Tuesday, June 24, 2014

We Interrupt Our Normal Programming...

Today, there aren't any sketches to share or tutorials on art.

Instead, I'd like to make a special request. Something personal.

I've very recently received some devastating news from a friend who had been missing from the landscape of my life. While I had noted the absence, I did not reach out to them. Even when this lovely person had crossed my mind several times, I wasn't tuned into my intuition that said, "pay attention."

When I saw a post on FaceBook, I mistakenly thought all was well.

Intuition is easily and often overlooked.

We're all going a hundred miles an hour with family and jobs and other activities.

For these reasons, I'm going to ask that you look around your life and note any absences from your life of friends or family, near or far.

And then I'm going to ask you to reach out to them.

Make a call, send them an email, a message on FB or stop by their house.

All may be well.

It might not.

But knowing that you cared and reach out may make the burdens of living a little easier to bear.

And you won't be left with a pocketful of wishes of what might have been.

I've closed the comments on this post because I want you to reach out to someone you've not heard from in a while rather than me.

Please, for me and for my friend, in the name of friendship…reach out to someone.

Friday, June 20, 2014

13 MORE Things I Wish I'd Have Known About Mistakes When I Started My Creative Journey

NOLA Street Performer,
An Imperfect Sketch

They are a fact of life and yet, they continue to confound us all. Especially those of us who put ourselves out into the world in a visual way. Words, dance, singing, sculpture, poetry, painting, sketching, sports...you name it, and there is an element of fear that creeps in because we just might make a mistake.

It has taken me long years to learn to view mistakes as opportunities to learn. To NOT invest a lot of anger or aggravation in them. (And yeah, occasionally I still do.) Mistakes only become a big, honking deal when I turn them into a big, honking deal. Even more important, if I get so focused on the fact that I made a mistake rather than what I can learn from the mistake, I've compounded my mistake! Big time.

Mistakes are necessary, fundamental, and a requirement for learning. Resistance is futile. They're gonna happen.

Below are some thoughts I've collected over the years in my creative journey I kinda wish I'd known going in. Might have saved me some trouble. It certainly would have saved me some aggravation.

1. Mistakes, nor failure, are fatal. Okay, maybe if your a bomb defuser or a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, but for the rest of us? Mistakes are annoying, aggravating, irritating, possibly demoralizing, certainly demotivating but not fatal. So go ahead, make some.

2. To become a better artist faster, lose your fear of making mistakes. How do you lose the fear? By doing. Not by thinking, reading, wishing, worrying, studying, analyzing or looking at other people's art on the internet. By doing. If you create more art, you will make more mistakes. Because you are making more mistakes, you'll learn more, faster, about what works, what doesn't, what you like and what you don't.

3. Mistakes are part of the process. It's just like when you learned to walk. You didn't climb out of the womb and onto the couch. You had to learn to roll over, sit up, scootch forward or backward, get your knees under you, how to crawl, how to pull up, stand up and stay balanced, how to move your foot forward, then the other one, how to turn loose and…how to fall down. Repeatedly. And get back up. Just. Like. Doing. Something. Creative.

4. No matter how good you get, you will make mistakes. It is inevitable. You're human. Just accept it and move on. Oh, and chances are good, it will be a rookie mistake that you know better than to do. Just saying.

5. How you respond to the mistake you've made is one of the most important choices you will make with regard to your art. Rather than dread the making of mistakes, treat it as a learning opportunity, as no big deal, as a part of the process. If you can't fix it, turn the page and holler out, "Next!" and begin again… OR…waste a lot of time moaning and groaning and grieving for that great piece of art you were creating. Staying upset and refraining from making art is fear dressed up in grown ups' clothing to make you think you're being wise to not waste time, materials or energy if you can't do it right. Bull hockey!

6. It's not a mistake or failure nor a waste of materials or time if you learned from it. Let me repeat that…if you've learned anything from putting a mark on the page, then you've gained something even if you deem the end result a mistake or failure. But don't call it a waste if you got anything out of it that will make you stronger or better the next time you put down a mark.

7. Before you decide a sketch or page in your journal is a complete failure, give it time. Often, when we are in the throes of creating and something doesn't turn out like the perfect picture in our mind's eye, we judge our results as lacking, as wrong, as a mistake. Turn the page and go on with another sketch. After a few days or weeks have passed, take another look at it. Many times, when that perfect image in our mind has faded, the work in front of us is often better than we thought.
Puffin Doodle
I have no idea what happened with his legs!
8. Being afraid of making a mistake won't stop it from happening. How many of us have not put in a darker value or a background or added words to the page because we feared messing it up? I dare so most us. What's the price? A piece we know could be better if we were just brave enough to take that next step. If we do that enough times, we erode our self-confidence.

9. Sometimes we have to learn what NOT to do by doing it. Yeah, it sucks, but the bottom line is there is no teacher like experience. It's kinda like getting your fingers burnt after being told not to touch something hot. You don't forget it. Some lessons are like that and it's necessary to learn the hard way, but you learn. Don't let the fear of learning the hard way stop you. Keep creating.

10. Do not feed the fear [of making mistakes]. If you find yourself obsessing over making a mistake or messing up on a piece of art you really, really like, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen. You totally destroy the piece and get your artistic license revoked. Then ask yourself what's the best that can happen. You create a gorgeous piece of art and go on to win the most prestigious prize in the country and world acclaim. Now, decide where you want to put your energy and efforts. You've got at least a 50/50 chance of being right!

11. So you've totally bungled the page, now what? Go play. Seriously, all expectations are gone. You're ready to tear the page out of your book. This is the best possible opportunity to play and experiment with some new idea or technique. To do something fun or outrageous or different. What do you care if it works out at this point? You were going to tear the page out the book anyway!

12. Is it a mistake or is it an imperfection? How many times have you bought a garment that had a tag saying something about how the imperfections were part of the nature of the fabric? What about a piece of pottery that was prized for the imperfections? It's not just semantics. It's how you think of the matter that is important. Learn the difference.

13. Did you fail? Fail better the next time. Much as when you learned to walk, each time you got up and tried again, you did a little better. So it goes with art. Embrace the opportunity to learn and make a new, different mistake the next time so you can learn from that one, and the next, and so on.

Fear is often the end result of having made mistakes or failing. This type of fear can paralyze your efforts to be creative, stunt your growth, or at the very least, slow it down. This kind of fear often sounds rational, reasonable and very adult-like when it whispers in the back of your mind that you don't want to put pen or pencil to the page because you're just wasting time and materials. You might mess up. Again.

If you'd listened to that voice as a baby, you'd still be lying on your back waiting for someone to come along and roll you over!

Turn the fear into fuel and let it fire your efforts. In other words, do it anyway. Because really, we talking about a little bit of paper, some paint, a touch of ink or lead and some time you'd probably have wasted trolling the internet looking at someone else's art or reading about making mistakes.

After all, if you try and fail, you have gained an opportunity to learn.

If you fear and do not try, you've gained nothing but fear itself.

P.S. This post is a continuation from this one!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Letting the Page Evolve

View From Hamburger Mary's
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Ink and Watercolor
Stillman & Birn Zeta
Just as a planned day sometimes takes an unexpected detour that turns out to be far more enjoyable than what was originally planned, so goes a journal page.

When it comes to the page, I usually have a vague plan in mind of what I'm trying to capture/create. The day, not so much.

We had a loose plan to have lunch at Carmine's, an old establishment that's been in Ybor City forever and to go to the movies.

Tin ceilings and concrete floors are just part of the "ambience" of Carmine's, but they do not make for good acoustics. Since it was Father's Day weekend, there were several groups in the restaurant, each talking over the other in an effort to be heard. Add to that a two-year-old who desperately needed a nap and it was bedlam.

We couldn't hear ourselves think, let alone speak, so we left before they came to take our drink order. We knew finding another place to eat wouldn't be a problem. There are plenty of great restaurants in Ybor City. If you go hungry, it's your own fault. 

We wandered down the street to Hamburger Mary's and it was blessedly quiet. A bonus of this new venue was our waiter—he was quite a treat! It was obvious he liked people, cutting up and having fun. Of course, at Mary's, I think that may be part of the job requirement.

Back to the sketch…looking around, I spotted the window above across the way. It was partially blocked by an overhang, but I could see enough of it and decided to go for it. At this point, I would sketch the window and add just a splash of color, but not color the whole thing. 

Nothing would do but for the waiter to sit down beside me in the booth to see where I was looking as he could not see the window from his perspective while standing up. Leaving the booth, he turned to ask, "Do you want some crayons?"

"Nope," I responded, "brought my own." 

The food was excellent and Mary's typically has great cakes and when I inquired about flavors, I was told there was no cake. NO cake?! How could this be?! 

The waiter offered me cookies, brownies, a bun with frosting and several other combinations. He even offered to step down to another restaurant to get me a piece of cake. Now, mind you, most of these were offered with a heavy dose of sarcasm and a large dollop of humor. 

When I informed him only Mary's cake and no other would do, he threw up his hands and walked away muttering (again, all in playful jest).

In the end, he surprised me with a Hershey's® chocolate bar when he delivered the check. What a cool (and sweet) thing to do!

Between goofing around with the waiter and sketching, we were nearly late to the movie. Eek! When we left Mary's, this was as far as I'd made it:
The beginning of the page.
The red oval highlights the mistake I made right off the bat.
Because I was too busy playing with the waiter and not spending enough time concentrating on my sketch, there are a number of "structural" issues with the sketch above and when I finally got past the overhang, I was quite surprised to see the top of the window looked nothing like my sketch.

In fact, it wasn't until later that I figured out what the problem was. Rather than letting it stand, I pulled out my white Sharpie poster marker and extended the white window sill over to the right. 

The day and sketch would have been woefully deficient had I not added the Hershey bar and Hamburger Mary's logo in honor of a man that was fabulous at his job. He really was too much fun, not to mention a real sweetie!

We hurried to the ticket counter and purchased tickets for How To Train Your Dragon 2. I walked into the theater waving my sketchbook up and down in order to get the page dry so I could put the book away before the start of the movie. (Great movie and highly recommended!)

After watching HTTYD2, we decided to see Edge of Tomorrow (an excellent movie) with Tom Cruise. We haven't watched two movies back-to-back (at the theater) in years, but it was fun and made for a very enjoyable day. Besides, it looked like it was getting ready to flood outside. 

Adding a ticket from each movie to the right side of the page serves as a reminder of what we did. All in all, a fabulous day and the sketch will make it easy to remember as I flip back through the book. 
Movie tickets added to the page and a close up of the white "fix."
You can see the "corrected" window sill in this image. 

Despite the imperfections, I find they don't detract from the memory in any way. If anything, for me, they add to the "patina" of the page as they speak to my divided attention.  

The journaling was added last as I recaptured my thoughts of the day, but I wanted it to appear as though the chocolate and sticker had been added last. 

Rather than get aggravated about the change to our day, we managed to embrace those unexpected moments and add them to the day and the page. It made for a far richer experience. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Artistic License, Colorful Black and (Erk!) Ink Blobs


Momma said there would be days like this.

What she didn't say was that I should have known better, but I'd do it anyway.

Let me start at the beginning...
8.5 x 5.5 inches
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman & Birns Zeta Sketchbook
I recently received an email from Carole M. of Snap Happy Birding Blog and she hinted she had an image she thought I'd like…

She was right! And I was thrilled when she gave my permission to use her photos as inspiration for my sketch. I chose to use them as inspiration and drew my own interpretation using several of Carole's photos so that my sketch is not a direct copy of any of her images.

Carole had the opportunity to snap some fun shots of these white-breasted woodswallows huddling together. You can learn more here as well as hear them.

As the day was overcast when Carole took the shot, the birds didn't have a lot of variation in the black/dark gray color of their feathers so I decided to use my artistic license and make them colorful.

If I didn't say anything, and you just glanced at the image above, you probably didn't notice the various colors in the feathers. Take a closer look below:
Notice the blues, reds, lavenders, and turquoise
Now, I could have used just black: 
Just a hint of color in the tail feathers
But where is the fun in just using black when I can pull out just about every color in the paint box and play!?!

Our eyes read VALUE first and COLOR second. The cool thing about that statement is that it means that as long as we're using the right value, we can use any color we want to and it will look right!

Isn't it wonderful to be an artist?!

By adding in all the color, the image becomes more lively and entertaining to the eyes. As the colors closely represent black/dark gray, it doesn't make the birds look like parrots rather than woodswallows.

Fixing Mistakes
I mentioned in a prior post that I've been playing around with an Wahl/Eversharp flexible nib seated in a Noodler's Flex Fountain Pen. 

I knew it was just a matter of time before I had trouble with it as it doesn't really sit well in the feed of the Noodler pen, but a girl's gotta try. 

I shouldn't have been surprised when I got a lovely blob of ink on the last letter of the word, woodswallows. 

And, I wasn't. I'd been expecting trouble. 

What I was surprised at is that I didn't stop there and change pens. Instead, I cleaned the pen and kept going…right into another blob as seen on the right:
More than a little annoyed with myself, I wondered how to fix the blob quickly. Rather than futz around with ink, gouache or gesso, I pulled out a scrap of watercolor paper and created a tag. Once I had it cut out, I quickly painted it with raw sienna to give it a little more personality and glued it down to the page. 

I then switched pens (yes, I'm a little slow on the uptake, but I get there eventually!) and wrote the photo credit info. 

Using Your Creative License
Take a look the next time you're painting black or another dark color and look for ways to add unexpected color into those areas and don't get discouraged by ink blobs. 

They happen to everyone.

And last, but not least, many thanks to Carole for her generosity and allowing me to use her images. I hope you'll check out her blog as she always has something new up!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sketching Under Challenging Circumstances

Sketching New Additions To The Studio…
While Tired From Moving
If you read the prior post about 13 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Journaling and you kindly refer to number 12, you'll note that I mention every page will not be a winner.

When we're tired, stressed, sad, mad, distracted, worried or otherwise challenged, it's a bit much to think we're going to turn out pages we like (again, please note, I did NOT say pages that are perfect).

Does that mean you shouldn't sketch?

It means you absolutely should sketch. Quite often, when we sketch under these conditions, it becomes more about the process rather than the end result.

It also means you should manage your expectations.

When you know you're sketching under adverse conditions, set your expectations to match and then sketch away.

Do not mistake this approach for an excuse to sketch halfheartedly. Do your best even under these circumstances.

If it turns out not-so-good, you won't be surprised and you might just find yourself with a real, raw page that helped you process the emotion of the moment.

The sketch above was done after some intense moving and shuffling of furniture and all the shi...stuff piled around it.

I recently found myself to be the proud owner of two new-to-me oak printer cabinets. They used to store type and logo blocks in these cabinets. They're heavy, cumbersome beasts.

I'm thrilled to have all those fabulous drawers to stash supplies in. With any luck, I may just get organized! Oh, what a thrill that thought brings. (Seriously.)

However, I can't say I'm thrilled with the sketches above when I evaluated just the quality of the sketches and page. It's okay and it certainly hold a likeness of each cabinet. I'd like to think if I had not been so exhausted I wouldn't have smeared the ink and the page would have held more appeal.

Still…am I disappointed in the page? No. It wasn't about the end product so much as a record of the cabinets and the day.

Why not? Because it's a record of what as well as of the exhaustion. It's got grit.

Is it pretty? No, but then a lot of life isn't pretty. Instead, it's real.

It is more than a record of the cabinets, when we bought them and their sizes.

(It also gave me the opportunity to test drive an Eversharp nib seated in a Noodler's Flex fountain pen—more on this after I do a bit more testing.)

I haven't yet decided if I'll add color or not. It would go a long way towards making the page more appealing, but as is, it speaks to my exhaustion which is part of what I want to remember.

What's Your Approach?
Journaling can take many forms for each of us during our journeys. Sometimes, it's about the pretty page as near perfect as we can make it. Other times, it's about sketching because we're learning or bored or trying something different.

And then there are those sketches that come about under adverse conditions. As an example, I sketched in my MIL's hospital room because that was how I dealt with my fear and worry. We knew she wouldn't recover. Talk about stressed? Oh yeah.

I'd not trade those sketches for anything. They're not pretty. They do, however, convey to me what words cannot. It helped me to process the emotions of that time just as the sketch above allowed me to process my exhaustion…and my excitement to have these two cabinets.

Do you sketch under adverse conditions? How does the process change for you?