My Cure for Procrastination

Art is inevitable

Stop in the middle. Never stop working at the natural barriers. The next time you start working, the barrier will be the first thing you encounter, and you won’t have the momentum to overcome it. — Ernest Hemingway

Procrastination wasn’t a word I applied to myself. My husband would second that because if something needs doing, I can’t rest until it’s done. However, I did have a hard time getting on track again once I completed a painting. It wasn’t because I was putting it off but more because I didn’t know where to start.

Back when I taught creative writing I always mentioned Hemingway’s process to my students as sound advice to help them avoid the quicksand of creative procrastination. Knowing what you want to write next keeps the ‘juice’ flowing. I just never applied it to my painting process until now. Talk about tunnel vision!

Cure Procrastination. Have lots on the go

Up until a few weeks ago, I worked on one piece at a time. I called it “focus” but now I see it created a natural barrier to the next piece. When I finished a painting, it took me a few days to find my next subject and face the blank sheet of paper. Flailing about, trying to decide on “What next?” is my version of creative procrastination. It frustrated the heck out of me.

I don’t remember exactly what inspired me to start 3-4 pieces at the same time but I will be forever grateful to the Muse for that whisper in my ear.

Since that AHA moment, I look forward to getting to my studio each day. Knowing what I’m going to work on feels liberating. Spread across the two tables where I paint are pieces in different stages so I can always find a place to start. I also keep a list of ideas and reference photos tacked up over my table. Also, working in a series helps. As I finish a piece, I choose something, start the sketch and do my colour tests.

I’ve completed a number of pieces in the last few weeks because of my “new” habit. It’s also why I haven’t posted on the blog for awhile. I’ve been too busy in the studio!

Found a fix for your procrastination habit? Please, share it in the comments and spread the word.

Sketching to Experience the World

Power of Sketching

Drawing is first about taking something with all the senses, letting what is simply be as it is, without judging it. – Jeanne Carbonetti, The Yoga of Drawing

Call it what you will

Sketched from my deck

I love sketching. While it’s a good creative warm-up, it’s even better as an antidote to the distractions all around me. It reminds me to pay attention because the world is a pretty amazing place.

Sketching is available to anyone because there’s no need to call yourself ‘artist’. No need even to share what you produce. I have pages and pages of sketches for ‘my eyes only’. You can even throw away what you produce because it’s NOT about the product.

It’s about being present for that moment and really noticing the world again.

It’s all about curiosity

Sketching makes me pay attention and examine small details.

It shifts me out of auto-pilot and helps me to let go of preconceived ideas about how the world around me ‘should’ look.  When I really get into flow, I focus in without judgment about the object I’m studying or what my hand produces on the paper.

Perhaps ‘doodle’ is a better word because it strips away that serious artist overtone.  It’s about curiosity and taking a closer look.

Carpe Diem and Sketch

Sketch of a tide pool
Tide Pool

Keep it simple and your tools handy so you can do this anytime, anywhere. Seize every opportunity.

Choose a pencil or fine-line marker that you like. I prefer a marker because my lines feel more confident. The energy is just different when I know I must commit and can’t erase. I also keep a few watercolour pencils with me because I like colour but it’s not necessary.

The paper itself isn’t important. While it’s nice to have sketchbook, the back of a napkin also works. As I said, it’s not about the end product but the process.

Then just do it.

Try it

Sketch something in your environment right now. Start by taking a second look.

Is the top of a mug really round or something else when it’s in front of you. How do the shadows fall? Is there a glint of light on this somewhere? How do the pieces line up? Or not? Is the top bigger than the bottom?

sketch of boats
Fishing boats by the Margaretsville wharf

You get the idea.

Then just make some marks on the paper. Once you start, it gets easier. Don’t judge the marks you make. They’re not important.

You only need a few minutes. Do it on your lunch hour or while the kids nap. It’s a practice you can squeeze into any schedule and can help you feel more grounded because for those few minutes, you’re paying attention.

Invisible Rule holding you back?

Sketch of the Point
On the Point by the lighthouse

If you’re hesitating I’ll bet the conversation in your head sounds something like “I could never do that.”.

Who made up that rule?

Change the inner dialog to a curious question — “What if I tried this?”.

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

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13 Ways to be Creative Every Day

In my last post I suggested we need to be creatively active every day in order to ‘stay in love’ with our muse.

When I first came across that idea, I balked. I couldn’t always be in my studio. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Or I need a break because the well is dry.

Then I shifted my idea on what “being creative’ actually meant. After all, I’m the first one to tell others that creativity isn’t necessarily art, dance, literature, etc. Which, of course, is what many people flash on if you say ‘creative’.

Apparently, I’d fallen into the same narrow mindset.

So I dusted it off (my mind, that is) and put my thinking cap on. Surely I could come up with a list of alternatives for those days when the Muse takes a break.

Some suggestions

1. Try a new recipe. I confess. Cooking isn’t my favourite thing but I do love baking so my new recipe will probably be a sweet treat. No one in my house will object.

2. Do a small daily sketch for 30 days. Committing to 15 minutes a day during a Passion Project is what started me down this road. I highly recommend it as a practice. Cathy Nichols, a mixed media artist I follow is doing hers on small tags. I may give this a try myself.

3. Do some gardening. Get your hands dirty. If you live in an apartment, offer to help a friend. Gardening is guaranteed to fire up all your senses.

taking a walk4. Walk with your camera. Toting my camera, I notice more details and special moments. So yes. You could just take a walk, but I find the camera is a good reminder to stay present and not make up a shopping list in my head.

5. Get out old art materials and see what ideas they trigger. I bought the materials to make rubber stamps awhile back, made a few stamps and had fun. Now the materials sit in a basket in a cupboard. Time to get them down and make some new ones.

6. Quilt. It doesn’t have to be a large project but fabric offers pattern and colour. Piecing a project means deconstructing and re-imagining. Totally creative and inspiring.

7. Have projects bookmarked in magazines and books? Grab one randomly and do the first marked project. Or go to the library and browse a section you don’t normally visit. Pull out a random book and see what it inspires.

8. Rearrange the furniture.  A fresh perspective on a familiar place always gives me a lift.

9. Draw a mandala. I love these geometric forms. I don’t have to think about them the same way, especially if I use a compass and protractor but they always feel so satisfying.

10. Zen Doodle. Not much to add to that. Highly addictive.

11. Browse Pinterest. Find some artists you admire and see what they have on their boards. (Here’s a link to my boards in case you’d like to check them out.)

12. Again on Pinterest, create a  board of images that inspire you.  No need to second-guess or  explain it to anyone. Let it be your highly personal source of inspiration.

13. Hang out in the Creative Fire Café. This is my online creative community and the conversations are inspiring and helpful. Join us?

That’s my list. Thirteen creative alternatives.

What’s on your list? Share your ideas and inspire us!

The Power of Routine

Creative Routine

The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. — Twyla Tharp

Are you thinking about New Year’s Resolutions today? I usually avoid them but in 2018 there is one that makes sense to me.

Break out of the old routine

After reading Twyla Tharp’s words in The Creative Habit, I committed to regular creative dates with my Muse in 2018. I encourage you to consider it for yourself if you’re serious about living a more creative life.

Creative routine is powerful

Showing up on a regular basis in my studio sends a signal to my subconscious which is where my Muse hangs out. That message reads “This is IMPORTANT.”

Creative time is my ‘work’. Soul work, that is.

I am the first to admit not everything that comes out of my studio is gold or even fit for anyone to see but me. However, a creative routine that evolves into habit means inspiration always knows where to find me.

Make 2018 the year you stop waiting to “feel” inspired. Don’t leave something this important to the whims of a sugar high or a restless night. After all, if you had a commission or a deadline you’d show up and do the work, regardless of how you felt.

Why should your own heart and soul be any less important?

With Love, From Santa

Creative Santa

I consider myself fairly easy to buy for at Christmas (unlike my husband who won’t even give me a hint!). I still love my toys as in art supplies, books or quilting supplies which are always at the top of my list. There are other ‘non-essentials’ on that list, as well. And if all else fails, a gift certificate for those aforementioned toys is always welcome (just in case you’re still wondering what to get me.)

Christmas giftThis year, however, Santa really used his imagination and put a Sizzix Big Shot under the tree. I guess he was paying attention when I went on and on (and on…) about how useful it would be for my latest creative interest — rug hooking. I may have also mentioned it was a good tool for quilting. (Santa likes getting bonus points for hitting all the marks.)

After opening my presents Christmas morning I pulled some Thinlit Dies I’d bought a year or two ago (with no way to use them? Do you do that, too? Just in case?). I also grabbed some of the wrapping paper lying about and just had fun. So easy! In fact, I may have to add paper crafting to my creative list in the new year.

Looking around for new mountains to conquer, I got to wondering if there were cutting dies Santa could use for his HO model railroad. Naturally I asked The Google Machine and of course there are! Lots of nice buildings for his layout.

So Santa is feeling pretty pleased with himself and his gifting acumen.

Me? I have another creative project to add to my list.


How to Create a Blooming Mandala Journal Page

I’ve been on a mandala kick for the last little while. I’ve discovered they are a great way to get into the creative zone. Add some visual journaling and…WOW!

Exploring the Mandala

My obsession started when I purchased a copy of  The Mandala Guidebook by Kathryn Costa out of curiosity. In the book, she suggests a brilliant journal exercise that I’ve fallen in love with. I’ve hung mine in the studio as a reminder of what I need to bloom when my creative soil feels dry.

Because what feeds us is different for each of us I want to share what I did so you can give it a go. If you decide you like the mandala form as much as I do, I highly recommend getting a copy of the book for your own library.

Make your own mandala journal page

The Base

First step is to create a flower mandala. I like working in a large, hardcover sketchbook. I used a math compass to get a 6″ circle but you could use a plate. The size is determined simply by how large your paper is and what you want to do. Trace a second circle the same size on a piece of scrap paper, cut it out and set it aside for now.

Add some smaller circles inside your first circle to act as guidelines (Fig 1).

Mandala Start
Fig. 1

You can divide your circle in to twelve equal sections by using a protractor but it’s easier to take your cutout and fold it in half and crease. Then fold that in half again and crease. Finally, fold it into thirds and crease. When you open it up you have the guides you need to create a 12 part flower. Easy, right?

Place your guide over the top of your first circle, mark the points and remove the guide. Using a ruler, connect the points. Be sure they cross the center of your main circle and adjust if any seem a little off center. (Fig 2)

12 Point Mandala
Fig 2

Your Design

Begin designing your mandala in pencil so you can change your mind and make corrections. You can see from the picture (Fig 3) that as I began to design I added a few more smaller circles but you could also freehand the smaller elements of your design if you choose.

Mandala Outlined
Fig 3

Once you’re satisfied with your design, outline the permanent lines with a fine point black marker. (Fig 4) Erase the pencil lines and you have your very own 12 point flower mandala. (Fig 5)

Mandala Inked In
Fig 4
Mandala Ready to Color
Fig 5

Get Creative!

Now the fun starts. Choose colours that speak to you. Don’t second guess yourself. When you’re done, Google the meaning of the colours you chose. I’m often surprised by how much they reflect my current journey.

For my mandala I used the amazing Chameleon markers Kathryn recommended in her book. They make shading simple and magical. Now I have another obsession!

flower mandala
Fig 6

The Journal

Once you’re happy with your mandala, it’s time to connect with your inner Muse. Ask her, “What keeps you blooming?”

In other words, when you’re feeling low, what perks you back up? Some of our answers may be the same but there will be some that are unique to you.

I wrote mine in pencil first and I’m glad I did. I rearranged the order a few times and re-thought a couple of my choices. When you’re satisfied, use your black marker and add them to your mandala. I had fun with the lettering style and added some final details.

How I Bloom Mandala
Fig 7

My only recommendation is to do it YOUR way and trust your intuition.

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(In this post I’ve included affiliate links to the supplies I used. While I receive a small commission if you order through my site, that cost is not passed on to you.)