This is number 3 in my series for the month - a rose bouquet. I hope it brightens your day!
This was something that used to trouble me. A lot. I worried that I didn't have any ideas. Then before I knew it my problem was not a lack of ideas, but in fact, too many ideas. So many ideas that it is hard to know which idea to focus on and hard to discern a good idea from a bad one. In many ways it feels very much like the same problem.
I think it is because ideas come from the wild and free part of us that the rational, critical self fears so much. As children we spend much more time in that wild free place where ideas abound, all ideas are good and nearly everything seems like fun. We have to learn to tap in to that child like part of ourselves again to find those ideas. When we do they multiply like John Steinbeck promises.
"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." John Steinbeck
Armed with too many ideas, the only way forward is to remain in that same child like state of creative abundance. Free of judgement, open to exploration, and holding off that rational, critical self for long enough to let the best ideas develop enough to reveal themselves.
Sometimes the best way to begin is just to start. Too much priming, preparation and research can be immobilising. It opens the door to the inner critic before you have even made your first move. Whether it is a writer facing a blank page or a painter in front of a blank canvas the feeling is the same.
What if it turns out to be terrible?
What if I can't think of anything?
What if I don't do my idea justice?
What if I am actually no good at this?
You have to give yourself permission to try - and give your creative product the chance to be however it is going to be. Good, bad or otherwise. But as Louis L'Amour tells us, nothing happens unless you open that faucet. Don't be waiting to be 'ready'. That may never happen.
Don't wait around for inspiration. You have to get going, the muse will follow. Elizabeth Gilbert has a heart felt TED talk on this - check it out here.
Whatever it is that you are planning to do... go ahead - just start! You will never find out until you begin.
Sometimes a new perspective can make all the difference. At the start of the week I was finding it hard to keep drawing cats. So I decided to change things up a little - but still keep within my theme for the month.
One of my favourite parts of any painting is the eyes. Today I drew a close up of a cat's face giving me a chance to draw bigger eyes, with more scope for the details I love so much.
Happily I can report that I loved every part of this painting process. Sketching was fun because it was a little bit more of a challenge to try and get all those important proportions right. And a new angle means you have to look harder - even at a familiar subject.
Painting was fun too. A new angle meant different brush strokes would work better as shapes and details were all larger. I must admit I experienced the same sort of delight when I painted an unusual pose earlier in the series - do you remember this one? A small adjustment like a change in angle, light, distance or pose can make a big difference.
It is funny how a new perspective can be all it takes to breath new life and enthusiasm into a tired project or problem.
What do you think? Has a new perspective worked for you before?
If I am honest, I am getting a little bit tired of painting cats. But I am persisting. What good is a self imposed challenge without a bit of self discipline? It is always quite fun once I get into it, but I am finding that I seem to have a bit of reluctance to face the page at the moment and put another cat on it.
The beginning of a project can be a bit easier. There is a bit of novelty, it's all rather exciting. But once the initial excitement subsides you have to decide whether you have the determination to keep going. If the 'why' behind your project is still clear to you, and still important, that will help you keep going. If you sit around waiting to feel inspired, or to just 'be in the mood', your project's chance of success diminishes drastically.
Creating something new is hard. Don't get me wrong - it's fun too. But when it is hard, you need to remember that the only way to get beyond that beginner stage is to keep going, whether you feel like it or not. Steven Pressfield calls this 'Turning Pro'.
There comes a point in your creative endeavour when you have to make a decision to stop approaching your project as an amateur and treat it as a professional practice. Even on days when you would rather just be reclining like a cat on a mat (as opposed to painting one).
"I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp." W. Somerset Maugham
Painting white flowers can present something of a challenge. White watercolour paint will just not do. Painting white flowers on white paper leaves you with little option but to paint them by not painting them at all. You have to paint the negative space around them leaving the untouched part of the paper to make the outline of the white flower. Then you can improve its shape and form by adding in some shadows.
It's a fascinating idea to have the daisy represented more by the space it takes up and the shadows it casts than by its own form. It makes me wonder if that is a little like the way we live our lives. Our impact is felt by the space we take up, and the imprint we leave behind. We can't help but be shaped by the way the world treats us. In equal measure, we leave our own mark on the world. Our environment and the people around us are changed by our presence. Hopefully for the better.
Occupy your space in the world proudly. Cast happy shadows. May the imprint you leave behind today be as joyful as the daisy's.
My tenth face in the series for this month includes both. And it's in my favourite combination of turquoise and purple. Life is good.
One of the beauties of taking out a drawing book is that you can make whatever it is that you want to see. Create a world composed entirely of the things you like. Omit everything you would rather not see. Such freedom. Where else can you find that?
Small wonder that drawing is so good for you.
I rather like the idea of purple eyes. If the eyes were a very bluish purple I think they would make you look very carefully at the person. I bet it would be one of those things that just made a person more noticeable but that you might not necessarily put your finger immediately upon just what it was that made them remarkable.
I had a friend who had one of his eyebrows shaved off once by his buddies when he fell asleep after a night on the town. (Yes. The things boys do when they are young....) Anyway, the thing was it made him look ...interesting. Only slightly unusual. There was something different about his face but you didn't immediately notice what that was. I suppose our brains fill in the missing information if it is only a small missing piece. Things seem the same but there is an intuitive nagging that keeps you looking.
Sometimes we only see what we expect to see.
I have learned that you often need a little help starting the creative process. There can be a sort of inertia to overcome. Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance.
To me it is often just the seemingly insurmountable question of where to begin. Jane advises her students to copy with abandon in the interests of learning - not of course, to pass off these copies as one's own, but to start somewhere. To draw something.
If I am drawing faces, then I can't help but start with Jane Davenport. I am loving her book... this one...
One of the things that troubles me is having all my faces turn out the same. Often quite pretty, but with something of a vacant stare. And once you get used to drawing a particular angle or pose it is very easy to get stuck in a rut.
So today I started out with a face and a bit of a body from the early part of Jane's book. It's quite a surprise how far away you can get from your original inspiration source. This particular page gave me a nice face shape to start with. Braids - I liked those. And a lovely languid pose. But by the time I was done choosing marker colours without thinking too much she turned out with a completely different feeling about her compared to the girl on Jane's page.
What a relief that a little bit of ourselves can't help but ooze out - even when we start from the very same point as somebody else.
When I first read this quote - apparently from Eleanor Roosevelt... I loved it. Then I thought about it a bit more.... Is a woman like a tea bag? Hmmm ... do I really want to be compared to a tea bag? Not sure about that, thanks, Eleanor!
This quotation is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt but without citing which original writing it actually came from. Then others attribute a very similar quotation to Nancy Reagan:
"A woman is like a teabag — only in hot water do you realize how strong she is." - Nancy Reagan The Observer (29 March 1981)
Well yes, Ladies. We are definitely strong - I'll give you that. And I appreciate the sentiment although I would prefer to be compared to something more shapely and less disposable, to be honest.
Although, Eleanor Roosevelt often gets the credit for the remark it has apparently been around for many years. Or at least variants of the saying. The Quote Investigator believes that in the 19th century similar adages featuring eggs and potatoes and hot water were evident in Irish papers.
I guess it is something we have known for a long time, which applies to all of us - not just the women.
We don't necessarily realise how strong we are until we are tested.
Explore more of the tea time post series here
See the kitchen inspired artwork available in the shop
The other day I wrote about how important it is to make a big goal manageable by breaking into small manageable steps. The next thing one needs is persistence. Persistence to keep coming back to take the next small step, even if you don't feel like it.
And since it is Wise Words Wednesday, I am sharing some of my favourite inspiring quotes on persistence:
"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." - Albert Einstein
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." - Thomas Edison
"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." - Confucius
"Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success." - Napoleon Hill
"Energy and persistence conquer all things." - Benjamin Franklin
"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did." - Newt Gingrich
“Just because you fail once doesn't mean you're gonna fail at everything.” - Marilyn Monroe
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.” - Vince Lombardi
“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” - Francis Bacon
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” –A.A. Milne
Needing more inspiration on persistence? It's one of my favourite subjects! You might want to check these out...
Explore more of the Tea Time post series here
See the kitchen inspired artwork available in the shop today
Although maybe not so much when you are first starting out. The problem with learning new things is that we often fail to give ourselves permission to be beginners. Being bad at something doesn't feel excellent. But being bad at something is the first step towards being good at it.
I don't think you need to actually be good at it to reap some of the wellness benefits. Doing something with your hands is a good way to come back to the present. To spend some time doodling is a helpful way to switch off, perhaps after work, or if you have trouble falling asleep.
Drawing is a skill anyone can learn. There are techniques and rules that anyone can learn and with enough practice become proficient. Its a question of how many hours you are prepared to put in.
Those early hours are the tough ones. Like learning anything new, the first attempts can be almost painful - just think about what it's like to have your first few lessons with a new musical instrument! Even learning to drive has similar problems - you need to know so much at once to be able to execute the task.
However, the internet provides us adult learners with a rather marvelous opportunity. You can learn almost anything in the privacy of your own home and often enough, for little or no cost. Thank you, You Tube!
Drawing is no exception. I reckon the best way to start to learn to draw is to dig out that old bic from the bottom of your handbag, grab a scrap of paper that was already on its way to the recycling bin and have a doodle. Why not?
Don’t agonise over which supplies. Don’t go and purchase a fancy new sketchbook. These things ramp up the expectations you have of yourself and turn something that could be just a bit of relaxing fun into a Big Thing.
Need some inspiration? A bit of helpful instruction? Your smartphone is close to hand, I bet…. Many lovely teachers are just waiting for you. It was tricky to narrow down the list but here are three of my fave You Tube drawing teachers:
1. Learn to draw with Alphonso Dunn
Alphonso provides weekly videos on how to draw everything. No really, that is his tagline. I would suggest heading to the playlists and going for something like the ‘how to draw everything else under the sun’ playlist. There is a drawing fundamentals playlist. My suggestion is not to start there. Time for that later. This is just supposed to be fun. It's not school. Choose a short video - 5 minutes or so. How to draw an asteroid perhaps? A raindrop?
2. Learn to draw with Art a la Carte
Art a la Carte also provides weekly art videos for all ages and skills. You might find more of the cutesy stuff over here… cartoon kitty cats for example. Fun!
3. Learn to draw with Fine art tips
Sometimes when I feel a bit tired of drawing (what? Tired of drawing??) I find almost as much enjoyment in watching someone else draw. There is something soothing and absorbing about watching someone skillfully pull a three dimensional image out of a flat empty page. I love watching the image gradually emerge. Oh, and the sexy accent doesn’t hurt….
So what are you waiting for? Let's draw something!
It is a privilege to be able to see the world through artist's eyes. The same privilege as it is to see the world through the eyes of a child. Have you ever taken a walk with a three year old? In 100m there will be a surprising amount of fascinating diversions. Every ant, shadow and unusual shaped leaf can absorb and entertain a child. We probably don’t even notice these things.
But if you are open to it, as we all are as children, there is awe and beauty in every dewdrop balanced on a leaf tip, the shafts of new light through the trees, the contrast of red and gold autumnal leaves against a perfect blue sky.
Finding the joy in these things is the path to a little more happiness in every day. Far more so than in the ‘big’ things, like winning the lottery or getting that promotion.
If you want to reawaken that child-like awe, the easiest way to do it so to draw something. You don't need to draw well, you just need to practice using your artist's eyes. And yes, we do all have artist's eyes, whether you believe it or not.
Drawing is 90% looking and 10% drawing. It requires the abandonment of judgement and preconception. You know that the your teacup is round but right now, from this angle, the rim actually looks like an oval. You know mountains don’t really have blue grass but right now those mountains do indeed look blue .
Being required to see things just as they appear rather than how you think they are supposed to be, forces you to really notice your world. If you draw and paint regularly you start to see the world in all its glory again. The shadow pattern made on the carpet by the light from the window can somehow enthrall. The arrangement of a throw, a pillow and book tossed on your chair in the living room delights. Maybe it's the composition. Maybe it is the marriage of colours - quite coincidental but even more lovely for it. These small things are enough to lift your spirits just that little bit.
In a world that bombards us with a constant stream of usually less than positive news events, the little dose of happy to be found in every part of our environment is just the counterbalance we need.
The whale is poetry in motion. Whales are the subject of my next set of animal panels. I rather enjoyed putting together this set. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy them all, but I think it was the colours in this set that made me feel particularly happy. And what is more delightful than a whimsical whale?
A whimsical whale poem or two, perhaps?
The Whale is found in seas and oceans, Indulging there in fishlike motions, But Science shows that Whales are mammals, Like Jersey cows, and goats, and camels.
When undisturbed, the Whale will browse Like camels, goats, and Jersey cows, On food that satisfies its tongue, Thus making milk to feed its young.
Asking no costly hay and oats, Like camels, Jersey cows, and goats, The Whale, prolific milk producer, Should be our cheapest lactic juicer.
Our milk should all come from the sea, But who, I ask, would want to be— And here the proposition fails— The milkmaid to a herd of Whales?
by Ellis Parker Butler
Never ever keep a whale in your pond
Did you ever hear of the tale, about the Man...who kept in a small pond...a rather huge Whale.
(in my opinion, he should have gone to jail)
In this pond...the Whale would miserably sit, whilst the Man`s friends...all stared and pocked at it.
Then one night...the rains did heavily drop, and from the pond...the Whale did hop.
(not much of a hop, more of a twist and a belly flop)
And still the rains...did not cease to stop.
Flooding the land and lifting the house, up a tree...ran a door mouse.
Then the house started to move and float, being nudged by the Whale...it was now moving like a speed boat.
To the Ocean...they set sail, the house being pushed ever faster...by the huge Whale.
Now the man lives...all alone out at sea,
with the Whales now charging Dolphins...a small fish fee,
to see The Hairless Monkey...that belongs...back in a tree. by James Irwin
"God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things." Pablo Picasso.
Excellent point, Picasso.
Let's let go of norm and expectation and try new, different things.
This is good advice if you are an artist worrying about finding your style.
But really, it is good advice for all of us, in our daily lives. Life presents us with a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities. It would be a shame to miss out by not trying whatever we can. Sticking only to what we know deprives us of the chance to discover new joys.
What will you try today?
It certainly makes it interesting when a baby giraffe is born. The mother giraffe gives birth standing up. When you consider that a mother giraffe can be as tall as up to about 6 metres (20 feet), those baby giraffes get a pretty rough start to life!
After a 15 month gestation period, the baby giraffe (calf) commences life with a fall to the ground of almost 2 metres. No matter... within the hour the baby giraffe is usually up and about. A giraffe calf can run 10 hours after birth. Rather impressive.
A giraffe calf weighs around 100 kilograms and is about 2 metres tall at birth. This height will be doubled in the first year. Calves stay with their mothers until they are 15-18 months old.
Just recently, on the 7th of June 2015 a baby giraffe was born in Chester Zoo in the UK. He is a Rothschild Giraffe, one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe. Also one of the tallest subspecies. His name is Sanyu and he is awfully cute... look..
If I am honest, I have reached a bit of a lull in my quest to willingly post my daily creations. But I think this is an inevitable part of a creative process. The initial enthusiasm that comes with a new idea gets you going. Then that steam runs out and it becomes a question of persistence. To keep on placing one foot in front of the other. Now is the time to understand the importance of true grit.
Jerry Seinfeld talks about marking a cross on the calendar every day that he does some writing. The point is to make a chain of crosses. Not to write something brilliant. But simply to show up and write. Every day.
So I feel that that is where I am right now. Making the most of the opportunity to demonstrate that I have some grit. I really don't like that word, somehow. But persistence (grit) has been shown to be a key predictor of success. (There is a TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth that explains the importance of grit, if you happen to be in the mood for a vid!)
To be persistent you have to be okay with imperfection, with failure even. Persistence is continuing in spite of setbacks. A setback can just be a call to your creativity, awakening your problem solving equipment in order to find a way to move forward.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” ― Steven Pressfield
Persistence is probably what the 'p' stands for in professional. An amateur stops when things become hard, or when enthusiasm and inspiration wane. A professional continues doggedly on, whether they feel like it or not. Writers know all about this. For example,
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.” ― W. Somerset Maugham
The effort of persisting is very worthwhile, though. It is helpful to keep a mental note of past successes achieved through perseverance. Recalling these successes is a great encouragement when your persistence is being tested again. So I have seen for myself that continual practice, in small but steady ways really does build your skills. I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to rack up another mental note of successful perseverance in the memory banks. We will mark the occasion with this whimsical monkey swinging through mixed media vines on a wooden panel.
By the way, there is a test you can do to determine how 'gritty' you actually are. So if you love a personality test or two (let's be honest... who doesn't?) you can try this one...
Apparently I can't stay away from whimsy. Whimsy is fun, and the reason I started painting in the first place was to have fun. Life is serious enough. So for me, painting is about a return to the simplicity of childhood. If it is cute and silly and colourful, I love it.
What better way is there to add a bit of fun to every day?
"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." Dr. Seuss
I start a new project every month. It's very exciting, but also a little scary. This month I am painting a series of square mixed media panels that feature animals. Last month it was flower faces on paper (see the finished gallery here!)
On the first working day of each month I get a fresh start. Here are five ideas to consider so that you set up your new project for success.
1.Start with why.
Try and articulate for yourself exactly why your are doing this project. Being clear about your purpose will enable you to evaluate your progress more fairly. It will be your guide post as you need to make decisions during the project. Simon Sinek explains that getting to the heart of why we do what we do is to tap into our own infinite source of inspiration and motivation.
2. The honeymoon phase
Enjoy the initial burst of enthusiasm that heralds the start of a new project. Celebrate it. Know that it is a part of the energy cycle of the project and it wont last. Anticipating this means you can try to avoid being disappointed that you didn't maintain your momentum or beat yourself up about it when the enthusiasm wanes. But make the most of the initial excitement - it is the impetus that gets you started.
3. Identify your requirements and resources.
Usually we are pretty good at figuring out what we are going to require in terms of materials for a project. But there is more to consider in preparing your project for success. Don't overlook the project's requirements in terms of time and support. Be realistic about how much time you will need to put in as well as any time requirements for other team members. Consider the resources you have available. Access to a mentor for example, can be an important resource, as can access to other additional help such as substitute/alternate team members or alternate suppliers as a back up in case of emergency.
4. Baby steps
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Even the most daunting task can be made easier to approach by breaking it down into small achievable steps. Once you have an idea of the steps, you can measure your progress by measuring the process rather than results. Your chances of success are far greater if you can focus on your systems rather than just your ultimate goal.
5. Give yourself a buffer.
Nothing goes according to plan. Where would the fun be in that anyway? But when things go awry it can knock you off schedule. Be kind to yourself and build in a bit of extra time in your schedule to deal with the unforeseen.
Be honest. How many free books have you downloaded but not yet opened? How many courses have you enrolled in but not completed? How many mailing lists are you signed up to that you don't get around to reading? Have you been promising yourself you would sail around the world one day, but still haven't done that? Planned to write a novel but still haven't got started? It's not that you are lazy. In fact it's exactly the opposite. So much good intention. So much self improvement. But sadly, there are only so many hours in the day.
Our modern world delivers nearly everything we could possibly want, twenty fours of every single day. We see all sorts of opportunities for things we could do and learn and be. This can ignite our passions and fuel us on to explore such exciting possibilities. But just because so much is possible, it doesn't mean we have to do it all. And we certainly don't have to do it all today.
Most of us add an inexhaustive list of things we 'should' do, or things we 'could' do to our list of routine daily activities, like our actual jobs, feeding ourselves, buying that birthday gift for a relative, and so on. No wonder our to do lists feel overwhelming. In part it is because we may not have drawn that distinction between things we must do (like eat dinner) and things we might do (like learning a foreign language, say). So these extra tasks hang over us. They cast just a little shadow at first, and perhaps we don't notice them much, much less recognise what it is that is actually weighing over us. But eventually they become oppressive, especially when they accumulate.
So the first step is to figure out which of the tasks on our list fall into the 'might-do' category. One option is to create a separate list more appropriately titled, so that you can remind yourself that these are aspirational possibilities rather than chores you have still not completed. A second option is a suggestion from Arianna Huffington's new book Thrive. She says you can complete a task simply by crossing it off your list. You don't have to do everything. Really... you don't.
Another reason a to do list is overwhelming is that we are never quite sure we have done enough. We want to exercise regularly, meditate regularly, read more, improve a particular professional skill. We might even have been to enough training seminars to know that we need 'SMART' goals. This may mean we have set ourselves minimums, like 3km of running 3 times per week. Do this for all the tasks on your list and you have given probably set enormous expectations for yourself.
In itself that is not a bad thing, but we have to be fair to ourselves and aware of our current capacity. As James Clear points out, we should only expect that which is sustainable, by setting upper bounds as well as lower bounds. This is a lesson from the corporate world. Southwest Airlines chose to place an upper bound on their company growth in order to give themselves a margin of safety and avoid burning out. It seemed to work for Southwest, and it makes a lot of sense for us too as James Clear explains.
Figuring out how much of an activity is too much for us in a particular day or week, leaves us the space to rest and creates space for the next item on the list. It also may leave us with a better sense of accomplishment.
If your to do list overwhelms you it is a good indication that you need to go back to what is truly important to you. What are you goals and values? Now pick your top 3-5. Make sure every item on your list is in line with one of those 3-5 goals and values - if not cross it out, or at the very least put it on a separate list. Be kind enough to yourself to make sure you do not have unrealistic expectations. Life is too short for that.
“Busyness is not a reason for not getting other things done. It is an excuse for not claiming your true priorities.” Alan Cohen