Fundamentals

Recently I watched a webinar about how to learn art skills. A lot of times artists are told to just practice, but not given the mechanics of how or what that even means. I realized as I was watching and taking copious notes that I have been passively learning little bits here and there, getting familiarity with some techniques, but not mastering any of them.

To master something you have to break it down and study each segment in detail until you know everything about the parts and how they go together. For me, I’m pretty good about drawing whatever I’ve got sitting in front of me. I can even add a couple of techniques to make it stylized. What I’m not good at is drawing from my imagination. I’m lacking mastery of the fundamentals that are required.

I’ve devised some lessons for myself that I will post here to keep track and assess my progress. Feel free to take from these as you like and adjust them to suit whatever it is you’re trying to learn. For me I will be starting with digital portraiture. I recently got a Ugee 1560 and I definitely need to do some drills to get myself using it daily and improving my digital drawing skills. These are not always fun. Some are tedious. Learning doesn’t have to be fun though. It has to be stimulating and that’s not always the same thing.

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My first step was to decide on my goal and then break it down into chunks to create the first couple of lessons. I went through my books and put sticky notes in every one that had a section on the head, making note of whether it was about the skull, musculature, eyes, nose, mouth, expressions, etc. The books I am mainly focusing on are Drawing the Head & Hands by Andrew Loomis (the primary book to study as it comes highly recommended for learning and developing skills with portraits specifically), Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck (which is very technical and has intricate illustrations from all angles of the skull and musculature and how it works), Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Workbook by Betty Edwards (which has some very good exercises I’ve used when teaching 5th-8th grade portraiture), and Anyone Can Draw by Arthur Zaidenberg (just for personal interests because this is a book that was owned by my grandfather’s brother who went MIA during war and is the only person I know of on that side of my family who had any interest in art).

I also got a free calendar from a health food store. More on that in just a minute.

Once I had a good idea of my course of study, I came up with a simple 4 part plan for my lesson template:

  1. Warm-up/Review– Drawing warm-up and review of what I studied the day before at 5 minutes every single day. This is to get myself in the habit of working daily and to assess if I am ready to move on. Because it’s just 5 minutes there is no excuse not to work this in every day. Once I am comfortably in the habit of 5 minutes daily, I will up it to 10. As it is, I already find myself doing this longer than 5 minutes. Once you get all set up and start working that tends to be the case. This is where that calendar comes in. Every day I do this I put an X on the calendar. It is a visual reminder that is always on my desk next to my tablet. There is no excuse to forget. And it’s just 5 minutes, right?
  2. Reading lesson/tutorial– After the warm-up/review I will either read the next section in a book or find a youtube tutorial that goes over what I have been studying if I need more practice.
  3. Practice– I create an exercise based on the reading lesson or follow along with the tutorial. These are mostly drills that I will do over and over until I get proficient on a topic. The motivation to do these is that if I don’t, I’ll be doing the same warm-up/review every day until I do. This is a practice in regular self-discipline which will help on days when I don’t want to do even the fun art.
  4. Application– Once I feel comfortable with my current lessons on I will apply the knowledge to whatever artwork I have on my to-do list. This is the fun stuff. This is what I’m working toward. These are the artworks I will share. My goal is to take more artworks to completion and do so more efficiently and with more skill. I want to be able to visualize something and have the technical skills and muscle memory to make a visual representation.

So far I’ve been following this plan for 3 days and have 3 Xs on my calendar. I have drawn plenty of portraits in the past that I have been happy with, but they’ve always been from reference. This is an entirely different method and it’s difficult! I’m finding resistance already, but I think that is good. Like I said before, learning doesn’t have to be fun, just stimulating. I feel challenged and I think that is a good sign.

XOXO,

Lochy

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Burnout and Refilling the Well

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In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron reminds artists to “refill the well” which can be easy to forget when we’re heavy into the creative process or in a self-induced push for productivity for whatever reason. What this means is, we spend so much time focused on output and putting our creativity and energy into our work that we find ourselves in a depleted state that can only result in burnout. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about a thing, if you expend all of your energy, inspiration, and motivation into it and are not finding some way to restore these states, you will come to a point when you can’t go any further until you do. You need to reverse the flow of creative energy going out to coming in. This is as much a reminder note to self as it is some ideas on how to refill your well.

I do not suggest an extended break from art. I’ve done this before and it leads to a stagnation and even deterioration of skill. What happens is when you come back to art you find you’re in a lesser place than when you left and that can be more dejecting and counterproductive than intended. If you do take a break, I recommend no longer than 2 weeks to a month. While you’re on break I suggest the following:

  • Take a day or a weekend off to do absolutely nothing that requires you to be creative or has anything to do with art. Sometimes this is like hitting the reset button and may be all you need if you have a mild burnout. You may just be tired. Catch up on your rest. Take naps.
  • Go to an art museum to just enjoy the art and be around other people who have an appreciation for the arts.
  • Go to a convention or art show. Go, not do. Just wander around the artists to recapture the excitement of creating and sharing. Find enjoyment in discovering art.
  • Get together over coffee with artist friends regularly to share experience and techniques.  Allow time for venting frustrations, but don’t let this be the entirety of your visit. Always end on a positive note.
  • Find some art that feels like play, usually something that is more about the act of creating than the output of creating: play-doh, fingerpainting, stacking rocks, lego, or anything else that the end product is not the goal. It should be something you can laugh at, tear down, or trash when you’re done.
  • Take a walk and note what inspires you whether it’s flowers, the bark on a tree, the architecture downtown. Pick up some little something that you found pretty along the way whether it’s some rocks or colored glass or whatever. Take it into your home and put it in your creative space. When you no longer notice the thing or it’s no longer serving it’s purpose to inspire, be rid of it or replace it with something new that does inspire.
  • Take yourself on scavenger hunts to thrift stores for the same reason as the above. I will sometimes look for scraps of vintage fabric, a jar of brightly colored marbles, a quirky figurine, glass prisms, a tea tin I can make into a planter, or some cheap costume jewelry to gift myself.
  • Go to the bookstore and look at books on art media or crafts you’ve never done but might want to try.
  • Take a class in another art field. I once took a black and white photography class and it helped me to push my contrast in my artwork when I hadn’t notice had been stuck in all mid-tones. You never know what you’ll learn about something unrelated that you can apply to what you do.
  • Read a book that is full of descriptive visual imagery. This is especially good if it’s a favorite story that you know will faithfully not let you down. It can be your favorite book from childhood.
  • Read The Artist’s Way, which has weekly exercises on working through art block.
  • Read books that inspire or are about motivation and/or success. I highly recommend The Slight Edge, which is an easy read, has simple steps for happiness and success in any endeavor, and has an extensive list of book recommendations. I highlight and write in the margins anything of particular significance so I can refer back to it often.
  • You can also get books on CD to motivate you while you’re commuting to work or on errands.  I just got The Art of Asking and I’m only one CD in and it’s been like a little pep talk coming through my headphones.  I especially like the ones where an author reads their own book because they know what to emphasize and where to pause.
  • Watch TedTalks on inspiration, motivation, art, whatever inspires you. Bookmark or pin these so you can refer back to them on days you need a little boost to get started.
  • Go to Pinterest and pin everything motivational and inspiring. Find quotes by famous artists. Occasionally give yourself an unlimited amount of time to just look at beautiful things.
  • Listen to music that makes you want to dance. Dance.
  • Go on a drive to a town you’ve never been to and explore. Ask the locals what’s the best thing to do there and what the best restaurant is and what to order there. Try something new. It’s an adventure.
  • Try a new hobby. Gardening is a creative endeavor that gives back. Do something that is good exercise to get your blood flowing and oxygen going to your brain.
  • Practice good self-care. Take your vitamins, make yourself an epsom salt bath, eat healthy, detox, have a nice cup of tea with some local honey, etc.

These are a few of the things I do that help when I am having a rough time with art, but you certainly don’t have to be an artist to do them. No matter what career a person has and no matter how passionate they are about it, we can all get burned out and need to recharge. Please share any additional things you do or would like to suggest.

XOXO,

Lochy

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On Track

Just finished readin’ Start Over, Finish Rich by David Bach. This book is excellent for anyone with a steady income no matter what that income is (even minimum wage). It helps map out a basic financial plan and is an easy read. It’s designed to help during recession so it will help after a financial loss or for anyone who never really managed their money before.  I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about their money, but we need to bust through that taboo.  If you have any money concerns get this book!

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Even though I don’t have a steady income (my shop fluctuates between break even and makin’ a small profit) there were still some actions I could take and some I could skip that didn’t apply (the sections on debt and saving for college). The most valuable part for me was one of the first sections where he walks you through organizing your important papers. I was holding onto a lot of things that could be tossed and I was missing some things that needed finding. It gives you some peace of mind havin’ those basics organized.

Although I only have a little to work with, the book inspired me to make a new budget. I am addicted to reworkin’ my budget. I do it every 3-6 months. But after readin’ this book I was inspired to make a six phase budget plan that will work for the next 2-3 years and only need a little revising after that. I am currently in phase 1.5.

As much as I love readin’ books on finance, I think I’ll choose a different subject until I am in another phase. Even though this book was written for 2010, it is about getting back on track in tough times and if you need a book to help you with your money then you probably want something that helps you rebuild from the ground up. It will definitely help if you don’t even know where to start.


Lochy’s Patreon Tip #002:  Start with small, easily achievable goals to inspire you (and your patrons!) and build early momentum in your campaign. For example: my first goal was $25 and each following goal went up $25 until I get to the $150 goal. I hit the first two goals in the first month.

XOXO,

Lochy

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About Patreon

A little over a year ago I joined Patreon. What it does is provide patronage for artists, musicians, basically anyone with something to share with the world. Don’t we all have something to share? I know I do!
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How it works: It’s not like the old school patronage that the great Masters of Art had, which was more like getting commissioned for a piece and then having to live on that money until the next commission came along. Patreon is patrons pledging a monthly amount of support to artists of their choice. This frees the artist to create what they truly want to make, freeing the art to be genuine.
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Leonardo da Vinci’s last words: “I have offended God and Mankind, by doing so little with my life.”

There are two interpretations that I’ve found of Leonardo’s last words, the above and another about how his work didn’t reach the quality it should have. Either way, he was pretty disappointed in the end. I sometimes wonder what these great masters could have achieved if they had something like Patreon freeing them to do their most genuine work. Would the world be missing the Mona Lisa because something different was painted in its place? Is the world missing something far greater that we don’t even know to miss? Vincent van Gogh created around 900 paintings in his lifetime with one patron. What would we have now if he had 100s or 1000s of patrons?

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I am by no means an expert on Patreon, but I will try to share little things that I’ve found to work that creators can implement without being overwhelmed. Again, I recommend reading The Slight Edge. Patreon is no get rich quick scheme,  but if you do little things consistently over time you can live your dream life.
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Lochy’s Patreon Tip #001: Make sure you have your Patreon URL in the INTRO section of your personal Facebook and in the ABOUT section of your artist Facebook page (if you have one). The only reason I would not link my Patreon there would be if I had a personal website for my work that I updated frequently. If that’s the case, that link should be in the INTRO and ABOUT sections and your website needs to have a fairly predominant link to Patreon.
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Patreon’s search is almost non-existent. Unless you have a Sakimi Chan level following (almost 450,000 watchers on DeviantArt, near 4,000 patrons and makin’ around $25,000-50,000+ per month), your best starting place for finding patrons is within your circle of friends/family on FB. Make it easy for them to find that link when they’re lookin’ for it.
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XOXO,
Lochy

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Book Club

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So I just finished The Slight Edge and have to say I can definitely recommend a book that recommends other books to read and one of the steps to success bein’ to read 10 pages a day. I would give the book 4/5 stars. The only reason it didn’t earn the fifth star was that it was rather repetitive, although I think it was him driving the point home and drillin’ the concept into your mind so that it’s hard to not remember it. The book was simple and insightful, the idea of little actions making a huge impact over time. I highly recommend the book to anyone needing to make any kind of positive change in any area of their life. It applies to finances, career, relationships, health, anything really.

I will definitely be reading from the recommended list of books. Feel free to join me. I’m going to stick to the ten pages per day or some small section or chapter. The next book I’ll be reading is Start Over, Finish Rich by David Bach (the one from 2010). It just happened to be the only book on the list that my Mom already had, so we did a book exchange. I want my book back when you’re done, Mom! I suspect I will read over that one again and again.

XOXO,

Lochy

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If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time

Just started readin’ The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson this week. I’m only four chapters in and I can say I already recommend it. So far I’m findin’ that the little things he’s talkin’ about changin’ are things I already do with money and have done my entire life. How many 9 year olds do you know who saved up for their own Shetland pony with their allowance money?

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Without knowing it, the slight edge is how I paid off two student loans in four years on a teacher’s salary and in that same time saved enough up to take the years off I’d need to start a business and pursue my art and also saved up $30,000 for my retirement. I’m not bragging, I’m sayin’ this because it works.

It’s all that little stuff that adds up, be it positive or negative. Depending on simple daily choices you make every day for good or bad, the trajectory of your life changes. It’s funny how we can see others making tiny bad choices repeatedly and know exactly the outcome wondering WHY? and yet they don’t know how they got there and we’re wondering HOW did you not know? But then we make the same tiny bad choices in some other matter and ignore the inevitable outcome in our own lives.

I’ve found that most people, when it comes to money, are of the “just buy it” mindset. Many people are living at or above their means, in a constant state of debt, and struggling from paycheck to paycheck. And I’m tellin’ you it’s the little stuff that adds up that makes all the difference.

The entire time I was teaching I had a $20/month flip phone. I can’t tell you how many times I was teased and told to “just buy a smart phone, they aren’t that much.” But I would have rather saved the money for the phone and the money I would have spent on the plan actually havin’ dinner with friends. I never went without food to save the money, anyone who has ever seen me eat can attest to that. But I did have water and I did many times split the overlarge meal into two and had the leftovers the following night. I did 99% of the time go without dessert. I never once felt like I was deprived. Many people I know have a drink and leave half their food on the table so they can get the dessert because “they earned it.” I’m not condemning them, because they did earn it, but they also earned good health and financial security. That’s the purpose of food and money, isn’t it? Little choices made consistently over time.

I will admit I make little bad choices in other areas and I think it is because I have only applied the slight edge (unknowingly) to money and never to anything else. But if it clearly works so well for me in one area, it is definitely worth shifting my philosophy to include it for everything else.

I hope you’ve got the slight edge workin’ for you in some way in your life so you can figure out how to leverage it in other areas. It is applicable in anything you want to have success in. If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your insights.

XOXO,

Lochy

 

 

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Everything In Its Place

You have to get creative with some of your storage in a small place. I have two of those nifty jewelry hangers, but they were in my closet where I never remembered to look and they were so full it was difficult to tell what I had anymore.

The shades in the trailer were so age stained and most didn’t even work so I took all of them out. Until just recently I had tacked up a piece of lace over my bathroom window, but decided that would make a prettier place to display my necklaces so I would see them and actually wear them.

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I can also use the screen for some of my earrings that don’t require backs that won’t fit on my earring holder. The chocolate tin holds my stud earrings. The silver jewelry box has rings and necklace/earring sets. The biscuit tin treasure box is for bangles. So now the jewelry hangers in the closet are just for brooches and bracelets.

Now that I can just about see everything, I have pretty much cut myself off unless I get rid of something in exchange. There were at least a dozen necklaces that I had completely forgotten I had. I love bein’ able to see everything where it’s easy to choose each day.

XOXO,

Lochy

 

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