Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Inspiration is Never Far Away

Tuesday was a lovely day, after taking Monday to recuperate from all the weekend holiday fanfare. In the evening, it was mild enough to go outside with camera in hand to see what I could find of interest.

I found the plant below blooming much too early due to the milder temperatures, and I dread the loss of its tiny flowers to coming frosts in February. Someone told me it is called "Breath of Spring" and it smells sweet like honeysuckle. I usually snip some branches & bring them inside to scent the house.

The nandinas that previous owners planted always provide color in my backyard.

There are precious green shoots of Snowdrops rising beside my back door at the base of a Dogwood tree.

This is one of three abandoned feral kittens that have taken up residence in my back yard.
The fact that I've been feeding them has nothing to do with their presence, I'm sure--

Of course, I'm not at all attached to them, or anything...but, if you're wondering, um--her name is Alex. :-)

After feeling inspired by my backyard foray, here's how dinner was started...I've been craving mashed potatoes during the fall months. Guess those root veggies stick to the ribs for hibernation.

Red Bell Peppers added some color to the potatoes and fish that a friend's husband caught and filleted earlier.

Here's the results, with green peas, mashed potatoes, and baked fish on colorful Fiestaware. Sorry the pic is blurry, but had to snap it before taking it to my cute husband. We enjoyed the lowfat meal after all the richness of the holiday feasts.
Hope your week is inspirational, and you find even more inspiration in 2009.
Love & Laughter,

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oh, the Possibilities

Wow...2009 is upon us. A clean sparkling calendar.
The thought of a new year with a fresh slate makes my creative juices simmer on a low boil. Sound familiar? Yours, too?
As artists, we see the possibilities in so many areas of our lives: Visually, you may be thinking of using that new technique or medium we've been hearing about...Physically, can you cut back on something you'd rather not put into your body or just move every other day? Mentally, can you take a class, read a book, or change an old, worn out paradigm? Can you think about that relationship in a new way, so there's no stress between the two of you? Wanna clean out that closet? Organize your studio? Could you think about giving up that bad habit? Or, take a step toward getting help in releasing the stranglehold that addiction has on you?

Wait a minute, you say.
All of this sounds too much like work. Too much effort.

Really? Well, let's think about that, for a minute...
No matter how you cut it, the big picture we're looking at....is GROWTH.
There are two choices: growth or stagnation.

Ugh! ...stagnation?

You know, like pond scum.
Water that doesn't move produces it...pond scum.
Pale, green, stagnant algae.

What's your pleasure?

This morning, I did something SO out of character for me. I did a walk/run over to a walking track. I'm still patting myself on the back for it. My feet stung. My lungs heaved. But I did it.
I moved!
Pictured is one of my stinging feet hitting my front step, with sweatpant-clad knee above it in the foreground.

I can't wait to stir the waters in other areas of my life. Cool clear nourishing water!
What about you?

Love & Laughter, --- and Growth!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Drawing Lesson 2: Eye Candy

Since we drew hands last week, I thought we'd go to portraits this week. As you know, the most expressive feature is the eyes. So, let's see what we can do with a female eye...

We'll start with a football shape. No, not a rugby ball. :-) Make sure the bottom is flatter than the top.

Now, let's add a tear duct in the corner, and some parentheses that don't quite touch. The top is farther apart than the bottom.

Next, we'll put a circle inside that touches the top. Make the widths between the circle and the parentheses even all the way around.

Next, draw a diagonal inside the pupil. Add a curved shape.

Next, shade in all around so the tiny shape starts to look like a crescent.
This will be the light reflection, and give your portrait life.

Next, add spokes as if it were a wheel, radiating from the pupil.

Notice I added some soft scallops to the outer edge of the iris.
Then, add a line for a lid above and below the football, without it touching the eye.

Now, add some eyelashes. They are not all the same length, since they're growing at different rates, and they curve out and up. Usually, you want to start at the outer corner, and let them taper off as you go inward.

The bottom lashes are fewer, and they curve out and down. Only use a few under the iris, and let those be shorter.

Now, let's plan the eyebrow. Go up from the tear duct, and make a nice arch.

So it looks natural, we don't want to color in, but draw the hair in the direction in which it grows.
Usually it lays down as it goes out on the arch.

I added some shading beside the bridge of the nose. Darken your pupil more than I did, OK?
How did you do?
Male eyes are different, so we'll tackle those later.
Practice drawing a natural set of two with the second reversed and about an eye's length between them. You can begin by drawing a line across your paper to get them even, then erase it when you're done. I'll review it next time, also.
What do you think of your work? If you didn't draw it, try it; you may surprise yourself.
Thank you so much for joining me in another drawing lesson!
Leave me a comment or question below.
Love & Laughter,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Love & Laughter in Links

Since starting my own blog, I'm discovering so many blogs that encourage, delight, and inspire.
Here are a few that you may want to add to your list of faves.
To reflect on that first Christmas, visit here for "Let's Do Christmas Like They Do It in Texas"
And if you're looking for a different medium, check out Jo's yummy eye-candy using "Walnut Ink Crystals" here.
Visit Here for a run-down of inspiring posts from Christine Kane, down-to-earth philosopher and awesome musician. Pick whatever's on your mind today from the list.
As a creativity coach, Dan Goodwin has helped thousands of artists flourish and prosper. Dan is not only the site manager of the artists' community Coach Creative Space, but he's also a prolific writer on the topic of creativity. He can cut away the excess baggage, and zoom in on the issue like no one else I've read. (He's also an excellent zookeeper, but I'll let him explain that one to you.) If procrastination keeps you from creating, here's your man. Tell him DJ sent you.
Having a heart for children, I have been sponsoring a lovely little boy in Brazil through World Vision International. They have locations and programs around the world, are tax deductible, and have a stellar reputation in the handling of donated funds. If you've ever wanted to express love to children that have been struck by poverty, abuse, or natural disaster, visit here.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who's visited, commented, or tried the drawing lesson below. May you experience the Love of Christmas in a special way this holiday season.

Love & Laughter,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wintertime and the Living's Easy

Well, Western Hemisphere friends, winter has definitely arrived. And many of us suffer from winter blues, the December doldrums, or seasonal depression. Since my favorite time of year is summer, I begin feeling something's missing every year in the fall, and struggle to keep a brighter outlook on life until I see green buds of hope in the spring. After all these years, I've had to get creative just to survive and thrive.
Here's a few tricks I've used to beat the winter blues:

~ shop for someone you love, including yourself
~ paint a 3-D object bright colors
~ write/journal with hot tea or cocoa
~ make a blanket
~ buy a sweater that's gorgeous
~ light a candle and pray and listen
~ string Christmas lights in an unusual place like office or bathroom
~ snuggle with someone you love, whether human or pet
~ use the fireplace
~ turn on the radio/Pandora and dance
~ drink lots of water to stay hydrated
~ cook all the earthy recipes your mother used to cook
~ write down her recipes for a younger family member
~ make a scrapbook that's zany and comical, rather than serious
~ paint your toenails AND fingernails RED
~ dress for napping success, complete with accessories such as hot cocoa and a book
~ create a pillow of your own design
~ crochet/knit/sew scarves for storm victims/homeless/military/less fortunate
~ cook something/create a basket for your next door neighbor and deliver it/leave it on the doorstep
~ write that book/play/e-zine/article you always wanted to write
~ ask the kids to help you make a fort from chairs and blankets, then share a treat inside along with a good book
~ toast marshmallows over the fire in the fireplace, make S'mores with a loved one
~ write about a happy childhood, even if you have to make it up
~ form a pile of junk mail, and create a collage/journal page from every sales ad or envelope
~ arrange a creative afternoon of photography outside or inside, by finding small forms and colors in unusual places
~ take a walk to collect interesting leaves, rocks, or shells
~ rent that offbeat comedy that you've always wanted to watch, but didn't get to the theater to see (don't forget the popcorn)

What would you add to this? What's worked for you?

And, please, practice being kind to yourself during the cold months, my friends,
Love & Laughter,


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Drawing Lesson 1

OK, children! Let's have some fun!
Go, turn on your music. Maybe grab something to drink or snack on...Then, get those pencils and erasers ready to make imperfect artwork...You'll notice that my lines are uneven, my corners aren't straight, and it doesn't matter! Jump in with a fun-loving attitude and love yourself for doing something different.
I chose to start with hands, because they are an unusual subject for many. Hands are an interesting addition to your art journal pages, and can be used for many visual projects.
Besides, in the previous post, I told you I was going to hold your hand through this, did I not? :-)
Let's see what we create today, shall we?
Begin by drawing a squarish rectangle on the lower half of your paper. Notice that mine is not a perfect square or a perfect rectangle. The lines don't meet, and I'm not worried about it. Neither should you! {I'm drawing the new lines in the next photo in blue, and the previous lines will be in pencil. Yours will be in pencil, of course, because we'll need to do some erasing at the end.}
Now, we're going to add two lines slanting inward. Then, close that space with a horizontal line. {Previous lines in pencil; new lines in blue, right?}

Next, we'll add two lines traveling to the bottom of the paper. These lines flare out just a bit, like soft-flaring blue jeans or pants.

Then, add a triangle, or a backwards seven, to the side. You'll be happier if it stops about halfway up. This is a sketch, so we're not going to worry about the "P" word, right? I knew you could do it.
Now, add a block on top of the triangle. Let the outside line go straight up, and let the inside line slant away from the square. Now, it's starting to look like a hand...
Next, we're going to divide the top of the square in half with a small mark. Then, we'll divide the two spaces in half again. That's three marks total, as above. This helps us draw the fingers. Take your time...
OK, take a sip of your fave beverage, and let's talk about fingers. There are three sections. (Look at your hand for verification of this; I'm not making this stuff up, ya know... :-)

If you bend your fingers down to the first section from the palm, which is the longest? The next to the longest? The third? And, of course, pinky...

So, we're going to draw that first section by adding blocks. The blocks need to be slightly tapered as they go up, OK? The middle one is the tallest, the pointer is next, the ring-finger is next, and pinky makes four.
Thumbelina needs to be slightly turned, so the outside is straight, and the inside is curved. (Again, check out your own hand :-)

You can do this. And, you have a precious little eraser. Don't hurt his feelings by ignoring him. I give mine lots of usage. :-)

Well, Thumbelina is done, so let's add another section to the fabulous four, shall we? And, let's keep the same height differences, OK?

Now, on top of those, we're going to add upside down U's. So, you will have two rows of blocks, and one final top that's curved. The heights still apply.

How's it looking? Do you need to make adjustments now that you can see what you're doing? Go right ahead, and make those adjustments now...

What's this? Don't panic. It's your drawing. Just erase all the inside lines until you have nothing left but the outline, and you'll have this in front of you, too.

Now, add some oval finger nails. Put the thumb nail on the outside, because she's turned slightly, remember? Add two or three light lines for wrinkles at the knuckles, and wrinkles at the joining of the thumb and the back of the hand. Add some little slanted lines at the bottom of the former blocks, where the fingers join the hand. I added a bit of shading to the sides of the wrist and the sides of the fingers to give them a 3-D look.

You have now drawn a hand in one position. How do you feel about achieving that today?
We may draw hands in other positions, if you're interested. So, what do you think of your new drawing?
I know: You didn't draw it; you just read through the post, without drawing it. Now, go back and do it. Well, go ahead. This is your life. Enjoy it, my friend.
When you do draw it, draw another one to get really good at it, then cut it out and use it in your journal, or sketchbook. Collage stuff in your hand. Chop off three fingers, and let it point to something! Write silly things around it, like "gimme a hand" or "I wanna hold your hand". Have fun!
Please post questions, achievements, and opinions below. I'll answer below, or in a new post.
Love & Laughter,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Simplicity is Elegance

A phrase my mother taught me:
Simplicity is Elegance.
We'll start with simplicity.

Now, tell me some things that you would like to be able to draw. What do you want to be able to put on paper? Name some things, or people, or places. Nouns are our friends.
What kinds of things are you comfortable drawing, already? If you aren't comfortable drawing anything, we'll start there.
Tell me your thoughts in comments below.

Before you begin a journey, it's nice to know your present location, hmmmm? On this journey, I'll walk beside you, one step at a time.

The Drawing Lessons will begin this coming weekend, my friends! So, check back here with a sketchbook, or sheets of paper, a pencil, and a large eraser. A nice pink rectangle or a kneaded eraser will serve you well. Don't depend upon those cute little pink things on the end of a pencil. You deserve better, don't you think?
I think you do.
And just maybe, you deserve some elegant background music while you draw.

See you this weekend, my friends.
Love & Laughter,

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Drawing Lessons Anyone?

Have you ever wanted to learn how to draw & paint? You've seen others do it. They make it look so easy. You may feel you can do it, also. Or, like many, you may feel just the opposite.
I meet many people who yearn to put pencil or paint to a surface and be adept in representing life's experiences visually. Of course, they normally couch it in self-defeating terms, like, "I couldn't draw a straight line with a ruler." Or there's my favorite comment, from a professional in care-giving work, "My father said the only thing I could draw was flies...so I figured I should stick to other things."
But, let's put aside what we've been told...What if you had the chance to learn?
What if you could draw or paint? What would it feel like, to be able to put your feelings or perceptions on paper or canvas?
What if you could pick up a pencil or sketchbook and amuse yourself out of that job-related stress you've been feeling?
Why don't you think about it, and join me here for the next few weeks, with a pencil and paper or sketchbook. You just might like it.
So, grab a sketchbook or a stack of computer printer paper, and try it.
And, no one has to know. It will be just between us artists...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Getting the Clock Off of Your Back

Yes, I know, as if the subject of time, and not having enough, isn't already discussed ad nauseum. But, how do we pose solutions to this problem of time?
What do you do to make time for important people or activities in your life?
Can you truly prioritize your desires, or do your minutes get swallowed up in dealing with the responsibilities of everyday survival?
Some of us struggle to have a calm conversation with our family on a daily basis, much less try to accomplish anything creative to nourish ourselves. Just working, getting dinner ready, feeding the pets, remembering appointments, pumping gas, bathing the kids, and making sure laundry is done takes all our excess energy. Then, you want me to do what? Paint? Write a novel? Sew a dress? You gotta be kidding me...Some of us use our spare time for catching up on paperwork from our career...
Yes, I'm there right now. My To-Do List is getting longer, and my nerve endings are getting shorter. More responsibility, more things to remember, more...STUFF.
Yet, I don't want this December to be another mad rush to the finish. Another season of consumerism and stress and running on empty.
So, I'm going to stop it.
I don't want to live my life on a treadmill any longer. So.
I will live with conscious decisions instead of letting pressures pull me off focus. I will calmly and gently decide how I spend these precious moments, for I don't know how many I have left. I'm not going to worship the "P" Word, but I will pray for peaceful interaction with myself and others who accept the imperfect me. I will make time for activities that feed my soul, rather than ravage it.
Time will be my Christmas present to myself. I will "gift" myself with extra time to arrive at places, extra time to wrap scrumptious presents, extra time to spend cooking, extra time to organize my appointments and my belongings, extra time to look into my husband's eyes and thank him for all that he is, and extra time to reflect upon next year's dreams.
After I open this important present, I'll surely be inspired to create beauty. And, I'll have plenty of time to act upon those inspirations.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Daringly Creative Christmas

December is upon us, so let's get creative and tackle our Christmas List. The economy is not good, in the U.S., and elsewhere in the world, so let's think about some creative gifts to stretch those dollars and give that checkbook a rest.
Some of my creative friends on CCS are using Advent Calendars that prompt creativity each day. Others are busy in the needle arts to create scarfs, sweaters, or mittens for children this winter.
Some will paint portraits, bake cookies, enlarge photos, sculpt platters, or stitch wall hangings for loved ones. Several years ago, I baked sugar cookies, put them in antique teacups, wrapped them in cellophane, and tied a ribbon across the top. One recipient declared a new family tradition on the spot. {Note to Self: I need to do that again this year! LOL...} Last year, I stamped fern leaves onto white linen squares for my niece to use as table toppers or napkins in her new apartment, pictured above.
Lemme tell ya! It certainly beats traipsing around the crowded malls or standing in line amid the cheap plastic dust-catchers at the discount stores.

So, I dare you.
Where do your talents lie? Does a stressed single mom need a sitter? Does an elderly neighbor need snow shoveled, or leaves gathered via blower or rake? Does a child need a teddy bear sewn with loving hands? Would a single Dad like some sugar cookies to share with his kids during the holidays? Would your mother appreciate a portrait of herself with her mom and you as three generations of love? Paint it or Photo Shop it! Is there a jewelry maven in your family? There are lots of bead selections to choose from online; just string them and attach a clasp.
Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?
A handmade item has a little part of you invested in that gift, so start thinking about how you can share yourself this Christmas.
After all, you are the most precious gift possible...
Just like that one and only baby boy in the manger to whom we should all wish a Happy 2008th Birthday.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Perfection or Completeness...

Sometimes, in an artist's life, perfection rears its ugly head. It appears to most of us at one time or another in our lives, and to an artist, it can be just as paralyzing. Some of us refer to it as the "P" word...
It keeps us from accomplishing anything, before we even begin. The whispering spectre of our Inner Critic convinces us that if we aren't going to do things without blemish, then those endeavors are worthless: "Why try? What will others think? Someone will point out that mistake or omission, and what will you say? Stick to what you do well, so you won't look foolish..."
The whispers continue endlessly, don't they?
Until you leave the easel, the studio, walk away from the worktable, the music, the sewing machine, put the pen down. Sometimes, you feel that's the only way to shut up the voices?
It isn't.
There are things you can do to quiet the doubts and fears, so you can find joy in creating.
Try talking back.
Tell your Inner Critic to check out your past successes.
Tell your IC that you're going to just slop some paint around, or play imperfect music, or write some bad poems, just for the moment.
You're not going to show it to anyone, so that's not a problem. It's just for your pleasure, so it doesn't have to be scrutinized.
Pick up that brush, pen, or needle and fool your IC into quieting down by not wanting perfection, but COMPLETENESS.
You want to do one project to its completion. Period. It doesn't have to be Tchaikovsky or Renoir or Wang. You just want to finish it.
When you finish it, DON'T tweak it, don't make adjustments, quit FIDDLING with it!
Hang it on your wall. Hang the sewn pocketbook. The essay. The score you composed. Frame it in a store-bought frame. Quick! Do it now. On the wall it goes.
Put your name on it.
You did it.
Now, how are you going to celebrate?
Your favorite cuppa something? A nap to view your work as you doze off?
A walk through a park with your head up and a smile on your face?
Maybe some new supplies for your next imperfect project?
Now, you're complete.