Friday, December 2, 2011

double dog dare ...

This is how I am feeling these days:

Not sure what my challenge is other than to stay steady in a season that always leaves me feeling like I've been tossed out of the raft and into the white water. Crazy fun? Yes. Exhausting and hazardous to my nervous system? Undoubtedly.

I seem to be finding my center in the chicken coop these days.

I am having a blast playing around with line, color, and my tub of watercolor toys. My working technique so far is to do an initial contour drawing using pencil -

Then go back over the lines with an ink tense black pencil.

I then use a small brush to wash in those lines before going back in with color. I've been experimenting with all my supplies: watercolor pencils and crayons, ink tense pencils, and pan watercolor paints.

So perhaps my dare is to pull out your stuff and see what it wants to tell you?

As it is the time to be making lists, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the books that have been especially inspiring to me. Perhaps there is something you might want to add to your Amazon wishlist? (I seem to be the only one who ever looks at my list!)

1. Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim.

The Bodhi Chicklet turned me on to this gem (thanks Kim!) It is my to-go book whenever I am feeling sluggish creatively or when I get overwhelmed by what I want to do. It takes me back to basics - drawing - but it is anything but simplistic. I could spend a year exploring any one of the 52 suggested exercises and techniques in this book. Yeah, it will keep you busy for a long, long while.

2. Creative Illustration Workshop for Mixed Media Artists by Katherine Dunn.

I just got this book so I haven't gone through it completely ... which is to say I am savoring each page, each illustration. I love hearing about an artist's working practice - where their ideas come from and how they evolve into a final piece. I also appreciate technical tips (such as applying a little gel varnish with a finger tip over written text on a piece to prevent it from bleeding) and this book seems to be full of both.

If becoming a patron of the arts is a possible holiday gift you'd like to make, then consider sponsoring Katherine's Kickstarter Project Misfits of Love

3. Painted Pages: Fueling Creativity with Sketchbooks and Mixed Media by Sarah Ahearn Bellemare.

This was the book that inspired the pieces Cowgirl and I made for this year's Painting with a Purpose campaign. I love seeing how Sarah uses her sketchbooks to capture the details of her life, as well as being a place to explore and play with ideas, themes, and designs. The play of image and words is strong in Sarah's art and she introduces how she works with blending the two together. This book is both inspiration and a kind of manual for creating mixed media pieces.

The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp.

The title says it all. Hands down, this is my favorite book on creativity and how to support and nurture it. A practice I have committed myself to ... and it is exactly that: a practice. For me, discipline is needed but always, always discipline and work transmute into joy and exhilaration. Always.

5. The Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide to Fitting Creativity Into Your Life by Shona Cole.

What I love about this book is how Shona breaks down the projections into smaller segments and suggests ways we can gather the material, the inspiration for several pieces over a period of days and weeks. I tend to go whole hog on a project and burn myself out trying to get everything done in one go, so this way of working has taught me how to integrate my work into my busy schedule. And unlike many other books, I've actually done most of the projects in this book! Ironically, the sewing project which I initially resisted resulted in my delving into other sewing projects. I created a number of larger sized totes as gifts based upon the Poetry Tote project in this book. I also loved the Altered Storybook project (which reminds me ... I had planned to do another one!) I don't believe you have to be a mother to enjoy this book.

I'm sure there are others I am forgetting ... and I would love to know your favorites for my holiday list!

And now I am anxious to get back to my pads, pencils, paints and papers. So many ideas, so little time! As if things don't feel speeded up enough, Cowgirl has lost her third tooth in less than 3 weeks! This one had to be pulled and she was very brave. While the fairies have the baby tooth, she continues to wear the plastic tooth given to her by the dentist as a kind of medal of honor. Meanwhile, her other front tooth is hanging on by a thread ... no rest for the tooth fairy.

But plenty of rest for my other muse.

Go on ... be naughty AND nice. I dare you ...


  1. And now my Amazon shopping basket is overflowing! Have only got Shona's book out of that lot, so will have to look into the other ones. They sound good.

    I definitely need to get my paints out. I haven't done much lately

  2. Oh wow! So wonderful to know I have led someone to be inspired! Thanks! I am woefully short of time (how do other people do it - I am guessing a good support system...)I am barely hanging on in Pixie's class and dealing with life fall out. Finding time to experiment and enjoy tools is like whipped cream on the coffee! I am so thrilled you are in the zone, my friend and always glad to inspire!

  3. I take you up on your challenge. The last two books on your list I have wanted for the longest time, I am glad to hear you say how much you like them. I want them all the more now.

    I loved Katherine Dunn's book and Carla's, I am going to check out the others. :)

    For my birthday I got Life, paint and Passion by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley, and I am loving it so far.

  4. I. love. your. chickens. love them. I've been checking out dozens of art books through inter-library loan. It's been a great way to preview titles and see if I want to make them part of my permanent collection. Sadly, our library system doesn't have Katherine Dunn's book and I've been dying to get my hands on it - good to hear you're enjoying it. right now I'm drooling over Mary Beth Shaw's "Flavor for mixed media" and "Surface Treatment Workshop" by McElroy & Wilson. crazy inspiration for a texture junkie like me!

  5. i love those colorful chickens! beautifully refreshing to look at during this season of holiday overload. thanks for the book recommendations - i may need to gift myself a few of these (by-passing the tree!)

  6. Great additions to my wishlist! I also get lots of inspiration from The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron (amazon link: It became kind of cliche'd for a while there, which put me off for a year or so, but since the furor died down, I've taken another look. I find it inspires me to be creative daily, whatever that looks like. For me, it involves creating through yarn and needles. If I make time to knit every day, I feel more centered and focused on the rest of my crazy life.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  7. Thanks for sharing your process!LOVE the rooster.The palette is amazing.
    OOh that's a fun list. I enjoyed how many included the term "mixed-media :)
    You know my list ALWAYS includes Writing Down the Bones -the root of my own practice. And, I am totally in love with Clarissa Estes' new book Untie the Strong Woman!!!!
    "Thus, all we have to do is heart-call and she will make her way through walls and across water, under mountains and through iron or gilded bars to make herself known."(Estes)
    Wish I could come over. I think I should like to try my hand at painting the darling burro who lives up the street from us-

  8. Your paintings are knocking me out!:) And your book suggestions are awesome! Can't wait for my sister to receive The Artistic Mother - couldn't resist after reading your review...

  9. Dear Lis-I love your rooster. The lines and colors are so fresh and ...lush. it just makes me feel so happy to look at:) Thanks for the book list-I have wanted to get the Katherine Dunn book for some time. and Shona Cole too..the Altered Storybook project sounds so interesting. And Twyla Tharp is an absolute fave...isn't that book amazing?? Cowgirl looks so grown up!!! And yeah!! I can tell she's just a little sassy:)
    The two books I am reading right now...
    1. Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood. Beacuse I need a different perspective Lis...and some help:)
    2. Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron

  10. LOVE all this.. filled with joy and courage


  11. Lovely Lis, I just received your 'real mail'. THANK YOU FROM THE DEPTHS OF MY HEART xxxxxxxx Your gifts made me feel so loved, so honoured. I couldn't stop smiling for hours. You are such a bright star in my life.
    Sending you a huuuuuuuge hug,

  12. Now that's some wish list! Now, of course you already have all of those...Indeed but it is easy to fall out of practice with anything. Why must we have to remind ourselves what we need? Or to be kind to ourselves? Ink tense pencils are popping up all of the place these days, they are delicious. And what inspiration (a snoozing moose, chickens) to have under your nose!