So, last month was quite the experience for me as I challenged myself to paint a picture a day for The October Game. This isn’t the first time I’ve made such a strange effort – I did the NaSoAlMo twice, but without two kids to wrangle.
As I expected, besides honing some severely neglected art skills, I learned some things about myself, and solidified some things I’ve been working on. Here’s what I’ve got:
1. You can’t be too busy.
This was said to me by a friend many years ago as I marveled over the number of things he was able to accomplish in a typical week. It also may seem to be a contradiction of the minimalistic life I’m trying to achieve, but it really can be in harmony. It’s all about editing – ruthlessly evaluating what is in your life, and deciding what is giving you the best returns. I thought that I would have to give more things up in order to accomplish my picture-a-day goal, but in reality, I gave up very little, and felt less stressed out then I have in the past when I was being far less productive.
2. Your breakthrough moment is right around the corner.
As an artist, I of course know and have experienced this, but I’m amazed at how often I behave as if I don’t. I give up or “set aside” something that is giving me trouble instead of pushing through and finding success. As many have said before – this can be applied to just about everything in life. Your career, your relationship, your finances. Persevere.
3. There’s no accounting for taste.
It’s baffling to me that some of the more popular pictures in the Game were ones I hated. And NO ONE loved the chalk but me. It’s one of two I actually plan to hang on the wall. Can you guess the second?
4. Creativity is an inexhaustible resource.
If you are feeling like you don’t have many ideas, go ahead and use up the few little ones you do have. If you just let them sit there, they’ll never get replaced with something much more awesome. Trust me. It works.
5. You actually can change the way you think.
This takes radical effort, but like #2 & #4, you simply start with what you can do and persevere. Little by little by little, you change the way you think. This may not impress you, but I now make my bed every day. Before 2011, in 20 adult years, I could probably count on my fingers the number of times I made my bed when I wasn’t planning to have company. (Embarrassing and a little astounding, I know, but true…) I’m changing habits that allow me to accomplish more and live the life I really want and it’s actually working for the first time. It’s amazing. Try it.
6. Life is short.
I know I said this at the start – but life is short and meant to be enjoyed. If you’re not excited about your life – figure out why and fix it. It isn’t about everything going great. We can’t control so many of the things that shape our destiny. Natural disasters. Bad decisions our loved ones make. Cancer. But we let that feeling of helplessness drift into the things we can control and miss out on all the opportunities for happiness and fulfillment that are right in front of us.
Go create something.
Here’s my month:
So, this is it. The last picture in my October Game. I know I promised yesterday to put in more effort, but it was Halloween and I had trick-or-treating candy fiends to manage. My parents have the spookiest neighborhood in town, and this guy had obviously been carved well before the last warm front came through. He was doing his best to frighten the kids that passed by with what stability he had left. My first choice was from another house on the street – but I felt that Jesus in a bathtub surrounded by a Halloween graveyard was too ambitious for the limited time I had.
I titled this one “frost” because otherwise you’d have no clue what I was going for with this terrible drawing of a cold chiminea in the yard. Well, maybe the title doesn’t even help. I promise to put more effort into tomorrow’s – hey it’s the last one and Halloween!
No mums. Not even any glass. Just weeds and a landscape fit for Halloween.
I did start this one last night, before my 19 -month-old decided to take a tumble from a dining room chair, hitting the table on his way down. Fortunately, we didn’t need to make an emergency room trip this time, but it completely threw off my evening. This morning I finished this picture, then headed over to Nelson’s Fine Art in Johnson City where I was able to see the last few minutes of The October Game exhibit. Yesterday was a dreary, cold, rainy, foggy day. Perfect for a long drive with worn out tires. But even the general grayness of the air didn’t take away from the spectacular scenery along the way.
I had this one in my head from the beginning, but I wanted to wait until the leaves actually started to fall to do it. This may be my best October ever, and tomorrow I’m going to do my best to make it to Nelson’s while Bill Count’s art is still hanging.
Sometimes nature puts out decorations that trump anything you can buy at the store. This spider lives beside my back door, hanging lightly on an ancient-looking web, and when you walk up, she drops on a silver thread all the way to the ground before climbing quickly back up. Perfect for Halloween, and if we can re-route trick-or-treaters to the back door, we might be able to keep the candy for ourselves. I’m completely arachnophobic, but I can’t bring myself to send Philip out to “relocate” her. I did send him out to snap a photo, and since I haven’t done any weird or creepy October art so far, I thought she was perfect for this last week.
Now, I may not be a medium, but when we picked out some pumpkins and brought them home I was pretty sure the spirit of Houdini was trapped inside, trying to make one last escape. I blame it on the magician family costume theme for Halloween this year. Yes, I’m using this as my daily art. I know it barely resembles Houdini, but I worked a long time on it. Carving caricatures is easy; carving something that’s supposed to look like a real person is really, really hard, and I’m no sculptor. Just stretching my skill set here. Besides, when I make it to Food Network Challenge, I have no idea which skills I’m going to need to call upon.
Without my contacts in when the baby wakes up in the morning, I can’t read the clock to know if I can reasonably expect James to go back to sleep and let me have some more time in bed. So, I glance out the window, and hope I don’t see the above scene. Just one more hour, please!
I just posted this in the October Game, but I decided to move it to the craft section, since lots of people looking for pumpkin carving ideas are finding their way to the site. If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at carving, but don’t know where to start, pumpkins are the way to go. Easy to carve, minimal tools required (I used a single, straight, slightly rusted old wood carving tool for this whole thing), and it isn’t something you have to worry too much about ruining. If you go for a face with a lot of character, like a witches or ghouls, any mistakes or flaws just add interest. I’m doing a second one today, so I’ll post that this week as well. Happy Halloween…..yarrr!
You might have noticed that there was no picture yesterday. Yeah, well, so? I make no apologies. I have not lured you here under false pretenses. It says right in my comic that I’m a lazy artist, and if you’ve visited this site more than once you’ve already adjusted your expectations accordingly. Alright. I do feel a little bad. Here’s a bonus piece of artwork I did this afternoon right before the above work of dubious distinction.
I’m in a big rush to get four Halloween costumes finished before a party tomorrow night, so the poster I made for the theme (of course, there’s a theme) will have to suffice for my day’s artwork.
I know it’s really autumn when a maple leaf stops me dead in my tracks. While wrestling two kids into the van I looked down at the parking lot saw the first scattering of perfect maple leaves looking as though they had been carefully arranged by a far better artist than I. This is shaping up to be a gorgeous season in Tennessee, when even gravel is so extraordinarily adorned.
In the series of things I can see out my living room window I give you Mud. If you don’t like this one, there’s something wrong with you. I mean, it’s mud. We’re fortunate enough to live in one of those sorts of subdivisions where lawns aren’t perfectly manicured (fortunate because we are lazy), so there is a lovely muddy slope right out my window. The kids in the neighborhood also take advantage of the more relaxed environment by using wet days for an often overlooked recreational activity – mud sledding. Yes, that’s just what it sounds like. Rainy days like today make me want to grab my sled.
The kids and I made a bird feeder out of a milk carton, but I don’t always remember to fill it up. Most of the birds will check once before moving on to a new place entirely. The family of cardinals, however, are truly religious, and if they miss their meals for more than a couple of days they pace back and forth in front of the window and give me intense stares.
The leaves are turning, and I love this moment in October when the trees are smoldering, beginning to glow around the edges, about to burst into brilliant flame. Add a sunset and the effect is magical. I tried to spend a little more time on this painting, to hopefully have one I wouldn’t have to apologize for. The problem with spending more time, however, is that it removes the most convenient excuse for poor performance.
Okay, so technically it is a large fire, but it is on a pretty small piece of paper, so it feels tiny. I don’t have much else to say but that I did this in about 30 minutes to try and create the feeling of the bonfire we went to last night with the kids. I’m facing a dilemma with the October Game. I need to actually do something other than paint and draw so that I can be more inspired to paint and draw – but I run out of time fast. With costumes and parties and traveling, I’m wondering how I’ll fit it all into the next couple of weeks. But that’s part of the challenge.
Finally, an October sky to be inspired by. So far, it’s been all sunshine almost all the time, and that can get very depressing. This morning, for one brief moment, the sky held both the threat of storms and the promise of a perfect day. And really, isn’t every morning that way?
This little shamrock has been sitting in my dining room beckoning to me throughout the October Game. Heretofore I have resisted, finding more worthy subjects out the window or in my garden or at the park. But today was a busy day devoid of inspiration, and when the shamrock whispered to me I realized that it did indeed deserve some attention. After all, it is the only house plant I have ever been able to keep alive.
While John and I were hanging out on the front porch, enjoying a rainy afternoon, he suddenly exclaimed with certainty, “This is my favorite leaf in the whole world!” So, of course, it is also mine.
I’m beginning to feel that the challenge of saying something interesting about every single picture in the October Game actually supersedes the challenge of doing the picture itself. This is a drawing of a wind chime. The wind chime I can see out of my kitchen window. Because I never ever leave my house. Ever.
As promised, here is a stack of partially charred wood. It could be worse. The fall leaves almost didn’t make it into the painting. They were there, but then somewhere along the way of trying to get the shadows and the texture the way I wanted it, the leaves got blended in completely. Only when I was starting to feel like I could (or should) do no more damage to the thing did I realize what was missing. A perfect fall scene, even if the stack of leftover harvest fire logs were from an autumn a decade past.
I was on my way to a semi-charred stack of logs behind the church today when I spotted this overlooked yard sale item. Something about it struck me as being particularly Octoberish, so I went with it. I decided to depart from the gloppy mess that is my oil painting and go for the slightly more subtle mess of ink wash. Don’t worry, the charred logs will likely make an appearance at some point.
No collection of October artwork would be complete without a moon peeking through the twisted branches of a dying dogwood tree. At least, that’s what I told myself when I started this gratuitous painting of a moon through the branches of a dying dogwood tree. I hate this painting with a vengeance. I hate it so much that I’ve done it three times. But I was too busy today to start painting until the moon was actually up, and I’m not starting over AGAIN. Tomorrow is another day, and maybe inspiration will find me in the daylight. What I’m really hoping for is some nice dreary drabness. There’s been way too much sunshine and I’m running out of yellow paint.
Yes, I know that magnolia leaves don’t usually symbolize fall since the magnolia grandiflora is an evergreen, but if one of the branches should happen to break off, it would soon fit right in with the autumn theme. This branch was brought in the house by my three-year-old son, and I loved the soft variation of color – not represented in the above picture.
Sometimes inspiration comes from the humblest of places. And sometimes, you wait in the glory of a perfect October afternoon and it doesn’t come at all. So, I give you sidewalk chalk. You’re welcome.
A more beautiful start to October we could not have. The weather has been perfect, the leaves are just starting to change and I finished my painting today before naptime was over. Why you’d want to be on a jet to anywhere other than Tennessee is entirely beyond me.
Well, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I saw the rose hips by my side steps. It’s reminiscent of an oil pastel drawing of green bananas I labored over for weeks in high school that was equally bewildering.
I was staring out the window this afternoon, trying to find inspiration to revise my idea for today’s picture when I noticed that Foster had a much better plan. My children don’t allow me to peacefully nap for a few hours in the sunshine, however, so I drew the sleeping old man instead.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that doing a complete painting every single day for a month is easy. I’m only on day 3 and I’m not sure how I can keep going. Of course, neither Bill Counts nor Bob Ross had the destructive force of toddlers to deal with while painting, although I believe there was a squirrel living in Bob Ross’s hair for a while… Anyway, I tried to do something literal (from a screenshot off my flip from today’s playdate at the park.) I haven’t tried painting real things I really see in so long I’ve forgotten how. It’s trees, water, and geese. That’s about it. I’m tired. Goodnight!
Well, it’s October 2 and I decided to try my hand at painting. Fortunately I still have lots of supplies from all the previous times I thought I should try my hand at painting. I think it’s appropriate that I have Bob Ross paints, and surely I’m not the only one who hears his voice in their head as they pick up the brush. He was always encouraging people to relax and paint what they saw in their own world. Of course, in my head he’s saying things like “Maybe in your world, Jill, the laws of physics don’t even apply. You can just paint that shadow anywhere you want it.” The leaves in Fairview might still be green, but to find a fall scene with sufficient decay you have only to look at my vegetable garden.
So, today starts my very own October Game, and I have to say I’m simultaneously exhilarated and intimidated. I’m not the artist Bill was, but I have the foundation skills without much practice. Today’s picture is done with oil pastels, which I used to love. But my skill with oil pastels is about the same as it was 20 years ago, and to better illustrate that point, I’m using the exact same box of oil pastels I used 20 years ago. Well, enough bemoaning my misspent youth. This game is about growth and challenge and recognizing that life is precious and short. Even though this sad geranium was neglected throughout the summer, sitting on my back deck with barely enough water to keep it alive, it managed to throw out just a few more delicate blossoms even as the cool nights were heralding it’s end. Happy October!