Taking small steps in order to be ready for the big steps…

I am unable to express in the right words how satisfying it is to create something with my own hands.

When a person is young, people like to ask them what it is they want to do or become when they are older. I would come up with all sorts of things. One time it was an archeologist. Another time a teacher. Another time a police officer. And another time it was a dancer. I never dreamed of going into computers. Back then they were new, not something anyone ever thought would be a common every day thing for most everyone to have in their home, let alone be able to carry around with them.

You might be wondering why I have gone off on this tangent after reading the first sentence. Hang in there. I’m getting there.

In school, I had three teachers make suggestions for what I could do with my life. The first was my typing teacher. She suggested being a secretary. That is what administrative assistants were called back then. Yes, I was good at typing and creating professional looking letters and documentation. The second teacher was my math teacher, he suggested either teaching math or getting into something math related. Yes, because math came easy to me. The third teacher was my art teacher. He suggested I use my talent as an artist and make a career out of it.

Though I didn’t set out to get into computers, the universe set me on that path, so it might appear I had followed my math teacher’s recommendation. In reality, I just grasped an opportunity when it presented itself. I can’t say it was a right or wrong decision or a poor or good decision. It just was what it was. IT served its purpose. It fed the analytical/logical part of me and provided well for me and my daughter.

There are various reasons why I chose that route. I could get experience and education in it by entering the Air Force. College wasn’t in the cards for me, so a business degree or art degree wasn’t possible at that time, neither was a computer science degree, so I opted for a way to gain experience and some education in a career field that would provide for me.

What my art teacher didn’t know was that for some reason while in his art classes, I felt the artist in me peeking out and at times brave enough to show herself. When not in those classes, she went back into hiding.

Throughout my subsequent years, I tried at times to pick up a pencil to draw but would always become frustrated within the first few minutes. I would then put it down and not pick it back up for years.

I satisfied my need to create with my own hands in other ways. I started teaching myself how to crochet after just learning a few stitches from my mother. Then I taught myself how to knit. When my mother or I bought something that needed to be put together I was right there, taking over, working together or doing it all by myself. I always felt like I had accomplished something when I was able to put whatever it was together. I got into jewelry making, even took a class in jewelry repair which I loved and was really good at it. I had dreams of designing and creating my own jewelry but I couldn’t afford the tools and supplies it would require. I also didn’t have the space or an area safe enough for the type of equipment needed. Knitting and crocheting became my way of filling my need to create, and it went in cycles because it wasn’t enough to hold my interest.

About three years ago, I decided it was time to awaken my inner artist. It is she that craves the need to create with her hands. I started watching youtube videos and discovered Zentangle, Zentangle Inspired Art, Doodling, Zendoodling, or whatever people want to call it. I am not a natural doodler. I have never been one to sit and doodle in meetings or when on the phone, or at any other time. Watching the videos, reading on Zentangle, and this type of art made me realize this might be the way for me to awaken my inner artist without having the frustration, fear, anxiety or whatever it is that kept me frozen whenever I would pick up a pencil to draw. It had structure which my logical mind craved.

My natural inclination when I draw is to draw exactly what I see.  Anyone who is an artist will know how impossible that is to accomplish. I’m a perfectionist, if my pencil stroke is not perfect then it is wrong and I’m an awful artist, is how I felt inside. I read articles, I watched videos on Zentangle and their philosophy is nothing is a mistake. Use pen/ink and you will eventually learn to accept every line you draw and no longer think of them as mistakes. And, you learn to incorporate them into your art. Boy, did I need that!

I started drawing, first just drawing the step-outs. Then incorporating them into abstract pieces using the idea of strings. For those not familiar with this idea, this is the only place you use a pencil other than to shade. Draw a random line, straight or curved or both, creating smaller areas that are then filled in with the patterns. I found a free website tanglepatterns.com which has hundreds if not thousands of patterns and their step-outs or links to other sites with the step-outs. This got me started and brave enough to try other things.

Tangles eventually progressed into mandalas. Mandalas eventually progressed into art journaling, then eventually into whimsical art or other classes where I could gradually improve my skills as an artist and learn to experiment with different mediums, eventually expanding into mixed media art.

If you have read my previous posts you will be aware that I am taking Mandala Madness a course in how to draw mandalas given by Barb Owen of How To Get Creative. I had already been drawing mandalas for over a year when I started taking this course. I wasn’t sure how much I would learn from it. The only reason I took it was I wanted to learn how to create a mandala on canvas. I have only painted on canvas once and it wasn’t to do a mandala. I love what I create so much that I wanted to be able to create a large one on canvas to hang in my home, so I signed up for the class.

I am absolutely amazed by how much I am learning in this class and we haven’t even gotten to the canvas part yet. Even if it wasn’t part of the class I feel I have already gotten my money’s worth and more. I rarely put color with my mandalas. I love them in their stark black and white. Now, I am falling in love with color too. Here is my latest:

I call it “Royalty”. This one is made using the technique shown by Barb in her free introductory videos for how to draw a mandala using a compass. If drawing mandalas interests you at all, have a look, give it a try. I think you will be surprised how easy it is. Barb is an excellent instructor. She takes her time explaining each step along the way. The only thing you need are the tools she mentions and an imagination or you can follow her detailed instructions to try and make one just like she does in the videos.

Getting here. Being able to create this with my own two hands after years of being away from art, is so satisfying to my inner artist. It is hard to describe. Over thirty years of having my logical analytical side listened to, fed and being forefront in my life, meant my creative side was suppressed, ignored, and not listened to.  It feels good to let her out to play.

I will admit. I feel freer to play when I sit down to draw mandalas because they include my rather ordered logical analytical side. Other things like drawing whimsical creatures are more of a challenge and aren’t something I find easy to just sit down and do without thinking a lot about it first. That includes art journal pages. Working intuitively is difficult for me, unless I’m working with mandalas. This is something I am only just discovering about myself.

So… when I feel challenged by something that makes me feel uncomfortable, I often find myself reaching for paper to begin drawing a mandala or to continue working on a mandala I have started. Seeing them develop gives me the courage to work on something that feels less comfortable, like the next lesson of Peter Pan and Wendy in Ever After 2017.

Speaking of Ever After 2017 the Peter Pan and Wendy lesson, it took me days if not a week or more to get the courage up to just start sketching. I finally did, and discovered I had some difficulty going small. I wanted to fill my page with the cityscape which would leave very little room for the rest of the elements in the painting. Here is my beginning sketch on 11″ x 15″ watercolor paper:

FullSizeRender

You might find it difficult to believe that I could go bigger than this. Believe me, the first sketch was much bigger, and the clock tower’s tip was at the top of the page. I had first tried drawing it in landscape layout but decided to switch to portrait layout, even so it took me three tries to get to this point.  I think this is the size I want and I hope it works with the rest of the elements.

I find it interesting, with my love of geometric shapes, how it took me so long to begin sketching the cityscape. Obviously I’m still working on it, trying to get the angles right and the buildings in the way I want them. The overall project is quite daunting, so I’m trying to take it one step at a time. I may draw the other elements which come much later in the process first so I can be sure they will fit in with the cityscape as it is.

I just know if this had been my first attempt to get back into art instead of starting with tangles, I would have walked away and never picked up a pencil again to draw. I’m so glad I took the approach I did three years ago which allows me to try a lesson like this one and be able to handle the anxiety it generates. Getting to this point in the sketch really gives me a feeling of satisfaction, because I did it and didn’t quit.

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