What do you do with your brilliant ideas?

I don’t know about you but sometimes I get a creative idea that is either not fully developed or I don’t have time to work on right away. Sometimes these ideas fade away and sometimes they become persistent, like an itch that just has to be scratched. Most of my ideas are written down and in the last couple of years I have used an app to do that. Apps, by their very nature are risky for such things. Here today, gone tomorrow. It’s a choice but I decided if the idea is hopefully good, it will stay with me. For the curious I use Daymap. It’s not a conventional use since it’s a productivity guide but it has a filing feature that works well for me.

I currently have four, hopefully good ideas percolating. One was gifted to me by a fellow artist a couple of years ago. I didn’t like his parameters, if felt too restrictive so I have sat on it until I know how I want to make the project my own. Now I know and I have plans to start it in the fall. Obviously I’m not going to talk about that particular project until I start it but the reason I bring it up is to ask, what do you do with your brilliant ideas? Those ideas that come to you at 2.45 am or when you are driving somewhere you have been many times before? Do they get away from you or do you jot them down? Making notes is a step in the right direction but what if you never actually read through your ideas. Do you write it down and forget about it? It happens and it’s unfortunate.

Some of the things I do to move ideas from writing the idea down to completion are quite simple. I talk about them out loud, sometimes to myself in the shower, sometimes with a friend that will be honest and tell me if it’s a terrible idea. I do a lazy mind map, probably totally wrong but it makes sense to me. To do this I write the one or two words that describe my inspiration. In no particular order I start to write, I add everything that comes to mind. I make thumbnail sketches and look at what style I might use. This is a good time to decide if I want to use materials I already have or if I need to make a shopping list. I add and change and edit my map until I am happy with it.

Sometimes I can have a fully developed plan and it sits there for a while, just waiting. If procrastination was an Olympic sport I would be a contender. It’s something I have to push through over and over again, even once I have made a start on something. I am easily distracted with tendencies towards adding layers of multi-tasking splinter projects. For example, a particular thing I am working on might make a good YouTube video. Videoing something to share is a huge task which has several steps. This can become a point of procrastination which means the original project is now just sat waiting for me to gather my energies to push through and make a start. I can be my own worst enemy but I do remind myself, I can edit. If I made my task to big, I can make decisions to move myself forward or I can allow myself to be overwhelmed. These are things within my control.

What do you do with your big ideas? Are you a dreamer who stalls before you get started? Are you worried that your project may just be a big waste of time? I want to encourage you to build on those ideas and dream big. Waste your time finding out if your project has merit.

If you would like a more in depth look at the apps I use or how I might map out my ideas let me know in the comments and I will share them with you.

FUN childrens exhibition

In my last post I shared news about an exciting project that had been two years in the making. It started when I invited my granddaughter Gracie to come and hang out and paint with other artists. Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center host an open studio where artists can come to a great shared space and work in the company of other artists. It’s a great experience and I encourage you to do it if the opportunity arises. Attending several sessions allowed each artist to submit work for the group exhibition. I had not even considered that Gracie was going to submit any of her paintings however she was invited to submit and consequently won second place people’s choice award. Due to the top peoples choice winner not being able to take her prize of a solo exhibition, it was passed on to Gracie. Thats a huge prize for a working artist let alone a child, so she opened it up to the children in our surrounding areas.

The work is not yet done.

One of the things I have appreciated about DGCAC is how they encouraged Gracie to be part of the planning, decision making, and execution of her exhibition. On the day of the reception, she signed beautifully printed certificates for the other young artists, which she later handed out after making a short speech. The room was packed and she swallowed her nerves and spoke to the entire room. That room is huge and it was packed! I was so proud of her. For her, a highlight was having one of her brothers and two sisters involved and showing their paintings. The best bit though, was getting to spend time with one of her best friends, the first time since the pandemic started.

Always fun to have your brother and two sisters involved too.

Getting ready for a special exhibition.

It started as a way to spend time with my lovely granddaughter, who was eight at the time. Like most children, she has always loved to paint and like most Grandmothers, I love to spend time with my grandkids. I was attending a series of open studio sessions which would culminate in a group show and I invited her to accompany me. I could think of nothing better than sitting and painting alongside one of my favourite people in a shared studio space with other artists. It hadn’t even occurred to me that she might complete a painting and be invited to participate in the exhibition. Not only did she show her art but she won the first runner up people choice award. That should have been it, the culmination of a fun, shared experience. It was not.

The winner of a solo exhibition was unable to take her prize so the next person in line was eight year old Gracie. She and I discussed the ins and outs of such an undertaking and what it would mean to have a solo exhibition of her art work. Thankfully she realised what a huge undertaking that would be so we needed to find a way for her to enjoy the opportunity she was being given without it becoming an overwhelming burden. We discussed several possible scenarios including sharing the prize with or passing it on to the second runner up, a wonderful artist by the name of Shannon Bryant, you can see her work here www.Instagram.com/shannonbryantartist.

Gracie decided that she would like to give the children in our seven cities the same opportunity and experience that she had enjoyed. A proposal was submitted by the curator at Downing Gross Community Arts Center for a gallery exhibition and an open call for child artists was put out into the surrounding communities. Forty Four children responded, which far exceeded all our expectations.

Yesterday we got to go to the huge gallery space the art show will be held in so she could help to curate and hang the art works. It was a big task. First the art needed sorting and making sure the wall tags were paired with the right work. Then, she needed to decide how she wanted the pieces grouped. Some were easy because they were sibling sets, like Gracies and two of her sisters and a brother. Others could be grouped by class, because some art classes would not get to show their work this year, this event opened up possibility for them too. The rest were by subject, size and style. It was fun and we got a good number of the pieces hung. The rest we needed to leave to the gallery staff. Her work is not yet over but right now she is out with another of her Grandmas shopping for a dress because she has been asked to talk at the reception. She still needs to sign forty four certificates and write a bio and find a photo she likes for the program. All because we wanted to hang out and paint together.

Finding time to do some urban sketching.

This week has almost got away from me. Have I mentioned before that I live in a house full of people. Lovely, engaging, interesting people. One of those beautiful people has been rather unwell recently and when one goes down, everyone else steps up to make sure things are taken care of. We know how to prioritize around here. It does mean I am running a little behind on organizing my shop, not yet open and the fall design collection for a group effort on Spoonflower. I’m new to the surface design world and it can be overwhelming but I want to participate so I have to do the work. I still have to show up and sometimes that can be hard to do.

Sometimes we need to get a little creative on finding a space for our mental health breaks. One of my favourite things, and I may have mentioned this before, is Urban Sketching. So how do I find time when I am helping take care of a bunch of children? Well, I take the children that share my interests with me and leave a good hour early for an appointed weekly errand. We simply stop on route and sketch. It’s perfect. I get to connect with a beloved family member and we both do something relaxing together.

Young’s Mill, Newport News, Virginia

The mill is not actually leaning, that’s just my poor photography.

Quality time and friendship.

I decided this week to take a small break from daily painting to reset and start my next project with a full plan. That said, I still paint or draw on an almost daily basis because a day without creativity is a day closer to feeling just a little off. Not quite one hundred percent. I always joke that making art is cheaper than therapy except, its not really a joke. This article from the NBCI; The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature outlines the importance of visual, audio and physical arts on the equilibrium we need to maintain whole body and mind health. I am no expert, in fact I would describe my medical knowledge as little more than knowing I should probably not Google anything curious. I just know what works for me and that I need to make time to do the thing that keeps me grounded.

Today’s mental health break turned into a free lunch with a friend outside a new Mediterranean restaurant called Cava. We decided to meet up to sketch in a small retail area with loads of comfortable seating options and shade trees. It’s been on my list of places to sketch for longer than I want to admit. The new eatery looks great from the outside, visually interesting and in close proximity to some of the more comfortable deck chairs that can be moved for optimal use. It also happened to be the day of their practice run for the grand opening tomorrow. Quite a few people had reservations to sample the food. We did not. However, never underestimate a hungry Norwegian. My dear friend Donna decided she was going to see if she could get inside without a reservation. I giggled, said sure, I’ll watch the painting gear, good luck. Well, as expected she was turned away. We will assume he is the new owner, stood watching us sit chatting and looking at his establishment. I was painting it, I had to keep looking. I can only assume he decided we are the wrong demographic to disappoint the day before his grand opening. He came over and offered us lunch, on him. Obviously it would be rude to say no. The food was amazing! I highly recommend CAVA if you are in the location of such a place. What a good way to recharge the batteries, doing something fun with someone fun and free food!

It’s a little before 6am.

I’m not a morning person by any stretch of imagination yet here I am, rested and awake at five something sipping coffee and planning my day. This is not something I manage often but when I do it’s lovely. My large family are all still asleep and it’s just me and the birds watching the house fill with light. It won’t be long before small boys and girls and their assorted chatter come looking for breakfast. I could sneak out before they appear and take some sketching supplies and go and sit by the river to sketch. I probably won’t though because I’m sat here, talking to you.

I wanted to show you these pollinator illustrations I finished yesterday for The Mariners Museum and Park. They are going to be part of the new educational signage in the pollinator garden and I’m not even going to pretend to be nonchalant about it. I have always loved the illustrated signs you find in zoo’s and gardens and secretly wished I could get my work onto one of these small public art displays. I’m so excited they wanted my drawings! I believe the sign is set to be installed sometime next month so expect more photos when that happens. Really obnoxious photos with pointing and grinning.


so I wrote this

post two hours ago and then forgot to publish. I guess I need more coffee!

Spring Watch.

One day last week I noticed a tiny nest hidden just inside a wreath I have hanging on my dining room window. The window faces onto my porch so it’s perfectly situated for shielding form bad weather. To my great delight, when I peeked inside the nest, there were four blue speckled eggs. I hadn’t really caught sight of the mother bird so had no idea what they were destined to become but I was keen to watch the new life progress. After posting photos on Instagram and tagging different people it was determined that they were the eggs of a House Finch. I had never heard of such a bird. The birds of the continental US are very different from their European counterparts.

This week the eggs are hatching, one a day in the order that the eggs were laid. We have three fluffy scraps of life living wedged against the dining room window frame. I have seen both parents but they are so very shy it’s been impossible to get photos so far. I’m trying to set up a small nest cam so they can be seen without knowing they are being watched. I don’t want to spook them. I think by next week the chicks will certainly be more active and hungry. Very, very hungry!

I am planning to use these for references for some paintings later on but for now, I’m enjoying the new life right outside my window. Please don’t be worried about me scaring the parents away, this won’t happen. I am very careful not to approach the nest when they are present and sitting. I can peek through the blinds to check before I go out to take another photo.

Can art practice be approached holistically?

If you have been reading my blog for a while or follow any of my socials you will see that I don’t, I cannot just stick to one thing. Some weeks I put out digital art and others I may be doing water colours. It can appear scattered and unfocused and it’s actually discouraged in art circles. However, I have discovered I need variety because sometimes I need ink and sometimes I need graphite. It’s just the way I am. Some of my friends call this “squirreling”. Not in a hiding my nuts away in a tree stump kind of way but in the way a squirrels distraction quotient is high. I see where they are coming from but to me it’s multitasking. I have several areas of interest that I work through at the same time. It may look scattered but actually each facet of interest is interlinked and development in one area often informs another. I like to think of it as a more holistic approach to my art practice.

One of the main reasons I can flit between media with some success is because of my dedication to learning how to draw. Really, that’s the key to everything. That and the number 42. (Any other Hitchhikers Guide fans out there?) If your foundational skills are strong or at least improving consistently, then switching between media is actually fairly easy. There are core elements across several media that connect them. For example, transparent media can be layered to create different colors. This is true for watercolor, wax pencils, pastels and digital art. The same can be said for high flo acrylics and wax crayons. The key is finding what properties each hold and which can be shared. The techniques can vary somewhat, but once you understand the mechanics these skills become transferable.

So, I encourage you, practice drawing in it’s most basic form. Even if you have spent a decade or more with a pencil in your hand. Practice is a constant not unlike an athlete keeping their muscles primed. Try different media and allow yourself to play. You can be a watercolorist who also enjoys ink. You can paint the most exquisite works of awesome with pastels and still take the time to explore acrylics. Who knows, you may find a way to use them both together in a way only you know how to do. You are only as confined as your curiosity allows. That said, if you are enthralled by gouache or are so deep into oil that nothing else calls to you, that’s ok too. We don’t have to conform to anyone else’s idea of what your art practice should be.

Drawing practice in my sketchbook.

If you enjoy my blog or other offerings and would like to support me by way of a tip, I have set up an account on Buy Me A Coffee. I do have a set goal in order to purchase a wide format printer capable of handling art prints. I have not yet figured out membership levels but if you want to just follow my progress there is an option to just follow on there. As always, there is no obligation if you just want to find out what Buy Me A Coffee is and maybe use it yourself follow the link and go through the menu for more information.