Tag: oldie

Choosing one thing

WorkSpace October

It is a quiet day in October. Beautiful light, fresh air, wonderful colors outside my window. I just finished a piece of apple pie and I’m enjoying a cup of decaf. It’s silent around here. Boris is behaving. Things are good.

When you haven’t blogged for a while, it feels like you have a lot of catching up to do. But that’s just the old-fashioned me, who still thinks with nostalgia of the “personal blog”, and how one used to follow a stranger’s life mostly through their long-form writing. So even though I have a ton of posts in draft, I will discard them and take it from here.


This  month I’ve decided to take on Inktober and although there is an official prompt list, I decided I’d try to improve my portrait skills. Most of these portraits are sort of composites of images. To avoid doing any direct copying I’m gathering inspiration from Sktchy, vintage photos, imagination and sometimes pausing videos on YouTube. This challenge helps me work on these elements:

  • Proportion
  • Working loosely
  • Seeing value (my nemesis)
  • Limiting myself to one medium. On the first inktober drawing I added watercolor but then I decided to just focus on ink.

I hope I can finish the whole month. I might not be able to post all my drawings on four days because we’ll be going to a cabin with no Wi-Fi.


I have kept up my practice, mostly working with loose watercolors and creating textures. Here is where I really feel all my time and practice has paid off! I have stopped feeling constrained. My colors are finally as vibrant as they can be but also I’ve finally cracked the mystery of working in layers and controlling water.

To get to this point I have finally used that beautiful paper I had been safeguarding for “when I’m good enough” and this has been a breakthrough. DO NOT BELIEVE those who teach online and tell you to use whatever cheap paper you find. I know it’s tempting because we don’t want to throw money in the wastebasket but I’ve said it before. Good paper is important:

These are my top three choices:

  1. Cotman watercolor pads  for wet on dry $$
  2. Strathmore 400 Series  $$
  3. Fabriano Artistico  $$$

Anything below that is not going to work very well.


My latest illustration project:

Ilustraciones para Via Conexa

Illustrations for Via Conexa Language School in Spain


And working with two Theater collectives who will launch their websites soon.

Also, I’m working slowly towards designing a line of leggings for early next year. If you have a few minutes would you answer a short survey? I’m trying to gauge the styles that resonate the most.

The supposed blogpost part…

As you can see, the search of the creative outlet continues. Narrowing down and acquiring skills but there comes a moment in which I wish things would just click. Recently I listened to a Sean Wes mini-podcast: if you have creative block is because you give yourself too much freedom. It’s 100% true. This is the main reason for taking on Inktober. If I continue to look at everything I could do nothing will actually get done.

Why is it so difficult to choose one thing?

What are you going to do

I once did a brain-dump on a trello board. I put everything that was roaming in my brain, all the classes I had purchased, all the things I needed to learn both for illustration and web design, the “businesses” I wanted to create, all the personal projects, including a zine, an illustrated book, making prints of my work, etc and looking at how many columns this brain-dump spanned, I was aghast. Plus, one day I needed a scratchpad to take quick notes during a meeting and I opened my dreaded white box: out came all the  stories, ideas, notebooks and more unfinished projects.

You see, I keep feeling I’m not really doing anything and I don’t say this to get people around me to tell me: but how can you say that? You’ve done so much!

No. Actually I say it because it really seems that way to me. Scatteredness in my personal projects is painful to me. I’m capable to focus on client projects until the end and make my clients happy. But as I’ve been writing this post, I have simultaneously been working on a small painting because, you know, watercolor requires one to be patient while it dries. So the painting gets a layer and the post gets a paragraph. And since I started this post, I also left for half an hour to walk my dog, came back, made an appointment with the goomer, cleaned his backside and then added another layer to my painting.

And, as I walked outside I listened to another one of those podcasts that tell that same old story about someone who started a business and in three months they were skyrocketing into “success”. My husband tells me, of course nobody is going to record a podcast about people who failed or who are taking longer to get to where they want to get. And though I know this to be true, it still wiggles into the subconscious and plants question after question and demeans the little progress one makes.

But when I go through my archives, my sketchbooks and my pile of watercolors, I realize that despite all my neurosis and my hunger for producing good work, I have improved greatly. Day 4 of inktober was featured in Ello. My clipart is slowly picking up and looking at my watercolor textures brings me so much joy.

How do you get out of a motivation slump? Do you step back? Do you work harder?

I hope you can share with me!

Open Energy, Closed Energy

watercolor portrait

Do you have open energy running through your body?

Watercolor and pencil
Watercolor and pencil

Creating work out of that pressure, doing all of the things that you have been taught by others, and listening to that voice in your head that tells you you need to be better is not what will create that success you are craving. The true work, (meaning the work you are here to do), comes from a completely different place than this. This energy of pressure actually does very little to move you ahead and into the place where you desire to go, and in some cases can even lead you in the complete opposite direction. I know your head is telling you you need to do it but really that is just dogma you have been taught by other people who are scared of going to their own true place (doing the work that they are really meant to do), so they go on repeating what they were told by other fearful people, and so on and so on.

Keri Smith

How easy it is to lose one’s path and direction, how easy it is to go down one rabbit hole and then down the next. How easy it is to get distracted and then get discouraged and how easy it is to be tempted to abandon everything. How easy it is to “imitate” what other people are doing because you think it’s what you have to do.

I go back and forth in this pendulum. The more I try to do my own thing, it’s always influenced by the “industry”, either in my art or in my web development work.

It seems like I’m not completing projects because I have too much on my plate and this is turning me into a very nasty moody monster. But when I ask  myself: “what do I need?” there is silence.

I went to a French conversation group this week where we were supposed to talk about our “passions”, one of the attendees said, I have no passions, passions are by definition something that causes suffering, so I don’t have any. I found it interesting because I was all set to speak about my passion for drawing and painting and when he said this, I recognized that at this moment, I am “suffering” for my passion and this set alarms in all areas of my life because I know that the next stage is going to be abandonment.

Why is it difficult right now?

  • Not knowing what direction to take with my art: Should I concentrate on my watercolor portrait illustration? or should I pursue my clip art design?
  • Should I focus on my Etsy shop or should I try to develop a stand-alone shop?
  • Should I produce a lot of work before I attempt to create a side-income from my art?
  • How can I combine my two main professional activities harmoniously?

I have been following Keri Smith since 2003, even before I had an inclination to pursue any type of visual art, her advice has been so useful in many different areas and times of my life. To revise the post quoted above, was a pressing matter:

She speaks or energy, whether it’s open or closed energy. She says:

Open energy: light, energized, ecstatic, inquisitive, curious, want to stay up all night, go for a run, feel like you can conquer the universe, tuned in, radiating, etc.

Closed energy: tired, small, sick to your stomach, tight, passive, unengaged, unmotivated, discouraged, overwhelmed, frustrated, fearful, uninspired, etc.

This is a great start. To untangle all this*

Open energy:

  1. I experience open energy and curiosity when I’m drawing my intriguing ladies. I’m not sure I feel like I can conquer the universe but I feel at peace. When I finish one of them, I like to put it up on my wall, I have a connection with it. I know what she’s feeling.
  2. I’m happy and energized during the research phase of my clip art, during the sketching, but less so when working in Illustrator.
  3. Idea generation energizes me to the point of feeling dizzy and estatic.
  4. Creating stories, whether for a website or an illustration.

Closed energy:

  1. When I have to do a lot of nitty gritty work in the computer, a lot of copy paste (code, content, etc).
  2. I feel uninspired and stressed when there is an intermediary between me and the client.
  3. Self-promoting, writing formulaic blog posts or other marketing materials for myself or my small business.
  4. I am not detail oriented. This causes me much anguish because every single job posting and everything in this planet seems to be designed for detail oriented people. I am a “big picture” kind of person. I am the parachute. So when I’m asked to copy-edit something, my eyes will jump over a comma or an accent and I will feel terribly incompetent and depleted and it doesn’t matter all my work was outstanding, there is a detail that will trip me up.

It doesn’t matter one iota if you are unsure of what it is that you want to say just yet. The more you try to trust the process, the more you will figure it out piece by piece. But I will give you one more clue, focus your energy equally on things that get you really excited and things that get you really riled up (angry).

Keri Smith

This last paragraph leaves me with mixed feelings because one of my biggest mental blocks is age. Age, the number of years I have been on this planet and the number of years I (possibly) have left, and what I have done, what I haven’t, what I want to do. This is such a first-world-pain and such entitlement, but the block is there and it becomes an existential itch. How do I make myself trust the process? How do I make myself understand that if I make one drawing each day, it’s enough? That I don’t have to kick myself because I don’t do more? That a modest job while I work on my style, my message and my overall body of work is perfectly acceptable?

So do I have a passion?
Yes I do, and I want to get rid of it.

Mon carnet de poche

In the age of digital I still love notebooks too much. Like books, it’s difficult to not be attracted to the beauty of a bound paper object. The problem is when I buy notebook after notebook and they just linger in a box. I’m always saving them for the “big idea”.  And when big ideas come, you know what happens?

I create a new website.

And then I have websites lingering in every corner of the web. I create them sometimes because I find it easier to start fresh than to change what is not working. This seems to be a pattern engrained deeply.

The disadvantages of starting something new are evident: scatterdness, a feeling of not finishing what I started, compulsive accumulation of new info to start “the new thing”, hours of building my new digital home including coding, designing, choosing a name, launching, feeling strange about it and ultimately feeling like it’s only adding to a pile that is already very high.

My friend gave me the notebook pictured below and I thought I might feature each one of my notebooks here, look through and rescue them from l’oubli. This notebook though brand new, has an old feel to it. No perfect trim, uneven pages, some are lined, some are squared and there are even some blank pages that you can detach. This morning I took my dip pen to write my name and since discovering the joys of the dip pen, I started to write slowly the introduction to this lovely carnet.


I won’t make it another journal. This will be a constant stream of very slow thoughts because when you write with a dip pen your ink runs out and you have to recharge it and in the second that you do that, you can do a double take on what you wanted to write, what word you wanted and sometimes you end up changing it just the moment the new ink touches the pen. It’s slow and lately I need slow.

So I will be featuring some of my notebooks, from the very old ones to the new (empty ones) to try to give them some reason for existing.