I Failed Sketchbook Summer

I failed #SketchbookSummer.

I started the month ready and prepared. In a feat of Einsteinian mathematics, I counted the number of pages in my sketchbook (110), divided those up by the number of days in July (31) and came to the grand conclusion that I would need to complete 3.5 double spreads every day in order to fill my sketchbook by the end of the month. That didn’t seem so bad.

Week one, my momentum was really strong. Believe it or not, I even went over my weekly quota and drew more pages than I should have! I was feeling great.

Then what happened? I got into my head. I made excuses. I was “too tired” to draw. I let days go by without drawing anything at all. I told myself that I would catch up on the weekend, when I would magically be in the mood to draw. As anyone knows, that magical day when you wake up and have suddenly become a perfect version of yourself, full of motivation and discipline with magically acquired level of talent to match, never actually comes… and so the weekend would come and go and I’d be just as behind as ever.

That being said, today is July 31st (Happy Birthday Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling) and I have filled the large majority of a sketchbook! I am quite proud of that. My goal for #sketchbookSummer was not simply to put marks on paper, but instead to create a habit where I spent time every day with my sketchbook, and I did! I was writing, drawing, and experimenting within those 110 pages… I tried to stop treating the paper as a special object that should be saved for masterpieces. Instead, I viewed my sketchbook as a private playground uniquely designed for me, and it felt great! It is a practice I fully intend to keep up. Besides, masterpieces only emerge from sloppy, messy, ugly idea play, so go ahead “waste” a page in your sketchbook, see how it feels! After some time, chances are, it won’t feel like it was a wasted page after all because it, in some indefinable way, helped you get to where you are now. 

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Here are some of my favourite recent pages from my sketchbook:

“Make it work!” Mondays: … How do I animate?

I wanted my videos to have animation in them. Animation was something I’ve always wanted to learn how to do, and it would give my videos a much more surreal quality to them if I hand made every inch of the frame. It would also be much, much, much more time consuming. Was I ready to commit to a project like that? Did I even know how to realize a project like that?


I had messed around with a green screen in a class once, and found it surprisingly easy to use. This was encouraging. Maybe I could act in front of a green screen and then add in animated backgrounds?

All I know is I’ve got a lot of work to do…

Weekly Update: July 2nd-9th

This was week one of Sketchbook Summer. People seem to have a prompts list for this challenge, but I can’t find it! If you know where it is, please send me a link! Regardless, I am having a lot of fun drawing this week. Some days it has been a challenge to fill the 3.5 pages, but other days I get on a roll and more than make up for it. I did the math, and so long as I complete 24 spreads per week, I will be golden. The thing I find myself noticing the most is the fact that I have to wait for my paint to dry… and even though I’m still in the art-making-mood, I can’t flip to the next page because I need to wait for my paint to dry! Ah, first-world-artist problems, eh? 

 

This has been a busy week, mainly because of teaching. Highlights include: Going a packed aquarium with a group of 50 students while everyone else had the holiday Monday off; taking the same enormous group to the Toronto Zoo and slowly inching our way through “Africa,” baking under the hot sun; and finally, going shopping with 50 teenagers. The life of a teacher is extremely glamorous, no?

Back in April I had signed up for an online course, which now, I am kinda regretting. This course will qualify me to teach Gr. 11 and 12 English, which is good because it will open the door to me getting a job in a high school, but it adds more onto my daily work load than I would like. If anything, I am taking the fact that doing the course work feels like drudgery to be an indicator that  pursuing something more creative is the correct path for me. I am still on the Artists Way, week 8 just finished… and I am more and more confident in my ability to forge a creative life for myself. This online class has also taught me how bad I am at reading online. Does anyone else get that? What I don’t understand is how is it possible that I spent hours and hours of my life reading fan fiction from the ages of 12 to 20, yet give me a work of non fiction, an assignment, a message, and stick it on a screen and POOF, my eyes glide over it and it means nothing. This is why I flip flop about digital books; they’re just harder to read somehow.

This week, I wanted to talk about SemiSkimmedMin. At first, when I saw her videos, I was annoyed by their beauty and her phenomenal art ability. Yes, I was jealous. She was doing everything I wanted to do… and she had a cool British accent to boot! Not fair! Something drew me back to her channel this week, and after I had blinked a few times to clear the jealousy from my eyes, I discovered what a true wealth of knowledge her channel was! I learned so much from her 30 ways to fill a sketchbook videos —and I haven’t even watched them all!

She recommended a great channel for life drawing videos, and had the great idea of going to google street view and drawing landscapes. Duh! How simple, FREE and amazing is that! I’ve been putting off going to life drawing classes for months now, blaming the cost of a class, fitting the class into my schedule, and the fact that all of the classes are just a little bit farther from home than I’d like them to be… and now I don’t have any excuses! I can do them from home on my computer and keep being the homebody I so desperately want to be! I can definitely see doing google street view drawings when it is way too cold to go outside. Shout out to you, Canadian winter! I highly recommend going to check out her channel. I guarantee you will be inspired!

What have I been reading? (in five-ish words or less)

  1. Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers by Mike Sacks
    “Funny people being inspiring. Sth-aaap!”

    I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves comedy, television or movies, or is thinking about living a creative life, or entering “show business”

  2. How to be everything: A guide for those who (still) don’t know what they want to be when they grow up – by Emilie Wapnick
    “Multipotentialite: Hear me roar!”

  3. Draw from your head: A step by step system for drawing the human figure without a model – Doug Jamieson
    “Yass, teach me how bodies work!”

What have I been watching? (In five-ish words or less)

  1. SemiSkimmedMin
    “Let me be you, please!”

  2. Labyrinth
    “I think I need to have watched this as a kid for it to have been good. Bowie’s sexy as hell, though.*”

*Please don’t hate me for not liking this movie. It was just a little too lame for my mindset at the time, maybe? I would love to read some good Labyrinth fanfiction, though… this movie seems ripe for some good stuff! 

That Creative Life: Getting back on the horse!

The past  couple of weeks have been unfortunately busier than anticipated. I felt quite drained a lot of the time. My morning routine went all to shit, and I definitely felt the negative effects. My online course was wrapping up and so there were assignments and final reflections to write. At the same time, my teaching job was starting up, so I had lesson plans to create. I suddenly had a bunch of things on my plate that I didn’t want to do. I wanted to keep working on my art and my blog, but the idea of doing so felt irresponsible. I kept telling myself, just get those nagging tasks done and then you can go back to creating. The problem is, my brain is really good at telling me I should do nothing at all instead of getting my homework done. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had spent the time doing work that I loved, for fun, while procrastinating… but no, instead I just wasted time with nothingness. I don’t know about you, but when I procrastinate, because I feel the weight of my to-do list looming over me, I can’t even ENJOY the internet junk food I consume when procrastinating. I’m too stressed and flit from social media site to social media site, searching for the rush I want but am incapable of feeling. It really is a negative cycle, and one that can only be broken by actually doing the work.

Eventually, my brain will snap out of it’s frantic internet squirrel mode and begrudgingly decide that it was finally time to get this stupid work out of the way. And then, while I hated every minute of it, I would complete my homework. Part of the reason why I dread homework so much is that it always seems to take way longer than I think it will. Maybe I’m just a slow worker, I don’t know.

One of Gretchen Rubens’ Happiness Project resolutions was to “Act the way you want to feel.” She didn’t want to be tired when her daughters wanted to play at the end of a long day, so she tried to act like she was full of energy and found that, by doing so, her tanks were refilled! I’ve been experimenting with this idea, and find that while it may not work all the time to trick myself into actually liking doing work I don’t like doing, it has been able to put me in an energetic creative mood when I was otherwise “too tired” to do so before. 

Once I start doing something creative, my whole mindset improves. It took a quarter century but I’ve discovered how important having creativity in my life. A creative outlook is vital.

The important part is that you start back up. Don’t beat yourself up for stopping, or falling off the horse as it were. Remember: Day one is better than one day, after all.

What always invigorates you? What is your favourite thing to do? What do you wish you did more of? What do you “not have time for?”

“MAKE IT WORK” Mondays: What’s in a name?

Leslie Taylor’s Manic Neon Wasteland.

Where the hell did that mouthful come  from?

I had been reading a lot about branding, and had been interested in starting a blog for the longest time. The thing that always stopped me was the fact that you needed to define your audience. How would you describe yourself? I flip flopped. Was I trying to make a personal website, or create something for a character? Around this time I had read “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon and he recommends just putting your work out there, because it will attract a support network of like-minded individuals who will give you constructive criticism and feedback. That sounded great. So I made this blog, bought the domain name and everything.

I wanted to find my tribe. My audience then became me. I wanted to attract people who were like me. I started writing posts that shared music I liked with the hopes that other people would like that song too.

“Okay, so, then, self,” I asked myself, “What do you like?”

“Um,” I said, “I like YouTube, and Vines, and memes, and weird things like Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, and Drag Queens…. I like things brightly coloured and fast moving and funny.”

“Fast moving… almost manic, would you say?” I prodded.

“Yes.”

“What’s your current favourite colour?” I knew the answer to this question but I asked anyway. Colour is a huge component to branding after all.

“Chartuse, almost neon green… may it never go out of fashion!” I crossed my fingers and prayed to the gods and goddesses of fast fashion.

“Okay…” Where could I go with this? I wondered. “What do you like to do for fun?” If I wanted to attract people like me, I had to figure out what I liked doing on the internet in my free time.

“I like to spend my time on tumblr looking for manic comedic content, neon and bright coloured artwork and clothing… kinda like wading through an internet wasteland!”

“I have it! The perfect name! Manic Neon Wasteland!”

This of course was a fictionalization of what really happened, but somehow I was able to distill the stuff I like on the internet to those three words. I think they’re quite fitting.

“MAKE IT WORK” Mondays: Excuse me, how do I write?

Script writing. Ugh…

Finding Leslie’s voice was definitely the hardest part. I say “was” like I have found it, but I am definitely still working on it.

What was she going to say? I had no idea! Was she going to be a character, with a whole backstory, a history, a family? Did I want to commit to writing my entire blog in her voice? I don’t think I have the creative chops for that! I got some criticism about my creative writing as a child and while I know it was unwarranted, and I have since written stories that I am proud of, I still struggle with seeing myself as a writer, as someone who is capable of telling stories.

I would watch Max Headroom interviews and want to be him. My biggest influence for the show, though was Buddy Cole from Kids in the Hall. He’s always mesmerized me, even as a kid watching the show on the Comedy network (channel 44, what what!).


I wanted to create a character who gave witty monologues like that. Problem was, I’d have to write those monologues myself…

I sat down at an empty word document. It stayed empty for a long time. Who was Leslie Taylor and what exactly happened in the Manic Neon Wasteland? I asked the empty page those questions, and slowly but surely typed out the answer… and that answer will be the first video from Leslie Taylor… which will hopefully be released before pigs fly and hell freezes over. I’m working on it! 

BABY STEPS TO A MORE CREATIVE LIFE

Last week I wrote about how to live a more creative and fulfilling life. If you’d like to read my recommendations, suggested book list, please check out my post.

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron is always at the top of my list of recommendations. There is no denying that reading this book and completing the 12 week course is a life changing and fruitful endeavour. From my experience, however, it’s a deceptively hard course to complete. I don’t want to dissuade you from trying. Struggle brings growth! I tried to complete the course last year but the timing wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t ready. Don’t beat yourself up if you start and fall off the wagon. You will have learned something just by trying, I guarantee.

If, like me a year ago, you don’t think you are ready to do the full 12 week course, I have developed a “baby-steps” path to a more creative life.

BABY STEPS TO A MORE CREATIVE LIFE

  1. Read the introduction to “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron to learn about Morning Pages
  2. Write your morning pages every day. If you’re not a morning person, they don’t need to be written first thing in the morning as Julia Cameron recommends. In my opinion, when you do them is not as important as the fact that you do them. Morning pages allow you to have deep conversations with yourself. I feel like I’ve only met myself through those three daily pages of writing. Morning pages are a place where you start out by complaining about your day, planning your to-do lists, ranting about what happened yesterday, and worrying about the future… but that sort of stuff can only take up so many words. Around 1.5 pages in, I find that I run out of mundane things to talk about. This is where the real magic starts. This is where you get to talk to the real you and discover what you really want to do, how you want to spend your time, what you’ve been missing, what you’ve always wanted to try, etc. This clarity doesn’t come right away. Oh no! There are definitely days when I’ve written “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write” over and over for a while until I found something else to write. Getting to know yourself is a slow process, but one that will happen through the morning pages.
  3. Commit to doing something you love every day. The morning pages help you discover what you really want to do. My pages revealed that I wanted to get serious about developing my multimedia art skills. I challenged myself to do a drawing every day. I didn’t say it had to be a finished, polished drawing – I just had to put pen to paper and doodle every day. If you have a musical instrument that you’ve been neglecting, challenge yourself to pick it up every day. Want to write a novel? Challenge yourself to write 500 words every day. So many artists say that the key to being a successful artist is showing up and doing the work every day. Ten to thirty minutes of practice will make a big difference, I guarantee. The habit isn’t that hard to pick up, I promise. It might suck for the first week or two as you stress about fitting it into your day, but soon a day without doing it will feel like a day wasted. Stick with it!

Other things I recommend:

Read up on Minimalism. Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of your possessions and living in a sterile black and white room; it’s about simplifying your life so that you can live your life with intention. It’s about surrounding yourself with only what you need and love so that you can live the life you want. Minimalism has many different forms and philosophies, so I recommend reading as many POVs as you can. Some of my favourite minimalists blogs are: Jenny Mustard, Zen Habits, No Sidebar, The Minimalists, and Break the Twitch

Unplug!  This one is hard, but it pays off in spades. Spend some time with no TV, no internet, no books, no music, no news, nothing! If there is one surefire way to force yourself to create something, it’s being bored and being alone with your own thoughts. Challenge yourself to do media deprivation for a day, or a weekend, or a week! Sit, observe the world around you, look out the window, sing the songs that are stuck in your head (and you may only know a few of the words), play with your cat or your dog, take a walk… all of this is good! All of it will get you out of your digital world of distractions, will help you stop comparing yourself to other people and their fabulous facebook lives, and it will plunk you, unapologetically, in the centre of your own life. That is a hard place to be, it turns out, but it is a fertile place. With no distractions, you have no choice but to ask yourself “how do I want to live my life?” If you have sympathetic roommates, or family members, ask them to join you in this challenge. I did it with LB  for a whole week and it really helped to have someone else “suffering” along side me for a week. We encouraged each other to keep going and shared our frustrations and discoveries. It was a powerful week!   

Talk to your friends and family. Ask your parents or siblings about what you loved doing as a child. There may be a favourite toy, hobby or something you always wanted to do as a kid, but may have forgotten about. Is there something you always talk about wanting to do but have never done? Something you talk passionately about? Something you would never dream of doing, though you secretly want to? A club you were a part of in high school or university that you talk about non-stop even though it was years ago? Finding out the impression you leave on the people closest to you through what you say and what you share with them can help you figure out what you should try out, or discover what you’ve been denying yourself. 

If you have your own tips and tricks, things that helped you find a life of creativity, please share them below! If you try out any of the things I recommend, please let me know how they go! You can become the artist you want to be and live a life you love. Good luck! 🙂


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“MAKE IT WORK!” MONDAYS: Introducing a look behind the scenes


Every Monday I want to share with you an element of my artistic process. This weekly segment, “Make it work!” Mondays,  is one half a personal endeavour, a journal of what I’ve been doing and how I’ve been progressing (or a document of regression), and one half an exploration into the artists process. I love learning behind the scenes information about things! I love learning how things were made, how ideas came about, what problems came up and how those problems were overcome. I know I’m not alone with this fascination, so I’d like to share my behind the scenes with you!

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I have been developing a character, Leslie Taylor, since January. It’s been a slow, slow, frustratingly slow process. I’ve been stuck seeing visions of the end goal and how great it would be if my ideas came to life without knowing how to get started. 

Eventually, like pulling teeth, bits and pieces of my vision has come to life. The fog has cleared a  bit and now I have a better sense of what I need to do.

Thanks to playing around with pastels, I have a better sense of what she is going to look like. I love hallowe’en and make up and masks and drag so I wanted to create a character that would combine all of those elements. I have always been drawn to Max Headroom, the witty, electronically distorted AI music interviewer and wanted to play around with an idea like that… but for the internet age. I wanted a strange character. Something otherworldly and bizarre, yet still friendly. She would be the drag version of myself: excited, passionate, nerdy, goody-goody, and probably not as funny as she thinks she is. 

Voila, my pink, red, and blue monster!