“Look at That!”…but where do I start?

Well my dear friends, I have launched my wonderful book on Amazon, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

eBook: I struggled with three separate versions of the ebook, each one with its own drawbacks, and finally settled on one I like well enough.

Paperback: I do love this sweet little thing. I love the cover, thank you so much to my graphic designer. The inside of the book, all 72 pages, was a huge struggle, going back and forth with another talented designer who specializes in formatting books for publication. I think we drove each other crazy along the way, but we ended up with a final product we both like. A lot.

The pouches: You will see on the menu bar above that I have added a tab for my “Look at That! Art Pouches” which I am selling on an Etsy site (the link is on that page shown above). I wove and sewed like crazy in the past several weeks, and then put to use my internet-writing-photography-marketing skills (often shaky skills!) to get my Etsy shop opened. A lot of work, but plenty of fun too.

If you’re thinking of buying copies of this book for gifts, you may also want to go one step further and add some art supplies. The problem is, where do you start… and more importantly, where do you stop?!

Thank goodness a dear friend asked me to help her with this, and it showed me how confusing it can be. Here is what I learned from helping her:

The supplies can and should stay really simple!

If you are getting this book as a present for someone, here are the three approaches you might consider.

1) Buy the book alone as a gift. You have just planted a life-changing seed.

2) Buy a book and a simple sketchbook for your gift. My book is 5.5” x 8.5”, and so are many sketchbooks. Here are three of my current favorite sketchbook options, all roughly A5 size.

a) The Hand Book Travelogue Watercolor Journal is the one I recommend in my book, and it is great if you plan to use watercolor often. Roughly $17 USD.

b) The Moleskine Art Sketchbook has really good paper, and works well with pen and ink as well as controlled amounts of watercolor. Roughly $15 USD.

Note: Be careful when you buy Moleskine books: They offer hard cover and soft cover, several paper weights, are beautifully made, but most are terrible for any artwork other than pencil (which I rarely use). If you are browsing in a store, look for the ones that have a blue/purple band near the bottom of the label, and are called  an Art Sketchbook (see photo below). The paper weight is “165 g/m2”. Beware of the ones called “plain” paper (green stripe/ 70 g/m2), and “cahier” paper (orange stripe, 70 g/m2). Those two papers are less than half as thick as the Art Sketchbook, and are way too thin for the kind of mark-making freedom you deserve.

Moleskine Art Sketchbook (this is a smaller version, but the link above will get you the right size.)

c) Finally, this sketchbook option is much less expensive, and is surprisingly adequate. They are sold in sets of two, each sketchbook is 6″ x 8″, has 30 sheets/60 pages, a soft cover, and you get two of these for only $6.99 USD (at least that is the pricing for now). “Artist’s Loft” is a Michael’s Craft Stores brand. It you are careful to control the amount of water you use, it does take watercolor well, and cuts your sketchbook expense considerably. Here is the link.

Michael’s Craft Stores have many choices- this one is a hidden gem.

3) Buy a book and a sketchbook online– then get an Art Pouch, and a Pen Kit from me. It’s almost like taking me home with you!

The Look-at-That Art Pouch: I invented these pouches a few years ago after sketching at a rally at the State House here in Concord. I needed to have easy access to my tools, so I could simply pull out my sketchbook and be ready to go, sketching standing up. No need to figure out where to sit, and how to manage holding multiple pens and brushes at the same time. Sketching while standing is an amazing experience: it energizes you, makes you focus, liberates your decision-making. Now it is easy!

These Look at That! Art Pouches are from a recent series I called “Peas and Corn and Carrots”!

Go to the Pouch tab on the menu bar above, find the Etsy link, click on that, and then take your time selecting the pouch that speaks to you. In the description of each pouch, I state the width of that specific pouch’s opening. They vary because they are handwoven, and are each the perfect size for a small collection of pens, pencils, and watercolor brushes, but most do not fit cellphones (yay!) because that is not what they’re designed for. The pouches are intentionally small so you’ll leave your extraneous art supplies at home.

L.A.T. Art Tool Kit: For drawing, feel free to simply grab a handful of assorted pens from your desk and use them to get started! If on the other hand you would like a fast, economical way to own the exact pens I describe in the Look at That! book, as well as a water-brush, I also offer this 6-piece tool-kit on the Etsy site.

Left to Right: Bic, Pencil, Pilot, Water Brush, Flair, Uniball. The logic of “why these?” is all explained in the book, of course!

I know the investment can add up quickly. Truth be told, the book, a grubby pen, and a dollar-store blank journal are enough to get anyone started, and to totally change their life (that includes you too). I’ve seen it happen.

Starting with very simple supplies has its own advantages. If you give someone just the book, a sketchbook, and nothing else, then they get to decide how deeply they want to dig in, and when. They will be able to consult the Infamous Purchase Order at the end of the book (page 65), and in a moment-to-moment spontaneous way, they can decide what next to add to their toybox.

Enjoy, and thanks!

Sketching in Scotland, what more could you want?
Posted in 1- Nuts: Graphic Styles, 2- Bolts: Sketching Tools, Look at That! book, Look-at-That! Pouches, Pen & Ink, Pencil sketching, Sketchbooks, Sketching tools, Urban Sketching (On-Site Creativity), Watercolor, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Today’s the day! “Look at That!”

My book is finally a reality! I am so proud to announce that a book that began its life as a twinkle of a notion of an alternative sort of art class three years ago, has turned into a lighthearted, fun, 72-page guide to enjoying ourselves in a whole new way.

“Imagine having instant access to a peaceful state of mind, simply by taking notes on what you see.”

That’s what it says on the back cover, and it’s true.

See for yourself. Both the ebook and paperback are now available worldwide on Amazon. You can search for “Look at That!” or Bobbie Herron, or use this link.   

Many people avoid using Amazon, I know, so I made the paperback also available through a wonderful website whose mission is to keep our beloved local bookstores thriving. The link is here.   

The Kindle/ebook version (only on Amazon) is very inexpensive right now, but not for long! It will remain at the crazy price of $1.99 for this week only, until November 29th.  If you’re not yet sure about ordering the paperback, try the ebook first. As a new fan said, “If you like the ebook, you will LOVE the paperback!” 

This past week my team and I worked hard behind the scenes, and I am thrilled that “Look at That!” has reached #1 New Release status in four categories!

 #1 New Release Art Reference, Landscape Painting, Art Study and Teaching, and Graphic Design Pen & Ink Drawing!

How cool is that!

Here are some quotes from recent customers:

“This book is a take-you-by-the-hand journey into the Present Moment through the magical world of the sketchbook.”

“This sweet book inspired my non-artistic self to give sketching a try, not to create a work of art, but to soothe my mind and spirit.”

“This little book is such a fun way to truly SEE. It’s remarkably deep but deceptively simple, and I love how the author’s humor and joy come through every page. I highly recommend it!”

“This book was a great find! Not only did it inspire me to move from thinking about sketching and visual journaling to actually doing it, it also made me see the world differently.”

The book description on the Amazon page will tell you everything you need to know, and the “Look Inside” feature is activated so you can even read a bit of the book right there.

It is a perfect holiday gift for artists and non-artists alike, trust me. My goal was to find a way to take you by the hand, go for a walk together, pointing out things you pass by every day but have never seen until this very moment. I think I succeeded.

If you enjoy it, let me know here, and please, spread the word! Share this blog post, talk it up on social media, tell your friends! The world could use a “Look at That!” bit of peace right now.

Posted in 1- Nuts: Graphic Styles, Cartoons, Look at That! book, Look-at-That! Pouches, Pen & Ink, Sketchbooks, Sketching tools, Urban Sketching (On-Site Creativity), Watercolor, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Quickest Way to My Heart is via a Fountain Pen

Another fun Sunday out sketching with my friend Patrick. This past weekend we enjoyed an unseasonably warm patch of weather, and took advantage of the afternoon light right here in town.

This is Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, a beautiful stone structure on the corner of Chapel and State Streets. Patrick admired the simplicity of the facade, the clean lines of the stunning front door, free of the metal and glass weather-proofing so many public buildings have in this climate (USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5B).

Not the greatest photo, I was only thinking of taking that beautiful door home with me.

This will be a short post, because I am deep in the details of pre-book-launch which will be official on November 22nd. For those of you who live within driving distance of Concord NH, I am planning a “Socially-Distanced Book Launch” on Saturday, November 28th from 1-3pm. Books for sale, cash only, $15 each, autographs free of course! More details in the post I plan to send on the 22nd. Of course, plans are subject to change, based on pandemic shifts.

For now, enjoy this beautiful church, and take a minute to pause and enjoy your surroundings as well.

LOVE the details at the eaves of buildings.
Last minute photo after the shadows started to shift.
This is the view that caught my eye.
And this is how simple it can be! Intentionally unfinished lines, suggested textures, fountain pen, felt tip pen, and tint brush.
Look at That!
Posted in Look at That! book, Pen & Ink, Sketchbooks, Sketching tools, Urban Sketching (On-Site Creativity) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A piece of unexpected art equipment

If you’re like me and you haven’t totally divorced yourself from Amazon, you probably have received more than one piece of blue-and-white bubble wrap packaging from them. That packaging may be hard to recycle, but it’s dead simple to repurpose. I’ve used one of these plastic sleeves for several years, it’s the perfect size, and more than likely, yours may fit you perfectly too.

“Perfect size? For what?”

It’s a modern version of my 1950s Girl Scout Sit-Upon, of course.

Here’s all you need to do to make yours:

1- Cut off the sticky part at the end of the Amazon bubble wrap envelope so it doesn’t cause trouble later.

2- Then you fold it in half, or fold it in quarters, and tuck it into your travel art kit. I have a very small backpack I keep stocked up for grab-and-go sketching. Then all I need to do is fill my water bottle, and I’m off and running.

In case this is not obvious yet, your bubble-wrap sleeve is the perfect size for your butt. Yup, no other word for it. The great news is that the next time you go out sketching and the only place to sit is on a wintry granite bench or a bumpy stone wall or a wet wooden step, no problem! You just put your Amazon mailing packet down first, then you set yourself down. Ahh…

Back a zillion years ago when I was a very young girl, I was a member of Brownies, the American junior version of Girl Scouts. One of the first things we did in Brownies was create a “sit upon.” All we needed was:

  • two butt-sized rectangles of Girl-Scout-green oil cloth (a pliable plastic-coated fabric with a cotton mesh backing. It’s like waterproof canvas, great for things like picnic table covers.)
  • a small stack of newspapers
  • a paper punch
  • a long, long piece of bright yellow yarn
  • a big fat sewing needle

(Keep in mind the Girl Scout colors back then were kelly green and bright yellow; now they are green and white.) We measured the spacing carefully, then punched holes around all four sides of both pieces of green oil cloth. Then we made the layer cake: oil cloth with green side down, then the newspapers, then second oil cloth, green side up. After aligning all the holes we threaded the fat needle with the fat yellow yarn and looped our way around all four sides.

Voila, an instant tushy cushion!

We were supposed to use them for all the wonderful camping trips, and all the other fun things you do outdoors in Girl Scouts. Unfortunately I either drifted off or the troop disbanded, not sure. I think I actually sat on mine maybe twice, but making it is still a vivid fond memory.

So now I have this much simpler version, and it makes me smile to remember how long I’ve been playing with yarn, and how much I just love my creature comforts. As I write this, I am sitting outside on my bubble-wrap sit-upon, on top of a very, very cold granite stoop, in front of the candy store where I live (yes, I literally live above a candy store!). It’s a cold, autumn Sunday afternoon, and I’m about to go sketching with my good friend Patrick.

What more could I want? I feel like all of you are my new scout troop now. Look at that! 🙂

Latest updates: the book is right on schedule for November 22nd release. Also, I have added the “Look-at-That Art Pouches” page to this website. This coming week, I plan to do a bit of work on the 82 photos of the 41 pouches I’ve made so far, and of course weaving continues. My Esty page needs more work before it can launch too. Never bored!

Life is so good, once you’ve found your passion.

Burlap bag from Aigas Field Centre (Scotland), fold-up chair by Road Scholar, sit-upon courtesy of Amazon, and sketchbook is a wonderful discontinued version (of course) from Michael’s Craft Store. (“Why a chair AND a sit-upon,” you ask? You never know where you’ll decide to sit!)
Posted in 2- Bolts: Sketching Tools, Look at That! book, Look-at-That! Pouches, My Story, Sketchbooks, Sketching tools | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sundays with Patrick

It’s time to tell you about a weekly outdoor adventure I have enjoyed since the end of May. At 1pm every Sunday, sketchbook, art kit, and camp stool in hand, I meet up with my good friend Patrick and we head out together on a search for great “Look at That!” locations to sketch.

I am so lucky to be able to learn from Patrick and borrow his eyes. He is an architect and therefore sees and understands things that you and I innocently overlook. He points out to me the nuances of architectural design that make a building facade “work.” I learn so much from him, and although we don’t talk a lot while sketching, we each have a ready audience for any insights either of us might have, about the scene in front of us or about life in general.

There are so many benefits to having a weekly sketchbook buddy:

  • Scheduling: Sundays from 1 until 4 are blocked off in my datebook, a default time that frees both of us from having to decide how and when to meet up. This makes it a priority, not a whim.
  • Food first: Many Sundays begin with a quick stop at our favorite restaurant right in the middle of town, where we have enjoyed outdoor seating for the last six months. We mask and distance automatically and effortlessly, refusing to let those minor inconveniences diminish the day’s joy. We listen to each other’s updates on work, family, and whatever else has been filling our dance cards. Then we are free to move on to the day’s sketchbook adventure ahead of us.
  • Scouting out a spot: We have a few favorite areas where we go to sketch, mostly because Bobbie will sketch anything, but Patrick has more discerning taste; he prefers to draw buildings or architectural details that catch his eye. I am happily along for the ride and will draw most anything I can see. I often choose to focus more on the landscaping than on the buildings, because my distance eyesight is quite weak now. No worries, I still have fun. Last Sunday I used the zoom lens on my smartphone’s camera as if it were a pair of binoculars, so now I can see roofline details as well as he can with his 20/20 vision. Very exciting!
  • Tempo: As we’ve traveled from May until October, Patrick and I have developed a tempo to our time together. After he parks the car, we quickly pick a spot for our chairs, and he gets right to sketching, using a beautiful hardbound A4 size sketchbook and a ballpoint pen. It takes me longer to settle in, but I also begin with just my sketchbook and a fountain pen. Whenever I think I’m about finished, I look over, and sure enough, Patrick is slowing down as well, sketching less, looking around more, simply enjoying the peace and quiet of intentional gazing.

Last Sunday, before I left home to meet Patrick, I double-checked my sketchbook and was surprised to see the prior week’s sketch had used up the last page of the book. An end of an era. My next new sketchbook was within easy reach, so I grabbed it and headed out the door.

When I arrived back home that evening, instead of shelving my completed sketchbook next to the mountain of other ones I have filled in recent years, I decided to pause and look back through it. It felt just like being there again. That is the best reason for creating a regular sketchbook habit. You get to enjoy every peaceful, look-at-that moment twice: once while you were there sketching, and again later when you slowly look through your book and experience effortless time-travel.

Here are some of the images from my most recent sketchbook. I encourage you to also find a weekly sketching buddy for yourself. It will be good for your heart and soul, as well as improving your drawing confidence and skill. If you live in an area where the pandemic is still too strong to make going outdoors pleasurable, consider starting, as Patrick and I did in March, by having a weekly meet-up online in something like a Zoom room. When we started, we each picked our own landscape photo to work from, and used the same approach/tempo we do outdoors: pause, look, look again, wait until some detail of the photo catches your eye, and then begin.

I smile writing this, because all of these steps are laid out with such loving care in my new book, “Look at That: Discover the Joy of Seeing by Sketching” which will be available on Amazon on November 22nd if all goes to plan.

Here’s a secret head’s up about my book:

Although it will be available in paperback and ebook formats, I really, really, really like the paperback better. So much care went into the layout, so much thought about what appears on facing pages, and the overall design is a joy. Of course in ebooks, you can view them a page at a time, or as 2-page spreads, and if the pages are made smaller or larger, well, don’t get me started. The information and loving guidance is the same in both the ebook and the paperback, of course. But as a light-hearted and enjoyable textbook, the real 3-D paperback will be much happier snuggled up next to your real 3-D sketchbook.

Here’s a sampling of this year’s Sundays with Patrick sketchbook. Enjoy!

Posted in Look at That! book, Pen & Ink, Urban Sketching (On-Site Creativity), Watercolor | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

My “Look at That!” book is moving right along!

I must say, if I had known the amount of studying and learning that was ahead of me in order to self-publish a book, I would have hesitated more. No regrets, but can I just say, wow.

The book cover phase is complete (created by a brilliant professional designer), the contents of the book have been edited (by yet another professional), revised, and edited a second time, and I am very pleased with the results of everything so far. Next, the book interior will be sent to a graphic designer for formatting so the headlines and text are as visually appealing as possible.

My own learning curves about copyright, ISBN numbers, lead magnets, landing pages, email management, and technology in general have been, as a friend of mine would say, “character-building.” The old me would have said, without hesitation, “No way! I have no interest in learning about any of that; I’ll pay someone else to do all that stuff.” But something happened. I got curious.

I started thinking, “What if I took the time to learn how to do that myself? What else do I have to do with my time? Really, what else?”

When I am learning at my own pace, I am one happy camper. If I have to learn faster than I can take in information, I get overwhelmed and frustrated. I now know that for me, the struggle is rarely about what I am learning or how complicated it is. For me, the feeling of angst is much more about tempo.

A gift from YouTube: I was thrilled to discover that when I am studying complicated instructional videos about technology, I can actually slow down the audio to 75%. Who knew! I am so old I can’t even hear as fast as young people talk. Sad but true. But if they are on YouTube, I can make them talk slowly enough for me to learn.

So there’s my update. I am learning more than I ever dreamed I would need or want to learn. I have discovered that velocity is a bigger problem than trajectory. I can aim for the stars if I let myself stroll at my own intuitive pace.

Best of all, I’m still a human being (not just a tied-to-the-laptop writer), so occasionally I have errands to run. It is then that I get to practice what I preach.

Heading back from the store yesterday, I was walking along, minding my own business, and out of nowhere I felt that metaphorical tap on the shoulder, triggered by my peripheral vision. Suddenly I noticed something brand new. It was the same building, the same tree that I had seen a hundred times, but never with that moment’s light and shadow, that moment’s autumn chill in the air, and that smell of coffee drifting from a nearby cafe.

So without hesitation I stopped, the same way I would if I had spotted a dear friend. I stopped because I know enough to honor a “Look at That!” nudge from the universe. I took a seat on the granite wall, pulled out my very cheap notepad and beloved fountain pen, and began. I took a sacred five minutes to simply say thanks for the pause, to draw what drew me.

If this little vignette has sparked your interest and you would like to be part of my Launch Team, to help get the word out about my new book coming out in November, drop me a note through the Contact tab above, and tell me a bit about yourself and why you are interested in learning about a “Look at That!” approach to life. If it sounds like a good fit, in exchange for your help I will send you a free advance copy of the ebook. As they say, “We’ll talk.”

Five minutes, I’m not kidding. You can do this too. Look at That!

Posted in 3- Magic: Art Epiphanies, Look at That! book, Pen & Ink | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

“Look at that!” said the soon-to-be author.

I’m writing a book. 

Yes, I’m as surprised as you are. I see now why, for the past two months, I have written so many blog posts about staying grounded, finding equanimity with outside distractions, and not letting your lists over-ride your heart. Well here’s the reason: that whole time I have been working on the rough draft of my first published book.

The subject of the book is simple enough, and I foolishly thought I had already written most of it because it is a print version of the ‘Sketchbook Adventure’ art classes I taught for three years here in Concord. It turns out, a lesson plan is merely an outline of the stand-up comedy act that teaching has to be at times. I had a lot of writing and illustrating ahead of me.

It’s funny, in 2017 I went looking for a specific kind of art class to take, and I couldn’t find it anywhere near where I live. My guardian angel (or something) whispered, “You know, you could just teach that class instead…”  And now, three years later, when I don’t want those lesson plans to die on my hard drive, that sneaky angel whispered again, “You know, you could just turn it into a booklet or something…”

I don’t think I am the most brilliant writer or best artist, far from it. But I just may be the person to deliver the loudest, most heartfelt “Look at that!” message. I want others to be as amazed as I am by the miracle of eyesight. Sketching (the way I teach it) is a way to slow down time, breathe more deeply, stop taking ourselves so seriously, at least for a moment, and be amazed at the gorgeous world in which we all live, regardless of where we live. As a side effect of this pausing, breathing, and ‘note-taking’ called sketching, we end up with squiggly lines on the paper of our sketchbooks. Those lines please us, not because they are perfect, but because they are the record of a very pleasant pause.

A peek into my world

I always have a little notebook and at least one pen with me in my purse. When I’m sitting in a doctor’s waiting room or at a sidewalk cafe killing time until my next appointment, I look around and I see that most people are on their smartphones, flipping through Facebook, possibly reading a book on Kindle, enjoying themselves, but in truth their focal distance is about 10 inches and covers a surface area of about 3 inches by 6 inches. That’s only 0.104 cubic feet, a pretty small world for anyone  to live inside.

What I do instead, after I have looked at all those poor souls, is pull out my skimpy little notebook and pen, and look around. My method is simple: I draw whatever grabs my attention because after all, anything worth seeing is worth sketching, right? The way you know something has grabbed your attention is that your glance is interrupted by an unexpected double-take: you look twice and may not even know why. It doesn’t matter, you now have your subject matter (preferably an inanimate object and not the fidgety person sitting across from you!).

That’s what my book is about. It starts with a welcome, continues on with a dead-simple supply list, warm-up exercises so you can get to know your supplies better, and then we go outside together. There I show you how I approach sketching as a way of focusing your seeing, rather than as a way to put marks on a piece of paper. (The last thing we want is to trigger every insecure, self-conscious thought you ever had about drawing pictures!) What I’m interested in is helping people to see better, to fall in love with the fact that they can see at all. If you spend enough time looking, seeing, and ‘taking notes,’ it’s funny how your drawing abilities improve automatically.

I made another discovery in the last week or so as I dove into the gigantic learning curve of self-publishing: I love being a student. I realized yet again that if I go for very long without studying something or other, I’m at risk of grumpiness. Hungry minds unite!

Another perk

Sketching gives me a chance to fidget from the wrist down when I need to calm my overactive brain. It really doesn’t matter what ends up on the page, what matters is what falls into my heart. I fall in love with seeing, with being alive and fully present. The shift is delightful.

The book should be ready by the end of November and will be available in paperback as well as eBook on Amazon. Who knows what might happen after launch day. I might create a Sketchbook Adventure Club that meets on Facebook Live now and again, so I can share the excitement of seeing/drawing with like-minded wonderful people like you.

 If you’d like to get on my mailing list, please send me a note through the ‘Contact Me’ tab on this website and include your email. That way you will be among the first to know when the book is released.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me through the four years this blog has been going, and remember:

When in doubt, stop, look, listen, and grab a pen.

The branches of the trees made a window for the windows.
Look at that!

Posted in Look at That! book, Pen & Ink, Sketchbooks, Sketching tools, Urban Sketching (On-Site Creativity), Watercolor, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

To Women Artists Everywhere

I stumbled across this while looking for something else in my art archives. Notice it is from twenty-eight years ago.

Those shoes still fit.

 

Artists Prayer BH1

Posted in 3- Magic: Art Epiphanies, Musings on Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cha-Cha of Confidence

img_20200818_122033

An unexpected pause in my errands, to record a moment of delicious sunlight.

You may have noticed I haven’t written much about sketching, or watercolor, or art supplies lately. Instead, I seem to be fixated on writing about how to best use one’s time for the most pleasant result at the end of the day. Nothing wrong with that, but where did the obsession with sketching go?

It hasn’t gone anywhere really, in fact it is more focused than ever, just elsewhere.  All of my energy these last many weeks has gone into the nuts-and-bolts work of writing a book that has been nipping at my heels for quite a while. The writing is now finished and polished, and all that’s left to do are a few more illustrations. Then, out of the blue, I felt a jab to the gut:

Who needs another how-to book about sketching?

It felt like a sudden stick in my bicycle spokes, stopped me dead in my tracks. Who are you kidding, girl?

Then this morning a fellow-blogger’s post landed in my inbox. These words hit home (underlined emphasis mine):

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Learn a skill– We all have something to share, to give… music, writing or something that the locals can get some benefit out of…your skill works wonders in uplifting the environment and oneself.

“Know the Elements of Life- The slow deep breathing… long walking times tune your heart and lungs in its own right into meditation order. The purest form of seeing and keeping ourselves and nature in check and healthy.

“Visit local writers, teachers and local artisans- One of my favorite things after I settle down at a place is to look out for people who are living intimately within themselves and are the bed rock of the society. You can walk around asking for such people if you are curious enough to know something deeper… I did have to learn a few things the hard way but many things that I have mentioned here were received through a long time of seeing. Very slowly without me being aware of it. But I can tell you that the source of it all was only being respectful, first and foremost to yourself. That’s it! Respecting oneself.

“Regardless of what you may think, my only reason to be here writing is to become a bridge for anyone who is seeking…, to share ideas, resources, memories that even if you are not there, your mere thought can uplift somebody’s moment.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I thank this gentle man, Narayan Kaudinya, whose writing I only know about because he stumbled across one of my blog posts and liked it. The feeling is mutual.

So you see, that is how life works. We each are going along just fine with our to-do lists and daily activities, content, questioning nothing. Then it happens, out of nowhere comes a smidgeon of self-doubt, because you realize most of your friends may like you well enough, but they don’t give a fig about joining you in that hobby of yours that for you is the meaning of life itself.

After finishing the final draft of my book last week, I looked at the next steps, how to hire a graphic designer, and decide the best route to self-publishing both an ebook and a paperback because after all, everyone reads ebooks nowadays, but I really, really want my pride and joy to be held in people’s hands as well. Then I did  a little market research on Amazon, to see what sort of books are already out there in my tiny niche market, and I was met with a tsunami of 5-star reviews, gazillions of copies sold, artists whose books turn into workshops and webinars and world tours, and my shoulders just drooped.

“I just wanted to write a little book, that’s all,” I said to myself. “Something to help anyone who is a sketching wannabe and doesn’t know where to start. I don’t want to build a business. I just want to write this little book, print it, make it available to anyone who wants it, and get back to my simple, pleasant life. That’s all.”

My new acquaintance Narayan reminded me that my humble ambitions are enough. It may be un-American to have no interest in tooting one’s horn, but there you have it. I am back on track, thank goodness. I scared myself for a minute there.

What do you do when your belief in yourself falters? When you lose sight of the value of your particular contribution to this world? How do you regain your balance?

I try to remember The Cha-Cha of Confidence, a phrase I just made up but it seems to describe my experience fairly well. I move forward and back, side to side, shift the weight from one foot to the other, and it looks like I really know what I’m doing if I don’t lose my balance, right?

When I do start to topple a little, I try to wear the momentary discomfort as a loose garment, to paraphrase St Francis of Assisi. I know something will come along, unbidden by me, to tap me gently on the shoulder and reawaken me to the fact that who I am and what I am doing are both just fine the way they are.

Hitting this little bump of insecurity actually put me back in touch with the readers I hope to have for this book.

Bring me your timid, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be able to sketch for fun, but who don’t know what to ask first. Guide them to this book, that will hopefully bring them a laugh and a very small supply list. Let me hold their hand until they smile, turn to me and say, “I’m good now, I can head out on my own. But can we get together for coffee later so I can show you what I did?”

Certainly, I say, returning their smile. That’s all I ever wanted.

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Posted in 3- Magic: Art Epiphanies, Musings on Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Your lists may be stopping you

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Stop nagging me!

There’s one sure-fire way to take yourself out of this beautiful present moment:

Make a List.

With the most innocent of intentions, many of us start the day by sitting down with a fresh piece of paper, jotting down the day of the week at the top, underlining it, then listing the appointments we have scheduled for the day. These are important: they are commitments that affect other people, whether it means being on time for a doctor’s appointment, a scheduled car repair, or a Zoom meeting right here at the home office desk.

Appointments. Good things to remember.

Semi-Appointments.

A word I just invented, ‘semi-appointments’ are deadline-free commitments that are nevertheless tied to real appointments. Like getting a bloodwork test done before the doctor’s appointment. Like stopping at the gas station on the way to the repair shop, or else the car will run out of gas on the way there. Like putting the finishing touches on a presentation, well in advance of the scheduled Zoom conference meeting.

But what about all that other ‘to-do’ stuff?

There’s a place for that too, but not  on your daily list!

Instead, follow the lead of the Day-Timer™ Company, and create a Grass-Catcher List.  This sheet of paper (does anyone still use paper?) will be fertile feeding ground when you are between appointments and still full of energy for a productive day.

It is not a place for every whimsically nice idea that crosses your mind: this is not brainstorming. Your Grass-Catcher List is only used to jot down things you need to remember. Its real power is that it gives you a way to stop interrupting yourself.  Here’s how.

The In’s and Out’s of my Grass-Catcher List

My Grass-Catcher List is divided in half vertically. The columns are called: In and Out, (shorthand for “At Home” and “Errands”).

The ‘In’ Side

Phone Calls’- Under this subheading I note the calls I want to make in the next week or so, no order of importance, just as I think of them.

Computer’-  When I’m working on a big writing project, I don’t want to interrupt myself evey time I think of an email I need to send or a product I want to research online. Instead, I just jot it down under ‘Computer’ on my G-C List.

Listen’- This is my list of the monthly membership Patreon sites and podcasts I support financially. That reminds me to listen to them when I want a break.

What I don’t write down is just as important as what I do write down.

I never list ‘wash dishes’, ‘vacuuming’,  ‘tidy up’. I do those things when the spirit moves me, not because some taunting bit of ink is ‘shoulding’ all over me.

At the opposite end of the joy spectrum, I never, ever add my favorite hobbies to a task list. This is for two reasons: one, there’s no risk of my forgetting them and two, I don’t want joy tainted with duty.

The ‘Out’ Side

I no longer drive, so my Out list has two sub-categories:

Walk- This could include the ATM machine, my local pharmacy, and a specialty item at the local co-op a block from where I live.

Bus/Car- I’m back taking public transportation cautiously, and luckily I also have friends who will drive me to stores beyond easy walking distance. Here I write down extraneous errands that are not urgent, but that I want to remember the next time I am out.

Groceries- Ah yes, an on-going list for me. Again, I only write down the things I want to be sure to remember, because most of my shopping is ‘produce-browsing.’

Not included- I never write down things that “might be fun to do while I’m out,” because that bright idea becomes clutter, blocking the way for bright ideas to come. If I have spare time while I’m actually out and about (for example, while I’m waiting for my bus), I can trust my gut instinct to come up with something exhilerating to do in that moment. No need for a list.

And there is my point.

Even in pandemic days, it can feel like there’s not time enough to do what needs to be done. Getting to the root of that sense of being ‘behind schedule’ is important work, maybe the most valuable investigative work you will ever do.  An unfinished to-do list can become a needless weight on your soul. I want to help you attain a greater sense of satisfaction and spontaneity out of every day, so here’s your challenge:

1- For one whole week, refrain from creating your usual drill-sergeant to-do lists.

2- Instead, on a small piece of paper, jot down only your Appointments and Semi-Appointments for the day. 

3- Start a Grass-Catcher List, including only things you really want to remember to do at some point in the next couple weeks, no longer.

4- Use your Grass-Catcher List as a Shopping List whenever you find yourself at an unexpected ‘meadow’ in your day. When you look at the Grass-Catcher List, be sure to pause and notice if you are asking what you should do next, vs. what you want to do next. If nothing on the G-C List grabs your interest, you are then free to look around and consult your marvelous Intuition as well.

Finally, at the end of each day, see if you have a strangely elevated sense of pleasure and accomplishment.  You met all you commitments and did quite a bit more. You spent most of your day in the Present Moment, trusting your instincts over and over again. You came to see you never needed to hold your own feet to the fire at all.

A List can be a tool or a weapon. Choose wisely.

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P.S.: Today happens to be this blog’s 4th birthday. My how it has grown, as has my confort level in creating it.  And for that, you certainly are partially responsible.

Posted in Musings on Life | Tagged , , | 3 Comments