Creative Pursuits

A 3-Point Pact

A couple of years ago, I started taking colored pencil drawing classes.  (We have a great art school program here in Kalamazoo - for adults and kids.  It's a year-round program with a huge variety of class offerings.  I'm so grateful.)  I've learned a lot over the years, and I've created some drawings I'm really proud of -- and some real duds, too.  

I like picking out challenging projects for myself in my classes -- because I'm there to learn and develop my skills.  Last fall, I decided I wanted to try to draw something shiny.  Something with a lot of metal in it.  (Because there is a colored pencil technique called "burnishing" that makes wax-based colored pencil drawings "shine" like metal.)

So I decided I'd draw Tom's car.

And it has been the bane of my drawing-life ever since.

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Because it is hard.  And my drawing is big.  And I'm not actually all that fond of drawing cars.  And it is taking me so very long.  And I have wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

But then, something interesting happened.

My instructor (who is also a friend) asked me to teach her how to knit.

So I did.

And she is determined to make (as her first project) Jared Flood's striped scarf in two contrasting colors of Noro Silk Garden.

Although she caught on to knitting immediately (she had tried it once or twice in the past, so wasn't completely new to to the task), she struggled a bit.  Because it is hard.  And she can't fix her mistakes.  And she wasn't completely sold on the colors she chose.  And it is taking her so very long.  And she has wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

Sound familiar? 

Over a glass of wine, we laughed at ourselves . . . old dogs learning new tricks.  And we made this 3-point pact with each other:

  1. We will allow ourselves time and space to learn and improve.
  2. We will ask each other for help without apology.
  3. We will throw perfection out the window (instead of our projects).

I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish my car drawing before the end of my next "semester" of colored pencil drawing class.  And she is hoping to finish her scarf in time to wear next winter.

I'll keep you posted!

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To read more Three on Thursday posts, be sure to hop on over to Carole's!

 


Shaking It Up

I'm taking another drawing class this semester.  This time, it's a colored pencil technique class, and the whole point is to stretch our drawing in new directions.

Here is a little something I did in class last week.  It's a Lake Michigan sunset using wax-based colored pencils on sandpaper.  

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Yep.  Sandpaper.

Sometimes it's good to just shake things up a bit and try something completely unexpected.  
In art and in life!


Perks of Being a Guinea Pig, or Unraveled ... but Without Knitting

One of my friends is an artist here in town -- and she is developing a series of workshops she plans to offer in her studio beginning early next year.  As part of her "development" she's running prototype workshops -- and she invited me to be one of her guinea pigs!

So a couple of weeks ago, I sat down to a whole new set of tools . . . 

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and an overwhelming array of paper choices . . . 

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to learn how to make paper-covered boxes.

I love "making things" -- and I love learning new stuff -- so this was right up my alley.  And lots of fun, to boot.  (Also a huge mess.  Which is also fun.)

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And look what came out of this prototype workshop . . . 

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A fully-functional and super colorful . . . 

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paper-covered box!

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I'll be doing another prototype workshop with my friend this coming Friday.  More boxes.  Maybe some covered journals as well.  (She wants to smooth out some rough edges we encountered in the first go-round.)  (Kind of like . . . test-knitting.)  

I LIKE being a guinea pig!

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Be sure to check out other Unraveled posts over at Kat's!

 

 

 


On Inspiration

Last week, I went on a gallery hop/field trip to the lakeshore "twin cities" of Douglas and Saugatuck -- Michigan's Art Coast (about an hour from Kalamazoo).

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You know . . . it was one of those things that sounded GREAT when I signed up to go.  But then I got busy.  And last week was pretty jammed.  And I was kind of regretting committing to spending a whole day away in the middle of an already busy week.  (Does this ever happen to anyone else?  Or is it just me that does this kind of thing?)

Anyway.

I got up and dragged myself over to the meeting point for the trip.  And . . .

It ended up being a really awesome day.  Once the bus pulled away (and they put a mimosa in my hand . . . ), I just kicked back and relaxed and enjoyed a day near the Lake Michigan shore -- with good company, excellent food, and really cool art.

And it turned out to be a bit of Just What I Needed.

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You see, lately I seem to be a bit . . . uninspired.  About what to draw, what to paint, what to knit, what to plant.  Pretty much everything that requires my creativity.  Usually, I'm bursting with ideas and things I want to try.  Lately, I've been . . . well.  More undecided.  Particular.  Definitely on "pause."  It's not that I'm ambivalent or uninterested.  I definitely want to continue making and creating.  I'm just not quite sure . . . what.

Although it's actually been kind of frustrating for me, I've come to think that it's maybe just a phase in my own personal creative development.  And, eventually, I'll find my way again.  (And maybe an even better way!)  But.  For now, let's just go with frustrating.

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So on this trip, I was able to wander through several galleries and, in a very relaxed way, just let other people's creativity wash over me.

Shapes.  Colors.  Patterns.

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Genres far outside the ones I practice.

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Observing how others . . . find harmony and balance.

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Or play with shadow and light.

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Or tap into a sense of  joy and whimsy and fun.

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It was a good day for me.  A day to kind of . . . fill up my tank again.  

(So glad I got on the bus.)

#the100dayproject

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Checking In . . . #The100DayProject

Earlier this week (April 4 to be exact), #The100DayProject launched . . . with me, on board.

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What IS #The100DayProject, exactly?  Well, according to the organizers, it's a free, global art project that anyone can participate in.  (And it's not too late --- you can join in anytime.)  It's just a project . . . to spur creativity on a daily basis.  To bring more art to the world.  Any kind of art!  There are no complicated prompts to follow or "rules" or guidelines.  

Just pick what you want to work on.

Post your photos on Instagram.

And . . . begin!

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I knew I was going to sign up for the project right away.

The picking what I wanted to work on, though?  That was the hard part!

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Because, you see, I'm a dabbler.

I "do" something creative pretty much every day.  But I'm all over the place!  There's knitting, sure.  And gardening.  I take a lot of photos.  I draw.  I'm learning watercolor.  I stitch.  I sew.  I play around with collage.  I write a bit.  I read poetry.

It's . . . there.  But it's really compartmentalized!

I often wonder . . . is there any way to pull these things together????

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I'm not sure.

(But I've got 97 more days to find out.)

#100DaysofBringingItTogether

 

 

 


Letting Go

A couple of years ago, I decided to spread my wings a bit . . . and take a drawing class at the KIA (our local art museum and art school).  Although I took several art classes in high school and college, I hadn't dabbled in "official" art-making for . . . decades.  

It felt good.  But I felt pretty much like a fraud.

Last fall, I stumbled into my first colored pencil class. . . and I loved it!  The instructor was wonderful -- inspiring and supportive, and my classmates were great (for the most part; there's always . . . Someone; y'know?).  Still.  Fraud.  I was super hesitant about my work.  Slow.  Careful.  Overly cautious.

For example, it took me agonizing weeks to work through this piece (which I now refer to as "Snout I"):

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At the end of that first course, the instructor provided each of us with a carefully written "critique" of our work.  Mine?  Very positive.  But.  She also pointed out my greatest obstacles:  hesitation, second-guessing, fearfulness.  She encouraged me to, "make mistakes and try to figure out ways to fix them."

Those words. . . rang through my head.

Kind of like alarm bells.

In fact, her words were the very words that led me to my "one little word" this year:  RISK.

Make mistakes and figure out ways to fix them.

I'm here to say . . . I've come a long way since my first colored pencil class.  Not necessarily with my art, but with mistakes.  I went WAY out on a limb . . . and took a watercolor class last spring.  (Different instructor, but also very supportive.)  This was a huge risk for me -- because I had no experience with watercolor.  AND because there are no erasers in watercolor.  (Every time you wet your brush, you're taking a risk.)

Watercolor was a game-changer for me in terms of letting go and making mistakes, and I started just kind of  . . . going for it.  Realizing, finally, that this art of mine is really JUST for ME.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't?  Fix it. Or pitch it.   

RISK.

This last Saturday, I took a one-day colored pencil workshop.  I think my instructor (that same one) was more thrilled than I was -- when I completed (except for the background) this drawing of Jenny during the day-long class.  (I call it "Snout II.")

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I took a RISK.

I made some mistakes.

I fixed them.

It worked out.

It's very freeing . . . to let go.


A Confession

For as long as I have been blogging . . . 

(And even before that.)

one of my annual goals has been . . .

Become Proficient With Photoshop.

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I had the software (the full-blown version, mind you) loaded on my computer.  

(I even upgraded once or twice.)

I took classes in using Photoshop.

Live classes.

Online classes.

I'd learn how to use it.  I'd create all kinds of great effects.  Basically, I'd edit the crap out of my photos.

In class.

For my assignments.

But I just never used it on my own.  It seemed like . . . just so much trouble.

So my new-found skills would get rusty.  (Again.)

And then I'd feel bad.  (Again.)

And, each January, declare that this . . . THIS would be . . . The Year I'd Become Proficient in Photoshop.  (Again.)

It has become achingly, painfully clear, though . . . that it just ain't gonna happen.

So.

You know what I did?

I Kon-Mari'd it!

Yep.  I uninstalled that sucker.  Because No Joy.

And I feel SO MUCH BETTER!

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The photo above?  Lake Michigan waves crashing over the South Haven pier last Saturday.  (And not edited with Photoshop, by the way.)

 


What's Your Word?

 This winter, I've been taking a watercolor class.

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I've never done watercolor before . . . and watercolor is hard.  

Most of my early attempts were water-paint-blob-bombs.

So much . . . expensive watercolor paper in the trash.

I was so frustrated -- and disheartened.

Tom encouraged me to just keep trying.  

(I can't.  It's too hard.)

(What's your word?)  

(RISK, damnit.)

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I kept at it.  

Lots of practice.

Lots of paper.

(I can't show anybody, though.  I don't want to.)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.

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A couple of my pieces were selected to be in the Student Exhibit.

All I had to do . . . was have them framed.

(I can't.  It's freaking me out too much.)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.)

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I can't quite explain how . . . exposed . . . this all made me feel.

Sharing my paintings?

Framing them?

Hanging them in an exhibit?

(. . . as if I were an artist????)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.)

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THIS . . . was not something I ever expected to do.

And there was quite a lot of courage required.

(There's a ton required to even post this.)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.)

(Hell, yes.)

 

 

 

 

 


Pruning with Purpose

During the holiday season, there are some things that I DO . . . only because I feel some sense of obligation.  But there are other things . . . that I really LOVE doing.  Decorating my house, for example.  I love that!  But, over the years, things have gotten a bit out of hand when it comes to my decorating.

Like . . . I've amassed a quite overwhelming inventory of decor items over the years.

And . . . It typically takes me days to convert my house into a Christmas Wonderland.

Sure . . . It's a bit overwhelming.  And kind of stressful.

But . . .  It always looks great when I'm finished.  And it's do-able. (Because I put the same things in the same places every.single.year.)  (And how hard can that be?  Right????)

Then . . . this year . . . I asked myself WHY????  And decided to rethink my holiday decor plan.  (Just because it's DO-able, it doesn't mean you have to DO it.)  (Or that you can't DO it . . . differently.)

Something a little different

I decided a little PRUNING was in order.

First, I pruned my decor items themselves.  I went from five crates of decor . . . to one.  And it was easy.  I just applied KonMari principles:  I unwrapped each item and held it.  I asked, "Do you bring me joy?"  And . . . for the most part . . . I found that, No.  You don't bring me joy.  (Although you did at one time.  And for that I am grateful.)

Pruning with purpose

Then, I went outside and did some actual pruning.  I walked through my garden and pruned things to use inside for decorating.  Red-twig dogwood.  Cedar branches.  Boxwood.  Mugo pine. Beauty berry.

Then . . . the real fun began!

I used boxwood clippings to create little window swags. 

Boxwood in the window

And I used cedar clippings on mantle and in a small arrangement on the hearth.

Mantle village

Boxwood in the window

And I created several arrangements using various pieces of my garden.

Boxwood burning
Boxwood burning
Boxwood burning

It's much more . . . low-key . . . in my house this holiday season.  But you know what?  I'm really happy.  It's simple and festive and lovely . . . in a way that reflects my style -- inside and out.

I love a little . . . pruning with purpose!