Friday, January 24, 2014

It Can't Be Pretty All The Time


The title of this post amuses me on so many different levels. But then again I'll take amusement any where I can find it as I haven't had much to be amused about lately.

Five days into a particularly nasty round of the flu, I decided I want to "document the fun."

I'm using the term loosely, I assure you.

When I sat back to look at the drawing, I debated whether to stop or to continue as I didn't think I wanted to post it on the blog.

After all, aren't we only posting the "pretty pictures?"

But something inside rebelled. That's a disservice to those who are just beginning their artistic journey.

Because not every sketch is a beauty.

They're not all perfectly drawn and painted.

The sketch above was done in the moment. I didn't really care if it came out well.

I (obviously) didn't take my time and wasn't careful with my ink lines.

But, you know what?

It's an accurate record of how I was feeling. I didn't care. I didn't feel good or "pretty."

To have made the sketch pretty would have been a lie as to how I was feeling and the reason for documenting the situation in the first place.

No matter where you are in your artistic journey, no matter how long you sketch, know that there will be less than pretty sketches that could not be any more accurate if they tried.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While I'll never see beauty in the sketch above, I do see truth.

So maybe truth is in the eye of the beholder as well?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Finding FOCUS: UnHelpful Advice(!) and Good Ideas

For the last two posts here at Painted Thoughts, (here and here) we've been talking about what we need, RIGHT NOW, today, to be our very best. Below is a continuation of the discussion of getting FOCUSED as that was the need most folks identified as needing today…

Useless Advice
When you start talking to many folks about needing focus, they'll tell you "just do it."

And yes, it can be that simple.

Except when it comes to the human psyche and then nothing is simple.

If you've reached the age where you're holding down a job, have kids, aging parents, a mortgage, ane juggling responsibilities, then you know that simple answers are seldom easy even if they're the right ones.

Along the same lines, you may also hear:

"You just need to prioritize." Well, yes, that helps, but when you have 10 pounds of "sugar" and a 5 pound bag, it doesn't matter how you prioritize it, it's not all going to fit! What goes into the back and what stays out? Do you find another bag? Where?

"You'll have time for [____] when you're older." Maybe, maybe not. What's wrong with feeding your soul now? Especially if it makes you a happier, more content version of you TODAY?

"Well, you just need to do [____] and [____]." Hmmm, when someone starts telling you what you need to do, look at their lives. Are they living their dream? Are they walking their talk? If not, feel free to disregard their comments.

You may wonder why I'll telling you all this. I'm sure you've heard some "wonderful" advice on how to "fix" whatever is "wrong" in your life.

I'm saying this for two reasons. First, there is no magic bullet that's going to "fix" everything not working in our lives. Be it lack of focus, time or direction. Finding answers is a process and processes take time. 

Second, you don't need "fixing." There's nothing "wrong with you." You're where you're suppose to be and you are good just the way you are. Recognize the different between "fix" and "improve."

I think many of us would find a whole lot more creativity in our lives if we would lose the ungodly expectations we have for ourselves of being "all that and more." We're humans not super-beings!

Okay, make that three reasons. Feel free to totally disregard any or all of this "advice" as bogus if it has no meaning for you.

Ideas, Tools and Tips
Breaking bad habits, learning to say no, giving ourselves permission, lowering our expectations, well, really all of the reasons for lack of FOCUS in the prior post and overcoming them, are a process. It takes time and patience. It takes finding what works in your life. And tools.

The following list of tools is by no means exhaustive. There are some creative people out there who have come up with great ways to get focused and stay focused. (Check the comments on the two previous posts for great book recommendations and ideas!) The list below are some of my time-tested techniques for getting on track and staying focused. Again, in no particular order:

The Brain Dump. This where I pour everything that's flying around in my brain onto a piece of paper or in a journal. It's like the inside of my head is an airport with no traffic controllers and it's absolute bedlam! Things like ideas, parts of ideas, projects, ah-ha moments, things I want to do, research, hang onto, and on and on. It can be a to-do list miles long. It can be all my gripes about a situation or my worries or whatever it is in my grey matter that is keeping me from focusing on what's important to me.

I write it down. Every bit of it. This can take a few days. I'll add to the list whenever I think of something. Then I begin to identify what I can/want to do about any items on the list. Then I try to determine an order in which to do them.

Then, rather than race off to start checking items off my list, I sit back and enjoy the quiet space I've just created in my mind. Please don't skip this step! It's important to savor the silence, to pause and recharge yourself before working your list.

Taking Action. Be it breaking a creating new habits, figuring out how to make a decision, learning that no is an answer or recreating expectations, there are steps you can take to make these things happen in your life. Brainstorm. Write down any and every way you can think of to move past the behavior that is no longer serving you. Some of your ideas will be be outrageous—include them anyway! They can provide comic relief as well as unexpected launching pads to better ideas.

Let the list sit a few days. Remember to reward yourself for taking this step of taking action! Then go back and identify what you think will work best, right now, TODAY. Write down each step (no matter how small) and post them in your journal, your calendar, in your medicine cabinet, the wall of your studio—somewhere you will see them on a regular basis (daily?) so that you don't forget them.

These are Action Steps. Make a smaller version and put it in your wallet so that you can pull it out and refer to it when you feel pressure building and your energy scattering.

Give yourself plenty of time and be patient. Hold yourself accountable to your list. If it helps, tell a close friend who "gets you" what you're doing. You may be surprised to learn they have similar challenges. Take note of forward progress and celebrate those small steps! Revisit the process each time you mark something as completed.

Involve Others. You may not know it, but I learn so very much from each of you! Sometimes, it simply that I'm not alone, but other times, you challenge me to be my best in ways I never could have anticipated. Sharing my challenges with you makes me own them and step up my game. If sharing your challenges on a blog with the world is not your cup of tea, reach out to a trusted friend or a fellow art buddy that you know and admire. It's great if you live in the same city, but email and Skype make the world a global village nowadays.

Discuss the challenges you face, be brutally honest with yourself and ask the other person to do the same. Provide the kind honesty in return. Hold each other accountable and get real with your challenges and how you intend to overcome them. Send the other person a copy of your list of Actionable Steps. Commit to making progress. Share successes and commiserate together over missteps. The artist's community is filled with warm-hearted, caring people. Reach out.

Be Honest With Yourself. Maybe you know why you don't or can't focus. Maybe you're hiding from failure. From success. From other things going on in your life. Maybe being unfocused has become a default position because it's a coping mechanism. We've all done it and we'll all probably do it again, but the key thing here is to be honest with yourself about what you're doing and why.

Then decide what you want more—to be focused or to continue to use lack of focus as a coping mechanism. No one has to know what you decide or why you're choosing a given direction, but you need to know and understand your actions by making conscious choices. Consider compromising with yourself. Try focusing on small, non-threatening projects that feed your artistic self now that won't overly tax your need to avoid focusing on the bigger picture.

Overcoming Distractions or Bargaining With Yourself. This one can be kinda fun, actually. If you fall in love with every new medium, art toy, idea, technique, or trend that comes down the internet, you're attention is scattered and you probably have a studio full of half-started projects and unused art supplies. Sound familiar? It sure does to me!

This is where I begin to bargain with myself. I'll see something new I want to try or buy and to get it, I have to complete another task first. Something like a new journal. That means I have to finish then old one first. New technique? I have to finish the last project first. My reward is the new ____________. It takes a while to get the hang of this one because who's to know if I do just one little page in that new journal with that fabulous paper?

Me.

You gotta hold yourself accountable! I use this bargaining tool as a way to finish projects, old journals and such so that I don't have quite as many UFO's in the studio. UFO = Un Finished Object. Can also be called clutter. Mind you, this only works well if you're ruthless in telling yourself "no!"

Staying Focused. When I switched from a corporate job to working for myself, my focus was no where to found. I wandered through my days with NO focus. It was crazy making. I tried calendars, schedules, both online and paper, but nothing seem to work. I tried morning pages too. Still no good. Eventually, I landed on a creativity log. Click here to read about it.

My rules were simple. I had to go into the studio every single day for at least 15 minutes and do something creative. Not read. Not clean. Not organize. Create. After 15 minutes, if I wasn't feeling it, I could leave. If I wasn't sure, I would stick around for another 15 minutes and then decide.

(Hint: Get a digital timer! It is amazing what we can get done in just 15 minutes and I'm not just talking artwork!)

After a while, it became a challenge to be able to completely fill in my creativity log. There's no reason why this idea could not be adapted to any goal you wish to pursue on a very regular basis. I assure you, it teaches you to focus and commitment!

Make A Small(ish) Decision. Can't decide what to be when you grow up? Can't decide what to do next? What to focus on? Any decision is better than NO decision with the possible exception of those that involve life-and-death possibilities. Creating rarely does. Make a decision and then honor yourself and your intentions by following through with it. Nothing big. Just little steps. Keep it simple, keep it small. Instead of committing to painting a full-sheet watercolor painting, shoot for a 5 x 7 inch painting.

Use whatever tools you need to ensure you do that, but do it.

Otherwise, you're lying to yourself and that leads to all kinds of disappointment. Decide on a length of time to focus on a new activity. If it's not working for you at the end of your timeframe, move onto the next.  If you're still digging it, keep going. Keep a running list of all those things you'd like to try. Those other things on the list will wait patiently for you.

Overcoming Fear. Fear comes in many different colors, sizes and appearances. It can be hard to see, harder to recognize. It holds us hostage and a favorite tool is causing chaos so it's impossible to focus. Recognize the fear first. Understand what the fear is about. Identify ways to move forward and take the first step past it. Then another step, and another. Keep taking small steps (don't forget to celebrate). Commit to yourself, your buddy, and or your journal that you are going to face the fear by going ahead with whatever it is that you want to do!

There may be a misstep or even three. No matter. Keep going. Keep doing. And for those of you facing a critic that won't sit down and be quiet, try silencing the critic. Read more here, here and here.

Get Out Of Your Story. We star in our very own stories. We all have a story about why we can't create, can't focus, can't find the time, can't, can't, can't. We tell ourselves and anyone who may ask. The problem becomes that we've told our story to ourselves and others so convincingly that we often begin to believe it wholeheartedly and we get stuck. We forget to check and see if the story is still true and relevant today. Why, we don't even recognize it as a story—just the truth!

The next time you hear yourself telling someone your tale of woe about why you "can't" do something, do a fact check and see if it's really true. (The word "can't" is usually a tip off.) If you have that trusted partner that's helping you bust some of your bad habits and holding you accountable. Ask them to listen for your "story" and to call you on it when you start using it as an excuse rather than a reason. It's amazing how liberating it can be to be set free from an old story!

Making Changes
With any kind of behavior change, it's so, so important to stay positive, stay strong, be gentle with yourself, forgive missteps, try new approaches, find a buddy, be honest, and know that you, in all of your fallibility and imperfection are beautiful just the way you are! Remember, we're not "fixing," we're improving.

If something isn't working. Change the approach! We're not tied to any approach. Try it on for size. Give it time to work. If it doesn't move on, but keep trying!

I feel your frustrations when it comes to finding and keeping FOCUS. I hope all of this is of help.

As always, if you have a resource, an idea, something that's been helpful to you or a way you've learned FOCUS, please share it in the comments below. There has been a wealth of great ideas shared on the last two posts!

P.S. And if you've made it this far, many thanks for reading these (too) long posts!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

UNFOCUSED: A Condition of The Artist Or Something More?

Continued from this post. Scroll down to see the poll (now closed) and results.
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Wow! You guys blow me away! Thank YOU for the great response to the poll and for sharing your thoughts in the comments. By far and away, it seems many of us are struggling with FOCUS.

I must admit, I'm surprised! When I look around at so much beautiful work, it doesn't seem like there's a FOCUS problem.

FOCUSING On The Cause
What is odd to me, is that when I found myself thinking about FOCUS, I realized I had always considered a lack of focus to be a condition of being an artist. After all, we're also blessed with an abundance of curiosity and that's just the way of things, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

Turns out that's the short view. There's any number of reasons for a lack of FOCUS.

There is no doubt that if we could ask everyone who voted for focus what their definition, their vision of FOCUS in their lives looked like, we'd get a lot of different answers.

But it seems to me to make sense to have a clear idea of what FOCUS would look like in our individual lives if we could snap our fingers and have it RIGHT NOW. So before we go any further, let's define FOCUS for ourselves. What does being focused look like for the VERY BEST YOU in your life RIGHT NOW?

Remember, this is not about what FOCUS will look like when all the laundry is done, the kids are all on their own being successful, the parents are healthy and happy, our health is great and we're rich as can be. This is about the Very Best You, Right Now, Today:


For me, right now, it would be to have a clear step-by-step plan of what to do first, what to do second, what to do third, kinda like building a piece of furniture. If you skip the fifth step, the blasted thing will wobble. I find myself wasting energy worrying about that potential missed step. 

So Many Ways To Be UNFOCUS
As I mulled over FOCUS this week, I started looking for causes for being out of focus or lacking focus. I found myself looking at being UNFOCUSED for some of the reasons and here's what I came up with (in no particular order):


  • High Expectations. Also known as Trying To Do It ALL. Most of us are coping with jobs, kids, parents, health issues—our own and/or others, exercising, money worries, keeping a house and home operational, food on the table or at least in the pantry and clean clothes on our backs. And we want to be artists, too. In fact, we want to be brilliant artists! Expect much?! How do we even begin to decide what to focus on and is there any energy left at the end of the day to pursue a creative endeavor?
  • Bad Habits. Perhaps we have never learned to focus our attention and so we're distracted by every bright and shiny thing that comes our way. (As a side note, there may also be a medical reason for this. Many adults suffer from some version of adult attention deficit. If you suspect this, please seek medical advice.)
  • Diversionary. By not being focused, we don't have to worry about failure. Or success. Or dealing with feelings of inadequacy. Also, be careful of perfectionism with this one…it's insidious and will creep into places we never expect. Remember, perfectionism is all about using fear to keep us from trying. Our lack of focus may not even be related to our art. It may be something else in our lives that we're avoiding and the bleed-over effects our art.
  • Exhaustion. Hmmm, I wonder why. If you wonder why, see "High Expectations" above. Exhaustion from high expectations and trying to do it all and be all things to all people is a focus-killer if ever there was one! This may also be related to "Not Saying 'No" below.
  • Overwhelm. This is one of my personal favorites. I stand in one spot and turn round and round and round, getting nothing accomplished because I have no idea what to do first because there is soooo much to do! Ever happen to you? This is usually related to "Being Unable To Make A Decision" below.
  • Not Saying "No." Every. Single. Time. We say "yes" to something, we are saying "no" to something else. Sometimes it's an unexpected opportunity (like a trip out of town with friends to a quaint little place the same weekend we were going to paint because our spouse was out of town and the kids were going to their grandparents). That's temporary and a conscious choice. What happens when we're saying yes to everything, all the time, with no filters? Even though we know it means we won't have time for what's important to us? Something has to give and it's usually our focus.
  • Unable To Make A Decision. It decision time on what project to start or where to start on the project and we freeze. We're hesitant, unsure if it's the right decision. What if there's a better way or this isn't the right place to start? We're in a constant agony trying to decide where to go, what to do, how to do it, etc.
  • Isolation. Many of us crave alone time. But too much of a good thing is still too much. By the very virtue of being an artist, much of our time is spent in our heads. Alone. That isolation can be solace or it can lead to a spiral that is nearly impossible to break. We lose focus and cannot seem to regain it. Another form of isolation is being around folks who have no grasp as to why it's important to us to paint, dream, dance, create, draw, stare into space or otherwise indulge in something they don't understand.
  • Permission. This is a big one for a lot of women I know. Women struggle with taking time for themselves, to focus on their own interests. Society frowns upon this selfishness. And a lot of women are not able to grant themselves permission to take the time and resources they need to pursue their dreams.
  • But I Don't Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. When you are seeking to find your niche, it's hard to stay focused. This calls to mind the words of David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, "You can do anything, but you can't do everything." How can we be focused if we don't know what we want to focus on? A conundrum for sure!
  • Pain. Pain takes many forms and whether it is physical, mental or a combination, it's darn hard to move past it to focus on anything else. Illness is often temporary, but what if it's not? What hope do we have of focusing on creating when we're challenged by a chronic illness or limitation?

Whew! That's a lot and I'm sure the list is incomplete.

Getting A Handle On Our FOCUS Challenges
Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have another or different reason that's keeping you unfocused or at least contributing to the challenge of getting focused? Please share it in the comments below.

Knowing or at least having some idea as to the root cause gives us a compass reading on where we are.

In the next post (it will be published on Monday, January 20th), we'll discuss more about where we want to go and how we're going to get more FOCUS in our lives.

If you know someone who would benefit from this series on FOCUS, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this series with them!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ah, The Places We Get To Go!!

PLEASE REMEMBER to vote in the prior post about what you need most, RIGHT NOW, to be your very best! Click here to go to the post. 
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Pinewood Estate, Bok Tower Gardens
Lake Wales, Florida
Watercolor and Ink
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Stillman and Birn Bound Beta
A Day Trip
Back at the end of December, my partner in adventure, Kathy, from over at Catching Happiness, and I took off for Lake Wales to visit Bok Tower Gardens, the singing Carillon Tower and in particular, Pinewood Estate. (She talks about our visit here.)

Despite a rainy-ish start and cool (for Florida) temperatures, we had a fabulous day! We spent over six hours wandering around the nearly 50 acres of flowering gardens, oak trees, pines and native growth. The 200+ foot Carillon tower provided a nice ambience to the visit with the bells playing at regular intervals.

Bok Tower is an oasis of serenity well worth the visit should you find yourself in Central Florida any time soon.
St. Francis statue seen on the way to and from
the Pinewood Estate
The purpose of our visit was to take in the Pinewood Estate Christmas Tour. Pinewood is a mediterranean style home built by Mr. Charles Buck back in the 30's. This 20-room mansion was his winter home for 3 months out of the year—three months. He resided in Pennsylvania the rest of the year.
Front Side of Window in Sketch
This window was in the front "mud room"
of the house where guests entered,
but was enclosed so not a foyer
The house put me in mind of John and Mabel Ringling's winter home in Sarasota, but unlike that house, I could easily call Pinewood "home." Despite the 20 rooms, there was a charm to the rooms that made it seem homey and rather than ostentatious like the Ringling home.
The back side of Pinewood Estate
Note the arched window in the center.
The interior shot is below.
Over the years, the home passed through a number of owners and finally came to be owned by Bok Tower Gardens.
Someone was looking out for Santa AND the reindeer!
Each year the house is decorated with a theme. This year's was about traditions. Each room is sponsored by a business or individual and there is a contest to see which room is the favorite of the visitors.
The Loggia.
Notice the doors behind the tree—
they are sliding pocket doors!
There was an identical arched doorway
with sliding doors on the opposite side of the
room as well.
After touring the house, we sat outside to sketch and indulge in a warming cup of chai tea. The wind finally drove us to start walking around again. (We had been sitting on metal chairs and they were leeching all the warmth away!)
The garden view just outside of the Loggia.
The Sketch That Lied
The art above lies.

There was not citrus tree in a pot! That's a lie.

There was a citrus tree and there was a pot. Through creative license, and to make a more interesting sketch page, I opted to put the two together.

(We're artists—we don't have to be a slave to reality! That's what the creative license is for. Use it!)
The Garden Path to the Grotto.
If you look closely, you can see the
citrus grove beyond the grotto
(little orange dots).
The pot above were used in the sketch.
Both windows are interior views and they were no where near each other, but that's how it worked out on the page.

Both the feather and the seed pod were found outside of the Pinewood grounds, but as they were part of the day, they made it onto the page.

You may wonder at the odd assortment on the page and ask why I didn't sketch a decorated room or a view of the house.

Because these are the things I noticed. They're the things that spoke to me the most. When I think back on this day, I'll think about all the cool windows in the place as well as the small citrus grove they had just out from the house.

It won't be of the decorations or the rooms so much as the feeling of homeyness. It will also be of time well spent with a good friend, sharing new experiences.

It doesn't get much better than that!

(Again, thanks KJ for a fabulous day.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Your Very Best RIGHT NOW - What Do You Need?


Awareness, Plain and Simple
I often get caught up in the hurry scurry of everyday living, only to look up and realize that 2 and a half months have flown by. I suspect a large number of you are the same.

Is this a good thing? Does this mean I'm living in the moment or does it mean that I'm living with too little awareness?

Probably the latter. Unfortunately.

It certainly says that I'm not living intentionally.

It brings to mind the old saying, "The days are long, the years are short."

I was recently lamenting this fact to someone and they asked, "What do you need today, RIGHT NOW, to be your very best?"

"Uh. Um. Ah. Yeah, let me get back to you on that," was my addled response.

"No," they pushed. "What do you need? You already know. Just say it."

The first thing I threw out was money. It's the easy answer. Who doesn't need or want more money? Wouldn't money make everything better?

But it wasn't the real answer, not really.

What I need most is knowledge. Organization is a very close second. Focus and inspiration follow and any one of those could top the list on any given day.

"So get it," was the response.

It Ain't That Easy
That was my immediate thought. It isn't that easy or I would have done it by now, dontcha think!?!

But as I began to mull over the idea, I came to some startling conclusions.

It can be that easy.

I know how to ask questions, I know how to read, research and study. In other words, I know how to gain knowledge.

But...it's not quick and that has been my stumbling block—I want to know what I need to know right now. RIGHT NOW.

Yeah, well, not happening.

I have been (as usual) standing in the way of my own progress.

Sigh.

How This Applies
As Katie said in the comments on the last post, she wants to live more intentionally this year. A good many of us would like to do that, judging by the feedback.

I would go so far as to say that it's not enough to intend on living a year aware/focused/intentionally.

What about the days? The hours? The minutes? How do we live those intentionally?

To think we could live them all intentionally is quite intimidating to me. Scares the mess out of me, actually.

Just like making a masterpiece out of each day, I don't think it's possible to do.

To be intentional every minute?

Count me out.

Instead, I would like to be clear on the intent of my actions and thoughts for the day, for a project, or for how I may approach a given situation. I think by approaching things in this manner, I can let those minutes take care of themselves.

How Does This Apply To You
If you're an creative individual faced with 356 days (or less) left in your 2014 journal, you may be wondering where to go, what to do, how to fill those pages.

I'm right there with you.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, I have to make the assumption that you're creative (even if you claim otherwise) and are involved in some type of creative pursuit.

I'd like to ask you the question "What do you need, RIGHT NOW, to be your very best?"

Not for the year, the month, or the week, but for right now. What do you need?

Doesn't seem quite so intimidating, does it?

I'd like you to take some time and think about your answer. Come back and fill in the poll when you know. You may already know. Go ahead and fill in the poll today.

You can only choose one answer.

WHAT DO YOU NEED, TODAY, TO BE YOUR VERY BEST?


I'd love for you to share your thoughts on what you've chosen down below in the comments, especially if you chose something else. My hope is that we can all learn from each other!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Goals, Resolves Or Words? A New Year Conundrum

Stillman and Birn Zeta Journal
with beautiful, WHITE, unblemished pages
What To Do, What Not To Do

Set goals! No, don't set goals.

Make a resolution! No. Wait, don't do that.

You don't need resolutions, you need a word of the year!

Or better yet, you need a system! Forget all those other things, you need…blah, blah, blah.

If you've been surfing the internet in recent days, I'm sure you must have run across lots of posts about setting goals, setting resolutions, NOT setting resolutions and choosing a word or words for the year. Or not.

It's a bit of a conundrum.

My thoughts on the process—do what works for you.

That's what I'm gonna do.

I already set goals so that's not anything big.

I can't say as I set resolutions only because I don't get the big deal. I'm either gonna do it or I'm not. Fanfare won't make it happen.

Systems? Now, a system is something I can get my head around because that's something that sustains me and what I want to accomplish throughout the year, but I'm not so sure I need a system on January 1st.

Word of the year? I had the word "bold" choose me way back in '09.

It still hasn't turned me loose.

So I'm thinking maybe I don't need a new word but more time with the old one?

While I don't have much to say about the do's and don'ts, must do's and must nots, I can say this: without some kind of goals, resolutions, systems or words, I am very likely to wind up where I started.

And for me, that's simply not acceptable.

When I look back, I want to see progress of some sort. I want to see a better version of myself and if it takes setting goals, making resolutions, choosing words and creating a system, well then, that's what I'll do.

Looking back at last year…well, let's just say it was not a good year. I had a measly 29 posts on the blog for crying out loud. When I look at my sketchbooks, I still have a lot of white pages to fill.

I didn't take any trips or do any traveling at all.

Instead, it was a year of recovery, of healing deep wounds and figuring out what would be coming next.

Where To From Here?

Now, I could beat myself up over the last year's dismal output or I can congratulate myself for surviving and coming out stronger.

What do you think I'm going to do?

For me, 2014 is like a spanking, brand new journal with 365 days (pages) of pristine, beautiful, unblemished white pages…and regardless of whether it is intentional or not, I'll leave marks on each of those days.

Some days, I'll like the marks I make. If I'm lucky, I might even love them. Others days, not so much, but those marks will always be there. All I can shoot for is to do my best.

But the coolest thing, regardless of whether it's a good day or not, I get to (hopefully) turn the page and start anew!

I have a saying on the wall in my studio that says, "Make each day a masterpiece." That's a pretty tall order to achieve and it's beyond me to accomplish that. It brings unbearable pressure to even think that's possible.

What isn't beyond me is to bring my best to each day. I can start out each day with the intention of making the day masterpiece. And if it isn't, I can just turn the page and begin again.

Some days, it just ain't gonna happen! But for those days that it does—score!

A Fool Or An Optimist?

They say hope blooms eternal and I am a living, breathing example of the thought.

At times, I wonder if I'm a fool or an optimist, but it really doesn't matter because come this time of year, I'm like a little kid all excited about the possibilities of the new year! What might I make happen?! What opportunities are going to present themselves?! What fun people am I going to meet?! What new friends might I make?!

Doesn't that sound delicious?!

And really, I wouldn't have it any other way.

What do you do at this time of year? Goals, resolutions, systems, words or something else?

Whatever you may choose (goals, resolutions, words or something else), I wish you the very best wishes for a fantastically creative 2014!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Unexpected Visitor From The Past

My mother's birthday is January 1st and since this year was her 80th birthday, we had a big blowout to celebrate. With my mind on the party, I was a little surprised when an unexpected visitor from the past showed up.

My grandmother showed up at the party.

She died back in 2007.

Before you wonder if I've lost my mind, let me explain.

When we cleared my grandmother's home before she moved into an assisted living home, my aunt found a box of cards in the back of the closet. My grandmother was extremely sentimental and no one wanted to throw the cards away—they had obviously meant a lot to her. So my aunt took the box home with her. She'd planned to go through the cards and do something with them.

Like most of us with good intentions, the cards sat in the closet for many long years before those good intentions were realized.

At the party, my aunt gave a number of us a pack of cards that we had given to my grandmother over the years. In my pack, there was also a photo from our wedding and a photo of me when I was 3 or 4 years old.
If I'm not mistaken, this photo used to reside in a silver family tree frame with all of my grandmother's grandchildren's photos. Another blast from the past. I hadn't thought of that tree in years.

But what truly captured my attention and brought tears to my eyes, was the small skate pictured above.

Some of my earliest memories were of my granny creating something.

She crocheted, she sewed, she crafted, she gardened (she could make a dead stick bloom!), she baked (her 7 layer chocolate cake was divine!) and cooked, she was always doing something and I've long suspected that my seeds of creativity were cast from watching her.

She never used expensive materials. The skate above is made from a piece of felt, a paperclip and some yarn and thread. So simple and yet so "Granny" that I would recognize it anywhere as her work.

To me, it's a priceless piece of art.

I also have some "chickens" that are made from the same material…and now I'm on a hunt to find where I put them.

Over the years, she and I dabbled in a number of different craft projects together. When she moved back to Florida from Georgia, I was amazed at the number of items she'd kept from the past of things I'd made with her or for her.

While there were tears, it was like a gift of a visit from my grandmother after these many long years of silence.

She was a such a special lady that left a huge legacy of love, craft-iness, creativity, and making do with what you had.

I wanted to preserve the moment and be able to revisit it without having to hunt down the ornament or cards, so I've created a page in my sketchbook.
Granny's Skate
Stillman and Birn Beta bound sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5
watercolor and ink
In the space at the bottom of the page, I'll add the details of how the skate and cards came to me from my aunt.

Many thanks to my Aunt Lala for the visit from the past and the work of going through all those cards and there were a bunch of them! Many thanks to my granny for the legacy of creativity and love.

To this day, she is fiercely missed.
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On an entirely different note, I have had to turn on the word capture feature on the blog due to some persistent spammers that refuse to take "no spam" for real. My apologies for the inconvenience!