Posts Tagged ‘art-making’

I’ve Got No Talent!

I MET PAULA JEFFERY SEVERAL YEARS AGO in an online art group. The other day, we had a chat about how investing time (consistently) and effort (persistently) in any art form will eventually bear fruit—and she pointed me to this post, which she wrote for her own blog, but is graciously allowing me to share in an edited-for-length version with you. (And, yes, it’s about drawing, but really it’s about anything to which you’d like to apply yourself!)

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I’ve Got No Talent
Paula Jeffery

Not long ago, I read THE TALENT CODE by Daniel Coyle. In it, he tells about a group of children who were monitored before and during the time they took music lessons. After a couple of months, as you would expect, some were doing really well, some not so well, and most were in the middle of that bell curve. The researchers looked closely for common factors between those who were excelling. They looked at things like the amount of practice they did, home environment, anything they could think of that might influence the children’s musical ability. They could find nothing. None of the factors they anticipated had any effect at all.

Until … bingo! Before they started lessons, all the children were asked, “How long do you see yourself playing music?” Their answers ranged from “until the end of term” to “a couple of years” to “forever.”  The researchers were amazed to find those answers sat perfectly aligned on the bell curve! The kids who saw themselves as musicians playing forever were head and shoulders above the rest, sometimes by as much as 400 percent—even if they practiced less! The kids who decided their music career would only last until the end of term were the same kids who were falling behind. The only common factor was their attitude to learning music before they even picked up an instrument.

This is not some mysterious, ethereal thing: It’s attitude!

Every now and again, someone on social media will say, “You’re so talented,” which is kind and lovely, but sometimes what’s unspoken is: “You’re lucky. You can just do this stuff. You were born with this ‘gift,’ and I wasn’t.” But I wasn’t a talented kid! I took art at school because I was lazy and it seemed an easy option. I wasn’t even allowed to take the art exams because my work was so bad. My adult life was spent happily stating I couldn’t draw a straight line.

Fast forward to 2014. I was 59 years old. Going off-piste one day on a visit to YouTube Land, I discovered art journaling. It looked like fun. You didn’t have to actually draw or paint anything recognizable, you could splash paint about and glue pictures from magazines. From there, I did a couple of courses (shoutouts to Tamara Laporte and Effy Wild), and I painted figures and faces. Then I did ICAD (the index card a day challenge: shoutout to Daisy Yellow). One of the daily prompts was “eye.” I hunted on YouTube for How to draw an eye and found a step-by-step tutorial. I followed along and, OMG, I drew a recognizable, not-bad-looking eye.

This was an aha moment. These techniques could be learned! Next, I drew an elephant, again from instructions! I was so excited. I thought, “I could learn to draw,” and there was no stopping me. I joined groups. Someone recommended Danny Gregory, and I joined Sketchbook Skool, founded by Danny and Koojse, and amazing tutors from all over the world opened my eyes and freed up my pen. I joined drawing memes and drew 100 faces, one each day, to see if it improved my technique. And guess what? It did! Now, I’m taking part in Imagining, the latest Sketchbook Skool Kourse (where our last tutor was the amazing Stefan G. Bucher).

For the last three years, I’ve drawn nearly every day. I’ve worked at it and studied hard. I try not to compare myself to others, and I absolutely LOVE what I’m doing.

Here are three sketches of my husband, Graham. I did the first in 2014 as part of my 100 Faces project. It was a massive improvement on previous portraits. The second I did in 2017, and I really pleased with it. The final portrait I just completed.

2014

2017

2019

 

So, when someone tells me I’m talented, with an undertone that suggests they couldn’t do it, I am tempted to sit them down and gently tell them that “Yes, yes, really, you can.” Their next line is usually “I’m too busy.” So busy there is not time in the day to take five minutes to draw something, anything? I learnt a lot about “busy” when I studied for my Open University degree with women who had three kids under school age and wrote their essays at the kitchen table in the early hours of the morning. And got their degrees. If you really want to do something, you will find the time.

Then the argument can shift to this: “Well, I’m too busy doing other things I prefer.” That’s fine. That’s an “I don’t want to,” rather than an “I can’t.” (Occasionally, I hear an “I’m too busy” that really means “What I do is so much more important than your little scribblings.” But, hey, for those, I just nod and smile, nod and smile.)

Apart from my immediate (and very lovely) family and friends, social media has been the biggest catalyst for my artistic achievements. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have continued without the support of Facebook friends and groups. Inspirational, supportive, and non-judgmental art groups are amazing and always offer the message Yes, you can!

Now, I’m not afraid to say, “I’m an artist,” with no apologies (and no “amateur” in the mix).

Paula is an artist, writer, and self-publisher, who lives in the middle of England. Visit her site, PaulaJeffery.com or on her Amazon author page.

Congratulations Station

VERY HEARTY CONGRATS TO TWO ARTIST PALS: PAULA JEFFERY on her recently published collection of dog portraits, DOG DAYS: The Art of the Dog, available on Amazon, and JADE HERRIMAN on being tapped to illustrate the upcoming personal style book DEAR CONFIDENCE, now funding on Kickstarter. (P.S. The bonus waiting for you at the bottom of Jade’s home page, her free journaling ebook, contains 25 fresh ways to get your thoughts and feelings on the page!)

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Kudos, too, to SHARON SPANO, PHD, on the completion of her new book, THE PURSUIT OF TIME AND MONEY, which can now be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Congratulations Station

JOAN MANSSON’S been busy! She’s published both her beautifully illustrated FINDING YOURSELF THROUGH COLLAGE and her charming LITTLE BOOK OF REIKI this month. Way to go, Joan!

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MAXINE WEINTRAUB has assembled a lifetime of personal stories in her collection THE MAYONNAISE JAR. Friends and family will be delighted with her humorous, appreciative take on these special moments in her life.

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Big shout out, too, to ALAN ZEMEL on receiving his Tai Chi teaching certificate from the Institute of Integral Quigong and Tai Chi!

Sometimes Art . . .

12191752_796580270470921_1313248362431253998_nDSCN0534IF REVISION* WERE A DOG, it would wear a hat and be foolish in public, because revision would want to get the most DOG out of each moment that it could. If revision were a fish, it would be out of water and dragging its school behind. If revision were an interior decorating scheme, it would cry out for spangle-y pinks and purples—unless it wanted the heat of reds and oranges—unless it wanted the cool underwater of blues and greens.

Sometimes art is the answer—but sometimes it’s revision. Sometimes it’s about seeing your work-in-progress as so many puzzle pieces, which you have to turn and match and try to fit. But sometimes it’s about diving deeper.

Sometimes revision wants to be smacked around, which can be a little scary—unless you have a safe word, and sometimes revision does have a safe word, in which case, it’s okay to play rough, which, sometimes, revision likes.

Revision’s about re-visioning, it’s about looking at what you’ve already done and asking what else you can do. But revision’s not “editing.” If writing were an injury, revision would be surgery, not massage.

Revision is a bit of a shepherd’s crook, tugging you off the stage when you think you’re ready to be out there. Revision knows when you haven’t fully paid your dues. Revision wants you to work harder—it’s stubborn like that. But revision will reward your work with a bag of gold so full you’ll be able to scatter coins far and wide, feeding the entire populace of your life—once you’ve done what revision wants you to do.

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* The art illustrating this post is a before-and-after of a piece I created in one of my art journals. It’s easy, often, to get stalled at an early stage of a piece of art or a piece of writing. Difficult, sometimes, to push through to the next level. Risky, always, to do so.

I’m grateful to Tammy Garcia—creator of Daisy Yellow Art and the extraordinary Daisy Yellow Facebook group—for her continuing inspiration. The lessons I’ve learned from Tammy and crew have helped me be more courageous on the page.

 

Writing Prompt: ICAD at Daisy Yellow!

SINCE JUNE FIRST, EVERY EVENING, after all the rest of the world is (reasonably) quiet, I sit at my art-making table, pull the next blank index card from a pile numbered 1-61, review the ICAD prompt, and start making something.

The brainchild of Daisy Yellow’s Tammy Garcia, ICAD, which stands for “Index Card a Day,” is a two-month challenge—complete with an awesome online community for encouragment and inspiration. The idea is simple; the practice, challenging. Starting June 1st, create something—anything!—on a 3×5″ index card, then lather, rinse, repeat—every day for 61 days. Missed the starting gun? With Tammy’s blessings, whatever day you start is your own ICAD #1. Just number 61 index cards and have at it.

static1.squarespace.comNot sure what to do? That’s part of the fun! Each day you face a teeny, tiny blank page. As Tammy says, Anything goes. Make flash cards to teach yourself Russian. Paint with acrylic paints. Drip india ink. Dye with espresso. Practice origami folds. Stitch. Sketch. Doodle. Stamp. Collage. Cut up, then weave the pieces back together. Write Haiku poems. Document your paint collection. Just dig in, using what you have and having fun!

When I asked Tammy about writers participating, she said, “Writers are welcome to join the ICAD challenge; it is a creativity challenge rather than an art challenge.” So if you don’t want to make visual art, use the daily prompts for character development, free-writing, or poem-making.

Writing Prompt

Get yourself an index card (or 61!), then visit one of the links in this post and find an image or a prompt to kick-start a teeny, tiny work of awesome.

Writing Prompt: Cool Tools

I LEARNED TO PLAY BASS on an old, semi-hollow body—devoid even of a maker’s name. With her short-scale neck (and the constellation of diamond-esque rhinestones I glued to her chunky black self), she was perfect for me. Sure, she fed back, but I just stuffed her full of newspaper and thrummed away.

Once I joined a band, I needed (I thought) a cool, grown-up bass—a Fender Precision bass, to be exact, like the one Aimee Mann played. So I bought a too-big, too-heavy bass that I never enjoyed. And gave the little black bass away.

Sometimes, an imperfect tool is actually just perfect.

The 2009 rockumentary IT MIGHT GET LOUD is a paean to the perfect tool: In it, Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack (Oh-My-God) White spend ninety-seven on-screen minutes playing dueling guitars and reminiscing about Axes of Christmas Past.

But more to this point: As the film opens, a black-and-white Holstein moos at Jack White as he hammers nails into a plank, secures a length of wire down the plank, shoves a juice glass under the wire, and attaches an electronic pick-up to the contraption.

Plugging in to a handy front-porch amp, Jack whacks at the newly-created thing. As the resulting fine, big, garage-worthy noise sends his bovine onlooker galloping, JW glances at the camera and gruffs out, “Who says you need a guitar?”

When writer/designer/bookstore co-owner/technophile/nano-shaman Writing Wench found herself stranded at work, tarot-less and needing answers, she, too, improvised. Imagining the objects scattered across her desk as symbols, signs, omens to be read, Wench invited a response. What called out was a tiny, broken-handled, toy-sized pair of pliers she’d found in the office parking lot. MsgAttachment

Giving this awkward little tool her attention, WW heard: Use the tools that are given to you—even if they seem too small, even if they appear broken—because the tools that come naturally have been designed especially for you and your work.

Writing Prompt

Start by making a list of tools in your life that don’t quite fit the bill: Car window stuck in the down position? Monitor too small? Still using a not-very-Smart phone? Let your annoyance to rise as you create your list—then pick the most irritating not-quite-right tool in your life and give it a voice. Allow it to tell you why it’s exactly what you (or your character) need at this moment.

Crossfit

MY ARTERIES, BUSTLING HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS DELIVERING urgent messages—OXYGEN! ADRENALINE! ESTROGEN!—are set to full dilation! Why? Because I’m cross-training my creativity.

When I realized my daily walk wasn’t exercising all my muscles, I added yoga to my schedule. Voila! I was cross-training! When my daily journaling practice wasn’t exercising all my creative muscles, I added collage-making.

When you only do one fitness activity . . . you may discover you are far less fit than you think,” says Todd Schlifstein, DO, in a WebMD article. Writer Colette Bouchez adds, “Implementing a variety of activity into your routines almost certainly guarantees you will be much more functionally active.”

For me, this holds true for creativity, too: Yoga + walking = increased stamina and agility. Collage-making + journaling = increased creativity! For you, it might be painting-by-numbers or urban orienteering. Just change it up. Cross-train your creativity, and see what you make of it!

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