of 100-ish things I love, gold gouache (applied with a brayer, which is sort of like a miniature handheld steamroller… sort of), a Polaroid notecard (Target coming in hot, per usual), label maker, and gold glitter washi. Right side: One thing I like even more than laminating: reading Rumi. Materials used: black cardstock, detail brush and black watercolor, random stamps, yellow watercolor, micron pen, letter stamps with pan pastel.
So before that nerve disappears… I’m sharing some of my pages from the first two weeks of the challenge. If this isn’t totally weird and/or boring for you (and please tell me if it is), perhaps I’ll share a peek each week.
Also On Tap for Today:
It only took 13 months: Grace finally slept through the night!
I spend a lot of time in schools for work, which often makes me miss… being in school. It also probably explains why I’ve had a cold for six months. I’m pretty sure I always loved being a student. Even in middle school, when I had a broken ankle and braces and glasses and an uggo haircut all at the same time.
By the time I made it to college, got my math requirement out of the way (dark times), and had the freedom and flexibility to take classes that actually interested me… that’s when things got really good. I studied French and Fine Arts, which means I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing, a lot of memorizing facts, a lot of dissecting other people’s artwork, and a tiny bit of drawing. I went to museums and starred at microfiche. I learned how to translate contracts, took a semester of Arabic, recited poems, and yes… performed a puppet show in Medieval French (probably both the worst and best moment of my years at BC).
As grown ups, there are plenty of opportunities to take classes in person (the BCAE comes to mind), but I really love the flexibility of online classes. Here are a few of my favorites for those of you looking to infuse a bit of creativity into your day. Or night. Or train commute. Or whatev.
You may remember my posts from last winter (here and here) when I took the Floral Arranging 101 class through Nicole’s Classes. While I worked quite a bit while I was on maternity leave, I also found myself with both time to fill (namely, those 2 hour stints when Grace was sound asleep… and yes, I know, sleep when the baby sleeps) and a desire to keep my brain as engaged as possible.
Their classes include photography, design, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, and each class runs live for 2-4 weeks. For the 4 week floral arranging class, for example, we worked through one lesson and assignment each week. What sets Nicole’s Classes apart, is that it is an app that you download and install on your computer. Within the app, you’ll find the course(s) that you registered for, video lessons and a gallery to share your course work. There is a high level of engagement in these galleries from both instructors and classmates, and I found the feedback on each project I posted to be so helpful.
Classes range from $125-325, but there is also a lot of great free content on the Nicole’s Classes website, including these great tutorials.
I’m currently taking a self-paced DSLR basics class on Craftsy. They roped me in with a New Year’s sale– I believe I paid $25 for Basics of Digital Photography, which includes 9 lessons and hours and hours of video instruction. After years of shooting in manual (and… having lost my camera manual, despite downloading it, like, six times), I am trying to step up my game a bit.
In addition to photography classes, Craftsy has self-paced classes in:
Art (painting, drawing)
Food and cooking
Home and garden
Yarn and fiber arts
All classes are web-based, and you can jump back into your lesson whenever you have time. I’ve found the class to be very user-friendly and love that, like Nicole’s Classes, there is a lot of interaction with other students and the instructor (there is a chat area on the class’ home screen) and a dedicated project gallery for the class.
Alisa Burke is one of my go-to ladies for creative inspiration. Her classes are fun, accessible and inexpensive and cover everything from technique (lots of watercolor and ink), to sketching prompts, to sourcing unexpected tools and materials.
Alisa releases new classes each season (many of them with seasonal themes such as summer sketching) and each class includes video lessons, text and visual examples. While most of her classes are for visual artists (of all levels, truly), she also offers several classes for those who own creative businesses.
Oh, and her blog is definitely worth a visit — lots of stunning photography of the West Coast, tutorials, family art-making, interviews with other artists, etc.
If an online class isn’t in the cards, here are a few of my favorite books that might help you make room for creativity:
I first started blogging in 2006 or 2007 because I was feeling a bit stuck and needed a creative outlet that didn’t require expensive supplies or an expansive workspace. I’ve always gravitated toward writing and other forms of expression and thrive when I have projects to keep me busy, challenged and creatively engaged. If I don’t have at least 56 projects going, I get bored. And when I get bored, I get cranky. And when I get cranky, welp… I’m sorry.
Lately, I’ve been craving something a little messier than writing. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the recent snapshots of my sketchbook. I was hesitant to share those photos at first, but something I’m working on lately is letting go of perfection (Lord, is that ever a process.). Like, in all facets of life. So far, that’s not going perfectly so well.
As a student, I had a tendency to re-do and re-re-do and re-re-re-do drawings and paintings, trying to “fix” every imperfection. A certain drawing professor (whom my sister and I grew to both love and be terrified of) once called my drawings overwrought. I would have been upset, but I was too busy fending off that random girl in our class who kept stealing our artists tape.
Now that I’m a grown-up (and no one’s after my tape stash), I get it. Also: I consider myself more of a casual dabbler than an artist, and I’ve decided casual dabblers can make as many mistakes as they want.
Back on topic: I need room to be creative. Like, even more than I need Junior Mints. Or Diet Coke. Or clean socks (we all know I hate socks, so that was kind of a bad example). You don’t need to be a painter or an opera singer to be creative. And often times that creativity comes naturally. Other times you may be stuck when working on a new recipe or article or trying to problem solve at work.
Believe it or not, creativity can be learned. (and, according to this Forbes article “creativity is far and away the most important skill needed to ‘thrive.'”) You don’t need to wear all black, or have some sort of emo haircut, or be in the drama club (though all those things are perfectly good). You don’t need to be a “creative type” to be creative or to benefit from creative thinking or practices.
Hopefully these ideas will help you make a little bit of room in your brains (or day, or spirit, or whatev) for creative solutions and projects.
Making room for creativity
Rethink your routine
Like most humans, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse. Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time. I promise. It’s possible.
If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit. I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious. I am not a magician (and frankly, they creep me out). There are only 24 hours in the day. If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later. Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!).
I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when Grace has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston (…it was less lovely this winter when it was still pitch black, but hey). If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show. For me, everything feels possible in the morning. For others, this may be true at night.
Carve our your time and protect it.
Carry a sketch pad, or journal, or violin, or wooden birdhouses and paint… or whatever with you. That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready. On second thought, leave the birdhouses and paint at home. That project got a little messy.
A note about sketchpads: If possible, I recommend buying a few in person (like, in a real store rather than buying them online) mostly so you can get a feel (literally) for the paper quality. Inexpensive is good, but cheap and flimsy is maybe not so good. Check out a few different brands and be sure you like the weight and texture. If you’re using ink or watercolors, you may want to invest in a sketchbook designed for mixed or wet media.
I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchpads that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe). I usually draw first, and that add color later.
Accept a challenge
It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033. While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and forget to post a photo… on the second day. Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor. Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?”
You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge. Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two. Or perhaps you’d like to blog or vlog (I will forever think those two words are weird) for a month. Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others. As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.
Set it to shuffle mode
Yes, I am talking about music. And yes, I am talking about other things too. Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library. I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:
Weird Christmas song
A song about (but not by) Tupac
The soundtrack to Summer Heights High
Ambient Reiki or yoga music
Sad Whitney Houston song
More Michael Jackson
Another weird Christmas song
An awesome Christmas song
Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
Another sad Whitney Houston song
A HIDDEN GEM!
Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Glee album (But seriously, when did I do that? I never liked the show.) worthwhile. Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project.
Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper (they still exist, I assure you) and read the first article you land on. Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011”– first). Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).
Enjoy a change of scenery
I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery. We’re lucky that we can see the ocean from one side of our condo, and skyscrapers from the other. If you look directly out the front of our building, you’ll likely see one of my neighbors running some sort of insurance scam involving a neck brace and various other medical accessories, but that’s another story.
Regardless, one way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move. Duh. Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach. When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change.
Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like,
“Elizabeth! I took your advice! I saw sort of a weird, dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it. And now I am missing my wallet. AND AN EAR!”
Very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY. Be careful and be safe. Think with your right brain while using your left brain. Please.
Pick up your camera. Or don’t.
These days, quite a bit of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets (do I need to mention Google Glasses? Does anyone out there wear them?). On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event. On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone. I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason. I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied by looking at my camera. Mostly because it’s just a camera. It can’t text my sister a sloth pic.
Wheewwww. This was a long one. Think of everything you could have created and accomplished if you didn’t bother to read this post. My apologies.
Our assigned project for the second week of Nicole’s Classes Floral Arranging 101 was a “wild English garden” arrangement. I fell a bit short when it came to sourcing flowers and greens (hello… bamboo?), but I tried to follow directions as best I could to create an arrangement with an effortless, not so structured look.
During week 2, I learned about “S” composition in flower arranging, how to make a floral frog out of twigs, and the value of having neighbors who will let you forage in their gardens (I, um… live next door to a bar).
While I’m fairly certain I did not ace the assignment, I am happy with the finished product. I especially love the bright blue campanula and how it spills over the vase.