Saturday, July 23, 2016

Who We Are Is What We Do

Many Americans want to do so much that we feel we need more hours in our day. Since that is impossible, instead we need to figure out how we spend our time and if it's doing what we really want. A certain portion of our time is spent taking care of our house and our possessions, or reorganizing them or for shopping for more stuff. Thus owning too much can become a burden and prevent us from doing what it is we think we really want to do.

The key to feeling content in life is knowing what you want and to do that thing and feel satisfied. It is not a good feeling to try to do too much then fail at doing it all or fail to meet deadlines, because we then feel negative about ourselves.

We need to make time in our lives but stopping the doing of things that are unnecessary or extra or stupid or that are time wasters. There is nothing wrong with taking an intentional break from reality o watch a TV show or a movie but if you spend more time looking for stuff you already own so you can use it, or dusting saved things on shelves, you have lost time from doing what you want to do now.

We need to let go of old hobbies and stuff related to them because that stuff is in our face or in our way and preventing us from doing what we want to do now. Even if it is just visual clutter it is a reminder that "I failed at watercolor painting" and "Scrapbooking is a drag". Who wants to be reminded of the negative?

Today my game room has nice built in bookcases filled with homeschool high school educational materials. I already ditched the SAT prep books for the old style SAT that stopped being used as of this spring. But why am I keeping all that stuff when my last high schooler is in public school? I am getting excited at the idea of getting rid of more of it. While I am busy working on the garage I am psyching myself up mentally to be alright with letting go of the books we used and loved and those we used and hated or the ones we never got around to using at all.

Look around your home. Does it support the lifestyle you are living right now and those of your present goals? If not, start culling and letting go of the possessions that do not represent your life and your lifestyle. Make room mentally and physically to do what you really want to do right now.

Saving Stuff For Projects

This is a conundrum for creatives. We have real life to live that takes our time and interferes with just making what we want. Then other times we have time to create but may lack inspiration, have no motivation, or are dealing with illness or emotional stress that wrecks our muse. These times of real life living sometimes derail us from doing art and craft projects we did want to do at one time. Times change and then maybe we decide we want to do something different.

The thing is we should let go of what we own that we are not using. It is hard to let go of perfectly good stuff that we invested money into. I get it.

Before I moved long distance I donated a lot of craft supplies to an artist who was going to be teaching craft classes at children's summer camp. It helped me to know my investments were not wasted and instead would be enjoyed.

Here in Houston I have found Texas Art Asylum. They accept donations of art supplies and craft stuff and other things like old board games and old dolls and almost anything, books, magazines, vintage ephemera, costumes, seashells, rocks, vases, cameras, some construction materials, anything. Some items are put into a separate room for free for teachers to use in classrooms. The rest is sold to the public in their retail store. I have been giving some of my stuff to them.


When looking at what I own I ask myself:

How am I living now?

If I have free time what will I do with it?

Do I want to ever do that pursuit again?

Do I own too much material for that hobby? Example I think I own a hundred canning jars at this point and even if I make a ton of jam I will never need 100 all at one time. This week I am culling my  cookie cutters as I don't forsee using these shapes going forward. When making cookies with my young sons the car shapes were fun but I don't think I'll ever use those again.

Can I access the materials? Are they organized well and reachable and ready should I need them or are they buried so that if I want to do that thing this afternoon I will have to go buy new supplies to do it with?


While decluttering I keep asking myself what kind of home do I want to live in and do I want to park in my garage and do I want to really go to the steaming hot attic to fetch a thing or is it really smart to cram 500 books in a closet and have none accessible?

I also try not not be negative with myself. I am taking some cues from Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizer who says we should thank our belongings for their usefulness in our life or the joy they brought us at the time or the emotion of buying them having felt good in that moment, to feel that gratitude then say goodbye and let them free into the world to get into the hands of someone who will actually use them now and have joy added to their life with our old stuff.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thoughts on Packratting

My main priority this week is getting some family and house projects done. One is trying to finish unpacking boxes in my garage. They were packed five years ago and have sat in those spots for four years while I was doing other things. I want to actually park cars in our garage. While doing this I am all alone, and have time to think. Mostly I am thinking about what I wish I was doing instead. This gets me to thinking about stuff and clutter and how I spend my time and why.

I was raised by two packrats and one grandmother was a hoarder the other was also a packrat. The grandparents all lived through The Depression so they blame that as the cause. I have been battling my packrat tendencies for almost twenty years. By that I mean I had decided the status quo was not how I wanted to live so began taking steps to let myself let go of the stuff.

My thoughts are kind of a jumble and all these issues and ideas swirl together to intertwine so just bear with me here.

I basically realized that all people save things for a reason.

One type seems less emotional than the others, that type is the "it's usable and I might need it" type. That type has two issues going on: 1) they are thrifty or resourceful and see discarding it as wasteful and therefore irresponsible fiscally speaking, and 2) choosing to not set limits or expiration dates on things. By that I mean, to say to oneself that saving 25 screws  of that size is enough and all beyond that must go, instead of collecting up 350. The expiration date idea is something like, "I will restring those windchimes someday so I can use them" but it's been six years so maybe it's time to say that the project is not a priority and should be abandoned and the broken windchimes should be gotten rid of.

Another less serious type is the lazy or busy person. They are just too busy doing other things to think about making priorities or projects so they just let the stuff sit and they keep gathering and keeping and it builds up. They are not in a struggle of the mind with their stuff.

The more serious type has an anxiety as the source. A person who fears they may run out of food may always overbuy food. A person who fears not having enough stuff may start couponing and wind up a hoarder of five year's worth of shaving cream and in the case of my grandmother, thirty year's worth of aluminum foil. The problem is it is not usually one single item, they save up many things or overbuy lots of stuff.

A related emotional saving is the person who is sentimental about things and wants to remember the good times. This is one of my big things. This person feels the only way to remember a good memory is to save a material possession because seeing it again will trigger the memory. Sometimes it can seem that the item has life, such as it would be painful to throw away a loved doll. I almost said the doll is alive and it would be like a death but I know that sounds exaggerated, but that's the gist of it.


The bottom line is we have one life to live and to ask ourselves how we want to spend our time. In my almost fifty years I have gone through times of plenty and times of unemployment with a very tight budget. Living through tight finances I believe makes packratting worse but I'm starting to digress.

Basically I've learned this: the most joy comes from living and doing what you want. We do have base life responsibilities to do such as grocery shopping and cooking meals to survive. But the way we live can be frantic with looking for something misplaced due to clutter and chaos in the home or we can have less material possessions around and just have what we need and keep it organized so we can put our hands on what we need whe we need it. If it is so valuable to keep it should be out and accessible. My eighteen year old asked to see a favorite childhood book, I said it was in a box deep in a closet mixed with hundreds of others. So what good did that do to save it?

And this week I am spending time sorting yet again through saved things instead of doing other things I wanted. I wanted to take a stab at painting and I wanted to keep drawing daily and read a certain book on my nightstand. But instead I am touching and moving and sweating in the 100+ degree hot and humd garage going through saved papers and things from my hoarder grandmother. She was filled wth anxiety and a was a textbook case of OCD And I keep asking myself if that is what I want to be.

My goal is to get the cars in the garage before hurricane season really hits us. The next project will be to cull the educational books in the game room on the shelves then go through boxes of books in the closets and put the ones out that I want and to get rid of even more.


The other type of packrat is the collector of project stuff. For the creative that means things like watercolor painting supplies, rubber stamps, and all kinds of art and craft supplies. We buy up the stuff to prepare to do a thing then when we choose to not do it, we still keep the stuff. I am trapped in this right now. I say some day I will do this and that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Drawing II Class Is Over

It was a whirlwind to take Drawing II at the community college with four hour long classes held four days in a row. Plus homework. I gained a few more pounds due to missing good lunches and eating in restaurants for dinner as I was too busy to cook from scratch. And eating candy bars for fast energy when fading fast in class.

I learned things in the class during the lecture and other things from directly talking to my professor during class with 1:1 help. I also had more reinforcement about what I already knew or suspected about how to learn and how to master something. I already knew things from my own life experience and also from self-teaching and from having homeschooled my children. So much I am now hearing and seeing I already knew, such as the following:

It is okay to make a mistake. Learn from the mistake.

Redo (redraw) the same thing to try to get it right, redraw over and over until you nail it.

Drawing teaches the foundation needed for painting, animation and digital art. You must know composition, value, proportion, perspective, and figure drawing to do all those things unless you plan to only be an abstract painter. If you want that you still need to know color theory or have some natural talent for it that didn't need instruction.

Practice, practice, practice.

The way to mastery is intentional practice. So if taking a class don't  just do the homework and move on when the deadline is over. Keep practicing on your own.

Classes do not give enough practice before moving on to the next thing. Extra work outside of class or done after the class ends is what helps you improve.

Mastery comes from your own motivation and drive to get things done. If you only work when you have a deadline from someone else it's not enough. You will not get good let alone excellent.

Many of the successful working artists (including animators and video game character developers) have their foundation in the traditional art education as taught to fine art students. A human like monster needs a body and you build out from there. You don't start with the costume then do the body parts. So, traditional figure drawing is what is required to draw humans and monsters from your imagination.

Daily practice is essential even if it's only sketching your surroundings or figure drawing in gestures.

Information can be in books and you can self-teach but you probably won't see your flaws and/or know how to fix them. Therefore a (good) live human teacher is essential.

Books for self-teaching only do so much, it really all relies on practice. Owning the book will not make you good, and reading it once won't work either. Practice, practice, practice.