Creative Pursuits

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 . . . 


and an overwhelming array of paper choices . . . 


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.)


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


A fully-functional and super colorful . . . 


paper-covered box!


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!


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).


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?)


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.


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.


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.


Genres far outside the ones I practice.


Observing how others . . . find harmony and balance.


Or play with shadow and light.


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


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

(So glad I got on the bus.)









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.)