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Posts tagged ‘drawing’

The Beauty of a Daily Drawing Practice, Sticky-Note Style

Ellen Olson-Brown is a creative inspiration to me in more ways than I can count. She is also a children’s book author, children’s yoga instructor, life-design junkie, Bikram devotee, and mother of twins. I love, love, love what she shares below. Enjoy!


drawing faces practice

Although I’m pretty proud of the collection above, crowing is truly not my motivation for posting. I’m posting this to make a point that is *so* important to me.

Every day this month I’ve made at least one of these little drawings on a sticky note. I find an image of a face online, paint its basic shape in watercolor, and then ink in the details with a permanent marker.

I’ve committed to this because I’ve found that mixing colors and drawing, even just a little, is one of those things that makes the rest of my day more vivid, easier.

Drawing on a sticky note is way less intimidating than using beautiful paper or a canvas, because of both the size and the humbleness of the materials. And committing to doing it every day of a short month quiets the “Should I? Why?” voice without overwhelming me.

So what’s the point I want to prove?

Well, it’s the same point I want desperately to prove when someone new practices near me in a yoga class and says, “But it looks so easy for you! I’ll never be able to do that!” and I have to tell them 1) It’s still *very* hard for me, and 2) I couldn’t touch my toes when I first started yoga. What I can do now has taken me 7 years and at least 1,000 classes of showing up and listening and trying and getting better and getting worse and having faith in the process and learning to add a gentle “yet” to a very bratty, “I can’t!!”

I love these little faces, my wall of friends and encouragers. Are they perfect? No. But I used to be scared, stiff, and frustrated when it came to drawing. I thought making art was a matter of talent, which I simply didn’t have. And now I am making things that bring me joy.

Talent is real. We’re each wired/built to optimize certain kinds of learning, performing.

But way more powerful than talent is openness, faith, courage, hard work, and enough self-kindness to let yourself be a beginner, show up, and see what happens.

Draw, run, sing, cook, garden, dance, do yoga — whatever that thing is that you’re drawn to, get your butt out there and try it 10 or 50 or 3,000 times.

Because you deserve to amaze yourself.


Think you don’t have time for a daily creative practice? Think again

Rick DaddarioEditor’s note: Last December, we received a thought-provoking set of comments on a Monday Post from reader Rick Daddario. Rick, an artist based in Hawaii, had a lot of useful and inspiring things to say about maintaining a daily creative practice. With Rick’s permission, I’m reposting his remarks here. I think you’ll find several gems among these wise words; recommended reading.

timeI agree enthusiastically with the idea of creating daily. I know personally for me when I do not create for a day or two I begin to feel quite “off” in many ways. That can lead to a downward spiral for me. So I find a way to create every day. Writing, taking photographs, working with digital technology or traditional materials — it all counts for me.

I’ve also learned that my day works best if I follow patterns. I’m not die-hard about my patterns, though. It’s easy to shift them on one day when needed and they evolve over time too allow me to fit in the things I need to do around my creating rather than my creating around what I need to do.

As a pattern, I find a way to work with my digital technology each day even though I do not post every day necessarily.

When I decide to get into the traditional materials I find that daily practice is extremely important as well. Sometimes I need to start out slow: 5-minute drawings; 15- to 30-minute paintings. After a few days to a week of this it’s hard to stop at 5 minutes or half an hour and I let my times increase as needed.

Scheduling time is a good way to commit yourself to a practice. Although I’ve found I’m quite contrary and tend to push my times around as needed. I know if I say I will do something to myself I often do the opposite. The doing is what is important however, and I find a way to do my art even if I have to stay up an extra half hour to an hour before sleeping. Yes, I will work tired if that is how I have to get my time in.

Some other ways I’ve heard that work for people and I’ve tried and found fun:

  • When I’m clearing the table after breakfast say, as one of my jobs, I will daily do a sketch of the breakfast table (or one item on it or any part of it) just as I’ve left it before clearing it. It’s a way for me to allow myself the time to draw. I have to draw before I do the dishes or I lose my visual. I may set a timer if I need to limit my time but the commitment to drawing that table or any part of it gives me the permission to sit and draw BEFORE I do the dishes. Way fun on that. This kind of practice can be used with any task, per the bullets below.
  • Shopping: Draw/photograph the shopping bags before you put everything away (maybe the milk and frozen items can go in the fridge and then I draw). You can take an item or two out to draw too. Still life with packages, bottles, cans, or fresh veggies/fruits.
  • Weeding: Draw/photograph the tools before you weed (after, I’m usually a bit dusty mucky).
  • Gardening, as in watering and general: A bouquet of flowers or the veggies/fruit etc. that you pick are great subjects.
  • Laundry: The pile of clothes. Or clothes hug up to dry. Or folded.
  • Kids’ toys: One a day. Or as they lay. Or as they look put away.
  • Seasonal: Gift wrapping: before, during, or after wrapping a present.

When it’s writing rather than drawing/painting/photos that I’m after the same practice can work. Write from the moments the items suggest themselves or the thoughts that come up while you were working. Write of that moment or something those items bring up in a memory, or fantasize. . . .

I’m sure you get the idea.

Once I make creating part of my daily life it’s like any other job or chore I have to do. My day is not done until I do it. And if it’s fun, I’ll want to do it again. So I do what is fun for me. I play with line, or light, or shapes, or color etc. If it’s writing, I may play with writing forms, or shotgun writings, or 55-word short stories, etc. Way fun on that. And seasonal fun on all too.

I am passionate about creating daily. Even 5 minutes count — writing, drawing, or painting. 10 or 15 minutes even better. Just do it, though. That’s what what is important. Start. Just start and do it.

Don’t think you can draw/write something in 5 minutes?? Try this: Set a timer for 1 minute. See how much you can draw (or write on) something in 1 minute. When the timer goes off, click it and start on a new page again on the same thing. Again when the timer goes off, click it and repeat the process until you have 5 drawings (or 5 sentences or observations in words). Try to push yourself to get more down each time. The light, the shape edges, the lines. Now set the timer for 5 minutes and see how much you can get down. That’s a total of 10 minutes — but once you understand that you actually can get the entire thing down in some way in 5 minutes you can do this with anything and take only 5 minutes (or 10 when you have it).

We all have hurry-up-and-wait times. The doctor’s office, picking up a child from school or play time, the bus stop (local and long distance), car pool, train and plane ports. Bring your pencil and pad (hard back, double wired, small like 6 x 6 is my preference — or my iPad with drawing apps) and sketch/draw/write for 5 minutes.

Sit in the car and draw before you go in to shop, a hair appointment, the dentist, the visit with a friend. Or even on your way to work.

At one time I got so I’d leave 5 minutes early just so I could flip my pad open and draw. Then it was 15 minutes early to any activity and half an hour to 45 minutes early to work (at a photo lab). I could stop along the way or in the parking lot finding different views even there each day. Or sit on a bench or low wall on the walk to work.

Eventually I had to set a time when I stopped like this or I’d end up running over time and become late for my appointment or work — that happened once and I started the timer idea. Even then I’d push the timing, though.

It made my day to get a drawing in before work and then one after work that could be untimed. After work the drawing times were often shorter because I was tired. However, I felt a lot better for sitting and letting go in a drawing (or writing) for those few minutes.

Yeah, get me rambling along these lines and I reel out the things that are fun fun for me.


— Rick

Check out Rick’s work at his blog and his website. Thank you, Rick!

My New Rule: The Power of One (wherein I attempt to be slightly less manic)

The piece below originally appeared in this month’s Creative Times newsletter.

The Power of One

For many months now — or is it years? — I’ve been on a quest. A quest to slow things down. A quest to stop running around like a maniac from calendar item to calendar item. A quest to breathe more and do less. And I’m pretty sure you know what I’m talking about.

After being over-booked and over-worked for way too long, with too many days like this one, I finally realized that I have to stop overestimating the bandwidth of any given day. I have a bad habit of continually anticipating more time than I actually have, not leaving room for the significant amount of unexpected and last-minute requests and events that force me to shoe-horn my “regular” work into the margins. I decided to take drastic action with my schedule.

At the beginning of this month, I enacted a One Thing Only rule. This means that I only schedule one thing on any given day. There are still all of the regular activities — kids, domestic life, errands, hours of laptop-based work — but any kind of one-off that gets written in my calendar has to stand alone. This means that if I have a client meeting in the afternoon, I don’t schedule anything else for that day. If I decide to schedule morning coffee with a friend, I leave the afternoon unbooked. If I have a dentist appointment just after lunch, the rest of the day is locked down. Crazy, huh?

It hasn’t been easy. I still look at my planner and say “Well, on Thursday I only have a 30-minute coaching call at 11:00. I can fit an hour-long editorial conference call in at 2:00, right?” I mean, who wouldn’t do that? But the truth is, that with two or more events scheduled in any given day, reality eats up the rest of my schedule. I end up losing the hours of actual work time that I’d planned on. By the time I crawl into bed, I’ve been busy all day but I haven’t crossed off even half of the action items on my list. As a freelancer and a coach, I don’t get paid without billable time — and I don’t get billable time unless I’m at my desk, uninterrupted, doing my work.

Working for yourself means that you have the luxury — and the potential curse — of managing your time in the way that works best for you. If you’re a fulltime employee at an office, your time isn’t entirely within your control. There are days when you sit in endless meetings and feel like you didn’t get a moment of actual work done. Is there any way you can creatively apply the One Thing Only rule to parts of your workday, or at least your time away from the office?

In time, as the anxiety about being less scheduled recedes, what takes its place is a greater sense of calmness, focus, and satisfaction. You really can do more with less.

I’ll be writing more about the power of one in next month’s issue of the Creative Times. If you’re motivated to try this, or have already enacted a different plan for reducing your busy-ness, please share.


The One-Thing Sketching Practice

The piece below, which appeared in this month’s Creative Times newsletter, was written by my friend and former business partner Ellen Olson-Brown. Enjoy!


One Thing Sketching Practice

On the first of the month, I choose one familiar household object — a toy, a necklace, a clock on the wall — to sketch every morning of that month. I draw every day because I want to draw well, and I believe in the power of consistent practice, for two minutes or an hour, or an entire morning. I draw because I find the nonverbal work of visual observation and moving the pencil on the page to be meditative and centering. I draw because anchoring myself in wordless observation and movement ultimately helps me access my writing (the word-soaked centerpiece of the creative work that I do) from a more honest and flexible place.

Drawing the same object every morning means that I eliminate “but I don’t know what to draw!” as a barrier to getting started. It allows me to zoom in, sometimes drawing a tiny portion of an object, or to zoom out and include context and surroundings. It allows me to try and fail and try again to capture curves and shadows and relationships, to be playful, with the knowledge that I can give it another go the next day.

At the end of the month, I flip back through my journal and review the drawings I’ve done. I literally stack up evidence that I have met my commitment to myself, and this deepens my belief (and the self-fulfilling prophecy) that I’ll be able to show up again in the future, for drawing and other projects. I’m often surprised by the quality of what I’ve drawn, especially on the mornings where I recall feeling frustrated or stuck. And I’m never able to look at the objects I’ve drawn for 28 or 20 or 31 days without feeling that they’re not just props in my life, but friends I know intimately.

Would this practice work for you? Give it a try and let us know!


Ellen Olson-Brown, M.Ed., is a teacher, author of four children’s books, yoga teacher, and enthusiastic consumer of art and office supplies. Positive psychology, mindfulness, and the science of human flourishing are her current fascinations, and she loves supportively daring people to amaze themselves. Ellen lives in Groton, Mass., with her husband and twin sons.

Spotlight on Sarah Madsen

4087_90117mSarah Madsen, Facebook friend of Creative Construction, is a busy mother of four living in Nevada. Sarah is a prolific artist attracted to a range of different media. She finds much satisfaction in drawing from — literally — her vantage point as a mother. From Sarah’s profile on her blog, Arty Moments:

“This [blog] is a insight to a chaotic (ME) artist. I say chaotic because in a sense I seem to go in a million different artistic directions and I’m sure I’m chasing art not as constructively as I should be…However 🙂 This might (I say might because I know deep down, it’s indicative to my nature too!) be my reasons why this occurs… I’m a Mum to 4 busy and happy critters, 4, 6, 8, 10 years old. So with that, comes the balancing act between motherhood and creativity (and of course the odd freelance work). I’ve been drawing painting since I could hold a pencil and I remember drawing, many a night when supposedly asleep in bed. At the blank pages of old books (remember they always had a few blank pages in the beginning?) My get away moments are to draw from life and usually end up in a coffee shop/bars. So one day I would love to be a traveling artist…sketching people in various parts of the world. For now I mix up my love of jewellery and painting. Want to make tiaras, fine precious enamelled pendants, brooches, etc.”

4087_252732mThat chatty blurb gives us the behind-the-scenes look; here’s Sarah’s more formal introduction:

English artist Sarah Elizabeth Madsen attended Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design in London, England. There she gained a BA Hons degree in jewelery design.This interest in 3-D design was quite a different direction from her first love of fine art. The desire to follow figurative art has been constant theme throughout her life as an artist. In 1992 the young artist received a travel bursary from the Royal Society of British Sculptors on a medal design. She has also exhibited at various locations such as the Mall Galleries in London, Silvermine Art Center in Connecticut, and also at Steven Whyte Figurative Sculpture Studio in Carmel, California.

Sarah notes:

4087_121719m“I tend to work quickly with concentration to put the essence onto paper. Portrait drawing from life for me is an absolute challenge. The amount of expressions, gestures, moods, habits, and interaction that people show is incredibly complex. The studies of babies  and children are from constant observation of my own children. This definitely creates its own demands as children rarely remain still. Fortunately this pushes me to just grasp quickly the essentials and not to overdo a drawing. The interest in fine handmade jewelery/medal and enameling stems again from my love of observation (though currently somewhat on hold at present time). So one day hope to produce tiaras, fine gem rings, and necklaces though these would be more towards art/sculpture pieces than mainstream jewelery. The direction I take is organic and figurative in nature. Always to create a ‘living feeling.’ Whether it is a gold-forged wire curling around the nape of the neck, through to a few chosen marks onto canvas or paper.”

Sarah, you’re an inspiration! You can see more of Sarah’s fine art at her art site.

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