Thoughts about What Should Be vs What Is

Two things: writing like you think writing is supposed to be and creating artwork like you think it’s supposed to look. It is very hard to catch yourself being inauthentic, because really, where is the line between trying to make it good and making it in your own way? I suppose some people call this your voice or, in the case of visuals, your style. That is a very complicated thing, isn’t it? Because when we share what really sounds like us, or what really comes from us visually, it is imperfect, just like we are. Who wants to show how imperfect they are? And yet, I’m just beginning to see that those imperfections are what makes it interesting and unique and here we are struggling and struggling to make things perfect before we share our work with others.

I don’t have an answer as to when to share. I mean, there is that quote —who said it?— about a painting never actually being finished, but just stopping in interesting places. I’m beginning to understand this.

Now design —that’s a different thing. Or is it?


Shirt Stamping Method

Since I’ve only ever posted pictures of my finished stamped shirts, I thought perhaps this time I’d get a few photos as I worked on the latest one. The process is simple: sketch out and then carve the stamp, roll out some fabric ink, and have at it. Well, okay, on this project I also made a makeshift paper stencil for the shirt.

Frustrated Dreamer

My inclination at this moment is to feel guilty and terrible about not having added a new post to my blog in six weeks. But I’ve recently learned (through a book on meditation —Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg) that starting over is not necessarily a bad thing. This advice comes as a response to those who want to beat themselves up for losing focus during meditation.

But this is great advice because I’ve just been confronted with the idea that maybe I’m not as good at time management as I thought I was. In a video called “Five ways that people live their lives” in a course on called “Happiness Tips,” I identified with the description of the “frustrated dreamer” —a person that has goals, but needs to work on time management. Maybe you don’t see time management as related to focus, but I’m pretty sure it’s true at least for me. And therefore —thank you, Sharon Salzberg— all I have to do is start again.

So let’s hope that my new meditation practice and this insight into my time management and focus challenges helps me move in the right direction.

In the meantime, here are a few photos I took this morning during a short walking break.

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Wacom, cont’d

Wow, not only is the Wacom tablet fun to use, but Photoshop is just the coolest for digital drawing and painting! I’ve been sitting down with the tablet whenever I get a chance and just playing around. Tonight I created some new brushes, and that was pretty nifty. And, at last, instead of many, many scribbles of lines and letters, I have made my first true digital drawing. Pretty basic, but it’s a starting point —and something to add to my blog, which I’m still trying to add to each week. So there you go.



I have taken a new step towards digital creativity: I bought a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet. It is so cool! I have been playing with it for an hour (when I really should be fast asleep). A lot of scribbling, playing with brushes, and getting used to it in general. I practiced both in Illustrator and in Photoshop. I can’t wait to do a real project!

For now, this is the most coherent thing I did. I’ll put it up here, just for the sake of reference. I expect (read: I plan) to share much more polished work in the future!


Photoshop, Illustrator and

Project 1

Sadly, my workplace is discontinuing its agreement with Therefore, I have been binge-watching courses that I desperately don’t want to lose. I have watched the entire Illustrator Essentials —12 hours of tutorials? 14? I forget. I did watch at double speed when I could, but it was still a lot of time. And worth it! I feel like so much of what I once knew is now fresh again in my brain. I also chanced upon a lot of little tips and tricks that I never knew.

I began a similar review of Photoshop, and since I already felt like I knew Photoshop pretty well, I have to admit, I haven’t finished —although I probably could benefit from it. Instead, I’m doing the Photoshop for Designers: Illustrator course, which is going through a number of design projects that combine the two. It’s good. I’m doing the projects, which is so essential to learning and remembering. With the essentials courses, I wasn’t always doing along with watching. But time is running out, so I have to work as efficiently as I can.

Happy New Year!

The holidays are almost over along with all that they involve: finishing up hand-made gifts, mailing packages, baking cookies, having guests. Just two more events on my horizon and then life can get back to normal… but I hope it doesn’t.

What I hope for is more making and less settling for a promise that tomorrow I will do it. This year I will be ruthless in protecting my time for creativity. I will draw. I will write. I will be a mother bear protecting my time.

May you also stand up to people, to tasks and to those seemingly-insignificant, practically invisible time-sucking …what? what are they? If you have read Momo (Michael Ende), —and I recommend you do!— you will know that they are the men in grey, smoking their cigars and draining the fun out of everything.


Someone had managed to avoid the men in grey. I came across this when I was walking in the woods. Let Making be a top priority in 2016!

What to ask


I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. It is my favorite site for learning software, but it has even more. I just finished a course called Foundations of Color taught by Mary Jane Begin. I took a course in Color & Design in college, and I remember we had a lot of assignments and I enjoyed them, but beyond learning that some colors “vibrate” when put next to each other, and that context can change a color dramatically, I have just discovered through this course that I really didn’t learn what I needed to learn.

I wonder if this is because I was not a good student, or if the class wasn’t effective in conveying the point of all the assignments we did. Either way, I have been using color in my artwork for all these years, choosing them by what seemed like a good idea to me, but with no better understanding of why.

This came to light when I was doing the color week of the Coursera class on Graphic Design. I found that I was choosing color pretty much at random —only knowing that certain colors did not look good together— and I was unclear as to what the point was. I didn’t even know what to ask.

After taking the Foundations of Color course, I realize how much there is to learn about color. In fact, I’m going to have to re-watch several of the lessons because I know I am still not grasping it completely. But at least I now know what questions to ask. And that is a very good feeling!

Inner creative unrest

Time goes by and I think I’m getting along okay, and then suddenly I feel like screaming because I haven’t created something. Something big.

I don’t know. I thought maybe I could be satisfied with those tiny drawings I was doing; and maybe I could if I were doing them every day, or multiple times a day. The other night at bedtime, when one more day went by without my sitting down and making something, with my making do with a little knitting, or a bit of writing in my journal, I felt like I’d just burst with frustration and anger. This is simply not enough for me.

Last night the house was all mine and I thought: hey, I could get some knitting in. I could watch a movie. I should clean the bathroom. It might be fun to bake cookies. It’s funny that I didn’t hear that voice that was screaming at me the other night to create. And yet that’s what I chose to do. I grabbed my big drawing board and put it in the middle of the floor. I grabbed a piece of Arches or Rives or whatever kind of paper I had once splurged on at the art store, and I just started.

This is what comes next: After I finish, I feel incredible relief —euphoria really. And I think: Wow! This is amazing! I should do this all the time. And then I promise myself to devote time every day to drawing.

But here’s the catch. I don’t. I let other things take my time. I make substitutions, like knitting, for true creating. Even writing, which is creative, but apparently I need more than that.

So here’s what I did last night. Part of me wants to judge if it’s good or not, but that is impossible for me to say because the end result is completely irrelevant.

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Iron Pour

Now is summertime and all that comes with it, including travel, humidity and iron pours. This was only my second time out to Solsberry, Indiana where there are sculpture trails, as well as labor- and heat-intensive creativity going on.

My friends and I went out to last night’s iron pour, and it was quite a sight. If you happened upon the scene unwittingly, I’m sure it would be quite surreal. It is a very remote location and the work going on is like something from The Lord of the Rings. (Think dwarves working at their fires.)

Iron Pour

When you attend the iron (or aluminum) pour, you can buy a sand/resin mold to carve your own design to have made into a lovely iron (aluminum) cast. My family and I did this once before, and it’s a lot of fun to sit and talk at the tables with other visitors and see what everyone is doing. This visit I knew to bring paper and pencils to plan my design, and I also brought some tools. I shared paper with kids, teenagers and adults.

I spent at least an hour carving a smooth-surfaced abstract design, playing with varying depths to see how it would cast.

Rough Sketch for my Design

Much to my surprise, the end product looked nothing like my design, in fact it was barely recognizable as mine.

Failed Casting

Now there were plenty of other pieces that had smooth surfaces, so it was a puzzle to me why mine had turned into this.

I returned to ask one of the workers there if they could explain what had happened. The piece was passed from hand to hand, and at last enough people had seen it and put the story together: earlier in the day, someone had spilled water on a few of the molds. Mine had obviously still been wet, so when the hot iron was poured into it, it bubbled and spit and this is what emerged in the end.

I understand that the process of making art is often unpredictable and these things happen, but it was a disappointment. My consolation is that it happened to mine and not to one that belonged to a child that had sat and worked so hard to carve the letters of his name backward into the mold.

And next time I’ll know to make sure my sand/resin mold is dry.