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Drawing for Inspiration

11 Oct

BOOK: Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun (Lab Series) by Carla Sonheim

I keep running across the book Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun (Lab Series) by Carla Sonheim and I am just itching to try it out.  Basically, Sonheim guides the reader through 52 projects, or “labs” as she calls them,  and offers techniques for creating playful and spontaneous drawings.  I love to draw and paint, but often feel confined by thinking I have to control every line of the pencil or stroke of the brush. I think these activities will be a great way to re-energize my creativity, hone my skills, and glean some new ones.

I picked the book up at my local library last week and got started.  At first I had to scramble for art supplies as I have already put most of them in storage in anticipation of our move.  But what I thought was a glitch turned out to be a blessing as I just have to work with what I’ve got instead of over-thinking it with myriad choices.  I still have an accessible box of watercolors and gouache paints.  I really don’t know where my sketchbooks are packed away so I went to the bookstore and got one on sale.  While I was at it, I allowed my 3 year-old to pick out a mini-sketchbook for herself.  It is now her new favorite accessory.  And so, with only my watercolors, some sharpie markers,  my sketchbook, and my kiddo, I have been taking some time to create.

I started with the book’s first assignment of drawing a cat…actually about 30 cats…and have also been inspired to draw some other creatures.  I have been creating birds and owls for years, but with the suggestions and techniques of Sonheim, I was able to break free of the fear that everything needs to be oober-controlled.  In fact, one of her suggestions is to draw with your weaker hand to loosen up the drawings.  Since last week, I have created with only my left hand!  It is quite liberating and I am yielding results that I have always desired in my work but had been trying to force.

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to fit these “labs” into my schedule, but I have found that it is just the opposite. The first assignment actually instructs the artist to draw “while sitting or lying in bed.”  So, I take some time at night, right before bed, and draw.  Or, in between cooking dinner or cleaning up the dishes, I run over to where my sketchbook sits open, draw a few characters, clear my mind, and then get back to the task at hand.  I have had so much fun with and extending the first lesson, that I am not yet ready to move onto the second.

What I really love is that I have been doing a lot of this drawing while spending time with my daughter.  (Mommy-hood side note confession: I don’t play well.  It’s not that I don’t like to play, but when it comes to playing with my three-year old, it can be brutal on one’s mental stamina.  Her attention span is either very short and we go from activity to activity or it is repetitive, and we are stuck on the same thing for such.a.long.time!!!!  Tea party for two, anyone?  Pull up a chair.  You’ll be here for, oh, about three hours or so!  When we play, I am often daydreaming about the other things that I should be doing or could be doing or want to be doing.  Sounds terrible but I know that I am not the only Mommy out there feeling this way!)  BUT, she has really taken to her little sketchbook we have just been spending great time drawing together.  She gets very involved in what she has been doing and I get lost in my own creations.  We stop every once in a while and check out the other one’s work and make comments, and then we get back to it.

Here is what I produced from that first “lab.”  I am also working on a project that combines what I have learned from this assignment with some of the drawings that I have been doing over the past few years.  Stay tuned for those.  As I move along, I will post my work.  I also have some plans for my daughter’s work, but that will come in time as well.

Cat sketches, watercolor and sharpie.

Owl sketches (and a stray cat), watercolor and sharpie.

Pig sketches, watercolor and sharpie.

It would be interesting to hear from others who might have  taken one of Carla Sonheim’s  online classes or used one of her books.  Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on the subject.

You can follow Carla’s blog here.

All images (c) Sneezing in Windy Places, 2012, unless otherwise noted.


Just do it! And if you don’t know what “it”is, just do something!

10 Oct

It’s the journey that’s important.

While talking to a friend the other night at dinner, the topic of this blog arose.  She hadn’t had a chance to read anything that I had written yet and she asked, “What are you writing about?”  I stumbled for an answer and spewed out something like, “Motherhood…our move to Minnesota.”

But, in all honesty, the answer is, “I don’t know.”  I can’t precisely label this as a blog about one thing or another.  My mind doesn’t segregate things into neat little compartments and it is difficult when, in life, people ask me to place myself, my work, or even my preferences into categories.  It is like having someone ask me what kind of music I like.  I like an eclectic mix of melodies and admit to listening to everything from The Lumineers to Kenny Wayne Shepherd to Katy Perry.  It just depends on the day and my mood.  I hate picking favorites.  I don’t have favorites.  It’s too exclusionary of all the other possibilities.

Later, in a conversation with that same friend, who, by the way, I hold nothing against for having asked me, “What are you writing about?” (she got me thinking, after all) was talking about a book that she is writing.  This will be her fourth!  She spoke about how, when she writes, the project shifts and turns and takes unexpected paths.   “Basically,” she said, “you need to just write to figure out what you are going to write about.”  Those words really resonated with me.

I thought even more about them after speaking with another friend a few nights ago.  I spoke to her about my reflections and aspirations: reflections on the closing of a chapter of my life here in Pennsylvania and aspirations of what I hope to accomplish once we get to Minnesota.  I am the type of person who has trouble resting or relaxing.  If my hands are ever idle, my mind is not and vice versa.  I must always be doing something, creating something, thinking about something, planning something.  Therefore, it can start to feel like there is always a pursuit.  I chase ideas, hopes, and dreams always knowing that even if I accomplish my goals, I will most likely never feel a sense of contentment.  Gears constantly grind in my head and it can feel suffocating when you know that you can’t bring every little morsel to fruition.  It’s as if you must do something, everything, all at once, but the overwhelming feeling of having so much to do, makes you do nothing at all.  This friend, very wisely, told me that perhaps it is not about accomplishing every single goal or succeeding with every creative thought that I have or even having an end product to show for my work.  Maybe it is simply about the journey along the way.

It is somewhat like a person on a diet trying to lose weight.  The end goals are slimming down and improving health, but simply sitting around and fantasizing about having a smaller waist line will get her nowhere.  And, just because this person runs her ass off on a treadmill on Day 1 of the diet does not mean that she will automatically fit in those skinny jeans on Day 2.  It takes time.  With time comes growth.  Along the way, the dieter might discover that she really loves running and it becomes an enjoyable part of her routine.  Something that never seemed like a possibility becomes a daily reality.  For an inspiring example of this, check out what my friend, Jen, has been writing about for the past few years.

These  friends have helped me to realize that sometimes it is okay to not be able to recognize or define exactly where it is that we are going in life.  So many people, understandably, live life knowing exactly what each day will bring…or so they think.  It is comforting, it is safe, it is the daily grind.  I have found that I just can’t do that.  Sure, I want security in knowing that my family will have a roof over our heads and good health and happiness with family and friends, but, ultimately, we are not in control of anything.  When we lose control, we feel helpless.  I am guilty of feeling that pressure to be in control of my life.  When I don’t feel that, I scramble to regain it.  But it is those times of facing the “unknown” and the “unexpected” when we grow the most and do things that we may have never done otherwise.

There is a tendency to halt ignition on a project because of fear of failure—Things aren’t quite perfect yet.  What if I can’t do it?  What if no one else appreciates what I do?  If I allow it, I can forever be that artist paralyzed by the blank canvas or the writer stifled by the empty page, but sometimes you just have to throw yourself out there and do it, and if you haven’t yet figured out what that “it” is yet, you have to at least do something.  You’ll figure out something along the way.  I know I’m hoping that I will.