Archive for the 'Creativity' Category
I said to my kids today, “A day with a Carla Sonheim art class is no ordinary day!”
Today we began the first day of a week long class in printmaking. As with any art process we’ve learned through Carla, this new process is forgiving and, therefore, exciting instead of stifling. In fact, she always encourages the imperfections as if they are mini-triumphs (how many voices do you have like that in your life). Also similar to other classes, the piece develops through the process, the next step is always influenced by the last step and it feels a little bit like magic.
We don’t know where we’re going with these pieces tomorrow or the next day, but here’s a peek into our extra-ordinary art day.
prints by our 10 year old
prints by our four-year old (yes, truly mixed and printed by her)
prints by our 12 year old
prints by the Mama
My own Momma’s day was lovely. It began with chocolate chip pancakes in bed. You would think that might be the height of the day and it could only go down from there, but the day soared.
From my twelve year old I received a poem. Not too long ago she wrote a poem about herself entitled “The Shape of Me”, and it perfectly descibed the inner heart of my oldest child. Here’s the poem she wrote for me (she says it’s just a draft, but I like it just the way it is):
The Shape of Momma
She is full of squiggly ideas,
waiting for the time to share them.
She is a gentle tangle,
reaching for everyone at one time.
She is a sculptor,
into beautiful works of art.
As a Momma I often feel like I’m seen only as the “food dispenser” person, the “drive me to that place” person, the “has to say no” person. This poem reveals that as she watches me in the daily tasks of motherhood she sees a woman striving for grace, love, and beauty. It’s a gift to be seen as I the Momma I aim to be, if only a glimpse.
My ten year old gave me a handmade card with a list of things we do together that are special to her, like reading favorite books, doing art together and snuggling. Again, the gift is letting me know that I get some things right. There are plenty of days when I go to bed full of doubt.
My 8 year old boy gave me hugs and kisses. His expressions of love are always accompanied with full-body force and heart.
My 4 year old daughter began wishing me “Happy Mother’s Day” on Saturday and repeated the sentiment with sincerity and smiles at least 14 more times by Sunday afternoon. She left a small pot of roses outside of the bathroom door for me to find, and as she said goodnight she told me, “I enjoy you”. We also had a little date to the park and a bite of ice cream.
And together, they all gave me this little natural habitat of beauty.
Most days I think about the hard parts of being a momma, today I was reminded that it is a privilege and a gift just to be with these fantastic, miniature human beings.No comments
I hold my fingers above the computers keys, wondering, will I have anything to say, or should I just read someone else’s book, or blog, or play.
I flip the pages of my sketchbook and remove my mechanical pencil, pause, and wonder, will the pencil marks amount to anything really good or original?
I watch the film, mentally moving the camera to a different angle and adjust the order of the storyline, as the movie plays on, I wonder-what if I put my own hand to theater only to find my work has no truth or beauty.
Would my heart be safer without dreams?
What about a world without dreams, I wonder? No dreams, only duty. No longing for anything greater than myself, just the reality of the hard and fast world in reach of my fingertips.
To dream means to hope and to hope means to risk.
As I enter a season of taking my dreams and unfurling them into the daylight, the door to my heart tries to close hard against the risk. To keep the dream a dream, nothing more.
What am I risking?
When I type the word it’s bathed in red light, it’s reaching out to me as vivid and invasive as a 3D, high-def movie.
This nauseous pit of fear lodged somewhere between my stomach and my heart has been with me ever since I said yes to test-driving one of my dreams. Well, the “yes” was exhilarating. The need to vomit came about 30 minutes later.
As the day approaches, I take out my fear and I look at it again and I send a searchlight out for my dream and it’s still there, pulsing.
I think of the parable in the Bible when the character buries his talents in the ground until his master returned, thinking himself safe and wise. Imagining my dreams inside of the cool, dark earth instead of the burning light of day sounds very tempting.
Which leads me back to my original question. Would a world without dreams be safer?
But this time a second question shoves it’s way in.
Am I called to lead a safe life?
Is a safe life an abundant life?
A world without dreams may be safe, it might protect me from rejection and heart pain.
But as I imagine this dreamless world further, I imagine a life without invention. Without beauty. Without poetry. Or stories. Without the grace that arrives when dreams die and are resurrected into a new hope that couldn’t have been born without pain.
A world without worship because a safe heart has no need to worship.
It’s a daily choice to keep walking toward the risk instead of toward the hole in the earth ready to swallow my hope as if doing me a favor.
It’s good to be both awake and dreaming.
I feel alive.
“You must once and for all give up being worried about successes or failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, for failures…”
Anton Chekhov, quoted by the character David in L’engle’s Certain Women
“If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said, by me. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try.”
- Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
After Hutchmoot 2012: Day 3
If New York is the place where everyone is really an actor, and just a waiter “on the side”, then Nashville is the town where every other person is a graphic designer, but what they really want to do is play music professionally. By this I mean that it’s a city of ambition.
One would think that if one attended a conference with musicians, songwriters, and authors, in Nashville, it would be one big schmooze fest of making contacts and getting oneself noticed. (I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have minded getting noticed.)
“When I came here I introduced myself by my professional name, but by day two I found myself introducing myself as Matt. I realized I was not making business contacts, I was making friends. When N.D Wilson introduces himself here he introduces himself as Nate, Andrew is AP and, Pete (the Moot Master) is just Pete.” These are the words of one Rabbit on the last day of Hutchmoot and they’re a great introduction to the atmosphere of this gathering.
“There is no backstage, we’re all out here together,” declared Andrew Peterson and his description was not just a pretense of humility. All of the musicians and writers were standing around in the general hubbub and there was no special table for Charlie Peacock or Steve Talyor, director of the recent film Blue Like Jazz. Is this possible in Nashville, where every artist has a clause for the kind of drink or furniture he wants in the green room? There is no green room at Hutchmoot.
In the same way that Jesus knelt down to wash the dust and grime for His weary disciples’ feet, I saw the leaders of Hutchmoot serving the guests.
“I want some water,” I said to my husband, getting ready to look for a cup of refreshment. Pete, who is not just a Head Rabbit but also the author of two outstanding books, apparated from somewhere to the space beside me and asked, “You need water?” How had he gotten there and why was he concerned for my needs out of the other 180 attendees? I tried to reassure him that, yes, I did indeed need water, but that, no, I did not need him to retrieve the beverage for me. He pointed me toward three locations where fresh water was available, then apparated to the bathroom to refill the toilet paper.
Didn’t these leaders find their self-worth in the artistry of their books, songs, and films? Weren’t we supposed to lift them up and remember that we humbly come with nothing but hearts to learn from their wisdom of the ages?
In session after session I received this heart-probing message,”Go use your skills, but don’t define your worth by what you do.”
In the theater session, a profession that begs for praise and adulation, Stephen Trafton reminded the room, “Your worth and identity come from God and will never come from anything you make or create.”
And in Phil Vischer’s testimony of broken dreams he quoted C.S. Lewis, “He who has God plus many things has no more than he who has God alone.”
The capital “R” rabbits were also quick to share their weaknesses.
In my first session, one of the pastors confessed readily that he struggles with the longing to boost up his vanity at every Hutchmoot as the other staff have books and cd’s to show on the tables but he doesn’t. “I don’t mean I used to struggle with this, I mean this morning, about 4 hours ago, I struggled with it.”
One musician shared openly about the many dark places of his depression, and all around I heard men and women release their breath as they realized they didn’t have to hide the mess in their lives to be accepted or prove their artistic significance in order to start using their gifts.
This is a new kind of community, or maybe, a very old one.
”So, do you feel ready to go write your play now?” my husband asked me on the last morning of Hutchmoot.
“No,” I answered. ”I’m not going to write any play for a week, a month, 3 months, could be a year.”
I went to Hutchmoot to crack my dreams wide open. At a Gathering held within the walls of stories, I would learn how to tell mine. I’ve been dreaming of how to tells stories for years now, while living out the dark and the light of my own.
Then Phil Vischer ruined everything.
As he talked of Big Ideas and Jellyfish, I realized that my dreams had a whole lot to do with adding to my worth, and the outcome (which had to be Excellent by my standards) of any artisitic endeavors were too important to me. In the past few months I’ve even tried to step out before the last painful chapters in one thread of my life and begin to mold the events into a genre I can hand to others. I can’t experience God in my story when I’m trying to write it.
I left Hutchmoot with my dreams cracked open, but what I found inside surprised me. I need to give these to God, I thought to myself, and wait to see if He hands them back.
A time of dream fasting began.
After Hutchmoot: Day 1
8:30am: I rise from my bed with noble intentions. Death to my dreams.
9:30am: At the breakfast table I look around for familiar faces. I don’t see a budding filmmaker, a man in a spacesuit, a Broadway actor who knows his theology, or a red-haired beauty who surrounded me with familiar ink-laden friends a few a days ago.
My mother, who’s in town because she graciously watched all four of our kids, has just given the children their 5th and 6th donut in 3 days. I can hear my 7-year-old sugar-loaded son from the kitchen. He’s playing ping-pong in his room, only he’s the ball and the wall is his paddle.
My husband just left for the week.
I will serve them selflessly, I remind myself, I will put the Mooters out of my head.
10:30am: We’re back from the airport, Nana is gone, and I’m the only adult in the house. Responsibility stares at me from every pile of laundry and dirty dish. Good thing I’m setting aside that dream thing. How very practical.
10:45am: I Google a few books from the conference.
11:00am: I get out my watercolors. That’s not dreaming, it’s just a little sketching with color.
11:05am: The 3-year-old has dumped out the water and brushes all over the floor. Her own watercolor project lasts 1.5 minutes.
11:30am: Although sketching ended abruptly, I’ve now forgotten that I planned to take even one week off from planning out my dreams. I think of putting up a board on my bathroom wall (the only available space) for me and my husband to post ideas as we get them, an idea also via Mr. Vischer (not the bathroom wall part).
I’ve already composed the first one in my head, “Could I adapt XXXXXX book into a play?”
11:35am: I’m pulled from my pondering because, by the sounds from the bedroom, three older siblings will soon hurt their 3-year old sister if she knocks down their LEGO village one more time. And these young people seem to think they need something to eat.
I calculate about ten minutes before final impact, so I pick up my copy of Me, Myself, and Bob. I remember the section in his talk on our ‘Groundhog Day lives’ and how God is working through each moment of each mundane act of each day.
This death to my dreams thing is beginning to hurt.
12:00pm: Because there is not a chef at my house to prepare Smoked Pork Loin smothered in Fruit Compote (which led to loud moans of pleasure with each bite just a few days ago), we have macaroni and cheese.
The kids are making a not so pretty transition from Grandma time to Momma’s back in charge. Momma’s transition isn’t so pretty either.
I’m becoming a deranged picture from one of those flap books that has pages of foreheads and eyes on the top, with different noses in the middle, and different mouths at the bottom. The goal is to mix up the pictures to find the craziest combination of features. I have Rabbit ears and eyes on the top, a momma nose and cheekbones, and I’m not sure yet about the last flap.
The next five hours: A blur of normal activity, with some snotty kleenexes added in for good measure (theirs, not mine).
8pm: I’m putting my 3-year-old down to bed but I’m really thinking about writing this post.
“No, mommy, sing to me down here,” she pulls me from the edge of her toddler bed to a leaning position inches from her face. The lights are off, but she has a nightlight in her hand so we can see each other’s eyes in the dim green glow of a Toy Story alien since she’s holding it close to my forehead.
She holds her hand on my cheek while I sing her most popular request:
“I love you Lord and I lift my voice
to worship you, O my Soul, rejoice
Take Joy my King, in what you hear
let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear.”
9:52pm: Silence settles into the house. Another idea appears in a small square on the bathroom wall.
Dreams don’t die in one day.
“Write a bad story.”
I read the words and consider closing the book on such a ridiculous idea.
Why would I set out to write a bad story? I want to write truth-infused stories that compare to the giants of literature and stir the hearts of readers everywhere. (music swelling in the background)
It’s true that I’m not currently writing stories of such caliber. In fact my daughter, (who is currently sketching daily and taking a creative writing class) and who knows of my dreams of writing, asked me just the other day,
“Have you been writing anything lately, Momma?”
“No, not really.” No. Nada.
In fact I haven’t written any blog posts, or picked up my sketchbook to create a drawing or watercolor in months. I’m surrounded by artists of great skill, some of them young in my house, some of them lining our shelves, and some in my surrounding community. I want to draw like them (but not like them). I don’t want to do bad paintings.
Turning to my last (and most dear) genre, I think about plays and theater, and I certainly don’t want to teach, direct or write anything of poor quality. So I haven’t done anything. For about 12 years.
If I’m paralyzed by such lofty aims, and certainly by the chance that someone might catch a glimpse of my mediocre failings, maybe changing my target could be helpful.
I think of the words again. ”Write a bad story.”
Can I aim for bad, and possibly create more than, well, nothing.
And if I aim for bad and fail at bad, does that mean my failings might be good?
A perfectly preposterous idea.
But what have I got to lose with preposterous ideas?
That’s right. (Nothing.)
Write a bad story. Draw a bad picture. Start a mediocre theater class.
Extra: Watch this video by NPR’s Ira Glass, on creative work.
The quote, ‘Write a bad story”, can be found in the book If You Want to Write by Brenda Uleland, an absolute gem of a book for anyone dreaming of creative pursuits, writing or otherwise.
Over the course of the week I created 90 plus faces with various mediums and techniques. Ninety-ish instead of 101 because the last ten are part of a “pick your favorite technique and do a series” assignment so I’m taking a little more time to complete the final faces.
Submerged in Creating Art
There is something freeing about spending several hours a day creating art, especially when the assignments are specifically designed to silence your inner critic and move to a looser frame of mind and pen (or pencil, or charcoal). If I felt stiff during the first assignment of the day that was fine, because by assignment three I’d have a big smile on my face-not because a great product was sitting in front of me but because I’d enjoyed myself so much.
Steeped in well-planned lessons, instructional videos, and assignments I learned more about faces. Now I can picture the detailed and varied shadows in faces without looking at a photograph, I gained a better sense of drawing a child versus on adult, I can capture the basic essence of a person pretty quickly while sitting at a coffee shop glancing at the tables around me. I learned that I love realistic portraits because it’s satisfying to accomplish a likeness but I also like to see what comes out of my head with a blob of watercolor or a collage eyeball sitting on a piece of paper.
What kind of artist am I?
I’ve always assumed there were two types of visual artists. Those that can do a pretty good rendering of proportion and shadow from an object or person in their direct sight and those that can do that but also fill every space of their notes and books with fantastic creatures and faces that arrive directly from their imagination. I’ve always classified myself in the first group.
Carla’s books and classes have been full of gifts and one of them is learning to trust my imagination (that I even have one worth exploring) and she’s helped me find it in a non-threatening way that didn’t involve sticking me out in open space without a parachute and shouting “jump!”, instead she’s given me blobby marks of color or photographs or some chalky smudges as a foundation, and my imagination and hand have responded.
Here are some highlights from the week:
Blobby face shapes of watercolor with hair and features added in pencil, from the first day of class:
Portraits drawn with my non-dominant hand-hard to expect perfection with that assignment right?
Contour Drawings from old photos:
Acrylic Ink applied with a dropper:
Pastels chalk faces-plan to go back and make some more of these:
Realistic portrait of my daughter with sharpie and water-soluble black crayon smeared with a finger (another technique that removed some of my control and helped me yield to the process):
A portrait of my Granny, also with sharpie and water-soluble crayon:
A warm-up that began with a random eye or nose in each square (already part of the worksheet when it was printed), with pencil added and then erased:
Stylistic portraits based on magazine photos created with a Conte crayon:
Another stylized portrait in charcoal:
Face created with marker and sharpie on a layer of gesso with collage elements added:
Are you inspired to go do some art? I hope so!
Or maybe you don’t want to explore visual artist, but you’ve secretly wanted to write, knit, or learn an instrument-go sign up for a class!
More information on Carla Sonheim:
To read a review of her book, Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists, click here.
To read about our experience with her class, The Art of Silliness, click here.
If I wasn’t being lazy, I was prideful instead, thinking I knew more than my professors or generally disagreeing with their methods of teaching.
I was a charmingly good, bad student, purposeful in getting my teachers to extend mercy and assignment deadlines.
Since my mom is reading this right now, I’ll add that sometimes I was a passionate, give-it-my-all student, at least in my theater classes, which were the only classes I cared about (I still crammed for those too, though).
Many times I’ve thought back to being a student and wished I’d taken advantage of the time before Real Life came along. But life has taken me forward not back and I’ve been a teacher instead, homeschooling our kids, setting the goals and checking the assignments.
One of the benefits of homeschooling is a benefit solely for me (actually it bounces back to them as well). As a student I didn’t treasure the process of learning new information about the world, but as I teacher, learning through the eyes of my children, I’m now a sponge absorbing history and math and books I missed the first 20 years of my life. I didn’t learn that in school, I learned it as a teacher.
As summer approached I started looking around for writing and art classes for me. After looking at local art classes, I ended up signing up for two of Carla Sonheim’s online art classes. And even though the kids have sat beside me working on the assignments as well, I’ve savored the summer gift of being the student.
It turns out I’m a much better student at almost 35.
Imaginary Creatures-A class taught by Carla Sonheim
Each day included one warm-up, one drawing assignment, and one painting assignment, along with two videos from the teacher to watch before the assignments (one of the many good things about an online class, you can watch these videos as many times as you want).
In one week we did contour and blind contour drawings, one-liners and scribble warm-ups, two different charcoal techniques, watercolor, gesso, texture work with colored pencil, markers and more charcoal.
Day 1-Learning to keep our hand loose and our eye working closely with the pen.
(the 9 year old, below)
One the first day we also found Imaginary Creatures through “blobs”, which were layers of transparent watercolor created with a wet on dry technique.
(the 9 year old, below)
(the 11 year old, below)
Day 2-Continuing to loosen the hand and the imagination through blind contour drawings and charcoal.
(the 11 year old, below)
We also drew abstract lines of red, blue and yellow and then found Imaginary Creatures within those lines. Stage one of a several step process.
(the 9 year old, below)
(the 11 year old, below)
(my blobby guy, I didn’t like him at first)
(the 11 year old, below)
(my bird, below)
Day 4-Continuing the process of the Imaginary Creatures with color and gesso.
(9 year old, below)
(11 year old, below)
(beginning to like my blobby guy a little more, below)
The Final Day: Adding Texture and Charcoal Shading to our Blob Creatures and Imaginary Creatures.
(the 9 year old, above and below)
(the 11 year old, above and below)
(the happy blobby guy, I’ve decided I love this day by day process that feels a little bit like making magic each time we added a new layer)
Pop over to my other blog to see more of our artwork from this past week.
I reviewed another class by Carla Sonheim here, originally taken by my husband and kids back in February.
To read about her book, which we love, click here.
She has a new book coming out called Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals.
We would love for you to join us next week as we take Carla Sonheim’s next class, Faces 101-create one hundred and one faces using many different mediums over the course of the week. She has two more week long classes coming up in August, check out her website for more information.
The class is called Silly 5: Drawing Worksheets for Adults and the description included:
“Our goal: to get you to just PLAY, just 10 minutes a day, with pen and paper, thoughts and images. (You will be surprised how a shot of silliness like this will positively inform the other goings-on in your day, including your regular artwork.)”
The only part that nagged at me was the bit about the daily assignment as a worksheet. “Worksheet” conjures the seventh grade sweat of trying get the one correct answer to the problem and the smell of the locker room (but that’s really another story), and we pretty much strive to avoid them in our homeschool life. “Worksheet” does not immediately conjure anything to do with art or open-ended or silly.
So I wondered and bit my nails a bit.
But, I also had to trust the artist who has brought such joy and freedom into our family art life (via her book), surely she knew the same things about worksheets as I did and she had found a secret life of worksheets that I hadn’t a clue about, right?
The class started this past week and we’re now on our fifth silly sheet and I can tell you these things are definitely not the worksheets your dog ate the night before math class.
As part of the class, Mr. Darcy was allowed to share his worksheets with all of us, and we can post them to the flicker group as well (teachers participating can share them with their students!).
Let’s get to some visuals:
Basic instructions: Draw this fish a few times with your dominant hand, switch and draw with your non-dominant hand.
When we started this one I immediately thought of the small space of the worksheet (and the worksheet heebie jeebies crept up) and I opted for my sketch book instead. Then we peeked at the flicker group and the other class members had leapt right out of the box and their fish were swimming all around, over words, in the borders, some had mustaches or canes or attitudes. Here are two examples from our fam:
Our 9 year old
Click here to see one more from the flicker group.
Basic instructions for this next worksheet: Draw the eye as exact as you can to the one that is there, flip the nose and draw it, add a mouth.
Once again, I thought most of these would look the same and my imagination stayed small. Then I watched my family and these silly classmates create crazy characters (characters that certainly wouldn’t believe they were on a worksheet even if you told them).
Our 9 year old:
And my favorite worksheet-defying face from flicker, click here.
Basic Instructions for this next one: Turn the blobs into something else.
By this time I knew this wasn’t a worksheet, this was a PLAYsheet. Take a look at these:
the 9 year old:
the 11 year old:
the mr. darcy:
Basic Instructions: Create the Squeen’s Car (That would be the Silly Queen of Fleep)
the 11 year old:
the 9 year old:
Basic Instructions: Draw your feet without looking at your paper (blind contour drawing, this is also in her book)
the 9 year old
Don’t you feel your imagination cracking wide open to the possibilities, aren’t you ready to grab a pen?
Thank you, Mrs. Sonheim, for a seriously silly path to art.
You can see more of the student’s work, which continues through the 28th, here.