Ahhhh. Here it is, the day I’ve been working toward. There was no nice clean line between buried under work and wooo I’m free!—it’s been a gradual digging-out process, like shoveling snow. But my walks are clear now and I can at least emerge from the cave.
I’m blinking a bit. It’s ironic that this hemisphere is heading toward its darkest, coldest season, and here I am feeling like spring is on the way. The icicles haven’t even formed yet and I’m already hearing them drip. Sometimes the seasons of our personal lives don’t sync up with what’s happening in nature.
I’m glad, though, that the chilly weather, the rain, the early dark, will keep me physically cloistered a bit longer. I need some time to regroup, to restore balance. And of course there’s the holidays to consider…I’ve just barely begun the shopping and the house is still wearing autumn clothes.
This time last year I started a practice of writing Morning Pages a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Three pages longhand immediately upon waking, before opening any tabs or apps. I kept it up for a couple of months, then fizzled out. Resumed the practice in June and shifted my work routine so that right after finishing my morning pages, I worked on the novel for a couple of hours before breakfast. That was a wonderfully productive schedule for two or three months, and then summer ended and the family’s morning rhythm changed, and I had less solo time before breakfast. I dropped the morning pages and kept plugging away at the novel.
I’m shifting back now to my summertime rhythm, with tweaks. Up early, twenty minutes of quiet writing time, then Huck joins me in the studio for an early morning snuggle and chat. We watch the black sky fade to navy blue, steel blue, sky blue streaked with cream-colored clouds. The birds wake up, crows winging past the window, goldfinches arriving at the feeder, juncoes perching on the rain dome. Steven wakes for school and comes in to tear off the page on my ‘year of tiny pleasures‘ calendar. Then both boys scoot out to get their breakfast and I try to work for another hour or two. The temptation to climb back in bed next to Scott for a few minutes is strong, and some mornings I succumb. Never for long, because he gets up to make Steve’s lunch, and then the bus comes, and the girls begin arriving in the kitchen, and the busy day has begun.
For the next few weeks, instead of morning pages I’m going to do the lessons in Holly Wren Spaulding‘s 21 Day Poetry Challenge. I’m excited: I don’t think I’d be enthusiastic about getting up in the early dark on these cold December mornings just to write my morning pages. (I find the pages to be a valuable practice, but I don’t enjoy writing them. I’ve never been a journaler.) The theme for Holly’s course is “interior,” which is just right for this change-of-season I’m in. I also plan to choose a corresponding art practice for these twenty-one days, something simple—a daily sketch of some kind, perhaps sparked by a Creativebug* lesson, perhaps just something on my desk. My sketchbook practice has been a bit sporadic of late, although I did manage some good work this fall.
I recently read Austin Kleon‘s Show Your Work, a book that felt like a fresh pair of batteries for my blog. It made me realize that “showing my work” was exactly what I did here from 2005-2015: I was thinking out loud, learning in public, about homeschooling and parenting. Tidal Homeschooling grew out of that pondering. My sketchbook habit great out of it. A lot of things grew out of it! And I realized that’s what I want to return to. I don’t yet know where in the day a regular blog practice will fit but I plan to spend December playing with rhythm to see if something clicks.
What does your December look like?
*That’s an affiliate link because there’s a sweet deal on right now: three months of Creativebug for $1. I consider our CB subscription to be the best five dollars I spend every month.
On Saturday we went to a pop-up sale for one of our favorite artists, Lisa Congdon. You’ve heard me rave about her Creativebug classes and her art, which makes me happy. She was selling items from her Etsy shop at Collage, that store with the giant wall of washi tape. I ventured out in the rain with four of the kids to do some Christmas shopping at Lisa’s sale.
Rilla, who has taken several of Lisa’s Creativebug classes* with me, was so excited to meet her. Wish I’d gotten a better picture! She also made a furry friend. Equal levels of excitement, I would say.
Afterward we did some window shopping on Alberta Ave. and then inhaled some truffle fries at Big Little Burger while we wait for Scott and Huck to pick us up. Rose and Beanie hung around for root beer floats and more window shopping. A birthday present or two may have been acquired. ’Tis that season, too, for us.
This is a stellar deal: If you’re a new Creativebug customer, you can try a membership for just $1 for three months. I’ve raved about Creativebug many times in the past—we make good use of our subscription ($4.95/month), which gives us unlimited access to hundreds of classes. I pretty much always have a Creativebug challenge going in my sketchbook. Particular favorites are classes by Lisa Congdon, Pam Garrison, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, and Yao Cheng. Those all fall under the drawing and painting category, but Creativebug offers dozens of classes in knitting, crocheting, sewing, baking, soapmaking, and loads of other crafty things. I really consider it one of our best and most economical homeschooling resources.
Affiliate links, but I’m a genuinely happy customer. I couldn’t be more impressed with this platform.
The Round 1 Cybils Award panels have made their selections, and finalists will be announced on Jan. 1st. My YA Fiction team read a total of 140 books (more if you count one or two titles we wound up shifting to YA Speculative Fiction). I finished with a personal tally of 63 novels read. Sixty-three! My eyes is tired. 🙂
This page, which includes Cybils and non-Cybils reads, is about thirty books behind. Yikes.
My reward for finishing Cybils round 1 was setting up my calendars for 2017. I had to laugh when I realized that everything on my Christmas and birthday lists this year was a calendar of some sort. The Lisa Congdon wall calendar for my desk area; a Japanese woodblock print calendar for the living room (Rilla and I are obsessed with Hokusai lately); a 2017 Hobonichi Weeks to be my carry-with-me appointment book; and (swoon) new seasonal inserts and planner embellishments for my Wild Simplicity Daybook (which arrived as a gift from my treasured friend, Lesley). Anyway, I have started the task of entering upcoming events and work deadlines into my planner and appointment book, and I’m enjoying setting up my Daybook for a new season of high tide. (I use the Daybook to record our homeschooling adventures. It makes a truly gorgeous chronicle, and even more so this year with the earth-friendly “stickers”—lovely bits of artwork to cut out and paste in).
It’s a rare overcast morning here, so I’ll have to wait until later to catch photos of everything. Bit of a tease to post about plannery things without pictures, but what can you do?
A new year means new sketchbook plans. I was delighted to see that Lisa Congdon is offering a new class at Creativebug: the Creative Boot Camp. Rilla and I will be spending our Saturday nights this way for the next six weeks.
(Note: that’s an affiliate link. Creativebug was offering a holiday special of a $15 Amazon card with purchase of a gift subscription—as far as I can tell, this appears to be still going on. As I’ve mentioned before, I consider our $4.95/month Creativebug subscription to be one of the absolute best expenses in our homeschooling budget. Unlimited arts and craft classes, beautifully presented.)
I should have titled this post “what I’m busy with this week besides work.” The assignment crunch that kept my blogging sparse during the past two months will continue through January and beyond. But it’s all good stuff. I winced, though, when my friend Jenn mentioned that she’d seen so little of me here and on social media that she wondered if I’d given up the internet altogether. Not by choice, that’s for sure! I’m trying to work out a short daily formula of sorts that I could apply to revitalize Bonny Glen in the new year. The old listography daily happy lists, or Instagram-style with a photo and notes, maybe. And a return to my Booknotes of yore. I miss them! And after the Cybils finalists are announced on Sunday, I’ll have lots of YA novels to talk about…
I have loved watching your journey of learning to sketch and draw. I want to start myself but I’m nervous. Have you always been a person who doodled etc? Or did it start when you made it a goal to sketch everyday? Seeing if there is hope for a person like me who has never done it naturally but has always been inspired by others.
I answered with a long reply, which I’ve decided to pull into its own post here. Tl:dr version: If I can do it, anyone can.
Hanni, start, start!!! I wasn’t a doodler before…I used to try to draw as a kid and was always so frustrated by my inability to make anything look the way I wanted it to. In college I took a costume design course that included a brief unit on Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. That book blew me away. And in doing those exercises in class, I was astonished at how much better I got, and how rapidly. But then I dropped it again…for over 20 years.
I started this daily practice with Lisa Congdon’s line drawing class at Creativebug in fall 2014. From there I jumped to Sketchbook Skool and was really inspired and energized by those classes. Or—I guess actually I started with a Creativebug class on art journaling with Dawn DeVries Sokol* before the Congdon line drawing class, and I liked that one but found that what I really wanted was to learn to draw (vs art journaling which I always admire when I see other people’s but don’t seem drawn to in my own practice).
Since then, Creativebug has added SO MANY great drawing classes (all for your $5/mo subscription). I especially like the ones that are Daily Drawing Challenges because they walk you through how to draw specific things. (I’m currently obsessed with spatulas. Don’t ask me why. Just something really satisfying about that shape, LOL.)
For dipping your toes in without spending money, I would recommend trying out some of Koosje Koene’s free “Draw Tip Tuesday” videos on Youtube. So good and totally doable. Search YT for them and then maybe scroll back to some earlier ones and work forward. You’ll see that a lot of the stuff in my sketchbook comes from Koosje’s lessons.
Liz and Roz are both gifted instructors. Their online classes are video-based and include extremely detailed PDF handouts to download.
Backing up to your question: Honestly, I don’t have natural drawing talent. I think in words, not pictures, and I can’t just sit down and draw something out of my head and have the angles and shapes look right. I’m frustrated a LOT of the time by my shortcomings. But natural drawing talent isn’t required to be able to *learn* to draw. If you can sign your name, you can already make all the basic shapes that every single drawing is composed of. That was one of the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain revelations that floored me, way back when. Anyone can learn.
Danny Gregory (the other co-founder of Sketchbook Skool along with Koosje) makes a distinction between small-a art (which we can all make) and capital-A Art (you know, museum stuff). 😉 I’m not striving for Art, just art. My sketchbook journey has made me really happy. About every ten pages I draw something I actually like. 🙂 And you know what, for now that’s plenty. I usually mess up the page with something else, but sketching is something I do that truly is about process, not product. The pens and paints feel so good in my hand. Mark-making, color-swirling—it’s incredibly satisfying.
And I like having this thing I do that is purely about personal satisfaction. Writing is the Thing I have always done, the Thing that defines me—and because I’m good at it, it’s the Thing I do for a living. Which…puts you in a different relationship with the Thing. If that makes sense. Sketching owes me nothing, and I owe it nothing. No demands beyond the easy five-minutes-a-day minimum I impose upon myself. Most days, it’s much more than that, because once I get sucked in, I never want to start.
I often yearn for a better eye, a stronger and more original sense of artistic vision in my work (like the brilliant creative vision I see manifested in the work of the sketchbook artists I admire on Instagram), and as I said I get plenty frustrated with my fumbling, my un-originality. But that’s all before and after the fact. DURING, when the pen is in my hand, all of that drops away and I experience the pure, absorbed joy of mark-making. That’s what keeps me at it, not a sense of progress (although when I look back, I can see that I have improved).
I hope you’ll dive in! Let me know if you wind up taking any classes…
A last thought. When I began taking online classes, I found that many instructors speak very strongly against sketching in pencil, on the grounds that it makes beginners too fussy, too prone to erase. I will say that while I understand that thinking (and do a fair amount of sketching directly in ink myself, because I’m addicted to pens), for me that advice was a misdirect. I spent about eighteen months obediently eschewing pencil before I had a light bulb moment of: oh wait, I love how pencil feels going on the page. And boom, just like that, things opened wide. I love pencil sketching and then putting ink over it. That suits me really well. Diminished a lot of my frustration over ‘ruining’ things because it takes me a few tries to get the shape right. And I just plain like the texture! It’s funny that with everything else in life (homeschooling, ahem) my entire approach is: take what works and do my own thing with it, but with drawing I was quite cowed by authority at first.
I’ll close with some books Rilla and I have enjoyed working from, these past two years. When I’m stumped for material, I pull out one of them and tackle a page.
Rilla and I are looking forward to working through this book together: Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way (Guided Sketchbook): Sketch, Paint, and Doodle Through One Creative Yearby Jennifer Orkin Lewis (AugustWren on Instagram—my fave!). This is one of those books you’re meant to and paint directly in, and I’m excited to think we’ll be creating a little archive for ourselves of our shared sketchbook journey. She’s been my staunch companion every step of the way, so far. Danny and Koosje and Roz are the superstars of Rilla’s world.
(Jennifer Lewis also offers a wonderful course on painting with gouache at Creativebug, as well as a Daily Painting Challenge. I’m making slow progress through both, because gouache takes a bit more planning for me than just reaching for my watercolor palette, but these are marvelous classes.)
You’ve heard me rave about Creativebug plenty of times in the past. Regular price is $4.95/month for access to dozens hundreds of art and craft classes. Rilla and I have taken many, many of these classes during our Saturday Night Art Dates. Highly recommended! (Especially the Lisa Congdon and Jennifer Orkin Lewis classes.)
They’re running a special right now: three months of access for $1. Can’t beat that deal!
Full disclosure: in this post, I’m going to rave about Creativebug. The links are affiliate links, which means if you use them to sign up for a subscription, I’ll get a small commission. This is not, however, a sponsored post—I have not been paid to write it. I’m speaking out of my personal experience with the excellent classes offered by Creativebug. At the bottom, I’ll put an affiliate banner ad that will give you a month’s free trial of the service.
I’ve posted about Creativebug many times before. Of all the online arts-and-crafts learning sites, Creativebug is the one I use most regularly. (But if you have questions about Skillshare, Big Picture Classes, Craftsy, or my beloved Sketchbook Skool, please feel free to ask. What I really need to do is post notes on all the classes I—or we, because Rilla and I spend a lot of time on these sites together—have taken. Okay. There’s another project to add to my list.) At $4.95/month, I consider Creativebug the best deal around: your subscription buys you unlimited access to the library of over 700 classes in knitting, crocheting, baking, cake decorating, sewing, paper crafts, decorating, painting, drawing, quilting, and jewelrymaking.
The Creativebug classes I enjoy the most are the Daily [drawing/painting/art journaling] Challenges. There’s a new challenge almost every month—but if the current month’s medium doesn’t speak to you, your subscription gives you access to all previous challenges and other classes. This month’s Daily Creativity Challenge is unique in that the 31 short lessons are taught by the behind-the-scenes members of the Creativebug staff, rather than a single artist. Unique, too, is the broader topic: instead of daily drawing or painting challenges, this topic list is an eclectic mix of activities such as: mail art, stenciled t-shirts, scarf tying, paper beads, hand turkeys (LOL), and even “iPhone app re-org,” which is tomorrow’s topic.
How I approach these daily challenge classes:
Do I keep up with every single day’s assignment? Oh heavens no. I’m a fits-and-starts kind of person. A creative binge-er. One might even describe my tendencies as, dare I say, tidal. Ahem. But for this very reason—the way my interest and commitment ebbs and flows—I appreciate the daily-challenge framework. The recurring ping of a new lesson helps bring me back to a creative practice when my attention has wandered. Sure, I might wind up doing a whole week’s worth of drawing challenges in one go—that’s quite all right. In fact, that’s a pretty common way for Rilla and me to spend our Saturday night art dates. The daily videos are short, just a few minutes each. We can work through several in an hour, filling a page or two in our sketchbooks.
To share or not to share:
A lot of participants post each day’s work on social media, especially on Instagram, where there is a lively, supportive community of artsy folks. I share my own work…not very often. I’m pretty shy about it, to be honest. And it’s much better for me to work under the assumption that no one will see my artwork except me (and Rilla)—or else I’ll feel inhibited and perfectionist. But when I draw something I actually like, I sometimes post it.
Creativebug daily challenge classes I have taken and thoroughly enjoyed:
I’ve (we’ve) taken a lot of other Creativebug classes besides the daily drawing challenges, but I’m tired of pasting in links. 🙂 However, I will say that the watercolor classes taught by Yao Cheng are entirely splendid. Rilla and I have spent many a Saturday night absorbed in Yao’s assignments. Oh, and I quite enjoyed Flora Bowley’s “Intuitive Painting” class, which focused on acrylic paints.
This new Daily Creativity Challenge promises to veer into some territory I’m not spending much time in these days (textiles, for example), but I’ll enjoy watching the videos nonetheless, and I look forward to the sparking of new ideas as we go. It’s all fodder.
Famous Men of Rome. Rilla’s first time. Rose and Beanie are listening in—they know these stories well and enjoy them, and it’s amusing to them to watch Rilla encounter them for the first time. She’s doing a lot of narration afterward, mostly at dinner in the guise of “tell Daddy all about Romulus and Remus.” Sometimes during or after a chapter, I use the whiteboard to help her remember names.
Whiteboards in general. You guys, I use them for EVERYTHING. A million years ago I made the brilliant move of buying a whole bunch of scratch-and-dent markerboards for a song. The larger size are perfect as painting boards, underneath our paper—they wipe up easily and can be moved elsewhere while the masterpieces dry. We also use the big ones for things we’re trying to learn by heart. Presidents and their terms, British monarch family trees, and so forth. The smaller ones fit handily beside my chair and are great for our Latin lessons. I’ll write out a sentence and let them parse it. Meanwhile, Huck is keeping himself busy nearby with another markerboard and my best dry-erase pens.
Creativebug. The other day I happened upon this rather amazing site. It offers video tutorials in a zillion artsy and crafty pursuits, everything from embroidery to cake decorating. I signed up for a free two-week trial subscription, and if you’re my friend on Facebook you know I’ve been having a whale of a time. Rilla and I have already devoured illustrator Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing course, and we’re three-quarters of the way through Dawn Devries Sokol’s Art Journaling class. We have Art on our schedule twice a week after lunch, but that’s not been nearly enough to accommodate the creative outpourings inspired by our Creativebug explorations. I’m finding the Lisa Congdon class has been particularly inspirational and instructive, spurring me to do a bit of sketching when I hit a snag in writing. Sometimes my other jobs—raising kids, educating them, managing a household, editing—plant me pretty solidly in my left brain and I need a right-brain pursuit like drawing (even though I’m no visual artist, as the whiteboard above attests*) to exercise my creative muscles. I’m enjoying, too, painting backgrounds in the art journal and returning to them later to practice line drawing. Rose plans to watch all the cake decorating videos. Beanie’s interested in the embroidery. Right now Creativebug is offering a whole MONTH of free trial (use promo code “CRAFT,” good through Sept. 14, and thanks Kortney for the heads up on that!), so if your interest is piqued, now’s the time to give it a try. After the trial, a subscription is $9.95/month for unlimited courses, or $9.95 to buy individual courses that you can access forever.
*In my defense, I did draw a lot of it upside down.
20 Ways to Draw a Tulip. Lisa Congdon mentioned this book of hers during her line drawing tutorial. I’m in love with it. It’s tulips and 44 other flowers. Twenty ways to draw each of them, from simple-and-sweet to highly detailed to stylized and folk-arty. Wonderful, wonderful, out of all hooping.
And guess what’s back. ModPo!!! The best Coursera class I’ve taken, and I’ve taken some darn good ones. Modern and Contemporary Poetry with Al Filreis and his MFA students at University of Pennsylvania. Last year I watched about 75% of the videos. This year I’m hoping to tune into the entire course, but listen, even if you only manage a single video all semester, you’ve gained something. The discussions are engaging, thoughtful, and lively. My highest recommendation.
Best of all: Wisteria and Sunshine, Lesley Austin’s lovely membership site, has reopened its doors. There’s nothing else like it on the web. Lesley’s posts and pictures are nourishment for the soul, and I always come away with something to ponder, something to act on, something to cherish—just like in the Charlotte Mason motto about how a child should always have Something to Love, Something to Think About, and Something to Do.