20cc’s Of Thankfulness, Stat!

If I asked you to name 10 things you’re thankful for right now, could you do it without hesitation? Could you name 5? Could you name one?

The holidays for Americans starts with Thanksgiving, a time where we gather around a feast of food with relatives we may not have seen for almost a year. Fights break out over the kids running wild, Uncle Larry supporting the President no matter what he does, and that one cousin who became Vegan this year. These days the world moves in 195 directions at once, and from all the news reports you would think no one likes each other, let alone agrees on a single subject.

Meanwhile, the depression and suicide rates quietly climb as the snow continues to fall.

Happiness and joy springs from a thankful heart. This is what I was taught, growing up in Sunday School at church. As the years passed the realization grew that being thankful was something that you cultivated in yourself. It was something you choose, and continue to choose, day in and day out.

…One day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.

Aristotle, Greek Philosopher

Depression, anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and just life at its thousand views per second pace can make you overlook even the best of things in your life.

Take a moment or five, and fight through the resistance that rears up to write down five things that are good in your life that you can be thankful for. Then, every morning until New Year’s Day, quietly thank whatever gave you those five things, even if it is only the circumstances of life that did.

…and when you finally think of a sixth thing, add that to the list too.

Do You Know What you’re Worth?

Every painting in your local museum can be replicated.

The Louvre, one of the most famous museums in the world, is no different. Each color can be mixed to perfection, each stroke of paint can be put on an identical canvas in an identical way and aged until it is indistinguishable from the original.

So why is the original so much more valuable?

The value is in the person who made the painting.

The person who made the first painting had knowledge and experience, gained from their hard work and the work of the people they learned from. They had opinions and beliefs that shaped their view of the world. They had events in their lives they shared with no one else. They had a way of interpreting the world and universe around them that no one else had.

The painter was unique.

The same can be said about you.

Out of all the billions of people that have ever lived, you are the only you there is or has been or will ever be. Forget one in a million, you are rarer than one in a billion. That is thousands of times more precious. The amount of money you make or the respect you demand or the value you bring to your loved ones, community, or the rest of the universe only adds to that value.

Have you ever felt worthless?

Be reminded that you are valuable, even if no one in your life currently acknowledges it.

Let Your Frustrations Be Your Guide

Do you know that all those pesky robocalls you receive can be blamed on a surly undertaker?

When phones first became widely used way back in the 1880’s, there used to be thousands of people employed by the telephone companies as switchboard operators. These operators would physically change the connections of the wires at their boards to route the call to its destination.

Almon Strowger was frustrated when he found out that he was losing funeral customers to a competitor. The competing undertaker’s wife was a local switchboard operator, and had been secretly routing calls meant for Strowger’s business to her husband’s business instead. The last straw was when he found out that the funeral of one of his friends was being held by his competitor.

Wanting to cut out the crooked middleman, or middlewoman as the case had been, Strowger developed the first automatic telephone exchange. Over time, his invention and the future improvements that followed all but eliminated every switchboard operator job that existed.

Take a moment to be thankful for all the things you don’t have to do yourself because technology has simplified it for you.

Today, phone calls in the United States are measured in the billions every month. Can you imagine how many of us would have to be employed as switchboard operators to handle that volume of calls? Nothing else would get done! Though to be fair, the operators would catch most of those robocalls before they even got to you.

What currently frustrates you?

Instead of staying frustrated by it, find what you can do to solve it.

Huevember – Day 16

Ready to sail, captain.

With how little time I’m still having to complete these drawings, I’m now filing them under speed paintings as well. I tried a technique I saw from a few different artist forums for brainstorming: make a couple of very simple shapes with a large brush as a kind of silhouette of what you want to sketch, then pick one and start filling in details.

Huevember – Day 5

Orange alert! I grew up in the 80’s, the era of Aliens, Predator, 2001 and other movies where there was an element of horror being introduced to the idealistic visions of the future. Nothing quite struck a chord in me as the heroine in distress trying to avoid a nasty fate, with danger lurking around the corner she wasn’t watching.

I’m not having as much time to work on these pieces as I’d like, and am having to post them out of order. This is a messy thing to try to do on a daily basis, hence the challenge. I’ve set up a page where they’ll be posted in order that you can find at this link: Huevember Challenge 2017.

Being Overshadowed By A Cloud

My wife and I had the chance to be in Nashville for the solar eclipse to witness the totality, something I’ve never experienced before. Though a cloud obscured the sky above downtown during the totality, I still stood in wonder as the sky darkened to twilight, then dusk in the matter of seconds. The streetlights blinked on and birds began flying erratically in the air. The world seemed to quiet as the city held its breath, trying to capture the magic of the moment.

The last time I witnessed an eclipse was in second grade, and I had to work for it. With the eclipse coming, my teacher Mrs. Wallace made us all craft pinhole viewers out of shoeboxes. Each took their shoebox and angled it so the the light of the sun shone onto the back of the closed box, allowing us to safely view the “picture” it made from one side. It was explained that while it wasn’t safe to stare directly at the sun (you’ll go blind, kids!), you could safely look at its image the little pinhole created.

That lesson always stuck with me. When something big happens, I tend to look around to see what effect the event is having on the environment and the people around me. That’s why I don’t think I was cheated by having a cloud in the way during the totality. I still got to see how it affected the people and things around me.

Imagine the eclipse from the perspective of the moon. Many things had to go right for it to fully eclipse the sun to the Earth, and there were years of preparations for conditions to be just right for the perfect performance.

And then a cloud got in the way for the people in Nashville.

When you prepare and plan for an event and try to control everything so that people can see your brilliance, all too often something that cannot be controlled will “ruin” your moment or steal your thunder. Do not be discouraged and take the disruption in stride. You cannot see the full extent of your influence and do not get to see all the fruits of your labors immediately. When starting a new marketing campaign, it can take months or even years to see the full effect of the new advertisements. But you will see them. The audience may not laugh at the right time, or they may not have an earth shattering revelation that transforms their lives in a flash of glorious light radiating from their face. But they will still have listened. Your art or craft may never be more than a hobby to express yourself. But you’re still better for having shared it with existence.

Do not let the uncontrollable stop you, or even slow you down.

Even the shadow will be an experience to behold.

Speed Painting Exercise #2: Rapid Improvement

Okay here’s my second speed painting. This took me 45 minutes. I’m actually okay with this one, compared to yesterday’s post.

speed-paint-knight

You can see that I have a much more defined picture of a knight holding his shield up, and that I was even able to get a little more defined on the shoulder armor. From yesterday I applied using keyboard shortcuts to change the brush size quickly, as well as blocking in big shapes and making decisions. I initially wanted to have the knight kneeling from the brunt of the force of a blow he was blocking, but after I had painted in the placement of the shield and the helmet, I felt it was better to have him standing with the view from above him. It gave me a new idea, and now I have this painting and the one I had started out wanting to do.

I actually want to finish this piece, because the idea of it is good to me. Keep track of the ideas you have as you go through the process of creating something, whether that’s art, music, schedules, or even marketing campaigns. You’ll find that what you end up with is rarely what you started wanting to do, even if you’re good at what you do. The ideas that you start with and the ideas you come up with along the way are usually worth pursuing again once you finish what you’re working on. The bonus of keeping track of those ideas is that now you can approach them with more experience than last time.

One other note: don’t show off your “learning” work publicly in the beginning. I’m breaking that rule to give you encouragement, that you are not alone and that you know the path you’re treading is not uncharted. Show a few people who will encourage you to continue learning, because that’s the feedback you need in the beginning.

Speed Painting Exercise: Oh God I am Rusty

Even great artists can produce objective garbage once and a while. Anyone who is intimidated by the skill and craft of another person who has had years of training, practice, and experience more than you can take comfort knowing that you are more talented at something that they are not. With practice of your own, you can catch up to the masters that you idolize, even learning from their work. Behold, my garbage first speed painting.

speed-paint-landscape001

Speedpainting, so everyone knows what this was supposed to be, is the goal of rapidly sketching and painting in the major items into your piece so that you can arrange the composition, shapes, and colors of the painting. The idea is to have everything in place except the details in 30 minutes to an hour. It forces you to make decisions on a larger scale for your piece so that you don’t spend endless hours painting and repainting without ever finishing.

This was supposed to be a mountain next to a lake, and I did everything that I wasn’t supposed to.

It looks like I fingerpainted it with my thumb after it had been severed in a bizarre desk adjustment accident, and that glorious piece of garbage took 35 minutes. A toddler does better work than that, faster, and has an art gallery on the fridge to display their work to their adoring public. I have a blog that maybe my friends read out of politeness when they haven’t seen me in two months and after reading this are probably wondering whether or not they need to do an intervention.

Don’t worry. The point I’m trying to make is, you are going to be objectively terrible at something the first time you try it. What you produce is not going to match the idea in your head of what it is supposed to look like, and that’s okay. Be proud that you did it, and be curious enough to learn what you did wrong. Then be brave enough to try again and apply what you learned so you get better.

Keep at it. I am. I’ll post the next speed painting soon.