Quite frequently, I am asked why I like to do “all of the things.” I think it’s come up a bit more often within the contexts of conversations about creativity that I am having as I record interviews for my upcoming podcast, “The Art We Make” which will debut at the end of April! (stay tuned)
Anyhow, I find myself sputtering inadequate responses, because I am unsure myself why I do all of the things. I feel a certain embarrassment or maybe shame around it. Like, perhaps I should be satisfied with less and that the trying lots of different things is connected to a baseline feeling of lack. In other words, it’s an addiction.
But then I get defensive of my basket full of creative pursuits. Why can’t I be interested in a lot of things? So many of us are these days. We are a population of multi-passionates, who are adapting within an era of rapid change and uncertainty. Having many tools and skills at our disposal is smart.
It is fair to say that I have a fear that I am not going to be as developed in any one medium or area because I keep switching amongst my interests, but then I think about artists like Leonardo da Vinci and so many like him. No one thinks, “Geez, I wish Leo wasn’t interested in so many different things. I mean pick just one, already, gosh.” (BTW, I am in no way comparing my art to da Vinci - just our multi-passionate-ness).
Another thing, I feel that all of the things that I do are connected and feed into each other. Painting informs weaving. Writing inspires illustrations. Dyeing deepens my interest in nature and kindles new quilt designs.
I often think it would be easier to pick one thing because of marketing, but I just love all of my children and want to continue to grow in my creative power and knowledge with all of them in tow.
In short, I follow my curiosity and in doing so learn more about myself and what I can offer the world. Why impose limits?
Are you a multi-passionate? What drives your creative interests and pursuits?
PS Thank you for enduring my Andy Rooney style rant here. Not sure who I am yelling this at - probably myself.
Here’s a long story about this simple spread in my sketchbook.
As you know, I write Woolgathering, a nature magazine about our connection to the seasons. Part of the mission of this magazine is to inspire awareness of the patterns and cycles in nature, which requires observation and a practice of noticing.
My process of doing this has been most consistently to write notes on the list making app on my phone. Last Summer, the kids and I kept nature journals that would capture the place and its happenings of a particular moment in time. It also made note of the moon cycle and weather. It was involved, but I wanted to get better and keeping a log of the natural occurrences - the “firsts” and “lasts” of any season. I tried a couple of written methods that I incorporated into my Annalog Planners, but they didn’t endure. I really want to create a visual representation of these seasonal changes - so that I can grasp the feeling of the season instantly.
Another practice that I have let go of is keeping a sketchbook. At some point last year, I decided that my drawing and painting had to be “for” something, that I could eventually sell. In other words, if I was making something, it had to directly lead to making money. And, I have come to realize that I really miss having this place to play with ideas. I miss the experimental nature of a sketchbook and having a place to just make something for its own sake.
Finally, one lovely practice that I started last year was to send a monthly emailed Almanac to subscribers that recounted all natural and creative milestones of that month. I really enjoy taking time to reflect on all that happened during a month and sharing this with readers who may not be able to visit Spring Bird. They can get a taste of what’s going on and stay updated, etc. AND although I try to take pictures of nature, they do not always capture the feeling of the season.
SO, it occurred to me that I could revisit my sketchbook by visually portraying the monthly natural happenings, and share the illustrations within the context of the monthly Almanac! Duh!
Anyway, I had the most fun making this illustration of March, which saw our first duck egg getting laid on the 2nd, the great melt happening on the 13th, snowdrops, jonquils, and chipmunks poking up on the 14th, skunk cabbage sprouting on the 17th, and we planted milkweed seeds also on the 17th in the upper meadow. Also, throughout the month, we saw flocks of robins return, and the bucks shed their antlers. The grasses are still brown, and the leaves exist in paper thin layers, devoid of color, and oh yes, there is the mud!
If you would like to be receiving monthly updates about Spring Bird, please subscribe here. And if you have signed up for monthly updates but haven’t been receiving them? Check your spam folder. Sometimes we get pushed there. You have to mark us as “not spam”. We are working on trying to prevent this from happening with our next Almanac.
Speaking of, the March Almanac will be mailed at the end of this month, which is REALLY soon. So, look for that in your inbox.
Thank you for going through this lengthy process of discernment. I encourage you to notice seasonal changes. You don’t have to write them down or draw them, unless you want to, of course. Just notice the things happening around you. It’s amazing what surrounds us!
So, It happened. At the age of 12, my oldest child, Abe, had to draw a person for a school project, and he displayed all the signs and symptoms of a tween in drawing distress. It took hold of him like a bear trap and left him to moan, “It’s not going to look right” and “It’s going to be dumb”. This sort of “dread-and-fear-of-drawing-people-panic” typically sets in around this age, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to my disappointment that Abe didn’t escape it. Afterall, here was my kid who spent years drawing sprawling maps of kingdoms and rainforests, filling his sketchbooks with castles, swords, and trees, and letting his big dreams take shape with pencil in hand.
So, I impatiently watched him make a mark and erase it immediately because “It wasn’t right!” He repeated this process growing more frustrated with each attempt. I tried to explain that those first marks rarely are “right”. That is what sketching is for.
You have to make a mark and make adjustments by leaving your first marks there on the paper. The first time my beloved painting teacher Billy Ray Sandusky told me this, I thought he was crazy. Leave your mistakes? Aren’t our mistakes just the evidence of our inability - our drawing shame - evidence of how much we don’t know? Don’t we want to erase them as quickly as we can?
What Billy Ray wanted us to know is that when we leave our marks, our mistakes, we can see what didn’t work so that we can try something else. Often when we erase our mistake, we will make the same one over again and again. By leaving our first marks, we can know what not to do, and draw marks until we get closer and closer through studying and observing the spatial relationships of our drawing. Eventually we will get it “right” ?
This idea of sketch is powerful! We make tentative, but brave first moves. Sketching is testing it out, feeling the space, learning it, assessing it, and in time making it better! Expect mistakes and failed first attempts. It is part of the process. How else will you know what’s right?
In the end, Abe satisfyingly drew his person for his school project. He settled into the process, grew more patient with himself, made some marks, erased some more, and finally got it right.
NOTE: I drew this sketched portrait with no eraser. So, these are all the marks that I made. Some of them worked and lots didn’t, but I think I got closer to drawing my resemblance. I do know that it was fun change of pace.
To learn more, watch this informational video:
I remember watching my Mom (one of the all-time, busiest women) stand in front of her wall calendar with a pencil in one hand and a phone in the other, carefully erasing and moving around her appointments like a wizard of train timetables. She could always find ways to "fit it all in", and she did so with an ease that laughed in the face of those who claim, “You can’t meet every train.”
Considering that she managed a house of 7, with 3 generations living under its roof, while running her own client-based business, her calendar was as full and well regulated as the scheduling boards of Grand Central Station. It was truly marvelous to watch her balance her calendar.
I must have adopted some of her will to “fit it all in.” While we may be meeting different sorts of trains, we both want to maximize our precious time.
Let’s be honest, time is our most valuable resource. We cannot get anymore of it once it’s spent.
So, we must all ask ourselves how do we want to be spending our time? We must decide what we want to share with the world while we are here. This requires discernment of values so that we can live on purpose, with meaning and with intention.
Our values can be translated into goals, which can be helpful for living on purpose. We can set goals related to career, family, friends, spirituality, health, and in all other areas of our lives.
Our goals can be big or small. I personally like setting big goals but acting in small incremental and attainable ways. Eating that elephant one bite at a time -- eww gross - eating a giant pumpkin one bite at a time? Eating a giant pumpkin pie?? You get the idea.
To manage my goals and my time, I prefer using a paper calendar system and over the years - dissatisfied with commercial products, I’ve invented my own system. I like writing and rewriting my goals and plans. I prefer having a place to keep it all - all of the disparate plans, ideas, and dreams so that my brain doesn’t have to busy itself with holding onto it all. I, also, believe that in writing everything down - getting all of our ideas and thoughts out of our heads - we make room for the next big thing.
In general, I like to set big goals over a year’s timeline. Then, I assign tasks to each goal and break those tasks down into the smallest steps. I divide the tasks among the months, then among the weeks, and finally among the days. I like to focus on one month at a time and have designed my planner to be in monthly modules, but more on all of that later. I will be launching my calendar system, Annalong Planners, in this Thursday’s blog. So stay tuned for that goodness!
All in all, I find taking a minute to plan saves much more time down the road, and more importantly, in planning, you get to put intention behind all that you do. Even the things that you have to do but don’t feel like doing. In planning them you are reclaiming the reason for doing even the most undesirable things.
How do you like to plan your life?
PS I should mention that I still prefer to use digital calendar for syncing family and cottage schedules! Techy calendars can be wonderful and convenient, too!
When Colored Squid Gallery owner, Joyce, reached out to me to lead a Sweaters for Sticks Workshop at her shop, I was initially confused. It was my assumption that the process of wrapping yarn around sticks seemed too basic and boring for anyone to be interested in paying money to do it in public, but she assured me that people would enjoy the opportunity to gather and make something for their homes.
So last week, I led the workshop for a small group, and was delighted to find that Joyce was right! She and the participants taught me much more about the process of wrapping yarn around sticks. The workshop was an opportunity to practice creativity without having too much pressure on technique and outcome. Even better, it was an opportunity to share stories while our hands were busy winding.
I began by sharing the origin of the sticks. They came from an old oak tree that had been rotten throughout its core. It fell violently and dramatically, last fall, in a terrible thunder storm. I was devastated that it fell, but I was delighted that its branches could be repurposed for this project.
We also talked about life’s stages, works, passions, jobs, and passions and how we choose to spend our time here on earth. As we talked about our experiences, we slowed our minds and hearts as our hands kept busy. There was opportunity to listen while we wound, to admire the color combinations of each other’s branches - to notice that the color choices and patterns resemble ourselves. We found joy in this simple experience.
And by the end of the evening, I realized that this Sweater For Sticks Workshop was much more than I had thought it could be. The participants encouraged me to develop it further.
So, I decided to formalize this workshop and make it available to groups of all shapes and sizes. I'm excited to see how it takes shape!
The purpose of painting these self-portraits has been to illustrate my experience of the creative process. Also, I wanted to be vulnerable both in my writing and in my illustration, and a self-portrait is usually pretty revealing for an artist.
But, I had no clue that there would be another outcome from this process of painting of self-portraits. As a result of putting the image of myself into my art (the thing that I cherish doing the most - the thing that feeds my soul ), I began to transfer my love for my art onto myself, which has led to self acceptance and joy.
I am 39 years old, and it has taken me that many years to feel this way - this loving of myself. So wild!
That isn’t to say that I don’t fall back into old patterns of looking for love in all the wrong places - like food , social media likes, etc.
I am still struggling with those false external validations.
But overall, I am delighted by this unexpected outcome of trying to paint myself.
I recommend looking at yourself in the mirror and talking to yourself like you would your baby self, because you are as wonderful, sweet, beautiful, and cute now as you were then. Plus, it’s a really funny thing to do.
Always be kind and loving to yourself as you would to your loved ones and to your other passions. It’s amazing the effect it will have!
As Spring seems more mythical than inevitable, I decided to focus on the indoor potential of making a shrine to green - to life!
I even planted some old oat seeds in an empty tea tin to witness sprouting. (This is great to do with kids, by the way. I poked some holes in the bottom with a nail for drainage). It’s sort of your own DIY chia pet. You could even turn your container into a head and the oats would become the hair.
Also, I filled an Ikea greenhouse with favorite collections of stones, sticks, seeds, and shells with some potted succulents, a couple treasured kidmade ceramics, and a stack of cherished books to create a sacred green space.
It feels intentional and devotional and a place to focus my restless energy as the seasons are changing!
Try making a shrine to green at home! It could be a small terrarium or a potted plant. Hopefully, the real deal will be budding soon!
So, I had the recent realization that I was expecting a lot from the food I eat. I mean, I was expecting it to validate me, to tell me I am enough - that I did a good job, - that I am enough just as I am.
And that is a heck of a lot to put on food - that is expecting way too much out of a banana.
So, I am trying to change my relationship with food - allow food to be what it is is - something to nourish and sustain my body and something to be shared with my friends and family in an nurturing - relationship building way.
If I’m not looking to food for validation - then where do I get it? Answer- myself! I am having fun telling myself that I did a good job, that I worked hard, that I am valuable, I am whole, and I am worthy person. I know this is true because it’s true for all of us.
We are whole, worthy humans because we are here together. Often it’s our own selves that tell us that we are not, and if we can’t tell ourselves that we are good people, we look for that affirmation outside of ourselves. For me, I burdened food with the job.
And while this may sound cheesy or pathetic - it really works to just love your damn self -it’s the best. Let the bagel nourish your body while you take care of your spirit.
PS More on what helped me to love myself next week!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.