Why Do I Have a Creative Practice?

Storm with Quote and Watermark

When have you practiced something? Like, did you ever learn to play an instrument, or learn to play soccer, or some such thing?

Childhood Practice

I learned to play the saxophone when I was a kid.

At first, I practiced a couple of times a week, and then that grew and eventually I practiced every day for several hours. I was disciplined about much of that practice. I started with a warm-up sequence and moved to short pieces of music that I already knew well, and then I would move on to new and more difficult pieces. I usually ended with playing along with ad-lib records to just jam a bit.

I also learned to become a super-fast swimmer. I swam every day and pushed myself to learn new strokes and to beat my times and hold my breath longer and do better dives. I worked to get better and better, ultimately to win races.

Making a Practice

I know how to set up and follow a practice. I can look into my past and see that I’ve done it. I’m sure most of you have done the same, built a practice and learned how to do something well.

It might take a bit of trial and error, but eventually, a routine develops. Going through that routine day after day develops into an actual habit. And then we get better at whatever it is we’re practicing.

So why does setting up a creative practice for arting seem so tedious??

Artistic Idealisms

I’m pretty sure that I have some barefoot-and-fancy-free-romanticized notion of the artist’s life. You know, like: 1. wake up and have coffee, 2. stare at the clouds, 3. listen to the birds, 4. eat something sweet and yummy, 5. ride my bike, 6. see some great colors on the trees, and finally, 7. paint.

Well. I actually do those things, although not always in that order. Of course, other stuff in my day gets mixed in there 🙂 All the way up to number 7. At number 7, I lose my focus. I know, seems like I didn’t have much focus during the first 6 🙂

At number 7…that’s where the practice becomes important. Some days, I look at the canvas (or the blank paper or the blank computer or whatever) and just sit there. Or maybe I don’t even get that far. Maybe I just think about getting in front of the canvas.

But it all happens at number 7. If I’m going to get off-track and NOT create anything, that’s where it’ll happen.

Then my whole gig is shot. Because if I don’t create, I lose my mind. If I don’t create, I’m not moving forward in my art. And if I don’t create, I don’t get better at creating. And I want to get better.

So what do you do at that point?

With my creative practice, I have built a similar style and sequence to follow as I once did for my saxophone practice.

My Practice Time

First, I warm-up. That’s right, I warm-up. I don’t just start painting directly on the canvas that I’ve been creating. If I did that, I’d screw it up. I’ve actually done that many, many times. It took me a while, but I did learn that I can’t just start with the big thing, I have to start with something not so important-seeming.

So I start with doodling or coloring a drawing or smearing paint on the background of a journal page. Just something to get my hand moving, and something to get me out of my head.

After warming up a bit, I’ll move on to adding layers to any of my several journals-in-progress. That can mean slapping some paint onto a blank page, or putting gesso on some pages, or drawing borders on existing backgrounds. Something that moves some of my work forward.

I’ll also glue tidbits into journals at this point also. Because adding glue means having to let stuff dry, it’s a great time to get stuff glued in to set aside while I work on another journal.

Typically, I’ll move onto text in at least one of my journals at this point. I try to keep up with writing of some kind every day.

Main Project Time

Then I’ll get into whatever my main creative project is at the current juncture. Canvas, wood, walls, sewing…it doesn’t really matter what’s next. It’s just that after the warm-up stuff I’ve stopped thinking so much, I’ve stopped being so caught up in what’s been going on in my day or in my life at the moment. I can get on to the act of really arting.

And here’s the crux of this biscuit: I have a creative practice because of the habits, the autonomy that I have taught myself. Even if I’m not sure that I feel so creative or inspired, if I just start the sequence, I will get into my zone.

My zone. That’s where I want to be so that I can create. My zone is where my magic happens, where my soul and my spirit talk and connect and center me. My zone is where I find my calm and peace. And I create stuff. What a nice product of soul work!

What you do in your own sequence isn’t nearly as important as just having a sequence. You can teach yourself to get there even when you think you’re too crabby or tired.

And don’t think just because you may not have a whole bunch of time that it’s not going to work.

I have days where I just do one or two pieces of my sequence. Some days I do some of the pieces all timed throughout the day. But my mind and body knows what’s next.

Because I practice.

Prompt: Spend some time considering what you can do to up your game, i.e. put into practice to get really good at your craft, or something new!

And leave a comment here and tell us what kinds of things you do in your creative practice, we can all benefit from the ideas!!

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Cool Resources, and Scrap Wood Art

With creative people, truly new horizons open up.

~ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

I feel like my little universe has been expanding lately.

Artist’s dates at the Home Depot have been a regular occurrence for a really long time now.  Stretching my idea of where to find art supplies was a wonderful and exciting deal for me…

Since then, I’ve been reaching new heights in discovering alternative resources for all kinds of stuff.

Free at the Library

For instance, I can access digital downloads of ebooks through my library. I can check out a digital edition of a book, and it goes through my Amazon account and onto my device for two weeks. At the end of my loan time, I can renew the loan or let it end and leave my device.

We’ve been doing that for some time as well. But while I was perusing the library website the other day, I found that I can through my library membership, access Mango. Really??  Did you know that??

Learn a Foreign Language

I almost paid a fair amount of money to get a year’s subscription to Mango so that the hubs and I can learn Italian together. And the kids want to learn Spanish.

And through my library membership, I set up our profile and we can all learn any language we want and it keeps up with our progress and everything. Just like I bought our own program!!

Maybe I’m a bit late in this game, but I am truly filled with wonder and awe. I have been exploring the library website more now and have found several other very helpful resources for my kids’ schooling. For. Free.

Fun Live Shows

We’ve also been going to the library for super-fun and interesting live presentations.  We’ve seen live animals, including a giant tarantula and a kangaroo. We went and watched a live story teller. We just had a presentation all about local beekeeping.  Seriously. And all free.

Homeschool Co-Op, Not Just for Homeschoolers

The other amazing and free resource that we’ve been having tons of fun with is an ezine called Click Schooling, through Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. (Affiliate Link)

Some of you might not be homeschooling anyone. Maybe you know someone who is. Or maybe you have kids in brick-and-mortar school. Or you know other families with kids.

Let me tell you, it is really really cool. The Co-op is a great place to find information on educational material and curriculum. It’s a great place for people to connect and find fabulous pricing on all these materials, because the Co-op buys as a group, as a large body. Kind of like a school district. And with size comes better pricing. That better pricing is extended to all of its members. And joining is free. Following my link and joining for free does earn me smart points that my family can use towards educational materials.

But the part I seriously LOVE: the ClickSchooling e-zine. You can choose what subscriptions you want in your profile when you join.

A New Free Website Resource Every Day

ClickSchooling ezine comes out each day with whatever that day’s scheduled topic is.  Like Wednesday is language arts day.

And the email will have a link and some info to a free website to go and learn something. Free. Cool. Educational. Not just for the kids. I go to all of these sites and learn stuff. More than my kids.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be schooling my kidlets. But I am having so much fun on these sites 🙂 I have visited the live shark reef exhibit at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and I went back to watch the live demonstration at feeding time last week.

I’ve watched how airplanes are made. I learned all about Alaska. I played with some art lessons on some of my fave artist and made art in their style! And I brushed up on my grammar, which is helpful for my writing. Sort of, lol.

I’m telling you, this cool resource is worth its price of admission. Or lack of price, really.

And Now for Some Art

I have a few other tidbits I’ve been learning about finding cool stuff and I’ll keep ’em coming. But for now, I’ll leave you with this: a couple of pics of three little canvases I made on some of my hubs’ scrap wood I found in the garage 🙂

I LOVE LOVE LOVE having a hubby that leaves his scraps lying around!!

Prompt: Do you use “trash” to make art??

Inspire Wood CanvasHappy Together wood canvasBlue Wood Canvas

Breaking the Counting Habit and a DIY Art Journal

I have had a certain habit quirk neurosis.  Okay maybe not my only one, but my most serious.  Counting.

I don’t mean like normal counting that might come up in your regular daily life.  I mean, like, I count.  A lot.

What do I count?  Oh, I count how many days till this or that, kind of normal.  I count stairs, going up or going down, no matter how many times I’ve counted them before.  I learned a while back that lots of people count stairs.

I count how many songs on my playlist, I count how many people have looked at a particular blog post or how many followers I have.  I count pages left in my sketchbooks and art journals.  I count my art journals.  I count weeks till Christmas, how many nights’ dinners worth of groceries I have in the kitchen, and how many dollars I still need to earn to pay the rent and the electricity.  The hubs can look over at me and know when I’m counting something.  In fact, I didn’t realize how often I was counting before I spent many years with him asking me from time to time what I’m counting…

It may all sound innocent enough.  But I learned something.  Stick with me here, I do have a point.

My counting can get in the way.  It’s an old pattern that keeps me from realizing certain goals and dreams.

Here’s how it goes…when I’m feeling a bit anxious or a bit doubtful, usually about finances, I start counting.  Usually I’m counting time or money.  It’s like biting your fingernails as an outlet for the stress (although I have conquered that monkey through art journaling, you can read about that here).  But instead of biting my fingernails, I count.  I even use my fingers to do the counting 🙂

The big mistake here is that when I’m so focused on the counting of the money or the time, I’m focusing on the need.  How many dollars I still need to get something done.  Or how few days I have to get it done.

Seriously??  I have been totally focused on the lack, not on my God-given blessings and abundance!!  I couldn’t even see it, I thought that I was so optimistic and so good at being grateful and faithful and so focused on creating a life of abundance.  I couldn’t see what I was doing to get in my own way.

Crikey!  I really hadn’t looked at it that way until very recently.  And you know what happened next?  I started counting, way less.  I almost don’t count at all.  And next?  Well, next we started getting more calls for cool painting projects.  I started getting through some artist tantrums that I was having.  I started sleeping better.  I even got more patient with the kidlets.

The point in this little story is this:

Are your little quirks helpful or do they stunt your growth?  Do you even know what your little quirks are?  And if they are not so helpful, can you find another to replace it, that might help you on your chosen paths?

As artists, we have so many options to help us release and express our emotions and work through junk.  We have the opportunity to continue learning and growing and building our brain and our soul.  Whatever medium we choose at any given moment, we can receive messages from our souls, from our Creator, from our subconscious.

Prompt:  What’s your go-to activity to relieve stress?? 

*I needed a routine to help during my regular counting hours.  I’m exploring some options, but one that I’m trying to help with a daily routine is ROOT, Lisa Sonora’s 30 Day Journal Project.  It’s actually only day 2, so you can still jump in on this free journaling challenge.  For me, this is a great motivator to get past some old baggage I’ve been carrying that kept me from journaling, for about the past 12 years.  30 days seems like a huge commitment to me, so I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂  I did make my own art journal for this journaling and for another journaling project that I’m practicing.  This book has me inspired and makes me feel good.

Cover made of cardboard, gesso, spray ink, paint, glue, ink, stamped letters

Cover made of cardboard, gesso, spray ink, paint, glue, ink, stamped letters

DIY Book Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Book Pages 2

I used all kinds of papers, book pages, paper ream wrappers…

DIY Book Front Page

 

 

 

DIY Book patterned pages

Patterned papers…

DIY Book Pages 4

Old advertisements…

 

 

DIY Book Pages 3

Junk mail with gesso…

DIY Inside Cover

Music paper…

 

 

 

DIY Book Pages 1

Glossy picture book pages…

I think it has about 90 pages.

I think it has about 90 pages, including many blank pages of drawing paper. All cut to size and bound with the two rings…and I got to play with my crop-a-dile to punch all of the holes!

 

How-to Make Your Own Stencil, the Easy Way

I have been making my own stamps for a while now.  I have made a few of my own masks as well.  And I have learned a lot from both, like which materials are easy to cut, which materials absorb too much product versus which ones don’t absorb enough, and so on.

What I haven’t done much is make my own stencils.  I’m not sure why, it seems like a natural next step, right?  I think that I had some crazy block, telling me that stencils are always made out of that plastic sheet stuff, and who can actually cut a neat, crisp stencil by hand out of that stuff??

Silly, I know.  That’s a look into my personal type of hangup.  I have a creative difficulty: I can’t always see the possibilities from my neatly-packaged black-and-white world.

Seriously?!?!

How can I possibly be an artist, you ask.  How can a creative type be stuck inside the proverbial box?  I dunno, but sometimes I find myself sitting in the middle of a really tiny box, and I never know what’s going to burn it up around me, freeing me out in to the world of fearlessness and color.

This time, it was making my own stencil.

I can’t tell you how joyful and good I feel to finally have gotten out of that stupid box!  I love stencils, love them so much!!  I fondle stencils at the store, I pine for them, I ooh and ahh over stencils I see other artists playing with in youtube videos…and I ache that I can’t just run out and buy every single one of them (I use my art supply monies on color, everything else I improvise, I have to have colors)…

I was just sitting here, pondering my next journal page, and I started pawing through the ole art cabinet.  I was actually thinking of cutting more shapes out for another stamp.  And that light bulb up above my head started to flicker and turn on.  Duh.

The easiest stencil ever.  Craft foam, if you haven’t ever played with it, is the greatest thing since, well, since bubble wrap and punchinella.

Craft foam is really does cut like butter, it’s fairly forgiving, you can draw on it, you can layer it, you can use it to make stamps and masks, and as it turns out, it makes great stencils!  AND, it’s cheap and commonly available!!

Stencil 3

Here’s the how-to part of this ramble:

1. Draw some shapes on the foam.  Start with something simple.  I used circles the first time.

2. Cut out the center of the shapes, in my case, the center of the circles.  Leave the outer parts in tact.

3. I went back and trimmed some of the outer edges so that the corners of the foam sheet didn’t show up in the stenciled images afterward.

Stencil 2

Ta-da, a stencil!

The trick really is to play and practice a bit.  After the simple design, you kind of get the feel for seeing the design that you’re leaving after you cut out the centers.  It took me a couple of tries before I figured it out.

 

 

The foam is also not absorbent, which I like.  When I use the stencils with sprays, the spray that collects on the stencil just kind of sits there, which makes for an awesome flip-side ghost print.  Just flip the stencil over and press.  Usually I can get a couple of presses out of it, depending on which sprays I’m using.

Stencil 1

 

And they also work great as caulk stencils because they have thickness.  The design comes out nice and deep or tall.  Or whatever you call that 🙂

Your Prompt??  Grab some foam, draw some designs, and give some stencils a try, let me know what you come up with, and have FUN!! 

 

 

Ink Sprays, My New Obsession

I have a new love, a new obsession…Dylusions Ink Sprays.

They are so very vibrant, so yummy, so colorful!  They blend wonderfully, you can use water to thin them out or to mix them together, and you can spray them directly onto your project or into a little puddle to then use with a brush.  I love using them on watercolor paper, canvas, gesso’d papers, book pages, cardboard, and muslin.

I love them!  I wish I had all of the colors, but for now, six colors is what I’ve got 🙂

I have also been playing around with making stencils out of foam sheets…and the sprays work great with them.  After spraying through the stencil, the ink sits on the foam and makes for an awesome ghost print after that, since the color doesn’t absorb into the foam.

Joy.

And I do use them along with my very favorite versatile medium, NeoColors.  The spray inks have not usurped water color crayons from their number 1 spot, at least not yet!!

And here for your enjoyment, an example of sprays and color and foam stencils and watercolor paper…and yet another mash note to my hubby 🙂

And I’ll work on bringing pics of some of my fun foam stencils, coming soon!!

PROMPT: What’s your favorite new supply of the summer?  Have you tried the Dylusion Ink Sprays yet?? 

*On a side note, you can find them at JoAnn’s and usually you can find a 40-50% off single item coupon to go with your purchase 🙂 

Two HeartsTwo Hearts 1Two Hearts 2

 

Soundtrack of My Life

So, I have an ongoing interest thing obsession with paint chip cards.  You know, those sample cards that you can grab at any paint store.  I love all of the different colors, all of the different shapes of cards for different brands of paint, and the weight of the paper.  I love searching google looking for cool things people do with these little gems.

It just so happens, Christopher is always taking me to Home Depot and Lowe’s 🙂 I am a lucky gal ~ I love the hardware store, it’s brillo for Art Fodder™!!!  Poor hubby, he has to deal with me smuggling out paint chips.  I feel a need to be super-nonchalant since I’m always there.

Maybe the paint section workers don’t think anything of it as we’re always actually buying paint…at least that’s what I hope…

Sometimes I just sit and flip through my collection of cards.  It is extensive and worthy of pondering.  Other times, I use the cards for making teaching aids for the kidlets.  We’ve made sight word flash cards, multiplication fact cards, vocabulary cards, Bingo cards (I’ll have to come back with some pics later, those turned out way cool!).  And I’ve made party invitations, Valentine cards, RAAK cards for art mail, Mother’s Day cards, and mini-books.  And I have a whole computer file of great ideas for the little boogers!

As I was reminiscing just now, I kind of forgot my whole point.  Those little cards do that to me, lol.

This particular journal page is not terribly ornate or anything, but I was experimenting with using the paint chips and silhouettes.  I think they’re pretty neat, and I thought you might like the idea:

Dancers

Clearly I was also pondering some of my favorite Pandora lists at the same time 🙂

PROMPT:  How do you use paint chips or paint sample cards?

*On a side note, if you’d like to check out what we’re listening to on a regular basis (cuz wordpress doesn’t have a super-duper Pandora widget), you can check out our Pandora station: http://www.pandora.com/profile/stations/motherdana.  I’m not completely convinced that leaving this link here for you will work, but let me know.  My profile is Dana Saint John.  The harder rock stations belong to my teenager, so don’t think that’s my music, lol.  But DO check out the others, lots of good art music contained therein!!  Some of the stations I have actively spent tons of time cultivating, others are still needing my input…

I am currently, right at this very moment of typing these very words, listening to my Greenskeepers Radio station.  Enjoy 🙂

 

 

Face Practice

GirlWow, so long since the last post.  Sometimes I wonder how I miss so much time??

Our painting business continues to grow.  We built a small website (take a look here).  I am amazed at how much better I feel getting out and painting and refinishing cabinets, and really physically working.  For so long I have used my brain and my conversation skills, selling and serving customers and, well, sitting.  Way too much sitting, talking on the phone, using the computer, and not getting up and moving around and doing more physical labor.

I really like it.  My body is feeling strong, my back feels better, my soul feels better…this kind of work is so meditative!  And I get to spend my work time hanging out with my hubby, making things beautiful!!  It just really doesn’t get much better than this 🙂

And in my art time outside of that, I have been continuing to focus on drawing faces.  Maybe soon I will start practicing bodies to go with the floating heads, lol…

The biggest challenge for me with faces is the coloring…I thought I would battle more with the features, but nope, it’s the coloring.  I have really come up with some interesting color combinations, that’s for sure!  But I keep at it, I’m actually learning to not fight it, but to just keep going…like so much else in art.  That’s a common theme for me, it seems.  Trust the process (I wrote ages ago about that here).

What a feeling of accomplishment, though, to keep at it and begin to see the success!  And this particular girl has a special place in my art journal…she is on the last available page of my current large journal!

Finishing an art journal…that has a very solid feeling of accomplishment.

I have been working in that particular journal for two full years now.  It’s funny, when I first started journaling, I would work in one journal straight through, then moved to the next journal.  Along the way, I started working in a whole bunch of art journals at one time.

I have old books that I used as journals, I have kids’ board books as journals, I have loose pages that I journal together, I make mini-journals out of bags or cards or junk mail, I have composition books as journals…and I have my sketch books.  I have themed journals, I have chronological journals, and I have extra paint journals (you know, the ones where you slap extra paint or ink on pages that you use as backgrounds for stuff later).

And the journals are all over the house!  I was cleaning up some shelves, and I counted…seven journals going at the moment!!  My kids thumb through them, they show them to their friends, and my hubby looks through them all of the time.  My art has become such a way of life in our home, I never imagined how ingrained in our lives it would all be.

That has its own very satisfying and fulfilling level of accomplishment, too.

Keep Visiting, We Are Still Creating

Life is beauty through and through
Life is sunny, life is cool

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros,

Life is Hard

We have been working to redefine and sort out what we want with our blog.

I guess I’m not completely sure where the blog world needs St John Family Studios, but the times that I’ve asked I seem to get few responses.  I’m unsure how y’all all get interaction on your blogs…but I seem to get nowhere in that department.

I do know this: during this past hiatus, our blog continues to have momentum, it continues to have this weird life of its own…it keeps going, people keep searching our art and coming to our page and looking at it over and over again.

I really have NO idea how that happens, but it’s pretty cool.  So something we do here is interesting 🙂

I’ve been completely involved with some new classes, a job outside of the house that I really do dislike a whole bunch, and other regular life stuff.  But my goal this year is to figure out what’s next, where the blog fits in, and how to keep sharing cool art and techniques and inspiration…and to figure out how to get the art and the surrounding stuff get to be the focus and the stupid job less of a focus.

Do you feel that pull?  How do we get to the place where what we love and feel passionate about is what we spend our time doing, and still eating and paying rent??  Any thoughts??

The other big goal this year for me is to learn to not be afraid of drawing and painting the human form, faces, hands, noses, eyes, hands, and all of the super-duper things that float around in my mind’s eye.

So I leave you with a sample of how I’ve spent my recent time arting.  Please keep coming back.  We will figure it out 🙂

xoxo

Class from LifeBook 2014 with Tamara LaPorte

Class from Life Book 2014 with Tamara LaPorte

What’s Up at St John Family Studios

Wow.  Once again I find myself realizing I haven’t posted on the blog in quite some time!

My J-O-B has taken way more of a toll on me than I previously expected, which has been kind of a downer…but this week I was able to change my schedule around a bit…which gives me early work times and home earlier in the day.  Unbelievable how much difference it’s already making after only one week!

My mood, my attitude, my soul feels way better.  I get home before it’s dark, I have time to play with the kids and art a little, hang out with Christopher while he’s cooking dinner…I may be working the same number of hours, but I feel like I have more time and way more quality time!

Hopefully that will mean more blogging time as well.  I do miss the blog when I’m away too long.  I have a number of different projects going that I want to share soon.  I’m working on a design for a pencil/marker roll-up case, made of denim from old jeans to give to each of the kidlets for Christmas.  I’ve been working on a fun jounaling-arting prompt list to share with you.  And I’ve been doing more art journaling and trying to get some more canvases ready for the etsy shop, as I’ve sold most of what we had listed in the shop.

So I’ll leave you with a couple of pages from my Little Red Art Journal and look forward to coming back with some completed projects to share 🙂

JoyShine

 

Ephemera Give-Away, And Getting Back to It

This past week was full of playing with Brave Girls’ Club and managing that excitement…so we sort of dropped off working on the Activity Blitz and awesome ephemera give-away.

Crazy to get started and then change momentum, huh.  But here we are, back to it.  Seems like so many people ran over to the Facebook page and found us there, but no one remembered to come back and leave a comment here about it.

Maybe the whole thing was too complicated?  I don’t know as I’ve never run a give-away like this before…so I’ll give everyone a BRAND NEW OPPORTUNITY!!

We’ll keep it simple.  And we’ll spice up the enticement a bit and share a sneak peek picture here with you 🙂

Ephemera Collection Give-Away

Buried in this pile: sheet music, French book pages, an Alka-Seltzer ad book, old letters, old snapshots, poems, dictionary pages, and more!

Leave a comment here.  Tell me what you like to make with ephemera, bits of stuff, saved little doo-dads that you keep or find.  Collage?  Canvases?  Cards?  Art journal spreads? ATC’s?  All of the above???

And if you run over to the Facebook page (you can find a link at the right now), leave a comment there too.  Just say Hi, and give us some love.

I’ll make sure that you’re entered for going there and leaving some love here on the blog.

Is that simple enough? 

I know that I’m not the most social of creatures, so I understand if you are not typically all about leaving comments and participating in small talk…but you’ll have to leave a comment somewhere to enter the drawing 🙂

This will not knock out anyone who has already entered or who stops by the first post and gives us love there.  I know how the whole random number generator thing works now, so I’ll get you all entered.

All of this is towards a great end.  With the official launch of SWAAK Paks™ just around the corner, the more activity we have here and on Facebook, the more our RocketHub page will get seen.  You can be a part of something greater by just helping our activity and interaction levels grow.

We are asking for your help to share the activity and buzz by participating a bit, and we’re willing to bribe you to do it!!

And to those of you who joined in the give-away for the new Brave Girls’ Class…this is pile of awesome Art Fodder™ to use in your projects!!