Monday, November 24, 2014

Acorns and Wishes

Watercolor, watercolor pencil, ink and charcoal
The other morning I found myself in a parking lot full of acorns and you know I just had to pick some up!

And this time I had a good reason…I did a class last week at Keeton's Office and Art Supplies on Autumn's Garden and the bounty to be found there. We painted some of the acorns.

But I gotta tell you, I probably would have picked them up anyway as they were huge! I think they were from a red oak(?) and I fell in love with them.

Looking at an acorn, you usually see a hint of green, umber, ochres, yellows, a few golds and maybe some gray. Not so exciting when I look at all the fun colors I have in my palette.

So I decided a fantasy acorn was just what I needed to dispel the icky weather we've been having lately.

Above is the result of playing with all kinds of color as well as media. There's a little bit of everything in there.

I can't say I'm wild about the end result as it looks nothing like I had in my head, but I can say it was fun and it scratched the itch of painting an acorn.

Back in the parking lot, as I looked up into the tree I was standing under, I could see gobs and gobs of acorns still on the tree…a very bountiful crop this year…and I thought about Mother Nature's approach to the future.

She didn't put all her hope into one acorn, but into thousands and that was from just ONE tree!

She knew that some acorns would feed the woodland creatures and some would fall onto concrete for crazy humans like me to pick up.

Some would fall to the mower's blades and others would fall in an inhospitable environment, so she made sure there were enough that maybe, just maybe, a few of those acorns would grow into themselves to become big, strong oak trees.

I often find myself too focused on the one acorn rather than a more bountiful approach of several acorns. Perhaps you can relate?

However, I've been quite fortunate and blessed to find that my acorn has taken root and continues to grow daily ( Another acorn, Imaginary Trips Made Real, is thriving with a trip to the beach coming up in January—if you want to interrupt winter, there's still time! Click on the box at the top of the page for more info.

My friends and family are also blessings though some are more like squirrels than acorns. As we *supposably* slow down for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the states, I am taking stock of all of my acorns and how much they've grown this year.

Thanks to all of you who've come to be part of my world via classes, the blog, the internet and FB groups. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I wish you the very best of blessings for the season.

May you find your acorns have grown as well.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Deciding What To Sketch In Your Journal

"Fall in Florida"
Ink and Watercolor
Stillman and Birn Zeta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches
In a recent conversation with someone brand new to keeping a journal/sketchbook, I was asked the question, "How do you decide what to sketch? Where do you find inspiration?"

I have to say, I hedged a bit because there is no straightforward answer. My answer was a question, "What inspires you?" 

She shrugged and gave me a look that said she had no idea. She wasn't far enough along the creative journey to know yet.

It's hard when you're first starting out because you're juggling learning how to draw, creating a visual vocabulary, figuring out how many details to put in once you've figured out what to sketch, and then you're hit with another decision to make about how to fill the next page once the one you're working on is complete.

That's a lot to juggle. My suggestions to her went something like this:

When you're first starting out, I don't think it really matters what you fill the pages with but that you're filling the pages.

Before you get mad and leave, hear me out.

I have long advocated quantity over quality. By that, I mean you have to put in your mileage to get good at what you do (regardless of the skill you're trying to master), to discover what really inspires you because how can you know if you've never done this before?

After you've filled a few sketchbooks and your skills have started to develop, you can begin to take notice of the things that excite you and you want to add to your pages.

However, in the beginning, I suggest draw anything and everything even if you don't know how because that's how you'll learn and develop your skills.

It helps if you decide that your sketchbook is just for you and no one else when you take this approach. Decide that your sketchbook is your safe place to play, explore and learn…because learning often means not getting things right the first or the fifth time.

If you're concerned about others' criticism, dedicate the first page with a message that reads something like:
This is my sketchbook where I learn new skills, explore techniques and experiment with new mediums. Sometimes it's messy and sometimes, because I am learning and experimenting, my attempts are not successful. While you're invited into my private world, I ask that you not judge me nor my efforts. 
If you still receive criticism from someone, simply do not show them your work. It's your sketchbook.

With that said, don't confuse criticism with constructive feedback that can still feel like criticism. Look to their work to see if their comments are criticism or constructive feedback.

If you're still facing a challenge with what to draw, look around on the internet for prompts and challenges. Look on Facebook. You'll find plenty and often, you'll find a community that will support your efforts.
Close up of sketches

Take notice of the types of things you are attracted to and would like to sketch even if you don't sketch them well or are afraid to try…those are the things to focus on because the more you like what you're sketching, the more likely you are to continue sketching. If it's not fun, why do it?

I suggest tackling a wide range of subject matter—people, animals, cars, buildings, landscapes, cityscapes, the beach, mountains, and anything else that crosses your mind. You may hate drawing buildings but love drawing the people in front of the building. Pay attention to what excites you and that you yearn to sketch better.

Be sure not to let fear keep you from tackling something that attracts you. It's paper, time and a some ink, maybe some paint. If it doesn't work out, TURN THE PAGE. No big deal.

Sketching, for most of us, is a long evolution…skills, favorite materials, subject matter, it all changes if we stay on the creative path for long. Embrace the changes and keep sketching. It takes time, and a whole lot of pages, to get comfortable with yourself and your skills.

And never, ever, ever let fear keep you away from the page!