Small Bites

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.

Anatole France

After taking the month off in December, it has been a busy time for me as I return to what I will refer to as my ‘normal’ life of making my living through my creative home-based business. I thoroughly enjoyed my downtime, as there was little pressure and I was able to catch up with several things that I have been meaning to do. It also gave me time to think and reevaluate some aspects of the business: what was working for me and what needed improvement.

I found I enjoyed the time I spent learning and creating so much that it made it apparent to me that I truly had to try to figure out a way to be able to continue to do my own creating while I was keeping up with my orders and business obligations. That isn’t always easy. Especially when the business is growing. It is very easy to allow it to spiral out of control and before long, the business is running you, and you are exhausted and burned out and everything falls apart.

The first week of the year was spent catching up on cutting, packing, and shipping orders. My customers were amazing in that they not only respected my need for some time off, but they actually cheered me on. I guess you know you work hard when your clients are so supportive when you say you need a break. While I did not cut or ship anything in the month of December, I still accepted orders, alerting customers that they wouldn’t be shipped out until the beginning of January when the shipping companies got a bit caught up after the holidays. This meant that there was quite a backlog of orders to be filled. (PS – I was very proud of myself for not thinking about or obsessing about these orders during my time off!)

So on Monday the 3rd, it was back to work for me and time to roll my sleeves up and tackle the backlog. I had been working so hard this past autumn that even the month of orders that awaited me didn’t seem too intimidating. There were a lot of them – to be sure – but I just ticked them off one by one and did a few batches and before I knew it I got to the bottom of the long list and everything was sent. It was very satisfying. I had planned on blogging last weekend about my return to the working world, but we had what they call in our parts a “NorEastern storm” and lost power for a day or so. So that put an end to that. When we got it back, I had the next batch in front of me and thought my time was better spent filling orders than talking about filling orders. Thus, the delay in my post here.

But now I am back on track and all caught up and not only did I fill all the backorders and new orders that came in, but I also spent some time mapping things out and planning some new directions for my business and I actually STOPPED WORKING by dinner time (ish!) and spent the evenings working on some things that I thought I would share with you all. Most of them pertain to creating and making time to create, so I think that many of you will be interested.

While I am not the kind of girl who lists out “resolutions” as we enter the new year, I am always what I consider a “work in progress” as far as my business goes. I am a firm believer that the world around me is liquid and always changing, and if I am to remain successful as a business, so must I. This I feel is has been especially true in the past two years, as the world seems to have changed more than ever. So doing what I have done in that past that has proven successful won’t necessarily continue to be so in the future. I need to keep assessing and reassessing what is working for me. Not in an obsessive way, but in a practical way. But in the process, I can’t lose sight of the fact that I also need some creative time for myself. Otherwise, what am I doing this all for anyway?

I had a lot of great ideas that I can’t wait to implement in the upcoming weeks and months. You can all be certain I will be sharing them with you as I do. As with anything, however, it is much easier, more manageable, and much more realistic to do things in small bites rather than all at once. That way, not only are you better able to see what really works and what doesn’t work for you, but things aren’t so overwhelming. It really is the only way to do things as far as I am concerned.

Not only have I decided to implement this strategy in my business life, but also the personal and artistic part of my life. After all – if I made too many drastic changes all at once, I know in my heart that I wouldn’t be able to stick to them. Old habits – good or bad – are difficult to break and change. We need to approach them with both determination and respect, as we would when we decide to change our eating habits or take on an exercise routine. Otherwise, we have the propensity to become quickly overwhelmed and abandon the changes altogether. I do believe that lasting changes need to come incrementally.

So let’s get started with showing you what I have come up with so far . . .

Over Christmas, I was gifted a wonderful treat of a 9″ x 12″ tablet of lovely Arches 140 Cold Press watercolor paper. In my previous post, I had mentioned that I had a larger tablet of this paper, which is considered one of the best, for over three years sitting in my cupboard. I used it to paint both the graphite flamingo as well as the two girls carrying the apples in my “Tis the Season . . . (To Create!)” blog post (you can see it here: https://sheilalandrydesigns.wordpress.com/2021/12/19/tis-the-season-to-create/)

It took a great deal of courage for me to use that paper, as it was the best watercolor paper I owned and I didn’t want to ‘waste’ it. I finally felt like I was good enough to give it a try with those paintings, and I loved it. But now my dilemma was that many of the watercolor sketchbooks and practice books that I have are made with cheaper paper. I wondered if I was really helping myself when trying to learn a new technique on a paper that wasn’t really up to par. (YES. It DOES make a big difference.) I wondered if that would discourage me from continuing my exploration and give up. It certainly wouldn’t be helpful. While I would still use the lesser paper for other, easier things, I wanted some nice, high-grade paper for learning new techniques. I think as artists, we deserve the best supplies we can afford and this is one of those times when we have to sometimes splurge on ourselves.

So in receiving the smaller pad, I had an idea. I had watched several videos by Lindsay The Frugal Crafter on her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/thefrugalcrafter) and her friend Rosie had gifted her several beautiful handmade watercolor sketchbooks. While one of my goals is to spend as little as possible on new supplies, I thought that if I used this new paper and made a couple of books for myself with it, I would be more likely to use it more often rather than wait until I was planning a large painting.

So I took three sheets of the 12, cut them into thirds, and made a cute little 4″ x 4″ booklet of 12 sheets (24 sides) to ‘play’ with.

I actually used six of the 12 sheets and made two books – just because it was so much fun! I added a sheet of heavy, black cardstock for the covers, and ‘may’ or may not add some mat board real covers using cut-off centers for that. (ALL materials that I had on hand!)

This went right in line with my idea of working on ‘smalls’. I wanted something that I could grab after dinner and instead of working on a large piece with many layers, like the snow leopard that I showed in my previous post, I would just be able to do maybe one element: a berry, flower, leaf, etc. No pressure. Just fun.

That doesn’t mean that I couldn’t work on a larger, more complex piece, too. But I could do a couple of things in tandem and when I was tired after a full day of working and just felt like doing something that required little thought but helped me practice, I would be able to grab one of these and just do it. We will see how that works.

So far, I spent two evenings painting in my little booklet.

The first night was a little glass bear ornament:

The second night was a little flower:

While neither of these is anything to write home about, they both familiarized me with the paint, the colors, some mixing skills, and even using my white gel pen to add highlights. They were both relaxing and fun to create after a day of working, and it felt good to actually be able to paint.

I was so excited and encouraged about these little books that I went back into my cupboard of paper and pulled out these three tablets of beautiful Canson Mi-Teintes paper (which I mostly use for drier mediums, like oil pastels, pencils, ink, colored pencils, and graphite.)

Each of these pads has four sheets of six different color families of the Mi-Teintes paper. It may sound horrible, but I often forget I even have them because they are larger pads and on the bottom of about a foot-high pile of paper that is stored in my cabinet. I followed suit and made three booklets, about 6″ x 8″ tall, with 24 pages (using both sides) in each. This way I can just grab the book and pick a color and draw or paint.

I really think this will not only encourage me to use the different tones of paper, but also some of the beautiful pencils and mediums that I tend to neglect.

It is a start, anyway.

So that brings us to my current project.

In seeing the beautiful toned Mi-Teintes paper, I wanted to do something using my Sennelier oil pastel crayons, which work really well with it. I had been going through my photo sites, and came across this beautiful picture of an eagle on Unsplash by Delaney Van that I had saved. (You can access the photo here: https://unsplash.com/photos/7rEvtDHWrF4 or visit Delaney’s website to see more of her beautiful work here: https://www.apertureadventure.com/ )

We were having a storm in our area and I wanted to have a project ready in case there was a power outage. We didn’t lose power, but I spent most of yesterday working on the eagle. Here is where I am at on it now:

My painting is on the left and a copy of the reference photo is on the right. I still have some layers to add and some general toning, but I am not unhappy with how it is coming out.

I love my beautiful Sennelier oil pastel set. Keith got me the boxed set for my birthday last year and it is a medium I truly love to work with. The way the oil crayons blend is just lovely and I use a small silicone tool to apply the tiny details, such as in the eyes and features. It is both relaxing and fun for me to work with them – especially on the Canson Mi-Teintes paper. The paper has one side smooth and the other side textured for a variety of looks. I chose the textured side for this project as it gives more realism to the feathers. Now to decide if I will be filling in the background or not. Decisions, decisions . . .

I will update you all with the final picture in my next post.

I also framed my beautiful little snow leopard and he is hanging here in my studio:

I am quite pleased with him and he came out just as I would have liked. I need to get some non-glare glass though, as it really has too much reflection for me to fully enjoy him.

And I will close today by showing you a photo of my “Winter-Themed Tree”.

This is probably my favorite version of my “all-season tree” that lives in my kitchen. It is filled with white, glass, and cool blue ornaments and topped with a beautiful needle-felted owl from the very talented Bella McBride of McBride House (https://www.bellamcbride.ca/). I have several of her lovely creations that I cherish and keep out all year. This owl is out all year in my studio, but when I have my tree as a winter theme, he gets to sit perched right on top of it for a month or so in all his glory.

Well, that is about it for this entry. I hope that my thoughts are a little bit inspiring to you and that it makes you see all the possibilities you have for making time for your own creating.

I really already have found it quite helpful to not think of everything in complicated terms. By approaching things as “small bites”, things aren’t as intimidating and are much more attainable. I hope you agree. I hope you share any ideas you have for being more creative this year in the comments below. I would love to hear them!

Until next time . . .

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Good afternoon Sheila,
    I hate to be a bearer of bad news but we are getting ready for another noreastern storm starting tonight (Sunday) and going thru tomorrow. The weather people are all over the place with snow totals and / or ice. I am glad to be retired so I don’t have to be out in the storm. So batten down everything again.
    Rick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I saw that. 🙂 Part of living where we do, I guess. I never really mind it as long as we are prepared. Those winds were the scariest part. Along with the ice they knock out the power and that seems to be the worst thing for us here, as our water pump won’t operate and our furnace won’t blow. But we keep reserves of water and the heat still gets in a bit and we have a generator which will operate one appliance at a time – such as the refrigerator or the microwave. So we do get by. It was cold, calm, and sunny today. A breath before the turmoil coming our way. Stay safe, Rick. 🙂 Happy New Year to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Sheila and Happy New Year to you and Keith.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reminds me of a saying my father once told me, “how do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time “. So I like your thought of small bite.

    Like

  4. Your weather reminds of the white Christmas and New Year that we have had. Very unusual for BC Thankfully temperature are back to our normal 9/10 C with damp days . The snow is all gone 👍
    I like your idea of small sketch/painting books. Your flower and glass ornament are beautiful! Keep up the creative time for yourself! 👍

    Like

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