Archive for Drawing


An Un-Natural Talent?

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Hurricane Sandy hit the NJ/NY area hard–physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The range of loss was huge–I lost power for a few days but that was all. Most of my friends in Brooklyn were completely untouched, but couldn’t get anywhere while the subways weren’t working. A colleague in Long Island lost her entire house and felt lucky to escape with her life.

One thing everyone shares, though, is the discombobulation.

Every time I see someone I haven’t seen since the storm, the conversation usually starts there–are you safe–who was affected and how. Eventually one of us mentions having difficulty getting back to business or being productive. When I describe it as feeling “discombobulated” whomever I’m talking to quickly agrees–yes, that’s how I feel. Discombobulated.

It’s made me remember that we humans are like dogs–we’re pack animals. Social. Some of us in this region are struggling mightily, some of us not so much, but all of us feel it.  We are recovering together and even though the physical environment for many of us is back to normal, we, as a group, are not yet.

This reminder has made me think about ALL the ways our individual feelings are created by our larger associations–we are also our families, our cultures, and our environments. And those collective connections affect the way we think, how we feel and what we believe.

The Collective Unconscious

For instance, I was listening to an NPR story about differing Western and Eastern beliefs about school and learning–how in this country we tend to believe that someone succeeds in school because they are naturally intelligent, and how many Asian cultures believe that someone succeeds in school through hard work. Intelligence is much less discussed and focused on.

The story described a study that was done with American and Japanese first-graders–they were all given a math problem beyond their grade level to see how long they’d struggle with it.

The American children stopped after 30 seconds (literally) and explained that it was too hard, that they hadn’t gotten to that yet. A classroom of Japanese 6 year olds worked on the problem for the entire hour and only stopped when the researchers intervened because finding something hard, or a struggle, wasn’t a reason to stop.

Interesting difference.

So of course the commentator went on to discuss how there were strengths and weaknesses in both,but I walked away from that story completely enamored with this concept of treating struggle as a normal part of the learning process rather than functioning as a sign one should quit.

Not only because it IS a natural part of the learning process, but because it buys you so much…everything–time, patience, mercy–you don’t have to decide you’re a failure, for instance, if you haven’t mastered something in whatever unreasonable amount of time in which you usually reach that conclusion–it makes you treat all the obstacles in any project as normal.

In terms of creativity and art making, most people I meet think that you’re either a natural talent or you’re not. Which actually doesn’t leave much room for struggle and perseverance.

For instance, a friend of mine confided that she’d like to start drawing again, but she can’t bring herself to do it because her husband is so much better than she is. He also draws all the time.

I reminded her that it would actually be kind of weird (and unfair even) if she could draw as well as he when she never does it and he does it all the time. She smiled ruefully. How can you let yourself start creating if you think that struggle means you should read the writing on the wall and give up?

And if you think about it, it’s actually a kind of weird back-handed compliment to her husband–like, sure, he does it, but he’s naturally good at it, so it’s not an effort somehow–which actually completely disregards his commitment and makes the time he’s put in invisible.

Untying the Knot

Respecting the struggle is respecting yourself. Accepting the struggle is honoring the process.

And yet, when things get hard, it’s so tantalizing to believe, “I guess I don’t have that special knack, that natural talent.” It’s hard to sink into the struggle with loving patience–and one of the reasons it’s hard is because you’re not alone in this belief– it turns out we have a collective cultural belief about ease and talent that makes us judge ourselves harshly and give up too quickly.

It’s hard because you’re not just working to untie the knot of your own confusion and unhelpful beliefs, you’re un-tying yourself from the entire culture’s knot of confusion and unhelpful beliefs.

But just because it’s a struggle to buck the tide of the larger society, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And as our culture ALSO likes to say “If it isn’t hard, it isn’t worth doing.” (Yay for contradiction!)

Do you allow yourself to struggle? Do you expect yourself to be good at something instantly? Do you not like to struggle with art skills in particular because you think you’re should be better at it than you are because you’re arty?

Please share your thoughts in the comments, your experiences might help someone else!

If you liked that post, then try these...

Get Up & Dance!

Arrested by the Art Police?

Creative Spark

For many readers, even if you don’t watch TV yourself, there’s a TV in your house that’s being watched.

And maybe it can feel weird or hard or anti-social to sequester yourself away from everyone else to do your 20 Minute Technique. So you don’t.

Especially if you were at work all day and the evening is the only time you see everyone–and they’re watching TV.

And honestly, TV can be an easy respite at the end of a long, hard day. And jeepers, you could use a laugh or two.

So don’t get me wrong, I’m not against TV. I’m just against too much TV.

And because it’s so easy, watching too much TV can be a habit that’s hard to break. I know it is for me sometimes.

Therefore, I thought it might be useful to talk about ways to be creative in front of the TV rather than just talk about how it would be better not to watch it.

Because the point is to be creating more–however we can get that to work.

Below are 5 creative activities that don’t take up space, aren’t that messy, and can be done while watching TV or hanging out with loved ones who do.

**I’d also like you to consider trying one of these suggestions for your TV watching time even if you normally define yourself as a particular “something else” artistically–a painter or felter or a mosaic-maker–or anything else that might require lots of room or water or mess and therefore doesn’t work so well on couches or in nice looking living rooms.

Like the stock market, it’s good to be a little diversified–it might fuel your “primary” creative endeavors in surprising ways.

5 Creative Things to Do in Front of the TV

  1. Bead. Beading is small and portable and you can do it anywhere. It’s also a little contagious so the people around you might start to join in, and then you’re connecting with the people you love on a whole new level. In addition, the options are endless and skill level doesn’t matter–you can enjoy yourself right away with beading.
    Read my 5 Great Reasons to Start Beading Today if you’re not convinced yet. I’ve also got lots of great info on where to buy tools and findings along with practical bead buying tips so you get the most bang for your buck.
  2. Needle Arts. This could be knitting or embroidery or hand sewing. If you’re thinking as you read this, “I’m not patient enough for that.” you might be surprised. It can be incredibly soothing–you just need to figure out which one suits you best. (It’s also helpful to not expect to be an expert in 5-10 minutes. Good things come to those who enjoy the process, or something like that.)
    | has fabulous videos for beginner knitters.
  3. Blind drawing. If you’d like to work on your drawing skills, this is a great activity for the 20 Minute Technique and for hanging out in front of the TV. All you need is a sketch pad, a pencil and something in front of you to stare at.
    Set the timer and, without looking at your drawing, draw what you see in front of you as if your pencil is touching it–feeling all the planes and surfaces. Try not to pick your pencil up or look down at what you’re doing.If you finish quickly, just start over or turn your attention to something else in the room and draw that.
    Don’t try to make your drawing “good” by “fixing” it–this is a observational exercise and a chance to improve your line quality by getting your judging brain out of the way.
    (You’ll also find that listening to your show is mostly enough. The commercials will annoy you more though, so be ready to hit the mute button.))
  4. Card Making. Everyone loves getting a card and a handmade one is a wonderful surprise. The small format makes it doable on the couch with a tray or sitting in front of the coffee table (I always end up on the floor). You can do the rubber stamp thing or use it as a way to scrapbook and preserve memories. If you need a few ideas to get jump-started, pick up a Take Ten magazine which is dedicated to making cards.
  5. Polymer Clay. Small and portable, soft polymer clays are easy for beginners and it’s soothing to work the clay in your hands. You can make beads, cover pens, or construct small boxes and frames. There are so many books out there on how to get started, find something that excites you.
    It’s another category like beading that provides satisfaction at every skill level–so can start enjoying yourself right away.

What have I left out? Do you have any suggestions for creating in front of the TV? Do you create in front of the TV? Please share in the comments, I’d love to hear.

This Week’s Minutes

I’ve had kind of a hard week and felt like I needed a treat, so I used a few 20 Minute Sessions to do several Automatic Drawings.

Automatic drawings are so liberating because they’re big and physical and immediate.

Your head takes a back seat to your arms and eyes as you become absorbed in the formal aspects of creating–line and color and value and composition.

There’s no good or bad in automatic drawing. You just feel your way through as you make marks and listen to them.

And because there’s no point in judging an automatic drawing, this kind of exercise is also really safe to do if you’re feeling vulnerable or downcast because it can’t be wrong.

Interesting Surprise

Being in a melancholy mood as I started another automatic drawing yesterday made me realize that I usually tend to do the automatic drawings fast–as if spontaneity requires speediness and energy.

Because I was lacking both, I didn’t want to move fast or be energetic. So instead, I let myself make marks slowly, delicately, gently.

It created a whole new experience of a favorite, familiar exercise. And I released myself from an assumption I didn’t know I had. It felt good.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you read this blog post and give it a try. Especially if you’re feeling stuck or rusty or afraid to get started.


The weekly 20 Minute Club Minutes now also include a section for self-appreciations because they’re a wonderful, necessary partner to the 20 Minute Technique. (Especially when you’re having a tough time or feeling bad about yourself.)

And while it’s important and helpful to appreciate everything in your life and the overwhelming luckiness that can be forgotten, it’s just as important to more directly appreciate yourself because most of us diminish or ignore our own accomplishments and good qualities.

This hurts our creative dreams and goals and stops us from being bolder or going deeper.

So the focus here on the 20 Minute Club Minutes is what you appreciate about yourself. (I totally get that it can be hard or awkward–that’s why it’s important!)

Here’s mine for the week:

  1. I appreciate that I let my creativity be my refuge.
  2. I appreciate that I’m putting one foot in front of the other on some big projects that I don’t have total control over.
  3. I appreciate that I’m reaching out for help (not easy for me) on things that I’m finding hard.
  4. I appreciate my hands.
  5. I appreciate that I can now make things that I think are kind of bad or “don’t work” and let them stay on my studio wall for a while.

Your Turn

And how about you? Did you use the 20 Minute Technique this week? How’d it go? How about some Self-Appreciation? Yes? No? Hard? Easy?

Remember, it’s all valid and worth sharing–the good, the bad, the ugly, and the wonderful. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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Whew! What. A. Week. Stick a fork in me, etc., etc.

AND, I’ve been wrestling with GMail ALL DAY today–hence the lateness of this post. Really. Who knew Google could be so difficult?

But before I get to my 20 Minute Experiences for this week, I thought I’d invite you all to my new discussion group!

The R & D Squad!

I’m looking for a select group of people to be part of my new Creative Breakthroughs R & D Squad (Research and Development) as I develop my workshops, kits, and classes that support and nourish creative expression and growth for busy artistic people everywhere.

Would you  be interested in joining?

Let me tell you what would be involved.

I will regularly email you with questions about project and product ideas in order to get feedback from you. My goal is to make them be the best they can be and really make sure I’m providing what will most help people.

Sometimes I’ll email you once a week, sometimes less and very occasionally more. I’ll also be looking for people from the R & D squad who would be interested in helping me beta test some online experiences as well.

All you have to do is send me back your response, thoughts, ideas and/or suggestions. This won’t take you very long at all, but your unique wisdom and experience will really help me execute my mission to help artistic people re-engage and stay engaged with their creativity!

Yesterday I asked The Creative Women of Facebook group for their help and the response was overwhelmingly generous and positive, so it looks like it’s going to be a great group. (Please feel free to join the Creative Women of Facebook if you’re on Facebook and if you’re already in that group, sorry that you’re reading this invitation twice!)

So it basically involves getting an email once a week or so from me. Once I saw how many folks were psyched to participate, I decided I better create a discussion group pronto (on so people will be able to keep track of and follow the discussions more naturally (and get to know each other as well).

To thank you for your participation, everyone in my R & D squad will get 20% off all my products and classes for as long as you are an active member of the squad. Also, starting in August, I’ll put all squad member’s names in a hat once a month and draw a name to win a free project kit! I think it’s going to be fun.

If you’re interested, please email me soon at as the group is filling up fast.

20 Minutes

This week, my 20 minute sessions helped me push around a corner with my stuck drawing. I’m not saying I’ve solved it all or anything, but I worked on it two more times and had a mini-revelation or two.

I can’t quite figure out if that bodes well for this particular drawing, but it bodes well for future ones.

And that was interesting for me. Because as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I want to dig deeper with this series of drawings rather than just move on, which is my tendency.

(And in the spirit of being brave, I’ve decided I should set an example and share my work-in-progress here in the left–even though I feel completely self-conscious about sharing it in its unfinished/unresolved state.)

During each 20 minute session these last couple of weeks, as I’ve felt my way along in the darkness of not-knowing-what-to-do-for-this-drawing, I just kept layering my images which is finally, slowly starting to work, or at least work better.

I’ve also been having trouble figuring out how to insert my text (my weather reports–click here to view the other ones) but I think I figured that out too–I’ve got them lolling on the seas in the middle–I haven’t fleshed out the letters yet, so it’s a little hard to see see here. (You can see  more clearly if you click on it.)

But this lolling text feels good–so if this drawing doesn’t get resolved, I’ll use it on my next one. Or somewhere on something.

But, most importantly this progress only happened because I slogged through several 20 minute sessions having no idea what I was doing!

Things didn’t improve because I had a sudden revelation while watching TV or something, things improved because I just continued to engage with no resolution in sight–20 minutes at a time. It’s not romantic, but it works.

And it feels good to have made progress.

Your Turn

Okay, now you. How’d it go for you this week? Good? Bad? Somewhere in between? Timer? 20 Minutes? 5? 10? Please share, I’d love to hear!

Categories : 20 Minute Club, Drawing
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2 Words: Work Bigger

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Today I thought I’d share some images from a series of charcoal drawings I’m working on–mostly because I’m enjoying myself so much making them. They make me want to run through the snowy streets imploring the world to work bigger.  So I have 2 words for you my bloggy friend: Work Bigger! It’s very liberating.

All these drawings are works in progress. At least, I think they are. I’ll keep looking at them and decide over time. It feels good to make them and all kinds of thoughts/feelings/images/experiences are coalescing as I work on them–but more on that at a later date.

What’s nice about working on something that feels right is that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of it. These drawings are a path I’m on for a while, and I figure I’ll just keep making them until I’m done and see what I’ve got at the end.

In the meantime, here they are. They all measure approximately 3 1/2′ tall x 4 1/2′ wide–except, of course, the square one which is as wide as it is tall. :-) (Click on any image to view it bigger. And thanks for looking.)

New Site! New Workshop! New-New-New!

The other thing I’m doing is scrambling around like a mad woman trying to get a new site up and running–a site just for my studio–kind of the local outpost of Make Great Stuff where I’ll be teaching classes and workshops as well as making my own artwork. I’m an excited/nervous duckling.

I had fantasized that I’d be sharing this new site with you here today, but it’s all been more work than I anticipated–nothing unusual there. My brain never ceases to be unrealistic about how much work I can get done.

(I come from a family where work is a highly prized activity–you can pretty much get out of anything, even a funeral, if you say you “have to work”. Not that I do that, try to get out of funerals, but I’m just sayin’. So I’ve inherited a great work ethic, but mostly, it’s kind of a drag. Except for my bosses. Every boss I’ve ever had loved me for it. So, now that I’m my own boss, I’ve kind of a got a conflict of interest thing going. I’m working on it.)

Anyway, in addition to the new site, I had my first workshop in my studio last Friday night. It’s called The Creative Breakthroughs Technique Workshop and it was a big success if I do say so, and I’m dying to share all the details with you about that as well.

Alas, that’s a big part of the new site, so I’m still not done dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on that either. But I’m hoping to do a big “taaa-daaa” thing here on the blog about all of it on Monday or Tuesday next week. I’ve even got a little video going. Please stay tuned.

So picture me writing and uploading and editing and adapting and pay-paling my weekend away. And taking breaks to work on my big drawings.

(Did I say I’m trying to do a drawing a week? Next week I’m hoping to dedicate a whole blog post to the ease-of-being-creative-when-you’ve-got-a-work-in-progress-going strategy. Kind of a P.S./ Part II to my Magic Spell post the other day.

What are you doing this weekend? Are you snowed in like we are here in NY/NJ? Would you like to share links to some artwork you’re working on? Please leave a comment and share what you’re doing, whatever it is, I’d love to hear from you!

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Automatic Drawing–What IS it?

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I realize that in my last post, Expressive Drawing, I forgot to explain what “automatic drawing” is.

Maybe it’s obvious, but in case it isn’t, here’s a bit more information and how to do it and why it’s a great way to let loose and free your creativity.


The Surrealists embraced automatic drawing as way to incorporate randomness and the subconscious into their drawings, and to free themselves from artistic conventions and everyday thinking.

This technique, they felt, was a way in to access meaning and information unavailable through tradition and the conscious mind.

Surrealist wackiness aside, it also lets you sink into the quality and experience of making marks and developing the relationships between them which in turn lifts you out of your logical brain’s desire to make something that’s “good” or “accurate.”

It lets you tap more easily into your intuition, emotions, and the physical experience of drawing and painting.

So if you judge your own drawing ability, this technique can be very liberating because it’s so physical, there’s no wrong way to do it, and it improves your drawing skills in the process.

Most importantly, it gets you out of your head. Read More→


Expressive Drawing

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My Latest Book Crush

If you’ve got heavy feelings about your drawing skills, yearn to draw more (or more freely) or if you already draw well but feel like you’re in a rut, this book is a wonderful workbook and companion for freeing up your drawing–and maybe your soul a little bit while you’re at it.

Expressive Drawing: A Practical Guide to Freeing the Artist Within by Steven Aimone is one of the best how-to/inspiration books I’ve come across in a long time. I’ve been so jazzed doing the exercises, I had to rush here to the blog and tell you all about it.

Why I Love This Book

Steven Aimone provides fun, do-able exercises that are grounded in clear, helpful explanations about technique and the history of fine art.

All the explanations are also accompanied by images of works by renowned artists as well as his workshop students that support and reinforce each chapter’s focus. These art history lessons are refreshingly straightforward and a wonderful framework for the drawing exercises.

And even though his writing is clear, accessible and inclusive, he assumes his audience is deeply interested in fine art and making drawings in that context rather than treating non-objective/expressive drawing as mainly a therapeutic outlet for expressing your feelings (although he still acknowledges and embraces that additional benefit as a wonderful part of the process).

And besides all that–the exercises are FUN, FUN, FUN! Read More→