Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Time to Play

Doodles and more doodles. Books of them.
There is a sketchbook under the lamp on my nightstand--just one of many, many sketchbooks I filled up over the years. I haven't looked at them in a long time, but I remember what's in them...attempts at perfection. When I was young and in art school, drawing photorealistic portraits was my thing. It was the style of drawing and painting that came easiest to me, but it also felt restrained and stuffy. I wanted to draw and paint looser, more fun, whimsical pieces, but I didn't know how.

Somehow I had it in my mind that really good artists could jump in and JUST DO IT. Draw or paint something perfect from their mind the very first time.

That's stupid. 35-year-old me realizes there were a lot of failed attempts and studies along the way...even for the best artists.

I never played with art.

I didn't doodle much. I didn't put brush strokes on a canvas just to see how the paint would behave or try to find new techniques. I thought I should just know. I never tried to copy the styles I admired just to give them a go and twist them to make them my own. I never indulged in fantastical, frivolous images even though I loved them.

Life teaches us over and over that we never "just know" anything. There are gut feelings and instincts that are a big part of everything we do, but everything is also worth questioning an examining.

Play makes us better. I'm 35 and I'm taking time to play.

For the past couple of weeks I've drawn kawaii on my computer, painted with watercolors, sketched with pen and ink. I'm watching tutorials and videos from artists I admire who do the things I love really really well, and I'll certainly jump in and try my hand.

We talk a lot at the university where I teach about asking our students to adopt a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. I've always lived with a growth mindset. I do have that pesky perfectionistic streak that can hold me back at times, but there aren't many things (aside from the way I used to feel about running) that I assume I can't do. I know I can do it better. I can do it my way.

Drawing, painting, and making art is a thing I've done since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I could spend hours at a desk at my grandparents' house drawing page after page. I could spend hours and hours and hours in a half-dark studio in college lost in a canvas and paint. And I let that die. I gave it up almost completely--aside from the very random drawing--for 14 years.

It feels good to play. It feels good to try.

Monday, August 15, 2016

I've Been Planning, Y'all!

Many, many moons ago...like, 1999...I was an art major. I took art in middle and high school, and I was pretty sure I wanted to be a graphic designer. As a teen, I loooooved designing stuff. I spent hours and hours on my home computer designing avatars for this new CHAT thing you could do online, and I also started teaching myself web design. Sadly, when I got into college, got into my courses, and got an internship, I realized that corporate design is a life-sucking drag, stopped designing, and changed my major to English.

I had lunch with Anita from Anita Loves Books a couple of weeks ago, and we always have a wonderful time chatting about family and makeup and this time...planners! She brought her Erin Condren Life Planner, and while I've always loved planners and paper goods, it was the first moment that I thought to myself, "STICKERS....PRETTY!" I bought myself a Happy Planner the next day and started my sticker and washi tape stash at Michael's and Hobby Lobby.

Last week's planner layout. A brain explosion...with stickers. 
In true Andi-is-over-the-top-about-new-hobbies style, I also purchased a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine, and I'm making my own stickers. So...many...stickers. Functional ones, pretty full boxes, groovy patterned half boxes, wee tiny mini icons. AND I LOVE IT.

A sheet of wee tiny miniature icons for my planner. One of the first really challenging sheets I've put together. It worked!
That old designery spark is back, thanks to the I CAN DO ANY DAMN THING I WANT'ness of it. I've been watching tutorials, downloading images, drawing, and practicing my hand lettering. I borrowed a Wacom tablet so I can draw freely in my design program, and it is ON!

It's a good feeling to have this creative juice since books just haven't been providing that outlet lately.

30 doodles every day! It's hard work getting back into the swing of drawing and thinking outside the box.
In a short time, I've found that I'm a "white space planner," I prefer a "plan as you go" style, and I really admire planners who are super creative with their layouts, style, design, and approach to planning. I'm linking a video from Jenny of StickWithMeShop, the first shop I've ordered stickers from, since I really love her style.

So as not to overwhelm you all, I've started a separate planning Instagram account at @estellaplans. I also have a Twitter, but it's a pain in the ass, so I'll probably just bug you all via my regular Twitter account.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Book Orphans: Fiction I've Never Opened

Admission here, and this is at least partially why I was inspired to #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks and not buy this year. I have books on my shelves I've NEVER OPENED. Either I read the blurb and purchased them, or I knew the books by reputation and bought them. And there they sat. And sat.

Someone tell me they have this going on on, too.

Salamander by Thomas Wharton is pretty (I promise, I won't say this for every book)! I know I read lots of reviews of this one, oh, probably 10 years ago? Maybe 15? As I think about it now, it's definitely one of the oldest books left on my shelves. Time to read or cull.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is one of the books I bought half-price by reputation alone. I don't read the same amount of middle grade fiction that I used to, so we'll see if this one ultimately makes the cut.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters will DEFINITELY get read. I buy all of Waters' books because I love her so hard. In truth, I'm sort of hoarding this book. There are often Sarah Waters dry spells, so I'm saving this one for when I need a fix.

Astray by Emma Donoghue is a similar situation to The Night Watch. I'll definitely read this because I love short stories, I love Donoghue, and I bought the book when it was on sale.

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire was a going-away present when I left my job in March, so it hasn't been languishing on the shelves for nearly as long as the others. I have a hit and miss relationship with Maguire. The Oz series is a big hit, but others, like Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, didn't play as well.

Now, don't leave me hanging! What books on your shelves have you completely ignored?

P.S. Today is your last chance to donate to my St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser! I'm over the $1,500 goal, but who says that should stop the fundraising? Thank you so much for your support! I'll post my head shave here when it's done!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Couch to 5K Finish Line!

If there's one thing I wish I'd done on this Couch to 5K journey, it's keep a journal. I ran my last program run this morning...30 minutes in the pre-dawn. I was stoked for this run because it's the last official one. Is it my last run? Ha! No. Not at all. Now I'm on to improving my 5K, and there's a lot of improvement left to do.

While the program is built to last nine weeks, I stretched it out to 16. I can think over the months and remember the trends in my abilities and moods, but I wish I still had the specifics. One thing is for sure...this has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life.

I wanted this morning's run to be great. Maybe set a new pace record or really crush it. In truth, it was a damn hard run. I didn't sleep well last night, and I started a strength training regimen yesterday that left my legs tired and spent.

But I did it anyway, even though it was hard, I was tired, and I didn't want to get out of bed at 5 a.m. I missed my goal pace by a minute, but it was a hard run, and it's OK. You have to get through the sucky ones to get to the really good ones. And when did I ever think I'd be able to run 30 minutes straight? When I was in high school that was out of the question for me. Now, at 35, I'm game.

Running has given me some key things.

  • Confidence. Doing new things and doing them well takes a lot of time, devotion, and perseverance. Sometimes the improvements are only incremental, but they are valuable and worthwhile all the same. I've done this, and I can do much more. 
  • Courage. I've been courageous in some ways...when it comes to pushing through the hard stuff for my family, for instance. I haven't been very courageous about trying new things. The fear of looking silly or failing gets in the way. Running has drastically lessened my fear of embarrassment and...let's face it...pain. 
  • Control. A greater handle on my health, the ability to make wiser food choices, decreased anxiety, and the mental strength to push myself toward the next goal. 
I'm just so happy. I'm so, so proud, and I'm not afraid to say that out loud. I'M SO PROUD! I can run. 


There's no way you could possibly know how much your kind words of encouragement here--on Twitter, Instagram, via email, all over--have kept me going. Thank you, thank you. It's still a long road ahead, but I'm excited for it.

Images by Freepik