Where creativity grows

Author: Jen (Page 1 of 4)

This week in The Oodlearium

Only a three-day work week…no complaining here! I had lots of time in The Oodlearium this week for sure. I was off on Monday for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I spent most of the day working on the Oodle Doodles section of my website. It was quite a feat getting the artwork on the landing page to be somewhat uniformly sized. 

I took a personal day on Wednesday to watch all of the festivities surrounding the celebration of our democracy and the smooth transition of power to the Biden Administration. I won’t lie! I had a huge amount of anxiety leading up to Wednesday. I was so worried that something terrible was going to happen that I could hardly concentrate on anything else these last two weeks.  On the 20th, I slept in and enjoyed making us a leisurely breakfast. I settled into The Oodlearium with CNN streaming the ceremonies and a smattering of projects on the oodle surface in front of me. 

A new-to me surface for pour painting.

On Monday, I picked up a heart made out of wooden slats and decided I was going to do a Valentine’s Day pour painting on it. I had never poured on wood and I had never done a pour on such a large surface. I put down a base of silver paint on all the slats and all the edges. I decided I would do a pour on each individual slat instead of trying to figure out how to get the paint to “jump” the gap between the slats. I mixed up large containers of white, red, pink and silver. One cup at a time, I created a layer of paints so that each slat would be slightly different. I really like how it turned out. Now I just need to wait for the weather to warm up just a bit, so that I can take it outside and spray with a clear coat finish.

Celebrating Democracy Pour Painting.

All week I was thinking about how I wanted to do a red, white and blue pour with small splashes of silver and gold. As is always the case, I never know what these paintings are going to look like when they are done. I layered the red, white, blue, gold and silver in a mini strainer and let the magic happen. I love how this one turned out and plan to hang it every year in celebration of the 4th of July! It actually got me thinking that I might create pours for different holidays going forward. I have a spot outside my office downstairs where I could hang a different painting every couple of months. 

52Frames

Last week’s challenge was shoot low. I spent a lot of time rolling around on the floor with the lego robots we built early in the pandemic before I finally decided to shoot my VW bus. It’s such a fun memory. The bus.

The current week’s theme water. I was sure that I had my submission made on Wednesday. I spent a better part of the afternoon trying to shoot flags through bubbles made out of dish soap and oil in a glass dish. I was positive that my camera was actually screwed up from when it tumbled off my tripod twice during my self-portrait shoot a few weeks ago. It turns out that the dang water bubbles just never stayed still enough to get a good focus. This morning, I woke up and stumbled into our bathroom only to find the most incredible coating of ice coating our window. I made a few shots and realized if I waited for the sun to rise, I would have something special. I shot and shot and shot and shot and with the help of a fellow framer selected my shot for the week. I’m SO excited! For Amanda. I dedicated my image to Amanda Gorman, the poet laureate who recited a profoundly moving piece during the Inauguration. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here. My image won’t be visible until the album goes live Tuesday morning.

Oodle Doodles

I have been doing a lot of brainstorming for the stories, but my words have been stuck inside my heart this week. However, I keep at my practice of sitting here and writing— knowing that the practice is more important than the product. The words will come when they are ready to do so.

Until next week, keep oodling!

This week in The Oodlearium

Creativity Hour.
When I embarked on my creative journey with The Oodlearium, one of the pillars of creativity I wrote about was meeting regularly with other creatives. That was my primary reason for wanting to start a podcast. I have put that idea on the back burner for right now. I have too much going on to put the time into it that it deserves. I will revisit that idea as summer approaches. In the meantime, I am trying to set up a virtual creative hour with other creatives. The idea would be to set aside an hour once a week to chat with other creatives. Talk about the projects you are working on…questions you have…ask for advice…or just get ideas for your next creative adventure. If this is something you would be interested in being part of, drop me a PM and I’ll add you to the list. 

52 Frames.
Last week’s theme was leading lines. After an amazing ice storm that left every tree looking like it had been flocked, I pulled over on the side of the tollway to snag my picture with my phone (something I never do!). 

This week’s theme was to shoot from below. I spent a lot of time rolling around on the floor trying different shots of some Lego robots I built last summer before I eventually decided on a shot of the Lego VW bus I built. This is the next installment in the “This is how I roll” series. Yep, I’m 45 and I built a VW bus out of Lego blocks. And, yep, a part of my brain is trying to figure out how I can actually have a real VW bus.

Pour painting.
The Oodlearium has canvases sitting all over the place. There is a set of four that I have waiting for summer when I can build a custom frame for them. There are others just sitting on the shelves behind me.  I love each one more than the previous…which makes it hard for me to just give them away. Long story short, it has been a few weeks since I last painted. Today I was struggling with the writing I was doing, so I pushed my notebook aside and did a quick pour. It is such an incredible release— no matter how it turns out, I always feel a bit brighter afterward.

I have taken a personal day to watch the Inauguration festivities and am planning a red/white/blue themed pour in honor of this important day in our nation’s history.

Pilot Pens and Ink.
Last week I mentioned that I was geeking out on ink for my Pilot pen. The inks finally arrived this week and I was over the moon excited. I learned so much about inks and pens. Tom bought me a Pilot Metropolitan from The Goulet Pen Company, which is a mom and pop shop in Virginia. I ordered a whole mess of inks not knowing that inks are proprietary to the pens…buy a Pilot pen and you have to buy Pilot inks. Who knew! Anyhow, I have a new stash of all different colored inks for the upcoming card season. I cannot say enough wonderful things about The Goulet Pen Company. They have amazing customer service! They responded quickly to my question about my order and offered various options for my situation. I look forward to purchasing from them again. 

The Oodle Doodles.
I am still working on the Oodle Doodle back stories. They are pushing me and challenging me in ways I never imagined. I am planning to set up individual pages for each Oodle on www.theoodlearium.com. Look for a separate announcement telling you when you can start following their launch! 

In the meantime, the Oodle Doodles have been printed and have already started making their way onto cards for random occasions. Today my sister-in-law sent me a text with a picture of all my oodles from my Christmas cards from the last five or so years. I was so tickled to see that she had kept all the cards and that they brought such happiness to her. Mission accomplished!

George Berlin
I have been following an artist, who traveled from the US to Taiwan to collaborate with a local artist on a major art installation. It has been amazing to follow his journey. Check him out on Facebook and Instagram. You won’t be disappointed!

The Practice by Seth Godin
Tom and I are reading a new book by Seth Godin called The Practice. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone seeking sage advice and encouragement to pursue your true creative self. I find myself bookmarking or highlighting every single passage. Check it out!

Until next time.

13.1 mile creative challenge

Last summer in a moment of weakness I agreed to sign up for my first-ever half-marathon with my sole sista Jen. At the time I was recovering from vein surgery that had gone much less than well. I wasn’t even able to run and I was sure that I had gone insane.

The night before Halloween I attended a lecture at my running club about how to run through the winter. Our fearless leader Glen told the group that the way to get through winter running was just to show up and the rest would take care of itself. I didn’t realize that motto would be tested the very next day when we got five inches of snow on Halloween (not normal here in Illinois). I showed up and started my most consistent streak of running since I started. It did not matter how cold it was or how much snow we had gotten as long as I showed up.

I was setting the foundation for starting my half-marathon training come spring of 2020. The first kink went into my plan when my partner in crime— the very sole sista who had convinced me to sign up for the Chicago Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon went down with a hip injury. I kept up my three days a week with other runners from my club. I never took a day off— I just had to show up. On March 12th the world changed drastically. All of our organized running groups were shut down. After six months of running three times a week with a group of people who are like family to me, I was less than prepared to start running by myself. Enter pivot #1. 

I made a pact with another friend from Dick Pond that we would run together as often as possible. She was a small business owner, who was shut down during the shelter in place so we had a lot of time together. If we kept it to the two of us, we could socially distance ourselves and get some much needed fresh air. A few weeks into that plan, I took a nasty fall on the track and had a high ankle sprain that left me in a boot for about two weeks. Darcy was there waiting for me when I returned and we resumed our training. Even though she had not formally signed up for the race, she was planning to do what we were sure would become a virtual race. Fast forward to the end of May when the next major kink in my plan hit.

Darcy was out with friends and family on her horse when she took a nasty fall and broke a few ribs. I was starting to wonder if I was the reason all my running partners were dropping like flies! It would have been more than easy to quit at this point in time, but I could not be deterred. The running groups from our club were starting back up and that included a group training for the Fox Valley Half-Marathon in September. Perfect…pivot #2.

We both wanted to be done. Since the race

I started training with the Food for Health group. I had a couple of ladies who ran at my pace and we fell into easy step with each other. We met twice a week and I resumed my track workouts on Thursdays. We were doing awesome. The miles were slowly increasing and we all could feel ourselves getting stronger. We were about six weeks out from the race when Julie’s feet started giving her trouble and I started having horrible pelvic pain after my longer runs. The weekend runs were taking everything out of me. I would get home, shower and sleep most of the day. This was not sustainable.

We were both frustrated and wanted to be done with the race. The last thing we wanted was a long term injury or for this experience to make us quit running altogether. Julie made an off-hand comment about just running the dang 13.1 miles the next chance we had and being done. My brain latched on nice and hard to that idea. Remember that while I am trying to train for this race, I am having horrible anxiety about returning to school in the middle of a pandemic. I am having regular panic attacks and everything is starting to become a chore. I threw out a few dates, but they did not work for her. On top of all of this, we were unable to run together for the next few weeks. I was not sure what to do. I had two options- do the 13.1 miles by myself or wait for the actual race in September and run with the group. There was no way I was going to be able to do that distance by myself. With the uncertainty surrounding my return to my classroom, I was not comfortable waiting for race in September. I had to figure something else out. Enter Pivot #4.

The next step on my training plan was a 13.1 run…the exact length of a half-marathon. If I could make it through that run, all the months of training could be done and I could go back to jolly 3-6 mile runs when I felt like it. One big question remained: How was I ever going to do that by myself? By chance I learned that a friend was doing her long run that week and I was free to join her. We set a time to meet up and did not even give a single thought about the forecast (95 with close to 100% humidity). 

The road to that run was long and arduous…winding and bumpy in many places. But I was laser focused on figuring out a way to finish what I started despite all the roadblocks that popped up along the way. What I accomplished, despite all of the hard work and time I put in, was something I never dreamed I would ever try let alone do. It took a lot of creative problem solving, but once I committed, I was not giving up on it. 

Not all creativity ends in a piece of art. It’s a mindset— a thought process that helps you get stuff done. 

Follow-up…three weeks later I accidentally ran a second half-marathon and beat my first time by 20 minutes! 

This week in The Oodlearium

This past Monday I returned to my classroom for the first time since early November. I won’t lie and say that I was filled with anxiety and depression. A friend is doing her PhD research on the effects of COVID19 on teachers and students. I could go on and on about how challenging it has been. HOWEVER and that is a really big HOWEVER, I did spend a lot of time engaging in creative shenanigans to help me get through the week.

52 Frames- The first week of every new year is always a self-portrait. I mentioned it last week. Here is a link to my image. I was super excited about this image for what what it represents– the start of a long story! I have decided to take my entire 52 Frames journey this year and call it: This is how I roll. Each image will be example of how I have chosen to live my life. We get judged a lot about our choices–whether it is my funky colored hair or not having kids or how we spend our money. I am very much looking forward to a creative reflection on how I live my life. I spent a lot of time commenting on photos from the album this week, too. It is always fun to see the faces of fellow framers. If you read through the descriptions so many people (myself included) say how much they hate pictures of themselves. Were it not for this challenge, in some cases I would never know what someone looked like! And holy moly– there are some incredibly creative portraits. Take a looksy. You will not be disappointed. The theme for this week is leading lines and I am super happy with the image that I captured with my phone. Stay tuned for next week when I share it.

Axel

The biggest news of the week is that I have plunged head first into my newest long-term project and I am over the moon excited! Tom mentioned in passing that it would be fun if I wrote the back stories about my Oodle Doodles. I was not sure that I had enough of them to make it worthwhile. Well…I spent a good chunk of time during my last week of break drawing a clean version, scanning and coloring them as a I mentioned last week. Well this week, I have given them all names and professions. I am working through assigning characteristics and hobbies/interests to them. While digging through a cabinet at school, I found an old book of journal prompts that sparked another idea. Instead of writing about them in the third person, I am going to write about them in the first person. For example, Axel tells the story of how he went blind when he was 12. Another Oodle tells the story of how the love of her life gave her a Figa charm when she set off to hike the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. I am going to add a page to this site that houses all of the stories as I finish them. Stay tuned! I am 100% consumed by this project, so I’m hoping there will be a story up sooner rather than later!

The Personal Offsite

My husband and I are avid fans of the Tim Ferriss podcast where in each episode, Tim interviews world-class performers from eclectic areas to tease out the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. His wide ranging conversations include favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more. In early 2019 Tim interviewed Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. 

While their conversation covered a myriad of topics, my husband and I honed in on the idea of a “quarterly personal offsite.” You are probably familiar with the concept of the annual review—  an opportunity to reflect on your performance over the last year and set goals for the upcoming year.  Despite their ubiquity, few people find the annual review helpful.  What if you dedicated some time on a regular basis away from home and work to check in with where you have been and where you are going in your life? McKeown calls it a quarterly personal offsite based on the idea that “every three months you take three hours to identify the three things you want to accomplish over the next three months.”

We were all in. Our goal was to evaluate where we were at in our lives and look forward without the distractions of our every day lives. I found us a quaint AirBnb in Durango, Iowa. The description promised the perfect place to get away from the world and unwind. Now just to set the ground rules for the weekend. 

  • No technology. Even if we did not come away with any clear direction forward we knew that a digital detox would be beneficial. The cabin was remote enough that there was no cell service or wifi.
  • Although the cabin did have sattelite TV, we did not want to fall into our old routine of wasting hours watching shows.
  • This was not a vacation. We were not going somewhere to sightsee or dine out. Our cabin had a small kitchen and we brought the fixings for simple meals. We would spend our time reading, writing, talking, meditating, doing yoga, hiking, or relaxing. 
  • We brought stacks and stacks of notebooks, post-it notes and pens. 

As soon as we arrived we knew we had selected the perfect location. The cabin was remote enough to feel like we were away from the world, but well appointed so that we were comfortable. We both did a lot of reading, writing and talking about our lives— where we were and where we wanted to go. After hours and hours of writing, I started to transfer my main ideas to post-it notes so that I could more easily sort and organize what I had uncovered. Tom followed a similar system. After two days we felt reenergized and extremely hopeful about the future. It was absolutely one of the best decisions we have ever made. We had clear action items to address when we returned home and a promise to reconvence in three months to check in again. 

About six months later, we decided to schedule another off-site to a different location. In the months since our initial “event” we had made a lot of changes in our lives. We were much more positive and upbeat about how life was going. That made the workshopping aspect of the weekend a bit more challenging, because we felt we were on the right path already. This weekend was less successful. We returned home a day early and resumed our lives.

Fast forward to last summer (2019) when we went on a driving trip around the Great Lakes. It was fourth of July weekend and our home for the next two days was a beautiful cabin in Chassell, Michigan. As soon as we walked into the cabin, we decided to put our vacation on pause for a few days and have another personal offsite. This one was much more similar to the first one— lots of writing, reading, talking and self-discovery. I honestly think the second one was a fluke and perhaps much too forced. 

What we have learned from the personal offsites:

  1. Taking the time to make your life is a priority is incredibly powerful. 
  2. If you get nothing out of the offsite other than a digital detox it is worthwhile. 
  3. Selecting your location with the intention of making the most of the experience is vital. These trips are not about sightseeing, dining out or even adventures.
  4. It helped to sort through all that was overwhelming us and focus on the 3-4 items that were most important to us over the next 2-3 months.  We left with clear action items.
  5. We left incredibly reenergized and most importantly more hopeful about the future.

My goals for the weekend were not creativity minded in general, but the positive effects of the weekend would have still held true. Checking out of the universe for a few days and getting away from the grind absolutely will free your mind and allow it to resume making unique connections between ideas. Stepping away from the constant barrage of negativity will give your heart and your mind some much needed rest and an opportunity to revitalize itself. You have an opportunity to hone your focus for your future giving you a much greater feeling of control.

I cannot recommend this experience highly enough!

Embracing Failure

Embracing Failure. 

I have been thinking about failure and how it relates to creativity for quite a while. About 10 years ago, the school where I taught had a slogan “Failure is not an option.” The idea was centered around the goal of increasing graduation rates, but it was ill conceived. Failure is absolutely an option and in terms of creativity it is a necessity. There are so many cliches that support this statement, but they are all true- 1) If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. 2) Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing. 3) Success is on the other side of your comfort zone. I think you get the idea. If you don’t put yourself out there and try something— especially when you are not sure that you will succeed, you will not grow and expand as a person…and your creativity will stay stagnant.

If you are a Parks and Recreations fan, you know that Tom Haverford’s character is the penultimate failure embracer. As over the top and ridiculous as some of his business ideas are, he does not filter anything out and he jumps in feet first to follow his dreams. Of course he also displays extraordinarily poor judgement at times, but he is not afraid of having a bad idea. He just keeps churning them out until something finally sticks and he finds something that he is both passionate about and successful at.

This past weekend, I had two major breakthroughs with my creative process. 30+ years ago my grandma taught me how to crochet. Of course I started with basic stitches and I probably made something simple like a scarf. I’m not sentimental enough to still have that product, but I have the memories for sure. For the next 25 or so years, I stuck to what I knew. For many years, I only started a project if I was there with my Grandma and she would help me with the foundational rows of what was undoubtedly a baby blanket of some sort. I seldomly veered from the same projects and the same styles. The only variant was the yarn and colors. I was content. Then one day about five years ago, my husband declared that he wanted fun elf hats for Christmas. I immediately ran to various stores and picked up a variety of hats— knowing in my heart they did not fit what he was looking for. When he asked me if I could just make us hats, I looked at him with such incredulity that he was surprised. “I don’t have the first clue how to make a hat. I have never even read a crochet pattern.” The next thing I knew I was searching for patterns on Pinterest and he was helping me figure out how to read the pattern. Now I regularly make hats for friends, family and also the homeless in our community. If I had not taken that risk and screwed up over and over again while trying to figure that pattern out, I never would have unlocked a new door to my crochet world. Recently I was again poking around on Pinterest and I saw a pattern for the sweetest crocheted dress. I knew it would be adorable for my beautiful niece. I sent my cousin a picture of it and she fell in love with it. There was no way that I could disappoint her and not make the dress, but I had absolutely no idea how to make a dress. The confidence that came from figuring out the hats allowed me to have the patience to piece through the dress pattern and voila now I was making a beautiful gift for my niece’s first birthday. 

Earlier in the week, we visited with our good friends who recently bought a farm in Spain. The property featured a 300-year old building that was more than in ruins. They are spending hours and hours learning to do everything from build a solar system to provide electricity to the farm to fixing foundations and replacing a traditional Spanish tiled roof. Why am I telling you this story? We are going to visit them next summer to help them work on the farm. My husband— he is the one with the mad home improvement skills. This is a sour point for me. He complains endlessly about the thousands of hours of work that needs to be done on our house, but I don’t have any skills to help him. Part of the problem is that I am creative, but not detail oriented. He is VERY detail oriented. I was feeling extremely anxious about our trip and that I did not have any skills to offer except to feed, water and photograph the group. 

In passing I mentioned to my husband that my oriole feeder was rotting and that I intended to replace it. He suggested that I make a new one. I jokingly reminded him that I had no skills. He offered to teach me! We spent an entire day in his shop working through how I could design, plan and build a new bird feeder. I used what seemed like every power tool in his shop, a bunch of math and a glob or so of glue and I’ll be damned..I built a new bird feeder. I can’t say that I am brimming with confidence, but I took the chance at learning something new and now I have a whole new medium that I am excited to explore. If I were failure averse, I never would have tried and I would still be crocheting baby blankets.

How can you embrace failure?

What’s happening in the Oodlearium

It’s New Year’s Day and I have been off for just shy of two weeks. I return to my classroom on Monday for the first time since early November. To say that I am anxious would be a gross understatement. However, I decided to dedicate my entire Christmas break to ME. So here is what has been happening in the Oodleariium while I have been off:

Pour Painting with new mini strainers. If you ever needed proof that your phone or device is listening to you then these strainers are that proof. I made some offhand comment about how it would be fun to have different strainers with different hole patterns to play around with. The next time I was on Pinterest the exact set I was looking for showed up in my feed. They were cheap and I ordered them. I have since done two paintings with them and I LOVE THEM! 

International Pour Painting Party. I have a fellow Framer friend from Israel who also enjoys pour painting. We got together last week for the second time to do a painting together. She was curious to see my technique. We talked a lot about supplies and the differences in what is available here vs what she can easily find in Israel. For example, she had never heard of pour-ready paint, which is all that I use. We talked about cameras and of course our worries about the continued danger of the raging pandemic. I cherish these experiences, because they remind me how small the world is. 

Oodle Doodle Book Idea. One day I was sitting here in the Oodlearium going through my sketch books and looking at my different doodles. I started marking the pages with post-it notes and before I knew it, there were close to FORTY different doodles. I smiled at each one and remembered the various circumstances that brought them to be. That is when it struck me that I really wanted to create a book with all of my doodles. Tom (at least I think it was his idea) suggested that I write the backstory for each of the characters and have that text accompany each image. I was sold immediately! What a fun idea. I spent a whole day last week drawing a clean version of each of the doodles and then scanning them. I have a whole process for digitally coloring my drawings that Tom introduced me to when I was first zentangling. If you are interested in that process let me know and I can detail it for you. As of today, I have ALL of the drawings scanned and colored and I am just starting to think about stories. 

Welcome to The Oodlearium sign. A few months ago I was cleaning off a shelf in the basement and I was ready to pitch a stack of rusted and warped cookie sheets that I had from my mother-in-law. I was having a really hard time with the idea of getting rid of them because she was the queen baker of the family— she is the reason that I bake gazillions of Christmas cookies every year. It occured to me that I might be able to use the sheet as a backdrop for a sign. I bought a stack of wooden letters at the craft store and spray painted them a nice teal color (unfortunately did not match my bench perfectly, but it is what we had on hand and is close enough). The letters sat in a jumble on the cookie sheet until this morning when I finally said ENOUGH. I am going to finish this damned project! I grabbed my E6000 adhesive even though it says to use it in a well-ventilated area and I proceeded to finish the sign. I’m not sure exactly where (or if) I will hang it. For now, its sitting next to my bench and I love it!

Crochet Madness. I normally wear a really nice wind resistant ski cap when I am running in the winter. However, lately I have found that it is often too warm. I scoured the world of Pinterest for an earwarmer pattern and found a few that had potential. The day I decided to try them out, I was super stressed out, so I was making mistakes left and right.  I had purchased some beautiful purple merino wool yarn from a local knit shop and was super excited to try it out. However, I did not want to ruin or waste the expensive yarn. I tore apart what I did no less than seven times before deciding to walk away. The next day I decided to try my own pattern, but again I kept making silly mistakes. I have since gotten a decent start on one, but I think there is still an issue with the first few rows. I’m tabling that project for now! Other things to worry about. I’ll pick it up soon enough again.

Azul. Tom and I decided not to get each other Christmas presents this year, but I did pick up a new board game for us called Azul. It has been around for a few years and has gotten awesome reviews on BoardGameGeek.com. We have been having loads of fun playing what is a very simple to learn, but deep game. 

A creative Christmas. As I mentioned we decided not to do presents for each other this year. In a world where we really have enough money to buy what we need, it just puts us in the position to acquire more stuff that we don’t need. So we decided to dedicate our break to our creative pursuits. For me that meant spending a bunch of time in the kitchen. I made spinach/artichoke ravioli with a vodka cream sauce for our Christmas Eve dinner. We had naan bread pizzas with homemade Italian sausage for Christmas Day dinner. One morning I made breakfast pizzas. New Year’s Eve we had an almost entirely sous vide dinner (prime steaks, lobster tails, honey glazed carrots, chocolate mousse all in the sous vide) and then garlic mash and homemade French bread. YUMMO! Tom keeps telling me that I need to write about my fearlessness in the kitchen, because it is a bit of a mystery to me. I’ll save that for another day!

52 Frames- 3X Warrior

My 52 Frames picture for last week completed my 3x Warrior Status, which means that I submitted a picture 156 straight weeks. The theme was to capture 2020 in an image. I woke up on Christmas morning to find the window in the Oodlearium covered in ice and the sun shining on it. 2020 was just like a snowflake— unique and temporary. I was extremely proud of this image!

That means the image for this week is the same as it is every year— a self-portrait. Four years in to this project, I am no longer mortified by this challenge. I still don’t like it, but it doesn’t bring me to tears like it did the first year (no joke). At one point over the break one of us said “That’s how we roll.” The comment was made in reference to the non-traditional way we go through our life. The idea resonated with me and I decided to dedicate my entire year of 52 Frames images to capturing the different ways that I roll. It will be an opportunity to marry self-reflection and creativity. Challenge accepted! The album has not been posted yet, but you can check out my image after it posts next week.

Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer

If you ever needed evidence that creatives come in very different forms, my husband and I are the prime candidates. I am more your traditional artistic creative where he is an engineer. At home, I design our  renovations and he figures out how to make my vision a reality. Over the years we have learned that we are a really good team. 

Every once in a while, we collaborate on something artistic. It is never planned. Usually I am working on something and he might grab my pen/notebook and add something to what I am drawing. Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer were born from such a spontaneous partnership. Nerdy Bird was a Christmas card doodle a few years ago. I drew the eyes, the beak and the hair and Tom drew the body and I the legs and then he added the silly boots. A few months later Fuzzer came about in a similar fashion. Over time, they became a team. If I drew one, the other was always by his side.

Before COVID19 became our new normal, Tom and I would leave each other silly notes/drawings. Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer started going on crazy adventures together. If I was staying after school to see a student play basketball, I would scribble out the guys and add a ball and net. When I was waiting at the start line for a 5K Tom texted me a drawing of Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer crossing the finish line. My doodles were just that— quick scribbles to make my husband smile. Tom’s were always thoughtfully designed and carefully drawn. His were MUCH better!

We had a silly idea last year to use Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer for our Christmas card. We just were not sure that the idea would work if people had not already been introduced to our beak-ed friends. So we decided to spend all of 2020 sharing them so that by the time Christmas came everyone would know who they were. We planned a design for each holiday from Valentine’s Day to New Year’s. When we decided to start we never knew the world would be put on hold by a global pandemic, so we even added a Coronavirus doodle. The process is always the same. We brainstorm the idea together. Tom draws them and then I digitize them, color them using a combo of Photoshop and GIMP and then create the actual cards. Each time I put a set in the mailbox, we eagerly wait for the texts and messages to start. Throughout a year that many people truly want to forget, Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer have been a ray of sunshine. For us, it has been a wondeful opportunity to collaborate on a fun and creative project. 

Are you a hunter or a farmer?

I needed out of the house this morning…fresh air to clear my head before I started what would be a crazy busy day balancing school work, housework and the start of my insane Christmas baking. I threw on sweats and a jacket and grabbed my camera with my macro lens. For good measure I stuffed my nifty fifty in my pocket and headed out the door. I had no idea what I was looking for. I knew there were the remnants of a variety of pumpkins on our patio and I thought I had seen some berries on the tree outside our living room window. Failing that, I knew that I could walk up to the trail a few blocks away and find something there to submit for my 52Frames challenge. That is when it hit me…I am a discoverer…an explorer. I am as far from being a planner as one can get. I am almost done with my third year participating in the 52Frames project. Every year there are a few themes that require a bit more planning, but most weeks I head out into the world with my camera and look for beauty and joy that is all around us. Click. Submit. Rinse. Repeat.

My impression of the Framers I follow is that the majority are planners and that I am alone on an island of photographic irresponsibility! Was I alone or were there others like me? Thank you Facebook for the opportunity to crowdsource my question on the 52Frames Photographer Facebook group:

Just a curiosity…how many of you approach the weekly themes as a planner and how many of you as a discoverer? With rare exceptions, I head out and discover my shot. Week after week I read about people’s elaborate plans for their shots. I’m just curious if people lean more to one than the other or if it just depends on the theme.

As I set about my day, I watched Framer after Framer respond. With well over 100 comments on the post, I wanted to distill the results down here and share what I learned. 

I was definitely surprised by the results. Of course these results could be skewed because the Framers who are planners were too busy planning and executing their shoots to respond. Regardless, the vast majority of responses were in Camp Hunter/Explorer/Discoverer.  I am NOT alone.

I spent a better part of my day reading through all of the comments. I was overwhelmed by the responses that ranged from simple statements of “discover” or “plan” to lengthy explanations of their proclivities. Here are the notes I made as I read through the comments. 

  • Another way of looking at this question is to consider are you a hunter or a farmer/cultivator. This analogy really resonates with me. I definitely oscillate between hunter and explorer. The hunter is eager to find something and there is a sense of urgency. The explorer is open to learning something new while searching. The discoverer is filled with joy when they uncover something photo worthy. Various framers talked about keeping a journal of ideas, reading the brief (even a week early) and making notes. The process they described was definitely one of cultivation of ideas. 
  • Do you end up in a different place from where you started? Whether you are a planner or an explorer? You are not alone! Over and over again Framers mentioned that more often than not they start out with some sort of idea and before they know it, they are submitting an image that is nothing like what they originally planned. 
  • Are you easily distracted? I know that I am. When we are not in the middle of a pandemic and I have my students in my classroom, I often tell my students that I am the “something shiny” person. It was refreshing to read that I am not alone. I often head out for a “hunt” and while I think I am going in search of one thing, something else catches my eye and before I know it, I am capturing something different from my original intention. 
  • Everyone is naturally drawn to one or the other, but we can all benefit from pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones. This year has been really hard for me as a Framer. Everything about the world has made it difficult to tap into my creativity with my photography. I have fallen back on the idea of shoot, submit, rinse and repeat. I have not had the mental energy to give it much more than that. I have lost sight of the intention of learning and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I am most grateful to the framer who shared this comment! It was the perfect reminder that I want to grow both as a Framer and photographer in general. In order to do this, I must step out of my comfort zone from time to time. 
  • COVID19 has messed up the best laid plans and forced people to change how they approach each week’s challenge. So many people lamented how the pandemic has thrown a kink in their plans. Whether it was getting sick or being quarantined or under Stay-at-Home orders, people around the world have had to reevaluate how they engage with the weekly themes. 
  • If you keep your eyes and heart open, you will be surprised what you might discover. The hunters commented over and over again how often they were surprised and delighted by what they uncovered during their explorations. 
  • The concept of hunting is just as anxiety inducing to some people as the idea of planning is to others. While many people overlapped in their tendencies, a lot of people were definitely in one camp or the other and the idea of being in the other camp was a source of stress. 
  • In reality, most people are a bit of both. At the end of the day, a lot of people dabble in both categories throughout the year. In more cases than not, it is most dependent on the theme. A lot of Framers mentioned that themes like nature definitely lended itself to hunting; whereas the self-portrait required more planning. 

Quite a few Framers expressed that they felt their role as a “hunter” or “farmer” was dependent on what they wanted to get from 52F. When I started as a Framer in week #1 of 2018, I was looking for something to help me rediscover my photography mojo—something I had lost while writing a book. I know that I have lost sight of the learning aspect and many of the comments that stuck out to me focussed on that component. That being said, people engage with 52F for a wide range of reasons. Seeing these different “intentions” helped me to frame my viewing of the album from a place of empathy. Not everyone is coming at the challenges from the same place (myself included).

Here are some of the most mentioned reasons for being part of this group. 

  • Share the beauty in the world with others.
  • Interact with other photographers from around the world.
  • Document what is happening in life.
  • Photographic adventures.
  • A reason to bring a camera everywhere.
  • Learn something new- creatively, technically or post processing.

The conversation was filled with countless tips and tricks on how to approach the themes each week. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Read the tips and tuts each week.
  • Look at the Pinterest board curated by a volunteer each week.
  • Utilize social media to follow other artists (not just photogs).
  • Keep a journal of ideas.
  • Keep a list of techniques you want to try/learn.
  • Take a camera with you everywhere you go.
  • Have a photography bucket list.
  • Create your own Pinterest board of ideas. Check out mine here.
  • Check out this book with items for your photography bucket list.
  • Look at the challenges in advance (they are released four weeks at a time)

A Framer took the time to share this extensive passage from Jay Maisel’s book and it resonated with me so much that I wanted to share it here as well. If you are like me and have no idea who Jay Meisel is then you might be interested in taking a look at his amazing street photography HERE.  Another Framer mentioned this series on Kelby One, but I do believe you need to be a member to view these videos.

  • “Objects are there for you only if you really see them.  If you don’t, they don’t exist.  And a lot of people don’t see things.”
  • “Before you are going to be able to see, you have to look.  And before you look, you have to want to look.” 
  • “If you prepare too well, it is not as interesting, and you get into a kind of a tunnel vision.  You don’t see around you and you don’t go to all the possibilities that may happen.”
  • “Your life will be infinitely richer if you are aware of the things around you, if you are aware of the way the light falls, if you are aware of what happens when a person wearing one color walks in front of a person wearing another.  These things are all superficial, but they’re joyous.”

I am four weeks away from becoming a 3X Warrior. Thank you so much to everyone who engaged in this inspirational conversation. You have helped me to refocus (pun intended). 

This week in the Oodlearium Part 2

In the meantime, here is what has been happening in the Oodlearium.

  • A thanksgiving haiku. Something that has fallen to the back burner since I returned to school has been my daily haikus. They are like the sprint of creativity for me. I never took more than a few minutes to write one and I always focused on something positive. Here is my Gratitude haiku in celebration of Thanksgiving.
Image may contain: text that says 'GRATITUDE TOM TIME ART HEALTH YOU SCHOOL RUNNING HOME FOOD FRIENDS TECH GRATEFUL FOR IT ALL Sp Adobe AdobeSpark'
  • 52frames. This week’s theme was circles. My photo this week embodies everything that being a framer means to me. A few weeks ago we had an opportunity to take some self-care time at school. My creative pal Lindsay offered to teach me the basics of cutting glass for mosaics. I was super excited to give it a try, so I put out an all-call for bowling balls. I hoped to get one and ended up with four. I gave two to Lindsay and decided one would be for a mosaic and I would do the other one with washers. That project has to wait for spring because I cannot use the adhesive inside. That means I have a huge bag of washers sitting around waiting for a theme like circles! 
  • Crates. I am intrigued by the idea of subscription crates. Afterall i was a child of the BMG CD subscription era. I spent my college career eagerly awaiting a new delivery of music. There are a lot of crates out there, but I have yet to find one that seems worth the money. For now I have decided to be my own subscription service. After all, Pinterest is free and I live between two different craft store.  Crafting Pinterest Board
  • Sewing. Every time I do a pour painting I am scrambling to find a paper town to wipe paint off my hands. Or I am halfway through mixing my paints when I realize I am still in my work clothes and god forbid I get paint on a dry clean only shirt! I need an apron! I so easily could have just bought one, but this was against everything that the Oodlearium stands for. So I picked up a yard of denim at the fabric store and decided to give it a shot. I traced an apron we had in the kitchen and adjusted it a bit. This is an Oodleapron, so I wanted it to be fun. It has been YEARS since I have had my sewing machine out and it was quite the rude awakening. I did not remember how hard it was to sew a straight line. I’m thankful that my husband convinced me to walk away for a few minutes and come back to it with fresh eyes. I have the basic seam done, but I am going to “quilt” a space bird on to it and that will involve another trip to the store and a bit of planning. Stay tuned for the rest of the story 🙂
  • Drawing. I had two special cards to make this week. A friend is going through some health issues and I wanted to send her a bit of extra love. And I had a thank you card for someone who did something kind for me. I had found some fun superhero comic drawing tutorials on Pinterest which had piqued my interest. I was laying in bed when it hit me that my newest character Gertie would be perfect if I added a cape to her and put her in the superhero pose. 
No photo description available.
  • Pointillism. I have read a lot about the meditative properties of pointillism. Of course Seurat’s painting Sunday in the Park is the best example of pointillism, but I had to start somewhere.  So I created a Thanksgiving turkey, but I had more ideas brewing in my brain. It really is meditative!
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  • Cooking. Life got busy on Sunday and I didn’t make it to the grocery store. So I took a gander in our freezer and saw that we had a package of chicken andouille sausage. Perfect for a cajun pasta recipe. Pinterest to the rescue! My husband loves when I tell him that I am going to make a recipe, but that we don’t have half the ingredients. This was definitely one of those times! It’s hard to make cajun pasta without cajun seasonings…unless you make your own! I didn’t have cream, but I did have whole milk (which in reality was all this recipe needed!). And of course I had a healthier version of the sausage. This recipe is a keeper! One pot cajun pasta. And over Christmas break…I am going to learn how to make homemade cheese! 
  • Oodle doodle family portrait.  A lot of people have been posting family portraits as they get ready to make their Christmas cards. That got me thinking that I need to update the Oodle Doodle family portrait header for Facebook. Stay tuned! 
This is the current family portrait. SpaceBird is not in here and neither is Gertie. Definitely needs to be updated!
  • Pour paintings. I wanted to thank someone for doing something kind for me. While it would have been easy to buy a bag of chocolate or a Starbucks gift card, I wanted to do something more meaningful. He is a big Koby Bryant fan and I know how devastated he was after Koby’s tragic helicopter crash earlier this year. So I decided to create a painting inspired by the Lakers colors. I had hoped for it to be more yellow/gold, but it turned out fun regardless and he loved it. Mission accomplished. 
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  • Crocheting. I found a new fall coat that I am absolutely in love with. It was cheap, fun and simple…which meant that I could make a fun scarf to go with it in my all time favorite color. I had a great pattern from a few years ago that I used when I was making sets for the Elgin homeless population. I had forgotten how easy and fun the pattern was. Way back in January or so, I had reached out to Phyllis from The Liam Foundation to tell her that I was going to donate two homemade hats in PRIDE colors to her to auction off in order to help her raise funds for her new non-profit organization (insert link). Then of course we got locked down and any chance of a traditional fundraiser was not in the cards. I showed the hats to our gay-straight alliance sponsor at school and he loved them. I promised him I would make him one for his birthday. The next week he returned from a long weekend to say that his fiancé was jealous that he did not have one. I finally had a free minute to sit down and make another one. Now they have matching hats and it’s ridiculously sweet!
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