Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, but it does Build Confidence

One of my mantra’s is, “it’s never too late,” and I truly believe it. Sure there are points in life when it may be too late to achieve certain goals, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on ourselves or stop discovering the talents and interests that may have been buried by life’s circumstances.

One of the things that gets in our way of trying new things is a fear of failure, or maybe more accurately it’s a fear of not being able to do whatever we’re thinking about trying to some preconceived notion of “excellence.”

For the past 3 years I’ve enjoyed a later-in-life discovery about me; I’m an artist. In spite of the fact that I now describe myself as an artist and a writer without hesitation, there is still a fair amount of self-doubt when it comes to certain aspects of creativity.

My drawing lessons started with complex pieces of artwork which required an understanding of two-point perspective and shading. They were challenging to say the least.

progress on perspective_07_finaljpg

It took me weeks to finish the lessons that the other students finished in hours. The outcome was something I felt good about, but the process was stressful and may be the reason why my creative outlet became very abstract and I’ve stayed away from drawing “real things.”

Colorful Ink Drawing on handmade flax paper

For the past year I’ve been partial to flowers and trees.

inktober_10_19_2014tree series_seasons

 

My journal has become a place where I express my thoughts through both words and art. Surprisingly a face emerged one night a few weeks ago.

an attempt at a face

I posted it on Facebook and one of my artist friends recommended I check out an online class called “Supplies Me” and explore the possibility of learning to draw faces. (something I’ve avoided like the plague)

The video introduction to the class hooked me right away. The instructor, Jane Davenport, is all about having fun while learning. Her emphasis on practice building confidence rather than perfection is a unique way of framing an art class.

I jumped in with both feet, ordered a foreign art supply called Gesso to prep the pages of a new journal. Gesso is a white paint mixture that you use to add texture to an ordinary piece of paper. It primes the paper to allow paint or other mediums to adhere and bond to the page.

I ordered the Gesso and a brush; as soon as they arrived I prepped the first two pages of my journal.  I had a hard time deciding whether or not I should use the spiral-bound Moleskin one or this inexpensive sketchbook I picked up at the Michaels a few weeks ago.

I chose the sketchbook. The funny thing is that I didn’t realize until making the choice that there is a title on the cover of the journal; it reads, Art Education Book Five, how ironic is that?!

Instructions for the first lesson were simply to “play.” My Peerless Watercolor sheets and color pencils were what called to me – so I prepped the first two pages, including the inside cover, and started the journal in my comfort zone – trees. 🙂

9_let the journey begin

Lesson 2 was about as far from my comfort zone as I could imagine, we jumped right into drawing faces!

I experimented with a couple of faces on my own before watching the instructional video as a bit of an experiment and to have a record of my starting point. It turns out I seem to be more comfortable drawing eyes that are closed.

practice faces 12_15_2014

 

practice face_12_19_2014

Thankfully the instructor set a comfortable stage for a challenging homework assignment – draw lots and lots of faces.  I think the first one is my favorite,

practice face_12_20_2014

but there are some fun things about the other faces as well.

practice faces_0001_12_20_2014practice faces_0002_12_20_2014

I’m also learning a bit about how Gesso works and feels under my ink and pencil, what smudges and how to prevent unwanted lines and colors from ruining the pages.

In preparation for the mixed media challenge for this week, we learned some tricks to help us learn how to draw the human body.

practice faces_starting body parts

I’ve no idea where this class is going to take me – what I do know is that I’m really glad that I didn’t let my fears keep me from trying something new.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does build confidence and can open up new worlds.

The “Heart” of Journaling

It was a good and productive weekend. I even managed to take some time off Friday night to attend the drum circle and yesterday morning I curled up with a cup of coffee and my neglected journal.

Ever since discovering the teachings of Julia Cameron a few years ago, I’ve been fairly faithful to writing my morning pages. Three pages (or so) of peace and quiet, a safe haven in which one can be as petty or prophetic as they want to be while taking refuge between the covers of the journal.

It’s a place to clear out the bad thoughts and make room for the good ones, a place to express fears, make dreams, and ponder. I’m not a morning person in any way shape or form, so sometimes my morning pages are written after midnight – it still counts as morning, right? I do try and avoid the late night writing because it usually gets my mind going rather than relaxing it, which is why I’ve taken to sometimes drawing instead of expressing my feelings through words.

Yesterday I filled 10 pages of my journal with words. I guess I had more on my mind and in my heart than I realized. So much is changing lately, and in so many good ways. Strange thing is that I tend to reflect on what I’ve come through as a part of being thankful for where I am now; it’s seems to be a part of my process.

For me journaling is different from keeping a diary. I remember keeping a diary as a teenager; confiding to the pages kept private by a slender lock, but never really revealing the truth. A diary is a record of events sprinkled with glimpses into the heart.

A journal is a record of the journey as experienced from the heart. It’s a place to express your thoughts, clear your mind, doubt your doubts, and dream your dreams.

The majority of my journals are spiral bound notebooks; I prefer that they have a pretty and colorful cover. Lately I’ve been writing in a bound journal, something about it feels a bit more permanent which is interesting.

My most recent journal also contains more drawing interspersed throughout the words than any before it. In an odd way I think it’s led me to my current art exploration and the creation of an art only journal – a different way to record feelings rather than dates and times.

Last night I created this card to accompany a Christmas gift of a journal for my niece. It’s fun for me to combine art and words in a meaningful way.

journal card

My hope is that she finds writing to be a way to express herself that she comes to know that A Journal is….a safe pace to bring your dreams to life and to put your fears to sleep.

I know she’s going to love the notebook. I also included some fun pens for her to experiment with.

garden flower notebook

Filling the Pages Between Anger and Hope

I don’t mind saying that the elegant trunk, twisting branches and feather-like leaves of the Japanese maple tree occupy my imagination and also intimidate me.

Fall Orange Leaves

I walk this route often, and for some reason I never noticed this gorgeous creation. Maybe it was because my mind was filled with worries and my focus was on the things in life I have no control over.

The instant this tree made it’s way into my life I knew that I wanted to draw it. But I couldn’t quite imagine how I could do it justice. I tucked it away until the weekend.

Normally I set aside time to write in my journal during the weekend. But – this past weekend, after writing 11 pages of web content and six blog posts the last thing I felt like doing Sunday evening was writing in my journal. So I pulled out the colored pencils and took a stab at the Japanese Maple in a low stress way.

What’s really funny about it is that I misspelled “maple.” ah well – no one is perfect.

FullSizeRender (5)

Last night I turned once again to my writing journal and once again instead of writing my thoughts I drew them.  As it turns out, the journal entry ended up including a few words.

Sometimes being alive means……

Filling the Pages Between Anger and Hope

With Dreams

japanese maple take 2

 

 

Yellow – Fall’s Hidden Treasure

Fall is my second favorite season, summer will always be my first. What can I say? I love the warmth of the sun. I do have to admit that the cooler temperatures of fall make long walks and bike rides along the towpath even more enjoyable.

This year the reds and oranges have been especially vibrant, and for the first time ever I noticed the beauty in the color yellow as well.

I also discovered that sometimes the leaves that have fallen to the ground are as beautiful as the leaves still clinging to the branch. This blanket of gold and subtle accents of green covering the grass took my breath away.

hidden beauty inspiration

I have no doubt that the drivers of the cars passing me wondered why I was taking pictures of the ground, but I couldn’t help myself. I saw more than fallen leaves, I saw the hidden beauty.

The image inspired me to draw.

hidden beauty

I decided to call it “Hidden Beauty.”

You’re a Poet and You Didn’t Even Know It

Lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of being “present.” Some people call it mindfulness others call it being aware; in either case I think it means making the most out of what we have and being open to the possibility that there are gifts inside of us that have yet to be discovered.

This fall has been one of adjustments. After a year of being an empty-nester, my youngest son has returned to Pennsylvania and is living at home. He switched colleges and is living the life of a commuter student for the next year.

We share a car, the train station is two miles from our house, and although we’re still trying to nail down the timing of buying a monthly train pass we’ve adapted to our new schedule fairly well.

Every once in a while the opportunity for a walk to or from the train station presents itself. I frequently stop and take pictures along the way; it’s amazing how many hidden treasures we overlook as we hurry through life.

IMG_0822

This has been a glorious autumn in Pennsylvania. It may be Mother Nature or it may be recent changes in my life that have caused me to pay more attention to the vibrant reds in this year’s fall foliage. Whatever the case may be, this brilliant tree definitely caught my eye.

Japanese Maple

The picture isn’t that great – truth to be told, the road from the train station to my house is fairly busy and it’s a not the best place to stop and take pictures. My kids would be worried about me if they knew I was stopping along the road to snap pics with my smartphone so let’s keep this our secret. 😉

The snapshot was good enough to serve as inspiration for an ink drawing.

inktober_10_29_2014

The leaves were much more challenging than I expected. It took more than a bit of experimenting and a few pieces of drawing paper filled with failed experiments found their way into the fireplace.

I guess in reality they weren’t really failed experiments – just exploration. As soon as I realized that I was trying too hard and took a step back from trying to “please” to just creating things began to take shape.

The answer turned out to be a combination of fine point ink pens and brush tip markers.

I posted the tree on FB as well and one of my aunts made this comment:

I really(!) like this Beth-I immediately thought the tree had one giant leaf on it with fall colors and the ground(swirls) were the fall wind ready to send the leaves into the air.

It inspired some swirling art that creates the image of fall winds and leaves swirling to the ground.

inktober_10_30_2014

So you may be asking what any of this has to do with “You’re a Poet and You Even Didn’t Know It.”

Until a few years ago I had no idea I was a writer and even less of a clue that I am an artist. Those gifts were hidden inside of me, overlooked and suppressed due to life’s circumstances. There’s no blame to be laid and there are no regrets, I’m simply happy to have discovered that it’s never too late to learn and grow.

inktober_10_31_2014

My guess is that there are more than a few artists, writers, musicians, poets, and creators of beauty and inspiration that do so without even knowing what they do.

We are all more than we give ourselves credit for.

#Inktober Favorites

It turns out that no-shave November is preceded by #inktober, a month-long challenge to do an ink drawing every day. It’s intent is to motivate artists to draw on a regular basis and as a way to improve one’s technique.

Even the best artists get better the more they practice and play with their favorite medium or experiment with a new one.

I started the challenge late. I was too busy working on my Fall watercolor garden to even notice that there was a challenge underway. Once I came up for air I realized that many of my artist friends on Google+ were  posting wonderful ink drawings on a daily basis. Their masterpieces ranged from simple sketches to elaborate doodles.

There’s no way I’ll complete the goal of creating something every day, but that’s OK. It was fun to get my pens out and see what I could come up with. Here are a few of my favorites:

A black and white flower garden was my first entry. It’s kind of whimsical and fun.

inktober flower garden

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places and in this case I was inspired to keep it simple just like the pattern on my dinnerware. It’s amazing what your mind can come up with when you let it wander while emptying the dishwasher.
flower outline
We’ve had more than a few beautiful Fall days here in Pennsylvania I took this somewhat fuzzy picture of a cute little tree in my neighborhood.
Autumn Treee
It inspired me to pull out the Prismacolor markers and create a very bright and all ink interpretation of it.
inktober_10_17_2014
I remember the night I made the following entry well.  I’d spent at least an hour wasting time and paper trying to draw something other than a flower or a tree. In all honesty I’d given up on an #inktober entry for tonight.

I signed onto Facebook and what showed up in my feed? A picture of a beautiful African Daisy – posted by one of my friends.

I was instantly inspired and motivated to draw. Pretty sure I’ve never even used these ink colors before. Hopefully I did her photo some justice.
inktober_10_19_2014
This entry started out being very whimsical  with light lines and little shading
it ended up being a bit intense – interesting…
inktober_10_20_2014
After a long but good day, a bubble bath by candle light not only helped me unwind but was also fuel for creativity. Believe it or not, this was inspired by shadows cast on the wall of my bathroom by the flames from three votive candles.
inktober_10_24_2014

 Feeling a little transitional lately – maybe those feelings inspired this entry. My version of a “tree of seasons.”

tree of seasons
Last but not least, my favorite. I picked up this little gem on my walk the other day – it served as some inspiration .Hydraenga

I believe it’s from a Hydrangea tree/plant – it was so strange to find this one lone piece lying on the grass at my feet.

I couldn’t resist bringing it home.
inktober_10_27_2014
Now to decide how to complete the final four days of #inktober. 🙂

From “Doodles” to “Drawings” and more…

Mixed Media Tree

More and more often I find myself doodling in my journals in addition to writing. My mind starts to wander and all of the sudden my pen lands on the page opposite of my words and a form that must have been hiding in my sub-conscious starts to emerge.

sunflower emerging on journal page

Sometimes the entries turn out to be very detailed and take a couple of sessions to finish.

Sunflower Journal Entry

Other times they happen in one sitting.

Tulip Journal Entry

Don’t ask me how long they take, because when I start to write or draw I lose track of time. I doodle until I can’t draw any more and if it’s not finished, I return to it the next time I feel like it.

I never would have guessed that drawing would become such an important part of my life, let a lone a way to unwind. It seems like just yesterday that I mustered up the courage to attend a drawing class and spent months completing my first sunflower.

sunflower_first drawing in over 20 years

It’s a little deceiving to post these images together because the drawings are completely different in scale. The sunflower from my class is easily 9 times larger than the individual journal entries. It’s also in pencil, not ink and was inspired by a picture in a lesson book not solely from my imagination.

I also never would have guessed an online “doodle and lettering” class would help me gain confidence in my abilities and get in touch with my second-grade art girl.

i am me - Doodle Art Dress

The thing that’s interesting to me is that I clearly have a “style.” I know that probably sounds strange to say, but it’s not something I ever would have imagined myself saying out loud.

Sometimes I wonder if I should challenge myself more and move beyond sunflowers, trees and butterflies. They seem to dominate my art, but maybe that’s ok.

There are Always Options

I’m enjoying the casual and non-stressful exploration of my creativity and some really interesting pieces of art are emerging. My recent affirmation art journaling project has resulted in two additional pieces of work that are completely different from anything I’ve done before (other than the fact that trees are the main subject 😉 ).

This “affirmation Forrest” grew organically as a result of the project. It began as a sheet of paper that I used to try the lettering of a phrase on for size and as a place to clean off the extra ink from a gel pen and doodle tree trunks.

Forest drawn in Ink

My latest project is a “rainbow tree,” for lack of a better description.

Mixed Media Tree

The tree is made up of tiny pieces of paper. They are actually “rejects” from backgrounds I created while working on the affirmation journal.

Initially if something didn’t work, I tossed it – then one night as I was tearing one into little pieces it occurred to me that there might be a creation hiding in them, so I started saving them, and voila! It’s still a work in progress and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Occasionally I wonder if I’d be “further along” with my art if I’d continued taking more formal classes on the other hand I can’t help but think that some of my more recent efforts never would have happened if I had. It seems my definition of being an artist is evolving and I’m learning what it means to me.

Some day I may return to the classroom setting, but for now I’m going to explore my creative side in my own way and in my own time.

I Am Perfectly Imperfect

I am Perfectly Imperfect

A couple of summers ago, I received an email that may have changed my life. It was from an artist friend of mine and it started out like this,

“Hi,

Due to a surplus of various kinds of pulp, I am holding a couple of papermaking open studio sessions and papermaking classes at my studio.  I have Japanese pulp, casting pulp, high shrink flax, abaca and pigmented pulp for painting.

I had no idea what was involved, but the opportunity was clearly too awesome to pass up. I learned all how to make paper and I fell in love with the process. Something about it appeals to my tactile senses, which is odd because I normally don’t like doing anything the least bit messy.

In first stage, the pulp feels wet and sort of mushy but strong. After suspending it in water, the fibers become soft and feathery. You use a frame lined with a screen to scoop up the fibers and create the foundation for a piece of paper. I like to imagine that it’s like panning for gold to pick up the tiny wet fibers and drain off the excess water. Once the fibers settle, you carefully peel the wet sheet off of the screen and layer it between pieces of a special fabric until the entire stack dries.

When all was said and done, none of the edges of my pieces of paper were straight, the thickness varied from sheet to sheet, and many were lined with interesting creases and unintended patterns – but they were all beautiful to me. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them, but after the assorted sheets of paper dried I sealed them in a gallon sized baggie to protect them from the humidity.

I’ll never be sure what prompted me to pick up a pen and use it to make a mark on one of my pristine pieces of hand-made paper. I’m very tentative when I draw in pencil, I draw lines so light you can barely see them and I’m fairly certain that in the beginning of each drawing I spend more time erasing than drawing.  There’s something inside of me that “needs” for it to be “perfect.”

Ink is permanent and each piece of my handmade paper was one of a kind. The thought of using ink on them was completely counter – intuitive.  I’m a perfectionist, if there’s a chance that it won’t turn out right; I’m more inclined to not even start than to make a mistake.  So ink, particularly on my handmade paper seemed like an unlikely creative outlet. In reality, it’s taught me a valuable life lesson.

Drawing on these imperfect pieces of paper was difficult because the texture wasn’t smooth, the creases presented both a challenge and as it turns out an opportunity.

Trees are my default doodle so I guess it’s no wonder that’s where I started. I took advantage of the texture in the paper to create depth in the trunk and branches.

ink tree on handmade flax paper

The strokes of my pen grew bolder and my designs became more elaborate, detailed, and colorful with each tiny work of art. The addition of watercolor pencils and brightly colored ink transformed the imperfections in the paper into something beautiful and completely unexpected.

Colorful Ink Drawing on handmade flax paper

When you draw in ink, if the pen slips and goes in an unintended direction there are two choices. You can crumple up the drawing and give up, or you can find a way to make it work. More often than not, there’s a way turn the mishap into a part of the drawing; my dear Google+ friend Jennifer Broderick refers to this as“knowing how to resolve the lines.”

I still find it strange, but I no longer dread making mistakes because I know they often-times turn out even better than the original idea after I take a step back and think about how to make the “oops” work in my favor.

It doesn’t work every time, and that’s ok too, it’s all about recognizing the difference between an opportunity that might be different from what we planned and also knowing when to cut our losses short and move on.

I am Perfectly Imperfect

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If you want to check out the series of drawings, you can see them here

-> http://bit.ly/1zPdb7P

I Speak for Myself

I Speak for Myself

It’s hard to believe that this art and journaling project is winding down and will be concluding within the next few weeks. Unless something gets in the way, I will end up writing the final entry on my birthday.

It started as a personal challenge to create one small piece of artwork and focus on a positive thought for each day; it has somehow morphed into a journey of personal growth.

My early entries into the art journal were direct quotes from Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life.” In fact the original plan was to use one of her direct quotes as the message for the day. After about five or six entries into the project I changed direction and began using her affirmations as inspiration and wrote positive thoughts of my own.

water color backgroundsIn addition to changing my approach to the actual words of inspiration, the process for creating the individual pieces of art started one way and ended up being completely different. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t very practical to paint the card and create the artwork one at a time, so I modified the process and started to paint anywhere from 10 to two dozen at a time.

I take things quite literally, and when I first started creating the actual entries ahead of the next day felt like I was cheating the process and the goal to “focus on one positive thought” for the day.

What happened in reality is that it freed me up to focus on my writing. Writing a journal entry for the saying on each piece of artwork was also not part of the original plan.

The only thing that was actually part of the plan was to share the thought for the day along with the inspiration and maybe say a few words about it.

Over the course of the past 113 days and 108 entries, my writing has grown and changed from high level observations and interpretations. It’s become much more personal and “real.” I’ve found great joy in expressing myself freely and honestly. My creative confidence has increased and I believe it is reflected by the difference between my first entry

I release the pattern in me that created this. I am at peace with the world. Louise Hay

and my most recent ones.

There are Always Options

I Speak for Myself

The project and the process has kept my head in a positive place during some difficult times and has been a great reminder that we can use negative energies such as fear, anger, and doubt to create something wonderful and worth sharing.