Is it a comfort zone if you’re still learning?

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While the first four weeks of 3x5x52 were all about trying new things, the next four weeks probably look a bit like I phoned it in. Watercolour and linework is so totally in my wheelhouse that it’s practically my default position. Did I just stop pushing myself to try new things (one of the goals of this project)? Did I let my guard down and just settle back into my comfort zone? Is it even a comfort zone if I’m still learning?

Some thoughts on these questions:

  • I needed that four-week watercolour + ink stretch after all the collage work of weeks 1-4. Collage hurts my brain, you guys. And my hands. I find it so totally intense and fascinating and I love the outcome but the process? Painful. I’d put that in all caps if I was given to that sort of thing. Doing collage work is thoroughly grueling for me, and not in a good way.
  • I need to work on composition. Seriously. Drawing random patterns helps because it forces me to be deliberate about every mark, every line, everything I include, everything I leave out.
  • I need to work on colour. Can I just leave it at that? I honestly don’t know where to start on this one other than I need to just keep working with colour until I find my groove. My colour wheel continues to be a god-send. I’m also eying the color theory classes on Skillshare.

Given all this, I’ve decided to not beat myself up. You know what I keep coming back to? Something my friend Crystal said about sharing your work, even the stuff you’re not proud of, in a blog post about her daily drawing project last year:

“This isn’t a portfolio. This is a learning process.”

I’ve written that on the first page of every one of my sketchbooks since. Thanks for that, Crystal! Cosign.

Just pretend I sent this to your inbox

Hi! You know, I often find myself wishing where was a blog or tumblr dedicated to each of my random interests. I keep a mental list of these, complete with possible titles. Here are some recents:

  • Water From Below, a blog devoted to the care of finicky indoor plants
  • The Fifth Song, a music blog that is specifically about the fifth songs on albums. They’re usually the best songs, right? Is it just me or is that a thing?
  • Crunchy or Chewy, a blog about nothing but chocolate chip cookies. The making of them, the eating of them, the adding of them to other recipes, you name it.
  • You Are Here, a blog that’s just about good signage
  • Designing Women,  a blog by and about female designers
  • Process > Product, a blog featuring artists talking about, writing about, or in some way showing the nitty gritty of their artistic process(es)
  • Beyond the Paperclip, a blog about designing for the advanced uses of things. Any things. All the things. Generally speaking, there’s tonnes written about simplifying, paring back, designing for basic usage and use cases; it’s designing for complexity and advanced users that could use more attention.

Some of these might already exist, in which case I trust that you’ll tell me about them. And if the spirit moves you to start any one of these blogs, I trust you will tell me that, too. Thank you.

The hashtag I’m following most closely on Twitter this week is #FairUseWeek2015. That’s right, it’s Fair Use Week, or, as we like to call it here in Canada, Fair Dealing Week. I’ve been enjoying the coverage and chatter, it’s been good. (h/t Sam Trosow)

Advice to Writers is a quote-of-the-day site that I subscribe to (in my RSS reader! Yes, I still do that, I’m so old school!) that features words of wisdom for writers, but, really, it’s stuff that often applies to any creative pursuit. A recent quote by Gary Provost is particularly writerly and really drives the point home about how to construct good sentences and string them together in a pleasing way.

You’ve probably already read the Oliver Sacks article about learning he has terminal cancer. I can’t help but share it because it’s so tremendously powerful — I think I’ve read it more than a dozen times now.

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”

I recently went back into the Design Matters archive to listen to earlier episodes I’ve never heard and the one from 2012 with Maria Popova (of Brain Pickings fame) was particularly good. Popova does so much that I thoroughly admire and I was surprised and delighted to learn of The Curator’s Code, a manifesto of sorts she put together to encourage people to be transparent about how they find the stuff they find online. I’m already all over “via” and I’m now implementing “h/t” (hat tip), too. I like it.

Noted without comment or commitment: National Day of Unplugging. It’s on March 6/7. Gird your loins. (h/t Here are Some Words)

#creativeUNblock #2

So the February project for The Jealous Curator’s #creativeUNblock challenge is to document the contents of your bathroom cabinet/medicine shelf. I know it’s only February but, you guys, this is easily the most fun art project I’ve done so far this year. Here’s why:

  • I love drawing objects. Simple as that. I knew that before I started this project and I know it even more now.
  • I like the approach I took with this project: I cut up some mixed media paper into roughly 3″x3″ squares and I drew one item from my bathroom on each square. I didn’t try to figure out how it would all come together (my usual wont), I didn’t plan, I didn’t over-think. I just drew (and drew and drew) and figured out what to do with all those drawings when I was done. I think that’s sort of the whole point of #creativeUNblock, you know? The best way to push past all the doubt and fear is to do more and think less.
  • I love seeing things arranged in a grid. It appeals to the tidy, organized, minimalist part of my brain.
  • Arranging things in a grid is hard. I seriously had no idea how hard. I might have spent more time compiling the final layout in Adobe Illustrator than I did on the drawings themselves! But that’s OK, I really enjoy that part of the process, too.
  • Here’s what I learned about arranging things in grids: sometimes it helps to nail down what’s on the edges first, then fill in the middle. I tried many other approaches but this is the one that clicked for me (although, admittedly, I still have a lot to learn about working with grids and composition in general).
  • I’ve been looking for some bathroom art so I might just try to rework these drawings into something I can hang on the wall. Updates on that as progress warrants.

Thanks, again to The Jealous Curator and Kate Bingaman-Burt for both the project and the inspiration! Already stoked for March.

p.s. I guess I’m not as low-maintenance as I thought I was? That is a lot of personal-grooming type stuff, wow.

20 days more

Forty-one days into #project365 and I’ve learned a few things:

  • It always helps to have cut flowers in the house because flowers make delightful subjects (especially in February).
  • I have a 40-minute commute to work every morning and, with the steadily brightening days, the light on my drive has been fabulous recently. Note to self: when winter is getting you down, remember the morning light in January and February.
  • I’ve said this before: my daily commute is positively bucolic. I spend about 5 minutes on a busy-ish road, but for the rest of it, I’m on lonely farm/country roads where mine is often the only car in sight. This means I can just stop whenever I see a view worth photographing (and there are many)!
  • A colleague asked me recently about the titles I use on some of my pictures. Sometimes they’re a bit abstruse, I get it. Thing is, a couple of years ago, I started captioning my pictures with a line from whatever song I was listening to when taking the picture. Lately, I’ve just been calling upon all the random song lyrics that are bouncing around in my head. Sometimes there’s something about the picture that reminds me of the lyrics, sometimes they’re entirely unrelated. Don’t worry — I’ll probably get over this eventually.
  • I love taking a good black and white on a snowy day.
  • Based on the last few weeks, weekdays appear to be for outdoor images and weekends are for indoor ones. That would feel slightly backwards if it wasn’t for the scenic commute (see above).

I’d link to all my #project365 images on Instagram if I could (why so firm on the no-linking-to-hashtags, Instagram?). Since I can’t, you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that I’m posting these daily over there.

These 10 things are just for you

You’ve probably found yourself wondering why some croissants are curved and others are straight, right? Turns out it’s a legal thing in France, you guys. That’s some serious business. (via)

Believe me when I tell you I am pretty out of the loop on most stuff. So I may be the last librarian to find out about Microaggressions in Librarianship. Some sad, some funny, pretty much all appalling.

If you like looking at pictures of wacky, stranger-than-fiction animals, WTF, Evolution?! might be your jam.

I am such a productivity junkie, you guys. Ask anyone who knows me. Sometimes I feel like one of my missions in life is to find the ultimate tool/framework/notebook/app/system (or, er, all of the above) that will finally help me get shit done (all of it). So as soon as I saw The Productive Librarian, I tuned in pretty damn fast. (via)

If you spend any time at all on Tumblr (and clearly, I do), you know that there are a lot of artists sharing their work on the platform. So Tumblr is seizing the opportunity and launching Tumblr Creatrs, a site that will connect artists with businesses that want to use their work. Cool. (via)

An artist in every library! No surprise at all that I love and support this notion. (via)

There’s another round of the 100 Day Project starting up in April and this time MOMA is involved. Yep, I’m in.

Did you guys see all the tributes to handwriting and handlettering on National Handwriting Day (January 23rd)? It all made me so happy, but I think Massimo Vignelli’s handwritten clothing design philosophy made me the happiest. “Clothing that is yesterday, today, and tomorrow” … what! So good.

In the Internet-as-beautiful-time-waster department, this dreamy site gives you album covers via a colour picker. (via)

I know I’m putting my Francophilia on full display by starting and ending this list with something French but, what the hell, I have serious heart-eyes for these French chocolate bars with the gorgeously illustrated wrappers. (via)