Creative Pursuits

Checking In . . . #The100DayProject

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


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!


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!


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????


I'm not sure.

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





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.   


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.


You know what I did?

I Kon-Mari'd it!

Yep.  I uninstalled that sucker.  Because No Joy.



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.


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.)


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.


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.)


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.)



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!



That Gingerbread Time of Year

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you might recall that we decorate gingerbread houses on Thanksgiving evening -- once all the plates are cleared away.

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I always bake the gingerbread house pieces about a week before Thanksgiving.  It's a rather tedious process.  I use a Pampered Chef mold (that I bought back in 1992), and I have to fill the mold twice for each house.  (We're up to four now -- so that's a lot of baking.)


After the roof cave-in disaster a couple years ago, I actually construct the houses in advance now.  I find I'm much more patient when I know I'm not going to start gluing candy to it right away!  


When it's time to decorate, we organize the candy offerings -- and let our imaginations run free!*


This year, Erin was inspired by some Little Monster birthday candles. . .


leading to one of the more colorful gingerbread houses in recent history!


Lauren opted for a more simple and traditional look for her house.


My Mom worked a peppermint theme.


And I tried something completely new (for us).  I used a can of cake decorating frosting and went crazy on the roof.  (It took almost a week to dry.)


As always, decorating gingerbread houses with my family is the BEST way to kick off the Christmas season!


* In putting together this post, I realized that I never took "finished" photos of our houses (except mine); all the shots are "in progress."  Oh, well.  Imagine them all Even More Wonderful!

Good Thing I'm Not Being Graded


As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been taking an art class this fall at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art. I've discovered that I really like to draw (who knew?) and I especially like working with colored pencils.  (I also really like my current instructor -- and would take nearly any class she might teach in the future.)

Anyway.  Today is my last class in this session -- and to celebrate, we're having a show-your-work/critique session  - with wine and treats.  I'm not nearly as intimidated by this (the showing and critiquing; not the wine) as I once was.  

I'm not really ready, though . . . it turns out - when it comes to art - I'm really slow.

(And busy.)

Finished or not . . . here's what I have to "show" today:


This is my flower.  I worked on it for weeks (I think I showed it in an earlier iteration here on the blog, some time ago.)  Not happy with the background, but - really . . . I needed to move on.


This one is actually finished.  (Watercolor pencils; how I love them!)  I like this one quite a lot, and I'm inspired to do more -- in a "series."  (Someday.  When I finish some of my other pieces.)


JoJo.  This one is off to a good beginning (as in, hasn't been tossed in the trash yet), but not even close to being finished.


And this is a brown trout.  In the water.  I've been working on it for weeks.  (This one WAS in the trash for a while, but Tom convinced me to keep going.  And my instructor encouraged me to keep going.  So I am.)  Again.  Not close to finished.

I work very, very slowly. 

Good thing I'm not being graded!

(At least I finished baking my treat-contribution to the class party.)

So. The Not Knitting.

My knitting has been very slow lately.


Well, I decided to try another art class.  This time . . . Drawing with Colored Pencils.


I'm really enjoying the class.  The teacher is great, and the other participants are supportive and interesting.  (So far, the Monarch is my best attempt.)

When I took the basic drawing class last spring, I started noticing shapes everywhere I looked.  With this colored pencil class, I'm noticing colors -- layers of colors - everywhere.

Colored pencil, as a medium, is very slow and rather tedious.  It involves carefully layering colors, beginning very lightly, and then moving on to darker shades and textures.


I think some of the people in my class are not comfortable with the slow-ness of the projects.  As a knitter, though, I have no problem.  After all, I knit whole sweaters . . . one stitch at a time.

I actually find the process to be relaxing -- in the same way I find knitting relaxing. 

So.  I'm not knitting much.  But I am having fun with a big box of colored pencils.*


This flower has a long way to go until it will be "finished."  (It still needs many layers.)  I think it's going to be . . . Not Knitting . . . for me, for a while yet.


* We use Prismacolor wax-based colored pencils.

Right Now - September 2015

I'm sort of wondering . . . what happened to September.  Because it seems to have just evaporated right before my very eyes! 



Here's what's happening for me . . . Right Now.


Watching . . . my bathroom be demolished right before my very eyes!  (Yes.  It will be worth it in the end.  For now?  Just a giant mess and a lot of hassle.)  (A Jacuzzi tub used to live there. . . )

Reading . . . Undermajordomo Minor.  (The title alone is click-bait, n'est-ce pas?)  (If you're a fan of Princess Bride, you might want to pick this one up.)  I'm also reading Girl on the Train for my book group.  (I know.  Late to this party.)  (Also - not really my style.  But reading anyway because book group.)


Knitting . . . a sweater.  This one.  As usual, with sweaters-in-pieces, I do the sleeves first.  It's slow going lately, as life has been busy and getting in the way of my knitting.


Listening to . . . Black Violin.  (Classical meets HipHop.  Really.  Check it out.)

Planning . . . where to plant my spring bulbs.  I have daffodil, crocus, allium, and grape hyacinth -- over 150 bulbs -- and I'll be so happy next spring!

Needing to . . . get on with my KonMari-ing, which has taken a backseat during gardening season.  Now that the garden is winding down, I'll have time to sort and toss and find joy again.


Drinking . . . our home-brewed IPA.  (Really, it's all Tom's doing -- but I assist with the transfers and bottling).  (And it's quite tasty, by the way!)

Itching to . . . head up north for a nice fall weekend.  I'm hoping the weather cooperates for a nice fall hike in the woods.  (Even though the leaves haven't really gotten going yet.)


Dreading . . . pumpkin spice everything!  At the grocery store on Monday - in just one aisle - I saw PS marmallows, PS Mini Wheats, PS granola bars, PS tea, PS coffee, and PS Pop-Tarts.  (Of course, I also discovered that one of seasonal flavors of Chobani - PS, of course - is really quite tasty!)

Wondering . . . how long it will really take before my bathroom is functional again?


Enjoying . . . the Drawing with Colored Pencils art class I'm taking this fall at the KIA.  Lots to learn; lots of fun.

Organizing . . .my time so much better these days.  How?  A good, old-school planner system that really works for me.*  (Digital, while cool, just does not.)

Delighted by . . . a new work table for my drawing and art projects.  My Dad built it for me - custom-sized.  I can't wait to get it!


Celebrating . . . the Super-Lunar-Blood-Moon-Eclipse.  We didn't think we'd get to see it at all - because clouds.  But then, just as the show started, the clouds parted and we had a perfect view from our patio.

How about YOU?  What's happening for you . . . right now?


* I've used Planner Pads almost exclusively since 1999.  Every once in a while, I try something digital.  But I always go back to the Planner Pad.